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Dylan Hartley to face a disciplinary hearing after citing for striking Rory Best

Hartley's discipline problems back in the spotlight after citing for striking Ulster's Best in cup defeat

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UPDATED:

00:02 GMT, 11 December 2012

Dylan Hartley is in hot water again, this time for striking rival hooker Rory Best in Friday’s Heineken Cup clash between Northampton and Ulster.

The England hooker, who has served lengthy bans for gouging and biting offences in his turbulent career, is set to face a disciplinary hearing this week after he was cited by French match commissioner Jean-Claude Legendre.

This latest charge is not as serious but his poor disciplinary record might well lengthen his ban if he is found guilty. The International Rugby Board recommends a suspension of from two to eight weeks, depending on the severity of the incident.

Trouble ahead: Dylan Hartley (second left) has been cited for an incident during Morthampton's 25-6 defeat to Ulster in the Heineken Cup on Friday

Trouble ahead: Dylan Hartley (second left) has been cited for an incident during Morthampton's 25-6 defeat to Ulster in the Heineken Cup on Friday

Immediately after Northampton had lost
25-6 to Ulster, Hartley denied that he had been involved in any
incident. But TV pictures highlighted how the pair enveloped each other
after Best had tackled Hartley in the 64th minute.

The flare-up ended when the Northampton player lashed out at the Ireland star, who was not hurt.

Hartley missed England’s autumn games
because of a knee injury and only returned to action two weeks ago. The
injury followed his eight-week suspension last April after he was found
guilty of biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris on the arm in England’s
Six Nations win.

Hartley, 26, has been backed by
England forwards coach Graham Rowntree, who said the hooker had worked
hard to improve his discipline following a 26-week ban for a gouging
offence against Wasps players James Haskell and Jonny O’Connor in April
2007.

England v Australia: Chris Ashton out to stun Wallabies again

Hang on to your hats! Try-hero Ashton out to stun the Wallabies again

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UPDATED:

00:54 GMT, 17 November 2012

Remember Ashton's memorable try

Click here to relive the magic moment

England are determined to kick-start a new era of home rule over the southern-hemisphere superpowers by claiming a third consecutive victory against Australia at Twickenham today.

When the Wallabies were last in town, Chris Ashton scored one of the great length-of-the-field tries and Stuart Lancaster's men go into the second of four QBE Internationals this autumn as favourites to beat the Wallabies and maintain the momentum established in the rout of Fiji last Saturday.

As the national team concluded their preparations yesterday, there was a clear desire to end a prolonged cycle of failure against the world’s top three nations.

Hat's your lot: Ashton returns to the scene of one of the game's most memorable scores

Hat's your lot: Ashton returns to the scene of one of the game's most memorable scores

Since their 2003 World Cup triumph, England have claimed just four wins at home against the combined might of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand — losing 11 times. ‘It is about time we started beating these teams coming over in the autumn,’ said coach Graham Rowntree.

‘We’re going in the right direction, we’ve got a good feeling about what we’re doing, we’ve got good leadership, but the proof is in the pudding. ‘We’ve got to start beating these teams at Twickenham.

The big three southern-hemisphere teams have an equal standing to me and they would be significant scalps for us. ‘We beat Australia here two years ago — a great victory — but this game will be a real marker of where we’re going and how good we are going to be.’

England expects: The hosts are hopeful of victory at rugby HQ

England expects: The hosts are hopeful of victory at rugby HQ

With the Springboks and All Blacks looming in England’s last two autumn matches, captain Chris Robshaw adopted a similar tone about the need to make Twickenham a feared venue again.

‘We always speak about the era leading up to 2003 when it was a fortress — teams came here and didn’t get much,’ he said. ‘Of course, that’s what we want but that doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a long time to create that atmosphere and that aura around the place. Our aim is to have that again.’

Robshaw suggested there is an edge to any encounter between England and Australia, adding: ‘The rivalry between the countries in all sport, whether it’s cricket or rugby, is brilliant. It’s exciting for the fans and as players you want to be part of that rivalry.’

Magic moment: Ashton dashed the length of the pitch to score this try against the Aussies two years ago

Magic moment: Ashton dashed the length of the pitch to score this try against the Aussies two years ago

Warren Gatland confirmed as British and Irish Lions boss for Australia 2013 tour

Gatland braced for 'hardest challenge' after being confirmed as Lions boss for Aussie tour

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UPDATED:

10:46 GMT, 4 September 2012

Warren Gatland is prepared for 'one hell of a challenge' after being confirmed as the British and Irish Lions head coach for the 2013 tour of Australia.

Gatland was the outstanding candidate for the post after leading Wales to the semi-finals of the 2011 Rugby World Cup and last season's Grand Slam triumph.

The Lions will tackle Australia in a three-Test series as part of a 10-match tour, which opens with a fixture against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1.

Aussie rules: Wales coach Gatland will lead the British and Irish Lions on their tour of Oz

Aussie rules: Wales coach Gatland will lead the British and Irish Lions on their tour of Oz

'There is no question it will be one hell of a challenge,' Gatland said. 'Playing in the southern hemisphere is one of rugby's hardest challenges. The Lions came close in South Africa (in 2009) and our ambition is to win the series in 2013 – and I believe we have the players to do that.'

Gatland, 48, will coach Wales in their autumn Tests against New Zealand and Australia but otherwise he will be seconded full-time to the Lions.

Gatland is expected to confirm his full coaching team in October and it would be a surprise if the likes of Graham Rowntree and Shaun Edwards are not involved.

All three were part of the 2009 Lions management in South Africa and received the backing of head coach Ian McGeechan to carry the torch to Australia.

'I am really honoured to have been asked to take the position of head coach,' Gatland added. 'I really enjoyed the experience as one of the assistant coaches in 2009 and since then have harboured the ambition to lead the tour to Australia next year.

'Over the coming months I will give careful consideration to the make-up of my coaching staff and of course the playing squad itself.

Into battle: Tour manager Andy Irvine with Lions head coach Gatland at the announcement

Into battle: Tour manager Andy Irvine with Lions head coach Gatland at the announcement

Lions Tour Fixtures 2013

Barbarians – June 1, Hong Kong

Western Force – June 5, Perth

Queensland Reds – June 8, Brisbane

Comb NSW-Queensland Country – June 12, Newcastle

NSW Waratahs – June 15, Sydney

ACT Brumbies – June 18, Canberra

Australia – June 22, Brisbane

Melbourne Rebels – June 25, Melbourne Jun

Australia – June 29, Melbourne

Australia – July 6, Sydney

'A Lions tour is unique, it is the ultimate career pinnacle for coaches and players. I want to ensure that we get the tour environment right so that we are hugely competitive and that our fans are proud of the team.'

The Lions had initially planned to hold the announcement in April but were forced into a delay after Gatland broke both his heels in a fall at his house in Waikato.

'It has been no secret that after the initial selection process, Warren was our preferred candidate,” tour manager Andy Irvine.

'We naturally had to ensure he was fit to take up the post. Those concerns have now been addressed.

'Warren has an outstanding coaching record and he has been fully embedded in rugby in the UK and Ireland since 1989.'

Gatland coached Ireland for three years between 1998 and 2001 before taking charge at Wasps, where he won a hat-trick of Premiership titles and the Heineken Cup.

In 2006, he moved back to New Zealand and coached his native Waikato to the New Zealand provincial title before Wales came calling.

Gatland took charge of a Wales side that had just crashed out of the pool stages of the World Cup and he made an immediate impact, guiding them to the first of two Grand Slam titles during his tenure.

The second was this year and it followed hot on the heels of Wales' greatest World Cup performance since 1987, when they came agonisingly close to beating France to earn a place in the final.

Gatland will become the second New Zealander to lead the Lions on tour to Australia, after Graham Henry's failed attempt to beat the Wallabies in 2001.

Rob Howley led Wales on their summer tour of Australia in Gatland's injury-enforced absence and will continue in that role through the 2013 RBS 6 Nations.

Revenge: The Lions - under Sir Graham Henry and Martin Johnson - lost the 2001 series 2-1

Revenge: The Lions – under Sir Graham Henry and Martin Johnson – lost the 2001 series 2-1

Warren Gatland- factfile

1963: Born September 17 in Waikato, New Zealand

1986: Made his debut for Waikato in the New Zealand provincial championship as a hooker, having switched from a number eight at the age of 21.

1988: Helped Waikato beat the touring Wales team and won his first All Blacks call-up, for the tour to Australia in 1988 and became a regular in the squad.

1994: Retired from playing having made a record number of appearances for Waikato (140) and 17 for the All Blacks, although he never won a Test cap, with his path blocked by Shaun Fitzpatrick.

1996: Coached Connacht for two seasons.

1998: Appointed Ireland head coach.

2001: Appointed Wasps director of rugby and kept the club in the Premiership.

2003: Wasps won Premiership title and Parker Pen European Shield.

2004: Wasps won Premiership title and the Heineken Cup.

2005: Wasps won Premiership title.

2006: Coached Waikato to the New Zealand provincial championship.

2007: Appointed Wales head coach, replacing Gareth Jenkins after Wales had crashed out in the pool stages of the World Cup.

2008: Coached Wales to the Six Nations, including their first win against England at Twickenham for 20 years.

2009: Appointed British and Irish Lions forwards coach for the tour of South Africa. The Lions were beaten 2-1.

2010: Signed a new four-year contract with the Welsh Rugby Union that included a sabbatical to cover the summer of 2013.

2011: Coached Wales to the semi-finals of the World Cup, their best performance since the inaugural tournament in 1987.

2012: Wales won their second Grand Slam in Gatland's tenure.
September 4 – Confirmed as British and Irish Lions head coach for 2013 tour of Australia.

Matt Stevens retires from England duty

Stevens calls time on England career to focus on Saracens

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UPDATED:

14:42 GMT, 9 August 2012

England prop Matt Stevens has retired from international rugby.

The Saracens forward has won 44 caps for his country and played at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups.

But the 29-year-old feels he cannot commit himself through to the next World Cup in England in 2015, and has chosen to step down from Test duty and focus his efforts on club rugby.

All over: Matt Stevens has brought the curtain down in his international career

All over: Matt Stevens has brought the curtain down in his international career

He said in an RFU statement: 'This is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make. Playing for England has been the ultimate honour and I have been very privileged and proud to wear the white shirt and play with some great players.'

Stevens added: 'I believe England under (head coach) Stuart (Lancaster), Graham (Rowntree) and Andy (Farrell) are heading in the right direction towards 2015 and I remain a huge supporter of what they are doing.

'But I have a young family and, conscious that I would not be able to commit to the World Cup in three years, I have decided that the time is right to call it a day and to focus on my rugby at Saracens.'

Stevens had been named in Lancaster's Elite Player Squad for the coming season, and the head coach will need to choose a replacement for the 2005 Lions tourist.

Club man: Stevens has decided to concentrate on his Saracens career

Club man: Stevens has decided to concentrate on his Saracens career

Lancaster said: 'On behalf of England Rugby I want to thank Matt for his contribution over the years. He should look back on his international career with pride. I am sure he will continue to be successful with Saracens and beyond.'

Stevens, then with Bath, made his England debut on the 2004 summer tour to New Zealand and his strong scrummaging and prominence in the loose quickly made him a regular.

But his career was almost destroyed in January 2009 when he tested positive for cocaine following a Heineken Cup game against Glasgow the previous month.

European Rugby Cup (ERC) imposed a two-year ban on Stevens for his drug offence but he vowed to return to the game when his suspension ended in January 2011.

Saracens announced the signing of the South-Africa born forward a full year before his return, and he quickly made an impact once back in action.

He helped his new side secure the Premiership title and he was rewarded by returning to the international fold with the England Saxons squad last summer.

He resumed his Test career in England's World Cup warm-up matches, subsequently winning a place in the squad for the tournament in New Zealand.

He appeared off the bench in all five of last season's RBS 6 Nations fixtures, but missed the tour of South Africa with a shoulder injury.

Andy Farrell rejoins England"s coaching staff

Lancaster gets his man as Farrell rejoins England's coaching staff

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UPDATED:

10:22 GMT, 28 June 2012

Andy Farrell is to rejoin the England coaching team on July 2, the Rugby Football Union have announced.

Farrell has signed a contract through to January 2016 and he will take charge of England's backs and defence for their tilt at World Cup glory on home soil in 2015.

The former dual international was part of Stuart Lancaster's interim coaching team for this year's RBS Six Nations, which guided England to second place in the championship.

England return: Andy Farrell is back in the coaching set-up

England return: Andy Farrell is back in the coaching set-up

Farrell initially decided his
coaching future lay with Saracens, who had released him on secondment to
England, but changed his mind at the end of the Aviva Premiership
season.

'I loved every minute of coaching
England and working with Stuart and Graham Rowntree and this group of
players in the Six Nations and to get the opportunity to do it
permanently is a dream,' said Farrell.

'I have watched England in South
Africa and I am massively excited about the potential that was clearly
evident in the three Tests and midweek matches.

'I had seven very special years with
Saracens and the club will always have a fond place in my heart. I am
grateful for the help they have given me as a player and a coach and I
wish everyone involved the best in the future.'

Back in the fold: Farrell with Lancaster at an England training session back in January

Back in the fold: Farrell with Lancaster at an England training session back in January

Farrell was replaced for England's
summer tour of South Africa by Mike Catt, who is still under
consideration for a role in an expanded four-man senior coaching team.

'I will continue to review the
make-up of the coaching team over the next few weeks to ensure that
England has the best structure and personnel,' Lancaster said.

'I am delighted that we have got Andy
on board. He is a special coach and an individual and the way this team
has developed is a testament to the foundations that we laid in the Six
Nations.

'Andy, Graham and myself work well
together and I am looking forward to carrying on that close relationship
over the next three-and-a-half years as we build towards a home World
Cup.'

England coach Stuart Lancaster calls for attitude at altitude

Lancaster calls for attitude at altitude as England seek to hit new heights

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UPDATED:

19:59 GMT, 15 June 2012

England will attempt to harness a
healthy dose of fear at the Springboks' stronghold of Ellis Park
to keep this Test series alive.

However brutal and draining the
experience of losing 22-17 to the host nation in the first Test in Durban last Saturday, Stuart Lancaster's players are braced for an
altogether more arduous ordeal here at altitude on the Highveld when
they bid to defy the odds and produce an upset.

In your face: England will face a hostile crowd in Johannesburg

In your face: England will face a hostile crowd in Johannesburg

S Africa VS England

Some 6,000ft above sea level, the reshuffled, raw national team must contend with the thin air that will burn their lungs. There is also the small matter of the heavyweight Bok artillery of thunderous ball carrying and sustained aerial barrage.

Whatever the opposition hurl at England, it will be matched by the stifling intensity of the occasion at the Johannesburg venue renowned for the hostility of the home crowd. South Africa have a 70 per cent success rate at the stadium, which staged the 1995 World Cup final when the Boks ambushed favourites New Zealand to claim the Webb Ellis Cup. That episode enhanced the forbidding aura at Ellis Park, but the Lions won 28-9 there in 2009.

Graham Rowntree, the England forwards coach who was part of the management team then, hopes that England will be galvanised by playing here. 'It is an inspiring place – the Springboks' spiritual home,' he said. 'That's the beauty of these young men playing in these big stadiums steeped in history – it's such a great experience for them.

'I have fantastic memories of going there with the Lions and winning three years ago and I would love this to be as great an occasion as that was,' added Rowntree.

'You have to be turned on by the fear of going to play in these big stadiums in front of passionate home support. We have to use that to drive us on.'

High point: Chris Robshaw knows England are up against it

High point: Chris Robshaw knows England are up against it

As for the altitude factor, England have been at pains to play down its significance. However, the midweek team sampled the Highveld air on Wednesday. Test captain Chris Robshaw said: 'It's pretty tough. They passed on their experience of it and we've been training at altitude, but we won't really know what it's like until we get out there.'

Familiarity means that the conditions will work in favour of the hosts – assisting their lethal kicking game as the ball travels further – and they are more used to adjusting accordingly. England kicked and chased poorly last week, and they know that aspect of their game must improve.

Gamble: Stuart Lancaster has had to make changes

Gamble: Stuart Lancaster has had to make changes

Given the adventurous team selected by Lancaster and his assistants, the hope is that England will play with more attacking purpose and freedom and avoid becoming embroiled in another arm-wrestling contest. Robshaw alluded to that, saying: 'We played into their hands a bit last week. We have to have more balance. We need to move them round more and focus on what we are good at by playing with tempo.'

Toby Flood has been recalled to unlock the potential in the new-look back line by playing flat and opening gaps with subtle, clever distribution. One of the men aiming to benefit from his passing is London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph, who is making his full Test debut. The 21-year-old is determined to stay true to his attacking tendencies as he forms a new combination with Manu Tuilagi.

'It would be pointless being on the
pitch if I wasn't going to give it a real go,' said Joseph. 'I'm going
to stick to my game and hopefully it'll go well. They're big boys but
I'm ready to challenge them. I'm looking forward to it. I want to go
out there and prove a point.'

England are in enforced experimentation mode following the injuries to Brad Barritt and Mike Brown.

Adversity has created an opportunity and the 10-12-13 area now has a
balanced and potent look about it, although such optimism is based on
mere theory at this stage.

Nevertheless, the management have been bold in their selection so now
it just remains to be similarly daring in on-field intent. England will
not beat the Boks in a tight tussle, so they must aim to stretch them
in the wide areas.

Yet, as
is always the case, they can do so only from a solid platform. Rowntree
admitted that last week's effort in the scrum was 'unacceptable', so the
visitors are bound to be better in that crucial area this time.

They also need a strong carrying contribution from No 8 Ben Morgan, along with – at some stage – Thomas Waldrom, who was yesterday promoted to the bench after Phil Dowson withdrew with a tight hamstring.

However, even in likely defeat, England can provide hope for the future, as long as the onus shifts from being reactive to proactive, from absorbing to threatening, from containing to challenging.

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

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UPDATED:

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.

Andy Farrell set to join England coaching staff

Andy on board: Farrell quits Saracens and he'll fly to South Africa to watch his son

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 1 June 2012

Andy Farrell will be at Kings Park in Durban next Saturday when England face South Africa but as a parent not as a coach, despite his shock resignation from Saracens clearing the way for a rapid return to the national management team.

The 37-year-old former Great Britain rugby league captain notified his club on Thursday night he would be stepping down from his post as head coach, just six weeks after rejecting a long-term role in Stuart Lancaster’s England hierarchy.

While the timing of his decision, which the club referred to as a ‘surprise’, prompted speculation he could be hastily summoned for the three-Test series against the Springboks, that scenario has been ruled out.

Reunited Andy Farrell (right) looks set to join Stuart Lancaster's England backroom staff

Reunited Andy Farrell (right) looks set to join Stuart Lancaster's England backroom staff

Instead, Farrell is due to travel to Durban late next week to watch his son, Owen, take part in the series opener. It is understood he also plans to attend the second Test in Johannesburg.

But RFU sources were at pains to say the cross-code international, who worked with Lancaster and Graham Rowntree during the Six Nations, will not be there in an official capacity as he has not been offered a contract.

In addition, the RFU are adamant no informal negotiations have taken place with Farrell since he turned down their rather laboured approach in April. The official line is he has simply had a personal, unprompted change of heart, yet the idea that he has quit a job he enjoyed without being sure of imminent employment elsewhere is distinctly far-fetched.

Sportsmail has learned the union planned to advertise a coaching position in an attempt to show the recruitment process would be an open one, but Farrell resigned knowing that the vacancy would have his name on it. In theory, Saracens could force him to serve a six-month notice period, but they have already installed Kevin Sorrell as a new backs coach and the reality is that club and governing body will resume talks over a financial settlement.

Practice: Thomas Waldrom in action during the England training session

Practice: Thomas Waldrom in action during the England training session

The RFU are likely to offer to pay no more than the 60,000 which would cover Farrell’s notice period.

Out in South Africa, Lancaster found his team’s first full day on tour hijacked by this dramatic development back at home.

He insisted neither he nor his employers have had any impact in Farrell’s change of heart, and any decision on him being recruited by England long-term would wait until after the series. ‘There’s been a bit of speculation back in England about Andy Farrell but I can say now he won’t be joining the coaching team out here in South Africa. I said when Mike (Catt) was appointed that we will look at the coaching team at the end of the tour and that will remain the same.

‘I’ve not spoken to Andy about the coaching position since before I got the job as permanent head coach. I’ve spoken to him about selection and matters to do with Saracens, but I am not sure what his situation is. As far as I know, there has been no contact whatsoever (between RFU and Farrell) — you would have to ask Andy about his decision.’

Listen up! Mike Catt, the England backs coach issues instructions

Listen up! Mike Catt, the England backs coach issues instructions

Such was Lancaster’s determination to retain Farrell’s services after the Six Nations, his appointment on a long-term basis is a mere formality, although the head coach remained cagy on that subject, adding: ‘Andy did a great job during the Six Nations and I rate him highly, but I’m not sure when he will be available. I’m pretty open-minded about the whole thing.’

Since Farrell said an initial ‘no’ to England, Lancaster made a bold pitch to lure ex-All Blacks coach Wayne Smith, only for the Kiwi to reject his offer too.

He turned to Catt as a new addition for the tour — with the incentive of being considered for a longer deal if he could impress in South Africa.

Now, Catt knows he is making his personal pitch without even knowing if a four-man coaching set-up will be deemed the best way forward.

‘I said all along that I would review the coaching team after the tour and part of that is assessing how it integrated, to see if it would be best to have three or four of us,’ Lancaster told Sky Sports News.

Jump!: Mouritz Botha of England catches the lineout ball during training

Jump!: Mouritz Botha of England catches the lineout ball during training

Catt himself added: ‘It is nothing for me to worry about. I have a Test series and midweek matches to prepare for. It is one of those things that happen — I’ve got a job to do and I will do it.’

Wasps’ lock-cum-flanker Joe Launchbury will fly home at the weekend after failing to recover from a knee injury sustained in training prior to England’s departure. He will be replaced by Jamie Gibson of London Irish.

Meanwhile, Gloucester are expected to announce that Nigel Davies will join them from the Scarlets as new head coach.

London Welsh are thought to have had an approach from Crystal Palace FC about the possibility of using a tenancy agreement at their Selhurst Park stadium. It would form part of the Championship winners’ challenge against the decision to deny them promotion to the Aviva Premiership.

Andy Farrell leaves Saracens and could return to England

Farrell walks out on Saracens and opens door to England return

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UPDATED:

10:45 GMT, 1 June 2012

Andy Farrell has walked out on Saracens leaving him open to a return to the England coaching set up.

The former backs coach rejected the chance to join Stuart Lancaster coaching set up in April in order to stay with the club out of loyalty, but Farrell told Saracens he has had second thoughts and wanted to leave as soon as possible, according to The Times.

It is not known if he will be able to join up with England before their tour of South Africa starts.

Saracens chairman Nigel Wray, said: 'We are sorry to see Andy leave, and we wish him well in the future.'

Back to England Andy Farrell could be set for a return to international coaching after leaving Saracens

Back to England Andy Farrell could be set for a return to international coaching after leaving Saracens

The 36-year-old, whose son Owen is an integral part of the new-look England squad that Lancaster has been building, has told the club that he will serve a six-month notice period.

But it is not known if Saracens will
make him serve his notice period or not knowing that he is set on
returning to the England set up.

The RFU’s initially offered 60,000 in compensation to Saracens and the drawn out of negotiations made Farrell think twice about a full-time role with England.

Saracens will likely demand the maximum compensation for their head coach who has two years remaining on his contract.

Key member: Stuart Lancaster was keen to have Andy Farrell in his coaching team

Key member: Stuart Lancaster was keen to have Andy Farrell in his coaching team

After being unable to agree a deal to land Farrell, Lancaster and the RFU turned to Mike Catt who was appointed as interim attack coach to join Graham Rowntree for the five-match tour to South Africa.

Lancaster was hugely disappointed that Farrell, whom he holds in the highest regard, had slipped through the net.

However, contact was recently re-opened behind the scenes, culminating in Friday’s revelation and Farrell’s departure which will leave relations between the club and the RFU at an all-time low.

Phil Dowson will captain England against Barbarians

Dowson will lead the way for England in Barbarians clash in absence of Robshaw

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UPDATED:

14:16 GMT, 23 May 2012

Phil Dowson will captain England in Sunday's non-cap international against the Barbarians at Twickenham.

The Northampton No 8 takes over the reins from Test skipper Chris Robshaw, who leads Harlequins against Leicester in the Aviva Premiership final the previous day.

Dowson has been a senior figure in Stuart Lancaster's England squad, even after losing his place in the starting side to Ben Morgan during the RBS 6 Nations.

Charge: Phil Dowson runs with the ball during training

Charge: Phil Dowson runs with the ball during training

With Morgan recovering from a hamstring injury, Dowson will start against a star-studded Barbarians side and he has been chosen as captain ahead of his club skipper Dylan Hartley.

'Phil is one of the key members of out leadership group. He will captain the team on Sunday,' said England forwards coach Graham Rowntree.

Hartley is set to play his first game since the Six Nations after serving an eight week ban for biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris.

Rowntree believes Hartley is a future England captain but this weekend wanted the Northampton hooker to concentrate on his scrummaging.

'The fact he has been out for eight weeks, I want Dylan to focus on playing, to focus on his game and not be saddled with captaincy issues,' Rowntree said.

Dowson's elevation is a reward for his leadership during the Six Nations as a new-look England team defied the odds to finish second in the championship.

And that ability to galvanise a new team is particularly important this week, with 18 members of the touring squad absent on Premiership final duty.

Return and absence: Dylan Hartley (left) makes his comeback, while Chris Robshaw (second left) is out

Return and absence: Dylan Hartley (left) makes his comeback, while Chris Robshaw (second left) is out

'Phil coped with the disappointment (of losing his place in the team) very well. That is the mark of Phil Dowson,' Rowntree said.

'He took it on the chin and we all saw the rise of Ben Morgan towards the end of the Six Nations so it wasn't easy for him.

'But he took it on the chin and never stopped giving his experience to the younger guys and giving to the group. He is a great leader.

'When he makes a point it is worthwhile. We have a strong leadership group at the moment. There are a few guys we could give the captaincy to but we feel Dows is right for this game.

'When you are pulling guys together for the first time, that leadership is important. He will make sure we are right on it.

'This is a proper game, as intense and as big a game as a Six Nations game for us.'

More to follow.