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With the Rugby World Cup 2015 now finished and no formal End Of Year Tour schedule (November Internationals) for any of the Southern Hemisphere giants in 2015, there are far fewer high profile games to look forward to, but the games are there nonetheless.

Firstly there are the 2 Barbarians games, the 1st of which is against Gloucester on 17 November, and the 2nd one a very interesting game between the Barbarians and Argentina’s Los Pumas, who gave us all such a wonderful display at the Rugby World Cup, on 21 November.

In addition, this year our TV broadcasters in South Africa are giving us plenty of Prime Time coverage of English Aviva Premiership Club rugby in England, the French Top 14, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and the European Rugby Champions Cup, which we will follow with some good attention, brining maybe not all, but at least the high profile and interesting games to you to savour. There will of course be a whole host of our Southern heros on display in all these competitions.

Then of course there is still the regular HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series of 2015 / 2016, which kicks off in Dubai on 4 & 5 December, followed by Cape Town on 12 & 13 December.

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SaracensOwen Farrell helped himself to a personal tally of 18 points, as Saracens got their hands back on the Premiership trophy, beating Bath 28 / 16 and becoming the 1st side to finish outside the Top 2 in the regular season and go on to be crowned champions.

Saracens got off to a flying start as flyhalf Farrell touched down after only 6 minutes and England teammate Jamie George followed him over the whitewash shortly after.

And Chris Wyles added a 3rd try as Saracens went into the break 25 / 3 ahead, Bath having just a solitary George Ford penalty on hte board.

But Bath, appearing in their 1st Premiership Final since 2004, came out stronger after the break and Jonathan Joseph’s try and the boot of Ford got them back into the contest as they trailed 16 / 25 with a quarter of the game to go.

However, man-of-the-match Ford stretched Saracens lead with a penalty and from then on Mark McCall’s men never looked like relinquishing their lead as they got their hands back on the trophy for the 1st time since 2011.

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avivalogo2Bath are looking to end their 19-year wait for a top-flight title as they face Saracens in the Premiership final.

The Blue, Black and Whites have selected the same team that thumped Leicester in the semi-finals last week.

Saracens, winners in 2011 and beaten finalists last season, have reached the final for the fourth time in six years.

Like Bath, Sarries have also named an unchanged side, meaning 18 of England’s World Cup training squad will be in action at Twickenham on Saturday.

Their only change from the squad that won at Northampton Saints – the team that beat them in last year’s final – comes among the replacements, with hooker Schalk Brits returning after illness.

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Aviva Premiership LogoBath reached their 1st Premiership final since 2004 with a comfortable play-off semi-final win over Leicester.

A brace from Matt Banahan and a Kyle Eastmond try put the hosts in control, but they ended the 1st half with 13 men as Tom Youngs replied.

2Nd-half tries from Peter Stringer, George Ford and Anthony Watson sealed Bath’s passage to Twickenham as Banahan completed his hat-trick late on.

The Blue, Black and Whites will face Saracens in the final on 30 May.

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Aviva Premiership LogoOwen Farrell produced a nerveless kicking display as Saracens avenged last year’s extra-time defeat to Northampton Saints by booking their place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final once more.

David Strettle got Sarries off to a flying start but Northampton’s pack responded to win a Penalty Try, before the 2 sides traded scores early in the 2nd half through Jamie George and Tom Wood.

But it was the battle between England flyhalves Farrell and Stephen Myler that ultimately settled this semi-final, with the Sarries man besting his counterpart by 19 points to 14 from the tee – including an ice-cool 77th minute penalty to take the game out of the defending champions’ reach.

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Aviva PremiershipEnglish Premiership organisers have confirmed the teams and venues for the 2015 Aviva Premiership Semi-finals.

Both Semi-finals will be played next Saturday on 23 May 2015 and the kick-off times will be at 14:00 BST (15:00 SA Time) and 17:00 BST (18:00 SA Time) and both will be broadcast on BT Sport in the UK.

Northampton Saints will host Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens in the 1st Semi-final.

In the 2nd Semi-final Bath will host Leicester Tigers at the Recreation Ground.

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Manu Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi

England centre Manu Tuilagi is set to miss the rest of the Aviva Premiership season because of a groin injury but should be fit for the World Cup, his Leicester Tigers coach Richard Cockerill said.

The 23-year-old, who has won 25 caps and scored 11 tries for England, is still recovering from the injury he sustained in October.

England’s World Cup campaign begins against Fiji on 18 September, but they play France at home and away in August before hosting Ireland at Twickenham on 5 September.

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Aviva PremiershipPremiership 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.

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BT SportThe 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.

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Sean Maitland

Sean Maitland

Scotland international Sean Maitland will join London Irish next season.

Maitland, who signed for the Warriors in October 2012, has made 38 appearances for the club and has scored 11 tries during his spell in Glasgow.

The 26-year-old winger has 15 caps and 2 tries for Scotland.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Sean has played a big role at the club over the last 3 years and we wish him all the best when he leaves at the end of the season.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played between now and then and I’m sure he’ll want to leave the club on a high in the summer.”

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George North

Wales and Northampton’s George North

George North has insisted he is not planning to return to regional rugby any time soon but backed the new dual-contract system which has attracted Dan Lydiate to return from France.

The Northampton wing hailed Welsh union and regional bosses for finally agreeing a “feasible option” that will boost chances of top stars remaining in the domestic game.

Lydiate capitalised on the new contracts by return from Racing Metro to the Ospreys and will make his debut against Ulster this Saturday.

North believes more top stars could follow suit but stressed his current situation at Northampton suits him “down to the ground”.

The Saints release North for all his Wales commitments, a situation he admits allows him to gain the best of both worlds.

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Dylan Hartley

Dylan Hartley

England hooker Dylan Hartley has rejected a mega offer from Top 14 club Montpellier to sign a new deal with Northampton.

The 28-year-old has revealed that he was given a ‘very generous offer’ by the club to move to France.

However, Hartley has opted to remain with Premiership champions Saints and outlined his reasons today.

Hartley stated that the move would have had no impact on his England career ahead of next year’s World Cup, while turning down the possibility of ‘300 days of sunshine’ was not easy.

“It’s no secret I was offered a deal to join one of the leading French sides, Montpellier, which would have been worth significantly more. But money isn’t everything,” Hartley wrote in his column in a newspaper.

“I don’t want to come across all ‘holier than thou’ over this, but I do believe the world loyalty has gone out of fashion a bit – and for me that really means something.”

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Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess

Rugby league star Sam Burgess made his highly-anticipated union debut for Bath in a comprehensive 25-6 victory over Harlequins in the English Premiership on Friday.

Burgess had not played rugby since fracturing his cheekbone and eye socket during his final appearance for South Sydney in their 30-6 NRL Grand Final victory over Canterbury Bulldogs in October.

But he was named on the bench for Bath, for whom he was signed a three-year deal worth an estimated 270,000 with a tilt at England’s World Cup squad in mind.

And the player capped 28 times as a forward for England in rugby league came on in the 63rd minute as a centre alongside fellow league convert Kyle Eastmond.

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Premiership clubs

Premiership Clubs have been given dispensation by the IRB to start playing on 17 October next year, during the World Cup’s knockout stages.

The Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby have settled their dispute over World Cup compensation, the governing bodies have announced.

England’s 12 clubs are likely to share £13 million provided by the RFU and have been cleared to play matches during the knockout stage of the tournament.

“It’s a reflection of the strength of the partnership that once again we have managed to come to an arrangement that benefits both the RFU and clubs,” RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said.

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Aviva PremiershipWasps have set the standard and now they must recreate it, says director of rugby Dai Young after watching his side battle to a 20-16 victory over reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Northampton Saints.

A low-scoring first half saw the sides locked at 3-3 going into the break but tries from Ashley Johnson and Tom Varndell meant Ben Foden’s late score for Northampton was nothing more than consolation

And after their heartbreaking 34-28 loss to Saracens at Twickenham in last weekend’s opener, Young admitted he was delighted with Wasps’ response at Adams Park.

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WhistleThe Match Officials for this week’s action have been confirmed, with George Clancy refereeing the Wallabies vs Springboks showdown.

The Rugby Championship:

Australia vs South Africa
  • Venue: Patersons Stadium, Perth
  • Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
  • Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
  • TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
  • Assessor: Andrew Cole


New Zealand vs Argentina
  • Venue: Mclean Park, Napier
  • Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
  • Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
  • TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
  • Assessor: Lyndon Bray

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Kingston Park

Kingston Park

A new domestic season is almost upon us and among the fresh faces set to make their Premiership Rugby bow is a key arrival who may just turn out to be one of the most significant signings of the off-season.

Newcastle Falcons’ decision to install a hi-tech artificial pitch at Kingston Park makes them the second club in England’s top flight to ditch a traditional grass playing surface after Saracens’ ground-breaking and headline-grabbing switch in 2013 – with both understood to have cost in the region of £500,000.

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Aviva PremiershipWith the new English domestic season kicking off on Friday, we take a look at the prospects of each of the 12 clubs competing for the Premiership title. Let’s get started.


The pioneers of modern English rugby, Saracens have established themselves as one of Europe’s leading teams over the last few years.

Making three Premiership Finals in the last five years along with contesting Europe’s showpiece last season underlines their rise to the top of the game. Unafraid to experiment off the field, 2013/2014 saw Saracens revolutionise their play on it by throwing off the shackles and producing attacking rugby that was hard to resist. More of the same please.

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Aviva Premiership

The Aviva Premiership is threatening to continue with their league schedule

Premiership Rugby has threatened to continue with their league programme during next year’s Rugby World Cup unless a deal can be reached with the RFU.

Tensions have been running high between Premiership Rugby and the RFU in recent months.

Premiership Rugby are upset after the RFU failed to consult them over the bid for the Rugby World Cup.

They are now seeking a compensation deal of £14 million from the RFU as they will have to shut down the league while the Rugby World Cup is taking place in England.

With the global showpiece scheduled to take place between September and October, England’s Premiership clubs will have no matchday income for five months – as the tournament finishes at the end of May – and according to projections each top tier club are set to lose £1.2 million.

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Aviva Premiership LogoNorthampton SaintsAlex Waller’s try in the last minute of extra time won Northampton their first Premiership title with a dramatic victory over Saracens.

Saints led 7-6 at the break through Ben Foden’s converted try, with Owen Farrell replying with two penalties.

Farrell added a further penalty before George Pisi crossed for Northampton’s second converted try.

Marcelo Bosch’s try levelled the scores but Charlie Hodgson’s kick hit the post to send the game into extra time.

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Aviva PremiershipNorthampton Saints have named captain Dylan Hartley among their replacements for Saturday’s Premiership final against Saracens at Twickenham.

But the hooker’s England team-mate Mako Vunipola is missing for Sarries having had surgery on a dislocated patella.

Saints are aiming for their first-ever Premiership title, after losing to rivals Leicester in last year’s final.

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Saracens RugbyNorthampton SaintsAlistair HargreavesSaracens booked a place in the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham when they beat Harlequins 31-17 in the Premiership Semi-final at Allianz Park.

Saracens gradually saw off Harlequins to keep their dreams of winning the double alive.

The lead was evenly shared up until the 60-minute mark, with the league’s best side stretching away in the late May sunshine as Harlequins faded in a bruising encounter. Saracens scored 20 unanswered points in the second half.

A total of 14 possible points went begging as kickers Owen Farrell and Marcelo Bosch toiled with the conditions and their accuracy, but they were not made to pay in the end.

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Mike BrownAviva PremiershipEngland and Harlequins fullback Mike Brown has been named Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards.

Brown has enjoyed a breakthrough season for both Harlequins and England and was acclaimed by his Director of Rugby, Conor O’Shea, as “a model of consistency, and also a match winner.”

The Harlequins man beat a stellar list of Aviva Premiership Rugby players to the award. He was joined on the shortlist by Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers), Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints), Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors), Jacques Burger (Saracens) and Dan Braid (Sale Sharks).

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WalesEngland’s leading clubs will not allow players to take part in the Wales trial on Friday, 30 May.  The availability of some Wales stars was in any case in doubt because the Aviva Premiership final takes place a day later.

A spokesman said Premiership Rugby’s Wales players would not be free for the trial as it falls outside the International Rugby Board (IRB) window.

But Wales remain hopeful of reaching a deal over England-based players.

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Alesana TuilagiAnitelea TuilagiAviva Premiership Rugby club Newcastle Falcons have signed Tuilagi brothers Alesana “Alex” and Anitelea “Andy” on two-year deals ahead of the 2014-15 Aviva Premiership season.

Samoan internationals Alesana, 33, and Anitelea, 27, who both play at either wing or centre, bring the Falcons’ tally of new signings up to eight as Dean Richards continues to mould his side for next term.

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UlsterIan HumphreysIan Humphreys is back at Ulster after the fly-half left London Irish to sign a two-year deal with his home province.

The 32-year-old former Leicester Tigers player moved from Ulster to the Exiles in 2012.

“I have loved my time at London Irish but when the unexpected opportunity to come home arose, it was a very easy decision to make,” said Humphreys. ” It’s exciting to be part of a squad that’s challenging in Europe and is at the top of the Pro12 every year.”

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top14logoFrench club rugby’s governing body, the LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) has announced radical new plans (entitled the ‘New Deal’, showcasing France’s bizarre love of anglicised naming devices) designed to improve the Top 14, and by proxy the French international team, from the start of next season.

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Aviva PremiershipAfter brokering the deal for a new European Cup, starting next season, bosses of Aviva Premiership clubs are understood to be working on plans for a World Club competition.

It has been reported that the English clubs will test the resolve of the IRB by proposing plans to create a new worldwide club tournament for the summer of June 2018 which, as it stands, is currently a designated international rugby window.

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Saracens RugbyHarlequinsSaracens beat the world record attendance of a club match in their 39-17 Aviva Premiership clash at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

A clinical first-half display from Saracens saw them go in at half time 27-10 up, through tries from Chris Ashton, George Kruis and Owen Farrell, with Karl Dickson’s try and Nick Evans’s penalty keeping Quins within touching distance.

The second half was a more low-key affair, with Sam Smith’s converted try putting Harlequins within 10, but Jacques Burger and Marcelo Bosch sealed the victory for Saracens.

The game had a staggered start as David Strettle was on the receiving end of a swinging arm from Maurie Fa’asavalu, leaving the winger unconscious for a lengthy period of time, forcing him to be carried off on a stretcher.

Soon after, Nick Easter tried to make the most of a poor pass, but could only palm it into the path of Ashton who, after fending off Ugo Monye, dived over to score a 70-metre try, with Farrell converting.

Saracens vs Harlequins - Premiership Crowd Record

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