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Champions Cup

Kolbe Aims for Two More Gold Medals

Fresh off the back of his Rugby World Cup victory with South Africa, Cheslin Kolbe has confirmed that he has ambitions to add two further gold medals to his cabinet

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South African Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe has admitted he would like to win not only the Champions Cup but also Olympic gold with the Blitzbokke in 2020.

The flying-winger, who was also part of Toulouse’s Top14 winning team last season, as well as the Springboks Rugby Championship winning squad before the World Cup has set his sights on those two competitions in particular. 

“There are two more things I would still love to achieve and that’s probably winning the European Champions Cup and hopefully the Olympics with South Africa. I will keep on working hard and if there’s a door that opens or an opportunity that comes my way I’ll just make sure that I’m ready for whatever opportunities,” he said after being crowned the Top14 player of the year at Monday’s awards ceremony. 

The 26-year-old has previous experience with the South African Rugby Sevens having featured during their 2016 Olympic campaign and admitted that he is hopeful he can be a part of the set-up once again, but it is yet to be discussed. 

“I haven’t discussed it in person with SA Rugby. It’s something I would love to be a part of. It’s another big event. It’s probably one of the biggest stages of rugby or sport. If it does it happen, it happens,” he added. 

As well as being part of winning teams this year, and claiming last night’s top prize, Kolbe was also nominated for World Rugby player of the year, which he lost out to Springbok teammate Pieter-Steph du Toit and is thankful for the players he has had around him during his successful year. 

“It’s been a phenomenal season, not just for me but for my club and for my country, winning the Top 14, The Rugby Championship and then World Cup in one year I’m really blessed. I couldn’t have done this without all my team-mates. I give credit to all of them because if they didn’t create opportunities for me as a winger to finish off I wouldn’t be standing here now,” he finished. 

Kolbe will be hoping to hear from the Blitzbokke soon with regard to his chances of featuring at the Olympics next year, however, before then he will be not only trying to achieve his goal of Champions Cup success but help Toulouse climb the Top14 table where they currently sit in eighth position.

6 Nations

Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province

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Leinster have confirmed that out-half Johnny Sexton will not feature in this weekend’s return fixture against the Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.

The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury. 

The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year. 

As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side. 

The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend. 

However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem. 

In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win. 

Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.

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Champions Cup

Diamond in Hot Water for Post-Match Comments

Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond didn’t hold back on his assessment of his team’s defeat yesterday and his remarks after the game could put him in hot water with the EPCR

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Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond was not happy following his side’s 22-20 loss to the Exeter Chiefs yesterday and didn’t hold back in his post-match press conference.

Diamond was clearly unhappy with referee Mathieu Raynal and his team of officials, citing in particular their decisions not to award penalty tries that he felt were a certainty. 

“Our driving maul is good. I’ve got to be very careful how I say it, but how we can turn the corner from a driving line-out nine metres out and a guy comes in and tackles it and it’s not a yellow card, penalty try, I don’t know. I just said, ‘Good game’. I said, ‘You’ve had a fantastic game, your touch judges had a brilliant game’. Hopefully that’ll go through to their assessors – and we’ll never see the b******s again in Manchester. Joke! Joke, joke, joke. I just get this feeling these days people want more character in the room, not just yes and no questions, so we’re only having a bit of fun,” he said. 

Although he seems to think his comments are just a bit of fun it remains to be seen how well received they are by the EPCR, who will probably be far from amused. 

The former hooker is no stranger to post-match controversy having accused a referee of making up decisions before, as well as pushing opposition staff members and getting into an argument with a journalist last year. 

Sale’s loss leaves them third in Pool 2 of the Champions Cup and looking likely to fail to progress to the knock-out stages. 

However, there has been talk of a boost coming to the club in the form of recently sacked Racing 92 star Leone Nakarawa, who is reportedly being targeted by the side, but Diamond all but put that possibility to bed, while also making a bizarre claim ahead of next weekend’s reverse fixture against the Chiefs. 

“I might just send my kids down, I don’t know yet. That’s what other teams are doing, aren’t they? I might just send my Under-19s down and let Exeter go through. We’ll have a think. We’ll put it to bed, the Fijian lad won’t come to England because the weather’s too cold – it’s not money,” he added. 

So, by those remarks it seems as though Nakarawa won’t be joining the Sharks any time soon and that Diamond may chance playing an understrength side next weekend. 

However, the latter appears unlikely as Sale still have a chance of progressing as they are only two-points off second-placed Glasgow, but at this stage who knows what Diamond will decide to do? What’s certain is that he may have just opened a can of worms for himself with the EPCR. 

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Champions Cup

Leinster Hammer Northampton to Stay Perfect

Leinster have made it 10 wins from 10 at the start of the season with another brilliant victory in the Champions Cup

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Leinster have defeated the Northampton Saints 43-16 away at the Franklin’s Gardens this afternoon in Pool 1 of the Champions Cup.

Tries from James Lowe, Rhys Ruddock, Andrew Porter, Cian Healy, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath and Ed Byrne saw the away side ease past the current Premiership leaders.

Leinster had the perfect start to the game with Lowe going over for the opening try of the game after just two minutes following a break by Jordan Larmour, who left him with the easy task of placing the ball over the line. Captain Johnny Sexton slotted over the conversion to make it 7-0 early on. 

However, the hosts hit back almost immediately through Ashee Tuala, who was fed by Dan Biggar on the wing and he dived over the try-line. Biggar made it honours even with the kick with only six minutes on the clock. 

Things got better for Biggar and the Saints minutes later as he knocked over a penalty to give the home side a three-point lead. 

Although the topsy turvy game continued with the men in blue notching up their second try just before the quarter hour mark with some nice work from Jamison Gibson-Park leaving him just short of the line. Leinster recycled the ball well and Ruddock powered over from close range. Again Sexton kicked the extras to make it 14-10. 

Over the next 10 minutes Northampton went ahead once again thanks to the boot of Biggar as he kicked another two penalties. 

The Saints couldn’t hold on to the lead going into half-time however as Porter slipped over following sustained pressure from the away side in the Northampton 22. Sexton couldn’t add the extras this time around, but it was 19-16 to Leinster come the half-time whistle. 

Leinster began the second-half just like they did the first going over for an early try through Healy after some brilliant work from the pack. The downside for the team was that Sexton was injured just before the score, but his replacement Byrne made no mistake with the conversion to stretch the lead.

Five minutes later and Byrne was in for a try of his own as Caelan Doris burst through the opposition defence before passing to the playmaker to touchdown. Byrne missed the conversion but things got worse for Saints as Alex Waller was sent to sin-bin. 

Garry Ringrose followed him to the bin a couple of minutes later for a poor tackle on Biggar. 

Northampton went in search of a score to get themselves back into the game, but error after error meant they failed to add to the scoreboard. 

Leinster were ruthless in attack on the other hand and when they broke into the Northampton half they made no mistake once they got close to the try-line as substitute McGrath barrelling over from right in front of the line. Byrne couldn’t kick the conversion from the touchline but it was a sixth try of the game for the four time champions with less than five minutes left. 

Last season’s runners-up weren’t finished yet with replacement front-row Ed Byrne charging over as the clock struck red to make it a seventh try of the afternoon for Leinster. Ross Byrne converted with the last kick of the game to make 43-16 come full-time. 

The win leaves Leinster at the top of Pool 1 and means they have won all 10 of their opening games of this season, while Northampton now face a tough challenge to get out to the knock-out stages. 

To make matters worse for the Saints is that they must head away to Leinster for the reverse fixture this day next week and will be hoping for a much improved performance to try and get one over on the Irish province, but Leinster look on course early on to add a record fifth title to their name come the end of the season. 

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