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Keeping Nick Evans at Harlequins "boosts the English game", says Conor O"Shea

Keeping Evans at Harlequins 'boosts the English game', says purring O'Shea



22:57 GMT, 1 November 2012

Delighted Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea acclaimed Nick Evans’s decision to sign a new three-year contract as a coup not just for his club, but for the English game.

The 32-year-old former All Black fly-half, who joined from Otago in 2008, had been considering a raft of offers from France and Japan but, having been an integral part of Quins’ Aviva Premiership triumph last season and as a Kiwi who has happily settled into London life, he chose to extend his stay.

Staying on English shores: Nick Evans has penned a three-year deal with Quins

Staying on English shores: Nick Evans has penned a three-year deal with Quins

The news is a major boost to the club as they attempt to defend their title and mount a strong assault on the Heineken Cup, but O’Shea suggested there was even wider significance.

‘There is not a player, supporter or coach in the game in England, let alone Harlequins, who will not be delighted that Nick Evans has agreed to stay,’ he said.

‘The Premiership wants the best players playing in it and Nick is one of the very best. He contributes so much to this club.

‘While I know one of the main reasons he is staying revolves around his family, ultimately it is about his ambition to achieve things with this club. His decision to stay is a great early Christmas present for all Harlequins fans.’

Evans, who has amassed 1,184 points in 106 Quins games, said: ‘My decision was made easy by the ambition of this great club, the success we have had and the hunger for more. I will do my best to help the club stay one of the major forces in English and European rugby.’

Aussie wing Cameron Shepherd will make his Sale debut tonight, with Mark Cueto switching to the right, as the Premiership’s bottom club end a turbulent week with a showdown against 11th-placed London Irish at Salford City Stadium. Richie Gray returns to the home pack, while Marland Yarde starts for the Exiles after injury. They also include Scott Lawson and Darren Allinson.

Danny Care and James Haskell recalled to England team

Lancaster recalls Care and Haskell for series finale against South Africa



08:40 GMT, 21 June 2012

Danny Care and James Haskell will make their long-awaited international returns in England's third Test against South Africa on Saturday.

The pair were both included as head coach Stuart Lancaster named a team containing six personnel changes for the clash at Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Scrum-half Care was dropped earlier this year following a series of off-field incidents, while flanker Haskell has not played since the World Cup last autumn after opting to play domestic rugby in Japan and New Zealand.

Care and attention: The scrum-half has been recalled to the England team

Care and attention: The scrum-half has been recalled to the England team

England team to play South Africa

A Goode (Saracens); C Ashton (Northampton), J Joseph (London Irish), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton); T Flood (Leicester), D Care (Harlequins); A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Hartley (Northampton, capt), D Cole (Leicester), T Palmer (Stade Francais), G Parling (Leicester), T Johnson (Exeter), J Haskell (Otago Highlanders), T Waldrom (Leicester).

Replacements: L Mears (Bath), J Marler (Harlequins), M Botha (Saracens), P Dowson (Northampton), L Dickson (Northampton), O Farrell (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens).

Prop Alex Corbisiero and lock Tom
Palmer also return, while No 8 Thomas Waldrom and full-back Alex Goode
come in for their first full caps.

Care has been preferred to Lee Dickson, who is on the bench, after injury to Ben Youngs necessitated a change at scrum-half.

The 25-year-old Harlequins half-back
impressed on his one previous outing on the tour against the Southern
Barbarians in Kimberley last week. Haskell's opportunity has arisen
after influential captain Chris Robshaw was forced out of the match with
a broken thumb.

Return: Haskell hasn't played since the World Cup

Return: Haskell hasn't played since the World Cup

He will take the openside role with
Palmer coming in for Mouritz Botha. Waldrom replaces Ben Morgan at the
back of the scrum while Corbisiero, now fully recovered from a biceps
operation and a knee injury, takes over from Joe Marler at loosehead.

Goode's elevation to the team sees Ben Foden switch back to the wing from full-back with David Strettle dropping out.

Lancaster said: 'I am really pleased
for Alex. He has worked hard in training and has been pushing Mike
Brown and Ben Foden close so we are looking forward to him bringing his
footballing skills to this Test.

'Danny Care, likewise, has bided his
time in a very competitive position, knuckled down and deserves his
chance, as has James Haskell, who has played this season for the
Highlanders at No 7.

'We felt that the pack got some
momentum in the second half last week so we have gone for Alex and Tom
but I am sure Joe Marler and Mo Botha can make an impact from the

Centre Brad Barritt, who needed
stitches in a cut eyeball after the first Test, returns on the bench.
England are looking for a consolation win after defeats in the first two
Tests in Durban and Johannesburg.

Exclusive: England will turn to Marler, the first of the Mohicans, to face South Africa

Exclusive: England will turn to Marler, the first of the Mohicans, to face South Africa



21:16 GMT, 6 June 2012

Joe Marler went cage-diving at the local aquarium but on Saturday the Harlequins prop will be pitched into a drier but more dangerous Shark Tank as he makes his Test debut for England.

The Kings Park stadium in this city by the Indian Ocean has acquired that nickname as the home of the Natal Sharks Super 15 side. That is the forbidding arena where Marler must prove that for all his outlandish Mohican hair-style, he is a young prop of sufficient substance to stand up to the might of South Africa’s formidable pack.

There have been encouraging signs of progress in his scrummaging to complement ample skill in the loose, but that set-piece improvement must be in evidence against opponents who prioritise that staple of the game.

Hair apparent: Joe Marler's strong game in the loose and improving scrummaging has earned him a Test debut

Hair apparent: Joe Marler's strong game in the loose and improving scrummaging has earned him a Test debut

Head coach Stuart Lancaster will name the rookie loosehead in place of Alex Corbisiero, who is still recovering from a biceps operation, in a reshuffled side featuring another Test newcomer, Exeter flanker Tom Johnson.

How they line up

He will start at blindside on the back of a superb display against the Barbarians at the end of last month and in the enforced absence of established No 6s Tom Croft and Tom Wood. Johnson has been chosen ahead of James Haskell, who has considerable experience but is still settling in after his arrival from New Zealand, where he has been playing for Otago Highlanders.

Lancaster and his assistants, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt, have settled on a new-look back-three in light of David Strettle’s inability to train due to a lingering injury.

With the Saracens wing out of the equation for now, Ben Foden has been shifted out wide to make room for Mike Brown of Harlequins to cap a sensational season at club level by reclaiming the England No 15 shirt.

Elevation: Mike Brown (centre) will start as full back

Elevation: Mike Brown (centre) will start as full back

The 26-year-old has been recalled to the starting XV on the strength of his consistently accomplished form during Quins’ record-breaking, title-winning campaign in the Aviva Premiership, but also because he offers a left-footed kicking option and is another player at ease under the high ball.

In all, there are four changes to the XV who lined up for the Six Nations finale against Ireland at Twickenham which ended in a rousing 30-9 victory for the hosts.

Ben Youngs will be reinstated at scrum-half, ahead of Lee Dickson, with the Northampton No 9 to be included among the replacements. Despite his electric form for Quins in the latter part of the season, Danny Care is being made to show patience and persistence in his quest to win back his place.

Although Youngs has played so much of his best international rugby when in tandem with his Leicester half-back partner Toby Flood, the No 10 who is England’s most experienced player will have to bide his time as Owen Farrell is once again picked at fly-half.

Reinstated: Ben Youngs will be at scrum-half

Reinstated: Ben Youngs will be at scrum-half

After an off-key display against the Barbarians, the coaches will be closely scrutinising his contribution in open play, seeking signs of greater assurance and authority. What they will expect is that the young Saracen can punish any Springbok indiscretions with reliable goal-kicking.

Outside Farrell will be the familiar and reassuring figure of Brad Barritt, who will relish a return to his home city and the stadium where he played many times for the Sharks.

He will provide the defensive ballast while Manu Tuilagi’s primary objective at outside centre will be to generate attacking momentum with his strong running in midfield.

Up front, Ben Morgan has recovered from a hamstring injury to retain his place at No 8 alongside Johnson and captain Chris Robshaw. Mouritz Botha is the other South Africa-born player in England’s starting ranks for this game, while Geoff Parling will be charged with orchestrating the destruction of the Boks’ previously-renowned lineout.

Sink or swim Geoff Parling will play in the first Test

Sink or swim Geoff Parling will play in the first Test

Completing the pack are the established pair of Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole at hooker and tighthead prop.

While there are several Test rookies in this England side for such a daunting assignment, South Africa have a callow look too, with three debutant forwards — locks Juandre Kruger and Eben Etzebeth, and flanker Marcell Coetzee.

Yet, Etzebeth is particularly highly regarded as an abrasive ‘enforcer’ in the Bakkies Botha mould and Heyneke Meyer, the Boks coach, said that the 20-year-old from Cape Town could be even better than the notorious hard man whose shoes he is trying to fill.

Otago to be placed in liquidation

New Zealand to lose All Black breeding ground as Otago go into liquidation

The Otago Rugby Union will be placed in liquidation on Friday, potentially winding up one of New Zealand's strongest provincial teams, who have produced 156 All Blacks in 131 years.

The Dunedin-based union are due to report a loss of several hundred thousand New Zealand dollars to its annual meeting after years of deficits and while facing almost NZ$2 million (1m) in negative equity.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew and Otago union chairman Wayne Bennett told a news conference on Monday that there was no choice but to call in liquidators.

The Otago Highlanders, home to several All Blacks including Andrew Hore and Jimmy Cowan, as well as England's James Haskell, will continue to play in the Super 15 competition as they are operated by a separate and independent organisation.

Breeding ground: Jimmy Cowan plays for the Otago Highlanders, who are unaffected by the liquidation

Breeding ground: Jimmy Cowan plays for the Otago Highlanders, who are unaffected by the liquidation

'The situation at Otago is unprecedented in our history,' Tew said. 'We have been working hard to avoid this outcome.

'That is why NZRU appointed a specialist late last year to develop a recovery plan and negotiate with affected parties and also why we provided interim finance to ORFU of NZ$200,000 (105,000) over the last two months.

Tew said the NZRFU was were all prepared to help, but in the end, the financial hole was just too big.

'The union had debts of NZ$2.35m (1.25m) and was facing a significant shortfall in revenue this year. Quite simply, it has run out of money and could not trade out of its difficulties.'

Tew said negotiations were taking place with contracted players and sponsors to determine whether Otago could enter a team in New Zealand's national provincial championship later this year. Otago are one of New Zealand's top-four provinces after Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury and their absence would send shockwaves through New Zealand rugby.

Famous son: 1987 World Cup-winning captain David Kirk played for Otago

Famous son: 1987 World Cup-winning captain David Kirk played for Otago

The current board of directors of the Otago union is expected to be dismissed.

'The Otago RFU was a sovereign legal entity, like all unions, managing its own affairs,' Tew said.

'A number of attempts were made to recover the situation. We will now discuss with all interested parties the way forward from here in terms of future arrangements for delivering rugby across the region.'

Monday's announcement is likely to raise concerns throughout New Zealand rugby that if a province as large and established as Otago can fail, others my not be far behind. Many large provincial unions are wrestling with debt as they face the expanding cost of player salaries while revenue from ticket sales and sponsorship declines.

Otago are one of New Zealand's proudest provinces, having won the national championship twice in its current format. They has been the home province of players such as David Kirk, captain of the first All Blacks team to win the Rugby World Cup, and Jeff Wilson, who represented New Zealand at both rugby and cricket.