Paul Rees

Author's posts

Oct 16

Warren Gatland hits back at sniping from his Lions flanker Sean O’Brien

• Ireland forward had claimed a whitewash of the All Blacks was feasible• Wales coach rules out third spell in charge of Lions on 2021 tourWarren Gatland said he was hurt by Sean O’Brien’s public criticism of the coaching on the summer British & Ir…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/16/warren-gatland-sniping-lions-flanker-sean-obrien

Oct 14

‘Everything has to be earned,’ Dylan Hartley tells Saracens’ Jamie George

The England captain will take nothing for granted when he goes head to head with the Sarries hooker in Northampton’s Champions Cup openerGood is the word Dylan Hartley eventually settles on when asked how his right hand was after bruising kept him out …

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/14/dylan-hartley-jamie-george-england-rivals-northampton-saracens-champions-cup

Oct 11

Saracens’ Jamie George ready to impose authority to impress Eddie Jones

Hooker, who took advice off a magician last week, admits he needs to work on his leadership qualities to nail a starting place in the England teamJamie George started three Tests for the Lions in the summer, but the Saracens hooker looks destined to re…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/11/jamie-george-saracens-england-eddie-jones

Oct 11

England debate over Lancaster resurfaces but now is time for looking forward | Paul Rees

The serialisation of a new book by Rob Andrew has taken discussions back a few years but England need to be looking to the futureOn Monday, the day before the second anniversary of his final match as England’s head coach, Stuart Lancaster was still dea…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/11/england-stuart-lancaster-eddie-jones-rugby-union

Oct 07

Wasps seek winning touch after suffering Premiership runners-up curse

Last season’s finalists go to Saracens on Sunday having lost three of their five matches and their director of rugby, Dai Young, admits standards have slipped

Losing the Premiership final is becoming a curse. Like Exeter last season and Bath the year before Wasps have lost three of their first five Premiership matches and defeat at Saracens on Sunday would dump them in their worst run since 2014.

Wasps started with victories over two clubs who finished in the bottom three last season, Sale and Worcester, but then lost to Harlequins and Bath at home with a 14-point reverse away to the team who defeated them in the final in May, Exeter, sandwiched between.

Related: Harlequins hammer Sale but Jack Clifford injury sours night for England

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/07/wasps-premiership-saracens-dai-young

Sep 30

Mark McCall wants coaches to have say in length of Premiership season

• McCall: ‘It would be sensible to talk to all parties’
• Premiership Rugby proposing a 10-month season from 2019-20

Saracens’ Mark McCall, director of rugby at England’s most successful club this decade, believes coaches should be given a central role in the dispute over the length of the season that has prompted players to consider going on strike.

Premiership Rugby intends to run the domestic campaign over 10 months from 2019-20, starting in September and running until the end of June when international players will go on international tours. The Rugby Football Union has said it is a decision for the Professional Game Board, not clubs, but McCall wants those at the sharp end to have a say. “It would seem to be sensible to talk to all the parties who can contribute to the debate,” he said. “Directors of rugby should definitely be involved, the players as well. At the moment, you are reliant on your Premiership representative on the board to represent the collective view of the clubs, but this is an important issue for everyone.”

Related: George Ford extends a generous hand to England No10 rival Marcus Smith

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/30/mark-mccall-saracens-premiership-rugby

Sep 30

George Ford extends a generous hand to England No10 rival Marcus Smith

• Eddie Jones’s starting fly-half says competition for places is good
• Ford tells teenage pretender to remember why the coach picked him

George Ford has told the latest player to challenge for his England fly-half jersey, the 18-year old Marcus Smith who trained with the national squad in Oxford last week, to be himself and never lose sight of why he was selected.

The pair faced each other on the day before the England squad met up when Leicester defeated Harlequins at The Stoop on an afternoon when the two outside-halves showcased their talent in front of the watching national head coach, Eddie Jones, although Smith departed early with a leg injury.

Related: Marcus Smith the flower in Eddie Jones’ blossoming England vision

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/30/george-ford-encouragement-england-no10-marcus-smith

Sep 30

Luke Charteris believes Bath road work can put Wasps in a jam

Veteran Wales forward says Bath have taken measures to address last season’s terrible away record but they must cut out the individual errors at the Ricoh

Luke Charteris is one of international rugby’s longest‑serving players but in a season when he turns 35, and at a time when playing careers are getting shorter because of the physical demands of the sport, retirement is far from the Wales second row’s thoughts.

Charteris was first capped in 2004, two years after Juan-Martín Hernández, Sergio Parisse and Gethin Jenkins and the same year as Rory Best, and has won 74 caps. Tall (he is 6ft 9in) and lithe, he looks pretty much now as he did when he made his first appearance in senior rugby, for Newport in 2002, and in the last year of his contract with Bath he is looking to secure an extension.

Related: Mark Wilson swoops for Newcastle in thrilling last-gasp victory at Bath

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/30/luke-charteris-bath-wasps-wales

Sep 24

British & Irish Lions to reduce fixtures for 2021 South Africa tour

• Organisers believe there is not enough ‘meaningful’ opposition
• Premiership clubs concerned about workload of leading players

The British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021 will be cut to eight matches in a move that will be welcomed by England’s Premiership clubs, but future trips could be restored to 10 fixtures with the four home unions keeping their options open.

Talks with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa about an agreement to cover the three tours in the next 12 years are approaching a conclusion. The Lions have come under pressure from the Premiership, which secured the backing of the Rugby Football Union, to cut the duration of tours and reduce the load on leading players.

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

Related: The Lions are priceless: meddle too much and they will become an endangered species | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/24/lions-reduce-fixtures-2021-south-africa-tour

Sep 23

Marcus Smith the flower in Eddie Jones’ blossoming England vision

Head coach wants more attacking ingenuity in his team to close the gap on the All Blacks and he will cast his net wide to find exceptional talents

Eddie Jones has given himself a licence to skill. The coach who plucked Matt Giteau from the obscurity of club rugby in Canberra at the start of the decade to make him a Wallaby sees the same potential in the Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith, who this week links up with the England squad for the training camp in Oxford.

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

Marcus Smith has 
a feel for the game: he understands it and what he is going to do. He does things no one tells him to

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/23/skilful-marcus-smith-eddie-jones-england-vision

Sep 21

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

• ‘I was surprised and disappointed; it was a tour when everyone stuck together’
• Disciplinary action ruled out over view about coaches on New Zealand tour

John Spencer, the manager of the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand this summer, said he was “surprised and disappointed” at the critical remarks made by the Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien about Warren Gatland and one of the head coach’s assistants, Rob Howley, but ruled out initiating disciplinary action against the player, who started all three Tests.

The tourists drew a series they were widely expected to lose, becoming only the second Lions party not to lose a rubber in New Zealand, but in a radio interview O’Brien said he was critical of the management because he felt “we should have won it comfortably”. He claimed the players were overtrained on the Thursday before the first Test and said Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton took over the attack coaching for the second Test because Howley was struggling to get his message across.

Related: Eddie Jones to name most of his Lions in England squad for autumn series

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/21/lions-manager-john-spencer-hits-back-sean-o-brien-criticism-drawn-series-new-zealand

Sep 16

Dai Young’s forward thinking faces acid test from Harlequins’ Lions props

Wasps’ director of rugby has taken charge of the scrum and raised standards but Ashley Johnson knows Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler will be a step up in class

Wasps lost last season’s Premiership final to Exeter two minutes from the end of extra time when they were penalised for collapsing a scrum and, at a time when sides are looking to play with more adventure following rule changes designed to stimulate attacking instincts, European rugby’s greater entertainers have gone back to basics.

Not that Wasps are turning into the Argentina of old, all set piece and sinew, but the not uncommon sight last season of a retreating scrum was too much for their director of rugby, Dai Young, who in his playing days as a prop went on three Lions tours and established a reputation as one of the game’s leading scrummagers.

Related: Northampton get their big guns firing to overpower lacklustre Bath

Related: Billy Twelvetrees: ‘Welford Road can be intimidating – but it’s also why you play’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/16/dai-young-wasps-forwards-harlequins-lions-ashley-johnson

Aug 31

Premiership 2017-18: team-by-team preview of England’s rugby union season

Saracens still look the team to beat and Exeter have a lot to live up to while Newcastle and Worcester will be looking to maintain their progress of last term

Coach Todd Blackadder

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

Related: Eddie Jones tells Sale’s Denny Solomona he is still in the England picture

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/31/premiership-2017-18-rugby-team-by-team-preview

Aug 28

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

Disparity in income generated in Europe leaves southern hemisphere countries hoping for some form of shared revenue from internationals

It has been another British summer when the jet stream has moved too far to the south and, as the European club seasons start, climate change is being felt with the southern hemisphere shivering in a chill wind.

Australia’s capitulation in Sydney a week ago, when they conceded a record number of points to the All Blacks, would ordinarily have led to strident demands for Michael Cheika to be sacked as head coach. Even if there was little excuse for some abject defending, especially after how the Lions took on the World Cup holders in the summer, there is an appreciation that Australia’s problems are structural.

Related: Ruthless All Blacks teach Wallabies lesson in Bledisloe Cup opener

Related: Saracens fear salary cap rules could cost them homegrown stars like Maro Itoje

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/aug/28/new-zealand-southern-hemisphere-player-exodus-shared-revenue

Aug 23

SA Rugby targets European Champions Cup for Cheetahs and Southern Kings

• Pair of South African sides entering Pro 14 not currently eligible for Europe
• ‘Our teams playing in Europe will be a process that will take two or three years’

The South African Rugby Union wants its teams who have joined the Pro 14 to compete in Europe in the coming seasons.

The Cheetahs and the Southern Kings linked up with the three Celtic unions and Italy after losing their places in Super Rugby, with the South African Rugby Union signing them up for an initial six years. If one of them wins the league this season, though, there will be no European Champions Cup place.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/23/sa-rugby-european-champions-cup-cheetahs-southern-kings

Aug 21

Sir Colin Meads obituary

All Blacks captain with a reputation as one of the hardest, most uncompromising players in rugby union

Few sportsmen or sportswomen have so defined their country as did Colin Meads, the former New Zealand rugby captain, who has died at the age of 81. A man uncomfortable with fame, he early in his career described himself as a “country hick in the big time” and saw himself as a father first, a farmer second and an All Black incidentally.

Meads’ international career spanned 14 years and covered three decades, from his debut against Australia in 1957 to his final appearance against the 1971 Lions when he was 35. He broke his back later that year in a car crash and his body was encased in plaster, but typical of a man who had played on against Eastern Transvaal in 1970 after suffering a broken arm, and who had returned to the field against France in 1967 after being viciously kicked in the head as he lay on the ground, he was back on the field within five months. He was expected to tour the British Isles in the autumn of 1972, only to make himself unavailable because of differences with the New Zealand coach Bob Duff.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/21/sir-colin-meads-obituary