Premiership Rugby

Rugby Round-Up: Six Nations Shock Selections and Drastic Rule Change Afoot

Rugby Round-Up: Six Nations Shock Selections and Drastic Rule Change Afoot

Rugby news from around the world January 20th 2023

Jan 20, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Rugby Round-Up: Six Nations Shock Selections and Drastic Rule Change Afoot

Six Nations squads revealed, a controversial new tackle rule and an international arrested, the wheels of professional rugby kept on churning this week. 

So, without further ado here are the biggest news stories from the World of Rugby this week.

Stunning Exclusions In 2023 Guinness Six Nations Squad 

There are few days more pivotal in a rugby career than international squad announcement days.  

In a strange and often cruel symbiotic way the ecstasy felt by those who have made the cut is matched only by the bitter disappointment of those missing out.  

This statement once again rings true across this season’s Guinness Six Nations squad announcements.  

As several young guns such as Ireland’s Jamie Osborne, England’s Fin Smith and Wales’s Mason Grady brace for their first senior international exposure.  A number of seasoned veterans have found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being on the outside looking in.  

Headlining the list of disappointed veterans are Ireland’s Joey Carbery, England’s Jack Nowell, Billy Vunipola and Jonny May. 

Starting with Carbery who when fit has been the long-term back-up to captain Jonathan Sexton, missed out on selection for the first time in his career when fit. In what would seem to be a damning blow to his World Cup dreams, Carbery looks to have been leapfrogged by his Munster teammate Crowley and Leinster’s Ross Byrne. 

Carbery who has been a mainstay in many of Ireland’s greatest days since making his debut in 2016 looks to be paying for his inability to dispose of Sexton as Ireland’s first choice flyhalf. Certainly this should be considered the end of the 27-year-old’s test career but in the short term it will be a heavy blow for a player who has rarely put a foot wrong for his country. 

For the English trio all of whom were favourites of former coach Eddie Jones, their absence provides a clear indication of new boss Steve Borthwick’s mantra of selecting on form rather than reputation in conjunction with England’s growing need to refresh the squad with young talent.  

Vunipola in particular is an interesting absentee given his powerful ball carrying as Borthwick and his coaching staff have opted for a wider attacking set of backrow forwards for this season’s tournament. This change would indicate an incoming development in the English game that could see them shift to a wider attacking game rather than the direct approach employed by Jones’s teams.

Wallabies Star Arrested Following December Incident 

34-year-old Wallabies veteran utility back Kurtley Beale has been arrested following allegations of sexual assault at a Sydney bar in December 2022. 

Sitting on 95 Test Caps, Beale was a member of the 44-man training squad announced by former coach Dave Rennie just two weeks ago.  

Now facing the very serious allegations, Beale’s Rugby future under new head coach Eddie Jones appears uncertain at best. 

Following his arrest, a police statement read "Detectives from Eastern Suburbs Police Area Command took carriage of the matter and commenced an investigation under Strike Force Titheradge." 

Whilst the legal process will play out in due course, Rugby Australia released a statement of their own saying. 

"Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs advise that Kurtley Beale has been suspended from all forms of Rugby with immediate effect pending the conclusion of legal proceedings, as well as Rugby Australia's own investigations. 

"This step follows Mr Beale's arrest and subsequent charge with serious criminal offences and is in line with Rugby Australia's Professional Player Code of Conduct. 

"The Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) has been informed of this development.


Rugby Football Union’s New Tackle Mandate Faces Intense Backlash 

English Rugby’s governing body the Rugby Football Union (RFU) yesterday announced their new tackle height governance. 

Announcing that from July 1st, 2023, all players at age grade and adult amateur level in England will be required to tackle from the waistline or lower. 

Immediately the announcement was met with intense criticism with many labelling it as the beginning of the end for the sport. 

Key to Rugby’s appeal is its physical nature, a point which many rugby fans and pundits were quick to point out. 

Lending their support behind was World Rugby with CEO Alan Gilpin releasing a statement saying: “In line with our six-point plan to make rugby the most progressive sport on player welfare, last year World Rugby opened discussions with unions about lowering the tackle height in the community game around the globe. 

“At those meetings unions were presented with findings from trials that have taken place in France and South Africa as well as initial data from rugby specific studies using smart mouthguard.” 

“Discussions with unions have progressed well and formal proposals to be applied around the world are expected to be presented to our Executive Board in March. We welcome the RFU taking these proactive steps, rugby will never stand still when it comes to player welfare and this is a prime example of the sport, once again, putting our words into action.”


Parliamentary Report Condemns Premiership Rugby 

In what has been a trying season for English Rugby’s top professional league, the UK Parliament have released a damning statement condemning the league’s governance. 

Labelling the league “clearly unsustainable” whilst committee member Damian Green MP saying rugby “is in disarray”, England’s topflight looks set for a major overhaul in the near future. 

Green who was the acting chairman of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee said, 

"Inert leadership from the Rugby Football Union [RFU] and Premiership Rugby [PRL] has allowed mismanagement to collapse two of English rugby's top teams. 

"Thousands of loyal fans have been deprived of their clubs and hundreds of jobs have been lost." 

In perhaps the most glaring statistic, the committee was told that the average Premiership Rugby club records annual losses of £4m. 

Whilst the findings and statements from the select committee are certainly damning, the RFU and Premiership rugby said, "working hard" to "create a sustainable league".

Coming under the heaviest of fire were the owners of Worcester Warriors who went into administration earlier this season with the committee saying of the owners.  

"Unscrupulous owners mismanaged club finances while attempting to strip the club of its assets" 

"one of the most striking facets of the problems at Worcester Warriors was the lack of due diligence undertaken regarding its owners, particularly Colin Goldring". 

"This was seemingly not enough for the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to intervene and end Mr Goldring's ownership of Worcester Warriors, 

"All regulatory bodies expressed to Goldring that they were satisfied he was fit and proper to own and be director of a sports club."

Whilst the Warriors certainly came under the heaviest of fire, Wasps who also went into administration were heavily criticised for their "disastrous and ill-thought-through relocation to Coventry" following their exit from long term home London.


Witching Hour Dawns For Champions Cup Contenders 

Round four of the 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup is nearly upon us with several teams staring down the barrel of a make-or-break weekend. 

Whilst eight teams are assured of their place in this season’s knock-out stages, the final eight places remain very much up for grabs.

Getting proceedings underway for Pool A this evening is the Vodacom Bulls who travel to Lyon in a crunch clash for the two sides. For Lyon anything other than a win assures they will not make it through to the next round. For Jake White’s Bulls a win could see them finish as high as second on the table should the cards fall their way. 

Whilst the battle in Lyon rages on, two of Pool B’s top team’s face-off in a crucial battle that will likely determine home field status for the play-off rounds as the Ospreys travel to Welford road to tackle the Leicester Tigers. 

Starting Saturday’s action will be FloRugby’s game of the week as the Cell C Sharks travel to London very much in the running for the top spot in Pool A. 

Facing them are a Harlequins side who like Lyon know that a win is crucial for their play-off hopes. In what was one of the games of the season thus far, the Sharks defeated a Quins side short of star player Marcus Smith back in round one. 

Smith has been named for tomorrow’s clash in a star-studded backline that should pose the Springbok laden Sharks with plenty of questions. 

For Quins scrumhalf Danny Care, this will be his 350th time running out for the club in what is a true reflection of the England stars staying power as a top-level professional.

Written by Philip Bendon