May 25, 2013
Calum Clark is a doubt for England's tour of Uruguay and Argentina after an ankle injury ruled him out of Saturday's Aviva Premiership final.
Clark limped off during Northampton's semi-final win against Saracens and he has failed to recover in time for the Saints' Twickenham showdown with Leicester. The 23-year-old will be assessed by the England medics on Sunday and a decision made as to whether he will once again have to drop out of national duty.
Clark was ruled out of England's 2012 summer tour of South Africa and the autumn internationals that followed after receiving a record 32-week ban for breaking the arm of Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins. England head coach Stuart Lancaster stood by Clark and he was recalled for the Six Nations, only to suffer a shoulder injury in January that sidelined him for the whole tournament.
Clark was selected again for England's three-match tour, which starts against a combined South American XV in Montevideo on June 2 before two Tests against Argentina.
May 24, 2013
The Welsh Rugby Union has anounced it has held 'fruitful' discussions with the four regions in a bid to resolve their differences regarding the future of the game in Wales.
The regions - the Cardiff Blues, Newport-Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets - are seeking a greater financial support from the WRU in the hope of retaining the services of the leading players but a series of meetings have yet to provide them with any increase in funding.
The WRU and Regional Rugby Wales (RRW), the umbrella organisation which looks after the interests of the regions, agreed to the formation of the Professional Regional Game Board earlier this season to oversee professional rugby in Wales. But the union reportedly withdrew after just one meeting claiming RRW had breached its terms of reference by demanding a say in the appointment of Warren Gatland’s successor as Wales coach.
However, it now appears talks are back on track with another meeting also scheduled for later this year. "A meeting took place today with representatives of the Welsh Rugby Union and the four Welsh Regional Organisations, chaired by Sir Wyn Williams," the WRU said in a statement. "A fruitful discussion took place and a further meeting is now planned for July."
Aviva has penned a new three-year deal to continue its sponsorship of England's Premiership.
The deal starts from the outset of the 2014-15 season and will continue until the end of the 2016-17 campaign. Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty said: "Aviva has been a hugely supportive partner since joining the Premiership Rugby family for the start of the 2010-11 season. It's crucial for any professional sport to forge a strong bond with their title sponsor, and we have certainly done this with Aviva.
"The announcement comes in the week of the Aviva Premiership Final between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints in front of 82,000 fans at Twickenham Stadium and at the end of another hugely competitive and exciting season."
Newcastle moved a step closer to a return to the Aviva Premiership after claiming a nine-point 18-9 lead over Bedford in the first leg of their Championship final, with fly-half Jimmy Gopperth doing most of the damage.
The New Zealander booted all 18 of his side's points in a near-perfect kicking display at Goldington Road, with hosts Bedford replying with penalties from Myles Dorrian (two) and replacement Jake Sharp. Dean Richards' Newcastle, who lost just one match during the regular season, will now hope to finish the tie off at Kingston Park and seal their berth back in the top flight.
May 23, 2013
Bristol Rugby have announced their tenth new recruit ahead of next season, Wasps back Jack Wallace.
With Errie Claassens out until 2014, Wallace will cover both the wing and fullback and director of rugby Andy Robinson is delighted with his new signing. “The fact that he’s played so many times at the highest level at such a young age is a testament to his ability and attitude," Robinson said. “He’ll continue to blossom as a player at Bristol and I’m confident he will add a different dimension to our backline.”
Wallace added: “ I'm pleased to be joining Bristol Rugby at such an exciting time for the Club. It was an easy decision to make – Andy [Robinson] is building a culture that has all the ingredients to be successful. I've still got a lot to prove and plenty that I want to accomplish in my career. I'm hugely ambitious and I believe the coaching staff here match that ambition."
Worcester Warriors have announced the capture of hooker Chris Brooker from Harlequins.
Brooker suffered a serious leg injury back in March 2012 and has not played since, but the Warriors have moved quickly to snap up their man on a two-year deal. Worcester boss Dean Ryan admitted he was delighted to sign the talented front row forward and thanked Harlequins and his counterpart Conor O'Shea for allowing Brooker to make the switch.
"He will add greatly to the squad we are assembling ahead of the new Aviva Premiership campaign," Ryan said. "Chris comes to Warriors eager to re-launch his career, now he is fully recovered after being sidelined with a knee injury, and his appetite and desire will be evident to all. He is determined to be a success at Sixways and wants to perform not only for Worcester but also return to the form that brought him to the attention of England and push his internationals aspirations."
Brooker added: "I'm excited about becoming a Warrior. It's a new coach, new start and a new club for me. I want to come back and really impress, get back to where I was before I got injured and I truly feel this is the club to do that under the guidance of Dean Ryan."
Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards is taking nothing for granted ahead of his side’s Championship final first leg clash with Bedford Blues on Thursday night.
The Falcons are favourites to earn promotion back to the Premiership having beaten the Blues three times this season already but Richards is wary of their rivals. "They are a very good side. They have quality throughout and they like to play with a lot of width, so it will be a good test for the boys," he said.
"The beauty about the game being over two legs is that whatever happens down there, the second leg is as equally important. We will play as well as we can and hopefully come away with the points and carry it on up here (at Newcastle), but if not then we have the chance to turn it around up here."
Bedford forwards coach Martin Hynes commented: "We have already had three extremely close encounters, and I don't think that there will be much in it again over these two legs. Newcastle have been on top of the league for the majority of the season, and they are the benchmark that every other team has been striving to replicate. A few teams, including us, have come close, and a couple have succeeded, but these two games will be very different because of what is on offer."
Former Zebre head coach Christian Gajan has been handed a six-month ban from all rugby, suspended for two years, by an independent RaboDirect Pro12 disciplinary committee.
Gajan appeared before the committee in Dublin on a misconduct charge relating to his behaviour towards the match officials during and after Zebre's defeat to Munster in their final game of the season on May 3. Gajan was found guilty of verbally abusing the match officials following the game and, after taking into account previous incidents the ex-Bayonne boss had been involved in, the committee handed him a suspended ban.
May 22, 2013
Former England centre Dan Hipkiss has retired from the sport with immediate effect after failing to recover from a shoulder injury.
Bath centre Hipkiss, who won 13 caps for England, injured his shoulder in January and despite making strides in his recovery, he has been left with no option but to retire. At his previous club Leicester, Hipkiss was an integral part of their dominance during the noughties and he will leave the the game with plenty of memories.
"This is obviously a really sad time for me, but the decision has really been taken out of my hands which has made it a little bit easier," Hipkiss said. "It's not the way anyone wants to leave the game, but when the doctor tells you it's time you have to listen to them.
"Looking back, I've had a great career, and would like to thank Sam Vesty and Lewis Moody, who I've played with for pretty much the whole time I've been in rugby. I'd also like to thank Paddy Howard and Darryl Gibson, who have given me a huge amount of support."
Guinness may be thought of as being as much of Ireland as the Blarney Stone or hurling, but the company has today signed a deal to become the official beer English rugby.
Guinness is already the existing partner for the Six Nations as well as the Wales and Scotland unions, but it has now added England and Twickenham to its sponsor partners.
“This partnership demonstrates our commitment to pouring great pints of the black stuff, promoting responsible drinking and engaging fans on match days,” gushed a spokesman for the beer.