Sean Cronin left out of Ireland squad to face France in Six Nations

Sean Cronin has been left out of Ireland’s preliminary squad to face France in the Six Nations
Leinster hooker Sean Cronin has been omitted from the 37-man Ireland squad that will prepare to face France in the Six Nations on Sunday.
Robbie Henshaw and Dan Leavy haven’t recovered in time to play in Dublin, but CJ Stander, Garry Ringrose and Kieran Marmion are fit again.
Cronin, who has 68 caps, started a Six Nations game for the first time against Italy last weekend but was replaced by Niall Scannell after 54 minutes as the Irish lineout misfired.

Ireland back Robbie Henshaw has failed to recover from a dead leg in time to face France
Ulster’s Rob Herring has been drafted into the squad as a third hooker alongside Scannell and captain, Rory Best.
Henshaw has experienced a slower recovery than expected after he suffered a dead leg against England in Ireland’s tournament opener, while flanker Leavy remains out with an ankle problem.
Stander has recovered from the facial fractures he suffered against England to provide a boost to the Irish pack, while scrum-half Marmion has proven his fitness for Connacht in the Pro 14.

CJ Stander is back in the Irish squad having recovered from a facial fracture
Centre Ringrose also missed Ireland’s victories over Scotland and Italy, but has now recovered from a hamstring strain.
Ireland will confirm their 23-man matchday squad on Friday.

Forwards: Rory Best, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Ultan Dillane, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, James Ryan, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier.
Backs: Bundee Aki, Ross Byrne, Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway, John Cooney, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Tom Farrell, Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Kieran Marmion, Conor Murray, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Sexton, Jacob Stockdale.

Mouritz Botha: Newcastle Falcons sign former Saracens lock

Premiership side Newcastle Falcons have signed former England second-row Mouritz Botha on a three-year deal. The 33-year-old joins from Super 15 side the Sharks, who he moved to in January after five years at Saracens.

South Africa-born Botha, who won 10 England caps between 2011 and 2012, moved to Sarries after being spotted at National League One side Bedford Blues. “Newcastle are in a position to make a real impact on the Premiership this year,” he said.

“I am looking to help them rise up the table and push for a place in Europe.”


Six Nations 2015: Record-breaker Warburton leads unchanged team

Sam Warburton will lead an unchanged Wales team against Ireland in the Six Nations Championship in Cardiff.

Flanker Warburton, 26, captains Wales for a record 34th time, overtaking Bristol forward Ryan Jones.

On the bench Scarlets prop Rob Evans comes in for the injured Paul James and Scarlets second row Jake Ball replaces Bradley Davies.

“Saturday is a fantastic achievement and honour for Sam,” said head coach Warren Gatland.

“He has developed into the role fantastically and is a modern day professional. He is a role model that will continue to get better.”

Wales lost their opening match of the tournament 21-16 to England.

But they recovered to win 26-23 against Scotland at Murrayfield and were comfortable in beating France 20-13 in Paris.

Ireland were unconvincing in their opening win over Italy, but thent oughed-out a home win over France and maintained their Grand Slam hopes with a 19-9 win over England in Dublin last time out.

Wales captains – the top six





Ryan Jones





Sam Warburton





Ieuan Evans





Rob Howley





Colin Charvis





Gareth Thomas





Coach Gatland says Wales are determined to build on the improvements they have shown in their two away trips.

“We return to the Millennium Stadium after two tough away trips with two victories and will be looking to build on that,” he added.

“We saw an improvement against Scotland and then saw another step up against France and we know we will need to do the same against Ireland on Saturday.

“Ireland are the form team in Europe and we know it is going to be a huge battle.

“The changes on the bench mean Rob Evans gets an opportunity.

“We have been impressed with him for his region and at training. Our strength in depth in the second-row is highlighted again as Jake comes back into the squad.”


England’s Brad Barritt and Tom Croft to miss rest of Six Nations

England centre Brad Barritt and flanker Tom Croft are out of the Six Nations after suffering injuries on club duty.

Saracens’ Barritt, who hurt his ankle on Sunday, has not played for England since victory over Australia in the autumn after suffering calf and knee injuries but was in line for a recall.

Flanker Croft dislocated his shoulder playing for Leicester at the weekend.

Mike Brown, Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes are in line for selection after recovering from injury.

Championship-chasing England host Scotland on Saturday (17:00 GMT), before facing France at Twickenham a week later.

England are set to name an unchanged midfield after Barritt, who was challenging Luther Burrell for a place, was ruled out but have called Exeter Chiefs’ Henry Slade, 21, into the training squad as cover.

Inside centre Burrell was a doubt himself after suffering a calf injury in the19-9 defeat by Ireland but is set to resume training on Tuesday as head coach Stuart Lancaster finalises his team selection.

Elsewhere, full-back Brown has been cleared for a return after taking full part in training for the first time since suffering concussion against Italy three weeks ago.

Second-row Lawes completed his second game for Northampton Saints at the weekend following the ankle surgery which forced him to miss the opening three Six Nations matches.

“We’ve lost one or two lads with injuries which is a real disappointment, Croft and Barritt in particular,” head coach Stuart Lancaster told BBC Radio 5 live.

“That changes your thinking a bit, but I thought there were some good performances at the weekend and, more importantly, we’ve got two or three senior players coming back into the equation who we know have performed for us in the past.”

Lancaster said he was disappointed England’s destiny was no longer in their control after the Ireland loss.

England need to beat Scotland and hope Wales beat leaders Ireland in Cardiff to leave all three teams level on six points going into the final round.

“We were disappointed in ourselves. We knew that if we could have got a win in Ireland we would have two home games and an opportunity to win something. We’ve not achieved so that was the real frustration,” added Lancaster.

Flanker Chris Robshaw was criticised by some after the loss in Dublin, which ended England’s hopes of a first Grand Slam since 2003, but Lancaster defended his captain.

“We didn’t dominate the space beyond the ball as well as Ireland did,” he said. “Collectively we underperformed at the breakdown and I don’t think to single one player out is fair.”


Lions 2013: Corbisiero and Roberts likely to miss second Test

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is resigned to being without prop Alex Corbisiero and centre Jamie Roberts for Saturday’s second Test against Australia.
Corbisiero is "struggling a little bit" to overcome a calf injury picked up in the first-Test victory in Brisbane.
Gatland said Roberts "is in the same boat" with a hamstring strain.

"We will see how they are on Thursday, but at this stage it is a little bit doubtful," he added.
Manu Tuilagi returned in Tuesday’s 35-0 win over Melbourne Rebels to bolster the Lions’ midfield options.
But with Ireland’s Tom Court only called up as short-term cover for Corbisiero, the Lions will ponder summoning additional reinforcements at loose-head prop, with Mako Vunipola and Ryan Grant the only fit options.

"It is something we will discuss over the next 24 hours to see if we have got enough cover in that position," Gatland said. "The medics say if he is ruled out for this weekend, he will definitely be fit for the third Test." The Lions have already summoned eight replacements – including temporary cover in Shane Williams and Court – since they left the UK, equalling the record number used on the 1980 tour to South Africa.
In all, 44 players have been involved at some stage in the eight games so far, with injury victim Gethin Jenkins the only member of the original squad not to be involved.

Lock Paul O’Connell, ruled out of the rest of the series with a fractured arm sustained in the first-Test victory in Brisbane, will remain with the squad for the remainder of the tour. "He played such an important role in that first Test, so we gave him the option to stay, and he wanted to stay," Gatland said. "I feel really sorry for Paul and it is a big loss for the squad because he was playing some of his best rugby for a long time and that combination with Alun Wyn Jones was proving to be really strong.

"But he has been around for such a long time and he has that experience and wisdom, so I am sure he will be involved in some aspect." After the disappointment of last week’s 14-12 defeat by ACT Brumbies in Canberra, Gatland was pleased by a "professional, workmanlike performance" from his midweek side as they scored five tries and kept the Rebels scoreless in Melbourne.

"I thought the back row were very good. Richie Gray had his best game on tour, Richard Hibbard carried the ball well, both nines [scrum-halves Conor Murray and Ben Youngs], were good, Sean Maitland was good, the defence was outstanding and everyone kept working hard," he said. "The pleasing thing was the spirit they displayed. That really showed how good these guys have been on and off the field on this tour, and that was demonstrated by not conceding any points.

"There is still an opportunity for people to be involved [in the remaining Tests] and there are bound to be a few more injuries between now and the final Test."But even if these guys don’t get selected for the next two Tests, they can still be proud to be part of hopefully a successful tour. That is the whole aim. These guys have been fantastic ambassadors for the four home unions, and everyone back home should be really proud of the way they have conducted themselves on and off the field."


Lions 2013: Australia centre Pat McCabe out for rest of the year

Lions 2013: Australia centre Pat McCabe out for rest of the year

Australia’s Pat McCabe has been ruled out for the rest of the year after suffering a recurrence of a neck injury against the British and Irish Lions.
McCabe, 25, was taken off during the hosts’ 23-21 weekend Test defeat, with medical checks showing a fracture to the bone he first damaged in November. The Brumbies centre will spend at least the next six weeks in a brace, but is hopeful he could make a playing return.

Read Bryn’s verdict on the Lions’ first Test win

"I think I’ve got plenty of games left in me," he said."It was encouraging to hear the specialists being positive both about the recovery process, but also the possibility that I could be able to return to the playing field.

"It is human nature to think the worst, but I’m in good hands medically. "We’ll see how the rehabilitation goes and take it from there. I’d obviously like to get back into it, but I’ll be taking no chances with my health either." McCabe will miss the remainder of the Lions tour, the rest of the Super Rugby season with the Brumbies, Australia’s Rugby Championship campaign against South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina, plus their end-of-season tour to Europe.

Saturday’s opening Test was the Manly-born player’s 20th cap for his country since making his international debut against Italy in 2010.
McCabe was not the only Wallabies star to pick up a series-ending injury in the bruising encounter in Brisbane, with 27-year-old wing Digby Ioane also set to miss the final two Tests against the Lions with a shoulder problem.


Jonny Wilkinson retires from England duty

Jonny Wilkinson Wilkinson is England’s all-time leading scorer with 1,179 points

England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson has retired from international rugby union.

The 32-year-old won 91 England caps, kicked the winning drop-goal in the 2003 World Cup final and played six Tests for the British and Irish Lions.

“It fills me with great sadness, but I know I have been blessed in so many ways to have experienced what I have with the England rugby team,” he said.

Despite a career plagued by injury, Wilkinson is England’s all-time leading scorer with 1,179 points.

Wilkinson one of the greats – Woodward

The Toulon back is second on the all-time list with 1,246 Test points, placing him just behind New Zealand’s Dan Carter.

Wilkinson’s record for his country includes six tries, 162 conversions, 239 penalties and a record 36 drop-goals. His total of 277 points at World Cups is 50 more than any other player.

“I never ever believed that I would be able to give up on this dream which has driven me to live, breathe, love and embrace the game of rugby from the earliest days that I can remember,” he told his official website.

“Playing the game, representing the team, giving my all and never letting go has meant everything to me. I do, have done and always will believe that I am very capable of performing and thriving at any level of the sport.
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The fly-half made his England debut at the age of 18 and went on to play in four World Cups, with his defining moment coming in the final of the 2003 tournament when his drop-goal 17 seconds from the end of extra-time secured England a 20-17 win over Australia.

But the then Newcastle fly-half’s career was blighted by injuries and at one stage Wilkinson played barely 15 hours’ competitive rugby in 18 months as a succession of injuries took their toll.

His extraordinary determination enabled him to overcome them and he fought back to help England reach the final of the 2007 World Cup.

Rejuvenated after moving to play his club rugby with Toulon, Wilkinson made his last England appearance against France in the quarter-final of this year’s tournament in October.

“To say I have played through four World Cups, two Lions tours, 91 international games and a ridiculous number of injuries and other setbacks gives me an incredibly special feeling of fulfilment,” he added.
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I’ll always remember playing against Newcastle early on in his career. I got tackled and thought I’d been hit by two men because it was so hard, but when I looked up it was just Jonny stood there on his own

“But by now I know myself well enough to know that I will never truly be satisfied. It goes without saying that I would like to wish Stuart Lancaster [interim England head coach], his coaches and the England squad every bit of success available to them.

“I would also very much like to extend those wishes to Martin Johnson, Brian Smith, Mike Ford, John Wells, Graham Rowntree and the rest of the England 2011 World Cup management team who have been fantastic, and deserve people to know that.

“For me now, I will continue to focus ever harder on my goal of being the very best I can be with Toulon Rugby Club and continue to embrace and enjoy wherever that path takes me.”

Lancaster, who has been appointed as England’s interim head coach for the Six Nations, paid a glowing tribute to Wilkinson.

“Jonny has had a fantastic international career which has spanned four World Cups and 91 caps, and ranks as one of England’s greatest ever players,” he commented.

“He will, of course, be remembered for that drop-goal. But he is more than that, a model sportsman – down to earth and hard-working – who has never stopped trying to be the best that he can.

“Everyone who has played with, coached and watched Jonny play should feel privileged to have had an involvement with him.

“Not only has he been a world-class player, but he has inspired thousands to play and watch the game of rugby.

“He will continue to do great things with Toulon, and I would like to go and see him in France to learn from his vast knowledge and experience of 13 years at the very top of the international game.”

Former England team-mate Mark Cueto said: “You’ve just got to look at the likes of Matthew Tait, who I played with at Sale for three years and who grew up with Wilko at Newcastle, and the qualities they learned from him.

Jonny Wilkinson will forever be remembered for the drop-goal (off his wrong foot) that brought England their first World Cup in 2003, but he offered his country so much more than just a kicker. At his peak, he was the best distributor of the ball in world rugby, his offensive tackling was outstanding for a fly-half, and he was blessed with the calmest of temperaments. Time after time he delivered under pressure, and time after time he recovered from debilitating injuries to reclaim the England number 10 shirt. Wilkinson is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary talent, and English rugby is much the poorer without him

“He was always striving to better himself. He couldn’t have done any more with the England team, winning the Grand Slam in the Six Nations and then going on to win a World Cup and for so many players it would be easy to relax after that.

“But the more he achieved, the harder he worked and that’s an unbelievable attribute to have.”

Lewis Moody, who played alongside Wilkinson in the World Cup-winning team and only announced his own retirement from England duty in October, said: “I’m humbled to have played alongside him.

“I’m saddened but his contribution over the years, his work ethic, professionalism and commitment, has been immense. He put everything into what he did. It was incredible to watch him train and perform.

“The fact he missed four years of international rugby but still amassed 97 caps is unimaginable. It’s a real shame he’s decided to retire but what he’s given to the sport, and a generation, is immense.”

Former England centre and BBC pundit Jeremy Guscott told BBC Sport: “He was world class, the best in his position, and when he dropped that goal to win the World Cup for England he became immortalised.

“His performances were never less than the best he could deliver, he was a very talented player and England were fortunate to have him.”

Joe Worsley cut from England Squad

Joe Worsley is set to miss out on the Rugby World Cup after being cut from England’s training squad.

The Wasps back-row forward, who has won 78 England caps, is one of five players released by manager Martin Johnson.

Leicester’s George Chuter and Thomas Waldrom, Saracens wing David Strettle and Gloucester back James Simpson-Daniel have also been let go.

Johnson has retained a 40-man squad in preparation for England’s forthcoming back-to-back matches against Wales.

The 34-year-old Worsley made his Test debut in the 1999 World Cup and was part of the victorious squad in 2003. He was a replacement in the 2007 final defeat to South Africa.

New Zealand-born number eight Waldrom has been struggling with a calf injury, meaning the Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw is still pushing for World Cup selection.

Chuter’s departure leaves England with three hookers in Dylan Hartley, Steve Thompson and Lee Mears – all of whom are now likely to travel to New Zealand.

Strettle and Simpson-Daniel have been overtaken in the pecking order by Gloucester’s Charlie Sharples and Harlequins wing Ugo Monye.

Johnson, who captained England to World Cup victory in 2003, is yet to cut any of his seven props or his five second row players.

He will select a final squad of 30 before flying to New Zealand. The World Cup begins on 9 September with England’s first game against Argentina in Dunedin the following day.

England World Cup training squad

Forwards (22): Props: Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Tim Payne (London Wasps), Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks), Matt Stevens (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath Rugby). Hookers: Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Lee Mears (Bath Rugby), Steve Thompson (London Wasps). Locks: Mouritz Botha (Saracens), Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais), Simon Shaw (London Wasps). Back row: Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Hendre Fourie (Sale Sharks), James Haskell (Unattached), Lewis Moody (Bath Rugby), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints).

Backs (18): Full-backs: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints). Wings: Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby) Centres: Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby), Riki Flutey (London Wasps), Shontayne Hape (London Irish), Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers). Fly-halves: Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Charlie Hodgson (Saracens), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon). Scrum-halves: Danny Care (Harlequins), Joe Simpson (London Wasps), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).



Star playmaker Quade Cooper will miss Australia’s two upcoming Bledisloe Cup Tests against the All Blacks after his dangerous-tackle appeal was dismissed.

Cooper was challenging the severity of his two-week ban for a spear tackle on South Africa counterpart Morne Steyn in last weekend’s big win over the Springboks.

But, after a marathon six-hour teleconference, the SANZAR appeals committee comprising of Peter Hobbs (New Zealand, chair), Terry Willis (Australia) and Peter Ingwersen (South Africa), ruled against the in-form number 10.

The decision is a crushing blow to the Wallabies’ Tri Nations hopes with the gifted 22-year-old set to miss matches in Melbourne and Christchurch in the coming fortnight.

Berrick Barnes comes into the starting side at inside centre in Cooper’s absence with Matt Giteau returning to his former position at fly-half.

While the Wallabies’ hierarchy always knew there was little to no hope of winning the appeal, the ruling highlights the frailties of the current system which allows players to serve suspensions in domestic competitions as well as in the Test arena.

The judicial officer that suspended Cooper compared his tackle to that of Springboks winger Jean de Villiers in Wellington when delivering his findings on Sunday.

De Villiers was also banned for a fortnight but will not miss a single Test match as he is permitted to serve his suspension in the Currie Cup.

Springboks centre Jaque Fourie was handed a three-week ban for a similar tackle on Wallabies number eight Richard Brown in Brisbane but will miss two provincial games and only one Test match.

Trio quit Wasps to play in France

Wasps have confirmed that the England trio of James Haskell, Riki Flutey and Tom Palmer will leave the club at the end of the season to play in France.

Flanker Haskell and lock Palmer are moving to Paris with Stade Francais, while centre Flutey is to join Brive.

Wasps have expressed concern at the financial clout of French clubs, who do not have salary cap restrictions.

“In financial terms we are no longer on a level playing field,” said Wasps executive chairman Mark Rigby.

“It does raise great concern that French clubs can now blow the English clubs away when it comes to salaries.

“There is a wider concern that the development of English rugby players will only be hampered as they move away from the Premiership, which stands as the best domestic league in the northern hemisphere, and regular head-to-head competition.”

Reports have suggested that Flutey and Haskell may enjoy as much as a three-fold increase in their respective salaries.

The departures will also concern the Rugby Football Union as from next season, the trio will fall outside the eight-year access agreement between England and the Premiership clubs.

The French clubs have an obligation to release the players for Tests but not for additional training weeks.

The agreement allows England manager Martin Johnson to name a 32-man squad at the start of every season.

He can then call them up for an August training camp, a fortnight of preparation before both the November Tests and the Six Nations, and an end-of-season tour.

Haskell, 23, who made his England debut in the 2007 Six Nations, has played in the opening two games in this year’s tournament – winning his 14th cap in the defeat by Wales last Saturday.

Flutey will join England team-mate Andy Goode at Brive after signing a two-year deal.

The 29-year-old New Zealand-born back has won six caps for England and scored his first international try in the Six Nations opener against Italy.

Flutey was last season’s Professional Rugby Players’ Association player of the year.

Prior to signing for Wasps, Flutey enjoyed a spell at London Irish having previously played for Hurricanes in New Zealand.

England World Cup winners Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson are also at the club, who are sixth in the French league.

Palmer, who joined Wasps from Leeds in the summer of 2006, has won 13 caps for England since making his debut as a replacement against the United States in 2001.

He started the autumn Tests against Australia and South Africa but was ruled out of the Six Nations after shoulder surgery.

Other English exiles currently plying their trade in France include former Sale flanker Magnus Lund (Biarritz) and former Leicester prop Perry Freshwater (Perpignan).