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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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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.

6 Nations

Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province

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Leinster have confirmed that out-half Johnny Sexton will not feature in this weekend’s return fixture against the Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.

The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury. 

The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year. 

As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side. 

The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend. 

However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem. 

In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win. 

Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.

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All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year Confirmed

The All Blacks have had an off-colour year compared to their usual high standards but there were some stand-out performers and the players have cast their vote on their player of the year

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New Zealand back-rower Ardie Savea has been announced as the All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year for 2019.

The nation as a whole were disappointed with their year having lost out on the Rugby Championship and failing to retain their Rugby World Cup crown, with their rivals South Africa claiming both. 

However, despite all the downsides there were some stand-out performances and Savea has stood out among his peers for his showings this year beating fellow teammates Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read, Codie Taylor and Anton Lienert-Brown to the award. 

It brings Savea’s year to a bright ending after also being pipped to the World Player of the Year award by Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit last month. Although Savea will miss a chunk of the 2020 season having confirmed he will undergo surgery on a knee problem which will leave him side-lined for between four to six months.

Sevu Reece was handed the Players’ Super Rugby Player of the Year after finishing top of the try-scoring charts with the Crusaders

Meanwhile, in the women’s voting Charmaine McMenamin came out on top as the Players’ International Player of the Year. 

The New Zealand Rugby 2019 awards take place on Thursday with both Savea and McMenamin up for the Player of the Year award going up against Beauden Barrett and Lienert-Brown, and Black Ferns’ Kendra Cocksedge and Ayesha Leti-l’iga respectively.

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International

Cooper Talks About Kneeing McCaw in the Head

Quade Cooper has opened up on his career to date and in particular his controversial knee to Richie McCaw

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(Photo by CHRISTIAAN KOTZE/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia’s Quade Cooper has opened up on when he kneed former All Black Richie McCaw in the head and the backlash he received.

Cooper, a New Zealand-born Wallabies player, was talking on the Ice Project podcast with Isaac John about his rugby career to date and owned up to his “dirty” knee to McCaw’s head in a game leading up to the Rugby World Cup in 2011, admitting he apologised to the All Blacks legend years later.

“A few years later I’ve seen Richie in the airport and I went up to him and said, ‘Sorry about that’. It’s not that he didn’t care or he did care but, when I said sorry to him, I confronted it and said, ‘I really looked up to you as a kid, you were my idol, everyone in New Zealand loves you and I loved you, so when I played against you it was just emotion, passion took over, you were playing dirty on me and I kneed you. He’s one of the best at [dirty play],” he said.

The incident caused uproar among fans and the now veteran Wallaby, who has 70-caps to his name confirmed that he wasn’t ready for the backlash he received and how he couldn’t even go out.

“I look back at it now and I wasn’t ready for it. I had the expectation of 2011 of playing good football but now I had the pressure of all these guys hating me as well, and a whole country, not just the rugby public. I couldn’t go anywhere. I was on the team bus and there were signs ‘I hope you break your leg, I hope you die in this game’. If I had my time again, [because] I know how to handle it now, I’d just say, ‘Yeah I did it, so what?’. Not ‘So what?’, but ‘It’s part of footy, it was a bad play but I did it’, so what could people say?” he added.

In the end McCaw got the last laugh, going on to win the Rugby World Cup with New Zealand later that year.

Cooper’s career has had its ups and downs since, but he is now starting a new chapter in Japan with the Kintetsu Liners in the second-division where he will be hoping to stay out of the limelight.

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