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Closing montage from Heineken Cup final

Monday, March 10, 2014

Leigh Halfpenny injured making brave try-saving tackle on Luther Burrell

Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny won't take any further part in the Six Nations after he injured his shoulder during Wales' 29-18 loss to England on Sunday. Halfpenny left the field after making a brave try-saving tackle on 6ft3 England centre Luther Burrell.

As if this year's campaign couldn't get more disappointing for Wales, Halfpenny is now out for the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder. Scrumhalf Rhys Webb also left the field with an injury.

"Leigh has dislocated his shoulder and that is him gone for the rest of the season," said coach Warren Gatland. "We are not sure about Rhys, but it's Leigh's season over anyway."

Halfpenny kicked all of Wales' points, but he'll take no further part in the tournament and will likely be replaced by Liam Williams, who was penalised within minutes of coming on against England.

Burrell, who has had an impressive start to his Test career, nearly crossed again but a foot in touch, due to the strong tackle by Halfpenny, meant he wasn't able to finish off an exciting bit of play.

It wasn't a technically sound tackle, but Halfpenny's commitment is what prevented the try. It also ended his season though, meaning he has played his final match for the Cardiff Blues (in January) ahead of his move to Toulon next season. He will be there for at least two seasons.

Wales play Scotland in Cardiff in this coming weekend. The team will be announced on Tuesday.

Posted at 6:46 pm | 51 comments

England avenge Cardiff loss with convincing victory over Wales at Twickenham

England won the Triple Crown on Sunday after adding Wales to their list of conquests in this year's Six Nations. The defending champions were outplayed at Twickenham as the hosts avenged the heavy defeat in Cardiff last year with a 29-18 victory.

England are still in with a good shot at claiming the Championship and while the Triple Crown win would have been enjoyable - it's only the first time they've won it since 2003 - the Six Nations title is the main goal. To achieve that, they'll be hoping Ireland lose to France next weekend.

"Lifting the Triple Crown at Twickenham on Sunday was one of the most special moments of my England career," said skipper Chris Robshaw in his Telegraph column.

"We were embarrassed by Wales last season, there is no hiding from the fact. It has been a long year for a lot of us, so to go out and deliver a performance like that in front of our own supporters was a fantastic feeling.

"We will need a bit of luck in Paris and to deliver in Rome, but we have to believe we can win it."

England scored tries through Danny Care and Luther Burrell, and came close to a third after an excellent counter-attack following a Justin Tipuric error. Burrell was tackled out in the corner, foot on the line, but they will take heart from the manner in which they created the chance. 

Courtney Lawes played a big part in that, and was Man of the Match on the day.

From Wales' point of view, coach Warren Gatland is no stranger to being under fire, but he'll have plenty to answer for when one inspects the apparent lack of a a Plan B. With the Rugby World Cup a year away, it appears the Lions-packed side will need to a big 12 months to turn things around.

Posted at 2:00 pm | 67 comments

France break Scottish hearts with late winning penalty at Murrayfield

France snatched victory from Scotland with a dramatic late win at Murrayfield on Saturday. A Jean-Marc Doussain penalty handed France a 19-17 victory, shortly after flyhalf Duncan Weir missed a chance to extend their lead and secure the win.

Scotland led 14-9 at half-time through tries by Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, and despite a Yoann Huget intercept try, the hosts looked on track for an upset victory.

It was a decisive moment as had the Duncan Weir long pass gone to hand, Scotland had an overlap. Instead it was Huget that poached it and ran the length of the field for a well taken try.

"It is a good sign how we got back into the game and this win is especially important as it shows we can win away from home," said Huget post match.

Weir, who kicked a 61st minute penalty to give Scotland the lead, then missed a shot at goal, giving France the lifeline they needed. A Doussain penalty was calmly slotted with less than two minutes left on the clock, and Scotland fans were denied a famous victory.

France are thus still in contention for this year's Championship, and face Ireland in Paris next week.

"It will be a different game at home at the Stade de France in front of our crowd," said French coach Philippe Saint-Andre.

"We need to start well and accelerate during the 80 minutes but I am sure the guys can do this. I hope the Brian O'Driscoll party was in Dublin last Saturday and not this week at the Stade de France," he added.

Posted at 12:17 pm | 21 comments

Ireland in pole position after O'Driscoll farewell thrashing of Italy

Ireland scored seven tries as Dublin bid farewell to Brian O'Driscoll in what was his final Test at home. His 140th cap now makes him the most capped Test player of all time, adding to the sense of occasion for Ireland fans as their team beat Italy 46-7.

It was all about O'Driscoll, and he didn't disappoint as the most capped individual played a big part in a number of Ireland tries. Some of his sublime handling contributed to first half tries for Andrew Trimble and Jonny Sexton, then he did it again in the second, resulting in another try for Sexton.

He went off to a rousing standing ovation with twenty minutes to go, having helped to get his side into a position whereby a win over France in Paris will all but secure a Championship winning send off for the 35-year-old Ireland rugby legend.

"I feel humbled by the reaction today. It seems a bit of of a joke that you get get man of the match for 60 minutes, but I've loved my time playing in this jersey. It had to come to an end at some stage and I'm glad I'm able to go out at home with a big win," O'Driscoll said.

Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Fergus McFadden and Jack McGrath all crossed for tries too, despite Italy looking good at one stage, and having to make a record breaking 208 tackles on the day.

Ireland, England and France are all level on points at the top of the Six Nations table, but Ireland's superior points difference could prove the difference going into the final weekend.

They face France in Paris, while England take on Italy in Rome. More Six Nations to follow soon.

Posted at 8:41 am | 17 comments

Thursday, March 06, 2014

O2 Inside Line - Season 4 Episode 7

This weekend rivals England and Wales meet in a Six Nations match that has plenty of history, and all to play for as we get down to the penultimate weeked of the tournament. If England win on Sunday, they'll take the Triple Crown and set up a chance of winning the Championship.

Wales on the other hand will be aiming to repeat what they did last year in Cardiff, and hope that this, the final meeting of the two sides in Twickenham before the Rugby World Cup, will be another memorable occasion.

"Wales versus England is always a big game," said Welsh centre Jamie Roberts.

"You only have to look back at the last few seasons when we have played England, the biggest hype has surrounded that game. It is no different this week, I think the magnitude of the game for the Six Nations couldn't be any bigger. Twickenham on Sunday will be immense."

In this week's episode of O2 Inside Line we look at Player Analysis with Ben Morgan and Jonny May, go into the gym with Player Cam - where May performs an impressive box jump - and we learn more about the players in the teammates segment.

Alex Payne then chats to England forwards coach Graham Rowntree, who admits that the game today is much faster and more physical than it was when he played.

What's your prediction for England vs Wales?

Posted at 6:46 pm | 14 comments

Brian O'Driscoll on the brink of breaking Wallaby George Gregan's Test cap record

This weekend Ireland face Italy in a Six Nations match that they'd be expected to win. Most of the focus will be on Brian O'Driscoll either way, as he will claim the record for most Test caps ever, as well as play his final Test match in Dublin. 

In Ireland's last match O'Driscoll equalled the record set by Wallaby great George Gregan, so when facing Italy he is set to eclipse it, then play his final match for his country a week later.

Gregan, who played 139 Tests for his country, has said that the record couldn't go to a better player. "He's just a great player, he still wants to contribute to the teams that he plays with," Gregan said.  "So it’s well deserved, he'll go past that and set a new record which is fantastic."

"I got a nice tweet from George Gregan on equaling his record and people have been lovely over the last while. I just want to be able to go out on a high, that's the big thing," he said this week.


O'Driscoll then has a chance to finish on high, as a win in his final match - over France in Paris - could mean a Six Nations championship victory, adding to his long list of accolades.

"There is no individual feeling, there really isn't, there’s always time to reflect afterwards and that’s the time to do it. The team has absolute priority and always has done, there will be no extra emphasis made by anyone this weekend other than giving us a final showdown against France."

BOD's record run at the top may be short-lived however, as there are a few others who might catch up, namely Richie McCaw, who has currently played 124 Tests for New Zealand.

"I'm sure in time it will be broken, yes, there's always scope for guys to break records," O'Driscoll said. "All going well, hopefully I'll get the record this weekend I'm sure it will be broken another time. Lots of guys now are over the 100-cap mark and still playing, and still playing well.

"If guys look after themselves and maintain their fitness for 15 years I think you will see the 150-cap mark broken. I can't see it being a bad thing, someone being consistently good, enough to stay in the competition environment, for 14 or 15 years. So I would definitely say I encourage it."

credit: RTE Rugby

Posted at 9:00 am | 12 comments

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Rugby Sevens in New Zealand - A CNN Report with Jonah Lomu

This is the third part of the CNN report on the growth of Sevens worldwide, featuring Jonah Lomu as he heads home to New Zealand to discuss what makes Sevens so great, and what it was like for him to represent his country in both formats of the game.

Lomu also attends the Wellington Sevens, where he chats to legendary New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens, and is on hand to present the winning trophy to the All Blacks Sevens team.

We also see a quick review of what happened at the tournament. You can view extended highlights of that here, and the first two parts of the Rugby Sevens Worldwide here.

Posted at 11:04 am | 1 comments

 
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