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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

Wales name side for Scotland

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Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

Wales travel to Murrayfield on a six-day turnaround following their opening round success against Ireland.
Wales have named the same front-five that featured last weekend with Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis forming the front-row.

Adam Beard continues to partner captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second row.

Aaron Wainwright comes into the back row to line up alongside Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau. Both Josh Navidi and Josh Macleod are unavailable due to injury, with the latter originally selected to earn his first cap at blindside flanker before being ruled out.

Gareth Davies comes into the starting XV to partner Dan Biggar.

Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin form a new-look midfield with Liam Williams returning to the side to line-up alongside Louis Rees-Zammit and Leigh Halfpenny.

“We were pleased to kick the tournament off with a victory last weekend and to be heading to Scotland with a win behind us.

“We continue to build and to move forward and it is great to do that from a position of winning.
“It is a quick six-day turnaround this week but we are looking forward to getting back out there.

“We have picked up a couple of injuries but we see it as more of an opportunity for those coming into the side.

“We have to feel extremely disappointed for Josh (Macleod) who we selected to start and to win his first cap only to be ruled out later that day through injury.”

Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones and Leon Brown provide the front-row cover for Wales with Will Rowlands and James Botham completing the forward contingent. Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy and Halaholo provide the back-line cover.

WALES TEAM TO PLAY SCOTLAND (SATURDAY FEBRUARY 13, KO 16.45)

1. Wyn Jones (31 Caps)

2. Ken Owens (78 Caps)

3. Tomas Francis (53 Caps)

4. Adam Beard (22 Caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (CAPT) (144 Caps)

6. Aaron Wainwright (27 Caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (81 Caps)

8. Taulupe Faletau (82 Caps)

9. Gareth Davies (58 Caps)

10. Dan Biggar (88 Caps)

11. Liam Williams (67 Caps)

12. Nick Tompkins (9 Caps)

13. Owen Watkin (26 Caps)

14. Louis Rees-Zammit (5 Caps)

15. Leigh Halfpenny (94 Caps)

Replacements:

16. Elliot Dee (33 Caps)

17. Rhodri Jones (18 Caps)

18. Leon Brown (13 Caps)

19. Will Rowlands (6 Caps)

20. James Botham (3 Caps)

21. Kieran Hardy (2 Caps)

22. Callum Sheedy (5 Caps)

23. Uilisi Halaholo (*Uncapped)

Players unavailable for selection:

Dan Lydiate (released), Josh Navidi, Josh Macleod, Tomos Williams, Johnny Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hallam Amos, Josh Adams.

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2 Irish Internationals re-sign & new singing announced by Ulster

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Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Irish internationals, Rob Herring and Ian Madigan, will continue to call Ulster home for at least the next two years, with former European Player of the Year, Leone Nakarawa, set to make his presence felt in the province.

Hooker, Rob Herring, who continues to be a familiar presence in the Ireland set-up, has signed an extension that will keep him at Kingspan Stadium until at least June 2023. Known as a leader within the squad, Herring, who is within touching distance of his 200th cap for the province, said:

“I’m delighted to sign a new contract with Ulster – there’s a great atmosphere at the club at the moment. We are all pretty close mates here, working hard to make memories and win silverware for the province. That’s definitely something I want to be a part of for as long as I can.”

Ulster Rugby Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said: 

“Rob is an established international in the Ireland team, as well as one of our most-capped Ulster players. An integral part of this team, he is a natural leader both on and off the pitch, and I’m really pleased that Rob has committed his future with us for another two seasons.” 

Having already made his presence keenly felt since signing with Ulster last season, Ian Madigan, has put pen-to-paper on a new two-year deal. The fly half, who has delivered some heart-stopping performances – most notably when his 80th minute long range penalty secured Ulster’s place in last season’s Guinness PRO14 Final – will continue to bring a wealth of experience to the squad in the years ahead. On his contract extension, Madigan, said:  

“I’m delighted to extend my contract with Ulster – it was an easy decision for me, and my partner Anna, as we have loved our time in Belfast so far. I’ve really enjoyed playing under the current coaching team, as well as working alongside some of the younger players in the squad as they break through into the senior team, which is very exciting for the club. I believe the team are good enough to win trophies in the near future, and that is my number one goal. I also can’t wait to experience a packed-out Kingspan Stadium and get the opportunity to meet the supporters in-person sometime soon.” 

McFarland added: “Ian has bags of big-game experience and he has delivered for us on a number of occasions already, with the Guinness PRO14 Semi-Final against Edinburgh and the recent win over Connacht springing to mind. He also massively contributes to our squad off the pitch, passing on his experience to our young half-backs. I’m delighted he has extended his time with us for another two years.” 

Completing today’s announcement is a new face set to join the ranks of Ulster in the shape of 6ft 6in Flying Fijian forward, Leone Nakarawa. The 32-year old Olympic gold medal winner was crowned European Player of the Year in 2018 and will make the move to Kingspan Stadium from Glasgow Warriors on a one-year deal. With an ability to play in both the second row and back row, Nakarawa is known for his devastating offloads, as well as being no stranger to the try-line. 

Of the new signing, Dan McFarland, said:

“It’s an exciting time for Leone to be making the move to Ulster for the upcoming season as we look to continue to build on our ambitions as a squad. Given his broad skillset and experience, as well as some impressive accolades to his name, I’m confident that he’ll be a valuable addition to the team, and we look forward to welcoming Leone to the province.”

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England v Barbarians: CANCELLED

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The RFU has today cancelled the Quilter Cup England v Barbarians fixture scheduled for Sunday 25 October.
 
As part of its ongoing investigation into a breach of the Covid code of conduct that took place on 21 October, the RFU has today discovered there was an earlier undisclosed breach that took place on 20 October when a number of Barbarians players left the hotel bubble without permission and without informing organisers about their whereabouts.
 
The RFU has concluded that the players leaving their Covid-secure environment on 20 October without then isolating from the rest of the group on their return has resulted in the bubble environment being compromised, with the potential risk of Covid transmission from individuals outside the bubble to everyone in the Barbarians team and management.
 

The RFU is therefore left with no alternative but to cancel the game.

Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “We are incredibly disappointed to be calling a halt to this fixture, we know how much fans were looking forward to seeing the teams play.  However, our priority is to protect the health and safety of the England squad and the other international teams they will go up against this Autumn.  There has been a great deal of effort put into Covid codes of conduct and planning for games, including cooperation with Premiership Clubs to release additional players to fulfil the fixture safely, and we are all incredibly frustrated and disappointed that the actions of a number of Barbarians players mean we no longer feel it is safe for the game to go ahead.”

The RFU investigation is ongoing and no details on individuals or numbers of players involved will be confirmed until the investigation is concluded.

STATEMENT FROM RFU ENDS

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