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Gloucester 12 London Irish 18: Skivington double gives Exiles important win

Gloucester 12 London Irish 18: Skivington double gives Exiles important win

By
Andrew Baldock, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

20:22 GMT, 5 January 2013

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UPDATED:

20:22 GMT, 5 January 2013

Relegation candidates London Irish ripped up the Aviva Premiership form book by stunning title play-off contenders Gloucester at Kingsholm.

Irish had already lost three times to their hosts in domestic and European competitions this season, but two first-half tries from lock George Skivington helped the Exiles exact revenge.

Centre Steven Shingler added a penalty and conversion, while England international Freddie Burns booted four Gloucester penalties, yet Irish deserved a first Premiership away victory this season at the seventh attempt, and t was sealed by full-back Tom Homer's late penalty.

George Skivington scores the winning try for London Irish

Reaching for the line: George Skivington scores the winning try for London Irish

It took them five points above bottom club Sale Sharks, who tackle Saracens tomorrow, and sent them into a five-week league break with renewed optimism of avoiding the drop.

In contrast, a losing bonus point was scant consolation for Gloucester after a four-month unbeaten home record disappeared.

They were architects of their own downfall in many ways, taking wrong options, lacking the patience to break Irish down and losing composure when clear attacking opportunities presented themselves.

While the west country club remain firmly in the play-off picture, they could have few complaints about a defeat that underlined the Premiership's tight, intense nature this term.

Former England skipper Mike Tindall captained Gloucester in the absence of finger injury victim Jim Hamilton. Tom Savage filled Hamilton's second-row berth, while loosehead prop Dan Murphy took over from Nick Wood and Rob Cook returned at full-back.

Skivington was the difference between the two sides at Kingsholm

Scramble: Skivington was the difference between the two sides at Kingsholm

Irish included England centre Jonathan Joseph on the wing – Sailosi Tagicakibau and Shingler were rugby director Brian Smith's preferred midfield partnership – but England prop Alex Corbisiero failed a late fitness test and was replaced by Max Lahiff.

Burns booted Gloucester into a second-minute lead, yet Irish were not daunted by the size of their task, and after Shingler landed an equalising penalty they deservedly went ahead.

Gloucester were guilty of trying to run before they could walk, throwing out ambitious passes that were invariably spilled, with Burns guilty inside his own 22 by lobbing an ill-conceived ball to wing Charlie Sharples that Irish almost capitalised upon.

The visitors' opening try, though, arrived after 23 minutes when a spell of concerted pressure near Gloucester's line resulted in Skivington powering over. It was Irish's first touchdown for almost five hours of Premiership rugby.

Shingler missed the conversion, but Irish continued to grow in confidence and they capitalised on another Gloucester blunder after Burns had kicked his second penalty.

England's Ben Morgan batters the Irish line

Powerhouse: England's Ben Morgan batters the Irish line

Gloucester wing Shane Monahan was the guilty party, making a hash of trying to gather the ball just inside the home 22, and Irish scrum-half Pat Phibbs scrambled possession to Skivington, who touched down unopposed.

Shingler landed the conversion, and Gloucester could have few complaints about a 15-6 interval deficit as Irish threatened a first Premiership away win since they triumphed at Worcester last April.

The only blot on Irish's landscape was an injury to England squad hooker David Paice, who limped off on the stroke of half-time and was replaced by former Gloucester forward Scott Lawson.

Irish's Sailosi Tagicakibau evades a Gloucester tackle

Raw pace: Irish's Sailosi Tagicakibau evades a Gloucester tackle

Gloucester boss Nigel Davies made a triple substitution just 10 minutes into the second period, taking off Murphy, scrum-half Jimmy Cowan and flanker Akapusi Qera, but there was no immediate sign of his team showing an improvement.

Irish were content to keep their defensive shape and absorb Gloucester's heavy-duty runners, although Burns gave the home side hope when he completed his penalty hat-trick after 58 minutes and then slotted a fourth penalty three minutes later.

Shingler, having missed four of his six shots at goal, was replaced by Homer, and his 73rd-minute penalty from 40 metres meant Gloucester were sunk.

And they finished the game with 14 players when lock Will James was sin-binned by referee David Rose following a melee that spilled over the touchline in front of the main grandstand.

Tom Homer manages to get the ball away

Releasing: Tom Homer manages to get the ball away

Wales 10 New Zealand 33: All Blacks show dark side

Wales 10 New Zealand 33: All Blacks show dark side as shocking attack puts Davies out

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UPDATED:

21:51 GMT, 24 November 2012

A resounding defeat for Wales featured the worst excesses of the All Blacks inside the opening minute as Kiwi hooker Andrew Hore launched a shocking, cowardly assault on Bradley Davies – putting him out of the game before he had even touched the ball.

It marked the start of an afternoon in which little went right for the Welsh. An autumn international season which they had hoped would set out the foundations of their World Cup campaign has become a depressing and desperate, injury-strewn trudge.

Battering ram: All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock scores a try

Battering ram: All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock scores a try

Match facts

WALES: Halfpenny, Cuthbert, J Davies, Roberts, L Williams, Priestland, Phillips, James, Rees, Jarvis, B Davies, Charteris, R Jones, Warburton, Faletau. Replacements: Owens, Jenkins, Andrews, Shingler, Tipuric, Knoyle, Hook, S Williams.

NEW ZEALAND: Dagg, Jane, C Smith, Nonu, Savea, Cruden, A Smith, Woodcock, Hore, O Franks, Romano, S Whitelock, Messam, McCaw, Read. Replacements: Coles, Crockett, Faumuina, Retallick, Vito, Weepu, Barrett, B Smith.

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Their bravery was never in question
but decision-making was poor and composure was shattered by an All Black
side who showed both the merciless best and thuggish worst of their
nature.

While Wales's injury problems were
severe before the game, with 10 first-choice players out, the total
became a dozen within a minute of the start.

Davies made his way off, dazed and
stunned, after a disgraceful short-arm smash thrown from behind by Hore,
whose tour should now be ended by the citing officer.

Just as damaging to Welsh hopes was
the departure of Aaron Jarvis, who twisted a knee at the breakdown,
forcing an unwanted change in the Welsh front row. Welsh decision-making
became scrambled.

Flashpoint: All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore's clash with Bradley Davies (above and below) put the Welshman out of the match

Flashpoint: All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore's clash with Bradley Davies (above and below) put the Welshman out of the match

Flashpoint: All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore's clash with Bradley Davies (above and below) put the Welshman out of the match

Two kickable penalties were swiftly
spurned, the All Blacks defending the first touch kick with ease and
Rhys Priestland wastefully sending the second dead.

Aaron Cruden, playing after injury
ruled out Dan Carter, made no mistake with his penalty to give New
Zealand a ninth-minute lead.

Eight minutes later a Welsh transgression allowed Cruden to double the lead, while Jamie Roberts limped off.

Crunch time: Hore takes one in the face as he is handed off by Jonathan Davies

Crunch time: Hore takes one in the
face as he is handed off by Jonathan Davies

Easy: Liam Messam scores for New Zealand

Easy: Liam Messam scores for New Zealand

When Sam Warburton was wrongly
penalised, allowing Cruden to add a third kick after 22 minutes, the
Welsh would have been forgiven for wondering if it was just not their
day.

And four minutes later, Julian Savea took advantage of a forward pass which went unseen by referee Craig Joubert.

Challenging times: New Zealand players perform the Haka

Challenging times: New Zealand players perform the Haka

The All Blacks surged down the left
flank before moving the ball wide, allowing flanker Liam Messam to cross
in the opposite corner.

Cruden's fourth kick built a 16-point gap. Seven minutes from half-time, it was as if all Welsh composure finally departed.

Jonathan Davies made a beautiful break and Liam Williams carried the ball deep into All Black territory.

He earned a penalty, only to watch
Priestland float a second effort for touch straight over the dead-ball
line, wasting both position and opportunity.

Ticking over: All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden kicks at goal

Ticking over: All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden kicks at goal

The All Blacks then demonstrated the
difference between the two sides in terms of execution. Cruden prodded a
penalty to touch before Sam Whitelock claimed the line-out and fed Tony
Woodcock.

The prop crashed over and Cruden added the conversion which sent the Welsh in at half-time 23 points down.

A further Cruden penalty followed before, in the 48th minute, defeat began to develop into a full-blown drubbing.

Israel Dagg twice cut through the
Welsh defence and the ball was recycled at lightning pace, allowing lock
Luke Romano to score in the corner.

Consolation: Alex Cuthbert scores for Wales

Consolation: Alex Cuthbert scores for Wales

Cruden stroked over his seventh kick from seven.

Eventually, by committing everyone to
a line-out and driving Scott Williams over from five yards, the Welsh
got themselves on the board.

When Cory Jane was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, Welsh fortunes seemed to be turning.

If James's departure brought brief
optimism, the All Blacks' professionalism ensured the door stayed as
tightly shut as the stadium roof.

After the home side horribly squandered an overlap, the ball spent most of James's absence under All Black control.

Wales did eventually claim a
consolation score three minutes from time, after fine handling from
Scott and Liam Williams sent Alex Cuthbert diving into the corner.

It was little more than the Welsh
deserved in a contest which was decided by fine margins, all of which
fell the way of the All Blacks, and a moment of inattention from the
referee.

Wales should have been playing against 14 men for 79 minutes.

Leigh Halfpenny's conversion faded and slipped wide of the target – acting as a symbol of his side's disappointing afternoon.

Wales squad for autumn Tests includes Aaron Jarvis

Wales are caught in red tape as Howley's autumn preparations are hampered

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UPDATED:

21:14 GMT, 22 October 2012

French bureaucracy threatens Wales’ bid to beat the best teams in the world this autumn.

Central contracts were the focus of attention on Monday when Rob Howley named his 35-man squad for the four Tests against Argentina (November 10), Samoa (Nov 16), New Zealand (Nov 24) and Australia (Dec 1) — Ospreys prop Aaron Jarvis is the only uncapped player.

The good news is the return of centre Jamie Roberts, back from a long-term injury, into a midfield that missed him so badly.

Blow: Wales will be without the likes of Mike Phillips for their warm-up

Blow: Wales will be without the likes of Mike Phillips for their warm-up

WALES SQUAD FOR AUTUMN TESTS

Backs: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Liam
Williams (Scarlets), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets), H
Robinson (Cardiff Blues), A Beck (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), J
Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), J
Hook (Perpignan), R Priestland (Scarlets), T Knoyle (Scarlets), M
Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues).

Forwards: S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), R
Bevington (Ospreys), P James (Bath), A Jarvis (Ospreys), G Jenkins
(Toulon), A Jones (Ospreys), R Hibbard (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), M
Rees (Scarlets), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Perpignan), I
Evans (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons),
R Jones (Ospreys), R McCusker (Scarlets), A Shingler (Scarlets), J
Tipuric (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues,
capt).

But Roberts’ contract with the Cardiff Blues runs out in June next year, at the same time he qualifies as a doctor, and it is looking ever more likely that Wales will lose him to French club rugby.

The problem for Howley — who is acting head coach now that Warren Gatland has a Lions tour to prepare for — is that the final Test of the series against Australia falls outside the IRB’s official window during which clubs must release players for international duty.

Unless a late solution is found, Wales will have to prepare for that final match without their French-based players — scrum half Mike Phillips, loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins and utility back James Hook — because of club commitments, although second row Luke Charteris has extended release from Perpignan.

Howley said: ‘If Welsh players are being headhunted to play in France then we want some sort of arrangement where they become available for some preparation time and a game outside the IRB window.’

Taking the reins: Rob Howley (right) is in charge for Wales this autumn

Taking the reins: Rob Howley (right) is in charge for Wales this autumn

Wales will begin their preparations
for the autumn with a week’s training camp in Spala, Poland. Their
opening autumn Test is against Argentina on November 10,' Howley added.

'Argentina are first up, and after the experience they have gained in the Rugby Championship they will be a challenging and tough opponent, but this is a challenge we will look forward to.

'We know how important momentum is going into any series, and the bigger picture is the Rugby World Cup draw at the beginning of December, and how we perform against the Pumas, Samoa, the All Blacks and the Wallabies will have a direct effect on our seeding in that draw.

'We need a successful November to back up our performances at the World Cup in New Zealand and the Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year, and we are determined to achieve it.'

Worcester 35 London Irish 11

Worcester 35 London Irish 11: Late three tries seal Warriors' first win of season

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UPDATED:

22:05 GMT, 28 September 2012

Worcester collected their first Aviva Premiership win of the season with an ultimately convincing performance against London Irish at Sixways.

The hosts led 16-11 with less than 15 minutes remaining but three late tries saw their superiority rewarded with a bonus-point victory.

The kick-off to the game was delayed by 30 minutes after Irish arrived late due heavy traffic on the M5.

Break on: Jon Clarke surges through the centre of the park

Break on: Jon Clarke surges through the centre of the park

When the action finally got under way, Worcester had the first chance after six minutes but Andy Goode's penalty attempt from just inside his own half fell narrowly short.

Two minutes later the Warriors suffered another setback when Nikki Walker left the field with a leg injury to be replaced by former Northampton centre Jon Clarke, who was making his home debut.

The Warriors had the better of the opening exchanges but failed to take advantage and it was Irish who scored the first try after 14 minutes.

A neat pass from Marland Yarde sent Ofisa Treviranus away and the number eight had sufficient pace to hold off the cover defence for an excellent score.

Steve Shingler missed the conversion but was soon on target with a simple penalty.

Saliosi Tagicakibau carelessly knocked-on the restart to give the Warriors a platform in the visitors' 22 and he was made to pay for his error as Aleki Lutui drove over from close range for the try which Goode converted.

Even at this early stage it seemed a contest between the stronger home pack against the more creative running of the Irish three-quarters, who were seeing too little of the ball.

Gotcha: Alex Gray claims the catch to to win a lineout

Gotcha: Alex Gray claims the catch to to win a lineout

Come here you: Sailosi Tagicakibau is halted by two Worcester players

Come here you: Sailosi Tagicakibau is halted by two Worcester players

After 30 minutes another mistake from Tagicakibau cost his side dear when the wing received a yellow card for tip tackling Jonny Arr.

Goode easily kicked the resulting penalty to put Worcester into the lead for the first time.

Shingler was given a penalty opportunity 50 metres out after the Warriors were penalised but he couldn't capitalise and the hosts deservedly led 10-8 at the interval.

Tagicakibau returned for the second half with Worcester having failed to take any advantage from his absence.

The Warriors nearly extended their lead when Goode made a fine break, handing off a weak tackling attempt from Ian Humphreys in the process.

The outside half kicked ahead but a knock on just short of the line ruined Worcester's hopes of a second try but soon afterwards they were rewarded when Goode kicked another penalty.

Almost immediately Shingler nullified this with a 45-metre penalty and when Matt Kvesic was penalised for not releasing, the centre had a chance to put Irish back into the lead but his kick from halfway sailed wide.

No chance: The Irish defence were powerless as Semisi Taulava steamed through to score his try

No chance: The Irish defence were powerless as Semisi Taulava steamed through to score his try

The next penalty chance fell to Goode and he was bang on target from nearly 50 metres.

The Worcester pack continued to dominate which resulted in Irish flanker Jamie Gibson being sin-binned for illegally stopping one of their drives.

The Irish line was under intense pressure but somehow their defence held firm which meant it was only 16-11 to the hosts with 15 minutes remaining.

Three minutes later, Worcester scored the decisive try. Goode, Clarke and James Percival were heavily involved in a movement which ended with David Lemi outflanking the defence.

Goode missed that conversion but kicked two as Worcester scored two late tries through Semisi Taulava and Clarke to run out comfortable winners.

Wasps 43 London Irish 14

Wasps 43 London Irish 14: Stunning start for Jones as debutant fires hosts to first win

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UPDATED:

16:59 GMT, 15 September 2012

Stephen Jones landed 23 points on his Wasps debut to help his new club to their first Aviva Premiership win of the season at the third attempt.

The 34-year-old Welshman, with 104 caps for his country, produced a perfect kicking performance, slotting five penalties and also converting two tries from Tom Varndell and one each from scrum-half Joe Simpson and replacement prop Zak Taulafo.

It provided a bonus-point winning start for Wasps' new ownership consortium who took control of the club from former owner Steve Hayes this week.

Kicking king: Stephen Jones scored 23 points on his debut to steer Wasps to their first win of the season

Kicking king: Stephen Jones scored 23 points on his debut to steer Wasps to their first win of the season

MACTH FACTS

WASPS: Southwell, Varndell, Daly, Masi, Wade, S. Jones, Simpson, Payne, T. Thomas, Staibano, Palmer, Wentzel, Launchbury, Poff, Johnson.
Replacements: McIntyre for Payne (70),
Lindsay for T. Thomas (45), Taulafo for Staibano (41),
Haskell for Launchbury (64), Vunipola for Johnson (66). Not Used: Davies, Robinson, T. Bell.

Tries: Varndell 2, Simpson, Taulafo. Cons: S. Jones 4. Pens: S. Jones 5.

LONDON IRISH: Homer, Ojo, Joseph, Tagicakibau, Yarde, Shingler, O'Leary, Lahiff, Lawson, Halavatau, Skivington, Evans, Danaher, Treviranus, Fisher.
Replacements: Aulika for Lahiff (70), Ryan for Halavatau (10), Low for Skivington (70), Gray for Fisher (70). Not Used: Blaney, Watson, Geraghty, Moates.

Tries: Yarde. Pens: Shingler 3.

Attendance: 5,612
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU).

Irish replied with a try from England Under-20 winger Marland Yarde and three penalties from fly-half Steven Shingler.

But they suffered their third successive defeat of the new campaign, in which they have now conceded 123 points.

Jones, replacing fellow-Welshman Nick Robinson after missing the first two matches with a back spasm, opened his Wasps account with a fifth-minute penalty.

Irish suffered another blow when prop Leo Halavatau limped off in the 10th minute to be replaced by John Ryan, on loan from Munster.

Four minutes later they missed out on the opening try when flanker Ofisa Treviranus knocked on as he crashed his way over the line.

But they drew level in the 15th minute with a Shingler penalty after the Wasps scrum was penalised.

Irish grabbed the opening touchdown after 25 minutes when Yarde scored a try out of nothing.

There
seemed little danger when centres Sailosi Tagicakibau and Jonathan
Joseph combined to supply Yarde, but the winger showed the ball, jinked
and produced a burst of sheer pace which left four defenders standing
before he crossed in the corner.

Up and under: Bryn Evans of Irish wins a lineout ball at Adams Park

Up and under: Bryn Evans of Irish wins a lineout ball at Adams Park

With
Shingler off the pitch receiving treatment for a blood injury,
full-back Tom Homer took over the kicking duties but missed the
conversion.

Wasps were denied a try in the 28th minute when they were brought back for an earlier forward pass after full-back Hugh Southwell sent Varndell racing over in the left corner.

Handling errors let the home side
down as they tried to over-elaborate but they forced two penalties, both
landed by Jones – the second from just inside the Irish half – to go
9-8 ahead.

Shingler
restored the Irish lead with a superbly-struck last kick of the first
half after the Wasps scrum were penalised a metre inside their own half.
Taulafo replaced Fabio Staibano at half-time.

Pain game: Marland Yarde of Irish takes a hit from Tom Lindsay

Pain game: Marland Yarde of Irish takes a hit from Tom Lindsay

The second half was only a minute old when Jones kicked his fourth penalty as Wasps regained the lead after Irish offended at the breakdown.

They forged further ahead when Varndell went over in the left corner for a well-worked try. Right wing Christian Wade split the Irish defence, Southwell again provided the final pass and Varndell supplied the finish.

Shingler kicked his third penalty to cut the Irish deficit to five points.

Man of the moment: Jones tries to avoid Jonathan Joseph and Sailosi Tagicakibau

Man of the moment: Jones tries to avoid Jonathan Joseph and Sailosi Tagicakibau

Luke Benedict

But Wasps, who introduced England back-row man James Haskell from the bench, made victory an inevitability when Simpson took the ball from the base of a ruck and darted in for their second try, converted by Jones.

The Welshman landed his fifth penalty before Wasps drove Taulafo, scorer of a hat-trick of tries for Wasps in the A team game against Irish last Monday, over in the left corner two minutes from time.

But Wasps had not finished. Simpson burst 50 metres from inside his own half before passing to Varndell who raced round behind the posts to touch down. Jones rounded off a hugely impressive debut by converting the final two tries.

London Irish 31 Gloucester 40: Burns too hot for Exiles as fly-half inspires fightback

London Irish 31 Gloucester 40: Burns too hot for Exiles as fly-half inspires fightback

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UPDATED:

16:40 GMT, 8 September 2012

Fly-half Freddie Burns kicked 25 points and created the try which swung the match out of nothing as Gloucester recorded their first Aviva Premiership win of the season against London Irish.

They bounced back from the 24-19 opening-day home defeat by Northampton to come from behind three times.

Hard contact: Sailosi Tagicakibau of London Irish loses the ball in tackle from Dan Murphy of Gloucester

Hard contact: Sailosi Tagicakibau of London Irish loses the ball in tackle from Dan Murphy of Gloucester

England number eight Ben Morgan, with his first try for his new club, winger James Simpson-Daniel and replacement flanker Akapusi Qera, touched down for Gloucester with Burns landing seven penalties and two conversions.

Right-wing Topsy Ojo scored the Exiles' opening try with Ireland scrum-half Tomas O'Leary and replacement prop Halani Aulika marking their home debuts with tries.

Fly-half Steven Shingler kicked four penalties and two conversions for a 16-point haul.

Irish took the lead with a fourth-minute penalty from Shingler – handed the kicking duties ahead of last season's top Premiership points scorer Tom Homer who began with his left knee heavily strapped.

But the visitors equalised through Burns five minutes later when Irish strayed offside on their 22 line.

Shingler kicked the Exiles ahead with his second penalty in the 19th minute and two minutes later the home side grabbed the opening try.

Shingler figured twice in the build-up before releasing Homer, who put his grubber kick behind the Gloucester defence before Ojo won the race for the loose ball.

On the run: Ben Morgan of Gloucester breaks away to score a try

On the run: Ben Morgan of Gloucester breaks away to score a try

Burns cut the gap to two points with two penalties before Shingler responded from two metres inside the Gloucester half after the visitors were penalised for pulling down line-out jumper Bryn Evans.

Irish withdrew the struggling Homer in the 34th minute, replacing him with England Under-20 star Anthony Watson.

Burns pulled his fourth penalty attempt wide four minutes later but landed a conversion to send Gloucester in at half-time with a 16-14 lead after Morgan exploited some appalling defending by Irish to score his side's first try.

Taking the ball from the base of a ruck, he went between two hesitant would-be tacklers, was missed by hooker Scott Lawson and brushed off O'Leary before crossing.

Burns landed his fourth penalty five minutes into the second half after the Irish scrum was yet again penalised by referee Greg Garner.

Irish were level again two minutes later when Gloucester's defence cracked, allowing number eight John Fisher to run through before offloading to Aulika, who forced his way over for his first Exiles try since arriving from Championship side Leeds during the summer. Shingler converted to put the Exiles 21-19 ahead.

But Gloucester edged a point in front with Burns' fifth penalty from just inside the Irish half as the home scrum, forced into rapid reverse, was penalised once more.

Irish finally got their scrum right and it led to O'Leary shooting in for their second try after the diving Charlie Sharples conceded the five-metre set-piece as he slid over the line desperately defending a through kick from Jonathan Joseph. Shingler again converted.

Burns kicked Gloucester level again after Irish offended at the breakdown.

Shingler booted Irish back in front before Burns squeezed down the left touchline for Gloucester before passing inside to present Simpson-Daniel with what proved to be the decisive 72nd-minute try, converted by the fly-half.

Gloucester struck again two minutes later when Qera forced his way in from close range.

Saracens 40 London Irish 3: Charlie Hodgson scores 2,000th Premiership point

Saracens 40 London Irish 3: Hodgson boots his way to milestone

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UPDATED:

18:03 GMT, 1 September 2012

Milestone: Charlie Hodgson kicks a penalty

Milestone: Charlie Hodgson kicks a penalty

Charlie Hodgson became the first player to pass 2,000 points in the Premiership as Saracens comfortably overcame London Irish in the second London Double Header match at Twickenham.

The former England fly-half, who went into the match on 1,992 points, achieved the milestone with his third penalty in the 27th minute.

England winger Chris Ashton marked
his Saracens debut with two second-half tries – after being sin-binned
in the first half – with England centre Brad Barritt and replacement
Nils Mordt also touching down.

Hodgson finished with 20 points,
adding four conversions to his three early penalties, with full-back
Alex Goode also landing a penalty.

The only Irish reply was a penalty from full-back Tom Homer, last season's Premiership leading scorer with 278 points.

Going over: Brad Barritt of Saracens dives for a try

Going over: Brad Barritt of Saracens dives for a try

After Homer missed his first penalty shot in the second minute, Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick had a fourth-minute try ruled out.

Borthwick was denied by the new regulations which allow the referee to refer the build-up to a try to the television match official – instead of just seeking advice on the act of scoring.

Hodgson created the opening before man-of-the-match prop Mako Vunipola turned the ball inside to send Borthwick over between the posts but TMO Trevor Fisher ruled that the final pass was forward.

Touchdown: Chris Ashton goes over for a Saracens try

Touchdown: Chris Ashton goes over for a Saracens try

After releasing another pass, Hodgson had to survive a bone-shaking late challenge from Ofisa Treviranus which earned the Samoan flanker a 15th-minute yellow card.

While Hodgson recovered, Goode landed the resulting penalty. Saracens were also reduced to 14 men when Ashton, a summer capture from Northampton, was sin-binned by referee Wayne Barnes for a late barge on Irish fly-half Steve Shingler.

Homer, who had missed three early long-range penalties, finally succeeded at the fourth attempt, from just inside the Saracens' half, to open the Exiles' account with the resulting kick.

Hodgson was not to be denied, however, and he landed his second penalty, in off the post, in the 25th minute.

Missed me: Marland Yarde of London Irish jinks past Will Frasser

Missed me: Marland Yarde of London Irish jinks past Will Frasser

Two minutes later Hodgson, who scored most of his points for former club Sale Sharks, took his Premiership tally to 2,001 with his third penalty of the match to give his side a 12-3 lead, which they retained until the end of a feisty first half.

Ashton made amends for his earlier misdemeanour by scoring the first try of the match with the second half only two minutes old.

Hooker Schalk Brits, former Wigan Warriors rugby league star Joel Tomkins and USA international winger Chris Wyles were involved in a quality build-up which ended with Ashton, up in support and showing his best predatory instincts, supplying the finish despite a despairing attempt at a tackle from new Exiles skipper Bryn Evans.

Hodgson converted to stretch the Saracens' lead to 19-3.

Eight minutes later Hodgson was on target once more after Saracens struck again with a try from England centre Brad Barritt.

Pass master: Richard Wigglesworth of Saracens distributes the ball

Pass master: Richard Wigglesworth of Saracens distributes the ball

But Irish looked unfortunate not to have the score referred to the TMO for an apparent forward pass in the build-up before Ashton knocked the ball back, one-handed, for Barritt to pounce.

Saracens flanker Kelly Brown was the third player to be sin-binned, for killing the ball at the breakdown midway through the second half, but his 14 team-mates kept their line intact until he returned.

Back to full strength, Saracens had the final say with two more tries, both converted by Hodgson.

The fly-half passed out of the tackle to set up Ashton for his second try in the 73rd minute and Mordt secured the bonus point with their fourth three minutes from time.

Shingler"s Scotland hopes in tatters after IRB throw out appeal

Shingler's Scotland hopes in tatters after IRB throw out appeal

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UPDATED:

09:32 GMT, 16 May 2012

Steven Shingler is tied to Wales and ineligible to play Test rugby for Scotland, the International Rugby Board's council ruled in a unanimous decision.

Shingler was judged by the IRB to have been 'captured' by Wales after playing in an Under-20 international against France in 2011.

Ruling: London Irish's Steven Shingler is tied to Wales

Ruling: London Irish's Steven Shingler is tied to Wales

The eligibility row was sparked when 20-year-old Shingler, a fly-half or centre, was included in Scotland's RBS 6 Nations squad earlier this year.

The Scottish Rugby Union appealed against the original decision that Shingler was tied to Wales, made by the IRB's regulations committee.

But that appeal was thrown out at yesterday's IRB council meeting.

An IRB statement said: 'Under the regulations committee decision Shingler was deemed to have been captured by Wales, having represented the Wales Under-20 team against the France Under-20 team in a 2011 Six Nations fixture.

'Following the Scottish Rugby Union's appeal of the Shingler decision, the IRB council considered and determined the matter during its annual meeting in Dublin.

'Council, having considered all the facts and having heard submissions from the SRU and WRU legal representatives, dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the IRB regulations committee.

'The council therefore determined that Steven Shingler is tied to Wales in accordance with IRB regulation 8 and therefore is ineligible to represent another union.'

Matt Cox of Gloucester is tackled by Sailosi Tagicakibau (L) and Steven Shingler (R) of London Irish

The decisive factor was that both Wales and France had designated the Under-20s as their second senior national representative team for that match.

Andy Robinson initially selected Shingler on the understanding he qualified for Scotland through his mother, who was born in Dumfries.

Although Shingler had represented Wales Under 20s, the SRU argued he had never signed a declaration tying his international eligability to Wales.

The SRU cited the complex cases of Matthew Jarvis and James Loxton, who played for Wales Under 20s in 2010 before switching their allegiance to Ireland.

The cases of Jarvis and Loxton prompted a global review, which recommended playing for an Under 20 team should no longer commit that player to that nation.

But that recommendation was dismissed by the IRB, who determined the Under 20s can be considered as the next senior national team.

The IRB instructed unions to publicly publish their second team designation on an annual basis and ensure that all players are informed.

The Oval Office: Scotland suffer O"Brien blow

The Oval Office: Scotland suffer O'Brien blow

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UPDATED:

23:52 GMT, 8 March 2012

Injury blow: Sean O'Brien of Ireland

Injury blow: Sean O'Brien of Ireland

Sean O'Brien has pulled out of Ireland's game against Scotland on Saturday because of an infection on the skin of his foot. The flanker becomes the third player to miss the game from the side that started against France as the heavy toll of playing four games in four weeks starts to show. Peter O'Mahoney, a highlyrated but inexperienced openside, takes his place. Manager Mick Kearney said: 'We knew Sean was carrying this infection, but it has not cleared as quickly as we expected.'

Smith back

Former England attack coach Brian Smith has returned to Aviva Premiership club London Irish as director of rugby – a role he held for three years between 2005 and 2008 before joining Martin Johnson's national set-up. Toby Booth remains head coach and Smith, widely credited for laying the foundations to the Exiles' best years of success, said: 'Toby and I have always had a great relationship and that brought with it a lot of success on the field in my time at the club. I know that we're destined for even greater things.'

Stade Mike

On his way: Mike Tindall

On his way: Mike Tindall

Mike Tindall could be on his way out of English rugby after failing to agree a new contract at Gloucester. The 2003 World Cup winner is reported to be discussing a deal to join Paris-based Stade Francais next season after Gloucester offered him only a one-year deal. He had previously been linked to Biarritz. Tindall wanted a two-year contract to conclude a career that has brought him 75 England caps but also the notoriety of the 2011 World Cup and that night out in Queenstown.

IRB rule on Shingler

London Iris h centre Steven Shingler has been ruled ineligible to play for Scotland by the IRB as he is tied to Wales. The 20-year-old was born in Swansea but was included in Andy Robinson's provisional Six Nations squad, believing he qualified through his Dumfries-born mother. The WRU argued Shingler was tied to them having played for their Under 20 side against France last year. Scotland are waiting full written details of the decision before deciding on any action.

Six Nations 2012: Sam Warburton and George North back for Wales against England

Warburton and North back for Wales to boost Gatland's men in showdown with England

Sam Warburton has recovered from injury and will captain Wales when they bid for the Triple Crown against RBS 6 Nations title rivals England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Cardiff Blues flanker missed Wales' 27-13 victory over Scotland nine days ago due to a thigh problem that forced him off at half-time against Ireland in Dublin a week earlier.

But Warburton is now back – along with George North – to lead a team showing three changes from the one that saw off Scotland.

Leader: Sam Warburton returns to captain Wales at Twickenham

Leader: Sam Warburton returns to captain Wales at Twickenham

Wales team v England at Twickenham

L Halfpenny, A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts,
G North, R Priestland, M Phillips, G Jenkins,
K Owens, A Jones, A-W Jones, I Evans,
D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau

Replacements: R Hibbard, P James, R Jones, J Tipuric, L Williams, J Hook, S Williams

Wales' World Cup skipper replaces Aaron Shingler in the back row, while fit-again lock Alun-Wyn Jones is preferred to Ryan Jones and hooker Ken Owens gains his first Wales start.

Owens, who made his Test debut during last autumn's World Cup campaign, is promoted off the bench as calf muscle strains sideline both Huw Bennett and Matthew Rees.

Sale Sharks forward Andy Powell drops off the bench and there is no place in the matchday 22 either for Shingler or lock Lou Reed.

The Wales back division is unchanged for the third successive Six Nations game, with wing North having shrugged off an ankle injury that meant he made an early exit against Scotland.

Fighting fit: George North has recovered from an ankle knock to take his place

Fighting fit: George North has recovered from an ankle knock to take his place

Alun-Wyn Jones, meanwhile, has not played Test rugby since the World Cup because of a toe injury, but he now returns to win his 60th cap.

'A fit-again Alun-Wyn Jones is selected based on his World Cup form and his experience as an international lock,' Wales coach Warren Gatland said.

'He gave us a selection dilemma, but it has been a great problem to have.

'While Ryan Jones is particularly unlucky to miss out on this occasion, this is just the kind of competition for places we have been striving for.

Comeback: Alun-Wyn Jones (centre) is in for the first time since the World Cup

Comeback: Alun-Wyn Jones (centre) is in for the first time since the World Cup

'Ken Owens has been waiting patiently for his chance and, while injuries elsewhere have meant he gets his opportunity this weekend, we are expecting him to take it.'

Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard, who was called into Wales' training squad two days ago, will provide bench cover for Owens.

A win for Wales would give them their 20th championship Triple Crown and leave them needing victory in two home games next month – against Italy and France – to secure a second Six Nations title and Grand Slam of Gatland's four-year reign.

But they have only claimed one win at Twickenham since 1988 – a 26-19 success in 2008 that was Gatland's first Test match in charge of Wales.