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Premiership

Suspensions Handed Down to Premiership Duo

Two Premiership players will miss the start of the competition for the 2019/20 season after being given suspensions

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Saracens’ Charlie Watson and Leicester’s Tatafu Polota-Nau will both miss the start of the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season after being handed suspensions earlier today.

Watson was shown a red-card during his team’s game with Northampton over the weekend in the Premiership Cup, after being seen to kick Saints player Andrew Symons in the face. 

A statement from panel chair Richard Whittam stated that Watson was involved in clear foul play but was also being fouled himself leading to his actions. 

“The panel accepted this was an act of frustration by the player in trying to release his leg from being held by Northampton Saints 12. Contact was clearly made with the face of the Northampton player but the action was petulant rather than with any intent to cause injury. In this instance, no injury was suffered and the Northampton player continued in the match after returning from the yellow card,” he said. 

He went on to say that the normal punishment for such an offence would be a minimum of eight weeks, however, due to Watson’s clean record the Saracens man would only receive a four-week ban. 

“The sanction table mandates a mid-range entry point where there is contact with the head. In this case, that entry point is eight weeks. The panel found no reason to go above that. The player accepted the charge, has no previous record and expressed remorse for his actions. In the circumstances, the panel felt able to give the player the maximum mitigation of 50 per cent. The panel note that while the yellow card awarded to Northampton Saints 12 was not brought before them for consideration, it is disappointing to see actions of this nature in the professional game,” he said. 

The result of the hearing means that Watson will be unavailable for selection for the current holders until November 8th. 

Meanwhile Polota-Nau, who was also red-carded during the weekend’s cup fixtures for a dangerous tackle on Bath’s William Chudley was seen to today with Whittam again explaining that the players remorse and record would see his suspension reduced.

“The player accepted that he had committed an act of foul play in tackling a player high, making contact to the top of his chest/bottom of the neck. In accepting the charge, the player acknowledged that the mandatory mid-range entry point would apply. The player was entitled to mitigation for his early acceptance of the charge, his clean record over an impressive rugby career, his genuine remorse for the injury caused and his off-field contributions to the local community. The panel allowed the full 50 per cent reduction resulting in a sanction of three weeks,” he said. 

His ban will see him out of action until October 29th in what is a big blow for Leicester. 

Saracens open their campaign by hosting Northampton on Saturday October 19th while Leicester begin on the same day with a trip to Worcester but both will be without their respective players for the beginning of the season. 

Premiership

Harlequins Secure South African Star’s Signature

Harlequins have confirmed the signing of one of the most powerful backs in Super Rugby for next season

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Harlequins have announced the signing of South African back Andre Esterhuizen from Super Rugby outfit the Sharks.

The 25-year-old, known as ‘The Giant’ due to his size and stature, will link-up with the squad ahead of the 2020/21 season following the end of the upcoming Super Rugby campaign with the South African-based franchise. 

The eight-time capped Springbok is delighted to be joining the Premiership side and admitted the opportunity was too good to turn down.

“When the opportunity to play for Harlequins came up, I knew it was the right move for me to develop my career and get the chance to play in the Premiership, as well as experience the European competition, which have always been dreams of mine. Paul Gustard and his team are building something special there and to have the chance to work with a young and dynamic coaching group such as Nick Evans and Sean Long is really exciting. I can’t wait to run out at The Stoop and show them what I can bring to the team,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Gustard believes that Esterhuizen’s sheer power will be a massive boost to the club and is excited to have him on board. 

“Andre is an incredible signing for Harlequins. He is a current Springbok who has the ability to change any game through his raw power and strength in the contact areas. His physical abilities are impressive enough, but we were further attracted by his capacity to be a second playmaker, distributing before and through the line. He is a fantastic talent and his addition to our squad is very exciting. Besides his ability on the field, which is without debate, he is a tremendous human being. He has the character that we want and at 25 is entering his prime as a player. He will join a backline that we feel can grow together and develop into an elite unit, developing a deep understanding of each other and building strong friendships,” he said. 

Esterhuizen will be a huge addition to the Quins back-line with his ability to play centre and full-back, as well as having 72 Super Rugby appearances to his name ahead of the new season and will be hoping to hit the ground running when he heads to England.

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Premiership

Rugby Australia Confirm Skelton Stance

With the Saracens team set to be torn apart, Rugby Australia have announced their intentions regarding one of the side’s key men

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Rugby Australia have confirmed they will be trying to sign up Saracens star Will Skelton following the club’s salary cap scandal.

Skelton has been away from Australia since 2016 following a stint with the Waratahs, where he won the Super Rugby title in 2014. However, in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup last year approaches were made for the massive lock in a bid for him to be eligible for the tournament. 

Those moves came to no avail, but now Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson told The Australian that they will go all out to tempt Skelton back to his homeland. 

“I can’t see them keeping anywhere near that team together and because he [Skelton] is not ­English, he will be one of the first under the spotlight. We have spoken to his agent, and we are going to go heavy this week. We are in a realistic chance at some stage to bring him back, if he wants to come back. He’s going to make a decision on what he is doing this for. Is it money, or is it career? So he has to make that clear to us. For us, we won’t compete for the money. We’ll make a good offer. But I only want guys in the country who want to make a difference. He has apparently been saying the right things but, to be fair, he was always just trying to honour his contract,” he said. 

If he returns to Australia it is believed he could go back to the Waratahs, but there is also rumours that the Rebels or the Brumbies could try and get him onto their books. 

Meanwhile, with a big salary and being unable to play for England, it seems a logical move for Saracens to try and offload the 27-year-old. 

Already they have lost Liam Williams to the Scarlets and it is believed that George Kruis will depart for Japan come the end of the current campaign. While question marks remain over a host of star names including Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje

However, while those players more than likely would seek a move to a club in England, Skelton will have his options and a move back to Australia would be a huge boost for the national side as they head into a new era under Dave Rennie.

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International

Borthwick Confirms New Job Already

Steve Borthwick confirmed his departure from the England set-up yesterday and less than 24 hours his new role has been announced

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Leicester Tigers have confirmed that England assistant coach Steve Borthwick will take over as head coach once his current commitments to the national side conclude.

It is a move that has been rumoured for some time and with Borthwick announcing his departure from the England set-up yesterday after over four years with them, many expected that he would be heading in the Tigers direction. 

However, the speed at which the confirmation has come about is the only surprise, but the former England international is delighted to be given the chance to manage the Tigers after learning so much from working with Eddie Jones since 2012. 

“The last four-and-a-half years working with the England team has been an incredible journey. I have worked with some brilliant players and staff. In particular, I would like to thank Eddie Jones. To have worked with one of the greatest head coaches in the world for so long has been an unbelievable experience. I’m delighted to be joining Leicester Tigers as head coach. The Tigers have such a long and successful history and are one of the greatest rugby clubs in the game. Welford Road, with the special atmosphere created by the club’s incredible supporters roaring their team forward, is a very special place to be. We must now work to build upon that great history and create our future to get this club to the top of European rugby. It is a brilliant challenge and I am excited to start working with the players and everybody associated with the team. Geordan provides a link with the club’s greatest teams and we will be working together to ensure that there are many successful days ahead for this club, and for our supporters to enjoy,” he said. 

He will be welcomed into the club with open arms after being part of the Japanese national set-up that stunned the world at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, before switching to England where he has won two Six Nations titles and reached a World Cup final. 

His arrival sees current head coach Geordan Murphy changes his role at the club, taking up the position of director of rugby and club chairman Peter Tom believes that the two former stars can build back a Tigers team that has struggled lately. 

“The appointment of Steve Borthwick as head coach and Geordan Murphy in the role of director of rugby provides an exciting combination of leadership, expertise and experience to drive the club forward in its desire to challenge for major honours again. The club has enjoyed many of its greatest successes with a blend of the Tigers DNA alongside fresh, innovative ideas from outside, both among the players and the coaching staff, and we look forward to Geordan and Steve leading that in their respective new roles,” he said. 

Both Borthwick and Murphy will be hoping to bring the Premiership side back to the top level of the game come next season, but before then they have their separate tasks, with Borthwick guiding England through the upcoming Six Nations, while Murphy attempts to take the Tigers further up the Premiership table.

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