Nick Evans calling the shots at HarlequinsNick ‘Snapper’ Evans – the Harlequins fly half, took some time out during the festive period to chat to Rugby World about Big Game 3 – the post Christmas clash against London Irish at Twickenham last year. Plus being grumpy when he doesnt eat and getting Kate Hudson to do the dishes.Rugby World: Are you looking forward to Big Game 3 at Twickers on 27 December?Nick Evans: Definitely. It’s always exciting going there, especially at that time of year with all the festive cheer. We had a near-capacity crowd last year so hopefully it’ll be the same again. It’s a good chance for the public to come along for a great occasion. We’re playing London Irish so it’s two London clubs and a few people from The X Factor will be there too.RW: And it must be time for a Quins win in the Big Game?NE: The first game was pretty exciting and we got a draw with Leicester while last year we came up a bit short against Wasps. Hopefully we’ll go one better this time.RW: Any nicknames?NE: Snapper – I’m a big fisherman. Come April I start thinking about being back home where I can go out of my house onto the water and fish.RW: What are the best and worst things about living in the UK?NE: The worst thing is the cold, the best thing is that Europe is so close. You can go to Paris or Germany really quickly, and that’s cool.RW: Who are the jokers at Quins?NE: Danny Care likes to wind people up. Jordan Turner-Hall and him are good together, like little twins who get themselves into trouble.James Percival should leave the banter to the prosRW: Who has the worst habit at Quins?NE: James Percival and his banter. Everything he thinks, he says. He thinks he’s funny but he’s not.RW: Any practical jokes you can share?NE: We do Secret Santa each year and last year I got a framed picture of Dan Carter! It’s quite funny but I still don’t know who picked it.RW: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?NE: X-ray vision – for the obvious reasons!RW: What couldn’t you live without?NE: My blue hat. I wear hats until they have holes in them. This one I’ve had about two years, so it’s got a few years left!Spiders, Big Brother and Stacking it on the pitch…RW: Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?NE: Will Ferrell. He’d make me laugh.RW: Any bugbears? TAGS: Harlequins NE: I hate doing the dishes – pots and pans.RW: And any phobias?NE: I hate spiders. I couldn’t go on I’m A Celebrity…, not even if they paid me £500,000.RW: Would you do any reality TV show?NE: Big Brother, though when they stopped giving me food and I was hungry, I’d get grumpy. That could make for good TV but wouldn’t be good for everyone else!RW: What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the pitch?NE: It’s always good to see boys lose their shorts.RW: Full frontal?NE: I don’t want to see that – just a bit of cheek! Actually the funniest thing happened when I was playing for East Coast Bays in Auckland.This was before I put tape round my laces and as I was running in to kick, my stud got tangled in the laces of my other boot, and I fell on my face. An opponent then kicked the ball over me. The whole crowd laughed at me.RW: If your house was on fire, what three things would you save?NE: My electric guitar. My phone and… I’m looking around now to see what else! My golf clubs. If I was back in New Zealand it would be my fishing rods.RW: Who are your three dream dinner party guests?NE: Kate Hudson. She seems fun and doesn’t take herself too seriously, which I like. She could do the dishes too! Wagner – I love him. And Dave Grohl. He’d have good stories and we could have a jam session. I play the guitar so he could teach me a few things.RW: Any ambitions outside of rugby?NE: This is like a Miss Universe contest! World peace and an end to world hunger! I’ve done all the study stuff, so I’d like to start up a kicking academy for kids or something like that.RW: You could be Nick the Kick! How’d you like to be remembered?NE: As a good bloke who gave 100% and was there when needed.Check out his New Zealand profile…Check out the dying moments of Harlequins V Stade Francais during the Heineken Cup clash (2008) to see what Nick can do…Learn more about Nick’s teammates at Harlequins… Danny Care LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
Black made the move to Warriors from Newport Gwent Dragons in June 2009 on a two-year deal and has excelled throughout his stay.The loosehead was previously the Dragons’ appearance record-holder, having moved to the club when Welsh rugby went regional. He became the first player in the history of Celtic League rugby to reach 100 appearances and the first Dragon to rack up a century in all competitions.The Essex-born forward, capped by England at Under-21 level, began his senior playing career with London Wasps before heading to Wales via Bedford and Sale Sharks. “I know it’s the right time for me to retire,” said Black. “It was always going to be a hard decision to make, especially when the club was keen for me to stay, but I’ve always said one of the main things I wanted to do was retire myself rather than be retired.“A fantastic opportunity has come up to make something else for myself away from rugby and it only right for me and my family that I take that. I know it’s the time to end my playing days. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Worcester Warriors forward Adam Black Worcester Warriors prop Adam Black has today announced he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the current season.The front row star – who has played 48 games for Warriors and been a cornerstone of the pack – has decided to hang up his boots to explore an exciting new business opportunity away from rugby.Head Coach Richard Hill said: “Adam is one of the larger than life characters at the club who has made a massive impact both on and off the field.“His experience and enthusiasm has been a huge asset and he always looks for the positive no matter what. That optimism means the dressing is always an upbeat place with the right atmosphere. Adam’s maturity and guidance has also helped bring on players like Oliver Tomaszczyk this season.“When you know you are coming towards the end of your playing career it can be easy to coast home. But Adam has never let his standards drop, has got fitter and fitter as this season has gone on and cemented his place in the front row.“Adam is now determined to retire on a high note and his determination to help the Warriors return to the Premiership has been inspiring. In the closing minutes of the semi-final against Bedford, when we had a series of crucial scrums, he turned to Greg Rawlinson and told him this was not going to be their last game. That sums up his desire and passion for the club.“We would have loved to have kept him on, but he has made a brave decision to concentrate on life after rugby and new opportunities. We wish him and his family every success in the challenges ahead. Adam will be missed and will always be welcome back here at Sixways.” GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND – JANUARY 30: Worcester Warriors forward Adam Black (c) goes to scrum down during the LV Anglo Welsh Cup match between Gloucester and Worcester Warriors at Kingsholm on January 30, 2010 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) “I’ve really enjoyed my time at Worcester Warriors. The boys have worked extremely hard this year and we have developed a strong winning mentality. I believe the lessons learnt from this season will put the club in a strong position and we have recruited strongly for the future.“Worcester has some great backers and amazing fans that really deserve success. I have played with some of the best boys I have ever met and I truly wish them every success.”
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS READING, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 23: Jamie Helleur of Newcastle in action during the LV= Cup match between London Irish and Newcastle Falcons at The Madejski Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Reading, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images) Jamie Helleur will start on the wingNewcastle Falcons have made four changes for their round two Amlin Challenge Cup trip to Italian champions Petrarca Padova (kick-off 2pm).Greg Goosen starts at full-back with Alex Tait replacing Rikki Sheriffe on the wing, while Jamie Helleur gets the nod at outside centre. Scrum-half Will Chudley is handed the No.9 jersey as he partners Jeremy Manning at the heart of the Falcons backline.In the forward pack Andrew van der Heijden occupies a place in the engine room alongside skipper James Hudson.“We have watched Petrarca on the video and they are a team that is going to get out there and give it their best shot,” said Head coach Alan Tait who guided his side to a winning start in Europe with victory over Lyon last week.“This will be their cup final and they will certainly get in our faces so I can see it being a sticky game for us. We know what we are going over there for – it’s to get an away win and that’s important as we head into the Aviva Premiership game at Harlequins the following week,” added Tait.Tait believes Saturday’s European game is a welcome distraction from the stresses and strains of the Aviva Premiership, saying: “If we played Aviva Premiership rugby every week the boys would be broken by Christmas as it is a really intense and stressful league. This is a good break for some guys and offers me the chance to take a look at some different combinations. It is important that we reward players for good performances for the A Team and this is a great opportunity to see them in action.” Newcastle Starting XV: 15 Greg Goosen,14 Alex Tait,13 Jamie Helleur,12 Luke Eves,11 Ryan Shortland,10 Jeremy Manning,9 Will Chudley,1 Ashley Wells,2 Michael Mayhew,3 Euan Murray,4 James Hudson,5 Andrew van der Heijden,6 Tim Swinson,7 Redford Pennycook,8 Mark WilsonReplacements: 16 Joe Graham,17 Grant Shiells,18 James Hall,19 Glen Townson,20 Will Welch,21 Chris Pilgrim,22 Joel Hodgson,23 James Fitzpatrick The last two-weeks has seen Tait welcome new signings Samoan international Taiasina Tu’ifua, Tongan winger Suka Hufanga, and South African lock Adriaan Fondse as the club bolsters its armoury going into a series of crucial Aviva Premiership clashes.The new signings will not feature this weekend but are expected to be pushing for selection next week as Aviva Premiership rugby returns.Tait said: “We have done everything we can off the field and the players appreciate that but I think now is the time to bring in some real quality players. Semore Kurdi has given me the opportunity to bring these players in and I believe these lads will bring something special to the squad. I can’t wait to see them in action.”
In the end it was something a friend said to him that allowed Norling to break loose from the vortex. “He told me not to beat myself up. Give yourself permission to do something or not do something. Tell yourself, ‘I give myself permission not to get up’, ‘I give myself permission to put on some clothes’, ‘I give myself permission to have a shave’.” Norling, who had become reclusive and at times felt suicidal during his illness, came off the tablets and regained a sense of purpose and optimism.He returned to his work studying for a PhD at Cardiff Business School – he received his doctorate last year – and became a Research Champion for the National Centre for Mental Health, based at Cardiff University. “They wanted those who’d suffered mental illness to talk with researchers about their experiences.”He doesn’t envy modern referees, even those with six-figure salaries, because not only are they subjected to forensic media scrutiny but they can be vilified by extremists – as Nigel Owens for one has been on Twitter. Nor is jetting off to the other side of the world conducive to a settled home life.“I enjoyed lecturing and going out to referee on a Saturday and to other countries. But I wouldn’t want to be away like they are nowadays; your home life is destroyed when it becomes your full-time job.“The pressure on modern referees is totally different. Professional players are paid to win matches and so paid not to lose; you get more professional fouls: killing the ball, takingLife on the road: Nigel Owens travels the globe as a pro referee but has had abuse for his trouble. Pic: Gettyplayers off the ball, slowing the ball to see if the referee will do anything. You don’t want to hear whistle all day.”Sport v businessHe has some thought-provoking views on the dichotomy between sport and business, and the difficulty of satisfying the needs of both camps. For example, he suggests you could remove many a try-line controversy by adopting the American Football system of merely having to walk the ball over the line – but says such a move would be counter-productive.“You could remove the controversy but as a sport you want drama and controversy, to keep it in the public eye. Wales and New Zealand have a famous sporting rivalry that stems from the disallowed Deans try in 1905 but if we’d had a TMO then, there would have been no controversy, so would that rivalry exist?“The TMO has the best view, he has all the cameras and replays, so does the ref have to be on the field? Eventually the ref could become subservient to the TMO, who will come through on the ref’s mike, ‘Just missed a forward pass’. It could go that way.“But again, if technology makes every decision accurate, if every decision was right, the game might become boring. There would be no controversy so would the atmosphere die, and would the business die?”Life to the fullIt’s wonderful to hear Norling so invigorated again by the game that he served as a second-row at Neath Grammar School until the age of 18, before a back injury curtailed his fledgling playing career. After those years in the doldrums, he’s making up for lost time: his to-do list includes writing a book on the history of rugby’s laws, as well as an autobiography, and he retains an active role at weekends mentoring young referees or watching games at his local club Birchgrove, the village near Swansea where he has lived for 41 years. He became club president in 2012.He still attends Internationals at the Millennium Stadium, and is relishing the prospect of a World Cup in which Wales have a fighting chance of doing something special.“Any one of six or seven teams could win it,” says the 65-year-old. “I try to watch it not from a refereeing angle but just with my coaching hat on and see how rugby is evolving. Modern rugby is all about defence but I want teams to be positive in the way they use the ball. You LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Giving it a lash: Fiji perform the Cibi ahead of a pool match versus New Zealand. Pic: Offside/L’Equipe Luck of the dice: Injuries – like this one to Rhys Webb – could decide the Pool A pecking order. Pic: Gettywant tries and excitement but unfortunately we’re seeing the attitude creeping in where the result is the be-all and end-all. Modern fans want more than that, they want to be entertained.”He thinks Pool A (containing Wales) is too close to call. “All you need is an injury to a key player and it could be the difference; small margins will determine the result. Fingers crossed.” Clive Norling, one of the world’s top referees in the amateur era, recalls the inaugural World Cup and asks whether modern officiating could take a revolutionary turn… Clive Norling was working as a college lecturer in Swansea when the first Rugby World Cup rolled around in 1987. His first thought? I’ll give that a miss.His gripe was that the organisers were only taking a maximum of two match officials from one country, which meant breaking up the established ‘team of three’ – referee Norling and touchjudges Derek Bevan and Winston Jones – supplied by Wales during the Five Nations. “I said I wouldn’t go unless we could travel as a three-man team,” Norling says. “But my dad persuaded me to change my mind so that I could represent Wales.”And so the man regarded by many as the world’s best rugby referee in the Seventies and Eighties found himself taking the whistle at McLean Park in Napier on the very first weekend of World Cup rugby, Canada v Tonga in Pool Two.“Tonga were very religious and had to get permission to play on a Sunday off a priest; the priest gave his blessing. It was a lovely day and Canada won it at a trot (37-4), the first time they had played in New Zealand. The first try was a penalty try against Tonga for collapsing a scrum on the line, and it finished seven tries to one.“Being a Sunday, New Zealand TV weren’t allowed to broadcast any advertising so at half-time instead of going to adverts, a camera wandered over to film the Canada huddle, this being the days of the five-minute turnaround. Their captain, the lock Hans de Goede, was giving a very inspirational speech and I remember that the country of New Zealand was impressed by that.”Fijian basketballThere were 16 teams at that inaugural competition, and each of the 14 referees were allocated two games. Norling’s second outing was for a humdinger of a quarter-final, France v Fiji at Eden Park.“It was my first game there since the flour bomb Test (New Zealand v South Africa in 1981), so whenever I heard a plane overhead I got a bit twitchy. It was a tremendous match, some argued the best game of that World Cup. Fiji threw the ball around like it was sevens and the French didn’t know where they were in the first half. It was like basketball at times.“The scores were close in the second half when the Fijian outside-half was running with the ball in one hand as he crossed the 22 and it shot out of his hand. In the end France groundTaking charge: Clive Norling loved his World Cup experience – having initially refused to go. Pic: Offsidethem down, 31-16. The scrum and maul were Fiji’s weaknesses, as it was for other southern hemisphere sides. In Canada-Tonga, the Tongan loosehead’s head wasn’t in the first scrum, and it was the same in France-Fiji. There’s more to the game than running rugby.”Indeed there is, and Norling arguably fell victim to the politics swirling through the sport because when it came to deciding who took charge of the final plum fixtures, the Welshman found his services no longer required. “Myself and Roger Quittenton (England) were the most notable casualties of the referees’ committee. It was a shock – the media couldn’t believe it when we were sent home,” says Norling, who nevertheless points out that refereeing standards were high and that anyone would have graced the final.In the event, Australia, who were miffed to miss out on their expected place in the final after Serge Blanco’s dramatic late try in the semi-final, were gratified to see one of their own, Kerry Fitzgerald, take charge of the New Zealand-France climax. Englishman Fred Howard, a strong contender, had to be content with the third-place play-off.Airport trainingNorling returned to his happy life in South Wales: in the week, lecturing about business to students at Swansea IHE; at weekends, enjoying the fun of refereeing – between 1968 and 1992 he officiated in more than 1,000 games, including 35 Test matches. The sport demanded less of officials then, though each man had his idiosyncrasies. Quittenton, for example, was a stickler for routine and at LA airport on the way to New Zealand had donned his tracksuit and run round the transit lounge to work up a sweat. The Wales squad was there too and a few of them delighted in running behind him in a snake of players.“Roger was a fitness fanatic,” says Norling, “whereas I was never a big one for fitness; training sessions could cause injury. I was light and walked a lot. I used to run up and down the stairs at Swansea Institute, six flights up and six down.”Dragons at play: Wales players had plenty of fun on their way to a third-place finish. Pic: InphoIn 1998, as Norling neared his 50th birthday, he decided to make his hobby his job by becoming the WRU’s Director of Referees. He was there for five years but the stress of the role, with its remorseless 24/7 demands, took a heavy toll. “With no hobby, I had no relief to turn to because of course refereeing had been my hobby,” he says. He had a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with clinical depression for the next seven years.His attempts to climb out of the pit of despair were thwarted by a succession of crises – his mum died, he needed emergency bowel surgery, his dad died. “It was a domino effect,” he says, and he’s indebted more than he can say to his wife Mair, who left her job to care for him full-time.Breaking the cycle
Sale Sharks34.2%55.3% Wasps21.4%54.8% Full English: Stars like Ben Youngs are unlikely to lose their places in their club sidesOn the other hand, you have Leicester’s new-look back line. Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi are unlikely to lose their places, but with Toomua, Pietersen, Owen Williams, Telusa Veainu and Peter Betham (and Jean de Villiers if his contract is extended) all contracted at Welford Road next season, it’s difficult to see where other English-qualified players are going to get their opportunities.Yes, the likes of Matt Smith, Mathew Tait and Freddie Burns will be rotated in and used as depth, but then where does the experience come from for emerging talents such as George Catchpole, Paolo Odogwu and Jacob Umaga?The table below details the percentages of 2015/16 Premiership squads which have been produced at the club’s own academy, as well as the proportion of those squads that are English-qualified. For the purposes of this article, only players on senior contracts with the clubs were counted. Exeter Chiefs20.9%67.4% By Alex Shaw‘Tis the season of spending in the Aviva Premiership, as owners up and down the country dust off the chequebooks to bolster their squads ahead of the 2016/17 season.Springbok legend Schalk Burger has been snapped up by Saracens, French behemoth Louis Picamoles by Northampton Saints, Welsh back rower Taulupe Faletau has been snaffled by Bath, while Leicester Tigers have announced the impending arrivals of both Matt Toomua and JP Pietersen, adding further cutting edge to their back line.The £1m increase to the senior salary cap for the 2016/17 season (which will be further increased by an additional £500k for the 2017/18 season) has certainly seen Premiership clubs enjoy increased ability to compete with the big-spending French clubs, despite the Top 14’s salary cap still comfortably exceeding that of the Premiership.Marquee signing: World Cup winner Schalk Burger is heading for the PremiershipWhilst understandably enjoying this freedom to spend and attract some of the best players in the world, Premiership Directors of Rugby need to be careful they don’t ignore their academies and lose the identity of their sides in the process.English rugby has the luxury of being able to pick players from a top tier of 12 clubs. Consequently, there is not the onus on Premiership clubs to field almost universally native squads, such as you would find in Wales, Ireland or any of the southern hemisphere nations. Like France and the Top 14, England can prosper (contrary to recent results for both nations) with a lower percentage of home-grown players in Premiership squads than we currently see in the Guinness PRO12 or Super Rugby.With increased money being pumped into the Premiership clubs via TV deals, improved attendances and the support of ambitious owners, English rugby now sits at a crossroads.France’s loss: The percieved strength of the Top 14 has damaged France at Test levelIf they take the road travelled by the French sides and continue to import foreign talents, they risk damaging the English national team. Whilst club owners may argue that is not their responsibility to ensure the English national team is successful or that, quite rightly, there is still plenty of French talent in the Top 14 despite those clubs heavily importing, it’s a dangerous path to tread.Down the other road, they have balance. Teams supplementing home-grown squads with a handful of star players, keeping themselves competitive in the European Rugby Champions Cup and continuing to contribute heavily to the England squad. It’s not quite walking a tightrope, but it’s a hard balance to strike and then, importantly, maintain.Saracens are one side who seem to have found this equilibrium. They will add Burger to a back row likely consisting of Will Fraser and Billy Vunipola next season, whilst the first choice tight five will also feature Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Mako Vunipola and Jamie George. There’s no doubt that Burger adds to that group, making them more competitive in the Premiership and Europe, and his experience will be of real benefit to those young English players. With a phalanx of rugby superstars converging on England a note of caution must be issued to make sure the Premiership avoids diluting its hard-earned identity Worcester Warriors16.7%58.3% Northampton Saints24.3%72.9% Newcastle Falcons26.8%46.3% Gloucester31.7%58.5% LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Bath23.7%71.1% London Irish15%45% Level-playing field: Aviva Premiership clubs are strengthening to compete in Europe Saracens30.2%58.1% Of course, there are hidden stories and mitigating circumstances behind many of those numbers. London Irish, who sit at the bottom of both categories, have recently seen many of their star home-grown players leave for ‘bigger’ clubs, while Worcester and Newcastle have both recruited heavily to try and avoid relegation.The percentages for Exeter, Harlequins, Northampton and Saracens, in both categories, could well rise over the next few months as many of their talented current academy crops are given senior contracts, but there is concern at clubs such as Bath, Leicester and Wasps.Academy graduate: Jack Clifford is one of many successful Harlequins academy productsBath and Leicester have a plethora of gifted individuals floating around their academy and ‘A’ sides but with owners impatient for success and DoRs keen to remain in employment, recruiting has taken over as the preferred way of improving their squads. With their confirmed signings and departures for the ‘16/17 season, Bath’s percentage of academy products will dwindle to below 20%, whilst Leicester’s EQP selection will almost certainly fall below the 50% mark.The percentage of English or EQ players is currently at a level which should allow Eddie Jones and his assistants to put together a successful national team, but if it drops much further, it will begin to put pressure on the Australian. Across the 12 Premiership clubs, there are around 280 players available to England who are on senior contracts, although obviously not all of those players are regulars for their clubs.English rugby is fortunate that this wave of new money into the Premiership has coincided with a generation of extremely-gifted young English players. The work Stuart Lancaster did with the age-grades as Head of Elite Development and the improvements that the clubs have made individually with their academies has been bearing plenty of fruit, and very few DoRs will be given the easy excuse of saying they have to import talent because it’s not there to be developed at their own clubs. Harlequins47.4%71.1% Club% of squad from own academy% of squad English-qualified Leicester Tigers30.4%52.2% England expects: Eddie Jones will hope the strength-in-depth doesn’t drop furtherFans want to see local players representing their clubs out on the pitch. Players who have learnt their trade in the club’s academy, worked their way up through the 2nd XV and, finally, get to wear the shirt of the club they love at the highest level.Premiership sides can seemingly afford a lot of things these days, but losing their identity is not one of them.
With the countdown to the first Test well and truly on, will Eddie Jones tweak a winning squad for the hard tracks of Australia? RW picks the side to start in Brisbane… Coaching is 90 per cent selection and Eddie Jones has proved a decent selector so far in his time in England. His team face Australia in Brisbane on 11 June and Jones has much to ponder. Don’t expect him to pull too many rabbits out of the hat but here is what he should do as England bid to win a first away series against the Wallabies,Full-back: Alex GoodeHard to leave Mike Brown out but what’s it all about if the Premiership Player of the Year is English and can’t get in the England team? Jones may well give both Goode and Brown a start in the series but Goode should have first dibs after playing second fiddle for the last three years.Man in form: Alex Goode’s stellar form for Saracens merits the 15 shirtLeft wing: Anthony WatsonWatson wears 14 despite playing on the left wing – after an agreement with Jack Nowell – and has 12 tries in his last 17 Tests and four in his last four. The one against Wales at Twickenham might just have been the best of the lot and, injury permitting, the Bath man is nailed on for the foreseeable future and is still only 22 years old.Outside centre: Jonathan JosephA tight call this one with Elliot Daly banging on the door with his pace, handling and cannon-like boot but Joseph has some ‘credit in the bank’ to use one of Eddie Jones’ predecessor’s favourite sayings. Joseph has got to produce some of his dazzling footwork though because Daly is catching up with him fast.Inside centre: Henry SladeA tough one this. I can still see Jones going for Owen Farrell here and George Ford at No.10, or even playing Ben Te’o at 12, but I would like to see Slade given a run despite a couple of blunders in the Premiership final. He has vision and can pass, his kicking is good but Jones has said he would like to see him run with the ball more.Playmaker: Henry Slade is a fine distributor and has a sharp rugby brainRight wing: Jack NowellPossibly the form wing in Europe, since the World Cup, and a major player in Exeter’s march to the Premiership final. Comes off his wing well looking for work, can mix it with the forwards at the breakdown where he won more turnovers than anyone during the Six Nations. Nowell has eight tries in 15 Tests at 23 and more to come.Fly-half: Owen FarrellFarrell has steered Saracens to European and Premiership titles from number 10 so he should be playing fly-half for England. His attacking game has come on a ton since Jones arrived in England and his place-kicking is up there in the Jonny Wilkinson bracket. Farrell brings a bit of dog to the back line as long as he keeps a lid on things.Scrum-half: Danny CareIn six internationals under Jones, Care has started twice (against Scotland and France) and Ben Youngs four times and it is a toss-of-a-coin job, although Richard Wigglesworth is unlucky not to be involved. Youngs made a couple of fumbles early on against Wales and Care should get first crack down under.In control: Danny Care’s sharpness around the fringes could be pivotalLoose-head prop: Mako VunipolaWith Joe Marler off the scene Vunipola has a chance to nail down the No.1 jersey. In the Six Nations he started twice, against Italy and France, but should be starting all three Tests in Australia. Vunipola has the hands of a centre, but that is a bonus for a prop, and has to show up at scrum-time and round the park like he has been for Saracens.Hooker: Dylan Hartley (c)Hartley had just 17 minutes of rugby between the Grand Slam match against France and the Wales game in May but still hit all of his line-outs and showed how crucial he is to England. He once told us that his job was to scrum well and throw in well, everything else is a bonus and he is the heart of this England team now. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Last time out: England have wrongs to right against Australia TAGS: Highlight Tight-head prop: Dan ColeCole looked like he was on the way down during the World Cup but rallied with England recently and three weeks with Neal Hatley, the new forwards coach, won’t do him any harm. Has 65 international caps in the locker and should not be giving away so many penalties as he does at the moment but is still the best bet.Pick-pocket: Maro Itoje’s steals at the lineout could turn the first TestLock: Maro ItojeI thought about shifting him to No.6 to get Joe Launchbury in the starting line-up but the European Player of the Year can stay where he is after 12 months in which he has not put a foot wrong. Just about the prototype of the perfect modern lock – who would have thought 12 months ago that Launchbury and Courtney Lawes would be the second-string?Lock: George KruisKruis was rated no-better than a club player when he pitched up at Saracens but now he is established in world rugby. Got 45 minutes off the bench in the World Cup but is now one of the first names on the team sheet for the way he runs the line out and has started every game he was available for under Jones. Challenging the best in the game.Blindside flanker: Chris RobshawTeimana Harrison was a tempting option here but Robshaw gets the nod, just. The former captain was hailed as one of England’s most improved players by Jones after the Six Nations so it would be harsh for the Australian to bin him now. Robshaw will know the pressure is on and will do well to keep his place for all three Tests.Workhorse: Chris Robshaw’s industry and experience gives him the nod over Teimana HarrisonOpenside flanker: James HaskellHaskell is probably the player who has surprised Jones since he came in. His public image probably didn’t help but Jones has worked with him and rates him highly. Haskell will be up against it on the faster tracks of Australia but has passed all his exams this season when most expected him to fade away.No.8: Billy VunipolaAnother complete no-brainer as Vunipola has made this slot his own and been one of the outstanding players in Europe. Has sorted out his fitness issues and is one of the most dominant ball-carriers around. Jones’ decision to make him a vice-captain has paid off and he has continued, with Saracens, where he left off in the Six Nations.Athlete: Jack Clifford’s pace for his size has surprised manyBenchJamie George, Matt Mullan, Paul Hill, Joe Launchbury, Jack Clifford, Ben Youngs, George Ford, Elliot Daly No shocks here although Harrison might be vying for a bench spot with Clifford and Jones will have to make a call on Ford’s confidence after his barracking at Twickenham. Clifford, Daly and Youngs will add gas in the last quarter but George won’t be expecting much game with skipper Hartley on the field. In three Six Nations games, before injury, he played a total of 24 minutes.For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here
You’ll need: 250g potatoes, cut into chunks, 150g parsnips, cut into chunks, 2 salmon ﬁlets, ½ medium onion chopped, 100g chopped watercress, 3½ tbsp of crème fraîche, Squeeze of lemon juice, Grated nutmeg, 2 tablespoons of curd cheese.Grilled salmon, mash & watercressStep-by-stepBring the potatoes and parsnips to the boil, then simmer until tender.Place salmon on a baking sheet lined with foil and grill for 8-10 minutes.Fry onions until translucent. Add watercress and a teaspoon of water. Cook until wilted.Whizz mixture with 2½ tbsp of crème fraîche and lemon juice until smooth.Drain and mash the potatoes and parsnips with the remaining crème fraîche, nutmeg and curd cheese.Serve salmon with mash, sauce and any extra watercress. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS For the latest Rugby World subscription offers click here and find out how to download the digital edition here. This year you want to take it seriously – we’re talking about three conditioning sessions a week at least, plus weights – and you are going to be sore. In fact, you will never not be sore, but with the right nutrition you can get through it.Taking on food and ﬂuid at the right time can help replenish your muscle glycogen stores and help maintain the ﬁbres between the muscles that look after contracting and expanding – you know, the bits that take a hammering during pre-season.So take on a recovery snack or drink after long sessions or ones that introduce a lot of resistance. Drinks with milk in them can be taken on quickly, or cereals with yogurt and even a sandwich with high-quality, lean meat could do the job.Pre-season’s a beach: Eat smart, recover quickFruit juices that are high in antioxidants, like cherry juice, are a good way to ﬂush out the muscles and make them feel marginally fresher. Every little helps!Protein intake is advised immediately after training to provide a source of amino acids for growth and repair. It could beneﬁt your ability to sprint, turn and jump, as your muscles are fresher the next day. It could also help your yo-yo tests.Oily ﬁsh gives you the Omega 3 vital for muscle repair as it has anti-inﬂammatory properties. How about trying this salmon recipe?Grilled salmon mash & watercress (serves 2) Pre-season is rearing its ugly head again, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered…
Clarke is also a player who comes off his wing looking for work. In combining with fly-half Tiaan Falcon, Clarke is a line breaker from first-phase play and with a tournament high of eight clean breaks so far, he is very difficult for defences to handle.Wing in: Caleb Clarke scores one of his three tries against Ireland. Photo: World RugbyIf New Zealand go on to win the competition, Clarke’s involvement will have a far greater impact on his future and career in rugby.Darcy GrahamScotland have the opportunity to finish the competition in a very respectable fifth place – a vast improvement on last year’s eighth.Another winger to have impressed during the tournament is Darcy Graham. The Scot was involved in both of Scotland’s wins against Italy and Ireland, scoring two tries in the process.Having made his debut at U20 level in the Six Nations, Graham’s pace and athleticism provides his team with front-foot attacking ball. And his exceptional finishing means he’ll be knocking on the door of Gregor Townsend in the not too distant future.Pace man: Darcy Graham has also played for Scotland Sevens. Photo: Getty ImagesTomas AlbornozArgentina’s tie with France in round two was arguably the standout game of the pool stage – the lead changed hands on several occasions, France winning with the final play.Yet despite Argentina losing two of their three games, fly-half Tomas Albornoz has impressed. His goalkicking has been near faultless, a 40m drop-goal against France showed great confidence and tenacity for a young player, and he reads the game very well. Ones to watch: Georgia fans enjoy the U20 World Championship. Photo: World Rugby TAGS: Saracens LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS By Aaron TillyerWorld Rugby U20 Championships are renowned for producing some of the best players in the world and with the semi-finalists confirmed, we look at those players who have caught the eye so far at the tournament in Georgia…Ernst van RhynSouth Africa captain Ernst van Rhyn is big loose forward who gets around the pitch seamlessly. During the pool stages, he showed a ferocity in defence and was one of the top tacklers (42) as the Junior Boks conceded only seven tries throughout their three fixtures.Leading figure: South Africa skipper Ernst van Rhyn. Photo: World RugbyVan Rhyn’s best outing was perhaps against Argentina in round three. Argentina were penalised heavily at the breakdown, with van Rhyn constantly disrupting their attempts to recycle the ball quickly.With shades of a younger Schalk Burger, van Rhyn has all the hallmarks and makings of a fine openside flanker. As the Springboks side is currently in development, van Rhyn has surely caught the eye of seniors coach Allister Coetzee. Expect him to feature over the next two years ahead of the World Cup in 2019.Max MalinsDefending champions England left it late to snatch victory against Australia in Pool A to secure their place in the semi-finals and although Max Malins didn’t have his greatest game, the young fly-half is quickly becoming England’s greatest asset.Mighty Max: Malins already has first-team experience with Saracens. Photo: Getty ImagesIf Malins plays well, then England play well. In rounds one and two, Malins attacked the advantage line and got his team on the front foot on numerous occasions. His instinctive judgement in his passing is what opens up space in opposition defences. Like his Saracens team-mate Owen Farrell, Malins has great awareness of what is in front of him and, more often than not, his decision-making is what gets his side over the line.After making his Premiership debut for Saracens this season, Malins will undoubtedly play a big part in next season’s domestic campaign.Caleb ClarkeNew Zealand have a proud history of developing their Baby Blacks into All Blacks. The likes of Julian Savea and Brodie Retallick have both come through the age-grade levels and into World Cup winners.Winger Caleb Clarke has the ability to do something similar. He’s topped the try-scoring stats alongside England’s Gabriel Ibitoye, yet it’s the manner in which he has crossed the line that has stood out.FOR THE LATEST SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS, CLICK HEREHe picked up three in the final game against Ireland – and in two of those his pace and his confidence to beat his opposite number out wide was clear. We highlight five players to watch from the U20 World Championship in Georgia The two semi-finals – England v South Africa and New Zealand v France – will be played on Tuesday 13 June.
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Good move: The All Blacks perform the haka before their win over Wales last year (Getty Images) New Zealand’s link-up with Harlequins is geniusWe’re all used to seeing New Zealand lead the way on the pitch. Be it skill-sets or strength and conditioning, Kiwi rugby is always 18 months ahead of the rest. New Zealand’s link-up with Harlequins also proves that they’re leading the way in which southern hemisphere rugby deals with the continued threat of European money.SANZAAR can no longer compete with the income of English and French rugby. It simply can’t. And if you can’t beat them, then history states that you must join them. Yet NZ rugby isn’t merely joining them. This is a Richie McCaw-esque administrative move, which sees New Zealand coming in through the side whilst no one is looking.Setting up a Kiwi outpost in London is genius. Not only does it provide an off-field commercial advantage via adidas, but it also creates an on-field blueprint for the future of southern hemisphere rugby.All in: Harlequins will benefit from their arrangement with New Zealand (Getty Images)It doesn’t require a massive leap of the rugby imagination for Harlequins to become the All Blacks’ base abroad, where first-team All Blacks can be allowed sabbaticals. Harlequins could be a club where future Kiwi coaches are placed to ensure continuity of environment whilst their key players are away from home.The next logical step for New Zealand is to establish a similar relationship in the Top 14 and even the Pro14. It is a strategic move, in the heart of London, so cunning and blatant that even Vladimir Putin would raise a glass of vodka in admiration.Goalkicking still matters‘Goalkicking rugby’ isn’t very fashionable. The days where players like Morne Steyn dictated Test results via the boot have faded away as weakly as a poorly thrown kicking tee.In 2018, full-backs and outside-halves have to offer more than an 80% goalkicking percentage. You just need look at Beauden Barrett to realise that a 65% goalkicking percentage is acceptable if the rest of your game ranks in the top 1%.However, the lack of emphasis on goalkicking, and particularly the reluctance to take easy shots at the posts, can still be very costly in modern rugby.On target: Robert du Preez scored a try as well as kicking 33 points v Blues (Getty Images)The final round of Super Rugby in March saw the Blues lose to the Sharks by 63-40. Whilst the result was hugely damaging for the Blues, particularly at home, the details of the loss point to goalkicking being the key factor. The Sharks and the Blues both scored six tries, yet the Blues were demolished because of a 100% goalkicking percentage from the Sharks – a remarkable 13 from 13.The Scarlets’ win over La Rochelle was another further example of why attacking, try-reliant, teams still need a goalkicker. As fantastically as the Scarlets have played this season, it was the kicking of Leigh Halfpenny that built the necessary pressure when line breaks and offloads were harder to find than integrity in the Trump administration.The days of pure goalkicking dependant rugby are thankfully gone, but their importance remains.Welsh regions make April and May relevant againWales obviously follows the Gregorian calendar, but April and May could easily have been deleted from the Welsh rugby calendar in recent years. Whilst English, French and Irish supporters spend these months planning trips to finals, Welsh supporters have tended to concern themselves with what has gone wrong with their team. From New Zealand’s link-up with Harlequins to the brilliance of Dan Leavy, Paul Williams reflects on the big talking points in March It may be that Leavy has only played due to the injuries to Sean O’Brien and Josh van der Flier, but that is now their problem, not his. Dan Leavy is the future of the openside play at Leinster and it is up to O’Brien and van der Flier to prove otherwise.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. TAGS: HarlequinsLeinsterScarlets When Toulon, Leinster and Saracens supporters have been busily booking hotels and restaurants in major European rugby capitals, Welsh regional supporters have been worrying about the name of their club, brand values and whether their regional boundary should be moved one inch to the north to encompass four extra houses and three extra dogs.Happy days: James Davies leads the Scarlets celebrations (Inpho)But as we saw in March, this year is different. Despite the vast gap in financial resources, the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues have punched well above their squad depth and commercial weight. In a competition where semi-finalists Racing 92 and Clermont were collectively able to draft Damien Chouly, Greig Laidlaw, Camille Lopez, Wesley Fofana, Dan Carter and Joe Rokocoko from the bench, the Scarlets’ progression to the semi-finals has been sensational.The same can be said of Cardiff Blues who, in the Challenge Cup, have beaten organisations with vastly superior resources. The Scarlets and Cardiff Blues may yet have won nothing this season, but they have at least made April and May relevant again.Is Damian McKenzie a ten?Damian McKenzie is many things. He is arguably the most exciting attacking player in the world and, pound for pound, the best defender – only gravity works more effectively at bringing large objects to the ground.McKenzie is genuinely a triple threat from all areas of the field. He can run, pass, kick from anywhere and with any quality of possession.However, his error ratio is high. As much as we all love to see fly-halves adhere to the ethos of the 1970s, defences are very much of the 2010s.Super skills: Damian McKenzie offloads – but is he better at ten or 15? (Getty Images)When things go well, McKenzie’s 5ft 9in and 12st 11lb frame is a massive advantage; very few can cope with his 40m speed and lateral movement. But when things go wrong such a small frame is a problem, especially playing at ten, where the majority of players in his channel are back-row forwards.It may be that McKenzie’s abilities are better suited to full-back. His defence is rock-solid and the extra space combined with a greater likelihood of encountering the smaller-framed defensive players add to his game, rather than detract.McKenzie is glorious to watch in Super Rugby, but that space doesn’t exist in Test rugby. He needs to make a positional decision sooner rather than later.The brilliance of third-choice Dan Leavy There are first-choice opensides playing Test rugby whose performance levels fall well below that of Leinster’s third-choice openside, Dan Leavy. His contribution to Leinster’s win over Saracens was remarkable and one of the performances of the European season, with 79 metres carried, four clean breaks and four defenders beaten numbers than any Test centre would dream of.Break man: Dan Leavy en route to his try against Saracens (Getty Images)But these weren’t show-pony numbers achieved by hanging around in the wide channels waiting for a sweaty, wheezing prop to plop into his channel. These were numbers achieved by proper openside play. By spotting thinly-defended rucks and identifying the lack of defensive sweepers. By running through ‘gates’ like a prize bull with opposable thumbs.
Hurricanes and All Blacks full-back Jordie Barrett shows incredible skill with this kick Jordie Barrett, doing Jordie Barrett things pic.twitter.com/bU677iXMBf— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) March 28, 2018 Watch: Incredible kick from Jordie BarrettBeauden Barrett may have won the World Rugby Player of the Year gong for two years running, but his younger brother Jordie has a decent skill-set too.A video has been posted on social media showing the Hurricanes full-back curling the ball between the posts at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington when kicking from a tee placed around a metre beyond the try-line!It is an incredible show of skill from the 21-year-old, who won two New Zealand caps last year, against Samoa and the British & Irish Lions. Jordie Barrett almost appears to bend the ball to his will to get it to curve round and between the posts from such an acute angle. No wonder he is smiling broadly at the end.Watch the footage of the incredible kick from Jordie Barrett here – but if you have the sound up be warned that there is offensive language towards the end of the clip: On target: Jordie Barrett has an impressive skill-set (Getty Images) @happyeggshaped summed it up best on Twitter when saying: ‘Bend It Like… Jordie Barrett’!The All Blacks coaches will surely be impressed by such kicking skill as well as his form for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby this season. Steve Hansen has an embarrassment of riches to choose from at full-back in Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith and Damian McKenzie.New Zealand kick off their 2018 international calendar with a three-Test series against France in June, with Tests in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.Next up: Sam Whitelock wins a lineout for New Zealand against France last year (Getty Images)Their first game of the Rugby Championship is on 18 August, against Australia in Sydney, and they finish their campaign against South Africa in Pretoria on 7 October.Then comes the third Bledisloe Cup Test against the Wallabies, which is being played in Yokohama – venue for the 2019 World Cup final – on 27 October. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS A week later they play Japan in Tokyo before heading to Europe for games against England (10 Nov), Ireland (17 Nov) and Italy (24 Nov).Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.