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Weekend’s Rugby Guide to Key Games

There are some key games coming up this weekend so here’s a guide through them, what they mean and how to watch them

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

This weekend sees the start of World Cup warm-ups games for some northern hemisphere teams as well as the conclusion of the Rugby Championship so here’s a small guide to help you through it all. Click on each team to check out their squad for the game. 

Saturday

Australia vs New Zealand (KO 10 45, Sky Sports):

In terms of competition the biggest prize up for grabs is the Rugby Championship title.

Up first in the final round fixtures is the clash of the Wallabies and the All Blacks in Perth. Both teams are still in with a chance of winning the championship depending on South Africa’s result against Argentina.

However, with that game later in the day both teams will be going all out to not only win but score as many points as possible to secure a possibly vital bonus-point.

This could be the game of the weekend and could be high-scoring.

Argentina vs South Africa (KO 20 40, Sky Sports):

The Springboks are going in search of their first Rugby Championship crown in a decade and have it in their own hands knowing a bonus-point victory will be enough to win.

The Pumas are currently on a losing-streak and will want to finish the tournament on a high to build momentum ahead of the World Cup, as well as avoiding the wooden spoon.

Argentina have nothing to lose in front of their home crowd while South Africa have everything to play for so expect a cracker.

Ireland vs Italy (KO 14 00, RTE & Channel 4):

The first of their World Cup warm-up games. Both team’s have given fringe players and youth players a chance to stake a claim for a place on plane to Japan.

Ireland need to put in a performance to banish the demons of their terrible Six Nations campaign earlier in the year, while Italy will look to build some momentum in the first of four warm-up games.

It could be a comfortable afternoon for the Irish, but Italy’s young talent could put in a big performance, one to keep an eye on.

Sunday

England vs Wales (KO 14 00, Sky Sports):

Two old foes come face to face once again. Wales will be going for a 15th win in a row on Sunday, while England will be hoping to upset Warren Gatland’s men.

Both have named reasonably strong teams as they will look to get one over on the opposition before they face again within the next month.

A real clash of the titans, with both teams in with a chance of winning the World Cup this year, this will be a chance to show what they’ve got and lay down a marker. Expect big hits and moments of class in a game not to be missed.

International

Furlong signs contract extension with IRFU

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Ireland and Leinster Rugby tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong has extended his IRFU contract up to the end of the 2021/22 season.

During his time with Leinster Rugby, Tadhg has made 113 appearances for Leinster, and has contributed to a Heineken Champions Cup in 2018 along with five Guinness PRO12/14 titles since his debut in November 2013.

Furlong made his Ireland debut against Wales in a warm-up fixture ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He has won 49 caps to date for Ireland and started all three Tests of the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand and was last week named in the touring party for this summer’s series against South Africa.

Furlong commented, “Happy to sign on for one more year. There has been some tough days of late but I believe the squads we have in both Leinster and Ireland are able to compete for trophies in the future. I look forward to hopefully playing at a packed out RDS or Aviva Stadium in the months ahead.”

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented, “Tadhg was a long time out of the game but showed upon his return in January what a positive influence he can be for both Ireland and Leinster. He has grown as a senior voice in the Ireland squad and his recent performances reminded everyone why he is rated as one of the best tighthead’s in world rugby.”

Images & Content from Leinster Rugby

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6 Nations

Paul O’Connell Joins Ireland Coaching Group

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Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has joined the Ireland national coaching group as forwards coach with Simon Easterby to focus on defence.

Paul was capped 108 times by Ireland and captained the team to Six Nations success in 2014.  O’Connell’s distinguished playing career also included seven Test match appearances for the British & Ireland Lions across three tours and two Heineken Cup titles with Munster.

Since retiring from playing in 2015, Paul has held coaching positions with the Munster Academy, Ireland Under-20s and Top 14 side Stade Francais.

O’Connell commented:

“I am really looking forward to working with Andy and the rest of the coaching group. I worked with Simon as a player and am looking forward to working with him again. It’s an exciting young group of players to be involved with and there are talented forwards coming through across the four provinces that will no doubt be pushing for international selection in the coming months and years.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell commented:

“Paul brings a wealth of rugby knowledge with him and as forwards coach he will have responsibility for the forwards including the line-out working alongside John (Fogarty). He will also be another strong voice and leader within the group.

“Simon (Easterby) has a real passion for defence and having developed Ireland’s forward play over the past six years with the additional responsibility for the defence over the past 12 months, he will now be able to focus his energy and rugby intellect on this area of our game.

“The weekend’s Interpro games and the European fixtures in the weeks ahead will give players the opportunity to push for selection for the Six Nations squad. The squad will not be selected until after the Champions Cup Round 4 fixtures have been completed.”

IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented: “Paul is a young Irish coach with a huge amount of international rugby experience. We have been keen to find the right opportunity for him within Irish Rugby and we think the fit with the national squad will work well. He joins the national coaching group with immediate effect as they prepare for the upcoming Six Nations Championship.”

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International

All Blacks announce new Captain

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All Blacks Press Release:

All Blacks loose forward and Chiefs Captain Sam Cane has been named as the new Captain of the All Blacks.

The news was announced on SKY Sport’s The Breakdown show tonight, with Cane succeeding Kieran Read who retired from the All Blacks after Rugby World Cup 2019.

A natural leader, 28-year-old Cane has played 68 Tests, including 48 starts, since making his debut against Ireland in 2012, aged just 20.

All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said he was delighted to name Cane as the new captain.

“Sam is an experienced All Black with eight years in the team now and is a ‘follow me’ type of leader and a very good thinker in the game. He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be.

“There’s massive respect for Sam amongst the players and management, and he’s perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future.”

Foster said while the All Blacks’ plans for this year were still being worked through due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was an important role for the captain.

“We wanted to confirm Sam now because he’ll play a key role helping us plan for whatever the future looks like and will be working behind the scenes with the other leaders,” Foster said.

Cane said it was a “massive honour” to be given the captaincy.

“It’s a pretty exciting challenge really and as I’ve spent more time in the All Blacks and grown as a player, I’ve become a lot more comfortable being a leader in the team.

“The great thing about the All Blacks is that the leadership group is full of captains and experienced players already, so I’m just really looking forward to working closely with that group and doing my best to lead them and the rest of the squad.”

Cane has already captained the All Blacks on three occasions. He became the 67th Test captain and fifth youngest ever when he captained the team against Namibia at RWC2015 at the age of 23. He also captained the team against Italy in 2016 and against Argentina in Buenos Aires last year.

“My style as captain will be to not really change the way I do things. I’m just myself and will continue to be. I already work on building relationships, especially with the younger guys in the squad, and everyone else connected with the team, so that will continue,” Cane added.

“While we don’t know yet what the rest of the year looks like for the All Blacks, I’m looking forward to catching up with the coaches and other senior players as we firm up our plans.”

Mini biography – Sam Cane

Raised in the small rural Bay of Plenty community of Reporoa, Sam Cane has had an exceptional career since breaking into professional rugby as a teenager. He made his provincial debut for Bay of Plenty in 2010 at just 18 years old and his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs the following year. In 2011, Cane was also part of the Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20 side, was the New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year and was also nominated for International Age Grade Player award. He helped the Chiefs to the first of their back-to-back Investec Super Rugby titles in 2012 before making his All Blacks debut in June that year aged 20. A devastating tackler and scavenger, he has continued to take his game to new levels in recent seasons. He was co-Captain of the Chiefs for four years taking sole charge this year and has played 116 games for the club. In 2018 Cane fractured his neck during a Test against South Africa and faced months of recovery post-surgery before making a much-anticipated return to the Chiefs in 2019, helping the team through to the Quarter Finals. A Rugby World Cup 2015 champion with the All Blacks, Cane was also part of the RWC2019 squad.

Samuel Jordan Cane

Born: 13 January 1992 in Rotorua
Physical: 1.89m, 106kg
Position: Loose forward
Province: Bay of Plenty
Investec Super Rugby team: Chiefs
Investec Super Rugby appearances: 116
All Blacks Debut: 16 June 2012, vs Ireland in Christchurch, aged 20.
All Blacks Tests: 68 (Three as Captain)
All Blacks Test Points: 65pts (13 tries)
All Black Number: 1113

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