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OlympicsAny 120kg prop hoping to disguise himself as a rugby sevens speedster in a bid to secure a switch of nationalities for the 15-man game should think again after the sport’s governing body said on Monday it will be alert to such underhand dealings.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) says it is confident it will sniff out any dubious attempts to use Olympic sevens qualification matches to secure a shift in nationalities for the 15-man game – and that their system has the full backing of the IOC.

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Rugby World Cup 2015On Thursday, the start of RWC 2015 will be exactly one year away. Nineteen of the 20 participating nations have been decided, with Russia and Uruguay fighting it out over two legs in the next few weeks to fill the last remaining spot.

We take a look at how the pools are shaping up in terms of where the competing countries are in the World Rankings.

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Brett Gosper

Man in charge: Brett Gosper

The IRB are looking to close the loophole which could see players switch nationalities according to chief executive Brett Gosper.

With rugby becoming an Olympic sport in 2016, a loophole was opened up for those players who had previously played international rugby for one country and wished to change allegiances in Sevens, which would then have carried over into the 15-man game.

Players with passports for another country and who hadn’t played international rugby in the previous 18 months, simply needed to take part in an Olympic Sevens tournament, including qualifiers, to become eligible for the XVs side of their new country.

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WhistleIt has been widely acknowledged that the standard of refereeing in the Rugby Championship this past weekend was less than stellar. All lovers of the game, from fans through to coaches and players, are justifiably exasperated by such result-affecting calls by refs.

Sadly, this is not the first time and, probably, won’t be the last time the rugby world is incensed by sub-standard refereeing performances – unless something proactive is done to address what is a very real problem.

What is missing in all the blustery huffing and puffing though, are solutions or suggestions that the IRB (or World Rugby) can use to address the problem.

So here are my suggestions. My solutions. As just a passionate lover of the sport. See if you agree or disagree. Pick them apart. Point out their weaknesses. Tell me why they won’t work. No hard feelings. All I ask is that for every criticism, you offer an alternative solution.

Hopefully with all the traffic Rugby Talk.com is attracting these days, someone of influence will read all our comments and maybe… just maybe… do something positive with them.

I believe a three-part solution will sort out most of the issues but, like anything, there has to be the political will to address and sort out the problem instead of worrying about offending egos or apportioning blame.

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Jerome Garces

Jerome Garces

France’s Jérôme Garcès will referee the All Blacks v Springboks Rugby Championship clash in Wellington on Saturday.

Following a weekend of highly debatable referee, assistant referee and TMO decisions, Heyneke Meyer will be hoping Saturday’s crucial clash is free of controversy.

The Springboks’ remaining Rugby Championship matches will be refereed by Wales’ Nigel Owens (v Australia at Newlands on 27 September) and by England’s Wayne Barnes (v New Zealand at Ellis Park on 4 October).

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Samoa

OLD RULES: Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele has attacked rugby’s antiquated revenue-sharing system.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele has attacked rugby’s antiquated governance and revenue-sharing system as the island powerhouse announced a major sponsorship aimed at taking them to a new level at next year’s World Cup.

Tuilaepa also doubles as chairman of the Samoan Rugby Union, traditionally a cash-strapped organisation with its top players at the mercy of rich clubs and rival countries.

Samoa revealed on Monday a new deal with Australian-based company Cromwell Property Group that should ensure a well-resourced squad for next year’s tournament in England.

The base sponsorship is “significant” but also includes major incentives – $250,000 for reaching the semifinals, $500,000 for making the final and $1m for winning the tournament.

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Ashley Johnson

The advertisement featuring Ashley Johnson in his Bok jersey.

The hosts of the 2015 Rugby World Cup say they didn’t forget to feature the All Blacks in an ad released yesterday encouraging people to buy tickets to the tournament.

In fact, current and former players were approached to do it, but declined the offer, an England Rugby 2015 official said.

Watch the video here

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WhistleThe Match Officials for this week’s action have been confirmed, with George Clancy refereeing the Wallabies vs Springboks showdown.

The Rugby Championship:

Australia vs South Africa
  • Venue: Patersons Stadium, Perth
  • Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
  • Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
  • TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
  • Assessor: Andrew Cole

 

New Zealand vs Argentina
  • Venue: Mclean Park, Napier
  • Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
  • Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
  • TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
  • Assessor: Lyndon Bray

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IRBThe International Rugby Board will become World Rugby from 19 November 2014 as part of a major rebranding programme.

The new brand, including a new logo, will be launched at the IRB World Rugby Conference and Exhibition in London on November 17-18.

Global Rugby participation has boomed by more than two million to 6.6 million players over the past four years, driven by the commercial success of Rugby World Cup, the IRB’s development strategies and record investment, strong and vibrant Unions and Rugby’s re-inclusion in the Olympic Games.

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Sir Colin "Pinetree" Meads

Sir Colin “Pinetree” Meads

Eleven legends of New Zealand rugby have been inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame at a special ceremony in Auckland on Friday 21 August, staged the night before a Bledisloe Cup match in Eden Park.

This latest induction represents the incorporation into the IRB Hall of Fame of many of the International Rugby Hall of Fame, which was recently acquired by the IRB and presentations were made by Hall of Fame panel member Don Cameron and New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew. The new inductees are: Fred Allen, Don Clarke, Grant Fox, Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Jones, Ian Kirkpatrick, John Kirwan, Terry McLean, Colin Meads, Graham Mourie and George Nepia.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB Hall of Fame recognises those who have made an indelible mark on our sport through feats on the field of play, displays of great character or through their tireless and inspirational work in driving forward our great Game.”

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Chris Linwood

Referee Chris Linwood from UAE during a match officials’ session at TOP in Stellenbosch

One of the key presentations at the IRB’s Talent Optimisation Programme (TOP) in Stellenbosch, South Africa, recently was entitled “Where is rugby going?” and it’s a safe bet that the simple answer to that question is “onwards and upwards”, in no small way thanks to courses such as this one.

The ninth edition of the TOP just concluded, hosted for the eighth time by the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, about 50km east of Cape Town, and situated in an historic rugby centre. It targets coaches, trainers and match officials from unions that don’t have their own high-performance programme.

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Gary Botha (L) and Ian McIntosh (R) pose with students from Waterkloof high school in Pretoria

Gary Botha (L) and Ian McIntosh (R) pose with students from Waterkloof high school in Pretoria

The Webb Ellis Cup has completed its first day in South Africa as part of the fifth leg of the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour.

On August 18 the Trophy visited Hoerskool Waterkloof in Pretoria where children from the school, along with groups from St Peters, Pretoria Technical High School and Elarduspark got to show off their Rugby playing skills in a coaching clinic which was led by former South Africa coach Ian McIntosh and Rugby World Cup 2007 winner Gary Botha.

Land Rover supports a number of schools through its South African dealer network – a total of 31 dealers who support local schools within their communities.

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IRBThere has been no change in the Top 12 of the IRB world rankings following the opening round of The Rugby Championship.

Despite seeing their 17-Test win streak end in Sydney thanks to a 12-12 draw with the Wallabies, New Zealand continue to lead the way on 93.42 points.

The Wallabies, courageous in their efforts – and perhaps a little unlucky – remain in third position on 87.32.

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Colin Meads

Sir Colin Meads

Sir Colin Meads will finally be inducted into the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame.

The IRB Hall of Fame and the International Rugby Hall of Fame will merge this year to create one definitive rugby hall of fame.

It will see 37 greats of the game not already included in the IRB Hall of Fame inducted, creating a unique record of those who have excited and inspired rugby fans.

For years Sir Colin Meads had missed out on the IRB Hall of Fame, but now he will be recognised alongside several other greats.

They include Sean Fitzpatrick, Grant Fox, George Nepia, John Kirwan and Graham Mourie.

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Joost van der Westhuizen

Joost van der Westhuizen

Five Springbok legends are set to be inducted into the International Rugby Board’s Hall of Fame.

Joost van der Westhuizen, Naas Botha, Morné du Plessis, Danie Gerber, Hennie Muller are among 37 players to be inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame in the next year.

The news comes alongside the announcement that the International Rugby Hall of Fame and IRB Hall of Fame are to merge.

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Florian Fritz

Battered Florian Fritz being led off the field, only to return

French rugby powerbrokers have confirmed no decision will be taken on the Florian Fritz concussion saga until the LNR Executive Committee meets in early September – some four months after the Toulouse centre was led bloodied and reeling from the Stade Ernest Wallon pitch.

In the wake of the incident during the club’s Top 14 barrage against Racing Mètro on May 9, the player’s ill-advised return to the game and the apparent misconduct of head coach Guy Novès are the subject of an investigation from a panel of doctors assembled by the LNR.

Repeated attempts from the IRB – who requested the French bodies launch the investigation – to press both the FFR and LNR for answers proved fruitless until Tuesday (yesterday), when a spokeswoman for the professional league administrators confirmed no action will be taken until after the September meeting.

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French Rugby

French rugby is just one bad November away from falling out of the top 10 rankings

After years of selling itself as a global game when it never really was, rugby is poised to take grip in territories it has always dreamed of conquering writes Gregor Paul in the Herold on Sunday.

The All Blacks are scheduled to play in Chicago this year, Samoa in 2015 and probably Singapore in 2016. Super Rugby is also heading to Argentina and probably Singapore.

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IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 - EnglandKenya are in pole position to make history and qualify for a Rugby World Cup for the first time after maintaining their winning run in the Confederation Africaine de Rugby Africa Cup Division 1A Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying tournament in Antananarivo on Wednesday.

Kenya, aiming to break Namibia’s recent stranglehold as the Africa Region’s second representative on Rugby’s greatest stage, recorded a bonus point 34-0 win over Madagascar to open up a four-point lead over Zimbabwe at the top of the table with one round remaining on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s 24-20 defeat to Namibia in the opening match of the day means that it is mathematically possible for all three teams to finish top of the table going into Super Sunday when Madagascar play Namibia and Kenya face Zimbabwe.

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The Rugby ChampionshipWhistleThe International Rugby Board has named the Match Officials for SANZAR’s The Rugby Championship in August and September. A new face amongst them is John Lacey of Ireland.

Lacey has become increasingly prominent this year and last Friday refereed the Test in Cordoba between Argentina and Scotland.

He is an e at -player – a wing or fullback for Munster and Ireland A. His debut for Munster was in 1995 against Transvaal. He played till 2007 when he retired and then became a referee. In 2008 he was refereeing club rugby in the Amlin Cup and the Magners League. In 2009 the IRB chose him as an international assistant referee. In 2010 he replaced injured Greg Gardner at the Junior World Championship where he refereed a semifinal. The next year he was on the international panel as a referee. Now he is going to Loftus Versfeld to referee a Test between the Springboks and the Pumas.

The last Championship matches are on 4 October 2014, the Bledisloe Cup match a fortnight later.

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Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

South Africa Under 20 captain Handré Pollard won a consolation prize for his team when he was named the IRB Junior Player of the Year.

This followed after England were crowned IRB Junior World Champions for 2014, beating South Africa 21-20 in a pulsating Final at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.

Finalists South Africa and England each had a player nominated – in Baby Bok captain Pollard and wing Nathan Earle respectively, with Ireland centre Garry Ringrose and New Zealand wing Tevita Li completing the shortlist of players.

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IRBThere was little change in the International Rugby Board’s rankings after the weekend’s matches, according to the IRB website.

Full IRB World Rankings

New Zealand, who beat England 28-27 in Dunedin to secure the three-match series, remain at the top with 93.81 ratings points.

The Springboks, who beat Wales 38-16 in Durban, stay in 2nd position on 89.34, while Australia – who were 6-0 victors over France in Melbourne – stay in 3rd position (86.92) ahead of England (85.68).

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Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

The International Rugby Board has confirmed the shortlist of four nominees for the prestigious Award, with the winner set to be announced following the Junior World Championship final at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.

Finalists South Africa and England each have a player nominated in captain Pollard and wing Nathan Earle respectively, with Ireland centre Garry Ringrose and New Zealand wing Tevita Li completing the quartet of players.

The management of the 12 teams involved in the IRB Junior World Championship of 2014 in New Zealand voted on their top three players after each round with votes tallied to provide the shortlist of nominees.

The public now has the chance to vote on this shortlist on the official Facebook page www.facebook.com/irbjuniors. The results of the public poll will be considered, along with the original votes, when finalising the winner.

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Brett Gosper

Brett Gosper

IRBIRB chief executive Brett Gosper has revealed that while an IRB committee is working on it a global season is unlikely to happen before 2019.

Super Rugby and Rugby Championship organisers SANZAR have requested that the IRB move the current June Test window to July in order to allow their Super Rugby tournament to run without a break for internationals.

July does not currenly fit in with the European season as the climax of the Northern Hemisphere tournaments take place in May and the June Internationals follow on.

Moving the mid-year internationals to July would therefore not work for Northern Hemisphere teams as the players would not get sufficient rest and the season would have a “dead” month in June.

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Brett Gosper

Brett Gosper

International Rugby Board Chief Executive Brett Gosper urged international unions to play their star names at the Rio Olympics Sevens to maximise the sport’s opportunity on the world stage.

Gosper said that while the value of having regular Sevens players must be properly respected, Rugby Union’s chances of becoming a permanent Olympic sport may rely on an injection of star power from the traditional, more high-profile 15-a-side game.

“In 2017, straight after Rio, they’ll decide if Rugby continues to be a core sport at the Olympics. We will be in Japan in 2020 as well, but that may be it,” Gosper told reporters in Sydney.

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Andrew Nuzum

The late Kenny Nuzum’s son – Andrew

shontaynehape1

Shontayne Hape

While rugby spent the past week looking back on the glorious careers of two of its departing heroes, Jonny Wilkinson and Brian O’Driscoll, there was forensic analysis of a very different kind going on elsewhere close to the game.

Last Tuesday morning, at the Coroners Court in Dublin, it was found that a former amateur rugby player, whose family had donated his brain for research, had died prematurely because of repeated blows to the head on the field during his rugby years.

The coroner, Dr Brian Farrell, accepted evidence from two neuropathology experts, one of whom was Dr Willie Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital and a world leader in the examination of head trauma of sport.

The findings were that Kenny Nuzum, a prop forward with the Lansdowne club in Dublin and a former team-mate of the legendary Moss Keane, passed away in March last year because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In layman’s terms, punch-drunk syndrome.

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hawkeyetennis

Hawkeye technology used in tennis

Technology company Hawkeye says it is in talks about providing a replacement to the television match official (TMO) system in rugby.

Hawkeye, which operates systems in football and tennis, could be used in domestic rugby and internationally in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Hawkeye founder Paul Hawkins said: “We are in conversation with Premiership Rugby and the IRB.”

The International Rugby Board would not confirm any talks with Hawkeye.

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Greg PetersSuper RugbyThe newest addition to Vodacom Super Rugby in 2016 will not be a team of “mercenaries” put together with a big budget.

That’s the word of Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters, who said the 18th team that will go out to tender to join the Southern Hemisphere competition will need to be sustainable, and have the support of the market it bases itself in.

So far Sanzar has received interest from Spain, Singapore, Japan and the USA, but it is doubtful if any of these countries could put together a team that could be competitive over 17 weeks of the competition in 2016.

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Steve TewA push to move June internationals back and create an integrated global rugby season by 2016 remains a ‘long shot’, New Zealand Rugby Union chief Steve Tew has warned.

The International Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) has campaigned for the June Test window to be pushed back to the end of July to allow southern hemisphere-based players to finish the Super Rugby tournament and have Europe-based players start their domestic campaigns later.

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500daysRWCWith 500 days to go until Rugby World Cup 2015 in England kicks off, Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset is confident that preparations are on track to deliver “an unforgettable and special” record-breaking event that will further the growth of the sport worldwide.

With fans snapping up tickets in record numbers through the official supporter tour programme and with Rugby community ticket sales beginning today, tournament organisers England Rugby 2015 Limited have announced that tickets for all 48 matches will go on general sale globally from September 12-29 2014.

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Romain PoiteSteve WalshFrancisco PastranaIRBNo, this is no April Fools joke, it is true… the IRB has released the names of the Match Official Appointments for the June International Test window!

Romain Poite (FFR), hated by most South Africans, will referee the match between South Africa and Wales on 14 June 2014 at Growthpoint Kings Park and will be assisted by Steve Walsh (ARU), Francisco Pastrana (UAR) and Vinnie Munro (NZR).

One could be forgiven to believe, despite our assurances, that this MUST SURELY be an April Fools joke, because apart from the run-in with Romain Poite, South Africans have had run-in’s by Steve Walsh too and just recently Francisco Pastrana was taken off the Super Rugby officiating lists till further notice for his abhorrent and totally inept refereeing performance against yet another South African side.

Let’s cut to the chase and just place the Official Appointments list here for you…

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Rugby World Cup 2015South AfricaSouth African rugby fans need not worry about securing match tickets for Springbok matches at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England following the establishment of SA Rugby Travel, it was announced on Tuesday.

The new company – a joint venture between the South African Rugby Union and Tourvest Destination Management – has secured thousands of tickets for likely Springbok matches and tailored packages to suit a wide range of fans’ pockets and experience choices.

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SamoaThe International Rugby Board clamped down on foul play in the Pacific Cup tournament this week.

Four players from Samoa were handed bans for various acts of foul play.

Five players from the Samoa A team were cited, following the Pacific Cup match between Argentina Pampas and Samoa A in Canberra on Tuesday (11 March).

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesThe International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced the dates for the HSBC Sevens World Series 2014 / 2015, which has gained in significance with the recent announcement that the top four-ranked nations will qualify from it directly for the Olympic Games in 2016.

According to the IRB’s official website, the 16th edition of the record-breaking series will visit the same nine countries as the current 2013/14 season with two changes to the order of rounds. The event in the USA will be played the weekend after New Zealand’s, and Japan’s tournament will follow on from Hong Kong.

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