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Welsh fly-half Ceri Sweeney will join Exeter at the end of the season

Sweeney to swap Cardiff for Exeter in bid to make his mark on Premiership

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

10:36 GMT, 10 March 2013

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UPDATED:

10:36 GMT, 10 March 2013

Former Wales fly-half Ceri Sweeney will join Exeter at the end of the season, his current club Cardiff Blues have announced.

Sweeney has made over 100 appearances since joining the Blues from Newport Gwent Dragons in the summer of 2008, guiding them to the EDF Energy Cup in 2009 and the Amlin Challenge Cup the following year.

'I've really enjoyed my time with the Blues, they are a fantastic club and the supporters have been outstanding,' he said.

Talent: Ceri Sweeney played in the 2003 World Cup for Wales

Talent: Ceri Sweeney played in the 2003 World Cup for Wales

'For me, it's my home region and with the young players they have coming through the ranks, the future of the club certainly looks very bright.'

The 33-year-old will bring a wealth of experience with him to Sandy Park.

He made his debut for Wales in the 2003 Six Nations against England and also featured in two World Cups, winning a total of 35 caps for his club – the last of them in 2007.

Key man: Sweeney won 35 caps for his country in his international career

Key man: Sweeney won 35 caps for his country in his international career

Sweeney is now excited to make his mark in the Aviva Premiership.

'Exeter are a fantastic club and as soon as I heard they were interested in me, I was keen to talk to them and have a look around the place,' he added.

'Like a lot of people, I've watched how they have risen over the last few years and how they've made a real name for themselves, not just in the Premiership, but in Europe as well.

Longevity: Only the career of Stephen Jones prevented him from more caps

Longevity: Only the career of Stephen Jones prevented him from more caps

'It's an exciting move for me and my young family and it's a fresh challenge.

'I know it will be the first time I've played club rugby outside of Wales, but the thought of testing myself in the Premiership is something I'm really keen to do.'

Dan Lydiate o leave Newport Gwent Dragons for undisclosed European team

Lydiate latest Wales player to depart for France with flanker set for undisclosed European team

By
Chris Foy

PUBLISHED:

18:28 GMT, 5 December 2012

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UPDATED:

18:30 GMT, 5 December 2012

Dan Lydiate will join the continuing exodus of Wales players to France at the end of this season, but a similar mass migration of leading England stars appears to have been averted, for now.

Newport Gwent Dragons have confirmed that the 24-year-old flanker, who was Six Nations Player of the tournament last season, is leaving to join ‘an undisclosed European team’.

That team is thought to be Parisian club, Racing Metro, who are also recruiting Wales and Lions centre Jamie Roberts, along with Northampton props Brian Mujati and Soane Tonga’uiha.

Channel hopping: Dan Lydiate will join a European club next season

Channel hopping: Dan Lydiate will join a European club next season

However, it appears that the riches on offer across the Channel are not enticing England’s finest to abandon their Test careers with a home World Cup looming in 2015.

While a case could be made for Toulon pair Steffon Armitage and Andrew Sheridan to be recalled by Stuart Lancaster, the national coach is abiding by the RFU’s edict against selected overseas-based players and the hard-line stance appears to be having the desired effect.

Of the 15 players who started for England in last Saturday’s historic victory over the All Blacks at Twickenham, 13 are contracted to their Aviva Premiership clubs until at least the end of next season.

The same applies to other high-profile figures such as Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley, Toby Flood and Courtney Lawes.

With the age-profile of Lancaster’s side being so young, most of those in the Red Rose ranks appear content to stay put and continue to enhance their Test credentials. Just last month, the Youngs brothers – Ben and Tom, agreed new three-year deals with Leicester.

The two players who are coming out of contract at the end of the current campaign are Alex Corbisiero and Geoff Parling. While Corbisiero is understood to be poised for a move away from London Irish, his likely destination is Northampton.

Out of contract: Geoff Parling (second right) is considering his options

Out of contract: Geoff Parling (second right) is considering his options

Leicester lock Parling is considering his options and his Tigers director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, said: ‘For someone like Geoff Parling, who is out of contract, he has come from Newcastle and now he is starting for England. He will get offers bigger than ours, so it will be down to the good will of the player to say he likes playing for you, that he is really happy here trying to win something and that he will take 25 per cent less than he could get somewhere else.’

There is a strong possibility that Parling will choose to stay at Welford Road, but less likelihood of a further Welsh exodus being averted.

Cardiff Blues wing Alex Cuthbert – who was being paid just 15,000 per year at the time he was playing a key role in a Grand Slam triumph last season – is out of contract at the end of this season and once again he will be pursued by wealthy French suitors.

Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees is set to buck the trend by staying in regional rugby, with a summer switch to the Blues under consideration, but there is talk of several Wales players taking French lessons, in readiness for a move to a Gallic club.

Home comforts: Matthew Rees is likely to play his club rugby in Wales

Home comforts: Matthew Rees is likely to play his club rugby in Wales

The likes of Mike Phillips, Gethin Jenkins, Luke Charteris, James Hook and Lee Byrne are already playing in the Top 14 league, but Wales coach Warren Gatland has expressed concerns about the fitness training regimes over there.

‘Against New Zealand, Mike Phillips was blowing after 52 minutes – we had to get him off,’ said the Kiwi. ‘If they go to France, they take a risk that they won’t reach our standards and expectations.

‘They have a different philosophy and attitude in France. They’ve got quality players but their preparation and approach to everything is different. They tend to have one fitness coach who puts the programme up on the board and it is not monitored as heavily as it is in the UK and Ireland. That’s something we have to look at.

'Are they physically in the best shape to compete at the highest level even though they might be playing quite well in France’

Wales team to play New Zealand: Sam Warburton returns

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

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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.

Brian O"Driscoll and Rory Best out of Ireland autumn Tests

Ireland dealt huge blow with O'Driscoll and Best ruled out of autumn Tests

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UPDATED:

15:59 GMT, 30 October 2012

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll and hooker Rory Best have been ruled out of the upcoming Guinness Series fixtures against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina.

O'Driscoll suffered an ankle injury during Leinster's 59-22 over Cardiff Blues on Saturday and scans have revealed that the 33-year-old British and Irish Lion will require surgery to repair damaged ligaments.

The injury will require eight to 12
weeks rehabilitation so the centre should be back in time for the 2013
Six Nations Championship.

Crocked: O'Driscoll winces in pain as he receives treatment to his ankle during Leinster's clash against Cardiff Blues on Saturday

Crocked: O'Driscoll winces in pain as he receives treatment during Leinster's clash against Cardiff on Saturday

Best, 30, was also injured during a RaboDirect Pro12 game at the weekend competing for Ulster against Newport-Gwent Dragons. A scan revealed that Best has sprained ligaments in his neck and he will be be out for a period of four to six weeks.

Best's injury means that recently
qualified South Africa-born hooker Richardt Strauss is likely to start
the Guinness Series opener against the country of his birth on November
10.

Already stretched by the loss of Rob Kearney to a back problem, head coach Declan Kidney must re-examine his plans for the backline.

Keith Earls was a candidate to replace Kearney, but O'Driscoll's absence is likely to see him moved to outside centre.

That leaves winger Tommy Bowe or Felix Jones, who is short of game time after recently returning from injury, as the options for the number 15 jersey.

Lions skipper Paul O'Connell will take the captaincy and it will be hoped he avoids injury given Best is third choice for the leadership duties.

Blow: Ireland will be without two of their most experienced players in Best (left) and O'Driscoll

Blow: Ireland will be without two of their most experienced players in Best (left) and O'Driscoll

Blow: Ireland will be without two of their most experienced players in Best (left) and O'Driscoll

Mogliano 12 London Wasps 59

Mogliano 12 London Wasps 59: Visitors complete Italian job with minimum of fuss

PUBLISHED:

15:46 GMT, 21 October 2012

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UPDATED:

15:46 GMT, 21 October 2012

Star showing: Christian Wade

Star showing: Christian Wade

London Wasps made it two wins from two at the start of their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign with a comprehensive victory over Italian side Mogliano at the Stadio Maurizio Quaggia.

Wasps outscored their opponents nine tries to two, with winger Christian Wade crossing twice for the visitors and Tommy Bell, who started in the number 10 jersey after Stephen Jones and Nick Robinson failed late fitness tests, added seven conversions.

The victory leaves Wasps top of Pool Three on 10 points, one ahead of Bayonne, with Newport Gwent Dragons third on one point and Mogliano yet to get off the mark.

In their opening fixtures Wasps defeated Newport 38-25 while Mogliano were hammered 71-7 at Bayonne, so it was no surprise to see the Aviva Premiership side on top virtually from the start despite Dai Young making sweeping changes to last week's side.

Wasps opened their account in the seventh minute when hooker T Rhys Thomas scored the first try, and within 20 minutes Wasps were already almost out of sight after extending their lead to 21-0 through further converted tries from Jonathan Poff and Hugo Southwell.

Mogliano got on the scoreboard when Federico Maso touched down but that was a rare moment of joy for the hosts and Wasps added two more tries, through Wade and Andrea Masi, to make it 35-5 at the interval.

Young's men continued their domination in the second half with Ashley Johnson going over for the English side's sixth score in the 48th minute.

Mogliano scored the second try soon after through Ezio Galon, but at 42-12 down they were just playing for pride.

The 2003 tournament winners added three more tries in the final third of the match, with Wade notching his second and Tim Payne also going over.

Bell missed his first conversion of the match after Payne's score, and the fly-half was also off-target following Wasps' final try, scored by replacement Joe Launchbury in the last minute, although it matter little as a one-sided victory had been secured long before.

Mike Phillips Bayonne suspension lifted by club

Family matters for Phillips after seeing Bayonne suspension lifted by club

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UPDATED:

10:12 GMT, 10 October 2012

Wales star Mike Phillips was due to resume training with Bayonne after having his suspension lifted by the French club.

He was suspended 12 days ago and fined for what Bayonne described as unacceptable off-field behaviour.

But club chairman Alain Afflelou, administrators and coaching staff have now welcomed Phillips back into the fold.

Back in the fold: Phillips has returned after being banned by his club

Back in the fold: Phillips has returned after being banned by his club

'Mike Phillips is allowed to resume collective training from Wednesday, October 10,' the club said on its official website.

It is unlikely that Phillips will be involved in Friday night's Amlin Challenge Cup opener against Italian minnows Mogliano.

There is, though, a strong chance he could feature when Bayonne tackle Newport Gwent Dragons in Wales on Saturday week.

Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley is due to announce his squad for the autumn Tests on October 22, with Phillips a key part of his plans for game against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

Phillips' latest suspension came 15 months after the Welsh Rugby Union temporarily removed him from their 2011 World Cup training squad following a late-night incident in Cardiff city centre.

Christian Malcolm gives England run-out ahead of Cardiff ODI v South Africa

Marks, set, joke! Olymipc sprinter Malcolm gives England side proper run-out

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UPDATED:

20:36 GMT, 23 August 2012

England's running between the wickets verged on the dozy on the thrilling last day of the Lord's Test – so who better to sharpen them up than a professional sprinter

Step forward Christian Malcolm, the Cardiff-born 200 metres specialist who won silver at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona.

Change of sport: Christian Malcolm trained with the England squad ahead of their one-day international

Change of sport: Christian Malcolm trained with the England squad ahead of their one-day international

Change of sport: Christian Malcolm trained with the England squad ahead of their one-day international

Malcolm, who lives in Newport, South Wales, was invited to pass on sprinting techniques to England’s one-day squad by fitness coach Huw Bevan.

As well as demonstrating valuable skills, he soon had the players roaring with laughter.

Knees up: Malcolm (left) coaches Graeme Swann

Sprinter: Malcolm

Knees up: Malcolm (left), who lives in south Wales, coaches England spinner Graeme Swann in Cardiff

Captain Alastair Cook admitted: ‘I didn’t realise sprinters do such weird exercises, but it was quite funny watching Tim Bresnan running like Forrest Gump.’

London 2012 Olympics: Cycling – Wendy Houvenaghel lashes out

Shabby and vindictive! Bitter Houvenaghel lashes out at British cycling

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UPDATED:

22:25 GMT, 6 August 2012

Olympics 2012

British cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel has hit out at the snub by team management which denied her an Olympic gold medal.

The 37-year-old has been an integral member of a four-woman squad over the past 18 months with Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Laura Trott and she was expected to have at least one ride in the team pursuit.

Golden girls: (left to right) Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell

Golden girls: (left to right) Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell

Golden girls: (left to right) Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell

But despite Rowsell struggling with
illness hours before Saturday’s two rides, which yielded gold and a
world record, Houvenaghel was left out and will not qualify for a medal.

Houvenaghel said: ‘I feel
particularly aggrieved that the head coach (Shane Sutton) made the
decision to put in a rider who wasn’t 100 per cent well on the start
line twice.

‘Thankfully the girls did go on to
win but perhaps had I been allowed to do my job that world record could
have been faster. We had done faster times in training in Newport the
week before with me in the line-up.

Missing out: Houvenaghel (left) thought she was set to race in the final

Missing out: Houvenaghel (left) thought she was set to race in the final

‘I do feel I have been deliberately
omitted from that opportunity that was mine and the opportunity to bring
home a gold medal. It’s a very shocking and upsetting decision.

‘I’ve been treated really shabbily by
an organisation which I have been dedicated to for six years. To not
allow me to ride in a three-minute race, which I can do with my eyes
closed practically, and let me pick up my Olympic gold medal, was just
vindictive.’

Experienced: Houvenaghel won silver in the women's individual pursuit in Beijing

Experienced: Houvenaghel won silver in the women's individual pursuit in Beijing

Rugby legend Dr Jack Matthews dies aged 92

Welsh rugby mourns legendary Lion 'Iron Man' Matthews after death aged 92

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UPDATED:

00:58 GMT, 19 July 2012

Former Wales and British & Irish Lions centre Dr Jack Matthews has died at the age of 92.

Matthews, who won 17 caps for Wales and captained the team against France in Paris in 1951, played six Tests for the Lions on the 1950 tour of Australia and New Zealand, earning the nickname 'Iron Man' for his crash tackling.

A statement on Welsh Rugby Union website read: 'Legendary Welsh centre Dr Jack Matthews has died aged 92.

Rest in peace: Jack Matthews (bottom row, fifth from left) has died aged 92

Rest in peace: Jack Matthews (bottom row, fifth from left) has died aged 92

'Matthews was part of a legendary Welsh midfield partnership alongside Bleddyn Williams. The former Newport and Cardiff star Matthews was also a doctor on the 1980 Lions tour of South Africa.'

The Bridgend-born former Cardiff captain, whose career was curtailed by the Second World War, was made an OBE in 2001.

Matthews' former club Cardiff said in a statement: 'Cardiff Rugby is saddened to have learnt of the death of Dr Jack Matthews OBE aged 92.

'Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this sad time.'

Luton sell nearly 30,000 tickets for Wembley clash

Luton go Wembley crazy… nearly 30,000 Hatters fans have snapped up tickets for final

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UPDATED:

10:31 GMT, 18 May 2012

Luton Town are likely to have more supporters at Wembley for their Blue Square Premier play-off final this weekend than Blackpool will for their Championship showdown with West Ham.

The people of Luton will be out in force for the short journey to the national stadium on Sunday, with the club having sold nearly 28,000 tickets as of Thursday evening.

Heading to Wembley: Luton fans celebrate victory over Wrexham in their play-off semi-final

Heading to Wembley: Luton fans celebrate victory over Wrexham in their play-off semi-final

'The support has been truly unbelievable and we're delighted with the numbers we will have at Wembley on Sunday,' a Luton spokesman said.

'We're hoping to turn Wembley orange. Seventy per cent of the crowd will be Luton supporters and we're hoping it can act as the 12th man on the day.'

Luton have spent the past couple of decades outside the top flight, but sat proudly among the elite of the game for ten years between 1982 and 1992.

The Hatters famously won the League Cup with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Arsenal at Wembley in 1988. They also reached the final the following year, losing to Nottingham Forest.

For York City fans, who face a much longer journey to the final, this is a second trip to Wembley in as many weekends.

The Minstermen were in north London last Saturday for the FA Trophy final against Newport, which York won 2-0.

Going for the double: York players celebrate FA Trophy success last weekend

Going for the double: York players celebrate FA Trophy success last weekend

Meanwhile, Blackpool haven't sold out all their allocation for their match against West Ham on Saturday, with something in the region of 24,000 tickets snapped up for the match.

Blackpool are hoping for an instant return to the top flight under Ian Holloway. They charmed many observers with their performances in the Premier League last season, but were still relegated on the final day of the campaign.

West Ham are also looking for an immediate return to the Premier League. The Hammers are playing at Wembley for the first time since 1981, and will have at least 35,000 fans cheering them on.

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce said: 'There will be more than 35,000 there, more like 45,000, knowing our fans.

'Everybody has rung me for tickets. Fortunately the deadline has passed so if anyone is hearing this, I won't get you one any more.

'And if I catch players getting people tickets as well I will give a good dressing down because we have to focus on the job now.

'Tickets for family and friends is a massive distraction in a game like this.

'The lads put that to bed now – I don't think there are too many more tickets to be had – and we focus on the game now.'