Here are the latest rugby evening headlines on Monday, May 2.
Wales to face England in World Cup warm-up
Ioan Cunningham’s Wales side are set to face Women’s Six Nations champions England and tour to Canada this summer in preparation for the autumn Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Wales finished third in the Six Nations, an improved position compared to last year’s sixth, but were disappointed not to be able to convert pressure into a victory against Italy on Saturday in their finale.
However, Wales’ two wins against Ireland and Scotland and three defeats, England and France completing that trio, will have given Wales boss Cunningham and his coaching team plenty to ponder and work on ahead of pre-season beginning in July. Wales will be expected to improve on their performance and Six Nations 58-5 defeat to Grand Slam champions England, and their 24-7 defeat to Canada – ranked third in the world – last autumn.
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“At the start of July, we’ll have a real tough pre-season to set us up nicely for our prep for August with some sort of competitive games leading into that World Cup,” the Wales head coach said. “We’re going to go to Canada, spend a week out there, have a good training camp and play them. We’re also going to probably play England as well. Two real good games for us that’ll hopefully set us up nicely.”
The former Wales U20s boss said he is “there or thereabouts” when it comes to knowing what his World Cup squad will look like, although “there are still opportunities for players to put their hands up”.
But before then, there is remaining player contract business to be sorted with the Welsh Rugby Union. Twelve full-time contracts were awarded in January, followed by 12 part-time deals and up to three more are set to be handed out over the next month or so. As for the current contracts, they last for 12 months and Cunningham wants next year’s deals sorted before heading down under in October.
“There’s still some retainers to give out so we will look to do that as well as talking to players who are currently under contract, what does it look like moving forward? I think it’s important that they go to the World Cup having that dealt with so they can go there and absolutely perform without having to think of other things.”
Asked if he wants more playing contracts, he said: “We’ll constantly review the current programme, which we’ll do in May and whatever comes from that, we’ll adapt and adjust. We’ll review it first and see what comes from it.”
‘Bok hopeful criticized
Aspiring Springbok forward Evan Roos has come under fire for instigating an off-the-ball incident in the Stormers’ United Rugby Championship win over Leinster at the weekend, rubbing an opponent’s face into the ground.
On 62 minutes, Stormers No. 8 Roos tackled Leinster fly-half Harry Byrne as the No. 10 looked to clear his side’s lines, before holding his hand to the back of Byrne’s head and pushing it into the pitch face-down.
“He could be in big trouble here,” said British and Lions legend Donal Lenihan, who was on commentary duties for RTE. “You can’t do that. He’s looking at a yellow minimum. He drives his head into the ground with his hand. Harry Byrne does well to clear out but it’s afterward that there, having made the tackle… just petulant, really.”
Former Leinster and Ireland center Gordon D’Arcy said: “Evan Roos trying to be a hard man, without doing anything hard. Instead just ends up looking like a turkey.”
Roos actually escaped with only a penalty from Welsh referee Craig Evans, but some feel the incident will have done Roos’ chances of getting called up to South Africa’s squad to face Wales in a three-Test summer tour any good. If the 22-year-old is not called up, it would give ‘Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber precious little time to develop the player ahead of the 2023 World Cup in France.
Pitch-side brain scans plan
Three rugby union clubs in England are set to trial scanning technology to monitor players’ brain health in a bid to help spot and manage concussion.
The idea is to get a baseline scan to use for comparison if an injury occurs, the BBC reports, so a scan after a suspected concussion might show how the brain has been affected and guide decisions on returning to play.
East London Rugby Club, Cornish Pirates and Sevenoaks Rugby Club are taking part in the trial of the WAVi device – which involves a series of sensors being placed on the scalp to measure electrical activity and produce a set of readings.
The initiative is backed by a not-for-profit organization Love of the Game, whose president is former English rugby union player Simon Shaw. The organization’s chairman is Laurence Geller, the ministerial adviser appointed by the government to examine concussion in sport.
Brain injury and concussion in sport has been in the spotlight in recent years amid legal action being taken against governing bodies by ex-players, some of whom have developed early onset dementia after taking bangs to the head during their playing careers.
South African teams in URC ‘shot in the arm’
The introduction of South African teams to the United Rugby Championship has been a “shot in the arm”, according to Leinster coach Leo Cullen. His team from him are currently top of the table despite a grueling two-week trip to South Africa which has seen the Irish giants suffer back-to-back defeats to Sharks and Stormers, although the visitors did claim losing bonus points in both matches.
“Speaking on behalf of Leinster – we are unbelievably excited with the arrival of the four South African teams,” Cullen said, via RugbyPass. “The ‘Big Four’, as we call them.
“It’s a real shot in the arm for the tournament. We will hopefully have some great battles over the next few years. There are some good young talent here as well. We just have a huge amount of excitement for the future of this tournament because of the quality you have down here.”
After the 20-13 defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday, Cullen told reporters: “I guess it is a case of mission accomplished,” Cullen told reporters after the 13-20 defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday. “ We came into this tour with the attempt to win two games. We were frustrated with our performance against the Sharks, and there were moments when our composure let us down against the Stormers. However, we have always been aiming for that number one seed. [in the United Rugby Championship] so to get a couple of losing bonus points is a case of job done.”
Leinster are set to host a play-off game at the Aviva Stadium, with the opposition being confirmed after the final round of the league matches. The Irish side, who have won four straight league titles since 2017, could face one of the Stormers, Bulls or Sharks in the latter stages of the tournament, with those three teams qualifying for the play-offs.
Ex-All Black leaving Bristol for France
John Afoa will leave Bristol at the end of the season to follow Bears team-mate Nathan Hughes to France. The 38-year-old former New Zealand prop has agreed to join Pro D2 side RC Vannes until 2024, ending his four-year stay at Ashton Gate.
“Jonny leaves a legacy as one of the greatest ever tightheads to play in the Premiership,” Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam said. “As well as being a world-class scrummager, his skill level and ability to play the ball are second to none.”
Former England number eight Hughes, 30, is departing for French giants Clermont in the summer.