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Six men’s U20 players to watch in 2021

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Following a hiatus of more than a year, rugby fans around the world will have a chance to run the rule over some of the men’s game’s brightest emerging talents this month.

The U20 Six Nations 2021, which was delayed as a result of COVID-19, will take place in Cardiff between 19 June and 13 July, as England go in search of a ninth title.

Next Friday, meanwhile, South Africa will welcome Argentina, Georgia and Uruguay to Stellenbosch for the U20 International Series.

Ahead of the action we picked out six players who could be set for a couple of months to remember.

Oscar Beard (England)

Beard made his English Premiership debut for Harlequins at Sale last Friday, lining up on the left wing and earning plaudits for his willingness to put his body on the line in defence.

It is in the centre that Beard has caught the eye at age-group level, though, and he appears to be the man in possession of England’s number 13 jersey as the U20 Six Nations approaches.

Still only 19, the outside-centre is a product of the Harlequins academy having played in the junior ranks of both Alton Rugby Club and Farnham RUFC, as World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Jonny Wilkinson did.

Beard will be joined in the England U20 squad by Harlequins team-mate Fin Baxter, and the young prop is another player to keep an eye on.

Joshua Brennan (France)

One of several players included in the France U20 squad with a famous surname, Brennan is the son of former Ireland international Trevor.

Brennan, who like his older brother Daniel came through the Toulouse academy, made his Six Nations U20 debut during last season’s curtailed tournament, and captained France against Wales.

The Dublin-born second-row played twice for the Toulouse first-team this season and scored a try in the final as the academy side beat Perpignan to the junior championship title.

Brennan’s Toulouse pack-mate Théo Ntamack, brother of Romain and son of Émile, is also in the France squad and will hope to carry his good recent form into the tournament in Wales.

Jordan Hendrikse (South Africa)

Fly-half Hendrikse will not turn 19 until 28 June, but his undoubted quality has already earned him first-team opportunities at Gauteng franchise, the Lions.

Hendrikse turned in a Player of the Match performance when he wore the number 10 jersey in the Lions’ 39-37 defeat to the Stormers last month, kicking 12 points in the process.

“He has got a special talent. More than him kicking the ball prodigiously, it’s the confidence that he brings in the way he organises everyone around him,” Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said after the Rainbow Cup contest.

If selected for the matches against Argentina, Georgia and Uruguay, Hendrikse will follow in the footsteps of older brother Jaden, who represented the Junior Springboks at the World Rugby U20 Championship 2019.

Ben Muncaster (Scotland)

Born in North Berwick, Muncaster travelled south of the border when he won a cricket and rugby scholarship to Rugby School in England.

Although he had a trial with Middlesex, it was with an oval ball that he excelled and his performances for Rugby, where William Webb Ellis is said to have invented the game almost 200 years ago, caught the attention of Leicester Tigers.

Muncaster spent his formative years in the Tigers academy before being lured back up to Scotland with Edinburgh last summer, and he subsequently made his senior debut during the Rainbow Cup win over Zebre in April.

Back-row forward, Muncaster has represented Scotland at both U18 and U19 level and has been included in his country’s squad for this year’s U20 Six Nations.

Davit Niniashvili (Georgia)

It remains to be seen whether Niniashvili will travel to Stellenbosch with Georgia U20 such has been his impact with the full Lelos squad.

Niniashvili has admitted that he felt “dazzled and excited” when he was first called up to the seniors last May, aged just 17.

But, he has gone on to excel on the test stage, winning his first caps as a replacement in the Autumn Nations Cup matches against Ireland and Fiji.

Full-back Niniashvili has since started matches against Russia (twice) and Spain, and scored his first international try in a 23-6 defeat of the Russians in Kaliningrad in March. 

It has also been confirmed that he will move to Top 14 club Lyon next season with countryman Beka Saghinadze.

Joaquín Oviedo (Argentina)

Number eight Oviedo was the surprise inclusion in Mario Ledesma’s training squad for Argentina’s 2020 test matches, receiving the call-up on his 19th birthday.

Oviedo did not make it onto the pitch in any of Los Pumas’ official matches, but will have learned an incredible amount training alongside Rodrigo Bruni and Facundo Isa.

He will now hope to put those lessons into practice when Argentina U20 face South Africa, Georgia and Uruguay in Stellenbosch.

Oviedo’s older brother Leonel is a hooker who featured at the World Rugby U20 Championship in both 2017 and 2018, and went on to play for the Argentina XV at the World Rugby Nations Cup 2019.

READ MORE: South Africa “no longer just a follower” when it comes to gender diversity in rugby >>

Source – World Rugby

International

SA matches postponed due to COVID variant risk

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

In a statement, organisers said that due to the sudden developments that had placed South Africa on the UK and EU travel red list the matches would be rescheduled for later this season.

“The safety and well-being of our participating clubs’ players, coaches, support staff and match officials is the foremost priority and the URC is currently working with the four visiting clubs – Cardiff Rugby, Munster Rugby, Scarlets and Zebre Parma – to facilitate their return as soon as possible,” the statement advised.

“This decision is based upon the latest guidance against non-essential travel to and from South Africa, the ban on direct flights to the UK and other home destinations and the potential hotel quarantines enforced upon those returning from South Africa.

“As has been the operating practice throughout the pandemic, the URC will continue engaging with our Medical Advisory Group, our union shareholders and respective governments to plan according to the latest health guidelines.

“A period of assessment will now be required to better understand the impact of these new travel restrictions and how to reschedule these games within the current season. Given the nature and speed of these developments URC will provide further updates at the appropriate time through official channels only.”

Source – South Africa Rugby

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Autumn Nations Cup

World Rugby approves birth right amendment for players to transfer unions

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  • New process can benefit players and the global competitiveness of rugby
  • Fairness and integrity key principles that underpin the framework
  • Approval follows extensive discussion and collaboration across the game
  • Revised Regulation will apply from 1 January 2022

The World Rugby Council has approved an amendment to the sport’s regulations governing national team representation that will now permit an international player to transfer once from one union to another subject to demonstrating a close and credible link to that union via birth right.

From 1 January, 2022, in order to transfer from one union to another under the revised Regulation 8 (eligibility), a player will need to achieve the below criteria:

  • The player must stand-down from international rugby for 36 months
  • The player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country
  • Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity

After 1 January 2022, any player who meets the above criteria can apply immediately for a transfer.

The Regulation 8 revisions will also align the “age of majority” across 15s and sevens. All players will now be ‘captured’ at 18 years of age to simplify the Regulation and improve union understanding and compliance.

Approval of the amended regulation follows requests by emerging nations and a subsequent wide-ranging consultation process with member unions, regions and International Rugby Players examining the possibility of amending the principle within Regulation that stipulates that a player may only represent one union at international level, save for specific circumstances relating to participation in the Olympic Games.

The benefits of the amendment include:

  • Simplicity and alignment: transfers are currently permitted in the context of participation in the Olympics in the sevens game. This amendment will create one aligned, simplified process across the game
  • Development of emerging nations: the player depth of emerging nations may be improved by permitting players, who have close and credible links to the “emerging union” through birth or ancestry, to “return” to those unions having previously represented another union
  • Player-focused approach: the process recognised the modern rugby environment, including global player movement, the current ability to capture players by selecting them on the bench, and the desire of some players to transfer having been selected a limited number of times for one union. It also examined the impact of any change on the integrity of the international competition landscape.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Approval of this landmark regulatory change is the culmination of detailed and widespread modelling and consultation across the game. We have listened to our membership and players and sought to update the regulation recognising the modern professional rugby environment without compromising the integrity of the international game.

“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birth right or parent or grandparent birth right while meeting strong criteria, including a 36-month stand down period. We believe that this is the fairest way to implement progressive change that puts players first while also having the potential to support a growing, increasingly competitive international men’s and women’s game.”

World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte added: “We have listened to our membership and honoured our pledge to undertake wide-ranging review of this important regulation. We have consulted, sought feedback from our unions, regions and most importantly to players’ representatives, before making a recommendation to the Council. This change to how international rugby operates will provide transformational opportunities to players with dual backgrounds, providing they meet the key criteria sets out in the Regulation 8.”

International Rugby Players CEO, Omar Hassanein said:“The proposal to change the rules around player eligibility is something that we have worked on over many years with our member associations. Many players across the world will now benefit from the chance to represent the country of their or their ancestors’ birth, serving as a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations, which in turn, will benefit the game as a whole.” 

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British & Irish Lions

Independent misconduct hearing update: Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby – 2 Month Ban

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An independent misconduct committee has found that behaviour displayed by SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus towards match officials during this year’s test series between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions constituted misconduct.

The committee was chaired by Christopher Quinlan QC, together with Nigel Hampton QC and Judge Mike Mika (both New Zealand).

Six charges were brought by World Rugby against Rassie Erasmus for various breaches of World Rugby Regulation 18 and World Rugby’s Code of Conduct. The charges in summary were that Mr Erasmus:

  1. threatened a match official that unless a requested meeting took place, he would publish footage containing clips criticising the match official’s performance and then making good on that threat; published or permitted to be published the Erasmus Video containing numerous comments that were either abusive, insulting and/or offensive to match officials;
  2. attacked, disparaged and/or denigrated the game and the match officials;
  3. did not accept or observe the authority and decisions of match officials;
  4. published or caused to be published criticism of the manner in which a match official handled a match;
  5. engaged in conduct or activity that may impair public confidence in the integrity and good character of match official(s); and
  6. brought the game into disrepute when he published or caused to be published the Erasmus Video.

Having considered all the evidence, including oral evidence from the match officials, Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby, World Rugby, and submissions from the parties the committee found all six charges against Mr Erasmus proved.  

Two charges were brought by World Rugby against SA Rugby in accordance with World Rugby Regulation 18 and the World Rugby Code of Conduct. In summary, the charges were that SA Rugby:

  1. did not ensure that Rassie Erasmus complied with the World Rugby Code of Conduct and/or permitted Mr Erasmus to commit acts of misconduct; and/or did not publicly correct any comments or publications by or on behalf of Mr Erasmus that amounted to misconduct; and
  2. permitted and/or did not prevent Siya Kolisi and Mzwandile Stick to make comments at a press conference on 30 July, 2021 that were not disciplined or sporting and adversely affected the game of rugby; and/or did not publicly correct any such comments so as adversely affected the game of rugby.

Having considered all the evidence, including oral evidence from the match officials, Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby, World Rugby, and submissions from the parties, the committee found the first charge against SA Rugby proved.

Having considered submissions on behalf of both parties in respect of sanction, the independent committee decided on the following:

Rassie Erasmus

  • Suspension with immediate effect from all rugby activities for two months
  • Suspension from all match-day activities (including coaching, contact with match officials, and media engagement) with immediate effect until 30 September, 2022
  • A warning as to his future conduct and an apology to the relevant match officials.

SA Rugby

  • A fine of £20,000
  • A warning as to future conduct and an apology to the relevant match officials

The parties have seven days to appeal from receipt of the full written decision. 

The full written decision is available here.

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