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Premiership

Chiefs sign lock from rivals

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By Mark Stevens
24/1/23

Rob Baxter has wasted little time in bolstering his Exeter Chiefs squad following Ruben van Heerden’s departure back to South Africa last week.

Today, the Chiefs Director of Rugby has welcomed experienced forward Mike Williams to the Devon club from Gallagher Premiership rivals, Bath Rugby.

The 31-year-old has agreed a deal until the end of the current campaign, but Baxter has said the option could be there to extend that stay further should the Zimbabwean-born star impress between now and then.

With over 100 Premiership appearances to his name, the 6ft 5in, 18 stone forward is well versed in the English game, having previously enjoyed spells with Worcester Warriors, Leicester Tigers and, more recently, Bath.

“I’m looking forward to getting stuck in,” said Williams. “I’ve obviously come up against the Chiefs a lot in the past, so I know a few of the guys well and what the team are capable of. They are a top side, packed full of high-profile individuals and a team who like to win.

“For me, it’s an honour to be here. With Ruben moving on, the opportunity came up for me to head down here and I’m looking forward to making the most of it. Already the guys have welcomed me with open arms. You can see the boys are a tight group, not just off the field, but also on the field as well.”

Williams knows he is joining the Chiefs at an exciting stage of the season, particularly with the club pushing for the top four in the Premiership, a last 16 spot in the Heineken Champions Cup, as well as a semi-final place in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

“It’s an amazing time to join,” he added. “Playing against the Chiefs you always know what they are capable of and that you’re in a game against them. Sandy Park is one of the toughest places to come and play as an opposing team, so it’s pretty cool that I’m here now and on the other side of things.”

Baxter himself is delighted to welcome Williams – who started his career in South Africa with the Sharks and then a short stint at the Bulls – into his selection mix moving forward.

“Having agreed to release Ruben last week, it did leave us a little light in the second row,” explained Baxter. “At the same time, Mike became available for various reasons at Bath, it’s a little complex and I won’t go into that now, but the opportunity for him to play at Bath were going to be limited. They were prepared because of that instance to release him; he’s fully fit, he’s in full training and ready to go, so for us we’re delighted to bring in a guy who, most people if they watch the Premiership regularly, will know is a proven performer.

“He’s also got that level of experience to come in and slot in straight away, so it’s a great fit for us in many ways. A lot of the guys know him already and I think he will be a great addition to our squad.”

Equally at home at lock or in the back-row, Baxter feels his new addition is the ‘perfect fit’. He added: “Coming here he’s got something to prove, contracts to earn, this is what you want at the club. I think he will come in and do a really good job for us. Obviously, we have got to get a bit of training into him and get him up to speed with how we play, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised seeing him involved in the next few weeks.

“He’s here initially on a short-term deal, but the opportunity is there for Mike to try and earn himself a longer contract. We want guys to come here with a point to prove, a chip on the shoulder, however you want to talk about it, and get out on the pitch and see what they can do. He can run around, he can scrum and maul, if you run into him he will knock you over, but the important thing is to get him embedded as quickly as we can and see where it takes us.”

Content & Images from – Exeter Chiefs Rugby


Premiership

Irish name side for west London derby

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Declan Kidney has confirmed the squad for Sunday’s derby clash with Harlequins at the Gtech Community Stadium in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership (3pm kick-off).

Will Goodrick-Clarke, Agustin Creevy and Oliver Hoskins are in the front row, with Rob Simmons and Adam Coleman in the second row.

Matt Rogerson captains the side from the six jersey and is joined in the back row by Tom Pearson and Chandler Cunningham-South.

Ben White and Paddy Jackson link up to form the halfback duo, and Rory Jennings partners Benhard van Rensburg in the centres.

Michael Dykes, Lucio Cinti and James Stokes complete the line-up as the back three.

“Whenever these two clubs pitch up against one another, it always creates a good game of rugby,” said Declan Kidney, Director of Rugby.

“I know that we are expecting a good crowd at the Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday, and they will inevitably create a great atmosphere.

“We need to make sure that we put in a full 80-minute performance to give our supporters a reason to show their voice. Harlequins are a well-drilled side, and we know it will be a difficult challenge this weekend, but one we look forward to.”

London Irish:
15 James Stokes, 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Benhard van Rensburg, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Michael Dykes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Oliver Hoskins, 4 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Chandler Cunningham-South.

Replacements:
16 Mike Willemse, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Henry Arundell.

Click here to buy tickets!

Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby


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Premiership

Baxter issues Moon injury update

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Exeter Chiefs

By Mark Stevens
26/1/23

Rob Baxter says he cannot give a timescale as to when prop Ben Moon will return to the Exeter Chiefs match-day squad.

The 33-year-old forward is currently Exeter’s longest-serving player, having made his debut in 2008 away to Sedgley Park, and is the last remaining member of their 2009-10 promotion squad.

The England international, however, has not featured for the Devon club since coming off the bench against Munster in last April’s Heineken Champions Cup clash at Sandy Park.

Asked by the media this week about Moon, the Chiefs’ Director of Rugby said: “I wouldn’t hold out hope that he’s going to be appearing soon. It’s been a challenge for Ben for a little period of time now, it’s not just been this season.

“He’s had periods in and out with it, it’s something that’s been affecting him for a little while and because of what it is we just have to be very careful with it.”

Moon has featured in all six of Exeter’s Premiership final appearances at Twickenham – and he also played in the 2020 European Champions Cup final win over Racing 92, and Exeter’s first major final when they beat Northampton Saints to win the 2014 LV Cup.

Moon won eight England caps in the 2018-19 season, but did not make the squad for that autumn’s World Cup in Japan.

“He’s still active around the club, he’s still here, he’s in training, he’s continuing very hard with his rehab and getting everything else he can right, but we’ve just got to be really careful around that neck.

“It’s probably one of those things where it’s getting to the stage where there’s not a lot more we can do. I can’t talk for Ben about his future, but you’re not going to see him in the immediate future on the pitch.”

Content & Images from – Exeter Chiefs Rugby


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Premiership

TEAM NEWS – Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby

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South African talisman Rob du Preez is set to make his 100th Sharks appearance whilst Alex Groves is in line for his Gallagher Premiership debut as Alex Sanderson names his side to face Bath Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow night. (Kick-off 7:45pm – Live on BT Sport) 

Sanderson makes seven changes to the Sale starting line-up as his squad returns to Gallagher Premiership action following defeat at the hands of Ulster in the Champions Cup. 

In the forwards, there is a complete change of the Sharks front-row as Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Nick Schonert all return to face Bath.  

Cobus Wiese links back up with Josh Beaumont in the second row following a one-match suspension for a dangerous tackle in the Sharks’ clash with Toulouse two weeks ago. 

Jono Ross captains the side in the absence of Ben Curry, whilst Sam Dugdale steps in to replace the flanker after his England call up to Steve Borthwick’s England squad. Jean-Luc du Preez retains the number 8 shirt with twin-brother Dan remaining on the side lines due to an ongoing hand injury. 

Gus Warr continues to provide a platform for success at scrum-half and links up with centurion Rob du Preez, who is named at fly-half. 

The ever-present Sam James retains the thirteen shirt with Ryan Mills picked at inside centre in the absence of Manu Tuilagi. The former Wasps centre is one of two changes in the Sharks’ back line. 

Sanderson’s second change in the backs comes in the form of Tom Roebuck, who replaces Arron Reed on the wing after an impressive cameo in the Champions Cup. Tom O’Flaherty is named on the other wing, with exciting academy graduate Joe Carpenter at full-back. 

On the bench, Ewan Ashman, Ross Harrison and Joe Jones are named as front-row replacements, with Alex Groves and Rouban Birch providing further cover for the forwards. Raffi Quirke, Luke James and Arron Reed cover the backs. 

Sale Sharks Starting XV: 

15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Sam James, 12. Ryan Mills, 11. Tom O’Flaherty, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Simon McIntyre, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Josh Beaumont, 6. Jono Ross (c), 7. Sam Dugdale, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez 

Replacements: 

16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Joe Jones, 19. Alex Groves, 20. Rouban Birch, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Luke James, 23. Arron Reed 

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby


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