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Author Archive for Robert Kitson

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Danny Cipriani’s hopes of England recall ended by knee ligament tear

• Cipriani out for eight to 12 weeks with injury suffered against Harlequins
• Wasps playmaker at best fifth in Eddie Jones’s fly-half pecking order

 Danny Cipriani may be out of action until December after sustaining a medial knee ligament tear in Wasps’ Premiership defeat by Harlequins. He is not expected to resume playing for between eight and 12 weeks, ending the fly-half’s already remote hopes of a recall to England’s preliminary autumn training squad.

Related: Joe Marler reprimanded but not suspended over James Haskell fight

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Christian Day insists plan to prolong season threatens player welfare | Robert Kitson

Saints lock and chairman of Professional Rugby Players’ Association criticises lack of consultation regarding an extended season and says players will not agree to model put forward by Premiership Rugby

A frame of snooker could be contested on the beautifully mown baize at Franklin’s Gardens but life is less smooth for its resident professional rugby players. Last weekend Northampton were humiliated by Saracens, next up is a ferocious must-win derby against Leicester. The mental and physical demands are already multiplying and it is not yet mid-September.

Imagine operating in this relentless environment right from early September until the end of June with pre-season on top, as Premiership Rugby continues to insist will be the norm from the 2019-20 season. Even in a big-match week players are anxiously scanning the horizon, praying for some sign of sanity. “It starts to get messy when players have to step in and say: ‘This isn’t right,” warns the Saints’ long-serving lock Christian Day. As the chairman of the Professional Rugby Players’ Association, Day is receiving similar feedback from worried pros up and down the country.

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Jim Mallinder still dreaming despite Northampton’s opening-day drubbing

• Nine-try rout by Saracens led to sleepless nights, says director of rugby
• Saints ring changes for Saturday’s home derby against Leicester

Northampton’s director of rugby, Jim Mallinder, believes his squad can still win the Premiership but has confessed to enduring sleepless nights as he seeks to resurrect Saints as genuine title challengers. He also acknowledges his side cannot afford another limp display against their local rivals Leicesteron Saturday having shipped nine tries in their opener against Saracens.

Under Mallinder, Saints were crowned champions in 2014 but finished seventh last season, losing four of their last five league games, and were hammered 55-24 by Saracens at Twickenham last weekend. Supporters are growing impatient and another defeat to the Tigers, who lost at home to Bath on the opening weekend, would scarcely improve the mood.

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Manu Tuilagi to undergo knee surgery in further blow to England prospects

• Leicester centre will be out for at least a month after damaging ligaments
• Dan Biggar agrees to join Northampton from Ospreys in 2018

Manu Tuilagi’s prospects of an England comeback this autumn have suffered another blow after it emerged he is set to undergo knee surgery this week. It is understood the Leicester centre tore knee ligaments in the defeat by Bath on Sunday and needs a minor operation which will sideline him for at least the next month.

Tuilagi’s career has been increasingly dogged by injury, with a more serious knee injury in January forcing him to spend seven months out. Despite scoring a try on his return against Bath, he is now facing a further three or four weeks out, leaving him precious little time to impress England’s head coach Eddie Jones before this autumn’s internationals.

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Premiership rugby returns with a bang to trump all other global leagues | Robert Kitson

On opening weekend six Premiership games produced no fewer than 50 tries – you wonder if the league has ever been more vibrant

Two decades ago no one knew whether English club rugby was heading to heaven or hell. Professionalism had just arrived and not everyone was optimistic. “There were those who sank to their knees clutching their head and beating their breasts at the woes to come,” reported the 1997-98 Rothmans Rugby Yearbook. “There were also those who rushed out to greet the new dawn with whoops of delight at the promise, excitement and joy on offer.”

In terms of on-field entertainment, if not necessarily economics, the optimists are being vindicated. The latest example came at the weekend when six Premiership games produced no fewer than 50 tries, smashing the previous record of 36 set in 2007. Watching Semesa Rokoduguni, Topsy Ojo, Sean Maitland, Jason Woodward and Dan Robson complete touchdowns to grace any showreel, never mind Channel 5’s first highlights programme, was to doubt whether the league has ever been more vibrant.

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Eddie Jones tells Sale’s Denny Solomona he is still in the England picture

• Remorseful Sale wing says drunken night was ‘out of character’
• England coach advises Solomona to ‘knuckle down, train hard and play well’

Denny Solomona has been reassured by Eddie Jones he remains firmly on England’s radar despite the late night drinking session that led to the Sale wing and Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi being sent home early from a training camp last month. The England coach has kept in touch with the penitent 23-year-old who insists the incident was a one-off.

Solomona, whose dramatic last-gasp try earned England victory on his Test debut in Argentina, has even chosen to become a vegan as he seeks to persuade Jones to give him a second chance after his summer indiscretion. “We speak quite often and chat,” said Solomona, who has scored 11 tries in only 15 appearances for Sale after switching codes last season. “He’s a coach but he’s a mentor as well. He’s just said: ‘Knuckle down, train hard and play well’ and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to let my rugby do the talking and go from there.”

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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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