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Welsh Rugby

Roger Morgan

Roger “Chicky” Morgan

He is the ultimate club man, hard-working, loyal, and most of all durable. He’s almost at pensionable age, but this real life Peter Pan is still lacing up his boots.

He’s been with the same club for 40 years, he’s appeared in every single position in the team and he is still playing at the age of 60!

Roger “Chicky” Morgan is Mr Usk RFC, the ultimate 1-club man, the kind of stalwart servant who is the heartbeat of the community game in Wales.

He’s a tireless hard worker for the Gwent club, cutting the grass, marking the pitch, putting the flags out, sorting the kit, cooking the meals, arranging the fixtures, painting the clubhouse and driving the mini bus.

And he’s still getting his boots on and playing on a Saturday afternoon, lining up wherever he’s needed.

So what does he put his enduring fitness and his longevity down to?

“That’s from my father that is,” he explains.

“He played football for Newport County and Swansea. So fitness is in the blood.”

“I just love playing the game. I have made some great friends over the years and there’s always a laugh with the boys.

“From when I first went down to the club in 1975, I just felt welcome.

“It’s great with the different generations and the crack you have with all of them.”

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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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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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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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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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Left: Warren Gatland, Wales coach Top Right: Rhys Webb injured Bottom Right: Leigh Halfpenny stretchered off

Left: Warren Gatland, Wales coach
Top Right: Rhys Webb injured
Bottom Right: Leigh Halfpenny stretchered off

Following Saturday’s narrow win over Italy, Wales have now been hit by the news and reality that Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb are out of the Rugby Wolrd Cup, their injuries serious enough to keep them out of the tournament in total.

 

Leigh Halfpenny:

Leigh Halfpenny suffered torn right knee ligaments in a warm-up match against Italy at the weekend.

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Sam Warburton

Sam Warburton

Wales captain Sam Warburton is set to make his 1st appearance of the Rugby World Cup warm-up campaign.

He was named to lead the side in Saturday’s match against Italy at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

The openside flank suffered a shoulder injury in training last month and was rested from Wales’ 16 / 10 win away to Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin last weekend.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has named a strong side for Wales’ final World Cup tune-up fixture.

Warburton is part of a new look back row – alongside James King at flank and Taulupe Faletau at No 8.

The same front row which faced Ireland in Dublin last weekend will start against Italy – with the World’s most capped prop Gethin Jenkins packing down with Ken Owens and Tomas Francis, who will make his 1st appearance at the Millennium Stadium.

Jake Ball and Dominic Day are named in the 2nd row.

Halfbacks Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue their partnership, whilst there is a new look midfield with Scott Williams lining up alongside Cory Allen.

The back 3 from Dublin also remains unchanged with George North and Alex Cuthbert on the wings and Leigh Halfpenny at fullback.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland named prop Samson Lee in his 31-man squad for this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Lee has not played since rupturing his Achilles tendon in March.

Flyhalf Gareth Anscombe was left out in favour of Matthew Morgan.

Wales are in Pool A with hosts England, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay.

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George EarleSouth African lock, George Earle, has extended his contract with the Scarlets after joining the region from the Cheetahs in 2012.

An experienced player, Earle played previously with the Golden Lions, Western Province, Boland and the Griquas in the Currie Cup.

The lock will become Welsh-qualified in June after being with the Scarlets for 3 years.

Earle was attracted to playing rugby in Wales because of the Welsh style of play, making his Scarlets debut in a pre-season friendly against Narbonne in August 2012.

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WalesWales players Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar, Scott Williams and the uncapped Gareth Anscombe have all signed central contracts, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) have announced on Wednesday.

Ospreys team-mates Jones and Biggar, Scarlets centre Williams and Cardiff Blues flyhalf Anscombe follow Rhys Webb in signing a National Dual Contract, taking the total number of Welsh players on central contracts to 12.

“Alun Wyn, Dan, Scott and Gareth represent a cross-section of experience, but each one of them is a player of proven talent,” said Wales head coach Warren Gatland in a statement on the WRU website.

“Within the group of 12 we have signed a mixture of emerging talent and players who have secured reputations for excellence through their appearances for their regions, Wales and the British and Irish Lions.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WalesWales will field an unchanged starting lineup for the Six Nations showdown with Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.

Coach Warren Gatland was pleased with his side’s 20 / 13 win over France in Paris which kept alive their hopes of winning the tournament and had no problem giving the same 15 men a vote of confidence.

Flanker Sam Warburton, who went off after taking a blow to his knee during the French clash, has regained his fitness and will be able to break Ryan Jones’ record when he captains Wales for the 34th time at the Millennium Stadium.

The only 2 changes to the Paris lineup are due to injuries and come on the bench.

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Finn Russell

Finn Russell

Finn Russell, the Scotland outside half, appeared today before an independent Six Nations Disciplinary Committee at Heathrow, having been cited under Law 10.4 (e) and (i) for an alleged dangerous tackle of an opponent in the air in the 31st minute of the RBS 6 Nations match between Scotland and Wales on Sunday 15 February 2015.

The Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Mike Hamlin (England) along with Jean-Philippe Lachaume (France) and Pat Barriscale (Ireland), having heard from the player and his representative and viewed various TV angles of the incident, determined that Finn Russell had committed an act of foul play which merited a Red Card rather than the on-field Yellow Card given by the Match Officials.

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Scotland (10) 23 / 26 (16) WalesScotland

Where do we begin in analysing a game full of movement, liberally spiced with controversy, which ended with Wales the victors at BT Murrayfield, thus extending their unbeaten record against Scotland to 8 games?

Scotland, who contributed so much to the contest, remain pointless in the RBS 6 Nations Championship as Wales bounced back from their opening round defeat by England.

Scotland will now welcome Italy to BT Murrayfield at the end of this month, which captain Greig Laidlaw cites as a “massive” game.

“We’re getting better as a team, becoming stronger but we need to get a result,” he said.

“Small margins,” has been the mantra in international rugby for many a year but we saw it so painfully from a Scottish perspective this afternoon.

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ScotlandAfter an improved performance, though unable to turn possession into points, Scotland Women look ahead to their first home game at the new base of Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld. The team announced to take on Wales (Saturday 14 February, kick-off 17: BST & GMT) sees 4 changes to the line-up that started against France at La-Roche-sur-Yon last Saturday.

All the changes come in the backs, scrumhalf Mhairi Grieve – who will be securing her 3rd cap – moves up from the bench while Hannah Sloan comes in at wing. Injury to Gillian Inglis during the game against France sees Chloe Rollie move from centre to fullback and Hannah Smith – winning her 2nd cap – takes the No 13 jersey.

Worcester prop Tracy Balmer captains the squad again, lining up in the front-row alongside the most experienced member of the team, 72-times capped Heather Lockhart.

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George North down against England on the weekend

George North down against England on the weekend

Wales have made 1 change to their side to face Scotland on Sunday, with Liam Williams coming into the starting 15.

Scarlets back Williams will win his 20th cap at Murrayfield and replaces George North.

North is currently symptom free and whilst nearing the conclusion of the graduated return to play protocol the decision has been taken to allow him an elongated recovery period in light of his recent concussive episode in the autumn period.

The 1 change results in the same starting backline that beat South Africa, in the final autumn international, taking to the field this weekend.

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George North

Wales and Northampton’s George North

George North has insisted he is not planning to return to regional rugby any time soon but backed the new dual-contract system which has attracted Dan Lydiate to return from France.

The Northampton wing hailed Welsh union and regional bosses for finally agreeing a “feasible option” that will boost chances of top stars remaining in the domestic game.

Lydiate capitalised on the new contracts by return from Racing Metro to the Ospreys and will make his debut against Ulster this Saturday.

North believes more top stars could follow suit but stressed his current situation at Northampton suits him “down to the ground”.

The Saints release North for all his Wales commitments, a situation he admits allows him to gain the best of both worlds.

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Rugby World Cup 2015 - EnglandThe Wales squad will face temperatures ranging from 42 degrees to minus 150 degrees, will sleep in normobaric hypoxic chambers and will train in surroundings ranging from the deserts of Qatar to the peaks of the Swiss Alps as part of their gruelling preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Wales’ full schedule for 2015 will see Warren Gatland’s squad undergo intensive training camps in Switzerland, Qatar and Poland as well as face home and away ties against Ireland before concluding their preparations against Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

The rigorous schedule has left no stone unturned in order to ensure Wales arrive at the world’s showpiece tournament in peak condition with leading facilities at home in Wales and across the world utilized.

The programme is the culmination of months of research and planning and WRU head of physical performance, Adam Beard, who also designed the 2011 schedule, is delighted to formally announce the squad’s plans.

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Jack Payne

Jack Payne

Former Wales and Llanelli flyhalf Phil Bennett has questioned Scarlets’ move for Welsh-qualified flanker Jack Payne from Queensland Reds in Australia.

Payne, 20, has arrived in Wales, but any move cannot be made official until passport issues have been resolved.

Scarlets president Bennett would prefer to see local players at Scarlets, but admitted importing Welsh-qualified players from abroad could help Wales.

“There’s a lot of mixed feeling from Llanelli,” he said.  “We’re kind of old fashioned here. People still go back to the great Llanelli days . . .  they all want to be Welsh, Welsh-speaking if they had their way,” joked 66-year-old Bennett.

“But let’s be honest, look at the Australians, the All Blacks and how they’ve milked the situation of getting players from Fiji, Samoa and different places. You’ve got to get and live with the very best in the world.”

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SpringboksThe South African Rugby Union received handy compensation from the Welsh Rugby Union for agreeing to play last weekend’s Test in Cardiff.

The Test at Millennium Stadium fell outside World Rugby’s international window, but was played after both rugby union’s agreed to square off.

According to reports, SARU received £750 000 (about R 13 Million) from the WRU for the Test.

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South Africa suffered a big blow when Springbok captain Jean de Villiers was injured during their 12-6 defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

De Villiers was forced to leave the field in the 58th minute after twisting his left knee and dislocating his knee cap. The dislocation was reduced on the field and he was sent for scans shortly after the match.

“The scans revealed significant ligament damage to the inside of his knee and the supporting muscles,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.

“Jean will return to South Africa and see an orthopaedic specialist in Cape Town early in the week. He has had previous surgery on this knee and the further management of the injury is dependent upon the specialist’s recommendations.”

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said losing De Villiers was a massive setback as the team were just beginning to build momentum in a tough encounter against Wales. The home team’s points came via four Leigh Halfpenny penalty goals, while Pat Lambie responded with two penalty goals for the visitors.

“It was a massively disappointing way to end the tour and our season, as we always strive to make our country proud,” said Meyer.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

South Africa need no extra motivation to raise themselves for Saturday’s season-ending Test match against Wales after being pushed hard by the Welsh in their last match earlier this year.

The South Africans led 17-0 and 30-17 early in the clash in Nelspruit in June before the Welsh staged a dramatic comeback, only to fall short by a solitary point, as the Springboks hung on for a 31-30 victory.

That win stretched the Springboks’ formidable record over Wales to just one loss (1999) and one draw (1970) in 29 matches between the two countries.

“It’s pretty easy to motivate yourself. It’s the last one, you can put all your effort into it, not that you don’t in any other week of the year.

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Jamie Roberts

Jamie Roberts

Wales centre Jamie Roberts insisted he was ready for more of the same against South Africa on Saturday, despite being unable to run for four days after his exploits against the New Zealand last week.

Roberts, a qualified doctor currently taking a medical sabbatical playing for Racing-Metro in the French Top 14 league, admitted that he did not dwell too long on the pain and suffering he caused his own body.

“It’s taken me about four or five days to recover from last weekend,” Roberts said of the battering he took in the 34-16 loss to New Zealand.

“It was car-crash stuff last weekend.

“I take anti-inflammatory medication before most games now just to reduce swelling in knees and ankles and so forth.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland has denied he was under extra pressure as his team sought an elusive win over a Southern Hemisphere side when they clash with South Africa on Saturday.

Gatland’s record against the SANZAR sides of Australia, New Zealand and the Springboks since taking charge in 2007 does not make for pleasant reading: played 27, won one, lost 26.

That solitary win was against the Wallabies, 21-18, back in 2008, but Gatland on Thursday played down reports in the media that he was under extra pressure, 10 months away from the World Cup in England.

After opening their November campaign with a 28-33 defeat by Australia, an experimental Wales side scraped past Fiji 17-13 before rebounding against New Zealand, leading after 69 minutes before leaking three late tries to go down 16-34.

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WalesWales have made three changes to their side to face South Africa on Saturday, with Gethin Jenkins, Scott Baldwin and Liam Williams all coming into the starting fifteen.

Jenkins and Baldwin will link up with Samson Lee to form the same frontrow that started the clash against Fiji a fortnight ago.

The rest of the pack remains unchanged from last weekend’s game against the world champions New Zealand, with Jake Ball partnering Alun Wyn Jones in the second row and Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton.

Ospreys halfbacks Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue their partnership as do the record breaking centre duo of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.

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Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo are back in the Springbok starting line-up for Saturday’s Test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The changes in the back three were required because Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, who started in last weekend’s victory over Italy in Padova, are not available this week. The two changes to the front row are rotational.

Adriaan Strauss, who started at hooker in the victories over England and Italy, moves to the bench, where he will be joined by Trevor Nyakane and Damian de Allende in the only other changes to the match-23.

“This tour has been a good test of our depth and we’re looking forward to see what the team can do on Saturday,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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Shaun Edwards

Shaun Edwards

Welsh defensive coach Shaun Edwards has bad memories of what Willie le Roux did to them in June and is wary of the Springboks’ threats.

South Africa managed two victories over the Welsh back in June, with a tight one-point win in Nelspruit proving to be a heartbreaking one for Wales.

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux was instrumental as an attacking threat in both those games and was seen to terrorize the Welsh defence.

For Edwards, a watchful eye will be kept on Le Roux, but he is not fooling himself into believing that the wylie fullback will be the only threat.

“They have got intelligent players, they’ve got a constructive kicking game as well,” the coach said.

They’ve got an outstanding fullback in Willie le Roux, who was the main torturer for us throughout the June Tests.

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WalesWales will be able to call on their French-based stars for Saturday’s Test against the Springboks at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The match falls outside of World Rugby’s Test window, which means clubs are not obliged to release their overseas-based players for internationals.

For this reason, the Springboks will not be able to call on the likes of Bryan Habana (Toulon, France) JP Pietersen (Panasonic Wild Knights, Japan), Schalk Burger (Suntory Sungoliath, Japan), Johan Goosen (Racing Metro, France), Jano Vermaak (Toulouse, France), Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse, France) and Morne Steyn (Stade Francais, France).

However, it appears Wales will be able to call on some key overseas players.

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