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Six Nations

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Christian Day

Christian Day

Tom Croft

Tom Croft

Leicester Tigers flank Tom Croft and Northampton Saints lock Christian Day have been called up to the England training squad.

The reinforcements come as coach Stuart Lancaster assesses the impact of an injury-laden round of European action – ahead of the first round of Six nations action, when England face Wales in Cardiff on 6 February.

Two-time British and Irish Lion Croft and former age-grade star Day joined the squad on Monday – while Geoff Parling’s knee and Tom Wood’s ankle are fully assessed by the England medical team.

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Owen Farrell

Owen Farrell

England flyhalf Owen Farrell will undergo tests after hobbling off with a knee injury during Saracens’ 6 / 18 European Champions Cup defeat at Clermont on Sunday.

Farrell was forced off in the 19th minute, after twisting his left knee in a collision with Clermont flank Julien Bardy.

Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall said the 23-year-old would now undergo further tests to see if he can compete in the Six Nations which gets underway on 6 February.

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Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Wales and British and Irish Lions prop, Adam Jones, has retired from international rugby, he said.

The 33-year-old Cardiff Blues player featured 95 times for Wales and won 3 Grand Slams but was left out of their Six Nations squad having missed out on the 2014 autumn series.

“It’s obviously not the way I would want to finish, it’s not how I planned it in my head, and I hope no-one thinks I am simply quitting,” said Jones.

His last appearance for Wales was in the 38-16 defeat by South Africa in the first test of their June 2014 tour when he was substituted after half-an-hour.

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IrelandLeinster loose forward Jack Conan and Connacht prop Nathan White were the only uncapped players picked in Ireland’s 46-man training squad for the Six Nations on Thursday.

Conan has impressed for his region in the absence of the injured Sean O’Brien and the rested Jamie Heaslip.

The New Zealand-born White was set to become Ireland’s fourth-oldest debutant at 33 in the November tests, but ruptured an arm tendon in camp. He’s expected to make his comeback to action on Saturday for his province in the European Challenge Cup.

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says England made a mistake by not appointing him and New Zealander Wayne Smith as coaches 3 years ago.

Mallett, 58, was in line for the England head coaching job but lost out to Stuart Lancaster.

In an interview with The Times, Mallett said he would have appointed Smith as his assistant coach had he got the England job.

Smith was the All Blacks’ assistant coach when they won the 2011 Rugby World Cup and also helped the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013.

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Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown and Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter (right)

Kelly Brown is determined to work his way back into the Scotland squad after being overlooked for the Six Nations.

The 32-year-old former captain failed to make Vern Cotter’s 32-man pool but is convinced he can still add to his 64 caps.

“It’s clearly disappointing, but selection is a funny thing,” Brown said.

“I want to play for Scotland and I certainly feel I can play for Scotland. I don’t feel over the hill yet.”

Saracens flanker Brown began last season’s Six Nations campaign as captain, although he was dropped later in the tournament. Since then Cotter has replaced Scott Johnson as head coach and Brown believes he has plenty still to offer, with the World Cup later in the year.

Brown has played once under Cotter, in a 19-17 win over Canada in June, but was not selected for the Autumn internationals.

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Gareth Anscombe

Gareth Anscombe

New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe has been included at flyhalf in Warren Gatland’s 34-man Wales squad to contest the Six Nations.

Apart from Anscombe there are 3 other debutants in Scarlets prop Rob Evans, Cardiff Blues Kristian Dacey and Newport Gwent Dragon, Tyler Morgan.

Scott Andrews and Gareth Davies are recalled and join 28 players who were involved in the recent End Of Year tour.

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Harlequins No 8 Nick Easter and Sale Sharks flyhalf Danny Cipriani have been named in Stuart Lancaster’s England training squad for the forthcoming Six Nations championship.

The 34-man group will meet up at Pennyhill Park on Monday 26 January, to prepare for their tournament-opening match against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Friday 6 February.

There are also places for 5 British and Irish Lions – as Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints), Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Tom Youngs (all Leicester Tigers) and Mako Vunipola (Saracens) return from respective injuries.

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ScotlandHugh Blake has become the latest player to join the Kilted Kiwi brigade, joining his fellow countrymen Blair Cowan and Sean Maitland in the Scotland squad. It came as a big surprise to see Blake’s name on the team sheet as the Junior All Black and Highlander, now getting his first call up to a Scotland squad, only joined Edinburgh in December last year.

He played in an ‘A’ team fixture for Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors on 22 December and had to leave the field injured, suffering from concussion following a knock to his head which knocked him out for a bit. Flanker Blake (1.87m and 102kg) has yet to appear for the senior Edinburgh team and what makes his inclusion even more baffling is that he was introduced as being recruited for a trial period on his arrival in Edinburgh.

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Courtney Lawes

Courtney Lawes

Courtney Lawes, one of England’s key forwards, will miss the start of the SIX Nations Championship after he undergoes surgery on an injured ankle on Monday.

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder said the 25-year-old Saints lock was set to miss the “first few weeks” of the tournament, which could mean Lawes being sidelined not just for England’s opening game with Wales on 6 February but also the Italy match on 14 February.

It is a blow for England to lose their 36-times capped powerhouse, as they are already without Wasps lock Joe Launchbury for the whole tournament as he continues his rehabilitation from neck surgery.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

Scott Spedding

Scott Spedding

Bernard le Roux

Bernard le Roux

South African-born trio Rory Kockott, Scott Spedding and Bernard le Roux all maintained their places in France’s initial 31-man squad ahead of the Six Nations.

Kockott and Spedding made their debuts during the November Tests with differing levels of success.

While Spedding has been embraced by the French public following a string of good performances, Kockott has endured a tough start to his international career, with many questioning his inclusion at the expense of French-born scrumhalves.

Meanwhile, coach Philippe Saint-Andre also called up Fijian wing Noa Nakaitaci. The 24-year-old has played his senior club rugby in France since moving to Clermont from the Nadroga academy in his homeland in 2010.

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Ben Morgan

Ben Morgan

England No 8 Ben Morgan is likely to miss the entire SIX Nations campaign after fracturing his left leg in Gloucester’s 24-23 win over Saracens in the Premiership last Friday.

The 25-year-old Morgan, who was carried off in the second half and given oxygen, had surgery on Saturday with Gloucester confirming the player had fractured his lower left leg.

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Duncan Weir

Duncan Weir

Duncan Weir has been ruled out of this year’s Six Nations tournament with the 23-year-old set to undergo surgery on his arm.

The Glasgow Warriors flyhalf, who gave Scotland a last-gasp victory over Italy in last year’s competition, took a knock on his arm during the 1872 Cup clash with Edinburgh at Scotstoun last month, with subsequent examination showing that he had severely damaged his bicep.

Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said that the injury suggested that Weir would be out of international action for the next three months.

Townsend added: “I would like to think it won’t be the end of his season, but I think it rules out the Six Nations.

“With a bicep injury you are talking months rather than weeks.”

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Manu Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi

England centre Manu Tuilagi could miss the Six Nations opener against Wales next month as he continues his recovery from a groin injury, his Leicester Tigers club boss said on Sunday.

The powerful 23-year-old, widely regarded as key to England’s hopes in the annual European tournament and September’s home World Cup, has not played since last October.

“It may well come too soon, we’ll see,” Leiceister’s Richard Cockerill told reporters when asked about the 6 February date in Cardiff.

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WhistleIt has been a year for referees much as any other year – a year of highs and lows where the best they can hope for is no complaints from players on the field and no complaints from watchers off the field.

Referee abuse remains a universal problem for referees. Glen Jackson, once a great player and now a great referee, said that there was a difference between playing and refereeing, for you could make 5 mistakes as a player and then get cheered for doing something well. In refereeing you are jeered for doing something perceived to be wrong and after that nothing that you do can rehabilitate you in the eyes of the beholders.

Much of the abuse is a repeat of what commentators have to say, regardless of whether what they say is wrong.

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WhistleSouth African referees Jaco Peyper, Craig Joubert, Stuart Berry and television match official (TMO) Shaun Veldsman will all officiate in the 2015 Six Nations competition, World Rugby has announced.

Peyper will take charge of the match between France and Wales on 28 February at Stade de France in Paris, while Joubert will officiate the clash between Ireland and England at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on 1 March, with Veldsman in the role of TMO.

Berry, meanwhile, was named as an assistant referee for the matches between Italy and Ireland at Stadio Olimpico in Rome on 7 February and Ireland and France in Dublin on 14 February respectively.

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John Mitchell

John Mitchell

South Africa meet England for the first time in two years in a suddenly critical Test match at Twickenham on Saturday … but respected New Zealand-born critic and coach John Mitchell advocates more regular, guaranteed annual clashes between the two in a reworked Six Nations.

The Springboks tackle these old enemies while reeling to some extent from a slightly unexpected 29-15 defeat to Ireland in Dublin in the first game of their four-match northern hemisphere agenda, whilst the hosts also enter the fixture on the back foot having been beaten at home by the world champion All Blacks rather more convincingly than the 24-21 score-line suggests.

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French Rugby

French rugby is just one bad November away from falling out of the top 10 rankings

After years of selling itself as a global game when it never really was, rugby is poised to take grip in territories it has always dreamed of conquering writes Gregor Paul in the Herold on Sunday.

The All Blacks are scheduled to play in Chicago this year, Samoa in 2015 and probably Singapore in 2016. Super Rugby is also heading to Argentina and probably Singapore.

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Gio Aplon in action for the DHL Stormers

Gio Aplon in action for the DHL Stormers

“A good big player is better than a good small player” is something we have heard before on the rugby landscape in South Africa. Unfortunately, these type of utterances has been heard coming from the National coach, Heyneke Meyer, as well.

Is rugby not supposed to be the one game that people of every shape and size can partake and excell in? Remember when we were young kids, standing around with bare feet all excited about our very first rugby practice? Dividing the players into positions seemed like such a simple task…the fat kids were props, the tall kids were locks, the fast kids were wings. There seemed to be a position suited to every size and shape.

Professional rugby as we know it now has put paid to that philosophy, 15 supreme athletes seem to be the target for coaches. Centers weigh in at the 100kg mark or more, which is bigger and heavier than some of legendary Bok forwards of previous eras. Just this week the Under 18 Academy week was played in Worcester. One of the stand out players for the victorious Western Province Academy team was prop Carlu Sadie who weighs in at 122kg. The fact is, he is not judged on his size or weight, but on his playing ability and it would seem like this youngster has a bright rugby future ahead of him. Obviously when it comes to the position of front row, size is a huge asset, but what about the other positions?

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Warren Gatland, Wales & British & Irish Lions Coach, awarded the OBE

Warren Gatland, Wales & British & Irish Lions Coach, awarded the OBE

Wales, and British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has been awarded an OBE in the Queens Queen’s birthday honours.

Gatland is currently on tour with Wales in South Africa where they lost the opening test of two matches 38-16 but he said that being honoured was a massive honourt.

“I was surprised really,” said Gatland.

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Bryan HabanaSouth African star Bryan Habana scored a try on his return to action after a three-month absence because of a hamstring injury as Toulon beat Bordeaux-Begles 22-20 in a thrilling Top 14 encounter on Saturday.

The 30-year-old – a World Cup winner in 2007 – touched down in the 66th minute as Toulon came from 20-9 down to prevail, largely thanks to 14 points from Frederic Michalak.

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Mike BrownSIX-NationsEngland full-back Mike Brown has been named Six Nations Player of the Championship after securing over 34% of the 68,000 votes cast by fans.

Brown, 28, scored four tries, including two in a man of the match performance against Italy, and was also man of the match against Scotland and Ireland.

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Sam WarburtonWalesWales captain Sam Warburton must undergo immediate surgery after dislocating his right shoulder.

Wales have never faced South Africa in the north-eastern city of Nelspruit, but judging by the blank they have drawn everywhere else in the land of the Springboks, they must already be fearing the worst – especially as Sam Warburton, their captain, has been ruled out of this summer’s two-Test tour.

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SIX-NationsIt has been a fantastic Six Nations and one that had a fairytale ending as Ireland handed Brian O’Driscoll the perfect retirement present by beating France to win the title.

The nail-biting victory in Paris meant Ireland took the championship ahead of England on points difference.

The two teams have been the form sides in the competition and although a few French and Welsh players showed well, it is the top two who naturally provide the bulk of my Team of the Tournament for 2014.

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Stuart HoggScotlandScotland’s Stuart Hogg made a public apology after being sent off during his side’s record Six Nations defeat by Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

The full-back was given his marching orders at the Millennium Stadium by French referee Jerome Garces in the 22nd minute following a late shoulder charge into the face of Wales fly-half Dan Biggar.

Garces intially produced a yellow card but, after viewing replays on the stadium’s giant screen, changed it to a red.

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SIX-NationsWales, France, Ireland, England, Scotland and Italy have named thie teams for the weekend’s Six Nations action.

Wales named 6 changes in their side for the clash against Scotland.

France made 4 changes to their side, including bringing back Gael Fickou, for their clash against Ireland on the weekend.

Ireland made just 1 change to their side to face France.

England made no changes to their starting side and has made only 1 change on the bench, bringing back Manusamoa Tuilagi in the place of Alex Goode, for their clash with Italy in Rome.

After initially only naming the forwards and sweating over the composition of his backline, Scotland coach, Scott Johnson, has named his backline, with Edinburgh winger Dougie Fife winning his first cap.

Italy coach, Jacques Brunel, has made 3 changes to the Italy side, to face England, with Sergio Parisse returning to the fold and leading the team.

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