These are your rugby headlines on Monday, February 12.
‘World class’ Wales star gives Gatland selection dilemma
Former Wales international Tom Shanklin says Tommy Reffell and Jac Morgan have to start together for Wales when the Ospreys star returns from injury.
Reffell was by far the best player in a red jersey during Wales’ defeat to England on Saturday, producing a magnificent non-stop performance that saw him dominate at the breakdown and play a key role in Alex Mann’s try. His superb game at Twickenham followed another impressive showing against Scotland on the opening weekend, with coach Warren Gatland praising his “outstanding” work-rate after the England clash.
The Leicester Tigers man’s brilliant form has led to suggestions that Morgan, who was magnificent at the World Cup but is currently recovering from knee surgery, has a fight on his hands when he returns from injury. But Shanklin believes the two openside flankers simply have to start together when Morgan is back on the field, claiming that they are “just too good to leave out”.
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Wales did, of course, opt for dual opensides in their World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina, with Morgan moved across to blindside and Reffell retaining the seven jersey. While Gatland said that his tournament co-captain was “very comfortable” with the move, he admitted it was “long term, not something we want to replicate on too many occasions”.
But nevertheless, Shanklin says the thought of the pair both playing together is “exciting”. Asked on BBC Scrum V on Sunday night if Gatland needed to find a way to start both men, the former Wales star replied: “I think there has to be. I think Tommy Reffell is world class, we’ve seen that over the last two games. How can you not play him?
“I think Jac Morgan can play out of position at six. I think he’s big enough, he’s strong enough, I think he’s probably Wales’ best carrier. So, it’s exciting to think about those two playing together. Then you’ve got Aaron Wainwright and Taulupe Faletau when he’s back. I think they have to play together, they’re just too good to leave out”.
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New Welsh talents hit ground running
Josh Adams has praised his new Wales teammates Cameron Winnett and Alex Mann for how quickly they have taken to international rugby after the pair impressed on their first two Six Nations appearances.
Mann has had a dream start to life in a Wales jersey, marking his Test debut against Scotland with a try before scoring again at Twickenham a week later. Winnett, meanwhile, has looked to the manor born despite making only his 16th appearance in senior rugby against Gregor Townsend’s side before starting the biggest game in the Welsh rugby calendar.
Adams, who plays with both the flanker and full-back at Cardiff, is among those singing the duo’s praises, having been impressed by how they have taken Test rugby in their stride. Speaking after the game at Twickenham, he admitted their performances were a positive to take from Wales’ two defeats, tipping both to have a bright future and backing Mann to continue his try-scoring exploits.
“That’s obviously positive, finding people who wouldn’t necessarily have got this opportunity this soon but are thoroughly deserving of it because of the way they’ve performed for their club, Cardiff, this season,” he said. “They’ve both taken it in their stride. I think Manny might be top try scorer! Fair play to him! He’s doing well and working terrifically hard. Cam as well.
“The surprising thing with Cam is nothing ever seems to rattle him,” the Wales wing added. “He can make an error or drop a ball but he’s straight on to the next task. That’s a trait that sometimes takes time but he seems to have got it straightaway. That’s a really good sign and he’s got a very positive future.”
Springbok great joins Jones in Japan
South Africa legend Victor Matfield has confirmed he will join Eddie Jones’ Japan coaching team as a consultant.
After returning to the head coach role with the Brave Blossoms at the end of last year, the former England boss has poached the Springboks’ most capped player of all time to assist with his side’s lineout. The pair previously worked together when Jones was Suntory Sungoliath’s head coach, while the Australian also coached Matfield at the 2007 World Cup.
The 46-year-old, who won 127 caps for the Boks, was renowned for his dominance at the lineout during his playing days and since retiring has used his expertise to help other teams with their set piece. He has worked with the Bulls and Lions, while he also helped Portugal prepare for last year’s World Cup.
Having also assisted Johann van Graan at Bath, Matfield confirmed to South African publication Rapport that he would be working with Jones’ new Japan squad, adding that he was a “big fan” of the former Wallabies coach.
“It’s nice to get involved on an international level and work with Eddie,” Matfield said. “I’ve often said that I’m a big fan of Eddie. It was nice to help Johann at Bath. However, this position with Eddie is more formal. I will fly to Japan twice to be involved in the Japanese camp there for two weeks before their Tests. I will also do weekly analysis of the opposition teams for Japan and forward plans.”
He added that he hopes the “incredible” move will lead to more coaching opportunities in the future, explaining: “I have always dreamed of one day becoming involved with the Springboks full-time and coaching there. This position with Japan suits me perfectly because of business interests and home life, I will course be available at any to get involved with the Boks.
“This is an incredible opportunity for me to stay involved and stay relevant in the game. The game has moved on, and you have to keep up with the new way of doing things.”
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Farrell: Ireland face tougher task against Wales
By Ed Elliot, PA, Dublin
Andy Farrell warned Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations title defence “gets tougher from here” after his side swatted aside Italy.
The reigning champions registered a thumping 36-0 bonus-point win to back up last week’s statement success away to pre-tournament favourites France. Winless Wales visit Dublin on February 24 before Ireland finish their campaign with March appointments against England and Scotland.
Head coach Farrell feels his team have made a “decent start” to the championship as they seek to make history by claiming back-to-back Grand Slams.
“Obviously delighted with two from two and maximum points, 36-0 is a nice scoreline for us,” he said. “To put in a performance like that where I thought we were clinical at times, I thought our set piece was excellent, top drawer, and then scoring some nice tries on the back of all that type of pressure was very pleasing to get over the line. Two from two. It’s a decent start. It gets tougher from here on in.”
Jack Crowley’s first senior try set Ireland on course for victory before Dan Sheehan’s double and scores from Jack Conan, James Lowe and Calvin Nash completed a routine success. The one-sided result was the first time Ireland had nilled a team in the championship since a 17-0 triumph over England in the 1987 Five Nations.
Stand-in captain Caelan Doris, who deputised for the injured Peter O’Mahony, said: “Keeping them to zero was definitely very pleasing given the quality of their attack. It was something we talked about during the week, they’ve a lot of structure in their attack and they’ve got threats throughout. I don’t think it’s a mean feat keeping them to zero and we’re happy with that, definitely.”