Tag Archives: wilkinson

Jonny Wilkinson signs one-year contract extension to prolong career at Toulon

Wilkinson signs one-year contract extension to prolong career at Toulon

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

11:20 GMT, 30 March 2013

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UPDATED:

11:20 GMT, 30 March 2013

Jonny Wilkinson has revealed he canvassed the opinions of fellow fly-half stars Matt Giteau and Frederic Michalak before electing to extend his career for a further year.

The 33-year-old England World Cup winner spent the winter debating whether to continue his successful stint at wealthy French club Toulon or retire.

The pain of a long-standing groin problem was tipping the balance towards retirement, but following the success of a recent operation, he says another season is now in his sights.

On the up: Jonny Wilkinson has led Toulon into the Heineken Cup quarter finals this season

On the up: Jonny Wilkinson has led Toulon into the Heineken Cup quarter finals this season

St George: Wilkinson plays alongside Englishmen Andrew Sheridan, Simon Shaw and the Armitage brothers

St George: Wilkinson plays alongside Englishmen Andrew Sheridan, Simon Shaw and the Armitage brothers

Discussing his recent operation in The Times, Wilkinson said: 'I didn't know if it was going to work, but it has given me the ability to go out and work hard, to recover and go again.

'From November through to January, I was thinking: end of career.'

Wilkinson said the views of Toulon team-mates Giteau and Michalak were taken into account before he decided to play on.

'These are guys who play inside and outside me and both play in my position too, so there is no better position to have to see if they think I am doing a good job,' he said.

Crunch match: Toulon face an tough quarter final in the south of France when they host Leicester

Crunch match: Toulon face an tough quarter final in the south of France when they host Leicester

'I also wanted to know where they see their futures. Am I in the way of their future Am I helping their future Do they feel comfortable playing alongside me I was more than willing to hear.

'These are guys for whom I have such great respect, guys from whom you want to hear the negative stuff.

'But they were really honest and I got the impression that they wanted me there.'

Champagne moment: Wilkinson will always be remembered for his drop-goal to win the 2003 World Cup

Champagne moment: Wilkinson will always be remembered for his drop-goal to win the 2003 World Cup

Wilkinson stepped down from the international game just over a year ago following a stellar Test career, but his name continues to be linked with the British and Irish Lions squad to tour Australia.

While refusing to rule himself out of contention, he admits he has had no contact with head coach Warren Gatland and considers himself a left-field selection.

'The Lions is so exciting,' he said. 'I would certainly welcome the opportunity, though I'm not sure why my name would be mentioned.

'I'm not thinking, ''I'm in with a shout''.

'The young guys in international rugby are the ones taking the sport forward.'

Honoured: Wilkinson won an MBE for his exploits at the World Cup

Honoured: Wilkinson won an MBE for his exploits at the World Cup

Bryan Habana joins Toulon

Habana joins Jonny and Co at Toulon as South Africa star pens three-year deal with French side

By
Chris Foy

PUBLISHED:

13:54 GMT, 11 January 2013

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UPDATED:

14:01 GMT, 11 January 2013

Bryan Habana's move to Toulon has been confirmed with the World Cup-winning Springbok wing joining a host of other Galacticos on the Cote d'Azur, on a three-year deal.

The 29-year-old, who has amassed 83 caps, has scored 47 Test tries along the way in establishing himself as one of the most prolific finishers in the world game.

He was named the IRB Player of the Year in 2007, after being at the forefront of the Boks' successful World Cup campaign in France.

Catch me if you can: The South Africa star has joined Toulon on a three-year deal

Catch me if you can: The South Africa star has joined Toulon on a three-year deal

His career has taken him from the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls to Cape Town, where he has played for Western Province and the Stormers in Super Rugby.

Now, after years of being linked with a lucrative move to Europe, he has agreed to add his name to the stellar cast list at Toulon, alongside the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau, Carl Hayman and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

Here's Jonny: Wilkinson will be joined by Habana at Toulon

Here's Jonny: Wilkinson will be joined by Habana at Toulon

'I would like to thank everyone at Western Province for their support throughout my stay in Cape Town,' Habana said.

'I've had three great seasons in the Cape thus far, and I am looking forward to finishing off on a high before taking on a new challenge overseas.'

In the past, such a move would have removed a player from contention to be picked for South Africa, but that restrictive practice has been relaxed, which leaves the path clear for Habana to aim for a century of international appearances.

'Playing for the Boks is a huge part of my life and I would never turn
my back on my country,' he added.

'I will never stop giving 100 per cent on the field for any team I play for, and
if the Springbok coach picks me, I will be there. It's a wrench to
leave my home, even if only for a short while, but the chance to test
myself against different opposition in a new environment was difficult
to turn down.'

What Toulon will have at their disposal is a player renowned for his blistering pace, having reportedly clocked a time of 10.2 seconds for the 100metres. Such was the fixation with his raw speed that Habana was once pitted against a cheetah in a race.

Having made his Test debut against England at Twickenham in 2004, he soon established himself as a lethal try-scorer and equalled Jonah Lomu's World Cup record tally of eight at the 2007 tournament.

Four years later, he broke the South African record for international tries when he struck against Namibia in a pool match.

Toulon coach Bernard Laporte was in charge of France during the 2007 World Cup and he has made a strong push to recruit the Springboks who evidently caught his attention during that event across the Channel.

In addition to the previous signing of Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw is due to arrive at the club shortly, when he has finished his final season in Japan, while ex-Bok skipper John Smit has agreed to join Toulon from Saracens at the end of this season.

Stoke 3 Southampton 3 – Cameron Jerome scores late equaliser

Stoke 3 Southampton 3: Late Jerome stunner preserves Potters' unbeaten home record

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UPDATED:

17:20 GMT, 29 December 2012

A stunning 90th-minute volley from Cameron Jerome secured a point for 10-man Stoke in a highly-eventful draw with strugglers Southampton at the Britannia Stadium.

The Potters looked like they would pay for uncharacteristically poor defending in the first half, but fought back and substitute Jerome had the final say with a thumping volley from 30 yards.

Stoke had conceded only four goals at home in the Barclays Premier League all season and boasted the best defensive record in the division, but shipped three in the first half.

Stunner: Jerome celebrates after his long-range volley

Stunner: Jerome celebrates after his long-range volley

MATCH FACTS

Stoke: Begovic, Shotton, Huth, Upson, Wilkinson (Whitehead 70), Kightly (Crouch 75), Whelan, Nzonzi, Etherington (Jerome 57), Walters, Jones.

Subs not used: Sorensen, Palacios, Owen, Adam

Goals: Jones 16, Upson 67, Jerome 90

Booked: Jerome. Sent off: Nzonzi

Southampton: Kelvin Davis, Hooiveld, Yoshida, Fonte, Shaw (Fox 82), Puncheon (Richardson 85), Schneiderlin, Cork, Rodriguez, Do Prado, Lambert

Subs not used: Boruc, Steven Davis, Ramirez, Mayuka, De Ridder.

Goals: Lambert 10, Rodriguez 24, Wilkinson OG 36

Booked: Fonte, Rodriguez

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

Attendance: 26,391

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LATEST PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE, FIXTURES AND RESULTS

MCaptain Ryan Shawcross and full-back
Geoff Cameron were both serving one-match suspensions for picking up
five yellow cards, with Matthew Upson and Ryan Shotton coming in, and
the reshuffle seemed to unsettle the Potters.

Poor defending allowed Rickie Lambert to open the scoring 10 minutes in
and, although Kenwyne Jones soon equalised, Jay Rodriguez was presented
with Saints' second in the 24th minute.

An Andy Wilkinson own goal in the 36th minute summed up a miserable half
for the hosts, but they responded in the second period and Matthew
Upson pulled one back in the 67th minute.

Steven Nzonzi was sent off soon after but Stoke kept pressing and got
their reward, sending Southampton back into the bottom three.

Defensive stability has been one of Stoke's key strengths and there were
signs the changes would have a big effect when Southampton scored in
the 10th minute.

It was the first chance of the game and would have infuriated Stoke boss
Tony Pulis as none of his defenders cut out Guly Do Prado's cross and
Lambert had the simple task of poking in at the back post.

The hosts should have been level inside two minutes when Nzonzi's shot
was deflected to Jones in space at the back post, but somehow he skewed
his shot wide.

However, the big striker made amends in the 16th minute in some style with a lovely backheel from Ryan Shotton's low cross

Flying start: The Southampton players celebrate Rickie Lambert's opener at the Britannia Stadium

Flying start: The Southampton players celebrate Rickie Lambert's opener at the Britannia Stadium

Stoke looked the more likely to add to their tally at that point but
they well and truly shot themselves in the foot to hand Southampton a
second goal in the 24th minute.

There did not look too much danger when Lambert swung in a cross from
the right but Robert Huth beat his goalkeeper to the ball and poked it
against the bar, leaving Rodriguez a tap-in.

The visitors had their tails up, with Jason Puncheon causing a lot of
trouble on the right, and he twisted and turned his way past Andy
Wilkinson before firing in a shot that Asmir Begovic pushed behind.

All square: Kenwyne Jones was in the right place to equalise for Stoke

All square: Kenwyne Jones was in the right place to equalise for Stoke

Puncheon played a key part in Saints' third goal after 36 minutes, with
his cross headed towards goal by Lambert before Wilkinson stabbed it
over the line.

Stoke started the second half brightly, no doubt responding to a few
choice words from Pulis, and Michael Kightly fired in a shot from
distance that Kelvin Davis comfortably held onto.

There was a worrying moment for Pulis when Huth and Wilkinson clashed
heads, drawing blood from both, but they were bandaged up and able to
continue, although Huth had to change his shorts as well as his shirt.

We'll take it: Lambert (far left) and Jay Rodriguez were celebrating after Andy Wilkinson's own goal

We'll take it: Lambert (far left) and Jay Rodriguez were celebrating after Andy Wilkinson's own goal

Pulis threw on a third striker as Jerome replaced Matthew Etherington,
and Stoke began to pepper the Southampton box with crosses.

It was not all about the hosts, though, and Saints really should have
added a fourth in the 65th minute as they split Stoke's defence open
once again.

Lambert played in Rodriguez, who was denied by a fine save from Begovic,
but the ball fell to Do Prado with the goal gaping only for the striker
to shoot wide.

Three an easy: Rodriguez (left) looked to have won the game for the visitors

Three an easy: Rodriguez (left) looked to have won the game for the visitors

And that miss looked very costly a minute later as Stoke pulled one
back. For once Southampton failed to deal with a corner and Upson
squeezed his shot under Davis, who should have done better.

The Potters then appealed vociferously for a penalty when Jose Fonte
appeared clearly to handle a cross in a challenge with Jones, but
referee Mark Clattenburg was unmoved.

And Stoke's hopes of getting something from the game were then dealt a
real blow when Nzonzi was shown a straight red card in the 71st minute
for a challenge on Jack Cork.

Cut up: Robert Huth was left bleeding after a collision with Stoke team-mate Wilkinson

Cut up: Robert Huth was left bleeding after a collision with Stoke team-mate Wilkinson

The midfielder caught Cork with a painful blow but it looked a harsh
decision and Nzonzi was clearly unhappy as he left the pitch.

Pulis made his final change, sending on Peter Crouch for Kightly,
meaning Michael Owen would have to be content with a return to the bench
after two months out of the squad.

Seeing red: Nzonzi is sent off by Mark Clattenburg

Seeing red: Nzonzi is sent off by Mark Clattenburg

Seeing red: Nzonzi is sent off by Mark Clattenburg

Jerome was booked for protesting that Maya Yoshida had handled in the
area as the hosts desperately sought a late equaliser, and when the
striker did put the ball in the net shortly after he was rightly flagged
for offside.

Jerome was not to be denied, though, crashing in a tremendous shot off
the underside of the bar as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, and
Stoke might even have won it but Davis kept out a Crouch header at the
death.

Martin Castrogiovanni is linked with a move to French side Toulon

Cash-go-giovanni: Toulon must stump up if they want Martin

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UPDATED:

22:01 GMT, 28 December 2012

French big-spenders Toulon must stump up a transfer fee if Leicester to part with Italian tight-head Martin Castrogiovanni.

Speculation in France has pointed to Castrogiovanni joining the likes of Jonny Wilkinson next season, but the Argentinian-born forward has a year still to run on a three-year deal at Leicester.

The 31-year-old is on the bench Saturday in Leicester’s Aviva Premiership match at home to Gloucester having returned from a trip back to Argentina for family reasons before Christmas.

Heading for the exit Italy and Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni (right) has been linked with a move away from Welford Road

Heading for the exit Italy and Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni (right) has been linked with a move away from Welford Road

But Leicester’s director of rugby Richard Cockerill said the player had not asked for a move though he was aware of the interest from a French club who also said to be chasing Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens.

Cockerill added: ‘He’s under contract for another season.

'We have accepted transfer fee for our players in the past but at this time the player hasn’t come and seen me and said he wants to leave and we have had no official approach from Toulon.

‘So at this point Castro is our player and is here for another season. If Toulon have enough money to buy him out of his contract with us that might be an option, but at this point he is our player and we are more than happy to have him.’

Or not: However, Leicester Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill (pictured) has said that the player has not asked for a move as yet

Or not However, Leicester Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill (pictured) has said that the player has not asked for a move as yet

Castrogiovanni has made himself a popular member of the Leicester squad since he joined in 2006 and has always given full credit to the club for helping him become one of the most powerful props in the world.

Leicester might be interested in off-loading him in an effort to keep within the Premiership salary cap budget of 4.5 million a season.

When Castrogiovanni signed his latest deal two years ago, it was reported he was on a deal of well over 200,000 per season.

Since then, however, Leicester have developed Dan Cole into a tight-head of international repute and have high hopes that Fraser Balmain, a recruit from Newcastle, will also become another top-class prop.

The rise of Cole: The emergence of Dan Cole (pictured) as a world-class prop has limited the popular Italian's playing time in recent seasons

The rise of Cole: The emergence of Dan Cole (pictured) as a world-class prop has limited the popular Italian's playing time in recent seasons

Cockerill has admitted that he faces a fight to keep all his top players, including England lock Geoff Parling who has yet to agree a new deal.

Gloucester, who are losing Scotland lock Jim Hamilton to France, are reported to be heading the queue.

Parling starts today against Gloucester having had to do substitute duty in last week’s win over London Irish. But there is no place yet in the Leicester squad for Tom Croft, the England flanker, who is poised to make his comeback from a serious neck injury sustained last April.

Cockerill said: ‘When you have been out for that amount of time you have to be careful coming back into big fixtures. Tom will have to wait another week or so maybe which won't hurt him.’

Danny Cipriani blasted by Sale Sharks chief Brian Kennedy

If you don't put your body on the line you'll be axed! Cipriani slammed by furious Sale chief

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UPDATED:

22:15 GMT, 22 December 2012

The multi-millionaire owner of relegation-threatened Sale Sharks blasted his coaches, players and, most notably, Danny Cipriani, for their current plight on the eve of Sunday’s crucial Aviva Premiership game at London Wasps.

Brian Kennedy, who has made his vast fortune through home improvements and building products, has bankrolled the Cheshire club for the past decade.

But he finally lost patience on Saturday night, with his club adrift at the bottom of the Premiership having won just once in 10 games, and now lying six points away from 11th-placed London Irish.

Criticism: Danny Cipriani has been slammed by the Sale Sharks chief

Criticism: Danny Cipriani has been slammed by the Sale Sharks chief

The final straw for the Scot was last week’s 62-0 humiliation at Toulon, a performance that persuaded Kiwi John Michell, appointed as a short-term troubleshooter, to drop former England star Cipriani not just from the starting XV but from the whole match-day squad to face a resurgent Wasps unbeaten at Adams Park this season.

Kennedy is in full support of his coach’s decision, even though he sanctioned the big-money, high-profile summer signing of the wayward star after a tempestuous, two-year spell at the Melbourne Rebels.

‘Danny didn’t want to tackle last week,’ was the club owner’s damning verdict on the stand-off once expected to be Jonny Wilkinson’s natural successor for the England No 10 jersey. ‘It’s the coaches decision, but if you can’t defend then there’s no place for you in Premiership rugby.

‘Danny had a dreadful game in defence last week. And if you’re not prepared to put your body on the line for this club, who pay your wages and give you the chance to play at the highest level each week, then you won’t be in the squad, will you

‘You just have to watch Danny’s game at Toulon to understand why he’s not playing against Wasps.

Enraged: Brian Kennedy lashed out at several targets, including Cipriani

Enraged: Brian Kennedy lashed out at several targets, including Cipriani

‘Toulon are a great side full of great players, but no Premiership team should lose by 62-0 to any side, at any time. Some of the players have paid the price for it, and that includes Danny Cipriani.’

Kennedy’s anger is not exclusively aimed at his supposed playmaker. He argues that everything has been in place for the club to succeed and that his coaches and players have let him down.

It led to the demotion of former director of rugby Bryan Redpath to head coach, with chief executive Steve Diamond taking over playing affairs and to the arrival of Mitchell, but little has changed in terms of results.

‘It’s ironic, isn’t it,’ says Kennedy. ‘We have a new stadium, one of the best grounds in the Premiership, and we definitely have the best training facilities in English rugby at Carrington, on a par with Manchester City. I expected us to be pushing hard for a top-four position this season, especially with the signings we made in the close season.

‘So what’s gone wrong It’s not the ground. It’s not the training facilities. It’s not the support given to the club in terms of investing in players. Are we being delusional I don’t think so. So it is either down to the players, the coaches or a combination of them both.’

Paid the price: Kennedy was furious with Cipriani after the club's 62-0 defeat by Toulon

Paid the price: Kennedy was furious with Cipriani after the club's 62-0 defeat by Toulon

Kennedy refuses to contemplate relegation to the Championship just yet as the season reaches the halfway stage in the Aviva Premiership this weekend, but he does concede his team are in trouble and he wants a massive response today at Wasps.

‘I’m not allowing myself to plan for relegation because that would be a negative mindset that would only strengthen our chances of going down,’ he explains. ‘But I will admit our position is perilous and that’s not a word I use lightly. I expect the Sale Sharks to show some pride and dignity at Wasps, to show that they care and that they are angry and hurting. I know I am.

‘We should be a top club, but we’re rock bottom and unless we do something about it, starting at Wasps, we will stay there.’

Coach Mitchell, meanwhile, looks likely to be return to South Africa where his partner lives and where lucrative TV work beckons in February. His departure is earlier than initially thought when Sale snapped him up. Yet this appears to be the least of Kennedy’s worries.

‘I’m delighted if we have John for a day, or a week, or a month,’ he says. ‘Right now we need all the help we can get.’

Sunday's Wasps v Sale match is subject to a pitch inspection.

Gael Clichy strips for French rugby calendar

Oh la la! Manchester City's Clichy strips for French rugby calendar

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UPDATED:

13:19 GMT, 21 December 2012

The annual nude calender of French rugby club Stade Francais has gained a cult status in France for its images of toned, muscular rugby players pulling revealing poses.

But the 2013 edition is sure to raise a few eyebrows this side of the Channel, too.

Manchester City and France star Gael Clichy has agreed to bare all in the calendar, which gives new meaning to the club’s anthem ‘Blue Moon’.

Calendar boys: City full-back Gael Clichy poses for Stade Francais's rugby shoot

Calendar boys: City full-back Gael Clichy poses for Stade Francais's rugby shoot

On the ball: Back-rower James Haskell, now at Wasps, fronted the Stade calendar in 2010

On the ball: Back-rower James Haskell, now at Wasps, fronted the Stade calendar in 2010

Gael force: Clichy leaps to evade a tackle from Danny Simpson (left) during City's 3-1 defeat of Newcastle last weekend

Gael force: Clichy leaps to evade a tackle from Danny Simpson (left) during City's 3-1 defeat of Newcastle last weekend

He is joined by France team-mate and Lille star Rio Mavuba as the only other footballer to appear in the calendar.

England rugby stars James Haskell and Tom Palmer have also appeared in the calender, with Haskell even appearing on the cover in 2010, covering his delicates with only a rugby ball.

Scott Lavalla

Rio Mavuba

Cover stars: Stade's American lock Scott Lavalla (left) fronts this year's offering while Lille footballer Rio Mavuba (right) also appears in the collection

Other French rugby stars include Clermont’s Wesley Fofana and Morgan Parra, Jonny Wilkinson’s team-mates at Toulon Maxime Mermoz and Alexis Palisson.

The calender includes more than 40 photos in both black and white and colour. This year’s includes players from other clubs in the Top 14, as well as hockey players, boxers and athletes from a range of other sports.

Morgan Parra

Wesley Fofana

Djibril Camara

Parra-dise: France scrum half Morgan Parra (left), Wesley Fofana (centre) and Djibril Camara (right). Former England lock Tom Palmer (below, right), who still plays for Stade, posed for the 2011 calendar

Stade Francais calendar

Stade Francais calendar

Tom Palmer

Meanwhile, City manager Roberto Mancini has told Clichy's team-mate Mario Balotelli that he needed to show respect for himself and his responsibilities by accepting a 340,000 punishment from the club.

Earlier this week Balotelli dropped his fight against the fine for breaches of discipline, deciding not to take City to a Premier League tribunal ‘as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club’, according to a club statement.

Wrestle mania: Stade stars arm wrestle in one of the calendar's coulour pictures

Wrestle mania: Stade stars arm wrestle in one of the calendar's coulour pictures

Pants: A rare shot with the rugby players wearing trousers features in the 2011 calendar

Pants: A rare shot with the rugby players wearing trousers features in the 2011 calendar

But Mancini believes that above all the controversial striker owed it to himself to admit he was wrong after Balotelli was banned for a fifth of City’s games last season.

'It’s normal that when someone makes a mistake he should take his responsibilities and Mario did this,’ said Mancini. ‘He respected himself, not me because it’s important for him to respect himself, very important.’

Jonny Wilkinson might retire at the end of the season with eye on possible Lions swansong

Wilkinson could retire at the end of the season with eye on possible Lions swansong

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UPDATED:

17:00 GMT, 19 December 2012

Former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson may retire from rugby at the end of the season after admitting he will decide on his future in February.

The 33-year-old retired from international rugby after last year's World Cup having won 91 caps for England and the British and Irish Lions.

He has helped Toulon to first place in France's Top 14 this season but his current contract expires at the end of the season and he has today confessed he will only continue playing if it benefits the French side.

Enlarge

Jonny Wilkinson

Back in form: Wilko is playing some of the best rugby of his career with the French leaders

'I'm capable of carrying on, but it's a delicate balance,' Wilkinson said in an interview with sports daily L'Equipe.

'The question isn't what I would like to do, but what is best for my team. After I've asked myself that question, then I'll think about myself.'

Wilkinson is confident Toulon can win the Heineken Cup this season.
'Can we do the double I say, yes,' Wilkinson said. 'I'm never satisfied, but I'm happy with how we've played. We're heading in the right direction.'

Wilkinson thinks star-studded Toulon, which is packed with proven test players such as flyhalf Frederic Michalak, 91-test veteran Matt Giteau of Australia and former South Africa lock Bakkies Botha, is one of the best he's played in.

Jonny Wilkinson playing for the GB and Irish Lions

Lionheart: Wilkinson could be given the chance to finish his career playing with the Lions in Australia

'Everyone knows their role,” Wilkinson said. 'The most important thing is the rapport between the players, and that's where we're lucky.'

Should Wilkinson decide to retire at the end of the season, his swansong could be with the Lions tour to Australia in June, if he's selected.

Wilkinson was recently offered encouragement in his bid to be called up after one of Warren Gatland's three assistants Rob Howley confirmed that the fly half was being seriously considered for a place in the Lions squad that will tour in 2013.

Toulon v Sale match report: Armitage brothers to the fore as Sharks suffer nine-try blitz

Toulon 62 Sale 0: Armitage brothers to the fore as Sharks blown away in nine-try blitz

PUBLISHED:

17:59 GMT, 16 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:59 GMT, 16 December 2012

Sale suffered their heaviest Heineken Cup defeat as Toulon showed their title credentials with a crushing victory at Stade Felix Mayol.

The Top 14 leaders were sensational against the Aviva Premiership's bottom-placed side as they made it four wins from four in Pool Six.

The Armitage brothers, Steffon and Delon, were at the fore for the big-spending French outfit as the Sharks shipped nine tries in suffering a crushing loss.

Blitz: Sale's David Seymour is powerless to stop Toulon scrum half Frederic Michalak touching down near the post in the French side's resounding 62-0 win

Blitz: Sale's David Seymour is powerless to stop Toulon scrum half Frederic Michalak touching down near the post in the French side's resounding 62-0 win

No way through: Toulon's David Kubriashvili (centre) tries to break through a group of Sale players

No way through: Toulon's David Kubriashvili (centre) tries to break through a group of Sale players

Sale held firm for the first 30 minutes on the Cote D'Azur but they were cannon fodder after that as Jean-Charles Orioli, Freddie Michalak – who started ahead of Jonny Wilkinson – Joe van Niekerk (two), Davit Kubriashvili, Rudi Wolf and David Smith joined the Armitage boys on the scoreboard.

It was all Toulon in the early stages but they led just 3-0 after turning down a number of kickable penalties and being regularly rebuffed by a Sale side who initially refused to roll over.

Bakkies Botha appeared to have finally got the game's opening try as the match hit the 25-minute mark but the giant Springbok lock followed Steffon Armitage in seeing the TMO say 'no try' when referee Jon Lacey asked the question.

Delon Armitage then touched down out wide three minutes later only to see the score ruled out due to Matt Giteau's knock-on following a huge hit from Mark Cueto.

Dominant: Danny Cipriani tries to bring down Toulon's Samoan right wing David Smith

Dominant: Danny Cipriani tries to bring down Toulon's Samoan right wing David Smith

Dominant: Frederic Michalak was to the fore as Toulon ran in nine-try and inflicted Sale's heaviest European Cup defeat

Dominant: Frederic Michalak was to the fore as Toulon ran in nine-try and inflicted Sale's heaviest European Cup defeat

Sale finally cracked just past the half-hour, though, when hooker Orioli crashed over at the back of a driving maul. Former London Irish second row Nick Kennedy set the platform with a solid lineout take just five metres out and the rest of the pack completed the training ground exercise by powering forward at an impressive pace to give Orioli his chance.

Michalak added the extras for a 10-0 lead before Pierrick Gunther went close only to see the TMO again rule against Toulon as the pressure on the Sale pack continued to mount.

Michalak then showed his class to really dent Sale hopes four minutes before the break as he slipped outside Danny Cipriani's poor tackle from a five-metre scrum before ducking underneath Will Cliff's last-gasp effort to stretch over by the right-hand post.

The simple conversion pushed Toulon three scores clear at 17-0, leaving the game as good as dead by the interval despite Sale's superb rear-guard efforts in the opening 40 minutes.

Any thoughts Sale might have had of a remarkable comeback were ended just five minutes after the restart when Van Niekerk stepped past Rob Miller for his team's third try after a deft give and take from Steffon Armitage.

On the break: David Smith tries to escape the clutches of the Sale defence

On the break: David Smith tries to escape the clutches of the Sale defence

Grounded: Maxime Mermoz is brought to the floor by Danny Cipriani

Grounded: Maxime Mermoz is brought to the floor by Danny Cipriani

Toulon had the bonus point wrapped up by 50 minutes as Delon Armitage mirrored his brother in producing a wonderful offload to allow Kubriashvili to blast over while Fraser McKenzie was in the sin bin, with Michalak's third and fourth conversions making it 31-0 with nearly half an hour still to play.

Simon Shaw's yellow card threatened to halt Toulon's momentum but it made little difference as Steffon Armitage scored the try his all-round performance deserved as he crashed through Cipriani from two metres out after 58 minutes.

Delon then joined the party just moments later as he showed his footballing skills by chipping through three defenders, tapping on, picking up and diving over for Toulon's sixth score.

Michalak finally missed from the tee with his seventh attempt but he was back on target to claim a 20-point tally when Giteau's weaving run saw Van Niekerk add his second as Toulon hit 50 with 12 minutes left.

Rudi Wolf scored the eighth try after a fine pass from Wilkinson, before Smith completed the rout after picking up the former England star's kick ahead with the final play.

Jonny Wilkinson handed Lions boost

Wilkinson handed Lions boost but veteran faces stiff challenge to force his way Down Under

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UPDATED:

12:02 GMT, 13 December 2012

Jonny Wilkinson has been given fresh hope about his chances of capping a glittering Test career with a third and final Lions tour next summer, but he will have to force his way past two younger English No 10s to earn a squad place.

The World Cup-winning fly half retired from international rugby with England at the end of last year, but at the age of 33 he has been in vintage form for his French club, Toulon, this season.

Having revealed that he is driven by a desire to return to Australia with the Lions, the initial response was far from promising.

Roaring back: Jonny Wilkinson could be in contention to feature for the Lions

Roaring back: Jonny Wilkinson could be in contention to feature for the Lions

When head coach Warren Gatland was asked last month if he had spoken to Wilkinson, his reply was a curt, decisive 'no'.

However, when the Kiwi revealed his coaching line-up in Edinburgh, one of his assistants provided the iconic English stand off with some welcome encouragement to believe that the door is open to him.

Rob Howley formed a Test half-back partnership with Wilkinson on the last Lions tour of Australia in 2001 and he said: 'He (Wilkinson) is playing in a good team at Toulon, who are going pretty well in the Heineken Cup, and Warren has said that all players who are in contention will be looked at.

'I'm sure Toulon will be in the quarter-finals and they are the games you need to be playing – quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Heineken Cup, if you're not playing international rugby.

'We have to see the players under pressure in those sort of situations.'

The serious Achilles injury which ended Wales No 10 Rhys Priestland's season has created an extra Lions fly half vacancy, as the Scarlets playmaker surely would have featured in the squad.

On form: Wilkinson is playing some of his best rugby with Toulon

On form: Wilkinson is playing some of his best rugby with Toulon

In theory, Wilkinson should come into the equation given his prodigious experience with England, and with the Lions in 2001 and 2005, along with his enduring goal-kicking class and defensive clout.

Furthermore, he is revered and feared in equal measure in Australia, to this day.

Yet, he has two compatriots ahead of him at present in the tussle to claim squad places along with the prime Irish candidate, Jonny Sexton.

Howley said: 'I enjoyed Sexton's performances during the autumn series, and the likes of Owen (Farrell) and Toby (Flood). They are all different styles of 10 and there will be a lot of analysis on those players in the next three or four months.

'It's competition, and that's what brings the best out of them. None of them have been on a Lions tour, so it will be interesting to watch them under the microscope during a Six Nations, in a Lions year. Particularly as a No 10, a key ingredient in performances is how they react under pressure.'

Meanwhile, Gatland says the management decision to leave Shaun Edwards from his coaching team emulated Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson's management.

England's Andy Farrell will be the Lions' defence coach in Australia in 2013 rather than the Wales assistant.

'It was an agonising decision – very tough,' Gatland told BBC Radio Wales.

'But you look at someone like Alex Ferguson. He has always been prepared to keep things fresh and make changes.'

Dan Carter can rock England for New Zealand

Dan can Paint It Black: Stones fan Carter set to rock HQ and make it 10 on the trot for Kiwis

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UPDATED:

23:34 GMT, 27 November 2012

It says a lot for Dan Carter’s status in New Zealand that when the All
Black fly-half announced that his wife, Honor, is expecting their first
child, the country’s Prime Minister was quick to publicly pass on his
congratulations.

What John Key and all Kiwis recognise is that their record-breaking No
10 is a national treasure, not to mention the world’s all-time leading
points scorer and — by common consent — the finest fly-half in the
history of Test rugby.

The 30-year-old is revered in his homeland and respected around the
globe. He has been the poster-boy for the sport for several years,
having long since reluctantly acquired the mantle which once sat
uncomfortably on Jonny Wilkinson’s shoulders.

Respected: Dan Carter (centre) is a key player for New Zealand

Respected: Dan Carter (centre) is a key player for New Zealand

Stones fan: Carter went to watch the legendary rock band

Stones fan: Carter went to watch the legendary rock band

Carter is a figurehead for the game but when he is abroad, in countries
where rugby is not king, he is able to enjoy the rare delights of a
lower profile. He can blend into a crowd, which is exactly what he did
on Sunday. Just hours after arriving in London from Cardiff, he paid a
visit to the O2 Arena to watch The Rolling Stones. ‘It was awesome,’ he
said. ‘It was amazing. I was rocking out!’

Having relished the role of the excited fan, he is now in business mode,
which spells trouble for England. Carter missed the All Blacks’
victories over Italy and Wales while recovering from an injury to his
achilles-calf area, but expects to be fit for the tour finale,
Saturday’s QBE International at Twickenham.

Stuart Lancaster has enough on his plate without having to tackle the
omens which Carter will bring to HQ. Rewind to June 2003 and the
fresh-faced prospect from rural Canterbury was an unused replacement as
the England of Martin Johnson and Wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Phil
Vickery and all came to Wellington and beat the All Blacks en route to
World Cup glory.

Since then, since Carter has become a points machine,
it has been Kiwi dominance all the way in this fixture. Nine games, nine
New Zealand wins.

Pricey: Tickets to see Mick Jagger and Co cost top dollar

Pricey: Tickets to see Mick Jagger and Co cost top dollar

Surprise: Carter believes England should have kicked on after their 2003 triumph

Surprise: Carter believes England should have kicked on after their 2003 triumph

Dan Carter

‘I’m surprised England haven’t done more since 2003,’ said Carter.
‘They’ve shown the strength of their side only in patches since then.
Maybe consistency is what’s been lacking. They’ve got the players, so
talent’s not an issue.’

Recalling the night in Wellington when Sir Clive Woodward’s team
conquered his compatriots while he sat on the bench, Carter added: ‘It
was in 2003 that I got the All Black jersey for the first time, though
unfortunately I didn’t get on. England were in their prime and had a
successful year. We have real pride in not losing at home but they
taught us a lesson that night.’

Since then, his star has risen rapidly while England’s fortunes have
declined. Carter quickly asserted his credentials as a fly-half with the
full tool box — kicking precision and robust defence, mental fortitude
and vision, quick hands and nimble feet.

He reached the bar which had been set by Wilkinson and soared past it,
with the proof of his claim to be the world’s leading playmaker
delivered one night back in Wellington’s ‘Cake Tin’ in 2005, when he led
the Lions a merry dance in a complete display of the No 10 arts.

That, and so many other performances of the highest class, have helped
New Zealand regain their pre-eminence in the global game. Sadly, when
they finally claimed their Holy Grail by winning a home World Cup last
year, Carter missed the sharp end of the tournament through injury.

To see the Kiwi response to his demise at first hand was to understand
his role as a focal point of so much hope and expectation. Negative
bulletins about Carter prompt nationwide panic. It is a small-scale
version of the phenomenon in India, where public morale is intrinsically
linked to the health and batting exploits of Sachin Tendulkar.

So when Carter revealed on Twitter yesterday that Honor, a former New
Zealand hockey captain, is 21 weeks pregnant, the announcement made
waves. He was typically bashful about all the fuss. After admitting to
being ‘very excited’, he was asked if he hoped his child would be
sporting. Stuttering for an appropriate answer, he eventually came up
with: ‘Yeah . . . reasonable genes there, so who knows…!’

More comfortable territory was any talk of Saturday’s Test. While Carter
diplomatically suggested England can ‘beat any team on their day’, it
was somewhat more revealing when he described the hosts as
‘well-structured’. In direct opposition to him at Twickenham will be
21-year-old Owen Farrell of Saracens, who has eight caps to the Kiwi’s
93. It will be a classic case of master versus pupil.

This may be the last game in a gruelling season, but for the All Blacks
and their icon, there can be no easing off now. Steve Hansen’s side have
a 20-match unbeaten run to protect and Carter is adamant there is no
danger of complacency despite their nine-year hold on this fixture. For
his own part, the fire still burns.

‘Every time you get to pull on the black jersey you’re wanting to
perform,’ he said. ‘The drive is still there, which is important. The
hunger and desire to play the best I can every week is still there,
which is a good sign.’

It is a particularly bad sign for England. Carter has had his fun
watching the Stones. Now he is on his way back to Twickenham, ready to
paint it black once more.

DAN CARTER'S TWITTER COMPETITION

Carter with rugby tickets

After sampling the most expensive tickets in town at the Rolling Stones concert, New Zealand star Dan Carter is offering his Twitter followers some freebies.

The fly-half is giving away two pairs of tickets (pictured right) for England’s crunch game against the All Blacks at Twickenham on Saturday. The catch Entrants have to submit a ‘creative’ film explaining why they deserve the tickets, performed in front of a London landmark.

Carter will announce the winner at midday on Friday.

Tweets from @DanCarter

‘Last leg of the tour and I think we should do something crazy and creative for #EnglandDCHookup’

‘In order to win double pass to the England game, you need to send me a #creative video on why you want those tickets.’

‘The video needs to include a well known London landmark in the background. Remember you have to be able to attend the game in person.’

‘Shy & don’t want to be in the video that’s fine as long the video is creative, includes a London landmark and why you want those tickets’