Category Archives: Rugby News

Rugby Championship: Australia make changes to face Argentina

Australia have recalled hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau among three changes for Saturday’s Rugby Championship match against Argentina.

Polota-Nau, 29, has been brought in to help counter the Pumas’ driving forward play while Peter Betham and Ben McCalman also start.

Argentina have also made three changes with Juan Imhoff, Manuel Montero and rookie Matias Alemanno coming in.

The Wallabies have not lost to Argentina in eight Tests over 17 years.

Australia are third in the four-team championship with six points from three games, while Argentina are bottom with two points.

Australia:

Folau, Betham, Kuridrani, Toomua, Horne, Foley, Phipps, McCalman, Hooper (capt), Fardy, Simmons, Carter, Kepu, Polota-Nau, Slipper. Replacements: Hanson, Cowan, Alexander, Horwill, Higginbotham, Hodgson, White, Beale.

Argentina:

Tuculet, Imhoff, Bosch, Hernandez, Montero, Sanchez, Landajo, Senatore, Leguizamon, Lobbe, Alemanno, Galarza, Herrera, Creevy (capt), Ayerza. Replacements: Cortese, Postiglioni, Chaparro, Macome, Baez, Cubelli, De la Fuente, Amorosino.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-union/29153160

Rugby Championship: Australia make changes to face Argentina

Australia have recalled hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau among three changes for Saturday’s Rugby Championship match against Argentina.

Polota-Nau, 29, has been brought in to help counter the Pumas’ driving forward play while Peter Betham and Ben McCalman also start.

Argentina have also made three changes with Juan Imhoff, Manuel Montero and rookie Matias Alemanno coming in.

The Wallabies have not lost to Argentina in eight Tests over 17 years.

Australia are third in the four-team championship with six points from three games, while Argentina are bottom with two points.

Australia:

Folau, Betham, Kuridrani, Toomua, Horne, Foley, Phipps, McCalman, Hooper (capt), Fardy, Simmons, Carter, Kepu, Polota-Nau, Slipper. Replacements: Hanson, Cowan, Alexander, Horwill, Higginbotham, Hodgson, White, Beale.

Argentina:

Tuculet, Imhoff, Bosch, Hernandez, Montero, Sanchez, Landajo, Senatore, Leguizamon, Lobbe, Alemanno, Galarza, Herrera, Creevy (capt), Ayerza. Replacements: Cortese, Postiglioni, Chaparro, Macome, Baez, Cubelli, De la Fuente, Amorosino.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-union/29153160

Rugby World Cup: Venues to include Twickenham, Kingsholm, Villa Park and …

Brighton Community Centre
As one of the newest venues on the rugby circuit — it opened in July 2011 —
the £93million stadium will next year get the chance to show off its
state-of-the-art facilities to the world.
Capacity 30,000
Did you know? With the ground’s close proximity to the coast, hawks are
regularly brought in to deter nesting seagulls and pigeons.
Rugby history The stadium has not staged any rugby before.
Number of matches 2

Twickenham (London)
As the world’s largest dedicated rugby union stadium, there is no more
fitting venue for the Rugby World Cup. Next year it hosts 10 games,
including both semi-finals and the final.
Capacity 82,000
Did you know? The first game played at the ground was between local
clubs Harlequins and Richmond in 1909, two years after it was bought by the
RFU.
Rugby history It staged the 1991 Rugby World Cup final and 1999
semi-finals.
Number of matches 10

Olympic Stadium (London)
Fresh from its redevelopment after the Olympic Games, the ultra-modern
Stratford stadium is hoping to rekindle the spirit of London 2012. Step
aside, Usain Bolt and Mo Farah; enter Dan Carter and Bryan Habana.
Capacity 54,000
Did you know? West Ham will play football and Essex will play Twenty20
cricket at the Olympic Stadium from 2016.
Rugby history The stadium has never staged any rugby before.
Number of matches 5

Wembley Stadium (London)
The impressive arena in north-west London already boasts the world record
attendance for a club rugby match. Now it is ready to put itself on the
international stage. First up, the All Blacks.
Capacity 90,000
Did you know? The Wembley arch has a diameter of 24ft — wide enough to
accommodate a Channel Tunnel train.
Rugby history Wembley has been frequently used by Saracens to stage
showpiece European and domestic matches.
Number of matches 2

Stadium MK (Milton Keynes)
Milton Keynes is not normally associated with English rugby — it’s home to MK
Dons FC — but that will change next year when the rugby world will become
aware of the Buckinghamshire town.
Capacity 31,000
Did you know? Stadium MK opened in 2007 to accommodate Wimbledon FC’s
controversial relocation to Milton Keynes.
Rugby history It has staged occasional Saracens and Northampton games.
Number of matches 3

Leicester City Stadium
Leicester will welcome the Rugby World Cup with open arms. With Leicester
Tigers’ Welford Road ground near by, you can expect a passionate crowd.
Capacity 32,000
Did you know? In 2006 a World XV played South Africa here to
commemorate the Springboks’ centenary as a touring team.
Rugby history Leicester Tigers have played two European Cup semi-finals
at this stadium.
Number of matches 3

Elland Road (Leeds)
Leeds may be more accustomed to rugby league than union but the city will
catch cross-code fever when it hosts a weekend of international action next
year.
Capacity 39,000
Did you know? While Elland Road is synonymous with football, its first
live televised match was the rugby league Challenge Cup final replay in
1982.
Rugby history It staged a match between the North of England and South
Africa in 1992.
Number of matches 2

St James’ Park (Newcastle)
It is one of England’s most passionate sporting cities, although the No 9s
that Newcastle fans worship tend to be centre-forwards rather than
scrum-halves. But rugby-wise, it is the city where Jonny Wilkinson spent 12
seasons playing for Newcastle Falcons.
Capacity 52,000
Did you know? A swimming pool was built beneath one of the stands as
part of a redevelopment in 1905, and the ground is built on the site of the
city’s former execution gallows.
Rugby history The second biggest ground in England outside London has
never staged the sport before.
Number of matches 3

How
to apply for Rugby World Cup 2015 tickets

Rugby
World Cup tickets: Everything you need to know

– RWC: Nine games to apply for in the ballot
How
to beat the ticket touts

Rugby
World Cup 2015 venues

Rugby
World Cup 2015 full fixtures list and match schedule

Cyber
criminals plotting to hijack tickets launch

Will
Greenwood: RWC 2015 is once-in-a-lifetime for fans

Article source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/rugby-world-cup/11082182/Rugby-World-Cup-Venues-to-include-Twickenham-Kingsholm-Villa-Park-and-Millennium-Stadium.html

Breath test that can diagnose concussion could be introduced at rugby and …

  • New technology could lead to breathalysers being used at sports matches 
  • Aims to prevent sportsmen and women from playing on with head injuries
  • Until now, ‘full assessment or brain scan needed to diagnose concussion’
  • Discovery was made by two scientists from the University of Birmingham

By
Ben Spencer for the Daily Mail

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A quick breath test will soon be all that is needed to spot the signs of concussion, scientists claim.

The new technology could lead to breathalysers being used at football and rugby matches to stop sportsmen and women from playing on with head injuries.

Until now, scientists have said there was no way to accurately assess whether someone had concussion without a full medical assessment or brain scan.

Schoolboy Ben Robinson died after twice suffering head injuries during a school rugby match  at Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland in 2011 Striker Jeff Astle died aged 59 with severe brain damage

Tragic: Schoolboy Ben Robinson (left) died after twice suffering head injuries during a school rugby match at Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland in 2011, while striker Jeff Astle (right) died aged 59 with severe brain damage

But Dr Michael Grey and Professor Tony Belli, from the University of Birmingham, are developing a breath test which they hope will vastly reduce the number of severe head injuries.

Their discovery has been shown to work in the laboratory and is to undergo wider tests on athletes. Dr Grey said: ‘It is really important that we protect players from themselves.

‘We are talking about someone with mild brain injury when we are looking at concussion. They are not in a position to decide whether they are fit to play.’

The scientists have discovered three chemicals which are released into the bloodstream when the brain receives an injury. The molecules make their way into the lungs and a trace can be detected in the breath.

Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris remained on the pitch last season after being knocked out for almost a minute

Injured: Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris remained on the pitch last year after being knocked out for almost a minute

Sporting bodies are under pressure to deal with the problem after several high-profile cases.

Last year an inquest heard that Ben Robinson died after twice suffering head injuries during a school rugby match in 2011.

The 14-year-old collapsed on the pitch at Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland and died in hospital. 

The Football Association is also under pressure to act, after Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris remained on the pitch last year after being knocked out for almost a minute.

Lloris and his then manager Andrew Villas-Boas decided he was fit to continue playing – despite the advice of the team’s medical staff.

Lloris said later: ‘When you are on the pitch you don’t want to leave the pitch, you want to stay with your team-mates and help them get the best result.’

Determined: Lloris and his then manager Andrew Villas-Boas decided he was fit to continue playing - despite the advice of the team¿s medical staff.

Determined: Lloris and his then manager Andrew Villas-Boas decided he was fit to continue playing – despite the advice of the team’s medical staff.

Another, tragic, example is former England and West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle, who died at the age of 59 with severe brain damage.

Astle’s inquest found that his neurological disorder was caused by the repeated impact of heading footballs, which had caused a problem usually only seen in professional boxers. 

The International Rugby Board recently trialled a pitch side concussion assessment comprised of psychological questions to see whether players are fit to carry on.

But Professor Belli, a clinical neuroscientist, said it is easy to rig the test and carry on playing.

‘Players have come out and said it is easy to fudge this test,’ he told the Birmingham Science Festival.

Dr Grey added: ‘If you send them back on to the pitch you are potentially putting them at risk. That test is not good enough to make that decision.’

The scientists have discovered three chemicals which are released into the blood stream when the brain receives an injury.

The molecules make their way into the lungs and a trace can be detected in the breath.

Professor Belli said: ‘The chemicals are released within minutes.’

The scientists have also developed a secondary test which uses a portable machine that sends magnetic pulses into the brain to assess brain damage.

The machine, which uses technology called trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, could be kept in treatment rooms at sports venues to give a better assessment of problems if the breath test highlights any problems.

Jeff Astle’s daughter Dawn, 46, is calling for the FA to support further research into the impact of footballing head injuries.

She told the British Science Festival in Birmingham: ‘If players today had seen my dad in the four years he was ill, if they had seen him die, they would never head a ball again. It is a matter of life and death, it really is.’

Last month, a group of parents in the US filed a lawsuit against FIFA which pushes for rule changes around the return to play following a concussion.

They have also called for limits on how many times children under 17 can head the ball.

Dr Grey said: ‘Children’s brains are not fully formed, they are not as well protected as an adult and we do not fully understand the damage these repeated blows to the head are doing to these children’s brains.

‘May be the day will come when we do need an outright ban on heading balls for children of a certain age.’ 

 

 

Article source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2751445/Breath-test-diagnose-concussion-Technology-introduced-rugby-football-matches-stop-injured-players-carrying-on.html

Rugby passport rules built on shaky foundations with Rio 2016 in view

The International Rugby Board, soon to be known as World Rugby, coveted Olympic status from the onset of professionalism, seeing that it was a way of securing more money for developing unions and so widening the sport’s boundaries.

A consequence of the IRB’s ultimately successful bid is that certain regulations have to be tailored to meet those of the International Olympic Committee. The headline one is that the strict rule on international eligibility has had to be compromised: a consequence of the Grannygate affair in Wales in 2000 was that no player was permitted to represent more than one country at Test level. So, if someone played just one minute of one match for a nation at full international level or for a team at the level below, such as an A side, or in a sevens tournament, they were committed to that country for life. That is still the rule of the IRB and will remain so for capped players who do not take part in the Olympics.

It will be different for those taking part in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. A stand-down period of three years has been laid down for capped players representing another country, as long as they hold a passport for it, in the Olympics, although that has been cut to 18 months for the event in Rio de Janeiro. So, someone capped two years ago may appear for his or her other country in a sevens tournament that is part of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics’ cycle. Any switch will also apply to the 15-a-side game, one reason why the Toulon flanker Steffon Armitage, who won the last of his five England caps four years ago, is considering making himself available for France’s Olympic team, though he would only be able to play in next year’s World Cup if he played in what is described in the IRB’s handbook as an “Olympic Event”, which translates as a qualifying tournament.

By taking part in the Olympics, the IRB is making its regulations subject to outside interpretation. If a player disputes a refusal by the Board to allow his eligibility for another country in the Olympics, he or she will have recourse to the court of arbitration for sport, something denied to those in other forms of the game. “The Cas will resolve definitively the dispute,” the IRB handbook goes on, “in accordance with the code of sports related arbitration. The IRB has the right to appear and/or participate in any appeal to Cas involving eligibility considerations for Olympic Events.”

The IRB had to concede that passports determined eligibility otherwise it would not have gained Olympic status, and as rugby has only been included up to 2020 it has to be seen to be adopting the spirit of the IOC’s regulation, but in doing so it is being discriminatory: some players will have a way back into Test rugby at 15-a-side level well in time for the World Cup, but the majority will not.

“The objective of the regulation is that players qualify for sevens,” said the IRB chief executive, Brett Gosper. “There is a regulations committee that will look at all applications for transfer to see that it is for bona fide sevens reasons. The transfer will have to be passed by the committee: if we have huge props applying for a career in sevens, we’ll smell a rat. Obvious abuses that are counter to the spirit of why we are doing it will be caught in the net.”

Gosper failed to mention that Cas, not the IRB, would be the last resort for anyone looking to change allegiance for the Olympics. But when he implied that huge props need not apply, passport or not, the question that went unasked was why a change in the eligibility system, one that many smaller unions have been urging for years, should benefit only those proficient at the short form of the game and member unions that play on the sevens circuit.

Why not align IOC regulations with those of the IRB over eligibility and make it passport based, with the restriction that a player may only switch international allegiance once? Many of the larger unions on the board regard such a move with horror and have consistently opposed it. Some of the reasoning has been specious, not least the view that it could make the developing unions weaker because their best players could be picked off, but underlying the conservatism has been a desire to preserve the old order.

As Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach, put it this week: “I think it is going to make most teams stronger and that is what we want, isn’t it? Ideally, you get countries like New Zealand and Australia that pick their World Cup squads and there is probably a heap of players who can go back to Samoa and Fiji and make the World Cup more exciting. It will make it tougher on countries like ourselves, Ireland and Scotland, but that is part of sport. I do not see it as a bad thing.”

The Welsh Rugby Union has not agreed with those sentiments in IRB meetings when eligibility has been discussed. The former New Zealand wing Sitiveni Sivivatu won the last of his 45 caps in 2011; born in Suva, Fiji, he would meet the passport requirement to play in the Olympics and, therefore, the World Cup next year. So would Joe Rokocoko.

Sevens would be a vehicle for them back into the Test arena, should they choose. The IRB is concerned that the integrity of sevens should be preserved and that players, and countries, should not use Olympic status as a bogus means of re-entry.

If that is understandable, given that the IRB only changed to the passport rule to gain entry into the Olympics, it is patently unfair. Opening the door enough so that only those of a certain size will gain admission will have its day when a huge prop puts his shoulder to it. As will surely happen.

• This is an extract taken from the Guardian’s weekly rugby union email, the Breakdown, to subscribe just visit this page, find “The Breakdown” and follow the instructions

Article source: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/sep/11/brazil-2016-rugby-steffon-armitage

Rugby World Cup 2015 tickets Q&A: How to tackle buying your tickets

They were forced to do so for London 2012 as a precondition of hosting the
Olympics and Paralympics. The International Rugby Board did not apply the
same condition for the Rugby World Cup and England Rugby 2015 did not
request it either. That was until London 2012 veteran Debbie Jevans became
its chief executive two years ago. But the Government was not convinced of
the need to legislate when other measures could be used to combat the
problem.

And they are?

Limiting the number of tickets per match that can be applied for to four,
creating a ballot system, using sophisticated software to detect and prevent
botnet attacks, and threatening to refuse entry to anyone holding a resold
ticket. None of these are fool-proof.

What should I do if I want to buy World Cup tickets?

Firstly, there is no rush. The general sale begins at 10am tomorrow and runs
through to September 29 but it is not being operated on a first come, first
served basis. Register your details with tickets.rugbyworldcup.com and apply
for the matches you want to see. Any oversubscribed games will be balloted
so even the criminals will have to wait to October to learn if they have
been successful.

How much do tickets cost?

They start at £7 for children and go all the way up to £750 for the most
expensive ticket for the final.

What if I don’t get what I want in the ballot?

There is an official resale platform for consumers to legitimately buy or sell
unwanted tickets. However, even ordinary fans may be tempted to make a
profit by selling on secondary sites. This is not illegal but is a breach of
the ticket terms and conditions and you could be denied entry if found in
possession of such a ticket.

How do I maximise my chances of getting tickets?

Everyone will be chasing high-demand games such as England matches and
fixtures between the game’s heavyweights. Cover your bases by targeting
other games – particularly those outside London – to avoid disappointment.

You should also use the website’s Match Manager, which allows you to apply for
all game but will only allocate you tickets for a maximum number of games
you wish to attend.

Exclusive:
Criminal gangs target World Cup tickets launch

Will
Greenwood: RWC 2015 is once-in-a-lifetime for fans

Rugby
World Cup tickets: Everything you need to know

– RWC: Nine games to apply for in the ballot
– World Cup: Behind the scenes at official advert

Article source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/rugby-world-cup/11088800/Rugby-World-Cup-2015-tickets-QandA-How-to-tackle-buying-your-tickets.html

Premiership Rugby receives £600000 grant to increase the number of women in …

The two-year initiative – similar projects are expected to follow in cricket
and football – has the target of bringing 7,000 women and girls into the
game, including 480 female coaches as well as 2,500 participants from black
and ethnic minority communities.

Mark McCafferty, the Premiership Rugby chief executive, admitted that it would
be a daunting challenge but said he was confident it was achievable. “It is
a two-year programme but by next summer we will want to have demonstrated
sufficient progress to be able to extend the scheme because they will be
going into budget planning post the election next year,” he said.

“We will want to extend so we are right under pressure from the start to make
sure we really have a good first year.

“The overall message is ‘Be part of it’ and get involved. When we all join new
clubs or environments there is an initial sense of trepidation. We have got
to knock over some of those hurdles and find ways to making it easy and
comfortable for girls, women or the black and ethnic minority community to
get involved.

“I have no doubts there are going to be some daunting challenges but we have
never really shirked from those before. Hopefully it was what Premiership
Rugby is about. We will take it on and get the job done.”

Chris Holmes, disability commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights
Commission, said: “This is the start of something. The women at the top end
have done a phenomenal job to be world champions. This is about giving
people that first opportunity to step onto a rugby field and break down
those barriers.”

Article source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/news/11088239/Premiership-Rugby-receives-600000-grant-to-increase-the-number-of-women-in-the-sport.html

Rugby World Cup 2015: Cyber criminals plotting to hijack ticket launch

“It’s going to be one of the handful of events that would be one of the most
heavily targeted ever,” he told The Telegraph.

“The amount to be made would certainly be seven figures. These people don’t
get out of bed for peanuts.”

The nightmare scenario was made possible after the Government refused to ban
the resale of tickets for the tournament, despite repeated warnings from
England 2015’s chief executive, Debbie Jevans, and the police.

Both experienced first-hand the impact of such a ban while working on the
London Olympics and Paralympics and are now in a desperate fight to prevent
the Rugby World Cup being exploited by criminal networks.

“Of course I’m concerned that touts are potentially going to be able to buy up
the reasonably-priced tickets and then on-sell them,” Jevans said.

Commander Stephen Head, the National Police Coordinator for Economic Crime at
City of London Police, added: “These touts can put in a different kind of
scale of applications, so they can make multiple, multiple applications
instantaneously.”

Measures have been put in place in order to combat this threat, with Jevans
and Head working together to catch those illegally using multiple identities
to buy more than the four tickets per match to which each applicant is meant
to be limited.

Holding a ballot for oversubscribed games is one such measure but Walker, who
is operations director of the Iridium Consultancy and has helped tackle
ticket fraud at the O2 Arena, said of the touts: “What they will simply do
is flood the ballots.”

Applications made during the general sale window between Friday and Sept 29
will also be vetted to weed out those from the same IP addresses.

Walker said: “These people have so many identities, so many addresses, so many
proxy IDs around the world. It is physically impossible to stop harvesting.”

Head denied it was “impossible”, vowing to do everything to “mitigate the
risk”, adding: “It is in no one’s interest for these gangs to succeed.”

The Rugby World Cup’s ticketing platform will be run by Ticketmaster, whose
managing director, Simon Presswell, admitted it was in a “virtual arms race”
with touts.

He added: “We are able to identify the IP addresses, monitor any unusual
activity or behaviour and then de-duplicate any applications that we believe
to have been made fraudulently.”

Jevans warned that anyone buying a ticket other than through England 2015’s
official channels faced being refused entry to matches.

How practical that is to enforce at a tournament for which 2.3 million tickets
are expected to be sold remains to be seen.

Head said: “When you buy from these secondary sites in this instance, you will
potentially be supporting other aspects of criminality, so search your
conscience.

“You may also be throwing away huge amounts of money and you may still not get
to see the game.”

Jevans pointed out that was the fate that befell the parents of Rebecca
Adlington at the 2008 Olympics, when they bought second-hand tickets for
their daughter’s double gold medal-winning performance only to arrive in
Beijing and find they did not exist.

The England 2015 chief refused to play the “blame game” over Rugby World Cup
fans being left similarly vulnerable, something that dates back to the
International Rugby Board’s failure to make a ban on resale a precondition
of hosting the tournament.

“We respect the fact that we did not get legislation,” she added.

The shadow sports minister, Clive Efford, who lobbied for such a ban, said:
“It is a disgrace that the Government has refused to act.

“Preventing genuine fans being exploited must be a primary concern for all
major events hosted in the UK.”

The sports minister, Helen Grant, said: “We have confidence in the plans that
England Rugby 2015 and Ticketmaster have put in place to ensure that tickets
end up in the hands of genuine fans for the Rugby World Cup.

“Many major events are held in this country successfully using similar
measures and technology and we are sure the tournament will be a great
success that will grow rugby at home and abroad.”

IRB president Bernard Lapasset added: “It is our objective to ensure that fans
from around the world have a wonderful Rugby World Cup experience.

“We are aware that unofficial sources will attempt to exploit fans and we have
been working in full collaboration with ER 2015 and the appropriate
authorities to deliver a proactive programme that focuses on education,
prevention and monitoring.

“Our message to fans is clear – buy from official channels only and visit www.rugbyworldcup.com/buyofficial
to verify sources.”

– World Cup too soon for Burgess, says Moody
World Cup: Behind the scenes at official advert,
featuring Charles Dance

England still need to master key skills before 2015,
says McGeechan

Rugby World Cup: Nine games to watch out for when
considering which tickets to buy

Article source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/rugby-world-cup/11088098/Rugby-World-Cup-2015-Cyber-criminals-plotting-to-hijack-ticket-launch.html

Mark Smith: North East rugby interest should come as no surprise

I am still amazed by the level of surprise shown from those around the country whenever the North East demonstrates it is a rugby hotbed.

We all know the line about football being a religion up here, and the round ball is undeniably king.

But that is not to the exclusion of all other interests and, to the astonishment of those south of Scotch Corner, it IS actually possible to like more than one sport.

Just as I was a long-time soccer season ticket holder I played and followed rugby from the age of five, and if you took a snapshot of North East rugby today you would find more than a passing interest.

Let’s consider a few facts as I sit here and write this on a grey September day.

Newcastle Falcons have shown a five-year high on season ticket sales, spent more than half a million quid on a state-of-the-art pitch and embarked on a summer influx which has drawn some top international players to the region.

Next year’s Rugby World Cup sees world champions New Zealand joined by South Africa, Scotland, Samoa and Tonga in playing in Newcastle, with the region’s clubs and institutions being used as training grounds for the best players on the planet.

This week alone we have games of significant local standing, with even schoolboy matches being played on the big stage.

The Falcons’ Kingston Park home provides the venue for two of our biggest rugby breeding grounds when RGS Newcastle and Durham School do battle on Friday night, Darlington’s arena hosting Yarm and Barnard Castle schools the evening before.

On Saturday the National One derby between Blaydon and Tynedale sees two of our three clubs meeting in the third tier of the English club game, some of the Falcons’ finest up-and-coming talent featuring for both.

Newcastle’s professionals were out in their numbers on Tuesday night as 60 of the Falcons’ playing staff visited a multitude of local junior clubs to put on coaching sessions.

Even 20 years on I can still remember Samoan legend Pat Lam doing likewise when I was a starry-eyed Blaydon Colt.

This groundwork is building untold goodwill around the North East, not to mention Geoff Parling and Davey Wilson’s central role in the England team.

For as much as we are rightly known as a football-mad area, there has been a significant rugby presence here for well over a century.

The Falcons’ envied record of producing fly-halves has long been put down to the footballing childhood of those from our pastures but, ask Joel Hodgson where his inspiration came from, and he will tell you about the years spent on the Kingston Park terraces as a committed season ticket holder, idolising Jonny Wilkinson.

Even rugby league is getting in on the act, Gateshead Thunder this weekend embarking on the promotion play-offs and St James’ Park chosen as the venue for Super League’s Magic Weekend.

Yes, rugby interest is alive and well in the North East.

Just as it always has been.

Article source: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/mark-smith-north-east-rugby-7749294

Premiership rugby given grant to increase number of women in the sport

A little under a month after England won the women’s Rugby World Cup, an initiative has been launched with the aim of capitalising on that achievement and increasing the number of women and girls who play the sport in this country.

A £600,000 grant has been made available to Premiership Rugby from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which the top-flight clubs will be expected to use will be used by top-flight clubs across certain programmes, including the recruitment and training of 480 female teachers and volunteers to support the growth of girls’ rugby and providing 7,200 secondary schoolgirls with rugby classes in and out of school.

“We saw at the women’s World Cup how rugby can create role models that the country can be proud of,” said the Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty.

“We have a hugely diverse community programme that is race and gender blind but this would be the first time that Premiership Rugby will deliver a programme specifically designed to increase participation within these two target groups.”

Article source: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/sep/10/premiership-clubs-grant-women-rugby