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THE Springboks November Test campaign ended with a huge blow when captain Jean de Villiers was injured during their 12-6 defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
De Villiers was forced to leave the field in the 58th minute after twisting his left knee and dislocating his knee cap. The dislocation was reduced on the field and he was sent for scans shortly after the match.
“Jean will return to South Africa and see an orthopaedic specialist in Cape Town early in the week,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts. “He has had previous surgery on this knee and the further management of the injury is dependent upon the specialist’s recommendations.”
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said losing De Villiers was a massive setback as the team were just beginning to build momentum in a tough encounter against Wales.
“It was a massively disappointing way to end the tour and our season, as we always strive to make our country proud,” said Meyer.
“We simply made too many unforced errors. We always knew it was going to be a very tough Test, especially since we were without a lot of injured players while some very experienced players were not available because the match fell outside the Test window.
“Losing Jean and the yellow card to Cornal Hendricks shortly thereafter were massive in the context of the game. We were forced to go from an attacking game in the final 20 minutes, where we’ve been strong in the past, to a defensive mode.
“But we’re not going to make any excuses. Wales deserve a lot of credit for their victory. We’ll take this defeat on the chin, make sure we learn from it and keep our heads up, focused on the task at hand next year.
“We have four tests left until the Rugby World Cup and will have a lot of players back by then who will make a difference.”
Reflecting on the 2014 season, Meyer said he was happy with the progress the team has shown. Apart from the victory over New Zealand in October, which was a highlight, it was also the Springboks’ first unbeaten season at home since 2005, which included a draw against France.
The Springboks won 10 out of their 14 matches in 2014, for a winning percentage of 71%. Meyer said before the season he knew the year before a World Cup is always tough and the performance this season compares very well with 2002 (winning percentage of 45%), 2006 (42%) and 2010 (57%).
“Statistics showed us the year before a World Cup is always tough and our aim was to work hard and ensure we still perform well,” said Meyer.
“We learnt valuable lessons from the defeats in Cardiff and Dublin, while we came very close in Perth and Auckland. Although the season wasn’t perfect, I think we’ve still done well.
“The victory over New Zealand in Johannesburg was very important. We recorded good wins over England in London, Australia in Cape Town, Scotland in Port Elizabeth and Wales in Durban, while we also had to dig deep against Argentina in Salta and Wales in Nelspruit.
“We have nine months of very hard work ahead before we head out to England for the Rugby World Cup. We’re going to keep our feet on the ground and put in every effort, because we want to make our country proud next year.
“It was a disappointing way to end the year and not how we envisaged it, but we know where we stand and what needs to be done next year. We’ll keep our heads down and keep on working hard to ensure we give ourselves every chance to lift the Webb Ellis Cup next year.”
For the Wales Springboks match report, click here...
THE All Blacks suggest England Rugby has gone backwards as a team since the southern hemisphere side were beaten by 23 young, fresh-faced, doggedly determined men in white two years ago. Tom Wood, England's flanker, knows otherwise, and frankly could care less what the All Blacks think.
Wood is one of only 10 players appearing today from the 23 that took on New Zealand and showed the world the mighty All Blacks are not quite a mighty as they would like to think. But it is not the world champions that England have to put away this afternoon at Twickenham, but a Wallabies side that have renewed vigour from their new coach, have skill in depth, and frankly, can score from anywhere, putting pay to the argument that England have been playing in the wrong areas for the last three weeks.
There a few more focussed, more balanced chaps with such eloquent leadership skills and articulation than the 6’4” gentleman, sporting an impressive tache for Movember as he faces the great and good of the English press for the last time in 2014 at Pennyhill Park.
“We’ve come in for a lot of criticism; we’ve done some things very well, we’ve come in for a lot of flak. A lot of things have been questioned.
“If we’ve not played for 80 minutes, if we’ve underperformed so gravely and are so far away from where people expect us to be yet have only lost by 3 points to the two top teams, then it’ll be interesting to see what happens when we get it right.”
The honesty flowing through the veins of England Rugby since Stuart Lancaster took the reins is still apparent, “We are not where we want to be, our set piece has been pretty strong, I think that’s been clear, we’ve lacked continuity and real understanding of what we’re trying to achieve in the middle third of the field, I think that’s where we’ve come unstuck. So I don’t think it’s about an 80-minute performance, I don’t think we switch off, lose concentration, lack fitness or anything like that.
“I think we've got ourselves a little bit mixed up in the last few weeks. Hopefully this week in training we've put a plan in place to iron that out.”
Dropped from his beloved England for the Samoa match, deferring his position to James Haskell, despite having grafted for the previous two matches, was hard to take at first, but he took it on the chin, and today he starts again, reclaiming his rightful place.
“Initially I took it a little bit personally. But ultimately they explained it pretty well to me. That James Haskell played very well (in New Zealand) in the summer in the first Test and has had a great start to the year at the club, and he's got a very different skill set to me that they wanted to see. I can't argue with that. That's very fair.
“I am fired up because it is a big game and we haven't quite delivered yet. And me personally, having put an awful lot into the first three games - the first two in particular - and not perhaps had the outcomes we'd have liked, it would be really nice to finish on a high.”
Somehow the rhetoric of the last three weeks seems to have dissipated, and there appears to be a newfound vigour. Maybe because today is do or die; there are no second chances.
“We’ve struggled to get our continuity going and our shape which affects out attacking breakdown. Defensively we’ve had a frustrating couple of weeks. We’ve worked a lot on our out-and-out steal process, getting someone over the ball hard, looking or win the turnover or the penalty and we’ve not had any success. We’ve come up against it with referees and it’s ended up costing us.
“We've got to put it together as a team. Our forwards and our set-piece are big strengths and we've got to try and impose them on the opposition in the right areas of the field. But we also need that continuity between forwards and backs.
“It's easy to say to the kickers just kick it, but we need to kick effectively. We need to turn them, we need to have an effective chase, find grass or get the ball off the field so we can have another set-piece. You can't just have a maul that ends up on the floor, throw the ball back to George Ford and say do something with it. What's he going to do other than kick the ball to Israel Folau who'll run it back into acres of space. That's suicide. It's about doing it on our terms.”
In the final analysis before this chapter in England’s development is put to bed until the Six Nations, Wood and his teammates are ready to take on their world class rivals and fellow Pool A team one last time before the greatest show on earth in 10 months time.
And there’s something more obviously mature in the attitude, “If we lose by 3, it’s not the end of the world, we don’t all go on suicide watch. We just pull tighter and work on things we need to work on.
“But we haven't become bad players overnight. The team that played in the Six Nations and everyone was so excited about, hasn’t disappeared; we’ve just got to make sure we get it out on the field.
“It’s a challenge; the opposition are doing everything in their power to prevent it, we're doing everything in our power to put it out there, and that’s sport.”
QANTAS WALLABIES head coach Michael Cheika is chomping at the bit to get his side up against England on Saturday afternoon at Twickenham. He knows the margins are tight, and not that different from England Rugby’s Stuart Lancaster, all the focus is on his team and their own game.
“I will be genuinely honest and say I have not really had a big look,” was Cheika’s answer when asked of his evaluation of England.
“I don’t think we are the stage yet where we can start looking at the other team and making those types of analyses. Yes, we are analysing certain things in their game and the shape we are going to encounter, but we are not there yet where I can start looking at the headspace of the opposition.”
“I think they have got a very clear plan on how they want to play the game and on how they want English rugby to go. I am sure they are going to be very belligerent in trying to get there so we have got to try to put ourselves in the way of that on Saturday.”
Lancaster has had two years to turn around the culture and ethos of England Rugby from bad boys to unshakeable pride in the pulling on that England Rose. Cheika has come close in just five weeks.
“We’ve turned a lot of things around, and brought a lot of new things in and I’ve seen a real positive energy, and feedback from the players. I’m seeing certain markers there that I’m liking around change in attitude and work ethic, and in approach to what’s required to be successful.”
Like England, the Wallabies have won just one of their three November Tests so far against Wales, but the margins have been as close in their losses against France and Ireland, just 3 points.
“We know we’re not there yet, we’ve still got plenty to do, but I like the approach the players have had, and I feel like we’re ready to put on big games.”
But what Australia does have is continuity in the team, if not leadership, and the squad has been together in camp since the run-up to The Rugby Championship in August. Cheika has had a steep learning curve as to how far he can push the Wallabies.
“I’m learning some things myself; obviously I never played Test footie, so I’ve never been close to the intensity of it and what’s doable and what’s not. So I’m learning about things I can and can’t ask the team to do.
“For this tour we weren’t going to change tactics. Maybe later on we’ll look at a few bits and pieces to add on, but right now the focus is just delivering our game, making sure it’s done the way we want to do it, with a certain amount of physicality and good skill level so that when the opportunities are there, we can take them.”
The new coach does not make excuses for the losses so far, but has a plan for getting the results required.
“I am not saying we are doing this tour just to develop and grow and all that business. I understand what is required around results, but I can’t make the results come by just snapping my fingers.
“Obviously it has been a short period of time so everyone is getting the gist of what we want to do together and believe in that. By believing in that and not panicking when someone wants to drop that tag on you, that’s when the results will come.”
Having taken Leinster to the Heineken Cup Final victory for the first time in 2009, he arrived at the NSW Waratahs (via Stade Français) in 2013 to take them from 11th (2012) to 9th (2013) to win the Super Rugby title in 2014.
“I have been involved in too many teams where I have been slagged off in the early days and have been able to come back later on, so I know you just have to weather that storm.”
And it definitely helps that 10 of his matchday 23 are Tahs, including captain Michael Hooper, the jack-in the-box as England forwards coach Graham Rowntree calls him. A player Cheika regards as consistently doing an outstanding job, Hooper will be up against opposition captain, Chris Robshaw in the same position: “The work they individually do around the ball and how they play, which is slightly different between the two players, will be interesting to watch.”
But Cheika has two secret weapons who will be itching to get onto the paddock.
“Having guys like Quade (Cooper) and (Kurtley) Beale on the bench can give you the versatility to bring some X-factor on. Just bringing guys like those two into the game with 20 or 30 minutes to go will really help us either try to seal a game or win a game.”
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The Wallabies will be wearing black armbands at Twickenham in memory of Australian cricketer, Phil Hughes, who tragically passed away on Thursday after a freak bounce of the ball two days earlier in a Sheffield Shield match in Sydney, at the tender age of just 25. There will also be a time of applause from the stands to celebrate the life of this young man, who also represented Middlesex, Hampshire and Worcestershire in English cricket.
“I’d never met Phil, but when I heard about it I cried because there’s something that touches you about it, how unfortunate it is,” said Cheika.
“It brings home that you’ve got to enjoy things as much as possible because no one expects that to happen on a cricket field.”
FOLLOWING the RFU’s investigations into the allegation of homophobic abuse aimed at referee Nigel Owens at the QBE International against New Zealand, two people have received a ban from all matches at Twickenham Stadium for a period of two years. In addition, they will pay £1,000 each to a charity of Nigel Owens’ choice. There is a second investigation still ongoing.
RFU CEO Ian Ritchie said: “While instances of this nature are exceptionally rare, the RFU takes rugby’s values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship very seriously, and is determined to uphold them. We are all guardians of these aspects of the game, on and off the pitch, and it is these values which make the sport special.”
The RFU will continue to underline what is expected of supporters. At international matches the RFU will put messaging in the programme, in every ticket pack, on mid-tier LED boards and big screens throughout match day. This season a new confidential text service (Text HELP to 60886) is available to report any anti-social or discriminatory behaviour at the stadium. There are 850 stewards on hand to help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all fans.
Nigel Owens recently spoke to the BBC about the incident and homophobia in rugby...
WALES have made three changes to their side to face South Africa on Saturday, with Gethin Jenkins, Scott Baldwin and Liam Williams all coming into the starting XV.
Jenkins and Baldwin will link up with Samson Lee to form the same front-row that started the clash against Fiji a fortnight ago.
The rest of the pack remains unchanged from last weekend's game against the world champions New Zealand, with Jake Ball partnering Alun Wyn Jones in the second row and Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton.
Ospreys half-backs Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue their partnership as do the record breaking centre duo of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.
The only change in the back three sees Liam Williams come in for the injured George North. Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny wear 14 and 15 respectively.
"We have had a couple of changes forced upon us, with the injury to George (North) and with Paul (James) and Richard (Hibbard) returning to their clubs but we have named what we think is a very strong side," said Wales head coach Warren Gatland.
"Last weekend was a very intense, physical encounter. The guys were disappointed but we have come in this morning, the squad are feeling fresh and the focus is looking ahead to Saturday and the test against the Springboks.
"As coaches we will be asking for the same effort, intensity and desire as last week and we want a repeat of that at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday."
For the full Wales matchday team, click here...
BILLY TWELVETREES has been handed his first start of the 2014 QBE Internationals against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Gloucester Rugby centre, who started every game in last season's RBS 6 Nations campaign, takes the number 12 jersey and shifts Saracen Owen Farrell to the replacements’ bench as George Ford is retained at fly half.
Up front, Northampton Saints pair Tom Wood and Dylan Hartley take over from James Haskell and Rob Webber at blindside flanker and hooker respectively.
Despite those changes to the run-on side, the same match-day 23 who beat Samoa 28-9 last weekend will be on duty as England look to secure a 10th victory in 13 Twickenham Tests.
Reviewing his selection, Head Coach Stuart Lancaster praised Twelvetrees for his committed self-development over the current campaign.
“It’s good to be able to give Billy his first start of the series," he said. “He took on board the feedback we gave him when he first came into camp and he has worked hard both with us and at Gloucester and deserves his chance.
“Owen is a key part of our squad and will offer a huge amount from the bench.”
While Haskell and Webber should also bring dynamism and know-how when called upon, Lancaster suggested that both Hartley and Wood were eager to make an impact from the very start of a high-stakes meeting with Michael Cheika’s Wallabies.
“The Samoa game gave us the opportunity to give James and Rob a start and they made a good contribution. Tom and Dylan were disappointed not to be in the XV against Samoa.
“They are desperate to go out and perform on Saturday to help us finish the series on a high.”
For the full England matchday team, click here...
QANTAS WALLABIES lock Rob Simmons will play his milestone 50th Test for Australia in Saturday’s Cook Cup and clash against England at Twickenham.
The 25-year-old becomes the sixth Australian forward to reach the 50-game milestone in 2014, joining props James Slipper and Sekope Kepu, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, lock James Horwill and No.8 Wycliff Palu.
His selection comes as part of a starting line-up which includes three changes to the team which played Ireland at Aviva Stadium at the weekend.
With Tevita Kuridrani unavailable due to a low-grade ankle injury, Test veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper has been selected at outside centre, which allows Rob Horne to earn a starting position on the wing.
The third change sees Sean McMahon return to the starting XV at blindside flanker.
The starting line-up is otherwise unchanged with McMahon part of a back-row including captain Michael Hooper and Ben McCalman; locks Sam Carter and Rob Simmons; and a front-row of James Slipper, Saia Fainga’a and Sekope Kepu.
In the backs Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley continue their playmaking partnership; Matt Toomua joins Adam Ashley-Cooper in the centres; with a back-three consisting of Israel Folau, Rob Horne and Henry Speight.
The Qantas Wallabies bench will be finalised and announced closer to the match.
The match is Australia’s final match of their five-game Spring Tour, which has also included games against the Barbarians, Wales, France and Ireland.
For the full Wallabies matchday team, click here...
GRAHAM ROWNTREE was a relatively happy bunny at the England Rugby camp yesterday despite Pennyhill Park being dourly grey and miserable, a vast improvement on last week after two consecutive losses to the top 2 World Rugby-ranked teams by such narrow margins when he was openly p****d off he informed.
The England forwards coach was candid as ever about the outcome against Samoa.
“It was important we got the win, but clearly we would have liked to have won by more.
“It was a messy game really, particularly midway through that first half, things went away from us. Samoa aren't the easiest team to play against. They made it difficult for us and gave us a few challenges we're not used to, lie back off from line-outs and rucks. That foxed us a little bit.”
But he sees an immense challenge incoming from the unpredictable Wallabies.
“I think they’ve had good outings in setpiece, not consistently, but over the last couple of weeks against Ireland, and France as well. They’re a smart team - they’re not this push over a lot of us would have you believe, they’re just not. They’re clever, they’re a well coached forward pack and they’ve been together a long time.
“Being together a long time means you’re used to problem-solving as a unit, and I’ve got a lot of respect for them; always have done.”
And it is the Australian captain, Michael Hooper, who will be singled out for some special attention on Saturday: “We have to nullify him at the weekend and keep him quiet.
“He’s a jack-in-the-box, he’s everywhere, line speed, energetic, durable as well, he doesn’t miss many minutes. He’s pretty central to everything that they do offensively, and in the breakdown as well, and this what this Autumn series brings you: stern tests.”
The breakdown is the major area for England to improve on, especially since the setpiece has gone well in the previous three Tests.
“It’s a work in progress. You want clean ball at your breakdown. We work on it every day, that ball speed; we’ve got to go under 4 and a half seconds for ours and anything over that that we can give them, the better. We work on that constantly.
“Playing against the best three teams in the world in that department, it’s a good measuring stick for us.”
Rowntree sees the Australia game as being far pacier than so far in the Autumn, “They like to keep the ball in and it’s a high ruck speed for both teams. It’s what we expect at the weekend and we’ll train accordingly for a quick game.”
And there’s no hiding from what has come before, playing so much rugby in the wrong areas: “We can’t hide away from where we are playing our rugby. Do I climb the walls? I climb the walls when we’re not playing to our potential but it’s not me pointing the finger at other people. I’m part of all of that.
“We’ve not had the consistency of performance we wanted and we’re never going to hide away from that. We have standards in every facet of our game and we have to keep pushing those standards because we’re not over the moon with our performances.”
With the forwards more settled than the backs, Tom Wood will return to his position in the starting XV, a player Rowntree sees that has all the attributes of a world class athlete and leader, “Experience, great warrior spirit, tough character, high work rate, outstanding athlete in terms of lineout aerial ability, high game involvement, good to have round in the group.”
Rowntree’s implicit trust in Dylan Hartley -who is expected to re-sign with Northampton Saints imminently- will be rewarded as he reclaims his place as hooker, but elsewhere in the squad, Owen Farrell will be dropped for the first time since 2012, giving George Ford his second start for England, while Billy Twelvetrees will make a return to the 12 shirt from the outset.
With the state of the England midfield right now, Lancaster changing the centre partnership for the fifth time in six matches, no doubt the entire squad is looking forward to the comeback of the bulldozer that is Manu Tuilagi before the Six Nations.
TENDAI MTAWARIRA, Bismarck du Plessis, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo are back in the Springbok starting line-up for Saturday’s Test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The changes in the back three were required because Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, who started in last weekend’s victory over Italy in Padova, are not available this week, as the match is outside of the World Rugby international Test window so clubs are not obliged to release their players. The two changes to the front row are rotational.
Adriaan Strauss, who started at hooker in the victories over England and Italy, moves to the bench, where he will be joined by Trevor Nyakane and Damian de Allende in the only other changes to the match-23.
“This tour has been a good test of our depth and we’re looking forward to see what the team can do on Saturday,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“We will face a fired-up Welsh side this weekend. They played very well against New Zealand and it will be a tough end to our season, but we want to finish on a high and the focus this week has been on ensuring we keep on building on what we’ve done thus far this year.
“All the players coming into the team have been part of our squad for most of the season. They know our plans and structures and now it’s about execution on Saturday.”
Injuries and the non-availability of overseas-based players for matches outside the Test window have meant that only three players, Le Roux, Du Plessis and Duane Vermeulen, have played in all 12 Tests for the Springboks in 2014.
In 2013, a total of 10 players featured in each of the 12 Tests. Le Roux is the only player who has played in every Springbok encounter over the last two seasons, while Du Plessis has missed only one match.
It has also been confirmed today that scrumhalf Rudy Paige has picked up a medial knee ligament injury during training on Tuesday which will rule him out of action for approximately three to four weeks.
A replacement for Paige in the Springboks' touring squad will be named at a later stage.
The Springboks and Wales have played each other 29 times since 1906, with the South Africans winning 27, losing one (1999) and one was drawn (1970). The Springboks have scored 808 points and 101 tries and conceded 428 points and 36 tries for an average score of 28-15.
For the full Springboks matchday team, click here...
ENGLAND have named an unchanged match 23 for Saturday’s QBE International against Australia.
The same squad that secured a first win of the autumn against Samoa will line up against the Wallabies at Twickenham Stadium for the final November Test.
Gloucester Rugby centre Billy Twelvetrees keeps his place and will compete with Saracens' Owen Farrell for the inside centre slot, as explained by head coach Stuart Lancaster earlier today.
Brad Barritt looks likely to retain the outside centre berth after three successive starts this autumn, with rival Luther Burrell among the players released back to their clubs this evening.
Wasps James Haskell, who started the 28-9 win last Saturday at blindside flanker, is up against Tom Wood and Ben Morgan for a place in the back row after Exeter Chiefs’ No 8 Thomas Waldrom was also released back to his club side.
Danny Care of Harlequins, Semesa Rokoduguni and Kyle Eastmond, both of Bath Rugby, were released from the England training camp last evening, returning to their clubs to give them additional training time ahead of Friday’s Aviva Premiership match at The Rec.
Lancaster said: “There has been some strong competition for places throughout the whole series and, with our strength in depth increasing in many positions and key players to return from injury soon, we will be in good shape for 2015.
“It was great to get the win last week and the whole 23 did well so we want to give those guys another chance against an Australian team who will want to finish their season on a high.
“We’ve had great support at Twickenham over the last three games and we are determined to give the fans something to shout about this weekend.”
ENGLAND MATCHDAY SQUAD
Returning to Aviva Premiership clubs:
A decision has been made over the dispersal of the $45,000 fine issued by an independent Code of Conduct Tribunal related to the offensive image Kurtley Beale admitted sending on 9 June 2014 to former Business Manager, Di Patston, leading to her resignation from the ARU.
The Australian Rugby Union announced the $45,000 fine being paid by Beale following a breach of the ARU Code of Conduct will be directed to the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team.
The money will be used specifically to promote empowerment for Indigenous girls and women through the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team’s existing ‘Stronga Sistas’ program, which uses Rugby as an avenue to work with young women to learn about stronger bodies and stronger minds.
The Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team is an independent organisation dedicated to running programs that foster the development of teamwork, confidence, leadership and Rugby skills in a supportive environment.
Its programs promote an ethos of good sportsmanship, nutrition, mental health awareness, drug and alcohol free living and taking personal responsibility for positive life choices.
Back in London, Beale may be recalled to the starting line up for the Wallabies final match of their Spring Tour against England on Saturday, after Tevita Kuridrani picked up a low-grade syndesmosis (high ankle sprain) injury in the second half of the Australia’s defeat to Dublin last weekend.
The 26-23 loss forced Australia to drop to 5th in the World Rugby Rankings, whilst England moved up to 4th after beating Samoa.
THE Welsh Rugby Union have taken exception and made a formal complaint to the BBC following the perfectly rational questioning of their appalling record against Southern Hemisphere teams, having lost a 22nd consecutive match, this time to the All Blacks at the weekend.
Experienced BBC sports reporter Sonja McLaughlan, who has reported on every Olympics since 1996, and across a variety of other sports, but renowned for her rugby journalism, asked the question of Head Coach, Warren Gatland if he felt under pressure, only winning one match in 27 since he took over the reins at Wales.
His response was curt: “And you are putting me under pressure as well; thanks.” And the coach turned on his heel and walked away, cutting the interview short on live national television.
The national union also included in their complaint their objection to a pre-match question on the haka possibly giving the All Blacks an unfair advantage.
Following the over-reaction by the WRU, defence coach Shaun Edwards reacted badly to the pressure question in today’s Wales press conference.
"What do you mean 'under pressure?” he snapped.
"Do you mean do you think he is going to get sacked?”
In the meantime, Sonja McLaughlan has been the target of twitter abuse from Welsh fans since the interview took place. She tweeted yesterday,
“Bit shocked that one Q to Warren Gatland has led to so much bile. It's my job to ask questions and I will not be deterred from doing it.”
Her comment simply prompted more ‘bile’, but not all Welsh fans are opposed to her straight-forward questioning, and the entire rugby media, Welsh or otherwise are completely behind her, including Nick Mullins of BT Sport Rugby.
STUART LANCASTER does not pull punches, and like all his coaching team, calls a spade a spade. Following a full review of the match against Samoa in the first England night match at Twickenham on Saturday, though pleased with the ‘W’, he was not backward in pointing out faults.
“We need to improve on our discipline at the breakdown. We gave away too many points away there and gave up easy field position in what was going to be a difficult game against streetwise and committed opposition.
“The opportunities we created were good”, he riposted on the positives. “We scored three well-taken tries that weren't given by any stretch of the imagination.
“The first one was from a decent set play, the second one was a great execution from a line out drive and try by Mike Brown. And the third try was an excellent try, we kept the ball alive and shifted it along the backline to score.
Lancaster was pleased with both the young blood and the changes he made to the line up to bring a different flavour and variety to the style of play.
“Anthony (Watson) has taken his opportunity really well and Jonny May has stepped up as well. We'll continue to learn on the route towards the World Cup without a doubt. I don't think we have the level of experience in our backline that other countries have by the nature of where we are.
“I think Ben Young’s kicking game was a plus for us. When we got our kicking game going I thought the accuracy of it was very good. Our restarts were also better. George's high hanging restarts meant both Brad (Barritt) and Anthony could put pressure on the receiver. I was pleased that improved because it was clearly an area we needed to work on the back of the New Zealand game.
Despite Haskell starting the match by shipping a major penalty early on, the back row did the side justice too: “Ben Morgan played well again at the weekend and played the full 80. We wanted to give James Haskell an opportunity on the back of his club form so we were always going to generate that opportunity for him.
“Going into the Six Nations and the World Cup, we are going to need five back rowers. If you put Tom Croft back in the equation as well then we have some good experienced players who can play in different positions and play in different roles.
“Tom Wood’s lineout option is one to consider for this weekend because of the pressure we feel we can put on the Australian set piece. A fired up and motivated Tom Wood is a pretty useful person in your armoury.”
On Australia, England’s head coach believes his opposite number, though very new to his position in leading the Qantas Wallabies, is more than capable of instilling the same culture and belief that Lancaster has achieved since his investiture two years ago.
“I’ve never really met him, to be honest,” he said of Michael Cheika.” If you look at the success he had with Leinster and, more recently, with the Waratahs – to take them from where they were to the top of the Super 15 tournament is very impressive. He has very strong beliefs in terms of how the game should be played and he drives that through his players. He’s a high-quality and he’s got a good coaching team with him.
“Nathan Grey has worked on their defence so they are defending differently. He’s made a difference as well and without a doubt, they’re a tough team to beat.”
And as for the Wallabies as a whole, their backline and forwards, he sees them as extremely impressive: “Michael Hooper has been outstanding as a forward hasn't he? They're developing a very effective pack but with the X-factor they've got in the backline across the board - Phipps and Foley starting at the moment, who've been outstanding, then they bring on Genia and Cooper. The likes of Folau and Adam Ashley-Cooper too - and I didn't even mention Kurtley Beale.”
He does not see any of Australia’s recent off-field distractions as a problem.
“You get a sense of a very connected team at the moment, playing for each other and playing for the coach. The performances they've put in all three games: Wales strong, a bit unlucky against France, and particularly unlucky against Ireland. They're playing as a team.
“Any team coming to Twickenham for the last game of their series, having had a long hard season, will be highly motivated I'm sure.”
WITH little else to celebrate by the end, entertaining the Welsh rugby fans on Saturday evening at the Millennium Stadium was the once cool 80s Knight Rider and Baywatch, and now slightly clichéd David ‘The Hoff’ Hasselhoff, who was supporting the homeside with his Welsh girlfriend, Hayley Roberts.
The Reality TV judge spoke to WRUTV and the BBC pitchside for a special 'Hoff Time' report before returning to watch the second half in a VIP hospitality box. He said: "I've fallen in love with the Wales rugby team. The experience here is amazing. It's like a Cathedral in here. Man, you guys can sing.”
Not having observed the Māori war dance before or any team’s reaction to it, he naïvely commented, "The best thing was that Wales were not intimidated by the Haka – Wales gets charged up by the Haka.”
Also in the crowd was the record-breaking extreme environment athlete and former Wales international, Richard Parks who was in the WRU Shop signing copies of his new book, Beyond the Horizon, and meeting with rugby fans before the match.
Parks said: "It was awesome to meet fans at the WRU shop and be part of the build up to such a special game. Thanks to everyone who came along. The atmosphere today is electric and I'm always proud and humbled to be invited to watch the boys in action.”
STUART LANCASTER has recalled 34 players to Pennyhill Park to prepare for Saturday’s final QBE International against Australia at Twickenham Stadium.
Exeter Chiefs’ in form No 8 Thomas Waldrom, who has scored seven tries in eight Aviva Premiership games this season, replaces Billy Vunipola. The Saracens man suffered concussion in Saracens’ defeat to Northampton Saints at the weekend will undergo the Graduated Return To Play protocol at his club.
Fly half Stephen Myler, who kicked 16 points for Saints in that victory, regains a place in the squad after a hamstring strain. Courtney Lawes (also Northampton Saints) continues to be treated in camp for a knee injury suffered against Samoa.
England won their first match of the autumn against Samoa last Saturday, with tries from Jonny May (two) and Mike Brown securing the 28-9 victory.
ENGLAND RETURNING SQUAD
THE question of allowing overseas players into national squads has been a long-standing and polarising debate in rugby. And now Argentina is to be included in the southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby tournament from 2016, the new franchise will return players home, and the policy will be the same as is already practiced in New Zealand, England and Australia.
Pumas head coach, Daniel Hourcade, told Midi Olympique, “Until last year 90% of Pumas played in Europe. The Argentinian franchise which will join Super Rugby in 2016, will therefore change things. The aim is to bring all our internationals back home.
"The rule will be the following: Any player who plays outside Argentina will not be able to wear the Puma jersey. Argentina will follow the Australian and New Zealand policy. The players are free to choose between the money and the jersey."
But unlike England Rugby, Hourcade will allow no exceptions to the rule.
The biggest story for a while was the return of 5 times England capped Toulon’s phenomenal openside flanker, Steffon Armitage, who was hoping to come home to join Bath Rugby, in order to qualify for his home nation again. But the deal fell through, and being one of the best number 7s in Europe is not considered an exceptional circumstance. Though his introduction would mean Lancaster’s captain, Chris Robshaw, who wears the 7 shirt, being ousted, which is not something the head coach has on his radar.
There was no intention of changing allegiance to France Armitage said in an interview with The Times.
“I have never come out and told anyone I wanted to play for France,” he said. “There was some talk that it was a possibility, but there was never a conversation with him (Philippe Saint-André) asking me: ‘Do you want to?’ And if he had asked, I would not have answered that question by saying yes. One the greatest ever moments for me was playing at Twickenham with my brother.
“I definitely still want to play for England. As a rugby player, you want to play at the top of the game, and the top of the game is your country.”
Despite Toulon coach Bernard Laporte confirming Armitage would be released for all England’s training camps if he was picked, the return is not likely to happen for the 2014 European Player of the Year.
Meanwhile in Australia, though short term sabbaticals are allowed, when the idea was mooted of lifting the overseas player rule, new head coach, Michael Cheika, put his foot down.
"Once you've made that final decision that money is more important to you than playing for Australia, it's time for someone else to play for Australia," Cheika said. "If I was to come out now and say I support the idea, what does that say about the guys who have been plying their trade in Australia, probably for less money then they could have got overseas, because they want to play for Australia?
"I want to back that type of resolve and that type of attitude, 100%."
SAMOA will protest against their ongoing shoddy treatment by the Samoan Rugby Union by wearing blue wristbands during the match against England.
Solidarity for #SamoaUnited has been shown from teams across the globe including the All Blacks, the Wallabies, Les Bleus, the Azzurri, Leicester Tigers and other Premiership players. Oddly, the RFU has stated that England will not be supporting the campaign.
Samoan players are paid so little, and there is little transparency in the machinations of the Samoa Rugby Union (SRU). The players had to fund raise back home to afford the trip to the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. And when the SRU was questioned on where £1.5million of that money was spent, there was no answer.
The Union itself denies any knowledge of complaints, yet anyone who dares question them is summarily dismissed permanently, as was former Samoa captain, Mahonri Schwalger. The situation is not helped by senior members of the Samoa Rugby Union being government officials, including the Prime Minster who is chairman.
The Union has so far refused to attend any meetings to resolve the issue, both in France last Saturday and in London today, claiming they mixed up their days.
And in a sinister twist, 38 times capped Dan Leo, who is on the bench for tomorrow's match at Twickenham, has said threats have been received.
"You can't have a situation where players are questioning accountability and transparency and then getting their families threatened. That's not sport in my opinion. I have had threats since we went down this road. If it's happened to me, it has probably happened to others. There needs to be a separation of politics from sport.
"They got rid of our captain after the last World Cup for speaking up. I was one of nine players who wrote a letter to the Samoan Observer backing him up. They got rid of about four or five of those guys.
"There hasn't been any progress between 2011 and now. We are going into a big year where the Samoan Rugby Union will be asking the Samoan people for a lot of money. We were the only team at the last World Cup who went out fundraising. We went to schools, churches, villages. We are not comfortable repeating that process not knowing where the money is going. We refuse to. It has to be dealt with now."
Rudy Paige and Marnitz Boshoff have been called up to the Springbok squad for the last week of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour in Cardiff next week.
Paige, from the Vodacom Blue Bulls, and Xerox Golden Lions’ Boshoff will join in the squad on Sunday to provide specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf as the Springboks’ overseas-based players are not available for the last match of the season due to the fact that it falls outside the World Rugby International Test window.
“This means that Jano Vermaak (Toulouse), Morné Steyn (Stade Français) and Johan Goosen (Racing Métro 92) are not available to face Wales, which is why we had to get in specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Marnitz was part of our squad earlier in the season and made his Test debut in June, while Rudy has impressed during the latter part of the Absa Currie Cup and also spent a week at our training camp in Stellenbosch, so he is up to speed with our structures.”
AZZURRI head coach Jacques Brunel has named an all but unchanged side to take on the Springboks at the Stadio Euganeo in Padua on Saturday afternoon.
The only change to the Italy team is Zebre’s Samuela Vunisa comes in as openside flanker as a replacement for Simone Favaro who has a mild neck strain in his neck. Other than this, even the bench remains untouched from last week, when the Pumas ran the Italians very close before losing to the home side 18-20 in Genoa.
This is Italy’s twelfth match against the Springboks, all of which the opposition have won. The last match was in June last year when the Boks took the Azzurri to task 44-10 in Durban.
The match will be refereed by Frenchman, Jérôme Garcès.
For the full Italy matchday team, click here...
RORY BEST will win his 78th cap for Ireland when he lines out against Australia this Saturday at the Aviva Stadium in the final game of the 2014 Guinness Series.
The Ireland Coaching team have made three changes to the starting XV named for the opening game of the series against South Africa. Rory Best is joined in the front row by Mike Ross and Jack McGrath, Gordon D'Arcy is installed at inside centre with Robbie Henshaw moving to outside centre. Rhys Ruddock is named to start at openside in a back row that contains Jamie Heaslip and Peter O'Mahony.
Paul O'Connell captain's the side on his 96th appearance for Ireland and is partnered in the engine room by Devin Toner.
The half-back combination of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton is retained from the South Africa game as is the back three of Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo.
Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne and Rodney Ah You provide front row cover while Dave Foley is rewarded for his performance against Georgia with a place among the replacements. Tommy O'Donnell is selected to cover the back-row while Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan and Felix Jones will cover the inside and outside backs.
For the full Ireland matchday team, click here...
DANIEL HOURCADE, Argentina’s head coach has named a marginally changed Pumas team to face France on Saturday night in Paris, with four changes to the side that narrowly beat Italy last week.
Hooker Agustín Creevy returns to take on the captaincy again, joining Marcos Ayerza and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro in the front, relegating Matías Cortese to the replacements bench.
Nicolás Sánchez is back at fly half, allowing Juan Martín Hernández to retake to his favoured centre position, joining the returning Marcelo Bosch who was back with his club, Saracens last week.
Juan Imhoff is back on the wing for the Pumas, Lucas González Amorosino moving down to the bench.
Haunted by injuries, Guido Petti and Facundo Isa both start in the pack with only five caps between them , and Tomás Lezana is yet to make his debut off the bench.
The two sides have met in Paris five times previously, where Les Bleus hold the winning record 4 to 1, but the Pumas did beat the homeside to take third place in the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
For the full Argentina matchday team, click here...
HEAD COACH Vern Cotter has made four injury-enforced changes to the starting Scotland team that will play Tonga in this Saturday's historic viagogo Autumn Test match at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock.
The national team are continuing their trend of taking international rugby to pastures new in a globally ground-breaking fixture, as an international involving a Tier One country is held on an entirely artificial pitch for the first time.
The team's alterations are split evenly between the forwards and backs, with tight-head prop Geoff Cross and number 8 Johnnie Beattie stepping into the pack for Euan Murray and Adam Ashe, who miss out through thigh and neck injuries respectively.
In the backs, 90-cap Glasgow Warrior Sean Lamont, who came on in the 13th minute against New Zealand as an injury replacement for club-mate Mark Bennett (hamstring), retains his place in midfield. The final change sees Edinburgh Rugby's free-scoring winger Tim Visser set to make his first appearance since the summer tour in place of injured Warrior Sean Maitland (hamstring).
Cotter said: "We came very close to the best side in the world last Saturday, which left us very disappointed but, when you look at the content of our performance and what the players did on the paddock, it'd be hard for any coach to be too unhappy.
"The work rate, desire and determination of the squad on the field was excellent.
Three of the four changes to the starting team are promotions from the bench selected in the national team's previous match against New Zealand last weekend.
Cotter added: "The players take a lot of pride from playing for Scotland and really enjoy pulling on the shirt, and I can see that enthusiasm in training and in the games we play.
"They're setting standards for themselves, which I think is really important for moving forward. It is very encouraging and we'll continue to work hard on parts of our game to create pressure, momentum and points.
"To do that against an impressive and powerful Tongan team will present another big challenge for this group.
"The Pacific Islanders pride themselves on their physicality, power and pace, all of which combined to hurt Scotland at Pittodrie two years ago.
"We will have to be on top of our game and continue our trajectory of improvements if we are to secure the win this Saturday.”
For the full Scotland matchday team, click here...
AFTER Philippe Saint-André named his team to face the Pumas on Saturday evening, with Teddy Thomas making an appearance for just the third time, the France head coach has dropped the winger, bringing in Maxime Médard at 11 instead after Thomas missed a training session yesterday.
Despite Thomas scoring two tries in his last two matches, Saint-Andre made it clear there were consequences for insubordination.
"In the France squad there are rules that everyone has to follow.
“Teddy, who we like a lot, forgot them yesterday. So from there Max (Médard) will start on Saturday on the wing.
"When you play for France you have to be irreproachable on and off the pitch. I spoke to Teddy yesterday. He understands and I'm sure he will grow up as a result. Yesterday evening we had a team meeting with a video session, there were 29 players and one was missing."
For the full France matchday team, click here...
QANTAS WALLABIES winger Henry Speight will make his Test debut for Australia in Saturday’s Lansdowne Cup clash against Ireland at Aviva Stadium.
Speight, 26, will become the third player to make his debut for Australia on this Spring Tour, joining Sean McMahon and Tetera Faulkner, and is one of four changes made to the starting line-up for Saturday.
The other changes see lock Sam Carter, backrower Luke Jones and centre Matt Toomua come into a starting XV which boasts 488 games of Test experience.
Jones has earned his first run-on opportunity for the Wallabies in just his second match at Test level, following his debut against France in Melbourne in June, while Carter and Toomua will both earn their 10th cap for the Wallabies in 2014.
An extended bench has been selected, with the final line-up to be confirmed and announced closer to the match.
“Henry has done all the right things to earn his selection, has had an outstanding Super Rugby season and deserves his opportunity to play for Australia,” Qantas Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said.
“He is very passionate about representing Australia and we’re all looking forward to seeing him bring his best attributes to our game.
“The other changes have been made to give the other players who have been knocking on the door an opportunity to start a Test match on this tour.
“All our changes will bring a new energy into the team and I know everyone is looking forward to the opportunities our match against Ireland will bring.”
For the full Wallabies matchday team, click here...
THE All Blacks have named a very experienced side to take on Wales at Millennium Stadium this Saturday.
This weekend's Test will be a special moment for All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who will reach another milestone in his outstanding career when he captains the All Blacks for the 100th time in a Test in his 137th Test.
Hooker Dane Coles and props Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks make up the front row. Locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock return to the second row, while McCaw is re-joined by the hard-hitting Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read in the back row. The All Blacks also have forward firepower to call on from the bench, with 122-Test hooker Keven Mealamu, prop Charlie Faumuina and loose forward Liam Messam complementing the younger duo of lock Patrick Tuipulotu and prop Joe Moody.
In the backs, halfback Aaron Smith will start his 12th Test of the year, while first five-eighth Beauden Barrett has been given the 10 jersey. Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith, in his 85th Test, are in the midfield, while Julian Savea and Charles Piutau are on the wings and Ben Smith is at fullback. The back reserves are halfback TJ Perenara, Colin Slade and Ryan Crotty.
Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "This was a very difficult team to select as we have a lot of players in great form. However, we believe this is the right combination of 23 players to represent the All Blacks and New Zealand very proudly on Saturday.
"It's always a great occasion to play at Millennium Stadium, which is one of the great stadiums in the world. We have had a good week's preparation and we are expecting a physical Test with a high 'ball-in-play' time. We know we will have to be totally engaged in our own roles for the full 80 minutes and take the game to the Welsh at every opportunity."
Hansen also paid tribute to McCaw: "On behalf of the team and myself, we would like to congratulate Richie on the impressive milestone of captaining his country in 100 Test matches. There is no doubt his leadership has grown phenomenally over the years and he is now one of the all-time great leaders of any sports team.
For the full All Blacks matchday team, click here...
GEORGE FORD will make his first Test start for England in Saturday evening’s QBE International against Samoa at Twickenham.
The 21 year-old Bath Rugby fly half takes over from former age-group teammate Owen Farrell, with the Saracen shifting to inside centre.
Given Brad Barritt retains the number 13 jersey, the move sees Stuart Lancaster re-instate the midfield partnership that started his maiden game in charge back in February 2012 against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Elsewhere, Ford is partnered by his ex-Leicester Tigers colleague Ben Youngs at half back, while James Haskell of Wasps and Gloucester No.8 Ben Morgan replace Tom Wood (Northampton Saints) and Billy Vunipola (Saracens) in the back row.
Finally, Bath Rugby's Rob Webber comes in at hooker for Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), with Billy Twelvetrees of Gloucester Rugby and Saracens scrum half Richard Wigglesworth joining the replacements for the first time this autumn.
After choosing his match-day 23 to halt a run of five consecutive defeats, England Head Coach Lancaster said: “Those selected have a great opportunity to show what they can do against what will be a highly motivated Samoa team.
“It's great to give George a start in this series, having missed the summer tour through injury. He has been impressive in camp and now fully up to speed with the game plan and he is ready to run the game.
“Owen switches to 12 and I am sure will support George well. In the back row both James and Ben have been in great form and I am sure they will bring their physical presence to the game.
“Hooker is another competitive position and we believe Rob is ready for the start and will continue the progress he made on the New Zealand tour.”
For the full England matchday team, click here...
THE Springbok starting team to face Italy in Padova on Saturday shows four changes from the side which beat England at Twickenham last week, with three new faces amongst the pack and one in the backline.
There are also five changes on the bench, with Nizaam Carr and Julian Redelinghuys included in a Test match-23 for the first time.
Trevor Nyakane will start his first Test for South Africa at loosehead prop, while Coenie Oosthuizen moves up from the bench to replace the injured Jannie du Plessis at tighthead. Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje returns to the starting line-up while Johan Goosen has been selected at fullback.
Joining Carr and Redelinghuys on the bench, are Gurthrö Steenkamp, Lood de Jager and Willie le Roux. Tendai Mtawarira has been given a break after carrying a heavy workload recently.
“I’m excited to see what these guys can do on Saturday in what will be a stern Test against a fired-up Italy,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“We planned to make a few shifts for this Test as I’d like to see if these players can make the step up. The guys coming in deserve their opportunities and seeing that we won’t have our overseas-based players available next week against Wales, it made sense to bring a few of them in this week.”
Meyer said he was impressed by the commitment shown by all the uncapped players at training on the tour and that Carr and Redelinghuys are ready for selection.
“Nizaam can cover all the positions in the back-row and his call-up is just-reward after a very good season for the DHL Stormers and Western Province,” said the Springbok coach.
“Julian has been superb for the Lions this season and he’s shown that he can scrum. Both of them are now familiar with our plays and structures and I’m looking forward to see what they can bring on Saturday.
“It will also be a good test for Johan, who I’ve always regarded as a possibility at fullback. He has a great skill-set and a massive boot which will come in handy on Saturday if we have to play in wet weather again.”
Meyer said the Test against Italy will pose different challenges to what the Springboks had faced thus far on the tour.
“They are a passionate nation with a very experienced coach in Jacques Brunel and a world-class captain in Sergio Parisse,” said Meyer.
“The Italian pack is always formidable and their backs are not scared of taking chances. Our focus is to show improvements from our performance at Twickenham and we know it will be a big challenge on Saturday.”
For the full Springboks matchday team, click here...
RICHARD WIGGLESWORTH, James Haskell and Billy Twelvetrees make their first appearances in a match day squad this series after being named among the 23 players to face Samoa in the third QBE International.
Saracens scrum half Wigglesworth, who won the last of his 14 Test caps on the 2013 tour to Argentina, replaces the starting No.9 from the three-point defeats to New Zealand and South Africa, Harlequins’ Danny Care.
Similarly, Wasps back row Haskell adds the experience of 51 Test appearances in taking the place of Saracens No.8 Billy Vunipola and Gloucester Rugby centre Billy Twelvetrees is in for Bath Rugby’s Kyle Eastmond, who suffered concussion against the Springboks.
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said he always planned to look at options during a four-game series and is rewarding players for their form.
“We always wanted to use these four games to look at options in our squad and Billy, Richard and James have been in great form for their clubs and pressing hard in training.
"We always wanted to use these four games to look at options.
“Kyle has not been able to train due to the Graduated Return To Play protocol and will return to Bath to continue that process and hopefully he should be available for his club this weekend along with the other released players.”
Looking to arrest a run of five straight defeats on Saturday, Lancaster added: “We’ve got another full day of training tomorrow and the players are fully focused on another tough challenge against Samoa.”
ENGLAND MATCHDAY SQUAD
Returning to Aviva Premiership clubs:
WALES have named an experienced side to face New Zealand on Saturday with centre Jonathan Davies the only personnel change to the team that started against Australia in the opening Dove Men Series clash.
Davies comes into the midfield to partner Jamie Roberts whilst Warren Gatland also calls upon the returning Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny in the backline.
Halfpenny comes back into the side after missing the Fiji match and links up with try-scorers from that game, George North and Alex Cuthbert in the back-three. Ospreys half-back pair Webb and Biggar are named at nine and 10 respectively.
The pack features the same eight that started against the Wallabies. Paul James, Richard Hibbard and Samson Lee comprise the front-row. Alun Wyn Jones and Jake Ball start in the second row with captain Sam Warburton, who missed the clash against Fiji, coming back into the side alongside Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau.
"It's pretty much the same side that played against Australia and it's a boost to have a few players back from injury,” said Gatland.
"It's one of the most experienced teams we have put out.
"A couple of decisions have been forced upon us. Gethin Jenkins has a hamstring strain, Bradley Davies hasn't trained for the first couple of days and Liam Williams had a bit of ankle knock at the weekend and it was a big call on him but he will start on the bench.
"We are expecting another clinical performance from the All Blacks. We need to match their intensity and aggression.
"The players are obviously excited about the opportunity to face the number one side at a packed Millennium Stadium. We have named an experienced team and we are really looking forward to it.”
For the full Wales matchday team, click here...
STUART LANCASTER is not pushing the panic button on England’s elite rugby just yet, instead taking a calm and reasoned approach whilst most observers around him outside of camp are screaming ‘crisis’ from every parapet they can find.
“A group of players who are not aligned with what you're trying to and not agreeing with where you're going, have poor discipline on and off the field. That's a team in crisis,” says the head coach. “I don't see any of those traits in this England team.”
There is no denying England has lost the last five matches consecutively, four to the World Champion All Blacks, and one to world no#2 Springboks. But of those five, all but one were lost by margins of 1, 3 or 5 points against the best two teams on the planet.
Context is key to the argument, and in the words of former England and British Lions hooker turned columnist, author and broadcast journalist, Brian Moore:
“In the past six games against the All Blacks the Springboks have lost five and won one; Australia have lost five and drawn one; England have lost five and won one. The other four major northern hemisphere teams have lost all six.”
In his defence, Lancaster points out, “I’ve seen South Africa beaten by 30 points in the summer, South Africa beat Australia by 30 points, I’ve seen New Zealand put 50 points on Australia and I’ve seen teams we’ve played being clinical and efficient against top-quality opposition.
“I’ve seen South Africa smash Wales in the summer by 30 points, I’ve seen South Africa beat Australia by 30 points.
“We’ve come up short and we’re not happy with that, but we’ve not been smashed in any of those games”.
The head coach agrees the momentum garnered from the Six Nations where the team went from strength to strength week on week has come to a standstill, and for all intents and purposes, appears to have taken a step or three back from the dominant side that bossed Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy in the Spring. But there is logical reasoning for this depression including an inordinate amount of injuries in the front, second, back rows and centre excluding many of his first choice players, and breaking up experienced partnerships.
“We had a consistency running in to it (Six Nations) on the back of players in form. The consistency of selection helped the players.
“The NZ tour was challenging. If we’d been able to run with the same combination for the first test, then who knows. The die was cast as soon as Saracens played Northampton in the (Premiership) Final and Billy Twelvetrees was injured. Then you’re running into the Premiership season relatively young in terms of game time, then injuries, Luther, Manu, Owen, etc. That’s part of it.”
And there is no sense that Lancaster is making excuses, simply explaining the predicament he and his coaching team are in.
“Going into New Zealand with less than a week and a half against the All Blacks who have been together for two and a half months, and the same with South Africa.”
It does not require a degree in astrophysics to decipher that there are problems that need to be fixed, be they physical or psychological. Yet despite all the upheaval, the forward packs appear to be doing a sterling job in handling the dominance of hugely physical world-class opposition.
And yet there are those demanding the heads of Owen Farrell and Dylan Hartley on spikes; the same Farrell who had minimal game time coming into the England camp after starting only one match in the Premiership this season before injuring his leg. Granted George Ford needs time at international level, but Stuart points out. “I’m aware he needs to play and have an opportunity at 10. The opportunities I would have created for him in New Zealand - he would have played in the First Test – didn’t get presented because he didn’t go. He was injured.
“You are then asking him to start in the first game of a series against New Zealand having been in camp for three days. Your best laid plans sometimes don’t play out that way.”
And as for Hartley and his disappointing yellow card against Duane Vermeulen on Saturday against the Springboks, in the big scheme of things it did not affect the outcome of the match since all the Boks gained was a penalty, whilst England notched 12 points with a man up. The referee and his assistants all failed to notice the South African No8 was lying across the breakdown area merrily yanking at Dave Attwood’s leg repeatedly to drag down the maul illegally. There was no stamping; Hartley tried to move Vermeulen’s knee by hand before he stepped over and trod on him in the process. The referee did not even think the action warranted a mention until the TMO insisted.
There will be changes to the team against Samoa, and not just to pay lipservice.
“We’re not making changes and then thinking we will revert back. It is very much an opportunity for this group of players that we pick to put their hands up for that Australia game.
“You're wanting to judge players at the highest level. I want to learn about which players can and can't handle the decision-making needed.
“Samoa is going to be a different challenge but still a tough one, and then Australia will be not dissimilar from our previous two games.”
However, as has been mooted by many an experienced professional rugby player of late, all work, management speak and no play makes for a very dull, stilted, robotic team. May be a damn good night out for them all to let go and go wild (sans dwarfs) will loosen up the England squad and allow that creativity and flair back in.
DEFEATS for England and Australia have seen Ireland equal their highest ever position of third in the latest IRB World Rankings, a position the men in green have not occupied since November 2006.
Ireland did not improve their rating by beating 15th ranked Georgia 49-7 at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, but the points lost by England and Australia as a result of defeats by South Africa and France respectively led to the changes.
The Irish now have a cushion of 0.62 points from Australia, who avoided a two-place fall to fifth by the smallest of margins after a 29-26 loss to France in Paris with the Wallabies sitting just one hundredth of a point above England now.
South Africa’s 31-28 win at Twickenham has strengthened their position of second place – some five points clear of Ireland – and closed the gap to New Zealand by nearly one point, although the All Blacks still sit 3.77 points clear at the top.
New Zealand did not improve their rating on the back of a 24-16 win over eighth ranked Scotland at Murrayfield on a weekend which saw the world champions celebrate five years as the number one side in the rankings.
While England have fallen two places to fifth on the back of losses to South Africa and New Zealand this month and lost their mantle as the leading northern hemisphere nation to Ireland, they still sit 2.74 points above France.
Wales improved their rating slightly in seventh with the narrow 17-13 win over their Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool A opponents Fiji, a result which – in tandem with Tonga’s 40-12 win over the USA in Gloucester – sees the two Pacific Island nations swap places with the Ikale Tahi now 12th.
Argentina have climbed one place to ninth on the back of their 20-18 victory over Italy in Genoa on Friday. Los Pumas gained more points for that win and therefore climbed above Japan, who ran out 18-13 winners over 18th ranked Romania in Bucharest.
The only other positional change in the top 20 sees Russia climb one place to 19th – swapping places with Uruguay, the side who had ended their RWC 2015 dreams last month – following a 39-27 win over their Hong Kong, one which sees their hosts fall two to 27th.
LUTHER BURRELL is in contention to face Samoa at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday after being named in the group preparing for the third QBE International.
The Northampton Saints centre, who scored three tries in the 2014 RBS 6 Nations, is among 28 players recalled by Stuart Lancaster to Pennyhill Park this evening after recovering from a hand injury.
Bath Rugby wing Semesa Rokoduguni, missing from the 31-28 defeat to South Africa with a thigh injury, has not recovered sufficiently to retake his place in the squad and will remain at the club. Domestic colleague Kyle Eastmond suffered concussion towards the end of the match on Saturday and will undergo the Graduated Return To Play protocol in hope of playing against the South Sea Islanders.
Courtney Lawes suffered a stinger but should be fine for the weekend though will not train until Wednesday. Billy Twelvetrees rolled his ankle on Friday, but should be good to train tomorrow.
England Head Coach Lancaster said it was a welcome boost to have Burrell back as he seeks to arrest a run of five consecutive defeats.
“We have narrowed the group to give us more focus in training,” he said. “It’s good to have Luther back in camp after recovering from his hand injury and we’ll see how he gets on in training this week.
“Roko will stay with Bath as he returns to fitness. Kyle suffered a bang to the head at the end of the game and he will be undergoing the Graduated Return To Play protocol with us.
The squad returns to camp this evening, and first on the agenda will be the review.
“The review will be reasonably constructive in the areas we did well, but also I'll be highlighting the areas of disappointment, cantering around some of the unnecessary points we gifted the opposition.
“Having watched the game again, I didn't think South Africa outplayed us. We gifted them too many points and sometimes field position on the back of easy penalties, which is poor discipline by us.
That's one of the key areas I'll be addressing.
“The over-riding emotion is frustration because there was an opportunity to beat them and it was through our own errors that gave them a foothold in the game.”
ENGLAND RETURNING SQUAD
EARLIER in the week, the England versus Samoa November Test fixture remained in jeopardy after the Samoan International rugby players raised their concerns last month with the International Rugby Board that the Samoa Rugby Union were treating the Test players unfairly.
The IRB received a letter from the players detailing how the Samoan Rugby Union had frozen players’ tour allowances at the 1990 level, and that general governance, management and financial running was appalling.
“We are unhappy with the incompetence of the Samoan Rugby Union in its current shape and under its current leadership,” the players wrote. “We would like to notify you that we have called for the resignation of a number of senior officials… and will be boycotting the game against England should our feelings not be addressed.”
Samoa is not a rich nation, with a per capita GDP of c.£2,200 compared to England’s c.£32,200, so expecting players to pay the airfare back home at the end of the tour is quite preposterous. Samoan Test players earn £1,000 per week whilst on tour internationally, whilst England’s elite are on £18,000 per match before any win bonuses are added.
The IRB issued a statement on Wednesday to say the Test match at Twickenham would go ahead as planned.
“The IRB engaged in dialogue with the Samoa Rugby Union and the International Rugby Players' Association to facilitate urgent and collaborative resolution.
“With all parties, including the players, committed to ongoing dialogue, just under two weeks ago the players withdrew their proposed action to withdraw from the England match and the IRB fully expects the Union to undertake its obligation to honour its November Test programme commitment in full.”
All the efforts of the Samoan players and the IRB was not helped by the Prime Minster of Samoa accusing the players of behaving in a childish fashion. The Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele also holds the post of Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, and in a national address claimed the "The boycott is foolish thinking." After singling out players who make their living playing professional rugby overseas like Dan Leo (London Irish), Census Johnston (Toulouse) and Kahn Fotuali’i (Northampton Saints), he spouted,
"Their bread is from professional contracts they achieved because of Manu Samoa. If they didn't play for Samoa, they wouldn't have gotten those big contracts.
"So submit your resignation and we'll select new players. There are lots of players in Samoa. This thing appears to have been stirred by overseas-based players."
There is, of course no shadow of a doubt as to the Samaon International players’ commitment and passion to both rugby and their home nation, Manu Samoa.
A round table meeting was held yesterday between the Samoan players, the IRPA and the IRB, but the Samoa Rugby Union declined to attend or send representation.
However, the meeting was positive, and the following statement was issued by the IRPA:
“With IRPA support it is the Samoan International players’ strong desire to work with the SRU and IRB and engage on these issues with a view to developing positive outcomes for the benefit of Samoa Rugby. They are now asking the SRU to commit to meaningful communication and discussion on the issues with all parties.”
It is quite certain that the England vs Samoa match at Twickenham on Saturday will kick off as planned at 7pm GMT.
ENGLAND RUGBY are braced for a backlash at Twickenham this afternoon, after the Springboks, who recently beat the All Blacks in The Rugby Championship, were shown up in Dublin when Ireland convincingly beat them 29-15 last weekend.
Despite not beating South Africa since November 2006, England Forwards Coach, Graham Rowntree, is adamant the tide is ready to turn against the top-ranking teams in the world.
“We keep coming close, the next team, the next big challenge, the next big southern hemisphere team to come to our stadium; we’ve got to beat them, we know that. And we’ll go in all guns blazing to do that.
“The fact that we’ve not beaten them for x amount of years is almost irrelevant. We’ve just got to win this next game.”
And the no-nonsense coach understands better than most what it is like to face the world’s most ferocious pack, and makes no excuses.
“They are always well-oiled. You are playing against what is virtually a club team who’ve been together the last three months.
“They’re very drilled. They’re set and ready, into a good pushing shape, very quickly. That’s something we’ve spoken about all week and we’ve got to mirror that. They’ve got a lot of weight, well timed.”
As for the Beast who has returned from injury, and was the nemesis of the British Lions pack in 2009, “I think he (Tendai Mtawarira) debuted in that series and he made his name. He made life uncomfortable for us in that first Test. He’s back and we saw last week how much we’ve got to contain that forward pack.”
England Head Coach, Stuart Lancaster is convinced there has been no dip in confidence after losing four consecutive matches, adding the reminder that the losses were against the world’s no. 1 team.
“I’ve seen an increase in frustration, not a dip in confidence. Not putting that 80 minutes together against a top end team is a source of frustration.”
And he has complete faith in picking Anthony Watson for his first start for England against such a formidable side.
“It’s a big big step to play such an experienced team in front of 80,000 people and everyone’s scrutinising your every move. He’s excited about the challenge, and that’s what’s given me the confidence to pick him this time.
“When you go through the backline,” he said referring to the lack of caps, “I think Jonny’s got six maybe, Anthony’s got one, Kyle’s got five; you’re still dealing with some players who are still getting used to international rugby. But the trick is from a coaching point of view is to give them the confidence to go and play their game at the highest level.
“But also be mindful that you’ve got some pretty good players trying to stop them as well.”
That belief still permeates the squad, as illustrated by the prodigal son turned proud dad, Danny Care, earning his 50th cap for England:
“The belief is there. We’ve got it, and we need to put it on the park. Last week was disappointing in the second half but New Zealand turned it up a level and showed why they really are the best team in the world at the moment. That’s where we’re aspiring to be, and this week gives us a chance to go out there again and put our game on the park, and hopefully have a full 80 minute performance.”
They say every little helps, and visits this week from Olympic gold medallist sprinter, Michael Johnson, and Springbok legend Joost van der Westhuizen, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis three years ago, have boosted that confidence.
“To have Michael Johnson around was a bit surreal,” said Care. “He’s an absolute legend, one of the all time greats, an absolute champion in everything he’s done. And he’s a pretty cool dude as well.”
Care gushed it was an unbelievable experience to meet Joost, “I was a massive fan of his, watching him play as a young scrum, half I loved the way he played, the physical nature of his game, how he got stuck in and went for it. And to see him and see what the impact of the disease that he’s got was very humbling.
“He’s still completely there mentally, and still wants to chat to you, and he said he was a fan of my game which was something that made me very proud. To have a legend speak highly of my game was amazing. “
DESPITE the Australian Rugby Union favouring the sacking of controversial full back, Kurtley Beale, new Wallabies head coach has shunned the politics of rugby and recalled the disgraced player into his November Test squad.
Beale was left at home in Sydney after he was fined AU$45,000, found guilty for sending a lewd picture message to team manager Di Patston following a ARU Code Of Conduct hearing, and a further AU$3,000 for a very public in-flight argument with her, which also led to Patston resigning her position.
Cheika knows Beale well, having led the NSW Waratahs to this year’s Super Rugby title, and the player was core to that achievement at the Tahs.
"If I don't select players who I think should be in the team then I'm just playing politics too and that's not what I'm interested in," Cheika said.
"When you play for Australia, I imagine, it's got to be about who's the best. I don't think it's a question of where Beale's talent is as to whether he's here or not.
"Will it divide [opinion] any less now than it will in June [next year]? I've got to stay true to what I believe and what I believe as the coach at this level, I don't have any influence in any other part of the ARU except for coaching the team and picking it.”
Beale, alongside Queensland Reds back-rower Jake Schatz will depart for Ireland on Saturday afternoon, to be in contention for the Wallabies match in Dublin next week.
ENGLAND RUGBY and the Rugby Football Union are taking a strong stance against homophobia after renowned and respected Welsh referee Nigel Owens had abusive insults hurled at him during England’s close call with the All Blacks last Saturday at Twickenham.
Though not in earshot of the vile behaviour, the openly gay referee was made aware of the both homophobic and racist abuse after an England supporter posted a comment in the Guardian newspaper online.
“As a lifelong rugby fan, a straight man in his 60s, I could not believe that a bunch of men half my age watching a rugby match in the 21st century could be capable of hurling such nasty, foul-mouthed, racist, homophobic abuse at an openly gay match official. My equally disgusted son is in 30s but next to him, hearing this vitriol, was a little boy; I felt ashamed,” said Keith Wilson from South Yorkshire.
“I did speak to the men after the match but they were not in a fit state to engage in sensible discussion. I suspect that if it had been in a football match they’d have been thrown out. There was a time when you could trust rugby supporters to take alcohol into a game and behave like grown-ups. The time has come to treat rugby louts like football louts – no alcohol in the ground, zero tolerance to bigots.”
The RFU has launched an investigation into the incident, and most are hoping for a ban for the culprits and prosecution.
Owens admitted last night to The Telegraph that not only England fans, and wider rugby fans had been immensely supportive via social media, but he also received messages from the some of the England Rugby team. This went some way in persuading not to take drastic action and quit for the unacceptable behaviour of a tiny but bigoted minority.
It is widely accepted that banter is par for the course in rugby globally, but this report is all the more shocking since, unlike other sports, there is no prejudice in rugby against the gay community, and it has never been an issue for any player which way a team mate bats.
England Rugby coach, Stuart Lancaster commented, “I’m aware there’s an investigation going on and rightly so. We applaud the stance the RFU are taking and the investigation.
“We’ve worked hard in rugby to get the core values of the sport ingrained in the team and in rugby in general, so there is no place for this whatsoever.”
ALWAYS an entertaining yet brutal encounter, England Rugby take on the mighty Bokke on Saturday at Twickenham.
RWC2015 partner Land Rover caught up with two Rugby legends to talk about their memories of the two sides’ historic clashes at the Rugby World Cup.
Former RWC-winning Springbok captain John Smit and former England flanker and captain, Martin Corry, who battled it out in both the Pool stages of Rugby World Cup 2007 - an horrific drubbing for England who were destroyed 36-0 - and the Final where England miraculously fought their way through the play offs to the world’s biggest stage, relive their two encounters in that epic Tournament. The pair also reminisce about the England v South Africa clash in the Quarter Final of Rugby World Cup 1999 and look ahead to the two sides potentially meeting in next year’s Tournament.
ANTHONY WATSON will start his first international for England in Saturday’s QBE International against South Africa at Twickenham.
Watson replaces Bath Rugby teammate Semesa Rokoduguni on the right wing in the only change to the starting line-up from the match against New Zealand, the 20 year-old handed a chance to build on his cameo appearance from the bench in last weekend's 24-21 defeat.
A prolific graduate of the England age-group system who was part of the 2013 Junior World Championship-winning side, he can also draw confidence from this summer's tour to New Zealand.
Underlining his burgeoning potential and finishing ability, he scorched over for a try in the 38-7 midweek win over the Crusaders.
Watson's promotion means Harlequins flyer Marland Yarde, who has scored four tries in five international appearances thus far, comes onto the bench.
Elsewhere in the run-on XV, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes successfully completed the graduated return to play protocol. They are named to start and will take part in today’s training session, while scrum half Danny Care will become the squad's second half-centurion after Hartley.
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “Anthony has been pushing hard for a while and has been in impressive form for Bath and in training with us.
"It was great that he got on against New Zealand and we feel he is ready to start. Equally, it’s good to have Marland back in the match-day 23.
"Congratulations to Danny Care who will be winning his 50th cap. It’ll be a special moment for him and I am sure he will rise to the occasion."
England are on a run of four consecutive defeats and have not overturned the Springboks in 11 matches stretching back to 2006. Still, Lancaster highlighted the determination and diligence that has characterised this week's preparation.
"I know the players are looking forward to the challenge," he added. "South Africa have quality and experience across the park and it will be a big test for us."
For the full England matchday team, click here...
ENGLAND RUGBY are back with episode 2 of O2’s Inside Line for the QBE International Series.
There's more player analysis, spilling the beans on team mates, a bit of a masterclass, playercam and the ultimate player of the week. Sit back, relax & enjoy...
RUGBY WORLD CUP winners JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger will start Saturday’s second Test in the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour against England at Twickenham as the Springbok match-23 is retained from last weekend.
The five changes to the team are straight swaps between the starting line-up and the bench. Along with Pietersen and Burger, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has handed starts to hooker Adriaan Strauss and the halfback pair of Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie.
Cornal Hendricks, Handré Pollard, Francois Hougaard, Teboho Mohoje and Bismarck du Plessis will start on the bench.
“We’ve accepted our performance against Ireland last weekend was not up to scratch and everyone in the touring squad has put up their hands and dug deep this week,” said Meyer. “We’ve really worked hard at fixing the mistakes we made and the challenge is now to put that into action on Saturday.”
Meyer said the changes were not a knee-jerk reaction following the result in Dublin, but rather in line with rotational changes that he had in mind before the start of the tour.
Strauss, Lambie and Pietersen all started in the Springboks’ last Test at Twickenham, two years ago, while Saturday’s match will be Reinach’s first in the starting team.
“Pat started at Twickenham for us two years ago and did very well,” said Meyer.
“He’s playing well at the moment and I wanted to give him the opportunity to start. Pat is tactically very astute and even though he’s still pretty young, he’s got a lot of experience.
“Adriaan, Schalk and JP have all started a number of Tests this year and they will slot in easily – we decided beforehand that we wanted to start all of these players in one of the first two Tests on tour.
“It’s a big occasion for Cobus but he would not have been here if we didn’t believe he could deliver the goods, and he’ll be next to his provincial team-mate in Pat.
“As usual, we’re also expecting our replacements to raise the intensity when they’re sent on and Bismarck, who had a very good game in Dublin especially in the set-pieces, ‘Oupa’, Francois, Cornal and Handré will provide important cover off the bench.”
For the full Springboks matchday team, click here...
SEMESA ROKODUGUNI is out of the clash with South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, with Marland Yarde replacing the Bath Rugby wing in the squad for the second QBE International.
Rokoduguni, who made his Test debut in last week’s 24-21 defeat to New Zealand, injured his hip and Stuart Lancaster believes there is not enough time for him to recover to face the Springboks.
That is the only change to the 23 players selected to face the All Blacks, with the addition of an extra back row option after Tom Wood was unable to take a full part in Tuesday’s training. James Haskell, in a rich vein of for club side Wasps earlier this term, provides the necessary cover.
After announcing 24 players to return to Pennyhill Park on Wednesday evening to complete preparations for South Africa, the England Head Coach offered the following explanation.
"The players have responded well and we’ve had a good few days’ training," he said. "Roko did some limited training this morning but is unlikely to fully recover from his thigh injury in time for the game so Marland is in the group coming back tomorrow.
"Tom [Wood] is still sore from the weekend and sat out training so we are including five back rows to give us options before we announce the side on Thursday morning.”
The England team to face the Springboks will be announced on Thursday morning.
ENGLAND MATCHDAY SQUAD
Returning to Aviva Premiership clubs:
WALES have made eight personnel changes to their side to face Fiji on Saturday, with Gethin Jenkins returning to the starting line-up to lead the side.
Jenkins will captain the side for a fourth time and is included in a new-look front-row. Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin makes his first start for his country and they will pack down alongside Samson Lee.
Mike Phillips and Rhys Priestland form the half-back partnership and in the midfield Wales welcome back Scott Williams from injury who links up with Jamie Roberts.
Experienced duo Bradley Davies and Luke Charteris come into the second-row whilst there is one change in the back-row with Justin Tipuric starting at openside flanker alongside Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau.The back-three consists of Liam Williams at full-back with George North and Alex Cuthbert on the wings.
"We have made a number of changes, but we are going out there with what we think is a strong side to take on Fiji,” said Gatland.
"The whole squad has been working very hard and were pushing for selection last week so it's an opportunity for them to start.
"We were pleased with the performance last week and we will be looking to build on that and get the result we want this weekend.
"We have made some changes, some have been enforced due to injury but we don't feel it weakens the side.”
For the full Wales matchday team, click here...
STUART LANCASTER reported no major injuries after England’s close encounter with the All Blacks on Saturday, despite a few of the squad not in training today.
Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley are going through the graduated return to play protocol following suspected concussions, and should be back in play by Thursday, since neither are showing any concussions symptoms. Dave Attwood and Semesa Rokoduguni had knocks to their knee and hip respectively, but should be fine for Tuesday. Only Kyle Eastmond is suffering from mild stomach flu, and will be monitored as the week progresses.
The England Head Coach pulled no punches and gave no excuses for Saturday’s second half meltdown after such a startling first 40 which rocked the All Blacks and had the homeside ahead at half time.
“We didn’t take two try-scoring opportunities. They up their game and the little moments become the big moments: not finding touch once, Billy Vunipola being turned over because the result from that was ending up on our own line, and we struggled to establish any field position. The one time we did have the ball, we got turned over by McCaw at the breakdown.
“You have to give credit to them as well; while we are disappointed, they played the second half very well,” said Lancaster. “They managed that period with the yellow card very well. The first try was poor by us and that had been addressed this morning. But the second try was players passing, moving point of contact, retaining possession, 20-odd phases in the pouring rain. A good try. That’s why they are the No#1 team in the world.”
Following another narrow defeat to the world champions, the fourth in a row, Lancaster praised his pack for not dropping off in effort nor execution for the duration of the game.
“We got 100 per cent line-out. In the five scrums we had, four of them resulted in penalties to us. We defended well against them; they caused us a lot of problems in the summer with that walking quick tempo lineout and we shut that down well.
“They mauled a lot and we defended that pretty well, so I thought the pack put in a good shift really. I'm not concerned by the ability of our pack to last the 80 minutes, in fact, you can argue the pushover try in the last 10 minutes showed we were still going well.”
With wounded Springboks on the horizon on Saturday, now is not the time to tinker with the squad.
“I thought Kyle played pretty well. He dealt with the threat of Sonny Bill Williams and created the opportunities for Mike Brown in the first half. We have to be careful not to make too many changes going into this weekend. We have to give the players a second chance.”
There is a temptation to start with Ford and Farrell at 10 and 12 if Kyle has not recovered, “One of the reasons we brought George Ford and Ben Youngs on was to improve that ability to exit. Some of our exiting from nine, particularly, and also 10 wasn't quite good enough.
“You can bring someone like Billy Twelvetrees in at 12,” he suggested as an alternative, but when asked why he has not been ever present after an excellent Six Nations, Lancaster simply stated that Eastmond had been the form inside centre in the Premiership this season.
“Last week he (Twelvetrees) was excellent in camp again, and clearly he's worked hard on those areas we identified for him - decision making at the line and accuracy of execution. So he's not fallen completely by the wayside, I can assure you.”
As for Luther Burrell, he is primed for return to play this week for the Saints, but having not played for a few weeks, he is not in the equation yet.
“It’s a four game series. I’ve got in my own mind further games and options to look at combinations. The question in my mind is: do you give the players another opportunity who played their part last week to improve on that performance, because there is a lot of frustration.”
Sure that the Springboks will be in the same frame of mind, Saturday’s test is all the more important for both sides having suffered defeat last weekend.
“They came on the back of a strong finish to The Rugby Championship and played some very good rugby, culminating in beating New Zealand. There will be a reaction from them.
“From speaking to the players and sensing the mood, there is a lot of frustration with ourselves for not having improved on that half-time score to close out the win.”
And Lancaster’s side have just five days to channel that frustration into a match-winning performance on Saturday in front of another capacity crowd.
FOLLOWING the Springboks 29-15 defeat to Ireland on Saturday, the team arrived in London on Sunday to prepare to take on England at Twickenham.
The Boks have a good record against this weekend’s hosts, having played Stuart Lancaster’s England four times and securing three wins and a draw; the two teams last met at Twickenham in 2012 when the South Africans took the ‘W’ by just one point, 16-15.
The fallout from Dublin is nothing more than bumps and bruises, with the worst injury being a fractured tooth for Jannie du Plessis. But the match review threw up a few questions.
The Boks dominated territory and possession, beat more defenders, won more rucks, made more runs, metres with ball in hand, and won all their scrums and lineouts. But goal kicking was at 50%, mauls were lost, 19 turnovers were conceded to Ireland’s 8; overall the handling errors contributed to the Irish side being on the front foot from the outset.
“Looking forward, there’s a mood of excitement,” said assistant Springbok coach Johann van Graan. “What a great challenge lying ahead playing England at Twickenham. I think they showed over the weekend that they’re one of the top sides in the world.
“(England) had a 100% success at the lineout, penalty try from the scrum; Graham Rowntree is, in my opinion, one of the best forward coaches in the world.
“It was a very good performance from their side. But I think the focus should be on us. We’ve got to win the test match on our terms. We want to play good winning Springbok rugby and make ourselves and our country proud.
“It’s going to be a massive contest.”
HOOKER Ross Ford talks to Scottish Rugby TV's Jim Mason about Scotland's 41-31 win over Argentina and looks forward to the match against New Zealand this Saturday.
IN the hours after Ireland recorded a famous 29-15 victory over the Springboks, fans flocked online with over 1,800 tickets sold immediately following the first Test of the Guinness Series on Saturday.
The final game of the Guinness Series against Australia is a sell out as are Ireland's two RBS 6 Nations home fixtures against England and France, so the Georgia game is the last opportunity to support the Ireland team this season.
Ticket sales for the game against Georgia currently stand at around 37,000 and with tickets prices starting at €20 for adults and €5 for children.
Padraig Power, IRFU Commercial and Marketing Director, commented, "Ticket sales for the Georgia game had been pretty strong before Saturday's game against South Africa but following the team's incredible performance there has been a real surge in sales. With the Australia game already sold out and both of our home 6 Nations games sold out already this is the last opportunity fans will have to support the team this season.”
Tickets for the Georgia game are available here...
ENGLAND RUGBY’S Tom Wood can always be relied upon for candour when the proverbial hits the fan, and following Saturday’s narrow three point loss to the All Blacks, he was no different.
Sporting an impressive handlebar moustache for Movember to save and improve the lives of men affected by prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems, Wood made no excuses for the result.
“We are fed up. We went into that game with genuine belief that we could win. We never want to accept a loss, particularly here at Twickenham.
“There was a period in the second half when we couldn’t get our foot on the ball, couldn’t get any territory. We showed that when we got territory, that they struggled to hold on to us. We looked dangerous with ball in hand.
“We mucked around in our own third for too long in that second half and gave away dull penalties.”
In the ten minute period when England were a man up at the end of the third quarter, it was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the All Blacks, but instead of racking up a score, the homeside managed to gift a penalty to the visitors and end up further in deficit.
“We didn’t get our shape right to be able to kick on front foot,” said Wood.
“We struggled to manage the situation. I felt the period when the rain came down heavily, they played with the ball and we got over-eager at the breakdown.”
Once the game began to slip away, “It was almost a disadvantage to have the ball. We gave a few daft ones away. Once they get ahead, you start chasing and do things off-plan.”
But there appeared to be no plan B for the expectant fans, especially after England came out with a roar and shook the All Blacks to the core in the first half.
However, it was not all doom and gloom, since despite having a ridiculous injury list before the Autumn series even kicked off, the new kids on the block did not shy away from the grandeur of the occasion, nor did they exude an ounce of fear.
“Considering some of the people missing, some of those who stepped in did themselves really proud.
“Kruis did a great job. There is plenty of belief there. We showed that we could dominate for large periods, and can more than compete, particularly up-front.
“I don’t think we’ve ever struggled as a pack. We’ve always gone well, always been confident. We might struggle to get into the game at times, but when it comes to scrum and maul we are confident we can take any team on.“
With the Rugby World Cup less than a year away, Wood is adamant the host nation will be ready.
“We’ve gone toe-to-toe with the All Blacks and just on the wrong side of it. The belief is absolutely there.
“We need an all-court game, off-load, powerful ball-carriers, and have a balance to it. You’ve got to mix it up and keep them guessing.”
Next week England faces their nemesis, the Springboks, the only team Stuart Lancaster’s side has not beaten since the coach took the reins in 2012. And the South Africans will be coming to Twickenham wounded after a defeat to Ireland.
“They are the only team to beat the All Blacks in recent times. They’ve got a powerful pack so we need to be on top of our game. We’ll have to dust ourselves down. We’ll largely focus on ourselves and try to take it to them.”
Fighting talk from a no nonsense gentleman with the authority of a captain; Lancaster could do far worse than shake up his leadership group and maybe put another back rower in charge...
Click here if you’d like to donate to Tom Wood's Movember effort:
STUART LANCASTER has recalled 34 players to Pennyhill Park this evening to prepare for Saturday’s QBE International against South Africa at Twickenham Stadium.
Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes will undergo the Graduated Return To Play protocol overseen by the England medical team after suffering concussion during the first half of the 24-21 defeat to New Zealand.
Centre Luther Burrell and fly half Stephen Myler will remain at Northampton Saints for continued treatment on hand and hamstring injuries respectively.
Lancaster said: “The players have had recovery today and we will review the match as a group tomorrow morning before moving on to preparing for South Africa.”
ENGLAND RETURNING SQUAD
EDINBURGH RUGBY scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (21) will join the Scotland squad tomorrow as precautionary injury cover for Henry Pyrgos, who was injured in Scotland's 41-31 win over Argentina last night.
Pyrgos suffered a concussive episode after entering the game as replacement and will now be subject to a graduated return-to-play protocol.
Scotland team doctor, James Robson, expanded: "The IRB head injury assessment (HIA) trial proved its worth yesterday.
"It allowed us time to assess Henry fully and ensure he received the appropriate care.”
Other Scotland players received treatment for injuries that Dr Robson described as "significant bumps and bruises” but, at this time, are not considered a lasting concern.
* * * * * * * * *
FOLLOWING Wales’ defeat to Australia on Saturday, Warren Gatland has called Gloucester fly-half James Hook into the Dove Men Series squad.
Hook will link up with the squad tomorrow when they gather to prepare for Saturday's clash against Fiji.
No players have been released from the squad.
THE Springboks were gutted about losing their tour-opener in a wet Dublin to a very good Ireland on Saturday and heaped praise on their hosts for a better performance in tricky conditions.
Ireland won 29-15 – it was the Springboks’ first defeat to a side from the Northern Hemisphere since they lost to Scotland in November 2010.
Both sides scored two tries apiece but the South Africans were made to pay for ill-discipline at crucial stages of the match as Ireland fly half Jonathan Sexton slotted four penalty goals and two conversions for a personal haul of 16 points.
Marcell Coetzee scored the Boks’ first try from a rolling maul while JP Pietersen rounded off a good movement late in the match. Handré Pollard added a conversion and one penalty goal.
“We are sorry that we let our country and our supporters down with that performance,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer after the match.
“The Irish deserve a lot of credit though – they played the conditions better and were tactically superior. We knew it was going to be a tough tussle and we were not good enough on the day.
“But we can’t afford to dwell too much on what is in the past. We have a massive game against England at Twickenham on Saturday and we simply have to show a massive improvement because they will be just as tough to beat at home.”
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers echoed the sentiments of his coach: “Each and every player will have to take a hard look at himself, come back on Monday and work harder.
“Our standards are higher than what we showed against Ireland and we simply made too many errors. Yes, our first phase play was very good and I thought we dominated the scrums and the lineouts, but we didn’t retain the ball and you can’t play rugby without the ball.”
The Springboks travel to London on today, where they face England on Saturday.
ENGLAND centre Kyle Eastmond will be running out at Twickenham for the first time as part of the elite squad, notching up his four caps so far in Argentina and New Zealand.
Having already earned his stripes in Rugby League for his country, the convert has more than made his mark on Union, joining Mike Ford (a league man himself) at Bath Rugby, the coach responsible for masterminding the hugely anticipated conversion of Sam Burgess from Russell Crowe’s South Sydney Rabbitohs to the West Country and Union. In fact, Eastmond and Burgess have been friends since they were 14, but even so, the sprightly centre was shocked when he heard the diehard league kid was coming over to the dark side.
Eastmond has cleared up any illusion that rugby is rugby, whatever the code.
“The transition isn't easy. It takes people different timescales in how they fit in. I can understand the shapes rugby union run now; it looks similar to league, but it's not the same game. It's a completely different game.
“The game's not rugby league; there's a lot more to it and there's a lot to learn before you can really excel. It takes a bit of time, but instinctively I'm going to the correct breakdowns and doing the little things that didn't come as second nature to me when I first came to union.”
Eastmond had a baptism of fire with the All Blacks, replaced at half time in the third test he would rather forget about, the test that everyone in the media brings up. The confident young man has learned from it, has parked it where it should be, and much prefers to talk about the somewhat overlooked first test in Auckland.
“I took a lot of strength out of the first Test, how couldn't we? As a team we went to Eden Park and put in a good performance.
“I got a lot out of the tour. I learnt more going on the tour than not going. If I'd stayed in Bath and knocked around there for three weeks I wouldn't have learnt anything. But by going on the tour I've come back a better player.”
And so he has. With his Bath teammates, they have torn up pitches this season, be it in the Premiership or European Champions Cup, resulting in seven of the matchday 23 on Saturday coming from the club, more than any other Premiership side.
England coach Stuart Lancaster has been impressed enough to give Eastmond his fourth start baring the England Rose, despite the hiccough in Hamilton.
“The errors that contributed to the half time scoreline weren’t all Kyle Eastmond’s fault by any stretch of the imagination.
“I think the most important thing for me at the time was to sit down with Kyle and have a chat with him immediately after the game. He said don’t worry about me, I’ll be back and I’ll make sure I’m starting at 12 for Bath and for England, and that determination has carried through, because there was no guarantee he would be starting for Bath. But he’s done that, and come back here looking like the confident player he is.”
On Saturday Eastmond goes head to head with another league convert, Sonny Bill Williams, who albeit keeps switching codes, as well as sports, but Kyle is relishing the challenge.
“You have to be excited; I am excited to play against the best players in the world. That's why I'm here. I don't want to be messing around.
“We'll look at every player. All of the players have attributes,” he said of the All Blacks.
“I know Sonny Bill has a great off-load and things like that, but you've also got to keep an eye on Cruden and then Dagg.”
And it appears size doesn’t matter to the centre just shy of 5'7"; “I've never been big, so I'm used to it. You just get in there. You have to understand your opposite number, what he's going to do and be ready for that.”
He also has to contend with yet another midfield combination, flanked by two Saracens in Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell. But there seems to be little worry about adapting.
“It does take a little bit of time. But the environment and detail we put on training with England is awesome. It's not just what we do on the field, it's what we do off the field. All the players are great players and we all try to buy into the way we each play.”
If nothing else, this maturing England have immense respect and no fear, and if their confidence could be capture and sold, someone would be a millionaire. Lancaster is giving them all the tools; now it is down to those on the field to deliver.
ARGENTINA’S head coach, Daniel Hourcade, has named his matchday squad to face Scotland in the first Test Match in the November international window.
Juan Martín Hernández will earn his 50th cap, hot on the heels of game veteran Pumas prop Marcos Ayerza (54), and back Horacio Agulla (56), who is on the bench.
22 year old second row, Juan Cruz Guillemaín will make his Pumas debut, while Facundo Isa, who plies his trade for Santiagueña, is hoping to earns his first cap off the bench.
This is the 18th meeting of the teams, and the Pumas have the upper hand with 10 victories to 7. The last time the two sides met, Scotland nudged Argentina for a 21-19 win in Córdoba during Scotland’s Summer Tour to the Americas and South Africa.
Only Rodrigo Báez, Javier Ortega Desio, Nicolás Sánchez and Manuel Montero remain in the starting XV that lost to Scotland in June 2014.
For the full Pumas matchday team, click here...
ITALY coach Jacques Brunel has announced a radically changed formation of the Azzurri on Saturday at the Stadio “Cino e Lillo Del Duca” di Ascoli for the first of the Cariparma Tests against Samoa, Argentina then South Africa.
Only five players remain in the staring XV from the side that lost to Samoa in the summer, 15-0; Andrea Masi, Luke McLean, Joshua Furno, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Quintin Geldenhuys, with only the last two in the same positions.
Masi and McLean make up the partnership in the backs with winger Leonardo Sarto, whilst Luca Morisi returns to the squad after a year out with injury, to join Michele Campagnaro in the centres.
Kelly Haimona will be making his debut at fly half, and partners Edoardo Gori at scrum half, also returning from injury having missed the Summer Tour.
Captain Sergio Parisse makes his comeback after a summer rest, joined in the back row by Simone Favaro who has not appeared for Italy since the 2013 Six Nations, and Alessandro Zanni returns from his knee injury acquire last February against Scotland.
Finally in the second row, the towering Furno and Geldenhuys take centre stage, whilst Dario Chistolini earns his third cap alongside experienced prop, Matias Aguero, hooked together by veteran Ghiraldini.
The bench boasts 261 caps with a mixture of sprightly enthusiasm in Manici and Palazzani, alongside devastating experience in Marco Bortalami. Giulio Toniolatti makes his comeback after two and a half years away from the international scene.
Saturday is the seventh match between Italy and Samoa, with the Pacific Islanders the clear winners ahead 6 matches to 1. However, the Azzurri’s only victory to date was at the same stadium at Ascoli Piceno, then coached by Nick Mallett, with a confident 24-6 victory.
For the full Italy matchday team, click here...
SECOND-ROW brothers Richie and Jonny Gray will play their first game of rugby together this Saturday, following their selection to start for Scotland against Argentina at BT Murrayfield Stadium.
Selection represents a second start for the younger Gray, 20, who will make his sixth appearance for his country alongside his 39-times capped, 25-year-old, British & Irish Lions sibling.
Gray is not the only promising young player to earn the right to start the nation's opening viagogo Autumn Test, with 21-year-old Glasgow Warriors Mark Bennett and Adam Ashe set to make their first and second appearances at outside-centre and number 8 respectively.
Head coach Vern Cotter, said: "We've been studying these players since the start of the season and have selected a group we believe can do the job in this Saturday's Test match against Argentina.
"We have several performance-related themes, and have looked for people who have the ability to control games, take initiative, can pick up the ball and run with it, who like physical confrontation and can keep the ball alive.”
The Gray brothers will pack down behind an experienced front-row trio of Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and Euan Murray, who share a total of 173 caps going into the game. The forwards are then completed by a new-look, back-row combination, with flankers Rob Harley and Blair Cowan forming a unit with Ashe for the first time.
In the backs, all but one player – captain Greig Laidlaw – have been picked from Glasgow Warriors' attacking stable, with Finn Russell, the half-back partner at stand-off, and Alex Dunbar starting alongside Bennett in midfield.
An exciting back-three completes the side, with Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour in the wide channels seeking to bring their club's prolific form onto the international stage.
With one debutant, Bennett, among four – Ashe, Cowan and Russell – preparing to make their first appearance on home soil, Cotter reaffirmed his willingness to empower his men's attack.
"There will be a common cause to have the confidence to attack and take the initiative against Argentina, which is arguably the most improved country in the world.
"We'll try and put a cohesive effort out there technically and tactically, but I can assure you the players are, emotionally, very attached and are working extra hard to put in a good performance.”
For the full Scotland matchday team, click here...
THE Ireland Coaching team have selected a strong side to face the Springboks at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday for the first game of the 2014 Guinness Series.
There is one new cap in the match day 23, with Ulster's Jared Payne set to make his debut alongside Robbie Henshaw in an exciting centre partnership.
Paul O'Connell captains the side and is joined in the engine room by Devin Toner. The back row is made up of Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry and Peter O'Mahony while the front row sees Jack McGrath and Mike Ross pack down either side of their provincial teammate Sean Cronin.
Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are re-united at half-back and Tommy Bowe returns to the back three for the first time since last year's Guinness Series and lines out alongside Simon Zebo and Rob Kearney.
There is plenty of impact on the bench with Richardt Strauss, Dave Kilcoyne, Rodney Ah You, Mike McCarthy and Rhys Ruddock providing cover for the pack and Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan and Felix Jones covering the outfield.
For the full Ireland matchday team, click here...
SEMESA ROKODUGUNI will make his England debut in Saturday’s QBE International against New Zealand at Twickenham.
Named on the right wing, 27-year-old British Army lance corporal is given a chance to build on some superb Aviva Premiership form for Bath Rugby, which has seen him score six tries.
Clubmate Dave Attwood, whose fiancée Bridget gave birth to their daughter on Tuesday, starts his first Test for England since the tour to Argentina in June 2013.
Brad Barritt is handed the number 13 shirt, partnering Kyle Eastmond in a new-look midfield, while Anthony Watson is included in the match-day 23 for the first time to swell the number of Bath players to seven.
In the pack, a back row of Tom Wood, skipper Chris Robshaw and No.8 Billy Vunipola makes its seventh start as a combination. Finally, George Kruis will also make his international bow if he enters the fray from the replacements' bench.
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “I am delighted for Roko. Wing is an extremely competitive position but he has pushed himself forward with his form this season and it’s great to be able to give him this opportunity.
“The same is true with Anthony Watson and George Kruis. I am sure they will contribute should they come off the bench.
“Dave Attwood has had an eventful week with the birth of his first child and congratulations to him and his fiancée Bridget. He’s back with us now and will be ready to go for Saturday.”
England will be back at Twickenham for the first time since beating Ireland 13-10 in March and Lancaster added: “The atmosphere is superb and the fans really give us a boost. We can’t wait for the walk from the coach to the changing room for what will be another great occasion.”
For the full England matchday team, click here...
QANTAS WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika has announced his team to play Wales in Saturday’s James Bevan Trophy at the Millennium Stadium.
Cheika has remained consistent with the starting XV chosen to play the All Blacks three weeks ago, with the inclusion of Ben McCalman and debutant Sean McMahon for the injured Scott Higginbotham and Scott Fardy.
McMahon’s selection caps off a remarkable year for the 20-year-old Melbourne Rebels backrower in which he was also awarded the Asteron Life Super Rookie of the Year; Buildcorp NRC Player of the Year and Australian Under 20s Player of the Year.
“Going into the Barbarians match it was made clear that players had an opportunity to push their way into the Test team with a strong performance,” Cheika said.
“Sean made the most of his opportunity and brought great work-rate and physicality to our game. This selection also recognises the outstanding year he has had at all levels of the game, and he thoroughly deserves the chance to debut for Australia.”
McMahon is one of two uncapped players chosen in the team, with Western Force prop Tetera Faulkner earning a spot on an extended nine-man bench, to be finalised on Saturday.
Faulkner, 26, is a former Australian Schoolboys, Under 19 and Under 20 representative who has earned 29 Super Rugby caps since debuting for the Western Force in 2011, and has the unique ability to be able to play on both sides of the scrum.
Cheika said the team was looking forward to their first Test match of the November Tour.
“I’ve been really pleased with attitude and commitment of the team and by how they have embraced a new environment and way of doing things,” he said.
“Everyone has worked really hard on preparing themselves in the best possible way, and we’re all excited about the opportunity to represent Australia and give our absolute best on Saturday.”
The match is Australia’s second of their five-game Tour, and will be followed by matches against France, Ireland and England.
For the full Wallabies matchday team, click here...
THE All Blacks team to play England this weekend in the second Test of the MyRepublic Northern Tour has been named, with the All Blacks selectors picking an extremely experienced team for Saturday's QBE International in London.
As expected, the All Blacks selectors have made a number of changes after giving less experienced squad members an opportunity against the United States, with 13 of the squad from that matchday 23 boosted by the return of some experienced players. The matchday squad that takes the field against England has 1,029 Test caps between them and an average age of 27 years.
Number eight Kieran Read, first five-eighth Aaron Cruden, second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams and fullback Israel Dagg retain their starting spots from the USA Test, while two reserves, lock Brodie Retallick and winger Julian Savea, are back in the starting XV.
Prop Wyatt Crockett joins fellow prop Owen Franks and hooker Dane Coles in the front row; lock Samuel Whitelock is reunited with Retallick in the second row, while All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and number six Jerome Kaino are alongside Read in the back row.
Halfback Aaron Smith makes his 11th start of the year inside Cruden, while the All Blacks' most capped centre, Conrad Smith, will partner Williams in the midfield. Joining Savea and Dagg in the back three is Ben Smith.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "This Test match is a great opportunity to once again experience the atmosphere of Twickenham and to lay down a marker of where we are currently at in relation to our opponents, England.
"We are extremely excited about this challenge and looking forward to it immensely. Having played England already three times this year, at the beginning of our season, and again having the opportunity to play them at the end of season, will tell us a lot about how much our game has progressed."
The All Blacks will also run out onto Twickenham in their new all-black All Blacks kit which was unveiled in London Wednesday. The teams will again be playing for the Hillary Shield which honours the late, great Sir Edmund Hillary.
For the full All Blacks matchday team, click here...
CHRIS ROBSHAW is not so much known for his oratory off the field, but rather his impact on the field. He may not have been the first choice captain in the regime under Stuart Lancaster, but following Tom Wood’s toe injury in early 2012, Robshaw has led by example, and his ridiculous workrate and leadership has earned the respect of both teammates and management at England Rugby.
There are few captains today who have experience of leading their team to a win over the All Blacks, and that too a definitive 38-21 win against the World Champions; Robshaw ticked that one off his ‘to do’ list in December 2012. But there is no complacency on his part as to the enormity of the challenge facing the world no. 3 side taking on the world no. 1, albeit with the advantage of home.
Though rested for the Summer Tour to New Zealand, Robshaw, along with the entire squad, have collectively pored over the video analysis from all available matches, and he has concluded,
“We felt we got quite close in some ways in the summer, and we excelled in certain areas so we can see that our side does hurt them at certain stages. Unfortunately, we were not able to produce an 80 minute performance. As we found out in the first test, and as Australia found out a couple of weeks ago, if you don’t play for the full 80, this side are capable of winning from anywhere.”
Obviously, there is a weight of expectation with the Rugby World Cup just 10 months away, and it is not much of a dress rehearsal playing three of the most talented teams in the world over the next four weeks. Robshaw commented on the importance of such fixtures,
“With the World Cup at Twickenham, they all want to come here and play well at Twickenham. We want the opposite. We want it to be a fortress. We want the atmosphere to be similar to the last two games, against Wales and Ireland, and the performance to be similar to them also. And of course this is the last time we will play each other prior to that.
“We have come a long way since then,” he said of England’s progress since the Autumn 2012 series. “We were a side that was very defence-orientated. And we prided ourselves on that defence. Probably won a lot of games because of that. Our attack has now caught up.
“We can threaten with our attack and have that dominant defence as well. The experience and composure of the guys has come on a long way. There were a lot of single figure caps back then. Guys have now been round the world and played in some intimidating arenas, and excelled there.”
As the rest of the rugby world has realised over many years, there is no template to beating the All Blacks. All that have, whether it be the ever-physical Springboks, or the completely unpredictable Les Bleus, have turned up on the day, and mostly played their own game; playing the All Blacks at theirs generally results in failure.
“You have to defend extremely well and take your chances,” explained Robshaw. “There is no magic formula. In the pressure of the situation, it's about who is able to do that and keep their composure. It's about being clinical.
“In international rugby you know you're going to get a couple of chances but, when everything is flying around, are we good enough to take our chances? As an England squad that's the next step we need to take if we really want to push ourselves up there. We need to be as clinical as these guys coming to town.”
The most talked about match-up is between the two captains playing opposite numbers; Richie McCaw is an out and out openside flanker, but Robshaw has different subtleties to his game. There may be only 5 or so years between them, but the England captain was just 15 and at school when McCaw was earning his first of 134 caps to date.
“I grew up watching Richie McCaw as a kid,” Robshaw reminded his audience. “I grew up full of admiration. He started as a dominant fetcher, scavenger for the ball, and now he uses his hands, high balls, carries, lineout, a bit of everything, so he has continued to evolve and move with the game.”
And as for Kieran Read, the No.8 is certainly not to be underestimated, “He is an extremely effective ball-carrier. His off-loading if you allow him space, and even if you don’t give him space, is capable of putting in someone else and makes it extremely dangerous. He is the talisman in their lineout. He is dangerous.
“But that is exciting for us. You know you have to shut these players down, these dominant guys. The back line is full of dangerous runners. And if you allow them space, they will hurt you. That is the challenge for our defence. And we are looking forward to it.”
In his final analysis before the big day, Robshaw was determined in his summation,
“There's no hiding place. You're not going into this game to come out second best. From minute one I'm sure Twickenham will get right behind us. The year we beat them I remember Swing Low being sung so loudly we couldn't even hear the Haka. That was incredible. It got all the players going and got everyone ready. It really set the mindset of what this game's about. It's about us putting our game out there.”
ENGLAND RUGBY’s forwards coach, Graham Rowntree, is buoyant ahead of this Saturday’s encounter against the All Blacks, and determined to turn Twickenham back into the impenetrable fortress it once was.
Despite the mounting number of injuries, eleven at last count, the former Rugby World Cup winning and successful British Lions loose head prop, known for his candour, is adamant England is up for the challenge.
“We have virtually a pack of British and Irish Lions who will be sat at home on Saturday. But I've been here before and I've seen guys take their chances. What better time to do that than against the All Blacks at Twickenham.
“What a great opportunity for these guys to come in and give us more questions and selection headaches going forward.”
There is no great conspiracy theory behind the number of injuries. With the amount of sport science applied, bespoke training and nutrition programmes, the players train smarter under both club and country.
“It makes me wince sometimes some of the impacts. From tackling to hitting the scrum machine, it’s an abrasive game.
“Look I haven’t got a magic cure. All I see here, and around the clubs, in the Premiership, the lads are getting looked after. You know how fast they’re running, how hard their heart’s beating, for example, at any one time.”
Fitness is key in the world of international rugby, especially against the All Blacks.
“They’ve shown how powerful they can be in the last few minutes of a game. The amount of games they’ve won in the last couple of minutes, you’ve got to be with them. We want to play that brand of rugby as well. We say to the lads be as fit as you can be, because we want to play an all brand rugby, an all court game, wide and powerful.”
Rowntree is most excited about the outstanding Saracens 6’6” 24 year old second and back rower, George Kruis, making his senior squad debut in the matchday 23 on Saturday. Kruis is proving his stamina in the fitness endurance tests, outlasting all the other forwards in camp.
“We've been watching him for some time but he's come in and exceeded my expectations. I was a big fan to start with, but I can't praise him enough, how he's got up to speed with things. He's actually leading things in terms of that line-out area.”
Blooding new players also helps with the dilution of the aura of the All Blacks. Of the top four nations in the world, this England group has already taken down the New Zealand side at Twickenham, the only Northern Hemisphere nation to do so since 2009. And this summer, the Wallabies held them to a draw, before the Springboks took them down at Ellis Park only a month ago.
“We have to respect what those guys can bring to the game. They’ll be ready for everything. But we won’t be fearing them.”
And it all begins with the Haka on Saturday afternoon, where England’s 24th man, the England fans, will likely drown out it again as they did in 2012.
“I like the Haka. It is part of rugby history and in your playing career the lads won’t get to face it that many times. You have to absorb that occasion because it is a special moment and use it to motivate you as well.
“The crowd will get going - the crowd are usually singing at that point and that is a special moment. They are the moments that you miss when you finish playing.”
England name their team to face the All Blacks on Thursday.
BRITISH & Irish Lions hooker, Rory Best, has been ruled out of selection for Saturday’s match against the Springboks at Aviva Stadium, flowing a medical review last evening.
The IRFU have issued the following statement: “His calf strain that has been slower to heal than expected. He is partaking in modified training but a decision has been made not to risk him this weekend and his progress will continue to be monitored.”
Leinster’s Richardt Strauss and Sean Cronin are now both back in the mix to battle for the starting XV spot. Ireland will release the team lineup on Thursday.
ENGLAND RUGBY return in a new season of O2’s Inside Line for the QBE International Series.
There's a spot of player analysis, their ultimate players, spilling the beans on team mates, a bit of a masterclass, and playercam. They do like a bit of banter...
FRANCE coach Philippe Saint-André has announced his team to face Fiji on Saturday, including three uncapped players in the starting XV.
South African born Bayonne fullback Scott Spedding was called into the squad at the weekend after Brice Dulin suffered a stress fracture to his left shin, and is joined by Racing Métro 92 winger Alexandre Dumoulin and centre, Teddy Thomas, for the trio to make their debuts for Les Bleus.
Camille Lopez and Sébastien Tillous-Borde will form the new halfback partnership, whilst replacements will not be finalised until Saturday.
Maxim Médard, Virgile Bruni, Benjamin Fall, Pierre Bernard and Yacouba Camara have all been released back to their clubs.
For the full Springboks matchday team, click here...
SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer has named the same starting line-up that beat the All Blacks a month ago in The Rugby Championship to face Ireland in the opening Test of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour on Dublin on Saturday.
The only change to the match-day squad is at replacement prop, where the injured Marcel van der Merwe is replaced by Coenie Oosthuizen.
“Although Julian Redelinghuys was also considered, he’s still new in the team and not familiar with our patterns of play and especially the line-out calls, while Coenie knows the way we play well,” said Meyer.
“Coenie is also in great shape and we know what he can do, especially if he has to make an impact off the bench. It’s good to have him back.”
Hoping to extend his 73% winning percentage since taking over the helm in 2012, Meyer is very happy with the continuity in selection from the last Test.
“It’s only the fifth time in what will be the 34th Test since I was appointed as Springbok coach that we’ve been able to select an unchanged starting line-up,” said Meyer.
“In this day and age, not making changes to teams is pretty much unheard of, but this is a great position we’re in. However, we need to make it count against a very tough Irish side on Saturday.
“Although we won our last Test, the challenge this week is to make another step up. It’s imperative that we improve in all facets of our play.”
The Springbok starting team boasts a total of 672 Test caps, while there are a further 316 caps worth of experience on the bench. The Boks and Ireland have played each other 21 times since 1906, with the Springboks winning 16 Tests, losing four and one was drawn.
South Africa and Ireland last met on 10 November 2012 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, where the Springboks won 16-12.
Victor Matfield will extend his own record as the most capped Springbok in history (117 Tests). He will also extend his record of 117 Tests as a lock and will also extend his record as the oldest Springbok ever at 37 years & 146 days.
Adriaan Strauss played against his cousin Richardt Strauss when the Springboks and Ireland last met in Dublin on 10 November, 2012. They are likely to meet each other again as Richardt is in the Ireland squad for this Test match.
For the full Springboks matchday team, click here...
EXPERIENCED Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw will lead his country into this Saturday's viagogo Autumn Test match against Argentina at BT Murrayfield.
The 31-times capped Borderer takes on the mantle from 24-year-old lock Grant Gilchrist, who was ruled out of the series after fracturing his forearm in Edinburgh Rugby's European Challenge Cup win over Lyon, just four days after being accorded the honour.
Laidlaw, who skippered Edinburgh Rugby for the three seasons before departing for Gloucester in the summer, has led Scotland on seven occasions to date, two of which were in Cotter's first Tests as head coach in the recent summer tour – wins over USA and Canada.
Cotter said: "Obviously we're disappointed for Grant [Gilchrist], who misses the opportunity to captain his country at home on this occasion, however, congratulations must now go to Greig who takes on that responsibility for this Saturday's game.
"Greig offers us a bit of continuity, having captained the side on the summer tour. He's been playing well for Gloucester and I think he deserves this selection.
"He offers us a combination of good tactical nous and good leadership.
"He's got experience, he reads the game and communicates well with his teammates, so his appointment is due to a combination of factors.
"He's an exceptionally competitive player and everyone respects his desire to win, to drive Scotland forward and perform well.”
Cotter also confirmed that 22-times capped Edinburgh Rugby number 8 David Denton has been added to the Scotland squad.
Denton last played for his country against Wales in the RBS 6 Nations in March, having missed the summer tour with concussion.
A hamstring injury sustained in pre-season then kept him out of the first seven weeks of the 2014/15 season before returning to action in his club's win over Lyon in the European Rugby Challenge Cup last month.
Click here to see the current squad...
WALES Head Coach Warren Gatland has named his matchday 23 to face Australia on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium, welcoming back four players who missed the South Africa Tour to for their opening Dove Men Series clash.
Captain Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb and Richard Hibbard all return from injury to take their place in the starting XV.
Halfpenny returns to the Wales team and lines-up in a back-three alongside Alex Cuthbert and Liam Williams. The centre partnership comprises of Jamie Roberts and George North, the same centre pairing that faced France at the Millennium Stadium in the Six Nations. Ospreys half-back pair of Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar start at nine and ten respectively.
In the front-row Bath prop Paul James, who has featured in every game for Wales this calendar year, starts at loose-head alongside the returning Richard Hibbard and Scarlets tight-head Samson Lee. Jake Ball packs down alongside Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row, whilst the back-row features British and Irish Lions trio Dan Lydiate, captain Sam Warburton and Number 8 Taulupe Faletau.
Wales' last eight matches against the Wallabies have ended in single figure defeats but head coach Warren Gatland is hopeful that run can be ended.
"We have spoke a lot about this autumn and the year ahead and we are really excited to kick off the campaign this weekend,” said Gatland.
"We have had a couple of very hard weeks at training, the squad have been put their paces but come have come through well.
"It's good to be able to bring back a number of players who missed the last two tests and they add to what is a very experienced side.”
Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin, Gethin Jenkins and Rhodri Jones comprise the front-row replacements alongside fellow forwards Bradley Davies and Justin Tipuric. Mike Phillips, Rhys Priestland and Cory Allen are named as the backs cover.
For the full Wales matchday team, click here...
UNCAPPED Semesa Rokoduguni is among 23 players retained by Stuart Lancaster to prepare for Saturday’s QBE International against New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium.
The Fijian-born tank soldier is one of four Bath Rugby backs included after sparkling Aviva Premiership form, with Anthony Watson also being included in a Test match day squad for the first time alongside Kyle Eastmond and George Ford.
In the forwards, uncapped Saracens lock George Kruis is included for the first time after Joe Launchbury was ruled out of the 2014 QBE Internationals with a neck injury. Front row duo Joe Marler and David Wilson have trained fully this week after minor injuries and take their slots to face the All Blacks.
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “We’ve had a good few days’ training on the back of last week. The players have worked really hard and everyone who has been in camp has pushed hard for selection and their attitude has been fantastic. We are excited about the squad we have picked and we are looking forward to getting back to Twickenham this weekend and taking on a team of the quality of New Zealand.”
ENGLAND SQUAD TO FACE ALL BLACKS
Returning to Aviva Premiership clubs:
Calum Clark (Northampton Saints)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
RUAN PIENAAR has been ruled out of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour because of a knee ligament injury and will be replaced by Jano Vermaak.
Pienaar picked up the injury in the Springboks’ Test against New Zealand in Wellington in September and has been out of action since then.
“Ruan was re-assessed on Tuesday morning following the on-field fitness tests from Monday, and unfortunately he has developed some swelling and puffiness around the knee, indicating that he is not yet ready to partake in full training and playing in a match,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“He needs a few more weeks of rehabilitation before he’ll be ready to return to play and hence we’ve taken the decision to rule him out of the tour.”
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said he felt for Pienaar.
“We’ll miss his experience, especially when it comes to playing rugby in the Northern Hemisphere, but luckily Jano knows our structures and should not have a problem to slot back in,” said Meyer.
“The decision to bring in Jano was because he is familiar with our structures and is also very experienced, especially since Cobus Reinach is still in his first season of Test rugby. There are a number of good young scrumhalves in South Africa, but to bring someone in who has not yet trained with us in a pivotal position such as scrumhalf would’ve been a risk.”
Vermaak, who plays his club rugby in Toulouse, has represented the Boks in three Tests in 2013 and has been part of the squad for most of the previous two seasons, will join the Springbok squad in Dublin by Wednesday.
Click here to see the current squad...
STUART LANCASTER could breathe a sigh of relief today after it emerged that every player in camp was present, correct and fit to train this afternoon, in preparation for facing the All Blacks on Saturday at Twickenham, including Tom Wood who joined the squad late last week after the birth of his third child.
Joe Launchbury, who had to pull out of the series over the weekend, was as a result of nerve irritation that first appeared on the Argentina Tour in 2013, but had since settled and flared intermittently. The specialists have advised a 6-8 week rest will clear it 100%.
In the meantime, Dave Attwood, who’s style is very similar to that of Launchbury, can now take the opportunity to show off his new-found svelte athleticism at England HQ, provided his fiancée, Brie, manages to produce their baby who was due last Friday.
“He has played the best I’ve known him play, and I’ve coached him since 2008 in the Saxons,” said Lancaster.
Stuart is confident his boys are ready to take on the challenge of the All Blacks, despite the host of injuries, and losing to world champions winners three times in the Summer.
Having watched the All Blacks all but demolish the USA Eagles 74-6 in Chicago at the weekend, the coach observed, “They look in good shape and spirits coming into Twickenham. We'll look at that game and the games we played against them in June but, more importantly, the Rugby Championship. How the South Africans played against them and how they really challenged them in the game they won.
“And the Australians when they pushed them right to the wire in the last Bledisloe game. There's a lot of footage we can look at since we last played.
“We've probably changed one or two things this time. But generally we didn't feel it was the gameplan but the execution. That when we made the line-breaks we didn't convert and take the opportunities, particularly first Test and second Test. Third Test, when you look at the second half, that again was a positive performance where we created opportunities for ourselves. We need to be more clinical within the red zone. So there won't be a huge deviation from what we've done. We just need to be better at it.”
The match up of captains Chris Robshaw and Richie McCaw is always a hot topic, but if anyone understands how to get the better of the world-class openside flanker, it is the England’s number 7, being the only Northern Hemisphere captain to lead his team to a win against the All Blacks in the last five years.
“The ability to link and create continuity is an important factor in the way he (Robshaw) plays the game. We need a set of forwards who are multi-skilled – the 7, the ability to pass and link between back and forwards is key; it’s a big area for him. Making sure we get defensive width, going back to the areas we struggled with in the third Test, having Chris able to get to their 10 is important.
“Obviously the breakdown, third and most important, his ability to add turnover ball, slow ball or generate quick ball when we have the ball. Richie McCaw is excellent in those areas: unbelievable engine, fantastic at the breakdown, always has a big influence on the game. I think Chris is a slightly different player but a great carrier and link player for us.”
Provided the England side manage to make it through to Friday intact, Mother Nature promptly takes it course in plenty of time, and the weather plays ball for an expansive game, there is no doubt the battle between the men in white against the men in black will be nothing short of epic.
ENGLAND and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury has been ruled of the 2014 QBE Internationals after it emerged that his neck injury requires six to eight weeks of rest and rehabilitation.
The 23 year-old, who has started England’s last 20 Test matches, has an going irritation to a nerve in his neck and will remain at his club for treatment as part of a joint programme between the club and England medical teams.
Uncapped Leicester Tigers lock Graham Kitchener, who captained an England XV against the Barbarians last June, has been added to squad to prepare for Saturday’s opening QBE International against New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium.
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “It’s obviously disappointing but it’s important for Joe, England and Wasps that he has the appropriate rest and recovery period and we are confident that he will be back in the New Year.”
London Irish hooker David Paice will also join the squad for the start of the week to ensure he is up to speed should he be required, joining front-line hooking duo Dylan Hartley and Rob Webber.
Northampton Saints pair Stephen Myler – who is suffering from a mild hamstring strain – and Luther Burrell (hand) will remain at Franklin’s Gardens for assessment and treatment. But Lancaster remains optimistic that centre Burrell will play some part in the autumn fixtures, which continue against South Africa, Samoa and Australia on successive Saturdays.
“Luther has seen the specialist and, while the news is positive that he could be available later in the series, he will stay with the Saints medical team this week and we will look to bring him into camp further down the line,” Lancaster added.
In a change from the original squad, uncapped prop Alex Waller, back rowers Dave Ewers, Matt Kvesic, Thomas Waldrom and winger Ben Foden remain with their clubs.
Click here to see the current squad...
USA Men’s Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin has selected 23 players to face the New Zealand All Blacks in a historic match at a sold-out Soldier Field on Saturday.
Making his 60th appearance in an Eagles shirt, Todd Clever will captain the side wearing No. 6 alongside Scott Lavalla. The flankers will go up against Victor Vito and Sam Cane in black.
Three Aviva Premiership stars – Eric Fry, Samu Manoa, and Hayden Smith – make up the tight five. Phil Thiel, who spent time with Smith’s Saracens earlier this year before being chosen for the Eagles Select XV in the 2014 IRB Americas Rugby Championship, will sit between Fry and Olive Kilifi in the scrum.
Danny Barrett will make his third start and earn his fourth Eagles cap at No. 8 in front of veteran Mike Petri at scrum half. Since the Eagles’ first win against the neighbors in five years, Barrett has trialled at Gloucester Rugby, along with Seamus Kelly, and helped the Men’s Eagles Sevens win the Bowl at Gold Coast Sevens.
In 2013, Adam Siddall burst onto the national team scene with six caps and a starring role in the Eagles’ narrow loss to the New Zealand Māori All Blacks in front of a sold-out crowd at PPL Park. He recently returned from injury in the ARC and will line up behind Petri at fly half.
Andrew Suniula also returns to the Eagles following an injury sustained at BBVA Compass Stadium in June. Suniula’s performances in the American Rugby Premiership for Old Blue of New York and the ARC for Tolkin’s Eagles Select XV have proven his readiness for Saturday’s match. Kelly will partner Suniula in the centres.
Edinburgh’s Brett Thompson, scorer of the match-winning try in Sacramento, returns to the wing in the red, white, and blue, as does Leicester Tiger’s Blaine Scully. Chris Wyles will earn his 45th cap at full back.
While the top-ranked team in the world poses a challenge to any opposition, the Eagles’ opponent did not play a part in the selection process for the match at Soldier Field. In total, only three changes were made to the starting XV from the last match of the summer.
“Our selections were based more on how we wanted to play,” Tolkin said. “[The All Blacks] present a big challenge, so worrying too much about them would be counter productive.
“We had the line-up in place in our heads already and just confirmed it with training this week.”
The Eagles playing in the Premiership were released from their clubs a week early for the match, which was not scheduled within the IRB’s Regulation 9 window.
While the All Blacks have not played an international test in the United States since 1980, the Eagles have not been to the state of Illinois since a Tier One matchup with Wales in 2009. Both teams have felt the palpable energy in the Windy City, which is set to erupt Saturday at the home of the National Football Leagues’ Chicago Bears.
NBC will provide the live broadcast for the match in the US; Match sponsor AIG will provide a live webstream of the match on the All Blacks website to viewers in 127 countries without broadcast rights.
For the full USA Eagles starting line up, click here...
THE All Blacks team to play the United States this weekend has been named, with the All Blacks selectors unveiling a team combining young All Blacks talent and experienced heads for the historic match at Soldier Field, Chicago.
The starting backline features the experienced duo of Israel Dagg at fullback and Cory Jane on the right wing, with Charles Piutau on the left wing. Sonny Bill Williams returns to the All Blacks midfield for his first game since August 2012, starting in the 12 jersey alongside Ryan Crotty at centre. Aaron Cruden returns to the playmaker's role in the 10 jersey, with TJ Perenara at halfback.
The team will be captained by No.8 Kieran Read, who will lead the side for the eighth time in his 70th Test.
Also in the forwards, Sam Cane starts at openside flanker with Victor Vito on the blindside; Jeremy Thrush and Patrick Tuipulotu are the locking duo in the second row. In the front row, hooker Nathan Harris gets his first Test start after coming off the bench against Argentina last month; Joe Moody also gets his second Test start at loosehead prop, with Charlie Faumuina at tighthead prop.
Young Counties Manukau and Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu has the opportunity to make his Test debut from the bench on Saturday, while All Blacks Test centurion and world rugby's leading points scorer, first five-eighth Daniel Carter also makes his return from injury from the bench. Wing Julian Savea has also been named as the outside back cover.
In the forwards reserves, the All Blacks have the experienced 120-Test veteran Keven Mealamu to call on, together with his fellow front rowers Wyatt Crockett and Ben Franks. Brodie Retallick is the reserve lock, with Liam Messam reserve loose forward.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "This is going to be an exciting occasion for the team, playing the USA in front of a record crowd here in Chicago, and it's great to be here representing the All Blacks and New Zealand.
"It's another chance for those selected to pull on the jersey and play well. On this MyRepublic Northern Tour, we want to give all players in the squad the opportunity to grow their game - and we also want to develop our game as a team - and it starts on Saturday.”
The All Blacks and USA have played each other three times, most recently at the 1991 Rugby World Cup in Gloucester when the All Blacks won 46-6. The teams also played in 1980 in San Diego, California, and in 1913 in Berkeley, California.
For the full All Blacks starting line up, click here...
QANTAS WALLABIES backrower Matt Hodgson will be given the honour of captaining Australia in Saturday’s opening match of the 2014 Spring Tour against the Barbarians at Twickenham.
New Qantas Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has given Hodgson the responsibility of leading a team which boasts 495 Test caps in the starting line-up, and which also includes four players who will wear the green and gold jersey for the first time in 2014.
The clash against the Barbarians is an uncapped international although will see playmakers Quade Cooper and Will Genia, winger Henry Speight and backrower Sean McMahon receive their first opportunities for Australia this year.
An extended nine-man bench has also been named for the clash with one player to be omitted following Thursday afternoon’s training session in London.
“We’ve worked really hard this week on ensuring our team has a clear understanding of how we want to play, next is to transfer this into the game on Saturday,” Cheika said.
“You sense they’re all looking forward to the opportunity against the Barbarians, and so far I’ve been impressed with the level of consistency they’ve brought to their work.”
Cheika also recognised Hodgson for his season with the Force by selecting him as captain.
“Matt has demonstrated exceptional leadership attributes at the Western Force for a long time now, and he deserves this opportunity being given to him,” he said.
“To captain your country is a huge honour and I’ve got no doubt he’ll step up and provide the team with the right direction and leadership needed against the Barbarians on Saturday.”
Hodgson will lead a backrower which includes fellow Force teammate Ben McCalman at No.8 and Scott Higginbotham at blindside flanker.
The starting tight-five for the match consists of hooker Saia Fainga’a and props Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander in the front-row, while Sam Carter and James Horwill will pack down as the two locks.
Genia and Cooper will be responsible for sparking a backline which includes Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani in the centres; Rob Horne and Henry Speight on the wings; and Israel Folau at fullback.
For the full Wallabies starting line up, click here...
ALASTAIR KELLOCK will lead the Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday. The former Scotland captain takes charge of a cosmopolitan squad for the Killik Cup match, under the coaching prowess of former Rugby World Cup winning All Black and Italy Coach, Sir John Kirwan.
In the starting side are Australia wing Nick Cummins, who lines up against his former teammates, with New Zealand’s Bledisloe Cup match winner Colin Slade at fly half, along with a host of All Blacks, Springboks, Pumas, Pacific Islanders, and even RWC winning England prop Matt Stevens.
Kellock, 33, has won 56 caps for his country and captained Glasgow Warriors for nine years. And he spoke today of his honour at leading the world famous invitation side and following in the footsteps of the game’s all-time greats.
"You grow up watching these matches and to be invited to be part of it is a big honour,” said Kellock.
"It’s something so many fantastic players have done before and when John Kirwan asked me to be the skipper that has just added to the privilege.
"I captained Glasgow for nine years and the circumstances here are entirely different. But there’s lots of experience in the side in the likes of Adam Thomson and Matt Stevens, and Colin Slade as vice captain has been excellent in training in adding so much detail.”
"The Barbarians is about the old school values of rugby and everything that’s good about them as well as a high level of performance, and getting that level of performance right is important.”
The Barbarians have made two changes to their squad this week for the matches against Australia and Leicester Tigers on Tuesday, November 4.
Sharks prop Lourens Adriaanse is on the bench following Coenie Oosthuizen’s call-up by South Africa and Blues wing Tevita Li will join the group to replace Patrick Osborne.
For the full BaaBaas starting line up, click here...
STUART LANCASTER held his first media session in preparation for this Autumn’s November Tests with all his boys now happily ensconced at Pennyhill Park, enjoying the most unusual 20° sunshine for late October. And despite having eleven of his core squad out with injury, the England Coach was quite optimistic in his outlook.
Forty players have assembled at the England hotel in Surrey, and though there are a few setbacks as a result of European Rugby fallout at the weekend, all should be fit and in full training at the start of New Zealand week. James Haskell - who presented with a meningitis-like virus which hospitalised him for a week, has already returned to light training. Joe Marler has a quad pull, Billy Vunipola is still going through the return to play concussion protocol, Kyle Eastmond has a rib cartilage problem, and Marland Yarde picked up ankle impingement.
Luther Burrell is more worrisome, but is seeing the specialist today following a CT scan, so if he is cleared of anything more serious, could be back in camp next week, though not in contention for the All Blacks game.
Former 2007 Rugby World Cup Finalist England Coach, Brian Ashton, who Lancaster rates as a most creative attacking coach, has been observing the squad for a couple of days and offering the incumbent his perspective. But that’s not to say Lanny will be changing the style already developed in his side, which has naturally progressed and improved over the two and a half years since the new regime took over.
Lancaster proffers a realistic yet dynamic attitude towards selection now that he has depth in the ranks.
“Ultimately I’ll pick the best team when it comes to it next week. There’s always an injury that means the promotion of a Saxons player. We’ve got 5 centres in the EPS squad, but with Luther out and Manu out, you bring JJ and Henry in.
“One of the things and advantages is that you can broaden out the layers you work with. It means if players are required to come in, they are up to speed straight away. We’ve got 35 players fit to train this afternoon, but of the four second rows, if one picks up a knock, we’d not be starting from scratch with George Kruis.
“That’s why this week is so crucial. Because the All Blacks, the South Africans, since the Super Rugby final, have been in camp; that’s a two and a half month camp. Their cohesion and understanding of their structures would be enhanced.”
Stuart’s vision to be the best has further been enhanced with the completion of England Rugby’s state of the art Training Facility at Pennyhill, complete with a Desso pitch to the same spec as that of Twickenham.
“The Performance Centre itself is a massive step forward for us. What it gives us now is the indoor space to train in. It means, obviously not in weather like this, but during the Six Nations, we can do proper skills work, technical work; we can go from gym to skills work within the same facility which we’ve never been able to do.
“Even last year we had to go to Sandhurst because the pitch was cutting up so it’s a very significant factor.”
With all his ducks lined, up, all that is left is for Lancaster to translate his epic vision to the field against the not so mighty All Blacks of late, and to turn Twickenham back into a fortress.
Click here for the full England squad...
* Tier 2 match fixtures and results can be found here: