That was the month that was: July 2020

Colin Renton summarises the rugby news from around the globe during the last month

Dougie Fife is one of a number of former Edinburgh players to find a new club during July. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson
Dougie Fife is one of a number of former Edinburgh players to find a new club during July. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson

Sweeney chopping Twickenham jobs  

A projected loss of £107 million caused by the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing measures has prompted the RFU to announce 139 job cuts. That number represents around 25% of the governing body’s workforce. Bill Sweeney, the CEO, stated that this was a step towards remodelling the business. He anticipates that it could take up to five years to recover from the ravages of the pandemic. The move comes hard on the heels of an announcement by the Welsh Rugby Union that it is seeking a £20 million loan to help deal with a funding shortfall caused by the cancellation of rugby matches and other events due to take place at the Principality Stadium.  

We await news from Murrayfield as to what the retrenchment in Scottish Rugby that Mark Dodson warned us about back in May is going to look.

Sean is the right Fitz for Scarlets 

Scarlets have strengthened their board by appointing former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick as a non-executive director and global ambassador. The 92 cap All Black has been welcomed by fans hoping that his pedigree and reputation will help attract sponsors to the club.    

Kelly Brown returns to Glasgow Warriors – John Dalziel takes on Scotland role

Danny Wilson is braced for a baptism of fire with Glasgow

World Rugby confirms Six Nations will be completed in October

Cash pours in from Knights fans in shining armour 

The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for many sports teams. It has also brought out the best in clubs who have supported their communities with food packages and fundraising activities. In the case of Greene King IPA outfit, Doncaster Knights, the community support has been in the opposite direction. Supporters and friends of the club donated to a crowdfunding effort that raised more than £50,000 to help the club survive the pandemic. Donors receive a range of rewards in return for their money, and the club is giving more than 500 tickets to local NHS staff.        

French Federation opens HQ to clubs 

During July, the French Federation threw open the doors of its headquarters at Marcoussis on the edge of Paris. The governing body invited local clubs to play five-a-side rugby at the venue on four dates – there are also two sessions in August. Clubs can register to play in a non-competitive environment then socialise afterwards. Players of all ages and skill levels took up the offer of a two-hour slot.   

Rolland quits ref role 

Alain Rolland has stepped down as World Rugby’s officials’ manager after four years in the post, and has taken up an elite referee development role with Italy Rolland replaced Joel Jutge at World Rugby, who moved on after the previous World Cup and, although no successor has yet been named, a Southern Hemisphere appointment looks likely.  

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Jones presents plan for quicker game 

Eddie Jones is never short of an opinion. And the England coach has offered his thoughts on what he believes is needed to speed the game up and make it more attractive to spectators. Jones has floated the idea of cutting the number of replacements to six and also believes that referees should offer more clear-cut instant rulings rather than explain the reasons for their decisions to the offending team. He wants to raise the pace of the game in order to increase fatigue in the closing stages and generate greater excitement. The game in its current form is too formulaic, says Jones, who believes that it is now becoming similar to the NFL.        

Goosen in court after gun accident  

Former Springbok Johan Goosen is being sued for damages caused in an accident with a hunting rifle three years ago. His former friend and employee Armandt Stoman, suffered a leg injury in the accident and has subsequently undergone 11 operations. He claims that Goosen has reneged on a promise to pay any medical costs that were not covered by insurance as well as compensation for lost income. Goosen stopped salary payments last August, prompting Stoman to seek legal redress.

Spicy ban for Chiliboy 

Former Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle has been banned for eight years after testing positive for a growth hormone. The out-of-competition test, which took place last year, found traces of Zeranol in the Sharks player’s system. It is the third time he has failed a drugs test. On the first occasion, the SARFU gave him a reprimand and recorded the incident as a ‘no fault’ case. The second led to him being sacked by Toulouse. Now, at the age of 33, it looks as if his career is over.

Scot’s suspension cut in half  

Greg Goodfellow, a former Scotland age-grade cap, has had a four-year doping ban cut in half on appeal. The Hawick man, who has played south of the border for more than a decade, gave a urine sample during a test at training with National League 1 side Chinnor in February 2019. It contained the prohibited substance Methasterone. The ban started the following month, and the successful appeal means he has already served most of the suspension.  

Men on the move 

Despite the uncertainty created by the pandemic, there has been plenty of transfer market activity over the summer.  

Far-travelled former Edinburgh flanker Luke Hamilton has made the latest stop in his peripatetic career by signing for French PRO D2 outfit Oyonnax. The 28-year-old played for Cardiff Blues, Agen and Leicester Tigers before signing up at BT Murrayfield. He then played in Japan with Red Hurricanes and spent last season at Bristol Bears. Hamilton, who has earned three Scotland caps is joined at Oyonnax by former Glasgow Warriors winger Taylor Paris, who has moved from Castres. The pair also played together at Agen.           

Simon Hickey, an ex-Edinburgh player of more recent vintage has returned to his native New Zealand to play for Hurricanes. The stand-off spent two seasons at BT Murrayfield, making 34 appearances.   

Dougie Fife, another Edinburgh man who was released in April, has headed across the Atlantic to join Major League Rugby side the New England Free Jacks. 

Meanwhile, Alex Toolis who left the Scottish capital four years ago, has now left London Scottish to join Blagnac, who will compete in the newly formed third tier of professional rugby in France.

Closer to home, former Scotland Under 20 scrum-half Scott Steele has made the switch from London Irish to Harlequins. The 26-year-old also had a spell with Leicester Tigers, where he was a member of the club’s academy. Also bound for ‘Quins is Borderer Mak Wilson. The Scotland Under 20 prop started out at Duns and has latterly been with Melrose and Southern Knights.

Saracens have secured the services of Argentinian centre Juan Pablo Socino. The 32-year-old left Edinburgh Rugby last year to join Spanish outfit SilverStorm El Salvador and has now signed a one-year contract at Allianz Park. 

Kelly Brown returns to Glasgow Warriors – John Dalziel takes on Scotland role

About Colin Renton 294 Articles
Colin has been a freelance writer on various subjects for more than 20 years. He covers rugby at all levels but is particularly passionate about the game at grass roots. As a fluent French speaker, he has a keen interest in rugby in France and for many years has reported on the careers of Scots who have moved across the Channel. He appreciates high quality, engaging writing that is thought provoking, and hopes that some of his work fits that bill!