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Saracens Set to Sign Springboks Out-Half

Saracens have agreed a deal to sign a Springbok fly-half ahead of the new season

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(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Saracens have agreed to sign Stormer and Springboks No 10 Damien Willemse as a World Cup cover player if he fails to break into Rassie Erasmus’ 31-man squad.

The out-half, who can also play centre, winger and full-back is currently playing in the Currie Cup but has been given the opportunity to play for Saracens according to Western Province coach John Dobson.

“If he doesn’t go to the World Cup, Damian could have an opportunity to go to Saracens on a short-term loan. If that does come about it will be a good thing for him as he can learn a lot through a short stint in the UK. Saracens, as you know, have a very good kicking game. If he goes there he will learn a lot about the game management that is expected of fly-half and he will come back better equipped to do well for us in Super Rugby. Our WP captain Chris van Zyl played for Saracens last year, enjoyed it and learnt a lot from the experience and was then back to take part in our pre-season,” he said.

As well as gaining experience Willemse could get some vital game time and be match-fit should an injury occur to someone in the 31-man squad and he would therefore be available to slot in.

Having come back from a knee injury Willemse is preparing for Western Province’s final Currie Cup game this weekend against the Cheetahs. Dobson is sure that Willemse could cut it at the reigning European and Premiership champions, but nothing is confirmed that he will head to England.

“Damian is a special kid off the field as well as on it and is a deep thinker on the game so I don’t think he’s going to be too badly knocked if he isn’t in the World Cup squad, but he does want to make a point to the national selectors. In his mind, he is still playing for a chance to be in the World Cup squad. Damian showed us last week when he came on against Griquas what a good attacking fly-half he is and we are expecting a lot from him against the Cheetahs. He is really motivated to do well for us and hopefully push our season out by another few weeks, but if he is not in the World Cup squad when it is announced on Monday he will then give some thought to Saracens,” he added.

The Springboks’ World Cup squad is set to be announced on Monday and it seems unlikely Willemse will be involved which would open the door for him to cover for the likes of England’s Owen Farrell while they go to Japan.

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

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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Premiership

Leicester Tigers squad for Premiership Rugby 7s

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Leicester Tigers include new signing Johnny McPhillips and eight of the club’s academy graduates in the squad for the Premiership Rugby Sevens this weekend.

Former Ulster fly-half McPhillips is the first of the summer arrivals to have the chance to run out in Tigers colours as the season’s traditional curtain-raiser is hosted at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton over Friday and Saturday.

McPhillips, 22, is joined by seven members of the Tigers development squad – all part of the academy’s Under-18 League championship-winning sides in recent seasons – and the former academy scrum-half Will Findlay.

Henri Lavin and Taylor Gough are entering their second season in the development squad, while Ollie Ashworth, Jonny Law, Joe Browning, Leo Gilliland and Freddie Steward all step up in 2019/20.

They are joined by guests Toby Smith, Will Aflleck and Levi Roper in a Tigers squad coached by Matt Smith and David Mélé this weekend.

Smith, who retired as a player last season and is now head coach at the Tigers academy, said: “The Premiership Sevens is an opportunity to give guys exposure to playing at a Premiership stadium, in front of a decent crowd and the TV cameras – all of that outside ‘noise’ and distraction they are not used to – and that is another step in terms of their own development as players.

“It’s a first run-out of the year, a first appearance in our colours for Johnny McPhillips, the first time for guys like Joe Browning to be involved in senior rugby and a chance for all of them to make the most of a new opportunity.”

All 12 Premiership clubs are involved over two days of competition at Franklin’s Gardens, with action from 5.30pm on Friday. Tigers face Wasps at 7.23pm and Bath Rugby (8.53pm) on the opening evening and all 12 teams return for the knockout stages and finals on Saturday, starting at 2.30pm.

Tigers will wear the club’s new alternate fluoro-red kit throughout the weekend.

Tickets are available from the Saints ticket office, price £20 adults/£8 juniors for the whole weekend or £12/£5 for a single day.

Leicester Tigers
1 Henri Lavin
2 Taylor Gough
3 Ollie Ashworth
4 Jonny Law
5 Will Findlay
6 Joe Browning
7 Leo Gilliland
8 Freddie Steward
9 Johnny McPhillips (c)
10 Toby Smith
11 Will Affleck
12 Levi Roper

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