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International

England Star Set to Retire at End of Season

One of England’s main players from the past number of years is going to call time on his career

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(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

England flanker James Haskell has announced that he plans to retire from professional rugby come the end of the season. 

The 34-year-old has had an injury-prone season with Northampton Saints and has been struggling with ankle and toe problems which has caused a restriction on his game time.

Haskell has thanked everyone involved in his career and is extremely grateful for the chance to play rugby at the highest level.

“I have loved every minute of my career in rugby and feel very privileged to have played with and against some exceptional players. There are so many people to thank, but in particular I would like to express my appreciation for all the coaches, trainers and physios who I have worked with throughout my career – from Maidenhead minis all the way up to England and the British & Irish Lions, I owe them all a huge debt of gratitude,” he said.

He also thanked the fans and his friends for supporting him through his glittering career.

“I also want to thank all my team mates over the years for putting up with me and giving me an adventure that allowed me to laugh every single day. My thanks go out to the supporters here at Northampton Saints too who have welcomed me with open arms; I wish I’d been able to offer more on the field this season. This next chapter was supposed to go a very different way, however that is the nature of professional sport. I’ve never spent so much time injured in my entire career, but I’m doing everything I can to help the squad here until my contract ends,” he added.

Having played a starring role in a Wasps team, Haskell moved to the Saints and even though he has suffered misfortunes during his time there, he admitted that retiring was a really tough decision.

“Retiring is obviously a really difficult decision for me to make; professional rugby has been the centre of my life for such a long time now and while it’s weird to imagine living without it, I look to the future with huge excitement. I look back at my career and have been very lucky to have done most things there are to do in rugby. Sadly, I will never know what it’s like to win a World Cup or represent the Barbarians. Finally, I would not have achieved what I have in this sport without the continued support of my amazing wife, my family, and my friends. To them all, I am incredibly grateful,” he finished.

The flanker has also had spells across the globe at Stade Francais, Ricoh Black Rams and he Highlanders and has over 200 club appearances.

Along with an incredible club career, Haskell has 77 caps for England and has won three Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, as well as appearing at two World Cups and playing for the British & Irish Lions.

England head coach Eddie Jones has paid tribute to flanker and claimed that Haskell always made him smile.

“When I look back at my time coaching James, it will always bring a smile to my face. It was a privilege to coach him, but also great fun. He’s what I’d describe as a ‘glue’ player – someone who always tries to bring a squad together,” he said.

He also noted that Haskell will be missed from the game and applauded his contribution in every game he played.

“His tour to Australia in 2016 sticks in my mind. He was absolutely outstanding on that tour, amazingly physical, uncompromising and just totally dominant. Despite injuries preventing him from achieving his goals this season, he should be remembered for a great career and as someone who never gave less than 100 per cent for club and country. Not only a superb player, but also one of the game’s great characters; rugby will be poorer without the ‘old fella’,” he added.

Haskell’s time throughout the game was filled with highlights and is still in with a chance of being named in the Red Rose’s World Cup squad later this year. However, Jones’ comments about him being missed from rugby will ring true with many in the sports community.

International

O’Connor Finally Confirmed as a Red

James O’Connor’s journey back into the Wallabies set-up has had a major boost

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

James O’Connor has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Queensland Reds and Rugby Australia it has been confirmed.

The move has been in the pipeline for quite some time now and with it being announced O’Connor can now officially play for the Wallabies if selected.

Having last turned out for the Aussies in 2013 before off-field issues halted his international career, O’Connor is happy to be given the chance to impress once more.

“I just want to say how grateful I am to be given this opportunity again. There’s been a lot of work put in behind the scenes and a lot of guys have shown faith in me, so all I’m focusing on right now is putting my best foot forward. I have a bigger ‘why’ now and that is what fuels me. In saying that, I’m excited to be back here. Even at 29, I’m still learning and we’re really pushing each other. It’s been an intense hit the last few weeks, but I think I’m in a lot better place physically,” he said.

O’Connor has come back with a hope of breaking into the World Cup squad and did so in 2015 as well, failing on that occasion but he is determined to prove himself this time around.

“I’m a Queenslander. I was born there. I started playing rugby there. It’s where the dream began. A big part as well is that I owe Queensland the best version of myself. I came back last time and I wasn’t in the best place mentally, but also physically I was quite broken, so I couldn’t produce and perform the rugby I wanted to for the team. I’m finally ready to return and make amends. I want to do right by the team and the fans, and I intend to deliver the very best of my energy. If I can help the team get back to the top of the sport and if we can bring success back to Queensland, that would be a dream for me. The last time I returned, I thought I was ready to repair some of the mistakes I made but also reach my rugby potential, but it was too rushed. I didn’t recognise how much pain I was still in mentally. In saying that, I wouldn’t change it because I was guided to the correct mentors,” he added.

The utility back believes that the journey he has been on over the past number of years has helped him in the long-run and has motivated others to fight their personal battles.

“I’ve been on a journey ever since to understanding my true self and how I’m meant to use my privileged position in rugby. I see now that rugby is a gift and I want my journey back to inspire possibly other young men out there who may be a little lost in the world right now. If I can make it back from adversity, then so can you,” he continued.

He closed off by saying how he thinks that inside-centre is his best position, however he will play wherever he is needed for the team.

“I think 12 is my position. I’ve been playing there the last two years and I’m most comfortable there. It’s best with the style of rugby I play and the way I have developed being overseas. Also, I’m now a bit of a nugget so I fit in there quite nicely. But of course, I will cover anywhere in the backline – whatever the team needs. It would simply just be an honour to put the shirt back on again. I would play prop if I had to,” he finished.

Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson is impressed by O’Connor and believes this is a great move for all parties involved.

“James has immense rugby talent. He started his career in Queensland and this is a chance for him to show his full potential for his home state. Now is the time for James’ rugby to do the talking. He’s come home for the right reasons to play rugby and to help develop our rugby programmes. He’s matured and understands the leadership roles both on-and-off the field. He’s been honest and transparent throughout this whole process. We want to back the man to be the player we know he can be,” he said.

During his time overseas O’Connor turned out for London Irish, Toulon and Sale Sharks, which show how experienced he has become. His versatility and knowledge could be a huge boost for Michael Chieka and are a couple of reasons why he may very well succeed in getting into the squad that he failed to break into four years ago.

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Fiji Bring in 11 New Players for Second Maori Test

Fiji have named a total of 11 new players in their squad for their second test against the Maori All Blacks this weekend

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(Photo credit MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Fijian head coach John McKee has given 11 new players the opportunity to travel to New Zealand to face the Maori All Blacks this Saturday. 

McKee watched his side defeat the New Zealand side 27-10 last weekend, but with there being such a massive pool of players to pick from for the World Cup he has named 11 new players in his 26-man extended squad to travel.

Fiji are heading into the Pacific Nations Cup before they take off for the Rugby World Cup in Japan and the head coach has talked about how the plan is to allow as many players as possible a chance.

“The plan has always been to give as many players as we can the opportunity across the first two games as a lead up into the Pacific Nations Cup. We have got a number of players who probably got niggling injuries from the game but also some coming from Europe with minor injuries from the back end of the season and are on a rehabilitation programme,” he said.

There are local players such as Luke Tagi, Joeli Veitayaki, Ratu Veremalua Vugakoto, Johnny Dyer, Mosese Voka, Frank Lomani and Serupepeli Vularika within the squad and McKee has confirmed places are still up for grabs.

“It’s an opportunity for these players to step up and show what they can do as everyone in the squad is vying for position in the final squad for RWC2019. The plan for this week will also see a couple of new combinations working together, learning on the mistakes we made in our first match against the Maori All Blacks as we expect the second one to also be a really tough one,” he added.

The Fijians will be looking to build on their impressive win last weekend with another good showing on Saturday and are already looking like a serious team for the World Cup.

Check out the full 26-man squad below.

Lee-roy Atalifo

Campese Ma’afu

Peni Ravai

Luke Tagi

Kalivati Tawake

Joeli Veitayaki

Sam Matavesi

Tuvere Vugakoto

Api Ratuniyarawa

Tevita Ratuva

Albert Tuisue

Johnny Dyer

Nemani Nagusa

Dominiko Waqaniburotu

Mosese Voka

Frank Lomani

Henry Seniloli

Serupepeli Vularika

Josh Matavesi

Alivereti Veitokani

Sevanaia Galala

Waisea Nayacalevu

Jale Vatubua

Kini Murimurivalu

Filipo Nakosi

Patrick Osbourne

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Star Springbok Winger Injured in Training

One of the Springboks key men has returned to his club due to injury

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(Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

South Africa will have to deal without winger Aphiwe Dyantyi when they face the Wallabies on Saturday. 

The flying winger has returned to his club the Golden Lions in Johannesburg to begin his rehabilitation on a hamstring injury.

Dyantyi sustained the injury during last Friday’s training and will see a specialist later today to try and find out what treatment options he has and a possible timeframe of when he can return to action.

The 2018 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year will be waiting anxiously with the Rugby Championship starting on Saturday as mentioned above and the Rugby World Cup only around the corner.

Despite the winger’s injury, Springboks management have confirmed they will not be bringing in a replacement as they feel as though they have enough cover for the wing in the squad.

The squad will continue their preparations for the upcoming shortened Rugby Championship this week.

While Springboks Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will announce his matchday squad for their test against the Wallabies on Wednesday and will hopefully have an update on Dyantai’s injury then.

Both players and management alike will be hoping to see the winger back soon as he provides the Boks with something special and will be vital for their World Cup campaign.

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