British Lions Proposed Squad 2017

The Daily Telegraph has got the ball rolling already with its proposed squad for the Lions 2017 tour to New Zealand

The squad in full is as follows:

FORWARDS:

Prop: Jack McGrath (Ireland)
Prop: Mako Vunipola (England)
Prop: Mike Ross (Ireland)
Prop: Rob Evans (Wales)
Prop: Dan Cole (England)
Prop: WP Nel (Scotland)
Hooker: Dylan Hartley (England)
Hooker: Rory Best (Ireland)
Hooker: Jamie George (England)
Lock: Alun-Wyan Jones (Wales)
Lock: Maro Itoje (England)
Lock: Devin Toner (Ireland)
Lock: George Kruis (England)
Lock: Courtney Lawes (England)
Back row: Chris Robshaw (England)
Back row: CJ Stander (Ireland)
Back row: James Haskell (England)
Back row: Sam Warburton (Wales)
Back row: Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
Back row: Billy Vunipola (England)
Back row: Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)

Backs

Scrum-half: Rhys Webb (Wales)
Scrum-half: Ben Youngs
Scrum-half: Conor Murray (Ireland)
Fly-half: Dan Biggar (Wales)
Fly-half: Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Centre: Owen Farrell (England)
Centre: Jamie Roberts (Wales)
Centre: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Centre: Jonathan Joseph (England)
Centre: Jared Payne (Ireland)
Wing: George North (Wales)
Wing: Jack Nowell (England)
Wing: Liam Williams (Wales)
Wing: Anthony Watson (England)
Full-back: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Full-back: Mike Brown (England)

What are your thoughts?  I am sure there will be some omissions

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Otago Highlanders Rugby Jersey 1998 1999 – Classic Rugby Jerseys

This is an Otago Highlanders Official Canterbury Rugby Union Shirt
from the 1998/99 seasons

BUY IT NOW

SHIRT CONDITION – Shirt is in excellent condition

CONDITION DETAILS – Colours are bright, badges are excellent, small mark left sleeve

SIZE –  Adults XXL, armpit to armpit 27 inches

MADE BY – Canterbury

FEATURES –  Player Issue Temex Shirt. Temex bottom front of shirt.
Super 12 Rugby patch on sleeve

DETAILS – Shirt as worn when the Highlanders were runners up in the Super 12 Rugby in 1999 losing to the Crusaders 24-19 in the Grand Final

PLAYERS INCLUDED – Lima, Wilson, Ropati, Chronicled

 

Wallabies Rugby Jerseys

Lots of Wallabies rugby jerseys brought together today on the website Classic Rugby Shirts

Some of the best e best shown below. Check out all the Australia rugby shirts here BUY AUSTRALIA RUGBY SHIRTS

100_1331

Rare 1992/93 shirt by Canterbury

 

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This is an Australia Official Reebok Long Sleeved
Rugby Union Shirt from 1999

SHIRT CONDITION – Shirt is in excellent condition

CONDITION DETAILS – Colours are bright, badges are excellent

SIZE –  Adults XL, armpit to armpit 25 inches

MADE BY – Reebok

FEATURES –  1899 100 Years 1999 wording embroidered across Wallabies Logo, celebrating 100 years of Tests played by the Wallabies.. The crest and the Sponsor are embroidered

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This is an Australia Official Canterbury Long Sleeved
Rugby Union Shirt from the 2002/03 season

SHIRT CONDITION – Shirt is in very good condition

CONDITION DETAILS – Colours are bright, badges are excellent, slight scuff to e on sponsor

SIZE –  Adults Large, armpit to armpit 22 inches

MADE BY – Canterbury

FEATURES –  Crest & Wallabies Logo are embroidered

PLAYERS –  included Gregan, Flatley, Larkham, Sailor

DETAILS – Home Jersey from 2002/03 when the Wallabies as World Champions lost the Tri Nations to the All Blacks in both years

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Six Nations – Wales bank on chop tackle to cut down rampant Billy Vunipola

Taken from The Times Newspaper 12/3/16

England’s opponents today have spent five years honing a special weapon that could bring the bulldozing No 8 to a shuddering halt, writes John Westerby

Top of Wales’s to-do list at Twickenham today will be to cut Billy Vunipola down to size. The England No 8 has been standing tall as the outstanding ball-carrier in the RBS Six Nations Championship this year, looming large in the thoughts of Shaun Edwards, the Wales defence coach, but England’s opponents are confident they possess the instrument to succeed, where other teams have failed, in scything Vunipola down.

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Their weapon of choice will be the chop tackle, devised by Edwards before the 2011 World Cup, honed since then by Dan Lydiate to the extent that it has become one of the most feared defensive weapons in the game. “Dan has become world-renowned for his chop tackle,” Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, said. “People have started to copy him and teams have adapted their style to play against him, but he’s hugely influential.”

Here is how the chop tackle works, when executed to perfection. From a low position, Lydiate, the blind-side flanker, launches himself horizontally towards the knees of the onrushing attacker, lower than for a conventional tackle, his arms whipping around the ankles. As the ball-carrier’s legs are taken from beneath him, he falls headlong to the ground. He goes down quickly, too, like a tree being felled, the speed of the fall impairing his ability to present the ball to his team-mates.

And the reward? Precious milliseconds for Lydiate’s team-mates to exploit. Warburton, Lydiate’s hunting partner, will have anticipated the chop and made it his business to reach the tackle area first, ahead of the England back row, ready to pilfer the turnover ball that could set Wales on the attack. Lydiate wounds, then Warburton moves in for the kill. “Everybody knows the qualities of Dan Lydiate as a world-class tackler,” Robin McBryde, the forwards coach, said. “Then there’s the ability of Sam to get in over the ball and feed off that. With the workrate of Taulupe [Faletau] as well, it’s the balance of that back row.”

Chopping is at its most effective against powerful, top-heavy ball-carriers, such as Vunipola and James Haskell, the England No 7. The tactic was devised by Edwards in preparation for the pool matches in the 2011 World Cup, when Wales found themselves drawn to face South Africa, Samoa and Fiji, a relentless battering against the game’s most physical ball-carrying teams. Edwards saw that the bigger they are, the quicker they fall. “It’s about trying to get players to the deck as quick as we can,” Lydiate said.

The same rationale applies against England today. Wales are not smaller in many areas, but they are one and a half stone lighter per man in the back row. They will back themselves, though, to be quicker to the breakdown than Haskell, Vunipola and Chris Robshaw.

In some ways, the chop tackle is merely an expression of some rudimentary defence: the bigger they are, the lower you go. This is a time, though, when defence coaches are involved in an arms race to find new ways of stopping ever bigger athletes, an age of choke tackles and soak tackles, and over the past five years Lydiate has elevated his specialism to something approaching an art form.

It helps that he is blessed with a natural tenacity and strength, developed in his early years on the family farm in Llandrindod Wells. Leigh Jones, the former head coach at Newport Gwent Dragons, watched Lydiate making his way in the game and now, as a respected defence coach, who worked for Japan at the World Cup under Eddie Jones, he has seen him become one of the world’s best. “Dan’s always been phenomenally strong and incredibly brave,” Jones said. “It wasn’t always the sort of strength that translated into the gym, but you could tell he was from farming stock because he has that functional strength that showed up in the tackle.”

It can be thrilling to watch Lydiate launching himself into action. As he sizes up his target around the fringes, he is coiled like a sprinter, one hand on the ground, one knee almost down, ready to propel himself horizontally towards his quarry. His shoulder is aiming just above the knee, his arms to cut away from the top of the socks, his eyes trained firmly on his opponent’s feet. Conditioning work has given Lydiate formidably powerful shoulders and biceps, equipping his arms to withstand the impact from an opponent’s legs.

“He has to plant your feet early to make the chop tackle, so the risk is that you’re vulnerable to a late bit of footwork and that’s what Eddie [Jones] will be telling his players,” Jones said. “But Dan’s become a great reader of where an attacker is going.”

In recent weeks, though, there has been a complication for Lydiate as his technique has been questioned by referees. Playing for the Ospreys against Edinburgh last month, he was sent to the sin-bin for failing to use his arms in a chop tackle, when he had gone low and caught the ankles of Anton Bresler. Lydiate seemed to have been harshly dealt with, although he was more culpable against France a fortnight ago, when he did not wrap his arms quickly enough around Guilhem Guirado and gave away a penalty near his own posts.

“I’ve just got to make sure now that I pay extra special attention when I go in that I’m using my arms,” Lydiate said.

Today, his attention turns to bringing Vunipola crashing back to earth. When the England No 8 attempts to build up steam around the fringes, watch Lydiate crouch, narrow his gaze and launch himself horizontally. If Lydiate’s aim is true, the green shoots of England’s revival will have been abruptly chopped away, just as they were starting to flourish.

Six Nations – Ireland without Cian Healy

Ireland will seek their first victory of the 6 Nations Championship v Italy at Croke Park today without Cian Healy, who obtained a hamstring strain in training.

Healy made his 1st appearance of the championship from the bench in the defeat by England 2 weeks ago ago, having recovered from knee surgery. His place  goes to Finlay Bealham, the uncapped loose-head prop who plays for Connacht.

Born in Canberra, Bealham, 24, moved to Ireland in 2010 and qualifies through his grandmother, from Enniskillen. He adds further southern hemisphere influence to the team, with Jared Payne recalled at centre after missing the Twickenham defeat with a hamstring injury and CJ Stander, starting at blind-side flanker.

“It’s a great opportunity for Finlay to get a taste of Test match rugby,” Simon Easterby, the forwards coach, said. “He’s impressed everyone and now he’s got an opportunity to show what he can do at the highest level.”

After the first 3 games brought a draw and two defeats which ruined hopes of a third consecutive Six Nations title, Joe Schmidt, the Ireland coach, denied that the selection was unnecessarily conservative to  Italy, with Stuart McCloskey dropped for Payne after a decent debut against England.

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Rory Best, the captain, advised that the players rather than the coach should bear the brunt of criticism at a time of transition,  that the “real Ireland” will be seen v Italy, who are also without a win after the 36-20 defeat to Scotland in Italy 2 weeks ago.

“There has been a bit of a steep learning curve for some players,” Best said. “There are standards we expect to live by and play by, and we haven’t reached them.”

Teams

Ireland: S Zebo; A Trimble, J Payne, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), M Ross; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander,
J Van der Flier, J Heaslip. Replacements: S Cronin, F Bealham, N White, U Dillane, R Ruddock, K Marmion, I Madigan, F McFadden.

Italy: D Odiete; L Sarto, M Campagnaro, G Garcia, M Bellini; E Padovani, G Palazzani; A Lovotti, D Giazzon, L Cittadini; G Biagi, M Fuser, F Minto,
A Zanni, S Parisse. Replacements: O Fabiani, M Zanusso, D Chistolini, Q Geldenhuys, A Steyn, A Lucchese, K Haimona, L McLean.

Dan Carter Interview ‘Moving to France was exactly what I needed as a player. It is not easy here’

Taken from The Times newspaper

Dan Carter tells Owen Slot in Paris that he has found a second life with Racing 92, more than three years after a sequence of injuries wrecked his body and left him close to retirement

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Into the fractured debate about the pros and cons of playing in France, walks Dan Carter, World Cup-winner, world player of the year and, here in Paris, about as marketable a face of the overseas experience as you could find. Carter will sell you France without actually intending to, and that’s not only because he is a foodie and recently spent four hours with his wife on the tasting menu at what is now one of his favourite restaurants in the world.

We meet at the training ground of his new club, Racing 92, south of the Paris périphérique. He and his young family live midway between the club and the city. “It’s easy to go into Paris on your days off,” he says. His eyes light up. “We are really getting into the cuisine.”

And yes, maybe, with World Cups, cuisine and a million-euro contract, contentment is inevitable. Yet Carter, 34, is not here to get fat on the spoils of his extraordinary success. The game remains his driver.

After the World Cup, the All Blacks splintered. Some have just returned to Super Rugby, some retired. Carter is in decent contact with one of the retirees, Richie McCaw, who is deep into 24-hour adventure racing (“He’ll never rest his body and put his feet up. He is 100mph with everything.”)

Carter could have gone down a gear himself, but he came here for a different challenge. He is fascinating, in this interview, about the relentlessness of the game and how it wore him down to the extent that, three years ago, he nearly walked away from it completely. France has recharged him.

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“You can sometimes get set in your ways as to how things should be done,” he explains. “Different opinions, different insight can only help with how you play. Some guys thrive upon it and others don’t, probably because they are so set in stone with how they think things should be done. So it’s all about adapting and learning. It is great for a player’s growth.”

Adapting and learning abroad — these are options denied to England players. Carter is not looking, here, to make political statements on that subject, but he does make simple, straightforward sense. Rugby players are tired machines who plough the same weary furrow year-in, year-out. “And every year, it’s getting more demanding,” he says.

Seven years ago, he came to Perpignan for a first crack at the French experience. “It was good for me,” he says. “I just needed a new challenge. I was 27, a good six or seven years into playing at the top level. I just needed a change, something refreshing and that opportunity came about. I wanted to grow my rugby. I thought playing in a different competition would help.”

That attempt was frustrated by an achilles injury, but it persuaded him to come back for more. His French isn’t yet good enough. “I can start a conversation,” he says. “I am just really struggling to understand when they talk to me. It just goes over my head.”

So at training, he will often have Ronan O’Gara, the former Ireland player and now a Racing coach, standing next to him, translating. “Ronan’s good; he does all his presentations in French,” he says. “He’s a bit of a sounding board for me. If I want to talk about the game, I’ll talk to him and he’ll talk to the coaches for me. You get used to it. You can’t come in here and try and change everything to the way we do it back home.

“You have to fit it. There can be frustrations at times with the way they do things, but you can’t get frustrated, you have to adapt, it’s a new challenge, that’s one reason I came here, to test myself out of my comfort zone. Playing for the Crusaders for so long, you know what to expect. This is not easy, but it is exactly what I needed.” He says that he was “bracing” himself a bit for the French rugby culture. When he was in Perpignan, he was astonished by, for instance, forwards in the showers slapping each other round the face in a pre-match build-up. “That’s the complete opposite to what we are like at home,” he says. “But at Racing, it’s not so bad.”

The rugby in France has changed too, he says. The Top 14 is routinely slated for being a forwards-based collision game, yet he has been “pleasantly surprised.” In 2009 at Perpignan, he says, “the game was very forward-orientated, kicks for the corners. Yes, the game is a little slower here than back home. But the willingness for teams to use the ball more is something I’ve really noticed. They have the intent to play, more than seven years ago, which is really encouraging. If the opportunity is there inside your 22, most teams would take it now. Back then, it was frowned upon.”

One element that he has really enjoyed is a return to one of the traditions of rugby life. “Here,” he says, “they still have the team spirit values. You’ve worked hard all week together, after a game, you’ve got to celebrate your success. In New Zealand, the game is so professional, you don’t often have a beer after a game, you are immediately concentrating on the next game. Here, you enjoy a good night together. Not every week. It might only be one or two beers in the changing room. But that’s why I played the game: the enjoyment, the team spirit.”

He also enjoys the Kiwi-fication of the Top 14. “Every week, you are up against ex-team-mates or good friends,” he says. Joe Rokocoko is his Racing team-mate. “Sitiveni Sivivatu, one of my good mates and ex-team-mates from years ago — I hadn’t seen him in years and it was good to catch up with him last weekend when we played Castres. That happens pretty much every week.”

The big one is Toulon. They have been sharing top spot in the Top 14 with Racing this season. They also have another world champion, Ma’a Nonu, in the midfield. Racing will play them twice in the next five weeks, the second of those a European Champions Cup quarter-final.

“I’m good mates with Ma’a Nonu,” he says. “They just have so many quality players there. The team is stacked full of superstars.”

Interestingly, one of the reasons Carter opted to join Racing ahead of Toulon was the ethos. “Racing has a huge emphasis on their academy,” he says. “A lot of players have come through the academy. That is healthy for Racing and for French rugby and I think more clubs should have similar vision.”

What is striking is Carter’s genuine appetite for his new world. He doesn’t sugarcoat it; he isn’t impressed with the size of the Racing crowds (they average less than 8,000 in the Top 14) and doesn’t mind saying so.

Yet it does all feel like the second life he thought he’d never have. In 2013, he reminds you, he collected so many injuries “to the extent that I was about to retire.”

“It was mind games. I just didn’t have any confidence in my body,” he says. “I’d be thinking: with the career I’d had, I’d achieved so much, it would be easy to walk away from the game, hang up my boots and still be really proud.

“You put on a brave face, everyone asks how you are and you say, you’re good even though you might not be. It’s part of the rugby environment. You’d often hide from your team-mates how you are feeling. I wasn’t even telling the coaches how I was feeling.”

The next year was not a lot better. Aaron Cruden established himself as the All Blacks No 10 with Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade making up a cast of rivals. “The frustrating thing,” Carter says, “was I wasn’t able to stake my claim for the position because I was injured. These young guys were coming through and playing really well and I was helping and supporting them, but not able to show my worth because I was always injured.”

Even this time last year, the start of World Cup year, his confidence was shot. “In the first half of the Super Rugby season, the only satisfaction I’d get was getting through the 80 minutes. Without even wanting to perform well for the team, that was all I was worried about. After about seven games in a row, I was finally: ‘OK, let’s actually start adding to this team, start playing well.’ So I started setting myself goals of what I wanted to achieve in the games.”

In April, Cruden was then injured, and would miss the World Cup. Thus the question: was there not a part of you that thought ‘Good, I am now in pole position’? “I hadn’t really thought about it like that,” he answers. “I do remember when he got injured I felt: ‘Hold on, I am going to have to step up here. I need to contribute a lot more than I had done the previous two years. I have to step up to the challenge’. ”

It is fair to say he succeeded there. It is also very evident that, having come through that challenge, he has the energy and desire to address another.

The truth about England’s World Cup humiliation against Wales

Special report by Owen Slot

From The Times Newspaper 10th March 2016

Saturday brings us back to where it all happened, where the blood was shed. It was Australia who delivered the killer blow, knocking England out of the World Cup, but it was Wales who did the real damage.

We return to another instalment of England v Wales at Twickenham with recent history significantly influencing the present. We will never know what would have happened had Chris Robshaw gone for that kick, whether Stuart Lancaster would still be in the job, whether the Eddie era may never have started. Hey, it’s unlikely, but England could have won that World Cup.

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Nearly six months on, a rummage through the ashes of England’s World Cup campaign reveals the following:

• When Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach, and his assistants, heard the team that England had selected, they were astonished. They felt the pressure was getting to England.

• The All Blacks had long been tracking England, in the likelihood the two teams would meet in the knockout stages. When they heard the England team, there was a similar sense of amazement.

• The England management felt that they were refereed out of the game. Before the World Cup was over, they had received notification from Joël Jutge, the World Cup head of referees acknowledging that four of the penalties against England were awarded in error.

• After the game, the England players did not even feel physically spent. They had experienced more intense training sessions. The stop-start nature of the game had never allowed their fitness and conditioning to play a part.

England’s team selection remains the controversy. Lancaster had an injury to Jonathan Joseph, at No 13, to cover; his solution was to change completely the 10-12-13. George Ford was dropped, Owen Farrell came in at No 10 with Sam Burgess and Brad Barritt at 12 and 13.

The All Blacks’ fear had been that England were stumbling towards their best back division. Their concern was that Henry Slade was the next man in and that, by the knockout rounds, England would settle on what they saw as the dream-team combination of Ford-Slade-Joseph. When England went concertedly in the other direction, they were delighted.

In the England camp, in the lead-up to the game, even some of the players were concerned about where the tries were going to come from. Lancaster, though, bore in mind a training game when Farrell-Burgess-Slade had carved up Ford-Luther Burrell-Joseph. He also saw the yardage Ford had conceded in his soak-tackles the previous weekend against Fiji. Farrell-Burgess would, he said, be the hardest selection decision of his life. To this day, he is defined by it.

For all the controversy, though, that selection was no failure. Farrell was one of England’s best players that night; Burgess did his job.

The most damaging man on the pitch for England was Jérôme Garcès, the French referee. England were dominant in the set piece and controlled the game for the first 50 minutes but they could not build a big lead. Wales had one threatening break in the first half — Scott Williams caught Burgess out of position defensively — and when Mike Brown tackled him and competed for the ball, he was penalised.

This was one of the penalties Jutge would later clarify was a mistake. Yet Dan Biggar, the Wales fly half, snaffled three points. That was how Wales managed to hang in the game.

“Never in my life had I been so nervous in the build-up to a game,” Biggar recalls. “But when I got to the ground, the nerves melted away.” Indeed, Biggar did not miss anything.

Garcès’s whistle did not hit England only on the scoreboard. England’s conditioning programme had been based on stamina and high tempo; they wanted a long ball-in-play time to run oppositions into the ground. However, Garcès never gave them the chance. A good ball-in-play time is more than 40 minutes; that night they got 34 minutes.

The momentum started to shift around the hour-mark. There was an England maul from which Wales defended and gained a turnover. From the ref mike, you could hear Gareth Davies, the Wales No 9, exhorting his team-mates, telling them: “That’s a game-changer.” Davies still recalls it. “I remember thinking we were in a better place. A lot of their forwards were blowing, a few of them were on the floor, struggling a bit.”

England deny they were remotely struggling. The only thing they could not contain was the psychology of a momentum swing.

Lancaster is widely criticised for taking off the very man who he is criticised for putting on it — Burgess. And his substitution certainly failed. The thinking was sound — Ford for Burgess gave England two kickers, and Wales had already exposed Burgess in defence — but it meant that Jamie Roberts immediately ran at Ford and had the same success as the Fijians. Wales’ confidence grew further.

Their miracle try — scored by Gareth Davies — followed. Then Brown conceded another penalty (another one Jutge confirmed was in error) and England were chasing a game they should have closed out. The contest is crystallised in the 77th minute: that penalty, Robshaw’s decision, the safety of the draw versus the gamble of the lineout.

The decision not to kick for goal still haunts England. Before the game, it had been agreed that although a victory was the priority, the draw was not a failure. Robshaw gambled on the win and later acknowledged that he got this wrong.

The reason the decision to go for the win was particularly ballsy was that Geoff Parling, the England lineout captain, had done his analysis of Wales and found that they were outstanding at defending the driving maul. He could not find in the previous two years a single try conceded.

The reason Parling has been criticised for calling the lineout to Robshaw at the front was because the front is easiest to drive back into touch. This, however, does Parling an injustice. He called the “shift drive” lineout to the front, the intention being that the front man sucks in the maul defence, but immediately shifts the ball out for the drive to form away from the majority of defenders.

A decent plan. It was undone because Robshaw was being driven backwards before he had hit the ground — which is illegal — and so the shift never happened. Of all the refereeing decisions that went against England, this was the costliest. The big gamble failed. It should have won England another penalty. Instead it saved Wales the game.

The ghastly silence of the England dressing room afterwards was broken by the sound of Welsh celebration; down the corridor, Welsh players and management belted out Lawr Ar Lan y Mor. The English felt mentally exhausted but never physically so.

The singing continued all the way down the M4 to Wales. At 3am, back at their hotel, it stopped; cryotherapy before bed — such is the way of the modern professional. The World Cup, though, was dying for England. They would never sleep well again.