Hollie hits new high
Hollie Davidson has broken down many barriers in a refereeing career that hit a new high in June. The Scot was in the middle for the Portugal versus Italy men’s international at the Estadio do Restelo in Lisbon – assisted by Sara Cox of England and the French official Aurelie Groizeleau, while Claire Hodnett (England) was TMO – thus becoming the first female to take charge of a match involving a Six Nations side. It was also the first time an all-female team of officials had been appointed for a men’s international. The Italians were given a stern test before emerging with a 38-31 win. Next on Davidson’s schedule is a trip to take the whistle when Canada host Belgium, and she will be assistant referee for the first leg of the Rugby World Cup 2023 play-off between Chile and USA.
Stand-offs stand out in pay stakes
The first edition of the Premiership Rugby Salary Cap Report threw up some interesting facts that may have an impact on future negotiations. The report analyses all 13 clubs in the Gallagher Premiership, specifically the amounts paid to players during the season 2020-21. Among the details is the fact that during the period under review, the highest paid position was stand off – number 10s earned an average of £175,679 – followed by centre. At the other end of the earnings scale were hookers, whose income averaged £113,115, around £4,800 lower than scrum-half, which was the second worst paying position. The salary cap for the season was £6.4 million per club. Premiership Rugby plans to release the report on an annual basis.
Unemployment fears rise
There are growing concerns over the rising number of players being freed by Gallagher Premiership clubs before they have a new deal in place elsewhere. Around 100 are understood to be looking for a club ahead of the new season. Critics see the situation as a consequence of the salary cap, while others believe that this underlines the need for more homegrown talent in order to reduce the high salaries needed to attract talent from elsewhere.
Ref Romain remains in rugby
Romain Poite has called time on his refereeing career but will stay in the sport after joining the technical staff at Toulon. His remit is to work with the players on their discipline and interpretation of the laws. Poite has agreed a two-year deal with the Mediterranean club. The 49-year-old took charge of 72 international matches, including three World Cups, Six Nations involvement from 2010 to 2021, and two British & Irish Lions tours.
New York champs but MLR not spreading the news
There was disappointment for ex-Glasgow Warriors hooker James Malcolm as he and his Seattle Seawolves colleagues went down 30-15 against New York in the final of US MLR championship. Seawolves were seeking a third success in the competition, but were comfortably beaten by opponents who had never won the title. However, the key talking point in recent weeks has been the disqualification of both defending champions LA Giltinis – whose squad includes former Glasgow Warriors trio Adam Ashe, DTH van der Merwe and Djustice Sears-Duru – and Austin Gilgronis within days of each other The organisers, MLR, restricted the explanation to a brief social media message attributing the decision to a violation of league rules, with sources across the US game indicating salary cap breaches.
Mercer is the man for Montpellier
Former Glasgow Warriors Academy player Zach Mercer was the star man as Montpellier outclassed Castres Olympique 29-10 to lift the French Top 14 title for the first time. Mercer capped an exceptional first season at the club with a contribution to all three of Montpellier’s tries, including a nifty kick ahead. The 24-year-old, who has two caps for England, played north of the border while his father Gary was a coach at Glasgow Warriors and the Scottish Rugby Academy. He has been resolutely overlooked by England coach Eddie Jones. Mercer and his team-mates celebrated their Friday night victory at the Stade de France heartily, and turned up at club owner Mohed Altrad’s house on Monday morning at 5am, preventing him from participating in a pre-arranged radio interview.
Pain for Spain as dismissal upheld
An independent appeal committee has ratified the decision to disqualify Spain from next year’s World Cup. The Spaniards were thrown out after Gavin van den Berg was deemed to have been ineligible on residential grounds, resulting in a fine and points deduction which means Romania will now compete in the tournament. That prompted an appeal in which the Spanish Federation submitted new evidence. However, the judicial committee refused to accept the documentation which had not been used previously. The committee assessed the available information, together with submissions from World Rugby, and dismissed the appeal.
Ryan right for new role
Ben Ryan, the Englishman who coached Fiji to the Rio Olympic sevens gold medal in 2016 and erstwhile Scottish Rugby consultant, has taken a new role in football. The 50-year-old has been appointed as Brentford’s director of elite performance, a newly created position. Ryan was handed the job after a full recruitment process and will work alongside the head coach Thomas Frank. The Olympic success allowed him to assume hero status in Fiji, where he was awarded the Companion of the Order of Fiji and now appears on coins and bank notes. A switch from rugby to football is not unprecedented, although Ryan will be hoping that his change of scene proves more successful than that of Sir Clive Woodward, whose sojourn at Southampton proved short-lived and unsuccessful.
Paws in the action
A dog stole the limelight in the Hunter Premier Division 2 match between Nelson Bay Groupers and Hamilton Hawks in Australia. The four-legged interloper entered the fray as the sides scrummed down but was soon despatched to the sidelines and the game continued, with Hawks winning 33-18.