Yesterday, the IRFU confirmed that their men’s, women’s and U20’s games against the Italians that were scheduled for next weekend have been called off due to fears of spreading the virus.
Following the IRFU’s statement the Six Nations released a statement of their own recognising that they would try to reschedule the game, but insisting that all further games will go ahead as planned.
“Six Nations notes the formal instruction provided to the IRFU by the Irish National Public Health Emergency team, which states that the upcoming series of championship matches between Ireland and Italy over the weekend of 6/8 March should not proceed. We are fully supportive of any preventative measures taken in the interests of overall public health in relation to the coronavirus and we will respect instructions provided by government authorities and health organisations. Six Nations also continues to liaise with its medical advisory group. We will be holding further discussions with all six Unions with respect to the rescheduling options for all the affected games, factoring in the current dynamic situation. All other matches are currently scheduled to go ahead as normal. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely with all unions and the respective government authorities and health organisations,” the statement read.
However, it has now been confirmed that the English government held talks with the Rugby Football Union last night to discuss the possibilities surrounding England’s clash with the Italians in Rome on March 14th.
As of the time of writing Rome is not one of the regions to have reported a case of the virus within Italy, but caution will be taken and it would seem likely that unless a solution to cure the virus is found soon then England will follow Ireland’s lead and postpone their game with the Azzurri.
Currently the other games will go ahead, but with the virus spreading quickly in recent days there appears a real threat that further disruption to the championship schedule will follow.
England announce new landmark deal with O2
O2 and the RFU have today announced a new five-year partnership of the national teams and bringing spend parity across the men’s and women’s games. O2 is the principal shirt partner for the England Senior Men’s and England Senior Women’s teams with O2’s logo appearing front and centre on all match day and training kit.
As part of the new agreement, O2 has pledged to equally fund the men’s and women’s game over the course of the partnership. O2 and the RFU have the collective ambition to grow both the profile of the Red Roses and increase attendance at future games.
The deal also provides O2 customers the opportunity to access Priority Tickets for all England Rugby games, 48 hours before general release. As the UK’s No1 network, O2 is committed to offering the very best offers and experiences. Through Priority, O2 customers will have the opportunity to access exclusive player meet and greets, 20% matchday discount on England Rugby kit at the Twickenham Stadium store and O2 Ultimate Fan – winning the chance to go on summer tour with the team.
O2 Inside Line will continue as the exclusive England Rugby behind the scenes content series, now with equal commitment to both teams. This includes content from inside training camps, live broadcasts from camps during test week, and exclusive pre and post-match content from the O2 Blueroom. O2 Inside Line will be multi-format series including live stream, video and podcast.
The deal also brings a joint commitment from O2 and the RFU to support the country’s grassroots clubs through exclusive rugby community offers from O2, and a vision for Twickenham to become more connected, utilising O2 5G and O2 Business products and services.
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO commented: “O2 have been a loyal supporter of England Rugby, a partnership that has lasted for 25 years and we are proud to continue to carry their logo front and centre on our shirts for a further five years. O2’s commitment to equally support both our elite teams is commendable and it’s great to collaborate with a partner that truly shares our same passion to see the women’s game flourish and continue to grow for future generations to enjoy.”
Nina Bibby, CMO of O2 said: “There has never been a more important time to get behind rugby, a sport we love and have invested in for over 25 years. We are proud to support the RFU through our extended partnership, which we believe is the longest shirt sponsorship in the history of UK sport. Our new agreement brings investment parity from O2 to England Men and England Women. The future for English rugby is bright, and together we want to make sure that rugby emerges from the pandemic stronger than ever before.”
- O2 to Wear the Rose for five more years as principal shirt sponsor commencing from September 2021
- This year marks twenty-five years of O2 sponsorship of the England Rugby Team with the renewal taking the partnership to thirty years
- O2 has pledged to equally fund the men’s and women’s game over the course of the partnership
- Priority Tickets for both the men’s and women’s fixtures available to O2 customers 48 hours ahead of general release as part of a set of exclusive offers and experiences
- Increased connectivity at Twickenham Stadium
Wales name 7 new caps
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has named seven uncapped players in his 38-man squad for Wales’ upcoming autumn campaign.
Two uncapped forwards are named in hooker Sam Parry and back-row Josh Macleod, whilst five uncapped backs are included: Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Johnny Williams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Ioan Lloyd.
RWC squad members Tomas Francis, Rhys Patchell and Jonathan Davies, who all missed the Guinness Six Nations campaign earlier this year, return from injury to be included.
Pivac’s squad will then take part in the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup, kicking the tournament off on Friday November 13th against Ireland in Dublin before fixtures against Georgia and England, as well as the tournament’s play-off final on December 5th.
“We are looking forward to getting back to international rugby and getting the squad together again,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.
“This campaign is hugely important looking to the future and long term to the RWC in 2023.
“We kick off the campaign with a game against France which will help prepare us for the re-arranged Six Nations match versus Scotland which is an important game and important we get a good performance from.
“We then go into the Autumn Nations Cup (ANC) which is an exciting tournament and a great opportunity for us. It is a chance for us to continue developing our game, give opportunities to players and test them at this level. It is ideal preparation for the all-important 2021 Six Nations which will come around quickly after the ANC.”
WALES SQUAD – AUTUMN 2020
Forwards (21): Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues, 8 Caps), Wyn Jones (Scarlets, 25 Caps), Nicky Smith (Ospreys, 35 Caps), Ken Owens (Scarlets, 77 Caps), Ryan Elias (Scarlets, 13 Caps), Sam Parry (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets, 41 Caps), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues, 26 Caps), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs, 48 Caps), Leon Brown (Dragons, 10 Caps), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, 138 Caps), Will Rowlands (Wasps, 1 Cap), Jake Ball (Scarlets, 46 Caps), Seb Davies (Cardiff Blues, 7 Caps), Cory Hill (Cardiff Blues, 25 Caps), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons, 21 Caps), Ross Moriarty (Dragons, 45 Caps), Taulupe Faletau (Bath, 76 Caps), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues, 24 Caps), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, 76 Caps), Josh Macleod (Scarlets).
Backs (17): Rhys Webb (Ospreys, 33 Caps), Gareth Davies (Scarlets, 53 Caps), Kieran Hardy (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Northampton, 83 Caps), Rhys Patchell (Scarlets, 19 Caps), Callum Sheedy (Bristol), Owen Watkin (Ospreys, 22 Caps), Nick Tompkins (Dragons, 4 Caps), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets, 81 Caps), Johnny Williams (Scarlets), George North (Ospreys, 95 Caps), Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues, 24 Caps), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), Jonah Holmes (Dragons, 3 Caps), Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets, 89 Caps), Ioan Lloyd (Bristol)*, Liam Williams (Scarlets, 63 Caps).
Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.
England men’s head coach Eddie Jones and the RFU have agreed a contract extension which will see him continue his role until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Jones joined England Rugby at the end of 2015 and has coached the men’s national side on 54 occasions winning 42, drawing one and losing 11 – giving him a win ratio of 78%, the highest in the history of England coaches.
Under Jones, England has won two Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, a 3-0 away Test series win against Australia in the same year, an unbeaten run of 18 matches equalling New Zealand’s record and were finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Jones said: “The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing. We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right. Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes. Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it. We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward.”
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community. In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news. We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby. The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible. We are all excited by what this squad can do and having Eddie leading the team is very important to us.
“We reached an understanding soon after returning from Japan but there were some things that we wanted to make sure worked for both sides. We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.”
Ahead of the Guinness Six Nations Jones confirmed Simon Amor and Matt Proudfoot would join Steve Borthwick and John Mitchell as his assistant coaches. Jason Ryles will join later in the year as skills coach following Borthwick’s departure towards the end of the season.