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Key players out for Springboks

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(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made three changes to his starting team for the clash, two of which were personnel changes and one positional switch, mainly due to injuries to the influential Pieter-Steph du Toit (flanker) and Faf de Klerk (scrumhalf).

With Du Toit, the World Rugby Player of the Year in 2019, having taken a knock to the shoulder in the second Test last weekend, Franco Mostert moves from lock to the side of the scrum, while Lood de Jager is promoted from the bench to the starting team and will start alongside Eben Etzebeth in the second row.

The other change is at scrumhalf, where Cobus Reinach replaces De Klerk, who has been ruled out due to a muscle strain in his leg.

Nienaber opted to name three backs on the bench, with Steyn (flyhalf) joining Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) and Damian Willemse (utility back).

Should Steyn take the field, it would mark a significant occasion for the player, as it would officially see him participate in back-to-back Castle Lager Lions Series tournaments. He kicked the penalty goal that sealed the series victory in 2009, while it would also see Steyn make a return to Test rugby for the first time in five years, after last playing against New Zealand in 2016.

Franco Mostert moves from lock to flank.

“This is a massive Test for us with the Castle Lager Lions Series on the line, so it was important for us to maintain consistency in selection following on last week’s performance,” said Nienaber.

“Pieter-Steph du Toit was ruled out due to the shoulder injury he suffered last week, but we are fortunate to have experienced players such as Franco and Lood who can step in and who have the physical presence we need in those roles.

“Cobus is also an experienced player with a calm head and who can handle pressure, and we believe he will be able to dictate play well alongside Handré Pollard, while Herschel Jantjies has been great in adding the necessary spark we need off the bench, and will be asked to fulfil that role again.”

Nienaber was thrilled to see midfielder De Allende, who made his Test debut against Argentina in 2014, reach this significant career milestone and said: “It doesn’t get any bigger than earning a 50th Test cap in a series decider against the British & Irish Lions.

“We are excited for Damian and we know what it will mean to him and the team to win this match. He has been a key figure in the Bok team in the last few seasons and it gives us great pride to see him achieve this feat.”

Nienaber was also pleased to see Steyn back in the Bok jersey for the first time in years.

Cobus Reinach will start at scrumhalf on Saturday.

“I am delighted for Morné – he is a world class player and his work ethic and positive attitude on and off the field since joining the team in Bloemfontein has been impressive,” said the Bok coach.

“He can also perform under extreme pressure, as he shown for the Springboks and the Bulls, and that skill will be invaluable in such a vital Test.”

Looking forward to the match, Nienaber said he is expecting an epic battle and that the Boks were ready to give everything to win the Series.

“This group of players are among a handful of players in the history of South African rugby that have an opportunity to clinch a series against the Lions after winning the Rugby World Cup, and every player in this squad understands what a rare honour that is,” said Nienaber.

“I don’t think one needs any more motivation than that to win this weekend. We are preparing for a physical encounter and we know that every small battle will count if we want to win the series.

“This match is as important to us as it is for the Lions, so we know it is going to be tight, and we will have to capitalise on every opportunity we have to score points, and be effective in every area of our game.

Morne Steyn is back in a Bok match-23 for the first time since 2016.

“As Springboks, big moments such as these excite us, so we plan to go out there and give everything we have to clinch the Series.”

Mathieu Raynal (France) will referee the match, with Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) and Nic Berry (Australia) serving as assistant referees, while Marius Jonker (South Africa) will be the television match official.

When it comes to the betting, the bookies seem to agree that South Africa are quite big favourites with odds of 8/11 being the current best. You will be able to find odds of 7/5 for a Lions win and as big as 22/1 for the draw if you fancy an outside bet. If you are considering a bet then maybe check out one of the many free bet websites such as free-bets.uk.com to see if there are any free bets you can claim to use on the match as well.

Springbok team to face the British & Irish Lions:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 64 caps, 60 pts (12t)
14 – Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse) – 16 caps, 40 pts (8t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 17 caps, 20 pts (4t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Munster) – 49 caps, 30 pts (6t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 16 caps, 75 pts (15t)
10 – Handré Pollard (vice-captain, Montpellier) – 51 caps, 494 pts (6t, 79c, 98p, 4d)
9 – Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) – 15 caps, 35pts (7t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 2 caps, 0 pts
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 42 caps, 5pts (1t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 53 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks) – 47 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – 88 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 41 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers) – 39 caps, 40 pts (8t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 50 caps, 5pts (1t)

Replacements:
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 36 caps, 30 pts (6t)
17 – Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) – 45 caps, 5 pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Saracens) – 22 caps, 0 pts
19 – Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls) – 4 caps, 0 pts
20 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 9 caps, 5 pts (1t)
21 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 13 caps, 25 pts (5t)
22 – Morné Steyn (Vodacom Bulls) – 66 caps, 736 points (8t, 102c, 154p, 10d)
23 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 9 caps, 5pts (1t)

Milestones:

  • Handré Pollard needs six points to reach 500 Test points and two penalty goals to strike 100 penalty goals.
  • The Springboks need two tries to reach 100 tries and one conversion to reach 50 conversions against the British & Irish Lions in this the 49th Test match since 1891.

Miscellaneous:

  • The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is
  • There are 228 caps in the backline with 414 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 140
  • The average caps per player in the backline are 32, the forwards 51 while the players on the bench average 17.

6 Nations

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Image Credit: London Irish

London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.

O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011. 

He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017. 

O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation. 

On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions. 

“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years. 

“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy. 

“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.

“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland. 

“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old. 

“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport. 

“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them. 

“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us. 

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.

“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career. 

“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey. 

“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family. 

“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years. 

“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then. 

“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. 

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”

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6 Nations

Ryan And Baird Ruled Out Of Scotland Game. 2 called up.

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ireland squad returned to Dublin on Saturday evening following the victory over England at Twickenham and reassembled at Carton House on Sunday evening.

James Ryan will not be considered for selection this week and his return to rugby protocols will be supervised by the Leinster Medical Team. Ryan Baird is ruled out of the final fixture of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations with a back issue.

Uncapped locks Ross Molony and Joe McCarthy have been called up to train with the squad. Ross has been involved in Ireland squads since the summer of 2021 while Joe, a former Ireland U20 player, made his Leinster debut against Cardiff in January having impressed for Dublin University in the Energia AIL.

Robert Baloucoune, Nick Timoney and Mike Lowry all return after lining out for Ulster in the URC against Leinster at the weekend.

Ireland play Scotland in the final round of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship on Saturday 19th March at 4.45pm. The game is being televised by Virgin (ROI) and ITV (NI).

Ireland Squad Round 5 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championships

Backs (16)
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 36 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 2 caps
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 31 caps
Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 11 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 5 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 30 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 16 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 3 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 56 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 3 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 19 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 11 caps
Michael Lowry (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 95 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 41 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 104 caps CAPTAIN

Forwards (19)
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 22 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 29 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 26 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 16 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 56 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 115 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 6 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 67 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 25 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 47 caps
Jeremy Loughman (Munster/Garryowen) uncapped
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin) uncapped
Ross Molony (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 83 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 6 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 2 caps
Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 4 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 39 caps

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6 Nations

Johnny Sexton Signs Contract Extension to 2023 Rugby World Cup

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Photo Credit - Irish Rugby

Ireland and Leinster out-half Johnny Sexton has signed a contract extension up until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

In November Johnny earned his 100th cap for Ireland against Japan and played a pivotal role in Ireland’s third defeat of New Zealand. He hit the milestone of 500 Six Nations Championship points against Wales in Round 1 of this year’s tournament and has represented Ireland on 103 occasions to date.

The former World Player of the Year was appointed Ireland captain by Andy Farrell in January 2020 and has led the team to ten victories in his 13 game tenure as the on field general.

Johnny made his international debut against Fiji in November 2009 and has represented Ireland at three Rugby World Cups (2011, 2015 & 2019). Johnny is a two time Lions tourist (2013 & 2017) and has won three Six Nations titles with Ireland and five European Cups with Leinster. He has represented his provinces on 178 occasions, scoring 1549 points.

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented: “Johnny’s performances continue to be of the highest standard and he remains an integral member of the Ireland and Leinster squads.  He has always been a leader on the field and in the past two years since taking on the Ireland captaincy his leadership off it has been top class. Johnny is a generational player and we are delighted that he has extended to 2023.”

 Johnny Sexton, commented: “I always said that if I am enjoying my rugby and the Ireland and Leinster set-ups believe I can add value to the environment then it would be an easy decision to sign another contract.  There is some great talent coming through at Leinster at present and I am excited about the prospect of competing at a fourth World Cup with Ireland and the potential for growth in this group between now and then.”

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