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O’Shea Lands RFU Role

Conor O’Shea will take up a new role with the RFU from 2020 it has been confirmed

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(Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) have confirmed that Conor O’Shea will take up the role of director of performance from 2020, following the departure of Nigel Melville.

The former Italy head coach will now become responsible for the leadership, management and strategy direction of professional rugby in England, in a bid to help achieve the goal of sustainable success at international level. 

The 49-year-old will report to CEO Bill Sweeney, and will oversee the England player, coaching and match officials in both the men’s and women’s game in both sevens rugby and 15’s. While he will work closely with England men’s head coach Eddie Jones. 

Having left his role as Italy’s head coach last month following a four-year spell in charge, O’Shea has not had to wait long to find a new position and he is delighted to have been handed the opportunity. 

“I’m privileged and honoured and it’s an incredible opportunity to join at a really exciting time for English rugby. I’ve spent the last four years in Italy, six years at Harlequins and before that 10 years at London Irish, so I feel I know the system pretty well. The good times, the bad times, winning things and being competitive, so I can relate to the people and challenges that happen within our system. I have learned a huge amount internationally in the last few years as well,” he said. 

The former Ireland international is excited with what he has heard so far from the RFU and hopes to build on the foundations already in place. 

“There is an exciting vision at the RFU. It is not just about winning tomorrow, but also about sustaining success and winning long into the future. We can really look forward to rejuvenating and re-energising the performance pathway to help, support and push England rugby on. As well as our relationships with all stakeholders, it’s about women’s rugby, sevens, referees and coach development, which is absolutely fundamental. There has been some fantastic work done over a long period of time in these areas and there have been some challenges for various reasons as well. Now hopefully there is an opportunity to have stability, with the ability to invest and really push forward and challenge ourselves to become better. We are here to provide a sustainable winning environment and I hope I can play my part in creating that,” he added. 

Having spent time with both London Irish and Harlequins in England before, O’Shea has plenty of experience in the country and adding in his time at international level Sweeney believes that he is a good fit for what they are looking for. 

“Conor comes here with existing knowledge of how we operate. He has a good rounded balance of what it takes to be part of a high-performance system and he understands the world of the Premiership and the Six Nations so all of those are important credentials for us. His principle focus will be rebuilding the performance pathway and the coach development side. It is a wide-ranging role. We have our role to play in Team GB and the Olympics in Tokyo and the women’s game continues to go from strength-to-strength. He is responsible for making sure we continue that growth and we have a really good strategy in place for how we will compete in the women’s game at the highest level,” he said. 

As mentioned above O’Shea comes in to replace Melville, who was the professional rugby director, who set the ball in motion on both the men’s and women’s stage over the past few years. 

All England’s sides have been successful in the past couple of years, with their women’s team winning a Six Nations Grand Slam, the men’s team reaching the Rugby World Cup final, and Saracens claiming the European Champions Cup this year alone and O’Shea will hope to continue the good work. 

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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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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