That was the month that was: August 2019

New Zealand rugby faces challenges, Englishmen go fighting, Wade makes his mark and Gabrillagues gets a reprieve

Taranaki v Waikato
This photo of a New Zealand National Rugby League Bartercard Premiership match between Taranaki and Waikato is 11 years old. Bit it is a great picture. Image: Fotosport/Renee McKay

by COLIN RENTON


Kiwi accounts not All Black

The New Zealand Rugby Union reported a loss of NZ$1.9 million in its 2018 results, better than the anticipated deficit of $3.3m. The union faces a possible worsening of its position over the next five years, with $30 million the projected debt level at that time. One of the issues in 2018 was a downturn from the previous year when the British & Irish Lions tour had added almost $70 million to income. On a positive note, total player numbers increased, although analysis of the figures shows that the rise was attributable to the women’s game, with male numbers down almost 2%.


Welsh coaching addresses gender imbalance

Rachel Taylor created a piece of history when she became the first female to take on the role of skills coach in the Welsh Rugby Union’s regional academy set up. The former Welsh international has been appointed to the North Wales academy. She is no stranger to blazing a trail having been the first woman head coach at Colwyn Bay.



English squad not boxing clever

The extended preparation time for the World Cup squads may have been perceived as a positive factor. However, coaches have had to be creative to keep the players engaged and enthused. That has led to activities designed to build team spirit. It comes with a downside which is that the players have been in training camps for longer than they would have liked. That has added to the sense of frustration and allowed negative personal relationships to fester, none more so than in the England squad, where Ben Te’o and Mike Brown came to blows and were dropped by Eddie Jones from the Japan-bound squad.


Bears bag speed merchant as Christian Wades in

Bristol Bears supporters will be keen to assess the pace of Tyrese Johnson-Fisher, after signing the teenager ahead of the new Premiership campaign. He came to prominence when film of his four try exploits in the English Schools Championships garnered 2.5 million views. He has been playing American football since leaving the Leicester Tigers academy two years ago. A gifted athlete, he has a 10.72 seconds for 100 metres and a 6.89 seconds for 60 metres to his credit. Crossing the Atlantic in the opposite direction was Christian Wade. The former Wasps and England speedster made a stunning debut for the Buffalo Bills with a spectacular 65 yard touchdown in a pre-season friendly.


Bamba is a flaming hero

French prop Demba Bamba was cast as a hero when he rescued several people trapped in a burning building. Back home in St Denis on the edge of Paris to visit family, the 21-year-old Brive player was passing a block of flats with some of his friends when they spotted flames. The group entered the building to evacuate the residents, all of whom escaped without injury.


A Shining example of partnership in action

Global partnership arrangements continue to flourish, with clubs in Europe following a trend that has also been implemented by Scottish Rugby. The latest is Lyon, which has moved to link up with NTT Communications Shining Arcs in Japan. The first activity in the collaboration will see former Japan winger Akihito Yamada move to the French outfit after being omitted from Japan’s World Cup squad.



Napolioni prepares advance into Russia

In other cross-border activity, the Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga has left London Irish for a new adventure in the Russian league with Lokomotiv Penza. The 33-year-old, whose last season in English rugby was blighted by injury, joins the club that is bidding to win the Russian club title for the first time.


Russia red-faced after loss to Reds

If Gregor Townsend is looking for the lowdown on World Cup opponents Russia, he could do worse than check in with Scottish duo Jack McFarlane and George Spencer. The pair featured in the Jersey Reds squad that took on Russia in Moscow. The Scots started on the bench as Jersey stunned the world’s 20th ranked side, emerging as 35-22 winners with scores that included a try from Jersey scrum-half Luc Jones, whose father Lyn is the Russia coach.


Rouen the size of their carbon footprint

France’s most northerly professional club, Rouen, faces a daunting travel schedule as its players launch their PROD2 campaign. A success story in recent seasons, with former England scrum half Richard Hill at the helm, Rouen have been bolstered over the summer by several signings, including former Edinburgh lock Ollie Atkins. Conscious of the environmental impact of an average trip of around 1400 kilometres for away fixtures, co-president Eric Leroy has announced plans to counter the club’s carbon footprint by planting 2,100 trees.


Haskell has what it takes

James Haskell, who retired from rugby in May, has signed up to compete in mixed martial arts. The 34-year-old former back-row, who earned 77 caps for England and played in two World Cups, is expected to have his first fight next year.


Gabrillagues will go to the ball

The six-week suspension handed out to French second-row Paul Gabrillagues for a dangerous clear-out on John Barclay has been reduced to three weeks on appeal, meaning that the 26-year-old will only miss his team’s first pool match against Argentina on 21st September if selected in the 31-man squad which head coach Jacques Brunel will name this coming Monday.


Georgia v Scotland: Sam Johnson returns and Rory Hutchinson gets first start

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Colin Renton
About Colin Renton 128 Articles
Colin has been a freelance writer on a range of subjects including sport, food & drink, travel and finance for more than 20 years. During that time, he has contributed to over 75 publications and websites. He is also an experienced proof reader and editor. Colin 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 to ply their trade. He appreciates high quality, engaging writing that is thought provoking, and hopes that some of his own work fits that bill!