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All Blacks Star Set for Return to Action

The All Blacks look set to have a full compliment of midfielders to pick from this weekend according to their assistant coach

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(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams appears ready for selection ahead of this weekend’s clash with the Springboks according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

Williams has been reduced to very little game time this season following a succession of injuries the latest of which, a hamstring injury picked up in training two weeks ago, left him out of the team’s 20-16 win over Argentina.

However, Foster believes that the 51-cap All Black has overcome his injury and depending on how he does in training over the next couple of days will decide if he is chosen to play.

“He’s travelled well, trained fully today, so again it’s a matter of making sure he’s come through that with no ill effects tomorrow [Wednesday] and Thursday morning, and see what unfolds,” he said.

Foster admitted that Williams is anxious about returning to action following his recent injury woes and with the World Cup just around the corner.

“He’s a bit nervous. He wants to know what’s happening and he’s like every other player now. There’s that apprehension and excitement, but at the end of the day we’ve got to get him focused on learning and doing what he needs to do then we’ll make the selections that we see as right,” he added.

The assistant coach made a point of noting that although the 33-year-old may be fully fit his place in the team this weekend is not certain as he might once again be rested for the future.

“There’s no doubt at this stage you end up balancing at selection the need for us to give people opportunity to make final decisions for World Cup, versus the need for us to be growing our game, versus the need to win a test that’s pretty special to us. It’s a bit of a tightrope you walk. We just need to make sure when we put a player out there it’s the right thing for them and also that they’re at the right place to help advance our game,” he finished.

With Williams being side-lined for the clash with the Pumas last Saturday and Jack Goodhue being one of the eight Crusaders to be rested, Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown started in the centre and put in a perfect showing.

However, with Williams and Goodhue both set to be back this week head coach Steve Hansen will have a full compliment of midfielders to choose from.

The only missing star centre is Ryan Crotty but after fracturing his thumb he was ruled out of the entire Rugby Championship campaign before it even began. All of which means that Williams will have a chance to gain some much-needed game-time and put his hand up for a place in Hansen’s 31-man World Cup squad that will head to Japan in September.

International

England’s Final November Test Confirmed

England have announced their fourth and final opponent of their November series this year

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England have confirmed that Tonga will be their fourth opponent in their November series this year.

The game will take place at Twickenham on Saturday November 21st at 15:15 in what will be the third of their four tests. 

It will be the fourth meeting of the two sides, but their first outside of a Rugby World Cup. They last played against one another last year at the World Cup in Japan, when England won as they have done on the other previous two occasions. 

Before the two teams meet England will take on the All Blacks on November 7th and then Argentina on the 14th. 

While after the Tongan encounter they face another southern hemisphere team in Australia on the 28th in the final of their Quilter Internationals for 2020. 

Those tests could go a long way to deciding England’s seeding in the draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, with the draw set to take place at some point in November. 

Before then the English will be focusing on the Six Nations, where they remain in title contention heading into the last two rounds. 

Next up for Eddie Jones’ side is a clash with Wales, however, their final game against Italy in Rome is under threat due to the Coronavirus outbreak within the country.

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Rugby Australia Claim Fox Sports Haven’t Walked Away

Last week it was reported that Fox Sports are set to end their 25-year long relationship with Australian Rugby, but Rugby Australia have now said otherwise

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle has claimed that Fox Sports haven’t walked away from the Wallabies and believes they could continue their relationship into the future.

Last week it was reported that the media organisation were set to end their 25-year relationship with Rugby Australia, but despite not having come to a deal that suits all Castle’s believes they will bid for rights next month. 

“We went through a negotiating process with them (Fox Sports) through their exclusive negotiating period. Unfortunately we couldn’t get to a place we were both comfortable with. So now we’re in tender and we would expect that as a market process they would step into that process,” she said. 

Reports state that Fox Sports had ended their relationship with Rugby Australia after the two bodies failed to find common ground on a deal between 2021 and 2025. 

Rugby Australia and Castle are set to make a historic move next month when they bring the broadcast rights to the market for the first time since the professional era began, but as stated above she is confident of an agreement between the two either way. 

There is a fear among many that Australia’s struggling Super Rugby sides, three of which remain without a win so far this season, will make it harder for the organisation to get a good deal over the line. 

However, all will become clearer by next month and Castle and co will be hoping that they can get the best deal possible.

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Ireland Climb in Latest World Rankings

Ireland have had the biggest boost in the latest World Rugby Rankings ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw later this year

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ireland have leapfrogged Wales in the latest World Rugby Rankings of the the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw in November of this year.

The boys in green have taken over the No 4 spot in the rankings following their 24-14 win over Wales in the Six Nations over the weekend, with their opponents dropping down to fifth. 

It is a major boost for the Irish and gives them something to hold on to heading into the rest of this year’s fixtures as they are now currently in the top seeds ahead of the draw for the pool stages of France 2023. 

World Rugby announced recently that they will hold the draw later this year meaning that teams will have less time to climb the rankings than last time around when they had 18 months between the previous World Cup and the draw for the next one. 

A total of twelve teams will head into the draw as seeds in three brackets with the top four in the rankings being first seeds, meaning as of now Wales would be second seeds along with France, Australia and Japan. 

While Scotland, Argentina, Italy and Fiji are in the third bracket, with the remainder of the teams to be decided through different qualifiers over the next three years. 

Elsewhere in the rankings Georgia have moved up ahead of Italy, following the former’s latest two defeats in the Six Nations, while the biggest risers have been Portugal, who have moved from 22nd to 20th, but Russia have dived from 20th to 25th. 

Ireland will be hoping to continue their perfect start to the Six Nations campaign when they take on the third-ranked team England away from home, whom they may look to overtake in the rankings before the draw. 

It is certainly heating up between the Six Nations teams as they try to be the best-placed behind South Africa and New Zealand, who take the first and second spots, but won’t play until the summer.

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