by COLIN RENTON
Niko puts pen to paper at Ponty
Former Glasgow Warriors favourite Niko Matawalu has signed for Welsh Indigo Premiership club Pontypridd. The 33-year-old scrum-half or wing had two spells with Warriors and in between them played for Bath and Exeter Chiefs. He made 19 appearances for Montauban in the French ProD2 last season. He will be a part-timer for Ponty and will combine his rugby with studying for a degree in coaching and performance.
More World Cup ticket chaos
Despite another shambolic effort when the latest batch of tickets went on sale, France 2023 is on track to break attendance records. The website drew another bout of criticism from frustrated users after the convoluted system of ticket allocation again proved to be a disaster. It remains to be seen how many of the tickets have fallen into the hands of touts, although the organisers look to be on track for sell-outs, which appears to be preferable to a fair system that favours supporters.
RFU cuts women’s bonuses
England’s women suffered a pay cut just weeks before flying to New Zealand for the World Cup, where they will be favourites to lift the trophy. The players who featured in the warm-up win over USA – a full cap match – received only £400. That is half the standard fee and is in sharp contrast to their male counterparts who are believed to earn £25,000 per game. In addition to appearance payments, women contracted to the RFU receive salaries in the £25,000-£31,000 range.
Pocock Tackles Aussie parliament
Former Australia international David Pocock was known as a direct and disruptive force on the rugby field. And the former back-row star appears to have carried that philosophy into his new career as a politician. Pocock is an independent senator with a particular interest in the environment. During a speech on climate change, the 34-year-old was halted mid-sentence for the use of ‘unparliamentary language’. However, his contribution resulted in four amendments being incorporated into the Climate Change Bill, which includes steps towards emissions reductions and was passed by the Senate.
Growth in second tier championship
A new structure has been introduced for the Rugby Europe Championship which will be played in February and March with an increased number of teams. The competition features the second-tier nations, with the tournament won last year by Georgia after Spain had points deducted for fielding an ineligible player. Instead of playing in league format as has previously been the case, eight teams will compete in two qualifying pools – Belgium, Germany and Poland have been added and Russia suspended. The top two in each group will contest the semi-finals, with the others playing off to complete the top eight rankings. The final will be decided in a single match.
Prem promotion rules clarified
The Professional Game Board in England has clarified requirements for promotion from the Greene King Championship to the top flight. Last year’s champions Ealing Trailfinders were denied a place in the Gallagher Premiership as the 5,000 capacity of their ground was deemed to be only half of the required level. The conditions for the current season have been revised with the main change being that clubs will be permitted to build up to 10,001. The stages towards that include a capacity of 5,000 in January 2023, with planning permission to develop the ground up to a capacity of 10,001, and with funding in place to achieve this by the start of the 2024-25 season.
Melrose in MLR tie up
The Toronto Arrows Major League Rugby outfit has agreed a partnership with Melrose that will see exchanges designed to help with player development. The seed was sown when a touring group from the Borders outfit played against the Toronto academy. Initially, the arrangement sees James O’Neill and Mitch Richardson turning out for Melrose in Tennent’s National Division 1, with Richardson being called into the Southern Knights team for their Super6 clash against Watsonians on Saturday. The benefit for the Canadians is that the domestic season in Scotland coincides with pre-season for MLR squads.
Marr club captain on the mend
Marr used social media to stress the importance of vigilance over the health of players after an incident during the club’s third team match against Lenzie. Marr club captain Jim McNiven suffered from the early stages of a heart attack but was unaware of the symptoms and did not realise the significance of the chest tightness and nausea that occurred in the course of the game. He is a former world rowing champion and Olympian and remains extremely fit but was persuaded by the Lenzie physio to seek medical attention. He then suffered a cardiac arrest and was transferred to Hairmyres Hospital where he received further treatment before being discharged several days later. McNiven subsequently asked the club to highlight the issue to a wider audience.
Padding is the wafer Uddy sponsor to show support
Uddingston’s long-standing relationship with the confectionery company, Tunnocks, had a sweet pay-off when it was time for the club to replace some of its equipment. The company supplied new post protectors and corner flags shaped like one of its leading products. However, there is still no sign of a ball made from marshmallow on a biscuit base and covered in chocolate.
Delighted to announce our pitch sponsor for this season is @TunnockOfficial With their support we have replaced our post protectors and flags and added corner flag padding. Tunnock’s have a long association with the Club and we now have the most unique post protectors in Scotland pic.twitter.com/MHhCwllrFh
— Uddingston RFC (@UddyRFC) September 2, 2022
French tourney makes a splash
More than 650 players competed in the latest edition of the Water Rugby competition in Toulouse. The touch tournament is played on an island measuring 35×40 metres, with no in-goal area. Tries can only be scored by diving into the water. The categories included wheelchair rugby, amateur and veterans featuring a host of international players including former Scotland scrum half Rory Lawson.
Vous attendiez cette vidéo comme vous attendez votre anniversaire, c’est normal…
— Eden Park WateRugby 🏉💦 (@WateRugby) November 7, 2021