Gerard Meagher

Author's details

Name: Gerard Meagher
Date registered: October 2, 2014
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/football/manchester-united

Latest posts

  1. RFU keen to streamline Six Nations by scrapping one of the two rest weeks — March 24, 2017
  2. England players return as Premiership clubs seek to bask in Six Nations glow | Gerard Meagher — March 24, 2017
  3. England will not face New Zealand in autumn as Barbarians game is confirmed — March 22, 2017
  4. Eddie Jones defends Dylan Hartley over British Lions selection doubts — March 20, 2017
  5. New Zealand media on England loss: ‘Stuffed plastic bags in need of a trolley’ — March 19, 2017

Author's posts listings

Mar 24

RFU keen to streamline Six Nations by scrapping one of the two rest weeks

• It would help with the broader narrative, says Ian Ritchie
• Any change to the calendar would be confirmed in May

The Rugby Football Union is seeking to reduce the length of the Six Nations to six weeks despite claims that the players are already at breaking point. The RFU chief executive, Ian Ritchie, also admitted he has not been consulted by England’s players about any change but insisted their welfare would not be affected by the removal of one of the two rest weeks.

“With the breaks it is good for the body,” the Harlequins prop Joe Marler said recently. “We are there or thereabouts [at] the limit of fixtures for the season.” He returns to Premiership action for his club this weekend along with 18 other members of the England squad who lost to Ireland last Saturday.

Related: RFU wants fewer Tests but warns to do so will cause ‘economic hit’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/24/rfu-ian-ritchie-six-nations-streamlining-scrap-rest-week

Mar 24

England players return as Premiership clubs seek to bask in Six Nations glow | Gerard Meagher

England and Six Nations have hogged the best players for seven weeks but Premiership clubs are now at full strength to make a push for the play-offs

Anyone attending a Premiership match this weekend may find it worthwhile leafing through the programme. It may be a little bit shinier than usual as clubs go on the charm offensive, looking to bask in the Six Nations afterglow, and a chief executive or chairman may have something to say.

Twelve months ago it was the Saracens owner, Nigel Wray, who bemoaned the “rank stupidity” of the rugby calendar, describing a system whereby Premiership clubs lose their players to internationals for a large chunk of the season as “absolute nonsense”. Now, however, the tone is likely to be more upbeat. Changes to the calendar are due after the next World Cup so expect a degree of triumphalism and reassurance that from then on clubs will not be missing their international stars – this on the weekend that 19 of the England squad who lost to Ireland last Saturday return to action.

Related: England’s defeat by Ireland a necessary wake-up call for Eddie Jones

Related: Gloucester edge out Saracens as Mako Vunipola makes return from injury

Related: Matt O’Connor to return to Leicester Tigers to replace Aaron Mauger as coach

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/24/chris-robshaw-returns-harlequins-premiership-clubs-spotlight

Mar 22

England will not face New Zealand in autumn as Barbarians game is confirmed

• Top two ranked sides in world will not meet until 2018
• RFU admits defeat in staging All Blacks match

England’s hopes of a showdown with New Zealand later this year are over after the All Blacks opted to fulfil their planned fixture with the Barbarians on 4 November instead.

The RFU has admitted defeat in attempting to bring forward a meeting between the world’s top two ranked sides, instead giving its approval to the Barbarians fixture, which will be played at Twickenham. A spokesperson for the governing body said: “We explored whether there was an opportunity to play New Zealand this year, but they have chosen to play the Barbarians.”

Related: New Zealand media on England loss: ‘Stuffed plastic bags in need of a trolley’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/22/england-new-zealand-all-bacls-barbarians-rugby-union

Mar 20

Eddie Jones defends Dylan Hartley over British Lions selection doubts

• Warren Gatland hints England captain could miss out on Lions selection
• England coach says All Blacks are ‘there for the taking’ in summer

Eddie Jones has defended his captain, Dylan Hartley, and compared him to Mike Brearley after Warren Gatland hinted he may not select the hooker in his British & Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand in the summer.

After Jones’s side failed to complete consecutive grand slams, Gatland also suggested Hartley, who is still among the bookies’ favourites to be Lions captain, was under increasing pressure from England’s backup No2 Jamie George. Hartley has started all 18 England matches under Jones but came into the championship lacking match sharpness and was replaced by George before the hour mark in all five Six Nations games.

Related: But for one England try the Six Nations would have been a five-way tie | Andy Bull

Related: Six Nations 2017 verdict: Guardian writers choose their highs and lows

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/20/eddie-jones-england-rugby-dylan-hartley-lions-rugby-union-six-nations

Mar 19

New Zealand media on England loss: ‘Stuffed plastic bags in need of a trolley’

The two sides’ winning sequence battle has ended in a draw with some claiming it is in fact Ireland who are the All Blacks’ closest challengers

Eddie Jones has a habit of being at his most honest straight after matches. After England’s victory over Italy he was not playing ball but a better example was when, after beating Wales, he made his true feelings known about the Principality Stadium roof controversy, saying rugby union is “a winter sport”.

Jones is also always at pains to protect his players so, when he talked on Saturday evening of how keen England were to face New Zealand later this year, it felt like an obvious way to deflect from being outfought and out-thought by Ireland – even though there was no doubt some truth in it.

Related: Bravo England on 18 in a row but Cyprus beat rats, kicks and punches for 24 | Simon Burnton

Related: ‘Congratulations England’: reading between the lines in New Zealand

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/19/new-zealand-media-react-england-loss-ireland

Mar 17

England women win Six Nations grand slam after under-20s do the same

• England women romp to 34-7 victory against Ireland
• England under-20s grind out 14-10 win

Two down, one to go. Emily Scarratt guided England women to a first Six Nations title since 2012 and with it the grand slam – immediately after the under-20s had also completed their clean sweep – meaning Eddie Jones’s side have another slice of history to aim for today. England women cut loose in the second half with tries from Laura Keates, Amy Cokayne, Scarratt and Lydia Thompson sealing a 34-7 victory over Ireland.

With the under-20s earlier grinding out a 14-10 win, the men’s side can complete a first ever treble grand slam in Dublin today. It has been a long time coming for England women, who won their seventh straight title five years ago but had failed to do so since. After concerted pressure early on Scarratt played the killer pass to Amy Wilson-Hardy for the first try. Ireland responded, forcing England into some desperate defending just before half-time, but the outstanding Marlie Packer led the resistance.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/17/england-women-win-six-nations-grand-slam-under-20s-ireland

Mar 17

Ireland v England clash could settle Lions front-row picks, says Neal Hatley

• England scrum coach says all his starters and replacements merit selection
• Jack McGrath, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong among contenders too

The scrum coach, Neal Hatley, believes all six of England’s front rowers who will attempt to secure consecutive Six Nations grand slams on Saturday are in contention for a place on the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in the summer.

Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole will make their fifth consecutive starts of the Championship so far and can make themselves indispensable to Warren Gatland by getting the better of their Irish counterparts.

Related: Six Nations: seven things to look out for this weekend

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/17/ireland-v-england-lions-six-nations-rugby-union

Mar 17

Six Nations: seven things to look out for this weekend

Billy Vunipola’s return should boost England, while Ireland are likely to struggle without Conor Murray and France may be distracted by domestic matters

The significance of Billy Vunipola’s return for England cannot be overstated. Not only does he lift those around him, he also brings formidable carrying that Eddie Jones’s side lacked in the early stages of the competition. As the Championship has worn on, however, Maro Itoje has grown into his role at blindside flanker and Courtney Lawes now finds himself in his best ever international form. Itoje and Lawes swap at scrum time and so you could argue Lawes is effectively playing at No6, regardless of the number on his back. His carrying was relentless against Scotland and while England are no doubt boosted by Vunipola’s return, and it makes clear sense for Eddie Jones to select him, the head coach will be all the more pleased with how England have made up for his absence. His selection is a bonus but it is because he is ready rather than being rushed.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/17/six-nations-seven-things-england-ireland-france-billy-vunipola

Mar 16

Buoyant England are not yet ready to win World Cup, warns Eddie Jones

Coach tells his players there will still be plenty of work ahead even if they beat New Zealand’s world record with a victory over Ireland and another grand slam

Eddie Jones has told his England players they are not yet good enough to win the World Cup despite standing on the verge of back-to-back Six Nations grand slams and eclipsing New Zealand’s world record of 18 consecutive victories.

On Saturday in Dublin England will set off in pursuit of a 19th straight win buoyed by the return of Billy Vunipola and Anthony Watson to the starting lineup and, perhaps more significant, the absence of Ireland’s scrum-half Conor Murray, who is injured.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/16/england-world-cup-eddie-jones

Mar 16

England and Jones maintain focus as Dublin date with destiny beckons

England’s players know they can seize the chance of a lifetime by beating Ireland to secure consecutive Six Nations grand slams but it is also a step on a longer road

No single man makes or breaks a team but, equally, some names have a significant psychological effect on their opponents. There was a perfect illustration of it on Thursday when England confirmed a starting lineup including Billy Vunipola and Ireland posted a team sheet lacking Conor Murray. If this was a game of snakes and ladders, England would be the side enjoying the more elevated perch.

This is not to say Murray’s replacement, Kieran Marmion, and Jared Payne, deputising for Rob Kearney, are not decent players, merely that England will feel quietly encouraged as they prepare to head over to join the St Patrick’s Day throng in Dublin.

Related: Brian Ashton: ‘We were blown away by the fervour of the Irish. We weren’t ready’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/16/six-nations-england-team-billy-vunipola-anthony-watson-ireland-grand-slam-decider

Mar 15

Ireland v England primes Andy and Owen Farrell for ultimate family affair

Father and son will be in opposition camps for Saturday’s grand slam decider and sentiment will be put to one side as senior looks to stop in-form junior

It was just before half-time in his first England appearance at Twickenham when Owen Farrell chipped over the top against Wales, gathered his deft kick and was promptly walloped into next week by the on-rushing George North. The crowd had been ignited as the TV camera panned to Andy Farrell, England’s new defence coach, who was wearing a wry smile – it was hard to tell which part he had enjoyed more.

It is a moment that has stayed in the memory because it remains one of the few windows into one of the most celebrated father-son relationships in rugby. There has been plenty of post-match back-slapping – the pair have enjoyed no little success together for Saracens, England and the Lions – but occasions when either have let their guard down have been rare.

Related: England’s Owen Farrell ready to upset mum in family affair against Ireland

Related: RFU confirms plan to set up 2017 match between England and New Zealand

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/15/ireland-versus-england-andy-owen-farrell-family-affair-six-nations-rugby-union

Mar 15

RFU sparks row over player welfare with November Test offer to All Blacks

• Date of 4 November at Twickenham is outside international window
• Eddie Jones indicates he will rest Lions players in autumn over burnout fears

A fresh row over player welfare is brewing after the Rugby Football Union confirmed it wanted to host an extra Test against New Zealand this autumn outside the international window.

Only four months after the RFU’s chief executive, Ian Ritchie, said he would support proposals to reduce the volume of Test rugby being played, a potential date of 4 November at Twickenham has been offered to the All Blacks.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/15/rfu-confirm-plan-to-set-up-autumn-encounter-between-england-and-new-zealand

Mar 14

England’s Owen Farrell ready to upset mum in family affair against Ireland

• Eddie Jones sticks with winning squad for grand slam match in Dublin
• England coach expects Six Nations backlash from Ireland

You would get long odds indeed on England clinching consecutive grand slams by scoring only a single penalty against Ireland on Saturday but that will not stop Owen Farrell’s mum living in hope.

Having been coached by his father, Andy, at Saracens, England and with the British & Irish Lions, Owen will be on the opposite side for the first time in Dublin with Farrell Sr thriving as Ireland’s defence coach. But it is his mother, Colleen, about whom Owen is most concerned. “I think the only person it will affect is my mum, not us. She just wants everyone to do well.” So what does she want the score to be? “3-0 England I think.”

Related: England’s class of ’92 offer lesson in collective improvement for current crop | Robert Kitson

Related: How Ireland mood music has changed as record-chasing England loom | Brendan Fanning

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/14/england-owen-farrell-mum-ireland-six-nations

Mar 13

How England equalled New Zealand’s 18-match winning streak, match by match | Gerard Meagher

With victory over Scotland at Twickenham, England matched the All Blacks’ 18-match winning streak. This is how they did it

A valedictory team selection by Stuart Lancaster – throwing George Ford, Owen Farrell, Henry Slade and Alex Goode into the back-line – but it falls to Nick Easter to get England, already out of their own World Cup, going with a hat-trick. Slade sparkles in the second half.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/13/england-winning-streak-new-zealand-record-match

Mar 12

‘Congratulations England’: reading between the lines of New Zealand’s reaction

England’s equalling of the All Blacks’ record has been met with magnanimity, but many in the country think some win records are more equal than others

A little less than three years ago, the New Zealand second-row Brodie Retallick was asked how many England players about to take on the All Blacks he could name. “A couple,” was his reply – and when pressed for a name, he offered: “Michael Lawes.” Suffice to say Retallick would now be wise to brush up on Courtney Lawes, and not least because the England lock is in the form of his life.

Related: Jonathan Joseph’s turnaround matches England’s change of attitude | Andy Bull

Related: Eddie Jones challenges his England players to achieve greatness in Dublin

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/12/new-zealand-reaction-england-record

Mar 11

England 61-21 Scotland: how the Six Nations players rated at Twickenham

Hat-trick hero Jonathan Joseph starred for the Six Nations champions, while Fraser Brown’s visit to the sin-bin immediately put the visitors on the back foot

Mike Brown, full-back, 7/10 Did nothing wrong in what was his 17th consecutive championship win. Defensively sound but will never offer the kind of spark that Watson did from the bench.

Related: England and Jonathan Joseph thump Scotland to seal Six Nations title

Related: Gregor Townsend will need to address Scotland’s lack of physicality | Michael Aylwin

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/11/england-scotland-six-nations-players-rated

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