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Rugby World Cup

Injured Duo Return for England Against the Pumas

England have been handed a major boost for the remainder of the Rugby World Cup with two star men set to return to action this weekend

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

England head coach Eddie Jones has named a powerful team to take on Argentina at the Rugby World Cup in Japan this Saturday, with the biggest boost coming on the bench.

For the first time since the tournament started England have been able to call upon both Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell following lengthy injuries to the pair pre-tournament. 

It is especially pleasing for English fans to see the versatile back return to the fold as he has been out of the picture since the Premiership final at the start of June, where he injured his ankle, and has been recovering ever since. 

If the duo can come on and gain some much-needed match fitness ahead of the knock-out stages of the tournament it would be a huge plus for an England side bidding to win the whole competition. 

In the starting line-up there is a front-three of Joe Marler, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler, while Maro Itoje and George Kruis make up a formidable second-row pairing. 

The back-row is even more daunting for the Pumas as Tom Curry comes in as openside-flanker, with Sam Underhill on the blindside and Billy Vunipola completing the pack from No 8. 

Ben Youngs is set to become England’s third most capped player when he makes his 92nd appearance at scrum-half and is joined in the half-backs by George Ford. 

Owen Farrell once again leads the side from inside-centre with the ever-impressive Manu Tuilagi alongside him at outside-centre. 

The back-three is made up of Jonny May on the left-wing, Anthony Watson on the right, and Elliot Daly at full-back in what is a starting line-up to be reckoned with. 

As well as Nowell and Vunipola, there is a return to action for Henry Slade among the replacements, with Jones having plenty of experience to call upon. 

With England having won their opening two games of the tournament Jones knows that Argentina will be a tough team to beat if they want to keep their winning streak going. 

“We are in Tokyo for the first time and the players are excited to be here and have had a good week’s preparation so far. We know Argentina are a very good team and our players will be ready for the game. Argentina is a completely different team from others we have played so far in the pool stages and are always about the physical contest. This week it’s about getting our game right, our set piece in a good place and making sure defensively we are organised and ready to find ways to score points against them,” he said. 

England know that a win against the Pumas will put them into the last eight of the competition before they even play their final pool fixture against France. However, Argentina know that only a win will be enough for them to have any hopes of progressing to the knock-out stages and will go all out to try and upset an England side that is currently full of confidence. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

Starting XV:

Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (c), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Joe Marler

Replacements:

Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Willi Heinz, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell

International

Former Ireland Player Questions Springboks RWC Win

Former Ireland international Neil Francis has suggested that South Africa’s Rugby World Cup win may have been down to players using performance enhancing substances

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Former Ireland Rugby international and current rugby pundit Neil Francis has questioned whether an asterix should be placed beside South Africa’s recent Rugby World Cup victory due to the use of steroids in the country.

Francis, who is known for being controversial, has pointed out that many questions are yet to be answered surrounding the use of the illegal substances among the nation in recent years and singled out the story of winger Aphiwe Dyantyi.

The Lions player was found to have multiple anabolic steroids and metabolites in his system earlier this year and Francis wonders whether he is not the only one using the performance enhances among his peers.

“Despite Siya Kolisi’s heart-warming humility and Rassie Erasmus’ astonishing turnaround of not just a team in decline but the sport at every level in that country, questions still have to be asked,” wrote Francis. Let’s get back to the kernel of the issue. Dyantyi is a superstar and if he was based in Europe he would surely be facing a four-year ban. He is, however, based in South Africa, where Chilliboy Ralepele managed to continue playing and finish his career at the Sharks despite being twice caught and suspended for prohibited substances. Dyantyi may well get what is due to him but here is the problem: The scope and the scale of the investigation is purely limited to the player himself,” he said.

The former Irish lock went on to discuss a recent survey among young children in the country which showed that 10% admitted to using steroids.

“In a recent state-sponsored survey conducted by the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport, a poll of 12,000 high schoolboys showed that 10 per cent of them took anabolic steroids. The poll was conducted in the KWA Zulu-Natal region of the country. Why would high school boys admit to taking steroids if they had not taken them in the first place? It’s only a sample but 1,200 boys, some as young as 13? Where did these children get this stuff? How could their parents not know? How could the schools and the unions not know?” he added.

He finished up by stating that Dyantyi may have been unlucky enough to get caught whereas others may be getting off the hook, and has raised the debate as to the Springboks World Cup winning campaign.

“Is Dyantyi, a poster boy for the World Cup and winner of World Rugby’s young player of the year, the only one? Or the only one to be caught? The player in my view will go down but the system stays in place. What were we saying about latitude and dispensation? Do we need to put an asterisk beside the winners of the 2019 World Cup?” he concluded.

South Africa claimed their third Webb Ellis Cup with an impressive 32-12 victory over England in the final earlier this month, becoming the most successful side in the competition’s history in the process. The win was celebrated far and wide but Francis has raised question marks which are sure to start debates among fans.

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International

Scottish Rugby Receive World Rugby Punishment

Scottish Rugby have been handed their punishment by World Rugby for comments made during the Rugby World Cup in Japan

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Scottish Rugby have been given a fine and have been told to write a ‘meaningful apology’ by World Rugby after comments they made during this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

As well as having to make the apology the union has been told to pay a £70,000 fine for their comments. 

The punishment refers to comments made by Scottish Rugby Union Chief Mark Dodson, who stated that the union would sue World Rugby if Scotland’s final game of the pool stages was called off. 

Scotland’s clash with Japan was under threat from Typhoon Hagibis as it looked set to hit the Yokohama Stadium on the day of their vital match. If cancelled the Scots would have been eliminated despite having a chance to progress with a win over the tournament hosts. However, the game was able to be played despite the devastation left in the wake of the typhoon and Scotland were defeated 28-21, leaving them heading home anyway. 

However, Dodson’s claim that they would sue World Rugby and his criticism of the running of the tournament were not taken lightly by World Rugby who brought forward two charges against the union. 

World Rugby today released a statement to explain the decision that was made. 

“World Rugby strongly believed the comments, which suggested an unfair and disorganised treatment of all teams, to be inappropriate and ill-judged at a time when Japan was preparing for the largest and most destructive typhoon in decades. The international federation believed that such comments brought the game into disrepute, not only in relation to World Rugby’s handling of an extraordinary situation, but also in the message that it sent to the Japanese people. Having considered all the evidence, including submissions by World Rugby and the SRU, the committee determined in respect of the first charge that comments attributed to Mark Dodson amounted to misconduct and brought the game into disrepute. In respect of the second charge, the available evidence was insufficient for the committee to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities as to the source of the offending remarks and therefore it dismissed the charge,” the statement read. 

The committee confirmed that the fine that it has handed down will be donated to the Childfund Pass it Back programme, assisting in the relief effort ongoing in areas affected by the typhoon. 

It will be interesting to see how the union’s apology is given as they previously refused to apologise when provided with the chance to get away with a lighter punishment.

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Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup Team of the Weekend

The Rugby World Cup came to a brilliant close this weekend with two final games but who impressed the most over the last round

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The Rugby World Cup finished on Saturday as South Africa lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time with an impressive 32-12 win over England.

24 hours earlier and the All Blacks picked up their consolation bronze medals with a brilliant 40-17 victory over Wales in the third-place play-off. 

Across the two games there were some standout performances but who makes our last team of the weekend for this year’s World Cup and why did we pick them. 

Check out who we picked below and why we chose them. 

Backs 

15) Beauden Barrett –

Put the previous weekend’s defeat behind him to put on another fantastic show from full-back. Had tough competition in the team from Springboks Willie le Roux who saved his best performance of the tournament for the final. However, Barrett showed his dancing feet in for his try, his ability in the air dealing with everything that the Welsh threw at him, just on a different level. No matter who takes over as the new head coach this man will be key to the squad. 

14) Ben Smith – 

His last performance in an All Blacks jersey and he left fans wondering if he should have started in the semi-finals as he ran the show. Again, was pushed close by the Boks Cheslin Kolbe but the despite a wonderful try for the winger in green he just didn’t see enough of the ball unfortunately. On the other hand, Smith was everywhere, popping up with two wonderful tries before the half-time whistle to take the game beyond Wales. He will leave some big boots to be filled. 

13) Sonny Bill Williams – 

He started at 12 on what was also his final appearance in a New Zealand jersey but we had to fit him in as he was just simply incredible with his handling game. Age doesn’t seem to affect his skill, producing a wonderful offload for a try assist and unlucky not to set-up another. Splits opinion at times but his talent was on full show on Friday as he ended a glittering international career on a high. 

12) Damian de Allende –

An absolute animal! He seems to be able to carry and make metres with every touch of the ball no matter who is in front of him. Part of a brilliant defensive unit as well and capped off a brilliant tournament individually with yet another powerful performance. 

11) Makazole Mapimpi – 

Josh Adams deserves recognition for his try against the All Blacks which meant he finished top of the try scoring pile with seven. However, Mapimpi was second in the list and this weekend produced a brilliant all-round performance. His try was the highlight, showing great pace and imagination to tear open the England defence and score the Boks first-ever try in a World Cup final. We knew how good he was with the ball in hand but he won his aerial duals as well, in what was just a showing of true class. 

10) Handre Pollard – 

Once again he was steady from the boot putting an early miss behind him to go on a score 22 of his side’s points and finish top scorer at the tournament. He was brilliant with ball in hand as well and put in some big hits throughout the contest. When he’s in this kind form there aren’t many better than him. 

9) Faf de Klerk –

Aaron Smith put in a big shift for the All Blacks but de Klerk continued his rise as a contender to be named the best No 9 on the planet. He ran the show from minute one, passing well and putting up some inch perfect kicks for his teammates. Much like in the semi-finals he showed that he is not afraid to take on a bigger man in a battle, putting in some huge hits on some of the most powerful players in the game. He is just a joy to watch. 

Forwards

1) Tendai Mtawariria – 

In the scrum the Springboks dominated and he was at the front of it, putting Mako Vunipola to the sword. He gave his all and made some important hits throughout. Showing exactly why he is nicknamed ‘the Beast’. Possibly his last game for the country and what a servant he has been. 

2) Malcolm Marx – 

Thrown into action much earlier than expected but stepped up plate with ease. Line-outs were perfect, slotted into the scrum perfectly and carried well. Rose to the occasion when asked and demonstrated his class. 

3) Frans Malherbe –

Again, won penalty after penalty for the Boks from the scrum! Impressive from minute one until he was taken off and continued to develop as a top-class prop. 

4) Eben Etzebeth – 

A massive, massive shift from the Springboks lock! Won his line-outs, carried well, smashed the opposition in the tackle and led throughout. He is vital to the Boks system and showed the world just why on Saturday. 

5) Brodie Retallick – 

Missed the start of the tournament through injury, only playing 30 minutes before the knock-out stages but managed a full 80 come the final weekend. Moved him to five as he had to be in the team. For such a big unit his handling skills are up there with some of the best backs in the world and dominated this game from the off against some of the best opporaters around. 

6) Siya Kolisi – 

Captain fantastic! Deserves a spot in the XV for his speech after the game alone! Although on the pitch he was calm, leading his troops from the front-foot throughout and was impossible to get by from an English perspective. There isn’t a player in the world that deserved to lift the trophy more than this man on Saturday. 

7) Pieter-Steph du Toit – 

Won his title of men’s player of the year 24 hours later and this performance may have swayed the voters. A world-class flanker! He hits opposition attackers with such power and determination, but is equally as effective in attack when his side need to make the hard yards. If he can continue like this he will go down as one of the greatest in his position. 

8) Duane Vermeulen – 

Some call him ‘Thor’ and on Saturday it was as though a film script was written for him and he grabbed it with both hands! He may not have the cape but he has the power and sheer work-rate of any Avenger! Nobody could get past him and when called upon he took the hard hits himself for his team. Man of the match on the day and rightly so, a monster of a performance from the big man.

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