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European Rugby

ItalyItaly coach Jacques Brunel has selected Fijian-born flank Samuela Vunisa in the only change to the team to face the Springboks on Saturday.

Vunisa, who has yet to play for Italy after being called into the squad for the November Tests, will replace Simone Favaro in the loose trio after the Treviso player suffered a sore neck in training.

In the only other notable switch, Leonardo Sarto has been pulled back to the right wing with Luke McLean going the other way to the left wing.

Italy beat Samoa 24-13 in their opening Test and despite last week’s 20-18 defeat to the Pumas, coach Jacques Brunel said he had seen enough to confirm the nucleus of his team for the Springboks, which he described as “the form team of the November series”.

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Rudy Paige

Rudy Paige

Marnitz Boshoff

Rudy Paige and Marnitz Boshoff have been called up to the Springbok squad for the last week of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour in Cardiff next week.

Paige, from the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Xerox Golden Lions’ Boshoff will join in the squad on Sunday to provide specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf as the Springboks’ overseas-based players are not available for the last match of the season due to the fact that it falls outside the Test window.

“This means that Jano Vermaak, Morne Steyn and Johan Goosen are not available to face Wales, which is why we had to get in specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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Todd Clever

Todd Clever

USA captain Todd Clever will make a welcome return to the starting XV when the Eagles conclude their November tour against Fiji in Vannes, France on Saturday.

Another inclusion into the starting XV will see Ronald McLean earn his first International cap at fullback after he joined the team ahead of their 12-40 loss to Tonga last week.

Taku Ngwenya will look to add to his international try tally when he starts on the wing while Tim Stanfill, who has scored a try in two consecutive matches to begin his young international career, will earn his fourth cap.

Thretton Palamo and Seamus Kelly will hope to create chances from the center positions. Palamo’s second start since returning to the game, will be his fifth cap since making his Eagles debut at the 2007 World Cup.

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ScotlandHead coach Vern Cotter has made four injury-enforced changes to the starting Scotland team that will play Tonga in this Saturday’s historic viagogo Autumn Test match at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (kick-off 14:30 BST & GMT, 16:30 SA Time).

The national team are continuing their trend of taking international rugby to pastures new in a globally ground-breaking fixture, as an international involving a Tier One country is held on an entirely artificial pitch for the first time.

The team’s alterations are split evenly between the forwards and backs, with tight-head prop Geoff Cross and number 8 Johnnie Beattie stepping into the pack for Euan Murray and Adam Ashe, who miss out through thigh and neck injuries respectively.

In the backs, 90-cap Glasgow Warrior Sean Lamont, who came on in the 13th minute against New Zealand as an injury replacement for club-mate Mark Bennett (hamstring), retains his place in midfield.

The final change sees Edinburgh Rugby’s free-scoring winger Tim Visser set to make his first appearance since the summer tour in place of injured Warrior Sean Maitland (hamstring).

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Bath PlugBath RugbyErrr… wrong picture… I did not say Bath Plug, I said Bath Rugby! OK, here’s the right one!

Gmpfff, still looks somewhat the same!

 

Anyway… Bath head coach Mike Ford has said the club are not in the market for Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen.

Earlier in the week there was speculation that Bath were on the hunt for Vermeulen to be one of their marquee players alongside Wallaby Will Genia.

“It was news to us when it was mentioned to us earlier today,” Ford said on Tuesday.

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FijiJohn McKee has made seven changes to the Fiji run on team that will play against USA this weekend.

McKee said that his selection was based on the form in matches against France and Wales.

“I have named a very strong team for this match based on form in matches against France and Wales and I am also taking into consideration giving the opportunity to players who did not feature in the first and second matches”.

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw

Francois Louw says he had been carrying “for years” an underlying neck problem that forced him to have surgery in September.

A pinched nerve caused by a slipped disk resulted in the 34-cap Springbok having an operation on 22 September.

The injury has forced the flank to miss the year-end internationals and Louw is still unable to put a firm date on his return for club side Bath, although he says a December “would be fantastic”.

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Richie GraySpringbok breakdown consultant Richie Gray believes games are mostly won and lost in the ‘top two inches’.

Speaking ahead of the Boks’ encounter with Italy at Stadio Euganeo in Padua on Saturday, Gray admitted the Boks’ dramatic turnaround from week one (Ireland) to week two (England) on tour can be put down to an improved mindset.

Despite the Boks’ dominance on the statistics sheet, the Boks’ Scottish assistant felt they were just not ‘in the game’ mentally.

In fact, he clearly subscribes to that adage first uttered by Leonard H Courtney in 1895: “After all, facts are facts, and although we may quote one to another with a chuckle, in the words of the Wise Statesman: ‘Lies, damn lies and statistics.’ Still there are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of.”

Gray pointed to the “big difference” from week one to week two on tour as an example of how a change in mindset can improve a team’s performance and result.

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Stuart Lancaster

Stuart Lancaster

England coach Stuart Lancaster made three changes to his matchday squad to face Samoa on Saturday, as he looks to end a five-match losing streak.

Richard Wigglesworth, James Haskell and Billy Twelvetrees will make their first appearances in a matchday squad in the year-end Tests, after being named among the 23 players to face Samoa in the third international this month.

Saracens scrumhalf Wigglesworth, who won the last of his 14 Test caps on the 2013 tour to Argentina, replaces the starting No 9 from the three-point defeats to New Zealand and South Africa, Harlequins’ Danny Care.

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Jonathan Davies

Jonathan Davies

Wales have named an experienced side to face New Zealand on Saturday with centre Jonathan Davies the only personnel change to the team that lost against Australia.

Davies comes into the midfield to partner Jamie Roberts whilst Warren Gatland also calls upon the returning Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny in the backline.

Halfpenny comes back into the side after missing the Fiji match and links up with try-scorers from that game, George North and Alex Cuthbert in the back-three. Ospreys half-back pair Webb and Biggar are named at No 9 and No 10 respectively.

The pack features the same eight that started against the Wallabies.

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Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett

The Warriors have confirmed that Mark Bennett will be out for in the region of 12 weeks with a hamstring injury.

The centre, who was injured during Scotland’s defeat to New Zealand on Saturday, was assessed at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow.

He does not require surgery and will now undergo a period of rehabiitation.

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ScotlandPrior to the test match between Scotland and the New Zealand All Blacks we featured a piece which suggested that we would like to see wholesale changes to Scotland’s team to face Tonga this coming Saturday. In short the reasoning was that in picking a team with as many players who ply their trade outside Scotland as the two professional teams under Scottish Rugby Union’s control would be aided in their PRO12 efforts, with Glasgow Warriors being the main benefactor. Remember Glasgow Warriors play against Welsh team Llanelli Scarlets in the Guinness PRO12 on Friday night while Edinburgh host Cardiff Blues on Sunday.

There would also be the benefit of  head coach Vern Cotter and his coaching team being able to work a bit more with exiles and assess their abilities in the heat of battle in the Test match, bearing in mind that the last Test match of Scotland’s summer tour (June Internationals) was played outside the international window, so he didn’t have the chance to play any of the non Scotland based players then.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

English club Bath are reportedly setting their sights on signing Springbok and Stormers No 8 Duane Vermeulen after next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The 28-year-old has been instrumental for the Springboks this season and was recently also shortlisted as an IRB World Rugby Player of the year nominee.

According to the Express.co.uk website, Bath are lining up Vermeulen as a second marquee player alongside Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia.

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Martin Castrogiovanni

Martin Castrogiovanni

The Italian team was given a clean bill of health ahead of their encounter with South Africa at Stadio Euganeo in Padua on Saturday – the last match of their year-end campaign.

After a credible 24-13 win over Samoa in their opening match, the Azzurri slipped to an 18-20 to Argentina last week.

Jacques Brunel’s charges, determined to get back on the winning track and record their first-ever win over the Springboks in what will be the 12th encounter between the countries, returned to the training field on Monday with all the players that featured against the Pumas available again.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

The Springboks on Monday received welcome news with fullback Willie le Roux cleared of any fractures after undergoing a scan.

Le Roux picked up a cheekbone injury in last Saturday’s 31-28 win over England at Twickenham.

His participation for this Saturday’s Test against Italy in Padova was still in doubt when he went for a scan on Monday.

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Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen is ready to emerge from obscurity and stake a claim to be once again a regular member of the Springbok squad.

Goosen, who has struggled to regain the form that saw him play four Tests in his debut year as a Bok in 2012, is on standby to take over at fullback from Willie le Roux against Italy in Padova on Saturday.

Le Roux, who injured his cheekbone against England at the weekend, remains on the team’s ‘doubtful list – despite scans clearing him from any fractures.

“We’ll manage Willie during training this week, but he should be available to face Italy,” team doctor Craig Roberts said.

Even with the positive news on the instinctive Le Roux, Goosen’s name has been penciled in to wear the No 15 jersey.

Springbok assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher confirmed that Goosen is an option, should Le Roux be ruled out or ‘rested’ from the third Test on South Africa’s four-match year-end tour.

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WhistleThe Match Officials for all End Of Year Tours (November Internationals) as well as all other rugby of significance have been named.

South African referee, Jaco Peyper, is appointed for the England vs Samoa match and Glen Jackson will officiate in the Ireland vs Australia game in Dublin.

South Africa gets another French referee, Jérôme Garcès for the clash against Italy in Padua, whereas the Wales vs All Blacks game in Cardiff will be handled by Stuart Barnes.

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Luther Burrell

Luther Burrell

Billy Twelvetrees

Billy Twelvetrees

Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees are both in contention to face Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday, after Burrell was named in the group preparing for the third of England’s year-end Tests.

The Northampton Saints centre, who scored three tries in the 2014 Six Nations, is among 28 players recalled by Stuart Lancaster to Pennyhill Park on Monday – after recovering from a hand injury.

Bath wing Semesa Rokoduguni, missing from the 28-31 defeat to South Africa with a thigh injury, has not recovered sufficiently to retake his place in the squad and will remain at the club.

Domestic colleague Kyle Eastmond suffered concussion towards the end of the match last Saturday and will undergo the graduated return to play protocol in hope of playing against the South Sea Islanders.

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Juan Imhoff

Juan Imhoff

Argentina lost their way following last month’s historic 21-17 victory over Australia in the Rugby Championship, wing Juan Imhoff admitted on Monday.

Since that first success in the Four Nations competition at the 18th attempt, Argentina have lost against Scotland (41-31) and narrowly beaten Italy (20-18) but they failed to produce the kind of performance that undid the Wallabies.

“We still don’t have sufficient maturity to climb the international ladder,” said the Racing-Metro wing.

“After Australia we lost our heads a bit. We thought we could beat Scotland because we’d beaten Australia.

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Chris Henry

Chris Henry

Ireland’s Chris Henry missed the recent win over South Africa with a brain injury, rather than a migraine, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced Monday.

Team medical staff initially diagnosed a virus on the morning of the 8 November match, against the Springboks, before suspecting a severe migraine.

However, specialists have since determined that “a temporary blockage of a small blood vessel in his brain” forced 30-year-old Ulster flank Henry to miss Ireland’s surprise 29-15 victory over the Springboks.

“Chris Henry suffered some weakness on the morning of the South Africa game and a viral illness was suspected, he recovered quickly and the initial diagnosis was of severe migraine,” read the IRFU statement.

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IRBThe International Rugby Board said Monday it wanted no repeat of Samoa’s threatened boycott of this weekend’s match against England ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Samoa’s players had warned they were contemplating pulling out of Saturday’s clash at Twickenham as a protest against their treatment by the Samoa Rugby Union.

IRB chief executive Brett Gosper, speaking at the World Rugby ConfEx in London said talks involving the SRU, the players, the International Rugby Players’ Association and the IRB meant “there is no threat to the game whatsoever at Twickenham”.

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IRBThe Wallabies 26-29 loss to France in Paris will result in Australia moving to 4th position overall in the IRB rankings.

Meanwhile Ireland, who defeated Georgia 49-7, moves into the top three in the world.

This is despite Joe Schmidt’s men not gaining any rankings points over 15th placed Georgia, and they will jump from fifth to third in the biggest move of the weekend.

Likewise the All Blacks made no difference and remain number one after playing eighth placed Scotland.

The Springboks improved their position by nearly a full ranking point with their 31-28 win over England.

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Coenie Oosthuizen

Coenie Oosthuizen

If the Springboks stick to their current pecking order, utility prop Coenie Oosthuizen faces probably the most acid examination of his scrummaging ability as a tighthead against Italy in Padova on Saturday (16:00 SA Time).

Coach Heyneke Meyer has already said that first-choice No 3 Jannie du Plessis, who hobbled off in the 65th minute of the 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham, is unlikely to be ready for the Italian challenge.

The Boks will be heavily tipped to beat them – whether they put out an experimental sort of combination or not — but the one area where the Italians traditionally provide fierce opposition is at scrum-time, and this weekend is expected to be no different.

As former Italy coach Nick Mallett pointed out in the SuperSport studio on Saturday, they have a strong and experienced front row, especially with that burly cult figure Martin Castrogiovanni back in the mix on the tighthead side, where he should earn his 98th cap on Saturday.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

The Springboks have two main injury concerns following their bruising 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Prop Jannie Du Plessis hobbled off in the 64th minute of the game after he went down awkwardly at the breakdown, which team doctor Craig Roberts is currently investigating.

“Jannie hyper-extended his knee in a ruck and was caught quite awkwardly. His foot got stuck in the ground and couldn’t bend his knee which ended up overstretching his hamstring and hyper-extending his knee.

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EnglandSamoaSamoa’s game with England may well be in jeopardy again as the Samoan Rugby Union continues to snub its players over grievances with their governance.

Samoa’s senior internationals issued a public appeal to the Samoa Rugby Union to discuss player grievances after the Union did not appear at talks on Saturday as festering disharmony clouds the future of the team.

Grievances which surfaced at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand remain unresolved, leading to players originally threatening to strike ahead of next weekend’s Test against England at Twickenham.

Although the strike was called off following the intervention of the International Rugby Board, the players say they want their concerns dealt with urgently “to ensure positive change for the benefit of Samoa rugby”.

Former Samoan player Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu, who was banned for six months after tweeting that referee Nigel Owens was “racist” and “biased” when his team lost to South Africa in the 2011 World Cup, has again spoken out on Twitter.

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AustraliaIrelandSix Nations champions Ireland’s hopes of completing a clean sweep of the November tests faces a very tough challenge in the shape of Australia, conceded their coach Joe Schmidt.

The 49-year-old New Zealander – who has turned Ireland’s fortunes round since he replaced Declan Kidney after the 2013 Six Nations – was speaking after a massively revamped Irish side had eventually coasted to a 49-7 victory over Georgia at Lansdowne Road.

The win – the sixth in succession for the hosts – saw Ireland rise to third in the IRB rankings for the first time since November 2006, also coincidentally the last time they beat both South Africa and Australia in the same year.

However, Schmidt, whose side beat South Africa last Saturday, said the Wallabies would pose them all sorts of problems despite having been beaten by France this weekend.

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Victor Vito

Victor Vito

Dominic Bird

Dominic Bird

New Zealand will be without forward Victor Vito for the final match of their Northern Hemisphere tour after he returned home through injury.

The loose forwatd suffered a calf problem before half-time against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday, and was forced to watch the second period from the sidelines as the All Blacks ran out 24-16 winners.

Vito had started the match well, crossing in the ninth minute to register his third international try.

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NamibiaProp forwards Quintin Esterhuyzen and Shaun de Preez have been called up as replacements to join the Namibian team in Carcavelos, Portugal, ahead of Namibia’s final match of their Northern Hemisphere tour.

The pair will join the team later this week as cover after loosehead Jaco Engels injured a hamstring in the match against the French Barbarians.

Engels is undergoing medical treatment and his recovery will be monitored, while the other regular Namibian props Johnnie Redelinghuys and Andrè Schlechter returned home due to personal commitments.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

The Springboks put in a powerful performance full of passion and pride to beat a game England 31-28 in front of a packed Twickenham stadium in London.

In doing so the Boks restored some pride after their Dublin ambush and continued their dominance over England in a run that now stretches 12 matches and back to 2006.

And while the scoreline eventually talked about a close match, the Boks were much more dominant than it suggests, and frustratingly let England into the game at crucial times when they should have put them away.

In the end, a crucial yellow card to lock Victor Matfield – inconsistent from referee Steve Walsh given the rest of his rulings in the game – swept England back into the game when they were staring down the barrel at 20-6 down.

For a brief five-minute period, down to 14 men, the Boks were unable to cope with England`s driving maul and conceded two tries, even though the second one came from a shocking error from the touch judge, who gave the English a line-out when it should have gone to the Boks.

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Stuart Lancaster

Stuart Lancaster

England coach Stuart Lancaster insisted there would be no panic after Saturday’s 31-28 loss to South Africa at Twickenham made it five straight defeats for the 2015 World Cup hosts less than a year out from the showpiece tournament.

“We’ve played the top two sides in the world now and that’s the benchmark for us,” said Lancaster, appointed in 2012 following England’s loss to France in the quarter finals of the 2011 World Cup.

“We’ve never said we’re the finished article. When we [the coaching staff] took the roles in 2012 we knew we had to take a young group of players through some tough environments.

“Playing New Zealand first up was always going to be tough but we’re not going to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves,” he added.

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Sir Clive Woodward

Sir Clive Woodward

England World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward criticised the absence of “real footballers” in the Red Rose back division after their 31-28 loss to South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

Woodward, who guided England to World Cup glory in 2003, saw current coach Stuart Lancaster’s side match the Springboks up front, but fail match them behind the scrum.

South Africa centre Jan Serfontein grabbed an intercept try in the first half and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, making his maiden Test start, scored his first Springbok try after flyhalf Pat Lambie’s brilliant chip ahead was regathered, at speed, by fullback Willie le Roux a minute after the break.

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FranceAustraliaFrance coach Philippe Saint-Andre insisted the best side won after their 29-26 victory over Australia on Saturday.

The Wallabies almost snatched victory late in Paris after Rob Simmons reduced the deficit to three points in the dying minutes at the Stade de France.

But France held on for the win after Ben Alexander dropped the ball in the final minute as the home team recorded just their third victory against Australia since 2005.

Post-game, Saint-Andre was adamant his team were deserved winners, despite almost throwing away the lead.

“I truly believe the best team won today,” said Saint-Andre.

“Today we can be happy about the intensity and the ferocity the entire French side displayed during the game.

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