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Champions Cup

Munster Lose Two Key Coaches

Munster have confirmed the shock departure of two of their main coaches

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(Photo By Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster and the IRFU have announced the departure of forwards coach Jerry Flannery and backline and attack coach Felix Jones at the end of the season. 

The news comes as a shock to most as both have declined their respective contracts with their current ones expiring in June.

Speaking about the losses acting CEO of Munster Rugby Philip Quinn confirmed that Munster tried their best to get them to sign again.

“As Johann has noted all along, the province was committed to retaining the services of both Jerry and Felix, and I believe the Professional Game Board made every effort to retain the coaching duo with competitive terms. While we understand their respective decisions, we are hugely disappointed with the latest development, but wish them every success in the future,” he said.

Head coach Johann van Graan admitted his disappointment in seeing Flannery and Jones leave the club.

“We will be very disappointed to see Jerry and Felix go at the end of the season. They are both extremely hard-working, dedicated coaches, in addition to being really good guys who have been fantastic to work with. As a coaching group we will continue with the same commitment and drive for success as always, working towards our upcoming Guinness PRO14 semi-final,” he said.

Both Flannery and Jones have played and coached at the club and the two of them noted how honoured they were to be given those opportunities.

“This has been a dream job for me, to coach Munster Rugby. I want to thank all the players, coaches and staff that I worked with over the years, and also thank the supporters who have always been there for us. Leaving the province is not a decision I took lightly, but I look forward to watching the squad go from strength to strength, and wish them continued success,” said Flannery.

Jones also commented on how they will continue to try their best until their contracts run out.

“It has been an absolute honour to have played for, and to have coached Munster Rugby. I would like to thank the players, coaches, management and fans who have supported me over the last 10 years. We will continue our drive to end the season on a high, and I look forward to being a Munster supporter in the future,” Jones said.

Munster face Leinster in the Pro 14 semi-finals in a couple of weeks’ time and both coaches will hope to add the title to their CV’s before departing the province.

Munster have already begun the search for candidates to assist van Graan and defence coach JP Ferreira for next season.

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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6 Nations

Fixtures 2021/22 Season

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Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

SATURDAY 14 AUGUST

Rugby Championship

South Africa v Argentina (4.05pm, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth)

SATURDAY 21 AUGUST

Rugby Championship

Argentina v South Africa (4.05pm, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth)

WEDNESDAY 25 AUGUST

Rugby World Cup 2021 Repechage Qualifier

Kenya v Colombia (Nairobi)

SATURDAY 28 AUGUST

Rugby Championship

Australia v New Zealand (11am, Optus Stadium, Perth)

SATURDAY 4 SEPTEMBER

RWC 2023 Qualifying

Canada v USA (Swilers RFC, St John’s)

SATURDAY 11 SEPTEMBER

RWC 2023 Qualifier

USA v Canada (Infinity Park, Glendale)

Rugby Championship

New Zealand v Argentina (8.05am, Eden Park)

SUNDAY 12 SEPTEMBER

Rugby Championship

South Africa v Australia (6am, Sydney Cricket Ground)

FRIDAY 17 SEPTEMBER

Gallagher Premiership

Bristol v Saracens (7.45pm) Live on BT Sport

SATURDAY 18 SEPTEMBER

Rugby Championship

Argentina v New Zealand (8.05am, Sky Stadium)

Australia v South Africa (6am, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)

Gallagher Premiership

Leicester v Exeter (3pm) Live on BT Sport

Northampton v Gloucester (3pm)

Sale v Bath (3pm)

Worcester v London Irish (3pm)

SUNDAY 19 SEPTEMBER

Gallagher Premiership

Newcastle v Harlequins (3pm) Live on BT Sport

FRIDAY 24 SEPTEMBER

Gallagher Premiership

Gloucester v Leicester (7.45pm) Live on BT Sport

SATURDAY 25 SEPTEMBER

Rugby Championship

New Zealand v South Africa (8.05am, Forsyth Barr Stadium)

Australia v Argentina (5am, Newcastle)

Gallagher Premiership

Bath v Newcastle (3pm)

Exeter v Northampton (3pm)

Harlequins v Worcester (3pm)

Wasps v Bristol (3pm) Live on BT Sport

SUNDAY 26 SEPTEMBER

Gallagher Premiership

London Irish v Sale (3pm) Live on BT Sport

FRIDAY 1 OCTOBER

Gallagher Premiership

Bristol v Bath (7.45pm) Live on BT Sport

SATURDAY 2 OCTOBER

Rugby Championship

South Africa v New Zealand (8.05am, Eden Park)

Australia v Argentina (5am, GIO Stadium, Canberra)

Gallagher Premiership

Northampton v London Irish (2pm)

Leicester v Saracens (3pm) Live on BT Sport

Newcastle v Wasps (3pm)

Worcester v Gloucester (3pm)

SUNDAY 3 OCTOBER

Gallagher Premiership

Sale v Exeter (3pm) Live on BT Sport

More fixtures to follow.

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Challenge Cup

Heineken Champions Cup pool draw for 2021/22

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

The holders, Stade Toulousain, will be up against Wasps and Cardiff Rugby in the pool stage of next season’s Heineken Champions Cup following the pool draw for the 2021/22 tournament which was held today (Wednesday 21 July) in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Stade Toulousain, who completed the Heineken Champions Cup and TOP 14 double last month for the second time in the club’s history, were drawn into Pool B and will meet Wasps and Cardiff over four pool stage rounds on a home and away basis.

With the qualified clubs drawn into two pools of 12, reigning Gallagher Premiership champions Harlequins will have Castres Olympique and Cardiff as their opponents in Pool B when the tournament kicks off again in December, while last season’s PRO14 winners, Leinster Rugby, are in Pool A where they will be up against Montpellier Hérault Rugby and Bath Rugby.

Stade Rochelais, runners-up in the Heineken Champions Cup final, will meet Bath and Glasgow Warriors in Pool A, while Exeter Chiefs, who lost out to Harlequins in the Premiership decider, will take on Montpellier and Glasgow in Pool A.

Munster Rugby, who were in Tier 1 as the second-ranked qualifier from the PRO14, were drawn against Castres Olympique and Wasps in Pool B.

Elsewhere, Ulster Rugby will take on ASM Clermont Auvergne and Northampton Saints in Pool A whilst Stade Français Paris were drawn into Pool B and will take on Pat Lam’s former club, Connacht Rugby, and his current charges, Bristol Bears.

For the purposes of the draw, the 24 clubs which qualified from the TOP 14, Premiership, and the PRO14 were classified into four tiers based either on their respective league rankings or on other qualification criteria.

Each tier contained six clubs with Tier 1 made up of the number one and number two ranked clubs from each league, and Tier 2, the number three and number four ranked clubs from each league, and so on.

Starting with Tier 1, the clubs were either drawn or allocated into either Pool A or Pool B so that each pool contained 12 clubs with no clubs in the same tier from the same league in the same pool.

The key principles regarding the pool stage fixtures are that clubs will only play against opponents in the same pool, and clubs from the same league cannot play against one another.

The Tier 1 and Tier 4 clubs which were drawn in the same pool, but which are from the same league, will play one another home and away over four rounds. The same principle applies to the Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs which were drawn in the same pool, but which are not from the same league.

The exact dates of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage fixtures, as well as venues, kick-off times and TV coverage, will be announced as soon as possible following consultation with clubs and EPCR’s partner broadcasters.

The 2021/22 tournament will be played over nine weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage. The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of a Round of 16 on a home and away basis, quarter-finals and semi-finals, with the final in Marseille on 28 May 2022.

Today’s draw, which was live-streamed on HeinekenChampionsCup.com, was conducted by EPCR’s Head of Events and Operations, Ben Harries, and by EPCR’s Partnerships Activation Executive, Laia Gonzalez. The event scrutineer was Lausanne-based solicitor, Jean-Guillaume Amiguet.

2021/22 HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP

POOL A (with opponents in brackets)

Stade Rochelais (Bath Rugby, Glasgow Warriors)

Exeter Chiefs (Montpellier Hérault Rugby, Glasgow Warriors)

Leinster Rugby (Montpellier Hérault Rugby, Bath Rugby)

Racing 92 (Northampton Saints, Ospreys)

Sale Sharks (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Ospreys)

Ulster Rugby (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Northampton Saints)

ASM Clermont Auvergne (Sale Sharks, Ulster Rugby)

Northampton Saints (Racing 92, Ulster Rugby)

Ospreys (Racing 92, Sale Sharks)

Montpellier Hérault Rugby (Exeter Chiefs, Leinster Rugby)

Bath Rugby (Stade Rochelais, Leinster Rugby)

Glasgow Warriors (Stade Rochelais, Exeter Chiefs)

POOL B (with opponents in brackets)

Stade Toulousain (Wasps, Cardiff Rugby)

Harlequins (Castres Olympique, Cardiff Rugby)

Munster Rugby (Castres Olympique, Wasps)

Union Bordeaux-Bègles (Leicester Tigers, Scarlets)

Bristol Bears (Stade Français Paris, Scarlets)

Connacht Rugby (Stade Français Paris, Leicester Tigers)

Stade Français Paris (Bristol Bears, Connacht Rugby)

Leicester Tigers (Union Bordeaux-Bègles, Connacht Rugby)

Scarlets (Union Bordeaux-Bègles, Bristol Bears)

Castres Olympique (Harlequins, Munster Rugby)

Wasps (Stade Toulousain, Munster Rugby)

Cardiff Rugby (Stade Toulousain, Harlequins)

2021/22 weekends

Round 1 – 10/11/12 December

Round 2 – 17/18/19 December

Round 3 – 14/15/16 January 2022

Round 4 – 21/22/23 January 2022

Round of 16 (1st leg) – 8/9/10 April 2022

Round of 16 (2nd leg) – 15/16/17 April 2022

Quarter-finals – 6/7/8 May 2022

Semi-finals – 13/14/15 May 2022

Challenge Cup final – Friday 27 May 2022; Stade Vélodrome, Marseille

Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 28 May 2022; Stade Vélodrome, Marseille

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

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