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Toulon Owner Confirms his Favourite Signing

Departing Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has spoken about his favourite signing out of his star-studded squads throughout the years

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(Photo credit should read BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Mourad Boujellal has given his verdict on his favourite signing during his tenure as Top 14 outfit Toulon.

The long-serving owner announced that he will be leaving the role come the end of the summer with Bernard Lemaitre coming in. 

When he took over the club were in the French second-division, but they have since gone on to not only be promoted but have asserted themselves as one of the top teams in Europe winning both the Top 14 and the Champions Cup in recent years. 

His teams have been helped by a certain amount of star power which has included the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Tana Umaga, Freddy Michalak and Bryan Habana, and he has named his favourite signing of the bunch. 

“Everyone will say Jonny Wilkinson but I’m with Tana Umaga. At that time, I was a young president who knew nothing about rugby. This does not mean that I understand this game better now, but I have become an old president. I wanted to do something incredible, something unreal. The magic was that Umaga came as a freelance in Pro D2. And the transplant took – he stayed more than three years and remains an icon. I am also proud to have listened to Umaga and followed my instinct. He told me, ‘There is a player at XIIIs who has all the qualities to become a world star at XVs’. I did not know him and I signed him. The guy was Sonny Bill Williams. It was still listening to my intuition that I hired Wilkinson, Juan Smith, Bryan Habana or Frederic Michalak… I loved following this kind of file,” he said while speaking to French news outlet Midi Olympique. 

With him stepping aside many are wondering what he will do next and there are reports of him being a contender for the presidential position in the French League, and he has mixed views on the potential role. 

“There is a certain fatigue that has set in with the battle against the regulations. I became more of a lawyer than a club president. When I took over the RCT, my goal was to make dreams in a city whose DNA is rugby. I wanted to hear Mayol’s cathedral vibrate again. If I’m a candidate, I want to be credible. And to be you have to have a coherent programme. If I have one that meets the needs of the professionals, I’ll go. I am aware of being a very divisive character. Will people vote for a person or a programme? If I’m a candidate, in my wardrobe there will be a drawer for each club designed to create collective wealth. Today, the League is plagued by the philosophy of Limoges, according to which money kills the sport,” he said. 

His presidency of Toulon is not set to run out until 2023 but as mentioned above he is expected to depart next summer, but he may stay on and have a role with the club for the future. 

Whatever happens his time in Toulon will be remembered fondly by the locals as he has helped them become a rugby powerhouse.

6 Nations

World Rugby to introduce contact training restrictions

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World Rugby

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.

Global study

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:

  1. 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
  2. Controlled contact training: maximum of 40 minutes per week 
  3. 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.

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Rugby Championship

Australia centre confirms French move

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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
on Twitter.

“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.

Source – Australia Rugby

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Top 14

Zebo Expected to Extend French Stay

Simon Zebo appears set to continue his stay in France according to reports

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Racing 92 star Simon Zebo looks set to extend his stay in the French capital for another season according to Irish news outlet Independent.ie.

The 30-year-old has been at Racing for two seasons and has a clause to extend his time there to a third season if activated. 

Having impressed last season, the former Munsterman has had an injury-hit campaign this time around through concussion and breaking his foot, before the domestic and European season were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

However, when he has managed to play this season he has caught the eye and it is thought that the French giants are keen for him to put pen to paper on a new deal too. 

That would see the Cork native remain unable to add to his 35-caps for Ireland due to the overseas rules held by the IRFU, while it would also see him face a further challenge for minutes on the pitch with Wallaby ace Kurtley Beale appearing likely to join Racing in the summer. 

While a third-year in Paris seems set to be in Zebo’s short-term future, in the long-term it is unknown where he will end up, but admitted while speaking to Off the Ball yesterday that he would only return to Ireland to play for former side Munster. 

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