Category Archive: Premiership Rugby

Premiership Rugby News

Sep 11

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

Bath should give England’s Eddie Jones food for thought, Northampton respond after being labelled soft and Newcastle command attention

The Premiership is an unforgiving place for teams who start slowly. Bottom-placed Worcester have lost their opening two games and injuries are already beginning to bite. Losing their strongest scrummager, Nick Schonert, to a suspected broken ankle is a major blow and the Warriors are down to two fit fly-halves with the league season barely a fortnight old. To compound matters, England’s Ben Te’o has an ongoing arm problem which has forced him off prematurely in both his team’s games to date. “He’s got a plate in it and it’s sore,” confirmed Gary Gold. Worcester’s director of rugby. “Every time he gets a bang on it, it’s a bit more sore. He probably is in quite a bit of pain so he deserves a huge amount of credit for the character he put up before he came off. He showed he’s a world-class player.” Wasps’ Dai Young, meanwhile, is happy enough to be on top of the table but says his team still have plenty to improve on after their 27-10 victory over the Warriors. “I don’t think it was a two-score victory, if I am honest. It wasn’t a great performance from us.” Robert Kitson

Related: Marcus Watson dazzles as Wasps ride their luck to see off battling Worcester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/sep/11/rugby-union-premiership-talking-points-from-weekend-action

Sep 10

Mike Brown adds to condemnations of extending Premiership season

• England international suggests extra work load will cause burn-out
• Brown worried about schedule younger players will have to face

Mike Brown is the latest England international to condemn publicly the Premiership’s proposal to expand the season as “ridiculous”, suggesting rugby union’s current rate of attrition will cause youngsters such as Harlequins’ 18-year-old fly‑half Marcus Smith to burn out before they reach the age of 30.

Premiership Rugby is steadfastly sticking to its proposal for the domestic campaign to run from September to June as of the 2019-20 season. With international summer tours moving to July, it would mean 11-month seasons for England players such as Brown, and such a relentless schedule has been met with widespread criticism.

Related: Christian Day: ‘We’re not doing this for a laugh and a few beers afterwards’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/10/mike-brown-adds-to-condemnations-extending-premiership-season

Sep 10

Wasps continue dominance over Worcester despite hosts’ battling spirit

• Worcester 10-24 Wasps

Wasps recorded a seventh successive Premiership victory over Worcester as they moved level on points with fellow early pace-setters Newcastle.

It was not the free-flowing spectacle of last weekend’s seven-try win against Sale Sharks, but Wasps still got the job done at Sixways. Wasps’ 24-10 triumph was secured through a first-half Marcus Watson try and touchdowns from South African full-back Willie le Roux and wing Josh Bassett in the final quarter, while centre Jimmy Gopperth kicked three conversions and a penalty.

Related: Sam Vesty happy to focus on Worcester despite summer success with England

Related: Demetri Catrakilis’s throat injury mars Harlequins’ win against Gloucester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/10/wasps-worcester-premiership-match-report

Sep 09

Rob Baxter pays tribute to unflappable Exeter after win over London Irish

• Exeter 37-7 London Irish
• Don Armand scores two tries to give champions their opening victory

Rob Baxter praised the Premiership champions’ composure as Exeter bounced back from defeat at Gloucester in the season’s opening match with a comprehensive 37-7 defeat of London Irish at Sandy Park.

The Chiefs’ director of rugby said: “We had overall control of the match for long periods and it was very satisfying to pick up five points and concede only seven. We were a bit more composed today against a London Irish side who put in a big emotional performance last week in beating Harlequins at Twickenham.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/09/exeter-london-irish-premiership-report

Sep 09

Tom Collins shows his promise as Northampton hit back against Leicester

• Northampton 24-11 Leicester
• Luther Burrell and Dylan Hartley join Collins on the scoresheet

We should not really be surprised, but anyone who knew only the Northampton that were torn limb from limb at Twickenham the weekend before would have been. The Saints are now quite used to bouncing back from harrowing experiences such as that, and this they duly did in front of their faithful, against their bitterest. The full catharsis of a bonus-point fourth try eluded them but this was a comprehensive dismantling of Leicester, their first win over the Tigers in eight attempts.

“We had to respond like that,” said Jim Mallinder, Northampton’s director of rugby. “There’s no other way. It’s a reminder for the rest of the season. In this game you’ve got to get that intensity right. Last week we didn’t really do it. This week you could tell from the first minute that we were up for it.”

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/09/northampton-leicester-premiership-match-report

Sep 09

Lightning quick Marlande Yarde steals Gloucester thunder in Harlequins win

• Harlequins 28-17 Gloucester
• Home side claim first win of the season in a stormy encounter

Thunder and lightning above the pitch, and a stormy encounter on it – ultimately settled by Marland Yarde’s try as Harlequins overcame a nasty looking injury to their new South African fly-half, Demetri Catrakilis, to claim a first win of the season.

Catrakilis was taken off on a stretcher after 13 minutes when he was struck by a shoulder to the throat and while he was sitting upright as he departed, whenever injured players receive oxygen as they leave the field it does not look good. His replacement – the 18-year-old Marcus Smith, who was also making his home debut – endured a rocky start but eventually guided his side home, playing a significant role in first-half tries for Dave Ward and Charlie Walker.

Related: Rhys Priestland inspires Bath to an impressive victory over Saracens

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/09/harlequins-gloucester-premiership-match-report

Sep 09

Rhys Priestland inspires Bath to an impressive victory over Saracens

• Bath 31-21 Saracens
• Semesa Rokoduguni scores two late tries for home side

Rhys Priestland squatted in the shadows at Bath for two years as the light danced on George Ford, but one of the more reserved playmakers has emerged unblinking to more than offset the loss of the England fly-half. He set up a victory that initially looked routine only to become remarkable when in the final four minutes Semesa Rokoduguni scored two solo tries.

Few sides find time to breathe when confronted by Saracens’ suffocating defence, but under Priestland’s gentle prompting, Bath regularly worked the ball wide and so discomfited the European champions that by the end of the first half Schalk Brits was remonstrating furiously with the officials after Kahn Fotuali’i milked the hooker for a penalty.

Related: Lightning quick Marlande Yarde steals Gloucester thunder in Harlequins win

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/09/bath-saracens-premiership-match-report

Sep 09

Christian Day insists plan to prolong season threatens player welfare | Robert Kitson

Saints lock and chairman of Professional Rugby Players’ Association criticises lack of consultation and says players will not agree to model put forward by Premiership Rugby

A frame of snooker could be contested on the beautifully mown baize at Franklin’s Gardens but life is less smooth for its resident professional rugby players. Last weekend Northampton were humiliated by Saracens, next up is a ferocious must-win derby against Leicester. The mental and physical demands are already multiplying and it is not yet mid-September.

Imagine operating in this relentless environment right from early September until the end of June with pre-season on top, as Premiership Rugby continues to insist will be the norm from the 2019-20 season. Even in a big-match week players are anxiously scanning the horizon, praying for some sign of sanity. “It starts to get messy when players have to step in and say: ‘This isn’t right,” warns the Saints’ long-serving lock Christian Day. As the chairman of the Professional Rugby Players’ Association, Day is receiving similar feedback from worried pros up and down the country.

Related: Premiership’s brilliant start should not blind us to rugby’s yellow fever

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/09/christian-day-players-concerns-rfu-plans-prolong-season

Sep 08

Jim Mallinder still dreaming despite Northampton’s opening-day drubbing

• Nine-try rout by Saracens led to sleepless nights, says director of rugby
• Saints ring changes for Saturday’s home derby against Leicester

Northampton’s director of rugby, Jim Mallinder, believes his squad can still win the Premiership but has confessed to enduring sleepless nights as he seeks to resurrect Saints as genuine title challengers. He also acknowledges his side cannot afford another limp display against their local rivals Leicesteron Saturday having shipped nine tries in their opener against Saracens.

Under Mallinder, Saints were crowned champions in 2014 but finished seventh last season, losing four of their last five league games, and were hammered 55-24 by Saracens at Twickenham last weekend. Supporters are growing impatient and another defeat to the Tigers, who lost at home to Bath on the opening weekend, would scarcely improve the mood.

Related: Saracens off to flying start as Schalk Brits humiliates Northampton

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/08/northampton-jim-mallinder-dreaming-drubbing-leicester

Sep 08

Michael Rhodes ready for a Saracens start after summer rebuild of collarbone

South Africa-born flanker had been playing with a misdiagnosed injury for four years but will face Bath on Saturday and has already caught the attention of Eddie Jones

Shining brightest among Saracens’ galaxy of stars is no easy task but it was an achievement all the more impressive considering Michael Rhodes was playing out of position for large parts of last season. Add in the fact that he effectively did so with a broken collarbone and it becomes not only a remarkable feat, but also easy to see why Eddie Jones has been in contact.

It was a surprise, therefore, to see Rhodes on the bench rather than starting against Northampton last Saturday. That is until he explains how, in the European Cup final in May, he suffered a recurrence of an injury first sustained four years ago, underwent surgery to remove a piece of hip bone and attach it to the collarbone, spent three-and-a-half months in a sling and began pre-season training just a few days before that match. It then becomes astonishing he was on the bench at all.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/08/michael-rhodes-saracens-collarbone-south-africa-bath-eddie-jones

Sep 07

Premiership’s brilliant start should not blind us to rugby’s yellow fever

The modern first-class player is the cleanest incarnation of the breed and yet by far the most punished by the referee. The sanctification of the airborne player is especially ludicrousRugby is brilliant these days. There are more than a few out there …

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/07/the-breakdown-premiership-yellow-cards

Sep 05

Expected early returns for George Kruis and Ben Te’o ease England’s worries

• Key pair look set to come back from injuries sooner than expected
• Saracens also hopeful that more of their Lions contingent will be back

Eddie Jones has been spared an early-season headache with George Kruis and Ben Te’o set to return from injuries suffered on the Premiership’s opening weekend earlier than expected and in good time for England’s autumn internationals.

It had been feared that Kruis would require ankle surgery for the second time in 12 months after he lasted only 15 minutes of Saracens’ thumping win over Northampton at Twickenham. The 27-year-old lock is due to see a specialist later this week but the initial scan suggests he will return in a matter of weeks.

Related: Premiership rugby returns with a bang to trump all other global leagues | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/05/george-kruis-ben-teo-injuries-england-selection

Sep 05

Premiership rugby returns with a bang to trump all other global leagues | Robert Kitson

On opening weekend six Premiership games produced no fewer than 50 tries – you wonder if the league has ever been more vibrant

Two decades ago no one knew whether English club rugby was heading to heaven or hell. Professionalism had just arrived and not everyone was optimistic. “There were those who sank to their knees clutching their head and beating their breasts at the woes to come,” reported the 1997-98 Rothmans Rugby Yearbook. “There were also those who rushed out to greet the new dawn with whoops of delight at the promise, excitement and joy on offer.”

In terms of on-field entertainment, if not necessarily economics, the optimists are being vindicated. The latest example came at the weekend when six Premiership games produced no fewer than 50 tries, smashing the previous record of 36 set in 2007. Watching Semesa Rokoduguni, Topsy Ojo, Sean Maitland, Jason Woodward and Dan Robson complete touchdowns to grace any showreel, never mind Channel 5’s first highlights programme, was to doubt whether the league has ever been more vibrant.

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/05/premiership-rugby-trumps-all-other-global-leagues

Sep 04

Rugby union: talking points from the Premiership’s opening weekend

Bath’s poor away form could be a thing of the past, Gloucester broke their habit of poor starts as they upset Exeter and London Irish returned in style

Todd Blackadder was in little doubt over where Bath needed to improve this season. Poor away form was not a problem limited to his side last season but there can be little doubting it ultimately cost them a place in the last four. Blackadder believes the issue was mental; that for no reason other than different surroundings his team did not play with the authority they did at The Rec in front of their own supporters. So in pre-season Blackadder took his squad on the road to Cardiff and London Irish to jolt them out of their comfort zone. Judging by their resilience at Welford Road it has worked a treat and, considering he can welcome Sam Underhill, Charlie Ewels and Dave Attwood back to bolster his pack, there is genuine reason for early-season optimism at Bath. Gerard Meagher

Match report: Leicester 23-27 Bath
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Related: Premiership 2017-18: team-by-team preview of England’s rugby union season

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/04/rugby-union-talking-points-from-the-premierships-opening-weekend

Sep 03

Schalk Brits to savour final season with Saracens before retirement

• Club persuaded front-row forward to play another year
• Brits played starring role in demolition of Northampton

Schalk Brits, all 36 years of him, looked as if he could carry on doing this well into his 50s. Nevertheless, after a typically mesmerising performance in the Twickenham sunshine, where Saracens thrashed Northampton, he revealed how near he came to retiring at the end of last season.

“I was very close,” he said. “I did accountancy in Stellenbosch and I spoke to Cambridge and Oxford about doing an MBA. The plan was to stop playing professional rugby and play one year of varsity. My wife was not that excited about me going back to be a full-time student, with three little ones, but now I am studying part time.”

Related: Saracens off to flying start as Schalk Brits humiliates Northampton

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

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/03/schalk-brits-final-season-saracens-retirement

Sep 03

Depleted Bath withstand strong home rally for first win at Leicester since 2003

• Leicester 23-27 Bath
• Visitors win despite having three players sent to sin-bin late in match

Max Clark scored two tries in a first Premiership victory for Bath at Leicester since 2003 – but that does not even begin to tell the story of a breathless final chapter to a remarkable opening weekend of the season. It took a while to get going but in a thrilling finish Leicester rallied to within a position from where they ought to have clinched an unlikely victory against a Bath side with three men in the sin-bin.

Bath were well worth a 24-8 lead with 25 minutes to go after Manu Tuilagi had scored on his first appearance since January but the visitors were left clinging on in the dying moments after two Jonny May tries. Two of their yellow cards were for high tackles – and there were plenty of those – but for all that Leicester finished on the front foot, this was a disappointing defeat for the Tigers.

Related: Dan Robson masterclass helps Wasps to helter-skelter win over Sale

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/03/leicester-bath-premiership-match-report

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