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Leicester are getting ready for the biggest game of their season this weekend, when they host Northampton in the Aviva Premiership top of the table clash. But recently Scott Quinnell went into the Tigers’ lair of their training ground at Oadby to challenge the Leicester boys to his famous Crossbar Challenge. So click before if you want to see Rod Stewart (we mean Jordan Crane), Tom Croft, Ben Youngs and the rest try to defeat Big Scott! LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Worcester Warriors are today delighted to announce that vastly experienced lineout king Craig Gillies has signed a new two-year deal at Sixways Stadium.Lock star Gilles, the record appearance maker for Warriors in the modern era after playing over 220 games, has been a massive presence at Sixways since arriving at the club in 2002.The Glasgow-born giant second row remains one of the finest lineout operators in the English game and has now agreed a new contract that will keep him at Warriors until 2013 and mean he has played over a decade at the club.Gillies has excelled for Worcester this season in the RFU Championship to cement a key role in the pack and Head Coach Richard Hill believes the lock is now playing some of the best rugby of his entire career.Hill also hailed his outstanding attitude, leadership skills and unwavering professionalism as crucial elements at Warriors.“Craig is playing as well now as he has ever done and remains a real force in the game,” said Hill. “He also keeps himself in fantastic shape, which is underlined by the huge number of games he has already played for Warriors.“This season he has been dominating the lineout for us, controlling restarts, making big tackles and really carrying strongly as he continues to show his talent. TAGS: Worcester Warriors “He truly is an outstanding professional and a wonderful example for all younger players to follow in their rugby career. He is a delightful man to work with and I could not wish for a more motivated, helpful and mature player in the squad.“Craig brings vast experience to the team and his attitude is perfect for this club – ultimately, he is Worcester through and through. He will always put his body on the line for Warriors every week and wants the club to be a success this season and also to build for the future.”Gilles, who has also had playing spells at Richmond and Llanelli, is delighted to have agreed the new contract at Warriors.“I have been at Worcester a long time and at this stage of my career I really wanted to stay here and show I could still do a big job for the team,” said the 34-year-old forward.“I very much feel part of the club and have a great deal of loyalty to Worcester. The club has been very good to me and the Chairman Cecil Duckworth, in particular, has always supported me. It was an easy decision to stay, my family are also settled in Worcester and we love it here.“The deal will take me through a decade at the club and there have certainly been some highs and lows. But, crucially, I really feel we are on the up under Richard Hill and I’m now very excited about being a part of the future of Worcester Warriors as we look to make a return to the Premiership.” Click here to see 10 top Worcester Warriors tries
Saracens No. 8 Ernst Joubert Ernst Joubert has been voted the Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Month. The Saracens number 8 was picked for February by a panel made up of rugby media representatives from print, TV, radio and the photographers.Rugby World editor Paul Morgan, who chairs the panel, commented: “Ernst is the engine room of the Saracens effort that has seen them move to the verge of qualifying for the Aviva Premiership Rugby play-offs. He seems to cover every blade of grass on the pitch and has made a huge contribution since arriving at the club.”Ernst, who is one of Saracens natural leaders on the pitch, is one of the stand-out performers in Aviva Premiership Rugby so far. Rugby is in the blood of this powerful number 8, whose grandfather, Piet Malan, played for South Africa in 1949; an achievement Joubert will aim to emulate. Speaking about being named February’s Player of the Month: “It’s a great achievement. Luckily the team has been playing very well and our wolf-pack have been doing the hard work and making it easier for a guy like me to perform well.” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Saracens First Team Coach, Mark McCall said: “We’ve played well recently and picked up some good wins. I think we are getting to the level where we were last year and our defence has been superb. The guys have got faith in each other and the confidence is growing.”Heather Smith, Head of Sponsorship for Premiership Rugby sponsors Aviva added: “Ernst has been instrumental in Saracens launching their title assault and it is no coincidence that his impressive performances have coincided with his team’s winning run.”
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS When did you start playing rugby?I joined Pontypridd when I was nine and stayed all the way through. I played for the first team for the first time last year. My dad, Steve Smith, played centre for Pontypridd and my grandfather, Joe Smith, played for them and was a coach.What do you like about playing centre? It is physically hard, with a lot of tackling and you see a lot of the ball. I can play 12 or 13.When did you first play representative rugby?I played for Wales U18, then U20 last year, but didn’t go to the World Championship.Who have been your mentors?Mark Langford, who started the age-group team I played for and stayed with us as coach and later team manager. Simon Humberstone at the Blues is being really helpful too. To get to the World Championship with Wales U20 and to play more regularly with the Blues.RW verdict: He started this season aiming to cement a place at Pontypridd but by November had already impressed enough to make his Blues debut. He should get a further chance to shine in the LV= Cup games coming up. Quick burst: Smith is studying sports science alongside rugby When did you link up with Cardiff Blues?I played for Blues North U16 and I have been in their academy for three years. I started training with them full-time in November because they had injuries and Test call-ups, and I got a couple of minutes on the field in the Pro12 against Edinburgh, which was good.What do you do outside rugby?I’m in the second year of a sports science degree at UWIC. I miss out on a lot of partying but it’s definitely worth it.What are your aims for the rest of this season?
After a break at 6pm, the action will resume at 8pm, when the knockout stages will commence.To listen in full to Matthew McConaughey’s thoughts on the Rio Olympics and rugby sevens click here: http://bbc.in/2bdhTcD Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey has been converted into a fan of rugby sevens after watching day one of the men’s tournament yesterday. France 26 – 5 SpainSouth Africa 5 – 12 AustraliaKenya v JapanNew Zealand v Great BritainArgentina v BrazilFiji v USA LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Speaking on BBC 5 live Olympics, the Hollywood star remarked: “If you get a snap shot of those two teams (NZ v Japan) 100/100 people say that New Zealand is going to win that game,” he added. “Then Japan comes out, super keen, really fast, obviously believing they could win.”McConaughey’s observations accurately recount what has been the shock of the tournament so far, as Japan mustered the same spirit that saw them beat South Africa in the 15 man version of the game at the World Cup last year, to take out the most successful sevens nation in history, New Zealand, 14-12.McConaughey is in Rio for a week with his Brazilian wife Camila, and admits that getting to the Olympic venue – the Deodoro Stadium – isn’t easy.“I’m loving it,” the 46-year-old Texan said regardless.“Once the party has started, you’re not going to throw a better one than Brazil.”Asked whether he’s currently meant to be shooting a movie, McConaughey replied: “This is my movie now.”Day two of the men’s rugby sevens is underway, where group winners will be decided.Day two group fixtures & results:
While the Aviva Premiership flourishes, the once mighty Top 14 is losing its appeal among French fans for myriad reasons. Can it regain its mojo? Last week two sets of figures were published. On Wednesday the Aviva Premiership disclosed that attendances are up 10.1% this season with the average gate an impressive 13,833. Two days later Midi Olympique revealed that Top 14 attendances in the first half of the 2016-17 season are down 8.8%, and that for the first time since 2010 the average crowd has dipped below 13,000 and now stands at 12,824. It’s a similar story in the ProD2 with attendances 3% down on the previous season.Of the fourteen clubs in the top flight of French rugby, only Clermont and La Rochelle have seen their average crowds rise this season, the latter from 14,821 to 15,000 and Clermont’s from 17,048 to 17,684.Star turn: The arrival of Dan Carter hasn’t stopped crowds falling at Racing 92Among the clubs who have experienced an alarming drop in gates are Toulouse (a 5.8% decline) and reigning Top 14 champions, Racing 92, whose average crowd this season is 8,863, a drop of 12.8% on last season. But that’s still small compared to neighbours Stade Francais, whose average gate is 9,321, 22% lower than last season.So what’s behind the dramatic slump in attendances? There’s no doubt two years of terrorist outrages have had an effect on crowd numbers, particularly in Paris, which has experienced two mass-casualty attacks.In 2014-15 the average gate for a Top 14 match was 13,754, and now two seasons later it’s down to 12,824. It’s not just that some people might be frightened of going to sporting occasions in the wake of what happened at the Stade de France in November 2015, but it’s also the rigmarole involved in attending a matchBooming: The recent game between Wasps and Leicester had nearly 28,000 fansIt’s entirely understandable that tight security is now a feature of any sporting event in France but at the same time it’s an inconvenience; a minor one, but enough perhaps, to put off the odd person who doesn’t fancy standing in a queue for 15 minutes to be frisked when they could watch it on the telly.Yet that doesn’t explain why attendances for Ligue 1, the first division of football in France, have experienced a much smaller drop in the past 12 months, just 2.47%, especially given that last season Paris Saint-Germain were so dominant that they won the title at the beginning of March, two months before the last round of matches.Similarly, the fact that football crowds have remained relatively stable suggests France’s ailing economy isn’t much of a factor in rugby’s diminishing attendances. Top 14 clubs price their tickets reasonably (between 15-20 euros is the norm for an adult ticket) and that has barely increased in the last few seasons.Increased security: After a wave of terror attacks, watching rugby has become more time-consumingLet’s be honest, the primary reason Top 14 crowds are on the wane is because the rugby’s just not that exciting. There have been a handful of excellent matches this season – Stade Francais’s 30-all draw against Clermont in September was one of the best games I’ve seen live in a while – but at the same time I’ve witnessed some dross. Lyon against Toulon, for example, a game littered with errors, or Toulon’s 28-6 win over a tediously one-dimensional Montpellier at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille I haven’t been back to watch Stade Francais since, and it appears I’m not the only one. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS On that occasion I was sitting behind a young boy and his mother. Eavesdropping on their conversation it was evident the pair were new to rugby matches, but the boy was clearly a huge Toulon fan. But long before the match finished his attention had waned. Like many, reset scrums and aimless kicks weren’t his idea of a fun Sunday afternoon.By contrast, the Aviva Premiership is in general more entertaining than the Top 14. Why? For a start the English clubs aren’t playing for their financial survival in the way the Top 14 clubs are; only one club is relegated in the Premiership, but in France it’s two and that creates a risk-averse rugby for half a dozen clubs from the autumn onwards. Win at all costs becomes the coaches’ mantra and the thought of playing an ambitious and expansive game goes out the window.Risk averse: Teams like Sergio Parisse’s Stade Francais are near the relegation zoneFrom next season onwards only one club will be automatically relegated (the club finishing second from bottom will play the runner-up in the ProD2 in a play-off with the winner taking their place in the Top 14 the following season) so that should ease a little of the pressure.The Premiership is also faster and more skilful than the Top 14 with every player an athlete. The same can’t be said of the Top 14 where packs are bigger, slower and less skilful.The referees don’t help either in France with officials less empathetic than their English counterparts, not just with the players but also the public. The first-half of the Stade Francais v Montpellier match in November lasted 49 minutes, not because of injury but because the referee was so pedantic, lecturing the forwards at every scrum and holding up play to the palpable frustration of the players and the fans.“Get on with the game, monsieur!” someone cried in desperation. Oh, all right, I confess, it was me. Staying loyal: Clermont are one of the few clubs to register attendance increases
Ruthless New Zealand clatter Ireland in Tokyo on their way to another semi-final Ardie Savea stole a ball straight out of the ruck, fed a darting Dane Coles and he put through George Brisdge for a try. Then Ireland scuttled up the other end and worked infiled until Todd gave away a penalty try for throwing his body between CJ Stander and the base of the post – no tackle was attempted.New Zealand got the last word with Beauden slinging a long, looping, left-to-right pass to brother Jordie for the seventh try.Saying goodbye: Ireland’s skipper and hooker Rory Best (Getty Images)Star ManAnton Lienert-Brown in not underrated or overrated. He is rated. He is custom built for this All Blacks back line.Sevu Reece had so many blockbuster moments, Smith’s zip of delivery and quickness of thought around the fringes was frightening and Kieran Read was colossal. But players are needed to tie all of this together. Lienert-Brown is capable of brilliance, for sure – he can dance through, as he showed in the 71st minutes – but it is how he communicates, stitches passes together and assuredly makes his tackles that sees him picked out among his peers.The reactionNew Zealand coach Steve Hansen: “Both the defence and the attack were good. ‘Stormy’ (assistant coach Scott McLeod) has done a wonderful job this year and got them going well (in defence) and Fozzie (assistant coach Ian Foster) has got the attack going really, really good, and is coaching probably the best I’ve ever seen him coach.” 2019 Rugby World Cup Quarter-final: New Zealand 46-14 IrelandHead-to-HeadPlayed – 32New Zealand wins –29Ireland wins – 2Did you know?Ireland have never made it past the quarter-finals at the Rugby World Cup.Ireland got their first win against New Zealand in Chicago, in November 2016. Ireland won 40-29.New Zealand had won a World Cup record 17 successive matches until their pool match against Italy was cancelled and went into the record books as a scoreless draw.The All Blacks need 41 points to become the first team in World Cup history to reach 2,500 in the competition.Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton start together for the 56th time, breaking the all-time record of 55 for Ireland, set by Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara – the current duo first played together in Ireland’s opening game of the Rugby World Cup 2011, against the USA. The Irish front row also start together for the 17th time.In a nutshellAfter being gifted a 22-point lead and a steady stream of possession, New Zealand never looked back. The weight of history brought the night falling around Ireland as their World Cup ended again at the quarter-final stage.More than that, thought, it is the end of Joe Schmidt’s reign as boss.There have been undeniable highlights during their association, with three Six Nations titles and a Grand Slam, as well as two wins – the first ever wins – over the All Blacks. But they couldn’t lay a glove on their fabled opponents in Tokyo.New Zealand played with direction, pace, and certainty of purpose.Keeping a hand in: Ireland steal a lineout (Getty Images)Their first try was a product of hard, rout-one carries. Joe Moody, Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane tied in defenders with their hit-ups before Aaron Smith – spotting that no guard had come to stand near the ruck – bolted over for the first try.He was at the double after a sweeping move from set piece. Wing Sevu Reece passed to Jack Goodhue, got it back on the wrap-around and shot the pass to George Bridge on the wing after drawing the defence. After the surged upfield, Jacob Stockdale came off his spot to compete for the ball illegally. Smith saw the vacancy in the corner and burrowed over.Ireland continued to sock away. Peter O’Mahony stole a lineout and snaffled a turnover. Conor Murray kept up the rhythm and the front-five wanted the ball. But the All Blacks were ruthless and feasted on errors.Sexton had a penalty kick to the corner that Mo’unga jumped to keep in, for example. And then the fly-half was caught out in attack. Later, Reece came off his wing to hit the Leinster star, dislodging the ball in the hit. Mo’unga fly-hacked it ahead and Beauden Barrett raced away to get a third score.Pressure kept telling for the All Blacks and the fourth came again from relentless carries with the arm, but when Smith hit Read, the talismanic No 8 popped the ball up from his back and hooker Codie Taylor crashed over, under the posts.Burrowing: Aaron Smith scores in the corner against Ireland (Getty Images)It didn’t let up. Reece tore away from a Beauden Barrett crossfield kick and after cutting in field, sub scrum-half TJ Perenara could hit Matt Todd at first receiver and he pummeled his way to the line.The Irish fans were afforded the opportunity to give one of the teams true servants a standing ovation as retiring captain Rory Best took his leave on the 63rd minute, alongside Sexton. It is a day he will want to banish from his memory, but his was a career to be proud of.In his absence Ireland worked forward and after a Joey Carbery grubber was dropped over the line by Robbie Henshaw, the centre made amends a few phases later as he sliced through for a first Irish try, with the clock nearing 70.It all got busy in the final minutes. Ireland coach Joe Schmidt: “I don’t have an excuse or a reason for it. You can’t afford to give the All Blacks points. It was a bit flat, on the back of having a few niggles. We were not sure of the team until Thursday. I thought we needed to get off to a good start and if we didn’t we would be a bit vulnerable.“Before the third try we had really good space but we didn’t quite put things together, we spilled that and the All Blacks scored. You have to make them work for everything. In the past we had forced them to do that even when we lost against them.“Then we were chasing the game and if you are chasing the game against the All Blacks you are going to give them opportunities and that is exactly what we did.”The TeamsNew Zealand: Beauden Barrett; Sevu Reece (Jordie Barrett 62), Jack Goodhue (Sonny Bill Williams 53), Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith (TJ Perenara 60); Joe Moody (Ofa Tuungafasi 48), Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala (Angus Ta’avao 48), Brodie Retallick (Matt Todd 57), Sam Whitelock, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (Scott Barrett 40), Kieran Reid.Tries: Aaron Smith 13, 20, B Barrett, 32, Taylor 48, Todd 60, Bridge 73. Con: Mo’unga 14, 21, 49, 74. Pen: Mo’unga 6.Ireland: Rob Kearney (Jordan Larmour 53); Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose (Jordan Larmour 5), Robbie Henshaw (Jordan Larmour 23), Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (Joey Carbery 63), Conor Murray ( Luke McGrath 73); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne 49), Rory Best (Niall Scannell 63), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter 60), Iain Henderson (Tadhg Beirne 49), James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony (Rhys Ruddock 57), Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.Tries: Henshaw 69, Penalty Try 76. Con: Carbery 69. Racing away: Beauden Barrett on the way to New Zealand’s third (Getty Images) Keep track of events in Japan via our Rugby World Cup homepage. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will advance straight to knockout rounds More changes to 2020-21 European rugby competitionsMore changes have been announced for the 2020-21 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup following the postponement of the European rugby competitions in January due to Covid.Before the start of this season’s European club competitions, the format had changed. The Champions Cup expanded to 24 teams instead of the normal 20, while the Challenge Cup started with 14 clubs rather than the usual 20. Pool rounds were reduced from six to four with two-legged quarter-finals introduced.However, after pool rounds three and four were cancelled in January, both tournaments will now advance straight to knockout stages, starting with a round of 16.With 24 teams in the Champions Cup, the eight highest ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the round of 16, while the remaining eight teams will join the eight highest-ranked teams from the preliminary stage of the Challenge Cup for the knockout stages.For the round of 16, clubs cannot be drawn against a team from the same league. The draw for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup Round of 16 and quarter-finals will take place on Tuesday 9 March, streamed live on epcrugby.comClubs that have won both their matches to date on the pitch (ie without being impacted by Covid cancellations) are guaranteed a home fixture in the round of 16, which is scheduled for the first weekend of April. Can’t get to the shops? Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition for magazine delivery to your door.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Therefore, Racing 92, Leinster, Wasps, Bordeaux-Begles and Munster will play at home in the Champions Cup round of 16 and London Irish, Ospreys and Leicester Tigers will benefit from home draws in the Challenge Cup round of 16.The quarter-finals of both competitions, on 9-11 April, will now be a one-off match rather than played over two legs. The semi-finals are scheduled for the weekend of 30 April to 2 May while the finals are due to take place in Marseille’s Stade Velodrome on 21 May (Challenge Cup) and 22 May (Champions Cup).These are the 16 teams that are moving through to the knockout stages in each competition.Heineken Champions CupRacing 92Leinster RugbyWaspsBordeaux-BèglesMunster RugbyLyonToulouseLa RochelleScarletsASM Clermont AuvergneBristol BearsExeter ChiefsEdinburgh RugbyGloucester RugbyRC ToulonSale SharksChallenge CupLondon IrishOspreysLeicester TigersCardiff BluesZebre Rugby ClubAgenBenetton RugbyNewcastle FalconsUlster RugbyConnacht RugbyNorthampton SaintsBath RugbyMontpellierDragonsHarlequinsGlasgow WarriorsThese are the key tournament dates:Rounds of 16 Weekend 2-4 AprilQuarter-finals Weekend 9-11 AprilSemi-finals Weekend 30 April-2 MayChallenge Cup final Friday 21 May, MarseilleHeineken Champions Cup final Saturday 22 May, Marseille The European finals will be held at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome in May (Getty Images)