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6 Nations

What would a France 23 look like if it made sense?

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Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Trying to predict a France team selection is often like trying to predict the weather; Often you think have it sussed out, but then the day comes and it is not what you expected at all. What would a France team look like if they cared about cohesion? Or tried to build partnerships? Or played players in their best positions?

Front Row: Dany Priso, Guilhelm Guirado, Uini Atonio

Locking down the scrum we have one of the best scrummaging looseheads in Europe; La Rochelle’s Dany Priso. On the tighthead side is the largest man in rugby Uini Atonio, and the man in the middle is captain fantastic, and France’s most important player, Guilhelm Guirado Embed from Getty Images

Second Row: Arthur Iturria, Paul Jedrasiak

An all Clermont pairing. Arthur Iturria was one of the stars of France’s defeat to Wales. The Clermont man made 24m from 5 carries, made 9 tackles and threw three offloads. Paul Jedrasiak will bring some much needed “dog” to the French pack. Embed from Getty Images

Back Row: Sekou Macalou, Yacouba Camara, Louis Picamoles

Number 8 should be one of the first names on the team sheet: Louis Picamoles. The Montpellier 8 is one of France’s most consistent performers. On the flanks are speed demon Sekou Macalou, and all-action Montpellier flanker Yacouba Camara Embed from Getty Images

Half-Backs: Antoine Dupont, Camille Lopez

If there is one thing that French rugby does well, it’s a lively scrum half. Baptiste Serin, Baptiste Couilloud, are both fantastic players, but Toulouse 9 Antoine Dupont is the best of the lot. France have struggled for consistency for their out-halves in recent years, but when he’s been fit, Clermont 10 Camille Lopez has performed quite well for France. Embed from Getty Images

Midfield: Wesley Fofana, Gael Fickou

He may be made of glass, but there is few players centres classier than Wesley Fofana. He made his long awaited return to international rugby last weekend, and it was like he had never left. Romain Ntamack is likely the future of the French midfield, and the man to fill in if Fofana can’t stay fit. Fickou is France’s best 13, and one of the biggest losers in the persistent selection of Mathieu Bastareaud. Fickou probably has as much caps on the wing as he does in midfield Embed from Getty Images

Back Three: Gabriel Lacroix, Thomas Ramos, Alivereti Raka

A left-field pick for one of the wing spots – La Rochelle wing Gabriel Lacroix. Lacroix was on the verge of the France XV in 2017, making one appearance before an ACL injury put a stop to his 2018. If he can get back in form, he should add to his single cap. Thomas Ramos has been a star for Toulouse at full-back this year, even making the odd appearance at 10. He will be hoping to get some action off the bench in Twickenham this weekend. Right wing goes to Clermont’s big Fijian Alivereti Raka. Raka has been ripping it up for Clermont but some poorly timed injuries mean that he is still waiting to make his debut for the national team. He has recently become a French citizen. Embed from Getty Images


  1. Dany Priso
  2. Guilhelm Guirado
  3. Uini Atonio
  4. Arthur Iturria
  5. Paul Jedrasiak
  6. Sekou Macalou
  7. Yacouba Camara
  8. Louis Picamoles  16. Pierre Bourgarit
  9. Antoine Dupont          17. Jefferson Poirot
  10. Camille Lopez             18. Demba Bamba
  11. Gabriel Lacroix            19. Felix Lambey
  12. Wesley Fofana             20. Marco Tauleigne
  13. Gael Fickou                 21. Baptiste Serin
  14. Alivereti Raka              22. Romain Ntamack
  15. Thomas Ramos            23. Damian Penaud

6 Nations

Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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.

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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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