by COLIN RENTON
Lure of the yen now taking over
Bernard Foley is the latest Australian international to announce that he is heading for pastures new. Typically, England and France are preferred destinations, but perhaps surprisingly, Japan currently leads the way in luring top names from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. No fewer than eight All Blacks, nine Springboks and seven Wallabies will join Japanese clubs for next season. A total of 17 will head for the English Premiership and 11 will ply their trade in France.
A sniff of a problem at Verblitz
Perhaps related to the high salaries being paid in Japan, Toyota Verblitz recently encountered a problem when stand off Ryota Kabashima was caught using cocaine. The warning, it seems, was not sufficiently strong to act as a deterrent. Another of the club’s stand-offs, former New Zealand sevens international Steven Yates, was arrested by police for use of the same drug.
Winners with a conscience
Saracens proved that the club’s big-spending habits are not restricted to bolstering a squad that has dominated English rugby in recent seasons with an announcement of on-going efforts to support the local community. Saracens will donate half of the money from season ticket sales to nearby Saracens High School, with the funds used primarily for the sports kit and coaching. The school, which is the first free educational establishment set up by a sports club and is a partner of Watford Grammar School for Boys, has pupils from some of London’s most disadvantaged homes.
Good behaviour will pay off
A regional league in France has devised a method aimed at encouraging positive rugby. Clubs will be able to earn up to five bonus points if they have a favourable disciplinary record. All will start the season with five points available and will lose one point if players are shown more than six yellow cards over the course of the season, with larger deductions as the tally of cards mounts.
French looking to build on World U20 success
The French Rugby Federation (FFR) may have low expectations for the upcoming World Cup, but there will be no half measures when it comes to preparing for the 2023 competition on home soil. Last month’s successful defence of the U20 World Championship title proved that there are reasons for optimism. The FFR is taking steps to ensure the rising stars are given every opportunity to fulfil their potential with the introduction of new team, known as France 23 – double meaning given the target of being competitive in four years’ time by supporting players in the 20-23 age group. The objective is to prevent players disappearing from view as they make the move from Under-20 to the full squad. The group will train with the full squad and are likely to play the matches that would traditionally have involved the French Barbarians.
Cardiff strapped for cash
Financial issues continue to dog the Welsh professional sides. The most extreme problems appear to be at Cardiff Blues. The club rents the Arms Park from Cardiff Athletic Club. The landlord has threatened legal action if rent arears, believed to be around £140,000, are not settled. Blues also recently moved out of the training facility at the Vale Resort that they have used since 2008 amid rumours of rent arrears.
Ross relegated on Nice website
One for the conspiracy theorists. Ross Dunbar was unveiled as the latest Scottish player to join Stade Niçois. His impending arrival was trumpeted on the club’s website accompanied by a picture of the age group international in his new club kit. The announcement coincided with some negativity over the Super6 set-up and the apparent shortage of props available to the teams in the new league. The following day the picture was removed and the story was buried on the site. Conspiracy theorists might suggest it was the dead hand of Scottish Rugby in action.
Rugby Championship casts doubt over All Black strength
New Zealand’s opening two matches in the Rugby Championship have raised questions over the All Blacks readiness for their World Cup defence. Stats from the match against Argentina showed how close the South Americans came to causing an upset, eventually going down 20-16. They dominated possession, with 58% of the ball. However, the All Blacks had a tally of 117 tackles, missing only nine, while the Argentinians missed 48 from 92. The All Blacks produced their own impressive stat the following week in the 16-16 draw with South Africa. The result saw the Kiwis become the first country to score more than 16,000 international points. That tally is more than 2,000 better than second-placed France, while Scotland’s haul is 9,708. The draw has moved South Africa up a to fourth place in the world rankings at the expense of England.
Samoans raise money for Japan trip
While some of the competing countries at the World Cup have spent substantial sums on preparing for the competition, it hasn’t been straightforward for Samoa. The Samoan Federation sought help with financing the trip to Japan with a telephone appeal that raised around $60,000 dollars. The kitty also received a boost with a $100,000 donation from the government of American Samoa.