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6 Nations

The Best Way to Bow Out

This weekend will see Rory Best call time on his Six Nations career and with that we look at his time in the championship

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

On Saturday Ireland captain Rory Best will finish up his Six Nations career when the final whistle blows in Cardiff.

It is fitting in a way that it will end where one of his biggest moments took place. Exactly 10 years on from Ireland’s Grand Slam heroics in Wales, they return looking to prevent their hosts from winning their own Grand Slam.

Either way, when the clock ticks past red, Best will head to the stands, speak to the media and possibly shed a few tears as he says goodbye to a tournament that has served him so well.

At 36, he has been given the luxury of calling time on his own terms, something a graceful player like him deserves.

Saturday will see him line-out in green for the 117th time and the 64th and final time in the Six Nations, 13 years on from his debut in the competition.

Few may remember his first couple of seasons with the squad as he had to settle for second fiddle to Jerry Flannery as Ireland won the Triple Crown in both 2006 and 2007 and claimed that famous Grand Slam in 2009.

However, when the Munster man bowed out of the game due to injury it was Best who took up the No 2 jersey and made it his own.

The team as a whole endured a tough time over the next three or four seasons but Best continued to put in good showings. His consistency at line-out time and his hard-work throughout games were often highlights as Ireland slumped to some poor losses.

Then came the arrival of Joe Schmidt, a move which pushed Best’s game on even further. Even with Paul O’Connell being the captain, Best could often be heard motivating and pulling his team though matches.

Back to back championships followed in 2014 and 2015, and with them Best’s influence was noted and rewarded both on and off the pitch.

He was the man picked to replace O’Connell as captain of the national team in 2016 leading them to a third-placed finish in his first campaign as captain.

Under his leadership Ireland have improved with a second-placed finish in 2017 and a Grand Slam first-place finish last year.

When Best lifted the trophy last year, it was just reward for a player who has given his all to his country’s cause throughout the years and has been selfless through it all.

Although this campaign has failed to live up to the heights of last year, things took a turn on Sunday against the French and it was the captain who set the ball rolling scoring his 10th international try in the third minute.

Speaking ahead of the final round of fixtures, Ireland fly-half and world player of the year Johnny Sexton has paid tribute to his captain.

“He’s been a brilliant captain for us over the last few years, always team first, always very selfless and leads on the pitch with his actions. He does what’s right for team all the time and we’ll miss him,” he said

Best’s shoes will be big ones to fill with the likes of Sean Cronin and Niall Scannell needing to step up to succeed the Ulsterman.

With four Six Nations to his name, four triple crowns and two Grand Slams, victories over Australia, South Africa and of course The All Blacks, Best will go down as one of Ireland’s greatest. Yes, we will have World Cup warm-ups and a World Cup before he is gone but Saturday will see the curtain fall on his incredible Six Nations career.

To go full circle, it is fitting in a way that it will finish in the Principality Stadium. However, Ireland fans and neutrals a like would love to see the perfect fairy-tale ending where Best lifts that trophy one last time ten year’s on from his team’s success in Cardiff.

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6 Nations

Wales & Cardiff star to retire at 27

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Cardiff Rugby fullback Hallam Amos will retire at the end of the season to focus on a career in medicine.

The 27-year-old joined Cardiff ahead of the 2019-20 season having previously come through the ranks at the Dragons, where he spent nine years.

He recently completed his clinical medical exams and has informed the club and Welsh Rugby Union of his intention to hang up his boots in June.

Amos said: “After a decade of professional rugby, the 2021/22 season will be my last. I’ve experienced a lot in rugby and have been fortunate to go to two Rugby World Cups, a Commonwealth Games, several Six Nations and I’ve had a lot of great times in the regional game.

“I’m very grateful for the incredible experiences I’ve had but the time has almost come to face a new challenge. I am happy with what I have achieved and telling Dai and Cardiff, and Wayne (Pivac) and Wales, early so they can plan for the future sat a lot easier with me.

“It’s always been my intention to finish when I complete my degree and this season aligns nicely with the final year of my medical studies, so a perfect time to transition from pitch to hospital.

“Throughout my years combining university with a rugby career I’ve had plenty of support – from the WRU, from the Dragons for the first few years of my career, from Cardiff Rugby more recently, and from Cardiff University itself – and I’ll always be thankful for their willingness to accommodate both aspects of my life.

“Particular thanks go to Dai and Wayne who have been understanding over the last couple of weeks as I’ve talked to them about the thought process behind my decision.

“Retiring at 27 will definitely be strange but I’m fully committed to Cardiff Rugby for the rest of the season and hopefully I can finish on a high over the next few months.”

The full-back has made 32 appearances since joining the Blue and Blacks and has taken his tally of international caps to 25.

Cardiff Director of Rugby, Dai Young has led the tributes to the Cardiff medical student and commended his decision to retire on his own terms and with a clear education and plan for the future.

Young said: “Obviously it will be disappointing to lose a player of Hallam’s quality and he has plenty of rugby left in him but you can only admire his decision.

“Not many players get to go out on their own terms and to switch from rugby to a full-time career in medicine sets him up for a long and fruitful career.

“Hallam has worked incredibly hard to juggle rugby and his studies up until now and has achieved a huge amount in the game both at regional and international level.

“He will remain an important figure for us for the remainder of the season and can play without the pressure of the decision hanging over him. For now, the focus is on Cardiff and enjoying his rugby and next summer we will wish him all the very best for the future.”

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6 Nations

Connacht Sign Samoan International Tuimauga

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Connacht have added to their recruitment for the 2021/22 season with the signing of loosehead prop Tietie Tuimauga.

The 28-year old joins from New Zealand side Manawatu and won his first two caps with the Samoan national team during the summer, playing twice against Tonga.

Tuimauga will link up with the Connacht squad in the coming weeks with a view to being available for selection later in 2021.

Commenting on the signing, the province’s head coach Andy Friend said: “It’s no secret we’ve been exploring further options at loosehead following Denis Buckley’s long-term injury, so we are really pleased to welcome Tietie to Connacht.

“We now have strong cover across all of our front row, which is a good place to be, and with Tietie’s experience he’ll offer us something different.

“We now have a pro squad of 44 plus a number of integrated Academy players, so I’m really pleased with the group we have assembled.

“Our sole focus now is on building on last week’s win when we face the Dragons on Saturday.”

Source – Irish Rugby

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6 Nations

Rugby Stars support NHS Vaccine roll out

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KICKING COVID INTO TOUCH: RUGBY STARS SUPPORT NHS VACCINE ROLL OUT 

  • Rugby stars urge young people to get their COVID-19 vaccine in new short film
  • Sam Underhill, Alex Goode and Dan Robson amongst players sharing personal experiences of COVID-19

Some of the country’s top rugby players have today (Tuesday 28 September) encouraged young people to get their COVID-19 vaccine as they discuss their personal experiences of the pandemic.

Ahead of Round 3 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby this weekend, a new film has been released featuring key players Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), Alex Goode (Saracens), Nathan Earle (Newcastle Falcons), Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish), Marland Yarde (Sale Sharks) and Dan Robson (Wasps) who discuss the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and the impact the virus has had on them in the past year.

The players also share their thoughts on who to look out for this season. While their player predictions might be different, they all agree that the most important thing everyone can do this season is to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The film will be played out at stadiums across the country from this weekend (1st-3rd October) and comes as more than 82% of over-16s in the UK have now received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this month, the booster programme was also rolled out, with those eligible being invited to book their jab as soon as possible in order to keep the virus under control for the long term and protect the most vulnerable through the winter months.

The latest data (23rd September 2021) also shows that in particular, younger men have been more reluctant than younger women to take up both doses of the jab – in those aged 18-49, 70% of men are double vaccinated vs 76% of women in this group. 

In the film, the players discuss how the pandemic has directly affected their lives. Sam Underhill talks about how his dad was hospitalised with COVID-19, and Nathan Earle’s partner had their first child in the pandemic, meaning he wasn’t able to be in the hospital to support her through the birth.  

The film is part of a wider partnership with the Premiership Rugby League, and follows the “Every Vaccination Gives Us Hope” campaign launched earlier in the year to encourage the public to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Over 48.7 million people have now received a first dose of a vaccine – over 89.7% of the UK over-16s population – with 44.7 million receiving their second dose. This means over 82.4% of over-16s in the UK have now received both doses of a vaccine, with 93.5 million vaccines administered overall.

Phil Winstanley, the Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby, said: 

It’s been so fantastic to have sports fans back in stadiums all over the country, and this couldn’t have been done without the COVID-19 vaccine programme. It’s been so instrumental in getting us back to normal, and as we get going with this year’s season, we need to make sure all our fans are as safe as they can possibly be – and that includes making sure they get the vaccine to protect themselves and those around them.”   

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said:

“It is fantastic to have these rugby legends come out and back the life-saving jabs. A massive thank you to Sam, Alex, Nathan, Ollie, Marland and Dan.

“It is thanks to the wall of defence built up by the vaccines that fans of all sports can get back to seeing their favourite players at the grounds. 

“Please get your jab as soon as possible, to protect yourself, your family and your loved ones.”

Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said:

“The vaccine’s impact in giving us protection against COVID-19 has allowed us to return to doing the things we love – whether that be going out for dinner with friends, taking a trip abroad or watching your favourite sports players live in the stadium.

“It’s brilliant to see so many famous faces pledge their support for the vaccination programme – and we continue to urge all those who haven’t yet had theirs to come forward for the life-saving jab as soon as possible.”

Nathan Earle of Newcastle Falcons said:

“It’s been a really rough 18 months for everyone, but finally we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Having the fans back in the crowd has been incredible – it just gives you that extra boost you need on the pitch. I’d say to anyone make sure you get your jab if you haven’t already – it’s quick and easy and has meant we can get back to the game we love!

Vaccinated people are far less likely to get COVID-19 with symptoms and are less likely to get serious COVID-19, to be admitted to hospital, or to die from it.  

The latest data from Public Health England shows that the vaccine rollout has saved more than 123,000 lives and stopped nearly quarter of a million hospital admissions. 

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit: www.nhs.uk/covidvaccine 

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