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SIX NATIONS RUGBY ANNOUNCES NEW DATES FOR 2021 WOMEN’S & U20S CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Six Nations Rugby Limited has today announced new dates for the rescheduled 2021 Women’s and U20s Six Nations Championships. The 2021 Women’s championship will take place in April with the U20s championship taking place in June and July.

Today’s announcement comes following the recommendation of a working group specifically tasked to examine various rescheduling options after the decision was taken on January 12th to postpone both championships due to the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19.

Starting on the weekend of 3rd/4th April and finishing on 24th April, this year’s Women’s Championship will see a new and condensed format similar to that of the recent Autumn Nations Cup, culminating in a grand final weekend to crown the Six Nations Champions 2021. The format will comprise of two pools of three teams with each team playing one home and one away fixture. Once the pool round matches are complete, teams will face off against the opposing ranked team from the other pool in the play-offs matches, i.e. 1st place Pool A v 1st place Pool B. The detailed fixture dates, venues and kick off times will be announced in due course.

Six Nations Rugby Limited also confirmed today its intentions for the 2021 U20s championship to take place across June and July in the same format as originally planned, but through a condensed 3-week period. This plan will ensure all 6 Nations provide appropriate experience of such tournaments for the 2021 U20 generation. The tournament is expected to start on June 19th 2021 and further planning work is required to finalise details on fixtures, venues and kick off times which will be shared in due course.

Ben Morel, CEO of Six Nations Rugby commented, “We are delighted to make this announcement today and confirm new plans for our Women’s and U20s championships. The promotion and development of rugby at all levels is a key strategic priority for Six Nations. We see huge opportunity for growth in the women’s game in particular and feel it will benefit hugely from having its own specific window and being firmly placed in the limelight.”

“Our priority has always been to deliver two outstanding tournaments but equally ensuring both competitions can be played safely, taking every consideration for player welfare. A significant challenge we faced in rescheduling the Women’s tournament was the limited available window due to World Cup Qualifiers, domestic leagues, rest periods and World Cup preparations for qualified teams. Following consultation with our unions and federations as well as other key stakeholders, it was agreed that April would be the best window in which to stage the championship.

“The U20 Six Nations Championship is also a hugely important competition in terms of player development and for those representing their country at this level it is a major milestone in any career. We look forward to announcing fixture details for the U20’s in due course.”

Autumn Nations Cup

World Rugby approves birth right amendment for players to transfer unions

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  • New process can benefit players and the global competitiveness of rugby
  • Fairness and integrity key principles that underpin the framework
  • Approval follows extensive discussion and collaboration across the game
  • Revised Regulation will apply from 1 January 2022

The World Rugby Council has approved an amendment to the sport’s regulations governing national team representation that will now permit an international player to transfer once from one union to another subject to demonstrating a close and credible link to that union via birth right.

From 1 January, 2022, in order to transfer from one union to another under the revised Regulation 8 (eligibility), a player will need to achieve the below criteria:

  • The player must stand-down from international rugby for 36 months
  • The player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country
  • Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity

After 1 January 2022, any player who meets the above criteria can apply immediately for a transfer.

The Regulation 8 revisions will also align the “age of majority” across 15s and sevens. All players will now be ‘captured’ at 18 years of age to simplify the Regulation and improve union understanding and compliance.

Approval of the amended regulation follows requests by emerging nations and a subsequent wide-ranging consultation process with member unions, regions and International Rugby Players examining the possibility of amending the principle within Regulation that stipulates that a player may only represent one union at international level, save for specific circumstances relating to participation in the Olympic Games.

The benefits of the amendment include:

  • Simplicity and alignment: transfers are currently permitted in the context of participation in the Olympics in the sevens game. This amendment will create one aligned, simplified process across the game
  • Development of emerging nations: the player depth of emerging nations may be improved by permitting players, who have close and credible links to the “emerging union” through birth or ancestry, to “return” to those unions having previously represented another union
  • Player-focused approach: the process recognised the modern rugby environment, including global player movement, the current ability to capture players by selecting them on the bench, and the desire of some players to transfer having been selected a limited number of times for one union. It also examined the impact of any change on the integrity of the international competition landscape.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Approval of this landmark regulatory change is the culmination of detailed and widespread modelling and consultation across the game. We have listened to our membership and players and sought to update the regulation recognising the modern professional rugby environment without compromising the integrity of the international game.

“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birth right or parent or grandparent birth right while meeting strong criteria, including a 36-month stand down period. We believe that this is the fairest way to implement progressive change that puts players first while also having the potential to support a growing, increasingly competitive international men’s and women’s game.”

World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte added: “We have listened to our membership and honoured our pledge to undertake wide-ranging review of this important regulation. We have consulted, sought feedback from our unions, regions and most importantly to players’ representatives, before making a recommendation to the Council. This change to how international rugby operates will provide transformational opportunities to players with dual backgrounds, providing they meet the key criteria sets out in the Regulation 8.”

International Rugby Players CEO, Omar Hassanein said:“The proposal to change the rules around player eligibility is something that we have worked on over many years with our member associations. Many players across the world will now benefit from the chance to represent the country of their or their ancestors’ birth, serving as a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations, which in turn, will benefit the game as a whole.” 

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Womens Rugby

Ciara Griffin Announces Decision To Retire From International Rugby

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland Captain Ciara Griffin will retire from international rugby following Saturday’s Autumn Test against Japan at the RDS.

Griffin, who has captained Ireland since 2018, will win her 41st cap this weekend.

The 27-year-old has been a totemic figure for Ireland in the back row, demonstrating outstanding leadership qualities through her on-field performances and, off the pitch, in inspiring a new generation of players.

A natural leader, Griffin’s passion for the green jersey has been evident since her Test debut against Wales in the 2016 Women’s Six Nations, and since then the Kerry native has become a standard bearer on and off the field, driving others around her and producing some memorable performances for Ireland.

Commenting on her decision, Griffin said: “It has been a childhood dream come true to play for my country. Being afforded the opportunity to captain the National Team has been the highest honour. It has been an incredible journey filled with many highs and lows and I am very grateful for all the life skills I have developed through my involvement in High Performance sport.

“It is a decision I have not come to lightly and after discussing it with my family ahead of the Autumn Tests, it is now time for me to turn my focus to my life outside of rugby and begin a new chapter. I would like to thank everyone for their unwavering support, and I look forward to supporting the team going forward.”

Ireland Head Coach, Adam Griggs, commented: “Ciara stood out to me right from our first training session as a genuine leader and someone that players respect and listen to. She wears her heart on her sleeve and it is that leadership style along with her passion and dedication to making people and the team better that has always been so effective.

“Ciara has led the way with her standards and what it takes to be a first class international, and I know in doing this has inspired so many young players to take up rugby and try to emulate her own journey. Irish Rugby will miss her, and we wish her all the best in retirement and the next chapter of her life.”

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6 Nations

World Player of the Year nominees revealed

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The rugby family can now cast their vote for six of the prestigious World Rugby Awards 2021 categories after the nominations selected by the star-studded panel were revealed on Monday.

Fans will be able to select their winners for the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Players of the Year in sevens and 15s, as well as the International Rugby Players Men’s and Women’s Try of the Year scorers on the Awards’ voting website and join the conversation using #WorldRugbyAwards.

Voting will be open from 10:00 GMT on Monday, 15 November until 23:59 GMT on Sunday, 21 November.

CAST YOUR VOTES NOW >>

The remaining six categories will be voted by the World Rugby Awards panel, a stellar team of rugby legends who will have the hard task of selecting winners for the World Rugby Breakthrough, Coach and Referee awards as well as the newly created Men’s and Women’s 15s Dream Teams of 2021.

To maintain the integrity of the outcome, the panel will have the opportunity to review the public voting to ensure the recipients are fitting winners in their respective category.

VIEW THE FULL WORLD RUGBY AWARDS PANEL >>

Nine countries are represented among the nominees in Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales, with France having the most representatives with eight, two more than England and New Zealand. Fiji are also rewarded for their teams’ performances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with four nominees in the Men’s and Women’s Sevens Player of the Year categories.

WORLD RUGBY AWARDS 2021 NOMINEES

World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard (fan vote)

Antoine Dupont (France)
Michael Hooper (Australia)
Maro Itoje (England/British and Irish Lions)
Samu Kerevi (Australia)

Australia captain Michael Hooper – who became his country’s most-capped captain in September – and England’s Maro Itoje have both previously been nominated for the Award, but lively scrum-half Antoine Dupont becomes the first Frenchman to be nominated since 2012 while Samu Kerevi is rewarded for his impactful return to the Wallabies midfield in 2021 which saw them win five tests, their best run outside of a Rugby World Cup year since 2008.

World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard (fan vote)

Zoe Aldcroft (England)
Caroline Boujard (France)
Poppy Cleall (England)
Laure Sansus (France)

Four first-time nominees in this category representing the two teams that have led the way in women’s rugby in 2021. Poppy Cleall and Zoe Aldcroft are two powerhouses of the England pack, both comfortable in either the second row and back row, while Caroline Boujard scored what is believed to be the joint-fastest hat-trick in Women’s Six Nations history against Wales in April. Laure Sansus’ selection, meanwhile, make it three years in a row that a French scrum-half has been nominated for the prestigious award.

World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in association with Tudor (panel vote)

Will Jordan (New Zealand)
Andrew Kellaway (Australia)
Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
Marcus Smith (England)

Three flying wingers and an exciting talent at fly-half who have all lit up the international stage over the last year. Will Jordan is the second-fastest All Black to 15 test tries and has only failed to score in two of his 12 tests, while Andrew Kellaway is closing in on the Australian record for most tries in a debut season with eight in 12 tests in 2021. Louis Rees-Zammit became the youngest British and Irish Lion player for more than 50 years after impressing for Wales, while Marcus Smith has looked like a veteran in the England No.10 jersey since his debut in July.

World Rugby Coach of the Year (panel vote)

Allan Bunting/Cory Sweeney (New Zealand Women’s Sevens)
Ian Foster (New Zealand Men)
Simon Middleton (England Women)
Dave Rennie (Australia Men)

All first-time nominees split across sevens and 15s, Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney led New Zealand to Olympic gold in Tokyo, the one remaining accolade they were missing, while Simon Middleton led England to another Women’s Six Nations title and back-to-back record victories over world champions New Zealand in 2021. Ian Foster coached New Zealand to Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup success in a record-breaking year, while Dave Rennie has injected youth and experience into a Wallabies side that won five matches in a row, two of them against world champions South Africa.

World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC (fan vote)

Napolioni Bolaca (Fiji)
Scott Curry (New Zealand)
Marcos Moneta (Argentina)
Jiuta Wainiqolo (Fiji)

The nominees blend the guile and experience of New Zealand’s co-captain and talisman Scott Curry to the fresh exuberance of youth of Argentina’s Marcos Moneta, the top try-scorer with six in Tokyo. Fiji continue their proud record of having at least one player among the nominees from 2013 onwards with two gold medallists in Napolioni Bolaca and Jiuta Wainiqolo, the latter marking his Fiji debut in a global sevens tournament with the opening try of Tokyo 2020 to quickly announce himself to the world.

World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC (fan vote)

Anne-Cécile Ciofani (France)
Sarah Hirini (New Zealand)
Alowesi Nakoci (Fiji)
Reapi Ulunisau (Fiji)

New Zealand’s inspirational captain Sarah Hirini led the Black Ferns Sevens to the Olympic gold that had driven them on for the last five years, while Anne-Cécile Ciofani was a standout for France on the way to silver. Two players who helped inspire Fiji become their nation’s first female Olympic medallists are also nominated in Alowesi Nakoci and Reapi Ulunisau, the latter belying the fact it was her debut in a global tournament by finishing as top try-scorer with eight, including a record four against Brazil in the pool stage.

International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year (fan vote)

Lukhanyo Am (South Africa A, v British and Irish Lions on 14 July)  
Pierre-Louis Barassi (France, v Australia on 17 July)
Luke Jacobson (New Zealand, v Argentina on 12 September)
Damian Penaud (France, v Scotland on 26 March)

Three tries that began deep in their own 22 from a free-kick or scrum and were quickly turned into tries after free-flowing attacks and the fourth a run back from a clearing kick to halfway. Damian Penaud’s try against Scotland in the Six Nations saw the winger gather his own chip dot down, while France team-mate Pierre-Louis Barassi finished off a move that had begun five metres from their own line against Australia in July. Cheslin Kolbe’s dancing feet and offload released Lukhanyo Am to score for South Africa A against the British and Irish Lions, while an outrageous offload from Beauden Barrett was gratefully received by Luke Jacobson to finish another flowing move from the All Blacks in The Rugby Championship against Argentina.

International Rugby Players Women’s Try of the Year (fan vote)

Sara Barattin (Italy, v Scotland on 13 September)
Emilie Boulard (France, v Wales on 3 April)
Abby Dow (England, v France on 30 April)
Romane Ménager (France, v Ireland on 17 April)

Two French tries in the Women’s Six Nations, one to round out an impressive debut from Emilie Boulard late on against Wales when she finished off a slick passing move in the corner and the other another run-in from back-row Romane Ménager against Ireland. England swung the ball wide quickly from a lineout to find Abby Dow, the winger running around the outside of the defender to race in against hosts France a week after their Six Nations final triumph. The final nominee comes from the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier, hosts Italy stealing an overthrown Scottish lineout near halfway to quickly send Sara Barattin over near the posts. 

After a special edition in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prestigious World Rugby Awards return in 2021 to celebrate on-field achievements of the calendar year and recognise the teams and individuals who have inspired players and fans around the world. The pandemic has continued to impact the international stage with a number of teams having only returned to test rugby in the last couple of months.

Placed at the end of the November international window, the biggest accolades in rugby union will be virtually handed to their recipients from 6-10 December. The 12 categories will be unveiled on World Rugby social media channels including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (@WorldRugby).

The other categories to be awarded next month are the World Rugby Referee Award, the Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service and the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Dream Teams of the Year in association with Capgemini.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Awards are the ultimate accolade for rugby, and we are delighted to honour the outstanding players and individuals who have made an impact on our game on and off the field in 2021.

“The pandemic and its consequences have restricted several unions from playing international games this year and we recognise that not all rugby stars have had a chance to shine. Nevertheless, the World Rugby Awards Panel has done an amazing job in selecting suitable candidates in each category and I would like to congratulate all nominees who, deservingly, have been shortlisted for this year’s awards.”

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