Owen 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.
Glasgow Warriors left it late but eventually overcame a huge challenge from Ulster to clinch a PRO12 Grand Final place.
The Irish province had much the better of the opening exchanges and took control midway through the opening period with Chris Henry’s try.
But Glasgow came out fired up for the 2nd half and kept themselves in touch before DTH van der Merwe levelled the scores on his final Scotstoun appearance 5 minutes from time.
The score sent the 10 000 sell-out crowd into ecstasy but there was still work to be done as Finn Russell lined up the decisive conversion.
New Zealand’s Crusaders announced on Wednesday they will play English Premiership club Saracens in New Orleans on 1 August, in a fixture designed to capitalise on growing US interest in rugby.
The Crusaders, 7-time Super Rugby champions, said they will field their development side for the 1-off fixture at the 70 000 capacity SuperDome.
Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said the match, to be called The Hemispheres Cup, was a rare north-south club clash.
Charles Piutau has been told by the New Zealand Rugby Union that he cannot play for the Blues next year.
The 23-year-old, has accepted a deal with Pro12 club Ulster midway through the 2016 year, and he wanted to play for the Blues before he left.
If Piutau was allowed to continue playing in Auckland next year he would be available for more than 10 of the Blues Super Rugby games in the 2016 season before his obligations at Ulster began.
However NZRU has denied the opportunity for the 23-year-old to continue playing for the Blues next year, applying its regulation that Super Rugby players must available for All Blacks Test duty.
Former Springbok coach Jake White was being linked as a possible successor to France coach Philippe Saint-Andre.
Saint-Andre, who has won only 15 of 37 Tests in charge of France, will step down after this year’s Rugby World Cup in England and Wales.
According to Britain’s Telegraph, there is no shortage of top coaches eager to replace him, with White and former England coach Clive Woodward believed to be in the running.
Woodward, England’s 2003 World Cup winning mentor, has reportedly been involved in discussions with French bosses and it is alleged as many as 66 names were presented and they have been whittled down to a shortlist of 8.
Stuart Lancaster has announced England’s extended training squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The 50-man group will meet up at Pennyhill Park on Monday 22 June to begin preparing for the tournament, which starts against Fiji, at Twickenham, on Friday 18 September.
England will also face France home and away and Ireland at Twickenham as part of the QBE Internationals as they build towards the World Cup.
Five eye-catching inclusions are Luke Cowan-Dickie, Maro Itoje, Sam Burgess, Elliot Daly and Henry Slade, all of whom featured in an 18 / 9 victory for England Saxons over Ireland Wolfhounds back in January.
Calum Clark and Ed Slater bring the tally of uncapped players to 7. Each of them will be vying for a Test debut.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has favoured experience as he named Montpellier flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc and Toulon veteran Frederic Michalak in his 36-man squad for the World Cup.
Trinh-Duc, 28, and Michalak, 32, were given the nod ahead of Clermont flyhalf Camille Lopez, 26, for the 18 September to 31 October tournament in England.
“We really chose experience,” said Saint-Andre, whose side bid to overturn a record of just 15 wins for 2 draws and 20 defeats in the past 3 years.
“Both in terms of Francois Trinh-Duc, who has returned to form for his club and knows a World Cup (2011) as has Remi Tales, who knows our systems well and the France team,” the France coach continued.
Springbok loose forward Francois Louw is backing his Bath teammate Sam Burgess to make his debut for England on the flank.
Rugby League convert Burgess has impressed since moving to the back row from the centres, and is widely tipped to be included in England’s pre-World Cup training squad – which will be named on Wednesday.
“I don’t think Sam will struggle at international level,” said Louw. “He will hold his own.”
“Stuart Lancaster has his hands full with loose forwards, but it’s not going to be too long before Sam makes his international debut on the flank.”
“Maybe it will be at this year’s World Cup and I’ll see him there.”
The Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, are set to sign a deal with French club Montpellier, a report in French media indicates.
Reports surfaced earlier this year that the Springbok brothers would join Montpellier on a 2-year deal after the conclusion of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but Montpellier denied it at the time.
However, according to RMC Sport, the double signing of the Sharks duo is expected to be announced in the coming days.
The Du Plessis brothers are believed to have respected their earlier commitment despite having some contact with Toulon.
Montpellier are coached by former Springbok coach Jake White, who was quoted as saying after their weekend defeat at Stade Francais: “Big names will be announced in the coming days. To win the Top 14, you need the best players in the world.”
English 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.
In the early minutes of the 2nd half at Scotstoun there was a lineout on the main stand side of the pitch, a routine set-piece that wouldn’t have mattered a damn except for the light it shone on Glasgow’s mindset at the time.
Ulster were in position 1st. Organised and buzzing and in the lead by 10 / 6. Glasgow trooped into line sluggishly.
Glasgow’s Jonny Gray stopped en route to take some instruction from the sideline and then assumed his place, slowly. Their mission to bank a home PRO12 semi-final was always going to be mountainous, but now, in these bleak moments, it had taken on the look of Everest.
Al Kellock returns to the Glasgow Warriors side for today’s massive Guinness PRO12 match with Ulster at a sold-out Scotstoun Stadium (kick-off 15:00 BST, 16:00 SA Time).
The Warriors captain, who replaces the injured Tim Swinson in the 2nd-row, could be making his final appearance at Scotstoun, following the announcement that he is to retire from rugby at the end of the season.
2nd-placed Glasgow can still secure a home play-off, but Ulster are also playing for home advantage next weekend.
With an increased capacity of around 10 000 it will be the club’s biggest home crowd for a regular season game and tickets for this match sold out in record time.
Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak has signed a 2-and-a-half-year deal with Western Province Rugby and will be available for selection from 1 July, once he has completed his current club commitments in France.
The 30-year-old will make the move back to South Africa from French giants, Toulouse; joining Nic Groom, Louis Schreuder and Godlen Masimla as the senior scrumhalf options for the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province.
The quicksilver Vermaak has won 3 Test caps for the Springboks, making his debut against Italy on 8 June 2013, before also featuring against the Wallabies and the All Blacks later that season.
England rugby union player Manu Tuilagi will not play in the World Cup after admitting assaulting police officers, head coach Stuart Lancaster has said.
The Leicester Tigers centre, 23, was fined £ 6 205.00 when he appeared before magistrates.
He had been charged with 2 counts of assaulting a police officer, assault by beating and causing criminal damage, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
Lancaster said he would not be considered for England until January.
Despite signing a contract to join Clermont next season, New Zealand Rugby is reportedly hopeful of retaining Super Rugby’s top try-scorer, Waisake Naholo.
Quotes attributed to the club’s Sporting Director, Jean-Marc Lhermet, suggest the move is not a foregone conclusion given the form of the Highlanders’ winger, who has a competition-leading 8 tries in his 11 appearances.
“As it stands we have a contract of 2 years with an option that has been signed by the player,” Lhermet told La Montagne – a newspaper based in Clermont.
“It’s true that his agent reassured us initially when there were noises about the NZRU wanting to keep him. Now, his performances in Super Rugby are remarkable and we are under an increasing amount of pressure from the NZRU. And when the All Black machine gets going, it becomes complicated.
South Africa’s Gio Aplon and Australia’s George Smith are among the new additions to the Barbarians squad for this month’s matches against Ireland and England.
Smith, the Lyon flank, is one of 5 players from 5 different countries named as the famous invitation club continues its 125th anniversary celebrations.
Head coach Robbie Deans has also added Springbok Aplon (Grenoble), Tonga prop Soane Tonga’uiha (Oyonnax), Uruguay lock Rodrigo Capo Ortega (Castres) and Japan No 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani (Panasonic Wild Knights) to his squad.
They join up with the likes of Joe Rokocoko, Adam Jones, Alex Cuthbert and Berrick Barnes for the matches against Ireland at Thomond Park on 28 May and an England XV at Twickenham on 31 May.
Tighthead prop Jacobie Adriaanse is the latest South African set to join Jake White at French club Montpellier.
Adriaanse, 29, will be available for Montpellier from June after ending his stint with Welsh club, Llanelli Scarlets.
Adriaanse has represented the Scarlets 51 times since joining them in November 2012.
His contract with Montpellier is only until after the Rugby World Cup (October 31).
Adriaanse said that he could consider staying longer should things fall in place.
Free-scoring Fiji rugby Sevens powerhouse Semi Kunatani has joined French Top 14 club Toulouse on a 2-year deal, the club said on Tuesday.
The rampaging 24-year-old can play as a lock, flank or wing and with 37 international tries since his debut in 2013 he is seen as one of the best sevens players in the world.
The Scottish Rugby Union is set to spend a 6-figure fee to sign powerhouse Fijian-born wing Taqele Naiyaravoro, with the aim of making him eligible to play for Scotland after a 3-year residency period.
Naiyaravoro, who has been compared to All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, declined to comment on reports he had signed with Edinburgh, but Waratahs CEO Greg Harris said the Fijian-born powerhouse had a contractual obligation to the Scottish team.
This clause in the contract states that if the Australians call him up for international duty, he will remain in the Southern Hemisphere.
According to reports in Australia, New South Wales Waratahs wing Naiyaravoro has been allocated to Edinburgh as part of a 3-year deal worth AUS $ 1 million to the 23-year-old.
Scotland’s most-capped prop Euan Murray announced his retirement from international rugby yesterday.
The 34-year-old brings down the curtain on an international career that began against Romania ten years ago, included the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa and the 2008 Calcutta Cup victory over England, and ended with his record-breaking outing against Ireland in the final game of the 2015 RBS 6 Nations.
Springbok Morné Steyn’s long-range kicking capability took centre stage as Stade Francais overcame the early Red Carding of captain Sergio Parisse to beat Parisian rivals Racing-Metro 28 / 19 in Top 14 action on Sunday.
The win leaves Stade in 4th in the table behind leaders Toulon, Clermont and Toulouse, with Oyonnax in 5th above Racing in 6th.
With just 2 games of the regular season to play, the pressure will be on in the fight to nail down a spot in the top 6 for the end-of-season play-offs.
Meakes suspended for 2 weeks:
The Gloucester centre, Bill Meakes, has been suspended for 2 weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin yesterday (Thursday 7 May) arising from the European Challenge Cup final against Edinburgh at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday 1 May 2015.
Meakes was sent off by referee, Jérôme Garcès (France), in the 64th minute of the match for an alleged dangerous tackle on the Edinburgh centre, Sam Beard (No 13), in contravention of Law 10.4(e).
ASM Clermont Auvergne fullback Nick Abendanon has been named as the EPCR European Player of the Year 2015 after an outstanding individual performance in the European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.
The 28 year-old capped an excellent European campaign with a try-scoring performance in the final and, despite his club’s loss to RC Toulon, he topped the EPCR attack stats for the showpiece final with 155 metres made from 17 carries.
The 2008 Challenge Cup winner started all of Clermont’s 9 European Rugby Champions Cup matches at fullback and in his 693 minutes on the field made a massive contribution to his club’s run to a 2nd European Cup final.
The EPCR Champions Cup tournament stats highlight the player’s consistent world-class performances throughout the European campaign with Abendanon topping 4 attack categories racking up 112 carries, 929 metres made, 13 clean breaks and beating 34 defenders on the way to scoring 4 tries.
The former England international received a specially struck EPCR gold medal in recognition of the prestigious accolade, which was presented by ASM Clermont Auvergne Head Coach Franck Azéma in Clermont-Ferrand today.
Welsh internationals Adam Jones and Alex Cuthbert will represent the Barbarians against England and Ireland this month.
Former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans invited the duo – neither of whom have played for the Barbarians before – to join his squad for the games at Thomond Park on 28 May and Twickenham on 31 May.
Deans’ squad already includes former New Zealand winger Joe Rokocoko, Australia back Berrick Barnes and triple European Champions Toulon’s leading try scorer David Smith.
Jones, who has retired from international rugby and moves from Cardiff Blues to Harlequins this summer, was thrilled by the opportunity to don the Barbarians’ iconic black and white jersey for the 1st time.
All Black wing Zac Guildford has ended his contract with Clermont a year early to return home for personal reasons as soon as possible.
The wing has faced personal problems before under the All Blacks and Crusaders.
Guildford is looking to be closer to his family and could depart as early as this weekend.
“Faced with personal problems, Zac could not stand the distance between here and New Zealand and he expressed his wish to join relatives,” a statement read.
The Reds believe the Australian Rugby Union’s revised contracting system could convince star playmaker Quade Cooper to remain in Brisbane.
Cooper’s future remains a hot topic of conversation, following the announcement by Toulon than the 53-Test veteran had signed a 2-year contract with the French club.
Cooper, the Reds and the ARU vehemently denied his departure is a done deal – accusing the Top 14 club of jumping the gun.
It is now reported that Cooper has been offered a 4-year flexible contract by the ARU, which will allow him to play in Japan during the off-season and return for Super Rugby to remain eligible for the Wallabies.
Reds coach Richard Graham, addressing a media scrum in Brisbane on Monday, said they remain optimistic that Cooper will not take up the Toulon offer.
Australian wing Drew Mitchell’s brilliant late try ensured Toulon became the 1st club to win 3 successive Premier European titles as they beat French rivals Clermont 24 / 18 in a thrilling European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham.
Clermont were 11 / 3 up midway through the 1st half, yet turned round at the break with Toulon leading 16 / 11 – after Leigh Halfpenny’s remorseless boot and a converted try by Mathieu Bastareaud saw the champions into the lead.
But Nick Abendanon’s converted try for Clermont just after the hour cut Toulon’s lead to a point only, only for Drew Mitchell to have the last word.
Toulon and Wales fullback Halfpenny punished Clermont’s indiscipline with 4 penalties and also kicked a conversion in a 14-point haul.
Matt Giteau said he would love to return to Twickenham with the Wallabies at this year’s World Cup after guiding Toulon to a 3rd straight European title.
Giteau was at flyhalf in an all-star international backline featuring Wales’s Leigh Halfpenny and South Africa’s Bryan Habana as Toulon beat French rivals Clermont 24 / 18 in the European Rugby Chamions Cup Final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Having made his Test debut as a 20-year-old at Twickenham back in 2002, Giteau effectively called time on his 92-cap Australia career when he signed for Toulon after failing to be included in the Wallabies’ squad for the 2011 World Cup.
But he was given a route back into the international arena when the Australia Rugby Union announced last month it was relaxing its hardline stance barring overseas-based players from representing the Wallabies.
“I signed over here knowing I wouldn’t play Test rugby again,” said Giteau after Saturday’s match. “Now the rules have changed, it’s a possibility. I had no idea it was coming, but I’m happy it has.
“It’s very exciting for Australian rugby that they’ve changed that (the eligibility rules). For me in particular, it doesn’t change a great deal until I’m contacted.”
CJ Stander became the 1st overseas player to be named the Munster Player of the Year.
He earned the accolade at the annual Munster awards, after a hugely impressive season.
The South African became the 1st overseas player to receive the accolade after scoring 8 tries in 22 appearances and picking up no less than 5 Man Of The Match awards.
Stander was nominated alongside Billy Holland and previous winner Tommy O’Donnell.
The award shortlist was decided by members of the senior squad with Munster supporters deciding the overall winner through a public vote.
Irish centre Gordon D’Arcy has called time on his illustrious career, making himself available for the World Cup 1 last time.
In a statement released personally by D’Arcy he said he will leave rugby entirely from October this year.
D’Arcy was a promising fullback for schools side Clongowes Wood in the late 1990’s, and on the eve of his Leaving Certificate was called into the Irish squad for the tour of South Africa by coach Warren Gatland.
However, because of his studies he declined the opportunity.
On leaving school he joined the Lansdowne Football Club and made his Ireland debut on 15 October 1999 as a substitute against Romania during the World Cup.
Edinburgh welcome fullback Greig Tonks back into their side for tonight’s European Challenge Cup final against Gloucester.
He is 1 of 2 changes made by head coach Alan Solomons, who also brings Cornell Du Preez in at eighthman.
Greig Laidlaw, who was 1 of a number of players rested for Gloucester’s Premiership fixture against Newcastle, returns to face his former club.
Billy Twelvetrees captains the Cherry and Whites, while Richard Hibbard and James Hook also come back in.
He will soon return home to South Africa to focus on his family and his livestock farm, but life after rugby can wait a few more weeks. Bakkies Botha wants to go out in a blaze of glory with Toulon.
With a Rugby World Cup triumph in 2007, 3 Super Rugby championships with the Bulls and 2 European titles with Toulon, not to mention Tri-Nations, Currie Cup and Top 14 honours – few can match the Springbok 2nd row enforcer’s illustrious achievements.
But in the twilight of his career and savouring the prospect ahead of the “calmness of the bush”, Botha, perhaps befitting a deeply religious man, prefers to focus on the team, rather than his individual contribution.
Toulon, the Mediterranean port city he has called home since 2011, hope to be crowned kings of Europe for a 3rd successive year when they take on French rivals Clermont in the European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.
“I’m really happy that I came to Europe to test myself in this league and I want to end my career hopefully making it into 2 finals (Champions Cup and Top 14),” said the 36-year-old lock.
Toulon’s Australian star back Matt Giteau admits rivals Clermont are the favourites for the all-French European Champions Cup Final on Saturday, but he adds the 2-time defending champions won’t give up their crown easily.
The 32-year-old said Clermont deserved to be favourites because they were the best side this season – both in Europe and domestically – in what is a rematch of the 2013 Final, which Toulon won.
“Clermont are a wonderful team,” said Giteau, whose form looks set to earn him a recall to the Australian national side after the Australian Rugby Union relaxed its rules on players playing abroad.
“For me, they are even the best team this year,” continued Giteau, who if he stays fit is likely to reach the 100 cap mark later in the year as he was just 8 short when he was surprisingly dropped for the 2011 World Cup and subsequently moved to Toulon.
Glasgow Warriors have signed Australian centre Sam Johnson from the Reds and USA international lock Greg Peterson from Leicester Tigers, with the duo set to be at Scotstoun until at least May 2017.
Both players have signed 2-year contracts with the Guiness PRO12 side, subject to visas and medicals.
21-year-old Johnson 1st played schoolboy rugby for Australia ‘A’ after winning the Associated Independent Colleges competition with St Edmund’s College in 2011.
He played Rugby League for the Gold Coast Titans Under 20’s after school, before returning to Rugby Union at the end of 2013, when he joined the Reds wider training squad and returned to his former club GPS.
The battle for the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday won’t just be a European affair, but a truly global occasion.
Between them the 2 finalists, RC Toulon and ASM Clermont Auvergne, boast an amazing 52 international players from 13 different countries.
Between them the 2 32-man squads have 1,838 Test caps.
Leading the way are the back-to-back champions, RC Toulon, with a massive 1,189, including 100-plus cappers in Bryan Habana and Martin Castrogiovanni.
Clermont, who lost to their Top 14 rivals in the 2013 Final in Dublin, have 649.