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Royal Wootton Bassett RFC given leg up by local Henchman ladder company to practice lineouts like Gallagher Premiership stars

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ROYAL Wootton Bassett have taken a page from the Premiership playbook as the first team from outside the top flight to use a unique ladder for lineout practice.

Eddie Jones’ England team, as well as a host of Premiership outfits, use a Henchman tripod ladder for working on lineout throwing – and now Bassett are among them.

Wiltshire-based safety ladder specialist Henchman donated the ladder to the club during the recent Rugby World Cup, the formal presentation made by the company’s general manager, Michael Byers, before Bassett’s recent victory over Buckingham.

The club, which was recently named the groundroots rugby level six club of the month by the RFU, is going from strength to strength. They have over 900 members and a full range of teams, including thriving youth boys and girls sides.

Director of rugby Alan Low said: “We have definitely seen an improvement in lineout performance since Henchman kindly donated the tripod ladder to our club.

“Hookers across all teams in the club are getting a lot of use out of it and in this recent spell of bad weather players have been able to use it indoors to practice on their own.”

Henchman sent the England Rugby squad a ladder to its Pennyhill Park training ground after managing director Tom Kitching saw footage of forwards coach Steve Borthwick wobbling on a traditional stepladder during lineout practice before the 2019 Six Nations.

A tripod ladder was used by England in Japan during the Rugby World Cup and a Henchman is now a key part of training in top-level rugby.

The ladder was used for a BBC Radio Wilshire photocall at Bassett earlier this year as part of its Rugby World Cup coverage.

Byers said: “I had no idea what to expect, so when we turned up to this amazing facility, full of enthusiastic club members and players we were very impressed.

“As a local company we are keen to support the community we serve and when a club official asked me how much it might cost to buy the ladder we were more than happy to say, ‘keep it – with our compliments’.”



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Eligibility change huge for Pacific Islands – and other November reflections

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Eligibility change huge for Pacific Islands

In 50 years’ time, rugby historians will look back at November 2021 as the period that changed Pacific Islands rugby forever. The landmark change in eligibility regulations means that players who haven’t played Test rugby for three years can seek approval to play for another nation with whom they can prove a familial link.

It’s massive and arguably represents the biggest change since the game turned pro. The positive impact is enormous and just rewards for Pacific Islands nations who punch so consistently above their weight that it’s become more of a headbutt.

If you can think of a professional rugby team that hasn’t benefited from a Pacific Islands player, then you’ll be in a minority. The short-term benefits of the change are obvious. Some players who had previously shelved their Test careers, or had it shelved for them, can now play for their ‘ancestral’ nation.

The result is that Tonga, Samoa and Fiji can now select players who they’ve previously never had access to – a move that will make the next Rugby World Cup the most competitive in its history. The Pacific Islands have always been competitive in RWCs, but that will now increase substantially. If you thought that Tonga was an easy game in your group, Charles Piutau and George Moala are about to turn a banana skin into a spiky fruit salad.

Whilst the short-term gains for Pacific Island rugby are obvious, it’s the long-term gains that are key. Short-term squad improvements will lead to consistency of performance and the possibility of World Cup semi-finals and beyond. With success comes commercial opportunities, cash and sustainable investment. In 20 years’ time, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji could become top-four nations, with any reference to Tier Two as outdated as 1980s comedians.

The cynics will, of course, claim that chaos will ensue, and it could lead to a stack of current Tier One players wanting to switch allegiances. But that is highly unlikely to happen en masse. The benefits of this change far outweigh any negatives and it’s great to see World Rugby approve this process.

Congratulations to Dan Leo, all of those people involved in Pacific Islands rugby – and to World Rugby and Bill Beaumont for allowing it to happen.

Teams need players who create from slow ball

Uilisi Halaholo and Nick Tompkins played really well for Wales against Australia. Not that you’d know it from the reaction on Twitter. They missed three tackles between them (admittedly one was a big one) and many supporters began erecting digital gallows on social media.

But there is another side to the argument. A more balanced side. One which doesn’t immediately focus on the negative and throw away 79 minutes of a player’s performance for the sake of a defensive lapse.

Between them they made more than 100m with the ball, in the midfield channels, with no cheap kick returns, and also beat ten defenders. But, perhaps more importantly, the midfield combo were able to beat defenders and ‘create’ from slow possession.

Wales need that more than ever. They don’t have a Bok level of ball-carriers ready to ‘Lord of their Rings’ over the gain-line. In Halaholo and Tompkins, they have players who can step around traffic during rush hour and make things happen in the back-line even when not much is happening in the front line.

Freddie Steward is a natural

Freddie Steward came out of the womb with two England caps. It’s the only plausible explanation. He’s only 20 years old and presumably has been playing rugby for the whole of that period. His performances so far for England have been beyond dominant and probably the most impressive debut full-back season since Matt Burke.

Steward simply doesn’t drop balls. You could throw 50 babies out of the window, and he’d place them all perfectly in their cots. His positional awareness is better than the GPS in my car and his ability to hit the line is deft whilst at the same time being damaging – he carried the ball like a blindside for his try against the Boks.

Steward is one of those ‘legacy’ players who, with limited injuries and a fair wind permitting, will eventually have more caps than Ice Cube.

Not so stubborn Eddie

Eddie Jones is stubborn. That’s not exactly news. It’s part of what makes him the coach he is. But November saw a different side to Jones’s squad selections and one for which he probably hasn’t received enough praise.

His new squad is very different to the previous iteration. We finally have Marcus Smith where he belongs and his triple threat skill-set (kick, pass, run) is there for all to see. But perhaps the greatest example of Jones’s new flexibility in selection is with regards to Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt.

There had been calls for both to be selected individually. In true Jones style, he did it his way by not just selecting one of them, but both. And, of course, the greatest selection of all has been the introduction of Freddie Steward.

Many have criticised Eddie Jones for his inflexibility over the past 18 months, but in November it seemed to have changed slightly.

Ireland’s rebuild is nearly complete

Ireland have had a better November than a pharmaceutical lobbyist. Beating New Zealand is one thing – one thing Welsh supporters have never seen on a colour TV – but beating them in the manner they did was quite another.

The score of 29-20 is, of course, the only real stat that matters. But when you deliver 70% territory against the All Blacks, over 80 minutes, you can be assured that Ireland’s fundamentals were fundamentally fantastic.

Tadhg Furlong delivered another performance which makes his non-nomination for World Rugby Player of the Year as unfathomable as it is annoying – that goes for all props being nominated for that award.

Garry Ringrose had his best game for Ireland in a long time and Hugo Keenan has British & Irish Lion written all over him – to the degree that he might as well have it tattooed on his head. And in Caelan Doris, they have a back-row forward who is as positionally flexible as he is talented.

Andy Farrell has now drip-fed enough youngsters into this squad so that it feels fresh, without being frightening. Ireland are in a great place for this World Cup cycle and the next.

Tomas Lavanini breaks red cards record

In November, Tomas Lavanini broke the record for the number of red cards that a Test player has received. The Argentina lock now has three. Three would be a lot if you played Test rugby until you’re 50; he’s only 28.

Some may argue that red cards are easier to come by in the modern game. And they’d be right. But they aren’t the sort of red cards that Lavanini tends to accrue. His most recent card involved a five-yard run-up into a ‘no-arms’ cleanout on a player lying on the ground.

It’s not just red cards he likes either; he’s had seven yellows in his career. Meaning he’s seen more colours in front of his eyes than Jack Kerouac. It’s a real shame because his impact is huge when he’s on the field. But far too often he isn’t.

France out ‘All Black’ the All Blacks

Even when the Test game has a cycle of teams that can compete with New Zealand, none of them beat them by playing like them. Except France that is.

On occasion South Africa, England and Ireland can overpower the All Blacks. Sometimes Australia can out ‘ball’ them, even when they can’t out maul them. But it’s only France who can really do to the All Blacks what the All Blacks do to everyone else.

The display in Paris was true triple-threat rugby, where kick/pass/run options were used as a balanced destructive strategy – there was no reliance on one predictable aspect of play.

France now arguably have the deepest depth chart in the whole of Test rugby, especially in the back-line. They are dripping with talent to the point where the past 20 years of French rugby almost seems like a bad dream.

To win a World Cup you need a squad of players whose ability to interchange results in zero drop in performance. The Boks have it in the pack and the All Blacks will undoubtedly regain that at some stage. But at the moment, it is France who have the type of squad depth that can give you the ‘bends’ and it’s great to see.

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Scotland rugby international Siobhan Cattigan dies aged 26

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Scotland rugby international Siobhan Cattigan has died at the age of 26, Scottish Rugby and her club Stirling County said on Wednesday.

Cattigan, who won 19 caps for Scotland between 2018 and 2021, died on Friday Nov. 26, her club said.

She was described as an “inspiration” and a “talented back-row forward and all-round rugby player”.

“It’s with a heavy heart we pass on the news of the tragic passing of Siobhan (Shibby),” Stirling County said in a statement.

“Shibby has been a big part of County for many years and will be hugely missed by everyone at the club. She was central to the development of women’s rugby within the club and an inspiration to the girls in the youth section.

“Shibby was a teammate and friend and we deeply mourn her loss. Our love, thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with Shibby’s family at this devastating time.

“We very much hope their privacy will be respected by everyone as they deal with their tragic loss.”

Cattigan started all three matches of Scotland’s 2021 Women’s Six Nations campaign and played in the country’s win over Spain in the Rugby World Cup qualifiers in September.

“Scottish Rugby is deeply saddened to hear of the tragic passing of Scotland international Siobhan Cattigan,” the governing body said.

“The thoughts of all our people and players go out to Siobhan’s family, friends and many teammates at Stirling County and Scotland at this incredibly difficult time.

“Siobhan started her journey in the Scottish Rugby international set up in 2017 and has been a much respected and loved player who will be greatly missed by us all.”

Cattigan graduated with a Master’s degree in sports psychology at the University of Stirling, where she played for the university’s rugby club, after studying studied criminology and sociology at undergraduate level.



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Wallabies hero Quade Cooper criticises Australian system after taking citizenship test

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Two decades after moving to the country and 13 years following his Wallabies debut, Quade Cooper is set to become an Australian citizen—though he insists the system remains imperfect

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Thirteen years and 75 caps after his Wallabies debut, rugby star Quade Cooper finally looks likely to be made an official citizen of Australia.

Cooper, 33, previously attempted to gain a passport for the country he moved to at age 13, but it wasn’t until he returned to national team duty in September that calls for his approval gathered momentum.

Following star displays in back-to-back wins over world champions South Africa, Cooper’s route was cleared after Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke said the rules would be changed to allow for exceptions like his.

On the fifth attempt, the former Queensland Red and Melbourne Rebel revealed on Friday that he’d passed his citizenship test, but it wasn’t all smiles for the fan favourite fly-half.

Cooper took to Instagram after passing the citizenship test, but he used the opportunity to share the plight of former Wallaby Joe Tomane who, like him, was born in New Zealand but moved to Australia as a child.







Quade Cooper uploaded the message with a picture of him alongside friend and former team-mate Joe Tomane
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Image:

@quadecooper Instagram)

Cooper wrote: “Crazy day today, not going to lie. I was super nervous as there were some difficult questions on the citizenship test and I felt that if I failed, everyone’s efforts may have been for nothing. But in truth, the law change itself is the victory.

“My brother and @Wallabies team mate @joetomane was locked out of the country he’s lived in since nine months of age and forced to fly and quarantine in NZ earlier this year because he also didn’t fit the criteria of what it took to be identified as Australian… despite standing side-by-side in the Green and Gold.

“Hopefully he will be the next person to benefit from this law change and be able to fly home to his family and friends soon.”

Cooper concluded the message by posting two green and yellow hearts—the Wallabies colours—before adding “Ps I passed officially.”

Tomane scored five tries in 17 appearances for Australia between 2012 and 2015, after which he became ineligible for Wallabies duty as he went on to star for Montpellier and Leinster in Europe.

Do you think Quade Cooper will play for Australia at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France? Let us know in the comments section.







Quade Cooper ended a four-year Wallabies exile this year to play a key role as Australia finished second in the Rugby Championship
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Image:

Getty Images)

And like Kintetsu Liners playmaker Cooper, the 31-year-old now finds himself playing in Japan with Black Rams Tokyo, who will form part of the re-branded Japan Rugby League One in early 2022.

It’s a mark of Cooper’s character that even in his moment of triumph, attaining something he’s sought for many years,he diverted the spotlight to a comrade in need.

Cooper’s tide-turning displays against the Springboks brought vital attention to his citizenship situation, and he presumably hopes directing others toward Tomane will have a similar effect.

Both players are currently preparing for the new-look Japan Rugby League One season—formerly the Top League—which will kick off on January 7.

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