LISTEN: Will Greenwood’s podcast – Henry Slade

On this week’s podcast episode, Will Greenwood and Rupert Cox catch up with England and Exeter Chiefs centre Henry Slade.

Our duo chat to 29-time capped England international about his life in lockdown and the coronavirus worries he has experienced during these strange times.

The 27-year-old also discusses playing professional rugby as a Type 1 diabetic, and also the conversations he has held with the Exeter Chiefs doctor in relation to Covid-19.

Slade also chats playing at inside-centre, outside-centre and at out-half, and which is his favourite position to date.

Greenwood and Slade also face off in a quiz, while the latter talks through his role in Jonny May’s try against Australia in the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

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Izack Rodda and two other Queensland Reds ending contracts leaves Rugby Australia unfazed

Rugby Australia do not expect a rush of players to walk away from their contracts after they agreed to release three Queensland Reds team-mates who refused to take pay cuts during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Wallabies lock Izack Rodda, fly-half Isaac Lucas and lock Harry Hockings were stood down by the Reds last Monday for refusing to accept the salary reductions and their agent said on Friday they had sought termination of their contracts.

Rugby Australia interim chief executive Rob Clarke said they had released the trio on Saturday, but he doubted the decision would set a precedent for other players to demand a release.

  • Reds trio terminate contracts after rejecting pay cuts
  • Rodda stood down for rejecting pay cut

“We haven’t had any indication from any other players that they are looking beyond our shores,” said Clarke. “We understand the challenges the players are going through, it’s no different from the staff.

“But every single business in this country and around the world are facing the same decisions (and) other rugby economies are suffering as much as we are.

“I suspect players thinking this is a ticket to a golden pot will be sorely disappointed.”

Rugby Australia implemented a 60% pay cut for its players last month after tense negotiations with the Rugby Union Players’ Association amid the governing body’s financial struggles that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak.

Almost 190 players accepted the pay cuts, while RA also furloughed about 75% of its staff in March.

Clarke said the RA had ruled out taking legal action against the trio as it was always “the last resort”.

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Nathan Earle signs Harlequins contract extension

England squad player Nathan Earle has signed a contract extension with Harlequins.

The former Saracens winger had scored 11 tries in 23 Quins appearances before suffering a long-term knee ligament injury in April last year.

The 25-year-old had been in England’s training squad for the 2019 Six Nations, having scored in an uncapped fixture against the Barbarians the previous year.

“I’m thrilled to be able to extend my time at The Stoop,” Earle told his club’s website.

“I felt like I was playing some of my best rugby before picking up a knee injury at the end of my first season.

“I’m still rehabilitating at the moment, but I’m excited to get back out there and pull on the jersey again.”

Head of rugby Paul Gustard added: “We’re thrilled to have Nathan recommit his future to the club. Prior to his severe knee injury, he was demonstrating to everyone what I personally already knew, that he is a fantastic talent with the potential for explosive, match-winning performances.

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Warrick Gelant: Springbok joins Stormers from Bulls

South Africa World Cup-winning full-back Warrick Gelant has joined the Stormers from their great Super Rugby rivals the Bulls.

Gelant will swap Pretoria for Cape Town and has been brought in to fill the gap left by another Springbok, Dillyn Leyds, who has moved to La Rochelle in France.

The 25-year-old was a free agent after his contract with the Bulls expired.

“Warrick has established himself as one of the most dynamic backline players in South Africa, so we could not be more thrilled to have him on our books going forward,” Stormers coach John Dobson said.

“With Dillyn Leyds leaving, we couldn’t have asked for anyone better to step into the 15 jersey. I am sure his presence will also have a hugely positive influence on the players around him.

“Warrick is a deadly finisher with a wonderful feel for the game and awareness of space, which is just what we need for the talent we already have in the backline to thrive.”

Gelant, who can also play on the wing, was part of the Bok squad that lifted the World Cup in Japan last November, though he did not feature in the match-day squad in the final win over England.

He has scored three tries in nine international appearances since making his debut against Italy in November 2017.

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Six Nations deny plotting ‘4 Nations’ and commit to completing 2020 competition

The Six Nations have denied reports relating to the staging of a ‘4 Nations’ competition in November excluding France and Italy, describing them as “inaccurate media speculation”.

Tournament organisers say they remain fully committed to completing the 2020 Six Nations Championship, with the intention of staging postponed matches later this year.

  • New Zealand teams to resume training
  • Jones: Some players will return in ‘terrible’ condition

The Six Nations clarified their position following newspaper speculation that the four home unions were making contingency plans for a ‘4 Nations’ championship excluding France and Italy.

“Six Nations together with its constituent unions and federations is fully committed to completing the 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship and hopes to stage postponed matches later this year,” a statement said.

“In exploring rescheduling options, the health and safety of players, associated staff and of course supporters is our number one priority and any rescheduled matches will be subject to government guidance and to travel restrictions between countries.

“Six Nations remains in close contact with all relevant authorities to ensure these matches can take place in a safe environment.

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Eddie Jones: England head coach says some players will return in ‘terrible’ condition

Rugby players not committed to maintaining their fitness during the coronavirus lockdown will return in “terrible” condition when the sport resumes, says England head coach Eddie Jones.

Rugby, like many other sports, has come to a standstill due to the pandemic and competitions have been suspended since March. The Six Nations tournament was put on hold with England at the top the standings.

With World Rugby postponing all test matches scheduled for July due to travel curbs and health protocols, a quick return for the contact sport is not on the cards.

  • World Rugby postpones July Tests
  • RFU ‘to consider’ individual training return

“You are going to find out about your players, you are going to find out which of your players really want to get better and which players only want to get better to keep the coach happy,” Jones said in an online coaching class with other coaches.

“Some players will come out of this better, some players will come out of this terrible. How your team comes out of it, you don’t know. But the big thing for the team is not what you do now, it’s what you do when you get back together.”

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Union Berlin boss banned from Bayern clash after breaking quarantine

Union Berlin boss Urs Fischer banned from Bundesliga clash with Bayern Munich after breaking team quarantine rules to to join his family after bereavement

  • Union Berlin will be without coach Urs Fischer when they take on Bayern Munich 
  • The manager broke quarantine rules by joining his family after a bereavement 
  • Strict safety guidelines mean each team must spend a week in quarantine 
  • The Bundesliga is the first major European league to resume after coronavirus 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Union Berlin will be without their manager Urs Fischer for their home clash with Bayern Munich on Sunday after he broke quarantine rules following a family bereavement.

The Bundesliga is the first major European league to resume behind closed doors following the outbreak of coronavirus but there are strict guidelines in place to keep players and staff safe.

These include a week-long quarantine which Fischer broke on Monday to join his family after the death of his father-in-law.

Union Berlin will be without their manager Urs Fischer for their home clash with Bayern Munich

The Bundesliga is the first major European league to resume fixtures behind closed doors

There are strict guidelines in place to keep everyone safe including a week-long quarantine 

The coach will return before the game takes place but will be unable to join up with the squad and must have two negative tests for coronavirus before he can return to the camp. 

Union Berlin have already completed some giant killings in their first ever season in Germany’s top flight.

Victories over Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach came at their home ground of Stadion An der Alten Forsterei earlier this season.

Union Berlin have already completed some giant killings at their home ground this season

Bayern are currently four points clear at the top of the table with Borussia Dortmund second

But they will be without their usual intimidating atmosphere with fans not yet unable to attend live matches.

Bayern are currently top of the table, four points clear of Dortmund in second who can close the gap to a point by beating Schalke this afternoon. 

Augsburg manager Heiko Herrlich will also miss his side’s game after breaking quarantine rules by leaving the team hotel to buy toothpaste.

But they will be without their usual intimidating atmosphere with no fans allowed at the game

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Coronavirus: England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot learning to cope with training restrictions

England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot is getting used to overcoming issues concerning contact-training as the RFU looks to navigate a route out of the coronavirus crisis.

Proudfoot, who masterminded the Springboks’ World Cup final demolition of England before joining up with Eddie Jones’ squad, is currently in his native South Africa where he is linking up with his new colleagues through social media.

The inability to maintain tough physical training during the lockdown presents a particular problem for forwards, and Proudfoot admits it may take “a bit of time” before they are able to restore some form of normality to proceedings.

Proudfoot said: “Our strength and conditioning guys have been in contact with the players and clubs, and tried to formulate a process that is best suited to the individual.

“Rather than a generic programme that most teams would follow, we’ve tried to look at the player from an holistic point of view – where could we improve him in his home environment where we couldn’t have improved him in camp.

“Contact training is something that is going to take a bit of time. Once we can start training in smaller groups and institute smaller group situations, things can start to change a little bit.”

Stepping into the England set-up for the first time for this year’s now postponed Six Nations, Proudfoot says he has noticed fundamental differences in the approach of his former employees and England coach Eddie Jones.

“What’s been very different for me is the way Eddie produces his system,” added Proudfoot.

“It’s very much about wanting to build the best environment and he pushes every part of the department to be the best they can be.

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Rugby Retro: Dan Luger’s winner for England against Australia in 2000

In our latest episode of Rugby Retro, Dan Luger joins Miles Harrison and James Gemmell to discuss his crucial role in England’s win over world champions Australia at Twickenham in 2000…

“Luger’s got it down!”

Those four words from Sky Sports commentator Miles Harrison signalled England banishing the unwanted record of having not beaten Australia in the professional era.

That November afternoon at Twickenham in 2000 is the subject of our latest Rugby Retro series, with Harrison joining James Gemmell and the man who got that crucial score for the hosts to look back on the 22-19 victory over the team which had won the World Cup 12 months prior.

With eight minutes of added time having been played, winger Dan Luger scrambled to chase down Iain Balshaw’s chip over the defence and ground the ball for a try which edged the hosts ahead and was eventually awarded after consultation with the TMO.

“I had many memorable moments playing rugby and that was up there with some of the best,” Luger told Sky Sports.

“I think that was a turning point for English rugby. That was the first time we came from behind and beat one of the big boys.

“After that, we went on to continue the winning momentum and have that confidence when things weren’t going well we knew we could beat the big boys.”

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Barcelona’s handling of Lionel Messi is the way forward for rugby, says Agustin Pichot

Agustin Pichot believes rugby can learn some valuable lessons from Barcelona’s handling of Lionel Messi in terms of player management.

Pichot is hoping to unsurp current chairman Sir Bill Beaumont for the top job in World Rugby, with a global season being one of the main points in his manifesto.

According to Pichot, a global season would benefit both club and country and more importantly help player welfare. His radical ideas have garnered plenty of support but his plans to overhaul the traditional rugby seasons has also received plenty of criticism.

“When I negotiated for Argentina to go into the rugby championship, I spoke to every owner of a club that had an Argentina player,” explained Pichot on the Will Greenwood podcast.

“We had a great outcome and they released the players and we have a good understanding between club and country. At the end of the day, I want the club to succeed as much as the country. Even the most radical club owners understood this and it was done.

“If you look at the model of football, I have been talking to Barcelona many times about the relationship between the biggest player in the world, Lionel Messi.

“He gets paid millions of dollars a week by one club who works very well with the federation of Argentina to release him for how many weeks for the meaningful calendar for the national team.

“They work together to protect Messi.

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•Secure the investment needed for our future
•Support both established and emerging unions
•Create a global game

“At the end of the day, protecting the players is the most important thing. We want them to play as much as they can in a safe environment. I want the likes of the EPCR, the Six Nations, the clubs to be successful, to make a lot of money.

“They are going to say that playing in October and November is against the spirit of rugby but that is because there has been no understanding between the government bodies and the clubs, and that is what we need to work on.”

Fit for purpose

Pichot may have ruffled feathers with some of his comments – especially saying the sport needs a World Rugby Management fit for purpose – but he is adamant that rugby bodies and clubs have lost faith in World Rugby and rebuilding that trust is crucial going forward.

“I think doing ‘copy and paste’ all the time creates a comfort zone,” added Pichot.

“If you go into a changing room and say we are going to play the All Blacks – it becomes about the mindset. If you lost the last game but then you don’t change anything and carry on doing exactly the same thing, you will get exactly the same outcome.

“I believe that the mindset of the management team has to change. That is the biggest challenge. It is about the vision and the strategy for a global game for all, but to do this, we all have to have the same mindset. That is what I mean by fit for purpose – everyone has to believe in the game plan.

“We have to take this vertical way of looking – why do you think Six Nations doesn’t trust World Rugby? Why do you think SANZAAR does not trust World Rugby? We have to fix that because we need to facilitate through World Rugby those conversations.”

Proactive not reactive

The current vice-chairman admits to have been frustrated by the slow pace of World Rugby and says it needs to be at the forefront of all things rugby.

He said: “I have been part of the system for the last four years and I have been explaining why that system could not change and why it has been the same for x number of years. We have been reactive since 1995.

“World Rugby reacted, we reacted to the owners of the club, we reacted to private equity with CVC. At the end of the day, we have to be on the front foot and this has to be with the mindset of the organisation.

I have no personal problems with Bill (Beaumont) at all, but we do see the game in different ways.

“He has been there for a number of years and things have one pace.”

Pichot is also at pains to say that while his ideas are radical, he is open to listening to all parties invested in the game of rugby and says his manifesto is far from irrational.

“When I played for Argentina, I wanted to be the best player that I could. When I stopped playing there was the opportunity to make the game better in my country, then in the Americas, and now within World Rugby. That is why I carried on and my manifesto is about what I think the world needs with the passion that I have for the game.

“I think every governing body that has worked with me in the last 10 years, knows what I am about. Do you think that AUS, NZ, SA would back a leader who was irrational?

“How did Argentina develop with their system and the objectives to change nearly 100 years of history?

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