Here are the latest rugby headlines on Wednesday July 26.
Welsh rugby signing falls through at 11th hour
The Dragons’ move to sign South African second-row Deon Slabbert has fallen through at the 11th hour, according to reports.
The 23-year-old lock for Currie Cup runners-up the Pumas had agreed a three-year deal but is now unable to join the Rodney Parade outfit for family reasons, The South Wales Argus reports. Opting not to rush into making a replacement signing, the Dragons are said to be biding their time to see if he can join them at a later date if his situation changes.
“We’ve gone about our recruitment a little differently and have been statistic-led to try and find some golden nuggets who can kick on to enhance us and themselves,” said head coach Dai Flanagan.
“We’ve never had the big budget to go out and find a ‘rock star’ player but we had identified someone who we felt has the potential to be a superstar in the future. We were nearly there but it hasn’t happened because he needs to stay where he is at the moment.”
While Wales giant Will Rowlands is no longer a Dragons player, as he is headed for French side Racing 92 post-World Cup, the Gwent side are not short of second-row options. World Cup hopeful Ben Carter is available along with stalwarts Joe Davies and Matthew Screech, while lock/flankers George Nott, Sean Lonsdale and up-and-coming Ryan Woodman are also at Flanagan’s disposal.
“We are happy with what we have got – we are in a strong position at lock – but felt we had made something of a steal,” said Flanagan. “That signing hasn’t happened for this summer but it doesn’t mean the move won’t happen in the future if circumstances change. As the season progresses we will keep our ear to the ground, whether it be that individual or another player.”
The Dragons are also said to be close to signing a loosehead prop from overseas.
Wallaby admits retirement fears
Australia prop Taniela Tupou contemplated walking away from rugby after a bad injury looked to destroy his World Cup dream.
The 27-year-old feared he would miss out on a place in the Wallabies squad for the tournament in France after rupturing his Achilles against Ireland last November. However, after a long rehab period, he is set to make his Test return against New Zealand in this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup clash in Melbourne.
He has had the full backing of coach Eddie Jones, who earlier this year tipped him to become one of the best tightheads in the world, but it has been a long and difficult journey for Tupou who has fought hard to keep his career going.
“When I did my Achilles last year I thought the worst,” he said. “I was in my last year of my contract, I thought I was going to miss World Cup, just everything you know – I was in a very dark place.
“The last eight to nine months has been tough, to do all the rehab, there was a time where I really thought about my future in footy It was just mentally hard.”
He added that he had felt the benefit of speaking up and talking to team-mates and staff about his struggles, as he looked to recover physically and mentally from the knock.
“Before, I was one of those guys where speaking up was not an option. But you find out you’re not weak in speaking up,” he said. “So I had to learn the new skill of talking or speaking up when I needed to.
“I find it really helpful, just knowing that someone knows what you’re going through. Every now and then they come and check on you and it feels good. I’m here now and I couldn’t be any happier – I’m just grateful I’m here in this position and I’m grateful I’m back in the team.”
Six Nations appoint new boss as Maxwell takes new role
Six Nations Rugby has appointed Navin Singh as its new chief operating officer, as former Welsh Rugby Union commercial director Craig Maxwell takes on an advisory Six Nations role after being given just months to live.
The organisation say he will join them from The Football Association with a specific focus on driving the organisation’s commercial, fan engagement and growth strategy for the benefit of its unions and stakeholders.
A statement says the former FA commercial director’s “extensive international experience also includes five years as chief commercial officer of the United States Golf Association, senior strategy director at WWE, and vice president, digital media and strategic partnerships at Wasserman.”
Six Nations Rugby chief executive Tom Harrison said: “This is an exciting time for the sport, and Six Nations Rugby is at the heart of this, but it is also a hugely poignant and emotional one for our business. Craig is stepping down from his full-time role, which brings with it changes to the team. Craig continues to make a massive contribution to rugby union and its people, and he epitomises the values of rugby in everything he does.
“Navin therefore joins the business at a significant moment for Six Nations Rugby. He brings with him a vast amount of experience across the media rights, commercial strategy, and fan engagement space.”
England coach Borthwick’s tactful approach lauded
By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent
Ben Earl insists England’s players appreciate Steve Borthwick’s personal touch having previously endured the experience of learning about World Cup selection on a WhatsApp group.
Borthwick’s predecessor, Eddie Jones, used the messaging app to inform the 31 who would be taken to Japan four years ago if they had been chosen, with their names appearing in a newly-created group revealing the good news. It was seen by some as a brutal way to discover whether a player’s World Cup dream had been made or broken, while WhatsApp was regularly employed during the Jones era to communicate team selection.
Since replacing Jones in December, Borthwick has adopted a more tactful approach to interacting with his squad and that will be needed on August 7 when he names the 33 who will be involved in this autumn’s global showpiece.
“With Steve it has been very much personal and that’s been great,” said Earl, the Saracens flanker hoping to be a part of England’s World Cup campaign. “I know a lot of players have enjoyed that side of it and not having to stay up late at night waiting to be added to a WhatsApp group, which I know a few people have experienced.”