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Today’s rugby news as South Africa don’t buy reports of Wales’ demise and fans publicly call for WRU meeting

Here are the latest rugby headlines from Wales and beyond on Thursday, June 9.

South Africa refuse to believe Wales will be walkovers

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber believes Wales will provide the sternest possible test of his world champions despite what was unfolded during the Six Nations.

Nienaber expects a tight three-match series next month and will pick a strong squad to face Wayne Pivac’s side. He has suggested, though, he will also use the games to build squad depth.

The two sides last met in the autumn, with the Boks narrowly winning 23-18. Since then, though, the Welsh endured a miserable Six Nations, losing at home to Italy for the first time in history. The South African media are expecting a comfortable series for their side, with some pundits predicting a serious drubbing.

Nienaber said: “Looking back at the history between the sides, I believe the Tests against Wales will be tightly contested.

“They always bring a physical edge, and they are well coached in the set pieces and defend them well too. They are also technically smart. Since I joined the Springboks in 2018, I think we were well beaten on the year-end tour, but several other games were determined by small margins so they will bring physicality and pride. They are already in camp, so they will be well prepared for us.

“I am under no illusions that it will be a tough series.”

As for the Boks’ plans, he added: “Without going into specifics, there were areas of our game from the 2021 season that we have to improve on, so two key areas for us is to develop our game on the field and create squad depth. The latter can be done through bringing in young players, and giving guys who have already played for us, but are still young within the system, more Test experience.”

England’s new sensation taken to the pub

Henry Arundell has revealed that his nerves over entering England’s “big dog zone” were eased during a pub session with Ellis Genge and Marcus Smith.

Arundell was called up by Eddie Jones for the first time a fortnight ago following a series of dynamic displays for London Irish and England Under-20s, highlighted by a series of stunning tries.

The 19-year-old full-back’s exploits saw him crowned the Gallagher Premiership’s breakthrough player of the season on Tuesday night and he could make his senior international debut against the Barbarians at Twickenham on June 19.

Entering the England camp for the first time a fortnight ago was a daunting experience, yet he soon felt comfortable amid a concerted effort from Jones’ squad to make newcomers feel at home.

“I was very nervous at first. Most guys who do go in feel like that,” Arundell said.

“But a lot of players were very welcoming, more welcoming than I thought they would be, to be honest.

“You are going into the big dog zone and you think everyone will be horrible, but they are a great group of guys and are really looking after me.

“We went to the pub on the Sunday and I sat with Ellis and Marcus and they were both really good to me, having a chat and calming the nerves.

“Being called up by England is the kind of thing you dream about. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s true.

“To get it now is obviously very exciting. It doesn’t mean I’m going to play. It doesn’t mean I’m going to get capped any time soon.

“It is about learning as much as possible so I can go back to the club or possibly either go on tour to Australia with England or play for the under-20s.”

Welsh regional supporters demand WRU meeting

The official supporters’ groups of the four Welsh regions have joined together to publicly demand a meeting with the Welsh Rugby Union amid the current uncertainty.

Representatives of the teams say they have had no contact with the WRU since August last year, with a scheduled meeting back in December postponed.

The Joint Supporters’ Group (JSG) say they have been unsuccessful in trying to nail down a date with the Union and have urged bosses to meet them urgently to address the concerns of fans. Welsh rugby supporters remain in the dark about the future of the game, with proposals to ax a region put forward and then seemingly dismissed during recent weeks. There is, however, a clear acceptance that something significant needs to change after all four Welsh teams endured disappointing seasons.

The Professional Rugby Board are holding a series of meetings to thrash out what the future should like, but agreement is not easy and progress reports that offer a clear direction of travel are hard to come by.

That has led to the JSG saying: “We have been contacted by the membership of our respective supporters’ organizations regarding the next meeting with the Welsh Rugby Union. Our last meeting with them was 18/8/21. The next scheduled meeting was to be Dec’21 but was postponed.

“To date, we have unsuccessfully tried to secure a date for this re-arranged session. We are mindful of the current situation but would urge the Union to meet with us so that the views and concerns of our members groups are heard.”

Why Scotland superstars were left out

Gregor Townsend has revealed that talisman Finn Russell and captain Stuart Hogg have been excused from Scotland’s summer tour in order to prevent burnout ahead of next year’s World Cup.

The head coach is adamant that the omission of the key duo from the 40-man squad for the trip to South America later this month has nothing to do with the fact they were among six players involved in an unauthorized night out during the Six Nations in March.

Both Russell and Hogg were part of the British and Irish Lions squad last summer. They and fellow Lion Chris Harris, who was not one of those involved in the incident after the victory in Rome, have all been given this summer off to recharge their batteries after a grievous schedule at club and international level.

Hamish Watson, Rory Sutherland, Ali Price, Duhan Van Der Merwe and Zander Fagerson were also part of the Lions tour last year, but have all been included by Townsend as he feels they have had adequate rest over the past season.

“The Lions was a huge commitment and it’s affected players in different ways this year,” Townsend said. “When you achieve something of that level, and the commitment you put into making it happen, and then the length of the tour itself – seven weeks and playing all the way through to August – some of those players have played a lot of rugby this year.

“We looked at individuals, where they are at the end of this season, where they are in terms of their career, and whether the best thing for them was to be on tour or to have some time off. Some regulars over the last 12 -24 months weren’t considered for those reasons.

“Once we set out that we believe the best thing for Stuart, Finn and Chris is not touring, they accepted that. They’ve played the most minutes of all our players this year. When you put that on the back of them having the longest seasons last year it became more clear to us that a summer off would be the best thing for them.

“That might have been different if we didn’t have what is coming up the following season. This time next year we’ll be in a World Cup camp playing three or four warm-up games before we go on to the World Cup so it’s going to be a demanding period for them all next year. On the back of the last 12-18 months, we feel it’s right for them not to tour.”

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