Sonny Bill Williams is almost ready to return to the Blues line-up according to head coach Leon McDonald.
Williams has been missing for the past two months due to a knee injury and although he will not be available for the Blues game against the Bulls this Saturday, he is in contention to feature next weekend.
McDonald is worried about bringing Williams back from injury too quickly and causing more harm hence the cautious approach.
“We’re trying to build his load back up, you can’t go from minimal to a lot very quickly, especially when you come back from an injury like that. So this week his load has increased to what would be a typical game week and if he can tolerate that, then he’ll be good to go next week,” he said.
The Blues are in desperate need of a win to keep their slim play-off hopes alive and McDonald is well aware that defeat could put an end to any chance of qualifying.
“We understand the importance of the game and the consequences if we don’t get a result. This week we’ve been talking about learning to win the games when the pressure is on. This is a big chance for our leadership group to take over and prepare like it’s a final,” he added.
The must-win game for the Blues is their final home game this season and with Williams unavailable many are wondering if he has played his last home game for the franchise with his future up in the air.
Williams’ contract runs out come the end of the season and there has been plenty of speculation surrounding his future with a return to rugby league looking the most likely. Toronto Wolfpack have already openly spoken of their desire to bring Williams in to boost their team.
However, some wonder if he will continue with his professional boxing career or maybe even retire entirely from professional sport.
For now, the Blues will be happy to have the centre back on the pitch and so will the All Blacks as they look toward Williams to prove his fitness ahead of the World Cup later this year.
World Rugby approves birth right amendment for players to transfer unions
- New process can benefit players and the global competitiveness of rugby
- Fairness and integrity key principles that underpin the framework
- Approval follows extensive discussion and collaboration across the game
- Revised Regulation will apply from 1 January 2022
The World Rugby Council has approved an amendment to the sport’s regulations governing national team representation that will now permit an international player to transfer once from one union to another subject to demonstrating a close and credible link to that union via birth right.
From 1 January, 2022, in order to transfer from one union to another under the revised Regulation 8 (eligibility), a player will need to achieve the below criteria:
- The player must stand-down from international rugby for 36 months
- The player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country
- Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity
After 1 January 2022, any player who meets the above criteria can apply immediately for a transfer.
The Regulation 8 revisions will also align the “age of majority” across 15s and sevens. All players will now be ‘captured’ at 18 years of age to simplify the Regulation and improve union understanding and compliance.
Approval of the amended regulation follows requests by emerging nations and a subsequent wide-ranging consultation process with member unions, regions and International Rugby Players examining the possibility of amending the principle within Regulation that stipulates that a player may only represent one union at international level, save for specific circumstances relating to participation in the Olympic Games.
The benefits of the amendment include:
- Simplicity and alignment: transfers are currently permitted in the context of participation in the Olympics in the sevens game. This amendment will create one aligned, simplified process across the game
- Development of emerging nations: the player depth of emerging nations may be improved by permitting players, who have close and credible links to the “emerging union” through birth or ancestry, to “return” to those unions having previously represented another union
- Player-focused approach: the process recognised the modern rugby environment, including global player movement, the current ability to capture players by selecting them on the bench, and the desire of some players to transfer having been selected a limited number of times for one union. It also examined the impact of any change on the integrity of the international competition landscape.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Approval of this landmark regulatory change is the culmination of detailed and widespread modelling and consultation across the game. We have listened to our membership and players and sought to update the regulation recognising the modern professional rugby environment without compromising the integrity of the international game.
“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birth right or parent or grandparent birth right while meeting strong criteria, including a 36-month stand down period. We believe that this is the fairest way to implement progressive change that puts players first while also having the potential to support a growing, increasingly competitive international men’s and women’s game.”
World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte added: “We have listened to our membership and honoured our pledge to undertake wide-ranging review of this important regulation. We have consulted, sought feedback from our unions, regions and most importantly to players’ representatives, before making a recommendation to the Council. This change to how international rugby operates will provide transformational opportunities to players with dual backgrounds, providing they meet the key criteria sets out in the Regulation 8.”
International Rugby Players CEO, Omar Hassanein said:“The proposal to change the rules around player eligibility is something that we have worked on over many years with our member associations. Many players across the world will now benefit from the chance to represent the country of their or their ancestors’ birth, serving as a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations, which in turn, will benefit the game as a whole.”
World Player of the Year nominees revealed
The rugby family can now cast their vote for six of the prestigious World Rugby Awards 2021 categories after the nominations selected by the star-studded panel were revealed on Monday.
Fans will be able to select their winners for the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Players of the Year in sevens and 15s, as well as the International Rugby Players Men’s and Women’s Try of the Year scorers on the Awards’ voting website and join the conversation using #WorldRugbyAwards.
Voting will be open from 10:00 GMT on Monday, 15 November until 23:59 GMT on Sunday, 21 November.
The remaining six categories will be voted by the World Rugby Awards panel, a stellar team of rugby legends who will have the hard task of selecting winners for the World Rugby Breakthrough, Coach and Referee awards as well as the newly created Men’s and Women’s 15s Dream Teams of 2021.
To maintain the integrity of the outcome, the panel will have the opportunity to review the public voting to ensure the recipients are fitting winners in their respective category.
Nine countries are represented among the nominees in Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales, with France having the most representatives with eight, two more than England and New Zealand. Fiji are also rewarded for their teams’ performances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with four nominees in the Men’s and Women’s Sevens Player of the Year categories.
WORLD RUGBY AWARDS 2021 NOMINEES
World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard (fan vote)
Antoine Dupont (France)
Michael Hooper (Australia)
Maro Itoje (England/British and Irish Lions)
Samu Kerevi (Australia)
Australia captain Michael Hooper – who became his country’s most-capped captain in September – and England’s Maro Itoje have both previously been nominated for the Award, but lively scrum-half Antoine Dupont becomes the first Frenchman to be nominated since 2012 while Samu Kerevi is rewarded for his impactful return to the Wallabies midfield in 2021 which saw them win five tests, their best run outside of a Rugby World Cup year since 2008.
World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard (fan vote)
Zoe Aldcroft (England)
Caroline Boujard (France)
Poppy Cleall (England)
Laure Sansus (France)
Four first-time nominees in this category representing the two teams that have led the way in women’s rugby in 2021. Poppy Cleall and Zoe Aldcroft are two powerhouses of the England pack, both comfortable in either the second row and back row, while Caroline Boujard scored what is believed to be the joint-fastest hat-trick in Women’s Six Nations history against Wales in April. Laure Sansus’ selection, meanwhile, make it three years in a row that a French scrum-half has been nominated for the prestigious award.
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in association with Tudor (panel vote)
Will Jordan (New Zealand)
Andrew Kellaway (Australia)
Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
Marcus Smith (England)
Three flying wingers and an exciting talent at fly-half who have all lit up the international stage over the last year. Will Jordan is the second-fastest All Black to 15 test tries and has only failed to score in two of his 12 tests, while Andrew Kellaway is closing in on the Australian record for most tries in a debut season with eight in 12 tests in 2021. Louis Rees-Zammit became the youngest British and Irish Lion player for more than 50 years after impressing for Wales, while Marcus Smith has looked like a veteran in the England No.10 jersey since his debut in July.
World Rugby Coach of the Year (panel vote)
Allan Bunting/Cory Sweeney (New Zealand Women’s Sevens)
Ian Foster (New Zealand Men)
Simon Middleton (England Women)
Dave Rennie (Australia Men)
All first-time nominees split across sevens and 15s, Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney led New Zealand to Olympic gold in Tokyo, the one remaining accolade they were missing, while Simon Middleton led England to another Women’s Six Nations title and back-to-back record victories over world champions New Zealand in 2021. Ian Foster coached New Zealand to Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup success in a record-breaking year, while Dave Rennie has injected youth and experience into a Wallabies side that won five matches in a row, two of them against world champions South Africa.
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC (fan vote)
Napolioni Bolaca (Fiji)
Scott Curry (New Zealand)
Marcos Moneta (Argentina)
Jiuta Wainiqolo (Fiji)
The nominees blend the guile and experience of New Zealand’s co-captain and talisman Scott Curry to the fresh exuberance of youth of Argentina’s Marcos Moneta, the top try-scorer with six in Tokyo. Fiji continue their proud record of having at least one player among the nominees from 2013 onwards with two gold medallists in Napolioni Bolaca and Jiuta Wainiqolo, the latter marking his Fiji debut in a global sevens tournament with the opening try of Tokyo 2020 to quickly announce himself to the world.
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC (fan vote)
Anne-Cécile Ciofani (France)
Sarah Hirini (New Zealand)
Alowesi Nakoci (Fiji)
Reapi Ulunisau (Fiji)
New Zealand’s inspirational captain Sarah Hirini led the Black Ferns Sevens to the Olympic gold that had driven them on for the last five years, while Anne-Cécile Ciofani was a standout for France on the way to silver. Two players who helped inspire Fiji become their nation’s first female Olympic medallists are also nominated in Alowesi Nakoci and Reapi Ulunisau, the latter belying the fact it was her debut in a global tournament by finishing as top try-scorer with eight, including a record four against Brazil in the pool stage.
International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year (fan vote)
Lukhanyo Am (South Africa A, v British and Irish Lions on 14 July)
Pierre-Louis Barassi (France, v Australia on 17 July)
Luke Jacobson (New Zealand, v Argentina on 12 September)
Damian Penaud (France, v Scotland on 26 March)
Three tries that began deep in their own 22 from a free-kick or scrum and were quickly turned into tries after free-flowing attacks and the fourth a run back from a clearing kick to halfway. Damian Penaud’s try against Scotland in the Six Nations saw the winger gather his own chip dot down, while France team-mate Pierre-Louis Barassi finished off a move that had begun five metres from their own line against Australia in July. Cheslin Kolbe’s dancing feet and offload released Lukhanyo Am to score for South Africa A against the British and Irish Lions, while an outrageous offload from Beauden Barrett was gratefully received by Luke Jacobson to finish another flowing move from the All Blacks in The Rugby Championship against Argentina.
International Rugby Players Women’s Try of the Year (fan vote)
Sara Barattin (Italy, v Scotland on 13 September)
Emilie Boulard (France, v Wales on 3 April)
Abby Dow (England, v France on 30 April)
Romane Ménager (France, v Ireland on 17 April)
Two French tries in the Women’s Six Nations, one to round out an impressive debut from Emilie Boulard late on against Wales when she finished off a slick passing move in the corner and the other another run-in from back-row Romane Ménager against Ireland. England swung the ball wide quickly from a lineout to find Abby Dow, the winger running around the outside of the defender to race in against hosts France a week after their Six Nations final triumph. The final nominee comes from the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier, hosts Italy stealing an overthrown Scottish lineout near halfway to quickly send Sara Barattin over near the posts.
After a special edition in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prestigious World Rugby Awards return in 2021 to celebrate on-field achievements of the calendar year and recognise the teams and individuals who have inspired players and fans around the world. The pandemic has continued to impact the international stage with a number of teams having only returned to test rugby in the last couple of months.
Placed at the end of the November international window, the biggest accolades in rugby union will be virtually handed to their recipients from 6-10 December. The 12 categories will be unveiled on World Rugby social media channels including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (@WorldRugby).
The other categories to be awarded next month are the World Rugby Referee Award, the Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service and the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Dream Teams of the Year in association with Capgemini.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Awards are the ultimate accolade for rugby, and we are delighted to honour the outstanding players and individuals who have made an impact on our game on and off the field in 2021.
“The pandemic and its consequences have restricted several unions from playing international games this year and we recognise that not all rugby stars have had a chance to shine. Nevertheless, the World Rugby Awards Panel has done an amazing job in selecting suitable candidates in each category and I would like to congratulate all nominees who, deservingly, have been shortlisted for this year’s awards.”
World Rugby to introduce contact training restrictions
World Rugby and International Rugby Players (IRP) have published new contact training load guidance aimed at reducing injury risk and supporting short and long-term player welfare. The guidance is being supported by national players’ associations, national unions, international and domestic competitions, top coaches and clubs.
Earlier this year, World Rugby unveiled a transformational six-point plan aiming to cement rugby as the most progressive sport on player welfare. These new best-practice guidelines focus on the intensity and frequency of contact training to which professional rugby players should be exposed and have been shaped by consultation with players and coaches as well as leading medical, conditioning and scientific experts.
While the incidence of training injuries is low relative to that of matches, the volume of training performed means that a relatively high proportion (35-40 per cent) of all injuries during a season occur during training, with the majority of these being soft tissue injuries. Since the training environment is highly controllable, the guidelines have been developed to reduce injury risk and cumulative contact load to the lowest possible levels that still allow for adequate player conditioning and technical preparation.
The guidelines are based on a global study undertaken by IRP of almost 600 players participating across 18 elite men’s and women’s competitions, and a comprehensive review of the latest injury data. This reveals that training patterns vary across competitions, with an average of 21 minutes per week of full contact training and an average total contact load of 118 minutes per week. A more measured and consistent approach to training will help manage the contact load for players, especially those moving between club and national training environments. The research supports minimising contact load in training, in order that players can be prepared to perform but avoid an elevated injury risk at the same time. The guidelines aim to help strike that balance.
New ‘best practice’ training contact guidelines
World Rugby and International Rugby Players’ new framework [https://www.world.rugby/the-game/player-welfare/medical/contact-load] sets out clear and acceptable contact guidelines for training sessions, aiming to further inform coaches – and players – of best practice for reducing injury risk and optimising match preparation in season. The guidance covers the whole spectrum of contact training types, considering volume, intensity, frequency and predictability of contact, as well as the optimal structure of sessions across the typical training week, including crucial recovery and rest periods.
Recommended contact training limits for the professional game are:
- Full contact training: maximum of 15 minutes per week across a maximum of two days per week with Mondays and Fridays comprising zero full contact training to allow for recovery and preparation
- Controlled contact training: maximum of 40 minutes per week
- Live set piece training: maximum of 30 minutes set piece training per week is advised
The guidelines, which also consider reducing the overall load for players of particular age, maturity and injury profile (in line with the risk factors and load guidance published in 2019), will feature in the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup player welfare standards.
Instrumented mouthguard research programme to inform effectiveness
World Rugby is partnering with elite teams to measure the ‘real life’ effect of these guidelines (in training and matches) and assess the mechanism, incidence and intensity of head impact events using the Prevent Biometics market-leading instrumented mouthguard technology and video analysis to monitor implementation and measure outcomes.
The technology, the same employed in the ground-breaking Otago Rugby Head Impact Detection Study, will deliver the biggest ever comparable bank of head impact data in the sport with more than 1,000 participants across the men’s and women’s elite, community and age-grade levels. The teams that have signed up so far are multiple Champions Cup winners Leinster, French powerhouse Clermont Auvergne and Benetton Treviso while discussions are ongoing with several other men’s and women’s teams across a range of competitions.
World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “This important body of work reflects our ambition to advance welfare for players at all levels of the game. Designed by experts, these guidelines are based on the largest study of contact training in the sport, developed by some of the best rugby, performance and medical minds in the game. We believe that by moderating overall training load on an individualised basis, including contact in season, it is possible to enhance both injury-prevention and performance outcomes, which is good for players, coaches and fans.”
World Rugby Director of Rugby and High Performance and former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt added: “Training has increasingly played an important role in injury-prevention as well as performance. While there is a lot less full contact training than many people might imagine, it is our hope that having a central set of guidelines will further inform players and coaches of key considerations for any contact that is done during training.
“These new guidelines, developed by leading experts and supported by the game, are by necessity a work in progress and will be monitored and further researched to understand the positive impact on player welfare. We are encouraged by the response that we have received so far.
“We recognise that community level rugby can be an almost entirely different sport in terms of fitness levels, resources and how players can be expected to train, but the guidelines can be applied at many levels, especially the planning, purpose and monitoring of any contact in training.”
International Rugby Players Chief Executive Omar Hassanein said the guidelines are being welcomed by players: “From an International Rugby Players’ perspective, this project represents a significant and very relevant piece of work relating to contact load. We’ve worked closely with our member bodies in gathering approximately 600 responses from across the globe, allowing us to have sufficient data to then be assessed by industry experts. The processing of this data has led to some quite specific recommendations which are designed to protect our players from injuries relating to excessive contact load. We will continue to work with World Rugby as we monitor the progress of these recommendations and undertake further research in this area.”
Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster, who was involved in reviewing the study and advising the development of the guidelines, said: “We have a responsibility to make the game as safe as possible for all our players. For coaches, optimising training plays a significant role in achieving that objective. It is important that we do not overdo contact load across the week in order that players are fresh, injury-free and ready for match days. These guidelines provide a practical and impactful approach to this central area of player preparation and management.”
Ireland international and IRP Head of Strategic Projects and Research Sene Naoupu said: “While this is the first step of the implementation and monitoring process, it is an incredible outcome that shows just how much players care about this area. It also provides a foundation to review and determine future direction of implementation across the game, within an evidence-based injury-prevention programme for performance and welfare.”
World Rugby is also progressing a wide-ranging study of the impact of replacements on injury risk in the sport with the University of Bath in England, a ground-breaking study into the frequency and nature of head impacts in community rugby in partnership with the Otago Rugby Union, University of Otago and New Zealand Rugby, and further research specific to the professional women’s game. All of these priority activities will inform the decisions the sport makes to advance welfare for players at all levels and stages.