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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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Photo by Silvia Lore/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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

Andy Farrell Names 40-Player Squad For New Zealand Tour

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named an extended 40-player squad for the five-match tour of New Zealand this summer.

Jonathan Sexton will captain the squad in what will be Ireland’s first tour since their memorable 2018 series win over Australia.

Farrell’s men will play three Test matches against New Zealand in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington, as well as two fixtures against the Māori All Blacks – in Hamilton ahead of the first Test, and in Wellington following the second Test.

Ireland have not toured New Zealand since 2012 and have never recorded a victory over the All Blacks in Aotearoa.

Five players in the current squad toured New Zealand in 2012 – Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Sexton and Keith Earls – while Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, O’Mahony, Murray, Sexton and Robbie Henshaw were part of the British & Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 2017.

There are five uncapped players included in Ireland’s summer tour squad – the Leinster trio of Ciaran Frawley, Joe McCarthy and Jimmy O’Brien, Munster prop Jeremy Loughman and Connacht flanker Cian Prendergast.

There are a further 12 players included who have won less than 10 caps for Ireland – Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, Mack Hansen, James Hume, Michael Lowry, Ryan Baird, Dave Heffernan, Tom O’Toole, Dan Sheehan, Nick Timoney and Kieran Treadwell.

Robert Baloucoune, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell and Ronan Kelleher have been ruled out of the tour through injury.

Ireland head coach Farrell commented:

This is the start of our Rugby World Cup campaign and it is going to be a fantastic challenge for our group facing five massive tests across the three weeks.

Due to Covid we haven’t had an opportunity to tour, and touring plays a massive role in teams gelling together and building cohesion on and off the field.

This group could also be the last to play a Test series in New Zealand which makes it even more special.

“We will learn so much about the players and the group as a whole as we have to front up for five incredibly tough fixtures, far from the comforts of home and in grounds where the home support will greatly outnumber travelling Irish fans.”

Connacht senior coach Peter Wilkins will join the national coaching group for the duration of the summer tour to assist in team preparation.

Mick Kearney has been reappointed as men’s national team manager following Gerard Carmody’s promotion to the IRFU Director of Operations role.

Mick previously held the position between 2012 and 2016 and will fulfil the role through to the end of the Rugby World Cup in France next year.

Geraldine Armstrong will lead team operations for the tour to New Zealand, while Carmody will continue to support team operations and planning for Rugby World Cup 2023.

Ireland’s summer tour fixtures will be broadcast live on Sky Sports across Ireland, and there will also be live radio commentary on RTÉ Radio.

IRELAND 2022 SUMMER TOUR SQUAD:

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

Backs (18):

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 37
Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster) 2
Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 32
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster) 5
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 96
Ciaran Frawley (Skerries/Leinster) *
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 17
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 4
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 57
James Hume (Banbridge/Ulster) 3
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster) 20
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 30
James Lowe (Leinster) 12
Michael Lowry (Banbridge/Ulster) 1
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 96
Jimmy O’Brien (Naas/Leinster) *
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 42
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt) 105

Forwards (22):

Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster) 8
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht) 23
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 30
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 27
Gavin Coombes (Young Munster/Munster) 2
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 17
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 57
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 116
Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 6
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 68
Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 26
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster) *
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster) *
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 84
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 2
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 43
Cian Prendergast (Connacht) *
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 43
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 7
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster) 2
Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster) 5
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 40

* Denotes uncapped player

IRELAND 2022 SUMMER TOUR FIXTURES:

Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
FMG Stadium, Hamilton, Wednesday, June 29 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

New Zealand v IRELAND
Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday, July 2 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

New Zealand v IRELAND
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday, July 9 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Tuesday, July 12 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

New Zealand v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Saturday, July 16 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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6 Nations

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Image Credit: London Irish

London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.

O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011. 

He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017. 

O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation. 

On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions. 

“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years. 

“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy. 

“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.

“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland. 

“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old. 

“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport. 

“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them. 

“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us. 

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.

“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career. 

“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey. 

“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family. 

“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years. 

“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then. 

“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. 

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”

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6 Nations

Dan Leavy to retire

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

It has been announced that Leinster Rugby back row Dan Leavy is to retire from the game with immediate effect.

The 27-year-old has played 79 times for Leinster Rugby since his debut against Edinburgh Rugby in October 2014 and has also won 11 Ireland caps.

Unfortunately, Leavy suffered a significant knee injury against Ulster Rugby in March 2019, and following expert medical opinion, and despite his best efforts, he has been advised to retire.

Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Leavy said, “I have done everything I can to come back from the knee injury I suffered in 2019 but unfortunately I can’t do any more or ask any more of my body.

“I’d like to thank Andy Williams, my surgeon, and Karl Denvir, my physio in Leinster, for all that they have done for me in the years since then. I can take solace from the fact that I tried everything over the last three years.

“From the early days in Old Belvedere to my time in St Michael’s College, all I wanted was to pull on a Leinster Rugby jersey. And then when you achieve that, it’s an Ireland jersey.

“I am very proud of all that I achieved in my short time as a professional.

“Some amazing highs with my brothers in blue and in green and I am beyond grateful for those days and those moments especially the highs of 2018 in Bilbao, the Aviva Stadium and Twickenham.

“More than that I am proud of how I carried myself, in particular over the last few years, and I hope I represented my club, my country, my family and friends to the best of my abilities in those years. I am beyond grateful to them all for their support and in particular to my mum and dad, Eilish and Donal, my sister, Rachel, and my brother, Adam.

“I am also very grateful to Leo Cullen. Leo has been an unbelievable support to me over the last few years. On the field, and off, and I cannot thank him enough.

“Not many people get to enjoy and experience what I have over the last 10 years representing my school, my club and my country.

“This is not the end I had hoped for, but as I look back, at the highs and the lows, they have all been shared with the best teammates, family and friends around me, and what more could I ask for?”

Leinster Rugby head coach Leo Cullen said, “Dan was a player earmarked from an early age as a special talent and I think everyone could see that, particularly in those few years in and around 2017, ’18 and ’19, just how dynamic and destructive a player he could be with Leinster and with Ireland where he went on to achieve unprecedented success at that time.

“While the public have seen very little of Dan since his injury, we have seen plenty of him in here and we have seen the same determination, character and drive that marked him out on the pitch as one of the best.

“Dan has also received incredible support from his family and all the medical staff here along the difficult path of trying to return to playing.

“Speaking on behalf of the support staff here at Leinster Rugby it has been a pleasure and privilege to have worked with Dan. He always brought such a positive energy to the group and we will all miss him dearly but would like to acknowledge the significant contribution he has made to the team during his time here.

“Talking to him, Dan is very appreciative of the times he has enjoyed in here with Leinster but now, it’s about us all supporting him as best we can as he starts that next stage in his life.

“I have no doubt that he will apply himself with the same determination that we have seen since he first pulled on a Leinster jersey in 2014 and that he will make a success of himself away from the rugby fields. We wish him well and I hope he knows that there will always be a warm welcome for him here in UCD or down the road at the RDS.”

Leavy, who played seven times for Leinster this season and last appeared against Ulster Rugby last month, made his debut in 2014 and has played 79 times in total for Leinster Rugby scoring 17 tries.

He was an ever-present member of the double-winning Leinster Rugby squad of 2017/18 and he brought that club form to the international stage when making his Irish debut in November 2016 against Canada at Aviva Stadium.

He made his Six Nations debut later that season coming off the bench against England at Aviva Stadium in March 2017.

During his Ireland career, he never lost a game in his 11 caps and was a key member of the Grand Slam-winning side of 2018.

Everyone in Leinster Rugby sends Dan our very best wishes for the future, and thank him most sincerely, for brilliant days in blue.

Dan Leavy Biog:

DOB: 23 May 1994
Birthplace: Dublin
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 16st 7lbs
Leinster Caps / Tries: 79 / 17
Ireland Caps / Tries: 11 / 3

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