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European Rugby

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Rugby World Cup 2015Russia will take the narrowest of leads with them to Montevideo in two weeks’ time after they beat Uruguay 22-21 in Saturday’s first leg of the final Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifier in Krasnoyarsk. However, while no team likes to lose a game of rugby, Uruguay’s Pablo Lemoine will probably be the more satisfied of the two coaches as his side is still very much in contention at what is effectively half-time. Of course, the fact that the second half will most likely be played on a warm day in front 12,000 home fans will give him cause for optimism after his team held their own in the near-freezing conditions and vociferous Siberian crowd of the first 80 minutes.

But for Russia’s indiscipline and the cultured right boot of fly-half Felipe Berchesi, who slotted seven penalties, the gap would have been more. Two yellow cards, a high penalty count and the spurning of several try-scoring opportunities did nothing for the mood of Russia coach Raphael Saint-Andre but he will know that his team was the more creative on the day and, if they can somehow learn to compete at set pieces and improve their defence at mauls, they too can make the long journey to South America with some confidence.

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Guinness PRO12The fourth round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with three matches scheduled for Friday night, two for Saturday and one for Sunday.

In one of the fixtures on Friday night second placed Glasgow Warriors play hosts to third placed Connacht at Scotstoun Stadium. Both teams have won all three of their PRO12 matches this season, with Glasgow Warriors one point ahead Connacht thanks to the try scoring bonus point they picked up away from home against Newport Gwent Dragons last weekend.

The only other team who has won all three of their PRO12 matches this season are the Ospreys who top the table. They face an away trip to Ireland to face 5th placed Munster on Saturday evening.

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Tyrone Holmes

Tyrone Holmes receiving his marching orders against the Dragons.

Glasgow’s Tyrone Holmes has received a one-week ban after being sent off for stamping on an opponent during the PRO12 game against Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade last Saturday.

League organisers confirmed the Glasgow flanker appeared before an independent disciplinary committee in Dublin on Wednesday.

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Dylan Hartley

Dylan Hartley

When the World Cup kicks off in a little under a year’s time, England will have played all but one of the other nine sides in the top ten of the current IRB World Rankings. Psychologically, it is a huge 12 months for next year’s hosts.

In the past few seasons, they have made huge strides in the right direction – but they are not the finished product yet.

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Finn Russell

Birthday Boy Finn Russell kicks one over for Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ at the foot of the monument in Stirling

A young Edinburgh ‘A’ side, which included eight EDPs (Elite Development Players), faced the tall task of taking on an experienced Glasgow Warriors squad, in what was deemed an away fixture for the Gunners at Bridgehaugh, home of Stirling County.

The inaugural reserve team game gave many of Edinburgh’s young Scottish players the chance to gain some valuable minutes in the Gunners shirt, with many of them putting their hands up and staking a claim for promotion into the first team squad.

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Guinness PRO12Leinster’s indifferent start to the season continued as they slipped to a second loss of the campaign away at Connacht, going down 10-9.

The defending champions had led 9-3 at half-time thanks to three Ian Madigan penalties but Kieran Marmion’s solo try ensured Connacht – who had lost their previous 11 all-Ireland clashes – preserved their 100 per cent start to the season.

At the Liberty Stadium, Ospreys ran in nine tries against Edinburgh to consolidate their one point lead at the top of the table.

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Rory Kockott

Happy man: Rory Kockott

Castres scrum-half and new France squad member Rory Kockott has revealed that playing for Les Bleus has always been his aim.

The South African joined Castres in 2011 and has been a roaring success in the Top 14, guiding his club to two league finals and one title.

Having now qualified on residency, Kockott has been named in France’s squad for the upcoming November Tests.

There has been much speculation over the last year as to whether Kockott would play for his adopted country or be selected by the Springboks, but now his decision is clear.

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Glasgow WarriorsGlasgow Warriors maintained their 100% winning start to the season with a 33-13 win over Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on Saturday afternoon.

Four tries from Alex Dunbar, Josh Strauss, Tommy Seymour and Tim Swinson mean the Warriors return to Scotstoun with the bonus point.

Glasgow’s other points came from the boots of Duncan Weir and Stuart Hogg.

The Warriors had to play most of the second-half with fourteen players after Tyrone Holmes received a controversial red card for stamping.

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EdinburghAlan Solomons Edinburgh left the Liberty Stadium on Sunday with their egos battered and bruised following a second half onslaught by the Ospreys in their third round Guinness PRO12 fixture. The score was 0/0 at some point, but that was before kick off and didn’t last too long once the referee’s whistle had blown to start the game as Ospreys impressive scrumhalf, and man of the match, Rhys Webb scored a try in the first minute.

The home side had already score three tries by half time with Edinburgh dotting down once as they went into the break with the score – Ospreys 24/10 Edinburgh Rugby. Edinburgh’s last points of the match came shortly after half time from the boot of Tom Heathcote as he slotted a penalty which went over after hitting the right hand upright. It was one way traffic from here on as Ospreys piled on the points and won the match by almost 50 points, scoring nine tries in the process. The final score was Ospreys 62/13 Edinburgh Rugby and is the biggest margin of victory so far this season.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

France head coach Philippe Saint-André has named five uncapped players in his squad for November’s Tests, with Rory Kockott included.

Props Uini Atonio and Xavier Chiocci, back-row Charles Ollivon and wing Teddy Thomas are the new players joining Kockott in the Les Bleus mix.

Kockott is one of just two scrum-halves in the group, joining Sébastien Tillous-Borde while Camille Lopez, Remi Tales and François Trinh-Duc are the 10 options available to Saint-André.

Saint-André has dispensed with the services of loosehead Thomas Domingo and back-row forwards Antonie Claassen and Fulgence Ouedraogo while Maxime Machenaud, Dimitri Szarzewski and Morgan Parra also miss out.

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The great Peter Cranmer makes a break against Wales in 1935

The great Peter Cranmer makes a break against Wales in 1935

International coaches – and selection panels before them – traditionally prize solidity at centre, and nowhere more than in England.

Which is not to say that they’ve not had great creative centres; Jeff Butterfield, Jerry Guscott and Will Greenwood had talents that would have been welcomed in any team in the world.

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ERCC LlogoThe inaugural Champions Cup will kick off next month without all its major sponsors in place, one of the new European competition’s key architects has admitted.

European rugby bosses are yet to sign off any main-partner deals, just four weeks before the replacement for the Heineken Cup gets underway.

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Andy Irvine

Andy Irvine

The results of today’s referendum in Scotland could have an impact on the British & Irish Lions.

If Scotland votes ‘Yes’, it may have to re-brand to reflect the altered political landscape and constitutional agreement. From their 1891 roots as the ‘British Isles’, today’s poll may see them eventually become simply ‘The Lions’.

With this in mind, Scrum Sevens looks back at seven great Scottish players who gave body, blood and sweat for the British & Irish Lions’ cause.

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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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Leigh Halfpenny

Leigh Halfpenny

Cardiff Blues and Ospreys are interested in signing Leigh Halfpenny if his Toulon contract is terminated.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal says Halfpenny’s ongoing injuries could lead to his departure without playing a game since arriving for 2014-15.

Blues director and Wales legend Gareth Edwards said: “We’d welcome him with open arms.”

Ospreys coach Steve Tandy said: “We’d always be interested in the quality of Halfpenny, but it’s paper talk.”

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Guinness PRO12The third round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with three matches scheduled for Friday night, two for Saturday and one for Sunday.

Welsh outfit the Ospreys, who are unbeaten in the PRO12 this season, will head into round 3 at the top of the table with nine points. The only two other unbeaten teams are Glasgow Warriors and Connacht who are in 2nd and 3rd position respectively. Ulster are the other team in the top 4, courtesy of a draw and a win in their first two fixtures and they are the only team who have two bonus points for scoring four tries or more. Ulster top the try scoring list at this early stage in the competition having scored nine tries in their two matches. However, they have conceded the most tries, a handful, of the teams in the top four.

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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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Guinness PRO12Connacht continued their winning start to the season with another tight triumph, this time a 14-13 victory over Edinburgh Rugby thanks to Willy Faloon’s last-gasp try.

Tom Heathcote’s boot and a try from Cornell du Preez gave Edinburgh a 13-6 lead at half time; Connacht’s points coming from two Darragh Leader penalties.

Faloon was sent to the sin bin with 16 minutes left on the clock, but returned to touch down the winning try in the dying minutes.

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England

England’s new alternate strip

England have broken the mould with their new kit as they have moved the rose to the centre of the shirt for the first time.

The kit will be worn by England throughout the 2014-15 campaign with a new strip unveiled before the start of next year’s World Cup.

In addition to the new-look home shirt, England have reverted back to a traditional red change strip which will be worn against Samoa in the autumn internationals.

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European SevensIt was a tight-knit England squad that landed the Cup at the European Sevens Grand Prix Series event in Manchester, according to a prolific Tom Bowen.

Bowen scored four tries across the weekend, including one in Sunday evening’s final, as England saw off a resilient French outfit to win 28-21.

They had to come from behind twice to beat France and lift the trophy, while Scotland and Portugal also took home silverware with the Plate and the Bowl respectively.

“We came here to win the tournament,” said Bowen. “There’s not many of us, so when you spend so much time together, especially on these tours, you become really good friends and it makes you perform better.

“I’m happy with my own personal performance. There are a few things I’ve got to work on but pleased with what I did in the final and what I did all tournament really.

“I managed to get a few tries so I’m happy enough with that.”

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SaracensWhen David Strettle crossed the try line in the final seconds of our game against London Wasps at Twickenham last weekend, there was a sick sense of deja vu.

With Saracens losing by a point, the TMO was promptly called upon for his expert opinion and, much like the brutal closing seconds of last year’s final, we stood around helplessly as the grounding of the ball was dissected from every imaginable angle….

But let me take you take you back a few weeks to the Lollapalooza music festival, where the team got together after a brutal week’s training in a baking hot Chicago.

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sco7s_team_2_0Scotland 7’s will compete in the Manchester 7’s Cup quarter-finals today (Sunday 14 September), following two victories against Italy (24-19) and Georgia (45-0) yesterday.

The Scots will play Russia at 11.06am, at the AJ Bell Stadium, as they look to improve on their third place finish, in the last Rugby Europe tournament in Moscow back in June.

After the disappointment of a, 5-12 loss to Spain, the side grew in confidence and composure, as each of the remaining ties past.

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British & Irish Lions

British & Irish Lions

Former British and Irish Lions prop Phil Vickery has called on the combined side to resist pressure to change their name should Scotland vote for independence next week.

The Lions could be forced to drop the word ‘British’ from their title if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom.

John Spencer, England’s representative on the Lions board and the manager for the team’s 2017 tour of New Zealand, said officials would discuss a possible name change in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote.

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FranceFrance head coach Phillipe Saint-André has announced that he and other members of the French rugby heirachy have identified ten foreigners they would like to play for the French team in the near future.

The list of ten players, all of whom ply their trade in the Top 14, includes current European Player of the Year Steffon Armitage, who has been capped by England on five occasions, and South African Rory Kockott.

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OspreysNew Ospreys lock De Kock Steenkamp is keen to nail his colours to the mast and break into the Welsh national team.

The deal for the South African-born star was approved by Wales Rugby Union and covers the three years it would take for him to achieve qualification through residency.

And Steenkamp admits he would relish the chance to represent the Red Dragons once he has established himself in the Guinness PRO12.

“I’d be delighted,” he said.  “As far as I know, the only foreigners that can come to Wales must be eligible to play for Wales in three years’ time, so that’s why the contract is for three years.”

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Guinness-Pro12The second round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with four matches scheduled for Friday night, one for Saturday and one for Sunday.

Both matches involving teams from Scotland will be played on modern artificial pitches. In the first match, tonight, Edinburgh Rugby will play host to Connacht Rugby at BT Murrayfield in what will be the first match on the newly laid hybrid pitch at the National Stadium. The final fixture of the weekend will see a top four clash between Cardiff Blues and Glasgow Warriors on the 3G pitch at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.

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Liam Williams

Liam Williams (centre) Red Carded (following two yellows) against Ulster.

The case involving Liam Williams, the Scarlets full back, was considered today by an independent Guinness PRO12 Disciplinary Committee.

Williams had been dismissed with a red card (after having received two yellow cards) in the Guinness PRO12 match between Scarlets and Ulster at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

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Alfred Mayssonnie, 1912

Alfred Mayssonnie in 1912

The odds were always that the first rugby international killed in action in the First World War would be a Frenchman.

The French were the first major rugby nation directly involved, facing a German invasion of their territory almost as soon as the war started.

Stade Toulousain half-back Alfred Mayssonnie – ‘Maysso’ to friends and fans alike – joined up as soon as war was declared, appointed a non-commissioned officer in the 259th Infantry Regiment. Within three weeks he had earned a mention in his regiment’s orders of the day with his bravery in an action at d’Amel-Eton, north-east of Verdun.

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Matt Giteau

Wanted man… Matt Giteau playing for Toulon.

Matt Giteau has long been lost to the Wallabies for next year’s World Cup, but the bidding in French rugby for his services speaks volumes about his value as a player.

Giteau, an established star in the Top 14 champion Toulon club in the south of France, has reportedly become the target of the Paris-based Racing Metro club with a €1 million ($1.4 million) a year offer reportedly on the table.

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Rory Kockott

France call-up near: Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott’s wait for a taste of international rugby appears to be over as he meets with Philippe Saint-André this week.

The South African-born scrum-half looks certain to be part of the French squad for the November Tests according to the Midi Olympique, with Saint-André preparing to announce an initial squad on September 21 for a training camp.

Kockott became eligible for Les Bleus in July, and having been overlooked by Heyneke Meyer for the Rugby Championship, despite a scrum-half crisis, the Castres star seems to have settled on playing for France.

He will meet Saint-André this week, with the French coach eager to increase the competition on current scrum-halves Maxime Machenaud and Morgan Parra.

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Guinness Pro12Reigning champions Leinster were toppled by beaten finalists Glasgow Warriors at Scostoun, with Stuart Hogg slotting over the winning penalty with the last kick of the game.

Warriors stormed to a 19-0 lead with tries from Peter Horne, Josh Strauss and Jonny Gray, but then Leinster staged a late revival.

Jack McGrath and Tom Denton found their way over the whitewash to put the Irish province into the lead for the first time, but ill-discipline in the dying minutes led to Hogg’s successful penalty.

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Zac Guildford

Zac Guildford

French rugby club Clermont will be without Zac Guildford for up to four weeks after the former All Black and teammate Jonathan Davies were assaulted.

The 25-year-old Kiwi, who had a record of ill discipline off the pitch in New Zealand before he made the move to France in the summer, was left with a badly-bruised jaw.

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De Kock Steenkamp

De Kock Steenkamp

Welsh club Ospreys have confirmed that they have signed Stormers lock De Kock Steenkamp on a three-year contract, despite the player having one more year on his contract in the Cape.

Steenkamp, 27, secured an early release from his Stormers contract and will join the PRO12 club after representing the Stormers on 49 occasions in Super Rugby and playing 59 games for the Western Province in the Currie Cup.

“Joining the Ospreys is a great opportunity for me and a challenge that I can’t wait to get stuck into,” said Steenkamp in a statement on Ospreys’ official website.

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