There is a lot of optimism surrounding Scottish rugby at the moment. Gregor Townsend has built on the great work done by Vern Cotter, turning Scotland from perennial wooden spoon contenders to a potential championship contenders. With three games at the Murrayfield fortress this year, Scotland will be eyeing the Italy game as a way to make a statement on opening weekend.
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Full-back can only go to one man: Stuart Hogg. The Exeter bound full-back is pretty much the best in the business, and is one of Scotland’s most important players. Right wing is a tight call, with Blair Kinghorn coming very close but Gregor Townsend will probably stick with tried and tested for his wingers, with Tommy Seymour on one, and Sean Maitland on the other. Kinghorn will more than likely get on the pitch, and Darcy Graham will bring some Sevens magic if he gets some
13 is likely to go to Huw Jones. The former Stormer has made the Scotland outside centre spot his own since he arrived back from South Africa. Jones is one of the best in the world, but will face competition from Nick Grigg. The 12 jersey is a harder call. Sam Johnson was in pole position to make his Scotland debut, and could still do so, but is in doubt for the opening rounds as he is recovering from a concussion. Until then, Townsend will likely stick with Pete Horne.
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The dream team. The eccentric maverick kept in check by the calm, calculated general. The old cliche about France can also be applied to Finn Russell. You never know which Finn is going to turn up. Six Nations last year a case in point. Has a stinker against France, gets hooked for Greig Laidlaw of all people to go to 10. Next game, has the performance of his life to help Scotland win the Calcutta Cup. Greig Laidlaw has his critics: in the eyes of many his delivery is as slow as a wet Monday, but the fact is, Scotland are a much better team when Laidlaw plays.
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Scotland have been absolutely slaughtered by injuries to their flankers. Townsend’s first choice trio of Johnny Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson are all injured, with the latter likely to make a return late in the tournament. Jamie Ritchie is likely to get one flank. The Edinburgh man played both sides in the Autumn, but will probably take the blindside spot to accommodate the return of John Hardie. Hardie is back in business at Newcastle Falcons after some months out of the game. The Kiwi born flanker was first choice before his enforced sabbatical from the game and will be dying for the opportunity to get back on the international stage. Number 8 is a harder question. Josh Strauss has been there in the past, but has a tendency to be lazy, even if his ballcarrying is some of the best available to Scotland. It will be between Strauss and David Denton, fitness dependent on both counts.
Jonny Gray is one of the most reliable players in the game. Nobody works harder, and tackles non stop, almost going a whole season without missing one. Sam Skinner is new to the Scotland setup, and looks like he’ll be there for years to come. The Exeter Chief put in a man of the match performance on his first start in the Autumn, and looks likely to beat Grant Gilchrist to the starting spot.
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The most exciting news here is at tighthead; WP Nel is back. The Edinburgh prop was making a name for himself as one of the best in the world before his run of injuries set him back. Nel will turn the Scottish scrum into an absolute weapon. All-action hooker Stuart McInally will take the 2 jersey, with Allan Dell likely to round out the front row.
15. Stuart Hogg
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Huw Jones
12. Pete Horne
11. Sean Maitland
10. Finn Russell
9. Greig Laidlaw
8. Josh Strauss
7. John Hardie
6. Jamie Ritchie
5. Jonny Gray
4. Sam Skinner
3. Willem Nel
2. Stuart McInally
1. Allan Dell
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
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Farrell Named Coach Of The Year As Five Irish Players Make Dream Team
Andy Farrell has been named Coach of the Year and five Irish players included in the Men’s Dream Team at a star studded World Rugby Awards Ceremony tonight. Former International Referee David McHugh was also honoured on the night with the World Rugby Referee Award.
Just hours after South Africa defeated the All Blacks to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an historic fourth time at Stade de France, the victorious team reunited to open the spectacular 90-minute show, held at the breathtaking Opéra Garnier in the heart of Paris.
Farrell was named World Rugby Coach of the Year, recognising his achievement in leading Ireland’s to a Six Nations Grand Slam and top spot in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini for 15 months.
Speaking about the award Andy Farrell said, “I would like to thank World Rugby for this recognition and congratulate the other nominees for their efforts this year. Coaching is a demanding and hugely rewarding profession, with many highs and lows, and in accepting this award, I would like to pay tribute to the players and wider coaching and support staff who work tirelessly to bring success to Irish rugby.
I am incredibly proud to work with such a talented and committed group. This award is recognition for all those involved in Irish rugby and our incredible supporters who travel near and far to support us. I am honoured to accept this award on their behalf.”
Four nations are represented in the Dream Team with Rugby World Cup 2023 hosts France and Ireland claiming five players apiece, New Zealand four and World Champions South Africa one.
Three Irish forwards made the team with Dan Sheehan, Tadgh Furlong and Caelan Doris included. In the backline Bundee Aki, who was shortlisted for Player of the Year, and his centre partner Garry Ringrose were named.
McHugh was given the World Rugby Referee award in recognition of his dedication and contribution to the game of rugby which spans more than 20 years, from his decade as an international referee taking charge of 28 tests. He officiated at three Rugby World Cups between 1995 and 2003, and has acted as a mentor for the next generations of match officials, including the likes of Joy Neville and John Lacey in Ireland and Nika Amashukeli in Georgia.
Of the 11 awards presented in Paris, nine were selected by the star-studded World Rugby Awards panels, while the International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year was decided by a fan vote on social media.
Nominees and winners in a further four women’s categories will be announced and celebrated separately, at the conclusion of the ongoing WXV tournament.
World Rugby Men’s XVs Dream Team
1. Cyril Baille (France) 2. Dan Sheehan (Ireland) 3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland) 4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa) 5. Scott Barrett (New Zealand) 6. Caelan Doris (Ireland) 7. Charles Ollivon (France) 8. Ardie Savea (New Zealand) 9. Antoine Dupont (France) 10. Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand) 11. Will Jordan (New Zealand) 12. Bundee Aki (Ireland) 13. Garry Ringrose (Ireland) 14. Damian Penaud (France) 15. Thomas Ramos (France).
World Rugby Award Winners
World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in partnership with Mastercard – Ardie Savea (New Zealand)
World Rugby Coach of the Year – Andy Farrell (Ireland)
World Rugby Men’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year in partnership with Tudor – Mark Tele’a (New Zealand)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in partnership with HSBC – Rodrigo Isgro (Argentina)
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in partnership with HSBC – Tyla Nathan-Wong (New Zealand)
World Rugby Referee Award – David McHugh (Ireland)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – George Nijaradze (Georgia)
Rugby for All Award – SOS Kit Aid
International Rugby Players Special Merit Award – John Smit (South Africa)
International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year – Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)
World Rugby Hall of Fame inductees: Daniel Carter (New Zealand), Thierry Dusautoir (France), George Smith (Australia), Juan Martín Hernández (Argentina), Bryan Habana (South Africa).
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Historic Rugby Calendar Reform To Supercharge Reach And Competitiveness
The World Rugby Council has approved transformational reform of the global men’s and women’s rugby calendars, a seminal moment for the sport that marks a new era of opportunity, certainty and growth for the game, a fitting finale to its 200th birthday year.
Reform of Regulation 9 governing international player release has paved the way for the global club and international game to complement each other with clearly defined windows of release for international duties, as well as enhanced player welfare outcomes in the form of Player Load Guidelines.
Shaped through close collaboration with the players and stakeholders from across the whole sport, including domestic and international competitions, regions, unions, the adjustments have been driven by a game-wide commitment to prioritise player welfare while supporting desired competitiveness increases across performance unions.
In the women’s game, the decision means clearly defined global and regional player release periods for the first time with no domestic competition overlap, opening the way to a harmonious structure that promotes opportunity and growth ahead of an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup in 2025.
In the men’s game, new competition structures coupled with an increased level of cross-over fixtures between the high performance and performance unions, will deliver long-term certainty of content for the first time, supporting increases in competitiveness, interest and value ahead of a landmark Rugby World Cup in the USA in 2031.
Together, these developments crucially allow for better management of player load and overall welfare in the game, with the development of new Player Load Guidelines and ongoing expert input to oversee the development and evolution of the guidelines working with all stakeholders.
First-ever global calendar for women’s rugby with dedicated release windows
- First-ever dedicated international release windows (regional release window of seven weeks and global release window of eight weeks) from 2025.
- Clarity of release periods for club/league and cross-border competitions, to allow certainty of planning and investment.
- A commitment to more effectively manage player load and welfare in the fast-evolving women’s game, working with all stakeholders
- A framework to review the women’s global calendar and international competition structures on an ongoing basis to recognise that fast-evolving environment and opportunity.
First-ever global calendar for men’s rugby with new competitions and increased opportunity
- Establishment of an enhanced global calendar for men’s rugby with clearer international windows, including confirmation of the release window for Rugby World Cup 2027 (Australia).
- Expansion of Rugby World Cup to 24 teams in 2027, providing more qualification opportunities for more teams and regional competitions.
- Launch of a bi-annual new international competition from 2026, comprising a top division of 12 teams (Six Nations unions, SANZAAR unions and two further unions to be selected via a process run by SANZAAR), and a second division run by World Rugby of 12 teams with promotion and relegation commencing from 2030. Played in the July and November international release windows, it will provide crucial opportunities (and certainty of fixtures) for unions currently outside of the existing annual competitions, and in turn provide opportunities for unions and regional associations through to the second division.
- The competition provides players and fans with compelling matches, to build audiences and value for all.
- A significant uplift in the number of cross-over matches between unions in the respective divisions are included in the global calendar in the two other years, providing performance nations with annual competition certainty against high performance unions.
- Launch of new annual expanded Pacific Nations Cup competition in 2024, featuring Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and USA with home fixtures and Japan and USA alternating as finals hosts, guaranteeing a minimum of three additional matches a year in addition to the new international competition and cross-over fixtures.
- The global men’s calendar provides additional clarity for elite league and cross-border club competitions, supporting value growth investment opportunities for all.
The reform follows extensive consultation with the professional game, including regions, unions, domestic and international competitions, and detailed evaluation of the playing, commercial and fan landscape. Implementation of the agreed package will continue to involve dialogue with all parties.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “It is fitting that we finish Rugby World Cup 2023, the sport’s greatest celebration of togetherness, with the sport’s greatest feat of togetherness. Agreement on the men’s and women’s global calendars and their content is the most significant development in the sport since the game went professional. An historic moment for our sport that sets us up collectively for success.
“We now look forward to an exciting new era for our sport commencing in 2025 (women) and 2026 (men). An era that will bring certainty and opportunity for all. An era that will support the many, not the few, and an era that will supercharge the development of the sport beyond its traditional and often self-imposed boundaries. I would like to thank all my colleagues for their spirit of collaboration. Today, we have achieved something special.”
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