Rugby World June 2018 edition

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The jaw-droppingly talented ALL BLACK on why his best is still to come

JUNE 2018

HOW TO DEFEND LIKE SARACENS Brad Barritt gives his top tips. Plus, gear up for the sevens season

RUGBY’S ELIGIBILITY CRISIS Stephen Jones’s radical solution


Ben Ryan on how to avoid it

TOMMY BOWE On the best – and worst – moments of his career




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WH AT YOU SHOULD BE TALK ING ABOUT THIS MONTH “Home-grown coaches seem unfashionable now” Going separate ways Nick Kennedy left London Irish

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SOMEONE PULLED the brake on Premiership Rugby’s management merry-go-round this season, and several directors of rugby have gone flying off. Northampton Saints got shot of Jim Mallinder first. Relegation-battling London Irish then waved goodbye to Nick Kennedy. And Harlequins decided John Kingston – who had only just signed a contract extension in January – would leave at the end of the season. But wherever you stand on these departures, a trend is emerging. Are home-grown coaches now unfashionable in some of Europe’s elite leagues? Highly-rated Hurricanes boss Chris Boyd will leave his native New Zealand to replace Mallinder. Ireland’s Declan Kidney is now Irish’s technical consultant, assisted by Australia-born Les Kiss. Only Exeter, Newcastle and Sale have Englishmen in charge full-time (though we don’t know who replaces Kingston at time of writing). It’s a similar tale elsewhere. Welshman Danny Wilson is leaving the Blues – to be replaced by Australian John Mulvihill. The Scarlets have Kiwi Wayne Pivac in

charge while the Dragons are in the hands of Ireland’s Bernard Jackman. In Scotland, New Zealander Dave Rennie and England’s Richard Cockerill run Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively, while Leo Cullen at Leinster is the only Irishman in charge of an Irish province. In a results-based business, does it matter what nationality the men in charge of these teams are? There are English

coaches, such as Rory Teague and Alex King, in France while Stuart Lancaster is in Ireland. Michael Bradley, Ronan O’Gara and Clark Laidlaw are just three Celts doing good things on foreign soil. People go where the work is but along the way are promising home-grown coaches being denied a foot on the ladder? The global spread is a reality – are you concerned by this trend? n



“If you’re a lwa ys try ing to play it on ma x and i gnore how it di st ort s, the spe ake r eventua lly blo ws. Th e sam e goes wi th men tal burnou t” P3 1 3

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Rhys Patchell


World news


Bristol’s Pat Lam


Rising Stars


Solo Atlantic row


Dan Robson


Tom Youngs


Major League Rugby


Ben Ryan


Beauden Barrett


Tommy Bowe


Alec Hepburn


Player eligibility


Jeff Hassler


Joey Carbery


Ealing Trailfinders


Hamish Watson


England U20


Team of the Month


Alex Wootton


Nate Hirayama


New Zealand Women


Clubs Focus


Brad Barritt


Glasgow analysis




Secret Player

Ex Factor Chiefs wing Olly Woodburn evades a Gloucester tackle




We head out to the Brecon Beacons with Ospreys and Canada wing Jeff Hassler – he’s something of an adventure junkie. See P56

COVER IMAGE Hagen Hopkins. PICS Getty Images & Huw Evans Agency

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“Race for silverware is reaching closing stages” AS THE weather hots up, so does the race for domestic silverware. This is the time of year champions are decided and the Champions Cup qualifiers are confirmed. As the excitement reaches a crescendo, we bring you features with those aiming for glory. Can Exeter and Scarlets retain their trophies? Or will we see a different name engraved on the silverware?

We’ve also been to Ealing Trailfinders (P62), an ambitious club who challenged Bristol for this season’s Greene King IPA Championship title, and bring the relegation debate into sharp focus. On top of all that, Beauden Barrett (P34) reveals how he plans to take his game to “another level” and provides a unique insight into his journey from farm life to World Rugby Player of the Year winner. We hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we have putting it together 5

– and we want to know what you think of it. So please take part in our reader survey at and you’ll be in with a chance to win £50.

Sarah Mockford, Editor Email: Phone: 01252 55272 Twitter: @heelsonhalfway


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YOUR RUGBY CALENDAR Key dates for your diary in May


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Last year was the 100th Army v Navy match, and the Army triumphed 29-20 – but who will come out on top in the 101st clash at Twickenham? Tickets for the Babcock Trophy match (3pm) have sold out but you can watch the action unfold live on Sky Sports.

The Rugby Players’ Association will mark its 20th anniversary with an awards dinner at Battersea Evolution. Doddie Weir and Ed Jackson will jointly receive the Blyth Spirit gong while the Players’ Player of the Year award, won by Jimmy Gopperth (right) in 2017, is the top accolade. Tickets are £275pp from











































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The tenth annual Rugby 4 Heroes Festival, which raises money for Armed Forces charities, kicks off at Old Leamingtonians RFC this Friday night and runs throughout the weekend. As well as sevens and tens rugby, there is a ‘beer fest’ with more than 25 offerings. See rugbyforheroes. org/events for info.

It’s finals day! The Aviva Premiership final kicks off at 3pm at Twickenham ( and the Guinness Pro14 final takes place at the Aviva Stadium at 6.30pm ( Exeter and Scarlets (above) won last year but who will be crowned 2018 champions? Catch the games live on BT or Sky if you can’t be there.

Former Scotland flanker Kelly Brown (right) is the guest speaker at the London Scottish Legends Dinner at the Hurlingham Club. Ex-Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol is the auctioneer and Lions legend Finlay Calder will present the awards. Head to for details. 9

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THE DIRECTORY The latest fixtures – and TV details – for the coming weeks

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WEEKEND 28-29 APR World Sevens Series Men (Singapore) TV Live on Sky Sports SAT 28 APR Asia Championship Top 3 Malaysia v Korea (Kuala Lumpur) Babcock Trophy Army v Navy (3pm, Twickenham) TV Live on Sky Sports Aviva Premiership Exeter v Sale (3pm) Gloucester v Bath (3pm) TV Live on BT Sport & Channel 5 Worcester v Harlequins (3pm) Guinness Pro14 Southern Kings v Cheetahs (2pm) Connacht v Leinster (3.05pm) TV Live on TG4 Dragons v Scarlets (3.05pm, Principality Stadium) TV Live on BBC Wales Treviso v Zebre (5pm) Cardiff Blues v Ospreys (5.35pm, Principality Stadium) TV Live on S4C Munster v Ulster (5.35pm) TV Live on TG4 Edinburgh v Glasgow (7.35pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Top 14 Agen v Clermont Auvergne Montpellier v Pau Oyonnax v Lyon Stade Français v Brive

Toulon v Castres Super Rugby Reds v Lions (6.05am) Blues v Jaguares (8.35am) Brumbies v Crusaders (10.45am) Bulls v Highlanders (4.15pm) TV All live on Sky Sports Greene King IPA Championship Bedford v Richmond Cornish Pirates v Ealing Doncaster v Jersey Hartpury College v Bristol Yorkshire Carnegie v Lon Scottish Principality Premiership Llandovery v RGC 1404 Pontypridd v Carmarthen Quins SUN 29 APR Aviva Premiership London Irish v Saracens (3pm) Wasps v Northampton (3pm) TV Live on BT Sport Top 14 Bordeaux v Racing 92 Toulouse v La Rochelle Tyrrells Premier 15s Final (3pm, Ealing Trailfinders) TV Live on Sky Sports TUE 1 MAY Oceania U20 Championship Australia v Tonga New Zealand v Fiji Principality Premiership Cross Keys v Bridgend WEEKEND 4/5/6 MAY Guinness Pro14 Play-offs

FRI 4 MAY Super Rugby Chiefs v Jaguares (8.35am) Rebels v Crusaders (10.45am) TV Both live on Sky Sports SAT 5 MAY Asia Championship Top 3 Malaysia v Hong Kong (Kuala Lumpur) Oceania U20 Championship Australia v New Zealand Tonga v Fiji Aviva Premiership Bath v London Irish (4pm) Harlequins v Exeter (4pm) Newcastle v Wasps (4pm) Northampton v Worcester (4pm) Sale v Leicester (4pm) Saracens v Gloucester (4pm) Top 14 Brive v Bordeaux Castres v Oyonnax Clermont Auvergne v Toulouse Lyon v Montpellier La Rochelle v Stade Français Pau v Toulon Racing 92 v Agen Super Rugby Hurricanes v Lions (8.35am) Waratahs v Blues (10.45am) Stormers v Bulls (2.05pm) Sharks v Highlanders (4.15pm) TV All live on Sky Sports Principality Premiership Bridgend v Bargoed


BIg STAgE Bilbao’s San Mamés Stadium hosts the Champions Cup final 10

Ebbw Vale v Bedwas Llandovery v Carmarthen Quins Llanelli v Swansea Neath v Aberavon Newport v Cross Keys Pontypridd v Cardiff RGC 1404 v Merthyr TUE 8 MAY Principality Premiership Newport v Pontypridd Cross Keys v Llanelli FRI 11 MAY Challenge Cup Final (8pm, San Mamés Stad, Bilbao) TV Live on BT Sport & Sky Sports Super Rugby Blues v Hurricanes (8.35am) TV Live on Sky Sports WEEKEND 12-13 MAY World Sevens Series Women (Langford) British & Irish Cup Final SAT 12 MAY Asia Championship Top 3 Korea v Hong Kong (Incheon) Champions Cup Final (4.45pm, San Mamés Stad, Bilbao) TV Live on BT Sport & Sky Sports Super Rugby Sunwolves v Reds (4.05am) Crusaders v Waratahs (6.15am) Highlanders v Lions (8.35am) Brumbies v Rebels (10.45am) Stormers v Chiefs (2.05pm) TV All live on Sky Sports

Bulls v Sharks (4.15pm) Principality Premiership Aberavon v Bridgend Bargoed v Merthyr Cardiff v Ebbw Vale Carmarthen Quins v Neath Cross Keys v Pontypridd Llanelli v Bedwas RGC 1404 v Newport Swansea v Llandovery WEEKEND 18-20 MAY Aviva Premiership Semi-finals TV Live on BT Sport Guinness Pro14 Semi-finals TV Live on Sky Sports Pro14 Champions Cup Play-off Top 14 Play-offs FRI 18 MAY Super Rugby Hurricanes v Reds (7.35am) TV Live on Sky Sports SAT 19 MAY Asia Championship Top 3 Korea v Malaysia (Incheon) Super Rugby Sunwolves v Stormers (6.15am) Blues v Crusaders (8.35am) Waratahs v Highlanders (10.45am) TV All live on Sky Sports Sharks v Chiefs (2.05pm) Lions v Brumbies (4.15pm) Jaguares v Bulls (10.40pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Principality Premiership Cross Keys v Ebbw Vale


KICKING ON Who will line up for England and the Barbarians at Twickenham?

FRI 25 MAY Top 14 Semi-final (7.45pm, Lyon) Super Rugby Crusaders v Hurricanes (8.35am) Rebels v Sunwolves (10.45am) Jaguares v Sharks (8.40pm) TV All live on Sky Sports SAT 26 MAY Asia Championship Top 3 Hong Kong v Malaysia (Hong Kong) Aviva Premiership Final (3pm, Twickenham) TV Live on BT Sport Guinness Pro14 Final (6.30pm, Aviva Stadium) TV Live on Sky Sports Top 14 Semi-final (3.30pm, Lyon) Super Rugby Chiefs v Waratahs (8.35am) Reds v Highlanders (10.45am) Bulls v Brumbies (2.05pm) Stormers v Lions (4.15pm) TV All live on Sky Sports SUN 27 MAY International England v Barbarians (3pm, Twickenham) TV Live on Sky Sports WED 30 MAY U20 World Championship England v Argentina (5.30pm, Narbonne) Scotland v Italy (5.30pm, Béziers) South Africa v Georgia (5.30pm, Perpignan) Australia v Wales (8pm, Béziers)

France v Ireland (8pm, Perpignan) New Zealand v Japan (8pm, Narbonne) FRI 1 JUNE Super Rugby Highlanders v Hurricanes (8.35) TV Live on Sky Sports WEEKEND 2-3 JUNE World Sevens Series Men (London) TV Live on Sky Sports SAT 2 JUNE Internationals South Africa v Wales (10pm, Washington) Japan v Italy (Nagano) Asia Championship Top 3 Hong Kong v Korea (Hong Kong) Top 14 Final (7.45pm, Stade de France) TV Live on Sky Sports Super Rugby Blues v Rebels (6.15am) Chiefs v Crusaders (8.35am) Reds v Waratahs (10.45am) TV All live on Sky Sports SUN 3 JUNE U20 World Championship Australia v Japan (5.30pm, Narbonne) France v Georgia (5.30, Béziers) Scotland v Argentina (5.30pm, Perpignan) England v Italy (8pm, Perpignan) New Zealand v Wales (8pm, Béziers) South Africa v Ireland (8pm, Narbonne) Super Rugby Brumbies v Sunwolves (7.05am)


Live on Sky Sports THU 7 JUNE U20 World Championship Ireland v Georgia (5.30pm, Narbonne) Italy v Argentina (5.30, Béziers) Wales v Japan (5.30pm, Perpignan) England v Scotland (8, Béziers) New Zealand v Australia (8pm, Perpignan) South Africa v France (8pm, Narbonne) WEEKEND 8-10 JUNE World Sevens Series Men & Women (Paris) TV Live on Sky Sports SAT 9 JUNE Internationals New Zealand v France (8.35am, Auckland) TV Live on Sky Sports Australia v Ireland (11am, Brisbane) TV Live on Sky Sports South Africa v England (4.05pm, Johannesburg) TV Live on Sky Sports Canada v Scotland (Edmonton) Argentina v Wales (San Juan) Japan v Italy (Oita) USA v Russia (Denver) Pacific Nations Cup Fiji v Romania (Suva) Tonga v Georgia (Suva) TUE 12 JUNE U20 World Championship Semi-final 1 (6pm, Narbonne) Semi-final 2 (8pm, Perpignan) SAT 16 JUNE 11

Internationals New Zealand v France (8.35am, Wellington) TV Live on Sky Sports Australia v Ireland (11am, Melbourne) TV Live on Sky Sports South Africa v England (4.05pm, Bloemfontein) TV Live on Sky Sports USA v Scotland (Houston) Argentina v Wales (Santa Fe) Canada v Russia (tbc) Japan v Italy (Kobe) Pacific Nations Cup Fiji v Georgia (Suva) Tonga v Romania (Suva) Rugby Africa Gold Cup Namibia v Uganda Zimbabwe v Morocco SUN 17 JUNE U20 World Championship Final (6pm, Béziers) SAT 23 JUNE Internationals New Zealand v France (8.35am, Dunedin) TV Live on Sky Sports Australia v Ireland (11am, Sydney) TV Live on Sky Sports South Africa v England (4.05pm, Cape Town) TV Live on Sky Sports Argentina v Scotland (Resistencia) Canada v USA (tbc) Fiji v Tonga (Suva) Japan v Georgia (Toyota) Rugby Africa Gold Cup

Morocco v Kenya Namibia v Tunisia FRI 29 JUNE Super Rugby Blues v Reds (8.35am) Rebels v Waratahs (10.45am) TV Both live on Sky Sports SAT 30 JUNE RWC 2019 Qualifier Cook Islands v Asia Championship winner Rugby Africa Gold Cup Kenya v Zimbabwe Morocco v Namibia Super Rugby Highlanders v Chiefs (8.35am) Brumbies v Hurricanes (10.45am) Sunwolves v Bulls (12.55pm) Sharks v Lions (4.15pm) TV All live on Sky Sports Jaguares v Stormers (8.40pm) FRI 6 JULY Super Rugby Crusaders v Highlanders (8.35am) Reds v Rebels (10.45am) SAT 7 JULY RWC 2019 Qualifier Asia Championship winner v Cook Islands Rugby Africa Gold Cup Tunisia v Zimbabwe Kenya v Uganda Super Rugby Chiefs v Brumbies (6.15am) Hurricanes v Blues (8.35am) Waratahs v Sunwolves (10.45am) Bulls v Jaguares (2.05pm) Stormers v Sharks (4.15pm) l All kick-offs UK & Ireland. Fixtures subject to change.

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“Lou Reed is the funniest bloke I’ve come across in my life” The Scarlets and Wales fly-half talks funny men, phobias and his first job Interview Sarah Mockford // Pictures Getty Images & Huw Evans Agency

hat’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the pitch? It’ll be something to do with Lou Reed. He’s genuinely the funniest bloke I’ve come across in my life. It’s probably him beeping while a scrum he was in went backwards – he’d do the reversing sound of heavy goods vehicles. I heard it when I was on the flank after a yellow card. I’m probably as bad as Jonny May at scrummaging! Any practical jokes you can share? I can’t think of any at the Scarlets. At the Blues, Dan Fish would lace people’s boots the wrong way, so you’d end up being the last guy out on the field. Do you have any superstitions? I listen to the same playlist before a game, but that’s because I’m lazy. I try to keep it chilled. The last song I listen to is Grits’ My Life Be Like (Ooh-Aah).



My father’s also noticed that I always Your most embarrassing moment? follow out a second-row. Actually that’s In a friendly between Blues and Sale, my funniest Lou Reed story. I was I needed the toilet ten minutes into the making my Heineken Cup debut at 19 second half and told the physio I needed for the Blues against Montpellier at the to go off – I was clenching and a big hit Arms Park – I was definitely a boy in a would have been dangerous. They took man’s world. I was running out behind me off and I was so desperate I didn’t Lou and he looks to the left where run down the tunnel, I jumped the fence Montpellier are and says, “Look at the and went to one of the public toilets. size of No 5 – he’s massive!” If you could have one superpower, I’m thinking, ‘I’m in deep. what would it be and why? What am I doing on the field Flying. Well, not in the air but if the biggest bloke on my to be where I wanted to be now (teleporting). Think how team is scared of the biggest Age 24 (17 May 1993) much more efficient life would bloke on theirs’! We went Born Llandough be. You’d never be late. okay all things considered. Position Fly-half Do you have any phobias? What are your bugbears? Region Scarlets I wouldn’t be a fan of snakes Bad manners – people who Height 6ft 3in and creepy-crawlies. don’t say please and thank Weight 14st 6lb Who would you like to you – and inconsiderate Wales caps Eight be stuck in a lift with? parking. There’s no off-road Instagram patchell10 Barack Obama would have parking where I live.


Last person you phoned My girlfriend. Last night I stayed in Llanelli and she has a big work week

Most important person in phone My girlfriend and my parents


Last person texted Stephen Jones, to ask if he wanted a coffee from the shop. Selection is coming up!

Last photo you took A screenshot of this week’s schedule

Pointing the way Patchell, here scoring v Glasgow, is crucial to Scarlets’ Pro14 title bid stories to tell. He seems a nice guy. I’m not a big follower of politics – although I listen to Radio 4 on the way to work so I’m across what’s happening in the world – but it’d be good to get his take on things. What are your nicknames? It tends to be Patch. At school that’s what my brother got and it stuck with me too. If you could be any of your team-mates, who would it be? It would be a toss-up between John Barclay and Hadleigh Parkes. They’ve

just got it sussed. I look at them and those boys never look stressed, they know when to switch on and off. They have it nailed as far as I’m concerned. Your dream dinner party guests? On the basis I’d like to be stuck in a lift with him, Obama. Actually, scrap that. I’d just like my mates from school because I know they’d be good craic. Do you have any hidden talents? I can’t read music but I can play the piano. I can play I Dreamed A Dream

“I had to wear a shirt and tie, so I must have been the smartest document shredder”

Favourite social network Instagram. I took a sabbatical from Twitter during the Six Nations

Last app downloaded Monzo. It’s a pre-paid credit card so you can keep track of spending

Last song played Billy Joel, New York State of Mind

Favourite WhatsApp group My mates from school – some of the stuff cracks me up 13

Sounding board Barack Obama from Les Mis, some Elton John and Coldplay, and I’m teaching myself REM. If I’m making a cup of tea, I’ll sit down at my piano while the kettle boils. What was your first job? One summer while I was in school I shredded documents in my dad’s office. He’s a solicitor and I must have been the smartest shredder in Blackwood because I had to wear a shirt and tie. What would you like to achieve outside of rugby? To find something I’m as enthusiastic about as I am about playing rugby. You devote so much time and energy to being a professional player, everything falls by the wayside. It’s difficult to find something you’re as passionate about. What about coaching? You coach kids. I think that would be the most stressful thing in the world. It’s a job based on the ability of 23 people to understand and do what you want them to do, and every week that changes. So not coaching! n

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2 1 Words Sarah Mockford // Pictures Getty Images

AROUND THE WORLD IN TEN STORIES A round-up of news from all points of the globe


Argentina A knee injury has brought an end to the career of Juan Martín Hernández (below). ‘El Mago’ (The Magician) featured at fly-half, centre and full-back in 74 Tests for Argentina and was key to the Pumas’ third-place finish at France 2007 – one of his four World Cups. He played for Argentina last November but the knee problem has forced the 35-year-old to call time on his career. As for the future, he said: “If in one year I am missing rugby, I will ask if I can be useful for an Argentinian team.”



South Africa South Africa are relaxing their selection policy, with head coach Rassie Erasmus able to pick players based overseas who have fewer than 30 caps – providing he gives valid reasons. So Sale scrum-half Faf de Klerk (above) and Wasps centre Juan de Jongh are in the running to play against England next month. “We have some wonderful talent here,” said Erasmus. “Having said that, I believe some of the more experienced players from overseas clubs can add value, but they must be utilised correctly.”


Canada Ontario Arrows (below), a semi-pro club that has played against Major League Rugby sides from the USA this year, have formed a partnership with Super Rugby team the Hurricanes. The two clubs will work together on high-performances initiatives and marketing opportunities. Arrows co-founder Bill Webb said: “They have a couple of decades of pro rugby knowledge and best practice to share, so we’re very positive about where our relationship might take us.”


Australia New Zealand won double gold in the men’s and women’s sevens at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast last month, while England’s two teams won bronze medals. Kelly Brazier got the crucial try (below) in sudden-death extra-time to secure a 17-12 win in the inaugural women’s final against Olympic champions Australia.

New Zealand’s men also overcame Rio winners to triumph in their event, beating Fiji 14-0 at the Robina Stadium. England saw off South Africa 21-14 to finish third in the men’s event and beat Canada 24-19 in the women’s bronze tie. World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “There’s no doubt that the exploits of these tremendous players will have inspired a new generation of participants and fans across the Commonwealth.”



Matthew D McNab (above) was the leading try-scorer with four at the Africa U20 Championship. His Namibia side pipped Tunisia to the overall title thanks to a superior points difference.


Kenya Ian Snook is the new Kenya coach. The Kiwi has experience in New Zealand, England, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Japan and Italy, and was previously head coach of the Laos national team. He’s preparing Kenya for this summer’s Africa Gold Cup.



Colombia Colombia will host the inaugural Americas Rugby Challenge, which also features Guyana, Mexico and Paraguay, from 24 August to 1 September. Rugby Americas chairman Agustín Pichot said: “Tournaments like this generate the aspiration for countries to be better and more competitive.”


After conducting research with supporters, the WRU will trial an alcohol-free zone at the Principality Stadium for Wales’ autumn Tests against Scotland, Australia, Tonga and South Africa.


Portugal Europe’s largest youth rugby festival celebrated its tenth anniversary with a record entry of 90 teams. Based in Lisbon, the Portugal Rugby Youth Festival attracted sides from Australia, England, South Africa, USA, Wales and Zimbabwe. Welsh invitational side Crawshays (left) won the U19s competition and Stockport the U15s, while the Institute of Rugby from San Diego, California, won the women’s U19s event. Festival organiser Antonio Cunha says: “Attracting the best young talent from overseas helps in the development of our domestic game.”




Ex-New Zealand coach Wayne Smith is teaming up with Dan Carter again after becoming general manager at Kobe Steelers, the Japanese club the former All Blacks fly-half is joining in the summer from Racing 92.

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PICS Getty Images & Inpho

Here are your standout stars from the 2017-18 campaign

Liz Hunter Kyle Cooper (above), Calum Green & Gary Graham have had great seasons for Newcastle

Matt Rawlinson Joe Simmonds. Exeter have played their best rugby with him at 10 and keep getting better

Craig Wright One for breakthrough player – George Horne of Glasgow. Outstanding in both Pro14 & Europe

Mark Bright Jackson Wray, an ever-present in the Saracens team through loads of key injuries

danno_jolls Chris Ashton wouldn’t be a bad shout, he’s been on fire. Could still do a job for England

delmcg77 Dan Leavy for club and country. Started season maybe 4th choice, now indispensable for both

e_chapman139 Marcus Smith because he’s only 19 and is nearly as good as some of the internationals

duncnimmo Jacob Stockdale ripped up the Six Nations and the Pro14. He’s been a joy to watch

@RickyHarries Tadhg Beirne has been phenomenal for us but Ken Owens would get my nod for the Scarlets

@TowleConer Jake Polledri. From National One to Six Nations starter in less than a year is incredible

@andywells3 Sam Simonds. Tackles like a monster, makes big yards, strong in the maul and pace to burn

@Rugbyrona Edinburgh & Scotland’s @McInallyStuart for a cracking transition from back-row to hooker

Kirkham GS 17-12 in the U14 SCHOOLS Plate. In the girls’ events, ROUND Exeter College saw off Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf 24-7 in the U18 UP Cup and Loughborough College

SEDBERGH SCHOOL were crowned U18 champions at the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens – while the U16 team picked up the Colts Cup. Captain Cameron Redpath ran 70m to round off Sedbergh’s 26-12 win over Cranleigh in the final. The U16s overcame Clifton 19-7 in their final. In other finals, Blundell’s beat St Peter’s York in the U18 Vase 24-20, Whitgift thumped Taunton 38-7 in the U14 Cup and Cheltenham College edged out

beat Hartpury 14-7 in the AASE final. Elsewhere, hosts Paarl Boys’ HS beat Christchurch Boys’ HS 28-7 to win the first World Schools Festival. Ex-Boks coach Heyneke Meyer said: “The festival surpassed all expectations and it was humbling to see rugby-loving countries share our passion for the game.” 16


Swimming …describes a player moving through or around a maul. It’s often applied to a defender who muscles through to wrap up the ball-carrier at the rear.


The former Samoa No 8 who has steered Bristol Bears back to the Premiership

“When they hear ‘Champions Cup’, we want people to think of Bristol” Finishing the job Bristol’s league win


HE KEY for us was that right at the beginning we established the vision for Bristol – what we were trying to do. The vision came from me having a chat with the owner Steve Lansdown and chairman Chris Booy. It tied up into a vision about inspiring our community through rugby success. It was important everybody was on the same page. The next thing was to establish the main goal for the professional side: to be a Champions Cup team. When they hear ‘Champions Cup’, we want people to think of Bristol. I know people may snigger, especially if they look at the last ten years. But when I played for Newcastle and Northampton, if you’d said Saracens were a Champions Cup team, in those days people would express the same laughter. Nigel Wray and those guys got their act together and that’s what we want to do too. Another big thing for us is having players play for England, because there are currently no players from Bristol in the England team. The third goal is to have a strong representation of Bristolians playing for Bristol. That keeps us in line with the good work of our academy, the clubs, the schools. The first step towards us being a Champions Cup team was to get out of the Championship. It has been tough. It’s been a really good team exercise for us, because in every game we have been the favourites. It was about

being comfortable with that because it is far easier to be the underdog. The expectation was that we’d walk through this thing, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how tough it has been. I don’t think there’s anything we need to rip up for the Premiership – we just continue on the journey. If you look at the current Premiership, Exeter have lost five or six games. Anyone can beat anyone on their day. It’s a long season in the northern hemisphere. So it’s really important that we continue to grow our skill-set and understanding of the game. More importantly, grow the culture and leadership. When I first started here, I led a lot of the way. Now the ownership comes from the players and the other management. There are experienced leaders. That’s Jordan Crane, Tusi Pisi, Ian Madigan, Luke Morahan and Jack Lam. But there are young ones coming through, like Sam Jeffries or Dan Thomas. They all lead in different ways. I don’t want the team to be reliant on anybody. Bristol cannot be reliant on Pat 17

Lam or Ian Madigan. It’s not about one person, it’s about the collective. Every person has to step up. There are different ways to win, too. Teams that are a great success adapt to what’s in front of them. You need players with large toolboxes of skills. I’ve been fortunate enough to play for some successful teams, but I’ve also been blessed to be in some unsuccessful teams. The difference that stands out is culture, game and leadership. You can’t have one without the others. Rugby mirrors life. You are who you are through the tough times you experience, but it certainly helps if you’re a strong person and it certainly helps if you have a strong culture in your team. There’s no doubt the biggest driver for me is to make a difference – as a husband, father, coach, person. Whether that’s talking to kids at a 30-minute assembly, to corporates or with people in hospital, or even my neighbour. At Connacht, clarity of vision was the key. But ultimately I wanted to make a difference in the West of Ireland. Steve Lansdown also wanted me to make a difference here. That’s what drives me. Life is full of stumbling blocks. I’ve had a lot of great meetings with the Royal Marines and I love their catchcry of being able to thrive in uncertainty. There’s uncertainty around the corner, there’s uncertainty when you go to play. Have absolute trust in those around you and get over the stumbling blocks. n

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RISING STARS Interviews Sarah Mockford & Gavin Mortimer // Pictures Huw Evans Agency & Inpho



Age 19 (13 Jan 1999) Born Kingston, Surrey Region Cardiff Blues Country Wales Position Centre


Farrell at 12, they have two players who hat sports did you play can play. I’m working on that, developing growing up? I played my skills so I can be like a second ten. football and in a few When did you link up with Cardiff golf competitions. Then Blues? At U16s. I’m in the academy and I started playing rugby at the CRICC train four times a week – Monday, club the first year it was contact. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Have you always played in midfield? How did you find the U20 Six Nations? My dad (former Wales lock Gareth It was a really good experience for me. I Llewellyn) wanted me to be a centre was very proud to represent my country – I think he wanted to be a centre when and I learnt a lot from it. It’s the first time he was younger! He said, “You don’t I’d been involved in that want to be in the forwards!” environment as I didn’t come The first game I played through U16s or U18s. I was at second-row, then Who were your childhood I was moved out to centre. heroes? I did look up to my What do you like about At 6ft 4in, Max has dad and the main person I the position? There’s an inherited his dad’s wanted to be like was Shane element of everything to it. height. He’s played Williams, but I soon realised You have to be skilled and for the Blues in the I was never going to be that fit, and you need different Anglo-Welsh Cup type of player! As I got older, physical aspects. It’s really and got his first taste it was Sonny Bill Williams. challenging as a player. of international What do you do away from Does your dad offer good age-grade rugby rugby? I’m studying business advice? He’s a massive this year. A place in at Cardiff Met. It’s been hard, influence and a huge Wales’ U20 World studying full-time and being reason why I’ve been so Cup squad will be involved in rugby, so next successful so far. He’s been his next target. year I might go part-time. taught by some of the best coaches in world, like Steve Hansen, and he’s passed down his knowledge. He’ll go over games with me, what to improve and what I’m doing well. What are your strengths? For a big man I have pretty good footwork, which helps my carrying. And there’s my offload ability. If I manage to stay on my feet, I can get an offload in to help someone else. And work-ons? If you look at England with Owen





Age 19 (23 Sept 1998) Born Dublin Club Toulouse Country France Position Tighthead


ow much of an influence has your dad, Trevor, been on your career? Not much at the start. I played football, ice hockey and judo. I’d sometimes go training with dad when he was playing for Toulouse but he never pressurised me to play rugby. So how did you get into rugby? RWC 2007 inspired me and my friends, so we started playing. I fell in love with it. How hard was it to choose between France and Ireland? I’m proud of my Irish blood but I’ve played all my rugby in France. The country has been good to me and my family, and I love pulling on that French jersey. What are your strengths? My carrying is pretty good and I’m working hard to improve the technical side of my game. It’s going well but I’ve got a lot to learn. Why are you leaving Toulouse for Montpellier? Toulouse is a great club but I wasn’t getting enough opportunities, so I decided I needed to leave to get more games. I had interest from Clermont, Castres and Munster but I wanted to stay in the French system. I had a chat with Vern Cotter, the Montpellier coach, and was impressed, and there will be the chance to learn from Jannie du Plessis, one of the best tightheads around. How do you unwind away from rugby? PlayStation, hang out with friends. When it’s not raining, I do a bit of fishing. Do you fancy your chances in the U20 World Championship? The fact it’s in France is great. We won the Six Nations but lost to England so didn’t get the Grand Slam, but we’re in a good place and should go in with confidence. Trevor Brennan won Are you dreaming of 13 Ireland caps and playing at RWC 2023? Daniel looks set to I think it’s in the back of follow in his footsteps all our minds. French – but in the blue of rugby has had some France. A teenager tough years but it’s who stands 6ft 3in not dead and things and weighs 20st, are going to start Daniel’s decision changing. We’re the to join Montpellier future and I don’t see should fast-track why if we work hard his development. we can’t win in 2023.



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All TMOs were efficient? Glen

Should England take their strongest squad to South Africa?

Did you watch Rugby Tonight last night? That David Grashoff was on again Burt Yeah, he’s bang on though. Clear and concise in demos Saz I’m more of an Eric Briquet-Campin girl, myself Ella Both of them are really good. Golden Age for TMOs Glen They’re everywhere now. One has a chat show and advertises contact lenses! Ella

Big hit Does Mako Vunipola need a break?

Actually, you’re right. Proper celebs. George Ayoub speaks at loads of dinners too Burt





Saz I dunno, but remember when these guys were a bit rubbish? Glen Uh-huh… We’re still waiting for the officials to make a call in the first half of Munster-Toulon


It’s an Oscar-worthy team from Sam Tremlett, from Petersfield, Hants. Send your Alternative XVs to 1 James 2 Joe Pesci Gandolfini

3 Ray Winstone

4 Arnold 5 Henry Cavill Schwarzenegger 7 Sylvester 6 Matt Damon Stallone 8 Dwayne Johnson 9 Kevin Hart 10 Brad Pitt 12 Hugh Jackman 13 Denzel Washington 14 Tom Cruise 11 Will Smith 15 Tom Hanks

PICS Getty Images

THE SUN RUGBY CORRESPONDENT FREELANCE RUGBY WRITER Eddie Jones has snookered himself You would have to be mad to think after refusing to rest his Lions in the that taking knackered England players autumn. Even if they weren’t picked to South Africa for a three-Test series for all the games, you can’t claim that against a Springboks side desperate to having Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje in restore pride is a good idea. It is not. camp was giving those stars a rest. After two years under Eddie Jones The domino effect of fatigue and and the demands of a Lions tour, key weariness at the back end of England players need a break. 2017 leaked into the Six Why do you think New Nations. But with no players Zealand give their key left that he feels able to turn players a sabbatical even to, Jones has to go fully though their domestic Send your views to loaded to South Africa season isn’t as demanding rugbyworldletters in June if they are to as the Premiership? They regain that winning habit. recognise the need to allow He has to pick his best side. players to get away from a game Jones’s biggest flaw is his that is increasingly destructive. unwavering faith in average players England should ignore their poor like Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole and recent run and have the self-belief James Haskell. They should have to leave players like Owen Farrell, been phased out, with Jamie George Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje and Jamie and Kyle Sinckler charging through. George at home – and ban them from Phase Two of the Eddie project Saracens’ pre-season training camp. has yet to begin at Twickenham If England don’t give those players a and that could be the Aussie’s break they will end up limping towards ultimate downfall for his hopes of the World Cup in Japan, not striding winning the World Cup in 2019. purposely in search of glory. The fringe players are not trusted To do anything else would be a and can’t be expected to be dereliction of duty by Jones, who is unleashed against a Springboks side one of the main reasons the players smelling blood on their home territory. need a mental and physical break.

Do they do the TMO stuff as full-time jobs now?

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What goes on tour…

[ Goes in Rugby World ]

lem Thomas’s true soulmate was Peter Robbins, his English back-row adversary. Their swansong was a trip to the 1986 Hong Kong Sevens as journalists. The two men took a day out to the New Territories on mainland China, where they were bused to a model communist Chinese village. The usual trinkets for sale were of absolute zero interest, except for magnificent chains of proper gunpowder-filled Chinese crackers, typically 500 or 1,000 all connected by a single fuse. Clem and Robbins couldn’t resist. They bought a shedload and carried them back to their staging point to await the bus. The coach pulled in and they dived into the alley beside a long, squat building. Robbins, gauging the last moment they could delay the bus, finally gave the signal to Clem, who lit the fuse. They sprinted across the road, jumped onto the bus and made a beeline for the back, apologising for their tardiness. As the bus turned out of the village gates – BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG!!! The chain of Chinese crackers exploded like an artillery barrage. The building behind which Clem had detonated them was lit up like a Christmas tree and Red Army troops poured out, guns in hand, ready to fight World War Three. The guide looked terrified and barked an order to the driver, who put his foot to the floor, the bus careering all over the road. They drove at full pelt on the highway back to Hong Kong – the sports reporters giggled all the way… l From Clem, published by Iponymous, RRP £19.99

ILLUSTRATION David Lyttleton


WE WON’T TE LL , PROMISE… We love hearing your stories and want to celebrate the characters of our great game in What Goes On Tour… If you have an amusing tale to tell, drop us a line. Mark your email ‘Tour Tale’ and send it to

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Words Alan Pearey // Pictures Ben Duffy, Inpho, Ted Martin & MDS

What it’s like to… RoW the atlaNtiC Former pro Damian Browne on his extraordinary 3,000-mile journey hen people ask why I did it, I find it hard to answer. It works for me on so many levels,” says Damian Browne, the ex-Ireland A lock who retired in 2015. “I could talk about the suffering and hardship, and the perspective that brings me. I could talk about the adventure of it and seeing what life was like in the middle of the Atlantic. Everything just seems simpler now. Life is simpler.”


As crazy stunts go, Browne’s decision to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic is up there with Richard Parks’s Seven Summits. Favourable weather marked his 63-day solo slog from the Canary Islands to Antigua, but that was just about the only luck he had on his side. Take his first day, when his power anchor – a parachute attached to the

boat that is meant to negate headwinds – failed to stop him getting blown backwards. “Everything that could go wrong did go wrong on day one. The calluses on my hands, blisters on my heels, my lower body went into cramp, every major muscle group went crazy. “Then there’s the whole psychological battle of getting blown back to the island. I saw the same point on the GPS three times over nine hours.” Browne, 37, was never going to quit

Hell or high water Browne at sea and (inset) before the start in La Gomera 24

but the word flashed up in his mind during that torrid start. Soldiering on with the uncompromising hardness he showed for Connacht, Northampton, Brive, Leinster Marathon man and Oyonnax during a Running in the Sahara 16-year pro rugby career, Browne made it to day 14 before the next major mishap. “Once the winds get over 25 or 30 knots, it becomes dangerous; that’s when the waves instead of rolling start breaking at the top. I capsized twice in one day on day 14, a hairy, crazy day. I could have capsized three more times; the boat was at 90 degrees to the water but the wave didn’t have enough power to put me over. ocean rowing is not for the faint-hearted. “So it was very stressful, literally Browne did it for 12 hours a day, applying clinging to the boat with your processes from his rugby training to help fingernails. When I crawled into bed him cope mentally. By focusing on his that night I was completely fried.” breathing and his technique, he shut out The boats are designed to self-right any negativity and to empower him he’d but two other vessels in the race, known shout to himself. “You’re unbreakable! as the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, You’re indestructible! You’re a machine! failed to do so and they had to issue a You’re a warrior!” A voice of defiance mayday. One rower had burnt his hands in a vast tempestuous wilderness. in an on-board fire and tried to climb the There were, of course, moments to net of a Brazil-bound cargo ship with his treasure. “A pod of dolphins went under teeth, losing two of them. the boat. Two of them almost led the Worse was to come for Browne. Most boat, they were surfing the waves, like boats have an autohelm, which attaches they were just having fun. It was my to your rudder and follows GPS last shift of the waypoints to take care of the steering. day, I’d been But in true pioneering spirit, he had on the oars for chosen to steer manually with his feet, ten hours or so a brave call that looked like backfiring and everything on day 17 when the system broke – still was sore, and 2,000 nautical miles from his destination. The Atlantic Challenge “I had to steer with the oars, which was founded by Sir made the endeavour ten times worse. Chay Blyth in 1997 and It’s exhausting. Going from just rowing Browne is one of only to steering means you have one oar in three Irishmen to have the water that you’re using as a fulcrum attempted it solo. while you row on the other side. Trying Boats can have up to to keep the boat straight, downwind four rowers and can’t and down-waves, is really difficult. accept any assistance “It takes two or three minutes of during the crossing. rowing on one side, you’re trying to Competitors take 90 force the cabin around against the wind, days’ worth of food and if the boat gets blown back beam – Browne required on (sideways), you have to go through up to 6,500 calories the whole process again. And that could a day – and use a happen five or six times in big conditions. water-maker. The It’s absolutely soul-destroying. You’re record time for the nearly in tears, like.” crossing is 35 days. You’ve probably gathered by now that

DiD you know?

“I had to steer with the oars, which made it ten times worse. I t ’s a b s o l u t e l y s o u l - d e s t r o y i n g ” 25

I’ve done it! Arriving in Antigua these guys just came by. It gave me such a buzz, it was amazing. “Then in between my two capsizes I was pumping water off the deck when I heard the noise of the blowhole. A whale circled the boat four or five times and at one point it came up and with its left eye it made eye contact with me. I was in complete shock. The joy of it, an unbelievable experience.” By the time he rowed into Antigua, to be met by jubilant family and friends, Browne had lost 28kg in weight but gained the sort of memories that most people can’t even imagine. He had a few beers but was spent by 10pm, happy and utterly drained. Now back home in Galway, Browne is contemplating his next step. He doesn’t see himself as a ‘professional adventurer’, a lifestyle that in any case is difficult to fund (sponsorship covered only half Rugged lock the €120,000 cost In Leinster’s colours, 2012 of the row). But he is keen to share his knowledge and experiences, which range from running the 156-mile Marathon des Sables to high-altitude trekking in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. “I’d like to show people the power of this, and how it brings so much to your life. The idea I have is to try to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each continent, and then lead a group on the mountains. I’d like to prepare them to achieve something they never thought they were capable of.” n

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THE RUGBY RANT Breaking into coaching or refereeing as a youngster shouldn’t be so hard, says reader Mark Wilkinson


Go-getter Eleanor Wilkinson in action

PICS Getty Images & Sam Hagon

N ENGLAND, the RFU provide coaching and refereeing courses, and encourage young players to go on them, but there is no financial backing and little mentoring available. These courses all cost money, and time and effort to get to them, but the benefits to clubs – in player retention, game-aware players and a larger coaching pool – must far outweigh the costs. When my daughter Eleanor was 14, she expressed her wish to move into coaching/refereeing and asked her coach how to do it. The coach told her it wouldn’t be right for her and anyway there was nowhere for her to coach or referee at the club. So she researched it herself and booked on a Level 1 refereeing course. Once qualified, she went back to her club but was told there was no way she could referee there. Next, she booked on some CPD courses – again her club dismissed her, so she left the club. Her new club are more supportive but again this doesn’t run to financial help for training. She booked onto Rugby Ready and Level 2 refereeing courses. Another local club was trying to get their girls’ section off the ground and wanted coaches. She contacted them and they invited her to help coach their girls and were delighted to find out she was already a qualified Level 2 referee

The R FU should he lp young p e op le p ro gress , not push t hem away

SHORT PASS NEW FALCONS Tom Arscott, who was sacked by Sale last year for leaking team information, will return to the Premiership next season after signing for Newcastle from French club

and able to referee some of their matches. So soon she was combining playing, coaching and refereeing, whilst studying for her GCSEs. The RFU dropped the age limit for the Level 2 coaching award to 16. The course costs £150 but when she tried to get funding towards this, neither her clubs nor the RFU were able to help. So again she paid for the course and now, at 16, is a qualified and licenced RFU coach. At the same time she joined her local referees’ society and has completed several society appointments.

Rouen. Tigers prop Logovi’i Mulipola (right) is also joining Falcons.

HAVE YOUR SAY What gets your goat? Let us know on Facebook or tweet @rugbyworldmag

at Yorkshire Carnegie, has been banned for four years after testing positive for steroids.

REDPATH JOB Ex-Scotland captain Bryan Redpath will be Scotland U20’s head coach for the Junior World Cup in France. LENGTHY BAN Brandon Staples, 20, a South African flanker

She now runs her own training sessions midweek with a girls’ team, trains with her own club for their U18 girls’ team the next night, and either coaches or referees on Sunday morning and plays on Sunday afternoon. All of this was achieved through her own drive and determination. If the RFU is serious about getting young players to coach and referee, they must change the attitude at the clubs and constituent bodies; they should give people the opportunity to progress and not push them away. Rugby needs young people to sustain the game for the future. n

STAYING PUT Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has agreed a contract extension until 2021.

Moving on Logovi’i Mulipola


PIRATES’ PROGRESS The proposed new stadium for Cornish

Pirates moved a step closer to reality after Cornwall Council voted to pay £3m towards the £14.3m project. REBRANDING The insurance giants Gallagher will be title sponsors of the English Premiership next season, after the end of the eight-year partnership with Aviva.

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INSIDE THE MIND OF… DAN ROBSON Interview Alan Pearey // Photo Getty Images

Insights from the Wasps scrum-half pushing hard for England honours “I’ve spoken to Eddie Jones (re England selection). He has a few positives and negatives he wants me to work on and add to my game.”

“I throw different-sized balls in training. It’s a good drill for hand-eye coordination and improves your passing. Sometimes you get a bit fed up of the oval ball so it’s nice to use a tennis ball or golf ball or whatever and really test your skills. Then when you do throw a rugby ball back in it seems much easier.”

“If I could have a ticket to any sports event I’d probably choose the US Masters. Cricket and golf are the two main sports I watch. I’m okay at golf, I can get around. Quite a few of us at Wasps play.”

“My Wasps Player of the Year is Willie le Roux or Tom Cruse. Willie’s been electric, he’s got our whole back-line going. And Crusey’s been the heartbeat of everything we’ve done. He’s so energetic and talkative, a positive figure who gets the boys going.”

* “My partner Elizabeth and I have a fashion business. We sell T-shirts, hoodies, caps – pretty much anything. It started a few years ago as a hobby. We’re both into fashion and I design stuff. We’re redoing our stock and have a big rebrand coming up.”

“The best holiday I’ve had was to Croatia. I went with my partner Elizabeth, Elliot Daly and his partner. It was just a good week with good people, one of those weeks where “I was a we had a laugh all the fly-half until 17 or time. Great fun.” 18. All my school and college stuff I was at ten, then at England U18s I moved to nine. George Ford was in that team.”

“I’ve never known a season like this for injuries – it’s been crazy. Our season has been a roller coaster: we started well, came through a bad patch, and then going out of Europe the way we did was pretty disappointing. Now it’s one big push to hopefully go one better than last year.”

* “I’ve got quicker. We work a lot with sprint coach Darren Campbell and with Trystan Bevan, our S&C coach; every week he gets us to do extra speed work.”

“Growing up, I admired Matt Dawson, George Gregan, Jonny Wilkinson, Stephen Larkham – that 2003 World Cup final was big for me. I enjoyed watching Tiger Woods, and Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen in the 2005 Ashes. Awesome years for English sport.” 27

“My first club was Stoke-on-Trent, from the age of five or six, and I played a season of men’s rugby at Longton. I scored 12 tries in a touch game when I was eight. But nothing comparable to that first game of this season against Sale (when he scored four tries).”

“I don’ t t hink p eople appreciate the kind of job he did, and they probably never will”

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Tom Youngs Through the slings and arrows, the Leicester captain never knows when he’s beaten Words Alan Pearey // Pictures Getty Images


T’S HARD to know which is the more impressive when assessing Tom Youngs: his metamorphosis from Premiership centre to Test hooker, or the selfless stoicism he has shown during his wife Tiffany’s four-year battle with cancer. Both predicaments require special qualities and the Norfolk-born farmer’s son has them in spades. sense his inexperience was a blessing, As a rugby player, he personifies because he had no bad habits, but it full-blooded commitment. “He’s never took him 18 months and a change of shirked a responsibility,” says Tigers hand technique to throw consistently. team-mate Dan Cole, who’s known Mefin Davies, the ex-Tigers hooker, Youngs, 31, since their teenage days had a whimsical side; he’d say he had in the academy. “He wants to make a point to make and gather everyone in the first tackle, make the first carry, he a circle, then point to the middle of the wants to lead things, and he does that floor! But the Welshman was also a fine for 80 minutes. You know exactly what technician and was instrumental – along you get with Tom – 100% effort.” with the likes of George Chuter, Richard When Youngs made his Premiership Cockerill and Simon Hardy – in bringing debut at London Irish in 2006, it was as Youngs up to speed with the hooker’s art. an inside-centre outside Andy Goode. In 2012-13, the former Holt mini was He broke a bone in his leg that day and capped by England, helped Leicester for a while his career stalled. Then become English champions, scooped Heyneke Meyer took over at the Premiership Player of Tigers and decided Youngs’s the Season award and squat 5ft 9in frame would suit played in all three Tests as the front row. So he sent him the Lions triumphed in Oz. Age 31 (28 Jan 1987) to Nottingham for two years “His story is extraordinary Born Norwich to learn the hooking trade. – what dreams are made Club Leicester The transition wasn’t easy. of,” said Phil Winstanley Position Hooker Youngs’s dad Nick, a former of Premiership Rugby. Height 5ft 9in England No 9, recalls his first In theory, Youngs should Weight 16st 5lb throw on debut resembling have been in his Red Rose England caps 28 “a beachball in the wind” but pomp these past few years Lions caps Three Tom just rolled up his sleeves but Eddie Jones has never Twitter @TomYoungs87 shown an interest, perhaps and got on with it. In one



in part because Dylan Hartley and Jamie George bring a scrummaging heft that a former centre would struggle to match. There have been other priorities. Youngs withdrew from a 2014 tour to care for Tiffany, and last year brother Ben passed up a Lions tour to offer support for the couple and their daughter Maisie. What a gesture, what a family. Appointed Leicester captain last season, Youngs was forced to handle the turmoil of two departing head coaches, Cockerill and Aaron Mauger, alongside a deterioration in Tiffany’s condition. Quite how the Tigers maintained their 13-year run of reaching the Premiership play-offs is hard to fathom, but Youngs was at the heart of it and earned even greater respect from all at the club. “I don’t think people appreciate the kind of job that he did, and probably they never will,” says Cole. “Because there was so much more going on than what people saw. I can’t speak highly enough about what he did to hold the club together when there was so much transition and with all the off-field problems in his life going on. It shows what a bloke he is and what a man he is.” In such circumstances, it would be easy to trot out the line that ‘rugby is only a game’ but Youngs knows just how much success means to his fellow pros and supporters, and his devotion to the Leicester cause hasn’t wavered. What a loss to rugby he will be when he one day swaps the roar of the battle for tractors and cattle back in Norfolk. n

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BIG HITS IN THE BIG APPLE With America’s Major League Rugby now underway, we look at the New York side joining in 2019


W he r e a re t h e Y no W ?

Scrum on down RUNY (left) take on Boston Mystics in a friendly

Commentating Corbisiero (left)

area. Long-term, our plan is to be the best team in the world that is also profitable, whose make-up of talent is over 90% local. That may sound a bit arrogant but I’m confident.” With other new investors now circling MLR and talk of a home-grown ethos, the right noises are being made. It helps to have a little star quality too, though. Kennedy’s partner in the project is John Layfield – wrestling fans may know him as JBL. The pair met through the Play Rugby USA project, with Layfield having set up a similar programme in Bermuda. The team have also been linked with


Age 42 Position Hooker Teams Gloucester, Sale, Wasps & England

“I retIred through injury in 2005. I worked for Standard Chartered bank in Singapore for over two years, then came back and coached London Welsh, London Scottish, Scotland Sevens and finally USA. I’m the high-performance coordinator for USA’s sevens team and I spend half of the year in the States. “I recently opened The Athlete Factory, a gym at Chester rugby club. Everyone here gets support from highly qualified coaches and a programme on a training

PICS Getty Images & Rugby United New York

OU SAY it sounds like it began with a conversation in a pub, you’re not far off!” says James Kennedy of the origins of Rugby United New York, the new professional outfit in the USA that will begin playing in Major League Rugby from 2019. Ireland-born Kennedy has been based in the States for almost 20 years and is CEO of construction company Murphy Kennedy Group. With conversations around Stateside professional rugby going on, Kennedy got a few underlings at his business to look at how viable a New York side was. He soon spotted he was on to something. But when Pro14 got in touch about the potential for an expansion side in the Big Apple, Kennedy realised that any new franchise would need time to grow, recruit, prepare. Put off by the Celtic league’s go-go-go view, they focused on domestic rugby. The MLR competition has just kicked off, with Austin Elite, Glendale Raptors, Houston SabreCats, NOLA Gold (New Orleans), San Diego Legion, Seattle Seawolves and Utah Warriors playing in the first year. RUNY jump in for 2019. “Medium-term, the plan is to get state-of-the-art facilities and open an academy,” Kennedy says of the Bronx team’s future. “We want to grow club and high-school rugby in the tri-state

app. Pros get looked after, so why can’t everyone train like an elite athlete? “We have a world-class gym, the UK’s first public cryotherapy chamber and 12 pitches at our disposal; the USA boys are coming here before the London Sevens. “I follow Wasps religiously and go to most England home games. I’ve been down to training a few times and think the world of Eddie Jones. Everyone has blown England’s recent defeats out of proportion – we’re in a good place.” 30

some household player names. They briefly talked with Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins, before the ex-Wallaby signed on for TV projects like The Bachelor. Former England and Lions prop Alex Corbisiero, who broadcasts for NBC, is another player who may run out. “Having a pro team in New York is a big step in the right direction for the success of rugby in America,” says Corbisiero, who was born in the city. “It’s an enormous potential market that already has a strong core following. “It has good people in charge who care about the long-term success of the team and the sport as their core values. Watch this space: Rugby United are here and this is only the beginning.” n


The coach who guided Fiji to gold and our resident columnist

“The tools are there to avoid burnout. It’s about using them” Putting their feet up Finding the right balance is key


LAYER burnout. How do you measure that? Well, you can easily measure players’ workloads in training and games from a physical aspect. GPS gives you metres run, collisions and accelerations. In fact, just turning one of those things on gives you about 100 pages of data instantly! Your heart rate can also be captured and pretty much every aspect from hydration and Vitamin D levels to blood lactate thresholds are garnered. Players are often asked how hard sessions are, their ‘Rates of Perceived Exertion’. Sleep can be monitored and calories in and out counted. You get the message: they’ve got the stats. These stats, because they are collated regularly, don’t sneak up on you. You don’t just see them coming – they hit you full on the face. So you adjust. You turn up the heat slightly in terms of intensity here and there if you see there is room to hit players harder, or you go the other way if you want to ease their bodies and minds and freshen them up. You have key times to peak and, like a musical score, you hit the high notes when you need to. But also like a good song, if you’re always trying to play it on max and ignore how it begins to distort, the speaker eventually blows a fuse. The same goes with mental burnout, which is vital to get right but harder to measure. Over-analysis of yourself and opponents, endless meetings, staff

putting pressure on you to perform – it’s all going to cause a player stress. You need to feel the pulse of this with a player and a team. Some want more than others, so it’s about understanding the individual and the collective. As a head of programme, it’s about having the flexibility to change your plans, to listen to those around you and for them to feel able to be honest if everything is getting too much or it’s not enough. So when teams say they are burnt out or players are worn and weary, I think why haven’t they spotted it and adjusted before it got to that point? They have the information if they look at it properly. Within the English system it is harder than, say, the Irish. There aren’t central contracts so players can’t be rested as easily and programmes can’t be aligned between club and country as neatly. However, club and country talk and data is shared. Players can tell their coaches how they are feeling. Those coaches can add the data they have into the mix to get the right outcomes. 31

That adds to the recipe when planning training – the amount of sessions on the field, how intense and long they are. Most teams have micro ‘stress’ cycles where they put players through a planned programme of a few weeks in order to peak at the end of that or at various points along the way. So the tools are there to avoid burnout. It’s about using them. The great coaches also see how weeks can slowly cause repetitive monotony or how a reassuring word to a player can flip their confidence in an instant. Rugby has many moving parts so you need to be dexterous in your thinking – it becomes an art form. You also need to be big enough to admit you get it wrong sometimes and change what you’re doing. Many see that as a sign of weakness and you can’t be constantly wrong, but it does happen and you do need to adjust your course at times. All the Six Nations teams will have seen good and bad as a result of their reviews. ‘Open source in a closed network’ is a term sometimes used in research and development projects. You are 100% honest and transparent in your group but it stays in your group – that’s the right way to do a review. If they then use the information in the right way, improvements get made and teams get better. We won’t hear about that but we will see the results on the pitches in the next 18 months. That is the one area where no one can hide. n

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New Zealand

THE WORLD AT HIS FEET Words Tom English // Main Pics Hagen Hopkins

New Zealand fly-half Beauden Barrett has already achieved great things, but there is more to come. The World Rugby Player of the Year talks family, fortune and the future


EFORE WE get to the serious business of the Hurricanes, and the pursuit of his second Super Rugby title, and the All Blacks, and the hunt for another World Cup, Beauden Barrett – the planet’s pre-eminent rugby player – is talking about home. In his mind’s eye he’s back in the days of innocence, just a kid kicking about the rivers and farmlands between Pungarehu and Rahotu, half an

hour south of New Plymouth in New Zealand’s north island. “Growing up in the country, we were faced with a lot of things,” Barrett says. “Well, not faced exactly. We chose to do a lot of things. A lot of silly things. A lot of things that we absolutely loved doing. Things that if they happened today health and safety might have us in deep trouble over. “Climbing up trees that are I don’t know how many storeys high. Driving motorbikes on the farm and going up


New Zealand

FACT FILE Age 26 (27 May 1991) Born New Plymouth Franchise Hurricanes Position Fly-half Height 6ft 2in Weight 14st 6lb New Zealand caps 62 Points 465 (24T, 111C, 41P) Twitter @beaudenbarrett

New Zealand

these huge hills with the constant fear of falling off and really hurting yourself. Floating down stormy rivers in big rapids on a blown-up tractor tyre with my brothers and the fear of being flicked over onto a rock and going underwater. “That’s blackwater rafting we’re talking about. We live near the mountains in Taranaki and when it rains heavily up in those mountains, then big, big angry rivers are formed and we saw that as an opportunity to get out there and float.” Talking to Barrett, you get the impression sometimes that he’d rather chat about those carefree days of his youth than the sustained brilliance of his adulthood with the where he is, how Hurricanes, the 62 caps, lucky he was to have Teenage kicks the 24 tries and the the start in life that Playing for Taranaki in 2010 465 points with the All he had with his four Blacks, the back-to-back brothers and his World Rugby Player of the Year titles three sisters and his mum and his dad in 2016 and 2017 – Barrett and Richie and his rural upbringing. The secret to McCaw are the only men in history to Barrett? He always brings you back to his have retained the crown. formative years. The perfect childhood? He appreciates everything he has. In If such a thing exists, then he had it. his gentle way of speaking, time and “My earliest memories are playing for again he’ll say how fortunate he is to be Rahotu junior club when I was six years

Couple goals With fiancée Hannah Laity after his 100th Super Rugby game

old and we’d play at nine in the morning and it would still be frosty and freezing cold,” he says. “Playing in those icy conditions made me love it even more. Playing in bare feet and if there was mud then all the better because you could slide around and really enjoy yourself. The grubbier the better. “One of the things I miss is being able to kick a spiral in bare feet in a match. It was always easier to kick them in bare feet than it is in boots. It’s changed in the last four or five years but we used to play in bare feet up until the age of about ten, for whatever reason, and it was awesome because you felt really quick. We didn’t need, or want, fancy boots in those days. “I was playing with my older brother Kane and Dad (the legend that is Kevin, otherwise known as Smiley) was our coach. As a kid, all I wanted to do was play for Taranaki because Dad played for Taranaki and I grew up watching so many of his games. It was such a big moment for the province every time Taranaki played. The thrill of going to see him run out is clear as day, even though I was only a child. “Dad was a very physical, uncompromising player with a huge, huge work ethic. A lock and a grafter. In the clear Sprinting past Conor Murray for a try in 2016. The All Blacks play the Grand Slam winners again in November He played more than


New Zealand

“ I w a s n’ t a s t a r a t s c h o o l . I h o p e d t o m a ke s o m e t h i n g o f r u g b y b u t d i d n’ t e v e r think I’d go all the way”

New Zealand

160 games for Taranaki. Often he would come off the field with stitches in his face and cut eyes, blood all over him. “He wasn’t afraid to really rip into it. We used to see all the ruck marks on his back and his legs when he jumped in the shower. He was very different to me, being a fancy fly-half. I think Scott (one of Barrett’s younger brothers who has already played 16 times for the All Blacks) takes after him a bit more. No 10s were Dad’s favourites. I’d hate to think what he would have done to me if I’d come up against him.” In 1996, Smiley won the Ranfurly Shield with Taranaki against an illustrious Auckland side. It was a 42-39 thriller and the footage that exists shows how much it meant. The Taranaki boys and their fans were beside themselves with joy. “I was only young but I remember it so well. We were lucky enough to bring the Shield back to the house and it was put in the cowshed and all the local people came around to share the moment, which was pretty amazing. My memory is not the best but moments like that stick out. It was quite inspirational.”

We didn’t know that it wasn’t normal to be running around in no shoes in the freezing cold in the middle of winter. It was a shock to the system. Slippers in the classroom and shoes to school. Up until then we never wore shoes. “You know, I think about it now and how ambitious and fearless my mum and dad were back then. Six kids and off we went to other side of the world. I mean, Dad had ancestors from Ireland. His great grandparents were born there, but that was a seriously big call to make with such a young family. And I’m so, so glad they made it. They managed a dairy farm

“ N o 1 0 s w e r e D a d ’s f a v o u r i t e s . I ’ d h a t e t o t h i n k w h a t h e’ d h a v e d o n e t o m e i f I ’ d c o m e u p a g a i n s t h i m”

PICS Getty Images & Hagen Hopkins

Kid brother Scott takes on the Barbarians

In 1999, his mum, Robyn, and his dad decided they wanted to see a bit of the world. They had six of their eight kids at the time, the youngest being little Jenna at only 18 months old, but still they wanted to explore. They heard of a job as farm manager in County Meath in the Republic of Ireland – and went for it. They spent 15 blissful months in the town of Oldcastle and they remain friends with the locals to this day. “At breaktime on our very first morning at primary school, we were playing with a round ball. Soccer, it was. I remember the three of us Barrett boys – Scott, Kane and I – ripped our shoes off and started playing in bare feet. Next thing, the school principal came out and told us off and we couldn’t believe it. We didn’t know what we’d done wrong.


New Zealand

and while there we played a bit of rugby and a lot of Gaelic football. We made lifetime friendships. We’ve stayed in touch with people. It’s our second home.” The Barretts returned to New Zealand and a dynasty began to form. Smiley and Robyn doubled up as a taxi service for their young rugby-playing sons. Kane and Beauden were in one team, Scott being a little younger was in another, Jordie and Blake being younger again were in a third age group. They would go here and there, attempting to follow three sides at once. “I would say that the most enjoyable rugby I’ve ever played was at secondary school, because we were playing with our best mates and were so proud to be in the team. And we all wanted to be Conrad Smith because Conrad Smith was carving the way for us in Taranaki

All Blacks magic Dan Carter with the World Cup in 2015. Can Barrett and the Kiwis win it again in 2019?

Hurricanes warning Scoring in Super Rugby this year


as a skinny white boy playing for the All Blacks. I was a skinny white boy, too, but I never thought I’d make it to the All Blacks. I was hoping to make something of rugby, but I didn’t ever think I was going to go all the way. “I wasn’t a superstar at school. There were a couple of us in the back-line for our first XV team and it’s fair to say that we threw the ball around and enjoyed ourselves. By no means were we standouts. We were just a modest bunch of rugby players. We were just kids having fun.” Even when he became an All Black, he wasn’t sure how long he’d last. He made his debut in a 60-0 annihilation of his home from home, Ireland, in Hamilton in 2012. “But I never thought, ‘Right, I’ve made it now’. There were guys who I had looked up to for years – Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Aaron Cruden – so it took a lot of work on my self-belief to really accept that I could stay there and push on. “Even in 2015, at the World Cup in England, I was in awe of DC. The way he bounced back from injury and criticism, all the doubters he had and then to play out of his skin in the semi-final and final was just unreal. He was there when we needed him. Absolutely awesome. It was the perfect end to his All Black career.” Barrett came on as a substitute in that final, scored a try and never looked back. He has been other-worldly ever since, pretty much; a consummate player, one of the greatest we have ever seen. “People ask me do I have unfulfilled ambitions. Of course I do. In New Zealand we’re never satisfied. I want to become a better player, I want to take it to another level. I’m only 26

New Zealand


and I think I can do it. That excites me. I’m not sitting back and taking it easy. There’s a World Cup around the corner. “Yeah, there’s pressure and we have to deal with that. I really like what Ireland are doing right now. My dad and brothers always cheer for them when they’re playing anybody but the All Blacks, and I’m the same. They’ll be seriously in the mix in Japan. It’s all on the day. “England are going through it a bit at the moment but they’ll be strong. They’re not fading away. Wales will be strong. France will be strong. Scotland have taken it up a level. Australia are working away quietly and South Africa have underperformed so that makes

Trophy lift Scoring in the RWC 2015 final

“ I w a n t t o t a ke i t t o a n o t h e r l e v e l . I ’ m n o t s i t t i n g b a c k . T h e r e’s a Wo r l d C u p a r o u n d t h e c o r n e r ” them dangerous in my book. We know we have a target on us but it’s a challenge we all embrace.” Can he see himself following the path of the great man, Carter, and moving to Europe at some stage? “If I get to an age, and a place, where I no longer have the drive or the desire to be an All Black and I feel it’s time to leave because there are younger and better guys who need their chance to wear that jersey, then, yep, sure. But right at the moment, I’m fresh, I’m still young and I want to be around. My management has always got an open mind. We understand the big picture. There’s more to it than this game of rugby. There’s a thing called life as well. “It’s very important to balance the work-life thing. I have ways to switch off and decompress and I think that’s crucial. Golf is part of that. Yoga is part of it. Walking the dogs. Keeping in contact with friends and family. Doing business stuff keeps my mind stimulated. We’ve all got to think of life after footy, so it’s important to start now. “You can’t live in this intense world 24 hours a day. If rugby consumes your life 100% you’re probably going to burn out in no time. It’s about really enjoying the moment and making the most of it, and also understanding that there is more to me than just Beauden Barrett the rugby player. There’s Beauden Barrett the son, the fiancée, the brother, the friend. That bigger picture is important. You have to keep a perspective on things.” Barrett says that it is his mum who is the chronicler-in-chief of her sons’ rugby careers. Locked away securely

What makes Beauden Barrett, the World Rugby Player of the Year who has a 92% win rate in Tests, such a magical player? We asked former England fly-half Stuart Barnes to analyse the All Black’s skill-set…

THE EYES The difference between Barrett and any other fly-half on the planet is that while other fly-halves always look for space, he will see it. There’s a massive difference between scanning around and spotting space immediately. It’s the difference between being good and great.

At home At Hurricanes’ Westpac Stadium on the family farm are some priceless mementoes: Beauden’s Taranaki, Hurricanes and All Blacks jerseys and some of the jerseys “of the great international players I’ve swapped with”. Scott’s stuff is mounting and so, too, is Jordie’s. He’s only 21 and has played just twice for the All Blacks, but Robyn had better order in extra boxes to cover his career because he’s going to be special. There have been a couple of times now when all three of them have been in the same New Zealand squad, most notably the final Test of the Lions series last year. “Mum has all sorts of things locked away. She’s getting a bit of a museum going.” Perhaps a hall of fame would be a better description. Or a pantheon. If there is such a thing in New Zealand rugby, even at the young age of 26, Beauden Barrett is already there. n


THE LEGS Barrett is quite simply the most devastating runner in world rugby. We’re not talking just fly-halves. He has the speed of an international winger, but it is his change of pace that makes even the most organised defence look like some sort of scrambled kaleidoscope. The slightest defensive lapse and he is through.

New Zealand

THE BRAIN Wayne Smith once said to me I shouldn’t use ‘rugby intellect’ in my reports. He said it was about intelligence, which comes from doing the basics time and again. That becomes instinct. Beauden Barrett, if nothing else, is a fly-half of the purest instinct.

THE HANDS He has a softness to his handling, which enables him to wait until the very last second before deciding whether to slip a pop pass or spin out a 30-metre ball to one of the wide men.

THE FEET He is not the world’s greatest kicker – his inconsistent goalkicking is his big flaw – but his strength is the kick-pass to which he has no rival in rugby. The flat kick is accurate and played at the last second, which takes us back to his ability to see space so quickly.


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Life in Pictures

M y l if e in p ic t ures… t oMM y Bo w e

As the Ulster and Ireland wing prepares to hang up his boots, he reflects on a selection of snaps from his photo album Interview Sarah Mockford // Pictures BBC NI, Huw Evans Agency & Inpho

10 20 “Two of my good friends (James Hook and Lee Byrne) and two really talented players. When I went to the Ospreys, people questioned whether I was good enough to get into the team with the talent they had. To win that (Magners League) trophy at the RDS was a special moment. “I was struggling to get into the Ireland team when I went. It was an opportunity to challenge myself and play for another club. Getting into the Ospreys team showed me in a different light and I got back into the Ireland team and into the Lions squad. That move pushed my career to another level.”

DID YOU KNOW? Tommy Bowe is Ireland’s second highest try-scorer. He crossed the line 30 times in the 69 Tests he played for his country – a total surpassed only by Brian O’Driscoll, who scored 46 tries.

“That try against Wales is one of the moments I’ll always look back on in my career, but it’s only since the guys won a Grand Slam recently that I’ve realised what a special moment it was for Irish rugby and how much it means to people. “The try was a pre-planned move. We’d looked at those cross-field kicks and we’d tried it earlier but the ball had gone into touch. This time the call was on – Shane Williams was narrow, Gavin Henson was deep and there was space in between them. They were (Ospreys) team-mates of mine at the time, and the ball bounced very kindly for me. “It was a hell of a night. I didn’t get much sleep and the next day I was singing on stage in front of 9,000 supporters (at Ireland’s Homecoming). I try to forget that as much as I can – it’s probably one of the most stupid things I’ve done but it was a great day!” 44


ToP haT


SL am dunk

Life in Pictures


“This was 14 minutes into the game. I went over on my knee, hyperextended and was out for 11 months. Frustrating. “We had such high expectations going into the quarter-finals that day. We’d finished top of the group and the week before against France the atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium was

incredible. Against Argentina we were missing a few players and they caught us on the hop, like Wales did at the World Cup before. They were the better team. “Ireland have never made it to a World Cup semi-final, which is a pretty poor record, but if you look at the Six Nations this year and the strength in depth throughout the squad, it’s really exciting.”




Life in Pictures

20 15

TIGHT CORNER “The biggest disappointment of my career. We’d topped our World Cup group by beating Australia and were confident going into the quarter-final against Wales. They outplayed us on the day and unfortunately Mike (Phillips) scored on my wing. He doesn’t let me forget that too often – he regularly posts it ahead of any Ireland-Wales game! “My family had arrived in New Zealand a couple of days before the game, but we got knocked out, headed home the next day and I had to wave goodbye to them. The joy of being the parents of a professional rugby player.”

NEXT UP “Getaways is a holiday show



I’m doing (below he’s with fellow presenter Vogue Williams). The first trip was when my daughter Emma was three weeks old, so it was difficult for (wife) Lucy with her family in Wales, but she’s very supportive and knows TV is an area I’d like to go into post-rugby. “I’m not expecting to walk into it; I’ve got to learn the trade, go back to basics and work my way up. Hopefully in years to come that will be in live TV and live sport.”


20 17

“This is the old Lansdowne Road and in the background is the schoolboy stand where I spent so many years watching Ireland matches and dreaming of the opportunity to play there. 46

“It was an incredible day, to score a try on my debut (v USA) and play in that stadium where I have so many great memories of going to watch games growing up. “I also went through a peroxide stage – those days are gone now.”

Life in pictures

13 20

strong suit “Super Saturday! This is the first time I’ve won a trophy in a suit (Ireland had to wait for the result of the France-England game to be confirmed as Six Nations winners). “What an amazing day. We knew we had to go to Murrayfield and win by a considerable amount, then as we drove into the stadium we saw that Wales had put a massive score on Italy (60-21) and were looking like favourites. “The rugby we played showed that when the pressure is on, we could open up our game (they beat Scotland 40-10). It was an amazing feeling to get the trophy.”

riding, golf and tennis before, but rugby then became No 1. “I’ve loved my time at Ulster. I spent five years here, went to the Ospreys for four and have been back for six. I’ve great memories and there have been tough times as well, but it’s a great club with incredible support. Running out on a Friday night at the Kingspan is something I’ll miss when I retire.”


“Ulster is the province where I’ve grown up. Where I’m from, Monaghan, is below the border in the Republic of Ireland and is not known as a rugby stronghold. “But then I went to school at the Royal Armagh in Northern Ireland and that’s where rugby took on new importance to me. I’d done sports like Gaelic football, horse


Home sweet H ome


“My second Lions tour was a weird one for me as I broke my hand in my second game against the Reds. I fractured my second metacarpal and my tour looked over – you’re usually out for six to ten weeks. That was utter devastation as I’d got back fit to get on the tour and was playing decent rugby. “Then I met a crazy surgeon who said he could have me back on the pitch in three weeks. He opened up my hand, put three screws in and I was back playing in the second and third Tests. For Warren (Gatland) to think highly enough of me to keep me was something I took confidence from.

“I went from the low of thinking my tour was over to the high of playing in the Tests – you can see that in the celebration. It’s Mike (Phillips) again. He’s a great character, a great guy to have in your team but not to play against!”


CHampagne moment

Life in Pictures COLD SHOWER


“This was the coldest game I’ve ever played in by far. The rain was pouring down in Wellington and it was just horrendous. “They brought in food in big ovens afterwards and we took out all the food so we could stand as far in the oven as we could to warm up. And we had all our gear on in the showers. “We ran the All Blacks close that day but unfortunately the win was not to be (Ireland lost 21-11).”




BIG IN JAPAN “That was an incredible tour. I thought I’d be away with the U21s at the World Cup in Argentina, but I was picked for the senior Ireland tour and it was a real eye-opener. “We travelled to Osaka and Tokyo, two incredible places with so much history, and it was great craic on and off the pitch.


“That was my favourite touring experience. It was very frustrating to lose in terms of how close we were in the second Test, but I’ll never forget that first Lions tour. “Paul O’Connell stood up at the very start and told us a Lions tour is what you make of it. You have to take yourself out of your comfort zone because there’s such a short time for bonding. It was an old-school tour.”

20 16

“I know one or two of those guys from Belfast, but I didn’t know they were watching until after the game. They enjoyed that tour. “That’s one of the things I remember best from the Lions – the way supporters take over a city. And it’s not just red, it’s green, navy, white… all colours mixing together. The atmosphere for Lions matches is hard to beat.

“I roomed with Kieran Campbell from Ulster and the guys in this picture – Trevor (Hogan), Frankie (Sheahan) and Maggsy (Kevin Maggs) – were a lot of craic too. “I was the youngster and had to look after Broc, the teddy bear, and they made my life hell. They would distract me and Broc would be gone in a second, then I’d get fined for losing him!”

20 09 JUMP TO IT “This is me selling out to sponsors! Coca-Cola asked me what I do as a Christmas tradition and I said we go for a swim. My family do it all the time but I’ve done it about twice! “This was in November so it was freezing. It’s incredible to me that people do it on a daily basis. I said that I’d be getting in and out as quickly as I could, but my hair’s wet because this is my second or third go at it. Photographers are never happy!” n 48

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The Exeter loosehead talks England, economics and engaging conversations

Interview Alan Dymock // Pictures Getty Images

Age 25 (30 March 1993) Place of birth Perth, Australia Club Exeter Position Loosehead Height 6ft 1in Weight 17st England caps Two


E IS part of the relentless Exeter Chiefs side gunning for another Aviva Premiership title, but there is more to Alec Hepburn than scuttling around Sandy Park. Born in Australia, he took up rugby as a teenager at school in England. Here he talks through his journey across the hemispheres…


Riding high Alec Hepburn on a burst against Saracens


all the school records, while I always had to work harder than him. He was a full-back or wing. Me and Harry Williams don’t mind a bit of discourse now and again… There’s more to our relationship than that, but we try to keep our finger on the pulse, what’s going on in the wider world. We’ll often talk about it at lunch tables and drag a few others into it. Or they get caught in the crossfire. We live together, alongside James Freeman. I think we’re cut from the same cloth. We avoided a PlayStation for a long time. But that Fortnite business seemed to get quite addictive. Harry ended up getting a PlayStation, probably to the detriment of future conversations! Writing is an area I’m interested in, but in the sphere of current affairs. I was thinking about where that path could lead, if pursued correctly. I once did an article for Exeter Living, but then I got an email from the editor saying it was a bit too high-brow! I’ve got a fond interest in economics. I don’t go out of my way to look at things differently, but I don’t mind sitting back and looking at the full picture before evaluating something. All of that probably derives from the constant pursuit of the age-old question: Why? Being with England is a very different stimulus to club rugby. Exeter play and train differently. So from that perspective, it was beneficial to see the game through a different pair of eyes. It’s a different way to skin the cat really. The training systems are different, the days are different, the style is different. I coached Olympic weightlifting in Perth. I enjoyed seeing the satisfaction that people had in getting better. It’s the same with coaching rugby. Wins have been hard to come by this year for the mighty Crediton, who I help coach, but when they do win it’s a very satisfying feeling. I got involved with them through ‘rat man’ Haydn Thomas. He knew people down there and suggested I do a bit of coaching. It’s better than sitting on your hands at night. I do it with Sam Hill and we like a bit of a joke. We keep it very light-hearted. n


I played for England U20 and had a year at London Welsh. After that it got to the point where I was a bit homesick. My family had

moved back to Australia, my dad was a little worse for wear and I felt the time was right to go back. I sort of walked the plank a bit, going back to Perth. I didn’t have anything teed up. I had an informal meeting at Western Force. They said, ‘Yeah, play some rugby and we’ll take it from there’. They had just started the NRC competition. I played a couple of games for Perth Spirit and then got injured. I ended up looking after my own operation on my knee cartilage. Mitch Lees sent me a message asking if I wanted to speak with Rob Hunter at Exeter. I knew Rob from his coaching with the U20s. It was a very casual sort of thing, because I’d played with Mitch at Welsh. From there the ball was rolling in the right direction. It wasn’t the fault of anyone at Western Force. I was in a grey area. But Exeter and Rob Baxter were happy to fly me over and look after medical stuff. From the get-go they took a keen interest. The rehab side in Exeter is tough. But, believe me, very good. They work every part of the body. From that moment I’ve felt a lot of loyalty towards them. Especially after they had expressed loyalty to me when they didn’t have to. I just play rugby like a rugby player. As much as I can be told off sometimes, I don’t mind throwing passes – though sometimes they’re speculative. I enjoy every aspect of the game; I enjoy being on the ball when I can and I’m hopefully doing something with it when I am. I think Exeter do a lot with the individual. They will see certain aspects they like and it’s not usually the obvious thing. You might think they look at a video clip of a carry or a tackle, but they are looking at you running back 50 metres and showing some good character traits. I do firmly believe most people thoroughly improve under their coaching. My mum and my sisters are in Australia now. Dad’s living in Spain and my brother, George, has been travelling for about three years – he’s in Colombia. He got made redundant and has been on the road ever since. My brother’s represented Malta. He beat me to getting a first cap, which he was laughing about. He was a very gifted athlete and had


Starting point A Spain player after losing to Belgium – the game that threw RWC 2019 qualifying into disarray 52


Ru gby’s m ost ou t s p o ke n an d in f lu e nt i al journ ali st

“We can restore the ethics of the sport” The World Cup qualifying controversy has put player eligibility under the microscope. Stephen Jones has a solution to end the confusion

LIGIBILITY. Who can play for which country. You think it would be simple but it is fiendish. And suddenly, we realise what we thought was a bold move made last year should have been way bolder and that we probably needed a thunderbolt to have any real effect. I reveal a suggested thunderbolt herein. The problem with allowing people to effectively cross what should be sealed borders to play


Test rugby is that the international game is still being devalued and we are still dealing with a miasma of sharp practice and laziness. And players are being press-ganged in the manner of naval recruiters of bygone days. The original measure to curb some of this took World Rugby too much time, but they got there in the end. With several countries on the point of fielding more foreign nationals than those born within their borders, World Rugby tried to slam the door shut. Tried. 53

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They increased the residential qualifying period for foreign players to participate for another country from three to five years, which made it more difficult and less attractive for so-called ‘project players’ to switch nations. You didn’t get a game for your country? Not good enough? Poor dear. Here’s a bung, live with us for a short while, learn another anthem (or at least to mumble it), and off you go in a new jersey. Of course, we know most project players disappear back to their

Stephen Jones

original home once their contract is over. You can think of precious few who use their new nations for fame and money, then actually stay to help out. People say it’s unfair on the nations that have smaller numbers not to be able to recruit from elsewhere. Sorry, but it’s just tough. National resources are, well, national resources. There may be no mountains to speak of in Holland but that doesn’t mean we have to erect cardboard replicas to make the Dutch feel better. They already have the advantage in dikes and polders. Laziness comes in when teams recruit from elsewhere instead of developing their own systems. Of nations most keen on annexing another’s players – France, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Australia, New Zealand – there is no doubt that some have simply not been good enough in their own development process, and have elected to go elsewhere as a matter of convenience. Some of the

have ever played. If they won, they would reach the World Cup next year and, more than that, would play hosts Japan in the opening game in Tokyo. That would roughly quadruple the rugby profile Spain have enjoyed in their country in one day. They lost in controversial circumstances given all the officials were Romanian and Romania were the country to benefit from the defeat and qualify automatically for RWC 2019. However, although the first inclination of World Rugby was to order a replay, that game became something of a side issue. The bigger issue was that Belgium, Romania and Spain were all accused of fielding ineligible players during their campaign. Belgium apparently decided that the regulation allowing players to opt for the land of their grandparents

Instead of some teams coming o u t l i k e a F e s t i v a l X V, t h e y can regain a full identity extended to great-grandparents. These reports followed the news that World Rugby had removed Tahiti from the World Cup qualifying process after they were found guilty of fielding two ineligible players in their win over the Cook Islands. World Rugby rightly wheeled out the legal eagles to investigate the claims in Europe too. Disaster area. No doubt some players were correctly deemed to be eligible, others were mistakenly believed to be eligible and others were simply not

eligible and some people knew it but carried on regardless. And again, the focus goes back to the original regulations. From 1 January 2018, World Rugby removed the right of nations to declare their U20s as a team that ‘captured’ players forever. Good move. That age group was scandalously early for anyone to make a decision as to their national allegiance. But it is still the case that whatever 15-a-side team a union nominates as their ‘second representative team’, say England Saxons or French Barbarians, a country can only capture players if they are playing against another nation’s second team. Many of these teams play few, if any, games and they are often not ‘capture’ games due to the opposition. And most ridiculously of all, a union’s sevens team is still classed as a capture team. This plays into the hands of the cynics because there are international coaches in the game who will gladly trap a player by parking them in some lower team just in case they are needed in the future, with the interests of the player way down the list of priorities. We can end the confusion, we can restore balance and the ethics of the

Border crossing Nathan Hughes in action for England against Fiji

PICS Getty Images

converts have also been real turkeys. So you want to wait three years for that? My immediate reaction when the residency period was increased to five years was fairly basic. If people hate the idea of project players that much, why not make it ten years, or 20? Or better still, allow no one to change teams under a flag of convenience. When the vote was eventually taken, in 2017, it was unanimous. That was suspicious as a few countries were desperate to keep open the corridor of shame. You assume there was some form of trade-off so they all changed their minds and it looked as if the game was going forward with unanimity. As the five-year measure doesn’t come in until 2020, it is only players who have moved to a different country since the start of this year who will be affected. Any who moved last year will still become eligible if they complete three years of residency, with several nations scuttling for the last few rejects before the drawbridge came down. Recently, the confusion and pain has grown still more, and given us whole banquets of food for thought. The sorry sage of ‘Españagate’, in other words the mess surrounding the Belgium-Spain tie in the Rugby Europe Championship, has revived the debate about eligibility. That game was the most important that Spain

Controversial pick NZ-born Bundee Aki’s Ireland selection provoked debate


Stephen Jones

Ups and downs Romania enjoy beating Samoa – but the eligibility of some players has been questioned


sport. Here’s how. To hell with the grandparents rule, to hell with capturing players through sevens and nominated second teams, to hell with any time limit on residential qualifications. Let us restrict players to international rugby for the country of their birth or of their mother or father’s birth. That’s that. No other means of qualifying. Consider the effect of the restrictions. Everyone will know their national anthem, no mumbling. But far more than that, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, not to mention South Africa, will be able to pick from their strongest players. New Zealand will have to make do with New Zealand-born players and Australia will no longer be able to field a back division comprised mostly of Fijians. The Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy, will either be playing for Tonga through their parents or New Zealand/Australia through birth, and if they choose Tonga, Taulupe Faletau will be alongside them. No flags of convenience. Suddenly, a whole new raft of contenders for the World Cup comes rising to the surface, and the sporting and business communities have other people to sponsor. New Zealand need not worry. They cannot play the sons of Fijians or Tongans or Samoans who have moved to New Zealand but they only have to wait a generation. The sons of the sons will be eligible for them and they can resume as before.

Laughably, we were told by one professional observer recently that rugby union should go the same way as rugby league. The eligibility rules for their World Cup appear to be that anyone can play for anyone, regardless of whether they have actually visited the country. But that is their own affair and rugby league has to hide the fact that they only have three proper international teams, of which only two – Australia and New Zealand – ever win anything that is worth winning. And more yet. The game ought to reverse the process, just as it clamps down on those interfering old grandparents and the other tricks of the trade. One year before every World Cup, there should be a moratorium. Under this, everyone who had for any reason joined a Tier One national team that is not of their birth or one of their parent’s birth, can switch back to the Tier Two or Three country they or their parents were born in. Think of the advantages. There are a good few players who have only won a few caps for a Test team and then been rudely discarded. They can come back into action to boost the lesser teams. Also, when big Billy Vunipola is slightly past his best, he can return to play for Tonga and Nathan Hughes for Fiji. Only one switch would be allowed, and players must declare their 55

Here are the four ways a player can be eligible to represent a country at international level under World Rugby’s Regulation 8: They were born in the country. They have a parent or grandparent who was born in the country. They have lived in the country for 36 consecutive months – this increases to 60 months in 2020. They have completed ten years of cumulative residence in the country. A player is tied to a country if they play for any of the following teams in a match against another ‘capturing team’: The senior 15-a-side national representative team. The next senior 15-a-side national representative team, eg England Saxons, Ireland Wolfhounds. The senior seven-a-side national representative team. For more info, see

intentions one year before the World Cup so everyone can help with their planning. The effect will be an international game that is richer, more passionate, much easier to police, and with far less potential for skulduggery and embarrassment. For me, the five-year rule is only a start. The process must continue, players should be herded back into their proper teams by World Rugby statute and morality. Instead of some teams coming out like a Festival XV, they can regain a full identity. International selection should be done on nationality. Not on bungs, convenience and job offers. It’s time for the anthem-mumblers to go home. n

My Day Off

In focus Ospreys attack



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My Day Off

Check-up Pre-ride inspection


Joy ride Enjoying the views – and roads (below) – in the Brecon Beacons


S THE final buildings of Brynamman are left behind and the Brecon Beacons open up ahead, Jeff Hassler overtakes us. The Ospreys and Canada wing has been patiently following Rugby World from the Liberty Stadium to the vast expanse of the national park, but the sight of the road winding in and out of the hills simply proves too inviting, so he hits the throttle to see how his Triumph Scrambler handles the bends. Our photographer has undoubtedly picked a winning location, one also favoured by Top Gear. It may have been a 40-minute journey but the destination receives an overwhelming thumbs-up from Hassler, so much so that when RW has finished shooting he heads off around another hairpin to see where the road will take him, banking on his sense of direction to guide him home. Hassler bought the bike a year ago but he’d had his eye on the model for a long while, so he took his time to find the right one. There were only six Scramblers on sale when he looked and he went to Derby to get this one, which, with 6,000 miles on the clock, was in good shape. He’s clearly something of a motorbike aficionado as while we make the most of the UK’s hottest April day in nearly 70 years, sitting on a bench that looks over the valley below, his ears prick and his eyes move to the road every time he discerns the unmistakable sound of a bike engine making its way past. The 26-year-old grew up riding dirt and quad bikes in the Alberta countryside, and now he’s exploring aboard his Triumph – or just taking it to training! “If it’s not raining I’ll ride it. I haven’t got a nice car so I’ll jump on this as much as I can,” he says. “There’s the adrenalin. That’s always fun, when you go round a corner a bit quick and your heart is in your throat a little! There’s the freedom too. Any time there’s nice weather I’ll get on the bike and see the countryside

My Day Off

Flying Osprey Diving over for a try

Close-up The gear

Round the bend Seeing how his Triumph handles around Wales. I’ve no reason to drive up here in a car, so it’s a chance to go to places I’d never get to see. “I did a cool trip last summer. I went down through the South of England with a tent on the back of my bike. I went through Southampton, stayed in the New Forest and saw Stonehenge on the way back. The roads were great. “One of the best days I’ve had over here was soon after I got the bike. It was a day like today and I took it to Swansea Airport and did three (sky-diving) jumps on my own and then went for a three-hour ride. I remember thinking, ‘It doesn’t get much better than this’.” As our conversation continues, it’s clear Hassler has myriad ways to keep busy on any days off – many of them providing that adrenalin rush. There’s the aforementioned sky-diving (he got his licence after an eight-hour intensive course and describes it as “sensory overload”). He has two paddleboards he takes out around Caswell Bay and is learning to paddle surf (“you use the paddleboard to get about, then you can surf by leaning back on the paddle and curving into the wave”). He would ski every weekend growing up and recently took a trip to the slopes around Lake Geneva – the first time he’d been on skis in seven years. He’s got his

scuba-diving licence and is planning a trip to the Red Sea this month. A few weeks ago he went for a hike around Brecon’s waterfalls. He has a helicopter taster flight to organise and Ian Gough has offered to take him up in his plane. He’s also looking into paragliding courses. Phew! There’s a wry smile when asked what he makes of so eight hours of walking, hiking and many of his team-mates preferring to climbing rocks. There are some pretty while away their spare time on the sofa wicked spots out there. I take people to playing computer games instead of a couple of favourites on their doorstep embracing the outdoors as he does. and they’ve never been before.” Maybe it’s a Canadian thing. “I try to This thirst for adventure isn’t always take the guys out with me, but they say pain-free. There was one occasion when they’ve got to save their legs for the he cut his head open when standing up weekend. I’ll say they’ve got three in a cave without realising the lowness days to recover in between. of the ceiling, but once the “When Tyler Ardron (the blood had stopped flowing, Canada forward who has he continued with the rest swapped the Ospreys for of the day’s activities, which Super Rugby side the Chiefs) including rock climbing for Age 26 (21 Aug 1991) was here, we’d go out all the several hours. When he went Born Okotoks, Alberta to hospital later that night, he time, walk along beaches Region Ospreys and find caves and stuff. We was scolded for not getting Position Wing found so many different treatment earlier and needed Height 5ft 10in spots and I’ll take the Welsh five stitches (which he later Weight 14st 6lb guys to one and they didn’t asked Ardron to remove so Canada caps 18 (4T) even know it was there. his coaches didn’t wonder Instagram jeffhassler what he’d been up to). We’d come across them after



My Day Off

The great outdoors The wing’s childhood holidays were spent camping around Canada

Home office But Hassler is leaving the Ospreys at the end of the season The reward outweighs the risk from Hassler’s perspective. “It (rugby) is my career but I still want to enjoy myself in my free time. I don’t have family over here and if I didn’t do this stuff I’d miss home a lot. Wherever I am, I want to make the best of it and coming over here was all about experiencing things.” Case in point: if there’s a flight sale, he’ll book three flights for £15 apiece for various dates he thinks he could have time off, knowing if the schedule isn’t agreeable he isn’t hugely out of pocket. Next on the agenda is a seven-day hike with his dad along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island at the end of

May, then who knows? This month will be his last at the Ospreys as his contract is not being extended. In June he should be playing in Canada’s Tests against Scotland, USA and Russia, but he’s unsure what life holds after that. His agent is looking around for options but Hassler is sanguine about the future. “Some of the guys think it’s crazy that I don’t know what I’ll be doing when the season is over, but I’m pretty chilled. I’m not stressed about it. I can go travelling.

“The last World Cup was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been part of, so the thought of not qualifying… We had a chance with the games against Uruguay and losing was shattering; we were so gutted. We’ve got one more shot at it and we’re doing everything to get there. It’s the pinnacle of the sport and it will be pretty devastating if we don’t make it.” The fact they’ve not already qualified has created financial problems for the union. Rugby Canada has increased the

“I want to enjoy myself in my free time. Coming here was all ab out exp eriencing t hings” We’ll see what happens, see what crops up – it depends where the wind blows. “I’ve been here five years and there are no hard feelings or anything like that. I’ve enjoyed my time here and they gave me my first contract, so I’ll always be thankful for that opportunity.” While his club future is up in the Fashion statement air, Hassler has a A fitting T-shirt clear goal on the Test stage: helping Canada to qualify for the 2019 World Cup. They lost 70-60 on aggregate to Uruguay in the Americas 2 play-off so now they have to win the four-team repêchage tournament in November to book their ticket to Japan. 59

registration fees amateur players pay to help cover the costs of the Test team’s preparation for the repêchage phase. Despite the controversy, Hassler believes rugby is still a growing sport in Canada, albeit that sevens may have the edge over 15s since its Olympics inclusion. “I’m a 15s guy and I enjoy 15s more, but I don’t think it’s good or bad (the sevens focus). It’s still rugby. Kids enjoy playing it and see it as exciting.” At least children are being introduced to the sport at a younger age. Hassler had no idea about rugby until his English PE teacher suggested the school’s Canadian Football team gave rugby a go in the off-season when he was 17. “We’d never heard of it. He showed us a video and said that you run and hit people. He asked us to consider it. We said ‘Yep!’” That willingness to try different things ensures Hassler packs his life with new experiences. Wherever rugby takes him next, more adventures await. n



Fly-half or full-back? Leinster or elsewhere? Questions surround this prodigious talent

Words Peter O’Reilly // Pictures Inpho

Age 22 (1 Nov 1995) Born Auckland, NZ Province Leinster Position Fly-half or full-back Height 6ft Weight 13st 12lb Ireland caps Ten Points 22 (11C) Instagram joeycarbery


EST RUGBY must seem easy to Joe Carbery. Only 22 and with ten caps, he still doesn’t know what it feels like to lose at this level. What’s more, he’s been centre stage for two of the most celebrated moments in Irish rugby history: in Chicago, on his Test debut, when Ireland beat New Zealand for the first time, and at Twickenham, when they secured only their third Grand Slam. Joe Schmidt describes Carbery as “a bit special”. Johnny Sexton



up in Dargaville on New Zealand’s North Island, to an Irish mother and Kiwi father. The family moved to County Kildare when Joey was 11 and his rugby education continued at Athy RFC and Blackrock College. Carbery’s career progressed on standard lines – Ireland U20, Leinster Academy – but there was still a fairy-tale element. Schmidt just happened to witness an outstanding display for Clontarf in the All-Ireland League final in May 2016. Five months later, Carbery came off the bench at Soldier Field, soon after his 21st birthday. The match situation was impossibly tense but the debutant looked remarkably calm, whether flinging the long, daring pass to spark the attack that ultimately led to Robbie Henshaw’s winning try or punting beautifully into a tiny target area to relieve pressure. But perhaps the best illustration of what Carbery offers came the following November, against Fiji, as he set up a try – the jink inside one defender, the arcing run back outside and the laser-like pass off his left hand, allowing Darren Sweetnam to catch and score without breaking stride. As Schmidt said, a bit special. Because of a wrist injury sustained in the same game, Carbery got just 22 minutes of competitive action for Leinster before the Six Nations. That didn’t stop Schmidt from putting him straight onto the bench. Schmidt would like him to start more for Leinster, clearly, but also backs Carbery’s ability to keep improving. The player’s role model is Beauden Barrett, who had to wait behind Dan Carter before owning the All Blacks No 10 jersey, and whose apprenticeship involved cameos at 15. “He was World Player of the Year last year, so it obviously worked for him,” Carbery’s said. “If I can keep developing my game, both ten and 15, then being ready to play for wherever the team needs me will put me in a better position. “I want to keep getting better and hopefully, maybe become one of the best players in the world. That would be my ambition so if I can keep improving every day, that will keep me grounded and make me want to work harder.” n


Air commander Carbery takes a high ball against Munster

says “Joey has all the makings of a top-class 15”, uttering the line with a barely perceptible wink. And this leads us to the only problem with Carbery: finding the best slot – or even the best province – for him to display his obviously prodigious talents. Schmidt wants him as back-up fly-half to Sexton all the way to next year’s World Cup. Yet how many games has Carbery started at ten for Leinster this season? Going into the last two rounds of the Guinness Pro14, just one – a defeat by Treviso at the RDS. Stuart Lancaster has slightly different plans. For Leinster’s big games, Carbery is usually an impact sub with a roving brief, especially if Sexton is still on the pitch, offering himself as a second playmaker and thus spreading Leinster’s attacking threat. This makes practical sense, especially with Rob Kearney in such fine form at full-back, but it limits Carbery’s playing minutes and surely limits his rate of progress. Viewed from the IRFU’s point of view, the most sensible idea would be to relocate him. The sacking of Paddy Jackson leaves an obvious gap at Ulster, though Carbery has yet to prove himself as a goalkicker equal to Jackson. It has also been suggested that Carbery would get greater exposure at Munster. But Carbery has no interest in switching. “I’m pretty happy in Leinster,” Carbery said recently. “The coaches have confidence in me. I don’t see myself moving. “As far as when the time comes to be No 1, whether it be ten or 15, playing week in, week out for Leinster and Ireland – that is the end goal, the main ambition. It is very tough to put a timeline on it. You don’t know what will happen. One injury could change it all. “I’m very ambitious. If I could be No 1 choice, I would be. Look, I can’t be impatient. Otherwise I won’t be happy. I’m pretty happy with where I am at the moment. “People say I need more game-time. (But) the teams are winning, it’s not like we’re losing or not going well. I’m learning every day. I can’t really complain with the Grand Slam medal either.” These words are delivered in a mongrel accent – half-Kiwi, half-South Dublin. Carbery grew

TEST WINS IN A ROW WYATT CROCKETT The NZ prop (below) is top with 32 straight Test wins (2014-17)

LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO The No 8 notched 28 consecutive victories from 2000-04

BEN KAY & BRODIE RETALLICK The locks are tied on 22 successive wins





EALING TRAILFINDERS Words Alan Dymock // Pictures Sam Riley

West London is the latest stop on ALAN DYMOCK’s intrepid journey – and on a glorious day he finds an Ealing side plotting a brighter future Fancy a lift? No need for dumb-bells when Dymock’s around


Welcome To My Club


AVING STOOD by for speeches, backslaps and a final huddle, the Ealing Trailfinders players are keen to get into their dressing room. So as I approach the dispersing herd, there are a few odd looks. But hold on… spray me with the water bottles? Okay! In truth this trip to Ealing was meant to be about rugby. Well, rugby and politics. But as we scrambled around the ground it became obvious that the easiest asset to make use of here is the staff. All day, club officials, players – playing, resting or injured – and coaches make time for Rugby World. When we arrive on leafy Vallis Way hours ahead of play, we are allowed to play around with the scoreboard – we refuse to just type in ‘80085’ like an old-school calculator gag (despite snapper Sam Riley wanting to). Later, the same photographer wants shots of me getting ambush-tackled from behind by centre Lewis Jones. Without even asking why, Jones knocks me over. And the spraying in the face with

water bottles is a nice treat for everyone. We get the photograph we want, while the players get to drench this odd bloke. Thankfully it is a scorcher in Ealing. Yet with Bristol clinching the Greene King IPA Championship title after Trailfinders lost heavily to Doncaster, the excitement about a run to the Premiership has now cooled. Still, a win against Hartpury will secure them a second-place finish. For some it wasn’t meant to be like this. Ealing pushing for Premiership promotion? Come on now. They’ve gone from fighting off relegation one season to third spot the next. And now this. “The first five weeks of the season when we got five wins from five, with five bonus points, everyone was sitting there going, ‘What the hell’s going on here?’” says hooker Alun Walker, enjoying a coffee in the sunshine before his match prep begins. Walker, who has signed on for next season’s campaign, will end today’s game with the Man of the Match award and a couple of tries – taking his personal tally to 20 this season.

THE BASICS Home The borough of Ealing, out in the leafy suburbs of West London. Team colours Green and white hoops with the merest hint of orange piping. Stadium Trailfinders Sports Ground in West Ealing, the pride and joy of the club and their ambitious owner Mike Gooley. They also share their ground with the London Broncos rugby league team. Greatest player This isn’t going back through the annals, but in recent years ex-wing Phil Chesters scored tries for fun – including an eye-popping 70 in 2010-11.

Shifting tin Dymock struggling

Charming! Ealing welcome us

Inner sanctum Ealing’s dressing room


Welcome To My Club He goes on: “We expected it of ourselves but no one else expected it. We pushed Bristol the whole way until the Doncaster game. There was just something not quite there. But that’s sport. Teams are going to slip up. “It’s exciting to do this. It depends what happens with the squad, but it’s exciting times to sign on for seasons ahead.” Certainly there is a buzz about Ealing. Owned by Mike Gooley, the founder of travel company Trailfinders, they have built their way up. He has overseen the metamorphosis of this club into one with an impressive 3G playing surface, a full-time set-up and bold plans ahead. The club is held up by many as the Cinderella who could realise their Premiership dream, so long as promotion and relegation is not ceased in the top flight, turning us all into pumpkins. Director of rugby Ben Ward gives his view on the promotion debate. “I can understand where they’re coming from

with ring-fencing, to a degree. But if you were to ring-fence you would expand the league to even 16 sides and include a few with a chance to grow. Coventry are the next big side looking to put plans in place. Cornish Pirates have their stadium and there’s Yorkshire as well. “Fundamentally, I don’t agree with it. We’ve always had promotion-relegation, whether in football or rugby. They tried a franchise system in league that didn’t work. What happens in two years’ time if one of the Premiership sides goes bust?

Feeding time …with chips

“How many are up for sale right now? How many are making a loss? So what is there to say that they’ll be sustainable, or are we saying that if we ring-fence it then these people can spend less? “If we ever did go to the Premiership, we will be at a huge disadvantage financially, and London Welsh had that when they went up. The central funding for us would be worth about a third of the other sides’ due to the shares that we have. I don’t see why that’s fair.” Ward does like the effort of his players, who “worked their nuts off”. He’d have liked a bit more luck in their battles with Bristol this season, but he’s delighted with the way the team took to their task. And he is clearly ambitious. At one point he addresses speculation about big-name Premiership players being talked about, saying: “Some of the signings that have been mentioned in the press, I don’t think we’re quite there yet… but I don’t think we’re far away.”

“What happens in t wo years’ t ime if one of the Premiership sides goes bust?”

Nice shades Local fans

On the attack Ealing scored eight tries 64

Coffee morning With Alun Walker Not all heroes wear shorts, however. Sometimes you have to look away from the play to see the true warrior. On this day we are, of course, talking about Paul Widdowson, Mr Bouncy Castle. He lets me plop down an almost abandoned inflatable slide meant for children. At the tail-end of the Easter holidays, many parents are still away. Next week they expect much greater numbers for the British & Irish Cup semi-final. And they hope the Tyrrells Premier 15s final there will be a big occasion. Back at the bar, fans discuss whether they would like to see Ealing play at Harlequins’ Stoop, Brentford FC’s new ground or even Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage should they get promoted soon. One is adamant he’d rather stay in the Championship, at their home ground. Another fancifully says it’s alright, their ground will be fine for the Pro14. Of course, everyone wants regularly larger crowds and to stop hearing ‘800 fans on average’ as gospel. So what do the blazers feel will bring more bodies?

Cooling down Post-match action “I think it will be the continuation of our brand of rugby,” says the president, Dick Craig. “If we’re successful in going up to the next level then ‘If you build it they will come’, as they say in Field of Dreams. “It’s frustrating we don’t get crowds in line with what we’ve achieved or the standard of play we have, but we’re not Bedford. With the greatest respect, there’s nothing else happening there on a Saturday and they go to the rugby.” Would Ward like to see the London ground jam-packed before any hypothetical promotion? “Yeah, 100%. But it doesn’t happen right away. Look at Bedford – they’ve grown over a long period, they’ve been to the Premiership, they’ve come back down. They’ve got the name. Richmond have the name and the history. Scottish too. We’re in the process of writing our history.” Defences take the day off as Hartpury are handily dispatched, 54-36. Second

Is he stuck? Bouncy castle place is duly secured and Ealing can gleefully turn their eyes to next season. Not all is so certain for next term. With a huge turnover of players and many pros dropping down from the Prem, they have a job getting everyone to gel. And of course, the political debate roars on. Yet with the sun still roasting and T-shirts gently drying, it’s okay to enjoy this. As Craig says: “Finishing second? That’s pretty damn good going.” n





We know they don’t get big numbers – it’s a ‘work-on’. And they leave it late to get through the gate. Nice crowd, though.

A bit cafeteria-like with the old grub. The pulled pork was unlike any I’ve ever seen. However, decent chip game.

After a faux pas picking the house lager, named after the club, it was on to more traditional fare. Some decent pints.

Perhaps accessibility was easier due to the smaller crowd size, but either way the club can boast about their facilities.

5 6 7 8 9





Hamish Watson discusses breakdown skills, life in the bubble and his thriving hat business



Words Alan Dymock // Main Picture Billy Stickland/Inpho

E IS wearing a cap. Of course. He has slid halfway into a booth with his back to the door, flat white in front of him. But Hamish Watson is not keeping a low profile. Sure, he is now going to miss out on the rest of this season due to a shoulder operation, but this is the openside flanker showing off the goods. Watson and his brothers – Angus is the oldest, Hector the youngest – run Rex Club, a bespoke baseball cap business where they take a pre-made shell of a cap and embroider any design you want. They have recently branched out into bobble hats, though those are not made in-house. At least that’s how it was. “We’ve got to a stage now where we’re getting so many calls that it’s taking three weeks to get out the orders,” Watson says, clearly proud. “We need to expand. So we’ve just gone into new premises but we’re going to try to keep embroidery as it is, because that’s how we like to do it, and just get bigger machines so we can turn out better production (numbers). We’ll also employ two new members of staff.”


Scotland Okay, okay, go back a bit. How did all of this hat business actually begin? “It started about four years ago,” says Watson. “Me and my brother love going to America. Hats are pretty prolific there – everyone wears hats. We’ve seen the New York Giants in the NFL three times. And you’d get kids at games wearing hats, all the way up to their grampas taking them to the game, wearing hats. “Gus was keen for something different, he was in a job he didn’t like and wanted to stretch out. We both loved wearing American caps anyway – and we saw in this store called Lids that you could get plain caps and get whatever you wanted embroidered on them. We were like, ‘Why is no one doing this back home?’ “With rugby teams, we saw a pretty big gap in the market. From there we sourced a hat supplier. Then we got an embroidery machine – we pride ourselves on the quality of hat we’re providing. We do all the embroidery in-house. That’s our main selling point.” A reminder here: Watson was 22 when this venture began. This was before he was Scotland’s go-to openside flanker. Before he was the shoo-in starter for Edinburgh. Before he was scoring incredible tries against Australia or winning a Calcutta Cup. He was a kid.

Born to run Scoring against Stade Français in January

“ Yo u ’ r e i n a s o r t o f r u g b y b u b b l e . W h e n p l a y e r s g e t t o t h e e n d o f t h e i r c a r e e r t h e y c a n s t r u g g l e” It was also a time when injury, stopping him from playing with Edinburgh or Scotland, would look like a disaster. He has mixed emotions about his first Test cap in 2015, a defeat by Italy in which he took a team yellow card just before the Azzurri got a match-winning penalty try. He has gone on to amass 20 caps but has only featured in two June Tests: that stirring win last summer in Australia, in which he finished off a cracking team try, and the following week’s defeat by Fiji. Having undergone a shoulder clear-up, there will be no tour of the Americas

PICS Getty Images & Inpho

FACT FILE Age 26 (15 Oct 1991) Born Manchester Team Edinburgh Position Flanker Height 6ft 1in Weight 16st Test caps 20 Test points 10 (2T) Twitter handle @hamishwatson7

with Scotland this summer. He missed Edinburgh’s flirt with a title run. But he has the business to keep him occupied. As Watson explains, athletes need other avenues ahead, away from playing. “Originally when we set up Rex Club I was 22, so life after rugby wasn’t in my mind. You’re young and you don’t think about those sorts of things. I think I’ve still got a good amount of years ahead of me, but every rugby player has to have a plan for life after rugby. “You definitely are in a sort of rugby bubble. When players get to the end of their career they can struggle. The whole week’s laid out for you, you get a schedule, you go to an airport, you get told when to go on a plane, when to get off… It’s all there for you, which is great. But especially when players pick up bad injuries or their career ends a bit early, that’s a time when you can struggle with depression. “I think a lot of us at times hate that pressure, but you also live for the pressure as well. 68

Like in those big games you play for Edinburgh or Scotland at BT Murrayfield. When that’s gone you can struggle and I think that’s why a lot of players go into coaching. They need that pressure, to have games at the weekend. It’s a topic that’s coming up a lot at the moment, with the mental health stuff, and it’s important to have something lined up.” Watson’s laugh ranges from a deep ‘hur-hur’ to a teeth-baring chuckle. He’s generous with it. He may cringe at the description but it shows he’s normal. He discusses the rise of eSports, pondering where it can go in the future. He’s no stranger to a YouTube stream. And he discusses how his introduction to senior Scottish rugby came through sevens and games at Edinburgh Accies, while trying to impress Michael Bradley and then Alan Solomons at Edinburgh. Leaving Leicester Tigers’ academy and heading north was a big step for the Manchester-born Watson, but he knew so many people in Edinburgh having played for Scotland age-grade sides. At the time the future of Scotland Sevens was in the air, but the young band of kids there didn’t think too much about that.



Four contenders for the No 7 shirt on Scotland’s tour of Canada, USA and Argentina Calcutta chuffed With Tommy Seymour after beating England

Promoting youth Richard Cockerill He went from ten games for Edinburgh in Bradley’s last season to struggling to get on Solomons’s radar, alongside many other pups. But he eventually battered down the door. His relationship with Solomons was strong in the end but Watson loves the fact that current boss Richard Cockerill rewards youth. He ponders whether a coach backing him earlier would have pushed him on, but there’s no way to tell. What he does know is that Cockerill’s promotion of Blair Kinghorn, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury and Luke Crosbie is positive. With the number on his back, though, Watson will forever be scrutinised for how he plays in certain areas of the game. He opens up about the demands. “As a seven, you’ve always got to work

on breakdown skills. But with jackling, you’ve either been good at it from a young age – you’ve got it or you haven’t – or there’s other areas you can work on. “You have to go with new ruck rules as much as possible. They have made it a lot harder for sevens. But I think you have gotta be decent at everything. “Ten years ago a seven could have been awesome at jackling and got five steals a game, but now it’s a lot harder to get those steals. Slowing ball down is a massive thing we focus on in Scotland camp. It’s not just, ‘Well done this guy, he’s got three turnovers.’ It’s also about how many players you commit to a ruck. “So if you’re on the ball and you commit another three guys to a ruck, that’s going to make your defensive line a lot better. They have less width. Slowing the ball down by three seconds is massive now; everyone wants under-two-second ball.” So how do you feel when you hear the catchphrase ‘bring back rucking’? “I don’t really know what they mean,” he says. “‘Bring back rucking’ – what do they want? Raking people in the head? I like the way the game is going. Okay, these current ruck rules stop a seven getting as many turnovers, but everyone wants to see the quick brand of rugby that everyone’s trying to play now. “One, it’s more exciting and two, we’re not seeing ten-second rucks going on. Northern hemisphere rugby can be seen as quite forward-dominated, but now that’s not the case at all. We’re seeing such better games in the Six Nations. High-scoring games. That’s what the average fan wants to see.” This, he admits, helps. It’s a style of play that suits him and Scotland. Pinballing off defenders and doing his parasitic best in defence, Watson has thrived lately. He hopes to be fresh for a big next season, with a trip to Japan a dream. He has been to Tokyo before for sevens but has never played in a World Cup. Wouldn’t that just cap everything off? n 69


A breakout star of the 2015 World Cup, Hardie has had a tough time. Stood down for off-field misbehaviour and set to leave Edinburgh, he still has an edge and dynamism about him.


Smith has danced round Glasgow’s interchangeable back row this season, but the 21-year-old Stirling product has stood out for his mobility and aggression. Scotland boss Gregor Townsend is said to be a big fan.


Another promising 21-year-old out of the Caledonia region, Ritchie has “thrilled” Cockerill and his Edinburgh coaches this season. He’s seen as a guiding light in the club’s new culture.


The 20-year-old’s rise at Edinburgh has been rapid. Although still raw and not a traditional seven, Crosbie’s industry and earnestness, twinned with versatility, has tongues wagging.

U20 World Cup



U20 World Cup

Words Sarah Mockford // Pictures Andrew Fosker

DREAMS Ahead of the Junior World Cup, Rugby World goes behind the scenes to find out what life is like in the England U20 camp ICHARD BLAZE is bent over and wrapping his arm around a chair in the hotel lobby. It’s an unusual way to demonstrate the body position needed to bind onto the back of a maul but allows him to show Gabriel Ibitoye the technique on the walk from breakfast to the team room. Wing Ibitoye was called on to pack down on the flank following a sin-binning the previous week and may be deployed in a driving maul if the opportunity arises. Rugby World is at the England U20 training base on the Loughborough University campus ahead of their final Six Nations match against Ireland to get a behind-the-scenes look at life


U20 World Cup

in camp for up-and-coming players, many of whom are still in their teens. By the time we arrive, the morning weigh-in is in full swing. Like most elite teams these days, the players complete a wellness questionnaire, do a few quick physical checks and step on the scales so the back-room staff can monitor them. The early-morning check-up is followed by breakfast and strapping (players can be very particular about this), while forwards coach Blaze also gives that ad-hoc maul tutorial. So what next? We’ll take you through a day in camp for the team aiming to lift the U20 World Championship trophy for the fourth time in six years in a few weeks – it kicks off in France on 30 May – and provide you with unique insights from players and coaches.

In a spin No 9 Ben White whips out a pass

9am MEETING OF MINDS The players split into forwards and backs to review the win over France and look ahead to Ireland. What stands out is how much of the meetings the players lead. Instead of a lecture-style briefing from the coaches, players are asked to talk through their decisions and pinpoint areas to target. Exeter prop Marcus Street, whose beard gives him the appearance of someone much older than 19, even provides in-depth analysis of the Ireland scrum – one of his work-ons is to speak more in meetings. “It’s really important we get a much better idea of their understanding,” explains England U20 head coach Steve Bates. “If you tell them what to do all the time you can’t judge whether they understand what you’re talking about. This way we stimulate them to take more responsibility and it’s much more beneficial. We can check their

knowledge and how much they are retaining information.”

10am PULLING THEIR WEIGHTS The squad hits the gym armed with clipboards detailing their weights regime. The individual programmes are set by their club and small groups of players position themselves around various machines. The team’s strength and conditioning staff assist if and when required, but the players are left to

complete their exercises. Some involve working together. There are pull-ups while another player, with arms around their waist, pulls down, and press-ups while a dumb-bell is held on their back. Ibitoye and hooker Gabriel Oghre move around the gym as a pair – these two clearly have more in common than a first name as the only time we don’t see them together all day is when the backs and forwards separate! And it’s not all serious. At one point a few players produce dance moves to accompany the music track in the gym and there’s a frisson of excitement when Dillian Whyte walks through, followed by comments about how big the boxer is.

11.15am UNITS OF MEASUREMENT A short walk from the gym, they get ready for an hour-long training session on one of the uni’s many pitches. In this instance they split into forwards and backs, although half-backs Ben White and James Grayson do run some moves with the pack in the first segment. As the forwards run through lineouts, the backs work through set plays and practise their high-ball technique, with Anthony Allen strapping a huge pad to his back for players to jump onto. The former England centre, who works with the Leicester Academy, is one of

Pull it together Ben Earl gets stuck into his weights regime 72

U20 World Cup


Right direction Coach James Ponton

the coaches seconded to the U20 set-up as part of an RFU-Premiership Rugby agreement. Blaze, the ex-Tigers lock, and Newcastle Academy coach James Ponton are the others. They are the ones taking charge of the training session, with Bates in an overseer role. “Part of this programme is coach development as well as player development,” explains Bates. “We want

“ I t ’s i m p o r t a n t t o ke e p i t f r e s h and challenge t h e m , ke e p t h e m o n t h e i r t o e s” them to be hands-on. There’s no point in them sitting around and watching me do it. They’re already good coaches; my job is to help them become better coaches. “When preparing for a session, I’ll ask what they’re trying to get out of it. Then we’ll review it and ask whether they achieved what they wanted to achieve. “I think the players get a lot out of working with younger guys around. They have just come out of the game and that’s a huge advantage.”

The players clearly appreciate the recent experience that the likes of Allen and Blaze have of playing, with captain Ben Earl saying: “The fact they’ve played at the top level helps us massively. There’s such vast knowledge there.” Allen, who won his two caps back in 2006 and is still only 31, talks of the challenges involved in building new relationships, with players and coaches, in a new environment and in a shorter period of time than he is used to at club level, but there’s no doubting he has enjoyed the learning curve. As for his approach to coaching, Allen says: “What’s really important is keeping it fresh and challenging them, keeping them on their toes. You need to move things forward over three or four weeks so you’re not doing the same thing. It’s still relevant but you can do it in a slightly different way.”

Here’s an example of a daily diet for England U20 players… 8am – Breakfast Poached eggs, avocado and spinach on wholemeal toast as well as berry and chia seed porridge. 11am – Refuel Very Berry Smoothie – milk-based smoothie with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, spinach and honey. 1pm – Lunch Piri-Piri chicken, sweet potato mash, greens, corn on the cob, followed by Greek yoghurt and fruit. 4.30pm – Refeed Chicken wrap with salad leaves, mixed peppers and hummus. 7pm – Dinner Teriyaki-style salmon with broad beans, sugar snap peas, courgettes and chargrilled almond flakes, followed by a dark chocolate and avocado mousse. 9pm – Recover Pineapple cottage cheese and milk.

2.15pm TAG TEAM Lunch is followed by a team meeting where several players, some rising Tuck in! from England A lunchtime refuel Rugby-branded beanbags, are tasked with making presentations. First there is news of which players have been added to the ‘Wall of Fame’ for their defensive work against France, then Josh Basham, Fraser Dingwall and Sam Moore are introduced against a backdrop of their faces superimposed on the bodies of three Spice Girls. The humour helps to keep the players engaged and the trio discuss what the key areas could be against Ireland before, as an entire group, determining three phrases to focus on that week. As the format for that afternoon’s session is laid out, Bates uses words like accurate, tempo, organisation and precise to pinpoint what he wants to see. Then he reveals the match-day 23 (those not selected were told during the lunch break so they could be prepared). 73

Come the World Cup, there will not be so much time to review and prepare, with four-day turnarounds between fixtures, which is why the groundwork laid during the Six Nations is so crucial. “There’s been a good balance between development and performance during a pretty intense five weeks,” says Bates. “We’ve got a better idea of all the players in the squad and they’ve got a chance to put technical elements into place. In the World Cup the games come thick and fast, and by default it’s a performance environment. Both are valuable for young players who aspire to play senior international rugby.”

3pm THE ACID TEST ‘Tabata’. It’s not a word RW is familiar with before this time spent with the

U20 World Cup

U20 WORLD CUP: THE DETAILS Bright prospect Gabriel Ibitoye has been called into senior England training U20s, but we hear it regularly in the afternoon. Research determines it’s a form of high-intensity interval training – that is clearly how Blaze has interpreted it when running a series of tabata drills. It’s left to Allen to provide the details: “It’s set-piece attack for a shortened period followed by another. So we’ll have a set-piece attack call, play for a number of phases over a short period of time, then launch another set-piece attack. A lot of reps!” It is all played at match speed with a referee on hand to adjudicate. After all, this is the ‘game test session’ and is designed to replicate match situations. It’s part of a shared strategy with the senior team – the coaches also look at how things work at U18 level to ensure the pathway is a smooth one – and gets players out of their comfort zone. Bates

says: “It’s about playing under duress in as realistic a situation as we can manufacture without a full-out game.” Players are challenged physically, jumping from 15 v 15 touch to running drills to ‘tabata’ and back again. It’s non-stop for a good hour, yet there is still the desire to put in that extra work at the end. No 8 Moore, for example, works on his ball skills in the scrum, binding onto a post, kicking a ball against it and reacting to where it moves (a tip England Women’s captain Sarah Hunter gave RW readers last year).

“ I t ’s p l a y i n g under duress in as realistic a situation a s w e c a n”

Ball control No 8 Sam Moore

4.30pm AND RELAXÉ Skipper Earl, who is on Saracens’ books, and Gloucester hooker Henry Walker are still recovering from that session when they sit down to chat to RW, their faces flushed from the previous hour’s exertion. So how do they switch off? “We have a team room and play cards,” says Walker. “Sometimes the coaches join in. We can’t focus on rugby all of the time or we’d go stir crazy.” Earl adds: “There are different characters. The two Gabs switch off listening to music. Some of us play cards – James Grayson is very good, Richard Blaze likes to think he’s good, 74

THE DATES Wednesday 30 May to Sunday 17 June THE POOLS Pool A Australia Japan New Zealand Wales Pool B Argentina England Italy Scotland Pool C France Georgia Ireland South Africa

THE VENUES Stade de la Méditerranée, Béziers Stade d’Honneur du Parc des Sport, Narbonne Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan THE TICKET INFO Tickets for the pool stages and semi-finals range from €5-25 while prices for finals day are €15-35. See for relevant links. For the fixtures, see The Directory P10-11

James Ponton is the worst cards player, he just shows his cards!” Cards are played for coffees whereas this summer they’re playing for a trophy on the rugby pitches of France. Earl and Walker have played together since U16 level and this will be their second U20 World Cup, having both been part of the team that lost 64-17 to New Zealand in last year’s final. The long-term goal may be senior England caps, but short term it’s silverware. They lost out to France in the Six Nations race but have another chance to lift a trophy next month. “This age group has been together a long time, we know one another and have been through the whole pathway together,” says Earl. “Hopefully that comes to fruition in the summer.” n

Focus on… club rugby Express service Val McDermott on his way to a try against City of Derry

Contributors Paul Bolton, Brian Owen, Alan Pearey & Steve Williams. PiCs Inpho & Pat Shanahan

Team of the Month Old Crescent

THERE’S NO arguing with the stats: 83 table points, 13 try bonus points and 635 game points were all pinnacles in this year’s Irish national leagues – and each figure belonged to Old Crescent, the first side to go unbeaten in the leagues since Terenure College in 2013-14. The Limerick outfit endured a slow decline from 2000-15 but the Division 2C title in 2016 was followed by a promotion play-off last year and now a sensational season of 17 wins and a draw in 2B. “We’re disappointed we didn’t get the

Vibrant club At a mini festival

perfect record,” says Patrick Rickard, who helps manage the team. “We led 33-14 at half-time at Barnhall but drew.” It was but a tiny blemish in a campaign that soared from the moment Ronan McKenna landed a late penalty winner at Rainey OB on opening day. The fly-half, along with centre Shane Mullally, lock David O’Brien and No 9 Gary Fitzgerald, was one of four key signings behind the side’s success. The addition of backs coach Matt Browne to DoR Eugene McGovern’s management team was another piece of the jigsaw. Brian Tuohy was a defensive maestro at full-back, Cian Reale a top lineout technician and tighthead Alex Simpson kept the scrum straight. But this was a team of many talents, as City of Derry discovered when being on the receiving end of a league record 104-0 hiding. There’s plenty to cherish elsewhere in the club. On 12 May Old Crescent will host a new youth team competition 75

for boys and girls aged 11-15, so filling a gap in the local market. It follows the success of the Pig ‘n’ Porter tag festival, which began in 2002 after the third XV celebrated a triumph with a pig on a spit, a couple of kegs of Guinness and a spot of tag rugby, just among themselves. They had such fun that they did it again and from that grew the world’s biggest tag festival, with teams coming from as far as Australia. This year’s festival on 7 July will feature around 130 entrants. Across the board, Old Crescent are getting things right and they are our April Team of the Month. Next month we pay tribute to all the champions.

ge t in touch Email stories and pictures to Clubs Editor Michael Austin at aus231@aol. com or call him on 01400 282189


Downtime “I’ve just got a house so I’ve been moving into that. I also have a few dogs so I walk them”

Wootton taking wing for Munster

In his breakthrough season, the Munster flyer tells RW’s Sarah Mockford he knew his time would come IVE TRIES in two games is an impressive way to launch a season, even more so if the player has made only two previous starts at senior level. That is how Alex Wootton kicked off this campaign, one try against Treviso followed by four against the Cheetahs (only the second Munster player to achieve that feat after Mike Mullins in 2001), and he has since become a regular on the Munster wing. With such a start, it’s little wonder Wootton is high up in the Guinness Pro14 try charts and he also features strongly in the metres gained, defenders beaten, clean breaks and offloads categories. It has undoubtedly been a breakthrough season for Wootton, but the 23-year-old has long backed himself. “As a player you have to envision what you expect from yourself,” he says. “I knew I had it in the tank, it was about getting given the opportunity, so I’m not really surprised (by how well things have gone). There are things I could have done better as well. I’m not one to sit back when things are going well; I keep working hard and want to be consistent.” Opportunity is the reason the England-born Wootton moved to Munster in the first place. In 2012, he joined the Northampton Saints Academy after leaving Sedbergh School but found the experience far from enjoyable and was contemplating moving clubs. Running parallel to this were his international ambitions. Wootton knew he was qualified to represent Ireland through his father Andrew, who was born in Belfast, and got in touch with then Ireland U20 coach Mike Ruddock. Selected for the 2013 Junior World Cup, he impressed enough for the IRFU to want him to be part of their system and a place in the Munster Academy looked the best fit. It’s clear he has no regrets about crossing the Irish Sea.



Age 23 (7 July 1994) Born Macclesfield, Cheshire Position Back three Honours England U16, Ireland U20 and Sevens Brothers My middle brother, Tom, is a centre and played at the Hong Kong Tens. My youngest brother, William, has just got a scholarship to Sedbergh. He’s 12 and is very good – a scrum-half/fly-half Dad He was a boxer and lost only one fight – the one to get to the Olympics. So he was one fight from the Olympics

Post-rugby “I want to get into property development, which my father does. It’s something I’m interested in going into”

“I believe if I’d stayed in the UK, I wouldn’t be the player I am today,” says Wootton. “At Northampton I didn’t get any opportunity and wasn’t learning close enough to anything. At the time, when you’re just out of school, you think it’s just the professional way, but looking back… You’d hold bags for the first team, do drills without knowing why; things weren’t explained very well. “In the Munster Academy, every day you learn how to play the game. Munster hone in on your roles from a training point of view. Munster’s approach is more about developing players. I knew when I made the move I’d have to bide 76

my time more because there are just four teams in the whole of Ireland. Behind the curtain I’ve been working hard and this season I’ve got the chance to showcase what I’ve been doing.” He had to wait until September 2016 to make his senior debut, but he gained experience for Munster A in the British & Irish Cup, for Ireland U20 at another World Championship, for Garryowen (he was their Player of the Year in 2015) and the national sevens side. He’s also had time to understand how much rugby means to the people of the province. “Living in Limerick, there’s not so much pressure as the sense of ‘we’re behind you’. Even when you make a mistake, they support you – that’s the way I look at it. Limerick is a rugby-mad place and the players are within the community.”


Childhood heroes “Rugby-wise Tommy Bowe was a hero of mine and I’ve played against him, which was strange. The obvious one is Jonah Lomu”

In and out Ospreys have signed tighthead Tom Botha, 27, from the Cheetahs for next season while Moldovan prop Dmitri Arhip is leaving the region after six years to move to the French Top 14. Calling time Glasgow Warriors’ former Scotland prop Ryan Grant (below) is retiring at the end of the At the end of the domestic season comes Ireland’s three-Test tour of Australia. Wootton has admitted he was “a bit gutted” not to be involved in the November Tests and he didn’t get a call-up during the Six Nations either. Joe Schmidt has been in touch to “tell me what he wants” and the fact there are lines of communication is positive, but Wootton recognises the quality of competition for places in a squad that has won Ireland’s third Grand Slam. “If you look at the squad Joe’s got and what they’ve done in the Six Nations… There are class players in Ireland. A few years back there wasn’t as much strength in depth across the team, never mind the back three, and now it’s chock-a-block. I’ve got to keep working hard and see where it takes me.” n 77

season, aged 32. He said: “It’s the right time for my body and mind.” New boss Australian John Mulvihill will take over as Cardiff Blues head coach in the summer. Wales U20 coach Jason Strange will also join the region, with the backs and attack his responsibility.

PICS Inpho

One of the big challenges Munster have faced this season is a change of coach in the middle of the campaign, Rassie Erasmus leaving for South Africa and Johann van Graan taking over. Yet Wootton says it went pretty seamlessly. “It probably was tougher than not having the change, but the coaches who were there put things in place that made the transition smooth. It’s a first for me, changing coaches in the same season, and it keeps you on your toes, but not much has changed, maybe a few modifications in training. It’s a case of getting used to the new coaches.” If it was unsettling for some players, it hasn’t harmed their league form as they will be competing in the new-look Pro14 play-offs this month in a bid to secure the league title Munster last won in 2011.


“I’m blessed to have a lot of freak athletes around me”

Canada’s Nate Hirayama has loved sevens’ shifting landscape T WAS a different vibe, but definitely a cool vibe,” Nate Hirayama says of the Commonwealth Games. Despite two pool losses – one against gold winners New Zealand – Canada playmaker Hirayama can see the benefits of the experience. “It was different for the guys who do


the sevens circuit all year round,” he explains. “You’re watching weightlifters, athletics – John Moonlight and I roomed with Léandre Bouchard, a FrenchCanadian cross-country mountain biker. “We get caught up in our own little worlds. All I think about is rugby; all we train for is rugby. But it is really cool to be getting a different perspective.”

Big hand Hirayama in action


Canada were one of the few sides to send a full-strength team to Hong Kong the week before, with a large number of top men’s sides opting to prioritise the Commonwealth Games if they were heading there. The silky back says he couldn’t bear the thought of watching the world’s most famous event from afar. He was “blown away” by the depth shown by several of the better-funded nations. Canada have to work that much harder to utilise their resources; for example, the women’s national 15s have infamously had to pay their own way before. So what is it like for Canadians? “It’s definitely a challenge for us and it’s extremely frustrating at times,” Hirayama says. “All of these things come down to money. Our men’s 15s haven’t qualified for the World Cup yet – though I believe that’s what we are going to do – and that brings in a lot of money. “It’s the way it’s always been. I know a lot of teams have separated the sevens and 15s and in an ideal world we would,

“There have been little whispers about million-dollar tournament s” but although Rugby Canada has been toying with that, we’re all in it together.” Asked which rugby format he prefers, Hirayama instantly says sevens. He first started on the circuit as an 18-year-old University of Victoria kid with almost no sevens experience. He and team-mates laugh over how little travelling they would actually do without sevens. He jokes: “We’re so spoiled on the circuit.” The landscape has shifted since his start in 2006. People want more action, more money. Rumours about one-off events outside the circuit, with huge prize money, swell. He admits: “There have been little whispers about million-dollar tournaments that then fall through.” He thinks such an event would be good for the sport. So where is his place in Canada’s game? “I think I just bring an old head at this point! I’m really confident out there. My decisionmaking is what I like to bring to the team. “I’m blessed to have a lot of freak athletes around me and I’m hopefully putting them in good positions.” n

SEVENS GALLERY Some cracking shots from this year’s Hong Kong Sevens, won by Fiji Pageantry Fans in the South Stand

Cheeky England v SA Post man Amenoni Nasilasila scores for Fiji

Pop-up Argentina keep the ball alive

Passionate Fiji fans

Slide rule Afon Bagshaw crosses for Wales

Age 30 (23 Mar 1988) Born Richmond, BC Series debut Dubai 2006 Height 6ft Weight 14st 2lb Twitter @NHirayama10

SEVENS FACT Japan’s men will be a core team on next season’s HSBC World Sevens Series after winning the qualifying tournament in Hong Kong. Siosifa Lisala scored at the death to snatch a 19-14 win in the final against Germany. 79

Back in Japan celebrate

WORDS Alan Dymock. PICS Getty Images



Black Ferns earn place in spotlight

New Zealand are making strides with new pro deals for 15s players. RW’s Ali Donnelly finds out more FEW WEEKS on from the news that New Zealand’s 15-a-side women’s stars are receiving professional contracts for the first time, Kendra Cocksedge is reflecting on how well it has gone down with the public. “The reaction has been hugely positive and I think the players, fans and the country are excited about where the women’s game is going,” the scrum-half says. “People have been talking to me about what a positive step it is, so there has been really good awareness of what’s happening and it’s all positive.” Cocksedge played an integral role in the negotiations and although she is keen not to overplay the announcement, she believes it’s a vital stepping stone on the road to being fully professional. “This is a big step forward. There is no going back now as far as I’m concerned. The investment and the profile is only going to get bigger from here on in.” Despite winning five of the past six Women’s World Cups, New Zealand have always lagged behind in terms of investing in the Black Ferns. Sevens has taken precedence in recent seasons, but last year’s World Cup win in Ireland put the 15s team back in the public eye. “It’s really taken off since our success last year,” says Cocksedge. “That win has helped changed mindsets. More people watched that World Cup than ever before and the public have been impressed with the quality of the game.” The key detail of the contracts is that up to 30 Black Ferns will be placed on guaranteed retainers, paid between $12,500 and $20,000 (£6,500-10,500) annually, based on Test experience. While this is a hugely welcome move, Cocksedge says in reality it won’t be life-altering for most of the top players. “The way it’s being modelled means for a lot of us it’s about being rewarded for what we were doing anyway. The


THE BLACK FERNS DEALS Retainer Between $12,500-20,000 Assembly fee $2,000 a week when in Black Ferns camp Training Players commit to ten to 14 hours per week, but priority given to ensuring they can maintain work/study Savings Top-ups from the Player Savings Scheme will be paid, NZ Rugby contributing at least $2.50 for each dollar a player saves (up to $3,750 a year) Parental policy $15,000 available to Black Ferns returning from maternity leave for childcare costs

commitment is something like training ten to 14 hours per week in our hubs and individually. “I was certainly doing that, but for some players the contracts mean extra support in areas they might not have had, like medical, insurance and so on.” As part of the negotiating team, Cocksedge is well-placed to talk about the changing world of professionalism in the women’s game, where contracts are becoming the norm and athletes are playing catch-up in how to deal with it. “I was part of a wider team involved – there were six or seven of us – and I learnt a lot around the whole process. 80

Portia Woodman The wing topped the points (65) and try (13) counts at the 2017 World Cup and was named Women’s Player of the Year

Generally I think there are not many women’s players well equipped yet in understanding what they need to do before signing deals. That is something that we’re going to have to work on. “The more the game goes down this route, the more players are signing on with agents and so on, the better that will be. It is a new world.” Does she believe more youngsters will now choose rugby in New Zealand? “Yes. Lots of girls here are playing five or six sports at high school and making decisions later. Now getting a full-time sevens contract is an option, as is getting a 15s part-time contract, so rugby union is going to become a really competitive option for that talent and there are also players playing other codes who are looking to come across.”

Kelly Brazier The centre has won two 15s World Cups (2010 and 2017) as well as a Sevens World Cup (2013)

NEWS ROUND-UP Kendra Cocksedge

Core value China (below) beat South Africa 31-14 in the final of the Women’s Sevens Series qualifier in Hong Kong. They will be a core team on next season’s series. Keyi Chen, who scored a hat-trick in the final, said: “It feels so good. We worked so hard for this.”

The scrum-half has been playing for NZ since 2007 and was the highest woman on our ‘100 Best Players’ list earlier this year

New Zealand also have a chance to make improvements in this area. “The NPC is a quality competition and it has become much more competitive. It’s interesting to see how others are investing in their leagues and perhaps the future is a league for us alongside the top Australian team. I believe that is realistic and possible and would be a huge boost to the game here. “The game is just continuing to move forward at every level. I watched a lot of the Six Nations this year and thought France were fantastic; they’re going to be a huge threat in the years to come. “Countries like Japan are investing in their systems and leagues, and players are going there from overseas, so the money is going in and it’s getting more exposure. I’m glad we’re part of it.” n 81

Super Nova England Women U20 will play their Canada counterparts in a three-match series in Nova Scotia in August. Games will be at Acadia University, Halifax, on 10, 14 and 18 August. Bright Futures Scottish Futures U18 and U20 are new development programmes that Scottish Rugby hope will allow “young women to reach their rugby potential”.

PICS Getty Images

As well as winning the World Cup, Cocksedge says the development of other nations was a catalyst for change in NZ Rugby, who have been criticised for their commitment to the Black Ferns. “While it mostly came off the back of the success last year, it was alongside the fact other countries had moved ahead. We needed to do something to keep our players here and this will help to do that. People will continue to go overseas for a different life experience, but this is a really good incentive and means we’re not going to fall behind.” The move of the women’s game to a more professional model has led to developments in top domestic leagues, including in England, France and Australia where significant investments are being made. Cocksedge believes


NATIONAL 1&2 Bended knee Nick Thatcher fires out a pass versus Worthing

BROADSTREET A season-long struggle against relegation from Two South hasn’t detracted from the resilience of Coventry-based Broadstreet. It’s rarely easy for clubs playing outside their region to prosper and even their final two away games at Barnstaple and Redruth involved round trips of more than 900 miles. Chairman Simon Skene said: “We’ve struggled to adapt to this league at our first attempt. It’s been a learning curve, with many teams playing fast, free-flowing rugby and benefiting from big playing budgets. We’ve been more familiar with Two North, where we’ve played better against the larger packs.” Led by scrum-half Nick Thatcher, the club has sampled the high life, with Premiership club Wasps training at their stunning 47-acre facility for the past two years. There’s a new start next season because, after parting company with head coach Paul Hurst, backs coach Cliffie Hodgson has taken the reins.

STEPPING UP Coventry will return to Greene King IPA Championship level next season – to be replaced by relegated Rotherham – as the only promoted club after an eight-year absence. They achieved that with five games to spare by beating Caldy 55-12. Head coach Nick Walshe said: “I’m very proud of the squad. There are many guys who have stood out in this league and I feel they are now Championship players in the making.”

wins, ended it without three players who accepted invitations to join Carterton, a club near Wellington, New Zealand. Captain/centre Nick Mason and props Isaac Dalton and Connor Baker stayed until Titans’ promotion hopes had ended. A spokesman said: “They’ve gone to learn more about the game and should be back for the start of next season.”

HOMESPUN Birmingham Moseley DoR Richard Protherough is backing home-grown talent to lead their own promotion push next season. Moseley have reverted to part-time status and are reluctant to over-commit financially, having had cash problems in the past. Protherough said: “If you develop your own players, there’s more loyalty and we have a long history of that. We can list the names of those who have come through the club and graduated to the Premiership. I take more pride in that than buying a team.” NICK KNACK After seven years in the third tier, Fylde fell to Two North after a 36-5 defeat at Blackheath. But second-row Nick Ashcroft, a Kirkham GS product and Lancaster University student now captaining Lancashire U20, has re-signed. Head coach Warren Spragg said: “He’s gained a lot of experience in a position usually reserved for the grizzly old enforcers and his development has accelerated.” KIWI VENTURE Taunton Titans, whose campaign of high promise in Two South began with nine straight

PIC Warwick Baker

PUTTING PEN TO PAPER Planning for next season is well in hand for Darlington Mowden Park, the leaders of a distant pack that chased the newly-crowned National One champions Coventry. Ex-Tonga lock Talite Vaioleti, a major ball-carrier, was among six key players who re-signed for the club. South African fly-half and centre Warren Seals, a recruit from Yorkshire Carnegie last September, also signed on the dotted line, along with fellow backs Matt Dudman, Ben Frankland, Shaun McCartney and Callum Mackenzie.

STURDY IN NAME… Stourbridge loosehead Adam Sturdy made his 300th appearance for the club in the 28-26 Two North defeat by Sheffield Tigers. Sturdy, 41, played for Nottingham and Birmingham & Solihull before joining Stourbridge in 2002 and has since been the cornerstone of their pack.

SHORT PASS Leicester Lions winger Devon Constant was presented with a club tie by captain Matt Tuckey to commemorate his century of appearances for the Two North side. Constant scored 16 tries in the club’s first 24 matches this season and had a career try total of 66.

SEVENS BOOST Scimitar Exiles, a top invitational sevens team, are launching a high-performance programme backed by Loughborough Sport under the name of Scimitar Storm. It will develop players at Loughborough University, where six students have England Sevens contracts. Loughborough DoR Alan Buzza said: “Sevens is a thrilling sector and being able to put some resource around an already productive pathway is exciting.” STILL FIGHTING Herefordshire-based Luctonians continued their protracted battle against relegation from Two North beyond the scheduled end to the 82

season with a trip to Leicester Lions on 5 May, followed by the visit of Sale. They were three games behind some relegation rivals after being hit hard by the winter cold snap and were also conscious about turning narrow defeats into wins. They lost 18 of their first 22 games before edging out Hinckley 33-32 after a hat-trick by wing Frank Kelly. Coach Ryan Watkins said: “The table looks bad so we’ve some catching up to do. We wouldn’t be in this situation if we had our proper squad to pick from.” SALVA SERVICE Salva Palomares Lloret, a 25-year-old centre, has joined Two South club Bury St Edmunds. He has played in Spain and in France for Fédérale 1 club Valence d’Agen, spent three months in Australia, had a spell at Chinnor and also appeared for Selkirk. “He’s an excellent signing for Bury,” said performance director Terry Sands. NATIONAL THEATRE There’s an addition to the Hull Ionians’ honours’ board after wing Sam Rees was chosen for Jamaica at the Hong Kong Sevens. Scrum-half Ollie Claxton became the third Old Elthamians player to grace the world stage when appearing for Belgium. He followed Adam Preocanin, who played for Germany v USA in November, and Dom Lespierre, a top performer for Guyana in the Ram Rugby Sevens. n



and will be on the field for around 24 hours of the 32-hour game.

OARSOME! Stoke father-and-son Jeremy and Phil Edwards ran and rowed 260 miles – the distance from the club’s Hartwell Lane ground to Murrayfield – to raise almost £1,600 for the Doddie Weir Foundation. While Phil did the running, Jeremy used a static rowing machine in his spare room to achieve their target distance in 74 days. EMERGENCY COVER Rugby Lions coach Dave Addleton named himself as a replacement before the 24-0 defeat in One West at Bromsgrove. The former Coventry hooker is now 52 but injuries and unavailability left Rugby depleted for the rearranged match, so he provided front-row cover.

Arthur Baxter, 75, whose grandchildren play for Market Rasen & Louth’s junior sides, raised about £4,500 for the Matt Hampson Foundation and the MBF Hope for Tomorrow charity from a 95-mile, five-day sponsored walk. It began at Market Rasen and finished at Leicester Tigers.

SALTS SPREADER Old Saltleians, of Two West (North), have lost their ground at Water Orton on the outskirts of Birmingham. The facilities, in the shadow of the M42 motorway, will be swallowed up by the HS2 rail development. Salts found an alternative venue not far away but must wait two years before the pitches are ready for use. Meanwhile, they’ll be based at Tile Cross Academy and have a temporary clubhouse there. LADIES FIRST Grantham-based Kesteven, formed in 1947, have launched their first women’s team, who have been training since November. Coach

PIC Michael Austin

EXTRA TIME Melton Mowbray front-row James Marman, 29, a firefighter, is taking part in a world record attempt to play the longest continuous rugby match at Sixways, the home of Worcester, on 4 May. He’s in the Firefighters Charity XV to meet Scotty’s Little Soldiers


FAMILY FEAT Three brothers have been lining up together in Midlands Premier for Newbold-on-Avon. Joss and Ben Thompson were second-row partners, with sibling Sam on the bench, in the 23-19 win at Sandbach. The next week, they were all in the pack for the 29-3 defeat by Birmingham & Solihull, with Sam starting at No 8. Old Laurentians stalwart Mike Warwick won Lifetime Achievement recognition at the annual Rugby Sports Awards. He has been involved with OLs for 50 years.

Arm’s length Centre Kent Birch foils Southwell’s challenge


After raising more than £1m for their new clubhouse, Newark’s four-year objective is nearing reality with the final phase being completed in September, ahead of the Two East (North) club’s centenary year. Key men are project manager David Pick, a chartered surveyor, and president Alan Swain, who was tasked with finding the money to pay for it. More than £400,000 came from club members. It was a poignant evening when ex-Lions lock Simon Shaw captained Brian Fisher’s International Barbarians in a 19-15 defeat by RAF Vultures. The game was in honour of former president Fisher, who was instrumental in assembling Newark’s previous wooden clubhouse 55 years ago. He died last year. No 8 David Garland leads the first XV with ex-Nottingham prop Ben Buxton as head coach, while the mini-youth and girls’ sections have 430 members and 80-plus coaches and administrators.


Angus Shaw said he was astounded by the enthusiasm and amount of laughter that the girls cram into each session. Kerri Arlando, a scrum-half and mother of two rugby-playing boys, added: “I thought I was too old to play but I’m so glad I changed my mind.” Walsall, of Two West (North), have had planning permission to install an artificial pitch at Delves Road. Work will begin immediately in readiness for September. GOING DUTCH A tour to Amsterdam and a commemorative dinner were memorable events to complete AEI Rugby’s centenary year. They play in the Warwickshire Merit Leagues and in bygone years were among many works teams in the West Midlands. TABLES TURNED Old Halesonians lifted a little of the relegation gloom that descended on Wassell Grove during a difficult Midlands Premier season with a 17-14 win over Sandbach. It halted a run of 20 straight defeats and avenged a 109-0 reverse at Sandbach last autumn. BOURNE WINNERS Bourne, under player-coach Dave Maudsley, secured promotion to Three East (North), the highest level in their 31-year history, when trouncing Deepings 46-0. There was delight for Coventry-based Earlsdon too. The club retained the Warwickshire Shield by beating Two West (South) rivals Kenilworth 13-10. Droitwich followed up last year’s Midlands Senior Vase triumph by winning the region’s Intermediate Cup, beating Whitchurch 19-7. TAXING TIMES Church Stretton withdrew from Four West (North) having found it increasingly hard to raise a side for long away trips. The Shropshire club accepted voluntary relegation and hope to rejoin the league system next season. Redditch, of Four West (South), aided homelessness charity St Vincent de Paul by encouraging their junior players to bring a tin of food to a fund-raising day. A LATE STUMBLE Bromsgrove were resigned to missing out on promotion after a 27-23 defeat at Moseley Oak in One West. The club returned to the Midlands Leagues from the South-West this season and, until their lapse, looked well-placed to capitalise on any slip-ups by Burton and Dudley Kingswinford. Head coach Dan Protherough said: “We must take what we’ve built this time around into next September.” n


LONDON & SE Hand-off No 8 Alex Banna on the ball v Old Merchant Taylors

BYRNE MARK Lewes II captain Joel Evans lifted the Sussex Vase after a 27-8 win over Hove III, knowing this cup success was more valuable than most. The match doubled as a Sussex Four league game and the bonus-point victory edged Lewes closer to the title. Full-back Ryan Byrne scored two eye-catching tries, from 60 yards and then a length-of-field finish. LETHAL WEAPON Anthony Fooks, of Three South-West club Portsmouth, was on course for 30

STEVENAGE TOWN The vision for a community multi-sport hub for the Stevenage area is nearing reality. A five-minute drive from the North Road headquarters that Stevenage Town have occupied for 60 years lies agricultural ground at Jacks Hill, all 27 acres of it with a fertile future for the club, hopefully starting in September 2019. Funds for the project are from housing development at North Road. Stevenage RFC, founded in 1957, merged with Bacavians, another local club, in 1995 to become Stevenage Town. Chairman Steve Mudd said: “Our biggest achievement was winning the Three North-West title in 2007. We’re back in that league now. The teams in it are competitive and consistent.” Up-table Stevenage are led by utility forward Scott Quarmby, have Terry Penny as head coach and their sides span two seniors, 17 at mini-youth level, girls and even a two-to-five age group called the RugBeeZ.

PULLING POWER UCS Old Boys, of Herts-Middlesex One, are going home to their Ranulf Road HQ in West Hampstead next season, having been based at Lyndhurst Gardens during the redevelopment of their ground, where University College School also play. “The facilities will be a magnet for players and fans alike,” said captain Tom Arnold. “The fields have been levelled and new drainage installed.” STARLIGHT Ken Light will be long remembered by Canvey Island. The ex-teacher died aged 90, having been a life member of the London Three Essex club after playing a part in its creation. Spokesman Richard Smith said: “We’re placing a bench on our patio as a memorial to him and calling an area in the clubhouse ‘The Ken Light Corner’. When the club started with nothing, he loaned us shirts from his school and played for us over the years.”

PIC Michael Austin

TA-TA TO TUTTLES It was an emotional farewell to Tuttles Lane, Wymondham’s home for 40 years, when they beat Woodbridge 24-0 in the final league game at the ground. The Three Eastern Counties club is swapping two pitches and a small clubhouse for a 30-acre site off Norwich Common with ample indoor facilities and multiple playing areas. A sleek two-storey clubhouse bearing a bold rampant lion crest is the focal point of their £5.5m plan for the future. Chairman Andrew Kilby said: “We outgrew our current site a long time ago and it has taken years of work to secure a new home, together with the future of the game in the town.”

tries as the season neared its close and DoR Jim Pearce was suitably impressed. “Anthony is often on the end of our driving mauls,” he said. “This season, though, he’s also scored tries with great support running. He’s developing into the wing-forward we knew he could be.” DRAMATIC FINISH The front row were match winners when Andover grabbed one of their more notable results. Trailing in added time, they took a strike against the head and prop Samson Earle rounded off a multi-phase move with the try that secured a 24-20 verdict at Gosport & Fareham in Two South-West.

SHORT PASS Eastleigh didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after their Two South-West match against Camberley. Having lost 70-0 in the corresponding away fixture, they went down 23-22 in the home game after seeing a last-gasp drop-goal charged down in a vastly improved display.

BASILDON BOND Kris Chesney, who played 300-plus times for Saracens, has helped Basildon to lift the Three Essex title. He works with the club’s forwards and said: “I’ve known Mark Farrell, the DoR here, since I was ten and he’s like family, so I was only too happy to help.” HOVE HAVEN Ex-captain Gareth Davies returned to Hove and said: “It feels like a homecoming.” The Welsh fly-half led the side for two years before joining Guildford in 2015 but his time in Surrey was beset by injury. This term he topped 150 points in 17 London Premier games. Brighton Blues centre Jesse Beecham bagged a brace of tries on his first-team 84

debut. Coach Frank Taggart said after the 29-20 One South win over London Cornish: “He has stuck at it in training, grafted and deserved his chance.” ECO-FRIENDLY Winchester, of Two South-West, are doing their bit for the environment by serving hot drinks in compostable cardboard cups rather than plastic. The change has spared volunteers a lot of litter clearing, too. General Manager Jim Yeoman said: “It’s easy to do and makes perfect sense from a business point of view as well as an environmental one.” PAINFUL LOSS Pulborough captain Simon Burfiend felt the 26-14 home defeat by rivals Heathfield & Waldron was the result that sentenced them to relegation from Three South-East. The Sussex club has dug deep in their first season at this level but Burfiend said: “In terms of league standings, Heathfield were the team we had to catch.” GOOD AS NEW Horsham fly-half Tom Johnson hit his top form after a lengthy injury absence – to the delight of coach Nick Stocker. After a dour 14-5 win over Deal & Betteshanger in Two South-East, Stocker said: “Tom was Man of the Match for his physicality in defence and a clever kicking game.” n


SOUTH-WEST MARKED MAN Chris Langley, 32, of Plymouth Argaum, marked his first league try in unusual fashion – he got a tattoo. It’s above his right ankle and shows a wellington boot with the number five, his shirt number, alongside an Argaum rugby ball. Injury and unavailability had brought him into the side that lost 64-7 to – you’ve guessed it – Wellington in Cornwall-Devon. He said: “It was really a team try and I’m not exactly first XV material.”

Lydney will host a match between a side raised by Test referee Wayne Barnes and a Forest of Dean Select XV on 6 May. The annual match is in memory of Debbie Broderick, Barnes’s mother-in-law, who died of breast cancer in 2007. Ex-Lions wing Ugo Monye will be among those playing with Barnes.

TOP TWO INCHES Bournemouth’s Will Croker recruited Lewis Hawkins, a sports psychologist, to give his side an edge in the South-West Premier run-in. Coach Croker said: “He’s been working on a one-to-one basis with four or five players, listening to their feelings before a game and what mentally stimulates them in terms of their preparation.” ED SAVES THE DAY Imagine a World Cup referee officiating a match wearing borrowed boots and with his trousers tucked in his socks. It really happened at a Somerset One game between Old Bristolians II and Bristol Harlequins. The man in question was none other than Ed Morrison, who refereed the 1995 RWC final, South Africa v New Zealand. Morrison, 66, president of the Bristol Referees’ Society, had been a spectator

PIC Michael Austin

TEMPLE OF BOOM It’s all smiles at Southern Counties North club Buckingham, who are enjoying the benefits of their £55,000 clubhouse refurbishment. Chairman Julian Cook said: “The buildings, now 25 years old, needed stripping out and everything electrical has been renewed.” They have also impressed on the field under coach Andrew White and lock Jamie Temple, who’s in his first season as captain. The side topped the table at Easter.


ROYAL TUMBLE Farnham Royal, led by scrum-half Ben Coppins, battled hard but failed to avoid the drop to Berks, Bucks & Oxon One after winning only two of 16 games. Coach Liam Kearney is already planning an immediate return to the BB&O Championship. Dicky Thomas, who is both the club and Buckinghamshire president, said: “We’ve had a tough time because injuries robbed us of key players.”

Full stretch Dan Hewitt fends off a Brockworth tackler


Ambition is high on Cheltenham North’s agenda, with a ‘Raise the Roof’ project involving a new building costing £1.4m at Stoke Orchard Road, Bishop’s Cleeve. Acting chairman Nick Jones said: “It will have two storeys and a viewing balcony. We intend this to be a broad-based community build and hope to start work in May 2019, with completion a year later.” The club’s pinnacle was playing in South-West Two and being Gloucestershire Cup finalists in 1970 and 2000. Last year brought relegation but they’ve rallied, with a place in the top five of Gloucester One under captain/full-back James Hartland and deputies Dan Hewitt, a No 8, and prop Dan Hodge. DoR Neil Carpenter has made 500-plus appearances and still plays at loosehead when needed. Already boasting 150 mini-juniors, Cheltenham North will launch a girls’ U13 side in September.


at Failand, the home of Old Bristolians, when the original ref Tony Swash limped off early in the second half with a calf injury. So he took the whistle and saw the match through. Quins won 41-6 and Morrison said: “I won’t be making a comeback. It was definitely a one-off.” MAGIC MIKE Widden Old Boys No 8 Mike Massey made a winning start to his career in the rarefied atmosphere of international level. He exchanged his usual habitat in Gloucester One for the Victoria Stadium when playing in Gibraltar’s 33-14 home win over Hungary. STAR BAKER Dorchester wing James Baker also had something to celebrate, during the 52-17 win at New Milton II in Dorset & Wilts Two South. He moved into second place in the club’s list of all-time point-scorers on 1,144, with only Geraint Hughes (3,122) above him. Baker is also the club’s third-highest try-scorer with 101 – 33 behind Tony Foot. MOVING TO MAY Bad weather spoiled end-of-season plans in Cornwall. Among the casualties was the Penryn Sevens that was switched from Easter to the Bank Holiday weekend of 25-27 May. Organiser Jamie Truen said: “With some club fixtures pushed back to May, we decided to defer that leg of the RFU 24/Sevens until the end of the month.” It will be launched by a Penryn Veterans side facing an England Select Veterans team on the Friday evening. …AND JUNE The Abingdon Sevens, one of the UK’s oldest tournaments, has a new look. The 64th annual event will be staged on 30 June, having been switched from its traditional slot during the August Bank Holiday. Abingdon have taken that step because nowadays clubs are involved in warm-up games that weekend for the coming season. In addition to the three men’s tiers, the BB&O Premier club hope to stage a women’s competition, which was last contested three years ago. COX ROCKS! It’s a long way from One West club Cullompton to the Mennaye Field, Penzance. Sara Cox, 27, still made that journey from playing for the Devon club to becoming the first female to referee a second-tier domestic game in England, Cornish Pirates v Doncaster. As a player, she was also with Exeter, Saracens and Plymouth Albion but had refereeing ambitions from aged 17, little knowing she’d be a history maker. n



Running free Utility forward Tom Johnson takes on Ryton

HARTLEPOOL Bring it on! That’s the rich anticipation of Hartlepool for next season that celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Durham-Northumberland Two club. In September, the men in black will mark it with 300 diners at Hartlepool Borough Hall, along with a commemorative jersey with a retro design. The club is also launching a development project to improve facilities and increase capacity at Mayfield Park, their home for the past 48 years. DoR Liam Lester said: “We want to ensure that our special year leaves behind a legacy.” Hooker Andrew Small has an enviable anniversary of his own, having led the side for ten seasons. Head coach Andy Wray was a Hartlepool prop for 30-plus years. With a mini-junior membership of 130 in a town with six rugby union clubs, they have much to anticipate. Lester added: “It’s an incredible sight with so many children and young people enjoying the game here.”

NEW MAN North Premier club Kendal have appointed Tom Borthwick as head coach for next season. He has previously mentored Aspatria, Tynedale, Cumbria, Northumberland and England Counties. Borthwick will be supported by Chris Downham for rugby development, Dan Cook and Rob Quarry. Cook’s CV includes being DoR and development officer at Hull, now of North Premier. EXTENDED SEASON Sunderland, of Durham-Northumberland Two, have been suffering from a backlog of men’s and women’s fixtures that highlighted their need for a floodlit artificial grass pitch (AGP) at Ashbrooke. Chairman Paul Geehan said: “To have our own AGP would be hugely beneficial to the city. It would help to create an excellent rugby hub not only for us but for the university, schools and college. “There have been challenges throughout the season because of bad weather that means we will be playing until the middle of May. It involved a league match on Easter Saturday, which is unheard of.” PROUD DAY Nestle Rowntree capped their first trophy, the Yorkshire Northern Merit League title, in their 124-year history by scoring 55 points without reply against Pontefract III. They’d also beaten Pontefract 47-12 a fortnight earlier, with hooker Jack Gabbatiss reaching 15 tries for the season.

PIC Michael Austin

RUM BUSINESS It’s all happening at Preston Grasshoppers. Not only did they clinch the North Premier title with three games to spare to make an immediate return to National Two North but, after long negotiations, the club have sold 1.7 acres of the front car park at Lightfoot Green to a care-home developer. Part of the deal is that the buyers will construct a 200-space match car park. The proceeds of the sale will be invested in improved facilities at the ground with priority on an extended café bar-style facility, toilets, office, shop and reception. There’s more. On 4 May the club holds a reunion to mark the 40th anniversary of their first major tour to Florida and the Caribbean. Hoppers plan a buffet with rum punch and Cuba Libre cocktails – apparently for nostalgic purposes.

“This is a tribute to all those who have gone before, from 1894 onwards,” said coach Mike Chapman, “and to those who still showed up with seven other mates on gloomy February afternoons not that long ago to carry the Rowntree badge.” CLOSE ENCOUNTER The Jackson Cup, contested annually between two Cumbria League clubs, went to Egremont, who followed a 26-23 win over Millom with a 7-0 victory against their rivals that gave them a 33-23 triumph on aggregate. Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, of Penrith, celebrated a 34-7 win over Keswick School in the U15 Cumbria Cup final at Winters Park, Penrith.

SHORT PASS Cleckheaton, of One East, raised more than £3,000 for Breast Cancer Research at a special lunch. The event included coach Thiu Barnard, and the Piper brothers, centre Matt and No 8 Richard (now of Huddersfield), having their heads and beards shaved.

CANADIAN GUESTS Castleford U18 girls added an international favour to their season by hosting Mississauga Blues RFC from Ontario, who also had Cleve and Pencoed on their UK itinerary. The Blues, founded in 2008, field 12 teams and their girls turned in a resilient performance in muddy conditions at Castleford, despite their 34-0 defeat. TYNE FOR ACTION West Tynedale are playing their part in the development of boys and girls in the U5-U12 age groups. The club is based at Haydon Bridge High School and coach Matt Riddell said: “Our location means we can provide 86

opportunities for youngsters from across the south and west of the district. We’re not competing against other clubs for players. Parents have an active role, with some becoming coaches.” AT LAST! Vagabonds ended a wait of almost 18 months for a league win when beating fellow strugglers Oldershaw 15-6 in South Lancashire-Cheshire Two at Ballafletcher on the Isle of Man. Pontefract clinched the Yorkshire Two trophy with their 14th consecutive league win, 34-19 over Roundhegians. Captain and centre Craig Fawcett has led from the front, scoring 26 tries. DEMONS BANISHED A 60-0 defeat of Doncaster Demons took Harrogate to the Women’s National Challenge North East One title. They achieved their tenth consecutive win, having been promoted to their current league only this season. Full-back Damon Hall also had a day to cherish when amassing 42 points, comprising four tries and 11 conversions, when One West champions Vale of Lune beat Rochdale 92-7 in One West. TITLE POCK-ETED Oxfam Crusaders, from Norfolk, lifted the 60th Pocklington Sevens title, the oldest competition of its kind in Yorkshire, by beating Manchester Metropolitan University 24-19. n



HOW TO ORGaNISe a defeNce

Saracens captain Brad Barritt explains how to be successful without the ball

INTERVIEW Owain Jones. PICS Getty Images & Inpho

“Decision-making around the breakdown is so important. Each decision has a repercussion in defence if you have one less tackler on his feet. It could be the difference between them having numbers for an overlap, or conceding through a soft tackle and offload.”

“There’s only so much a side can do with the ball if your defence is watertight. A key attribute is executing the technical hit properly. That boils down to speed of ball and whether the opposition are on the front foot busting the gain-line. If you can keep them behind that, you can set your defence, have numbers on their feet and make an offensive shot.”

“Key to a successful defence is unity, trust and communication amongst the three or four players around the tackle zone. You’re working in unison. The longer you play with people, the more instinctively you work together, whether to press up or down or move side to side. You need to stay connected and if you step out of the line, you must trust the guy inside you.”

“When I tackle, I use the same leg and shoulder to get the most drive. Players need to be able to tackle with both shoulders, for safety and to be more reactive to a player stepping you. Rugby has also evolved. Teams now often commit two to the collision – one to target the legs and the second to target the ball, to rip it out or prevent an offload.” 87



GLASGOW’S NEW ATTACKING EDGE UNDER DAVE RENNIE The Scottish side will take some stopping in the Pro14 play-offs, says Sean Holley

GLASGOW WERE the first side to qualify for the inaugural Guinness Pro14 play-offs and, under the stewardship of New Zealander Dave Rennie, have been tearing through teams at will. With only 28 tries conceded in their first 18 league games, their defence has borne the hallmark of champions. But it’s in the try-scoring column that this Glasgow side is impressing the most. Scoring around four tries and 30 points per match makes easy viewing for the Scotstoun supporters. You might be forgiven for thinking that it’s their rapier back-three players that do most of the damage, but Glasgow share their scores around. The influence of Rennie is impossible to miss, and Super Rugby fans familiar with the attacking and innovative style of the Chiefs team he used to coach will know exactly why Glasgow are becoming even smarter and more clinical in their approach. Add to that the presence on his staff of my former Ospreys assistant and Wales captain Jonathan Humphreys – a shrewd set-piece manager – and you have a potent coaching cocktail. An example of Glasgow’s clinical and enterprising style occurred early in the recent demolition of Italian side Zebre. With Glasgow close to the try-line and their forwards lined up ready to batter their way over, the team’s super smartness came to the fore…

10 Hastings 13 Grigg

15 Jackson 11 Van der Merwe





The two support runners do their job superbly as the last defender is dragged in – leaving a full 20m of space where two Glasgow players, DTH van der Merwe and Ruaridh Jackson, have held their width. Van der Merwe receives the long pass to stroll in for the try. 88



With three Glasgow forwards poised to receive the ball from the ruck and only metres from the try-line, you can forgive the opposition for thinking this will be a one-dimensional attack.

Pyrgos now has a short runner, Sam Johnson, taking his timing off him. The scrum-half can conceivably hit this runner but instead passes behind him, using him as a decoy to hold the inside defence.

9 Pyrgos 8 Fagerson 9 Pyrgos 10 Hastings 12 Johnson 14 Jones




2 12

WHO IS SEAN HOLLEY? A former Ospreys and Bristol coach who has also worked with Wales and is now a TV analyst


The defence is expecting the forwards to latch onto each other and drive for the line. Not so. Scrum-half Henry Pyrgos lurks close by and as the middle of the three forwards, Matt Fagerson, receives the pass, Pyrgos moves behind to take a deft pass off the hip on a run-around.



The second receiver, Adam Hastings, now gets the ball with a bit of time and space. The defence is running out of numbers. But as if that wasn’t enough, Hastings has yet more options, with a support runner, Lee Jones, running a 45-degree line on his inside shoulder and a hard-running outside support, Nick Grigg, cutting a short line towards the posts.







NO MUCKING about here, you sevens player. We’re throwing science at you. Your performance during an intermittent, high-intensity exercise like sevens rugby can be limited by the accumulation of hydrogen ions, says our nutritionist James Morehen. These ions reduce muscle pH – which basically means lactic acid builds up. This interferes with the metabolic process that causes muscles to contract. Taking the supplement beta-alanine is one nutritional strategy to help – taking on approximately 3-6g per day for four to eight weeks could make a difference.

A supplement should be part of a well-balanced diet

On the burst Tavite Veredamu of France My team now wants to get fully into the new sevens season. We already know the training can be brutal – well, bring it on! Do you have a drill for us to use?



You could try what England Sevens call the Death Zone. This is where the team play seven games of sevens back-to-back. This doesn’t have to be contact, it can just be touch. But spliced in between these games are extra fitness drills. The aims are two-fold: first, to have your heart-rate heading north so that you’re in or near 85-90% of your maximum beats per minute for the majority of the session; and second, you have to execute skills and make decisions when your whole body is screaming for a rest.


WORDS Alan Dymock. PICS Daniel Gould & Getty

To ensure that the potential benefits of taking beta-alanine outweigh any possible side effects, it is important for players to practise. So if you do want to give it a go, start by trying it during training sessions, rather than turning up at a game and doing it for the first time. Every month we give you hints and tips and we want to make it clear that a supplement like this should be taken as part of a well-balanced diet. If you want to try it, we would only recommend doing so if you are over 18 years old. Elite sevens players eat a lot during competition – including a wide range of vegetables with their proteins and carbs. So after you’ve done the exercises provided by Performance Pro gym (far right), and had your shake or quick protein hit, why not try our trout salad? As mentioned, the supplement above should be part of a well-planned, thought-through dietary schedule. Some sevens stars do take beta-alanine, but there’s no point preparing to stave off lactic acid if you don’t have the energy to go out and perform in the first place.






These three exercises can be worked into your heavy-leg days, or the first two as extras after a field session with your club…


Resisted sprints

// 3 x 4 REPS

Using a band round the waist, or a harness, a mate holds you back as you attempt to reach top speed. Keep chest up, maintain knee action and pump the arms.





RECIPE Woman & Home

1 In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with lightly salted cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for around 15 minutes. Add the beans for the final three minutes until both vegetables are tender. 2 Set the grill to a high heat and, on an oiled baking sheet, lay the fillets skin side up for 6-8 minutes until the skin looks

● 250g baby new potatoes ● 100g green beans, trimmed ● 2 trout fillets ● 50g watercress ● 1 large pink grapefruit, peeled and segmented


Plyo hurdles

// 3 x 4 EACH LEG

Hop one-legged over up to six hurdles. Use your arm to throw your body up, trying to get as much height as possible. At the end, return using the other leg.

crispy and the fish feels firm. Remove and discard the skin and flake the fish into a large bowl with the potatoes, beans, watercress and grapefruit. 3 Prepare the dressing of shallot, vinegar, oil, chopped olives and some seasoning in a small bowl. Mix well and then drizzle over the salad to serve.

● ½ shallot, finely chopped ● 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar ● 2 tablespoons olive oil ● 2 tablespoons black olives, pitted and roughly chopped ● Salt and pepper to taste



Dead tread sprints

// 3 x 4 REPS

On a treadmill with power off, hold bars at the front and sprint to rotate the tread. Go full speed for 30secs, rest for 30secs. Add an incline to make it harder.

CROSSWORD ACROSS 1 Jake - - - , Wasps prop who counts Dorking and Bedwas among his former clubs (6-7) 8 Dragon CD Roy played for former Ireland international (6,5) 12 Andrew - - - , Australia’s tighthead in their 1999 World Cup-winning side (6) 14 England wing who scored a hat-trick on his World Cup debut in 2015 (6) 16 Matt - - - , 33-cap Wallaby playmaker now on the books of Leicester (6) 18 Jamie - - - , Saints back-row who toured with England in 2012 (6) 19 Jamie Roberts’s centre partner for Wales v South Africa at RWC 2015 (5,6) 23 South African No 8 and son of the boss at Kingsholm (4,9)


DOWN 1 Name linking Scotland internationals Carl, Ally and Stuart (4) 2 Retail giant, sponsors of an international sevens tournament in Zimbabwe, raps backwards (4) 3 Change sock or Thurrock’s head coach, Bob (6) 4 Sean Holley likened - - - Larmour to Shane Williams in our May issue (6)


6 9 10 11 12 13 15 17

19 20 21 22

Mathieu Bastareaud was suspended for making a homophobic - - - (4) Conor Murray was voted Ireland’s most - - - player in a 2015 survey by (4) Munster No 6 who has won 47 Ireland caps, three of them as captain (7) Jacob Stockdale’s favourite football team, from the Premier League (7) - - - Phillips, Wales team manager (4) Tony Swift is their all-time record try-scorer, with 161 (4) Aussie bird on show at Orange club in New South Wales (3) Chris - - - , ex-England wing who got a hat-trick v Ireland 30 years ago (3) Rugby - - - , administrative body whose members include Mauritius, Morocco and Madagascar (6) Sevens brothers Will and Harry found in Anglo versions of the sport (6) Scotland’s summer one takes in games with Canada, USA and Argentina (4) Tim - - - , backs coach for the 1999 World Cup-winning Wallabies (4) Forrest - - - , one of Tom Youngs’s favourite films (4) All Black centurion whose Twitter handle is @maavelous (4)

THE WINNER OF THE APRIL CROSSWORD IS DAVID SUNDERLAND FROM CHELTENHAM, GLOUCESTERSHIRE ACROSS 1. Dorset 5. Gaby 8. Yacouba Camara 9. Marconnet 10. AIG 11. Resets 13. School 16. Eye 17. Marc Ellis 19. Aaron Shingler 20. Gray 21. Martyn. DOWN 2. Oscar 3. Shut out 4. Trains 5. Grant 6. Bravado 7. Ray Giles 9. Mark Egan 12. Shearer 14. Cleaner 15. Graham 17. Minty 18. Liley.

The crossword winner will receive a case of the legendary Hobgoblin ruby beer from the Wychwood brewery ( Like them on Facebook – Hobgoblin beer. The closing date for entries is Wednesday 30 May. Results will appear in our August 2018 issue. Send your entry and address to: Alan Pearey, Rugby World Crossword, Wellside Cottage, Cranes Lane, Kelvedon, Essex, CO5 9AX. Full rules are on page 97. Entrants must be over 18. Compiled by Alan Pearey.



Gear up for the summer tours with exclusive interviews and expert analysis in Rugby World’s July issue

PLUS A celebration of 2017-18 league winners in our champions section

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Our Team of the Year Ben Ryan on the breakdown




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Navy lend a helping hand As avid readers of Rugby World, HMS Duncan RFC noticed in an article (March issue) that Briganti RFC had suffered a fire and was rebuilding the clubhouse. HMS Duncan, on operations in the Mediterranean, had a port visit to Catania and planned to provide support to a club at the heart of its community. The club, which is in an area where drug use and violence is rife, has a vision to use rugby to create a better future for children and young people. The team from HMS Duncan helped to build stud walls, shelving and a

Daly’s a star I was catching up with some back reading, which included your September 2017 edition, and it was really pleasing to read the piece on Elliot Daly. England’s Six Nations campaign was

Try time Daly scores v Ireland dismal but when a country has a player like Daly they should not despair. England should rejoice as Daly’s whole-hearted and skilful play reminds everyone why they started to follow rugby. At its best, it’s a sport that is great and hugely enjoyable to watch. David Rimmer, Hertford Heath, Herts

Rugby becoming soccer Jim Mallinder, Carl Hogg, Nick Kennedy and now John Kingston… the Aviva Premiership is haemorrhaging coaches with an abandon reminiscent of football.

Hard at work The HMS Duncan team at Briganti’s clubhouse secure door, plumbed in toilet facilities and ran electrical cables. It was a great example of the bond that rugby teams throughout the world share and our rugby coach ‘Smudge’

Kingston’s departure from Harlequins, just two years after becoming director of rugby, is particularly harsh given he achieved a top-six finish last year. Quins’ injury toll has been severe but under a new and young coaching group, featuring Nick Evans and Nick Easter, they had hinted at better days to come. Sadly, there’s no patience these days and Kingston’s 17 years’ experience at the club is being cast aside. Quins had no need to start again. Drew Roberts, Woking, Surrey RW says: The more money in the game, the greater the pressure on coaches. We’ll find out next season if these were the right calls.

Lower tiers deserve better Rugby isn’t the same sport it was back in the 1990s or in the early years of the 21st century. It has changed for better and worse; it’s got bigger and smaller. It’s better because players get better medical and psychological support, and there are more spectacular games; worse because injuries pile up, coaches are getting fired quicker, 96

Smith said: “It’s been an opportunity to meet some incredible people.” Lieutenant Commander James Smith HMS Duncan, Royal Navy RW says: Rugby’s values in action.

and Tier Two and Three players get pressured not to play for their countries in Test matches. It’s bigger because it has more events, competitions and games; smaller because there’s less space to expand rugby and a single mistake in the development of a Tier Two or Three country can compromise their growth. If World Rugby wants the sport to keep growing, it has to juggle the all-pro show and the amateur landscape most nations live in. This requires better referees, excellent coaches and good administration boards, as well as strong support from the stronger nations for the weakest or newest to the sport. Francisco Isaac Should England, Madeira, Portugal Ireland, Scotland and Respect for all Wales pick their If Israel Folau’s answer strongest squads for the June Tests? Here’s to a loaded question is a ‘homophobic rant’, will how you votedÉ 45% 55% cause great harm to the No Yes inclusivity espoused for rugby and will discourage young LGBTIQ players from playing, surely the comments of people like Alan Joyce at Qantas and the ARU asking him to be


Time’s ‘a-ticking A Dragons-Glasgow scrum

‘more respectful’ of this minority are going to be just as disrespectful to players, supporters and sponsors who are committed, practising Christians? How many of those young players, whose personal beliefs are the same as Israel’s, will no longer play the game because they’ll feel excluded? Geoff Crumpton, via Facebook

Irish short-changed Re Stephen Jones and his Pro Rugby Revolution (May issue): Grand Slam champions, two semi-finalists in the European Cup, best-supported clubs, superior financial and player management, but what reward for

Flying high Munster and Leinster have impressed this season

Ireland? A league full of weak, created teams from four corners of the planet. Once I doubted Mr Jones’s judgement but now all this uncertainty has been removed. The article should have appeared in 1 April edition. Frankie Taylor, Madrid, Spain RW says: We’d be interested to know what other people thought of the proposed league structure.

Scrum remedy Often scrums are reset, sometimes multiple times. This is infuriating to watch and downright boring. I’d like to see the reset scrum done away with, so we get a free-flowing game. One way to do this could be: if the scrum doesn’t work out, the referee should decide which side is most at fault and award the other side a free-kick. If both sides are equally at fault, then the forwards

should stand up in their normal formation and the scrum-half (of the team putting in) should stand directly behind the No 8 and take a free-kick. John McNeely, Belfast RW says: Believe it or not, time lost to scrum resets used to be even worse!

Group by size, not age

Re Size banding (May issue): I’m from a club in the West MORE WAYS Country and we had many TO CONNECT WITH discussions with the RFU RUGBY WORLD regarding this problem. At U9 and U10 we have TABLET lads who are far too big to Subscribe to our digital edition play in their age groups. They genuinely bowl the smaller lads over every time they get the ball. This isn’t doing them or the opposition any good. If they want to progress with MOBILE their rugby, they must play Get your rugby up an age group to fulfil fix on the go 24/7 their skill level and teamwork. One lad has since given up because he wants to play up and is not allowed. He is an exceptional player ONLINE with a great future. Log onto Surely common sense will for prevail here and these lads exclusive content can play the sport they love. Bert Hedges Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

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Our former pro provides a unique insight into the game

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“Every team has a chap who has perfected shove-fighting” The dark arTS is a stock phrase kicks off, you’ll find me a good 20 metres beloved of many glib commentators. from the melee, probably beside the It is used in connection with parts of full-back, commenting archly on it. the game of which fans, players and The French go in for this nonsense in referees have a vague understanding. a big way, as it’s a very visible way of In particular, the scrum and breakdown. showing that you’re both passionate Let’s be honest, it’s a term that for the cause and a proper hard man. oversells the talents of even the wiliest Never mind all those tackles you’ve old No 7 or tighthead prop. Because shirked, or the fact you’ve spent most what are these arcane skills of which of the game studiously inspecting rucks ye speak? Lying over the ball for rather than looking to carry a bit of ball. a few seconds, or entering the scrum at a bit of an angle? It’s not exactly necromancy. however, the dark arts can also cover behaviour which is a bit, well, darker. Let us call it low-level violence, ranging from the much-feared push-in-the-chest (oo-yah!) to some prolonged nut-squeezing in the middle of a maul. I can’t be the only one who finds it all a bit tawdry, the notion of the on-pitch tough Early shirt swap? guy. as huge as the initial Castres v Montpellier antagonists may be, there is no real danger of anyone getting hurt, certainly at the top level. But occasionally you do get guys No one is going to open you up with doing something genuinely shocking. a shiv or crack you with a blackjack. I’m sure we can all think of high-profile rugby fisticuffs offer no hope of any instances – a Street Fighter-esque flying knee to the lumbar or a reimagining of definitive resolution, only a mild sense the capabilities of the elbow joint. of embarrassment all round. Some techniques are downright weird, every team has a chap who has such as the aforementioned goolie grab perfected shove-fighting and gives or, in particular, eye-gouging. Other than good facials for the camera as he hangs onto a fistful of opposition jersey. he will reading king Lear in Sixth Form, never had it crossed my mind that this was be pulled away from the fracas by his a viable form of aggression. after a team-mates not because they fear the awesome fighting skills of this berserker, couple of years in France, I felt like the weird one for not being knuckle-deep in but to stop him making an even bigger eye socket every Saturday afternoon. tit of himself. Meanwhile, when it all 98

It’s proof that the oddest behaviour can become a habit. even an 80-week ban for one of their team-mates couldn’t dampen the Frenchies’ ocular fixation. That’s right, 80 weeks! how I amused myself by asking the player every single day how long his ban had left to run. however, I did develop a bit of a swinging-arm habit for a season or two, a sort of sideways uppercut for a ruck clear-out, connecting the side of the forearm into the jackler’s face. I’m not sure if a coach gave me the idea that I needed to add a mean side or if it grew out of frustration at my own inadequacies, but in any case my team-mates began to smirkingly refer to me as ‘The enforcer’. Proof that I was very far from being such is that I was almost never the target of retaliatory violence. Once, mid-maul, I did get my cheek opened to the bone by a haymaker from my opposite number, and was oddly chuffed at having finally ‘arrived’. But he immediately burst my bubble by apologising politely as we ran to the next breakdown. he had been aiming for our loosehead, a genuinely effective nuisance, and had accidentally smacked me as I flailed on the fringes. Still, I got a good scar out of it which, coupled with a practised thousand-yard stare and some muttered allusions to dark arts, can O N LY I N give civilians the impression RUGBY that I was once a proper WORLD mentalist. Or at least that’s how I imagine it going. n



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