Matt Giteau said he would love to return to Twickenham with the Wallabies at this year’s World Cup after guiding Toulon to a 3rd straight European title.
Giteau was at flyhalf in an all-star international backline featuring Wales’s Leigh Halfpenny and South Africa’s Bryan Habana as Toulon beat French rivals Clermont 24 / 18 in the European Rugby Chamions Cup Final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Having made his Test debut as a 20-year-old at Twickenham back in 2002, Giteau effectively called time on his 92-cap Australia career when he signed for Toulon after failing to be included in the Wallabies’ squad for the 2011 World Cup.
But he was given a route back into the international arena when the Australia Rugby Union announced last month it was relaxing its hardline stance barring overseas-based players from representing the Wallabies.
“I signed over here knowing I wouldn’t play Test rugby again,” said Giteau after Saturday’s match. “Now the rules have changed, it’s a possibility. I had no idea it was coming, but I’m happy it has.
“It’s very exciting for Australian rugby that they’ve changed that (the eligibility rules). For me in particular, it doesn’t change a great deal until I’m contacted.”
CJ Stander became the 1st overseas player to be named the Munster Player of the Year.
He earned the accolade at the annual Munster awards, after a hugely impressive season.
The South African became the 1st overseas player to receive the accolade after scoring 8 tries in 22 appearances and picking up no less than 5 Man Of The Match awards.
Stander was nominated alongside Billy Holland and previous winner Tommy O’Donnell.
The award shortlist was decided by members of the senior squad with Munster supporters deciding the overall winner through a public vote.
Irish centre Gordon D’Arcy has called time on his illustrious career, making himself available for the World Cup 1 last time.
In a statement released personally by D’Arcy he said he will leave rugby entirely from October this year.
D’Arcy was a promising fullback for schools side Clongowes Wood in the late 1990’s, and on the eve of his Leaving Certificate was called into the Irish squad for the tour of South Africa by coach Warren Gatland.
However, because of his studies he declined the opportunity.
On leaving school he joined the Lansdowne Football Club and made his Ireland debut on 15 October 1999 as a substitute against Romania during the World Cup.
Edinburgh welcome fullback Greig Tonks back into their side for tonight’s European Challenge Cup final against Gloucester.
He is 1 of 2 changes made by head coach Alan Solomons, who also brings Cornell Du Preez in at eighthman.
Greig Laidlaw, who was 1 of a number of players rested for Gloucester’s Premiership fixture against Newcastle, returns to face his former club.
Billy Twelvetrees captains the Cherry and Whites, while Richard Hibbard and James Hook also come back in.
He will soon return home to South Africa to focus on his family and his livestock farm, but life after rugby can wait a few more weeks. Bakkies Botha wants to go out in a blaze of glory with Toulon.
With a Rugby World Cup triumph in 2007, 3 Super Rugby championships with the Bulls and 2 European titles with Toulon, not to mention Tri-Nations, Currie Cup and Top 14 honours – few can match the Springbok 2nd row enforcer’s illustrious achievements.
But in the twilight of his career and savouring the prospect ahead of the “calmness of the bush”, Botha, perhaps befitting a deeply religious man, prefers to focus on the team, rather than his individual contribution.
Toulon, the Mediterranean port city he has called home since 2011, hope to be crowned kings of Europe for a 3rd successive year when they take on French rivals Clermont in the European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.
“I’m really happy that I came to Europe to test myself in this league and I want to end my career hopefully making it into 2 finals (Champions Cup and Top 14),” said the 36-year-old lock.
Toulon’s Australian star back Matt Giteau admits rivals Clermont are the favourites for the all-French European Champions Cup Final on Saturday, but he adds the 2-time defending champions won’t give up their crown easily.
The 32-year-old said Clermont deserved to be favourites because they were the best side this season – both in Europe and domestically – in what is a rematch of the 2013 Final, which Toulon won.
“Clermont are a wonderful team,” said Giteau, whose form looks set to earn him a recall to the Australian national side after the Australian Rugby Union relaxed its rules on players playing abroad.
“For me, they are even the best team this year,” continued Giteau, who if he stays fit is likely to reach the 100 cap mark later in the year as he was just 8 short when he was surprisingly dropped for the 2011 World Cup and subsequently moved to Toulon.
Toulon try-machine David Smith, All Black legend Joe Rokocoko and New Zealand centre Rene Ranger will provide the firepower for the Barbarians against Ireland and England next month.
Smith, Rokocoko and Ranger were on Tuesday confirmed as the latest players who have accepted invitations to join Robbie Deans’s squad for games against Ireland at Thomond Park on 28 May and an England XV at Twickenham on 31 May.
The Barbarians celebrate their 125th anniversary this year and former Australia head coach Deans is assembling a group that will maintain the attacking traditions of the world famous invitation side.
Glasgow Warriors have signed Australian centre Sam Johnson from the Reds and USA international lock Greg Peterson from Leicester Tigers, with the duo set to be at Scotstoun until at least May 2017.
Both players have signed 2-year contracts with the Guiness PRO12 side, subject to visas and medicals.
21-year-old Johnson 1st played schoolboy rugby for Australia ‘A’ after winning the Associated Independent Colleges competition with St Edmund’s College in 2011.
He played Rugby League for the Gold Coast Titans Under 20’s after school, before returning to Rugby Union at the end of 2013, when he joined the Reds wider training squad and returned to his former club GPS.
The battle for the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday won’t just be a European affair, but a truly global occasion.
Between them the 2 finalists, RC Toulon and ASM Clermont Auvergne, boast an amazing 52 international players from 13 different countries.
Between them the 2 32-man squads have 1,838 Test caps.
Leading the way are the back-to-back champions, RC Toulon, with a massive 1,189, including 100-plus cappers in Bryan Habana and Martin Castrogiovanni.
Clermont, who lost to their Top 14 rivals in the 2013 Final in Dublin, have 649.
Newport Gwent Dragons’ former Wales fullback Lee Byrne has been forced to retire due to a shoulder injury, the 34-year-old announced on Thursday.
The former British and Irish Lion, who also played for Scarlets, Ospreys and Clermont, made his international debut in 2005 and went on to make 46 appearances for Wales, with whom he won the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2008.
He joined the Dragons last year and was subsequently appointed captain, but after undergoing shoulder surgery in November, he has been obliged to call time on his career.
Saracens and England centre Brad Barritt has committed his future to the club signing a long-term deal at Allianz Park.
The 28-year old is the latest Saracen to commit his future to the north Londoners, following the likes of Marcelo Bosch, Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and George Kruis in signing contract extensions.
On signing his new deal, Barritt said: “I’m absolutely delighted to stay a part of the Saracens family. I consider this place home and I’m really looking forward to the years ahead with this fantastic club.
A government drive to boost participation in rugby in English schools is ill-conceived and risks children getting seriously hurt, public health doctors have warned.
Prof Allyson Pollock and colleagues at Queen Mary University of London say the contact sport is too dangerous.
They do not want an outright ban but say the sport must change and safeguards are needed.
The Rugby Football Union said steps had been taken to make the sport safer.
The Australian Rugby Union relaxed eligibility rules to allow senior players at overseas franchises and clubs to represent the Wallabies.
The move, which is effective immediately, follows in the wake of recent revelations that Australia faces a mass exodus of stars after this year’s World Cup.
A host of players – such as Adam Ashley-Cooper, former skipper James Horwill, Will Genia and Sekope Kepu – are among those lured abroad by lucrative contracts in Europe and due to leave Australia after the World Cup in England in September and October.
Toulon have quashed rumours that they have signed Irish captain Paul O’Connell, but it is believed that the Reds & Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper has made the move.
It was reported that the French giants were chasing another Galácticos signing for the second row, with current legends Bakkies Botha and Ali WIlliams set to retire at the end of the season.
O’Connell’s contract with the IRFU expires in June of 2016, but it was speculated that Toulon were eager for him to be released from his contract to join them after the World Cup.
Since then, a strong statement has been released insisting ‘any alleged contacts between the player and the french club are pure speculation’.
Meanwhile, French paper L’Equipe has said that Toulon have captured the signature of the mercurial Cooper on a 2-year deal.
Cooper, if reports are to be believed, would join a burgeoning Australian contingent at Toulon with Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell already there.
Toulon have already brought in All Black Ma’a Nonu ahead of next season with Samu Manoa, Salesi Ma’afu and Napolioni Nalaga also joining the reigning European champions.
Leicester Tigers have agreed a move for lock forward Mike Fitzgerald, who will join them from Super Rugby outfit the Chiefs in New Zealand.
Auckland-born second row Fitzgerald, 28, has won 2 Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs as well as playing ITM Cup rugby with the Manawatu Turbos.
At six-foot-five and 18 stone, he is noted for his hard work as well as a strong set-piece.
Australia and Waratahs wing Peter Betham has agreed a move to join Leicester Tigers at the end of the Super Rugby Season.
The 26-year-old is currently playing Super Rugby with defending champions the Waratahs and on Saturday he scored 2 tries in Wellington as they became the 1st team to defeat the Hurricanes this season.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Betham was brought up in Sydney and had spells with the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels as well as with the Waratahs.
He made his Wallabies debut in a Bledisloe Cup fixture against the All Blacks in 2013.
2 Time defending champions Toulon will bid for an unprecedented hat-trick of European titles against Clermont after beating Leinster 25 / 20 following extra-time in Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final.
Toulon’s Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked 6 penalties and converted a Bryan Habana interception try for a personal haul of 20 points in an ultimately thrilling match that went to extra-time after finishing 12 / 12 after regulation time.
Leinster had Ian Madigan to thank for 5 penalties, while Sean O’Brien scored a late try that made for a nerve-racking climax.
Turnovers, ruck penalties and handling errors saw out a tight if uninspiring, pressure-laden 1st-half during which Toulon failed to convert their territorial domination into points.
At the end of a trying season of provincial rugby under the sweltering South African sun, Willem Petrus Nel trudged exhausted from the field.
He turned to his coach and mentor, Pierre Ribbens, a distinguished ex-prop for the Bulls in what is now the Super 15 competition, the cream of the Southern Hemisphere game.
“I think I’m done with rugby – I don’t want to play anymore,” he said.
In late 2008, the 22-year-old tight-head had completed his agricultural studies, his certificate signed and stamped. From university some 250 miles to the south, the pull of home, the sheep farm he had been raised tending and the rolling mountains of the Northern Cape was strong.
“Give me a week,” replied Ribbens.
Edinburgh clinched a place in the European Challenge Cup Final in emphatic style at BT Murrayfield to make history as the 1st Scottish side to reach a European final.
The Scottish capital side stormed to their largest victory in Europe with a rousing 45 / 16 triumph over Newport Gwent Dragons with scrumhalf Sam Hidalgo-Clyne helping himself to another record 25 points. Now they go on to face either Gloucester or Exeter Chiefs at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday 1 May.
Hidalgo-Clyne once again proved their star-turn with a try in his club record 25-point haul that took his tally in Europe this season to 91 points. That makes him the highest scorer in the tournament.
The European Rugby Champions Cup semifinals takes place this weekend.
On Saturday, Clermont Auvergne host Saracens at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).
On Sunday, Toulon host Leinster at Stade Felix-Mayol, Toulon at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).
Clemont Auvergne vs Saracens:
Saracens knocked Clermont Auvergne for 6 at the European Cup semifinal stage last season, will it be repeat or redemption this time around?
The 46 / 6 triumph booked McCall’s men a place in last seasons’ Millennium Stadium finale against Toulon. They set new semifinal records for the most points scored by a team (46), the largest winning margin (40) and the most tries scored (6). Surely lightning cannot strike twice between the Pool 1 rivals, who each scored a victory over each other in the early Rounds.
Saracens have their defensive leader, Brad Barritt, back in the side after a knee injury kept him out of action for a month. England playmaker Owen Farrell crossed for 1 of Saracens’ 6 tries last year and is set to make an impact off the bench after he was sidelined for 3 months in the last meeting between the pair.
Ulster and Ireland prop Declan Fitzpatrick, who played in the 2012 European Cup Final at Twickenham Stadium, has been forced to retire on medical grounds.
The 31-year-old, who counted 27 European Cup ties in the 98 games he played for Ulster, experienced a number of concussion episodes in recent seasons.
His symptoms were progressively slower to resolve and he was referred to a leading neurologist by the medical team at Ulster.
Following tests it was recommended that it would be in the best long-term interests of the player who won 7 international caps, and played 9 times for the Ireland Wolfhounds (B-Team), to stop playing altogether.
Cardiff Blues fullback, Joaquín Tuculet, has confirmed that he will return home to Argentina to represent his country’s Super Rugby team from 2016.
Tuculet joins his national captain, Agustin Creevy, as the 1st European-based players to commit to the new team and has signed through until at least the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
“It is with great pride that I have decided to commit to this project by the UAR and Daniel Hourcade,” he said.
France’s Top 14, the world’s richest rugby championship, suffered a record deficit of US$ 25.5 million last season, as player salaries soared.
In a recent report, it was found that clubs opted to boost their squads over cutting costs.
“Clubs prefer to strengthen their sporting power… to the detriment of reducing their deficits,” said a report by the National Rugby League’s audit department.
The Top 14 accounted for the bulk of a US$ 35.6 million deficit for all 30 professional clubs in France, which has become an increasing magnet for foreign stars.
Average player salaries have increased 12% in the past season, according to the report released Monday.
All Black Colin Slade is the latest foreign star to have signed for a French club, along with other pricey stars, such as Dan Carter.
Salaries have taken off while revenues grew only 10%, mainly through extra television income.
Only one Top 14 club is able to fully self-finance its operation, against 7 at the end of 2013 / 2014.
Once-capped All Black, Simon Mannix, has extended his contract as coach of Pau, ensured of promotion to the Top 14 next season, through until 2018, the club announced Tuesday.
Mannix, who had another year to run on his contract, extended his deal by 2 more years, according to Pau president Bernard Pontneau.
The 43-year-old, who won his sole New Zealand cap against France in 1994, cut his coaching teeth with Racing-Metro (2007 – 2011) and Munster (2011 – 2014) before taking over Pau and ensuring they topped the 2nd Division ProD2.
The decision of All Blacks flyhalf Colin Slade to head to Europe after the World Cup has made coach Steven Hansen very aware that the exodus of New Zealand players is not yet over.
Slade is the 10th All Black so far to announce he is heading offshore at the end of the year, to join French club Pau.
Still to confirm their post-World Cup futures are Julian Savea, Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty and, coupled with expected retirements and the impact of the Olympics, coach Steve Hansen is bracing for a difficult 12 months following the World Cup in England.
Cashed-up European clubs, who once targeted players in the twilight of their careers, assisting the All Blacks into an easy rollover of talent, are now creating a talent drain by luring up-and-coming stars.
Glasgow Warriors have won the Ladies Cup for the 2nd year in a row after battling back from behind against fellow guest side, Germany in the final to lift the coveted trophy.
After beating Dundee, Gala and Jed Forest en route to the final, the side coached by Kenny Murray were behind 21 / 12 against the Germans but showed grit and determination to run out 36 / 21 winners!
The Warriors kick-started their Melrose 7’s defence with a 2nd round tie against Dundee who beat Stirling County earlier in the day.
Top guest teams North West University (RSA), Germany, Glasgow Warriors and Wasps will join 20 Scottish club sides to contest the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens on Saturday.
Warriors, who last year featured Borders duo Scott Wight and Lee Jones, return to defend their title and, following the success of last summer’s Commonwealth Games tournament, organisers have hinted that an influx of new generation sevens players and supporters could be heading to the Borders this weekend.
Melrose Sevens convener Ian Cooper says he is delighted with the calibre of the sides his committee has been able to attract this year.
Former New Zealand lock Brad Thorn is retiring at the end of the season following a glittering 21-year career in which won the biggest prizes in rugby league and union.
The 40-year-old started out in league with the Brisbane Broncos, represented Queensland in the state of origin and won 3 caps for Australia.
Thorn moved back to New Zealand in 2001 and joined the Canterbury Crusaders, playing 12 tests for the All Blacks.
He went back to rugby league with the Broncos from 2005 – 2007 but returned to union and the last of his 59 All Blacks appearances was the 2011 World Cup final in which they beat France 8 / 7.
Thorn helped Ireland’s Leinster lift the 2012 Heineken Cup, becoming the 1st man to play in victorious World Cup, Super Rugby and European Cup teams.
He joined English Premiership club Leicester last year and has helped the Tigers climb to 4th in the standings.
Worcester Warriors have announced the signing of New Zealand wing Bryce Heem, who will join the Club in July from Super Rugby side, the Chiefs.
The 26-year-old has impressed during this season’s Super Rugby campaign and scored a try on his debut during his side’s victory over the Blues in the 1st game of the season.
Heem had previously been a stand-out performer for Tasman Makos during their impressive 2013 and 2014 NPC campaigns and helped the side to the final of the competition last October.
The wing, who stands at 1.93m, was an influential member of the New Zealand Sevens team between 2011 and 2014, touring the world on the Sevens World Series circuit and picking up a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games last year.
Former Stormers and Sharks flyhalf, Tim Swiel has signed a full-time contract with Premiership club Harlequins after a highly successful 4 month loan deal in October 2014.
The 21-year-old English-qualified pivot returned to the Sharks academy in February 2015 but will rejoin the English club for the 2015 / 2016 season.
During his short, but memorable time at The Stoop, Somerset-born Swiel made 10 senior appearances across the Cup, Premiership and European Rugby Champions Cup – which included impressive performances in the back-to-back fixtures against Leinster and Big Game 7 at Twickenham Stadium in December.
A bumper weekend of European cup action saw the semifinalists for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup decided across 3 days.
After an enthralling set of games on Sunday, we now know that Clermont will play Saracens in Saint-Etienne, while Toulon will face Leinster in Marseille in what are set to be 2 titanic battles.
Champions Toulon remain in the hunt for what would be a 3rd successive European title. No side has ever achieved that before but Toulon unquestionably have the players to do so.
They were too smart and too strong for a stubborn Wasps outfit at the Stade Mayol on Sunday, winning with Juan Smith and Bryan Habana watching on from the stands due to injuries. Both are expected however to be in contention for the semifinals.
Bakkies Botha did start in the second row as Toulon won 14 out of 15 lineouts, contributing to their success. Another trophy or 2 for the cabinet remain on the horizon for the Springbok legend ahead of his retirement. Michael Claassens was on the bench.
Defeat for Wasps of course also meant defeat for Ashley Johnson, as the former Cheetahs back rower’s side fell short despite a late rally in the 2nd half. Twice European champions in the past, Wasps are certainly on the up again.
Toulon will face Leinster in the semifinals after Zane Kirchner’s side knocked out Francois Louw’s Bath in Dublin. The former Bulls back was called from the bench early on at the Aviva Stadium and nearly scored a try in the corner not long after his arrival.
All Black Mils Muliaina is “distressed” and in shock over a sexual assault allegation levelled against him in Wales, his agent says.
The 34-year-old spent about 20 hours at Cardiff Bay Police station after being taken away by officers following a rugby game at Kingsholm Stadium. Police had 24 hours to charge him.
His agent, Simon Porter, says the arrest came as a “complete shock”.
Muliaina thought he was being taken in for random drug testing, Porter says.
“He had a night in the police cells, he’s pretty distressed, trying to deal with it, and it came as an absolute shock to him.”
Porter says Muliani will fight to clear his name.
Edinburgh Rugby’s players are in open revolt against their managing director, David Davies, after he sacked the long-serving team manager. Lynsey Dingwall was a popular and efficient member of the backroom staff at Edinburgh Rugby yet she was given an hour to clear her desk after working at the club for 14 years.
The players sent an email to the board and the council of the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) which Scotland on Sunday has seen. In the missive, sent on 23 March, the players offer their full support to Dingwall.
“We feel the dismissal of Lynsey Dingwall was unfair and unjustified,” the e-mail reads. “Lynsey was part of Edinburgh Rugby for 14 years. Over that period she worked tirelessly with and for the players and was hugely respected within the organisation. Numerous past coaches and players have commented that she was the best team manager that they have ever worked with. We feel she has been the victim of a personal attack.”
Former All Black fullback and Rugby World Cup winner Mils Muliaina’s future hangs in the balance after he was arrested by the South Wales Police on suspicion of sexual assault.
Muliaina’s Irish club Connacht confirmed that the former All Black was assisting the Police with enquiries relating to an alleged incident in Cardiff in March of this year.
He was pictured on television being led away by police officers following his Irish club’s 14 / 7 loss at Gloucester in the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals on Friday.
3-Times capped Springbok Jano Vermaak is returning home to South Africa with a World Cup dream.
The 30-year-old, who has been a shining star for the revitalised French giants Toulouse in the Top 14, spoke from the city in the southwest of France.
He was quite open about his goals, although there remains some uncertainty about which team he will use as – hopefully – as a springboard to a World Cup spot.
“I am coming back to South Africa with the goal of giving myself a chance of possibly getting into the World Cup squad,” the 30-year-old scrumhalf said.
“At this stage I do not yet know which team I will be playing for in South Africa,” Vermaak said, adding: “I have a few options, but we’ll make that call in the next month or so.”
He said he simply can’t wait to be back in SA and will arrive after the completion of the French Top 14 season in May, or June if Toulouse make the play-offs.
That will give him 3 or 4 weeks of Super Rugby to have a crack at a World Cup spot.