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End Of Year Tours

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The Springboks concluded a week of intense training at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on Friday as their preparations for the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour to Ireland, England, Italy and Wales stepped up a gear.

A total of 31 players took part in the training camp after prop Marcel van der Merwe withdrew due to injury.

Amongst the squad were four uncapped players in Lizo Gqoboka (prop), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Boela Abrahams (scrumhalf) and Rudy Paige (scrumhalf), who were invited to get a taste of what Springbok rugby is all about after impressive performances for their provinces in the Absa Currie Cup.

“We had a good week and the players really worked very hard on the field and in the gym,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“The emphasis was on conditioning and we also paid a lot of attention to detail on and off the field. It was great to have time to work on these things before we embark on what will be a very tough tour.

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NamibiaThree new caps have been included in the Namibian national side to face Germany in Windhoek on 29 October.

The side will be captained by Western Province loose forward Rohan Kitshoff, who will make his 17th test appearance for his country.

Coach Danie Vermeulen on Thursday included Free State Cheetahs hooker and captain Torsten van Jaarsveld, Brive’s Tjuee Uanive and JC Greyling from Old Wesley RFC (Dublin, Ireland) in his squad of 23 for the once-off Test match.

Van Jaarsveld and Uanive are in the starting line-up, while Greyling is expected to earn his first cap coming off the bench.

The 27-year-old Van Jaarsveld was outstanding for the Free State Cheetahs this year and will start in his first Test for the Welwitchias.

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ItalyItaly captain Sergio Parisse believes winning the first of a three-match Test series, against Samoa next month, is “crucial” if the Azzurri are to build confidence ahead of the tougher challenge of Argentina and South Africa.

“It’s crucial for us to start this Test series off on a positive note with a win,” Parisse told reporters in Rome.

Italy head into the November Test series looking for massive improvements after finishing with the Six Nations wooden spoon and returning from a mid-year tour of the south Pacific winless.

Coach Jacques Brunel has welcomed several players back from injury, including Francesco Minto, Luca Morisi, Simone Favaro and scrumhalf Edoardo Gori.

New Zealand-born Kelly Haimona and Fijian Samuela Vunisa are also among three squad debutants alongside Simone Ragusi for November’s Tests.

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USAThirty-five players have been chosen for the United States national team’s tour next month – which starts with a 1 November Test against New Zealand in Chicago.

Coach Mike Tolkin will not have all of the players will available for every match.

The US Eagles management and European officials recently reached an agreement to allow leading American players based in Britain, France and Japan to play against the All Blacks at Soldier Field.

Among them are Cameron Dolan and Samu Manoa of Northampton Saints, Newcastle Falcons’ Eric Fry, Leicester Tigers’ Blaine Scully, as well as Hayden Smith and Chris Wyles of Saracens.

Thretton Palamon will be able to leave Saracens to play against Tonga in Gloucester, England, on 15 November, and Fiji in Vannes, France, on 22 November.

The Eagles also will play Romania in Bucharest on 8 November.

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EnglandSaracens wing Chris Ashton has been dropped from Stuart Lancaster’s England squad for the End Of Year Tours (November Internationals).

Ashton has been replaced in the squad by Bath wing Semesa Rokoduguni, one of three uncapped players named in the 33-man squad on Wednesday.

England play against New Zealand ( 8November), South Africa (15 November), Samoa (22 November) and Australia (29 November).

Chris Robshaw will captain the side in the four-game series at Twickenham.

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ArgentinaArgentina head coach Daniel Hourcade has added 5 new players to the squad that will be touring the Northern Hemisphere in November.

Matías Moroni, Santiago Cordero, Juan Cruz Guillemain, Santiago Iglesias Valdez and Guido Petti have been brought in after not playing any part in the Rugby Championship while Mariano Galarza and Bruno Postiglioni have not been included due to injury.

With lock Mariano Galarza injured, Hourcade has brought 2 second row forwards into a 30-man squad, Juan Cruz Guillemain of Stade Francais and Guido Petti of local side SIC.

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South AfricaSpringbok captain Jean de Villiers spoke about Monday afternoon’s start to the national training camp in Stellenbosch as the beginning of the build-up to next year’s World Cup, and if that was so, where it all began should end up being like chalk and cheese to where it will surely end.

Twickenham next November is what the Boks are aiming for, and it will doubtless be chilly and probably a little gloomy, as it so often is in London at that time of year.

On Monday though a burning sun beat down as the Cape spring continues to play more like a summer, with sweltering conditions adding to the discomfort levels even after 5pm as the players ended their session with a grueling crawling drill directed by conditioning coach Basil Carzis.

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Schalk Brits

Schalk Brits

Marcel van der Merwe

Marcel van der Merwe

The Springboks were dealt a double blow on Monday, when first Saracens hooker Schalk Brits and then Blue Bulls tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe was ruled out of the End Of Year Tour (November Internationals) with a knee injury.

Van der Merwe was supposed to join up with the Bok training camp this week but hurt himself in the dying minutes of the Vodacom Blue Bulls loss in the ABSA Currie Cup semifinal against DHL Western Province on Saturday, and will miss the next four to six weeks of rugby with a medial knee ligament injury.

“He fell awkwardly in the last few minutes of the game,” Blue Bulls doctor Org Strauss said, “He has a grade 2 medial ligament tear, luckily not the same knee that has given him problems in the past, I expect him to be out for anywhere between four and six weeks.”

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WalesWales Head Coach Warren Gatland has named a 34 man squad to play in the upcoming End Of Year Tours (November Internationals) which features just one uncapped player but no place for Adam Jones and James Hook.

Instead of British & Irish Lions prop Jones, 20-year-old Ospreys prop Nicky Smith has been called into the squad for the first time and features alongside 12 players who return to International duty after missing the summer tour to South Africa.

Gatland’s side take on Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa on consecutive weekends in November as the countdown begins to next year’s Rugby World Cup.

In the front-row, former Wales Under 20 prop Smith, who has started all seven of the Ospreys’ encounters this season, joins the experienced Gethin Jenkins and Paul James.

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Manu Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi

England centre Manu Tuilagi will miss the End Of Year Tours (November Internationals) after suffering a groin injury during Leicester Tigers’ first match in the new European Champions Cup, the Premiership club said on Tuesday.

The Samoa-born player hobbled off the field after 15 minutes of the 25-18 win over Ulster on Saturday.

Tuilagi was making only his second start after three weeks out with a groin problem but Leicester said it was not a recurrence of the same injury.

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Barbarians RugbyThe Barbarians completed their squad with the addition of 11 more players including the South African duo of Juan de Jongh and Sarel Pretorius.

The Barbarians are set to take on the Wallabies at Twickenham on 1 November under the guidance of Blues coach John Kirwan.

Of the 11 new players added on Tuesday, the majority (5 of them) are from New Zealand with a further 3 Argentineans and a Scot to go along with the 2 South Africans.

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AustraliaNew Wallabies coach Michael Cheika included five debutants in his first squad unveiled on Wednesday for the End Of Year Tour in England, France, Ireland and Wales.

The 33-man Australia squad, led by 22-year-old Michael Hooper, includes three changes to the group that lost 29-28 to the All Blacks last Saturday.

The tour sees the return of injured duo Matt Toomua and Ben McCalman and the inclusion of uncapped Melbourne Rebels back-row forward Sean McMahon.

He is one of five uncapped players alongside Western Force pair Tetera Faulkner (prop) and Kyle Godwin (centre), and wingers Henry Speight (Brumbies) and Tom English (Rebels).

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AustraliaMichael CheikaThe Australian Rugby Union on Wednesday confirmed that Michael Cheika is the new Wallaby coach, ahead of a tough End Of Year European tour.

He has been appointed on a three-year contract, coming in the wake of the controversial departure of Ewen McKenzie as a result of the fall-out over the Kurtley Beale saga.

ARU Chief Executive Officer Bill Pulver said Michael Cheika was the outstanding candidate for the role.

“Central to our decision was selecting a world-class coach who can lead us to victory in next year’s World Cup and a person who represents the game’s core values,” Pulver said.

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Stephen Larkham

Stephen Larkham

Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham turned down the opportunity to help coach the Wallabies on their End Of Year Tour.

The Rugby World Cup winning Wallabies playmaker Larkham has tipped to be the attack coach working as an assistant to Michael Cheika.

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika was confirmed as replacement Wallabies coach on Wednesday.

Larkham said that he was honoured to be considered but would prefer to concentrate on preparing for the Brumbies upcoming Super Rugby season.

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South AfricaFollowing the elimination of the Cell C Sharks and the Vodacom Blue Bulls from the ABSA Currie Cup and the conclusion of the First Division, 8 more players have been invited to the Springboks’ training camp in Stellenbosch.

The Springbok selectors have invited Lwazi Mvovo, Cobus Reinach, Lourens Adriaanse (all Cell C Sharks), Handré Pollard, Rudy Paige, Marcel van der Merwe, Bongi Mbonambi (all Vodacom Blue Bulls) and Boela Abrahams, who starred for the Down Touch Griffons in their ABSA Currie Cup First Division final victory on Friday, to join 20 nationally contracted players and 4 others as the team start their preparations for what will be an arduous Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.

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Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams

Dan Carter

Dan Carter

New Zealand welcomed back superstars Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams for next month’s Northern Hemisphere tour, but dropped pivot Colin Slade, despite his heroics against Australia at the weekend.

Flyhalf Carter, the world’s most prolific international points scorer, has not played since breaking his leg in the Super Rugby Final in August, while Williams returns to the All Blacks after two seasons playing Rugby League in Australia.

There is also a return for Aaron Cruden, who has finally been forgiven for his late-night indiscretion in the latter stages of the Rugby Championship.

Coach Steve Hansen also recalled flank Victor Vito at the expense of Steven Luatua, and included promising scrumhalf Augustine Pulu as the only uncapped player in the squad for the four-Test tour.

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USAThe United States has reached an agreement that will allow it to include leading players based in Britain, France and Japan in its team to play New Zealand in a rugby Test in Chicago on 1 November.

Under the agreement, US players in the English Premiership, second-tier IPA Championships, France’s Top 14, Japan’s Top League and Scotland’s Guinness PRO12 will be released for the match at Soldier Field.

The US Eagles’ Test against New Zealand falls outside the International Rugby Board’s window for international matches and clubs are not obliged to release players.

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Grant Gilchrist

Grant Gilchrist

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has named a 33 man squad for the End Of Year Internationals with lock Grant Gilchrist being named as captain.

The honour represents a return for the 24-year-old product of Alloa and Stirling County rugby clubs, who led Scotland twice during the June Internationals, including a 21-19 victory over Argentina in Cordoba.

He will return to the role against the same opposition when the Tests get underway at Murrayfield next month, when Scotland face the Pumas on Saturday 8 November (kick-off 17:30 BST), before facing Rugby Championship winners New Zealand, at the same venue (15 November), followed by Tonga at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (22 November).

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

Scrumhalf Rory Kockott was called into the France squad to face Fiji, Australia and Argentina next month after the South African qualified to play for his adopted nation through residency rules, the French federation said on Sunday.

Castres Olympique player Kockott has been on Philippe Saint-Andre’s radar for some time as the France coach regularly tinkers with his halfback line.

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Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, offered to coach the Wallabies

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika confirmed on Monday he has been offered the Wallabies coaching job left vacant by the resignation of Ewen McKenzie, saying it was “humbling”.

A smiling Cheika, dressed in a Waratahs tracksuit top and black jeans, confirmed the offer when he spoke to the media out the front of Waratahs headquarters at Moore Park. “It’s a pretty humbling experience to be asked to be involved in something like that, but we’ll see what happens,” Cheika said.

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Marnitz Boshoff

Marnitz Boshoff

Springbok flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff is set to join the Barbarians when they take on the Wallabies at Twickenham on 1 November.

Boshoff joins a list of New Zelanders who were added to the squad on Monday along side a large South African contingent that were added earlier in the month.

All Blacks Adam Thomson, Francis Saili and Frank Halai have all been added to the squad to facing Australia and Leicester Tigers in November.

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Ewen McKenzie & Bill Pulver

Ewen McKenzie & Bill Pulver

The Australian Rugby Union is rejecting reports it is preparing to replace Ewen McKenzie as Wallabies coach.

Australian media say talks have taken place between senior union officials and McKenzie’s most-likely successor, New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika.

But in a statement late Monday ARU Chief Executive Bill Pulver said: “the ARU has not had any conversations with any other coaches regarding the Wallabies coaching position.

“Ewen [McKenzie] is coaching the team [against the All Blacks] this weekend and next Friday he will board the plane with the team for the November Tests tour [to Britain] and is contracted to Australian Rugby to lead the Wallabies to next year’s Rugby World Cup.”

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Tony Johnson

Tony Johnson

Before we start treating an All Blacks victory in Brisbane as a fait accompli its worth considering a few things.

It is true that the Wallabies are in a state of disarray, and must be vulnerable.

Their legacy of player power has come back to bite them, and it is extraordinary that their captain should be publically defending a repeat offending player ahead of the team unit, and by extension the coach.

Ewen McKenzie has tried to take a firm line in the past, but despite his strong actions on the end of year tour last year has been unable to instil a sense of no nonsense in the team.

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Johnsonville halfback Jack Taulapapa will put his plumbing apprenticeship on temporary hold after being selected by Samoa.

Apprentice plumber Jack Taulapapa’s rugby career is suddenly flowing as smoothly as an unblocked pipe.

That’s because two weeks ago the 21-year-old Johnsonville halfback got the sort of phone call most club players can only dream about.

“The phone rang out of the blue and it was Alama [Ieremia],” Taulapapa said after his unexpected callup for Samoa’s end of year tour to Europe.

“He just asked me a few questions, checked up on how I was going, and said they were looking to bring a new halfback into the squad, breed a new guy in.

“He said they had a few options, but were checking up on what I was up to and that was really the first contact I’d had.”

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Jake White

Jake White

Tonga have added former Springboks coach Jake White to their backroom staff for the year-end tour to Asia and Europe.

White will serve as a technical advisor to head coach Mana Otai when Tonga plays Georgia, the United States and Scotland next month it was reported by TVNZ.

“Through some mutual acquaintances we got in touch with Jake and he was extremely keen to come on board,” Tonga high performance manager Peter Harding told ONE News.

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Morné Steyn

Morné Steyn

Flyhalf Morne Steyn will not tour with the Springboks on their upcoming trip to Europe, a report on Sunday suggested.

According to the report, only two flyhalves – Handré Pollard and Pat Lambie – will be picked for the tour which includes Tests against Ireland (Dublin, 8 November), England (London, 15 November), Italy (Padova, 22 November) and Wales (Cardiff, 29 November).

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WhistleThe International Rugby Board has announced the match official appointments for upcoming November internationals.

Appointments were made by the IRB Match Official Selection Committee at its recent meeting in Dublin and follow a detailed review of recent performances during the June international window, The Rugby Championship and other matches.

South Africa’s Craig Joubert will kick off a busy month of Tests as teams and officials begin the countdown to Rugby World Cup 2015, when he takes charge of the New Zealand v USA fixture at Soldier Field in Chicago on November 1.

Steve Walsh will be the man in the middle for England’s match with the Springboks and Nigel Owens will officiate at Stade de France when Les Bleus take on Australia, as well as refereeing New Zealand’s visit to Twickenham. Wayne Barnes has been appointed to Wales v New Zealand in Cardiff, while Ireland v Australia in Dublin will be refereed by Glen Jackson. Jérôme Garces will be in charge when the Wallabies take on England and will be in Padova on November 22 to referee Italy v South Africa.

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South Africa20 Springboks contracted by the SA Rugby Union (SARU) will take part in a training camp in Stellenbosch from October 20 to 24, the union announced on Sunday.

The camp forms part of the team’s preparations ahead of the Outgoing Tour next month.

“The Springboks are our first priority and the provinces have been very supportive, which we’re very thankful for,” SARU chief executive officer Jurie Roux said.

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Barbarians RugbyThe Barbarians will have a South African flavour for their matches against the Wallabies and Leicester Tigers in early November.

Barbarians coach Sir John Kirwan has called up former England prop Matt Stevens for the games and he is joined by Eastern Province Kings’ CJ Van der Linde and Cheetahs’ Coenie Oosthuizen and Heinrich Brussow. He has also called upon the services of Sharks flanker Thomas du Toit, Stormers’ Michael Rhodes and back-row Jacques Botes.

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Nick Cummins

Baabaa boy … Nick Cummins will play against the Wallabies.

The Wallabies are set to face one of their own at Twickenham after Nick Cummins agreed to wear the black and white of the Barbarians against Australia in November.

Little more than two months after he left Australia for Japan’s Top League, Cummins has agreed to play for the invitational side in the November 1 fixture that kicks off the Wallabies five-week spring tour of Europe, his manager said.

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England's rugby jersey

NEW DESIGN: England’s rugby jersey features a pattern of crosses resembling the Victoria Cross.

There’s no sign of a change in design, but the Rugby Football Union has issued an apology over the controversial new jersey England will debut against the All Blacks in London in November.

The jersey, manufactured by Canterbury, has drawn criticism for its use of rubber grips across the chest area in the shape of the hallowed Victoria Cross. They were intended to help deaden the impact of the ball and help with grip.

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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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All BlacksUSAThe New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed on Tuesday the All Blacks will travel to take on the USA in Chicago on 1 November.

The world’s best will take on their American counterparts at the 61,000-seater Solider Field stadium, home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

Though rumours and speculation regarding this fixture have bubbled away for nearly six months, it was only on Tuesday that the match was publicly announced as the Kiwis’ newest overseas initiative, with the purposes of drawing on the developing market – boasting huge potential – in the USA, generating a ballpark figure of at least $1 million NZ dollars for the NZRU, and offering the Test side important preparation for the subsequent fixtures in Europe.

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