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Author Archive for Robert Kitson

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Thrilling Premiership semi-finals hint at a Twickenham treat yet to come | Robert Kitson

If the forthcoming final comes anywhere close to matching the level of entertainment in these matches then supporters are guaranteed a cracking game

Assuming both teams can still walk after two truly epic Premiership semi-finals, the English club season is set for a ripper of a Twickenham finale. If the showdown between Exeter Chiefs and Wasps is even half as thrilling as Saturday’s twin peaks it will be a rare treat, even if the significant shoulder injury that has ruled Billy Vunipola out of the Lions tour has now cast a cloud over the latter stages of the domestic season.

On paper it will look pretty routine to anyone who missed the games in favour of, say, attending a society wedding: the top two regular season sides made home advantage count and will now meet in the final. That simplistic summary does not reflect the intensely dramatic reality: the aggregate margins at Sandy Park and the Ricoh Arena amounted to just three points and neither victory was sealed until the closing seconds.

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Billy Vunipola withdraws from Lions squad with shoulder injury

• Saracens No8 pulls out of tour to New Zealand
• Wasps and England’s James Haskell replaces him

The British and Irish Lions squad preparing to head to New Zealand has suffered a massive blow with the withdrawal of England’s Billy Vunipola because of injury. The Saracens’ No8 has a damaged shoulder which requires further treatment, forcing head coach Warren Gatland to call up Wasps’ James Haskell instead.

Vunipola was among the key forwards in Gatland’s armoury, having become an increasingly mature force for both club and country. He played the full 80 minutes in his side’s 18-16 defeat to Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday but has since informed the Lions management he feels unable to join the tour party, who are due to fly out next Monday.

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Rugby’s generation game sees Young and Maunder Jr make names for themselves | Robert Kitson

Family ties are rife in the game with former players Dai Young and Jim Mallinder coaching their sons and Jack Maunder following in his father’s footsteps

Even as small boys Thomas Young and his two brothers knew instinctively what to do whenever they saw their Wales international father Dai’s packed bag in the front hall. “Apparently the three of us used to have a fight to get into his kit bag before he went away,” recalls Young Jr. “The three of us would jump in and say: ‘We’re going with him.’” Like father, like son? Let’s just say the chances of the Wasps flanker pursuing a career in classical dance were never great.

Related: Dylan Hartley in line for surprise Lions call-up for tour to New Zealand

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Rugby’s generation game sees Young and Maunder Jr make names for themselves | Robert Kitson

Family ties are rife in the game with former players Dai Young and Jim Mallinder coaching their sons and Jack Maunder following in his father’s footsteps

Even as small boys Thomas Young and his two brothers knew instinctively what to do whenever they saw their Wales international father Dai’s packed bag in the front hall. “Apparently the three of us used to have a fight to get into his kit bag before he went away,” recalls Young Jr. “The three of us would jump in and say: ‘We’re going with him.’” Like father, like son? Let’s just say the chances of the Wasps flanker pursuing a career in classical dance were never great.

Related: Dylan Hartley in line for surprise Lions call-up for tour to New Zealand

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Rugby research team find 20-minute exercise plan reduces injury risk

• Pre-match exercise programme takes only 20 minutes
• Plan to be rolled out across the country at youth rugby level

A study has found a specific 20-minute exercise programme can reduce injuries in teenage rugby players by more than 70%. Experts from the University of Bath say they are excited by the dramatic findings, which are to set to be implemented across all levels of the community game by the Rugby Football Union before next season.

According to the benchmark study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found overall injuries fell by 72% when players completed the newly devised exercise session at least three times a week, either just before a match or before training. Concussion injuries were also reduced by 59% in a survey that involved monitoring 40 schools nationwide and nearly 2,500 players aged 14 –18.

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Rugby research team find 20-minute exercise plan reduces injury risk

• Pre-match exercise programme takes only 20 minutes
• Plan to be rolled out across the country at youth rugby level

A study has found a specific 20-minute exercise programme can reduce injuries in teenage rugby players by more than 70%. Experts from the University of Bath say they are excited by the dramatic findings, which are to set to be implemented across all levels of the community game by the Rugby Football Union before next season.

According to the benchmark study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found overall injuries fell by 72% when players completed the newly devised exercise session at least three times a week, either just before a match or before training. Concussion injuries were also reduced by 59% in a survey that involved monitoring 40 schools nationwide and nearly 2,500 players aged 14 –18.

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If the Lions and All Blacks want to know what to expect … remember 1971 | Robert Kitson

Barry John, Willie John McBride and co soaked up everything New Zealand had to offer, laughed in the face of chilling adversity and lived to tell the victory tales

The British & Irish Lions touring party have not yet left Heathrow but they are already receiving plenty of sage advice. The New Zealand coach, Steve Hansen, has even warned this week about the pressure set to be generated next month by the “massive expectation” of the Lions’ supporters. Eh? It is akin to the Big Bad Wolf advising Little Red Riding Hood to beware the slightly loose paving stone up the garden path.

Related: Warren Gatland uses Messy Monday to prepare Lions for New Zealand challenge | Robert Kitson

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Eddie Jones out to unearth bigger England backs on tour of Argentina

• Coach wants ‘more size in the backs’ for 2019 Rugby World Cup
• ‘We’ve got a very small backline and don’t have any player over 94kg’

Eddie Jones has decided he needs more monster backs capable of smashing his England team through all obstacles en route to the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. Jones sees the size of his current backline as an increasing issue and, having rejected Christian Wade, is hoping to unearth a couple of bigger contenders on this summer’s tour to Argentina.

In a modern game increasingly populated by giants, the modestly proportioned George Ford, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph and Mike Brown have all contributed significantly as England have lifted the past two Six Nations Championship titles. Jones, though, is keen to increase England’s power ratio in the belief that size matters if his squad have ambitions to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

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Eddie Jones expects England to turn Japanese for 2019 World Cup

• Coaches and players to visit 2019 hosts beforehand to acclimatise
• ‘Japan climate will make it a World Cup of two halves,’ says Jones

Eddie Jones has pledged to leave no Japanese stone unturned in his attempt to help England mount a successful challenge for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The head coach has already held meetings about using the training camps earmarked for Team GB’s athletes before the 2020 Olympic Games and is also planning to fly his players over for acclimatisation sessions next year.

Having coached in Japan, Jones believes the first Rugby World Cup to be staged in Asia will differ markedly from previous tournaments and is determined to ensure his squad are suitably prepared.

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Will England fail to escape their pool for a second successive World Cup? | Robert Kitson

After the draw in Kyoto there are tantalising opportunities available to Scotland, Ireland and Wales if they get to Japan in good shape come late 2019

There are two years and four months still to go until Japan’s 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off but at least one leading nation is already doomed to catch the bullet train to premature oblivion. While some tough early pool games can occasionally prove to be helpful in the later stages, England will be fooling no one if they insist a grouping with France and Argentina is exactly what they always wanted.

Bill Beaumont, the former England captain who pulled his own country’s name out of the pot, can expect precious few congratulatory messages from home. England under Eddie Jones continue to nurse genuine hopes of success in 2019 but any vague prospect of a smooth ride into the last eight has now abruptly disappeared.

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Will England fail to escape their pool for a second successive World Cup? | Robert Kitson

After the draw in Kyoto there are tantalising opportunities available to Scotland, Ireland and Wales if they get to Japan in good shape come late 2019

There are two years and four months still to go until Japan’s 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off but at least one leading nation is already doomed to catch the bullet train to premature oblivion. While some tough early pool games can occasionally prove to be helpful in the later stages, England will be fooling no one if they insist a grouping with France and Argentina is exactly what they always wanted.

Bill Beaumont, the former England captain who pulled his own country’s name out of the pot, can expect precious few congratulatory messages from home. England under Eddie Jones continue to nurse genuine hopes of success in 2019 but any vague prospect of a smooth ride into the last eight has now abruptly disappeared.

Continue reading…

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Will England fail to escape their pool for a second successive World Cup? | Robert Kitson

After the draw in Kyoto there are tantalising opportunities available to Scotland, Ireland and Wales if they get to Japan in good shape come late 2019

There are two years and four months still to go until Japan’s 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off but at least one leading nation is already doomed to catch the bullet train to premature oblivion. While some tough early pool games can occasionally prove to be helpful in the later stages, England will be fooling no one if they insist a grouping with France and Argentina is exactly what they always wanted.

Bill Beaumont, the former England captain who pulled his own country’s name out of the pot, can expect precious few congratulatory messages from home. England under Eddie Jones continue to nurse genuine hopes of success in 2019 but any vague prospect of a smooth ride into the last eight has now abruptly disappeared.

Continue reading…

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Will England fail to escape their pool for a second successive World Cup? | Robert Kitson

After the draw in Kyoto there are tantalising opportunities available to Scotland, Ireland and Wales if they get to Japan in good shape come late 2019

There are two years and four months still to go until Japan’s 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off but at least one leading nation is already doomed to catch the bullet train to premature oblivion. While some tough early pool games can occasionally prove to be helpful in the later stages, England will be fooling no one if they insist a grouping with France and Argentina is exactly what they always wanted.

Bill Beaumont, the former England captain who pulled his own country’s name out of the pot, can expect precious few congratulatory messages from home. England under Eddie Jones continue to nurse genuine hopes of success in 2019 but any vague prospect of a smooth ride into the last eight has now abruptly disappeared.

Continue reading…

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Wasps and Exeter lead way as dizzying season reaches thrilling finale | Robert Kitson

Aviva Premiership campaign, which has seen try-scoring records tumble, reaches play-off stage with Wasps hosting Leicester and Saracens travelling to Exeter

A record-breaking 2016-17 Aviva Premiership season is looking set for an equally fast and furious finish as the four title rivals enter the final stretch. Already the two leading sides, Wasps and Exeter, have surged past the longstanding record for team tries scored in a season, previously held by Newcastle in 1997-98, and the play-offs this month are a good bet to produce more high-speed entertainment.

Only once before, in 1999-2000 when defences were much less organised, have more tries been scored overall during a 22-match regular season than the tally of 725 this year and more thrills and spills appear certain in the semi-finals on Saturday week. There will be sellout crowds, too: Wasps versus Leicester is increasingly a “must-see” Midlands derby while there will be a stampede in Devon for tickets to watch Exeter against Saracens at Sandy Park.

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Saracens to rest big names at Wasps with McCall prepared to risk away trip

• Billy Vunipola, Farrell and Itoje set to miss final regular Premiership game
• ‘If I thought the home semi-final was all-important we’d send a different side’

Saracens will rest a raft of key players including Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje from Saturday’s final regular Premiership fixture against table-topping Wasps in Coventry but insist it will not diminish the club’s chances of retaining their title even if they end up playing away in the play-off semi-finals.

Related: Saracens reach Champions Cup final as Chris Wyles seals win over Munster

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