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Former Ireland Player Questions Springboks RWC Win

Former Ireland international Neil Francis has suggested that South Africa’s Rugby World Cup win may have been down to players using performance enhancing substances

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(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Former Ireland Rugby international and current rugby pundit Neil Francis has questioned whether an asterix should be placed beside South Africa’s recent Rugby World Cup victory due to the use of steroids in the country.

Francis, who is known for being controversial, has pointed out that many questions are yet to be answered surrounding the use of the illegal substances among the nation in recent years and singled out the story of winger Aphiwe Dyantyi.

The Lions player was found to have multiple anabolic steroids and metabolites in his system earlier this year and Francis wonders whether he is not the only one using the performance enhances among his peers.

“Despite Siya Kolisi’s heart-warming humility and Rassie Erasmus’ astonishing turnaround of not just a team in decline but the sport at every level in that country, questions still have to be asked,” wrote Francis. Let’s get back to the kernel of the issue. Dyantyi is a superstar and if he was based in Europe he would surely be facing a four-year ban. He is, however, based in South Africa, where Chilliboy Ralepele managed to continue playing and finish his career at the Sharks despite being twice caught and suspended for prohibited substances. Dyantyi may well get what is due to him but here is the problem: The scope and the scale of the investigation is purely limited to the player himself,” he said.

The former Irish lock went on to discuss a recent survey among young children in the country which showed that 10% admitted to using steroids.

“In a recent state-sponsored survey conducted by the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport, a poll of 12,000 high schoolboys showed that 10 per cent of them took anabolic steroids. The poll was conducted in the KWA Zulu-Natal region of the country. Why would high school boys admit to taking steroids if they had not taken them in the first place? It’s only a sample but 1,200 boys, some as young as 13? Where did these children get this stuff? How could their parents not know? How could the schools and the unions not know?” he added.

He finished up by stating that Dyantyi may have been unlucky enough to get caught whereas others may be getting off the hook, and has raised the debate as to the Springboks World Cup winning campaign.

“Is Dyantyi, a poster boy for the World Cup and winner of World Rugby’s young player of the year, the only one? Or the only one to be caught? The player in my view will go down but the system stays in place. What were we saying about latitude and dispensation? Do we need to put an asterisk beside the winners of the 2019 World Cup?” he concluded.

South Africa claimed their third Webb Ellis Cup with an impressive 32-12 victory over England in the final earlier this month, becoming the most successful side in the competition’s history in the process. The win was celebrated far and wide but Francis has raised question marks which are sure to start debates among fans.

International

Rugby Australia slams Rassie Erasumus’ comments surrounding Nic Berry

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Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images

Rugby Australia has condemned the commentary from South African Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus surrounding the performance of Nic Berry.

Berry found himself in the ire of the World Cup-winning coach following their first Test defeat against the British & Irish Lions.

In bizarre scenes during the week, Erasmus released an hour-long video in which he launches an unprecedented and ugly attack on Berry.

This has led to a swift response from RA, who labelled his actions ‘unacceptable’ in a statement late Friday afternoon.

“Rugby Australia has noted with dismay and concern the recent public commentary by South African Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, regarding Australian referee Nic Berry and other match officials,” the statement read.

“There is no place for abuse of match officials in Australian Rugby, with Rugby Australia committed to promoting a fair, safe and inclusive Rugby experience for all participants, officials and fans.”

Springboks score 55 metre try off the back of an uncharacteristic loose pass from Pollard

RA CEO Andy Marinos confirmed they have taken the issue up with World Rugby as they continue to show support for Berry.

“Match officials form the very fabric of our game – simply, the game would not exist without them. As a highly regarded and respected international referee appointed by World Rugby, the attack on Nic’s integrity, character and reputation is unacceptable,” Marinos said.

“We have been in contact with World Rugby, under whose auspices this Test Series sit, and understand that they are actively reviewing this matter as some facts presented were not accurate.

“It is important to ensure public attacks of this nature are not tolerated. We will continue to provide support to Nic at this time, as both his physical and mental wellbeing remains a priority for us.”

World Rugby released a statement on Thursday announcing they would look into the disturbing comments by Erasmus, who has found himself in hot water throughout the series for his strange role as a water boy.

“World Rugby notes the comments made by Rassie Erasmus. The nature of these will be raised with the union via the usual official channels and no further comment will be made at this stage,” they added.

Source – Australia Rugby

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6 Nations

IRFU Outline Difficult Road Ahead At Annual Council Meeting

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Annual Council Meeting of the Irish Football Rugby Union has been advised that despite ongoing work across the professional and domestic game to ensure the continuing safe participation in rugby, the IRFU is still at significant financial risk due to the persisting impact of COVID 19.

Patrick Kennedy, Honorary Treasurer, told delegates at the on-line meeting that despite many positive developments such as the ongoing vaccination rollout, successful pilot test events and the gradual relaxation of government restrictions, that rugby is “far from out of the woods”.

Kennedy outlined that without the assistance and commitment of government, sponsors, broadcasters, and patrons the IRFU would not have survived as it has, and that continued support remains vital.

Advising that the IRFU’s financial year end would move permanently to 31 July, to ensure alignment with the new global season, Kennedy confirmed that a full financial update will be issued from the Union in November following the presentation of the audited accounts for 2020/21 to the meeting of the IRFU Council at that time.

At the meeting it was confirmed that current President, Des Kavanagh, Senior Vice President, John Robinson and Junior Vice President, Greg Barrett, will remain in their respective roles for the forthcoming season, due to the impact COVID 19 had on their terms in office last season.

On the day that Munster’s Fiona Steed and Connacht’s Yvonne Comer (pictured) were appointed to the Union Committee, delegates were reminded that, following approval of governance changes at a special EGM in June, from 2023 a minimum of one in four nominees to the IRFU Committee from each Province must be female.

IRFU Thank Government For Support

Speaking of the challenging environment Philip Browne, CEO, told irishrugby.ie,

“Irish Rugby is continuing to grapple with the most significant financial crisis in our history and we are expecting to report another year of losses in 2021, when our audited accounts are released later this year.”

The key issue remains the absence of fans at provincial grounds and the Aviva Stadium. The IRFU continues to address this particularly through its active participation in   the cross-sport working party on return of fans to stadia.  “We have made encouraging progress in recent weeks with the return of increasing numbers of supporters to various sporting and cultural events, which leaves us hopeful that fans may return in meaningful numbers to our grounds in Autumn.  I would like to thank the government, in particular Minister Chambers and his department officials for their commitment to facilitating the safe progressive return of fans to stadia.

“As the only sporting organisation fully supporting a professional game, we are dependent on the national and provincial teams’ ability to generate revenues which have been decimated by the impact of COVID restrictions since March 2020.” Browne added.

Looking back at his most challenging season at the helm of Irish Rugby, Browne reiterated that the IRFU had to implement a 10% permanent cost base reduction, approved by the Union in March of this year and with that came some difficult decisions, despite a critically important grant of €18m from government in respect of loss of revenues in 2020.

“As in many industries, regrettably we have had job losses and pay cuts across the organisation for the last 12 months while we also eliminated all non-critical overheads.”

Looking at forward financial projections Browne outlined ‘We understand that Sport Ireland and the Department are discussing, with government, proposals for additional emergency funding for sport.  We made a submission to Minister Chambers setting out expected further significant cash income losses for the IRFU and Provinces in 2021 arising from COVID 19 restrictions.

The meeting heard that the bulk of the 2021 losses are already realised as the 2020/21 season has now concluded and the IRFU, alone, has suffered a 47% reduction in turnover for the six months to the end of June 2021, compared to the first half of 2019.

Browne explained, “Our two largest income-generating home games every two years against England and France were held behind closed doors with a loss of match income of over €16m. These are the games that keep Irish Rugby going.”

The challenges for rugby are clear and without the assistance of the government’s EWSS employment supports, which the IRFU and Provinces continue to receive, and the PAYE debt warehousing scheme, Browne said that the IRFU would now be facing a more bleak situation. 

“The schemes available from the government are vitally important to on-going operations, but these result in accumulated debt of c. €30m in PAYE to date, this will eventually have to be paid.

“Without additional government funding in 2021, and a return of fans to our stadia in meaningful numbers later this year, the IRFU would once again have to review all activities and swiftly implement another round of very unpalatable cost reductions. Further cuts, if necessary, would have a significant impact on the organisation and all activities from grassroots to pro game pathways.”

Searching for a positive in the current environment Brown said “The importance of pathways and programmes is always at the forefront of our minds and is perfectly demonstrated by the huge success of our men’s sevens team qualifying for the Olympics, for the first time.

“We also managed to host all of our International match fixtures and all, but one, Provincial game in Ireland, albeit behind closed doors. We also continued supporting the severely restricted levels of club activities. This was done safely thanks to the development, implementation, and compliance across Irish Rugby of robust COVID 19 protocols.

“I would like to thank our committee and playing and non-playing staff for their commitment, and of course the volunteers across our clubs for doing their very best to ensure that Irish Rugby continued to function and emerge from this crisis.

“It is important we acknowledge these achievements, given the disruption and challenges we have all experienced this year.  As is always the case, success on the pitch can give the whole nation a lift including this week’s historic first involvement of an Ireland Sevens team at the Olympic Games.”

Source –  Irish Rugby

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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

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