Plus news and comment from around the clubs and what the papers say.
Friday, 26 April 2013
Munster v Leinster 19:30
Saturday, 27 April 2013
Bedford v Newcastle15:00
Coach Ian Costello keeps a similar side from the Pirates game for tonight's clash with Leinster at Dooradoyle.
Halves, JJ Hanrahan and Duncan Williams remain the same, as do locks Ian Nagle and Dave Foley.
A call up to the senior squad for John Ryan means a start in the front row for Alan Cotter who replaced Ryan in that game in Penzance.
In the back row Barry O’Mahony starts in place of Dave O'Callaghan.
S Scanlon; C Hircock, D Barnes, I Dineen, R O’Mahony
JJ Hanrahan, D Williams; J Cronin, S Henry(Capt), A Cotter
D Foley, I Nagle; N Ronan, B O’Mahony, CJ Stander.
D Casey, M Horan, B Hayes, S Dougall, J Holland, S Deasy, C Bohane.
Leinster are putting out a predominantly young squad who will be led by back-row forward Conor Gilsenan.
Cathal Marsh, who made his senior debut away to Zebre last weekend, partners fellow St. Michael's College graduate Luke McGrath at half back, with Noel Reid linking up with the fit again Adam Byrne at centre.
Fionn Carr starts at full-back with Andrew Boyle and Sam Coghlan-Murray named on the wings.
Michael Bent and Tom Denton - a try-scorer in Italy last weekend - are named in a pack which features a number of players who have played in the senior team this year.
Amongst them is Ben Marshall who forms a back-row unit alongside Gilsenan and number eight Leo Auva'a.
15: Fionn Carr 14: Andrew Boyle 13: Adam Byrne 12: Noel Reid
11: Sam Coghlan-Murray 10: Cathal Marsh 9: Luke McGrath
1: Jack O'Connell 2: Aaron Dundon 3: Michael Bent 4: Tom Denton
5: Mark Flanagan 6: Ben Marshall 7: Conor Gilsenan (capt) 8: Leo Auva'a
16: James Tracy 17: Martin Moore 18: Tadhg Beirne 19: Daniel Leavy
20: Adam Griggs 21: Tom Daly 22: Mick McGrath
While the majority of Championship teams have packed their suitcases and enjoying the summer break, Bedford Blues are gearing up for a huge three weeks which begins this Saturday as they host Newcastle Falcons in the semi-final of the British & Irish Cup.
Having secured third place in the Championship with a bonus point win over Moseley last Saturday, the Goldington Road outfit have quickly turned their attention to the visit of the Falcons who have enjoyed two wins over the Blues this term.
The Falcons experienced defeat for the first time this season when they went down 14-19 against Bristol at Kingston Park and the Blues are fully prepared for the backlash as Newcastle look to get back in to winning ways ahead of the Championship semi-finals.
Bedford remain without their skipper James Pritchard along with Ben Gulliver, Sacha Harding and Henry Staff, but all are recovering well from their respective injuries and are back on the training field.
Squad rotation remains important with Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer making three personnel and a couple of positional changes to the team that beat Moseley with Ben Ransom, Brendan Burke and Darren Fearn returning to the starting line-up.
15. Ben Ransom 14. James Stephenson 13. Brendan Burke 12. Mark Atkinson
11. James Short 10. Myles Dorrian 9. Luke Baldwin
1. Darren Fearn 2. Neil Cochrane 3. Dan Seal 4. Mike Howard
5. Paul Tupai 6. Gregor Gillanders 7. Darren Fox (c) 8. Nick Fenton-Wells
16. Scott Spurling, 17. Phil Boulton, 18. Don Barrell, 19. Tom Armes
20. Darryl Veenendaal, 21. Jake Sharp 22. Ollie Dodge
Falcons make just one change for tomorrow’s semi-final at Bedford Blues.
Hooker Matt Thompson misses out through illness with Michael Mayhew getting the nod as Dean Richards’ charges look to book their place in the final ahead of the start of the RFU Championship play-offs.
Sean Tomes replaces the cup-tied James Goode on the bench, while Ollie Stedman and Waisea Luveniyali are also named amongst the replacements.
With the season now reaching an exciting climax, Richards insists winning games is more important than the performance, saying: “The win is the most important thing, and couple that with a solid performance from the boys, that is all I want.
“I am not bothered about how many points we win by as long as we win, and I just want people to play to their potential.
“When you get to this stage of the season there are no easy games, and they will be as equally prepared for us as we will be for them.
“The mood in the camp has been good this week, and everyone wants to put right the wrongs, and there is no better game to have than Bedford tomorrow to try and put things right.”
15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick
11 Alex Tait, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury
1 Jonny Golding, 2 Michael Mayhew, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Scott MacLeod
5 Carlo del Fava, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg
16 Rob Vickers, 17 James Hall, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Ollie Stedman
20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Waisea Luveniyali, 22 Michael Tait
Dan Palmer, Beds On Sunday, Bristol's win over Falcons does Bedford no favours
Mike Rayer admits that Bristol may have made life more difficult for his Bedford side by ending the 100 per cent record of Blues' British & Irish Cup semi-final opponents Newcastle Falcons.
"I don't think Bristol have done us any favours," Director of Rugby Rayer said.
"With them playing at home you thought Newcastle would push hard for that 100 per cent record but Bristol still had a chance of making the play-offs so maybe their incentive was a bit greater than Newcastle's was, I don't know.
"We'll see on Saturday at 3pm whether it makes any difference."
Full Story www.bedfordshire-news.co.uk
Michael Hann, Bedford Today:- Blues target B&I Cup glory against Falcons
Having confirmed their place in the Championship semi-finals the Blues’ attentions have quickly turned to the visit of Newcastle in the B&I Cup.
And after coming agonisingly close to beating the Falcons back in March,director of rugby Mike Rayer says his players will be looking to go one better this time.
He said: “We are determined to do well in this competition, we have got so far now we would like to get into a final, if not two.
“We are there, knocking on the door and it is a big incentive for both sides on the weekend because you get the final at home as well.”
Full Story www.bedfordtoday.co.uk
Mark (R) Smith, The Journal: Newcastle Falcons taking cup duty seriously
IT might be the sporting equivalent of frying your chips in extra-virgin olive oil, but Dean Richards is the man making the call over how many of Newcastle Falcons’ big guns to risk on British and Irish Cup duty.
With the promotion play-offs only nine days on from tomorrow’s trip to Bedford, Richards will today name his XV for the Goldington Road semi-final.
The winners of Leinster and Munster’s reserve-grade sides lie in wait on Friday May 17, but with Leeds Carnegie to come before that in the league semi-finals the director of rugby finds himself trying to balance the two.
What is in no doubt whatsoever is that he wants to deliver the club’s first silverware since the 2004 Powergen Cup – sevens accolades aside.
Full Story www.journallive.co.uk
Many were sorry to see Paul Andrew play his last game for the Cornish Pirates last weekend, but as one Andrew departed another promptly turned up: younger brother Jack, also a prop forward.
Cornishman Jack, aged 22, arrives from Plymouth Albion, having previously played for Exeter Chiefs and the Cornish All Blacks, whilst brother Paul steps up to the Premiership with Worcester Warriors
On Tuesday the Pirates revealed the names of another four players who had signed.
Neale Patrick 6' 8” Lock Forward, Perth-born Scotsman, who joins from Rotherham Titans. Aged 24, has always impressed when playing against the Pirates.
Jake Parker – Back-Rower Joining from Loughborough Students.
Joe Atkinson – Back-Rower, another player who will arrive from Loughborough Students.
Alex Dancer – Centre from Hartbury College.
A number of squad members are moving on
Phil Burgess is joining England 7s and Paul Andrew is off to Worcester Warriors, whilst Aaron Penberthy, Grant Pointer and Ben Maidment are joining Jersey.
Two other players, David Lyons and Ryan Storer, have signed for London-based clubs. David is moving to London Scottish and Ryan to newly promoted Ealing Trailfinders
The Cornishman:- Josh Lewsey unveils his vision for the Cornish Pirates
IN the 25 days since Josh Lewsey officially took over the office of chief executive at the Cornish Pirates he has been working round the clock to restructure and refocus the club.
The former London Wasps, England and British & Irish Lions full-back surprised English rugby when he was appointed on a six month deal which he now describes as "pretty open ended" and is relishing the challenge he has been given.
He said: "I would not be down here doing this if I did not believe in it and realistically if this is well managed and the people of Cornwall get behind it I can honestly see Cornwall winning the Heineken Cup in eight to ten years."
He continued: "You could be the Munster of English rugby such is the level of opportunity. There is no other professional sport to compete with and the only people who could stop this happening are the Cornish. They are also the only people who could make it happen."
Full Story www.thisiscornwall.co.uk
Doncaster Knights will be holding a sponsors, members and supporters forum on Thursday May 2nd at 6:00pm in the Clubhouse Suite of the De Mulder Lloyd Stand to state the intentions for next season in National Division One and the plans for the future both on the field and off the field with sponsorship and season ticket package opportunities.
The conference style event will be hosted by Commercial, Marketing & Media Manager Gareth Alred with a panel comprising of Club President Tony De Mulder, Chief Executive Officer David Ryall and Director of Rugby Clive Griffiths.
The Club hope the forum will give an opportunity for both the decision makers at DRFC and supporters the chance to communicate their thoughts on the future for the Knights, both on and off the field, and deliver the club’s vision for the upcoming year.
London Scottish have announced the signing of second row forward David Lyons from Cornish Pirates ahead of the 2013-14 season.
The capture of the 27 year old Englishman signifies Director of Rugby Simon Amor’s ambition to further strengthen the side as they look ahead to their third season in the Championship.
Lyons was a late starter within the sport of rugby but played his first Premiership game for Worcester Warriors against Harlequins in 2009, just 18 months after taking up the sport.
He then joined Moseley where he spent two seasons, including a loan spell at Gloucester where he played three Premiership matches, before joining the Pirates last summer.
He made 20 appearances for the Cornwall club this season and will bolster the options available in the second row next season.
Director of Rugby Simon Amor said: “We’re delighted to have signed David as we continue to build a strong squad for next season. He is a big, ball-carrying lock with plenty of experience from his spells at Cornish Pirates, Moseley and Worcester Warriors. He’s a consistent performer and he’ll add a great deal to our squad, both on and off the pitch.”
Scottish Recruit Two New Stand-Offs As Godman Departs
As fly-half Phil Godman departs London Scottish and join Newcastle Falcons. Scottish have signed fly-halves Lee Millar from Gala and Dan Newton from Scarlets.
Godman, a 23-time Scotland international, arrived at the Richmond Athletic Ground last summer from Edinburgh Rugby and has played a key role in the side’s second season in the RFU Championship, appearing in 23 matches in both the league and the British and Irish Cup.
He has been a regular starter in the fly-half role and he scored a try in his first appearance, coming off the bench against Doncaster in September. He also kicked a dramatic last minute penalty to defeat Cornish Pirates at the Athletic Ground in October in one of his first starts for the Club.
Director of Rugby Simon Amor: "We're obviously sad to be losing a player of Phil's ability and character. He has had a positive influence on the entire squad both on and off the field this season. We thank them for his contributions to the team and we wish him all the best for the next stage in his career."
Scottish have moved to replace Godman by signing both Millar and Newton. 21 year old Millar will make the move to London having kicked over 300 points in the RBS Premier One competition in Scotland this season. He starred in Gala’s victory over Scottish at Netherdale in the British and Irish Cup in October 2012 and is a product of Moray RFC in Elgin.
He has spent three years developing his game at Gala and was a key figure in helping the club return to the top flight in Scotland. He has also represented the Scotland Club international side. His primary position is fly-half but Millar also offers a sound option at centre and full-back and his versatility will see him add plenty to an exciting looking back line ahead of the 2013-14 RFU Championship season.
Scottish have also added 23 year old Newton to their ranks. The Carmathen-born fly-half has played eight times for the Scarlets this season, in both the RaboDirect PRO12 competition and the Heineken Cup. He has been with the Scarlets since 2008 and has made 30 appearances for them since.
The Welshman made his league debut in 2009 against Connacht, scoring a conversion. He is a former pupil of Ysgol Gyfun Dyffryn Tâf in Whitland and has previously played rugby for Whitland RFC and Llanelli RFC. He can play at both fly-half as well as full-back.
Head Coach Kevin Maggs has confirmed the retention of Oliver Robinson and ‘Buster’ Lawrence for the 2013/14 RFU Championship season and ushers in a summer of evolution not revolution at Billesley Common.
Last summer’s ‘squad refresh’ saw the departure of over a dozen highly experienced Championship players as the 72 cap former Irish international centre focussed on youth by bringing in a swathe of young players - many untried at this level.
The transformation of the squad was completed by the middle of last summer but the impact was a combination of great potential and lack of experience leading to some outstanding performances but also some significant losses.
The development of the side throughout the season was clear to see as the early season heavy reverses turned into narrow losses and were interspersed with outstanding wins. The lack of experience in the side possibly contributed to a series of ‘very nearly’ results but hinted that Maggs’s faith in youth was vindicated.
This summer the objective will be to build on the current squad and combine the experience gained last season with the continual development of individual players into a team challenging the best sides in the league.
The retention of Robinson and Lawrence can be seen as a statement of intent.
Lawrence joined Moseley from Dings Crusaders playing at level 4, was given the opportunity with early injuries to key senior players and finished the season as the Supporters Player of the Season winning the prestigious Lionel Moriaty Golden Boot.
Robinson moved to Moseley from Loughborough students, occupied a squad place before forcing himself into the reckoning and racked up 27 appearances – with 17 starts.
The shop window that is the RFU Championship may offer outstanding opportunities to some of the ‘gems’ that Maggs uncovers and Addison Locksley is one of these. His move to Biarritz is testament to the talent spotting and development of players under the coaching pair of Maggs and 42 cap former Scotland prop Dave Hilton.
Birmingham Mail: Brian Dick's end of season rugby review (Moseley)
If, for a club of Moseley’s modest means, the average Championship season is an uphill struggle, then the campaign they have just negotiated has been above average in several respects.
That is true in terms of steepness of the ascent, the will-sapping obstacles and the gutsy determination with which they have managed to scramble to higher, safer ground than Jersey and – crucially, relegated Doncaster.
Just as it did last year – and will next year – the job of remaining in the second tier became ever more stressful as the emergence of yet another southern arriviste outfit only intensified the gradient.
Where London Scottish came into the Championshipin 2011, Jersey journeyed forth in 2012 and in September Ealing will follow the trail that leads them inexorably upwards.
Full Story //www.birminghammail.co.uk
A trio of new signings will showcase their talents for Newcastle Falcons next season each having all pinned their colours to the ambitious club ahead of the 2013-14 campaign.
Scotland internationals Scott Lawson and Phil Godman join from London Irish and London Scottish respectively, while second-row Fraser McKenzie joins from fellow northerners Sale Sharks.
Lawson, 31, who has 36 Scotland caps to his name, brings a wealth of Premiership experience to Kingston Park having made more than 100 appearances in English rugby’s top-flight.
The highly competitive front-rower joined Gloucester from Sale in 2008 after launching his professional career with Glasgow Warriors. It was while at the Cherry and Whites that Lawson became a prominent figure in the game, and in the summer of 2012 he made the switch to London Irish.
Lawson said: “I am really excited at the prospect of moving to the North East and playing for Newcastle Falcons, a club that has big plans.
“Dean [Richards] explained the club’s vision to me before I signed, and looking at the coaching set-up which includes Graham Steadman, who I know from my days in the Scotland fold, I cannot wait to get started.
“I will be travelling up to watch the play-offs when they begin, so it will be nice to get a feel for the place.”
Fellow Scottish international, No.10 Phil Godman re-joins the Falcons from fellow Championship outfit London Scottish.
The former Newcastle fly-half has played 23 times for Scotland and brings an experienced control to the backline, a trait he showed whilst playing for London Scottish in their narrow 12-9 defeat to Newcastle at Kingston Park before Christmas.
Godman signed professional forms with the Falcons in 2002, and after two years with the northeasterners, he moved to RaboDirect Pro 12 outfit Edinburgh where he established himself as first choice fly-half.
After eight seasons with the Murrayfield club, Godman joined London Scottish at the start of this season. And his impressive form during his solitary campaign with the Exiles has earned Godman the chance to hone his skills on the Kingston Park stage.
“From my time with Newcastle I understand the passion for rugby throughout the region,” said Godman, who was understudy to Jonny Wilkinson during his four-year stint at the Falcons.
He added: “I learnt a lot from Jonny [Wilkinson] and it was a great experience that set me in good stead going forward.
“At the age of 30 I feel that I still have my best years ahead of me, and I can bring a lot to the team next season.”
Newcastle’s third acquisition is 25-year-old McKenzie who makes the move to the North East on the back of two seasons with Sale where he has made 42 appearances.
The Dunfermline-born lock, who can also play in the back-row, began his career at Edinburgh before moving to Sale ahead of the 2011-12 season.
McKenzie has represented Scotland at Under-19, Under-20 and ‘A’ level, skippering his country at the Under-19 World Championships.
Injury during McKenzie’s first season with the Sharks denied him the chance to make his Scotland debut after he was named in Andy Robinson’s initial Six Nations squad.
The barn-storming forward is delighted to have signed for the Falcons, saying: “There are exciting times ahead for Newcastle and I want to be a part of it.
“Dean’s reputation speaks for itself, and the fact that he and John Wells are at the club is a big pull for me as I feel they can make me a better player.
“It will be nice to team up with Scott MacLeod, who I have played with at Edinburgh – the two of us have worked well together in the past, and he is a great character both on and off the field.
“Newcastle is a great place to live, and I am thrilled to be making the move across to Tyneside.”
Falcons boss Dean Richards said: “We have recruited three top quality players as we continue to build a strong squad for next season.
“Scott [Lawson] and Phil [Godman] will bring considerable experience to the club to complement our current crop of youngsters, and Fraser [McKenzie] is a fantastic signing, who will add firepower to the pack.”
Plymouth Albion hooker Jon Vickers will join the Meadow Lane club next season.
Vickers, who was honoured as Plymouth’s Player of the Season for 2012/13 at the weekend, made 28 league appearances for the Devon outfit since first moving to The Brickfields as a dual-registered Exeter Chiefs player in 2011.
The 24-year-old former Northampton hooker was recognised as one of the best front-rowers in England’s second-tier competition this season, starting for the RFU Championship XV in the historic meeting with the Maori All Blacks in November.
Nottingham Rugby head coach Martin Haag said: “The quality and brand of rugby that we have played all year has attracted interest from players of the highest calibre and we are delighted to add Jon to our squad for next season.
“Jon fits the type of player that we want to push us forward. He will have big shoes to fill with Joe Duffey announcing that he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season, but Jon has shown himself to be one of the stand-out performers in the Championship this season.
“As a young lad he has room for development and at the same time has the experience we need in a vital position.
“Jon is the first new signing we have made and over the next few weeks we will be adding to the side further.
“It is exciting times at Nottingham right now as we prepare for the home and away semi-final starting at Bedford next week, but we are also busy working on moving this side forward next season.”
Commenting on signing for the Green and Whites, Vickers said: “I’m really excited to go to a club that has done so well this season and I look forward to helping them build in whatever competition they are in next season.
“Nottingham is a club with a lot of ambition and this is a great opportunity for me. I hope to improve my game and step up to the next level at Meadow Lane.
“Martin Haag is a coach that I’m really looking forward to working with because there is a lot of respect for him in these parts, and he has done a great job with Nottingham in his first year already.”
Nottingham Post: Nottingham Rugby win race to sign highly-rated Vickers
He (Vickers) was being chased by a lot of clubs because of his eye-catching form, but says Martin Haag's Nottingham was his No.1 choice.
Haag, who has led the Greens into the Championship promotion play-offs this season, is delighted to have landed the youngster.
"The quality and brand of rugby we have played all year has attracted interest from players of the highest calibre and we are delighted to add Jon to our squad for next season," he said.
"Jon fits the type of player that we want to push us forward.
Full Story www.thisisnottingham.co.uk
Three more players from the current Albion squad have signed contracts for next season.
21 year old flanker Sam Matavesi, 20 year old prop Ben Rogers and 25 year old scrum half Paul Rowley have all signed one year extensions to their current contracts.
Matavesi who joined Plymouth from Camborne has made 13 league appearances this season and in the last month of the campaign made the no 7 shirt his own.
Matavesi said, “I feel my game has really come on this season and I’m happy to be playing for a club that is going in the right direction,”
Rogers who joined Albion last summer from neighbours Newton Abbot hasn’t looked out of place playing Championship rugby.
Rogers commented, “I’ve had quite a few starts this season and have gained a lot of confidence playing at this level. I’m delighted to be staying at Albion and really looking forward to next season.”
Irishman Rowley who has battled with club captain Ruairi Cushion for the number 9 jersey this season said, “I would have liked to have got more game time this year which hopefully I will get next season. Albion are progressing well and I’m delighted that I have signed a new contract.”
Sara Raine, Plymouth Herald: Ruairi Cushion says Plymouth Albion deserved more
PLYMOUTH Albion captain Ruairi Cushion feels the team did not get the rewards they deserved during the 2012/13 season.
Cushion is now hoping Albion can continue to move forward next season under new coach James Shanahan and hopefully get back into the Championship's top eight for the first time since 2009/10.
"We have finished this season and improved slightly. We will be looking next season with a new coach and a new brand to make that next step up to top eight.
"The year after that we can step up again. That is the progression we are looking for. We are not going to jump to a top four team in one season, but if we progress each year we will get there."
Full Story www.thisisplymouth.co.uk
The 31-year-old takes thr helm today after the club board, chairman Nick Cragg and director of rugby Martihn Jenkinson, gave him their backing to take over from Alex Codling.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge and the board have said they will back me to the hilt,” said Blackett
“We are in a good position now with the number of players we’ve signed, probably better than we’ve ever been in, and I know we’ll all pull together and start looking to the future."
“I’ll give it everything I’ve got here because I’ll never forget what Rotherham Rugby Club has done for me over the years.” He added