Section: Rugby Union

Rugby Union: Ben Foden: Knee injury rules out full-back for rest of season

Northampton Saints full-back Ben Foden will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, putting his World Cup hopes in serious doubt.

He went off in Sunday’s European Champions Cup win over Ospreys, and will require surgery after rupturing his left anterior cruciate ligament.

The 29-year-old, who has won 34 caps, has not featured for England since the 2013 autumn internationals.

“Thanks for the support, it’s a hard pill to swallow,” he tweeted.

He added: “Not gonna lie its a hard pill to swallow. I guess it’s the nature of the beast #gutted #shouldhavekickedit #onwards.”

Foden, who has seven international tries, played in England’s five matches at the 2011 World Cup but with this year’s tournament starting in September, he faces a race against time to be fit.

It is the latest in a series of injury blows for Foden, who missed last year’s Six Nations with a knee problem, and sat out the 2012 autumn internationals after damaging his ankle.

With Mike Brown impressing at full-back, he had been used on the wing in a win against Argentina and a defeat by New Zealand in November 2013, and travelled with the squad for last summer’s tour of New Zealand, but did not play in a Test.

And even although he was overlooked by Stuart Lancaster for last year’s autumn internationals, his form for Saints this season had put him in the reckoning for a Six Nations place.

Premiership champions Saints will turn to James Wilson to provide cover at full-back.

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: Duncan Weir ruled out after arm surgery for Scotland

Scotland will be without fly-half Duncan Weir for the Six Nations due to an arm injury.

The 23-year-old Glasgow Warrior has undergone surgery to repair his right biceps and will be out of action for up to four months.

Weir started every Six Nations match last year, kicking an 80th-minute drop-goal to secure the solitary victory over Italy in Rome.

He won the last of his 18 caps as a replacement against Tonga in November.

Weir was understudy to club-mate Finn Russell during the Autumn internationals, coming off the bench in all three matches.

In September, Wasps and Scotland fly-half Ruaridh Jackson was ruled out for between six and nine months with an anterior cruciate ligament tear.

Glasgow have also announced that loose forward Tyrone Holmes will be out for up to six weeks as he recovers from a fractured eye socket.

Read more at BBC Sport

Premiership Rugby: London Irish: Tom Coventry named new head coach

London Irish have confirmed the appointment of Tom Coventry as their new head coach from the start of the 2015-16 season.

The 48-year-old, currently assistant boss of New Zealand side the Chiefs, will come in following the departure of director of rugby Brian Smith.

The Exiles are 11th in the Premiership table with just four wins this term.

“The owners have a clear vision of where they want to take the club,” Coventry told the club’s website.

“It is a challenge I am immensely excited by and I cannot wait to get stuck in when I join.

“I have enjoyed my time with the Chiefs and will continue to do so until it is time to go, but I think to stay fresh as a coach it is important to immerse yourself in new environments, challenges and experiences, which is what I am going to do.”

Forwards coach Glenn Delaney has been left in charge of the Exiles as the interim head coach until the end of the season.

Coventry – who was part of the Chiefs’ coaching set-up that won the Super Rugby title in 2012 and 2013 – will join the club after his commitments in his native New Zealand are completed.

He is also co-head coach at international level with Samoa and has previously been in charge of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand Under-20s and New Zealand Schools.

“We have undertaken an extensive international search to find a top-calibre coach to take London Irish forward,” said London Irish director Bob Casey.

“Tom Coventry proved to be an outstanding candidate given his individual character and rugby experience.

“He comes from the best rugby environment in the world where he has had much success and worked with two of New Zealand’s leading coaches in Wayne Smith and Dave Rennie.

“It is a great coup for London Irish to secure a coach of Tom’s calibre to lead our rugby programme over the coming seasons. We look forward to welcoming Tom and his family into the London Irish family.”

Former Waikato loose forward Coventry said the club’s investment in new facilities played a prominent part in convincing him to make the switch to the Premiership.

“I had lengthy discussions with the board of directors at London Irish,” he added.

“With the significant investment that has been put into the club, especially with the new training facility, it made my decision to join a straightforward one.”

Read more at BBC Sport

Rugby World Cup: Lawrence Dallaglio tips England’s Ben Morgan to be fit for World Cup

England’s Ben Morgan is likely to have recovered from a fractured leg in time to play at the World Cup, according to ex-captain Lawrence Dallaglio.

The number eight, 25, was carried off on a stretcher when playing for Gloucester against Saracens on Friday.

He is set to miss the Six Nations, which starts next month. The World Cup gets underway on 18 September.

“I would not rule him out at this stage,” Dallaglio told BBC Radio 5 live.

“He will probably be fit and ready by the start of England’s World Cup camp.”

Dallaglio, who captained England between 1997 and 1999 and in 2004, added: “He is going to miss a lot of rugby, which is unfortunate.

“But let’s hope he is back fit and ready to be available come June or July.”

Morgan, who has 27 caps, was one of England’s most impressive performers during the autumn internationals, scoring a try after coming on as a replacement against South Africa, before being promoted to the starting XV against Samoa and scoring two tries in the win over Australia the following weekend.

He signed a new contract with his hometown club last week, having joined them in 2012 after a spell with Welsh regional side Scarlets.

Morgan made his England debut against Scotland in February 2012, turning down the chance to represent Wales, for whom he would have qualified on residency grounds from his time at Parc y Scarlets.

World Cup hosts England open this year’s tournament against Fiji before other Pool A matches against Australia, Wales and Uruguay.

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: Cole struggling for Six Nations opener

England could be without Dan Cole for their Six Nations opener against Wales.

Cole made a successful return from neck surgery in November having been sidelined for 10 months. The injury saw him miss the second-half of the 2013-14 Aviva Premiership season and England’s tour to New Zealand.

Cole last played for England in the 2014 Six Nations and it looks like he might miss the start of this year’s championship due to a foot injury. The predicament is similar for his team-mate Manu Tuilagi.

“Manu and Coley are probably still end of the month at this point,” Cockerill says in The Times. “They may well be fit for it (Wales v England) but whether they will be match fit I don’t know. We will see.”

While Cole is set to miss the opener, Cockerill believes there are few better hookers than his team-mate Tom Youngs. The Tigers coach added: “If there is a better hooker in England after the weekend I don’t know who he is. Tommy has been outstanding for us.

“If Rob Webber has any pretensions of playing at Test level in front of Tom Youngs, you saw at the weekend the difference: the ball-carrying, the mentality, the mauling. Tom is a different league, for me, to Hartley and to Webber.”

Read more at ESPN

Rugby Union: Scotland 16-24 New Zealand

Scotland pushed world champions New Zealand close before going down 24-16 at Murrayfield on Saturday night.

Victor Vito gave the All Blacks an early lead as he powered home with the opening try 12 minutes in before Tommy Seymour’s intercept score gave the delighted hosts an immediate response.

Kickers Dan Carter and Grieg Laidlaw kept the score close with three penalties apiece but a successful effort from the boot of Colin Slade nudged New Zealand in front.

Jeremy Thrush’s late score finally put daylight between the sides as New Zealand claimed their 28th win from 30 Tests against the Dark Blues.

Laidlaw did have the chance to put Scotland ahead with quarter of an hour remaining but tugged his penalty wide.

Yet Scotland can take huge credit from a performance that saw them come within 10 points of the Kiwis for the first time since 1991.

The home side’s head coach Vern Cotter claimed in the build-up to the second autumn Test that the youthful side sent out by All Blacks boss Steven Hansen was packed with “stars of the future”.

But it was the Scotland defence which shined brightest as they soaked up phase after phase of New Zealand pressure for much of the second half.

The performance of Cotter’s men in their five-try win over Argentina last week highlighted Scotland’s growing attacking threat.

But against a side as dangerous from anywhere on the pitch as the Kiwis, they knew they would have their defensive resolve tested to the limit.

Their first serious examination came after just 12 minutes and the result was not good. New Zealand scrum-half TJ Perenara threw Vito a mongrel of a pass but the back-rower did brilliantly to scoop it up and march into a strong stride.

Stuart Hogg and Laidlaw both tried to haul him down but there was no stopping the Hurricanes forward as he powered into the corner for the opening try. Carter, though, pulled his conversion.

But like last week against Argentina, Scotland responded to an early set-back both immediately and impressively.

Seymour – the scorer of an intercept try against the Pumas – repeated the trick as he pounced on Richie McCaw’s loose pass and ran in unopposed for the equalising score before Laidlaw stuck over the extras.

Yet New Zealand’s attacking surges refused to relent. The Scots were working hard to keep them at bay but more than a few times their graft over-stepped the mark, meaning Carter could add three penalties to the scoreboard against the lone shot at the posts managed by Laidlaw.

Even escaping their own 22 was a feat in itself for the Scots as the Kiwis put some huge hits on anyone brave enough to run the ball.

With huge figures like iconic All Blacks skipper McCaw and flanker Sam Cane to penetrate, Scotland simply could not find a way through.

But after a pumped-up start to the second period, they were happy to accept another three points as centre Malakai Fekitoa was caught offside inside his own 22.

At the other end, the All Blacks looked to turn the screw but both at the set-piece and the break-down, Scotland stood up boldly to the challenge.

Carter’s departure as he was replaced by Liam Messam was a welcome sight for Scotland but gaining ground was proving to be an almost Herculean task.

With Carter off, Slade took over New Zealand’s kicking duties and finally added to the All Blacks’ tally 26 minutes into the second half. But Laidlaw again trimmed the world champions’ lead back with his third penalty.

When Wyatt Crockett blocked Laidlaw’s attempt to spread the play from an offside position, Scotland were handed the chance to nudge themselves in front with another penalty. But as the excitement grew, the sold-out Murrayfield was suddenly hushed as the skipper missed with his boot for the first time.

A streaker lightened the mood briefly but Scotland were not laughing as New Zealand pushed forward again.

Again the Scots were having to defend desperately but the pressure finally told as Thursh found a gap in the home rear-guard to squeeze over from close range, while Slade put the Kiwis out of sight with the conversion.

Read more at ESPN

Rugby Union: England 28-31 South Africa

England fell to their fifth consecutive defeat as South Africa profited from another disappointing display.

Trailing by 14 points early in the second half, England responded with back-to-back tries from driving mauls for David Wilson and Ben Morgan.

But a burrowing try from Schalk Burger and 13 points from the boot of fly-half Pat Lambie made it 12 matches in a row since England last beat the Springboks.

Despite their stirring fightback, England only seldom exerted any control, errors from half-back pairing Danny Care and Owen Farrell costing them at pivotal moments.

With just 10 matches to go until the World Cup, England’s development as a team appears to have stalled, with the first serious questions being asked of the Stuart Lancaster regime.

Lambie opened the scoring with a straightforward penalty after Farrell’s ill-judged decision to run from deep put his side in trouble, and a more serious error then gifted the visitors a more significant score.

Care, winning his 50th cap, threw a slow, telegraphed pass after a stodgy series of attempted drives and centre Jan Serfontein intercepted to race away and under the posts from 60 metres.

Lambie’s conversion made it 10-0, and England were struggling – slow in thought, obvious in execution, Twickenham muted.

Read more at BBC Sport

Women’s Rugby World Cup: England beat Canada to win final

England ended a run of three successive final defeats to finally land the Women’s Rugby World Cup with a hard-fought 21-9 win over Canada in Paris.

The Red Roses led by five points inside the final 10 minutes but Emily Scarratt barged though and raced into the corner to make sure of victory.

Scarratt scored another 11 points with the boot while Danielle Waterman rounded off a first-half team try.

England’s only previous success in the tournament came back in 1994.

In the 20 years since, England have lost the 2002, 2006 and 2010 finalsto New Zealand, but their experience and quality finally told against a Canadian side contesting their first.

“We’ve worked so hard for this, and there are so many great legends that have gone before us that haven’t won in an England shirt, and that’s for all of them who are here today,” captain Katy Mclean told Sky Sports.

“It started years ago with the people that have brought us here, our family and friends. We’ve had to work today – Canada were fantastic – and it’s amazing to think we’ve done it.”

The victory may well mark the end of the international career of England stalwart Maggie Alphonsi who was one of four players in the starting line-up who played in the last two final defeats.

Read More on BBC Sport

Women’s Rugby World Cup: England 40-7 Ireland

England beat Ireland to reach final of Women’s Rugby World Cup

Relentless, classy England swatted aside a disappointing Ireland to book a place in their fourth consecutive Women’s Rugby World Cup final. Marlie Packer bagged a late brace of converted tries, but Emily Scarratt was the stand-out performer for a team whose superior fitness, experience, forward play and often bewitching lines of running meant, if anything, the 33-point margin of victory flattered their opponents.

A similar performance in Sunday’s final ought to end a 12-year hoodoo in which England have notched up an unenviable hat-trick of final defeats, all at the hands of New Zealand. A fourth would be unthinkable, but at least now they can look forward to the psychological boost of a change of foe, following the shock early exit of the Silver Ferns from this Gallic rugby jamboree.

Read More on The Guardian

 

Women’s Rugby World Cup : no longer a two-horse race between England and New Zealand

England prepare to face Samoa in opening game of a much more competitive Women’s World Cup believing that they can finally beat four-times champions New Zealand

women-rugby-world-cup-2014

England open Women’s Rugby World Cup campaign against Samoa in Paris, armed in equal measure with the belief that they can finally end the hegemony of four-times champions New Zealand and a warning that the tournament is no longer merely a two-horse race.

England and New Zealand have contested the last three finals, most recently at the Twickenham Stoop in 2010 when Gary Street’s side narrowly lost 13-10 as the Black Ferns claimed their fourth successive title.

Yet the days when the early stages of the World Cup used to effectively serve as a warm-up act before the pair met each other in the final appear to be over.

The landscape of the women’s game has altered dramatically over the last four years, as greater funding and the inclusion of Sevens in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 has help significantly broaden the base of the international game.

The main surge has come in the northern hemisphere. England surrendered their grip over the Six Nations to first Ireland in 2013 and then France this year while the United States and Canada are also regarded as genuine contenders for the 12-team tournament in Paris.

Read More on The Telegraph