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Chiefs Coach Steps Down

The Chiefs will have a new head coach for the 2020 Super Rugby season as Colin Cooper has decided to move on

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Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper will not complete the final year of his contract and will step down the club and New Zealand Rugby have confirmed.

Cooper, who has completed two of the three years on his contract will take next year to spend time with his family and has been in discussions over a release from his contract for several weeks.

Having led the Chiefs to successive quarter finals in 2018 and 2019, Cooper is happy with the time he spent with the franchise and believes that it is the right time to step aside.

“I believe the team and the club are bigger than the individual and the club comes first. With next year the start of a new World Cup cycle, I believe it is the right time to step aside. There is a good crew of players and staff here who are committed to carrying the club forward. Developing young players and coaches for the future of New Zealand rugby is something I’m very passionate about, and I’m proud and grateful to have been a part of that with the Chiefs,” he said.

He went on to thank the support he had over his two years with the club and confirmed that he will be spending some time with his family while away from the sport.

“The Chiefs and the Club are well supported by fans and sponsors, and I would like to thank them for making me feel welcome and at home in Hamilton. For now, my focus is to complete our season review, and then my priority is to spend time with my whanau, and moko who are continuing to grow,” he added.

Cooper admitted that while he is taking the time to be with his family, he will also be considering his future.

“The role of the head coach has evolved so much over the past five or six years. My passion is ‘hands-on’ on-the-field coaching, but with bigger playing numbers and more staff involved these days, I am getting taken further and further away from my passion. So, I will take some time out with my family and discuss our future,” he finished.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew was full of praise for Cooper who has been on the coaching scene for over 20 years now and hopes to see him back in the rugby circle again soon.

“Coops is a remarkable individual with great presence and mana. We know Coops to have a special talent in communicating with young men and working to bring the best out of those in his charge, and to help grow outstanding individuals on and off the field. We appreciate that he will have some decisions to make and while he will have choices in front of him, we hope his special abilities won’t be lost to New Zealand rugby,” he said.

Tew also agreed with Cooper’s timing and the way he dealt with stepping aside by allowing notice to give the club time to find a replacement.

“Next year is a post-World Cup year when there is a lot of player movement within Super Rugby and clubs are beginning the next four-year cycle. Taking that into consideration, both Colin and the Club have spoken at length over several weeks and agree that the time is right for a new coach to take the Chiefs into 2020 and beyond Being an ultimate professional and team man, Colin’s early decision was not made lightly by either him or the Club, but it has allowed us some space to recruit and plan for a smooth and successful transition,” he added.

Cooper will be a hard man to replace as he was loved by many at the club, and rugby fans will be hoping to see him back on the scene soon.

Premiership

Harlequins Secure South African Star’s Signature

Harlequins have confirmed the signing of one of the most powerful backs in Super Rugby for next season

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Harlequins have announced the signing of South African back Andre Esterhuizen from Super Rugby outfit the Sharks.

The 25-year-old, known as ‘The Giant’ due to his size and stature, will link-up with the squad ahead of the 2020/21 season following the end of the upcoming Super Rugby campaign with the South African-based franchise. 

The eight-time capped Springbok is delighted to be joining the Premiership side and admitted the opportunity was too good to turn down.

“When the opportunity to play for Harlequins came up, I knew it was the right move for me to develop my career and get the chance to play in the Premiership, as well as experience the European competition, which have always been dreams of mine. Paul Gustard and his team are building something special there and to have the chance to work with a young and dynamic coaching group such as Nick Evans and Sean Long is really exciting. I can’t wait to run out at The Stoop and show them what I can bring to the team,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Gustard believes that Esterhuizen’s sheer power will be a massive boost to the club and is excited to have him on board. 

“Andre is an incredible signing for Harlequins. He is a current Springbok who has the ability to change any game through his raw power and strength in the contact areas. His physical abilities are impressive enough, but we were further attracted by his capacity to be a second playmaker, distributing before and through the line. He is a fantastic talent and his addition to our squad is very exciting. Besides his ability on the field, which is without debate, he is a tremendous human being. He has the character that we want and at 25 is entering his prime as a player. He will join a backline that we feel can grow together and develop into an elite unit, developing a deep understanding of each other and building strong friendships,” he said. 

Esterhuizen will be a huge addition to the Quins back-line with his ability to play centre and full-back, as well as having 72 Super Rugby appearances to his name ahead of the new season and will be hoping to hit the ground running when he heads to England.

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Super Rugby

Hooper Makes Surprise Waratah’s Decision

Wallabies star Michael Hooper has made a big call ahead of the start of the new Super Rugby season with the Waratahs

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Waratahs and Wallabies ace Michael Hooper has confirmed that he has stepped down as captain of the Super Rugby franchise ahead of the new season.

Hooper has been the main man of the side for the past four seasons, but has chosen to step aside in what is a surprise to many in the rugby community admitting that he has been thinking about the situation for a long as the role was taking its toll on him. 

“Doing both roles (captaining the Waratahs and the Wallabies) for some time it would be remiss of me to say it doesn’t have a taxing effect. There’s much more than just running out on the park, leading the team out on the weekend. There’s performances of teams that weigh into it, there’s the media, all my friends. Having to speak every week is tough and trying to get the message right and represent the team as best as possible. A big part of it is I’ve got another four years here and I want to make that four years really special and take my personal game and leadership to another level,” he said. 

With Hooper stepping down it has been announced that fellow Wallaby Rob Simmons will take up the role for the upcoming season with Kurtley Beale taking the position of vice-captain. 

However, despite stepping away from the Waratah’s captaincy the back-rower has not shut down the possibility of staying on as Wallabies captain having held the role since 2017. 

“That’s a fair way away, but my thoughts around that have not changed. I still think I’ve got a lot of growing in myself, my gameplay and my captaincy. Those are conversations that (new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie) and myself will be having I’m sure in the future,” he added. 

It is a surprise, but if leaving the role does ease the pressure on him fans will only wonder what it would be like for him to get even better. 

However, Simmons first outing as new captain is by no means easy as the brings his Tahs side to the reigning three-time champions the Crusaders for their opening game of the new campaign next weekend.

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Premiership

Rugby Australia Confirm Skelton Stance

With the Saracens team set to be torn apart, Rugby Australia have announced their intentions regarding one of the side’s key men

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(Photo credit GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia have confirmed they will be trying to sign up Saracens star Will Skelton following the club’s salary cap scandal.

Skelton has been away from Australia since 2016 following a stint with the Waratahs, where he won the Super Rugby title in 2014. However, in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup last year approaches were made for the massive lock in a bid for him to be eligible for the tournament. 

Those moves came to no avail, but now Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson told The Australian that they will go all out to tempt Skelton back to his homeland. 

“I can’t see them keeping anywhere near that team together and because he [Skelton] is not ­English, he will be one of the first under the spotlight. We have spoken to his agent, and we are going to go heavy this week. We are in a realistic chance at some stage to bring him back, if he wants to come back. He’s going to make a decision on what he is doing this for. Is it money, or is it career? So he has to make that clear to us. For us, we won’t compete for the money. We’ll make a good offer. But I only want guys in the country who want to make a difference. He has apparently been saying the right things but, to be fair, he was always just trying to honour his contract,” he said. 

If he returns to Australia it is believed he could go back to the Waratahs, but there is also rumours that the Rebels or the Brumbies could try and get him onto their books. 

Meanwhile, with a big salary and being unable to play for England, it seems a logical move for Saracens to try and offload the 27-year-old. 

Already they have lost Liam Williams to the Scarlets and it is believed that George Kruis will depart for Japan come the end of the current campaign. While question marks remain over a host of star names including Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje

However, while those players more than likely would seek a move to a club in England, Skelton will have his options and a move back to Australia would be a huge boost for the national side as they head into a new era under Dave Rennie.

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