Premiership Rugby sponsor Aviva, who have also been supporting British athletes since 1999, arranged for Darren Campbell to give Sale Sharks a speed training session ahead of this weekend’s Big Game against London Irish. Aviva has sought to form closer ties between the two sports – and in December 2010, the Wasps players took part in a ‘job swap’ session with GB heptathlete Jess Ennis.To find out more about this weekend’s “Big Game”, where Sale Sharks take on London Irish at the Reebok Stadium, visit avivapremiershiprugby.com Athlete Darren Campbell with (L-R) James Gaskell, Neil Briggs and Will AddisonSale Sharks are pulling out all the stops ahead of Saturday’s Aviva Premiership “Big Game” against London Irish at the Reebok Stadium, and called on Olympic Gold medallist Darren Campbell to lead them in a last minute speed training session.Campbell, who hails from Sale Racecourse Estate, has worked with many top sportspeople including Sharks’ Mark Cueto in recent years. In this video, James Gaskell, Neil Briggs and Will Addison are put through their paces by Campbell, whilst Charlie Hodgson looked on. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
Chaos reigned at a press conference at which media were not allowed to ask questions, and FFR President Pierre Camou pointed the blame at Pearson for the shambles of the evening. He said: “I am very sad and worried about what has happened tonight. I am sad for fans, and I don’t understand why the referee has not shown up (to the press conference). Two hours ago everything was fine. I am not sure that the argument of safety is suddenly a good one at 8pm. The FFR always takes responsibility for its pitches but we are not responsible for this decision. Today a game has taken place in the snow (Italy v England, Rome) and the referee was French.”Dave PearsonHowever, the IRB was quick to defend Pearson in a statement issued on Sunday that said: “Player welfare and safety is the primary concern for the IRB and its Match Officials and having witnessed and assessed the rapid deterioration of the playing surface between the final pitch inspection and the scheduled kick-off time, and following consultation with the match official team, both coaches and Championship organisers, Dave Pearson deemed the pitch unplayable on player welfare grounds.” Fans were informed that their match tickets would still be valid when the fixture is eventually played, but with many travelling from Ireland and all over France, how many will be able to repeat the trip to take their seats? Furthermore, it is as yet unclear whether or not fans will be offered a refund if they are unable to attend the fixture.The match is likely to be played on the 2 or 3 of March, which would mean both teams will play fixtures on four consecutive weekends, an option that France coach Philippe Saint-André is unhappy about. However, Ireland have stated that they would prefer to go ahead with that date than return to Paris this weekend. The Six Nations committee will make the final decision on the date, and unions will be informed and an announcement made on Monday. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS By Bea Asprey, Rugby World Writer VINCENT CLERC had issued a warning days before France were due to host Ireland at the Stade de France that the freezing temperatures in Paris could render the pitch unsafe to play on. So why was a contingency plan not immediately put into place, and why was it left until kick-off time on the Saturday night to tell thousands of travelling fans that the game was to be called off?French winger Clerc had expressed concern that areas of the pitch, around the touchlines, were frozen during their 2.30 fixture against Italy the week before, and with temperatures forecast to be well below freezing by 9pm on Saturday, it beggars belief why action was not taken to ensure that the fixture could go ahead. Instead, 80,000 fans flocked into the ground and had taken their seats before it was announced, just minutes before kick-off, that they were to be ejected into the chilly night 80 minutes earlier than they had bargained for.Groundsmen try to warm up the pitch before kick-offIt was suggested that the kick-off time was moved to much earlier in the day, around 3pm French time, an option TV stations would reportedly have agreed with despite contrary assumptions. But the Six Nations itself refused to change the time of the game. The pitch had been covered all week and passed an inspection at 7.15pm, but with parts already frozen less than two hours later and the temperature still falling, referee Dave Pearson was left with no choice but to call off the fixture in the interests of the players’ safety. The announcement was met by a chorus of boos from the crowd, who were understandably livid at being turned away without seeing a match. NOT FOR FEATURED
The likes of Simon Zebo, Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall, Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson amongst others have all graduated from Ruddock’s ‘Wolfpuppies’ to full Irish internationals. And with others such Munster playmaker JJ Hanrahan, Connacht fullback Robbie Henshaw and current under-20 captain Luke McGrath all set to follow that route, Ruddock would be a considered choice on that basis [email protected]_dave End of the road: Declan Kidney’s contract was not renewed after four years in the Ireland hot-seatBy David BlairIT CAME as no surprise that the IRFU decided against renewing Kidney’s contract. Their recent defeat in Rome, Ireland’s first Six Nations loss to Italy, left Ireland with only one win and languishing in fifth position. Had Wales started the championship as they ended it, with an impressive dismantling of England at the Millennium Stadium finale, and had France not malfunctioned then Ireland would have been the deserved recipients of a first Wooden Spoon since 1998.While it’s only natural that the head coach receives a fair share of flak when results aren’t going their teams’ way, Declan Kidney’s critics had plenty of ammunition to fire their #kidneyout campaign. There has been a steady decline in Irish win percentages since they completed a historic Grand Slam in Kidney’s first season in the top job, with only four wins since the 2011 Rugby World Cup. And his recent decision to let Jamie Heaslip retain the captaincy despite the return of O’Driscoll was a bold move, one which raised eyebrows and ultimately failed to engender a new Ireland.Early favourite: Conor O’Shea is sticking with HarlequinsHis choice of fly-half to deputise for the crooked Sexton also attracted its fair share of opprobrium. Having persisted with an ageing and floundering O’Gara on the bench for the opening two weekends, Kidney then handed Paddy Jackson the reigns against Scotland and for the remaining games, all the while ignoring the in-form ten in Ireland, Ian Madigan. Declan Kidney made the calls and was always likely to stick to his decisions, particularly regarding Jackson, but he never give the impression he was completely at ease with his choice.With Kidney sailing off into the sunset, speculation is already rife as to where his successor will come from, with Irish media and supporters pushing forward the early front runners. It was announced that current attack coach Les Kiss would lead Ireland on an interim basis, supported by Gert Smal and Anthony Foley, in North America. Indeed, we may not know until after that tour whether Kiss is a contender for the role long-term but his elevation has bought the IRFU time to find a suitable replacement.Conor O’Shea was installed as the early favourite to succeed Kidney when the Six Nations campaign derailed, but the Harlequins director of rugby has since consistently reiterated his commitment to the London club. Even if O’Shea was available, his appointment would require a change in Ireland’s coaching structure. The former London Irish fullback has accumulated his coaching experience in a directing capacity, a far cry from the hands on approach which Kidney preferred. It’s too soon to rule him out of the reckoning but for O’Shea the timing doesn’t seem to fit.The same might be said for Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall, another former Irish international making waves in the Aviva Premiership. If the IRFU prefer an Irish successor then these two will surely be at the top of the list. Both are ambitious, who would certainly bring their own ideas to the job, but doubts remain whether either candidate can be tempted away from their current roles mid-contract.Man manager: Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is in the frameIt may be that the IRFU need to look further afield in their search for Declan Kidney’s replacement, which brings in the likes of Australian Ewen McKenzie, the bookies favourite at present. The portents are promising, the former Waratahs and Stade Francais head coach has already stated his intention to leave his current post with the Queensland Reds at the end of this Super Rugby season. Fuelling this speculation is McKenzie’s stated desire to pursue international ambitions. Ireland could conceivably provide that stepping stone, and given his recent success turning around the Reds Super Rugby fortunes it may be that McKenzie has the credentials to halt the Irish slide. The spanner in the works could be whether the former prop is holding out for the Wallabies job which may become available depending how Robbie Deans fares against the Lions in the summer.Other overseas names mentioned have included Jake White, but the IRFU are unlikely to break the bank for the former World Cup winning coach and he too is said to be interested in a seemingly coveted Wallabies job. Graham Henry could be tempted as a short term solution if the IRFU aren’t looking beyond the 2015 Rugby World Cup, while Wayne Smith, a backs coach well known for an attractive running brand of rugby, would be a coup at the end of his Waikato Chiefs contract.There is a school of thought amongst Irish fans that an overseas coach with no ties to any of the provinces might be the way forward, but we’ll have to see if the IRFU are feeling progressive enough to take that risk or if they will prefer a known quantity, one they’ve already worked with – I’d wager for the latter.Making his point: Is Joe Schmidt ready to leave Leinster?In that is the case, Joe Schmidt, a double Heineken Cup winner with Leinster and already familiar with the ranks in the IRFU, becomes a leading contender. They could do a lot worse than to convince the Kiwi to stay in Ireland for a few more years. If Schmidt has ambitions to coach the All Blacks then the experience will hardly do those aspirations any harm. Schmidt, who also had successful spells as backs coach with Clermont Auvergne and Auckland Blues, has one year left to run on his Leinster contract but unlike O’Shea that obstacle is unlikely to deter the IRFU if they deem him the right man for the job.Alternatively the IRFU may choose to offer Mike Ruddock a path back to the top of international rugby. Let’s not forget that Ruddock was a Grand Slam winning coach with Wales. Currently in his third season leading the Irish under-20s. In a similar fashion to Stuart Lancaster with the England Saxons, Ruddock also has the advantage of having worked with many of the up and coming stars of Irish rugby, some of which have already made their mark on the international stage. DUBLIN, IRELAND – APRIL 07: Joe Schmidt, the Leinster head coach issues instructions during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Leinster and Cardiff Blues at the Aviva Stadium on April 7, 2012 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
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“After two seasons of success one might say the squad is resting on its laurels,” conceded Lamerat after the La Rochelle thumping. Asked if he feared Castres could be bound for ProD2 he replied: “I’m not really afraid of relegation for the moment.”He shouldn’t be, for the season is still young. But Lamerat and his teammates knows Castres must find a way out of this ‘negative spiral’, and soon. It trapped Biarritz in the first weeks of last season and eventually took the 2010 Heineken Cup finalists all the way into ProD2. TAGS: Highlight The talk of late has been about Toulouse but what of another French club slipping towards the cliff edge? Castres’ fall has been even more precipitous than that of Toulouse, who have been clinging on to respectability for a couple of seasons. Not so Castres. Crowned Top 14 champions in 2012-13, they reached the final again last season and ran Toulon close before the ice-cool composure of Jonny Wilkinson saw the Mediterranean men home.Four months on and Castres are bottom of the Top 14 with just two victories from their first seven outings. It’s the same win/lose ratio as Toulouse but Castres are propping up the table because of their grisly points difference. Last season they conceded 35 tries in the 26 games of the regular campaign; this season they’ve leaked 20 in their first seven matches.So what’s gone wrong? There are a number of factors that, combined, have sent Castres into what their international centre, Remi Lamerat, described recently as a “negative spiral”.First there were the summer departures of several key personnel, notably No 8 Antonie Claassen, prop Anton Peikrishvili and full-back Brice Dulin to Racing Metro, South African loose forward Pedrie Wannenburg to Oyonnax and the retirement of Romain Teulet.Teulet didn’t actually play much last season but what the veteran winger brought to the dressing room was experience, as did Claassen and Wannenburg. The loss of Claassen was a particular blow because the South African is not only a fine and intelligent footballer he’s also a leader of men, one of those players who commands respect from his teammates.He’s now using those qualities to good effect at Racing and Castres have found no one to fill the void. Their coaching team of David Darricarrère and Serge Milhas were surprisingly restrained in the summer transfer market, though in their defence the Castres’ budget this season of €19m puts them well down the wealth table, nearly half of the €35m budget at Toulouse’s disposal.Breaking free: Lyon’s Waisele Sukanaveita runs against CastresCastres signed a triumvirate of Montpellerians in No 8 Johnnie Beattie, centre Thomas Combezou and prop Paea Fa’anunu but their marquee signing was former All Black wing Sitiveni Sivivatu, lured from Clermont Auvergne where he had scored 16 tries in the last two seasons. Then two days before the start of the new season Castres announced that Sivivatu would be sidelined for three and a half months after shoulder surgery.Sivivatu isn’t the only Castres’ star to be crocked early on. Yannick Forestier, their vastly experienced Test prop, has yet to be seen after injuring his spine in pre-season, and Karena Wihongi made his first start in Saturday’s defeat to Lyon, the Kiwi front-rower having recovered from a serious hamstring injury. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS But a club of Castres’ stature shouldn’t be struggling just because of a few injuries. Toulon have had their problems this season, so too Lyon, Grenoble and Bayonne. They’ve coped.What about the coaches? Are Darricarrère and Milhas up to the job? Remember that last season Castres just squeezed into the play-offs, finishing in sixth spot, one point above Stade Francais, before embarking on that remarkable run to the final that encompassed a quarter-final victory over Clermont in the Stade Marcel-Michelin (Clermont’s first home defeat in nearly five years) and a semi-final defeat of Montpellier.Was that run down to good coaching or was it the Castres’ old guard calling on all their experience and dredging up the squad spirit that had been so carefully nurtured by Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit, the coaching team who moved to Racing Metro after their triumphant four year tenure climaxed in Top 14 glory? There is a suggestion in some quarters that Darricarrère and Milhas, who arrived from coaching jobs at Agen and Biarritz respectively, lack the innovation and imagination to rebuild Castres in their own image now that the legacy of Travers and Labit has dissipated. “They correspond perfectly to the club’s values,” said team manager Matthias Rolland of the pair when they arrived in the summer of 2013. That’s nice to know, but there’s no magic formula that translates values into victories.Party time: La Rochelle celebrate thumping Castres, 41-16Following Castres’ humiliating 41-16 drubbing away at La Rochelle in round four of this season’s championship a ‘clear-the-air’ meeting was held, the outcome of which was revealing. Amid all the usual sports-speak about digging deep and focusing on the positives, Rolland [the club captain during their title-winning season] gave the coaching team what sounded suspiciously like the dreaded vote of confidence. “The players still believe in the coaching system,” explained Rolland. “But in order to re-discover our confidence and improve our efficiency we’ve got to temporarily simplify our game, make it more direct.”The change brought Castres a much-needed win at home to Oyonnax the following weekend but Saturday’s 28-18 defeat to fellow strugglers Lyon – a game they were winning 11-9 at half-time – suggest Castres still have a lot of work to do. The news of Rory Kockott’s call-up to the France squad is further cause for concern for the Castres’ faithful; the prospect of losing their scrum-half and goal-kicker on international duty in November and perhaps again during the Six Nations won’t help the club’s fight to move up the table, particularly when fly-half Remi Tales is also in the squad. Castres’ South African scrum-half Rory Kockott (C) speaks to his teammates during the French Top 14 Rugby Union match Castres vs Oyonnax on September 20, 2014 at the Pierre-Antoine stadium in Castres, southwestern France. AFP PHOTO / REMY GABALDA (Photo credit should read REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TAGS: HighlightLeinster LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS As Ireland marched on in their Six Nations title defence with a third straight win, we analyse six momentum shifts that characterised their 19-9 defeat of England Burrell errs on the side of caution with Robbie Henshaw and Payne rushing up, though. He is enveloped, Ireland win a penalty and are six points ahead again.Ireland 9-3 England, 46 minutes: Soft concessionShipping 13 penalties to Ireland’s eight was never likely to end well. Indeed, this is an example of an avoidable infringement.Attwood was tireless in defence and topped the England tackle-count with 19. In this case though, he makes the challenge on Paul O’Connell but does not roll away quick enough or in the right direction.He impedes Murray, who trips obviously enough to alert Joubert and cannily win a penalty. Cynical gamesmanship or sheer intelligence – either way, Sexton made it 12-3:As well as indiscipline, this also highlights the disparity in ruck speed between the teams. On defence, Ireland piled in and sapped the pace of England’s phase-play to a near stand-still. We will get onto this in more depth later.Conversely, thanks to consistently strong clear-outs and ball presentation, Murray buzzed around and dictated the cadence of his side’s attacks. As such, Ireland could come forward with more conviction.Ireland 12-3 England, 51 minutes: More chase and counterThis passage of play ended with Henshaw’s match-clinching try. Even so, as with so much in this game, it began with Sexton’s vision. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Watson has crept slightly narrow and that Simon Zebo has held his width:The kick is nicely weighted, turning Watson. Zebo follows up to make a brawny tackle and, once more, the chasers are disciplined. Payne, Rob Kearney and Murphy leach on to one another, march beyond the ball and force the turnover:This is a copy-book piece of counter-rucking, epitomising Ireland’s technical excellence under pressure and foreshadowing their pivotal, potentially tournament-winning try.Ireland 19-6 England, 60 minutes: Immoveable MooreTo their immense credit, England did not give up on this game in the third quarter though things were slipping away rapidly. A Ford penalty cut the deficit and they began to get through a few phases. However, this defensive set from Ireland extinguished even the most distant hope.Here, the hosts resemble England at their most disruptive. Careering off the line, Cian Healy occupies Haskell’s eyeline and fells the Wasp behind the gain-line:Tommy O’Donnell assists the tackle and Martin Moore latches on. At 123 kilograms, there is no moving him:Throughout the match, Ireland’s defensive breakdown was exceptional. Both legally and illegally, they ensured their opponents stagnated. Job done: The Aviva Stadium erupts as Craig Joubert blows the final whistle to mark Ireland’s 19-9 defeat of England ©INPHO/Colm O’Neill A 10-point defeat away to a side that has now won their last 10 consecutive Tests. That statement represents the stark outcome for England on a soggy Sunday in Dublin.However, for a team holding ambitions of silverware who demand high standards, a 19-9 reverse against Ireland would have stung rather more. For a start, there was little of the vim and vigour that helped overturn Wales. As Stuart Lancaster admitted, the visitors “hardly fired a shot” in the first half.Secondly, moments of indiscipline stunted England’s progress. Given this squad has travelled through a number of chastening lessons – 2013’s 30-3 loss at the Millennium Stadium, numerous Southern Hemisphere close-shaves – inexperience cannot be rolled out as an excuse any more.Here is a run-down of six moments that crystallised a tough afternoon across the Irish Sea.Ireland 0-0 England, 1 minute: Ford huntedIt was not in the least bit surprising that the tactical kicking of Ireland half-backs Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton was spot on. What was extra impressive was the hosts’ industry off the ball, not just chasing hard but also making sound decisions and effective interventions at the ensuing contact area.Here, as Tommy Bowe tackles George Ford, both Jordi Murphy and Peter O’Mahony are on the scene. They keep their balance and drive over the ball in an unopposed counter ruck as Luther Burrell, Jack Nowell and Ben Youngs circle back behind the back foot:The ball is forced out and Devin Toner pounces to complete an early turnover, which eventually resulted in Ireland’s first three points. The Leinster lock stood tall to finish the opening quarter too.Ireland 6-3 England, 22-24 minutes: Toner steals then spoilsOn the BBC’s live coverage, Sir Clive Woodward laboured the rather redundant message that Chris Robshaw should have opted for a kick at the posts rather than to touch at this point. It was an easy argument to make in retrospect. England’s maul has been functioning well this season, so going for the try seemed a sound decision.As it was, Toner simply made a sound read and got up above James Haskell, with the help of an fine lift by O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien. A reverse angle depicts the situation well:As Murray hacks into touch, the danger is not over. But then Toner and O’Mahony intervene once more. Another great read allows them to crowd out Dave Attwood, making the set-piece messy before O’Brien charges away:From a lineout in this area of the field about five minutes previously, Ireland did not throw anybody up – attempting to outfox England by not engaging their maul. Now, they go the opposite way. They shoot up two pods with the aim of creating chaos:It works brilliantly. They steal the lineout and quell a prolonged England attack.Ireland 6-3 England, 27 minutes: Exit uncertaintyHaving survived an extended period of pressure thanks to Billy Vunipola‘s ruck turnover, England need a sturdy set-piece and a proper clearance. However, their exit strategy is derailed. Ireland do well to muscle the visitors’ maul towards touch, putting Youngs in a cul-de-sac.Close to the chalk, the angle is very awkward for the scrum-half to kick himself. However, the pass is already a difficult one and, spinning 180 degrees onto his left hand, he gives Ireland a chance to speed into Ford’s face:There is still a chance to save the situation, even as Ford ships on hurriedly to Burrell. Two passes, either to Alex Goode or Jonathan Joseph, are on: England now end the Six Nations with two Twickenham ties against Scotland and France. Two wins are a bare minimum. If they achieve that, they retain a title chance.While this weekend will hurt, Lancaster must regroup the troops as quickly as possible. A trophy is still a possibility. What a World Cup launchpad that would be.
Sevens heaven Scotland’s Sevens team are the toast of the nation today after beating the auld enemy, England, 28-10 in the Bowl final at the Paris Sevens. It was Scotland’s second successive Bowl win in the HSBC Series and shows how much they are improving in this abbreviated form of the game – especially as they were only beaten in the last play of their pool match against Samoa, who went on to win the Paris tournament.James Johnstone, Scott Wight, Damien Hoyland and Jamie Farndale were the try-scoring heroes for Scotland in the final. Scotland fans are now hoping for a hat-trick of trophies to be completed at the London Sevens next weekend.Final flourish: Faalemiga Selesele scored Samoa’s winning try v Fiji. (Photo: Getty Images)Samoa came from 21-0 down to beat favourites Fiji in the Paris Cup final. Two tries from Tila Mealoi helped them claw their way back to 26-17 with just over four minutes to play, then Siaosi Asofolau narrowed the gap to just two points and Samoa skipper Faalemiga Selesele finished the job with the final try. TAGS: HighlightSaracens Solidarity: Luke Wallace comforts the devastated Ben Botica after the final. (Photo: Getty Images)The SinnersBotica’s brainstormBen Botica. I could weep for him. The Harlequins’ replacement fly-half had the ultimate “Why did he do THAT!!?” moment at the end of Friday’s European Challenge Cup final and will forever be haunted by his mistake which extinguished Quins’ slim hopes of winning.Montpellier were leading 26-19 as the clock went into red time. Quins had been 26-9 down with ten minutes to play, but Marland Yarde’s try and Botica’s excellent conversion, followed by a penalty from under the sticks in the 78th minute, had left the Londoners with a flimsy straw still to clutch at.They needed a converted try to take the game into extra time. Danny Care took a quick throw-in close to halfway and Quins had the chance to mount one last attack. There was a sense of urgency, a feeling that they might just do it. Then the ball was passed to Botica and he kicked long, to Monpellier. Yes – he kicked long to Montpellier. The French side couldn’t believe their luck and they booted the ball into touch to end the match and secure the Challenge Cup.As Montpellier celebrated, Botica crumbled at the realisation of what he had done and he was comforted by his team-mates. Of course, Botica’s mistake wasn’t the only one made during the final and so the blame for Quins’ defeat absolutely cannot be laid entirely at his door.But my sympathy for him is diluted by the fact that he has form for not knowing the score and/or the time at the death of a tight game. On 6 February Harlequins were leading Northampton 23-20 when the clock ticked past 80 minutes, Botica received the ball in his own in-goal area and just needed to dink it into touch. Instead he launched a long touch-finder, Ben Foden caught it and raced in for the winning try. Director of rugby Conor O’Shea was furious and you would hope Botica learned his lesson, but clearly he hasn’t. The fact he will be playing for Montpellier next season led to some comment on social media that his new team-mates must have been thrilled he gave them such a gift. However, they might be worried that, for all his undoubted talent, Botica has big holes in his game management. The European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals produced a few heroes and villains, while there was silverware and glory up for grabs on the Sevens circuit and in Wales too. Man on a mission: Maro Itoje on the charge against Racing. (Photo: Getty Images)Marvellous MaroSaracens lock Maro Itoje was named European Player of the Season after Saturday’s Champions Cup final. The 21-year-old already has a Grand Slam winners medal to his name this season after playing a leading role for England during the Six Nations, and, considering he only played his first Champions Cup game in January 2015 and wasn’t a regular Premiership starter for Saracens until a month after that, his rise from young hopeful to superstar has been astonishing.However, Itoje proved that his feet are still totally on the ground (when he is not soaring to claim yet another lineout) when he said after Saturday’s final: “I am nowhere near where I think I can be. There is still a lot I have to work on.” Winning smiles: Brad Barritt, Richard Wigglesworth and Owen Farrell with the cup. (Photo: Inpho) Stunning Steelmen Ebbw Vale are the new club rugby champions in Wales after they beat Pontypridd 38-12 in the Principality Premiership final. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The SaintsSaracens’ dynamic duoSaracens are the king of European rugby, after beating Racing 92 in the Champions Cup final. They managed the wet conditions in Lyon superbly, were never behind in the match and executed their tactics almost perfectly to triumph 21-9.Maro Itoje was named Man of the Match, but it was the Saracens half-backs who piloted them to victory. Richard Wigglesworth had an immaculate game at scrum-half, pinning Racing back in their own half with superb tactical kicking during a critical period in the second half when Saracens were 12-6 ahead and the French side were looking for a way back into the game.Owen Farrell was also in top form, taking the right options, executing them well and, above all, landing every one of the seven penalty chances Racing handed to him.A tip of the hat also goes to Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall, who took over that role when the previous King of the Sarries, Brendan Venter, moved on at the start of 2011. McCall had already led them to the 2009-10 Aviva Premiership title as their head coach, and he has taken them from strength to strength ever since. Saracens have their critics and, even with the Champions Cup tucked away in their trophy cabinet, are accused of being boring to watch, but the truth is that they have assembled a superb squad, can successfully adapt their game plan to suit different conditions, and have a great team ethic born out of excellent man management. Ponty were looking to beat Neath’s record of four titles in a row and had home advantage, but the Steelmen – with Nigel Davies at the coaching helm – took the wind out of their sails by going 14-0 up in the first half and never looked back.Ronny Kynes scored two tries for Ebbw Vale from lineout drives and full-back Dan Haymond had the crowd roaring in the second half with an 80-metre breakaway try.This is Vale’s first Welsh title since they were crowned the Unofficial Welsh Club Champions for the fourth time in 1959/60. In 2010 they were relegated from the top flight, but they fought their way back up the ladder by winning the Division One East title twice, then the Championship twice and were runners-up in the Premiership last season. Where’s the catch: Tim Visser made a couple of costly errors. (Photo: Getty Images)Caught out Tim Visser missed a gilt-edged chance to score a crucial try for Harlequins in their Challenge Cup final. Midway through the second half, with Quins trailing 23-9, Mike Brown put a cross-kick over the the left corner for Visser to catch and, hopefully, crash over the line with. However, the big wing was beaten to the ball and the chance went begging.Four minutes later Visser made another mistake, catching a Montpellier kick a few metres from his own line when there was a chance the ball might have gone out on the full. Even if it hadn’t, it would have been a Quins lineout, but he caught the ball and took it into touch and from the subsequent Montpellier lineout the French side earned a penalty and kicked it to extend their lead to 26-9.
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS How many days does the Hong Kong Sevens run for?A OneB TwoC ThreeEntries must be received by midnight on 3 October 2016. Full T&Cs apply (see Gulliverstravel.co.uk) for details The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is one of the most exciting events in the world and a must-do tour for rugby fans. The carnival atmosphere is second-to-none and truly international, with sevens supporters from across the globe making the annual pilgrimage to watch the best teams in the world excel in the shortened format of the game.To celebrate Gullivers Sports Travel being appointed as the ONLY Official Travel Agent in Europe for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens for the next three years, they are offering one Rugby World reader and a friend the chance to be there next April!Great spectacle: The All Blacks celebrate their win at the 2014 Hong Kong SevensThis competition is exclusive to Rugby World readers and here’s the prize package:2 x official tickets to all three days of the tournament(Friday 7 to Saturday 9 April 2017) Party time: The Hong Kong Sevens is one of the year’s great rugby events Return flights for 2 peopleFour nights in a 3-star hotel (two people sharing a double/twin room) close to Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s best area for nightlife.For your chance to win this fantastic prize, just answer the following simple question and enter your details at gulliverstravel.co.uk/rugbyworld: Here’s your chance to be at the must-see Sevens event next April thanks to Gullivers Sports Travel
The former Scotland full-back talks through his memories of the 2019 World Cup and explains why he’d like to travel to Japan again LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Gavin Hastings on a journey to remember in JapanI’ve been to every World Cup final now and 2019 was probably the latest I arrived – just before the Scotland-Russia match.It was fairly obvious that unless Scotland played pretty well against Ireland we were going to be up against it. Obviously, everything was going to come down to the wire against Japan. I thought that they recovered well to beat Samoa and score the requisite number of tries.With Russia, it was always going to be the second-string team that went out there, but the positive manner in which they played – and Adam, my son, was involved in that as well – that was great fun to be part of.Nice touch: Adam Hastings scoring a try against Russia at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa (Getty Images)We’d arrived the day before and all of a sudden we were right into it. It was the most beautiful day, it was a wonderful stadium and it was a terrific crowd. Scotland played very well that day. It was a very proud moment for Diane and me, his mum and dad.I remember the very first Rugby World Cup, in ‘87, my folks were out there watching my brother Scott and me, and now I am roughly the same age as my dad was then. So there it is, 32 years on and it’s the next generation. When you see your son playing in an international stadium and it’s going well, then you can be justified in feeling very proud.Memories: Gavin Hastings competes for a high ball at RWC 1987 (Getty Images)I was there for Japan versus Scotland, which was tremendous. It’s one that will live long in memories I’m sure – clearly for all the Japan supporters.Japan really played extremely well. They were terrific, and deserving victors. Just the anticipation going into that game and the excitement of the crowd in Yokohama – it was pretty full-on. Just seeing the Japanese supporters there in huge numbers and displaying the team colours.That was probably the highlight of the World Cup for me: the anticipation going into that game and all that was on offer to the winners. The result didn’t go the right way, but I thought it was a cracking game of rugby.If you look back, it was just the manner of our performance against Ireland that, for me, was the most galling aspect of Scotland’s World Cup. That we just didn’t pitch up there. We’d been together for 100 days, they made a big point of that. There’s no question they spent more money on the preparation for that World Cup than any other. They failed to deliver, certainly in that Ireland game, and then it was always going to be an uphill push after that.So, good on Japan, but yes, I think Scotland and Ireland will probably not take a huge amount of satisfaction out of the World Cup. Apart from assessing the relative merits of some of their younger players, who I think will feature fairly heavily in the Six Nations next year.I would love to go back to Japan, and I’m sure we will. I was even contemplating whether we might go for the sevens next year. That would be great, having been there, and knowing how the bullet train works and whatever else.Golden wonder: Diane and Gavin Hastings at the Golden Pavilion in KyotoI travelled with InsideJapan Tours and went to a few of their rugby events. We didn’t do too much this time – we were down in Kyoto, and we went out to the bamboo forest, which I was very taken with. It was a real tourist spot, but it just had a uniqueness and a charm about it.Then we jumped on a bus back into town, which in itself was quite interesting, and visited the golden temple (Kinkakuji). My god, that was breathtakingly beautiful. I mean, just stunning.The weather was beautiful, the bullet trains are amazing to travel on, the people were amazing, and the places where you go and get food, and all the beautiful packaging that you get, you know? It’s extraordinary.It really made a big impact on me. I think next time I would like to go north and south and see the extremities. I have no doubt that we’ll go back there one day and try to see a bit more. Fans-tastic: Gavin Hastings at the Japan v South Africa quarter-final Rugby World magazine’s January 2020 issue comes with a free 2020 calendar and is on sale now.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Duhan van der Merwe scored eight tries in his first ten Tests (AFP/Getty Images) Who is Duhan van der Merwe: Ten things you should know about the Scotland wingerDuhan van der Merwe made his Scotland debut in the autumn of 2020 and the winger scored eight tries in his first ten Test matches. Here are a few more facts about the star…Ten things you should know about Duhan van der Merwe1. Duhan van der Merwe was born 4 June 1995 in George, South Africa. He qualified to play for Scotland through the three-year residency rule.2. He stands at 6ft 4in (1.93m) and weighs 16st 10lb (106kg).3. Duhan van der Merwe joined Edinburgh in 2017 after stints at French club Montpellier and South African team Blue Bulls. In January 2021, it was announced that he had signed for Premiership club Worcester Warriors for the 2021-22 season. 4. After making his debut for Scotland against Georgia in October 2020, the SRU arranged for him to have a video call with his family.He told Rugby World: “They had their faces painted with the Scottish flag, they had the flag hanging up in the living room, my dad was wearing the Scotland jersey. I was so, so proud.”Related: Duhan van der Merwe’s rugby journey5. In the 2021 Six Nations he scored Scotland’s winning try against France in the 85th minute. It was Scotland’s first victory over France in Paris since 1999. The try took his tally in the tournament to five, making him the top try-scorer. The Scotland star was the top try-scorer in the 2021 Six Nations 9. He played for South Africa’s U20 team. In 2014 he came off of the bench for South Africa in the Junior World Cup final against an England team captained by Maro Itoje. England won the match 21-20 to claim the title.10. Van der Merwe has said in his spare time that he likes playing the video game Warzone with his friends and he loves playing golf. 6. Van der Merwe’s brother, Akker, is a South Africa international who won three caps in 2018. He is a hooker who plays for Premiership club Sale Sharks.7. Van der Merwe was named Guinness Pro14 Players’ Player of the Season for 2019-20. He scored 11 tries in 19 matches and finished top of the stats charts in terms of clean breaks, defenders beaten and metres made.8. He regularly posts Instagram photos with his long-term girlfriend, Neeks. Can’t get to the shops? Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet. Subscribe to the print edition for magazine delivery to your door.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.