23 Jim ThompsonNot considered due to injury: Alex Blair (back), Chris Bloomfield (ACL), Fraser Brown (neck, in post-surgery rehabilitation), Grant Gilchrist (ankle), Phil Godman (knee), John Houston (knee), Gregor Hunter (groin), Esteban Lozada (dead leg), Stuart McInally (hand) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Scotland’s rugby union national team player Scott MacLeod grabs the ball during a training session on February 4, 2011 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris on the eve of their rugby union 6 Nations tournament match against France. AFP PHOTO FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images) James King returns from international dutyEDINBURGH INTERIM head coach Nick Scrivener today called for a “significant improvement” in how his team perform the fundamentals of their game as the capital club prepare to face Munster in the Magners League at Thomond Park on Friday. Scrivener has encouraged his men to take a leaf out of the Irish side’s book in terms of the efficiency and consistency of their work at the set-piece and the breakdown, shortcomings in both these areas having cost Edinburgh dearly in Newport last weekend despite a three-try showing in attack.The former Australia A, ACT Brumbies and Canberra Vikings coach confirmed: “We played a lot of good stuff against the Dragons, but if it’s happening in isolation, without the solid foundations you need to get a proper foothold, we’re not going to win games. “The big themes of our week have been improving the set-piece, how we defend the opposing team’s set-piece, and how we bring more physicality and direction at the breakdown. “The way Munster play has changed slightly in the last few years, and there’s no doubt they’ve got a number of dangerous weapons in the backs, but the basics of their game are always at a very high level and we should take our lead from that.”“We’ve shown right across the season that we can play, but for us to properly take advantage of that and get back to winning matches, we need to give ourselves a platform. We have to look after the ball better, especially away from home, and make sure we don’t let matches get away from us in a short space of time as was the case last Saturday. “It’s about tightening up our game, really fronting up physically, and achieving consistency of performance.” Scrivener has made four changes to the team that ran out at Rodney Parade four days ago. In the backs, James King replaces John Houston at inside centre, the Borderer having taken a blow to his knee against Dragons. Up front, Scott MacLeod returns from international duty with Scotland to take a place in the second row alongside Steven Turnbull.Elsewhere in the pack, Ross Rennie returns at openside, having come off the bench in both Scotland fixtures so far in the RBS 6 Nations Championship. Fraser McKenzie, meanwhile, moves from lock to blindside flanker. Scrivener explained: “Fraser has shown up well this season in the second row, but we feel he also has the skills to be a direct and effective six and we’ll be looking to him to impose himself in the right areas on Friday night. “James King has been knocking hard at the door for some time now; he’s done well off the bench whenever he’s had the chance and certainly deserves a start. “It’s great to have Scott and Ross back as well; they’re quality rugby players who will thrive in a hostile environment like Thomond Park. A number of our guys haven’t played there before, but the mark of a good player is to be inspired rather than intimidated by that sort of atmosphere. “We’ll need everyone to front up, to hit a much better level of performance than last week and sustain it over the game.”Edinburgh team to play Munster in the Magners league at Thormond park on Friday 18 February(kick-off 7:50pm, Live on BBC ALBA)15 Chris Paterson14 Lee Jones13 Ben Cairns12 James King11 Tim Visser 10 David Blair9 Greig Laidlaw (CAPTAIN) 1 Kyle Traynor2 Andrew Kelly3 Geoff Cross4 Scott MacLeod 5 Steven Turnbull6 Fraser McKenzie8 Netani Talei7 Ross RennieSubstitutes16 Alun Walker17 Lewis Niven18 David Young19 Alan MacDonald20 Roddy Grant21 Nick De Luca22 Simon Webster TAGS: Edinburgh RugbyMunster
Higginbotham (C) is Perth bound for the 2013 Super Rugby seasonTHE REBELS have signed outstanding Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham to a two-year deal, with the player set to join the Club for the 2013 season.Higginbotham was an ever-present in the 2011 Reds team that won the Super Rugby title, playing a pivotal role in their success and finishing the season as their leading try-scorer.Head Coach Damien Hill believes Higginbotham’s ability will compliment the skill set currently in the squad.“Scott’s a current Test player who we’re confident will add to the culture of the Melbourne Rebels,” said Hill. “He’s had an exciting last couple of seasons where he’s proved to be an aggressive, hard working player, excelling as a ball-runner with the versatility of covering 6 and 8.“We believe Scott is a player whose best football is in front of him, he is without doubt a player on the rise, and we’re all very excited about the news he will be joining us next season.” Standing at 195cm and weighing in at 110kg, Higginbotham is renowned for his incredible athleticism and world-class skills for such a big man.He played his first Test for the Wallabies from the bench in a 59-16 thumping of the French in 2010, before getting his first start in the 2011 Tri-Series victory over South Africa in Durban. Australian Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham (C) vies during the 2011 Rugby World Cup bronze final match Australia vs Wales at Eden Park Stadium in Auckland on October 21, 2011. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Higginbotham has since gone on to play 11 Tests for Australia.Scott Higginbotham – Height: 195cmWeight: 110kgSuper Rugby debut: 2008Super Rugby Caps: 59Test debut: 2010Test Caps: 11
Evans’ mistake came after he fielded a kick from Zebre scrum-half Brendon Leonard – it could have been a drop-goal attempt but turned into a grubber kick! Evans had plenty of time to clear his lines but Bernabo was up more quickly than he thought.Happily for Evans and Humphreys, their mistakes didn’t cost their teams the match as the Scarlets won 28-13 and Ulster triumphed 23-6. Prop-goal falls shortWales prop Adam Jones gave himself and everyone at Cardiff Arms Park a giggle on Saturday evening when he attempted a drop-goal for the Blues against Munster in the Guinness Pro12.The scores were tied at 21-21 inside the last ten minutes, the referee was playing a penalty advantage for the Blues and Jones, of all people, dropped back into the pocket to have a pop at the posts.He probably fancied his chances as he had been a goal-kicking hooker during his teens. Sadly, his attempt fell short but Jones had a little chuckle as Gareth Davies kicked the penalty for Cardiff, only to see Munster snatch a win at the death.Cheeky shot: Adam Jones had a go at a drop-goal for the BluesGolden OldingLike a hot knife through butter, Stuart Olding sliced through the Dragons’ line to score a magnificent try for Ulster in the Pro12. It was the first of a brace of tries for the full-back and showcased his ability to pick the right line and leave everyone standing.The second try was a more straightforward run-in from close range and it was set up by a magical piece of work from inside centre Stuart McCloskey, who tipped the ball over an opponent so Olding could latch onto it out wide. Entertaining stuff.Ospreys in the huntThe Ospreys made it seven wins out of seven in the Pro12 when they beat Connacht 26-11, despite having nine players unavailable on Wales duty.Steve Tandy’s side have equalled their best start to a league season since the regions were set up in 2003 and are on top of the table as the break for the November Tests begins. The SaintsTricky businessHats off to Barbarians coach John Kirwan and his team for pulling a few tricks out of the bag during their 36-40 loss to Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.Inside the first ten minutes they sprang a surprise when No 8 Steven Luatua launched a long, American Football-style throw-in to a lineout. The plan was for Nick Cummins to catch it in midfield but sadly the ball drifted too far forward.A couple of minutes later the Barbarians were at it again. When Australia conceded a penalty five metres out on the left, scrum-half Tomas Cubelli tapped the ball then chipped it backwards over his own head and into the in-goal area. With Australia caught off-guard, Barbarians No 10 Colin Slade charged up to try to take the ball and touch down for a try, but tighthead prop Angus Taavao-Matau and blindside Adam Thomson also jumped for the ball and the move ended with a knock-on. Ten out of ten for enterprise though! If you missed it on Saturday, take a look for yourself now. Juggling act: Colin Slade (right) and Angus Taavao-Matau mess up the Barbarians’ surprise move The Barbarians played it fast and loose, the weekend’s Guinness Pro12 battles produced skills, smiles, and shakes of the head, while the LV= Cup turned out to be a crowd-pleaser. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Fans-tasticIn England the Aviva Premiership gave way to the lower-key LV= Cup this weekend, which means most clubs field a lot of Academy players in their teams, to give them experience. Despite the lack of star names on show, 50,787 rugby fans still paid their money and took their seats so they could cheer on their team in the six cup clashes played over the weekend. That’s an average of almost 8,500 per game, while the crowds topped 13,000 at Bath and Northampton. These English rugby fans seem to be a dedicated bunch.Dan’s the manSale Sharks fought back from 17-19 down at half-time to beat Wasps 32-29 in the LV= Cup and their director of rugby Steve Diamond handed some of the credit to openside Dan Braid for the way he rallied his troops at the break.“We physically weren’t in it in the first half, we were soft,” said Diamond. “Dan Braid did the team-talk at half-time, we, the coaches, didn’t go in and it was down to Dan to sort that physicality side of things out, but it got progressively better.”Get physical: Dan Braid (left) galvanized the Sale team at half-time The SinnersHarsh callThe debate about taking an opponent out in the air reared its head again on Sunday when Harlequins wing Ollie Lindsay-Hague was sin-binned for tackling Saracens’ Jack Wilson in the air. Referee Leighton Hodges wielded the yellow card against the advice of his Television Match Official, having looked at a succession of replays on the big screen.Lindsay-Hague undoubtedly grabbed hold of Wilson in the air, as both players went up for a high ball, but the Saracens man landed on his hands and knees and the Harlequin seemed to be doing his best to make sure his landing was safe. That is certainly what the TMO said and although the referee is entitled to over-rule the other officials, it looked like a harsh call from Hodges.Launch delayed: Joe Launchbury will miss England’s autumn Tests due to a neck injuryA pain in the neckThe delicate tissues of Joe Launchbury’s neck make it into the Sinners list this week, for ruling the Wasps lock out of England’s November Tests.Launchbury has won 22 caps in the last two years and become a key figure in England’s pack, but now Stuart Lancaster’s team will have to face the All Blacks, South Africa, Samoa and Australia without him and Geoff Parling (concussion) powering the scrum from the engine room of the second row.Kicking themselvesScarlets full-back Steffan Evans was left red-faced after Zebre lock Valerio Bernabo charged down his clearance kick to score a try during their Guinness Pro12 match and Ulster’s Ian Humphreys was also wishing the ground would swallow him up when he broke the Dragons line with a nice dummy but then passed to no one in particular as he headed for the 22. As the ball bounced harmlessly on the ground, Humphreys just shook his head in disbelief. TAGS: OspreysUlster
As sages bemoan the lack of attacking ambition in modern rugby, Saturday’s 33-33 draw between Gloucester and Northampton was saturated with free-running skill. We analyse the best bits LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Slinging out: Richard Hibbard releases an offload during Gloucester’s 33-33 draw with Northampton “I have big concerns about the game because there are not enough tries being scored, which is turning the fans away…If we do not address it, we are going to have very boring rugby matches.” Steve HansenLast week, New Zealand honcho Steve Hansen gave an unapologetically blunt interview to WalesOnline in which he bemoaned a collective neglect of entertainment in the modern game. Everyone, he claimed – referees, coaches and players alike – should take responsibility for making rugby more watchable.They were immensely intriguing sentiments. And, in a season that has seen humble kick-chase evolve from desirable extra into precise science, the quotes carried significant weight. Space does seem at a premium these days, especially as the stakes rise for Test match competition.For those reasons, Saturday afternoon at Kingsholm represented a welcome tonic, a breath of fresh West Country air. Six tries shared evenly between Gloucester and Northampton Saints brought a thrilling 33-33 draw. There was a succesful driving maul for either team – enough to appease the purists – but the other four scores were wonderfully-worked long-range efforts.One of Hansen’s worries was an overbearing focus on defence. However, while large scorelines tend to encourage cynicism around commitment to the contact area, a few statistics stood out. Gloucester returned a tackle success-rate of 89 per cent across the clash, Northampton 83. In total, just 27 runners were missed. By comparison, on Friday at a windswept Rec, Bath and Sale missed 29 in a turgid, tryless encounter.Such numbers go to show how well the respective attacks of Gloucester and Saints executed things. Now let’s take a closer look at the highlights.Delightful offloading frees up LaidlawJames Hook was exceptional throughout this clash and it is his endeavour to keep the ball alive, passing off the deck to Matt Kvesic, that initiates this opening.The Gloucester openside hits the pass at pace before feigning a pass to the right and stepping inside to buy a few more metres. By looking at his eyes as he throws the dummy, we can get a great idea of Kvesic’s balance and deception:When Saints defenders Tom Wood and George Pisi do scramble back, the number seven keeps his cool and finds the support angle of scrum-half Greig Laidlaw with a delicate one-handed flick out of contact:This should really have resulted in a try. Fortunately, the hosts laid on something special less than 10 minutes later.By Hook or by crookSheer game-breaking ability usually comes down to two things – raw athleticism or speed of thought. Sometimes, it is a combination of both that blows a match wide open.This try came from turnover ball, like so many in the modern game. Still, there is no divine right to cross the whitewash once you wrestle possession away from the opposition.Opportunism requires rapid reactions, awareness and communication before anything else. Watch how Hook, at second receiver, demands the ball as Laidlaw passes it out from the preceding ruck:Once the Welshman gets the ball in his hands opposite tight forwards, the magic happens. A step past Courtney Lawes was so smooth:Salesi Ma’afu did not have the pace to get across, meaning Hook could open his legs and stretch out into open space. Then, rather than panic, he assesses the situation.Of the two circles below, the top one shows a simple inside ball that may have led to a try. The bottom circle highlights a teammate that has recognised that option and is trying to communicate it.However, wary of throwing the ball forward (or perhaps having simply not seen the easier pass) Hook draws Ken Pisi before weighting a grubber perfectly with the outside of his right boot:The result is a breathtaking try, and a surge in confidence. Gloucester broke free from first phase not long afterwards.Slicing through from set-pieceTwo passes crack the well-set Saints from this scrum. First, Billy Twelvetrees’ long, flat ball sends full-back Steve McColl onto an outside arc and stretches George Pisi:Then, McColl himself takes the ball right to the line before flicking out another fine offload. Notice that Northampton wing Jamie Elliott has turned back towards his inside, non-plussed as to whether Pisi has been beaten:The indecision caused by McColl gives Sharples enough time to sprint clear. To nit-pick, he could perhaps have fed Hook an inside pass for a certain try: Still, this move foreshadowed a long period of pressure that ended as Richard Hibbard dotted down following a lineout drive. However, Saints were not about to give in, even at 23-6 behind.Champion responseJames Wilson was a shining light as Northampton opened their title defence by thrashing Gloucester 53-6 on the first evening of the campaign. He also sparked his team’s comeback at the weekend. But this is all about George Pisi, who effectively takes out three defenders with a single grubber.As he takes the ball to the gain-line, opposite number Bill Meakes must step in to make the tackle. Outside Meakes, Jonny May presses to cover Wilson. In turn, Gloucester full-back McColl is compelled to fly up in case Elliott is released.This screenshot demonstrates the predicament of the Gloucester trio, as well as how a kick ahead wrong-foots them, forcing them to turn as Wilson and Elliott can canter through unopposed:A neat finish. The see-saw kept bouncing, though.Off-the-cuff counter into structureEarly in the second half, the pace of the game began to show and everything grew more fractured. This suited the spontaneity of Gloucester, as this score for loosehead prop Dan Murphy demonstrated.It came initially from a kick-return, Hook throwing a long pass McColl, who finds May. The electric wide man steps up the middle:Carrying into centre-field, May creates an enticing blindside, which Hook and McColl then exploit to free Meakes:Tom Stephenson does brilliantly to make the try-saving tackle. To their immense credit though, Gloucester stay patient, retain possession, maintain pressure and trade rapier for Murphy’s battering ram as lock Tom Savage transfers the point of contact with a quick pass on the gain-line:Laidlaw converted to make it 30-16. Again, the East Midlands outfit refused to relent.Stunning sucker punchIn the corresponding fixture last season, Elliott landed the try of the domestic entire campaign – a length-of-the-pitch effort marrying slick handling with pure pace. Wilson’s second was a fine reminder:Long before he trots over the line, it is the New Zealander that ignites the counter. This long ball feeds Samu Manoa and suddenly the attack is on:Facing a staggered defence, the rest comes down to tireless support lines and freeing arms in contact. Elliott begins by riding the challenge of Twelvetrees to hit Manoa on the inside:As Manoa carries, it is worth tracking George Pisi and Wilson, the next two recipients, who respond to their teammates’ direction of running by snaking behind them:They are rewarded for their off-the-ball industry in turn as first Manoa gets a gorgeous pass away to the left……and then Pisi slips in Wilson to the right:Some collective brawn sealed the result as Manoa burrowed over in the final seconds to secure a draw for Saints, but there had already been plenty to shout about in terms of invention.Played in this spirit with this level of quality, rugby produces phenomenal spectacles. Whatever Hansen’s quibbles, do not write an obituary for the sport just yet. TAGS: Gloucester Thanks to BT Sport and Premiership Rugby for the match footage. Follow this link to buy tickets to the Premiership Rugby Final.
With Billy Vunipola missing and flak flying in all directions, England need leaders like never before. Step forward 37-year-old Nick Easter… Bond: Stuart Lancaster and Chris Robshaw will welcome the experience of Nick Easter TAGS: Highlight Robshaw has copped plenty of stick this week for not taking the three points on offer at the last knockings of the game against Wales.A worse decision was the one that saw England chuck the ball to the front of the line-out making it easy for the Welsh pack to shove them into touch and win the game.You can’t imagine Easter letting a decision like that get made in the heat of the battle and he is one player who Robshaw will be able to lean on late on Saturday night.In the glory days Martin Johnson had plenty of leaders to help him out – Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back, Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Dawson and Will Greenwood would all have had their say and it is hard to see that little lot having a collective brain freeze.Robshaw needs all the help he can get and Easter brings a bucket load of experience and a decent helping of street-wise expertise.Marseille spirit: England could do with Dallaglio and Wilkinson’s leadership qualitiesEaster knows why he has been called up as he explained earlier this week. “Just through my sheer number of years in the game I’ve been in pressure situations,” he explained. “I have an understanding of what sort of advice to give and I’d like to lend my experience.“I can definitely offer him support. When you are pro sportsmen, whether its disappointment or elation, you have to make sure you stay on a level, you can’t get carried away when you get a result like Wales or when you suffer on the other side. You have to make sure that you reason all your actions in the 80 minutes and treat it the same. I’ll give him my two-pennies if he wants it, but we’ve seen this guy bounce back many a time.” Cue Easter. Stuart Lancaster is facing the biggest game of his coaching career on Saturday at Twickenham when the Wallabies come to town. Lose that and England will be out of town and hosting a party they are not invited to, but it is not all doom and gloom down at Pennyhill Park, the England training base.The knives are already out for ‘the boss’, the captain Chris Robshaw, the RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie and the bloke who sorts out the parking on match-days.But win against Australia and Lancaster will be the greatest coach since Carwyn James was leading the Lions to glory in New Zealand in 1971, and everyone’s job will be safe for another couple of weeks, at least.Back in town: Nick Easter has the sort of chutzpah that will not be fazed by the WallabiesMost coaches need a bit of luck and Lancaster had a massive dollop of it this week when he called Nick Easter up to the squad.Billy Vunipola was crocked with a knee injury so the 37-year old Harlequin, who probably should have been in the squad in the first place, is parachuted straight into the match-day 23 against Australia, which tells you two things.Firstly the coach wants a specialized No 8 on the bench because he is not sure how long Ben Morgan is going to last and secondly he wants a bit of good-old fashioned rugby nous in his group. How he didn’t pick Easter in the first place is anyone’s guess but he’s in there now.Easter has been around the block more than once and will be the one link with the 2007 World Cup campaign when England, who played like a pub team in the pool stages, managed to get to the final. He is also a confidant and friend of Robshaw’s.Vunipola is going to win more caps than Easter ever will but for now he does not strike us as the sort of leader England are requiring with backs against the wall.Bond: Stuart Lancaster and Chris Robshaw will welcome the added leadership of Nick Easter It might be a sign of desperation that England reckon a man who is on the downhill slope to 40 is the player to get them through to the quarter-finals. But he has been here before and England were in a bigger mess eight years ago than they are now.If he pulls this one out of the fire it really would be something to tell the grandchildren about. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
“I had a bulging disc at the worst possible time. It was a completely new coaching team, apart from Trevor (Woodman), and everyone wanted to prove themselves,” he says.“I fought hard to get fit, played a couple of United games, and then when Dan Murphy got injured, Trevor backed me. It was the first time I packed down with Richard Hibbard and John Afoa.”Front-row union: With Richard Hibbard and John Afoa, who he first played with on a day of Tiger tamingWood marked his first start under the new David Humphreys and Laurie Fisher-led coaching set-up in rare fashion – with one of his six Premiership tries.“Tom Savage and I put pressure on Freddie Burns as he tried to clear. Tom charged it down and gave me a delayed offload, and I drove over with Graham Kitchener, his limbs all over the place, trying to stop me.“The match was a dream start for me after everything that had happened. I had an opportunity and took it. I showed that, even at 31 as I was then, I was still able to do it.”Jonny May and Charlie Sharples also dotted down as Gloucester turned round 30-9 to the good, a lead they never looked like relinquishing.9 Jan 2015Gloucester 24 Saracens 23A game that had it all. It’s most remembered for the last-gasp winning penalty that James Hook landed from halfway, but for Wood there was more pain than elation following his removal from the fray on a stretcher.“Everything happened,” he says. “Ben Morgan broke his leg, Charlie Sharples had a five-inch gash in his leg, and I had a neck injury.“I’d had a series of stingers on my left side after the same nerve kept getting pinched. I got a hit on top of the head and it compressed my neck and shut off power to my left arm. I was out for 11 or 12 weeks but for a few weeks it looked like I might have to retire, so it was a watershed moment for me.”Wood recalls hearing the fans’ victory cheers whilst waiting in the ambulance, and at the Gloucester Royal he had Morgan and Sharples for company – “The three of us had a WhatsApp group going in hospital.”Pain and glory: Wood was carried off v Saracens as Gloucester won a pulsating 2015 clash (Action Images)As well as four yellow cards, there were five tries and that dramatic finish. “Callum Braley scored after a length-of-field move but Sarries’ power that day was ridiculous and they scored three tries from driving mauls (via both Vunipola brothers and a penalty try).“At 23-21 down it looked like Chris Ashton had scored to settle it but it was brought back for a penalty because he was in front of the kicker, and Hooky took the kick from nowhere near the right mark and got it.“But we should have had a penalty much closer to the posts before that because we picked them up in the scrum.”It was a bittersweet way to celebrate his 32nd birthday and proved a shot in the arm to a Gloucester side that had been struggling.“It was a massive high and set us up for the rest of the season. From that point we went on a long unbeaten run at home and also won the Challenge Cup.”MOST PREMIERSHIP MATCHES ON ONE GROUND102George Chuter (Leicester & Saracens) & Geordan Murphy (Leicester), Welford Road, 1998-2013101Nick Wood (Gloucester), Kingsholm, 2003-100Tom May (Newcastle, Northampton & London Welsh), Kingston Park, 1999-2015 …AND THE NEXT HIGHEST-PLACED CURRENT PLAYERS89 Stephen Myler (Northampton), Franklin’s Gardens, 2006-87 Topsy Ojo (London Irish), Madejski Stadium, 2006-87 David Paice (London Irish), Madejski Stadium, 2006-85 Nick Easter (Harlequins), Stoop Memorial Ground, 2004-79 Mike Brown (Harlequins), Stoop Memorial Ground, 2006-For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here. Fans’ favourite: Nick Wood celebrates after winning the Challenge Cup final last year (Action Images) TAGS: GloucesterLeicester TigersLondon IrishSaracens LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The Gloucester prop is one home match away from equalling a Premiership record. Here are his fondest memories in front of the Shed Heads since starting out in 2003… Nick Wood already has a couple of notable records to his name: the highest number of competitive first-team appearances for Gloucester (277) and the first man to reach a double century of Premiership games for the club (he’s on 203).And there’s a more obscure record in the offing should the 33-year-old prop face Northampton this Saturday: he would equal the highest number of Premiership games played on one ground, drawing level with retired Tigers George Chuter and Geordan Murphy, who played 102 league games at Welford Road.Regardless of whether or not he gets the nod this weekend, Wood has a heap of memories from his 101 Premiership outings at Kingsholm to date to reflect on. Here’s his top five…Sat 11 Oct 2003Gloucester 24 Leicester 3Wood’s Premiership debut was a defeat at London Irish in round two of the 2003-04 season, and his home debut, a 30-7 defeat of Saracens, followed a week later.But his first special memory came the day before England kicked off their victorious World Cup campaign in Australia – a thumping of the Tigers in which Wood played the full 80 minutes.“It was a bright, sunny day and I was on a massive high, because it was my first start at Kingsholm and probably my first start in a Gloucester shirt,” says Wood. “As a kid you dream of having your name on the back of your shirt, not just a number.“I managed to get my hands on the ball a bit and obviously Leicester are very strong opponents traditionally, so it was a memorable day.”Young Cherry: Wood, aged 20, in 2003 (Getty)Wood, who made only one other Premiership start that season, had Chris Fortey and Andy Deacon beside him in the front row against a Tigers trio of Graham Rowntree, Chuter and Ricky Nebbett. And he may even have dished out a bit of abuse to Jim Hamilton, a future friend and team-mate, in the visitors’ second row. “He was a bit heavier in those days!”Tries by Marcel Garvey and Robert Todd, plus the boot of Henry Paul, did for Leicester.Sat 5 May 2007Gloucester 50 Saracens 9Nowadays it’s hard to imagine a full-strength Saracens getting crushed but that’s what happened in the 2007 Premiership semi-final as Gloucester cruised through to Twickenham with seven unanswered tries.“It was a fantastic result and reflected our dominance that season. The league is a lot closer these days,” says Wood.“I was up against Cobus Visagie, one of the toughest opponents I’ve ever faced, but we did okay and Pete Richards was tearing it up at scrum-half. It was a good day at the office, but unfortunately we lost Bucko (Peter Buxton) and Marco (Bortolami) before the final and went on to lose to Leicester.”On fire: Pete Richards scores during the rout of Sarries (Getty)The Swindon-born loosehead recalls something else about that famous thrashing. “They were doing redevelopment work at Kingsholm and we had to change in Portakabins. One of the stands had been knocked down and there was an immense view of the cathedral; it was like a marriage of two great Gloucester landmarks, Kingsholm and the cathedral. The capacity was only 9,000 but even without the stand to help the noise reverberate, it was still a fantastic atmosphere.”Richards, Luke Narraway, Anthony Allen, Andy Hazell, Mark Foster, Christian Califano all crossed, to go with a penalty try and 15 points from Willie Walker.Sat 31 Jan 2009Gloucester 23 London Irish 21“There were two shocks in this game,” explains Wood. “First, that I won Man of the Match despite being a prop forward. Second, that I won it despite only playing 26 minutes. I don’t know what Stuart Barnes (Sky’s adjudicator) was drinking that day!”Gloucester’s scrums were already solid but Wood’s entrance, where he locked horns with Richard Skuse, was the catalyst for a series of scrum penalties that helped the Cherry & Whites stage a stirring fightback.Cheers, Barnesy! Wood with his Guinness Man of the Match award after his cameo against Irish (Getty)“Sometimes you can play 80 minutes, the scrums go well and you make 20 tackles but you lose narrowly to a forward pass and you don’t get Man of the Match. Then you can get it for 26 minutes’ work – you should have seen Dean Ryan’s face when he found out!“The only other Man of the Match award I got in 200-odd Premiership games was away to Bath in 2012 (when he scored Gloucester’s try in a 14-11 win).”Gloucester trailed 18-3 but Olly Barkley’s six penalties kept them in the hunt and Iain Balshaw’s late try completed the rousing recovery act.Sat 4 October 2014Gloucester 33 Leicester 16The context to this game was everything because, at the end of a good pre-season for Wood, he got an injury that prevented him playing – and hopefully impressing a brand-new coaching team.
Life through the lens: Dave Rogers took this iconic shot of Jonny Wilkinson “Yes, very much so. I think if you lose that, the pressure of the atmosphere, you lose one of the reasons you want to do the job. It sounds corny, but it is as near to playing the game as you can get without actually playing the game. You get the adrenalin rush and you are as close to the action as the players are.”Picture perfect: John Bentley embodied the Lions’ inclusive ethos for RogersWhich shot are you most proud of from your personal portfolio?“Probably the Jonny Wilkinson drop goal to win the World Cup in 2003. It’s one of those lucky ones that we spoke about before because as you know he kicked the winning kick with his right leg which was unusual for Jonny as he normally kicks left-footed.“If he had kicked the other way then all we would have got would have been a picture of his backside and his leg going the other way. But thank heavens he kicked this way and we see a gap, as there was a little opening in the crowd, the group of players in front of us and we could just see through the gap and Jonny winning the match with his drop goal.”When you find yourself in the changing rooms after a World Cup Final, do you find yourself pinching yourself when it comes to the access and insight you get“It certainly does because it is a very fortunate position to be in. It is a very privileged position to be in and I realise how lucky I am. You do see things you obviously can’t report or take photos of and that is all about trust. If you can keep the trust between you and the people you are working with, whichever team it is, then you will have that forever.However if you renege on that deal that you have got then you have lost it forever. There is no comeback after that. I am a big believer in showing respect to them and I do appreciate what they do for me in return.”Inside access: Rogers was in the thick of the action after the Rugby World Cup final in 2003You almost have a friendship with some of these people rather than a working relationship?“I like to think so but you have got to keep it professional too because sometimes you have to take pictures that you don’t like. I am big friends with Jonny Wilkinson and his family are lovely people. In fact, I’ve have had to take many pictures of Jonny that I didn’t like to take, pictures of him injured here and there. You do feel guilty when he’s being carried off and you’re taking photographs of him in such pain but you have a job to do. It’s not a matter of keeping your distance as such as they know you don’t want to do it but you have to.”I doubt anyone else has had a better view of how the game has developed over the last 30 or 40 years – do you think the game is in good shape today?“Yes, definitely. But if you look at the old days, there were some great things like the access to teams and players. You got to know them a lot better than you do now, there were a lot more characters, people like Jason Leonard. They weren’t professional as they had other jobs. They had another life outside rugby. The current generation have come straight from school, college or other rugby clubs, straight through the system. They’re a different kind of person. It’s a different kind of game these days.”Iconic moment: Rogers pictures Nelson Mandela handing the Rugby World Cup to Francois Pienaar in 1995Dave Rogers top tips for a career in sports photography:Persevere – “You will get loads of people who will say you can’t do it but when someone says you can’t then have another go.”Embrace the pressure – “I think if you lose that, the pressure of the atmosphere, you lose one of the reasons you want to do the job.”Follow the silverware – “What I have found over the years is that it is best to stick with the trophy as everyone wants to see a winner with the trophy and not just somebody celebrating because they could be anywhere.”Accept luck plays a part – “It does, fortunately or unfortunately, which ever way you want to look at it. You can be sitting at one end and there are four tries down the other end.”Don’t betray the trust – “If you can keep the trust between you and the people you are working with, whichever team it is, then you will have that forever but if you renege on that deal then you have lost it forever too.” A sports photographer for over 40 years, Dave Rogers is one of the best known snappers in rugby. Here he talks about his career in the industry The Forward Pass Podcast – Dave RogersWelcome to The Forward Pass, a series of conversations with leading rugby union journalists, broadcasters, presenters and photographers who will offer the next generation of media professionals – and fans – an insight into how they cover the sport.The latest industry veteran to join host Graham Jenkins to reflect on his career covering the sport and what he has learnt during his 41 years behind a lens is Getty Images’ sports photographer Dave Rogers.Read extracts from the podcast and listen to the complete conversation below.When did you first pick up a camera?“A long, long time ago now, probably about 50 years ago. I’d just left school and went along to my local horse racing and fancied having a go…but I got interested in it when I used to go to Molineaux to watch my football team Wolves play. I remember thinking I wouldn’t mind doing that.“I went for a couple of interviews with my careers adviser and he said ‘don’t bother you’ll never get into it’ and told me to just train as an accountant or something which I did for a week but I hated it. I just couldn’t work in an office and after a week I left and started at college the following Monday which was amazing.Most journalists will remember the day they first saw their name in print, but do you remember the first picture of yours featured prominently in a paper?“The first sporting picture I got used was from the 1975 League Cup Final and it was Aston Villa versus Norwich City. It was one of the first jobs I ever did and my first trip to Wembley Stadium so I was very nervous. I couldn’t drive so my Dad took me down there. It all started there as I managed to get a picture in the local paper.”Starting out: Rogers first assignment was at the 1975 League Cup final between Aston Villa and Norwich CityWho were there key figures who shaped you and your approach in the early days?“My main interest in those days was football and I can remember doing the 1978 World Cup qualifying match at Liverpool – it was Wales v Scotland. It was quite a controversial one and I was sat next to a guy called Colin Elsey from Colorsport – he was the top man and I was in total awe of him. He was a big rugby man as well and over the years I got to know him really well. It’s quite funny, at the start you’re scared of these people but you get to know them and they become big mates.”Where did your passion for photography and rugby union first meet?“I didn’t do much rugby at first, I just did local rugby at Sutton Coldfield for the local paper but in 1978 I was offered a job in Northamptonshire with a guy called Bob Thomas who’d started up his own agency. He asked me if I could join him – I was his first employee – and after a couple of years he said I’m going to send you on the Lions tour to South Africa in 1980.First rugby gig: Rogers went on the 1980 Lions tour to South Africa“I was amazed as I hadn’t done much rugby, I’d only done a couple of internationals, but I loved it. I was away for nearly three months and if I remember right they played 19 games which is quite a long tour in this day and age where England have just come back from Australia where they played just three games.”Did you ever consider working in hard news like front line war reporting?“Definitely not, I’m a born coward! I’ve never even played rugby in my life – I’m too scared to do that! I know my place in life and it is behind the camera at a nice safe event.“It doesn’t mean we haven’t seen a few bad things to see. I was unfortunate to have been at the Heysel Stadium disaster in Belgium. When you go to somewhere to do a football match and you end up covering a big news event with people dying in front of you it is a real shock. It took me a few months to get over that and I’m not really over that now.”Is there immense pressure to capture THE moment in a game? LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Social shortcomings – “If you want to be out with your mates every Saturday night then don’t be a sports photographer as you will not get that chance!”
Lions assistant coach Neil Jenkins explains how he works with the contrasting kickers on tour As the kicking coach on the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, Neil Jenkins had balance the needs of the different kickers in the squad. Here he gives his top tips on how to deal with that situation…1. Video homework“I had to try to get a feel for all the players. From my perspective, I had to watch a lot of footage of our kickers. Then I had to look at adapting my own approach, because in four or five weeks together you cannot change these kickers too much.”2. Awareness of triggers“Each player has different triggers. We have different types of kickers, so I will watch them in training to see how they set their mark from the ball, where they are coming from, their tempo, trajectory of ball, height or impact of their punt.”FOR THE LATEST SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS, CLICK HERE3. Conscious of timing“All kickers need to have the right rhythm – not too fast, not too slow. If you have ever tried to smash a golf ball, it won’t go too far. Everyone is different, and the Lions kickers are the best of the best, so we work on simple things to find that rhythm.”On target: Leigh Halfpenny lines up a penalty for the Lions. Photo: Getty Images4. Talking on the pitch LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Kicking on: Neil Jenkins works with Owen Farrell in New Zealand. Photo: Getty Images “In training what we talk about depends on who we’re playing. If the opposition close down space quickly, we’ll work on sharp speed to get back and kick. We talk a fair bit on the pitch during games too (about how to react to what is happening).”5. Adding pressure“We use a lot of cones in training. We work on kicking one step from a cone, then two. Also, quickly getting the ball in front of the body and having a controlled drop to the foot. Defenders will charge down and we’ll work on exits, bringing in our left-footers.”6. A little variety“Keeping it fresh on tour is difficult – you have different kickers game to game. We have good competition and one thing we do use is adding in a tight angle, trying to hit a post from the 5m line. It’s a challenge but we still try to get through the ball.” Training day: Johnny Sexton practises his kicking in Rotorua. Photo: Getty ImagesWHAT YOU COULD DOBe aware of all your players’ different triggers.Work on the spiral kick. It’s going out of fashion but if players get it right, it can find grass quicker. Then mix up training with end-over-end kicks too.Try one-handed kicks so they’re comfortable in suboptimal conditions. Work on them catching with two hands, transferring to one, and getting familiar with how to drop-kick and punt from one hand.This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Rugby World.
Wales are used to dealing with adversity at World Cups. In 2011 their hopes of reaching the final for the first time were dashed by a controversial early red card for captain Sam Warburton, France squeezing home 9-8 in the semi-final.And four years ago, Wales were beset by injuries to their back-line yet still knocked out hosts England before falling to a late Springbok try in the quarter-finals.Gatland said: “You have to deal with adversity at times, and it’s how you respond and react to that. We were shocked. The union are dealing with this, and my focus has to be on the next five days in terms of preparing the squad for the first game against Georgia.“The players in the last 24 hours have really stepped up and they have been incredibly responsible and resilient, and sometimes that brings teams closer together. Wales rocked as Howley is sent home from World Cup over alleged betting breachJapan 2019 hasn’t even started yet and we have our first bombshell – the stunning news that Wales attack coach Rob Howley has been sent home for an alleged breach of World Rugby’s laws on betting and anti-corruption.Howley’s departure comes less than a week before Wales open their campaign against Georgia and deprives the reigning European champions of one of their most senior management figures. Howley has previously taken charge of Wales when head coach Warren Gatland has taken sabbaticals ahead of British & Irish Lions tours.A Welsh Rugby Union statement said that Howley had “returned to Wales to assist with an investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation 6, specifically betting on rugby union”.World Rugby’s regulation 6.3.1 reads: “No connected person shall, directly or indirectly, bet and/or attempt to bet on the outcome or any aspect of any connected event and/or receive and/or attempt to receive part or all of the proceeds of any such bet and/or any other benefit in relation to a bet.”Following consultation between Gatland and senior players, it was decided that Stephen Jones, the former Wales fly-half, would fly out immediately to link up with the squad in Kitakyushu. Jones has already been confirmed as backs coach in Wales’ post-Japan 2019 management team headed by Wayne Pivac.In the spotlight: Howley with Stephen Jones – then the Wales fly-half – at RWC 2011 in New Zealand (Getty)As Six Nations Grand Slam champions, Wales go into the World Cup as one of the favourites. The swift summoning of Jones as his replacement will help minimise the impact of Howley’s predicament, but there’s no doubt it will disrupt Welsh preparations. Wales face Australia, their major pool rivals, a week on Sunday.Howley’s setback comes right at the end of his tenure because he was already due to leave his role after the tournament and so end an 11-year stint as Gatland’s right-hand man. He has been linked to the Italy head coach job but that prospect now looks unlikely, albeit that no one yet knows how the investigation will unfold.There was a fierce reaction on Twitter, with former Wales footballer John Hartson one of the few to offer a sympathetic vent (below). Hartson became addicted to gambling, a subject that Rugby World published an investigation into back in 2016 – read it here. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS “At the moment, these are allegations. Obviously, Rob was devastated by the allegations. That’s all I can say.”For all the latest news from the 2019 World Cup, follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Sent home: Rob Howley, the Wales attack coach, at a World Cup training camp in Switzerland (Getty)
The wonder wing bags a try double as Wales win 25-24 in a Six Nations humdinger LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS A snowboarder makes use of the snow outside Murrayfield ahead of this afternoon’s encounter (Inpho)It was an eventful end to the first period – but the real drama was to come.After the match, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said: “We had a lot of opportunities: some that we took, some that led to penalties, some that we felt could have led to more penalties with the pressure that we had Wales under in the second half.“Then there were just a couple of finishing issues, with Scott Cummings and Gary Graham running the same line and that should have been a try with the pressure we had on them.“The loss of Blade Thomson so early certainly affected our lineout. Blade was playing really well, he carried strongly and it was unfortunate he just got caught with a stray knee.“Wales did well in the lineout from there and we shuffled things up when Richie Gray came on and put them under pressure. But we could have done better in terms of our discipline.”Second-row Jonny Gray wins a lineout for Scotland to the backdrop of cavernous empty stands (Inpho)Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt); Darcy Graham (WP Nel 57), Chris Harris, James Lang (Huw Jones 71), Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland (Oli Kebble 69), George Turner (David Cherry 69), Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Blade Thomson (Gary Graham 13, Richie Gray 56), Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.Tries: Graham, Hogg 2. Cons: Russell 3. Pen: Russell.Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Willis Halaholo 33); Louis Rees-Zammit, Owen Watkin, Nick Tompkins, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar (Callum Sheedy 49), Gareth Davies (Kieran Hardy 49); Wyn Jones (Rhodri Jones 78), Ken Owens (Elliot Dee 71), Tomas Francis (Leon Brown 63), Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (capt, Will Rowlands 71), Aaron Wainwright (James Botham 63), Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau. Tries: Rees-Zammit 2, Williams, Wyn Jones. Con: Sheedy. Pen: Halfpenny. Scotland flanker Hamish Watson moves the ball during today’s Six Nations match (Getty Images)But they seized control in dramatic fashion with two tries from astute kicks. First, wing Darcy Graham strolled over after catching Ali Price’s chip over the top from a ruck.Related content: Price and Graham combine for beautiful tryThen Hogg chased his own chip and between them Halfpenny and Rees-Zammit couldn’t sweep it up. Scotland’s captain pounced to score his 21st try for his country.Russell converted both and suddenly Scotland were well clear at 17-3. Wales players celebrate victory – only they and France can now win a Grand Slam this year (AFP/Getty)Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Match-winner: Louis Rees-Zammit scores his second try during Wales’ epic fightback win in Edinburgh Things got even worse for the visitors when Halfpenny was deemed to have tackled Darcy Graham while he was still in the air and the full-back was forced off for an HIA. Willis Haloholo of Cardiff Blues came on for his Test debut.Wales needed a response and they got it just before half-time after they spurned a kick at goal to opt for the lineout. They shifted the ball wide and Rees-Zammit finished coolly in the right-hand corner. Biggar missed the conversion, so Scotland led 17-8 at the break. Louis Rees-Zammit stuns the ScotsWales went to the top of the Six Nations table after a pulsating 25-24 victory over Scotland at BT Murrayfield. Two-try wing Louis Rees-Zammit was named Guinness Man of the Match after a clash that developed into a championship classic after a nondescript start.For the second week running, Wayne Pivac’s team played against 14 men for a large part of the game after an opposition red card.Strong man: hooker Ken Owens holds Justin Tipuric in the air as Wales try to field a restart (Inpho)Scotland were leading shortly after the 50-minute mark when prop Zander Fagerson was dismissed for a dangerous clear-out on Wales loosehead Wyn Jones. Jones was to score soon afterwards as Wales not only racked up a try bonus point but ended a six-match away losing streak. Next up for them is England in Cardiff, when they can win a Triple Crown.Related content: Zander Fagerson sent offFor the hosts, defeat was a bitter pill to swallow one week after their heroic victory against defending champions England. Spurred on by inspirational captain Stuart Hogg, who also scored a brace of tries, they will feel this is one that got away.Their set-piece, so solid at Twickenham, proved a little more fallible this time but it was the red card that swung the odds decisively against them.Gregor Townsend’s men had led 17-3 early in the second quarter and they might point to another turning point – a disallowed try soon after half-time when lock Scott Cummings was ruled – correctly – to have obstructed the defence as Gary Graham went over by the posts.Scotland celebrate skipper Stuart Hogg’s first-half try at a chilly Murrayfield stadium (Inpho)Instead of stretching out to 24-8, Scotland found themselves embroiled in a nail-biter when Liam Williams was put in by Rees-Zammit just a couple of minutes later.Then came Fagerson’s rush of blood, followed quickly by a try by the excellent Wyn Jones to put the visitors in front.Callum Sheedy, a replacement for Dan Biggar, missed the conversion and that was made to look more costly when Hogg got outside Owen Watkin to dot down in the corner. Russell slotted the extras from the touchline, 24-20.But Rees-Zammit wasn’t finished. The Gloucester wing, who only celebrated his 20th birthday last week, produced a phenomenal kick-and-chase finish to nudge Wales ahead once more with ten minutes remaining. It was the third try of his fledgling Test career. Scotland had a final chance to salvage the situation but Watkin’s brilliant tap tackle on Duhan van der Merwe, with the clock in the red, ensured that Wales got home.In many ways it was a smash and grab. Wales had only 38% possession and 32% territory, they finished second best by a mile in the tackle breaks (27-7). Wyn Jones and No 8 Taulupe Faletau, with 19 tackles to go with his 11 carries, were central to a dogged rearguard action in the final ten minutes. In all, Pivac’s men made 181 tackles.Pivac said: “We’ve shown a lot of character (to come back from 17-3 down). At that stage of the game it wasn’t going to script but we regathered our thoughts, the leadership on the field was good and we came away with that score before half-time which was vital for us going into the changing rooms.Satisfied: Wales head coach Wayne Pivac (Getty Images)“Louis took his opportunities very well. He’s still got work to do and that’s the exciting thing, without the ball. He’s going to be a very, very exciting player going forward for us.“He’s got the confidence with ball in hand. He’s got the pace, you can’t coach that, he’s very, very quick. He showed that and took that opportunity very well and the skill with the kick was magnificent.“It’s well documented what we did in the autumn and that was with a view of the World Cup and building some depth. You saw today the side that we put out, we’ve had to call on some depth at six and in the midfield and everybody put their hand up when they needed to.”The early stages had produced a stalemate. Having conceded only six penalties at Twickenham last weekend, Scotland coughed up three in the first six minutes, the last of which saw Leigh Halfpenny kick Wales in front for offside.Russell levelled matters after Alun Wyn Jones was pinged for not rolling away. Hamish Watson’s strength in contact, once leading a choke tackle on Nick Tompkins, was evident. The Scots lost Blade Thomson early after a head knock, Gary Graham his replacement, and also their first lineout of the championship.