Here are the latest rugby headlines on Thursday, August 31.
Wayne Pivac willing Wales on from Japan
Former Wales head coach Wayne Pivac will be willing on his former players at the Rugby World Cup despite no longer being at the helm.
Pivac was axed by the Welsh Rugby Union in December 2022 following a dismal autumn campaign and a calendar year, with low points including home defeats to Italy and Georgia. He was replaced by his predecessor Warren Gatland, who takes charge of Wales for his fourth Rugby World Cup.
On September 10, when Wales kick off against Fiji, Pivac will be 8,000 miles away in Japan preparing for the domestic season in charge of his new club, NEC Green Rockets, who he will be trying to guide back to Japan’s top tier when their season officially begins in December.
“I was most looking forward to the Fiji game because, having lived in and coached Fiji and coaching Wales, and that game happens to be on my birthday,” Pivac told BBC Sport Wales. “So it was going to be a big day, and I was looking forward to a big celebration in the changing room afterwards. It was not to be.”
Pivac, who quit the Fiji job citing family reasons in 2007 before that year’s World Cup, will still be willing on his former Welsh players for the tournament in France.
“I want the boys to do well,” Pivac said. “It’s as simple as that – I support them. I still speak to a number of them on a regular basis and after living in Wales for nine years, I see that as home. I have moved on. I’ll be watching the World Cup with excitement, like everybody. I wish them well because I know they’re working hard and I hope it pays off.”
Pivac added: “We’ve seen against England and France, Fiji are no mugs and have improved in the areas they needed to improve, in particular the set-piece. This now makes them a threat to the top eight sides in the world.
“The difference between the two teams at times could be discipline. There’s going to be a lot of big collisions. Fiji are more equipped to play the off-loading game than Wales are, which makes them dangerous, but they have been known to implode, which they did against Wales in 2021.”
Champions Cup gets new sponsor
Investec has replaced Heineken as the new title sponsor of the Champions Cup.
The banking and wealth management services brand has previously sponsored England Rugby, Super Rugby Aotearoa and the Rugby Championship. But this will be its largest ever rugby-based sponsorship and will take over from Heineken, who have been involved in the competition since 1995.
Together, Investec and EPCR insist they will focus on progressing towards a carbon-neutral tournament, advancing the women’s game while also developing innovative financial solutions and wellness programmes tailored to players.
“Our combined passion for the game will enable us to deliver our new ambitious strategy for the Investec Champions Cup as we seek to grow our audiences further around the world in an intentional and sustainable way,” said EPCR chairman Dominic McKay.
The Investec Champions Cup kicks off in early December, with Cardiff Wales’ only representative in the competition this season.
Ntamack shares photo from hospital bed
France fly-half Romain Ntamack has shared a photo from his hospital bed after undergoing surgery on his ruptured ACL.
The photo shows the No. 10 resting in his hospital bed, with a thumbs up and a smile for the camera.
The caption reads: “Opération bien passée. À bientôt”, which in English roughly translates to “Operation went well. See you soon”.
Speaking ahead of his operation last Sunday, Ntamack did a TV interview with Canal+ following the Toulouse win over Montpellier.
“It’s going pretty well”, he said at the time. “I spent two simple weeks. Let’s say, I spent some holidays with my family and loved ones. They made me move on. Of course, I kept in touch with the friends of the XV of France and I am also very happy with their victory (versus Australia).
“I’m going to have surgery this Thursday so I can’t wait to start my own World Cup and get back on the pitch as soon as possible, without going too fast to avoid a relapse.
“There is always more serious, it remains only rugby. I’m lucky to be quite young and maybe be able to play another World Cup if I give myself the means, but it’s frustrating. I had given myself the means to participate and start on September 8. I was blessed in the final of the Top 14 two months ago, and today a twist of fate fell on me.
“I’m taking this injury to rest mentally and physically. It’s been a very long time since I cut. I will take all the positives to help my teammates at Stade Toulousain.
“I hope France go as far as they can. I have been watching all the games. I try to take a step back as much as possible so as not to feel sorry for myself. I will take as long as it takes but I will come back. It’s just one knee, I still have a long way to go.”