New Nice challenge in National Division
Stade Nicois moved a step closer to achieving a place in the upper echelons of French rugby when it was confirmed that Scottish Rugby’s partner club – albeit no Scots have yet signed for next season – would compete in the newly formed National Division. The competition, which will feature 14 professional and semi-pro teams, is now the third tier of the French league, with automatic promotion to the ProD2.
Day of the Jackals at ML draft
Conner Mooneyham sealed his place in American rugby history when he became the first player chosen under the Major League draft system. He joins the recently formed Dallas Jackals franchise. Scottish Rugby’s partner club, Old Glory, landed two players in the shape of Casey Renaud, a second-row, and Matthew Gordon. The latter, who can play at lock or in the back-row, is an Aberdonian currently studying at the University of Mary Washington. He played for Deeside and Gordonians, as well as being involved with Glasgow Warriors at age group level before heading for the US. Meanwhile, Old Glory prop Tendai Mtawarira has called time on his career. The man dubbed ‘The Beast’ moved to America after helping the Springboks to the World Cup victory but has now turned his attention to life after rugby by setting up a security business.
Johnson gearing up for life in Vannes
One Scot has replaced another at French ProD2 outfit Vannes. The departure of former Scotland Under-20 captain Andy Cramond for rivals Biarritz left a gap in the second-row. That space has now been filled by current age-group international Ewan Johnson, who is leaving Racing 92 to return to Brittany where he learned his rugby at the Plouzané club and where the 21-year-old’s family now lives.
Mon Dieu, Poirot calls time
Bordeaux-Begles prop Jefferson Poirot shocked French officials by announcing his retirement from international rugby at the age of 27. He informed head coach Fabien Galthie of his decision then gave an interview to L’Equipe newspaper. Poirot, who has earned 35 caps stated that he will now focus on winning honours with his club, which is scheduled to meet Edinburgh in the European Challenge Cup quarter final when rugby resumes.
WRU eyeing revenue boost
The Welsh Rugby Union remains hopeful of earning some much needed revenue over the coming months, with the aim of playing in front of as many as 35,000 spectators at the Principality Stadium in the autumn. Social distancing means that crowds are currently not permitted, but the WRU remains optimistic that things will change, both in terms of lifting the lockdown and the availability of the stadium, which is currently being used as a hospital. The target is to play the rescheduled Six Nations match with Scotland at the end of October before autumn tests in November against New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Argentina. Alternative venues are under consideration, although it seems unlikely that the games could go ahead in England, as some observers have suggested.
Fukuoka abandons Olympic dream to be a doc
Japan winger Kenki Fukuoka has opted out of the Olympic sevens tournament in Tokyo next year to pursue his ambition of becoming a doctor. The 27-year-old flyer, who scored two tries and was named man-of-the-match in the World Cup victory over Scotland last year, was desperate to compete in the competition on home soil. However, the postponement of the Olympics until 2021 ruled out the possibility of combining rugby with his studies.
Hamish aiming high with World Cup bid
Recently appointed Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan is keen to make a mark and is pushing for the Aussies to host the 2027 World Cup. They are currently the only candidates after Argentina withdrew on economic grounds, and they have put together a seven-strong advisory board that features former prime minister John Howard, ex-Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Wallabies legend John Eales. McLennan has stated that he would consider holding some of the pool matches in New Zealand.
Kings bailed out again
For the second time in five years, the South African Federation has rescued the Isuzu Southern Kings, having taken back a 74% shareholding in the organisation. The governing body bought that stake from the modestly titled Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World, which was unable to meet its financial obligations. All of the players and staff have been retained, and Kings will be able to fulfil the team’s Guinness PRO14 commitments.
Dad Carter not happy with Dan
Dan Carter caused some consternation in his own family after he signed up for one final rugby assignment by agreeing terms with Auckland Blues. The 38-year-old, who spent the past two seasons with Kobelco Steelers in Japan, had 12 years with Canterbury Crusaders and two spells in France. Blues and Crusaders are fierce rivals and he had resisted earlier approaches from the Blues, with his grandmother credited with talking him out of signing on one occasion. The sides are scheduled to meet in the Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament in July and Carter’s father has confirmed that he will be backing the Crusaders, with his only concession to his son being: “I’ll just keep my fingers crossed he’s not going to get smashed by them.”
Epic journey finally over
A trip to play an away fixture turned into an epic journey for the Pacific Islanders of Manuma Samoa, who ended up spending more than 100 days away from home. The squad, coached by Samoan international Brian Lima, set off on 23 February to play their opening fixture of the Global Rapid Rugby competition in Perth, Australia, on 14 March. After spending two weeks at a training camp in Auckland, they travelled to Australia where the match ended in defeat, then the Covid-19 pandemic played havoc with the return trip. The players were forced to quarantine in New Zealand, then had to extend their stay after Samoa closed its borders. As all 20 players slept in the same room, meaning they were deemed to be from the same household for exercise purposes, the squad was able to train. Although they finally left New Zealand on 29 May, the odyssey was not yet over as the squad had to self-isolate for two weeks before being reunited with their families. Fortunately, the next fixture on their schedule is at home.