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Rugby World Cup

All Blacks Confirm World Cup Squad

The All Blacks have announced their 31-man squad as they seek a third World Cup in a row and some star names have been left out

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has confirmed his team for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan and there are some notable absentees.

The most obvious omission is that of 108-cap prop Owen Franks who was preparing for a third successive World Cup. However, he has been overlooked for young prop Atu Moli as the All Blacks seek a more mobile front-three for the tournament.

Despite reports claiming that back-rower Liam Squire was back in contention to feature at the competition, Hansen has left him behind and has chosen instead to bring Luke Jacobson, who only has a single cap to his name.

Elsewhere, Ngani Laumape has been the centre to miss out as expected with Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue and Anton Lienert-Brown being preferred to him.

While in the forwards there is no place for either Jackson Hemopo or Vaea Fifita.

Hansen congratulated all those selected and sympathised with the players he was forced to exclude.

“The All Blacks selectors would like to congratulate all those selected for Rugby World Cup 2019.  It’s a special moment being named in any All Blacks squad but especially when it’s the Rugby World Cup and they and their families can be incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved. As always, we’d also like to take a moment to respect the effort and disappointment of those who’ve missed out. It’s a tough time in anyone’s career,” he said.

He went on to discuss how his team’s goal is to lift the Webb Ellis Cup once again but thinks this could be the most challenging World Cup there has ever been.

“Now we are finally in a position to put all our time, effort and thinking into what is going to be an awesome challenge to try and do something that’s never been done before – win three Rugby World Cups in a row. Yes, it will come with massive expectation and therefore pressure.  We’re looking forward to tackling that pressure head on and enjoying everything that comes with it. We know it’ll be tough and that we’ll need to earn the right, every time we play, to continue throughout the Tournament.  However, that’s exciting and knowing we’ve faced that pressure before gives us confidence. There are no guarantees in sport. However, with talent, hard work and mental fortitude, we’ll give ourselves a chance. This Rugby World Cup looks like being the most fiercely-contested yet with a large number of teams all believing they can win.  This will bring possibly more pressure and expectation on them than ever before and it will be interesting to see who can and who can’t cope with it,” he added.

Kieran Read will lead the squad in Japan as he participates in his third global tournament alongside Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Whitelock. While Ben Smith will act as Read’s deputy.

Despite being out of action due to a dislocated shoulder Brodie Retallick has also been included in the squad and will more than likely only be available following the pool stages of the competition.

The reigning back-to-back champions open up their title defence with a huge clash against this year’s Rugby Championship winners South Africa on September 21st, with the most recent game between the two rivals ending in a 16-16 draw.

Following that match they will go on to play Canada, Namibia and Italy in what should be a comfortable route to the quarter-finals for the team.

Check Out the Full 31-Man Squad Below.

Forwards:

Dane Coles (32, Hurricanes / Wellington, 64)

Liam Coltman (29, Highlanders / Otago, 5)

Codie Taylor (28, Crusaders / Canterbury, 44

Nepo Laulala (27, Chiefs / Counties Manukau, 19)

Joe Moody (30, Crusaders /Canterbury, 40)

Atu Moli (24, Chiefs / Tasman, 2)

Angus Ta’avao (29, Chiefs / Taranaki, 7)

Ofa Tuungafasi (27, Blues / Auckland, 29)

Scott Barrett (25, Crusaders / Taranaki, 30)

Brodie Retallick (28, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 77)

Patrick Tuipulotu (26, Blues / Auckland, 24)

Samuel Whitelock (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 111)

Sam Cane (27, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 63)

Luke Jacobson (22, Chiefs / Waikato, 1)

Kieran Read (33, Crusaders / Counties Manukau, 121) – Captain

Ardie Savea (25, Hurricanes / Wellington, 38)

Matt Todd (31, Crusaders / Canterbury, 20)

Backs:

TJ Perenara (27, Hurricanes / Wellington, 58)

Aaron Smith (30, Highlanders / Manawatu, 86)

Brad Weber (28, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 2)

Beauden Barrett (28, Blues / Taranaki, 77)

Richie Mo’unga (25, Crusaders / Canterbury, 12)

Ryan Crotty (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 44)

Jack Goodhue (24, Crusaders / Northland, 9)

Anton Lienert-Brown (24, Chiefs / Waikato, 37)

Sonny Bill Williams (33, Blues / Counties Manukau, 53)

Jordie Barrett (22, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 11)

George Bridge (24, Crusaders / Canterbury, 4)

Rieko Ioane (22, Blues / Auckland, 26)

Sevu Reece (22, Crusaders / Waikato, 2)

Ben Smith (33, Highlanders /Otago, 79)

Rugby

Gatland Explains England RWC Final Comments

Warren Gatland has come out to explain his comments around England’s Rugby World Cup final as well as looking back on one vital mistake he made in his career

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Former Wales head coach Warren Gatland has given his reason for predicting England’s fall in the Rugby World Cup final while talking to Off the Ball.

The coaching great, who stepped aside from his 12-year stint with Wales following the conclusion of their World Cup campaign was promoting his new book ‘Pride and Passion’ and explained how the emotional toll of England’s semi-final win over New Zealand was hard to follow up. 

“At the very elite level of sport, it is the emotion that counts. And sometimes when you have a great performance and you are emotionally charged right on the edge, it is difficult to repeat that,” he said. 

It proved to be the case for England as they failed to find another gear in the final, being dominated by South Africa who ran out 32-12 winners. He drew on past experiences in his career to back up his point, including a discussion about the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour.

“When I look back at my time coaching, there are two examples that really strike out for me. One was in London coaching Wasps, and we played Leicester in the last round. Martin Johnson’s last game and Neil Back’s last game at Welford Road. I completely underestimated the emotion of that. They beat us 45-24 or something like that. Then in the final, I didn’t think they could bring the same level of emotion so we put 40-points on them in the final. It was the same scenario with Australia in the second test in 2013. James Horwill, tears running down his eyes, the effort and energy they put into that, I didn’t think they could bring the same the following week,” he added. 

That Lions tour threw up some major complications for Gatland including a decision to drop Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll for the third test, which caused huge backlash and the Kiwi regrets how he went about the decision that week. 

“The biggest mistake we made was on the Sunday after the second test we put Brian up for media. That was a huge mistake because everyone just assumed with Sam Warburton getting injured that Brian was going to play and going to be captain the following week. So we made the decision and I said to the other coaches ‘there could be a big falling out over this’. I didn’t realise quite the extent,” he finished. 

Gatland’s experience is easy to see and he will take charge of yet another Lions tour in 2021 as he leads his charges to South Africa as he completes the full cycle of tours having also managed them to a series draw with New Zealand in 2017. In the meantime Gatland has taken up a role with Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs as he returns to his homeland looking to add further success to his CV.

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International

Steyn’s Rugby Career Could be Over

Double World Cup winner Frans Steyn could be set to call time on his career early following his latest triumph

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(Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Springboks great Frans Steyn looks likely to at least pull the curtain down on his European career in order to return to his homeland.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner, who managed to pick up medals from the 2007 edition of the tournament and this year’s one, beating England in both finals, is currently contracted to French Top 14 giants Montpellier. 

However, it is believed that he has held discussions with the club about ending his contract come the end of January instead of when it is supposed to expire in July and speaking to South African news-outlet Volksblad, he seems keen on settling down in his homeland. 

“Rugby has always been an inspiration for the Afrikaners, especially for farmers. If we had a bad week, if we watch good rugby on Saturday, then everything is better again. Only good rain, a good rugby weekend gives us the power to face Mondays again. It is a privilege that many farmers do not have. We know what to do in the future and what we need to have in place. We want to raise our children here and are attached to the rural feel that Bloemfontein offers. We want our children to have a good experience here as my wife and I had when one grew up here,” he said. 

The 32-year-old has a family farm in Bloemfontein and it is understood this is not the first time he has made the suggestion to return to the area, but it now looks more likely than ever that he will get what he likes. 

Steyn is expected to return to the French club next week, where he would play until January before his possible move back to South Africa. 

At this time it is unknown whether the back would continue his rugby career with local professional side the Cheetahs, who play in the PRO14, or whether he will end his career early, having played at the top level for such a long time already.

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International

Scots End Row with World Rugby

Scotland and World Rugby have been unhappy with one another for the guts of a month, but they have finally sorted their differences out

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(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

World Rugby have confirmed this morning that the Scottish Rugby Union has accepted the punishment received for comments made during the Rugby World Cup in Japan last month.

The punishment of a £70,000 fine and a meaningful apology was handed to the union following comments made by their chief Mark Dodson, who suggested sueing World Rugby as his team’s clash with Japan came under threat by Typhoon Hagibis. 

In what was a must-win game for the Scots to progress to the knock-out stages, he also criticised the running of the competition by the hosts. Eventually the match was played and Scotland lost 28-21, leaving them heading home, but World Rugby were not happy. 

Having announced the punishment last week, World Rugby have now released a statement to confirm that Scotland have accepted the decision. 

“World Rugby can confirm that the Scottish Rugby Union has expressed its regret and has confirmed it will not challenge World Rugby further on this matter. The Scottish Rugby Union has agreed to pay a donation of £70,000 to World Rugby and the matter is now closed. There will be no further comment from either party,” the statement read. 

It puts and end to a dragged out argument between the organisations which will be a relief to fans. The fine will be donated to the Childfund Pass it Back programme, which is continuing to help the areas affected by the typhoon last month. 

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