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The gut-wrenching feeling of disappointment fuelling George North right now



George North has revealed the motivation that is keeping him going at Test level.

The 28-year-old winger has already achieved so much for Wales and the British and Irish Lions – with a remarkable 98 Test caps to his name.

Broken down, that’s an astounding 95 for Wales and a further three Test caps for the Lions – all won against Australia in 2013.

It’s only a matter of time before North reaches a century of caps – but it’s the fact he hasn’t already done so that is driving him on to achieve more in the international game.

Because, for North, the abiding memory of his travels with the Lions isn’t any of his match-winning salvos in 2013, but rather a tour-ending injury in a mid-week game during the 2017 tour of New Zealand that ended any hopes of adding to his tally of Lions Test caps.

“That still fuels me today, the feeling I had,” North told Brian O’Driscoll’s BT Sport series Lions Call.

“I never want to feel like that again.”

The frustration caused by that 2017 tour, where North was up against his own fitness as well as the best wingers British and Irish rugby can offer, resulted in North coming back to Wales in order to further his career moving forward.

Within a few months, a return had been announced – with North eventually joining the Ospreys the following year.

And he hopes that coming home to play his club rugby in Wales will help his Lions hopes.

“In a word, yes, I’d love to tour South Africa next summer,” he said.

“Obviously you’ve got to be playing your best rugby but coming back to Wales and feeling like me again – and playing like me again towards the end of the Six Nations – I want to be in those (selection) conversations.

“I’ve been on two very different tours; 2013 was incredible, 2017, physically but also mentally, was a lot harder.”

Having been injured shortly before flying out to New Zealand in 2017, North spent the tour largely playing catch up.

After the first Test came too soon, he was given a chance to impress in a midweek fixtures against the Hurricanes.

It didn’t go to plan. First of all, an early injury to centre Robbie Henshaw forced him to sacrifice his Test audition on the wing to cover midfield.

Yet, despite that, he scored a well-taken try and things were looking up – right up until he ripped his hamstring.

“My body just gave out,” he said. “There was nothing I could do. Everything was hanging on. My lungs were on the floor and my hamstring tore towards the end of the first half.

“I thought to myself ‘it’s not too bad, I’ll plod on’. Got to half-time, got strapped up, came back out for the second half and did a proper job of it.

“I thought, ‘well if this is my last time in a Lions jersey I want to give it everything until I can’t walk’ – which sounds heroic but then when you tear your hamstring you can’t walk!”

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Rugby evening headlines as thousands raised within hours of tragic Ifan Phillips news



Here are the latest rugby headlines on the evening of Wednesday, December 8.

Thousands raised to rally behind Ifan Phillips

Thousands of pounds have already been raised to help Ospreys player Ifan Phillips, who is being treated for “life-changing injuries” after being involved in a motorbike crash.

The Welsh region confirmed that 25-year-old Phillips – the son of former Wales and Neath hooker Kevin Phillips – was involved in a collision in Swansea on Sunday and is being treated at Morriston Hospital.

Within hours of the tragic news being confirmed, thousands of pounds had been raised to aid his recovery. As of Wednesday at 4pm, more than £8,000 had been raised towards a £10,000 target.

A JustGiving page read : “We want Ifan to receive the absolute best medical care to make his transition as quick and smooth as possible. This money will help take care of the needs of Ifan and his family after this devastating event.”

In a statement, South Wales Police said: “Officers are appealing for witnesses following a serious road traffic collision that occurred at around 1.38pm on Sunday, 5 December on the B4603, Morfa Road, Landore, Swansea, opposite Landore Social Club.

“The collision involved two motorcycles, a green Triumph Street Scrambler and a Kawasaki. One rider was taken to hospital, where he remains and is being treated for life-changing injuries.

“The road was closed for a number of hours whilst investigations continued, and we thank anyone affected during this time for their patience.

“We would like to speak to anyone who witnessed the collision or has dash-cam footage, anyone who stopped to provide assistance, or anyone who saw the motorcycles prior to the collision.”

Hooker Phillips has played 40 games for the Ospreys, making his debut in 2017. He is a Wales Under-20 international.

The Ospreys said: “Ospreys can confirm hooker Ifan Phillips was involved in a serious road traffic accident in Swansea on Sunday afternoon and is now being treated at Morriston Hospital.

“Ifan is in a stable condition and he is uppermost in the thoughts of all of us at the Ospreys

“On behalf of his team-mates, coaches, staff, all Ospreys supporters and the rugby community, we want to extend all our love and support to Ifan, his family and his friends.

“Ifan’s family are overwhelmed and very grateful for the support they have received in the last few days.”

Ospreys’ regional rivals the Dragons, Cardiff and Scarlets all offered their support.

The Dragons tweeted: “The thoughts of us all @dragonsrugby are with Ifan, his friends and family at this difficult time. Take care, stay strong we will support you in any way we can.”

Cardiff tweeted: “Thoughts are with Ifan, his family and everyone at the Ospreys at this difficult time. If we can help in any way, you know where we are.”

And the Scarlets said on Twitter: “The thoughts of us all at @scarlets-rugby are with Ifan and his family, as well as team-mates and colleagues at the Ospreys at this time.”

Ieuan Evans lands new WRU job

Former Wales and Lions winger Ieuan Evans has been appointed as the new vice-chair of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Evans takes up the role vacated by Liza Burgess after it was announced that the latter has taken on a new role as WRU Lead Age Grade coach for the women’s game.

The former Carmarthen, Llanelli and Bath speedster already holds a number of significant positions. He sits on the Rugby Management Board, represents Welsh rugby on the World Rugby Council and the British & Irish Lions Board.

Evans took a run at becoming WRU Chair last year but lost out to Rob Butcher. He now begins as Vice Chair at a meeting later this week.

“I’m delighted to be in a position to give something back to Welsh rugby and I intend to grasp the opportunity with both hands for the betterment of the game in Wales,” said Evans.

Burgess will also resign from her roles on the WRU National Council and as a Board member but will remain in those posts until her successor is identified.

Clubs will now be asked to vote in a new National Council member. The Council will then ask one of its delegates to sit on the WRU Board.

“We are looking for high calibre candidates to bring a unique set of attributes and skills to Welsh rugby,” said WRU chairman Rob Butcher

“It is with great pride that I, first, publicly congratulate Ieuan on his appointment as Vice-Chair of the WRU and I would also like to put on record my sincere gratitude to Liza for her service to Welsh rugby to date.

“It is of huge comfort to know that the game in Wales has not lost Liza entirely, we will just channel her distinguished skills and expertise in a different direction, much to the benefit of our Women’s Age Grade teams.

“Ieuan will be a high quality Vice-Chair and I look forward to working closely with him, as I have done with Liza, in the interests of Welsh rugby throughout the year ahead.”

England to host Wales at Gloucester in Six Nations

Wales will travel to face England at Gloucester’s Kingsholm ground during the standalone Women’s Six Nations next year.

It has been announced that reigning champions England will play their homes games in this season’s Championship at Gloucester and Leicester.

The Rugby Football Union said Gloucester’s Kingsholm ground will host the fixture against Wales on April 9, with England tackling Ireland at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on April 24.

England will target a fourth successive Six Nations title since France lifted the trophy in 2018.

Wales kick off their campaign away to Ireland. You can see the full fixtures, kick-off times and TV details here.

Lions fly-halves to do battle

Northampton boss Chris Boyd has described Scotland star Finn Russell as “a bit of a magician” ahead of Friday’s Heineken Champions Cup opener against Racing 92 where he will likely face fellow Lions fly-half Dan Biggar.

Saints host the French heavyweights in what should be an intriguing contest, with Boyd’s team looking to make an immediate statement.

And while Racing’s recent domestic form is poor – three successive Top 14 defeats since beating Toulouse last month – their European pedigree is unquestioned.

Although the Parisians have not won the tournament, they are three-time finalists and reached the knockout phase seven times in the last eight seasons.

There are star names sprinkled through the Racing squad, but none more influential than fly-half Russell, who has a world-class ability to unlock opposition defences.

“You know, for a quarterback or a 10, often the ride that they get from the guys from one to eight makes a significant difference,” Northampton rugby director Boyd said.

“So, you know, front-foot ball and the speed of the ball in territories, there are a whole load of factors in that.

“But Russell is obviously a bit of a magician, and when he is on his game, he can cast a pretty wicked spell.

“They are chock-full of quality individuals, and so that means if they get their game right they are potentially a fantastic side.

“We’ve got to find ways to impose ourselves on the game, try and control parts of the game and try and control momentum.

“And probably more importantly, when we get some opportunities, we’ve got to try and nail them and put some pressure on.

“We are not fooling ourselves – it’s going to be a big ask – but we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Josh Adams urges Cardiff to be fearless in bid to defy the odds

Wales star Josh Adams wants Cardiff to show “no fear” in an odds-defying mission against European champions Toulouse on Saturday.

The Heineken Champions Cup clash will take place amid a back-drop of 42 Cardiff players and staff being in isolation at a hotel just outside London until next week.

The likes of Adams and his Cardiff and Wales team-mates Tomos Williams, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies and Ellis Jenkins did not travel to South Africa, which became a UK Government red-listed country last month as fresh travel restrictions were imposed following the discovery of a new coronavirus variant.

Cardiff, the Scarlets, Munster and Zebre Parma had all been due to play United Rugby Championship fixtures in the country, before eventually securing charter flights home.

The Scarlets, who currently have 32 players in quarantine at a Belfast hotel, have forfeited Saturday’s scheduled European Cup game against Bristol.

But Cardiff will field a match-day 23 also featuring semi-professional and academy players as they tackle the French giants at the Arms Park.

“I don’t think there has ever been a scenario like this – boys stuck in other countries unable to come home, quarantine, it’s a mad scenario really,” Adams said.

“I think it is important the lads who are behind and haven’t travelled to South Africa just bring a lot of excitement to this week as best we can, and encourage the young academy boys who are training with us to go out and play with no fear.

“There is no pressure on us – I am sure everybody is expecting Toulouse to beat us – but within our inner circle we are quietly confident we can cause them problems.

“Talk about being thrown in the deep end. These scenarios come up, and I know speaking to these boys they are excited as well.

“I said (to them) if you make a mistake, just keep going, keep going at it in a way, be naive in a way, and not care who you are facing and we will try and give you the best platform to showcase your talents.”

Cardiff academy manager Gruff Rees will head up the coaching team on Saturday at the start of a European campaign that takes the Welsh side to English champions Harlequins seven days after facing Toulouse.

Rees said: “One of the exciting features for all of us involved, really, is young players coming in and making their debut – people like Theo Cabango and Jacob Beetham – and thriving off the support of the crowd.

“We really need that 16th-man mentality to get behind us, get a bit of atmosphere, promote a style of play where we want to play some good rugby on the day, and I think we have looked at that sort of opportunity.

“We will do our damnedest to play some real good rugby. Talk about strength through unity, it’s all of us tying together – players, staff, supporters.”

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Ronan O’Gara believes rugby has been revitalised after disappointing Lions tour



Ronan O’Gara positive about state of rugby.

Ronan O’Gara believes rugby is back to its best after a British and Irish Lions tour that proved to be a “massive disappointment”.

Normally a heralded event on the rugby calendar, there was very little to savour in the Lions’ tour of South Africa this year, due to one-sided warm-up games and an uninspired test series.

It also didn’t help that the entire tour was played in front of empty stadiums, while there was also considerable doubts over whether the series could be completed due to positive Covid-19 cases in the Lions’ and Springboks’ camps.

O’Gara was speaking on BBC 5 Live and argued that there are plenty of reasons for rugby fans to be excited again.

Ronan O’Gara on the revitalisation of rugby.

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

“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.”

The La Rochelle boss has plenty to look forward to.

O’Gara has experienced a mixed start to life as La Rochelle’s director of rugby, as the side have won six and lost six of their Top 14 matches this season, and currently sit in fifth place in the table.

La Rochelle are certainly still in contention for the Top 14 title, although they haven’t yet been able to replicate the form that saw them reach the final of both the Top 14 and the Heineken Champions Cup last season.

The French side have a relatively favourable draw in the pool stage of this year’s Champions Cup, as they come up against a Glasgow Warriors side in decent form, and a Bath side who have lost their nine opening Gallagher Premiership fixtures.

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Claire Molloy and Simon Geoghegan inducted into rugby writers’ Hall of Fame



Former Ireland rugby international and current Wasps player Claire Molloy has been inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Hall of Fame, as has former Ireland, Bath, London Irish and Connacht winger Simon Geoghegan.

Molloy, who announced her retirement from international rugby this year, won 74 caps for her country over the course of a 12-year Test career. She was an integral part of a team that won a Grand Slam in 2013, two Six Nations Championships and Ireland’s first victory over New Zealand in 2014. She also captained both the 15s and Sevens teams during her career.

Geoghegan is perhaps best known for his try in the 1994 Five Nations match against England at Twickenham, that was instrumental in a famous 13-12 win. It was one of 11 which Geoghegan scored in 37 appearances for Ireland in an era when wins were not bountiful.

Simon Geoghegan scores a try for Ireland against England during the 1994 Five Nations at Twickenham. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Simon Geoghegan scores a try for Ireland against England during the 1994 Five Nations at Twickenham. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Former Munster player, Billy Holland, was announced as the recipient of this year’s Tom Rooney Award in recognition of his immense contribution to Irish rugby. Holland, who earned one cap for Ireland, retired in June of this year having played 247 times for Munster.

Molloy was delighted to receive the accolade, saying: “To follow in the footsteps of my former team-mate and captain, Fiona Coghlan and be inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Hall of Fame is an incredible honour for me.

“I was lucky enough to be awarded as the women’s player of the year in 2018 and to be recognised once again by the Rugby Writers of Ireland is an absolutely amazing feeling.”

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