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Edinburgh Star Pushing for World Cup Place

Having made his debut for the Barbarians at the weekend one man is looking to secure his World Cup spot

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(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Edinburgh and Fiji No 8 Viliame ‘Big Bill’ Mata made his debut for the Barbarians last weekend and now his sights are firmly on a World Cup spot.

The electric No 8 was part of an entertaining match on Sunday which finished 51-43 in favour of an England XV and he believes that he can now push on after the experience.

“Making my debut last weekend for the Barbarians was a big step in my career. The Barbarians are known for world class players and being a part of the club is really exciting. The Barbarians have been going for many years with top quality players from around the globe coming together to make a world class team. Playing with a new group of players is what’s so exciting about becoming a Barbarian,” he said.

Mata thinks that playing the game has made him a better player and is looking at claiming a spot in Fiji’s talented World Cup squad.

“Every game for the Barbarians is massive and it’s all about putting on a world class show for the fans. Playing on such a big stage like Twickenham makes it even more special and helps build you as a player. The occasion makes you a better rugby player. My main goal now is to get into Fiji’s final squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and from there we will take every game as we go. We’ve got Australia in our first game so it’s going to be tough for us but we’re aiming to finish the tournament well,” he added.

Having been named the PRO 14 Player of the Year this season following some outstanding displays for Edinburgh, Mata is hoping to continue his current form and is thankful for what the Scottish side have done for him.

“I’ve had a good season with Edinburgh and the club has been really good to me. They like to use my strength and my talent on the field and putting out a game plan that suits me and my abilities well. Building up to the World Cup I want to take those performances and put them into the Fiji team,” he continued.

The Barbarians will return to Twickenham in November to take on Fiji and Mata finished up by saying he is excited by playing against the team he just made his debut for as his both sides play a similar style of rugby.

“Fiji and the Barbarians have a similar style of play, with less structure than most sides. We want to give the ball out wide and run from anywhere on the pitch. Hopefully I’ll be involved for Fiji when they return to Twickenham to play the Barbarians in November, after the World Cup. It’ll be a really fast match as both teams just love to play the game. There will be more action from those two sides than you’ll find in almost any other game,” he concluded.

Mata appears a certain name to be on the Fijian team sheet come the World Cup and with the nation ever improving in the XV’s game it could be a good year for them.

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Star Player Commits to Australian Rugby

One of the Wallabies key men has put pen to paper on a new deal with Australian Rugby ahead of the Rugby World Cup

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Wallabies lock Izack Rodda has signed a new deal with Australian Rugby and the Queensland Reds despite many of his teammates heading abroad post-World Cup.

The 23-year-old’s new deal will see him stay in the country for another four-years, meaning he will be available for selection come the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France

Rodda is delighted to have been able to confirm the news ahead of the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan which starts on Friday. 

“It’s good to confirm and announce this before the World Cup starts this week, so I can shift my focus on the Wallabies, but definitely excited and honoured to re-sign with Australian Rugby and the Reds for another four years,” he said.

The news is a boost to the Wallabies as Rodda only has 21 caps for them to his name which falls well below the 60 required to represent the country if a player moves overseas to play. 

That rule has already confirmed that the likes of Samu Kerevi, Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold will all be out of Wallabies contention come the conclusion of the World Cup as they head overseas with less than 30 caps each. 

As well as those players there are a number of high-profile experienced Wallabies leaving the country come the end of the tournament, so this will be a real boost to fans of the green and gold. 

The Wallabies kick start their World Cup campaign against Fiji on Saturday, in what is a must win game as they also face current Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales in the same pool in which only two can progress to the quarter-finals. 

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Scottish Star Forced Into Early Retirement

One of Scotland’s finest players has been forced to retire from the game due to concussion

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(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

Scotland and Leicester Tigers star David Denton has been forced to retire from professional rugby due to concussion.

The 29-year-old was advised to quit the sport on medical grounds following a concussion which he picked up almost a year ago while playing for the Premiership outfit. 

However, Denton has admitted that he was actually relieved when he found out the news as it was a long time coming. 

“My actual reaction at the time my neurologist told me it was no longer a good idea to play rugby… to be honest there was a bit of relief. This had been building up inside of me for four to five months. I knew there was a strong possibility that this moment (when I had to retire) was coming. By the time I got to it, I had been through all the emotional highs and lows, so I was prepared for it,” he said. 

Although it was a relief Denton also confirmed that it is a blow as he felt like he was getting back to his best and thanked everyone that has helped him along his journey. 

“Of course, it is devastating that my rugby career is ending. After a few years where I had a series of injuries, I had got myself back into a position where I felt, physically and mentally, that I could play the best rugby of my career. I’m incredibly fortunate. Scottish Rugby have helped me, particularly over the last few months. They have been awesome. I’ve spent a lot of time with (Scottish Rugby ambassador) Al Kellock, (chairman) Colin Grassie and (chief operating officer) Dominic McKay and they have helped me hugely, thinking about the transition from being a player to what happens next,” he added. 

He also already has plans for the future and unlike many who leave the playing field, he does not want a position back in rugby as he would like to head into corporate business. 

“The people they have put me in front of (from commerce and industry) has been great. I want to get into the corporate world. Coaching, as a career, was never something that appealed to me. I’m really excited for the next steps in my life,” he finished. 

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, who is currently preparing his side for their Rugby World Cup opening game against Ireland in Japan, took the time to pay his respects to Denton’s career. 

“We’re really disappointed that someone who still had a lot to offer the game both at club level and for Scotland hasn’t been able to do that, but our first thoughts are with his health and his life beyond rugby and it seems to be the right decision to retire. We were hoping that taking some time out of the game would mean he would be available for selection in our world cup training squad and when that didn’t happen we were hopeful he’d be back for next season, but again that’s not happened. We’re going to miss him with Scotland. He played very well last summer after being involved in the Six Nations, playing really well in that game against Argentina, and getting back to the form he was in at the last world cup. As coaches we really enjoyed working with Dave over the years and we wish him all the best in life after rugby,” he said. 

Denton leaves the game with a total of 42 international caps to his name and will be fondly remembered for several explosive games in a Scottish jersey. 

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Williams and Priestland Defend Biggar

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar has come in for a lot of scrutiny of late but now some of the people that know him best have come to his defence

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(Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Wales out-half Dan Biggar has been criticised of late by many fans, but fellow Welshmen JJ Williams and Rhys Priestland have come out to stand up for him while talking to RugbyPass.

Williams, who is Biggar’s current coach at Northampton Saints, believes that Biggar is not only deserving of the Wales No 10 jersey but that he is the best player in the world when it comes to knock-out rugby.

“If you need someone to stay on task, to make sure that they keep their nerve to run a game down, or close a game out in knockout rugby, there is no better player in the world. He’s mentally as tough as hell. I have often said I’d hate to see an argument between him and TJ Perenara. They are two of the most bloody-minded people I’ve ever worked with. If you want to go into battle with anyone, it’s Dan Biggar. He’s an absolute trooper,” he said.

Williams has previously coached the Super Rugby side the Hurricanes, where he worked with Beauden Barrett so the praise will come as a huge boost for Biggar.

Biggar has become Wales’ first-choice fly-half following Gareth Anscombe’s ACL injury in a World Cup warm-up game against England last month and Williams was impressed by how he dealt with being thrown into that match.

“The response he put in against England, after he had criticism, well I thought it was superb. That summed up, in a nutshell, what Dan Biggar can do and who he is as a bloke,” he added.

As well as Williams coming to Biggar’s defence, fellow Welsh No 10 Priestland is full of praise for the Northampton Saint and can’t understand the criticism.

“Look, Dan’s a great competitor, a fantastic kicker and unbelievable under the high ball. I probably see more of him playing for Wales now and whenever he has come on for Anscombe he has had a positive impact. I got better coming across the bridge (to play in the Premiership) and I’m sure he’s the same. It’s a weird one. When Anscombe was playing, there were people asking for him to start, and now Dan is starting they are asking for someone else,” he said.

Whatever people believe it is clear that Biggar’s peers hold him in high regard and believe he could be a vital part to any Welsh success.

Biggar and co have had a frustrating time during their warm-up games with three losses from four games, but will look to turn a corner over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for their opening World Cup match against Georgia on Monday September 23rd.

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