When is the next British and Irish Lions tour? Warren Gatland confirmed as Head Coach for South Africa tests

12 Jun

Warren Gatland has confirmed he will take charge of his third British and Irish Lions tour when they make the trip to South Africa.

Gatland lead the Lions to a dramatic series draw against New Zealand in 2017 and a 2-1 series win over Australia in 2013.

Warren Gatland will take charge of his third British and Irish Lions tour in South Africa in 2021
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The Kiwi is now set to do so again when Home Nations team travel to the face the Springboks.

Gatland will relinquish his role as Wales boss after the upcoming World Cup and will then start his official Lions duties in August 2020.

That’ll give him plenty of time to consider his options for the trip to Africa along with new Lions Chairman Jason Leonard and first full-time managing director Ben Calveley.

British and Irish Lions tour: When is it?

The Lions will head to South Africa for their tour in the summer of 2021.

While exact dates have not been confirmed as of yet, the tour will likely take place throughout June and culminate in early July.

The 2021 tour will be shorter than recent editions of the showpiece event.

The Lions have tended to play ten matches during the trips but will compete in a total of eight games this time around.

That will include a three-match test series against South Africa plus five additional games against local teams.

Warren Gatland ‘s Lions drew with New Zealand on their tour in 2017
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British and Irish Lions tour: What has Warren Gatland said?

On being confirmed as the Lions Head Coach once again, Gatland said: “I’m hugely honoured and delighted to lead the Lions again.

“It is exciting and a great challenge to coach the best players from the four Home Nations.

“The Lions rightly have a truly special place in the game and I jumped at the chance to be involved again when I was approached about the role.

“South Africa is a special place to play rugby.

“They have some of the most iconic stadiums in the world which will be packed full of passionate fans, and the Springboks have shown in recent times that they are back to being one of the dominant forces in the game.

“Having toured there in 2009 I know the scale of the task ahead of us – playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges such as playing at altitude, while the Boks will always be physical, aggressive and highly motivated.

“History tells you it’s a tough place to tour, but I am 100 per cent confident that we can go there and win. I would not be here if I thought differently.

“I’m delighted to now have everything in place to begin full-time in August 2020 as that gives me the best possible chance to plan for South Africa, but for the time being my focus is entirely on the Rugby World Cup and delivering a successful campaign for Wales.”

Leigh Halfpenny: Wales full-back to miss South Africa clash due to concussion

20 Nov

Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny has been ruled out of Saturday’s clash against South Africa in the Under Armour Series.

Halfpenney suffered concussion following a challenge by Australia centre Samu Kerevi when Wales beat the Wallabies 10 days ago.

Halfpenny’s absence was confirmed on Tuesday

Kerevi escaped sanction following the incident, but Wales have now lost 80 times-capped Halfpenny for the Springboks fixture.

Leigh is out,” Wales assistant coach Rob Howley told reporters at Wales’ training base on Tuesday.

“He did some training on Saturday morning, and he was still feeling a little bit light-headed.

“It is just a commonsense approach, really. A player’s welfare comes first. He unfortunately misses out this weekend.”

Wales have options in the number 15 shirt, with Liam Williams, who started on the wing and scored two tries against Tonga last weekend, one candidate.

And fly-half Gareth Anscombe could be another contender as Wales look to complete a first clean sweep of autumn Test victories.

They are also chasing a ninth successive win against all opponents, which would equal their longest unbeaten run since 1999.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is due to announce his startling line-up on Thursday.

Gatland’s team end the Under Armour Series against South Africa

Halfpenny is Wales’ first-choice goalkicker and has amassed more than 700 points for his country, but Wales also have strong options in that area with the likes of Anscombe, Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell.

Howley, meanwhile, confirmed that wing George North is back in training after suffering a dead leg during the Wallabies clash.

“I’m glad to say George North is back in full training,” Howley added. “He trained this morning and is available for selection.”

England 12-11 South Africa: Eddie Jones’ men extinguish bad memories of Summer Tour after surviving late Owen Farrell scare

3 Nov

England showed incredible resolve and determination to grind out a 12-11 win over South Africa at Twickenham to make a dream start to their Autumn International Series.

After an awful 2018, Eddie Jones would have delighted to see the response his players delivered – although it could have ended in tears at the death.

Farrell was superb for England at Twickenham

Co-captain Owen Farrell was fortunate to escape a penalty and potential sending off after appearing to tackle with his shoulder with the clock well past 80 minutes.

However, the fly-half escaped retrospective punishment from the TMO and the result was confirmed.

For the first time in four years, New Zealand will play at the home of English rugby in a potential blockbuster of a game. On this evidence, they will certainly have to be at their best to defeat a dogged England side.

More to follow…

Rugby union news: Manu Tuilagi ruled out of England v South Africa, Chris Ashton replaces him in squad

2 Nov

Manu Tuilagi has been ruled out of England’s first autumn Test against South Africa with a minor groin strain.

Eddie Jones’ side get their autumn internationals underway against the Springboks at Twickenham on Saturday.

But they will be without Leicester Tigers star Tuilagi, who suffered the injury during a training session on Thursday.

Manu Tuilagi has suffered a fresh injury setback for England

Chris Ashton, who was initially left out of the matchday 23 by boss Eddie Jones, has been confirmed as his replaced on the bench.

Tuilagi was poised to make his first Test appearance since 2016 as a second-half impact replacement, following a wretched run of serious groin, hamstring and knee injuries.

It appears to be only a minor setback at this stage, but alarm bells will still be ringing given his injury history.

Scrum head coach Neal Hatley said on Friday: “Manu’s disappointed. He desperately wanted to play for England again.

“It’s just a small strain and he’ll back training with us on Sunday.

“He’d put a good run in with his club, but he’s buoyed by the fact that he’ll be back in to prepare for New Zealand next weekend.”

Ashton has returned to the England set-up after a year in France

Ashton will win his 40th cap from the bench to end his four-year international exile after falling out of favour with successive England coaches, incurring a series of long-term bans and spending a season at Toulon.

The dual code wing joined Sale over the summer, however, to make him available for selection by Jones.

Hatley added: “It’s brilliant for Chris Ashton who made the decision to come back from Toulon where life was very comfortable for him.

“To bring someone like him back in is brilliant.”

The starting XV remains unchanged with co-captain Owen Farrell directing operations at fly-half and Ben Te’o present at inside centre despite being limited to 28 minutes of rugby since May because of thigh and calf injuries.

“Ben’s been brilliant. He’s a big game player. He really steps up when the big Tests come around,” Farrell said.

Farrell keeps his place at fly-half

“For me playing fly-half is similar to playing centre. Picking another fly-half at 12 doesn’t mean he turns into a different player overnight. I was still myself.”

England fell to a 2-1 series defeat to South Africa in June and face a strong Springboks line-up containing the likes of Duane Vermeulen, Malcolm Marx and Eben Etzebeth.

“We need to make sure we pitch up in the right state because it’ll a hell of a battle up front. We’ve got to be ready for everything. We’ve got so much talent in this team,” Farrell said.

England starting XV v South Africa

15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 21 caps)

14 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 26 caps)

13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 13 caps)

12 Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors, 13 caps)

11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 37 caps)

10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 61 caps) co-captain

9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 77 caps)

1 Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs, 2 caps)

2 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 93 caps) co-captain

3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 13 caps)

4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 22 caps)

5 George Kruis (Saracens, 25 caps)

6 Brad Shields (Wasps, 2 caps)

7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 4 caps)

8 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 4 caps)

Courtney Lawes set to miss England’s clash with South Africa after sleeping a bed that was too small

29 Oct

Courntey Lawes is a huge doubt for England’s Autumn Series opener against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

Lawes left the Portugal training camp on Friday with a back injury to return home in order to receive specialist treatment after initially suffering the injury before the Saints’ defeat to Leicester Tigers earlier this month.

Lawes is set to miss the Autumn Series opener against South Africa

The British and Irish Lions lock pulled out of the game during the warm-up after suffering a back spasm that Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd revealed was the result of sleeping in a hotel bed that was too small for his 6’7” frame.

He is due to return to Vilamoura on Monday evening but given that he will not be able to train fully until Thursday – on the morning the team is announced – his chances of being involved have faded.

“Courtney had a walk through on Wednesday and realised it wasn’t right. Our medical team got on to it straight away,” England head coach Eddie Jones said.

“He was investigated here, we couldn’t get the required treatment here so had to send him back.

“At the moment it seems like it’s had the required effect and we’ll just wait and see how he comes in tonight (Monday).

“He’s had the injury for a while. He missed two games for Northampton. He came back and played a game but it hasn’t really rectified itself.

“We’re hopeful he’ll do some light training on Tuesday. Maybe he’ll do some full training on Thursday and we’ll make an assessment on whether he’s right to go.

“He’s a 60-capper, a Lions player, great ball carrier, a good defender. A big loss, so we’ve just got to pick up the slack.”

If Lawes if ruled out as expected, Saracens pair Maro Itoje and George Kruis are set to form the second row.

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.”

South Africa 10-25 England: Eddie Jones’ men end five-game losing run with victory at Newlands

23 Jun

England’s five-Test losing run came to an end as Owen Farrell marked his first win as captain by kicking six penalties in a 25-10 victory over South Africa at Newlands.

The series had already been surrendered following defeats in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, but in Cape Town they salvaged some pride with a gutsy display that grew in purpose in the second half.

Mark Wilson, Chris Robshaw and Harry Williams celebrate the win

What started as an ugly spectacle scarred by repeated mistakes eventually developed into a tense climax to the tour that produced two eye-catching moments for both teams, Jess Kriel’s try for the hosts cancelled out by a scorching Jonny May effort.

Danny Cipriani, making his first Test start for a decade, had been a peripheral figure until he delivered the perfect chip into the right corner where May’s electric pace enabled him to win the foot race.

But the biggest winning margin of the series was primarily about the boot of Farrell, who finished with a 20-point haul, and the renewal of English forward might after passive performances in the first two Tests.

The penalty count that had been so damaging at Ellis Park and Free State Stadium was turned on its head with the favourable 14-6 statistic enabling Eddie Jones’ men to keep their foot on the Springboks’ throats once they had seized the lead.

Ben Youngs congratulates Jonny May after the win scored England’s try in the second-half

It is a win that relieves the pressure on the under-pressure Jones, who can now enter the autumn series with renewed conviction. Unfortunately, only a paltry crowd of 33,827 was in attendance at Newlands.

The torrential downpour that had swept across Cape Town in the hours before the match stopped in time for kick-off but enough rain had already fallen to make the pitch treacherous.

Farrell drew first blood through a penalty and there were some promising early signs from England as May repeatedly went hunting for a ball that squirted around unpredictably.

Faf de Klerk was busy winding the visitors up to continue a theme of the series and he matched words with deeds in the 20th minute when he drove back Nathan Hughes five metres in a tackle despite being dwarfed by the number eight.

The win gives under-pressure Eddie Jones some much-needed respite

Both teams blundered their way through a low-quality first half but perhaps the most glaring error of all was when Elliot Daly casually kicked a penalty out of bounds, wasting Tom Curry’s fine turnover that had forced the infringement.

Mike Brown was England’s hardest-working player as he roamed off his wing time and again, and a 6-0 lead opened up when Farrell landed a second penalty.

The disappointing Elton Jantjies and Farrell exchanged penalties before a key moment came – the arrival of the Springboks’ replacement front row from the bench.

Prop Steven Kitshoff has been rampant all series and once again the impact loosehead bulldozed through England, providing quick ball for Warrick Gelant to direct a grubber over the whitewash for Kriel to touch down.

The boot of Farrell continued to frustrate South Africa, however, as two further penalties hit their mark and when England won a scrum penalty in their own 22 their belief grew once more.

The hammer blow came in the 73rd minute when Cipriani directed the ball into the corner complete with back-spin for May to pounce, sweeping the result beyond doubt.

England succumb to 23-12 Second Test defeat as they lose series to South Africa in ill-tempered affair

16 Jun

England surrendered their series to South Africa after being brushed aside 23-12 in a bad-tempered second Test at Free State Stadium that registers their sixth successive defeat.

A blistering start that saw Mike Brown and Jonny May run in fine tries to open up a 12-0 lead evoked memories of Ellis Park a week ago but, although the collapse that followed was not as dramatic, it was ultimately more convincing as they failed to score again.

Vermeulen bullied the English forwards all evening in Bloemfontein

Duane Vermeulen, a Springboks force at number eight, stormed over before the home scrum won a penalty try that placed Eddie Jones’ men on the brink in the Afrikaners’ heartland of Bloemfontein.

Once again the boot of Handre Pollard helped sweep South Africa out of reach as three penalties made their mark on the scoreboard, propelling the hosts to a 2-0 series victory with one Test still to play in Cape Town.

The ambition of becoming the first England team to complete a triumphant tour on these shores is in tatters, leaving Jones under growing pressure while the Springboks celebrated victory and another important landmark – Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira becoming their first black player to make 100 Test appearances.

Added to Jones’ problems was the injury sustained to Billy Vunipola shortly before half-time after the big number eight limped off – which places his involvement in the climax to the series in grave doubt.

Tempers flared in the Second Test

Images of the mesmerising opening in Johannesburg came flooding back as England surged into a 12-0 lead once an ankle tap by Owen Farrell had stopped Damian de Allende scoring an intercept try.

Billy Vunipola’s bulldozing run through the middle produced the initial momentum and – with green shirts sucked in – they went wide to exploit an overlap with May drawing Willie le Roux before feeding Brown the scoring pass.

Space continued to open up out wide and England shipped it there as quickly as possible, a juggle by Brown releasing Elliot Daly before May sprinted over the whitewash.

South Africa fought back with a 15-metre rolling maul that began a period of home dominance interrupted by a series of mini brawls and ended when Mtawarira burst through the middle and Vermeulen ran over a tackle by Maro Itoje to score.

Mike Brown’s early try was quickly cancelled out

Itoje and Vermeulen locked horns but it was Mako Vunipola’s slapping of Pieter-Steph du Toit’s head into the ground that incurred the wrath of referee Romain Poite, although the Springboks failed to clear their lines with the penalty.

A pivotal spell unfolded as half-time drew close, Pollard landing two penalties to nudge South Africa 13-12 ahead just as Billy Vunipola departed having allowed Bongi Mbonambi to escape.

Nathan Hughes appeared at number eight for the second half but it was a baptism of fire for the Wasp as England came under fierce pressure as the Springboks initially attacked out wide and then down the middle.

A five-metre scrum provided the breakthrough as the Red Rose pack was driven backwards before splintering, compelling Poite to award a penalty try under the posts.

England’s response looked promising only for the ball to get dislodged close to the line as Brad Shields sought to end a driving maul and, when they began to attack with intent, they were hamstrung by their error count.

Pollard hit the mark again before Hughes’ yellow card made another dent on the visitors victory hopes as the Springboks cruised over the finishing line.

Brad Shields to make full England debut as Chris Robshaw is dropped for second Test against South Africa

14 Jun

Chris Robshaw has been dropped to the bench, with New Zealander Brad Shields set to make his full England debut in Saturday’s second Test against South Africa.

Wellington-born Shields has qualified for England through his parents and joined up with Eddie Jones’ squad for the first time just two weeks ago.

New Zealander Shields only joined the England set-up two weeks ago

The 27-year-old has been picked at blindside flanker against the Springboks, with Chris Robshaw dropped to the bench for the first time in his international career.

It is a bold selection call by head coach Jones, who has viewed Robshaw as a key player until his decision to drop him from the matchday squad for Saturday’s clash in Bloemfontein.

“Based on South Africa’s likely selection of an extra line-out jumper we have decided to start with Brad Shields, which improves our line-out,” Jones said.

“It is tough on Chris Robshaw as he has been an outstanding player for us but I know he will bounce back.”

Chris Robshaw has been dropped to the bench for the first time, while Shields starts

The only other change to the starting XV sees Joe Launchbury restored to the second row having completed his recovery from the calf injury that forced him to miss the first Test.

Launchbury partners Maro Itoje with Nick Isiekwe, who was withdrawn in a tactical substitution three minutes before half-time in the 42-39 defeat at Ellis Park and is now also overlooked for the bench.

Instead, the spot among the replacements that Shields filled in Johannesburg is taken by Mark Wilson, with the last remaining change to the 23 toppled by the Springboks in the first Test seeing Danny Cipriani come in for Piers Francis.

Shields came off the bench for England in the first Test against South Africa

Cipriani was a spectator last weekend despite a superb season at Wasps but Jones intends using him at Free State Stadium.

“Danny will come onto the bench as we are looking for something a little bit different to finish the game, which he can bring,” Jones said.

“He’s been training well and doing everything that has been asked of him.

Danny Cipriani struggled to make an impact in the first Test

“We have come here to win the series against South Africa and the squad is ready to go out and beat them this weekend.

“We have had a very good preparation this week and the intensity and executions in those sessions are going to put us in a good position for Saturday.

“The way the team have come together has been superb. Owen Farrell, with a number of the senior players, has really moulded the squad together. They are working hard to improve their game to make sure we win.”

Joe Launchbury fit for England’s second Test against South Africa

13 Jun

England have been handed a boost as Joe Launchbury has been passed fit to start the second Test against South Africa.

The Wasps lock has after recovered the calf problem which ruled him out of the series opened at Ellis Park.

Joe Launchbury has recovered from a calf injury

The 27-year-old suffered the problem in training and faced a race against time to be ready for Saturday’s Bloemfontein showdown.

But on Wednesday morning Launchbury was able to train with the squad for the first time since arriving in South Africa.

He is set to be drafted straight into the starting line-up.

The 27-year-old trained for the first time in South Africa on Wednesday

“Joe Launchbury trained today and trained well,” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.

“He’s done a great job with his rehabilitation and is available for selection.”