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Premiership

Chris Ashton blasts the Top 14

“The Top 14 is a slow, stop-start game”

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Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Chris Ashton believes that the slow pace of the Top 14 is having a devastating impact on French Rugby.

The 31-year-old Ashton is expected to be part of the English side which is due to play against a depleted French side on Sunday. The English will be the favourites to defeat their opponents who recently experienced a woeful defeat against Wales.

The French started the game against the Welsh as the top side and dominated early on as they raced to a 16-0 lead. However, a collapse led to them eventually going on to lose the game 24-19. The manner in which they lost composure mentally will surely take a toll on the team.

Ashton’s knowledge of French rugby could prove invaluable for England. He previously played club rugby in the country for Toulon.

Ashton said: “The speed of their domestic game is definitely affecting the step-up to international level.

“The Top 14 is a slow, stop-start game. When you’re in an international game it’s the highest intensity it could possibly be whereas their league isn’t at that level. I’m speaking from experience. It’s not anywhere near.”

“Maybe that step-up shocks them in that first couple of games but they will get up to speed very quickly.

“I’d definitely say the Premiership is a lot more intense. The ball is in play a lot more and the whole game is a lot quicker.”

 Ashton added: “It will be an angry French team, desperate to make up for the last 20 minutes of that game against Wales.

“They will be up for the game against us more now than they would have been had they got the win. A lot of the French game is based on emotion but they’ve got a lot of good players in there too.

“If we know anything about the French, it is that they love a reaction. Their backs are against the wall and we expect nothing less from them really than putting everything into the situation. They’ve got to get a win and make up for last week.”

Anyone remember this kick from Chris Ashton when playing for Toulon?

Premiership

Saracens Set to Sign Springboks Out-Half

Saracens have agreed a deal to sign a Springbok fly-half ahead of the new season

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(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Saracens have agreed to sign Stormer and Springboks No 10 Damien Willemse as a World Cup cover player if he fails to break into Rassie Erasmus’ 31-man squad.

The out-half, who can also play centre, winger and full-back is currently playing in the Currie Cup but has been given the opportunity to play for Saracens according to Western Province coach John Dobson.

“If he doesn’t go to the World Cup, Damian could have an opportunity to go to Saracens on a short-term loan. If that does come about it will be a good thing for him as he can learn a lot through a short stint in the UK. Saracens, as you know, have a very good kicking game. If he goes there he will learn a lot about the game management that is expected of fly-half and he will come back better equipped to do well for us in Super Rugby. Our WP captain Chris van Zyl played for Saracens last year, enjoyed it and learnt a lot from the experience and was then back to take part in our pre-season,” he said.

As well as gaining experience Willemse could get some vital game time and be match-fit should an injury occur to someone in the 31-man squad and he would therefore be available to slot in.

Having come back from a knee injury Willemse is preparing for Western Province’s final Currie Cup game this weekend against the Cheetahs. Dobson is sure that Willemse could cut it at the reigning European and Premiership champions, but nothing is confirmed that he will head to England.

“Damian is a special kid off the field as well as on it and is a deep thinker on the game so I don’t think he’s going to be too badly knocked if he isn’t in the World Cup squad, but he does want to make a point to the national selectors. In his mind, he is still playing for a chance to be in the World Cup squad. Damian showed us last week when he came on against Griquas what a good attacking fly-half he is and we are expecting a lot from him against the Cheetahs. He is really motivated to do well for us and hopefully push our season out by another few weeks, but if he is not in the World Cup squad when it is announced on Monday he will then give some thought to Saracens,” he added.

The Springboks’ World Cup squad is set to be announced on Monday and it seems unlikely Willemse will be involved which would open the door for him to cover for the likes of England’s Owen Farrell while they go to Japan.

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Premiership

Bristol Bears announce All Black contract extension with quality Love Island video

Love Island Inspired

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Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Bristol Bears social media team need a pay rise.

They’ve given us some quality signing videos this year and other hilarious social media content and now they’ve just released this quality video announcing the contract extension of one of their key men. Check it out below.

He’s sticking around for #1MoreYear

Pat Lamb spoke about Afoa’s decision to stay another season,

“I’m absolutely delighted that John has committed to another season with the Bears. He is a genuinely world-class performer and a shining example to our younger players.”

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Premiership

London Irish Sign Tongan International Forward

London Irish’s impressive summer recruitment has continued as they have captured the signing of an experienced forward

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(Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

London Irish have confirmed the signing of Tongan international forward Steve Mafi ahead of the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season.

The versatile forward, who is comfortable in both the second-row and back-row, has had previous experience in England having lined-out for Leicester Tigers over 80 times over a four-year spell and is excited to return to the Premiership.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to return to England and test myself in the Premiership. London Irish is entering an exciting period in its history and I am thrilled to have signed. Next season will be a great challenge for myself and for the club and I cannot wait to run out and play for my first game in the famous green shirt,” he said.

Since his time with the Tigers Mafi has gone on to play for Super Rugby franchise the Western Force and Castres, where he won the Top 14 in 2018.

The Exiles director of rugby Declan Kidney is delighted to have added such an experienced player to his squad.

“Steve is another experienced addition to our squad moving forward. We know how demanding and challenging the Gallagher Premiership is, so it is important that we assemble a squad to meet the demands. Steve has a wealth of experience and the ability to cover several positions in the second and back row. We look forward to welcoming him to the club,” he said.

The 29-cap Tongan will certainly add experience to the club who are preparing for life back in the Premiership following their promotion from the Championship last season.

London Irish have already spent big this summer adding the likes of Waisake Naholo, Paddy Jackson, Noel Reid, Sean O’Brien, Sekope Kepu, and Nick Phipps among others with Mafi now joining the list of in-comings.

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