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SA teams will take European rugby to a new level

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Springbok star Handre Pollard believes the South African teams will take the Heineken Champions Cup to “a completely different level”, just as they have done with the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

Pollard’s former team, the Vodacom Bulls, will join the DHL Stormers and the Cell C Sharks in taking part in Europe’s elite event for the first time this weekend.

They qualified through finishing in the top eight in the Vodacom URC last season, with the DHL Stormers going on to win the title, beating the Vodacom Bulls in the final.

Those two sides currently lie third and second respectively in the Vodacom URC table after the opening nine rounds of matches, with the Emirates Lions – who are in the second-tier European Challenge Cup – occupying fifth spot.

Rugby World Cup winning flyhalf Pollard, who joined English champions Leicester from French champions Montpellier in the summer, is convinced having the South African sides in Europe is a positive step forward.

“I understand completely some people are like ‘What are they doing here?’,” said the 28-year-old from the Western Cape.

“But I think, after a year or two, it’ll really benefit the competition. It took the Vodacom URC to a completely different level and I honestly believe they’ll be the same with the Champions Cup.

“The South Africa teams will bring a great new flavour to the competition. They have been playing a really nice, attacking brand of rugby in the URC, while the physicality is the difference between the top four or five teams in the Champions Cup. It’s bred into us, so that part of the game is pretty set.

Handre Pollard will play for the Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Champions Cup this season.

Handre Pollard will play for the Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Champions Cup this season.

“The clubs in South Africa will have to become smarter tactically to compete with the top teams in Europe. It might take them a couple of years to find their feet, because it’s so different, but I think it’ll be great. People will enjoy it.

“The weather is going to play a role. Going to South Africa in January, it’s going to be hot, humid, and tough, and then the next week you come up here in the snow! It’s going to be very interesting to see how the teams can adjust.”

The 65-times capped Pollard says being involved in European Cup competition will be a great experience for players in his homeland.

“Seven, eight years ago, we were saying to ourselves that the Champions Cup is so awesome and we wished we were playing in it,” he said.

“I was saying how I’d like to come to England to play in it and now the boys are playing in it anyway!

“For them to come over and play in the Stade Michelin against Clermont, or go to the Aviva and play Leinster, it will be great to see our young guys in South Africa take that pressure, thrive under it and learn from it. It’ll be a great learning experience. I’m very excited to see what they can do.

“Hopefully some of the South African teams can do well this season, just to get our fans more of a taste for what it is like going into the play-offs. People might be pretty sceptical in the beginning, not understanding quite, but I think they will quickly realise it is massive and they’ll enjoy it. Every game is tough in the Champions Cup, there is no easy game.”

Pollard is currently sidelined, having injured a knee on his Leicester debut against Saracens in early October, but he is looking to return to action in the new year, with his club facing European group opposition from the Ospreys and Clermont Auvergne.

Content & Images from – South Africa Rugby


International

NZR announces All Blacks home Tests in Auckland and Dunedin

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The All Blacks will play two Tests on home turf this year against South Africa in Auckland and Australia in Dunedin.

The Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship 2023 schedule will see the All Blacks play South Africa at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland on Saturday 15 July. The Bledisloe Cup returns to Dunedin for the first time since 2017, in a rare afternoon home Test match (2.35PM kick off) for the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium on 5 August. 

All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said:

“The Rugby Championship is an exciting but tough draw.”

“Playing the Argentinians in Argentina is an exciting challenge after not being there since 2019. With the challenges of stadium availability in Australasia, we are delighted to play this huge South African Test at Mt Smart. We believe it’s key for the connection with our fans to have this massive game in our backyard and can’t wait. 

“The Dunedin Test is also equally important for us because it’s our last chance to play in front of our fans before we head off for an exciting Rugby World Cup.”

The two home Tests will be part of a 2023 schedule which will see the All Blacks play five Tests in the build up to the Rugby World Cup in France in September.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Head of Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum said it was important to the All Blacks to be able to play in Aotearoa in a Rugby World Cup year.

“Although there is a shortened Rugby Championship schedule, there will no doubt be an edge to the Test matches played this year. The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup remain vitally important to New Zealand Rugby, I know Foz [Foster] and the team are looking forward to the season kicking off as they continue to build ahead of the Rugby World Cup in September.”

The All Blacks Test matches will be broadcast exclusive to Sky, live and on demand. Pre-sale and public sale tickets to the All Blacks Test Matches will go on sale in early May, with exact dates to be confirmed. The Black Ferns schedule will also be announced in due course.

All Blacks 2023 Test Schedule

The Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship
vs Argentina, Saturday 8 July, Estadio Malvinas Argentina, MENDOZA
vs South Africa, Saturday 15 July, 7.05PM, Mt Smart Stadium, AUCKLAND
vs Australia, 29 July, location and time TBC (Bledisloe Cup match one)

Bledisloe Cup (match two)
vs Australia, Saturday 5 August, 2.35PM, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN

Test Match
vs South Africa, Friday 25 August, 7.30PM, Twickenham Stadium, LONDON

About the Bledisloe Cup

Lord Bledisloe, Governor General of New Zealand from 1930 to 1935, bequeathed a trophy to the New Zealand Rugby Union with his name on it for perpetual competition between the All Blacks and Wallabies. The two countries have been playing for the Bledisloe Cup since 1931 and it is the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy in rugby union.

The All Blacks are current holders of the Bledisloe Cup.

Content & Images from – New Zealand Rugby


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6 Nations

Blade And Milne Join Ireland Squad For France Week

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Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade and Leinster loosehead prop Michael Milne have joined the Ireland squad today as the group assembled this afternoon at the IRFU High Performance Centre in Dublin.

Blade was capped against the USA in July 2021 while the uncapped Milne was part of the Emerging Ireland squad that competed in Bloemfontein in the Autumn.

Jamison Gibson-Park and Cian Healy, who were both late withdrawals from the Wales game due to hamstring injuries, have been ruled out of contention for the France game. Tadhg Furlong, who is rehabbing a calf issue, is also not being considered for selection this week.

Gibson Park, Healy and Furlong will continue their rehab programmes with the Ireland medical team.

Johnny Sexton will complete the HIA process later today and Ronan Kelleher is due to return to training this week.

Roman Salanoa and Tom Stewart who joined the squad last week have been retained for preparations ahead of Round 2 of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championships

Ireland Squad 2023 Guinness Six Nations – Round 2: 

Backs (18)

Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 42 caps
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) 1 cap
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 15 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 8 caps
Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution) 2 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 98 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 23 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht/Corinthians) 9 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 26 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Marys College) 30 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 16 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 10 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 101 caps
Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster/Naas) 3 caps
Jamie Osborne (Leinster/Naas) *
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 48 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 110 caps (c)
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 35 caps

Forwards (23)

Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 8 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 28 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 37 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 34 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 24 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 63 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 121 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 69 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 32 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 18 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 49 caps
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin University) 1 cap
Michael Milne (Leinster/UCD) *
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 90 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 5 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 49 caps
Cian Prendergast (Connacht/Corinthians) 1 cap
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 49 caps
Roman Salanoa (Munster/Shannon) *
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 14 caps
Tom Stewart (Ulster/Ballynahinch) *
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 46 cap

*denotes uncapped player

2023 Guinness Six Nations Fixtures:

IRELAND v France
Saturday 11th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
RTE TV / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

Italy v IRELAND
Saturday 25th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
RTE TV / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

Scotland v IRELAND
Sunday 12th March 2023, KO 15:00 (IST)
RTE TV / BBC / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

IRELAND v England
Saturday 18th March 2023, KO 17:00 (IST)
VIRGIN / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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Eddie upbeat for ‘intriguing’ World Cup

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Eddie Jones admits the Wallabies are in the chasing pack but still close enough to catch the favourites and win September’s Rugby World Cup.

Jones, after a 15-minute technical glitch, gave his first wide-ranging interview from England on Thursday after his shock appointment on Monday.

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He said the battle to wear the No.10 jersey in France was wide open, touched on the side’s ill-discipline and current eligibility laws, assessed the health of the code in Australia and had a neat return-of-serve to rugby league powerbroker Peter V’landys in the latest code-war chapter.

But when asked if he genuinely thought the inconsistent world No.6 side could win the World Cup this year, he was serious.

“There’s no long term; the whole thing is to win the World Cup in 2023,” said Jones, who is on a five-year contract.

“We have to concentrate on areas that will make the biggest difference to the performance of the team and we have to get selection right.
“And we’ve got to create an environment where players are going to give that little bit more, because nobody knows how much they can give.”

Jones will have just five Tests to prepare his men before the Cup and he turned to racing parlance to assess the current power rankings.

He says feels there’s still time for the field to settle with the team who improves the most between now and October set for victory.

“At the moment France and Ireland, in a horse race they’re at the front on the top of the rise,” he said.

“But there’s still plenty of work to do.

“Australia and England are nestled behind them and the team that improves the most over the next nine months will win the World Cup.

“This is the most intriguing World Cup we’ve ever seen.

“Throw in the volatility of the refereeing at the moment with red and yellow cards.

“You’ve got all these things happening that give us this massive opportunity.”

He said every player would have a chance to “select themselves” in club rugby and that replacing Rennie before his contract was to expire at the end of this year wasn’t in his control.

“I wasn’t thinking, ‘I can do this better than Dave, or, I’m a better person’, it’s not that at all,” he said.

“It’s the fact that there was an opportunity there that as an Australian when you get a chance to coach your country you want to do it, mate.”

In a boost for James O’Connor’s hopes after he was cut from Rennie’s extended squad, Jones said he’d base selection on Super Rugby Pacific form and keep an eye on his foreign-based playmakers.

But Jones admits time isn’t on his side when it comes to settling on a preferred partnership, with rival five-eighth Quade Cooper’s recovery from an Achilles tear counting against him.

“We are going to have to decide quite quickly who we think are the best nines and tens and 12s, particularly, to try and build up that cohesion,” he said.

Content & Images from – Australia Rugby


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