Halanagahu to start against Crusaders

first_imgBarnes will sit out against Crusaders after a hit to the headTHE HSBC Waratahs have made one change to the starting XV for Friday night’s round three clash with the Crusaders at Trafalgar Park, Nelson.Berrick Barnes was taken out of the selection frame with medical staff preferring him to spend a week on the sidelines after suffering a head knock in the Tahs’ 30-6 victory over the Queensland Reds on Saturday. Daniel Halangahu moves into the No.10 jersey which he wore on nine occasions in 2010 including a run of five straight victories which tied the Tahs’ record for most consecutive Super Rugby wins.“The players’ welfare is always our primary concern, and after checking him out after training this morning we think it’s best to keep Berrick out this week,” said head coach Chris Hickey. “This is definitely a situation where we need to err on the side of caution and we’re lucky to have someone of Daniel’s experience to step straight in.”When Halangahu takes the field it will be his 41st Super Rugby cap at flyhalf which equals the NSW record currently held by Manny Edmonds. Afa Pakalani, who scored two tries in the opening trial match of 2011 against the Fiji Warriors, moves onto the bench and will make his Super Rugby debut should he take the field.The only other change to the match day squad sees Pat McCutcheon come onto the bench for the first time in 2011, in place of Chris Alcock. McCutcheon returned to Rugby last week with a solid hit-out for the HSBC Junior Waratahs in the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup and is ready to return to Super Rugby after sustaining a back injury in the off-season.“’Cutch’ had a really big year in 2010; he captained Australian Sevens, made his Super Rugby debut, represented Australian Barbarians, played club Rugby for Sydney Uni, went to the Commonwealth Games and then went on the Spring Tour,” said Hickey. “He went back home to the farm over summer and it all probably caught up with him, but he’s ready to go now and I know he has his sights set on returning to the starting XV where he finished in 2011.”Phil Waugh will take his place in the team after sustaining a biceps injury against the Reds, and in doing so will become the first player to captain NSW 50 times at Super Rugby level.Prop Al Baxter has been selected to make his 118th appearance for NSW which takes him equal with Chris Whitaker on the all-time list. Only Phil Waugh, who makes his 130th appearance on Friday, has more state caps in the 129-year history of NSW Rugby.Former Western Force and Northland lock Pat O’Connor will travel to New Zealand with the team as 23rd man.The only time NSW has played at Trafalgar Park was a 13-4 victory over Nelson in 1894. The HSBC Waratahs fly to Nelson via Auckland tomorrow morning ahead of Friday’s match.CRUSADERS v HSBC WARATAHSFriday 4 March 2011 (Kick-off 7:35pm NZT, 5:35pm AEDT)Trafalgar Park, Nelson. New ZealandHSBC WARATAHS15. Kurtley Beale (Randwick)14. Lachie Turner (Eastwood)13. Rob Horne (Southern Districts)12. Tom Carter (Sydney University)11. Drew Mitchell (Balmain)10. Daniel Halangahu (Sydney University)9. Luke Burgess (Sydney University) SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 01: Berrick Barnes of the Waratahs warms up during a Waratahs Super Rugby training session at Victoria Barracks on March 1, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) 8. Ben Mowen (Randwick)7. Phil Waugh [C] (Sydney University) # 50th Super Rugby match as NSW Captain6. Dave Dennis (Sydney University)5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts)4. Dean Mumm (Sydney University)3. Al Baxter~ (Northern Suburbs)2. Tatafu Polota-Nau** (Parramatta)1. Sekope Kepu (Randwick)Subs16. Damien Fitzpatrick (Eastwood)17. Benn Robinson (Eastwood)18. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts)19. Pat McCutcheon (Sydney University)20. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs)21. Ryan Cross (Eastern Suburbs)22. Afa Pakalani^* (Randwick)23rd  Pat O’Connor (Eastern Suburbs)^ NSW State Debut* Super Rugby Debut ~ 118th NSW Super Rugby Cap (Phil Waugh 129*, Chris Whitaker 118)** 69th NSW Super Rugby Cap (=10th with Brendan Cannon) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALSlast_img read more

Read More →

Fitness tips to get your speed up

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Leicester and England centre Dan Hipkiss reveals how to leave the opposition behind…To maintain your speed throughout the season, you need to work on your leg strength as well as doing speed and sprinting drills.In the early part of the week once you’ve had a day or two to recover, do a session lifting very heavy weights for just two-three reps. Aim to lift as much as you possibly can.I do trap-bar dead-lifts and belt squats, and you should be lifting well over your body weight – some of the Tigers boys will lift 260kg! When you’re accelerating, you’re pushing off with much more force than just your own weight, so you need to train with this intensity as well.I do my speed drills and sprinting sessions on a Thursday. It’s important to warm up properly to get rid of any stiffness in the joints, so I do two sets of 10m ankling, 30-40m A-skips (start at a walking pace, and raise your knees up and down, concentrating on both height and distance), and B-skips, where the object is to kick your legs out in front of you. Look for them on YouTube.In the main session I do three sets of sled drags, which is sprinting with a weight dragging behind you. Adjust the weight for each set you do. So for the first set, you’ll drag 25kg, followed by 15kg and then no weight at all, over a distance of 20m.Next up are bag drives. Hit a tackle bag on an uphill gradient, driving it back forcefully.Work on these drills on a weekly basis to keep yourself sharp and fired up. If I have an evening game, I do a lighter speed session that morning to get my neurosystem firing. At the Tigers, we work one-on-one with a coach, but we’re trying to introduce an element of competition with other team-mates, because it makes us work harder!You can set goals to keep yourself motivated, but they need to be realistic, and your recovery is the most important thing when you’re playing week in, week out. It’s important to constantly improve, but if you’ve had a tough game on a Saturday and a hard Tuesday session, you may only be able to do half the number of sets on a Thursday.Dan’s top tips…Work on leg strengthDo speed sessions on a weekly basisSet realistic goalsThis article appeared in the February 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.Find a newsagent that sells Rugby World in the UKcenter_img Or perhaps you’d like a digital version of the magazine delivered direct to your PC, MAC or Ipad? If so click here. For Back Issues Contact John Denton Services at 01733-385-170 visitlast_img read more

Read More →

How to – Stay in Top Condition

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Thai-style clinch (left): start with one hand on back of partner’s head and on ‘go’ work to gain head control with two hands thereGreco-Roman wrestle: aim to get two arms around partner above the hips. Start with one arm under theirsOn ‘go’, work to get both hands around partnerThis article appeared in the December 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.Find a newsagent that sells Rugby World in the UK. Or you may prefer the digital edition on your MAC, PC, or iPad. This chins-dips superset will help you add volume to the upper body and drive down body fat – useful at this time of year.Perform one set then the other with no rest between exercisesChin-up (left): keep chest up and get your chin over the barBar dips (right): position bars a little wider than shoulder width. Support body weight through handsLower chest until 90° bend at the elbow and push back upConditioning ToolWrestle mania! These are two intensive conditioning tools to help you maintain that physical edge.center_img AS THE festive season looms, you will need to manage your time and social life well, writes John Dams, Harlequins’ head of strength and conditioning. So while others take a break from training, it’s your turn to work harder than everyone else.Warm-upLateral hurdle walkovers are good for improving mobility around the hips, while the wall slide is a thoracic mobility exercise.Lateral hurdle walkovers (left): put hands on head. Keep chest high and legs straight. Step over without breaking at the hipSharman wall slide (right): Sit up against a wall with a small bend in knee and arms on wall. Keep lower back against wallPush hands and elbows up and down the wallKey movement IStay focused on training despite festive distractions. These two intense lower-limb lifts will help you through to the New Year.Box squat (left): use box positioned at appropriate height, with thighs slightly below parallelKeep weight through heels. Control descent to box, pause, liftPistol squat (right): use band or rope to assist movementOn a single leg, sit down as deep as you can and then push upKey movement IIlast_img read more

Read More →

Top 14: Minnows preparing to join the sharks

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Familiar face: El-Abd, in action here for Toulon, will return to the Top 14 next season with OyonnaxBy Gavin MortimerTHERE’LL BE a new face in the Top 14 next season, captained by an old face , and an English one at that. Former Bristol flanker Joe El-Abd joined Oyonnax last summer after three seasons with Toulon, a stint on the Cote d’Azur that had him sharing a dressing room with some of the greats of the game: Jonny Wilkinson, Sonny Bill Williams, George Smith and Tana Umaga to name but a few.Star studded: Lyon’s Sebastien ChabalIn swapping Toulon for Oyonnax the 33-year-old went from riches to rags. That’s no disrespect to the club that nestles in a valley 20 miles west of Geneva, but with a population of just 23,000 Oyonnax (the ‘x’ is silent) is – as far as El-Abd knows – the smallest town ever to boast a Top 14 team. “Our total budget for this season was €5.5m, which was about the seventh biggest in the Pro2,” explains El-Abd, who lives in the town with his wife and two small children.It was their wish to continue living in France that led El-Abd to choose Oyonnax over a couple of offers from clubs back home last summer. “I didn’t know much about the club when they first contacted my agent,” admits El-Abd, who grew up in Brighton and preferred football to rugby until he arrived at Bath University. “But when I met the club president and the coach, Christophe Urios, it was a done deal almost immediately.”El-Abd didn’t come to Oyonnax as captain but a couple of pre-season training camps convinced Urios that the Englishman with the Egyptian father was the man to lead the club for the 2012-13 season.“We started the season as one of the outsiders,” says El Abd, who like the majority of the Oyonnax squad has never had a sniff of an international cap. Just down from the road from Oyonnax is Lyon, a side full of stars, including former French captain Lionel Nallet and rugby celebrity Sebastien Chabal.But while Lyon’s attempt to return to the Top 14 soon hit the buffers, Oyonnax just kept winning and winning. French rugbyman Sebastien Chabal poses in front of the logo of the LOU (Lyon Olympique Universitaire) as part of his official presentation on April 20, 2012 at the Matmut stadium in Venissieux, outside Lyon. Sebastien Chabal, 34, capped 62 times by France, signed for LOU on a two-year-contract. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/GettyImages) El-Abd puts their success down to canny recruitment on the part of the club. “They were very shrewd in picking up players who hadn’t quite made it at other bigger clubs,” explains El-Abd. “So they all had something to prove, particularly the French players who were overlooked elsewhere.”Puma power: Benjamin Urdapilleta in action for ArgentinaArguably no one had more to prove than fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta, the Argentine who spent his two seasons at Harlequins warming the bench but rarely getting a run out ahead of Nick Evans and Rory Clegg. Urdapilleta arrived at Oyonnax in the summer and has been the catalyst for so much of the club’s impressive displays (they’ve lost just four of their 27 games in Pro2). In scoring 207 points, the South American has also formed an excellent understanding with scrum-half Julien Audy, who left Bayonne following the arrival of Mike Phillips.For the moment, says El-Abd, Oyonnax are still revelling in the sensation of being crowned Pro2 champions three weeks before the last game of the season. Next month they’ll turn their attention to the Top 14. “Obviously it’s going to be very tough,” concedes El-Abd. “If we had one of the smaller budgets in the Pro2 then we’ll definitely have the smallest in the Top 14 but we’ll do the best with what we’ve got. We’re a team of hard workers, we’ve got a tremendous spirit and there are some very talented players here.”If one considers that Clermont’s total budget for this season is €35m then the size of the task facing Oyonnax is evident. But the club is at least situated in what the French call ‘Plastics Valley’, a wealthy industrial area with many big, flourishing businesses. “I think the president will speak to the businesses and ask if they’ll be able to give us any more,” says El-Abd. “And we’ll also target certain players in our recruitment who we think will fit in well.” El-Abd is delighted at the prospect of a return to the Top 14. He admits that in moving to Oyonnax his career was beginning to wind down but thanks in no small part to his captaincy, and his powerful performances in the back-row, he’ll be leading Oyonnax into the Top 14 for their first time in their history. And for many of the squad it will be their first taste of the big-time too, but not for El-Abd. “It’s going to be a great challenge,” he declares. “And there’ll be no pressure on us.”Follow Gavin Mortimer on Twitter @gavinmortimer7last_img read more

Read More →

A chat with the ERC Chief Executive

first_imgConnacht’s scrum-half Kieran Marmion (R) is tackled by Biarritz’s french number eight Imanol Harinordoquy (L) during the European Cup rugby union match Biarritz Olympique versus Connacht at the Aguilera stadium in Biarritz, southwestern France on December 14, 2012. AFP PHOTO GAIZKA IROZ (Photo credit should read GAIZKA IROZ/AFP/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Raise your hands if you have any questions: Derek McGrath of ERC has had a lot of work to do recentlyAS YET another round of press releases about the future of the ERC and the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups whizzes around the atmosphere like so many deflating balloons, it becomes apparent, that the whole sorry debate affair will slide on through the year.Potentially saddening, it would have been nice if this had been nipped in the bud early, but alas that is not to be. Maybe no one was aware of the oncoming problems? Maybe no one was asking questions before.Then it hits us. Rugby World editor Owain Jones sat down with ERC chief executive Derek McGrath and asked him about a number of issues last year. Here are a few of those questions (some/most of them still so painfully relevant):Rugby World: Attendances are rising year-on-year. Does this mean you have perfected your ticketing policy? Derek McGrath: We’ve listened and learnt that a happy club and fans means a happy event. We’re careful with our pricing. The clubs sell 76 of the games and we work with them so they can promote fixtures. We’re careful how to position them and present a differentiated product to fans.When Saracens approached us about going to Cape Town, we tried to make it work but it didn’t come off. However, we’ve been to San Sebastián with Biarritz and Geneva with Bourgoin and we’re always looking at new initiatives to grow our fan base. Where we control the pricing, we ask what can fans afford.Striking rich: Delon Armitage of Toulon scores in the HC finalRW: Last year’s turnover was €50m (£40m). Are you happy with your allocation of funds to the competing clubs?DM: All the money we generate goes straight back to the clubs, except for the tournament running costs. We don’t count it as a success for the ERC but as a success for all the participating clubs and unions. Decisions are made after clubs have been consulted. We’ve had challenges along the way, for example when ITV Digital disappeared, and had to scrutinize costs and take hard decisions. Our message to the clubs was not to forget how special the Heineken is and now it has gone on to become established as a serious sporting event and not just in rugby.Our raised profile has allowed us to develop commercially. If you look at other events, like the Premier League, its reach goes beyond these shores. We’re not in that bracket but the same dynamics are clear.RW: How can the competitions improve and what changes can we expect to their structure?DM: We had a good look at the structure in 2008 and made changes to the Amlin Cup. It was important to improve the quality and exposure of the competition. In our view the Heineken Cup must remain the ‘best of the best’.What overrides both competitions is that we must keep quality at the core. The 24 sides in the Heineken Cup are the elite and the Amlin Challenge Cup provides the rest. Clubs have to think whether to develop young players or try to win and qualify for the Heineken Cup the following year. Another factor is inviting sides from other countries, as we have done with teams from Romania and Spain. We’ve also received interest from Georgia, Russia and Portugal, who are looking to reap the benefits of playing in European competition. That’s a space we’ll look to develop more. Free pass: Would Connacht qualify for the HC on merit?RW: Is it wrong that some teams go into the Heineken Cup every year, while others have to qualify?DM: It’s an issue that is up for debate. There have been calls for the RaboDirect Pro12 to be more meritocratic in its qualification and that is something we will discuss in the next 12-18 months.That said, there is a different qualification criteria for every country. They all come to the European table to participate yet have their own needs. In Britain, we look to countries to decide.We then opened up the questions for you, the fans. Here is how some of those questions went…Q: Do you think we will ever see a European Super League? DM: It’s some way off. A European Super League could change the number of clubs operating, which would be a shame. Take the Aviva Premiership: they’ve worked hard supporting relegation and using the salary cap to provide sustainable opportunities for participating clubs.Q: As CEO, you’ve helped raise the profile of the Heineken Cup. What was the turning  point in achieving this?DM: It was making the hard decisions at really tough times when it would have been easier to take a short-term view. Competition success only comes if your competitors are also thriving. Locally, the appointment of referee manager Donal Courtney is symbolic because it’s no use developing referees from one country.Europe is a neutral competition. We need the other five countries’ referees to be developing. That’s why we’ve put plans in place to raise the standards. That’s the most important principle of all, working together.The Super Rugby Champs: The Waikato Chiefs celebrateQ: Why can’t we have a game between the Heineken Cup winners and the southern hemisphere’s best team? DM: This has been a discussion point from the year I came in, in 2000. It’s an excellent idea in theory but can only be executed if it’s right for everyone. The obvious hurdles are the rugby calendar and timing. We’ve discussed this with SANZAR, but it keeps bouncing back to where it would fit.To proceed, the match would have to be sustainable as an event so that both sides could take time to prepare for it properly and take it seriously.last_img read more

Read More →

The Championship blog: Teams begin B&I Cup campaign

first_img The Greene King IPA Championship: …took a backseat at the weekend thanks to the British and Irish CupBy Richard GraingerGreene King IPA Championship action takes a break for two weeks to make way for the first and second round of pool matches of the British & Irish Cup.Although some Championship outfits use this competition to rotate their squad, for others it is an excellent format for pepping up a flagging season — even in mid-October. This will be the fifth season of the second tier cup competition that currently involves all 12 Championship clubs and three each from Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Leinster A are the current holders, by virtue of a 78th minute Noel Reid penalty last May, beating Newcastle Falcons 17-18 at Kingston Park.When the B&I Cup group rounds conclude in mid-January, the winners of the six groups, plus the two best runners-up will line up for the quarter-finals, where the teams ranked one to four will have home advantage.Leinster A 49, Ealing Trailfinders 8Cup action brought no solace for the West Londoners who suffered another heavy defeat, this time at the hands of head coach Girvan Dempsey’s young side. Although Ealing never gave up, Leinster’s impressive fly-half Cathal Marsh led the rout with a try and seven conversions.Fresh influence: Ollie Smith joins WelshLondon Welsh 26, London Scottish 32Welsh decided to host the battle of the Exiles down the road at Newbury, but paid the price for a host of errors and poor discipline that allowed their former neighbours to capitalise with six penalties. Despite scoring two tries a-piece, the former Aviva Premiership side, who had made 14 changes from their previous outing, could have no complaints at the outcome. Former England and Leicester centre, Ollie Smith, joins Welsh’s coaching staff this week.Cornish Pirates 34, Ulster A 17This was a vintage performance by Pirates, who won the inaugural final in 2010. A delighted assistant coach Harvey Biljon said: “Ulster had a lot of Heineken Cup experience and are a tough outfit.” Pirates were made to work hard for their win but dominated the final quarter and secured the bonus point when Matt Evans ran home from 40 metres.Cross Keys 20, Moseley 16 during the Aviva Premiership match between Harlequins and Leeds Carnegie at The Stoop on November 28, 2010 in London, England. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Cross Keys, beaten finalist two years ago, raced to a14-3 led, despite intensive early pressure from the visitors. However, Moseley, who are still looking for their first competitive win this term, almost pulled a 20-3 interval deficit back with two tries of their own. However, despite a tense finish, a bad-tempered second half will be remembered for a massive brawl and a flurry of cards from referee Mr Stuart Gaffikin.Bristol 21, Leeds Carnegie 17Both sides made sweeping changes but produced an entertaining encounter, despite wet and windy conditions, at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday. The hosts fought back from a 7-15 deficit, with tries from Jarad Williams and Ben Glynn.Jersey 28, Ayr 16Jersey were pushed all the way by their visitors whose 1200 mile round-trip did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. However, the Scottish outfit were reduced to 13 men in the final quarter and Jersey, who were dominant in the scrum, capitalized and notched the bonus point with two late tries.Number 20: James Shanahan, earlier in the seasonPlymouth 28, Nottingham 9Nottingham, with three players seeing yellow at Brickfields on Friday night, were another side whose lack of discipline let them down. Albion head coach James Shanahan was delighted with his side’s performance but rued missing out on the bonus point: “It would have been good to have got the bonus point but tonight was all about winning.”Rotherham 12, Bedford Blues 11The Titans overcame a Bedford side determined to transform their dreadful start to the season in awful conditions at Clifton Lane on Saturday. Bedford scored the only try of the game, but four Juan Pablo Socino penalties were enough to get Rotherham the points. Elsewhere, Munster A started strongly with a 39-8 win over Stirling County and Edinburgh Accies lost 13-53 to Pontypridd.British & Irish Cup action continues this weekend.last_img read more

Read More →

Scotland name squad to face Japan

first_img“This selection is a first chance for some to put their hand up.  We have a 22-months campaign pre-World Cup and one of the mantras is ‘this could be your last Test match.’” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Re-instated: Nick De Luca returns to Scotland’s centre thanks to good defensive form and an injury to Alex DunbarDESPITE A last minute scramble with soon-to-be-director of rugby Scott Johnson jetting down to London to listen to a briefing from refereeing chief Joel Jutge and the IRB the Scotland team to face Japan has been announced.With injuries to full-back Stuart Hogg and Alex Dunbar it is a fresh looking centre pairing while one possibly shocking drop comes from Richie Gray missing out in the second-row. It is understandable as Castres use more of a rotation system and Tim Swinson in particular is in good form.However, as it is a game against Japan rather than South Africa, who visit Murrayfield next week, Johnson can afford to run an eye over some of the less experienced players or those who have not worn a thistle for a few weeks before taking away the chances and trying to beat Rugby Championship opposition.On his side Johnson said: “We are looking to the future and we’re also looking at people’s futures too.center_img Scotland XV v Japan: Sean Maitland; Tommy Seymour, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Sean Lamont; Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Tim Swinson, Al Kellock, Kelly Brown (c), Al Strokosch, David Denton.Subs: Pat MacArthur, Al Dickinson, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, John Barclay, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Duncan Taylorlast_img read more

Read More →

Wales: Five things we learned in December

first_img On the money, while everyone else is arguing over it…: Dan Biggar kicks for the Ospreys in DecemberBy Paul WilliamsWRU and Regional relations spiralThe lowest point on earth is Challenger Deep, located at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. That was, until New Year’s Eve 2013. The new lowest point on earth is currently relations between the Welsh Rugby Union and Regional Rugby Wales.The New Year’s Eve deadline for signing an extension to the Participation Agreement came and went. The regions feel unable to sign the agreement in its’ current state, citing the lack of Pro 12 sponsors and uncertainty over future European competitions and remuneration as their key issues. It’s easy to sympathise with the regions in this instance. Would any of us sign a mortgage without seeing the house, knowing how many bedrooms it has, how much it costs or how much it may be worth in 2019? The WRU’s response was very clear and alluded to the possibility that other clubs or regions could be created or financed and would then fill the vacancies left by the regions in the Pro 12 and any future European competitions. RRW have now issued their own deadline by which they would like the WRU to have responded to their concerns. January 31, 2014 will now see matters come to a head and the intervening four weeks could be as important a period in Welsh rugby as has ever been.So much for New Year’s Resolutions. New Years’ Revolution may be closer to the mark.The Scarlets did draw crowdsBoxing Day sell outWelsh rugby saved its best present for Boxing Day. The derbies between the Scarlets and Ospreys and Dragons v Blues were a roaring success in terms of attendance. Both Parc Y Scarlets and Rodney Parade witnessed full houses and felt the associated commercial and atmospheric gains. To viewers of the Aviva Premiership, marvelling at a full house may seem over the top, particularly when Harlequins sold out Twickenham on the December 28. However, Welsh rugby isn’t usually afforded that luxury. The regions, for a number of reasons, have more seats to sell than DFS and to see Welsh grounds teeming with supporters was heart-warming. A rare glimpse of what a healthy regional product can look like. Fingers crossed that we don’t have to wait until next Christmas to witness it again.Dragons the third region? LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS However, the continuing discord and apparent impasse now surely warrants ministerial intervention, no matter how small. Rugby is one of Wales’ national exports. Its impact on the economy, particularly via tourism, is profound. From 1999 to 2011 the Millennium Stadium has attracted £1.2 Billion into the Welsh economy. And whilst admittedly that can’t solely be attributed to rugby, it would be naive to think that Welsh Rugby hasn’t played an enormous part.Rugby is one of Wales’ key industries and it needs to be treated with the same level of attention as would be afforded to any other failing Welsh industry. I’m not suggesting for one moment that this is as serious the industrial issues that Wales faced in the 80’s. It clearly isn’t. However, a level of ministerial involvement from the Assembly would surely sharpen a few minds. The Dragons have long been labelled the ‘fourth’ region. Their performances over recent seasons, whilst rarely short of effort, have resulted in them dwelling in the basement of the Pro 12.Well, no longer. The Dragons are currently sixth in the table and are lording it over both the Scarlets and the Cardiff Blues. The Dragons’ win over the Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day further reinforced the notion that they are no longer merely brave battlers – but determined winners. They are now not only the second region in Wales, but are currently playing some of the best rugby in Wales too. Lyn and Kinglsey Jones have developed a solid spine of a team and enveloped it with a neat offloading game. The desire to avoid contact whenever possible has seen the Dragons score some accomplished tries and accentuated the skillsets of some of their key players. Toby Faletau, Jason Tovey, Richie Rees and Hallam Amos are all benefiting from the coaching staff’s desire to pass around contact. Whether or not the Dragons remain the ‘second’ Welsh region come the end of the season remains to be seen. But I’ll wager there will be at least one other Welsh region beneath them come May.Dan Biggar’s kicking classDan Biggar has had a tremendous December from the kicking tee. It’s an aspect of his game that occasionally gets overlooked, partly because Leigh Halfpenny’s right boot casts an enormous shadow from which other goal kickers struggle to escape. Up until the Boxing Day fixture against the Scarlets Biggar had successfully kicked 35 in a row. He hadn’t missed since September 28. It’s worth mentioning the kick that he did miss against the Scarlets was from behind the halfway line too – not a simple dab from right in front of the posts. Biggar’s form with the boot has been an enormous benefit to the Ospreys in December and could also be a big boost for Wales in February. Having two 85%+ goal kickers on the field presents an enormous advantage at test level.Politicians needed?: First Minister Carwyn JonesDoes Welsh Rugby need ministerial intervention?Welsh rugby’s current issues are well known. The solution is not. Even the most learned administrators, pundits and writers can’t agree on a solution and the disparate array of opinions highlights just how complicated the issues are. President of the Catalan regional government and leader of the Catalan party CIU (Convergence and Unity party) Artur Mas (R) meets with Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones (L) at the Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona, on March 1, 2013. Carwyn Jones paid a visit to Barcelona on St David’s Day to promote Wales. AFP PHOTO/LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images) last_img read more

Read More →

Saints and Sinners: The weekend’s talking points

first_imgThe European Champions Cup pool stages are coming to the boil and with every point precious, who starred and who slumped this weekend? High hit: Frans Steyn (right) makes the tackle which earned him a red card (Photo: Inpho)The SinnersFrans SteynMontpellier fly-half Frans Steyn made his team’s task against Leinster all the harder when he was sent off for a high tackle on Johnny Sexton with just 14 minutes of their Champions Cup Pool Four match gone.Steyn flew up and hit Sexton around the jaw with his right arm just after the Leinster playmaker had got his pass away. It was a clear-cut red card, even before this month’s new, tougher stance on contact with the head.Steyn made matters worse by complaining to referee JP Doyle that Sexton had ducked into the contact, instead of just walking off the pitch. This was the third Champions Cup match in a row that Montpellier have had a player sent off. Back yourself: Finn Russell should have gone for a match-winning drop-goal. (Photo: Inpho)Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell Glasgow Warriors were beaten by a late try from Munster’s Francis Saili and their defence was a man short at the time because Stuart Hogg was in the sin-bin. The Warrior was yellow-carded after flinging an arm across the neck of Andrew Conway as he attempted to score. It was a soft yellow to concede as Hogg’s action had no impact on Conway and it was Lee Jones who actually held up the Munsterman over the line.Finn Russell is among the Sinners for failing to take charge and call for a drop-goal when Glasgow had set up a great attacking position with a few minutes to go. His team were going through the phases inside the Munster 22, he was in space on the other side of the line and so would have had time to take a shot, but instead of calling for the ball he let the hunt for a try continue. Glasgow were only 14-12 down so a drop-goal could have been a match-winner and these chances have to be taken. TAGS: Highlight Crucial score: Chris Ashton on his way to scoring his last-ditch try. (Photo: Getty Images)Chris AshtonPart of a winger’s job is to be in the right place at the right time to score the crucial tries and Chris Ashton did that after the clock had gone red to help Saracens earn a 22-22 draw at the Scarlets.He was on Owen Farrell’s shoulder to benefit from his break and managed to ground the ball under pressure after sliding over the line by the posts. Farrell kicked the simple conversion.Ashton had scored his first try half an hour earlier in the Pool Three clash, capitalising on great work from Alex Lozowski and Farrell. The draw was enough to keep Saracens top of Pool Three and take them into the knockout phase. Charles Piutau and Jack NowellThis duo were on opposing sides as Exeter Chiefs took on Ulster in Champions Cup Pool Five on Saturday and both lit up the occasion with their outstanding play.Jack Nowell was on fire for the Chiefs. He made a great run, wrong-footing Piutau as he went, to set up a try for Michele Campagnaro which put the Chiefs 24-12 up. He had Ulster’s defence backpedalling again on 70 minutes, forcing a deliberate knock-on from Paddy Jackson which resulted in the penalty try that sealed the 31-19 win.Fancy footwork: Charles Piutau got the Chiefs’ defence in a pickle. (Photo: Getty Images)Charles Piutau ended up on the losing side but still scored a peach of a try in the first half. He received a pass from Jackson, pressed the accelerator pedal but then threw in an outrageous step off his left foot to leave Nowell on his backside as he tried to cover across and from there Piutau had a clear run to the line.He scored a second try just on the hour mark, collecting a chip from Jackson, but it wasn’t enough for Ulster to stop Exeter’s charge to victory. The defeat ended Ulster’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of this year’s Champions Cup. A day to forget: Mathew Tait (right) make a crucial mistake against Racing. (Photo: Getty Images)Mathew Tait Leicester Tigers helped their opponents Racing 92 to a 34-3 victory with a succession of mistakes, the worst of which was made by Mathew Tait just before half-time. Dan Carter sent a penalty shot wide but Tait somehow managed to knock-on what should have been a comfortable catch behind the posts.From the resulting scrum, Gerbrandt Grobler powered over for a try which gave Racing a 22-3 half-time lead.Earlier in the game Marc Andreu had scored a try thanks to mistakes by a trio of Tigers. Sam Harrison’s pass to Tait didn’t find its man and Will Evans failed to scoop up the loose ball, but Andreu pounced and raced in to score. Jack ConanThe Leinster blindside was a deserving Man of the Match in the Irish team’s 57-3 walloping of Montpellier in Pool Four.Jack Conan scored a hat-trick of tries and set up others with his powerful, dynamic running and deft offloading. His first try was a run-in from outside the 22, for his second he drove over under the posts from close range and his third involved a dummy inside the 22. It was a terrific individual performance and helped Leinster secure top spot in their pool and become the first team to qualify for this year’s Champions Cup quarter-finals. Jumping for joy: Dan Robson leaps onto a happy team-mate to celebrate his try. (Photo: Getty Images)Dan RobsonWasps were trailing 14-10 with under a minute to go in their Champions Cup Pool Two clash with Toulouse. They needed to win to keep alive their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals and they were down to 14 men, with Danny Cipriani in the sin-bin.Wasps battered away at the French defence inside the 22 and finally forced a penalty five metres out. Replacement scrum-half Dan Robson tapped the ball and ran for the line and from such close range Toulouse’s two tallest defenders, Richie Gray and Yoann Maestri, couldn’t get low enough fast enough to stop him from squeezing over for the winning try. Jimmy Gopperth converted to seal the 17-14 win and Wasps go into next Sunday’s match v Zebre with a chance of overtaking Connacht at the top of the pool. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS In a tight corner: Francis Saili slides in for the crucial try. (Photo: Inpho) Who’s the sinner: Will Skelton (2nd left) is sin-binned as James Davies (3rd left) looks on. (Photo: Inpho)James Davies and Will SkeltonSaracens forward Will Skelton was sin-binned late in their game against the Scarlets for hitting James Davies in the head at the back of a breakdown. However, Davies deserves to join his opponent on the Sinners bench for what seemed to be a theatrical over-reaction to the hit. Skelton did no more than slap him on the face, but Davies took three steps back and went down clutching his head, then stayed down to make sure he was noticed.As Lawrence Dallaglio said on BT Sport: “Skelton gets a yellow card and Cubby Boi gets an Oscar.” Come on James, we thought you were tougher than that. The SaintsFrancis Saili Munster replacement Francis Saili took his team into the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup as Pool One winners as he scored the match-winning try against Glasgow Warriors.The Irish side trailed 12-9 with ten minutes to go but they were a man up as Warriors full-back Stuart Hogg was in the sin-bin. Simon Zebo attacked, Keith Earls continued the move and found Saili cutting a line on the opposite diagonal. Saili had to dive for the corner to beat Tommy Seymour’s tackle but he managed it and Munster held on to win 14-12. Prop-er job: Allan Dell (left) celebrates his long-range try for Edinburgh. (Photo: Inpho)Challenge Cup heroes Ospreys are guaranteed top spot in Pool Two of the Challenge Cup after a 47-7 thrashing of Lyon. Their seven tries were all by different scorers but wing Hanno Dirksen was named Man of the Match. Steve Shingler kicked a penalty at the death to steal a 22-21 win for Cardiff Blues at Pau in Pool Four of the Challenge Cup. He slotted five penalties and a conversion to keep the Blues snapping at Bath’s heels in this pool.George Ford was the Man of the Match in Bath’s 57-22 win at Bristol. The England fly-half put his team on the front foot time and time again in the first half and scored a total of 20 points before being substituted early in the second half.Edinburgh prop Allan Dell motored in from well outside the 22 to score an important try for the Scottish side in their 23-18 win at Harlequins in Pool Five. That victory puts Edinburgh on top of the pool and in the driving seat with one round of matches to go.last_img read more

Read More →

Elite referee Wayne Barnes on life as a barrister

first_img Elite referee Wayne Barnes on life as a barristerWe’re used to seeing Wayne Barnes dressed in rugby kit with a whistle in hand, but when he greets us at reception in The Shard he’s wearing a shirt and tie with an access pass in hand.Should anyone he works with at Fulcrum Chambers, which is housed within the London landmark, forget what Barnes’s other job is, though, a regular reminder has been left by the former office manager. The screensavers on all the computers are photos of the international referee in a variety of kits.Rugby World has come to meet Barnes on a weekday evening – less chance of a ribbing from his workmates if the office is empty while we take photos, although he has received plenty of advice on how he should pose and smile. We want to know how he juggles life as a top rugby official while also working as a barrister – not to mention the fact he also has two young children, Juno, three, and Beau, one, with wife Polly.So what is an average week like? “On Monday and Tuesday we’ll do reviews and training as a referees group,” the 39-year-old says. “On Wednesday I try to be in the chambers in town most of the time. Then it depends what the weekend is looking like. If it’s a Premiership game, I’ll likely be in chambers on Thursday too; if it’s a European week I’ll probably be travelling. It’s important to get away from rugby at times and this (being a barrister) is a good way to switch off.”Related: Downtime with French referee Jerome GarcesBarnes didn’t plan for his life to pan out like this. He only took up refereeing after suffering an injury in his teens and being encouraged to pick up the whistle by a teacher. When he realised you got a couple of free pints, he became more interested! It was law he studied at university and a career as a barrister he pursued after graduating, but as he started to progress up the ranks as a referee the RFU offered to employ him in 2005. He’s now refereed more Premiership games than any other official, taken charge of 80 Tests and was the man in the middle for this year’s European Champions Cup final. If England don’t reach next year’s World Cup final, he will surely be one of the front-runners to referee that match too.Official work: Barnes refereeing France against WalesWhile his life is clearly busy – he’s currently darting between the northern and southern hemispheres to officiate in the Rugby Championship – he believes his parallel careers complement each other. “If I go back to the days when I was wearing a wig and gown, I was cross-examining people in court and dealing with people in stressful situations and pressured environments – a client may have been about to get a reasonable sentence and I’m working in their best interests. That advocacy is hugely transferable. It’s how to talk to people.“As a barrister you have to be able to pick out key facts, whether prosecuting or defending. It’s attention to detail and picking out the relevant facts – again that’s transferable. Analysing legal text is part of both jobs – knowing the law.”These days, Barnes is making his point on rugby pitches more often than in courtrooms as his chambers specialises in bribery and corruption so the work is more “paper based”. Fulcrum works with multinational companies and advise the boards on how to run internal investigations and assess the tender process for overseas contracts, where third parties are often involved.Fulcrum is looking to expand into the sporting arena and how to advise governing bodies. It’s a smart move – after all, recent scandals have shown that sport is not immune from corruption, far from it in fact. As Barnes says: “With my understanding of internal investigations and governance, and knowledge of the law, it’s a good next step. Everyone is concerned about governance and integrity, so with my knowledge of both (sport and law) it would be a natural fit.”Special bond: Sharing a hug with Schalk Brits, then of SaracensObviously the chambers will steer clear of rugby organisations to avoid a conflict of interest, but that may change sooner rather than later. Barnes plans to hang up his whistle after Japan 2019 – being selected as one of the referees for what would be his fourth World Cup is a major goal – so he can spend more time with his family and focus on his legal career.“The biggest challenge at the moment is the amount of time away from home. There’s a lot of travel, particularly around World Rugby competitions, and if I go in 2019 I’ll be away for seven weeks. Juno will start school when I’m at the World Cup. FaceTime is a revelation but it’s difficult to be away from the kids.”Not that he doesn’t have a laugh when he’s on refereeing duty. He recalls the officials’ court session at the end of the last World Cup. Nigel Owens was the judge and Barnes, fittingly, was the prosecutor. He even donned his wig for the occasion (sadly he wouldn’t do the same for our photo shoot, saying it was too incongruous to wear it in the office – he had a point!), although he misplaced it on the way back to the hotel. Related: The Television Match Official explained“I didn’t really know where it went but luckily one of the support staff found it outside Madame Tussauds,” he recalls.Close up: Barnes in his office“I think it was at the same time they were helping out another guy who thought Madame Tussauds was our hotel and that Kylie Minogue was waving at him!“We’re all massive rugby fans and having a court session is part and parcel of the World Cup. Everyone forgets we’re a tight bunch as well; we’re our own little team. Craig Joubert, Nigel Owens and I were refereeing on the sevens circuit in 2002, so we’ve grown up with each other. We’re a good bunch of friends and have travelled the world together.”Barnes is also quick to point out the strong relationships referees have with players and coaches. Take Schalk Brits: Barnes sin-binned him in May’s Premiership final – the hooker’s final game for Saracens – but at the end of the game they still shared a hug.Then there’s the Champions Cup final. While Barnes and his assistants sat in their changing room reflecting on the game, there was a knock on the door from Racing 92 lock Donnacha Ryan, who came in to share a few beers, and Leinster prop Tadhg Furlong followed soon after with more beers.“To have a winning and a losing player in our changing room speaks volumes about the game,” says Barnes. “There’s a nice relationship between all of us and we all work together – players, coaches and referees. We can talk about how the game is changing and advancing. It’s great to work with coaches and pick their brains and understand what they think.“It’s not a straightforward game and that’s what I like about it. Coaches can look at the laws and look at a way of adapting their strategy around it to try to stay one step ahead.”It’s this kind of interaction that Barnes believes should encourage more people to go into refereeing. As well as meeting great people, he says there is a lot of fun to be had as a referee and highlights something Ed Morrison has often said to him: “The last laugh is had in the referee’s changing room.”Name of the game: Barnes’s wig has his name – albeit faded – inscribed in itIn terms of advice for those thinking of going down the referee route, he points to the fact he officiated more than 200 games in his first three seasons. Taking charge of that many games allows you to experience myriad situations and quandaries of the law book. After all, the more you do something the quicker you learn and the better you become.As for making calls in a game, Barnes says: “Every time you make a decision do it with a clear mind. You don’t want to worry about your last decision. Also, make decisions on the facts in front of you, not ‘I upset this team last year’ or ‘This could cost the team the match’.”It’s that cool-headed approach that has seen Barnes become arguably the world’s best referee. It’s hard to think of anyone who would have handled that incredible 100-minute game in Paris during the 2017 Six Nations better, calling on all his legal expertise, rugby and otherwise, to deal with France’s questionable actions around front-row replacements at the end of the game.He may be entering the final stretch of his refereeing career – a decision he no doubt made with a clear mind – but there are still plenty of big occasions on the horizon, not least that World Cup in Japan. Then, as we enter 2020, the shirt and tie rather than the rugby kit will become his more common uniform. Impressive view: Referee Wayne Barnes in his office at The Shard This feature first appeared in Rugby world magazine in September.Don’t forget to follow Rugby World on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news in rugby.center_img LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Elite referee Wayne Barnes gives Rugby World an insight into the other side of his life as a barrister. This feature first appeared in Rugby world magazine in September.last_img read more

Read More →