Former Munster scrum-half Mike Prendergast has signed a new long-term contract with French side Racing 92.
The ex-red has been signed up as the new attack and backs coach for next season, as the 41-year-old leaves Stade Francais after just a year.
It had been reported previously that Prendergast, who joined Paul O’Connell at Stade Francais, would depart for Toulon during the summer but those rumours have now been put to bed.
He was also linked with a return to Munster however, the southern side will have to look elsewhere for a new attacking coach.
Prendergast will be joined at Racing by Laurent Travers, who is the new director of rugby at the club, Patricio Norgieria, who comes in as the forwards coach and Chris Moore who will take over as the defence coach.
The move also means that he links up with other ex-Munster men Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan in Paris.
The coach’s CV is ever-growing having started off as a director of rugby at Young Munster before coaching jobs at Grenoble, Oyonnax and Stade Francias, which makes him one to look out for in the future.
Leicester confirm signing of Springbok
Leicester Tigers will welcome World Cup-winning fly-half Handré Pollard to the club ahead of the 2022/23 season.
The South Africa international will make the move to Leicester from French club Montpellier.
The 27-year-old has been capped on 60 occasions by the Springboks since making his Test debut against Scotland in 2014 while still a member of the South Africa Under-20s squad.
Pollard played youth rugby for Western Province, in Cape Town, while attending Paarl Gimnasium School and was selected for South Africa Schoolboys in 2012.
That same year, Pollard was selected for the Junior Springboks as an 18-year-old and remained in the squad for three successive seasons, captaining the age-grade national side in his final year.
In 2013, Pollard moved to the University of Pretoria and represented UP Tuks while also making his provincial debut for the Blue Bulls in South Africa’s Currie Cup competition.
His Super Rugby debut followed in 2014 for the Bulls, who he would represent for the next five seasons, as well as a lone campaign for Japanese club NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes in 2015/16.
After playing in South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup win, Pollard joined current club Montpellier.
An accomplished goal-kicker, he has registered more than 600 points for the Springboks at an average of more than 10 points per Test.
He represented the Barbarians in 2018 and recently shared in South Africa’s series win over the British & Irish Lions.
Speaking about the addition of Pollard to the Leicester Tigers squad for next season, Head Coach Steve Borthwick said: “Handré is a world-class fly-half who brings with him a wealth of experience from Super Rugby, Top14 and international rugby.
“He is a World Cup winner who has been highly sought-after from clubs all over the globe. But, most pleasingly, he sees Leicester Tigers as the club for him.
“What has impressed me most in our dealings with him has been his desire to be a part of what we are building at this club but also his desire to develop, learn and grow as a player and person.
“This is a very exciting signing for the club and one I hope Leicester Tigers fans are excited about.”
Discussing his decision to join Leicester Tigers, Pollard said: “I am excited to join Leicester Tigers, to be a part of this great group of players at a special club and challenge myself, test my limits and be the very best I can be for the team.
“The club is going brilliantly at the moment and I know there is an expectation to continue that, to keep getting better because getting to the top is hard but staying there is even harder.
“There are bigger deals on the table, but I’ve made this decision to work with Steve [Borthwick] and to be a part of an unreal, great club at Leicester Tigers which has such a great history,” he added.
The Springboks fly-half also spoke of his excitement ahead of playing at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
“I don’t know the whole history of Leicester Tigers, but this is a club that is so well renowned worldwide,” he said.
“Everybody I have spoken to about playing there, for Tigers or an away team, say it’s the one stadium that is on another level.”
Pollard will link up with his new Leicester Tigers team-mates at the conclusion of international commitments ahead of the 2022/23 season.
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.
Australia centre confirms French move
Australia centre Tevita Kuridrani said on Wednesday he will end his Test career as he joins French Top 14 club Biarritz next season.
Kuridrani, 30, who made the last of his 61 Wallabies appearances at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, has signed a two-year deal with the newly promoted outfit from the Basque Country.
He has spent almost a decade with two Australian franchises.
“Thank you @brumbiesrugby @wallabies and the @westernforce for 10
incredible years in Super Rugby and 6 in the green & gold,” he posted
“Time for a new chapter,” he added.
Kuridrani made his debut for the Brumbies in 2012, going on to play 135 games for the club.
He would become a stalwart of the club as he nailed down a starting spot in his second season, helping the club to the Super Rugby Final and a historic win over the British and Irish Lions.
The 31-year-old moved to the Western Force in 2021, playing an integral role in their maiden finals appearance in Super Rugby AU.
Fijian-born Kuridrani, who would still be eligible for his country having won more than 60 caps, will link up with fellow Australia back Henry Speight at the Parc des Sports d’Aguilera as well as ex-New Zealand centre Francis Saili and former England No. 8 Steffon Armitage.
Biarritz, five-time French champions, have also signed Argentina scrum-half and Force teammate Tomas Cubelli and Ireland prop James Cronin as they return to the top flight for the first time in seven years.
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