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The Rugby Championship

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Henry Speight

FRESH FACE: Brumbies winger Henry Speight is the lone new name in the Wallabies squad for The Rugby Championship next month

AustraliaThe Wallabies formalised a tug of war victory over New Zealand rugby today, though from the All Blacks’ perspective ideally Henry Speight will not compromise the world champions’ Bledisloe Cup reign and defence of the Rugby Championship.

One cult figure of Australian rugby replaced another when Ewen McKenzie named a 32-man squad that predictably included the Fijian-born wing – although he cannot be picked for the tests against the All Blacks in Sydney and Auckland next month plus the Springboks in Perth on September 6.

The Hamilton Boys’ High School-educated finisher, who was approached to join the Chiefs in 2012 a year after making his Super Rugby debut for the Brumbies, is expected to make his test debut on September 13 against Argentina on the Gold Coast, two days after an IRB-imposed stand down expires.

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The Samsung SlideLiner

The Samsung SlideLiner

Ever wondered what it would be like to cross rugby spectating with Gold Reef City? No? Well neither has anyone else, until Samsung Australia came up with an innovative an novel new way of watching rugby.

Samsung Electronics Australia will launch the SlideLiner, an exciting Samsung innovation to give Australian Rugby fans a money-can’t-buy seat between the grandstand and the pitch during three matches of the 2014 Rugby Championship.

The Samsung SlideLiner is a comfortable, four person ‘couch’ that will sit on tracks beside the pitch, following the action along the field of play as the Qantas Wallabies take on the All Blacks and Springboks in The Castrol Edge Rugby Championship 2014.

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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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Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger still has unfinished business with the Stormers and Boks

He didn’t get what he wanted from the last game of the Vodacom Super Rugby season, which was for his DHL Stormers team to buck the trend of failure in marquee matches, but typically that did not place a massive dent in Schalk Burger’s good humour afterwards.

“I’m not going to see you guys for a while. It would be nice to have you staying over with us in Japan sometime. Get an excuse to come and write about the South Africans playing in Japan and we will be happy to host you,” was the Stormers captain’s grinning parting statement as he left the Newlands boardroom following the post-match press conference after the defeat to the Sharks.

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Sonny Bill Williams

The mercurial Sonny Bill Williams is close to returning to Rugby Union

Dual international Sonny Bill Williams will be considered for the New Zealand’s end of year tour if he is fit and in top form.

That is the word from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen who said time was a factor less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup. Hansen feels Williams’ return to the All Blacks will depend on his condition when he returns from the Sydney Roosters’ NRL campaign and whether he manages to play some part for Counties Manukau in the ITM Cup.

Hansen admitted that he hoped Williams’ return to Test rugby is sooner rather than later.

“There is no doubt he’s an exceptional rugby player and if he’s available then we’d be foolish not to look at him, but we have to take into account he’s come off a big season,” Hansen told Fairfax Media.

“We have to take a whole lot of things into consideration before we make a decision. What’s right for Sonny? What’s right for the team?”

“Next year’s a bit different because we don’t have the June series and if we can’t use him going into the World Cup then if we can have that opportunity to spend time with him then that would be good.”

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Piri Weepu

Piri Weepu leading the Haka

London Welsh are today expected to announce the signing of Piri Weepu from the Auckland Blues, according to reliable sources.

It marks another huge signing in their already impressive recruitment drive, with the 71-cap All Black set to bring real experience of rugby at the very top level. He will join the likes of Olly Barkley and Tim Molenaar in what is starting to look like a very useful back line.

Weepu’s career is yet to take him outside of New Zealand, beginning his career in Wellington both for the ITM Cup side and the Hurricanes, before moving to Auckland and the Blues. It is understood that he has expressed a desire to play in the Aviva Premiership.

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Fourie du Preez

Fourie du Preez

Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez’s ankle injury is worse than expected and it has now ruled him out for the rest of the year.

According to SARU, Du Preez will miss the remainder of the South African season following an ankle injury sustained by the Springbok scrumhalf in last Saturday’s 55-6 Test victory over Scotland in Port Elizabeth.

Du Preez left the field in the first half of the Test. He was sent for x-rays immediately afterwards and went for an MRI scan in Pretoria on Monday, which confirmed earlier suspicions of an anterior syndesmotic injury. He will be sidelined for approximately six months.

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Francois Hougaard

Francois Hougaard

Who Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer earmarks as his flyhalf at the outset of the Championship next month could also have a major bearing on which scrumhalf he chooses to plug the unfortunate Fourie du Preez gap.

Incumbent No 9 and still world-class customer Du Preez, 32, was confirmed on Tuesday as having an ankle injury serious enough for him to ruled out of the entire southern hemisphere tournament.

Given his vast, 70-cap experience and precious ability to read and control a game better than most other South African scrumhalves right now, the loss of Du Preez certainly dents the Boks’ chances of ousting New Zealand from their status as defending champions, even if there have been enough positives in other departments of late to suggest they’ll be seriously competitive nevertheless.

The veteran was just beginning to benefit from a decent run of international matches – important given that he plies his franchise trade in the much more modest arena of Japanese club rugby now – in the June window, looking increasingly more like the character who helped drive the World Cup 2007 success.

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Fourie du Preez

Fourie du Preez

Fourie du Preez will miss the Castle Lager Rugby Championship following an ankle injury sustained by the Springbok scrumhalf in last Saturday’s 55-6 Test victory over Scotland in Port Elizabeth.

Du Preez left the field in the first half of the Test. He was sent for x-rays immediately afterwards and went for an MRI scan in Pretoria on Monday, which confirmed earlier suspicions of an anterior syndesmotic injury. He will be sidelined for at least three months.

“It’s a massive blow to lose yet another world-class player and a key player due to an injury,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer. “Fourie is also a dynamic leader and one of the vice-captains in our team and his injury is a huge setback.”

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers’s good nature in terms of positional flexibility may be exploited once again in a few weeks’ time.

The first-choice Springbok captain, who missed the entire June window period due to a knee injury, is an estimated four weeks away from a return to full fitness, which gives him a reasonable chance of being ready – albeit rather undercooked in match sharpness – for the Castle Rugby Championship opener against  Argentina at Loftus on 16 August.

His status was confirmed as the Stormers on Monday issued an update on various sidelined players, some of whom will be available for consideration for Saturday’s Super Rugby derby against the Bulls at Newlands.

Both De Villiers and franchise colleague Damian de Allende, another midfielder who had cracked the Bok squad nod a few weeks ago only to be quickly struck down by wretchedly inconvenient injury himself, remain a few weeks out from renewed activity.

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Dawie Theron

Dawie Theron

The Northern Hemisphere has had a distinct advantage going into the annual Junior World Championship, but that may soon evaporate.

South African Under 20 coach, Dawie Theron, said discussions are underway to organise a four-nations Rugby Championship style tournament for juniors.

The reason is that when the Six Nations teams – England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy – get into the play-offs of the IRB JWC they have the experience of a tough competition to fall back on.

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South AfricaHarold VersterFree State Rugby Union CEO Harold Verster says the union will next host a Test match in the 2016 season.

Verster wrote a column on the Volksblad website where he explained to fans the situation regarding the union’s hosting of Test matches.

Verster said the union gave up its right to host last year’s Rugby Championship Test between South Africa and Argentina.

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South AfricaThe Springboks will face 2013 Six Nations champions Wales in two Tests in Durban and Nelspruit during the Castle Lager Incoming Series in June, followed by a once-off international against Scotland in Port Elizabeth.

The fixtures were confirmed by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Wednesday.

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2013The year was full of spectacular moments and performances as well as disappointing lows and infamous incidents; we name and shame the best and worst in our 2013 Awards.

New Zealand and Wales ruled their respective hemispheres for the second successive year, the All Blacks enjoying a flawless 2013 campaign.

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New ZealandSteve HansenAs expected, New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has given his charges the week off after their stellar performance over the weekend, clinching The Rugby Championship against the Springboks from South Africa.

They are nursing quite a number of bumps and bruises, the result from the hard encounter with the Springboks.

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IRBNew ZealandFollowing the Test between South Africa and New Zealand this past weekend, the New Zealand All Blacks have solidified their clasp on the IRD World Test Rankings more, stretching their lead over 2nd placed South Africa to a full 5.19 ranking points.

The Australian Wallabies have also slightly improved their position after their fine win against the Argentinian Pumas over the weekend, leaving them in 4th spot.

World Champions, New Zealand have stretched their lead further by almost a full rating point.

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ABSA Currie CupSharksDHL WPWith The Rugby Championship now done and dusted, the Springbok players involved look set to be returning to their Provincial Unions and respective overseas Clubs to continue plying their trade.

This of course leaves Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer a worried man and wishing he was in the fortunate situation which the All Blacks coach finds himself, where the All Black players will rest some more before the November Internationals start (of course there is still the matter of a Bledisloe Cup encounter between the All Blacks and Wallabies to consider on 18 October).

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Jean de VilliersDane ColesAll Black coach Steve Hansen has rightly commended Springbok captain Jean de Villiers for the way in which he handled the substitute mishap of Dane Coles in their Rugby Championship Test at Ellis Park on Saturday.

On the field there was some confusion and discussion well after the All Blacks had brought replacement hooker Dane Coles on for Andrew Hore in the 2nd half.

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Felipe ContepomiPumas great Felipe Contepomi was not too dejected after the Wallabies spoiled his Test swansong with a 54-12 win in Rosario on Saturday.

The Rugby Championship clash at Estadio Gigante de Arroyito brought down the curtain on Contepomi’s illustrious international career.

The utility back, who made his Test debut for Argentina against Chile back in 1998, played in his record 87th Test and retired as the Pumas’ top points-scorer of all time having accumulated 651 Test points and broken Hugo Porta’s record of 590 points.

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Martin LandajoFollowing the final match of The Rugby Championship of 2013, the one between the Argentinian Pumas and Australian Wallabies, it has transpired that Argentina scrumhalf Martin Landajo has been suspended from all forms of the game for one week after stamping on some Australian players in Rosario.

Duty Judicial Officer Nigel Hampton has accepted a guilty plea from Landajo for contravening Law 10.4 (b) Stamping or trampling after he was cited.

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