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Fiji retain Olympic rugby sevens title with victory over New Zealand

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Fiji secured their second successive men’s Olympic rugby sevens gold medal as they beat New Zealand 27-12 in a thrilling gold medal match at Tokyo Stadium.

The defending champions raced into a 12-0 lead against the All Blacks Sevens as Meli Derenalagi and Sireli Maqala touched down in the opening three minutes.

Scott Curry crossed for his fifth try of the tournament to get New Zealand on the scoreboard but Jiuta Wainiqolo touched down before the break to equal that tally and give Fiji a 19-5 half-time lead.

New Zealand crucially scored the first try of the second period, as Sione Molia broke free of the Fijian defence to touch down, but that was as close as the All Blacks Sevens would get.

Asaeli Tuivuaka grabbed Fiji’s fourth try of the match and with time running out Waisea Nacuqu made sure of a second Olympic title when he successfully converted a penalty.

Argentina, who were beaten 26-14 by Fiji in the medal semi-finals, took their place on the final step of the podium after they beat Great Britain 17-12 in the bronze medal final.

Great Britain had lost 29-7 to New Zealand in the semi-finals, but opened the scoring in the first minute when Ben Harris crossed for his fourth try of the tournament.

Argentina hit back in the fifth minute when Lautaro Bazan Velez touched down, before Marcos Moneta produced a dazzling step to score his sixth try of the tournament and ensure his side led 12-5 at the break.

Ollie Lindsay-Hague got Great Britain back on level terms midway through the second period, but Argentina were soon back in front and Ignacio Mendy’s breakaway try ultimately secured the bronze medal – the South American nation’s first medal of the Games.

As the only member of the Rio 2016 winning squad to continue on to Tokyo 2020, Fiji captain Jerry Tuwai holds the unique title of being the only double Olympic gold medallist in rugby sevens history.

Comparing Tokyo with the previous Olympic triumph in Rio, Tuwai said: “It is more special than 2016 because we have been away from our families for about five or six months. I have three kids so it is really hard for me. My mum and dad sacrificed to buy my first boots. Those boots took me to Rio, to my first gold medal, and now my second. That is why I am really grateful to my whole family who have helped me along the way.

Commenting on the joyous scenes back in Fiji he added: “It will be very loud. We have very loud voices and I know everyone is shouting back in Fiji. They will not be thinking about the pandemic now but the celebration of the gold medal. A gold medal can’t replace human life. We tell our country and families to stay home and follow the guidance that has been put up.”

The Fiji squad have been in training camps and unable to see their families for the past five months due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Head Coach Gareth Baber said: “I’ve got to pay special tribute to the players and staff who have done this. They came into a training camp on Easter Monday thinking they were going back on the Friday, and on the Tuesday they were told they couldn’t go back and haven’t seen their families since. That takes a special kind of person to make that commitment.”

New Zealand co-captain Scott Curry was disappointed but proud of the All Blacks Sevens silver medal: “We went into it with a lot of confidence and belief that we could come away with gold, so it is obviously very disappointing to come up short. Fiji played really well and credit to them, they deserved the gold on the day. But I was really proud of our group. It has been a long time getting to this point and I have a lot of love and pride for our group.”

Argentina’s Marcos Moneta finished as the competition’s leading try scorer with six tries and was delighted with their bronze medal: “This is a dream come true. It was what we were looking for, to get on the podium. It is a great pleasure and we will enjoy it now. I can’t describe it. The team are crazy. You saw yesterday (in Tuesday’s 19-14 quarterfinal win over South Africa, which they finished with five players on the field) what this team is like, and here today also. We are really happy to get the bronze medal.”

Earlier in the day South Africa recovered from the disappointment of losing their medal quarter-final to Argentina on day two to wrap up fifth place at Tokyo Stadium.

Ronald Brown was the hero in the Blitzboks’ fifth-place semi-final, as his two tries helped his side hold off a second-half comeback from Australia and seal a 22-19 win.

Victory set up a fifth-place play-off against the USA, who had earned their place in the match with a see-saw 21-14 defeat of neighbours Canada. Carlin Isles’ late try proved decisive.

It was South Africa who controlled the fifth-place play-off, however, as tries from Justin Geduld and Sakoyisa Makata gave their side a 14-7 lead at the break.

The Blitzboks made sure of the win in the closing stages as Kurt-Lee Arendse and Stedman Gans crossed the whitewash to confirm a 28-7 scoreline.

Australia ended their tournament on a high against Canada, running in four tries to seal a 26-7 victory and seventh place.

Women’s rugby sevens will take centre stage at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 from 29-31 July as the final squads have been confirmed ahead of three days of intense competition in Tokyo Stadium, which will begin on Thursday with France v Fiji at 09:00 local time, while reigning Olympic champions Australia begin their title defence against hosts Japan at 10:30. The women’s competition will conclude with the gold medal match on ‘Super Saturday’ at 18:00 local time.

Source – World Rugby


International

Eddie upbeat for ‘intriguing’ World Cup

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Eddie Jones admits the Wallabies are in the chasing pack but still close enough to catch the favourites and win September’s Rugby World Cup.

Jones, after a 15-minute technical glitch, gave his first wide-ranging interview from England on Thursday after his shock appointment on Monday.

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He said the battle to wear the No.10 jersey in France was wide open, touched on the side’s ill-discipline and current eligibility laws, assessed the health of the code in Australia and had a neat return-of-serve to rugby league powerbroker Peter V’landys in the latest code-war chapter.

But when asked if he genuinely thought the inconsistent world No.6 side could win the World Cup this year, he was serious.

“There’s no long term; the whole thing is to win the World Cup in 2023,” said Jones, who is on a five-year contract.

“We have to concentrate on areas that will make the biggest difference to the performance of the team and we have to get selection right.
“And we’ve got to create an environment where players are going to give that little bit more, because nobody knows how much they can give.”

Jones will have just five Tests to prepare his men before the Cup and he turned to racing parlance to assess the current power rankings.

He says feels there’s still time for the field to settle with the team who improves the most between now and October set for victory.

“At the moment France and Ireland, in a horse race they’re at the front on the top of the rise,” he said.

“But there’s still plenty of work to do.

“Australia and England are nestled behind them and the team that improves the most over the next nine months will win the World Cup.

“This is the most intriguing World Cup we’ve ever seen.

“Throw in the volatility of the refereeing at the moment with red and yellow cards.

“You’ve got all these things happening that give us this massive opportunity.”

He said every player would have a chance to “select themselves” in club rugby and that replacing Rennie before his contract was to expire at the end of this year wasn’t in his control.

“I wasn’t thinking, ‘I can do this better than Dave, or, I’m a better person’, it’s not that at all,” he said.

“It’s the fact that there was an opportunity there that as an Australian when you get a chance to coach your country you want to do it, mate.”

In a boost for James O’Connor’s hopes after he was cut from Rennie’s extended squad, Jones said he’d base selection on Super Rugby Pacific form and keep an eye on his foreign-based playmakers.

But Jones admits time isn’t on his side when it comes to settling on a preferred partnership, with rival five-eighth Quade Cooper’s recovery from an Achilles tear counting against him.

“We are going to have to decide quite quickly who we think are the best nines and tens and 12s, particularly, to try and build up that cohesion,” he said.

Content & Images from – Australia Rugby


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6 Nations

England team to face Scotland in Six Nations opener

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Ollie Hassell-Collins will make his England debut at left wing, Max Malins returns to the side at right wing and Freddie Steward is named at full back.

Owen Farrell captains the side from inside centre and is joined in the midfield by Joe Marchant. Marcus Smith is at fly-half with Jack van Poortvliet at scrum half.

The front row is made up of vice-captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler with Jamie George at hooker. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum start at lock, while Ben Curry makes his second appearance for England at open-side flanker. Lewis Ludlam and Alex Dombrandt complete the back row.

Jack Walker is in line to make his England debut after being named as a substitute, Anthony Watson could make a first England appearance since March 2021, and if Dan Cole comes off the bench he will earn a 96th Test cap.

Mako Vunipola, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs and Ollie Lawrence make up the remaining replacements.

“There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the Auld enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup,” said Borthwick.

“Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world. There is no doubt this England team shares the supporters’ sense of eager anticipation.

“To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect.”

England Match Day Squad

Starting

15. Freddie Steward

14. Max Malins

13. Joe Marchant

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge (VC)

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Ollie Chessum

6. Lewis Ludlam

7. Ben Curry

8. Alex Dombrandt

Replacements

16. Jack Walker

17. Mako Vunipola

18. Dan Cole

19. Nick Isiekwe

20. Ben Earl

21. Ben Youngs

22. Ollie Lawrence

23. Anthony Watson


Images & Content from England Rugby
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6 Nations

Scotland name team to face England in 2023 Guinness Six Nations Opener

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Head coach Gregor Townsend has named his squad to face England in the opening fixture of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations this Saturday as Scotland bid to retain the Calcutta Cup.

Leading his side in the championship for the first time, blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie is joined at openside by Luke Crosbie, whose excellent recent form is rewarded with a second start for Scotland, with Matt Fagerson completing the back row.

In the second row, the experienced Richie Gray and Grant Gilchrist, who is named as Vice Captain, resume a partnership that impressed during last year’s Autumn Nations Series.

Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop in what is a 17th consecutive international since his 2021 debut, with the evergreen WP Nel – who reached 50 caps in November – selected at tighthead and George Turner named at hooker.

In the back division, scrum-half Ben White will link up with stand-off Finn Russell, a year on from his try-scoring debut in the Calcutta Cup at BT Murrayfield.

Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones are named as a centre pairing, the former having scored his first tries for Scotland in November’s win over Argentina, with the latter having notched no fewer than four tries against England in as many games against them.

In the back three, Scotland’s record try-scorer Stuart Hogg continues at full-back, with Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn lining up on the wings.

Townsend has selected a bench with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs, with Glasgow Warriors clubmates Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan and Jack Dempsey, alongside Jonny Gray, listed as pack replacements. George Horne, Blair Kinghorn and Chris Harris complete the matchday squad as substitute options.

Scotland team to face England in the Guinness Six Nations opener on Saturday, 4 February at Twickenham, kick-off 4.45pm, live on STV and ITV

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) 96 caps

14. Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 23 caps

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) 65 caps
9. Ben White (London Irish) 9 caps

1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) 16 caps
2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 30 caps
3. WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) 50 caps
4. Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 69 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – Vice Captain – 59 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) – Captain – 36 caps
7. Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 28 caps

Replacements

16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) 57 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 25 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
19. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) 72 caps
20. Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 18 caps
22. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 38 caps
23. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby) 39 caps

Tickets for Scotland’s match against Italy at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 18 March are still available HERE

Images & Content – Scotland Rugby


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