“It was disappointing to play like that especially in front of our own supporters who turned up in huge number. We pride oursleves on giving them value for their loyalty and last weekend we failed. Simple as that. We have to hold our hands up, take responsibility. And we will. All we can do now is try and regain some of the ground we’ve lost when we get the opportunity and that opportunity presents itself on Friday.” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Tomas O’Leary finally back in a Munster shirtTomas O’Leary returns to the Munster side for the first time since the game against London Irish in January, for tomorrow nights clash with Connacht at Thomond Park Stadium (7.05) while Alan Quinlan is also included in the starting XV.O’Leary will partner Ronan O’Gara who is just one of four players retained in the starting Xv from last weekend, the others being full back Felix Jones, wing Doug Howlett and Denis Leamy who this time around starts at number 8.Danny Barnes will partner Johne Murphy in the centre while Simon Zebo takes over from Keith Earls on the wing. O’Gara, who will win his 206th Munster cap tomorrow was honoured at a Civic Reception in Cork City Hall last night to mark his contribution to a sport he was illuminated since first making his Munster senior debut back in August 1997.Togging out with him on Friday will be his colleague through all those years, Alan Quinlan who wins his 211th Munster cap. O’Gara was his usual fortright self at the media briefing in UL on Tuesday when he said his side’s performance (against Harlequins) was ‘unacceptable’. Munster starting XV: F JonesD HowlettJ MurphyD BarnesS ZeboR O’GaraT O’LearyM HoranM SherryJ HayesD RyanP O’Connell captA QuinlanN RonanD LeamyReplacements: D VarleyW du PreezS ArcherI NagleT O’DonnellP StringerP WarwickD Hurley LIMERICK, IRELAND – APRIL 10: Tomas O’Leary of Munster passes the ball during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Munster and Northampton Saints at Thomond Park on April 10, 2010 in Limerick, Ireland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
It was the first time the Scots had beaten the Wallabies in 30 years but, ouch, it must have hurt. NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 05: (L) Joe Ansbro of Scotland is assisted from the field after clashing heads with a team mate during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and Scotland at Hunter Stadium on June 5, 2012 in Newcastle, Australia. Head wound: Scotland’s Joe Ansbro is escorted off the pitch after a painful clash of headsWatch this painful clash of heads between Joe Ansbro and Alasdair Strokosch after Scotland beat Australia 9-6 in Newcastle, New South Wales. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
Would you like to sign up to Rugby World’s excellent weekly email newsletter? Click here.Or perhaps you’d like a digital version of the magazine delivered direct to your PC, MAC or Ipad? If so click here. [imagebrowser id=23]Owen Farrell is the name on everyone’s lips – and he adorns the cover of the latest issue of Rugby World. As well as an in-depth interview with the young England sensation, you’ll find other exclusives with Six Nations stars Toby Faletau, Johnny Sexton and Ross Rennie.Elsewhere, Stephen Jones runs the rule over candidates for the job of 2013 Lions head coach, Bath and England lock Dave Attwood takes us back to his grass-roots club Frampton Cotterell, and some of the pros from Saracens and Northampton show Eton Manor RFC how to do the perfect full-body workout.With the quarter-finals looming in Europe’s top club competitions, there’s an 11-page guide to the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, and our overseas coverage features reports on Hong Kong, Italy and Toulon veteran Simon Shaw – including a remarkable incident while holidaying in Bali…A host of other big names offer their thoughts on the Six Nations, plus there’s skills coaching for both adults and children, news from the junior club and schools circuit, and an update on the 2015 World Cup – bet you didn’t know it was kicking off this month!———————————————————————————————————————————————–The Front Row…30 minutes with Jamie HeaslipDavid Flatman -Stuart Lancaster is given the thumbs up by the Bath propGwyn Jones – The former Wales captain on why the men in red are clickingCraig Chalmers – Duncan Weir must start at ten insists the ex-Scotland fly-halfSpotlights…Alex Corbisiero – England’s engaging prop takes Sarah Mockford back to the classroom for a history lessonMike Phillips – A familiar foe awaits the France-based No 9 as Wales go for a Grand Slam. Sarah Mockford reportsMike Ross – The Ireland front-rower gives Bea Asprey the low-down on how he’d solve current scrum problemsSean Lamont – Katie Field finds out why this Six Nations has frustrated the Scotland wing – and what’s next for himThe Centres…Owen Farrell – From Wigan to Watford, England’s unflappable fly-half has come a long wayToby Faletau – The No 8 plays host for a day as we spend 24 hours living the life of a Welsh internationalJohnny Sexton – The Ireland No 10 on raising the bar, Parisian surprises and his rivalry with Ronan O’GaraRoss Rennie – Skiing’s loss is Scottish rugby’s gain. We get the low-down from the nation’s flying flanker LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Technical Zone – Resident coach Dan Cottrell teaches you how to dictate terms at the breakdownMini Rugby – Take your minis back to basics with a passing and catching game. Plus, how to spin-passFitness Zone – We train with Wasps ladies. Plus, a workout to help you maintain your form and powerSave Our Season – Eton Manor need our help to improve their results, so this month we brought in the pros2013 Lions Coach – Stephen Jones examines the candidates and bemoans the failings of the tour scheduleItalian Rugby – This evocative set of photos shows the pride and passion of these Italian playersIt started here – Bath lock Dave Attwood takes us to Frampton Cotterell, where his journey to Test rugby beganHeineken Cup – We take a closer look at the eight teams left in the running to win Europe’s top prizeAmlin Cup – There are plenty of stars on show in the Challenge Cup. Meet them in our previewHong Kong – It’s the world-famous sevens this month, but that’s just part of a rosy picture in the Far EastThe Backs…Club Guide – A round-up of news from your grass-roots clubs and schools. Plus, our Team of the Month and School Team of the MonthNaked Truth – We catch up with veteran lock Simon Shaw in France – he’s never short of a tale or twoArmchair Zone – The latest books and products on the rugby marketTour Tale – Could you tell the difference between the Easterby brothers? Warren Gatland couldn’t!———————————————————————————————————————————————–Click here to subscribe to Rugby WorldClick here to find out where to buy Rugby World
NOT FOR FEATURED. DUBLIN, IRELAND – MARCH 10: Dave Denton of Scotland in action during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland at Aviva Stadium on March 10, 2012 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALSSkip AdAds by David Denton had another impressive gameScotland can take positives once again from the performances of the galloping Gray and David Denton; Gray’s try in particular served possibly to elevate hopes a little higher than the rest of the performance would justify in the end.Ireland never fully fired but when they found themselves in Scotland’s 22, they almost always came away with points. They give away silly penalties and throw rubbish passes too, but it is this sort of iron-willed determination that Robinson must wish he could somehow steal in the night from the pillows of Rob Kearney, Johnny Sexton or Stephen Ferris.If he’s looking for Ferris, he may well be on the wrong side of the pillow with his hands all over the feathers. But he’ll be dreaming of victory, while Scotland are once again stuck in a nightmare of our own making involving spoons, wood and crushing frustration. Inexperience from Scotland gave Andrew Trimble the opportunity to score a try late in the first halfBy Rory BaldwinOF THE Six Nations performances we have seen so far from Scotland, the one which ended in a 32-14 loss to Ireland was probably the most frustrating. Andy Robinson must have horrible nightmares that he is sticking his fingers in one hole of a giant blue dyke, only for water to spurt out of a hitherto undiscovered leak. Or worryingly, one that he thought he had already plugged.The element of youth that had been so refreshing in parts against Wales and for most of the France game was cruelly exposed against Ireland at the Aviva on Saturday. The men in green were more ruthlessly willing to test Scotland’s new players. Stuart Hogg missed a few high balls and was never allowed into the game in attack by a group of Irish players much more familiar with him from the RaboDirect PRO12 than the French had been.It seems harsh to speak ill of the concussed, but Lee Jones also missed a couple of crucial tackles that allowed the Irish to cross the line.The naïvity of Hogg and Jones also contrived to hand Ireland a scoring opportunity in the dying seconds of the first half, after Scotland had finally woken up and gained the momentum with a try from Richie Gray. Rather than taking the mark, plugging the ball deep into the stands and seeing out the half, Jones and Hogg tried to run it from a 22 instantly flooded with Irish defenders. Greig Laidlaw’s resulting hurried clearance was much shorter and Scotland went into half time down another try; momentum surrendered.Graeme Morrison stopped Tommy Bowe from scoringHowever the main worry was the decision making at the top. Ross Ford is not an inexperienced player, with more than 50 caps and a Lions Test win under his belt, but he is an inexperienced captain. On Saturday in the first half, Scotland had Ireland under the hammer in the lineout and had driven one maul to within an inch of the line before Ireland surrendered the penalty. Instead of repeating it and almost certainly (nothing is truly certain with Scotland) coming away with some combination of a penalty, a try or a yellow card, Ford panicked and went for the penalty kick.In the second half the Irish were still coughing up kickable penalties. Yet this time Scotland opted to chase tries rather than kick the points, even with half an hour or more remaining. At 22-14 down, three kicked penalties would have given them the lead.As it was, Scotland did not score again. Graeme Morrison manfully held up Tommy Bowe over the line to keep Scotland technically in the game and prevent him from scoring in all his games so far, but it was only staving off the inevitable.
To see Wilkinson paying tribute to Neve-Dunn as part of Gillette’s Great Start Campaign, visit www.facebook.com/GilletteUK NOT FOR FEATURED Kicking king: Wilkinson gave Southwark Tigers a few tipsCAN YOU imagine Jonny Wilkinson turning up at your Saturday morning training session? The Toulon and former England fly-half took time out of his busy schedule to surprise Southwark Tigers coach Vernon Neve-Dunn and congratulate him on the work he has done in bringing rugby to children in inner-city London. Wilkinson may have been key to England’s 2003 World Cup win, but it seems the younger generation don’t all recognise his face – as this video shows… LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Maro Itoje was spiky and destructive for England Saxons on Friday evening in Cork, but he was also intelligent and resourceful in attack. We analyse his role in the visitors’ 18-9 win over Ireland Wolfhounds. TAGS: Saracens Rising star: Maro Itoje chops down Keith Earls at the Irish Independent Stadium England Saxons player analysis: Maro Itoje“Joy and jubilation” – those were the words uttered by Maro Itoje when the England Under 20 skipper was asked to articulate his thoughts at the final whistle of last summer’s Junior World Championship final.With due respect to all sportspeople, the level of eloquence was far above that of an average post-match interview. Then again, Itoje could never be described as average.The first thing that disarms you is an engaging but totally humble manner, quickly followed by the sheer size of this special 20 year-old. Standing six foot four, he is filling out rapidly and has already broken the 18 stone barrier without losing much in the way of awesome athleticism.Strong enough represent his country at shot put and intelligent enough to be reading politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the Saracen exudes a palpable aura. Future England captain, British and Irish Lion in 2017, World Cup bolter even – no goal seems too farfetched.Replacing a groggy James Gaskell 15 minutes into the action at Irish Independent Park on Friday evening, Itoje went about reinforcing the opinions of his many admirers. Alongside the simply monstrous Dave Ewers – who stormed through a nine-carry, 19-tackle performance – he made things extremely awkward for an experienced Ireland Wolfhounds pack.All aboard: The Itoje Express bypasses Michael BentItoje put in a huge defensive shift for the Saxons, encompassing 14 tackles and plenty of disruption including one first-half ruck turnover. But here is a closer look at his role in the two tries that secured a gritty, grafting 18-9 win for Jon Callard’s side.Henry Slade slices overUnfamiliar combinations across both sides and a whistle-happy approach from Welsh referee Nigel Hennessy at the breakdown made for a fairly grim first quarter, and the all-consuming scrappiness extended to set-piece. Despite possessing a powerful scrummaging unit, the Saxons were forced to live off untidy ball. Even so, they managed to recover here to launch the attack that eventually saw Henry Slade open the scoring:Exeter Chiefs No 8 Thomas Waldrom was excellent all game and this is a clean-up operation from the base, but the energy of Itoje is vital. Just seven minutes after coming on, he first leaches onto the carrier and then blows over the ruck as Waldrom hits the deck. As the screenshot shows, he specifically targets Ulsterman Iain Henderson – a large, effective presence on the deck:This allows scrum-half and skipper Lee Dickson to inject verve from a rather stagnated situation and the Saxons can probe out wide on the right. When they come back to the left, Itoje is subtly important once more:The Saxons click into their structure here, Sam Burgess finding Slade with neat pulled-back pass and Chris Pennell then exploiting some space. But it is far from an off-the-cuff move. Watch Itoje identify himself in the primary wave as Dickson before looks to hit Burgess at first-receiver:Two purposes are served here. Primarily, Burgess has a forward pod to play off and can either take the option of hitting them up or cutting them out to a second distributor behind. Secondly though, the opposition are also made aware of some big midfield runners.Isolating the moment Burgess releases the ball, we can see how Itoje’s presence holds the Wolfhounds line:From here, with Saxons over the gain-line, the former Harrow School student really begins to demonstrate his intuition. He does not rush to a ruck where he is not needed. Instead, he trusts teammates to secure possession so he can take up another role in the attack. This is called breakdown resourcefulness:Again, Itoje communicates to Dickson with a hand gesture, bringing clarity to the pattern. He does not receive the pass but smashes the ruck to ensure quick ball from Rob Webber‘s carry. He could probably keep his balance slightly better, but the aim – to get rid of tackle-jackal supremo Sean O’Brien– is met. The Saxons can come around the corner from the next phase:This time Burgess barrels on, and the Wolfhounds envelop him. Tracking Itoje (circled in white), we can see how he makes the late decision to ‘double ruck’, hitting a second consecutive breakdown just to get beyond the ball and ensure nobody can come through onto Dickson:After Waldrom and Ewers combine, the Wolfhounds are stretched to breaking point thanks to Elliot Daly’s burst and Slade darts in: Having been involved to varying degrees in four of eight phases up to this point– an impressive ratio for a lock in mid-range attack– Itoje helps finish the job. Making his way to this wide ruck, he curves slightly to occupy the fringe defence. It works perfectly. Scrambling back, Keith Earls and Jack McGrath are both occupied, as you can see by the direction of their shoulders:Slade can sneak in with a cute angle to the left of his second-row’s decoy line. An hour later, Itoje was instrumental in the Saxons’ match-clinching try too.Christian Wade wings inTellingly, the game’s only other five-pointer came from the foundation of improvised ball-retention at set-piece, this time a lineout. In windy conditions, Saxons had lost six of 11 throws up to this point.As he had been from the earlier scrum, Waldrom instigates the rescue act by calling and claiming a flat throw, taking the elements out of the equation and setting up a well-organised, forceful maul while the Wolfhounds are slightly unaware. Carl Fearns breaks away at the perfect time and the movement gathers momentum:Itoje is such an integral cog in this maul, immediately from the point Waldrom collects Luke Cowan-Dickie‘s throw. He wastes no time in moving from the back of the lineout to latch on:Quickly, he provides go-forward and gets in an excellent body position to propel the maul towards the line:As the Saxons forwards creep over the 22, Wolfhounds No 8 Jack Conan begins an impressive attempt at fighting through the maul. However, Itoje assesses the situation, turns his back and peels Conan’s arms away to reduce his threat:This action creates uncertainty among the Wolfhounds defence, and more players flood through onto Itoje under the misapprehension that he is on the ball:Pushing Itoje towards the touchline, the Wolfhounds inadvertently create a favourable angle for Fearns to break off and head towards the posts. On the next phase, Ewers is unleashed again and Itoje races around the corner:His carry is oustanding, simply outmuscling two challengers and almost getting within reach of the whitewash. When Itoje is finally brought down, he places the back in a textbook manner:Although mainly placed on half-backs, game management is a responsibility shared across each member of any team. A man who has captained just about every side he has played for coming up through the ranks, including Saracens Storm in their victorious Aviva A League campaign this season, Itoje retains composure.Aware that possession is paramount, he walks back from the floor into the guard position on the defensive side, subtly shielding scrum-half Joe Simpson from the Wolfhounds fringe tacklers:The Saxons go right, executing another punchy phase off Fearns. From here, Itoje – resourcing himself well again – is in an excellent position to hit the last rugby of the game, winning the ball back for Slade to release Christian Wade: Joe Launchbury was brought into Stuart Lancaster’s senior camp prior to the 2012 South Africa tour just weeks before his 21st birthday. Itoje only exited his teens in October.On Friday night, Callard would not say whether the second-row tyro would be fast-tracked into England’s Six Nations or World Cup plans. He did call Itoje “sensational” though. That is a fairly good place to start.
Drew Mitchell and Matt Giteau “In the big games he has the ability to do something special,” Giteau said.“It would be good if he could do that again [like the Heineken Cup final]. That’s what he does. I speak on behalf of both of us when I say we realise how important it is and how privileged we were to be given this opportunity.” “He’s played 60-odd Tests now … I don’t know how many World Cup games he’s played, but to get as many tries as he has shows he’s very lethal with the ball and he’s a great finisher,” Giteau said of Mitchell.“Absolutely he belongs with [Lomu and Habana]. For me, there’s no question. [But] I played him for a little while in [Jonah Lomu Rugby] and then I realised how bad he was.”Mitchell returns to Twickenham for the first time since his storming try helped Toulon beat Clermont in the Heineken Cup final back in May.He smashed through six defenders on his way to the tryline and Giteau says that Mitchell relishes the big-game environment. Bryan Habana matched Jonah Lomu’s all-time World Cup try-scoring record on Wednesday, but Australia’s Drew Mitchell is hot on his heels.Toulon wing Mitchell, whose international exile was ended this year after the ARU changed its selection policy, sits on 12 tries from nine World Cup games and could draw closer to the record in the Wallabies’ final group game against Wales on Saturday.Long-time Wallabies and Toulon teammate Matt Giteau insists Mitchell deserves to be mentioned alongside Habana and Lomu in conversation, but jokes that the 31-year-old is terrible at the video game bearing the All Blacks legend’s name.Mitchell put out a plea on Twitter to find someone willing to lend them a Playstation One with a copy of Jonah Lomu Rugby to while away the time, and one follower came up trumps. Giteau and Mitchell put a shout out on Twitter to borrow a Playstation and Jonah Lomu Rugby and it turns out Mitchell isn’t very good at it
…and Te’o fells Magnus Bradbury.Shipping a couple of breakdown penalties during the match, Te’o did demonstrate that there remains a rawness to his union game. That said, Jones’ comments were largely justified. Worcester, and perhaps England, have a fine player on their hands. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Bolter in blue: Ben Te’o breaks the gainline against Edinburgh Credit: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy We examine how Ben Te’o fared for Leinster on the day England coach Eddie Jones highlighted his qualities TAGS: Highlight This blend of power and pragmatism will very much excite Jones, as will Te’o’s linking ability.Taking the chance to distributeThough this match was rather fractured and frantic, there were also glimpses of the “short passing game” that Jones had heralded. Here, Ruddock is released for a trundle close to the touchline:An imposing figure such as Te’o will always attract defenders and in this case, both Chris Eves and Damien Hoyland seem slightly narrow and closed off – preoccupied with the carrier’s running threat:Te’o identifies as much and sends a flat pass in front of Ruddock that invites the flanker to embark on an outside arc:A Leinster line-break results, as it also did from this chaotic passage:Now, this may appear to be a reckless intervention from Te’o. However, as previous clips have demonstrated, he values possession extremely highly. His overhead offload is intended for Fergus McFadden, who slips just after Te’o has committed to releasing the pass.If McFadden were on his feet at this point, he would have caught the ball and been able to release Kearney:As it happens, there is so much space that Reid can recover the ball before being shut down by an Edinburgh player. Though spectacular, Te’o’s slam dunk is quite safe. Having said that, a more straightforward pass out of contact in the second half so nearly created a try:Leinster’s forwards execute another faux-maul from the lineout and the ball is moved left to Te’o, who makes a beeline for the 10-12 channel. This isolates Edinburgh’s outside centre, forcing him to make a decision as Reid tears forward to reach his teammate’s shoulder:Te’o reaches the gainline and Reid rushes past the flat-footed defender opposite him:Players like Te’o, hefty carriers with offloading skills, provide targets for support runners. In this instance, Reid is rewarded for second-guessing that his colleague will be able to free an arm and release the pass.Dangerous decoyOver his brief but eventful union career with Bath and England, some of Burgess’ most effective contributions came as a decoy runner. Similarly, because of his attributes with the ball, Te’o can be influential without it.After a frustrating first half saw Leinster squander the vast majority of territory and possession to reach the break just 6-3 in front, this score on 43 minutes was vital:A delicious inside pass from Madigan and Fitzgerald’s break catch the eye, but Te’o also has a subtle role. Watch Reid direct him on the previous phase, demanding he run a short angle into a large gap:As Reid runs past the ball himself, cutting off WP Nel cleverly, Te’o’s presence coaxes the rest of the Edinburgh line into a drift. This allows Madigan and Fitzgerald to cut against the grain:This is a prime example of an attacking team manipulating their opposition. Having deployed Te’o as a battering ram in the first period, Leinster then use him to suck in would-be tacklers before sending a runner elsewhere.Finally, we come to Te’o’s destructive talents in defence.Owning collisions and organisationTe’o wore the 13 shirt on Friday evening, but there were still examples of the toughness in the 12 channel that Jones lauded. This shuddering hit sapped Edinburgh’s momentum:Not even in the frame as Edinburgh instigate the phase……Te’o reads the narrow pattern of the attack, jamming in to make a robust challenge that halts 113kg Anton Bresler:Te’o then bounces to his feet immediately to adopt the right-hand guard role. Edinburgh do well to spin the ball left and score from the very next phase. Later on in the second period, they made far less headway from inside their own half:Mike Allen pays the price for an upright body position here. Te’o wraps him up with an uncompromising tackle……allowing Dominic Ryan to rush in, hold Allen above the ground, form a maul and complete the copybook ‘choke tackle’:Lastly, we come to some calm communication in the very final seconds. Edinburgh are striving for a try that could snatch an unlikely draw:In the Six Nations, Jones praised the spatial awareness of Joseph – a hugely underrated part of the Bath centre’s play. Here, Te’o showcases his own foresight and communication skills before making an important tackle.Initially standing as the final man in the defensive line, he clocks that Edinburgh have an overlap. Te’o beckons wing Fitzgerald to leave the back-field, where he is waiting for a kick, to fill the space on the left flank:Fitzgerald does so… Already looking far past the Grand Slam he landed at his first attempt in March, Eddie Jones spent last Friday morning discussing a few selection issues ahead of England‘s June tour of Australia.He knows his side must be better, more dynamic, more powerful and more incisive. Naturally, there was a witty analogy – “you want to fix the roof while the sun is still shining”.Jones did not require much prompting to bring up Ben Te’o, Leinster‘s New Zealand-born, Worcester Warriors-bound centre. Te’o, a former teammate of Sam Burgess at the South Sydney Rabbitohs, qualifies through his English mother.If he can be registered in time by the RFU – the need for a “live contract with an English team” was mentioned – or if Jones is able to slightly bend the rules on overseas players representing England, it seems definite the 29-year will travel.“The boy can play,” said Jones. “He was an outstanding rugby league player – an absolutely outstanding rugby league player.“He can go through the line, he’s got a short passing game and he hits. You don’t want to run down his channel when he’s defending at 12.“Potentially, we’re to have three potential world-class options at 12 – Te’o, [Manu] Tuilagi and Owen Farrell. It’s a great situation to be in. We can just pick the one that suits the game.”The repetition of potential in a double conditional in that final claim suggests there is a way to go. Henry Slade will almost certainly come into the equation. Even so, Te’o demonstrated the qualities he would offer Test rugby during a 30-23 defeat of Edinburgh in Dublin later the same day.Scanning, stepping and work-rateWe join this Pro12 encounter after Leinster have levelled the scores at 3-3, Luke Fitzgerald fields the restart and passes to Jordi Murphy. Meanwhile, at the top of the screen, Te’o is retreating into midfield:As Murphy takes contact, Te’o joins the backline. Scanning the Edinburgh defenders, he will have seen two tight-five forwards around the fringes – not unusual at all……but when Te’o receives the ball, from fly-half Ian Madigan following a pass from Rhys Ruddock behind the decoy line of Richardt Strauss……there is space to cut back:Stepping past both Alasdair Dickinson and Ben Toolis, Te’o then shunts through two more challenges to cross the 22. Madigan can clear with Leinster on the front foot, well beyond the gainline:A close-up shot of Te’o’s run highlights his balance and explosive, fast-twitch athleticism:Because Madigan is outside of the 22, he aims his kick infield. Jason Tovey sends the ball back to his opposite number. At this point, we can see Te’o, who has already sprinted left to join the chase by this point, backtracks quickly to join Leinster’s counter-attack:When Fitzgerald receives a long pass from full-back Rob Kearney, Te’o is an option out wide:From here, Leinster cause Edinburgh serious trouble:The most impressive facet of Te’o’s involvement here is the restraint of his decision-making. From an offside position, scrum-half Luke McGrath is calling for a miracle kick infield or a looping inside pass:Rather than risk a turnover though, Te’o slows his leg speed, braces for the tackle of John Hardie, brushes off the Scotland flanker and sets a target so the hosts can recycle. Leinster retain possession.We will examine Te’o’s contact skills and commitment to continuity later, but he was primarily deployed as a potent strike-runner.Punching holes, laying platformsA lightweight midfield of George Ford, Farrell and Jonathan Joseph meant England’s backline could not be especially direct during the Six Nations. On occasion, they did position Billy Vunipola in midfield from shortened lineouts, but opposition defences could obviously counter that by crowding their own midfield with back-rowers.What Te’o, like Tuilagi, offers is a gainline-breaking option in the backline. Leinster used him in this role plenty of times. Take this set piece:The Brumbies have used a similar move during their current Super Rugby campaign. A six-man lineout, normally a signpost for a driving maul, is used to tie in the opposition pack. In this case, flanker Josh van der Flier, stands at scrum-half.He feigns to latch on to the ball……but instead feeds Strauss, who arcs around on to the openside:When Te’o takes a subsequent pass at pace, his presence sucks in five members of the Edinburgh team:Despite such heavy traffic, he wins the collision and crosses the gainline once again. Minutes later came a more conventional means of catapulting Te’o, from a full lineout:Firstly, Madigan must transfer McGrath’s pass to Te’o before Hardie, in the ‘tail-gunner’ position at the rear of Edinburgh’s lineout, can disrupt:Once this has been acheived, Te’o can go to work. A jink to the left sees off Tovey before he shrugs off Phil Burleigh as Noel Reid flies up in support:At this point, more canny decision-making comes in. Te’o frees his right arm. He could easily flick a speculative offload towards Reid:Again though, he holds on so there is no chance of Burleigh intercepting. A closer look also captures some textbook ball placement on the floor:
Ex factor: Don Armand on the attack against Saracens earlier this season (Getty Images) TAGS: Exeter ChiefsSaracens Related: My day off with Exeter’s Joe and Sam SimmondsSaracens centre Brad Barritt: “They’ve improved hugely (since 2016 final), they’ve justified their number one league position and are a fantastic team with very few weaknesses.“They’re a formidable opponent but one we are excited to meet.”Any interesting statistics?Saracens scored more tries than any other team in the regular season with 89 and conceded the fewest (40). Exeter were second best with 79 tries for and 42 against. Sarries also scored the most points over the season with 731 compared to Exeter’s 618.Owen Farrell is the Premiership’s top point-scorer this season with 213.Young gun: Exeter’s Sam Simmonds was named Premiership Discovery of the Season (Getty Images)Only three clubs have successfully defended their Premiership title – Leicester (1999-2002 and 2009-10), Wasps (2003-05) and Saracens (2015-16).Saracens full-back Alex Goode tops the metres gained charts with 1,845 and is closely followed by Exeter’s Olly Woodburn (1,739). Woodburn also has the joint most clean breaks, with 39 alongside Christian Wade of Wasps.Exeter lock Jonny Hill, who is part of the England squad for the South Africa tour, has won more lineouts than any other player in the Premiership this season – 107.When does it kick off and is it on TV?The match kicks off at 3pm at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon and will be broadcast live on BT Sport and BBC Radio 5 Live.There will be plenty of experience in the middle as Wayne Barnes will be refereeing his 200th Premiership game and eighth final, with Luke Pearce and Paul Dix as his assistants.The bosses: Rob Baxter of Exeter and Mark McCall of Saracens with the trophy (Getty Images)What are the line-ups?EXETER: Lachie Turner; Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Sam Hill, Olly Woodburn; Joe Simmonds, Nic White; Alec Hepburn, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tomas Francis, Mitch Lees, Jonny Hill, Dave Ewers, Don Armand (captain), Sam Simmonds.Replacements: Jack Yeandle, Ben Moon, Greg Holmes, Sam Skinner, Thomas Waldrom, Stuart Townsend, Gareth Steenson, Ian Whitten.SARACENS: Alex Goode; Sean Maitland, Alex Lozowski, Brad Barritt (captain), Chris Wyles; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Vincent Koch, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Nick Isiekwe, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Exeter v Saracens Aviva Premiership final previewExeter and Saracens meet at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon in what is set to be a thrilling Aviva Premiership final.It’s a repeat of the 2016 final, in which Saracens came out on top 28-20, but Exeter are the defending champions having triumphed last year when they beat Wasps in extra-time.Plus, the Chiefs have won their last four matches against Saracens – home and away in the league this season, in the pool stages of the Anglo-Welsh Cup and in last year’s Premiership semi-final.Points machine: Owen Farrell scored 27 points in the semi-final (Getty Images)Exeter have been strong all season in the league while Saracens overcame a mid-season slump of seven straight defeats to finish second. Saracens have certainly added to their attacking game and have looked particularly sharp in recent weeks, but Exeter are known for their ability to retain possession and denying opponents the opportunity to create tries. So it should be a fascinating match-up.Billy Vunipola, who was taken off at half-time in the semi-final, is fit to start in an unchanged match-day 23 for Saracens while both Chris Wyles and Schalk Brits will be playing their final games for the club.Exeter have also named the same squad for the final that played last Saturday, with Don Armand skipper and Joe Simmonds picked at fly-half ahead of Gareth Steenson. Interestingly, only four of the starting XV also started last year’s final –Armand, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Armand, Jack Nowell and Olly Woodburn.Here’s everything else you need to know…How did the two teams reach this stage?Exeter finished top of the table at the end of the regular season, eight points clear of Saracens with 17 wins in 22 games. They then beat Newcastle 36-5 in their semi-final at Sandy Park to reach their third successive league final. One of the standout stats from that semi-final was that the Chiefs had 92% possession in the first half!Saracens, who won 16 of their regular-season games, hosted Wasps in the last four and came out on top 57-33 at Allianz Park, scoring six tries in all and Owen Farrell finishing with a points haul of 27. This is Saracens’ fourth Premiership final in five years.What have the players said?Exeter centre Henry Slade: “A large part of the game is mental in terms of finding 5% in how hard you hit in collisions, especially against Saracens, you’ve got some big lads able to win the momentum and get over the gain-line.“To beat Saracens you’ve got to be good in all areas, they’re a top side, but we’re looking forward to putting our best foot forward.” It’s a repeat of the 2016 Premiership final at Twickenham this weekend – here’s all you need to know Replacements: Schalk Brits, Richard Barrington, Juan Figallo, Will Skelton, Michael Rhodes, Ben Spencer, Marcelo Bosch, Nathan Earle.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Introducing Andrés Zafra, Colombian rugby starTeam-mates at Agen suggest that Andrés Zafra goes quietly about his business, but in the lock’s hometown of Cúcuta, right on the Colombia-Venezuela border, people tend to be a little more vociferous.“Every region of Colombia is different, kind of similar to England or France, in the way they speak, their habits,” Zafra, 24, begins. “People from Cúcuta are known for speaking quite loudly! But on the whole, everyone’s very nice and the region, in North Santander, is quite well known for having very pretty women…“It’s a little bit different there, the economy depends a lot on Venezuela and merchandise from Venezuela. A lot of people go into Venezuela and buy things a bit cheaper and then come back and sell them in Colombia. So it’s a bit more multicultural, obviously being right on the border.“There is some violence there but the main characteristic is it’s very hot and in ten minutes, you can walk into Venezuela. Life’s a little bit cheaper than in Bogotá or Medellín, or some of the biggest cities.”We don’t have time to discuss the fuel-smuggling economy of the region as Zafra peels off to make another team session, but what shines through is his own drive to grind. He is, after all, a trailblazer; a Colombian in a major professional league. He says of his attitude: “In Colombia you have to work if you want to have a good life. That’s what you have to do and so since I was very young, my parents taught me to work very hard. In France I’ve had to do the same, so it’s natural for me. I like working. If you work hard, you get paid and I enjoy it, so that’s how I am.”Related: From the French Foreign Legion to the Top 14, meet Tavite VeredamuAs a Colombian in one of Europe’s elite competitions, playing in France’s Top 14, Zafra is a role model. But before you get to the significance of that, you need to know how he got to France in the first place.An only child, the forward was a footballer first – he did not pick up a rugby ball until he was 15 and imagined he was Messi, not McCaw. Even today, if he gets a chance to scramble around after a soccer ball, he leaps at it.But as a teenager an acquaintance persistently asked Zafra (now 6ft 6in) to give the oval ball a go. On the fourth invitation, Zafra relented and he loved it. The coaches coveted his frame, his approach, and he was soon standing out.At Universidad Francisco de Paula Santander, he did two years of an electromagnetic engineering degree and played for the university club before a unique opportunity presented itself. With the national age-grades, Zafra was given the chance to play in Peru, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina and even made his senior Test debut as a teenager. But he would push further into foreign territory.Crashing in: Zafra scores against Stade Francais (Getty Images)On his initial move to Europe, Zafra explains: “It came about through a foundation called Rugby French Flair, who develop social rugby in countries where it doesn’t really exist. Meet the South American lock blazing a trail with Agen in the Top 14 Trailblazer: Colombian lock Andrés Zafra (pic courtesy of Agen) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “They were in Colombia and they spotted me, said I had lots of potential. Then a few months later they got back in touch and gave me the chance to come to France with a tourist passport, for three months to play in Fédérale 3. A member of the association was a coach at the Givors club.“I stayed with him and he helped me a lot. He taught me French and obviously coached as well. I played three months for them, and then got an espoirs contract at Lyon. I spent two years with Lyon on an espoirs contract but at the same time I was doing a (course) on ‘maintenance of industrial equipment’.”He went on to join Agen in 2018. So how was it, deciding to make your life in France?“It was a challenge for me,” an upbeat Zafra replies. “I said that if I take the espoirs contract, I really want to make a go of it. My family were very proud. They were a bit sad because I’m an only child, but they’re very proud, very happy for me. I really wanted to see if I could make a career of it.On the paddock: Zafra at training (pic courtesy of Agen)“They haven’t been able to come over (to France) yet – they were meant to come over this year, but obviously with Covid that’s not been possible. But every summer we have three to five weeks off so usually I go back then.”Related: Colombia women and others face 2021 Rugby World Cup qualifying processA smile briefly dances across Zafra’s face when asked if he’s famous in Colombia. That would be a stretch, but rugby fans know him and he is gladdened to be the Colombian pioneer making the first forays into the upper reaches of the game. He does not necessarily feel pressure to represent a whole country and its rugby abroad, but he is motivated by the idea of showing ambitious compatriots what is possible.He explains that rugby is not common in Colombian schools, but there is a thicket of clubs through certain regions. So while in Agen, his current club, is the only show in town, in major cities in Colombia, there are several join-up options for the amateur enthusiast.What’s more, if thing’s improve, when the professional Superliga Americana de Rugby finally gets going, a team from Medellín is slated to play some part (though it is suggested in some reports that they will be underfunded compared to others and will play a much smaller role in the league).Carrying hard: Against Racing 92 (Getty Images)The lock admits that he does miss his family back in Colombia, but while Covid is peaking there his family have kept sheltered and safe. It is a relief.You can understand the low-level ache one feels when far from home. There is no implication that this sense of distance has powered his other life choices, but Zafra recently earnt his private pilot’s licence and he plans to take to the skies when his rugby career comes to a halt.Whether that is in Europe or in South America he does not say. He will want to soar with Agen first, regardless.