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European Rugby

Stuart Lancaster

Stuart Lancaster

Stuart Lancaster will be England Head Coach until 2020 after the Rugby Football Union decided to extend his contract.

Appointed permanent head coach in March 2012, his tenure in charge of the England team is now set to include the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Lancaster’s coaching team – Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree, Backs Coach Andy Farrell and Attacking Skills Coach Mike Catt – have also been contracted to the end of the 2019-20 season.

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Ma'a Nonu

Ma’a Nonu

All Blacks star Ma’a Nonu has been linked to French club Toulon as the European champions ramp up recruitment ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Respected French newspaper Midi Olympique claims Toulon are close to finalising a two-year deal with the veteran New Zealand midfielder.

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Rugby World Cup 2015Russia will take the narrowest of leads with them to Montevideo in two weeks’ time after they beat Uruguay 22-21 in Saturday’s first leg of the final Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifier in Krasnoyarsk. However, while no team likes to lose a game of rugby, Uruguay’s Pablo Lemoine will probably be the more satisfied of the two coaches as his side is still very much in contention at what is effectively half-time. Of course, the fact that the second half will most likely be played on a warm day in front 12,000 home fans will give him cause for optimism after his team held their own in the near-freezing conditions and vociferous Siberian crowd of the first 80 minutes.

But for Russia’s indiscipline and the cultured right boot of fly-half Felipe Berchesi, who slotted seven penalties, the gap would have been more. Two yellow cards, a high penalty count and the spurning of several try-scoring opportunities did nothing for the mood of Russia coach Raphael Saint-Andre but he will know that his team was the more creative on the day and, if they can somehow learn to compete at set pieces and improve their defence at mauls, they too can make the long journey to South America with some confidence.

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Guinness PRO12The fourth round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with three matches scheduled for Friday night, two for Saturday and one for Sunday.

In one of the fixtures on Friday night second placed Glasgow Warriors play hosts to third placed Connacht at Scotstoun Stadium. Both teams have won all three of their PRO12 matches this season, with Glasgow Warriors one point ahead Connacht thanks to the try scoring bonus point they picked up away from home against Newport Gwent Dragons last weekend.

The only other team who has won all three of their PRO12 matches this season are the Ospreys who top the table. They face an away trip to Ireland to face 5th placed Munster on Saturday evening.

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Chris Robshaw

Chris Robshaw

It is 8 November.

England are about to tackle the All Blacks at Twickenham.

For captain Chris Robshaw, matchday starts with a lie-in; he has his own room due to his thunderous snoring. Then comes breakfast, a massage and some physio if required before the forwards go through a couple of plays while the backs play a passing game.

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Regrets: Former England manager Martin Johnson.

England legend Martin Johnson has finally broken his silence on the team’s World Cup embarrassments off the field in New Zealand, saying he lamented the way “rugby got dragged through the mud”.

Under Johnson’s command as coach, England’s 2011 campaign lurched from one disaster to another including: drunken players involved in a dwarf-throwing competition in a Queenstown bar, Mike Tindall being photographed with an ex-girlfriend, inappropriate comments being made to a female hotel worker, and Manu Tuilagi jumping off a ferry into Auckland’s harbour.

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Tyrone Holmes

Tyrone Holmes receiving his marching orders against the Dragons.

Glasgow’s Tyrone Holmes has received a one-week ban after being sent off for stamping on an opponent during the PRO12 game against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade last Saturday.

League organisers confirmed the Glasgow flanker appeared before an independent disciplinary committee in Dublin on Wednesday.

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Dylan Hartley

Dylan Hartley

When the World Cup kicks off in a little under a year’s time, England will have played all but one of the other nine sides in the top ten of the current IRB World Rankings. Psychologically, it is a huge 12 months for next year’s hosts.

In the past few seasons, they have made huge strides in the right direction – but they are not the finished product yet.

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Finn Russell

Birthday Boy Finn Russell kicks one over for Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ at the foot of the monument in Stirling

A young Edinburgh ‘A’ side, which included eight EDPs (Elite Development Players), faced the tall task of taking on an experienced Glasgow Warriors squad, in what was deemed an away fixture for the Gunners at Bridgehaugh, home of Stirling County.

The inaugural reserve team game gave many of Edinburgh’s young Scottish players the chance to gain some valuable minutes in the Gunners shirt, with many of them putting their hands up and staking a claim for promotion into the first team squad.

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Guinness PRO12Leinster’s indifferent start to the season continued as they slipped to a second loss of the campaign away at Connacht, going down 10-9.

The defending champions had led 9-3 at half-time thanks to three Ian Madigan penalties but Kieran Marmion’s solo try ensured Connacht – who had lost their previous 11 all-Ireland clashes – preserved their 100 per cent start to the season.

At the Liberty Stadium, Ospreys ran in nine tries against Edinburgh to consolidate their one point lead at the top of the table.

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Rory Kockott

Happy man: Rory Kockott

Castres scrum-half and new France squad member Rory Kockott has revealed that playing for Les Bleus has always been his aim.

The South African joined Castres in 2011 and has been a roaring success in the Top 14, guiding his club to two league finals and one title.

Having now qualified on residency, Kockott has been named in France’s squad for the upcoming November Tests.

There has been much speculation over the last year as to whether Kockott would play for his adopted country or be selected by the Springboks, but now his decision is clear.

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Glasgow WarriorsGlasgow Warriors maintained their 100% winning start to the season with a 33-13 win over Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on Saturday afternoon.

Four tries from Alex Dunbar, Josh Strauss, Tommy Seymour and Tim Swinson mean the Warriors return to Scotstoun with the bonus point.

Glasgow’s other points came from the boots of Duncan Weir and Stuart Hogg.

The Warriors had to play most of the second-half with fourteen players after Tyrone Holmes received a controversial red card for stamping.

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EdinburghAlan Solomons Edinburgh left the Liberty Stadium on Sunday with their egos battered and bruised following a second half onslaught by the Ospreys in their third round Guinness PRO12 fixture. The score was 0/0 at some point, but that was before kick off and didn’t last too long once the referee’s whistle had blown to start the game as Ospreys impressive scrumhalf, and man of the match, Rhys Webb scored a try in the first minute.

The home side had already score three tries by half time with Edinburgh dotting down once as they went into the break with the score – Ospreys 24/10 Edinburgh Rugby. Edinburgh’s last points of the match came shortly after half time from the boot of Tom Heathcote as he slotted a penalty which went over after hitting the right hand upright. It was one way traffic from here on as Ospreys piled on the points and won the match by almost 50 points, scoring nine tries in the process. The final score was Ospreys 62/13 Edinburgh Rugby and is the biggest margin of victory so far this season.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

France head coach Philippe Saint-André has named five uncapped players in his squad for November’s Tests, with Rory Kockott included.

Props Uini Atonio and Xavier Chiocci, back-row Charles Ollivon and wing Teddy Thomas are the new players joining Kockott in the Les Bleus mix.

Kockott is one of just two scrum-halves in the group, joining Sébastien Tillous-Borde while Camille Lopez, Remi Tales and François Trinh-Duc are the 10 options available to Saint-André.

Saint-André has dispensed with the services of loosehead Thomas Domingo and back-row forwards Antonie Claassen and Fulgence Ouedraogo while Maxime Machenaud, Dimitri Szarzewski and Morgan Parra also miss out.

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Rugby World Cup 2015There’s a year to go until the World Cup – just enough time for it to be turned into an eligibility farce.

The potential for the game’s biggest event to be laughed out of town is growing. The prospect of teams turning up with legions of players who don’t really have a strong link to the jersey they wear is real.

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Bryan Habana

Bryan Habana

Currently away with the Springboks, Bryan Habana hasn’t been distracted by the outlandish statements of Mourad Boudjellal at Toulon.

Habana will be in line for his 102nd cap against the Wallabies in Cape Town next weekend, but the Toulon owner earlier this week demanded that Habana along with Bakkies Botha and Argentina’s Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe return to play for their club.

Perhaps Habana wasn’t distracted because those kind of outbursts from Boudjellal aren’t new. In the same week he also raised the possibility of cancelling Leigh Halfpenny’s contract.

“It’s not up to me to decide on going back. We have the right lines of communication. SA Rugby have been working hard behind the scenes to address the rumours that have been going around this week,” Habana exclusively told Planet Rugby.

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The great Peter Cranmer makes a break against Wales in 1935

The great Peter Cranmer makes a break against Wales in 1935

International coaches – and selection panels before them – traditionally prize solidity at centre, and nowhere more than in England.

Which is not to say that they’ve not had great creative centres; Jeff Butterfield, Jerry Guscott and Will Greenwood had talents that would have been welcomed in any team in the world.

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Premiership clubs

Premiership Clubs have been given dispensation by the IRB to start playing on 17 October next year, during the World Cup’s knockout stages.

The Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby have settled their dispute over World Cup compensation, the governing bodies have announced.

England’s 12 clubs are likely to share £13 million provided by the RFU and have been cleared to play matches during the knockout stage of the tournament.

“It’s a reflection of the strength of the partnership that once again we have managed to come to an arrangement that benefits both the RFU and clubs,” RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said.

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Matthew Burke

Matthew Burke

The school term has finished and the report cards have been dispatched.

This makes it as good a time as any to deliver a summary on how the Wallabies have fared since Ewen McKenzie took over the top job 14 months ago.

Record wise, the Wallabies are on an impressive run, winning 11 of their past 12 games, but the goal has to be to win against the top nations, South Africa and the All Blacks.

They have achieved one of those two desired outcomes.

Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons I have observed during the opening stages of the McKenzie era:

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ERCC LlogoThe inaugural Champions Cup will kick off next month without all its major sponsors in place, one of the new European competition’s key architects has admitted.

European rugby bosses are yet to sign off any main-partner deals, just four weeks before the replacement for the Heineken Cup gets underway.

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Andy Irvine

Andy Irvine

The results of today’s referendum in Scotland could have an impact on the British & Irish Lions.

If Scotland votes ‘Yes’, it may have to re-brand to reflect the altered political landscape and constitutional agreement. From their 1891 roots as the ‘British Isles’, today’s poll may see them eventually become simply ‘The Lions’.

With this in mind, Scrum Sevens looks back at seven great Scottish players who gave body, blood and sweat for the British & Irish Lions’ cause.

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Nick Cummins

Baabaa boy … Nick Cummins will play against the Wallabies.

The Wallabies are set to face one of their own at Twickenham after Nick Cummins agreed to wear the black and white of the Barbarians against Australia in November.

Little more than two months after he left Australia for Japan’s Top League, Cummins has agreed to play for the invitational side in the November 1 fixture that kicks off the Wallabies five-week spring tour of Europe, his manager said.

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England's rugby jersey

NEW DESIGN: England’s rugby jersey features a pattern of crosses resembling the Victoria Cross.

There’s no sign of a change in design, but the Rugby Football Union has issued an apology over the controversial new jersey England will debut against the All Blacks in London in November.

The jersey, manufactured by Canterbury, has drawn criticism for its use of rubber grips across the chest area in the shape of the hallowed Victoria Cross. They were intended to help deaden the impact of the ball and help with grip.

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Spiro Zavos

Spiro Zavos

When Steve Hansen says the laws of rugby need to be revised, modified and made easier to play, to referee, and to understand, the rugby world should take notice.

The All Blacks under Hansen’s adroit coaching are in an era even more golden than previous great eras.

They are not only playing winning rugby, they are playing rugby the way it is supposed to be played – with courage, physical strength, high skills and the intent to score tries while stopping opponents from doing so.

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Leigh Halfpenny

Leigh Halfpenny

Cardiff Blues and Ospreys are interested in signing Leigh Halfpenny if his Toulon contract is terminated.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal says Halfpenny’s ongoing injuries could lead to his departure without playing a game since arriving for 2014-15.

Blues director and Wales legend Gareth Edwards said: “We’d welcome him with open arms.”

Ospreys coach Steve Tandy said: “We’d always be interested in the quality of Halfpenny, but it’s paper talk.”

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Guinness PRO12The third round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with three matches scheduled for Friday night, two for Saturday and one for Sunday.

Welsh outfit the Ospreys, who are unbeaten in the PRO12 this season, will head into round 3 at the top of the table with nine points. The only two other unbeaten teams are Glasgow Warriors and Connacht who are in 2nd and 3rd position respectively. Ulster are the other team in the top 4, courtesy of a draw and a win in their first two fixtures and they are the only team who have two bonus points for scoring four tries or more. Ulster top the try scoring list at this early stage in the competition having scored nine tries in their two matches. However, they have conceded the most tries, a handful, of the teams in the top four.

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Mourad Boudjellal

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has demanded that Bryan Habana and Bakkies Botha quit the Springboks’ current Rugby Championship campaign and report for club duty.

Toulon recently lost 28-24 to Stade Francais, and currently sit at third on the Top 14 log.

Boudjellal is clearly not pleased with his side’s form at present, and has publicly lamented the club’s lengthy list of injuries as well as the absence of international stars like Habana, Botha, and Pumas flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

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Aviva PremiershipWasps have set the standard and now they must recreate it, says director of rugby Dai Young after watching his side battle to a 20-16 victory over reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Northampton Saints.

A low-scoring first half saw the sides locked at 3-3 going into the break but tries from Ashley Johnson and Tom Varndell meant Ben Foden’s late score for Northampton was nothing more than consolation

And after their heartbreaking 34-28 loss to Saracens at Twickenham in last weekend’s opener, Young admitted he was delighted with Wasps’ response at Adams Park.

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Guinness PRO12Connacht continued their winning start to the season with another tight triumph, this time a 14-13 victory over Edinburgh Rugby thanks to Willy Faloon’s last-gasp try.

Tom Heathcote’s boot and a try from Cornell du Preez gave Edinburgh a 13-6 lead at half time; Connacht’s points coming from two Darragh Leader penalties.

Faloon was sent to the sin bin with 16 minutes left on the clock, but returned to touch down the winning try in the dying minutes.

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England

England’s new alternate strip

England have broken the mould with their new kit as they have moved the rose to the centre of the shirt for the first time.

The kit will be worn by England throughout the 2014-15 campaign with a new strip unveiled before the start of next year’s World Cup.

In addition to the new-look home shirt, England have reverted back to a traditional red change strip which will be worn against Samoa in the autumn internationals.

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European SevensIt was a tight-knit England squad that landed the Cup at the European Sevens Grand Prix Series event in Manchester, according to a prolific Tom Bowen.

Bowen scored four tries across the weekend, including one in Sunday evening’s final, as England saw off a resilient French outfit to win 28-21.

They had to come from behind twice to beat France and lift the trophy, while Scotland and Portugal also took home silverware with the Plate and the Bowl respectively.

“We came here to win the tournament,” said Bowen. “There’s not many of us, so when you spend so much time together, especially on these tours, you become really good friends and it makes you perform better.

“I’m happy with my own personal performance. There are a few things I’ve got to work on but pleased with what I did in the final and what I did all tournament really.

“I managed to get a few tries so I’m happy enough with that.”

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SaracensWhen David Strettle crossed the try line in the final seconds of our game against London Wasps at Twickenham last weekend, there was a sick sense of deja vu.

With Saracens losing by a point, the TMO was promptly called upon for his expert opinion and, much like the brutal closing seconds of last year’s final, we stood around helplessly as the grounding of the ball was dissected from every imaginable angle….

But let me take you take you back a few weeks to the Lollapalooza music festival, where the team got together after a brutal week’s training in a baking hot Chicago.

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sco7s_team_2_0Scotland 7’s will compete in the Manchester 7’s Cup quarter-finals today (Sunday 14 September), following two victories against Italy (24-19) and Georgia (45-0) yesterday.

The Scots will play Russia at 11.06am, at the AJ Bell Stadium, as they look to improve on their third place finish, in the last Rugby Europe tournament in Moscow back in June.

After the disappointment of a, 5-12 loss to Spain, the side grew in confidence and composure, as each of the remaining ties past.

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Rugby-Talk EOYT 2014

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