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WP Nel

WP Nel

WP Nel is due to start a test match for Scotland for the 1st time when they face Italy at BT Murrayfield on Saturday. The burly tighthead prop from Loeriesfontein qualifies to play for Scotland on residency grounds, having played for Edinburgh for the last 3 years. Nel who earned his 1st Scotland cap against Italy in Turin last weekend when he came on as a substitute in the 47th minunte is 1 of 14 changes that has been made to the starting team.

Sean Lamont is the only player who retains his place in the starting line-up from last week with several players in the match day squad making their 1st appearance in this series of warm-up matches.

Head coach Vern Cotter announced his team today and the starting line-up appears to be close to what could be considered his 1st choice 15. The halfbacks and fullback look to be Cotter’s favoured choices while there may still be 1 or 2 changes on the wings and 1 at centre. Up front we are likely to be seeing the 1st choice tight 5 in action while there will possibly still be a change or 2 to the loose forward trio.

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Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess was included in England’s final 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup announced on Thursday just 10 months after changing codes from rugby league.

Burgess, the man-of-the-match in South Sydney Rabbitohs’ win in the Australian National Rugby League Grand Final, was included after playing just 70 minutes of Test rugby union – his debut in a 19 / 14 win over France at Twickenham a fortnight ago seeing him sin-binned for 10 minutes.

The 26-year-old edged out the more experienced Luther Burrell for a place among England coach Stuart Lancaster’s centres even though Burgess spent much of last season playing as a back-row forward for Bath.

Henry Slade, who also impressed on his debut against France at Twickenham, was also included in midfield alongside Burgess – although Jonathan Joseph and Brad Barritt appear to be England’s 1st-choice centres.

Ben Morgan, only recently returned from a broken leg, was included among the back-row forwards with Harlequins veteran Nick Easter missing out while Sale flyhalf Danny Cipriani, as was widely forecast, also failed to make it to the final squad.

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Valerio Bernabo

Valerio Bernabo

Italy veteran Marco Bortolami was sidelined, while Valerio Bernabo was a surprise inclusion in Italy’s 31-man squad for the World Cup.

Lock Bortolami, has amassed 112 caps for the Azzurri and captained them 40 times.

He was 1 of several players cut from an initial 40-man training squad by coach Jacques Brunel.

“It was very difficult to communicate the decision, especially when you’ve put in as much work as the lads have over the past 9 weeks,” said Brunel.

“So to tell several players they were not coming to the World Cup was particularly difficult.”

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EnglandWith England’s recent loss to France in Paris the Springboks have bumped up 1 place to 4th in the World Rugby rankings.

The Spriongboks slumped to a lowly 5th place in the World of their loss to Argentina in Durban during The Rugby Championship, however Rugby World Cup hosts England have now claimed that spot.

With 1 match to go before the start of the Rugby World Cup, England find themselves in danger of going into the tournament ranked lower than Pool A rivals Australia and Wales.

Stuart Lancaster’s men are now just 1.3 points ahead of 6th-placed Wales, who travel to Dublin to play Ireland on Saturday. England conclude their Rugby World Cup warm-up campaign against the Irish the following weekend.

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dannycipriani

Danny Cipriani scoring against France

Sale flyhalf Danny Cipriani will be left out of England’s 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup.

The 27-year-old impressed off the bench in the defeat by France last weekend, but has not done enough to be included in Stuart Lancaster’s final party.

Owen Farrell and George Ford are set to be named as the 2 flyhalves, with Mike Brown and Alex Goode as the fullbacks, leaving no place for Cipriani.

The squad will be confirmed on Thursday at 14:45 SA Time (13:45 BST, 12:45 GMT).

The tournament, held in England and Wales, gets under way on 18 September.

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Philippe Saint-Andre

Philippe Saint-Andre

Experienced flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc will miss the Rugby World Cup which gets underway in England next month.

He was surprisingly omitted from the France squad announced by coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Sunday.

The 28-year-old who played an influential role for France at the 2011 Rugby World Cup when they lost 7 / 8 to the New Zealand All Blacks in the Final – lost out to unpredictable veteran Frederic Michalak (who played in Saturday’s win over England) and Remi Tales.

Trinh-Duc, capped 50 times since being blooded by Marc Lievremont in 2008, found it difficult to impose himself under Saint-Andre and a serious injury last season ruled him out of contention for this season’s Six Nations.

He was given a chance to prove himself worthy of a spot in the 1st game against England a week ago – a 19 / 14 defeat at Twickenham – but evidently failed to convince Saint-Andre and his coaching staff.

“It is a choice which has been made – not only after 7 weeks, but also after 3 years of life with the squad,” said Saint-Andre, who also cited Trinh-Duc’s lack of accuracy at place-kicking.

For Michalak, who will celebrate his 33rd birthday during the tournament, it represents his 3rd Rugby World Cup – having 1st made an impression at international level during the 2003 edition in Australia.

Despite concerns over his fitness and form, Saint-Andre has kept faith with the 72-times capped playmaker.

In contrast to the flyhalf position Saint-Andre has selected 3 scrumhalves, in Morgan Parra (who was Lievremont’s favoured No 9 alongside Trinh-Duc for much of his reign), South African-born Rory Kockott and Michalak’s clubmate Sebastien Tillous-Borde.

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Allan Dell

Allan Dell

Head Coach Vern Cotter today confirmed that seven players have been released from the extended Scotland squad for the Rugby World Cup 2015.

The decision follows the national team’s opening two summer Test matches against Ireland and Italy, with this Saturday’s game against the Azzuri at BT Murrayfield the last chance for the players to stake a claim for the final 31-man squad, before it’s announced the following Tuesday (1 September).

Glasgow Warriors’ pair Mike Cusack (prop) and Rory Hughes (wing) have returned to Scotstoun having made their first outings for the national team this summer, and both starting against Italy in Saturday’s 16-12 win in Turin.

Edinburgh Rugby quintet Allan Dell (prop), Dougie Fife (wing), Damien Hoyland (wing), Ben Toolis (lock) and Hamish Watson (back-row) will rejoin the capital club, with Hoyland and Watson also adding to their international honours at the weekend.

Warriors’ hooker Kevin Bryce – who joined the squad last week as precautionary cover – has also returned to his club.

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ScotlandOn a humid Turin evening Scotland continued their 2015 Rugby World Cup build up with a hard-fought win against an experienced Italy side. Final Score: Italy 12 / 16 Scotland.

Tested in greasy conditions the Scots shut out Italy on the try–count, and capitalised on a rare open passage of play to score the decisive points.

Replacement scrumhalf Henry Pyrgos and centre Peter Horne helped open up a tight Italian defence in the final quarter of the match after Scotland had gone behind for the 1st time in the match 12 / 9.

After a sequence of repelled Scottish attacks an offload in the tackle from wing Sean Lamont to full-back Greig Tonks stretched the Italian defence.

Tonks passed outside to centre Matt Scott who made good yards, drawing the defence, before passing back inside for Pyrgos to finish with just five minutes of the match remaining.

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Roddy Grant

A team of 28, captained by flanker Roddy Grant, has been announced for Edinburgh Rugby’s opening pre-season friendly against Romania at the Greenyards tonight (Friday 21 August, kick-off 18:30 UK Time, 19:30 SA Time).

Bolstering the backs for this season, Edinburgh Rugby announce the signing of winger Otulea Katoa on a 1-year deal.

The Tongan international, who arrived in the capital earlier this week with his wife and 1-year-old son Eli, will bulk up the backs with a number of players involved with Scotland throughout the year.

The 24-year-old, who has been capped 7 times by Tonga, most recently represented his country in July’s Pacific Nations Cup and has been signed from New Zealand provincial side, Southland.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

Springbok utility back Frans Steyn is set to join Montpellier in the French Top 14 and reunite with his World Cup winning coach Jake White.

Steyn is one of many recruits from South Africa and Australia in a completely revamped Montpellier outfit under the guidance of coach White.

White, who had coaching roles at the Sharks and Brumbies as well as the South African national side, has confirmed 20 new signings for Montpellier – with a number of them from places where he used to ply his trade.

The 28-year-old Steyn is no foreigner to France having had a spell at Racing Metro from 2009 – 2012.

His versatility at flyhalf, centre and fullback should be particularly useful to Montpellier, given the many departures announced this off-season for the French club.

The French scene is notorious for big-money signings a look is taken into the major comings and goings in the Top 14 for the season ahead.

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Quintin Geldenhuys

Quintin Geldenhuys

Italy coach Jacques Brunel named Quintin Geldenhuys as captain in a much changed side, with respect to the last Six Nations campaign.

Italy will host Scotland in a Rugby World Cup warm-up game in Turin on Saturday.

With habitual captain Sergio Parisse sidelined with flu-like symptoms, 2nd row forward Geldenhuys has been handed the captain’s armband with Fiji-born Samuel Vunisa stepping into Parisse’s No 8 position.

Brunel has caused a minor surprise in the centres.

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Vern Cotter

Vern Cotter

Coach Vern Cotter has rung the changes to the Scotland team to start against Italy on Saturday.

The Scots will head to Turin’s Stadio Olimpico for the 2nd of their 4 Rugby World Cup warm-up matches.

The match is the 1st of a double-header against the Italians, with the return leg at Murrayfield the following Saturday (29 August).

In all there are 11 new faces taking the field, with the 7 inbound forwards making up an almost entirely new pack, 4 new backs, and 3 starting debuts for John Hardie (back row), Rory Hughes (wing) and Stuart McInally (hooker).

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Frederic MichalakFrance coach Philippe Saint-Andre made 12 changes to his starting line-up for the 2nd of 2 World Cup warm-up games.

France host England at the Stade de France on Saturday.

The French lost 14 / 19 to Stuart Lancaster’s men at Twickenham last Saturday and Saint-Andre is keen to cast an eye over all of his players before cutting back his squad from 36 to 31 on Sunday.

Notably, he has linked up Frederic Michalak with Sebastien Tillous-Borde at halfback, giving both Toulon veterans a chance to state their claims for World Cup squad slots.

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ScotlandThe Scotland medical team issued the following squad update after Saturday’s 28 / 22 loss to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Loose-head prop Ryan Grant left the field of play around the 44th minute having sustained an ankle injury in the lead up to Scotland’s second of three tries.

An x-ray after the game showed no fracture, with the results of a detailed scan later this week expected to give greater insight into the extent of his injury.

Tight-head prop Jon Welsh left the match around the 47th minute for a HIA (head injury assessment), which confirmed his concussion. He is now symptom free and has begun the graduated return-to-play protocol.

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James Hook

James Hook

Mike Phillips

Mike Phillips

Richard Hibbard

Richard Hibbard

Experienced trio James Hook, Mike Phillips and Richard Hibbard were among 8 players released from Wales’s World Cup training squad.

The announcement was made by Welsh coach Warren Gatland on Thursday.

Flyhalf Hook, capped 78 times, scrumhalf Phillips, who has made 94 international appearances, and 38-cap hooker Richard Hibbard failed to make the cut after Gatland trimmed his squad from 46 players to 38.

Jack Dixon, Rhys Patchell, Nicky Smith, Rory Thornton and Dan Baker are the other players who will return to their respective clubs and regions.

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HighlandersToulon RFCEuropean champions Toulon of France and Super Rugby winners the Highlanders of New Zealand are hoping to face-off in Hong Kong on 6 February.

The 1-off fixture brings together triple European champions Toulon with the Highlanders, who landed their 1st Super Rugby title this month.

“Toulon and the Highlanders have sent off a request for agreement from their respective federations,” Philippe Spanghero, a spokesman for the organisers, told AFP.

“When that’s obtained we’ll put together a proposal to World Rugby to get all the required authorisation,” he added.

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Vern Cotter

Vern Cotter

Scottish Rugby is delighted to announce that Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter has committed to the national team by extending his contract to 2017.

Since he took the reins in the summer of 2014, Cotter has brought a confident, attack-minded mentality to Scotland’s on-field approach that has sought to connect with the traditional culture of Scottish play.

He said: “I’m really happy to be able to continue working with the players, the organisation, the Board, and everyone involved.

“There are some talented players with some things to develop, and together we are focused on facing that challenge in what I think are exciting times for Scottish rugby all over.

“There’s a generation of players coming all the way from the new BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academies, Scotland under-20s and the pro clubs into the national team and I’m pleased to be part of that.”

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SpringboksSA Schools coach Hein Kriek and his SA Schools A counterpart Lance Sendin on Monday made wholesale changes to their starting line-ups for the 2nd Round of the Under 18 International Series at Outeniqua Park in George on Tuesday.

The SA Schools team will take on France at 17:00 SA Time and the SA Schools A team will go up against England at 13:00 SA Time.

In the other clash Wales will take on Italy at 15:00 SA Time.

Kriek made 7 changes to his team, which sees 2014 Coca-Cola Craven Week player of the year Curwin Bosch move from flyhalf to fullback, while flyhalf Damian Willemse will join forces with scrumhalf Embrose Papier in a new halfback combination.

The other changes in the backline were on the left wing where Wandisile Similane replaces Manie Libbok and centre Heino Bezuidenhout is selected alongside Stedman Gans, who scored 2 tries in their opening fixture against Wales.

Up-front Kriek retained the flanker combination of Cobus Wiese and captain Ersnt van Rhyn, while Hacjivah Dayimani has been selected at No 8. In the engine room lock Ruben van Heerden will start alongside Ruben de Villiers.

Ashwyn Adams, meanwhile, will start at loosehead prop in a strong front row with tighthead prop Carlu Sadie and hooker Johan Grobbelaar.

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Henry Pyrgos

Henry Pyrgos

Glasgow scrumhalf Henry Pyrgos was on Tuesday named captain of a 25-man Scotland squad for Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match against Ireland in Dublin.

He is joined in the squad by 4 uncapped players: New Zealand-born flanker Hugh Blake, Glasgow prop Mike Cusack, South Africa-born Edinburgh prop Allan Dell and Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally.

Head coach Vern Cotter will name his starting 15 for the clash at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday.

The squad is missing several key players, such as regular captain Greig Laidlaw and 2nd row brothers Richie and Jonny Gray.

After playing Ireland, Scotland will also face Italy twice and France once as they gear up for their opening World Cup Pool B match against Japan in Gloucester on 23 September.

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Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess will make his England debut at centre when Stuart Lancaster’s side host France on Saturday.

The former Great Britain rugby league player is one of three debutants, with centre Henry Slade and flanker Calum Clark the other new faces in the 15.

Head coach Lancaster says Saturday’s match is the final chance for some of his players to impress before he selects his 31-man World Cup squad.

“The following week we’ll probably change a lot,” he said

Burgess, 26, started his union career in midfield for Bath before switching to the back row.

Former England scrumhalf Matt Dawson has questioned Burgess’s “game-management” at inside centre, but Lancaster described the former South Sydney player, who switched codes last October, as a ball carrier who could threaten the gain line.

“It’s an option for us to look at and it’ll be an interesting insight to see whether it goes well at the weekend or not,” he said.

“It’s about what’s right for the team. We’ll see if he can translate what he does in training and see how it goes.”

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Those thinking Springbok lock Victor Matfield will retire for the 2nd time may well be disappointed – it seems the legendary Springbok lock is set for another swansong at English club Bath.

The 38-year old Rugby World Cup winning lock should actually retire from playing after the Rugby World Cup and is contracted to take up a coaching position with the Vodacom Bulls next season, but it seems this may not be the case as he seeks a final payday before turning to coaching.

There have been rumours that since the axing of Frans Ludeke as Bulls coach – the Super Rugby franchise has not found a replacement – that Matfield may not be keen to go into coaching just yet, especially as Ludeke’s proposal to move to Director of coaching with Matfield and Fourie du Preez taking over the coaching reigns, was rejected with the Bulls bad run of results earlier this year.

According to sources close to the Bulls, Matfield was also told that the Bulls would not stand in his way if he decided he didn’t want to take up the coaching contract after the Rugby World Cup.

With this in mind, the news that Bath may want to sign him on a short term deal – a season in England to cap off a long and illustrious career – may well suit the Springbok captain very well, especially with the Pound very strong against the Rand at the moment.

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Joe Schmidt & Warren Gatland

Joe Schmidt (left) and Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland has revealed he and Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt discussed team selection before naming their sides for Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match in Cardiff.

Gatland has handed debuts to four players in an experimental Welsh side.

Wales host Ireland on Saturday, before playing them in Dublin on 29 August and hosting Italy on 5 September.

“Joe rang me last week to talk about what we were looking at in the squad,” Gatland said.

“I said we were going to have a mixed squad with an opportunity for some younger players.

“He sort of indicated that they were probably going to do the same thing.

“I think they will experiment with the squad too.”

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WalesWarren Gatland has revealed there have been altercations in training as the Welsh pack battle for World Cup places.

Members of the Wales squad were involved in fights during training this week as the battle for World Cup places boiled over.

Coach Warren Gatland revealed the incredible edge that has been present in the build-up to Saturday’s sell-out clash with Ireland, admitting members of his pack have become embroiled in physical altercations.

Gatland is delighted with the way his team are preparing for next month’s World Cup and has relished watching his players give everything they have to ensure they make his final cut at the end of this month.

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Scott Williams

Scott Williams

Scott Williams will captain Wales against Ireland on Saturday, leading a team that contains 4 uncapped players.

The Scarlets centre will become Wales’ 131st captain on his 30th Test appearance and will be joined in the centre by uncapped Tyler Morgan.

Ross Moriarty, a double Under 20 World Cup-winner with England, was 1 of 4 uncapped players selected by Wales to face Ireland in this World Cup warm-up match in Cardiff.

The Gloucester flank, 21, was joined by wing Eli Walker, centre Tyler Morgan and lock Dominic Day in the team announced by head coach Warren Gatland on Tuesday.

The fixture at the Millennium Stadium follows intensive training camps in Switzerland and Qatar and is the 1st of 3 warm-up games building up to Wales’s opening World Cup game against Uruguay on 20 September.

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Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

The latest instalment in the Quade Cooper transfer saga has been an exchange of words between the Toulon boss and the Australian coach.

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal launched a relatively tasteless tirade against the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and its prized asset Quade Cooper, whom he threatened would end up as “the 2nd most indebted State after Greece”.

The eccentric Frenchman said that the 150 000 Euros that has been mooted as Cooper’s buyout of his contract was in fact for the promise of a contract – Boudjellal claims that Cooper has actually put pen to paper, which would make that void and has allegedly threatened legal action if Cooper does not show up for his medical soon.

Boudjellal told Midi Olympique: “The moron of the Australian federation who does not understand the case needs to know that the promise of employment is no longer the question.”

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Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt has signed a contract extension that will see the New Zealander remain as head coach of Ireland until at least June 2017, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday.

Schmidt was appointed to the job in 2013 and Ireland have since won back-to-back Six Nations titles, as well as climbing to 3rd place in rugby union’s official world rankings.

The 49-year-old also oversaw wins against South Africa and Australia last season and came within a last-minute score of beating his native New Zealand in 2013 – something no Ireland side has managed in more than a hundred years of trying.

In all, Ireland have won 14 of their 18 Tests under Schmidt and their form has made them 1 of Europe’s standard-bearers at this year’s World Cup in England, which starts in September.

Anything less than a semi-final spot – something Ireland have yet to achieve at a World Cup – would be regarded as a disappointment for an Ireland side whose pool also features France, Italy, Canada and Romania.

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Jamie Hagen

Jamie Hagen

The Melbourne Rebels have signed Irish international prop Jamie Hagan for 2 Super Rugby seasons.

Hagan, 28, a tighthead prop who has made more than 100 appearances for Leinster, Connacht and London Irish, made his full international debut for Ireland against the United States of America in 2013.

Hagan becomes only the 2nd fully capped Irish international to sign for an Australian Super Rugby team, after front-rower Peter Clohessy spent the 1997 season with the Reds.

Hagan said he was looking forward to testing himself in the Southern Hemisphere’s renowned provincial competition.

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British & Irish LionsThe New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) have revealed a packed 10-match programme for the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour, including 3 Tests between the Lions and All Blacks.

In addition to the internationals, the Lions will play all 5 of New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams, the Maori All Blacks and a composite Provincial XV.

NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said the tour was set to generate more demand than the Lions’ last trip in 2005, when 20 000 travelling fans created a boisterous atmosphere and injected an estimated NZ$ 135 million (US$ 90 million) into the economy.

“The series in New Zealand will be a huge occasion, featuring the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and providing almost 6 weeks of incredible rugby,” he said.

The Lions tour every 4 years, with the event rotated between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, where last time out they overcame the Wallabies 2 / 1 in 2013.

They lost 0 / 3 when last in New Zealand in 2005, with the defining moment a spear tackle on Brian O’Driscoll early in the 1st Test that forced the Irishman out of the tour.

Overall, New Zealand have won 27 Tests and the Lions 6 since the tours began in 1888, with the visitors achieving their only series win in 1971.

NZRU also revealed it will host Wales in June next year for a 3-Test series against the All Blacks.

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Stuart Lancaster

Stuart Lancaster

England head coach Stuart Lancaster has culled 5 players from his original wider squad for their next training camp in Denver.

The unlucky soles are Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje, Stephen Myler, Nick Easter and Ed Slater.

Daly, Slater, Itoje and Myler will return to their clubs to be on standby, while Easter is suffering from a back injury and will return to Harlequins for treatment, before rejoining the squad on 2 August following their post-Denver break.

Bad boy Danny Cipriani is still in the mix as Lancaster is waiting on the outcome of the drink-driving case before he makes a decision on the flyhalf.

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England Rugby World Cup 2015 jersey

England Rugby World Cup 2015 jersey

 

Hosts England will have a 3D look at the World Cup, following the unveiling of their jersey on Monday.

England put the unveiling of the innovative England jersey in the hands of their most committed supporters, with more than 3 600 fans publishing the exclusive 1st image of the new shirt across their Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr feeds.

England captain Chris Robshaw was then joined by his teammates to officially reveal the team kit to the assembled media at Twickenham Stadium, before meeting with a number of core fans.

The new shirt features a range of innovations that have been developed through more than 220 hours of testing and over 250 000 miles of travel to improve both the look, feel and performance of the kit.

The rose symbolises the connection between the fans and the players and between former internationals who have worn the shirt and those who wear it now. In a striking innovative twist the rose has been 3D injection moulded, developed through rapid prototyping technology to standout in a way that merits the significance of the rose for players and fans alike. The shirt also features contoured ‘ball deadening’ grip placement to complement the players’ physique.

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Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen’s kicking coach has confirmed Western Province’s interest in the Springbok pivot and says the player is ‘considering’ all possible options.

Media reports earlier this month indicated that the Capetonians were interested in signing Goosen as a replacement for Demetri Catrakilis, who will join Montpellier in France after this year’s Currie Cup.

Bertus Pretorius, who is Goosen’s kicking coach in Bloemfontein, confirmed the interest in his player.

Goosen though still has 2 seasons left on his contract with Racing Metro in France and WP would have to fork out a lot of money to sign him.

“Any player will always consider possibilities (to move) and it’s not necessarily only WP. But Goose has a 3-year contract with Racing (should WP fail in their quest to lure him) and he’ll honour it, like he did with the Cheetahs,” Pretorius said.

Goosen though appears not to be a happy camper in France, with Racing coach Laurent Labit recently accusing the Springbok pivot of not attending French classes as well as not taking things serious enough at practice.

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Taulupe Faletau

Taulupe Faletau

A potential move by barnstorming Newport-Gwent Dragons No 8 Taulupe Faletau to English Premiership team Bath would not hinder his international chances, Wales head coach Warren Gatland insisted on Thursday.

The so-called “Gatland’s law” was put in place with the theory that home-based players would be favoured over those choosing to ply their trade overseas.

But it has appeared increasingly irrelevant, with a host of current Welsh internationals turning out for the national side despite playing in England or France, although the ‘law’ will reportedly only allow 2 wildcard selections from those playing outside the country after this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Tonga-born Faletau has a year left on his Dragons contract, but it seems increasingly likely he will be bought out of that deal, to the reported value of £ 250 000.00, with Premiership club Bath keen to sign the 24-year-old British and Irish Lions forward.

“We’re discussing it at the moment with the Dragons, the regions and Bath,” Gatland said.

“Toby’s got the biggest choice to make, that’s ongoing and hopefully that gets sorted out in the next week.

“There is potential there for Toby to move, that’s up to him, but he wouldn’t be hampered by that.

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Wandile Mjekevu

Wandile Mjekevu

The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of utility back Wandile Mjekevu on a 2-year deal effective from July this year.

After having spent time with the Lions and the Sharks, the former junior Springbok joined French Top 14 club Perpignan in 2013 where he gained some valuable experience at the club and got the opportunity to further develop his game.

Commenting on Mjekevu’s signing, the Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, said they were delighted to bring the once promising young talent to Durban.

“We are delighted that Wandile has decided to return to the Sharks,” said Gold.

“He had a great stint in France and he is an unbelievable prospect. His strength and agility around the park will most certainly bolster our backline and we look forward to him progressing at the franchise.”

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Serge Blanco

Serge Blanco

Serge Blanco resigned as Biarritz president on Tuesday following his unsuccessful attempt to merge the club with Basque rivals Bayonne.

Blanco needed a 2-thirds majority in Biarritz’s general meeting to merge the fallen French giants with their regional rivals, but fell short.

Venezuelan-born Blanco, who was at Biarritz during his entire playing career, leaves the club in the 2nd-tier Pro D2 – the same division as Bayonne.

The decision comes as a surprise following the Biarritz board’s approval of the merger last week, but rival fans of Bayonne were among those to share their concerns.

Blanco, a French legend with 93 caps, had been in discussions with Bayonne’s president Manu Merin about the merger, and voiced his disappointment during Tuesday’s meeting, in which he resigned.

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CJ van der Linde

CJ van der Linde

Former Springbok coach Jake White has lured another South African player to Montpellier in France.

White has signed former Springbok prop CJ van der Linde from the EP Kings.

34-Year-old Van der Linde, who played 75 Tests for the Springboks, will join his new club at the end of this month.

His departure is a big blow for the EP Kings, as the former Springbok prop was also their scrum coach.

Van der Linde joins a large South African contingent at the ambitious Top 14 club.

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