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Premiership

Harlequins Head Coach Steps Down

Mark Mapletoft has left his role as Harlequins head coach for a new role with the club

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(Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins)

Harlequins head coach Mark Mapletoft will step away from his position with the senior team and take over as academy coach the club have confirmed.

In his new role he will help with coach mentoring and will continue to support sections of the professional rugby environment.

After nine years with the senior team Mapletoft admitted he wanted a change to continue his development as a coach.

“I’m passionate about the whole coaching spectrum and this is a great opportunity for me to develop my skills and knowledge in another area. Player development is central to that and this presents the opportunity for me to continue developing our Harlequins academy as well as our elite performance pathway. The impact this area has on our sustainable success is massive and I’m really looking forward to working with the academy team to ensure the production line remains strong. Paul has done a fantastic job in his first season and I know we have the ability and mindset to challenge for honours this year,” he said.

Mapletoft brings plenty of experience to the academy set-up having served as backs coach, attack coach and head coach with the senior team.

Harlequins general manager Billy Millard is delighted at Mapletoft’s move and is looking forward to seeing what he can do with the younger players.

“Mark is an experienced and talented coach and a great Harlequins man. Those on the player pathway and associated staff members will benefit greatly from his rugby eye and mentorship in all aspects of professional rugby. He has a passion for this area, and I look forward to watching the positive impact he and this academy group have on the club going forwards,” he said.

Mapletoft will come into the role immediately and will look to emulate the success he had with the senior team in the academy.

Premiership

Exeter Sign Sharks Ace

Exeter Chiefs have confirmed the arrival of a second South African star ahead of the opening weekend of the season

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(Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Exeter Chiefs have announced the signing of Jacques Vermeulen from Super Rugby side the Sharks ahead of the 2019/20 season.

The 24-year-old has put pen to paper on a three-year deal with the Premiership side and is very excited about the prospect of lining-out in Sandy Park. 

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to come to a world-class club like Exeter Chiefs. Today, I feel like a little boy again, very excited about the challenge and just being part of the team. I’ve watched a lot of games on TV and I saw Sandy Park is always full on match-days. The team itself play very good rugby and I can’t wait to be part of the vibe of the team, learning about the culture and doing my best for the club,” he said. 

His move to the England comes after a number of South African players to head to the Premiership, one of which will become his new teammate in Jannes Kirsten. 

It is the first time the flanker has left South Africa to play rugby having only previously represented Western Province in his career before his move to the Sharks, but he believes that switching to the Premiership will only make him a better player. 

“I think whatever competition you play in, it brings a different dimension to your rugby. I’m sure I will learn heaps of stuff because it will be so different to Super Rugby. The Chiefs you can see have a great culture, a winning culture. Already I’ve met a few of the guys and the vibe around the place is great. Everyone was so welcoming and I can’t wait to get started,” he added. 

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter is delighted with his new signing and believes that Kirsten will help Vermeulen settle in quickly. 

“I think having Jannes here will definitely help me settle quickly. Hopefully it won’t take me too long to buy into the culture and after that I just want to give it 100 per cent,” he said. 

Exeter will be looking to go one step further in the Premiership this year having fallen just short in the final last season against Saracens and the addition of Vermeulen is huge boost for that dream. 

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Premiership

England Star to Call Time on Career

One of the most coveted players in Premiership history has confirmed that he will call time on his career at the end of the season

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England international Jordan Crane has announced that he will step away from his playing career at the end of the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season. 

The 33-year-old is currently playing with Bristol Bears, where he has been since 2016 and will join the backroom staff as an academy transition coach in a dual role with immediate effect and is delighted with what he has achieved so far.

“When I reflect back on the last 16 years, I’ve been so fortunate to meet many great friends and share the field with some of the most talented players to play the game. The chance to represent my country and achieve domestic success with Leicester are obvious highlights and I’ve loved the past two seasons working with Pat Lam where I have played some of the best rugby of my career,” he said.

Having began his career with Leeds Tykes before moving to Leicester Tigers, where he was part of an unstoppable team between 2006 and 2016 before his move to the Bears. However, despite his long time with the Tigers he is excited for the future in Bristol.

“I’m fully committed to Bristol Bears and excited about the future ahead. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue here and begin my coaching journey in a world-class coaching set up. My family love living in the area and we feel very settled. My focus is on a huge Premiership season with the Bears first and foremost – it would be fantastic to end my playing career on a high by helping Bristol earn a top six finish,” he added.

Bristol’s director of rugby Pat Lam believes that Crane will be able to help the youth teams understand what is like to be a Bear.

“When you are wanting our young players to understand our Bears game, culture and leadership and what is required at the next level I couldn’t think of a perfect fit to help guide them than Jordan. He is an outstanding leader who is respected by the coaches and players and he understands the importance of standards, commitment and consistency in everything we do. As a club and a culture, we want to promote from within whenever we can and support players and coaches to grow, develop and reach their dreams. Jordan has all the ingredients to be a world class English coach and we are excited about the value he will add to our under-18s and academy programme,” he said.

Crane will hope to retire on a high, having won four Premiership titles in the past, but will be looking to lead the Bristol Bears to a Champions Cup spot at the end of his last season.

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Premiership

Northampton Unveil New Club Captain

Northampton Saints have announced who will take over the captaincy from Dylan Hartley

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Northampton Saints have revealed that Alex Waller and Teimana Harrison will lead the side for the 2019/20 season.

The duo will co-captain the side following long-term captain Dylan Hartley’s decision to step aside from the role.

Both led the team at points during last season while Hartley was absent and Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd admits it was an easy decision to hand them the role.

“Teimana leads by example within our group and is respected by absolutely everybody throughout the club. He skippered the side superbly when called upon last season and I’m delighted to see him embrace this new role; he’s relishing the opportunity and understands the significance of representing this proud rugby community as co-captain of Northampton Saints. Alex and Teimana have now played in the same side for eight seasons and I’m sure their relationship will grow even further as they lead the squad together,” he said.

Despite Hartley’s injury woes over recent seasons which has seen him miss a number of games and lose his place in the England squad Boyd has confirmed that the hooker will continue to play a key role at the club.

“After pretty much 10 years in a leadership capacity, Dylan Hartley decided to step away from the captain’s role this year – but he will continue to be a significant and influential member of our group. Dylan was responsible for Teimana coming over from New Zealand and pulling on a Northampton jersey in the first place, so I know he is seriously proud to now hand over this responsibility to him and to help him adapt to the job at hand,” he added.

The side are looking to build on a successful campaign last year where they finished fourth in the Premiership, won the Premiership Rugby Cup and made it to the knock-out stages of the Challenge Cup.

They finish up their pre-season tomorrow when they host Leinster at Franklin’s Gardens as they hope to end on a high.

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