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Rugby World Cup

Another Ireland star looking doubtful for World Cup following surgery.

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Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Last week Dan Leavy was officially ruled out the Rugby World Cup after sustaining a horror injury against Ulster in the Champions Cup Quarter Final.

Ulster Rugby, today released their weekly ‘squad update’ this morning that contained more worrying news regarding one of Joe Schmidt’s hopefuls ahead of the World Cup in Japan later this year.

The update reads:

“Stuart McCloskey sustained a concussion in the game versus Glasgow Warriors and will follow the return to play protocols.

Will Addison has had recent back surgery. It is hoped that he will return to full fitness for pre-season.”

While Stuart McCloskey has been one of Ulster’s stand out players this season he remains on the outskirts of the squad in a highly competitive position. Will Addison, however, was capped in the Autumn Series by Schmidt and many close to the camp believe that Addison is a big favourite of Schmidt and very likely to make the squad to Japan (if fit).

Addison, who made the move to Ulster at the start of the season from Sale Sharks has been in fine form for Ulster when not struggling with back issues. He got his chance in the Autumn Series and proved more than capable of cutting it at Test Level.

It has been confirmed now by Ulster Rugby that the star has had surgery to hopefully resolve the problem and they are hoping he will return to fitness for pre-season.

Typically, pre-season kicks off in late June. Will this be enough time for Will Addison to stake his claim for a spot on the plane to Japan. Time will tell.

International

Cipriani Left Out of England Squad

Danny Cipriani has once again been omitted from an England training camp following a brief return to the international set-up

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

England head coach Eddie Jones has chosen a 38-man squad for a two-week training camp in Italy and Danny Cipriani has been omitted.

Cipriani was originally selected in Jones’ 35-man training squad for the World Cup, when it was named on July 4th.

However, last week he was named on a three-man list, along with Anthony Watson and Sam Underhill, of players that would do separate “specialised strength and conditioning work” away from the rest of the squad.

The problem for Cipriani is that those two players have been named as part of the squad that will travel to Treviso for the 12-day camp whereas he has been left at home.

Jones has stated that some players have been left behind but are not completely out of the selection picture for the World Cup.

“Selection is absolutely challenging, we have left some good players doing work at their clubs and they must be ready if called up. Treviso is a hard yards camp with conditions similar to Tokyo. Team training will be about being adaptable and off the field enjoying each other’s company,” he said.

Another high-profile absentee is Ben Moon, who has been overlooked for selection with Joe Marler and Ellis Genge travelling and looking almost certain to be Mako Vunipola’s back-ups at the World Cup.

On the other hand, Mike Brown has continued his international revival by being selected in the travelling party. Brown has been out of the English picture for some time now but appears to have impressed since being called-up last week.

England will name their final World Cup squad on August 12th with some key selections still to be made but things are not looking good for Cipriani at the moment.

Check Out the Full 38-Man Squad Below.

Forwards:

D Cole (Leicester Tigers), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), T Curry (Sale Sharks), C Ewels (Bath Rugby), E Genge (Leicester Tigers), J George (Saracens), M Itoje (Saracens), G Kruis (Saracens), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), L Ludlam (Northampton Saints), J Marler (Harlequins), B Shields (Wasps), K Sinckler (Harlequins), J Singleton (Saracens), S Underhill (Bath Rugby), B Vunipola (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens), H Williams (Exeter Chiefs), M Wilson (Newcastle Falcons/Sale Sharks).

Backs:

M Brown (Harlequins), J Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby), E Daly (Saracens), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Leicester Tigers), P Francis (Northampton Saints), W Heinz (Gloucester Rugby), J Joseph (Bath Rugby), J Marchant (Harlequins), J May (Leicester Tigers), R McConnochie (Bath Rugby), J Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), B Spencer (Saracens), B Te’o (unattached), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), A Watson (Bath Rugby), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

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International

All or Nothing for Cheika

Michael Cheika has stood by the Wallabies targets he set last year and is prepared to lose everything for them

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(Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has confirmed that he will leave his post if his side do not win the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

Cheika and his Wallabies side are currently in South Africa as they prepare for their Rugby Championship opening round fixture against the Springboks.

However, last year Cheika said that he would only stay in his job post-World Cup if the Wallabies improved on their last tournament showing when they finished runners-up.

That would mean that the Aussies would have to win the tournament and speaking ahead of Saturday’s clash Cheika reaffirmed his previous statement.

“I’ve been transparent since day one – I believe that I should put myself on the line and winning the World Cup is the dream for all of us. I know most people would think that’s a pipe but we don’t. We came second last time and if we come first next time I will have earned the right to stay on as coach and if I don’t then someone else earns the opportunity. I think that’s fair,” he said.

Although Cheika’s side are seen as outsiders for the tournament and even with the stakes so high for him personally the head coach is enjoying his time with the squad currently saying it’s the best time he has had with them during his reign.

“Since coaching with Australia I don’t think I’ve enjoyed four weeks more – the two weeks in Sydney and Brisbane and two weeks here. Just the atmosphere around the team and the camaraderie has been unreal and I’ve really enjoyed it,” he added.

Cheika’s record as Wallabies coach is not the most impressive on paper with a 48%-win rate from 58 games, winning 28, losing 28, and drawing two.

With that in mind Rugby Australia are considering their options and director of rugby Scott Johnson admitted last week that they are looking at possible successors for Cheika.

“We’re doing our due diligence. It’s not like we’re sitting back and doing nothing,” he said.

Reports claim that Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie is the front-runner for the position, however, he is contracted to the club until next year.

Although it’s too early to bet against Cheika and Australia just yet as they weren’t considered contenders four-years ago and they came second, who’s to say they won’t go one better this time around.

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International

O’Connor Finally Confirmed as a Red

James O’Connor’s journey back into the Wallabies set-up has had a major boost

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

James O’Connor has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Queensland Reds and Rugby Australia it has been confirmed.

The move has been in the pipeline for quite some time now and with it being announced O’Connor can now officially play for the Wallabies if selected.

Having last turned out for the Aussies in 2013 before off-field issues halted his international career, O’Connor is happy to be given the chance to impress once more.

“I just want to say how grateful I am to be given this opportunity again. There’s been a lot of work put in behind the scenes and a lot of guys have shown faith in me, so all I’m focusing on right now is putting my best foot forward. I have a bigger ‘why’ now and that is what fuels me. In saying that, I’m excited to be back here. Even at 29, I’m still learning and we’re really pushing each other. It’s been an intense hit the last few weeks, but I think I’m in a lot better place physically,” he said.

O’Connor has come back with a hope of breaking into the World Cup squad and did so in 2015 as well, failing on that occasion but he is determined to prove himself this time around.

“I’m a Queenslander. I was born there. I started playing rugby there. It’s where the dream began. A big part as well is that I owe Queensland the best version of myself. I came back last time and I wasn’t in the best place mentally, but also physically I was quite broken, so I couldn’t produce and perform the rugby I wanted to for the team. I’m finally ready to return and make amends. I want to do right by the team and the fans, and I intend to deliver the very best of my energy. If I can help the team get back to the top of the sport and if we can bring success back to Queensland, that would be a dream for me. The last time I returned, I thought I was ready to repair some of the mistakes I made but also reach my rugby potential, but it was too rushed. I didn’t recognise how much pain I was still in mentally. In saying that, I wouldn’t change it because I was guided to the correct mentors,” he added.

The utility back believes that the journey he has been on over the past number of years has helped him in the long-run and has motivated others to fight their personal battles.

“I’ve been on a journey ever since to understanding my true self and how I’m meant to use my privileged position in rugby. I see now that rugby is a gift and I want my journey back to inspire possibly other young men out there who may be a little lost in the world right now. If I can make it back from adversity, then so can you,” he continued.

He closed off by saying how he thinks that inside-centre is his best position, however he will play wherever he is needed for the team.

“I think 12 is my position. I’ve been playing there the last two years and I’m most comfortable there. It’s best with the style of rugby I play and the way I have developed being overseas. Also, I’m now a bit of a nugget so I fit in there quite nicely. But of course, I will cover anywhere in the backline – whatever the team needs. It would simply just be an honour to put the shirt back on again. I would play prop if I had to,” he finished.

Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson is impressed by O’Connor and believes this is a great move for all parties involved.

“James has immense rugby talent. He started his career in Queensland and this is a chance for him to show his full potential for his home state. Now is the time for James’ rugby to do the talking. He’s come home for the right reasons to play rugby and to help develop our rugby programmes. He’s matured and understands the leadership roles both on-and-off the field. He’s been honest and transparent throughout this whole process. We want to back the man to be the player we know he can be,” he said.

During his time overseas O’Connor turned out for London Irish, Toulon and Sale Sharks, which show how experienced he has become. His versatility and knowledge could be a huge boost for Michael Chieka and are a couple of reasons why he may very well succeed in getting into the squad that he failed to break into four years ago.

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