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May 24, 2013

Newcastle edge nearer Premiership

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/24/2013

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 sign Wasps' Jack Wallace

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/23/2013

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."

May 10, 2013

Wasps bolster back-row with Jersey star

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/10/2013

London Wasps have added to their back-row resources with the signing of Jersey's Guy Thompson.

The back-rower was nominated for the RFU Championship Player of the Year award and arrived at Jersey from Gloucester's academy. “Guy has made a lot of people sit up and take notice with his performances in the Championship this season," Wasps' Dai Young said. "He is an explosive runner who will scare defences with his pace and power. His ability to play across the back row will be very valuable and we are all looking forward to seeing what he can do at this level.”

Thompson said of the move: "I am really excited about Wasps and working with some fantastic players and coaches. It’s a squad with some incredibly talented young players and it’s great to see that the coaches are not afraid to give guys without huge experience a chance to show what they can do. I can’t wait to get started.”

May 7, 2013

Falcons' promotion hopes take a blow

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/07/2013

Newcastle Falcons lost the first leg of their RFU Championship play-off semi-final against Leeds Carnegie.

Dean Richards’ Falcons fell 24-19 at Leeds with their No.8 Ryan Burrows crossing for a late try to hand Carnegie the win. The Falcons will now entertain Leeds at their Kingston Park home on Sunday looking to overturn the deficit.

Elsewhere in the play-offs Bedford, who failed the required criteria for promotion to the Aviva Premiership, downed Nottingham 26-17 with Mark Atkinson and Ben Ransom getting their tries.

April 30, 2013

Saracens sign Richard Barrington

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/30/2013

Jersey prop Richard Barrington has agreed to join Saracens for the start of next season.

Earlier in the season the 23-year-old trained with the north London side ahead of their LV=Cup match against Worcester Warriors and he is the second prop to join Saracens for next season after Harlequins’ James Johnston agreed a deal earlier in the year.

Barrington said, “Saracens have a fantastic set-up and one thing that I took away after training with the club was the complete focus on people and how well the players and coaches go about their business. I’m very excited at the chance to develop as a player as part of a fantastic squad.”

April 23, 2013

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 22, 2013

Newcastle bring in three more signings

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/22/2013

Newcastle Falcons have continued to build for next season with the signings of Scott Lawson, Fraser McKenzie and Phil Godman.

The Falcons are hot favourites to bounce back to the Aviva Premiership from the RFU Championship after they were relegated last season and they have stepped up their recruitment drive with the signings of hooker Lawson from London Irish, fly-half Godman from London Scottish and second-row McKenzie from the Sale Sharks.

Falcons boss Dean Richards said: “We have recruited three top quality players as we continue to build a strong squad for next season. Scott [Lawson] and Phil [Godman] will bring considerable experience to the club to complement our current crop of youngsters, and Fraser [McKenzie] is a fantastic signing, who will add firepower to the pack.”

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."

April 15, 2013

Falcons announce Brookes and Powell contracts

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/15/2013

Newcastle Falcons have announced centre Adam Powell and prop Kieran Brookes have both penned new two-year deals.

Powell linked up with the Falcons in March while Brookes has been playing for the club on a dual-registration deal with Leicester. The confirmation of Brookes' signing sees him return to the club he left in 2011 after agreeing to a switch to the Tigers.

The Falcons have their sights set on a return to the Aviva Premiership and coach Dean Richards is delighted with the news of the duo's renewed commitment. “I am thrilled that Adam and Kieran have signed for us, and I am very much looking forward to working with them," Richards said. “They are both quality acquisitions, and they can see what we are trying to do at the club in the long-term.”

April 11, 2013

Mike Mayhew signs for London Irish

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/11/2013

London Irish have announced that hooker Mike Mayhew has signed for the club on a three-year deal.

The hooker joined the Exiles earlier this season as injury cover from the Newcastle Falcons and has made four appearances for the Aviva Premiership side. The New Zealand-born front-row has had spells with North Harbour and Irish coach Brian Smith is looking forward to working with Mayhew over the coming seasons.

Smith said: “Mike made a big impression when he played for us earlier in the season so I’m delighted he’s bought into our vision for the future at our club. He’s a big fella and dynamic ball carrier so he’ll fit into our game very well. Mike is also English qualified and I believe he has the potential to kick on and play Test rugby.”

April 8, 2013

Mike Blair agrees to Falcons switch

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/08/2013

Former Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair has signed a two-year deal with the Newcastle Falcons.

The No.9 is currently turning out for Brive in the PROD2 and has 85 Scotland caps to his name. The veteran scrum-half also toured South Africa with the British & Irish Lions in 2009 and he is looking forward to linking up with the Falcons, who are favourites for promotion to the Aviva Premiership ahead of the 2013-14 campaign.

Blair said: "Newcastle has ambitions to challenge in the Aviva Premiership, and although there are still the play-offs to be played, they are in a good position to be promoted and to achieve this goal. I am really enjoying my time in France but I feel that playing with Newcastle Falcons will provide me with a rugby challenge that I have been looking for."

Falcons coach Dean Richards added: "Mike is a fantastic acquisition for the club and he will add considerable experience from his time in the Scotland set-up. I look forward to welcoming him to Kingston Park."

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

Championship decider to be streamed on Twitter

Posted by Martin Williamson on 03/28/2013

A match from the RFU Championship will be streamed live on Twitter on April 20, the final weekend of the season.

Exactly which game is covered will be chosen by a vote on the RFU site -

“Rather than us predict which game we think supporters will want to see, we’ve chosen to ask them directly, which is a first for the union,” RFU head of digital Nick Shaw said. “In addition, the streaming on Twitter is a first in rugby worldwide, and in professional sport in the UK.“

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

Bristol sign Bath's Ben Skirving

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/12/2013

Bristol Rugby have pulled off a significant coup with the signing of No.8 Ben Skirving from Bath.

The back-rower has been a key part of Bath's team this season and Bristol coach Liam Middleton was delighted with his capture. "Ben is a very impressive individual with a wealth of experience," Middleton said. "He’s a widely respected professional who can become an integral member of our squad. Ben is a powerful ball carrier, a hard worker and gives us plenty of options in the lineout. We’re trying to build a squad with the right balance of youth and experience – Ben fits the bill of a player in the prime of his career."

Skirving added: "Bristol Rugby is a fantastic club and one that are making positive strides on and off the field. Liam [Middleton’s] project to drive Bristol forward is one that I'm excited about and looking forward to contributing to. To be part of a club that matches my own ambitions as a player is something I feel very positive about."

March 11, 2013

Bristol bolster resources with Charlie Amesbury

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/11/2013

Bristol Rugby have signed Sale Sharks winger Charlie Amesbury ahead of next season.

Amesbury has turned out for the England Sevens team and head coach Liam Middelton is delighted with his new signing. "Charlie has impressed me in the Aviva Premiership this season, I'm very pleased to be able to bring him to Bristol Rugby," Middleton said. "He is a real attacking threat with the ball in hand, has good acceleration and an impressive ability to bust tackles and beat defenders. Charlie is hungry for success and is a great character who will fit well into the club environment. He will provide genuine quality to the crop of exciting backs that we are developing within the club."

Amesbury added: "I’m excited about joining Bristol –a club that is clearly building for the future. Liam [Middleton] impressed me with the style of rugby and type of culture that he is building there. There is lots that I want to achieve in my career and I'm confident I'm coming to a place where I can develop my game and help Bristol achieve Aviva Premiership status."

March 10, 2013

Saracens' Adam Powell joins Newcastle Falcons

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/10/2013

Saracens have released Adam Powell with the centre taking up a contract with Newcastle Falcons.

Powell has made 135 appearances for Saracens but he has decided to take up a new challenge with the Falcons who are chasing promotion back to the top flight. Nigel Wray, Sarcens chairman, said: "We have watched Adam develop over the years, and he has proved an outstanding, courageous and loyal young man. We are very sorry to see him leave and he will always be welcome and respected at our club, but we wish him the best of luck in the future, and there is no doubt he will prove a great asset for the Falcons."

Powell added: “I’ve had a great time at Saracens and will always wish the club well, but I’m really excited by what is happening at Newcastle under Dean Richards and I can’t wait to get started.”

March 5, 2013

Kieran Brookes swaps Tigers for Falcons

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/05/2013

Newcastle Falcons have bolstered their front-row resources with the loan signing of Leicester Tigers prop Kieran Brookes.

Brookes moved to Leicester ahead of the 2011-12 season from the Falcons but has found his first-team opportunities at Kingston Park. "I am really pleased to be back in Newcastle and I am looking forward to playing regular first team rugby again,” Brookes said. "From first impressions I can see that there has been a lot of positive change taking place at the club since I was last here. There is a new coaching set-up, new medical suite and new personnel at the top which really bodes well for the future of the club."

Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards added: "Kieran is a good acquisition for the club, and he brings strong go-forward to the pack as we prepare for the end of season play-offs."

March 1, 2013

Cornish Pirates bring in Bath duo

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/01/2013

RFU Championship side the Cornish Pirates have signed scrum-half Chris Cook and utility back Ollie Devoto from Bath on dual-registration deals.

“These are two great additions to the squad," said Cornish Pirates head coach Ian Davies “Our relationship with Bath Rugby has grown stronger as the season as gone on and long may it continue.”

Cornish Pirates backs coach Harvey Biljon added: “Both Chris and Ollie have 1st XV experience at Bath so will obviously add to the competition for starting places leading into the business end of the season.”

February 27, 2013

Jersey sign Chiefs' Mark Foster on loan

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013

Exeter Chiefs have allowed winger Mark Foster to join Championship side Jersey on loan until the end of the current campaign.

Jersey have also drafted in Mark McCrea from Connacht and Chiefs coach Rob Baxter is pleased to have had the opportunity to allow Foster to get some more game time under his belt. Baxter said: “Jersey got in touch with us saying they were keen to get some players in; Fozzie said he was keen to play some rugby too, so in a lot of ways it was a good move for all concerned.

“I am a big believer that rugby players want to play rugby as much as they can, so Fozzie’s gone with our blessing until the end of the season, but should we need him we will be able to get him back and hopefully with some good game minutes under his belt.”

February 26, 2013

Falcons recruit Noah Cato

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/26/2013

Newcastle Falcons have completed the signing of Northampton Saints winger Noah Cato until the end of the season.

Cato has found his first-team opportunities limited at Franklin's Gardens and he is relishing the chance to run out for the Falcons. “To be a part of a club with the ambition of returning back to the Premiership presents an exciting time ahead for me," Cato said. “To assist in realising that goal will be a fulfilling experience."

Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards added: “Noah is a great addition to the squad, and I am delighted to welcome him to Kingston Park.He brings with him both club and international experience which is just what we require going into the play-offs."

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.”

January 30, 2013

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 25, 2013

Claassens opts for Bristol move

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

Worcester Warriors back Errie Claassens will join RFU Championship side Bristol at the end of the current campaign.

Claassens has made 26 appearances for the Warriors but with his current contract coming to an end in June, he has opted to move down a division to Bristol. "I was shown around the club and I had a good feeling about their ambition. Everything felt right," Claassens told the BBC. "You hear what people say about Bristol and it's all good stuff. When you see the ambitions they have for the club, you want to be a part of that.

"It's a wonderful opportunity and something to look forward to."

January 18, 2013

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.

January 10, 2013

RFU investigate Championship clash

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/10/2013

The Rugby Football Union has launched a review of into last weekend's Championship fixture between Leeds Carnegie and Plymouth Albion that went to uncontested scrums after just 13 minutes.

PA Sport reports that match referee Matt Carley made the decision after early scrums collapsed when Headingley Carnegie's new £1million pitch began cutting up.

In a statement, the RFU said: "The RFU is reviewing the circumstances that led to the RFU Championship fixture, Leeds Carnegie v Plymouth Albion, on Sunday January 6 moving to uncontested scrums after 13 minutes of play. A statement will be made in due course."

Leeds' 34-16 bonus point victory took them fourth in the Championship table but Plymouth boss John Roberts was left puzzled by the game-changing ruling. "I've never seen anything like it," he told the club's official website. "Our players were fine with it and wanted to carry on scrummaging. I am not sure what will happen next, but if the pitch wasn't good enough to play on, it shouldn't have been played on."