by COLIN RENTON
Nelson and Beattie victorious in France
Scottish international Helen Nelson helped Montpellier ladies retain the French title, beating Toulouse in a reprise of the 2018 final. Toulouse led 13-10 at half time but Montpellier touched down twice in the second half – Nelson converting the first of those tries – to emerge with a 22-13 victory and an eighth title in nine years.
In the men’s game, Johnnie Beattie came off the bench to help Bayonne earn a place in the top flight for next season. The Basque side snatched a dramatic 21-19 victory over Brive in the promotion play-off when Argentinian full-back Martin Bustos Mayano booted a penalty after the full time hooter had sounded.
Former Scotland Under-20 captain Andy Cramond featured for RC Vannes as they reached the play-offs for the first time in the club’s history. The Brittany-based outfit fell at the penultimate hurdle against Brive, but the run to that stage of the competition roused supporters in a part of France that is not renowned for its rugby. The 8,000 seat Stade de la Rabine sold out quickly for the final match of the regular season, at home to Stade Montois. The passion of the supporters is evident in the following three minute video.
London Scottish record sent to Coventry
London Scottish surrendered a record they had held since 2012 when Coventry ended the Greene King IPA Championship season with a haul of 51 points that secured eighth spot. That was the best performance by a newly promoted side since Scottish (who finished one place behind Coventry this time) achieved 45 points seven seasons ago.
Steele-Bodger a loss to the game
Micky Steele-Bodger, a respected player and administrator, died at the age of 93. He was best known as president of the Barbarians and was one of the sport’s characters. Steele-Bodger’s attitude to the game was recalled by Barbarians’ Honorary Secretary Chris Maidment, who said: “What came across most strongly was his belief that this was a game for players to enjoy, entertain and for them to form lasting friendships. In turn, those players respected him greatly for how much he gave to rugby and for his immense warmth and good humour”.
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Possible French adventure for Hidalgo-Clyne
Former Edinburgh scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne could be set for a move to French outfit Toulouse as World Cup cover. The 25-year-old joined Scarlets last summer and subsequently moved on a loan deal to Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership. French coach Jacques Brunel has named Toulouse number nines Sebastien Bezy and Antoine Dupont in his 65-strong extended training squad. There will be much pruning of that group before he names the men who will compete in Japan. However, both Bezy and Dupont have a good chance of being on the plane. Should they both make the cut, the club will need temporary cover. Hidalgo-Clyne, who has 12 Scotland caps to his credit, appears to fit the bill.
China gearing up for sevens challenge
China is desperate to make progress on the global rugby stage. An indication of the Chinese federation’s ambition came with a request to its Fijian counterpart to supply 200 sevens coaches. Sponsored by the internet giant Alibaba to the tune of almost £4 million, China has launched a sevens championship. Chinese money and Fijian skill could be a potent combination in the coming years.
Algeria the latest to join World Rugby
Algeria has become the 124th country affiliated to World Rugby. It has been a rapid rise for the Algerians who won the African Bronze Cup in 2017, following that up with victory over Zambia in the higher tier Silver Cup last year. Next on the agenda is July’s Gold Cup against Morocco, Uganda and Kenya, with a place in the 2023 World Cup the longer-term goal.
Peak success for Everest challengers
Players from across Britain returned from the LMAX Exchange Everest Rugby Challengers having broken two world records. Former Wales winger Shane Williams and England sevens international Ollie Phillips captained the sides that played the highest game of rugby in history, at 6,331 metres above sea level. The squads had earlier set a new record for the highest ever game of touch rugby at 5,119 metres. Both record breaking games are subject to verification by Guinness. The players battled against altitude sickness, and a shortage of oxygen to complete a 5-5 draw and raise more than £250,000 for the Wooden spoon charity.
Racing duty for Doussy
Former Edinburgh skills coach Philippe Doussy will join Finn Russell at Racing 92 next season. Doussy is moving to the club as skills coach following a reshuffle prompted by the departure of Laurent Labit to join the French national set up. Irishman Mike Prendergast will take over as head coach. Doussy worked at Edinburgh in the 2013-14 season before joining Grenoble, and was latterly involved with Les Bleus.
Rory roars into World Cup reckoning
The calls for Gregor Townsend to include Rory Hutchinson in his World Cup squad were amplified in the Premiership play-off semi-final between Exeter and Northampton Saints, when the centre produced this moment of magic:
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) May 25, 2019