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European Rugby

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Danie Poolman

Danie Poolman

Connacht and the Irish Rugby Football Union revealed that 25-year-old back Danie Poolman has signed a new deal that will keep him at the Sportsground until at least 2017.

Poolman joined Connacht in 2012 from South African franchise the Stormers and since then the former Paul Roos schoolboy from Pretoria has established himself as a key component in Connacht’s backline.

Poolman’s attacking prowess has come to the fore again this season with seven tries making him the province’s top try scorer so far this season.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Thursday called up prop Nicolas Mas, scrumhalf Rory Kockott and centre Maxime Mermoz for his 30-strong squad to prepare for the Six Nations match against Italy.

The French were left reeling last weekend when they lost 13 / 20 to Wales at the Stade de France – ending any hopes they had of winning this year’s tournament.

Saint-Andre subsequently launched a bitter attack on his players saying that some of them were “prima-donnas” who failed to live up to their responsibilities on the field.

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Martin Castrogiovanni

Martin Castrogiovanni

Prop Martin Castrogiovanni, ruled out of Italy’s win over Scotland at the weekend because of a dog bite, has been dropped for the Six Nations matches against France and Wales.

Castrogiovanni, who needed 14 stitches after being bitten on the nose by a friend’s dog, was not in the 30-man squad named by coach Jacques Brunel on Tuesday and did not figure among the players who were listed as excluded through injury.

Versatile back Andrea Masi, who missed the Scotland game, and lock Quintin Geldenhuys, still to make his first appearance in the championship because of a knee injury, were recalled.

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Rene Ranger

Rene Ranger

Explosive attacking back Rene Ranger is to return to the Blues next season and will be available to play for North Harbour in the ITM Cup this year.

The 28-year-old has gained an early release from his contract with French club Montpellier after 2 seasons.

Ranger scored 25 tries in his 65 Super Rugby caps for the Blues, enjoying 6 caps for the All Blacks. He has become a fan favourite with Jake White’s Montpellier side, scoring 6 tries in his first 15 games and helping the team enjoy a strong season in the European Club Championships this year.

He said his return to New Zealand is primarily for family reasons.

“Family comes first and that is the big motivator to return. I want to be able to help my mom more,” Ranger said.

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Wiaan Liebenberg

Wiaan Liebenberg

Montpellier coach Jake White has his sights set on luring young Blue Bulls loose forward Wiaan Liebenberg to France.

The 22-year-old former Baby Bok captain is currently not in the Bulls’ Super Rugby plans – which makes a move to France very likely.

Loose forwards like Lappies Labuschagne, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann and his brother Hanro are ahead of Liebenberg in the pecking order at the Bulls.

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Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor

Canterbury and Crusaders back, Tom Taylor, has announced he will move to France to play for the Bayonne Club at the end of this year.

Taylor says it’s been a tough decision to leave, but it is a great opportunity for him and he is looking forward to the next chapter of his career.

“I have absolutely loved my time here at Canterbury and the Crusaders, especially being a Christchurch boy.

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Morgan Parra

Morgan Parra

France have been hit by an injury crisis with scrumhalf Morgan Parra and backs Wesley Fofana and Remi Lamerat ruled out Monday for the rest of the Six Nations campaign.

Parra will miss the rest of the Six Nations after being ruled out for at least 10 weeks with a knee injury.

Parra, who plays for Clermont in the Top 14, suffered a tear to the posterior ligament in his right knee during France’s 13 / 20 defeat to Wales at the Stade de France on Saturday.

The 26-year-old’s knee will be immobilised for 4 weeks and according to a Clermont statement: “his return to competition won’t be possible before 10 weeks”.

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Ireland’s victory over England in the Six Nations means they are once again the leading northern hemisphere nation in the latest World Rankings.

Ireland reclaimed the mantle after a 19 / 9 victory, in the battle of the unbeaten sides in Dublin on Sunday.

The victory turns what was a 0.17 rating point deficit into a 1.27 cushion for Ireland over the 2015 World Cup hosts. Joe Schmidt’s side are now less than 2 rating points behind South Africa in 2nd spot.

Wales have increased their margin over France to almost 4 points after a 20 / 13 victory over Les Bleus at the Stade de France on Saturday, although the margin was not enough to improve their position of 6th.

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FranceWalesGeorge North will make his 50th international appearance, in record time, against France on Saturday, and will be looking to continue his purple patch against Les Bleus.

At just 22-years-old, North will become the youngest international player ever to reach the milestone – it will be his 47th cap for Wales, added to three for the British and Irish Lions.

The towering Northampton wing scored tries against France in each of the 2 previous matches and will be looking to continue that form as Wales seek a 4th straight win over Philippe Saint-Andre’s side.

North will make his comeback for Wales having sat out the 26 / 23 win over Scotland 2 weeks ago due to a pair of concussions suffered against England the week before.

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ScotlandItalyScotland head coach Vern Cotter is wary of a physical Italian test as he welcomes the Azzurri to Murrayfield in search of a maiden Six Nations victory.

Cotter has charged Peter Horne with the task of filling Finn Russell’s No 10 shirt – one of 4 changes from the side that lost 23 / 26 to Wales 2 weeks ago.

And he expects the Glasgow Warriors utility man to step up to the plate and help an ever-improving Scotland side turn promising performances into a result.

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Andries Ferreira

Andries Ferreira

The Golden Lions Rugby Union announced that they signed more players at the Union as well as the re-signing of 2 Vodacom Super Rugby players.

The GLRU has secured the services of lock Andries Ferreira who has signed a 2-year contract. Ferreira recently returned from a stint in Italy at Pro12 side Zebre but also has previous Vodacom Super Rugby and ABSA Currie Cup experience with the Cheetahs.

Ferreira will join the GLRU with immediate effect and will look to bolster the lock stock at the Union and provide added physicality in the tight 5.

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Willi Heinz

Willi Heinz

Gloucester have added experience and quality to their scrumhalf ranks next season with the capture of Crusaders’ Willi Heinz.

The 28-year-old will join the current Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw and the hugely promising Callum Braley as scrumhalf options for the Cherry and Whites from 2015 – 2016.

Heinz has captained Canterbury in the NPC, represented the Crusaders more than 50 times in Super Rugby, and gained huge popularity with the Canterbury supporters.

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IrelandIreland have called in loose forward Roger Wilson and lock Billy Holland to their training squad ahead of the game against England at the Aviva Stadium.

The Ulster and Munster players complete Joe Schmidt’s 36-man group that will prepare for Sunday’s critical Six Nations Championship showdown in Dublin.

Only prop James Cronin, flank Robbie Diack, scrumhalf Kieran Marmion and prop Nathan White are unavailable due to injury as Ireland prepare for Sunday.

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George North down against England in the SIX Nations

George North down against England in the SIX Nations

Wales have recalled wing George North in place of Alex Cuthbert for the Six Nations match against France.

North missed the 26 / 23 win over Scotland on 15 February after suffering concussion in the opening defeat by England.

Lock Luke Charteris, prop Samson Lee and hooker Scott Baldwin were also named in the team for the game in Paris on Saturday as coach Warren Gatland made 4 changes.

Charteris replaced Jake Ball who started in the win over Scotland at Murrayfield.

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Steffon Armitage

Steffon Armitage

A court in southern France called for further inquiries to be held into allegations of assault against Toulon’s former England flank Steffon Armitage.

Armitage faces a 5 to 6 month suspended prison sentence and €5,000 ($5,649) fine over the incident which occurred in a Toulon restaurant on 13 December.

“There are still a number of grey areas in this case that perhaps further investigation will throw light on,” Armitage’s lawyer Clement Lambert said.

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Mike Brown

Mike Brown

England fullback Mike Brown is unlikely to return to action in time for the crucial Six Nations clash against Ireland following a setback in his recovery from concussion.

The 29-year-old felt a recurrence of his symptoms on Friday after being knocked unconscious in the 47 / 17 victory over Italy and having completed a weekend of rest has restarted the return to play protocols.

The earliest the Harlequins star will be able to resume contact training is Friday, the day head coach Stuart Lancaster announces his starting line-up for Sunday’s showdown between the Championship’s only remaining unbeaten teams in Dublin.

It leaves Brown – who had an outstanding tournament last year scoring 4 tries – with a race against time to prove his fitness knowing any further flare-up in symptoms will force him to start the protocols again and rule him out of contention.

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Guinness Pro12Round 15 of the Guinness PRO12 started on Friday night and concluded on Sunday with the position at the top the same as when the Round started, with Glasgow Warriors still looking down on the other 11 from the pinnacle of the table. However, they have increased their lead and are now 4 points ahead of 2nd placed Ulster.

There could have been no greater difference in emotions experienced after the matches than that between Newport Dragons captain Rynard ‘Ligtoring’ Landman and Munster’s flyer JJ Hanrahan. Landman would have been feeling low and filled with nervous anticipation following his Red Card for elbowing Connacht’s flyhalf Jack Carty early in their match. JJ Hanrahan on the other hand would have been feeling on top of the world following his very late try which earned Munster a draw against Llanelli Scarlets.

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ScotlandHead coach Vern Cotter today (Monday) added 5 capped internationalists to Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations squad, 5 days out from the Round 3 Test against Italy this Saturday at BT Murrayfield (28 February, kick-off 14:30 GMT, 16:30 SA Time).

Scrum-half Chris Cusiter and prop Moray Low have been called up from English Premiership clubs Sale Sharks and Exeter Chiefs, along with Glasgow Warriors duo Adam Ashe (No 8) and Alex Allan (prop), and Edinburgh No 8 David Denton.

Cusiter (knee) and Ashe (neck) were absent from Cotter’s initial squad selection due to injury, but have recovered to earn the recall, while Denton has recovered from the calf tear sustained in the national team’s pre-Championship camp in Glasgow last month.

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BarbariansThe Barbarians will make London’s Olympic Stadium their home for the first rugby match to be played at the iconic venue ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup.

The world famous invitation side have a number of high profile international matches throughout the year in celebration of their 125th anniversary, including this fixture against Samoa on Saturday 29 August (15:00 BST) at the Olympic Stadium.

The match will be delivered in partnership between the Barbarians, E20 Stadium LLP (a joint venture between the London Legacy Development Corporation and Newham Council), and England Rugby 2015, Tournament Organisers for Rugby World Cup 2015.

The match is also part of England Rugby 2015’s testing programme and will allow the organisers to trial aspects of match day delivery ahead of the venue hosting five Rugby World Cup matches, including the Bronze Final, later this year.

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Omar Mouneimne

Omar Mouneimne

Eastern Province Rugby CEO, Charl Crous has confirmed reports that Kings defence coach, Omar Mouneimne, has been approached by French team Lyon OU to possibly assist them on a consultancy basis.

“At this point in time nothing has been confirmed and there is no agreement in place with Lyon. Omar played a valuable role in making the Southern Kings one of the toughest teams defensively in the 2013 Super Rugby competition, and we can already see the positive impact that his return has had on the team,” said Crous.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak is set to join the Stormers at the end of the season after 2 years with Toulouse.

The former Lions and Bulls scrumhalf joined the 4-time European champions in 2013, and featured regularly in his 1st season in the Top 14.

He has fallen down the pecking order this season however, with Sébastien Bezy and Jean-Marc Doussain both ahead of him, making just 2 starts so far.

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Finn Russell

Finn Russell

Finn Russell, the Scotland outside half, appeared today before an independent Six Nations Disciplinary Committee at Heathrow, having been cited under Law 10.4 (e) and (i) for an alleged dangerous tackle of an opponent in the air in the 31st minute of the RBS 6 Nations match between Scotland and Wales on Sunday 15 February 2015.

The Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Mike Hamlin (England) along with Jean-Philippe Lachaume (France) and Pat Barriscale (Ireland), having heard from the player and his representative and viewed various TV angles of the incident, determined that Finn Russell had committed an act of foul play which merited a Red Card rather than the on-field Yellow Card given by the Match Officials.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

Castres scrumhalf Rory Kockott has been ruled out of Saturday’s crucial Top 14 game with Oyonnax, after suffering a quadriceps injury in France’s Six Nations defeat against Ireland.

The injury update came via the club’s scrum coach and recently appointed consultant Maurico Reggiardo.

The 28-year-old South Africa-born player – who became eligible to play for the French last year – may not be fit enough either to be named in the Six Nations squad for the game with Wales on Saturday week.

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Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip

Irish No 8 Jamie Heaslip has 3 fractured vertebrae and will miss at least 4 weeks including the potential Grand Slam decider between Six Nations champions Ireland and England in a fortnight it was announced by the IRFU on Monday.

The 31-year-old British and Irish Lions star suffered the injury after being kneed in the back by France lock Pascal Pape in Ireland’s 18 / 11 victory over the French on Saturday.

“Scans have revealed fractures of the transverse process of 3 vertebrae in Jamie’s back,” read a statement from the Irish Rugby Football Union.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott may be dropped after France coach Philippe Saint-Andre promised changes for their next Six Nations game against Wales.

Saint-Andre, speaking on Sunday, the day after his side lost 18 / 11 to defending Six Nations champions Ireland at Lansdowne Road, said several players had not performed at the level required for Test rugby.

While the 47-year-old, who has just 3 away wins (2 against Scotland and 1 against Argentina) to his credit since taking over at the helm after the 2011 World Cup Final, initially refused to name names he gave a curt response when asked about Kockott’s performance.

“He can do better,” said Saint-Andre.

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Coventry LogoThe ongoing poaching of South Africa’s Rugby players goes ahead unabated with the announcement by English club Coventry that they have signed South African born centre Mark Hodgkiss from Maties.

Coventry already have a number of SA born players on their books and even though they only play in the 3rd tier of English Rugby, this latest signing serves to illustrate the depth of the problem facing South African Rugby.

 

This media release from Coventry Rugby’s website:

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Scotland (10) 23 / 26 (16) WalesScotland

Where do we begin in analysing a game full of movement, liberally spiced with controversy, which ended with Wales the victors at BT Murrayfield, thus extending their unbeaten record against Scotland to 8 games?

Scotland, who contributed so much to the contest, remain pointless in the RBS 6 Nations Championship as Wales bounced back from their opening round defeat by England.

Scotland will now welcome Italy to BT Murrayfield at the end of this month, which captain Greig Laidlaw cites as a “massive” game.

“We’re getting better as a team, becoming stronger but we need to get a result,” he said.

“Small margins,” has been the mantra in international rugby for many a year but we saw it so painfully from a Scottish perspective this afternoon.

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ScotlandHead Coach Vern Cotter has made 2 enforced changes to the starting Scotland side to face Wales at BT Murrayfield Stadium this Sunday (kick-off 15:00 BST & GMT, 17:00 SA Time).

Glasgow Warriors wing Sean Lamont – the most capped player in Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations squad with 91 appearances – has made a timely return from the calf injury that ruled him out of the nation’s opening championship match against France, as a direct replacement for club-mate Tommy Seymour, who has not yet recovered fully from the hip injury sustained in Paris.

The 2nd change sees London Irish tight-head prop Geoff Cross promoted from the bench in place of Euan Murray, who is unavailable on the Sabbath due to his religious beliefs, with Jon Welsh taking the substitute spot vacated by Cross.

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Fabien GalthieSidelined Montpellier coach Fabien Galthie has taken club president Mohed Altrad to an employment tribunal, judicial sources said Thursday, after being relieved of his responsibilities.

Galthie was effectively replaced as coach in late December when Altrad brought in South African World Cup winner Jake White to replace the former France captain.

Since then, former scrumhalf Galthie has been officially suspended from his duties, although he remains employed by the French Top 14 outfit.

Galthie’s complaint stems from his claim that he is no longer occupying a role that conforms with his employment contract, which will run until June 2017.

The two men are due to meet on March 30 to try to find an amicable solution, otherwise the case will go to the tribunal.

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Jonathan Sexton

Jonathan Sexton

Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton will play his first game in 12 weeks, after coach Joe Schmidt took a gamble to start him in the defending champion’s Six Nations clash with France at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

The 29-year-old – who has not played since the victory over Australia on 22 November after suffering a third concussion in a calendar year – replaces Ian Keatley, who played in the opening 26 / 3 victory over Italy last Saturday.

Fellow veterans, No 8 Jamie Heaslip and flank Sean O’Brien, also return to the starting fifteen – the former after recovering from shoulder and knee injuries and the latter will play his first Test since the heroic loss to world champions New Zealand in November 2013.

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ScotlandAfter an improved performance, though unable to turn possession into points, Scotland Women look ahead to their first home game at the new base of Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld. The team announced to take on Wales (Saturday 14 February, kick-off 17: BST & GMT) sees 4 changes to the line-up that started against France at La-Roche-sur-Yon last Saturday.

All the changes come in the backs, scrumhalf Mhairi Grieve – who will be securing her 3rd cap – moves up from the bench while Hannah Sloan comes in at wing. Injury to Gillian Inglis during the game against France sees Chloe Rollie move from centre to fullback and Hannah Smith – winning her 2nd cap – takes the No 13 jersey.

Worcester prop Tracy Balmer captains the squad again, lining up in the front-row alongside the most experienced member of the team, 72-times capped Heather Lockhart.

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Mauro Bergamasco

Mauro Bergamasco

Mauro Bergamasco on Wednesday earned a recall to the Italian Six Nations side to take on England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The 35-year-old Zebre stalwart will win his 101st cap when he takes over at flank from Alessandro Zanni, who was injured in last weekend’s 3 / 26 loss to Ireland in the tournament’s opener.

Another veteran brought back into the starting 15 is 34-year-old Marco Bortolami, who will win his 111th cap in the second row alongside George Biagi following an injury to Quintin Geldenhuys.

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FranceProp Eddy Ben Arous’s inclusion in place of injured Alexandre Menini is France’s only change from the win over Scotland for Saturday’s Six Nations game against Ireland in Dublin.

Menini was replaced by Racing Metro’s Ben Arous early in the second half in Saturday’s game in Paris after sustaining a foot injury.

Ben Arous, 24, will be making his 1st start after winning 2 previous caps.

Camille Lopez’s 5 penalties helped France edge out Scotland 15 / 8.

With Brice Dulin still hampered by an arm injury, Scott Spedding will again start at fullback.

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George North down against England on the weekend

George North down against England on the weekend

Wales have made 1 change to their side to face Scotland on Sunday, with Liam Williams coming into the starting 15.

Scarlets back Williams will win his 20th cap at Murrayfield and replaces George North.

North is currently symptom free and whilst nearing the conclusion of the graduated return to play protocol the decision has been taken to allow him an elongated recovery period in light of his recent concussive episode in the autumn period.

The 1 change results in the same starting backline that beat South Africa, in the final autumn international, taking to the field this weekend.

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