Here are the latest rugby headlines on Friday, July 21.
Anscombe’s new club announced
Gareth Anscombe will be joining Japan’s Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath after the Rugby World Cup, it has been announced.
The Wales fly-half, 32, left the Ospreys at the end of last season after joining from Cardiff in 2019.
He adds to Welsh rugby’s regional exodus next term, but will join Kubota Spears-bound Liam Williams and Japan-based Cory Hill in playing in the country next season.
Anscombe is currently bidding to head to the 2023 World Cup in France.
Japan’s domestic season takes place in the opening months of 2024, meaning Anscombe is unlikely to be available for next year’s Six Nations tournament. Liam Williams is already ruled out of that tournament given his contract in Japan.
“It is a great honour coming to play for a team like Sungoliath, I can’t wait to get over to Japan and play in front of the fans and experience the Japanese lifestyle and culture,” said Anscombe. “I look forward to joining the team later in the year and getting stuck in with the boys.”
Sexton faces ‘difficult’ return
Johnny Sexton’s former teammate has warned him that he could find his return to rugby “very, very difficult” after he was handed a three-match ban ahead of the World Cup.
The 38-year-old fly-half will miss Ireland’s warm-up matches against Italy, England and Samoa in August after admitting a EPCR misconduct charge levelled in the wake of Leinster’s Heineken Champions Cup final defeat by La Rochelle on May 20, which saw him walk on to the pitch and become involved in a heated exchange with match officials.
The three-match suspension means he will be free to captain Ireland at the World Cup as he plans his swansong, having last year announced his intention to retire after the tournament.
But Sexton’s former Ireland teammate Stephen Ferris has claimed that his absence from the warm-up games could ultimately come back to bite him, with the veteran fly-half set to miss out on crucial match fitness.
“If you’re Johnny Sexton you want to play one and a half of those games in the lead-up,” Ferris told Balls.ie in association with Ladbrokes. “You want to build a bit of match fitness. You want to take a bit of the contact, get yourself used to the physicality.
“If he plays the first game against Romania, it’s going to be six months since he stepped onto a rugby field, that’s a hell of a long time. You know he’s 38 years of age, his birthday was only a couple of weeks ago.
“So he’s not getting any younger. We all talk about the best players being able to step into any occasion and turn it on, but that’s going to be really, really difficult for him to do, especially when it comes to a quarter-final against either France or New Zealand.”
Injured Springbok in race to make Wales clash
South Africa prop Ox Nche faces a race to be fit in time for his side’s World Cup warm-up match against Wales on August 19 as he continues his recovery from injury.
Nche injured his pectoral muscle ahead of the Springboks’ 43-12 Rugby Championship win over Australia two weeks ago and despite having now returned to the team camp, he still faces around a month on the sidelines.
Jacques Nienaber’s side are set to face Wales in Cardiff on August 19 and the head coach has said Nche may not recover in time, having also missed out on selection for South Africa’s triumphant World Cup campaign four years ago.
“Ox Nche is doing well,” he told SuperSport. “He is back in camp with us now and he is probably four weeks, perhaps five weeks before he can play for us. Everything – when I spoke to the doc and the specialist – it looks like it is another four weeks for that injury before he will be good enough medically to play if everything goes fine. There are markers. By this week he needs to get a certain range of movement and obviously if you miss a marker there is a setback.”
England’s Six Nations star set to stay
England wing Anthony Watson has signed a training contract with the Rugby Football Union as he looks to stay in the Premiership with Leicester Tigers following the World Cup.
The 29-year-old’s contract with the Tigers expired at the end of the season and he looked set for a move to France, but in a first for a men’s England player, he will be paid directly by the RFU through to the end of the autumn showpiece, Telegraph Sport reports.
His former club will then be in pole position to resign him after the conclusion of the tournament in France.
It is believed that the RFU was encouraged to make the move at the behest of England head coach Steve Borthwick, who wanted to keep Watson in the Premiership and therefore available for selection going into next year’s Six Nations. Watson had impressed at this year’s championship and marked his first start in the competition in nearly two years with a well-taken try against Wales.
However, the RFU and Leicester have remained tight-lipped over the deal, with neither side were prepared to comment on the development. There are fears that other Premiership clubs could see the move as the RFU handing the Tigers a unique advantage by paying for Watson’s absence during the World Cup.
‘Bok legend lands new job
The Bulls have confirmed that former South Africa lock Andries Bekker will join their coaching staff ahead of the 2023/24 season.
Bekker, who retired in 2018, has joined the United Rugby Championship side from Japanese outfit Kobe Steelers, where he was the forwards coach. He has signed a contract with the club until 2026 and will serve as their assistant coach, primarily looking after forwards and the breakdown department.
The ex-Stormers man won 29 caps for the Springboks between 2008 and 2012 before moving into coaching after hanging up his boots and working with former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith at the Steelers.
“We are excited to have Andries join our coaching team, an experienced ex-player with some great rugby IP – especially in the lineouts – which we will look to tap into,” said Bulls chief executive Edgar Rathbone. “He understands South African rugby and also brings acute attention to detail from his time working in Japan under Wayne Smith.
“I am confident that he is going to find our environment a great fit for him, and equally, our players will enjoy being under his guidance at the front. We look forward to welcoming him and his family to Loftus, and I am sure he will enjoy his time with our Vodacom Bulls family.”