Your rugby evening headline for Friday June 10.
Welsh stars ready for huge knockout games
The English Premiership is approaching the climax of its season this weekend as the semi-finals play out and there is plenty of Welsh interest.
Dan Biggar will be front and center when Northampton travel to face Leicester in a tasty East Midlands derby. Waiting for him at Welford Road will be a future Wales team-mate Tommy Reffell, who will join up with Wayne Pivac’s side for the first time when his domestic season concludes. The former Wales under-20s skipper starts at openside for the hosts.
In the other semi-final, center Nick Tompkins starts in the center for Saracens as they welcome Adam Jones’ Harlequins. While there are no Welsh players involved for Quins, the former tight-head is part of the coaching setup.
Saracens v Harlequins kicks off at 1:30pm tomorrow, with Leicester v Northampton at 4:30pm.
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Marler prepared to retire if he misses RWC
England prop Joe Marler says he’s ready to walk away from the sport and accelerate his post-playing plans if he doesn’t make the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The Quins stalwart retired from Test rugby previously but was lured back into the Test arena by England boss Eddie Jones. At 31, he still has plenty of miles on the clock given his position, but he feels he would not be able to withstand the rigors of the pro game much longer.
“The end is nigh,” Marler told The Times. “I would love to make it to the World Cup but that’s very much out of my hands. If there is a conversation with Eddie Jones saying I’m not in the plans for it, then I would accelerate life after rugby and concentrate on that, shut up shop at Quins and walk away from it.
Marler came out of international retirement for the 2019 Rugby World Cup but then withdrew from England’s squad for the 2021 Six Nations to be with his family during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Coach wary of ‘destroying’ young players
Northampton Saints coach Chris Boyd has warned against calling young players into the Test arena too soon for risk of ‘destroying’ them.
Previewing this weekend’s Premiership semi-finals, Boyd took part in a round-table discussion with bosses from Leicester, Saracens and Harlequins for the Telegraph.
In it, he was asked whether promising youngster Tommy Freeman served an England call-up and his response was intriguing.
“I don’t think you want to go down my theory on that, but I would not pick anyone for England who has not played at least 50 games for their club” he said. “I think you destroy young people when you give them false hope.”
When asked if he had any evidence of that, he replied: “Plenty.”
Genge ready to empty the tank in final Welford Road match
By Andrew Baldock, PA Writer
Leicester captain Ellis Genge has lavished praise on “absolutely incredible” Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick ahead of Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership play-off clash against Northampton.
Although Leicester’s eight Premiership titles have them at the top of that particular tree, they last contested a league play-off tie five years ago.
Borthwick took over in the summer of 2020, and he has transformed Tigers from finishing 11th in the Premiership just before he arrived to regular-season table-toppers this term.
They also won all 12 home league games, and held top spots throughout the entire Premiership campaign, which no other club had previously achieved.
“There are lots of different determining factors,” England prop Genge said.
“There are a few unsung heroes, and Steve is absolutely incredible.
“He is a well-decorated coach who probably doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves, but I am so happy that he is finally getting some recognition for being such a good operator. He works tirelessly, so he deserves it.”
For Genge, the play-off will be his final Leicester appearance at Mattioli Woods Welford Road before he joins Bristol this summer.
Few players have had a bigger impact on Tigers’ season than the 27-year-old, producing blistering form throughout a nine-month domestic competition.
And there is still business to take care of, with Leicester not having landed a Premiership title since they beat Northampton 37-17 at Twickenham nine years ago.
Saracens and Harlequins contest Saturday’s other semi-final as the Premiership hurtles towards what should be a thrilling climax.
“I’ve been here almost seven years, and I think I am going to finish on 98 starts,” Genge added. “You don’t get a tie until 100 starts, so that’s a bit gutting!
“We went through that sort of low period from 2017 to 2019, when we weren’t performing.
“But I feel we have come out on the other side and the stadium is bouncing again and you can really feel that player-fan bond. It’s a special place.
“In terms of myself, I just want to completely empty the tank for the supporters who have been there throughout.
“They (Northampton) play an expansive game of rugby, but when teams play us they tend to try and adapt and play a bit more of a kicking game. It will be interesting to see what they bring.”