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Steve Hansen makes decision on his future

All Blacks head coach has made a decision.

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Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

It’s been an action packed week for New Zealand rugby with Ben Smith announcing he’s off to France and Nehe Milner-Skudder also en-route to Europe. With a press conference called for 9am (NZ Time) was All Blacks coach Steve Hansen about to bring some good news or confirm that he too would be on his way.  

In typical laid back Steve’s fashion, he simply said, 

“I’m going”

The 59 year old whose contract is due to expire at the end of the 2019 World Cup will have been part of the All Blacks coaching ticket for 16 years. Prior to taking the head coach role in 2012 he worked as the assistant coach to Graham Henry.

“I just think that after 16 years it is the right time to move on after the World Cup. It is the right thing for the team. We can have a fresh pair of eyes come into the team,” said Hansen.

Hansen added, “It’s been a huge privilege to be part of the All Blacks for such a long time and I’m really looking forward to, and excited by the challenges, of the next 12 months. We’ll be attempting to do something that has never been done before – to win three consecutive Rugby World Cups. I’m highly motivated by that, as is the whole group, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

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Hansen felt it was important to make the announcement about his future now so that New Zealand Rugby had plenty of time to identify his successor.

“This is a critical process which shouldn’t be rushed and shouldn’t be made in the turbulent period that tends to follow a Rugby World Cup campaign.”

Hansen said he hadn’t made any decision on his future at present and his focus was on preparing for the 2019 season.

All Blacks Chairman Brent Impey has lead the tributes to Hansen.

“On behalf of the New Zealand Rugby Board, I’d like to thank Steve for his enormous contribution to our national game. He’s hugely respected, clear in his views, and will leave the job as one of the greatest ever All Blacks coaches.

“His record is unsurpassed. The All Blacks currently hold all the major trophies we play for, he played a critical role in the back-to-back-Rugby World Cup victories in 2011 and 2015, and we wish him and the team all the very best for next year’s campaign.

“Whatever happens next in Steve’s career, his place as a New Zealand rugby legend is guaranteed,” 

All Blacks Chairman Brent Impey

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said Hansen had overseen “one of the richest periods in All Blacks history.”

“On his watch the All Blacks have had a winning rate of close to 90 percent – a remarkable run of sustained success”

“As well as his success on the field, he will also be remembered for his bold selections and the way he and his management team provided the opportunity and environment for the players to achieve their full potential on the international stage.

“He cares deeply about the game and the wider issues facing it and his views are hugely respected not only in New Zealand but internationally.

“On behalf of New Zealand Rugby, we congratulate Steve, his wife Tash and his family on his contribution to New Zealand Rugby – and the contribution he’ll continue to make in 2019 – and we all look forward to what next year will bring.”

Without doubt, there will be a few names bandied about as potential successors with Joe Schmidt, Ian Foster and Scott Robertson already being mentioned. One thing that is for sure is that whoever gets the gig will have a tough act to follow.

Autumn Nations Cup

England announce 34 man squad

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Eddie Jones has named a 34-player England squad as they prepare for the Autumn Nations Series.

The squad will travel to Jersey on Monday 25 October for a five-day training camp before returning to England ahead of their trio of home fixtures against Tonga, Australia and South Africa.

Jones has included four uncapped players.  Nic Dolly and Tommy Freeman receive their first call-ups, along with Mark Atkinson and Raffi Quirke who joined up with the squad last month for a short training camp.

Eight players who made their debuts in England’s summer series have also been selected (Jamie Blamire, Callum Chick, Trevor Davison, Alex Dombrandt, Adam Radwan, Harry Randall, Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward).

Elsewhere, Owen Farrell will be England captain and Maro Itoje is in line to make his 50th cap during the Autumn Nations Series.

Jones said: “This is a young but very good, talented squad who have all earned their places. It is one of the most competitive squads I have ever picked.

“There are a number of disappointed players who haven’t been selected, but they know what they need to do and no door is closed to any player.

“We’re looking forward to three tough Test matches. Tonga always play a strong, physical game and Australia and South Africa have had extended periods together and will be a good challenge for us.

“Our aim each week will be to get better and better as we work towards the Rugby World Cup in 2023.”

England will first face Tonga on Saturday 6 November (3.15pm KO).  They will then host Australia on Saturday 13 November (5.30pm KO) and in their final game, take on world champions South Africa on Saturday 20 November (3.15pm KO).

All matches will be live on Amazon Prime Video Sport and TalkSPORT.

FULL SQUAD

FORWARDS
Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 31 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 33 caps)
Trevor Davison (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
Nic Dolly (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 1 cap)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 23 caps)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 30 caps)
Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 9 caps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens, 48 caps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 87 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 10 caps)
Joe Marler (Harlequins, 72 caps)
George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 1 cap)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 44 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 24 caps) 

BACKS
Mark Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 93 caps)
Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 4 caps)
Max Malins (Saracens, 8 caps)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 66 caps)
Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap)
Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 2 caps)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 40 caps)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 2 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 43 caps)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 51 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 109 caps)

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Autumn Nations Cup

Wales squad announced for Autumn Nations Series 2021

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(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Wales have named a 38-man squad for the forthcoming Autumn Nations Series 2021 campaign, as the Principality Stadium prepares to welcome the return of capacity crowds.

Wayne Pivac’s 2021 Guinness Six Nations Champions will face the top three ranked teams in the world in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia in this year’s series.

In addition to Australia, Wales will face a second of their 2023 Rugby World Cup opponents, Fiji, during the campaign, as Pivac continues his preparations for the global tournament.

Head Coach Pivac calls on the experience of eight 2021 British & Irish Lions in Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard, Gareth Davies, Dan Biggar, Louis Rees-Zammit and Liam Williams, whilst Scarlets’ WillGriff John and Exeter Chiefs’ Christ Tshiunza are the only uncapped players named in the squad.

Wyn Jones is named alongside looseheads Rhodri Jones and Rhys Carre. Dillon Lewis, WillGriff John, who was named in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations squad but is uncapped, and Tomas Francis are named as tightheads.

Ken Owens is named alongside his Scarlets teammate Ryan Elias and Dragons’ Elliot Dee at hooker.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones, who returned to action for the Ospreys last weekend, will become the most capped international player in history if he makes an appearance during the Autumn Nation Series 2021.

Adam Beard, Will Rowlands, Ben Carter, Seb Davies and Christ Tshuinza are named as the second rows with Ross Moriarty, Taine Basham, Ellis Jenkins, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau and Wasps’ Thomas Young named in the back-row.

The scrum-halves included in the squad are Tomos Williams, Gareth Davies and Kieran Hardy.

Cardiff Rugby’s Rhys Priestland returns to the squad for the first time since making his last international appearance, against New Zealand, in November 2017. Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar and Callum Sheedy are also included as outside halves.

Johnny Williams, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins and Uilisi Halaholo will fill the centre berths with Josh Adams, Owen Lane, Louis Rees-Zammit, Johnny McNicholl and Liam Williams named in the back-three.

“We understand that the opening game against the All Blacks is outside of the international window but I believe that we all need this game, after what has been a particularly difficult time for everyone because of the global pandemic,” said Pivac.

“It will be fantastic to play in front of a capacity crowd once again, with a number of these players getting to experience that for the first time.

“This has been one of the most difficult selections I’ve had to make with less rugby than would have normally taken place ahead of a campaign in addition to injuries and player unavailability.

“When you look at selection you want to select in-form players but it’s fair to say that a number of players haven’t hit their top form. We have looked at past performances at this level, including a very successful Six Nations campaign, and we’ve cross-credit some of that information into current form if you like.

“Injuries in certain positions, particularly at openside, have forced us to look a little bit deeper than we would normally but what it does mean is that more players have an opportunity to be exposed to this level of rugby. This can only be a good thing as we continue our preparations for the 2023 World Cup.”

Wales squad for Autumn Nations Series 2021

FORWARDS (21);
Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (35 caps)
Rhodri Jones (Ospreys) (21 caps)
Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby) (13 caps)
Ken Owens (Scarlets) (82 caps)
Elliot Dee (Dragons) (40 caps)
Ryan Elias (Scarlets) (19 caps)
Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby) (31 caps)
WillGriff John (Scarlets) (Uncapped)
Tomas Francis (Ospreys) (57 caps)
Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (148 caps)
Adam Beard (Ospreys) (25 caps)
Will Rowlands (Dragons) (10 caps)
Ben Carter (Dragons) (3 caps)
Seb Davies (Cardiff Rugby) (9 caps)
Christ Tshiunza* (Exeter Chiefs)  (Uncapped)
Ross Moriarty (Dragons) (48 caps)
Thomas Young* (Wasps) (3 caps)
Taine Basham (Dragons) (3 caps)
Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Rugby) (11 caps)
Aaron Wainwright (Dragons) 31 caps)
Taulupe Faletau* (Bath Rugby) (86 caps)

BACKS (17);
Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby) (25 caps)
Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (62 caps)
Kieran Hardy (Scarlets) (7 caps)
Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys) (27 caps)
Rhys Priestland (Cardiff Rugby) (50 caps)
Dan Biggar* (Northampton Saints) (92 caps)
Callum Sheedy* (Bristol Bears) (12 caps)
Johnny Williams (Scarlets) (3 caps)
Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) (91 caps)
Nick Tompkins* (Saracens) (13 caps)
Uilisi Halaholo (Cardiff Rugby) (7 caps)
Ben Thomas (Cardiff Rugby) (1 cap)
Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby) (32 caps)
Owen Lane (Cardiff Rugby) (4 caps)
Louis Rees-Zammit* (Gloucester Rugby) (9 caps)
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) (5 caps)
Liam Williams (Scarlets) (71 caps)

*Unavailable for selection for New Zealand

Wales’ 2021 Autumn Series fixtures

  • Wales v New Zealand | Principality Stadium | Saturday 30th October 2021 | KO – 17:15
  • Wales v South Africa | Principality Stadium | Saturday 6th November 2021 | KO – 17:30
  • Wales v Fiji | Principality Stadium | Sunday 14th November 2021 | KO – 15:15
  • Wales v Australia | Principality Stadium | Saturday 20th November 2021 | KO – 17:30

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International

Scotland name 36 man squad for training camp.

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend has today named a 36-man squad for a two day training camp ahead of the first game of the 2021 Autumn Nations Series.

The group brings together predominantly home-based players, 19 of whom featured in the 2021 Scotland summer squad which was unable to play its three intended matches due to Covid-19.

Glasgow Warriors back-row player Rory Darge continues in the squad from the summer after man of the match performances in the opening rounds of the United Rugby Championship campaign. He is joined by fellow Warriors in backs Ross Thompson, Cole Forbes, Rufus McLean, Kyle Steyn, George Horne, Jamie Dobie, Sione Tuipulotu and forwards Jamie Bhatti, Oli Kebble, Matt Fagerson and George Turner.

Edinburgh Rugby also have players retained from the summer in the form of back row pair Jamie Ritchie and Luke Crosbie, alongside lock Jamie Hodgson and backs Blair Kinghorn, Jack Blain, Damien Hoyland and James Lang.

The remaining group of 17 players are called up having returned from either the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, injury or rest, having not featured in Scotland’s disrupted summer campaign.

Lions Ali Price, Hamish Watson and Zander Fagerson all bring their experience to the group.

In the pack Grant Gilchrist, Stuart McInally, Fraser Brown, Nick Haining and Rob Harley are called up bringing with them a combined tally of 169 caps.

Also returning are backs Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett and Sam Johnson all of whom have made bright starts to the new season.

Townsend has also brought in four new faces with an uncapped quartet of three forwards and a back.

Edinburgh Rugby forwards Pierre Schoeman and Marshall Sykes are joined by midfield back Charlie Savala in the training group.

There is also a call-up for Cell C Sharks loose-forward Dylan Richardson who qualifies for Scotland through his father, who was born in Edinburgh. The 22 year-old flanker has started two URC matches this season having lined up against Munster in the opening round and Glasgow Warriors in round two and was part of the matchday 23 for the South African team’s third-round win against Ospreys.

The training squad will convene on Sunday 17 October and train on Monday 18 October at Oriam High Performance centre outside Edinburgh.

Speaking on the selection Head Coach Gregor Townsend said: “It has been great to see both Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors make positive starts to their URC campaigns driven by some standout performances from both young and established players.

“With four tough Test matches ahead of us in this year’s Autumn Nations Series it is important we bring players together early, connect with them as coaches and enable them to grow as a group before the campaign gets underway against Tonga at BT Murrayfield. We’ll then move on to the challenge of facing in-form Australia, World Champions South Africa and a very dangerous Japan team.

“We are pleased with the depth we are able to call upon to make up this training squad and it provides a genuine opportunity for players to put their hand up for selection to the full Autumn Nations Series squad.”

Autumn Nations Training Squad

Forwards:

Matt Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors – 13 caps

Nick Haining – Edinburgh Rugby – 8 caps

Hamish Watson – Edinburgh Rugby – 41 caps

Rory Darge – Glasgow Warriors – uncapped

Dylan Richardson – Cell C Sharks – uncapped

Jamie Ritchie – Edinburgh Rugby – 27 caps

Luke Crosbie – Edinburgh Rugby – uncapped

Grant Gilchrist – Edinburgh Rugby – 45 caps

Jamie Hodgson – Edinburgh Rugby – uncapped

Rob Harley – Glasgow Warriors – 22 caps

Marshall Sykes – Edinburgh Rugby – uncapped

Zander Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors – 38 caps

Oli Kebble – Glasgow Warriors – 8 caps

Murray McCallum – Glasgow Warriors – 3 caps

George Turner – Glasgow Warriors – 17 caps

Fraser Brown – Glasgow Warriors – 54 caps

Stuart McInally – Edinburgh Rugby – 40 caps

Pierre Schoeman – Edinburgh Rugby – uncapped

Jamie Bhatti – Glasgow Warriors – 18 caps

Backs:

Rufus McLean – Glasgow Warriors – uncapped

Damien Hoyland – Edinburgh Rugby – 4 caps

Darcy Graham – Edinburgh Rugby – 19 caps

Cole Forbes – Glasgow Warriors – uncapped

Sione Tuipulotu – Glasgow Warriors – uncapped

Mark Bennett – Edinburgh Rugby – 22 caps

Matt Currie – Edinburgh Rugby – uncapped

Sam Johnson – Glasgow Warriors – 18 caps

James Lang – Edinburgh Rugby – 6 caps

Kyle Steyn – Glasgow Warriors – 1 cap

Jack Blain – Edinburgh Rugby – uncapped

Blair Kinghorn – Edinburgh Rugby – 25 caps

Ross Thompson – Glasgow Warriors – uncapped

Charlie Savala – Edinburgh Rugby – uncapped

Ali Price – Glasgow Warriors – 42 caps

George Horne – Glasgow Warriors – 14 caps

Jamie Dobie – Glasgow Warriors – uncapped

Scotland’s match against South Africa is already sold out with the Australia fixture expected to follow very shortly.

A full house at BT Murrayfield is also expected for Japan.

Tonga will be the exciting opponents on Saturday 30 October when Scotland take the field for the first test match at BT Murrayfield with a live crowd since March 2020.

Plans are underway to host a massive Halloween party with fans encouraged to wear fancy dress and with ‘kids for £1’ tickets available it gives a great opportunity for families to see their national team in action.

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