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Who is Ruaridh McConnochie?

The Bath winger has never played for England, but was included in Eddie Jones’ 31-man squad for the World Cup

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Four years ago, as England crashed out of their home World Cup in the group stages, Ruaridh McConnochie was turning out for National Division Three side Nuneaton.

This week, he was named in Eddie Jones’ 31-man England squad for the 2019 World Cup, after just one season in the professional game.

It has been meteoric rise for the winger from Kent, but how did McConnochie make the transition from amateur rugby in such a short time?

As a youngster, McConnochie was never involved with any professional academies. Instead, he plied his trade with amateur side Cranbrook, in the sixth tier of the English rugby pyramid.

Then, after beginning his teaching degree at Gloucester University, McConnochie joined Nuneaton ahead of the 2012-13 season.

So much was his love for the game, McConnochie made the 146-mile round trip from Gloucester as much as three times a week.

Elliott Brown has been Nuneaton’s captain since the 2012-13 season, and described McConnochie as a “gangly, scrawny, super skinny lad.”

His ability was immediately apparent though, as he ran in 24 tries across two seasons for the club.

“He could see things other players couldn’t, whether he took a gap himself or put someone into it. He had an exceptional ability to beat the first man, you could almost guarantee it,”said Brown.

McConnochie then made the step up to Hartpury College, where after a short spell, he was called up to the England Sevens circuit.

With Sevens being introduced to the Olympics in 2016, McConnochie had the chance to make a name for himself on the big stage.

Sevens head coach Simon Amor, unlike Jones this week, overlooked McConnochie though, naming the man from Tenterden as a reserve.

Shortly after selection though, injuries meant McConnochie was called up, and he went on to play his part for a team that won the silver medal in London.

His performances didn’t go unnoticed for the Sevens side, and after another productive year in the national squad McConnochie was offered a contract by Bath in 2018.

“It was more in the back of my head having never done an academy pathway and never being involved in professional 15s I wanted to give it a try. If at the end of the first year it wasn’t going well, that’s life, but if it was I would’ve hated to have retired from Sevens and not given it a try, ” McConnochie said.

McConnochie’s Bath debut came sooner than expected however, as an Anthony Watson injury meant he was deployed as fullback by head coach Todd Blackadder.

Other injuries across the back-three saw McConnochie become a regular fixture in the backline during the second half of the season, and after four tries in 15 games, he was called up to an England training squad in June.

Despite injury preventing his debut for England against Wales on Sunday, Jones was convinced by McConnochie after he impressed in training camps over the summer.

McConnochie’s inclusion was a shock to many in the rugby world; a feeling that was mutual between fans and the player.

“It was pretty last minute, and it did take me by surprise. I just wanted to go into each week and live it as a bonus, because it’s incredible,” he admitted.

After his injury prior to the game on Sunday, McConnochie believed his chances of making the squad were over.

“If you’d asked me 48 hours ago I’d be saying something different. It was a dark 24 hours with the injury. Then come this morning I was quite at peace, if it didn’t happen I’d have no regrets over the process,” McConnochie said.

McConnochie is expected to fit enough make his England debut against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday, which would be the end of an incredible four-year journey.

What the boss said

England head coach Eddie Jones vividly remembers the first time he watched McConnochie play for Bath.

“I will tell you the game I saw him. It was a beautiful sunny day in Exeter. He played for Bath and did a lot of good things. I remember driving back in the car and trying to find out more information about him,” Jones said.

“He is a big tall guy with feet and, again, with Exeter because you are close to the ground you can hear and see the communication of the players. He is a very good communicator. We found out more about him, did some background information, and he continued to play well.”

Although Jones’ decision to include McConnochie in his squad had been questioned, the Australian believes selecting the Bath back was a no-brainer.

“Firstly, I think it’s always nice to bring new blood in,” said Jones. “It freshens everything up. When you have the enthusiasm that young players do, it adds to the squad.

“Once he came into camp, he cemented our impression of him,” Jones added. “He’s a mature boy who has played a number of positions, so he was a pretty easy selection in the end.”


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Fans flock back to see the Boks in action

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South Africa Rugby - Image Credit Asics

The Springboks came close to a claiming a fifth Castle Lager Rugby Championship title this season, and although there was disappointment in the end, the men in green and gold still performed very well, with a number of Boks dominating the individual statistical analysis of the competition, while South African rugby supporters made the most of the opportunity to return to stadiums.

Due to the COVID-pandemic, the Boks last played in front of fans in South Africa in 2019, and this year just under 300,000 supporters streamed through the gates at the six Tests in South Africa.

For the three Tests against Wales (in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town), and the three Castle Lager Rugby Championship encounters on home soil (in Nelspruit, Johannesburg and Durban), 297,298 supporters – or a superb 98.91% of full capacity at the six stadiums – saw the Boks in action in South Africa.

Jacques Nienaber’s team finished the Castle Lager Rugby Championship with four wins from their six matches, their most since 2014 and 2013, when they also finished second behind New Zealand with four wins.

South Africa beat Argentina twice (38-21 and 36-20 for a nett points’ difference of +33), won one against Australia – their first away win in the competition over the Wallabies since 2013 – and lost one Down Under (24-8 and 17-25 for a nett points’ difference of +8), and ended equal with New Zealand on one win and one defeat (26-10 and 23-35 for a nett points’ difference of +4).

Zoning in on individual performances in the last two months of international rugby, Malcolm Marx’s influence in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship was clear for all to see, with the Springbok hooker dominating in a number of key areas.

Marx scored two tries – the same as his team-mates Damian De Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Kwagga Smith – which placed them joint-third on the list of top try scorers, behind All Blacks hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho with five, as well as flankers Juan Martin Gonzalez of Argentina (4) and Fraser McReight of Australia (3).

But Marx also dominated on the ground, where he topped the list of breakdown turnovers won, with seven. Second on the list was Springbok captain Siya Kolisi with six, followed by Pumas captain Julian Montoya (five).

The All Blacks duo of Ardie Savea and Sam Whitelock, and Argentina’s Pablo Matera, were all on four, while Kwagga Smith and Steven Kitshoff won three each.

Lood de Jager made the most tackles of any Springbok with 62 (he placed fourth overall, behind the Pumas trio of Marcos Kremer (79), Montoya (66) and Gonzalez (66), while Marx and Kolisi came in at joint-ninth with 54 tackles each.

The Boks’ strongest ball carriers were Jasper Wiese (51 carries for 307m won), De Allende (48 carries for 333m) and Marx (40 carries for 222m).

Four players were tied at the top of the list for average metres gained per carry, namely SA’s Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Canan Moodie and New Zealand’s Caleb Clarke, all with an average of 13m, with Clarke’s 540m the most metres gained by any player in 2022, while Mapimpi’s seven clean breaks were the most this season.

The Boks’ starting locks ruled in the air, with De Jager’s 26 lineouts won topping the list, and Etzebeth coming in second with 25.

The top points’ scorers during the competition were Argentina’s Emiliano Boffelli and New Zealand’s Richie Mo’unga, both of whom scored 71 points in their six games, with Bok flyhalf Handre Pollard coming in at third with 32 points in three games.

Content & Images from – South Africa Rugby


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Barrett relishes opportunity in 12 jersey

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It didn’t take long after Saturday’s 40-14 Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship win over Australia for new second five-eighths Jordie Barrett to feel the effects of his changed role.

While he played nearly three-quarters of the earlier Test against Australia in the position, it was a full-fledged effort on Saturday. He remarked that he wouldn’t have to wake up in the morning to feel the effects of the different, and more physically challenging, role at second five-eighths.

 

He was already feeling the effects.

 

“It’s different. I felt like I couldn’t get out of fourth gear, particularly with accelerations, decelerations, and more collisions.

 

“That’s just the nature of being in the midfield. I still love playing 15 [fullback], and I love playing 12 [second five-eighths]. I just enjoy an opportunity to play for the All Blacks.”

 

Barrett was able to give something back by causing his markers to feel his strength with some charging runs at their line.

 

“Rugby hasn’t changed, and if you can get some gain-line off set-piece and nullify it on the other side of the ball, you go a long way toward winning a match.

 

“They’ve got some outstanding carriers, Valentini, Pete Samu and some good outside backs and midfield players with some feet.”

 

He said he prepared for the traffic that came to his area and concentrated on that in his preparation.

“They have some big ball carriers particularly off set-piece and if they can get some ascendancy and gain-line it bleeds out into the rest of their game so I knew that if we knocked it on the head there that we could bring their game to a bit of a halt so it was a big mover there tonight.”

 

“If we could stop them at the gain-line it helps the rest of our boys. Our forwards one to eight were outstanding tonight and it makes the backs jobs a lot easier.”

 

The All Blacks’ Championship-winning effort was driven by a desire to show their worth to home fans and the closeness of their first Test with Australia.

 

“We weren’t too proud of our last quarter last week, and it could have gone in a different direction, so we knew, coming back to New Zealand, and Eden Park, it’s a place where we hold a high account, and we wanted to put on a performance that our fans and New Zealand are proud of.

 

“Consistency is important, it’s what we strive for every day as All Blacks. The last few months haven’t been up to standard but I think we’re heading in the right direction now.”

 

The scrum and maul had allowed the All Blacks to piggyback their way up the field and then kick to gain 50 metres went a long way toward winning Test matches.

 

Barrett said his employing the spiral punt was something he had been working on, especially with the Adidas balls used in New Zealand. David Hill and Ian Foster had been encouraging him to use the kick, and he had been practising it a lot.

 

“If I have got time on the ball I feel like I can peel off an extra 10-15 metres so I was lucky to get a couple away.”

 

Content & Images from – New Zealand Rugby


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6 Nations

Emerging Ireland Matches To Be Streamed on IrishRugby.ie

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All three Emerging Ireland games in the Toyota Challenge will be streamed live on Irishrugby.ie.

The squad arrive in Bloemfontein today (Tuesday) and will train in Greys College tomorrow (Wednesday) ahead of their opening fixture against the Griquas on Friday 30th September.

Related News

The game against the Griquas kicks off at 12.45 Irish time and will be available to view live on Irishrugby.ie.  The match day 23 to face the Griquas will be named on Thursday.

Emerging Ireland play the Pumas on Wednesday 5th October (KO 4.00pm) and the Cheetahs on Sunday 9th October (2.00pm)

Emerging Ireland Squad: Meet the Players – click here

Emerging Ireland Toyota Challenge Fixtures 2022

Windhoek Draught Griquas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Friday 30th September 2022, KO 12:45 (Irish time)

Airlink Pumas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Wednesday 5th October 2022, KO 16:00 (Irish time)

Toyota Cheetahs vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Sunday 9th October 2022, KO 14:00 (Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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