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Chris Ashton blasts the Top 14

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

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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.”

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“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?

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Premiership

England centre signs for Rugby League side #CodeHopper

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We’re used to hearing about ‘Code-Hoppers’ in modern rugby but the trend usually is from League to Union. Israel Folau & Jason Robinson could be considered a couple of the best converts over the years.

Former England and current Northampton Saints centre Luther Burrell is bucking the trend and will join Super League side Warrington Wolves at the end of the current season.

Speaking on the move he told the club website;

“I’m buzzing to get involved with Rugby League and the Super League…. I’m not here to make up the numbers, I’m coming over and I mean business.”

The 31-year-old signed for Northampton in 2012 with over 150 club appearances to date including a starting place in the Aviva Premiership Final against Leicester Tigers in his first year followed by the European Challenge Cup and the Aviva Premiership trophy season of 2013/14. He previously played for Leeds Carnegie, 2009, and Sale Sharks, 2011.

He toured Argentina in 2013 and New Zealand for a Test series in 2014 with England and was also a key part of the 2014 and 2015 Six Nation squads, scoring on debut, and the summer tour of Australia in 2016.

Warrington chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick said:

“Opportunities like this don’t come along that often, to sign a player of Luther’s quality and playing CV is fantastic for the club and for Super League. Having played most of his junior rugby in League, Luther is aware of the required skill-set and the physical demands. His impressive stature, his bone-crunching hits and dynamic running are sure to make him a firm favourite with our supporters.”

Burrell added:

“My background is predominantly in Rugby League as I grew up in the north, in Huddersfield, surrounded by the sport and playing it at school. It’s never really left my blood; I guess my aim was to always try my hand at it one day and I’m buzzing to get involved with Rugby League and the Super League. I’m excited about the challenge ahead as it’s fresh for me. I’ve had some great times in Rugby Union, and I’ve had some adverse times, so for me to have this opportunity to play Rugby League and see how far I can get with a great team is exciting.

“The Warrington club is run amazingly well. Pricey (Steve Price) was unbelievable when I met him; it was exciting from the first meeting. I know a couple of the boys too. I know Josh Charnley from his time in Union and I’ve been spoken to him; his message was about how great the club is and from the outside you can see it has aspirations. I’ve watched Rugby League throughout my Union career so to join a club like Warrington, who were finalists last year and have a fantastic squad this season, is exciting as it is a club that is going places.

“I know I will need to earn the trust of my teammates first and foremost. I also hope to bring some physicality, that edge and the ability to break the line. I’ve had the opportunity to play for England in Union and to play on some of the biggest stages in finals. I’d like to think I can transfer the experience I have gained into Rugby League. I’m not here to make up the numbers, I’m coming over and I mean business.

“I want the fans to get to know me for themselves. I’m a northern boy and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in the squad and getting in the mix with the Wire fans as I know it’s a big rugby town.”

Head coach Steve Price said:

“He’s a quality signing, being a former England International who has played at the highest level in Rugby Union. It’s exciting for Luther to be able to switch codes and to challenge himself in the Super League; in saying that he has still got a number of games left this season with Northampton, once that season is completed we look forward to getting him here and involved in our team.

“He’ll have to get up to speed with new calls, different team mates and a different game, so it will take a bit of time to transition, but he’s tall, athletic and can play in a number of positions which adds a lot of depth to our playing squad.

“He’s had an interest in the game of Rugby League from a young age, and is a great coup for our club.”

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Wasps have replaced Christian Wade with a great piece of business.

Great signing.

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Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Wasps today announced the signing of talented young Italy international from Zebre Rugby.

The 22-year-old, who can play at full back or on the wing, already has ten Test caps to his name with Italy and will be making the switch to Ricoh Arena for the 2019/20 season.

Minozzi made his international debut in November 2017 before bursting onto the Six Nations scene in 2018, where he scored tries in four successive games against Ireland, France, Wales and Scotland.

The Italian’s stellar performances in his debut Six Nations campaign saw him named in the Team of the Tournament while he was also shortlisted for the Player of the Tournament award.

Since signing for Zebre in 2017, the pacey back has played 15 games for the Parma-based outfit across the Pro 14 and European Challenge Cup.

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Unfortunately a knee injury has seen the young talent sidelined for most of the 2018/19 season, but he will be targeting a place in Italy’s squad for the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young said:

“Matteo has bags of promise and already at such a young age, he’s got plenty of international experience under his belt.

“He was tremendous at last year’s Six Nations with four tries in five games, and it’s a shame we’re not going to see him in the tournament this year.

“No doubt when he recovers he will be playing at the World Cup – and hopefully he’ll be able to give Wasps fans a taste of what they’ll be seeing at the Ricoh next season.”

Minozzi added:

“Having spoken with friends of mine at Wasps, they couldn’t speak highly enough of the Club.

“It was an easy decision for me and I can’t wait to test myself in the Premiership at a fantastic club with lots of history.”

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Northampton Saints sign All Black Centurion.

Has chosen Saints over Toulon.

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Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Image

Northampton Saints have confirmed that they have signed All Blacks Prop Owen Franks. Franks apparently has turned his back on advances from Toulon and will join the Saints after the World Cup.

Franks has ran out for the All Blacks in 105 tests since making his debut in 2009, it is believed he has agreed a two-year deal to play for the English Premiership club, with there being an option for a third year.

Midi Olympique had reported that the 31-year-old, Franks weighed up whether to join Toulon or Northampton and chose the latter. He becomes part of a growing trend of All Blacks opting not to go to France, with Ardie Savea, Kieran Read, Ryan Crotty and Beauden Barrett all rejecting French advances.

Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ben Smith have both bucked the trend and have signed with Toulon and Pau respectively.

Franks will link up again with his brother Ben who is currently with Northampton and also with former Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd.

Speaking on his move, Franks said;

I’d like to thank Chris Boyd and Northampton Saints for showing faith in me and giving me this opportunity to come and play in the Gallagher Premiership,”

“I’ve always taken a keen interest in northern hemisphere rugby so I’m looking forward to coming to the UK and proving myself, while the prospect of playing at Franklin’s Gardens in front of Northampton’s passionate supporters is hugely exciting for me and my family.”

And, after already securing the signing of All Black centre Matt Proctor from the Hurricanes, Northampton director of rugby Chris Boyd is thrilled to welcome another player of Franks’ pedigree next season.

He said:

“Owen is a world-class operator whose record speaks for itself. He not only will improve the quality within our playing squad, but – like his brother – his attitude will set the standard for the entire group.

“His level of professionalism can serve as a fine example for other members of the squad, and he’s a very intelligent footballer – I know several of our young props are already looking forward to picking his brain.”

“The fact that he has played with distinction at the highest level of the game for so long speaks volumes about his ability, so I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Owen here to Northampton next season.”

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