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Celebrating rugby’s recordbreakers








Go flying with STUART McI NALLY
















the most


Make festive































Inside the mindof G A VIN HENSON


Top tips from MATT TOOMUA

In-depth report


Isplayer migrationdestroying thegame?






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“Increasing incidents of off-field bad behaviour”

IN THE first few months of this season, there have been a spate of disciplinary incidents involving young players which make you question whether the life of a professional rugby player is as disciplined as we’re led to believe. Manu Tuilagi and Denny Solomona were sent home from an England training camp in Teddington after a drunken night out, while Marland Yarde was another to see his halo slip. Poor timekeeping and a reportedly bad attitude saw the wing upping sticks from Harlequins with a ‘good riddance’ tag attached to his bag from senior players as he went off to join Sale mid-season. Magnus Bradbury was stripped of the Edinburgh captaincy after behaviour unbecoming of a club skipper – a late-night incident forced him to seek treatment for a head injury. At the same club, John Hardie was suspended until further notice, pending an investigation into alleged cocaine use. It’s not just in the UK where rugby players’ behaviour has fallen below the standards expected of role models. All

Blacks Aaron Smith and Jerome Kaino made front-page news for their extracurricular activities. While in Paris, French media reported on a street scrap between Racing 92 team-mates Ben Tameifuna and Viliamu Afatia. Of course, nobody expects a group of young men, with salaries that far exceed their childhood contemporaries, to live like saints. The monastic life led by


“South Africa should join the European Test scene – forever. The effects would be dynamic. It would send the Six Nations into hyperspace” P64


Swap shop Marland Yarde left for Sale in mid-season

Jonny Wilkinson isn’t for all, but with more players opening up on the loneliness, boredom and depression brought on by a relentless schedule, long-term rehab and life pressures, you can only hope players are receiving the advice and guidance they need. Motives for such unseemly headlines need to be monitored before it becomes an epidemic.


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PICS: Getty Images








Dylan Hartley


World news


Best players of 2017


Charlie Hodgson


Rising Stars


Living with cancer


Gavin Henson


Taufa’ao Filise

34 Doddie Weir

35 Ben Ryan




Migration in rugby


Jacob Stockdale


World Cup 2019


Tadhg Beirne


Christmas gifts


Festive matches


Stephen Jones


Stuart McInally




75 Team of the Month

76 George Turner


South Africa women


Perry Baker


Matt Toomua


Leinster analysis






Secret Player




How about this for a Christmas cracker of a deal? Subscribe to Rugby World this month and you can save up to 41%, paying just £17.99 every six months. The perfect present. Check out P30 or call 0330 333 1113 for more details.


Ready to sparkle – celebrating rugby’s record breakers




Celebrate the changing of the months with our stats-packed calendar. If yours is missing, please email


From the makers of


All smiles England are enjoying a lot of success under Eddie Jones

“Our game still resonates with so many people”

I’LL START with a timely homage to Eddie Jones as he celebrates his two-year anniversary. After bustling into Twickenham with some swagger, he has walked the walk as England have tasted defeat only once, in Dublin last March, while registering consecutive Six Nations titles and five wins over Australia. Granted, the financial and numerical advantages

England enjoy will always be levelled at them, but you have to doff your cap to a side who seem to have forgotten how to lose. To do otherwise would be churlish. Elsewhere, with the kerfuffle over the 2023 World Cup (P28) and the Samoa Rugby Union’s financial woes, if we needed a timely reminder of why our game still resonates with so many, you only had to look at the sport’s heartfelt response to Doddie Weir walking out at Murrayfield with his three sons before


Scotland v New Zealand. Doddie’s battle with motor neurone disease (P34) will test the big man’s resolve to the limit, but he will do so knowing he is not alone.

Owain Jones, Editor Email: Phone: 01252 555271 Twitter @owainjtjones



Jack Conan touches down in Ireland’s 23-20 win over Fiji in front of a sell-out crowd at the Aviva Stadium

Photo Ryan Byrne/Inpho

More channels than any other TV magazine!











All the films, all the sport, all the big new shows



Look out for the Christmas and New Year double issue, on sale Tuesday 12 December

PICS: Getty Images & Inpho




Key dates for your diary in December


It’s the ‘Battle of the Blues’ at Twickenham with the annual Varsity Match. The double header kicks off with Oxford



Women at 11.30am, followed by the men’s fixture at 3pm. For more information, see

Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton are the headline guests for a Christmas lunch at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol. The

coach and captain of the last two British & Irish Lions tours will take part in a Q&A with event host David Flatman after the three-course lunch. Visit to book a table.



















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Will there be any rugby winners at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony in Liverpool? Tune into BBC One this Sunday night to see the great and the good of the sports world honoured at the Echo Arena – Clare Balding, Gary Lineker and Gabby Logan are hosting once again.


Murrayfield may be a rugby venue but it also plays host to the Big Hogmanay Ball. If you want to bring in the New Year in Edinburgh,

tickets are £49 at

– there is even a ‘rocking reindeer’

(think a festive bucking bronco!).



The halfway point of the season brings a significant match at the foot of the Aviva Premiership table: Worcester v London Irish (7.45pm). Four points would be an early Christmas gift for the victors. Children’s tickets are available for £1 when purchased with an adult ticket – see for info.

PICS: Getty Images & Huw Evans Agency



The latest fixtures – and TV details – for the coming weeks

WEEKEND 30 NOV-2 DEC HSBC World Sevens Series Men & Women (Dubai) TV Live on Sky Sports FRI 1 DEC Aviva Premiership Northampton v Newcastle (7.45) TV Live on BT Sport Worcester v Sale (7.45pm) Guinness Pro14 Southern Kings v Edinburgh (6.15) Dragons v Ulster (7.35pm) TV Live on BBC Wales/NI/TG4 Glasgow v Cardiff Blues (7.35pm) TV Live on BBC Alba Greene King IPA Championship Nottingham v Jersey (7.45pm) Principality Premiership East Bargoed v Newport Cardiff v Bedwas Cross Keys v Pontypridd Merthyr v Ebbw Vale Principality Premiership West Carmarthen Quins v RGC 1404 Neath v Bridgend SAT 2 DEC International Fixture Wales v South Africa (2.30pm, Principality Stadium) TV Live on BBC One Aviva Premiership Exeter v Bath (2pm) TV Live on BT Sport Gloucester v London Irish (3pm)

Wasps v Leicester (4.30pm) TV Live on BT Sport Guinness Pro14 Zebre v Connacht (1.15pm) TV Live on TG4 Treviso v Leinster (3.30pm) TV Live on TG4 Munster v Ospreys (5.30pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Cheetahs v Scarlets (6.35pm) TV Live on S4C Top 14 La Rochelle v Montpellier (1.45) Brive v Oyonnax (5pm) Pau v Bordeaux (5pm) Toulouse v Castres (5pm) Toulon v Lyon (7.45pm) Tyrrells Premier 15s L’borough v Glos-Hartpury (noon) DMP Sharks v Bristol (4pm) Fir Waterloo v Worcester (4.45) Greene King IPA Championship Doncaster v Bristol (2.30pm) Hartpury v Ealing (2.30pm) Principality Premiership West Swansea v Llandovery Ulster Bank League Div 1A Clontarf v Dublin University Garryowen v Cork Constitution St Mary’s College v Buccaneers Terenure Coll v Young Munster UCD v Lansdowne BT Premiership Boroughmuir v Melrose

10 th

JUMP TO IT! Last season’s finalists Saracens and Clermont meet again

Glasgow Hawks v Ayr Hawick v Stirling County Heriot’s v Marr Watsonians v Currie SUN 3 DEC Aviva Premiership Harlequins v Saracens (3pm) TV Live on BT Sport Top 14 Clermont v Agen (11.30am) Stade Français v Racing 92 (3.50) Tyrrells Premier 15s Richmond v Wasps (12.45pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Harlequins v Saracens (5.30pm) Greene King IPA Championship Cornish Pirates v Bedford (2.30) London Scottish v Richmond (3) TV Live on Sky Sports Yorkshire Carn v Rotherham (3) Principality Premiership West Aberavon v Llanelli THU 7 DEC European Challenge Cup Toulouse v Lyon (7.45pm) The Varsity Match Oxford v Cambridge Women (11.30am, Twickenham) Oxford v Cambridge Men (3pm, Twickenham) FRI 8 DEC European Champions Cup Glasgow v Montpellier (7.45pm) TV Live on Sky Sports


European Challenge Cup Agen v Pau (7pm) Stade Français v Krasny Yar (7pm) Dragons v Enisei (7.30pm) British & Irish Cup Bristol v Leinster A Munster A v Bedford WEEKEND 9-10 DEC HSBC World Sevens Series Men (Cape Town) TV Live on Sky Sports SAT 9 DEC European Champions Cup Scarlets v Treviso (1pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Toulon v Bath (3.15pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Castres v Racing 92 (5.30pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Northampton v Ospreys (5.30pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Munster v Leicester (7.45pm) TV Live on BT Sport European Challenge Cup Zebre v Gloucester (1.30pm) Sale v Cardiff Blues (3pm) Worcester v Oyonnax (3pm) Newcastle v Bordeaux (3.15pm) TV Live on BT Sport Edinburgh v London Irish (7.35) Brive v Connacht (8pm) Tyrrells Premier 15s Harlequins v Wasps (1pm) Saracens v Firwood Waterloo (2) Glos-Hartpury v DMP Sharks (4) British & Irish Cup Doncaster v Cardiff Blues Select Hartpury College v Ulster A Jersey v London Scottish Richmond v Connacht Eagles Rotherham v Ealing Trailfinders Yorkshire Car v Dragons Select Ulster Bank League Div 1A Buccaneers v St Mary’s College Cork Constitution v Garryowen Dublin University v Clontarf Lansdowne v UCD Young Munster v Terenure Coll BT Premiership Currie v Boroughmuir Heriot’s v Glasgow Hawks Marr v Hawick Melrose v Ayr Stirling County v Watsonians SUN 10 DEC European Champions Cup Harlequins v Ulster (1pm) TV Live on BT Sport La Rochelle v Wasps (1pm) TV Live on BT Sport Saracens v Clermont (3.15pm) TV Live on BT Sport Exeter v Leinster (5.30pm) TV Live on BT Sport Tyrrells Premier 15s Worcester v Loughborough (2pm) Richmond v Bristol (2.30pm) British & Irish Cup

Scarlets Select v Cornish Pirates Nottingham v Ospreys Select THU 14 DEC European Challenge Cup Pau v Agen (7.45pm) FRI 15 DEC European Champions Cup Ulster v Harlequins (7.45pm) TV Live on BT Sport European Challenge Cup Oyonnax v Worcester (7pm) Bordeaux v Enisei (7.30pm) Dragons v Newcastle (7.30pm) Edinburgh v Krasny Yar (7.35pm) British & Irish Cup Leinster A v Bristol SAT 16 DEC European Champions Cup Montpellier v Glasgow (1pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Treviso v Scarlets (1pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Leinster v Exeter (3.15pm) TV Live on BT Sport Racing 92 v Castres (3.15pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Bath v Toulon (5.30pm) TV Live on Sky Sports European Challenge Cup Gloucester v Zebre (3pm) London Irish v Stade Français (3) Connacht v Brive (3pm) Lyon v Toulouse (8pm) Tyrrells Premier 15s Loughborough v Saracens (noon) Wasps v Gloucester-Hartpury (2) Firwood Waterloo v Quins (2.30) DMP Sharks v Richmond (4pm) Bristol v Worcester (7pm) British & Irish Cup Bedford Blues v Munster A Cardiff Blues Select v Doncaster Dragons Select v Yorkshire Carn Ealing Trailfinders v Rotherham London Scottish v Jersey Ospreys Select v Nottingham Ulster A v Hartpury College BT Premiership Ayr v Currie Boroughmuir v Stirling County Glasgow Hawks v Melrose Hawick v Heriot’s Watsonians v Marr SUN 17 DEC European Champions Cup Wasps v La Rochelle (1pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Clermont v Saracens (3.15pm) TV Live on BT Sport Ospreys v Northampton (3.15pm) TV Live on BT Sport Leicester v Munster (5.30pm) TV Live on BT Sport European Challenge Cup Cardiff Blues v Sale (3.15pm) TV Live on Sky Sports British & Irish Cup Connacht Eagles v Richmond

Cornish Pirates v Scarlets Select WED 20 DEC Principality Premiership East Newport v Cross Keys FRI 22 DEC Aviva Premiership Worcester v London Irish (7.45pm) TV Live on BT Sport Top 14 Racing 92 v Toulouse (7.45pm) Greene King IPA Championship Bristol v Cornish Pirates (7.45pm) Jersey v Hartpury College (7.45) SAT 23 DEC Aviva Premiership Newcastle v Harlequins (3pm) Northampton v Exeter (3pm) TV Live on BT Sport Sale v Bath (3pm) Wasps v Gloucester (3pm) Guinness Pro14 Treviso v Zebre (2pm) Edinburgh v Glasgow (5.10pm, Murrayfield) TV Live on Sky Sports/BBC Alba Connacht v Ulster (7.35pm) TV Live on BBC NI/TG4 Top 14 Agen v Brive (1pm) Bordeaux v La Rochelle (3pm) Montpellier v Lyon (5pm) Castres v Stade Français (7.45pm) Pau v Clermont (7.45pm) Toulon v Oyonnax (7.45pm) Greene King IPA Championship Rotherham v Doncaster (2pm) Ealing v Richmond (3pm) London Scottish v Bedford (3pm) Yorkshire Carn v Nottingham (3) Principality Premiership East Ebbw Vale v Bedwas

Merthyr v Bargoed Pontypridd v Cardiff Principality Premiership West Bridgend v RGC 1404 Llandovery v Carmarthen Quins Swansea v Llanelli SUN 24 DEC Aviva Premiership Leicester v Saracens (3pm) TV Live on BT Sport TUE 26 DEC Guinness Pro14 Dragons v Cardiff Blues (2pm) TV Live on BBC Wales Munster v Leinster (3.15pm) TV Live on Sky Sports/TG4 Scarlets v Ospreys (5.35pm) TV Live on Sky Sports/S4C Principality Premiership West Neath v Aberavon FRI 29 DEC Aviva Premiership Bath v Wasps (7.45pm) TV Live on BT Sport Greene King IPA Championship Doncaster v Yorkshire Carn (7.45) Nottingham v Lon Scottish (7.45) SAT 30 DEC Aviva Premiership Gloucester v Sale (3pm) London Irish v Newcastle (3pm) Saracens v Worcester (3pm) Harlequins v Northampton (4pm, Twickenham) TV Live on BT Sport Guinness Pro14 Zebre v Treviso (2pm) Glasgow v Edinburgh (3.15pm) TV Live on Sky Sports Top 14 La Rochelle v Agen (1pm)

26 th

FULL SPEED Will Gareth Davies score in the West Wales derby?

Stade Français v Bordeaux (3pm) Brive v Montpellier (5pm) Oyonnax v Racing 92 (5pm) Toulouse v Toulon (7.45pm) Greene King IPA Championship Hartpury Coll v Rotherham (2.30) Bedford v Ealing Trailfinders (3) Richmond v Bristol (3pm) SUN 31 DEC Aviva Premiership Exeter v Leicester (3pm) TV Live on BT Sport Guinness Pro14 Cardiff Blues v Scarlets (3.15pm) TV Live on Sky Sports/BBC Wales Dragons v Ospreys (5.35pm) TV Live in S4C Top 14 Lyon v Pau (1pm) Clermont v Castres (3pm) Greene King IPA Championship Cornish Pirates v Jersey (2pm) MON 1 JAN Guinness Pro14 Leinster v Connacht (3.15pm) TV Live on TG4 Ulster v Munster (5.35pm) TV Live on BBC NI/TG4 FRI 5 JAN Aviva Premiership Worcester v Bath (7.45pm) TV Live on BT Sport Guinness Pro14 Edinburgh v Southern Kings (7.35) TV Live on BBC Alba Scarlets v Dragons (7.35pm) TV Live on BBC Wales Ulster Bank League Div 1A Young Munster v Garryowen SAT 6 JAN Aviva Premiership


Leicester v London Irish (3pm) Northampton v Gloucester (3pm) TV Live on BT Sport Sale v Harlequins (3pm) Guinness Pro14 Treviso v Cheetahs (1.15pm) Ospreys v Cardiff Blues (3.15pm) TV Live on Sky Sports/S4C Zebre v Glasgow (3.30pm) TV Live on BBC Alba Leinster v Ulster (5.35pm) TV Live on Sky Sports/BBC NI Munster v Connacht (7.45pm) TV Live on TG4 Top 14 Agen v Castres Bordeaux v Lyon Brive v Toulon Montpellier v Stade Français Oyonnax v La Rochelle Pau v Toulouse Racing 92 v Clermont Ulster Bank League Div 1A Cork Constitution v Buccaneers Dublin University v St Mary’s Coll Llansdowne v Clontarf UCD v Terenure College SUN 7 JAN Aviva Premiership Newcastle v Exeter (3pm) Wasps v Saracens (3pm) TV Live on BT Sport WEEKEND 11/12/13/14 JAN European Champions Cup Bath v Scarlets Castres v Leicester Exeter v Montpellier Harlequins v Wasps Leinster v Glasgow Northampton v Clermont Ospreys v Saracens

Racing 92 v Munster Toulon v Treviso Ulster v La Rochelle European Challenge Cup Agen v Gloucester Bordeaux v Dragons Cardiff Blues v Toulouse Edinburgh v Stade Français London Irish v Krasny Yar Newcastle v Enisei Oyonnax v Brive Pau v Zebre Sale v Lyon Worcester v Connacht FRI 12 JAN British & Irish Cup Jersey v Dragons Select Nottingham v Munster A Ulster A v Cornish Pirates SAT 13 JAN

Guinness Pro14 Southern Kings v Cheetahs (4pm) Tyrrells Premier 15s Harlequins v Loughborough (2) Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm) Richmond v Glos-Hartpury (2.30) British & Irish Cup Cardiff Blues Select v Leinster A Doncaster v Bristol Ealing v Connacht Eagles Hartpury College v Scarlets Select Lon Scottish v Yorkshire Carnegie Rotherham v Richmond BT Premiership Currie v Melrose Hawick v Glasgow Hawks Heriot’s v Watsonians Marr v Boroughmuir Stirling County v Ayr O All kick-offs UK & Ireland. Fixtures subject to change.




“Eddie calls me The Butcher. You’ll have to ask him why”

White orcs, smartphones and Disney movies crop up in this chinwag with the England captain

Interview Owain Jones // Pictures Getty Images

ho makes you laugh in the Saints squad? Paul Hill. He’s a polite


young fella but a bit of a busybody. He likes to think he’s book-smart but he’s not. He just watches a documentary and becomes educated overnight. Also, he walks through the changing room with dirty boots. He’s always forgetting his towel and dries himself with his kit. He brings a lot of the grief on himself. Do you have any phobias? I try to take on my fears. I wouldn’t like to jump out of a plane or bungee but I’d do it. I don’t like deep, dark water but I’d swim in it. Snakes and spiders aren’t great but I’ve held them. Is there anything that annoys you? Bad manners really get to me. Respect needs to be part of any walk of life and manners, like kindness, are free.




You need to think about people – don’t be inconsiderate. I hate phones too. I know I’m as drawn

to mine as anyone but I see it infiltrating rugby with the Instagram generation. With every game, kids need to take a photo and it’s all about the likes. They have headphones on the bus and Snapchat their kit. That’s not for me. Are there any no-nos in the

Saints changing room? Phones again. I’ve made it clear that I worry where players’ heads are if they’re connecting with the outside world when they should be focusing on the changing room, which is a special place. Players should be concentrating on their role in the game. It grates with me, or maybe I’m just getting old.

Who would you least like to be left alone in a lift with? Unlike most people, I think I’d find Donald Trump entertaining – I’m not into politics. I also find Katie Hopkins pretty amusing. Maybe I’m strange. What are the funniest nicknames in the England squad? We’ve got a young pup, Sam Underhill, and I call him

Dogboy – it’s hygiene and ringworm related. I also call him The White Orc because he looks like that Lord of the Rings character. And I call him Keith for some reason. What is your nickname? Eddie (Jones) calls me The Butcher. You’ll have to ask him why. With others it’s just Dyls or Skips. You don’t have to call me Sir.


Age 31 (24 Mar 1986) Born Rotorua, NZ Position Hooker Height 6ft 1in Weight 17st 4lb Club Northampton England caps 87 (2T) Twitter handle @DylanHartley

Last person you phoned My missus, Jo, or my mum


Most important person on your phone Eddie Jones and then my agent

Last person you texted My communications chief, I gave him the thumbs up

Music app Spotify on Sonos. Did I mention I like the Moana album?

Surrounded Hartley looks for space against Argentina

Most embarrassing moment in rugby? I’ve had a few red cards, some in front of 90,000 people. At the time it feels like your whole world is collapsing. It may be funny to people reading about it but it’s beyond humbling; it’s harrowing in fact. Who would be your three dream dinner party guests? First up, Sir Ranulph Fiennes. His stories are amazing. I’ve met him before and the things he’s done on mountains,

before WiFi, GPS and Gore-Tex, are remarkable. Stephen Hawking is also an incredible guy. I’d like to pick his brains about a few existential things. Then you’d need someone funny. How about James Corden? He makes me laugh but I’m not sure how that mix would go. Do you have any hidden talents? I can juggle. Well, I can’t juggle knives but I can do a few balls. I’m not sure it’s a talent but I love Lego and I’ve started

“ Pe o p l e

f i n d i t fu n ny b u t i t’s b eyo n d humbling; it’s harrowing”

r e a d i n g

ab o u t

i t

m ay

Favourite social network Instagram. Loads of pics and you can keep in touch with your mates

News app I don’t go to any specific site but get all my news from Twitter

Favourite WhatsApp group I have a few but I’ve disabled notifications. I don’t like to be bugged

Last app downloaded Not exciting but I think it was probably Dropbox


Funny man

James Corden

buying it for my daughter, Thea. She’s interested but doesn’t have the dexterity yet. It’s good for creativity and passing the time. I know Jack Nowell’s into it too. What’s your guilty pleasure? Moana, the Disney movie. My daughter loves it, so it’s on 24/7. I shouldn’t admit it but it’s grown on me. What do you miss about New Zealand? My parents, a lot. You can be anywhere in the world but as long as you have the people around who love you, you’ll be happy. I miss not being at my brother’s and his kids’ birthdays. FaceTime is great but it’s not the same as being there. I’m sounding sentimental, aren’t I? What do you want to do post-rugby? Personally, I want to be more involved in my family life. Professionally I’d like to be involved with Northampton Saints in some capacity. That was my thinking in signing a contract until near retirement age. I love the club dearly. We’ve laid down roots and are in a good place. n









1 4 Front 3 5 8 Row 2 6 10 7 9 A round-up of news


1 4 Front 3 5 8 Row 2 6 10 7 9 A round-up of news




A round-up of news from all points of the globe

Costa Rica Ex-England captain Lewis Moody has taken


on a coast-to-coast challenge in Costa Rica in aid of the HeadSmart campaign. He and 19 others set off on 30 November to cover 300km (186 miles) in eight days, during which they would trek through jungle, cycle up mountain terrain, raft rapids and kayak in the Caribbean Sea. The goal is to raise £75,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity’s HeadSmart campaign, which raises awareness of tumours in children and young people. Visit to sponsor Moody.


Iran Thirteen teams from

across the country competed in the Iran 7s Top Division at the Azadi Sport Complex in Tehran, with Tabriz (above) beating Otana 7-5 to win the title. Tehran came third at the event by overcoming Congress 60, last year’s winners, 12-10. Iran stages several rugby tournaments in all formats – sevens, 15s, beach and tag – and the Iran Rugby Union became affiliated to World Rugby in 2010. Keep track of Iranian rugby news via Masoud Veis Karami’s Instagram page @IranianRugby.



Ireland Thomond Park hosted the first-ever Barbarians women’s

match, the invitational squad beating Munster 19-0 in heavy rain thanks to a penalty try and touchdowns from Ailis Egan and Georgina Roberts. Gloucester-Hartpury centre Megan Goddard (below) was named Player of the Match. The squad was coached by Giselle Mather and featured players from eight countries – Canada, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden and Wales. Their match preceded the Barbarians’ 27-24 victory over Tonga.


Argentina A rugby project in a

maximum-security prison in Buenos Aires is helping to cut reoffending rates from 60% to 5%. Fundación Espartanos, which is funded by England Rugby and Sport Relief, has launched ‘Second Chance’, a scheme where inmates do two training sessions a week to learn basic skills and rugby’s values. Not only are the sessions designed to improve behaviour but to

5 Spain The Spanish federation have launched Project

2021 ahead of the next Women’s World Cup. For two years Spain will focus on talent identification to bring in new players, before developing a squad they hope will be competitive on the world stage.

help prisoners continue their education and find jobs once they are released. Several England players, including Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw, visited the prison during their June tour to Argentina to see the project in action. Gabriel, one of the participants, said:

“This programme has changed my life and has made me a better person. Rugby is a game which teaches many beautiful things, values that will help us become gentlemen in the future.”

6 South Africa The Blitzboks, who won the

2016-17 World Sevens Series, have been named South African Sports Team of the Year. SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said: “The Blitzboks showed what teamwork and passion is all about, and that a South African sports team can be the best in the world.”

7 Papua New Guinea The men’s and women’s

sevens teams from Papua New Guinea have both qualified for the 2018 World Cup in San Francisco. The two sides booked their places after finishing the Oceania Sevens Championship in Suva, Fiji, as the highest non-qualified teams. Joanna Lagona (left, carrying) led the women’s team to the semi-finals while fifth place in the men’s draw was enough for PNG to reach the Sevens World Cup for the first time. Men’s coach Douglas Guise said: “It is a testament to the boys’ and girls’ hard work and love of the game.”




Rob Andrew (above) was one of five players inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame last month. The others were Felipe Contepomi, Al Charron, Fabien Pelous and Phaidra Knight.


New Zealand

Tabai Matson, who left his Bath role earlier this season for family reasons, has been appointed Chiefs assistant coach in NZ. He said: “The unexpected opportunity was too good to pass up.”



Wing Filipo Daugunu (above) crossed for a hat-trick as Queensland Country beat Canberra Vikings 42-28 to win their first National Rugby Championship title. James Tuttle amassed 17 points and Duncan Paia’aua got a brace.

PICS: Getty Images & Inpho




Here’s who you think have been the standout players in the past year

Steve Judge Owen Farrell. Cool under pressure, execution, leadership, decisions, best hair

Jim Roy Sam Whitelock. Mr Consistent, every game. AB’s Mr Workhorse. No one better at their job

Melanie Joan Stuart Hogg! He’s been on fire. Always on team lists – unfortunate to go home from Lions tour

Nicolo Felici Damian McKenzie. 22-year-old all-rounder who plays with the confidence of a 35yo





Jonathan Davies (above) – Pro12 champion and Lions’ Player of the Tour

rampage Malcolm Marx. Good at scrum time. Amazing rucks and ball in hand

Farrell by a landslide. Most important player in every game. World-class 12, arguably the best

Itoje brings so much intensity to any side he plays for. He changed the Lions series





Gotta be Stuart Hogg, he changes games every single time that he plays

Maro Itoje. He has been outstanding for club, country and the British & Irish Lions

Jonathan Davies. Offensively brilliant for Lions, one of the best defensive blitz readers

Farrell. By far the best player. Incredible win-loss record. Scored a shedload of points


St Albans attempted to break the world record for the most consecutive passes of a rugby ball last month. They fell shy of the record of 280, with just 156 passes, but the day was not a bust because the whole school – and visitor Billy Vunipola, who joined in with the attempt and took part in Q&As with pupils – used the effort to bolster their current charity drive. Head boy James Bromfield said: “As a school with a high standard of rugby,




we believed the attempt suited us well. However, we did this primarily to raise money for a

Brothers of the Sacred Heart mission in the Philippines, which is called the IconHope Home. This centre takes children off the streets and helps to rehabilitate and re-educate them, and reconnect children with their families.” Money raised by the school will help the centre to expand so that they can take in more children. For more information and to donate, visit




…is a kick out of hand used to exploit space behind the defence. The ball is dropped onto the foot and it will roll forward, end over end, along the ground rather than going up in the air.

The 38-cap England and Lions fly-half who is now London Irish’s kicking coach

“I’d like to see Owen Farrell at ten because he’s the best England have”

T HE GREAT thing about England at the moment is we expect them to

win. If you compare that to two years ago, when we bombed out of the World Cup, it’s unrecognisable. Eddie Jones has done a fantastic job but he’s developed foundations laid by Stuart Lancaster, because the spine of the squad hasn’t changed a

great deal. I’m not sure what his magic ingredient is, but I know players are scared of losing their place and I think that points towards why results have improved so much. It seems like the players love him. England huffed and puffed against Argentina but proved they could win a tight, pressurised game. Then against Australia they showed they could score tries in atrocious conditions. They are learning to adapt, which is promising. As they move into 2018, lots of people will look towards the New Zealand game but I wouldn’t look too far ahead. The Six Nations throws up so many twists and turns. You have to remember, everyone wants to beat England. Scotland impressed me against the All Blacks and England have to go to Murrayfield, while Wales are trying to find a new way of playing and may light the blue touch-paper. Going back to Paris won’t be easy either. No doubt Eddie will be drumming into them that if they get complacent they’ll get beaten. The squad is shaping up well ahead of 2019, so I don’t see wholesale changes.

Pivotal figure Should Owen Farrell change shirts?

You can expect a few bolters, say Marcus Smith, but as talented as he is, I can only see him coming in as injury cover. It’s the same with Alex Lozowski. As for selection, I’m not sure Eddie knows what the side will be as there’s still tinkering to be done. The centre partnership is the biggest conundrum.

It has been for years but if you’re going

to have two ball-players at ten and 12, you need a 13 who can carry. I’d love to see Manu Tuilagi coming back into the fold there. He’s a genuine match-winner. If Manu isn’t fit, I’d have Ben Te’o, who

will get you over the gain-line. I’d like to see Owen Farrell at ten because I think he’s the best England have, and Henry Slade playing at 12. He seems to be in and out of the side but he needs time to bed in. If he has that, he could thrive. I see the most movement in the back three. Someone like Denny Solomona should be given a chance because he’s

a proven finisher. I’d also like to see

Anthony Watson at full-back longer term. Mike Brown has done a fantastic job but


Watson has quick feet and could be devastating when play breaks up. Dan Cole seems to be nailed on at tighthead, but I’d love to see Jamie George start for England. I don’t see it happening, though, because Eddie has set his stall on Dylan Hartley and you can’t deny that he’s done great things as a captain. At loosehead, I’d stick with Mako Vunipola. He offloads in contact better than most backs, and has a great understanding of the game and huge work-rate. At lock England are spoilt. When Maro Itoje came on against Australia, they had three genuine jumpers in the lineout. My starters would be Maro and Joe Launchbury, with Courtney Lawes at six. I’d put Chris Robshaw in at seven – he’s

the glue in the pack. I wouldn’t get hung up on the number on his back. It’s more than one person’s job to get turnovers. Most players can get over the ball now. Sam Underhill is a brilliant defender but it will be interesting to see how his ball-carrying evolves. At the base of the scrum, you can’t look past Billy Vunipola. He has the ability to be world class. England are in a great position ahead of Japan and, for me, there are parallels with the group of players from 2003 in that they seem to be able to find a way to win, whatever’s thrown at them. England XV for 2019: Watson; Daly,

Tuilagi, Slade, May; Farrell (c), Care; M Vunipola, George, Cole, Launchbury, Itoje, Lawes, Robshaw, B Vunipola. n



Interviews Sarah Mockford // Pictures Getty Images, Huw Evans Agency, Wasps Ladies & WRU




Age 20 (29 September 1997) Born Slough, Berkshire Club Wasps Country England Position Wing


ow did you first get involved in rugby? My

doing fitness or in the gym, it’s to help the team get better as much as yourself. When did you link up with Wasps? When I turned 18 I could join a women’s side and Wasps were the nearest

Premiership side, plus my sister played there. I love it – it’s like a family. Giselle (Mather, director of rugby) is as good at challenging someone who’s just picked up a rugby ball as she is with someone who’s played for years like me. She’s incredible. Is it exciting to have Danielle Waterman at Wasps? I’m a bit

brother was playing for the minis at Maidenhead and me and my sister, Ruth, were sat

on the side. We asked to play and got into it through that. I was five then and when it split to girls’ rugby, we moved to Reading for U15s and U18s. Did your sister help motivate you? Ruth’s two years older, played flanker and I was following in her footsteps. She played in the Premiership and for

England U20 before me. We’d motivate each other.

She had a serious injury and just plays socially now. Have you always played wing? We struggled for numbers up to U18s and

I played a bit at fly-half –

not by choice! – but I’ve been on the wing since U18s. Now that I’ve learnt the position I love it. I always used to think the wingers were the fast or

skinny people, but it’s very tactical. I’ve picked up so many things about working as a back three, like the pendulum and so on. Did you play any other sports growing up?

I used to be into swimming.

I stopped in the lower

sixth because I realised I couldn’t do swimming and rugby, and I enjoyed rugby more. It’s the team thing. With swimming, you’re training to better yourself. In rugby, when you’re


Last season was a tale of injury and illness (glandular fever) for Dow, but she’s making up for

lost time this term. Her form earned her an England call-up for the series against Canada and she scored a brace on her Test debut.

fan girly! She’s coached me before and having someone like her in the back three is great. She gets me to think about different options – she has so much knowledge. What are your goals this season? To stay fi t! And enjoy what I’m doing. I’m studying mechanical engineering at Imperial so I have to put time into that, but I want to enjoy my rugby and get as much experience as I can.



Age 18 (23 June 1999) Born Penarth Region Ospreys Countr y Wales Position Fly-half

H ow did you get involved in rugby? I rocked up at

my local club, Cowbridge, when I was six and was there until I was 16. My parents always encouraged me to try different sports so I played football, tennis and cricket too, but rugby became a natural choice. What positions have you played? I started on the wing, moved infield and ended up at outside-half when I was 13.

It’s my favourite position. You get lots of touches and have the ability to run, pass and kick. I like to mix up my game. What are your strengths? I like the role of playmaker, the distribution aspect, and I want to remain an attacking threat. Which players do you enjoy watching? Dan Carter and Rhys Priestland. They have natural attacking flair. And Beauden Barrett – he has the confidence to try different things and remains accurate. Ieuan Evans is your dad – does that add pressure? I don’t feel it. There could be expectation but I tend to stay away from that. I play how I play. He might give me advice now and then but it’s what any father would do. Talk us through your representative honours… I started off with Cardiff Blues and had a camp with Wales U16, but I didn’t make the final squad. There were three people in my position at the Blues and when I didn’t make the cut I moved to Ospreys U18. My consistency got better and I was given the opportunity to be involved in the national U18 team, which has been a great experience. Have the setbacks helped? It’s made me

stronger mentally and kept my determination at a good level. I was always critical of my performances, striving to be a better player. What are your goals this season? To continue to play with Bridgend in the Premiership and hopefully to get some involvement regionally with the Ospreys A team and the U20s.


Mature beyond his years, Evans is showing huge promise as he combines rugby with an accounting and finance degree at Swansea University. He’s impressed for Wales U18 and will benefit from game time at Bridgend.

PICS: Getty Images & Inpho




Is rugby losing its commercial appeal?

Signs of times It’s the NatWest Six Nations for 2018


SPORTS MARKETING & SPONSORSHIP EXPERT The UK sponsorship market has never been softer and the number one reason is Brexit. But there are others. In rugby, the Champions Cup sponsorship offer was never going to work. It was massively overpriced at £4m per partnership given how small BT’s and Sky’s

audiences are. They should have stayed with Heineken as title sponsor but instead they’ve gone backwards. The one-year renewals

we’ve seen with Aviva and Premiership Rugby, and RBS (NatWest) and the Six Nations, are going to become a new norm while Brexit is biting. I was surprised Premiership Rugby struggled because the product goes from strength to strength. Pricing was the issue. And that was definitely the case with the Six Nations, who were wildly optimistic. It’s not all gloom and doom. The World Cup

will do well in Japan and France, and the Lions did well in a tough market because it’s unique.


INTERNATIONAL SPONSORSHIP ADVISER Rugby is in good health in what is a turbulent market given the uncertainty around Brexit. It doesn’t need to panic. World Rugby have done well after a decent World Cup in England and it’s selling well sponsorship-wise ahead of 2019, while the sevens game is growing globally. Rugby



Send your views to rugbyworldletters

brings out great values and is being played more and more by women and girls. For that reason, it doesn’t look like a social dinosaur.

The Six Nations is one of the great sponsorships in the northern hemisphere and I’m glad NatWest have stepped in. It’s a difficult market and people are jittery; people have to understand that. Rugby’s challenge is to embrace the fact we live in a very different society. The broadcast and media landscape is changing and we may yet have a revolution with Amazon, Netflix and Facebook buying

sports rights. It’s an unsettling period but one ripe with opportunity.



Eddie Jones was Santa Claus?

James Haskell

Hi Eddie, I’ve not got much of a Christmas list, but could I get the keys to my JCB back?

Mike Brown

Umm… maybe a nice relaxing day at the spa…

Marcus Smith

I don’t need anything for

Christmas, but it would be nice if

I didn’t have to make the tea any more. Unless you want me to

Zach Mercer

That would be nice, actually

Jonny May

Dear Santa, you and me are still going sightseeing in North Korea, yeah! We could see some missiles, LOL

Billy Vunipola

A quadruple-decker mattress

would be cool, boss

Michael Leitch

You should try and get some sleep this Christmas, Eddie


Ahhhh mates, you’re going

to have to be 22% better if

you want world-class gifts!


Elif Erol from Turkey has selected this team of male singers from the 1960s-2000s. Send ‘Alternative XVs’ to

3 Dave


4 Bruce Springsteen 5 Steve Harris



2 James



6 Till Lindemann

7 Tupac Shakur

8 Anthony Kiedis

9 Paul McCartney

10 George Michael 12 Michael Jackson 13 Prince

11 David Bowie

14 Adam Yauch

15 Freddie Mercury

PICS: Getty Images & Shutterstock

RW Travel Experience


Including match-day hospitality and pre-Test build-up with Simon Shaw

T HERE ARE few bigger

rivalries in world sport than

England versus Wales at

rugby. And this package

offers Rugby World readers the chance to see the 2018 Six Nations fixture in style, including insights from Simon Shaw in the build-up and an exclusive Q&A

with a former international.


Simon Shaw amassed 71 England caps over 15 years and went on three British & Irish Lions tours. A fixture for Wasps, he won Premiership titles and European Cups before a stint at Toulon.



Simon Shaw Q&A Join the former England lock in Twickenham for some superb, expert pre-match entertainment, covering predictions for the game and insights into the build-up from the players’ perspective.

Match ticket Your official England v Wales

Standing tall

Simon Shaw

Dates 10-11 February 2018 Price From £649 per person (£70 single supplement). Price based on two sharing.


Pre- and post-match hospitality (unseated), including bowl food lunch and dinner as well as beverages, at

For full terms and conditions, visit website below.

The Exchange in Twickenham

What’s included


Exclusive Q&A for Rugby World readers


Official England v Wales match ticket


Tour merchandise


One night in a four-star central London hotel with breakfast


Assistance from Gullivers Sports Travel representatives











Day one Morning Make your own way to London and drop your bags at the hotel around midday – provisionally the Millennium Gloucester in Kensington. Then head to The Exchange, opposite Twickenham station, where you will enjoy pre- and post-match hospitality (unseated). Speakers include Simon Shaw and a number of other former internationals. There will be a Q&A with an ex-Test player held exclusively for Rugby World readers and delicious bowl food. Afternoon Head to the stadium for kick-off and take your seat for England v Wales. After the final whistle, the bar reopens. Enjoy a post-match drink and bowl food at the same venue before returning to your hotel.

Day two Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before heading home.

ticket is included. Enjoy watching the latest encounter of one of the great fixtures in rugby. Will Wales provide another surprise? Or will England sail through on their way to another Six Nations triumph?

Accommodation Stay in a four-star hotel in central London – provisionally the Millennium Gloucester, Kensington.

Match-day events Enjoy excellent hospitality at The Exchange, a new venue right opposite Twickenham station, and an exclusive Q&A with a former international.

OUR PARTNERS Gullivers Sports Travel is the UK’s leading – and longest established – multi-sport tour operator, running trips to major worldwide sporting events.

Tripsmiths partners with the world’s leading tour operators and select global media brands to deliver exclusive travel experiences.

ILLUSTRATION: David Lyttleton





UDGE ROGERS won 34 England

caps from 1961-69 and played two Tests for the 1962 Lions before later becoming his country’s chairman of selectors. In 2003 the former England captain was part of a group of friends that travelled to Australia to watch the World Cup. Lawyer Jeremy Caplan and former Bedford team-mate Roger Dalzell were on the trip and the latter recalls an incident with the local constabulary… “Budge was driving and we were travelling through mountain passes and very tricky roads. For safety reasons, there were double yellow lines down the middle of the road, which you weren’t supposed to cross. This didn’t seem to trouble Budge, who drove at his normal speed – very fast. Suddenly, a police car appeared behind us with horns blaring and lights blazing. We pulled over and the policeman approached Budge in the driver’s seat. ‘Sir, do you realise you have crossed the double lines 12 times in five miles?’ he said. From the back of the car, Caplan intervened: ‘I’m the driver’s lawyer, officer, and we would like 144 other cases to be taken into consideration.’ The officer smiled and gave Budge a polite warning. Our driver then asked the patrolman how long it would take to reach their destination. ‘About one hour 30 minutes normally,’ he said, ‘but at the speed you’re driving about 40 minutes!’” O From Budge Rogers: A Rugby Life, published by Pitch, RRP £17.99.


We love hearing your stories and want to celebrate the characters of our great game in What Goes On Tour… If you have an amusing tale to tell, drop us a line. Mark your email ‘Tour Tale’ and send it to



Goes in Rugby World ]



Words Owain Jones // Pictures Getty Images & Matthew J Watkins

Former Wales centre Matthew J Watkins on his ongoing cancer battle

HEN I caught up with Matthew J Watkins, he was feeling sorry for himself,

but not for the reasons you might expect of someone diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in May 2013. “I had a game of touch with my mates down my local club, Oakdale, and it got a bit lively,” he chuckles. “One of the boys forearmed me in the face and rattled the front of my teeth. My front tooth is hanging on by a whisker. If that’s not enough, I’ve got a cold and tweaked my hamstring, butt.”


A step ahead Watkins breaks against Fiji in 2005

Watkins, you may remember, was a buccaneering centre with the Scarlets, Dragons and Gloucester during a 14-year professional career. From 2003-06 he

won 18 caps for Wales before a hip injury forced him to retire at the age of 32. “Retiring had been hard. I’d started playing at 18 or 19 and for more than

a decade, day in, day out, I had

everything done for me, everything was managed, so when I finished it

was tough,” recalls Watkins. “You’re left

in the wilderness, without the support

you should have. Fortunately a friend of

mine had given me a job in recruitment, which opened a few doors.” Just 18 months later, Watkins faced another challenge with the news that the recurring pain in his hip was cancer and he would have to start having treatment to reduce the tumour. After the diagnosis, Watkins says the

most difficult thing was having to break the news to loved ones. “My missus was really upset. It’s probably harder on my wife and mum than me. My eldest son

knows but my youngest boy is only six, so he doesn’t really understand.”

The cancer has since spread to his spine and he is now travelling from Gwent to the Royal Free Hospital in North London for regular radiation treatment, which could last a year. However, Watkins is not one to dwell on his misfortune. “The cancer I have

is in my bones. It started in my hip, and now it’s spread to the bottom of my spine and they’re checking if it’s in my skull and my neck. I try to stay off the internet – I think too

much information can worry you,” says

the 39-year-old. Watkins is very matter-of-fact about the future, too. “If the current drug’s not working, we’ll try something else. Honestly, it doesn’t affect me too much day to day. Until someone tells me different there’s no point worrying. You can’t control the ‘what-ifs’, it’s wasting energy. I’m going to dog it out. I had a scan last month and we’re deciding what the best course of action is.” After 14 years on the pro circuit, where he was regularly dragging himself out of the mud after tackling 18st-plus behemoths, Watkins wonders out loud whether rugby has toughened him up for the health concerns he’s endured over the past five years. “Rugby has probably helped me cope. It’s a physically tough sport. Coming back from injury is a solitary period and you have to be mentally tough.” Something else that has kept Watkins upbeat over the past few years is the support he’s had from Velindre, the specialist cancer centre in Whitchurch where he has been receiving long-term treatment. “They’ve been great. I did a 515km charity ride from Boston to New York with a few friends (in 2014) and we raised in the region of £30,000. The cycling helps me keep the weight in check because I can’t run. Next year we’re doing San Francisco to LA. It’s about raising money, having some fun and downing a few beers afterwards.” Despite not having much regular contact with his former team-mates, he knows that support is always there. “I saw Morgan Stoddart recently. He had testicular cancer last year and we just

Hospital visit

Receiving treatment

slipped back into the old banter. The camaraderie you have will last a lifetime. They treat me normally, which is how I prefer it. I’m still fitter than most of them.” Day to day, Watkins keeps busy with his bespoke sports management firm, SRW, which looks after the interests of up-and-coming Dragons stars Elliot Dee,

Tyler Morgan, Harrison Keddie and Ollie Griffiths, with Bath’s Aled Brew also on the roster. “We look after their contracts, advise them on insurance, but



London Irish hooker Darren Dawidiuk is undergoing treatment for testicular cancer, having been diagnosed after their pre-season friendly against Ealing. The 30-year-old has switched to a vegan diet to help fight the disease and says: “I feel much healthier and don’t feel as bloated, which is giving me the energy to train in the gym.” The club will donate £1 to the Movember Foundation for every 2018 London Irish calendar they sell.

“ I

because I think too much information can worry you”

t r y

t o

s t ay

o f f

t h e

i n t e rn e t


Central figure Taking on the Irish midfield in 2006

ultimately we offer support and someone they can trust. It’s everything I thought I needed but didn’t have as a player. As their careers grow, hopefully so will we.” As for his longer-term prospects, Watkins, who had a stint coaching Cross Keys, admits rugby is still the itch he continues to scratch. “I try to do things outside rugby but it always draws me back. I’d love to do some coaching and pass down what I’ve learnt to kids because I’ve worked with some world-class coaches like Graham Henry and Steve Hansen.” As Watkins readies himself for a trip to the dentist, I ask whether his cancer diagnosis has changed him as a person. He takes a moment and then gives a considered response. “I guess it has changed me but my natural disposition is just to enjoy

In it together With Morgan Stoddart

myself. You do that by spending time with family and friends. Sometimes you can dwell on what the future brings, but too much navel-gazing can have a detrimental effect. I just want to crack on and live my life.” n

PICS: Getty Images



The farce surrounding the 2023 World Cup must not be repeated for 2027, insists RW’s Sarah Mockford

RANSPARENT. Rigorous. T Groundbreaking. Independent. These are the type of words World

Surprise choice France will host RWC 2023

Rugby used to describe the selection process regarding the hosts of the 2023 World Cup. Now that process has concluded, a better word to sum up proceedings is ‘farce’. The World Rugby Council wanted a recommendation as to who should host following a detailed evaluation report. They got one: South Africa. Who did

they award the hosting rights to? France. It made a mockery of the whole exercise. What’s done is done but rugby must heed the lessons so that the sport doesn’t become a laughing stock when the hosts for RWC 2027 are decided. If World Rugby

want a transparent process, the whole vote should be an open affair, rather than held behind

closed doors. Let people know who is voting for who rather than the cloak-and-daggers act. If there is a recommendation, respect it. One bid team told Rugby World before a decision was made: “I would like to see the council vote against an independent company that they have paid a bucket-load of money…” Yet that is exactly what happened. So the money spent on the independent evaluation this time – thought to be a six-figure sum – was simply wasted. Think how much of a difference that sort of money could have made to a Tier

The money spent on the independent evaluation was simply wasted

Two or Three nation. Or the grass-roots programmes it could have been put towards to introduce the oval-ball game in new parts of the world. Furthermore, World Rugby should not be closing the door on smaller nations hosting the event. One criticism of Ireland’s bid was that they don’t have experience of hosting big sporting events – but how are they supposed to get that experience if it’s part of the criteria for doing so? It’s a catch-22. Argentina are thought to be looking to bid for the 2027 tournament but last

hosted football’s equivalent in the 1970s. Will that count against them? We should be encouraging more countries to bid, not simply focusing on those that can generate the biggest financial haul every four years. If that’s the goal, it will simply flit between England and France from now on. Yes, all the 2023 bids were close this time. Yes, all had pros and cons. Yes, France will undoubtedly stage a brilliant tournament in six years’ time. But the whole way this played out just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth – and I hope I’m not saying the same thing next time. n




What gets your goat? Let us know on Facebook or tweet @rugbyworldmag



PLAYER POWER Richie McCaw and Johnny Sexton, co-presidents of the International Rugby Players’ Association, have agreed a new deal with World Rugby to ensure players are

consulted on key issues about rugby’s future. IRPA will relocate from Auckland to Dublin.

NEW ROLES Kim Oliver has been named head coach of Bristol Ladies, Gemma Fay is Scotland’s new Head of Women and Girls’ rugby, and Craig Philpott has been appointed to a new


Tom Croft


full-time role as New Zealand U20 coach.

CALLING TIME Leicester, England and Lions flanker Tom Croft has been forced to retire aged 32 due to a neck injury.

SEIZE THE DAY Single-day tickets are now on sale for the Sevens World Cup in

San Francisco on 20-22 July – but they will only be available until 24 December. See

US TV DEAL CBS will televise 13 games of Major League Rugby, which launches in April. It is the first national TV partnership in US pro rugby history.

Interview: Owain Jones




The Dragons fly-half talks food, funny men and future plans

“I prepare my own food before a game. I’ve always been big on nutrition, especially at my age when I need an edge.”

“I’ve met some crazy people over the years. Lou Reed and Andy Powell are mental and Tom Shanklin is really funny, but the guy I miss playing with the most is Bridgend wing Adrian Durston.”

Coaching skills is something that would come naturally to me. My only concern is, knowing how my mind works, I’d have to be the best at it – it would be a 24-hour job and I worry whether I’d have the time to put into it with my kids, Ruby and Dexter.”

“I don’t really have friends in rugby. I’m not good at keeping in contact and am probably pretty rude in a way! I live in the moment and I’m having fun with the Dragons boys. Mind you, I bumped into James Hook the other day and we hit it off immediately.”

“I wish I’d been coming through the system now. Rugby used to be easy but it’s now much more professional. Strength and conditioning coaches know how to get the best out of your body and at 35 I’m doing PBs.”

“I do like the Twitter account Super Gavin Henson. Half the time I think, ‘That’s what I would think’! It’s probably one of the current players.”

“The Dragons squad has huge potential. Bernard Jackman is creating an environment to keep young talent and to see five boys in the Wales squad is great, but we have to turn performances into wins. We have work to do on our defence and set-piece.”


“Sometimes I don’t feel I have enough time in the day with all my routines pre- and post-training. Rugby and my kids are my big focus but I’ve had a girlfriend for 18 months. She makes me relax and enjoy life a bit more! I still lie awake at night reviewing the day’s training and how I can be better.”

“I’m contracted to 37 – who knows what will happen after that? I’m proud to still be playing at this level, proving myself week in, week out. Guys like Peter Stringer, Donncha O’Callaghan and Gethin Jenkins are an inspiration.”

“I’ve always thrived if coaches have believed in me. John Plumtree and Lyn Jones did, and I played my best rugby under them. Mike Ruddock was another.”

“The Lions series was the first time I’ve watched Beauden Barrett up close. You think he’s having a mediocre game and then he does something that no other ten in world rugby can do; that one-handed pick-up, his kick-pass, the pace. He’s such an athlete.”

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“There’s no better person

d ow n


t o

h a n d



Taufa’ao Filise

We pay homage to the Cardiff Blues tighthead still going strong in his forties

Words Owain Jones // Pictures Getty Images & Huw Evans Agency

C ARDIFF BLUES’ durable prop Taufa’ao Filise would have twin reasons to celebrate if the region

can upset the odds by reaching the Guinness Pro14 final on 26 May, as that date will also mark his 41st birthday. It’s a remarkable feat of endurance for any rugby professional to be playing into his forties at the highest level, but even more noteworthy when you’re packing down in the scrum regularly. But then, Filise is no ordinary player. The quietly-spoken prop from Tonga laid down roots in Cardiff in 2006 after brief stints on the books of the Chiefs and Blues in New Zealand and a fleeting stay at Bath. Since then, he’s run out nearly 250 times for the region. Coach Danny Wilson – at 40 the same age as Filise – has seen at close hand how hard he works to keep his spot. He says: “I’ve nothing but praise for his scrummaging ability and commitment to the cause. He never moans, he gets on with it and has the passion to still want to play rugby.

“They say ‘age is just a number’ and that’s the case with Tau. I’ve been shocked by how good he’s been. Take the Ospreys game at the Millennium Stadium last season: he was outstanding. Nowadays, we’re aware he won’t be playing the full 80 but for 50 minutes he is just the man to build a platform.”

Someone who probably knows Filise as well as anyone is his former Tonga and Blues team-mate Maama Molitika (above celebrating the 2009 EDF

Energy Cup win with Filise). Four years his senior, Molitika explains how Filise followed him to New Zealand in his early twenties and then onto the UK. “I’ve known Tau for a long time, since we grew up in Tonga,” he says. “He’s a freak of nature physically. I first saw him at 17 and he wasn’t even playing rugby, but with his physique one of the teachers encouraged him to play.” Molitika, a player-coach for Ampthill and part-time coach at Harrow, thinks the reason Filise has stayed so long is the welcome he’s

received in Wales. “Me and Tau live in Barry-bados,” he jokes. “He’s well-known in Cardiff and so laid-back. “The good thing at Cardiff is he has a few young props to mentor, people like Dillon Lewis and Keiron Assiratti. He enjoys that.” Lewis, who was capped by Wales in June, concurs,


Age 40 (26 May 1977) Born Malapo, Tonga Region Cardiff Blues Position Tighthead Height 6ft 2in Weight 19st 5lb Tonga caps 17 (1T) Pacific Islanders caps Five


saying: “I first met Tau when I was 17.

I soon found out he was a man of few

words but he’s always smiling. He’s a big goose and still smashes it in the gym. “Tau’s knowledge of the scrum is second-to-none. He knows what to do and when, and there’s no better person in the game to hand down knowledge. He’ll tell you where you’re going wrong but, importantly, what you’re doing right.” Filise is a popular member of the squad off the field, as Wilson explains:

“He speaks with a Tongan-Valleys hybrid accent when he addresses the boys and what always makes me laugh is when he has card school with the islanders, Nick (Williams), Willis (Halaholo) and Rey (Lee-Lo). They play on away trips and the loser buys coffees or carries the bags to the plane. It always seems to be Tau lugging stuff around and shelling out for coffee. They don’t make any allowances for him, even at his age.” Lewis adds: “Whenever we go abroad, islanders in any teams we play will always go up to speak to Tau first. He’s

like the chief of the Pacific Islanders!”

Whenever Tau decides to hang up his boots, he may not be the last Filise to run out for the Blues, with son Sila already showing promise and playing for the Vale District team. Wilson says:

“His son is enormous. He’s only ten or 11 but he already has size 12 feet, so

I think he’s borrowing Tau’s boots.

We’ll be keeping tabs on him.” If Sila Filise can have half the career his dad’s had, he’ll be doing just fine. n

PICS: Getty Images & Inpho



The rugby community is rallying around Doddie Weir as he battles MND

Special moment Weir presents the match ball at Murrayfield

ANS OF Newcastle F Falcons have a treat in store as their team will play at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park for the first

time. Northampton are the visitors for a groundbreaking game on 24 March and not only will supporters see top Aviva Premiership action, they will also be able to donate funds to Doddie Weir’5 Discretionary Trust – the charitable group set up following the ex-Falcons, Scotland and Lions lock’s diagnosis with motor neurone disease (MND). The clash, dubbed ‘The Big One’, is not the only event on Tyneside that hopes to collect money and raise awareness for Doddie’s Trust, with some old Newcastle team-mates putting on a Burns Supper in Weir’s honour on 25 January. Full

details are still to be firmed up

but there will be plenty going on. “Another element is the Haggis Hike,” says Stuart Grimes, a Scotland team-mate of Weir’s. “It’s commencing on the morning of 23 January at the Scottish border, where a group of former Falcons players – me, Gary Armstrong, Garath Archer, James Cartmell and others – will pick up the haggis at the border and march it 50 miles, over two days, to present to the top table at the Burns Supper. “It’s the intention for Dod to be present but this is dependent upon his health.”

“Doddie is committed to raising the profile of motor neurone disease”

Big One

The Falcons

Weir was at Murrayfield for Scotland v New Zealand, and broadcaster Jill Douglas, a trustee with the group, says the support towards him and the Trust has not gone unnoticed. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to Doddie’s diagnosis, especially from the rugby community. The offers of help and messages of support have been amazing and are hugely appreciated. “Doddie is committed to raising the profile of motor neurone disease and,

in typical Doddie fashion, is tackling this head-on with all the enthusiasm, humour and drive you’d expect from him. He is determined to make a difference. “The aims are simple: to raise funds for research into MND and to help others who are affected by this, currently, incurable and devastating disease.” All of the scheduled events should be sell-outs but many more are planned for 2018. You can soon see a full events listing at n






Age 45 Position Wing Teams Wakefield, Bath, Northampton & England

“MY CAREER spanned the amateur and pro eras and I wouldn’t change a thing. It was good to have other things to focus on. “I retired in 2004 and now make a living as HR director for BillSaveUK, a leading supplier of energy-efficient solutions. “I’ve coached at Northampton Old Scouts for nearly ten years. My son Frankie is in the U14s side that I coach while Ollie, 17, played there and is now with Saints’ U18s. Most Saturdays I watch my boys play. “I was brought up near Malton in North

Yorkshire, a racing town, and my partner and I have shares in racehorses. We’ve had nine winners in two years, the highlight being Capomento’s maiden win at Ripon. “I go scuba diving two or three times a year. Swimming with turtles, sharks and rays is like being on safari. My mum has a place in Cyprus and I like the Caribbean. “I also enjoy cycling and did the London to Paris for the Right to Play charity, and a 1,000-mile ride to France and Germany that raised £35,000 for Autism Concern.”


The coach who guided Fiji to gold and our resident columnist

“The execution of kicking to regain possession is as good as it’s been”

A T ITS best, a well-crafted kick can be beautiful to watch. At the

opposite end of the scale is the aimless, mindless type of kicking that numbs more than December frosts. I love seeing the former and throw things at the telly when I see the latter. Danny Care is the master craftsman as far as exquisite kicks go in the Premiership. The weight, timing and trajectory he can play with to hit the right kick is joyful to see and I know it’s practised a lot. His days as a youth footballer may contribute to his understanding of the ‘weight’ needed to execute each kick – sometimes one to regain, sometimes one to fool or backtrack the opposition. Care’s coach at Harlequins, Mark Mapletoft, and the likes of Gus Pichot, Tony Ward, Paul Grayson and Paul Burke all used their footballing skills as an advantage, as does Danny Cipriani now. Before them, two former coaches of mine – the Welsh pair Paul Turner and Mark Ring – both manufactured kicks from their knees or heels or the outside of their boots to trick and treat us all. As Brian Ashton would say: you kick to apply pressure to the opposition or to regain possession, and that’s a great maxim to remember. Kicking must have thinking alongside it; it should be more about finding grass or space or your own player than just relieving pressure. We’re witnessing that in the Premiership with a real increase in kick-passing and

strategy with the boot, can glean tries from the most unlikely of situations. The amount of kicking might also come from the amount of performance analysis. More and more data is being passed on to coaches and the cleverer groups will be looking for opportunities against different sides. That might be a physical mismatch that allows a player to

Kicking king Danny Care puts boot to ball

outjump his opposite number for a kick-pass. It might be a defensive shape that leaves a dog-leg or gap that a kick can expose. Don’t rely too much on data to provide answers, but use it as a tool to give you clues to some opportunities on the field that others might not have seen. Perhaps the third reason is practice. More deliberate, targeted practice is on the increase. I prefer to look at what we can do rather than threats opponents can throw at us, but one or two things to expose them can be practised easily. The outcome is aerial tactics that are, more often than not, working.

In the 1990s, the ‘bomb’ was usually the first play a team used to test the full-back’s defensive catching skills. That has largely disappeared from the game, but Quins’ kicking game from the breakdown or Saracens’ attacking box-kicking strategies have replaced it as teams all look to put their personal stamp on this area of the game. Hopefully, the next big trend will be having no breakdowns and a myriad of different offloads. I live in hope… n

shallower kicks on top of a team’s standard ‘exit’ or cross-field kicking. There are a few reasons for this. I’ve been vocal in saying rugby’s skill levels aren’t great in comparison to other pro sports, but kicking is an area where we have advanced a great deal. Perhaps Jonny Wilkinson pushed the envelope here with his meticulous approach to kicking out of hand, but the application and execution around kicking to regain possession is as good as it’s been. Defences are harder to breach and knowing a team has a great attacking kicking game can subdue a team’s line speed in defence, wary of being caught out with a deft chip or kick-pass. Of course, the opposite could also happen and a team ramps up their line speed to suffocate the time the kicker has to execute – but again this could lead to other attacking options being available. Tom and Jerry meets a chess grandmaster perhaps, because a good attacking side that shows variation and surprise, as well as a thought-out




Special Report


Words Alan Dymock // Main Illustration Simon Scarsbrook

As the global rugby landscape seemingly shrinks, Rugby World investigates the good and bad experiences of athletes who have emigrated to play – from exploitation to prosperity

HE CHANCE to move abroad for work can be an exciting switch for so many of us. And for some rugby players, it can be the path to a much better life. That is the promise. There are a great number of fantastic stories out there of stars who have been successful in their search for glory and financial security. As the modern game evolves and seeks to be more visible, though, Rugby World wants to shine a light on


some of those who are still in the darkness, demanding more change or who are simply rarely seen by us. We chronicle tales of Pacific Islanders moving to Western Europe or Asia, South Africans heading north and Eastern Europeans spreading out. We see deaths in foreign lands, the scouting of kids and how some lives vastly improve. Our aim is to show the pitfalls and positives of migrating



Special Report

Special Report

THERE IS a buzz as the pigs are buried for cooking and players start to turn up. This is Perpignan, where a band of Pacific Islanders from across southern France have come to meet with former Samoa lock Dan Leo’s Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) group. The PRPW plan is to get gatherings of players like this talking, so that in the future players can air grievances and be offered advice and services. This is a relatively young venture – not to be confused with Pacific

Rugby Players, official partners of the international Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) – but it has momentum. They have stops in Clermont and Lyon in the next few days too, so PRPW can talk with elite players and guys from the lower leagues of Fédérale 1 and 2. I am only there on day one, in the South, but in a few hours there are a number of chats about what they hope to achieve and I’m handed some unique insights. Depending on who you talk to, there could be more than 600 players of Pacific Island decent in France alone, with the greatest number of them from Fiji. The fact no one has an exact figure is due to monitoring, something many

Th e s t ru g g l e Fé d é ra l e. B oys

would like to see more of from Pacific unions. However, with such a spread throughout pro, semi-pro and even ‘amateur’ leagues, there are many complex issues to contend with. Tax has been a big one. While the system in France moves to PAYE in the new year, some players here talk of how the previous end-of-year, self-assessment system caught many out – badly. A lack of education can be the key factor here – though good agents will help with this – but others

PRPW hosts Henry Tuilagi and Mike Umaga

complain that there is an inflexibility in French culture, an unwillingness to acknowledge the life experiences islanders bring, or more fittingly, don’t bring with them. So while I meet a grinning Alex Tulou of Castres, who is incredibly grateful for his successes in France, aside him are men with vastly different experiences. There’s a significant cultural obligation so many share: sending money home to support families on the islands. It can be hard. Former Tonga prop Kisi Pulu, who is now retired, explains: “Not in the Top 14 but in Fédérale 1 or 2,

i s

r e a l

r e a l l y

i n

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it difficult. It is inhumane


these guys come straight from the islands and are getting paid maybe €600 (£530) a month. Their houses aren’t right, they aren’t healthy. “Some young guys in Fed 1 that I met, they don’t have breakfast. They said the coach complained, ‘Why aren’t you putting on weight?’ They have to sacrifice sending their €500 home for paying the power and rent. So some maybe end up with just €20 in their hand and that’s when you start going out for the cheapest foods, which is fast food like McDonald’s.” Of course not every player is perfect. But at the extreme end, there are those who feel emotionally stranded being so many miles from home. Ifa Taukafa is a hooker in Dijon. He's had enough. Over the phone he says:

“The struggle is real in the Fédérale. Boys really find it difficult. They play for the club like a commodity. It is inhumane the way some of these guys are treated. They come over dreaming of making their daily bread, but it is difficult lower down the chain.” Taukafa met a player not paid for four months. There is shame and pressure to provide. Depression is another issue

some silently face. He sighs: “I’ve sent too many brothers

Proud Tongan

Kisi Pulu

back in coffins.” One such death he

mentions is that of Tarbes prop Isireli Temo, who took his own life in December 2016. Narbonne prop Sunio Koto was the one who called Temo’s family to break the news. He will fight to help other young men who are far from home and struggling – Koto tells us that he offers to check young Fijian players’ contracts before they sign. However, there are two fundamental points for Koto. First, he and so many others love France. In the main, they see a lot of good done. But his other point relates to the few who exploit: he wants islanders to educate themselves about the pitfalls of moving abroad. Agents can get an unfair rap. There are a lot of diligent, empathetic agents out there. But how can these young islanders know exactly who they are? Simon Porter, a director at the CSM agency, would like there to be more

Big meeting PRPW in Perpignan

accessible listings of the professional operators working in the Pacific. “The key word is transparency,” says Porter. “If you had an accreditation system where you had some form of regulation that involved the Fiji Rugby Union and Samoan Rugby Union etc, they know what’s going on, they know these players are going, and so they have the opportunity to talk to them about where they are in their plans. “One of the most difficult things about being an agent is ‘reputation’. You know what you hear people say about agents and you know the problem is uneducated agents, so let’s get some regulation out there. Let’s get some transparency in the system and find out what’s actually going on, let’s know who the people working in the islands are. “Let’s provide some education, get them talking to the (International Rugby Players’ Association), let’s provide support. It sounds like a lot of whispering behind hands and all that sort of stuff when we could just bring it all out in the open.”

Heartache Sunia Koto had to break sad news

Special Report

IN DECEMBER 2015, Honda Heat, then of Japan’s Top League, announced the death of their player

Talifolau Takau. The club released a short statement about the Tongan prop, saying in English: “By the (autopsy) result, the cause of death of Takau had a diagnosis from suffocation by the vomiting. I can confirm that it is not the thing with alcohol and (drugs).” The club also arranged for his body to be sent home to his family in Tonga. The club wouldn't answer further questions from Rugby World about this incident, but through anonymous interviews with two players who were with the club at the time, we understand that Takau’s body was discovered fully clothed and alone in his room, in the team hotel the

Association is former back-rower Hale T-Pole, who it turns out went to the same school in Tonga as Takau. A few years on, many are keen to move beyond apportioning any blame in this sad affair, but regardless of what led us here, T-Pole has this to say on the quiet throughout the rest of the rugby world since the incident: “If this was an Englishman dying in another country, we would have heard a lot

Been there Hale T-Pole takes on Japan

Attraction Sri Lanka in 2015

day after playing for the B team against Yamaha Jubilo. We were also informed by these team-mates that there were suspicions within the squad that Takau was concussed in that fixture, though nobody was sure. One of the anonymous players was keen to stress that the Heat have improved their handling of incidents of concussion, that players suspected of suffering head injuries are moved into team dormitories and are placed under mandatory surveillance for 24 hours. Our sources also made it clear that although they think things have improved in recent years, they would like stricter guidelines for concussion management throughout Japan, with neutral, World Rugby-approved doctors overseeing suspected incidents of on-field concussion. The man currently looking out for Pacific rugby players in conjunction with the International Rugby Players’


more. But because it was a Tongan, it was almost like they just went, ‘Ahhh, it’s an island boy, just forget it’.” There are established links between Tongan and Japanese schools, with a number of scholarship players working through the university system and into the pro teams throughout the country. There is said to be a strong community among Japan-based Tongans. They are a group to be respected. In the same year as Takau passed, World Rugby were looking into another incident involving a Pacific player in Asia. Emori Waqavulagi had been called up to the Fiji sevens squad, only for it to be discovered that he and fellow Fijian Joseph Dunn had played for Sri Lanka when they were ineligible. The Sri Lankan union was heavily fined for using the two players during the Asian 5 Nations – to the tune of £25,000 – and Waqa missed out on playing for Fiji. The player was approached by Rugby World to discuss his motives for running out in the colours of Sri Lanka, but he did not respond.

Special Report

WE HAVE met Jurie Roux, SA Rugby’s CEO, to discuss his country’s bid for the 2023 World Cup, but something else is on his mind: the player drain. “Last year we had 373 players playing in European club competitions,” Roux tells us. “Any other country that loses that amount of players cannot compete on a national level. Take 373 players out of New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, France – see if they compete. It would be tough. We have the proof.” But that is not the worst of it. “They are becoming younger,” he says. “People are coming to our youth weeks, our Craven Weeks – our U18, aspirational tournaments. They are recruiting them at U18. The list (of talent leaving) is getting longer.” Is such recruitment really happening in this Tier One nation? “It’s definitely happening,” says Andrew Binikos, general manager of the Sharks Rugby Academy in Southern KwaZulu-Natal, “and it’s happening in front of everyone’s eyes. It’s not even secretive.” He believes there is a perception

Playing on South Africa have been denied a raft of talent

within groups of young Afrikaans players that, due to the inherent quota system in rugby academies and national sides, opportunities to climb the ladder are getting slimmer. Whether or not this is true of the majority, Binikos is aware of overseas suitors. “Some, especially the French, have capitalised on this – they even come to the shores of South Africa for Craven Week, our famous competition. And they actually scout players there who are 16, as early as that. So at 18, they can go straight overseas after school. There’s a massive, massive player drain.” Binikos points to the tie-in between famous Grey College and Montpellier, with the Top 14 club helping launch the Badawi Legacy Scholarship Programme. He sees it as a continued sign of the struggle to hold onto future stars. Roux says of this scholarship: “That (Montpellier deal) is a legitimate, academic scholarship. If you look at the detail there it’s academic and there are like two rugby scholarships. But


surely there will be an arrangement coming very, very soon. “Even though Grey College is probably the biggest supporter of South African rugby as a school and has produced the most Springboks in our country, somewhere somebody is going to see an opportunity. We are obviously going to do stuff to block it.” There will be many in South Africa heartened to hear that there should be a fight on this front. However, there are those who are concerned that there is another, insidious force at play that needs stamping out. A conglomeration of agents in South Africa have been calling for tighter restrictions on rogue agents. According to James Adams, of In Touch Sports, there are some who get around the restrictions placed on registered agents by deregistering and operating as attorneys. Adams feels SARU aren’t helping themselves. He has appealed to Roux

The future

Baby Boks

SA chief

Jurie Roux

as CEO, trying to force a change in legislation, but he is waiting for the union to actually act. “There are a handful of companies in South Africa that control 80-90% of the market force. As the Agents Board, we are trying to regulate our industry, but there are certain individuals that seem hell-bent on holding back necessary regulation changes. The unnecessary red tape needs to be addressed ASAP. “As a result we are reaching a stage now where if it (legislation change) doesn’t happen by the end of this year, we are all about to split from SARU’s Agents Association and disband. Should this happen we are just going to move every player we can abroad. We have all had enough. Why must we support provincial unions who go and work with unaccredited agents?

African who moved away. Now playing for Baia Mare and with 24 caps under the Romanian flag, the lock agrees that there are too many rogue lawyers who have not passed agent exams in South Africa. Twice, he says, he was convinced by such characters to pay them for doing deals but in the end he had to talk to clubs directly. However, as someone who has moved away from South African rugby, he disagrees that the drain is all down to bad guys and quota systems. For him there was more of an issue of class. “Every South African’s dream is to

S h o u l d

t hi s

ju s t

g o i n g

h a p p e n t o m ove


a r e

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player we can abroad

Why must we keep helping South African rugby, yet we don't get the support needed to change the regulations for the better of the industry? Why must we keep players in South Africa? Discussions have been going on for two years with very little headway made. “If things don’t change soon, we will be seeing an exodus of players on a larger scale than ever experienced before. If changes are not made, I for one have no interest in keeping players in South Africa. If a player can earn double or triple overseas and wants to set up a future for his family and obtain an EU passport, how can I not support such a player’s wishes? “The reality is that up to now we have kept the majority of our clients in South Africa but more needs to be done in terms of communication between SARU, the Springboks, provincial unions and agents, or South African rugby as a whole is going to be in huge trouble post-2018 Super Rugby.” Johan van Heerden is one South

play for the Springboks but they always tell you you’re too small, you’re not big enough or you’re not fast enough,” van Heerden says. “That is just a saying they all use. Mostly in South Africa there’s a big thing about what school you went to. If you’re not in a big private school like Affies, Paarl, Gymnasium, your chances of playing professional rugby are very slim. “I came from a small school and they reckon those schools aren’t good enough. That’s not the case because there are a lot of kids in those small schools who have better talent. Just because your parents didn’t have the money to get you into one of those bigger schools, that is the case for you. “So many kids realise this and then someone scouts them, and they decide ‘Well, South Africa doesn’t want to look at me so maybe I should try outside.’ This is why so many players leave.” He was sceptical when he first moved to Romania and took a little time to shine, but van Heerden has reinvented himself out in Eastern Europe.


Special Report



WORLD RUGBY voted to change the residency regulations in May – and these are the key points… O From 31 December 2020, the

residency period for players wanting to qualify for the country in which they now live will be extended from

36 consecutive months to 60

consecutive months – ie, five years. OAnyone who has moved countries before the end of 2017 will fall under the three-year rule, because they may have signed contracts with a view to qualifying on residency before the Regulation 8 change. OPlayers can now also qualify on residency if they have lived in a country for ten years cumulatively. For

New Irish cap? James Lowe can qualify in 2020

example, they may have spent eight years living in England as a child, then played in England for another two years. OFrom January 2018, U20 teams can no longer be classed as a country’s ‘next senior national representative

team’. That means playing U20 rugby for one nation won’t prevent you from playing for a different one at Test level. OSevens players will only be ‘captured’ by a country (ie, unable to represent another nation) if a) they are

20 or older when representing the

senior sevens team or b) they have reached the age of majority (this can

differ depending on what country you’re from) when competing in an Olympics or Sevens World Cup.

Special Report

WITH SO many players in France, there could be an assumption that there was some sort of talent-grab for big forwards from the East. However, when a question to this effect was put to Georgia head coach Milton Haig, he pointed out that a lot of the Georgians tumbling into the Fédérale leagues did so to make money. There was no

suggestion of cruel clubs wooing players with never-materialising deals, just average

club players searching for a better life and a match fee. Haig also pointed out

In country

Milton Haig

Huge moment Georgia beat Tonga in 2015


ASKED ABOUT academies set up in the Pacific and the need to monitor agents

better, World Rugby gave this statement:

“We are committed to delivering the best possible environment to ensure the future competitiveness of the Pacific Islands on the global stage. While we are investing more than £20m between 2016-19 in direct and indirect funding of

something else, saying: “With the change in their eligibility rules, the FFR have cracked down on foreigners playing in (elite club) academies there, so we are finding that not a lot of our players are going to France now. The example is that only one player from our U20s got a French contract offer after the Junior World Cup this year, whereas in previous years we would have at least six or seven.” This was backed by Vasil Abashidze, an ex-international who manages elite players from Georgia and Eastern Europe for

the three unions, the support package is more than the money. We are partnering with Pacific Rugby Players (official union) to explore and deliver a framework of agent accreditation and regulation and importantly player education. “On the matter of academies, we are implementing structures that provide a pathway for locally-based


the Sports Management Company. He says it is becoming harder to move a player and that the French market has changed, even from two years ago.

There is still a sense of a great many talented Georgian players – not just forwards – being underappreciated.

A lively little chat with Bidzina ‘Bibi’

Samkharadze, a 61-cap scrum-half,

reveals that there is a market value for talent heading outwards from the East. “They find us cheap as rugby players, because in Georgia the Championship

is not well paid. So we prefer to go

outside France to get more money.” Samkharadze knows players in Fédérale 1 and 2 who enjoy the lifestyles they discovered. He knows

players through to the national team, which can be seen in our funding of the Fijian Drua in the Australia National Rugby Championship, and tougher eligibility criteria. “We will assist any union who believes there is activity in their nation detrimental to the development of local players for the national team.”

PICS: Getty Images, Alex Roca & Inpho

some who work part-time and also play for extra money, but these “cheaper players” still have a better life. As for any talent drain of their own, it is not a bad thing in Bibi’s eyes. “Yes, we will still lose players because they may find teams in Russia for more pay, or Romania. So you must make the choice: play more rugby or get a job and retire from rugby. I hope that it doesn’t happen in France (a crackdown on foreigners) because I know many young players whose dream is to start playing rugby in Georgia and then find a good team in France.”

Yo u

m u s t

ch o i ce: p l ay

m a ke m o r e

t h e ru g by

or get a job and retire

The search for money is not an exclusively Georgian endeavour. On 14 October, Siberian side Krasny Yar stunned the reigning European Challenge Cup holders, Stade Français, by winning 34-29 at home. On the score sheet that day was Moldovan lock Andrei Mahu. His journey has seen him leave home at 20, stopping off in Romania, Italy and then Russia. He is part of a transient generation. Mahu explains: “Life in Moldova is all

Happy in Romania Johan van Heerden

about economics and politics. All the young people try to leave Moldova because there are no prospects, they see no future and I was one of them. I’d say that more than half of my (childhood) friends are now abroad. We have a lot of rugby boys who leave their sport and go to work abroad because they need the money.” Mahu believed that he had the potential to improve vastly as a player, so left a country with no scope to hone his skills and set out abroad. There are opportunities out there and countries willing to take in good players. But if Bibi thinks Georgians are cheap, 26-year-old Mahu has another take on the subject: “If we were Georgians or islanders we would get paid much more, but if you’re from Moldova, nobody knows this country and we don’t have a rugby tradition, so they don’t take us seriously. “Players like Dmitri Arhip break the ice in the biggest leagues in Europe and people begin to ask questions about who they are, ‘Where is Moldova?’ I’m sure we have more guys like this but we need to grow them.” Look through some of the best packs in the European Cup. There is value in having a monstrous East European or two. However, look at some of the Eastern teams and there are noticeable differences out there too. In November, Germany had a number of South Africans on show and Romania caught the eye with the inclusion of seven players of Pacific descent. Johan


Zebre stint

Andrei Mahu

van Heerden was with them. The instinct for many is to say that this is mercenary, that the shift from three years to five for qualifying as a resident in a different rugby nation is so vital. Van Heerden says he gets that but he also says that he, like so many others, left their country of their own free will. Playing anywhere at the top level is a dream so few get to realise. And what’s more, he says, by cutting down such chances to qualify and play at a higher level, you could be taking away future earning potential for some.


IN YELLING for a crackdown on players changing nationality for caps, we can focus too much on Test rugby. The real drive of this report has been to look at those moving to simply make a living. New avenues open up for athletes, old ones grow difficult to navigate for officials and agents. We cannot lose sight of the critical need at all times: to look after the players. This can come from much better monitoring of movements by those leaving developing nations. It can come from disciplining ‘agents’ who do not adhere to union regulations, or helping smaller unions promote preferred operators. It can be making examples of exploiters. We should celebrate the stories of those who find financial security and indeed joy. But in hearing of deaths and, elsewhere, allegations of underhanded management, we must demand greater scrutiny. n


The young Ulster and Ireland wing talks chants, crime and Charles Piutau

Interview Alan Pearey // Pictures Getty Images & Inpho

Age 21 (3 Apr 1996) Born Newtownstewart, County Tyrone Club Ulster Position Back three Height 6ft 3in Weight 16st Ireland debut v USA, June 2017 Twitter handle @JacobStockdale





OBODY EMBODIES N Irish optimism better than Jacob

Stockdale, whose try burnished last month’s 38-3 rout of South Africa. “He’s like a young Tommy Bowe,” says Stephen Ferris, “and a future Lion.” Yet as the wing explains, not long ago such talk was fanciful…

Everyone thinks I was born in Lisburn as I went to school there. But I was born in the wee town of Newtownstewart. My dad (Graham) was a minister so we moved about

One for the scrapbook Stockdale marks his home Test debut with a try against the Boks

when I was younger. Dad became

a chaplain and works part-time in

a prison and part-time in a hospice.

I was destined to play rugby. Dad and Granddad played and I was

four when I first got involved, with Ballynahinch. I’ve always loved it. My first memory of Ulster rugby was a game at Munster. We were

in the car so long I thought we

were going to Wales. I remember not being able to distinguish between the Munster chants and the Ulster chants. I was singing along with all the Munster fans!

Everyone wanted to be Jonah Lomu. He was my favourite player. For Ulster, it was David Humphreys, and Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble as well – those were two guys who everybody at school looked up to. It’s surreal training and playing alongside them now.

I was a late developer. At 15 I was

5ft 5in but when I hit 16 or 17 I shot

up. I never envisaged a rugby career, I was just this scrawny guy and it was ridiculous to think that could happen. In my fifth year I

played thirds and fourths, but I got

a bit of size and a year and a half

later I was playing for Irish Schools. My Ireland debut in June was a phenomenal experience. It was

v USA in New Jersey (won 55-19).

They put the kick-off down my throat and I had to carry off it – there was no better way to start. And I scored after a brilliant break and diamond pass by Keith Earls. My parents have been unbelievably supportive. But they couldn’t be there for that one so watched at home. My cousins live an hour and a half away and they all came down and were going nuts. Pretty much the entire family, the dog and the cat came to my home debut v South Africa and to get a try at the end was special. I’ve strengthened my defence. Joe Schmidt wants me to be more assertive – to learn when to hit somebody and when to sit off and connect with my defender and use the touchline. I think I’ve improved. I’m a rugby nerd. If there’s a game on TV I’ll watch it. If I see someone do something outstanding or different, I store that away and think, ‘That might come in handy’. I like Ultimate Fighting too. I live with three other Ulster players, Adam McBurney, Marcus Rea and Jack Regan. We got the UFC game for the PlayStation and that


created an interest in watching

real fights. And I’m a Chelsea fan.

My dad is a Man Utd fan so I went

as far opposite as I could! Ulster’s new coaching team has shaken things up. A big part of it

is driving standards. The previous

coaches had been in place so many years and maybe there was

a bit of complacency. Jono (Gibbes), Dwayne (Peel) and Aaron (Dundon) have given us a kick up the arse. It’s disappointing that Charles

Piutau is leaving at the end of the season. He’s a brilliant talent and

a great guy and I’ve loved playing

with him. But you can’t think that way – every week you have to go out to play as well as you can. We want to win silverware this season and Charles doesn’t want to leave feeling like he could have given more. Our Champions Cup

group is tough but one we can win. Charles and Christian Lealiifano have taught me to have a crack. They’ve a very attacking mindset, always looking to break the line, get an offload away, be on the front foot. It’s exciting to

learn off those guys and to pick their brains about stuff. The defensive side is class too. Andrew, Tommy and

Louis Ludik are some of the best wide defenders there are. You’d search far and wide to find a club with the back-three players that Ulster have. They’re making me a better player every time I train with them. I’ve started a criminology degree. I tore my groin two seasons ago so thought I’d get an education while I was out. I did my first semester at University of Ulster but I was making a breakthrough at Ulster and wanted to focus on my rugby, so had to put it on hold. The course looks at why people commit crimes and the best way to stop them and deal with them. Does prison work or is it just a vicious cycle? That kind of thing. I’d be interested in making a career of it after rugby, maybe in policing. I’m a huge fan of Johnny Cash. At 15 or 16 I fell in love with his music and the kind of person he was. My best holiday is the Vendée district in France. It’s down the west coast and I’ve been six or seven times with my family. We go to the same campsite every year, it’s Christian-orientated. n


























Pictures Alan Dymock, YCAC & Getty Images

During a flying visit to Japan, ALAN DYMOCK finds a social rugby club with a vibrant history and, of course, mascots!


HROUGH THE sea of kids


I spot it plodding around,

waving enthusiastically.

I shoot a quizzical look to my

interpreter ‘Mike’, who smiles and replies: “Here in Japan, every club, every town, every company has a

mascot like this.” As he finishes speaking

I notice that the pale, rugby ball-nosed creature is not the only mascot in

attendance – True Aussie Beef have a grill set up pitchside today and have brought a large, gaping-mouthed koala with them. Anxious, I scan the horizon for other critters creeping around… I am in Japan to see the national team take on the Wallabies at Yokohama International Stadium, the venue for four massive World Cup 2019 pool clashes – New Zealand v South Africa, Ireland v Scotland, England v France, and Japan v Scotland – as well as the two semi-finals and the final. However,

I have inadvertently found myself at

True Test Japan v Oz

Yokohama Country & Athletic Club (YCAC), where a youth event buzzes away on this Friday bank holiday. The kids have been told that a few Wallabies will be turning up to do some coaching, while the adult YCAC team will play Hakuba Huskies later. The YCAC, I am told, is Japan’s first-ever rugby team. There are gentle politics involved in saying this, as YCAC was established by foreigners. Some in Japan like to promote sides established by the Japanese, but this place is ancient in relative terms. They have documentary proof that their side first started playing rugby on 26 January 1866, which makes

them the oldest team in Asia. The wider

club as it is known now was set up by Scotsman JP Mollison in 1868 and it

absorbed the rugby club. Over a few beers in full view of the gently bustling bowling green, the club’s general manager, Erol Miftahittin, fills me in on some romantic origins, letting slip

one macabre but fascinating story. By 1859, Japan had opened itself up to foreigners but non-Japanese could only start settling in Yokohama, with the majority of arrivals being embassy workers, those meant to protect them or traders. This had been allowed by the Tokugawa shogunate – the last feudal army rulers of Japan and under whom samurai ranked highly. By the time the YCAC was set up, the country was into the Meiji Restoration, when the Emperor was reinstated. Yet there is one tale of an embassy worker who played for the club’s cricket team

around this time and was murdered


Welcome To My Club


Home Yokohama. Just half an hour from

Tokyo lies a port city with wide streets,

a cooling breeze and the honour of

hosting the World Cup final in 2019. Team colours Blue is the colour for YCAC. Ground There is no special name for the field, just YC&AC. However, back

in the day it was rather charmingly

known as ‘The Swamp’. Greatest player You would struggle to know many past players, but current All Black Seta Tamanivalu played for them in 2012 and 2013.

Leap of faith A YCAC lineout

Welcome To My Club

with a samurai blade. According to legend, at the next game every YCAC outfielder wore a gun on their hip. They may have origins in the time of samurai, but what is the club like now? “It’s more for the rugby enthusiasts who come over and want to play,” says Miftahittin. “There’s no organised league, it’s just fun, pick-up teams and we’ll play anywhere from six to 12 games a year. “The general make-up of the club has changed over the years. It used to be foreigners only, mostly expats. Today, with the decline in expat markets, about

“Th e r e’s

i t’s

l e a g u e,

a n d

we’ll play 12 games a year”

n o

o r g a n i s e d

p i ck- u p

fu n ,

t e a m s

that they have already been approached by England and South Africa, via the local authorities, about using their facilities during the World Cup. England coach Eddie Jones knows this club well, having played cricket here and been a surprise speaker at a recent anniversary dinner. However, the club must ask members for permission to undertake hosting duties in 2019 as it may mean facilities could not be used by members during the tournament.

Good facilities are a big issue in the country, according to some players. I talk with Alan Iwata, proudly Japanese but with a Welsh mother, who has been at the club for two years. He is with Bill Baker from New Jersey, who took up rugby in college in 1977 and moved to Yokohama in 2005. Neither man is young but that is not important. “For me this is rugby heaven, for a number of reasons,” says Baker, who I spot listening to chunky headphones as he walks to the dressing room later, just like an elite competitor. “When I grew up

46% of our members now are Japanese and the remaining 54% are international. “We have 660 members from 37 different countries. In the Seventies we would have first- and second-team rugby. The firsts were so strong. They were all expats who never practised, they just played, and usually the Japanese champions would play YCAC before they went overseas – that shows how good we were back then. “We’re definitely still a destination club,” Miftahittin adds, before explaining

Fast feet

YCAC attack

Welsh roots

YCAC player

Alan Iwata




Fri 20 Sep

Sun 22 Sep Ireland v Scotland (Yokohama)

Tue 24 Sep Sat 28 Sep

Mon 30 Sep Scotland v Play-off Winner (Kobe)

Ireland v Europe 1 (Kobe) Japan v Play-off Winner (Toyota) Scotland v Europe 1 (Shizuoka) Ireland v Play-off Winner (Fukuoka) Japan v Scotland (Yokohama)

Thu 3 Oct Sat 5 Oct Wed 9 Oct Sat 12 Oct Sun 13 Oct

Japan v Europe 1 (Tokyo)

Europe 1 v Play-off Winner (Kumagaya) Japan v Ireland (Shizuoka)



Sat 21 Sep

Sun 22 Sep Italy v Africa 1 (Higashiosaka) Thu 26 Sep Italy v Repêchage Winner (Fukuoka)

Sat 28 Sep Wed 2 Oct Fri 4 Oct Sun 6 Oct Tue 8 Oct Sat 12 Oct

Sun 13 Oct Africa 1 v Repêchage Winner (Kamaishi)

New Zealand v South Africa (Yokohama)

South Africa v Africa 1 (Toyota) NZ v Repêchage winner (Oita) South Africa v Italy (Shizuoka) New Zealand v Africa 1 (Tokyo) SA v Repêchage Winner (Kobe) New Zealand v Italy (Toyota)


Big one The Webb Ellis Cup



Sat 21 Sep

Sun 22 Sep England v Tonga (Sapporo) Thu 26 Sep England v USA (Kobe)

Sat 28 Sep Wed 2 Oct Sat 5 Oct Sun 6 Oct Wed 9 Oct Sat 12 Oct Sun 13 Oct

France v Argentina (Tokyo)

Argentina v Tonga (Higashiosaka) France v USA (Fukuoka) England v Argentina (Tokyo) France v Tonga (Kumamoto) Argentina v USA (Kumagaya) England v France (Yokohama)

USA v Tonga (Higashiosaka)

Trophy hunter Dymock with the World Cup



Sat 21 Sep

Mon 23 Sep Wales v Georgia (Toyota) Wed 25 Sep Fiji v Americas 2 (Kamaishi)

Sun 29 Sep Georgia v Americas 2 (Kumagaya) Sun 29 Sep Australia v Wales (Tokyo)

Thu 3 Oct Sat 5 Oct Wed 9 Oct Fri 11 Oct Sun 13 Oct

Australia v Fiji (Sapporo)

Georgia v Fiji (Higashiosaka)

Australia v Americas 2 (Oita) Wales v Fiji (Oita) Australia v Georgia (Shizuoka) Wales v Americas 2 (Kumamoto)


playing rugby, you always played on some dirt field or whatever, no showers, maybe a keg after the game. But when I came to YCAC in 2005, they put in the artificial pitch, they got showers and saunas, it’s five minutes from my house and every rugby game is a home game. That is just for starters! Then you’ve got the whole history thing.” The club has changed over time. I sit with team captain Simon Ryan, who will serve the next day as the citing officer for the Japan-Wallabies clash. He is 51, having first arrived in Japan in 1987, and he has seen things move in the country.

Kicking tips

Bernard Foley

“Have you heard of Sugadaira?” Ryan asks. “It’s basically what you’d call a rugby (boot) camp. It’s in the mountains of Nagano. For a long time it was the only place where, in the summer, teams would go and train. It’s only when you visit there that you see what Japanese rugby is all about, the true culture of the game. Which is, what I always thought, more like martial arts. It wasn’t so much coaching as training – it’s repetition. “But if you head down to Kyushu, it’s a rugby stronghold where there’s a



QF1 Winner PC v Runner-up PD (Oita) QF2 Winner PB v Runner-up PA (Tokyo)

Sun 20 Oct QF3 Winner PD v Runner-up PC (Oita)

Sun 20 Oct QF4 Winner PA v Runner-up PD (Tokyo) Sat 26 Oct Winner QF1 v Winner QF2 (Yokohama) Sun 27 Oct Winner QF3 v Winner QF4 (Yokohama)

Sat 19 Oct Sat 19 Oct

Fri 1 Nov Sat 2 Nov

Third-place Play-off (Tokyo) RWC 2019 Final (Yokohama)

Welcome To My Club

different culture, a different way of thinking. There the sport is definitely growing. You can see by the World Cup draw, where there’s Oita, Kumamoto and Fukuoka. The game there is very stable.” And the social side? “Japanese teams don’t really mix so much with opposition off the field, but when they come

here it’s great to educate them in that. We say, ‘Listen, this is what we do. We have a beer afterwards, enjoy each other’s company, a few speeches, sing songs…’ Which is something that

is pretty remote to them.

That’s how we see our role, anyway. After 150 years it is all about maintaining that.” The Wallaby players do turn up, with Bernard Foley’s kicking mesmerising the kids. The men’s team play the Huskies for the first time, but ultimately they dance around and race beyond their opponents to win 49-19, while former Wallabies Stirling Mortlock and Justin Harrison happen to watch on. The next day there is much more of

a blowout as the Australian back-line physically outmatches and outpaces the

Scrumming down