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Rugby World Cup

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Aaron Cruden, injured on the weekend and out for the season

Aaron Cruden, injured on the weekend and out for the season

The Chiefs and All Blacks were delivered devastating news in the context of their 2015 campaigns on Monday when it was confirmed Aaron Cruden had ruptured his left anterior cruciate ligament.

The star playmaker will visit a surgeon on Wednesday to arrange a knee re-construction which is expected to keep him sidelined for 6 months.

In a brief statement issued on Monday afternoon, the Chiefs confirmed that Cruden would undergo traditional surgery “given Aaron’s young age and long-term career prospects.”

Cruden’s Super Rugby season is definitely over and his Rugby World Cup has been thrown into doubt as even a best-case recovery within that 6 month window would only see him fit in the final fortnight of the tournament.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

The decision of All Blacks flyhalf Colin Slade to head to Europe after the World Cup has made coach Steven Hansen very aware that the exodus of New Zealand players is not yet over.

Slade is the 10th All Black so far to announce he is heading offshore at the end of the year, to join French club Pau.

Still to confirm their post-World Cup futures are Julian Savea, Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty and, coupled with expected retirements and the impact of the Olympics, coach Steve Hansen is bracing for a difficult 12 months following the World Cup in England.

Cashed-up European clubs, who once targeted players in the twilight of their careers, assisting the All Blacks into an easy rollover of talent, are now creating a talent drain by luring up-and-coming stars.

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

Cell C Sharks boss Gary Gold said if he had the choice he would not be resting veteran Springboks Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira against a formidable Lions scrum this weekend.

Gold has made a number of changes to the team that will travel up to Johannesburg to take on South Africa’s form team this weekend.

Some of these changes are enforced due to injury, some because of suspension and others the result of a selection rethink.

However, Gold seems least pleased about the fact that he needs to rest his key front row Springboks in accordance with SARU’s player management initiative.

“If I had an opportunity to play Jannie and Beast this weekend, I would,” Gold said ahead of the trip up to Ellis Park.

“These are decisions that were made at a higher level, and as bizarre as they are, they were made, and as much as I can stick to them, I am going to try and stick to them.”

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

He has been keeping a low public profile during the 1st half of Super Rugby’s ordinary season … and it is probably just as well.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer must be scratching his head worriedly already over how to construct his national side for the 1st assignment of the 2015 Test season, against Australia in Brisbane on 18 July as part of a condensed Rugby Championship.

Presently several Boks are either injured, suspended or undergoing rest periods (the sudden pulling of Duane Vermeulen from the Stormers’ overseas tour after only 1 match has tongues wagging despite official statements that it was “always planned”), whilst other staple characters have suffered form dips in line with the general struggles of their sides in the local conference and overall.

It is difficult to envisage any SA team actually winning Super Rugby at this point – not the ideal state of affairs in a World Cup year, even if it is not always proved to be relevant — just as it is hazardous to predict which franchise will eventually top the ho-hum domestic pile.

It is true that a few additional players like overseas-based Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez and Francois Louw and a rehabilitating Pieter-Steph du Toit should brighten the Bok equation, fitness permitting, nearer the Test roster itself, and 1 or 2 outsiders like Stormers tighthead strongman Vincent Koch and some surprise-package Lions personnel have stuck up their hands.

Yet a look at the last Springbok line-up for a Test – the unpalatable 12 / 6 loss to Wales in Cardiff on 29 November9 last year – gives you an idea of Meyer’s quandary; things look considerably more unsettled than he would like.

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WhistleWorld Rugby has announced the 12-member panel that will referee at Rugby World Cup 2015 as well as the 7 Assistant Referees and 4 Television Match Officials who will also officiate in matches at the game’s showcase tournament, which starts on 18 September 2015.

France will provide 3 referees in the form of Jérôme Garcès, Romain Poite and Pascal Gauzere. New Zealand, South Africa, England and Ireland will provide 2 each with 1 from the Welsh Rugby Union.

The Rugby World Cup runs from 18 September to 31 October 2015.

There will be 48 matches in the tournament.

The selection was made after a comprehensive review of refereeing performances by the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee.

Chairman of the selection panel John Jeffrey said: “I want to congratulate all 12 Referees, the 7 AR’s and 4 TMO’s, who through very hard work and determination, have made it onto the panel for this year’s Rugby World Cup.

The individual match appointments will be announced in due course.

 

The full list of Referees with their union and number of tests in brackets is:

  • Wayne Barnes (RFU, 57)
  • George Clancy (IRFU, 38)
  • JP Doyle (RFU, 12)
  • Jérôme Garcès (FFR, 22)
  • Pascal Gauzere (FFR, 17)
  • Glen Jackson (NZR, 10)
  • Craig Joubert (SARU, 55)
  • John Lacey (IRFU, 13)
  • Nigel Owens (WRU, 60)
  • Jaco Peyper (SARU, 20)
  • Romain Poite (FFR, 39)
  • Chris Pollock (NZR, 18)

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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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Debbie Jevans

Debbie Jevans

England Rugby 2015 Chief Executive Debbie Jevans CBE has announced that she has decided to resign her position with the England Rugby World Cup organising body due to personal reasons.

Debbie has been at the helm of the Rugby World Cup Organising Committee since October 2012, and leaves with a highly experienced event delivery Executive team in place, with plans for the tournament in excellent shape. All aspects of tournament preparations are on or ahead of schedule, with over 1.9 million tickets sold to date.

The England Rugby 2015 Executive team will now report to Stephen Brown as the new Managing Director, working alongside ER2015 Chairman Andy Cosslett and the England Rugby 2015 Board to oversee the final stage of successful delivery of the tournament.

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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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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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Cobus Reinach

Cobus Reinach

Marcell Coetzee

Marcell Coetzee

Patrick Lambie

Patrick Lambie

The Springbok trio of Cobus Reinach, Marcell Coetzee and Patrick Lambie are all expected to be rested for the Cell C Sharks’ showdown with the Western Force, in line with the agreement with SA Rugby over player management.

The 3 have earned the break after influential performances during the competition, and the good news that Frans Steyn was cleared to play means he may well take over the flyhalf position from Lambie, although the coaches may not want to break up his midfield partnership with JP Pietersen.

If the pair remain at No 12 and No 13 respectively, either Fred Zeilinga or Lionel Cronje will step into the number No 10 jersey, after solid performances for the Sharks XV in their Vodacom Cup clash on Saturday.

“It’s a huge boost that we will have Frans available, it provides massive stability to the team, especially due to the changes we will have with the resting of the Springboks,” said assistant coach Paul Anthony.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

The Vodacom Bulls fully support the South African Rugby Union’s plan to rest key Springboks, but there won’t be a mass withdrawal of players at any stage.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said the next 5 weeks will see the Bulls rotate the players in a calculated move that is in line with the SARU plan.

In a meeting between SARU, the national body’s CEO, Jurie Roux, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, the various franchise CEOs and coaching representatives it was agreed that franchise coaches – as far as possible – would rest key Springboks at various stages in the season.

Two principles were identified as being ideal:

  1. That players should not play more than 5 consecutive weeks.
  2. That certain Springbok players should have a number of weeks of rest during the tournament (2 to 4 weeks depending on each player’s personal needs and position and the franchise’s playing resources). Bye weeks are not considered as a rest week (although they do trigger a restart of the count of consecutive weeks), while injury weeks are ‘invisible’ (i.e. a player injured for 2 weeks during the 1st 7 weeks of the tournament would be regarded as having played 5 consecutive weeks at the end of week 7).

However, the Sharks have already bucked the system – with coach Gary Gold having said his outfit is in a different position to other SA outfits.

The Bulls have opted to take a different stance.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

After 5 games in a row for the Cell C Sharks’ Springboks, questions are being asked about the SARU player rest initiative and when the Durban-based team will buy in.

Gary Gold however has said the Sharks are in a different position to other teams in South Africa and as such have an alternative to it .

The Sharks have a core group of Springboks that play an integral part to both the union and the national team.

Players such as Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Cobus Reinach, Marcell Coetzee and Pat Lambie to name a few.

However, with Super Rugby now reaching Round 6, and a large percentage of those Springboks being named to play their 6 game in a row against the Chiefs this Saturday, questions are being asked of the Sharks management.

Coach Gold explained his selection, and subsequent breaking of the SARU initiative, by stating the Sharks are facing a challenging schedule with regards to BYE-weeks.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says Duane Vermeulen should be the Springbok captain at this year’s Rugby World Cup if Jean de Villiers fails to recover in time.

De Villiers, the current Springbok leader, is in a race against time to be fit for the 18 September to 31 October event.

De Villiers suffered an horrific knee injury in South Africa’s final Test of last year – against Wales in Cardiff – and it remains uncertain if he’ll recover sufficiently for the tournament in England and Wales.

“Duane should lead the Springboks at the World Cup if Jean de Villiers is not ready,” Mallett said.

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Rugby World Cup 2015A record number of tickets will be sold for this year’s Rugby Union World Cup in England, the head of the sport’s ruling body said.

The tournament will be the most viewed, best-attended World Cup ever, according to World Rugby.

“With 6 months to go, World Cup 2015 is in record-breaking shape and we are confident of a very special event that will capture the imagination on and off the field,” said World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

“The event has captured the imagination like no other and demand for tickets has been unprecedented,” he added.

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SpringboksThe understanding reached between SARU and the participating franchises in Vodacom Super Rugby are as follows:

At a pre-season meeting between SARU’s CEO, the Springbok Coach and Rugby Department staff, with union CEOs and coaching representatives the desirability of managing the playing time of an identified group of Springbok players was agreed.

Two principles were identified as being ideal:

  1. That players should not play more than 5 consecutive weeks.
  2. That certain Springbok players should have a number of weeks of rest during the tournament (2 to 4 weeks depending on each player’s personal needs and position and the franchise’s playing resources).

Note: BYE weeks are not considered as a rest week (although they do trigger a restart of the count of consecutive weeks) while injury weeks are ‘invisible’ (i.e. a player injured for 2 weeks during the 1st 7 weeks of the tournament would be regarded as having played 5 consecutive weeks at the end of week 7).

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

If there was ever a good time for Stormers coach Allister Coetzee to rest captain Duane Vermeulen it is now.

The SA Player of the Year was always going to have to miss the 1st game of the Stormers tour against the Highlanders, having played 5 straight games at the start of the season, but having 4 wins under the belt and plenty of loose forward depth at his disposal does make it easier for Coetzee to give him the time off.

The plan was always to give Vermeulen an extended break with the BYE this week followed by a week off in Dunedin, as part of SARU’s request that top Springboks be given regular games off to manage their workload this season ahead of the World Cup.

Coetzee admitted that it may be tougher to rest Vermeulen when there is more pressure on later in the season, but for now he is happy to stick to the plan.

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Tevita Kuridrani

Tevita Kuridrani

Wallabies and Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani has signed a 2-year contract extension with Australian Rugby that will take him through until the end of the 2017 season.

Kuridrani joins Wallabies Nick Phipps, Sean McMahon, Rob Horne, Sam Carter and Scott Fardy who have committed to the Australian Rugby Union in recent months.

The 23-year-old has quickly established himself as one of the Wallabies rising stars since his maiden Test campaign in 2013, where he has since worn the gold jersey 20 times scoring 4 tries.

Kuridrani is highly respected amongst his peers, having polled strongly with 202 votes in the John Eales medal in his last international season.

However, the Fijian-born flyer still feels the need to improve as a player.

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Philippe Saint-Andre

Philippe Saint-Andre

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Monday gave a strong indication that Saturday’s game against England at Twickenham would be his last match in charge of a Six Nations game.

Asked if that would be the case he replied: “the chances are high that it will be, yes.”

“But I prefer to stay in the present and on this hugely important week ahead of us,” he added.

Saint-Andre, who won 69 caps for France as a wing, took over as France coach after the World Cup of 2011 and his present contract takes him through until the end of this year’s World Cup in England.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen will not play in the team’s next Super Rugby match, against the Highlanders in Dunedin on 28 March.

Vermeulen played his 5th consecutive match for the Stormers when they hosted the Chiefs at Newlands this past weekend.

According an agreement between the SA Rugby Union and the Super Rugby franchises, key Springboks will not be allowed to play more than 5 games on the trot in this year’s competition, in order to keep them fresh for the Rugby World Cup later in the year.

This means centre Juan de Jongh will take over the captaincy for the game against the Highlanders, with Schalk Burger likely to be included in the starting team.

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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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Morne du Plessis & Joost van der Westhuizen at the 2015 Sport Industry Awards

Morne du Plessis & Joost van der Westhuizen at the 2015 Sport Industry Awards

Former Springbok scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen was honoured for his contribution to South African sport at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg on Thursday night.

Van der Westhuizen, who suffers from Motor Neuron Disease, received an award for his Outstanding Contribution to South African Sport at the 2015 Sport Industry Awards held at Sandton Convention Centre.

Van der Westhuizen received a standing ovation when he received his award from former Springbok captain Morne du Plessis. Several well-known sports personalities attended the event.

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Pat Lambie

Pat Lambie

Cell C Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie feels that SARU’s initiative to rest Springboks during the Super Rugby campaign will benefit both the national team and the bigger franchises.

SARU announced Monday that they would manage the game time of a number of key Springboks throughout the Super Rugby series following an agreement between the national board and the franchises.

It stated that players’ game time will be handled on an individual basis depending on their work load in the last year as well as injuries, in an effort to ensure the Springboks are managed as well as possible in the build-up to the World Cup in September and October.

Although not focusing on the World Cup directly, Lambie feels that enforced rest and subsequent squad rotation will benefit a bigger union such as the Sharks.

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SpringboksThe game time of a number of key Springboks will be managed throughout the Vodacom Super Rugby series in the coming months, following an agreement between the South African Rugby Union and the franchises.

These players’ game time will be handled on an individual basis depending on their work load in the last year as well as injuries, in an effort to ensure the Springboks are managed as well as possible in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup in September and October.

“We are extremely grateful to the Vodacom Super Rugby franchises for agreeing to assist in ensuring our key players’ game time is managed in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup,” said SARU CEO Jurie Roux.

“It’s wonderful to know we have the support and cooperation of the franchises as the Springboks prepare for the Rugby World Cup and we’d like to wish them all the best for the forthcoming months of Vodacom Super Rugby.

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SpringboksThe South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Monday confirmed that the Springboks will get their season underway against a World XV in Cape Town on 11 July, a week after the Super Rugby final.

The match was initially scheduled for late August.

The Springboks also got their 2014 season under way with a clash against the World XV at Newlands, with the South Africans running out 47 / 13 victors on that occasion.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

A discernible changing of the guard in Springbok playing personnel after a World Cup is an established trend… but national captain Jean de Villiers has some special fears about the expected migration of several leading stars to overseas clubs later this year.

Interviewed while he goes about his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury to try to make the Rugby World Cup 2015 cut in the United Kingdom, De Villiers said the exodus was threatening to be more acute this time – and not just to feature players on the receding end of their careers, as has been the general norm before.

“It does seem that this time around, if you can believe the rumours floating around, that more players are looking to go abroad than after 2011 (the New Zealand-staged tournament).

“Whereas that year we had quite a few guys retiring, finishing up (at Bok level), there weren’t as many switching shores.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

A critical element of Heyneke Meyer’s tight-forward plans for Rugby World Cup 2015, plus his unpredictable backline talisman… already under injury scares.

If you’d told Heyneke Meyer – presumably a long way from the untelevised encounter – before Friday’s Newlands friendly between the Stormers and Cheetahs that two players falling into those categories would pull up injured in it, the ever-animated Springbok head coach might have been excused for having kittens on the spot.

But that is precisely what occurred in the pre-season affair, won 39 / 31 by the hosts in an otherwise productive work-out for both teams, as Eben Etzebeth and Willie le Roux fell foul of the curse.

Oddly, the more alarming of the incidents, on initial viewing, appeared to affect fullback magician, Willie lLe Roux, during the 2nd half – and he had only got on the park off the bench for the start of it.

But with just 7 minutes remaining, the IRB Player of the Year nominee for 2014 collapsed in a writhing heap after being tackled, clutching the area around his left ankle. To watching spectators on the fairly sparsely-populated Railway Stand, it wouldn’t have looked good at all.

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Braam van Straaten

Braam van Straaten

Most pundits would feel that expansive, all-out attacking play is what results in most tries. Or perhaps counter-attacking from turnovers.

However, in-depth analysis seems to suggest something very different.

Springbok Braam van Straaten says kicking for territory could become an even greater part of the game in this World Cup year.

Van Straaten, who played flyhalf and centre for the Springboks in 21 Tests from 1999 to 2001, said teams have done an enormous amount of analyses on where the most tries are being scored from.

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says England made a mistake by not appointing him and New Zealander Wayne Smith as coaches 3 years ago.

Mallett, 58, was in line for the England head coaching job but lost out to Stuart Lancaster.

In an interview with The Times, Mallett said he would have appointed Smith as his assistant coach had he got the England job.

Smith was the All Blacks’ assistant coach when they won the 2011 Rugby World Cup and also helped the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013.

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Roger Federer

Roger Federer

Self-confessed sports nut Roger Federer goes to watch games whenever his schedule allows and is in no doubt who he’ll be cheering at this year’s Rugby World Cup – South Africa.

The tennis great’s mother Lynette is South African – she met his Swiss father Robert while he was working in Gauteng – and this is where his allegiances lie.

“I’ll be supporting South Africa, of course,” he said when asked who he will be cheering for.

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Sekope Kepu

Sekope Kepu

Both Sekope Kepu (Waratahs) and Nic White (Brumbies), have added their names to the long list of Australian Players who will pack up and go play rugby in France after the Rugby World Cup of 2015.

 

Sekope Kepu:

Australian international prop Sekope Kepu has become the latest addition to the conveyor belt moving players from the Southern Hemisphere to France.

Kepu signed a three-year deal with ambitious Top 14 club Bordeaux-Begles.

The 28-year-old Wallaby – who will join after this year’s World Cup – is the second player from the Waratahs to join the club coached by former France captain Raphael Ibanez.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers, Springbok captain, with knee dislocation injury against Wales

Injured Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is holding on tight to his dream of recovering in time for the World Cup tournament.

The Bok medical team and their counterparts from Western Province said on Monday they will work together in the coming months to ensure De Villiers is afforded every opportunity to make a successful comeback to the playing field in time for the global showpiece in September and October.

The Bok captain will continue with his rehabilitation following the serious knee injury he suffered against Wales last November.

Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts is in charge of the rehabilitation process.

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis as well as Duane Vermeulen will further their careers in France after this year’s Rugby World Cup, respected French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique has revealed.

According to the newspaper, the official announcement regarding Vermeulen will only be made in July.

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Jeremy Thrush

Jeremy Thrush

Ben Franks

Ben Franks

Just like in South Africa and Australia, the New Zealand list is rapidly growing, of All Blacks players who are making preparations to depart New Zealand after Rugby World Cup 2015.

Jeremy Thrush is the lastest to already have announced he has signed up North, for Gloucester… but that is not all, with news that Ben Franks is thought to be next to go. It is believed that Ben Franks is ready to sign with English Club, London Irish.

Recent articles we have hosted seems to indicate that the extent of the exodus North is just as rampant in Australia and also in South Africa.

 

The list of players who are going or are suspected to be in the thows of following their departing countrymen are:

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New ZealandEight All Blacks will miss the Round 1 of Super Rugby as the World Cup in September looms over the tournament.

All 5 New Zealand Super Rugby teams face the difficult balancing act of spelling their All Blacks for 2 games each in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup defence this year.

New Zealand Rugby high performance manager Don Tricker, All Blacks strength and conditioning trainer Nick Gill and physiotherapist Peter Gallagher this week visited Super Rugby bases to map out a player-management plan.

The Blues, Crusaders and Chiefs decided to rest a selection of their All Blacks in the opening Round starting on 13 February.

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