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Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup Team of the Weekend

The semi-finals are over and we have our two finalists but find who makes our team of the weekend and why

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The teams for this year’s Rugby World Cup final have been confirmed over the weekend as England and South Africa prepare for a repeat of the 2007 showpiece.

New Zealand and Wales on the other hand fell short in their attempts to win the Webb Ellis Cup and will face-off in the third-place play-off. After two very different games we choose the 15 players that impressed the most over the weekend. 

Backs

15) Leigh Halfpenny – When the team announcements were made and it was confirmed that Wales’ regular full-back Liam Williams would not play any part in the tournament people feared the worst. Although Halfpenny came in as a more than able replacement, catching every high-ball that came his way, looking dangerous with ball in hand and adding the conversion to Josh Adams try after Dan Biggar left the field. Unfortunate to be on the losing side in what was a complete individual performance.

14) Anthony Watson – This was a performance that was just missing a try. Electric from start to finish, causing the All Blacks problems every time he touched the ball. His form throughout the competition has been impressive and he will be hoping to continue it in the showpiece against the Springboks on Saturday. 

13) Manu Tuilagi – He seems to show up every time they play the All Blacks, but this was an incredibly explosive performance which began with a brilliant pick and go try within the opening two minutes. His attacking talents were on display for all to see but it was in defence that he showed up even more, pressuring the opposition and putting in some big hits. The Boks will have some job trying to stop him if he continues at his current form. 

12) Damian de Allende – The Springboks performance was not the most incredible to watch but it was effective and this man’s try was vital in the end. He made metres with every carry and put in a solid defensive display. The power and willingness he showed to score his try was incredible. His clash with Tuilagi will be one to watch this weekend. 

11) Josh Adams – Like Halfpenny he was on the losing side but he looked sharp with the ball in hand and got the Welsh back into the game with a try, his sixth of the tournament. He grows with every match he plays and although disappointed not to make the final, he will look back at this tournament with great pride on an individual level. 

10) Handre Pollard – Ice cold under pressure! The Springboks fly-half was rightly named man of the match in the team’s semi-final as he maintained a 100% kicking record throughout the contest and had a hand in the lead up to de Allende’s try. His kicking battle with Farrell and Ford in the final could be the difference between the two sides. 

9) Faf de Klerk – Another brilliant performance to add to his ever growing collection. He runs the game for the Boks, he knows who should be where, when to pass, when to kick, and he can do it all. Although being among the smallest players in the tournament he competed and claimed some kicks in the air and even went up against Welsh lock Jake Ball as tensions boiled over. Fearless in every situation and working his way to being named the best scrum-half on the planet.

Forwards

1) Mako Vunipola – He may have only come back to full fitness mid-way through the tournament but he has shown no signs of being rusty and was at his best against the men in black. Never shies away against the opposition pack and his physicality in defence is something that could counteract the Boks pure brutality in attack. 

2) Ken Owens – Put in a massive shift, staying on the pitch for 72 minutes, which alone is impressive for a hooker, let alone for a hooker against powerful opposition like the Boks. His set-piece was perfect and was one of the leaders on the pitch as Wales attempted to snatch a famous win. 

3) Frans Malherbe – He was only on the park for 47 minutes but he seemed to be everywhere. Making tackles all over the place and won a couple of fantastic penalties for his side as took advantage of some isolated Welsh attackers. 

4) Maro ItojeGets better and better under pressure. Facing the All Blacks is a daunting prospect, but he was coming up against a former World Player of the Year in Brodie Retallick and in the personal battle he certainly won. He made some sensational tackles, broke through the All Blacks line-out maul to win a penalty at one point and carried with real intensity. He is still young and will continue to grow and after facing one of the best second-row pairings this weekend he can look forward to facing another in the final. 

5) Courtney Lawes – His 55 minute cameo was as impressive as any that he has had in the white of England. He and Itoje won the battle in the engine-room and slowed the All Blacks in open play. It remains to be seen whether he will start the final, but he did his chances the world of good with this display. 

6) Tom Curry – The standout player of the weekend! At 21 he has time on his side, some would forgive him if he shied away in the big games but he has done the complete opposite. Against Australia last weekend he took on some of the best back-rowers in the game and came out on top and did so once again against the reigning back to back World Cup holders. If he continues to grow at the rate he will become one of the best back-rowers in history. 

7) Pieter-Steph Du Toit – He was a bright spark in what was a dull enough game, were the Boks failed to show their full capabilities. Du Toit just has an unbelievable amount of strength, barrelling through defenders like as if they were rag-dolls at times and smashing attackers that came anywhere near his team’s try-line. 

8) Ross Moriarty – Taking up the reins from Josh Navidi and was brilliant. Scored the winning try in last week’s quarter-final and playing a huge part in Adams try as he controlled the ball well at the back of the scrum. He will have another chance to shine against the All Blacks on Friday. 

Rugby World Cup

Qualification process set for Rugby World Cup 2023

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Image from World Rugby
  • Process designed to promote regional strength and the best teams to rugby’s showcase event
  • 12 teams already qualified owing to top three pool placing at RWC 2019
  • RWC 2023 on track to be a spectacular celebration of rugby and France


World Rugby has announced details of the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

Following the most competitive and widely-acclaimed Rugby World Cup to date in Japan, the qualification process is designed to deliver the top teams in the world to rugby’s showcase tournament, while promoting a genuine opportunity for all unions.

With 12 teams having secured their place at France 2023 courtesy of finishing in the top three of their respective pools at RWC 2019, the remaining eight places will be determined by a process of regional and cross-regional qualifiers. The process will conclude with a four-team round-robin Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022 to determine the final qualifier.

The dates for events in 2021 will be announced in due course and will be subject to an anticipated easing of the COVID-19 situation.

The announcement follows consultation with unions and regions in January 2020 and a full review of performance at Rugby World Cup 2019, where rankings upsets and the impressive performances in particular of Japan, Fiji, Uruguay, Tonga and Georgia cut the performance gap, with the average winning margin between established and emerging unions decreasing in comparison with 2015 benchmarks.

The Americas will deliver two direct places, while Oceania will deliver a direct qualifier with a further direct place available following a play-off with Asia. The Rugby Europe Championship (two direct places), Rugby Africa Cup (one direct place) and Final Qualification Tournament (one direct place) will provide the other qualifiers. Further details are provided below.

RWC 2023 qualification principles

  • Americas: the Americas will qualify two teams by September 2022. The third best team in the region will enter the Final Qualification Tournament – Americas 1 & Americas 2
  • Europe: the existing Rugby Europe Championship will have two qualifying places, with the two best teams in March 2022 qualifying directly and the third placed entering the Final Qualification Tournament – Europe 1 & Europe 2 
  • Africa: the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 winner will qualify directly and the runner-up team will go to Final Qualification – Africa 1
  • Oceania: a home and away play-off between Tonga and Samoa in 2021 will determine the direct qualifier for the Oceania region. – Oceania 1
    The loser will then play the Oceania Rugby Cup 2021 winner in the highest ranked team’s country with the eventual winner contesting Asia / Pacific (see below) as Oceania 2
  • Asia / Pacific: the winner of the Asian Rugby Men’s Championship 2021 will play Oceania 2 home and away. The winner on aggregate will determine the qualifier and the loser will go to Final Qualification – Asia / Pacific 1
  • Final Qualification Tournament: the tournament in November 2022 will feature four teams playing in a round-robin format with the winner qualifying for RWC 2023 – Final Qualification winner


Teams already qualified: South Africa, England, New Zealand, Wales, Japan, France (host), Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Argentina, Fiji

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “With the global pandemic having halted most rugby activity, confirmation of the global qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 provides a beacon of excitement for all, including players and fans.

“The process that has been developed via full consultation with our regional associations and member unions will provide a genuine opportunity for full member unions to qualify for our showcase men’s 15s event.

“Maximising existing regional competitions, the process is good for regions and unions in managing costs for organisers and participants alike, which is important as we all recover from the global pandemic.

“On behalf of World Rugby, I’d like to wish all teams involved the best of luck on their journey to France 2023.”

Rugby World Cup France 2023 CEO Claude Atcher added: “This qualification process gives emerging unions an opportunity to take part in our sport’s biggest competition.

“The success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan and performances by the host nation is a testimony of rugby’s expansion globally. As the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is about to be won, I welcome this optimistic prospect of reconnecting with the excitement of our sport. This is the start of our journey towards France 2023, which will be the best tournament ever delivered.”

Final details of the regional competition formats and dates will be announced in due course.

Official Press Release from World Rugby

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6 Nations

Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.

Official.

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England men’s head coach Eddie Jones and the RFU have agreed a contract extension which will see him continue his role until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
 
Jones joined England Rugby at the end of 2015 and has coached the men’s national side on 54 occasions winning 42, drawing one and losing 11 – giving him a win ratio of 78%, the highest in the history of England coaches.
 
Under Jones, England has won two Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, a 3-0 away Test series win against Australia in the same year, an unbeaten run of 18 matches equalling New Zealand’s record and were finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. 
 
Jones said: “The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing.  We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right. Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.
 
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes. Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it. We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward.”
 
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community. In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news.  We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby. The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible. We are all excited by what this squad can do and having Eddie leading the team is very important to us. 
 
“We reached an understanding soon after returning from Japan but there were some things that we wanted to make sure worked for both sides. We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.”
 
Ahead of the Guinness Six Nations Jones confirmed Simon Amor and Matt Proudfoot would join Steve Borthwick and John Mitchell as his assistant coaches. Jason Ryles will join later in the year as skills coach following Borthwick’s departure towards the end of the season.

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International

Ireland Climb in Latest World Rankings

Ireland have had the biggest boost in the latest World Rugby Rankings ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw later this year

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Ireland have leapfrogged Wales in the latest World Rugby Rankings of the the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw in November of this year.

The boys in green have taken over the No 4 spot in the rankings following their 24-14 win over Wales in the Six Nations over the weekend, with their opponents dropping down to fifth. 

It is a major boost for the Irish and gives them something to hold on to heading into the rest of this year’s fixtures as they are now currently in the top seeds ahead of the draw for the pool stages of France 2023. 

World Rugby announced recently that they will hold the draw later this year meaning that teams will have less time to climb the rankings than last time around when they had 18 months between the previous World Cup and the draw for the next one. 

A total of twelve teams will head into the draw as seeds in three brackets with the top four in the rankings being first seeds, meaning as of now Wales would be second seeds along with France, Australia and Japan. 

While Scotland, Argentina, Italy and Fiji are in the third bracket, with the remainder of the teams to be decided through different qualifiers over the next three years. 

Elsewhere in the rankings Georgia have moved up ahead of Italy, following the former’s latest two defeats in the Six Nations, while the biggest risers have been Portugal, who have moved from 22nd to 20th, but Russia have dived from 20th to 25th. 

Ireland will be hoping to continue their perfect start to the Six Nations campaign when they take on the third-ranked team England away from home, whom they may look to overtake in the rankings before the draw. 

It is certainly heating up between the Six Nations teams as they try to be the best-placed behind South Africa and New Zealand, who take the first and second spots, but won’t play until the summer.

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