Sam Burgess will make his England debut at centre when Stuart Lancaster’s side host France on Saturday.
The former Great Britain rugby league player is one of three debutants, with centre Henry Slade and flanker Calum Clark the other new faces in the 15.
Head coach Lancaster says Saturday’s match is the final chance for some of his players to impress before he selects his 31-man World Cup squad.
“The following week we’ll probably change a lot,” he said
Burgess, 26, started his union career in midfield for Bath before switching to the back row.
Former England scrumhalf Matt Dawson has questioned Burgess’s “game-management” at inside centre, but Lancaster described the former South Sydney player, who switched codes last October, as a ball carrier who could threaten the gain line.
“It’s an option for us to look at and it’ll be an interesting insight to see whether it goes well at the weekend or not,” he said.
“It’s about what’s right for the team. We’ll see if he can translate what he does in training and see how it goes.”
Those thinking Springbok lock Victor Matfield will retire for the 2nd time may well be disappointed – it seems the legendary Springbok lock is set for another swansong at English club Bath.
The 38-year old Rugby World Cup winning lock should actually retire from playing after the Rugby World Cup and is contracted to take up a coaching position with the Vodacom Bulls next season, but it seems this may not be the case as he seeks a final payday before turning to coaching.
There have been rumours that since the axing of Frans Ludeke as Bulls coach – the Super Rugby franchise has not found a replacement – that Matfield may not be keen to go into coaching just yet, especially as Ludeke’s proposal to move to Director of coaching with Matfield and Fourie du Preez taking over the coaching reigns, was rejected with the Bulls bad run of results earlier this year.
According to sources close to the Bulls, Matfield was also told that the Bulls would not stand in his way if he decided he didn’t want to take up the coaching contract after the Rugby World Cup.
With this in mind, the news that Bath may want to sign him on a short term deal – a season in England to cap off a long and illustrious career – may well suit the Springbok captain very well, especially with the Pound very strong against the Rand at the moment.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has revealed he and Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt discussed team selection before naming their sides for Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match in Cardiff.
Gatland has handed debuts to four players in an experimental Welsh side.
Wales host Ireland on Saturday, before playing them in Dublin on 29 August and hosting Italy on 5 September.
“Joe rang me last week to talk about what we were looking at in the squad,” Gatland said.
“I said we were going to have a mixed squad with an opportunity for some younger players.
“He sort of indicated that they were probably going to do the same thing.
“I think they will experiment with the squad too.”
Warren Gatland has revealed there have been altercations in training as the Welsh pack battle for World Cup places.
Members of the Wales squad were involved in fights during training this week as the battle for World Cup places boiled over.
Coach Warren Gatland revealed the incredible edge that has been present in the build-up to Saturday’s sell-out clash with Ireland, admitting members of his pack have become embroiled in physical altercations.
Gatland is delighted with the way his team are preparing for next month’s World Cup and has relished watching his players give everything they have to ensure they make his final cut at the end of this month.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls have signed Saracens loose forward Nick de Jager on a 1-year contract with immediate effect.
De Jager, the former Maties No 8 who left South Africa to join Saracens 2 years ago, has been signed as loose forward cover for the ABSA Currie Cup season and joined the team on Monday to start with his new side.
De Jager is a big, powerful ball carrier and is highly rated, with Saracens releasing him to continue his development in Pretoria and hopefully get some game time ahead of next year’s Vodacom Super Rugby season.
Scott Williams will captain Wales against Ireland on Saturday, leading a team that contains 4 uncapped players.
The Scarlets centre will become Wales’ 131st captain on his 30th Test appearance and will be joined in the centre by uncapped Tyler Morgan.
Ross Moriarty, a double Under 20 World Cup-winner with England, was 1 of 4 uncapped players selected by Wales to face Ireland in this World Cup warm-up match in Cardiff.
The Gloucester flank, 21, was joined by wing Eli Walker, centre Tyler Morgan and lock Dominic Day in the team announced by head coach Warren Gatland on Tuesday.
The fixture at the Millennium Stadium follows intensive training camps in Switzerland and Qatar and is the 1st of 3 warm-up games building up to Wales’s opening World Cup game against Uruguay on 20 September.
Glasgow Warriors have confirmed their pre-season schedule, which will see the Guinness PRO12 champions travel to play Clermont Auvergne and the Canadian National Team, ahead of the new season kicking off in September.
The Warriors will begin a week-long training camp in France on Saturday 8 August, which will conclude with a game against Top 14 side Clermont Auvergne on Friday 14 August (kick-off 20:00 local time).
The match with the European Rugby Champions Cup runners-up will be played in Issoire, which is located 25 miles south of Clermont-Ferrand on the Couze River and the game will be the showpiece event at the 2015 Auvergne Challenge.
The latest instalment in the Quade Cooper transfer saga has been an exchange of words between the Toulon boss and the Australian coach.
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal launched a relatively tasteless tirade against the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and its prized asset Quade Cooper, whom he threatened would end up as “the 2nd most indebted State after Greece”.
The eccentric Frenchman said that the 150 000 Euros that has been mooted as Cooper’s buyout of his contract was in fact for the promise of a contract – Boudjellal claims that Cooper has actually put pen to paper, which would make that void and has allegedly threatened legal action if Cooper does not show up for his medical soon.
Boudjellal told Midi Olympique: “The moron of the Australian federation who does not understand the case needs to know that the promise of employment is no longer the question.”
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Thursday named the SA Schools and SA Schools A squads for the Under 18 International Series against England, France, Wales and Italy in August.
The teams, which consist of 26 players each, were selected by a panel of national and SA Schools selectors following the conclusion of the Under 18 Coca-Cola Craven Week in Stellenbosch.
The SA Schools squad will face Wales on 7 August in Stellenbosch, France on 11 August at Outeniqua Park in George and England on 15 August at City Park Stadium in Cape Town.
The SA Schools A squad, meanwhile, will take on Italy in Stellenbosch, England in George and Wales in Cape Town in their clashes, which will serve as curtain-raisers to the SA Schools matches.
Hein Kriek from Paul Roos Gymnasium has again been appointed the SA Schools coach, while Lance Sendin from Hugenote Hoerskool in Wellington will guide the SA Schools A team.
Following Western Province’s remarkable 95 / 0 victory against Eastern Province in the final match of the Under 18 Coca-Cola Craven Week, 12 players from the Cape side were selected in the SA Schools squad, while the remainder of the squad was made up of players from the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Eastern Province, SWD, the Valke and Griquas CD.
Eastern Province flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who was named the Coca-Cola Craven Week player of the year in 2014, was 1 of 4 players who retained their places in the squad, with the others being Blue Bulls scrumhalf Embrose Papier, wing Andell Loubser and Griquas CD looseforward Cobus Wiese.
Joe Schmidt has signed a contract extension that will see the New Zealander remain as head coach of Ireland until at least June 2017, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday.
Schmidt was appointed to the job in 2013 and Ireland have since won back-to-back Six Nations titles, as well as climbing to 3rd place in rugby union’s official world rankings.
The 49-year-old also oversaw wins against South Africa and Australia last season and came within a last-minute score of beating his native New Zealand in 2013 – something no Ireland side has managed in more than a hundred years of trying.
In all, Ireland have won 14 of their 18 Tests under Schmidt and their form has made them 1 of Europe’s standard-bearers at this year’s World Cup in England, which starts in September.
Anything less than a semi-final spot – something Ireland have yet to achieve at a World Cup – would be regarded as a disappointment for an Ireland side whose pool also features France, Italy, Canada and Romania.
Reports suggest that Wallaby star Quade Cooper has pulled out of a big-money move to France.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is set to confirm the Wallabies playmaker has signed a 4-year deal to remain in the country, opting out of his lucrative contract with glamour French club Toulon, Fairfax Media reported.
The media outlet said an announcement was expected to be made on Monday, confirming Cooper’s re-signing with the ARU, after his Reds team severed ties with him last month amid acrimonious contractual negotiations.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika gave nothing away to reporters on Sunday following his team’s last-gasp 24 / 20 win over South Africa in The Rugby Championship opener in Brisbane the previous night.
But Cheika has reportedly been a significant figure in the ARU’s talks with Cooper and his management and has repeatedly underlined the importance of keeping the skilful flyhalf in Australia.
5 of South Africa’s major stars will join the Barbarians line-up for 2 high-profile games this November.
Flyhalf Pat Lambie, lock Victor Matfield, prop Tendai Mtawarira and centre Jean de Villiers from the current Springbok squad will be joined by veteran forward Bakkies Botha against Gloucester on 17 November and Argentina on 21 November.
The Barbarians, who celebrate their 125th anniversary this year, will name their coach later this month and add further major names to their squad for the games at Kingsholm and Twickenham in due course.
In total, the South Africa quintet will bring 416 caps of international experience to the group. Botha, Matfield and De Villiers were all World Cup winners in France in 2007.
The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) have revealed a packed 10-match programme for the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour, including 3 Tests between the Lions and All Blacks.
In addition to the internationals, the Lions will play all 5 of New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams, the Maori All Blacks and a composite Provincial XV.
NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said the tour was set to generate more demand than the Lions’ last trip in 2005, when 20 000 travelling fans created a boisterous atmosphere and injected an estimated NZ$ 135 million (US$ 90 million) into the economy.
“The series in New Zealand will be a huge occasion, featuring the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and providing almost 6 weeks of incredible rugby,” he said.
The Lions tour every 4 years, with the event rotated between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, where last time out they overcame the Wallabies 2 / 1 in 2013.
They lost 0 / 3 when last in New Zealand in 2005, with the defining moment a spear tackle on Brian O’Driscoll early in the 1st Test that forced the Irishman out of the tour.
Overall, New Zealand have won 27 Tests and the Lions 6 since the tours began in 1888, with the visitors achieving their only series win in 1971.
NZRU also revealed it will host Wales in June next year for a 3-Test series against the All Blacks.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has culled 5 players from his original wider squad for their next training camp in Denver.
The unlucky soles are Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje, Stephen Myler, Nick Easter and Ed Slater.
Daly, Slater, Itoje and Myler will return to their clubs to be on standby, while Easter is suffering from a back injury and will return to Harlequins for treatment, before rejoining the squad on 2 August following their post-Denver break.
Bad boy Danny Cipriani is still in the mix as Lancaster is waiting on the outcome of the drink-driving case before he makes a decision on the flyhalf.
Leinster have confirmed that they have received a request from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to release Kane Douglas, under World Rugby Regulation 9.
Leinster team manager Guy Easterby told the club’s website that a formal request had been received last Friday.
“We are delighted for Kane and wish him well as he seeks the form and fitness required for selection for The Rugby Championship and, of course, the World Cup after that,” Easterby said.
Douglas isn’t the only foreign Leinster player affected by a Rugby World Cup call up.
“Zane Kirchner is also in the initial South African squad and likewise we wish him well,” Easterby said.
Hosts England will have a 3D look at the World Cup, following the unveiling of their jersey on Monday.
England put the unveiling of the innovative England jersey in the hands of their most committed supporters, with more than 3 600 fans publishing the exclusive 1st image of the new shirt across their Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr feeds.
England captain Chris Robshaw was then joined by his teammates to officially reveal the team kit to the assembled media at Twickenham Stadium, before meeting with a number of core fans.
The new shirt features a range of innovations that have been developed through more than 220 hours of testing and over 250 000 miles of travel to improve both the look, feel and performance of the kit.
The rose symbolises the connection between the fans and the players and between former internationals who have worn the shirt and those who wear it now. In a striking innovative twist the rose has been 3D injection moulded, developed through rapid prototyping technology to standout in a way that merits the significance of the rose for players and fans alike. The shirt also features contoured ‘ball deadening’ grip placement to complement the players’ physique.
Stade Français have confirmed the signing of Springbok back row Willem Alberts who will join the club after the Rugby World Cup.
The Top 14 champions have not brought in many players this off-season, generally prioritising quality over quantity, as Alberts joins Will Genia in the French capital.
Alberts arrives from the Cell C Sharks on a 3-year deal and will join a back row which already features Sergio Parisse, Raphaël Lakafia and Antoine Burban, while promising youngster Sekou Macalou also arrived over the off-season from Massy.
The 31-year-old made his Springbok debut back in 2010 and has scored 7 tries in 32 tests.
The French Rugby Federation (FFR) confirmed their interest and their name in the hat to bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
In a statement issued at the end of their annual congress in the eastern city of Belfort, the FFR said that an official bid should be delivered in 2017.
A final decision on the host nation will be made in May of 2017 by World Rugby. Ireland, Italy, South Africa and the United States have also expressed interest in hosting the 2023 tournament.
Johan Goosen’s kicking coach has confirmed Western Province’s interest in the Springbok pivot and says the player is ‘considering’ all possible options.
Media reports earlier this month indicated that the Capetonians were interested in signing Goosen as a replacement for Demetri Catrakilis, who will join Montpellier in France after this year’s Currie Cup.
Bertus Pretorius, who is Goosen’s kicking coach in Bloemfontein, confirmed the interest in his player.
Goosen though still has 2 seasons left on his contract with Racing Metro in France and WP would have to fork out a lot of money to sign him.
“Any player will always consider possibilities (to move) and it’s not necessarily only WP. But Goose has a 3-year contract with Racing (should WP fail in their quest to lure him) and he’ll honour it, like he did with the Cheetahs,” Pretorius said.
Goosen though appears not to be a happy camper in France, with Racing coach Laurent Labit recently accusing the Springbok pivot of not attending French classes as well as not taking things serious enough at practice.
A potential move by barnstorming Newport-Gwent Dragons No 8 Taulupe Faletau to English Premiership team Bath would not hinder his international chances, Wales head coach Warren Gatland insisted on Thursday.
The so-called “Gatland’s law” was put in place with the theory that home-based players would be favoured over those choosing to ply their trade overseas.
But it has appeared increasingly irrelevant, with a host of current Welsh internationals turning out for the national side despite playing in England or France, although the ‘law’ will reportedly only allow 2 wildcard selections from those playing outside the country after this year’s Rugby World Cup.
Tonga-born Faletau has a year left on his Dragons contract, but it seems increasingly likely he will be bought out of that deal, to the reported value of £ 250 000.00, with Premiership club Bath keen to sign the 24-year-old British and Irish Lions forward.
“We’re discussing it at the moment with the Dragons, the regions and Bath,” Gatland said.
“Toby’s got the biggest choice to make, that’s ongoing and hopefully that gets sorted out in the next week.
“There is potential there for Toby to move, that’s up to him, but he wouldn’t be hampered by that.
The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of utility back Wandile Mjekevu on a 2-year deal effective from July this year.
After having spent time with the Lions and the Sharks, the former junior Springbok joined French Top 14 club Perpignan in 2013 where he gained some valuable experience at the club and got the opportunity to further develop his game.
Commenting on Mjekevu’s signing, the Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, said they were delighted to bring the once promising young talent to Durban.
“We are delighted that Wandile has decided to return to the Sharks,” said Gold.
“He had a great stint in France and he is an unbelievable prospect. His strength and agility around the park will most certainly bolster our backline and we look forward to him progressing at the franchise.”
Serge Blanco resigned as Biarritz president on Tuesday following his unsuccessful attempt to merge the club with Basque rivals Bayonne.
Blanco needed a 2-thirds majority in Biarritz’s general meeting to merge the fallen French giants with their regional rivals, but fell short.
Venezuelan-born Blanco, who was at Biarritz during his entire playing career, leaves the club in the 2nd-tier Pro D2 – the same division as Bayonne.
The decision comes as a surprise following the Biarritz board’s approval of the merger last week, but rival fans of Bayonne were among those to share their concerns.
Blanco, a French legend with 93 caps, had been in discussions with Bayonne’s president Manu Merin about the merger, and voiced his disappointment during Tuesday’s meeting, in which he resigned.
Former Springbok coach Jake White has lured another South African player to Montpellier in France.
White has signed former Springbok prop CJ van der Linde from the EP Kings.
34-Year-old Van der Linde, who played 75 Tests for the Springboks, will join his new club at the end of this month.
His departure is a big blow for the EP Kings, as the former Springbok prop was also their scrum coach.
Van der Linde joins a large South African contingent at the ambitious Top 14 club.
The Wallabies will play England in a blockbuster 3-Test series in Australia in June 2016, the Australian Rugby Union announced on Friday.
It will be 1st time in the century-old rivalry between Australia and England that the 2 nations will meet in a 3-Test series. The teams last met on 3 occasions in the same year in 2010, although just 2 matches were played on Aussie soil as part of England’s inbound tour.
Michael Cheika’s men will play their old rivals for the Cook Cup in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
Australian Rugby Union CEO, Bill Pulver said: “With a rivalry that dates back to 1909, it is remarkable that Australia and England have never before played a 3-match series and the history of this occasion is sure to add to the anticipation for the tour.
DHL Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen met with Director of Rugby Gert Smal on Monday morning, to sort out the events that transpired in France last week.
Vermeulen visited French Top 14 club Toulon late last week and was unveiled to the local media as their new signing – a move which certainly caught Western Province Rugby by surprise.
The departure shortly from the Stormers of superstar No 8 Duane Vermeulen on a three-year deal to Toulon arguably confirms for the first time a grim reality: an overseas-based group of players would now make up the bulk of a full-strength Springbok team.
Vermeulen is the cherry on top, in many ways, of a fresh wave of once staunchly SA-based players quitting the domestic landscape either following this season’s Super Rugby competition – only the Stormers retain an interest in it – or later in the year after the Currie Cup and RWC 2015 have run their courses.
He is one of the most precious elements of the current Bok mix, and if you consider him foreign-based henceforth – along with several other seasoned internationals on their bikes imminently – then it is quite feasible to argue that the cream of coach Heyneke Meyer’s intended first-choice Test XV will suddenly be drawn from foreign climes.
Before, it was just a sprinkling, with men like France-based Bryan Habana, English-stationed Francois Louw and JP Pietersen from Japan bolstering a Bok side still made up very strongly of “home” elements.
But that trend is set for a pretty violent change.
World Cup winning coach Jake White has formally welcomed the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, to his French club Montpellier.
The Top 14 outfit on Wednesday confirmed the signing of the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, from the Cell C Sharks.
In a brief statement on the club website Montpellier said the 2 Du Plessis brother had signed for 3 years.
The 2, who won the World Cup with White as coach in 2007, will head to France after this year’s edition of the World Cup – in England in September and October.
White welcomed the signing of the Springbok duo.
Italy’s World Cup preparations are back on track after players and the national federation (FIR) reached an agreement over bonuses.
A training camp scheduled to start on Monday 15 June had been called off as the row over World Cup bonuses and other issues escalated.
Both sides accused the other of cancelling the training camp, although Italy’s players refused to leave their base in the northern town of Villabassa, where they were due to remain in camp until 3 July.
“The agreement will be sealed quickly in order to swiftly reconvene the World Cup preparation camp,” the FIR said in a statement.
A meeting at the Calvisano base of FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi allowed the “basis for a collective agreement to participate at the World Cup while respecting the meritocratic principles proposed by the federation and the requests, not just those economic, put forward by the players,” the statement said.
The Welsh Rugby Union have acquired the services of highly respected and experienced fitness expert Paul Stridgeon as consultant Head of Physical Performance.
Stridgeon linked up with the national squad on Monday 15 June as Wales’ World Cup preparations commenced with initial conditioning training.
The 34 year-old will oversee the WRU’s Physical Performance department on a tournament-by-tournament basis combining that role with his Head of Strength and Conditioning position at European Champions Toulon.
Stridgeon, a former freestyle wrestler who represented England at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, joined Toulon in 2014 after 6 years as England Rugby National Fitness Coach.
He already has a close working relationship with a number of the Wales management team and players having toured with the British and Irish Lions as fitness coach in 2009 and 2013. His relationship with head coach Warren Gatland stretches further back to their time together at Wasps where they won both European and domestic titles.
Western Force flyhalf Zack Holmes has signed a 2-year deal with La Rochelle, the Top 14 club announced on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old Perth-born Holmes, an Australian Sevens international who previously played with Force’s Super Rugby rivals Brumbies, will replace South African playmaker Peter Grant who was released with a season to run on his contract for family reasons.
Scottish Rugby Referee Commissioner Tappe Henning has recently signed a permanent deal to continue the work he started at the tail end of 2013. Spending 5 minutes in his company is more than enough to suggest that the personable South African is really making a difference to a facet of rugby that he harbours a clear passion for.
Having brought through the likes of Craig Joubert, who officiated in the 2011 World Cup final, Tappe’s reputation for spotting refereeing talent precedes him and now he wants to put Scotland back on the arbitrary map.
Tappe Henning said: “The real purpose of me coming to Scotland was to implement a high performance structure for referees so that we can train, educate and coach Scottish referees to Tier 1 Test level.
“The concerns were raised when there were no Scottish match officials at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and the situation has repeated itself now in 2015, which is worrying coming from a country which has always traditionally had a lot of them.
“In short, we needed a professional structure with support for referees in all aspects of it and getting pathways introduced to identify future referees to deliver top quality match officials for international rugby.”
DHL Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen has not improved significantly enough to feature in the 1st Round of Super Rugby playoffs.
The Stormers host the Brumbies at DHL Newlands on Saturday and the burly Springbok will not be considered.
Should the Stormers beat the Brumbies at Newlands, they would travel to Sydney to face the Waratahs in the semifinals.
Vermeulen, who has missed the Stormers’ last 2 games with a bulging neck disc that at one stage threatened his World Cup prospects, is making “good progress” on the road to recovery.
However, coach Allister Coetzee said that the improvement is “not enough” for this week.
“Hopefully, going forward, there is still an opportunity for him,” Coetzee told a media scrum at the team’s training base.
An ambitious plan to stage a match between New Zealand’s Crusaders Knights and English Premiership club Saracens in New Orleans has been cancelled.
The planned fixture on 1 August at New Orleans’ 70 000-capacity SuperDome was designed to capitalise on growing US interest in Rugby Union.
However, the fixture – just like the Independence Cup match, an encounter between the newly formed NRFL Rough Riders and English Premiership giants Leicester Tigers – has become a victim of the ongoing battle between USA Rugby and RugbyLaw.
USA Rugby is the recognised national controlling body registered with World Rugby, while RugbyLaw is planning to launch a new professional league, the NRFL, in the United States.
However, USA Rugby declined to sanction the encounter between Tigers and the Rough Riders – because the Rough Riders are not registered with USA Rugby.
Now the dispute between USA Rugby and RugbyLaw have claimed another victim.
French club Clermont Auvergne have signed All Black wing Hosea Gear on a 2-year deal from the Chiefs.
The 31-year-old Gear, who played 14 Tests and scored 6 tries for the All Blacks from 2008 – 2012, completes Clermont’s recruitment campaign for next season – following the arrivals of Springbok Flip van der Merwe, French international Scott Spedding, Waisake Naholo (Highlanders), David Strettle (England), Adrien Plante and Camille Gerondeau.
Gear is returning to France, where he already played 1 season for Toulouse in 2013 and 2014.
Italy’s World Cup preparations got off on the wrong foot on Monday, when players refused to take part in the 1st training session in a row over pay.
The Italian Rugby Federation said it had “taken note” of the players’ decision “to neither take part in training nor wear federation kit before a financial agreement is found over participation in training and the World Cup”.
40 Players had gathered at Niederdorf / Villabassa, close to the northern town of Bolzano, for the 14 June to 3 July training camp.
However, captain Sergio Parisse and veteran prop Martin Castrogiovanni were both absent after their Top 14 efforts with Stade Francais and Toulon respectively.
The Italian internationals want a match-by-match bonus for the 18 September to 31 October World Cup in England instead of a once-off payment linked to their performances, as desired by the federation.