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Wales’ Reign as No 1 Could be Over this Weekend

Wales could be knocked from the No 1 spot in the world rankings by the end of the weekend after just a week at the top

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(Photo credit PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Image)

Wales’ reign as the No 1 side in the world rankings could be over come Saturday evening after getting to the top for the first-time last weekend.

The Welsh claimed top spot in the rankings thanks to a 13-6 victory over England at the Principality last Saturday but when the English host Ireland this weekend that could change once more.

Ireland are currently in third position in the rankings behind the All Blacks and Wales. However, a win over their rivals on Saturday would see them leapfrog both teams into first position for the first time in their history on Saturday.

If that were to happen the All Blacks would be pushed down to third which would equal their lowest-ever ranking since World Rugby brought in the system.

The All Blacks and Wales do not play this weekend so they will remain on the same points they are currently on no matter what happens.

An English win would leave the top three in their current positions, but England would jump from fourth with South Africa going down to fifth.

Although the likes of Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland have played down the importance of being No 1 in the rankings it would be a phycological boost heading into the World Cup next month.

Another interesting possibility is if Ireland go top then next weekend it would be the first- and second-best teams according to the rankings facing off when they play Wales in Cardiff. It all depends on Saturday’s result.

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Scottish Star Forced Into Early Retirement

One of Scotland’s finest players has been forced to retire from the game due to concussion

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Scotland and Leicester Tigers star David Denton has been forced to retire from professional rugby due to concussion.

The 29-year-old was advised to quit the sport on medical grounds following a concussion which he picked up almost a year ago while playing for the Premiership outfit. 

However, Denton has admitted that he was actually relieved when he found out the news as it was a long time coming. 

“My actual reaction at the time my neurologist told me it was no longer a good idea to play rugby… to be honest there was a bit of relief. This had been building up inside of me for four to five months. I knew there was a strong possibility that this moment (when I had to retire) was coming. By the time I got to it, I had been through all the emotional highs and lows, so I was prepared for it,” he said. 

Although it was a relief Denton also confirmed that it is a blow as he felt like he was getting back to his best and thanked everyone that has helped him along his journey. 

“Of course, it is devastating that my rugby career is ending. After a few years where I had a series of injuries, I had got myself back into a position where I felt, physically and mentally, that I could play the best rugby of my career. I’m incredibly fortunate. Scottish Rugby have helped me, particularly over the last few months. They have been awesome. I’ve spent a lot of time with (Scottish Rugby ambassador) Al Kellock, (chairman) Colin Grassie and (chief operating officer) Dominic McKay and they have helped me hugely, thinking about the transition from being a player to what happens next,” he added. 

He also already has plans for the future and unlike many who leave the playing field, he does not want a position back in rugby as he would like to head into corporate business. 

“The people they have put me in front of (from commerce and industry) has been great. I want to get into the corporate world. Coaching, as a career, was never something that appealed to me. I’m really excited for the next steps in my life,” he finished. 

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, who is currently preparing his side for their Rugby World Cup opening game against Ireland in Japan, took the time to pay his respects to Denton’s career. 

“We’re really disappointed that someone who still had a lot to offer the game both at club level and for Scotland hasn’t been able to do that, but our first thoughts are with his health and his life beyond rugby and it seems to be the right decision to retire. We were hoping that taking some time out of the game would mean he would be available for selection in our world cup training squad and when that didn’t happen we were hopeful he’d be back for next season, but again that’s not happened. We’re going to miss him with Scotland. He played very well last summer after being involved in the Six Nations, playing really well in that game against Argentina, and getting back to the form he was in at the last world cup. As coaches we really enjoyed working with Dave over the years and we wish him all the best in life after rugby,” he said. 

Denton leaves the game with a total of 42 international caps to his name and will be fondly remembered for several explosive games in a Scottish jersey. 

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Williams and Priestland Defend Biggar

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar has come in for a lot of scrutiny of late but now some of the people that know him best have come to his defence

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Wales out-half Dan Biggar has been criticised of late by many fans, but fellow Welshmen JJ Williams and Rhys Priestland have come out to stand up for him while talking to RugbyPass.

Williams, who is Biggar’s current coach at Northampton Saints, believes that Biggar is not only deserving of the Wales No 10 jersey but that he is the best player in the world when it comes to knock-out rugby.

“If you need someone to stay on task, to make sure that they keep their nerve to run a game down, or close a game out in knockout rugby, there is no better player in the world. He’s mentally as tough as hell. I have often said I’d hate to see an argument between him and TJ Perenara. They are two of the most bloody-minded people I’ve ever worked with. If you want to go into battle with anyone, it’s Dan Biggar. He’s an absolute trooper,” he said.

Williams has previously coached the Super Rugby side the Hurricanes, where he worked with Beauden Barrett so the praise will come as a huge boost for Biggar.

Biggar has become Wales’ first-choice fly-half following Gareth Anscombe’s ACL injury in a World Cup warm-up game against England last month and Williams was impressed by how he dealt with being thrown into that match.

“The response he put in against England, after he had criticism, well I thought it was superb. That summed up, in a nutshell, what Dan Biggar can do and who he is as a bloke,” he added.

As well as Williams coming to Biggar’s defence, fellow Welsh No 10 Priestland is full of praise for the Northampton Saint and can’t understand the criticism.

“Look, Dan’s a great competitor, a fantastic kicker and unbelievable under the high ball. I probably see more of him playing for Wales now and whenever he has come on for Anscombe he has had a positive impact. I got better coming across the bridge (to play in the Premiership) and I’m sure he’s the same. It’s a weird one. When Anscombe was playing, there were people asking for him to start, and now Dan is starting they are asking for someone else,” he said.

Whatever people believe it is clear that Biggar’s peers hold him in high regard and believe he could be a vital part to any Welsh success.

Biggar and co have had a frustrating time during their warm-up games with three losses from four games, but will look to turn a corner over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for their opening World Cup match against Georgia on Monday September 23rd.

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Brown Opens Up on England Omission

Mike Brown has given a snippet of how he feels after being omitted from the England Rugby World Cup squad and has made a couple of interesting comments on himself

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England full-back Mike Brown has taken some time to discuss his omission from the England squad and where he ranks himself amongst the current crop of English players.

Brown, who has been quiet since being left out of Eddie Jones’ 31-man Rugby World Cup squad, was speaking at the launch for the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season.

Despite multiple media reports claiming a bust-up with Ben Te’o while training in Italy cost both players their places, Brown has decided to keep his cards close to his chest for now.

“It’s important that the people close to me and who matter in my life, my family and my close friends, my team-mates, they know what happened. And for everyone else, the details will come out when the time is right… when the details come out people will know how everyone in that situation handled themselves. And I’ve got no regrets,” he said.

As with any player, Brown is disappointed but is determined to keep himself in the best shape possible in case he is called upon as back-up by Jones.

“His message to all of us players is ‘be ready because you never know what’s going to happen’… I think everyone who was in the 45 who isn’t in Japan is on standby, that’s my understanding. I was in the 45, I have no regrets about anything that happened through pre-season because I gave my all. I came into camp in the best shape of my career, felt fit, sharp, good. I put everything I could into training, I didn’t miss one second of training, even with niggles and things like that,” he added.

However, the let down of being left out of the travelling squad doesn’t appear to have knocked Brown’s confidence as he insists, he is still the best full-back that the country have.

“I still feel I’m the best English full-back, that’s not being arrogant. That’s just what I believe… look at the stats, look at my game, I am the best under the high ball. I’ve worked so hard on that, it’s one of my points of difference,” he continued.

Without him in the squad Brown feels as though the team will still be in the mix to win the Webb Ellis Cup, however, he is wary of other sides including some of the nation’s closest neighbours.

“It’s going to be a close World Cup, probably the closest ever. South Africa are looking good, New Zealand may not have played to their best but they will be different when they reach the World Cup. Then teams like Ireland and Wales, you never know because they are tough competitors who can turn it on on their day,” he finished.

Brown will be hoping to put the disappointment of being left out behind him as he prepares for the upcoming Premiership season with Harlequins. However, we will all be waiting for the day when he finally opens up about what really went on in that Treviso training camp and if that was what cost him his place on the plane.

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