Today's rugby news as England boss 'bewildered' by Owen Farrell ...

25 Aug 2023
Rugby today

Here are the latest rugby headlines on Friday, August 25.

Steve Diamond to leave Edinburgh next week

By PA Sport Staff

Edinburgh have confirmed that Steve Diamond will finish his stint with the club next week.

Former Sale director of rugby Diamond was appointed as lead rugby consultant in March after Mike Blair announced he would be leaving his head coach role at the end of last season. Diamond has overseen Edinburgh's pre-season preparations but will make way following the recent arrival of Sean Everitt as senior coach.

An Edinburgh statement read: "Everitt will take charge of the team's remaining pre-season preparations and will lead the Edinburgh Rugby coaching group into the new season."

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Managing director Douglas Struth added: "We've enjoyed having Steve here at Edinburgh Rugby and he's done a first-class job in overseeing our pre-season programme this off-season. Steve has worked closely with Sean since his appointment to ensure a smooth handover process, which has allowed Sean to really hit the ground running with our squad, who are now in block three of pre-season preparations. I'd like to put on record our thanks and appreciation for Steve's hard work, insight, leadership, and expertise since taking on the role back in March."

England reeling from loss of Anthony Watson

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent

England are reeling from the loss of Anthony Watson for the entire World Cup as their troubled build-up took another ominous turn.

Head coach Steve Borthwick revealed that a complaint was being lodged with World Rugby over the "bewildering" disciplinary process that resulted in a four-match ban for captain Owen Farrell.

But of more immediate concern was the news that Watson would play no part in the tournament hosted by France because of a calf injury sustained in the 29-10 rout by Ireland. Watson, who is currently contracted to the Rugby Football Union while he finds a new club, is a world class wing when firing and would have been a certain starter for the pivotal opener against Argentina on September 9.

Now he faces another period of rehabilitation, having battled back from long-term knee and Achilles injuries, joining ankle-injury victim Jack van Poortvliet in being ruled out of the World Cup before it has begun. Adding to a bleak picture in the back three is news that Elliot Daly and Henry Arundell are nursing knee and back problems that prevent them from taking part in Saturday's final warm-up fixture against Fiji.

Jonny May is set to fill the void left by Watson in the 33-man squad - that must be submitted to World Rugby on Monday - and will make his first appearance of the Summer Nations Series against the Islanders at Twickenham. It continues a wretched week for England, who must plan for the Pumas showdown without the suspended Farrell and Billy Vunipola - at a time when they are reeling from a run of four defeat in five Tests.

"I have no doubt there's going to be more injuries, for every team," Borthwick said. "We are now going though our time of having bangs and bruises and through our time of having a couple of disciplinary processes. Every team is going to go through it and if I could choose my time to go through it, it would probably be now rather than when we're out in France."

Borthwick is confident that Daly will be ready for Argentina and is equally bullish over Tom Curry's chances of making the standout clash of Pool D in Marseille. Curry has yet to appear in the warm-up matches because of an ankle injury sustained in training but England would be willing to propel him straight into the starting XV if he proves his fitness. "I've no doubt Tom will be ready and firing and he only just missed out this week," Borthwick said.

"He's got two weeks before the Argentina game so I've got no doubt that should we decide to go that way, he'll be ready to go."

Courtney Lawes leads England against Fiji to win his 100th cap and Borthwick revealed that Marcus Smith was being considered as a future option at full-back in the hope of igniting the attack.

Compounding the injury problems are the respective four and three-game bans issued to Farrell and Vunipola for dangerous tackles.

Borthwick: Farrell process 'was bewildering'

Farrell was initially cleared for his high hit on Wales' Taine Basham by a disciplinary hearing only for World Rugby to lodge an appeal that was upheld on Tuesday, resulting in his suspension.

From red card to ban, the process lasted 10 days and England have made their frustration known to World Rugby.

"Whether you're a supporter of England or another country, everybody could see that something like this should not have gone on for that period of time," Borthwick said. "The first process was conducted by one of the more senior and experienced panels that handles these matters and they've come to a considered decision.

"Then another panel comes in and says something different. The whole process is quite bewildering. It's been frustrating and there's no doubt it's been a distraction. But I'll also say, we've got to focus on going forward. That's what we're doing now."

WRU launch new portal for clubs

The Welsh Rugby Union has launched a new online service to promote inclusivity and diversity within Wales' rugby clubs. The union says the free and bilingual Dysgu WRU portal is designed to "educate and inform" club members.

It includes webinars on topics like understanding unconscious bias, tackling racism and creating a period-positive clubhouse. The WRU says the aim is to "enable clubhouses to thrive".

"We need our clubhouses in Wales to be reflective of the emerging communities in which they sit," said Angharad Collins, head of places for the WRU community department. "We've been working on Dysgu WRU for the last 10 months and we're really looking forward to seeing how it lands with the community.

"We want everybody to access [the portal], if you're a mum or dad and you're on the side of a field, right the way up to the chairperson of a rugby club, this system is accessible to everybody. The more we can embed the key themes of the webinars, the better and stronger the clubhouses will be for the future."

The platform will available in English and Welsh with further seminars to be added over the coming months.

The full list of current webinars available is: understanding unconscious bias, tackling racism, engaging with diverse communities, introduction to VAT, how to make your clubhouse more welcoming to women and girls, creating a period positive clubhouse, creating a menopause positive clubhouse, good governance in your club, creating an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) plan for your clubhouse, health and safety in your clubhouse, running an efficient committee meeting, clubhouse and facilities projects – VAT issues to consider, recruiting and retaining volunteers at your club, and social media for clubs.

Rugby clubs can sign up to the Dysgu WRU platform here.

Ollie Smith on the 'pressure' of trying to replace Stuart Hogg

By Anthony Brown, PA

Ollie Smith admits there is an element of "pressure" in being one of the two full-backs selected to go to the World Cup with Scotland in the aftermath of Stuart Hogg's retirement.

The 23-year-old Glasgow back will compete with Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn for the number 15 jersey vacated by the decorated 31-year-old, who called time on his career last month as the national team's record try-scorer and having won 100 caps. Smith was inspired as a youngster by watching Hogg but he is adamant he needs to put his own spin on the full-back position as he tries to establish himself at international level in the years ahead.

"Hoggy's been a massive asset to the team for many years and someone I took a lot from whenever we trained in camp," said Smith. "We are going to miss him but we have other guys in the squad who can do a good job. Look at how well Blair is playing at the moment and there are loads of other guys across the back three, so it's a good group of boys we've got.

"There's always going to be that pressure wearing the number 15 jersey. With a guy like Hoggy, there's massive shoes to fill. It's obviously not easy (to replace him) but I feel personally like I'm trying to be my own sort of player. My game might vary from what Hoggy could do but I can still help the team be in the best place to try and win games. It does come with a bit of pressure but I try not to think about that too much."

Hogg's retirement effectively paved the way for Smith to go to the World Cup as the youngest member of Gregor Townsend's 33-man squad. Having been a peripheral figure at Glasgow two years ago, the back - who made his Scotland debut against Argentina last summer - is thrilled by how quickly things have started to take off for him.

"To go to a World Cup is always something I wanted to do as a kid so to get the opportunity at 23 when a couple of years ago I didn't think I'd get a game for Scotland any time soon, I'm absolutely buzzing," he said.

Ireland's Sheehan expected to be fit for World Cup

By Ed Elliot, PA, Bayonne

Andy Farrell expects Dan Sheehan to be fit for Ireland's World Cup campaign after revealing his first-choice hooker sprained a foot ligament against England.

Sheehan limped off shortly before half-time in the 29-10 win over Steve Borthwick's side five days ago to leave his country anxiously awaiting a full diagnosis. With Ireland's squad in Bayonne ahead of Saturday's final warm-up match against Samoa, the 24-year-old remains in Dublin undergoing treatment.

Head coach Farrell, who has selected Ulster rookie Tom Stewart to start at number two this weekend, had been braced for bad news but provided a positive update on Sheehan's condition.

"He's good, yeah," Farrell said. "He's got a sprain in his foot, in a ligament in his foot. That's better than expected, we expected it to be (more serious). As with all injuries, we'll see how it develops over the period of time but we expect him to be fit for the World Cup."

Ireland begin the tournament on September 9 against Romania in Bordeaux, with their final 33-man squad scheduled to be announced on Monday.

In Sheehan's absence, Belfast-born Stewart has been handed a full Test debut for the appointment with Samoa at Stade Jean Dauger. The 22-year-old won his maiden cap as a replacement in the 33-17 victory over Italy at the start of the month and now has another opportunity to further impress Farrell.

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