KICKING COVID INTO TOUCH: RUGBY STARS SUPPORT NHS VACCINE ROLL OUT
- Rugby stars urge young people to get their COVID-19 vaccine in new short film
- Sam Underhill, Alex Goode and Dan Robson amongst players sharing personal experiences of COVID-19
Some of the country’s top rugby players have today (Tuesday 28 September) encouraged young people to get their COVID-19 vaccine as they discuss their personal experiences of the pandemic.
Ahead of Round 3 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby this weekend, a new film has been released featuring key players Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), Alex Goode (Saracens), Nathan Earle (Newcastle Falcons), Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish), Marland Yarde (Sale Sharks) and Dan Robson (Wasps) who discuss the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and the impact the virus has had on them in the past year.
The players also share their thoughts on who to look out for this season. While their player predictions might be different, they all agree that the most important thing everyone can do this season is to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The film will be played out at stadiums across the country from this weekend (1st-3rd October) and comes as more than 82% of over-16s in the UK have now received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Earlier this month, the booster programme was also rolled out, with those eligible being invited to book their jab as soon as possible in order to keep the virus under control for the long term and protect the most vulnerable through the winter months.
The latest data (23rd September 2021) also shows that in particular, younger men have been more reluctant than younger women to take up both doses of the jab – in those aged 18-49, 70% of men are double vaccinated vs 76% of women in this group.
In the film, the players discuss how the pandemic has directly affected their lives. Sam Underhill talks about how his dad was hospitalised with COVID-19, and Nathan Earle’s partner had their first child in the pandemic, meaning he wasn’t able to be in the hospital to support her through the birth.
The film is part of a wider partnership with the Premiership Rugby League, and follows the “Every Vaccination Gives Us Hope” campaign launched earlier in the year to encourage the public to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Over 48.7 million people have now received a first dose of a vaccine – over 89.7% of the UK over-16s population – with 44.7 million receiving their second dose. This means over 82.4% of over-16s in the UK have now received both doses of a vaccine, with 93.5 million vaccines administered overall.
Phil Winstanley, the Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby, said:
“It’s been so fantastic to have sports fans back in stadiums all over the country, and this couldn’t have been done without the COVID-19 vaccine programme. It’s been so instrumental in getting us back to normal, and as we get going with this year’s season, we need to make sure all our fans are as safe as they can possibly be – and that includes making sure they get the vaccine to protect themselves and those around them.”
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said:
“It is fantastic to have these rugby legends come out and back the life-saving jabs. A massive thank you to Sam, Alex, Nathan, Ollie, Marland and Dan.
“It is thanks to the wall of defence built up by the vaccines that fans of all sports can get back to seeing their favourite players at the grounds.
“Please get your jab as soon as possible, to protect yourself, your family and your loved ones.”
Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said:
“The vaccine’s impact in giving us protection against COVID-19 has allowed us to return to doing the things we love – whether that be going out for dinner with friends, taking a trip abroad or watching your favourite sports players live in the stadium.
“It’s brilliant to see so many famous faces pledge their support for the vaccination programme – and we continue to urge all those who haven’t yet had theirs to come forward for the life-saving jab as soon as possible.”
Nathan Earle of Newcastle Falcons said:
“It’s been a really rough 18 months for everyone, but finally we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Having the fans back in the crowd has been incredible – it just gives you that extra boost you need on the pitch. I’d say to anyone make sure you get your jab if you haven’t already – it’s quick and easy and has meant we can get back to the game we love!’”
Vaccinated people are far less likely to get COVID-19 with symptoms and are less likely to get serious COVID-19, to be admitted to hospital, or to die from it.
The latest data from Public Health England shows that the vaccine rollout has saved more than 123,000 lives and stopped nearly quarter of a million hospital admissions.
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit: www.nhs.uk/covidvaccine
Emerging Ireland Squad: Meet the Players
The Emerging Ireland squad that will compete in the Toyota Challenge in Bloemfontein over the next two weeks features a host of players that have starred for Ireland at underage level and on the world stage for the Ireland Sevens. Fourteen were part of the IRFU’s National Talent Squad programme and the majority have already made a breakthrough at senior level for their Provinces.
The Capped Players
Max Deegan was named Player of the Tournament after helping the Ireland U20s to the final of the 2016 U20 World Rugby Championships. He was capped by Ireland against Wales in the 2020 Six Nations Championships and despite some serious injury setbacks, has amassed 85 senior caps for Leinster.
Shane Daly has two caps for Ireland, making his senior debut against Georgia in the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup. A former Ireland Sevens international, he has 49 senior caps for Munster.
Robert Baloucoune is another former Ireland Sevens international who has two senior international caps having made his debut against the USA in July 2021. The winger has 47 senior caps for Ulster.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) September 26, 2022
The Maori Crew
Cian Prendergast played in both games against the Maori All Blacks during the summer. He played for the Ireland U20s in 2020 and has made 32 senior appearances for Connacht.
Joe McCarthy also played in both fixtures against the Maori All Blacks on the 2022 New Zealand Tour and played Ireland U20s with Prendergast in 2020. The second row has made 13 senior appearances for Leinster.
The Development Brief
Both Tom Ahern and Jamie Osborne trained with the Ireland squad as Development Players ahead of the 2021 Autumn Nations Series. Ahern was an Ireland U20 international in 2019 and 2020 missing the Grand Slam campaign through injury. He has made 21 senior appearances for Munster
Osborne represented the Ireland U20s in 2021 but had already made his senior Leinster debut at that stage. He has made 20 senior appearances for Leinster.
Stewart Moore, Calvin Nash and Diarmuid Barron have all established themselves as senior Provincial players. All three represented Ireland at U20 World Rugby Championships.
Since making his senior debut for Ulster in December 2019, Moore has accumulated 32 senior appearances. Nash has played 38 senior games for Munster, while Barron has 36 senior Munster caps.
The Class of 2019
John Hodnett, Scott Penny, David McCann, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Brian Deeny, Jake Flannery, Thomas Clarkson, Michael Milne, Callum Reid and Josh Wycherley were all part of Ireland’s U20 Six Nations Grand Slam winning squad in 2019.
At Munster, Hodnett and Wycherley have made 22 and 29 senior provincial appearances respectively while Flannery made six senior appearances for Munster before making the switch to Ulster this season. McCann, who captained the U20s the following year, has made 15 senior appearances for Ulster with Reid clocking 11 appearances to date.
Tierney-Martin has made eight senior appearances for Connacht and scored a try against the Stormers at the weekend. Penny has made the most senior appearances for Leinster with 42 with Milne (18), Clarkson (18) and Deeny (3) also making the breakthrough at senior level for Leo Cullen’s side.
The Sevens Boys
Baloucoune and Daly are not the only two players in the Emerging Ireland squad that have benefitted from exposure to the Ireland Sevens programme.
Andrew Smith and Chay Mullins both won bronze medals at the recent Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town while Cormac Izuchukwu won two Ireland Sevens caps before clocking nine senior appearances for Ulster.
Smith also won the Energia AIL title with Clontarf earlier this year and has made two senior appearances for Leinster. Mullins has joined the Connacht Academy this season having also helped the Ireland U20s to a 2022 Six Nations Grand Slam.
The 2020 Triple Crowners
The 2020 U20 Six Nations was cut short by the Covid pandemic but after three games the Ireland U20 squad had secured wins over Scotland, Wales and England, claiming an unofficial Triple Crown. Ethan McIlroy, Jack Crowley, Tom Stewart and Ben Murphy were in that squad alongside the aforementioned Smith, McCann, Prendergast, Ahern and McCarthy.
McIlroy has made 37 senior appearances for Ulster while Stewart’s progress has been hampered by injury but he claimed an impressive try against Connacht in the first round of this season’s URC.
Out-half Crowley has notched up 16 senior appearances for Munster including a start in the Champions Cup against Castres. Murphy has also made his senior debut for Leinster having gone on loan to Munster during the 2021/22 season.
The Class of 2021
In 2021, the U20 Six Nations took place in the summer months of June and July as the global pandemic continued to disrupt the rugby calender. Osborne featured strongly for the Richie Murphy’s side but so too did Nathan Doak, Cathal Forde and Sam Illo.
Doak has already made a big impact at senior provincial level with Ulster clocking up 24 appearances since making his debut against Munster in December 2020. Forde has made two senior appearances for Connacht while Illo has featured three times since switching from the Leinster age grade system.
International IQ Rugby
There are three players in the squad that have come through the Irish qualified player pathway. Mullins came via the Bristol Academy and the IRFU’s IQ programme in the UK.
Michael McDonald was born in Ireland but represented Australia U20s at the 2019 U20 World Rugby Championship having emigrated down under with his family at the age of 13. He joined Ulster at the start of the current season.
Antoine Frisch was born in France but qualifies for Ireland via his grandmother. He joined Munster this season from Premiership side Bristol Bears and made his Munster debut against Cardiff in the opening URC fixture of the 2022/23 season.
Roman Salanoa was born in Hawaii but has qualified to play for Ireland through residency. He represented the USA at the 2016 U20 World Rugby Championship. Originally part of the Leinster development programme, Salanoa subsequently joined Munster and has made 10 senior appearances to date.
New Kid on the Block
James Culhane is yet to make his senior debut for Leinster but the powerful number eight left his mark on the 2022 U20 Six Nations. He was named Player of the Tournament as Ireland secured a memorable Grand Slam.
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Emerging Ireland Squad Departs For Bloemfontein
The Emerging Ireland squad have completed a three day camp in the IRFU High Performance Centre in Dublin and will depart this evening for Bloemfontein ahead of their participation in the Toyota Challenge.
Ciarán Frawley has been ruled out with a shoulder injury picked up playing for Leinster against Benetton on Friday night. Connacht’s Cathal Forde has been with the squad since Friday and will now travel to South Africa. Forde represented Ireland U20s in 2021 and made his Connacht debut against Glasgow in the URC last season.
Caolin Blade picked up an injury playing for Connacht against the Stormers yesterday and has been ruled out of the Tour. Leinster’s Ben Murphy, who was a member of the 2020 U20s Six Nations squad, has joined the group travelling to South Africa.
Unfortunately, Munster’s Alex Kendellen and Leinster’s Alex Soroka have also both been ruled out of travelling to Bloemfontein. Kendellen will complete his return to play process while Soroka aggravated an existing foot issue.
Ulster’s David McCann joined the squad on Friday. He was a member of the 2019 U20 Six Nations Grand Slam-winning side before captaining the Ireland U20s during the 2020 season.
The squad will depart for South Africa this evening and arrive in Bloemfontein on Tuesday ahead of their first game against the Windhoek Draught Griquas at the Toyota Stadium on Friday (Kick-off 12.45pm Irish time).
It is hoped that all three Emerging Ireland fixtures will be available via a livestream on IrishRugby.ie – details to follow.
Emerging Ireland Squad – Toyota Challenge 2022:
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen)
Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution)
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution)
Nathan Doak (Ulster/Banbridge)
Cathal Forde (Connacht/Corinthians)
Jake Flannery (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
Antoine Frisch (Munster)
Michael McDonald (Ulster)
Ethan McIlroy (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
Stewart Moore (Ulster/Malone)
Chay Mullins (Connacht/IQ Rugby)
Ben Murphy (Leinster/Clontarf)
Calvin Nash (Munster/Young Munster)
Jamie Osbourne (Leinster/Naas)
Andrew Smith (Leinster/Clontarf)
Tom Ahern (Munster/Shannon)
Diarmuid Barron (Munster/Garryowen)
Thomas Clarkson (Leinster/Dublin University)
James Culhane (Leinster/UCD)
Max Deegan (Leinster/Lansdowne)
Brian Deeny (Leinster/Clontarf)
John Hodnett (Munster/UCC)
Sam Illo (Connacht/Buccaneers)
Cormac Izuchukwu (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
David McCann (Ulster/Banbridge)
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin University)
Michael Milne (Leinster/UCD)
Scott Penny (Leinster/UCD)
Cian Prendergast (Connacht)
Callum Reid (Ulster/Banbridge)
Roman Salonoa (Munster/Shannon)
Tom Stewart (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
Dylan Tierney-Martin (Connacht/Corinthians)
Josh Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster)
Emerging Ireland Fixtures – Toyota Challenge 2022:
(All matches at Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein)
- Friday 30th September: Windhoek Draught Griquas vs Emerging Ireland, 12.45pm Irish time
- Wednesday 5th October: Airlink Pumas vs Emerging Ireland, 4pm Irish time
- Sunday 9th October: Toyota Cheetahs vs Emerging Ireland, 2pm Irish time.
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
‘Tour Experience Should Help Players To Kick On’ – Easterby
The 35-man panel was announced yesterday for their upcoming trip to South Africa, which will see them play the Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs as part of the Toyota Challenge, beginning on Friday, September 30.
Baloucoune was set to tour New Zealand with Ireland last summer, but a hip injury sidelined him at the end of last season. Now, a year out from the Rugby World Cup, he is determined to get back in the Test match fold.
Emerging Ireland head coach Simon Easterby sees the Bloemfontein series as a timely opportunity for the Ulster winger, who was capped against the USA and Argentina last year, to showcase his talent again in a green jersey.
“Rob was due to come to New Zealand with us and didn’t because of injury. He is certainly one that has been around the environment for a while, but he’s only got a couple of caps,” said Easterby.
“I guess him and a few others in there, we feel like there’s still a need for us to build time and exposure in what we’re trying to do.
“We’re really lucky at the moment that all the players are getting a high level of coaching and expertise in the provinces, but we do things slightly differently as the provinces will do.
“So, we need to make sure that we keep them aligned to what we’re doing in the national set-up. It’s not a million miles apart from each other, but there’s always going to be little nuances and differences that we have, that each province will do slightly differently.”
The Enniskillen man was in electric form at times during the 2021/22 campaign, his Heineken Champions Cup hat-trick away to Toulouse and a couple of dazzling scores in the URC standing out.
As one of only four Test-capped players in the Emerging Ireland selection, Baloucoune could have more of a leadership role to play in Bloemfontein where Easterby anticipates ‘a good standard of rugby’ and ‘a fast-flowing game, on potentially a dry track’.
His speed, athleticism and defensive and attacking skills look ideally suited for the three-match run, given the Ireland youngsters will be coming up against ‘some serious athletes in the three teams we will be playing against’.
Easterby continued: “For someone like Rob, who has spent time in the environment, he came in as a development player a couple of years ago and then won a couple of caps and did really well.
“Then he’s had to spend a bit of time out with injury. We would have loved to have seen him in New Zealand, getting opportunities out there, but we didn’t get that chance.
“So, he’s one that we feel will benefit from spending more time in our environment. Hopefully he goes back to Ulster after the experience and he kicks on again.
There’s this massive opportunity over the next couple of months, through the (Ireland) ‘A’ game and the autumn internationals and beyond that into the Six Nations and beyond, for players like Rob and others.
“The time spent with us, in the bigger picture, is hopefully going to expose them and give them a real good foundation for the season ahead because it is such a massive season for all of us.”
Versatile Leinster back Frawley, who turns 25 in December, is shaping up to be a contender for the Ireland number 10 jersey after his exploits in New Zealand.
During that second Test victory over Māori All Blacks, he stood tall in managing the game in wet and windy conditions in Wellington and contributed 10 points from the tee.
While Frawley has played most of his provincial rugby at inside centre, the Ireland management want to see more of him at out-half and this upcoming tour could see him really come to the fore.
“We feel ‘Frawls’ has the potential to lead in a number of different positions,” noted Easterby. “Obviously he’s played 12 a fair bit for Leinster, but we see him – which he did in the Māori weeks – as being a guy that can lead from the front at 10. You know, lead a week.
“He’ll be asked in the next few weeks to do a slightly different role to what he was doing in New Zealand because he had a lot of senior players around him.
“We feel like he has the ability to step up and lead the week as someone like, the extreme, that Johnny Sexton does week in and week out and has done for a number of years.
“Giving those players like ‘Frawls’ the chance to put himself at the forefront of a week, lead it and take the team to a performance on a weekend in that position of 10 is crucial for us.”
Frawley will certainly face some stiff competition for the starting berth from Munster’s Jack Crowley and Ulster newcomer Jake Flannery, who made the switch from his native Munster and has similarly lofty ambitions.
Getting these players up to speed with the rigours of an international set-up and playing in a challenging touring environment is of huge value to the national coaches, but also potentially for their provinces on their return.
“We’re still finding a little bit about Frawls and the way he can play. You can see that when they’re playing in the URC and they’re playing for their provinces, but it is slightly different,” said the Emerging Ireland head coach.
“It’s not hugely different but it is different when you have them in your environment across a period of a couple of weeks.
“Hopefully we can benefit from that time and Frawls and the other players can benefit from that time with us when they go back to their provinces after this trip.”
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
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