Seriously injured in the left knee during the defeat of Lyon in Brive on Sunday, the center of LOU Mathieu Bastareaud will not play again this season.
The first quarter of an hour of the match between Brive and Lyon caused damage on Sunday during the 12th day of the Top 14, with the injury outings of Jonathan Wisniewski, Thomas Laranjeira and Mathieu Bastareaud. We know the diagnosis for the latter, and it is severe: rupture of the quadriceps tendon of the left knee and season ended. “End of season. Now we are looking straight ahead to get back in 2021. Thank you all for your posts, ”the 32-year-old center wrote on his Twitter account. The former French international (54 caps, 5 tries) was out in the 15th minute of the match, replaced by Colby Fainga’a. The LOU finally lost 12-8 in Corrèze, to find itself fifth in the Top 14 standings (29 points), but with two games behind the first two, La Rochelle (39pts) and Toulouse (38pts).
Returned to Lyon at the start of the season, after a shortened adventure in New York (5 games, 2 tries) due to the coronavirus pandemic and the cancellation of the Major League Rugby season, Mathieu Bastareaud played 10 Top 14 matches (including 9 as a starter, one try against Racing 92) and one in the Champions Cup (one try against Gloucester) since September. Under contract until June 2022, he will now have to undergo surgery, before hoping to return for the start of next season.
After four seasons at the Stade Français then eight in Toulon, the native of Créteil had signed in Lyon as a joker World Cup in the fall of 2019, since he had not been selected for the Japanese World Cup by Jacques Brunel, before to join the United States. His Lyon adventure is once again interrupted. No doubt he will want to finish it (or continue it?) In style in 2021-22.
The inaugural United Rugby Championship gets under way tonight and becomes the tenth iteration of what began as the Celtic League back in 2001.
Previous versions of the championship had different names, different teams, varying number of participants and formats, most recently it was the Guinness Pro14.
The opening weekend sees perennial champions Leinster host one of the new boys of the tournament, South Africa’s Vodacom Bulls, while Munster’s clash with the Cell C Sharks is live on RTÉ.
It’s all a far cry from very first league game when Bridgend entertained Pontypridd in the Brewery Field.
Twenty years ago, six years after the game went professional, the four Irish provinces, Edinburgh Reivers and Glasgow from Scotland, and Wales’ nine top teams: Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Ebbw Vale, Llanelli, Neath, Newport, Pontypridd and Swansea squared off in a new-look tournament.
The 15 sides were divided into two pools and the four Irish sides occupied the top two spots in their respective groups, with Leinster, coached by Matt Williams, going on to beat Munster 24-20 in a memorable final in Lansdowne Road.
“In the early days of professionalism, in England, the likes of Leicester, Wasps and Northampton became fully professional from day one,” URC tournament director of the last 17 years David Jordan tells RTÉ Sport.
“There was a realisation that this sort of part-time / professional set-up which existed in the other countries wasn’t going to wash because you are going up against really professional sides in Europe.
“That meant that Scotland, Wales and Ireland needed to look at the issue collectively and that was basically where the idea was originally formed.
“In the case of the Welsh they went from a club-based system to regions.
“That was more like a Celtic Cup where you had Welsh and Scottish clubs playing a tournament (from 1999 to 2001) that led to the beginnings of the Celtic League but eventually it was realised that we needed to have full-time professional rugby and that was based on a regional provincial-type model.
“In Scotland we went to two teams, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Irish had the four provinces and the five Welsh regions.
“In time we had the 10 teams playing what was the Celtic League.
“The fundamental raison d’etre for the competition was to raise standards, to create a professional environment to allow clubs and players to succeed at club, provincial and international level.
“That was our primary goal from a rugby point of view but it’s also a commercial game so we now have a full commercial team and broadcasters etc., where revenue is a major part of what we are about now, as well as creating an entertaining product, a dynamic product.”
The only change to the second season was the addition of Scottish Borders, while Munster beat Neath in that year’s final.
Ahead of the start of the 2003/04 season, the Welsh clubs amalgamated and formed the Cardiff Blues, Celtic Warriors, Neath–Swansea Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons and Llanelli Scarlets.
The 2003 RWC and the Six Nations in the spring meant that the clubs played for most of the season minus their international stars. Llanelli Scarlets finished ahead of Ulster in the table after the competition was re-formatted to a straight league structure.
By the start of the 2004/05 season, the Celtic Warriors had been disbanded and the title was won by the Ospreys. That year the IRFU decided they would use the league standings to determine which sides would represent Ireland in the Heineken Cup.
Moves by the Welsh clubs to take part in an Anglo-Welsh competition disrupted the 2005/06 pre-season but when that was sorted out the tournament saw increased attendances. Ulster, courtesy of a late David Humphreys drop-goal against Ospreys, won the league.
Renamed the Magners League from 2006/07, Ospreys claimed the spoils. The highlight from an Irish perspective was a Leinster v Ulster clash at Lansdowne Road that attracted almost 50,000 people in the last game played at the Dublin 4 arena before its redevelopment.
Leinster won their second title in 2007/08 with just 10 teams competing, Scottish Borders having been disbanded ahead of the season.
Munster claimed their second title the following year, losing only four games.
The competition returned to a league and play-off format in 2009/10 with Leinster, who beat Munster in the semi-final, losing the final 17-12 to the Ospreys, for whom Tommy Bowe scored a crucial try.
Italy entered the fray in 2010/11 with Aironi and Benetton Treviso joining up.
“When Italy became competitive in the Six Nations it was important that their clubs were part of a professional organisation,” said Jordan.
The final that season came down to another all-Irish clash with Munster beating newly crowned Heineken Cup champs Leinster in Thomond Park.
From 2011/12 until 2014 the competition became known as the RaboDirect Pro12 with Ospreys snatching the title off Leinster with a late flourish in the RDS in the final.
Aironi bowed out for the 2012/13 season to be replaced by Zebre with Ulster, who topped the table in the regular season, losing to Leinster in another final held in the RDS.
Leinster were again victorious in the 2013/14 final, this time accounting for Glasgow 34-12 in the RDS. The game marked the last appearance of Brian O’Driscoll after a stellar career for club, country and Lions.
Guinness came on board as the title sponsor for the 2014/15 season with Leinster, who had become the first club to retain the title the year before, failing to make the play-offs. Glasgow beat Munster in the final.
The 2015/16 season was all about Connacht as the western province won their first major silverware of the professional era. They beat Glasgow in the semi-final before a memorable victory over Leinster in Murrayfield.
The shocks continued the following year when Scarlets became the first side to win an away semi-final, blasting past Leinster at the RDS. More was to come when the Welsh side obliterated Munster at the Aviva, Tadhg Beirne among the try-scorers.
The arrival of the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs from South Africa for the 2017/18 season saw the 14 teams split into two conferences, with Leinster beating Scarlets in an Aviva finale.
It was around this time that chief executive Martin Anayi suggested that it was a matter of “when, not if” a team from the USA would join the tournament, while Germany was also mentioned in dispatches.
“We did get approached by a number of territories, including the US, wanting to be part of our competition,” continued Jordan.
“We have welcomed in clubs from other countries whereas England and France are a closed shop. But it has to work for us, it has to be competitive and be commercially viable.
“At the end of the day there’s a number of factors. There was interest from that direction but we have to look at it from what’s right for the competition and that it adds to the standard.”
While the Cheetahs finished third in their conference in their first season, the Kings failed to make any impression, eventually winning just four games across three seasons.
Leinster would go on to win the next three titles in a row, beating Glasgow in the final in 2019, before accounting for Ulster in the next year’s decider.
That finale came after a mid-season suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, which meant that only 15 rounds of 21 were played.
When games did restart it was decided to play a round of derbies to finalise the standings instead of forcing teams to travel abroad.
The 2020/21 season was again played behind closed doors due to public health guideline sand reverted to a Pro12 format with the Southern Kings entering liquidation and the Cheetahs not permitted to travel because of the pandemic.
It was the same story, however, with no team able to derail Leo Cullen’s kingpins, Munster again coming up short in the RDS final.
The shortened format led to the once-off Rainbow Cup, which was initially to include the new South African teams playing some rounds in Europe.
However, the logistical issues surrounding getting the new franchises into Europe meant that it was restructured so that the winners of a European-only competition and a South Africa-only competition met in a final.
Benetton topped the northern hemisphere standings and went on to claim their first major silverware by beating the Bulls in the final, which was held in Italy.
Which brings us back to this season and the introduction of South Africa’s finest: Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers, having forsaken Super Rugby, are in with the in-crowd now.
Leinster have been the dominant force, famously using more than 50 players in a season to win some of the last four titles.
It’s great for fans of the province but that dominance does leave an awful lot of questions about the quality of the tournament when a team can win while using players that wouldn’t have made the Probables or Possibles teams of yesteryear.
On the challenges facing the latest version of the much rejigged tournament, Jordan, a former CEO of Glasgow Warriors, said: “It’s about raising standards. Leinster have won our competition now for a number of years.
“We need to be more competitive from top to bottom. It’s been quite difficult to increase the number of teams while working in the same window.
“Our format this year is to avoid international games, to get clubs playing with their internationals more often.
“It is about increasing the competitiveness of all our clubs and hopefully that will lead to better performances in Europe and better performances on the international field as well.
“We think the different players with different approaches to the game will help.”
Follow Munster v Sharks, Saturday 25 September, 7.35pm, via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app or watch live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player
Cameron McIntyre is humbled to be joining the exclusive group that makes up the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club’s Hall of Fame, but also feels it’s a bit premature.
This is mostly because the native Australian, who first came to Aspen in 1993, continues to be an integral part of the club’s organization, including as a coach for the Gents’ main side and for the local high school club that operates out of Willits.
“To be in their company is something I never expected to happen,” McIntyre said of being inducted into the hall of fame. “Of course, I’m honored, but I felt a little embarrassed in some ways because I feel I’m still going. I’m still trying to do something, trying to help where we need to look to get the club to and take the steps to do it. It’s not a mission accomplished yet by any means, and maybe it never is.”
McIntyre will be one of four individuals, plus two businesses, as part of the 2021 hall of fame class that will be inducted on Friday at the Mountain Chalet in downtown Aspen. The ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public and helps kickoff the return of the annual Ruggerfest rugby tournament this weekend to Aspen.
Joining McIntyre in a group that will be 44 members deep by Friday evening are former players Phil Kenney, John McDermott and Ty Storlie. Also being inducted are the first two businesses in the Melville family’s Mountain Chalet, as well as Eric’s Bar and the Casper family, both of which have been generous supporters of the club for many years.
“We are kind of looking for that all-around good player, good teammate and a good contributor to the club,” said Aspen RFC hall of fame committee chairman Bill McEnteer, himself a member of the hall of fame, on the selection criteria. “Usually it starts out with No. 1 they are probably a pretty good player. That’s a key. No. 2, are they a good teammate? We’ve had players on the teams where they were good players, but they weren’t much of a good teammate. They weren’t around. The third thing is, do they still support the club after they retired?”
All six additions to the class this year fit that mold. The club’s hall of fame was started in 1993, which was the club’s 25th anniversary, and included the club’s primary founder, Englishman Steve Sherlock.
This is the 53rd Aspen Ruggerfest tournament, a year delayed after the 2020 tournament was canceled because of the pandemic. It’s one of the country’s most prestigious and longest-running tournaments of its kind still left and draws in high-level players from all over the world.
McIntyre, who played a bit with the VOMITS 55s side on Thursday, is glad to have the tournament back this fall.
“Hopefully the town feels so, as well,” he said. “The participants that I’ve spoken to today certainly feel it’s a lift off their daily grind to be able to come up and revisit again.”
Play officially started Thursday with the men’s 55s division, with the KC Blues going 2-0, the VOMITS going 1-1 and the Cardinals going 0-2 in round-robin play. The KC Blues and the VOMITS will meet again in Sunday’s championship match; the Blues beat the VOMITS on Thursday, 31-14.
Friday’s action includes both the 40s and 50s divisions, with games being played at both Rio Grande Park and Wagner Park throughout the day. The men’s and women’s open divisions begin play Saturday, with the championship matches for all five divisions taking place Sunday at Wagner Park. There is no cost to spectate.
“Ruggerfest is one of the last really old, traditional tournaments in this part of the world. There are just not many now,” McEnteer said.
About those Gents
Aspen’s main side is again coached by Ben Mitchell, who plays professionally in Major League Rugby, and will include a mix of the club’s summer roster and a handful of players only here for the weekend. A few of those players do have professional rugby experience, as do many players on other rosters.
The Misfits are back, but they have reorganized as the Denver Waterdogs. McIntyre said the other team to keep an eye on will be the American Raptors, a side of cross-over athletes that is based out of Glendale’s Infinity Park, in the Denver area.
As of Thursday evening, the Gents were still piecing together their roster ahead of their first matches on Saturday morning.
“Come (Friday) night we’ll know what we have settled on,” McIntyre said. “There is always a hiccup here or there or someone who surprises that comes through that will make a huge difference to us.”
Of note, the Gents picked up a substantial sponsor this year in J.O.R_20, which makes a range of fine jewelry and is based out of the Dalwhinnie Farms shop in downtown Aspen.
The Aston Martin Formula One team have recruited Martin Whitmarsh as chief executive of the newly established company, Aston Martin Performance Technologies.
Whitmarsh will head up the division that combines Aston Martin’s Formula One activities with developing, applying and taking to market the group’s technical capabilities, as well as intellectual property. The automaker added that the Aston Martin Performance Technologies has the aim of ‘providing best-in-class innovation, engineering, testing and manufacturing services across a variety of key industry sectors’.
Whitmarsh, who will officially take up his new position on 1st October, is perhaps best known for his 25-year stint at McLaren, which saw him hold various senior positions including group chief executive and Formula One team principal. The 63-year-old left the British racing outfit in 2014 after being ousted by Ron Dennis.
Beyond Formula One, Whitmarsh’s time at the Woking-based company saw the launch of the McLaren Automotive and McLaren Applied Technologies divisions.
Since leaving McLaren, Whitmarsh served as chief executive of the Ineos America’s Cup sailing team, as well as chairman of BAR Technologies and the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership.
His appointment comes after Aston Martin began work on a new multimillion pound, 400,000-square-foot facility earlier this month, which is being billed as Formula One’s first-ever ‘smart factory’.
“Martin will enjoy senior leadership responsibility and will assist and support me in setting the new strategic direction for Aston Martin Performance Technologies and its subsidiaries, including the crucial objective of leading the transformation of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team into a Formula One World Championship-winning organisation within the next four to five years, and evolving it into a UK£1 billion business over a similar time period,” said Lawrence Stroll, executive chairman, Aston Martin Lagonda and Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team.
“Martin has enjoyed a long, successful and high-profile career, spanning the motorsport, automotive, aerospace, marine and renewable-energy sectors.
“Moreover, he is a proven winner in Formula One. He is therefore the ideal person for the job of working with me and our senior management team to lead and inspire our workforce to future success both on and off track.”
Whitmarsh added: “Lawrence [Stroll] intends Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team to win Formula One world championships, plain and simple, and I would not have joined him in that endeavour unless I was utterly convinced that it was an entirely achievable aim.
“I know what it takes to win in Formula One, and, inspired by Lawrence’s leadership and backed by the skill, passion and resolve of the workforce, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure that our team becomes the winning operation that Lawrence is determined that it should be.”
Elsewhere, Spanish soccer’s La Liga has bolstered its management team for its Boost LaLiga digital entertainment transformation project. Javier Gomez has been appointed as corporate director and will work alongside executive director Oscar Mayo to implement corporate and business strategies. Jose Guerra has also moved to the position of director of strategic operations and Boost LaLiga.
Additionally, La Liga’s management has shaken up its hierarchy in order to ‘consolidate and reinforce its structure’. Under the leadership of president Javier Tebas, and together with Gomez and Mayo, the following will make up the executive committee: Maria Jose Lopez, legal director; Miguel Angel Leal, managing director of LaLiga Tech; Jose Carlos Franco, director of technology; and Loreto Quintero, director of strategic projects.
The American Athletic Conference (AAC) has extended the contract of commissioner Mike Aresco until June 2025.
Media platform Antourage has added Andy Sutherden and Ken Yaffe to its advisory board.
Sports data company StatsBomb has announced the hiring of former Milwaukee Bucks director of basketball research Seth Partnow as an advisor as they near a US market launch.
Harry Hardy, DC United’s executive vice president of business operations, is leaving the Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise to become an executive at Major League Rugby (MLR), according to the Washington Post.
Chief executive, Surrey County Cricket Club
Previously: Managing director, events and special projects, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)
Executive director, National Basketball Players Association (NBPA)
Previously: Managing principal, greater Washington area, Deloitte
President, APAC, CAA Sports
Previously: President, global sales and president, APAC, Sportfive
Managing director, North America, Two Circles
Previously: Chief commercial officer, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE)
Senior vice president, international, Professional Fighters League (PFL)
Previously: Vice president and general manager, Australia and New Zealand, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
Vice president, data and analytics, TickPick
Previously: Senior director, data science, Major League Baseball (MLB)
Senior vice president of business development, Toldright
Previously: Vice president of connections, iHeartMedia
Chief technology officer, International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF)
Previously: IT, data and analytics manager, IMMAF
Senior vice president, Jacksonville Tradition and Alumni, Jacksonville Jaguars
Notes: Edwards, who until this season exclusively led the Jaguars’ communications department throughout the existence of the National Football League (NFL) franchise, will retire at the end of the 2021 campaign.
Commercial director, Rugby League World Cup 2021
Notes: Neill will leave at the end of the month after three and a half years in the role.