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European Rugby

EnglandA government drive to boost participation in rugby in English schools is ill-conceived and risks children getting seriously hurt, public health doctors have warned.

Prof Allyson Pollock and colleagues at Queen Mary University of London say the contact sport is too dangerous.

They do not want an outright ban but say the sport must change and safeguards are needed.

The Rugby Football Union said steps had been taken to make the sport safer.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

Toulon have quashed rumours that they have signed Irish captain Paul O’Connell, but it is believed that the Reds & Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper has made the move.

It was reported that the French giants were chasing another Galácticos signing for the second row, with current legends Bakkies Botha and Ali WIlliams set to retire at the end of the season.

O’Connell’s contract with the IRFU expires in June of 2016, but it was speculated that Toulon were eager for him to be released from his contract to join them after the World Cup.

Since then, a strong statement has been released insisting ‘any alleged contacts between the player and the french club are pure speculation’.
Meanwhile, French paper L’Equipe has said that Toulon have captured the signature of the mercurial Cooper on a 2-year deal.

Cooper, if reports are to be believed, would join a burgeoning Australian contingent at Toulon with Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell already there.

Toulon have already brought in All Black Ma’a Nonu ahead of next season with Samu Manoa, Salesi Ma’afu and Napolioni Nalaga also joining the reigning European champions.

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Mike Fitzgerald

Mike Fitzgerald

Leicester Tigers have agreed a move for lock forward Mike Fitzgerald, who will join them from Super Rugby outfit the Chiefs in New Zealand.

Auckland-born second row Fitzgerald, 28, has won 2 Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs as well as playing ITM Cup rugby with the Manawatu Turbos.

At six-foot-five and 18 stone, he is noted for his hard work as well as a strong set-piece.

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Peter Betham

Peter Betham

Australia and Waratahs wing Peter Betham has agreed a move to join Leicester Tigers at the end of the Super Rugby Season.

The 26-year-old is currently playing Super Rugby with defending champions the Waratahs and on Saturday he scored 2 tries in Wellington as they became the 1st team to defeat the Hurricanes this season.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Betham was brought up in Sydney and had spells with the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels as well as with the Waratahs.

He made his Wallabies debut in a Bledisloe Cup fixture against the All Blacks in 2013.

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European Rugby Champions Cup2 Time defending champions Toulon will bid for an unprecedented hat-trick of European titles against Clermont after beating Leinster 25 / 20 following extra-time in Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final.

Toulon’s Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked 6 penalties and converted a Bryan Habana interception try for a personal haul of 20 points in an ultimately thrilling match that went to extra-time after finishing 12 / 12 after regulation time.

Leinster had Ian Madigan to thank for 5 penalties, while Sean O’Brien scored a late try that made for a nerve-racking climax.

Turnovers, ruck penalties and handling errors saw out a tight if uninspiring, pressure-laden 1st-half during which Toulon failed to convert their territorial domination into points.

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WP Nel

WP Nel

At the end of a trying season of provincial rugby under the sweltering South African sun, Willem Petrus Nel trudged exhausted from the field.

He turned to his coach and mentor, Pierre Ribbens, a distinguished ex-prop for the Bulls in what is now the Super 15 competition, the cream of the Southern Hemisphere game.

“I think I’m done with rugby – I don’t want to play anymore,” he said.

In late 2008, the 22-year-old tight-head had completed his agricultural studies, his certificate signed and stamped. From university some 250 miles to the south, the pull of home, the sheep farm he had been raised tending and the rolling mountains of the Northern Cape was strong.

“Give me a week,” replied Ribbens.

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Sam Hidalgo-Clyne

Edinburgh clinched a place in the European Challenge Cup Final in emphatic style at BT Murrayfield to make history as the 1st Scottish side to reach a European final.

The Scottish capital side stormed to their largest victory in Europe with a rousing 45 / 16 triumph over Newport Gwent Dragons with scrumhalf Sam Hidalgo-Clyne helping himself to another record 25 points. Now they go on to face either Gloucester or Exeter Chiefs at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday 1 May.

Hidalgo-Clyne once again proved their star-turn with a try in his club record 25-point haul that took his tally in Europe this season to 91 points. That makes him the highest scorer in the tournament.

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European Rugby Champions CupThe European Rugby Champions Cup semifinals takes place this weekend.

On Saturday, Clermont Auvergne host Saracens at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).

On Sunday, Toulon host Leinster at Stade Felix-Mayol, Toulon at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).

 

Clemont Auvergne vs Saracens:

Saracens knocked Clermont Auvergne for 6 at the European Cup semifinal stage last season, will it be repeat or redemption this time around?

The 46 / 6 triumph booked McCall’s men a place in last seasons’ Millennium Stadium finale against Toulon. They set new semifinal records for the most points scored by a team (46), the largest winning margin (40) and the most tries scored (6). Surely lightning cannot strike twice between the Pool 1 rivals, who each scored a victory over each other in the early Rounds.

Saracens have their defensive leader, Brad Barritt, back in the side after a knee injury kept him out of action for a month. England playmaker Owen Farrell crossed for 1 of Saracens’ 6 tries last year and is set to make an impact off the bench after he was sidelined for 3 months in the last meeting between the pair.

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Declan Fitzpatrick

Declan Fitzpatrick

Ulster and Ireland prop Declan Fitzpatrick, who played in the 2012 European Cup Final at Twickenham Stadium, has been forced to retire on medical grounds.

The 31-year-old, who counted 27 European Cup ties in the 98 games he played for Ulster, experienced a number of concussion episodes in recent seasons.

His symptoms were progressively slower to resolve and he was referred to a leading neurologist by the medical team at Ulster.

Following tests it was recommended that it would be in the best long-term interests of the player who won 7 international caps, and played 9 times for the Ireland Wolfhounds (B-Team), to stop playing altogether.

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Joaquín Tuculet

Joaquín Tuculet

Cardiff Blues fullback, Joaquín Tuculet, has confirmed that he will return home to Argentina to represent his country’s Super Rugby team from 2016.

Tuculet joins his national captain, Agustin Creevy, as the 1st European-based players to commit to the new team and has signed through until at least the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season.

“It is with great pride that I have decided to commit to this project by the UAR and Daniel Hourcade,” he said.

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Top 14France’s Top 14, the world’s richest rugby championship, suffered a record deficit of US$ 25.5 million last season, as player salaries soared.

In a recent report, it was found that clubs opted to boost their squads over cutting costs.

“Clubs prefer to strengthen their sporting power… to the detriment of reducing their deficits,” said a report by the National Rugby League’s audit department.

The Top 14 accounted for the bulk of a US$ 35.6 million deficit for all 30 professional clubs in France, which has become an increasing magnet for foreign stars.

Average player salaries have increased 12% in the past season, according to the report released Monday.

All Black Colin Slade is the latest foreign star to have signed for a French club, along with other pricey stars, such as Dan Carter.

Salaries have taken off while revenues grew only 10%, mainly through extra television income.

Only one Top 14 club is able to fully self-finance its operation, against 7 at the end of 2013 / 2014.

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Simon Mannix

Simon Mannix

Once-capped All Black, Simon Mannix, has extended his contract as coach of Pau, ensured of promotion to the Top 14 next season, through until 2018, the club announced Tuesday.

Mannix, who had another year to run on his contract, extended his deal by 2 more years, according to Pau president Bernard Pontneau.

The 43-year-old, who won his sole New Zealand cap against France in 1994, cut his coaching teeth with Racing-Metro (2007 – 2011) and Munster (2011 – 2014) before taking over Pau and ensuring they topped the 2nd Division ProD2.

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Colin Slade

Colin Slade

All Black and Crusaders back Colin Slade has signed with the Section Paloise Rugby Club (Pau), departing following the World Cup.

Slade said he had not found it easy to come to the decision to play overseas but he was now excited about the opportunity.

“This is certainly not a decision taken lightly. I have given it a lot of thought and considered all my options, but I am now satisfied that moving to Pau after this year is the right decision for me at this point in my life,” Slade said.

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Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Western Province back Pat Howard has reportedly signed a deal with English Premiership club Northampton Saints.

While the news is yet to be officially announced, it is reported that Howard will leave the Cape union later this year.

The 23-year-old Howard, who can play wing and centre, is contracted with WP until 31 October.

This means he will in all likelihood be asked to stay until the end of this year’s Currie Cup.

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melrose2015

Glasgow Warriors have won the Ladies Cup for the 2nd year in a row after battling back from behind against fellow guest side, Germany in the final to lift the coveted trophy.

After beating Dundee, Gala and Jed Forest en route to the final, the side coached by Kenny Murray were behind 21 / 12 against the Germans but showed grit and determination to run out 36 / 21 winners!

The Warriors kick-started their Melrose 7’s defence with a 2nd round tie against Dundee who beat Stirling County earlier in the day.

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Brad Thorn

Brad Thorn

Former New Zealand lock Brad Thorn is retiring at the end of the season following a glittering 21-year career in which won the biggest prizes in rugby league and union.

The 40-year-old started out in league with the Brisbane Broncos, represented Queensland in the state of origin and won 3 caps for Australia.

Thorn moved back to New Zealand in 2001 and joined the Canterbury Crusaders, playing 12 tests for the All Blacks.

He went back to rugby league with the Broncos from 2005 – 2007 but returned to union and the last of his 59 All Blacks appearances was the 2011 World Cup final in which they beat France 8 / 7.

Thorn helped Ireland’s Leinster lift the 2012 Heineken Cup, becoming the 1st man to play in victorious World Cup, Super Rugby and European Cup teams.

He joined English Premiership club Leicester last year and has helped the Tigers climb to 4th in the standings.

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Bryce Heem

Bryce Heem

Worcester Warriors have announced the signing of New Zealand wing Bryce Heem, who will join the Club in July from Super Rugby side, the Chiefs.

The 26-year-old has impressed during this season’s Super Rugby campaign and scored a try on his debut during his side’s victory over the Blues in the 1st game of the season.

Heem had previously been a stand-out performer for Tasman Makos during their impressive 2013 and 2014 NPC campaigns and helped the side to the final of the competition last October.

The wing, who stands at 1.93m, was an influential member of the New Zealand Sevens team between 2011 and 2014, touring the world on the Sevens World Series circuit and picking up a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games last year.

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Tim Swiel

Tim Swiel

Former Stormers and Sharks flyhalf, Tim Swiel has signed a full-time contract with Premiership club Harlequins after a highly successful 4 month loan deal in October 2014.

The 21-year-old English-qualified pivot returned to the Sharks academy in February 2015 but will rejoin the English club for the 2015 / 2016 season.

During his short, but memorable time at The Stoop, Somerset-born Swiel made 10 senior appearances across the Cup, Premiership and European Rugby Champions Cup – which included impressive performances in the back-to-back fixtures against Leinster and Big Game 7 at Twickenham Stadium in December.

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European Rugby Champions CupA bumper weekend of European cup action saw the semifinalists for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup decided across 3 days.

After an enthralling set of games on Sunday, we now know that Clermont will play Saracens in Saint-Etienne, while Toulon will face Leinster in Marseille in what are set to be 2 titanic battles.

Champions Toulon remain in the hunt for what would be a 3rd successive European title. No side has ever achieved that before but Toulon unquestionably have the players to do so.

They were too smart and too strong for a stubborn Wasps outfit at the Stade Mayol on Sunday, winning with Juan Smith and Bryan Habana watching on from the stands due to injuries. Both are expected however to be in contention for the semifinals.

Bakkies Botha did start in the second row as Toulon won 14 out of 15 lineouts, contributing to their success. Another trophy or 2 for the cabinet remain on the horizon for the Springbok legend ahead of his retirement. Michael Claassens was on the bench.

Defeat for Wasps of course also meant defeat for Ashley Johnson, as the former Cheetahs back rower’s side fell short despite a late rally in the 2nd half. Twice European champions in the past, Wasps are certainly on the up again.

Toulon will face Leinster in the semifinals after Zane Kirchner’s side knocked out Francois Louw’s Bath in Dublin. The former Bulls back was called from the bench early on at the Aviva Stadium and nearly scored a try in the corner not long after his arrival.

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Mils Muliaina

Mils Muliaina

All Black Mils Muliaina is “distressed” and in shock over a sexual assault allegation levelled against him in Wales, his agent says.

The 34-year-old spent about 20 hours at Cardiff Bay Police station after being taken away by officers following a rugby game at Kingsholm Stadium. Police had 24 hours to charge him.

His agent, Simon Porter, says the arrest came as a “complete shock”.

Muliaina thought he was being taken in for random drug testing, Porter says.

“He had a night in the police cells, he’s pretty distressed, trying to deal with it, and it came as an absolute shock to him.”

Porter says Muliani will fight to clear his name.

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Francis Saili

Francis Saili

Munster confirmed today the signing of Blues centre Francis Saili on a 2-year contract.

The 24 year-old has made 33 Super Rugby appearances for the Blues, scoring 5 tries, and represented Auckland in the NPC on 31 occasions.

Saili made his debut for the All Blacks against Argentina in September 2013 at Hamilton, and was part of the New Zealand Under 20 team that won the Junior World Championship in Italy in 2011.

Last November the Auckland native also featured for the Barbarians, scoring a try against Australia in Twickenham.

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Edinburgh RugbyEdinburgh Rugby’s players are in open revolt against their managing director, David Davies, after he sacked the long-serving team manager. Lynsey Dingwall was a popular and efficient member of the backroom staff at Edinburgh Rugby yet she was given an hour to clear her desk after working at the club for 14 years.

The players sent an email to the board and the council of the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) which Scotland on Sunday has seen. In the missive, sent on 23 March, the players offer their full support to Dingwall.

“We feel the dismissal of Lynsey Dingwall was unfair and unjustified,” the e-mail reads. “Lynsey was part of Edinburgh Rugby for 14 years. Over that period she worked tirelessly with and for the players and was hugely respected within the organisation. Numerous past coaches and players have commented that she was the best team manager that they have ever worked with. We feel she has been the victim of a personal attack.”

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Mils Muliaina

Mils Muliaina

Former All Black fullback and Rugby World Cup winner Mils Muliaina’s future hangs in the balance after he was arrested by the South Wales Police on suspicion of sexual assault.

Muliaina’s Irish club Connacht confirmed that the former All Black was assisting the Police with enquiries relating to an alleged incident in Cardiff in March of this year.

He was pictured on television being led away by police officers following his Irish club’s 14 / 7 loss at Gloucester in the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals on Friday.

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Will Genia

Will Genia

Australia and Reds scrumhalf Will Genia has signed a 3-year contract to join Top 14 club Stade Francais after this year’s Rugby World Cup.

“We can confirm that Will Genia will be part of our squad after the World Cup (which ends 31 October). It’s a great signing and one which will strengthen our squad in a vital position,” Stade Francais president Thomas Savare said on radio France Bleu 107.1.

The Papua New Guinea-born Wallaby had been linked with a move to Europe for months but Bath were firm favourites to sign the 27-year-old, who even signed a pre-contract with the English Premiership side.

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European Rugby Champions CupWith 3 of the 4 quarterfinals taking place on french soil, and all 3 of those against English opposition it could feel somewhat like the Hundred year war for the Premiership sides.

In the only non Anglo-French encounter, Bath travel to Leinster while the remaining fixtures sees Clermont Auvergne take on Premiership table-toppers Northampton Saints, Racing Metro will play last year’s finalists Saracens, and finally champions Toulon will face Wasps.

The record books show that in 72 quarterfinal encounters in Europe’s top flight, 54 have been won by the home club – a staggering 75% success rate for those sides on home soil.

Premiership clubs make up half the Champions Cup quarterfinalists, although all have to play away from home.

English teams have a 20% success rate away from home in the tournament, winning only 4 times in 20 quarterfinal games to date.

For the 9 away matches against French opposition, the success rate is as low as 11%, with only 1 win – Northampton Saints’ 7 / 6 victory over Biarritz Olympique in San Sebastian in 2007.

The only other English away victories in the last 8 have been Leicester Tigers over Leinster Rugby at Lansdowne Road in 2005, Bath at Leicester in 2006 and Saracens against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium last season.

The 3 French clubs in the Champions Cup quarterfinals have never lost at home in the last 8 of Europe’s top flight.

Toulon and Clermont have won home quarterfinals in the past 2 seasons, while Racing Metro have reached the knockout stage for the 1st time in their history.

The odds are definitely stacked against the English clubs, but that does not mean that any of the French teams will take them lightly.

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Mils Muliaina

Mils Muliaina

Italian Rugby club Zebre have signed New Zealand All Blacks Rugby World Cup winner Mils Muliaina for the 2015 / 2016 season from Irish province Connacht.

The 2015 / 2016 Rugby season will be the Italian Northwest franchise’s 4th season in the PRO12 League and the European Cups.

100-Cap All Black Muliaina joined Connacht from Super Rugby side the Chiefs in 2014 having retired from playing international rugby at the end of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Zebre have announced that they will be led by a new coaching team that will be announced later in the year.

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Al KellockGlasgow Warriors captain Al Kellock will retire from rugby at the end of the season.

Kellock, who has been the Warriors captain for the past nine seasons, has played 154 games for the club and captained the team for the 150th time in the 34-34 draw with Leinster in Dublin on Friday.

The 33-year-old has led the club to the PRO12 Play-Offs four times since they were introduced in the 2009/10 campaign and last year skippered the team to the PRO12 Final for the first time.

At the end of the season Kellock will take up an ambassadorial role with Scottish Rugby, as well as helping to continue the development of Glasgow Warriors. The main focus of his role will be engaging with the rugby and business communities and learning more about the commercial aspect of sport, enabling him to stay connected with the Warriors.

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Scotstoun Stadium

Glasgow Warriors ambitious plans for Scotstoun Stadium cover

 

Glasgow Warriors have today revealed plans for a revolutionary new temporary stadium cover for their Scotstoun Stadium home in the west end of the city.

The club have been working closely with Scottish architecture firm Kettle Collective, to develop the radical new system and it will be in place from the start of next season.

The design was inspired by fishing nets, similar to the Yas Island Hotel at the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 resort.

The stadium roof will be the first of its kind in the world and is an organic form that will enclose the stadium from the elements.

The Warriors moved to Scotstoun in 2012 having previously played at Hughenden and Firhill and with crowds exceeding 6,000 a decision has been made to put a roof over the existing stadium for all home matches from next season.

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George EarleSouth African lock, George Earle, has extended his contract with the Scarlets after joining the region from the Cheetahs in 2012.

An experienced player, Earle played previously with the Golden Lions, Western Province, Boland and the Griquas in the Currie Cup.

The lock will become Welsh-qualified in June after being with the Scarlets for 3 years.

Earle was attracted to playing rugby in Wales because of the Welsh style of play, making his Scarlets debut in a pre-season friendly against Narbonne in August 2012.

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Jake White at Montpellier

Jake White at Montpellier

Former Springbok coach Jake White has extended his stay at French Top 14 club Montpellier.

According to French rugby newspaper, Midi Olympique, White has signed a new deal which will keep him at the club until 2017.

White originally signed a 6-month deal at the end of December, but has been rewarded for Montpellier’s improved performances with a 2-year contract extension.

Under White’s guidance, Montpellier have moved up to 7th in the Top 14 standings, and have lost just twice in their last 12 matches.

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Nicolás Sánchez

Nicolás Sánchez

Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez has left European champions Toulon to get ready for his wedding in May and to prepare for the World Cup.

Sanchez joined the French and European champions in October as an injury replacement for Frederic Michalak.

But after the latter returned to action on Saturday in the 34 / 24 defeat at home to Toulouse, Sanchez was no longer available for Top 14 action.

He could have continued to turn out for Toulon in the European Cup – the champions hosts Wasps in the quarterfinals next weekend – but he said he preferred to return home.

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Manu Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi

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

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

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

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Guinness Pro12Louis Ludik’s pair of tries helped Ulster to resist a 2nd-half fightback from Cardiff Blues and strengthen their position in the Guinness PRO12 Top 4.

Fullback Ludik scored a try in either half to supplement finishes from Craig Gilroy and Paul Marshall as the hosts picked up what could prove to be a very valuable try bonus point.

Tom Isaacs and Alex Cuthbert crossed for the Blues as they showed real resilience after the break, but the 18 / 0 halftime deficit ultimately proved too much.

Glasgow Warriors’ draw at Leinster means Neil Doak’s side stay second, but they will be pleased to have forged a bit of a buffer between themselves and the chasing pack

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European Rugby Champions CupThe Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup, the 2 annual European competitions, will kick off mid-November 2015 – due to the Rugby World Cup.

The 1st 2 Rounds of both continental competitions will be played from 12 to 15 November, at a time usually devoted to the year-end Tests.

The End-Of-Year internationals between the Northern and Southern hemispheres will not take place because of the Rugby World Cup, hosted in England from 18 September to 31 October 2015.

The tournaments will then revert to their customary dates in December and January, with the quarter-finals and semi-finals set for April and the finals on the weekend of 13 – 14 May 2016.

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Glasgow WarriorsThe Warriors have announced that hooker Dougie Hall will retire from rugby at the end of the season, while prop Jon Welsh and assistant coach Shade Munro will also leave the club.

Shade has been part of the coaching staff at the Warriors since 2003 and will leave his role this summer when his contract expires.

Dougie arrived from Edinburgh in 2007 and has gone on to make 141 appearances for the PRO12 side over an 8-year spell. In the summer he will join one of the club’s sponsors, McCrea Financial Services.

Jon, who joined Glasgow in 2008 and has gone on to make 106 appearances, will join Newcastle Falcons for next season.

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