This article appeared in the June 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.Find a newsagent that sells Rugby World in the UK LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Working Partnership: Dan Lydiate and Sam Warbuton started all five of Wales’ 2011 Six Nations gamesThe skies over Cardiff may be grey but the disposition of Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton is anything but. And why shouldn’t Wales’ two young flankers be happy? They were standout performers for their country in this year’s RBS 6 Nations, they have formed a dynamic partnership on the pitch and they’re good mates off it. We chat to the pair of aces… RUGBY WORLD: You two seem to have great banter with each other… SAM WARBURTON: We have a good laugh. Every time Wales have a Test, the combinations are put together so as flankers we’ve roomed together a few times now.DAN LYDIATE: He makes the teas!SW: We like a chocolate-coated protein bar and a cup of tea, then we watch TV like The Weakest Link.DL: We have good conversations, too, and debates – about power cleans and so on.SW: He talks about farming and shows me pictures of tractors on his phone.DL: I want to take him out there and show him what real work is.RW: So are you competitive when it comes to power cleans and gym work? SW: Dan would win by a country mile, excuse the pun. He’s the strongest guy in the squad.DL (shaking his head): He’s bigging me up – you can tell we’re tight! I suppose weights help in a way, but it’s completely different when you’re in a game; when you’re on the field it’s not just about brute strength.SW: In campaigns like the Six Nations, mineand Dan’s bodies take a battering so a lot of training is about injury management so we’re fit for the weekend. Some of the guys had a couple of social beers after some games, but we’re not big drinkers and our bodies were in bits so we went back to our room and had a protein shake and chat. I used to be in the gym a lot, but after talking to some of the senior players I came to realise that the most important thing is to be fit for weekend, not to be the strongest in the squad. You can’t push your body too far.DL: As you play more rugby you can’t lift as regularly as you want to. I spend all of pre-season getting as strong as I can for September and then I’ll dig in and use what I’ve built up. Hopefully that gets me through the season.SW: After a game it can take 48 hours before you feel normal again. It’s all about recovery. We might be held back from contact as our shoulders can be sore. RW: Did you enjoy your run in the Wales starting XV? SW: They’ve put faith in us and we appreciate that. There are a lot more senior back-row players being left out of the team and I still feel privileged to be picked.DL: We don’t take our places for granted. After games we’ll always talk about how it went and whether we think we did enough for next week.SW: People keep talking about us and we’ve got lot of publicity but I never buy the newspapers…DL: I buy them and give them to him because he’s tight! I highlight the articles he’s in.SW: With the press, even if 1,000 people read it, it’s still only one person’s opinion so I don’t take much notice.DL: We want to push on and get better as players. I’m sure Sam feels he’s nowhere near where he wants to be as a player. We’re not here for a long time, so we’ve got to make the most of it.RW: What’s the biggest difference between regional and international rugby? SW: The speed the game is played at. If you look at the stats in a regional game, your match instances – the number of times you’re involved – range from 40 to 60. In international rugby your involvement is up to 80 or 90. That’s a huge increase sometimes. The Magners League is the first step, then the Heineken Cup, and it’s another big step to international rugby. That’s why I respect someone like George North coming in and having a really good game on his debut, scoring two tries.DL: Physically it’s the same, it’s just the speed it’s played at.RW: Are you two vocal in team meetings? DL: I don’t say much. If there’s something I blatantly want to get off my chest I’ll get it across, but most of the time I keep quiet and get on with my work.SW: We’re naturally quite quiet people. The longer we’re here, the more we’ll contribute, but for now we keep our heads down and do whatever we can to get picked. We’re quiet guys off the pitch, so it’s about what we feel comfortable with. Before a game some guys will bang the walls but we just sit quietly. I listen to a few songs I listened to as a kid.DL: The hokey-cokey!SW: More heavy metal, American bands like Anthrax and Metallica.DL: I just take it all in and get in my own frame of mind ready to play the match.RW: What do you bring to the Wales team? DL: Good looks! And (nodding towards Sam) personality. Strong arms as well!SW: What does Dan bring? On the defensive side of things, he’s the biggest hitter in the squad and the coaches look at Dan as an offensive tackler. So Dan’s tackling is a big plus.DL: Sam’s nickname is Count Jackula for his jackling ability. He’s good in the contact area to be fair. That’s every seven’s thing – the breakdown. If we come up against him at regional level, he’s a man to target as he slows down a lot of ball and I expect international teams do the same.Lydiate(6) and Warburton unite to stop Italy’s Sergio ParisseRW: Do you think you work well together? DL: It’s weird. We never played in the age groups together, but in our first Wales game together we just clicked really quickly.SW: I know how Dan plays now. I know that if a player is running at Dan that player is likely to be knocked backwards nine times out of ten, so I can then plan what I’m going to do, whether or not to compete at the breakdown. We will often look back at the video and we’re not far away from each other most of the time – we hunt in pairs. It does work pretty well and we’ll also have a word in each other’s ear during a game if we think a certain situation is an opportunity for a turnover. We are both young so we’re happy to talk to each other whereas we don’t want to seem patronising or bigger than our boots with the older, more experienced players.RW: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt so far? SW: I’m learning all the time and the little things I pick up from international rugby I take back to my region, then things get ingrained over time. Probably the biggest thing I take from international rugby is confidence.DL: When you come up against New Zealand and hold your own against teams like that, it’s great for confidence.RW: Who has been your toughest opponent? SW: Richie McCaw is called the best openside flanker in the world, but the one I had most trouble with was David Pocock. I’ve never played against anyone so aggressive on the ball. His upper-body strength and body position in contact are second to none. It was a massive test for me. I spent the whole 80 minutes constantly watching for where he was – man-marking someone for 80 minutes is as mentally tiring as it is physically tiring.DL: Sam’s played against him too and the hardest player I’ve come up against to tackle is Henry Tuilagi. He’s a man-mountain.SW: I’d agree with that – he’s the hardest person to tackle.RW: Have you been thinking about the World Cup? SW: I was really disappointed in the hospital last summer when I found out I had a broken jaw so I was going to miss the tour. It was all doom and gloom, but then I thought I’d have a chance to goto New Zealand next year for the World Cup. I’ve always wanted to go there.DL: I went on a family holiday in 2005 for the Lions tour. The World Cup’s always been in the back of my mind, but I just concentrate on the next game and I want to keep going well.SW: The squad is maturing and getting better all the time, so we’ve a good chance of getting to the latter stages. The main thing is to stay injury-free and look after yourself. The quarter-finals is our minimum target. We’re probably the second favourites in the group behind South Africa, but we’re confident we could beat South Africa. If we play to our potential, we can beat them.DL: If we click, then we can beat anyone.SW: Everything is in place. We’ve got training camps in Poland, Tests in the summer – everyone will be in the best condition of their careers. Lydiate (left) and Warburton (right) have been joined by Ryan Jones (centre) in Wales’ back row RW: What are your World Cup memories? SW: My best memory is of 2003 when Jonny Wikinson dropped the goal to win it – and I was supporting England at the time. Both my parents are English so I’m not like other Welsh people who hate the English and I enjoyed watching that final. I never thought I’d be able to take part in a World Cup. If someone had told me that at the time, I wouldn’t have believed them and now it’s within my grasp I’m so excited.DL: My father is English so I’ve not got a big thing about hating England either, although when I’m playing them I obviously want to beat them, like any team. I just remember the last World Cup and Wales being beaten by Fiji. That was a big loss for us.RW: What do you guys do in your spare time? DL: If I have a couple of days off I head back to see the family and do a bit on the farm. The rugby environment can be a bit of a fishbowl, so it’s good to do something out of it. The drive up to Mid-Wales from Newport can clear my head, so every couple of weeks I go there and switch off.SW: I appreciate any day off; I put my feet up and watch TV. I’ve just bought a new drum kit too, so I want to make better progress with that and play a bit more.DL: I want to learn the guitar.RW: Perhaps you could form a band with Jamie Roberts… SW: Jamie’s too cheesy for us and would cost too much money.DL: We could be Simon and Garfunkel.SW: Or Robson and Jerome. RW: What are your post-rugby plans? DL: I do want to farm. My older brother works it at the minute, so I’d go into partnership with him and live off the fruit of the land in God’s country! We lamb 700 and have 500 acres.SW: I’m quite keen on property. I like watching Property Ladder, Escape to the Country, Grand Designs, so I’d like to get into that. RW: Is there anything you’d like to add? SW: I think we’ve covered all the bases. Just that he’s weird.DL: I prefer special.A few quick fire questions with Sam… Or perhaps you’d like a digital version of the magazine delivered direct to your PC, MAC or Ipad? If so click here. For Back Issues Contact John Denton Services at 01733-385-170 visit
End of an era: After 12 years at the West Country club, Barkley will play his final game for Bath this weekendOLLY BARKLEY will start his final game for Bath Rugby at fly-half as the West Country side look to get back to winning ways in the Aviva Premiership against Sale Sharks at the Recreation Ground tomorrow, kick-off 14.15.Barkley, who it was announced last week would be leaving to join Top 14 side Racing Metro 92, has amassed over 230 appearances in the Blue, Black and White, and scored over 2160 points in his time at the Club.He re-joins Michael Claassens in the half-backs, with Stephen Donald switching to inside centre, partnering Dan Hipkiss in the midfield. Tom Biggs and Kyle Eastmond line up on the wings, as Nick Abendanon starts at fullback.In the pack, David Wilson is back at tighthead, with Paul James handed the loosehead shirt. Lee Mears continues at hooker.Dave Attwood makes his first start of the season in the second row, combining with captain Stuart Hooper. Carl Fearns, Ben Skirving and Simon Taylor complete the line-up in the backrow. Starting XV:15. Nick Abendanon, 14. Kyle Eastmond, 13. Dan Hipkiss, 12. Stephen Donald, 11. Tom Biggs, 10. Olly Barkley, 9. Michael Claassens, 1. Paul James, 2. Lee Mears, 3. David Wilson, 4. Stuart Hooper (C), 5. Dave Attwood, 6. Carl Fearns, 7. Ben Skirving, 8. Simon TaylorReplacements:16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Will Skuse, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Sam Vesty, 23 Jack Cuthbert READING, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Olly Barkley of Bath in action during the Aviva Premiership match between London Irish and Bath Rugby at Madejski Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Reading, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Speaking earlier in the week, Olly said: “I’ve had an amazing time here and I’ve made some fantastic memories, played in some amazing teams and met some wicked people, and I leave with nothing but absolute love for this place and these people.”“The task for me now is really to just concentrate on the game. It’s a big occasion for me and for my family, but most important is getting four points. We need to get back on the horse after losing the last two on the bounce and have been working very hard to right the wrongs. It’s not about me leaving, it’s about the four points, and if I can say goodbye having helped the team to a win, then I’ll be happy.”
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS SA player drain continuesSouth Africa coach Heyneke Meyer’s penchant for picking players based in Europe and Japan appears to have hastened the rush of promising players to lucrative foreign contracts. Senior Springbok players such as Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis and Duane Vermeulen have all been linked to moves in France post Rugby World Cup 2015.Their migration is unsurprising in a World Cup year, but it’s the second tier of prominent players that are also starting to head to the door at a younger age. Former SA under-20 stars Jacques du Plessis from the Bulls and Steven Kitshoff of Western Province both announced they’d be moving to France later this year. Du Plessis, 21, a massive 2.01m, 119kg athlete, who was the 2010 Youth Olympics discus champion, will join up with former Bok coach Jake White at Montpellier.Prop Kitshoff, 22, who was a member of the Junior Springbok team that won the World Championships in 2012, is heading to Bordeaux. Interestingly, as the Junior Springboks are SARU’s designated second team, neither player will be eligible to play for France, even if he qualifies through residency years from now. Veteran Bok lock Flip van der Merwe will also move to France post-World Cup, where he will join Clermont Auvergne.Varsity Cup continues to innovateThe annual Varsity Cup, featuring eight top university teams kicked off on 9 February with a usual array of interesting and occasionally offbeat innovations. This year’s tournament features a ‘white card’, which allows a captain or coach to challenge a decision and have it referred to the TMO. Each team is only allowed two referrals – one in each half.In other trial this year, the defensive scrum-half is not allowed to advance past the mouth of the scrum. The idea is to promote running rugby by giving the offensive scrum-half the chance to play the ball with less pressure. The Varsity Cup also uses two referees, which was introduced in 2014 and according to feedback from its debut season, has been a great success. The competition is becoming an important feeder into the provincial system in South Africa and in last year’s Currie Cup final between Western Province and the Golden Lions, 29 of the 44 players started their careers in the Varsity Cup.Stormer: Allister Coetzee led Stormers to the Super Rugby final in 2010WP lose coach and young lockWestern Province director of rugby Gert Smal announced that head coach Allister Coetzee would leave the union at the conclusion of the 2015 Super Rugby season. He will replace Gary Gold at Kobe Steel Kobelco in Japan after six years in charge of the Stormers and WP. In that time Coetzee led the Stormers to the Super Rugby final in 2010 and to the SA conference title in 2011 and 2012.WP also won the Currie Cup twice on his watch in 2012 and 2014. John Dobson, the WP under-21 coach will become Currie Cup head coach in 2015.In more disappointing news, 21-year-old lock Gerbrandt Grobler tested positive for the banned steroid Drostanolone during last year’s Currie Cup. He pleaded guilty to the charges in late January and was banned for two years by the South African Institute for Drugs Free Sport (SAIDS).Super Rugby pre-season causes some injury concernsGiant Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth was the most prominent player injured during a series of Super Rugby warm-up games played across the country in sweltering heat.Etzebeth suffered a chest muscle injury and will miss the first three rounds of the competition, which starts on 13 February. Etzebeth, who is still only 23, has not started the tournament since his debut season in 2012. He missed nearly half of the 2013 campaign with a foot injury sustained in a pre-season match. And last year he sat out the entire tournament with a foot injury picked up playing for the Boks against France in November 2013.On his feet: Eben Etzebeth has been injuredVermeulen takes the gongs Duane drain: Duane Vermeulen could be leaving South Africa Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen walked away from the SA Rugby awards with an armful of gongs recently. The newly appointed Stormers skipper won the SA Player of the Year title, the Super Rugby Player of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year.Bok flyhalf Handré Pollard scooped the Young Player of the Year award as well as the SA Under 20 Player of the Year.List of winners:Rugby Player of the Year: Duane VermeulenYoung Player of the Year: Handré PollardPlayers’ Player of the Year: Duane Vermeulen (DHL Stormers, Springboks)Springbok Sevens Player of the Year: Seabelo SenatlaSA Under-20 Player of the Year: Handré PollardTeam of the Year: Western Province (Currie Cup)Coach of the Year: Johann Ackermann (Golden Lions)Super Rugby Player of Year: Duane Vermeulen (Stormers)Vodacom Cup Player of the Year: Renaldo Bothma (Pumas) Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year: Nizaam Carr (Western Province)Try of the Year: Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje (Cheetahs v Crusaders, Super Rugby)
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The ‘giant awakens’ award: USAWho’d have thunk it? The star-spangled banner raining out at England’s home of rugby, Twickenham. Well, when Olympic Gold is up for grabs as it is in 2016 in Rio, the United States start to get their house in order. And so it proved. They were sensational at the London Sevens, with speedsters Perry Baker and Carlin Isles getting the crowd off their feet and Madison Hughes and Danny Barrett adding the grunt. Coached by the hugely experienced Mike Friday, don’t bet against the feat being repeated in Rio. Could the next decade see rugby taking off Stateside? Don’t bet against it.The ‘Let’s have a re-think’ award: TMO’sAs rugby cocks a snook at football and embraces technology, it seems we’ve reached out limit. It seems every decision is pored over by the TMOs. We’re not saying there’s no place for them, but surely there’s a less time-consuming way to get a decision. We’re in danger of turning rugby – traditionally a free-flowing sport – into American football with all the stoppages. Indeed, fames are now tipping over the two hour mark and we run a danger of turning off the fans, who will happily spend their money elsewhere.Coach of the Year: Gregor TownsendWhile the plaudits have rightly rained down on Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, for an almost faultless year, winning a second consecutive Championship since 1949 and going on a 10-game winning run, instead we’re going to give our gong to Gregor Townsend. The subject of opprobrium in the Andy Robinson era as a backs coach who couldn’t fire a Scottish backline, Townsend went back to Glasgow to work on his craft. Over the last three years, Glasgow have turned into a side to be respected and admired in the Pro12. The defining moment came last weekend when they tore a Munster side apart with admirable derring-do, the catalyst Leone Nakarawa – the offloading Fijian. Townsend should take huge credit for giving Glasgow a cutting edge and even more importantly, a hard edge. One imagines he won’t be short of suitors when his Glasgow tenure comes to an end.https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL6PsOY3TERzRLunOdFmx71VB4ezpgjtFZ&v=mjMho7lsb2s‘Marketing campaign of the year’ award: GuinnessSometimes advertisers just get it right. This year, those Guinness ads, dripping with nostalgia and sentiment perfectly captured the values of rugby in a series of beautifully crafted adverts to celebrate the Six Nations. Featuring Jonny Wilkinson, Shane Williams, Munster’s triumph over the All Blacks and posthumously Bill McClaren. They have over 5m hits between them. Well done, Guinness. You nailed it.Player of the Year: George FordThe big one. Many players have legitimate claims for this award. Paul O’Connell has been a totem at the heart of an Ireland pack in his 35th year, Liam Williams has played with bravery and skill to cut like a rapier through defensive lines all season and Jonny Gray has tackled, carried, hit breakdowns and inspired, yet it is George Ford who has become integral changing how England play. He has turned them into a side easy-on-the-eye that crossed the whitewash 18 times during the Six Nations, through his clever lines of running and increasingly mature, varied kicking game. It’s been absorbing to watch his progression and he could yet prove to be one of the stars of the World Cup.On the front foot: George Ford has added an attacking dimension to England’s playFinally…’the gone but not forgotten’ award: The motley crew belowDeep breath, a sad farewell to…Lee Byrne, Tom May, Ugo Monye, Chris Bell, Mark Cueto, Bakkies Botha, Ali Williams, Nathan Hines, Shane Jennings, Ian Gough, Al Kellock, Duncan Jones, Carl Hayman, Gordon D’Arcy and Brad Thorn. If we’ve left anyone out, we apologise. Warriors all, good luck in your retirement Dogs of war: Toulon boast a glut of Test greats who know how win things So, the Northern Hemisphere season has come to a thrilling conclusion leaving rugby fans counting down the days to the World Cup (okay, The Rugby Championship starts in six odd weeks). Anyway, it’s only right, to hand out some gongs. So, by no popular demand, whatsoever, here are the…RUGBY WORLD END-OF-SEASON AWARDSThe ‘Expendables’ award: ToulonIf you’re in your mid-thirties, a respected world great and looking for some sunshine and a boost to your bank balance, best get your agent to speak to Toulon. Ali Williams, Bakkies Botha, Juan Smith, Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Giteau have all profited on the Cote d’Azur. Don’t take this as a slight however, far from it. Mourad Boudjellal signs winners and their European Cup treble shows there is no lack of team spirit. It’s no wonder Samu Manoa, Ma’a Nonu and reportedly Paul O’Connell are heading there en masse next season. Who could bet against a fourth consecutive title? Incroyable.Uplifting story: Chris Henry has battled back after a heart operation to wear the green of Ireland‘Heartwarming comeback’ award: Chris HenryLast year Matthew Rees recovered from testicular cancer to return after six months. This year, it was the turn of Ulster No 7 Chris Henry, who was forced to take a break from rugby after a mini-stroke in November. He’d been taken ill on the morning of the Ireland v South Africa game and a small hole was found in his heart. Henry returned against the Cardiff Blues in late March and with a strong end to the season was included in the Ireland side to face the Barbarians. There was a heartfelt applause, then, when he crashed over for a try. Who wouldn’t back him to make the 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup? Heroic.‘Most improved player’ award: Split decisionA tough, tough call. In the Test arena, Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw came of age with a superb tournament, his crowning moment the mid-flight catch and grounding of the ball against England. Another come on at a gallop was Sale’s 6ft 7in No 8 Josh Beaumont. Playing for Fylde only six months ago, it would have taken a hard-hearted cynic not to enjoy the sight of father Bill looking down proudly as he took his England bow against the Barbarians, scoring a try in the process. In Wales, James Davies, younger brother of injured Welsh Lion Jonathan, was majestic for the Scarlets; a whirling dervish at the breakdown and with an appreciation of wide-open spaces from his Sevens days, he must have been a whisker away from Wales’ World Cup squad. Finn Russell is only 22, and after a contentious yellow card against Wales, showed a robust character and no little skill to show the Scotland No 10 shirt is in safe hands. He helped Glasgow to a first Pro12 title and along with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne hints at a hugely exciting future for Scotland at half-back.The ‘rogue’ award Yoann HugetAlways a hotly contested category, Manu Tuilagi, Dylan Hartley and Danny Cipriani have all suffered moments that have led to fans face-palming in recent weeks but Yoann Huget, the Toulouse and France wing, has had a year that leaves him peerless. A hugely talented player, he has nevertheless engaged ‘in simulation’ (read diving) against Bath, and far more seriously stamping on the face of Bordeaux lock Andre Marais. The French press have cried foul, talking of an agenda from ‘la presse Anglaise’ but the simple fact is it was a horrendously reckless piece of play. He should be held to account.The ‘jaw-dropping award: The Clermont threeAurelien Rougerie, Benjamin Kayser and Julien Pierre are all sizeable units. All over 6ft and 16st, and all revered in their home town of Clermont, the burly trio were on the end of a frightening 3am attack by an armed gang with machetes, shovels and wait for it, a sabre. All three were hospitalised, with Pierre, the most seriously injured. Arrests were subsequently made. It’s just a shame Davit Zirakashvili, Vincent Debaty and Jamie Cudmore weren’t on hand to level up the numbers! Cowardly doesn’t cover it.Deeply concerning: Mike Brown was concussed against Italy and has shown maturity in giving himself time out of the game‘Biggest impact’ award: ConcussionConcussion has dominated the agenda. With players ballooning in size, collisions are increasingly brutal. Rory Lamont, Shontayne Hape, Andy Hazell and only last week, Ashley Smith have all retired prematurely after repeated concussions. This season has been a tipping point with high-profile concussions to George North and Mike Brown, meaning scrutiny is higher than ever. Progress is being made across the board – last weekend at the Premiership two players were withdrawn after a Head Injury Assessment (HIA). As North succinctly said, ‘you only get one head’.The ‘please make it stop’ award: London WelshIn January we asked legitimately whether London Welsh were the worst Premiership side ever. A mini-furore erupted at the audacity of what was actually a factual question. Welsh ended up losing all 30 games in their season, shipping a record 1021 points in the Premiership. It led to Justin Burnell being relieved of his duties in March to be replaced by Rowland Phillips. They were poorly prepared and funded for the Premiership and were an embarrassment to an otherwise competitive competition. We can only hope the wounds incurred aren’t too deep and London Welsh, a proud club with a rich heritage, can stabilise and push for the Premiership again.Not again: Try as they might, Bristol can’t make the final leap up to the Premiership…yetThe ‘try, try and try again’ award: Bristol RFCUnlike London Welsh, Bristol RFC are seemingly one side ready and primed for the Premiership; Hugely experienced coaching team. Tick. Multi-millionnaire backer. Tick. Fanbase that would make some Premiership side cast envious eyes in their direction. Tick. On the field, they have four Lions among their ranks and some exciting youngsters, like Matthew Morgan, the Championship Player of the Year. The problem is, they’ve stumbled when it comes to the play-off Final. This year was the closest yet as they lost by a point, with the last kick to Worcester Warriors. How much longer can the wait go on? It’s been a season of intoxicating highs and soul-destroying lows in rugby, but it’s time to try and make sense of it all and hand out some awards
TAGS: Highlight Hugging the foot of the tables in the Six Nations, Pro12 and Champions Cup, is it time to face facts that Italian rugby doesn’t deserve a place at the top table? Proud nation: Italy have talented players but they are few in number Italian rugby is going in one direction, and that’s down. Some have argued that it took France a few decades to find their feet after their admittance to the Five Nations in 1910, but such comparisons are tenuous. Rugby a century ago was amateur; in fact it was a hobby more than a sport. Italy have been exposed to the same professional environment as their rivals and welcomed into the same tournaments. But to what end? As the recent World Cup demonstrated, Italy with all the opportunities they’ve been given are light years behind Argentina and Japan. They even struggled to beat Romania, a country that has been as neglected in the last 20 years as Italy have been spoiled.Time for a change: Is it time for relegation in the Six Nations to allow Georgia or Romania a crack?So it’s time to admit Italy don’t deserve their place at the top table. Relegation should be introduced to the Six Nations to allow Romania and Georgia the chance to replace Italy, while the EPCR needs to stop awarding Italy an automatic spot for the Champions Cup. Treviso never have been and never will be champions. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS We need to admit that the Great Italian Experiment has failed. The public aren’t interested and the players aren’t up to it, not at club level or in the international arena. Treviso and Zebre prop up the Pro12 table with two wins from 18 matches, and it’s questionable whether they’ll beat last season’s tally of six wins between them. Sure, there are a handful of very good Italian players but not enough to compete with the best that France and the Home Nations have to offer.Similarly, the national team have, if anything, regressed in recent seasons and one fears for them now that their one world-class player, that old warrior Sergio Parisse, is on the wane. In the 16 years since they were admitted to the Six Nations, Italy have never won more than two matches in a championship, while they have never got out of the group stage of the World Cup.Mallett era: A series of big-name coaches have taken the reins for the AzzurriGod knows, they’ve gone through some coaches in an attempt to raise their game – including John Kirwan, Pierre Berbizier, Nick Mallett and Jacques Brunel – and if the rumours are to be believed, Conor O’Shea and Ronan O’Gara could be next in line to take on European rugby’s most unenviable coaching job. My advice, boys, don’t bother. I have an admission. On Saturday afternoon I passed up the opportunity of watching my local club, Stade Francais, in the Champions Cup. I went Christmas shopping instead. Unpardonable? Perhaps, but Christmas comes round once a year while the chance to see Treviso get a thrashing is a regular eventThis time the Italians were whipped 41-14, an improvement nonetheless on the 50-17 hammering they received the previous weekend from Stade. At least Treviso scored some tries, not something they achieved in the 36-3 defeat to Leicester Tigers in round two of the Champions Cup. Their opening pool match, in case you’d forgotten, resulted in a 32-7 rout by Munster.Playing catch-up: Hugo Bonneval scorches away from Treviso defenders in their 40-14 winSo Treviso will finish bottom of pool four and with a trip to Leicester and the visit of Munster to come it looks like they’ll end the competition without a win, as they did in 2013-14. Last season they managed one victory, a 23-20 win against the Ospreys in the final group game when there was no chance of either reaching the quarters, but the statistics of the last ten years reveal a sorry tale of ineptitude from Italian clubs in Europe’s showpiece tournament.Since the 2005-06, Italian clubs have played 118 matches in the Heineken /Champions Cup. Treviso have appeared in every season, accompanied at various times by Calvisano, Viadana, Aironi and Zebre. Of those 118 matches, there have been six victories, one draw and 111 defeats.It’s worth repeating – 111 defeats in 118 matches, a mind-boggling statistic, and indisputable proof that no Italian club deserves to be in the Champions Cup. You can’t fault the commitment of the Treviso squad, though you can the club’s fans. Only 4,600 turned up to see the visit of Stade, although that was twice as many who bothered to go and watch Leicester.Not up to scratch: Italian sides have won only seven of 118 games in the Champions CupA crowd of a couple of thousand makes a mockery of the Champions Cup, particularly when on the same weekend in the Challenge Cup, 8,500 fans watched Grenoble against London Irish and 5,000 Montpellier fans paid to see their boys thrash Calvisano 64-0.
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS So long, bro: Delon and (right) Steffon Armitage have left Toulon for Lyon and Pau respectively (Getty) New arrivals include centre Anthony Tuitavake from Montpellier, and locks Leone Nakarawa from Glasgow and Gerbrandt Grobler from the Stormers. Grobler is approaching the end of a two-year ban following a positive test for the steroid Drostanolone.Racing certainty: Leone Nakarawa’s sumptuous skills have been lost to the Pro12 (Reuters/Action Images)And, of course, All Black great Ali Williams has come out of retirement to further shore up the second-row. The influx will go some way in compensating for the departure of Juandre Kruger (Toulon) and Luke Charteris (Bath), while other notable farewells were said by Mike Phillips, who joins Sale, and centre Alexandre Dumoulin, now at Montpellier.Stade FrançaisTwelve months ago the Parisians were the toast of France after their surprise Top 14 title, but the men in pink came back down to earth last season, enduring a wretched campaign that saw them finish third from bottom.Head coach Gonzalo Quesada has refused to panic, however, with perhaps his most significant addition the hiring of former All Black Greg Cooper as backs coach.Holding his nerve: Gonzalo Quesada has kept faith with the Stade squad that flopped last season (AFP)The only new player arrival is Alipate Ratini, the Fijian wing who shone for Grenoble two seasons ago before off-field problems derailed his career, while scrum-half Julien Tomas is the only major departure.ToulonThere’ll be a degree of trepidation at Toulon ahead of the new season after the defeat to Racing at the Nou Camp brought to an end the Bernard Laporte era. Not only has he stepped down as director of rugby but several big names have moved on, including the Armitage brothers, Fred Michalak, Tom Taylor, Alex Menini and Konstantin Mikautadze.As one would expect, Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal hasn’t been shy in signing replacements and Liam Gill, Marcel van der Merwe, Ayumu Goromaru and Juandre Kruger are all top-class players. Throw in a trio of experienced French stars in François Trinh-Duc, Vincent Clerc and Pierre Bernard and Toulon seem well-placed for the coming season.Toulon-bound: Liam Gill was unable to dislodge David Pocock and Michael Hooper from the Wallaby sideBut that was before Boudjellal parted company with Laporte’s successor, Diego Dominguez, at the weekend over alleged disagreements about the make-up of the coaching staff. Fabien Galthié, Stuart Lancaster and Graham Henry are just three of the names in the frame to replace Dominguez, but whoever gets the job has barely a month before the start of the new season. Bonne chance!ToulouseIt’s now five seasons since Toulouse won either the Champions Cup or the Top 14, their longest period without a major trophy since rugby went pro. It’s no secret the club suffered in the last years of Guy Noves’s 20-year tenure and the man who replaced him, Ugo Mola, has recently started to stamp his own mark on the squad.Toulouse stalwarts Clémont Poitrenaud, Romain Millo-Chluski and Vincent Clerc, who between them racked up nearly 1,000 appearances for the club, have all been released, severing an important link with the past. The loss of Louis Picamoles to Northampton is a keen blow for Mola, but that’s offset to a degree by the arrival from Castres of Scotland lock Richie Gray and the signing of All Black prop Charlie Faumuina (though the latter won’t arrive until next year). In addition, Sofiane Guitoune has been signed to replace Clerc on the wing.In the pipeline: Charlie Faumuina will swap the Blues for Toulouse but not until after the NZ-Lions seriesFor the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here. The second part of our transfer update from France’s top flight takes in heavy hitters Toulon, Racing and Montpellier. Here’s where players are heading… LyonThe runaway winners of the ProD2, Lyon lost just five of their 30 league matches and finished 31 points clear of second-placed Bayonne. It was a similar story in 2013-14, when they romped to the second division title only to be relegated after one season in the Top 14.But there have been many changes since then. Former Clermont and Toulon scrum-half Pierre Mignoni replaced Tim Lane as head coach last year, and among the new signings are a gang from Toulon in Fred Michalak, Delon Armitage, Virgile Bruni, Alexandre Menini and Theo Belan.Maselino Paulino arrives from the Scarlets and other overseas signings include Franco Mostert from the Lions and Mike Harris from Melbourne Rebels. A dozen players have been released, including former Exeter prop Hoani Tui, who joins Oyonnax.MontpellierThe team they love to hate, Montpellier made few friends last season as their no-frills, forward-based game plan won them the Challenge Cup and took them to the semi-finals of the Top 14.Head coach Jake White makes no apologies for his pragmatism, nor his reliance on southern hemisphere stars to execute his orders.There were few enough French players in the Montpellier squad last season as it was but the retirements of Nicolas Mas, Thibaut Privat and Anthony Floch, as well as the move of François Trinh-Duc to Toulon, further dilutes the club’s Gallic flavour.Having said that, among the new recruits are France centre Alexandre Dumoulin and Oyonnax prop Antoine Guillamon, while from overseas come Ben Botica (Harlequins), Nemani Nadolo (Crusaders), Joe Tomane (Brumbies) and Nico Janse van Rensburg (Bulls).A Quin no longer: Ben Botica faced his new club Montpellier in May’s Challenge Cup final (Getty Images)PauPau achieved what they set out to do last season, which was to consolidate and avoid the quick return to the ProD2 that is the fate of so many newly promoted clubs.No doubt that the signing of Steffon Armitage from Toulon was the biggest domestic transfer coup of the summer, while the arrival of another Toulon star, former All Black threequarter Tom Taylor, is another important capture.With Ben Mowen, Ibrahim Diarra and Pierrick Gunther signed to beef up the pack, Pau will be no pushover next season, particularly as the great Kiwi prop Carl Hayman has been brought in as forwards coach.Racing 92Last season confirmed that Racing 92 have usurped Toulon as the dominant club in France. They lost to Saracens in the final of the Champions Cup but triumphed over Toulon in the Top 14 finale, their first title for 26 years.Though the move to the new 32,000-capacity stadium has been delayed from January to September 2017, there is still plenty to cheer about for the Racing faithful ahead of the new season.
What’s inside the May 2018 issue of Rugby World? Here’ a look at the features in the new edition 5. Can Ireland win the World Cup?Former Ireland prop Mike Ross reflects on only a third Irish Grand Slam in history and looks ahead to the team’s chances at RWC 2019.Green dream: Ireland celebrate with the Six Nations and Triple Crown trophies (Getty Images)6. Commonwealth Games preview Ben Ryan, who guided Fiji to sevens gold at the Rio Olympics, looks ahead to the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast and makes his predictions as to who will win the medals.7. Clubs FocusClubs editor Michael Austin rounds up all the news from grass-roots clubs around the country and we reveal our Team of the Month for February. Plus, there are interviews with Scarlets fly-half Dan Jones, Glasgow flanker Matt Fagerson, Scotland Sevens Darcy Graham and England Women’s Jess Breach.Run free: Darcy Graham in action on the World Sevens Series (Getty Images)8. The Secret PlayerThis month our former pro turns his attention to young players and debates whether they get too much too soon.9. BootcampIn this month’s fitness guide the focus is on stretching and being prepared in terms of nutrition. Plus, there’s a breakfast muesli recipe.10. Club Hero Rob Harley LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS “He’s the greatest example of a team player you could find.” That’s Al Kellock on Glasgow Warriors’ record appearance maker Rob Harley – and the feature includes more tributes and stories.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. TAGS: Highlight The 50 future stars you need to know now inside Rugby WorldEveryone likes to be ahead of the curve and the new issue of Rugby World magazine will help you do just that with a rundown of the 50 future stars you need to know now.Of the names featured in our Next Generation feature in the May 2018 edition, some will be familiar and others not so, but they all have the talent to excel on the world stage.We also reflect on the 2018 Six Nations and Ireland’s historic Grand Slam in the new issue of Rugby World.Here are ten reasons to pick up a copy of RW’s May 2018 edition…1. The 50 future stars you need to know nowAs well as giving you the lowdown on the game’s next generation, we also have interviews, analysis and advice with several of those players featured. This includes:Exclusive Q&A with Ireland’s record-breaking wing Jacob StockdaleMy day off with the Simmonds brothers, Sam and Joe, who take us to the driving rangeWhat it’s like to… be an internet sensation with Taniela TupouNick Evans on the strengths of Harlequins’ teenage fly-half Marcus SmithKicking on: Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith (Getty Images)Analysis of Ireland and Leinster’s rising star Jordan LarmourUp-and-coming Wales prop Leon Brown talking scrums, debut songs and staying switched onInside the Mind of Springbok hooker Malcolm MarxAttacking tips from Italy full-back Matteo Minozzi DOWNLOAD THE DIGITAL EDITION OF RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE2. The future of rugby RW columnist Stephen Jones gazes into his crystal ball to predict what rugby should look like in ten years’ time – and in 50 years too.3. Six Nations report cardFormer England fly-half Stuart Barnes grades each of the home nations’ performances in the 2018 championship, assessing the good and the bad, and picks his World Cup XV for each.Welsh talismen: Ken Owens, Rob Evans and Alun Wyn Jones (Getty Images)4. Welcome to my club… GloucesterRW’s Alan Dymock takes a trip to Kingsholm to find out what it’s like to watch a match with the Shed Heads.
They are advised from a PR perspective by their head of comms Dom Rumbles and team services manager Enda Connolly – theirs are the phones that light up with team media managers seeking the current messaging and team managers wanting to know where things stand from the playing side. We did it: Japan’s wing Kenki Fukuoka celebrates (Getty Images) Also make sure you know about the Groups, Dates, Fixtures, Venues, TV Coverage, Qualified Teams by clicking on the highlighted links.Finally, don’t forget to follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Meanwhile, the Japanese have a team meeting and then they look at a project they have worked on together. During camp, players are asked to film short clips of each other. Generally they are just shy of two minutes long each, then they are stitched together and the team watch the videos of their journey as a group.The morning of…Some workers spend the night in the stadium to ensure everything is looked after. Others stay in a hotel near to the stadium so they can get in as soon as possible. There are officials in the ground to begin initial inspections by 4am.A mix of representatives from JR2019, regular venue managers and World Rugby’s own venue staff – there are specific teams at each site – are on the ground. Experts on safety, rigging and technology attend the inspection. World Rugby have their own match commissioners there, as they are responsible for the operation of the game – Brendan Morris is the man looking after that side.There is an ‘operations centre’ for the whole event; an office that has constant information feeding into it over the 24 hours. This is where the weather experts brief the powers that be.In this room is a blend of JR2019 bosses and senior Rugby World Cup figures – people like RWC head Alan Gilpin and general manager Rob Abernathy are the main leads in the room. There is a checklist in place when deciding if a game is on. They start from the bottom. Firstly: is the field playable? Can the teams get in and do the floodlights work? Will technology allow the TMO? They also have to look at their duty of care for the athletes.A call must also be made between local authorities and organisers too. JR2019 have seconded government experts in their ranks who can advise on policing for example.The next step is assessing how many staff and volunteers they can get in for security for the public and, say, catering. If they cannot run this at an acceptable level, the game is played behind closed doors.They have to assess the transport network – not just for fans getting to the ground, but also for getting medical services in and out of the stadium. There will have to be emergency staff in there. Will they be able to conduct HIAs? Will there be pitch-side care and independent match doctors there?As well as all this, workers begin bringing back the temporary overlay “from dawn”. The task of rigging a stadium can take two days; in Yokohama they do that job in six hours. Fans may not even notice that there are fewer merchandise areas and a reduced catering service than at previous games or that there are fewer advertising boards within the stadium.Good news on a bad dayThe decision is made that the game will go ahead. The teams are informed before 6.30am.The standard practice here would be to let the teams know two hours before the public. Broadcasters and rights holders need to get set up too. However, while the organisers are fairly certain fans can come, they cannot relay the message that it is on with only a partial official picture. They want to get all their ducks in a row before making a clear announcement.Once the head of broadcasting at the stadium confirms to their broadcasting partners it is on, at 9am, teams like ITV’s commentary group, can make for Yokohama.Both teams prepare as if it was going ahead, regardless. Japan’s prep stayed the same – back-row Pieter Labuschagne claims people weren’t clock watching, waiting for a final decision. Some go out for a coffee later, discussing the game but trying not to overthink it.The morning is a pretty slow start for the Scots too, because it’s a late kick-off. They breakfast, do a couple of walk throughs on an adjacent football pitch, there’s lunch, there’s a team meeting. Then it’s strapping up anyone that needs it and last bits of prep on the bus into the ground.Having got clearance from all the local authorities, the official announcement is made around 10.30am that fans will be able to attend the match.Pouring in: Fans arrive at the stadium prior to the game (Getty Images)And then the game is played. And whoa, what a game.After the match, coach Jamie Joseph and captain Michael Leitch dedicate their performance to the victims of Hagibis.Related: Japan 28-21 Scotland“I think it is important to acknowledge what went on last night with regards to the typhoon,” Joseph said. “We woke up this morning and nine people had been killed and 12 missing and are still missing (these numbers have changed and are still changing).“We talked about that as a team. Sometimes those sorts of things can be overwhelming, but I think it came out in the mix today. While we are celebrating, a lot of people are suffering.”His captain added: “Before the match started at the team hotel, the players already knew how this game was more than just us, that a lot of people suffered in the typhoon for this game to happen. There were guys up late last night with sponges.“We are grateful for the opportunity to inspire Japan and we showed that for 80 minutes tonight.”As 24 hours go, you don’t really get more emotions. Those involved won’t forget any of it in a hurry.Follow our Rugby World Cup homepage which we update regularly with news and features. Inside The Vital 24 Hours Before Japan v ScotlandOn Sunday night in Yokohama, Japan made history, powering into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time ever. They did so playing a uniquely Japanese style of rugby against Scotland. The match was an instant classic.Just 24 hours before, rugby fans were left wondering if the game would even go ahead. Saturday had seen cancellations as Typhoon Hagibis came roaring into our lives. It wrought devastation in certain parts of the country, with flooding and landslides claiming lives and submerging cities. Much later we would see the death toll rise beyond 80 people, with many more injured.Yet by 7.45pm on Sunday night, a packed-out International Stadium Yokohama witnessed the most anticipated game of this World Cup. How had organisers managed to stage the match so soon after such severe weather?This is all about the vital hours leading up to Japan v Scotland…Day of HagibisIn the build-up to Typhoon Hagibis arriving on Saturday night and everyone being confined to their quarters, you might have seen the clip of the Brave Blossoms wading out to the pitch at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya ground for their captain’s run through a flooded underpass. As the wind and rain whip up, the teams go about their evenings, trying to take their minds off things.The Scots are still recovering from their match against Russia on Wednesday so have to closely monitor how much time they spend on their feet. On the lower floors of their hotel, it is noticeable that the chandeliers shake in the team room – especially when the effects of the earthquake off the coast of Chiba is felt in their hotel, near Yokohama’s main train station. Generally relaxation is the watchword and many watch Ireland’s win over Samoa. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Over at the match stadium in Yokohama, an operation is in place to take down all the temporary overlay. With screaming winds and massive rainfall, anything being left out is at risk of being ripped apart, which would actually jeopardise matches. So things like the advertising hoardings, big screens, spider cam and TV rigging have to come down and be taken out the stadium.Organisers and officials have weather experts who update them regularly. From 72 to 48 hours before, a picture of Hagibis’s movements and force can be more accurately predicted, which helps with deciding which games can be on.Ultimately, the weather takes some decisions out of organisers’ hands. For example, in the lead-up to the cancellation of Canada and Namibia’s match in Kamaishi – no stranger to harrowing events – a pitch inspection cannot even begin because flooding denies them access via the roads.Related: Namibia v Canada cancelledSaying goodnight to the teamsAccording to organisers, the last time they talk to the teams on the night of the typhoon is at around 9pm, to give them their final thoughts for the night. As you can see from the picture below, by 5pm the rain is already incredibly heavy, but the design of the stadium – with its engineered floodplain, for example – informs what is described as an “incredibly optimistic” final message to the teams. This is a timeline of Yokohama’s wild ride before hosting one of the all-time great Rugby World Cup fixtures
FREE 2021 calendar with the new Rugby World magazineThe new issue of Rugby World magazine comes with a FREE 2021 calendar that celebrates British & Irish Lions tours to South Africa.The magazine itself – the January 2021 edition – recognises rugby’s real heroes. From World Cup winners to community champions, we highlight inspiring stories from around the world that encapsulate the spirit of the game.If you can’t get to the shops to buy a copy, you can now order single issues online and get the magazine delivered direct to your door – click here and select Rugby World’s Jan-21 issue.Or you can find out how to download the digital edition to your tablet here. We also have incredible Rugby World magazine subscription offers.Here are 15 reasons to buy Rugby World magazine’s January 2021 edition…1. FREE 2021 calendarGet ready for the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa with memorable images from previous trips. Plus, there are all the key rugby dates for 20212. Rugby’s Real HeroesRugby World shines a spotlight on the incredible work being done around the world with seven inspiring stories, from players helping with disaster relief in Lebanon to school meal deliveries in Richmond3. World Cup winner Rachael BurfordThe Harlequins and England centre is a driving force in the women’s game and hopes to inspire the next generation of players with the Girls Rugby ClubPower couple: Siya and Rachel Kolisi have set up a foundation to tackle inequality (Getty Images)4. South Africa captain Siya KolisiThe World Cup winner is now tackling pivotal off-field issues, like gender-based violence5. The Biggest Unsung Hero“For every bark of an underdog, we have him to thank.” RW columnist Stephen Jones pays tribute to a man who is not a familiar face but who has had a huge impact on the global game. Discover who in the latest issue!6. How rugby is taking on the mafiaFind out about a Sicilian team, Briganti, that is helping to save children from the grips of organised crimeOn the outside: Ireland’s Claire Molloy looks to get around Italy’s defence (Getty Images)7. Rugby’s Covid heroesIreland flanker Claire Molloy has been on the Covid frontline as she juggles her oval-ball career with her life as an A&E doctor while Italy back-row Maxime Mbanda has helped out with patient transport during the pandemic. Both players speak to Rugby World about their experiences TAGS: Highlight LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Plus, we celebrate rugby’s real heroes, from World Cup winners to community champions 8. Top Ten Heroic FeatsFormer England fly-half Stuart Barnes reflects on impressive acts – on and off the field – in rugby’s history, from memorable comebacks to political stands9. England prop Will StuartThe Bath tighthead talks to RW’s Alan Pearey about rowing, playing the flute and Idi AminMan in the middle: All Black Anton Lienert-Brown takes on Argentina (Getty Images)10. Anton Lienert-Brown exclusive interview“I try my best to be vulnerable.” The All Blacks centre tells RW’s Alan Dymock about the work he has put in to feel comfortable at the highest level11. Double winners Exeter ChiefsGet an insight into head coach Ali Hepher’s role in Exeter’s success story with an extract from new book Exe Men and learn how to pick and go like the Chiefs with tips from Sean Holley in The Analyst12. Scotland wing Duhan van der MerweThe Edinburgh back dispels rumours and describes his unusual route to Scotland honoursFront man: Jason Leonard leads out the Lions on the 1997 tour (Getty Images)13. Jason Leonard’s Life in PicturesThe England stalwart and current British & Irish Lions chairman takes a stroll down memory lane14. Wales scrum-half Gareth DaviesThe Scarlets No 9 on pranks, dogs and unwise purchases15. European Champions CupWe explain the new format and look ahead to the opening rounds while former Test hooker Benjamin Kayser assesses the chances of the French clubsPlus, there’s all this…Bristol defence coach Omar Mouneimne talks efficient communicationNutrition advice on supporting your immune systemAustralian Sevens veteran Sharni WilliamsThe Secret Player on the rise of rugby podcastsInside the mind of… referee Andrew BraceGrass-roots club news and our latest Team of the MonthClub hero… Wasps head of medical services Ali JamesA rugby rant on the lack of plaudits for propsSimon Raiwalui on the state of play in Fijian rugbyWhere should World Rugby’s next big push be? A debateRising Stars Louis Lynagh and Craig CaseyThe Secret Referee on kidologyThe January 2021 issue of Rugby World magazine is on sale from 1 December 2020 to 4 January 2021. Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Comment: New Women’s Six Nations format must not be permanent changeWhen the announcement came that the Women’s Six Nations would go ahead in April, I breathed a sigh of relief, particularly as the tournament last year was blighted with postponements.To know teams will play International matches ahead of the World Cup is a massive positive for the game. I hope countries across the world can find a way for their women’s teams to get matches under their belt too.I’m also ecstatic to finally see the women’s competition taking place separately to the men’s. Allowing the women’s game to stand alone will demonstrate to the powers that be that women’s rugby is popular and worthy of more investment. England celebrate winning the Women’s Six Nations (Getty Images) If organisers want this sort of tournament, introduce a Women’s Autumn Nations Cup – you could even involve countries from outside of Europe to widen its appeal – but don’t replace a Six Nations format that has worked well for years.If the pool structure continued beyond 2021, depending on group draws, we may not see an England v Wales match for a few years. Players and fans would be deprived of a huge rugby rivalry.We would also see a reduction in the number of Tests played in a year. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that both players and fans alike crave international sport and to reduce the number of matches is, to me, illogical.I know there are plans to introduce a global tournament to the international calendar. But even if this goes ahead I don’t see any justification for diminishing the Women’s Six Nations.The women’s game is building to be in a position for a ‘Super Saturday’ where a number of teams could win the tournament. The new format would see this exciting opportunity reduced to a one-off final.So, yes, I am over the moon the Women’s Six Nations is being held separately to the men’s. It will allow it to grow its audience and secure more financial backing.But organisers should see the new format as a temporary fix for the times we’re in. Come 2022, they should return to the full schedule to give the women’s championship the respect it deserves. A standalone window for the women’s championship is great, a condensed schedule is not, says Sarah Rendell Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS New Women’s Six Nations format must not be permanent changeOf course, the glaring difference in the tournament this year is its format. It will follow the Autumn Nations Cup schedule of a pool stage that leads to a final, but ultimately means two fewer matches than normal for each team.Related: New format for 2021 Women’s Six NationsWhile I understand a condensed schedule is needed for this year’s Women’s Six Nations, I don’t agree with the suggestion that this new format should stay.