Records shattered at Cape Town Sevens

New Zealand did the double at the fifth instalment of the popular HSBC Cape Town Sevens as their men’s and women’s teams were crowned champions on a weekend where new sevens records were set in the Mother City.

With a women’s tournament added to the action for the first time, and the action extended to three days, the Cape Town Stadium saw new records for tries scored and attendance.

In 2018, 297 tries were scored over two days in December, but this weekend saw 385 tries recorded by the 28 teams in action.

The total attendance over the two days at the Cape Town Stadium was 119,539 over the three days (11,113 on Friday, 52,612 on Saturday and 55,804 on Sunday). In 2018, a total of 107,905 spectators streamed through the gates, with the previous record of 115,396 set in 2017.

The All Blacks Sevens beat the Blitzboks, 7-5, in a nail-biting final, while the Black Ferns won the women’s tournament when they beat Australia, 17-7, in the final. The bronze medals went to Canada (women's) and France (men's).

“This year the event went up a gear with the addition of the women’s competition and a third day of action here at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens, and we believe we’ve raised the bar considerably this weekend,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

“We said #AnythingCanHappen and, both on and off the field, the event really delivered: whether it was synchronised swimmers in the pools; dancers suspended from the roof; opera from the stands or ferocious rugby on the field – the event pretty much had everything.

“Unfortunately, the Blitzboks failed to clinch the title but it was fantastic to see the support for them and the Imbokodo – the women’s team – with the last three days underlining the fact that we love our rugby and a celebration here in South Africa.”

On the field, France were in sublime form: Their women’s team’s 26 tries were the most of any side on the weekend, while the French men scored 25 tries, the same as New Zealand’s men.

The two individual star performers were Alev Kelter of the USA, whose 44 points and six tries were the most by any women, and Jean Pascal Barraque of France, who scored 54 points and six tries to top the list of men.

Ruhan Nel’s five tries were the most for the Blitzboks, while Justin Geduld added 38 points and was successful with the most conversions (14) as he went through the 1,000 point mark for the Blitzboks.

Roux added : “Congratulations to New Zealand on winning the titles this weekend. Both finals were very tense and tough and delivered proper sevens rugby and they deserved their reward.

“I would also like to congratulate the Blitzboks on a great start to the season, even though they were pipped at the post, and the Imbokodo for showing fighting spirit in their games and finishing tenth against 11 other teams that are all regulars on the World Series.

“Thank you too to the other 24 teams that came here and thrilled us for three days with superb rugby, as well as the 120,000 people who helped make this tournament another one for the books.”

New Zealand rule the roost at Cape Town Sevens

After being well beaten by the Blitzboks in last week's Dubai final, New Zealand bounced back by defeating the same opponents 7-5 in the Cup final in Cape Town.

It was a double celebration for the All Blacks too with the NZ Women’s team winning their Cup Final 17-7 against Australia in the inaugural Women’s tournament in the South African city.

South Africa started the final the better, to the delight of the Cape Town Stadium crowd roaring them on, with Seabelo Senatla racing away only for a great tackle by Regan Ware to not only stop him but dislodge the ball but then a strong run from Kurt Baker took New Zealand into the Blitzboks’ 22.

The All Blacks Sevens continued to build the pressure in South Africa’s half but couldn’t find a way through and the Cup final was scoreless at half-time. It didn’t remain that way for long with Andrew Knewstubb dropping the kick-off and South Africa made New Zealand pay, Senatla finding Justin Geduld with just over a minute played.

New Zealand fumbled the restart again but Baker was able to stop South Africa from scoring a second try by regathering the loose ball, before causing the Blitzboks more trouble in defence with another run that saw him bounce out of tackles.

With three minutes to play, New Zealand silenced the crowd when they worked Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, who was later named HSBC Player of the Final, over for a try that Baker was able to convert to take the lead. A crucial lineout steal deep in their own half with a minute to go proved crucial as the All Blacks Sevens then held on to claim a first title in Cape Town since 2018.

New Zealand co-captain Scott Curry said: “We knew it was going to be a tough fight and nil all at half-time I guess is fitting for a crowd like this. Cape Town has really turned it on and the support here is amazing – we really appreciate it and all the support back home has been massive.

“It doesn’t get much better than that, playing South Africa in front of a home crowd with over 50,000 fans roaring the national anthem. It’s hard not to get inspired by that, even as a Kiwi.”

France claimed the bronze medal in dramatic fashion with Tavite Veredamu’s try in sudden-death extra-time securing a 29-24 victory over Fiji, their first win over the series champions since the Cup quarter-finals in Cape Town in 2015.

New Zealand and South Africa both have 41 points after two rounds, with the All Blacks Sevens sitting top on points difference. France’s bronze medal has lifted them to third place with 29 points, just ahead of Argentina, England (both on 24) and defending series champions Fiji on 23 points.

Men’s day three results

Cup quarter-finals
South Africa 17-5 Kenya
France 19-10 Argentina
Ireland 12-31 Fiji
New Zealand 35-19 Scotland

Cup semi-finals
South Africa 21-14 France
Fiji 7-24 New Zealand

15th place play-off
Wales 15-19 Japan

13th place play-off
Samoa 38-7 Spain

11th place play-off
Australia 5-22 Canada

9th place play-off
USA 17-12 England

Bronze Final
France 29-24 Fiji

Cup Final
South Africa 5-7 New Zealand

Mass brawl at Saracens-Munster clash under investigation

Disciplinary chiefs are investigating the ugly brawl which marred defending champions Saracens' 15-6 Heineken Champions Cup victory over Munster.

A prolonged mass brawl erupted at Allianz Park amid allegations that the Irish province's chief medic Dr Jamie Kearns had made a remark about England hooker Jamie George's weight.

European Professional Club Rugby announced on Sunday that it is looking into "incidents" during the match and would seek the views of referee Pascal Gauzere and his officials and both clubs.

A statement said: "EPCR has decided to investigate incidents which occurred during the second half of the Heineken Champions Cup, Round 4 match between Saracens and Munster Rugby at Allianz Park yesterday (Saturday, 14 December).

"Information will now be sought from the match officials and from both clubs and EPCR will be making no further comment until the investigation has been completed."

The brawl spread to the athletics track surrounding the pitch and then split into pockets of conflict before order was finally restored.

Saracens' assistant coach Alex Sanderson later claimed that it had been sparked by a comment from Dr Kearns about George.

Saracens were trailing 6-3 at the time, but hit back with tries from Sean Maitland and Mako Vunipola to keep themselves in the hunt for a place in the quarter-finals.

Blitzboks on song as they reach Cape Town quarters

South Africa, New Zealand, France, Ireland and Kenya all finished the pool stages of the Cape Town Sevens unbeaten to march into the quarter-finals.

A crowd of 52,612 packed into Cape Town Stadium for day two of the tournament on Saturday, creating an electric atmosphere whenever their beloved Blitzboks were playing and cheering them to victories over Fiji and USA.

South Africa, New Zealand and France won all three matches to top their respective pools, while Ireland and Kenya played out an entertaining 24-24 draw in the Pool D decider with the men in green finishing top on points difference.

They are joined in the Cup quarter-finals by Fiji, Argentina and Scotland with Dubai bronze medallists England and USA the biggest names to miss out on the top eight, the latter for the first time since Singapore in April 2018. The two will now meet each other in the ninth place play-off.

The first Cup quarter-final, at 11:18 local time, is an all-African affair with South Africa taking on Kenya for the right to face the winner of the encounter between France and Argentina.

Ireland’s reward for topping their pool is a meeting with Fiji, who turned on the style in their final match against Japan to ensure they didn’t miss out on the quarter-finals twice in a series for the first time.

The last quarter-final pits New Zealand, the most successful team in series history in South Africa, against Scotland, who progressed as runners-up in Pool B after France’s victory against England.

Later in the day, the other play-offs for the lower places will see Wales and Japan to again battle off 15th place as they did in Dubai, Samoa to tackle Spain for 13th and Australia to meet Canada for 11th place.

Scarlets confirm All Blacks interest in head coach Mooar

Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar could soon join the All Blacks, after the Welsh club confirmed they were in negotiations with New Zealand rugby over his potential release.

Mooar only joined the Welsh region in pre-season having previously spent five years as a coach at the Crusaders.

He helped the franchise to three successive Super Rugby titles before moving to the northern hemisphere and taking up a position with the Llanelli-based outfit.

However, New Zealand head coach Ian Foster is an admirer and the Scarlets have released a statement confirming that NZR have approached the region asking for permission to speak to Mooar.

It read: “We have been made aware that newly-appointed All Blacks head coach Ian Foster would like Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar to join his New Zealand coaching team at the end of the 2019-20 season.

“Discussions between the Scarlets and New Zealand Rugby are at an early stage and we are unable to comment further until those discussions are concluded.

“In the meantime, Brad, the coaching team and playing group are firmly focused on this evening’s crucial European Challenge Cup match against Bayonne, followed by the big Welsh derby matches over the festive season.”

Ireland and Scotland secure shock wins on day one of Cape Town Sevens

Ireland and Scotland snatched thrilling last-minute victories over Australia and England on Day One of the pool matches at the 2019 Cape Town Sevens.

Kenya were also surprise winners over Samoa while hosts South Africa, defending champions Fiji and New Zealand all recorded impressive wins in their matches at the second leg of the 2019/20 World Rugby Sevens Series.

South Africa brought the curtain down on day one with a scintillating 49-0 defeat of Japan, while their Pool A rivals Fiji were 28-14 winners over USA despite having two players sin-binned.

New Zealand, the most successful team in series history in South Africa, were equally impressive in overcoming Wales 43-7 after their Pool B rivals Argentina had conceded two late tries in a 33-21 victory over Canada.

While these victories may have been largely expected, the men’s competition at Cape Town Stadium had begun with three shock results in four matches with Dubai bronze medallists England among them.

England suffered a last-gasp defeat in their Pool C match with Scotland, Femi Sofolarin scoring the winner in added time of a pulsating match between two old rivals that ended 26-24.

Australia were also undone by a final play try, Terry Kennedy racing away to secure a 26-21 victory for Ireland against a side that had put 45 points on them in Dubai last weekend.

The other upset saw Kenya beat Samoa 24-19, while France avoided joining this club with a 40-7 defeat of Spain.

The men’s action continues at 10:57 local time (GMT+2) on Saturday when Australia take on Kenya in Pool D. The teams will complete their pool matches on day two with the knockout stages to bring the curtain down on the historic tournament on Sunday.

The most mouth-watering game on day one was unquestionably the meeting between Fiji and USA, the top two in the 2019 series. Sevuloni Mocenacagi was stopped a metre short of the USA line, but two quick tries from Aminiasi Tuimaba gave Fiji a 14-0 lead at half-time. Two yellow cards in little more than a minute threatened to undo all of Fiji’s hard work, but tries from Viilimoni Botitu and Alasio Naduva ensured Jerry Tuwai’s 50th series event began with a 28-14 win.

South Africa ensured the crowd went home happy with a seven-try, 49-0 defeat of invitational side Japan in the final game of the day. Seabelo Senatla and Kurt-Lee Arendse both scored doubles as the Blitzboks made Japan pay for every error, pouncing on loose passes, dropped balls or poor restarts. Japan did have plenty of time on the ball, but simply couldn’t find a way through the green wall.

Argentina belied the loss of captain Santiago Alvarez to injury before the tournament began with an impressive 33-7 defeat of Canada, making full use of perfectly-weighted kick-throughs with Franco Sabata (2) – the top scorer in Cape Town last year – and Francisco Ulloa both touching down from this tactic. A Theo Sauder double cut the deficit to 33-21 at the final whistle but Argentina were fully deserving of their victory.

New Zealand ensured that Sam Dickson’s first match in his 50th series tournament ended in victory with a 43-7 defeat of Wales. From the moment Andrew Knewstubb sold the Welsh a dummy for the opening try, there was little doubt that the All Blacks Sevens would come out on top with Akuila Rokolisoa scoring two of their six other tries.

France were determined not to be the victims of a third shock result in a row and didn’t look back after Tavite Veredamu and captain Jean Pascal Barraque gave them a 14-0 lead. Spain did get on the scoreboard through Ignacio Rodriguez-Guerra but four second-half tries – including Pierre Gilles Lakafia’s 50th on the series – saw Les Bleus run out 40-7 winners.

England and Scotland encounters are always hard-fought battles, whatever the teams playing, and this was certainly no exception. Captain Robbie Fergusson put the Scots ahead while Dan Norton was in the sin-bin, but the all-time series top try scorer atoned with his 344th try on the stroke of half-time. The pulsating second half swung one way then the other, England scoring twice before Scotland hit the front with their own double. Harry Glover thought he had scored the winning try, only for Sofolarin to stretch out to score that for Scotland with the final act, ironically against the side he played for last season.

Ireland ensured that the men’s competition got off to a surprise start when Kennedy scored with the final play to snatch a 26-21 victory over Australia, their biggest scalp as a core team on the series. Australia had led 14-7 at half-time before Ireland charged back with two quick-fire tries, the latter by captain Billy Dardis. Joe Pincus’ second try tied the scores with only seconds to play, but Australia then lost Lachie Miller to the sin-bin and Kennedy burst through to run in the winner.

Samoa had finished fourth in Dubai last weekend, but it was Kenya who started the brighter with three first-half tries, including one by Daniel Taabu almost three minutes after the clock hit zero. With Belgium Tuatagaloa and Paul Scanlan in the sin-bin at the same time, Billy Odhiambo seemingly put the match beyond Samoa, but Tuatagaloa and Joe Perez scored what could be key tries later in the tournament to cut the final margin to 24-19.

Cape Town Men’s Sevens Pools

Pool A: South Africa, USA Fiji, Japan
Pool B: New Zealand, Argentina, Canada, Wales
Pool C: England, France, Spain, Scotland
Pool D: Samoa, Australia, Ireland, Kenya

Day One, results:

Australia 21-26 Ireland
Samoa 19-24 Kenya
France 40-7 Spain
England 24-26 Scotland
Argentina 33-21 Canada
New Zealand 43-7 Wales
USA 14-28 Fiji
South Africa 49-0 Japan

Australia's McMahon staying in Japan despite Sevens switch

Despite making his return with Australia’s Sevens team, flanker Sean McMahon says there will not be a similar comeback for the Wallabies unless the country's Giteau Law changes.

McMahon was commenting after confirming he had decided to extend his stay with Japanese Top League club Suntory Goliath to 2023.

McMahon is in Cape Town this week and will play for the Australian Sevens team for the first time in five years, after Rugby Australia and Suntory struck a special deal that McMahon hopes will end with selection for the Olympics next year.

But McMahon despite admitting he “definitely” wants to play for the Wallabies again, it won’t be any time soon under Rugby Australia’s current eligibility rules.

Speaking to Rugby Australia’s official website from Cape Town, the 25-year-old revealed he’d recently extended his stay at Suntory in the Top League for another three seasons.

“It got extended to 2023 at the start of the season. They’re a great club and they look after me, so when the chance came I took it again,” said McMahon.

“It was a tough call because I do still want to (play for Australia) and have aspirations to be throwing the gold jersey on. And being back around the (Sevens) circuit this week, it does give you now a little bit more of that drive I guess.

“But at the same time the club has looked after me really well, and they have looked after my family really well the whole time we have been there. Which was a big thing for me, and I do get a lot of family time, as much as I am working hard as well.”

McMahon, who lives with wife Nia and their one-year-old son Mac in Tokyo, shocked Australian rugby when he left a promising Wallabies and Super Rugby career to play in Japan at the end of 2017.

With only 26 caps he doesn’t qualify for the Wallabies’ eligibility dispensation named after his Suntory team-mate Matt Giteau, and he also turned down the chance to make the 2019 Rugby World Cup by signing to play for the Sunwolves during a Top League hiatus and not an Aussie team (foot surgery ultimately saw the deal cancelled).

McMahon is aware there is a review of the Giteau Law underway but said even if there is no change, he is still eyeing a return to Australia in the future.

McMahon could conceivably return to Super Rugby, and potentially the Wallabies, ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

‘You never know, after the next couple of years with Suntory, what could happen on that front. I would only be getting to around 28 when I would be finishing up my next one,” he said.

“If I continue to look after the body the way I am currently, and Japanese rugby has been good for me in refreshing my body and refreshing me mentally as well, in continuing to bring that love back for the game I had as a young boy playing.

“It’s been great for me so I definitely do have aspirations to come back to Australia at some stage.”

Prior to leaving for Japan in 2017, McMahon said in an interview he feared he would not be playing rugby at age 30 on his current trajectory, such was the damage he was doing to his body with his ultra-physical playing style.

For this weekend in Cape Town, and an unspecified number of World Series tournaments next year, McMahon is channeling all his patriotic energy into playing for the Australian Sevens team.

The return to Sevens for McMahon – who played two seasons with the Aussie team from 2012-2014 – came after “what if” conversations with coach Tim Walsh became more concrete when Australia won qualification for the Olympics last month.

“Walshy basically just hit me up to see if I was interested and to see if we could work things out,” said McMahon.

“Obviously me being with a Japanese side makes things a bit difficult because some of the tournaments I needed to play in were right in the middle of my season.

“But we kept talking and we tried to work out a plan that worked for both parties, myself and Suntory, and Walshy and the boys, to make it work for me to have a chance to help the boys out with an Olympic run. It’s all happened pretty quickly as these things do.

“I have always wanted to continue to put the gold jersey on, and come back to sevens and have that chance.

“This is where it all started for me with my career, pulling on that gold jersey here. So it’s great to come back and throw it on and get back on the circuit.

“Obviously the Olympics is a bit of once in a lifetime so if I work hard enough and get that opportunity, that’s going to be something pretty exciting as well.”

McMahon said much has changed since he last played for the Australian Sevens team in their bronze-medal-wining game at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Both in the game, and in his size too.

“From when I was playing I have got probably an extra ten kegs on me since then – I am feeling them a little bit,” added McMahon jokingly.

“Nah, it’s just something to get used to. The game is a bit faster, I haven’t played since the Comm Games in 2014. It just feels a bit faster, there are a few more plays involved now.

“And just getting used to that, especially in defence, the amount of space between you and your next defender.

“There is about five metres instead of the one metre you have in 15s. Just getting used to that again is probably going to be the toughest part for me but I always love a challenge so it will be interesting to see how it goes in the first game.”

McMahon said he won’t be easing into things, sticking to his lifelong mantra of “110 per cent or nothing”. But he admitted to some nerves about the suffering he is heading for.

“I think I am a bit nervous. Some say I am a bit of a sucker for punishment because the lungs are going to be absolutely stinging,” he said.

“Obviously sevens is known for its fast pace and how hard everyone is working, and I don’t want to let anyone down by running out of gas there. So I am a bit nervous for my first one back, getting back into it. But I will do my absolute best for the boys.”

McMahon’s first taste of action at the Cape Town leg of the World Sevens Series will be in Australia’s opening pool game against Ireland on Friday.

Henry critical of All Black coaching selection process

Former All Blacks head coach Graham Henry has criticised New Zealand Rugby’s selection process for their recent coaching appointment.

Henry, who was the All Blacks head coach when they won the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011, was part of the panel that selected Ian Foster as the new All Blacks coach.

Foster served as his predecessor Steve Hansen’s assistant for seven years and beat out Crusaders coach Scott Robertson to take over the coaching reins from Hansen.

And Henry feels there were too few applicants for the All Blacks job.

“We should’ve had more to be fair, more applications, and I think New Zealand Rugby’s learned from that,” he told Radio Sport.

Two of the other applicants, Glasgow Warriors boss Dave Rennie and Japan’s Jamie Joseph, accepted positions with international teams. Rennie was appointed as Australia’s new coach while Joseph extended his stay with the Brave Blossoms.

Foster’s appointment has been criticised in some quarters with many feeling that New Zealand needed to start afresh with a coach who was not part of the recent All Blacks coaching set-up.

Henry agrees and feels New Zealand Rugby will have to come with a new approach.

“They [New Zealand Rugby] need to knock down the castle and build it again,” he said.

“Winning is everything, winning won’t occur unless they have the foundations right and new foundations because you can’t continue with what’s happening in the past. It gets mundane.”

Henry believes the All Blacks’ performance at this year’s Rugby World Cup – where they lost to England in the semi-finals – will be used as a much-needed catalyst and hopes Foster can launch a new age.

“Losing [to England] at the Rugby World Cup will add to the edge and the desire to get better,” he added.

“If you keep on winning you probably get a wee bit complacent and don’t make changes. Losing to England will add desire, add change.

“I think the new team that Fozzie finishes up with has got to develop their own identity, their own purpose, their own culture.”

The 73-year-old said Robertson’s time will come to take charge of the All Blacks.

“I think he’s got the passion to coach the All Blacks and that’s what he really wants to do and I think it’s in his psyche,” added Henry.

“I think he will be the All Black coach, it’s just a matter of time. He’s 45, isn’t he? He’s just a baby as far as coaches are concerned, very talented, very enthusiastic… he’s just got to be a bit patient.”

Savea crowned New Zealand’s best at glitzy ceremony

All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea emerged as the big winner at the New Zealand Rugby Awards after being named the Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year for 2019.

Savea, who underwent knee surgery today and was not able to attend the award ceremony, was named the Super Rugby Player of the Year, the All Blacks Player of the Year (new award), before being crowned as the Kelvin R Tremain Player of the Year award which was won last year by Black Fern Kendra Cocksedge.

Savea reached a new level of play in 2019, starting eight of the All Blacks 10 Test matches, and he showed strength and versatility across the back-row.

Savea was a monster presence on the field in attack – often taking defenders for a ride – and on defence – he displayed a freakish ability to turnover crucial ball at the breakdown.

Three-peat Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson won his first National Coach of the Year Award, while the 10-time champions won a consecutive adidas National Team of the Year award.

In another night for the history books, Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini won the Tom French Cup for Maori Player of the Year, the first woman to do so in the 70 year history of the award.

Black Ferns Sevens Co-Coaches Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney were named New Zealand Coaches of the Year, and the Black Ferns Sevens were crowned the New Zealand Team of the Year for a second consecutive year.

Tyla Nathan-Wong was named Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year, while her skipper Sarah Hirini (Ngati Kahungunu) was named the Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the Year.

Tone Ng Shui (Tasman) was named the Richard Crawshaw Memorial All Blacks Sevens Player of the Year. Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland) collected her first Black Ferns Player of the Year Award following a prolific try-scoring 2019.

This year’s Salver, the New Zealand Rugby tradition of recognising an outstanding contribution went to a shocked Steve Tew who leaves New Zealand Rugby at the end of the year.

The award is determined by the NZR Board and event staff were forced to ingenious means to keep the award secret from Tew who would normally have full visibility of all awards.

NZR Board chair Brent Impey noted Tew’s 25-year service to rugby administration including 18 years with New Zealand Rugby. Tew was appointed chief executive in 2008.

The New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association (NZRPA) Kirk Award was presented to Josh Blackie, Seilala Mapusua and Hale T-Pole for their contributions to the game off the field.

Canterbury’s Chelsea Bremner was presented with the the Fiao’o Faamausili Medal for Player of the Farah Palmer cup, and Chase Tiatia (Bay of Plenty) took out the Duane Monkely Medal for his thrilling form during the Mitre 10 Cup.

Canterbury’s Fletcher Newell won New Zealand Age Grade Player after he was named player of the Jock Hobbs Memorial U19 tournament and was selected for the New Zealand U20. North Otago’s 2019 stand-out Josh Clark won Mitre 10 Heartland Championship Player for his consistent efforts with the Meads Cup winning side.

Rugby World Cup 2019 referee Paul Williams won his first New Zealand Referee of the Year Award.

Ian Spraggon from Bay of Plenty won the Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year recognising 11 years of voluntary work with the Union. His nomination form noted he worked tirelessly behind the scenes, he never asked for recognition but has been responsible for changing kids’ lives through rugby and has been the ultimate role model. A part of the disciplinary committee, this year the union has seen a decline in incidents – a testament to the work Spraggon and the committee have invested.

TJ Perenara’s thrilling sideline-skating try during Rugby World Cup 2019 was voted by fans as the Fans Try of the Year.

New Zealand Rugby chair Brent Impey congratulated all award winners.

“It has been a wonderful and successful year right across rugby,” he said.

“It has been a remarkable year again for the Black Ferns Sevens and the Crusaders who have won coach and team awards.

“I am delighted that this year’s Tom French Memorial Player of the Year is Sarah Hirini whose strength as a player and leader on the field, make her an appropriate winner of this award.

“As for Ardie, what an absolute he has been to watch this year. Both as a Hurricane and an All Black, this young man has been in sublime form and we hope to see much more of him next year.

“Congratulations to all winners this evening – they deserve their accolades and we welcome them to the history books.”

The Rugby Awards judging panel is: Mike Eagle, Graham Mourie, Tony Johnson, Dr Farah Palmer.

2019 New Zealand Rugby Awards winners:

Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year: Ardie Savea

National Team of the Year: Crusaders

New Zealand Team of the Year: Black Ferns Sevens

New Zealand Coach of the Year: Cory Sweeney and Allan Bunting (Black Ferns Sevens)

Super Rugby Player of the Year: Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)

NZRPA Kirk Award: Josh Blackie, Seilala Mapusua & Hale T-Pole

Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the Year: Sarah Hirini (Ngati Kahungunu)

Richard Crawshaw Memorial All Blacks Sevens Player of the Year: Tone Ng Shiu (Tasman)

Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year: Tyla Nathan-Wong (Auckland)

Black Ferns Player of the Year: Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland)

Fans Try of the Year: TJ Perenara (New Zealand v Namibia, Rugby World Cup 2019)

New Zealand Rugby Referee of the Year: Paul Williams

Charles Monro Rugby Volunteer of the Year: Ian Spraggon (Bay of Plenty)

New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year: Fletcher Newell (Canterbury)

Mitre 10 Heartland Championship Player of the Year: Josh Clark (North Otago)

Duane Monkley Medal: Chase Tiatia (Bay of Plenty)

Fiao’o Faamausili Medal: Chelsea Bremner (Canterbury Women)

National Coach of the Year: Scott Robertson (Crusaders)

Salver for an Outstanding Contribution to New Zealand Rugby: Steve Tew

Previous Kelvin R Tremain award winners (last 10 years):

2018: Kendra Cocksedge
2017: Samuel Whitelock
2016: Beauden Barrett
2015: Ma’a Nonu
2014: Brodie Retallick
2013: Kieran Read
2012: Richie McCaw
2011: Jerome Kaino
2010: Kieran Read
2009: Richie McCaw

Wyn Jones sets sights on Lions tour after World Cup frustration

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones admits the heartbreak and disappointment he suffered at the Rugby World Cup is spurring him on to make a fourth British and Irish Lions tour.

Jones, who became Wales’ most capped player last month, has been tipped as a possible Lions captain when Warren Gatland’s tourists take on South Africa in July 2021.

The Ospreys lock forward will be nearly 36 by then, but Jones’ performances at the recent World Cup in Japan, where Wales finished fourth, suggest that he remains at the peak of his powers.

“I am not going to lie, I am aware it’s there, but it’s a two-pronged answer.” Jones said after being named BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2019.

“You are never going to say never, but you don’t want to be too greedy as well.

“I am fully aware you have to be fit and playing well to be selected. If the planets align and I am potentially still there, then it’s somebody else’s decision.

“The losses still hurt but they inspire you to go on as well. It does spur you on and make you want to go again.”

Jones, who has also been shortlisted for the BBC’s UK-wide Sports Personality of the Year award this weekend, has enjoyed a stellar 2019.

He was instrumental as Wales won the Grand Slam, claimed top spot in the world rugby rankings and reached the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Jones’ final game of the tournament, against New Zealand, saw him win his 134th Wales cap, which added to his nine Tests for the Lions and saw him surpass Italy’s Sergio Parisse to move to second in the world all-time caps list with 143.

Only Richie McCaw, who led the All Blacks to World Cup success in 2011 and 2015, has more caps to his name with 148.

Jones could equal that mark in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, when Wales will be under the charge of new head coach Wayne Pivac.

Asked if he was excited by the new era, Jones said: “Massively so.

“One of the highlights of the year was the Grand Slam, but you also look at the likes of Josh Adams, Aaron Wainwright, Tomos Williams and others.

“People have had opportunities and stood up. That’s probably as big as a Grand Slam, and with a new coach it’s exciting times. I’ve sat down with him (Pivac) on a few occasions. I was in for that Barbarians week on the three days that he wanted everyone in.

“I think there were a few raised eyebrows after the World Cup, but it was invaluable really as time is always precious.”

Jones missed the non-capped Test match victory over the Barbarians at the end of November with a groin injury that has sidelined him since the World Cup.

But he hopes to return to action for the Ospreys over Christmas and build up his fitness before Wales’ Six Nations opener against Italy on February 1.

“We are carrying a bit of hurt from the World Cup,” Jones said. “I am on a personal level because we went out there believing we could win it.

“Having had the Sunday morning after Grand Slams and Championships and winning trophies you want that.

“Gats (Gatland) was honest, consistent and essentially really proud of what he did and what he created with Wales.

“The phrase has been coined that it’s Wayne’s World now. Wayne is going to do it in his way but carry on with some of the foundations that have been laid.”

Scotland's Seymour announces international retirement

Scotland winger Tommy Seymour took to social media to announce his retirement from international rugby after earning 55 caps for the national team.

The 31-year-old crossed for 20 tries during his international career to rank fourth on the Scotland all-time list.

The Nashville-born flyer’s form in the 2016/17 campaign also saw him selected for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, finishing as the tour’s top try-scorer by touching down on three occasions.

Seymour made his international debut against South Africa in Nelspruit back in 2013, scoring his first two Scotland tries later that year in a 42-17 win over Japan at BT Murrayfield.

The winger holds the distinction of scoring in four consecutive Rugby World Cup matches, crossing in each of his appearances at the 2015 tournament in England, including the quarter-final against Australia at Twickenham.

A hat-trick against Fiji at BT Murrayfield proved to be his final home try-scoring appearance in the famous dark blue jersey, with his last try for Scotland coming against Russia in the recent Rugby World Cup in Japan.

“Playing for Scotland has been the greatest honour,” said Seymour. “The pride from wearing the thistle on my chest is one of the most powerful feelings I’ve experienced.

“It was in every way a dream come true and an amazing journey to share with friends, family and the Scotland supporters.

“I have been fortunate enough to play with some of the greatest players this country has ever produced and even more fortunate that in some I have found friends for life.

“To my loving wife Katy, who held the fort through my many days and months away from home, thank you for being my rock through all the ups and downs that come with playing international sport.”

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend added: “Tommy can reflect on an excellent international career. He has one of the best try-scoring rates for Scotland. To earn 55 caps in a six-year period is testament to not only his all-round rugby ability but also his consistency in the blue jersey.

“His game was very well suited to the demands of Test rugby, as he had a high work-rate, world-class aerial skills and a very good awareness of when to get on to ball.

“When he got the opportunity to play regularly, first at Glasgow then with Scotland, he went from strength to strength, adding elements to his game each season.

“He’s been fantastic to work with and always gave everything for Scotland. We wish him well for the rest of his playing career with Glasgow.”

Wisemantel named new Wallabies attack coach

Dave Rennie’s new Wallabies brains trust is starting to take shape with Scott Wisemantel being unveiled as Australia’s new attack coach on Thursday.

Wisemantel had been publicly named as one of Rugby Australia’s targets for an assistant role and that was finally made official with Rugby Australia’s announcement.

The Australian has been working under Eddie Jones as England’s attack coach but has long been earmarked for a homecoming.

Wisemantel returned to Australia after the Rugby World Cup, going back to working as a supply teacher in his local area but had kept his cards close to his chest about his coaching future.

He hasn’t coached in Australia since 2010 when he was the Waratahs backs coach but has worked in Japan, France and England.

The 49-year-old has remained in close contact with those in Australian rugby circles, though, and led an Australian XV against the French Barbarians in a mid-week tour match in 2016.

“I’m really looking forward to returning home to Australia after ten years and for the opportunity to work alongside Dave Rennie,” Wisemantel told Rugby Australia’s official website.

“I’ve learnt a few things from working with various programs around the world and it’s given me another perspective on how to view the game as an attack coach.

“Historically, the Wallabies have been innovative in how they play the game and how they attack so I want to bring that to the table.

“There’s a good group of players with some exciting talent coming through, which will create competition for spots amongst the current crop.

“I’m looking forward to get stuck into it and visiting the Super Rugby teams early in the New Year, seeing how I can learn off them and prepare for a really important 2020 season.”

Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor and Japan-based Nick Stiles have also been rumoured to be in contention for assistant roles with Rennie.

Wisemantel’s was one of three additions to the Wallabies set-up announced on Thursday.

Chris Webb will come on board as Wallabies general manager, having most recently been national high performance advisor for the Sunwolves and Japan rugby.

Dean Benton, who was part of the Australian staff leading into the Rugby World Cup, has also taken up a permanent role as national head of athletic performance.

Benton was with England Rugby until he returned to Australia at the end of 2018.

Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson said the three announcements would prove pivotal for the Wallabies.

“These are all important appointments for what we want to achieve with our Wallabies program and broadly for the implementation of our national high performance plan over the next four years,” he said.

“Scott’s return to Australia is a huge coup for the Wallabies. He’s got great experience and has had success with club sides in Europe as well as with other International sides, but I also know what he’s like as a person and as a coach and he will add tremendous value to the group.

“Dave (Rennie) has been closely involved in the appointment of Scott and I know those two guys will complement each other really well.

“As far as Dean is concerned, he’s been with the team for the past year and has had a significant impact on the physical preparation and conditioning of the Wallabies squad.

“Dean has an almost unrivalled resume when it comes to athletic performance coaching and we are going to tap into his expertise in a much more significant way in a new role which will see Dean coordinate our approach to athletic performance nationally by working in with the staff at each of our national, Super Rugby and Academy teams.

“I have known Chris Webb for many years and have worked with him previously in the Wallabies setup and I know the qualities and experience he will bring to the management team will pay significant dividends.

“All three of these appointments are at the top in their fields and will give our teams the best chance for success across the Australian rugby landscape.”

Robertson accepts new All Blacks coach decision

Scott Robertson admitted he was disappointed to lose out to Ian Foster for the All Blacks’ coaching job, but said he has accepted the decision.

Foster was preferred to Robertson as Steve Hansen’s successor and was promoted to the position on a two-year contract after serving as the three-time world champions’ assistant coach for seven years.

Meanwhile, Robertson, who has guided the Crusaders to three consecutive Super Rugby title wins, said he has moved on from the disappointment of losing out to Foster.

“They made a decision and it went the other way,” Robertson told 1News at the New Zealand Rugby Awards on Thursday night.

“It’s nothing personal. They chose him and I get to coach a team (the Crusaders) that I love coaching.”

Robertson said he wouldn’t rule out having another try when the All Blacks head coaching job becomes available in the future.

“If the time is right, why not?,” he added.

The 45-year-old said he sent Foster a text message to congratulate him on his appointment.

“There’s always a natural process as a human, there’s a natural disappointment because I’ve put everything in to it,” Robertson told the New Zealand Herald of his unsuccessful campaign for the All Blacks role.

“They think they have the best man for the job and, look, through the process I did everything I possibly could; they got who I was and how I would have loved to have led the All Blacks and they were clear with my vision and how we were going to do it, but it wasn’t to be.

“It’s been a good four months, hasn’t it? It feels like it’s been an election in its own way. I prepared well, everyone understands what I’ve done with my record…I had a great two and a half hours in front of the board and it went another way.

“I flicked a text (to Foster) to say congratulations to him. It’s been a big few months and obviously it’s nothing personal, he’s in a position like me and wants to do the best for himself and the country.”

Robertson also dismissed suggestions that he would leave New Zealand to further his career overseas.

“I’m coaching the team I love, where I’ve had a lot of great moments as a player and now as a coach, I’ve got a lot of special bonds and a chance to do something pretty special,” he said.

Former Springbok heading to Lions

Former Springbok behemoth Willem Alberts is set to make his return to the Lions next week.

The forward - dubbed the Bone Collector - has come full circle. Alberts made his professional debut for the Lions in 2005 and is now days away from signing a new contract with his former club.

Lions boss Rudolf Straeuli confirmed to The Star that Alberts will arrive in South Africa next week.

"He will then undergo medicals," said the former Springbok coach.

"No contracts are signed before a player passes the medical tests."

The 43-test veteran last ran out for the green and gold in 2016 and has been playing his trade for State Francais in Paris since 2015, when they won the French Top 14.

The Lions also signed former Springbok prop Jannie du Lessis to bolster the ranks. He joins the talented Jamba Ulengo, Dan Kriel and Roelof Smit.

New Zealand Rugby appoints Ian Foster as new All black coach

The outgoing Steve Hansen has been replaced by his assistant coach, Ian Foster, as head coach of the All Blacks.

54-year-old Foster will now lead the three-time world champions into a new era, after eight years as assistant head coach of the team.

In making the announcement, NZR chairman Brent Impey said Foster had come through as the preferred candidate following a lengthy and robust interview process.

“The NZR Board has today ratified Ian Foster as the new Head Coach of the All Blacks from 2020. He brings world-class international experience to the role, an incredibly strong coaching team, and we think he’ll do an outstanding job,” he told the All Blacks’ official website.

Impey said Foster had been appointed for a two-year period.

“The interview process was extensive and really difficult, which reflects the very strong applications from both candidates,” he added.

Impey revealed that Foster would be joined by four other coaches, who will be announced in due course.

“While we can’t confirm the full make-up of the coaching team today, we’re delighted with the quality they bring – they have a wide range of coaching experiences and are a diverse group of thinkers,” he said.

“On behalf of New Zealand Rugby, I want to congratulate Ian on his appointment, and we wish him well for this next phase in the All Blacks’ story.”

Foster said he was humbled to be selected as Head Coach.

“I feel truly privileged and honoured to be given this opportunity and I can’t wait to lead the team into the next chapter of what is a remarkable legacy,” he said.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved in the All Blacks over the last eight years and I’m excited and energised by a new coaching team who will join me.

“It’s incredibly humbling to be appointed to the job and I have a strong desire to serve the jersey well and represent New Zealand to the best of my ability.”

Incoming NZR CEO Mark Robinson also congratulated Foster, saying he had impressed the panel.

“These are exciting times. Ian has pulled together a very strong team and he is an outstanding person in his own right with a high-quality set of values,” said Robinson.

“He is committed to stamping his own mark on the team and it’s clear that he and his coaching team want to bring a new and fresh energy into the All Blacks environment.”

Robinson has also acknowledged Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson, who also interviewed for the role.

“As someone who knows ‘Razor’ well as a former teammate, he was a very impressive candidate and these decisions are never easy,” he added.

”We know Razor is an outstanding coach and I have no doubt he’ll have a big future in our game at international level.”

The appointment panel for the head coach position was made up of Impey, Robinson, NZR Head of High Performance Mike Anthony, former All Blacks head coach and NZR Life Member Sir Graham Henry and former Silver Ferns coach and High Performance Sport New Zealand director Waimarama Taumaunu.

Foster has been assistant head coach of the All Blacks since 2012 and was a key part of the coaching team which guided the team through a hugely successful period, including the unbeaten season in 2013, the Rugby World Cup victory in 2015, multiple successful Bledisloe and Freedom Cup campaigns and Rugby Championships as well as end-of-year tours.

The team has had an 87 percent winning record over that period. Foster was one of the first Super Rugby players to transition into coaching.

He spent eight years and over 100 games coaching the Chiefs before joining the All Blacks. He was a selector and also worked alongside Hansen on strategy, with a particular focus on back play and attack.

Foster is the most–capped Waikato player of all time with 148 games (1985 – 1998) as well as 26 games for the Chiefs (1996 – 1998).He swapped his boots for a coach’s whistle and started his coaching career as the Chiefs’ technical advisor before moving into assistant coach and coach roles with Waikato.

He was co-coach of the Junior All Blacks (2005-07 and 2009), when the team was unbeaten in 16 matches.

Munster's Botha to face disciplinary hearing

Munster's Arno Botha will discover his fate at a disciplinary hearing in London this week following his red card against Saracens at the weekend.

Referee Romain Poite gave Botha his marching orders in the 81st minute of the Champions Cup match, which the Irish province won 10-3 at Thomond Park on Saturday.

Botha, who came on as a replacement for CJ Stander in the 70th minute, was red-carded for striking the Saracens replacement, Nick Tompkins (No 23), with his arm in contravention of Law 9.12.

The independent Disciplinary Committee will be chaired by Dan White (England) and the rest of the panel comprises Frank Hadden (Scotland) and Marcello d'Orey (Portugal).

If the committee do find against Botha, he could be sidelined for a minimum of two weeks.

Under World Rugby's Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 9.12 relating to striking with the arm carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-range: 6 weeks; Top end: 10 to 52 weeks.

Waller agrees new Worcester Warriors deal

Ethan Waller says his decision to sign a two-year contract extension with Worcester Warriors was an easy one to make.

Waller arrived at Sixways from Northampton Saints in the summer of 2017 and has established himself as crowd favourite and a respected figure among his team-mates as he is the club's Rugby Players Association representative.

His current contract is due to expire at the end of this season but he has now committed himself to Warriors until the end of 2021/22.

"Re-signing was one of the easiest decisions I've made. I love the boys and the role I'm privileged to play in this squad," he said.

"I signed here nearly three years ago because I truly believed in the potential the club has and we're really starting to show it.

"It's one of the tightest groups I've been involved with and I'm ecstatic to be part of the journey over the next two years."

Waller is the seventh member of the current Warriors squad to put pen to paper on a contract extension following Ted Hill, Andrew Kitchener, Francois Venter, Nick Schonert, Sam Lewis and Anton Bresler.

His decision to commit his future to Warriors delighted Director of Rugby Alan Solomons who believes the 27-year-old has all the attributes to become an international front row forward.

"It is brilliant news for the club that Ethan has decided to stay on here at Sixways," said Solomons.

"He is an absolutely outstanding loosehead prop and I have no doubt that it is but a matter of time before he plays for England.

"He is a good scrummager and tremendous around the field. In addition, he is a great bloke and a terrific team man who adds huge value. I am overjoyed that he has elected to continue his career here at Sixways and look forward to working with him."

Daugunu pens new Queensland Reds contract

Filipo Daugunu has committed his long-term future to the Queensland Reds after putting pen to paper on a new four-year deal.

The Fijian flyer becomes the 14th player to re-commit to Queensland on a long-term deal, that will see him stay at Ballymore through 2023. After bursting onto the Super Rugby scene in 2018, he scored six tries in his debut season and now boasts 21 caps for Queensland.

Reds winger Daugunu said: "I'm very happy to stay at Queensland.

"I've got a lot of good friends here. We've developed strong bonds together. We're a big family at the Reds and I want to be a part of future success here."

Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: "It's great to see Filipo Daugunu stay in Queensland for another four years.

"He's an amazing athlete. He's powerful and has great agility. Filipo's attacking ability has come a long way, but his biggest improvement has been his work in defence.

"Filipo's come through the NRC with Queensland Country and continues to contribute to our program."

Daugunu moved to Australia from Fiji ahead of the 2017 Queensland Premier Rugby season to chase his dream of earning a professional Rugby contract.

In his first year at Wests, he scored 11 tries in 13 games, as the Bulldogs secured their first finals appearance in 10 years.

He then capped-off 2017 as the leading try-scorer in the National Rugby Championship (NRC), helping Bond University Queensland Country to their first title with a hat-trick against Canberra in the final.

His irresistible form in the NRC was rewarded with a Reds contract for the 2018 Super Rugby season and it wasn't long before Daugunu showed Queensland fans his true potential, after debuting for the Reds in Round 1 against the Rebels in Melbourne.

He used the 2018 Super Rugby season as his own personal highlights reel, scoring a total of 37 points, including six tries.

The following year his impact was limited to seven Super Rugby matches after breaking his arm against the Stormers in Round 8, and he was consequently sidelined for six games during the 2019 season.

After living in Australia for the past three consecutive years, Daugunu became eligible to be selected for Australian teams last week.

McMahon included in Australian squad for Cape Town Sevens

Wallaby loose forward Sean McMahon has been called up to Australia’s Sevens squad ahead of the second round of the Sevens World Series in Cape Town.

McMahon started his professional rugby career with the Aussie Sevens and has 26 Test caps for the Wallabies. His last Test for Australia was against Scotland in 2017.

McMahon will begin to chase a potential Olympic dream with the Aussie Sevens as he seeks valuable game time in Tim Walsh’s side, balancing his commitments with Suntory in Japan.

Australian Men’s Sevens head coach Walsh said: “We’re really excited to welcome Sean back to the Aussie 7s and it’s great that he has made a commitment to the Australian jersey.

“Sean and I have had some great conversations about him playing for Australia again and he’s really hungry to wear the green and gold jersey.

“Sean is a fierce competitor, mobile forward and is the kind of athlete that is perfect for the intensity of Sevens and he wants to put himself in contention of going to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him back in the Australian jersey in Cape Town.”

McMahon said: “Walshy and I have been talking about returning to Sevens and I really looking forward to representing my country again.

“The Australian Sevens team having been building well following their qualification for the Olympics next year and I’m looking forward to putting my hand up for the campaign.

“I would like to thank Suntory for being supportive of my decision, to share my duties across the two teams.”

Chiefs hooker Polwart forced to retire

The Chiefs have announced up-and-coming hooker Liam Polwart is retiring from rugby with immediate effect following issues with concussion.

24-year-old Polwart, has opted not to play Super Rugby this season to preserve his long-term health by seeking out new opportunities.

“It has been a difficult decision to make to leave the game I love,” he told the Chiefs’ official website.

“It has provided me with plenty of great friendships and some awesome experiences. I have had some on-going issues with concussion, and while I am currently symptom free, I chosen to hang up my boots and not to put myself at further risk.

“I am grateful for the opportunities rugby has provided me and the support I have received. Now it is time to start a new chapter.”

Chiefs Forwards Coach Neil Barnes commended Polwart on his brave decision.

“Polwart is a fantastic individual, he is a talented player and can be proud of his achievements in his short yet prosperous career,” he said.

“It is a testament to his character to have chosen to make this decision for his own well-being and we applaud him for being so courageous. We wish him all the best for the future and hope he will return to the game and inspire a future generation.”

Polwart, Chief number 291 played 26 games for the Hamilton-based franchise and 15 Mitre 10 Cup games for Bay of Plenty.

The former New Zealand U20s representative debuted for the Chiefs against the Waratahs at FMG Stadium Waikato in 2017 following his provincial debut for the Bay of Plenty Steamers in 2016 against the Taranaki Bulls.