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Champions Cup

Saracens Comeback Stuns Leinster

Saracens claimed their third European crown with a stunning win over Leinster

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Saracens won their third Champions Cup in four seasons with an incredible 20-10 comeback victory over reigning champions Leinster on Saturday evening.

The win was Leinster’s first ever defeat in a European final and ruined their chance to become the first team to claim five Champions Cup titles.

The game was a back and forth affair for the opening quarter with both teams looking to get off to the perfect start.

It was Leinster who broke the deadlock with only four minutes gone as captain Johnny Sexton knocked over a penalty.

However, it was not until just after the half-hour mark until there was another score. Following some serious pressure from the boys in blue Maro Itoje was shown a yellow card.

Within two minutes Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong, making his 100th appearance for the club, barged over to score the opening try of the match.

Sexton made no mistake with the conversion and it was 10-0 with 34 minutes on the clock.

Sarries, with only 14 men on the pitch took the game to Leinster and were rewarded on 39 minutes when Owen Farrell slotted over a penalty to make it 10-3.

As Itoje took his place back on the pitch the clock struck 40 minutes, and with Leinster in possession it looked as though they would lead going in at half-time.

That was until Luke McGrath decided to kick forward rather than put the ball into the stands and Saracens took full advantage.

They kept possession of the ball for a further three minutes, with the clock in red before some swift hands from the back-line allowed Sean Maitland to stroll over for a try in the left corner.

Farrell was perfect from the tee and suddenly it was 10-10 at the whistle.

The second-half started well for Leinster as they tried to retake the lead. A poor decision by Garry Ringrose, who chose to keep the ball instead of passing with an overlap, proved costly as they failed to take their chances.

Saracens were more clinical in attack and when Scott Fardy was sin-binned for Leinster after a number of penalty concessions near the line, the team in red struck.

Farrell landed the penalty from Fardy’s sin-binning and with only a couple of minutes left before the Australians return Saracens dealt the killer blow.

As Leinster failed to clear their lines a scrum were Saracens had a full eight man pack, to Leinster’s seven was crucial as they won their own ball and Billy Vunipola crashed over between the posts. Farrell added the extras and with only 10 minutes left it was 20-10.

Even when Fardy returned Leinster could not get near the Saracens line as the game finished 20-10 in the English champions favour.

The result means that Saracens have now become the most successful English team in the competitions history while Leinster remain with four titles of their own.

Both must now dust themselves down and prepare for the final stages of their respective domestic competitions as they fight to defend their Pro 14 and Premiership crowns.

Player Ratings:

Leinster: Rob Kearney (5), Jordan Larmour (6), Garry Ringrose (5), Robbie Henshaw (7), James Lowe (5), Johnny Sexton (7), Luke McGrath (8); Cian Healy (7), Sean Cronin (6), Tadhg Furlong (8), Devin Toner (6), James Ryan (6), Scott Fardy (6), Sean O’Brien (5), Jack Conan (7)

Replacements (5)

Saracens: Alex Goode (7), Liam Williams (7), Alex Lozowski (8), Brad Barritt (7), Sean Maitland (8), Owen Farrell (8), Ben Spencer (7); Mako Vunipola (6), Jamie George (7), Titi Lamositele (6), Will Skelton (7), George Kruis (9), Maro Itoje (7), Jackson Wray (7), Billy Vunipola (9)

Replacements (9)

Champions Cup

Stephen Larkham Set For Return Home To Australia

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Munster - Pixabay

Stephen Larkham will depart Munster Rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

Larkham, who joined Munster as senior coach two years ago, is contracted to the province until the end of the season and was offered the opportunity to extend his time in Limerick.

After careful consideration Larkham eventually declined the extended contract offer citing personal reasons in seeking a return to Australia with his family and the additional incentive of a coaching opportunity closer to home.

Stephen Larkham said, “I only recently spoke about my desire to remain with Munster and continue working with my fellow coaches and playing group.

“That hopefully gives some indication as to how difficult a decision this has been for me. The staff, players, fans, and facilities are world class here and I am grateful to have had this opportunity.

“My family made a number of sacrifices in joining me on this move to Ireland and my girls’ adjustment over here, particularly with covid, has been difficult. I have to put them first now, and with a coaching opportunity closer to home this is the right thing for my family at this time.

“For now, my focus is very much with Munster Rugby and with a long season ahead I will savour every moment of working within this great environment as we continue to build in the right direction.”

Images & Content from Munster Rugby

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6 Nations

World Rugby to introduce contact training restrictions

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World Rugby

World Rugby and International Rugby Players (IRP) have published new contact training load guidance aimed at reducing injury risk and supporting short and long-term player welfare. The guidance is being supported by national players’ associations, national unions, international and domestic competitions, top coaches and clubs.

Earlier this year, World Rugby unveiled a transformational six-point plan aiming to cement rugby as the most progressive sport on player welfare. These new best-practice guidelines focus on the intensity and frequency of contact training to which professional rugby players should be exposed and have been shaped by consultation with players and coaches as well as leading medical, conditioning and scientific experts.

While the incidence of training injuries is low relative to that of matches, the volume of training performed means that a relatively high proportion (35-40 per cent) of all injuries during a season occur during training, with the majority of these being soft tissue injuries. Since the training environment is highly controllable, the guidelines have been developed to reduce injury risk and cumulative contact load to the lowest possible levels that still allow for adequate player conditioning and technical preparation.

Global study

The guidelines are based on a global study undertaken by IRP of almost 600 players participating across 18 elite men’s and women’s competitions, and a comprehensive review of the latest injury data. This reveals that training patterns vary across competitions, with an average of 21 minutes per week of full contact training and an average total contact load of 118 minutes per week. A more measured and consistent approach to training will help manage the contact load for players, especially those moving between club and national training environments. The research supports minimising contact load in training, in order that players can be prepared to perform but avoid an elevated injury risk at the same time. The guidelines aim to help strike that balance.

New ‘best practice’ training contact guidelines

World Rugby and International Rugby Players’ new framework [https://www.world.rugby/the-game/player-welfare/medical/contact-load] sets out clear and acceptable contact guidelines for training sessions, aiming to further inform coaches – and players – of best practice for reducing injury risk and optimising match preparation in season. The guidance covers the whole spectrum of contact training types, considering volume, intensity, frequency and predictability of contact, as well as the optimal structure of sessions across the typical training week, including crucial recovery and rest periods.

Recommended contact training limits for the professional game are:

  1. Full contact training: maximum of 15 minutes per week across a maximum of two days per week with Mondays and Fridays comprising zero full contact training to allow for recovery and preparation
  2. Controlled contact training: maximum of 40 minutes per week 
  3. Live set piece training: maximum of 30 minutes set piece training per week is advised

The guidelines, which also consider reducing the overall load for players of particular age, maturity and injury profile (in line with the risk factors and load guidance published in 2019), will feature in the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup player welfare standards.

Instrumented mouthguard research programme to inform effectiveness

World Rugby is partnering with elite teams to measure the ‘real life’ effect of these guidelines (in training and matches) and assess the mechanism, incidence and intensity of head impact events using the Prevent Biometics market-leading instrumented mouthguard technology and video analysis to monitor implementation and measure outcomes.

The technology, the same employed in the ground-breaking Otago Rugby Head Impact Detection Study, will deliver the biggest ever comparable bank of head impact data in the sport with more than 1,000 participants across the men’s and women’s elite, community and age-grade levels. The teams that have signed up so far are multiple Champions Cup winners Leinster, French powerhouse Clermont Auvergne and Benetton Treviso while discussions are ongoing with several other men’s and women’s teams across a range of competitions.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “This important body of work reflects our ambition to advance welfare for players at all levels of the game. Designed by experts, these guidelines are based on the largest study of contact training in the sport, developed by some of the best rugby, performance and medical minds in the game. We believe that by moderating overall training load on an individualised basis, including contact in season, it is possible to enhance both injury-prevention and performance outcomes, which is good for players, coaches and fans.”

World Rugby Director of Rugby and High Performance and former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt added: “Training has increasingly played an important role in injury-prevention as well as performance. While there is a lot less full contact training than many people might imagine, it is our hope that having a central set of guidelines will further inform players and coaches of key considerations for any contact that is done during training.

“These new guidelines, developed by leading experts and supported by the game, are by necessity a work in progress and will be monitored and further researched to understand the positive impact on player welfare. We are encouraged by the response that we have received so far.

“We recognise that community level rugby can be an almost entirely different sport in terms of fitness levels, resources and how players can be expected to train, but the guidelines can be applied at many levels, especially the planning, purpose and monitoring of any contact in training.”

International Rugby Players Chief Executive Omar Hassanein said the guidelines are being welcomed by players: “From an International Rugby Players’ perspective, this project represents a significant and very relevant piece of work relating to contact load. We’ve worked closely with our member bodies in gathering approximately 600 responses from across the globe, allowing us to have sufficient data to then be assessed by industry experts. The processing of this data has led to some quite specific recommendations which are designed to protect our players from injuries relating to excessive contact load. We will continue to work with World Rugby as we monitor the progress of these recommendations and undertake further research in this area.”

Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster, who was involved in reviewing the study and advising the development of the guidelines, said: “We have a responsibility to make the game as safe as possible for all our players. For coaches, optimising training plays a significant role in achieving that objective. It is important that we do not overdo contact load across the week in order that players are fresh, injury-free and ready for match days. These guidelines provide a practical and impactful approach to this central area of player preparation and management.”

Ireland international and IRP Head of Strategic Projects and Research Sene Naoupu said: “While this is the first step of the implementation and monitoring process, it is an incredible outcome that shows just how much players care about this area. It also provides a foundation to review and determine future direction of implementation across the game, within an evidence-based injury-prevention programme for performance and welfare.” 

World Rugby is also progressing a wide-ranging study of the impact of replacements on injury risk in the sport with the University of Bath in England, a ground-breaking study into the frequency and nature of head impacts in community rugby in partnership with the Otago Rugby Union, University of Otago and New Zealand Rugby, and further research specific to the professional women’s game. All of these priority activities will inform the decisions the sport makes to advance welfare for players at all levels and stages.

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6 Nations

Fixtures 2021/22 Season

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Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

SATURDAY 14 AUGUST

Rugby Championship

South Africa v Argentina (4.05pm, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth)

SATURDAY 21 AUGUST

Rugby Championship

Argentina v South Africa (4.05pm, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth)

WEDNESDAY 25 AUGUST

Rugby World Cup 2021 Repechage Qualifier

Kenya v Colombia (Nairobi)

SATURDAY 28 AUGUST

Rugby Championship

Australia v New Zealand (11am, Optus Stadium, Perth)

SATURDAY 4 SEPTEMBER

RWC 2023 Qualifying

Canada v USA (Swilers RFC, St John’s)

SATURDAY 11 SEPTEMBER

RWC 2023 Qualifier

USA v Canada (Infinity Park, Glendale)

Rugby Championship

New Zealand v Argentina (8.05am, Eden Park)

SUNDAY 12 SEPTEMBER

Rugby Championship

South Africa v Australia (6am, Sydney Cricket Ground)

FRIDAY 17 SEPTEMBER

Gallagher Premiership

Bristol v Saracens (7.45pm) Live on BT Sport

SATURDAY 18 SEPTEMBER

Rugby Championship

Argentina v New Zealand (8.05am, Sky Stadium)

Australia v South Africa (6am, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)

Gallagher Premiership

Leicester v Exeter (3pm) Live on BT Sport

Northampton v Gloucester (3pm)

Sale v Bath (3pm)

Worcester v London Irish (3pm)

SUNDAY 19 SEPTEMBER

Gallagher Premiership

Newcastle v Harlequins (3pm) Live on BT Sport

FRIDAY 24 SEPTEMBER

Gallagher Premiership

Gloucester v Leicester (7.45pm) Live on BT Sport

SATURDAY 25 SEPTEMBER

Rugby Championship

New Zealand v South Africa (8.05am, Forsyth Barr Stadium)

Australia v Argentina (5am, Newcastle)

Gallagher Premiership

Bath v Newcastle (3pm)

Exeter v Northampton (3pm)

Harlequins v Worcester (3pm)

Wasps v Bristol (3pm) Live on BT Sport

SUNDAY 26 SEPTEMBER

Gallagher Premiership

London Irish v Sale (3pm) Live on BT Sport

FRIDAY 1 OCTOBER

Gallagher Premiership

Bristol v Bath (7.45pm) Live on BT Sport

SATURDAY 2 OCTOBER

Rugby Championship

South Africa v New Zealand (8.05am, Eden Park)

Australia v Argentina (5am, GIO Stadium, Canberra)

Gallagher Premiership

Northampton v London Irish (2pm)

Leicester v Saracens (3pm) Live on BT Sport

Newcastle v Wasps (3pm)

Worcester v Gloucester (3pm)

SUNDAY 3 OCTOBER

Gallagher Premiership

Sale v Exeter (3pm) Live on BT Sport

More fixtures to follow.

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