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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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SIX-NationsSomewhere, shaking his cauliflower ears in dismay, a grizzled old retired prop was probably secretly wishing someone would just stick the ball up his jumper and make a cautious 3 inches.

For everyone else watching this was surely the most thrilling day that 5 or 6 Nations rugby has seen: a fantasy finale, a chest-squeezer and knee-knocker, a day to fall back in love.

There are the stats: 221 points scored across the 3 matches, the most in a single weekend – 27 tries, run in from deep and wide and everywhere in between.

There was England’s record score against France, Ireland’s biggest away win, the most tries Wales have scored in 1 championship half.

Then there was the style. This was rugby we thought had died and been laid to rest, killed by detailed analysis and the professional urge to be sensible.

Sensible? This was glorious chaos, March madness to put a spring in every watcher’s step and an ulcer in the stomach of every defence coach.

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SIX NationsIt should be a 3-way fight between England, Ireland and Wales for the Six Nations title on Saturday, although France still have an outside chance.

The Top 3 are locked on 6 Points with 3 wins apiece, while England’s points difference of +37 puts them 1st, ahead of Ireland’s +33 and Wales’ +12.

France are 4th with 4 Points and a points difference of +22.

Philippe Saint-Andre’s side could still steal the title if Wales and Ireland lose and Les Bleus then beat England by a margin of 8 points or more, but it looks a remote possibility.

If teams are level on points, and match-points difference, then England are likely to win the Championship on tries scored, having crossed 11 times to Ireland’s 4 and Wales’ 5. In the highly unlikely event this was also level come Saturday night, the trophy would be shared.

Wales are in action 1st away to Italy in Rome (14:30 SA Time, 12:30 GMT), before Ireland take on Scotland at Murrayfield (16:30 SA Time, 14:30 GMT), ahead of England’s home match against France at Twickenham (19:00 SA Time, 17:00 GMT).

With the Six Nations wide open, we assess the 4 teams’ chances.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales have made 2 changes in their front row to face Italy in their final Six Nations encounter of the season, in Rome on Saturday.

Rob Evans and Aaron Jarvis come into the starting 15, replacing the injured duo of Gethin Jenkins (hamstring) and Samson Lee (Achilles).

The team which will take to the field at the Stadio Olimpico is otherwise unchanged team.

Evans will make his first start as he wins his 2nd cap in Rome and will line-up alongside Ospreys duo Scott Baldwin and Jarvis.

Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones continue in the second row with Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton in the back row.

The backline remains unchanged with Rhys Webb (No 9) and Dan Biggar (No 10) at halfback, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the centre and a back 3 of George North, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.

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Rugby World Cup 2023The South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Wednesday confirmed its interest in bidding for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, following the announcement of the tender process by World Rugby.

Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU, reaffirmed the union’s commitment to bring the tournament back to South Africa, on the proviso of the approval of SASCOC – SA’s national Olympic Committee – and support of national government.

“We definitely expect to be bidding to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup – as we have for the past 3 tournaments,” said Roux.

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Martin Castrogiovanni

Martin Castrogiovanni

Prop Martin Castrogiovanni, ruled out of Italy’s win over Scotland at the weekend because of a dog bite, has been dropped for the Six Nations matches against France and Wales.

Castrogiovanni, who needed 14 stitches after being bitten on the nose by a friend’s dog, was not in the 30-man squad named by coach Jacques Brunel on Tuesday and did not figure among the players who were listed as excluded through injury.

Versatile back Andrea Masi, who missed the Scotland game, and lock Quintin Geldenhuys, still to make his first appearance in the championship because of a knee injury, were recalled.

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ScotlandItalyScotland head coach Vern Cotter is wary of a physical Italian test as he welcomes the Azzurri to Murrayfield in search of a maiden Six Nations victory.

Cotter has charged Peter Horne with the task of filling Finn Russell’s No 10 shirt – one of 4 changes from the side that lost 23 / 26 to Wales 2 weeks ago.

And he expects the Glasgow Warriors utility man to step up to the plate and help an ever-improving Scotland side turn promising performances into a result.

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Andries Ferreira

Andries Ferreira

The Golden Lions Rugby Union announced that they signed more players at the Union as well as the re-signing of 2 Vodacom Super Rugby players.

The GLRU has secured the services of lock Andries Ferreira who has signed a 2-year contract. Ferreira recently returned from a stint in Italy at Pro12 side Zebre but also has previous Vodacom Super Rugby and ABSA Currie Cup experience with the Cheetahs.

Ferreira will join the GLRU with immediate effect and will look to bolster the lock stock at the Union and provide added physicality in the tight 5.

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Mauro Bergamasco

Mauro Bergamasco

Mauro Bergamasco on Wednesday earned a recall to the Italian Six Nations side to take on England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The 35-year-old Zebre stalwart will win his 101st cap when he takes over at flank from Alessandro Zanni, who was injured in last weekend’s 3 / 26 loss to Ireland in the tournament’s opener.

Another veteran brought back into the starting 15 is 34-year-old Marco Bortolami, who will win his 111th cap in the second row alongside George Biagi following an injury to Quintin Geldenhuys.

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SIX Nations 2015 Launch

The World Cup countdown is officially on, as the Six Nations sides get the first opportunity in the spotlight.

xThe Northern Hemisphere teams will look to sharpen up on their game plans, test out combinations and look to see who to cut from their World Cup plans.

With England hosting the global showpiece this year, the onus is on the Northern Hemisphere sides to fully challenge and grab the opportunity of a World Cup on their turf.

The conditions, referees and schedule seems to favour them.

The Six Nations in 2014 saw a tournament only decided on the final day – with three teams still able to win it. Eventually Ireland won it, a perfect swan song for arguably the greatest No.13 in the modern era – Brian O’Driscoll.

England won the triple crown, beating all the other Home Nations, but failed to win the Six Nations. Italy was also in the record books for the most tackles in a Test match as they made 208!

What do we expect in the 2015 edition of the Six Nations?

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SpringboksSpringbok coach Heyneke Meyer and national captain Jean de Villiers both lauded the performance by South Africa in their 22-6 (8-6 at half-time)victory over Italy in Padua (Padova) on Saturday afternoon.

The Springboks scored three tries to nil, with Coenie Oosthuizen, Cobus Reinach and Bryan Habana crossing the Italians’ try-line. Pat Lambie added a penalty goal to lift him to 100 Test points and Handré Pollard slotted two conversions.

It was the first time since June 2008 that the Springboks had managed to keep Italy from scoring a try and the first time ever the Azzurri failed to cross the South African try-line in a Test in front of their home fans.

“I’m very happy with the result and fact that we didn’t concede any tries and no points in the second half,” said Meyer. “I’ll always prefer a try-count of 3-0 instead of 5-3.”

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Gilbert Rugby BallOnly one more Internatonal Test to be played today, that between Georgia vs Japan at 17:00 SA Time and Georgian Time, the rest of the results are in already!

Some surprising results all around, with the Italian Azzurri holding the Springboks to a limited win, Ireland narrowly beating the Wallabies, Wales containing the All Blacks untill the 69th minute before letting in 3 quick tries and France falling to a spirited Argentinian Pumas side.

The rest of the results, well they are pure wall decorations, for want of a better expletive.

The Weekend’s International Results are as follows:

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South AfricaItalyThe Springboks played Italy in a Test for the first time in 1995 when they were reigning as World Champions. They won the match 40-21, and since then have played Italy 10 times.

The Springboks have won all 11 but then unusually for Northern Hemisphere teams, Italy have played more Tests against South Africa in South Africa rather than at home – seven in South Africa vs four at home. But those 11 matches were not the first rugby contacts between the two countries.

Rugby in Italy started to get organised in the late 1920’s. Before that it was a haphazard affair when wandering Brits and contact with France that had led to matches here and there. In the 1920’s it enjoyed the support of Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy, a man who saw himself as the emperor of a new Roman Empire. As in imperial times, people enjoyed the blood sport of the amphitheatre, so in this new empire Il Duce would have rugby. Not that he had played the game as at 1,69 he would have been small even as a scrumhalf.

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Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen

Trevor Nyakane

Trevor Nyakane

Teboho Mahoje

Teboho Mahoje

Coenie Oosthuizen

Coenie Oosthuizen

The Springbok starting team to face Italy in Padova on Saturday shows four changes from the side which beat England at Twickenham last week, with three new faces amongst the pack and one in the backline.

There are also five changes on the bench, with Nizaam Carr and Julian Redelinghuys included in a Test match-23 for the first time.

Trevor Nyakane will start his first Test for South Africa at loosehead prop, while Coenie Oosthuizen moves up from the bench to replace the injured Jannie du Plessis at tighthead. Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje returns to the starting line-up while Johan Goosen has been selected at fullback.

Joining Carr and Redelinghuys on the bench, are Gurthrö Steenkamp, Lood de Jager and Willie le Roux. Tendai Mtawarira has been given a break after carrying a heavy workload recently.

“I’m excited to see what these guys can do on Saturday in what will be a stern Test against a fired-up Italy,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“We planned to make a few shifts for this Test as I’d like to see if these players can make the step up. The guys coming in deserve their opportunities and seeing that we won’t have our overseas-based players available next week against Wales, it made sense to bring a few of them in this week.”

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ItalyItaly coach Jacques Brunel has selected Fijian-born flank Samuela Vunisa in the only change to the team to face the Springboks on Saturday.

Vunisa, who has yet to play for Italy after being called into the squad for the November Tests, will replace Simone Favaro in the loose trio after the Treviso player suffered a sore neck in training.

In the only other notable switch, Leonardo Sarto has been pulled back to the right wing with Luke McLean going the other way to the left wing.

Italy beat Samoa 24-13 in their opening Test and despite last week’s 20-18 defeat to the Pumas, coach Jacques Brunel said he had seen enough to confirm the nucleus of his team for the Springboks, which he described as “the form team of the November series”.

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Richie GraySpringbok breakdown consultant Richie Gray believes games are mostly won and lost in the ‘top two inches’.

Speaking ahead of the Boks’ encounter with Italy at Stadio Euganeo in Padua on Saturday, Gray admitted the Boks’ dramatic turnaround from week one (Ireland) to week two (England) on tour can be put down to an improved mindset.

Despite the Boks’ dominance on the statistics sheet, the Boks’ Scottish assistant felt they were just not ‘in the game’ mentally.

In fact, he clearly subscribes to that adage first uttered by Leonard H Courtney in 1895: “After all, facts are facts, and although we may quote one to another with a chuckle, in the words of the Wise Statesman: ‘Lies, damn lies and statistics.’ Still there are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of.”

Gray pointed to the “big difference” from week one to week two on tour as an example of how a change in mindset can improve a team’s performance and result.

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Martin Castrogiovanni

Martin Castrogiovanni

The Italian team was given a clean bill of health ahead of their encounter with South Africa at Stadio Euganeo in Padua on Saturday – the last match of their year-end campaign.

After a credible 24-13 win over Samoa in their opening match, the Azzurri slipped to an 18-20 to Argentina last week.

Jacques Brunel’s charges, determined to get back on the winning track and record their first-ever win over the Springboks in what will be the 12th encounter between the countries, returned to the training field on Monday with all the players that featured against the Pumas available again.

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ItalyArgentinaAzzurri (12) 18 / 20 (10) Los Pumas (Final Score)

The Italian Azzurri and Argentinian Pumas did battle in the End Of Year Tours at

Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genova, Italy at 18:15 SA Time (17:15 Italy Time, 16:15 GMT, 13:15 Arg Time).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport on TV in SA.

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Martin Castrogiovanni

Martin Castrogiovanni

Toulon prop Martin Castrogiovanni replaces Dario Chistolini in the only change for Italy as they look to follow up a 24-13 win over Samoa with a win against Argentina this weekend.

But Italy’s second game of their three-test November series, due to be played in Genoa on Saturday, is now hanging in the balance due to heavy flooding in the northern Italian city.

With storms and heavy rain predicted for Saturday, officials said Thursday they have moved the game earlier, to Friday 17:15 Italian Time (18:15 SA Time, 16:15 GMT).

Italy coach Jacques Brunel was forced to leave Castrogiovanni on the sidelines due to suspension last week as Zebre prop Chistolini claimed only his third cap for the Azzurri.

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Agustín Creevy

Agustín Creevy

Argentina will be without their captain Agustín Creevy for the clash with Italy after the hooker sustained a thigh injury.

After leaving the field after just 20 minutes in the Pumas 31-41 loss to Scotland on the weekend, it now looks set that the hooker will not recover in time.

Creevy, who took over the Argentinean captaincy this year, underwent medical tests where it was revealed that he had suffered a grade one tear of his thigh.

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Gilbert Rugby BallNine International Test matches as well as the cross-hemisphere club / provincial match between Saracens and DHL Western Province, took place this weekend.

Well, it was not a good weekend for South African interests in these games, as both the Springboks and Western Province were compprehensively beaten in the space of 2 days.

In addition South African neighbours, Namibia, probably put up the best fight amongst the Southern African sides, but still going down to Canada, by 17 / 13.

On Saturday the Springboks came tumbling down to earth after a few weeks ago beating the New Zealand All Blacks, when they fell havily against Ireland, by 29 / 15 and on Sunday the Currie Cup champions, DHL Western Province was outplayed and put to the sword by Saracens in Londen, badly beaten by 6 tries to 3 and a total score of 46 / 22.

It appears that the Northern Hemisphere rugby countries have all crept closer to the Southern Hemisphere rivals, as the Wallabies barely won against Wales and the All Blacks only scraped home against England by a measly 3 points.

Scotland beat Argentina and France romped over Fiji, whilst Italy beat Samoa.

 

The results of the weekend are as follows:

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ItalyItaly captain Sergio Parisse believes winning the first of a three-match Test series, against Samoa next month, is “crucial” if the Azzurri are to build confidence ahead of the tougher challenge of Argentina and South Africa.

“It’s crucial for us to start this Test series off on a positive note with a win,” Parisse told reporters in Rome.

Italy head into the November Test series looking for massive improvements after finishing with the Six Nations wooden spoon and returning from a mid-year tour of the south Pacific winless.

Coach Jacques Brunel has welcomed several players back from injury, including Francesco Minto, Luca Morisi, Simone Favaro and scrumhalf Edoardo Gori.

New Zealand-born Kelly Haimona and Fijian Samuela Vunisa are also among three squad debutants alongside Simone Ragusi for November’s Tests.

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WhistleThe International Rugby Board has announced the match official appointments for upcoming November internationals.

Appointments were made by the IRB Match Official Selection Committee at its recent meeting in Dublin and follow a detailed review of recent performances during the June international window, The Rugby Championship and other matches.

South Africa’s Craig Joubert will kick off a busy month of Tests as teams and officials begin the countdown to Rugby World Cup 2015, when he takes charge of the New Zealand v USA fixture at Soldier Field in Chicago on November 1.

Steve Walsh will be the man in the middle for England’s match with the Springboks and Nigel Owens will officiate at Stade de France when Les Bleus take on Australia, as well as refereeing New Zealand’s visit to Twickenham. Wayne Barnes has been appointed to Wales v New Zealand in Cardiff, while Ireland v Australia in Dublin will be refereed by Glen Jackson. Jérôme Garces will be in charge when the Wallabies take on England and will be in Padova on November 22 to referee Italy v South Africa.

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Quintin Geldenhuys

Quintin Geldenhuys

ItalyQuintin Geldenhuys, who on Saturday will captain Italy for the first time against Fiji, is looking to start off with a bang.

Geldenhuys leads a team that has plenty of experience, especially in the scrum, but one noticeable absentee is usual captain Sergio Parisse.

Jacques Brunel spoke of his teams experience as well as its enthusiasm.

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Hennie DanillerThe Toyota Cheetahs have lost their second player with the news that fullback Hennie Daniller will move to Italian club Zebre at the end of the current Vodacom Super Rugby season.

Daniller, who has just turned 30, has been released early by the Cheetahs to make the move, and the news comes a few days after French club Oyonnax confirmed they had signed utility back Riaan “True Blue” Smit.

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ERCA new European Cup accord will be signed this week after nearly two years of fraught negotiations and stand-offs. The six unions involved in the tournament, together with officials from competing sides in England, France and Wales, met in Paris on Monday to finalise the details.

It was hoped the stakeholders would be able to sign the heads of agreement at the meeting but the translation of the document into Italian was completed only over the weekend and their rugby federation said it had not had time to fully scrutinise it.

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SIX-NationsWales, France, Ireland, England, Scotland and Italy have named thie teams for the weekend’s Six Nations action.

Wales named 6 changes in their side for the clash against Scotland.

France made 4 changes to their side, including bringing back Gael Fickou, for their clash against Ireland on the weekend.

Ireland made just 1 change to their side to face France.

England made no changes to their starting side and has made only 1 change on the bench, bringing back Manusamoa Tuilagi in the place of Alex Goode, for their clash with Italy in Rome.

After initially only naming the forwards and sweating over the composition of his backline, Scotland coach, Scott Johnson, has named his backline, with Edinburgh winger Dougie Fife winning his first cap.

Italy coach, Jacques Brunel, has made 3 changes to the Italy side, to face England, with Sergio Parisse returning to the fold and leading the team.

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