Japan aims to qualify for next World Cup despite hard times

first_img“We play the Pacific Nations Cup this month. We’re really upset that the IRB moved it from Japan to Fiji after the tsunami hit. I understand why the IRB had to take some action but I wish they’d waited a bit longer for things to settle down.“This year’s World Cup will be my fifth – I played in 1987 and 1991, and coached Italy in 2003 and Japan in 2007. World Cups are the greatest time of our lives and that’s what I tell the players. That’s important to remember. I want our guys to have a good time and go out and see a bit of New Zealand. But you only have a good time when you win so it’s important to do well.”This article appeared in the August 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.Find a newsagent that sells Rugby World in the UK 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 visit LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALScenter_img Team effort: Japan pose with their trophy after beating Sri Lanka in their Asian Five Nations matchJAPAN COACH John Kirwan talks us through what has been a tough year for the country…“This is a special season for Japanese rugby. After the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan during March, we need to try to give the people hope.“There’s been an incredible show of courage in adversity from the Japanese people and that’s taught all of us a lesson. The players want to dedicate the season to those who lost their lives and homes. Two of our players have lost everything, but none of them lost their lives, thank goodness. We had a dilemma about whether to hold our training camps but the families of those who had lost their homes said we must carry on.“We’ve retained our HSBC Asian Five Nations title and now our goal is to automatically qualify for the next World Cup. To do that we need two wins in this year’s World Cup pool in New Zealand. The matches against Canada and Tonga will be our big games. They won’t be easy but we’re confident we can beat them both.“We’ve risen from 19th to 13th in the world rankings in my four years as coach. I only had eight months to prepare for the 2007 World Cup and this time we’ve been building for four years and we understand a lot more about our players. We’re starting to play a style of rugby that suits us and we play Samoa, Tonga and Fiji every year now in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup (PNC), which is helping us understand what we need to do to play at the next level.“Our Top League is improving by the year and our athletes are getting bigger and stronger and better. The pressure on us has changed because we’re not always the underdogs any more. We’ve worked very hard psychologically. When I arrived there was an acceptance of getting beaten, with age-old excuses about not being big or strong enough, so we had to stop that.“People ask me how you prepare for a World Cup and I say you don’t. You do all you can in advance and pick your best team, but then you have to roll with the punches. Once again we’ve got the worst draw (Japan play Tonga five days after facing New Zealand, then take on Canada six days later). Tonga and Canada have eight days’ rest before they play us. They have small turnarounds in their other games but the games against us are the big ones for them. I never let the players have excuses so I can’t either. I just want the whole world to cross their fingers we don’t get any injuries!last_img read more

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Injury blow for Ospreys’ Gareth Owen

first_imgHead Physio Chris Towers explained: “Gareth underwent surgery on Thursday after he suffered a knee injury in training, It was a bit of a freak accident resulting in him twisting his knee, sustaining a substantial injury. As a result of this he will, in all likelihood, be out of action for the whole of the 2011-12 season.“Thursday’s operation was the first part of what will be a two stage surgical procedure to repair the damage and then reconstruct the cruciate ligament.” TAGS: Ospreys Out of the running: Gareth Owen could miss all of next season after suffering a knee injuryGARETH OWEN could miss the entire 2011-12 campaign after suffering “a substantial injury” in training.The 22-year old, who can play at full-back, fly-half and centre, already has 50 appearances for the Ospreys under his belt, but he underwent surgery this week and faces another operation at a later date.center_img LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALSlast_img read more

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Australia name strong squad for Wales and Baa Baas

first_imgNick PhippsHalfbackMelbourne Rebels223 Nathan SharpeLockWestern Force33100 LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS David PocockFlankerWestern Force2339 Ben McCalmanLock/Loose ForwardWestern Force2320 WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Radike Samo of the Wallabies stretches during an Australian Wallabies IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 captain’s run at Wellington Regional Stadium on September 22, 2011 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) Radike Samo – Oldest member of the Wallaby squadA strong Qantas Wallabies touring party, collectively boasting 634 Test appearances, has been announced  for the short tour of the United Kingdom starting later this month.The 26-man playing group is composed, almost in its entirety, of players who recently competed in the seventh Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, where Australia beat Wales 21-18 to win the Bronze Final.One change is in the front row where Western Force prop Pekahou Cowan returns.Cowan was a member of the victorious Australian squad for the Castrol Edge Tri Nations Series, playing the most recent of his four Tests off the bench during the 39-20 win over South Africa at Sydney in July. He has taken the place of the injured Sekope Kepu.Kepu is being given additional time to recover from the injury he sustained when accidentally poked in the eye by a team-mate during the Rugby World Cup semi-final.Australia finished its Rugby World Cup campaign on a high note by beating Wales, which added to the earlier wins achieved over Italy, the United States of America, Russia and South Africa.This performance enabled the 2011 Tri Nations champions to retain second position on the latest International Rugby Board rankings, rated behind only the Rugby World Cup winners, New Zealand.The strength of the playing combination named for this tour is reinforced by the fact that the injured pair of fullback Kurtley Beale and flyhalf Quade Cooper are the only players from the starting XV that beat Wales, not to be making this trip.It might only be a three week assembly, with just two games, but Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is anticipating a difficult tour, and says the squad has been selected accordingly with Australia’s best players included. The squad averages in excess of 24 previous appearances per man when the total number of Tests played is calculated across the whole playing group.“While this is a relatively brief visit by current standards, both fixtures promise to be exceedingly demanding,” Deans says.“We’ve just seen at the Rugby World Cup how much and how quickly playing resources can be taxed.”With the Barbarians to be prepared by All Black coaches Graham Henry and Steve Hansen, and containing a star-studded list including five of the victorious World Cup New Zealanders, Deans says Australia’s visit to Twickenham has all of the ingredients posed by the toughest of Test matches.The Baabaas have beaten New Zealand and South Africa in the last two years and will be determined to complete a hat-trick against the SANZAR nations, while avenging the 11-18 defeat suffered against a young Wallabies outfit at Wembley Stadium during the two teams’ last meeting in London four seasons ago.The tour concludes seven days later in Cardiff, with the Wallabies’ 14th and final outing of the year, against Wales for the James Bevan Trophy.Australia has won on its last two visits to Cardiff, currently holds the trophy, and beat Wales for the Bronze Medal at the World Cup, which will all only add to the home side’s expectation and motivation heading into the Test according to Deans.“Wales were arguably the most improved side at the Rugby World Cup, and their expectations will have risen on the back of that performance,” Deans says.“Warren [Wales coach Warren Gatland] has publicly stated their ambition to sit alongside the top ranked nations by beating them on a regular basis, and they will see this Test as an excellent opportunity to start that process, building on what they achieved in New Zealand.”More than 50,000 fans attended the Millennium Stadium just to watch Wales’ semi-final defeat by France at the World Cup on the big television screens, and a passionate atmosphere awaits the Wallabies in front of what is sure to be a full house for Wales’ World Cup homecoming.“This is the only Test match Wales will play for the autumn and you can guarantee that they will throw absolutely everything at it,” Deans says.As well as Australia’s front-line of players, the squad includes three of the next generation of internationals: the Queensland Reds pair of centre Ben Tapuai and fullback Ben Lucas, and the NSW Waratahs loose forward Dave Dennis. Digby IoaneWingQueensland Reds2620 Pekahou CowanPropWestern Force254 Berrick BarnesFlyhalf/Inside CentreNSW Waratahs2536 Stephen MooreHookerBrumbies2865 Lachie TurnerWing/FullbackNSW Waratahs2414 Although he didn’t feature in the Test side, Dennis was a member of the initial Wallabies squad of 40 named for the domestic Test season this year, winning his call up after an impressive end to Super Rugby with the Waratahs. The 25-year-old subsequently played for the Australian Barbarians against Canada during that assembly.Dennis is now specialising as a loose forward, although he can double as a lock, as was evidenced during his inclusion on the 2009 Spring Tour where he appeared in the second row for the wins over Gloucester and the Cardiff Blues in the midweek tour matches.Tapuai, an Australian Under-20 representative in 2008, announced his arrival onto the big stage with some hard hitting performances in the midfield during the Queensland Reds’ run to an inaugural Super Rugby title this year.The 22-year-old, who had featured just four times for the Reds prior to 2011, subsequently earned a call up for the Australian Barbarians, performing strongly and scoring a try playing off the bench during the Baabaas’ 38-14 win over the Rugby World Cup-bound Canadians during the tournament warm up match at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast.Lucas was unable to be considered for that fixture due to injury but had been on the selectors’ radar for some time, enhancing his claims with some sound performances from the back for the Reds during Super Rugby.Now four seasons into his Reds career, the 23-year-old brings versatility to the squad, offering an option at halfback, flyhalf and fullback, as well as being a capable goal-kicker.Deans says the new trio all warranted selection based on their form this year, and would bring freshness and enthusiasm to the touring group.“It’s a great opportunity for the three of them to take the next step in their careers,” Deans says.The World Cup squad members not able to be considered for the tour were fullback Kurtley Beale (hamstring), winger Drew Mitchell (hamstring), inside centre Pat McCabe (shoulder), flyhalf Quade Cooper (knee), No 8 Wycliff Palu (hamstring), flanker Rocky Elsom (hamstring), lock Dan Vickerman (shoulder), Kepu (eye) and halfback Luke Burgess who has left Australia to continue his career with leading French club Toulouse.Winger Lachie Turner and flanker Matt Hodgson, who both joined the Wallabies in New Zealand as the replacements for Mitchell and Palu respectively, have been retained in the touring group.With room for just two hookers in the travelling party, Queensland Reds rake Saia Fainga’a, who was Australia’s third hooker at the Rugby World Cup, has missed out.The Wallabies will assemble at Coogee in Sydney tomorrow week before departing for the tour on Saturday 19 November.The Qantas Wallabies Spring Tour Squad is: James Horwill (captain)LockQueensland Reds2634 Rob HorneCentreNSW Waratahs239 Adam Ashley-CooperFullback-Wing-Outside CentreNSW Waratahs2763 Anthony FaingaaInside CentreQueensland Reds2412 Ben LucasFullback/HalfbackQueensland Reds23Uncapped Ben TapuaiCentreQueensland Reds22Uncapped Player                          Position           State                            Age                  Appearances Saturday 26 November: Qantas Wallabies v Barbarians, Twickenham Stadium, London, 2.35pm.Saturday 3 December: Qantas Wallabies v Wales, James Bevan Trophy, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 2.30pm. James O’ConnorFullbackMelbourne Rebels2136 James SlipperPropQueensland Reds2221 Tour Schedule/Key Dates Tatafu Polota-NauHookerNSW Waratahs2631 Dave DennisLoose ForwardNSW Waratahs25Uncapped Matt HodgsonLoose forwardWestern Force306 Salesi Ma’afuPropWestern Force2813 Radike SamoNo 8Queensland Reds3515 Scott HigginbothamLoose forwardQueensland Reds2510 Will GeniaHalfbackQueensland Reds2333 Ben AlexanderPropBrumbies2635 Rob SimmonsLockQueensland Reds2215last_img read more

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Dyce RFC – Team of the Month (September 2011)

first_imgFor Back Issues Contact John Denton Services at 01733-385-170 visit Would you like to sign up to Rugby World’s excellent weekly email newsletter? Click here. Find a newsagent that sells Rugby World in the UK. Or you may prefer the digital edition on your MAC, PC, or iPad. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Happy campers – Dyce RFC teamABERDEEN is football territory but the rugby players of Dyce RFC, a suburb six miles north of the city and home to the region’s airport, are flying this season after a revival of which Lazarus himself would be proud.Founded in 1983, Dyce’s problems started when they fell out with a local headmaster and were forced to lease a new pitch outside their catchment area. Years of mediocrity ensued and but for men like Steve Law and skipper Nicky Cheyne, the club might have folded.Then new club secretary Mike Fearn brought about a return to Dyce Academy – now under a more enlightened head – and he and new head coach Graeme Smith set about promoting the club in the local pub and through flyers to the oil companies which provide so many of Dyce’s players. Like a snowball, the players rolled in and, after a year in the Aberdeen Development League, Dyce sit high in Caledonia Three NE after early wins over Peterhead and the second teams of Mackie, Gordonians and Wanderers. Why the transformation?“Self-belief and team spirit,” Fearn says. “Their heads used to be down but now, bless them, they’re out there warming up an hour before kick-off.”The back row of Paul Robertson, Stephen Christmas and Phil Horsfall comprise the heart of a team that will have extra motivation next month against Huntly – the club whose league rep spoke most forcibly against Dyce’s league admittance on the grounds they wouldn’t be competitive. “I just have to mention his name and the boys run faster!” says Smith.Canterbury KitbagsDyce are our September Team of the Month and receive a set of 22 kitbags from sponsors Canterbury.This article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.last_img read more

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Key clashes: The Heineken Cup semis

first_img Saracens vs. Clermont, Twickenham – Saturday, April 26Billy Vunipola v Fritz LeeGenuine wrecking-balls are worth their considerable weight in gold and at Twickenham, two of the most effective on the continent meet head-on. Vunipola may have been wearing six at Ravenhill om the Heineken Cup quarters, but his brawn off the back of the scrum was a key factor in Saracens scraping past an immense Ulster effort. In fact, a total of 82 carries all competition – the most by anybody – tells you all you need to know about his importance.Not just a brute: Vunipola passesClermont’s pack is a mechanical, muscular beast. However, if England’s golden boy can get beyond the gainline regularly, the Top 14 giants will be thrust outside their comfort zone. Likewise, should Saracens start falling off Lee – a 17-stone Samoan with New Zealand Sevens experience and seismic power – they face a long, hard afternoon.Alex Goode v Lee ByrneMike Brown deservedly wrestled every plaudit going following a phenomenal campagin. Even so, Goode remains a fine full back who is rated very highly by Stuart Lancaster. His place on the long list of the ERC European Player of the Year award is no fluke, and follows some exceptional attacking displays in the group stages. A sickening fall in Belfast robbed him of a chance to influence the quarter final, but Goode will not flinch if Brock James tests him with a few early bombs.Preferred to the mercurial Jean-Marcellin Buttin, Byrne will be itching to prove a point and cap his final campaign in France on a successful note. Superior in the air with a monstrous boot, he also adds a bit more bulk and could easily cause havoc joining the line outside the 13 channel or off the shoulder of the superb Sitiveni Sivivatu. A far better player even than his tally of 46 Wales caps suggests, Byrne will relish another run at Twickenham.Stand up: CJ Stander has stepped up to the markToulon v Munster, Stade Velodrome – Sunday, April 27 Steffon Armitage v CJ StanderNot a direct match-up given Armitage continues in the eight shirt, but this remains an absolutely blockbuster clash that will go a long way to deciding what could be a classic encounter. During the defeat of Toulouse, Stander allowed Thomond Park to forget about Peter O’Mahony – seriously impressive given the Munster skipper’s recent form. His captain’s shoulder operation means the former Blue Bull now has a chance to dismantle another team of stellar names from the south of France.Stander’s destructive dynamism is superb to watch and this week Bryan Habana admitted he was a loss to the Springboks. Though almost half a foot shorter, Armitage offers even more mobility and – blessed with a big old backside and an awkwardly low centre of gravity – just as much strength. He has won 17 turnovers this tournament for a start. All over the park, not least at the breakdown, these two will tear into each other.A safe pair of hands: Matt GiteauMatt Giteau v James DowneyBoxing sages often say styles make fights. In rugby, contrasting approaches certainly enhance intrigue. Giteau, a canny operator from Queanbeyan who oozes class, and Downey, a downright hard-as-nails Dubliner that won a first cap at 32, are just about as different as inside centres come. And both have huge roles on Sunday. TAGS: Highlight LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS General Lee: Wrecking-ball back-rower Fritz Lee disposes of Manu Tuilagi in the Heineken Cup quarters And then there were four – a familiar quartet, in fact. This weekend, Saracens, Clermont, Munster and Toulon will play out the Heineken Cup semi-finals for the second successive season. The fixtures come in a different combination, but each match promises massive drama and tension, not to mention some hugely enticing individual tussles… Toulon’s former Wallaby will direct his side’s fast-paced phase-play, offering himself up as a zippy distributor and runner from first receiver. In response, Munster’s man mountain must drive rapid linespeed and marshall the mighty Mathieu Bastareaud as Leinster so glaringly failed to do. That task needs guile as well as grunt – Jonny Wilkinson and Giteau will use their behemoth midfielder as a decoy as well as a route-one cannon.Keep your eyes on future editions of Rugby World Magazine to read our exclusive column on the future of European rugby. Follow this link to subscribe.last_img read more

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Six Nations: why playing Italy first up does Ireland no favours

first_imgCenturions: Warhorses Parisse and Castrogiovanni will show their customary passion on SaturdayFine players all but thank heaven for Parisse, the No 8 who, at 31 and with 108 caps under his belt, may go on to break the all-time caps record held by Brian O’Driscoll (141). He has missed just seven championship matches in the past decade and you shudder to think how Italy would have fared without him.Parisse was 20 when he made his Six Nations debut against England in 2004. The Italy of that era was regularly beaten by over 20 points, but the gap has closed: from 2006-08 they lost by an average of 11 points a game and, after a blip in 2009 (the Mauro Bergamasco scrum-half experiment!), the Italians levelled out with remarkable consistency: from 2010-12 they finished with a -68 points difference (-14 a game). If you’d bet on that outcome, you could have bought the Colosseum with the winnings.They were better still in 2013 but dipped last year, when they suffered as Ireland and England chased tries in a devilishly close-run championship.Painful progressWhat do we make of all this? That it’s taking a long time for Italy to catch up, and the financial and political problems besetting their domestic game mean Parisse might be greeting the teams as a wrinkly union president before they eventually win the title. Or even finish in the top half of the table.The victors: Italy emerged victorious in their last Roman encounter but are outsiders, this timeLast autumn at least brought cause for optimism, with a renewed emphasis on scrum and defence helping them to beat Samoa – Italy’s solitary win in 2014 – and push the Pumas and Springboks close. The return of Simone Favaro, Francesco Minto and Luca Morisi from long-term injuries also swelled the ranks. Safe pair of hands: Josh Furno takes the ball in the 2013 fixtures, which Italy won This will be the fourth and final Six Nations for coach Jacques Brunel, who will step down after the World Cup. Even without Johnny Sexton, Ireland should have too much in their locker for Italy this weekend and, with trips to Twickenham and Murrayfield to follow, anything other than an 11th Italian wooden spoon would be a surprise.France at home in round four represents Italy’s best opportunity and Brunel will approach the fixture with special interest. The sides will meet again at the World Cup, in a pool also containing Ireland, and Brunel has the incentive of doing something no Italy coach has done before: guiding Italy to a World Cup quarter-final. That would be a legacy to bow out with. Should Ireland be wary of the Italian team awaiting them in Rome this weekend? Above and beyond the usual respect paid to any international opponent.The short answer is yes, because stats support the notion that Italy are at their most dangerous in the Six Nations’ opening round. In ten of the 15 championships since the Azzurri joined in 2000, Italy’s opening result has surpassed their average for that year: highlights include the defeats of Scotland (2000), Wales (2003) and France (2013).The thinking is that Italy are on a more equal footing at the start of the tournament, but struggle when the demands of the schedule test the squad depth and fitness levels later on. The difficulty in repeating the emotional intensity that goes with an Italian victory is also responsible for two stark facts: they’ve never won in two successive weeks, nor have they won a second-round match.Wrecking ball: Sean O’Brien could be back after a long lay-off with injuryStark but not startling because we’re talking slim pickings here, with a 15% success rate – 11 wins in 75 matches – reflecting the ongoing gulf between Italy and Europe’s elite. Even Scotland, whom Italy have defeated more times than they have the other nations put together, are distancing themselves, with Vern Cotter’s team having removed the tag of automatic wooden spoon candidates.But for Ronan O’Gara’s last-gasp drop-goal four years ago, Italy would now be going for a Roman hat-trick against the Irish. Yet skipper Sergio Parisse says that if Italy played Ireland 100 times, they would “probably lose 98”. It’s hard to disagree with the sentiment because Parisse is arguably Italy’s only world-class player and they still yearn for a true successor to Diego Dominguez at No 10.Something to build onThe latest hope is New Zealand-born fly-half Kelly Haimona, a former builder’s labourer from the Bay of Plenty who played all three autumn Tests having just qualified on residency. He’s made a decent fist of Test rugby so far but nothing suggests he will light the touch paper for an ordinary-looking back-line.So as ever, Italy’s strength remains up front where can be found the reassuring presence of the English-based Leonardo Ghiraldini and Josh Furno, Toulon’s motormouth Martin Castrogiovanni and Treviso flanker Alessandro Zanni, runner-up in a Player of the Championship poll two years ago.center_img LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The champions face a tough weekend in Rome but, as the stats show, it could be all downhill from there for the Italianslast_img read more

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RWC Final – New Zealand v Australia: Guide to the teams

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS TAGS: Highlight Forty-six players will hold the hopes and dreams of Antipodeans tomorrow for the first World Cup final contested between New Zealand and Australia AustraliaIsrael Folau (Age 26. Caps 37)Folau has been nursing by ankle injury during the tournament, which appears to have curtailed his usual rapier breaks in the broken field. Still one of the best operators in the air. Wallabies will hope he comes good for the final.Adam Ashley Cooper (Age 31. Caps 113)The most capped Wallaby back of all time, Ashley-Cooper’s hat-trick against Argentina and try against Scotland have been vital. Almost as important, was his spot-tackle on Dan Biggar when the Wallabies were under siege against Wales.Man in form: Adam Ashley-Cooper has four tries in his last two gamesTevita Kuridrani (Age 24. Caps 30)Quietly spoken, but the 6ft 3in, 16st outside-centre has certainly makes his presence felt on the field. His upper-body strength allowed him to break a Tommy Seymour tackle against Scotland and put Ashley-Cooper away before wrestling over for a try of his own.Matt Giteau (Age 33. Caps 101)Six months ago, he’s was sunning himself in the South of France, now he a Test centurion with the chance of a World Cup winners medal. It’s quite a story. Important second-receiver for Wallabies, his looped pass to Ashley-Cooper was sublime.Bernard Foley (Age 26. Caps 26)A once-in-a-lifetime performance against England was offset by an error-strewn game against Scotland with an intercept and poor kicking game. Still in credit, however and has nailed pressure kicks.Lynchpin: Bernard Foley had an exquisite game against England with 28 pointsWill Genia (Age 27. Caps 65)Another who’s star has dimmed after a poor Super Rugby season, Genia has done the basics but lacked the individual brilliance last seen against the Lions in 2013. In the side due to a lack of better options.David Pocock (Age 27. Caps 54)Pocock has had two knee-reconstructions in between World Cups. This year, playing in an unfamiliar No 8 role, he’s still been the tournament’s top breakdown gatherer with 14. No-one else has registered in double-figures. A titan.Michael Hooper (Age 23. Caps 50)The laid-back 23-year-old with the surfer locks, has already amassed 50 caps in a shorter timeframe than any other Test player. Hooper is whirling-dervish around the field, and pound for pound, no player punches harder in defence.Supercharged: Michael Hooper is an effervescent presence on the fieldScott Fardy (Age 31. Caps 29)The unglamorous member of the Wallaby backrow, Fardy has bled for the cause, and does the unshowy, unseen work at the breakdown and tackle area. Worth his weight in green and gold, however. Immense against Argentina in the semis.Rob Simmons (Age 26. Caps 59)Will be remembered for haring towards the Pumas tryline in open space after an errant Nicolas Sanchez pass but Simmons has been a go-to man in the Wallaby lineout. Hugely experienced for someone so young.Kane Douglas (Age 26. Caps 22)Another member of the rag-bag Wallabies, who descended for all corners of the globe for this World Cup caper. Douglas left Leinster abruptly and has played a key part in Australia’s march to the finalThumbs up: Kane Douglas provides some ‘dog’ in the Wallaby engine roomSekope Kepu (Age 29. Caps 62)Had his card marked by the All Blacks with his opportunistic try against them in The Rugby Championship earlier this year, Kepu has been fundamental to Australia’s ‘bajada’ which roughly translated, means eight-man shove.Stephen Moore (Age 32. Caps 101)Australia’s captain and Test centurion, he’s led the side with maturity, hit his jumpers and provided a sense of calm when Australia were in tight spots, against Wales and Scotland.Scott Sio (Age 24. Caps 15)Arguably the Wallabies most important player, after the scrum wobbled with Slipper against the Pumas, loosehead Sio has been passed fit and his influence could be the difference for the WallabiesKey man: Scott Sio has been a revelation for the WallabiesReplacementsTatafu Polota-Nau (Age 30. Caps 60)Polota-Nau has acted as the perfect impact player for the Wallabies, using his 18st frame to punch holes in tiring defences.James Slipper (Age 26. Caps 73)Struggled badly against the Argentinian front-row, Slipper is more renowned for his tireless workrate around the paddock than for destroying opposition tightheadsGreg Holmes (Age 32. Caps 23)Vastly experienced Queensland Red who can cover both sides of the scrum. He returned to the Wallaby squad after an eight-year absence earlier this year.Dean Mumm (Age 31. Caps 43)The likeable lock made a huge impression at Exeter Chiefs before leaving to pursue a World Cup dream. An athletic presence at the set-piece and in the loose.Chief: Dean Mumm scores a try against UruguayBen McCalman (Age 27. Caps 46)McCalman can play anywhere in the back five and he has provided useful backup to Fardy, Pocock and Hooper. Made some key tackles against Wales to prevent them from scoring in the Pool stages.Nick Phipps (Age 26. Caps 38)Tidy service and a threat around the fringes, Phipps has come on in every game of the tournament, replacing GeniaMatt Tomuaa (Age 25. Caps 30)Gifted second receiver, Tomuaa has many backers for his intelligent lines of running and skills as a distributor. Kept out of the side by Matt GiteauBox-of-tricks: Kurtley Beale is a skilful option from the benchKurtley Beale (Age 26. Caps 59)When Rob Horne was injured early on against England, Beale replaced him and played a key role in sending the host out of the competition, dovetailing with Foley for a superb try. Hugely talented and able to play anywhere in the backline except scrum-half.center_img Face-off: New Zealand and Australia will play each other for the first time in a World Cup final The All Blacks and the Wallabies will contest their first World Cup final ever tomorrow at Twickenham. For those of you who haven’t been following their progress closely, he’s a guide to the men who will be looking to lift the Webb Ellis Cup around 6pm tomorrow evening…New ZealandBen Smith (Age 29. Caps 47)Looks like your average boy next door until he step inside the four tramlines. Fleet of foot and rock solid under the high ball, Smith can switch from 15 to the flanks with ease and has the second most carries (65) in the tournament.Understated excellence: Ben Smith has excelled in a multitude of areasJulian Savea (Age25. Caps 40)‘Nobody stops the ‘bus’. The French backline can attest to Savea’s freakish strength but the man with 38 tries in 40 Test can also play footie. The tournament’s top try-scorer with eight, give him space at your folly.Conrad Smith (Age 34. Caps 93)The thinking man’s centre, Conrad Smith has oiled the wheels of the All Black backline for a decade, where his speed of thought and guile make up for advancing years. Rarely caught out defensively.Ma’ Nonu Age caps (Age 33. Caps 102)Were it not for a greasy ball, Nonu would have scored one of the tries of the tournament against Les Bleus. Nonu may have a power-packed frame but his unselfish offload to Barrett showed his maturity. Sits comfortably as one of the midfeld greats.Final fling: Ma’a Nonu has matured into an all-round player over the yearsNehe Milner-Skudder (Age 24. Caps 7)The boy from Palmerston North, who dallied with rugby league, has been one of the stars of the tournament. A killer step enhanced by an astute kicking game and a varied range of passing from both sides set Milner-Skudder apart as a future superstar.Dan Carter (Age 33. Caps 111)Carter has nothing left to win in the game, save a World Cup final. With 1579 points, he’s the world’s leading points scorer and his offload against France and pressure-releasing drop-goal against the Springboks show his enduring value to the All Blacks.Aaron Smith (Age 26. Caps 46)The world’s best scrum-half has been muted by his elevated standards in his last few games, but his will-to-win and ability to change the game with a snipe around the fringes or cute offload mean he will be given extra attention by ‘Pooper’.Pocket general: Aaron Smith is a dynamic presence at No 9Kieran Read (Age 30. Caps 83)Another who has put his body through the mill for the All Blacks, Read will be earning his 84th cap and he boasts an all-round skill-set that sees him viewed as the best all-round No 8 in world rugby. In the tournament’s top three for breaking the gainline.Richie McCaw (Age 34. Caps 148 )Winning his record 149th and probably final cap, McCaw’s ability to rile supporters simply by taking to the field mark him out as one of the most influential players ever to play the game. Will need all his celebrated powers to nullify David Pocock and Michael HooperJerome Kaino (Age 32. Caps 66)The less celebrated member of All Black backrow, Kaino is happy working in the shadows, but tries again France and South Africa show his importance to the unit’s balance. Seems to thrive at World Cups.Opener: Jerome Kaino scored the first try of the World Cup semi-finalSam Whitelock (Age 27. Caps 72)One hirsute half of the All Black engine room, Whitelock’s work ethic, ability to hit rucks endlessly and do the basics at the set-piece see him as the perfect foil to RetallickBrodie Retallick (Age 24. Caps 46)Reigning World Player of the Year, Retallick is viewed by man as the best lock in the world. At 6ft 9in, he is a prodigiously gifted athlete and has a work rate that sees him making eye-catching carries in the loos, as well as the ugly stuff in the unseen areas.Owen Franks (Age 27. Caps 77)Lost his partner-in-crime Tony Woodcock early in the tournament and has taken on extra responsibility at the coal-face with aplomb. Nothing flashy, Franks simply does the basics.Dane Coles (Age 28. Caps 35)Emerged in the last 18 months from the shadow of Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu to make the No 2 shirt his own. Hits his jumpers, adds ballast in the scrum and prone to spectacular long-range tries. Loves hanging out on the wing.Ball-carrier: Dane Coles is renowned for his carries in the outfieldJoe Moody (Age 27. Caps 10)Harsh to say he’s this tournament’s Stephen Donald, but Moody is third choice loosehead on the rank and he’s not been exposed once. Even showcase some lesser known skills with an offload to put Kerr-Barlow away for a try against the French.ReplacementsKeven Mealamu (Age 36. Caps 131)Rated by John Smit as the hardest man he ever faced, what Mealamu lacks in stature he makes up in courage and huge experience. A leader in the All Black squad.Ben Franks (Age 31. Caps 46)London Irish bound after the tournament, Franks may get to win a World Cup playing alongside his brother, in the absence of Wyatt Crockett. How special would that be?Charlie Faumuina (Age 28. Caps 32)At 19st and sporting a fearsome beard, Faumuina certainly stands out and his muscular carries in the tight spaces will tire Wallaby defensive resistance late onUnit: Charlie Faumuina is used to smash holes in tight spacesVictor Vito (Age 28. Caps 32)Blessed with more pace than Liam Messam or even Jerome Kaino in the wide channels, the Hurricanes backrow has proved a reliable option from the bench this tournament.Sam Cane (Age 23. Caps 30)The heir to Richie McCaw – no pressure, Sam – Cane captained the side against Namibia, and possesses the cool detachment to get the job done and tread the tightrope of the law book like any good openside.Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Age 25. Caps 19)Kerr-Barlow seems to have usurped TJ Perenara as stand-in for Aaron Smith, and he proved his offensive skills with two tries in three minutes after coming on against FranceSonny Bill Williams (Age 30. Caps 32)Sonny Bill has provided the box-office offloads during the tournament, but also showed his maturity in doing it at the right time. The sight of him sauntering on after 55 minutes will dispirit all but the most resilient defences.Loves an offload: Sonny Bill is some replacement to bring off the benchBeauden Barrett (Age 24. Caps 35)Wickedly gifted utility-back who plays 10 but is quick enough to play on the wing. Scored valuable try against the Boks and will be backed to create some magic off the benchlast_img read more

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Champions Cup: Quarter-final previews

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The Champs: Toulon face a titanic clash with Racing By Alex ShawThe stage is set this weekend for the return of European rugby, with the European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-finals looming large amidst a packed sporting calendar.The ball gets rolling on Saturday when Exeter Chiefs make the trip up to the Ricoh Arena to take on Wasps, before Saracens play host to Northampton Saints later in the day. On Sunday, Stade Français head to fortress Welford Road to play Leicester Tigers in what should be a particularly fierce Anglo-French affair, and then the weekend’s action concludes with the all-French clash of Racing 92 and Toulon at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir.We take a look at each of the match-ups in more detail below.Wasps vs Exeter Chiefs (Saturday 9th April, 15.15pm KO)Both teams are in fine form, coming into the game on the back of highly impressive victories in the Aviva Premiership, with Wasps completing their first double over Northampton in over a decade and Exeter moving through the gears against Worcester, racking up eight tries in a 50-12 victory. The two sides lead the Premiership in tries scored and whilst a match of this magnitude will undoubtedly see them both tighten up a little, it still should offer plenty of ambitious moments and opportunities for expansive play.Different class: Thomas Waldrom is a prolific try-scorer for the ChiefsExeter are one of the few teams to have troubled Wasps at the Ricoh, beating them 41-27 earlier in the season in a match that saw Thomas Waldrom score a hat-trick. The number eight has been in lethal form off the base of driving mauls and if Wasps want to advance to the semi-finals, disrupting Exeter’s lineout should be at the top of their list of priorities. Enter, Joe Launchbury.Key MenLaunchbury was ousted at international level by the highly-impressive duo of Maro Itoje and George Kruis during the Six Nations and a European quarter-final is the perfect stage to begin his push for a return to England’s starting XV. The lock will need to prevent Exeter’s driving lineout getting a foothold in the game, either by disrupting the throw in the air or the maul as it is being formed.Point to prove: Joe Launchbury has lost his England placeSpeaking of countering the opposition’s strengths, the ability of Jack Nowell as a counter-attacker and broken field runner will be just as key to Exeter. He scythed his way through Worcester last weekend, maintaining his strong form from the Six Nations. Wasps have no qualms about putting the ball through the hands, attempting to stretch opposition defences, and Nowell will relish that space if any poor kicks or turnover ball come his way.Prediction – Wasps are playing some inspired rugby this season, not least so in European competition, but they do have form in struggling to stop the driving lineout, which is the basis of Exeter’s attacking game plan. As a result, the Chiefs have a fantastic chance of upsetting the odds with an away win. Exeter by 3.Saracens vs Northampton Saints (Saturday 9th, 17.45pm KO)Saracens were the form team in Europe heading into the Six Nations and though that momentum dropped a little with their plethora of players away on international duty, the North Londoners looked back to their very best during their recent victories over Exeter and Bath. All misconceptions of conservatism have been blown away by Mark McCall’s men this season and with their test players back in the fold, Saracens are feeding off their aggressive defensive pressure and using it as a foundation for their extremely clinical attacking play.All-rounder: Owen Farrell has added a running game in a superb seasonNorthampton’s form has improved over the course of the season and they have dragged themselves up into the hunt for a playoff spot in the Premiership. Their 20-15 victory over Saracens at Allianz Park during the Six Nations will give them confidence heading into this fixture, but there’s no doubting that they will be facing a very different Saracens side this weekend. One positive for Saints is that they are one of the few teams that can go toe-to-toe with Saracens physically and the arm wrestle in the pack should be worth the admission fee alone.Key MenJust like Saracens’ now redundant conservative tag, Owen Farrell has shaken off his critics this season, conducting the Saracens back line with grace and precision. The club doesn’t get the credit for their expansive play that clubs like Wasps do, but that’s because they spend less time doing it. Farrell has spearheaded a back line that regularly scores just a phase or two after going wide, rather than having to recycle and keep going sideline to sideline. He will need to be at his best to unlock a stubborn Northampton defence that has conceded a Premiership-low 28 tries this season.Key creative outlet: Ben Foden provides a spark in the Saints back threeBen Foden can be the difference-maker for Northampton in this clash. Beyond the fact he will enjoy the firm track of the 4G pitch at Allianz Park, his role coming into the back line on attack will be key for Saints. Saracens’ defence elicits plenty of territory by rushing up on the channel between the second and third receiver, often forcing that second receiver to run back inside towards the waiting Saracens pack, lest he risk throwing the intercept. If Foden can keep his depth and provide an alternative passing target for Northampton’s second receiver, beyond the reaches of Saracens’ blitzing defender, it could unlock the home side’s defensive system. Five English sides and three French sides will battle it out this weekend for a place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals, but who will emerge victorious? RW puts its neck on the guillotine…center_img Prediction – Put Boudjellal’s comments and l’esprit de clocher to one side and Toulon have a squad that is eminently capable of beating Racing. It is packed with world class individuals who have won all over the world. That said, Racing have become a very effective team over the past two seasons and with home advantage on their side, they end Toulon’s bid to win four European titles in a row. Racing by 5.For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here. Prediction – As well as Northampton have done to turnaround their season, Saracens are just too effective right now. The Londoners have been the team to beat in the competition so far and it’s difficult to see that changing. Saracens by 10.Leicester Tigers vs Stade Français (Sunday 10th April, 13.45pm KO)Anglo-French affairs are spicy at the best of times but with Stade sitting at 12th in the Top 14 and their domestic season in tatters, this trip to Welford Road offers them their only hope of salvaging something from their miserable 2015/16 campaign. The Parisian side still has its fair share of game-winners but given their spotty discipline record and efforts on the road this season, the advantage certainly seems to be with the team from the East Midlands.The Tigers have already beaten Stade at Welford Road this season, triumphing 33-20 in Round 1 of the competition and their self-belief in their ability to attack and score tries has certainly increased since then, thanks largely to the tutelage of Aaron Mauger. Leicester have evolved into a team that can beat you with a tight game or a loose game and they are a better side for that, particularly when they effectively combine the two.X-factor: Manu Tuilagi is approaching his best after a long injury-layoffKey MenThe Tigers may be evolving but they still, quite rightfully, put plenty of focus on their set-piece. If Dan Cole can subdue the Stade scrum and deny them a source of penalties and points in that area, then it should go a long way to helping secure a Leicester win. If Cole can also chime in with a turnover or two, Leicester’s prospects in this match will be even brighter.Jonathan Danty may not have had the Six Nations that many were predicting following his stellar club form for Stade, but he is still a player capable of wrecking defensive game plans. Stade will need him to punch holes in Leicester’s defensive line for 80 minutes, as well as charging him with containing Manu Tuilagi, who is returning to form and fitness in frighteningly quick fashion.Danger man: Jonathan Danty has silky skills allied to raw powerPrediction – Stade have nothing to lose at this point in their season and they should head to Welford Road prepared to leave it all out on the pitch. A loss effectively ends their season and that’s very effective motivation, but the Tigers should have enough about them to see off their old rivals. Leicester by 7.Racing 92 vs Toulon (Sunday 10th April, 16.15 KO UK time)Neither team has had the best of preparations for this game. A rested Racing team were humbled, 60-7, by Montpellier a few weeks ago, before they lost the dress rehearsal to this game, 20-21, to Toulon a fortnight ago, albeit in a game that was staged in Lille rather than Paris. Toulon, meanwhile, come into the game on the back of a ‘home’ loss – the game was played in Marseille – to rivals Clermont Auvergne and comments from Mourad Boudjellal that the game is “already lost” for him. The Toulon players have likely learnt to take what their club’s owner says with a pinch of salt, but it’s still far from ideal.The air of European invincibility around Toulon has fallen this season and in the microcosm of this competition, Racing’s performances have certainly been more impressive than Toulon’s. Along with Saracens, the Parisian side has been leading the way in Europe and, like the side from London, has developed the perfect balance of powerful, energy-sapping forward play and clinical attacking from the back line.Superstar: Dan Carter has not disappointed in a Racing shirtKey MenIt’s hard to look beyond Dan Carter here. Questions were raised before his arrival as to how big a role he would play for Racing and was his signing more about shirt sales than on-field performances, but he has dispelled all doubts with a stellar first campaign in Paris. Whether he’s at 10 or 12, he’s still pulling all of Racing’s strings and hasn’t lost a step since he was lifting the Rugby World Cup with New Zealand last year. Rugby’s very own galácticos could be undone by the biggest galáctico of them all.Power-packed: Ma’a Nonu is the big-game player Toulon can boastFrom one RWC-winning All Black to another, Ma’a Nonu needs to run rampant over his former teammate. No one is expecting an exhibition of free-flowing rugby in this match and when the ball gets out to Nonu, he needs to break the gain-line. If he can get the Racing defence retreating and help provide quick, front-foot ball for the likes of Bryan Habana and Quade Cooper, Toulon can confound their owner’s pessimistic prophesising.last_img read more

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The Six Nations changes nothing heading into the World Cup

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The Six Nations changes nothing heading into the World CupWhen euphoria fades and pints ease to normal speed in Cardiff, the realisation will come that this was not a great Six Nations. Great in script, sure. Not so for its enduring quality.Drama this Six Nations had in spades. From England’s savagely physical upset on opening weekend to Wales’ comeback in Paris and Scotland’s scarcely-believable revival at Twickenham, unpredictability gripped us all. For passion and atmosphere, the Six Nations has no peer.In the end Wales are worthy champions – their shut-out of Ireland at the heaving Principality Stadium more dominant than anyone expected. But when you sit back and consider Wales finished with the joint lowest number of tries, the least metres made, fewest breaks, fewest carries and the worst lineout stats, it is hardly cause to alarm southern hemisphere nations.Related: The Six Nations team of the tournamentPut it this way, the All Blacks won’t be trembling with fear.Still the same: The All Blacks scoring last season (Getty Images)The purpose here is not to rile or incite, merely offer measured perspective. Over the past four years, since the failure of the north to reach the World Cup semi-finals, the Home Nations have turned the cart around.No repeat, lopsided final four should be expected come November.England and Ireland have both enjoyed recent periods of dominance. Ireland’s culminated in their unrivalled 2018 season in which they captured the Grand Slam and stunned the All Blacks in Dublin for the first time.In this World Cup cycle, we’ve seen the rugby landscape shift more frequently than tectonic plates.England went from conquering mountaineers to cliff divers, Eddie Jones’ ambulance slowly winding its way back as mental demons and leadership concerns blockade the path.No more are Test rugby’s seismic movements more evident, though, than in where Ireland now sits – some four months on from their seemingly unstoppable former selves.Shambolic: France did not impress in the Six Nations (Getty Images)Who predicted such a regression? Can rocked confidence be regained in the next six months, as ghosts of ’07 loom?Other than their final match Wales, too, admit they did not perform at their peak in this Six Nations. Against France, England, Scotland they produced one poor half. And in Rome, after making mass changes, they were poor throughout.Forty average minutes is more than enough to send anyone packing from the World Cup.That Wales’ crowning championship was largely punctuated by supreme defence, ball retention and, on the whole, attacking conservatism, speaks to the contrasting styles the World Cup could feature. The Six Nations had bucket-loads of drama but won’t frighten the southern giants, writes Liam Napier Related: Six Nations final round talking pointsWith Japan, for the most part at least, expected to provide hard and fast tracks, shifts in tactics may be required. Wales can’t expect to hold the best opposition to 13 points per game in Japan.Elsewhere, France are as shambolic as ever. Italy are stuck in the recurring melancholy of mediocrity.Scotland, at full-strength, threatens to surprise if the magician that is Finn Russell can gain a decent platform to launch. With one intercept try and two silky assists, his was a second-half masterclass at Twickenham.Last year proved the All Blacks a far from infallible. Defeats to the Springboks in Wellington and Ireland in Dublin – coupled with great escapes at Twickenham and Loftus – hinted at vulnerability.From then until now, though, little has changed for them.Masterclass: Finn Russell stunned against England (Getty Images)The Six Nations more cemented theories than delivered a proclamation of anything radically new. The All Blacks know their most pressing challenge remains finding a way around favoured rush defensive systems that tend to leave the last man unmarked – these troubling them since the 2017 Lions tour.Strategies to overcome this area will be a continual focus and may not be revealed until Japan. Nailing this aspect will be the World Cup’s central battleground.The All Blacks know the challenge the northern hemisphere’s huge forwards present in attempting to find ways to disrupt ball placement and force turnovers. Nothing new there, either.Related: The Crusaders consider a name changeThey also know the threat presented by probing, attacking kicks – the kind England and Wales employed throughout this tournament. That’s exactly why the All Blacks trialled several back three combinations last year.The point is the Six Nations should be celebrated in isolation.The World Cup, though, is another beast entirely.The All Blacks, Springboks, Pumas and, yes, even the Wallabies will come prepared. On neutral turf, don’t discount the south.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.last_img read more

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Jonny May: How to counter-attack

first_img Danielle Waterman: How to sidestep The Exeter Chiefs and England wing explains how… LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The Harlequins and England wing gives her tips… Jess Breach: How to deliver a hand-off Danielle Waterman: How to sidestep Jess Breach: How to deliver a hand-off Jack Nowell: How to up your wing work-rate The England wing gives his top tips for playing off kicks Jonny May: How to counter-attack Jonny May averages a try every two Tests for England, with 29 in his first 56 Internationals. Here the wing explains how to counter-attack from kicks…Assess the kick“When the ball is in the air you get a sense: Is it bad? Is it long? Who’s with you? Where are you on the pitch? You’re scanning.“If a kick goes over your head and nobody is with you, 
it’s probably not right to run. 
If you catch it going forward with a couple of people outside you, run.”Communicate“If you’re steaming onto the ball, wherever you are, you may just think, ‘This is my time to run it’. If you caught the ball on the back foot, you probably shift it on to someone else.“You need a communication link. And then, once you pass, aim to give them more information.”Find the space Collapse Fast show: Jonny May makes a break during the Six Nations (Getty Images) Expand Back yourself“If someone is in front of you and you decide there’s an opportunity on the outside, try to square them up and be in a position where you can go both ways. And when you feel like going for it, don’t hesitate.“There’s no shame if they make a great tackle, but you can either beat them or they over-chase and you present the ball back on the inside. When you decide to go, transfer the ball to your outside arm.”This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of Rugby World magazine. Expand England Women’s full-back Danielle Waterman gives her top… “If the space is back down the channel the kick came from, there’s probably a route to that corner. If the gap is down the middle, there is no time to hesitate.“I won’t try to turn defenders inside out – you can overdo the stepping. You have to run for where the space is.”MORE SKILLS ADVICE… Jack Nowell: How to up your wing work-rate Every month Rugby World features advice from professional players and coaches on specific skills. Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.last_img read more

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