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Quins Land Signature of Springboks Prop

Harlequins have confirmed they have signed a Springbok ace ahead of next season

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Harlequins have announced the signing of Springbok prop Wilco Louw from Super Rugby side the Stormers ahead of next season.

The 25-year-old tighthead will remain with the Stormers until the end of the current Super Rugby campaign and link-up with his new team-mates in the summer. 

Speaking on the move the 13-cap South African international admitted he is delighted to join a club with a reputation such as Harlequins. 

“I’m really stoked to be heading to England to play for Quins. If you ask any South African player, they all know Harlequins, its reputation is huge. It’s a big opportunity for me; Harlequins play an exciting brand of rugby with awesome coaches. Gussy has told me to bring my own flavour to Harlequins and I’m really keen to get involved. When I spoke to him in Cape Town, he was really passionate about the future, the guy is full of energy and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone who talks about rugby and a club with that amount of passion and excitement. I’ve played with André (Esterhuizen) and I know the likes of Stephan (Lewies), so I’m really excited to already have a few friends over there to help me settle in and I’m really looking forward to making new friends at the club too,” he said. 

Louw brings a wealth of experience to the squad especially at scrum-time, where he has become a dominant force in the southern hemisphere in recent seasons. 

As well as playing for the Stormers he has played in Europe before with a short-term switch to French Top 14 giants Toulon and will be a huge boost to the current crop of Quins stars.

Premiership

Gallagher Premiership scrap relegation

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  • At the end of season 2020/21 there will be no relegation from the Premiership into the Championship, and no relegation from the Championship into National One. 
     
  • Provided the winner of the 2020/21 Greene King IPA Championship is eligible for promotion under the current Minimum Standards Criteria, the 2021/22 season to consist of 13 teams in the Gallagher Premiership and 11 in the Greene King IPA Championship. 
     
  • Holistic new minimum standards on and off the pitch for promotion to the Gallagher Premiership will be developed between now and the end of May 2021 with involvement and approval from Council which will be designed to promote sustainability in the professional game.

The RFU Council today cast a strong majority vote in favour of no relegation from the Gallagher Premiership or the Greene King IPA Championship for the 2020/21 season. 

Council members considered the impact Covid-19 has had on all areas of the game, including the earlier decision to suspend promotion and relegation in the community game and the Gallagher Premiership cancelling a significant number of matches in the 2020/21 season.  These cancellations have resulted in a material impact on league positions which could mean relegation based on cancellation not on field merit. 

Over the next four months the RFU, Premiership Rugby and Championship representatives will work on recommendations for changes to the season structures for 2021/22 and beyond for both the Premiership and Championship. 

It is hoped that proposals will include a different approach to promotion and relegation from the Gallagher Premiership.  The aim will be to retain the ambition of clubs in the Greene King IPA Championship and below and to continue to allow a route to promotion to the Gallagher Premiership. New minimum standard criteria, investment in facilities and club funding will be discussed.  The domestic calendar will be reviewed, which will also allow additional preparation time for the England senior men’s team ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023.  Player welfare will be central to the proposals and the RPA will be consulted on the development of season structures.   It is likely that any season structures may also include a further moratorium on promotion and relegation for three or four seasons, after which the structure will be subject to further review.  Those proposals would be subject to a vote of the RFU Council before the end of the 2020/21 season. 

Speaking about the RFU Council vote, RFU President, HH Jeff Blackett said; “The RFU Council has taken time to understand and discuss all the factors regarding no relegation for this season so that we act in the best interests of all levels of the game.  We want to ensure a healthy elite game to support successful winning England teams that generate income to stimulate and preserve the game across all levels.  The Council will continue to be closely engaged with the proposals from the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Championship to ensure we maintain the integrity of the future league structures for England Rugby.”

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Premiership

London Irish rocked by double Wallaby departures

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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.”

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Premiership

Saracens confirm Sanderson future

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After a 17-year association with Saracens, Saracens can today confirm Alex Sanderson will depart to take up the position as Sale Sharks Director of Rugby.

The 41-year-old joined Sarries from Sale as a player in 2004 and has made an instrumental impact since becoming part of the coaching team in the 2008/09 season.

Amongst many contributions on and off the training field, he has transformed the Men in Black’s defence into a formidable force and leaves behind the Wolfpack mentality which will forever be instilled at Saracens. 

Sanderson heads back to the North West to take on the challenge of the first lead role of his coaching career, having played over 100 times for Sale between 1998 and 2004.

With the move, Sanderson becomes the latest of a long line of former Saracens coaches and players who have gone on to coach in lead jobs at top-flight clubs and at international level, something the club is extremely proud of given its huge emphasis on the strength and development of its coaching and support team.

“Alex has an enormous heart and huge character. He will always be a dear friend of the club,” said Saracens CEO Lucy Wray. 

“I know this was a tough decision for Alex, but we completely understand his desire to take on a new challenge and take the next step in his coaching career. As we do with our players, we want to continue to nurture our coaches and promote from within. Thank you, Alex, for everything you have given to Saracens, both physically and emotionally. You and your family are always welcome back to StoneX Stadium.”

Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall said: “Few people have been as central to the Saracens story as Alex. His drive, ambition and personality are woven into the very fabric of the club. 

“He is one of the leading Coaches of his generation, blending comprehensive technical and tactical knowledge with an in depth understanding of the people in his care. His creativity, ability to articulate message and ferocious desire to improve players, sets the standard of what it is to be a modern day coach. 

“Away from the field, Alex is loved by everyone at the club. Honest, kind-hearted and generous, he is considered by many a dear friend. He is also a dedicated family man and we wish him, Emma, and Ty every success in the future. Thank you, Alex, for all you have done for our club.” ‘

Talking on behalf of the current playing squad, Jamie George said: “It is nearly impossible to quantify the impact Al has had on every member of the playing squad at Saracens. He comes into work every day with a desire and passion to make the group the best they possibly can be. 

“Where Al is different to others is the strong connection he has with the entire squad, he has taken a genuine interest in every player on and off the field and of course will be remembered for his weird and whacky ways of getting messages across to the group. On behalf of the playing squad, I would like to thank Al for showing us what it takes to be the best and wish him, Emma and Ty the very best in their move back to Manchester.”

Saracens owner Nigel Wray added: “All my family will miss you Alex, and indeed will miss all your family, Emma, Ty, your Mum and Dad… but we will always be friends. We will always be close friends. Thanks for those many years and the very best wishes for the future”.

A fantastic coach and, more importantly, a fantastic human, everyone at Saracens would like to thank Alex for everything he has done for the club over a prolonged period and wish him every bit of success in his new venture.

Sanderson penned the below letter to the Saracens family:

It’s with a heavy heart after a month of introspection and consideration I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you and farewell to my Saracens Family members.

To say ‘I love’ the organisation, the supporters, and my friends within it that make it so special would be an understatement. Saracens has been my life, and in many ways has shaped my life so indelibly that wherever I go from now on, a part of me will forever be a Saracen.

There are many accolades that we have achieved over the years, and belting nights out to boot, though ironically, it’s been on the occasions that we have had to steel ourselves, players and fans alike, and bond tighter together through all the hardships that I am most proud of.

To my peers…

First Brendan Venter then Mark McCall, have been mentors that have shown me the way, supported me, and given me the space to grow into the coach and person that my own father is proud of today. Most importantly they’ve been my friends and will forever remain so.

As for the rest of them, that being Shawsy, Peely, Kev, DV, Phil, Powelly, Jonesy and Slinger we have been lucky enough to have liked, known and worked together for a combined period of 125 years! A feat deserving a spot in the Guiness book of records – failing that, at the very least, a sure sign that it’s the strength of long-lasting relationships that truncate the core of all that is special about the club.

To such end, it would be remiss of me not to mention the massive contribution of the rest of the team behind the team, the S+C staff, Laura and her medical team, George, Warrick, Amelia and Nate. Thank you. 

To the players…

Those legends who have moved on and those that remain, some of whom I’ve known since they were kids, seen them grow into impressive strong adults and on to become husbands and fathers – it’s difficult to express my appreciation for the trust, friendship and effort you have shown over the years.

Through our experiences together I am now rarely surprised, but always inspired on every occasion that you have been weighed and measured but never found wanting…

To Dominic Silvester…

A true-blue legend, a man of seemingly endless generosity, and another person who I consider a friend for life, thank you for your council and rock like support.

And finally, to the Wray family…

‘Thank you’ said in as many ways – as many times as I can muster doesn’t begin to cut it. I still have the letter that Nigel wrote to me welcoming me to the club 17 years ago.

It was Nigel who invested in me first as a player, then as a coach – Nigel who gave me the opportunity to make something out of myself and so it is with all sincerity when I say I will be forever grateful for all that you have done, and Lucy continues to do.

Long live the Wolfpack,

Al “

In other news, Saracens have announced their team to face Ealing Trailfinders

Saracens begin their Trailfinders Challenge Cup campaign on the road at Ealing Trailfinders with seven full internationals in the starting XV.

England Number 8 Billy Vunipola features in the back row alongside Namibian Janco Venter while Fiji’s Eroni Mawi and Springbok World Cup winner Vincent Koch start at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively.

After kicking seven from seven in his last outing, Will Hooley of USA partners Welshman Aled Davies at half-back while Scotland centre Duncan Taylor is in the midfield.

Hooker Tom Woolstencroft will captain the side and leads a pack which contains three Academy products in Jon Kpoku, Ollie Stonham and Andy Christie.

Academy graduates Rotimi Segun, Dom Morris and Elliott Obatoyinbo are selected alongside Sevens star Ben Harris who completes an exciting backline.

Former Ealing man Harry Sloan is among the replacements as is lock Llewelyn Jones who has joined Saracens on a two-week loan from Ampthill.

Saracens team to take on Ealing Trailfinders: 

15 Elliott Obatoyinbo

14 Ben Harris

13 Dom Morris

12 Duncan Taylor

11 Rotimi Segun

10 Will Hooley

9 Aled Davies

1 Eroni Mawi

2 Tom Woolstencroft ©

3 Vincent Koch

4 Jon Kpoku

5 Ollie Stonham

6 Janco Venter

7 Andy Christie

8 Billy Vunipola

16 Kapeli Pifeleti

17 Sam Crean

18 Josh Ibuanokpe

19 Llewelyn Jones

20 Callum Hunter-Hill

21 Tom Whiteley

22 Harry Sloan

23 Charlie Watson

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