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Gatland Explains England RWC Final Comments

Warren Gatland has come out to explain his comments around England’s Rugby World Cup final as well as looking back on one vital mistake he made in his career

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Former Wales head coach Warren Gatland has given his reason for predicting England’s fall in the Rugby World Cup final while talking to Off the Ball.

The coaching great, who stepped aside from his 12-year stint with Wales following the conclusion of their World Cup campaign was promoting his new book ‘Pride and Passion’ and explained how the emotional toll of England’s semi-final win over New Zealand was hard to follow up. 

“At the very elite level of sport, it is the emotion that counts. And sometimes when you have a great performance and you are emotionally charged right on the edge, it is difficult to repeat that,” he said. 

It proved to be the case for England as they failed to find another gear in the final, being dominated by South Africa who ran out 32-12 winners. He drew on past experiences in his career to back up his point, including a discussion about the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour.

“When I look back at my time coaching, there are two examples that really strike out for me. One was in London coaching Wasps, and we played Leicester in the last round. Martin Johnson’s last game and Neil Back’s last game at Welford Road. I completely underestimated the emotion of that. They beat us 45-24 or something like that. Then in the final, I didn’t think they could bring the same level of emotion so we put 40-points on them in the final. It was the same scenario with Australia in the second test in 2013. James Horwill, tears running down his eyes, the effort and energy they put into that, I didn’t think they could bring the same the following week,” he added. 

That Lions tour threw up some major complications for Gatland including a decision to drop Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll for the third test, which caused huge backlash and the Kiwi regrets how he went about the decision that week. 

“The biggest mistake we made was on the Sunday after the second test we put Brian up for media. That was a huge mistake because everyone just assumed with Sam Warburton getting injured that Brian was going to play and going to be captain the following week. So we made the decision and I said to the other coaches ‘there could be a big falling out over this’. I didn’t realise quite the extent,” he finished. 

Gatland’s experience is easy to see and he will take charge of yet another Lions tour in 2021 as he leads his charges to South Africa as he completes the full cycle of tours having also managed them to a series draw with New Zealand in 2017. In the meantime Gatland has taken up a role with Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs as he returns to his homeland looking to add further success to his CV.

International

Lions 2021 Tour Dates Confirmed

The British and Irish Lions head to South Africa for their tour in 2021 and their opponents and schedule have been confirmed, with a concern among fans due to the short turnaround between games

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The British and Irish Lions 2021 tour of South Africa is a hotly anticipated event and fans have now discovered the dates of all eight games and who they will face.

The tour will begin on July 3rd, but is set to finish five weeks later, with head coach Warren Gatland already voicing his concerns over the short turnaround between the eight fixtures. As well as that, the tour’s first game is set to be only a week after the English Premiership final, leaving players little time to prepare together. 

Some have suggested that like the Guinness PRO14, the Premiership may bring their final forward by a week to allow Gatland have an entire squad. 

As well as their fixtures in South Africa it is thought that the Lions are keen on having a game a week before their first official fixture, more than likely against a Barbarians side, which would be a hugely entertaining match-up. 

First up for the Lions when they head to South Africa is a clash with Super Rugby side the Stormers in Cape Town on July 3rd, before a match against a South African invitational side on the 7th in Port Elizabeth. 

On the 10th they head to Durban to take on fellow Super Rugby franchise the Sharks, before another short turnaround to take on South Africa A on the 14th Nelspruit. 

They take on their final Super Rugby opponents in the form of the Bulls on the 17th in Pretoria, before beginning their three match series against the Boks. 

The first of those games will be held in Johannesburg on the 24th, with the second a week later in Cape Town and the final game will be on August 7th back in Johannesburg. The first and third game will be played at high altitude which will add to the difficulty of the task. 

Speaking on the announcement, Gatland, who is taking charge of his third Lions tour following a series win in Australia in 2013 and a draw in New Zealand four years later is relishing the challenge despite his concerns over a lack of preparation time. 

“I am absolutely thrilled with how this schedule looks. Touring South Africa is always a huge challenge, not only from a rugby perspective, but also in terms of the venues and the conditions facing the players. We are very comfortable that three of the games, two of which are Test matches, will be played at altitude. Our schedule falls in a way to allow us to start at sea level before building up and acclimatising to the unique environment that playing at altitude presents. Ensuring the team are absolutely primed for the Test matches is a critical element of any Lions tour, and I am confident the quality of opposition we will face in the opening weeks will get us ready to take on the Springboks. The Bulls, Sharks and Stormers are all tough sides and present different challenges, which is exactly what we want,” he said. 

The Lions will need to be at full strength if they are to record a series win in South Africa, with the Boks being crowned World Cup champions last month and looking like they are only going to get better. 

It is set to be another incredible tour and hopefully the short turnaround between the end of the season and between games doesn’t have too much of an effect on the outcome of the series. 

Check Out the Schedule Below:

July 3: Stormers (Cape Town)

July 7: South Africa ‘Invitational’ (Port Elizabeth)

July 10: Sharks (Durban)

July 14: South Africa A (Nelspruit)

July 17: Bulls (Pretoria)

July 24: South Africa (Johannesburg)

July 31: South Africa (Cape Town)

August 7: South Africa (Johannesburg)

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Rugby

Hansen Confirms New Job in Japan

Former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has finally announced his next role in rugby, but it’s not what many expected

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has confirmed that he will take up a role with Japanese Top League side the Toyota Verblitz.

Having finished up as head coach of New Zealand following their Rugby World Cup campaign last month, there were many rumours as to where he would end up, but he has put the talk to bed by announcing his new role with the Japanese outfit. 

However, his role will not be as head coach, but more as an “advisor” as he stated himself when discussing the new role on allblacks.com. 

“It’s an interesting role. It’s not one as head coach. it’s more as an advisor, mentor and requires me to be up there between somewhere five to 17 weeks a year. The key thing is to go in there and work with the people who are in the environment. The head coach is Simon Cron who I know well and have a lot of time for. He’s going to be a very good coach. having the opportunity to help him grow is something that really excites me,” he said. 

By linking up with the Verblitz Hansen will once again be reunited with All Blacks legend Kieran Read, who retired from international duty during the World Cup. 

Hansen is determined to make the team more of a family, much like his former All Blacks squads and believes that will help them be successful. 

“While we want a winning Toyota Verblitz team we also want an environment that people can be proud of. That is very much like a family. All the kind of things we’ve had in the All Blacks because I see that as what’s normal in any rugby team. So, if I can help in any way and help create that, then that will be important too,” he added. 

Hansen will be a huge addition to the Verblitz having been part of the All Blacks most successful coaching set-ups in recent times taking over as head coach in 2012, following eight years as assistant coach. 

In his time in charge he picked up a number of Rugby Championships, helped them retain a World Cup title and finish third in this year’s edition of the tournament. His experience will be invaluable, but it is a step back for the coaching great which most importantly allows him more time to spend with his family.

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Milner-Skudder Opens Up on Toughest Year

Former All Blacks Nehe Milner-Skudder has described how he has felt during a year in which he hasn’t been able to play rugby once

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Former All Blacks star Nehe Milner-Skudder has opened up on the hardship of this year while speaking at the opening of New Zealand’s first Suicide Prevention Office.

The flying-winger, who is an ambassador for Headfirst, has had a disastrous year with injury, which has kept him sidelined throughout the entire year, and has suffered with injuries since his breakthrough year in 2015. 

Speaking on his personal experience Milner-Skudder admitted that this year has been one of the toughest of his life due to the injuries he has sustained. 

“For me, personally this has been one of the toughest years in my life, my career to date.  Some of you may have noticed I haven’t taken the field at all this year, to not be able to do something or to do what you love doing… I really struggled. Out of all the injuries I’ve suffered, the many setbacks I’ve had in my career this was by far the hardest to digest. I’d built up in my head what this year was going to look like and I watched it shatter in pieces right in front of me and there was nothing I could do about it,” he said. 

The 28-year-old was named Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2015 after winning the Rugby World Cup with New Zealand, but has only made a total of 13 appearances for the national side since and described how he isolated himself during his hard-time. 

“I started to get these negative thoughts about being judged, distancing myself from others out of fear of what they might think, how it’d be played out in the media. It all took its toll. Although I’ve gone through these challenging times, I know I’m way better equipped to cope and work through them. I know what it feels like to get down, but I also know I am one of the few extremely lucky and privilege to have the resources to help me,” he added. 

He went on to state that his career has helped him learn how to deal with the difficulties life has thrown at him and is delighted to be able to use his own experience with others through his involvement with Headfirst. 

“My rugby career has taught me we all feel pressure and anxiety and we all get down at times, it’s easy to bottle things up, I’ve seen the negative effects that can have on myself and my teammates. Through this work I’ve discovered a lot about myself, and also realised things need to change around the stigma around mental health, masculinity in society and rugby. Being part of that change has been bloody important to me. Many of the participants, many of my teammates have come from the most at risk demographic, young, male Maori and Pasifika. It breaks me saying that,” he finished up. 

Milner-Skudder is still in the process of recovering from an injury which has also prevented him from featuring for Toulon since signing last season. Hopefully he will be back in action soon as he has an incredible talent, but for now at least it is positive to hear that he is coping mentally with what has happened over the past while.

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