Connacht and Glasgow Warriors will be battling it out in today’s Guinness PRO12 semifinal in Galway for a place in the final against Leinster at Murrayfield next weekend. This after hosts Leinster pulled off a comfortable victory against Ulster last night in the first semifinal. The final score in that match was : Leinster 30 / 18 Ulster.
Connacht must surely be heading into today’s match in a very confident frame of mind as the last time they played Glasgow Warriors they ended up on the winning side with a 7 point margin of victory in a low scoring affair. That match took place 2 weeks ago in the last Round of the regular league stage and was also played at Connacht’s home ground in the picturesque Galway.
Today’s match should be played in far better conditions than the last one between these 2 teams and this could help Glasgow who like to play an attractive attacking brand of rugby. The only thing is that Connacht, under Pat Lam, have also developed into a slick unit who have the ability to run with the ball and offload smartly too and are at this stage possibly the more rounded team as they proved 2 weeks ago that they also have the ability to ‘win ugly’.
Head Coach Vern Cotter has named a 27-man Scotland squad for the national team’s 2-Test summer tour of Japan next month.
The Test matches will be played on consecutive Saturdays at J1 League football stadia; the 1st at the Toyota Stadium in Toyota City (18 June), the 2nd at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo (25 June), homes of Nagoya Grampus and FC Tokyo respectively.
Cotter also confirmed that Glasgow centre Mark Bennett has not been named to allow him to be considered for extended GB 7s selection ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The relationship between Rory Lamont and rugby has always been uneasy. When it was good, it was really good: 29 Scotland caps, two World Cups, and stints in Europe’s top leagues with Toulon, Sale and Glasgow.
When it was bad, it was really bad: whispering campaigns about his attitude, 16 operations, “double figure” concussions. By the time the game ran out of uses for him, the feeling was entirely mutual.
Three years ago this week, Lamont announced his retirement. The last of his many injuries, a lower leg fracture from the previous year, hadn’t properly healed and the end came as a relief.
“I was thinking, ‘finally it’s over’. I felt like an animal being put out of its misery. I’d had a miserable year, people questioning my integrity, and I couldn’t wait to crack on with my life and all the amazing things I was going to do.”
Never did he picture becoming a recluse, battling severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Nowhere in the retirement brochure did it say he’d lose 25kg in four months and be unable to stomach solids for a further five. The bit about being so low he hoped he’d be run over by a bus? Not what he’d signed up for either.
Glasgow Warriors have announced a group of players who will leave the club in the summer.
Prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa, looseforward Tyrone Holmes and hooker Kevin Bryce are among the departures.
Fijian international Yanuyanutawa joined the club from London Irish in 2013 and has gone on to make 46 appearances for the Scotstoun-based side.
South Africa-born Holmes joined the Warriors in 2013 and has made 34 appearances for the club over the last 3 seasons and was capped by Scotland against South Africa in 2014.
27-year-old Bryce has made 12 appearances for the Warriors since joining the club in 2013 and has gone on to represent Scotland on 2 occasions.
Loose forwards Will Bordill and Jason Hill, hookers Shalva Mamukashvili and Fergus Scott, flyhalf Gregor Hunter and prop Javan Sebastian will also be leaving the club.
In the last few days the news has broken of the imminent departure of 2 big players from Glasgow Warriors. Glasgow Warriors centurion James Eddie has announced he has retired from rugby with immediate effect and Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa will be released from his Glasgow Warriors contract at the end of the season to move to a club in France.
Newport Gwent Dragons bowed out of the European Challenge Cup with semifinal defeat by a strong Montpellier side.
Montpellier’s dominance earned them a 22 / 0 lead, with Demetri Catrakilis scoring 5 penalties and Bismarck du Plessis crossing for a try.
Dragons rallied with tries from Hallam Amos and Carl Meyer but they suffered their 2nd successive semifinal loss in Europe.
Montpellier will face Harlequins in the final in Lyon on 13 May.
Dragons’ build up to the game had been overshadowed by the departure of director of rugby Lyn Jones, with namesake Kingsley Jones assuming control until the end of the season,
Wales No 8, Taulupe Faletau, was passed fit for the Dragons despite injuring his eye in the derby defeat at Cardiff Blues.
Montpellier, coached by 2007 World Cup-winning coach Jake White, boasted 8 South African players in their squad, including front row brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis.
Newport Gwent Dragons produced a stunning upset when they crossed the River Severn to beat Aviva Premiership Gloucester at Kingsholm in the European Challenge Cup.
But that 23 / 21 quarterfinal triumph would pale if they were to beat star-studded Montpellier at the Altrad Stadium in the south of France on Saturday evening.
So what are their chances of reaching the final of Europe’s 2nd-tier tournament? Rugby Correspondent Andy Howell assesses the head-to-head contests and marks each opposing player in the respective starting line-ups out of 10 with the Montpellier players mentioned first.
Glasgow Warriors scrumhalf Mike Blair has retired from playing with immediate effect and will take up a new coaching role at the club next season.
The 35-year-old will remain with Scottish Rugby as an assistant coach at the Warriors.
Blair joined Glasgow this season and has made 12 appearances for the club and was voted Player of the Month in October.
The 85-capped former Scotland international has had an illustrious career, representing Edinburgh Rugby, Brive, Newcastle Falcons and the Warriors.
Blair enjoyed 10 years with Edinburgh Rugby, playing his first professional game in 2001. Highlights included being runners up in the Magners League in 2009 and reaching the semifinals of the European Cup in 2012.
Scotland’s most capped scrumhalf captained his country on 14 occasions before retiring from international rugby at the start of 2013, aged 31.
He was named Scotland’s Player of the Year in 2008 and was nominated for the IRB World Player of the Year that same season. He toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions in 2009.
He is the ultimate club man, hard-working, loyal, and most of all durable. He’s almost at pensionable age, but this real life Peter Pan is still lacing up his boots.
He’s been with the same club for 40 years, he’s appeared in every single position in the team and he is still playing at the age of 60!
Roger “Chicky” Morgan is Mr Usk RFC, the ultimate 1-club man, the kind of stalwart servant who is the heartbeat of the community game in Wales.
He’s a tireless hard worker for the Gwent club, cutting the grass, marking the pitch, putting the flags out, sorting the kit, cooking the meals, arranging the fixtures, painting the clubhouse and driving the mini bus.
And he’s still getting his boots on and playing on a Saturday afternoon, lining up wherever he’s needed.
So what does he put his enduring fitness and his longevity down to?
“That’s from my father that is,” he explains.
“He played football for Newport County and Swansea. So fitness is in the blood.”
“I just love playing the game. I have made some great friends over the years and there’s always a laugh with the boys.
“From when I first went down to the club in 1975, I just felt welcome.
“It’s great with the different generations and the crack you have with all of them.”
Eddie Jones has a well-deserved reputation for psychological warfare but, 10 months before the next Calcutta Cup, the voluble England coach has started early even by his standards. In an interview with a mass-circulation Japanese paper, Jones talked about his very 1st Six Nations game against Scotland at Murrayfield and was dismissive of the hosts.
“It was a game I always thought we’d win,” the Australian told the paper’s London corespondent. “I don’t see Scotland being a strong team. You look at Scotland at the World Cup, who did they beat? They were lucky to beat Samoa, they beat USA, they beat us (Japan), and we had 4 days’ preparation, and they were beaten by Australia and South Africa.
“So, they didn’t have a great World Cup, but everyone was talking as though they were a fantastic team. England didn’t have a good World Cup but we’re a stronger team than they are.”
Connacht’s South African lock Quinn Roux and trio of other South African players have been included in an Ireland squad which will meet for a training camp on Sunday.
The uncapped Roux is joined by loose forward CJ Stander, and hookers Richardt Strauss and Rob Herring who have all played for Ireland before. The quartet will be hoping to make it into Ireland’s final squad for their tour of South Africa in June.
However, Ireland flanker Chris Henry’s hopes of being selected for the summer tour of South Africa appear to have suffered a blow after he was left out of the squad for Sunday’s training camp.
Henry, who did not play in the Six Nations, is not among the 44 players who will meet up in county Meath.
The European Rugby Champions and Challenge Cup quarterfinals matches which were played yesterday (Saturday) were all fiercly contested affairs.
In the 1st Champions Cup quarterfinal Ashley Johnson’s London Wasps beat Don Armand’s Exeter Chiefs by the narrowest of margins. Wasps Jimmy Goperth converted Frank Halai’s try which was scored after regular time was up on the clock to send Exeter crashing out of the competition.
Victor Matfield’s Northampton were beaten in the2nd Champions Cup quarterfinal by a Saracens team that featured various players with Southern African connections. Brad Barritt, Schalk Brits, Petrus du Plessis, Neil de Kock, Michael Rhodes and Alastair Hargreaves all featured for Saracens who won the match by 9 points.
Montpellier head coach Jake White cannot wait to return home triumphant for their European Rugby Challenge Cup semifinal, after beating Sale Sharks in their own backyard.
The side sat 2nd in the Top 14 turned on the power in the 2nd half after a tight 1st half. Benoit Pallaugue hit 6 penalties to steer his side to a 25 / 19 triumph, despite a late solo score from Sale centre Sam James.
The victory for Montpellier has set up a last-4 clash against either Challenge Cup champions, Gloucester, or the Newport Gwent Dragons. White is targeting a pair of victories on home soil in their pursuit for European glory.
He said: “I’m obviously very happy, it wasn’t that pretty, we didn’t play that well and we made a few mistakes which allowed them field position, and they put us under the pump. But it’s a new squad and Montpellier have never got themselves in positions like these, so I’m very happy that we can take another step forward.
England prop Joe Marler has been banned for 2 matches and fined £ 20 000.00 by World Rugby for calling Wales forward Samson Lee “Gypsy boy”.
Marler, 25, had avoided punishment by The RBS 6 Nations organisers, but World Rugby conducted its own investigation.
He made the comment in England’s RBS 6 Nations win over Wales in March and had an apology accepted by prop Samson.
The Rugby Football Union said Marler would not appeal against the decision and considered the matter closed.
World Rugby, the sport’s global governing body, said it had “Exercised its right to take appropriate action before an independent judicial committee in the absence of such a process by Six Nations Rugby in accordance with the regulations”.
A horror misunderstanding cost Currie a shot at their 3rd championship title as Heriots snatched a dramatic last-gasp victory in Saturday’s BT Premiership semifinal at Malleny Park.
A ding-dong battle in which the lead changed a total of 5 times appeared to have swung decisively in the home side’s favour when No 8 Ross Weston finished off a driving maul for his 2nd try of the afternoon to put Currie 22 / 21 up with minutes remaining.
Heriots pushed for a response but, when they knocked on to concede a scrum, it looked like their dreams of a double (or treble if you include the Charity Shield) were over.
Currie kept possession as the clock ticked down but scrumhalf Richard Snedden was premature with the boot out and the Goldenacre side were given a lifeline, which they took superbly by setting up replacement flyhalf Gregor McNeish for his 2nd drop goal with the last kick, to spark wild celebrations in the away camp.
It means Heriots, who 1st face Melrose in the BT Cup final a week on Saturday, will travel to Millbrae to face Ayr on 23 April and look to retain their Premiership crown.
Could Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht one day be taking on the Bulls, Highlanders and Waratahs?
If you believe new New South Wales chief executive Andrew Hore, then the answer is yes.
Hore is leaving his post with Welsh side Ospreys to join the Australian Super Rugby outfit in mid April, and the New Zealander sees a potential future link-up as beneficial to both competitions.
Hore has had a ringside seat in recent seasons as the huge influx of financial muscle into the French Top 14 and England’s Premiership has threatened to leave European rugby’s poor Celtic relations trailing behind.
The southern hemisphere has also felt the commercial weight of French and English riches, with an increasing number of top-class players heading north in their primes for a big payday.
But the prospect of competing against the high-quality teams in Super Rugby would certainly offer television companies a more enticing product, according to Hore.
European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has announced the key dates for the 2016 / 2017 season ahead of the knockout stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
Next season’s tournaments will get underway with 2 Rounds in October, followed by Rounds 3 and 4 in December, and as is customary, the pool stages will reach their conclusion with Rounds 5 and 6 in January.
The quarterfinal matches will be staged at the end of March and the beginning of April 2017 with the semifinals played 3 weeks later.
Then European club rugby’s showcase weekend will return to Edinburgh for the 1st time since 2009 when both the Challenge Cup and Champions Cup finals will be held at BT Murrayfield Stadium on 12 and 13 May 2017.
The player of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations, Stuart Hogg, went from hero to villain to hero last night at Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow. Hogg, who was presented with the player of the tournament trophy by Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend during a Warriors practice session earlier this week, was shown a Yellow Card less than 2 minutes into the match against Rob Herring’s Ulster for what was deemed by referee John Lacey to be a professional foul on Glasgow’s try line. However, after spending the obligatory 10 minutes off the field his night went from bad to better to brilliant.
Hogg was involved in play on numerous occasions gaining much ground with his incisive running and scored a super try down the left side of the field with a wonderful chip of the top and gather effort. He also had the final say in the match landing a monster penalty kick late on the game to deny Ulster a losing bonus point and send the final score to Glasgow Warriors 27 / 17 Ulster. John Lacey awarded Glasgow a penalty almost 5m inside their own half of the field, up stepped the man of the moment Hoggy who slotted the penalty with ease in spite of a swirling wind.
Who was your standout player of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations? Read the profiles below for a reminder of the achievements of our nominees.
The Wales scrumhalf took the opportunity that Rhys Webb’s injury presented and impressed throughout the Championship.
He scored a stunning try in their victory over Scotland in Round 2, was RBS 6 Nations Man of the Match in Round 3 against France and claimed the final score of Wales’ Championship when he came off the bench against Italy on Super Saturday.
Guy Novès’ France side might have finished with 3 defeats but their captain Guirado led by example throughout.
The hooker was superb, crossing for tries against Wales and Scotland, driving his pack forwards and demonstrating brilliant tackle and breakdown work in every match.
The Scotland fullback’s scorching try in the final Round against Ireland will live long in the memory but Hogg’s influence throughout the Championship was apparent.
He made 2 tries as Vern Cotter’s side ended their winless run in downing Italy, scored 1 and he scored 1 and made 1 in their historic win over France – while also adding a penalty from his own half. All that before his fantastic solo score in Dublin on Super Saturday.
Over the past year the flower of Scottish rugby is beginning to come back into bloom.
Last season Glasgow Warriors became the first Scottish side to win the Guinness PRO12, then Scotland were agonizingly close to a Rugby World Cup semifinal place with their last gasp defeat to Australia.
Last weekend in the penultimate Round of the RBS 6 Nations, the Scots broke a decade long hoodoo by beating France at BT Murrayfield.
Their compatriots at Under 20s level had made history of their own by beating “The Auld Enemy” England in the tournament’s opening Round for the 1st time since the inception of the Under 20s Six Nations Championship.
Leading the charge of this new generation of young Scots is Under 20s captain and lock Scott Cummings, who due to commitments with his club side Glasgow Warriors will not be playing against Ireland in the final Round of competition after guiding his side to 2 wins.
However, Cummings’ contribution to Scotland’s Under 20s and the experience he has gained playing in the Guinness PRO12 reflects the current renaissance in Scottish rugby.
England prop Joe Marler has avoided any sanction for striking an opponent during his side’s RBS 6 Nations win over Wales at Twickenham.
A Six Nations disciplinary committee found he struck prop Rob Evans in the 15th minute of Saturday’s match.
But it said in a statement: “The disciplinary committee found that the offending would not have warranted a Red Card and so imposed no sanction.”
Marler could now play in England’s final game against France on Saturday.
However, that could still be in doubt as the 25-year-old Harlequins forward may yet face action for calling Wales prop Samson Lee “Gypsy boy” in the same game.
Marler apologised to Lee – who is from the Traveller community – for that comment, and Lee has said he accepted the apology as “banter”.
England and Harlequins prop Joe Marler has been cited for striking Wales prop Rob Evans in England’s 25 / 21 RBS 6 Nations victory over Wales at Twickenham.
Harlequins prop Marler appeared to land a forearm in the face of Evans while trying to assist Dan Cole ground the ball over Wales’s try-line.
“Joe Marler has been cited by the independent citing commissioner for allegedly striking an opponent in the 15th minute of the 1st half of the RBS 6 Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham,” said an RBS 6 Nations statement.
If found guilty at a disciplinary hearing later this week, Marler will face an “entry-point” ban of 2 weeks, which would rule him out of England’s attempt to seal a 1st Grand Slam since 2003.
Officials have yet to decide whether a separate incident of verbal abuse, in which Harlequins prop Marler called Wales’s Samson Lee “gypsy boy” during the 1st half of England’s 25 / 21 win at Twickenham last Saturday, warrants disciplinary action.
3 Years without an RBS 6 Nations win at Murrayfield. 10 Years without a win against France. Some rather unwanted streaks consigned to the dustbin in 80 minutes of heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping, nerve-shredding action! But who were the main men for Scotland on Sunday?
Scotland (18) 29 / 18 (12) France (Final Score)
Scotland and France did battle in the RBS 6 Nations 2016 at
BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, at 17:00 SA Time (15:00 UK Time & GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 6 on TV in SA.
Ireland have made 2 changes, with fit-again Jared Payne starting at centre and Simon Zebo deputising for injured full-back Rob Kearney.
Stuart McCloskey, who made his Test debut against England a fortnight ago, drops out of the squad altogether.
Hooker Rory Best will captain the side on his 50th championship appearance.
Flyhalf Edoardo Padovani makes his 1st start as 1 of 4 changes for Italy, along with Guglielmo Palazzani, David Giazzon and George Biagi.
This feels like a semifinal age in the tempestuous domain of European rugby.
The financial behemoths prowling the leagues of England and France are on a seemingly inexorable rise, hoovering up the galacticos of the southern hemisphere.
Theirs is a monetary clout Scottish rugby cannot hope to match.
From Edinburgh, Dave Denton has gone to Bath, Greig Tonks to London Irish. Captain Mike Coman will follow, so too Matt Scott to Gloucester at the season’s end. There may be others.
Along the M8, speculation continues to heighten on the future of Fijian sensation Leone Nakarawa – reportedly heading for Racing 92 with a year left on his contract – and Taqele Naiyaravoro, the monstrous winger, returning to the Waratahs of Australia.
A shrewd acquisition
Amidst this leakage of talent, though, the Warriors have, rather shrewdly, recruited an ex-Crusaders hooker, a 4-time Super Rugby champion, 15-Test All Black and Rugby World Cup winner.
Corey Flynn joins Gregor Townsend’s squad on a 2-year deal this summer following a sojourn at Toulouse, one of the most storied and wealthy of the French heavyweights.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named his team to face England in Saturday’s key RBS 6 Nations match at Twickenham.
Gareth Davies retains the scrumhalf spot ahead of Rhys Webb, who is named among the replacements.
Webb, 27, was recalled to the squad after 6 months away from international rugby with injury.
Lock Luke Charteris is on the bench where Paul James comes in to cover the injured loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins.
We’ve named a pretty experienced side for Saturday,” said Gatland.
More than 70 doctors and academics are calling for a ban on tackling in rugby matches played in UK and Irish schools.
In an open letter to ministers, they say injuries from this “high-impact collision sport” can have lifelong consequences for children.
They argue 2 3rds of injuries in youth rugby and most concussions are down to tackles and urge schools to move to touch and non-contact rugby.
Supporters say rugby builds character and other forms are less challenging.
The concerns have been raised as a 7-year programme headed by the Rugby Football Union is on target to introduce rugby to a million children in state schools across England.
The RFU’s programme, which began in 2012 and is running until 2019, has so far reached 400 schools, with 350 to follow.
All roads led to Rome, where Scotland changed their RBS 6 Nations fortunes with a hard fought win over Italy (36 / 20).
Two 1st half, and one 2nd half, try interspersed with a succession of Greig Laidlaw penalties gave Scotland their biggest RBS 6 Nations score since the championship expanded in 2000.
The Scotland captain was awarded man of match for his kicking off the tee and calm leadership that saw the away side maintain structure and clarity of thought despite 2 2nd half Yellow Cards – for Finn Russell and WP Nel – and sustained Italian attacks.
England (6) 21 / 10 (3) Ireland (Final Score)
England and Ireland did battle in the RBS 6 Nations 2016 at
Twickenham Stadium, London, at 18:50 SA Time (16:50 UK Time & GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 6 on TV in SA.
Wales (6) 19 / 10 (3) France (Final Score)
Wales and France did battle in the RBS 6 Nations 2016 at
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, at 22:05 SA Time (20:05 UK Time & GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 on TV in SA.
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Wasps centre Elliot Daly is set for his England debut after being named in Eddie Jones’ 23-man squad for Saturday’s match against Ireland.
Daly replaces lock Courtney Lawes in the only change from the squad that beat Italy.
“Elliot Daly has impressed in training and is now ready to be part of the matchday 23,” Jones said.
England won their opening 2 matches and top the table, while Ireland lost to France and drew with Wales.
Daly, 23, has played 4 times for England Saxons and also represented England at Under 18 and Under 20 level.
Ireland could also bring a debutant into midfield, with Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey in contention for a 1st cap if fitness-doubt Jared Payne is ruled out.
Head Coach Vern Cotter has refined his Scotland squad ahead of this Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations match against Italy in Rome, with the return of 6 players to Glasgow Warriors.
Props Gordon Reid and Zander Fagerson, loose forwards Rob Harley and Josh Strauss and halfbacks Grayson Hart and Duncan Weir, all returned to club training today, ahead of tomorrow night’s (Thursday) Guinness PRO12 game against Dragons in Newport.
Cotter will select and announce a final 23-man team to travel to Rome tomorrow morning (Thursday).
There has been a mix of good and bad news for Glasgow Warriors on the player retention front this week. The bad news is that Taqele Naiyarovoro will be evoking an exit clause and leaving at the end of this season, 1 third of the way through his original contract. The good news is that promising young scrumhalf Ali Price as well as loosehead prop Alex Allan and tighthead prop Sila Puafisi have extended their contracts in varying amounts.
The loss of Naiyarovoro is no surprise as the speculation of this happening has been rife all season, in fact from even before he arrived in Glasgow. The detail on the actual timing of his departure is a little sketchy as it has been reported that he will leave at the end of Glasgow’s season but at the same time that he will join the Waratahs for Super Rugby 2016, but this starts before the end of Glasgow’s season. Apparently he is on quite a lucrative package and his departure will at least free up some funds for other players to either be retained or recruited by the club.
Naiyarovoro arguably played his best match for Glasgow Warriors thus far at home against Scarlets in the European Rugby Champions Cup. He was at his powerful best and steamrollered his way to a hat trick of tries in this match. Hopefully, he can make a big contribution to the Warriors cause for the rest of the season before he departs.