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Wallabies coach sacked

“We have differences in attacking strategy and overall game philosophy”

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Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Australian Rugby has today announced that former Wallaby Stephen Larkham will no longer act as the national side’s assistant coach but will transition to a new role as national high performance coach advisor.

Larkham is a former World Cup-winning Australian Out-Half and was recently inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. He joined the Wallabies as attack coach after cutting his teeth with the ACT Brumbies. He has been with the Wallabies as attack coach since his appointment in 2015 which included their RWC 2015 campaign.

Larkham will move into the new role with immediate effect after a decision was made by head coach Michael Cheika that Larkham should no longer continue in the role of assistant coach of the Wallabies.

Larkham’s new position will focus on coach mentoring, coaching and skills development across the Australian Sevens program, Junior Wallabies, State U20s Academies, and Buildcorp Wallaroos.

Stephen Larkham said in a statement:

“Ultimately Michael is responsible for the performance of the team. We have differences in attacking strategy and overall game philosophy. We couldn’t agree on these key points and it is in the best interest of the team that they receive clear and consistent messages from their coaches.

“I am obviously disappointed with this outcome as I had chosen to pursue the experience of taking the Wallabies through to the World Cup, however I am pleased to be able to continue coaching and contributing to Australian Rugby in this new role,” said Larkham.

Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle said:

“We are very pleased that Stephen has agreed to take on this role. He was one of our greatest ever Wallabies and has developed a strong depth of experience during his coaching roles with the Brumbies and Qantas Wallabies.

“It was very important from Rugby Australia’s perspective to retain Stephen’s services and to ensure his experience is used to grow and develop coaches and players in our next generation.

“We will also look to support Stephen in his transition into another Head Coach role,” said Castle.

Rugby Australia also confirmed today the departure of Wallabies Head of Athletic Preparation, Haydn Masters.

Masters resigned from his post after four seasons with the Wallabies, having previously worked under Michael Cheika in the victorious 2014 NSW Waratahs Super Rugby campaign.

6 Nations

Double Injury Blow for Leinster

Leinster have been handed two big injuries to two of their key men as they head into the Christmas period

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(Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster have confirmed that star fly-half Johnny Sexton has suffered a medial tear in his right knee, while Ronan Kelleher has also had an injury set-back.

Sexton, who went off injured during Leinster’s 43-16 victory over Northampton Saints last Saturday, underwent scans on his knee yesterday and saw a specialist who revealed that he will miss between 6 and 8 weeks of action. 

The 34-year-old is set to miss the opening weekend’s of the 2020 Six Nations as a result, with the first fixture at home to Scotland on February 1st, with Wales coming to town a week later. 

It will remain to be seen how quickly he recovers, but the likelihood is that he will aim to be fit for Ireland’s third game away to England on the 23rd. 

However, his injury causes a slight selection headache for new head coach Andy Farrell, who at this moment is without Sexton and Joey Carbery, but the latter is expected to return from injury later this month. 

Although Sexton’s injury is a big blow, it could open the door once again for Connacht’s Jack Carty to get a run in the Irish line-up, while Leinster teammate Ross Byrne will take the reigns at club-level and with the form he is currently in, will fancy his chances of getting a call up to the national team having missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad. 

The injury also means that Sexton will miss all three of Leinster’s remaining Champions Cup pool fixtures as well as their three inter-provincial derbies over the coming month, with Byrne expected to be backed up by younger brother Harry and Ciaran Frawley. 

Although the bad news for both Leinster and Ireland doesn’t stop there with upcoming star hooker Ronan Kelleher expected to be side-lined for a period with a possible fractured hand, which he is thought to have suffered during last weekend’s game. 

It is thought that Kelleher was in poll position to earn his first call-up to the Irish side for the Six Nations after a blistering start to the season, but this may now dampen his hopes. 

Sean Cronin is believed to be nearing full-fitness once more, which would be a boost for both club and country as he could slot in seamlessly. 

The injuries are piling-up for Leinster, who will also miss centre Joe Tomane for the same period as Sexton through a hamstring injury, while Rory O’Loughlin will miss this weekend’s game with injury. 

James Ryan is also making his way through the back to play protocols after taking a knock to the head against the Saints, but could feature this Saturday. 

Leinster will hope that their squad can cope with the set-backs as they head into this weekend’s home fixture against Northampton, with younger stars now having the chance to lay a marker as the province look to make it 11 wins from 11 at the start of the season.

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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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International

All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year Confirmed

The All Blacks have had an off-colour year compared to their usual high standards but there were some stand-out performers and the players have cast their vote on their player of the year

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New Zealand back-rower Ardie Savea has been announced as the All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year for 2019.

The nation as a whole were disappointed with their year having lost out on the Rugby Championship and failing to retain their Rugby World Cup crown, with their rivals South Africa claiming both. 

However, despite all the downsides there were some stand-out performances and Savea has stood out among his peers for his showings this year beating fellow teammates Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read, Codie Taylor and Anton Lienert-Brown to the award. 

It brings Savea’s year to a bright ending after also being pipped to the World Player of the Year award by Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit last month. Although Savea will miss a chunk of the 2020 season having confirmed he will undergo surgery on a knee problem which will leave him side-lined for between four to six months.

Sevu Reece was handed the Players’ Super Rugby Player of the Year after finishing top of the try-scoring charts with the Crusaders

Meanwhile, in the women’s voting Charmaine McMenamin came out on top as the Players’ International Player of the Year. 

The New Zealand Rugby 2019 awards take place on Thursday with both Savea and McMenamin up for the Player of the Year award going up against Beauden Barrett and Lienert-Brown, and Black Ferns’ Kendra Cocksedge and Ayesha Leti-l’iga respectively.

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