Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Jamie Heaslip has accepted the apology offered to him by Pascal Pape on Twitter last night. The French lock faces a disciplinary hearing today to judge whether he will be banned or not for the knee to the back that has possibly ended the tournament for both.
France second row Pape was shown a yellow card by referee Wayne Barnes for kneeing Heaslip in the back during the weekend's Six Nations clash in Dublin, a contest that Ireland won 18-11. He will appear before an independant disciplinary committee in London today.
Heaslip was replaced shortly after the incident, and will miss the England match due to the injury, damage to three vertebrae. He may be available to play again in four weeks.
"Although this injury causes a good deal of discomfort, it does not impact on the structural integrity of the spine, and once healed should pose no long term issues," said an Ireland medical report.
"Typically this injury is treated akin to a soft tissue injury, according to symptoms. Jamie is already feeling more comfortable and it is hoped that he will be available to play again in approximately four weeks," it said, also confirming the injury: "fractures of the transverse process of three vertebrae".
Last night, Tuesday, Pape took to twitter to apologise to Heaslip. He wrote in French, saying "Sincerely sorry to have injured @jamieheaslip in this action of the match, not at all my intention to do him any harm #objectivityforsome", to which Heaslip graciously replied "Thanks for your message. Rugby is a physical game and one accepts that can happen. I accept your apology completely".
French coach Philippe Saint-Andre has defended his man, saying that he didn't think it looked as though it was a deliberate knee to the back.
"When you watch the images of the incident I don't think you can say it was deliberate," said Saint-Andre. "However, I said to Pascal you received a yellow card just at the moment we were gaining the upper hand both physically and territorially as we were in their 22.
"Although we didn't concede many points it was still a pivotal moment. You expect something like that from an inexperienced player, not one with over 50 Tests under his belt. It was the worst possible moment for that to happen."
Pape has been banned for 10 weeks following two days of hearings in London.
The panel ruled that the offence was 'at the top end of World Rugby's scale of seriousness', and banned him for 15 weeks before reducing it by 5 due to his 'admission of foul play and his experession of remorse for what had occurred'.
Posted at 10:16 am | 51 comments
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Fiji stunned Wellington Sevens winners New Zealand with a convincing 35-19 cup final rout at the USA Sevens on the weekend. There were some sensational tries scored over the course of the tournament, so here is a look at the best, plus highlights and more.
New Zealand were missing a few players due to injury but Fiji came out flying, thanks in part to the hoards of Fijian fans that took to the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
"It means a lot for us. We've talked about improving our defence and discipline and today it has paid off," captain Osea Kolinisau said.
They raced off to a 21-0 lead at the break, before New Zealand scored 19 points in vain.
"I thought we came back brilliantly at the end to score 19 points," said coach Gordon Tietjens.
"It's been a tough week. It was always going to be quite demanding getting into a final, 10 minutes each way against a team like Fiji, but we learn from that. We started slowly and you can't start slowly against a team like Fiji. They got a lot of loose ball, they've got a lovely set of skills and they scored some great tries."
Jerry Tuwai Vunisa and Semi Kunatani scored two tries each, with another from Savenaca Rawaca.
Australia beat England to win the Plate, while France beat Argentina 29-5 to take the Bowl, and Canada eased past Samoa 26-10 to win the Shield.
The next tournament, the sixth of nine, is in Hong Kong on March 27-29. South Africa remain top of the standings with 93 points following their 31-0 third place play off victory over hosts USA.
New Zealand are in second place overall on 88 points, with Fiji two points adrift in third.
Below are Seven of the Best tries from the tournament, featuring some outstanding pieces of play (look at Brazil's try!). After the jump you can see the highlights from the final day, including the knockout stages and the Cup final. Which is your favourite try?
Posted at 3:19 pm | 3 comments
Monday, February 16, 2015
Sean O'Brien made his return to international rugby at the weekend, pleasing Ireland rugby fans after the disappointment of his withdrawal due to a warmup session injury the weekend prior. On this occasion he took to the field, and made his presence known in no uncertain terms with this huge cleanout.
This was his first Test appearance since November 2013 and that loss to the All Blacks.
The Tullow Tank said that he loved being back against France, but certainly felt the pace.
"I was blowing. I was sucking air there at one point but it was good to get the amount of minutes that I did. I was very surprised to get the shout to go back on again but the legs felt good."
The legs and his massive frame in general were put to the test just nine minutes in, when a loose ball resulted in what could have easily been a France turnover.
Instead, the powerhouse got back swiftly and managed to clear out not one, but two French players at the ruck, and prevented a third from snatching the ball.
For the record, it was Rory Kockott and flanker Bernard Le Roux, and then he removed the threat of skipper Thierry Dusautoir too. It's easy to miss at first glance, but this is the kind of workrate coaches love.
For his part, O'Brien praised the French, and said that they were throwing their bodies about too.
"It was tough. There were a lot of big hits close in that maybe people didn't see," he explained.
It was a very physical game and there’ll be a lot of sore bodies from our side and theirs but we were expecting that. They have some very big, physical players and they really got stuck into us in the second half."
Posted at 2:16 pm | 16 comments
Wales picked up their first win of this year's Six Nations with a gritty 26-23 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield. Both sides scored two tries each, and the game ended in controversy as the hosts felt they should have been allowed to continue their fightback.
Scotland scored a late try through Jon Welsh, to add to the early try by Stuart Hogg, but fulltime was blown by referee Glen Jackson when it appeared that there may have still been time on the clock. The loss leaves Scotland without a point from two matches.
"From where I was sitting, there was time to take the kick [restart]," said Scotland's Greig Laidlaw.
"The majority of the stadium seemed to feel the same. Whether we would have gone on to score, that's a different matter. Rome was not built in a day and this team is on a journey with Vern Cotter. I thought the referee forgot how long was on the clock at the end.."
Scoring two tries apiece, with Ryys Webb and Jonathan Davies scoring for Wales, it was the boot of Leigh Halfpenny that ultimately proved the difference between the two sides, with his one extra penalty giving the visitors the edge.
It was Wales' eighth straight victory over Scotland in the Six Nations, but the Scots will take heart from their performance, and coach Vern Cotter, who ironically used to be in charge of Glen Jackson when he was a player, said that he will submit notes on the referees performance.
"We were unconvincing last week and again towards the end today but a win's a win," said Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones post match. "In the last couple of games we've been unconvincing but credit to Scotland, they never gave up."
Wales are in fourth position on the table, level with France on points but have a worse points deficit. Scotland are second from the bottom, ahead of Italy, with both sides having lost two from two.
Posted at 8:42 am | 45 comments
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Ireland are well placed overall following their 18-11 Six Nations win over France in Dublin on Saturday. Their ninth successive Test victory is their second tournament win, placing them in good stead for a Championship defence.
Jonathan Sexton, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip all made returns to Test rugby after injury layoffs, with flyhalf Sexton himself coming back after a 12-week absence due to multiple concussions in recent times.
Unfortunately he ended up taking another big knock, clashing heads with Mathieu Bastareaud.
Bloodied, Sexton left the field but returned and ended up being Ireland's top points scorer, Man of the Match with 15 of the 18 points coming from his boot. There were concerns over his condition but he has said it wasn't anything to worry about.
"It was just a glancing blow. I just needed a couple of stitches but I felt fine after it," he said.
France scored a try through Romain Taofifenua with ten minutes left in the match, but the Ireland defence held firm, and kept out impressive scrumhalf replacement Morgan Parra too.
"That's a very good French team," said Sexton of their late effort. "We made it hard for ourselves as usual and we dug deep at the end.
"We're delighted [with the win]. We've got a lot to improve on and we've got a big match here in two weeks against England."
England and Ireland are one and two overall with the same points ahead of their meeting in Dublin on March 1st. England have a slightly better points difference so occupy the number one spot.
View more Six Nations highlights and clips in the Video Hub
Posted at 7:58 pm | 30 comments
Italy gave England an early scare after a Sergio Parisse try early on at Twickenham, but in the second half the hosts took control to come away with a 47-17 win. Coach Stuart Lancaster felt that the previous week's match might have affected them.
Engand beat Wales 21-16 in what was a hard-fought Test a week ago, so when asked if he thought this may have contributed to the slow start against Italy, Lancaster said it was possible.
"It looked that way, without a doubt. It was a soft try we conceded first up, and it took until half-time [to improve]. I gave them a bit of a rev up and said: ‘Listen boys, we need to up the intensity’, and I thought we did that a little bit in the second half," he said.
They lost Mike Brown after a nasty collision in the 13th minute, but the head coach didn't use that as an excuse for what was a fairly laboured first half.
"I don’t think we can use that as a reason. I just think we were a little bit off, off the back of last week. We need to be better than that. Overall, if you had said to me at the start of the day that I would get 47 points, I would have taken it, if I’m being honest.
"But I’m slightly disappointed we couldn’t do a bit better," Lancaster added.
Jonathan Joseph was on the scoresheet again, this time with a stunning run that split the Italian defence, and then an easy run in later in the match. England scored six tries on the day, but Joseph now has three from the two matches in this year's Championship so far.
"It is going great. It was great to get the win today," the 23-year-old Bath man said.
"We didn’t start too well, going down, but the boys showed great spirit to come back and get the win. I think defensively we weren’t disciplined enough at first. We weren’t smart, we weren’t streetwise and we allowed them to get on top of us.
"But we sorted that out, got our systems into place it worked much better in the second half."
The win was convincing by the time the final whistle blew, but England will need to up the intensity if they are to stand a chance against a powerful Ireland side when they meet in Dublin in a fortnight.
Was it a case of England being poor in the first half, or Italy upping their game? Which player impressed you most? Do you think Joseph is here to stay? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. Register | Login
View more Six Nations highlights and clips in our Video Hub
Posted at 6:48 pm | 46 comments
Saturday, February 14, 2015
As we already know, Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni is all about peace and love (he just doesn't like c*nts). In this quick video ahead of Italy's Six Nations match with England, we hear his thoughts on Valentines Day, and his general recipe for love.
Posted at 2:18 pm | 1 comments