Louis Ludik’s pair of tries helped Ulster to resist a 2nd-half fightback from Cardiff Blues and strengthen their position in the Guinness PRO12 Top 4.
Fullback Ludik scored a try in either half to supplement finishes from Craig Gilroy and Paul Marshall as the hosts picked up what could prove to be a very valuable try bonus point.
Tom Isaacs and Alex Cuthbert crossed for the Blues as they showed real resilience after the break, but the 18 / 0 halftime deficit ultimately proved too much.
Glasgow Warriors’ draw at Leinster means Neil Doak’s side stay second, but they will be pleased to have forged a bit of a buffer between themselves and the chasing pack
The Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup, the 2 annual European competitions, will kick off mid-November 2015 – due to the Rugby World Cup.
The 1st 2 Rounds of both continental competitions will be played from 12 to 15 November, at a time usually devoted to the year-end Tests.
The End-Of-Year internationals between the Northern and Southern hemispheres will not take place because of the Rugby World Cup, hosted in England from 18 September to 31 October 2015.
The tournaments will then revert to their customary dates in December and January, with the quarter-finals and semi-finals set for April and the finals on the weekend of 13 – 14 May 2016.
The Warriors have announced that hooker Dougie Hall will retire from rugby at the end of the season, while prop Jon Welsh and assistant coach Shade Munro will also leave the club.
Shade has been part of the coaching staff at the Warriors since 2003 and will leave his role this summer when his contract expires.
Dougie arrived from Edinburgh in 2007 and has gone on to make 141 appearances for the PRO12 side over an 8-year spell. In the summer he will join one of the club’s sponsors, McCrea Financial Services.
Jon, who joined Glasgow in 2008 and has gone on to make 106 appearances, will join Newcastle Falcons for next season.
Former Bulls prop Bees Roux has signed for Oyonnax as medical cover for Antoine Guillamon, the Top 14 side announced on Monday.
The 33-year-old Roux played this season with the Lions, having previously lined out for the Leopards (2002 – 2006), the Griquas (2007 – 2008) and Cheetahs (2007).
He also played for French clubs Clermont (2008 – 2009) and Begles-Bordeaux (2011 – 2012) and Italian club Benetton (2012 – 2013).
Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu has signed for Scottish club Edinburgh and will leave at the end of the current Super Rugby season.
Manu has played 53 games for the Highlanders and has been co-captain with Ben Smith for the last 2 seasons.
“Believe me it was a very hard decision to leave the Highlanders, my team mates, my friends and family. This place, this team, it gets under your skin, becomes part of you and I will always treasure my time here” said Manu.
“Obviously I want to go out on a good note and I am keen to finish off my time here really successfully and that’s my focus at the moment.
The Waratahs have confirmed the signing of lock Dean Mumm, who will return to the club after 3 years with English Premiership side the Exeter Chiefs.
Mumm, who earned 95 New South Wales caps (including 83 at Super Rugby level), during his time with the Waratahs from 2004 – 2012, has signed a 1-year contract and will return to play in the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Waratahs Rugby CEO Greg Harris said he was extremely pleased to secure the signature of Mumm.
Ben Spencer kicked a last-ditch penalty to win the LV Cup for Saracens.
After a pulsating second half which saw 5 tries scored, Spencer had the kick with the scores at 20 / 20 with time up on the clock and the scrumhalf kept his nerve to win the trophy for the 1st time in the club’s history.
Somewhere, shaking his cauliflower ears in dismay, a grizzled old retired prop was probably secretly wishing someone would just stick the ball up his jumper and make a cautious 3 inches.
For everyone else watching this was surely the most thrilling day that 5 or 6 Nations rugby has seen: a fantasy finale, a chest-squeezer and knee-knocker, a day to fall back in love.
There are the stats: 221 points scored across the 3 matches, the most in a single weekend – 27 tries, run in from deep and wide and everywhere in between.
There was England’s record score against France, Ireland’s biggest away win, the most tries Wales have scored in 1 championship half.
Then there was the style. This was rugby we thought had died and been laid to rest, killed by detailed analysis and the professional urge to be sensible.
Sensible? This was glorious chaos, March madness to put a spring in every watcher’s step and an ulcer in the stomach of every defence coach.
Ireland ruthlessly wore down Scotland in a commanding 40 / 10 victory at Murrayfield on Saturday to win the Six Nations title on points difference from England.
England needed to beat France by 26 points at Twickenham in the final game of the tournament but only managed a 55 / 35 victory to leave Ireland as champions.
“It’s going to be the death of me, it was pretty tough viewing but all of this makes it worth while. The people that have stayed here represent a fantastic support base that we have,” Ireland coach Joe Schmidt told Irish television.
“We were only just glued together towards the end there because the English really put the pressure on, I’d certainly sympathise with them a little bit. I though their performance today was superb.
“Thankfully France rebounded each time England did get a bit of a differential and that allowed us to hang in and hang on to the silverwear,” Schmidt added.
The Board of Saracens and Edward Griffiths announced that, following seven very successful years with the club, the CEO will be leaving at the end of the season to pursue new opportunities.
“After seven years as CEO Edward is moving on,” Saracens Chairman Nigel Wray said.
“He has created and leaves an outstanding and beautiful new permanent home for Saracens, and a team of people with a real caring and community focus and we will build upon this legacy.
“Edward will forever be a Saracen and always welcome amongst his friends at Allianz Park.”
It should be a 3-way fight between England, Ireland and Wales for the Six Nations title on Saturday, although France still have an outside chance.
The Top 3 are locked on 6 Points with 3 wins apiece, while England’s points difference of +37 puts them 1st, ahead of Ireland’s +33 and Wales’ +12.
France are 4th with 4 Points and a points difference of +22.
Philippe Saint-Andre’s side could still steal the title if Wales and Ireland lose and Les Bleus then beat England by a margin of 8 points or more, but it looks a remote possibility.
If teams are level on points, and match-points difference, then England are likely to win the Championship on tries scored, having crossed 11 times to Ireland’s 4 and Wales’ 5. In the highly unlikely event this was also level come Saturday night, the trophy would be shared.
Wales are in action 1st away to Italy in Rome (14:30 SA Time, 12:30 GMT), before Ireland take on Scotland at Murrayfield (16:30 SA Time, 14:30 GMT), ahead of England’s home match against France at Twickenham (19:00 SA Time, 17:00 GMT).
With the Six Nations wide open, we assess the 4 teams’ chances.
South African scrumhalf Enrico “Ricky” Januarie will play for Top 14 side La Rochelle next season, after signing a 2-year contract.
The 33-year-old, capped 47 times and a member of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad, will join from rivals Lyon.
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has made 2 changes to the team that lost to England for this weekend’s Six Nations match against Ireland.
Scotland are last in the Six Nations standings and need to beat Ireland to stand a chance of avoiding the wooden spoon after they fell to Italy earlier in the tournament.
Both of Cotter’s changes are promotions from the bench with back-row Adam Ashe starting on the blind-side flank in place of Robert Harley, and Ryan Grant switching roles with Alasdair Dickinson – who starts on the bench – for his 1st start of the championship.
The settled selection sees the national team’s backline return to start another match, with captain Greig Laidlaw partnering stand-off Finn Russell in front of Glasgow Warriors trio Mark Bennett, Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, and Edinburgh duo Matt Scott and Dougie Fife, the latter making his home debut.
In the pack, tighthead Euan Murray makes history, alongside Ross Ford and Grant, overtaking Allan Jacobsen’s record as the most capped Scotland prop with a 66th appearance.
Jonny Gray and Jim Hamilton will again start in the boiler house, with David Denton and Blair Cowan returning to the back-row, the latter 1 of 6 Scotland players to hold a starting spot in every match of the Championship, as well as Bennett, Ford, Gray, Hogg and Laidlaw.
Young Stade Francais flyhalf Jules Plisson has been called up for France’s final Six Nations clash with England on Saturday as coach Philippe Saint-Andre named a 16th different halfback pairing.
Plisson, 23, comes in for injured first-choice No 10 Camille Lopez, who misses the game at Twickenham due to a knee problem.
With Sebastien Tillous-Borde remaining at scrumhalf, it will be the 16th different halfback pairing Saint-Andre has picked in just over 3 years and now 37 matches at the France helm.
Clermont’s Lopez, who has been Saint-Andre’s first-choice playmaker for France’s last 7 internationals dating back to the November Tests, was on Wednesday ruled out for 4 to 6 weeks.
Saint-Andre defended his rotation, saying he had no choice in changing his halfback partnership.
Leicester lock Geoff Parling was recalled by England coach Stuart Lancaster for Saturday’s decisive Six Nations showdown with France at Twickenham.
Parling comes into the second row in place of Dave Attwood, who drops out of the squad, in the only change to the starting 15 that overcame Scotland 25 / 13 last weekend.
Harlequins No 8 Nick Easter returns to the bench.
Wales players Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar, Scott Williams and the uncapped Gareth Anscombe have all signed central contracts, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) have announced on Wednesday.
Ospreys team-mates Jones and Biggar, Scarlets centre Williams and Cardiff Blues flyhalf Anscombe follow Rhys Webb in signing a National Dual Contract, taking the total number of Welsh players on central contracts to 12.
“Alun Wyn, Dan, Scott and Gareth represent a cross-section of experience, but each one of them is a player of proven talent,” said Wales head coach Warren Gatland in a statement on the WRU website.
“Within the group of 12 we have signed a mixture of emerging talent and players who have secured reputations for excellence through their appearances for their regions, Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
Wales have made 2 changes in their front row to face Italy in their final Six Nations encounter of the season, in Rome on Saturday.
Rob Evans and Aaron Jarvis come into the starting 15, replacing the injured duo of Gethin Jenkins (hamstring) and Samson Lee (Achilles).
The team which will take to the field at the Stadio Olimpico is otherwise unchanged team.
Evans will make his first start as he wins his 2nd cap in Rome and will line-up alongside Ospreys duo Scott Baldwin and Jarvis.
Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones continue in the second row with Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton in the back row.
The backline remains unchanged with Rhys Webb (No 9) and Dan Biggar (No 10) at halfback, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the centre and a back 3 of George North, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.
Premiership Rugby’s bid to increase the size of the top flight to 14 clubs and suspend relegation for an unspecified number of seasons, forms a cornerstone of its negotiations with Twickenham over a new elite-player agreement.
Any change to replace the deal that runs out next year would have to be agreed by the Rugby Football Union’s 60-strong council.
The Premiership has resisted calls in the past decade to go up from 12 to 14, not least because each club’s share of central funds would drop, but the change in the way the European Cup is organised has had a significant effect. Other factors to be considered include a new television deal with BT Sport, which kicks in from the 2016 / 2017 season and is worth significantly more than the present contract, together with the extra income that will come with the new elite-player agreement. This will lead to considerably more money for all, even with 2 extra sides.
Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth will not head abroad after this year’s Rugby World Cup, the Western Province Rugby Union has assured.
Reports in French media stated late last year that Etzebeth could join Toulon after the conclusion of this year’s World Cup.
However, Etzebeth is contracted to WP until 2016, which would see him stay in Cape Town until then.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Monday gave a strong indication that Saturday’s game against England at Twickenham would be his last match in charge of a Six Nations game.
Asked if that would be the case he replied: “the chances are high that it will be, yes.”
“But I prefer to stay in the present and on this hugely important week ahead of us,” he added.
Saint-Andre, who won 69 caps for France as a wing, took over as France coach after the World Cup of 2011 and his present contract takes him through until the end of this year’s World Cup in England.
Wales ended Ireland’s hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam and in the process climb above Australia to 5th in the World Rugby Rankings.
Wales have climbed 1 place to 5th in the latest World Rugby Rankings after their 23 / 16 victory over Ireland, setting up a thrilling climax to the RBS 6 Nations with 3 sides tied on 6 Log points.
The Welsh victory, in a match which saw Sam Warburton surpass Ryan Jones’s record for the most tests as captain, leaves them, Ireland and England battling for the title this coming Saturday.
Wales’ climb comes at the expense of Australia, who have now fallen to their lowest ever position since the World Rugby Rankings were introduced in October 2003.
Scotland’s coaching staff and players remain upbeat, despite having a growing injury list heading into their final Six Nations match of the season.
Scotland, without a win and stuck at the bottom of the standings, host title-chasing Ireland in Edinburgh on Saturday.
Matt Scott (thigh), Jim Hamilton (back spasm), Tommy Seymour (elbow), Blair Cowan (calf) and Alasdair Dickinson (leg) all suffered injuries in the 13 / 25 loss to England Twickenham this past weekend – setbacks that put them on the doubtful list for the final match of the season.
Mark Bennett insisted Scottish team morale is not at rock-bottom, despite a fourth consecutive Six Nations defeat in the Calcutta Cup clash at the weekend.
The television broadcast rights for the English (Aviva) Premiership over the next 6 years have been snapped up by current broadcaster BT Sport.
The new deal means that Aviva Premiership Rugby will be broadcast live on BT Sport until at least the end of the 2020 / 2021 campaign.
Mark McCafferty, the chief executive of Premiership Rugby, said,”BT Sport has been a fantastic partner for English club rugby so we are delighted that we have been able to extend our relationship with them for a further 4 years. This is the longest TV agreement in the history of Premiership Rugby.
“In the 18 months we have been on-air with them our live TV audiences have grown by 50% so it is clear that the partnership is going from strength to strength.
Italy (0) 0 / 29 (9) France (Final Score)
Italy and France did battle in the RBS 6 Nations at
Stadio Olimpico, Rome at 17:00 SA Time (16:00 Italian & French Time, 15:00 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 on TV in SA.
A resilient Wales side withstood a 2nd half battering to blow the RBS 6 Nations wide open and end holders Ireland’s grand slam hopes with a 23 / 16 victory on Saturday.
After an opening home defeat by England, Wales have hit back with 3 successive wins and by defeating previously undefeated Ireland they have a shot at the title, heading into the final round next week.
Despite losing both props to injury in the 1st half, Wales wobbled but did not wilt in the face of fierce Irish pressure and even a late Penalty Try, which set up a grandstand finale proved insufficient.
“An absolutely unbelievable effort,” Sam Warburton, captaining Wales for a record 34th time, said.
Springbok prop Gurthrö Steenkamp has announced his retirement from international rugby, stating his wish to focus his career at Toulouse.
Steenkamp, many would feel, was still heavily in contention to make the Springbok World Cup squad after featuring through 2014. His retirement may well cause Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer some headaches.
The 33-year-old loosehead prop began his career at the Cheetahs in 2002 and then the Cats in 2004 before moving to the Bulls where he played the bulk of his rugby from 2005 – 2011.
Steenkamp was also selected for the Springboks from 2004 and made 53 appearances, scoring 6 tries.
The burley prop has been a part of the Toulouse setup since 2011 and has made 76 appearances for the French Giants.
Saracens produced another stunning comeback to beat Northampton Saints 24 / 20 in a tense and nervy LV Cup semi-final.
Trailing 13 / 5 at half time, Saracens flew out of the traps to run into a 21 / 13 lead with Mike Ellery’s stunning solo effort a particular highlight as Saracens march on to next weekend’s LV Cup final at Franklin’s Gardens.
Ben Spencer was in typical metronomic form from the kicking tee, kicking 14 points in blustery conditions in north London.
England (10) 25 / 13 (13) Scotland (Final Score)
England and Scotland did battle in the RBS 6 Nations at
Twickenham, London at 19:00 SA Time (17:00 BST & GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 6 on TV in SA.
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has named a team with five changes for their penultimate Six Nations Championship match against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Cotter has brought back David Denton, Dougie Fife, Matt Scott, Jim Hamilton and Finn Russell to a Scotland team that are still looking for their first victory this year.
The five players come in to the starting team to replace Johnnie Beattie, knee injury victims Sean Lamont and Alex Dunbar, and Tim Swinson and Peter Horne.
Wales will field an unchanged starting lineup for the Six Nations showdown with Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.
Coach Warren Gatland was pleased with his side’s 20 / 13 win over France in Paris which kept alive their hopes of winning the tournament and had no problem giving the same 15 men a vote of confidence.
Flanker Sam Warburton, who went off after taking a blow to his knee during the French clash, has regained his fitness and will be able to break Ryan Jones’ record when he captains Wales for the 34th time at the Millennium Stadium.
The only 2 changes to the Paris lineup are due to injuries and come on the bench.
Lock Courtney Lawes and fullback Mike Brown have been recalled for England’s Six Nations clash with Scotland on Saturday, after recovering from injury, head coach Stuart Lancaster announced on Wednesday.
Northampton forward Lawes has returned to fitness after an ankle problem and is in line to make his first international appearance since England’s 26 / 17 victory over Australia last November.
Harlequins No 15 Brown sat out England’s 9 / 19 defeat by Ireland last time out, after suffering concussion in the 47 / 17 win over Italy, with Alex Goode having taken his place.
Goode drops to the bench, where tighthead prop Kieran Brookes, second row forward Geoff Parling and flank Tom Wood have all been drafted into the matchday squad.
Munster on Wednesday revealed that BJ Botha, Niall Scannell and Kevin O’Byrne have all signed contract extensions with the province.
The Springbok prop, Botha, signed a 6-month contract extension.
Scannell advanced to a 2-year full contract and O’Byrne signed a 1-year development contract.
The South African prop, Botha, has been with the province since the start of the 2011 / 2012 season, making 93 appearances.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw has revealed that he and his team-mates have seen a different side of head coach Vern Cotter this week.
The New Zealander has generally been very supportive of his players since taking up the post last summer but, after 3 successive losses in the Six Nations Championship, his patience has worn thin. As the countdown to Saturday’s match against England at Twickenham reaches its final stages, Cotter has become more demanding of the squad, as well as changing his approach to analysing what has been going wrong.
Saracens are delighted to announce the signing of Michael Rhodes from the Stormers.
Michael Rhodes, the Stormers and Western Province forward, will join Saracens at the start of next season, adding South African power to the wolf pack.
Mark McCall, Director of Rugby, said: “We have some time ago identified Michael as a player who could make significant contribution to the squad, playing in the second row or the back row, carrying the ball and we are confident we can provide an environment where he will realise his full potential. We’re delighted he will be joining us next season.”
Connacht and the Irish Rugby Football Union revealed that 25-year-old back Danie Poolman has signed a new deal that will keep him at the Sportsground until at least 2017.
Poolman joined Connacht in 2012 from South African franchise the Stormers and since then the former Paul Roos schoolboy from Pretoria has established himself as a key component in Connacht’s backline.
Poolman’s attacking prowess has come to the fore again this season with seven tries making him the province’s top try scorer so far this season.