Travers offers views on Russell
Laurent Travers, the coach at Racing 92, is familiar with both parties in the Townsend/Russell dispute. Asked for his comments after the player left the Scotland camp and returned to Paris, Travers said: “I worked closely with Greg. I played with him at Brive. I’ve called him a few times. We agreed that Finn could play for us. Despite what people might say, Finn is a thoughtful individual. I didn’t sense any difference. He is possibly working even harder and with greater concentration. I have absolutely nothing to criticise him for, in fact it’s the opposite. His behaviour is very professional.”
Saracens’ sponsor walks away
The bad news keeps on coming for Saracens. Hard on the heels of a heavy fine and confirmation that the club will be relegated for breaches of the salary cap, the main sponsor, Allianz, has announced that it is withdrawing its financial backing at the end of the season, although it will help with the club’s sports foundation for a further year. The German insurer has supported the club since 2012 and has the naming rights for the club’s ground, Allianz Park. The company is also a sponsor of Scottish Rugby’s partnership club Stade Nicois.
Johnson blows the whistle on referee appointments
Former SRU Director of Rugby Scott Johnson has gone on the offensive about the way the organising body SANZAAR is appointing Super Rugby match officials. Johnson, who now works for Rugby Australia, believes Queensland Reds have had it particularly tough. He complained to SANZAAR after Federico Anselmi of Argentina took charge of Jaguares against Reds, a match in which the penalty count was 15-3 in favour of the Argentinian side. The Aussie franchise also felt they had not had a fair crack of the whip after a dominant scrummaging display against the Lions in Johannesburg, home town of Jaco Peyper, who was in charge. However, it was other teams who were asking the questions about the decision to appoint Nic Berry as the whistler for the Reds v Sunwolves match, given that he played Super Rugby for Reds before becoming a referee.
Autumn date for Hong Kong sevens
The Hong Kong Sevens remains a key fixture on this year’s world sevens circuit, despite having been postponed because of the impact of coronavirus. The tournament, which is usually a spring highlight, was to be played on the first weekend of April. That, and the Singapore event the following week, have been called off. However, Hong Kong will host the closing round of the circuit on 10-11 October before returning to its normal slot next year.
Initiative opens up rugby for visually impaired
Visually impaired rugby fans enjoyed the Calcutta Cup match day experience thanks to an innovative collaboration between the BATS Rugby Club, Royal Blind School and Edinburgh rugby. The Visually Impaired Spectators Enjoying Rugby (VISER) initiative involved people from each of the organisations, among them John Evans (BATS), David Palencia (Blind School) and Ruaridh Pye (Edinburgh Rugby). The use of tactile diagrams and headsets for listening to radio commentary makes it possible for supporters with varying degrees of visual impairment to follow games.
Post-match punch up mars Romanian win
Romania beat Spain in the European Rugby Championship – the shadow Six Nations competition. After the 24-7 home win at Botosani, the teams went out together to a night club. However, things started to go wrong when Romanian captain Mihai Macovei took exception to a joke at his expense and a fight erupted between several players from each squad. No one was seriously injured in the incident and it seems that no further action will be taken.
Shameful seven in local derby
In France, the Federale 1 derby fixture between Tarbes and Lannemezan featured an incredible seven red cards, with two coaches dismissed for fighting. Tarbes posted a 36-3 win but the clash will be remembered for the wrong reasons. Plans to show a highlights programme of the match were scrapped. A league official later hit out at both sides suggesting that such behaviour was a return to French rugby of the 1980s.
Bow takes aim at RFU
Nottingham chairman Alistair Bow has urged clubs to protest against the RFU’s decision to slash funding to clubs in the second tier Greene King IPA Championship. The governing body has announced a 50% cut in funding although the blow has been softened slightly by a subsequent announcement in response to pressure from clubs, that it will now be phased. In an open letter, Bow stated that RFU Chief Executive Bill Sweeney’s emotionless delivery had made it feel like being made redundant. He led two minutes applause at Nottingham’s game against Doncaster Knights to acknowledge the unsung volunteers who keep the game alive.
Haskell ready for MMA debut
James Haskell may have retired from rugby, but the former England flanker continues to work on his fitness, and has switched his focus to mixed martial arts (MMA). The 34-year-old has announced that he will make his debut in May against an as yet unnamed opponent.
Carles boosts Catalan coffers
The decision by a politician to attend a rugby match wouldn’t normally boost the attendance. However, Carles Puigdemont is not your typical politician. The former Catalan president, who is currently living in exile, gave his support to Perpignan for the French PROD2 match at home to Rouen. He was then asked to do a notional kick off at the home of the club which plays in Catalan colours and has switched matches to Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium in recent seasons. His presence is thought to have had a positive impact on ticket sales.