Category Archive: Premiership Rugby

Premiership Rugby News

May 26

Exeter Chiefs ready for fairytale finish against Wasps in Premiership final | Robert Kitson

Victory at Twickenham would cap a remarkable rise and bring the south-west its first major national championship

The list of famous Devonians, from Scott of the Antarctic and Sir Walter Raleigh to Agatha Christie and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, is an eclectic one. Until now heroic athletes – apart from sailors and Argyle footballers – have been in shorter supply. Not since the Tavistock-born Sir Francis Drake played bowls on Plymouth Hoe before defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588 have there been many more evocative local sporting yarns than Exeter Chiefs’ buccaneering ride to Twickenham.

It is seven years this week that Exeter made it out of the Championship to the Premiership; there remains a decent Hollywood movie in their ascent from the old tumbledown County Ground to the top of the domestic game. One more push and for the first time in the history of England’s leading professional team sports – whether it be cricket’s county championship, Premier League football or elite rugby – a team from the south-west peninsula will be national champions.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

Related: Wasps go to Premiership final as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/26/exeter-chiefs-turn-up-heat-wasps-premiership-final

May 25

Wasps and Exeter ensure attacking rugby and ambition return to Premiership

The final at Twickenham between the two top try-scoring teams in the league this season should show how game has moved away from risk-averse tactics

The Premiership play-off semi-finals were a fitting summary of a league season high on ambition. The finishes at Sandy Park and the Ricoh Arena, two replacements scoring tries to win the match in the closing minutes, were dramatic but even the dullest matches can come alive at the end when someone is chasing a game.

What went before in Exeter and Coventry was as notable as the punchline. It was not that long ago when many Premiership sides were risk averse, kicking in their own half and rarely offloading, but with more clubs now training like Eddie Jones’s England, high on pace and intensity with an emphasis on handling and continuity, matches are being won rather than not lost.

Related: London Irish return to Premiership after thrilling win over Yorkshire Carnegie

Related: England players could face New Zealand in autumn Barbarians game

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/25/wasps-exeter-ensure-attacking-rugby-ambition-return-premiership-final-twickenham

May 24

London Irish return to Premiership after thrilling win over Yorkshire Carnegie

• London Irish 55-48 Yorkshire Carnegie (84-66 on aggregate)
• Twelve tries and two red cards as Irish edge breathless contest

London Irish secured an instant return to the Premiership as they beat Yorkshire Carnegie 55-48 in an enthralling encounter at the Madejski Stadium.

Leading 29-18 following last week’s Championship final first-leg win at Headingley, Irish completed the job in style in front of their own fans to banish the memories of last season’s relegation with an 84-66 aggregate victory.

Related: London Irish’s Nick Kennedy: time to seize Championship play-offs moment

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/24/london-irish-yorkshire-carnegie-match-report

May 22

Rugby players fear serious physical and mental strains of extending season

• Premiership rugby wants to lengthen season by a month
• Rugby Players’ Association warns of detrimental effect on welfare

Premiership players have condemned plans to extend the domestic season to 10 months from 2019-20, saying the move would have serious implications and unnecessarily add to their physical and mental strain.

Premiership Rugby drew up its plan last March after World Rugby announced changes to the global calendar that would mean the domestic season in Europe starts a month later in October and goes on until the end of June rather than May.

Related: Rugby union: Premiership, Champions Cup, Pro12 and Top 14 talking points

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/22/players-fear-physical-mental-strain-rugby-union-season

May 22

Rugby union: Premiership, Champions Cup, Pro12 and Top 14 talking points

Exeter still on the up, Wasps feel the noise, Scarlets in nod to Super Rugby and Leigh Halfpenny provides good news for Lions and Richard Cockerill

The Premiership semi-final victory over Saracens was another coaching triumph for Rob Baxter and his management team at Sandy Park. It was not so much revenge for last year’s defeat in the final at Twickenham as confirmation that the Chiefs have improved since then, learning from each new experience in their remarkable rise this decade. Saracens have become the most proficient team in Europe at attacking from set pieces, able to create space out wide and score tries, a quality that helped them defeat Munster and Clermont Auvergne in the latter stages of the European Champions Cup. Exeter achieved an early advantage up front and Saracens were penalised five times in the scrum, where Mako Vunipola came under pressure while Geoff Parling so effectively disrupted the European Cup holders’ line-out that Owen Farrell had little quick ball from the top to launch; the home side fed off mistakes they forced. And Exeter reached the final from a line-out, mauling their way over the line. Not many teams beat Saracens; very few do so with the last play of a match. The Chiefs are evolving into a side that, like Sarries, adds up to even more than the sum of its parts. Paul Rees

Match report: Exeter 18-16 Saracens
Steenson: Exeter can win Premiership after ending Saracens run

Exeter pack shows there are worse things than Beast of Bodmin

Match report: Wasps 21-20 Leicester
Beale in race to be fit for swan song in Premiership final

Related: Anthony Watson: ‘The All Blacks are good but we will try to dominate them’

Match report: Northampton 21-15 Connacht

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/22/rugby-union-premiership-champions-cup-pro-12-top-14-talking-points

May 21

Thrilling Premiership semi-finals hint at a Twickenham treat yet to come | Robert Kitson

If the forthcoming final comes anywhere close to matching the level of entertainment in these matches then supporters are guaranteed a cracking game

Assuming both teams can still walk after two truly epic Premiership semi-finals, the English club season is set for a ripper of a Twickenham finale. If the showdown between Exeter Chiefs and Wasps is even half as thrilling as Saturday’s twin peaks it will be a rare treat, even if the significant shoulder injury that has ruled Billy Vunipola out of the Lions tour has now cast a cloud over the latter stages of the domestic season.

On paper it will look pretty routine to anyone who missed the games in favour of, say, attending a society wedding: the top two regular season sides made home advantage count and will now meet in the final. That simplistic summary does not reflect the intensely dramatic reality: the aggregate margins at Sandy Park and the Ricoh Arena amounted to just three points and neither victory was sealed until the closing seconds.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

Related: Wasps go to Premiership final as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/21/thrilling-premiership-semi-finals-hint-twickenham-treat

May 21

Exeter pack shows Saracens there are worse things than Beast of Bodmin | Robert Kitson

It was as if everything Exeter had been working on for nine months had been distilled into one breezy May afternoon as they ended Saracens’ dream of a ‘double double’

With Exeter hosting the Devon county show and the European champions on the same day, this was always going to be a rare weekend in the west. There was probably a similar amount of prime beef on display at both venues and, rugby-wise, the winning rosette ended up pinned on the most popular of local rumps. The Chiefs are going back to Twickenham and this may yet prove the most significant 80 minutes in their history.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/21/exeter-chiefs-saracens-premiership-semi-final

May 20

Wasps’ Kurtley Beale in race to be fit for swan song in Premiership final

• ‘It’s a hamstring – fingers crossed it’s not too bad’
• Wasps full-back aiming for Twickenham final against Exeter

Dai Young remains optimistic Kurtley Beale will be available for the Premiership final, which would be the No15’s last match for Wasps before he returns to Australia.

“He went off with a bit of a hamstring injury. Fingers crossed it’s not too bad,” the Wasps director of rugby said. “There’s a bit of a tight turnaround. Not ever having had a hamstring injury myself, I don’t know how quickly it can be done. I’m really hoping we can get him to Twickenham, because it would be a really fitting last game for him.”

Related: Wasps go to Premiership final as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/20/wasps-kurtley-beale-rugby-premiership-final

May 20

Exeter’s Gareth Steenson gives final warning: ‘We will go in hard’

• Chiefs No10 expresses determination before Premiership final with Wasps
• Mark McCall says of Saracens’ 18-16 defeat: ‘We can hold our heads high’

Exeter believe they have what it takes to become champions after coming from behind to defeat the European Cup holders, Saracens with a last-minute try before a record crowd at Sandy Park.

The try by their replacement No8 Sam Simmonds from a driving maul, after Henry Slade’s 60-metre kick to touch had set up the lineout, took Exeter to their second consecutive final and was Saracens’ first defeat in nine knock-out matches since losing to Clermont Auvergne in the 2015 Champions Cup semi-final.

Related: Exeter 18-16 Saracens: Premiership semi-final – as it happened

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/20/exeter-gareth-steenson-premiership-final-mark-mccall-saracens-rugby-union

May 20

Wasps grab Premiership final place as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

• Wasps 21-20 Leicester
• Tigers battle back to lead but undone in final minute

A second semi-final; a second epic of scarcely conceivable drama and intensity. Finally, after a second half that touched extraordinary heights, it was Wasps who stepped clear from the carnage and on to Twickenham, stealing yet another victory at this new home of theirs at the very death.

After the most traumatic season they have known, Leicester came here without so much as a prayer, but what a performance they put in when it mattered. Not for the first time recently, Wasps were forced to find a way to snatch victory, and that they did the only way they know how – by running and running again and again in the most bewildering variety of angles. How Leicester’s defence held out as long as they did is of immense credit to a side that seem to have found themselves again at last, but there is just no answering Wasps when they turn it on as they did here.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

Related: Exeter’s Gareth Steenson gives final warning: ‘We will go in hard’

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/20/wasps-leicester-tigers-match-report-premiership-playoffs

May 20

Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

• Exeter 18-16 Saracens
• Astonishing Henry Slade kick sets up last-minute score

A last-minute try by the replacement No8 Sam Simmonds took Exeter to a second successive Premiership final and left Saracens’ tilt at a double double beached at Sandy Park.

Saracens, who had appeared in the three previous finals, looked to have plundered victory five minutes from time with Mike Ellery’s try, but Exeter had ended the regular season by going 15 matches unbeaten and when they were awarded a penalty in their own half 80 seconds from time, Henry Slade kicked it into touch seven metres from the Saracens line and a driving maul three backs joined in ended with Simmonds crashing jubilantly over.

Related: Exeter 18-16 Saracens: Premiership semi-final – as it happened

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/20/exeter-saracens-premiership-semi-final-match-report

May 20

Exeter 18-16 Saracens: Premiership semi-final – as it happened

Sam Simmonds went over in the last action of the game to win a dramatic semi-final for Exeter and win their place in another Premiership final

4.32pm BST

So Exeter will head to the Premiership final at Twickenham on May 27 where they will meet either Wasps or Leicester. That’s all from me, thanks for reading.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

4.30pm BST

That Henry Slade kick, which set up the lineout from which Exeter won the match, was monstrous.

4.29pm BST

It was local lad Sam Simmonds who carried the ball over officially, but it was almost every Exeter player in that maul driving the ball over the line. A remarkable finish to an entertaining match. Saracens’ hopes of a double double is over. Exeter are going to the final.

4.26pm BST

The conversion wasn’t added but it doesn’t matter. What a match!

4.25pm BST

Exeter win their lineout and blast towards the line with shouts of ‘heave’ from the stands. The backs pile in and join the push and the red wall gives way on the line! Wayne Barnes sprints in, takes a look at the pile of bodies and awards the try. Bedlam!

4.23pm BST

78 min Exeter dominate their own scrum and win a penalty which Henry Slade kicks ridiculously to the corner from well inside his own half. They are seven metres out!

4.21pm BST

77 min Exeter patiently probe on the fringes of the Saracens defensive line. Sandy Park is a tense place right now as time runs down.

4.19pm BST

Saracens pour forwards, red shirts filling the Exeter 22. They work it to the right wing where Schalk Brits fires a high pass to Mike Ellery overlapping who slams into Henry Slade – and falls over the top of the tackler, to touch down on the line. A fine if unorthodox finish. Farrell whips the conversion wide. Three in it, four minutes to play.

4.16pm BST

74 min A mistake by Lees who comes in from the side, and Exeter’s good spell of pressure is undone.

4.15pm BST

73 min Chudley hangs up a ridiculously high ball over Saracens’ 22-metre line. Ellery stands, catches, and is promptly wiped out by Whitten sprinting after the kick. That was a massive collision. Saracens manage only to scramble the ball off the field, and they’re under pressure.

4.13pm BST

72 min Steenson slams the penalty down into Saracens’ half.

4.13pm BST

71 min Saracens suddenly scream forwards after Wyles beats Nowell in the air, but Exeter earn a turnover as replacement Sam Simmonds forages at the breakdown. Brilliantly done.

4.11pm BST

69 min Exeter tap and go. Chudley grubbers a clever kick to the corner and no the pressure is on the Saracens lineout five metres from their line. There have been a raft of changes up front for both sides, and now Saracens’ No12 Devoto makes way for Campagnaro.

4.09pm BST

68 min The Exeter pack squeeze hard and earn a penalty from the scrum as Saracens collapse, to huge cheers around Sandy Park.

4.08pm BST

67 min Brits makes a fine burst with some lightning footwork, and a chip to the corner forces Exeter to touch down over their own line. The scrum doesn’t come to much but a minute later Exeter knock-on to hand Sarries a scrum near the centre spot.

4.05pm BST

65 min Steenson matches Farrell’s kick, landing his on the touchline to lose territory. The tension is showing.

4.02pm BST

63 min A poor kick by Owen Farrell. Frustrated by their slow progress through the middle of the field, he tries to chip one to the corner but overcooks and finds touch on the full.

4.00pm BST

61 min A lovely piece of recovery by James Short who dashes back to gather Wigglesworth’s kick, hopping along but just inside the touchline before turning away from two Saracens chasers and making 30 metres.

3.57pm BST

59 min Clever play by Farrell, who gathers a loose ball and quickly grubbers towards the corner before he could be swamped by the black shirts around him. Saracens are on the front foot.

3.56pm BST

A brilliant move by Saracens, who string together the most phases of the match so far as they work the ball right and then wide to the left for Itoje, who times an excellent pass over the top of his tackler for Chris Wyles to touch down in the corner before Nowell could push him into touch. A crucial conversion from the touchline which the Exeter crowd fall silent for – before roaring their approval as Farrell’s kick sails wide.

3.52pm BST

54 min Saracens earn a penalty from the scrum but Farrell produces a carbon copy of Steenson’s kick in the first half, perhaps underestimating the wind and missing touch with an uncharacteristic error.

3.51pm BST

53 min Stuart Townsend gets a huge cheer as he is replaced by the more experienced Will Chudley. A fine performance by the young scrum-half.

3.50pm BST

52 min Saracens string 12 phases together but seem to be lacking the dynamism to make a meaningful break. Wayne Barnes brings the play back for a knock-on by Steenson trying to intercept. Sarries scrum on halfway.

3.48pm BST

50 min Exeter have been utterly dominant in this second half, but Mako Vunipola earns a crucial moment of relief with a turnover in the middle of the field and a penalty. Steenson slams the kick into touch in Exeter’s half and Sarries secure the lineout.

3.45pm BST

48 min A brilliant box-kick from Stu Townsend from the centre of the field, who arcs a left-footed chip inside the Sarries 22 which bounces once before finding touch.

3.44pm BST

47 min The two involved in that huge game-suspending collision earlier, Mako Vunipola and Dave Dennis, return to the field.

3.43pm BST

46 min Exeter have all the momentum right now. Dollman joins the back line and receives Steenson’s pass before cutting inside and making 10 metres, but he’s penalised for a knock-on and Saracens will have a scrum.

3.41pm BST

45 min Schalk Brits replaces Jamie George as Saracens look to add some energy.

3.40pm BST

From the resultant scrum Exeter fly forwards with quick ball from each ruck. Devoto makes a crucial line break on the right wing and when Jack Nowell scoops up the loose ball Saracens can’t prevent him diving over the line. Steenson adds two more.

3.37pm BST

42 min Both Mako and Dave Dennis go off for head injury assessments. Lamositele and Lees are their replacements respectively.

3.35pm BST

42 min Itoje fumbles the kick-off and immediately Exeter pounce. Townsend jinks into a gap before they work the ball into the centre, but they run out of ideas and go backwards before a huge collision between Mako Vunipola and Dave Dennis forces Wayne Barnes to pause the game. I felt that.

3.32pm BST

The second half is under way, for a place in the Premiership final at Twickenham on May 27.

3.31pm BST

That was an odd half, in that Exeter had lots of the ball and most of the momentum but only played in meaningful areas of the pitch in the final ten minutes or so. A lot was down to Farrell simply making better decisions with the boot than Steenson, and executing better kicks too. But Exeter will have the wind behind them in the second half so we’ll see if they can make it count.

If it remains a draw:
10 minutes extra time each way, if still equal:
Most tries, if same:
Place kicking competition.

3.17pm BST

Nip and tuck.

3.15pm BST

39 min Suddenly Jack Nowell throws a dummy to slip off two tacklers and he’s away, speeding towards the posts, but he’s brought down by the last man – Dollman, I think – and knocks on trying to offload.

3.13pm BST

37 min Exeter are back on the attack in the final minutes of the half, carefully plotting their way through. Ten phases down and they are still searching.

3.11pm BST

35 min The scrum is reset … and again. Third time lucky and Waldrom picks from the back. He powers forward but is stopped at the last by his opposite number Billy Vunipola with a brilliant try-saving tackle, and a couple of phases later Vunipola stays on his feet at the ruck to force a penalty, earning a turnover for Saracens almost single-handedly.

3.08pm BST

32 min Saracens go on the front foot after winning the kick-off, with Schalk Burger powering into the 22. But when Stu Townsend anticipates a pass Exeter win the ball back and burst forwards, playing flowing rugby and forcing Sarries to touch down over their own line. Exeter will have a 5-metre scrum.

3.06pm BST

Gareth Steenson converts a simple kick to level the scores.

3.05pm BST

29 min Dollman jinks through a gap barely there in the middle of the field, rousing the crowd as he makes 10, 20, 30 yards before being hauled to the floor around the 22. Exeter bring their forwards into play but the ball is slow. Suddenly Devoto adds some pace and at a scrappy breakdown Saracens are penalised for hands on the floor. Penalty in a central position, 20 metres from the posts.

3.01pm BST

Exeter are on the board.

3.01pm BST

24 min Exeter heave their way to the Sarries line for the first time. Several pick and gos come close to delivering a try before a pile of red shirts hold up the ball – Wayne Barnes awards a penalty to Exeter for some hands on the floor, right under the posts.

2.59pm BST

23 min A livewire piece of defending by Whitten pinches the ball as Saracens were trying to spread the ball wide, and he rushes 50 metres before eventually being brought to ground.

2.57pm BST

21 min Saracens are enjoying a dominant period, working through the phases in Exeter’s half, but each time they near the try line they are forced back.

2.54pm BST

19 min Exeter turn the ball over and when Jamie George comes in from the side, the Chiefs have a penalty 40 yards out. It seems like an opportunity to get on the scoreboard but, with the wind against, Steenson instead elects to kick to touch. He doesn’t make huge gains though, and Exeter’s pressure peters out.

2.52pm BST

17 min Itoje rips the ball from a dithering Townsend, but gets the rub of the green and earns a scrum for Saracens in the centre of the field.

2.50pm BST

And Saracens are going to make Exeter pay for that missed touch. An untidy lineout hands Sarries a 5m-scrum from which they force another penalty. Farrell converts.

2.48pm BST

13 min With the replacements coming on Exeter had been taking advantage, winning a penalty in the centre of the field with some excellent work at the breakdown. But Steenson failed to find touch and a moment later Owen Farrell relieves the pressure with a brilliant 60-yard clearance to the corner.

2.46pm BST

12 min Michael Rhodes has also been forced off, meaning two quick changes early in this match for Saracens. Schalk Burger is his replacement.

2.45pm BST

11 min Chris Ashton has been down receiving treatment after a collision. He can’t continue, and looks devastated to come off. Mike Ellery is on.

2.43pm BST

9 min A chip to the corner sparks a foot race between Nowell and Wyles, with the Saracens wing looking for a try, but the Exeter wing recovers well to clear the danger.

2.41pm BST

7 min The first scrum of the match is a Sararcens ball in Exeter’s half, but prop Mako Vunipola is penalised. Despite the penalty, it’s not a great start at the set-piece for Sarries.

2.38pm BST

6 min Ashton and Taylor combine deep in Exeter territory to drag the Chiefs full-back Dollman over touch, but Jamie George gets a rare lineout wrong and Saracens waste opportunity.

2.37pm BST

Owen Farrell is more than 40m out, wind swirling, but lands the kick to leave the home support sitting very quietly.

2.35pm BST

3 min An early joust for territory sparks a kicking game. Jack Nowell collects Alex Goode’s high ball and goes on a scamper, getting the crowd up. A couple of phases later, though, and Exeter are penalised at the breakdown just inside their half. Penalty.

2.33pm BST

1 min Farrell gets the game going and Exeter secure the ball, before Jack Nowell kicks into Sarries’ half.

2.30pm BST

Owen Farrell leads out the European champions with captain Brad Barritt out injured injured. Ian Whitten has the honour for Exeter on his 100th appearance. Here we go…

2.25pm BST

Kick-off imminent. It’s going to be noisy…

Show of Hands’ Steve Knightley finally gets some noise out of The Library pic.twitter.com/Auu1RcEZWv

2.11pm BST

If you’d like some more pre-match chit chat from Jack Nowell to get in the mood, here he is:

Related: Exeter’s Jack Nowell respectful but not afraid of all-conquering Saracens

11.10am BST

On the face of it this will be a tough task for an Exeter side who have not beaten Saracens this year, losing at Sandy Park at the start of the season before a 13-13 draw at Allianz Park in January. Today they meet a buoyant Sarries team fresh from retaining their European Champions crown and motivated to secure a famous ‘double double’.

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2017/may/20/exeter-v-saracens-premiership-semi-final-live

May 19

Leicester’s Freddie Burns prepares for end to ‘rollercoaster’ ride

The Tigers face Wasps in their Premiership play-off semi-final which could be the fly-half’s last game for them before returning to Bath

Freddie Burns is the first to admit his three years at Leicester have not gone to script. The plan was that a dose of Tigers pragmatism under Richard Cockerill would harness his mercurial talents and catapult the fly-half to sustained England recognition. But the reality has been somewhat different.

It is easy to forget Burns arrived at Leicester having started two of England’s matches on the 2014 tour to New Zealand. A preoccupation with nailing down a World Cup spot precipitated a drastic loss in form, however, and illness – he was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy in the summer of 2015 – injuries and the inertia that kicked in at Welford Road under Cockerill ensued. But the irony is that he has found his best form in a Leicester shirt in the most turbulent of seasons, all the more so after it was announced he would be the makeweight of George Ford’s return to the Tigers at the end of the season.

Related: Geordan Murphy and Leicester Tigers navigate a path through season of chaos

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/19/leicester-freddie-burns-rollercoaster-ride-wasps

May 19

Exeter’s Jack Nowell respectful but not afraid of all-conquering Saracens

• European champions face tough Premiership semi-final at Sandy Park
• Nowell: ‘What they have done is awesome but we focus on ourselves’

Saracens may be European rugby’s dominant power but they will still do well to conquer Devon on Saturday. To say Exeter are looking forward to welcoming the London club is an understatement and their England wing Jack Nowell is predicting a semi-final of storm-force intensity.

Given the prevailing local conditions Nowell has long felt the Chiefs’ Sandy Park home should be renamed “Windy Park” and, stiff south-westerly or not, the hosts also have no intention of easing gently into this contest. Having made that mistake in last year’s Premiership final, lessons have been learned and an extra week of focused preparation while Saracens were toasting their latest title in Edinburgh has further heightened the sense of anticipation.

Related: Rugby’s generation game sees Young and Maunder Jr make names for themselves | Robert Kitson

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/19/exeter-saracens-jack-nowell-premiership-semi-final

May 19

Quiet and calm Mark McCall provides the backbone for sustained Saracens success | Gerard Meagher

With a second successive Champions Cup win in the bag, and two wins from a third consecutive Premiership title, those who know him best reveal Mark McCall’s role in Sarries’ remarkable rise

When Mark McCall agreed to join Saracens in 2009, Brendan Venter had a word of advice for his new first‑team coach. “Smally, you’re going to have to buckle up because it’s going be a hell of ride,” he said. The rest of the conversation is harder to recollect for Venter, who chuckles as he recalls the killer line, but Edward Griffiths, chief executive at the time, remembers well his first encounter with McCall, in a cafe in St Albans. The three of them – Venter, McCall and Griffiths – the three pillars of Saracens success, setting the wheels in motion towards becoming back-to-back European champions.

“Brendan came in and we were looking at ways of running the club, a whole new culture. He wanted somebody he could emphatically trust,” says Griffiths. “When we appointed Mark as an assistant to Brendan in 2009, we knew we were appointing someone who would be equipped to take over when Brendan left [as director of rugby in 2011].”

Related: Success for unprepared Lions would be despite, not thanks to, administrators | The Breakdown

“Mark does not crave attention and that is why everybody likes him. He’s not a self-centred individual who wants more for himself. He has no desire to be in the newspaper.

Related: Dylan Hartley in line for surprise Lions call-up for tour to New Zealand

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/19/mark-mccall-saracens-premiership-title-rise-success

May 17

Saracens to face Newcastle in Philadelphia under four-year US deal

Promotional partner for new Premiership venture heralds regular-season game featuring ‘the Manchester United of rugby’ as building block for rugby in America

Premiership Rugby announced on Wednesday a new four-year deal to stage regular-season games in the US, starting, as previously reported in the Guardian, with Saracens – “the Manchester United of rugby” – against Newcastle in Philadelphia on 16 September.

Related: Aviva Premiership moves US game to September, start of NFL season

Related: Alex Corbisiero takes front row seat as NBC shows English Premiership rugby

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/17/saracens-newcastle-philadelphia-premiership-rugby

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