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Pro14

Fourie Aiming for Play-Offs with Cheetahs

Cheetahs head coach Hawies Fourie has set his sights on a play-off spot in the PRO14 this season but has pointed out the one area his team need to work on to get there

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Toyota Cheetahs head coach Hawies Fourie believes his team should be aiming for a play-off spot in the PRO14 this season, but knows their away form must change to get there.

The Cheetahs are in Conference A this year along with the likes of Leinster, Ulster and Glasgow Warriors, but opened their account well with three home wins on the bounce only to lose their three away games that followed. 

The results have left them third in the table after the opening six rounds, and Fourie thinks that they should be competing in that area for the remainder of the season. 

“We are competing against three really strong teams for the three play-off places in our conference. Leinster are way out in front at the moment, but ourselves, Ulster and Glasgow Warriors are all very close together on the log. Only three of the four teams will go through. In the first season the Cheetahs played in the PRO 14 they won just one game away and lost just one at home and that was enough. But with those teams competing with us for places that probably won’t be enough this time. The way we see it we need to win four of five games away from home. And then we can’t afford to lose more than one or two at home,” he said. 

The South African-based side reached the play-offs during their first season in the competition due to their incredible home form, which saw them only lose one game on home soil throughout the whole season. 

However, as Fourie has stated that isn’t enough to get to the top anymore and he is hoping that his team can kick-start their winning run on the road when they take on the Ospreys this weekend. 

“This is definitely a good opportunity for us and we have noted that the Ospreys haven’t had a great season so far. But we know we still have to play well against them, and they may be better than their record suggests. Even though they lost, they played well against Munster (in the Champions Cup). They are a very good scrummaging team and their mauls are also really good. They are also a very disciplined team. They don’t concede many penalties, just eight a game, so you don’t get much opportunity to kick to touch to set up the lineout. You only get about 10 lineouts a game against them, and of course our lineout attack is one of our main weapons. We will have to play a lot from turn-overs and poor kicks,” he added. 

As mentioned above the Cheetahs are currently in third-place in Conference A, three-points off second-placed Ulster and two-points ahead of fourth-placed Glasgow. 

The Ospreys have had their struggles so far this season, but will hope, like most sides, that the return of some of their international stars will see them pick up points sooner rather than later. The Cheetahs will be aware that when stars return their opponents will become stronger, but Fourie and his team have a goal and if they can improve their performances away from home, who would put it past them reaching their target.

6 Nations

Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province

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Leinster have confirmed that out-half Johnny Sexton will not feature in this weekend’s return fixture against the Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.

The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury. 

The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year. 

As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side. 

The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend. 

However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem. 

In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win. 

Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.

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Pro14

Zebre Star Receives Small Ban for Biting

Zebre might have claimed a famous away win in the PRO14 last weekend, but it’s not all rosy for the Italian team after one of their players has been handed a ban for biting, although it’s shorter than most would expect

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Zebre No 8 has received a six-week ban after being found guilty of biting an opposition player during last Saturday’s PRO14 clash with the Ospreys.

The 24-year-old was expected to be handed a lengthy ban for an act of foul play that is seriously frowned upon in the sport, but after initially being given a 12-week ban it was cut in half due to his previous disciplinary record, his admission of guilt and his conduct throughout the process. 

All of which means that he will be free to play for the Italian minnows, who enjoyed a memorable away win in Wales, come the 12th of January. 

The four-time capped Italian’s ban comes only a week after the exact same ban that was handed down to La Rochelle’s Pierre Bourgarit, who was caught eye-gouging Sale’s Tom Curry in a Champions Cup fixture. 

Another one of the worst offences in the game and it was reduced from 12 to six weeks, much for the same reasons as Giammarioli. 

Some fans and ex-players will criticise the decision, as it appears a much softer result than in days gone by for offences that could have caused serious harm to opponents.

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Pro14

Dragons Prop Forced to Retire Early

The Dragons have confirmed that one of their players has been forced to retire due to a freak training ground injury

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Dragons prop Jack Cosgrove has decided to retire from rugby due to injury the club have confirmed.

At only 25-years of age Cosgrove has been forced to retire early due to an eye injury that he sustained during a training session back in October. 

Having only joined the Welsh outfit in the summer it is a big blow to Cosgrove and the club wished him all the best in a statement.  

“Everyone at the Dragons wishes Jack every success in his future and he will continue to receive professional help and support from the region as he makes the transition from playing,” the statement read. 

The player had been through specialist treatment and had medical advice which helped him come to his decision.

Cosgrove came through the Worcester Warriors academy in England before he moved on to Edinburgh in 2015. A move to Bristol in 2017 followed, where he won the Championship on his return to England, before a return to Worcester ahead of his final switch to Dragons. 

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