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Premiership Rugby Player banned following second illicit drugs violation

6 Month ban.

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Jake Pope, registered as a player for Sale Sharks, has received a six-month ban following his second violation of the RFU Illicit Drugs Programme.

He is banned from 4 December 2018, the date of his provisional suspension, until 4 June 2019. This is the first time a player has breached RFU’s illicit drugs policy for a second time.

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Pope had previously admitted a first violation, resulting from a test taken on 12 September 2017, which had revealed the presence of cocaine or its metabolites in his system. The player was subject to a fixed penalty of £1,000 in respect of that violation.

While the RFU does not publish first time offences, under the policy second violations are made public.

On 20 November 2018, the player was subject to another test pursuant to the policy, which returned an adverse analytical finding (‘AAF’) for cannabis and cocaine. He admitted the violation and an independent disciplinary panel hearing took place on 11 February 2019.

The panel, which consisted of Jeremy Summers (Chair), Dr Gary O’Driscoll and Dr Tom Rees, considered the evidence presented and adopted a reduced period of ineligibility of six months and a fixed penalty of £1,000.

RFU Anti-Doping and Illicit Drugs Programme Manager Stephen Watkins said:

“The purpose of the Illicit Drugs Policy is primarily to protect the health and welfare of players. This means that in the first instance, the problem can be dealt with as a confidential health-related issue.

“This is the first time we have had a second offence since the policy was established in 2010. It should send a strong deterrent message to all players that the RFU takes the misuse of substances seriously. Players have responsibilities as role models in our sport and therefore have an important part to play in protecting its reputation.”

Sale Sharks made the below comments on the outcome of an RFU disciplinary hearing held on the 11th February 2019 involving prop Jake Pope.

“Jake has received a six month ban from the RFU following a second violation of their Illicit Drugs Policy.

“As soon as Sale Sharks were made aware of Jake’s failed tests, the club intervened to ensure Jake had the support pathway he required to address the matter and avoid any further issues arising in the future.

“As a role model to young players across the North-West, this behaviour is unacceptable. The club does not condone the misuse of drugs from any player and accept the decision made by the RFU, however Sale Sharks prides itself on being able to offer a career pathway into rugby for people of all backgrounds and circumstances and for this reason we feel it is right that, as a young man who has made mistakes, Jake be given a fair chance to redeem himself.

“Jake will be available to play again from 4th June 2019.”

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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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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