Thursday, June 05, 2014
Exeter Chiefs flyhalf Henry Slade made a solid senior England debut against the Barbarians at Twickenham. Not only did he score a try in the 39-29 defeat, but he showed great courage against an extremely physical Baa Baas side.
With a few names ahead of him in the pecking order, 21-year-old Slade didn't make it on the plane to New Zealand, but enjoyed what was a tough day at the office. He found himself having to tackle hard-running Rene Ranger on more than one occassion, which resulted in an impressive shiner.
"He is a pretty tough bloke and I was just trying to bring him down, and thankfully I managed to do that, but his knee or one of his boots hit me in the eye," Slade said post match.
He got his body in the way of the Kiwi center as the Barbarians scored their first try. That opened up a cut that needed stitches, and shortly after returning to the field, Ranger hit him again.
"They made a break down the outside, I tackled Rene Ranger, and either a knee or one of his boots hit me in the eye, and that was it really. I was just trying to get in the way of him and get him down for the second one, and luckily it worked.
"It was just great to be back on the field and to be able to get on with it."
Slade ended with a try and 16-point haul, something his Jonny Wilkinson would have been proud of. The Chiefs flyhalf has looked up to him for the last ten years, and actually bumped his head on a table when the then England kingpin kicked his famous World Cup winning dropgoal back in 2003.
"When Jonny kicked that drop-goal I was sat underneath at table at Ivybridge rugby club, and I jumped up and smacked my head on it when he scored," he explained.
"He's been a massive role model both on and off the pitch too, the way he went about himself and was committed and dedicated to trying to be the best. Defence is so important at fly-half because you're in the middle of the line, and that's something certainly Jonny has shown.
"It's important to be strong there, hopefully I did that at the weekend, that's what I was trying to do: I do enjoy defending to be fair."
Ranger's low center of gravity and powerfully built frame, along with his balance, means that he'll always be a threat. This weekend he'll be looking for some Springbok scalps when he starts for the World XV against South Africa at Newlands.
Posted at 1:13 pm | 25 comments
Fresh from double finals success, Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes is raring to go and full of confidence ahead of the series against New Zealand. He had another excellent game on Saturday, including one massive trademark hit in particular.
Lawes played a big part in the Saints' 24-20 Aviva Premiership final win against Saracens at Twickenham, as well as the strong season, but now shifts focus to the All Blacks, who have at least one player on their side that doesn't really seem to know who he is.
When asked about the England squad, New Zealand's Brodie Retallick struggled to name any of them. When pushed for an answer he said 'Michael Lawes'. He might have gone blank, genuinely doesn't know, or it was simply a deliberate attempt to wind up the tourists and media.
If the latter, it seemed to work as just about every rugby newspaper or website published a story about it this week (and now we can be added to that list).
Unavailable for the first Test, Lawes says that there are just two big games left in the season, so he's relishing the challenge. "Most of our players who are going to New Zealand produced good individual performances. I'm going to go there brimming with confidence, ready to enjoy myself.
"It has been a very long year, but it's just two more games, so you've just got to crack on. You will always be up for a Test match - we will fire into them. I am going to go out there looking to enjoy myself, get ball in hand and build on this confidence I've got through the season," he said.
On Saturday Charlie Hodgson found himself on the wrong end of hard-hitting Lawes as the Saints lock launched into him with a trademark hit, something we've seen repeatedly over recent seasons. Respect to Hodgson though, now 33-years-old, who took it well and hopped straight back up.
You can view more of Lawes' big hits in the Related Posts below this
Posted at 11:06 am | 21 comments
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
Toulon completed the European double on Saturday, beating Castres 18-10 to win the French Top 14 final just eight days after retaining the Heineken Cup. It was a fitting send off for Jonny Wilkinson, who says he's one of the luckiest people alive.
By now you've probably seen the highlights or heard about what happened, but for those that haven't and for the sake of our archives, below is a nice highlights package that shows the key moments from the final, as well as some of the Toulon celebrations post match.
While the Heineken Cup may seem like a bigger achievement, this is the one that all French teams strive for, and it's been over twenty years since Toulon last raised the famous Bouclier de Brennus.
Wilkinson bowed out in style by not only winning two of the most biggest titles on offer, but ended on a personal high by scoring 15 points with the boot. That included a trademark wrong-foot-right-foot drop goal. Delon Armitage kicked the other three points with a long range penalty.
On Monday he tweeted that it's been: 'An amazing honour to have been part of this Toulon squad four the last 5 years, to have seen what I have and to have played with such legends'.
Castres scored the only try of the game through Scottish back Max Evans, but Toulon's might showed and their stars came to the fore up front, allowing Wilkinson to take the points of offer.
Congratulations to all involved and farewell to the likes of Wilkinson, and former Springboks Danie Rossouw and Joe Van Niekerk, who are also retiring from rugby.
Posted at 1:10 pm | 10 comments
Tuesday, June 03, 2014
If you missed it on what was a jam-packed day, here is a quick wrap-up of the Aviva Premiership final between Saracens and Northampton Saints. Saints won the game 24-20 in dramatic fashion, and coach Jim Mallinder has since had his contract extended.
While Saracens were aiming for a unique double of the Heineken Cup and the Premiership titles, they ended up with runner-up tags in both, while Saints achieved a double of their own, winning the Amlin Challenge Cup final a week earlier, then the Premiership title 24-20 at the death.
Jim Mallinder said this week that Saints are a 'superb club' and coaching them is 'a brilliant job'.
"There are not many positions like this in world rugby and I've loved every minute of being here. We've had a few ups and downs, but generally we've been on the up since being in the first division that first year. We're getting better and better – not just as a team and a squad, but as a club, and it's something I want to be a part of.
"I'm more motivated now than when I first came here. The challenges are huge. There are plenty of ambitious clubs in the Aviva Premiership and we want to be better than them," he said.
The focus now turns to the England side, with Waller one of those players added to the squad to take on the All Blacks in New Zealand. Other Saints players to join the tour party include Luther Burrell, Lee Dickson, Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, and Stephen Myler.
From Saracens, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell, Alex Goode, Billy Vunipola and Richard Wigglesworth have all flown over to New Zealand too. The first Test is this coming Saturday.
Posted at 11:31 am | 31 comments
Monday, June 02, 2014
The Junior World Championship kicked off in Auckland today with Wales, South Africa and England topping the pools after day one. In Pool B we saw one of the fastest tries from a kick-off ever, as Wales got off to a flyer vs Fiji, scoring after just 7 seconds.
The opening day included big wins for South Africa, who beat Scotland 61-5, England who beat Italy 63-3, Australia who beat Argentina 36-17 and hosts New Zealand, who beat Samoa 48-12. In the tightest contest of the day, France beat Ireland 19-13.
"We saw some real tough battles out there on the opening day of #JWC2014," said Jonah Lomu, acting as IRB Junior World Championship 2014 Tournament Ambassador.
"It's still too early to call it, but some of the performances were really exciting. There was some real physicality and skill on display today. Now that all the teams have a game under their belt, I'd expect the competition to step up even further on Friday."
Wales scored five tries in total as they put Fiji away with a 48-19 thumping in Pukekohe. Winger Dafydd Howells chased the kickoff well and got a lucky bounce, allowing him to run away with what is arguably one of the fastest tries ever scored in international rugby.
We've posted various clips over the years highlighting some of the fastest tries scored from the kickoff in both domestic and Test rugby, with John Leslie's try for Scotland in 1999 widely acknowledged as the quickest in Tests. This from Howells however appears to top the list overall.
We'll get official highlights from all the games posted here throughout the week
Posted at 6:52 pm | 8 comments
A talented Barbarians outfit scored five tries to beat an experimental England XV 39-29 in front of 50 000 fans at Twickenham on Sunday. Hosea Gear scored twice for the invitational side in a match that at times had a real Test match feel to it.
It was anything but the free-flowing, run at every opportunity type of game that we've come to expect from a Barbarians fixture, but there seemed to be a real determination in the effort, following on from the disappointing 59-8 hiding against the British & Irish Lions last year.
Henry Slade was impressive for England, as was Ollie Devoto in the midfield but with the likes of Rene Ranger and Gear running freely for the Barbarians, it was always going to be a challenge.
"The game was won because people kindly kicked to Hosea Gear," said pleased Babarians coach Dean Ryan. "I'm pleased we represented the Barbarians in a way that allows us to see the talents of a Hosea Gear but also sees us really work hard to win a game at the end."
England's main squad are already in New Zealand preparing for the three-Test series with the All Blacks, and then there is also the group of players that weren't available for selection due to Saturday's Aviva Premiership Final. That said, the Barbarians were made to work hard for the win.
It was great to see Georgian Mamuka Gorgodze in the famous strip, and another great achievement is that of French referee Mathieu Raynal, who you may remember had that horrific leg and collarbone break in a Top 14 match last year. It was great to see him out there again.
Posted at 1:47 pm | 22 comments
Sunday, June 01, 2014
Leinster retained the Pro12 title with a 34-12 final win over a spirited Glasgow Warriors side in Dublin on Saturday. The win meant that Brian O'Driscoll and Leo Cullen ended their Leinster careers on a high, although O'Driscoll's match didn't quite go to plan.
Zane Kirchner scored twice for in what turned out to be a great day for him, as he was also selected in the Springbok squad for their upcoming home Test series. Shane Jennings and Gordon D'Arcy crossed for tries of their own, while all of the Warriors' points came from the boot of Finn Russell.
O'Driscoll limped off after just nine minutes with a calf/hamstring/doesn't matter any more injury, putting an end to what was meant to be his final eighty minutes of rugby. He was given a rousing send off by the RDS crowd however, and enjoyed the festivities come the final whistle.
Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend said that the more experienced side pulled through in the end. "It was a great occasion, but we were just not good enough on the day. Experience, better play from Leinster and we didn't take our opportunities in the first half when we had the wind behind us," he told BBC Radio Scotland.
"We have made real progress to get to a final. The players have played really well and this group is going to be here for the future. We have just got to make sure we win it next time."
Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor spoke about the team's inspiration.
"Brian O'Driscoll has been immense. They don't make them like that any more and we are just privileged to have him in the environment. It's not all about one guy but there's no doubt everyone wanted to make sure he, Leo and the other guys who are leaving us went out in the right way."
As for O'Driscoll, he tweeted: "Not the way I'd hoped to play it out but sh*t happens!"
View a great video of the post match celebrations over on the next page
Posted at 5:44 pm | 5 comments