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April 30, 2013

Toulon wrap up Habana deal

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/30/2013

Heineken Cup finalists Toulon have confirmed that South Africa wing Bryan Habana will be their latest big-name signing.

"After Australian wing Drew Mitchell, South African Bryan Habana will garnish the ranks of the Red and Black for the next two seasons,” the club said on its website.

Habana wants to remain in contention to add to his 83 Springbok caps despite his deal with Toulon meaning he has been removed from their list of contracted players. In recent years Ruan Pienaar and Francois Steyn have won caps despite not playing in South Africa.

April 12, 2013

Irish young player award named after Spence

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/12/2013

The Irish Rugby Union Players Association have renamed their Young Player of the Year award after Nevin Spence.

Ulster centre Spence won the award in 2011, but died a year later following an accident on his parent’s farm in which his father and brother also lost their lives.

His Ulster team-mate Rory Best said, "In his short career, Nevin had a very positive influence on Ulster Rugby, Ireland, his team, friends and family, his memory lives on with us every day and through this Award we know his influence will continue."

The Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year Award will be presented for the first time at the Hibernia College IRUPA Awards which take place on Wednesday, May 8 at Dublin's Burlington Hotel.

April 7, 2013

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 6, 2013

Ex-France prop warns of doping in rugby

Posted by James Bass on 04/06/2013

Former French international prop Laurent Benezech has claimed that doping in rugby is being overlooked and that action needs to be taken to avoid scandals similar to cycling.

"The evidence (of doping in rugby) is in front of our eyes but no-one's interested," former Harlequins and Racing Metro hooker Benezech told French newspaper Le Monde. "I notice no one has made reference to the recent letter sent by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby to clubs to alert them of the overuse of Corticosteroids. Rugby is in exactly the same situation that cycling was before the Festina affair.”

The Festina scandal is an infamous cycling doping case from 1998 in which a team member from the Festina race team was found to be carrying doping products. It resulted in a widescale crackdown on drugs cheats in the sport and helped bring in initiatives to get doping out of cycling.

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 28, 2013

Ferris weighing up Japan move

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 03/28/2013

Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris is reportedly contemplating a move to the Japanese Top League after he turned down a pay as you play contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

The 2009 Lion has been afflicted by knee and ankle injuries over the last 12 months and the 27-year-old has only played four times for Ulster this season.

He hasn’t featured for Ireland since their 30-9 loss to England in the final round of matches in the 2012 Six Nations and The Irish Independent reports that it is this run of injuries that prompted the IRFU to make an offer that was linked to his ability to feature in matches.

If he does move to Japan he will follow the likes of James Haskell, Sonny Bill Williams and Brad Thorne who have made big money moves there in recent years.

Schalk Burger hospitalised with meningitis

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 03/28/2013

South Africa flanker Schalk Burger has been admitted to hospital with bacterial meningitis.

His family announced the news, saying; "We as a family herewith would like to advise all the fans, supporters, sponsors and employers of Schalk that he was yesterday afternoon diagnosed as having contracted bacterial meningitis following an operation to reduce pressure on a nerve that was influencing the performance of his calf muscle.

"Given a successful recovery, he will remain in hospital for the next 14 days and where after it will be at least another six weeks before he will be fit for playing."

The World Cup winner has missed most of the last two seasons. Last year he injured a knee on the opening match of the season and then strained a calf muscle earlier this year.

March 24, 2013

Murrayfield to get artificial pitch?

Posted by James Bass on 03/24/2013

The Scottish Rugby Union is considering installing a semi-artificial pitch at Murrayfield in the future similar to that used at Twickenham.

Murrayfield could potentially follow the trend of using “plastic” pitches, such as the one recently put in at Saracens’ ground Allianz Park, in order to save on maintenance costs and increase the number of matches played at the ground.

The home of England Rugby currently uses a hybrid pitch which combines grass interwoven with plastic and a spokesman from the SRU says they will be looking into the option.

“Scottish Rugby is always keen to explore innovation and new technology and we have an internal team looking into the subject of artificial pitches at present. Their work is under way and they will seek to evaluate the success of other grounds/developments and the costs of such projects."

March 16, 2013

Cyprus clock up record-breaking win

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/16/2013

Cyprus beat Bulgaria 79-10 to bring their winning run to 18-consecutive wins.

Cyprus have been unbeaten for over four years, since their only previous defeat at Test level; 14-23 to Israel in Netanya in the promotion play-offs for the FIRA/AER Championships on September 6, 2008. That means, prior to today's game, they were on 17-consecutive wins - a record shared between three other countries. But today's triumph over Bulgaria puts them top of the charts, according to ESPNscrum's records.

The IRB claims that Lithuania have also gone 18-matches unbeaten but they do not include an 18-3 loss to Armenia which occurred during the winning sequence.

February 23, 2013

Wales and Scotland U-20s claim wins

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/23/2013

Wales maintained their unbeaten run in this year's Under-20 Six Nations with a 25-10 victory over Italy in Viterbo on Saturday.

Daniel Thomas and Rhodri Williams notched tries for the visitors who also claimed a penalty try. Italy hit back after half-time through Maxime Mata-Mbanga' but Sam Davies’ kicking kept the them at arm’s-length.

At Netherdale, Scotland claimed their second win of the championship with a 21-20 victory over Ireland. Wing Damien Hoyland scored his second try of the match five minutes from time that fly-half Tommy Allan converted for the win.

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 12, 2013

Referee Jonathan Kaplan to retire

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/12/2013

Referee Jonathan Kaplan will retire at the end of the 2013 South African season.

Kaplan, 46, will step down after 21 years on the South Africa Rugby Union’s elite panel having refereed more internationals, Super Rugby and Currie Cup matches than anyone else.

“Rugby has been my life for the past few decades and I’ve made the decision with a tinge of sadness,” said Kaplan. “But the time has come to move on and make way for the young referees we have coming through in South Africa.

“I’ve had an incredible career, and I’d like to thank both SARU and the IRB for the opportunities they have given me. I’ve always prided myself on having the best interests of the game at heart and being brave enough to try and get the best out of every game in which I have been involved. I’ll miss my front row seats on the big stage.”

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 .

South Africa great Jan Ellis dies

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/08/2013

South African rugby has paid tribute to former Springbok flanker Jan Ellis who has died of cancer in Pretoria aged 71.

“Our condolences go to Jan’s family and his friends,” South Africa Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins said. “Jan Ellis was one of the greatest Springbok loose forwards of any era. He was one of those unbelievably tough Springbok forwards for which our country is renowned.”

Ellis won his first cap against New Zealand in Wellington in 1965, aged 22 and didn’t lose his place until his was 34. He won 34 caps for the Springboks and scored seven tries before he ended his Test career after the 16-7 win over the All Blacks in Durban in 1976.

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."

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 11, 2013

IRB to push TMO trial worldwide

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/11/2013

The International Rugby Board has confirmed that from next season, the current trial of the extension to the Television Match Official's (TMO) powers will be pushed worldwide.

The Aviva Premiership and the Currie Cup have trialled the extension so far and the IRB claims that they have been "highly successful". And following this, in both domestic and international matches next season, the referee will be able to call on the TMO to check for possible evidence of foul play mid-match. The referee can also check whether certain tries can be given by asking the TMO to "review up to two phases (rucks or mauls) before the ball is grounded in the act of scoring" to see if there is any reason why the score cannot be given.

The two phase aspect to that area of the TMO's powers is different to that of the trial in the Premiership. Referees in that competition were permitted to look back further but the panel responsible for the trial - the Laws Representative Group - deemed the Currie Cup's trial of restricting the referee to a more limited time-frame of just the two phases to be more successful.