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June 6, 2013

Fresh faces handed Wales chance

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 06/06/2013

Wales have named four uncapped players in the side to face Japan in Osaka on Saturday.

Eighteen-year-old Ospreys winger Dafydd Howells and flanker James King, Blues and Wales sevens centre Owen Williams and Scarlets hooker Emyr Phillips all make the starting line-up. Wales Under-20 wing Harry Robinson will earn his second cap and Jonathan Spratt gets his first since 2009, while international experience is provided by the likes of captain Bradley Davies, Dan Biggar and Lloyd Williams.

Robin McBryde, head coach for the tour in the absence of Warren Gatland and Rob Howley, said: "The squad have really worked hard over the last couple of weeks and they are ready to get out and play...They are eager to get out there now, pull on the jersey and show what they can do."

Wales: Liam Williams (Scarlets), Harry Robinson (Blues), Owen Williams (Blues), Jonathan Spratt (Ospreys), Dafydd Howells (Ospreys), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Blues), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Scott Andrews (Blues), Bradley Davies (captain, Blues), Lou Reed (Blues), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), James King (Ospreys), Rob McCusker (Scarlets).

Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Andries Pretorius (Blues), Dan Baker (Ospreys), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Rhys Patchell (Blues), Tom Prydie (Dragons).

June 4, 2013

Craig Mitchell ruled out of Wales Test side

Posted by Martin Williamson on 06/04/2013

Exeter Chiefs prop Craig Mitchell will miss Wales' first Test against Japan in Osaka on Saturday because of an ankle injury.

"It's an old injury that's flared up again," defence coach Shaun Edwards said. "Hopefully he will be right for the second Test. I think it's more of an injury that he carried over here because he hasn't trained since he's been here."

May 28, 2013

Wales call up Navidi and Warren

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/28/2013

Cardiff Blues flanker Josh Navidi and Scarlets centre Adam Warren have been called into Wales’ squad to tour Japan after the Scarlets' Aaron Shingler and the Ospreys' Ashley Beck were ruled out due to injury.

Shingler has failed to recover from a foot injury to take his place in the squad whilst Beck has picked up a groin injury. Former Wales Under 20 captain Navidi, who was part Wales’ Six Nations and Japan tour training squads, replaces Shingler. Warren, who made his international debut last summer against the Barbarians at the Millennium Stadium, has been training with the squad in recent weeks and comes in for Beck.

Wales, who will play two Tests in Japan on June 8 and 15, have already lost the services of
hooker Ken Owens (neck), centre Scott Williams (shoulder) and fly-half Rhys Priestland (Achilles).

May 24, 2013

WRU hail 'fruitful' meeting with regions

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/24/2013

The Welsh Rugby Union has anounced it has held 'fruitful' discussions with the four regions in a bid to resolve their differences regarding the future of the game in Wales.

The regions - the Cardiff Blues, Newport-Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets - are seeking a greater financial support from the WRU in the hope of retaining the services of the leading players but a series of meetings have yet to provide them with any increase in funding.

The WRU and Regional Rugby Wales (RRW), the umbrella organisation which looks after the interests of the regions, agreed to the formation of the Professional Regional Game Board earlier this season to oversee professional rugby in Wales. But the union reportedly withdrew after just one meeting claiming RRW had breached its terms of reference by demanding a say in the appointment of Warren Gatland’s successor as Wales coach.

However, it now appears talks are back on track with another meeting also scheduled for later this year. "A meeting took place today with representatives of the Welsh Rugby Union and the four Welsh Regional Organisations, chaired by Sir Wyn Williams," the WRU said in a statement. "A fruitful discussion took place and a further meeting is now planned for July."

May 22, 2013

Wales players facing hot rooms and shaved balls

Posted by Martin Williamson on 05/22/2013

Wales are preparing for their forthcoming tour of Japan by sandpapering their practice balls and turning up the heating in their gym.

Coaches are trying to get the squad acclimatised for Japan where the temperature is expected to be close to 30 degrees during matches and humidity topping 90%.

All communal rooms, including the WRU gym, have had the heating cranked up to try to get players used to conditions on tour.

The coaches are concerned that the heat and humidity will make the balls much more slippery than usual so have been making players train with balls which have had the usual pimpled grip removed.

May 20, 2013

Matthew Watkins diagnosed with rare cancer

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/20/2013

The Welsh Rugby Union has announced that former Wales centre Matthew J Watkins has been diagnosed with cancer of the right pelvis.

The 34-year-old, who won 18 caps for his country between 2003-06, also had spells with the Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons and Gloucester during his playing career, which ended in 2011. Watkins has since worked as a skills coach with Welsh Premiership side Cross Keys.

"Obviously it's very disappointing news for me and my family but I'm keen to progress with my treatment and battle the illness with the same commitment as I gave to my rugby career," Watkins said in a statement. "I would like to thank everyone who has offered their support and the fantastic support from the guys at Velindre Cardiff. I am determined to continue my everyday life with my family and friends and appreciate the privacy shown during this very difficult time."

May 17, 2013

Rhys Priestland ruled out for eight weeks

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/17/2013

The Scarlets have confirmed Rhys Priestland will spend eight weeks on the sidelines as he seeks to heal an Achilles injury.

Priestland was set to tour with Wales to Japan but he was forced to withdraw from the squad after his Achilles tendon flared up. In related news, Scarlets centre Scott Williams is expected to be out for 12 weeks after he underwent surgery on Friday on a shoulder injury. Back-rower Josh Turnbull is also set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines as he too has had surgery on his shoulder.

“The important focus is to ensure that now we have a break from playing that we get on top of these injuries and treatment as early as possible,” Scarlets head of medical Andy Walker said. “We want to give them as much time as possible in recovery during the off-season and in many cases some well-earned rest and the chance to get some full recovery and rehabilitation.”

May 14, 2013

Scott Williams out of Wales tour to Japan

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/14/2013

Wales centre Scott Williams will miss their end-of-season tour to Japan after suffering a shoulder injury against Ulster on Friday.

Williams was being monitored alongside Ken Owens and Liam Williams but the center has been forced to pull out with Wales opting against calling in a replacement for the 22-year-old. The news will do little to lighten the mood in the Wales camp after Rhys Priestland pulled out of the mix on Monday.

Forwards: Scott Andrews (Blues), Dan Baker (Ospreys), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Bradley Davies (Blues), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Sam Hobbs (Blues), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), James King (Ospreys), Rob McCusker (Scarlets), Craig Mitchell (Exeter Chiefs), Josh Navidi (Blues), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Sam Parry (Dragons), Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Andries Pretorius (Blues), Lou Reed (Blues), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)

Backs: Ashley Beck (Ospreys), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Aled Davis (Scarlets), Dafydd Howells (Ospreys), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues),Tom Prydie (Dragons), Harry Robinson (Blues), Steven Shingler (London Irish), Jonathan Spratt (Ospreys), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Blues), Owen Williams (Blues)

May 13, 2013

Priestland ruled out of Wales tour

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 05/13/2013

Wales have called Cardiff Blues fly-half Rhys Patchell and Newport Gwent Dragons hooker Sam Parry into their training squad for the tour of Japan but Scarlets fly-half Rhys Priestland has been ruled out.

Priestland aggravated his Achilles tendon in the warm-up of the Scarlets’ RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final defeat to Ulster on Friday evening and will miss the two-Test tour. Patchell, 19, who has scored 147 points in 22 appearances for the Blues this season and Parry, joined up with the training squad this morning.

Ken Owens, Scott Williams and Liam Williams who picked up knocks in the defeat to Ulster, will continue to be monitored by the Wales medical team.

Forwards: Scott Andrews (Blues), Dan Baker (Ospreys), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Bradley Davies (Blues), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Sam Hobbs (Blues), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), James King (Ospreys), Rob McCusker (Scarlets), Craig Mitchell (Exeter Chiefs), Josh Navidi (Blues), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Sam Parry (Dragons), Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Andries Pretorius (Blues), Lou Reed (Blues), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)

Backs: Ashley Beck (Ospreys), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Aled Davis (Scarlets), Dafydd Howells (Ospreys), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues),Tom Prydie (Dragons), Harry Robinson (Blues), Steven Shingler (London Irish), Jonathan Spratt (Ospreys), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Blues), Owen Williams (Blues), Scott Williams (Scarlets)

May 10, 2013

Ospreys suffer Rhys Webb blow

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/10/2013

The Ospreys have been rocked by the news scrum-half Rhys Webb is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Webb has picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury while playing for the Ospreys against Leinster last Friday and following an MRI scan earlier this week, Webb will be forced to undergo the surgeon's knife.

Ospreys head physiotherapist Chris Towers said: "He will undergo reconstructive surgery at a date to be confirmed over the next few weeks, and is looking at a lengthy period of rehab after that."

May 8, 2013

Lions fears over Wales duo allayed

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/08/2013

Wales duo Alex Cuthbert and George North will be fit for British & Irish Lions duty after suffering injuries at the weekend.

Cuthbert tore his hamstring while on Wales duty against England and pulled out prior to Cardiff Blues’ match against Ulster on Friday but he claims it was just a “precaution”. He added: "Phil Davies decided I should not risk it and it was probably a sensible idea because there was nothing much on the game. The rehabilitation has been going well but it is important I don't rush things with such an important couple of months going up."

And North was forced off with a rib injury against Treviso on Friday but Scarlets boss Simon Easterby allayed any fears for the wingers’ well being. "George has trained this week. He took a heavy bang to the sternum but he's been good,” explained Easterby. "There are a few sore bodies and we will probably wait until Thursday before naming our team."

May 2, 2013

James Hook to get Barbarians call-up?

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 05/02/2013

The Barbarians have invited Wales fly-half James Hook to play in their end of season tour matches.

Hook was left out of the British & Irish Lions squad for their tour to Australia and was also omitted from the Wales party for their trip to Japan in June. If Hook does accept the call up from the Barbarians then he could line up against England on May 26 and potentially versus the Lions in their match in Hong Kong on June 1.

Barbarians secretary Alan Evans has previously said he hopes to have four Welsh players in the squad for their end of season tour and Hook could get the chance to prove to Warren Gatland what he is missing out on following his omission from the 37-man squad for this summer’s trip to Australia.

April 30, 2013

Ford completes Bath switch

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 04/30/2013

Bath have boosted their half-back options by bringing in fly-half George Ford and scrum-halves Micky Young and Martin Roberts for next season.

Ford's arrival ends months of speculation that he was moving to The Recreation Ground.

Young has played for England at Saxons and sevens level, while Roberts has won three caps for Wales. The pair will help make up for the loss of Michael Claassens who is leaving Bath at the end of the season.

Bath head coach Gary Gold said, “Micky and Martin are both very strong, capable players with good core skills and the ability to do things the opposition don't expect. They are still young, and we are looking forward to having them join the squad here and seeing them develop further."

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."

April 22, 2013

Scarlets announce John Barclay signing

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/22/2013

The Scarlets have confirmed the signing of Glasgow Warriors back-rower John Barclay on a three-year deal.

Barclay has won 41 caps for Scotland and he will link up with his new club at the end of the season. Barclay, who joined the Warriors when he was 17, said: "It's going to be an exciting opportunity for me to experience a new environment in West Wales in the first move of my club career. They have an impressive and ambitious coaching group and it will be good to be part of a team that has so much talent, potential and energy with a mix of key world-class players along with world class playing and training facilities."

Scarlets boss Simon Easterby added: "John is a dynamic player who will offer another added dimension to the existing talent we have in our back row. He has shown that he is really at the top of his game since coming back from injury. At just 26, he brings world-class experience yet still has his best rugby years ahead of him."

April 20, 2013

Blues battling to keep hold of Michael Paterson

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/20/2013

The Cardiff Blues are hopeful of retaining versatile forward Michael Paterson amid interest from Aviva Premiership side Sale Sharks.

Paterson's contract is up at the end of the season and the Blues have tabled a three-year deal to keep the Kiwi in Wales with him qualifying for residency over the summer. Sale are keen to recruit the Blues' reigning Player of the Year but Blues CEO Richard Holland is optimistic he will decide to stay in Cardiff.

"We are negotiating with Michael and have put an offer on the table which we feel is competitive," Holland told Wales Online. "But we know there are other interested parties.We are now waiting for his decision. He’s an important part of our team and we want to keep him.

"He qualifies for Wales this summer and if he stays there’s every chances he can fill a position there. If he leaves for England he can probably kick that into touch. He’s definitely good enough to play for Wales in my view."

April 16, 2013

Jarvis pens new three-year deal with Ospreys

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/16/2013

The Ospreys have announced that tight-head Aaron Jarvis has signed a new three-year deal with the region.

Jarvis made his debut for Wales in the November internationals and has three caps to his name. He is currently sidelined with a long-term injury but he is looking forward to next season. He said: "This is what I really wanted. I'm happy living in the area, the family have settled down here, and I've really developed as a player over the last two seasons since coming here. I'm really, really happy to have signed for another three years."

Andy Lloyd, Ospreys rugby operation manager, added: "We pride ourselves as a place that develops front five forwards and Aaron is another example of this in practice, making huge strides since first signing two years ago. He's shown in his time here that he is a quality player of international standard and is a huge asset to us. He's really developing well and offers a huge amount to the group, on and off the field."

April 11, 2013

Wales reveal November Test schedule

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/11/2013

The Welsh Rugby Union has confirmed that Wales will play both Argentina and South Africa this coming November.

Wales crashed to four defeats on the bounce last November and they will hope to fare better this time around. The WRU has also announced that Wales will face a Tier Two nation alongside the two southern hemisphere giants with the dates yet to be confirmed.

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."

April 4, 2013

Andrew Bishop signs on for more with Ospreys

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 04/04/2013

Wales and Ospreys centre Andrew Bishop has signed a new three-year deal with the region.

The centre holds the record for the most appearances at the Ospreys and has also won 16 caps for Wales. "I'm really happy about this," Bishop said. "It's great news, I want to stay with the Ospreys which is a great place to be and is where I've played all my senior rugby.

"There's a very good squad here with competition for places right through it. There are a huge amount of youngsters in the squad, so I'm in a strange position where at 27 I'm one of the oldest backs here. When you look at the players who've come through over the last couple of years and the boys coming through now I'm really excited about the future of the Ospreys and I'm delighted that I'm going to be a part of it."

March 30, 2013

Wales winger North 'rejects' Scarlets offer

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/30/2013

Wales winger George North has rejected a contract offer from the Scarlets, according to Wales Regional rugby chief Stuart Gallacher.

The 20-year-old has been in talks with Northampton in recent weeks and if the Scarlets fail to secure him on a new deal, he will be able to move as a free agent when his contract ends in 2014.

Gallacher told Radio Wales: “George North is an iconic player but there comes a time where if you can't afford it, you can't afford it. Simple. And I understand this to be the case, that... the Scarlets have offered George North a new contract, the best offer they can. That's been turned down. But they know he's got a year left on his contract. In a year's time he'll be a free agent so they'll get nothing.

"The only place in town where there is potential revenue to secure the players in Wales is with the Welsh Rugby Union. We've said that. They accept that. Whether they're going to do anything about it is a call for them."

March 22, 2013

Scarlets hint at Priestland return

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/22/2013

Scarlets coach Simon Easterby has suggested that Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland may make a surprise return to action this season but will not be rushed back if he is not ready.

Priestland suffered an Achilles injury in a Heineken Cup match against Exeter in December and was initially ruled out for the rest of the campaign but the 26-year-old has made good progress in his rehabilitation and could yet return to bolster the Scarlets' PRO12 push and his own hopes of selection for the British & Irish Lions.

"I'm not going to put any pressure on him," said Easterby told the South Wales Evening Post. "I think he feels refreshed after having a break from competitive rugby. He's feeling really good about himself and he's feeling really good about his Achilles but that will be totally down to him whether he plays this season or not.

"If he's right, he'll come into contention. 'If he's not right, we wouldn't expect to push him and cause a setback. He's had a really good block of a couple of months of training.''

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 12, 2013

Andy Powell keen to remain a Shark

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/12/2013

Wales and Sale No.8 Andy Powell is hopeful of winning a new contract at the Sharks with his current deal finishing at the end of this season.

Powell shone for the Sharks in their Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final win over Saracens on Sunday and he is hopeful that if his performances continue in the same manner, then he will be handed a new deal by Sale boss Steve Diamond. "I’m out of contract at the end of this year and I’ve had no offers anywhere yet so I had to play well on Sunday," Powell told the Manchester Evening News.

"In terms of the future, I would love to stay here at Sale as I’m happy here, but it’s been a tough season so Sunday was a big opportunity to hopefully show what I’m about. It’s been stop-start for me this season. I’ve had a few little niggles along the way and, in fairness to Richie Vernon, he’s played really well and kept me out of the side and I take my hat off to him as he’s a good player."

March 6, 2013

Warren Gatland coaches Stade Francais

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/06/2013

British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland reportedly took charge of Stade Francais' Tuesday morning training session.

According to reports in the French press, the session focused on the breakdown with clearing out rucks and winning ball prioritised. Stade Francais are currently coached by Richard Pool-Jones but there has been no official confirmation of why Gatland took charge of the training session.

March 5, 2013

Rhys Webb signs on for three more years

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/05/2013

Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb has re-signed with the region for a further three years.

"I'm absolutely thrilled,” Webb said. “To be able to commit to another three years with my home region is fantastic. It's a brilliant environment here, the only place I want to play rugby. Having done so well last season I've obviously been disappointed to not get so much game time this year, but I've had to knuckle down and work hard. Kahn [Fotuali’i] has been a great help for me in terms of development and I believe that if I keep on working hard I can become a much better player over the three years of my new contract.”

Andy Lloyd, rugby operations manager at the Ospreys, added: "It's great news for Rhys and for the region. It's important that we keep hold of young, talented home grown players who have already shown that they can compete at the top level and he certainly fits that description. With the addition of Tito Tebaldi confirmed for next season, someone of Rhys' proven ability signing a new contract, and then with the potential of Tom Habberfield, it bodes well for the Ospreys."

March 4, 2013

Joe Bearman re-signs with Ospreys

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/04/2013

The Ospreys have received a boost with the news that Joe Bearman has signed a new two-year deal with the region.

"I've really enjoyed my time here so I'm really happy to be able to sign a new contract," said Bearman. "It's a pleasure to come to work every day, to play for the Ospreys. We've got a great bunch of boys in the squad and quality coaching staff, there's a great atmosphere around the place and I'm really enjoying myself here. It was a straightforward, easy decision to commit myself to the Ospreys for another two years."

Rugby operations manager Andy Lloyd added: "Joe is a fantastic member of the squad and with his contract expiring at the end of this season it was important that he signed a new deal for next season and beyond. He just keeps getting better and better as a player and even though he is a little bit older than most his conditioning is excellent."

March 2, 2013

Ospreys sign Tito Tebaldi

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 03/02/2013

The Ospreys have announced the signing of Italy international scrum-half Tito Tebaldi from RaboDirect PRO12 rivals Zebre on a two-year deal

The 25-year-old Tebaldi, who won the last of his 16 Test caps against the USA last year, is set to fill the void left by Northampton-bound Samoa No.9 Kahn Fotuali'l. "I am excited about this fantastic opportunity with the Ospreys," he said. "Their record in the PRO12 speaks for itself, and the chance to be a part of such a successful club is something I couldn't turn down."

March 1, 2013

Shane Williams to play on in Japan

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/01/2013

Former Wales flyer Shane Williams has agreed to play on for another year with the Dynoboars in Japan.

Williams had previously announced that he would retire at the end of last season but he agreed to a brief spell in Japan. Having enjoyed his first taste of rugby in the Far East, he has put pen to paper on a new deal. "I've decided to go back for another season," Williams told the Rugby Nation radio show. "I'm enjoying the other side of it as well – I'm doing a bit of coaching out there.. when they actually do listen to what I've got to say!

“I'm managing to keep up with the guys, the body’s feeling really good at the moment and I’m looking forward to going back. The Japanese work culture is just amazing, they can keep going and going and it’s the same on the field. I'm chasing shadows half the time they’re so fit – that’s one of the things that’s tough out there..but having said that, I'm bigger than half of them so I can physically dominate them as well.”

Rhys Patchell pens new Blues deal

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 03/01/2013

The Cardiff Blues have confirmed that five of their players have re-signed with the region.

Rhys Patchell, Sam Hobbs, Rhys Williams, Tom Davies and Richard Smith have all penned new contracts with Patchell signing on for three more years. "Rhys is the future of the Blues, players like him, Sam Hobbs, Tom Davies and Tom Williams are the type we want to be building the team around," Blues coach Phil Davies said.

"That is why it was so important to get him to stay and to have him around for the next three years is fantastic. I think we have given him the opportunity and he has taken it."

February 27, 2013

Wales release Alun-Wyn Jones for Ospreys duty

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013

The Ospreys will have both Alun-Wyn Jones and James King available for their showdown with Munster on Saturday.

The pair have been released by Wales and Jones will hope to prove to the management that he is fit and firing after spending a spell on the sidelines. Wales have also opted to release Aaron Shingler, Matthew Rees and Liam Williams to the Scarlets. The Blues also have Lou Reed and Lloyd Williams at their disposal.

Blues receive Bradley Davies boost

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/27/2013

The Cardiff Blues are hopeful that Wales lock Bradley Davies could play again before the end of the season.

Davies sustained an ankle ligament injury in January and was expected to miss the entire campaign. But Blues coach Phil Davies says that the lock is progressing quicker than previously expected.

"He has come out of his boot, but it's a couple of months' time that we are expecting him to potentially be back,” Davies said. “It may be the last couple of the games of the season, if that. He is progressing well and he is doing his rehab very diligently."

February 26, 2013

Andries Pretorius sidelined for four months

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/26/2013

Cardiff Blues have confirmed that their skipper Andries Pretorius faces four months out of action due to shoulder surgery.

Pretorious has carried the injury since December but he aggravated it against Edinburgh on February 15. He now faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines but the region are optimistic that he should be fit to return in time for May.

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.

February 22, 2013

Gethin Jenkins to quit Toulon for Blues

Posted by Jeremy Inson on 02/22/2013

Wales prop Gethin Jenkins will return to the Cardiff Blues for the start of next season after negotiating an early release from his contract with French league leaders Toulon.

Jenkins signed a two-year deal with the Top 14 side at the start of the season but has been seen limited game time with former England international Andrew Sheridan their preferred option at loose-head. Wales head coach Warren Gatland has also raised concerns over his lack of fitness since crossing the English Channel.

"Gethin's experience will add to the team, he is very vocal on the pitch and I am sure that a lot of the youngsters will also be very vocal with him as well next year,” Cardiff Blues director of rugby Phil Davies 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 bristolrugby.co.uk

"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."

February 20, 2013

Wales release nine ahead of Italy Test

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

Wales have opted to release nine players back to their regional teams as they prepare for Saturday's Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome.

The list includes Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler, who was on bench duty when Wales beat France in Paris on February 9. Shingler is joined by his Scarlets team-mates Matthew Rees, Josh Turnbull and Tavis Knoyle, while Scott Andrews, Josh Navidi and Andries Pretorius return to the Cardiff Blues. Ryan Bevington and James King also head back to the Ospreys.

Wales named their team for the Test on Tuesday.

Toby Faletau rubbishes Dragons exit rumours

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/20/2013

Wales and Dragons No.8 Toby Faletau has dismissed rumours that he will leave the region at the end of the season.

Bath Rugby have been heavily linked with the No.8's signature but he still has another year left on his contract. There were reports on Tuesday that Faletau had told the Dragons he was keen to leave, but he is adamant that he wants to stay at the region and see out his deal.

"I've still got another year at the Dragons so I'm not sure where that speculation has come from,” Faletau told Wales Online. "I'm still there next season. I've got another year left. I'm here at the Six Nations now. It’s one step at a time."

February 19, 2013

Ospreys hit with Ben John setback

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

The Ospreys have confirmed that centre Ben John will miss their matches against Edinburgh and Munster after damaging his rib cartilage during their loss to Connacht.

The centre was forced off just 10 minutes into the game at the Sportsground last Friday evening and head physio Chris Towers claims he will be fit to return in "around four weeks".

Dragons ponder coaching change

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 02/19/2013

Dragons CEO Martyn Hazell has admitted that the region are considering changing their coaching set-up at the end of the season.

The Dragons crashed to a 60-3 home defeat at the hands of Glasgow Warriors on Friday evening and sit in eleventh place in the RaboDirect PRO12. And while Hazell is unwilling to chop and change the backroom staff midway through the campaign, he is considering drafting in fresh faces.

"We have to go through it with the coaches and see what they think is the problem, or they may be the problem anyhow. There is no point in changing at this point in the season," Hazell told the BBC. "It's not a small problem... it needs a really good look at. We have to discuss it as a board to see where we are. I think something will have to be done somewhere along the line."

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

Lloyd Williams agrees new Cardiff Blues deal

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 02/15/2013

Wales scrum-half Lloyd Williams has agreed a new contract with the Cardiff Blues.

The 24-year-old, who has been capped 10 times by Wales, has agreed a new three-year extension with the Welsh Region along with his brother Tom, who is a 21-year-old fullback with the Blues.

"Without a doubt Lloyd is a key player for us," said Cardiff Blues director of rugby Phil Davies. “When you look at my 25 rule, where we want to have 25 players under 25 in the squad, he, Lewis Jones, Tom Williams and Tom Davies all fit the bill.

"Lloyd is vitally important to the squad, we build a team around people like Lloyd. Lloyd is establishing himself in the Wales squad now and our aim for him is to go with Wales to the next World Cup as number one scrum-half.”

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.

Wales sign new deal with Admiral

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 02/13/2013

The Welsh Rugby Union has extended its sponsorship deal with insurance company Admiral through to 2015.

Admiral, Wales' only FTSE 100 listed company, first appeared on the national team's jersey in 2010, and the two-year extension to the existing deal will take the partnership through to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

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."

Eli Walker targets key role for Wales

Posted by James Bass on 01/31/2013

Wales winger Eli Walker has ramped up the pressure on his team rivals saying that he is determined to play a key role in the forthcoming Six Nations.

The Ospreys star was drafted into the national squad earlier this month on the back of some eye-catching form on the domestic stage and while a hamstring injury has sidelined him for this weekend's Six Nations opener against Ireland, he is determined to put some pressure on regulars George North and Alex Cuthbert.

"It’s definitely a goal to be capped," he told the Western Mail. "I’d like to think I’m not here just to make up the numbers but to put pressure on the other guys. I’d like to think we feed off each other."

"I don’t know about it being daunting," he added. "I have known George a long time, since Wales Under-16s. He’s a great guy and a very good player. He always was, as we came up through the ranks. Cuthbert and George are big and powerful guys. I like to think I have got speed in my game. I’m a different type of player I suppose."

January 30, 2013

Cardiff Blues bring in Liam Davies

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/30/2013

The Cardiff Blues have completed the signing of scrum-half Liam Davies on a short-term deal.

Davies has spent time at Brive, Scarlets, Ospreys, London Welsh and the Dragons and will play for the Blues until the end of the season. "Liam is a player that I am familiar with having coached him as a 19 year old in the Scarlets," Blues coach Phil Davies said. "He is a very talented scrum half who has a great pass, a good kick and does the basics well.

"He played alongside Andy Goode in Brive and has come home looking for an opportunity to play. He will give us extra cover at scrum half for the rest of the season with Rob Lewis having returned to London Welsh on a loan spell."

January 25, 2013

Olly Kohn handed surprise Wales call-up

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

The Welsh Rugby Union has handed Harlequins' lock Olly Kohn a surprise call up to the Wales squad ahead of the Six Nations.

With second rows Alun-Wyn Jones (shoulder), Luke Charteris (knee) and Bradley Davies (ankle) all currently unavailable and Ian Evans battling to overcome a knee injury, Kohn, who qualifies through his late grandfather, could be drafted straight into action against Ireland on February 2.

Receiving the call-up was surreal, and I can't wait to join up with the squad this weekend," Kohn said. "It is a really proud moment for me and a great opportunity to show what I can do."

Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley said: "We looked at Olly when we initially selected the Six Nations squad, and we have brought him in now as we believe he will be an experienced addition. He is a strong ball-carrier and dominant at the set-piece, and it will be good to see him in the international environment."

Scarlets duo pen new contracts

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/25/2013

The Scarlets have re-signed two of their front-rowers on to new deals. Hooker Emyr Phillips has signed a new three-year deal while prop Phil John has also extended his stay with the Welsh region.

"Emyr is a key part of our future and has proved himself to be an excellent professional when handed opportunities in recent years," Scarlets boss Simon Easterby said. "He is progressing quickly and will flourish given the competition that still exists in our squad at hooker.

"Phil has been outstanding for us this season and working with Danny [Wilson] has brought a real focus to his work in the scrum. He was celebrated for reaching 250 appearances against Clermont last weekend and with more than 13 years service for Llanelli and the Scarlets, is an example of the loyalty this club engenders in its players. As a region we are grateful for all he has committed during this time and for the level of performance he has brought to the Scarlets jersey this season in particular."

In related news, Scarlets centre Rhodri Gomer-Davies has been forced to retire after failing to recover from a knee injury.

January 21, 2013

Shingler brothers reunited at Scarlets

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/21/2013

The Scarlets have been served a double boost with the news that Wales international Aaron Shingler has signed a new deal while brother Steven has re-joined from London Irish.

Steven has penned three-year deal and is hopeful that his time at London Irish, who he joined from the Scarlets in 2011, will put him in good stead for the Welsh region. "I've had some great experience from my time at London Irish and it's been good for me to play in the intensity and physicality of the Premiership," Steven Shingler said. "During my time at London Irish, I've been lucky to work with and learn from some great people like Mike Catt who have pushed me forward and improved my game. My aim before leaving Llanelli was to get experience and plenty of rugby and I hope to achieve 50 appearances for London Irish and that can only be great experience for me going forward."

Aaron, who was heavily linked with a switch to the Blues, has four Wales caps to his name and his coach Simon Easterby was delighted with the news. "Aaron is a committed professional, his career is on the rise and it's been good to see his quick progress at international level as well as with us at Parc Y Scarlets," Easterby said. "He's a strong, athletic and intelligent player and will be an important to us as a senior figure in our pack as he gains more experience at the top level of the game.

'Byrne can be a Lion again'

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/21/2013

Clermont Auvergne boss Vern Cotter believes fullback Lee Byrne can force his way into the British & Irish Lions reckoning.

Byrne is back in the Wales squad having last played for the national side in 2011 and Cotter claims the fullback, who has impressed in the Top 14 Orange this term, is playing the same sort of rugby that saw him earn a call-up to the Lions' 2009 tour to South Africa. “Lee has been great for us, very, very professional and he has had good performances to back it up," Cotter told Wales Online. “I think it is a bonus for the Welsh team and I wouldn’t take him out of Lions contention either if he gets a couple of games.

“He is very solid under the high ball, he has still got his speed, he can still break tackles, he is not shy in the contact, he has got a great boot and has got all that experience at 32. I am very pleased for him and for the Welsh team as well. I think it is a wise move.He is a Welsh player, he loves his team, loves his country and he was disappointed not to be pulled back in.

"He probably needed a change too to freshen him up and I think it has done him good coming to France and seeing things from another perspective. It has made him a better player, at least I think so, and got him out of a bit of a rut that he might have been in when he was playing in Wales for the Ospreys.

Jamie Roberts backs Wales to hit top form

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/21/2013

Wales centre Jamie Roberts is confident that his side can end a run of seven straight defeats and rediscover the form that carried them to a Six Nations Grand Slam last year.

Roberts missed the agonising series defeat to Australia last summer but was back in the Wales midfield for a disappointing end of year campaign that saw them slump to four straight defeats - including an embarrassing loss to Samoa. On the eve of their Six Nations opener against Ireland in Cardiff on February 2, Roberts is in a positive mood.

"We know that if we click, if we can rekindle that spirit and momentum, we can repeat that feat,” Roberts told the Western Mail. "The bookies may not have us down as favourites, but, at the end of the day, we know what we can achieve."

He added: "What we need to do is learn from it, then put it behind us completely and we will do that. Losing four games in the autumn, well, we know that just wasn’t acceptable by the standards we have set ourselves. But, going into this competition, we can rediscover the environment that brought us success last year."


January 20, 2013

Shane Williams backs Eli Walker to shine

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/20/2013

Wales legend Shane Williams has backed rising star Eli Walker to make an impact in this year's Six Nations.

Williams, Wales' all-time leading try-scorer, sent his fellow wing a congratulatory message on Twitter following the in-form 20-year-old's international call-up that read: "Congrats on selection pal. When you put that red shirt on make sure you play with same confidence and you’ll tear it up!"

Walker is grateful for the support of his former regional team-mate. He told the Western Mail: "He’s an outstanding player and a great friend as well,” he said. “He’s definitely someone to look up to. I’d like to think I have learned a thing or two as he is any winger’s hero in Wales and in world rugby. I was fortunate to have a few years training with him coming through the academy and then stepping up to the senior squad."


January 18, 2013

Richard Hibbard hailed as 'best in Europe'

Posted by Jonny McLeod on 01/18/2013

The Ospreys' Richard Hibbard is the best hooker in Europe and a certainty to tour Australia with the British & Irish Lions next summer, according to former Wales hooker Jonathan Humphreys.

Hibbard has been in impressive form in the RaboDirect PRO12 and the Heineken Cup this season and is set to vie with the Scarlets' Matthew Rees and Ken Owens for the Wales No.2 jersey during the forthcoming Six Nations. But Humphreys, the Ospreys' forwards coach, is in no doubt as to who is in pole position.

"I think he is the best hooker in Europe," he said. "I'm biased but I spend my life looking at opposition, looking at other hookers' strength and weaknesses.[If it were up to me to pick [for the Lions] - yes he would be there."

Sean Holley to join Scarlets coaching team

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/18/2013

Former Ospreys head coach Sean Holley will join the Scarlets coaching staff during this year's Six Nations.

Holley has been drafted in by Scarlets boss Simon Easterby who will be without backs coach Mark Jones for the next couple of months after he was asked to join the Wales set-up for the course of the forthcoming championship.

Easterby said: "To have a coach of Sean's experience, expertise and technical ability at a key time for us is vital as Mark goes away on Wales duty. Mark has contributed a great deal to our rugby environment and team this season and deserves his opportunity with Wales, and we are pleased to support the national set-up and his coaching development."

Williams insists Justin Tipuric cannot be ignored

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/18/2013

Former Wales international Martyn Williams believes Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric must start the Six Nations opener against Ireland on February 2.

The in-form Tipuric is vying for the openside berth currently occupied by captain Sam Warburton but Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley has revealed he may deploy both players in a back-row also fset to include No.8 Toby Faletau. Williams believes Tipuric's form and creativity cannot be ignored.

“Can Sam and ‘Tips’ play in the same back-row? That’s the big question," Williams told the Western Mail "Probably the one thing I thought we struggled with in the autumn was creativity and ‘Tips’ sees a pass or he will see something no other player will see – and that’s backs included. He has forced the selectors’ hand really and they can’t ignore him anymore. Sam has been named as captain so he’s going to play, but it’s a big call playing both of them because the back-row is all about balance.

"...They would be an absolute nightmare to play against at the breakdown because they’re both so good there. But it’s the biggest call Wales are going to make because the rest of the side more or less pick itself.”

January 17, 2013

Ryan Jones hopeful of winning fitness battle

Posted by Graham Jenkins on 01/17/2013

Wales forward Ryan Jones is confident of being fit for the start of his side's Six Nations defence against Ireland on February 2.

The back-row or lock dislocated his thumb during the Ospreys' Heineken Cup draw with Leicester last weekend and was told he faced a four-week lay-off. But Jones is hoping to defy the medics and hand Wales caretaker boss Rob Howley a timely boost as he bids to combat a growing injury list.

"Medics have said anything up to four weeks, but, with a bit of luck, I should heal pretty quickly," Jones told the Western Mail. "I won’t know what it’s going to be like until the strapping is removed next week. I want to play and I’m loggerheads with the doctors at the moment. It’s only a thumb – I have got another one."

January 13, 2013

Biggar to re-sign with Ospreys

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/13/2013

Wales’ Dan Biggar has revealed that he is on the brink of penning a new three-year deal with the Ospreys.

Biggar has been linked with a cross-Channel move and in the process, following in the footsteps of Jamie Roberts and Gethin Jenkins in opting for a move to France. But Biggar, who is the favourite to take the No.10 shirt for Wales during the forthcoming Six Nations, wants to stay at the Ospreys.

"We are in advanced talks and I am hoping to get something sorted over the next couple of weeks," Biggar told BBC Wales. "I am very happy here. The three things I am asking myself are: Am I happy, am I going financially looked after and are we a competitive side? All three of those things have matched, so as long as we can get something signed in the next few weeks, I will be very happy."

January 9, 2013

Blues handed Andrews boost

Posted by Tom Hamilton on 01/09/2013

Wales prop Scott Andrews has signed a two-year contract extension with Cardiff Blues. And the Blues also announced today a new deal for back-row forward Josh Navidi.

Andrews, who made his international debut against the Barbarians in 2011, featured for Wales during the recent autumn Tests and is expected to be named in the squad for this season's Six Nations Championship.

"I have been here since I was 16, and I didn't want to look elsewhere as I am happy at the Blues," Andrews said. "We have a lot of young boys mixed with some top internationals who are contracted for the next few years, so slowly we are producing a good core. It will be exciting to see it progress over the next few years."

Navidi has pledged his future to the Blues until 2016.

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