New Zealand captain Sam Cane will retire from test rugby at the end of 2024, the side said Monday, calling time on a World Cup winning 12-year international career.

“Having played 95 tests – 27 as captain – the 32-year-old has decided to focus on spending more time with family and sign a long-term contract with Suntory Goliath in Tokyo,” New Zealand Rugby said in a statement.

His retirement is not a complete surprise.

The All Blacks haven’t played since they were defeated in the Rugby World Cup final by South Africa last year and Cane was already on a sabbatical in Japan.

Cane said the prospect of a three-year deal with the high-spending Tokyo club was too good to pass up.


“I had to weigh up everything and, in the end, with a young family, it seemed like the best decision to help set up our future,” he said.

“It was a very hard one because I love the teams that I represent here in New Zealand.”

Cane won the World Cup with New Zealand in 2015 and has twice been part of Super Rugby championship-winning sides with the Chiefs.

But his experience since taking over as All Blacks captain from Kieran Read in 2020 was not always smooth.

Cane at times struggled with his own form and was sent off during last year’s Rugby World Cup final in the 28th minute.

With talents such as of Ardie Savea and Dalton Papalii snapping at his heels, there had been calls for him to be dropped from the side.

During his tenure New Zealand lost a first test series at home to Ireland in 2022 and a few weeks later suffered a shock defeat to Argentina in Christchurch.

“I’m really grateful for the time that I had to wear the captain’s armband. It was a huge honour and privilege – a lot of lessons out of it and growth,” Cane said.

Recently arrived All Blacks coach Scott Robertson said the pair had discussed Cane’s decision to take up the new contract in Japan “at length”.

“I fully understand the reasons behind his decision and support him,” Robertson said.

“The position he plays asks a lot of you mentally and physically – both of those things ramp up when you are captain.

“So to do what he’s done over such a long period is an incredible feat. I fully respect him taking this opportunity.”

Cane will return to New Zealand at the end of the current Japanese club season and will be eligible to be selected for the All Blacks for the rest of 2024, but will no longer be captain.

“It’s part of the natural process that happens in rugby,” Cane said.

“I had my time as captain and it was a huge honour and privilege.”

French rugby great Mias dies aged 93

Rugby13 May 2024 16:25| © AFP
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Lucien Mias © Getty Images

Lucien Mias, who captained France to their first ever Five Nations championship title in 1959, died on Sunday night at the age of 93, according to the mayor of Mazamet, the town where he played for many years.

Selected 29 times for the French national team, six as captain, ‘Doctor Pack’ as Mias was known because of his other role as a general practitioner, began his international career in 1951.

A 1.89 metre lock forward, Mias captained Les Bleus on their historic winning tour of South Africa in 1958 and closed his international career after leading them to their Five Nations triumph the following year, retiring at the age of just 29.

He also helped France to their first wins at Twickenham in 1951 and Cardiff seven years later, as well as a monumental first-ever victory over the All Blacks in 1954, a hard-fought 3-0 win at the Stade Colombes in Paris.

“Rugby mourns a great man who left his mark on our history,” wrote French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Florian Grill on X.

“Beyond his exploits on the field, Lucien Mias will be remembered as a generous, humble man respected by all,” added the FFR in a statement.

Born on September 28, 1930 in the small village of Saint-Germain-de-Calberte, about 80 kilometres north-west of Nimes, Mias began his rugby career with Narbonne before moving to Mazamet.

He never won the Brennus Shield although Mazamet did make it to the final of the French championship in 1958, losing 25-8 to Lourdes.

Mias made his international debut against Scotland in the 1951 Five Nations and he played another 16 times to 1954, when France shared the title with England and Wales.

With 17 caps under his belt, Mias’s career was then put on hold but he returned in 1957, 20 kilos lighter and with a wiser head, winning another 12 caps in the next two years.

These were among the most memorable in the history of French rugby.

“On the pitch, nothing could happen to us because we were convinced we were the best,” he told La Depeche du Midi in 1999.

In 1958, he lead the team to South Africa where no touring side had won a series since 1896.

After drawing the first test 3-3 in Cape Town, France won the second test 9-5 in Johannesburg to claim the two-match series.

In the Five Nations that followed at the start of 1959, the French recorded wins over Scotland and Wales, and drew with England, a game which he missed because of a knee injury.

They lost their final match to Ireland in Dublin but still ended top of the table.

After his rugby career, Mias became a trailblazer in the medical field, adopting and defending a “humanist” approach in his speciality, geriatrics.

He later found a website dedicated to the elderly which, in a tip of the hat to his former nickname on the rugby field, was called ‘Papidoc’.

RFU warn England rugby star Billy Vunipola after Mallorca arrest

Rugby09 May 2024 18:17| © AFP
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Pelayo Sanchez © Gallo Images

Saracens and England star Billy Vunipola has been given a formal warning by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) following his arrest in Mallorca last month.

The 31-year-old appeared in court after an incident at a bar in the island’s capital Palma in which police tasered him.

Vunipola later issued a public apology and was fined 240 euros (£205) for resisting the law.

He has, however, escaped a fine and any ban from the RFU.

“It has been made clear to Billy that as a senior and respected player, such actions risk bringing the game as a whole into disrepute,” an RFU statement said on Thursday.

The warning from English rugby union’s governing body will remain on Vunipola’s disciplinary record for five years.

Vunipola told the Daily Mail, in an interview published last week, that he had been drinking for the first time since 2022 in anticipation that it would be his final team-bonding trip with Saracens.

The No 8 is set to leave the London club at the end of the season.

“My issue is just not knowing when to stop and that’s probably why I stopped drinking for so long,” he said.

Saracens had also given Vunipola their own warning after conducting an internal club investigation.

“We have also considered the apologies Billy has provided, his clear contrition and the circumstances around the incident and have concluded the most appropriate course of action is to issue a formal warning,” the RFU statement added.

Vunipola is expected to leave reigning English champions Saracens, currently second in the table, at the end of this season and been linked with a move to French club Montpellier.

Vunipola has won 75 England caps, making his test debut against Argentina in 2013.

Chessum in doubt for England’s tour of Japan and New Zealand

Rugby09 May 2024 17:21| © AFP
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Ollie Chessum © Gallo Images

Leicester forward Ollie Chessum is set to miss England’s tour of Japan and New Zealand after being ruled out for the rest of the domestic rugby season with an injury.

Leicester said on Thursday that Chessum, who plays at lock or in the back row, will miss the final two rounds of the English Premiership after undergoing surgery for an unspecified issue.

His last appearance was in Leicester’s 21-19 loss at home to Bristol last month. He finished the game but it was decided he needed an operation afterwards.

The Tigers expect Chessum to be ready for the start of the new season in September but will conclude their bid to qualify for next term’s European Champions Cup without the impressive 23-year-old.

Chessum started every match of this season’s Six Nations and has become a mainstay of the England pack while winning 23 caps, mostly in the second row.

But he now looks doubtful for the three-test tour. England face Japan in Tokyo on June 22 before taking on the All Blacks, runners-up at last year’s World Cup, in two tests – at Dunedin on July 6 and Auckland’s Eden Park a week later.

Russell returns from injury to bolster Bath’s bid for Premiership title

Rugby09 May 2024 15:33| © AFP
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Finn Russell © Gallo Images

Finn Russell is set to return from injury in time to boost Bath’s quest for the English Premiership rugby title.

The Scotland fly-half was forced off with a suspected groin problem in Bath’s 21-15 European Champions Cup defeat by rivals Exeter on April 6.

Bath said the injury was “significant”, raising fears the 31-year-old playmaker could miss the rest of the season.

But he has now been restored to the starting line-up for the club’s match at Newcastle on Friday, where Russell will partner England’s Ben Spencer at half-back.

Russell’s return is timely for Bath as one of the most competitive seasons in Premiership history comes to a climax.

Bath are currently third in the table but sit just one point clear of fifth-placed Harlequins with two rounds of the regular season remaining.

The top four clubs at the end of the campaign will contest the title-deciding play-offs.

Russell’s creative talents have been key to a revival in the fortunes of Bath, one of English rugby union’s leading clubs of the 1980s and 1990s.

And his return to fitness will also be welcomed by Scotland ahead of their post-season tour of North and South America.

Junior Boks looking for improved effort against Australia

Rugby05 May 2024 16:40| © AFP
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junior Boks @ Gallo Images

JF van Heerden will captain a Junior Springbok side showing several changes when they take on Australia in the second round of the Under-20 Rugby Championship at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Bokarina, Queensland on Tuesday.

Van Heerden takes over the captaincy from Zachary Porthen, who has been ruled out of contention for this match due to a hand injury he sustained in the 13-13 draw against New Zealand last week.

SA U20 head coach Bafana Nhleko announced a starting line-up showing nine changes and a positional switch, while there are a further six tweaks among the replacements from the match 23 that did duty against the Kiwis.

Van Heerden, who came off the bench against NZ, starts the match as skipper next to Bathobele Hlekani, who was at flanker last week, in a new-look second row. Divan Fuller and Keanu Coetsee will start on the side of the scrum alongside Tiaan Jacobs, who gets a second start at No 8.

The absence of Porthen means the South Africans will field a new-look front row consisting of props Mbasa Maqubela and Reno Hirst, with Ethan Bester starting at hooker.

Asad Moos retains the scrumhalf jersey, but he will have a new halfback partner in Thurlon Williams, who replaces flyhalf Tylor Sefoor, with the latter not in the match 23 as precaution for a slight knock on the knee.

Other changes among the backs see first starts for Philip-Albert van Niekerk at inside centre and Joshua Boulle on the right wing, with Litelihle Bester (left wing), Jurenzo Julius (outside centre) and Michail Damon (fullback) all in line for a second start.

Nhleko said the changes were due to the demanding match schedule, and the with the development of the squad in mind.

“Three competitive games in 12 days mean that load management will play an important part in our team processes and player management,” said Nhleko.

“Also, this tour is very much about us continuing to grow as a team and part of the planning was to give the whole group playing minutes and experience in a very competitive series.”

According to Nhleko, his team will have to show improvement from their opening match against an Australian side who will be determined to bounce back from their first-round disappointment.

“They would feel that they perhaps didn’t get the reward for their efforts against an Argentine side that were clinical on the day, so they would want to rectify that against us, and we must be ready to meet that challenge,” he said.

“It seems we are in for more rain on match day, but we would like to build pressure with the ball and to get our attack systems going, for that to happen, we must improve in looking after the ball.

“The review and lessons against New Zealand last week, must show in the Australia game, meaning we have to be better with our game management, tactical awareness and also our execution to gain more reward for the opportunities we create.”

The match against the Australian U20s kicks off at 11h00 (SA time) on Tuesday and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

The Junior Springbok team to face Australia:

15 Michail Damon

14 Joshua Boulle

13 Jurenzo Julius (vice-captain)

12 Philip-Albert van Niekerk

11 Litelihle Bester

10 Thurlon Williams

9 Asad Moos

8 Tiaan Jacobs

7 Keanu Coetsee

6 Divan Fuller

5 JF van Heerden (captain)

4 Bathobele Hlekani

3 Reno Hirst

2 Ethan Bester

1 Mbasa Maqubela


16 CJ Erasmus

17 Liyema Ntshanga

18 Casper Badenhorst

19 Adam de Waal

20 Thabang Mphafi

21 Hassiem Pead

22 Bruce Sherwood

23 JC Mars

Building consistency a priority for Wallabies coach Schmidt

Rugby01 May 2024 10:20| © Reuters
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Joe Schmidt © Getty Images

Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt believes building consistency and the ability to win close matches will be two of his biggest challenges as he looks to put together a team that can take on the British and Irish Lions next year.

The New Zealander took on a rebuilding project when he replaced Eddie Jones this year as coach of a Wallabies team that won just two of nine tests last season and crashed out of the World Cup in the pool stage for the first time.

His first games in charge will be two tests against Wales and one against Georgia in July but any honeymoon period will be short as Australia renew their 22-year-old quest to win back the Bledisloe Cup from the All Blacks later in the year.

Schmidt said he had been encouraged by the performances of Australian sides in Super Rugby Pacific this season but pointed out that they had displayed the same inconsistency that has blighted the Wallabies in recent years.

“Being competitive one week hasn’t necessarily materialised into being competitive the next week,” he told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

“I think driving that consistency of performance is massively important … you don’t have to be too far off to suddenly not be on the right side of the ledger at the end of the game.”

The former Ireland coach also identified that Australia had developed the unwelcome habit of losing tight matches in recent seasons.

“Just being able to nail those big moments at the finish of those games has been a bit of a challenge for the Wallabies in recent years,” he added.

“I’ve had some experiences with teams haven’t quite nailed those big moments and trying to build your mindset where you can stay process-driven through those periods with consistency.”

Getting selection right was the first step towards creating consistent performance, Schmidt said, but he admitted that he probably would not know his best team until the end of the last of the 13 tests Australia will play this year.

Schmidt said priority in his selections would be given to Australia-based players as his experience of coaching in Ireland and with the All Blacks had taught him that the best combinations were often forged in provincial teams.

“I think if everyone’s available here, then you wouldn’t have to go too far anywhere else,” he said.

“We want to be as competitive as we can be when the Lions arrive, that’s my massive target, that’s the pinnacle event.”

Farrell’s late penalty nudges Saracens closer to play-offs

Rugby27 April 2024 02:00| © AFP
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Owen Farrell © Gallo Images

Owen Farrell’s 78th-minute penalty gave Saracens a narrow 15-12 win over Bath on Friday as the defending champions edged closer to the Premiership play-offs.

Saracens climbed above Bath into second place in the table, three points behind leaders Northampton.

Bath battled hard, coming from 12 points adrift through tries from Thomas du Toit and Cameron Redpath, plus a Ben Spencer conversion.

Saracens had taken charge thanks to first-half tries by wings Tom Parton and Rotimi Segun, while Farrell kicked a conversion before his match-winning penalty.

“Bath are a top, top side,” said Farrell. “For us to come here and stick in the fight like we did after a couple of tough results we’ve had of late was tremendous.

“We’ve gone back to being a little bit more ourselves today. We felt more comfortable.

“By no means was that perfect. There were loads of mistakes, but we fought for each other and we enjoyed doing it.”

Junior Springboks ready for Australian adventure

Rugby24 April 2024 15:30
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Rugby ball @ gallo images

The Junior Springboks wrapped up their preparations for the forthcoming Under-20 Rugby Championship with a training session against the Golden Lions Under-21 squad in Sandton on Tuesday and will fly out to Australia on an early evening flight on Wednesday.

The inaugural U20 Rugby Championship takes place from 2 May to 12 May and will be staged at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Queensland, where the up-and-coming stars of Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa will compete against each other.

The SA U20 squad was named last week and their holding camp in Johannesburg ended the local preparations for the campaign in Australia, which is the first of two international events for the Junior Boks this year.

In June and July, the Junior Boks will again take part in the annual World Rugby Under-20 Championship, which will be staged for a second successive year across three venues in Western Cape.

Junior Bok head coach Bafana Nhleko said the group have prepared well for the inaugural SANZAAR event, which forms an integral part of their overall preparations for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship.

“As a group, we are really excited about touring to Australia and to participate in this tournament, which is a wonderful opportunity for the Junior Springboks to test our skills and gain international experience,” said Nhleko.

“We are grateful to SANZAAR for finding a solution for us and the other southern hemisphere nations. It’s a great initiative and provides our group with an opportunity to build an identity, create bonds and continue to grow on and off the field.”


Following their preparation camp in Stellenbosch, which saw the players in action in a few training games against local provincial teams, Nhleko said they have very clear objectives for the tournament in Australia.

“We spoke about the importance of performance; to do that, you need to be consistent in your behaviours and playing systems in a competitive, test-match environment,” he said.

“The boys are excited about this opportunity to test themselves and play in another country, to experience the Australian culture, and to continue to grow as a group.”

The new competition will comprise a round-robin format where all teams will play each other once while the top team after the three-round, six-match tournament will be declared the champion.

Match schedule (SA kick-off times):

Thursday, 2 May

09h00: Junior Boks v New Zealand

11h00: Australia v Argentina

Tuesday, 7 May

09h00: New Zealand v Argentina

11h00: Junior Boks v Australia

Sunday, 12 May

05h30: Junior Boks v Argentina

07h30: Australia v New Zealand


Scotland lock Jonny Gray leaves Premiership club Exeter

Rugby23 April 2024 15:23| © AFP
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Jonny Gray © Gallo Images

Scotland lock Jonny Gray has left Exeter with immediate effect to “explore other playing opportunities”, the English Premiership club announced on Tuesday.

Gray, who has been linked with a move to French Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles, joined Exeter four years ago and was part of their 2019/20 Premiership and Champions Cup double-winning campaign.

The Chiefs and Gray reached an agreement for his early release.

The 30-year-old arrived at Exeter from Glasgow, after eight years with the Warriors.

“Jonny has been a big part of our journey in recent seasons,” Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter said of the 77 times-capped forward.

“He has been a great figure to have among our squad, with his international experience and the physicality he brings to games. His tackle stats speak for themselves.

“He has experienced some injury frustration during the end of his time with us, but I am sure Jonny will do everything he can to come back stronger as he moves on to the next step of his rugby journey.”

A number of high-profile British players have been attracted by offers from Top 14 clubs, including fellow Scottish internationals Ben White and Blair Kinghorn.

England centre Manu Tuilagi will leave Premiership side Sale at the end of the season to join Bayonne. Former England captain Owen Farrell has signed for Racing 92.

Ireland to face New Zealand among Autumn Nations Series

Rugby22 April 2024 21:20| © AFP
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Ireland @ Getty Images

Six Nations champions Ireland will open their Autumn Nations Series against New Zealand in a repeat of last year’s World Cup quarterfinal.

Argentina, Fiji and Australia will also visit Dublin in November as Ireland look to build on back-to-back Six Nations crowns.

Andy Farrell’s side are aiming to exact revenge on the All Blacks after their heartbreaking 28-24 defeat at the last eight of the World Cup in Paris.

The games will be Farrell’s last as Ireland’s head coach before he takes a hiatus to oversee the British and Irish Lions’ tour of Australia in 2025.

“We look forward to testing ourselves against some of the most exciting teams in the world, with whom Ireland has such strong traditions and rivalries,” said Farrell.

“It promises to be a series to remember.”

Before November’s matches, Ireland travel to South Africa to face the World Cup winners in a two-test series in July.

France confirm All Blacks date for November

Rugby22 April 2024 17:32| © AFP
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France © Getty Images

France will host Japan, New Zealand and Argentina in three autumn internationals at the Stade de France in November, the French Rugby Federation said on Monday.

Antoine Dupont and his teammates play Japan on November 9, the All Blacks a week later and the Pumas on November 22.

In their most recent meeting France beat New Zealand 27-13 in the opening game of last year’s World Cup in Paris.

The All Blacks also take on England at Twickenham November 2 and Ireland a week later in Dublin as part of the Autumn Nations Series.

Wales to host rugby world champions South Africa in Autumn Nations

Rugby22 April 2024 17:08| © AFP
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© Getty Images

Wales will host Fiji, Australia and South Africa during the Autumn Nations Series in November, rugby chiefs announced on Monday.

Fiji will provide Wales’s opening opposition at the Principality Stadium on November 10, followed by the Wallabies seven days later, then the world champion Springboks on November 23.

Wales, who beat Fiji and Australia at the World Cup in France last year, face South Africa at Twickenham on June 22 before two away tests against Joe Schmidt’s Wallabies in early July.

WRU executive director of rugby Nigel Walker said: “This is an exciting Autumn Nations Series schedule for Wales, with fixtures against three key southern hemisphere opposition teams in quick succession.

“We look forward to welcoming Fiji, Australia and South Africa to the Principality Stadium this November as we celebrate the stadium’s 25th anniversary.”

Clark Laidlaw bucks trend on New Zealand rugby adventure

Rugby18 April 2024 08:30| © AFP
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Clark Laidlaw © Getty Images

Clark Laidlaw comes from a proud Scottish rugby family but it is in New Zealand that he has made his mark as a forward-thinking coach with a focus on “mind, body and soul”.

Following success with the All Blacks Sevens, Laidlaw took over at the Hurricanes and they have won all seven of their games so far this season to top the Super Rugby ladder.

Laidlaw, who played more than 90 times for Scotland’s sevens team, told AFP the ‘Canes success on the pitch had come through hard graft off it.

“Obviously we’re delighted with the start. Picking up the wins is nice, but it’s taken a lot of work,” said the 46-year-old head coach.

“It’s been pretty intense.”

Success runs in the family. Laidlaw’s father, Roy, won a Grand Slam with Scotland in 1984, the year after touring New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions.

His cousin, Greig, also a Lions tourist to New Zealand in 2017, played more than 70 tests in the famous blue Scottish shirt, many as captain.


While New Zealand traditionally exports rugby coaches overseas, Laidlaw has bucked the trend.

He moved to New Zealand in 2008 and did a coaching apprenticeship in regional rugby, before leading the All Blacks Sevens to gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Olympic silver three years ago in Tokyo.

Under his steady hand, the Hurricanes are the only Super Rugby team still unbeaten this season.

They backed up a rare away victory at defending champions the Crusaders by scoring five tries through the notoriously robust defence of the Chiefs in a 36-23 home win on Saturday.

“There’s some really good leadership developing, tactically as well as off the field,” Laidlaw said, pointing to All Blacks TJ Perenara and Jordie Barrett, plus captain Brad Shields.

“They found some of the solutions when the Chiefs put us under pressure.”

Mental skills sessions have been a key part of the training schedule under Laidlaw.

“I have been reading crazy articles that we are fitter than other teams. I’m not sure that is the case,” he said.

“I think we’re holistically fit – what I mean by that is mind, body and soul. We have put a lot of work into those areas.

“When you get all three humming, you can look fast on the field and clear on your game plan.”


Laidlaw makes no secret of his desire to end the Hurricanes’ wait for silverware, dating back to 2016.

“Are we good enough? Time will tell, but we have made a good start. It’s about keeping our feet on the ground and preparing well.”

The Hurricanes face a stern test in their next two games.

Laidlaw has been meticulous ahead of Friday’s clash with the Fijian Drua, who have won their three home games so far in sweltering conditions.

An evening kick-off in Suva will help, but Laidlaw has prepared for the humidity by holding indoor training sessions with the heating turned up.

After Fiji they are away to a resurgent Brumbies, who have won six of their seven games.

In their bid to win the Super Rugby title, Laidlaw has encouraged his side to reflect on the team’s history as inspiration.

An Instagram post of the squad last weekend singing the team song has been viewed more than half a million times.

Written over a decade ago, the lyrics refer to their former All Blacks stars such as Christian Cullen and Jerry Collins, role models for the current squad.

“They are a big part of why younger players want to play for the Hurricanes,” Laidlaw said.

“The team song is a great example of the men connecting with their identity. It was cool to share it with the supporters.”

Back injury forces Wales hooker Owens into retirement

Rugby17 April 2024 13:20| © AFP
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Ken Owens @ Getty Images

Wales hooker Ken Owens announced his retirement on Wednesday after failing to recover from a persistent back injury.

Owens, capped 91 times by Wales, has not played since appearing for the Llanelli-based Scarlets in last season’s Challenge Cup semifinal against Glasgow Warriors.

The 37-year-old had surgery last July on a bulging disc pressing upon a nerve in his back and withdrew from Wales’ squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

There had been hopes Owens, a former Wales captain, would return to action.

But he was unable to recover and Owens, Wales’ most-capped hooker, has now decided to call time on a career that yielded 274 appearances for the Scarlets.

“Reluctantly, I am announcing my retirement from rugby,” Owens said in a club statement.

“Not playing has been challenging, but the time is right to follow medical advice and hang up my boots.

“Had I written the script there would have been one more game for Wales, for the Scarlets and ultimately Carmarthen Athletic. A chance to sign off and thank everyone involved. It was not to be.

“It might not be the dream ending but my career has been more than I could have dreamt of,” explained Owens, who also represented the British and Irish Lions in five tests across tours of New Zealand (2017) and South Africa (2021).

Owens made his Scarlets debut as a teenager and went on lead them to a Pro12 title in the 2016/17 season.

He also won two Grand Slams and two further Six Nations titles with Wales and was their captain in last season’s Championship, when he made his final test appearance.

The 2023 Six Nations also saw Owens, as Wales skipper, representing the views of his teammates after they threatened to strike over contractual disputes ahead of the game against England.

Ex-All Blacks skills guru Byrne named Fiji head coach

Rugby17 April 2024 07:00| © AFP
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Mick Byrne © Getty Images

Former All Blacks and Wallabies skills sage Mick Byrne has been named head coach of Fiji and will switch later this year from his current role in charge of the Fijian Drua Super Rugby team.

Byrne will take charge of Fiji after the Super Rugby season finishes in June, the national governing body said in a statement.

The Australian replaces Simon Raiwalui, who guided Fiji to the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup last year.

Under Byrne, the Drua have won their three home games this season including a rare victory over defending champions the Crusaders, but four away defeats puts them in mid-table.

“Everybody here at the Drua is delighted that Mick has been appointed to the national team as head coach,” said Fijian Drua chief executive Mark Evans in a statement.

“He’s done a terrific job here, and we’re sure that he will do the same for the Flying Fijians.”

The Drua host current table-leaders the Hurricanes on Friday night. The New Zealand side has won all seven games so far.

Bryne joined the Drua before their inaugural season in 2022, steering them to the Super Rugby quarterfinals last year where they lost to eventual winners the Crusaders.

The 65-year-old comes with extensive experience at the international level having helped coach New Zealand, Australia, Scotland and Japan.

The former Australian Rules star spent a decade with the All Blacks as part of the coaching staff which won back-to-back World Cup titles in 2011 and 2015.

Fiji play the Barbarians at Twickenham in June then the All Blacks in San Diego the following month, before taking part in the Pacific Nations Cup, starting in August, with pool games against Tonga and Samoa.

Former All Blacks coach Foster makes Japan move

Rugby16 April 2024 07:30| © AFP
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Ian Foster @ Getty Images

Former All Blacks head coach Ian Foster will join Japan’s Toyota Verblitz next season, the club said Tuesday, reuniting him with Steve Hansen.

Foster has not coached since leading the All Blacks to last year’s World Cup final, where they lost 12-11 to South Africa.

Toyota’s director of rugby is former All Blacks head coach Hansen, whom Foster worked under as an assistant from 2011 to 2019.

Foster said he was “determined to make a difference” at Toyota, who are sixth in the 12-team Japan Rugby League One table after 13 games this season.

The club declined to say exactly what coaching role he would take on.

“I have been very impressed with their ambition and am confident we can work together to achieve the goal of winning titles,” Foster said in a statement released by the club.

“And of course I am looking forward to linking back up with Steve and working with him again.”

The 58-year-old Foster was All Blacks head coach for four years, taking over from Hansen after the 2019 World Cup.

He was replaced after last year’s World Cup by Scott Robertson, whose appointment was announced months before the tournament.

Foster refused to reapply for the job because he thought it should be handled after the World Cup and felt it was an unnecessary distraction.

Hansen said Foster was “someone I have a strong personal connection with and trust deeply”.

“He’s not only an exceptional coach but also a wonderful friend, so I’m eagerly anticipating his arrival,” Hansen said.

“We’ve already had productive discussions about our plans for next year, and the excitement is palpable.”

Fly-half Beauden Barrett and scrum-half Aaron Smith, who both played in last year’s World Cup final, are both currently at Toyota.

Barrett will return to New Zealand at the end of the season.

Barrett signs New Zealand extension, confirms Leinster stint

Rugby15 April 2024 22:00| © Reuters
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Jordie Barrett © Getty Images

Utility back Jordie Barrett has signed a contract extension with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) until 2028 but confirmed he will join Irish side Leinster on a six-month sabbatical in December once his All Blacks commitments are completed in 2024.

The 27-year-old is the first New Zealand international to sign a contract beyond the 2027 Rugby World Cup, and may well have an eye on the British & Irish Lions tour in 2029.

New Zealand lost the 2023 World Cup final in Paris to old foes South Africa, where Barrett won the last of his 57 caps, leaving several All Blacks with unfinished business.

“I’m very proud of the way the All Blacks went at the last World Cup but there is still a burning desire to go one better at the next one,” Barrett said in a media release from NZR.

“And I’m enjoying the way things are going in Wellington with the Hurricanes. I can’t wait to get into a new World Cup cycle and be really energised by it.”

Barrett’s older brothers Beauden and Scott are also current New Zealand internationals.

Their father Kevin moved the family to Ireland in 2000 when he played for Athlone and worked on a farm and Jordie will return there to take up a short-term contract with Leinster.

“It’s going to be a great place for me to develop as a rugby player in a different environment where I’ll learn so many different things,” Barrett said.

“And also to have a freshen up going into another World Cup cycle and some great years ahead with the All Blacks, Hurricanes and Taranaki,” added referring to his three teams.

“As a whole, I think this move is going to be really challenging, but a positive challenge.

“Heading north to different conditions, different teams, different referees – I think it will open my game up, make me see the game differently and I’ll ultimately bring the best bits back to New Zealand rugby.”

Argentina fix dates and venues for tests against France

Rugby11 April 2024 17:34| © Reuters
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Rodrigo Isgro © Gallo Images

Argentina will host France in two tests in July in their first run out since last year’s Rugby World Cup and also play a one-off international against neighbours Uruguay, the Argentine Rugby Union announced on Thursday.

The French tourists will play the first test in Mendoza on 6 July and then a second encounter at the Velez Sarsfield stadium in Buenos Aires on 13 July.

Argentina will then travel across the border to take on Uruguay at Maldonado on 20 July.


The three tests are in preparation for this year’s Rugby Championship, which the Pumas begin with two away clashes against New Zealand, starting in Wellington on 10 August and then Auckland on 17 August.

Argentina then host Australia at La Plata on 31 August and Santa Fe seven days later before another home game against World Cup winners South Africa in Santiago del Estero on 21 September.

There is a return meeting in Nelspruit on 28 September.

France’s last visit to Argentina was in 2016 when they lost 30-19 in the first test at Tucuman but bounced back to level the series with a convincing 27-0 victory six days later at the same venue.

Argentina’s last test against Uruguay was in 2015 and saw them win 36-14 away in Montevideo.

Argentina have won all previous 39 tests against their neighbour.

England’s Mitchell says smaller rugby balls could aid the women’s game

Rugby10 April 2024 19:10| © AFP
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rugby ball @ Getty Images

England coach John Mitchell believes smaller balls could be a valuable recruitment tool for women’s rugby union.

World Rugby, the sport’s global governing body, is to analyse data collected from a trial at the recent Six Nations Under-18s Women’s Festival, as well as from the training sessions of three Celtic Challenge teams.

There has long been a debate about whether a smaller and lighter ball would benefit the women’s game.

The current size 5 ball is the same as that used in men’s rugby, with the trial testing a size 4.5 ball – approximately three per cent smaller and four per cent lighter.

“We use the big ball and we’re quite happy with that,” Mitchell said on Wednesday.

“When the smaller ball arrives, we’ll deal with that. But if I put my development hat on, these young girls have been exposed to a big ball their whole life.”

The New Zealander, a former head coach of the men’s All Blacks, added: “If you’ve got younger girls wanting to come into the game and you have smaller communities that don’t have the ability to play 15s but could do a lot more in school yards with smaller balls, if that gives them confidence to play the game then I’m all for it.”

Zoe Aldcroft, who replaces Marlie Packer as England captain for the champions’ Six Nations match away to Scotland on Saturday, said: “We haven’t had many issues so far with a size 5, but we’ll go ahead and see what the 4.5 ball will do.”


England have won the Women’s Six Nations for five successive years, with only a change in format for the Covid-hit 2021 tournament preventing them completing a Grand Slam on each occasion.

They have started their title defence with crushing victories over Italy (48-0) and Wales (46-10).

But Mitchell has dropped Packer from the England starting side for the first time since she took over the captaincy a year ago, while experienced centre Emily Scarratt was omitted completely for a second straight game.

“There’s no such thing as rotation,” said Mitchell. “This squad is selected for Scotland. Anyone is capable of replacing anyone, as far as I see it.”