Inaugural USA Professional Rugby Union League Launches
USA ANNOUNCES ITS OWN DOMESTIC RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
For the very first time, North American rugby union fans and players will have their own professional rugby Union league, the Professional Rugby Organization (PRO Rugby).
Exclusively sanctioned by USA Rugby and World Rugby, competition will begin in April 2016 with six teams in major metropolitan areas in the Northeast, the Rocky Mountains and California.
USA Rugby Chairman Bob Latham commented "As the fastest growing team sport in the USA, it is the time to have a sanctioned professional competition. We are very happy to partner with PRO Rugby in taking this step to popularize the game, to inspire Americans to fall in love with rugby and to show the rugby world what American players can do."
“A lot of people feel pro sports used to be a positive influence - it built character and provided role models, but not so much anymore. I believe that by adhering to rugby's core beliefs, we can reclaim those lost sporting values and provide opportunity for a new generation of North American rugby players."
2017 will see the addition of Canadian-based teams into the Competition.
Rugby is a natural fit for the USA. Interest in the sport is at an all-time high and the demand for a professional competition is clear.
The structure of the competition will be as follows.
In its inaugural year, the PRO Rugby 2016 season will feature 10 games per club and run from April - July in medium-size venues, allowing fans to connect with their teams and build the sense of camaraderie and loyalty that the game is associated with. The plan is to develop existing rugby communities to provide a pathway for local players into the professional ranks.
Once PRO Rugby has been established US and Canadian players will be able to train year round and play in elite competition, something that has been sorely missing from rugby development in North America up until now.
With the completion of the record-breaking 2015 Rugby World Cup in England and the reintroduction of the sport into the 2016 Rio Olympics, it was felt now was the time to launch.
Visit www.PRORugby.org for more details
Old Mutual Wealth England Player of the Year
England's Grand-Slam winning quintet Billy Vunipola, George Kruis, Anthony Watson, James Haskell and Chris Robshaw have all been nominated for the Old Mutual Wealth England Player of the Year.
The Old Mutual Wealth England Player of the Year award is presented to the outstanding player from the 2015-2016 season, as voted for by the England Elite Playing Squad.
The winner will be announced at the RPA Players’ Awards 2016 in association with England Rugby on Wednesday 11 May 2016.
All five played key roles in helping England land their first Grand Slam since 2003.
“It’s always nice to be nominated by your teammates for an award but I think for me it’s not about individual awards it’s about how the team perform and I’m just happy to be in a great team, playing with a great bunch of guys and under really good coaches," said Saracens No 8 Vunipola.
His club team mate Kruis added: “You play the game to gain the respect of your teammates, particularly at the highest level of the sport and I’m very thankful and excited to be recognised alongside four fantastic players.”
Bath wing Watson scored three tries in the 2016 tournament and said he was "honoured to be nominated".
"It’s very inspiring but I have to keep the hard work going now and push on towards Australia in June,” he added.
Wasps back-row forward Haskell said he was "lost for words" to be shortlisted.
He added:"To be nominated alongside such a strong group of players is very flattering and I just hope collectively as a squad we can build on our RBS 6 Nations momentum and play our best brand of rugby down in Australia.”
Harlequins flanker Robshaw said: "I cherish every opportunity I get to wear an England shirt and it’s an honour that the guys who you compete with in week out appreciate the contribution you make to the team.”
The Old Mutual Wealth England Player of the Year
Nominee: Billy Vunipola
Nominee: George Kruis
Nominee: Anthony Watson
Nominee: James Haskell
Nominee: Chris Robshaw
Wasps won’t dwell on Champions Cup defeat
James Haskell says Wasps cannot dwell on their Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Saracens as they need to concentrate on their Premiership challenge.
Wasps took an early lead against Sarries through Dan Robson's first-minute try at the Madejski Stadium but they were unable to hold off the Premiership leaders as they went down 24-17.
Haskell knows Wasps, who are second behind Saracens in the Premiership table, must now regroup as they look to capture the domestic crown, but he also praised their performance in Reading.
He said: "When you play a game like that, you get the initial disappointment, but we gave it everything we had.
"Credit to Saracens, they are a team that plays that strangling rugby a lot of the time, and it is very difficult to make inroads. When we did, we looked very dangerous.
"They see an opportunity. If you are on the front foot going at them, then that kinds of stops them, but if you don't, it kind of plays a little bit into their hands and it is very difficult to deal with."
Click Here for James Haskell's post-match interview in full.
Haskell: George Smith is still better than any of us
James Haskell and George Smith speak to Sonja McLaughlan ahead of their Champions Cup semi final against Saracens. The Wasps are full of praise for each other as Haskell admits Smith is "still very smooth and still better than any of us who try to do what he does".
When asked about Haskell's skills, Smith jokes that the England player is "still developing".
This clip is originally from 5 live Sport on Thursday 21 April.
Haskell returns to train at his original Rugby Club Maidenhead RFC
HOME BOY: James Haskell meets some of the junior players at Maidenhead RFC.
Back row forward James Haskell returned to Maidenhead RFC this week for a training session on the 3G pitch at Braywick with his Wasps team.
The 31-year-old, who was born in Windsor but played his junior rugby at Maidenhead, has spoken in the past of his fondness for the club and the start they gave him in the sport and in particular his old coach Gordon Macdonald, sadly departed, who James says was instrumental into getting him into England Age Group rugby.
Haskell, who was part of England’s triumphant Six Nations-winning team, took time out of the session to say hello to some of Maidenhead’s future stars.
Third-placed Wasps are next in action in the Premiership Saturday week away to Worcester Warriors but face a very tough challenge this weekend in the Quarter finals of the European Champions Cup against Exeter.
Ask the Welsh boys what Sampson’s nickname is
Joe Marler hearing: James Haskell adds twist to gypsy tale
ENGLAND rugby star James Haskell sparked a new twist in the Samson Lee ‘gypsy boy’ storm last night.
Red Rose team-mate Joe Marler is sweating on a minimum four-week ban for verbal abuse after aiming the derogatory remark at the Wales prop in the Six Nations clash at Twickenham on March 12.
But Haskell dropped a massive hint Lee, 23, is called that by his OWN Wales team-mates.
Marler, 25, will finally find out his fate on Wednesday in front of a World Rugby hearing.
The Rugby Players’ Association launched a stinging attack on rugby chiefs for what they deem as hanging the Harlequins forward out to dry.
Haskell said: “I never condone racism anywhere.
“But go and ask what Samson Lee’s nickname in the squad is. Ask the Welsh boys what that is.
“I think it’s rubbish and don’t know why everyone is banging on about it.
“It’s very boring and we all just want to get back to playing rugby. I feel very sorry for Joe because he’s a lovely bloke and as RPA boss Damian Hopley said he’s not a racist. Racism is not acceptable.”
England boss Eddie Jones gave Marler a dressing down and reminded him of his responsibilities.
Haskell, who is back for Wasps against Northampton Saints on Sunday after a week off, added: “I think it has been dealt with five times.”
James Haskell on TalkSPORT Radio
Eddie Jones won’t allow England to get carried away with Grand Slam triumph – James Haskell
James Haskell has told talkSPORT England head coach Eddie Jones will keep the team grounded after their Six Nations triumph, insisting there are tougher tests on the horizon.
England battled to a 31-21 win over France in their final Test on Saturday, to secure their first Grand Slam in 13 years and lift the first trophy under new Australian boss Jones at Stade de France.
Many have questioned the quality of this year’s tournament, with England running away with the victory despite never really hitting their top gear.
Flanker Haskell insists the achievement cannot be underestimated, saying he will relish the win for some time, but admits the squad will not be allowed to get carried away with their early success in Jones’ reign.
When the Six Nations celebrations die down, England will begin to look ahead to their three-Test tour of Australia in June, and Haskell insists there is plenty of more work to be done to ensure England can compete.
“Eddie has spoken about the fact that we haven’t really started yet, but we’re not getting carried away,” the Wasps captain told the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast.
“It’s important to relish these moments and opportunities. I think only about 35 England teams have ever won the Grand Slam, and the last one was 13 years ago.
“As a player, you never look back throughout your career and allow yourself to reflect and before you know it you’ve retired and you didn’t appreciate those big moments. So I want to hold on to this for as long as possible.
“But we know Australia, New Zealand and the like are a different level. Eddie has instilled a lot of faith and we know we’ve got a lot more hard work to do.
“That’s his message, he puts us through our paces. We’ve been waking up at 6:30am and we’re still working to 8 or 9 in the evening, but you have to make sacrifices to win. He’s reinstalled that in us and we want to make sure we go on and get the results.”
Six Nations team of the Tournament
Lies, more lies and damned lies!
Fellow back row forward Billy Vunipola told BBC Sport this week that he and Haskell never used to talk but had bonded under the current England regime.
Yet Haskell denied his former Wasps team-mate's claim, adding: "I'm very disappointed with Billy for making up horrific lies!
I have asked him about it and he said he was bored. No doubt because there isn’t a KFC near Pennyhill Park!
"The truth of the matter is I have always talked to Billy but it was very difficult to get a word in edgeways because he was normally off-site in the nearest KFC.
"He was also quite big-time when I returned to Wasps, so he didn't really give me the time of day. He was a bit of a cult hero there. Then of course he took the cash and ran away to Saracens.”
“I would like to set the record right we have always spoken and always got on very well, so hopefully he won't get bored again and repeat the libel!"
Jones the dragon-slayer
The return heavyweight bout between England and Wales lived up to its billing as the most thumping rugby match of the Six Nations. It was also the perfect result for both sides.
England’s win brings the Grand Slam in sight, but Wales get to feel smug that they could have won if they had played on for a couple more minutes against an England team clutching at air with the bench emptied and the two leaders, Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw, withdrawn.
There’s nothing the Welsh like more in the absence of a win than claiming the moral high ground. In a masterstroke of man-management, the England coach Eddie Jones — who will presumably soon be walking to work on water — singled out Robshaw as his player of the season.
That’s the very same man very publicly iced as skipper after the World Cup. I’m not sure he was the very best player — Vunipola, Ben Youngs and James Haskell have all been pretty good — but how astute of Jones to single out the man with most reason to feel aggrieved. The captain who is quite happy to return to the ranks and still give it everything is a rare beast.
Both Eddie Jones and the Welsh coach Warren Gatland are tough former hookers who don’t like to give an inch. Their mindset is built on ruthless defence and, in Warrenball’s case, sending very big men at speed in the straightest line. It brought two grand slams for Wales.
Now Jones’s England have taken the upper hand, with a superb back row denying the Welsh any ball. The post-2003 experiment of using home-country coaches — Johnson, Robinson and Lancaster — just didn’t work out. But the Antipodean will to win has done the trick, first for Wales and now for England. As Jones says, you don’t want to beat teams with just a strong defence.
We can’t wait to see where he will take England