That was the month that was: March 2024

Colin Renton gives his monthly round-up of rugby stories from around the world

Paolo Garbisi and Ross Vintcent celebrate Italy's Six Nations win over Scotland which helped them climb to eighth in the World Rugby rankings. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Paolo Garbisi and Ross Vintcent celebrate Italy's Six Nations win over Scotland which helped them climb to eighth in the World Rugby rankings. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

by COLIN RENTON


Date confirmed for Prem decider

Hawick will host Currie Chieftains in the final of the men’s Premiership at Mansfield Park on Saturday 4 May. The clash, a repeat of last season’s showdown for the trophy, will kick off at 2pm.


Italy rise in global rankings

Italy’s impressive performances in the Men’s Guinness Six Nations resulted in a move up the global rankings. By the end of the tournament, the Azzurri occupied eighth place, ahead of Australia, whom they leapfrogged after beating Scotland in Rome, and Wales. That equals Italy’s highest ever placing and is the first time the Italians have been above the Wallabies. Scotland sit in sixth spot.


Cross-Channel move ends Tuilagi’s international career

Sale Sharks centre Manu Tuilagi looks to have confirmed his international retirement by agreeing a deal with French Top 14 outfit Bayonne. England’s policy of not selecting overseas-based players means he does not qualify under current rules. However, those same rules don’t apply to the British & Irish Lions selection process, meaning foreign-based Englishmen, including Tuilagi and Paris-bound Owen Farrell, will be available for next year’s tour to Australia.


Fixture schedule for World Rugby U20 Trophy announced

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URC : Scarlets v Glasgow: Warriors streak back up to second in the table


Georgia extend Rugby Europe run

Georgia retained the Rugby Europe title with a 36-10 win over Portugal in the play-off final at Stade Jean Bouin in Paris. The success tightens Georgia’s stranglehold on the competition, extending their winning run to seven. It is a first success for former Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill since he became the Georgian head coach after the World Cup. Spain, who had suffered a narrow defeat against Portugal in the semi-finals, beat Romania 40-13 to take third place.


Women’s Championship expanded

The women’s Rugby Europe Championship has expanded to a four-team tournament for the 2024 edition. The second-tier competition has previously been a three-way contest involving the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain, the defending champions. They have been joined by Portugal, who marked their arrival in the competition with a win over the Swedes. This coming Saturday’s match between the Netherland and Spain in Amsterdam looks likely to be the tournament-decided, although Spain also still have Sweden to play the following Saturday.


Guyton cause of death announced

Billy Guyton, a scrum-half who played for the Blues, Hurricanes and Crusaders, as well as the Maori All Blacks, has had the cause of his death in 2023 confirmed. Guyton, who was 33-years-old when he died, donated his brain to medical science. Experts at the University of Auckland have now revealed that the player had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by traumatic brain injury. This can be attributed to catastrophic incidents such as a car crash or impact to the brain over a sustained number of years. Guyton had suffered repeated concussions which led to him retiring in 2018.


Strathmore fall foul of registration rules

Scottish Rugby’s player registration process caught another unwitting victim when Strathmore fell foul of the rules. The club fielded a dual-registered player who had been listed after the registration deadline. The fact that the player was selected three times before the problem came to light appears to confirm a system that is unnecessarily complex. With admirable honesty, the club’s officials acknowledged their error and issued a statement, apologising to Gordonians, the side Strathmore had beaten in the National League Cup. Gordonians were subsequently reinstated but lost to Falkirk in the next round.


North’s season heads south

George North bowed out of international rugby on a disappointing note when he limped off during the closing minutes of the Six Nations match against Italy, his 121st and final appearance on the international stage. The 31-year-old left the field after rupturing an Achilles. The injury has ended North’s season and means he has likely finished his involvement at club level in Wales. He will leave Ospreys and join French ProD2 outfit Provence during the summer.


 

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TMO resists review call

The controversy surrounding television match official interventions was further fuelled by events during the Premiership clash between Saracens and Harlequins at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 23rd March. A discussion between the TMO, Stuart Terheege, and referee, Christophe Ridley, suggested that Terheege was reluctant to review an incident which had taken place a few minutes earlier and which had been highlighted by TV commentator Austin Healey. The conversation between the officials led to them deciding not to take a closer look at the incident as this would suggest that it was Healey who had forced them to do so.


Short southern sojourn for McBurney

Edinburgh hooker Adam McBurney is due back in the capital after completing a short-term loan deal with Gloucester. The 27-year-old agreed to join the Kingsholm outfit on a two-week arrangement following a season-ending injury to the Cherry and Whites’ first choice, George McGuigan. McBurney has made three appearances off the bench for Edinburgh this season.


Welsh waterboy escapes unpunished

There were calls for Welsh assistant coach Neil Jenkins to be punished after he criticised the referee Mathieu Raynal during the match between Wales and Italy in Cardiff. The full exchange between the two was audible on TV footage, but Jenkins, who entered the pitch while acting as water carrier, has apparently escaped punishment. Meanwhile, although his decision is not linked to the incident, Raynal has announced that he will retire as an official in the summer.


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About Colin Renton 286 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!

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