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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Twelve months ago the Springbok talent cupboard looked bare – with a dearth of back-up in several key positions.

Now, less than 10 months out from the start of the World Cup, South African coach Heyneke Meyer believes he has ‘plugged all the gaps’.

Speaking after his team’s hard-earned 22-6 win over Italy in Padua at the weekend, Meyer said he is “very happy” with the state of the Boks’ player resources.

Tighthead prop and fullback were among the two positions where depth was a major concern, but the added bonus of Nizaam Carr’s outstanding debut means Meyer’s already well-stocked loose forward resources have an additional arrow in the quiver.

“I said Nizaam was running great lines in training (last week),” Meyer told a media scrum.

“The test was to take that into a Test match where there isn’t a lot of space and he came through with flying colours.”

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Warren Whiteley

Warren Whiteley

Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis has not recovered from a hamstring injury and will miss their final tour game against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Du Plessis sustained the injury against England at Twickenham on 15 November and missed this past weekend’s game against Italy in Padua (Padova).

He was expected to be back for the Wales Test, but needs more time on the sidelines.

Warren Whiteley picked up a calf injury during training recently and also has not recovered sufficiently to play in the final Test against Wales on Saturday.

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CricketA selection of Springboks will take on the Proteas in a T20 match at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg on 5 December for the Nelson Mandela Legacy Cup.

National captain Jean de Villiers and vice-captain Victor Matfield have both been included in the star-studded Springbok T20 cricket team.

Matfield scored 23 runs from 23 balls and hit four fours against the Proteas in Cape Town earlier this year.

The two Springbok centurions will be joined by Willem Alberts, who took two wickets in as many balls at Newlands, as well as Willie le Roux, who scored 16 from eight balls including a big six.

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John Philip "Bakkies" Botha

John Philip “Bakkies” Botha

John Philip “Bakkies” Botha, born 22 September 1979 in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal has had a glittering international career that drew to a close on 22 November 2014.

He will continue to play for his French Club Toulon and has even hinted at retiring in South Africa with the Currie Cup.

In his professional career Botha has won everything there is to win.

With the Blue Bulls he won the Vodacom Cup in 2001 and then went on to add three Currie Cup titles to his name in 2002, 2004 and 2009.

With the Bulls in Super Rugby, Botha was part of the first South African team to lift the trophy in 2007 (in the professional era – with Transvaal winning the Super 10 in 1993), and then again in 2009 and 2010.

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AustraliaAustralia have slipped another place to fifth in the latest World Rugby Rankings with France, Japan, Tonga, Canada and Namibia also falling after defeats.

Australia’s 26-23 loss to Ireland on Saturday has seen the Wallabies slip another place to fifth – equalling their lowest ever position since the World Rugby Rankings were introduced in October 2003.

The Wallabies headed into the match in Dublin sitting just one hundredth of a rating point above England, but will now travel to Twickenham to face Stuart Lancaster’s men this weekend behind two northern hemisphere nations with Ireland strengthening their hold on third place with the win.

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Special EditionThe starting side who did duty for the Springboks on Saturday as well as one replacement, have all left the Springboks to return to their respective Clubs in France and Japan.

  • Johan Goosen returns to Racing Metro in France
  • Bryan Habana returns to Toulon
  • JP Pietersen returns to the Panasonic Wild Knights
  • On the Springbok bench, Gurthrö Steenkamp returns to Toulouse in France

Of course Bakkies Botha has now retired from International Rugby and accordingly also leaves for Toulon, whilst Morné Steyn (who was not used on Tour) returns to Stade Français.

Schalk Burger joins his Japanes Club, Suntory Sungoliath.

This leads us to the burning question as to the composition and changes in the Springbok run-on team and 23-man squad for Saturday’s encounter with Wales, who held a lead over the All Blacks till the 69th minute, this past Saturday, before conceding a blitz of 3 tries, which blew the score against them out of proportion.

Mind you, one more Springbok tourist is also leaving the squad, thus unavailable for selection, namely Seabelo Senatla, who was released to the Springbok Sevens squad (or Blitzbokke as they are affectionately referred to) for the 2 remaining HSBC Sevens World Series Tournaments in 2014… the tournament in Dubai and the one in South Africa the week thereafter.

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Varsity CupThe FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International for 2015 is set to continue its grand tradition of trying out experimental laws, further cementing the tournament’s status as a testing ground for the laws of rugby.

This season sees the exciting reintroduction of the WHITE CARD – which was used in the inaugural 2008 Varsity Cup Final. The WHITE CARD is a card that can be used by either coach or captain to review a decision by the referee.

This exciting experiment is endorsed by the South African Rugby Union (SARU). Andre Watson, SARU General Manager Referees, had the following to say on the WHITE CARD.

“This is a step in the right direction to assist referees to get that important decision correct, and to put some responsibility on the captain and coaches to help with the process.”

The WHITE CARD challenge system is to only be used during the Varsity Cup. The team challenge, or WHITE CARD, can be called by the team coach or captain.

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Seabelo Senatla

Seabelo Senatla

Seabelo Senatla has been released from the Springbok touring squad at the request of the Springbok Sevens and will return to South Africa on Sunday.

Senatla will join the Blitzbokke as they prepare for the next two tournaments in the HSBC Sevens World Series, in Dubai and Port Elizabeth.

“We’ve got a very good relationship with Neil (Powell) and the Sevens, so we’re happy to help,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“At this stage we won’t be calling up a replacement as we have enough cover at the back.

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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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Bakkies Botha

Bakkies Botha

Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Heyneke Meyer paid tribute to Bakkies Botha, who announced his retirement from international rugby shortly after the Test.

“Bakkies will go down in history as one of the greatest Springboks of all time,” said Meyer of the 85-times capped lock forward. “He is a giant on the field and off it and never gave an inch, which personifies what Springbok rugby is all about.

“I’ve coached him for a very long time and while I’m immensely very proud of the player he’s become, I’m even more proud of the man Bakkies has become. I’ll forever be very proud of having been his coach.”

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Bakkies Botha

John Philip “Bakkies” Botha – The Springbok ENFORCER calls time on his International career.

Springbok lock and Rugby World Cup winner Bakkies Botha has announced his retirement from international rugby.

Botha, who made his Test debut on 9 November 2002 against France in Marseille, while his 85th and final appearance for South Africa was last Saturday, when he came on as a replacement in the 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham.

During a stellar career, the 35-year-old lock won the Rugby World Cup with the Springboks in 2007 and was victorious at almost every other level of the game.

He has winners’ medals from the Castle Lager Rugby Championship (Tri-Nations), British & Irish Lions Series, Vodacom Super Rugby, Absa Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup, as well as the Heineken Cup and French Top 14.

Botha is the seventh most-capped Springbok of all time, is a three-time SA Rugby Player of the Year nominee (2003, 2004 and 2005) and holds the world record for the most Tests as a lock combination in the starting line-up with Victor Matfield (63).

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland’s record against the Southern Hemisphere giants of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa now stands at played 27, won one and lost 26 after a 16-34 defeat at the hands of the All Blacks.

That solitary win was against the Wallabies, 21-18, back in 2008, but Gatland insisted that his team did not lack self-belief against the SANZAR nations, praising New Zealand’s kicking game in a brutally entertaining match in Cardiff.

“It’s not a matter of belief. It’s sometimes just getting across the line and doing it, and the first time you do that, it’s easier the next time,” said Gatland.

“That’s a big thing for us, we get over that line and that’s what will create that belief and that composure to finish a game off.”

Gatland, himself a Kiwi who took charge of Wales after the 2007 World Cup, added of the “nearly-men” tag.

“It’s disappointing. You’ve got to keep working hard to try to rectify that in terms of critical moments when we’ve come under a bit of pressure.

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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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Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

The Bulls were dealt a cruel blow just days into their pre-season, with confirmation that Springbok Flip van der Merwe is set to miss the start of the 2015 season.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, confirmed that Van der Merwe will undergo surgery next Tuesday after damaging his pectoral muscle.

“It was a freak accident,” Ludeke said, when asked about the burly lock that was ruled out for the latter half of 2014 after suffering a serious knee injury during the second Springbok Test against Wales in June.

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Exodus

European clubs targeting Springboks to join their cash-flush clubs after next year’s Rugby World Cup will this time have more of a fight on their hands than before, after the South African Rugby Union’s (SARU) Springbok contracts are likely to be enforced with more vigour.

In recent days we’ve seen growing reports of Boks that may be heading overseas after the Rugby World Cup. This week it was Duane Vermeulen’s link with a French club and Bath – the latter willing to offer around R7.8-million a year for the IRB Player of the year nominee’s services.

Previously both Flip van der Merwe and Eben Etzebeth have been linked with moves overseas to French clubs while sources in France tell of Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, Francois Hougaard, Willie le Roux and even Jan Serfontein being privately courted with offers to go overseas.

However, here is the catch. Those with Springbok contracts cannot enter into any negotiations with any club before 1 July 2015, leaving them a matter of 2 months to sort out their post-World Cup careers before the showpiece event takes place.

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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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Rudy Paige

Rudy Paige

Marnitz Boshoff

Rudy Paige and Marnitz Boshoff have been called up to the Springbok squad for the last week of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour in Cardiff next week.

Paige, from the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Xerox Golden Lions’ Boshoff will join in the squad on Sunday to provide specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf as the Springboks’ overseas-based players are not available for the last match of the season due to the fact that it falls outside the Test window.

“This means that Jano Vermaak, Morne Steyn and Johan Goosen are not available to face Wales, which is why we had to get in specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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Renaldo Bothma

Renaldo Bothma

Steval Pumas outgoing No 8 Renaldo Bothma cleaned up at the rugby union’s annual awards on Wednesday night, taking home the big prizes on offer.

Bothma, who has signed for the Cell C Sharks in the coming season was a popular choice after a storming Absa Currie Cup campaign for the Nelspruit based union.

Bothma was crowned as the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup player of the year and the referee’s player of the year.

“What an honour to be rewarded with all the prizes. I can only thank my heavenly father for the talent he gave me, thank my support base in the likes of my parents, fellow players and the whole of Nelspruit community for this year. And yes, thank you to coach Jimmy Stonehouse for believing in me and giving me the opportunities I had. This lead to the great opportunity to play Super Rugby and World Cup in 2015,” Bothma said when receiving his awards.

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Super Rugby

  • SANZAR Executive Committee formally approves Japan Rugby Football Union and Union Argentina de Rugby’s admission into Super Rugby from 2016
  • The Japanese team will be based at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium with three home games per season to be played at the Singapore Sports Hub
  • The Argentine and Japanese national teams are currently ranked 9th and 10th in the world respectively
  • There are nearly a quarter of a million rugby players in Japan and Argentina combined
  • Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games

Super Rugby’s expansion to 18 teams from 2016 is officially complete with SANZAR formally confirming the participation of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) and Union Argentina de Rugby (UAR) at an Executive Committee meeting in London today.

The confirmation is the final stage of formalities and paves the way for the Tokyo and Buenos Aires-based franchises to start contracting players and staff ahead of their historic entry to Super Rugby in a little over 12 months from now.

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Bath PlugBath RugbyErrr… wrong picture… I did not say Bath Plug, I said Bath Rugby! OK, here’s the right one!

Gmpfff, still looks somewhat the same!

 

Anyway… Bath head coach Mike Ford has said the club are not in the market for Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen.

Earlier in the week there was speculation that Bath were on the hunt for Vermeulen to be one of their marquee players alongside Wallaby Will Genia.

“It was news to us when it was mentioned to us earlier today,” Ford said on Tuesday.

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Vodacom CupThe Namibian Rugby Union (NRU) has welcomed the inclusion of a Namibian team in next year’s Vodacom Cup competition.

NRU president Bradley Basson, confirmed on Tuesday that the South African Rugby Union has agreed to Namibia’s request to be included in the 16-team competition that will run from early March through to the end of May.

“It is the best thing that could have happened to Namibian rugby in our build-up towards the Rugby World Cup, we have a number of local based players who are not exposed to high level rugby and they will benefit from this,” said Basson from Carcavelos, Portugal where the national team is preparing for a test match against Portugal on Saturday.

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw

Francois Louw says he had been carrying “for years” an underlying neck problem that forced him to have surgery in September.

A pinched nerve caused by a slipped disk resulted in the 34-cap Springbok having an operation on 22 September.

The injury has forced the flank to miss the year-end internationals and Louw is still unable to put a firm date on his return for club side Bath, although he says a December “would be fantastic”.

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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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Gawie Visagie

Gawie Visagie

The KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union and the Sharks are saddened to hear the news of the passing of former Natal scrumhalf Gawie Visagie, who passed away this morning (Wednesday) after a brave battle with cancer.

Having joined Natal from Griqualand West, Visagie played 42 games for Natal between 1981-1985. Though essentially a scrumhalf, he shone at flyhalf for Natal in the 1984 Currie Cup final played against Western Province. Gawie was a well-liked and respected former player who still had such a passion for the game.

In August this year the team of 1984, which Gawie was a proud member of, celebrated their 30-year reunion with a dinner that was held in Mount Edgecombe. Gawie’s fight against cancer was recognised at this function with many stalwarts present to wish him well.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

English club Bath are reportedly setting their sights on signing Springbok and Stormers No 8 Duane Vermeulen after next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The 28-year-old has been instrumental for the Springboks this season and was recently also shortlisted as an IRB World Rugby Player of the year nominee.

According to the Express.co.uk website, Bath are lining up Vermeulen as a second marquee player alongside Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia.

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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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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

The Springboks on Monday received welcome news with fullback Willie le Roux cleared of any fractures after undergoing a scan.

Le Roux picked up a cheekbone injury in last Saturday’s 31-28 win over England at Twickenham.

His participation for this Saturday’s Test against Italy in Padova was still in doubt when he went for a scan on Monday.

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Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen is ready to emerge from obscurity and stake a claim to be once again a regular member of the Springbok squad.

Goosen, who has struggled to regain the form that saw him play four Tests in his debut year as a Bok in 2012, is on standby to take over at fullback from Willie le Roux against Italy in Padova on Saturday.

Le Roux, who injured his cheekbone against England at the weekend, remains on the team’s ‘doubtful list – despite scans clearing him from any fractures.

“We’ll manage Willie during training this week, but he should be available to face Italy,” team doctor Craig Roberts said.

Even with the positive news on the instinctive Le Roux, Goosen’s name has been penciled in to wear the No 15 jersey.

Springbok assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher confirmed that Goosen is an option, should Le Roux be ruled out or ‘rested’ from the third Test on South Africa’s four-match year-end tour.

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Redefine PropertiesCurrie Cup runners up, the Golden Lions, have lost one of their sponsors ahead of the 2015 season.

Redefine Properties recently announced it would not be renewing its three-year sponsorship of the team.

Redefine stepped forward to rescue the Golden Lions Rugby Union in 2012 after a previous sponsor said the union was insolvent.

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Paul Perez

Paul Perez

Sharks CEO John Smit has confirmed the arrival of Samoan and former EP Kings wing Paul Perez to the Sharks.

Perez arrived earlier on Monday at the Sharks headquarters in Durban, after his contract with the Kings was terminated.

Perez now joins Michael Horak, who also made the move up the coast, to take up a role as defensive and kicking coach fro the union.

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IRBThe Wallabies 26-29 loss to France in Paris will result in Australia moving to 4th position overall in the IRB rankings.

Meanwhile Ireland, who defeated Georgia 49-7, moves into the top three in the world.

This is despite Joe Schmidt’s men not gaining any rankings points over 15th placed Georgia, and they will jump from fifth to third in the biggest move of the weekend.

Likewise the All Blacks made no difference and remain number one after playing eighth placed Scotland.

The Springboks improved their position by nearly a full ranking point with their 31-28 win over England.

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