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International

Gatland Confirmed as Lions Head Coach for Third Time

Warren Gatland has been announced as the British & Irish Lions head coach for a third successive tour and has also put one rumour to bed at his unveiling

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Warren Gatland has been confirmed as the British & Irish Lions head coach for the third time for their tour of South Africa in 2021. 

The 55-year-old will have the opportunity to complete the touring cycle having already taken charge of the side in Australia in 2013 and in New Zealand in 2017.

Gatland is delighted to have been given the chance and is looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m hugely honoured and delighted to lead the Lions again. It is exciting and a great challenge to coach the best players from the four Home Nations. The Lions rightly have a truly special place in the game and I jumped at the chance to be involved again when I was approached about the role,” he said.

Having previously toured with the side as forwards coach in their 2009 defeat to South Africa, Gatland is motivated to put one over on the Springboks.

“South Africa is a special place to play rugby. They have some of the most iconic stadiums in the world which will be packed full of passionate fans, and the Springboks have shown in recent times that they are back to being one of the dominant forces in the game. Having toured there in 2009 I know the scale of the task ahead of us – playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges such as playing at altitude, while the Boks will always be physical, aggressive and highly motivated,” he added.

The Wales coach is set to leave following the conclusion of this year’s World Cup in Japan and is positive ahead of the tournament and the tour in two years.

“History tells you it’s a tough place to tour, but I am 100 per cent confident that we can go there and win – I would not be here if I thought differently. I’m delighted to now have everything in place to begin full-time in August 2020 as that gives me the best possible chance to plan for South Africa, but for the time being my focus is entirely on the Rugby World Cup and delivering a successful campaign for Wales,” he said.

Gatland has already been confirmed as the head coach of a Barbarians team that will take on Wales in November and had been rumoured to be in contention to become the next England head coach.

However, Gatland has taken the opportunity to clarify where he stands on the prospect of leading the Red Roses.

“I can categorically tell you now I will definitely not be coaching England,” he said to TalkSport ending any talk of him taking over from Eddie Jones.

It is rumoured that he could make a move to Super Rugby and eventually be in with a chance of managing the All Blacks, but nothing is certain.

Gatland will be hoping to keep his unbeaten run going with the Lions having overseen a 2-1 series win with Australia before leading the side to a draw with New Zealand four years later.

International

All Black Star to Turn Out for Grassroots Side

An All Blacks legend is set to play for a grassroots outfit in order to gain match fitness ahead of the Rugby World Cup

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Blues and All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams could play for club side Ponsonby for the next two weekends in a bid to gain vital match fitness ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

Williams has been unfortunate with injuries during this years Super Rugby campaign, limiting him to only three starts, making his last appearance on June 15th following 10 weeks out after undergoing knee surgery.

With such a small amount of rugby under his belt in recent months The New Zealand Herald are reporting that his solution is to play for grassroots side Ponsonby.

It is believed that he has already spoken to and agreed terms to play with former All Black Kevin Senio and sevens star Rocky Khan, who are involved with the club.

Williams is a contracted Counties player and had to seek clearance in order to turn out for Ponsonby, which has apparently been granted.

If he is selected, Williams could face Grammar TEC this weekend and Eden the following week in what would be vital game time for the 33-year-old.

Ponsonby has produced the most All Blacks of any grassroots team, including recent stars Rieko and Akira Ioane.

Williams will be desperate to prove himself with the All Blacks starting their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina on July 21st and will be hoping to make it to Japan in the long run as New Zealand seek their third World Cup in a row.

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International

Ireland Star Returns from Injury Lay-Off

Ireland have been handed a massive boost ahead of their World Cup preparations as a key man has confirmed he is fit and ready to go

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Leinster and Ireland lock Devin Toner has confirmed that he is back in training after a nasty knee injury in what will be a huge relief to Joe Schmidt.

Toner went off injured during Leinster’s PRO 14 semi-final win over rivals Munster last month and there was a fear that he had done serious damage.

However, while speaking at a launch of for Energia’s new official energy partnership with Irish Rugby and being title sponsors to the All-Ireland League, the second rower confirmed he has been back training since last week.

“It’s great, I’d say if there was a game coming up, I’d probably be able to play. I’m not doing contact or mauling or anything. I’m just doing kind of linear running and stuff from side-to-side. If I had to play, I would be able to strap it up and be able to play,” he said.

He went on to discuss how the pre-season is working and how he will be raring to go within the next couple of weeks.

“The way pre-season is, we did a hard two-week block. We have a week next week where we still have to kind of train on our own and then we are back in. When we come back in for that week, I’m hell for leather doing everything then, so it’s grand. It could have been a lot worse than what it was,” he added.

Toner, who was unfortunate earlier in the year as he sustained a long-term ankle injury, and admitted he was worried that he would be missing for a long time once more initially but thankfully things weren’t as bad as he thought.

“To me it felt bad because I have never done my knee before. I felt a little bit of a pop, so I thought it was bad, but because I was able to walk off the pitch and put weight on it, they told me it wasn’t too bad. It was a grade-two medial. A lot of lads have done it and said it was grand and that I would be back in five or six weeks,” he finished.

Toner will certainly be on the plane to Japan as long as he can stay fit as Ireland head to the tournament looking to reach a first semi-final at a minimum.

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Ferris Wary of Growing Number of Overseas Coaches

Former Ireland international Stephen Ferris is concerned about the lack of home-grown coaches in Ireland

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Former Ireland and Ulster back rower Stephen Ferris is happy with Ireland’s appointment of Mike Catt but is worried about the serious lack of Irish coaches in the country.

Catt was confirmed as Ireland’s new attack coach over the weekend come the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

He became the last piece of future Irish head coach Andy Farrell’s backroom staff, with Farrell set to take the reigns of Ireland head coach when the tournament in Japan concludes.

However, with Farrell and Catt in the Ireland camp and Stuart Lancaster and Graham Rowntree at Leinster and Munster respectively next season, all of England’s coaching group from the 2015 Rugby World Cup will be on Irish shores.

Ferris, who was talking on 2FM’s Game On, admitted that Catt’s appointment makes sense as Farrell prepares to become the main man.

“They probably scoured the market to see who’s out there and Mike Catt obviously has a good relationship with Andy Farrell who is going to become the main man with Ireland. I think it’s a good appointment. Mike Catt is a seasoned professional with 70-odd caps for England and a couple of World Cup finals, so he comes with great pedigree and I think the lads will warm to him nicely,” he said.

However, he also pointed out that he believes there are a bit too many English coaches in Ireland and questioned why there is such a lack of Irish coaches in the backroom staff of the provinces and national set-ups.

“Maybe slightly for me, there’s too much of an English feel around this Irish team at the minute. I think their coaches see teams that are on the up and Munster with the appointment of [Stephen] Larkham as well, he sees that there’s an opportunity there for them to come good. But for me it’s almost like, Jerry Flannery – gone, Felix Jones – gone,” he added.

Ferris ended by saying that he believes Mark McCall could potentially make a future Ireland head coach and also congratulated the English coaches on taking their chances in Ireland.

“I think Mark McCall is the only one that’s really sticking his hand up to say that when Andy Farrell leaves or moves on or gets sacked, you never know, that he might put his hand up to be the next Irish coach. I think fair play to the lads, they’ve seen opportunities, the English guys and they’re going to give it their all and you can’t doubt what they’re going to bring. Look at Lancaster and what he’s brought, Johnny Sexton loves working under him. But fair play to the lads and hopefully they bring a lot to Irish rugby over the coming years,” he finished.

As well as Mike Catt, Farrell has also brought in Leinster man John Fogarty as the national side’s new scrum coach while Simon Easterby and Richie Murphy will continue as forwards specialist and kicking and skills coaches respectively.

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