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Six Nations Rugby

I don’t plan to be a two-cap England wonder, says George Furbank



England full-back George Furbank

With the groin strain that curtailed his Six Nations fully healed, England and Northampton full-back George Furbank is desperate to re-establish his Test credentials.

Furbank has used lockdown to take in the enormity of his international baptism while getting his body right.

The result is a fired-up individual who knows he must overcome stiff competition in his own club before adding to the caps he won against France and Scotland.

Furbank, who has not played since enduring the Murrayfield monsoon on February 8, told The Rugby Paper: “It’s been great to be out training with the boys at Saints again, throwing a ball about and doing some serious running.

“It was an overload injury in my groin that flared-up in the Ireland Test week, so these last few months have been really good to give that a reset and do some strength work.

“I did it originally during our first Treviso week in Europe and was managing it, but I feel like I’m on top of it now and hope it stays that way when the loading increases.”

Although nearly five months have elapsed since his Test debut in Paris, Furbank, 23, admits his ascension from club player to full international still feels surreal. However, that has only hardened his determination to press for further honours.

Furbank explained: “It was a dream and even now when we’ve been doing video messages with people during lockdown and they introduce me as ‘England and Saints full-back George Furbank,’ I still find that really weird.

“It will take some time to get used to and it was an unbelievable experience, but I don’t want to be that person who’s had one good season at Saints, gets two caps and then does nothing else.

“I’ve got bigger ambitions and I really want to put my foot down again. I hope that will put me back into England contention, which is what I’ve got my mind set on, and Chris Boyd, our director of rugby, is very good at ensuring people’s feet are kept firmly on the ground.

“Both Chris and (attack coach) Sam Vesty want the guys who’ve been with England to bring what we’ve learned back to Saints so we can be even bigger voices and be more confident as players slipping into leadership roles.”

While Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson provide formidable barriers to his England ambitions, the battle for the No 15 jersey at Saints is no less intense with Harry Mallinder, over his ACL injury, Ahsee Tuala and young gun Tommy Freeman all vying.

“I love that competition, to be honest,” Furbank adds. “I roomed with Elliot for a couple of nights on England duty and he really helped me settle in, while the others are class players as well, so it’s no different to your club where the competition is very high.

Northampton Saints full-back Harry Mallinder
Competition: Harry Mallinder returned forNorthampton Saints after a long injury lay-off shortly before lockdown. David Rogers/Getty Images

“There’s Harry, ‘Ace’ (Tuala) and Tommy but that’s exciting because you know that you’ve got to be at your best to have that No.15 shirt. 

“I don’t want to speak for Harry, but we’re both excited that we’re in this position. He was in good form prior to the break so hopefully we can make selection difficult for Boydy.”

Assuming Furbank picks up the baton again quickly and is in a position to win his third cap this autumn, he will be better prepared for the step up in class. He said: “On the pitch, it’s the whole intensity of international rugby and the tactical side around the kicking game and how important that is which shocks you.

“There’s a much greater emphasis on the tactical side than at club level – and then off the pitch, whereas when you’re playing for Northampton you might just have the local paper talking about you a little bit, suddenly it’s the whole country scrutinising you.

“It’s a bigger platform, a bigger stage and even my dad got interviewed.

“I wasn’t expecting that and I don’t think he was either. When you’re with England the whole thing broadens.”

Furbank added: “I’ll be better prepared now and although I haven’t heard too much from Eddie Jones since the lockdown, we’ve had Zoom calls every few weeks with Simon Amor, England’s attack coach, and the other outside backs to discuss quite a few things.

“We’ve gone through video clips looking for ways we can improve and it’s been great to try and keep pace with everything that’s been going on and learn a bit more about how England want to play when we get back.

“Simon’s had a good impact and has brought a bit of flair from 7s, so that’s enabling me to build on what I’ve learnt at Saints under Sam Vesty.”


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Six Nations Rugby

In Pictures: The greatest rugby XV of all-time picked by fans



REVEALED: The greatest ever XV in the history of rugby… and there’s no room for Carter, O’Connell and Parisse.

15. Serge Blanco (France) 

The French icon’s international career with France saw the flamboyant fullback perform various outlandish levels of skill while winning Five Nation Grand Slams in 1981 and 1987 as well as four further titles.

Blanco was a threat from everywhere on the field and often took risks that we very rarely see nowadays. In total, he won 93 caps for France during his 11-year international career between 1980 and 1991, which was a record when he retired.

He also scored an imposing 233 points and is a true legend of the sport.

Did you know: Images of Blanco’s on-field heroics can always be viewed ironically alongside images of him strutting along the touchline nursing a cigarette.
Honourable mentions: JPR Williams (Wales), Jason Robinson (England), Percy Montgomery (South Africa)

14. Jonah Lomu (New Zealand)

The New Zealander remains the joint all-time top try scorer at the Rugby World Cup along with Bryan Habana, crossing the whitewash on 15 different occasions across the 1995 and 1999 tournaments. The easiest selection in a greatest ever XV.

Originally of Tongan descent, it was Lomu who made it glamorous to be a big, bruising winger, even though his stature could have easily seen him fill in at centre or somewhere in the pack.

Much like the Juggernaut of the Marvel Universe, there wasn’t much that could stop Lomu once he’d gotten into a stride.

Did you know: In September 2009, Lomu took part in an amateur bodybuilding contest, finishing second in two categories
Honourable mentions: Bryan Habana (South Africa), Doug Howlett (New Zealand), Shane Williams (Wales)

13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) 

The former Ireland and British and Irish Lions Skipper Brian O’Driscoll was one of the most consistent performers in the world for over a decade.

He hung up his boots in 2014 after accumulating 133 caps for Ireland with a fantastic return of 245 points. In the emerald green, he triumphed in the Six Nations in 2009 (Grand Slam) and 2014 as well as being chosen as Player of the Tournament in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

The Dublin-born is also the highest all-time Irish record try scorer with an incredible 46 scores, and also led his country more times than any other player.

Did you know: O’Driscoll was chosen as Player of the Tournament in the 2006, 2007 and 2009 RBS Six Nations Championships.
Honourable mentions: Jeremy Guscott (England), Will Greenwood (England), Frank Bunce (New Zealand)

12. Tim Horan (Australia) 

Only a handful of players has won the Rugby World Cup Twice and power-packed runner Tim Horan is one of them, triumphing in 1991 and 1999 with Australia.

He made his international debut in 1989 against the All Blacks and would go on to make 80 caps, scoring 30 tries, in an impressive 11-year career.

Did you know: Horan’s father is Mike Horan, the former National Party and Liberal National Party Member of Parliament for the Queensland electorate of Toowoomba South.
Honourable mentions: Phillipe Sella (France), Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand), Brian Lima (Samoa)

11. David Campese (Australia) 

Capped by Australia on more than 100 occasions and scorer of 64 international tries, David Campese was once the world’s top scorer, but now has to settle for the honour of second place.

To summarise, if there was even the slightest bit of daylight between the try-line and his opposite man, Campese was as good as over.

Whether it was by use of his patented “goose-step” or with use of the more archaic barrelling motion, the Wallabies legend was simply a magnet for scoring.

Beginning his international career at just 19 years of age, it was clear early on that Australia had a special talent on their hands, and the early start allowed Campese to repay his selectors massively down the years.

Did you know: Campese was also a renowned rugby sevens player. He made 12 appearances at the Hong Kong Sevens (1983-1990, 1993–94, 97-98), during which he played in three victorious Australian campaigns (’83, ’85 & ’88)


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Six Nations Rugby

Six Nations Rugby | France claim Olympic silver as GB finish fourth at Tokyo 2020



Les Bleues came out on top when the two teams went head-to-head in the semi-final, securing their place in the gold-medal match with a hard-fought 26-19 triumph.

Great Britain faced Fiji in the bronze-medal match and despite two tries from Meg Jones, they ultimately lost 21-12 to finish the tournament in fourth place.

Meanwhile, France faced the formidable Black Ferns for the gold medal and the pre-tournament favourites lived up to their billing with a 26-12 victory.

Speaking after emulating Great Britain’s fourth-place finish at Rio 2016, Wales winger Jasmine Joyce was disappointed to miss out on a medal but admitted she couldn’t be prouder of what the team achieved.

Jasmine Joyce

“You can probably tell by all our faces we are absolutely gutted,” said Joyce.

“As a squad, we’re Team GB, we are three different nations, and we have only been together for four or five months. Six months ago, none of us had anything – we didn’t have jobs, nothing.

“So to come out here, come fourth and push New Zealand right to the end, beat the USA in the quarter-finals and, unfortunately, lose to Fiji – who are a very good side – I can’t be prouder.

“We’ve definitely put our programme in a better place. We can call ourselves Olympians.”

France had been unbeaten on their march to the semi-final clash with Great Britain, beating Fiji, Brazil, Canada and China to put themselves in prime position for a medal.

Great Britain beat the Russian Olympic Committee and pushed New Zealand all the way in a thrilling 26-21 defeat before wins over Kenya and USA put them in the last four.

In the semi-final showdown, France raced into an early 14-point lead thanks to converted tries from Anne-Cecile Ciofani and Seraphine Okemba.

But Great Britain soon responded as Joyce claimed her sixth try of the tournament and Holly Aitchison added the extras to cut the deficit to seven with just six minutes played.

Coralie Bertrand claimed a third French touchdown before the break but Joyce then sprinted clear for her second try of the match, making it 21-12 at the half-time interval.

Ciofani scored a second after the restart and while Scotland’s Hannah Smith crossed for a try converted by England’s Natasha Hunt, France were able to hold on for victory.

Great Britain found themselves trailing 14-0 again in the bronze-medal match with Fiji and though Jones crossed twice, it was not enough to secure her side a place on the podium.

France then went down 26-12 to the Black Ferns, who avenged their defeat to Australia in the Olympic final five years ago to become champions at Tokyo 2020.

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The rise of Jack Conan to a Test Lion



The rise of Jack Conan is one of the great stories to emerge from the Lions. Called into the Irish Six Nations squad for the suspended Peter O’Mahony, he subsequently made his first appearance for Ireland since the 2019 RWC. Many had ruled the 29-year-old out, with the emergence of Caelan Doris at Leinster signifying a potential changing of the guard. The future looked bright for Doris for both Leinster and Ireland. Yet, as we all know, injuries in sport offer opportunities. This opportunity Conan took with both hands, as he put in an incredible final performance against England, setting up a try and scoring another. In turn, he booked his place on the plane to South Africa. We all thought it would stop there but now he isn’t just a Lion. He is a Test Lion.

Early Career

Jack Conan like all young Leinster number 8s had the title of ‘the next Jamie Heaslip.’ Playing Irish U20s in 2012 with fellow Lions Iain Henderson, Tadhg Furlong, and Tadhg Beirne, it was a new generation of young Irish talent. Conan had to remain patient for his Leinster debut mainly because of the competition in the back row as Jamie Heaslip had no thoughts of hanging up the boots just yet. His debut came in February 2014 against the Cardiff Blues with his international debut coming away in the 2014 Six Nations. The early career-defining moment came in January 2015 with a man of the match performance against Ulster. In the game he carried 40 metres, something that would be repeated on the biggest stage in a red jersey.

International Career

As the 2015 Six Nations approached, Conan had caught the eye of Joe Schmidt. The steady rise, however, didn’t all go to plan. Conan didn’t play in that Six Nations and despite making his debut in a 2015 RWC warm-up game against Scotland he failed to make the World Cup squad. Injuries, the emergence of new talent, and a lack of form meant Conan’s Irish dream was fading away.

Although a golden opportunity arose due to the 2017 Lions Tour. The likes of CJ Stander and co were away on Lions duty providing space in the national side for the 2017 Ireland Tour to USA and Japan. A few impressive outings once again showed Jack Conan is a man who takes every opportunity that comes his way. When the 2019 RWC came round, he made sure this time he was on the plane. This time he played a key role in the Ireland back row, far from being someone who was in Japan to make up the numbers. As the rise of Jack Conan continued.

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British and Irish Lions

For people who haven’t followed Jack Conan’s career, his recent performances for the Lions may have come as a surprise. For those who know him, however, they have been merely a given. Conan is a skilful number 8 who uses his footwork to gain extra post-contact metres, as well as being a fast and elusive player, exactly what was required to challenge South Africa in the wider channels. Completely different to what Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell went for with CJ Stander at number 8 (Who is very direct!). Conan stuck to his values as a player and didn’t change his unique style of play. The rise of Jack Conan, therefore, did stall but it certainly didn’t stop.

Despite only earning 17 caps for Ireland, he is now set for a second Lions Test cap and was one of the standout performers in the first Test. On tour, he has made 59 carries, 16 more than the next best (Duhan van der Merwe with 43). He also has made the most post-contact metres of any forward with 136. In the first Test, he made 48 metres from 12 carries. It is also the most metres made by a Lion forward in a Test since 2009. Guess who had that record? Jamie Heaslip. Sport can be funny sometimes.

A famous boxing analogy is that styles make fights. For rugby it is the same. The style required to beat the Springbok is a number 8 who isn’t just a direct bruiser. Conan has found his style hasn’t suited Ireland in the past yet it is the style vital in order for success on the 2021 Lions Tour. Although he might not go down as an Irish legend, his Lions legacy will certainly live on.

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