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June 4, 2013

Lancaster to name Test side after final training

Posted by Martin Williamson on 06/04/2013

England coach Stuart Lancaster will finalise his team for the first Test against Argentina after a double training session in Salta.

"There are decisions to be made in the make-up of the back row and the bench," Lancaster said. "As you can see from the game, the breakdown will be fiercely contested on Saturday and there were times when we didn't deliver as good ball as we wanted.

"I have some decisions to make as to how we go about the game. The most important thing for me is it makes it clear how difficult it will be next Saturday. The sessions will be fiercely contested. We need to prepare well on Tuesday in order to get our mindset right for Saturday."

May 30, 2013

BBC to broadcast England clashes with Argentina

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/30/2013

England's two-Test series with Argentina next month will be broadcast live on the BBC in the UK.

Stuart Lancaster's side tackle the Pumas in Salta on Saturday, June 8 and then again in Buenos Aires on Saturday, June 15 with both matches kicking off at 20:10 BST on BBC Two.

May 26, 2013

Lancashire claim Bill Beaumont Cup

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/26/2013

Lancashire celebrate their Bill Beaumont Cup Final triumph at Twickenham © Getty Images

Lancashire lifted the Bill Beaumont Cup for the fourth time in five seasons after a pulsating 35-26 victory over Cornwall at Twickenham.

Cornwall had the chance to tie the game at 28-28 three minutes from time when replacement Lewis Vinnicombe sneaked over, but he hooked his conversion well wide and Ben Rath sealed victory for Lancashire in the final play.

Lancashire captain, Louis McGowan said: “We didn’t expect an easy game, as soon we knew we’d drawn Cornwall we were ready for a tough spar. There was huge support from the South West and the atmosphere was incredible. It was awesome to play at Twickenham, on a personal level I’ve had a tough time with injuries this season and thought I was going to have to retire over Christmas so I’m ecstatic to come back.

“Credit to Cornwall for the way they pushed us right to the end, with five minutes to go they were kicking to equalise. I didn’t need to say a word to the lads though, they knew that we needed to dig deep and close them down. I’m immensely proud of every player that has travelled here with us today. There are a lot of young lads in this squad - it’s a good future for Lancashire.”

May 25, 2013

England sweat on Clark fitness

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/25/2013

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 23, 2013

Newcastle wary of Bedford challenge

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/23/2013

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."

May 22, 2013

Irish legend backs English rugby

Posted by Martin Williamson on 05/22/2013

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.

May 21, 2013

Sarah Hunter retains England captaincy

Posted by Martin Williamson on 05/21/2013

Sarah Hunter will captain England women on their three-Test tour to New Zealand in July.

Hunter captained England during the recent Six Nations and retains the captaincy despite the return of her predecessor Katy McLean who missed the tournament.

The first Test takes place at Eden Park on July 13, the second at Waikato Stadium on July 16 and the third on July 20 at the ECOlight Stadium.

May 17, 2013

Pumas name fresh-faced squad for England

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/17/2013

The Pumas have unveiled their 28-man squad for the Test series against England and Georgia this summer.

Coach Santiago Phelan has called on Felipe Contepomi, who will retire at the end of the season, but he has opted to rest a host of stars with Marco Ayerza, Juan Imhoff, Juan Martin Hernandez, Horacio Agulla, Santiago Fernandez and Juan Figallo all missing from the party.

"It's a very demanding window which is a nice opportunity to see a lot of players in action," Phelan said. "They will be very intense matches and top notch. Although England won't have their players touring with the British & Irish Lions, they will be a top level team and (with players who) compete in very demanding leagues.”

Argentina Squad: Belisario Agulla , Gabriel Ascarate, Rodrigo Baez, Martín Bustos Moyano, Maximiliano Bustos, Tomás Carrio, Felipe Contepomi, Tomás Cubelli, Tomás De la Vega, Julio Farias Cabello, Mariano Glarza, Martín Garcia Veiga, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Mauricio Guidone, Pablo Henn, Martín Landajo, Tomas Leonardi, Esteban Lozada, Benjamín Macome, Benjamín Madero, Manuel Montero, Matías Orlando, Bruno Postiglioni, Guillermo Roan, Gonzalo Tiesi, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Tomás Vallejos Cinalli, Nicolás Vergallo.

May 14, 2013

Trio up for inaugural England award

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/14/2013

Joe Launchbury, Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs have all been nominated for the inaugural England Player of the Year award with the winner confirmed at the Rugby Players' Association end-of-season dinner.

All three have enjoyed memorable seasons with Launchbury announcing himself on the Test stage and Parling and Youngs' form recognised by British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland who included the duo in the 37-man squad for the summer's tour to Australia. Launchbury is also up for the RPA Young Player of the Year gong while Youngs is in contention for the Player of the Year award.

May 12, 2013

Newcastle edge out Leeds for final spot

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/12/2013

Newcastle Falcons booked a Championship final showdown against Bedford Blues with a 15-6 victory over Leeds Carnegie in their semi-final second leg clash at Kingston Park on Sunday.

Leeds claimed a shock 24-19 victory over the Falcons in their first leg clash but could not hold onto their advantage with their rivals progressing 34-30 on aggregate.

Bedford recently failed to meet the 'minimum standards criteria' for the Premiership and as a result Newcastle will be the only side playing for promotion to the top flight when the two sides meet in the two-legged final that will be staged on May 23 and May 29. If Bedford were to win the Championship title, then London Welsh would not be relegated from the Premiership.

Championship set to name first title sponsor

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/12/2013

Greene King are reportedly set to be named as the first title sponsor for English club rugby's second tier - the Championship.

The Rugby Paper reports that the brewing giant have agreed a three-year deal with the Rugby Football Union worth £1.2m that will begin next season. The deal is also thought to incorporate plans for three double-headers during the course of each season that will be staged at neutral venues in the south west, south east and midland/north to showcase the competition.

In a further boost to the league, broadcaster Sky Sports are set to increase their coverage from 11 games a season to 18 to fill the void left by the loss of Aviva Premiership rugby as of next season. However, clubs are not likely to benefit from the windfall with the income set to off-set the £400,000 each side currently receives from the RFU in lieu of sponsorship.

May 10, 2013

England trio up for Sevens award

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/10/2013

Dan Norton, Tom Powell and Marcus Watson have all been nominated for the HSBC England Sevens Player of the Year with the winner announced at the Rugby Players' Association's end of year awards.

Norton is the current top try-scorer in the HSBC Sevens World Series while Watson has established himself as an integral part of the England team. And Powell has shone in the forwards for Ben Ryan's men. Mat Turner took the award last term, in its inaugural year, but there will be a new name on the trophy this time around.

May 1, 2013

Ex-England No.9 Shaun Perry forced to retire

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/01/2013

Former England scrum-half Shaun Perry has been forced to call time on his career due to a knee injury.

Perry joined his current side Worcester from Brive and has also run out for Bristol. He was part of England's 2007 World Cup squad and collected 14 caps for the national side. But he has been unable to shake off a knee injury and has opted to retire from the game.

Perry said: "It is extremely hard to accept the decision that I must retire because, having started playing at the age of seven, rugby has always been a big part of my life. I very much hope to continue to be involved in rugby in some capacity."

The Rugby Players' Association rugby director David Barnes said: "Shaun epitomised the hard work which is required to become a professional rugby player and reach the highest level of the sport."

April 26, 2013

England reveal squad for Under-20 Championships

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/26/2013

England have confirmed their 28-man squad for the summer's Junior World Championship which kicks off with a game against the hosts France on June 5.

England have been paired with South Africa and the USA, alongside France, and coaches Nick Walshe and Ian Peel have called on eight players who ran out for the Under-20s in the championship last year alongside some fresh new talent.

"We enjoyed a good Six Nations and on the back of that, competition for places has been high and some good players have missed out," Walshe explained. "However, we’re very pleased with the 28 selected. The games come thick and fast in this tournament, we’ve got a very tough group but we’re excited by that challenge."

England squad:

Forwards: Dom Barrow (Leeds Carnegie), Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Joel Conlon (Exeter Chiefs), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Matt Hankin (Saracens), Alec Hepburn (London Wasps), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Northampton Saints), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester Rugby), Nathan Morris (London Wasps), Tom Price (Leicester Tigers), David Sisi (London Irish), Tom Smallbone (London Irish), Scott Spurling (Saracens), Elliott Stooke (Gloucester Rugby), Harry Wells (Leicester Tigers), Scott Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)

Backs: Callum Braley (Bristol Rugby), Alex Day (Northampton Saints), Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby), Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs), Will Hooley (Northampton Saints), Ben Howard (Worcester Warriors), Mark Jennings (Sale Sharks), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Harry Sloan (Harlequins), Tom Stephenson (Northampton Saints), Anthony Watson (London Irish)

April 23, 2013

Council bans national anthem before international

Posted by Martin Williamson on 04/23/2013

Scarborough Council have been forced onto the back foot over its banning of the playing of a national anthem before an international rugby match at the local ground.

The club wanted to play the British and Irish anthems before the game between games between England Colleges and Irish Exiles at Scarborough RFC but the council's regulations prohibit the playing of amplified music and jingles at the ground.

The club has been fighting the council for more than two years after councillors decided to ignore planning advice and amend a licensing clause. But after the council received considerable negative press when the story broke, it has decided to review the situation.

Click here for the full story

Sean Holley unveiled as Bristol's head coach

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/23/2013

Former Ospreys boss Sean Holley has been appointed Bristol's new head coach under director of rugby Andy Robinson.

Holley left the Ospreys in 2012 and has recently worked with the Scarlets during the Six Nations. But despite reported interest from Worcester and Connacht, Holley has decided to take up a job with Bristol and will work alongside former Scotland boss Robinson.

"Sean’s exactly the sort of personality we’re looking for at Bristol," Robinson said. "We’re fortunate to have acquired somebody of his calibre. Sean has got a wealth of experience and success at the top level and an intimate knowledge of professional rugby."

Holley added: "There’s a lot that I still want to achieve in my coaching career and I haven’t taken the decision lightly. I have been lucky to have received plenty of interest, but the chance to work with Andy - and after discussing the plans in place for the club - I'm confident that the ambition of Bristol match my personal goals."

Ex-Saxon Jon Golding to retire

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/23/2013

Former England Saxons prop Jonny Golding has announced he will retire at the end of the season.

Golding is currently lining up for the Newcastle Falcons in the RFU Championship but he will call time on his career at the end of the current campaign to focus on business interests. Golding told Falcons TV: "I have had a good career which has spanned 13 years and I have enjoyed every minute of my time in the game. It is a decision that I have not taken lightly, and it is one that I have taken my time over, talking to my wife and family.

"But I have got my head around it now, and it is something that I want to do. I am looking to go into business and it will be a good challenge for me. My family have been very supportive of what I am doing - I am going to massively miss what I have been doing here at Kingston Park after putting a lot into the game."

April 21, 2013

Championship confident over new deal

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/21/2013

The Championship clubs are confident that they will be able to agree a new deal with the Premiership over payments to promoted teams when the RFU-Premier Rugby agreement is renegotiated in 2015.

Currently clubs that go up receive 40 per cent of the amount that goes to established Premiership sides, but they claim it limits the improvements they can make and in effect punishes them before the season starts.

“The RFU want to change it, PRL know they have to change and the momentum will grow as we move towards this new agreement,” Bedford Blues and Championship chairman Geoff Irvine told The Rugby Paper.

April 19, 2013

Centre hit with six-month ban for drugs

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/19/2013

Henley centre James Comben has been suspended for six months after testing positive for a prohibited substance.

Comben failed a drugs test after playing in London Wasps’ A-League match against the Exeter Braves on November 26, 2012. The centre, who tested positive for Methylhexanamine (MHA), a prohibited stimulant, will be free to play again on June 21 due to his ban having started on December 21, 2012.

Judge Jeff Blackett, who was part of the RFU disciplinary tribunal, said: "There has been an enormous amount of publicity about doping in recent years and a player who plays in the RFU National Leagues or in the A team of a professional Premiership side must know that he is responsible for all substances ingested."

Kiwi bouncer found guilty of Tindall tape theft

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/19/2013

The New Zealand bouncer who published CCTV footage of ex-England centre Mike Tindall’s antics during the 2011 World Cup has been found guilty of theft.

The images of Tindall and a former girlfriend were worldwide news at the time. And a jury in Invercargill has found Jonathan Dixon, a bouncer who worked at the nightclub Tindall visited, guilty of accessing the CCTV footage ‘dishonestly’.

The prosecutors said Dixon planned to sell the footage to British newspapers, but when they showed a lack of interest, he posted the footage online. He will now be sentenced in June.

April 12, 2013

Saracens and Munster win semi-final coin toss

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/12/2013

Saracens and Munster have been assigned as the home teams for their Heineken Cup semi-finals against Toulon and Clermont Auvergne.

The two sides won the coin toss at European Rugby Cup’s offices in Dublin and so will use the home dressing rooms at Twickenham and Stade de la Mosson respectively.

Saracens also won the coin toss for jersey colours and so will wear their black and red shirts in the semi-final on April 28. Munster will wear their traditional red when they meet Clermont a day earlier.

April 10, 2013

Women's Six Nations format will not change

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/10/2013

The Six Nations Council have announced that the format of the Women's Six Nations will continue in its current format next year.

Reports suggested officials were considering introducing a two-tier competition with England, France and Ireland in the top division and Scotland, Wales and Italy in the lower division due to concerns about financial costs and the ability of some sides to compete. The competition adopted the same format as the men's Six Nations in 2007 with Ireland breaking England and France's stranglehold on the title earlier this year with a first ever Grand Slam.

In related news, Roger Lewis, the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union and Six Nations Council member, has been elected as the new chair of the Six Nations Women’s Game Sub-Committee. Lewis said: "I am delighted to accept this position. We will now positively harness the energy that has been generated by the recent debate and together take Women’s Six Nations rugby forward."

Stringer rewarded with new Bath deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 04/10/2013

Bath have announced that scrum-half Peter Stringer has signed a contract extension that will see him remain at the Premiership club next season.

The former Ireland international was originally brought in as injury cover earlier this season for first-choice scrum-half Michael Claassens, but has since gone on to make the No.9 shirt his own. Stringer, 35, said: "I still feel like I have a lot to give on the rugby field, and really wanted to keep on playing, so was happy to agree a new contract here. I’ve really enjoyed my time with Bath so far, and am looking forward to next season already."

Bath head coach Gary Gold, added: "Strings has been fantastic for us in the short time he has been here so far, so we’re really pleased he’s agreed to stay here for next season rather than going back to Ireland. He is the consummate professional in everything he does, both on and off the field, and that sets a great example for the entire squad."

April 7, 2013

Paul Sackey returning to England

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/07/2013

Former England wing Paul Sackey is set to return to England once his contract with Stade Francais runs out at the end of the season, with a non-London club reported to be his destination.

Sackey, who won 22 caps, has been in France since 2010, first with Toulon and then Stade. However, after he announced that he wouldn’t be signing a new contract, he has been left out of the match-day squad.

“If anything I have trained even harder since they stopped picking me. I want to be ready for what lies ahead of me,” Sackey told The Rugby Paper. “I have no regrets about joining Stade. I was so excited to be coming to such a big club known all over the world and I’ve loved living in Paris.”

Chris Ashton feeling renewed

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/07/2013

Saracens wing Chris Ashton has said he feels he has answered his critics after he came in for criticism for his performances in the Six Nations.

The 26-year-old was criticised for poor defence that allowed France, Italy and Wales to run in tries, but since he returned to club colours he has found his stride again and scored tries in successive matches against London Wasps and Ulster.

“I wanted to come straight back in and I wanted to play and prove a point to myself more than anything,” Ashton said. “The past few weeks have gone well. People in the team are providing space and backing me, and that's all you need sometimes. It gives you confidence.

“Sometimes you have got to realise that opportunities in games are few and far between, but I got a try last week and one this week, so I hope it can carry on.”

April 4, 2013

England Sevens snap up Phil Burgess

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/04/2013

England Sevens have bolstered their roster ahead of next season with the recruitment of Cornish Pirates back-row Phil Burgess.

He has been one of the Championship side's standout players over the past couple of seasons and he illustrated this through his superb try against the Bedford Blues at the weekend. The No.7 will now leave the Mennaye Field at the end of the season to take up a contract with Ben Ryan's England squad.

The Pirates said of Burgess: "Apart from being a very modest man Phil has been awesome for the Pirates in his time with us."

March 27, 2013

Pool-Jones steps aside at Stade Francais

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/27/2013

Top 14 side Stade Francais have announced that sporting director Richard Pool-Jones will relinquish control of the on-field affairs next season and return to his previous position of vice president.

Pool-Jones, a one-cap England international and former Stade Francais player, left the board room last year following the dismissal of Australian coach Michael Cheika but will hand over control of the squad to Christophe Laussucq and David Auradou with immediate effect.

The Paris-based club have struggled this year and currently sit 10th in the Top 14 table and 13 points adrift of the play-off places.

March 25, 2013

Mako Vunipola picks up Game Changer award

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/25/2013

Saracens prop Mako Vunipola has won the Aviva Premiership Gatorade Game Changer Award for February for his barnstorming display against Exeter Chiefs.

The prop claimed the honour, that rewards the most effective single performance each month according to Opta’s performance statistics, having notched two tries to propel his side to a 31-11 victory at Allianz Park. Vunipola is the sixth player this season to receive the award with all the winners set to compete for the Game Changer of the Season Award in May.

Saracens’ director of rugby, Mark McCall said: "Mako was magnificent against Exeter Chiefs. He was good at set pieces and in the loose. He’s a special player and is going to get even better."

March 18, 2013

Draw for Premiership Rugbys 7s announced

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/18/2013

Premiership Rugby has confirmed the draw for this year's J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Series.

Gloucester, Bath, Exeter and Worcester will contest Pool A at Kingsholm on August 1 with Northampton, Leicester, London Welsh and Sale Sharks set to go head-to-head in Pool B at Franklin’s Gardens just 24 hours later.

Pool C will see Saracens, Harlequins, holders London Irish and London Wasps do battle at Allianz Park the following day with Bath's Recreation Ground home set to play host to the series finale on August 9.

March 16, 2013

England U-20 claim Six Nations title

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/16/2013

England Under-20s have been crowed Six Nations champions for an unprecedented third time in a row after an impressive 28-15 win away in Wales at Eirias Park on Friday night.

The tie was on knife edge for large parts of the game and Wales fly half Sam Davies was a constant threat with the boot, but two tries from flanker Harry Wells and one from wing Jack Nowell gave England the win, as fly half Henry Slade added 13 points with the boot.

Departing Head Coach Rob Hunter said: “It’s a massive achievement and the guys deserve all the credit – they’re a hard working group and this trophy is their reward for the work that they have put in. Wales gave it a real go and full credit to them, we never felt comfortable.”

Captain Jack Clifford added: “I’m so happy for all of the boys and all of the management, everyone works so hard and to end up with this trophy as captain is a dream come true. Massive credit to the Welsh though, at no point did we feel like the game was won until the final whistle blew.”

March 14, 2013

England players poised to scoop £2.3m jackpot

Posted by Martin Williamson on 03/14/2013

England’s 23-man squad are poised to share a jackpot of at least £2.3  million if they defeat Wales in Cardiff on Saturday and clinch their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

The article says that any player who has been involved in all five of the Six Nations matches will receive a pro-rata bonus of a minimum of £25,000 – a combined total for the squad of £575,000 - rising to £40,000 if the team win all of their autumn Tests against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand this year.

With each squad player also being paid £15,000 per game in match fees, that would take the total for those who played throughout the Six Nations to £100,000 if they beat Wales.

March 13, 2013

Lewsey lands Cornish Pirates' CEO role

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/13/2013

England World Cup-winner Josh Lewsey has been appointed acting chief executive of the Cornish Pirates.

The ex-Wasps back joins "on a consultative and part-time basis from April to September," according to owner Dicky Evans. Since retiring Lewsey has worked for PwC and Citibank and Evans is looking forward to utilising Lewsey's rugby and busines experience.

In a statement, Evans added: "His CV is of course top notch, but of special significance has been his ability to switch his outstanding sporting ability into the area of business, deliberately differentiating himself from his peers in rugby by learning and adopting a broader set of skills in some of the world's most challenging industries. Josh and I have been in touch for a couple of years on the future of rugby in Cornwall, the Pirates and the stadium and his advice to me behind the scenes has been invaluable."

March 12, 2013

Jamie Noon to hang up boots

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/12/2013

Former England centre Jamie Noon has announced that he will retire at the end of the season.

Noon has 38 caps for England and made his debut for the national side in 2001. On the domestic front he made 168 appearances in the Premiership for Newcastle and he is currently turning out for Brive in the PRO D2. But he announced via Twitter that this season will be his last.

His Tweet read: "After 15 yrs of top flight rugby i'm retiring at the end of the season. So if anyone wants to give me a job. Please get in touch." His ex-Falcons and England team-mate Jonny Wilkinson paid tribute to Noon saying on Twitter: "@noony_13 retiring at the end of the season. Simply amazing player, only word for him. Changed my career playing alongside him at Newcastle".

March 7, 2013

England 7s draft in Ellery and De Carpentier

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/07/2013

England 7s coach Ben Ryan has opted to freshen up his squad for this month's HSBC Sevens World Series event in Hong Kong with the inclusion of Mike Ellery and Richard De Carpentier.

Ellery, 23, has been sidelined by a back injury since appearing in the European GP Series for England last summer but is set to make his first Series appearance at the showpiece tournament. De Carpentier, 22, from Worcester Warriors, returns to the fold nearly two years after featuring at Murrayfield at the end of the 2010-11 campaign.

Ryan said: "Our goals in Hong Kong (March 29-31) and at the following leg in Tokyo (April 6-7) are the same as they were when we went to Wellington: keep on improving our performance so that we keep moving up the table. We also want to make the most of the incredible support for England in Hong Kong and we’ve certainly got a spring in our step heading to So Kon Po.”

England Sevens squad: John Brake, Richard De Carpentier (Worcester Warriors), Sam Edgerley, Mike Ellery, Christian Lewis-Pratt, Dan Norton, Tom Powell, James Rodwell, Mathew Turner, Rob Vickerman (captain), Marcus Watson, Jeff Williams

March 2, 2013

Leicester season ticket sales hit 10,000 mark

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 03/02/2013

Leicester Tigers have announced that they have already sold 10,000 season tickets for next season.

The Tigers sold 14,000 for this season and their success in the Heineken Cup, where they are through to the quarter-finals and the Aviva Premiership, where they currently sit third, has ensured that fans are confident of further success at Welford Road.

“The season ticket figures show the amazing levels of commitment and loyalty this club enjoys from its supporters,” Tigers chief executive Simon Cohen said. “To have 10,000 supporters already committed to next season at this stage says a huge amount for their dedication and to the quality of the club and the team.”

February 27, 2013

Boudjellal - 'I'd give Wilkinson four more years'

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has given a clear indication of just how badly he wants to keep Jonny Wilkinson at the club buy saying he would offer the veteran fly-half a four year deal if he wanted it.

Wilkinson is set to announce whether he will retire at the end of the season in March and while reports suggest he is likely to play on for another year, Boudjellal is clearly a big fan of the ex-England No.10.

"I'd sign him for four years if he wanted to," Boudjellal said. "He knows that if I extend it, it's not for bad reasons. It's just that he's an excellent player."

February 25, 2013

London Irish's Chris Hala'Ufia cited

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/25/2013

London Irish No.8 Chris Hala'Ufia has been cited for his challenge on Wasps' T Rhys Thomas during their Aviva Premiership clash at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.

Hala'Ufia was sin-binned in the second half of his side's vital 30-19 victory for felling Rhys Thomas with a forearm but must face the judiciary following a report from the citing officer Mike Rafter.

The Tonga international's hearing will take place on Tuesday night along with that of Worcester fullback Errie Claassens who must answer a charge of tripping an opponent having been sent off for a challenge on Gloucester's Jonny May during the Cherry and White's 29-23 victory at Kingsholm on Friday night.

February 24, 2013

Lee Dickson relishing Kahn Fotuali'i challenge

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/24/2013

Northampton Saints scrum-half Lee Dickson is adamant that he can fend off the challenge of
Kahn Fotuali'i
who is joining the side at the end of the season.

Fotuali'i is widely regarded to be one of the world's premier scrum-halves and despite the threat to his spot in the side, first-choice No.9 Dickson is looking forward to welcoming the Samoan to Franklin's Gardens. "You play rugby because you want to be challenged," Dickson told the Rugby Paper. "I am a very competitive person and him coming is going to really drive me on as a player.

"It will spur me on to play better and make sure I am on my top game the whole time I go out there. All I've got to do is play well and keep my shirt for the Saints. We are two different types of scrum-half who play different styles. Each game we go into the Saints will be able to choose from two scrum-halves."

February 23, 2013

England U-20s hammer France

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/23/2013

England Under-20s hammered France Under-20s 40-10 at Sixways on Saturday night with skipper Jack Clifford bagging a hat-trick.

Two penalties from Henry Slade had put England into a 6-3 lead at the break and it was the home side who got the first five-pointer on the board thanks to a penalty try in the second-half. But despite being down to 14 men, with Etienne Dussartre in the bin, France pulled it back to 16-10 with Gabriel Lacroix going over.

That proved to be their final score of the match with Clifford running in a hat-trick and winger Henry Purdy also scoring to ensure that the home team bounced back from their round two loss to Ireland in style.

Jason Leonard set to become RFU vice-president

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/23/2013

Former England and Lions prop Jason Leonard is reportedly in-line to take over as president of the Rugby Football Union in time for the 2015 World Cup after being voted onto the RFU board.

The 44-year-old Leonard won the nomination for junior vice-president next season by defeating former England captain John Spencer in a secret ballot during a RFU council meeting on Friday, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Leonard will need his nomination to be ratified at the RFU annual general meeting in July, but he is not expected to face any further opposition.

February 22, 2013

Wasps bring in Joe Carlisle to replace Robinson

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/22/2013

London Wasps have announced that Joe Carlisle will join the club at the end of the season from Worcester Warriors to replace Nick Robinson who is leaving for Bristol.

The 25-year-old Carlisle has scored 477 points in 90 appearances for the Warriors after coming through their academy. Earlier in the season he set a new club record of points scored in a European match, with 30 against Rovigo in the European Cup.

Braid and Miller extend deals with Sale

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/22/2013

Flanker Dan Braid and fullback Rob Miller have both signed new deals with Sale Sharks.

Former All Black Braid has extended the one-year contract he signed at the start of the year after a number of impressive performances, while Miller, who was last season's leading points scorer in the league is rewarded for making himself a fixture in the first team since joining the club in 2010.

"Rob and Dan signing new deals is our statement of intent here at Sale Sharks," Director of Rugby Steve Diamond said.

February 21, 2013

Nicky Robinson swaps Wasps for Bristol

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/21/2013

Championship side Bristol have announced the signing of Wales international fly-half Nicky Robinson on a three-year deal from Premiership club London Wasps.

Robinson, who won the last of his 13 Test caps in 2009, joined Wasps from their Premiership rivals Gloucester in 2011 having previously played for for Cardiff Blues. "Bristol has a famous history and the rugby club is a huge part of the city. I will be proud to represent them and contribute to the team and the goals they have set," he told

"I am under no illusions about the scale of the task ahead. It doesn't matter if Bristol are in the Championship or Premiership next season, there will be some tough challenges to come. I am looking forward to testing myself, developing my game and helping the club push on to the next level."

James Wilson signs new Saints deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/21/2013

Winger James Wilson has signed a new contract with Aviva Premiership side Northampton.

The New Zealander, 29, joined the club last summer from French club Bourgoin and Saints boss Jim Mallinder was delighted to secure his services on a new deal. "We have been impressed by James in his short time at the club," he said. "He has played well in a number of positions and gives us plenty of flexibility within the squad. He has a strong skill set and understands the game well."

Bath promise 'world-class' arena

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/21/2013

Bath owner Bruce Craig is confident that the Premiership club's Recreation Ground home will be transformed into a 'world-class' arena by 2015.

Craig and the club must still overcome several legal hurdles before work can start on a new home with a maximum capacity of around 18,000 but he is adamant the wait will be worth it. "We want to provide a world-class facility and buildings that the city and club can be proud of, are appropriate and add to the beauty and splendour of Bath. It is a tough challenge but it is critical that we get it right," Craig told the Bath Chronicle.

“What we do needs to complement this unique and historic setting, and is for everyone in Bath, both now and for future generations. It is not only for players and supporters as it needs to work for the whole community and our own Bath Rugby Foundation. This is a project close to my heart and one I personally want to see come to fruition for the benefit of all.

Chief executive Nick Blofeld added: "There is a strategy and a process in place and we are making good progress against that, but we have to do things in a sequential way, we have to tick the boxes as we go along to make sure everything is watertight. We don’t want to take anything for granted. We are very grateful to everyone for their continuing support and patience."

Mike Tindall set for new Gloucester deal

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/21/2013

Gloucester are reportedly set to reward veteran centre Mike Tindall with a new contract.

The Citizen reports that the 34-year-old player-backs coach, who will make his 150th appearance for the Cherry and Whites this weekend, is poised to put pen to paper on a new one-year deal at Kingsholm. "He was fantastic, again, at Wasps at the weekend, backing up a big performance against Northampton," Gloucester coach Nigel Davies told the newspaper. "What you don't always see as well is the influence that he has on the team. His presence, his knowledge and how the group look up to him.

"So he's been fabulous as far as I'm concerned, a real bonus, and he's developing into an excellent coach as well. You can't fault him really, his form is excellent, and he's as fit as anybody in the squad. And age is not really relevant when you are that fit. And more importantly, he's hungry, and when players are hungry, they perform. He wants to keep playing, he's enjoying his rugby, he's enjoying his role within the group, and he's one of our top performers at the moment."

February 19, 2013

Sheridan extends Toulon contract

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

Former England prop Andrew Sheridan has penned a new contract that will see him stay with Toulon until at least 2015.

Sheridan joined the Top 14 side from Sale Sharks before the start of the current campaign and has shone for Toulon. Although he is out of the England mix at present, he has been linked with a place in the 2013 British & Irish Lions squad that is travelling to Australia this summer.

February 18, 2013

Lions tickets sell out in minutes

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/18/2013

Tickets for the British & Irish Lions' eagerly-awaited Test series with Australia later this year sold out within 15 minutes of going on sale to the public on Monday.

An Australian Rugby Union spokesman said all of the undisclosed public allocation - with prices ranging from ranging from A$95-A$295 (£63-£196) - were snapped up for the Melbourne (June 29) and Sydney (July 6) with tickets for the Melbourne showdown (June 22) selling out in similar time when they went on sale an hour later.

February 15, 2013

Leicester's Mathew Tait targeting England recall

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/15/2013

Leicester Tigers fullback Mathew Tait remains hopeful of earning an England recall in the future.

The 27-year-old, who has 38 caps for his country, has not played for England since 2010 having been plagued by a succession of injuries. However he has played 13 games for the Tigers since November and has been in touch with England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

"I would love to play for my country again, but that only comes from playing every week and doing well," Tait told the BBC. "I've spoken to Stuart but it has not really been at the forefront of my mind.

"I've always said that if I'm playing well here, then the rest takes care of itself as and when or if I'm needed. It has been nice to get a run of games. I can't remember the last time I played this however many games back-to-back - I'm just enjoying it."

February 13, 2013

Player of Six Nations to be chosen via social media

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/13/2013

This year’s Six Nations Player of the Championship will be chosen with the aid of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Fans’ comments will be recorded via "social listening technology", scored and added to players’ technical statistics to compile a shortlist for the award which will then be circulated to supporters who will then be able to vote for their Player of the Championship.

Wales flanker Dan Lydiate was last year's award following a poll on the official Six Nations website.

February 10, 2013

Gold tips Kyle Eastmond for Lions call-up

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/10/2013

Bath boss Gary Gold insists that Kyle Eastmond is very much in the British & Irish Lions frame after starring in their victory over Worcester on Saturday.

The versatile Eastmond has played in the centres, on the wing and at fly-half for Bath this term and Gold believes the rugby league convert has a lot to offer the Lions. "Kyle will create havoc if he is taken out to Australia, but I'm not sure the Lions coaches are bold enough to want to go with someone like that," Gold told the Rugby Paper. "In 2009, I coached against the Lions and they brought Keith Earls as a wildcard.

"With Kyle's league background, his passing skills, his pace and the hard fields of Australia, it would be a great call. We're playing around with a couple of ideas and letting Kyle attack from 12. He's a prodigious talent, outstanding. We need the ball in his hands."

February 8, 2013

Late try sees Ireland U20s beat England rivals

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/08/2013

Wing Rory Scholes scored a try five minutes from time to earn the Ireland U20s a 16-15 win over their England U20s in Athlone on Friday night.

England appeared set for victory after five penalties from fly-half Henry Slade but Tom Daly scored his third penalty in the 63rd minute to bring Ireland into touching distance and the centre’s conversion of Scholes’ try gave Ireland the win.

Elsewhere, Scotland U20s defeated Italy U20s 30-17 in Galashields .

Premiership stars inducted into Hall of Fame

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/08/2013

Some of the biggest names in English club rugby were honoured when Premiership Rugby launched its Hall of Fame at the Hurlingham Club in London on Thursday night.

Thirty-one players and coaches, representing three distinct eras, were inducted with many of them present to help celebrate the best of the last 15 years of Premiership Rugby.

The 1997-2003 era: Andy Robinson (1999-2000), Dean Richards (2000-01), Conor O'Shea/Brendan Venter (2001-02), Warren Gatland (2002-03), Pat Lam (97-98), Martin Johnson (98-99), Austin Healey (1999-2000), Iain Balshaw (2000-01), Jason Robinson (2001-02), Jake Boer (2002-03)

The 2003-2007 era: Simon Shaw (2003-04), Martin Corry (2004-05), Mike Catt (2005-06), Martin Castrogiovanni (2006-07), ,John Connolly (2003-04), John Wells (2004-05), Philippe Saint-Andre (2005-06), Pat Howard (2006-07)

The 2007-2012 era: James Simpson-Daniel (2007-08), Chris Robshaw (2008-09 and 2011-12), Chris Ashton (2009-10), Tom Wood (2010-11), Dean Ryan (2007-08), Richard Cockerill (2008-09), Andy Key (2009-10), Jim Mallinder (2010-11) and Rob Baxter (2011-12)

The 2013 Inductees: Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers), George Chuter (Saracens and Leicester Tigers), Charlie Hodgson (Sale Sharks and Saracens)

Christian Day handed three-week ban

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/08/2013

Northampton lock Christian Day has been suspended for three weeks by an RFU disciplinary panel for stamping on an opponent during last Saturday's Anglo-Welsh Cup match at Exeter.

The player had been charged with the offence contrary to law 10.4 (b) following a report by the citing officer Matt Bayliss. Day, who pleaded guilty at last night's hearing, is suspended from February 7 until February 27 and is free to play again the following day.

February 6, 2013

London Irish re-sign Armitage

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/06/2013

London Irish have bolstered their squad ahead of next season with the recruitment of Guy Armitage from Toulon.

Brother of Steffon and Delon, Guy signed for Toulon at the end of the 2011-12 season but found his game time limited. He re-joined London Irish earlier this term on loan and has now penned a two-year deal.

"Guy Armitage is fast becoming one of the most dynamic power centres in the country," Exiles boss Brian Smith said. "He’s a genuine Premiership player with the ability to go on and play for England like his two older brothers. Guy has forced his way into the starting team this season and if he keeps performing may well be considered for England’s summer tour of Argentina."

February 5, 2013

Bristol Rugby announce groundshare with Bristol City

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/05/2013

Bristol Rugby have announced that they will groundshare with Bristol City from the 2014-15 season onwards.

Bristol will leave their Memorial Stadium behind but will play there next term. “We can confirm that Bristol Rugby will in the future share a home with Bristol City," Bristol chairman Chris Booy said. “We now know that in the foreseeable future there will either be a new stadium at Ashton Vale or a redeveloped multi-purpose stadium at Ashton Gate.

"I am therefore now able to confirm that it is our intention to groundshare with the football club in the future. Whichever outcome, new stadium or a redeveloped one, this is an exciting project to be linked with and represents a bright future for our club.”

February 4, 2013

England confirm pre-2015 World Cup schedule

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/04/2013

The Rugby Football Union has announced a trio of warm-up Tests for England which will occur the run up to the next World Cup.

England start against France at Twickenham on August 15 and will then take on Les Bleus on their home turf a week later on August 22. They finish their trio of warm-up clashes when they host Ireland at Twickenham on September 5.

"These Test matches will be vital in our preparations for the World Cup," Stuart Lancaster said. "To have two internationals at Twickenham Stadium, in front of our passionate fans, will be something to look forward to and we are grateful to the French and Irish unions for helping us arrange these fixtures so soon after the draw.”

February 3, 2013

Croft sets sights on Argentina tour

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/03/2013

Leicester Tigers' flanker Tom Croft has conceded that he is more likely to be on England's tour of Argentina come the summer than with the British & Irish Lions in Australia.

Croft was one of the standout performers on the Lions' 2009 tour of South Africa but after enduring a year where he has spent most of it on the sidelines through injury, Croft admits that his chances of touring with the Lions are slim.

"There's a Lions tour of Australia and an England tour to Argentina," Croft told the Rugby Paper. "My goal is probably to get on that England tour. After the injury I've had, if I could squeeze in a Six Nations match or two that would be a bonus. Then, if I can have a good run of form, I might get a call for Argentina."

England Women claim Houston 7s title

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/03/2013

England lifted the second IRB Women’s Sevens World Series title in Houston following a dominant display in the final over hosts USA.

England ran out 29-12 winners after an excellent weekend, where they had to beat the champions from Dubai, New Zealand, twice on the way to lifting the title. Jo Watmore scored a hat-trick in the final, in a display of real power and pace, and England, led strongly by captain Alice Richardson and with Heather Fisher in sublime form, fully deserved their title. USA were in many ways surprise finalists, having failed to reach the quarter-final stages in the first round of the series in Dubai, but inspired by their home fans and their skipper Vanesha McGee and talismanic wide player Nathalie Marchino, they were outstanding over the two days.

Fisher, who was named player of the tournament, expressed her delight afterwards. "That final could have involved any one of the top eight sides because there is very little between everyone. This is a fantastic result for us and a platform us to build on for the next few months heading into the World Cup. It means the world to us. It was really tough to have to play New Zealand and Netherlands twice but we treated every game like it was the final and that’s the attitude we took into each one. We rose to it and we were calm and composed."

February 2, 2013

Castro ready for Toulon switch

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/02/2013

Italy’s Martin Castrogiovanni has confirmed that he is close to becoming the latest player to join Toulon, but must wait for his club Leicester Tigers to reach an agreement with the French side.

The 91-time capped prop has a year remaining on his contract at Welford Road, but remains hopeful the two clubs can negotiate a deal.

"I have reached an agreement with Toulon but I still have a year on my contract at Leicester," the 31-year-old told ESPN Radio. "The two clubs are in the process of reaching a deal. In theory, all is sorted out. I should sign next week but I cannot say I am a Toulon player nor that I have left Leicester."

February 1, 2013

RFU issue rugby betting warning

Posted by James Bass on 02/01/2013

The Rugby Football Union has reportedly informed all personnel including the England squad that they face being banned from betting on all forms of rugby as part of the International Rugby Board's efforts to prevent a match-fixing scandal.

The Daily Telegraph reports that players and officials will no longer be allowed to place a bet of any kind “on any rugby in the world” or share inside or confidential information to any third parties. The IRB are rolling out a new anti-corruption and betting education programme in a bid to avoid the kind of betting scandals that have blighted other professional sports such as cricket. The IRB also introduced a regulation last month that established a scheme of enforcement and sanctions that apply “across the game at Test and professional rugby level”, which include zero tolerance of corruption with potential life bans.

"Match fixing and corruption is a threat to all sports and while there is no history of prevalence in rugby," said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset. "It's important that we continue to review our regulations to ensure that they are fit for purpose in safeguarding the rugby community from such threats."

January 31, 2013

Referees to clamp down in Six Nations

Posted by James Bass on 01/31/2013

Referees in this year's Six Nations have been instructed to crack down on infringements at the scrum and to promote more attacking play.

A "highly-positive" meeting of coaching and refereeing representatives in London produced no new areas of emphasis for referees from those previously given priority status by the International Rugby Board - the tackle, offside at the breakdown, offside from kicks, the scrum and the maul.

However, it was agreed that referees would focus on ensuring quick ball "was not prevented illegally by defences, with tacklers, assistant tacklers and arriving players all obliged to show compliance". In addition, coaches were told that "front rows must be more compliant" at scrum time "as referees have been instructed to be less tolerant of infringements in this area".

Referee Nigel Owens, who will take charge of two matches during the Six Nations, said: "From a referee’s perspective a meeting like this makes a big difference for everyone to be on the same wavelength in terms of what is expected from us and by us. There is a clear direction for the tournament in terms of giving teams a chance to play attacking rugby while penalising foul play. So it’s certainly of benefit to get together as a group in order to improve the product that is the 6 Nations and get that extra per cent out of everyone on the park."

May and Mullan named in Saxons line-up

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/31/2013

Jonny May and Matt Mullan have been drafted into the England Saxons starting line-up for Friday night’s clash with Scotland A in Newcastle.

Gloucester winger May takes over from Wasps' Christian Wade and Worcester Warriors’ prop Mullan replaces Gloucester's Nick Wood at loose-head. Head coach Jon Callard has kept changes to a minimum following last week’s 14-10 win against the Ireland Wolfhounds in Galway in the hope of erasing the memory of last year's 35-0 defeat to the Scots.

England Saxons: Elliot Daly (London Wasps); Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Joel Tomkins (Saracens), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Tom Biggs (Bath Rugby); George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens); Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors), Joe Gray (Harlequins), Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers), George Robson (Harlequins), George Kruis (Saracens), Will Fraser (Saracens), Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers, captain).

Replacements: Rob Buchanan (Harlequins), Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby), Kieran Brookes (Leicester Tigers), Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers), Jamie Gibson (London Irish), Joe Simpson (London Wasps), George Lowe (Harlequins), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)

January 30, 2013

Ryan Wilson captains Scotland A against Saxons

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

Glasgow Warriors' Ryan Wilson has been named Scotland A captain ahead of Friday night's match in Newcastle against the England Saxons.

The XV features seven Test-capped players including Bath's Tom Heathcote. And there is also a place in the side for Saracens' Duncan Taylor who starts on the wing.

Scotland A: Greig Tonks (Edinburgh), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Nikki Walker (Worcester Warriors), Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby), Sean Kennedy (Glasgow Warriors); Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks), Steven Lawrie (Edinburgh), Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors), Tom Ryder (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors)

Replacements: Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Shiells (Newcastle Falcons), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Robert McAlpine (Edinburgh Rugby), James Eddie (Glasgow Warriors), Jamie Stevenson (London Scottish), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh Rugby), Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby)

Not considered due to injury: Ross Rennie (Edinburgh Rugby), Peter Horne, Chris Cusiter, Chris Fusaro, Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (London Irish).

George Ford targets regular first-team rugby

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

George Ford is hopeful that his decision to leave Leicester Tigers will lead to more regular rugby next season.

Ford is reportedly on the verge of joining Bath Rugby ahead of next season and he is hopeful that the move away from the Tigers, where he frequently found himself on the bench with Toby Flood starting, will pay dividends. "It is difficult when you are on the bench and you are coming on for 10 or 20 minutes each game. Playing a full 80 minutes is what I need to be doing really," Ford told Press Association Sport. "Like any young player, you need to be playing and the more you play the better you get.

"For any young player who is willing to learn and progress in their career they need to be playing as much as they can. It was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make and I didn't take it lightly. Young players need to be playing to learn and develop. It (my situation) is no different to any young player."

RFU to receive review findings

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

The five-month review into England’s elite structure will be presented to the Rugby Football Union board on Wednesday by Sir Ian McGeechan and Peter Keen.

Keen and McGeechan’s review focused on improving the management structures of England's age-group teams and was established in the aftermath of England’s failed 2011 World Cup campaign. Reports suggest that there are no radical calls for change contained within the report, with any recommendations unlikely to be serious enough to warrant a vote by the board.

The Telegraph reports that Rob Andrew, the RFU’s professional rugby director, will keep his job but claims that his influence over the senior side will diminish over the coming years.

Andy Short agrees to Bristol move

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

Worcester Warriors centre Andy Short has agreed to a move to Bristol ahead of next season and will join the Championship side for two years.

I’ve been impressed with Andy since watching him play for the England U20s,” said head coach Liam Middleton. “His potential is great, but more importantly his driven and ambitious character fits well with the culture at Bristol. Andy has the ability to play in the centre and on the wing, posing a try-scoring threat through his pace, power and footwork. His defence is strong both in the thirteen channel and on the wing."

January 29, 2013

Saxons add Phil Swainston to the mix

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/29/2013

The England Saxons have called up London Wasps prop Phil Swainston to the squad ahead of Friday's match with Scotland A.

Swainston replaces Gloucester's Shaun Knight who has returned to his club to have treatment on a sore left knee.

January 28, 2013

London Welsh sign Gonzalo Tiesi

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/28/2013

London Welsh have strengthened their options at centre with the signing Argentina’s Gonzalo Tiesi.

Tiesi, 27, has previously enjoyed spells in the Aviva Premiership with London Irish and Harlequins and joins London Welsh from Buenos Aires side San Isidro Club. Capped 32 times by Argentina, Tiesi made his international debut in 2004 against South Africa and featured at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups.

London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones said: "The signing of Gonzalo Tiesi is a very significant one by the club. He’s a proven and very experienced Premiership player who has had positive spells at London Irish and Harlequins in the past. He’s also a player of true international quality and he proved himself again over the autumn period with Argentina. We look forward to Gonzalo adding a great deal to the playing and training environment at London Welsh."

January 26, 2013

Tom Croft given all-clear following injury scare

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/26/2013

England flanker Tom Croft has been cleared of serious injury after lasting just 11 minutes of Leicester's 34-8 Anglo-Welsh Cup victory over Wasps at Welford Road on Saturday.

The 27-year-old suffered a back injury on only his second start since returning from eight months on the sidelines after a shoulder operation but Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said it was not serious. "Crofty just got a knee in his back and it was a bit bruised and a bit tight in the soft bit between his hip and spine," Cockerill said. "It was just bad luck, one of those things. He needed to play but that's life. It's nothing serious, just a bang."

There was not such positive news for his team-mate Tom Price who was taken to hospital after being knocked unconscious on his debut. "He is at the hospital. He is not very good," said Cockerill. "It was his neck. He was unconscious and struggling. He has got movement in his hands and feet and, hopefully, he will be okay."

January 25, 2013

Rob Webber to make Bath debut

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Bath have handed a debut to hooker Rob Webber ahead of their Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with Exeter on Saturday.

Webber signed for Bath in the summer but suffered a shoulder injury. He has since lost his place in England's elite player squad but he is relishing the chance to get back out onto the field. "I'm chuffed to bits to be getting my first start," Webber said. "Bit nervous after such a long time out, but I just need to get amongst it, do the basics well and build game by game to get back to the standards I expect of myself."

Matt Kvesic linked with Gloucester move

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Worcester Warriors back-row Matt Kvesic is reportedly on the verge of agreeing to a move to their Aviva Premiership rivals Gloucester.

Reports in the Worcester News claim that Kvesic, whose contract is up at the end of the season, is set to join the likes of Miles Benjamin and Tom Wood in deciding his future lies away from Sixways. The openside, who is currently training with England, is also understood to be wanted by Bath but Gloucester seems to be his favoured destination.

The same newspaper also claims that prop Matt Mullan will leave Worcester at the end of the campaign with Wasps the favourites to land his signature.

January 24, 2013

Wolfhounds name James Coughlan as skipper

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/24/2013

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has named eight uncapped players in the starting XV ahead of their match with the Saxons on Friday.

Ulster duo Paddy Jackson and Paul Marshall form the half back partnership and are joined in the backline by Robbie Henshaw and David McSharry. Up front Mike Sherry packs down between the recently capped Dave Kilcoyne and Michael Bent. Lewis Stevenson is named at second-row alongside Devin Toner while Kevin McLaughlin and the uncapped Tommy O'Donnell completes the backrow with Coughlan.

Ireland Wolfhounds: Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Dave McSharry, Luke Fitzgerald, Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, Michael Bent, Lewis Stevenson, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Tommy O'Donnell, James Coughlin

Replacements: Damien Varley, Tom Court, Declan Fitzpatrick, Iain Henderson, Rhys Ruddock, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Ian Keatley

England Saxons name side to face Wolfhounds

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/24/2013

England Saxons head coach Jon Callard has named host of fresh faces in his side to tackle the Ireland Wolfhounds at The Sportsground in Galway on Friday night.

London Wasps centre Elliot Daly and Saracens centre Joel Tomkins get the nod in the backline while Saracens duo George Kruis and Will Fraser are the debutants up front at blindside and openside respectively. Four more replacements are also set to make their first appearances at this level with former England U20 trio Rob Buchanan (Harlequins), Shaun Knight (Gloucester Rugby) and George Lowe (Harlequins) joined by ex-Rugby League international Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby).

England Saxons: Elliot Daly (London Wasps); Christian Wade (London Wasps), Joel Tomkins (Saracens), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Tom Biggs (Bath Rugby); George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens); Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby), Joe Gray (Harlequins), Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers), George Robson (Harlequins), George Kruis (Saracens), Will Fraser (Saracens), Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers, captain)

Replacements: Rob Buchanan (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors), Shaun Knight (Gloucester Rugby), Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers), Jamie Gibson (London Irish), Joe Simpson (London Wasps), George Lowe (Harlequins), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)

Andrew Strauss addresses England squad

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/24/2013

Former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss and Jessica Ennis' coach Toni Minichiello have become the latest high-profile speakers to address the England squad.

Strauss, who steered England to the No.1 Test ranking for the first time, and Minichiello, who orchestrated Ennis' London 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning performance, spoke to Stuart Lancaster's squad at their Leeds training base as part of their preparations for the forthcoming Six Nations.

Strauss and Minichello, who were asked to give the squad an insight into handling high expectations and still delivering a top-class performance, follow the likes of Tour de France-winning cyclist Bradley Wiggins and former England footballer Gary Neville.

January 21, 2013

Matt Kvesic out to grab England chance

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/21/2013

Worcester flanker Matt Kvesic is determined to make the most of his England call-up having been drafted into the training squad after a series of injuries.

Kvesic, 20, steps up from the Saxons along with Saracens lock Mouritz Botha following injuries to Exeter flanker Tom Johnson (knee) and Northampton forward Calum Clark (shoulder) during the latest Heineken Cup action. Harlequins wing Ugo Monye will also train with the squad while players involved in games over the weekend are assessed including Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns who picked up a knee injury.

"I have been fortunate to have a run of games at Warriors, and now I am delighted to get the call from England," Kvesic told Worcester's official website. "It would be fantastic to get the opportunity to feature in the Six Nations, but my priority now is meeting up with the team, keeping my head down and working hard to try and make that a reality."

January 19, 2013

Lewis Moody backs Chris Robshaw to kick on

Posted by James Bass on 01/19/2013

Former England captain Lewis Moody has thrown his support behind current skipper Chris Robshaw and believes he is exactly the right person to lead the side into the Six Nations.

Moody, who preceded Robshaw as England skipper, believes that the criticism his successor received for some of his decision-making in the autumn will help him develop as a player and is confident he will continue to grow into the captaincy role.

"I have been very impressed with Chris, he has done an outstanding job," Moody told Press Association Sport. "He came in for some criticism in the autumn for his decision-making, but leadership is not something you just suddenly become accustomed to after a handful of games. He is relatively young and he will continue to learn. He is improving game on game. All you can do is perform and that is all you can ask of your captain."

January 18, 2013

Billy Vunipola suffers knee injury

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 01/18/2013

Billy Vunipola suffered a knee injury during Wasps’ win over the Dragons in Wales on Thursday night but director of rugby Dai Young was quick to calms fears of a long-term absence.

The Wasps No.8, who is due to train with England ahead of the Six Nations and recently announced his departure to Saracens for next season, hobbled off during the second half of Wasps' 20-19 victory.

But Young said: “It’s a collision injury, it was knee on knee when he carried. It’s swollen up a little bit and we don’t know how serious it is at the moment, but it’s not ligament trouble so hopefully he won’t be too bad.”

Leeds ordered to replay Plymouth fixture

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/18/2013

The Rugby Football Union has ruled that Leeds Carnegie must replay their controversial Championship fixture with Plymouth Albion.

Leeds won the original fixture 34-16 but it was mired in controversy after referee Matthew Carley ordered uncontested scrums after just 13 minutes of the game due to concerns about the recently re-laid playing surface.

Following an RFU review into the game they ruled that Carley had had "correctly ruled the pitch was not safe for scrummaging" with the game set to be re-arranged between February 1-3.

Alex Corbisiero plays down concerns over injury

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/18/2013

England prop Alex Corbisiero has rubbished the suggestion that he is suffering from a "degenerative" knee injury.

Corbisiero's troublesome injury was recently described that way by London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith but the player himself insists that comment was misleading. "Degenerative is definitely incorrect and it was maybe the wrong phrase to use," Corbisiero told PA Sport. "It is not really any effect on my career or anything like that. It just needs time to get 100%."

The 24-year-old will miss the start of England's Six Nations campaign but is hoping to play some part in the championship. "My knee will get better, it will settle down. I have been reassured by everyone," he said. "It has been a frustrating injury for me, to come back from my surgery and have it flare up again. I am letting it settle down to get 100% healthy so I can push on again. I can't rush it. I am hoping to be back playing in the next couple of weeks."

January 17, 2013

Tom Varndell pens new Wasps deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/17/2013

Wasps flyer Tom Varndell has signed a new contract that will keep him at the club for the "next few seasons".

Varndell has been in electric form for the Aviva Premiership side so far this term and has scored 13 tries in 16 games. Varndell's re-signing comes hot on the heels of Chris Bell's decision to stay with the team and will give Wasps fans some cheer after Billy Vunipola announced earlier this week that he will join Saracens at the end of the campaign.

January 16, 2013

England call on McGeechan

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

British & Irish Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan will help England in their build-up to the Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland on February 2.

McGeechan, who is currently Leeds' executive chairman, will assist Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team in the week running up to their match against Scott Johnson's Scotland. And despite McGeechan's Scottish roots, the former Wasps and Bath coach is adamant that he will stay loyal to Lancaster's men.

McGeechan told the Daily Express: "It's a privilege to be asked and to be able to watch and to be allowed an insight, but I will not take that knowledge elsewhere."

Williams pens new Harlequins deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/16/2013

Harlequins winger Tom Williams has signed a new deal that will see him stay with the Aviva Premiership champions until the end of the 2014-15 season.

Williams has scored 52 tries for Quins and has also turned out for the England Sevens side. Quins boss Conor O'Shea was delighted with Williams' decision to stay at the club. "Tom's form over the last 12 months has been outstanding and we are all really looking forward to him continuing that over the coming years," O'Shea said. "Tom has already played 185 times for the club and at 29 has some great years of rugby ahead of him. He is one of the club's original academy graduates and his willingness to work with our younger players has had a big impact on their development."

Williams added: "I am delighted to be staying at Harlequins for a further two years. The opportunity to contribute to a club playing such an exciting brand of rugby with a group of ambitious and talented players made the decision to stay an easy one."

January 15, 2013

Chris Robshaw named writers' Player of the Year

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 01/15/2013

England and Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw has capped his breakthrough year by being voted Rugby Union Writers’ 2012 Player of the Year.

The 26-year-old was handed the England captaincy at the start of 2012 and led the team to second place in the SIx Nations during which their only defeat came to Grand Slam winners, Wales. He then became the first Harlequins captain to lift the Premiership trophy as the team from south-west London tore into Leicester Tigers to win their maiden title with a 30-23 victory in the Premiership final.

His came in for some criticism as England could only draw the third Test on a three-Test June tour to South Africa and his decision making came under fire in consecutive November losses to Australia and South Africa. However, he finished his year on a high as England became the first team to beat New Zealand since they won the World Cup in 2011 with a rampant 38-21 victory at Twickenham.

There was also a special award for former Wales and British Lions fly-half Cliff Morgan.

January 14, 2013

Cockerill plays down injury fears

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/14/2013

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill has moved to ease fears over injuries suffered by the England duo of Manu Tuilagi and Tom Youngs during the Tigers' Heineken Cup draw with Ospreys on Sunday.

Centre Tuilagi limped out of the game with an apparent ankle injury and was later seen in a protective boot while Youngs also handed England coach Stuart Lancaster a scare with a calf injury. But Cockerill was quick to play down the significance of the injuries and backed both players to be fit for the showdown with Toulouse next weekend. "Manu has tweaked his ankle and has a bit of a tight calf, Tom had some cramp in his calf but both will be fit next weekend.’" Cockerill said following the Liberty Stadium clash.

January 4, 2013

Lancaster praises 'winner' Fourie

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/04/2013

England coach Stuart Lancaster has paid tribute to Hendre Fourie after the former Sale flanker announced his retirement from the game on Thursday. Lancaster coached Fourie, who won eight caps for England under Martin Johnson, at Leeds and he is adamant that Fourie will succeed in whatever post-rugby career he opts to head into.

“Andre Bester did a great job in identifying and developing Hendre at Rotherham and when I signed him for Leeds he proved to be an outstanding player, showing that by rising to achieve full England honours," Lancaster said. “I am sure that he will go on to be successful in life because he is a real competitor and a winner.”