Munster are making all the headlines today with Joey Carbery and Alby Mathewson signing contract extensions while former player Paul O’Connell is set to leave Stade Francais.
Carbery, who joined from Leinster at the end of last season has extended his current contract with the IRFU and Munster by a further two years until 2022.
The out-half has been in tremendous form since joining the Reds with a chart-topping 68 points in the Champions Cup so far and leading the way for the golden boot in the Pro 14 with 87% kicking accuracy so far.
There had been talk of the 23-year-old Athy native heading back to Leinster when his contract ran out down south, but that talk has now been put to bed. It will put a smile on the face of Leinster No 10 Ross Bryne who has also been in impressive form since Carbery’s departure.
Fellow half-back Mathewson has also signed a contract extension with the province until after the World Cup, to help Johann van Graan’s men get through the tough period.
He originally joined as cover for Conor Murray while he was out injured but has gone on to become a key asset to the team and has two tries in 16 appearances so far.
Elsewhere, Munster and Ireland legend Paul O’Connell has confirmed he will be leaving Stade Francias at the end of the season. However, having been linked with a role at Toulan, O’Connell has announced he does not plan to join another club for next season.
“I have decided not to stay beyond my contract year with the club and do not plan to join another club next season either. I had a great adventure at the Stade Français Paris. I am grateful to the club for the opportunity they gave me to live and work in Paris. I was delighted to be able to work alongside Heyneke Meyer, the staff and all the club’s players. Finally, I am looking forward to the end of the season and I hope to be able to help the club during the eventual finals of the Top 14,” he said.
With players like Carbery committing to his former club, could O’Connell be planning a move back home soon or could he join Ronan O’Gara in a possible French national team role?
All Blacks not underestimating Argentina in Mendoza – Mo’unga
The All Blacks are not underestimating the challenge of facing Argentina in Mendoza and would look to do the simple things right in front of a hostile crowd said first five-eighths Richie Mo’unga, ahead of the opening Lipovitan-D Test against Argentina on Sunday morning (NZT).
Argentina’s confidence would be high: they beat the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time last year, beat England at Twickenham, and put 50 points on Australia in one of their Tests.
He said they were worthy rivals and definite contenders both for the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship and the Rugby World Cup.
“Playing Argentina in Argentina, and in Mendoza, could be considered in the same light as playing South Africa at Ellis Park. This is a rugby city, the Argentinians are pumped to be playing here and they deserve all the respect they get.”
Mo’unga said the atmosphere in Argentina was akin to that for football with plenty of passion, and that was more the case in Mendoza, a rugby city where the crowd at games could be hostile in their support of their side.
“You can get caught out if you haven’t played here before or understand what it means to them to play in a city like Mendoza against the All Blacks.”
While they loved their rugby, they also loved the All Blacks, and they received a warm welcome upon their arrival.
Argentine first five-eighths Nicolas Sanchez was rated highly by Mo’unga. He was a fine goal-kicker but underrated by many. But with improving stocks in the position, he was sure whoever was selected would thrive because of the speed and physicality in their forwards and the flair of the backs, which was always dangerous.
While Argentina had lost contact with New Zealand sides with the changes to Super Rugby and the loss of the Jaguares, Mo’unga said they were still playing top rugby in sides in Europe and were bringing that back to their Test preparations, which would help them.
“Whenever you play the Argentinians you expect the best Argentinian side and that’s what you should do. You give them more respect. And they’ll be fizzed for it because they will be playing in Argentina against the All Blacks.
While the All Blacks could see how players performed individually through video analysis, they could also reflect on how they did things in the past, which was relevant because the same coaching personnel were still involved.
“You assume things, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to get, it so you have a plan. But sometimes you’ve got to play heads up footy too, and I’m sure we’ll get both cases this week – getting what we assume but them showing some things that are a little different, and we’ve got to be prepared for that as well.”
MATCH DETAILS: All Blacks v Argentina, Sunday July 9, 7.10am NZT, Estadio Malvinas, Mendoza, Argentina. Live on Sky Sport NZ.
Blues name new coaching line up
Vern Cotter is the new Head Coach of the Blues, signed on a two-year deal placing him at the Blues helm through until the end of the 2025 DHL Super Rugby season.
Cotter, who starts with the Blues this week, will be joined by new Assistant Coach, Jason O’Halloran, also on a two-year deal, working alongside members of the existing Blues coaching team.
Cotter is an experienced Head Coach at both domestic and international level and was most recently Head Coach of Fiji from 2020-22.
He was also Head Coach of Scotland from 2014-2017 – where he joined forces with O’Halloran – the pair taking the team from tenth to fifth in the World Rugby Rankings and credited with having a strong impact on the culture and performance of the team.
Cotter said he is both honoured and enthused to be named Head Coach of the Blues.
“I would like to extend my thanks to the entire Blues organisation for putting their trust in me,” said Cotter.
“I’ve watched this club thrive in recent years and I’m excited by the challenge of taking them forward and building on what is a very strong base.”
“It’s great to have Jason joining me at the Blues. Since our time in Scotland we’ve remained firm friends and often pick up the phone to discuss current trends in the game – I know he’ll add real value to an already strong coaching team.”
Cotter has a history of success, under his guidance European club side Clermont Auvergne reached lofty heights, making three Grand Finals before winning the coveted French Top 14 title in 2010 – the first title in the club’s history. The team also won a European Challenge Cup under Cotter’s guidance in 2006.
He said his experiences overseas can help in taking the Blues forward.
“When you take a new role it’s important to acknowledge what’s been going well for a team, while constructively challenging aspects you feel could improve. I think I can add fresh thinking, informed by my broad and varied coaching experiences to date.”
“I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with the Blues and I’m energised to be back in New Zealand coaching at Super Rugby level.”
Blues Chairman Don Mackinnon said Cotter’s vast experience, partnership with O’Halloran and history of winning were key factors in bringing him to the Blues.
“We’ve been in communication with Vern for a while now and what shone through in our conversations was his desire to drive the club forward while building on the strong culture we’ve developed at the Blues over the last few years. He’s an experienced and driven coach, has a history of success and I believe is the right fit for the role.
“Vern and Jason have proven they work well together, and we believe the pair will provide some fresh thinking and energy to take the club forward.
“We’re really happy with our coaching mix for 2024 and beyond and believe Vern is the right man to set the direction for our coaching group and continue the development of some excellent younger coaches.”
Blues CEO, Andrew Hore, was equally impressed by the latest additions to the coaching group.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming both Vern and Jason to our team. We feel they will fit seamlessly into our coaching group and wider business,” said Hore.
Those thoughts were echoed by New Zealand Rugby Manager, Professional Rugby, Simon Simmers.
“Vern’s appointment is a great example of our home-grown coaching talent gaining valuable experience offshore, before returning to New Zealand to continue their contribution to the development of our people and competitions.
“Vern’s coached internationally at Rugby World Cups and knows what it takes to win titles in Europe. He will bring all those insights and knowledge back to the Blues and Super Rugby Pacific. It’s great to have Vern home.”
Sharks sign respected Full-back on 1 year deal
Former Gloucester full-back Jason Woodward joins Sale Sharks ahead of 2022/23 Premiership season
Sale Sharks have signed versatile full-back Jason Woodward on a one-year deal ahead of the 2022/23 Gallagher Premiership season.
The former Bristol Bears and Gloucester man, who can also play on the wing and in the centre, put pen to paper today and will join Alex Sanderson’s squad ahead of their opening pre-season clash against Caldy RFC on August 19.
Jason signed for Bristol from Super Rugby side the Hurricanes in 2016, before joining Gloucester the following year after Bristol’s relegation from the Premiership. He went on to make made 67 appearances and score 90 points for the Cherry and Whites.
The 32-year-old represented New Zealand at U20 level but qualifies for England through his grandmother and was called into a training camp by Eddie Jones in 2017.
Sharks Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson said: “After speaking with Jason it was clear he was still motivated to perform at the highest level, and he was keen for a move North to join the Sharks.
“Jason is a proven Premiership performer who will add a great deal of quality and experience to what is a young squad here.
“He has the ability to play in a number of positions and that’s a massive bonus for us with such a busy schedule ahead.
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