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Wales will field an unchanged side against France in their final match of the 2017 Six Nations, it was announced Wednesday.
Interim head coach Rob Howley has retained the same starting line-up that beat Ireland 22-9 at home last week for Saturday’s match in Paris.
If Wales win — and England beat Ireland in Dublin on Saturday to secure a Grand Slam — it will mean that the Welsh are assured of a top-four position in the world rankings ahead of the 2019 World Cup pool draw in May.
Saturday will see Wales bidding for their sixth straight win over France in a match where hooker Ken Owens wins his 50th cap, with experienced Bath forwards Taulupe Faletau and Luke Charteris remaining on the bench.
Although Wales have already been beaten by England and Scotland this season, a win at the Stade de France could see them finish second behind already-crowned champions England if other results fall in their favour.
“I was delighted for the players about Friday’s result and performance, and they deserve the opportunity to build on that in our final RBS 6 Nations encounter,” said Howley after announcing his team.
The former Wales scrum-half, in charge while Wales head coach Warren Gartland is seconded to the British and Irish Lions for the combined side’s tour of New Zealand in June and July, and his team had faced criticism after the successive defeats by England and Scotland.
But Wales responded impressively by scoring three tries against Ireland, including two from powerhouse wing George North, while not conceding any at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium last Friday.
“The experience we showed and the intensity we brought to the match was hugely important, and that will be just as important as we face a good France team at home,” said Howley. “We put pressure on ourselves and turned that pressure into a result.”
He added: “For us, there are areas of the game we want to work on from Ireland, and we have an opportunity to do that on Saturday and finish the campaign with another quality performance.
“The players who took to the field at the Principality Stadium deserve the opportunity to start, and we were pleased with the impact from the bench, so will be looking for the same this weekend.”
Wales have not lost at the Stade de France since a 28-9 defeat in 2011.
They will face a France side who’ve also won two out of their four Six Nations matches so far this season, following victories over Scotland and Italy.
All Black utility back Nehe Milner-Skudder was told on Tuesday he will be out for at least six weeks with a foot injury, leaving his dream of facing the British and Irish Lions hanging by a thread.
Milner-Skudder fell awkwardly in a tackle during Wellington Hurricanes’ Super Rugby loss to Waikato Chiefs on Friday and scans showed a break in his right foot.
“It’s disappointing but these things happen in rugby… it was just a freak accident,” he said in a statement.
The Hurricanes said it was a small fracture that required rest, not surgery, but Milner-Skudder would be out for at least six weeks.
The match was only Milner-Skudder’s second outing after a season-long layoff in 2016 due to shoulder surgery. He scored a hat-trick of tries in his comeback against the Melbourne Rebels.
A six-week Super Rugby absence, possibly longer, puts the 26-year-old on the sidelines until late April.
With the Lions arriving in June, that leaves him only half a dozen Super Rugby matches to persuade All Blacks selectors he is fully fit.
Milner-Skudder’s last Test was the 2015 Rugby World Cup final against Australia, when he scored a try to take his tally for the tournament to six.
His chances of facing the Lions may be boosted by the fact that fellow All Black backs Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Seta Tamanivalu and Lima Sopoaga are all nursing injuries after the bruising early Super Rugby rounds.
By Chris Dhambarage
Isipathana College kept their reputation as a true champion team when they brought down a fighting St. Joseph’s College outfit 39-32 in an exciting Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match played at Longden Place.
The reigning ‘A’ Division champions came under tremendous pressure but they exhibited their wonderful rugby skills and character to seal a memorable victory in one of the most fascinating schools rugby matches played this season.
After a scrappy opening fixture against Dharmaraja College last week, Isipathana really proved they mean business as they collected their points from two goals and five tries after leading 17-15 at half time.
Even then, this was another missed opportunity for St. Joseph’s as they came close to pulling off a historic victory before falling short as they responded with three goals, one try and two penalties.
In fact, the Josephians believed they had the game in their custody when they dished out some power rugby to touch down twice shortly after the interval and to build up a vital 29-17 lead at that stage.
But this Isipathana team was not prepared to surrender the gamer to their opponents as they fought back magnificently during the later stages to turn the game in their favour.
Dynamic winger N. Chaminda had the distinction of scoring three tries but full back Chamod Fernando was simply outstanding and his two tries came at crucial stages of the game.
Chatura Seneviratne had an excellent game for St. Joseph’s scoring a try in addition to converting three tries and also fired across two neat penalties.
St. Peter’s vs Royal
Royal College continued their dominance over St. Peter’s College as they pulled off a hard fought 17-10 victory in their Inter-Schools Under-20 Rugby Tournament match played at Bambalapitiya.
The winners also had the satisfaction of retaining the B. C. Anghie Trophy for the fourth successive year while collecting their points from one goal and two tries with all their scoring coming in the first half.
The Peterites of course came back strongly in the second half while scoring their solitary try but were deprived of victory due to some solid cover defence from their opponents.
In fact, this was a match where Royal won largely because of some clever defensive work as they spoiled a series of threatening five-metre scrums and three quarter moves during a tense last few minutes of the game.
The Royal forwards of course did the early damage by scoring three classic tries to build up a psychological advantage and they managed to hold on to the lead until the final whistle.
Zahiravs S. Thomas’
Zahira College came close to creating another major upset as they went down fighting 24-29 against S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia in their Singer Schools Under-20 ‘A’ Division League Rugby Tournament match worked off at Maradana.
The newcomers to top division rugby who had toppled Science College Mount Lavinia in their opening fixture of the tournament last week produced another breathtaking performance before going down following a close contest.
In fact, the Thomians could consider themselves fortunate to pull off this game as they survived many anxious moments during the latter stages having collected their points from two goals and three tries.
Zahira were trailing 12-22 at half time but they really came back into the game in the second half with a powerful performance and responded with two goals and two tries.
Science College vs Trinity
Trinity College powered their way to a comprehensive 52-7 victory over Science College Mount Lavinia in their Singer Schools Under-20 ‘A’ Division League Rugby Tournament fxture worked off at Havelock Park.
The Trinitians successfully managed to cross the 50-point mark for the second successive week as they dominated the proceedings while collecting their points from seven goals and one penalty.
Science College who were trailing 0-17 at half time will be disappointed with their second straight defeat in the tournament as they managed to score only a solitary goal.
St. Anthony’s vs D. S. Senanayake
St. Anthony’s College produced a fine performance to outplay D. S. Senanayake College 54-25 in their Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match worked off at the Pallekele Stadium in Kandy.
The Antonians after conceding an early try to their opponents recovered magnificently and went on to dictate terms as they collected their points from seven goals and one try having led 26-11 at half time.
D. S. Senanayake of course showed early promise and threatened to dominate the proceedings but they were lacking in consistency and managed to score only two goals, one try and two penalties.
Wesley vs Prince of Wales
An under-strength Wesley College team managed to pull off a morale boosting 28-10 victory over Prince of Wales in their Inter-Schools Under-20 League Rugby Tournament match played at Longden Place.
The Wesleyites will be quite pleased with their effort as some of their key players were not available for this game due a ban imposed by the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association following last week’s fixture against Trinity College.
But still they were able to get their act together well and went on to complete a comprehensive victory while collecting their points from one goal, three tries and two penalties.
The Cambrians of course made a determined effort to push their more fancied opponents but lacked the finishing touches as they responded with just one goal and one penalty.
By Chris Dhambarage
The newcomers to the Singer Schools Under-20 Division One League Rugby Tournament Zahira College have commenced their campaign for the title in the most spectacular manner.
On Saturday (25), the lads from Maradana making their first appearance in the top division after a lapse of many years produced a stunning performance to beat the more fancied Science College Mount Lavinia outfit 19-13 at the Air Force Grounds in Ratmalana.
The Zahirians stuck to their basics and played a controlled game from the kick-off as they sealed a very important victory while collecting their points from one goal and four penalties.
Science College of course had a shock start to their curtain raiser match of the tournament as they conceded a try to their opponents very early in the game.
The lads from Mount Lavinia looked very uncomfortable since that setback and they always struggled to get their act together well against a more determined outfit.
Science College will be even more disappointed with the result as they scored a try more than their opponents to collect a bonus point but yet ended up in the losing side.
Nevertheless, this was a splendid all-round performance from Zahira who are certain to provide with more tough moments to their rivals in the upcoming fixtures of the tournament.
No doubt the star player in the Zahira victory was their dynamic place kicker Zahid Sinhawansa who probably enjoyed the match of his life while firing across four neat penalties and also adding the extra points to their solitary try.
Royal vs St. Joseph’s
Royal College survived a late scare from St. Joseph’s College before recording a hard-fought 28-22 victory in their Singer Schools Under-20 Division One League Rugby Tournament match worked off at the Royal Sports Complex on Saturday (25).
Royal were cruising along towards a more convincing win at one stage after they had built up a commanding 28-5 lead over their opponents mid-way in the second half.
But in a sensational comeback, St. Joseph’s surprised their opponents and scored three back-to-back tries as they reduced the deficit to a solitary goal.
However, by that time Royal had done most of the damage to ensure their success as they held their nerves during some exciting final moments to come out victorious.
After having snatched a close 8-5 lead at half time, Royal simply opened out in the second half with their mobile set of forwards causing panic in the St. Joseph’s defence.
In fact the Joes did not have any answer to Royal’s typical rolling maul as the home side scored three classic tries to extend their lead beyond their opponents reach.
St. Peter’s vs St. Anthony’s
St. Peter’s College went through some anxious moments before pulling off an exciting 27-25 victory over St. Anthony’s College in their Singer Schools Under-20 Division One League Rugby Tournament match played at Bambalapitiya on Saturday (25).
The Peterites also had the satisfaction of retaining the Rectors Trophy as they went on to seal the game while collecting their points from three goals and two penalties.
The Antonians who were trailing 15-24 at half time certainly made a determined effort to stretch their opponents as they responded with two goals, one try and two penalties.
The game turned out to be a battle between the two place kickers of either side and ultimately it was Stephen Sivaraj who steered St. Peter’s to victory by firing across two vital penalties and also converting all three tries.
Antonian fly half Samuel Maduwantha who was the highest points’ scorer in last year’s tournament produced a similar performance with three superb penalties and converting two tries.
Dharmaraja vs Isipathana
Defending champions Isipathana College folded up twice from an early setback to beat Dharmaraja College 18-12 in their Singer Schools Under-20 Division One League Rugby Tournament match worked off at the Bogambara Stadium in Kandy on Sunday (26).
Isipathana were trailing 3-7 at half time and once again they were down 7-12 mid way in the second half but recovered magnificently to seal the game while scoring three tries and a penalty.
The Rajans of course dominated the first half had their chances alive until the final whistle but lacked the finishing touches as they responded with one goal and one try.
No doubt, the wet ground conditions made things really difficult for both teams but the more experienced Isipathana outfit were able to adopt according to the situation and went on to add the finishing touches in style.
Wesley vs Trinity
Trinity College launched their campaign for the Singer Schools Under-20 Division One League title with an impressive 64-24 victory over Wesley College in their opening fixture of the tournament played at Longden Place on Friday (24).
Trinity proved that they mean business from the kick-off and got off to a flying start before ending up scoring three goals and seven tries during a superb exhibition of fast open rugby.
The Wesleyites were never in the game after they had conceded two early tries to their opponents and they eventually ended up scoring two goals and two tries after trailing 17-33 at half time.
S. Thomas’ vs Prince of Wales
S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia opened their new season with a rousing 57-0 win over Prince of Wales College in their Singer Schools Under-20 Division One League Rugby Tournament match worked off at Longden Place on Saturday (25).
This was a clinical performance from the Thomians as they warmed-up in style and completely dominating the game while collecting their points from six goals and three tries.
In fact, S. Thomas’ had virtually sealed the game at the half way mark after having built up a commanding 38-0 lead at the breather.
Skipper Naveen Henakankanamge led the way with two early tries and the Thomians never looked back from there onwards as they penetrated the opposition defence at regular intervals.
By Shamzeer Jaleel
Kandy Sports Club sealed a highly successful rugby season when they outplayed Havelock Sports Club by 32 points (4 tries, 3 conversions, 1 penalty and a drop goal) to 20 (3 tries, 1 conversion and a penalty) in the Clifford Cup final at the Nittawela Rugby Stadium at Sunday.
At the breather the winners led 24-03.
The game was played under wet conditions as a result of a heavy down pour 30 minutes before the kick off.
Ball handling was tough and it was the Park Club who played well attacking deep in Kandy territory in the early stages of the game. Loss of Dulaj Perera due to an injury was a crippling blow for the Havies and they failed to gain the much needed territorial advantage – a job usually obliged to by Dulaj. However,
Sudharshan Muthuthanthri, Hirantha Perera, Nishon Perera and Sudam Sooriyarachchi were outstanding both in defence as well as in attack. Though much was expected from Kevin Dixon he under performed.
Kandy took time to settle in the initial half. Once they got going it was tough to stop them. Ably led by Roshan Weeraratne, his brother Gayan, Richard Dharmapala, Dhanushka Ranjan, Fazil Marija and Thilina Wijesinghe all were in peak form in the season finale. In forwards play it was Yakoob Ali and Damith Dissanayake who stood out for the hill capital outfit. With the introduction of Sharo Fernando and Rahul Silva in the latter half saw the game swing in favour of Havelock SC. However, the gap was too much for the Colombo side to erase, especially in the den of the champions.
Havies drew first blood in the 8th minute of the game when Kandy line was caught off side. Fly half Hirantha Perera was on target with the penalty kick. Five minutes later Kandy equalized through a Thilina Wijesinghe penalty. A few minutes later a sweeping three quarter move saw Kandy score through their centre in Gayan Weeraratne, Thilina added the extra points. Gayan who was unstoppable with his powerful runs scored a second time within minutes after scoring his first try. Thilina was on target with the kick.
Then came the experience of Fazil Marija and he dummied covering nearly 30 metres to touch down. Thlina’s conversion took Kandy to a 24-03 lead at the breather.
After the turn around Havies dominated the proceedings with some powerful forwards’ play helped by Sharo Fernando. Centre Nishon Perera scored two back to back tries with Hirantha Perera converting one of them. But Thilina who could not be kept out of the game put over a neat 30 metre drop goal to take Kandy to safety at 27-15. In another forwards rush Havies hit back by scoring through their replacement forward, Liston Flatley. But it was Kandy’s day as they took play deep into the Havies 22′ and with ball in hand Fazil kicked to the deep left corner to see the electrifying paced winger, Richard Dharmapala touching down to take Kandy through with a 32-20 win.
For purposes of record, yesterday’s Clifford Cup triumph was Kandy’s 21st in the last 25 years and the win also saw Kandy SC complete the double (league and knock-out) for the 2017 season.
By M. Shamil Amit
An unnecessary incident instigated by a Wesley College player, who kicked a Trinity College player on the verge of touching down for a try in the dying stages of the match, marred an otherwise decent game at Longdon Place on Friday.
The incident which flared up saw some of the Wesley schoolboys invading the field and making a mess, putting their school to shame – something that should be nipped in the bud by the schools authorities to ensure that there would not be a repeat.
At the time of the incident the Trinitians were already winners by miles, with the score at that stage reading 57-24, before the game ended with the Lions roaring to 64 points. Their tally came off seven goals and three tries to Wesley’s total accumulated through two goals and two tries.
The first half of play saw the Trinitians going into action as early as the second minute with an under the post try by Pasan Samarawickrama giving fly half Lashan Wijesuriya an easy conversion.
Seven minutes later Trinity increased their lead with Diluksha Dange going over for a try and Lashan adding the extra points. Wesley scored back to back tries in the 14th and 17th minutes, first by skipper Denister Gunatileke and the other by Avishka Lee, who converted one.
From there on it was a ding dong battle with Trinity scoring in the 21st minute through Lashan Wijesuriya who made the conversion himself and then Wesley scoring four minutes later with an unconverted try by Avantha Lee.
A hat-trick of tries within a space of ten minutes by Trinity, first by Mohamed Ikram, and then Rasheen Bandaranayake and Rishen Madena – with Lashan converting two of them – saw them leading 40-17 at the short whistle.
On resumption Wesley went into the attack and succeeded to penetrate Trinity with Imesh Aponso going over for a try and Avishka adding the extra points.
But that was all the Wesleyites were able to achieve as the Trinitians went on a scoring spree and succeeded in planting four more tries through Navin Rajaratnam, Anuka Boyagoda, Gaurav Seneviratne and Akitha Sakalasooriya, with Rishen and Lashan converting one each, before the unfortunate and unwanted incident occurred, in the very first match of schools rugby season.
Referee – Dinka Peiris
By Shamzeer Jaleel
Defending League and Clifford Cup champions Kandy Sports Club defeated CR and FC by 56 points (nine tries, four conversions and one penalty) to 16 points (one try, one conversion and three penalties) in their Clifford Cup Knock-Out Rugby Tournament first semi-final encounter played at the Nittawela Rugby Stadium in Kandy on Wednesday.
At the breather Kandy SC led 27-9.
Kandy SC’s three quarters were at their peak once again and Dhanushka Ranjan was a major threat for the Red Shirts. He was well supported by Richard Dharmapala, Fazil Marija Gayan Weeraratne and Vishwamithra Jayasinghe.
For CR and FC, their rock solid Number 8, Omalka Gunaratne had a tremendous game and it took nearly two to three players to bring him down. CR and FC centre Tharinda Ratwatte was given a Red Card for a dangerous tackle on Kandy SC Skipper Roshan Weeraratne and the CR played one man less during the latter stages.
But it was CR and FC who scored first through a Nalin Kumara penalty in the third minute of the game. Five minutes later Kandy SC hit back through a Soyuru Anthony try which was converted by full back Tharindu Wijesinghe.
Both Kumara and Wijesinghe put over a penalty each for their respective sides to make it 10-6 in favour of Kandy SC.
Then Kandy SC broke free in scoring back-to-back tries through Damith Dissanayake and Dhanushka Ranjan.
CR and FC reduced the lead through Kumara’s third penalty but there was time for a Vishwamithra Jayasinghe try before half time.
After the turnaround, Kandy SC scored through Richard Dharmapala, Danushka Dyan, Dhanushka Ranjan (2) and Yakoob Ali.
For CR and FC Omalka Gunaratne scored their only try which was converted by Ashan De Costa.
By Shamzeer Jaleel
Defending Clifford Cup champions Kandy Sports Club sent out a strong warning to the other teams in the competition when they outclassed CH & FC by 121 points (19 tries, 13 conversion) to 3 (1 penalty) at the Nittawela Rugby Stadium on Friday.
At the short breather Kandy led 57-00.
It was one way traffic from the kick off, with Kandy being too fast and superior with their professional approach towards the game. CH, who were placed last in the league, were full of freshers in their team and found it difficult to contain the Up Country unit. Kandy dominated proceedings combining well with their forwards and three-quarter line to display running rugby to plant 19 unanswered tries in the game. Both their wingers Vishwamithra Jayasinghe and Richard Dharmapala stood out with lightning pace moves touching down four tries each. In forwards play once again it was Yakoob Ali and Buwanka Udangamuwa both being omnipresent.
Kandy drew first blood in the third minute of the game when their Fullback Thilina Wijesinghe broke free to touch down and add the extra points. From this moment onwards tries were free flowing. Vishwamithra Jayasinghe (2), Dhanushka Ranjan (2), Richard Dharmapala (2), Yakoob Ali and Chathuranga scored tries. Thlina converted six of those tries.
In the second half Kandy continued their good work and scored tries through Vishwamithra (2), Roshan Weeraratne, Buwanka Udangamuwa, Dharmapala (2), Lavanga Perera, Sooriyabandara and Jamaldeen.
Conversions were taken by Thlina Wijesinghe and Yakoob Ali. For CH & FC their only penalty was put over by Shamry Burah. CH & FC player Anurudha Ekanayake received a red card for stamping on an opponent.
The match was refereed by Aruna Rankothge.
By Shannon Nicholas
CR & FC managed to book their place in the semi-finals of the Dialog Clifford Cup 2017 when they beat Air Force SC 36 points to 33 at the Racecourse Grounds on Friday.
A solitary penalty made the difference between the two sides as both teams scored four goals and a try. CR & FC were given a scare during the second-half, which saw them trail by 33 points to 22 at one stage, but rallied back to grab victory.
The scores read 17-12 in favour of CR when Referee Priyantha Gunarathne blew for half-time.
Outside-half Gayantha Iddamalgoda put the Airmen ahead with just four minutes into the game through a try, after getting the better of the CR backline, and after Fullback Nuwan Perera bisected the poles with the conversion.
Five minutes later CR responded by pushing themselves up field and were awarded a penalty, which was successfully converted off the trusted boots of Tarinda Ratwatte, to amend the scores to 07-03.
Wing Kavindu Perera put the ‘Reds’ in front 10-07 when he executed a perfect run before touching down. Outside-half Nalin Kumara added the extras.
CR continued to dominate possession with many attempts to inflict damage and were successful when Kavindu managed to touch down five minutes later. The wing himself converted and CR were up 17-07.
Air Force managed to cut the lead to five points soon afterwards, when Lock Supun Madusanka went over the line to plant the Airmen’s second try of the evening. The conversion was wasted and the scores were amended to 17-12.
The scoreboard wasn’t amended for the rest of the first-half and it stood at 17-12 in favour of CR when the half-time whistle was blown.
CR began their attack again as soon as play resumed when Fullback Sashan Mohamed scored CR’s third try of the evening after collecting the ball through an Ashan de Costa pass close to the throw line. Air Force responded minutes later however, when Wing Anjana Vinod touched down and with Iddamalgoda adding the extras, the scores were made 22-19.
CR’s Anuradha Herath was sin-binned for a high-tackle and Air Force, with the advantage of the extra man on field, deployed troops up field in search of points. They were able to stun their opponents when Iddamalgoda came up with two back-to-back tries within a span of five minutes. Iddamalgoda converted the first while Nuwan added the extras in the second, to give Air Force a comfortable 33-22 lead.
With time running out, the CR bench were feeling the mounting pressure. The Air Force defense proved to be below-par as they let Kokila Sammandapperuma fly past them to touchdown. Naleen Kumara added the extras and the scores were set to 33-29 with 13-minutes to go.
Air Force stole the ball back and were seen playing up field gaining possession as the CR players watched the clock tick. With just five minutes to go Naleen Kumara scored the winning try for the Reds when he slipped through the leaky Air Force defense to touch down. He himself added the extras and the scores were amended to 36-33.
It was too late for the Airmen to overturn the score, and all efforts of grabbing some points by them were cancel-ed out by the CR back-line.
With the win, CR qualified for the semi- finals where they would face defending champions Kandy SC on Wednesday.
Wales star Sam Warburton has compared arch-rivals England to world champions New Zealand ahead of their Six Nations clash in Cardiff on Saturday.
Grand Slam champions England will arrive in the Welsh capital aiming for a 16th successive Test match win against all opponents.
The All Blacks hold the world record of 18 straight international wins by a tier-one nation but another Six Nations clean sweep this season would see England go one better.
“England are deservedly tagged as the best team in the northern hemisphere,” Warburton told the BBC.
“It’s a fair judgment to compare them to the All Blacks right now — that’s how good they are. It is going to take a huge game out of us to get a win and it will be one of the biggest games of the championship for sure.”
Even when they are not one of the world’s leading teams, England, for historical reasons, remain the one their European rivals want to beat above all others.
But they have become an even bigger target under Eddie Jones, with the Australian yet to lose a match as England boss after taking over after a 2015 World Cup where defeat by Wales prevented England getting out of the group stage and played a major role in the sacking of Stuart Lancaster.
“If you’re Wales the biggest game you play in the Six Nations is England,” said back-row forward and former skipper Warburton.
“If you’re Scotland, it’s England. If you’re Ireland, it’s England. Or if you’re France or Italy, it’s England,” added Warburton, whose father was born in England.
“We know as players that’s the one game the fans look forward to most and you sense that in the build-up. It’s a huge occasion for everyone in Wales.”
England, who beat Wales twice in 2016, started the defence of their Six Nations title with an unconvincing 19-16 win against France at Twickenham on Saturday.
By contrast, Wales launched their Six Nations with a 33-7 win away to Italy the following day that included 30 unanswered points in the second half in Rome.
Warburton, back in the ranks this season after experienced lock Alun Wyn Jones was appointed captain by interim coach Rob Howley, could miss out on a starting berth against England if No 8 Taulupe Faletau recovers in time from a knee injury.
Ross Moriarty was at No 8 against Italy in a back-row featuring Warburton and Justin Tipuric.
“The back-row competition is so fierce at the minute, I don’t want to put pressure on him, but Toby (Faletau), when he’s playing well, is one of the best players in the world,” said Warburton.
“If he did come back I’m sure there would be a few selection headaches in the back-row because Ross and Justin went extremely well against Italy.”
England and Wales will name their teams on Thursday.
South Africa’s Blitzboks won their third World Rugby Sevens Series of the season with a dominant 29-14 victory over England in the final in Sydney on Sunday.
Led by man-of-the-match Seabelo Senatla, South Africa scored five tries to England’s two.
Neil Powell’s Blitzboks have now won three of this season’s four world series finals and stretched their lead to 17 points over England in the championship standings.
It was the second consecutive week that Senatla had been crowned player of the final after the Blitzboks’ 26-05 win over Rio Olympic champions Fiji in Wellington last week.
“It is incredible. The guys are just magicians. Hats off to them, I am just the finisher of the moves,” said Senatla, whose try in the final was his eighth of the tournament and the 189th in his world series career.
Senatla leaves the Blitzboks at this event to play in the 15-man Super Rugby with the Western Stormers.
“It is bitter-sweet. We play here with family so it is a pity to be leaving the family but it’s a new challenge I am excited for,” he said.
It was South Africa’s first Sevens win in Australia since their back-to-back titles in Adelaide in 2008 and 2009.
“The team stuck to the structure and well done to them. It is extra-special because it’s our first back-to-back in Australasia so hats off to all in the system,” said South Africa captain Philip Snyman.
England, who upset defending champions New Zealand 12-05 in the semi-finals, beat the Blitzboks in the Cape Town final in December and were bidding for their first victory in Australia since 2003.
New Zealand staged one of their greatest escapes to knock out mighty Fiji 24-21 in the quarter-finals with a last-ditch try by Sione Molia, who started from behind their own try-line with time up.
A total of 75,000 fans braved searing heat over the three days of the tournament.
The fifth leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series takes place in Las Vegas on March 3-5.
By Shannon Nicholas at Havelock Park
In what turned out to be a one sided show, Kandy SC showed true champion grit as they put on a second-half blitz to beat Havelock SC 26 – 11 in the last fixture of the penultimate week of the Dialog Rugby League 2016/17 played at the Havelock Grounds on Sunday.
The winners collected their points through four tries, a drop goal and a penalty while their opponents were only able to manage a solitary try and two penalties.
From a houseful audience to the papare bands, the atmosphere was set for a perfect match-up between the two powerhouses, which result was certain to play an important role in the title-decider come next week.
The game kicked off with both teams displaying urgency to score but it was the hosts who drew first blood with just five minutes on the clock. Wing Dulaj Perera’s perfect bisection of the posts through a penalty saw the first points put up on the board, making the home fans go berserk. (Havelock 3-0).
Havelock were reduced to 14-men soon afterwards when Hirantha Perera was sin-binned for unwarranted play, and Kandy, taking full advantage of the ‘extra man’, stormed in to the opposite territory. Kandy missed out on scoring after a penalty was missed but fullback Thilina Wijesinghe’s quick reflexes in front of the posts saw his drop kick sail between the uprights and both teams were tied on three points apiece.
Dulaj had to be taken off the field a few moments later after the wing picked up a leg injury, and it was a mighty blow for the Havies, as the game proceeded. Richard Dharmapala put the visitors in front as he touched down picking up cleanly the lucky bounce off a deep clearance kick by Thilina Wijesinghe for the first try of the evening and the scores were amended to 3-8.
Kandy’s lead was cut down to 2 points when scrum-half Rahul de Silva made no mistake in a penalty awarded to the hosts, a few minutes later. Kandy’s Roshan Weerarahne was shown ’yellow’ for a high tackle on Sudarshana Muthuthanthri, but Kandy’s defence was strong enough to not to entertain any sort of slip-up.
The scores read 6-8 when Singaporean referee Charlie Brown blew for half-time.
It was an adrenalin rush when play resumed as both teams pushed forward into their opposite halves.
Kandy saw a penalty sway away from the posts through a penalty, but hooker Damith Dissanayake managed to extend Kandy’s lead when he planted a perfectly taken try, for which the Television Match Official’s (TMO) decision had to be consulted for confirmation minutes later.
Kandy’s Danushka Ranjan, who donned the pink shirt last season, scored the visitors’ third try after producing a superb sprint along the touch line before ultimately touching down. The conversion was not successful and the scores were set to 18-6.
Centre Nishon Perera was able to reduce the mounting pressure off the hosts after he fought his way through four Kandy players to touchdown five minutes later. De Silva squandered at the relatively easy conversion and the scores were amended to 18-11.
Kandy were disallowed a try with just five minutes on the clock remaining, much to the relief of the Havelock players, but were able to grab three points off a Wijesinghe penalty, to go up 21-11. With the title slipping off their hands, Havelock deployed numbers up field in a frenzy in search of points, but all efforts were wasted when Srinath Sooriyabandara scored Kandy’s fourth try off a solo effort The scores were set to 26 – 11.
With the win, Kandy would be able to defend the title successfully, when they go into next week’s fixtures as favourites against minnows CH & FC, having one hand already on the title.
Elsewhere Police SC defied all odds to emerge victorious against Army SC, who they beat 27-21 in their fixture played at the Diyagama Grounds yesterday. The Cops, who collected their points through three goals and two penalties, led 20 points to 7 at lemons, whereas Army only managed three goals.
Rampant South Africa crushed Fiji 26-5 to win the Wellington Sevens on Sunday and extend their lead at the top of World Series competition.
The Blitzboks dominated the two-day tournament, scoring 174 points in their six matches and conceding only 22.
It was the South Africans’ first win in Wellington since 2002 after finishing runners-up in the New Zealand capital in 2014 and 2016.
After three rounds, they sit on 63 points, 12 points clear of Fiji on 51, who overtake England to claim second spot on the ladder.
“Hats off to the guys, we played some phenomenal rugby,” Captain Philip Snyman said.
The one-sided final reinforced perceptions that South Africa now have the measure of Fiji, the reigning series champions and Olympic gold medallists.
Snyman’s men also dismantled the Pacific islanders 31-12 in pool play on Saturday and the skipper said defence was the key to countering Fiji’s blistering pace.
“I think it’s if you can just be in their face. Our defence was great and everybody just kept to the structure,” he said.
South Africa scored four tries to one in the decider, with a brace to Ruhan Nel and one to Seabelo Senatla, making him the team’s all-time top try scorer with 180.
Scotland claimed the third-place play-off 28-22 over Canada, with both teams exceeding expectations.
Canada dumped out Argentina 17-12 in the quarter-finals, while Scotland accounted for England 14-12 and pushed Fiji hard in the semis.
Scotland’s James Fleming said the team’s young players were confident they could beat any team on their day.
“They’ve all got the belief,” he said.
“It used to be difficult to get to the quarters, now we’re hitting quarters and semis, the young guys coming in are pushing further and harder, it’s awesome.”
New Zealand, winners in Wellington for the previous three years and for so long the pace-setters in sevens rugby, lost their quarter-final 26-10 to Fiji.
In an error-strewn display, they never recovered after Fiji’s Joeli Lutumailangi found himself in open space following two turnovers and capitalised on both opportunities.
The Wellington tournament failed to draw large crowds to Westpac Stadium for the third year in a row, putting further pressure to organisers to move it to another city.
The Sevens World Series circuit moves to Sydney next week, where the event is already sold out.
South Africa continued to set the pace at the Sevens World Series in Wellington on Saturday, while former New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens’ return to his homeland with Samoa fell flat.
England, South Africa, New Zealand and tournament surprise package Canada all topped their pools with three wins from three matches to cruise into the quarter-finals.
But it was the competition-leading Blitzboks who caught the eye, holding Australia and Japan scoreless before demolishing Fiji 31-12.
They raced to a 17-0 lead but Fiji narrowed it to 17-12 before South Africans stepped up a gear and the reigning series champions and Olympic gold medallists had no answer.
“We came out and laid a solid foundation, then really built on that,” South Africa captain Philip Snyman said.
“Fiji ran us close towards the end but luckily the guys came through.”
Canada provided the major upsets of the day, defeating Wales (28-2), Scotland (28-19) and Russia (29-0)
Scotland still qualified for the quarters as runner=up in their group, as did Argentina, Fiji and France.
Local interest was on the Pool C grudge match between New Zealand — who have won the Wellington tournament for the past three years — and Tietjens’ Samoa.
Tietjens coached New Zealand for 22 years, guiding them to 12 Sevens World Series titles, four Commonwealth gold medals and two Sevens World Cup crowns.
He announced his departure after last year’s failure at the Rio Olympics, and then accepted a role with the Pacific islanders.
However, he was still officially contracted to NZR, which made him sit out the opening rounds, making Wellington his first tournament in charge of Samoa.
Tietjens, who has described his treatment as “hurtful”, said he knew the New Zealanders — who have won the Wellington tournament for the past three years — would be fired up facing their former boss.
He was proved correct as they scored in the first 90 seconds and went to record a comprehensive 33-7 win.
“You’ve hardly even touched (the ball) yet, let’s get a bit of mongrel out there on the park,” a frustrated Tietjens told his players in the half-time huddle.
Samoa also lost their other two pool matches but Tietjens said he still believed the raw materials were there to build a successful side.
“There’s a lot of energy in the team, a lot of enthusiasm.,” the World Rugby hall of famer said.
“We’ve showed when we get a bit of ball and a bit of time we can do something with it.”
Chris Ashton has said the combination of his ongoing England exile and his treatment by rugby’s disciplinary authorities prompted his decision to leave Saracens for Toulon.
The wing scored the only try of the match as Saracens beat the French side 10-3 in the pool phase of the European Champions Cup on Saturday.
Victory at their Allianz Park ground in north London saw reigning European champions Saracens book a home quarter-final, although a star-studded Toulon will still join them in the last eight despite this defeat.
Ashton’s score was the 29-year-old’s fourth try in three starts since he completed a 13-week ban for biting, his second major suspension of 2016.
It was also a reminder of what the English game — and indeed England — will miss when Ashton joins Toulon for a reported £420,000 ($520,000, 485,546 euros) a year in June.
With England coach Eddie Jones upholding the Rugby Football Union’s longstanding policy of refusing to select overseas-based players for international duty save in “exceptional circumstances”, Ashton has effectively called time on a 39-Test career that has yielded 19 tries by moving to France.
The Australian boss did select Ashton, whose last Red Rose appearance was in 2014, in his first England squad.
But he was omitted after being banned for making contact with the eye area of Ulster’s Luke Marshall and Ashton has been in the Test wilderness ever since.
“The decision is always made by a coach and like any player who does not get in I disagreed with that decision.
“I hope I will play again (for England) one day, but for the time being I chose to go to play rugby abroad. I will never give up hope, but it makes it harder moving abroad.
“Saracens would rather I stayed, but they are very understanding people.
“You look at it from both sides and they understand my situation with England and how I felt towards being banned again.”
Ashton ensured Saracens, who defended superbly in the closing stages, established a decisive lead over Toulon when he picked a line between New Zealand’s Ma’a Nonu and Australia’s Matt Giteau for a 60th-minute try.
“I tried not think about the fact I was playing Toulon. We were at home in a big game and I tried to concentrate on that,” Ashton said.
Toulon were crowned champions of Europe for three successive seasons until Saracens dethroned them last term during a campaign where they also won the English title to complete a notable double.
The Cote d’Azur club, owned by wealthy comic publisher Mourad Boudjellal, enjoyed a poor season by their own standards in 2015/16 and that led them to dismiss coach Diego Dominguez.
The former Italy fly-half was replaced by Mike Ford, who was previously in charge of English Premiership side Bath.
Ford said a defeat by French rivals Clermont had proved a turning point for Toulon, who enjoyed many of their most successful days when retired England great Jonny Wilkinson and former France coach Bernard Laporte were together at the Stade Mayol.
“We pretty much lost to Clermont and then we drew a line in the sand and said: ‘Look, Jonny’s (Wilkinson) not here any more, Bernard Laporte’s not here any more and we can’t keep living off the three cups we won’,” Ford said.
“We’ve not won anything now for 18 months and we were in danger of going out of the pool stages of the Champions Cup. So we drew a line in the sand and it’s been very good since.”
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.
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.
Center Thanuja Maduranga’s late try in the dying stages helped Sri Lanka record a thrilling 27-21 win against Malaysia in their Asia Under-19 Rugby Championship opening match played at the UTM Sports Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Sunday.
Sri Lanka after trailing 8-14 at half time came back strongly and accumulated their points through two goals, two tries and a penalty while Malaysia responded with three goals.
Maduranga who came in as a replacement, dashed Malaysia’s hopes with the match winning try giving Sandesh Jayawickrama an easy conversion.
Sri Lanka opened the scoring with full back Gayan Wickramaratne booting over a penalty in the 15th minute and four minutes kayer he went over for an unconverted try.
Malaysians reduced the deficit in the 26th minute with prop forward Aqiuel Zakariya going over for a try and fly half Zulmujdi Kama Razali added the extra points.
Malaysia went into the lead seven minutes later with Aqiuel Zakariya going over for his second try which was converted by Zulmujdi Kama Razali.
After the resumption, Sri Lanka played with a different game plan and had the hosts on the defence.
In the 53rd minute Skipper Nikhil Gunadeera brushed off the challenge of some players for a try which was converted by Gayan Wickramaratne as Sri Lanka toook a one point lead.
However, Malaysia using their weight advantage went into the lead in the 66th minute with a try scored by second row Izzat Ahamed Hapez and Fahmy Farkhan Sukri made the conversion.
Few minutes later Adeesha Weeratunga cruised through for a try but fly half Sandesh Jayawickrama’s conversion went astray.
The winning try for Sri Lanka came in the dying stages from centre Thanuja Maduranga and Sandesh Jayawickrama made no mistake with the conversion as Sri Lanka emerged victorious 27-21.
Sri Lanka will confront Hong Kong in their second match on December 14.
In another match, favourites Hong Kong cruised to an easy 54-8 win over Chinese Taipei.
After an evenly contested first half, Kandy SC came back strongly in the second half with some professional play to outclass CR and FC by 53 points (seven tries, six conversions, one penalty and one drop goal) to 29 points (four tries, three conversions and one penalty) in their Dialog Inter-Club ‘A’ Division League rugby encounter played at the Nittawela Stadium yesterday.
At the breather the scores were level 22-22.
Kandy SC drew first blood in the very first minute of the game when their winger Richard Dharmapala scored in front of a shocking CR and FC side.
Full back Tharindu Wijesinghe was on target with the kick at goal.
CR and FC reduced the deficit through a Tharinda Ratwatte penalty. Then came the solo try from the former Trinity Skipper, Ratwatte.
He missed the conversion but CR and FC took the lead 8-7. Ten minutes later, Tharinda scored his second try through another lightning move.
Full back Prince Chamara added the extra points. Kandy SC full back Thilini Wijesinghe reduced the gap with a penalty.
Kandy SC equalised through a move which went into six phases with winger, Vishwamithra Jayasinghe touching down.
The scores were level 15-15 at that stage. There was time for one more try by both teams before the interval. CR and FC scored through winger, Kavindu Perera while Kandy SC touched down through Sayuru Anthony.
After the turn-around, CR and FC conceded three converted tries to their opponents and they never recovered from that setback.
Kandy SC scored through Ranjan (2) Mohamed Ali and, Dhanushka Dyan while Tharindu Wijesinghe kicked all three accurately and also put over a neat drop goal.
CR and FC scored their only try in the second half through Ashan de Costa.
Havelock Sports Club made it five wins out of five in the Dialog Rugby League 2016/17 when they beat Army Sports Club, by 37 points to 26, at Havelock Park on Sunday.
The win was built on an outstanding performance by the boys’ in pink and brown, and it was not a lack of opposition that earned them the win, as Army fought hard, even leading at one point, before the home team surged ahead and to the win.
Havelocks scored three goals, two tries and two penalties, while Army scored one goal, two tries and three penalties.
Number 08 and former skipper Sudharshana Muthtuthanthri got Havelocks’ first try when he dashed down defenders after a pick and go. The conversion was missed by Dulaj Perera but he was successful with a penalty soon after, as Havelocks took an 08-00 lead inside six minutes.
Over the next ten minutes however, Gayan Salinda got Army into the lead. A ninth minute penalty by Salinda got Army their first points, and he added another soon after, before scoring and converting a try in the 16th minute, giving the Soldiers a shock 13-08 lead.
Ashoka Jayalal then extended that lead five minutes later with an unconverted try.
The home team however fought back to regain the lead before half time with two tries.
First, in the 25th minute, Senal Deelaka scored an unconverted try, before Havies skipper Dushmantha Priyadarshana crossed the try line to bring the scores level. Dulaj Perera was successful with the conversion and that put Havelocks ahead at the break.
Army got themselves ahead again shortly after half-time when Dhanushka Talwatte scored an unconverted try.
Eight minutes later however, Havelock SC regained the lead, for good, through Lasindu Karunathilaka with Perera’s conversion giving the home team a 27-23 lead.
A Dulaj Perera penalty in the 55th minute extended the lead, before Army managed their final points through a Salinda penalty.
Hirantha Perera scored, and Perera again converted, late in the game to seal the result for Havelock SC, who will next host unbeaten Navy SC, which could decide the early title favourites.
In an electrifying game which went down to the wire, Navy SC emerged victorious as they beat defending champions Kandy SC 37-32 in the Dialog Rugby League 2016/17 at the Navy Grounds on Sunday.
Four goals and 3 penalties was how the winners got their points but their opponents managed 4 tries, of which only three were converted and 2 penalties.
Navy, who got off to a bright start, were up by 24 points to 22 when Referee Priyantha Gunarathne blew for the half-time break. The encounter as expected kept the fans on the edge of their seats till the final whistle.
The atmosphere was at its best but the visitors managed to silence the crowd as they broke the deadlock with just a minute on the clock. Damith Dissanayake got the better of the Navy defence as he touched down to put up the first points on board. With the failed conversion the scores read 5-0.
The Sailors were quick to reply as Buddima Piyaratne squeezed through the Kandy backline to touch down. Thilina Weerasinghe was accurate with the conversion and the scores read 7-5.
Navy were gaining momentum and soon their hard work paid off when they were awarded a penalty.
Weerasinghe made no mistake and Navy was up 10-5. Navy struck again 10 minutes later, as scrum-half Richie Dharmapala touched down to increase Navy’s lead to 17-5.
Kandy managed to reduce the lead through a Arshad Jamaldeen penalty but Navy increased their lead once more through Supun Peiris, who smothered a clearance by Arshad Jamaldeen in Kandy’s 22 metre and picked up the loose ball to touch down with a wide grin. Weerasinghe added the extras with ease.
The defending champions were feeling the mounting pressure, down 24-08, and managed to reduce the deficit to just two points thorough pure team effort. Scrum-half Roshan Weeraratne scored a try taking a quick tap and with Jamaldeen’s conversion, Navy lead was reduced to 24-15. Danushka Ranjan managed to get his name on the score-sheet as he touched down brushing aside four defenders following a well executed three quarter move on the verge of the half-time to amend the scores to 24-22.
Navy was in no mood to relax as Weerasinghe bisected the poles through a penalty soon after the turn around.
Thereafter the hosts were awarded a yet another penalty, and the scores were made 30-22.
The men from Kandy seemed to be wilting under pressure but play-maker Fazil Marija was quick to respond and Dinusha Dayan, who collected the ball from Marija, kept his cool as he crossed the touchline to score Kandy’s fourth try. The bonus point was assured with Jamaldeen adding the extras and the scores read 29-30.
Within a space of 10 minutes, Kandy managed to get their noses in front through a Jamaldeen penalty, which saw them take the lead only for the second time for the evening.
However Navy had the last laugh, as Skipper Roshan Ranasinghe touched down to take the game away from Kandy. The try was a result of a collective team effort and the final scores read 37-32.