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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)

6 Nations

Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province

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Leinster have confirmed that out-half Johnny Sexton will not feature in this weekend’s return fixture against the Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.

The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury. 

The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year. 

As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side. 

The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend. 

However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem. 

In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win. 

Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.

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International

All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year Confirmed

The All Blacks have had an off-colour year compared to their usual high standards but there were some stand-out performers and the players have cast their vote on their player of the year

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New Zealand back-rower Ardie Savea has been announced as the All Blacks Players’ Player of the Year for 2019.

The nation as a whole were disappointed with their year having lost out on the Rugby Championship and failing to retain their Rugby World Cup crown, with their rivals South Africa claiming both. 

However, despite all the downsides there were some stand-out performances and Savea has stood out among his peers for his showings this year beating fellow teammates Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read, Codie Taylor and Anton Lienert-Brown to the award. 

It brings Savea’s year to a bright ending after also being pipped to the World Player of the Year award by Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit last month. Although Savea will miss a chunk of the 2020 season having confirmed he will undergo surgery on a knee problem which will leave him side-lined for between four to six months.

Sevu Reece was handed the Players’ Super Rugby Player of the Year after finishing top of the try-scoring charts with the Crusaders

Meanwhile, in the women’s voting Charmaine McMenamin came out on top as the Players’ International Player of the Year. 

The New Zealand Rugby 2019 awards take place on Thursday with both Savea and McMenamin up for the Player of the Year award going up against Beauden Barrett and Lienert-Brown, and Black Ferns’ Kendra Cocksedge and Ayesha Leti-l’iga respectively.

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International

Cooper Talks About Kneeing McCaw in the Head

Quade Cooper has opened up on his career to date and in particular his controversial knee to Richie McCaw

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(Photo by CHRISTIAAN KOTZE/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia’s Quade Cooper has opened up on when he kneed former All Black Richie McCaw in the head and the backlash he received.

Cooper, a New Zealand-born Wallabies player, was talking on the Ice Project podcast with Isaac John about his rugby career to date and owned up to his “dirty” knee to McCaw’s head in a game leading up to the Rugby World Cup in 2011, admitting he apologised to the All Blacks legend years later.

“A few years later I’ve seen Richie in the airport and I went up to him and said, ‘Sorry about that’. It’s not that he didn’t care or he did care but, when I said sorry to him, I confronted it and said, ‘I really looked up to you as a kid, you were my idol, everyone in New Zealand loves you and I loved you, so when I played against you it was just emotion, passion took over, you were playing dirty on me and I kneed you. He’s one of the best at [dirty play],” he said.

The incident caused uproar among fans and the now veteran Wallaby, who has 70-caps to his name confirmed that he wasn’t ready for the backlash he received and how he couldn’t even go out.

“I look back at it now and I wasn’t ready for it. I had the expectation of 2011 of playing good football but now I had the pressure of all these guys hating me as well, and a whole country, not just the rugby public. I couldn’t go anywhere. I was on the team bus and there were signs ‘I hope you break your leg, I hope you die in this game’. If I had my time again, [because] I know how to handle it now, I’d just say, ‘Yeah I did it, so what?’. Not ‘So what?’, but ‘It’s part of footy, it was a bad play but I did it’, so what could people say?” he added.

In the end McCaw got the last laugh, going on to win the Rugby World Cup with New Zealand later that year.

Cooper’s career has had its ups and downs since, but he is now starting a new chapter in Japan with the Kintetsu Liners in the second-division where he will be hoping to stay out of the limelight.

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