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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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(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

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.

Rugby

Scottish Rugby season ruled null and void.

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The 2019/20 domestic rugby season in Scotland has been classified as null and void, with Scottish Rugby joining its Irish, Welsh and Italian counterparts in coming to this outcome.

This decision follows the earlier interim suspension and then final closure of the season based on Government advice in relation to the Covid-19 virus and is being issued today, 31 March in line with the previous objective of informing clubs by the end of the month.

The decision to declare the 2019/20 season null and void – meaning there will be no automatic promotion/relegation – was reached following an extensive consultation process involving the participating clubs, the Championship and Competition Committee members and Scottish Rugby’s own Rugby Development Department.

Five possible scenarios were presented, with around half of clubs favouring the null and void option. The remaining clubs were split between the other four options. The second most favoured option – finishing the season based on the league positions at the time of shutdown – received the support of around a quarter of clubs.

Further to the club consultation, the declaration of a null and void season was recommended by the Convenor of the Championship Committee, the Reserve League Committee Chair and the Chair of the Women’s Competition Committee.

Their recommendation was supported by Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development.

A paper summarising the consultation process, the possible season-ending options and containing a recommendation from Championship Convenor, the Reserve League Chair and the Women’s Competition Chair was provided to Scottish Rugby Council for consideration and feedback.

The Council’s endorsement of the proposal was then ratified by the Scottish Rugby Board in its role to oversee the best interests of the game, with authority then granted to the Championship Committee to bring the recommendation into force.

Scottish Rugby President Dee Bradbury said: “It was clear from the outset that, in terms of the consequential impact on the various leagues in terms of promotion/relegation there would be no “right” solution, particularly once it was clear that our preferred option of completing the season would no longer be possible.”

“Every solution we looked at was likely to be problematic in some way – none was likely to be supported by everyone. It was therefore considered essential that the full range of options were explored, each potential option was sense checked and that, as far as possible, a broad consensus was reached across the game as to the most appropriate outcome.

“We fully accept some clubs will be disappointed with this decision and share their frustration that, for wider societal reasons beyond our control, their hard work to push for success this season hasn’t yielded the rewards they deserve.”

Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development Sheila Begbie said: “It was important we went through a thorough process to canvass opinion and offer a range of options for how the season could be concluded.

“I would like to thank all the clubs that contributed to this process and for their valuable input. I know the Competitions Committees and Convenors have put in a huge amount of time to ensure there was a credible outcome for every club, and while there are obviously clubs who will be disappointed, I believe this is a fair solution for everyone in these unprecedented circumstances.”

Dougie Belmore, Championship Committee Convenor said: “Extensive discussion and consultation has taken place with the various Championship and Competition Committee members, together with representatives from a wide range of Clubs at all levels of the game. Following this exercise, the clear agreed position is that, due to the unprecedented events currently unfolding globally, Season 2019/20 should be declared null and void. A number of alternative options have been explored in detail, with the majority of Clubs supporting this outcome.”

Scottish Rugby would like to thank everyone who contributed to this extensive and important process at such a difficult time and thanks all clubs for their valuable insight and understanding in the conclusion of the 2019/20 season.

The SRU has a comprehensive list of FAQs and answers on their website. List can be found here.

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New Zealand Pull Plug on Most of Domestic Season

New Zealand Rugby have had to cancel the remainder of their domestic seasons due to the coronavirus outbreak

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

New Zealand Rugby have been forced to cancel the remainder of a host of their domestic competitions due to the coronavirus outbreak it has been confirmed.

With the Super Rugby season suspended indefinitely due to the virus and looking under real threat of being scrapped, the domestic competitions have already discovered their fate. 

New Zealand Rugby is facing a massive financial loss due to the cancelation of the Super Rugby season and with there being a growing possibility that the All Blacks summer series will be called off. 

Along with the matchday revenue, the television money that may now be lost has forced their hand into calling off the remainder of a host of competitions. 

All competitions below that of the mens and womens national championships have been cancelled. 

That includes The Heartland Championship which has a proud history which stretches back 104 years, with all its seasons being completed. 

The news comes on the back of a number of other top nations following similar roads and the news that the All Blacks players and staff have taken pay-cuts in order to help the current situation. 

It is a major loss for rugby in New Zealand, but the health of the people will always come first and until this situation concludes there will be no rugby on.

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Italy Become Latest Country to Scrap Domestic Season

Italy have joined a number of top-tier nations today by announcing that their domestic rugby season will go no further

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(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Italy are the latest country to call off the remainder of their domestic season due to coronavirus the Italian Rugby Federation has confirmed.

The only competition that Italian teams are involved in that is yet to be scrapped is the PRO14, which Benetton and Zebre are hoping can continue come the end of the pandemic.

However, that is seeming less and less likely as the days pass by, with less time to play the games ahead of the opening of next season.

“The governing body of Italian rugby has approved the definitive suspension of the 2019/2020 season. The decision implies the non-assignment of the Italian champion titles and of all the promotion and retrocession processes. In taking a decision that is unprecedented in the history of Italian rugby since the Second World War to date, the Council has taken the utmost consideration of the founding values of Italian rugby and their active impact on civil society and clubs,” a statement from the federation read.

There are four tiers of Italian rugby that are most noticeably affected by the decision made today with the Top 12, and Serie A, B and C all having their seasons cut short and classed as null and void meaning there are no champions, promotions or relegations from any of the leagues.

It follows a similar trend to that of Ireland and England, who have both cancelled the rest of their domestic seasons due to the outbreak of the virus which is causing major issues among the sporting calendar.

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