‘Cliches with fear’: NRL boss pans critics

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys has brushed off criticism of his proposal to reintroduce crowds at NRL games within five weeks on the same day the season restarts.

Last week, V’landys revealed the NRL was hoping to permit capped crowds into games from early July. However, Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone labelled the proposal an “absurd and dangerous idea” on Tuesday.

V’landys copped similar backlash when he boldly claimed the NRL was aiming to return on May 28th, a move which proved a masterstroke.

Speaking on Channel 9’s Today, V’landys remained adamant having capped crowds within two months was a possibility, but largely depends on the country’s infection rate.

“These medical experts didn’t even look at what our proposal was. They’re cliches with fear,” V'landys said on Thursday morning.

“We have to do a risk analysis and we back up all our case with the data.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys.Source:The Daily Telegraph

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“We’re going to wait the next two weeks to see what he infection rate does with the relaxation of the distancing measures. We want to see what happens; is there going to be another spike, or if this very low infection rate continues.

“At the moment, it's less than half a per cent and it’s been like that for nearly 40 days. When we stopped playing rugby league, it was 25.5 per cent.

“We’re not Italy, we’re not Spain, we’re not Britain. We’re Australia. We should do a risk analysis and if the risk is low to minimal, there’s no reason why we shouldn't have crowds. We’ve got to get back to some form of normality.

“The risk is absolutely minimal and if the risk is minimal, I can’t see any reason why we can't do it. We’ll be pushing our case with governments in the next two to three weeks once we have this data.”

V’landys explained a stadium with 60,000 seats may only be capable of holding 10,000 fans with proper social distancing enforced. Thermal cameras would also be used to take the spectators’ temperatures.

Incredible to think rugby league is starting tonight. Peter V’landys an absolute freak – I don’t reckon anyone else could have achieved it. Remarkable. Rugby league + the wider sporting community now knows what horseracing has known for ages. 🌟 🐎 🏉

Peter V’landys deserves credit for bulldozing his way over one obstacle after another to get the #NRL back today but you know who deserves the most credit? You.

We wouldn’t be here if the public hadn’t taken the advice of health officials seriously and flattened the curve.

The NRL returns to action tonight as the Broncos face Parramatta in Brisbane.

Footy fans will be thrilled to finally see the season restart after matches were suspended after round two because of COVID-19.

ROUND 3 FIXTURES

Brisbane Broncos vs Parramatta Eels

Thursday, May 28 at 7:50pm

Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Channel 9 (Sydney/Brisbane), GEM (Melbourne/Adelaide/Perth) and Fox League

North Queensland Cowboys vs Gold Coast Titans

Friday, May 29 at 6pm

Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville

Fox League

Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

Friday, May 29 at 7:55pm

Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta

Channel 9 (Sydney/Brisbane), GEM (Melbourne/Adelaide/Perth) and Fox League

New Zealand Warriors vs St George Illawarra Dragons

Saturday, May 30 at 3pm

Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Fox League

Cronulla Sharks vs Wests Tigers

Saturday, May 30 at 5:30pm

Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta

Fox League

Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders

Saturday, May 30 at 7.35pm

AAMI Park, Melbourne

Fox League

Penrith Panthers vs Newcastle Knights

Sunday, May 31 at 4:05pm

Campbelltown Stadium

Channel 9 (Sydney/Brisbane), GEM (Melbourne/Adelaide/Perth) and Fox League

Manly Sea Eagles vs Canterbury Bulldogs

Sunday, May 31 at 6:30pm

Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Fox League

The NRL premiership returns on Thursday evening with the Brisbane Broncos taking on the Parramatta Eels.Source:News Regional Media

ROUND 3 TEAMS

Parramatta Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Marata Niukore 14. Brad Takairangi 15. Ray Stone 16. Kane Evans 17. Peni Terepo 18. Oregon Kaufusi 19. George Jennings 20. Jaeman Salmon 21. David Gower

Brisbane Broncos: 1. Jamayne Isaako 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Darius Boyd 5. Jesse Arthars 6. Anthony Milford 7. Brodie Croft 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Jake Turpin 10. Payne Haas 11. Alex Glenn 12. Jamil Hopoate 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Herbie Farnworth 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Rhys Kennedy 17. Ethan Bullemor 18. Tesi Niu 19. Xavier Coates 20. Tom Dearden 21. Matthew Lodge

North Queensland Cowboys: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Esan Marsters 5. Ben Hampton 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh Mcguire 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Mitchell Dunn 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Reece Robson 15. John Asiata 16. Shane Wright 17. Francis Molo 18. Corey Jensen 19. Tom Gilbert 20. Tom Opacic 21. Reuben Cotter

Gold Coast Titans: 1. Tyrone Roberts 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. Tyrone Peachey 5. Phillip Sami 6. Ashley Taylor 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Nathan Peats 10. Sam Lisone 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Jai Arrow 14. Erin Clark 15. Jai Whitbread 16. Jarrod Wallace 17. Shannon Boyd 18. Bryce Cartwright 19. Mitch Rein 20. Brian Kelly 21. Jonus Pearson

Sydney Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Isaac Liu 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Victor Radley 14. Sam Verrills 15. Sitili Tupouniua 16. Nat Butcher 17. Lindsay Collins 18. Siosiua Taukeiaho 19. Ryan Hall 20. Lachlan Lam 21. Poasa Faamausili

South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Dane Gagai 3. Campbell Graham 4. Braidon Burns 5. Alex Johnston 6. Troy Dargan 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Cameron Murray 13. Liam Knight 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Ethan Lowe 16. Bayley Sironen 17. Patrick Mago 18. Bryson Goodwin 19. Tom Amone 20. James Roberts 21. Keaon Koloamatangi

New Zealand Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. Patrick Herbert 3. Peta Hiku 4. Gerard Beale 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Blake Green 8. Lachlan Burr 9. Wayde Egan 10. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 11. Isaiah Papali’i 12. Tohu Harris 13. Adam Blair 14. Karl Lawton 15. King Vuniyayawa 16. Agnatius Paasi 17. Eliesa Katoa 18. Chanel Harris-Tavita 20. Josh Curran 21. Adam Pompey 22. Jack Murchie

St. George Illawarra Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Brayden Wiliame 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. Korbin Sims 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. James Graham 14. Josh Kerr 15. Blake Lawrie 16. Tyrell Fuimaono 17. Euan Aitken 18. Trent Merrin 19. Adam Clune 20. Jacob Host 21. Jackson Ford

Cronulla Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Shaun Johnson 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Jack Williams 14. Connor Tracey 15. Braden Hamlin-Uele 16. Toby Rudolf 17. Scott Sorensen 18. Billy Magoulias 19. Matt Moylan 20. Royce Hunt 21. Siosifa Talakai

Wests Tigers: 1. Adam Doueihi 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Joseph Leilua 4. Moses Mbye 5. Robert Jennings 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Harry Grant 10. Thomas Mikaele 11. Luke Garner 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Alex Twal 14. Oliver Clark 15. Billy Walters 16. Chris Lawrence 17. Alex Seyfarth 18. Josh Reynolds 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. Zane Musgrove 21. Michael Chee-Kam

Melbourne Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Justin Olam 4. Marion Seve 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 16. Christian Welch 17. Max King 18. Tom Eisenhuth 19. Brenko Lee 20. Ryley Jacks 21. Darryn Schonig

Canberra Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Curtis Scott 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. Joseph Tapine 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Horsburgh 14. Siliva Havili 15. Emre Guler 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Michael Oldfield 18. Jordan Rapana 19. Matt Frawley 20. Kai O’Donnell 21. Tom Starling

Penrith Panthers: 1. Caleb Aekins 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To’o 6. Matt Burton 7. Jarome Luai 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Stephen Crichton 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Moses Leota 17. Liam Martin 18. Mitch Kenny 19. Billy Burns 20. Kaide Ellis 21. Charlie Staines

Newcastle Knights: 1. Tex Hoy 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Connor Watson 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Sione Mata’utia 13. Herman Ese’ese 14. Chris Randall 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Tim Glasby 17. Aidan Guerra 18. Bradman Best 19. Brodie Jones 20. Mason Lino 21. Pasami Saulo

Manly Sea Eagles: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Brad Parker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Dylan Walker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Danny Levi 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Lachlan Croker 15. Corey Waddell 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Morgan Boyle 19. Jack Gosiewski 20. Tevita Funa 21. Brendan Elliot

Canterbury Bulldogs: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Reimis Smith 4. Will Hopoate 5. Christian Crichton 6. Lachlan Lewis 7. Jack Cogger 8. Sauaso Sue 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Dean Britt 13. Adam Elliott 14. Jake Averillo 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 17. Ofahiki Ogden 19. Kerrod Holland 20. Aiden Tolman 21. Sione Katoa 22. Brandon Wakeham

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Eddie Jones and Conor O’Shea discuss ‘ruckgate’ from 2017 Six Nations

England head coach Eddie Jones and former Italy head coach Conor O’Shea discuss the controversial ‘ruckgate’ incident which brought rugby to a standstill in 2017.

Speaking on The Eddie Jones Coaching Podcast, the pair recount an unforgettable match at Twickenham between England and Italy during the Six Nations.

Listen to The Eddie Jones Coaching Podcast here

The controversy came as Italy’s tactics exposed a loophole in the law. The tactic involved, what was at the time, a perfectly legal interpretation of the rucking laws, where the visitors did not commit players to the ruck after making a tackle, eliminating the offside line.

World Rugby reacted quickly to the loophole and changed the law but, at the time, Jones said the match “wasn’t rugby” and described it as “a joke”.

But, speaking on The Eddie Jones Coaching Podcast, Jones said: “Firstly, it took a lot of courage for you guys to do it and anytime when you’re the underdog, as you were, and you try and do something at the start of the game which tactically and psychologically surprises the opposition, it’s great coaching.

“It also exposed a flaw in the law so it’s good that’s cleared up now and helped the game go forward.

“It was a great exercise for us, when you’re favourites to win the game, you’re always thinking about what the opposition are going to do to try and upset you.

“I was very happy with the way the players went about it because it’s not easy to play against, everyone says ‘pick and go’ but that doesn’t get you anywhere off a slow ball – it really added to the Six Nations.

“And if it doesn’t go right you get more criticised than normal, so it takes a lot of courage to do it and I thought it was good mate.”

O’Shea, now RFU director of performance, reminisced on their “lovely match” and said he had to change things up to give his side “something to cling on to” after coming off a big loss to Ireland, without breaking the rules.

He revealed he swore Ugo Monye, who was working as a TV co-commentator for the match, to secrecy after disclosing the team’s tactics to him before the game, so that the former British and Irish Lions winger could accurately explain it to people watching at home.

England were rattled by the tactics and it took them a while to adapt and respond. Captain Dylan Hartley and James Haskell had long conversations with referee Romain Poite with Haskell asking Poite what he wanted to see at the ruck.

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Globetrotter Hadleigh Parkes is all set for Japan move

Globetrotter Hadleigh Parkes is all set for Japan move — but centre admits Wales farewell is tinged with regret as coronavirus prevents send-off

  • Hadleigh Parkes sealed move from Scarlets to Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan 
  • That means the 32-year-old centre has likely played his last game for Wales 
  • Parkes will join a number of other players in Japan including George Kruis 
  • Coronavirus shutdown of sport means Parkes will not play a farewell game 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Ever the adventurer, Hadleigh Parkes is off exploring again — but he is determined this will not be his last week as a Welshman.

‘I was talking with my neighbours the other day who are big Welsh rugby fans,’ says New Zealand-born Parkes, after it was confirmed he would be giving up his Wales career to move to Japan.

‘They asked, “Who are you going to support?”

Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes, with wife Suzy and daughter Ruby, is moving to play in Japan

New Zealand-born Parkes is giving up Wales career to play for Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan

‘I’ll be supporting Wales and make sure my daughter Ruby does as she was born here. I’ll need a bit of back-up in my house!’

It was confirmed on Monday that the 32-year-old will join the growing exodus east to play for Panasonic Wild Knights — the same team as England lock George Kruis.

The harsh reality of coronavirus means Parkes’ departure is sudden. On Tuesday the removal men are emptying his house in Pontcanna while he stays away.

By now, the majority of Parkes’ belongings are on a container ship destined for New Zealand and on Saturday he will fly back to the land of his birth — leaving Wales behind.

The 29-cap back admitted the move to Japan felt very sudden and wanted a better send-off

‘Now we’re pretty much done, my wife Suzy and I are pretty sad,’ says the 29-cap centre.

‘It would’ve been nice to play one last game, or even to see the boys at training, but the real thing we’re sad about is not being able to say goodbye to our friends with a big barbecue or something. We’ve got a Zoom prize-giving tonight with the Scarlets — a black-tie event! Black-tie isn’t quite the priority to have in the hand-luggage to New Zealand, so I might be in a vest or something!

‘We’ve had to bring our flights forward as we heard Qatar Airways might be stopping flights in June. There’s a lot we can’t control, so unfortunately that’s the way it is.’

Parkes and his family brought forward their flights in case travel is stopped amid coronavirus

It will be a mammoth journey. The Parkes are travelling with departing Scarlets coach Brad Mooar, his wife and three kids via Qatar and Sydney. Once in Australia — the only route to New Zealand at present — they will have to wait in a hotel organised by the New South Wales authorities for 36 hours to catch a rare flight to Auckland.

Then they will have to isolate for 14 days. So there will be plenty of time for Parkes to reflect.

Signing for Scarlets in 2014, Parkes won PRO14 with the region and then international caps

He has achieved plenty. Brought over to the Scarlets by new Wales coach Wayne Pivac, he won the PRO14, made his Test debut on the day he qualified on residency in December 2017, then became a key part of the 2019 Six Nations Grand Slam and recent World Cup.

While packing, he has found more than 160 programmes from his games in Europe and plenty of shirts that have stirred great memories.

‘I’ve always kept Wales and Scarlets jerseys,’ he explains. ‘I found the ones from the PRO14 finals and laid them out — it was quite emotional remembering the good times.’

Parkes made his international debut as soon as he qualified for the country on residency

Parkes played a key role for Wales as they reached the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup

The veteran admitted that the World Cup gave him a new perspective on playing in Japan

As ever with those who switch allegiance to a new country, there has been criticism of Parkes playing for Wales. The Kiwi has tempered that through his commitment and humble nature.

‘There were a few things said with me qualifying on the day,’ he recalls. ‘I wasn’t that nervous for the game but I was nervous for the anthem as I knew a lot of people would be watching.

‘Rhys Patchell had been teaching me it and I really wanted to make sure I did it justice having been given the honour and opportunity.

‘I managed to do it and I’ve loved singing it ever since.’

Now he is off, some are bound to criticise again. ‘The people’s opinions who matter to me are my friends and family and everyone has been supportive,’ he says. ‘Walking past people in the street they say, “Thank you and all the best” so 99 per cent are amazing. Wales has been home for us.’

Parkes and his wife explained how they enjoyed exploring each area he has played rugby in

Hadleigh and Suzy have always been explorers — Parkes has now played in New Zealand, South Africa and Wales.

He has loved travelling to the Gower Peninsula, the Lake District, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Iceland and more. So when Panasonic called in February, it turned his head.

Pivac still wanted him as part of Wales’ elite 38-man squad, but, partly due to wanderlust but mainly for his young family, Parkes plumped for another adventure.

‘Suzy and I are very family- orientated,’ he explains. ‘My parents would come over for a couple of weeks each year, but after Ruby was born in November I saw them with Ruby and how they were helping out Suzy, it clicked that we wanted Ruby to have a lot more special times with cousins and grandparents. The off-seasons are a lot longer in Japan so it will be easier.’

Wales boss Wayne Pivac had wanted Parkes to stay in Wales’ elite squad for next season

Having decided, he needed to tell the man who had gifted him his Welsh chance in the first place. Pivac. ‘He didn’t answer, so I thought, “s***”,’ says Parkes. 

‘He rang back five minutes later and was so genuine, saying, “Good on you Parkesy, I’m proud of you. You’ve done outstandingly over here so I wish you all the best”. 

‘That was special. You’d like to think you could get to another World Cup but the management could turn around and say, “We don’t want you” in six months. I didn’t want to think, “What if…?”

‘The World Cup made people realise Japan is such an amazing place. The people were so friendly, the cuisine is amazing and the rugby is good, too. There might be more who use it as an option during their careers. It’s an exciting time for rugby over there. My wife and I both thought it would be a great adventure for a young family.’

He will go to Japan in October to prepare for the new season in January — joining the likes of Alex Goode, Freddie Burns and Kruis out east.

The Kiwi adventurer might be leaving with a heavy heart, but it is a heart that still beats for Wales.




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Luther Burrell on working with England coaches Stuart Lancaster and Eddie Jones

Throughout his journey from raw teenage talent to a full England international, Luther Burrell seemed inextricably linked with Stuart Lancaster.

The Cumbrian was head of Leeds’ youth set-up when Burrell joined the academy from Huddersfield, later handing the centre his first professional contract as well.

Although they would both go their separate ways – Lancaster moving to RFU as head of elite player development in 2008 – they were reunited again in 2013 when Burrell, by then starring for Northampton Saints, was called up to the England squad.

Going on tour to Argentina in 2013, playing in a non-cap international against a South American XV, he won his first cap under Lancaster in the following year’s Six Nations and the 31-year-old remains thankful for his association with the now-Leinster coach.

“He is a very special man in my heart and mind,” Burrell told Sky Sports. “He played a huge role throughout my career, bringing me in from a teenage lad at Leeds, bringing my mum and dad in and explaining what he is willing to do and the time he’s going to put into me.

“I remember he got the full England job and I was absolutely made up for him. He was giving certain players caps who I’d played against under Stuart Lancaster and I text him say ‘If this guy can get caps, there’s hope I can make it’.

“He said, ‘it’s not about hope, mate, it’s about your work ethic and mindset. You’re a good enough player, how are you going to do it?’, basically. It gave you enough fuel and ammunition to keep working hard.”

He is a very special man in my heart and mind. He played a huge role throughout my career.

Luther Burrell on Stuart Lancaster

Burrell and Lancaster remain close, with the former having messaged his old coach to catch up when Northampton and Leinster met in last season’s Champions Cup.

However, their relationship became strained when Burrell was left out of the England squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in favour of then-recent rugby league convert Sam Burgess, despite having been a regular in that year’s Six Nations.

“For some reason, it all came down to me and Sam,” Burrell said. “It was just a really funny situation I found myself in.

“Ultimately, I think Stuart Lancaster will have suggested to tell me himself because he felt it was the right thing for him to do. I walked into the office and I could tell straight away.

“He got emotional about it, I just got up and walked out, which was probably not the right thing to do, but my emotions were sky high and I’d just had a home World Cup taken away from me.

“Then all of a sudden, I’ve got the media following me, I can’t go to my house and I can’t walk the street, so it was a really difficult period at that point.”

Keeping up with Jones

England’s dismal showing at their home World Cup, which culminated in a pool-stage exit, led to Lancaster departing his role as England head coach.

In came Eddie Jones, with the Australian employing his markedly different approach to his predecessor when it came to overseeing the national team.

Jones’ arrival led to a brief recall to the England set-up for Burrell, who won his 15th and final cap in the 39-28 win over Australia in Brisbane on the 2016 tour, and he found out plenty about the new coach’s unique approach.

“Eddie is different,” Burrell said. “A really great guy off the training park and everything else, but he is the hardest man to read.

“He’s very honest with his approach when it comes to rugby, but one minute he’ll be next to you at the counter getting some food, watching what you’re eating and giving you a bit of gip if you’ve got too many chips on your plate and the next minute he’s on the training field calling you out in front of the whole team.

“He keeps everybody on edge and that’s why I think the England squad rotated a little bit. He rotated it several times throughout my involvement and I missed out on Eddie’s team because another rugby league lad had come over and taken my spot in Ben Te’o.”

Eddie is different. A really great guy off the training park and everything else, but he is the hardest man to read.

Luther Burrell on Eddie Jones

Burrell moved the other way across rugby’s divide when his contract with Northampton finished last year, joining Super League outfit Warrington Wolves.

But not long after making the switch, he crossed paths with Jones once more.

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Bath's Francois Louw reveals the concerns of Premiership stars

‘Many clubs are bleeding cash, the players are so worried’: Bath’s South African flanker Francois Louw reveals the concerns of Premiership stars

  • Louw, 34, is set to retire when his contract expires at Bath next month 
  • Premiership has been suspended since March 16 because of the pandemic 
  • Premiership Rugby still hopes to complete the final nine rounds of fixtures
  • The deadlock has implications for players who are set to switch clubs 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

‘Rugby players are masters of disguise,’ says South African Francois Louw from his home in Bath. 

‘In the heat of the moment when you’re looking at someone square in the eyes, there’s no emotion, but inside you’re screaming with pain and fatigue. It’s something you have to master and players do it off the field, too.’

While rugby muddles along, trying to find a route back to the action amid the coronavirus pandemic, the sport’s stars might look like they are cracking on with their home workout regimes and barbecues, but deep down plenty are worried about the future.

Bath forward Francois Louw is set to retire next month and become a financial advisor

‘There is concern,’ says Louw, 34. ‘What happens to any industry if this continues for six months? They’re talking about opening up the schools next month but if the R-rate goes up then do we go back to full lockdown again?

‘The hospitality industry is getting pushed out, those businesses could go under completely and there’s mountains of debt building up. How’s that going to be repaid? Tax is the ultimate but to what end?’

Back home he anticipates more strife. ‘In South Africa the stringent lockdown on businesses and forcing of more unemployment, with the majority of South Africans living hand-to-mouth, it is scary,’ he says. ‘Lots of charities are jumping up to feed the hungry and poor but no one is sure where it’s all headed.

‘My family run a guest house called Les Baleines in Hermanus outside Cape Town but the tourism industry has gone from hero to zero — a complete shutdown. It’s mostly Britons who visit and that has come to a complete halt.

Bristol owner Steve Lansdown says clubs should not use the coronavirus crisis to cut wages

‘Questions are being asked about next year’s Lions tour. South Africa cancelled the Tests in their winter which will have a major financial impact, as it will in the UK. Here, the amount of people who have approached the Government for the universal grant is the highest it has been. They’re talking like the post-war era in terms of the effect on the economy.’

This interests Louw because, when he retires next month, he is to become a financial advisor and is setting up a business to help sports people manage their money.

‘Players will need sound advice about how to get through this,’ he says. ‘Having been a professional sportsman I can empathise. I understand what goes through their minds, especially from a young age and starting to earn good money.

‘No one can make decisions until you’re told how to. Too many athletes retire in a bad financial state considering the opportunities they had in their career.

‘There are talks of permanent 25 per cent salary reductions in the Premiership, some clubs are calling for 50 per cent. Stephen Lansdown at Bristol is the only one saying it should never happen. Good on him but if you understand a club’s cash-flow you see they’re bleeding on a daily basis.

The deadlock has implications for Kyle Sinckler’s move from Harelquins to Bristol

‘It then gets put on to the players. From a player’s perspective, you want full pay but there is context.

‘Clubs are bleeding money. That’s not a secret. The majority of money comes through ticket sales, sponsors and BT TV rights. Clubs are having to pay back TV money and season-ticket holders through the Consumer Rights Protection Act. That’s money that suddenly isn’t there but wage bills and expenses still are.

‘Players are only a proportion of the wage bill. There’s concern but, to everyone’s credit, guys are staying fit and positive so that, when the day comes when they can return to training, they are ready.’

Except, that does not apply to everyone. The admission last week from English rugby bosses that the sport is not ready even to return to training effectively retired swathes of players such as Louw on the spot.

With his club contract running out on June 30, he is resigned to the fact that he will never play again.

‘It’s not just us retiring but guys moving clubs,’ says Louw, referring to players such as Kyle Sinckler swapping Harlequins for Bristol and Jonny May leaving Leicester for Gloucester.

‘Are they representing a different club in the same season, or finishing with their current one? Who’s paying their salary? So many questions. For me, I think that is going to be it.

‘There are talks about resuming the season come August, which would mean players coming back to training in June or July. I saw the statement that training won’t resume for at least two weeks. The crux of it will be the isolation period. If rugby does resume but you’re exposed to someone who has symptoms, or you get symptoms, what do you do? Do teams from a weekend game have to isolate for two weeks?

‘It’s bizarre, you can’t kick-start rugby like that.

‘I made the decision to finish and unfortunately that’s the outcome. I don’t think it has quite struck me as it will. At some stage I’ll be sitting with a glass of wine reminiscing about the good old days and wondering “Did I have one more season in me?”

‘A time will come when it will really jerk on my heart. I’ve spent nine special seasons at Bath. I leave with a full heart, great memories, great friends for life. That’s what sticks with you.’

A romantic weekend in snowy Somerset in 2011 made Louw fall in love with Bath. ‘They said, “We’re very keen on you, why don’t you come over and meet us?”’ he says. ‘I said, “I’d love to. I have one request — my girlfriend has to make this decision with me but she’s on a secondment in New York. Can you bring her over?”. It was cheeky but they agreed. From the moment we arrived we fell in love with Bath.’

And despite no official farewell, Louw has an idea. What about a Barbarians fixture for those in his shoes? ‘We could make it a charity match to raise money for what’s happening. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is working on it.’




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Kevin Sinfield revisits Leeds Rhinos’ controversial Magic Weekend win over Bradford Bulls in 2007

“It makes me smile every time somebody mentions this to me because I know one thing – I was onside!” says Kevin Sinfield, recalling arguably the most controversial moment in Magic Weekend history.

Even now, 13 years on, the clash between Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls which brought the inaugural edition of what was then known as Millennium Magic to a close remains a contentious talking point.

It revolves around the frantic final play of the game which began when the Rhinos were awarded a controversial offside penalty with their bitter rivals leading 38-36.

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“We were awful that day and Bradford were great,” Sinfield, now Leeds’ director of rugby, told Sky Sports’ Golden Point Daily vodcast.

“Coming into those last couple of minutes it was very close, but I think Bradford could sense we were on our way back.”

The Bulls had already been incensed by some of the decisions from referee Steve Ganson in the match at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium – along with having two possible second-half tries chalked off by video official Ashley Klein – prior to the incident in the dying seconds.

Fuel was added to the fire when the St Helens-based official pinged Bradford for offside when they recovered a loose ball, despite it appearing to be touched by a Rhinos player.

Sinfield, who was Leeds captain at the time, opted to kick at goal from close to 40 metres out yet his effort would end up rebounding off the crossbar. However, the bounce fell into the hands of Rhinos forward Jordan Tansey, who duly applied the finish under the posts.

This was not the end of the controversy though because replays immediately showed Tansey – along with several of his team-mates – to have been in front of Sinfield before the ball was kicked. Rather than going to the video referee though, Ganson awarded the try without hesitation.

“I’m lining the kick up and there are some Bradford players hurling abuse – which is normally coming at me as I’m kicking at goal, but it’s going at Steve because he’s awarded this penalty and if we kick it, it’s a draw,” Sinfield said.

“I could see Steve getting pretty frustrated with it. I’d gone to kick the ball and unbeknown to me, Jordan Tansey was 20 metres in front of me, but as I’d gone to kick it my planted foot slipped a bit but just enough that I knew ‘this isn’t going to go over’.

I’d gone from realising that I’d just missed a kick and we’d lost the game to suddenly looking up, see the ball hit the crossbar and us score.

Kevin Sinfield

“I’d gone from realising that I’d just missed a kick and we’d lost the game to suddenly looking up, see the ball hit the crossbar and us score. Steve – yes, he is human – just gave the try straight away and I couldn’t believe it.”

By now, the hooter had sounded and Sinfield was trying to compose himself to kick the conversion to end the game while aggrieved Bradford players protested to Ganson and pointed at replays on the big screen showing the incident.

“Steve was an old-school ref who you could have the banter and the craic with,” Sinfield said.

“The funny thing I remember is it was all going on underneath the posts, Steve had awarded the try and he had to keep walking back to the posts to calm the Bradford lads down because time was up but we’d still got the kick at the posts and I couldn’t believe what was going on.

“I’d put the ball on the tee and I’m waiting for Steve to walk back from the posts to stand near me like a ref does, and as Steve was walking back he gave me the biggest wink and the smile you’ve ever seen – and it was brilliant and I thought ‘You’ll do for me’.

“That was the banter. Steve didn’t do it on purpose, he wouldn’t have known Jordan Tansey was in front, but they were good times.”

Even now, the game is a sore point for those involved on the Bulls side that day, including head coach at the time Steve McNamara.

Indeed, Sinfield recalled how McNamara was less than amused when it came up again at a training session during his spell as England boss.

“Steve McNamara was their coach at the time and I ended up working with him at England, and we re-enacted it once in an England session and he didn’t see the funny side of it – he wasn’t happy at all,” Sinfield said.

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‘Rugby is a different game’: Why Cowboys won’t follow Broncos rotation policy

Do not expect North Queensland coach Paul Green to adopt NRL rival Brisbane’s rugby-inspired rotation policy any time soon.

Green admits he is still figuring out how best to nurse his squad through at least 18 straight games this year.

But he is unlikely to emulate the Broncos’ plan to rotate players every couple of weeks.

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Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold said this week he got the idea after speaking with coaching staff at successful Irish rugby outfit Munster, who play more than 20 games straight if they qualify for their grand final.

“He was basing that on Munster. Rugby is a fairly different game to ours,” Green said of Seibold’s plan.

“So we will just have to see how we go as the season pans out.”

Green would appear to have little to complain about ahead of the restart, after the Cowboys emerged as one of the winners in the revised NRL schedule.

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Brisbane and Cronulla are the only 2019 finalists among the five teams they play twice and the Cowboys have to leave Queensland just eight times for the rest of the year.

Yet the draw still poses a major headache for Green as he mulls over how to cope with the brutal toll of so many consecutive games.

“Some say it is a shorter competition but in some respects it may feel like it is longer because there are no byes, no breaks,” he said.

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“We will have to look at how the schedule is and give them a freshen up when we can.” North Queensland are one of just four clubs across the league able to play at their full-time home ground this season, but Green believes that also poses challenges.

Asked if being based in Townsville gave the Cowboys an edge, Green said: “I don’t think there is another option for us.

Paul Green won’t rest his players.Source:News Corp Australia

“It is not like we can drive an hour down the road and play at a different stadium.

“The fact that we are in Townsville, there are challenges that come with that.

“There are a few travel days for us that are going to be a little bit tricky to manage.

“Travelling down and back again on the day of the game, some of those afternoon games may mean a really early start for us.”

Originally published as‘Rugby is a different game’: Why Cowboys won’t follow Broncos rotation policy

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Pro14: League plans for 22 August return with games between teams from same nation

The Pro14 hopes to return to play on 22 August with a series of behind closed doors matches.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed plans for their provinces to play a series of inter-provincial fixtures at the Aviva Stadium.

The league’s resumption will see teams from the same nation play against each other before the season is concluded via semi-finals and a final.

It is hoped that the 2020-21 campaign can begin in October.

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With all professional rugby in Europe suspended since March, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said teams would need at least six weeks training before they are ready to play competitive matches.

It would therefore be expected that Pro14 clubs are back in some form of training by no later than 11 July.

The 2019-20 final, which was scheduled for 20 June has been cancelled, and currently no date has been revealed for a potential rescheduled final.

With the league encompassing teams from five nations, it cannot be assured that all clubs will be able to resume at the same time with countries releasing restrictions at different rates.

“At least if we have a target date set we can try and work towards it,” said Browne

“Otherwise we are just going to be chasing shadows.”

In a video meeting on Friday, Browne acknowledged that the IRFU’s ‘Return to Train and Play’ roadmap was dependent on government approval.

A return to rugby is listed under stage five as the Republic of Ireland’s own roadmap out of lockdown, which it is hoped will be reached on 10 August.

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Sanzaar & Six Nations teams in talks to plan out global rugby union calendar

The 10 top international teams are working to align the world calendar following the coronavirus disruption.

The Sanzaar nations – South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina – are in talks with the Six Nations teams.

At present, the international rugby windows differ in the northern and southern hemispheres.

A joint statement read: “The nations have sought to eliminate self-interest and recognise the international and club game have shared mutual benefits.”

England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy are the Six Nations teams.

The statement added that a global calendar would “improve player welfare” and “improve narrative and competitiveness of international and domestic competitions around clear windows”.

A harmonised schedule of fixtures – that would avoid conflicts between club and country for players’ time and create more opportunities for lucrative matches between the biggest international teams – has been an ongoing issue in the sport.

A summit in San Francisco in 2017 failed to deliver large-scale change, however. Plans for a Nations Championship, to bring more fixtures and a structured format to the international game, failed to get off the ground in 2019.

Newly re-elected World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont told BBC Sport last month that he was hopeful that a revised Nations Championship could have enough support to become reality.

The outbreak has brought the game to a halt globally. While domestic rugby is set to restart in New Zealand on 13 June, the curtailed English Premiership and Pro14 are not likely to get back under way until at least August.

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