Gerard Meagher

Author's posts

Oct 17

Mark McCall rules out a Test job and is keen to extend stay with Saracens

• Club’s director of rugby also distances himself from 2021 Lions position• Toulon claim Rhys Webb has already signed for them for next yearMark McCall has in effect ruled himself out of contention to take over as England or Ireland head coach in 2019 …

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/17/mark-mccall-test-saracens-2021-lions-toulon

Oct 12

World Rugby cautions against linking Premiership injuries with law changes

• RFU report shows rise in top-flight tackles and involvements since changes• ‘A full season of data will be needed to make a full analysis’ – World RugbyWorld Rugby says it is too early to draw a link between the spate of injuries suffered in the Prem…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/12/world-rugby-cautions-against-link-between-premiership-injuries-and-law-changes-rugby-union

Oct 06

England unveil new £95 kit that may be worn in only one Test

• Dark grey design is 10th strip released in just over three years
• Marc dal Maso named scrum consultant on a 12-month contract

England have unveiled a dark grey alternate kit – the 10th replica shirt released by the Rugby Football Union in a little over three years – which is likely to be worn in just one Test by Eddie Jones’s side.

The new kit, which follows the release of a new home jersey in August, replaces the blue strip worn by England in both summer Tests against Argentina as well as last autumn against Fiji and the Pumas.

Related: Recalled Jack Clifford hopes to shoulder England’s No8 burden under Eddie Jones

Related: Naming rights are part of modern sport but Twickenham should resist | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/06/england-new-alternate-kit-may-only-be-worn-once

Oct 05

Recalled Jack Clifford hopes to shoulder England’s No8 burden under Eddie Jones

The Harlequins player benefited from Billy Vunipola’s injury in returning to Eddie Jones’s squad and now wants to cement his international place

If James Haskell is “halfway down a cliff, holding on to a shrub” when it comes to his England ambitions, as the Wasps flanker remarked this week, it is less clear where Jack Clifford is positioned on the precipice.

The 24-year-old Harlequin was identified by Eddie Jones early in his tenure as one of the leading candidates for the No7 jersey, only for Haskell to find the kind of form that made him impossible to leave out. Clifford then slipped further behind by missing the June tour of Argentina after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Related: Ailing Rugby Championship shows Test game needs health check | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/05/jack-clifford-england-harlequins-eddie-jones

Oct 03

England prop Kyle Sinckler handed seven-week ban for gouging

• Sinckler calls incident against Northampton ‘genuine mistake’
• Harlequins man set to miss all of England’s autumn internationals

The Harlequins prop Kyle Sinckler is almost certain to miss England’s autumn international campaign after receiving a seven-week ban for eye-gouging Northampton’s Michael Paterson.

The 24-year-old accepted the charge of making contact with Paterson’s eye last Saturday and will miss England’s autumn matches against Argentina and Australia. Sinckler is free to play again on 21 November, four days before England conclude their autumn fixtures against Samoa, but he is highly unlikely to feature in that match, considering the lack of game time he will have had.

Related: Naming rights are part of modern sport but Twickenham should resist | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/03/kyle-sinckler-seven-match-ban-making-contact-eye-harlequins-northampton-premiership-england-rugby

Sep 30

Exeter closing in on signing Saracens fly-half Alex Lozowski

• 24-year-old out of contract next summer and wanted by the Chiefs
• Lozowski behind Owen Farrell at Sarries and keen for first-team action

Exeter look set to win the race to sign the Saracens and England fly-half Alex Lozowski in a deal believed to be worth £350,000 a year. Lozowski is out of contract in the summer and has been linked with a move to his former club Wasps but the Observer understands the Chiefs are poised to land the 24-year-old’s signature for next season.

Related: Chris Wyles leads the way as Saracens sail past wretched Worcester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/30/exeter-saracens-alex-lozowski-fly-half

Sep 29

Tale of two cities: Chiefs are surfing waves of success as Leicester tread water

Tigers once provided the blueprint for Exeter but the teams meet on Saturday with the Chiefs threatening to leave their opponents behind

When Leicester last won the Premiership title it was at precisely this stage of the season in 2012 that they welcomed Exeter to Welford Road and promptly sent them packing back down to the West Country, tails between their legs. In the five years since, the sides’ relative progress has been nigh-on diametrically opposed – Exeter have soared, Leicester stagnated.

The comparison between the two is relevant because their similarities are abundant. Both attempt to live within their means, there are rarely many empty seats when either play at home and both clubs have an earthiness to them. Not so long ago Leicester provided the blueprint for Saturday’s visitors, now the Chiefs are threatening to leave them behind.

Related: Marcus Smith shines for Harlequins but Leicester Tigers turn the tide

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/29/leicester-exeter-rugby-premiership-clubs-opposite-directions

Sep 27

England’s concerns grow over Mike Brown’s ankle injury

• Harlequins full-back underwent a scan after recurrence of injury
• Brown could be doubtful for England’s autumn internationals

Eddie Jones could lose Mike Brown for England’s autumn internationals after the Harlequins director of rugby, John Kingston, conceded he is in the dark over the extent of the full-back’s ankle injury.

Brown underwent a scan on the ankle on Wednesday after reaggravating the problem, first suffered 10 days ago, against Leicester on Saturday. Kingston confirmed Brown required a protective boot following Harlequins’ loss against the Tigers and that he will miss out at Northampton on Saturday.

Related: The Premiership’s injury price tag is mounting and attitudes need to change | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/27/england-mike-brown-injury-harlequins

Sep 22

Marcus Smith of Quins can be our X-factor rookie, says England’s Eddie Jones

• Teenage fly-half excelled in last week’s win over Wasps
• ‘What I would like to find is someone like a Milner-Skudder’

Eddie Jones has said the teenage fly-half Marcus Smith can be England’s “X-factor rookie” for the 2019 World Cup but warned the Harlequins No10 he will spend most of next week’s training camp “polishing boots”.

The 18-year-old has made only two Premiership starts for Harlequins, including a man-of-the-match performance against Wasps last weekend, but he was on Friday named in Jones’ 33-man squad for the three-day training camp in Oxford. In total Smith has played 196 minutes of Premiership rugby but he shone in the win over Wasps, kicking 14 points including two crucial late penalties.

Related: Teenager Marcus Smith in England squad but no room for Joseph or Haskell

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/22/eddie-jones-marcus-smith-england-world-cup-x-factor-rookie

Sep 22

Teenager Marcus Smith in England squad but no room for Joseph or Haskell

• 11 of England’s 15 Lions included in pre-autumn internationals squad
• Sinckler’s omission a surprise considering he played in all three Lions Tests

The British & Irish Lions Jonathan Joseph, James Haskell and Kyle Sinckler are among the high-profile absentees from England’s 33-man training squad with Eddie Jones also omitting Denny Solomona from the get-together in Oxford.

Related: Lions manager John Spencer hits back at Sean O’Brien criticism of drawn series

Related: RFU’s attempt to reduce Six Nations to six weeks is defeated

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/22/england-rugby-union-squad-eddie-jones

Sep 20

Warren Gatland to blame for Lions not beating the All Blacks, claims O’Brien

• Ireland flanker says squad was ‘over-trained’ before Tests
• ‘I think we should have won the tour – probably comfortably’

Seán O’Brien has blamed Warren Gatland and his coaching staff for the British & Irish Lions’ failure to win their series in New Zealand over the summer, claiming they should have comfortably done so.

Related: Warren Gatland sees Lions’ draw against All Blacks as next best thing to success | Andy Bull

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/20/lions-all-blacks-2017-tour-warren-gatland-sean-obrien-should-have-won

Sep 20

RFU’s attempt to reduce Six Nations to six weeks is defeated

• RFU outvoted by five to one at Six Nations board meeting
• Victory for player welfare after opposition from Joe Marler and others

The Rugby Football Union’s hopes of reducing the Six Nations Championship from seven weeks to six are in effect dead in the water after it emerged the governing body was outvoted five to one at a Six Nations board meeting this week.

Despite widespread opposition from a number of senior England players, the RFU had been pushing for the removal of one of the two rest weeks during the Six Nations from the 2019-20 season onwards but failed to attract any support from the other five unions at the vote.

Related: Joe Marler says six-week Six Nations proposals are ‘ridiculous’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/20/rfu-attempt-reduce-six-nations-six-weeks-defeated

Sep 20

Rugby union international power rankings: who can challenge All Blacks? | Gerard Meagher

Our first power rankings since the 2015 World Cup mark two years to go until Japan 2019. England lead the chasing pack while Australia and Wales struggle

Before the All Blacks’ record 57-0 victory over South Africa, Steve Hansen felt the need to defend his side’s uneven performances in 2017. The response was emphatic. It used to be the case that the All Blacks peaked at this stage of the World Cup cycle but Hansen is adamant they will improve in the next two years. Twelve months ago they struggled to maintain their remarkable form through the autumn and as they have crammed five matches into their schedule this year, an upset is not out of the question. But if New Zealand’s halos have slipped just a little – on and off the pitch – they remain the standard bearers of world rugby.

Related: Two years to Japan’s World Cup and rugby union is in a state of confusion | Robert Kitson

Related: Wallabies’ tactical evolution is both encouraging and discouraging | Bret Harris

Related: New Zealand begin to suffer from player exodus to the wealthy north | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/sep/20/rugby-union-international-power-rankings-all-blacks-england

Sep 19

France promises to prevent ‘death of rugby’ if awarded 2023 World Cup

• France bidding for 2023 tournament with Ireland and South Africa
• French bid leader: ‘I think rugby will die in five-10 years if we do nothing’

France has promised to prevent the “death of international rugby” if it is awarded the 2023 World Cup and has claimed a successful bid would help in attempts to stop its Top 14 clubs luring southern hemisphere players to Europe.

France, whose bid includes a guarantee to World Rugby of nearly £500m, is vying with Ireland and South Africa to host the 2023 tournament and each will make presentations to the voting unions next Monday before a final decision is revealed on 15 November.

Related: All Blacks irresistible in remarkable 57-0 drubbing of South Africa

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/19/france-rugby-world-cup-2023

Sep 18

Joe Marler reprimanded but not suspended over James Haskell fight

• Harlequins prop escapes censure for antics against Wasps at Ricoh Arena
• England and Lions team-mates had to be pulled apart

Joe Marler has been reprimanded for his spat with James Haskell during Harlequins’ victory against Wasps but the England prop is not facing a suspension.

Marler has been given a citing commissioner’s warning for his role in the incident – pulling at Haskell’s scrum cap and squirting his England and Lions team‑mate with water – in an acknowledgement that the 27-year-old was deserving of a yellow card at the time. Marler’s actions were considered to be contrary to good sportsmanship.

Related: Premiership, Pro14, international and Premier 15s rugby union talking points

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/18/joe-marler-james-haskell-fight-suspended

Sep 14

Rhys Priestland springs to life in Bath after making overdue breakthrough

• Former Wales fly-half fills the void left by George Ford
• ‘I could see myself finishing up at Bath. I’ve got two years left’

Rhys Priestland has stepped “out of the shadows and into the light”, according to the Bath director of rugby, Todd Blackadder. However, the fly-half believes the prospect of a comeback for Wales this autumn remains bleak.

Freddie Burns had been expected to take the Bath No10 jersey but Priestland has been among the sharpest performers of the opening two weeks of the Premiership, guiding his side to consecutive victories, and he keeps his place at Northampton on Friday.

Related: Rhys Priestland inspires Bath to an impressive victory over Saracens

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/14/rhys-priestland-bath-wales-rugby