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Rugby evening headlines as Andy Powell issues statement to hit back at Alex Cuthbert

These are the rugby headlines on Saturday, June 11.

Powell hits back at Cuthbert

Andy Powell has hit back at former international team-mate Alex Cuthbert, accusing him of being a “hypocrite” as their war of words escalates. Wales and Lions wing Cuthbert claimed Powell had given him “quite a bit of s***” after the 2015 World Cup, so he had wiped his hands of the former No 8. You can read his comments from him in full here.

Now Powell has responded, posting a lengthy message on social media. Speaking about Cuthbert he said: “I always thought he was a good lad and he was n’t such a hypocrite. But to make an accusation that I would say anything about him or about anyone just to say something ‘stupid’ and get paid is defamatory.

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“During that period, I believed Alex was playing badly (probably the worst he ever had done) and it was blatant. Some comments were critical, banned and my opinions. I thought Alex had a sense of humor and I am sorry that he had taken any comments so personally.

“But during that period, I believed there were better players out there that would have done a better job. And I certainly wasn’t the only one to think so.

“I have made some incredible friends throughout my career and after. If someone asks me for my opinion, I will give it. Those that ask for my opinion tend to ask me because I am going to be honest and straight-talking.

“As a professional sports person you can either let the negative comments defeat you or you take it constructively, laugh, wisely up, improve and move on. It is sad that Alex hasn’t done the latter. I wish him all the best.”

Springboks name training squad

There are eight uncapped players in the Springboks’ 43-man training squad for next month’s three-Test series against Wales and the rest of their international program this year.

The new faces are prop Ntuthuko Mchunu, locks Ruan Nortje and Salmaan Moerat, loose forwards Evan Roos and Elrigh Louw, utility forward Deon Fourie, scrumhalf Grant Williams and fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse. The squad also includes Harlequins center Andre Esterhuizen, Stormers full-back Warrick Gelant and Bulls loose forward Marcell Coetzee who last played for South Africa in 2019.

Among the big names selected are the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard, Cheslin Kolbe and Willie le Roux. A group of 17 players gathered in Pretoria for the opening week of the team’s preparation camp last week, featuring a number of Sharks and Japanese-based players. The remaining players are set to join the squad after completing their club commitments.



Welsh internationals help Saracens into final

Welsh internationals Nick Tompkins and Aled Davies both crossed for tries as Saracens defeated reigning champions Harlequins 34-17 to book a place in the Gallagher Premiership final. Center Tompkins, part of the Wales squad for the tour of South Africa, touched down just before half-time courtesy of an Owen Farrell offload to give Sarries a 15-12 interval lead at Allianz Park. Then scrum-half Davies raced over after the break following a bullocking burst from Springboks prop Vincent Koch.

But it was Premiership Player of the Year Ben Earl who really had a day to remember, with the flanker claiming a hat-trick of tries as the hosts came out on top, despite twice being reduced to 13 men following second-half yellow cards for England internationals Elliot Daly, Billy Vunipola and Alex Lozowski for high tackles.

A bloodied Farrell landed four shots at goal amid his fly-half battle with Marcus Smith, with former Cardiff Met forward Alex Dombrandt, scrum-half Danny Care and wing Cadan Murley going over for Quins. Smith stepped inside Farrell to put Care over as the visitors built an early lead which provided hope, which was ultimately dashed.

Saracens will now meet table-topping Leicester in next Saturday’s final at Twickenham. The Tigers defeated Dan Biggar’s Northampton 27-14 in the second semi-final at Welford Road. Wales fly-half Biggar went off injured early in the second half, with his opposite number George Ford going on to claim a 22-point Man of the Match haul.

URC final will be in South Africa

The United Rugby Championship final will be played in Cape Town with the Stormers having beaten Ulster 17-15 amid a dramatic ending to set up an all-South African showpiece against the Bulls. Stormers fly-half Manie Libbok landed a match-winning conversion in the 85th minute after full-back Warrick Gelant had touched down, breaking Ulster hearts.

The hosts claimed the spoils despite being reduced to 14 men following a 70th minute red card to replacement lock Adre Smith for eye gouging. You can read all about that incident here.

Ulster had led 15-10 at half-time with wing Robert Baloucoune and full-back Stewart Moore crossing in response to early tries from Stormers hooker JJ Kotze and No 8 Evan Roos. The second half was scoreless up until the dramatic conclusion. The Bulls defeated reigning champions Leinster 27-26 in the first semi-final in Dublin on Friday night.

All-Kiwi final in Super Rugby

It will be an all-Kiwi final in Super Rugby Pacific, with the Blues having squeezed through to join the Crusaders in next weekend’s showpiece. The Auckland-based Blues beat the Brumbies of Canberra 20-19 in the second semi-final at Eden Park.

They led 20-7 at half-time through tries from No 8 Hoskins Sotutu and winger Mark Telea, but the Aussies hit back after the break to set up a grandstand finish. Replacement hooker Lachie Lonergan crossed twice to add to an earlier score from center Irae Simone as two Blues players were sin-binned. But, despite having a one-man advantage in the closing minutes, the Brumbies were unable to claim the winning score, with Noah Lolesio’s late drop goal attempt going off target.

In the other semi-final, the Crusaders defeated Warren Gatland’s Chiefs 20-7 in Christchurch, with No 8 Cullen Grace touching down twice. The final will be held at Auckland’s Eden Park next Saturday (June 18).

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