Andrea Masi scoring against France in the match of the tournamentAndrea Masi, Italy’s powerful back, has today been announced as the official RBS Player of the Championship for the 2011 RBS 6 Nations. Over 17,000 votes were registered ensuring that the RBS Player of the Championship award was won by an Italian for the first time.On receiving the trophy, Andrea commented:“It has been a Championship of highs and lows for the Italian team, our win against France will go down in rugby history but to finish sixth frustrated us all. However, to be named the RBS Player of the Championship is a fantastic way to end what has been one of the most competitive Championships I can remember. We have worked hard this year and can be proud of our achievements. Italian rugby continues to strengthen and we are very happy with our progress as a team. To be the first Italian voted to win this award by the fans is a huge compliment.” ROME, ITALY – MARCH 12: Carlo Antonio Del Fava of Italy congratulates team mate Andrea Masi after his try during the RBS Six Nations match between Italy and France at the Stadio Flaminio on March 12, 2011 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) The 2011 RBS Player of the Championship was decided as a result of a public vote, hosted on www.rbs6nations.com. The shortlist was compiled of winners of the RBS Man of the Match award from the first four weekends. Andrea received his for Italy’s historic victory over France, scoring a try in that game as well as in their tie against Scotland.Andrea Masi won his RBS 6 Nations Player of the Championship Award whilst securing over 30% of the votes whilst Fabio Semenzato, also on the shortlist, came in second with just under 12%. The two Italians were closely followed by Sean O’Brien of Ireland and Toby Flood of RBS 6 Nations Champions England, both gaining just over 10% of the votes. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
If Ireland scrum-half Isaac Boss, one of four Ireland internationals on the bench, is used as a replacement it will be his 50th provincial appearance. DUBLIN, IRELAND – APRIL 30: Eoin Reddan of Leinster passes the ball during the Heineken Cup semi final match between Leinster and Toulouse at Aviva Stadium on April 30, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Eoin Reddan notches up his 60th cap for the clubIn all there are 13 Ireland qualified players in the starting Leinster XV including scrum-half Eoin Reddan – making his 60th Leinster appearance – who links up with Jonathan Sexton at half back for the trip to Belfast, (Friday, KO: 7:05pm).Luke Fitzgerald is named in a back three alongside the Kearney brothers. Unfortunately, Eoin O’Malley was a late withdrawal this morning after a recurrence of his calf strain forced him from the training field, thus Fergus McFadden – who makes his 70th Leinster appearance – will partner Brian O’Driscoll in the midfield.Up front, Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross start in the front row, with All Black Brad Thorn locking down alongside skipper Leo Cullen. Kevin McLaughlin (who will also make his 70th Leinster appearance) joins fellow ex Gonzaga College SJ forward Dominic Ryan in the back row alongside the returning Sean O’Brien who starts at number eight. Starting XV:15: Rob Kearney14: David Kearney13: Brian O’Driscoll12: Fergus McFadden11: Luke Fitzgerald10: Jonathan Sexton9: Eoin Reddan1: Cian Healy2: Richardt Strauss3: Mike Ross4: Leo Cullen (C)5: Brad Thorn6: Kevin McLaughlin7: Dominic Ryan8: Sean O’BrienReplacements:16: Sean Cronin17: Heinke van der Merwe18: Nathan White19: Devin Toner20: Shane Jennings21: Isaac Boss22: Ian Madigan23: Fionn Carr
Follow the leader: Wales captain Ryan Jones has been in exemplary form so far in this year’s Six NationsBy Alan DymockAGE. IT is tricky to come to terms with. Grey wings in your hair; you’re distinguished. Too many crow’s feet; even worse, you can’t judge a dancing competition any more.For Wales captain Ryan Jones, 31, advancing years mean that he has benefitted from a change in attitude whilst coming to terms with how things pan out. He knows his role and he will do it, come what may.“At my age being captain is something I treasure”, he tells me on a drive back to his beloved West Wales. “The position is one I hold dear and with my experience I have learnt that I can just try to do it my way. Some can take it or leave it – and there is no right or wrong way of captaining a side – but you cannot try to emulate someone else.Juggling act: Jones does some promo work“In rugby you will get found out pretty quick if you are not up to the job. However, you can mature into a role and I have found that it does get easier. Rugby seasons come in cycles, and once you have gone through it, you know you can do it again.”What he has said is something that, inadvertently at least, demonstrates how comfortable Jones looks now. In previous stints as Wales’ captain, at times, his crown was heavy, with expectations high and a whole nation crying for a captain-martyr capable of genius and modesty all rolled into one. Now he appears to enjoy his role as the everyman in this year’s Six Nations. Not a mythical master, but the trusty legionnaire who ensures that everything gets done just right.“The last couple of weeks have been going well,” he says. “We have huge confidence and I know you cannot captain a side from the bench. But it is not about me. We have Sam (Warburton), Adam (Jones), Alun Wyn (Jones)and Leigh (Halfpenny). All of them make valid contributions to the side and it’s about being able to facilitate them.“We had a sluggish start against Ireland, but against France and Italy we were making positive errors; human errors going forward. We’re not making errors in the areas where we could be punished. My overriding emotion in France after our win was relief. However previous results will have no bearing on the next fixture.”So what happens when that familiar pressure comes back, nipping at the head again, making you look too far ahead? High flier: Jones rises above the Scots“Pressure is par for the course and it is all about column inches and exposure, but you have to develop your own coping strategy. People may look ahead to Wales versus England and irrespective of the stakes it is still a huge fixture. Yet – and I accept it’s a cliché – you have to take one game at a time and we have massive respect for Scotland. We know that the breakdown will be key to the game and the speed of ball will be hugely important. Scotland have been strong there and they have a rejuvenated home crowd.Jones says that it would be naive to think Wales haven’t looked at other ways Scotland could play. “Being competent in many different facets of the game is the key to a good Test side. But you can’t afford to look too much at the other team. You have to focus on yourself. We won a Grand Slam by making marginal decisions. By getting into more positions to win. You have to have faith in the process because change can take months.”Many do believe in Jones. He proven durability and an iron will. At one point he admits to me that his greatest strength is that he is a natural competitor.However, his experience and tenacity never turns to hubris. Instead, humility reigns, and as he is reminded that the bookies strongly suggest that some smart money may be stacked on him being Lions tourist this summer, he shies away. Late call-ups, in 2005 and 2009, have taught him to be patient and respectful and he would rather trumpet others.“Anyone playing international rugby who says they have not thought about the Lions is lying, but I’m realistic. There are only two more games in the shop window and I have gotten where I am on the back of good team performances.“If I was picking the team, of course I would go, but there are an awful lot of very good back rows. I will just go on holiday and make sure my phone is switched on,” he chuckles. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS His willingness to serve common cause may just mean that he should hold off booking that holiday.Guinness is the Official Beer of the RBS 6 Nations. Join in the latest rugby debate at facebook.com/GuinnessGB.
There have been for many years a small (but increasing) number of Muslims playing professional rugby in France. Among the current crop are Sofiane Guitoune, the Bordeaux-Begles winger selected in France’s Six Nations squad; Olivier Missoup, the Oyonnax flanker; Brive back-rower Saïd Hireche; Bezier wing Sabri Gmir, and Pau second row Abdelatif Boutaty. “I am revolted by these odious attacks,” Boutaty told Midi Olympique. “This people are dirtying Islam. They are using religion as a shield to make up for their own discontent.”But few figures within French rugby have been as distraught by what happened in Paris as Abdel Benazzi. The first North African Muslim to captain France, the Moroccan-born Benazzi remains one of the finest flankers to wear the blue jersey. In total he played 79 Tests for France, leading them to the Grand Slam in 1997, the same year he was honoured by the then president of the Republic, Jacques Chirac, with his appointment to the Immigration Committee, a prestigious body established in 1989 to assist with the integration into France of foreigners. “I have been wounded in my soul,” declared Benazzi, whose brother lives just 500 metres from the offices of Charlie Hebdo.In shock: French legend Abdel Benazzi has condemned the attacksBenazzi, like the former France football captain Zinedine Zidane, remains an inspirational figure to North African immigrants. France is not perfect in its attitude towards immigrants but it is possible to achieve success if one works hard. Particularly in sport. In an interview in 2013 Benazzi recalled his formative years in France in the late 1980s, shortly after arriving from Morocco. “My integration into a different culture was a little difficult,” he admitted. “French rugby was a little conservative (at the time). The fact to not eat like everybody, to not drink alcohol, makes you appear like an alien to certain people. But if we discuss with everybody and we stay faithful to our convictions it appears evident that this difference is a richness. Quickly I discovered in sport and in rugby a second family.” The Charlie Hebdo shootings shocked the world and the effect it has had on the French nation has been widespread and profound. French rugby is no different Benazzi encountered racism from supporters and players during his early days in France, brainless bigots who targeted him on the field because of his religion. In an interview earlier this week with a French newspaper, he drew on that experience when asked about cartoons that prompted the attack on Charlie Hebdo. “I can be shocked (by the cartoons) but I cannot respond by force. I can respond only from my heart, my words, by derision, by a letter…but not by force,” explained Benazzi. “God knows that during my rugby career, occasionally, the provocation was pushed to the extreme. If I had responded with violence, I would never have had the career that I did. Instead it made me even more determined to score tries to shut them up.”Recognising that there is still work to be done by both Muslims and the French State in better integrating the former, Benazzi believes sport has a vital role to play. “Sport is one of the rare areas where there is a mixing and where everybody gets on well together,” he said. “On the pitch we learn to be united, to work together for a common goal…I could do five Masters (degrees) but none would teach me as much as what sport has because of its universal language.” “Charlie”. It has been the word on everyone’s lips in France during the diabolical events of the past week and a half. Within 24 hours of the murderous attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Thierry Dusautoir had expressed his shock in an article published on the French edition of the Huffington Post. The captain of France signed off with the rallying cry that was so much in evidence last weekend when an estimated 3.7m French people came together in the streets in memory of the 17 victims – “Je Suis Charlie”.Rugby expressed its solidarity with a campaign organized jointly by Provale, the players’ union, and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR). “These are events that obviously concern everybody,” explained Paul Goze, president of the LNR. “In demonstrating our support, it’s also expressing that rugby is not outside society.”Leader: French captain Thierry Dusautoir has spoken out against the attacksMore than 800 t-shirts, each emblazoned with ‘Nous Sommes Tous Charlie’ (We are all Charlie) were distributed to the 30 professional clubs of the Top14 and Pro2. Before each match last weekend the players stood for a minute of silence wearing the t-shirts. Across the country, the minute was followed by a sustained round of applause and then a spontaneous rendition of La Marseillaise.France rugby supporters found additional comfort in the reaction of the scores of overseas players within its ranks. Aussies, South Africans, Britons, Fijians, Georgians, they all stood with their heads bowed in mute contemplation at the horror of what had unfolded in Paris. Such was the strength of solidarity on show the t-shirts could have read “Nous Somme Tous Francais”.Monday’s edition of Midi Olympique – its masthead changed to ‘Midi Charlie’ – carried the thoughts of several coaches, presidents and players. Some words had more resonance than others. Business tycoon Mohed Altrad, the president of Montpellier, could barely contain his anger at the perpetrators. He is well placed to express an opinion. Himself an immigrant, Altrad was born a Bedouin in the Syrian desert. After the death of his parents, he came to France in his teens unable to speak the language but determined to build a better life for himself.In mourning: Toulon’s owner Mourad Boudjellal lost a friend in the shootingsSimilarly Mourad Boudjellal, Toulon’s colourful owner, and a man whose heritage is part North African Muslim, expressed his revulsion at the attacks. Boudjellal built his fortune from cartoon publishing and was good friends with one of the murdered cartoonists. “Never have I been so proud to be president of Toulon,” he told Midi Olympique, referring to the response of the Stade Mayol crowd before Saturday’s game against Racing Métro. “Never has a minute’s silence been so respected (and) the minute of applause was emotional. Rugby has played its role.” TAGS: Highlight In shock: The Stade Francais players were united in grief by the Charlie Hebdo atrocity LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
Rory Underwood is still England’s record try-scorer, with 49 Test tries. Phenomenal finishing seemed to come easy to the powerful Tigers winger TAGS: The Greatest Players LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Major teams: Leicester, Bedford Country: EnglandTest span: 1984-96England caps: 85 (85 starts)Lions caps: 6 (6 starts)Test points: 215 (50T)Born in Middlesborough in 1963 to a Chinese-Malaysian mother and English father, Underwood was educated at Barnard Castle. He spent most of his playing days at Leicester Tigers, scoring 134 tries in 236 appearances, before ending his career at Bedford, where he accrued 12 tries in 23 Premiership matches in the 1998-99 season – at the age of 35.His pace is renowned but many overlook the strength he brought to bear in contact. When England first started to take conditioning seriously in the late Eighties, one of the tests involved throwing a 16lbs shot two-handed over your head. To everyone’s surprise, Underwood threw it further than anyone else. Rory Underwood evades the Australian defence “Pound for pound, he was the most powerful athlete we had,” says Don Rutherford, the RFU’s former technical director. It enabled him to brush off tacklers, yet former England team-mate Brian Moore believes Underwood could have been even more lethal if he had taken nutrition seriously. Moore says the winger had “the most astonishingly bad diet you could imaginer such an outstanding athlete… chips, Coke, pizzas, burgers, ice cream, sweets. He was like a kid and was the first to admit it.” Even so, Underwood helped England win three Grand Slams and a Five Nations title in the Nineties, as well as play six Lions Tests. From 1992 he had the pleasure of playing on the opposite wing to his younger brother Tony with England.Away from rugby, he was an RAF pilot for 18 years. Awarded an MBE in 1995, he’s now a director at the Tigers, runs his own management consultancy and does motivational speaking.
“In your forward pack you want three who are capable of passing the ball and the other five you want smashing over the gain line and getting the opposition moving backwards,” added Jones. “To me it doesn’t matter what position they are. In the old days you had forwards playing here and backs playing there, now no team plays like that. After two or three phases it is all mixed up.”Jones has made-do and mended pretty well in the last year, so there is no reason why this temporary sticking plaster won’t work. Injuries have reduced England’s optionsSince that triumph, injuries have sidelined Sam Jones of Wasps, Mike Williams of Leicester, and Jack Clifford of Harlequins, and none of them are traditional linking sevens anyway. A combination of judo, complete fluky bad luck and the rigours of the Premiership has done for them. Now, Jones has nowhere to go apart from the Saracens second row, Maro Itoje.Sam Underhill is injured and ineligible, Teimana Harrison is not in the Elite Player Squad, and, of the others who are, Will Evans is not ready for Test rugby according to his boss at Leicester, Richard Cockerill.Only Lewis Moody, Joe Worsley, Haskell, Hendre Fourie, Chris Robshaw, Tom Johnson, Matt Kvesic, Calum Clark and Harrison have started England games wearing number seven since February 2010 . They have had mixed results but, as Jones worked out pretty early his stint as England boss, you can’t pick what you haven’t got – and England haven’t got any sevens.Even Jones, a man who replaced two players after just half an hour of a Test match in the summer, will probably not do a complete U-turn on Chris Robshaw and have him running out with the mythical figure on his back. So it looks Itoje will be the man. Eddie Jones has his sights set on toppling the All Blacks but at times in the last couple of weeks he must feel like he has reversed over a black cat as he has seen a string of potential number sevens get crocked ahead of the autumn Internationals. As Harry Redknapp always used to say, he is down to the bare bones, so it looks like Jones will send for Super Maro.An old editor of mine used to tell us never to be scared of doing the bleeding obvious and Jones should not be afraid of it in this case. England might be at sixes, sevens and six-and-a-halves but the answer is staring him in the face.The England boss reckons that only two teams – Leicester and Gloucester – play with a traditional openside flanker and he will have to make-do and mend as he did in the Six Nations and the tour of Australia. Then, James Haskell filled the bill as a ball-carrying seven and not a fetcher, but he has got a foot injury. Double whammy: With Itoje at No 7, Launchbury (right) can play lock. (Photo: Getty Images)The Australia cricket model states that you have got to get your best players on the pitch. If Jones uses that, then switching Itoje to flanker, even if just for the autumn series, makes sense – and it gets Joe Launchbury back into the starting line-up. With no George Smith or Richie McCaw-type player available, it is as good as it can get. Jones recently said: “I have looked through all of the Premiership games very closely. I can’t find anyone who fits the bill. It is about maximising your resources; a Smith or McCaw works when you have that sort of player; if you haven’t got that type of player and when you then try to copy that system, you come unstuck, as we did in the third Test in Australia. We wanted Harrison to play that role and he wasn’t able to do so at this stage.“We moved to Maro and Robbo playing left and right and it worked well for us. The game changes all the time, you have to work out what suits your team, there is no right and wrong way. In football, people get caught up in the systems, the formation you play. Use the resources of the people you have available.” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Does the number on a player’s back really matter?And Jones’s theory is that the game is different now, from the days of Neil Back and Mike Rafter, so if you have not got a proper seven on the books you just pick someone to do a job irrespective of the number on his back. Been there, done that: Itoje played on the flank for England in Australia. (Photo: Getty Images)Itoje has played some big games in the back row. In 2015 he started the European Champions Cup semi-final against Clermont there and the Aviva Premiership semi-finals and final. As his club director of rugby, Mark McCall, observed this week, Itoje gets as many turnovers as anyone else and is a destructive player. Launchbury is decent on the ground as well so the selection, in the circumstances, looks like a no-brainer and the man himself has no complaints.“I’ve been switching positions for a while now,” said Itoje. “It’s not like asking a winger to play prop. I’ve played back-row. It’s something I’m fairly used to.” England are at sixes and sevens in the back row after a flurry of injuries, so Eddie Jones is poised to go “route one” and do the obvious. Come in No 7: Maro Itoje can do a great job for England. (Photo: Getty Images)
Having gone through the shock of a testicular cancer diagnosis and the anguish of chemotherapy, Nasi Manu considers what it will be like to finally run out for Benetton Treviso again this season.“I’ve been for a couple of relaxed runs and I daydream about it,” the back-rower tells Rugby World, a few weeks after getting the go-ahead to start training again.“It’ll definitely be emotional, just to be back out playing. But the first thing is being able to train with them fully. I can almost taste it – to run opposition, in training against the first-team guys, while the season is still there.“I’m trying not to get emotional about it now, because it’s becoming more and more of a reality to do what I love again. Soon.”On the eve of Benetton’s first match of this Guinness Pro14 season, after a few weeks of thinking something wasn’t right, Manu finally headed to the doctor to get his left testicle checked out. After being sent to the oncology department in Treviso for some tests, the Tonga international was told he would need to come back again the next day.His name fell off the team-sheet as he headed back to hospital on the Friday. After more tests and three doctors talking over him in Italian, the picture became clear when the physician told Manu: “It’s okay, I’ve seen people come back from this. Like Lance Armstrong.”The breakaway was reeling, unable to process the emotions, the fear, until he took some time to himself. Yet just a few hours later he was on the operating table. The speed at which everything happened, he says, was the best thing for him.Glory days: Manu was co-captain of the Highlanders when they won Super Rugby (Getty Images)Aside from chemotherapy, Manu believes that the three days after his op, waiting for another scan to see if the cancer had spread, were the most torturous. But looking back he feels his time hooked up to drips and waiting for the worst, has helped him to find a positive place now. And that can only benefit his rugby future.“Once I found out I had cancer, it was never about getting back to the rugby field, it was about my life and being free to live and be a dad for my daughter and husband for my wife,” he says.“But I really feel like a new man now. I am happy to hurt. I’m training, doing cardio, and it feels good to get back to some normality. I think for a little bit, I took things for granted. Now I know how important it is I make the most of this opportunity.“I think when I went to Edinburgh and at the end of my time in New Zealand, I definitely could have put a lot more effort into it.“Moving to Italy, I really enjoyed it and I did work hard. I felt like I was progressing and then I played on my first Test tour with Tonga. I came back and then hit a speed bump. Ready to go again: Nasi Manu looks forward to wearing Benetton green again (INPHO/Ashley Crowden) Benetton back-row Nasi Manu is raring to get back into the action after undergoing surgery and a course of chemotherapy to treat testicular cancer “Going through cancer and chemo has been a great sort of awakening for what I really want and my rugby goals, my life goals. I sort of narrowed down what’s important to me.” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Treviso feels like the perfect place to nurture such a comeback. Just to be back out on the field is a success for Manu. Then again, who would write off a trip to Japan in September.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Manu has nothing but appreciation for the way his club have supported him through this hellish time. And he has enjoyed seeing the hard work that has meant Benetton are flying high in the Pro14.Sitting second in Conference B, with ten league wins to their name, there is a real buzz about the Italian outfit. Manu believes that this is a product of superb logistical support off the field and a positive approach from coach Kieran Crowley and his staff. The former Highlanders captain sees a marriage of passion and accuracy in Benetton’s play.The next step for Manu, medically, is to get a full check-up in June and then, if all goes to plan, he won’t need to see a specialist again until 2020.A life goal: Manu would like to play for Tonga in the World Cup (Getty)On the field he says the most pressing mission is to “get the body back in fighting shape”. However, when talking about the coming months he mentions competing for Tonga again.Is playing in the Rugby World Cup a goal of his?“That’s always been a dream to compete on the world stage, to play in a World Cup,” says Manu, who has three caps. “The dream is still alive to maybe achieve that this year. I’ve still got a lot of work.“My first goal is to be available this season for Benetton. I know they’ll make sure I go along the right tracks, so that’s my initial goal. Then the dream is to make the World Cup squad.”
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS There can be liberation in accepting that change is needed. In an age when it feels like the mere concepts of compromise, concession and even accepting help can be lost amongst the angry voices, we may not notice how those who embrace them have grown. At first.For example, it was the fear of an outsider, not an established name who had earned 36 Test caps, when Anthony Watson panicked about being asked to leave England’s pre-World Cup camp in 2019. He had only just come back from a 17-month ordeal where he had injured, and then shockingly reinjured, his Achilles.Then this. And although Eddie Jones reassured him time and again that his excursion wasn’t a sign that the coach was ready to cut the cord, we all know it’s the guys on the fringe that get sent away…To make things that little bit – weirder is probably the right word? – Watson was not going back to his club in Bath but heading to Loughborough to train with the well-known sprint coach Jonas Dodoo. As Watson tells Rugby World of his mindset at the time, “I was absolutely bricking it!”Picking up pace: Watson in England camp (Getty Images)Watson would of course go to Japan and feature in six matches as England hammered towards a World Cup final, starting five of them. Today he hails Jones’s plan to send him away for individual training as a masterstroke. However, he may be skimming over how important it was that he took to a path he may not have envisioned running down even a few years before.Watson explains: “When I was sent away I was wondering, ‘Why? Why has this happened? Am I being dropped?’ I was so confused.“I am so grateful. That one week extra that I had with Jonas helped me so much in terms of feeling out my body again, as I was still getting used to my left foot because of the Achilles (injury). I would credit Jonas so much in terms of how I felt at the World Cup.“It’s a bit more difficult from a player’s point of view to understand the injury prevention side of things. But from a speed point of view, the one thing that stuck out to me was that unless you run fast regularly, how can you protect your body from not getting broken when you need to run fast? One thing that I learnt with Jonas was that every week you have got to try to run at least 85 or 90% of your top speed to protect your hamstrings when they are required to run at 100%.”Related: Anthony Watson reveals his lockdown workoutIf it sounds like a change was made before the World Cup, changes came afterwards too. Watson explains that it dawned on him that Japan’s onsen culture made so much sense in terms of recovery. Having splashed around in the natural hot springs and come out feeling refreshed, he reconsidered his approach to recovery back with Bath.Green screen: An official head shot in Japan (Getty Images)He laughs that his partner hates the terminology, but upon his return from the World Cup he sorted out his “recovery centre”. Sauna, cold baths, even an hyperbaric chamber have become part of his regular routine and in Watson’s recent lockdown workouts he has chased down training gains.Perhaps there is something in having a more individual approach tacked on after all the teamwork. Cohesion and a willingness to do what’s best for the collective is vital in rugby, of course, but you don’t have to work exclusively as a cog in the big machine. Watson feels reinvigorated since taking a closer look at himself; in marrying the individual training work with the group ethos, he could get the best of both worlds.“It probably took me a few years to really understand that you do get out of it what you put in”At just 26, there is more room to improve. Which must be Christmas-day exciting for any young athlete to recognise. Obviously he has already achieved incredible things in rugby, but imagine if it had all clicked sooner.“Oh mate, I’ve changed ridiculously since I started playing,” Watson offers on the passing of time. “You always hear people say what they’d do if they could go back to when they were 18, 19, if they could know what they know now.Euro camp: Watson training in Albufeira, Portugal. (Getty Images)“Jesus, I feel like I would be a whole different person at 18, 19. I’ve just learnt so much, particularly over the last two or three years. I probably just went with the flow way too much between the ages of 19 and 22. I didn’t really understand what I was trying to do. I didn’t really want to understand what I was trying to do, from a rugby perspective. And that probably hindered me a fair bit.“I wouldn’t say that I skipped those first two or three years. But if I could go back and change them, I feel like I could have got a lot more out of them than I did. Things like trying to understand the game better and how important certain things to do with rugby are. We spoke about the recovery stuff, there’s the mental side of things… Just understanding what I was trying to get out of the sport. And then the most fundamental one really is just that ‘no one can do it for you’.“Not that I was expecting anyone to do it for me, but I was just happy to go with the flow and see where it took me. As opposed to trying to make it happen and making sure that I left no stone unturned. Then you can’t blame yourself, can you? So staying after training, the work ethic side of things. It probably took me a few years to really understand that you do get out of it what you put in. It’s not that it bothers me, I just wish I knew that.”Related: How to watch Gallagher Premiership matches online from anywhereAt first Watson says there was never a lightning bolt moment when he realised the true value of changing his approach. More that it settled in over time.Arriving in Bath from London Irish, he recalls being taken aback by the level of extra work George Ford put in. He was out there kicking for two hours or more after training; Watson was already in, showering. Ford would go home, hunker down and crush match footage; Watson was glued to his PlayStation. At the time Watson was just enjoying his life. And it’s not like he was slacking.Strike move: Watson is a real threat for Bath (Getty Images)But pausing, he admits that if there was a time to be struck by a bolt from above, it was when he went through his Achilles hell. He realised how much he relied on rugby for his happiness, how quickly that joy could disappear. So he looked at maximising his potential.Related: Win an England shirt signed by Anthony WatsonThere is no denying that what separates Watson from rivals, literally and figuratively, is his explosiveness. Often we can oversimplify and ignore the graft that has gone into making a performer, well, perform. But talk to Dodoo about what makes Watson the athlete unique and it opens your eyes to a whole world of technical difference.As an example, take him and his brother Marcus, the Wasps wing who has shone with both England and GB Sevens, winning Olympic silver in 2016. According to Dodoo, there is quite a difference between the pair. Anthony’s power output per step is “through the roof” but he will not have the same frequency of steps as brother Marcus. Anthony is more explosive, while Marcus is more reactive. And although they are not related, there is such a close bond between Watson and his Bath and England team-mate Jonathan Joseph that Dodoo says he often thinks of them as brothers. These two are polar opposites in terms of style, according to both the coach and Watson.It is that difference, perhaps, that means the pair work so well off each other in attack. Dodoo sees Watson as more of a straight-line runner, relying on incredible acceleration, deceleration and acceleration again in order to cut opposition defences to ribbons. While Joseph, Dodoo says, relies much more on “swivel” – he can go from running at full-pace forwards to moving sideways while maintaining his speed.At this point, there is cause to take a pause. In the previous thousand words, was it clear enough that Watson thinks a great deal about his game, that he is much more than just a physically gifted athlete? It’s worth considering. In recent months, the words we use to describe black and minority athletes have rightly come under scrutiny.“I definitely think that the language needs to be thought about more,” Watson says of the subject. As the Black Lives Matter movement has pushed us to have necessary discussions about how we interact with one another, a study into racial bias used in football commentary came into public view.National rivals: Scoring a first-half try v Wales (Getty Images)In the study, it was revealed that footballers with lighter skin are significantly more likely to be praised for their intellect, work-rate and quality compared with those with darker skin, who are also almost seven times more likely to be praised for their power and over three times more likely to have their pace mentioned. Watson agrees some elements of the study into unconscious bias were “outrageous”.Going on from the need to think more about language used, he adds: “Especially in certain areas. If ‘work-rate’ has been raised then definitely people need to think about that a little bit closer.“And I’d also suggest, potentially, that when commentators talk about attitude problems a lot of the time that’s towards mixed race, black or BAME players across sports. Some of that might be with perfect reason, but I still feel like black people don’t get the benefit of the doubt with some issues like that, whereas white people do, and I have felt that in rugby for sure.”Watson spoke eloquently on BBC 5 Live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast special on rugby and race and what it was like for him as a child of mixed race. He adds that education is a key aspect with this. He also talks about the power of seeing someone who looks like you working their own way to the top and doing incredible things. As for talking publicly, he says the time to just ‘shut up and do your sport’ is well and truly over.And in perfect step with his approach to changing the way he takes to his craft, Watson believes that it would benefit us all if we made a habit of listening to other’s points of view.Toppling the All Blacks: At the Rugby World Cup, in Yokohama (Getty Images)“More open dialogue has to be the way forward,” he says. “You can’t just expect people to learn if you don’t help them. Explain why you were offended or it just doesn’t make sense. So I think that continuing to speak about it and continuing to understand different points of view as well is important.“I’ve spoken to quite a few boys. I’ve spoken to Maro (Itoje), to Beno (Obano), I’ve spoken to Courtney Lawes. Generally they’ve all got pretty differing point of views – along the same lines but different – and understanding them, while still understanding your own viewpoint, is important.“And people not being able to change their view is a big bugbear of mine. Some people are too stubborn, they’ll just fight a losing battle just to fight. That doesn’t make any sense to me. If you’re wrong, admit it. Even if it’s midway through an argument, admit you’re wrong, once you’ve thought about it.“It happens with me and Beno quite a bit. We will just be arguing over random stuff. It could be anything. He is very strong in his arguments, and I can often see his perspective and there are times mid-argument when I’m just like, ‘Oh yeah, you are right, actually’. My biggest bugbear is when people can’t do that and they continue to argue there for three hours!”It’s okay to concede. It’s okay to hear other views. It can help you move forward.With Bath, Watson hopes that they can now discover their cutting edge and begin winning the close scraps, coming away with four points from any eyesore of a game. But they are not far away, Watson adds, which is what continues to push him. He feels the club is in a good place and when it all finally clicks for the West Country side, look out.“That was the worst pain I’ve ever been in, in my life, for those eight weeks”Of course, 2021 is also Lions year. Watson was a starter in 2017, and feels he has transformed his approach since. He says, if selected, he’d be a different player but at the same time would want to replicate the happy feeling he carried through the last tour.He must have been in good nick back then?Lions star: Attacking in the third Test in 2017 (Getty Images)“Well, actually it was the worst physically I’ve been!” he replies. “That was the worst pain I’ve ever been in, in my life, for those eight weeks. My Achilles tendon was like… Well, the pain was a joke.“But mentally I felt so good. I don’t know why. To be honest, I wasn’t nervous for any of those Tests. It just felt so good in terms of all the preparation I had done and I just backed myself completely. But from a physical point of view, I was on the other end of the spectrum.“When I got subbed off in the third Test, I was gutted because I wanted to play, but the pain I had in my Achilles I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I had to load my Achilles (put a weighted load on your back, go on your tiptoes for around 45 seconds, for three sets) at pretty much every hotel we went to. So the team would have to carry in plates and set up a (weights) bar in the middle of team areas, like a squat rack, for me to load my Achilles. I had to do that twice a day. It was agony.”Which offers a snapshot of Watson’s tenacity. But with the renewed approach to the game, to recovery, in listening to peers and accepting change, you fancy that the Englishman can be even more troublesome to face four years further down the track. Running hard: Watson attacks for England (Getty Images) This article originally appeared in the September 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Things had already worked out pretty nicely for Bath, England and Lions ace Anthony Watson. But by exploring new perspectives, could he unlock even more potential?
Super Rugby AU Schedule AnnouncedKicking off on 3 July will be a new domestic competition in Australia called the Vodafone Super Rugby AU. It follows in the footsteps of the New Zealand domestic competition called Super Rugby Aotearoa and has a similar format.The tournament will see five Australian teams battle it out over 12 consecutive weekends of rugby action. The five teams will play each other in home and away fixtures and the tournament will culminate in a two-week finals series in September.The teams competing are the NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Canberra Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force.Rob Clarke, Rugby Australia interim CEO, said: “Today is another exciting day for rugby fans in Australia as we unveil the full competition draw for Vodafone Super Rugby AU.“One of the main features is the consistent Friday and Saturday night prime-time viewing slots on Fox Sports, which rugby fans can set their watches to for the next 12 weeks. There will be no need to set the alarms to get up and watch your team in the middle of the night.“We are looking forward to welcoming back the Western Force and seeing them take on their Australian rivals once again. We know there is a lot of excitement in the west and we cannot wait to see them in action.“We know our teams will be desperate to get their hands on the silverware and players will be out to put their best foot forward for Wallabies selection at the end of the season.” Back in action: the Rebels celebrate a try. They start their Super Rugby AU campaign in Canberra (Inpho) Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Friday 10 July – Rebels 18-18 RedsSaturday 11 July – Waratahs 23-14 Western ForceBrumbies ByeRound 3Friday 17 July – Reds 31-24 Western ForceSaturday 18 July – Waratahs 23-24 BrumbiesRebels ByeRound 4Friday 24 July – Waratahs 10-29 Rebels Saturday 25 July – Western Force 0-24 BrumbiesReds ByeRound 5Friday 31 July – Western Force 20-25 RebelsSaturday 1 August – Brumbies 22-20 RedsWaratahs ByeRound 6Friday 7 August – Rebels 30-12 BrumbiesSaturday 8 August – Waratahs 45-12 RedsWestern Force ByeRound 7Friday 14 August – Western Force 8-28 WaratahsSaturday 15 August – Reds 19-3 RebelsBrumbies ByeRound 8Friday 21 August – Western Force 5-57 RedsSaturday 22 August – Brumbies 38-11 WaratahsRebels ByeRound 9 Friday 28 August – Brumbies 31-14 Western ForceSaturday 29 August – Rebels 32-38 WaratahsReds ByeRound 10Saturday 5 September – Rebels 34-30 Western ForceSaturday 5 September – Reds 26-7 BrumbiesWaratahs ByeQualifying Final Saturday 12 September – Reds 25-13 RebelsFinalSaturday 19 September – Brumbies v Reds Like the New Zealand competition, Super Rugby AU will also feature law variations, including golden point, red card substitutions and 50/22 kicks. There are seven changes in all:1. When an attacking player carrying the ball is held up in the in-goal or knocks the ball on play restarts with a goal-line drop-out.2. When a kick enters the in-goal area and is forced by the defending team play restarts with a goal line drop-out.3. A kick originating in the attacking 22m area cannot be marked by the defending team within their own 22m area. The kick can however be marked within the defending team’s in-goal area and play restarts with a 22m line drop-out.4. A red-carded player can be replaced after 20 minutes.5. A kick taken from within the defending team’s 50m area that travels into touch within the opposition’s 22m area having first bounced in the field of play results in a lineout throw to the kicking team.6. A kick taken from within the defending team’s 22m area that travels into touch within the opposition’s 50m area having first bounced in the field of play results in a lineout throw to the kicking team.7. Super Time – there will be two five-minute periods of extra-time in the event of a drawn game after regulation time where the first points scored wins the match for the scoring team.Super Rugby AU ScheduleAll matches will be shown live on Sky Sports. If you don’t have a subscription to Sky but want to watch the matches, you can get a NowTV pass for daily, monthly or mobile access – find out more here.Round 1Friday 3 July – Reds 32-26 WaratahsSaturday 4 July – Brumbies 31-23 RebelsWestern Force ByeRound 2 The domestic competition in Australia kicked off in July
This article originally appeared in the October 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The Bristol Bears boss has packed a lot into his 30 years as an elite-level player and coach TAGS: Samoa Pat Lam’s Life in PicturesPat Lam won 34 Samoa caps between 1991 and 1999, playing in three World Cups during that time. The back-rower also won trophies with Newcastle and Northampton before moving into coaching and winning trophies with Auckland, Connacht and Bristol.Here Lam talks through key moments from his three decades in the elite game…(Getty Images)1991 – Island paradise“The biggest highlight of my playing career – the 1991 World Cup and beating Wales (16-13). It was a massive game and a huge upset, but the reason why it’s the highlight is what it did for the Samoan people.“Growing up in New Zealand, Samoans were seen as working class, working in factories and so forth. What that Samoa team did gave them a sense of pride.“I was a teacher and every young Pacific Islander growing up in New Zealand wanted to be an All Black, but after that it was, ‘Mr Lam, I want to play for Manu Samoa’. It brought real pride.“What the team achieved on the field meant Samoa then got invited to play the big nations.”(Getty Images)1992 – Making a splash “You can’t change countries now but in those days you could. I was with New Zealand Sevens from 1989 so this was my fourth year in that team, while I’d been to the 1991 World Cup with Samoa.“The 1992 Hong Kong Sevens was difficult because that year we played Samoa in one game, so there were mixed emotions.“The weather was also atrocious – we couldn’t do scrums, only free-kicks, because of the puddles of water. Every child wants to play rugby in those conditions, running and sliding everywhere!“I scored a try in the corner here and they were just unforgettable conditions – I’d never played in conditions like that before.”(Getty Images)1998 – Lovely bubbly“I remember this very clearly. We were at the Stoop playing Quins on a Sunday. Saracens had been one point behind us and had won, so we needed to win and we won really comfortably in the end.“Newcastle football club was also owned by Sir John Hall and they were playing Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley on the Saturday, so a lot of the Toon Army came along to support us as well.“It was a great day, to go from getting promoted the year before to winning the Premiership. We had a lot of internationals and a lot of good friends, and to win the Premiership was massive for rugby in the North of England.“Some of us also went to see the Spice Girls on the Friday night and we were asked by security to move back because the little girls couldn’t see above us! We got to meet them and, this was before he was famous, Baby Spice thought Jonny Wilkinson was very cute.”(Getty Images)1999 – Lam sandwich“I retired at the end of this World Cup, when we were the first team to win at the Millennium Stadium and Wales had won ten Tests in a row. The final score was 38-31 – it was a great game. We’d put a lot of work in to try to beat them and everything came off.“I scored from an intercept. Ed Morrison was the referee and as I was playing in the Premiership I knew him. Wales had made a line break and we were in big trouble, they looked like they were going to score. I was running back and I gave Ed the heads-up to say I was onside, then I remember rushing up inside Scott Quinnell.“Neil Jenkins got the ball and passed to Scott, but I got in between them and intercepted. I ran in from 80m, maybe 60m, but it was a big run. That was the beauty of playing in the Premiership; Wales were saying I was offside but I’d shown Ed I was onside.“The Millennium Stadium is my favourite stadium. Even in 1991, at the Arms Park, the atmosphere was unreal and the Millennium magnified that under the roof.“I’d played in three World Cups and knew I wouldn’t go to 2003. I’d also been captain from 1995 through to 1999, so I thought it was right to step down so Samoa could bring the next group through as I’d been involved for so long.“It had also been tough on my family, playing in the Premiership and then flying back to New Zealand or Samoa for Test matches, then back again – it was non-stop. It was time to focus on playing for Northampton and having time with my family.”(Getty Images)2000 – Saints’ day“This was a very good day (beating Munster in the Heineken Cup final). Northampton hadn’t won anything in their 120 years.“I had no desire to go to Northampton, I was very happy at Newcastle, but I got sold and Ian McGeechan bought me. I wasn’t pleased at first but I learnt a lot from the great Ian McGeechan.“We had a lot of talented players but the big thing we did was bring a culture together of being more like brothers than men. We achieved some big things. In those days there weren’t breaks for the European Cup, so the more successful you were, the more midweek games you had.“I wasn’t sure if I’d play because we were expecting child number four on the day of the final.“Munster were favourites and that week we didn’t train because we were battered and bruised. We said it would come down to heart and mental toughness, and we had one more game left in us. It was a close game, 9-8.“We were in contention for three trophies, lost the other two but got the big one. It was a huge day and a special team.”(Getty Images)2001 – Two sides“This was my last season, back at Newcastle to finish off my career. I had about 20 offers for two- or three-year contracts, but I only wanted to play one more year so I made the decision to go to Newcastle. I hadn’t wanted to leave (in 1998), so I went back to finish there. It gave me peace to leave on the right note.“Whenever I’m doing photos I’m asked to be serious but that’s not me. Most Pacific Islanders are like that: on the field we’ll be tough but off the field that doesn’t reflect who we are. They wanted me and Johnno (Martin Johnson) to stare each other out but I was laughing.“When Bristol wanted to change to the Bristol Bears I liked that as it’s similar – bears protect their community but they will fight when they need to be aggressive. I want aggressive, tough rugby players but I also want a gentler side – working with young people, going into hospitals.”(Getty Images)2002 – Final flourish“My last-ever game was for the Barbarians against Wales and I was given the honour of captaining the team. We were losing 25-0 at half-time but won 40-25 and I scored the last try.“I love the Barbarians. I came through in the amateur days but professionalism isn’t about getting paid, professionalism is the way you do things. Playing for the Barbarians was a throwback to the amateur days, coming together to just play rugby with friends, to socialise and have a great time.“I’ve also been privileged to coach them and because I understand what the Barbarians is about I pass that on.”(Getty Images)2003 – Masterclass“I’d started working with Scotland in 2001. Two weeks after I started my last season at Newcastle, Graham Henry called to ask if I’d be an assistant for Wales. Graham had coached me since I was at school and had been a big part of my career, but I told him I’d just signed for Newcastle so we said maybe the next year when I finished playing.“Two weeks after that Geech (Sir Ian McGeechan) got hold of me to ask if I’d help with Scotland. I said the same thing, that I’d just signed with Newcastle, and he said, ‘It’s only an hour or so away’.“We had breaks in the season for the Six Nations and autumn Internationals then, so he talked to Rob Andrew, the director of rugby at Newcastle, and Rob gave his blessing for me to do it. He knew I had a desire to coach and it was a transitional stage before retiring. Graham was really understanding too. I learnt a lot from him and a lot from Geech.“Geech was fantastic and mentored me in every part – playing, man-management, ideas on the game. I was like a sponge, picking everything up. Bear club: Pat Lam issues instructions to his Bristol players (Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS “After I retired he offered me a full-time job, but by then Steph, my wife, thought it was time for us to go back home (to New Zealand). Geech told me to take my family home and that he’d fly me back for the Six Nations, June Tests, November and so on. It meant when I was at home it was family time, then when I was in Scotland I was living and breathing the team. That took me through to the 2003 World Cup.”(Getty Images)2007 – Winning run“After the 2003 World Cup, Graham Henry asked me to work with him at Auckland. He then got the All Blacks job and I came in as head coach when I was supposed to be assistant.“This was my fourth year with them and it was a special year. We had a great group of guys, like David Smith and Jerome Kaino here. So many young players came through and we set a record by winning every single game to go undefeated.“We won the Ranfurly Shield in Christchurch against Canterbury, which was massive, and the Air NZ Cup. It was a great season.”(Getty Images)2012 – Blues blow“If I had to pick a year where I grew most as a coach it would be 2012. I got so many lessons to take forward. Until you’ve been sacked nothing is real for you. Once that’s happened it forces you to review and reflect, to prepare for the next step.“The year before, in 2011, the Blues reached the Super Rugby finals – we lost to the Reds in the semis and they went on to win it.“That year we weren’t doing well for a variety of reasons but there’s an undercurrent in New Zealand that comes through when something goes wrong… There’s Polynesian flair but Pacific Islanders aren’t in thinking positions. Yet in 2007 with Auckland, we’d won with a Tongan captain, Sam Tuitupou, and Pacific Islanders at nine, Taniela Moa, and ten, Isa Nacewa, and at No 8 was Jerome Kaino!“People were making racial comments (in 2012). It didn’t bother me but it did bother my mum and dad. They would listen to talkback radio, where people would just vent about rugby.“At that media conference someone asked about my parents. I started talking about my dad and got emotional, people not understanding his background of coming from Samoa to New Zealand on a boat at 19. Even now I’m getting emotional. I talked about how tough it was for my dad and broke down a little bit.“I turned to our media person and said, ‘This will blow up’ and it did. It was all Pat Lam and racism, it’s getting too much for him (one headline read: Pat Lam breaks down over racist taunts). But it was talking about my dad that did it.”(Getty Images)2012 – Familiar story“I was sacked as Blues coach in July and then Samoa asked if I’d help out as technical adviser for their November tour.“We were playing Canada, Wales and France, and a lot of the management hadn’t been to the northern hemisphere.“We talked about how to run that tour because we had 30 players in the squad, with not one from the same club. We had six training sessions so had to keep things simple to be effective.“We beat Wales to form the ‘Pool of Death’ at the 2015 World Cup (as Wales fell out of the top eight in the rankings that autumn).“To win at the Millennium Stadium was fantastic and continued my relationship with Wales, beating them in 1991, 1994 and 1999 as a player and then again as a coach in 2012.”(Inpho)2015 – The big chill“We’ve got a world map at home with pins for all the places we’ve been. There’s one dot in the middle of Russia – Krasnoyarsk (where Connacht faced Enisei STM in the Challenge Cup).“It was minus 29°C. The plan was to fly in and fly out but our plane broke down, we got stranded for a couple of days and we all had to come back different ways. It was a real experience and something I’ll never forget.“It was the making of the group. We faced a lot of adversity and challenges on that trip, but we embraced it and came out stronger. That held us in good stead to win the (Pro12) title.”(Inpho)2016 – Crowd pleasers“We brought the community along for that ride. Connacht had been close to being disbanded but we brought the whole province together. They got behind what we achieved (winning the Pro12).“That’s my coaching highlight. We didn’t have the best players or the best budget, but it was a true team effort; everyone did their bit.“It was Connacht’s first final whereas Leinster had been to so many and were pretty much the Irish national team, but we played with no fear. We went in full of confidence, played our game and scored some unbelievable tries.“We landed at Knock airport at 2am but it was full of people and all the way back people were on the streets, then we brought the trophy to our training ground. This was a highlight because of what it did for the community. There was so much pride.”(Inpho)2016 – Happy couple “We’ll have been together 33 years in December of this year. Steph’s the best – there’s no way I’d have been able to do what I’ve done and what I do if she wasn’t the person she is. She’s an unbelievable people person.“When I got the opportunity to play in England, she said, ‘Let’s go’. It was the same when we went to Ireland, all these different places. Everywhere we’ve gone, she loves meeting people and doesn’t like anyone being left out.“She’s a special person and a big part of who I am. She’s the main reason I do what I do.”(Getty Images)2018 – Bouncing back“I’m not in the photo – those celebrations are for the players and I’d had those when I played.“It was a difficult decision to leave Connacht to go to Bristol. When I signed in December they were in the Premiership but by the time I arrived they were in the Championship. That wasn’t part of the five-year plan and it was a tough battle (to get promoted) but it gave me time to get to know the team and implement things.“I also signed a few guys out of the Championship and I wouldn’t have known those players if we hadn’t been playing them. It was a really good foundation year.”(Getty Images)2019 – On the up“We experienced some adversity when we started in the Premiership; we were on the up and then got hammered by Worcester, which showed we weren’t where we wanted to be. Still, in that first year we were only five points away from the top six.“This photo, with Callum Sheedy, shows the growth to where we are now. Before Covid, we’d won five games in a row, which was a club record, and it’s a reflection of how far the group has come. Someone like Callum, who has come from the academy, is home-grown and displaced Ian Madigan, gives an insight into what we’re about.”Related: Get to know Bristol Bears fly-half Callum Sheedy(Bristol Bears/JMP)2020 – Back to back“There’s huge enjoyment in being back after lockdown and we’re proud of our new facilities. Although they’re brand spanking new, what makes them world class is the work we do in them and the relationships we build, otherwise it’s just a lovely building.“What I said to the players was that the previous place wasn’t class at all but we made it world class by our actions. Now we can take things to another level and that goes back to the ambition of our rugby programme – quality staff, quality players, world-class facilities. It’s a dream coming in – the view, the greenery… It’s the best facility I’ve ever been in.”