by COLIN RENTON
Yellow card record for Didi 10
Georgia will meet Scotland ahead of next year’s World Cup. Many Georgian internationals are now operating around the globe and the country, which is better known for its gnarled props and teak tough defenders than its cultured backs, ultimately hopes to earn a place in an extended Six Nations competition. The referees are just as tough based on the evidence of events during a match between Jiki Gori and RC Lokomotiv Tbilisi in the domestic championship – the Didi 10. The official lost patience with the two packs and yellow carded the front-five of both teams after a scrum, dismissing 10 players at the same time. Locomotiv, the defending champions, eventually won 19-16 to sit second in the table after eight matches.
Could Dodson be Newcastle bound?
Mark Dodson was believed to be in the frame for the chief executive’s job at the RFU when the post became vacant last year. Ultimately Steve Brown got the gig as successor to Ian Ritchie. Brown has now announced plans to quit after little more than 14 months in charge. Dodson would surely fit the bill, having presided over an upturn in financial performance at Scottish Rugby. And a move might also be an opportunity for the PR spinners to sell the story as a positive and clear the decks after a series of faux pas and questionable practices at Murrayfield over recent months. Should Twickenham lack appeal for Dodson, he could be a long shot for the Newcastle United hot seat. Peter Kenyon, Dodson’s long-time mucker and the man who was involved at the management agency responsible for all of the Scotland coaching team, is understood to be collaborating with the American investment company Rockefeller Capital Management to buy the Premier League outfit. Should the deal progress, Kenyon is likely to take a senior position, with Dodson potentially becoming chief executive.
The All Blacks can never be accused of missing any opportunity to improve their chances of winning. And that extends to equipment. The Kiwis showed off their new strips during the 69-31 win over Japan in Tokyo. The kit was manufactured by Adidas using a ground-breaking technique which means there are no seams. That makes the latest style 25% lighter and stronger than the previous version, and should be more streamlined than its predecessor. However, as Ireland showed – it can be unpicked.
Cannucks clinch Japan spot
Canada claimed the last place at the World Cup when they beat Hong Kong in the final match of the four-team repechage in France. The Canadians sealed their spot in Pool B alongside New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Namibia with a 27-10 win that featured two tries by Glasgow’s DTH Van Der Merwe plus three conversions and two penalties from Stirling-born Gordon McCrorie. The sides had secured their place in the deciding match with wins over Kenya and Germany. The Germans, with the influence of Englishman Mike Ford evident in their gutsy but ultimately fruitless defensive effort, beat Kenya in the other game.
Experiment tackles player safety
English Championship clubs opted not to continue competing in the British & Irish Cup. Instead they have set up a new Championship Cup competition which kicked off in November. The new tournament favours local derbies and is played in a league format. It is also being used as a testing ground for tackle height laws. Under the trial, a tackle is deemed to be high if it is above the armpit line instead of the current ruling which uses the line of the shoulders. The RFU has introduced the rule in an attempt to reduce concussion, which is now the most common injury in professional rugby. Around 80% of all concussions occur in the tackle – one-third are sustained by the ball carrier and two-thirds by the tackler or tacklers.
Women whistler on the rise
Women referees made an important breakthrough when Sara Cox took charge of the Premiership Rugby Cup tie between Wasps and Northampton Saints. Cox is the RFU’s first centrally-contracted female official and became the first woman to referee a game in the Greene King IPA Championship last season.
Whyte’s Sharks days over for now
Former Edinburgh prop Kyle Whyte has returned to Europe after a brief spell back in his native South Africa. The 24-year-old, who is Scottish qualified through an Inverness-born father, was the first player to sign a partnership contract in 2016, joining Watsonians and Edinburgh, mainly as cover while WP Nel and Kevin Bryce recovered from injury. He left Edinburgh for Natal Sharks in March. He has now joined French PRO D2 outfit Bayonne, where his team-mates include Scot Johnnie Beattie. Whyte has agreed a deal to the end of the season with a one year extension option. Another ex-Edinburgh man moving to France is Rory Scholes. The 25 year old, who has been at Connacht since leaving Murrayfield at the end of last season, has signed for Brive until next summer following an injury crisis at the club.
Revving up for rapid rugby
World Rugby has given its approval to a new form of the game aimed at making it more enjoyable to play and watch. Australian businessman Andrew Forrest has launched an eight team Rapid Rugby tournament to be played next year and carrying a top prize of one million Australian dollars. Games will last 70 minutes and the aim is to have the ball in play for around 55% of the match. The competition will be run by the Hong Kong Rugby Union and will comprise 56 matches plus four finals. The competitors will include squads from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Fiji, Samoa and Singapore, as well as Western Force from Australia, while Japan is expected to have two teams. World Rugby gave its consent to the concept, provided it is also approved by the competing unions. Among the rule changes are no kicking directly into touch from the 22 and the use of rolling substitutions.
Lucky escape for snoozing Savea
Former All Blacks winger Julian Savea had a lucky escape when he fell asleep at the wheel as he drove home after playing for Toulon against Perpignan in the French Top14. His wife explained on Twitter that Savea had escaped unscathed from the overturned car after dozing off. She revealed that her husband has always suffered from a problem that means he can fall asleep at any moment. Some of the Toulon supporters may point to his meagre scoring record since joining the French outfit this season as confirmation of that.