Category: Premiership Rugby

Premiership Rugby News

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

Oct 06

Harlequins hammer Sale but Jack Clifford injury sours night for England

• Harlequins 42-26 Sale
• Clifford leaves Eddie Jones with headache for autumn internationals

The victory for Harlequins was polished but Jack Clifford’s suspected dislocated shoulder promptly removed the shine. The back-row joins their walking wounded – already a seemingly endless list – and leaves Eddie Jones with a further headache for England’s autumn internationals in November.

The 24-year-old, drafted into the England training squad for the injured Billy Vunipola last month, was withdrawn shortly before half-time against Sale and is a serious doubt for the autumn fixtures. With Vunipola already out of the running and Nathan Hughes missing Wasps’ trip to Saracens on Sunday, Jones is swiftly running out of options at No8.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/06/harlequins-sale-premiership-match-report-jack-clifford-injury

Oct 06

Worcester’s Gary Gold: ‘We don’t have a crisis. We’ve got a problem’ | Robert Kitson

The Warriors have only one point this season but the South African is determined to leave on a high and desperate to spring a surprise at Bath – to where he returns with a ‘sore heart’

Imagine you are a well-regarded rugby coach, presiding over the league’s bottom team. What would you do if someone with an American accent offered you a fistful of dollars and the biggest job in US rugby? Gary Gold has duly signed up as the next Eagles head coach but the high‑fives are on hold. After five successive Premiership defeats, Worcester are less bothered about American dreams than extracting themselves from an increasingly Grand Canyon-sized hole.

Not that Gold is the type to jump gleefully to safety without a backward glance; he was due to return home at the end of this season anyway, having initially arrived merely as a consultant. It is also only four years since he suffered the cruellest of coaching cuts, ousted from Bath shortly after having relocated his family to Somerset. His return this weekend to the Recreation Ground with Worcester will arouse understandably mixed emotions. “I haven’t been back to Bath since. I’ve no idea how it’s going to be. I’ll be going back with quite a sore heart.”

Related: Worcester face fresh turmoil after Gary Gold announces departure to US

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/06/worcester-gary-gold-rugby-union

Oct 04

Premiership players’ strike an option over plans to lengthen season

• RPA’s Damian Hopley airs concerns over plan to lengthen season
• ‘We’re crying out for less rather than more, we’re keen to find a solution’

Damian Hopley, the Rugby Players’ Association chief executive, says strike action is an option in the debate over a 10-month long season.

The umbrella organisation for the 12 Premiership clubs is seeking to establish a structure running from September to June as part of negotiations for the global calendar, which would take effect from August 2020. With summer tours moved to July it means international players will face an 11-month season, prompting England’s Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs and Joe Marler to declare they regard strike action as a viable option if their voices are not heard. The England captain, Dylan Hartley, has described the prospect of the extended campaign as “not welcome”.

Related: Naming rights are part of modern sport but Twickenham should resist | Robert Kitson

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/oct/04/premiership-players-strike-option-rpa-rugby-union

Oct 02

Rugby union: talking points from the weekend

Matt O’Connor’s Tigers are evolving fast, Bath’s fledglings offer hope for the country and Quins’ Kyle Sinckler is at the mercy of the law book

The Tigers are changing their stripes. A side which for years built its foundation on set-pieces, an all-enveloping back row, controlling half-backs and immovable defence has evolved into one that can thrive on less than 50% possession. The midfield partnership of George Ford and Matt Toomua allows Leicester to react quickly in broken play and, after all the upheaval of the last few seasons, continuity has been a theme this season. Five rounds into the Premiership the director of rugby, Matt O’Connor, has made just one change in his back line, and that was enforced when Manu Tuilagi was injured after the opening weekend. The wings Jonny May and Nick Malouf have scored seven of the 12 league tries between them, profiting from a broader range of passing, and both added to their tally against the champions in a match in which the home side spent two-thirds of the match in their own half and had just 38% of possession. Paul Rees

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

Related: Scott Baldwin apologises for missing match after being bitten by lion

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/oct/02/rugby-talking-points-matt-oconnor-tigers-kyle-sinckler-premiership-pro14

Oct 01

Semesa Rokoduguni try seals victory for Bath over dispirited Wasps

• Wasps 9-25 Bath
• Hosts fall to third consecutive Premiership defeat; Bath sit fifth in table

Wasps have been playing rugby union for 150 years and have known far gloomier predicaments than three consecutive Premiership losses on the bounce. As they slipped and stumbled to this latest defeat in the Coventry rain, even so, the celebratory mood of their anniversary weekend was hard to discern with the premature departure of their England No8 Nathan Hughes causing spirits to droop even further.

Related: Sam Underhill, Bath’s new No7, well-placed to solve old problem for England

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/01/wasps-bath-premiership-match-report

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

Exeter closing in on signing Saracens fly-half Alex Lozowski

• 24-year-old out of contract next summer and wanted by the Chiefs
• Lozowski behind Owen Farrell at Sarries and keen for first-team action

Exeter look set to win the race to sign the Saracens and England fly-half Alex Lozowski in a deal believed to be worth £350,000 a year. Lozowski is out of contract in the summer and has been linked with a move to his former club Wasps but the Observer understands the Chiefs are poised to land the 24-year-old’s signature for next season.

Related: Chris Wyles leads the way as Saracens sail past wretched Worcester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/30/exeter-saracens-alex-lozowski-fly-half

Sep 30

George North on the charge as Northampton go top of the table

• Northampton 30-22 Harlequins
• England prop Kyle Sinckler at the centre of gouging allegation

The transformation, if never complete, is now very definitely underway. Northampton may have conceded seven tries and 40 points in the first 40 minutes of this campaign, but they now, somehow, sit at the top of the table, separated from Newcastle by four points worth of differential. It’s a wonderful advert for the purging benefits of a good hiding.

That achievement, though, may yet be overshadowed by an allegation of gouging against Kyle Sinckler, Quins’ England and Lions prop. The incident occurred 10 minutes into the second half, when an enraged Michael Paterson claimed he had been gouged. The referee put it up on the big screen, where Sinckler could be seen ripping Paterson’s scrum cap off, then briefly returning his hand to the environs of Paterson’s face. The footage was inconclusive, but Sinckler was penalised for the original decapping. When he went to shake Paterson’s hand, the latter refused. That is unlikely, though, to be the end of the matter.

Related: Leicester overcome elements to knock Exeter off top of the table

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/30/northampton-harlequins-premiership-match-report

Sep 30

Leicester overcome elements to knock Exeter off top of the table

• Leicester 20-13 Exeter
• Tries from Nick Malouf and Jonny May helped secure victory

The champions lost their position at the head of the table, washed away in the wet. They have built their success on retaining possession, but Leicester showed Exeter how to use it as they turned three visits to their opponents’ 22 into 17 points.

Exeter, in a repeat of last year, were without their wing Jack Nowell who was returned from an England training camp injured, this time with a dead leg that is not expected to keep him out for long whereas last season an arm problem kept him out for two months. Leicester had to replace their prop Ellis Genge before the kick-off after he strained his back during the warm-up.

Related: Scott Baldwin apologises for missing match after being bitten by lion

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/30/leicester-exeter-premiership-match-report

Sep 29

Chris Wyles leads the way as Saracens sail past wretched Worcester

• Worcester 3-25 Saracens
• Newcastle go top of Aviva Premiership, Warriors stay bottom

When Saracens take Maro Itoje off after less than an hour it is a safe bet they have the match won and so it proved with a routine victory to compound Worcester’s woes. It was a contest that exposed the Warriors’ limitations rather than Saracens’ strengths and for all the hosts’ huff and puff, the lack of quality is concerning indeed.

They have lost all five of their matches so far, they have publicly confirmed that they are seeking investment to ease heavy financial losses, and they are rooted to the foot of the table. Ben Te’o has been linked with Saracens of late and he would have been forgiven for casting an envious eye at the opposition.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/29/saracens-chris-wyles-beat-wretched-worcester

Sep 29

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

Tigers once provided the blueprint for Exeter but the teams meet on Saturday with the Chiefs threatening to leave their opponents behind

When Leicester last won the Premiership title it was at precisely this stage of the season in 2012 that they welcomed Exeter to Welford Road and promptly sent them packing back down to the West Country, tails between their legs. In the five years since, the sides’ relative progress has been nigh-on diametrically opposed – Exeter have soared, Leicester stagnated.

The comparison between the two is relevant because their similarities are abundant. Both attempt to live within their means, there are rarely many empty seats when either play at home and both clubs have an earthiness to them. Not so long ago Leicester provided the blueprint for Saturday’s visitors, now the Chiefs are threatening to leave them behind.

Related: Marcus Smith shines for Harlequins but Leicester Tigers turn the tide

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/29/leicester-exeter-rugby-premiership-clubs-opposite-directions

Sep 28

Newcastle Falcons flying high in Premiership after years of turbulence | Robert Kitson

It would be a landmark of genuine local significance should Dean Richards’ side beat London Irish on Friday and finish the weekend top of the Premiership

Exactly 20 years ago Newcastle Falcons were in the process of revolutionising English rugby. No club was quicker – thanks to Sir John Hall’s chequebook – to embrace the possibilities of professionalism and no side had ever lifted the domestic title within a year of being promoted. It lingers all the more clearly in the memory because the Falcons have achieved nothing like it since.

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/sep/28/newcastle-falcons-premiership-london-irish

Sep 26

RFU’s Steve Brown will listen to player concerns in bid to avert strike

• Chief executive Brown: ‘If we have no players we have no England team’
• Brown refuses to rule out southern hemisphere successor to Eddie Jones

The new man at the helm of the Rugby Football Union has admitted averting a possible player strike is among his most pressing priorities. Steve Brown, who has taken over from the retired Ian Ritchie, says player welfare is at the top of his bulging in-tray and wants to see a swift resolution to the dispute over the future length of the domestic season.

Brown has been at Twickenham long enough as chief financial officer to know precisely how costly it would be if leading players took industrial action in protest against plans to extend the Premiership season to the end of June from 2020. “If we have no players we have no England team,” Brown said. “Our core business is seven big games a year … that would be a very challenging time for us. It is a concern and we can’t ignore it. The players have a voice and we need to listen to them. It’s not just the physical concerns but also the mental and psychological pressures players are under.”

Related: Billy Vunipola out for four months and facing fight to make Six Nations

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/26/rugby-football-union-steve-brown-players-avert-strike

Sep 26

The Premiership’s injury price tag is mounting and attitudes need to change | Robert Kitson

You can tell things are in danger of getting out of hand when several clubs turn up for round four of the season with a third of their squads already sidelined

It is approaching 40 years, remarkably, since two tone music was in vogue and The Specials were topping the charts with Too Much Too Young. The lyrics related to teenage motherhood not professional club rugby, which did not yet exist, but they still sprang to mind over the weekend. Too much pain, too many rugby players going off prematurely, too many contenders for an arthritic (or worse) old age.

You can tell things are in danger of getting out of hand when several clubs turn up for round four of the Premiership season with a third of their squads already sidelined. Wasps have been heavily hit, the table-topping Exeter Chiefs even more so. Worcester Warriors are a casualty ward dressed up as a professional sporting team. In the Harlequins v Leicester game the England flanker Chris Robshaw was knocked out, there were two further failed head injury assessments and his colleagues Mike Brown and Marcus Smith also limped into England’s training camp in Oxford. It is not yet October.

Related: Ban ‘harmful contact’ from school rugby games to reduce injury risk, say experts

Related: Charles Piutau: ‘I felt invincible as an All Black … but it’s such a short career’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/26/premiership-injury-price-tag-mounting-rugby-union