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6 Nations

Scotland team named for French tie.

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Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Scotland have made four changes to the starting side to face France in this Saturday’s third round Guinness Six Nations Test in Paris (kick-off 2.15pm GMT) – live on BBC.

Back-row Magnus Bradbury is the only change to the pack – after a timely, man-of the-match-winning return from injury last weekend – to start in place of the injured Ryan Wilson (knee).

The three remaining changes come in the back division, where Glasgow Warriors playmaker Pete Horne – also in man-of-the-match winning form in the Guinness PRO14 last weekend – starts at stand-off in place of Finn Russell, who has a head injury.

Blair Kinghorn replaces the injured Stuart Hogg (shoulder) to earn his third Test start in the full-back role he occupies week in, week out for Edinburgh, while Glasgow Warriors centre Nick Grigg comes into the midfield for injured clubmate Huw Jones (knee).

Josh Strauss makes the trip and starts at No.8 despite losing his passport, causing the Scots some concern yesterday.

Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend, said:

“Injuries create opportunities for others to show what they can do and, throughout the past couple of seasons, we’ve seen a number of players really step up.

“All of the players coming in started against Argentina in the summer, which ranks as one of our best ever away performances.

“On top of that there is cohesion forged through familiarity at club level – Magnus [Bradbury] in the back-row lines up with clubmate Jamie Ritchie, and Pete Horne and Nick Grigg are either side of Sam Johnson in the backs.”

Both Scotland and France go into this Saturday’s Test looking to bounce back from round two defeats against Ireland and England respectively.

Home advantage has been a defining feature of the nations’ last four meetings, with Scotland winning at BT Murrayfield in the 2016 and 2018 editions of the tournament, while the Scot’s last victory on French soil came en route to the Five Nations title in 1999.

Townsend, stand-off that day in ’99, is well aware of the potency of the French on home soil.

He added:

“At home, France have played really well in the past two Championships. They were 16-0 up at half-time against Wales, and their previous Six Nations games before included a win over England and a last minute defeat to the eventual Irish team that went on to win the Grand Slam.

“They are a very dangerous opponent, combining power, ambition and skill. Their individual talent is outstanding and, when they get things right – which has predominantly been in the Six Nations at home – they’ve played with a real collective spirit and fed off the emotion of the crowd.

“They will certainly be fired up following their loss at Twickenham.”

Reflecting on Scotland’s ambitions he added: “Like France, we too are coming off the back of a defeat and want to show a better picture of ourselves and play closer to our potential.

“The players invested a huge amount of effort against Ireland and this energy will be essential once again this weekend.”

6 Nations

RFU CEO gives COVID-19 planning & support update

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Bill Sweeney – RFU, CEO

My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU continue to be with everyone impacted by the difficult and exceptional situation we are all facing, both across the country and within our own rugby union community.

Earlier today we held a virtual board meeting and I am writing to advise you of the actions that have been agreed to offer a support package directly funded from the RFU worth £7m to provide support for community clubs in England.  

IMPACT

To support clubs we are today announcing that the RFU will be providing a £7m relief package for community clubs. The package includes monies ring fenced and diverted for the community game as well as additional funding. These measures include:

•       An early release of £800,000 cash due to clubs through the ticketing fund.  

•       Early release of final funding payments (£600,000) to Constituent Bodies and suspension of the activity plans against which this was allocated, enabling them to utilise this to provide “immediate support grants” to clubs most in need. In addition £400,000 will be made available to Constituent Bodies who elect to match fund from their own reserves.

•       A suspension of the Quarterly loan repayments for clubs with outstanding loans due in March (£335,000).  

•       The creation of a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between circa £2k and circa £10k to clubs, with deferred re-payments for six months and repayable over three years. 

We will be providing more details on this financial package in the coming week. We will also be issuing regular club recovery updates with practical advice on how government grants can be accessed as well as other business management advice. 

We welcome government interventions which will provide business rate holidays and grants for clubs.

The RFU will continue to provide a free helpline to assist clubs with legal and tax related matters: https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/running-your-club/legal-and-administration

Significant progress has been made on the process for considering the implications of ending the season early. We will ensure a fair and balanced outcome for the game and are now committed to update on this by the middle of April.

No one can predict every possible outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown. We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn. We will continue to monitor against this assumption and review and revise planning where necessary.

The RFU had budgeted for a loss making year within a four year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country. 

The RFU’s biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to re-invest back into the game. In that sense we are like every other club in the Union, when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.

Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this. The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25%. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75%.

WELFARE  

We are continuing our support to ensure colleagues and communities are given help to follow government advice and are providing recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy and a range of new content will be made available to players and fans across our social media channels. 

We are discussing with government and the NHS the role the RFU and Twickenham Stadium can play in providing volunteers as well as support for the NHS including accommodation, parking and meal provisioning.

I am confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period. In the meantime, we are working hard with the wider rugby community to take the necessary measures to safeguard a financially resilient Union so that we can.

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6 Nations

Rodney Parade to help in fight against coronavirus

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(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Rodney Parade has become the latest sporting venue to open its doors to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Newport stadium has been provided free of charge as a base for front-line NHS staff to check if they have the virus and are able to continue working. At this stage only NHS staff are eligible to be tested at Rodney Parade to see if they have COVID-19. Dragons managing director Mark Jones said: “The health service and care workers are doing an incredible job in such difficult circumstances so we are happy to offer our help and support in any way we can.

“Playing our part in the local community is at the heart of what we’re about at the Dragons and in times of crisis people stick together. We would urge everyone to follow the latest NHS advice on protecting themselves from the virus, particularly to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.”

A statement from Aneurin Bevan Health Board read: “The health and wellbeing of our staff is essential for delivering services for the people of Gwent. It is fundamental during this time when the most vulnerable people need us most.

“We have set up a drive-through facility to test staff for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and help us get our teams back in to work on the front line. The testing site is located at Rodney Parade in Newport and we ask that everyone practises the stay-at-home guidance and does not visit the site.

“Everyone at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board would like to thank the team at Rodney Parade for their community-focused approach and accommodating us during these difficult times.”

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6 Nations

IRFU And Rugby Players Ireland Agree Pay Deferrals

Result of COVID-19

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The IRFU, Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster Rugby, in agreement and partnership with Rugby Players Ireland and its members, have today agreed a payment deferral model for all employees.

These deferrals, based on an equitable sliding scale which ranges from 10% – 50%, will be effective from April, and beyond if required, but will remain subject to constant review of the financial circumstances of the IRFU and Provinces.

The IRFU hopes to return to full pay, and repay any deferrals, as soon as possible.

IRFU CEO Philip Browne said,

“We are entering uncharted waters as the Covid-19 crisis continues to unfold but we remain hopeful that something of this season can be retrieved later in summer. This is important as the whole game, amateur and professional, is financially dependent on the resumption of the professional tournaments and the revenues that they generate. With postponement of these tournaments the IRFU and the Provinces are facing some daunting financial challenges around loss of revenue and cash flow and we must cut our costs.

The IRFU has worked closely with our provincial colleagues and our partners in Rugby Players Ireland to move to protect the future of Irish Rugby and this arrangement will allow Irish Rugby the breathing space required in relation to cashflow that can ensure that when this crisis abates, we still have a business that can deliver for all those that play and love rugby. The situation will obviously remain under continuous review in case further action is required.

I thank all our partners, Rugby Players Ireland and all our employees for standing with us at this time.”

RPI CEO Simon Keogh said,

“We recognise the need to work with the IRFU with respect to these payment deferrals in light of the current circumstances. All endeavours have been made to contact those affected on an individual basis. Our members appreciate that such moves are necessary in order to protect the future of the game in this country. The health and safety of the public is the priority at this time. We will continue to work with the IRFU as this situation develops.”

From Irish Rugby

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