Tag Archives: millennium

Sir Clive Woodward: England must use intimidation as inspiration

England must use intimidation as inspiration in the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium

PUBLISHED:

22:49 GMT, 15 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:13 GMT, 16 March 2013

The Millennium Stadium is a unique
ground. Sitting bang in the middle of the city of Cardiff, the stadium
feels like the beating heart of Wales on match days.

There are few venues around the world
where supporters can finish their pints with five minutes to spare,
pour out of the pubs and take their seats in time for kick-off.

As a coach, when you have said your
final few words to the team in the relative peace of the dressing room
and walk out to hear the crowd singing under that roof, it can feel like
you are emerging into the Colosseum in Rome.

Not intimidated: Chris Ashton dives over to score at the Millennium Stadium in 2011 when England beat Wales 26-19

Not intimidated: Chris Ashton dives over to score at the Millennium Stadium in 2011 when England beat Wales 26-19

More from Sir Clive Woodward…

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: It's time to pile on the pressure and use Cardiff cauldron to test mettle of England's players
14/03/13

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: 2013 v 2003 – how my Grand Slam heroes compare to today’s side gunning for Six Nations glory
14/03/13

EXCLUSIVE: Sir Clive Woodward talks Grand Slams with George North… Training has been brutal and we're ready to do battle
13/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: This is the last England game for six months with everyone available and Ashton has a point to prove
11/03/13

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: It's time for England to wake up and smell the roses
10/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: England must fear the Italians if they are to prevent the biggest Six Nations shock ever
08/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: Just like no-nonsense Johnno, Robshaw is a natural born leader
07/03/13

Sir Clive Woodward: Ranting Rafa He's far too shrewd for that
28/02/13

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Stuart Lancaster and his players will
sense that fever with a welcome like no other. Despite the fierce
rivalry, you get better looked after in Wales than anywhere else – they
want to thrash you, but they want it to be a fair fight.

There are no silly games – nobody rushes you off the pitch or limits the number of balls you have for the warm-up.

Hostility is manifest in the passionate support, not stupid mind games.

In 2001, when I took England to
Wales for our first ever match at the Millennium Stadium, I decided we
should stay in Cardiff Bay because I wanted to be near town and a part
of the build-up, not stuck on the outskirts and excluded from the buzz.

You want to be in the thick of it so you're not overwhelmed when you come in on match day, particularly for a 5pm kick-off.

From the Monday morning of the build-up to that Test almost every press conference question was about the stadium.

'Intimidation' was clearly the theme but I made it clear that we were playing the Welsh team, not the stadium. I held a meeting that night and told the players to turn the word 'intimidation' into 'inspiration'.

Players prepare in different ways. Hooker Steve Thompson, for example, braced himself for the Cardiff cacophony by practising his lineout throwing with white noise blasting through his headphones. It paid off as on the day his set-piece was as accurate as ever.

The players had never been inside the ground until we were given a tour of the stadium the day before the game.

Time to shine: Ben Youngs goes through the motions under the Millennium Stadium roof

Time to shine: Ben Youngs goes through the motions under the Millennium Stadium roof

Ready for battle: Manu Tuilagi passes the ball during the England captain's run at the Millennium Stadium

Ready for battle: Manu Tuilagi passes the ball during the England captain's run at the Millennium Stadium

One game from glory: Stuart Lancaster hopes England can win their final game of the Six Nations and secure the Grand Slam

One game from glory: Stuart Lancaster hopes England can win their final game of the Six Nations and secure the Grand Slam

RBS 6 NATIONS TITLE – PERMUTATIONS

England's victory over Italy means a win against Wales in Cardiff would seal a first Grand Slam in a decade.

However, Wales have everything to play for because a victory for them could be enough to retain the RBS 6 Nations title and leave England empty-handed.

England are currently two points ahead of Wales in the table and with a points-difference advantage of 14.

Under tournament rules, if the points and points difference end level then the championship would be decided on tries scored.

Wales hold the advantage 7-5 going into the final round. If tries scored is also level, the title is shared.

Here, we examine the permutations:

ENGLAND WIN GRAND SLAM

An England victory by any margin would secure a first Grand Slam triumph in a decade.

ENGLAND WIN TITLE

An England defeat by six points or fewer would still be enough to seal the title.

If England lose by seven points but outscore Wales by three tries or more then Stuart Lancaster's men would win the title.

WALES WIN TITLE

A Wales victory by seven points, providing they stay ahead of England on tournament tries, would see Rob Howley's men retain the title.

TITLE SHARED

If Wales win by seven points but England score two more tries then the title would be shared.

I wanted my team, particularly the back three, to get used to catching high balls under the lights and watching the flight of balls against the closed roof.

We walked into the away dressing room to find giant cardboard cutouts of the entire Welsh team – bigger than life size.

You've never heard such laughter in your life. It turned out they were there for tourists as part of the stadium tour, but the stadium officials had genuinely forgotten to move them.

The facilities in the stadium are second to none.

The away dressing room is big and spacious, unlike at Murrayfield where there is a giant pillar in the middle.

When we arrived on match day, I walked on to the pitch with Martin Johnson and we were booed by the supporters.

Johnno walked into the centre of the pitch and held his hands in the air – making it very clear this was exactly where he wanted to be.

The home and away dressing rooms are about 50 metres apart in a long corridor, so you are kept well away from your opponents.

While football players tend to hang out in the tunnel before coming out together that doesn't happen in rugby.

You come out separately – England to subdued cheers, Wales to pyrotechnics, blasting music and booming choirs.

The first time you see your opponents is when you line up for the anthems. It is all part of the magic.

One of the few things I miss from my coaching days is the dressing-room atmosphere on days like today.

It is the most electric place in the world with 20 minutes to go before
kickoff – a mix of adrenaline, fear and anticipation.

Ten players in
Lancaster's starting XV have never experienced that atmosphere and I
hope they are inspired, not intimidated.

Real champions thrive in enemy
territory. The dressing room against Wales was always noisier than at
home. Guys such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Will Greenwood and Matt Dawson
would come into their own.

All white on the night: Steve Thompson prepared by blasting white noise into his headphones

All white on the night: Steve Thompson prepared by blasting white noise into his headphones

Glorying in the rivalry: Martin Johnston was never one to be intimidated

Glorying in the rivalry: Martin Johnston was never one to be intimidated

Glorying in the rivalry: Martin Johnston was never one to be intimidated

I expect Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell, Tom
Youngs and Geoff Parling to do the same, supporting captain Chris
Robshaw to deliver the final key messages and get everybody focused on
kick-off.

We won comfortably on that first trip – but that doesn't mean it wasn't a dramatic day.

After
the game we returned to the hotel to change for the post-match dinner
but travelling back to the stadium was a nightmare.

A
lot of supporters had been drinking all day and we were stuck in a sea
of red shirts, crawling through the crowds at three or four mph with a
giant red rose on the side of the coach.

Man alive: Lawrence Dallaglio came into his own in the dressing room

Man alive: Lawrence Dallaglio came into his own in the dressing room

I had a superstition and would sit front left in the coach. A man in the crowds caught my eye because he had obviously had a big day out but was running straight towards us as if he was planning to tackle the coach.

At the last minute, he sidestepped to his right in Gerald Davies-style but was promptly knocked out cold by the large wing mirror.

I stopped the coach and got out, followed by a few players and our doctor, who rushed to help while we radioed for the police.

Suddenly I realised there was me and most of the England team in the middle of a crowd of drunk fans standing over a prostrate Welshman. It looked like we had run him over!

People started pointing fingers and it all got a little tense.

Then a crowd of equally well-oiled England fans pushed their way to the front and it really started to get a bit tasty. The police arrived just in time and sense prevailed.

That was more than 10 years ago, when England had a far stronger team than Wales.

Since then, Wales have become something of a nation of experts in this tournament – to win three Grand Slams in the last eight years is an amazing achievement.

I had a great team and we only did it once. But Lancaster's team are winners and I believe they will be inspired by playing in Cardiff.

They have only ever been beaten by single figures so this game will be close.

If England keep their cool in the Cardiff cauldron, they are good enough to win.

I truly hope they do. It is time a new generation of Englishmen stepped up to the plate and won the Grand Slam.

MY SIX KEY BATTLE AREAS…

1. KEEP COOL IN THE CAULDRON

Show respect: Referee Steve Walsh (left) has a chat with France captain Thierry Dusautoir

Show respect: Referee Steve Walsh (left) has a chat with France captain Thierry Dusautoir

This England team have an abundance of testosterone flowing through them and Wales will target the players who have a history of reacting.

Joe Marler, Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton and Mike Brown have had their moments and this can be a good thing – the 2003 team were at their best when there was a bit of sulphur in the air.

But you have to tread the line between never taking a step backwards and not getting distracted or involved in anything that puts you or your team-mates off their game.

England have recieved two yellow cards in this tournament, another today could cost them the Grand Slam. Let the score do the talking and silence the crowd.

The message from Stuart Lancaster must be about finding the crucial balance – you have to compete for the ball at the breakdown, but needless penalties will kill your team.

Referee Steve Walsh was extremely strict at the contact zone in Dublin last weekend.

Listen to him, repeat his calls, react and adapt to how he is marshalling that breakdown.

If he starts penalising the tackler for not rolling away, then make a show of releasing the player early and doing what he asks.

Be smart – get the wrong side of Walsh and you're in trouble.

2. GO FORWARD BEFORE YOU GO WIDE

England have not scored a try against Wales for 196 minutes but it will be almost impossible for them to win without doing so in a game as tight as this, so they must sort out their attacking strategies.

The ambition was there against Italy, the failure was in execution.

There is no point passing the ball out wide if the opposition have more defenders in the line than you have attackers, as was often the case against Italy.

Please release me: Ben Youngs will be key to getting the ball out wide

Please release me: Ben Youngs will be key to getting the ball out wide

Use the early phases to charge directly forward and suck more defenders into the ruck and the narrow channels.

Then, when there is space out wide, release the ball.

Ben Youngs has to lead this, ordering the forwards to use their firepower and go 'route one' very early in the game.

3. OPTIONS ARE KEY TO ATTACK

Talisman Owen Farrell returns and England will take confidence in having their best half-back pairing in the spine of the side, but full back Alex Goode is key to offering a second option in attack.

The clash of the centres will be monstrous in midfield but I hope Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi have the confidence not just to run into contact but to pass the ball before contact.

Use Tuilagi as a decoy and out-think the Welsh. This is where Goode is key.

Goode idea: Alex Goode can be used to out-think Wales

Goode idea: Alex Goode can be used to out-think Wales

He has gone quiet in games, so he needs to come into the attack as a second receiver to create plays and get the side playing more expansively.

Barritt and Tuilagi can become a great pairing but they need Goode to give Farrell more options in the inside centre role.

4. IT'S A MISTAKE TO FOCUS ONLY ON THE DANGERMEN

Alex Cuthbert and George North are giant dangers on the wing – I couldn't believe just how big George was when I met him!

He is such an intelligent player, too, so Chris Ashton has his work cut out. Both wingers come looking for crash balls either inside or outside the fly-half.

But Wales' back line have the footballing ability to miss the winger out and if England focus on one player they can get caught out.

England just need to keep their defensive shape. If the big guys come at you hard it is about technique – hit them hard and low.

North star: Wales winger George North could cause all sorts of problems for England

North star: Wales winger George North could cause all sorts of problems for England

If your technique is sloppy – and England have been guilty of going in too high recently – then you will look stupid.

I expect a big step up in England's tackling today, Ashton included.

Both defensive coaches, Andy Farrell and Shaun Edwards, have brought huge rugby league influences into these sides.

League is fundamentally a simpler game with a bigger emphasis on defence, especially the blitz defence where players rush up and 'get in the face' of attackers.

Wales have gone 277 minutes without conceding a try (they could beat my team's tournament record of 319 minutes).

The challenge is keeping your shape when your lungs are burning and your brain is starved of oxygen.

This game will be won in the last 10 minutes and that is when the fitness of these two teams will be tested.

Power play: Stopping Sam Warburton in his tracks will be one of England's big challenges

Power play: Stopping Sam Warburton
in his tracks will be one of England's big
challenges

5. TARGET WARBURTON

It is less than 100 days to the first Lions Test and the backrow battle will be fascinating – but the turnover contest is not a question of Chris Robshaw v Sam Warburton.

Whichever England player arrives at the breakdown first has to target Warburton. Against a player of his strength, you have to decide – attack the ball or attack him.

You need to try to get him off the ball before he sets up in that 'crouched jackal' position over it.

Once he is set up, you won't be able to move him, so hit him as early as you can within the laws of the game.

6. GET THE BALL IN AND OUT OF THE SCRUM

The bigger the game, the bigger the basics. Basics are the scrum, the lineout and the restart.

For all the attacking flair in these teams out wide, if you do not nail those three foundations then you cannot create real momentum.

In the front row, Joe Marler and Dan Cole must deal with Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins, who have been the cornerstone of Wales' three Grand Slams, so England have to be clever.

The stadium turf has a tendency to cut up so you want to get the ball in, out and away.

Win the engagement and use the scrum as a platform to restart your attack quickly.

If you leave the ball in and the scrum collapses you give the referee an opportunity to penalise you.

At restarts, England must be aware of the aerial threat of North and Cuthbert, who can out-jump forwards. Do not let them get to the ball first.

SIX NATIONS 2013: Brian O"Driscoll returns for Wales v Ireland

O'Driscoll, Kearney, Best and O'Brien all return to take on Wales in Ireland opener

By
Duncan Bech, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

14:20 GMT, 29 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

15:12 GMT, 29 January 2013

Ireland have restored Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Rory Best and Sean O'Brien to their XV for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations opener against Grand Slam champions Wales in Cardiff.

The experienced and influential quartet missed the entire autumn schedule through injury but return at outside centre, full back, openside and hooker respectively.

For the first time since succeeding Keith Wood as captain in 2004, O'Driscoll is relieved of the leadership duties following coach Declan Kidney's decision to appoint No 8 Jamie Heaslip skipper.

It's good to be back: Brian O'Driscoll in Ireland training at Carton House in Co. Kildare on Tuesday

It's good to be back: Brian O'Driscoll in Ireland training at Carton House in Co. Kildare on Tuesday

The 34-year-old resumes his centre partnership alongside Leinster team-mate Gordon D'Arcy for a record 48th time with Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray selected at half-back.

Kearney forms an exciting back three that features Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo on the wings after the inexperienced duo impressed throughout the autumn.

'It was a tight call because there's so much competition. Fergus McFadden and Keith Earls have been playing well, so it's testament to the way Craig and Simon have been playing that they're selected,' Kidney said.

Show of strength: Rob Kearney will also be back in Ireland colours at the Millennium Stadium

Show of strength: Rob Kearney will also be back in Ireland colours at the Millennium Stadium

Ireland team to face Wales at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on Saturday, (KO 1:30pm)

R Kearney (Leinster); C Gilroy (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), M McCarthy (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster), P O'Mahony (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster),
D Kilcoyne (Munster), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), C Henry (Ulster),
E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster),
K Earls (Munster).

In total there are four changes in
personnel to the side that thumped Argentina 46-24 in the climax to a
mixed November, among them Chris Henry's demotion to the bench.

O'Brien was assured of a spot in the back row once he had returned to fitness, but Henry is unfortunate to have made way with Peter O'Mahony preferred at blindside.

'We felt that in terms of a mix in the back row this was the best combination, but there was certainly plenty to talk about following Chris' performances in the autumn,' Kidney said.

Ireland, the bookmakers' third favourites to win the Six Nations, have lost their last three matches to Wales, including a 23-21 loss on the opening day of the championship last year.

But while the injury-hit Welsh enter the tournament as champions, they have endured seven successive defeats including a whitewash during a troubled autumn.

Artificial pitches are coming to Rugby Union

Fantastic plastic will end the winter mudbaths for the better, despite what traditionalists might say

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UPDATED:

00:19 GMT, 21 December 2012

Those ‘traditionalists’ who are permanently up in arms about any change to the precious status quo have a prime new focus for concern and complaint.

Artificial pitches are coming.

The purists will have a field day, so to speak.

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth when Saracens take their place at the vanguard of the revolution by moving to Allianz Park, their new home in Barnet, next month.

A thing of the past: Mudbaths of the like which led to this famous image of Fran Cotton will become a thing of the past when artificial pitches are brought into rugby union

A thing of the past: Mudbaths of the like which led to this famous image of Fran Cotton will become a thing of the past when artificial pitches are brought into rugby union

There they will play on a synthetic surface, which will also be available to the community.

It has emerged that Wales are considering the use of artificial turf at the Millennium Stadium, where there have been endless problems with the grass.

No doubt, the prospect of Tests being played on a hi-tech, all-weather carpet will crank up the traditionalists’ anger still further.

Such resistance is absurd. This is positive progress, not something that betrays the heritage of the sport.

Much of the opposition is based on the out-dated notion of so-called ‘plastic pitches’ being dangerous.

But the state-of-the-art surfaces, with grass yarn laid on rubber, are far removed from old-fashioned Astroturf.

Pioneers: Saracens will have an artificial pitch when they move to their new home, Allianz Park in Barnet, next month

Pioneers: Saracens will have an artificial pitch when they move to their new home, Allianz Park in Barnet, next month

They have been heavily tested and
declared safe. Improved grip means less danger of scrum collapses, which
in turn reduces a major source of serious injury.

Part
of the argument against this innovation is that teams must deal with
what the forces of nature throw at them. Well, this is Britain, so there
is plenty of rain and wind to keep rugby real.

And
if games at the Millennium Stadium end up being played under a closed
roof, on a fake grass pitch, as if in a vacuum, this column has no
complaints.

The most talented players will still manage to stand apart, even if basic skills are easier to perform.

Let’s
face it, no-one has ever gone to a match in the hope of seeing slips
and knock-ons. The end of winter mud-baths leading to stodgy contests
wouldn’t be lamented here.

Six Nations winners Wales are considering artificial turf at the Millennium Stadium

Six Nations winners Wales are considering artificial turf at the Millennium Stadium

The
iconic picture of Fran Cotton looking like a creature from the swamps
would serve as an image of a historical reference point.

If summer rugby is not on the agenda (more’s the pity) then these durable, consistent surfaces represent a compromise.

Traditionalists
presumably still pine for heavy, cotton shirts and heavy, leather
balls, not to mention rotund props who can’t run and have to perform a
forfeit if they actually throw a pass.

Move on — the game is changing, for the better in this case.

More from Chris Foy…

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06/12/12

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29/11/12

Chris Foy: New guru Parker will soon learn rugby is not an exact science
22/11/12

Chris Foy world of rugby: Lam's back, so it could be the chop for Howley
15/11/12

Chris Foy: Six injured and counting, Lancaster needs stability
01/11/12

World of rugby: Ireland facing the music as Strauss gets a call-up
25/10/12

Chris Foy: More referees will follow Lawrence's example and quit if this hounding goes on
18/10/12

Chris Foy: Let's play! Time for TV war to take a back seat as the Heineken Cup returns
11/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Quote of the week

Brian O’Driscoll on his lifestyle changes: ‘I have the T-shirt from going out in my twenties, I don’t go out nearly as much as I used to. You get to a point where your life and family situation dictates certain things and you are just content in living that way.

As a 22-year-old you look at guys like me now — 32-33 — and you say, “Jeesus, settled down and married, I couldn’t imagine anything worse”. But I look at the 22-year-olds now and I say, “You can keep your wild lifestyle”. I have been there, lived it, enjoyed it, but you just shelve that. God forbid, it’s dinner parties I go to now, not nightclubs!’

Sarries out of tune with Munster

While the bold step of installing an artificial pitch illustrates the best of Saracens, what happened in Watford last weekend showed the club in a much dimmer light.

Those who were at Vicarage Road for the visit of Munster will not forget the Tannoy torture in a hurry.

With a huge contingent of away fans in attendance and in fine voice, as ever, a conscious decision was made to dilute their impact on proceedings by blaring out the awful ‘Stand up for the Saracens’ over the public-address system.

Saracens will have artificial turf when they move to their new home, Allianz Park next month

New feel: Saracens will have artificial turf when they move to their new home, Allianz Park next month

That one, grating line was repeated perhaps a thousand times during the game — often cynically played louder if Munster fans were singing.

It didn’t just ruin their experience, it also antagonised many home fans too, judging by angry comments on the club’s website.

Saracens don’t have enough loyal supporters to alienate the ones they do have. This was a terrible error of judgment and must not be repeated.

In addition, the authorities should ban this barrage of music while the game is taking place. Before, after and at half-time is fine, but not during.

New man at the helm: Scott Johnson

New man at the helm: Scott Johnson

The last word

There must be something sensational on Scott Johnson’s c.v., some startling revelations which apparently prove to prospective employers that he is capable of wizardry. Either that, or he’s just a master at talking himself into top jobs.

The Australian has been installed as Scotland’s interim head coach, based on his ‘wealth of experience of international rugby’. Well, he worked in the Wales set-up under Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Mike Ruddock, but was widely implicated in the latter coach’s abrupt exit.

After an abortive stint in charge, Johnson drifted home to act as assistant to the Wallabies. Then he had a brief stint with the USA, and a colourful period of mixed fortunes as Ospreys director of coaching before joining Scotland.

To this day, he is perhaps best known for referring to New Zealand as ‘a poxy little island in the south Pacific’ — which is telling in itself. It may be in Scotland’s best long-term interests if the Six Nations is an unmitigated disaster.

Rhys Priestland is seeing a sports psychologist to regain form

Wales fly-half Priestland reveals he's having therapy to halt declining form

|

UPDATED:

01:05 GMT, 26 November 2012

Rhys Priestland has revealed that he is seeing a sports psychologist in a desperate bid to recapture his form.

The Wales fly-half has been severely criticised for his performances during Wales' run of sixth consecutive defeats and has now quit Twitter because of the torrent of abuse.

Following the 33-10 thumping by New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, Priestland said: 'After Samoa (which Wales lost 26-19) I did not want to leave the flat or see anyone, I felt I had let people down.

Desperate: Rhys Priestland is talking to a therapist to regain his form

Desperate: Rhys Priestland is talking to a therapist to regain his form

'The poor performances were a lot to do with me because I have been playing with blinkers on.

'I buried my head in the sand, cutting myself away and that has been the problem. One of the issues I have is I have not been asking for help.

'I have started to see the sports psychiatrist we used during the World Cup and he has been really good. A lot of the boys have been using Andy McCann so I thought I would give it a shot because I had nothing to lose.

'I have tried to address it and hopefully I can get back to the way I have been playing.'

Priestland was the surprise star of Wales' run to the World Cup semi-final last year but his form has been on a steady descent ever since and Warren Gatland's stubborn commitment to stick with him regardless is a cause of fierce debate in the pubs of Queen Street.

United: Priestland (right) says a number of the Wales team use a sports psychologist

United: Priestland (right) says a number of the Wales team use a sports psychologist

Alternative: James Hook received a massive cheer when he was introduced against New Zealand on Saturday

Alternative: James Hook received a massive cheer when he was introduced against New Zealand on Saturday

Wales have a very able deputy in James Hook and the Perpignan playmaker was greeted with one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon when he replaced Priestland with 13 minutes left to play.

Unfortunately, next week's game against Australia falls outside the official IRB Test window, so Hook has to return to his club in France.

With alternative Dan Biggar unlikely to be fit Wales must stick with Priestland for another week at least.

Dan Carter misses Wales v New Zealand with leg injury

Carter forced out of All Blacks team for Wales showdown after suffering leg injury

|

UPDATED:

17:34 GMT, 23 November 2012


Superstar: All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter

Superstar: All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter

Dan Carter has been ruled out of the New Zealand team for tomorrow’s Test match against Wales in Cardiff.

The fly-half Carter will be replaced by Aaron Cruden, with Beauden Barrett joining the replacements’ bench.

Carter, who has won 93 caps, suffered a leg injury during All Blacks training at the University of Glamorgan yesterday.

In nine appearances against Wales he has scored 162 points and never been on the losing side.

There has so far been no official confirmation from the All Blacks camp surrounding his withdrawal.

Carter, though, has Tweeted a picture of All Blacks training inside the Millennium Stadium this afternoon. In the same post, he said: 'Gutted not to be playing with these boys in this stadium tomorrow'.

Wales team to play New Zealand: Sam Warburton returns

Warburton back in favour as returning Gatland rings the changes for New Zealand clash

|

UPDATED:

13:28 GMT, 20 November 2012

Warren Gatland has made five changes to the Wales team for Saturday's Millennium Stadium clash against world champions New Zealand.

Gatland is back in charge after working on preparatory business ahead of leading next summer's British and Irish Lions tour to Australia.

In his absence, Wales lost their opening autumn Tests against Argentina and Samoa, dropping to eighth place in the International Rugby Board world rankings as a result.

Starting role: Warburton (centre) had been dropped for the loss to Samoa

Starting role: Warburton (centre) had been dropped for the loss to Samoa

Switches from the 26-19 Samoa loss last Friday night see starts for centre Jonathan Davies, fly-half Rhys Priestland, hooker Matthew Rees, lock Luke Charteris and skipper Sam Warburton.

Davies has recovered from a groin problem to make his first appearance of the autumn series, replacing Ashley Beck, while Priestland takes over from Dan Biggar, who was not considered because of a shoulder injury.

Former Wales captain Rees, meanwhile, returns to the front-row, where he will pack down alongside Paul James and Aaron Jarvis, with Charteris in for Ian Evans, who has taken only a limited part in training due to knee trouble, and skipper Warburton replacing Justin Tipuric.

Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953, losing 24 successive games against them, while defeat this weekend would make it six reversals in a row against all opponents, something they have not experienced since 2002-03.

Wales team to play New Zealand on Saturday:

L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert
(Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North
(Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); P James
(Bath), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jarvis (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues),
L Charteris (Perpignan), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues,
capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), G
Jenkins (Toulon), S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets), J
Tipuric (Ospreys), T Knoyle (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams
(Scarlets).

Point to prove: Gatland has not taken charge of a match since this year's Grand Slam win

Point to prove: Gatland has not taken charge of a match since this year's Grand Slam win

'No one is more disappointed than the players and the coaches with how things have gone in the last two weeks,' Gatland said.

'But those supporters who have been with us over the last 18 months know, just as we do, that we are a better side than we have displayed so far, and we will be looking to show that on Saturday.

'This New Zealand team is one of the best rugby sides to have ever played the game, and probably the best All Blacks team ever, so it will be a privilege to be able to test ourselves against them.

'Memories of the Rugby World Cup last year and touring New Zealand the previous summer are still fresh in the mind of many of the players and staff.

Daunting task: The All Blacks head to Cardiff on fine form

Daunting task: The All Blacks head to Cardiff on fine form

'The hospitality shown and the way we were looked after made the experience especially memorable, and that makes it all the more special that we have the opportunity to face the best side in the world at the moment in Cardiff.'

Gatland will retake the hot-seat for two Tests – against New Zealand and Australia on December 1 – before handing back control to interim head coach Rob Howley for Wales' RBS 6 Nations title defence, which starts against Ireland on February 2.

Justin Tipuric and Dan Biggar step up for Wales on fright night

Tipuric and Biggar step up for Wales on fright night

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 15 November 2012

If Wales had put the world’s top 10
teams into a hat and picked out their next opponents, they could hardly
have selected a more dangerous fixture than Samoa on a Friday.

In many ways, it is a nightmare
scenario. Any team desperate for a win — a position in which Wales
surprisingly find themselves after four consecutive defeats — would do
anything to avoid a side they are expected to thump, yet a side so
capable of producing an upset.

Ryan's mighty: Jones will be captain

Ryan's mighty: Jones will be captain

Wales have history with Samoa. The ferocious Pacific Islanders have beaten them twice in World Cups, and even gave them a fright at last year’s tournament in New Zealand, before the side pulled together at half-time and set themselves on that glorious path to the semi-final.

And they have history with Friday nights, too. Their two most recent weeknight adventures at the Millennium Stadium have brought a forgettable draw with Fiji and a fierce defeat by England. Head coach Rob Howley has made five changes to the team who started the loss to Argentina with Scott Williams, Rhys Priestland, Tavis Knoyle, Gethin Jenkins and captain Sam Warburton on the bench.

Howley insists this is squad rotation, but dropping your captain when you are looking for your first win in six games — excluding a Barbarians exhibition — is not a traditional coaching policy.

Standing in for Warburton is over-qualified deputy Ryan Jones. He will captain Wales for a 29th time, breaking the record he held jointly with Ieuan Evans. If he enjoys a 16th victory as skipper, he will leap ahead of Howley with the most wins as a Wales captain.

On that decision Howley said: ‘Sam Warburton is a special player. He is still captain. Ryan has been an integral member of the squad. He is like the father figure of the whole squad and his form for the Ospreys and Wales over the last 18 months has been exceptional.

Big call: Wales coach Rob Howley

Big call: Wales coach Rob Howley

‘One thing we probably lacked against
Argentina, having Alun Wyn Jones and Jamie Roberts injured, was
leadership, and that is about the number of leaders you have in a team.
Wales is not about the one captain, it’s about more leaders, whether
it’s the back three, second row or props. It is important you create
leadership within a group.’

The two players in the spotlight are flanker Justin Tipuric and
fly-half Dan Biggar. This is a first start for Biggar since 2010 but the
coaches feel ready to trust him in the playmaker slot. It is a big
chance to shine, with Rhys Priestland wavering and Dan Carter coming to
Cardiff in a week.

Tipuric has been pushing for the No 7 shirt for a year now, modestly
waiting in Warburton’s shadow.

He is a machine in training, scarcely
breaking breath, and has arguably been the outstanding openside in the
RaboDirect Pro 12 this season. He is a natural scavenger and his bright
blue scrum hat is a blur when he hits breakdown after breakdown.

Samoa have been quietly acclimatising in North Wales, beating Canada a
week ago in a double- header at Colwyn Bay. Their line-up includes
familiar faces, led by Worcester wing David Lemi, who will have a
fascinating and full-on battle with rivals George North and Alex
Cuthbert. Scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i will run out against some of his
Ospreys team-mates, with Northampton centre George Pisi taking on Jamie
Roberts.

Samoa assistant coach Darryl Suasua is realistic. ‘Argentina playing so well did not do us any favours,’ he said.

‘Wales will be smarting over that and making sure they get things right.
They made a heck of a lot of errors but we don’t believe they will play
like that again.’

Last year’s World Cup match against Samoa was a turning point for Wales. It needs to be the turning point again.

Rob Howley "disappointed" after Wales defeat to Argentina

Howley smoke! Wales head coach left 'disappointed, frustrated and annoyed'

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UPDATED:

18:33 GMT, 10 November 2012

Wales interim head coach Rob Howley admitted his side had been made to look lethargic by a battle-hardened Argentina after the Pumas claimed a stunning 26-12 win at the Millennium Stadium.

The Six Nations champions had led 9-6 at the break thanks to three Leigh Halfpenny penalties, with Felipe Contepomi slotting a penalty and Nicolas Sanchez landing a drop goal for the Pumas.

Turning the screw: Juan Imhoff scores a try for Argentina

Turning the screw: Juan Imhoff scores a try for Argentina

Match facts

WALES:

Penalties: Halfpenny (7, 14, 27, 48)

ARGENTINA:

Tries: Imhoff (54), Camacho (59)

Conversions: Sanchez (54, 59)

Penalties: Contepomi (4)

Drop goals: Sanchez (9. 52)

Halfpenny extended Wales' lead with a
fourth penalty early in the second half, but a penalty and drop goal
from Sanchez, plus converted tries for wings Juan Imhoff and Gonzalo
Camacho saw the visitors secure their second win over Wales in Cardiff,
11 years to the day after their first.

The defeat puts a major dent in
Wales' hopes of securing a top-four place in the world rankings ahead of
next month's 2015 World Cup draw, but they can have no qualms after
being exposed by Argentina.

And there looks set to be further bad
news for Howley with Jamie Roberts and Alun Wyn Jones picking up
injuries that put their involvement in the rest of the autumn series in
doubt.

Feeding frenzy: Argentina's Martin Landajo releases the ball

Feeding frenzy: Argentina's Martin Landajo releases the ball

The Pumas, for their part, look to
have quickly learnt the lessons of facing the All Blacks, Australia and
South Africa during their maiden Rugby Championship campaign, and a
frustrated Howley acknowledged the visitors appear to have moved their
game to a new level.

He said: 'I am disappointed, frustrated and annoyed because we know we are a better side than that.

'We talked about it being an arm wrestle for 50 minutes and we were 12-6 ahead but we looked one-paced.

Getting his kicks: Wales' Leigh Halfpenny (left) scores a penalty

Getting his kicks: Wales' Leigh Halfpenny (left) scores a penalty

'When you play Argentina, tempo, pace
and intensity are important but there is no doubt their experience and
exposure to the Rugby Championship has taken that Argentina side to
another level.

'They played the All Blacks, South
Africa and Australia over a six-week period and they have certainly
learned from that and we were exposed to it today and we very much came
second.'

Wales' chances were not helped when a
clearly concussed Roberts was helped off after a clash of heads with
Gonzalo Tiesi, while lock Jones was withdrawn with a shoulder problem
just before the break.

Going south: George North is tackled by Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (left)

Going south: George North is tackled by Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (left)

Howley said: 'Jamie has a bump on the
head, it's a mild concussion to say the least. Alun Wyn has done his AC
(joint) so we will have to wait on the medical opinion for that but it
does not look good at this time and it will test our strength in depth
and these next three games are very important.'

Assistant coach Shaun Edwards pulled
no punches in his assessment of the performance, and felt Wales had
badly missed the injured trio of centre Jonathan Davies, prop Adam Jones
and flanker Dan Lydiate, as well as Roberts after he went off.

Double trouble: Manuel Carizza (third right) looks to offload under pressure from Tavis Knoyle (right) and Toby Faletau (right)

Double trouble: Manuel Carizza (third right) looks to offload under pressure from Tavis Knoyle (right) and Toby Faletau (right)

He said: 'I definitely thought the
impact from the Argentina bench was better than ours. We went into the
game with certain personnel missing and it showed quite dramatically in
the last half hour.

'Both starting centres from the Grand
Slam were missing, we had our number six and number three missing and
it showed, and we have to get the other players up to pace as quickly as
possible.

'But it was obvious there is a
disparity at the moment between our first-choice XV and the players who
have got those positions now.'

Chip 'n' chase: Martin Landajo (left) kicks past Tavis Knoyle (right)

Chip 'n' chase: Martin Landajo (left) kicks past Tavis Knoyle (right)

Wales 12 Argentina 26: Halfpenny can"t keep pace as Pumas run riot

Wales 12 Argentina 26: Halfpenny can't keep pace as Pumas run riot

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UPDATED:

17:00 GMT, 10 November 2012

Wales' hopes of securing a top-four seeding in the 2015 World Cup nosedived after Argentina stunned them at the Millennium Stadium.

Eleven years to the day following Argentina's only previous victory over Wales in Cardiff, second-half tries from wings Juan Imhoff and Gonzalo Camacho left the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions reeling.

Turning the screw: Juan Imhoff scores a try for Argentina

Turning the screw: Juan Imhoff scores a try for Argentina

Match facts

WALES:

Penalties: Halfpenny (7, 14, 27, 48)

ARGENTINA:

Tries: Imhoff (54), Camacho (59)

Conversions: Sanchez (54, 59)

Penalties: Contepomi (4)

Drop goals: Sanchez (9. 52)

And to make matters worse, Wales also
suffered a double injury blow when centre Jamie Roberts and lock
Alun-Wyn Jones departed inside the opening 40 minutes.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked all
Wales' points, but they were outplayed by a Pumas team battle-hardened
from recent home and away appointments with New Zealand, Australia and
South Africa in the southern hemisphere's inaugural Rugby Championship.

Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez weighed in
with two drop-goals, two conversions and a penalty, while veteran centre
Felipe Contepomi kicked a penalty before he was forced off injured
after just 10 minutes. Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley – in charge
while Warren Gatland begins preparations for heading up next summer's
British and Irish Lions tour to Australia – will have been dismayed by
some of his side's lethargy.

It was Wales' fourth defeat on the
bounce, their first at home since last December and a loss that leaves
them with little chance of securing a top four ranking on which top
seeds will based prior to the World Cup draw early next month.

Feeding frenzy: Argentina's Martin Landajo releases the ball

Feeding frenzy: Argentina's Martin Landajo releases the ball

They have Samoa, New Zealand and
Australia still to come over the next three weeks, with Wales having not
beaten the All Blacks since 1953 and suffered seven successive defeats
at the Wallabies' hands.

And Wales' day was summed up three
minutes from time when substitute back-row forward Rob McCusker burst
through – but he blissfully ignored three unmarked team-mates outside
him.

Getting his kicks: Wales' Leigh Halfpenny (left) scores a penalty

Getting his kicks: Wales' Leigh Halfpenny (left) scores a penalty

It was the final misguided act by
Wales, with their players booed off by many in a 51,000-strong crowd.
Wales launched their autumn campaign without injured quartet Jonathan
Davies, Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and Ryan Jones, but Roberts returned
after knee surgery in a team that also included debutant prop Aaron
Jarvis.

Contepomi and Halfpenny exchanged
penalties during a low-key opening under the stadium's closed roof, but
there was an impressive tempo to Argentina's game that suggested they
meant business. Sanchez put them 6-3 ahead with a drop-goal after 10
minutes, and there was no immediate sign of Wales getting their
much-vaunted wide attacking game into gear.

The Pumas, though, suffered an injury
blow when Contepomi was carried off after being left dazed following a
midfield collision of bodies.

Going south: George North is tackled by Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (left)

Going south: George North is tackled by Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (left)

He was replaced by Joaquin Tuculet as
Halfpenny landed an equalising penalty. And the game's
fiercely-punishing trend did not end there as Roberts was helped away
midway through the half.

It looked as though he had been
knocked out following a collision with Pumas centre Gonzalo Tiesi, and
it meant an early entry for Perpignan's James Hook, who won his 66th
cap.

Halfpenny then completed his penalty
hat-trick, putting Wales in front for the first time, but it was
largely unconvincing rugby from the home side.

Playing their first Test match since
June, Wales looked rusty, although Hook's arrival injected a midfield
snap as the home side looked to free wings Alex Cuthbert and George
North.

Double trouble: Manuel Carizza (third right) looks to offload under pressure from Tavis Knoyle (right) and Toby Faletau (right)

Double trouble: Manuel Carizza (third right) looks to offload under pressure from Tavis Knoyle (right) and Toby Faletau (right)

But Wales suffered another injury
blow on the stroke of half-time when lock Jones was forced off clutching
his ribs, and Wales shaded a disappointing 40 minutes 9-6 in front.

With Contepomi off, Sanchez assumed
goalkicking duties, but his opening strike bounced back off the post as
Argentina dominated territory early in the second period.

Sanchez then had another opportunity
just two minutes later, albeit from longer range, and this time he
slipped on making contact with the ball and it fell well short of the
target.

Chip 'n' chase: Martin Landajo (left) kicks past Tavis Knoyle (right)

Chip 'n' chase: Martin Landajo (left) kicks past Tavis Knoyle (right)

Argentina, though, had served notice
to Wales they did not intend slipping off the pace, and the home side
needed some inspiration, rather than perspiration.

Halfpenny's fourth successful penalty
inched Wales further in front, but Sanchez dropped his second goal to
make it a three-point game again midway through the third quarter.

Wales could establish nothing in the
way of sustained momentum, and the Pumas showed them exactly what do
with quality possession when Imhoff sprinted over for a well-worked try
that Sanchez converted.

And it got worse for Wales just six
minutes later, with Imhoff's fellow wing Camacho the beneficiary this
time, finishing superbly in the corner despite Halfpenny's tackle.

Sanchez again converted, leaving Wales in grave danger of defeat unless they could stir during the closing quarter.

But when Sanchez slotted a penalty
nine minutes from time there was no way back for Wales, who delivered
comfortably their worst performance since folding to defeat against
France in Paris 20 months ago.

All 20 Premier League clubs will wear the poppy with pride on Remembrance Day

All 20 Premier League clubs will wear the poppy with pride on Remembrance Day

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UPDATED:

23:47 GMT, 2 November 2012

All 20 Barclays Premier League clubs will display a uniform poppy design on their shirts for the first time to mark Remembrance Day.

Every top-flight club will further show their support for the Poppy Appeal by donating all ‘Remembrance’ shirts to the British Legion for auction.

This year’s Poppy Appeal activities are even more poignant, with Armistice Day — November 11 — falling on Remembrance Sunday and all Premier League clubs have permission from the Royal British Legion to use the official Poppy on their shirts.

Wearing the poppy with pride: West Brom display their Remembrance shirts

Wearing the poppy with pride: West Brom display their Remembrance shirts

British Legion targets 42m record

The Poppy Appeal was launched in 1921 to raise funds to support the Royal British Legion’s charitable work and pay respect to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This year, the Legion aims to raise 42million, 2m more than 2011’s record-breaking total, when 46 million poppies were distributed. The first Premier League club to play in poppy-adorned shirts were Leicester City in 2003, and manager Micky Adams wanted it to become the permanent strip after his team won back-to-back games that November.

Sportsmail has also learned that England’s rugby team will wear poppies on their kit when they play Fiji at Twickenham next Saturday — but Scotland will not do so the following day.

The Scots have opted to take the field at Murrayfield on Remembrance Sunday with poppies on their tracksuits and not play the All Blacks in poppy-adorned shirts.

Fiji will also wear poppies on their playing kit for their clash with England.

Wales, who welcome Argentina to the
Millennium Stadium at the same time as England host Fiji, will wear
poppies sewn into their shirts.

The
All Blacks will be wearing poppies on their warm-up tracksuits for the
anthems at the Scotland match. And Australia will wear them against
France.

Show of support: West Brom's Liam Ridgewell (left) and Gareth McAuley pose with south Staffordshire community fundraiser Alison Bates

Show of support: West Brom's Liam Ridgewell (left) and Gareth McAuley pose with south Staffordshire community fundraiser Alison Bates

Football’s adoption of the poppy has been mired in controversy in recent years. England were prevented from wearing them on their kit against Spain at Wembley 12 months ago by world governing body FIFA.

Eventually, after a Sportsmail campaign
and statements from Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron, a
compromise was reached where the players wore specially manufactured
black armbands emblazoned with the poppy.

They also wore poppies printed on their anthem jackets and observed a period of silence before kick-off.

Respect: Wembley falls silent before kick-off last November

Respect: Wembley falls silent before kick-off last November

In 2009, Liverpool and Manchester United were the only top-flight clubs not to wear a poppy on their shirts, but in 2010 — the last time domestic fixtures fell on Remembrance weekend — every team sported the poppy.

Last year every Premier League club wore a poppy on the weekend of November 5-6, but there was no uniform design of the poppy.

Some
were printed on shirts, some embroidered and some fixed by heat
transfer. This year, after working with the Royal British Legion, who
run the Poppy Appeal, each strip will carry the same poppy design.

Poppy day: Gabby Agbonlahor in Aston Villa's shirt in 2011

Poppy day: Gabby Agbonlahor in Aston Villa's shirt in 2011

Most clubs will iron on printed poppies but a small number plan to carry an embroidered poppy.

A spokesman for the Royal British Legion said: ‘The Royal British Legion is extremely grateful for the support that the Premier League and the 20 clubs are giving the Poppy Appeal. We look forward to seeing players, managers and staff wearing their poppies with pride over the coming weekends.’