That was the month that was: May 2022

Colin Renton provides his monthly round-up of some of the rugby stories from around the world which may have passed you by

Marshall Sykes had his six-week ban cut in half after attending a coaching session which focused on improving his technique. Image: Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Lloyd leads Lionnes to French semi

Rhona Lloyd and her colleagues at Lionnes de Bordeaux survived a tense finale to the quarter-final clash of the French Women’s Elite One Championship against Bobigny. The Scotland winger showed her pace to score the opening try of the game but the scores were tied at 15-15 after 80 minutes and it took a penalty in extra time to see Bordeaux into the semi-final for the first time in the club’s history. However, the adventure ended there as they went down 31-12 to Toulouse on neutral territory at Dax.


Beach record breakers support Doddie charity

The fundraising efforts for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the My Name’5 Doddie foundation received a boost following a record-breaking effort by a beach touch rugby team in the South of England. The friends started playing in Sandbanks in 2008 and the set-up has grown to become Sandbaggers Beach Touch Rugby Team. One of the players, Andrew Vaughton, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2021. For the challenge, two squads of 11 players were in action for more than 34 hours on a beach near Poole in Dorset. The effort raised more than £70,000 which will be shared between the two charities.


Ageless props call time

Player retirements are common at this time of the year, but the decision of Arnold Wilson to hang up his boots deservedly attracted more than the typical levels of attention. Wilson, a prop for North Shields, called time on his career at the age of 73, having played for more than 40 years at the club. He bowed out with an 80-minute performance for the club’s second team, the North Shields Crusaders.

Meanwhile, the Heaton Moor club in Stockport also bade farewell to a club stalwart, Mike Ireland. The tight-head played his final match for the club’s thirds at the age of 56, having only taken up the game 15 years ago. His finale was notable for the fact that he lined up in an all-Ireland Heaton Moor pack alongside seven of his sons.

Mike Ireland played his final game for Heaton Moor alongside his seven sons.
Mike Ireland played his final game for Heaton Moor alongside his seven sons.

Session sees Sykes serve shorter suspension

Marshall Sykes of Edinburgh Rugby used World Rugby’s coaching intervention programme to serve part of the suspension for the red card he received in April’s match against Zebre. The lock was sent off for a high tackle that was deemed worthy of a six-week ban. However, that was cut in half because of his clean disciplinary record and acceptance that the tackle had merited a dismissal. Sykes opted to participate in a coaching session which focused on improving his technique and, in return, had the suspension reduced by a further week.


Pain for Spain after World Cup ban

World Rugby confirmed that Spain will not participate in the Rugby World Cup 2023 finals after fielding an ineligible player. The three-strong committee which assessed the case included two Scots, Pamela Woodman and former national head coach Frank Hadden. In addition to the judgement that found prop Gavin van den Berg had failed to satisfy the three-year residency rules, the committee’s decision means Spain will also pay a £50,000 suspended fine imposed after eligibility breaches during qualification for the 2019 tournament. The offence was apparently committed by van den Berg’s club, Alcobendas, which had tampered with stamps on the players passport in order to give the impression that he had not spent more than two months outside Spain during a 12-month period, thereby becoming ineligible. The Spanish Federation subsequently announced plans to launch an appeal.


WRU gets pelters from Ponty

The Welsh Rugby Union has come in for some stinging criticism over the way it is running the game in the principality. There have been grumblings over the possibility that a professional team may be closed in order to save money, prompting speculation over which of the four it might be. Clubs have also voiced dissatisfaction, with Pontypool issuing a statement blasting the Welsh Rugby Union’s Community Game Board for failing to address problems caused by unfulfilled fixtures. The season ended with some clubs having played more matches than others and Pontypool claimed that this had killed off any chances of the club winning a fourth successive WRU National Championship title. The statement accused the WRU of ineptitude and called for all members of the Community Game Board to resign from their positions.


All Blacks serve up a classic

The World Cup ban may have burst the bubble of the Spanish international side, but the game still appears to be in good shape and attracting growing audiences. An exhibition match between Spain and the All Black Classics team at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium drew a crowd of more than 40,000. The Kiwis, coached by Tana Umaga, and including Corey Flynn, Stephen Donald, Joe Rokocoko and Luke McAlister in the side, posted a 33-26 win in the match which had been postponed from 2020.


Scots saddle up for charity ride

Former Scotland internationals Nathan Hines and Ally Hogg are among a group of cyclists who will take on a 750-mile cross-country cycle challenge for charity in June. The group has set a fundraising target of £30,000 for Wooden Spoon, the children’s charity of rugby, as well as local Premiership Rugby Foundations along the route which starts in Newcastle on 11th June and will wend its way south to finish at Twickenham on the morning of the Gallagher Premiership final. Hines, who now works as a Development Director for Premiership Rugby at Gallagher, will complete the full route, while Hogg, is one of up to 50 riders who will complete part of the journey each day.


Hollie Davidson to become first woman to officiate a men’s Six Nations team

About Colin Renton 212 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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