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SIX-NationsHead Coach Vern Cotter today named one change to the Scotland team to start against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday (13 February, kick-off 4.50pm UK time; 6.50 SA Time)

Both teams go into the match seeking their first win of the 2016 campaign, after the Scot’s home loss to England (15-9), and Wales’ 16-16 draw with Ireland in Dublin.

The selection of 26-year-old Saracens centre Duncan Taylor in midfield is one of two changes to the 23-man squad – promoted from the bench to partner Mark Bennett after Matt Scott injured his quad in training yesterday – with Sean Lamont taking the vacated place among the replacements.

The match will be Taylor’s fifth start in 14 caps for Scotland, and his first since the 2014 summer tour win over USA (24-6), with an untimely succession of injuries curtailing his involvement for the national team over the past two seasons.

Despite missing out on international opportunities, Taylor has excelled for his club side, building on their English Premiership title success last season with stirring performances in the current campaign.

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SIX NationsThe Under 20 SIX Nations, not as glamorous as the SIX Nations for the senior teams, is intensely contested.

Last year England were the unbeaten winners followed, in order, by France, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy.

Like their senior team, England’s Under 20 captain is a hooker – Jack Walker, whose brother Chris captained the 2012 side which retained the championship.

Coach John Callard said: “The 1st game of any Championship is always tough, especially playing away in Scotland, but the players are excited about getting started.

“We’ re looking for them to use this competition to continue developing their all-round game.  For example, we want functionally fit forwards who, as well as having a strong set piece, are ball handlers and good decision makers right across the field.

“You can always come back to a tighter game but we want players to see this as an opportunity to express themselves and enjoy playing for their country.”

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Women's 6 Nations 2016

Women’s 6 Nations Team Captains

It will be a campaign brimming with sub-plots. New talent will emerge, reputations will need to be restored and everyone will need to put on a show as the 15-a-side game fights for attention in an Olympic year.

With the gaps between teams ever decreasing, this year’s Women’s 6 Nations is expected to be the most open we have seen.

Defending champions Ireland will fight to retain their title, although France and England will severely test their grit.

Last season the Red Roses faltered, with the world champions finishing 4th, and the combination of retirements and a number of their players focusing on the Sevens for Rio 2016 means they will have much to prove.

But it is not only England who must adjust and discover new talent, because most nations have withdrawn their Sevens players to focus on this summer’s Olympics.

Amid such uncertainty, who will prevail?

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Sergio Parisse, Sam Warburton, Rory Best, Dylan Hartley, Greg Laidlaw and Guilhem Guirado (from left to right)

Sergio Parisse, Sam Warburton, Rory Best, Dylan Hartley, Greg Laidlaw and Guilhem Guirado (from left to right) at yesterday’s RBS 6 Nations 2016 launch

The 2016 RBS 6 Nations launched in style on Wednesday morning at the Hurlingham Club and the 6 captains present an intriguing mix of the old and the new.

There are 3 brand new skippers for this year’s Championship, which gets underway in 10 days’ time on Saturday 6 February when France welcome Italy to the Stade de France – and they are all hookers.

Rory Best takes the armband for 2-time defending champions Ireland after Paul O’Connell’s retirement, Eddie Jones’ England have Dylan Hartley at the helm and France under Guy Noves will be led by Guilhem Guirado.

Those 3 were joined by Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw, Wales’ Sam Warburton and Italy’s Sergio Parisse on Wednesday – 3 captains that have led their country with great distinction for many years.

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ScotlandHead Coach Vern Cotter  named uncapped props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland in a 35-man Scotland squad for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations.

Glasgow Warriors’ tighthead prop Fagerson turned 20 yesterday (Tuesday 19 January) meaning he could become the 4th youngest prop in Scottish history, and the youngest to represent Scotland for more than half a century (since Bill Black debuted against France at Murrayfield 1948).

Fellow propping prospect Sutherland (23) plies his trade at the opposite end of the M8 and earns selection through his increasingly impressive showings for Edinburgh since signing from Gala last season.

The young pair are among 4 changes to Scotland’s front row options originally named for Rugby World Cup 2015, with 29-times capped Exeter Chiefs tighthead, Moray Low, and 6-times capped Glasgow Warriors hooker, Pat MacArthur, earning selection for the 1st time since the summer of 2014.

Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter, said: “We’ve selected a mixture of experience with some exciting young players coming through, some of whom have experienced the Rugby World Cup and are eager to move forward, take the RBS 6 Nations head on and show that we can develop our game and be competitive.”

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JJ Engelbrecht

JJ Engelbrecht

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Thursday confirmed the release of JJ Engelbrecht to the Ospreys in Wales.

Engelbrecht, who played 65 times in the Vodacom Bulls jersey since joining the team in 2012, was due to link up with his Pretoria team mates upon returning from Japan, where he is playing for Toyota Industries Shuttles.

The Ospreys offer resulted in a release request by Engelbrecht, which has been granted by the BBC with immediate effect.

According to the BBC High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg, the decision to release Engelbrecht was based on the depth they have in the midfield, where the likes of Jesse Kriel, Dan Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Jan Serfontein and Dries Swanepoel will be contesting starting spots.

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Millennium Stadium with the roof closed

Millennium Stadium with the roof closed

The home of Welsh rugby in Cardiff lost its name on Thursday as the ‘Millennium Stadium’ sign was taken down in readiness for its January rebranding as the Principality Stadium.

The steel letters spelling out the stadium’s old name in English and Welsh were removed from the eastern facade of the venue, which sits on the River Taff in the heart of the Welsh capital.

The 74 500-seater arena is to be renamed under a 10-year sponsorship deal with Welsh building society the Principality, which has worked with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) since 1969.

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Nicole Sapstead

Nicole Sapstead – UK Anti-doping’s Chief Executive

Steroid abuse is “off-the-scale” in Welsh grassroots and semi-professional rugby, it has been claimed.

UK Anti-Doping figures reveal players from Wales make up 33% of all sportsmen and women serving drugs bans.

An ex-player, who took drugs, said he is surprised more have not been banned.

But WRU chief Martyn Phillips is not “overly concerned” because the number tested is proportionately higher than in other rugby unions and sports.

The player, who would not be named, said: “It’s totally off-the-scale. I think people are probably blind to it and if the truth came out I think there would be probably a lot more players who are banned from playing.”

The numbers caught are a small percentage of the thousands that play rugby, however 17 Welsh rugby union and league players, from grassroots to semi-pro, are currently banned, with the majority found to have traces of anabolic steroids in their systems.

10 Of those banned are from rugby union and form the majority of the 16 players banned from the sport across the UK.

UK Anti-Doping said the other 7 are among 14 players banned from rugby league.

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AustraliaAustralia will embark on their 10th ‘Grand Slam’ tour in 2016, aiming to beat the Home Nations in 1 trip for the 1st time in 30 years.

After falling to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham Stadium in London earlier this month, the Wallabies will return to the northern hemisphere next year for a 7-match, 5-Test tour, including France.

“The ‘Grand Slam’ is 1 of the rarest achievements in the game and has been a notoriously difficult one for the Wallabies over time, with only 1 successful attempt out of 9,” Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver said.

The last time the Wallabies pulled off the feat was in 1984. In their most recent attempt, in 2013, Australia opened with a loss to England before defeating Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as Italy.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland will quit his post after the 2019 Rugby World Cup and return to New Zealand, media reports in his homeland said on Friday.

Gatland, already Wales’ longest-serving coach after taking up the position in 2007, said he wanted to head home and possibly take a break before resuming his career in New Zealand.

“I’m here (Wales) until 2019 and the plan for me then is definitely to come home for a period,” he reportedly told commercial radio.

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World RugbyAs well as winning a host of new admirers for their adventurous approach throughout Rugby World Cup 2015, beaten semifinalists Argentina and headline-grabbing Japan have also enjoyed the biggest rise of all the competing nations in the World Rugby Rankings. Both are ranked 3 places higher than where they were when Rugby World Cup 2015 began at Twickenham Stadium on Friday 18 September.Los Pumas have moved up from 8th to 5th thanks to their 2nd place finish behind New Zealand in Pool C and the way that they effortlessly brushed Ireland aside in the quarterfinals.

A disappointing World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup campaign this summer left Japan languishing 13th in the rankings, and at that stage few people would have predicted what they would go on to achieve in England: 3 wins from 4 and a place in tournament folklore.

The Brave Blossoms’ historic 34 / 32 win over South Africa in Brighton may not have been enough to book them a place in the knockout stages but it did help them return to the world’s Top 10.

With points exchanges doubled to reflect the importance Rugby World Cup matches no-one fared better than Japan, going from 72.06 rating points pre-tournament to 77.05 at its conclusion.

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Nigel Owens

Nigel Owens

Welshman Nigel Owens is favourite to be named as referee of the Rugby World Cup FINAL following the appointment of Frenchman Jerome Garces and England’s Wayne Barnes for the semifinals.

Owens, 44, was appointed an international referee in 2005 and officiated at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups. He took charge of this year’s quarterfinal between New Zealand and France.

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Vodacom Stats AppSouth Africa may have squeaked through in their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match against Wales but the statistics suggest a more dominant performance by the Springboks.

Statistics taken from the Vodacom Rugby App demonstrate how Wales had to defend South Africa’s relentless attacks on the advantage line.

The Springboks topped the carries stats in the quarterfinals with 157, forcing the Welsh to make 197 tackles in their encounter.

Influential flanker Schalk Burger was South Africa’s main strike runner taking the ball up 26 times in the match.

Burger led the carries statistics over the weekend with compatriot Duane Vermeulen behind him with 15.

The wave after wave of attack by the South Africans is also reflected in the fact that 5 Springbok players feature among the Top 5 in the carries category.

Springbok centre Damian de Allende (14), Eben Etzebeth (13) and Handré Pollard (12) followed behind Burger and Vermeulen in the stats.

Argentina, who upset Ireland to book a semifinal clash against Australia made the 2nd most carries with 122, with the Wallabies following in 3rd with 112.

The 4 Southern Hemisphere teams that will feature in the semifinals topped the Carries statistics with Argentina (122), Australia (112) and New Zealand (109) following behind the Springboks.

South Africa did not only test the Welsh defence but were also made to work hard to keep the opposition off the line by making 123 tackles – the 2nd most of the weekend.

Wales and South Africa kicked the most of all the quarterfinal matches, with the Springboks making 46 kicks from hand and the Red Dragons 2 less.

The Welsh’s desperate defence on the day is reflected in the individual tackles stats with 4 of their players among the Top tacklers.

Loose forward Dan Lydiate tops the stats with 24, with Alun Wyn Jones (19), Taulupe Faletau (18) and Sam Warburton (17) following behind him.

Scotland’s Jonny Gray with 18 and Burger with 16 were the only players among the Top 5 from other countries.

While the weekend produced its fair share of nail-biting moments it was not the case in the match between New Zealand and France.

The All Blacks were in sensational form as they stepped up a gear as they set a new Rugby World Cup quarterfinal victory margin beating the French by 49 points.

Running in 9 tries it is no surprise they dominate the Metres run and Clean breaks categories, as they ran the French rampant.

They ran 732 metres, which was 142 metres more than their nearest rivals, Argentina, while they made 19 clean breaks – more than double as many as Australia who ranked 2nd with 9.

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World RugbyThe Top 4 spots on the current world rankings are all taken up by Southern Hemisphere teams, with Argentina moving up to 4th.

The Pumas and South Africa were the biggest climbers after their wins over Ireland and Wales respectively in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals.

Los Pumas moved up 2 places on the rankings – overtaking Ireland and Wales. South Africa improved their position from 5th to 3rd after a tough 23 / 19 win over Wales.

Ireland plummeted from 3rd to 6th on the rankings, while Wales also fell from 4th to 5th.

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Dan Lydiate

Dan Lydiate

Tyler Morgan

Tyler Morgan

Gethin Jenkins

Gethin Jenkins

Wales star flank, Dan Lydiate, returns to the starting 15 for their massive quarterfinal clash against South Africa’s Springboks at Twickenham Stadium in London on Saturday.

Lydiate’s inclusion in the team is 1 of 3 changes to the team that lost 6 / 15 to Australia’s Wallabies last weekend.

Prop Gethin Jenkins also comes back into the starting line-up to feature in his 18th Rugby World Cup match and he packs down alongside Scott Baldwin and Samson Lee.

Tyler Morgan’s return to the team is the only change in the backline – he partners Jamie Roberts in midfield. Alex Cuthbert will make his 40th Wales appearance in a back 3, alongside George North and fullback Gareth Anscombe.

Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones continue in the locks with the latter making his 100th international appearance (94th for Wales, plus 6 British & Irish Lions appearances).

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WhistleRugby World Cup organisers have announced that Wayne Barnes, Nigel Owens, Jérôme Garcès and Craig Joubert will referee the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarterfinals this weekend.

England’s Wayne Barnes will take charge of the 1st match on Saturday between South Africa and Wales at Twickenham Stadium, London (Kick-Off 17:00 SA Time, 16:00 UK Time, 15:00 GMT) and will be joined by Assistant Referees George Clancy (Ireland) and JP Doyle (England) with the Television Match Official being Graham Hughes, also of England.

Later the same day, New Zealand take on France at the Millennium Stadium (Kick-Off 21:00 SA & French Time, 20:00 UK Time, 19:00 GMT) in a repeat of the Rugby World Cup 2011 final, with Nigel Owens of Wales refereeing the game at his union’s home ground. On the line will be Jaco Peyper of South Africa and John Lacey of Ireland while the Television Match Official will be South Africa’s Shaun Veldsman.

The 3rd quarterfinal between Ireland and Argentina in Cardiff (Kick-Off 14:00 SA Time, 13:00 UK Time, 12:00 GMT) on Sunday will be refereed by Jérôme Garcès of France with his countryman, Romain Poite, and New Zealand’s Chris Pollock as Assistant Referees. George Ayoub (Australia) will be the Television Match Official.

The final match of the stage will take place at Twickenham on Sunday (Kick-Off 17:00 SA Time, 16:00 UK Time, 15:00 GMT) between Australia and Scotland and will be refereed by Craig Joubert (South Africa). He will be assisted by Glen Jackson (New Zealand) and Pascal Gauzere (France) with Ben Skeen (New Zealand) the Television Match Official.

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Rugby World Cup 2015The agony etched on the face of Ireland’s iconic captain Paul O’Connell said it all. Clutching a hamstring during the 24 / 9 win against France on Sunday, the giant lock’s pain was physical and emotional. The group stages were where his Rugby World Cup 2015 would end.

As bruised and battered players take a deep breath, head for the ice baths and prepare to go again in the quarterfinals, some of their less-fortunate teammates will be forced to watch those matches from the stands, or on television.

The withdrawal of O’Connell on Tuesday, hard on the heels of fellow Ireland players Jared Payne and Peter O’Mahony, means that all 8 teams left in the competition will enter the knockout stages depleted, in some way, by injuries.

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Rugby World Cup 2015Ireland: Paul O’Connell replaced by Mike McCarthy:

Paul O’Connell’s 108-Test career is over after the Ireland captain sustained a severe hamstring injury in the victory over France in Cardiff on Sunday.

The 35-year-old lock will have surgery this week and not play again at Rugby World Cup 2015.

He led Ireland in 28 Tests and was also captain in 3 of his 7 Tests for the British and Irish Lions.

His replacement, Mike McCarthy, will join the squad in Cardiff on Tuesday.

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World RugbyIreland have moved up 2 places to 3rd in the World Rugby Rankings after beating France in the Rugby World Cup Pool D decider on Sunday.

Joe Schmidt’s side, who topped the pool with their 24 / 9 win against Les Bleus, have leapfrogged Wales (4) and South Africa (5) in the rankings, which are published by World Rugby every Monday.

France dropped 1 place to 7th following Sunday’s defeat at the Millennium Stadium, swapping places with Ireland’s quarterfinal opponents Argentina, who rose to 6th.

7 Of the 8 Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter-finalists feature in the Top 8 of the rankings; the exception being Scotland, who remain 1 place below England in 9th position.

Under the points exchange system used to calculate rankings, sides take points off each other based on the match result; whatever 1 side gains, the other loses. Such points exchanges are doubled during the Rugby World Cup to recognise the unique importance of the event.

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Liam Williams injured against Australia

Liam Williams injured against Australia

Liam Williams joined Wales’ World Cup casualty list after he was ruled out of the rest of the tournament on Sunday with a foot injury.

The 24-year-old Scarlets wing limped off with a foot problem during the 2nd half of Wales’ 15 / 6 Pool A defeat by Australia’s Wallabies at Twickenham on Saturday.

“Disappointing news out of camp this morning. Liam Williams ruled out of Rugby World Cup with foot injury,” said a statement on the Welsh Rugby Union’s Twitter feed on Sunday.

He is the 6th member of Wales’ original Rugby World Cup squad to be ruled out because of injury following Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos and Cory Allen.

Williams had to overcome a foot injury just to gain a place in coach Warren Gatland’s original 31-man squad.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales head coach, Warren Gatland, ruled himself out of the running to succeed England coach Stuart Lancaster by telling reporters: “I don’t think they can afford me.”

Although under contract until 2020, Lancaster’s time in his job could soon be up after England became the 1st Rugby World Cup hosts to be knocked out of the tournament at the group stages.

Wales played a key role in England’s demise with a thrilling 28 / 25 win over their old rivals at Twickenham.

Australia then delivered the telling blow to England’s hopes of getting out of the ‘Pool of Death’ with a comprehensive 33 / 13 win over Lancaster’s team last weekend.

Since England lost to the Wallabies, there has been plenty of speculation about how Lancaster could be out of a job following the team’s now ‘meaningless’ concluding Pool A match against Uruguay in Manchester on Saturday.

Gatland, whom England could have tried to appoint after the 2007 World Cup, the year before he oversaw his 1st match as Wales boss, has been 1 of several names linked with Lancaster’s job in recent days, along with Australia’s Eddie Jones and South Africa’s Jake White even though, as yet, there is no vacancy.

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Gareth Anscombe

Gareth Anscombe

New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe will make his 1st international start after he was named in the Wales team for their crunch match against the Australia Wallabies.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made 6 personnel changes from the team that knocked out hosts England. Besides Anscombe’s inclusion to the starting 15, the team also sees star wing George North shift from the wing to outside centre to partner Jamie Roberts.

Anscombe forms part of a new-look back 3 alongside Alex Cuthbert and Liam Williams. Cuthbert will be making his 40th test appearance since making his debut against Australia back in 2011 whilst Williams returns from injury after missing the victory against Fiji.

Dan Biggar and Gareth Davies, who have collected the last 2 man-of-the-match awards in Wales’ victories continue their partnership at flyhalf and scrumhalf respectively.

Paul James returns from injury to start in the front row alongside hooker Scott Baldwin and prop Samson Lee. Luke Charteris comes into the starting line-up to partner Alun Wyn Jones, who makes his 99th Test appearance at lock.

Captain Sam Warburton switches to blindside flank and features alongside fellow British and Irish Lions Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.

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Rugby World Cup 2015Fiji and Wales meet in a Pool A match tomorrow at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. The match is scheduled to kick off at 17:45 SA Time (16:45 BST, 15:45 GMT).

Both teams have made various changes to the their match day squads, with many of these changes being enforced due to injury and in Fiji’s case also in part due to suspensions.

Fiji have made 6 changes to their starting line up since their last game. Winger Timoci Nagusa is 1 of those changes, he slots into the team in place of injured Waisea Nayacalevu. Another change will see scrumhalf Niko Matawalu miss the game due to a slight niggle. Matawalu’s place in the run on team will be taken by Nemia Kenatale. Another big player missing from Fiji’s line up is winger Nemani Nadolo who is serving a 1 week ban for a dangerous tackle against Australia. His vacant berth is being filled by Aseli Tikoirotuma.

Wales have made 3 changes to their starting team from the 1 who started in their win against England on Saturday night. All 3 of the changes Wales have made are in the backline. Tyler Morgan will make his Rugby World Cup debut as he starts at outside centre in place of the injured Scott Williams. Mathew Morgan and Alex Cuthbert start at fullback and wing respectively in place of the injured duo Liam Williams and Hallam Amos.

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Rugby World Cup 2015There seems to have been so many injuries already in this tournament which is barely halfway through the group stages. One feels sorry for the players who have had their World Cup short and wish them all a speedy recovery, it just shows what an attritional game Rugby Union is.

We could theorize all day on the possible reasons for all of these injuries: too many games, players bulking up, laws not being sufficient or those that are there not sufficiently enforced, players possibly carrying injuries into the tournament. The harsh reality for those who have been ruled out is that the game involves high speed collisions of big men and they have been reduced to being spectators for the rest of the tournament as well as having to undergo a period of rehabilitation, for some this involves surgery.

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WalesWales have received an official warning from World Rugby for a breach of Rugby World Cup regulations during training.

Back-up players who did not make the final 31-man squads are not allowed to take part in practice sessions.

But a group of players not in Wales’ squad did participate during training at Sunbury on Wednesday.

“While World Rugby is satisfied that no deliberate breach was intended, an official warning has been issued to the Wales Rugby Union,” the sport’s governing body said.

“All participating teams have been informed that additional players from the extended squad, including potential injury replacements, may not be included in any training sessions.”

While there was little prospect of a points deduction for the infraction, with a fine likely to have been the sternest punishment, the incident will have been an unwelcome distraction as Warren Gatland prepares his side to face England on Saturday.

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EnglandEngland head coach Stuart Lancaster says he has not panicked by replacing flyhalf George Ford with Owen Farrell for Saturday’s game with Wales.

Ford, 22, started last week’s 35 / 11 World Cup Pool A win over Fiji, but Farrell impressed off the bench.

Sam Burgess has been selected at inside centre after Jonathan Joseph was ruled out with a chest injury.

“I don’t think putting an in-form and confident Owen Farrell into the team is a risk,” said Lancaster.

Billy Vunipola comes in at No 8 for Ben Morgan, who has a knee injury, while James Haskell and Alex Goode step up to the bench for the 1st time.

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Cory Allen

Cory Allen

Wales centre Cory Allen, who scored 3 of his country’s 8 tries in their Rugby World Cup opener against Uruguay, was ruled out of the rest of the tournament by a hamstring tear on Monday.

The Welsh, already rocked by injuries to key backs Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb in their final warm-up match, had 6 players added to their casualty list during Sunday’s 54 / 9 victory in Cardiff.

Allen pulled up with the injury in the 2nd half and after having scans was replaced in the squad by Tyler Morgan, who joins Scott Williams and Jamie Roberts to restore the number of specialist centres in the squad to 3.

British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies was ruled out of the tournament by a knee injury.

Wales next face England in a Twickenham clash on Saturday, which could go a long way to deciding which teams progress from Pool A, which also includes Australia and Fiji.

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Rugby World Cup 2015A popular topic of debate heading into the Rugby World Cup is that of eligibility, particularly that resulting from the residency method. We take a look at the foreign-born players in each squad, where they were born and how they are eligible.

An interesting fact – only Argentina can claim that all 31 players in their squad are native to their country. The other 19 teams all have players born abroad, including significant numbers in some of rugby’s most powerful nations.

All told, Rugby World Cup 2015 will have a grand total of 33 countries involved in the tournament. Players born in various African countries –  Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Zimbabwe join the participating Namibia and South Africa. Zimbabwe has players representing 4 countries, more than any other non-competitor.

Spain is another country not present at the Rugby World Cup who have players representing multiple countries while other countries include Belgium, Israel, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and the Netherlands are also all represented.

Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa lead the way in terms of players representing others at the Rugby World Cup.

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World RugbySouth Africa moved up to 3rd place in the World Rankings without even kicking a ball.

It means the Springboks have climbed 2 places in the World Rankings since their last match – a win over Argentina in Buenos Aires, last month.

Their rise, despite the team’s inactivity, is the result of Ireland’s dramatic slump – the men from the Emerald Isle having lost to Wales (10 / 16) and England (13 / 21) in the past fortnight.

As a result, Rugby Championship heavyweights New Zealand, Australia and South Africa will go into the Rugby World Cup as the Top 3 nations in the rankings.

Ireland’s rating fell by 0.79 points and resulted in a 3-place drop to 6 for the Six Nations Champions, placing them below the Springboks.

England gained the same amount of points to leapfrog their Pool A opponents Wales into 4th.

Long-time leaders New Zealand remain untouchable – for a fortnight at least – on 92.89 points, with Australia 6.22 points behind in 2nd and South Africa a further 1.52 points back in 3rd.

Australia were unable to make up any ground on their arch rivals, despite being the only one of the 3 in action over the weekend.

Their 47 / 10 win over the USA Eagles in Chicago did not come with any ratings points, given the double-figure difference in rankings positions and rating points between the nations.

Serious injuries to star fullback Leigh Halfpenny and scrumhalf Rhys Webb, made it a day to forget for Wales, who scraped home 23 / 19 against Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

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