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QUINS LOSE DIRECTOR OF RUGBY TO ITALY
HARLEQUINS will be losing their Director of Rugby, Conor O’Shea at the end of the 2015/16 season to the Federazione Italiana Rugby, though the latter has not yet been formally confirmed. Conor’s contract runs out this summer, and it is time for a change after six mostly successful years with the West London club, who since his joining in March 2010, added silverware to the trophy cabinet including the Amlin Challenge Cup in 2011, the Aviva Premiership in 2012 and the LV Cup in 2013.
"I will have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to this special Club for over six years come May,” said O’Shea of his decision to leave. “I have enjoyed working with everybody at Harlequins, from the players to the staff to the supporters, having said that, the end of this season is the right time for me to move on.
"We have a very talented group of players and coaches who are intent on securing silverware this season and that is my sole focus and where all our efforts are concentrated. I will say my goodbyes when the season is over.”
Conor was linked to the Italy head coach position at the end of last year, and in December 2015 he flatly denied he was going anywhere when directly questioned: “I'm not going anywhere, my job is here (at Harlequins)”. Six weeks later, his move to leave has been formally announced. And it has been long known that Jacques Brunel, Italy’s current coach was hoping to leave following Rugby World Cup 2015, but the decision has been postponed until the end of Six Nation 2016, when it will be made official that O’Shea will be taking over through Rugby World Cup 2019.
Click below to keep up with all the transfers across the rugby world...
BRUNEL FINALISES HIS 30-MAN 6 NATIONS SQUAD
LED by captain Sergio Parisse, Jacques Brunel has reduced his wider squad down to 30, including ten uncapped players.
Among the new faces of the Azzurri are two props from Zebra and Treviso, Andrea Lovotti and Matthew Zanusso, hooker Ornel Gega, Zebre back rowers van Schalkwyk and Leonardo Sarto’s elder brother, Jacopo Sarto, alongside Treviso flanker Abraham Steyn.
In the pivotal role of fly half, Brunel is driving competition by introducing Zebre’s Edoardo Padovani into the squad to be pitted against Carlo Canna who debuted in the Rugby World Cup warm match against Scotland.
Amongst the backs, Mattia Bellini joins the squad from Petrarca Padova as the youngest player, Cammi Calvisano captain Tommaso Castello, and Marchiol Mogliano winger David Odiete.
Players unavailable due to injury:
SCHMIDT NAMES IRELAND SQUAD FOR RBS 6 NATIONS
THE Ireland Coaching Group have named a 35 man squad for the opening two rounds of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations Championship.
Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt has included four uncapped players in his first squad without the iconic Paul O'Connell, and the captain's mantle has been passed to hooker Rory Best. The fresh faces in the squad are from each of the four provinces: centre Ultan Dillane from Connacht, Munster captain and back rower CJ Stander, flanker Josh van der Flier from Leinster and centre Stuart McCloskey of Ulster.Schmidt commented, "As always there were a number of tight decisions, especially with a number of players not being available to play in recent weeks. Stalwarts such as Mike Ross, Cian Healy and Chris Henry are all likely to return to play over the coming weeks and they, along with some of the other players not included will potentially return to the squad post these first two matches.
“There are a few new faces but at the same time we have resisted the temptation to include some of the very promising youngsters, allowing them a bit more time to develop as well as the opportunity of further game time with their provinces.
“With plenty of new personnel involved the Championship is going to be incredibly challenging and the players selected will know they will need to be at their best to be competitive.”
The Ireland team will host two open training sessions during the 6 Nations where fans can watch the team train and meet the players. The first open session takes place in the Aviva Stadium on Friday 29th January with the second taking place in Mullingar RFC on Friday 19th February. Both open sessions are ticketed events with details on how to access tickets available on the IRFU website.
Players unavailable due to long term injury:
NOVÈS CONFIRMS HIS FINAL SQUAD FOR 6 NATIONS
HAVING spent some time looking at the options, the new coach of Les Bleus, Guy Novès has made a final draw of 31 players to take part in the RBS Six Nations 2016 based on his vision for France going into Rugby World Cup 2019 in four years time.
Novès has named eight uncapped debutants in the make up of his new squad, with no room for Mathieu Bastareaud, Rory Kockott, Sebastien Tillous-Borde and Noa Nakaitaci. The fresh faces include front rowers Camille Chat and Jefferson Poirot, second rower Paul Jedrasiak, and in the back row Yacouba Camara and Kevin Gourdon included. Sébastien Bézy joins the fray as scrum half alongside centre, Jonathan Danty. The final addition is the Fijian-born 7s player, Virimi Vakatawa, who’s last XVs foray was in 2013 for Racing 92.
The new coach has recalled Antoine Burban and Wenceslas Lauret, as well as Jean-Marc Doussain and Hugo Bonneval, while Guilhem Guirado will captain France.
"We tried to prepare a France group that, for the most part, will go along with us over the next four years," said Novès. "Hopefully we will be able to please the fans. The players need to be aware that we represent France."
WALES NAMED 37-MAN RBS 6 NATIONS SQUAD
WARREN GATLAND has named a 37-man squad for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations that features one uncapped player in scrum-half Aled Davies, and squad recalls for Tom James and Josh Turnbull.
Cardiff Blues pair James and Turnbull last played for Wales in 2010 and 2014 respectively, though James was part of Wales’ 2015 Rugby World Cup training squad before withdrawing through injury.
The experienced squad includes 31 players who featured for Wales in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and will be led by Wales’ most experienced captain Sam Warburton.
The front-row contingent is made up of props Gethin Jenkins, Paul James and Rob Evans, along with Samson Lee, Tomas Francis and Aaron Jarvis. Scott Baldwin, Ken Owens and Kristian Dacey are named as the hookers. Alun Wyn Jones, who today it was announced signed a new long-term National Dual Contract, is named along with Luke Charteris, Dominic Day, Bradley Davies, Jake Ball and Josh Turnbull.
Four British and Irish Lions are named in the back-row, captain Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau. They are joined by James King and Ross Moriarty.
Uncapped scrum half Aled Davies is joined by regional team-mate Gareth Davies and Lloyd Williams. Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland are named as the fly-halves. Jonathan Davies, who missed the RWC through injury, returns alongside Jamie Roberts, Cory Allen and Tyler Morgan in the centres. The back three players include Tom James, Hallam Amos, George North, Alex Cuthbert, Gareth Anscombe, Matthew Morgan and Liam Williams.
“We have selected a squad that rewards players form as well as picking a lot of experience and that continuity is important to us,” said Gatland.
“It is always exciting when the Six Nations comes around and we are looking forward to meeting up next Monday.”
COTTER NAMES SCOTLAND SIX NATIONS SQUAD
HEAD Coach Vern Cotter today named uncapped props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland in a 35-man Scotland squad for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations.
Glasgow Warriors’ tighthead Fagerson turns 20 tomorrow meaning he could become the fourth youngest prop in Scottish history, and the youngest to represent Scotland for more than half a century (since Bill Black debuted against France at Murrayfield 1948).
Fellow propping prospect Sutherland (23) plies his trade at the opposite end of the M8 and earns selection through his increasingly impressive showings for Edinburgh Rugby since signing from Gala last season.
The young pair are among four changes to Scotland’s front-row options originally named for Rugby World Cup 2015, with 29-times capped tighthead, Moray Low, and six-times capped hooker, Pat MacArthur, earning selection for the first time since the summer of 2014.
Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter, said: “We’ve selected a mixture of experience with some exciting young players coming through, some of whom have experienced the Rugby World Cup and are eager to move forward, take the RBS 6 Nations head on and show that we can develop our game and be competitive.
“I think there should be confidence. The guys have worked hard and improved. There are positive signs that we can compete, and this Championship will give us another opportunity to measure ourselves against very good opposition in a tough competition.
“The guys believe that we can compete, dominate and secure victories in these games.”
Fraser Brown, Grant Gilchrist, Henry Pyrgos, Jon Welsh, Richie Vernon have missed out on selection through injury. 23 players capped during Rugby World Cup 2015 have earned reselection, including back-row forwards John Barclay, Adam Ashe, Chris Fusaro, and versatile back Ruaridh Jackson.
Other notable inclusions see centres Alex Dunbar and Duncan Taylor recover from the injuries that ruled them out of last year’s international opportunities, despite winning Guinness PRO12 and English Premiership titles respectively.
Scotland will once again be captained by Gloucester scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, who requires thjust four more appearances to mark a half-century caps and to equal David Sole's record as most-times as Scotland captain at 25.
Lock Grant Gilchrist and scrum-half Henry Pyrgos have been invited to train with the squad when it convenes for a pre-Championship camp in St Andrews this Sunday, before returning to their clubs to continue their recovery from groin and wrist injuries respectively.
Training with Squad:
QUADE COOPER ON FAMILY & MOVING TO TOULON…
JONES VYING FOR JONNY
ON 22nd November 2003, Eddie Jones was the Wallabies coach who saw his Rugby World Cup dreams shattered by a 24 year old fly half; Jonny Wilkinson kicked over the drop goal he had practiced obsessively since he was a child to bring glory to England Rugby.
Fast forward 13 years and Jones, now Head Coach of England Rugby, is hoping to take his nemesis to that same glory in 2019 in Japan - a country of his ancestry after his Japanese American mother. And it is Wilkinson he would like to be at his side along with his niche superteam of Paul Gustard and Steve Borthwick, not as an attack coach, but as a kicking coach and mentor.
"I saw him down at Waitrose shopping with a beanie over his head. I had coffee with him,” said Jones of his chat with Wilkinson. “After we had coffee he went and did a kicking session and he doesn't play anymore. Why was he one of the best in the world? Because he did that. That's the difference.
"We would like to get Jonny involved, but he's quite a private person. We are having chats about it."
Wilkinson still practices his kicking despite having retired; his work ethic is second to none, and if the positives of his obsessive compulsiveness can rub off on the team, that edge that Jones is searching for may just be a tad closer.
"No-one tells him to do that because he is retired, but he still wants to be a good kicker does Jonny Wilkinson. How many of these players do that now? That is the key going forward.
"Our job as coaches is to create that environment where players are encouraged to do that - we can't tell them to do it. Anywhere in the world the good players tend to rise up and there should be a gap between the really good players and the average players.”
ENGLAND RUGBY’S SIX NATIONS 2016 SQUAD
EDDIE Jones has announced his England squad ahead of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations campaign. The captain is yet to be named.
The 33 man squad will meet at Pennyhill Park on Sunday 24 January to prepare for their opening match against Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday 6 February.
As published yesterday, Jones has named a number of uncapped players to the England senior setup. Josh Beaumont, Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Sam Hill, Paul Hill, and Maro Itoje are all included.
There are call ups for Chris Ashton, Dylan Hartley and Marland Yarde who missed selection for England’s Rugby World Cup squad earlier this season.
Gloucester Rugby back row forward Matt Kvesic and Exeter Chiefs hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie are also named. Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi is included in the Elite Player Squad having last played for England in June 2014.
Kvesic, Thomas, Devoto and Sam Hill are in as cover for the injured Dave Ewers, Kieran Brookes, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade. Will Fraser, Joe Simpson and Tom Youngs have been omitted from the squad.
England Head Coach Eddie Jones said: “We have selected a squad of players who we think can go to Murrayfield and win. This is our number one priority, to start with a win, so we have picked a squad which is a mix of experience and potential.
“The long-term strategy for England is to develop a side who can be the most dominant team in world rugby, so we have chosen a lot of new players on the growth we see in them. We see these players growing into England players of the future and developing into a side who can be the best in the world. Our aim is to develop a squad where there is depth and competition in every position.
“I have spoken to some of the players who have not been selected. Naturally they will be disappointed and that is how it should be. They know what they need to do to get back into this squad. The door is not shut for anyone. There is no such thing as a shut door because of injuries and loss of form. There will always be opportunities to anyone playing consistently well in the Premiership and Europe.”
“We will be without Manu Tuilagi for the Scotland game but we will continue to work with Leicester Tigers and Manu and see where he is as the Six Nations progresses. With big European weekends ahead there may be further changes once we assess the fitness of the players.
“I am really excited about working with England and together with Steve and Paul we hope to build a team that will reflect the level of talent that exists within the English game.”
Jonny May has not been considered due to a long-term injury.
EDDIE JONES ON CUSP OF TRANSFORMING ENGLAND
ENGLAND RUGBY’S new Head Coach, Eddie Jones, tomorrow names his new squad which is expected to include a host of new hopefuls, and losing some familiar faces.
According to industry insiders, fans can expect to no longer see Luther Burrell, Tom Wood, Brad Barritt, Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan, Richard Wigglesworth, Danny Cipriani, Matt Kvesic and even Kyle Eastmond. Whereas there are apparently call ups for RFU Chairman Bill Beaumont’s son, Josh from Sale Sharks, Quins’ Jack Clifford, Saracens and England U20s captain and the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship winner, Maro Itoje, Wasps Elliott Daly and Bath’s Ollie Devoto.
Those ruled out due to long term injuries include Henry Slade and Jonny May, while Alex Corbisiero has taken himself out of the running for a year. But expected back into the fold are Manu Tuilagi, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton.
The squad will be announced on Wednesday afternoon, brought to you live from Twickenham.
BACKS: Chris Ashton (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Elliott Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Bath)/Sam Hill (Exeter), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Joe Simpson (Wasps), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Anthony Watson (Bath), Marland Yarde (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester).
FORWARDS: Josh Beaumont (Sale), Kieran Brookes (Northampton), Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Dan Cole (Leicester), Will Fraser (Saracens), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), James Haskell (Wasps), Paul Hill (Northampton), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Youngs (Leicester).
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
ANOTHER week passes swiftly with a host of new signings, re-signings and retirements across the globe.
England Rugby and British Lion Alex Corbisiero has left Northampton Saints with immediate effect. He previously announced that he would be taking a year’s sabbatical from rugby, to clear his head and get a fresh perspective after a host of injuries which has seen out of Premiership and international rugby intermittently since the 2013 Lions Tour.
Andy Farrell, whilst on gardening leave from his England Rugby contract where he is not to coach internationally for a certain period, has been taken on as consultant advisor to Munster Rugby, assisting Head Coach Anthony Foley for the next four months.
Springbok JP Pietersen will be finishing his contract with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan and moving to Leicester Tigers. And Wallaby Nick ‘Honeybadger’ Cummins has signed a contract with the Australian Men’s Sevens squad for the 2016 season, and hoping to make an impact at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Click below to keep up with all the transfers across the rugby world...
RUGBY UNION WRITERS CLUB AWARDS
MONDAY night saw the great, the good and the positively dubious members of the Rugby Union Writers Club of the United Kingdom come together at the London Marriott Grosvenor Square to celebrate another magnificent year of global rugby.
In an epic night of libationing and catching up with all those we had not seen since…oh well…Rugby World Cup 2015, a positively inebriating evening was had by all, in the company of representatives from all four home unions including RFU CEO Ian Ritchie and Rob ‘Squeaky’ Andrew, World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper, Japan’s former Head Coach Eddie Jones who was on eloquent and entertaining form, but was keeping schtum about his team selection due tomorrow in his new guise as England Rugby coach.
Now everyone knows that as with all secret societies, if we told you what really went on, we’d have to kill you! But we can divulge that the co-host of the evening was a certain twice-winning Rugby World Cup winner, a little known fly half from a little club in Paris, Racing 92, a certain Dan Carter who remotely impressively took part in the proceedings. And the most illustrious award of the evening, the Rugby Union Writers’ Club Pat Marshall Memorial Award as the sport’s personality of the year for 2015 was presented to Carter.
“There are some amazing names on this trophy so to have my name alongside these legends is very humbling,” said Carter.
“There’s David Kirk, who helped win the inaugural World Cup in 1987. There’s Jonah back in 1995 – an amazing athlete and top guy. Sean Fitzpatrick is there too.
“Jonny Wilkinson in 2003 – who could argue with that? It’s a huge honour to have my name etched on this and to be a part of history.”
BRITISH LIONS SECURES NEW PRINCIPLE PARTNER
THE British & Irish Lions and Standard Life Investments have announced that the global asset manager will become a Principal Partner for the much anticipated 2017 tour to New Zealand. Standard Life Investments will sponsor the world famous jersey in a deal that replaces the association with HSBC. The global investment firm is also the first and only Worldwide Partner of the Ryder Cup.
Launched at the London offices of Standard Life Investments atop the Gherkin in The City of London, ambassadors Martin Johnson, Keith Wood, Gregor Townsend and Shane Williams took centre stage, alongside Tour Manager, former Cambridge Blue, England and British Lion, John Spencer.
Spencer confirmed that the selection process for Head Coach has not yet begun, but key announcements are expected towards the end of this summer. However, 2013 successful Tour Coach, Warren Gatland is by no means a shoo-in for the position; the candidate would be expected to take a year’s sabbatical from his current role in order to dedicate 100% of his time to the Lions. Spencer said there was no short list as yet, and did not rule out a New Zealander to coach against the All Blacks, “The first principle is we must have the right man for the right job. Any British lion of the past would say he would prefer a coach from the home countries but the most important thing is we have the best man for the job.
“It's not whether he is a New Zealander in New Zealand but whether he gets the Lions. There are a lot of New Zealanders I know who would love to beat New Zealand.”
British Lions 1997 winning captain, Martin Johnson was most entertaining in his recollection of being picked; when asked if he was ready for the honour, his response was “No. I got off the plane in NZ thinking ‘oh s**t!’ But you’ve got to crack on haven’t you!”
Johnno talked of the unique character required to be a Lion, “When you go up a level, everything is magnified. Of course character makes a difference in selection. I remember being on the 1997 tour; I said what about this guy because I always thought that he was a good player. He wasn’t an English guy and the others around me that had worked with him said that if it isn’t going his way then his head goes down. So we said that we weren’t going to pick him on that basis.
You don’t put on an England shirt or a British and Irish Lions shirt and suddenly become super human. What if you throw that pass in the first five minutes of the Lions and they stick one under the posts and all of a sudden you are 7-0 down. What are you going to do? You can’t pack up, you have got to crack on - you need guys who have that, toughness, character - there are a million words for it.
“But when it comes to the Lions it will find you out if you haven’t got it and there are a few that have been found out over the years.”
Click below for British & Irish Lions Tour 2017 fixtures...
INJURY COUNT RISES
FOLLOWING the news that Jonny May is ruled out of action for not just the Six Nations, but likely England’s Summer Tour to Australia after a knee operation, the list continues to mount up after another hard-fought weekend of action.
The list that already includes Christian Wade since November with a foot injury, Luke Cowan-Dickie’s broken thumb, Calum Clark’s injured shoulder and Mike Williams’ broken arm, was added to with concussions for both Joe Launchbury and George Kruis, and injured ribs for Dylan Hartley who was pulled from the bench for Saints’ match against Tigers. Also, Jack Nowell twisted his knee in the Exeter Chiefs match against Gloucester.
The news is better for Wales, with Gareth Anscombe and Hallam Amos ready to return to play this weekend subject to passing fitness tests. Both were injured during the World Cup with ankle and shoulder issues. Tyler Morgan and Toby Faletau are to imminently come back to the field of play. And Warren Gatland has a further boost with it looking likely Sam Warburton is almost fit from his ankle injury last November.
WEEKEND ROUND UP
IN a strange weekend of rugby, where some Premiership and PRO12 matches were postponed, and all the Top 14 games were rescheduled for February and March, all the European Rugby was caught up from the horrific first round that was thrown by the Paris attacks.
In the Aviva Premiership, Exeter’s latest try-scoring machine Tom Waldrom put away a brace against the Cherry & Whites, taking the Chiefs’ win-tally to 7 of 9, retaining second place in the league. In the only remaining London derby, Quins brought a sharp halt to Saracens’ winning streak this season across the Premiership and Europe, in a rain-drenched dank late afternoon at The Stoop. Both teams put on a spectacle despite the weather, but England Rugby’s George Kruis was a casualty of a Wallaby swinging arm from James Horwill that knocked him out cold. The Saints fought back from a 21-0 deficit against a determined Tigers side, and ended the breathless match at Welford Road just three points short of a win, but at least a losing point to take back down the road. The Falcons made it back to within five points from being 20 points down against the Exiles at Madejski Stadium, and bagged an all important losing bonus point which could prove crucial come the end of the season. And the Warriors lead the Wasps at the Ricoh all the way to the 78th minute, before two lightning tries from Wasps' Tongan and Samoan contingent ripped victory from the jaws of defeat.
Click below for match results, standings and highlights...
The Guinness PRO12 only put on three matches in Scotland and Wales. Treviso put on a much improved performance since their change of head coach last week, but it was not enough to beat Edinburgh at home. And over the Menai Straits, Leinster tore strips off the Ospreys in their own back yard on Friday night, before the lead changed numerous times between the Scarlets and Connacht, with the Welshmen coming out on top in the 79th minute.
Click below for match results, standings and highlights...
In Europe, ASM Officiel had the upper hand against fellow-countrymen Bordeaux Bègles all night on Friday, whilst Racing ran rings round the Glasgow Warriors in Paris, grabbing a winning bonus point in the process. Even without talismanic captain Sergio Parisse, and a man down for the entire second half, Stade Français Paris annihilated Munster, while Oyannax left Ulster in their wake at halftime, 23-0 up. However, the Northern Irishmen fought back hard, nilling the Frenchmen in the second half, and securing a one point win with a 78th minute penalty from Ireland flyhalf, Paddy Jackson. And finally on Sunday afternoon, in a tryless match at the Stade Félix-Mayol against visitors Bath Rugby, the three goal kickers traded penalties and drop goals, with Freddie Michalak putting away the final 3-pointer for a narrow win to put Toulon within two-points of Wasps, currently topping the Pool 5 table, who they play next weekend at home.
Click below for match results, standings and highlights...
In the Challenge Cup, Pau never looked to seriously threaten the lead of Castres Olympique, and are firmly out of the running of any place in the play offs losing four of four matches. Meanwhile in Italy, the Eccellenza returned with wins for Calvisano, Lazio, Petrarca, Mogliano and San Donà.
Click below for match results and standings…
And forget ye not that you can find the entire schedule for this season right up to the summer tours down under in our Ultimate Rugby Calendar, month by month, where we publish all the results as they fly in from across the globe…
ENGLAND RUGBY’S Manu Tuilagi made a surprise appearance on the bench for Leicester Tiger’s impressive battle against Northampton Saints in a last minute change.
After head coach Richard Cockerill continued to be vague about Manu’s return just a week ago at Allianz Park, on he thundered at 52 minutes to replace Matt Smith, and back was the defensive powerhouse, making an impressive try-saving tackle on his England teammate, Courtney Lawes. It was not an Oscar-winning performance, but it was a solid appearance for a man who has not visited professionally on a pitch for 15 months.
However, Cockerill is determined that his bulldozing centre will not be rushed back after a prolonged groin injury. Manu has been through the mill since his injury back in October 2014, caught up in a legal wrangle after pushing back on a couple of people who grabbed him from behind after an altercation with a taxi driver; unfortunately they happened to be policewomen, and Tuilagi was ill-advised to plead guilty to the assault charge in order to sort the mess quickly. This trial was swiftly followed by a driving ban for speeding, after mounting up some impressive fines and points previously.
Manu is expected to be named in the England Rugby squad which will be named on Wednesday by new Head Coach, Eddie Jones, but his club coach is planning on building an effective recovery programme in conjunction with the national side, in order to manage his return with no more setbacks.
“As soon as he is fit and good to go, he can go and play for England, but at this point he’s Leicester’s player, we’ve looked after him for a long time to get him fit and I’m not going to push him through to play Test matches now,” said Cockerill, who is planning to have him play on Saturday in the Champions Cup match against Benetton Treviso.
“I am not sure how far off full fitness he is in 80-minute terms. He played 25 or so minutes and he is remembering how to play rugby again. Hopefully, there will be no reaction to that.”
Fans can expect to see the Samoan-born Englander back wearing the rose in the Six Nations 2016, but he will not be responsible for holding back the Scottish defence in the Calcutta Cup match first up in Murrayfield against the Auld enemy.
REBELS PRE-SEASON SAMOAN CHALLENGE
THE Melbourne Rebels pre-season schedule is set to include international heavyweights Manu Samoa in a trial match at AAMI Park. It will be the first time that the Rebels have played Samoa whose reputation for fast paced intensity will be the perfect preparation for the 2016 Super Rugby Season.
The Melbourne Rebels v Samoa trial match may also be the cause of a little tension with allegiances tested off the field.
“The Rebels fans are pretty passionate but then so is the Samoan Rugby community,” said Rebels prop Laurie Weeks. “There might be a few fans caught between supporting us and national pride. Let’s hope the Rebels fans don’t get drowned out by cheers for the opposition.”
With over 4,000 Samoans living in Victoria, support for the touring international team is expected to be strong. A family friendly kick off time, pre-game activities for young fans and affordable ticket prices are all set to encourage a bumper start to Rugby in 2016.
After a not so successful Rugby World Cup in 2015, this will give Samoa the perfect opportunity to begin widening their horizons against world class opposition under their newly promoted head coach, former All Black, Alama Ieremia to gauge the enormous task ahead of him to return Manu Samoa to the glory days of a formidable side.
As Samoan international, Dan Leo has pointed out, “coaching Samoa requires much more than a big reputation and good rugby brain. The position demands the right character and pedigree.” Good luck to the man.
Click below to buy tickets…
BATH PREP TO TAKE ON THE NO#1 TEAM IN EUROPE
A VIEW FROM THE RUGBY SPY…
THE infamous rugby spy, renowned rugby (and cricket) journalist Adam Hathaway, consistently has excellent insight into the latest happenings in rugby. This week, he looks at the new cosy relationship between the RFU, England Rugby’s elite, and Premiership leaders Saracens, and just how Ian Peel will fit in as scrum coach in such potentially conflicting circumstances. There’s much to be said about Hathers, but mostly, there are no holds barred, and so we bring you a not so PC view. All you need do is click the link below…
MOVERS & SHAKERS…
THE most notable moves in rugby this week relate to head coaches. First up and USA Rugby has announced the hiring of former All Black captain John Mitchell as Head Coach of the Men’s Eagles.
Mitchell has been signed to a four-year contract, effective immediately. Mitchell’s club was Waikato whom he represented 134 times, before beginning his coaching career. From 1996 to 1999, he was player/coach at Sale Sharks, and in 1997 was named England assistant coach under Sir Clive Woodward and was responsible for the development of the forward pack that went on to win the 2003 World Cup. In this period, he was also an assistant coach for the Wasps, working with the then Director of Rugby, Nigel Melville, in 1999 and 2000. Subsequently Mitchell was head coach at the Chiefs in NZ, and then became the youngest ever head coach of the All Blacks, where they won the Tri-Nations in 2002 and 2003, and regained the Bledisloe Cup in 2003. More recently, Mitchell coached the Golden Lions in SA taking to the Currie Cup Championship for the first time in 12 years. In December 2012, Mitchell consulted to Sale Sharks before turning down an offer to become Director of Rugby.
The Irish Rugby Football Union have appointed Andy Farrell as Ireland defence coach. Andy will take up the role with the national team following the 2016 RBS 6 Nations Championships. Andy joins the Ireland coaching set-up having been Assistant Coach with England from 2011 to 2015, as well as defence coach for the 2013 Series winning British & Irish Lions squad. Previous to joining the England set-up, Andy coached Aviva Premiership side Saracens.
A dual code player, Andy played for Wigan (370 caps), England (11 caps) and Great Britain (34 caps) before switching to Union and joining Saracens. He won eight caps for England including three appearances at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Commenting on the announcement, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said: "It's great to have Andy coming into our coaching team. The quality of his delivery and breadth of his experience as well as the positive impact he had when coaching a number of our senior players during the 2013 Lions tour will add real value for us.”
Rugby Canada have announced that Kieran Crowley will be stepping down as Head Coach of Canada’s Men’s Fifteens Team effective immediately, despite having only renewed his contract on 22nd December 2015.
Crowley, who has been with Rugby Canada since 2008 through two Rugby World Cup cycles, has accepted a coaching position with a professional rugby club located in Europe.
In the interim, Canada’s Women’s XVs Head Coach Francois Ratier will lead Canada’s National Senior Men’s Team into the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship, starting Saturday February 6th where Canada takes on Uruguay in Langford, BC.
Benetton Treviso has parted company with Head Coach Umberto Casellato, ending their relationship that began in July 2014. Treviso have had a terrible start to the season, and are yet to win a match in the PRO12 or Champions Cup. Marius Goosen is made up to Head Coach with immediate effect.
Back over at England Rugby, Ian Peel is joining the Saracens coaching team and will also assist the England Senior Team as scrum coach for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations. Peel will leave his position as an International Performance Coach with the RFU and England Under-20 Head Coach. As part of the continuing collaborative approach between Saracens and the RFU, the former Newcastle Falcons player will have a part-time role in Eddie Jones' coaching team for the upcoming RBS 6 Nations campaign.
Click below to keep up with all the transfers across the rugby world...
LES BLEUS SIX NATIONS SQUAD
GUY NOVÈS, the new coach of France who took over from Philippe Saint-André post-RWC2015 has made his 30-man selection for his Six Nations squad, alongside his assistants, Yannick Bru and Jean-Frédéric Dubois, with Toulon hooker Guilhem Guirado named captain.
There are just three uncapped players included in the squad that will meet up at Marcoussis on Monday, 11th January: Camille Chat, Kevin Gourdon and Vincent Pelo replace Benjamin Kayser, Rabah Slimani and Bernard le Roux. Notable omissions are Rory Kockott, Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Mathieu Bastareaud and Noa Nakaitaci.
Atlantique Stade Rochelais
AZZURRI SIX NATIONS SQUAD
JACQUES BRUNEL has named his wider 35-man squad for Italy’s Six Nations training camp which begins on Monday, 11th January in Parma.
He has named a surprising 20 uncapped players in the squad, and will be reducing the team down to 30 by Sunday, 19th January. The Azzurri begin their RBS Six Nations campaign on Saturday, 6th February against France in the opening match of the tournament at the Stade de France in Paris.
† 36th man currently with U20 in Genoa but will be joining the group
INJURIES THREATEN SIX NATIONS
A hard-fought weekend of fierce rugby has resulted in a host of injuries that will upset national coaches ahead of Six Nations squad announcements in the next fortnight.
England Rugby’s list already included Kieran Brookes, Alex Corbisiero, Dave Ewers, Jonny May and Henry Slade. Ed Slater (medial knee ligaments) and Dave Attwood (bulging disc) have added to Eddie Jones woes at the weekend, as well as Tom Croft who was helped off the pitch at Allianz Park, dazed and blood pouring down his face as if in a slasher movie. The latter received a shoeing at the breakdown, split his ear and broke his tooth to match the concussion, but that is nothing compared to his previous broken neck, so there is hope. The subject of Manu Tuilagi continues to be glossed over with “Manu is very close to playing. We’ve just got to be patient...”, but the man-monster has not played since October 2014.
In Wales, Scarlets’ Emyr Phillips, Jack Condy, Scott Williams, Liam Williams and Jake Ball and James Davies are sidelined. Peter Edwards, Tom Williams, Tom Phillips, Michael Tagicakibau, George Earle and Harry Robinson are also out, yet somehow, Scarlets are at the top of the PRO12 table! Gareth Anscombe, Leigh Halfpenny and Hallam Amos look unlikely to be part of the Six Nations already, but such injuries give welcome opportunities for Warren Gatland to right some wrongs and open his mind to the wealth of talent still surrounding him.
Scotland sees injuries in Glasgow’s Peter Horne, Richie Vernon and Alex Dunbar, which is not a happy camp for the Warriors who head to Paris to take on an in form Racing 92. On the other side of Paris, Stade Français are having a mare with Pascal Papé, Will Genia, Gonzalo Quesada, Jonathan Danty, Raphael Lakafia, Anthony Burban, Djibril Camara and Jeremy Sinzelle all out, but some are on the recovery train already and there is hope, as they face Munster in the Champions Cup on Saturday.
And Ireland have not escaped either. Johnny Sexton was forced off the pitch last week, but is likely to recover quickly, whilst Cian Healy has been operated on and is now in a recovery race to make the 6Ns. Iain Henderson and Tommy Bowe are definitely ruled out, while Jamie Heaslip and Luke Fitzgerald both came away with injuries in the Leinster win against Ospreys.
WEEKEND ROUND UP
THE Aviva Premiership kicked up some interesting results at the weekend. During a miserable and wet weekend, the Saints managed to pull a fourth win out of the bag in round 8, ending the Chiefs winning run in a lacklustre match where the score ended at just 8-3. The Exiles could not capitalise on their single win last round, and lost emphatically to the Cherry & Whites. Bottom of the table Falcons turned the weekend on its head, beating last year’s Premiership finalists, Bath Rugby, whilst Saracens remain unbeaten in every tournament as they wiped the floor with the Tigers, who conceded a record three penalty tries in 80 minutes. The Sharks bit the sting off the tail of the Wasps, relegating the Midlands side to 9th place, and the Warriors fought back against the Mighty Quins from 17-3 down at halftime, but it was not quite enough, as the Londoners held fast and moved up to third in the table.
Click below for match results, standings and highlights...
In the Guinness PRO12, only the Scarlets held on to their top spot, keeping the Blues down in 9th place, and Treviso hung onto their 12th place after losing yet again, convincingly beaten by fellow countrymen, Zebre. Elsewhere, Ospreys, Leinster and Munster stepped up, beating the Dragons, Connacht and Ulster, whilst having been forced to move Glasgow’s home game to Murrayfield because of a sodden pitch, Edinburgh retained the 1872 Cup in the annual derby.
Click below for match results, standings and highlights...
The Top 14 saw Racing 92 and ASM Clermont Auvergne displace Toulouse from pole position, the Parisiens beating Bordeaux Bègles and ASM Officiel destroying bottom of the table Agen. Stade Français, who desperately needed a win after 7 losses in 11, were trailing for most of the their home draw against table-topping Toulouse, but a 77th minute spark of excellence allowed Paul Williams to fly over the whitewash for the try and steal the win from the jaws of defeat. Grenoble, La Rochelle and Brive all secured home wins, and despite Pau throwing the kitchen sink at RC Toulon to recover from being 21-3 in the third quarter, their efforts were only rewarded with a losing bonus point.
Click below for match results and standings...
KING TO ENGLAND?
AFTER Eddie Jones finally secured his assistant coaches for England from his Saracens days in Steve Borthwick (forwards) and Paul Gustard (backs), a task not quite as simple as it could have been if only the RFU had not run roughshod over protocol, there appears to be one more place to fill.
Former players, rugby pundits, and pretty much everyone who believes they have a right to an opinion has been vaunting the necessity of Northampton Saints’ attack and skills coach, Alex King. He has not yet been formally approached, and Saints DoR Jim Mallinder did throw his toys out of the pram last month accusing the RFU of talking to King without permission. But now he has his changed his tune and expects to be chatting to Jones next week.
However, it may well be that Jones keeps his team tight for the Six Nations, as he has to announce the squad in just 10 days, and may look outside of his core once job no. one is done.
WHAT 2016 HAS IN STORE DOWN UNDER
THE All Blacks undoubtedly have the highest a mountain to scale following the retirement of Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tony Woodcock, and of course the legendary twice-winning RWC captain, Richie McCaw. The first team of rugby is losing a monstrous 707 caps in one fell swoop - just these six stalwarts of Kiwi rugby have more than the entire 31-man England Rugby World Cup 2015 squad put together. But with their system of developing new talent, and drip feeding All Blacks into the team, there may be just a few teething problems. With Kieran Read having already captained the All Blacks to nine wins, and Sam Cane fitting quite comfortably into McCaw’s positional shoes, the big question hanging over the squad is who of Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga will take the baton from Carter?
The Wallabies are looking steady as a rock -when not facing the All Blacks- and Michael Cheika appears to be swinging the Australians onto a winning course since he took over as head coach. Their first challenge will be to take on a revived England when they visit in June, but it may not be a walk in the park, with Eddie Jones now at the helm and understanding many Aussie secrets already. However, with the All Blacks having to consolidate a little, this may be the year the Wallabies can steal back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.
Argentina is in a strong building position, having yet again made it to the final four in a Rugby World Cup. And with professional rugby finally invading the South American nation, the world is their oyster.
As for the Springboks, well, frankly they are currently rudderless with no coach, and no decisions coming forth any time soon since Heyneke Meyer stepped down following their third place position in last year’s world cup. Despite an horrific shock losing to a formidable Japan in their opening gambit, Meyer’s win record matched that of Jake White, and he won the Boks a world cup in 2007. Politics need to be put aside and socks need to be pulled up fairly soon if they are to be cohesive enough to beat Ireland on tour in June.
And finally the Super Rugby is imminent. The newly expanded competition kicks off just after the Six Nations has done the same in Europe and the Americas next month, but there are bound to be some teething issues since the entry of three new teams - the Southern Kings from SA, the Sunwolves from Japan and the Jaguares from Argentina all enter the fray. The tournament has become ever so convoluted in its format to accommodate the newcomers; four conferences, 18 teams, 17 rounds, 16 time zones and two hemispheres will no doubt cause some degree of havoc across the tournament. Good luck with that!
BURGESS NOT QUITE FORGOTTEN BY FORD
WHILST Sam Burgess was busy getting hitched to his girlfriend of 18 months, Phoebe Hooke, at her daddy’s ranch in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales, Mike Ford was presenting an altogether different view of his former back rower to that he proffered in most of 2015 back in the West Country to the Telegraph.
After Burgess joined Bath Rugby, the Head Coach could not praise him enough, and positively encouraged the union novice’s elevation to England Rugby despite little experience nor in-depth understanding of the game at international level. But after the league player’s abrupt departure from the club, Ford soon changed his tune: "No, Sam wasn't ready. He shouldn't have been picked in the World Cup squad in the first place. He couldn't get in our team at centre and there he was starting against Wales.
“He was used to being the Pied Piper figure in league and maybe he figured it would soon be the same in union. It wasn’t,” said Ford.
“Sam realised that it was a major project, and perhaps that he might never get the recognition he enjoyed in league. So, back he went. It was very disappointing.”
Ironically, in that fateful match for England, Wales did not manage to break the mid-field to get even close to scoring a try until the 70th minute - just after Burgess was replaced and the England centres were shuffled to allow Gareth Davies to slip right through the channel Sam had been defending like a fortress alongside Brad Barritt.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs star player will make his return to rugby league in February representing the World All Stars against the Indigenous All Stars at the Suncorp Stadium. Meanwhile, last season’s Premiership finalists Bath continue to struggle, having lost their fifth of eight matches so far in the 2015-16 season.
BOMBER NOT HEADING TO JAPAN
ENGLAND Rugby’s former Coach, Stuart Lancaster -despite rumours to the contrary over the last few days- will not be heading for a role reversal with his replacement as Head Coach of Japan. Word was that despite the RWC2015 hosts’ early exit from the tournament last year, which lead to Lancaster’s dismissal, the Japanese had been interested in England’s most successful coach since Sir Clive Woodward, with a 61% win percentage.
The position of head coach was rumoured to also include supervision of the newly-formed Super Rugby team, the Sunwolves, but that job has since been handed to former All Black hooker, Mark Hammett. The Sunwolves will make their first appearance in the Southern hemisphere tournament next month in Tokyo against South Africa’s Lions.
Meanwhile, after a well-earned rest after the stress of 2015, Lancaster should be in prime position to pick up a coaching gig with a Super Rugby franchise, and make a clean break from England Rugby in the North.
GONGS ALL ROUND FOR RUGBY STALWARTS
BRITISH & IRISH Lions, England Rugby and Sale Sharks stalwart, Mark Cueto has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List. The newly anointed Member of the British Empire was granted the honour for his services to rugby, having finally retired after 14 years with the Sharks, and the accolade of top try scorer in the Aviva Premiership, running over the whitewash a record 90 times, though his most memorable moment was his disallowed try in the Rugby World Cup 2007 Final against the Springboks.
"It feels great but it's been a bit of a shock. I found out about 3 weeks ago, and just couldn't believe it,” said Mark. "My agent got a call. The guy didn't say what he was ringing about, and just said he was from the Cabinet Office and my agent panicked and thought it was going to be a tax related issue! Thankfully it wasn't!”
Meanwhile in the Antipodes, Rugby World Cup-winning captain, Richie McCaw has become ONZ, appointed to The Order of New Zealand. Confined to 20 living New Zealanders, the former All Black has received the highest honour given in NZ for "outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil ormilitary capacity".
"I've been so lucky to have played with some truly awesome men and while I receive this award, my team-mates are a huge part of our success over the years,” said McCaw. "I've loved every day playing for the All Blacks and I'm very proud of what we were able to achieve. I just see myself as an ordinary boy from Kurow who has been able to live a dream."