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6 Nations

Top Players Slam World Rugby’s Proposed 12 Team League – “Out of Touch”

Sexton, Farrell, Read and others have spoken out.

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You can read our simple breakdown of it here)

Here is their statement:

The world’s top players have warned of serious “player welfare and integrity concerns” around World Rugby’s proposed competition structure for the global game.

While senior players have consistently voiced their support for the concept, ongoing concerns exist around the detail of the competition format that has been taken to market in recent months.

The International Rugby Players Council of almost 40 players spoke via conference call on Tuesday night (GMT) to discuss the potential 12-year deal, with nine of the world’s top ten international team captains dialing in.

Senior players from around the globe were united in their concern about the proposed format, in relation to:

  • Player load challenges from multiple top-level test matches in different countries and time-zones in consecutive weeks
  • Increased long-haul travel in short time frames
  • A lack of real opportunities for Tier Two nations to progress
  • Increased conflicts between country and club demands and Regulation 9 release periods
  • Potential impact on Rugby World Cup and Lions tours
  • The long-term quality and integrity of the international game
  • It’s believed that World Rugby bosses are seeking to ratify the deal in the coming weeks, which has raised concerns among the Player Council.
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International Rugby Players President Jonathan Sexton said:

“While players gave this idea a cautious welcome when we met at the end of last year, it now seems like a commercial deal on the future of the game is being negotiated at a rapid pace with little consideration given to the important points we raised with World Rugby in November.”

“The issue of player load has never been so topical, however needs to be properly understood. To suggest that players can play five incredibly high-level test matches in consecutive weeks in November, is out of touch and shows little understanding of the physical strain this brings”

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Player Council member Kieran Read said:

“After listening to the issues raised by many of the players, we need to be very careful that we balance the commercial needs of the game, with the player welfare needs and ensure the quality and integrity of matches meets expectations.

“Fans want to see meaningful games; they don’t want to see fatigued players playing a reduced quality of rugby as part of a money-driven, weakened competition that doesn’t work for the players or clubs.”

“With new technologies, new broadcast deals and new money coming into the sport, this is a crucial moment for rugby and one that many players are generally excited about. However, we have to make sure that the integrity of the game and welfare of the players is protected.”

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England captain Owen Farrell added:

“Players are definitely open to discussing a new global season, but what we develop has to work with the club game in order to reduce conflict, deal with player release issues and make sure their welfare is looked after.

“The proposal presented to us at the moment doesn’t seem to have considered this properly and shows no signs of improving this already difficult situation.”

The Players Council understands that promotion and relegation will not form part of the new proposal, preventing Tier Two and emerging nations from accessing top level competitive matches and creating a ceiling on their aspirations to advance and improve.

Samoa captain Chris Vui said:

“For countries in this bracket and for Pacific Islanders in particular, our biggest issue has always been the ‘club versus country’ factor. We feel that that a 12-year deal is not workable, particularly when it presents no hope of advancement during that period. This will have the dangerous knock-on effect of luring senior players away from their countries and more towards the clubs, which is the exact opposite of what we’re all trying to achieve”.

International Rugby Players CEO Omar Hassanein confirmed that these views have been conveyed to World Rugby on several occasions.

“World Rugby are failing to respect the players views and genuinely engage on the issues. It will be interesting to see their approach in the coming weeks knowing the current proposal does not have the players support”.

Statement ends:

World Rugby have since responded:

““It is inappropriate to comment on specifics whilst wider stakeholder consultation, including with IRP, is ongoing. However, it is important to note that some assumptions made in the statement regarding the proposed competition structure are inaccurate and that important matters such as playing load and emerging nation opportunities are at the heart of constructive dialogue on the overall concept.

“Consumer research confirms a structured annual competition would make fans and new audiences more likely to watch, attend and engage with international rugby, exposing the sport to new fans worldwide.

“There is also no doubt that a structured annual international competition would deliver significantly greater long-term broadcast revenue for reinvestment in the global game. This project has at its heart long-term growth and stability, not short-term wins, and that includes greater opportunity for players.

“As instructed by our Executive Committee and the Unions, we remain committed to a process of constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, including the IRP, to deliver a model that ensures the best-possible competition and commercial outcomes for all and a truly exciting and meaningful annual international competition structure that is great for players, clubs, fans and unions.”

It will be interesting to see how it all progresses. You can read our simple guide of the proposal here.

6 Nations

Huge boost for Ulster & Ireland as Henderson signs new deal

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Ulster captain, Iain Henderson, who has represented the province on 116 occasions, has secured his future with the club for the next two years.

Craigavon-born Henderson, who took up the role of Ulster captain in 2019, has progressed through the Ulster development system. Starting with mini rugby at Academy RFC, his early playing career saw him reach the final of the Danske Bank Schools Cup in 2010 with Belfast Royal Academy, represent Queen’s University Belfast as well as Ireland at Age-Grade level, before quickly rising through the ranks of senior professional rugby in the province.

Iain, who captained Ireland for the first time against France in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, made his international debut against South Africa in November 2012 and has won 60 caps to date for his country. 

A Lions tourist in 2017, Iain succeeded Rory Best as Ulster captain in 2019.  

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented,

“Over the past few seasons Iain has really developed into a leader within both the Ireland and Ulster squads. He is part of the national leadership group, captaining Ireland recently for the first time and we are delighted to have ensured that he continues his career in Ireland.”

Iain Henderson, commented,

“It has been a great honour to captain both Ulster and Ireland in recent times. Irish rugby is in a good place despite the disruption the sport has experienced during the pandemic. As professionals, we have been in a privileged position to be able to continue playing and I know we all hope to see supporters back in the Aviva and Kingspan in the near future.”

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6 Nations

Ireland Release 12 Players For Guinness PRO14

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The Ireland coaching group will retain a 24 man panel for the two day mini-camp on Thursday and Friday this week at the IRFU High Performance Centre at the Sport Ireland Campus.

There were no additional injury concerns following the match against France and the players (Burns, Healy, Henderson) who were removed for HIAs will follow the appropriate protocols this week.

Twelve players are returning to their provincial bubbles to avail of game time in the Guinness PRO14 this weekend – Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan (Connacht), Ryan Baird, Ross ByrneJack Conan (Leinster), Craig CaseyAndrew ConwayShane DalyChris Farrell (Munster) and Stuart McCloskeyTom O’Toole (Ulster).

The three players who provided specialist cover at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday – Harry ByrneJohn Cooney  and Eric O’Sullivan– have also returned to their respective provinces.

All members of the Ireland squad and backroom team undertook routine PCR tested on Monday producing no positive results.  The group will undergo further routine testing  again this week as per our protocols.

Ireland Squad – Two Day Camp February 17/18

Backs

Billy Burns (Ulster) 5 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 90 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 7 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 49 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 8 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 26 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 4 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 96 caps

Forwards

Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 19 caps
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 46 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 106 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 60 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 18 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 8 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 40 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 33 caps
CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 48 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps

Returning to Provinces

Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) uncapped
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 12 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) uncapped
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 17 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Con) 1 cap
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped

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6 Nations

Farrell forced to make big changes for Ireland v France

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The Ireland coaching group have named the side that will face France in round 2 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship.

There’s a new half-back pairing, a new captain a cap record in the front row and one uncapped player on the bench.

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton and vice-captain James Ryan have not hit all their markers this week in the return to play protocols so are not considered for selection.

Ulster’s Iain Henderson will captain Ireland for the first time, becoming the 108th player to lead Ireland. He will be partnered in the second row by Tadhg Beirne.

The front row that started against Wales of Cian HealyRob Herring and Andrew Porter is retained. Healy will win his 106th cap taking him ahead of John Hayes (105) as Ireland’s most capped prop.

In the backrow Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander are joined by Rhys Ruddock who slots in on the blindside flank.

Conor Murray picked up a hamstring strain in training this week and has been ruled out of this game. Jamison Gibson Park comes in to start at 9 and will partner Billy Burns.

Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose line out in the centre and the back three is unchanged with  Hugo Keenan at fullback flanked by  Keith Earls and James Lowe.

There are four changes in the replacements as Ed Byrne, Ultan Dillane, Ross Byrne and the uncapped Craig Casey come in while Ronan Kelleher, Tadgh Furlong, Will Connors and Jordan Larmour complete the bench for the weekend.

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