Connect with us

Premiership Rugby

‘Test rugby is a big commitment and I have done it for 10 years but if they asked I would love to’



Josh Matavesi is backing Fiji to make a major impact in the new Eight Nations tournament despite the squad never having trained under new coach Vern Cotter and nearly a year having passed since they played a test fixture.

While the odds seem stacked against the Fijians, who have been drawn in a four-team pool with France, Scotland and Italy in the new tournament being played over the four weekends from 13 November to 6 December, Bath centre Matavesi knows all about the world-class talent available to Cotter.

The former Scotland and Montpellier head coach will hold his first training camp with the squad in France on October 25, following what has become a “ normal” preparation for Fiji. This will be Fiji’s fourth camp to be held in France and recognises the fact that the majority of their professional players are based in Europe. The training camp held prior to the 2019 Rugby World Cup featured 18 players based in France and 14 from the UK and Cotter will name a similar squad next week.

Video Spacer
Video Spacer

Nadolo talks to RugbyPass

Cotter, who replaced John McKee in January, can call upon stars including Semi Radradra, who scored a brilliant solo try for Bristol in their big European Challenge Cup win over Dragons, Glasgow’s Leone Nakawara, Viliame Mata at Edinburgh, Leicester’s Kini Murimuvalu, Peceli Yato at Clermont, La Rochelle’s Levani Botia and Joshua Tuisova at Lyon. The wide range of talent available to Cotter is highlighted by the fact Brive have seven Fijian’s in their squad with another four at Castres. Cotter has also been trying to persuade players based in New Zealand to opt for Fiji rather than try for All Blacks honours.

Matavesi retired from test rugby after the World Cup which saw Fiji lose their final pool match 29-17 to Wales and they have not played a test since that contest. While he opted to call it a day after winning 24 caps, Matavesi, who is still only 29, admits the joy he is getting from helping Bath bid for the Gallagher Premiership title has recharged his rugby batteries and he would consider a return to national colours if Cotter made that call.

Matavesi, who is preparing for Bath’s home clash with Gloucester when 1,00 fans will be allowed in the ground on Tuesday, told RugbyPass: “Many of the Fiji players in Europe are the best at their clubs and it is a great to be involved in the Eight Nations tournament. The benefits that come with being in this tournament will be fantastic for the boys and the player pool will grow with more fixtures and we will get even better. I hope the boys go out and be brave, show their style of play.

“Test rugby is a big commitment and I have done it for 10 years and if they asked I would love to, but let’s see what happens. During lockdown I really missed the game and I told myself I would just enjoy rugby when it restarted. If Vern wants me then we can have a conversation.

“I was involved in our camp in Toulouse last year before the World Cup and while you cannot do a lot physically you can go through strategy and team values. You do get a lot out of it and can bond with the coaches and it will be important to get face to face with Vern and understand what it’s like to work with and what the vibe is.”

The Matavesi family will be supplying hooker Sam to the Fiji squad and he is currently with Northampton and the youngest member of the clan – Joel – helped Newcastle return to the Premiership which means all three brothers will be operating in the top flight of English rugby next season.

Bath have moved up to third in the Premiership and Matavesi has been at the heart of their impressive run and added: “We really work hard at our shape in attack at Bath and there is more than one way to skin a cat and we back ourselves to have the courage to go wide but we also have the pack which is going really well. We are not trying to be the All Blacks – just the best we can be.

“Our win at Sale was really important and we imposed our style of rugby of them and that was credit to the forwards who put their bodies on the line. It is fantastic that the fans will be back against Gloucester and I am sure the 1,000 will generate enough noise to make up for those who would love to be there. Ben Spencer joined from Saracens, is a really good guy and a great influence on the other scrum-halves and we want to play quick but also have that kicking game.

“Our target is to get to the Premiership final but we have a massive game against Gloucester and then play Saracens. Momentum is with us but we cannot afford to get ahead of ourselves.”


More News More News

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Premiership Rugby

Rob Baxter: Exeter boss says salary cap reduction could hit English clubs in Europe



Exeter lift the 2020 Champions Cup
Exeter were the last English side to win the Champions Cup, in 2020

Exeter boss Rob Baxter says English clubs could find it more difficult to win in Europe with a reduced Premiership salary cap.

The cap has fallen from a pre-pandemic level of £6.4m.

“I do think we’ve made it relatively tough for ourselves over the next couple of seasons,” Baxter said.

Along with their maximum wage spend of £5m Premiership clubs are still able to have £600,000 worth of academy credits and two marquee players, whose wages do not count towards the cap, although that number will reduce to one from the start of next season.

Deals agreed before the cap rules were changed count at 75% of their value, to the £5m limit, but all new deals are valued at 100%.

Premiership clubs hope to be able to begin increasing the cap from the 2024-25 season.

“I think you’re going to find a disparity at the start of the next two years and so hopefully that return to a fuller cap and the marquee rules and credits etc in a couple of years will help even that out,” Baxter said before his side’s Champions Cup opener against Montpellier.

“If you look at how hard it is to put a squad together in two years’ time compared to some of the squads knocking around Europe, especially your top Irish provinces and your top French clubs, it’s going to be tough.”

Exeter brought in Scotland captain Stuart Hogg from Glasgow Warriors in the summer of 2019 and his compatriot Jonny Gray joined him a year later from the same club.

This summer the Chiefs saw Alex Cuthbert return to Wales, while Tomas Francis and Elvis Taione followed him as all three moved to Ospreys.

“You’ve got a group of players within the Premiership who’ve been used to salary levels that were there with a £6.4m plus bits and a pieces cap to down to a £5m cap, it’s a big change,” added Baxter.

“It’s not like a couple of hundred thousand pounds, it’s big chunk of what you’d spend on your squad, so that realignment of what salary expectations will be will be challenging and then that will also make other markets more attractive.

“The Welsh regions, the Scottish regions for your qualified players become more attractive, obviously the ability to recruit players into the Premiership rather than go to clubs outside the Premiership also will become harder.

“Going down to one marquee player as well, there’s going to be a significant shift, probably a bigger shift than people really anticipate.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Premiership Rugby

Union needs its own Rugby FA Cup



As rugby pundits start to summarise 2021, there is one competition which will hardly garner a footnote. It’s fair to say, the Premiership Rugby Cup fails to garner significant ticket sales or mainstream attention. If you look through the last cup finals, only two had a crowd of over 10,000. A Rugby FA Cup it is not.

It’s sad, because the national cup has a rich history. Search ‘Powergen Cup Final’ or ‘Pilkington Cup Final’ into YouTube (former names of the cup competition due to various sponsors), and you will see huge spectacles in front of a packed-out Twickenham. The competition’s past illustrates its potential. How could the Premiership Rugby Cup change to reignite its spark?

Rugby union can take nspiration from football’s FA Cup

Rugby should constantly keep an eye on other sports for inspiration. If tiddlywinks is capturing public attention, rugby administrators should find out why, and transfer these lessons into our sport. In the context of cup competitions, look no further than football’s FA Cup.

What makes the FA cup so exciting? Yes, fans love another opportunity for their team to bring home silverware. Arguably more than that, is the ‘David Vs Goliath’ stories. The League 2 side turning up at Old Trafford and knocking Manchester United off their horse. The mismatches, pitting part-timers against global superstars. In a nutshell, the unusual.

The problem with the Premiership Rugby Cup is it’s the usual, but worse. It’s the same teams facing off but with (often) their best players rested. So even when the showpiece final comes along, nobody cares.

Embed from Getty Images

It’s fine, or even desirable for players to be rested. Cup competitions can be a vital stepping stone for players to develop. Some of the current England team found their feet in the Premiership Cup, for example. However, there needs to be something different to still keep it interesting.

Championship clubs should be introduced

The valuable lesson to take from the FA Cup is introducing teams from lower divisions. Championship clubs offer something different from the Premiership’s commercial stadiums. They may have smaller stands, but they offer communal clubhouses with charming quirks. Some squads will include part-time players with ordinary jobs. To watch an English giant falter at one of these grounds would make great television, and a spectacular live event. 

The Championship is owed this too. Look through the alumni of most championship teams, and you will see world class players who developed there as youngsters. Despite this, their central funding had been slashed in recent years, from £675,000 per season in 2017 to £150,000 now. The RFU may argue this is out of necessity, especially given their financial woes during the pandemic. In that case, why not create a sustainable source of funding? Imagine the income from television rights for a Championship club hosting Saracens or Harlequins.

Possible Rugby FA Cup tournament structure

The most straight-forward formats are more likely to engage casual rugby fans.  Therefore, returning to a knock-out cup is best option.

There are 24 clubs between the Premiership and the Championship. The top eight ranked teams (based on the previous season’s league standings) would get a first-round bye. The other 16 teams would battle for a place in Round 2. Round 2 would be followed by the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final.

The opening rounds could look something like the below:

Round 1:

Cornish Pirates vs Ealing Trailfinders

Doncaster Vs London Irish

Ampthill Vs Hartpury

Nottingham Vs Bedford

Worcester Vs Jersey

Coventry Vs Newcastle

Gloucester Vs London Scottish

Richmond Vs Saracens

Round 2: 

Ampthill/Hartpury Vs Richmond/Saracens

Bristol Vs Cornish Pirates/Ealing Trailfinders

Bath Vs Northampton

Doncaster/London Irish Vs Worcester/Jersey

Harlequins Vs Gloucester/London Scottish

Sale Vs Leicester

Wasps Vs Coventry/Newcastle

Exeter Vs Nottingham/Bedford

Making more ‘Iconic Moments’ in rugby union

Former England international Lewis Moody was fond of the idea of an FA Cup style competition in rugby. He expressed concerns about player safety, with sheer differences of power between athletes in the Premiership, and the lower leagues. This is a reasonable concern, but this why only Championship clubs would be invited, and not lower divisions. Championship clubs have faced Premiership-quality opposition when clubs such as London Irish and Bristol were relegated, and from pre-season friendlies. Moody did also note how this kind of competition would create lifelong memories: “For players in the lower leagues, it would be a highlight of their careers playing against internationals”.

For a taster of how special this could be, look no further than March of this year. Cornish Pirates defeated the mighty Saracens at Mennaye Field in the opening round of the RFU Championship. Saracens packed their team with internationals, including British and Irish Lion Sean Maitland, and World Cup winner Vincent Koch. Social media was buzzing, and Pirates coach Alan Paver hailed the win as an “iconic moment” for his team.

Embed from Getty Images

Sadly, as Paver noted: “The only thing it was missing was 5,000 Cornishmen shouting their heads off”. If one day, this new competition became a reality, Mennaye Field (or even a Stadium for Cornwall) may host this kind of moment with those Cornishmen in full voice.


What is your opinion? Last Word on Rugby encourages your feedback so visit our LWOS Boards forum site to carry on the conversation.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

Source link

Continue Reading

Premiership Rugby

Rugby headlines as Scarlets say injuries against Bristol would have been ‘unforgivable’ and quarantined Wales star misses graduation



These are your rugby headlines for Wednesday, December 8

Peel: Injuries would be ‘unforgivable’

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel says it would have been “unforgivable” if any of his players picked up an injury had their Champions Cup match with Bristol Bears gone ahead this weekend.

Yesterday came news that the clash at Ashton Gate had been forfeited by the west Wales region due to the absence of 32 front-line players, who are currently in self-isolation in a hotel just outside Belfast.

They are able to leave quarantine on Friday – just 24 hours or so before they were due to face Bristol in their Pool B tie.

Peel explained the reasoning behind the decision to forego the match, with player welfare at the front of his mind.

“I think it comes down to wellbeing,” he said. “Wellbeing of the group to start, that’s the most important thing for us.

“Our ability to go and play that game and perform on the best stage we can… we’ve been in isolation for two weeks, and the duty of care to the players is first and foremost to us.

“We are unable to do any meaningful training. We are obviously doing stretch bands in the room here.

“We get 30 minutes a day out in the car park which is very small and segregated obviously. The wellbeing of the team for us is first and foremost.

“I personally feel we’re not in a position to go out there and perform to what we expect of ourselves and the club and the supporters expect, but it’s a player welfare situation where it’s dangerous – and for us to pick up injuries and so forth in these circumstances would be unforgivable if we were going to put ourselves at risk there.”

Priestland misses graduation

Wales star Rhys Priestland missed his university graduation due his quarantine stay in a London hotel.

Priestland was part of the Cardiff Rugby party in South Africa who found themselves stranded away from home following their troubled trip to Cape Town. Now back in the UK, the fly-half posted on Instagram on the day he should have been donning his hat and gown.

He also thanked his former club Bath following his move back to Wales with the Arms Park outfit.

“Today I should have been graduating from @uniofbath @bathsofm with a Masters in Business Administration,” he wrote. “Instead, I’m at a quarantine hotel in Crawley…. so there’s no pic of me in my gown and mortarboard.”

Excitement back in rugby after ‘deflating’ Lions tour – O’Gara

Former Ireland fly-half Ronan O’Gara says there is “massive excitement about the game again” after the “deflation” of the Lions summer tour of South Africa.

O’Gara, who coaches La Rochelle, believes that the upcoming Champions Cup can give the sport another boost after an exciting autumn series.

“I think [the Lions] gave us a big whack,” he told BBC 5 Live.

“But when you look at the autumn internationals, everything was flipped on its head.

“I think the rugby played on that tour wasn’t a representation of what we stand for on this side of the world.

“It was a massive disappointment to see the best of our players playing like that.

“But [during the autumn] the skill level, the tempo with which a lot of teams were playing, the mindset – everyone seems to be completely refreshed, renewed and reinvigorated, with a juicy Six Nations coming up, but before that four rounds of Europe which will, I think, get people even more excited again.

“So it’s probably gone a complete 360, with crowds back, the best of rugby back, and the best of competitions with the European Cup and the Six Nations.”

Bath sign Prydie

Wales international and former Scarlets man Tom Prydie has joined Bath on a short-term deal.

He and South African Jordan Venter have penned deals in the West Country.

Prydie had been on trial with the Gallagher Premiership outfit and has done enough to earn himself a contract.

“We are really pleased to be able bring Tom and Jordan into the club,” director of rugby Stuart Hooper said.

“Tom is an experienced international player who does have Premiership experience from his short time with Wasps and European experience with Scarlets. He’s quick, he’s very committed and he’s added a very experienced head in training. He’s been someone we have been really impressed with so far.”

Calling all Wales rugby fans – we want your views!

You can become even more involved with WalesOnline’s Wales rugby coverage by signing up to leave comments on stories, delivering your verdict, discussing the biggest breaking news and also chatting to our journalists in our special Q&As.

Click here to get started.

Prydie said: “Bath is a great club with an amazing history and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

“I know I have a lot to offer to Bath and I’m excited by the idea of helping the younger lads with my experience. I will give everything I can to contribute to the Blue, Black and White on and off the pitch.”

Welsh Premiership game called off

Llanelli’s Welsh Premiership fixture with Cardiff RFC this weekend has been postponed.

With a number of the Cardiff players called upon by Cardiff Rugby due to their Covid-19 situation, a decision has been made to rearrange the tie for another date.

Cardiff Rugby have more than 32 players unavailable for their Champions Cup clash with Toulouse.

Source link

Continue Reading