Billy Vunipola formally warned by Saracens after defending Israel Folau over homophobic comments

15 Apr

Saracens have formally warned  Billy Vunipola about his future conduct after he made ‘a serious error of judgement’ by defending a homophobic Instagram post by Israel Folau.

The England forward posted a message on Instagram on Friday that includes the line ‘Man was made for woman to procreate that was the goal no?’.

Vunipola was acting in support of Australia full-back and fellow devout Christian Folau, who stated on social media that ‘hell awaits’ for ‘homosexuals’.

Billy Vunipola has been warned about his future conduct by Saracens

Saracens – who held ‘lengthy discussions’ on Sunday with the number eight – said in a statement: “At Saracens, we are one family, open to all with the firm view that everyone should be treated equally with respect and humility.

“We recognise the complexity of different belief systems and understand Billy’s intention was to express the word of God rather than cause offence.

“However, he made a serious error of judgement in publicly sharing his opinion, which is inconsistent with the values of the club and contravenes his contractual obligations. The player has been formally warned about his future conduct.”

Vunipola insisted that his “intention was never to cause suffering” but stopped short of offering an apology in a statement on Saracens’ website.

Israel Folau’s comments drew widespread criticism

He said: “I can see that my recent post has hurt people. My intention was never to cause suffering. My intention was to express my belief in the word of God.

“These beliefs are a source of great strength, comfort and guidance in my life. This is deeply personal and does not represent the views of my team.

“Anyone who knows me, knows I live with kindness and love towards ALL people.

“I have faith. My Christian faith has sustained me through the ups and many downs of my life. God has given and continues to give me many reasons in life to be grateful.”

England 37-18 Australia: Red Rose end 2018 with sixth straight win over Wallabies

24 Nov

England ended 2018 and their autumn Test series on a high with a 37-18 victory over Australia at Twickenham.

It was the Red Rose’s sixth successive victory over the Wallabies, as head coach Eddie Coach got another one over his native side, while Owen Farrell scored 22 points.

England lift the Cook Cup after a sixth straight win over Australia

The old enemies were deadlocked at 13-13 entering half-time but blistering tries from Elliot Daly and Joe Cokanasiga opened up daylight before the win became a rout when Owen Farrell touched down in the closing stages.

Apart from losing their way in the second quarter, England dominated the Cook Cup showdown with man of the match Kyle Sinckler, Jonny May and Cokanasiga outstanding.

Victory was secured against one of the poorest Wallaby teams seen at Twickenham in recent years, the tourists enfeebled by the loss of David Pocock to a neck injury and tumultuous build up due to senior players Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper being disciplined for bringing women back to their hotel rooms.

Among the biggest roars of the afternoon was reserved for Manu Tuilagi, who finally made his first Test appearance for two years as a final-quarter replacement having overcome a groin strain.

Manu Tuilagi finally made his England return

Once again in an eventful autumn, controversy reigned as Farrell escaped punishment for his shoulder charge on Izack Rodda as the galloping Australia lock approached the line on the stroke of half-time.

It was an illegal challenge that could have been punished by a red card but referee Jaco Peyper – who endured a poor afternoon – declared it was shoulder to shoulder despite protests from the Wallabies.

Sir Clive Woodward, speaking in his role as TV pundit, said “England have got away with that one”, claiming a penalty try should have been awarded. Farrell was lucky to avoid censure for a similar hit in the autumn opener against South Africa.

It took just 133 seconds for England to take the lead as Mark Wilson broke from a rapidly advancing scrum and fed Ben Youngs, who took a few steps before supplying May with a simple try.

Australia ran aimlessly at times with only the kicking of Matt Toomua asking any questions and summing up their muddled play was a moment when Scott Sio and Samu Kerevi collided in midfield as they jogged into position.

Toomua scored two penalties and a conversion for the Wallabies

But taking advantage of Genia’s intercept of a pass thrown by Ben Te’o, they made inroads that ended when Dane Haylett-Petty appeared to have crossed despite a forward pas from Kerevi.

Peyper awarded the try immediately and it was only as Toomua was about to take the conversion and the forward pass was replayed on the big screen that the South Africa official called for the TMO’s assistance and the score was ruled out.

Peyper blundered again when he gave only a penalty for Rodda’s tip-tackle on May but at least England were able to take a 13-3 lead with the ensuing penalty by Farrell.

A brilliant line taken by the gliding Israel Folau helped narrow the gap to three points, but he found the hole between Farrell and Maro Itoje too easily amid a general decrease in defensive aggression from Eddie Jones’s men.

Farrell scored 22 points for England

Once a large scuffle had died down early in the second half, England surged back in front with a try out of nothing, Farrell seeming to run out of options until Daly began a perfectly-timed run that saw his raw pace sweep him over the whitewash.

Daylight was opened up when an attack down the left was revived by a weak tackle from Haylett-Petty, who bounced off Cokanasiga to create a gap that the powerful Bath wing sped through to score under the posts.

Cokanasiga almost added a second shortly after, catching a high ball and racing off, side-stepping Toomua before being stopped just short of the line. May then a try disallowed for ball in touch.

The result was sealed when Farrell sped through a vast hole in Australia’s disintegrating defence, but Folau had the final say in injury time.

England v Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale dropped after bringing women back to hotel room

23 Nov

Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale will play no part for Australia against England after boss Michael Cheika dropped the experienced duo for bringing women back to the team hotel last weekend.

The offence was deemed to be a breach of team protocol and meant the backs were not even considered for selection.

Beale and Ashley-Cooper will play no part against England

Just a day before the final Quilter Autumn International, the already incredible scandal gets even more bizarre as it was revealed one of the women was Ashley-Cooper’s sister-in-law.

It is understood the pair brought a group of three women – Ashley-Cooper’s sister-in-law and two of her friends – back to the team hotel in Newport in the hours after the 9-6 defeat against Wales on 10 November in Cardiff.

Although the three women left the hotel by 10:30pm that night, the team’s rules state that no guests are allowed at any time and after senior players including captain Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Allan Alaalatoa, Samu Kervi and Nick Phipps escalated it to Cheika, a decision was taken to ban them from selection for one Test.

With Pocock already unavailable for the crunch game at Twickenham, the Australia boss was made aware of the indiscretion on Monday, when other senior players approached him after deeming their actions unacceptable given it went against their own rules.

Beale ran riot at Twickenham in 2015

He said: “”It’s a relatively minor rule we have and no third parties are involved, it’s just inside our team.

“The leadership group came to me earlier in the week and asked me to deal with it in a way I thought was appropriate and I thought this was the appropriate way.”

Beale has a great record against England, scoring twice in 2010 before helping dump Stuart Lancaster’s side out of the World Cup in 2015.

 

Australia number eight David Pocock withdraws from England clash with neck injury

23 Nov

Australia have been dealt a blow ahead of their Cook Cup clash against England with David Pocock withdrawing from the team because of a neck injury.

Pocock, the number eight, has been nursing the problem all season but it became more severe after taking a blow against Italy last weekend, making his involvement at Twickenham dependent on a fitness test today that he has failed.

Australia have been dealt a blow on the eve on Saturday’s clash

The 30-year-old Brumbies star, an accomplished breakdown specialist, had been identified by England earlier in the week as Australia’s greatest threat.

A replacement has yet to be named by the Wallabies.

Pocock aggravated his injury playing against Italy

Eddie Jones named his England team for Saturday’s clash on Thursday, recalling Manu Tuilagi to the bench as he’s recovered from a groin injury.

Tuilagi is joined among the replacements by Dylan Hartley, who has dropped out the starting line-up to be replaced by Jamie George.

England team vs Australia: Daly; Cokanasiga, Slade, Te’o, May; Farrell, Youngs; Moon, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Lawes, Shields, Underhill, Wilson.

Replacements: Hartley, Hepburn, Williams, Ewels, Hughes, Wigglesworth, Ford, Tuilagi

England rugby news: Manu Tuilagi joins Dylan Hartley on bench for final Autumn International vs Australia after recovering from groin injury

22 Nov

Manu Tuilagi and Dylan Hartley have been named on the bench for England’s final Autumn International against Australia.

Tuilagi is set to make his first appearance of the autumn series when it reaches its climax on Saturday, having missed the opening three games because of a groin strain.

Tuilagi will make just a single appearance in the autumn series

In a surprise selection, the Leicester centre is joined among the replacements by England co-captain Hartley, who loses out to Jamie George in the race to start as hooker.

Whenever England have played top opposition, Hartley has been first choice in the position since Eddie Jones took over at the end of 2015, but is now confined to a bench role.

The 32-year-old started the Tests against South Africa and New Zealand earlier this month, but was demoted for Japan’s visit to Twickenham and was expected to be restored to the starting XV for the climax to the Quilter Internationals.

Jack Nowell was due to be named on the right wing only to be ruled out by what is thought to be a hamstring injury, giving Joe Cokanasiga the chance to win his second cap.

Ben Te’o returns at inside centre as one of nine changes made to the side that laboured to a 35-15 victory over Japan.

The first choice half-back pairing of Owen Farrell and Ben Youngs are reunited, while Jonny May is back on the left wing as England target a sixth successive victory over Australia.

Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje form the second row partnership, Brad Shields features at blindside flanker and Sam Underhill will look to pick up where he left off against New Zealand in the number seven jersey.

England rugby news: Chris Ashton ruled out of final Autumn International against Australia with calf injury

20 Nov

Chris Ashton’s international comeback has stalled after the England wing was ruled out of Saturday’s climax to the autumn series against Australia by a calf problem.

Ashton will be limited to three appearances this month due to the injury sustained in the 35-15 victory over Japan at Twickenham, a scan confirming that he will be sidelined for a fortnight.

The 31-year-old sent for a scan on the injury and was forced to miss training on Tuesday morning.

Ashton became available for England once more when he left Toulon for Sale over the summer and Eddie Jones immediately selected him in his squad for the Quilter Internationals.

When Manu Tuilagi was ruled out of the opener against South Africa because of a groin strain, he was cleared to win his 40th cap and first in over four years.

“Chris Ashton was hurt in the game on Saturday,” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.

“He’s been scanned and investigated and unfortunately the injury means he will be out for a couple of weeks. He’ll leave camp today (Tuesday).

“Chris is a fantastic player who knows his way to the try-line. He’s been great around the squad the last few weeks. It’s very disappointing he’s out.”

Ashton fell out of favour under Stuart Lancaster and then Jones, whose opportunities to pick the dual code international were restricted by a succession of bans.

Ashton scored a try in England’s slim 16-15 defeat to New Zealand

He made only one appearance for Sale this season due to a seven-week suspension incurred for a tip-tackle before being picked by England.

Jonny May and Jack Nowell are set to be restored to the wings for the first time since the series opener against South Africa, but Bath powerhouse Joe Cokanasiga is a fringe contender to start.

Cokanasiga produced a promising debut against Japan, using his 6’4” and 18 stones frame to good effect to score the decisive try and make a number of dents on the Brave Blossoms line.

However, having just turned 21-years-old the Wallabies might be deemed too big a hurdle to face.

“Joe did really well. He’s got massive potential and is really eager to learn and hungry to learn,” Borthwick said.

“Physically he’s got some great attributes and attitude wise he wants to be the best he can be. He’s a young guy who has a lot of potential.”

Tuilagi is unlikely to be involved on Saturday as he continues his battle for full fitness, but the Leicester centre remains with the squad and has yet to be officially ruled out against Australia.

“Manu trained very hard this morning (Tuesday) and has another session today. He’s working really hard to get as fit as possible, so we’ll keep assessing him,” Borthwick said.

England rugby news: Danny Care dropped from squad for final autumn Test against Australia, Nathan Hughes returns

19 Nov

Danny Care has been dropped from the England team for Saturday’s autumn finale against Australia at Twickenham.

The scrum-half scored the opening try in Saturday’s laboured 35-15 victory over Japan but he, centre Alex Lozowski and number eight Zach Mercer have all been axed to make way for Manu Tuilagi, Piers Francis and Nathan Hughes.

Danny Care scored England’s first try in a 35-15 victory over Japan

Tuilagi has yet to feature this autumn because of injury, but Eddie Jones is hopeful he will be available to face the Wallabies at the weekend.

Number eight Hughes is poised to make his England comeback against Australia after completing a six-week ban for punching and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the game – the latter charge incurred for tweeting “what a joke” at the disciplinary process.

The Fijian-born Wasps forward is likely to be involved in the matchday 23 named by Eddie Jones on Thursday and will supply a ball-carrying threat at number eight where Mercer and Mark Wilson have been providing cover.

Nathan Hughes is set to return for England after serving a six-week ban

Saracens centre Lozowski has paid the price for waving Ryoto Nakamura through under the posts for one of Japan’s two touch downs, a mistake that saw him replaced by Owen Farrell at half-time.

His removal opens the door to Northampton’s Francis, who won the most recent of his four caps as a second-half replacement in the first Test of the summer tour to South Africa.

Richard Wigglesworth, a second-half replacement on Saturday, will deputise for Ben Youngs from the bench against Australia after ousting Care.

England will look to end their autumn Test series on a high against the Aussies after two victories from their first three matches – with wins over South Africa and Japan coming either side of a narrow 16-15 defeat to New Zealand.

England head coach Eddie Jones

England squad vs Australia:

Forwards: Charlie Ewels, Jamie George, Dylan Hartley, Alec Hepburn, Ted Hill, Nathan Hughes, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Ben Moon, Brad Shields, Kyle Sinckler, Elliott Stooke, Sam Underhill, Harry Williams, Mark Wilson.

Backs: Chris Ashton, Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Piers Francis, Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Ben Te’o, Manu Tuilagi, Richard Wigglesworth, Ben Youngs.

Wales 9-6 Australia gives Warren Gatland’s side first win against Wallabies since 2008

10 Nov

Wales’ 13-game hoodoo against Australia has finally ended as substitute Dan Biggar’s late penalty gave them a 9-6 victory in Cardiff.

Leigh Halfpenny missed two easy first-half penalties that looked to have derailed the home support’s hopes of a first victory against the Wallabies since 2008.

But Halfpenny, the third-highest scorer in Welsh international rugby history behind Neil Jenkins and Stephen Jones with more than 700 points, managed two successful strikes off the tee before Biggar came up trumps.

Australia hadn’t lost to Wales in 13 games

Halfpenny was off the pitch, having been felled by a high tackle, which meant Biggar assumed kicking duties as he edged Wales home after Bernard Foley and Matt Toomua kicked penalties for Australia.

The Wallables’ defeat will now turn up the heat on head coach Michael Cheika as they suffered an eighth loss from their last 10 matches.

It was a game that will not live long in the memory, one that was littered with errors, yet Wales will not care one iota.

In addition to ending the losing sequence, they also made it seven wins on the bounce against all opponents for a first time since 2004-05 and landed a psychological blow before the countries meet again as World Cup pool rivals in Tokyo next September.

This was Wales’ first win against the Aussies since 2008

Eddie Jones leaves Danny Cipriani out of England rugby squad for autumn Tests, but Ben Morgan earns recall

18 Oct

Eddie Jones has left Danny Cipriani out of his England squad for the upcoming autumn internationals.

The 30-year-old has enjoyed an impressive start to the season for new club side Gloucester, picking up the Gallagher Premiership Player of the Month for September.

However, he has not done enough to make the 36-man group for the Tests against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

In August, he was arrested for an incident at a nightclub in Jersey and plead guilty to assault on a bouncer. He was fined by his club, but cleared by the RFU last month to play for his country having made the squad for the Test series against South Africa in the summer.

Owen Farrell and George Ford are present as the recognised fly-halves, although Henry Slade and Alex Lozowski provide cover in the position.

“We have got two good 10s,” said Jones. “It is tough on Danny but he is third choice at the moment.”

For the first time in Jones’ reign, Dylan Hartley must share the leadership duties with Farrell after the pair were named co-captains.

England's Autumn Internationals

  • v South Africa – 3/11/18
  • v New Zealand – 10/11/18
  • v Japan – 17/11/18
  • v Australia – 24/11/18

Ben Morgan has been picked for the first time since the 2015 World Cup as a result of the crisis at number eight which has seen Billy Vunipola and Sam Simmonds ruled out of the entire series by injury and Nathan Hughes miss all but the final match due to suspension.

Wing Chris Ashton is present despite having yet to make his debut for Sale with his seven-week ban for a tip-tackle elapsing this weekend.

Ben Morgan and Chris Ashton are back in the England squad however

Manu Tuilagi has overcome a succession of injuries to win inclusion and he will be competing with Ben Te’o – who has not played this season because of thigh and ankle problems – for selection in midfield.

England’s loosehead prop resources have been decimated by Mako Vunipola’s absence due to a calf issue and the international retirement of Joe Marler, leaving Alex Hepburn and Ben Moon as the only recognised options in the position.

The squad contains eight uncapped players and confirms the decline of veterans Dan Cole and James Haskell, who have been omitted once more.

Jones’ outlook on a punishing series that opens against the Springboks at Twickenham on November 3 remains positive despite missing 18 players to injury, suspension and retirement.

He said: “I’m really happy with the squad. We can only control what we can control and injuries have happened.

“It gives an opportunity for some good new players to play some important Tests for England while players who have been in the squad before, will have to take on more responsibility.”

The final autumn series before the 2019 World Cup is opened by the Springboks’ visit to Twickenham on November 3.

“South Africa have been going really well. They have a new coach and have selected well,” said Jones, whose England team fell to a 2-1 series defeat to Rassie Erasmus’ men in June.

“They play a traditional Springbok game up front and move the ball wide when they need to. We’ll need to take them on up front and when we have opportunities to score points we have to be good enough to take them.”

Australia 16-20 Ireland – Tourists hang on to seal Test series victory

23 Jun

Ireland signed off from their Grand Slam season with one last high as they edged a tense decider 20-16 in Sydney to claim a first series win in Australia since 1979.

Ireland signed off their grand slam season with another brilliant win

A record 44,085 crowd packed into Allianz Stadium for its final Test match, but there was no fond farewell for the Wallabies, who could not make their late pressure pay as Ireland hung on desperately at the end of a long campaign.

They have had more impressive wins in 2017/18, but this one was all guts as they tackled their hearts out, struck through a CJ Stander maul try and clung on for dear life.

Referee Pascal Gauzere and his television match official Ben Skeen were central figures until the death, reviewing the last play several times before deciding that Jacob Stockdale was not guilty of deflecting Bernard Foley’s pass before it flew into touch.

At the end of three absorbing games, it was a cliff-hanger finish.

Ireland started by taking the lead after eight minutes as Johnny Sexton punished Adam Coleman not rolling away.

But, after a quiet 80 minutes in Melbourne, Israel Folau was determined to have an influence and he claimed a second spectacular restart, allowing Kurtley Beale to chip in behind where Rob Kearney carried the ball over his own line and then put a foot in touch.

Irish fans have been treated to some superb rugby from their side this season

Australia’s initial attack came up short, but an Irish offside handed Foley the chance to level.

A promising Ireland move came to an abrupt end when David Pocock got over the ball, but the Wallabies suffered a big blow when captain Michael Hooper suffered a hamstring injury and was forced off.

A high fend from winger Stockdale drew the attention of Skeen and Gauzere opted for a yellow card for the youngster. Foley further punished the offence with a fine penalty to put his side in front.

Sexton equalised after Pete Samu played Conor Murray off the ball and, just as Stockdale returned with no damage done, Australia lost Folau for 10 minutes for playing Peter O’Mahony in the air off the kick-off.

The Ireland captain joined his opposite number off the pitch, but the team were not deterred and Sexton nudged his side in front after another set of phases came to nothing.

Foley levelled, but Kearney’s pressure forced Dane Haylett-Petty to knock Sexton’s well-judged kick-off on and, when Samu Kerevi picked the ball up in an offside position, the Ireland out-half made it 12-9 at the break.

Australia players react to their defeat at the Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Ireland went for the jugular in the minutes after half-time, turning down successive penalties to go to the corner and they got their reward at the second attempt as they mauled their way over for Stander to touch down.

Sexton missed a kickable conversion and Ireland led by eight, but they immediately came under pressure after conceding a scrum penalty in front of their own posts.

Australia went to the corner and, while Folau knocked on with he line beckoning, a Murray off-side handed them another shot and this time they went through 13 phases before Foley’s delicate chip popped up for Marika Koroibete, who powered through Kearney and Sexton to score.

Leinster’s Johnny Sexton scored five penalties for Ireland

Foley made it a one-point game and with all of the momentum behind them and their front-row replacements making a huge impact the Wallabies piled pressure on, but Foley missed a chance to put them in front from the touchline.

A Kerevi line break came to nothing when Foley knocked on, but Ireland were hanging on by their finger-tips.

But when Tolu Latu was penalised for not releasing the tackler a fatigued Sexton nailed a tough penalty to stretch the lead to four.

Folau superbly claimed the restart and, with less than a minute remaining, the home side went searching for a winning try. Folau surged forward and Foley looked to find the men on his shoulder, but his pass flew into touch.

For one last time, referee Gauzere went to the television match official to investigate whether Stockdale had touched the ball and, after several slow-motion replays, they decided there was no clear evidence of an offence.

Ireland celebrated wildly at the whistle, Australia looked stunned and the home fans booed as a memorable series proved dramatic until the death.

Ireland celebrate their first series victory in Australia for 39 years