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Scots learning how to turn close defeats to wins – Barclay

June 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Skipper John Barclay says Scotland are learning from their agonising defeats and are better equipped at closing out tight Tests after toppling the Wallabies in a famous victory in Australia.

BArclay

The Scots will climb to fifth in the world rankings from sixth after holding on for a resilient 24-19 win in Sydney on Saturday, spiritedly defending their try-line as the Wallabies laid siege.

It was Scotland’s second-straight win in Australia after edging the Wallabies 9-6 in Newcastle in 2012, and comes on the back of two heartbreaking one-point defeats at Murrayfield last year and in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup at Twickenham.

Scotland have now won three of their last six encounters with the Wallabies and will take home the Hopetoun Cup, one of the few trophies that had been remaining in Australia’s possession.

Barclay, the 62-capped blindside flanker from Llanelli’s Scarlets, said Scotland’s skills have been under-played and they were making their presence felt in international rugby.

“It will give us confidence. You cannot deny the fact that we’ve been on the wrong side of a couple of these against the Aussies for the last couple of years and it was nice to close one out,” Barclay told reporters after Saturday’s triumph.

“But in this year’s Six Nations we closed out a couple of really important games, tight games against Ireland and Wales, so I think we are getting better at closing out games.

“The important thing is that you learn from the close defeats. Everyone always talks about the Scots being brave, but I don’t think we speak enough about the skills of the guys have.

“Look at the tries we’re scoring, I think it’s brilliant and I think it’s under-played at times.”

Scotland matched the Wallabies’ three tries and after regaining the lead midway through the second period, they held on gamely for a morale-boosting win.

“It’s really a proud day for us all,” said coach Gregor Townsend, who has now won his first two games in charge after last week’s 34-13 victory over Italy in Singapore.

“For everyone involved in Scottish rugby to blow away those frustrations of the last couple of seasons and come away with such an important win is a credit to the players.

“If you have to defend 10-15 minutes like that against a brilliant attacking team, then you need strong bones and that’s what this team has.

“We knew that it would be really tough, Australia showed a lot what they could do in attack but our width in our defence, the fact that everyone in that 15 were looking to get back and compete for ball, really helped us to get a place and slow down their ball.”

Townsend and Barclay paid tribute to the on-field leadership of 29-capped fly-half Finn Russell, who later was called up as one of six injury reinforcements for the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand.

“I have to say that Finn Russell was outstanding. He leads our attack, but I thought he led our defence really well, the amount of tackles he put in and putting his body on the line,” Townsend said.

Barclay added: “I thought the way Finn Russell has changed as a leader and his composure on the pitch breeds confidence to those around him.”

Scotland left on Sunday for their third and final Test of their tour against Fiji in Suva on Saturday.

Springboks await ‘huge onslaught’ by France

June 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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South Africa coach Allister Coetzee expects a “huge onslaught” from France Saturday in a Durban Test that could decide the three-match series.

The Rugby Championship: South Africa v New Zealand

The Springboks lead 1-0 after a 37-14 victory over the severely depleted Les Bleus in Pretoria last weekend as they seek to put a disastrous first season for Coetzee behind them.

He oversaw a calendar-year record eight losses in 12 Tests for South Africa, fuelling media speculation that a series loss to the French would spell the end for the 54-year-old.

Coetzee labelled the Pretoria success “the start of a new chapter” while admitting that much-changed France are set to pose a much greater threat at Kings Park stadium.

“We know we will be up against a very well prepared French team in the second Test and are readying ourselves for that,” he told reporters in the Indian Ocean port city.

“They want to bounce back and we want to continue with our processes. Both teams have a lot to play for.

“Although not perfect, I am pleased with our set pieces and expect a huge onslaught from the French in the scrums and line-outs.”

Among eight starting changes by Les Bleus coach Guy Noves are two in the front row, one in the “engine room” and one in the back row, all designed to beef up the pack.

Skipper Guilhem Guirado, rested with six other squad members for the Pretoria Test after playing in the French Top 14 final the previous weekend, is recalled.

So are tighthead prop Rabah Slimani, lock Romain Taofifenua and flanker Kevin Gourdon, while more will be expected of star No. 8 Louis Picamoles than he achieved last weekend.

Former provincial scrum-half and Western Stormers coach Coetzee also believes France will be more formidable at half-back for the second Test.

Fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc and scrum-half Baptiste Serin replace Jules Plisson and Maxime Machenaud, who failed to click at Loftus Versfeld stadium.

“Serin is a much bigger threat around the fringes and more of an attacking force in that he asks lots of questions,” observed Coetzee.

“Trinh-Duc is an experienced player who makes good decisions and brings the players around him into the game.

“The French half-back pairing is going to be a much bigger threat than in Pretoria and a lot of their game revolves around the pair.

“Hopefully, we can apply pressure and it will be up to our players, particularly the loose forwards, to cut down their space and ensure they do not have time to make decisions.”

The other two French alterations see South Africa-born Scott Spedding coming in at full-back and a first cap for outside centre Damian Penaud.

A son of former Les Bleus playmaker Alain, 20-year-old Penaud is rewarded for outstanding late-season form with Top 14 champions Clermont.

“We have the feeling, as with others, that he has talent. Now he must express it,” said France coach Guy Noves.

Coetzee reacted predictably to only his second victory in nine Tests by making just one change, and that was enforced with Lionel Mapoe replacing Jesse Kriel at outside centre.

Kriel scored the first try in Pretoria and later suffered concussion, opening the door for Mapoe, who watched the first Test from the grandstand due to a hamstring strain.

The inclusion of Mapoe raised to eight the number of Springbok starters from Golden Lions, the best-performing South African Super Rugby side for several seasons.

Another Lion is skipper and No. 8 Warren Whiteley, who echoed the views of Coetzee regarding France.

“It is going to be a helluva Test,” he predicted. “The French have done their homework and believe they can level the series.”

Springboks at their lowest but will rise again, says Mallett

January 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Two-time rugby union world champions South Africa are at their lowest ebb but former coach Nick Mallett told AFP they can return to being a power in the sport.

Springboks

The 60-year-old, who guided the Springboks to a record 17-match unbeaten streak in 1997-98 including sweeping the then Tri-Nations title, advocated a new set of assistant coaches were required to instil belief in the battered squad.

The Springbok tour of the northern hemisphere last year saw them lose to England, Wales and humiliatingly to Italy — a far cry from Mallett’s tour in 1998 when they racked up huge wins against Wales (96-13), France (52-10), Scotland (68-10) and Ireland (33-0).

“Yeah it is heartbreaking but I think this is probably as low as it can go, winning just 33% of your games internationally,” Mallett told AFP on the sidelines of the launch of this year’s Six Nations.

“I would never have thought they’d lose to Ireland at home or lose to Argentina ever.

“I didn’t think they’d ever lose to Italy, against Wales it was an unusual event (only the Principality’s third win in 110 years), so those are four losses right there that shouldn’t have been.

“The record defeat to New Zealand (57-15 in Durban) and capitulating at home is very very disappointing. Starting at this base it can’t get worse.”

Mallett, who took South Africa to the 1999 World Cup semi-finals but left the post a year later after falling out with the South African Rugby Football Union, said Eddie Jones had shown the way by taking over a group of dejected players following England’s humbling first round exit at the 2015 World Cup and turning them into Six Nations Grand Slam winners months later.

“Just get the enthusiasm and energy back and for that maybe you need a different set of assistant coaches as replacing the head coach (Allister Coetzee) would be expensive,” said Mallett, who was speaking as part of the Accenture Analysis Unit.

“Eddie Jones has the same players but instead of coming second they’re coming first.

“That’s what a coach does. He goes there and makes them believe they’re not a second placed guy but a first placed bloke.

“South Africa needs coaches to get in there and make the players believe they can compete against anyone in the world.

“At the end of the tour they didn’t look like they could compete against anyone.”

Mallett added that the Sprinbgoks could not fall back on the tactics used by their predecessors who won the 2007 World Cup.

“World Rugby laws reward attacking rugby,” said Mallett.

“We won the 2007 World Cup playing without the ball. We kicked it away and relied on driving mauls and kicking penalties to win but you can’t win the World Cup like that any more.”

England-born Mallett, whose family emigrated to what was then Rhodesia when he was a few weeks old, places his faith in a return to the good old days because of one crucial resource.

“South Africa is in a really low spot at the moment but I think they will get back, though, it will be gradual,” he said.

“We have too many good rugby players to stay down there.”

However, even that resource is under threat because he says of the weak state of national currency, the rand.

“The real worry is they are attracted by the euro, pound and yen,” he said.

“After all it is the future for these guys and if they haven’t got a Springbok contract they’d rather play for Toulon or Montpellier and earn five times more than in South Africa.

“The rand really struggled over the past two years. I was told by Jacques Fourie he was being paid the equivalent of 11 million rand (773,000 euros; $832,000) for playing 12 games a year in Japan.

“Who wouldn’t do that?

“It doesnt matter if it’s the old guys like your Richie McCaws and Dan Carters who are going.

“However, you don’t want your young players like CJ Stander (now playing for Ireland) or Jacques du Plessis (23-year-old playing for Top 14 side Montpellier) going. That’s a real worry.”

All Blacks prop Faumuina to join French club Toulouse

December 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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New Zealand prop Charlie Faumuina has signed on with French club Toulouse but said Thursday he still wants to be available for the All Blacks when the British and Irish Lions tour next year.

Faumuina

The 46-Test veteran, who can play both sides of the scrum, will join Toulouse at the start of the next European season.

“I’m looking forward to my last season in New Zealand, making it a successful one with the Blues and hopefully getting the chance to play for the All Blacks,” he said in a statement.

The 30-year-old’s decision to leave New Zealand comes after first-choice tighthead prop Owen Franks confirmed he was staying through to the next World Cup in Japan in 2019.

Faumuina and Franks were both members of the All Blacks squad that retained the World Cup last year, with Faumuina taking the field as a replacement during the final against Australia.

His decision to leave at the end of next season leaves All Blacks coach Steve Hansen with the decision whether to retain Faumuina for the 2017 Tests or blood a new prop two years out from the next World Cup.

Faumuina said he was looking forward to joining Toulouse, one of the leading sides in the French Top 14 club championship table.

“Toulouse has a rich history and proud record. I have only heard good things from the people I talked to who played for the club and I’m sure the fans will support me,” Faumuina said.

“I’m sure I will enjoy the type of rugby they play. I know Toulouse is an ambitious club who aims to win titles. The Top 14 is a tough league, but I’m looking forward to play in such a competitive competition.”

Another three All Blacks — Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden — are off contract next year and are also believed to be considering lucrative offers to join French clubs.

France to stop picking ‘foreign’ players for national rugby team

December 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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France will no longer select non-French players for its national team, French federation president Bernard Laporte said on Tuesday.

France

The news came following a meeting between the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and World Rugby president Bill Beaumont in Paris.

“I told Bill that we’ve taken the political decision to stop playing foreign players in the national team,” said Laporte, who was only elected FFR president on December 3.

The issue of foreign-qualified players is contentious particularly for the Pacific Islands — Fiji, Samoa and Tonga — who often lose talented players that opt to represent some of the bigger, richer nations.

Current France players including New Zealand-born prop Uini Atonio, South African-born full-back Scott Spedding and Fijian wings Noa Nakaitaci and Virimi Vakatawa will remain eligible to represent France but other foreign-born players will not be allowed to follow suit.

“Obviously it’s not retroactive. Those playing can continue playing but it’s a strong signal for French acadamies and our youngsters that we’ll play a maximum number of Frenchmen.”

According to current World Rugby rules, a player can represent another country if he has lived there for three consecutive years and has not yet played for anyone else.

World Rugby is looking at extending that criteria to five years.

During the meeting Laporte reiterated France’s commitment to bidding against Ireland and South Africa to host the 2023 World Cup. Japan will organise the 2019 event.

Ryan says Fiji sevens should split from FRU

December 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Former Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan on Tuesday said the team he led to Olympic glory should split from the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) to ensure they are properly managed.

Ben

Ryan said players in the world champion team that won gold when rugby sevens made its Olympic debut in Rio were currently off-contract and only being paid a modest per diem allowance for their services.

The Englishman, who left his post after the Games, questioned the FRU’s handling of the team.

“What does alarm me is we have one of the most marketable, iconic sports teams — they won back-to-back World Series titles, (they are) Olympic gold medallists,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“If we can’t market them properly and get their value and what they’re worth so the boys and the programme can get the money and resources that they need, then I think it’s time for us to look at the whole system.”

He suggested Fiji sevens should become a commercial entity separate from the FRU.

“It would be run commercially, transparently and for the first time you would get proper funding coming in without any worries around governance, having to pay off debt from various other things,” he said.

“If the government actually pushed this, if they decided we’d be better off having an independent commercial franchise, backed by World Rugby and the government and the FRU, it would be a hugely popular decision.”

It is not the first time Ryan has criticised the FRU for not paying its players adequately, prompting the organisation to hit back in a statement earlier this month.

“It seems it is difficult for him to move on,” the FRU said, expressing disappointment at his “constant remarks” about the team.

Sevens is Fiji’s national sport and the team were given a rapturous reception after winning the Pacific nation’s first ever Olympic medal in Rio.

Italy seal famous first win over shambolic South Africa

November 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Italy claimed their first victory over South Africa on Saturday, stunning the southern hemisphere giants 20-18 in Florence in what visiting coach Allister Coetzee called the darkest moment of his career.

Italy

A delirious home crowd gave their team, ranked 13th in the world, a standing ovation after the match as the fourth-ranked visitors formed a lonely huddle mid-pitch, reviving memories of their shock loss to Japan in last year’s World Cup.

Both sides scored two tries, but Italy fed off repeated South Africa mistakes and grew in confidence as the game wore on.

“I am extremely proud,” veteran Italy captain Sergio Parisse said, calling it the best day for Italian rugby as the team continued their adventure under new coach Conor O’Shea.

The Irishman, supported by former England international Mike Catt as attack coach, has taken Italy back to basics, raised the intensity of training and adopted bold new tactics.

“For us, this is just a start but it’s a very good one,” O’Shea told reporters.

His South African counterpart Coetzee, facing mounting calls for him to be sacked, described it as embarrassing.

“It’s the darkest moment of my coaching career,” Coetzee told a news conference as his stony-faced captain, Adriaan Strauss, a cut above his left eye, stared into mid-air.

“For us there is a mountain to climb and as a group we have to take full responsibility,” he added.

Asked if he should quit, he suggested South African rugby authorities would decide his future and said he still felt he had a role to play to rebuild.

“I still think so,” he said. “I don’t think I have lost the changing room.” He seemed lost for words as to why South Africa had failed several times to score when the try line beckoned.

South Africa, coming off a heavy defeat by England last weekend – their first loss to their opponents in 10 years – seemed intent on register an emphatic win, opening with a try to Bryan Habana and turning down chances to kick penalties.

But their game was riddled with errors as they passed balls into touch, failed to penetrate with their rolling maul and spilled the possession deep in Italian territory.

Italy never went away, threw themselves into tackles and defended their line fiercely. They matched South Africa in the scrum and showed them up in the maul.

Within moments of Habana’s try, after South Africa messed up the restart, Italy’s South African-born lock Andries Van Schalkwyk replied, crossing the line from a rolling maul.

From there, the lead see-sawed as centre Damian de Allende ran in a second try for the visitors and Italy hit back with winger Giovanbattista Venditti touching down with barely 20 minutes to go.

Italy had a try disallowed in the dying moments of the match, but by then a famous victory was secured thanks to an earlier penalty goal by Carlo Canna.

Cheika proud of Wallabies

November 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said his team could look each other in the eye with pride after Australia held off France in a thrilling Test on Saturday.

Cheika

Camille Lopez missed a last-gasp drop goal as the Wallabies claimed a 25-23 win at the Stade de France in Paris.

Australia were missing a number of stars, with the likes of Israel Folau, Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper not involved in the French capital, but the Wallabies – led by stand-in captain David Pocock closed out the victory to remain undefeated on their European tour.

After Saturday’s side were labelled a “B Team” pre-game, Cheika said: “The team selection was made with the knowledge that obviously when a player steps inside a gold jersey, he knows who he has to be and we’ve been working really hard on that this year with a new group of players and that’s all I wanted them to do tonight.

“Whether they were labelled as the ‘Equipe Bis’ or not or the first team, I was just really proud of the effort.

“We made some mistakes as well but I feel like there was a lot of commitment there from our lads.

“That gives them the opportunity to eye-ball each other in the dressing room after the game and say, ‘You know what? I did my job and I can look at my team-mate straight in the eye’ and that is all there is to it.”

Cheika also singled out Pocock for praise, telling reporters: “I think we all know what David brings I don’t want to embarrass him sitting next to me but I think as a leader – different as a No.7 – today he played as a leader and captain.

“And I think that inspires other players around him and it certainly inspires me watching him in the game when you see a leader take it on like that.

“Full credit to him because he was one of the players that was retained in the team, he knew he had a job to do and he took it on with both hands.”

France boss Guy Noves added: “[The most] frustrating [thing] is it took first half to get going, I was really bored in the first half and the match only became beautiful in the second half.

“We were lucky to wear the jersey and be there on the pitch so I told my guys if you do nothing during the first half it’s not worthwhile.

“There is a lot of frustration because I feel we could have won and the first half does not pay tribute to the work that has been going into the preparation.”

Habana to the rescue for embattled ‘Boks coach Coetzee

November 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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South Africa coach Allister Coetzee has embraced the return of wizard wing Bryan Habana as the wounded Springboks look to rebound from defeats to New Zealand and England by beating Italy on Saturday.

Habana

The pressure on Coetzee to revive an already ailing ‘Boks has intensified since a 37-21 defeat to England at Twickenham last week, their first in a decade, followed hot on the heels of a record 57-15 home mauling by the All Blacks in Durban.

Anything less than a convincing win against a new-look Azzurri in Florence could spell disaster for Coetzee in his first year as head coach.

Yet the 53-year-old insists “continuity” is crucial as they look to build for the future. As a result, Toulon’s Habana and Stormers loose forward Nizaam Carr are the only two changes to the team that started against England at Twickenham.

Habana will earn his 124th cap and is only three tries short of retired Japan wing Daisuke Ohata’s all-time test try tally of 69.

With captain and hooker Adriaan Strauss 59 appearances short of Habana’s 123-cap tally, Coetzee is counting on the 33-year-old Habana’s “management” skills in a “tough” game against an side still ailing from a 68-10 rout by the All Blacks in Rome a week ago.

“He understands what it takes, he’s a true professional and hopefully he can aid with the game management this week,” Coetzee said of Habana.

“This is not a test where you will see festival rugby, or think you’re just going to open up and score tries. It’s going to be a proper test match.

“With his experience, we’re will have to build an innings this weekend. There will be a lot of kicking from the Italians, but we can’t just start running from far out.

“No, we treat this game as one massive test.”

Although Italy will look to amend a largely under-par display against a New Zealand B side, Coetzee believes breaching their back line won’t be so easy.

“Don’t look at the score against New Zealand. They’ve kept their shape really well in defence in spite of being breached 10 times,” he added.

“So we will have to work hard to break that defence down.”

It will be crucial, too, says Coetzee, to cut out the errors that allowed England to score 23 unanswered points in a spell either side of half-time at a rain-swept Twickenham.

“Individual errors on the day, it just happens that the player didn’t get it right,” he said.

“But the players understand that you’ve got to swim, and swim very quickly.

“It’s going to be no different this weekend. We have to be more accurate in terms of execution when we have the ball and even when we don’t.”

Italy have played South Africa 12 times and lost on each occasion. And fans would be forgiven for believing an unlucky 13th is on the cards.

After replacing Jacques Brunel in July, coach Conor O’Shea insists the focus is still on trying to maintain a pre-set, disciplined gameplan for the full 80 minutes.

“I have huge confidence in the squad,” said O’Shea, who has recalled Giovanbattista Venditti to replace Angelo Esposito on the left wing while Francesco Minto comes off the bench to replace Maxime Mbanda in the back row.

Treviso’s Ornel Gega has already replaced injured hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini at hooker while Sami Panico has come in for injured prop Andrea Lovotti.

He aded: “It will sound strange after a defeat like Saturday’s, but against the All Blacks we laid some foundations that we intend to fully develop with the players here who will represent the future of the squad.”

But if South Africa are to avoid adding further woe to Coetzee’s embattled tenure, they will have to find consistency as well, said Habana.

“I’ve played against Italy twice in Italy and not only do they get fired up before the game, they bring intensity into the game too,” he said.

“We understand this is the biggest game of our season, given the year we’ve had. We have to show improvement in all areas on Saturday.

“We have a lot of respect for them. We have to play rugby for 80 minutes.”

Australia edge Scotland 23-22 at Murrayfield

November 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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For the second time in 13 months, a late kick by Australia fly-half Bernard Foley denied Scotland a famous victory against the Wallabies at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Wallabies

The Scots were leading 22-16 in their opening November international when centre Tevita Kuridrani broke through an attempted tackle from full-back Stuart Hogg to peg their deficit to 22-21, providing Foley with an opportunity to snatch victory with a close range conversion.

The Waratahs outside-half duly slotted the ball between the posts – against a backdrop of unsporting boos – as he had done to controversially win the 2015 World Cup quarter-final between the countries at Twickenham, 35-34, with an unjustly awarded 79th minute.

In doing so, Australia kept their Grand Slam tour hopes alive and Scotland were cruelly denied a famous victory that beckoned after two tries from Edinburgh-born Stormers centre Huw Jones, who made a storming first start for Scotland in his home city, and lock Jonny Gray.

“Too close for comfort!” said Australia skipper Stephen Moore.

“We just got there in the end. I’m very proud of the guys digging in there. Lot of respect for the Scots, it’s always tight.”

Scotland’s Jones added: “It’s absolutely heartbreaking, we’re gutted to lose like that.

“Our discipline just wasn’t good enough.”

Scotland had never beaten one of the southern hemisphere’s big three – Australia, New Zealand or South Africa – in the opening match of a November series but they came out of the traps firing in their first Test for five months.

With two minutes on the clock, centre Alex Dunbar made a huge dent in the Wallabies’ defence with a diagonal run from midfield. The Edinburgh player was hauled down by Australia full-back Israel Folau but the Scots were awarded a penalty for offside and Greig Laidlaw, Scotland’s captain and scrum-half, kicked them in front, 3-0.

Australia attempted to hit back immediately but their giant tighthead prop Sekope Kepu spilled the ball under tackle with the try-line in sight. Then Scotland struck with the opening try in the eighth minute, fly-half Finn Russell chipping through for Jones to collect and beat the cover defence with a mazy run to the line.

Greig Laidlaw’s conversion gave Scotland a 10-point cushion but they were pegged back to 10-7 in the 13th minute when Australia showed the first glimpse of the cutting edge that carved apart Wales. It came from a line-out move on their own 10m line, lock Rory Arnold claiming possession and Genia and right wing Dane Haylett-Petty coming into the line on the left to feed a scoring pass to the razor-sharp Hodge.

Foley landed the conversion and the Wallabies would have added to their tally had Jones not snaffled a pass from flanker Michael Hooper that threatened to furnish Hodge with his second score. Still, in the 23rd minute, Foley nailed his first penalty to level the scores at 10-10.

Not that the momentum remained with the visitors for long. Indeed, Jones made it two debut tries in the 27th minute, taking a feed from Fagerson and skipping through two would-be tacklers to score on the left. Laidlaw converted and Scotland were 17-10 up at the half-time interval.

Foley made in 17-13 with a penalty three minutes into the second-half but Scotland hit the Wallabies with a third try in the 48th minute. Though full-back Stuart Hogg was halted on a blindside break by Kuridrani, Jonny Gray barged over from a close range ruck. Laidlaw’s attempted conversion hit the near upright but his side were ahead 22-13.

A third penalty success by Foley cut the gap to 22-16 in the 56th minute but a huge defensive effort by the Scots held the Wallabies (who lost replacement lock Will Skelton to a yellow card in the 68th minute) at bay until the 75th minute. Furnished with possession 10 metres out, Kuridrani had the power to elude Hogg and score the decisive try that Foley converted to deny the Scots.

England end South Africa 10-year hoodoo with a 37-21 win

November 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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England ended their 10-year wait for a victory over South Africa with a 37-21 win at a rainswept Twickenham on Saturday.

Roses

They outscored the Springboks four tries to two as they made it 10 wins in as many Tests under Australian coach Eddie Jones.

The teams’ opening end of year international turned on an England burst either side of half-time that saw them score 23 unanswered points.

Jonny May, Courtney Lawes, George Ford and Owen Farrell all crossed for tries, with Farrell kicking 17 points.

South Africa, suffering a fifth defeat in six Tests, scored tries through replacement fly-half Johan Goosen and fullback Willie le Roux, but the latter’s came too late to change the result.

Pat Lambie kicked a penalty and a drop-goal, with Ruan Combrinck converting le Roux’s 78th-minute try.

“We conceded six penalties in opening 20 minutes and that isn’t good enough,” England captain Dylan Hartley told Sky Sports.

“But we’re very happy to get that monkey off our back and I’m very proud of our guys.”

Springbok captain and opposing hooker Adrian Strauss added: “It was a very tough game, they were tactically very good and we couldn’t deal with the high ball. We just couldn’t put any pressure on the England team and we felt it the whole game.”

England found themselves 6-0 behind early on after Lambie slotted a penalty and kicked a scruffy drop-goal.

This was England’s first Test since they completed a 3-0 series win in Australia in June and it showed at the start.

Nevertheless, it was England who scored the game’s first try in the 10th minute.

Ford’s chip over the top of the defence was well covered by le Roux but England had a close-range line-out.

Man-of-the-match Joe Launchbury, reviving his World Cup second row partnership with Lawes in the absence of the injured Maro Itoje and George Kruis, won clean possession off the top.

The ball was worked back to fullback Mike Brown, who sent in May at the left corner as the injury-hit wing marked his first Test in over a year with try. Farrell converted and England led 7-6.

England’s ill discipline gave Lambie an easy penalty in front of the posts that put South Africa 9-7 up.

Jerome Garces warned Hartley and the French referee’s words appeared to have some effect.

South Africa suffered a setback in the 33rd minute when giant lock Eben Etzebeth went off after a nasty clash of heads with England No 8 Billy Vunipola.

“It was two big men clashing someone is going to come out the wrong way,” said Jones.

Etzebeth’s absence coincided with England scoring 13 points in seven minutes before the break.

South Africa prop Vincent Kock collapsed a scrum to give Farrell an easy penalty and, in the 36th minute, England had their second try.

Elliot Daly’s kick was hacked on by Brown, who failed to regather cleanly, and Lawes in his 50th Test, had a first England try when he slid over on the follow-up.

Garces decided Brown had not knocked on and Farrell converted.

Then, with the last action of the half, outside centre Daly — making his first Test start — lived up to his reputation as a long-range kick specialist by landing a 51-metre penalty and England turned round 20-9 in front.

That became 27-9 just three minutes into the second half when scrum-half Ben Youngs’s dummy off the back of a ruck caught the Springbok defence cold before his inside pass sent in Ford for a try that Farrell converted.

Inside centre Farrell’s fifth successful goal-kick from as many attempts then stretched England’s lead to a comfortable 21 points.

Goosen went over for a try, despite the suspicion of a forward pass.

But this was a brief interruption to England’s dominance.

Before the match, Jones said he did not want England to play into the Springboks hands’ by engaging in a direct forward battle.

His words got through to Youngs who, from a scrum on South Africa’s 22, sold another dummy, ‘bought’ by giant lock turned flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Youngs then sent in midfielder Farrell for an unopposed try.

Le Roux’s late effort could not deny England their first win over the Springboks since 2006.

Jones wants rugby ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ against Boks

November 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Eddie Jones has urged England to follow the example of Muhammad Ali’s celebrated ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ bout against George Foreman when they face South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

England

England are unbeaten in their nine Tests under Jones — a sequence that includes a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 series win in Australia.

But they begin their end-of-year international campaign seeking a first victory over the Springboks since 2006, a winless spell encompassing 12 matches.

Jones said taking the Springboks on at their own power game was the way to ensure another defeat against a side who, in the Australian’s typically vivid phrase, treat rugby union as a sport of “chess with steroids”.

He added that England would need a boldly different strategy, citing how Ali upset the odds to regain the world heavyweight title from Foreman, widely regarded as one of boxing’s most fearsome punchers, in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1974.

Ali took the seemingly high-risk approach of beckoning Foreman forward while laying back on the ropes — what became known as the ‘rope-a-dope’ — before knocking out his exhausted opponent in the eighth round.

“Against a physically aggressive side, you’ve got to play smart,” Jones said.

“We won’t be shying away from the physical side of the game, but when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman, if he went toe-to-toe with him he was going to lose, so he had to find other ways of getting around him.

“We don’t want to go toe-to-toe with South Africa because that’s what they want to do.

“South Africa play the game like it’s a physical game of chess — like chess with steroids,” added Jones, who was a member of the Springboks’ backroom staff along with current head coach Allister Coetzee when they won the 2007 World Cup.

“The challenge for us is to be tactically smart.”

Jones has recalled Tom Wood in the absence of the injured James Haskell for his first Test since last year’s World Cup, with the flanker told to “stop the Springboks on the gain-line”.

In the backs, Jones has given a first Test start to Elliot Daly, with the Wasps midfielder, known, for his big left boot and speed off the mark, displacing Jonathan Joseph.

South Africa have lost four of their last five Tests but the much-travelled Jones, who in between coaching Japan to a shock World Cup win over the Springboks and taking over the England job was briefly in charge of South African provincial side the Stormers, remained wary.

He cited Stormers locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit as potential threats.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Etzebeth and du Toit when I was Stormers coach for two weeks — very impressive young boys. Etzebeth is from a very tough family, physically aggressive, has great natural body height for a big guy, good jumping skills and a real desire to win.

“Du Toit has nice jumping skills, a bit more of a cerebral player than Etzebeth.”

South Africa outside centre Francois Venter has been given a Test debut after impressing in last week’s 31-31 draw with the Barbarians at Wembley.

Coetzee has made several changes to the team beaten a record 57-15 by world champions New Zealand in Durban last month, with a back-row injury crisis seeing du Toit moved from lock to flanker.

“He has a phenomenal work rate,” said Coetzee. “He runs good lines as a ball carrier as well.”

As for talk of South Africa going ‘Bok to basics’, Coetzee said: “It will be a proper Test match and it will most likely start up front.”

Turning to Jones, he added: “The guy does not leave any stone unturned, He’s thorough and a competitive man.

“He will never disrespect South Africa, he will never take us lightly irrespective of the Rugby Championship that we have had.”

All Blacks’ Irish revenge on hold for Italy test

November 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Thoughts of avenging a first defeat to Ireland in over a century will take a back seat, for 80 minutes at least, when the All Blacks face new-look Italy on Saturday.

Ireland

New Zealand’s impressive streak of 18 consecutive Test victories was ended last week when they lost to Ireland for the first time in 111 years.

On Saturday, when former Harlequins coach Conor O’Shea leads out a largely youthful and untested Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, an All Black rout may well ensue.

But coach Steve Hansen believes New Zealand, whose 40-29 collapse to Ireland in Chicago was put down to “mental fatigue” and their “predictable” game, will have to step up their performance if they’re to avoid another upset.

“It will be a tough game,” Hansen said. “We have got to improve our performance from last week.”

Anyone thinking New Zealand didn’t already have one eye on a highly-anticipated revenge match in Dublin on November 19 has been given food for thought.

Hansen has made 12 changes for the Italy game, suggesting a fully fired-up All Blacks will grace the Aviva Stadium.

Former Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris says they will arrive “a bit like a wounded animal”, adding: “The whole of Irish rugby was on a high over the weekend but the boys will be aware that the All Blacks can score from anywhere at any stage of the game.”

Hansen defended his selection strategy in midweek, but said a win and a return to their usual, world-beating standards would be more than welcome.

“We always had the plan to pick this side,” Hansen said after announcing his starting XV.

“This is the team we thought would be right for Italy and nothing that happened in Chicago has changed that.

“Whilst it is not the same people playing, it is the same jersey and the same expectation, so this group has got to go out and get back to the type of rugby we want to play and to the standard we want to play at.”

New Zealand will notably see flanker Sam Cane skipper the side for the second time while hooker Liam Coltman and teenage wing Rieko Ioane will be hoping to make international debuts from the bench after being named in the match-day 23.

Italy captain Sergio Parisse, meanwhile, is set to overtake fellow veteran Martin Castrogiovanni, who is not selected, to earn a record 120th cap.

O’Shea, who has injected a fair bit of renewed belief, if not yet results, into Italy’s squad, is mostly gambling on a youthful line-up sprinkled with a few old heads.

Notably, the Irishman has handed Treviso’s Giorgio Bronzini an international debut at scrum-half in an untested half-back partnership with Carlo Canna, who has only 12 caps to his name.

“A few months ago I was playing the Eccellenza league, now I’m about to line up against the world champions wearing the Italy jersey. It’s like a dream,” said Bronzini.

O’Shea’s back three of fullback Edoardo Padovani and wings Giulio Bisegni and Angelo Esposito have just 12 international appearances between them.

The second row combination of South African-born Andries Van Schalkyk and Marco Fuser is untried and flanker Maxime Mbanda will be making his first appearance on Italian soil after winning his first two caps against the USA and Canada.

More familiar heads include Australian-born Luke Mclean, who, along with veteran hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, wins his 82nd cap, at inside centre.

“O’Shea is building a great squad here, it’s a mix of really experienced guys and younger athletes with interesting potential,” said Ghiraldini.

“Conor is ambitious, and so we have to be even more so. There’s nothing better than playing at home, we’re fired up ready to give it everything.”

Whether that is enough for an upset remains to be seen as the All Blacks have never lost to the Italians.

Foley leads Australian Wallabies to Wales rout in Cardiff

November 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bernard Foley said he and his Australian teammates were set on ignoring any criticism, instead focusing on ever-improving performances after demolishing Wales in their tour opener.

Wallabies

Fly-half Foley was magnificent in his chef d’orchestre role in the 32-8 victory on Saturday, thriving behind a dominant pack and quick service from scrum-half Nic Phipps to feed a wealth of willing, free-running backs outside him.

Three first-half tries and two more in the second period, including one from Foley, set up a comprehensive win in the first game of a six-match tour in which Australia could win their first Grand Slam of Home Nations teams since 1984.

“I think it’s something we put a lot of emphasis on is coming here and starting this tour well and this week preparation was immense,” said Foley.

“You can’t fault how the guys prepared for this game and I think what was real pleasing was it was our defence, it didn’t waver all game.

“When our attack wasn’t working in the second half we were still able to score two tries off the back of our defence and that’s probably one thing this team wants to pride ourselves on. It’s something we’ve taken a lot of positives out of.”

Michael Cheika’s Wallabies have come in for criticism after a string of poor results following their appearance in the World Cup final a year ago.

A June series whitewash by England and a record home defeat by New Zealand in the Rugby Championship put Cheika and the squad in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, but Foley insisted it was water off a duck’s back.

“For us, there is a lot of external noise and there has been this year and I think it’s something we’ve had to put up with but as a squad we’re taking no notice of that external noise,” said the playmaker who won the Super Rugby title in 2014 with the Waratahs.

“We’re just focused on our roles in this squad and be really tight as a group. The resilience this team has showed the character it’s showed and the Tests we’ve been out through this year is just setting the platform, hopefully, for future success.”

Foley has proved to be somewhat of a thorn in Wales’ side in recent times.

In 2013, he came off the bench in the final five minutes as Australia snatched a 30-26 victory and a year later hit three penalties, three conversions and a crucial drop-goal in the closing stages as the visitors won again.

Then during the World Cup pool game at Twickenham 13 months ago he struck five penalties to help his team to a 15-6 win over Wales to finish atop their group.

“I was happy. We came here with a plan and we were able to execute it. We were prepared for what the Welsh bring and then try to nullify their threats and then also look at opportunities for us in attack,” he said.

“The backs worked really hard off the back off the platform the forwards set. I think it was, especially that first half, probably set us up really well.”

Thoughts now, however, turn to Scotland, whom Australia play next weekend.

“he Scottish are a side that we’ve had some close encounters with in the past couple of years,” Foley said.

“You only have to look back at last year’s World Cup quarter-final. They’re a team that if you’re ill-disciplined and if you knock off at set piece, they’ll really hurt you.”

Foley reiterated Cheika’s stance that there had been no talk of the Grand Slam.

“Not at all! That’s where you fall over, if you start looking ahead, that’s where we’ll stumble or fall over,” he said.

Ireland stun New Zealand to claim first win over All Blacks

November 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ireland ended a century-long losing streak to claim a historic first-ever win over New Zealand here Saturday, sending the All Blacks spinning to a 40-29 defeat with a scintillating display.

Ireland

Just days after the Windy City erupted in celebration after the Chicago Cubs landed their first World Series baseball crown in 108 years, Ireland booted their own 111-year rugby hoodoo firmly into touch.

Roared on by army of green-clad fans in a 62,300 crowd at Soldier Field, the Irish outscored the All Blacks by five tries to four to seal their first win over the Kiwis in the 29th instalment of a rivalry dating to 1905.

“It has been a long time coming and history (has been) made. We’re absolutely ecstatic,” Ireland skipper Rory Best said after leading his team on a raucous lap of honor at the famed NFL venue.

“We knew they are a great side. You can see how good a side they are and how much it means to our boys to have won that.”

Ireland were forced to cling on in the closing stages after a ferocious New Zealand fightback, which saw the All Blacks recover from a 30-8 deficit to go within four points at 33-29 with around 15 minutes to go.

But with the crowd roaring them home, Ireland scored a fifth and final try through outstanding center Robbie Henshaw, converted by replacement fly-half Joey Carbery, to clinch a famous victory.

It was New Zealand’s first defeat since their loss to Australia in August 2015.

Only last month, the All Blacks had set a world record for consecutive victories with their 18th win in a row.

New Zealand’s preparations for the Test had been thrown into disarray by the absence through injury of first choice locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.

The further absence of second row Luke Romano following a family bereavement had forced them into starting a makeshift pairing of Jerome Kaino and Patrick Tuipulotu.

But New Zealand coach Steve Hansen refused to blame the injury crisis for the loss.

“The right side won,” Hansen said. “The Irish side played very well and congratulations to them.

“We don’t want to use (the injuries) as an excuse. We trained well enough, we prepared well enough, we thought. We’re not going to make any excuses about not having the right people.”

The moments before the match had seen Ireland pay an emotional tribute to beloved former international Anthony Foley, who died suddenly last month at the age of 42.

As New Zealand lined up to perform their traditional haka, Ireland’s players stood before them in a figure of eight — a reference to Foley’s position.

“We felt it was the right thing to do,” Best said. “There was a lot of emotion.”

Once the game got under way, Ireland wasted no time in exploiting New Zealand’s weakness at second row.

Johnny Sexton kicked Ireland ahead with a penalty after only four minutes when French referee Mathieu Raynal whistled the All Blacks for not rolling away at the breakdown.

But New Zealand hit back immediately with the opening try of the game, George Moala finishing off after Waisake Naholo’s electrifying break.

Fly-half Beauden Barrett scuffed his conversion attempt to leave New Zealand’s lead at 5-3.

Ireland were then handed a crucial advantage after All Black prop Joe Moody was sin-binned for a clear tip tackle on Henshaw.

The ensuing 10-minute period saw Ireland score 12 unanswered point through tries from Jordi Murphy and C.J. Stander to make it 15-5.

Barrett closed the gap to seven points with a penalty after Ireland were offside but Sexton restored Ireland’s 10-point lead with a further three-pointer.

Ireland were forced to make a change in the 26th minute when Murphy was stretchered off with what looked like a knee injury, replaced by Josh van der Flier.

But the disruption was fleeting, with scrum-half Conor Murray dummying Aaron Smith to scamper over for Ireland’s third try. Sexton converted to make it 25-8 at half-time.

The second half began with New Zealand looking sharper and faster, but it was Ireland who scored next, Sexton feeding Simon Zebo for 30-8.

Yet New Zealand roared back through tries from replacement scrum-half T.J Perenara and Ben Smith to take the score to 30-22.

A Murray penalty put Ireland 33-22 ahead but a 64th minute try by All Black debutant lock Scott Barrett, took New Zealand back to 33-27.

Brother Beauden added the conversion and New Zealand were suddenly within four.

Ireland’s defenders resisted furious late pressure, though, and Henshaw crashed over with four minutes to go to complete a magnificent win.

Fearless Irish ready for All Blacks

November 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ireland captain Rory Best says his team will not fear New Zealand as they chase an elusive first ever victory over the world champions in Chicago Saturday.

Ireland

The veteran hooker, who earns his 98th cap at Soldier Field, said the Irish would take a positive mindset into their latest attempt to end a 111-year losing streak.

“We’ve got to respect them but we can’t go out and fear them,” Best told a press conference.

“We’ve got to go out and have our gameplan, stick to it rigidly and ultimately beat the All Blacks.”

New Zealand, who clinched back-to-back World Cup crowns in 2015, arrive in Chicago on the back of a record winning streak.

The New Zealanders have compiled 18 consecutive victories and are favorites to record a 19th against Ireland, who have never beaten the Kiwis in 28 meetings since 1905.

If Ireland are to stand any chance of an upset, Best believes his men will have to play a near-flawless game.

“From what I’ve seen over the Rugby Championship you’ve got to minimise the amount of unforced errors you have,” Best said.

“They’re going to create chances. You can’t then gift them chances on top of that.”

Former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick recently described the current All Blacks team as the greatest ever, an assessment that Best was reluctant to contradict.

“It’s kind hard when you’re comparing back through generations. But there’s no doubt that this All Black team is an extremely talented team that know how to win games of rugby, and know how to win well.

“And if Sean Fitzpatrick is saying they’re the best team then they would have to be close to it.”

Best was a member of the Ireland starting line-up on the last occasion the two teams met, in Dublin in 2013, when the host nation suffered a 24-22 defeat with the final kick of the match.

Best was forced out of that contest after 15 minutes with a broken arm. At 34, Best knows that time is running out if he is to be part of a victorious Ireland team against New Zealand.

The fact Ireland have been unable to break their All Blacks hoodoo vexes him.

“Having played in a lot of very good Irish teams it seems strange that Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks,” he said.

“We’ve come close a few times. We see ourselves as a top tier nation and we’ve shown it. It’s almost like we’ve shown it against everyone except the All Blacks.

“That side of things is disappointing.”

Nevertheless, Best said Ireland are determined not to let the millstone of history weigh heavily.

“History is history. We can’t affect that,” Best said.

“All that we can affect is what happens on Saturday. It’s disappointing that we’ve never beaten New Zealand but we have a chance now to change that.”

For Best though, the All Blacks retain an aura which he first encountered as a boy when watching the New Zealanders on their 1989 end-of-season tour, when they won all 14 matches.

That included the famous Test against Ireland at Lansdowne Road, when Irish skipper Willie Anderson marched his team into the middle of the All Blacks’ pre-match Haka.

“It always was special when the All Blacks came to town,” Best said.

“I remember the Willie Anderson one where they charged the Haka. It was all about blood and thunder for as long as they could hold out.”

The advances of the professional era have leveled the playing field since then, Best said.

“Physically we’re more than able to do it,” he said. “It’s just mentally if we can stay in the game.”

Jones open to extending England deal

October 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Eddie Jones said Friday he was prepared to consider staying on as England coach beyond the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Jones

The Australian signed a four-year deal when appointed as England’s first overseas boss in November following the then hosts’ first-round exit at last year’s World Cup.

That tournament saw Jones guide Japan to a stunning win over South Africa, arguably the greatest upset in the history of international rugby union.

When he got the England job, Jones said that when his contract was up he would retire to Barbados to watch cricket.

But the 56-year-old indicated Friday he was prepared to put those plans on hold following a brilliant start to his reign as England coach.

England have won all nine Tests they’ve played under Jones, a sequence that includes a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 series win in Australia.

But Jones, always keen to learn from other sports, was taking nothing for granted as he cited the example of Jose Mourinho whose reign at Manchester United has endured a rocky start.

“In terms of what happens to me, it’s not my decision. If we don’t deliver, the only thing they’ll be asking me is what time does your flight leave,” Jones told reporters at Twickenham on Friday.

“If we do well then there will be a discussion and if we do well the discussion will take place after we do well.

“At this stage I have a plan in place which is to give everything I’ve got for England over the next four years.”

- ‘High stocks’ -

Jones, Australia’s coach when England beat them in the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney, added: “It’s very flattering that people even talk about it, but these things run their natural course.

“Look at Jose Mourinho after three games. Everyone thought he was going to change Manchester United.

“Two games later they’re saying he’s made all these mistakes. That’s the life we live and I understand that.

“When you win games your stocks are pretty high, but if we lose against South Africa (England’s next opponents when they begin their end of year campaign at Twickenham on November 12) people will be saying ‘why have we employed this Australian?’ and there won’t be any discussion about 2019.”

With James Haskell sidelined by foot surgery and set to miss the visit of the Springboks as well as matches against Fiji, Argentina and Australia on successive weekends at Twickenham, Jones is set to have to field a new openside flanker.

The uncapped duo of Sam Jones (Wasps) and Mike Williams (Leicester) are vying for the role and Jones, in another sign of his openness to outside influences, has some special exercises planned for the duo and the rest of a 37-man training squad that will meet up in the south coast town of Brighton this weekend.

A visit to the British judo training base in Wolverhampton, central England, where he met former world champion Kate Howey, made a big impression on Jones.

“We’ve got a couple of people coming from judo, coming down to the Brighton camp,” said Jones.

“One of the things that really came out of the Australia tour is that we need to work on our grappling area at the tackle.

“So we’ve got some judo coaches coming in.”

Warburton confirmed as Wales captain

September 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Sam Warburton has been confirmed as Wales captain for their November internationals against Australia, Argentina, Japan and South Africa, interim head coach Robert Howley said on Friday.

Warburton

Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton, who has captained Wales on 50 occasions, also led the British and Irish Lions on their 2013 tour of Australia and has also been tipped to skipper the combined side in New Zealand next year.

As was the case in 2013, Warren Gatland is taking a sabbatical from his duties as Wales coach in order to guide the Lions.

“Sam Warburton is a great captain,” said Howley, who is again in charge of Wales in Gatland’s absence with the Lions.

“He captained the Lions, he will continue to captain Wales. I have spoken to Sam already, and he will captain us for the autumn series and into the Six Nations.

“He has, of course, done it (led the Lions) once, and I am sure he is in other people’s thoughts to captain again, but the challenge for all players will be the autumn series and the Six Nations.”

England captain Dylan Hartley is also in contention to skipper the Lions, particularly given the hooker led the team to a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 Test series win in Australia during a run of nine straight victories under coach Eddie Jones.

And former Wales and Lions scrum-half Howley accepted that, under former Australia and Japan coach Jones, England had become the team to beat in Europe.

“It’s a challenge for ourselves, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy,” Howley said. “Eddie Jones has come in and they have played nine, won nine.

“As Eddie said, he mentioned in a quote that England should win (or challenge for) the (Six Nations) championship every year, so it’s for all of us to do something about it and make sure we challenge that area.

“It was great to see their three Tests over in Australia. They’ve got their house in order under Eddie, and it is something we look forward to.

“It’s at the Principality Stadium (Wales’ Six Nations clash against England in Cardiff on February 11), and it’s a date in the calendar.”

Howley, who has been a member of Gatland’s staff since 2008, will have full responsibility for Wales this term.

His previous stint in charge of Wales in 2012/13 saw the side lose five straight matches, including all four autumn Tests, before recovering to win the Six Nations.

Gatland is set to stand down as Wales head coach after the 2019 World Cup in Japan but Howley added: “I don’t see it as an audition.

“Autumn 2012 was a huge learning experience for me as a head coach,” he explained. “Because Warren came back for the Australia and New Zealand games, that period was difficult with messages going back and fore between us. There was a lot of energy wasted, a lot of communication.

“We need to become better as a team, and if we can become better, we will be a difficult team to beat over the next 10 months.”

Giteau relishing World Cup swansong

September 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Australia centre Matt Giteau is relishing the prospect of a World Cup swansong after a four-year exile from international rugby saw him welcomed back into the Wallabies fold.

Giteau

The 32-year-old France-based star feared he had played his last game in the green and gold jersey until Australian Rugby Union chiefs relaxed eligibility rules regarding overseas players, paving the way for his return.

Giteau, who was recalled for Australia's Rugby Championship-winning campaign earlier this season, will start at centre on Saturday when the Wallabies face the US Eagles at Chicago's Soldier Field.

The Toulon star told AFP here Friday he is still pinching himself at his return to international rugby, four years after he was controversially axed from the 2011 World Cup squad by then coach Robbie Deans.

"It's been a very exciting time for me and a little surreal too," said Giteau, a member of the Toulon side that clinched a third consecutive European Cup earlier this year.

"When I signed to play for Toulon I gave up the right to play for my country again — so it's been amazing that I've got this opportunity to play in another World Cup.

"The opportunity to play for your country is not one you get that often and so to get a second chance at it when you think you'll never do it again — it's been perfect, just a great feeling."

Australia face hosts England in the World Cup's first round "Group of Death", with Wales also battling to reach the quarter-finals from a daunting Pool A which includes Uruguay and Fiji.

Giteau has bitter World Cup memories against England, having been a member of the sides which lost the 2003 final to Jonny Wilkinson's last-gasp drop goal in Sydney as well as the team knocked out by the English in a titanic quarter-final duel in Marseille four years later.

Giteau however insists Australia will not be motivated by revenge even if they could potentially end up knocking out England when the two teams meet at Twickenham on October 3.

"I just want us to win, doesn't matter who we're playing, whether it's Fiji, Uruguay, Wales or England," Giteau said.

"It's not about settling scores, it's about winning rugby matches, and that's what we're focused on — making sure that come the quarter-finals we're still in the competition and in the best possible position to go forward."

Giteau says Australia however will be wary of the threat posed by an English side fuelled by fervent home support when the World Cup kicks off.

"Home advantage is huge," he said. "If they can get the crowd involved that can give them something extra. Playing at home is a big thing — I got to experience it in 2003 and it does make a big difference."

All Blacks bounce back with 41-13 thrashing of Wallabies

August 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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The All Blacks’ frustration at last week’s loss to the Wallabies in Sydney spilled over in the return match in Auckland on Saturday where they thrashed the Australians 41-13.

Rugby

It was a telling statement in their last match before heading to England to defend the World Cup.

The New Zealanders’ pride was wounded when they lost the Rugby Championship decider 27-19 a week ago, and they were determined to make amends and retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 13th consecutive year.

The world champions led 13-6 at half-time and then stunned the Wallabies with three tries in a seven-minute burst at the start of the second spell, which began with a penalty try following a head-high tackle by Quade Cooper.

From a sloppy performance last week, where Australia commanded the breakdown, the All Blacks took control up front which produced a flow of front-foot ball allowing Dan Carter to dictate terms.

“They came out and put us under a bit of pressure territory wise and possession wise and we stuck together and got turnovers when we needed to get them and slowly put our impression on the game,” coach Steve Hansen said.

“It’s a lot easier to play rugby if you’re going forward. It’s probably the key principle about the game.”

But Hansen said it had taken a loss to fire up the All Blacks this time, and they could not afford to rely on that at the World Cup, where there will be no second chance.

“There was plenty of edge there and so we’ve got to be able to capture that and do it when we’re winning as well,” he said.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika felt his side was in with a chance in the first half, but in “that little period after halftime we made some poor decisions”.

The All Blacks scored five tries with Dane Coles, Ma’a Nonu (twice) and Conrad Smith crossing the line along with the penalty try, while Carter was on song with his boot landing all five conversions and two penalties.

The Wallabies, who have scored at least two tries in their past nine Tests, were limited to one late touchdown by Israel Folau and two Cooper penalties.

The sense of urgency in the All Blacks’ play was fitting for the farewell appearance in New Zealand by six of their elder statesmen — Richie McCaw, in his record-setting 142nd Test, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock.

The All Blacks were jittery at the start allowing the Wallabies to control territory and possession, with a Cooper penalty putting them on the board first.

But when the All Blacks settled they piled on 13 points through the middle stages of the first half. Carter landed two penalties and played a central role in the All Blacks’ first try, an end-to-end move that started with a turnover by Sam Whitelock.

The All Blacks elected to counter attack from inside their 22, with Carter stepping through two defenders before sending hooker Coles on a 40-metre run to the line.

Cooper came back with a second penalty for the Wallabies as they went into the break with the All Blacks ahead 13-6.

The deficit forced Cheika into action during the break, replacing Wycliff Palu and Will Skelton with the more mobile David Pocock and Dean Mumm.

But it did little to stem the All Blacks’ tide, with Ben Smith and Nehe Milner-Skudder combining to put Aaron Smith on a run to the line where he was felled three metres short by Cooper, who ended up in the sin-bin.

With a one-man advantage, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith quickly piled on the points for the All Blacks, who raced to a 41-6 lead before Folau scored the Wallabies’ sole try late in the game.

Not only did the All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup, contested annually between the trans-Tasman rivals, but they also kept alive their formidable record at Eden Park, where they have won 34 consecutive Tests since 1994.

Australia have not won there since 1986.

Copyright © 2010 Mirror Sports  Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.