Gerard Meagher

Author's details

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

Latest posts

  1. Ian Ritchie denies hypocrisy accusations after England select Denny Solomona — April 21, 2017
  2. Ireland’s win over New Zealand ‘will not give Lions advantage’, says Andy Farrell — April 20, 2017
  3. Denny Solomona’s England future confirmed with place on Argentina tour — April 20, 2017
  4. Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland — April 19, 2017
  5. England’s Joe Launchbury and Jonathan Joseph to miss out on Lions squad — April 17, 2017

Author's posts listings

Apr 21

Ian Ritchie denies hypocrisy accusations after England select Denny Solomona

• RFU chief executive has been pushing for residency rule to stretch to five years
• New Zealand-born winger became eligible last month after crossing codes

The Rugby Football Union chief executive, Ian Ritchie, has denied accusations of hypocrisy after Denny Solomona’s inclusion in England’s squad for the summer tour of Argentina. Ritchie is currently lobbying for the extension of the residency rule to five years – it is three at present – but sees no issue with Eddie Jones selecting the New Zealand-born winger, who became eligible only last month.

Solomona has scored 10 tries in 13 appearances for Sale since controversially crossing codes in December and, if World Rugby votes to extend the qualification period at its council meeting in May, he would be the last England international to become eligible under the 36-month rule.

Related: Denny Solomona’s England future confirmed with place on Argentina tour

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/21/rfu-ian-ritchie-accusations-hypocrisy-denny-solomona-england

Apr 20

Ireland’s win over New Zealand ‘will not give Lions advantage’, says Andy Farrell

• Gatland’s assistant says Chicago win will not give players any ‘super power’
• Steve Hansen warns Lions ‘clutching at straws’ if they focus on Ireland’s win

Ireland’s historic victory over New Zealand in Chicago does not give the Lions a psychological advantage this summer, according to Andy Farrell, amid accusations from the All Blacks coach, Steve Hansen, that Warren Gatland is “clutching at straws” if he thinks otherwise.

Hansen countered Gatland’s claim that Ireland’s first win over New Zealand in 111 years, during November, proved the All Blacks were fallible by pointing to his side’s win in Dublin two weeks later and fired some shots of his own following the Lions squad announcement, questioning the omission of the England captain, Dylan Hartley, and taking aim at Johnny Sexton.

Related: Lions: the key issues for Warren Gatland and his squad in New Zealand

Related: Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/20/steve-hansen-england-captain-dylan-hartley-asset-lions-rugby-union-tour-new-zealand

Apr 20

Denny Solomona’s England future confirmed with place on Argentina tour

• Eddie Jones denies sidestepping new residency rules
• Prolific Solomona has ‘a certain amount of x-factor’, head coach says

Eddie Jones has dismissed any lingering questions over Denny Solomona’s commitment to England after selecting him in an experimental 31-man squad for the summer tour to Argentina, and denied the New Zealand-born wing is being “warehoused”.

Solomona is one of 15 uncapped players in Jones’s squad, having scored 10 tries in 13 appearances for Sale since his switch from rugby league in December. He declared his eligibility in March, having completed the necessary three years’ residency, but having said his “heart is not for England” while playing rugby league for Castleford, he has faced accusations of being a mercenary – members of Jones’s squad earn approximately £22,000 per Test.

Related: Denny Solomona case puts RFU in line for charge of hypocrisy | Gerard Meagher

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/20/denny-solomona-named-england-rugby-union-squad-argentina-tour

Apr 19

Lions goalkicking can give us the edge in New Zealand, says Warren Gatland

• Gatland names extended 41-man squad to face All Blacks
• Sam Warburton named captain with Dylan Hartley left out for Jamie George

Warren Gatland believes superior goalkicking can catapult the British & Irish Lions to a first series win against New Zealand since 1971. After selecting an extended squad of 41, with the Wales back-row Ross Moriarty and the Ireland centre Jared Payne among the surprise inclusions, Gatland also claimed he has picked a touring party with the firepower to match the All Blacks up front.

With Gatland confirming Owen Farrell has been picked as fly-half, along with Ireland’s Johnny Sexton and Dan Biggar of Wales, the Lions head coach has packed his squad with goalkickers – Leigh Halfpenny, the player of the series four years ago, has also been selected along with England’s Elliot Daly, who possesses a thunderous left boot.

Related: Lions: the key issues for Warren Gatland and his squad in New Zealand

Related: A hell of a job: why the Lions selection process is almost as tough as the tour

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/19/british-irish-lions-squad-sam-warburton-captain

Apr 17

England’s Joe Launchbury and Jonathan Joseph to miss out on Lions squad

• Coach Warren Gatland likely to leave out second-row and centre
• Fly-half George Ford could also not be selected for New Zealand tour

Warren Gatland is expected to overlook a number of England’s Six Nations champions when he names his British & Irish Lions squad on Wednesday, with the second-row Joe Launchbury among those to miss out.

Launchbury excelled for England throughout the tournament but is up against Alun Wyn Jones, who captained the Lions in the final Test in 2013, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, the Ireland pair of Iain Henderson and Donnacha Ryan, as well as the fit-again George Kruis, for one of what is expected to be five second-row positions.

Related: A hell of a job: why the Lions selection process is almost as tough as the tour

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/17/lions-squad-launchbury-joseph-england-miss-out

Apr 17

A hell of a job: why the Lions selection process is almost as tough as the tour

The particulars of the selection and announcement of the Lions squad may have changed a bit since 1888, but the tension players and selectors feel has endured

Suffice it to say the process of Lions selection has changed over the years. The first tour in 1888 was dreamt up by three cricketers and was on the whole comprised of players from northern England looking to make a few quid. One of them, Jack Clowes, was even banned from playing any of the matches by the RFU for accepting a generous £15 kit allowance on the eve of the tour – he spent eight months away without officially playing a game.

Related: Ben Youngs makes a ‘nice little last push’ for Lions squad place

Related: Lions squad: two-tone approach may throw Warburton and Hartley a lifeline | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/17/british-lions-squad-announcement-selection-new-zealand-tour

Apr 14

‘Big Cats’, brand reviews and the rampant commercialism of the Lions | Gerard Meagher

No Lions tour before 1991 made a profit but, with 35,000 fans expected to descend on New Zealand and 11 major sponsors, the brand is now big business

Regardless of what is on the menu at London’s Hurlingham Club, it will not match the delicious irony served up a week next Wednesday. It is an evening with the “Cambridge University Big Cats” and, if the billing sounds contrived, it is because the British & Irish Lions have instructed them to drop “Lions” from the title. Quite apart from the fact that Cambridge have provided the Lions with 73 tourists over the years – more than any single club – among the legends due to be present is John Spencer, who happens to be manager of this summer’s tour of New Zealand. It would not be surprising to hear of him making a swift exit after dinner.

If it seems like heavy-handed ring-fencing, the Lions would point out that their brand is a shooting star – every four years it burns brightly but not for long – and that they have a duty to their sponsors. They also have charity dinners to sell out themselves and the next is in Edinburgh the day after Cambridge’s – a seat is yours for £249. It raises the question of whether the Lions as a brand has jumped the shark. As a commercial product, has it become a monster?

Related: Can Warren Gatland afford to leave Dylan Hartley out of Lions squad? | Paul Rees

Related: ‘Phenomenal’ Maro Itoje relishing new role as lineout leader | Gerard Meagher

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/14/british-irish-lions-brand-commercialism-sponsors-warren-gatland

Apr 11

‘Phenomenal’ Maro Itoje relishing new role as lineout leader | Gerard Meagher

There would not seem room for another string on the 22-year-old’s bow but the England second‑row continues to grow, on and off the pitch

There are seemingly endless ways of highlighting the speed of Maro Itoje’s rise to being one of the world’s premier locks and an England captain in waiting, but the latest is another that will astound: the last time the British & Irish Lions toured New Zealand, in 2005, Itoje was yet to even pick up a rugby ball.

It also serves as a reminder that he is still learning his trade. This season, with Saracens incurring a number of injuries at second row, the 22-year-old Itoje has been calling the lineout for the first time in his fledgling career.

Related: Rugby union talking points from the weekend’s Premiership action

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/11/maro-itoje-saracens-lineout-england-lions-rugby

Apr 08

Saracens’ Billy Vunipola: ‘You build relationships by being vulnerable’

The No8 talks about anxieties over Lions selection, Saracens’ culture of success and how his game has improved since Eddie Jones’s England arrival

Perhaps it should not be surprising it takes someone of Billy Vunipola’s size to tackle the elephant in the room. “Everyone says: ‘I’m not thinking about the Lions’ – they’re all lying,” he says. “It’s all the media training, everyone is scared of saying: ‘I’m scared of not going.’”

Vunipola is in candid mood. Here is an England international admitting defeat in Dublin may be a good thing, a member of the all-conquering Saracens side shining a light on their secrets of success and a would-be Lion revealing he is kept awake at night for fear of being overlooked by Warren Gatland.

Related: Do Premiership rugby’s London days out signal rude health or desperation? | Robert Kitson

Related: Saracens performance director Phil Morrow to join Lions tour

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/08/saracens-billy-vunipola-england-lions

Apr 06

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

• England prop warns players may need to sit out summer tours
• ‘I can’t say I would be in favour of it. I wouldn’t like it to happen’

The England prop Joe Marler said proposals to reduce the length of the Six Nations to six weeks are “ridiculous” and warned that some internationals may need to sit out summer tours if the season is extended to 11 months.

The Rugby Football Union has backed plans to remove one of the tournament’s two rest weeks, as part of World Rugby’s new-look global calendar from 2020 but has met opposition from the Scottish and Welsh governing bodies, with player welfare among their chief concerns.

Related: Fixture crush has players talking of strike action – World Rugby must step up

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/06/joe-marler-six-week-six-nations-proposals-ridiculous

Apr 02

Saracens’ Mark McCall believes rugby calendar changes could cause burnout

• Director of rugby fears players will not have enough recovery time
• McCall says players, clubs and countries ‘all pull in different directions’

Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, fears players face burnout as a result of planned changes to the calendar that would lead to 11-month seasons for England internationals.

Related: Are rugby union and its calendar stretched to breaking point? | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/02/saracens-mark-mccall-rugby-calendar-changes

Mar 29

Denny Solomona case puts RFU in line for charge of hypocrisy | Gerard Meagher

The Sale wing is entirely within his rights to seek international recognition with England but hiding behind legislation is not a good look for the RFU

If Denny Solomona’s declaration that he is available for England has not come as a surprise, nor unfortunately has the admission that he has already braced himself for the inevitable criticism that will come his way. Putting aside his controversial switch from rugby league for a moment, the first thing to say about Solomona is that he is entirely within his rights to seek international recognition with England. He has completed the required three-year residency period and, as confirmed by his club Sale on Wednesday, the necessary paperwork.

Critics will point to two things. One, that the required period of residency is not long enough – hardly Solomona’s fault – and two, that his change of heart is financially motivated. Only last September he was quoted as saying: “My heart’s not here, it’s not for England,” when asked if he would consider playing league for England, where the financial incentives pale in comparison to the £22,000 a match Eddie Jones’s side receive.

Related: Life on the road may prove too tough in Champions Cup quarter-finals | Robert Kitson

Related: Castleford to sue Denny Solomona and Sale over cross-code switch

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/29/denny-solomona-case-rfu-hypocrisy-sale-england-rugby-union

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

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