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23rd November 2012
WELSH Rugby may have their illustrious coach, Warren Gatland, back for a fortnight to try desperately to sort out the fortunes of the Grand Slam winning nation who since beating a poor Barbarians side in June, have lost five matches on the bounce, but yesterday more bad news was heaped on the side beaten by Australia three times in the Summer, followed by Argentina and Samoa in the Dove Men Series.
Star winger George North has been ruled out of the monumental clash against the All Blacks tomorrow with a hip injury, though it is rumoured words have been had between coach and player since Gatland’s return. A statement from the WRU said,
“North picked up a hip injury during a training session at the Welsh Rugby Union National Centre of Excellence, at the Vale Resort in Hensol, on Tuesday afternoon and will remain in camp with the national squad to receive treatment in the hope of returning for the series climax against Australia next week.”
Fellow Scarlets winger, Liam Williams, who boasts just one cap for his country so far has been drafted directly into the starting lineup as replacement for North, joining a team that has already lost Dan Lydiate, Adam Jones, Ian Evans, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar and Richard Hibbard so far this series.
Meanwhile, over in the New Zealand camp, although All Blacks Head Coach (and former Wales coach) Steve Hansen is adamant Dan Carter is not injured and will be starting at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow, the flyhalf did appear to have some problem with his leg yesterday at the University of Glamorgan. Aaron Cruden stepped up in training and took over Carter’s role.
A spokesman for the All Blacks said, "Dan has a twinge in his right leg and will be assessed over the next 24 hours. An update will be given at the captain's run [on Friday]."
With or without Carter, no one should hold their breath for a Wales win over New Zealand, having not achieved that feat in 59 years.
23rd November 2012
STUART LANCASTER is adamant that his England are ready to take on the mighty Bokke and win, despite last week not capitalising on opportunities, and lacking finesse against the superior Wallabies who did not so much win the match as England lost it.
Lancaster, or Lanny as he affectionately known, admits externally it may appear the six changes in his starting line up are a panic reaction, but as far as the England Coach is concerned, all the players in question have been training in camp for the last three weeks so the transition is seamless. He did clearly state before the QBE Autumn International Series began that each match would be treated individually, and the team that started against Fiji would look pretty different to the one facing Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
Those who have been dropped like Joe Marler and Tom Johnson always knew their positions were highly competitive, particularly precarious once the more experienced Alex Corbisiero and Tom Wood returned to full fitness. But Lanny’s toughest decision was at scrum half, and the debate lasted long before Danny Care was resigned to the bench while the start goes to Ben Youngs. The call was marginal he says, but the selectors feel Ben’s kicking game is superior to Danny’s, and also the Leicester man shows more composure, which flies in the face of the reality of Ben's contribution to the Australia game including opting for a tap-and-go in the Wallaby 22 sending 3 points begging on more than one occasion. From what we have all seen as spectators, Danny's contribution to quick ball, which is crucial in the race to beat South Africa, is far beyond Ben’s.
Elsewhere, Thomas Waldrom is not considered as physical, robust or defensively adept as Ben Morgan who has worked hard on all these aspects of his game. The hat trick of tries Morgan scored for his club side, Gloucester last weekend against London Welsh in the LV= Cup did his reputation no harm either.
The quiet, understated and reserved 21 year old Joe Launchbury will be making his first start going head to head with the Springboks most dangerous new find, Eben Etzebeth, but the 6’6” lock appears to have no qualms about the task ahead. And when a former British & Lion and Wales veteran, a Director of Rugby who has seen and coached players through the ranks to go on to win numerous international honours, says Joe is better than any that have gone before him, that is high praise indeed from London Wasps’ Dai Young.
And finally there is the midfield question on everyone’s lips, be they journalists or fans...Lanny refuses to accept that his chosen partnership of Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi is not creative, though is obviously defensively well equipped. Ideally he would like Jonathan Joseph to start, but with so little game time in the bag of late, the risk is too high.
Lancaster has been slowly building the team in intensity in the hope it will crescendo in the final hour before kick off on Saturday, just as it did before the third test in Port Elizabeth back in June where it hit the right note, and England matched South Africa at every turn to secure a draw. The difference this time is that England is now on home turf with a full house on their side, more experience under their belt, and with a solid game plan that has been made very clear to the team. The generals on the field such as Robshaw, Parling, Wood, Ben Youngs, Danny Care, Flood and Goode know exactly the mindset required, and this has been instilled throughout the matchday squad. England will need to take the game to the Bokke, head them off at the pass, keep them out of their own 22, prevent them them from coming round the corner, ensure quick ball for themselves and a destruction of the opposition’s. It will be extremely tough, physical, intense and hugely passionate.
A decade ago to the day, England handed the Springboks a 53-3 beating in the most brutal match in front of a capacity crowd at Fortress Twickenham. Tomorrow no one expects a walk in the park, but if Lanny's young side is truly learning from its mistakes, England may just be ready...
23rd November 2012
TIS time to banish the putrid purple and the memories of an Australian beating to England Rugby’s history books and look ahead to a brighter future in the proud traditions of a world beating nation as was 9 years ago.
In that vein, the RFU’s kit partners for the next 4 years, Canterbury, have launched an exclusive ‘1871’ capsule collection as part of their a premium lifestyle range. The classic design is modelled here by Dave Wilson, Brad Barritt, Joe Marler, Thomas Waldrom, James Haskell, Ben Youngs and brand ambassador, Geoff Parling.
If you are heading to Twickenham for the remaining QBE Autumn Internationals, the ‘1871’ Collection is available in The Rugby Store, as well as online.
Shop the ‘1871’ Collection
22nd November 2012
A leaner, meaner Alex Corbisiero is ready to front up to the Bok front row on Saturday after a 5 month hiatus in his England career after he busted his knee against the same opposition on the Summer Tour.
After not feeling 100% for a while last year, London Irish nutritionist recommended tests be carried which revealed Corbisiero was highly intolerant to wheat and dairy, and so he set out to eliminate these toxins to his body completely by sticking to a gluten and dairy free diet from then on. The result - a much happier loosehead prop for both club and country, who dropped a tonne of fat whilst maintaining his size, who became a little quicker off his feet, and generally feels infinitely better.
Since then, apart from turning into the mean machine he is today, the England prop has been immortalised at his favourite restaurant with a pizza exclusively dedicated to his preferences at the UK’s first ever gluten-free restaurant, Bruschetta in Kingston Upon Thames. “Alex Corbisiero’s Favourite” stone baked 12” pizza may be the most expensive on the menu but then again, fame comes at a cost, right(!). The Italian eatery fits perfectly with Corbisiero’s heritage, whose grandfather moved from Italy with his family to Queens, New York to open a successful family restaurant in 1923. Corbs’ American father and English mother emigrated to England with their family when Alex was 5 years old.
His hero may be Jason Leonard, but Jase’s eating and drinking habits are not something Corbs has any desire to emulate. And he calls himself an international prop...boy have things changed!
However, not everyone is so thrilled with Alex’s dietary requirements; London Irish and England teammate Jonathan Joseph commented “the whole menu at London Irish is basically rubbish because of Corbs!”
The crushing injury did not hold Corbisiero back, and following much intensive training to improve his cardiovascular function, cross fit, rehab, weight training and a strict diet, Alex has returned to start against the hugely physical Springboks on home turf in front of a home crowd of 82,000. Corbs is raring to go against the physical, strong and highly efficient scrum of South Africa, “we’re going to focus on ourselves and get very confrontational and direct with one of the biggest scrums in test rugby.”
22nd November 2012
IRELAND and Wales get the Eden Park treatment on two exclusive photo shoots to coincide with the Irish Guinness Series and Welsh Dove Men Series as both Celtic teams take on the might of the southern hemisphere...
For Ireland, formidable fly half Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble and Conor Murray show off Eden Park's latest collections, while for the Welsh national team, Jamie Roberts, captain Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny have been busy temporarily putting on hold their day joys to prance around as models.
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21st November 2012
ENGLAND RUGBY’s Tom Wood, it appears, will start for his country against the Springboks this Saturday at Twickenham. If the passion and enthusiasm which he presented to the press yesterday has permeated through the camp, the home side are in with more than a fighting chance of beating the visitors this week, a feat they almost achieved in PE this summer when they held the opposition to a draw.
This time the tables are turned; England are in their own back yard with 82,000 fans on their side. The team may have experienced a knock back against Australia by not taking all their opportunities in a match that Australia did not so much win as England lost. But now, the mindset appears to be changed.
“Perhaps we got a bit carried away with Australia. Maybe we felt like we had them and they would crack. We tried to impose a dogged mentality on the Australians as a pack rather than individually.
“We are capable of fronting up physically and want to impose our game on them (South Africa), not react to theirs. The challenge will be the physical pressure offered by South Africa at the breakdown. We will need to be as destructive as we can on their ball and as quick as we can on ours.”
Quoting his teammate James Haskell who spent a season playing Super Rugby against the South African teams, Wood said the key to winning against this nation is psychological as well as physical; they look at the opposition man to man, pick the biggest and charge him down.
As to where Wood will start, Lancaster has insisted captain Chris Robshaw will remain at 7 for this QBE International Series, so likely at 6, but Wood is not hung up on the number on his back and will play where he is needed, ever present at the breakdown to ensure clean ball for his team, whether he is in a Saints or England shirt.
“With the physical challenge that is coming there has got to be an element of that [nastiness]. I’m combative and abrasive, and the challenge that South Africa presents is what I love doing,” said Wood. With that rallying call, it appears the Springboks will have some tough opposition on their hands on Saturday.
21st November 2012
THE England management has made a bold move in dropping three of the starting line up that narrowly lost to the Wallabies last week: Tom Johnson, Charlie Sharples & Thomas Waldrom. In an attempt to refocus and sharpen the team to face the hugely physical Springboks, head coach Stuart Lancaster commented, “We have made some changes this week to freshen up the squad before the challenge of South Africa.
"Unfortunately that means one or two players miss out who were in the match day squad against Australia. The changes however give opportunities to those who have been pushing hard and we feel will add energy and balance to the team ahead of the significant South African challenge.”
In an interview yesterday, assistant coach, Andy Farrell admitted England’s performance impressed no one against Australia. The Wallabies solitary try was soft and should never have been an option for the visitors. He was, however, most impressed with the Wallaby backlash that was so talked about in the run to the game; the opposition absorbed the pressure after a crushing defeat against France, were highly composed, and were both clinical and accurate in their execution. England has to learn from this and employ the same attitude if they are to make an impact on the Springboks.
England understand the intensity and physicality the South Africans will bring to the game, and that the team will have to control their emotions and anger after last weekend’s loss, and must not be like raging bulls in a china shop or they will not last past the first quarter. Territory and field position will be key to beating the opposition.
The following players have been released to their clubs last night: Anthony Allen, Lee Dickson, Phil Dowson, Tom Johnson, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Ugo Monye, George Robson, Charlie Sharples, Jordan Turner-Hall, Thomas Waldrom.
The boys returning to camp tomorrow are FORWARDS: Mouritz Botha, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, James Haskell, Joe Launchbury, Ben Morgan, David Paice, Tom Palmer, Geoff Parling, Chris Robshaw, Mako Vunipola, David Wilson, Tom Wood, Tom Youngs; BACKS: Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Mike Brown, Danny Care, Owen Farrell, Toby Flood, Alex Goode, Jonathan Joseph, Manusamoa Tuilagi, Ben Youngs.
20th November 2012
AFTER suffering five consecutive defeats at the hands of Australia, Argentina and Samoa whilst under the leadership of Rob Howley, Wales now face a monumental fixture against the World Champion All Blacks on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium.
But Head Coach Warren Gatland has returned to the fold for just two weeks to take the helm after his enforced leave which prevented him from barely being able to stand since April. On a break back home in New Zealand, the Wales and British & Irish Lions Coach was cleaning windows standing on a railing and fell, smashing both heels, putting him into casts for multiple fractures to the right calcaneus and also a fracture to the left calcaneus. The injuries did not heal as quickly as expected, and a further operation was required in September, by which time Gatland’s absence from Wales was already planned for as his role as Lions Coach takes over.
According to the Grand Slam winning coach, the reason for Wales failing at every turn is not down to lack of fitness and training, but the team have been unable to “get their heads right”.
“We know we are in good shape physically. It’s not a physical thing, players are not blowing at half-time. It’s all about getting our heads right and facing the challenge, being excited by the challenge. We haven’t quite been on the edge mentally which is where you need to be to play Test rugby.
“You have to realise these are young men going through a challenging time. Some of them will not have come under this pressure before and it’s being able to deal with it. Now it’s down to everybody to take responsibility and to demand the quality of performance that is required when you put that Wales jersey on.”
In a surprise move against Samoa, temporary head coach, Rob Howley dropped captain Sam Warburton from the starting line-up completely to shake up the team, hoping it would have an impact on the squad; Wales still lost.
Gatland has come back, reinstated his captain, and is ready to take on the challenge of New Zealand. But a win is highly unlikely again the No. #1 team in the world who Wales have not beaten in 59 years. Another failure will give the Welsh side its worst run in a decade. No doubt the world class coach is hoping next week will bring some further stability, allowing Wales to make a comeback and get revenge on the three summer defeats at the hands of the Wallabies by playing them in their own back yard, before he returns to Lions duties. I do hope he’s not holding his breath!
19th November 2012
ENGLAND Coach Stuart Lancaster today reported the only major casualty after Saturday's clash with the Wallabies is prop Joe Marler who suffered a medial collateral ligament (knee) injury, but fortuitously, Alex Corbisiero returns to international action this weekend as a direct and more experienced front row replacement. Aside from bumps and bruises to Geoff, Parling, Tom Palmer, Manu Tuilagi, Charlie Sharples and Tom Youngs who sit out training today, Jonathan Joseph, Corbs, Phil Dowson and Lee Dickson should resume trinaing tomorrow having played in the LV= Cup at the weekend.
Lancaster was not prepared to publicly criticise the England team that lost to Australia by a mere 6 points after opting for corner kicks instead of point-scoring penalties in the second half, and defended his young side sporting just 242 caps between them in their second match of the season against an experienced Aussie team with more than double the caps who arrived in the north having played The Rugby Championship, nine matches and their fourth month together as a team. The coach recognised the Wallabies were superior in their finishing where England were lacking, but the home side did make a number of accurate calls in the run up to point-scoring opportunities. The Aussies clearly stepped up 25% from their devastating loss against France the previous week, but England lacked precision by just 5% which would have made the difference.
The coach insisted captain Chris Robshaw will remain at 7 for the remainder of the QBE International Test Series, even though it is widely agreed he would work more proficiently at 6. He said it would be very hard to "magic" up a number 7 as good as the Richie McCaws and Michael Hoopers of the game, a poignant choice of words since the obvious choice is Toulon's Steffon Armitage, tonight crowned Best Overseas Player in France at the Midi Olympique Oscars. The northern hemisphere's most creative open-side flanker, whose twitter handle is most appropriately Magicsteffo7, has been firmly ruled out of the current squad, particularly since England's final match is outside of the IRB window and Toulon are under no obligation to release their highly-paid imports for training camps and matches. The second of the Armitage brothers has said "I will do anything to play again for England", but Lancaster is mooting his only real option is to leave his lucrative position with France's premier team which boasts some of the best players in the world, and return to England to be considered.
On a positive note, Lancaster has confirmed he will be freshening up the team and making changes to ensure a most effective approach to the physicality of the challenges England face against South Africa this weekend. But unless decisions are more solid, commitment is stepped up a gear, and the team play smarter and play the ref better, the home side will face an uphill battle at Twickenham on Saturday.
16th November 2012
EDEN PARK, formalwear outfitters to England, France, Ireland, Italy and Wales Rugby have been awfully busy creating exclusive collections for various unions of late.
Rugby Unplugged has been behind the scenes for shoots with Danny Care, Toby Flood, Phil Dowson for England, and Vincent Clerc, Thierry Dusautoir and Maxime Médard for Les Bleus as they model the suave new looks.
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