With Welsh Rugby getting ready for the competitive part of the 2014/15 season, which starts on Friday, we have a look at the big name moves, including the ins and outs at the four Welsh regions and a look at some of the player and coach movements outside the country.
Adam Jones became the biggest Welsh rugby headline-stealer with his shock signing for Cardiff Blues after being an Osprey since 2003.
But the British and Irish Lions prop’s switch after season-long speculation was not the only move to make fans sit up and take notice.
Gareth Thomas, the former rugby international, has spoken for the first time of the agonising pain of his wife leaving him after he came out as gay.
The ex-Wales captain told how he made several suicide attempts after confessing to his wife Jemma in 2006 that he had been secretly homosexual throughout their five-year marriage.
In a new book Thomas says that the night his wife left him, he dressed in his best grey suit issued by the Welsh Rugby Union and headed to the swimming pool of his home set upon drowning himself.
He explained in an interview on Saturday how he had fought to become one of the toughest players on the pitch in an attempt to hide his sexuality, which had been clear to him from the age of 16.
Warren Gatland’s role in helping to broker peace in Welsh rugby’s civil war has included the adoption of a rule preventing players who ply their trade overseas being available for the national team.
After months of bickering, Wales’ national body and its four regions have agreed to terms, signing a £60 million (NZ$118m) deal for six years.
With finances approved, it is hoped the clubs and country will be able to stop the player drain to competitions like the lucrative French club scene.
The Times reported that equally important in the attempt to plug the talent drain was a new ruling, dubbed “Gatland’s Law”, under which players plying their trade outside Wales would be unavailable for selection for the national team.
Peace in Wales has finally been struck after it was announced that the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and four regions signed a new Participation Agreement.
The deal is worth £60m and lasts until 2020, with dual contracts for the country’s top players set to be included while the Wales ‘A’ team returns.
“The national dual contracts represent a radical step forward in our mutual aim of retaining Welsh talent in Wales,” said WRU CEO Roger Lewis.
“The new contracts will help us keep more of our best players in Wales and will help stem the flow abroad of the talent we develop here through our academies and regions.”
The Welsh Rugby Union and the nation’s four regions could announce a deal this week to end almost two years of in-fighting over funding and control.
Wales captain Sam Warburton is expected to be joined by nine more players on dual contracts under the new agreement.
If the deal goes ahead, funding for the 10 will be in addition to an annual £6.7m shared between Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Dragons.
The WRU and regions have been asked to comment.
Their last deal ended in June 2014, and if a fresh settlement is not forthcoming the regions face a combined £6.7m shortfall going into the 2014-15 season.
There 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.
Glenwood’s Jaco Coetzee has been selected to captain the SA Schools team for 2014 against France, Wales and England.
Their first match is against France at the City Park Stadium in Cape Town on 15 August, followed by Wales at Outeniqua Park in George on 19 August, and England at the Paul Roos Markötter grounds in Stellenbosch on 23 August.
There will be a new name on the Women’s Rugby World Cup as New Zealand are the high profile absentee in the final four of the competition.
In the last round of the pool stages in Marcoussis, England’s draw with Canada saw both into the semi-finals where they will be joined by Australia and Ireland.
New Zealand, who have triumphed in the past four World Cups, won their last game of the pools but they went into their game against the USA already knowing they were out of the competition.
Outgoing Chiefs and Auckland utility back Gareth Anscombe said that he decided to switch his allegiance from New Zealand to Wales after realising he had little hope of making the All Blacks.
Anscombe, 23, who has signed to play for the Cardiff Blues, said he spoke with All Black coach Steve Hansen earlier this year and found he was well down the pecking order in his favoured position of flyhalf.
“There was a lot of factors, but I mean, there’s a lot of classy No 10’s that are floating around in New Zealand right now and they’re all pretty young as well,” he said.
There is a palpable level of excitement in the country ahead of the Commonwealth Games which will be held in Glasgow this year. Driving up the road over the weekend one was reminded by overhead sign boards long before reaching Glasgow of the need to plan ahead and potential difficulties in travelling as a result of the Games.
The online search engine Google has the theme of the games on its page, there is a lot of coverage in the media both online, in print and of course in audio and visual. Radio schedules have already been changed on some stations providing coverage already ahead of the Games which are due to get kick started with the opening ceremony tonight. In advertising it’s radio coverage the national broadcaster has even made a pledge to bring all the action of Scotland’s medal winning events live to the public. Colleagues have members of their family involved on a voluntary basis as ambassadors for Glasgow 2014 with some having already been helping out in the Athletes Village for the last two weeks.
There is always something to discuss after a rugby Test match, especially one as thrilling as this.
There are the action and the special moments to discuss, the performance of players and all to frequently the Laws of the Game, the ever-changing, confusing and after controversial Laws of the Game and the demands of applying them accurately.
There were two tries especially discussed after the Nelspruit Test – one a try by the Welsh hooker and the other the definitive penalty try near the end – and penalty tries are rare and always debated.
Wales centre Owen Williams suffered a potential career-ending injury at the weekend.
The player’s club, the Cardiff Blues have confirmed, and the Welsh Rugby Union confirmed that Williams has “significant” neck and spinal injuries – sustained during the inaugural World Club 10s in Singapore.
Williams was hurt on Sunday, while playing for the Blues in a third-place play-off match, but the club waited until Wednesday to confirm his injuries.
Wales prop Samson Lee has been banned for five weeks for a headbutt on Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe.
The incident occurred in the 55th minute of the second Test between Wales and South Africa in Nelspruit last Saturday.
South Africa won the match 31-30.
A late penalty try saw the Springboks claim a dramatic 31-30 victory over Wales in a match dominated by the whistle of referee Steve Walsh in Nelspruit.
Wales came within minutes of recording their first-ever victory over the Springboks in South Africa, but it was not to be as the home side came back from the dead to sneak a victory.
After being blown off the park in the opening exchanges in Durban last week, Wales served the Springboks some of their own medicine in the first half-hour by scoring 17 unanswered points.
Both sides made a fairly sloppy start to the game, with crucial handling errors killing any meaningful momentum but Wales drew first blood when Dan Biggar sent his second kick at goal through the poles and Morne Steyn had a chance to respond but sent his kick wide.
The controversial penalty try two minutes from time which condemned Wales to a heartbreaking 31-30 defeat has not been argued by Warren Gatland.
Wales, having held leads of 17 and 13 points at different stages, were up 30-24 with just over two minutes remaining when Hendricks escaped the clutches of George North down the touchline.
It left fullback Liam Williams covering across to make a try-saving tackle, but he made no effort to wrap his arms around Hendricks and instead shoulder-charged him into touch.
Walsh referred the incident to the TMO, Glenn Newman, and after seeing replays from several angles the referee explained his decision at length to Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones before heading under the posts to award the penalty try.
Judicial Officer, Christopher Quinlan has on Saturday deferred his verdict in the citing of Wales prop Samson Lee.
Springboks (14) 31 / 30 (17) Wales (Final Score)
The South African Springboks and Wales did battle in their 2nd Test of the June Internationals at
Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit at 15:00 SA Time (14:00 BST, 13:00 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1, SHD & M-Net on TV in SA.
Warren Gatland hopes Wales will “right the wrongs” of last week’s 38-16 thumping at the hands of the Springboks, when the teams play their second Test in Nelspruit on Saturday.
“We have been really happy with the response from the players during training this week, we have had a good week and we see Saturday as an opportunity to right the wrongs of last weekend,” said Gatland, announcing two changes to the side that got hammered in Durban.
“We were disappointed with last week’s display but we want to finish the season with a big performance and show what we know we are capable of.”
Wales have made two changes to their side to face South African in the second match of the two-Test series in Nelspruit on Saturday.
Scarlets prop Samson Lee will make his first start for Wales in the front row and flank Josh Turnbull comes into the starting XV after featuring from the bench last weekend.
Lee, who made his international debut last November against Argentina, will join Gethin Jenkins and Ken Owens in a new look front row.
Victor Matfield will on Saturday become the most-capped Test player in the history of South African rugby when he leads the Springboks against Wales in his 112th Test match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
Matfield made his Test debut on 30 June 2001 against Italy in Port Elizabeth. He retired after the Rugby World Cup in 2011 on 110 caps, but made a highly successful return to the game earlier this year.
“This is a fantastic accolade for Victor,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday.
“He has been a terrific servant of the game in South Africa and has led his country with distinction since returning to the Green and Gold.”
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer praised his team’s character and commitment in Durban after they defeated Wales 38-16 in the first of two tests in the Castle Lager Incoming Series at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday.
The coach admitted that they had a tough week leading up to the Test match, as they had to take to the field with a number of new combinations and debutants.
“It was a tough week with a lot of disruptions. I asked the guys to put their bodies on the line today as it was important for us to start well. I am very pleased with their response and effort, especially in the first half. I am very proud to be coach of this team,” Meyer said.
Wales, and British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has been awarded an OBE in the Queens Queen’s birthday honours.
Gatland is currently on tour with Wales in South Africa where they lost the opening test of two matches 38-16 but he said that being honoured was a massive honourt.
“I was surprised really,” said Gatland.
Springboks (28) 38 / 16 (9) Wales (Final Score)
The South African Springboks and Wales did battle in their 1st Test of the June Internationals at
Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban at 17:05 SA Time (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1, SHD & M-Net on TV in SA.
Adam Jones will make his 100th International appearance in the game at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban, in a match that will be his 95th cap for Wales (five appearances for the British and Irish Lions).
Gatland has named two uncapped players in his match day squad with Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies and Ospreys’ Matthew Morgan, who both impressed in recent outings, named as replacements.
South Africa’s Player of the Year in 2010, Gurthrö Steenkamp, will make his 50th Test appearance for the Springboks when they take on Wales at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday (kick-off 17:00 SA Time, 15:00 GMT).
Steenkamp has been included in the starting line-up for the first Welsh Test in one of six changes to the match-day squad from the team which comprehensively beat the World XV last weekend in Cape Town, four of which are positional shifts.
Cornal Hendricks, who shone for the Springboks last weekend at DHL Newlands, will make his Test debut on Saturday, while his provincial team mate from the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, the uncapped Lood de Jager, has been selected on the bench.
The two changes in the backline are at inside centre, where Jan Serfontein will earn his first Test start for South Africa, and scrumhalf, where Fourie du Preez will start with Ruan Pienaar on the bench alongside Tendai Mtawarira, who has swapped places with Steenkamp.
EP Kings (0) 12 / 34 (17) Wales (Final Score)
Eastern Province Kings and Wales did battle in a mid-week game during the June Internationals at
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth at 19:00 SA Time (18:00 BST, 17:00 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1, SHD & CSN on TV in SA.
The Springboks have no problems with the appointment of the man who may have cost them the chance of winning last year’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship for Saturday’s test against Wales in Durban.
French referee Romain Poite was almost as big a talking point at one stage of 2013 as New Zealand match official Bryce Lawrence was towards the end of 2011. Poite’s decision to first yellow card Bismarck du Plessis during the opening half for a dangerous tackle on All Black flyhalf Dan Carter was followed by a red when Du Plessis was found guilty of another offence at the start of the second.
The Springboks completed a successful first match of their season on Saturday against Nick Mallet’s World XV at Newlands but the first proper international action for them starts this weekend as the Castle Lager Incoming Series gets underway with a Test against Wales in Durban on Saturday.
There often is debate and criticism about the make up of squads that Northern Hemisphere countries send on these mid-year tours which take place after their taxing domestic seasons. This year though the two teams due to play against South Africa have got good reason to be fielding teams which are going to be under strength in certain areas. The Test against Scotland falls outside the international window and so their players who ply their trade outside Scotland will not be making the trip over. The tour for Wales has been made much harder due to numerous injuries, no least to inspirational captain Sam Warburton.
The bookmakers have installed South Africa as overwhelming favourites, but Wales coach Warren Gatland has his eye on a 2-0 sweep for his team.
If Gatland was a betting man he would have jumped at the 18-1 on offer by some SA bookies for a Welsh series win.
It is not surprising for a coach to publicly back his side, but Gatland went further by suggesting that only 2-0 series victory will do when they meet the Springboks in Durban (this Saturday 14 June) and Nelspruit (next week, 21 June).
Dan Lydiate will captain Wales in their opening game in South Africa against Eastern Province Kings in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
The British and Irish Lions flanker has recovered from a hamstring injury to lead a match day squad that includes all four uncapped players who have made the journey to South Africa.
Three of those players are named in Warren Gatland’s starting XV with Matthew Morgan lining up at full-back, Steven Shingler at inside centre and Jordan Williams on the wing.
They are joined in the backline by Cardiff Blues duo Alex Cuthbert and Cory Allen as well as James Hook and Rhodri Williams at half back.
Darron Nell will captain an EP Kings side eager to prove themselves when they meet Wales in an international rugby friendly at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
Although Kings coach Carlos Spencer said the match came at an early stage in terms of their Currie Cup preparations, the players were keen to get on to the field after several months of a conditioning and fitness programme.
The Kings, who will play in the Currie Cup premier division this season, starting in August, host Wales in the opening match of their South African tour. Tuesday’s game will be followed by Tests on 14 June and 21 June.
Lock Bradley Davies will miss Wales’ two-Test tour to South Africa in June because of a hamstring injury.
The Cardiff Blues lock, 27, who is heading to Wasps, suffered the problem in training and has undergone surgery.
Meanwhile, Racing Metro flanker Dan Lydiate is out of Friday’s Wales Probables v Possibles trial in Swansea.
But Lydiate’s hamstring strain is not expected to rule him out of the tour, which starts with a warm-up against Eastern Province Kings on 10 June.
Leicester flyhalf Owen Williams will miss Wales’ tour of South Africa in June after being given a six-week ban which sidelines him until 1 September.
Williams, 22, would have been hoping to earn his first senior cap in the Test series with the Springboks, but the Rugby Football Union has handed a lengthy suspension to Williams, who pleaded guilty for acts contrary to good sportsmanship.
Cheetahs and South Africa hooker Adriaan Strauss has been banned for three weeks for a tip-tackle, ruling him out of the Wales series.
The Sanzar duty judicial officer Adam Casselden has accepted a guilty plea from Strauss for contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he was cited during a Super Rugby match at the weekend.
Strauss has been suspended from all forms of the game for three weeks up to and including 21 June 2014.
The Stormers and Sharks have reportedly shown interest in acquiring the services of Welsh flyhalf James Hook.
Hook, 28, is currently contracted with French club Perpignan but is expected to leave them after they were relegated from the Top 14. He has an opt-out clause in his contract which allows him the option to leave if they lose their top-flight status.