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London Irish rocked by double Wallaby departures

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(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

London Irish today confirmed that Sekope Kepu has left the club due to personal reasons.

Kepu outlined the nature of his predicament to Director of Rugby, Declan Kidney, over recent weeks and this weekend confirmed that he felt he had no option but to return to New Zealand citing personal family health reasons – which will remain private – for his decision.

Declan Kidney said: “Whilst we are desperately disappointed, in these unprecedented times, we understand the human element of Sekope’s situation.

“We wish Sekope and his family well – and thank him for his contribution to the club.”

This blow is another blow after Billy Meakes’ time at London Irish also reached a conclusion, with the Australian heading to pastures new in the United States.

Meakes, who joined on a short-term contract in late October, will link up with LA Giltinis later this month, after saying his goodbyes to his Irish team-mates earlier this week.

The Australian centre made seven appearances for the Exiles – and leaves with the best wishes of everyone at the club.

Director of Rugby, Declan Kidney, said: “We wish Billy all the best for his future in America – and thank him for his professionalism and the contribution he has made at London Irish, both on and off the field.

“It takes a quality person to make such an impact in such a short period of time and that’s all credit to him.”

Meakes expressed his delight at how the last few months have panned out, commenting: “It’s been a really satisfying period for me.

“The opportunity to learn and grow has always excited me – and to do it for a short spell at a club like London Irish, with such a rich history, has been amazing.

“It’s a great group here and I’ll really miss them all.”

Meakes reserved his final words for the Exile Nation supporters, adding: “I’ve really felt the love from them, especially across social media, because sadly, they haven’t been in the stadium as much as we’d all have liked.

“I’ve really felt their support – and it’s been an absolute pleasure to be here.”

Premiership

Tigers sign Tongan International

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leicester Tigers have signed Tongan international Hosea Saumaki.

The outside-back will join Tigers ahead of the 2021/22 season after five seasons in Japan, including three seasons representing the Sunwolves in Super Rugby.

In 2012, Saumaki represented Tonga at Under-20s level and on the international Sevens circuit.

The Tongan-born back represented Daito Bunka University in Tokyo before joining Japanese Top League club Canon Eagles in 2017.

A prolific try-scorer, Saumaki finished his debut season in the Top League second on the competition’s try-scorers tally.

The 29-year-old made his Test debut for Tonga against the All Blacks earlier this year, before adding two more international appearances in back-to-back appearances against Samoa in New Zealand.

Speaking about the signing of Saumaki, Leicester Tigers Head Coach Steve Borthwick said: “Hosea is an exciting signing for the club.

“He is a strong, physical and fast outside-back who has shown himself to be a prolific try-scorer in his career-to-date.

“In our conversations with Hosea, we’ve been impressed by his desire to want to be a part of what we are building at Leicester Tigers and are looking forward to welcoming him to the club.”

Discussing his move to Tigers, Saumaki said: “I’ve always wanted to play rugby in the United Kingdom and to get that opportunity at Leicester Tigers is a dream.

“Tigers have a big fan base, who are really supportive of the team and the boys and for me to be a part of that is really exciting.

“I want to get the ball in hand, keep the energy up and score some tries for Leicester; that’s what I like to do, give one-hundred percent for my team mates and the club.”

Saumaki is is Borthwick’s 13th addition ahead of the 2021/22 campaign alongside fellow backs Freddie Burns, Bryce Hegarty, Dan Lancaster, Juan-Pablo Socino and forwards Dan Richardson, Eli Snyman, Marco Van Staden and Francois Van Wyk, as well as four graduates from the Leicester Tigers Academy.

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Premiership

Ulster to play Saracens in Pre-Season doubleheader.

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Photo By John Dickson/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster Rugby will get the 2021/22 season underway with home and away pre-season friendlies against Saracens in September. 

The Ulster men will face the five-time Premiership and three-times Champions Cup winners at Kingspan Stadium on Friday 3 September (kick-off 7pm).

The squad will then make the journey to central London for the away clash on Thursday 9 September (kick-off 5pm) at the Honorary Artillery Company. 

This will be the first time the two sides have faced each other since the pool stages of the 2015/2016 Heineken Champions Cup.

Both matches against Sarries, who return to the Gallagher Premiership this season, will act as preparation for Ulster ahead of the newly launched United Rugby Championship, and the challenges they will face in this year’s Heineken Champions Cup.

Admission to the home pre-season friendly on 3 September is included in 2021/22 Season Tickets, as well as access to all home regular season fixtures in the United Rugby Championship and Heineken Champions Cup.

Existing Season Ticket holders have until 5pm this Friday (30 July) to renew their packages, and can do so online at ulsterrugby.com/seasontickets.

New purchasers can ensure they are notified first about new Season Tickets as they become available by registering their interest here.

The availability of match tickets sold individually will be dependent upon available capacity, in-line with government regulations. Further details will be released in due course.

Source – Ulster Rugby

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Premiership

England Coach John Mitchell joins Premiership side

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Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Wasps are delighted to announce that John Mitchell, currently part of England Men’s senior backroom staff, will be joining the Men’s team coaching set up.

The former Head Coach of the All Blacks has signed a contract with the Club that will see him link up with the squad this season.

Mitchell, England’s Forwards Coach under Sir Clive Woodward from 1997 to 2000, re-joins Wasps having spent time with the Club as an Assistant Coach during the 1999/2000 season.

The 57-year-old’s impressive résumé also includes being United States Head Coach from 2016 to 2017 and two stints coaching Sale Sharks. Mitchell has been in charge of England’s Defence since September 2018.

Men’s Head Coach Lee Blackett said: “We are thrilled to add John to the coaching group for this season. He brings a wealth of knowledge and will only improve our playing department.

“Once we knew John was available, we prioritised getting him back to Wasps.

“Finding somebody of John’s calibre at both an international and domestic level is rare. He fits the profile we have been looking for, adding to our talented group of coaches.

“John’s primary role will be to lead the attack, but his breadth of top-level experience will see him assist on a number of levels. He understands Wasps having worked here before and his passion for the club and improving our players shone through from the start.

“The support from the board in making this happen demonstrates the ambition of this club.”

Source – Wasps Rugby

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