South African rugby has suffered major blows during recent weeks. Just weeks ago, Pat Lambie was forced to retire from the game after being advised to do so by doctors.
Now it has emerged that former Springboks and Western Force flyhalf Peter Grant has also been forced to retire from competitive rugby. The 34-year-old Grant was advised to hang up his boots after receiving advice from specialists with regards to his past head injuries.
View this post on Instagram
My season as a professional Rugby player has come to an end and I need to say goodbye to this great game that has been my life and that I absolutely love. Unfortunately it’s not on my own terms, but I’m no spring chicken so I can accept that my time wasn’t too far round the bend. It’s been a tough pill to swallow, but looking back there’s so much to be thankful for and I am now getting excited for what lies ahead. I just want to thank our Lord for blessing me with this season in my life, for being with me every step of the way. Thank you to my beautiful wife, for believing in me, supporting me through thick and thin, and bringing the best out of me. I couldn’t have wished for a better teammate to tackle life. Thanks to my kids, Nova, John and Luke, for being my biggest fans and giving me such purpose and strength. And keeping me extra fit!! To my family and friends who have followed me over the years, thank you for all your support and constructive criticism. Mom and Dad, thanks for putting a rugby ball in my hands. Thanks to all my teammates who I have shared the field with and have helped create so many memories. And to all you legends I’ve played against, it was a real fight out on the pitch, but I’m going to miss those post match beers for sure. Thank you to all my coaches, medical staff and team management. You have all played a pivotal role in my growth as a player, and a person and I am grateful for the wonderful friendships we have developed. And last but not least. A huge thank you to my faithful fans and loyal sponsors. From Cape Town, to Kobe, to La Rochelle and to Perth. You guys have been awesome! I am really going to miss the thrill of kicking a conversion from the corner, making that final pass, that crunching tackle on the advantage line at the back of the line out, running out under the lights to the sound of a full house and finally seeing the joy on your faces after the final whistle. Thank you, Arigato gozaimashita, Merci beaucoup, Cheers.
Grant is sad to be bidding the game farewell earlier than he would have expected. However, he is also excited to be getting the opportunity to spend more time with his family.
“There is a lot of excitement because now I get to go to the games and watch it with my kids though it’s going to be a challenge. It is also going to be a big change and I am excited for that,” he said.
“But initially it was shock and then disappointment and uncertainty because this is all I know, and I was really getting geared up for another season. You go through the phases and there is a lot of emotion about that.”
During his career, Grant turned out for the likes of Western Province, Stormers, Kobelco Steelers, La Rochelle, Western Force and Perth Spirit.
He also represented South Africa Schools, South Africa U-19, Barbarians, Emerging Springboks and earned five caps for the Springboks between 2007-08.
This Weekend’s Guide to Key Games
There are three key internationals taking place this weekend and here’s all you need to know about them
Although all the games are indeed World Cup warm-up games, they could have a serious bearing on who heads into the tournament in Japan as the top ranked team in the world. So, here’s what you need to know.
As well as gaining some revenge and hoping to retain their Bledisloe Cup title on Saturday, the All Blacks know that they must win to have any chance of holding onto the No 1 spot in the World Rankings, where they have been for nearly 10 years.
On the other hand, the Wallabies will be hoping to secure a first Bledisloe Cup title since 2002, while also ending a 33-year draught for a win in Eden Park. Both team’s have everything to gain with a win, this could be another cracker of a game with both expected to go all out to win.
Wales vs England (KO 14 15, Sky Sports Action)
The visitors have added experience to their squad from last week which will worry the hosts, while the host have tweaked their side slightly in a bid to overturn the opposition.
Both go into the game knowing they could potentially overtake the All Blacks at the top of the World Rankings with a win. For the home side it is simple, win and they reach the summit. An old rivalry with even more edge, what more could you want?
Last weekend these two played and the Springboks blitzed the Pumas 46-13 to claim their first Rugby Championship crown in a decade.
This time around there is no silverware on the line and both teams have made vast changes to their sides to give players a chance to earn a place on the plane to Japan.
However, despite the changes there is still motivation for both as this is their final game before heading to Japan and Argentina are currently on a losing streak they will want to end before the start of the tournament. Expect big hits and a powerful display from both packs with key men out to prove a point.
Who is Ruaridh McConnochie?
The Bath winger has never played for England, but was included in Eddie Jones’ 31-man squad for the World Cup
This week, he was named in Eddie Jones’ 31-man England squad for the 2019 World Cup, after just one season in the professional game.
It has been meteoric rise for the winger from Kent, but how did McConnochie make the transition from amateur rugby in such a short time?
As a youngster, McConnochie was never involved with any professional academies. Instead, he plied his trade with amateur side Cranbrook, in the sixth tier of the English rugby pyramid.
Then, after beginning his teaching degree at Gloucester University, McConnochie joined Nuneaton ahead of the 2012-13 season.
So much was his love for the game, McConnochie made the 146-mile round trip from Gloucester as much as three times a week.
Elliott Brown has been Nuneaton’s captain since the 2012-13 season, and described McConnochie as a “gangly, scrawny, super skinny lad.”
His ability was immediately apparent though, as he ran in 24 tries across two seasons for the club.
“He could see things other players couldn’t, whether he took a gap himself or put someone into it. He had an exceptional ability to beat the first man, you could almost guarantee it,”said Brown.
McConnochie then made the step up to Hartpury College, where after a short spell, he was called up to the England Sevens circuit.
With Sevens being introduced to the Olympics in 2016, McConnochie had the chance to make a name for himself on the big stage.
Sevens head coach Simon Amor, unlike Jones this week, overlooked McConnochie though, naming the man from Tenterden as a reserve.
Shortly after selection though, injuries meant McConnochie was called up, and he went on to play his part for a team that won the silver medal in London.
His performances didn’t go unnoticed for the Sevens side, and after another productive year in the national squad McConnochie was offered a contract by Bath in 2018.
“It was more in the back of my head having never done an academy pathway and never being involved in professional 15s I wanted to give it a try. If at the end of the first year it wasn’t going well, that’s life, but if it was I would’ve hated to have retired from Sevens and not given it a try, ” McConnochie said.
McConnochie’s Bath debut came sooner than expected however, as an Anthony Watson injury meant he was deployed as fullback by head coach Todd Blackadder.
Other injuries across the back-three saw McConnochie become a regular fixture in the backline during the second half of the season, and after four tries in 15 games, he was called up to an England training squad in June.
Despite injury preventing his debut for England against Wales on Sunday, Jones was convinced by McConnochie after he impressed in training camps over the summer.
McConnochie’s inclusion was a shock to many in the rugby world; a feeling that was mutual between fans and the player.
“It was pretty last minute, and it did take me by surprise. I just wanted to go into each week and live it as a bonus, because it’s incredible,” he admitted.
After his injury prior to the game on Sunday, McConnochie believed his chances of making the squad were over.
“If you’d asked me 48 hours ago I’d be saying something different. It was a dark 24 hours with the injury. Then come this morning I was quite at peace, if it didn’t happen I’d have no regrets over the process,” McConnochie said.
McConnochie is expected to fit enough make his England debut against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday, which would be the end of an incredible four-year journey.
What the boss said
England head coach Eddie Jones vividly remembers the first time he watched McConnochie play for Bath.
“I will tell you the game I saw him. It was a beautiful sunny day in Exeter. He played for Bath and did a lot of good things. I remember driving back in the car and trying to find out more information about him,” Jones said.
“He is a big tall guy with feet and, again, with Exeter because you are close to the ground you can hear and see the communication of the players. He is a very good communicator. We found out more about him, did some background information, and he continued to play well.”
Although Jones’ decision to include McConnochie in his squad had been questioned, the Australian believes selecting the Bath back was a no-brainer.
“Firstly, I think it’s always nice to bring new blood in,” said Jones. “It freshens everything up. When you have the enthusiasm that young players do, it adds to the squad.
“Once he came into camp, he cemented our impression of him,” Jones added. “He’s a mature boy who has played a number of positions, so he was a pretty easy selection in the end.”
Fiji Name 32-Man Squad Ahead of World Cup
Fiji have cut their initial 50-man squad down to just 32 players ahead of next month’s tournament in Japan
Fijian head coach John McKee has announced a 32-man squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan next month.
The squad will be cut down to 31 before the tournament starts meaning one player from the remaining group will miss out.
Fiji will be captained by veteran forward Dominiko Waqaniburotu, who is one of five players that will appear at their third World Cup along with Kini Murimurivalu, Vereniki Goneva, Leone Nakarawa and Campese Ma’afu.
In total there are 17 players included that turned out for Fiji during the 2015 edition of the competition.
McKee has called on his players to now step up their preparations for the tournament.
“I wish the players selected well and remind them of the responsibility they must take on in representing Fiji in a Rugby World Cup. With 35 days until our opening match against the Wallabies, now is the time to step our preparation up in the final phase to ensure we put ourselves in the best position to achieve our performance goals at the World Cup,” he said.
As well as them there are some European-based players such as Semi Radradra, Ben Volavola and Waisea Nayacalevu, with Sevens star turned XV’s powerhouse Viliame Mata among them.
McKee is happy with the mix of youth and experience and believes that the country are in with a chance of qualifying from Pool D which contains Wales and the Wallabies.
“I am very pleased to announce a group of players to represent Fiji at the World Cup, which I believe has the potential to challenge for a place in the play-offs from Pool D. With selections made, players can focus completely on their preparation for the World Cup and being the best player they can be for the team and for Fiji. This is an exciting time for these men who have been selected for the Flying Fijians heading to the World Cup in Japan. They must not let this opportunity to do something special for Fiji slip by,” he added.
The Fijians now head on a 10-day training camp before facing Tonga in the Pasifika Challenge II on the 31st of August.
They will then head to Japan on September 6th ahead of their opening game against the Wallabies on the 21st.
Check Out the Full 32-Man Squad Below.
Ratu Vere Vugakoto
This Weekend’s Guide to Key Games
Who is Ruaridh McConnochie?
Fiji Name 32-Man Squad Ahead of World Cup
The Low-down on Ulster’s New Signings
“Awful, actually terrible” – Fitzgerald blasts one Ireland star.
WATCH: How did this hit from Tuilagi go unnoticed & unpunished?
Rugby Championship5 days ago
WATCH: Surely this new angle on Barrett Red Card ends the debate.
International3 days ago
Ireland Cut Three More from Squad
6 Nations1 week ago
Two Uncapped Players In Ireland Squad For Italy Match
Rugby Transfer Rumours1 week ago
Te’o Set to Leave England
International4 days ago
Extent of Barrett Suspension Confirmed
Rugby World Cup4 days ago
WATCH: Video of the moment Joey Carbery suffered injury v Italy.
International1 week ago
Weekend’s Rugby Guide to Key Games
International3 days ago
Springboks Lose Key Coach