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Best Suggests Expanding World Cup Squads

Rory Best has called on World Rugby to consider expanding the current squad size for teams heading into the World Cup

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Ireland captain Rory Best has claimed that having a 31-man squad for the World Cup will limit teams and put pressure on coaches heading into the tournament.

Ireland have named an initial 44-man squad which head coach Joe Schmidt and co must narrow down to just 31 players come September 8th.

Schmidt spoken of his concerns about having such a small squad before and now his captain has had his say.

“We have a six-day turnaround between Scotland and Japan and then five between Japan to Russia. You get an injury that maybe takes you out for two games but not the entire tournament. If you get a couple of those you have to make fairly harsh decisions when it is actually not right as the player could be back for Samoa [Ireland’s fourth pool game],” he said.

Best went on to suggest when speaking with ‘the42‘ that the squads should be increased to 35 players and focused on how injuries can change everything with a smaller squad.

“I’d be more inclined to increase the squad size to 35 players. The problem with 31 is by the time you name three hookers and three nines there are positions you are really short on. There is a back row/second row type player who will have to cover both but at a World Cup you shouldn’t have to have makeshift people in there. It should be: this is our best squad. 35 players would give you that luxury,” he added.

Ireland were unfortunate with injuries during this years Six Nations campaign and are already without Sean O’Brien and Dan Leavy for the tournament in Japan, which Best used as an example of how quickly things can change.

“It’s amazing how you get areas that look really, really strong and you’re going ‘How are you going to leave one of those out? Then you get a couple of injuries. The back row now with Dan [Leavy] and Sean O’Brien, it all of a sudden looks a lot thinner than it maybe it did 12 months. The second row, you were going into the Six Nations saying ‘Oh, which second row are they not going to pick?’ Then going into the Scotland game it was like ‘Well, who do I have left?’,” he continued.

Although Ireland have lost two key men they still have options in the back-row with Josh van der Flier, Jordi Murphy, Tommy O’Donnell, Rhys Ruddock and Peter O’Mahony among those that can be used on the flanks.

However, Best is cautious about the possibility of someone being called up to the squad if there is an injury.

“That’s going to be the scenario and you have just got to hope that there is enough people with experience over the last four years that if you get down to the New Zealand out-half scenario [in 2011 when they lost three out-halves to injury] , that if you’re pulling someone off a boat fishing… at least Stephen Donald had played a bit,” he said.

With that in mind Best has advised players that have not been named in the 44-man squad to stay ready for a call up, especially Ulster teammate Stuart McCloskey.

“Even you take someone like Stuart McCloskey who isn’t in the squad,” Best adds. It’s really important that those guys get their head around the fact that there are five centres in the squad. To get five centres through four games in the summer and whatever games in the World Cup, without getting any injuries, it’s going to be highly unlikely,” he finished.

Ireland are looking to reach at least the semi-final stage for the first time in their history when they head to Japan and they will hope that the squad size and injuries play no part in their performance at the competition.

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Star Player Commits to Australian Rugby

One of the Wallabies key men has put pen to paper on a new deal with Australian Rugby ahead of the Rugby World Cup

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Wallabies lock Izack Rodda has signed a new deal with Australian Rugby and the Queensland Reds despite many of his teammates heading abroad post-World Cup.

The 23-year-old’s new deal will see him stay in the country for another four-years, meaning he will be available for selection come the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France

Rodda is delighted to have been able to confirm the news ahead of the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan which starts on Friday. 

“It’s good to confirm and announce this before the World Cup starts this week, so I can shift my focus on the Wallabies, but definitely excited and honoured to re-sign with Australian Rugby and the Reds for another four years,” he said.

The news is a boost to the Wallabies as Rodda only has 21 caps for them to his name which falls well below the 60 required to represent the country if a player moves overseas to play. 

That rule has already confirmed that the likes of Samu Kerevi, Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold will all be out of Wallabies contention come the conclusion of the World Cup as they head overseas with less than 30 caps each. 

As well as those players there are a number of high-profile experienced Wallabies leaving the country come the end of the tournament, so this will be a real boost to fans of the green and gold. 

The Wallabies kick start their World Cup campaign against Fiji on Saturday, in what is a must win game as they also face current Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales in the same pool in which only two can progress to the quarter-finals. 

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Scottish Star Forced Into Early Retirement

One of Scotland’s finest players has been forced to retire from the game due to concussion

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Scotland and Leicester Tigers star David Denton has been forced to retire from professional rugby due to concussion.

The 29-year-old was advised to quit the sport on medical grounds following a concussion which he picked up almost a year ago while playing for the Premiership outfit. 

However, Denton has admitted that he was actually relieved when he found out the news as it was a long time coming. 

“My actual reaction at the time my neurologist told me it was no longer a good idea to play rugby… to be honest there was a bit of relief. This had been building up inside of me for four to five months. I knew there was a strong possibility that this moment (when I had to retire) was coming. By the time I got to it, I had been through all the emotional highs and lows, so I was prepared for it,” he said. 

Although it was a relief Denton also confirmed that it is a blow as he felt like he was getting back to his best and thanked everyone that has helped him along his journey. 

“Of course, it is devastating that my rugby career is ending. After a few years where I had a series of injuries, I had got myself back into a position where I felt, physically and mentally, that I could play the best rugby of my career. I’m incredibly fortunate. Scottish Rugby have helped me, particularly over the last few months. They have been awesome. I’ve spent a lot of time with (Scottish Rugby ambassador) Al Kellock, (chairman) Colin Grassie and (chief operating officer) Dominic McKay and they have helped me hugely, thinking about the transition from being a player to what happens next,” he added. 

He also already has plans for the future and unlike many who leave the playing field, he does not want a position back in rugby as he would like to head into corporate business. 

“The people they have put me in front of (from commerce and industry) has been great. I want to get into the corporate world. Coaching, as a career, was never something that appealed to me. I’m really excited for the next steps in my life,” he finished. 

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, who is currently preparing his side for their Rugby World Cup opening game against Ireland in Japan, took the time to pay his respects to Denton’s career. 

“We’re really disappointed that someone who still had a lot to offer the game both at club level and for Scotland hasn’t been able to do that, but our first thoughts are with his health and his life beyond rugby and it seems to be the right decision to retire. We were hoping that taking some time out of the game would mean he would be available for selection in our world cup training squad and when that didn’t happen we were hopeful he’d be back for next season, but again that’s not happened. We’re going to miss him with Scotland. He played very well last summer after being involved in the Six Nations, playing really well in that game against Argentina, and getting back to the form he was in at the last world cup. As coaches we really enjoyed working with Dave over the years and we wish him all the best in life after rugby,” he said. 

Denton leaves the game with a total of 42 international caps to his name and will be fondly remembered for several explosive games in a Scottish jersey. 

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Williams and Priestland Defend Biggar

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar has come in for a lot of scrutiny of late but now some of the people that know him best have come to his defence

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Wales out-half Dan Biggar has been criticised of late by many fans, but fellow Welshmen JJ Williams and Rhys Priestland have come out to stand up for him while talking to RugbyPass.

Williams, who is Biggar’s current coach at Northampton Saints, believes that Biggar is not only deserving of the Wales No 10 jersey but that he is the best player in the world when it comes to knock-out rugby.

“If you need someone to stay on task, to make sure that they keep their nerve to run a game down, or close a game out in knockout rugby, there is no better player in the world. He’s mentally as tough as hell. I have often said I’d hate to see an argument between him and TJ Perenara. They are two of the most bloody-minded people I’ve ever worked with. If you want to go into battle with anyone, it’s Dan Biggar. He’s an absolute trooper,” he said.

Williams has previously coached the Super Rugby side the Hurricanes, where he worked with Beauden Barrett so the praise will come as a huge boost for Biggar.

Biggar has become Wales’ first-choice fly-half following Gareth Anscombe’s ACL injury in a World Cup warm-up game against England last month and Williams was impressed by how he dealt with being thrown into that match.

“The response he put in against England, after he had criticism, well I thought it was superb. That summed up, in a nutshell, what Dan Biggar can do and who he is as a bloke,” he added.

As well as Williams coming to Biggar’s defence, fellow Welsh No 10 Priestland is full of praise for the Northampton Saint and can’t understand the criticism.

“Look, Dan’s a great competitor, a fantastic kicker and unbelievable under the high ball. I probably see more of him playing for Wales now and whenever he has come on for Anscombe he has had a positive impact. I got better coming across the bridge (to play in the Premiership) and I’m sure he’s the same. It’s a weird one. When Anscombe was playing, there were people asking for him to start, and now Dan is starting they are asking for someone else,” he said.

Whatever people believe it is clear that Biggar’s peers hold him in high regard and believe he could be a vital part to any Welsh success.

Biggar and co have had a frustrating time during their warm-up games with three losses from four games, but will look to turn a corner over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for their opening World Cup match against Georgia on Monday September 23rd.

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