Paul Rees

Author's details

Name: Paul Rees
Date registered: October 11, 2014
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/south-africa-rugby-team

Latest posts

  1. Bristol may get relegation reprieve from the Championship play-offs — April 27, 2017
  2. Wasps head to Harlequins with a home play-off semi-final in their sights — April 27, 2017
  3. Warren Gatland’s Lions stock up for brutal schedule in New Zealand — April 22, 2017
  4. Gatland’s Lions will follow Ireland and look to feed off All Black mistakes — April 20, 2017
  5. Mark Tainton fights on but says Pat Lam can lead Bristol to the big time — April 15, 2017

Author's posts listings

Apr 27

Bristol may get relegation reprieve from the Championship play-offs

• Victory for Doncaster or Ealing will save West Country club
• Only London Irish and Yorkshire Carnegie can step up to Premiership

Bristol will receive a relegation reprieve if Doncaster or Ealing Trailfinders win the Championship play-offs because neither club put itself through the Premiership’s entry-criteria process and so cannot be promoted.

Ealing play the first leg of their semi-final play-off against Yorkshire Carnegie in west London on Friday, while Doncaster host London Irish on Sunday. The two away sides this weekend have both met the criteria and if Carnegie and Doncaster both reach the final, Bristol will be relegated.

Related: Bristol end seven-year Premiership exile despite Doncaster’s late rally

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/27/bristol-reprieve-championship-rugby-union-play-offs-doncaster

Apr 27

Wasps head to Harlequins with a home play-off semi-final in their sights

• Coventry club will finish top with a bonus-point win at the Stoop
• We are proud of the long unbeaten record at home, says Matt Mullan

Wasps were the masters of the play-off system when the Premiership adopted it 15 years ago, timing their run in the latter months and winning the first three finals despite never finishing at the top of the table. After flirting with bankruptcy and relegation this decade, the club who now play in Coventry rather than Wycombe will secure a home semi-final with victory over Harlequins at the Stoop on Friday night and first place if it is garlanded with a bonus point.

Victory, though, is far from assumed. Wasps have only won at the Stoop once in the league since March 2007 and lost on their last three visits. Quins have lost only two at home in the Premiership this season, with Saracens among the victims, and field the side that pushed another title-chasing side, Exeter, hard two weeks ago.

Related: Matt Mullan and Wasps burst into life to beat Northampton at the last

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/27/wasps-harlequins-rugby-union-premiership-play-off-semi-final-stoop-matt-mullan

Apr 22

Warren Gatland’s Lions stock up for brutal schedule in New Zealand

The tourists have a mountain to climb but they have supplemented their squad and, despite claims their programme is ‘suicidal’, they relish the task ahead

Touring New Zealand is rugby union’s equivalent of climbing Everest. As the Lions start to prepare for their latest assault, having barely got beyond base camp on their last visit 12 years ago, the scale of the ascent can be measured in two statistics: one series won out of 11 and six victories in 38 Tests.

On the 2005 tour, which was planned with military precision, the Lions faced provincial teams in the buildup to the Test series, but this summer they face all five of New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises, along with the Maori All Blacks, in an itinerary the former New Zealand head coach Graham Henry, who spearheaded the Lions’ trip to Australia in 2001 and four years later was in charge of the All Blacks, has described as suicidal.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/22/warren-gatland-lions-new-zealand

Apr 20

Gatland’s Lions will follow Ireland and look to feed off All Black mistakes

Eddie Jones’s glorious England revolution has come too late for this tour. Like Ireland and Wales, the Lions will seek territory and set-piece mastery

John Kingston was in a state of shock when he was invited to stand in front of a camera last Friday night minutes after Harlequins had lost to Exeter at The Stoop. The club’s director of rugby wore the air of a man who, in the words of PG Wodehouse, had searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle.

The match had been the most effervescent in the Premiership this season, fizzing with movement, daring, skill and the outrageous. Quins were at their most swashbuckling, one movement containing offloads from their props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler bore a New Zealand trademark, and in going on 192 runs in the match covered more than 500 metres with ball in hand and made 230 passes.

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

Related: Blend of Anglo-Saxon power and Celtic thunder will give Lions heart | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/20/gatland-lions-ireland-all-blacks-mistakes-england-wales-breakdown

Apr 15

Mark Tainton fights on but says Pat Lam can lead Bristol to the big time

Bristol probably need to beat Wasps to have a chance of staying up but their outgoing head coach insists relegation would not ruin the club’s grand plans

Easter Sunday is associated with resurrection and Bristol are in need of divine intervention if they are to dodge an immediate return to the Championship. Having been within three minutes of beating last season’s beaten finalists, Exeter, a week ago, they on Sunday face the Premiership leaders, Wasps, at Ashton Gate with matches running out.

After Bristol were relegated in 2009, they spent seven years in the rugby wilderness. The money went, then the players, and when they assembled a competitive squad they were tripped up by the Championship’s play-off system. Should they go down again, however, their return is likely to be far quicker, with the club financially stable and underpinned by a strong infrastructure.

Related: Worcester take giant leap towards safety by hitting Bristol for six

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/15/mark-tainton-pat-lam-bristol-big-time-wasps

Apr 12

‘Wales has been awesome and I want to leave Ospreys on a high’ | Paul Rees

English flanker aims for one final fling as he prepares to leave the principality for Bath and sets his sights on a place in Eddie Jones’ squad for Argentina

A year ago, Eddie Jones said he expected to be naming Sam Underhill in the England squad within six months. Politics ruled that out with the flanker playing outside the country for Ospreys and available for selection only in exceptional circumstances, but on Saturday the national side’s defence coach, Paul Gustard, a wing forward in his playing days, will be at the Principality Stadium to watch him play against Cardiff Blues on Judgement Day in the Welsh capital.

Underhill, 20, a student at Cardiff University, is being watched as Jones and his coaches finalise their squad for the June tour to Argentina. An exceptional circumstance could have been argued for the openside before he announced in January that he would be joining Bath in the summer given England’s lack of a specialist No7 for a number of years, but Underhill was injured at the start of the season and when announcing his Six Nations squad Jones said the forward had not done enough to merit selection and would be considered for the summer.

Related: Jack Clifford ruled out of England tour of Argentina with shoulder injury

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/12/sam-underhill-ospreys-england-bath

Apr 11

Sam Warburton faces fitness race for Lions after suffering knee injury

• Wales and Cardiff Blues flanker sidelined for approximately six weeks
• Blues head coach confident 2013 captain will be fit for Lions

Sam Warburton, the Wales flanker who is the bookmakers’ favourite to captain the Lions on the summer tour to New Zealand, is unlikely to play again this season after suffering knee ligament damage but is expected to be fit for the three-Test trip.

The Lions head coach, Warren Gatland, names his squad next week and the captain is likely to have already been told with Warburton given a fortnight’s notice before the announcement in 2013 that he would be leading the squad in Australia.

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/sam-warburton-lions-doubt-knee-injury-six-weeks-rugby-union

Apr 10

Western Force take legal action against ARU over Super Rugby cutback

• Force or Melbourne Rebels set to be axed from Sanzaar competition
• ‘The process being used to evaluate the clubs is inconsistent and inequitable’

Western Force are taking legal action against the Australia Rugby Union ahead of a decision on whether they or the Melbourne Rebels will be cut from Super Rugby next season.

Sanzaar, the tournament’s governing body, is reducing the number of teams in Super Rugby from 18 to 15 and the ARU, which this week announced a profit for a year but has to make cuts ahead of an expected shortfall in the World Cup year of 2019, has agreed to lose one of its five sides.

Related: Could a rugby union State of Origin be more than a glorified exhibition match? | Paul Connolly

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/10/western-force-aru-super-rugby-melbourne-rebels

Apr 08

Courtney Lawes hunts Lions spot in New Zealand after England power play

The Northampton forward forced his way into a stocked England back row by changing his training regime and hopes to round off a career-defining season by facing down the All Blacks

At the start of the season, Courtney Lawes’s prospects of making the British & Irish Lions tour this summer looked even more distant than New Zealand itself. Second row was the best stocked of all the positions and the 28-year-old Saint had fallen behind George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury in the England lock hierarchy.

Lawes has had more than his share of injuries during his career and when Itoje and Kruis were ruled out of the start of England’s autumn international campaign, the Northampton forward, who had started one match in the 2016 Six Nations and was a replacement on the summer tour to Australia, was given an opportunity. He seized it with such force that when Itoje returned for this year’s championship, the Saracen was picked at blindside flanker.

Related: Courtney Lawes credits England coach Eddie Jones for his return to form

Related: England’s Courtney Lawes: ‘If you play less you would be a better player’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/08/courtney-lawes-lions-new-zealand-england-power-play

Mar 27

British & Irish Lions tours reduced to eight matches from 2021

• Unions cut tour length but resist pressure to cut schedule to seven games
• Six Nations bonus system among topics for review at meeting in Dublin

The four home unions are set to reduce the length of a Lions tour from 10 to eight matches from 2021 as part of the changes to the global calendar.

With summer tours switching from June to July from 2020, there were calls for the Lions to play only seven matches, not least from the Premiership clubs who plan to continue starting their campaigns at the beginning of September even though the club season in Europe will run to the end of June under the changes to the global calendar agreed.

Related: All Blacks have nothing to fear, for all the fury of the Six Nations | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/27/british-irish-lions-tour-six-nations

Mar 25

All Blacks have nothing to fear, for all the fury of the Six Nations | Paul Rees

England’s second title in a row said more about the weakness of the opposition in a tournament lacking the subtlety that will be needed by the Lions

The Six Nations is the envy of the southern hemisphere – for its licence to print money rather than the quality of the rugby it inspires. England retained the title but were written off in New Zealand as clunky musclemen who live in a cave, a view compromised by the praise then lavished on Ireland, whose record of two tries in their final three matches was hardly a testament to their perceived verve and guile.

Bonus points were trialled this year in order to, in the words of the tournament’s chairman, Pat Whelan, “materially improve what we already have and enhance the competition as a spectacle”. The system made no difference beyond providing consolation in defeat and overall the 2017 tournament was summed up in the meeting between France and Scotland in Paris, when the physical onslaught of the home side subdued opponents who had tried to dance around the ring.

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/blog/2017/mar/25/all-blacks-nothing-panic-about-six-nations-england-lions

Mar 23

Eddie Jones has given England a spine, now to work on problem solving

Six Nations success was a testament to the coach’s planning and vision but the Italy and Ireland games showed England are still a work in progress

International rugby has become a black and white world with a trace of gold and green. Eighteen months after going down under to Australia at Twickenham and out of the World Cup, England stand second to New Zealand in the world rankings having broken any number of records under the Tasmanian who was lured from Cape Town’s Stormers to mop up after a storm.

From the ashes of a campaign in which England became the first hosts to exit at the group stage has come a world record-equalling run of Test victories for a tier-one nation, back-to-back Six Nations titles, the breaking of an 82-year record for successive victories in the championship, a 3-0 whitewashing of Australia on tour and the respect of the All Blacks.

Related: Warren Gatland refines search for bearers of Lions pride | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/23/eddie-jones-england-the-breakdown

Mar 18

Eddie Jones: ‘We were just not good enough; we still have a lot to do’

• England’s 13-9 defeat to Ireland was Jones’s first loss as head coach
• Jones is pressing Twickenham to arrange game with New Zealand

Eddie Jones believes at least 15 of his players should be named in the Lions squad for the summer tour to New Zealand and is pressing Twickenham to arrange a match against the All Blacks. The England coach is unconcerned that the end of his side’s 18-match winning run, against Ireland in Dublin, will dent confidence.

Related: England pursuit of grand slam and record foiled by defiant Ireland

Related: Emerald flytrap shuts on England once again in Six Nations | Robert Kitson

Related: England finishers hit endgame against Ireland’s unyielding Johnny Sexton | Andy Bull

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/18/ireland-england-six-nations-championship-eddie-jones

Mar 17

Wales have one eye on beating France and one eye on world rankings

Wales could move into top four with victory but final Six Nations match pits them against a rejuvenated, if hesitant, France

Graham Henry once lamented that Welsh rugby was bedevilled by extremes and that if it were a shower, it would be either too hot or too cold. This season has been no different and eight days after going into the match against Ireland knowing defeat in the final two rounds could take them out of the top eight of the rankings in May’s World Cup draw, Wales will move into the top four if they win in Paris and Ireland lose to England.

Wales have been obsessed by the world rankings since the start of the autumn international series. It is understandable given that in 2015 they were put in the same pool as England and Australia after slipping out of the top eight just before the draw, but it has hindered the development of the side with selection sclerotic.

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

Related: George North’s two tries drive Wales past Ireland in thundering win

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/17/wales-france-six-nations-world-rankings

Mar 17

Vern Cotter and Scotland aim to sign off against Italy with a farewell flourish

New Zealand-born coach has overseen a marked improvement and two more tries on Saturday would beat their Six Nations record of 11 set in 2016

When Vern Cotter was told in the autumn that Scotland would not be renewing his contract as coach, the New Zealander remarked with typical understatement that he was disappointed. As his side go into the final weekend of the Six Nations in sight of finishing second, he is not alone.

When Cotter took over in the summer of 2014, Scotland had won four Six Nations matches in as many years, three against Italy. Although he started with a whitewash, they have since defeated France, Ireland and Wales and victory over Italy at Murrayfield in Saturday’s early kick-off at 12.30pm would mean they had won more matches in a campaign than they had lost for only the second time since Italy joined the tournament, the first coming in 2006.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/17/vern-cotter-scotland-italy-six-nations

Mar 16

World Rugby’s international calendar from 2020 boosts Georgia and co

• 12-year calendar increases games between tier two and tier one nations
• Major European sides will tour southern hemisphere in July not June

Georgia may have had the Six Nations door slammed on them but the international calendar agreed for 12 years from 2020, which was announced on Thursday after years of haggling, guarantees tier-two nations regular contact with the top sides in between World Cups.

Under the new calendar the summer tours of the major European countries move from June to the first three weeks of July, apart from the year after a World Cup when only two Tests will be played. The Six Nations sides will begin their autumn international campaigns a week earlier, at the beginning of November, and the start of the World Cup has been brought forward seven days to the second week of September.

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/16/world-rugby-international-calendar-2020-georgia

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