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Boks make 12 changes for Argentina clash

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(Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Joseph Dweba will make his Springbok debut in the opening Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, in a new-look team named by Jacques Nienaber on Tuesday.

The inclusion of Dweba at hooker was one of 12 changes to the matchday squad that won the third and final Test in the Castle Lager Lions Series in Cape Town last Saturday.

Nienaber made 10 changes to the starting team, which features a fresh backline and front row, and two changes on the replacements bench. With Argentina expected to pose a serious physical challenge, the Springbok coach opted for a six-two split of forwards amongst the replacements.

The only players who retained their places in the starting team from the final Test against the British & Irish Lions last weekend were Springbok captain Siya Kolisi (flank), Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager (both locks), Japer Wiese (No 8) and Cobus Reinach (scrumhalf).

The changes to the pack of forwards see Ox Nché – who has recovered from his neck injury – and Wilco Louw (both props) join forces with Dweba in the front row, replacing Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Bongi Mbonambi respectively, while Kwagga Smith replaces Franco Mostert at blindside flank in a loose trio with Kolisi and Wiese.

Damian Willemse will start at fullback against Argentina.

Elton Jantjies starts at flyhalf in a halfback pairing with Reinach, replacing Handré Pollard, while Frans Steyn and Jesse Kriel will join forces in the midfield in place of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am.

The other changes in the backline sees Damian Willemse replace Willie le Roux at fullback, while Sbu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi – who made his Springbok debut against Georgia last month – will start at wing in place of Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi respectively.

On the replacements bench, Marvin Orie and Dan du Preez have been drafted in to provide cover at lock and loose forward respectively, while the two backline replacements are Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) and Morné Steyn (flyhalf).

“It is a long season, so it’s important that we manage the players well and rotate our squad to ensure that everyone gets sufficient game time and rest,” said Nienaber.

“We have a talented squad, and we are excited to see some of the players get a chance to show what they can do against a tough Argentinean outfit.

“Most of the players in this matchday squad have been with us since our conditioning camp in Bloemfontein in June, and they’ve been working hard at training and deserve this opportunity to take the field.

Ox Nche has recovered from his injury and is back at loosehead prop for the Boks.

“This is a big game for us, and we are looking forward to seeing what these player combinations will deliver as we begin our Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign.”

Nienaber congratulated Dweba on being selected to make his Springbok debut and said: “Joseph is hard worker and a mobile hooker, which will be valuable traits against a physical side such as Argentina.

“He has shown what he can do for Bordeaux-Bègles and previously for the Toyota Cheetahs, so we are excited to see him make the step-up to this level.”

Nienaber expected a tough Test against Los Pumas and said being physical and accurate in their execution were key factors going into the match.

“Argentina are very physical, so we need to stand up to that challenge in every contest,” said Nienaber.

“Their forward pack is renowned for making their presence felt, so our set pieces need to be spot-on and it will be important to dominate at the contact points.

“All-in-all we need to deliver an accurate performance all around and it is vital that we capitalise on the opportunities we have to score points.”

Jesse Kriel will start at outside centre at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.

Andrew Brace (Ireland) will referee the match, with Karl Dickson (England) and AJ Jacobs (South Africa) serving as his assistant referees, while Tom Foley (Wales) will be on Television Match Official duty.

The match kicks off 17h05 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

Springbok team to face Argentina in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship:
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 10 caps, 5pts (1t)
14 – Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks) – 11 caps, 40 pts (8t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles, Japan) – 47 caps, 60 pts (12t)
12 – Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs) – 68 caps, 141 pts (11t, 7c, 21p, 3d)
11 – Aphelele Fassi (Cell C Sharks) – 1 cap, 5pts (1t)
10 – Elton Jantjies (vice-captain – Pau, France) – 39 caps, 283 pts (2t, 63c, 49p)
9 – Cobus Reinach (Montpellier, France) – 16 caps, 35pts (7t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers, England) – 3 caps, 0 pts
7 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo, Japan) – 10 caps, 5 pts (1t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 54 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks, England) – 48 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Toulon, France) – 89 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Wilco Louw (Harlequins, England) – 13 caps, 0 pts
2 – Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux, France) – uncapped
1 – Ox Nché (Cell C Sharks) – 3 caps, 0 pts

Replacements:
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears, Japan) – 37 caps, 30 pts (6t)
17 – Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) – 46 caps, 5 pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Saracens, England) – 23 caps, 0 pts
19 – Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers) – 4 caps, 0 pts
20 – Marco van Staden (Leicester Tigers, England) – 5 caps, 0 pts
21 – Dan du Preez (Sale Sharks, England) – 4 caps, 0 pts
22 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 14 caps, 25 pts (5t)
23 – Morné Steyn (Vodacom Bulls) – 67 caps, 742 points (8t, 102c, 156p, 10d)

Springbok record against Argentina:

Played 30; Won 26, Lost 3, Drawn 1; Points for 1058, Points against 594; Tries scored 125, Tries conceded 56; Highest score 73 pts, Biggest win 60 pts; Win %: 87%.

Milestones:

  • Frans Steyn needs nine more points to reach 150 career points.
  • Morné Steyn is the Springboks’ second highest point scorer with 742 points and needs eight points to reach 750 career points. He holds the record for the most penalty goals (156) in his 67 Tests as a Springbok.
  • Steyn is the top points scorer against Argentina with 84 points (15 conversions and 18 penalty goals) in seven Test matches.
  • Elton Jantjies needs one penalty goal to earn his 50th career penalty goal.

Miscellaneous:

  • The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is
  • There are 192 caps in the backline with 220 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 200
  • The average caps per player in the backline are 27, the forwards 27 while the players on the bench average 25.

Source – South Africa Rugby

6 Nations

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Image Credit: London Irish

London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.

O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011. 

He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017. 

O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation. 

On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions. 

“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years. 

“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy. 

“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.

“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland. 

“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old. 

“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport. 

“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them. 

“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us. 

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.

“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career. 

“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey. 

“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family. 

“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years. 

“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then. 

“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. 

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”

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6 Nations

Ryan And Baird Ruled Out Of Scotland Game. 2 called up.

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ireland squad returned to Dublin on Saturday evening following the victory over England at Twickenham and reassembled at Carton House on Sunday evening.

James Ryan will not be considered for selection this week and his return to rugby protocols will be supervised by the Leinster Medical Team. Ryan Baird is ruled out of the final fixture of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations with a back issue.

Uncapped locks Ross Molony and Joe McCarthy have been called up to train with the squad. Ross has been involved in Ireland squads since the summer of 2021 while Joe, a former Ireland U20 player, made his Leinster debut against Cardiff in January having impressed for Dublin University in the Energia AIL.

Robert Baloucoune, Nick Timoney and Mike Lowry all return after lining out for Ulster in the URC against Leinster at the weekend.

Ireland play Scotland in the final round of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship on Saturday 19th March at 4.45pm. The game is being televised by Virgin (ROI) and ITV (NI).

Ireland Squad Round 5 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championships

Backs (16)
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 36 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 2 caps
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 31 caps
Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 11 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 5 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 30 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 16 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 3 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 56 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 3 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 19 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 11 caps
Michael Lowry (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 95 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 41 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 104 caps CAPTAIN

Forwards (19)
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 22 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 29 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 26 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 16 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 56 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 115 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 6 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 67 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 25 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 47 caps
Jeremy Loughman (Munster/Garryowen) uncapped
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin) uncapped
Ross Molony (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 83 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 6 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 2 caps
Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 4 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 39 caps

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6 Nations

Johnny Sexton Signs Contract Extension to 2023 Rugby World Cup

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Photo Credit - Irish Rugby

Ireland and Leinster out-half Johnny Sexton has signed a contract extension up until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

In November Johnny earned his 100th cap for Ireland against Japan and played a pivotal role in Ireland’s third defeat of New Zealand. He hit the milestone of 500 Six Nations Championship points against Wales in Round 1 of this year’s tournament and has represented Ireland on 103 occasions to date.

The former World Player of the Year was appointed Ireland captain by Andy Farrell in January 2020 and has led the team to ten victories in his 13 game tenure as the on field general.

Johnny made his international debut against Fiji in November 2009 and has represented Ireland at three Rugby World Cups (2011, 2015 & 2019). Johnny is a two time Lions tourist (2013 & 2017) and has won three Six Nations titles with Ireland and five European Cups with Leinster. He has represented his provinces on 178 occasions, scoring 1549 points.

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented: “Johnny’s performances continue to be of the highest standard and he remains an integral member of the Ireland and Leinster squads.  He has always been a leader on the field and in the past two years since taking on the Ireland captaincy his leadership off it has been top class. Johnny is a generational player and we are delighted that he has extended to 2023.”

 Johnny Sexton, commented: “I always said that if I am enjoying my rugby and the Ireland and Leinster set-ups believe I can add value to the environment then it would be an easy decision to sign another contract.  There is some great talent coming through at Leinster at present and I am excited about the prospect of competing at a fourth World Cup with Ireland and the potential for growth in this group between now and then.”

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