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Premiership

Irish Out-Half Joins London Irish immediately

Huge help for their promotion push.

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Photo By Matt Browne/Sportsfile via Getty Images

London Irish today announced the signing of Ian Keatley on a short-term contract until the end of the 2018/19 season.

The 31-year-old fly-half joins the Exiles from Munster, for whom he has played 180 times since joining from Connacht in 2011/12. He was the third player in history to score 1,000 points in the Pro 14, and the second Munster player to pass the same milestone in provincial colours.

Director of Rugby Declan Kidney says that Keatley – who also has nine Ireland caps to his name – will provide useful experience and depth to the squad during the final three months of the season.

“With Theo Brophy Clews injured and Stephen Myler having picked up a knock in training last week we felt that we needed more depth at fly-half, and Ian is a good person to bring in,” Kidney commented.

“We have some crucial matches coming up and Ian’s experience will be important to help us achieve our ambitions.”

Champions Cup

Saracens Handed Another Huge Set-Back

Saracens have had a tough few days and things have got worse yet again as one of their star youngsters has been ruled out for the remainder of the season

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Saracens’ terrible week has just gone from bad to worse with the confirmation that prop Ralph Adams-Hale has been ruled out for the rest of the season through injury.

The 22-year-old picked up an ankle injury on Saturday during Sarries first win over Gloucester at Kingsholm in four years and was stretchered off the pitch. 

It was confirmed that he underwent surgery on Sunday and will go under the knife once more in the coming days to fix the injury, which will now leave him sidelined for the remainder of the season. 

Adams-Hale had started the season brightly with two starts and two sub appearances in the team’s first four games to follow on from his Premiership final appearance last season, but this is a cruel blow for him individually as he joins star full-back Liam Williams on the injury list.

Meanwhile, it is yet another set-back for the club as a whole, who were hit with a £5.3 million fine as well as a 35-point deduction following breach of salary cap regulations. They are fighting the decision, but if they fail in their appeal they will sink to the bottom of the Premiership table. 

Currently on 13 points they would drop to -22, a whopping 26-points off current basement side Leicester who have only picked up four points from their first four games. 

Head coach Mark McCall has confirmed that if it comes to it Saracens will sacrifice their Champions Cup crown to focus on avoiding relegation from the English top tier. 

“We have got a plan for the worst-case scenario which will affect our strategy around the Champions Cup. Our job at the moment if the points deduction remains and the appeal is not successful is to try to stay up and that is what we will try and do,” he said last week. 

Meanwhile, as well as those blows the reigning English and European champions could face punishment from the European body following their absence from last week’s Champions Cup launch day, with another fine most likely on the way. 

Saracens will hope things will get better soon with the return of some key international stars, and will look to kick-start their European campaign on a high when they take on French giants Racing 92 this weekend.

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Premiership

Former All Black Set for Exiles Debut

London Irish have named their team for Sunday’s match against Leicester with three star signings poised for their Premiership debuts for the side

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

London Irish have announced their team to take on Leicester at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday with three of their key summer signings set for debuts.

Former All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo has been announced on the right-wing following his sensational move to the Exiles during the summer and will be making his first appearance for them. 

Along with Naholo hooker Saia Fainga’a is in the line-up for the first time as he prepares to make his debut for the English outfit. 

Meanwhile, Australian international Nick Phipps could also make his debut for Irish if he comes off the bench at some point in the game. 

Following their promotion to the top tier of English rugby the Exiles splashed the cash on a number of high-profile players with the likes of Curtis Rona, Ruan Botha and Paddy Jackson already playing a part in the opening stages of the season. 

While they still have players such as Adam Coleman, Sekope Kepu and Sean O’Brien to come into the side as they try to cement a place in the Premiership for next season. 

Irish are currently sitting in 10th position only one place above the Tigers, who claimed their first win of the season last time out and the Exiles director of rugby Declan Kidney is expecting a tough game this weekend. 

“Leicester Tigers are coming off the back of a good home win against Gloucester last weekend, so we know the challenges that they present to us. We are improving as each match comes, so we will be looking to do the same this weekend,” he said.

With one win from their opening three games the Exiles will be hoping that their new signings will make an instant impact as they try to move away from the relegation spot.

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International

Former England Ace Forced to Retire

One of England’s longest servants has been forced to retire from rugby earlier than he would have liked due to injury

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(Photo by David Rogers - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Former England international Dylan Hartley has announced his retirement from rugby with immediate effect due to injury.

The 33-year-old Northampton Saints legend has been out of injury for most of 2019 with a knee injury and has now decided it is time to call quits on a glittering career. 

Having made 251 appearances for the Saints, including captaining the side for eight of his 15 seasons with the club, and making 97 caps for England, captaining them on 30 occasions, Hartley is grateful for all the rugby he has played. 

“I am extremely proud of my journey, both with Saints and representing England, but now is the right time to hang up my playing boots. The last few months have been difficult for me both mentally and physically as I have come to terms with the fact that I am no longer able to compete, but I have to thank all the staff at Saints who have all invested so much time in helping me with my rehabilitation, in particular S&C coach Eamonn Hyland,” he said. 

He went on to admit that he never thought that he would have been handed the opportunities he has been given and was full of praise for his club. 

“I have loved my journey in rugby. I came to England as a teenager hoping to get a few games of rugby and to see the world. I could have never predicted that one day I would play 14 years for such a special club and go on to represent and captain England. Northampton Saints has been more than just a club to me. It has been a place that has provided me with direction, purpose, a sense of family, home and belonging; and ultimately a community that I was so proud to represent every time I got a chance to play for Northampton,” he added. 

He finished by confessing he didn’t have the perfect professional career but he loved it either way and thanked his nearest and dearest for their support throughout. 

“My career wasn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m privileged to have experienced some amazing highs while there have also been some personal lows, all of which are powerful experiences that will stay with me forever. The final chapter of my career was supposed to go a different way, but that is the nature of professional sport. I would not have been able to achieve what I have without the support of my wife Jo, my family, my friends and my teammates. To them all, I am incredibly grateful for their love and unwavering support,” he concluded. 

Hartley has won the Premiership title during his time with the Saints, as well as two European Challenge Cups and an Anglo-Welsh Cup, as well as reaching Heineken Cup final. 

The injury he sustained meant that he was unavailable for selection for Eddie Jones’ Rugby World Cup squad, but even though he hasn’t played for his country recently Jones took time to acknowledge his former captain. 

“Dylan has had a significant international career playing for his country having played 97 Tests, and was a tough, enduring character for us. He was a foundation captain and we owe him a lot for his contribution to the making of this team. We will be forever indebted to him for his dedication and commitment to the team and his love of English rugby,” he said. 

As well as his domestic triumphs he has Six Nations titles to his name for his country, and had an 85% winning percentage as captain. He divided opinion amongst fans throughout his career, but it is certain that he will be missed within the rugby family.

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