LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS TAGS: Connacht Shane Layden(Connacht)Shane Layden (inpho)THE ARRIVAL of Heineken Cup rugby at Connacht has brought a feel-good factor to the province this season, and the performances of Shane Layden, a 19-year-old academy back, have personified the mood in the camp.Having scored a hat-trick for Connacht U20 in their Inter-Pro victory over Munster, he made his senior debut against Leinster at the RDS last October, filling a gap left by injury to Eoin Griffin.Layden hails from a Gaelic Football background, and his skills were honed when he played for Roscommon Minor in 2009-10. He now plays club rugby for Buccaneers, and his safe hands under the high ball, combined with electric pace and a try-scoring instinct, have caught the eye of the national selectors. He has represented Ireland U18 and U19, and made his U20 Six Nations debut this season.Tries against Wales, Italy and Scotland saw him consolidate his place in the starting line-up in the No 15 jersey, although he has also played on the wing and at centre. Ireland U20 coach Mike Ruddock says: “The fact that Connacht won the U20s Championship this year shows how far they’re coming on with their game. Shane is very skilful, and kicks and passes equally well off both feet. But one thing he needs to work on is patience, and knowing when to hold onto the ball rather than passing or kicking it.”Something to work on for Layden, but he’s ticking a lot of boxes.Rugby World Verdict: The teenager is capitalising on Connacht’s development. Bea AspreyBeno Obano(Dulwich College)Beno ObanoThe comparison with Victor Ubogu is hard to ignore: an English loosehead of Nigerian heritage who loves to carry the ball. Twenty years after Ubogu was in his pomp, Beno Obano is ploughing his own furrow. And successfully too, helping Dulwich College to Daily Mail U18 Cup glory and, after a torn hamstring held up his representative career, playing for England U18 against London Academies and Northampton.The 17-year-old is also part of the Wasps Academy, where he trains under the tutelage of assistant manager Chris Lloyd. “Beno is a great player and a real athlete,” says Lloyd. “He’s an outstanding ball-carrier but what caught my attention was a sevens tournament at London Oratory school, when he was chasing down wingers. We love having him at the club. He’s very driven and has a bit of humour and character about him.”The South Londoner’s first passion was football and he remains a big Chelsea fan. But after Obano’s introduction to rugby at London Oratory aged 12, the die was cast. Although a prop, his speed and strength over the ball lend themselves to the role of a seven – and he names Sean O’Brien as his favourite player. “He’s a massive ball-carrier and that’s the way I like to play,” he says.The current thinking, however, is to convert Obano to a hooker and he’s doing double shifts on throwing technique to further that aim. After completing his A-levels next summer, he plans to take a gap year to give rugby his full attention.Rugby World Verdict: Bang on course to earn a full-time contract at Wasps next year. Alan PeareyThis article appeared in the June 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. Would you like to sign up to Rugby World’s excellent weekly email newsletter? Click here.For Back Issues Contact John Denton Services at 01733-385-170
You can also keep up with Rugby World’s World Cup Watch in the latest edition of the magazine or in our World Cup section of the website. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Game of Thrones fans will like this… To set the scene for Rugby World Cup 2015 tickets going on general sale on September 12 to September 29, the folks at England 2015 and the IRB have joined forces for this video featuring actor Charles Dance, best known for playing Tywin Lannister in the hit show Game of Thrones.Fans of the fantasy programme will be particularly gleeful at the assurance: “there will be blood.” However, it’s probably better for rugby fans trying to spot their heroes in the assembled crowd inside the changing room (there’s obviously current players Dylan Hartley, Joe Launchbury, George North and Alun Wyn Jones plus heroess Martin Johnson, Scott Quinnell, Lawrence Dallaglio, Serge Betsen and Sir Ian McGeechan, but who else can you spot?).This video, directed by Peter Cattaneo (Director of the Full Monty), and sporting the strapline that will be used throughout the build-up to the World Cup in England and Cardiff – “Too big to miss” – highlights the fact that tickets can be purchased from https://tickets.rugbyworldcup.com/.
In the Guinness Pro12, Munster claimed a first win over rivals Leinster in Dublin since 2008. They led 28-9 at half-time and despite having four players sin-binned in the second period held on to win 34-23 and move up to fourth in the table.Glasgow and Ospreys are the only teams with a 100% winning record this season, both overcoming Italian opposition this weekend to keep their places at the top of the table. Ten fantastic photographs from all the weekend’s rugby action across the world – / 10Credits: Michael Steele/Getty ImagesmoreShowing image 1 of 10 TAGS: Highlight WHAT A weekend of rugby! From Kingston Park to Johannesburg and Dublin to Mendoza, there were notable results across the rugby world – and these photographs capture the best of the weekend’s action.In the Rugby Championship, South Africa ended New Zealand‘s 22-match unbeaten run with a 27-25 win at Ellis Park. Pat Lambie slotted the winning penalty a couple of minutes from time as the Springboks became the first team to beat the All Blacks since December 2012.In Mendoza, Argentina secured their first-ever Rugby Championship win, capitalising on the dominance of their own scrum and Australia‘s ill-discipline to beat the Wallabies 21-17.Newcastle also pulled off a memorable win, beating Exeter 29-24 in their Aviva Premiership game at Kingston Park. It was their first win in the league for nearly a year and ended a run of 20 defeats.Saracens slipped to third in the table following their 21-11 defeat by Bath while defending champions Northampton lead the way with 20 points from their first five games. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Over in league, Bath’s big recruit Sam Burgess signed off his career at South Sydney Rabbitohs with a 30-6 win over Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL Grand Final. Burgess fractured his cheekbone in the first minute but played on for the full 80, although that injury could now delay his union debut.Want to read big-name interviews and see exclusive photographs every month? Then subscribe to Rugby World! Click here for all the latest deals, or find out how to download the digital edition here.
With Mike Ford leaving club after four years, the rumour mill is whirring as to who will fill his boots as Bruce Craig’s next head coach at The Rec Saying farewell: Mike Ford has been shown the door after four years at the helm TAGS: Highlight By Alex ShawJust a year after being named coach of the Year at the Aviva Premiership awards – and eight months after signing a new contract – Mike Ford is looking for a new job.It’s a testament to just how cataclysmic Bath’s 2015/16 season has been that Ford being deemed surplus to requirements, just a season after leading the club to the Premiership final, has occurred. Expectations were heady coming into the campaign but controversy struck when Sam Burgess scuttled back to rugby league, and results went from bad to worse for the West Country club.From their middling league position, which at one point almost threatened to dump them into the relegation dogfight, to their meek pool stage exit from the European Rugby Champions Cup, little to nothing has gone right for Bath this season. Forwards coach Neal Hatley leaving for a role with England and the departures of Amanaki Mafi and Alafoti Faosiliva due to off-field indiscretions further stained the club’s reputation.That said, Ford’s vacated head coach position, or a director of rugby slot should Bath wish to restructure, is as appetising a position as there is in club rugby. The club still has a plethora of talented players, a large and loyal fan base and fantastic training and stadium facilities at Farleigh House and The Recreation Ground.Bath owner Bruce Craig is not the most patient of owners and certainly likes to be involved in the day-to-day running of the club, but that’s not something that ever put off any manager wanting to work at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich and it’s unlikely to deter anyone who sees resurrecting Bath from this season’s slump as the perfect addition to their coaching CV.We take a look below at some of the available candidates to fill the role.Stuart LancasterThere will undoubtedly be plenty of speculation linking Bath with the former England coach and given the success Lancaster had with the likes of George Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson, it’s not the worst of fits. Stuart Lancaster has seemed keen to get back into rugby, having spent a short time working with the Stormers, as well as being linked with a host of southern hemisphere positions and the until recently-vacant DoR position at Harlequins.In the running: Stuart Lancaster has been linked with many jobs since leaving EnglandBoth Lancaster and Bath like their rugby with plenty of width but with Bath overplaying their hand in that department this season, Craig may not see Lancaster as the right man to invigorate the changes needed at Bath to see them prosper. If Lancaster were to secure the position, don’t be surprised to see the recently retired Stuart Hooper take up a position on Lancaster’s coaching staff, as the lock played under Lancaster back during his Leeds Carnegie days.Heyneke MeyerMeyer represents a different approach to the one that Lancaster or Blackadder would bring. He would offer a much more forward-centric and direct approach and given that the pack has been a weakness for Bath all season – the additions of Luke Charteris and Taulupe Faletau should certainly help – it could be a welcome change in tack for a back line that became all too predictable without the dual-threat of a dominant pack to work behind.In the frame: Heyneke Meyer is thought to be favoured by Bruce CraigThe South African has been out of work since he and the Springboks parted ways after the Rugby World Cup last year, with his lack of transformation in the squad, rather than his results on the pitch, believed to be the driving force behind his departure. Meyer has previously worked in England, having had a short stint with Leicester Tigers, but was required to end his tenure prematurely due to family illness back in South Africa. He has publicly said how much he enjoyed his time in the country, however, and he could be an intriguing target to bolster Bath’s weaknesses.Todd Blackadder LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The New Zealander has been at the reigns of the Crusaders for the last seven years and though the franchise has failed to win the Super Rugby title during that period, the team has made it at least as far as the semi-finals in six of those seven seasons. Blackadder has said that this season will be his last in Christchurch and there may be an air of destiny about the side this year as they currently sit atop the Australasian conference – with the number one overall seed – and are playing a very effective and very attractive brand of rugby.Experience: Todd Blackadder has coached in the Northern and Southern HemisphereIf Craig could lure Blackadder to Bath, it would be one of the more exciting coaching hires in the Premiership in recent time. He fits with the playing style that Bath have implemented since Gary Gold left and like Lancaster, seems well-suited to the personnel that Bath have at their disposal.Philippe Saint-AndréThe Frenchman has taken his fair share of flak for the performances of the French national team in recent years but his time at club level, particularly the five years he spent at Sale, were a lot more successful. Saint-André orchestrated Sale’s first and only Premiership title back in 2005/06 and delivered not only results, but also a style that was easy on the eye.Spare time: Saint-Andre hasn’t coached since the World Cup and has Premiership experienceSir John KirwanJohn Kirwan resigned from the Blues last year after three lacklustre years at the franchise, paving the way for Tana Umaga to succeed him. In fairness to Kirwan, he inherited a talented but fairly fractious squad and lessons learned in that stint would certainly seem to help him if he were charged with resuscitating Bath in 2016/17.Widely travelled: Sir John Kirwan has coached all over the worldSir Graham HenryThis is certainly a long shot but Craig is not afraid to make a splash and would have the financial muscle to try and tempt Henry into returning to the northern hemisphere. The former All Blacks coach is currently helping out with the New Zealand Warriors NRL side and clearly still has the coaching bug in his system.World Cup winner: Sir Graham Henry has won everything in the gameNick MallettApart from roles with the Barbarians and World XVs, Mallett has been out of coaching since he left the Azzurri in 2011. He returned to South Africa to spend time with his family and work as a pundit with SuperSport, but has twice been heavily linked with vacant England head coaching positions and the Bath gig could be one that tempts him out of the studio and back on to the training field.Round the block: Nick Mallett could yet be tempted out of the TV studioHonourable mentions Of course, there are plenty of coaches and DoRs who are currently in employment who could be of interest to Bath. Connacht’s Pat Lam and Sale Sharks’ Steve Diamond have both done excellent jobs with limited budgets, but are contracted for the foreseeable future. Would the temptation of Bath’s resources be enough to stir them?Robbie Deans is currently enjoying plenty of success in Japan with the Panasonic Wild Knights, as well as having been the mastermind behind the Crusaders dynasty of the 2000’s. Luring Deans from Japan could be seen as quite the coup, as could attracting Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards or Glasgow Warriors’ Gregor Townsend. With contracted coaches come legal entanglements, but Craig wouldn’t be afraid of ruffling some feathers if he knew his interest was reciprocated by the coach or DoR in question.
However, being a one-off event, all teams are going to come out with their eye on that gold medal and the beauty of sevens is that it could be anyone’s. You only have to look at the series this year and see how many different Cup winners there were (six) and how competitive it was. Some teams used the series to trial different players and combinations, readying themselves to show their best in Rio. It’s going to be exciting!The Women’s Sevens Olympic Repêchage takes place at UCD Bowl on 25-26 June. Tickets cost from €5 and kids go free – click HERE to buy. Sixteen teams will compete for the final spot in the Rio Olympics. The pools are:Pool A Russia, Samoa, Zimbabwe, Madagascar. Pool B Spain, Mexico, Venezuela, Tunisia. Pool C Ireland, China, Portugal, Trinidad& Tobago. Pool D Hong Kong, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Cook Islands.For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here. Global vision: Ex-England star Ben Gollings has coached extensively in three continents (Getty Images) Rugby’s inclusion in the Olympics came too late for the England Sevens great, but he could still get to Rio by springing an upset at this weekend’s qualifying event in Dublin Ben Gollings is one of the superstars of the sevens sphere, discussed in the same breath as Waisale Serevi and Eric Rush after a career that yielded 220 tries and a record 2,652 points on the World Series. After his England days ended in 2011, he tasted success with Rugby Lions as a player-coach before moving on after the financial crisis that hit the Midlands club in 2012.He then worked for World Rugby and as director of rugby for Sri Lanka, developing their 15s and sevens teams, whilst dipping his toe in the world of media punditry for Sky Sports.His next job took him stateside as he became a business partner with old adversary Serevi. The company, now known as Atavus, helps grow rugby participation in the USA and Gollings has worked closely with all levels of participation, from grass roots to the national team.His latest move, to coach the China women’s team, continues his globetrotting existence. We caught up with him ahead of this weekend’s Women’s Sevens Olympic Repêchage in Dublin…So Ben, how did the post in China come about?Whilst working with Atavus, I was approached by China to help develop their sevens programme. It was an exciting opportunity as I wanted to coach a team full-time and have a go at qualifying for the Olympics – I missed out as a player and would love to be there in some capacity.I started with China last July, on a fixed-term contract up to the Olympics. Unfortunately we missed out on our first opportunity in the regional qualifier before Christmas but we now have one last chance at it in Ireland.How are you enjoying life in China?It has been a real experience. I played in Japan and so have had a taste of Asian culture but China is very different. We are based in an Olympic training centre; the team lives in, so we do everything in the training centre.I haven’t been able to see too much of the culture outside the centre but it is busy and comes alive at night. China is vast and heavily populated – we are based in a small town of only eight million!Hard carry: China’s Yu Xiaoming eludes a Spanish tackler during a World Series event last year (AFP)The food took a bit of getting used to as I don’t think there is anything in China that moves that they don’t eat. I have been served snake, eel, frog, crickets, guts and rabbit head, to name a few. It makes for an interesting time!The language has been quite tough. I have learnt key go-to words that I can use to get by. Luckily, with phone technology there is a translation tool that allows me to communicate at a level that gets me around.All in all, it has been good and it’s been incredible to see how such a big Olympic nation works with sport.How much interest is there in rugby there?The main rugby focus is on sevens – it’s hard for sports in China to develop if they don’t have an Olympic tag to them. There are a number of 15s teams but these are mainly run by the expat community.In sevens each province has a full-time men’s and women’s squad which trains all year round in preparation for the China Games every four years. This is a huge event, seen in China as bigger than the Olympics, and if your province takes the top prize it holds a lot of weight both financially and for future work opportunities.My belief is that if we can get the team to the Olympics it will have a huge impact on rugby in China. You’ll see it become a major sport in schools and build quickly from there. It would be great to see as they have an abundance of athletes to choose from.Is there much financial backing for the sport?The Chinese Rugby Football Association (CRFA) is only small and Government-run. All its funding comes through the Government and whilst it is an Olympic sport there is a reasonable amount of funds available.Sharing his wisdom: Gollings supervises a schoolboys session in the UAE in November 2014 (Getty)However, the main funding resources for rugby come through the professional set-ups of the provinces. Each player is paid to play and has all their living costs covered while they are attached to the province. Some people may have a swayed view on this and think there is an abundance of funding, but this really isn’t the case.There has just been a big announcement made by World Rugby and a big company in China called Alibaba that has agreed to sponsor the development of rugby in China over the next ten years for a sum of around US$100 million.It will be very interesting to see how much of an impact this has on the sport. If used properly, it could be a huge boost and see China become an Asian powerhouse in rugby alongside Japan and see both men and women competing in sevens in the next Olympics.What are the biggest issues for you as a coach?It has been a very interesting coaching experience. The biggest problems I face come from culture and how the athletes perceive rugby. Nearly all the girls playing have come from very different sporting backgrounds and have been then selected to play rugby. This means they don’t necessarily love the game or have a passion for it.They can’t be blamed for this. For them it is a way of life and rugby has had the time like other countries to grow its own culture. I have to look at other driving factors to motivate the players into playing, in order to get the best out of them and create the best learning environment.Other cultural things can cause a problem. For example, they love a sleep, which on the one hand is great for recovery but when we are talking sleeping nearly six hours in the day it can have a negative effect on recovery and heavily reduce time spent improving. I have changed this but there is a certain amount of resistance to it!Land of nod: Sleeping is popular in China but sometimes to the detriment of training, says Gollings (AFP)Language can be a problem when understanding each other and the old saying ‘lost in translation’ can be very true, especially when working with management.There is a lot of red tape also that can make managing the team and our movements very difficult. It is not simple as the Government controls everything.The way I look at it, though, is that sevens is a sport where you have to adapt because you play in many different environments and therefore I constantly look at ways of adapting to make sure we can get the best outcome.On the field, the girls’ skill level is very good. I have been impressed by it. Game awareness is probably the biggest area that we have had to improve due really to the (short) length of time they have been playing.China had a strong Asian Sevens Series, didn’t they? Yes, it’s the main competition for teams in Asia. In the past China has been quite a dominant presence. However, since the inclusion of sevens in the Olympics (announced in 2009) the likes of Japan, Kazakhstan and Hong Kong have developed quickly.Last year’s Asia series saw us play in both finals but lose both. Japan took top spot with ourselves and Hong Kong coming second. On the one hand it was positive as we were consistent in playing the finals, but it was also disappointing in that we didn’t convert.Japan definitely lead the way and are the most improved side on the series. This was a good position for us to finish as all efforts have been heavily focused on the Olympic qualifiers.Rising force: Japan players take part in a training session in Kumagaya earlier this year (Reuters)Who are the favourites to win the women’s Olympic repêchage in Dublin?The repêchage is going to be a closely fought contest. The favourites coming into the competition are Russia, who were disappointed not to qualify out of Europe. They are a physical side and have proven themselves against the best sides, knocking over the likes of New Zealand and Australia.They are closely followed by Spain and Ireland, who have both been playing full-time on the World Series this year. Spain are not a big side but work incredibly hard and hold onto the ball well and grind out wins.Ireland are new to sevens having only really been going just over a year, but they can easily cause an upset. They are a strong, powerful side. This weekend they have the added bonus of home advantage too so they are going to be one to watch out for.We have Ireland in our pool, along with Portugal and Trinidad & Tobago. Portugal play a lot like their men’s team and are very competitive. I haven’t seen a huge amount of them but I know we have to be very careful and not underestimate them. Trinidad are the champions of the Caribbean. They can play and have some big, powerful runners.Pool rivals: China and Ireland run out for a Sevens World Series qualifier in Dublin last August (Inpho)This tournament is different to any other as it’s a one-off with only one team getting the all-important position in the Olympics. There is going to be a lot of added pressure and every game is going to be like a cup final. One slip-up and it could quickly end your hopes and dreams. The team that can channel this pressure and handle it the best will come out on top.If we can focus on our game and play to our potential, we have every opportunity to be there fighting it out on day two. We have to stay focused and not let the occasion get to us.How have you prepared for the tournament?In January I set about starting things anew. We have had a blank canvas on which to map out our plan and look to make some big changes in the way we play and view the game.We worked very hard on building the correct foundations in fitness & conditioning and skill in the early part of the year. This was followed by a three-week tour to Australia that proved a great success on and off the field. It was designed to give the team a new cultural experience as well as some tough rugby.Following this we have had to manage the squad through a three-series provincial competition and play as a team in Hong Kong. This was tough on the girls as they are not used to playing this amount of rugby back-to-back, but it was a good mental test for them.Podium finish: China’s women celebrate winning gold at the 2009 East Asian Games in Hong Kong (AFP)We then took the squad to Europe to further our preparations. For us is it very helpful to play against European opposition and reduce the stigma attached to that that the girls have. We narrowly lost in France in the final and lost to a last-second try by the Dutch in Amsterdam.We have had our ups and downs along the way but we are ready for Ireland and ready to fight for that Olympic opportunity and make our dream a reality.Who should we look out for in the China team?We have a number of very talented players in our squad, although unfortunately we have had to leave a few behind in China due to injury.Our centre, known as Emily (the players all have nicknames), is very strong and athletic. She has been playing for China since the age of 16. She has a very calm head on her and makes things happen with ball in hand. It nearly always takes two or three opponents to bring her down and I don’t think she would look out of place in any national squad.Xiao Qian (Baby Panda) is another great talent. She was awarded Player of the Tournament in the Youth Olympics in Nanjing 2014. She has a lot of pace and great footwork. She has recently recovered from a knee injury and it’s going to be really exciting seeing her back playing again.Do you still play yourself?I do play a bit and wish I had time to play more. I was never ready to stop when it finished for me – I loved playing and still do.While I was based in the US I used to play for our company team and have also played in a few invitational tournaments over the years. With work, however, it isn’t that easy.In shape: Gollings spent 11 years on the World Series and still plays in the odd invitational tournamentI do look after myself, though, and keep myself in good condition. My last bit of game time was in Amsterdam playing for the Mo Bros – a team raising awareness for the Movember charity. I enjoyed it a lot until I had the pleasure of tackling Henry Tuilagi, who practically squashed me! He’s a big boy.Do you expect sevens to explode after Rio?Having been involved In sevens from an early stage and watch it grow from strength to strength, I believe that when the public get a chance to experience it at Olympic level it is going to explode on a bigger scale than it already has.Even in the likes of the US, when they see it first-hand at the Rio Olympics I think they are going to be addicted.It is an easy sport to follow and has so much excitement. Fans love it, players love it. The underdog always has a good chance of spoiling the party. You only have to think what got it into the Olympics, with the 2009 World Cup where the top four seeds went out in the quarter-finals. Sevens is definitely going to keep growing. I’m looking forward to Rio and what the future holds for the game.Can anyone stop the Fiji men’s sevens team winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal?Certainly Fiji have set the benchmark in the build-up to Rio, taking out the World Series and showing great form along the way and showing they are major gold medal contenders. And you know they’ll have the whole of Fiji behind them on the day. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
Frik Du Preez was voted South African Rugby Player of the 20th century by Springbok fans, and is undeniably one of the greatest second-rows of all time Du Preez was a force of nature, a brute of a second-row who put the fear of God into the opposition. He performed all the duties expected of him but could run with the ball as well, and kick the odd goal, as the Lions found out in the first Test of their 1968 series when du Preez sprinted in for a try from nearly 50 metres. TAGS: The Greatest Players Frik du Preez of South Africa Major teams: Northern Transvaal Country: South AfricaTest span: 1961-71Test caps: 38 (38 starts)Test points: 11 (1T 1C 2P)When Frik du Preez and the All Black Colin Meads locked the scrum for a President’s Overseas XV against England in 1971 in a match to celebrate the centenary of the RFU, many thought they would never see a better pairing playing together.The crowd certainly thought so and gave the pair a standing ovation when they left the pitch. It was a rare treat for the fans and in the modern day could only be equaled if John Eales and Martin Johnson were on the same side.His Test career ran from 1961 to 1971, and South Africa won a World Cup in 1995, so for him to be held in such esteem nearly 40 years after he had played his last International proves what affection the South African public have for the man. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The man from Northern Transvaal had announced himself to the public whilst he was an officer in the South African Air Force and played for the Defence Force side against Pretoria. The legendary Salty du Rand was in the opposition and the young upstart gave him a chasing that launched a Springbok career encompassing 87 games, including 38 Tests.By the time he played his last International in Sydney, he was South Africa’s most capped player and the correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote that du Preez was “what Bradman was to Australian cricket, Pele was to Latin American football and Colin Meads is to New Zealand rugby”. And he wasn’t wrong.
Sir Clive Woodward waded into one of the perpetual debates about the Six Nations this week and got right behind the concept of introducing promotion and relegation to the tournament. It is just a shame, and shame on the organisers, that it is not going to happen anytime soon.Martin Johnson once said that when Woodward was his England coach he came up with 10 ideas the-then captain would swat a handful of the more madcap ones away. But Woodward has got it spot on this time.Unfortunately John Feehan, the chief executive of the Six Nations, does not see it the same way telling us recently that there is no chance of promotion and relegation being brought in for the foreseeable future. I wonder what they make of that down Tbilisi and Bucharest way where the Georgians and the Romanians must be wondering why they bother.Many people have had their say and surprise, surprise most of the ones who are opposed to promotion and relegation are in the Six Nations already. All very cosy but it is time to kick down the door.Standing strong: The Oaks in the World Cup against ItalyLast year Bernard Lapasset, the chairman of World Rugby, called for the Six Nations to be re-vamped to let other nations gatecrash the party. But he was on his way out of the top job in the game at the time so his words hardly hit the target.But Georgia have hit the glass ceiling in rugby terms. They have won the Tier 2 European Nations Cup, now known as the Rugby Europe International Championships, eight times in the last nine years and have nowhere to go. Romania have been runners-up five times in the last six years and won the whole shooting match in 2010 and they have nowhere to go.How must Milton Haig, the coach of Georgia, feel? He sends his team out every week knowing full well that even if they win every game by 70 points they will still be banging their heads against a brick wall.Romania have been down this route before. Back in the 1980s they knocked over Wales, France and Scotland, drew with Ireland, and in 1981 were only narrowly second best to the All Blacks. They could have joined the-then Five Nations and had a decent crack at it.Big ask: Conor O’Shea has been tasked with breathing fire into the ItaliansThat was all in the Communist era when most of the players were policemen or soldiers in name and could train any time they liked. But the collapse of Communism saw the slow collapse of rugby in that country and the chance was missed but that team would have held their own in the Six Nations.Italy became the first team to join the championship, since France in 1947, when they were allowed in, in 2000. That was probably five years too late as well because they had a serious outfit in the mid-to-late 1990s but the suits dragged their feet before letting them in to the private party.That team before they were given the green light contained giants such as Massimo Giovanelli, Carlo Checchinato, in the best years of his career, and a young scrum-half by the name of Alessandro Troncon. They gave the rest of Europe the hurry-up beating Ireland, France and Scotland, and giving England a fright in a World Cup qualifier in 1998, before eventually being grudgingly granted entry to the Six Nations. Up for the fight: Jonny Gray tries to power through the Georgian defence TAGS: GeorgiaRomania LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Closed shop: The Six Nations committee are not open to relegation or promotionIn the 16 championships since 2000 Italy have finished bottom of the pile 11 times and peaked at fourth spot in 2007 and 2013. So they would be the most obvious candidate for the drop.But whoever finishes bottom – and it was France in 2013, Scotland in 2004, 2007, 2012 and 2015 and Wales in 2003 should be destined for the drop or at the very least a play-off against the European Nations Cup winners.If Georgia go to Murrayfield, Stadio Olimpico or even the Principality Stadium, Twickenham, Stade de France or the Aviva Stadium and win a game they should be straight into the championship.And if any of the current Six Nations do not fancy their chances of getting out of the European Nations Cup – against the likes of Romania, Belgium, Germany or Russia they shouldn’t be in the Six Nations in the first place.As Woodward pointed out, in the Daily Mail, if Georgia have a bad season in the European Nations Cup they are down the gurgler and into the second tier. So they have got a glass ceiling on top of them whilst they are standing on a trap door and it is nonsense.Strong views: Sir Clive Woodward is an advocate for promotion and relegationLasha Khurtsidze, the general secretary of the Georgian Rugby Union, said last year: “We and Romania need to be given a chance, something to aspire to, and we have been saying this for a while. Argentina were in our position not that long ago and look at them now since they were brought into the Rugby Championship.”It works alright in the Premiership although, equally as shamefully, there are some out there who want to ring-fence the top tier of English club rugby.If that had happened, when the idea was all the rage although it is still simmering, then we would never have had the Exeter story. Promotion and relegation in the Six Nations is still off the agenda – this closed rhetoric has got to stop Trips to Dublin, Edinburgh, Cardiff, London, Rome and Paris are all brilliant for the fans and, we can assume, the men and women who run the competition don’t mind the jaunts either.Maybe they just don’t fancy a trip to Tbilisi. It might not be Paris in the spring but it is time to for the Georgians to stop banging against the ceiling. It must be giving them and thousands of true rugby fans a headache – pass the aspirin.
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Two months ago this column wondered if Racing 92’s season could get any worse after Johan Goosen’s retirement, the corticosteroids saga and their humiliating exit from the Champions Cup. It could, and it has. First Dan Carter was caught drink-driving on the Champs-Élysées and then his former All Black teammate, Ali Williams, was arrested for buying cocaine on the same street.The antics of the two Kiwis encapsulate the nightmarish season that 2016-17 has become for Racing president Jacky Lorenzetti. Speaking after Carter’s offence, but before Williams’, he said he felt like a “punch ball”. His mood won’t have improved after watching Racing lose away at relegation-threatened Grenoble on Saturday evening, a defeat that was inevitable once Chris Masoe – yes, another Kiwi – was dismissed after five minutes for a high tackle.Spot of bother: Dan Carter has struggled on field and off it this seasonThat result leaves Racing in seventh position, still in with a good chance of qualifying for the play-offs, but only eights points ahead of Lyon, in 12th.What must be causing Lorenzetti sleepless nights is the thought of failing to qualify for next season’s Champions Cup. He moves his club into their new stadium this summer and he needs the allure of Europe’s showpiece competition to put bums on seats and help pay some of the reported €400m construction costs.But how much has Lorenzetti brought his troubles on himself? One man who might not have much sympathy for the Racing president’s predicament is the club’s former manager, Arnaud Tourtoulou. He was relieved of his duties in June last year, the Monday after Racing had beaten Toulon to win their first Top 14 title in 26 years. Tourtoulou joined Racing in 2011 after a spell as president of Bourgoin, and was described by one French rugby writer as “an important cog…the buffer between the sporting and administration factions”. The official reason for Tourtoulou’s departure was that his contract had expired but some suspect there was more to it than that It has been a season to forget for Racing 92, with their league form patchy, a poor showing in Europe and problems with their superstar imports Plenty to ponder: Jacky Lorenzetti has invested huge resources into Racing 92Whatever the circumstances behind Tourtoulou’s exit from Racing, his role, according to an article in last week’s L’Equipe, has been filled by people from Foncia, the property management company that Lorenzetti founded more than 40 years ago, and who, according to the newspaper, are “not necessarily au fait with rugby’s customs”.Then again it’s no-one’s responsibility but the players’ to ensure they don’t get behind the wheel when they’ve been drinking or to go looking for drugs on a night out. Similarly, L’Equipe has alleged that a group of players enjoyed a night of great revelry at a Parisian restaurant just two days before a Champions Cup fixture this season.The players involved were said to be from Racing’s foreign contingent and the paper claimed a that source within the dressing room had talked of a “fracture” between the French players and the overseas ones, more specifically “the New Zealanders”. Trouble ahead: The Racing 92 players look dejected after their loss to Brive Masterclass: Finn Russell was a part of a Glasgow team that dismantled the ParisiensThis what wasn’t Lorenzetti envisaged when he signed Carter on a three year deal after the 2015 Rugby World Cup with the Kiwi pocketing a salary of £1.3 million a season. He had visions of Carter bringing to Racing the same success that Jonny Wilkinson delivered to Toulon, True, Carter played his part in the Top 14 triumph but this season he’s looked a shadow of that player, to the point where in Racing’s 23-7 defeat to Glasgow he made no carries, no metres, beat no defenders and managed no offloads.Last season Carter won fourteen of the eighteen matches he played for Racing, a figure that has fallen in 2016-17 to five wins in fourteen matches. He’s been sidelined in recent weeks with a groin injury but is expected to return for Saturday’s match at home to league leaders La Rochelle. The week after the Parisians travel to Montpellier and then they host Clermont. It’s a trio of matches that will test Racing and Carter, who, for the first time in his career is enduring sustained negative press. It’s a novel experience, as is playing in a struggling team. How Carter reacts will be fascinating.
Keep track all the action from Japan via our Rugby World Cup home page.Follow Rugby World magazine on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. All hail Japan’s Brave BlossomsA few hours after the final whistle, the station is still bustling with rugby fans awaiting their trains home. Those clad in red and white mix happily with those in green. A queue snakes around the shop as supporters source post-match snacks for the journey – after all, you can work up quite an appetite watching history being made.This could be Brighton 2015 or Shizuoka 2019 (Kakegawa the local station). The only differences would be the orderliness of the queue, and the speed and promptness of the trains.Japan are making a habit of being at the centre of World Cup epics and the local fans here will be hoping there are more to come. Having stunned South Africa – and the world – in 2015, Ireland were the victims four years on.It’s the 19-12 win under the setting sun at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa that feels most significant, though, and is the one that takes them to a record high of eighth in the world rankings.Match report: Japan 19-12 IrelandIt was almost cat and mouse against the Springboks at RWC 2015; one side clawing ahead before the other caught back up, neither able to build a substantial lead and Japan delivering the decisive blow with Karne Hesketh’s last-minute try.Yet here in Shizuoka they dominated. Yes, Ireland impressed in the first quarter and used their kicking game effectively to deliver two tries, but they didn’t get a sniff after that. The Brave Blossoms kept Ireland, the world’s No 1 team coming into this World Cup, scoreless for 60 minutes. Incredible.Japan’s defence was outstanding; they often sent two men into tackles to not only stop the attacker but drive them backwards and thus negate Ireland’s physicality. They missed just 13 tackles and made 173 for a success rate of 93% – special mention to James Moore (23 tackles) and Luke Thompson (19).Plus, they stole two Irish lineouts – one at a crucial juncture in their own 22. And those facets weren’t even the most impressive.Tempo. That’s the word you would use to summarise this Japan team. It’s certainly the one that was most common among the responses of Ireland players when dissecting the match afterwards.Japan not only play with speed but accuracy. Other teams have been bemoaning the slippery balls in the humid conditions and handling errors have beset many matches. It’s not a problem for Japan, the ball whizzed from one side of the pitch to the other and back again, and stuck firmly in each players grasp.Corner stop: Kenki Fukuoka runs in Japan’s try against Ireland (Getty Images)Their creativity and speed of movement had Ireland scrabbling around to prevent them from scoring more than the one try they managed. Had it not been for Keith Earls’s tackle on Kenki Fukuoka five metres from the line, the men in green wouldn’t have even departed with a losing bonus point. In fact, Joey Carbery decided to kick the ball off at the end rather than launch a length-of-the field attack to ensure Ireland did retain a point that could be crucial when it comes to the final standings of Pool A.Joe Schmidt insisted his side had not underestimated Japan, but his counterpart Jamie Joseph made an interesting point post-match. “We’ve been preparing for this game a hell of a lot longer than Ireland have,” said the Japan coach. “The players have been focusing on today for the last year at least and probably subconsciously for three years. Ireland have been thinking about it since Monday.”Looking back to the opening night in Tokyo, Japan were nervous against Russia; they made uncharacteristic errors and made hard work of getting the four-try bonus point. In contrast, Ireland dominated every area of their first fixture against Scotland. A week on those Japanese nerves had been eradicated; there was clarity in their game plan and they delivered it expertly. Those in Kakegawa station were clearly enjoying all that a World Cup brings. The branded products in the convenience store being snapped up as much as the bento boxes and beers. Most were already wearing the newest Japan jersey, plenty had a RWC 2019 hat or other item. It’s little wonder the merchandise sales for this tournament have already broken previous records.Michael Leitch is the ‘face’ of this team. He was dropped to the bench for this match but he came on after half an hour when Amanaki Mafi was injured and made a huge impact, whether in his tackles or his link work out wide or the quiet words he had with Yu Tamura before crucial kicks at goal. Now he and his squad are looking to set more records on the pitch.Big impact: Michael Leitch attacks out wide (Getty Images)“That was the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in,” said Leitch once he’d had a chance to digest the performance. “Everyone who has come to Japan for the World Cup is having a great time, the Tier Two teams are putting in good performances and I think this is going to be one of the best World Cups.“We still have a job to do but this game was crucial for us. This is massive for Japan rugby. In 2015 we showed the world what we can do and now in front of our home fans hopefully we can leave a massive legacy.”Brighton started the legacy, Shizuoka bolstered it and their all-round performance against Ireland suggests that it will continue beyond the pool stages of this World Cup. And that is exactly what the global game needs.Japan are consistently shaking up the world order and for that they must be hailed. The Brave Blossoms are blooming marvellous. TAGS: Japan Why Japan beating Ireland is more significant than their victory over South Africa four years ago Home advantage: Japan players line up for the anthem – with plenty of support in the crowd (Getty Images)“The pressure wasn’t on us tonight,” said Thompson, at 38 the oldest player at this World Cup. “Last week we were expected to win, there were a lot of guys playing in their first World Cup match, it was a huge occasion and Russia played really well and didn’t let us do as much as we wanted to. This week we had more experience and we played with the ball well.”There was belief too. It grew throughout the game, particularly as they continually held off the green wave. And they will need that same mental resilience as they move on to their remaining pool matches against Samoa and Scotland. After all, they won three matches in 2015 and didn’t make it to the quarter-finals, so they know nothing is guaranteed in terms of progress to the last eight just yet.Related: Rugby World Cup fixturesThey can be sure of growing excitement around the country, however. In 2015, they captured the imagination of the Japanese people and in 2019, with this victory over Ireland, they have cemented the nation’s interest in rugby. And fans will be hoping the journey isn’t over yet.A look at the clips from the various fanzones across the country demonstrates how engaged people are with the tournament. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Joy and pain: Japan celebrate while Joey Carbery looks dejected (Getty Images)
Meet the Saints second-row who is balancing pro rugby with a politics degree Making ground: Alex Coles charges upfield for Northampton Saints (Getty Images) Northampton lock Alex Coles Date of birth 21 September 1999 Born Cambridge Club Northampton Position Second-row Country EnglandWhen did you first play rugby? I was about ten. I started at Newmarket. My dad played when he was younger whereas I’d always played football and cricket, so he said I should try rugby.Did you like it straightaway? It took me a bit of time. I was always one of the taller people in my year and when that started to be advantageous in rugby, when I was around 13, I really enjoyed it.I moved around clubs – Newmarket, Shelford and Cambridge – and I played all three sports until I was 16, which is when I focused on rugby.When did you link up with Saints? I was picked up from my school, The Perse, at about 14 or 15 through the academy. I took it more seriously when I was 16.Have you always been a lock? I played a bit at No 8 at school and a couple of times I went into the backs for fun, but it’s second-row now. I’ve grown into it.What are your strengths? I think I’m relatively mobile for a second-row and that I’ve got a good lineout game. That’s something I’m trying to work on. Then just my game understanding, knowing where to be around the pitch and making good decisions. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS This article originally appeared in the November 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Any childhood heroes? A big one was Thierry Henry. From a rugby point of view, Courtney Lawes was always someone I watched growing up. I liked the way he played and was involved in every facet. Fortunately I’ve had a chance to play alongside him, which has been awesome.Who have been the biggest influences on your career? Peter Walton, the former England age-group forwards coach, really helped in terms of encouraging me to focus on things I’m best at rather than just improving things I need to work at. He gave me confidence.At Saints, Phil Dowson has helped me with that transition from the academy to men’s rugby and Premiership rugby.What are your goals for the next year? To try to nail down a position in the Saints team. There’s healthy competition in the second row but I don’t want to be seen as a promising player coming up in 12 months, I want to make a mark and make a starting position my own. I get on well with the other second-rows and we all drive and push each other.Do you study outside of rugby? I’m in the second year of a part-time course in politics, philosophy and history at Birkbeck University in London. I went to an academic school and my dad is quite academic, so that was always my main focus as a kid. I’ve always enjoyed learning and keeping myself ticking over, plus it’s important as a back-up option if rugby doesn’t go to plan.RW Verdict: He’s represented England U16, U18, U19 and U20, and has made his Premiership breakthrough over the past year. He suffered an ankle injury after lockdown but should continue his excellent progress in the 2020-21 season.