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Bulls, Bokke and Scottish supporter, living in the UK.
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Head Coach Gregor Townsend has reselected the starting line-up from Scotland’s round two win over France (32-26) for this Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash with England at BT Murrayfield Stadium (kick-off 4.45pm UK Time; 6.45pm SA Time).

The Scots fought back from a ten-point deficit on two occasions and scored 12 unanswered points in the final quarter to post their first win of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations Championship, with the two-try showing rewarded with reselection for the staring XV.

There are, however, three changes to the bench with fit-again prop Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) and lock Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – both of whom returned to the squad this week – named among the replacements in place of Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons) and Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby).

Centre Nick Grigg is the only change among the backs replacements as a reward for his consistency of performance for Glasgow Warriors, highlighted in his man-of-the-match winning performance for the club in their bonus-point win over Cheetahs last weekend.

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It would seem the England management are leaving no stone unturned in their preparations for Saturday’s Six Nations match against Scotland at Murrayfield as they aim to retain the Calcutta Cup which they won in emphatic fashion last year at Twickenham.

First came the news that the ever inventive Eddie Jones had enlisted the help of Georgia in a live forwards training session last week. This included scrums and lineout practice and from the feedback from the likes of England’s Joe Marler it seems as if the England pack learnt a lot from going head to head against the tough Georgian pack.

Further proof of the innovations come from reports that England’s replacements will be once again be wearing battery operated trousers to help keep them warm on what is expected to be a cold winter’s day at Murrayfield. England’s replacements have already made use of the “hot pants” in their last match at Twickenham against Wales.

More unthinkable though is the news that Scot David Moyes, who is currently manager of West Ham United football club, will be linking up with the English Rugby Squad today to give them advice. What advice that may be who knows but it won’t be the first time they have had input from the round ball bosses as previously Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola was also invited to spend some time with the squad. Although it does seem odd that a proud Scot Moyes would agree in the first place to try and help the Auld Enemy in their preparations for a match against his countrymen.

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Glasgow Warriors welcome back second row pair Scott Cummings and Tim Swinson and centre Sam Johnson for the visit of the Toyota Cheetahs tonight,  kick-off 7.35pm UK time, 9.35pm SA time.

Scotland international Swinson has been out of action with a hand injury since November, Johnson suffered a broken jaw in the game against Montpellier in December and Cummings has been out since the beginning of the year.

All three come straight into the starting XV, Swinson and Cummings starting behind a front row of Alex Allan, James Malcolm and Siua Halanukonuka.

Behind them Rob Harley captain’s the side and equals Graeme Morrison’s record for all time Glasgow Warriors appearances, playing his 177th game for the club.

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Zane Kirchner

Brandon Thomson

Glasgow Warriors are away to the Dragons tonight in Newport as Guinness PRO14 action resumes following a short break.

The Glasgow Warriors squad is a much depleted one with various players away on international duty and even more injured. Nine players are away with the Scotland squad while fourteen players are listed as injured including three hookers. One could pick a very strong team for Glasgow from the injured players alone with a good match day squad there if it was topped up with the players away on international duty.

Taking a look at the squads for tonight’s game it was interesting to note that Brandon Thomson has been selected to play as centre for Glasgow Warriors while Zane Kirchner is due to start at flyhalf for Dragons. It would be interesting to hear from those in the know about how often Thomson and Kirchner have played in these positions at professional level if at all. I can remember quite a long time ago fullback Zane Kirchner played in the number 13 jersery for the Springboks but don’t recall him playing at flyhalf. He has also featured on the wing for Leinster when he was still with them. Likewise, Brandon Thomson is becoming Mr Versatile for Glasgow Warriors as the former Stormers flyhalf shifts into the centre and also can play fullback, in fact I have even seen him playing on the wing for the Warriors.

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Nathan Mc Beth

Head Coach Stevie Scott has named the Scotland U20 team to face Wales at Parc Eirias in the opening fixture of the U20 Six Nations this Friday (2 February, kick-off 8.15pm) . Scott has named the Golden Lions youngster, who has decided to through in his lot with Scotland, Nathan Mc Beth, as one the props on the bench.

Of the 23-man squad named, 11 players are products of the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy.

In the centre, Stafford McDowell – one of two players in the starting XV to feature in last summer’s World Rugby U20 Championship – is joined by Strathallan School product Mark New.

Edinburgh Rugby’s Callum McLelland and livewire scrum-half Kaleem Barreto form an all action half-back partnership.

Hooker Robbie Smith is named as captain and will pack down alongside Edinburgh Accies duo Shaun Gunn and Finlay Richardson – who complete the powerful front-row trio.

In the second-row, Jamie Hodgson is joined by Racing 92’s Ewan Johnson, whilst Archie Erksine, Guy Graham and Devante Onojaife form an abrasive back-row.

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Experienced scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw returns to a 40-man Scotland squad announced for the Six Nations.

Laidlaw, 32, has not played a Test for almost a year and is just returning from a broken leg.

John Barclay retains the captain’s role he took on when Laidlaw was injured during last season’s Six Nations.

Uncapped props Murray McCallum and D’Arcy Rae are included, along with fullback Blair Kinghorn and scrumhalf Nathan Fowles.

Head coach Gregor Townsend also recalls Dave Denton, Scott Lawson, Gordon Reid and Jon Welsh after long absences from the international scene.

But there is no room for Josh Strauss, Matt Scott and Tim Visser, while John Hardie is overlooked as he nears the end of a 3-month “gross misconduct” ban.

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Wales have named uncapped pair James Davies and Josh Adams in their squad for the Six Nations.

Flanker Davies, 27, has been rewarded for his excellent form with Scarlets, while Worcester wing Adams is the top try scorer in the English Premiership.

Bath No 8 Taulupe Faletau is included despite being ruled out of the 1st 2 Rounds of the Six Nations with a knee injury.

Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts and Bath lock Luke Charteris are left out.

The 39-man squad is larger than usual, partly because of fitness concerns over a handful of players.

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The Southern Kings return to Guinness PRO14 action following their Christmas break with a tough assignment away to Edinburgh at Myreside.

The Kings’ last game was against Friday’s opponents as they went down 48-21 at Nelson Mandela Bay with the Scottish side playing Glasgow Warriors back-to-back in the meantime.

What’s at stake? The Kings are yet to record a win in the Guinness PRO14 but there is no better time than a New Year for a change in fortunes.

A victory would help the Kings close the ten-point gap to the Dragons.

Edinburgh meanwhile are eight points behind third-placed Ulster and need success to reduce that deficit as well as move them further clear of Benetton in Conference B.

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Gary Graham called up for England training camp

Bath prop Beno Obano and Newcastle flanker Gary Graham have been called up to England training for the first time.

Obano, 23, and Graham, 25, are part of a 34-man training squad named by England boss Eddie Jones for a two-day camp in Brighton starting on 1 January.

Saracens winger Nathan Earle is also included but Courtney Lawes is rested for personal reasons, while Elliot Daly and Nathan Hughes are injured.

George Kruis and Manu Tuilagi, who is just back from injury, both miss out.

James Haskell is recalled while injured number eight Billy Vunipola will also attend as champions England start their preparations for the Six Nations – their first match is against Italy in Rome on Sunday, 4 February.

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The winner of world’s oldest inter-city rugby rivalry will be decided by the ‘best of three’ format used in the international arena it was confirmed today.

Edinburgh Rugby host Glasgow Warriors in the opening leg of the 1872 Cup this Saturday (23 December, kick-off 5.10pm UK time; 7.10pm SA time) at BT Murrayfield in round 11 of the Guinness PRO14.The sides will meet again at Glasgow’s Scotstoun home a week later (Saturday 30 December, kick-off 3.15pm UK time; 5.15pm SA time), with a third, potentially decisive derby held at the home of Scottish rugby on the last weekend of the regular season (27/28/29 April).

Previously the 1872 Cup was awarded to the aggregate winner of the two league matches between the clubs, however with the expansion of the Guinness PRO14 – to include South African sides Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs – means that the Scottish sides now meet three times in a season instead of two.

The derbies attract the biggest rugby audiences in Scotland outside of national team test matches and will see many of the stars who lit up the recent Autumn Test campaign go head-to-head with their club sides – battling it out for PRO14 points, bragging rights and the chance to get a hand on the coveted 1872 Cup.

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Assistant coach Mike Blair shrugged off comments by one the greatest All Blacks of all time, who had predicted New Zealand will “whack” Scotland by what would be a record 60 points at BT Murrayfield on Saturday evening.

Zinzan Brooke, the legendary No 8 who won 58 caps between 1987 and 1997, also used his column on the official All Blacks website to blast the Scots’ performance against Samoa last weekend, which saw them concede five tries in a 44-38 win. “If conditions are firm this weekend at Murrayfield, they could completely run Scotland ragged and whack them by 50 to 60 points,” wrote Brooke.

Scotland’s record defeat by New Zealand was a 69-20 loss in Dunedin 17 years ago, with the 49-3 defeat in 2010 the heaviest at Murrayfield.

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France will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup after beating rival bids from South Africa and Ireland.

South Africa had been expected to win the vote after an independent review recommended they stage the tournament.

However, at a World Rugby Council meeting in London on Wednesday, France was chosen to hold the 10th event.

France has staged the competition twice before – in 1991 and 2007 – and won in the second round of voting, with 24 votes compared to 15 for South Africa.

Ireland, one of five joint hosts in 1991, was eliminated after getting eight of the 39 votes in the first round – France picked up 18 and South Africa 13.

South Africa hosted the World Cup in 1995, when the Springboks beat New Zealand 15-12 in the final.

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Edinburgh prop Darryl Marfo will make his Scotland debut in Saturday’s autumn Test against Samoa at Murrayfield.

Hooker Stuart McInally makes only his fourth Test start in the absence of the injured Fraser Brown and Ross Ford.

Ben Toolis joins Jonny Gray in the second row, with fit-again Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones resuming at centre.

Three more players – Glasgow duo George Turner and Jamie Bhatti, and Newcastle centre Chris Harris – could make their Test debuts off the bench.

With Brown and Ford on a lengthy injury list, McInally makes his first appearance since the summer tour of Japan in 2016, with WP Nel getting the nod at tight-head over Zander Fagerson.

Three loose-head props – Alasdair Dickinson, Allan Dell and Gordon Reid – are are all missing, while new head coach Gregor Townsend must also do without Greig Laidlaw, Richie Gray, Sean Maitland, Duncan Taylor, Matt Scott and Adam Ashe for his first Test on home soil.

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Wing Anthony Volmink will be joining the Southern Kings on loan with immediate effect from the Golden Lions whilst centre Jarryd Sage will leave the Port Elizabeth side.

 “Jarryd [Sage] has decided to take up an offer from rival Pro14 championship outfit the Dragons and will further his rugby career with them,” said Southern Kings Chief Operating Officer Charl Crous.

“We are extremely grateful for the contribution that he made to the Southern Kings during his time here and we wish him only the best going forward.

Sage, 22, who formed part of a quartet of players who joined the Kings from the Golden Lions earlier this season, found opportunities at the local franchise hard to come by as coach Deon Davids opted for a first-choice pairing of vice-captain Luzuko Vulindlu and Berton Klaasen in midfield with Jacques Nel as occasional back-up.

Sage joins the Dragons with effect from December 1.

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Being in a Scotland international camp is always a pleasure and a privilege and, in the case of this autumn, a mighty relief.

I should go back a few months to explain what’s been going on with me this past while, to the 25th minute of a Scarlets game against Edinburgh on 23 September.

That’s when I went low in a tackle on Magnus Bradbury and caught his hip on my head. It was an innocuous collision. Looking at it, you wouldn’t have said there was any great force in it. You wouldn’t have called it a big hit.

I’ve been knocked unconscious before playing rugby, but this was different. When I was 20 and playing for the Scotland Under-21s against Wales I was out cold for about five minutes and then spent an hour in an ambulance not knowing where I was, before doing a night in hospital while my head cleared.

This time, I was out for about 10 or 15 seconds. I woke up to the sound of my own snoring. The minute I came around, I knew what had happened. The medics were tending to my neck, doing all the things they needed to do to make sure I was OK, but my neck was fine. I told them, ‘You can let go of my neck, boys, there’s nothing wrong with it’. But that’s procedure in these cases.

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PRO14 Rugby will introduce an exciting change to its Champions Cup qualification process that will see the 7th ranked team decided by a Play-Off match that will form part of the Guinness PRO14 Final Series.

This fresh addition to the Championship has been warmly welcomed by the Guinness PRO14 clubs and will see the two fourth-placed teams from each Conference face off in a winner-takes-all clash to qualify for the Champions Cup.

The fixture will take place on the first weekend of May and home advantage will be awarded to the team who has finished the regular season with the highest match-points total. This move is designed to ensure competitive balance between both Conferences in order to award the final Champions Cup qualification place.

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We look ahead to Glasgow’s historic PRO14 meeting with Cheetahs tonight in Bloemfontein. (Kick Off 7.35pm UK time, 8.35pm SA time at Toyota Stadium, Friday 6th October)
The Cheetahs are unbeaten at home this season. Glasgow Warriors have yet to taste defeat on their travels. Something has to give in Bloemfontein on Friday night.

 

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For someone who is both a Blue Bulls and Glasgow Warriors Fan there will be fewer places in the world to rather be than in Bloemfontein on Friday night. Unfortunately though this will not be possible, but the action will still be followed with much interest from many miles away.

Glasgow Warriors face the Toyota Cheetahs in their first trip to South Africa in the Guinness PRO14 while the Blue Bulls travel to Bloemfontein to take on the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in a must win Currie Cup game. It feels quite odd though that the once mighty Blue Bulls who would normally take centre stage will be playing in the curtain raiser to the BIG GAME – the PRO14 one.

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“When you put your hand in a fence where there is a lion, you will get bitten.”

For most people that’s good advice. Unfortunately for Wales and Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin the advice came a little too late.

That’s because they are the wise words of Baldwin’s boss Steve Tandy, after the 29-year-old missed his team’s latest Pro14 fixture because he had been bitten by a lion. While trying to pet it.

“There was an incident with a lion, but in fairness it was nothing to do with the lion,” Tandy said, clearly keen to absolve the big cat of any blame.

The incident happened during a team trip to Weltevrede Game Lodge on the outskirts of Bloemfontein, before the Ospreys’ Pro14 match against their appropriately named hosts, the Cheetahs.

Everyone present on the visit was, according to Tandy, given plenty of warning not to stick their hand into the lion’s den.

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Hotly-tipped Dave Wessels has taken up a position with Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby.

The Springboks’ assistant coach Johann van Graan will succeed Rassie Erasmus as the Munster Director of Rugby. The Irish Times has learned that van Graan, who formerly worked with the Bulls and is currently coaching the Springboks’ forwards, will link up with Munster after the conclusion of the Rugby Championships.

With Erasmus set to stay on until the end of the calendar year, this will enable van Graan to work alongside Erasmus for a while so as to ensure as smooth as possible. Van Graan was last year linked with Bath and more recently was supposedly on the Bulls’ short list, along with John Mitchell, to replace Nollis Marais as head coach.

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Six Nations executives have been given until the end of the month to find new sponsors for the biggest annual tournament in world rugby after struggling to find a replacement for RBS, which ended its backing last season after 14 years. The Six Nations had been looking for a six-year, £100m deal, but having spent the past 12 months talking to a number of potential backers, there is only one firm offer on the table. That is understood to be less than the £11m a year paid by RBS at the end of its contract as the economic uncertainty blown up by Brexit deters sponsors.

The championship starts in February and the tournament committee, which met last week, told its executives that a deal had to be agreed within a fortnight.

While there has been interest from potential sponsors, no one has come anywhere near the asking price and there is concern that further delay could lead to the one offer being withdrawn. That would mean the championship lacking a backer in 2018 and that would blow a significant hole in the finances of the three Celtic unions, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

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Harlequins’ Demetri Catrakilis being stretchered off on Sunday

Harlequins fly-half Demetri Catrakilis will miss time after suffering a “small fracture” to a bone in his throat in the win over Gloucester on Sunday.

Catrakilis stopped breathing for several seconds and was taken to hospital after suffering the injury 12 minutes into the game.

Harlequins have not said how long the 28-year-old will be out for, but the injury will not require surgery.

Catrakilis was making his first start since joining Quins in the summer.

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Southern Kings head coach, Deon Davids, named a strong side on Thursday that will take on the Scarlets in the opening match of the Guinness PRO14 Championship.

The Southern Kings will face the defending Guinness PRO14 champions at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday when they play in their first match of the 2017/18 season.

Davids will field an experienced team which includes players who have plied their trade in the Guinness PRO14 previously as well as the Vodacom Super Rugby competition. The side will be led by captain, Michael Willemse.

“We have some exciting players in the backline and we also have some talent in the forwards. I would like to see a good balance between the backs and forwards,” Davids said.

“I will encourage the guys to play the way we are used to playing – that is playing towards where our pace is, making good decisions and recognising and using areas of space.

“We also need to be wary of the fact that games are not only won with ball in hand, our biggest challenge will be our work rate, intensity and physicality without the ball. That will be a big ask for us.”

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The Toyota Cheetahs will become the first southern hemisphere side ever to take part in the Guinness PRO14 championship.

The side from Bloemfontein will be making history when they take on Ulster Rugby on Friday evening at 20:35 (SA time) at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, Ireland.

“The Toyota Cheetah players are extremely excited to join this world class championship”, said Toyota Cheetah captain, Neill Jordaan after arriving in Belfast on Wednesday.

Guinness PRO14 will for the first time play under the new Conference format which sees each team play home and away against clubs in their own Conference and then home or away against the other Conference before two more rounds that ensure all derby games are played, which formed an important part the competition up till now.

South Africans who previously played for Ulster are Johann Muller, Ruan Pienaar and Franco van der Merwe.

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A truly historic chapter will be written this weekend when the first-ever Guinness PRO14 season kicks off after the addition of the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings from South Africa.

As this world class Championship continues to raise the bar, the introduction of the Cheetahs and the Kings makes the Guinness PRO14 a global tournament. Round 1 also marks the first games played under the new Conference format which sees each team play home and away against clubs in their own Conference and then home OR away against the other Conference before two more rounds that ensure all derby games are played.

The Cheetahs will be the first team from South Africa to go up against ‘northern’ opposition when they travel to Kingspan Stadium on Friday night to face Ulster while the Kings face a daunting trip to Parc Y Scarlets where the men from Llanelli will play their first Championship game since winning the title at Aviva Stadium last May.

 
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Premiership and Championship players will take part this season in the development of a new pitch-side test to diagnose concussion and brain injuries.

Saliva and urine samples will be collected during the new campaign, after studies showed they could provide swift indicators of head injuries.

It could lead to a handheld device to assess if a player is fit to play on.

 “We are keen to give it our full support,” Premiership Rugby’s Corin Palmer said.

During matches in 2017-18, players with confirmed or suspected concussion will provide saliva samples immediately following the injury and will give follow-up samples as they go through the return-to-play protocol.

These will be compared to players from the same game who did not suffer head injuries and those who had other injuries.

The study will run alongside the existing Head Injury Assessments, but if the results support those found in laboratory tests, it could eventually see tests being carried out pitch-side on a device.

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Captains from the PRO14 teams posing in Dublin

The Guinness PRO14 official launch gave a sneak peek of this year’s final venue as media gathered at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

After the Scarlets claimed the 2016/17 title in style last year in the Irish capital, the first-ever Guinness PRO14 final will take place at the same ground.

For Guinness PRO14 Chief Executive Officer Martin Anayi, it offers the championship some stability at a time of expansion with the introduction of two South African teams, the Southern Kings and the Toyota Cheetahs, as well as a conference system.

And Anayi believes using the Aviva Stadium will pay dividends for the clubs in the long-term, while offering a top class stadium for the showpiece final.

He said: “It’s an amazing facility, it’s an iconic venue and we do great business here. That’s important when you understand our model. Our model is to give revenue back to the clubs to be competitive on the pitch.

“The final from last season and this final coming up in 2018 will allow us to deliver as much revenue as we can in this season of great change for the good. A little bit of stability goes a long way.”

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While all eyes will be on the semi-finals as New Zealand take on USA and France tackle defending champions England, there is still plenty for the other eight teams to play for on the penultimate day of Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 in Belfast.

The Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 semi-finals have a sense of déjà vu about them as they are a repeat of those from the inaugural tournament back in 1991.

On that occasion in Wales, USA edged past New Zealand 7-0 and England overcame France 13-0. Four-time champions New Zealand and France, bidding to reach their first final, will hope that history does not repeat itself to end their title dreams prematurely in Ireland.

The attention inevitably will be on the two semi-finals at Kingspan Stadium, but there is still plenty for the other eight teams to play for on the penultimate match day of Ireland 2017, be it automatic qualification for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 or simply to achieve the best ranking they can.

The top seven teams will secure direct passage to WRWC 2021 and avoid the global qualification process. For hosts Ireland, Australia, Canada and Wales that means if they can taste victory on Tuesday they will confirm their place and avoid the winner-takes-all seventh place play-off on Saturday.

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Promising young flyhalf Curwin Bosch, No 8 Dan du Preez and fullback Warrick Gelant were on Saturday included in the 34-man Springbok squad for the start of the 2017 Rugby Championship campaign.

The 22-year old Du Preez is the twin brother of Springbok loose forward Jean-Luc du Preez.

Springbok coach, Allister Coetzee, said he is pleased with the largely unchanged squad, which allows for greater continuity and consistency.

“Our players must be well-conditioned, match-fit and also be able to make good on-field decisions. We are also looking for continuity, experience and combinations – all elements which I believe are reflected in the current squad selection,” said Coetzee.

The Springbok group gets together on Tuesday, 8 August in Port Elizabeth to start their preparations for the 2017 campaign, which kicks off their on 19 August against Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

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The Cheetahs will face a tough start to life in the Guinness Pro14 as they kick off with two games against Irish opposition in Ireland. They are due to play their opening fixture on Friday the 1st of September against Ulster in Belfast and then play last season’s finalists Munster the following weekend.

The Kings start their PRO14 journey on the road in Wales against reigning Champions Scarlets during the weekend of 1st to 2nd September and then make the short hop to Gallway in Ireland to face Connacht the following weekend.

Both teams return home for the matches during the weekend of 15th to 16th September with the Cheetahs getting a bit of a reprieve as they host Italian team Zebre while things get tougher for the Kings as they play against Leinster in their first home game of the tournament.

The last weekend of September will see Bloemfontein play host to the Ospreys who will be the first Welsh team to make the overnight flight to South Africa in the PRO14. This is all if the scoop from a local publication ahead of the official fixture announcement next week is accurate.

 

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Celtic Rugby and the South African Rugby Union have today confirmed that the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings will join an expanded Guinness PRO14 tournament in time for the upcoming 2017/18 season.

A long-term strategic agreement has been signed by both parties which will allow the participation of two South African franchises in the renamed Guinness PRO14 Championship.

The agreement means that the Championship will take place across the northern and southern hemispheres and marks the first phase of expansion as the Guinness PRO14 becomes a truly global tournament.

This move will contribute to the drive for ever higher standards that we demand across the tournament and provide greater resources to our clubs who will compete in the most testing environment the Championship has ever created.

We can also reassure supporters across the Championship that all current home and away Derby games have been protected – these fixtures are sacrosanct to the tournament and those tribal rivalries are just one element of what makes the Guinness PRO14 so special.

With a new format, new teams and new audiences the Guinness PRO14 – which leads World Rugby statistics for Positive Play – will hit even greater heights in 2017/18.

 
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Scottish Rugby is developing a performance pathway with French club Stade Nicois to provide wider opportunities for Scottish players.

For the coming season five players will be based in Nice and will provide playing and coaching resources for the Federale 2 team.

Former Glasgow Warrior centurion Peter Murchie ended his association with the Scotstoun based club at the end of last season and will be developing his coaching with Stade Nicois.

Joining him is former Glasgow Warrior Tyrone Holmes who will be starting a new career path in strength and conditioning with the French club.

On the playing front Scotland U20 players Josh Henderson and Bruce Flockhart are currently in pre-season training with Stade Nicois with a view to playing there in the forthcoming season. Former London Scottish hooker David Cherry has also signed for the club.

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The shadow sports minister has urged the Rugby Football Union to reconsider its decision not to renew the contracts of England’s women’s XV players.

In a letter Dr Rosena Allin-Khan tells chief executive Ian Ritchie of her “deep concern”.

Despite England preparing to defend the World Cup next month, the RFU said its focus will switch to the sevens game after the tournament.

“To make this decision is deeply disappointing,” wrote Allin-Khan.

“Asking players to pause and resume their professions every two years puts their futures at considerable risk.”

The RFU, which announced record revenues last year of more than £400m, said its priorities shift between the XVs and sevens programmes, with the World Cup Sevens and Commonwealth Games taking place next year.

It said the England XV side will continue to take part in competitions, and that it has invested millions of pounds in the women’s game, including £800,000 annually on a new domestic competition aimed at increasing and improving the talent pool available for selection for England.

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Scotland Women 7s squad got off to a flying start under new Head Coach Scott Wight. Not only did they win the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Trophy, they also gained promotion to the Grand Prix competition next season.

They were unbeaten in both rounds in the Czech Republic and Hungary and cruised past the opposition to score 485 points in 12 games, while conceding just 12 points.

Wight said: “At the first tournament I started the same seven but after Hungary it showed where they are as a squad because I didn’t have the same starting seven once showing the depth of the squad.

“Before the Czech Republic I was probably more nervous than I was at the final at Twickenham. When you’re playing you’re in total control, you can make the calls, you know you’re fit whereas with coaching you’ve done all the work beforehand.”

Wight, who started working with the squad in April as Scotland 7s season came to and end, selected a mix of youth and experience for the first outing and kept the same 12 for the second round.

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Nigel Owens

Rugby union referee Nigel Owens reveals his struggle with eating disorder bulimia nervosa is not over and remains an ongoing battle.

There have been a number of ‘firsts’ in my life.

As a referee in world-class rugby, one of the most macho sports on the planet, I was the first in the sport to come out as being gay.

In the hope of reaching out to other young people struggling with mental health, I was also one of the first sportsmen to speak openly about the biggest regret of my life – a suicide attempt.

Early one morning at the age of 26, I left a note for my mum and dad, both of whom had been hugely supportive of me, explaining I couldn’t carry on, that I desperately wanted to bring it all to an end.

I took an overdose, laid down on a Welsh mountainside and waited to die. Doctors later told me I was just 20 minutes from death when I was airlifted to hospital by a police helicopter.

So I got a second chance. I was determined not to waste it and using my experience to help someone else is a pretty good way of ensuring that.

Which brings me onto another ‘first’; I’ve spoken about dealing with bulimia in the past but have never before revealed that to this day I continue to struggle with an eating disorder.

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