Six Nations executives have been given until the end of the month to find new sponsors for the biggest annual tournament in world rugby after struggling to find a replacement for RBS, which ended its backing last season after 14 years. The Six Nations had been looking for a six-year, £100m deal, but having spent the past 12 months talking to a number of potential backers, there is only one firm offer on the table. That is understood to be less than the £11m a year paid by RBS at the end of its contract as the economic uncertainty blown up by Brexit deters sponsors.
The championship starts in February and the tournament committee, which met last week, told its executives that a deal had to be agreed within a fortnight.
While there has been interest from potential sponsors, no one has come anywhere near the asking price and there is concern that further delay could lead to the one offer being withdrawn. That would mean the championship lacking a backer in 2018 and that would blow a significant hole in the finances of the three Celtic unions, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
A truly historic chapter will be written this weekend when the first-ever Guinness PRO14 season kicks off after the addition of the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings from South Africa.
As this world class Championship continues to raise the bar, the introduction of the Cheetahs and the Kings makes the Guinness PRO14 a global tournament. Round 1 also marks the first games played under the new Conference format which sees each team play home and away against clubs in their own Conference and then home OR away against the other Conference before two more rounds that ensure all derby games are played.
The Cheetahs will be the first team from South Africa to go up against ‘northern’ opposition when they travel to Kingspan Stadium on Friday night to face Ulster while the Kings face a daunting trip to Parc Y Scarlets where the men from Llanelli will play their first Championship game since winning the title at Aviva Stadium last May.
Celtic Rugby and the South African Rugby Union have today confirmed that the Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings will join an expanded Guinness PRO14 tournament in time for the upcoming 2017/18 season.
A long-term strategic agreement has been signed by both parties which will allow the participation of two South African franchises in the renamed Guinness PRO14 Championship.
The agreement means that the Championship will take place across the northern and southern hemispheres and marks the first phase of expansion as the Guinness PRO14 becomes a truly global tournament.
This move will contribute to the drive for ever higher standards that we demand across the tournament and provide greater resources to our clubs who will compete in the most testing environment the Championship has ever created.
We can also reassure supporters across the Championship that all current home and away Derby games have been protected – these fixtures are sacrosanct to the tournament and those tribal rivalries are just one element of what makes the Guinness PRO14 so special.
With a new format, new teams and new audiences the Guinness PRO14 – which leads World Rugby statistics for Positive Play – will hit even greater heights in 2017/18.
The shadow sports minister has urged the Rugby Football Union to reconsider its decision not to renew the contracts of England’s women’s XV players.
In a letter Dr Rosena Allin-Khan tells chief executive Ian Ritchie of her “deep concern”.
Despite England preparing to defend the World Cup next month, the RFU said its focus will switch to the sevens game after the tournament.
“To make this decision is deeply disappointing,” wrote Allin-Khan.
“Asking players to pause and resume their professions every two years puts their futures at considerable risk.”
The RFU, which announced record revenues last year of more than £400m, said its priorities shift between the XVs and sevens programmes, with the World Cup Sevens and Commonwealth Games taking place next year.
It said the England XV side will continue to take part in competitions, and that it has invested millions of pounds in the women’s game, including £800,000 annually on a new domestic competition aimed at increasing and improving the talent pool available for selection for England.
Rugby union referee Nigel Owens reveals his struggle with eating disorder bulimia nervosa is not over and remains an ongoing battle.
There have been a number of ‘firsts’ in my life.
As a referee in world-class rugby, one of the most macho sports on the planet, I was the first in the sport to come out as being gay.
In the hope of reaching out to other young people struggling with mental health, I was also one of the first sportsmen to speak openly about the biggest regret of my life – a suicide attempt.
Early one morning at the age of 26, I left a note for my mum and dad, both of whom had been hugely supportive of me, explaining I couldn’t carry on, that I desperately wanted to bring it all to an end.
I took an overdose, laid down on a Welsh mountainside and waited to die. Doctors later told me I was just 20 minutes from death when I was airlifted to hospital by a police helicopter.
So I got a second chance. I was determined not to waste it and using my experience to help someone else is a pretty good way of ensuring that.
Which brings me onto another ‘first’; I’ve spoken about dealing with bulimia in the past but have never before revealed that to this day I continue to struggle with an eating disorder.
As they prepared to do battle against South Africa in 1997, Jim Telfer told his pack of forwards that very few players get to “reach for the top of Everest” by winning a Lions Test series. The number of Scots to sample that rarefied atmosphere in the two decades since is significantly fewer still.
On the most iconic tour of the professional era, the Lions tamed an almighty Springboks outfit, with Scottish stalwarts Tom Smith, Rob Wainwright, Gregor Townsend and Alan Tait all starting Tests as the world champions were handed a 2-1 series defeat.
Four years later Smith started all three Tests in Australia – as he had in South Africa – but was the only Scot to make the starting XV during the series. If that was bad, worse was to follow.
On the tours to New Zealand in 2005, South Africa in 2009 and Australia in 2013, not a single Scot started a Test. Indeed, only three players appeared off the bench in those series.
A first win over Wales in 11 years has seen Scotland climb to their highest ever position of fifth in the World Rugby Rankings.
Vern Cotter has achieved what none of his predecessors as head coach could do by steering Scotland to an all-time high of fifth place in the World Rugby Rankings.
Following their first win over Wales since 2006 Scotland have moved above Saturday’s vanquished opponents and South Africa in the rankings, which were first introduced in October 2003, after gaining 1.28 rating points.
The South African rugby community was in mourning on Monday following the passing of Joost van der Westhuizen, one of South Africa’s greatest-ever Springbok legends.
Van der Westhuizen passed away after a long and courageous struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neuron disease (MND), for the past 6 years. He was 45 and leaves behind 2 children, Jordan (13) and Kylie (10), as well as his father Gustav, mother Mariana, and brothers Pieter and Gustav.
“Joost will be remembered as 1 of the greatest Springboks – not only of his generation, but of all time,” said Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby.
Reigning 1872 Cup holders Edinburgh Rugby host Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield in their Guinness PRO12 league match which doubles up as the first leg of this season’s 1872 Cup.
Glasgow Warriors are currently in 6th place on the PRO12 log with 27 points, 10 points off leaders Munster after 10 rounds, while Edinburgh who parted ways with Alan Solomons earlier this season are down in lowly 10th place with a mere 17 points. Both teams are doing fairly well in Europe although Glasgow are playing in the top European Rugby Champions Cup while Edinburgh are playing in the Challenge Cup.
There will be a mouth watering battle of the back rows, especially at number 8 where players who both used to ply their trade in South Africa Josh Strauss and Cornell du Preez have been selected for Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively.
World Rugby comments on the latest developments in the George North head injury incident.
World Rugby notes the outcomes from the independent Concussion Management Review Group investigating the handling of George North’s head injury incident during the Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints Aviva Premiership match on 3 December 2016.
World Rugby’s number one priority is player welfare and our primary concern is the welfare of George and all players. It is therefore disappointing that apparent non-compliance with the sport’s elite head injury protocols led to George remaining on the field of play when he should have been immediately and permanently removed.
World Rugby’s recognise and remove protocols state in no uncertain terms that any player displaying clear or suspected signs of loss of consciousness should be permanently and immediately removed from the field of play. In this case, the Head Injury Assessment should not have been undertaken.
Northampton Saints will face no sanction following the investigation into their treatment of Wales wing George North’s latest head injury.
However, the concussion review panel concluded that the 24-year-old should not have returned to the field of play after he fell in a mid-air tackle against Leicester on 3 December.
The panel’s 17-page report stated that head injury assessment (HIA) protocol was followed correctly, but the Saints medical team have accepted that North may have lost consciousness.
“The CMRG considered the welfare of North was always at the centre of Northampton’s actions, and does not consider that the medical team (or the club) failed to complete the HIA protocol nor intentionally ignored the player’s best interests.”
Josh Strauss will make his 100th appearance for Glasgow Warriors in Friday night’s European Rugby Champions Cup match against Racing 92 at Scotstoun.
The Warriors won 23-14 against the French side in Paris last Saturday.
All 7,351 tickets have been sold for the Pool 1 encounter.
Stuart Hogg continues at full-back and Tommy Seymour and Lee Jones complete the back-three.
Alex Dunbar, who scored one of the tries last weekend, links up with Sam Johnson in midfield.
Last week’s Man of the Match Finn Russell is at fly-half and Ali Price, who scored Glasgow’s second try in Paris, starts at scrum-half.
England captain Dylan Hartley will be available for their opening fixture of the Six Nations against France after receiving a six-week ban for striking.
The 30-year-old caught flanker Sean O’Brien with a swinging arm during Northampton Saints’ Champions Cup loss to Leinster on Friday and received the third red card of his career.
He has now been suspended for a total of 60 weeks.
Hartley, who pleaded guilty to the charge at an independent disciplinary hearing in London on Wednesday, is able to play again from 23 January.
Players making contact with an opponent’s head in “reckless tackles” will receive a yellow card at least in changes to rules over high tackles.
Players will be punished even if the tackle starts below the shoulders.
If head contact is accidental – for example, if a ball-carrier slips into a tackle – a penalty will be awarded.
A reckless tackle occurs when a player “knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway”.
In September 2015, World Rugby’s chief medical officer Martin Raftery said that the game’s rules may have to change to reduce concussions.
As Rory Best declared in his on-field post-match interview at a rowdy Soldier Field in Chicago, it’s been a long time coming. Just the 111 years, that’s all. But at last, that black stain in Irish rugby has been removed, with a first ever victory over the All Blacks in 29 attempts.
Fully deserved it was too. Soldier Field crackled with atmosphere, vast swathes of the 63,300 bedecked in green watched Ireland dominate vast swathes of the first-half and kept counter-punching in a riotous rollercoaster of a second half, ultimately outscoring the back-to-back world champions and runaway winners of the Rugby Championship by five tries to four, and thus end their world record 18-match sequence of test wins.
The 1971 and 1974 Lions were the greatest touring teams that have departed these shores, but the monopoly they appear to have on key positions in the Four Home Unions is now coming under scrutiny. The appointment of John Spencer, the 1971 Lions and England centre, as manager of the 2017 Lions is a case in point.
Spencer’s installation was not greeted with unanimous approval, and the same was true when Tom Grace, the 1974 Lions and Ireland wing, was appointed as Lions chairman.
The 1971 and 1974 Lions have rightfully had a major influence on the future of the touring side, and that has been recognised with luminaries from those sides being awarded the majority of the management, coaching and administrative roles in the intervening 40 plus years.
However, exactly how appointments are made in Lions rugby has always been shrouded in fog.
Four Home Unions appointments have always had a whiff of the clandestine about them, with vested national interests and horse-trading to the fore. As a result, in the professional era they have been a mixed bag.
Australia’s women beat New Zealand 24-17 to win the first ever Olympic rugby sevens gold medal, after Great Britain lost to Canada in the bronze match.
Favourites Australia outscored the Black Ferns four tries to three, with two of those coming while New Zealand’s Portia Woodman was in the sin bin.
Meanwhile, Britain’s women missed out on Olympic medal as they lost 33-10.
Canada – who lost to GB in the pool game between the two – led throughout in the bronze medal match.
A new eight-year deal worth more than £225m has been agreed between the Rugby Football Union and Premiership clubs – with England getting more flexibility and greater player access in return.
Clubs will earn more for releasing players for international duty, as well as meeting the English-qualified players target and academy standards.
England will get two more training camps a season and larger elite squad.
“This is a true partnership,” said RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie.
“[It is] focused on making English rugby the best in the world for club and country.”
The agreement is worth more than double the previous one, which was signed in 2007, and will give England greater flexibility in selection, with the Elite Player Squad (EPS) expanded from 33 to 45 players, while during core periods 36 players can be selected for camps rather than 33.
South Africa Rugby has welcomed Ilhaam Groenewald as their first female Executive Council member.
Groenewald, along with the returning Monde Tabata as independent member of the Exutive Council, were elected last week and will attend their first meeting of the newly constituted Exco in Cape Town.
Groenewald succeeds Mputumi Damani as one of two independent members of the 12-person Executive Council. Damani was warmly thanked for his contribution since being elected in 2011.
“My passion is sport management and development so when I was asked if I was happy to have my name put forward, I had no hesitation,” said Groenewald.
“You cannot work in sports administration in the Western Cape and not know about rugby so I have very good insight into the work that SA Rugby does. I have also received very positive support from Stellenbosch University management,” she added.
The relationship between Rory Lamont and rugby has always been uneasy. When it was good, it was really good: 29 Scotland caps, two World Cups, and stints in Europe’s top leagues with Toulon, Sale and Glasgow.
When it was bad, it was really bad: whispering campaigns about his attitude, 16 operations, “double figure” concussions. By the time the game ran out of uses for him, the feeling was entirely mutual.
Three years ago this week, Lamont announced his retirement. The last of his many injuries, a lower leg fracture from the previous year, hadn’t properly healed and the end came as a relief.
“I was thinking, ‘finally it’s over’. I felt like an animal being put out of its misery. I’d had a miserable year, people questioning my integrity, and I couldn’t wait to crack on with my life and all the amazing things I was going to do.”
Never did he picture becoming a recluse, battling severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Nowhere in the retirement brochure did it say he’d lose 25kg in four months and be unable to stomach solids for a further five. The bit about being so low he hoped he’d be run over by a bus? Not what he’d signed up for either.
I found the article below on a website called rugbybetting.com (See the Link to the original Article by clicking HERE). The article is actually not about betting. It put the racial policy of SA rugby within context of the World Rugby rule book. Interesting perspectives. I thought the rugby-talk readers might enjoy this.
The World Rugby (formerly known as the IRB) rule book on racial discrimination reads as follows:
In terms of By-Law 3 of the IRB rules and regulations, the IRB is compelled to prevent any form of racial discrimination in rugby. IRB Regulation 20 also stipulates that any action which may be construed as racial discrimination will be regarded as misconduct. In terms of By-Law 7, not only is a country’s international team bound to this; the provincial rugby unions resorting under a country’s board must adhere to these principles as well. In terms of By-Law 9.4(r) the IRB may institute disciplinary steps against any rugby body that violates these rules.
Co-Leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes and the Chair of the local branch of the Samaritans Peter Benton will plant a tree to remember those lost to suicide in the north east of Scotland.
The tree planting and dedication ceremony will take place in Kellands Park, Inverurie at 12:00pm on Saturday 12th December.
Officials and players from Garioch and Shetland Rugby Clubs are expected to attend the event ahead of their match.
Last year 60 people from the north east of Scotland died by suicide – leaving a lasting impact on families, friends and communities.
Cllr Kitts-Hayes said: “I am honoured to be asked to be a part of this ceremony. It is important, that we offer support to those who have been close to someone who has taken their own life and to raise awareness of suicide to encourage people to seek help.”
Legendary Fijian Sevens rugby player, Waisale Serevi, was moved to tears after winning the International Vets title in Dubai at the weekend.
Serevi played for the J9 Legends team who won the title after beating the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation side.
Former Springbok scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen is the founder of the J9 Legends and Serevi was honoured to represent the team.
Van der Westhuizen, who played 89 Tests for the Springboks, is stricken by the terminal motor neuron disease (MND).
His J9 Foundation supports research to try to find a cure for MND.
“We were together, everyone was working hard for each other. I have never been so proud in my life as I am winning this for Joost,” Serevi said.
“The side has been here for 3 years, and, having lost in the final twice, I am so happy. I have met Joost’s wish, to win this tournament for him.”
Carlisle United players have offered to help people in their community affected by flooding caused by Storm Desmond.
Tens of thousands of homes across northern England and parts of Scotland are without power after the floods and Cumbria is one of the worst-hit areas.
Carlisle’s players volunteered their services after winning 5 / 0 at Welling on Sunday in the FA Cup 2nd Round.
The club’s home ground, Brunton Park, close to both the rivers Petteril and Eden, has been engulfed by flood water.
All Black greats united to pay tribute to Jonah Lomu with a powerful haka, as thousands of fans packed a memorial service at New Zealand rugby’s spiritual home, Eden Park.
A grim-faced Buck Shelford led more than 20 former internationals in a “Ka Mate” haka while the legendary wing’s casket was carried into a hearse.
Former teammates including Tana Umaga, Justin Marshall and John Kirwan joined the emotional tribute on the same turf that Lomu once dominated as a player.
“Jonah, you were a freak on the field and a gentle, caring giant off it,” former All Blacks coach John Hart said.
Queen Elizabeth II offered her condolences over Jonah Lomu’s death as the rugby legend’s family revealed they were planning a send-off as big as the great man himself.
The family said they had been overwhelmed by a global “outpouring of love” after the charismatic winger died unexpectedly on Wednesday aged just 40, leaving a wife and 2 young sons.
Former All Blacks coach John Hart said feelings were so intense in Lomu’s native New Zealand that Auckland’s Eden Park stadium may be needed as a venue for a public memorial.
Flanked by the player’s relatives outside the family’s Auckland home, Hart said Prime Minister John Key’s office had relayed condolences from the Queen to Lomu’s widow Nadene.
“(She) has written to the prime minister specifically asking for a message to be sent to Nadene and the family to say how much she mourns the loss as well,” he told reporters outside Lomu’s Auckland home.
The South African Rugby Union extended its condolences to the family of legendary Springbok centre John Gainsford, who passed away on Wednesday morning following a long battle with cancer. He was 77.
Gainsford established himself as one of the greatest centres of his generation due to his powerful bursts and rock-solid defence.
He earned 33 Test caps and scored 8 tries during his Springbok career between 1960 and 1967, playing in 71 Springbok matches in total (including tour matches). He remained the most capped Springbok centre until as recently as 2001 when his record was finally overtaken by Japie Mulder.
Gainsford was a world-renowned player, who emerged from the Villagers Rugby Club in Cape Town. He made his Springbok debut on 30 April 1960 against Scotland at the young age of 21 and played his last Test at the age of 28.
New Zealand rugby union great Jonah Lomu has died aged 40.
Lomu, who scored 43 tries in 73 matches for New Zealand between 1994 and 2002, had been diagnosed with a rare and serious kidney condition.
It forced him to quit the game and he had a kidney transplant in 2004, but the organ stopped functioning in 2011.
“Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world,” said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew.
“We’re lost for words and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Jonah’s family.”
Family spokesman John Mayhew told New Zealand television that Lomu’s death was “totally unexpected” and that he had only arrived back from the UK on Tuesday, after spending time there for the Rugby World Cup.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said: “The thoughts of the entire country are with his family.”
For the 4 coaches of the Rugby World Cup semifinalists – Argentina’s Daniel Hourcade, Australia’s Michael Cheika, New Zealand’s Steve Hansen and South Africa’s Heyneke Meyer – the coming weekend promises to be a defining moment in their careers.
Win and they can look forward to leading their teams out for the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham Stadium next Saturday, lose and they will be left to prepare for Friday night’s bronze medal match at the Olympic stadium, wondering what might have been.
Hansen summed up the contrast earlier in the week: “You either stand up and be counted or go home. Even worse, you have to play that other game.”
One thing the coaches share is that none had spectacular playing careers – Cheika’s Australia Under 21 caps represent the closest any of them came to international rugby – though all 4 have worked tirelessly as coaches to earn the positions they currently occupy.
England have dropped 2 places to 8th in the World Rugby rankings after their World Cup defeat to Australia at Twickenham.
Only once before, in 2009, have England been as low as 8 on the list. There were times in 2003 and 2004 when they were the No 1 team in the world.
If Scotland were to register 2 more victories at the Rugby World Cup, they could move up and push England even lower. Never, since the rankings began in 2003, have England been outside the top 8. Only 4 other teams – New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and France – have maintained a top-8 place since the rankings began.
8 Teams have moved up 1 place in the rankings, which are based on results and the level of opposition.
Under the points exchange system used to calculate rankings, sides take points off each other based on the match result – whatever 1 side gains, the other loses. Such points exchanges are doubled during Rugby World Cup to recognise the unique importance of this event.
4 Nations have dropped down: Wales by 1 place from 2 to 3, Ireland by 1 from 4 to 5, England by 2 from 6 to 8, and Samoa by 4 from 11 to 15.
The 8 risers, all by 1 place, are Australia to 2nd, South Africa to 4th, France to 6th, Argentina to 7th, Japan to 11th, Tonga to 12th, Italy to 13th and Georgia to 14th.
The late former South African state President Nelson Mandela had been, posthumously, inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
The special ceremony took place at St James’ Park in Newcastle on Saturday, before the Springboks’ 34 / 16 victory over Scotland in a World Cup Pool B match.
World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset presented the coveted Hall of Fame cap to the Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation, Gert Oosthuizen and Francois Pienaar, captain of the South Africa team that won the Rugby World Cup of 1995 on home soil.
Lapasset said: “The World Rugby Hall of Fame recognises those who have made an indelible mark on our sport through feats on the field of play, displays of great character or through their tireless and inspirational work in driving forward our great game.
The teams have been announced for the “world’s oldest varsity match”, which returns home today.
The Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews will contest at men’s and women’s first XV level on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield, with a crowd of more than 10 000 expected.
Their 2nd and 3rd 15s will also meet on the stadium’s back pitches.
The match – which pre-dates the battle between light and dark blues down south and which has attracted sponsorship from the Royal Bank of Scotland – pits 2 of the founder members of the Scottish Rugby Union against each other.
St Andrews are the current holders of the men’s trophy having triumphed on the last 2 meetings, when the fixture was contested at Richmond Athletic Ground as a means of connecting with Alumni in the London area.
Rugby World Cup debuts galore as Scotland’s tournament finally gets underway. After the group opened with a Double B (that’s a Bucking Belter) in Brighton will we have a Grand Guignolin Gloucester?
Only 4 players remain from Scotland’s last Rugby World Cup match, a 16 / 12 defeat to England in Auckland in 2011, with Ross Ford the only player in the same position for both games.
Japan bring 6 players into their starting line-up as they try to back up their stunning victory over former champions, South Africa. The Japanese bench features a 6 forwards to 2 backs split, which suggests they expect Scotland to try and overpower them up front and reinforcements will be required.
Twenty-five greats of the game whose careers spanned 3 centuries have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Wembley on Sunday at 18:00 SA Time (17:00 BST, 16:00 GMT)
Players from 7 different countries and a wide array of backgrounds were honoured at a special presentation in the Spirit of Rugby lounge at Wembley Stadium before the eagerly awaited Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool C match between New Zealand and Argentina.
From the pioneering 19th century Welsh tactician Gwyn Nichols to Rugby World Cup winners in Australian centre Tim Horan and South African scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen, the latest induction list reads like a ‘who’s who’ of rugby.
18 Captains of their countries are included. Irishman Fergus Slattery and Mervyn Davies are 2 of the names that ‘The voice of rugby’ Bill McLaren, the only non-international to feature in the latest Round of inductions, once reeled off in his unforgettable BBC commentaries.
Twice-capped coaching guru Carwyn James is 1 of 7 Welshmen to be inducted, while South Africa have 5 representatives. England, Ireland and Scotland have 3 apiece and 2 each from France and Australia make up the 25.
The winners of the Rugby World Cup on Saturday 31 October 2015 will receive, with glee, the Webb Ellis Cup.
That is the name the handsome cup carries – the Webb Ellis Cup.
It is a bit of a misnomer. It is named after a clergyman, the Reverend William Ellis, who died in 1872, but was credited with starting the rugby game in 1823.
The crediting happened 68 years after Ellis left Rugby School and 23 years after he died.
There is no record of his having played the game, certainly not of being its founder. His middle name was Webb, his mother’s maiden name, but his older brother was plain, Thomas Ellis.