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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.” Embed from Getty Images

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

Scotland name strong team for Wales

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Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Issued by SRU

Stuart Hogg will return to the Scotland starting line-up as Captain for the final round of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations against Wales on Saturday 31 October – kick-off 2:15pm.

Fresh from securing the European and Premiership double with his club Exeter Chiefs, Hogg plays at full back as one of five changes to the starting XV from the Scotland side that defeated Georgia 48-7 last week.

Finn Russell lines up at fly-half after winning his 50th Scotland cap in the Georgia victory at BT Murrayfield on Friday night, and is joined in the half-backs by Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price.

In the back division, Blair Kinghorn shifts to the wing from full-back and replaces Edinburgh teammate Duhan van de Merwe, who is named among the replacements. James Lang and Chris Harris continue their centre partnership after playing together against Georgia.

In the pack fellow Exeter Chief Jonny Gray comes into the second row and Scarlets’ Blade Thomson is selected at number 8 and will run out on his club ground on Saturday in Llanelli.Hooker Fraser Brown is named as Vice-Captain and packs down with Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson in an unchanged front row.

Scott Cummings also retains his starting place to partner Gray in the second row.Edinburgh pair Jamie Ritchie, also a Vice Captain, and Hamish Watson make up the back-row with Thomson.

In the replacements Harlequins scrum-half Scott Steele could make his Scotland debut if called into action.

Adam Hastings and van de Merwe complete the backline replacements. Townsend can also call upon the same front row of Oli Kebble, Stuart McInally and Simon Berghan as featured in against Georgia, alongside Worcester Warrior Cornell du Preez and Edinburgh’s Ben Toolis from the bench.

“As a group we are very much looking forward to finally completing our fixture against Wales and returning to play Guinness Six Nations rugby again. We were highly motivated back in March, and that extra edge has come back into our training and preparations this week.
Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend

“It’s been great to bring in quality and experience to our starting line-up with players such as Stuart, Jonny and Finn who have been involved in some high-level games in recent weeks. We were also encouraged by Blade’s display at the weekend for Scarlets, which is a timely boost given last weekend’s injury to Matt Fagerson.

“We are expecting a physical battle against a very good side, one which we will be working hard to stay in the fight and to finish the fight in Llanelli. Ultimately, this game provides an opportunity for us to end this extended championship on a positive note and go into the Autumn Nations Cup with some added belief in what this group of players can achieve.”

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6 Nations

Wales XV announced for 6 Nations finale v Scotland.

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Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will become rugby’s most capped international on Saturday when he makes his 149th test appearance (140th for Wales plus 9 British & Irish Lions caps).

Jones levelled the record last weekend but will take the honour for himself at Parc y Scarlets this weekend as Wales face Scotland in their re-arranged Guinness Six Nations finale (14.15 KO BBC & S4C).

At the other end of the international spectrum, Cardiff Blues back-row Shane Lewis-Hughes will make his first test appearance for Wales in a back-row alongside experienced Lions duo Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.

Will Rowlands, fresh from the English Premiership Final with Wasps, comes into the side to make his first start for Wales and he packs down alongside captain Jones.

European Champion and English Premiership winner Tomas Francis comes into the front-row alongside Rhys Carre and Ryan Elias.

In the backline Gareth Davies partners Dan Biggar with Owen Watkin coming into the midfield alongside Jonathan Davies.

Liam Williams returns to the back-three to feature alongside Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny.

On the bench Sam Parry, Wyn Jones and Dillon Lewis provide the front-row replacements with Cory Hill and James Davies completing the forward contingent. Lloyd Williams comes straight into the matchday squad and provides backline cover along with Rhys Patchell and Nick Tompkins.

Issued by WRU

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6 Nations

England name team to face Italy

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Issued by Rugby Football Union

Eddie Jones has named his team for England’s key Guinness Six Nations tie against Italy on Saturday [31 October].

Ben Youngs is set to make his 100th cap for his country, at scrum half – becoming the second most capped England men’s player of all time after Jason Leonard (114 caps). Youngs made his senior team debut against Scotland in March 2010, where he came on as a substitute in the Calcutta Cup.

There is also a milestone for hooker Jamie George, who will make his 50th appearance for England this weekend.

Both players will lead England out at the Stadio Olimpico. England need a bonus-point win to put them in contention for winning the tournament, depending on the result in France v Ireland, which follows the game in Rome.

Jonny Hill will make his England debut at lock, while Owen Farrell, starting at fly-half, will captain the side. Henry Slade is at inside centre while Jonathan Joseph returns for England at outside centre.

George Furbank is named at full back with Jonny May and Anthony Watson on the wings.

Kyle Sinckler will play tighthead and Mako Vunipola loosehead in the front row. Maro Itoje completes the tight five.

Sam Underhill is named at open-side flanker with Tom Curry named at blind-side flanker and Billy Vunipola, returning from injury for England for the first time since the Rugby World Cup Final, at No. 8.

Uncapped trio Tom Dunn, Ollie Lawrence and Ollie Thorley are named as finishers, alongside scrum half Dan Robson. Props Ellis Genge and Will Stuart also join the bench with Charlie Ewels and Ben Earl.

Jones said: “We’ve trained with good intensity this week and the squad are excited by the challenge of performing at our best against Italy.

“The team have prepared well and are looking forward to putting on an England shirt and showing what they can do.

“We will also celebrate two major achievements in Ben Youngs and Jamie George’s cap milestones. It’s testimony to their skill, hard work and love of playing for England, and there is more to come from both of them.”

Italy v England is live on ITV 1 and BBC Radio 5 Live (4.45pm GMT KO).

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