Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu has signed a new deal with New Zealand Rugby until the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

It was announced on Monday that the New Zealand lock has agreed terms on the back of the Blues' 30-20 victory over the Hurricanes at a packed Eden Park on the opening weekend of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The 27-year-old has won 30 caps for the All Blacks and played 74 times for Auckland franchise the Blues since making his debut in 2014.

"I am pleased to continue to play for New Zealand Rugby and the Blues until 2023 and I'm excited about the future," said Tuipulotu.

"During the [coronavirus] lockdown I realised more than ever how much I love this game and love playing for the Blues. We are beginning to develop into a really good side and it is an honour to lead them.

"I am still young and learning all the time, and I want to establish myself as an international player."

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said: "This is fantastic news for New Zealand Rugby and the Blues.

"Patrick has grown considerably over the last few years, both on the field as a player and off field with his captaincy and leadership.

"The fact that he has re-signed through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup is a sign of not only NZ Rugby's commitment to him, but also Patty's desire to achieve his own goals in New Zealand over the next few years.

"We congratulate him on making that commitment."

John Morris was "totally blind-sided" by reports that he is under pressure after Eddie Jones was linked with the Cronulla Sharks job.

Sharks coach Morris was stunned to hear that his position could be under threat following an NRL victory over North Queensland Cowboys last week.

It was then reported that England head coach Eddie Jones was being lined up for a sensational code switch to replace the 39-year-old Morris.

A 30-16 defeat to St George Illawarra Dragons on Sunday led to Morris being probed about talk of Jones taking his job, but he was defiant after the Sharks dropped to 14th in the ladder.

"I'm a young coach, that's for sure, but I think everyone across the game can appreciate the challenges I've had in the first 12 months," Morris said.

"We've had massive challenges around the club with the salary cap fine. We've had to let players go as a result of that.

"We played finals football last year in my first year as a rookie coach, so I don't want to sit here and feel sorry for myself or anything like that, but I think I've done a really good job so far and I've had a lot of injuries as well. 

"We still can't put our main side on the park at the moment. The Eddie Jones stuff obviously caught me by surprise and did a lot of people. I'm contracted until the end of 2021, so I can't read too much into that read.

"Speculation and rumour, I can't let that distract on me, I'm focused on this playing group and getting them going, we had a really good win up in North Queensland last week and we wanted to get better this week, but we obviously slipped up today."

Morris called for the club to back him after he was pressed further on his future in the post-match news conference.

He added: "You'd have to speak to the club, there has been no mention at all to me about my position, it came from left field after our win last week against the Cowboys.

"We were singing the team song in the sheds and it's reported that my job was under pressure, so that's totally blind-sided me. 

"But one thing is I've got a really good bond with the playing group and all of our staff and we're working real hard. We've got some unprecedented challenges around our club at the moment and we are all working as hard as we can to get through that.

"We had to release Matt Prior before the season even started due to the salary cap, we let Josh Morris go. We've had some challenges there and I think the more the club can support me in these challenging times, the better we'll be in the long run."

Australia is ready to ditch the cardboard cutouts and welcome back thousands of spectators to its major sporting events, prime minister Scott Morrison has declared.

From July, venues with up to 40,000 seats will be allowed to operate at a limit of 25 per cent capacity, providing events are ticketed and seated.

Morrison confirmed the same guidelines could also apply to larger venues but said local health authorities would need to assess coronavirus risk on a case-by-case basis.

The news could mean events such as the NRL and AFL welcome back supporters next month, and it boosts the prospect of cricket's ICC Twenty20 World Cup taking place with fans in October and November.

Announcing the reopening of stadiums to fans, albeit with social distancing measures in place, Morrison said he was "sure that will be very welcome".

Australia's biggest venues, such as the MCG, Docklands Stadium and Stadium Australia, may also soon be back open for business.

"For the larger ones I would venture that it would be the subject of a discrete approval for each venue, that would be worked up with the chief health officer in each state or territory," Morrison said.

"So, by the time you get into July there may be that type of opportunity for the rules that apply to those under 40,000 to just carry over to those above 40,000, but that is not a decision that has been taken yet.

"These will be practical, common-sense issues, they'll be worked through by the medical expert panel over the next few weeks and I think that will give it greater instruction.

"The purpose of me flagging this today is so sporting codes, venues, state and territory governments, can engage in that appropriate discussion, know broadly what the parameters are which the national cabinet has set, so it means that people will be able to watch the games, not as cardboard cutouts, but in person, should they be fortunate enough to get one of those seats."

Australia has had over 7,200 cases of COVID-19, with 102 deaths, and there are fewer than 500 current cases in the country, the government said.

Although insisting that he respected the decisions, legendary West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding believes the tour of England could be counted as a missed opportunity for the duo of Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer.

Hetmyer and Bravo joined bowler Keemo Paul in rejecting the offer to join a 25-member squad to tour England this month.  With the UK being one of the countries most badly ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, the trio insisted that they did not feel it was safe to take the risk associated with going on the tour, despite safety assurances given by the England Cricket Board (ECB).  The matches will take place in front of empty stadiums and players will be kept in an enclosed and heavily quarantined environment.

With both players, despite their prodigious talent, struggling for firm footing when it comes to the West Indies squad, Holding believes the match could have provided useful hitting time.

“I think it’s unfortunate as far as West Indies cricket is concerned.  I’m not going to tell anyone that they should be going to England, because the COVID-19 is around.  Someone may get sick or even worse,” Holding said on youtube podcast Mikey – No Holding back.

“But at the same time, I think it’s unfortunate for the West Indies team because these guys have quite a bit of talent and they’ll be missed," he added.

“I’m sorry that Bravo in particular isn’t going, because I think he needs to resuscitate his career.  He started off so brilliantly, everyone thought he was going to be another great West Indian batsman but he hasn’t really fulfilled that.  I think the more cricket he can play now, especially with the West Indies, is the more he has a chance of getting on track and showing everyone the great player he could be,” Holding said.

“Hetmyer is another talented player and again I’m sorry that he is not going to get more opportunities to express himself, but I’m not blaming them for not going.”

 

 

New Australia coach Dave Rennie has volunteered to take a 30 per cent pay cut ahead of starting his job with the Wallabies next month.

Rugby Australia (RA) reported a provisional deficit of 9.4 million Australian dollars for 2019 back in March, and the impact of the coronavirus has further impacted their finances.

All July internationals have already been scrapped because of the ongoing pandemic and both Australia players and RA staff members have had to take significant pay cuts while the sport is on hold.

Rennie has now followed suit with a pay cut that will last until the end of September, in line with the rest of RA's executive team.

The 56-year-old's appointment as Australia's new coach was confirmed back in November 2019 shortly after the Rugby World Cup concluded.

It is hoped he could be in charge for the first time in October, when international fixtures are set to return.

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney is hopeful England will not have to play autumn internationals behind closed doors at Twickenham.

England are due to host New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia in November but there are doubts over whether fans will be allowed in due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sweeney stressed the importance of supporters being able to attend for financial reasons and, with lockdown measures being gradually eased, he is optimistic Eddie Jones' side will not have to run out in an empty stadium.

"Playing behind closed doors - for us - is not much different to the games being cancelled," he told BBC Sport.

"By the time you fire up the stadium, pay for the players and the costs associated with preparation time and camps, when you play behind closed doors for us, there is not a huge difference between that and the games not taking place.

"Having attendance and having fans turning up is key."

Sweeney added: "If things progress as they seem to be progressing now, hopefully we will see crowds at Twickenham in October and November."

RFU boss Sweeney says alternative options are being explored if southern hemisphere teams are unable to head north.

"The preference from both the north and the south is that the original programme will go ahead," he said.

"But there are two or three different options that feature more northern hemisphere competition around that autumn window.

"One of them is you'd play a Six Nations tournament in that autumn that would combine with fixtures next year and for the first time ever you'd have home and away.

"Every [plan] has pros and cons to it and those are being evaluated."

Rugby Australia (RA) is to cut a third of its full-time staff in the coming months as the organisation attempts to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.

RA has been hit hard by the suspension of rugby, with the organisation having previously had to stand three-quarters of their workforce down, while players have taken pay cuts.

Last month RA claimed a World Rugby bailout would provide "certainty for the next 12 months", but on Monday it announced it would be making 47 of its 142 full-time staff redundant.

The redundancies will not come into immediate effect but will take place over the months to come, while senior staff who have been retained have been asked to take a five per cent pay cut.

With all international tours scheduled for July having been cancelled, it is unclear if the Rugby Championship will be able to take place later in the year.

It is expected that the redundancies and pay cuts will reduce RA's wage bill by $5.5million.

"Today was an incredibly difficult day for the organisation with many people affected by changes that are necessary to ensure the viability and sustainability of the organisation as a result of the devastating impacts of the pandemic," interim chief executive Rob Clarke said in a statement.

"We have delivered the news to staff this morning and told them that Rugby Australia values the contribution of each and every one of them, some of whom have given significant service to Rugby Australia and to the game over many years.

"This is a difficult time for a lot of very passionate, hard-working rugby people and we are committed to helping those people find their next opportunity, whether it be within the game or elsewhere."

Rugby Australia (RA) is to cut a third of its full-time staff in the coming months as the organisation attempts to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.

RA has been hit hard by the suspension of rugby, with the organisation having previously had to stand three-quarters of their workforce down, while players have taken pay cuts.

Last month RA claimed a World Rugby bailout would provide "certainty for the next 12 months", but on Monday it announced it would be making 47 of its 142 full-time staff redundant.

The redundancies will not come into immediate effect but will take place over the months to come, while senior staff who have been retained have been asked to take a five per cent pay cut.

With all international tours scheduled for July having been cancelled, it is unclear if the Rugby Championship will be able to take place later in the year.

It is expected that the redundancies and pay cuts will reduce RA's wage bill by $5.5million.

"Today was an incredibly difficult day for the organisation with many people affected by changes that are necessary to ensure the viability and sustainability of the organisation as a result of the devastating impacts of the pandemic," interim chief executive Rob Clarke said in a statement.

"We have delivered the news to staff this morning and told them that Rugby Australia values the contribution of each and every one of them, some of whom have given significant service to Rugby Australia and to the game over many years.

"This is a difficult time for a lot of very passionate, hard-working rugby people and we are committed to helping those people find their next opportunity, whether it be within the game or elsewhere."

Saracens have signed Wales scrum-half Aled Davies on a three-year deal.

Davies' international career appears to be over after he opted to leave the Ospreys to join the European and Premiership champions.

The 27-year-old playmaker will not be able play for his country due to the 60-cap eligibility rule and is instead heading for the Championship after Sarries were consigned to relegation due to salary-cap breaches.

Davies said: "It's a great opportunity for me at a massive club. It's a massive honour to come here and I can't wait to get started.

"It seems like there is a good team and family ethos around the club which is very attractive for me and my family.

"I'm looking forward to putting my stamp on things and making an impact, hopefully."

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "Aled is an experienced, talented player and we are delighted to welcome both him and his family to Saracens.

"He is driven to take his game to new levels and we are excited he has chosen to do that at Saracens."

Davies has won 20 caps for Wales, with his last appearance coming against Uruguay in the Rugby World Cup last October.

Dave Rennie is set to start work as Australia head coach ahead of schedule as Danny Wilson will take charge of Glasgow Warriors from next Monday.

Rennie was due to leave the Warriors at the end of the Pro14 season next month, but there has not yet been a decision on whether the campaign will resume amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Glasgow on Tuesday revealed Wilson will replace Rennie on June 1 in order for both coaches to give their new roles "undivided attention" when rugby union resumes.

Rennie will therefore be free to fully focus on watching Australian Super Rugby franchises in action when they get under way again.

Warriors managing director Nathan Bombrys told the Scottish team's website: "We've agreed that this is the right time for Danny Wilson to formally begin his role as head coach of Glasgow Warriors.

"The original plan was for Danny to come in after Six Nations and shadow Dave and his coaching team for the rest of this campaign. We appreciate Dave's willingness to be open and supportive, as this would have given Danny an excellent head start on next season.

"However, given that the 2019-20 season remains suspended for the foreseeable future, we felt that the best thing for the club would be to let Danny get started.

"With sport in Australia planning to return soon, making the change now will also allow Dave to begin his new role as head coach of the Australian national team.

"We are grateful to Dave for everything he has done for our club over the past three seasons, and particularly for how he has been supportive of the current situation, as well as his willingness to share his vast coaching knowledge with all of our coaches."

All Blacks star and Crusaders captain Scott Barrett re-signed with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Super Rugby side until 2023.

Barrett's recommitment to NZR runs through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, it was announced on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old lock, who is one of three brothers in the All Blacks squad alongside Beauden and Jordie Barrett, has made 36 international appearances since debuting for New Zealand in 2016.

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said: "This is massive news for New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks.

"Scott has already made an outstanding contribution to the team since making his debut back in 2016 and we know the best is yet to come. It's really exciting for the future having him re-signed."

Barrett and the Crusaders are preparing for the start of next month's Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The Crusaders, Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders will begin a season of their own, starting June 13, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand's five Super Rugby teams will play each other home and away over 10 weeks, beginning with a clash between the Highlanders and Chiefs behind closed doors in Dunedin on June 13.

Scotland back Ruaridh Jackson has announced his retirement.

The 32-year-old Glasgow Warriors star confirmed the news in an Instagram post on Monday.

Jackson featured 33 times for his country and declared he had lived his "childhood dream".

He is now set to pursue a new career in the drinks industry.

"It is not the fairytale ending I may have dreamed about, but I want to say a huge thank you," he wrote on Instagram.

"I have achieved more than I could ever have dreamed of, but it is now time to embrace a new challenge.

"I have been so fortunate to live out my childhood dream of playing rugby, not just professionally but for my country.

"It has been a journey that has allowed me to travel the world, make some incredible friends and, without doubt, has given me some of the happiest days of my life.

"I have played at some amazing clubs: Wasps, Harlequins and, of course, two stints at Glasgow Warriors, which will always hold a special place in my heart. The supporters will be one of the things I will miss most."

Jackson debuted for Scotland in 2010 against New Zealand and went on to score 37 points on the international stage.

Having started out with Glasgow, he returned to the club in 2017 following spells with Wasps and Harlequins. 

World Rugby has taken the decision to postpone all international rugby matches scheduled for July because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reigning Rugby World Cup holders South Africa had been due to face Scotland and Georgia, while England were set to tour Japan and New Zealand had been scheduled to host Wales and Scotland.

However, all of those matches, and Ireland's tour of Australia, have been postponed with no new dates set.

A statement from World Rugby read: "Extended travel and quarantine restrictions that apply to numerous countries, and concerns over adequate player preparation time, mean that any sort of cross-border international rugby competition cannot be hosted in July.

"Monitoring of the potential impact on the remaining 2020 international windows continues in collaboration with international rugby stakeholders and the respective authorities.  

"All parties, including member unions, international competitions, professional club competitions and International Rugby Players, will be involved in the evaluation of potential contingency options with a view to achieving an aligned calendar for the remainder of the year.

"All decision-making will be entirely contingent on national government travel, quarantine and health advice and important player welfare and hosting considerations in line with return-to-rugby guidance recently published by World Rugby."

Rugby Australia's general manager Ben Whitaker had previously suggested that games could be rescheduled for October.

International rugby has been on hold since March when the Six Nations was halted with four matches still to play.

The financial impact of having no games has already severely impacted the unions in Australia and the USA, with World Rugby having set up a $100million relief fund.

 

The late, great Jonah Lomu would have been celebrating his 45th birthday on Tuesday.

News of the New Zealand legend's death at the age of only 40 rocked the sporting world in November 2015.

The giant wing tormented opponents during his magnificent career with such searing pace, incredible power and skill.

We pick some of the moments in which Lomu demonstrated why he was such a phenomenon.

Four-midable powerhouse demolishes England

Lomu had only just turned 20 when he got his first experience of the Rugby World Cup in South Africa back in 1995 and he was very much at home on the big stage.

England were simply unable to contain the powerful flyer in the semi-final at Newlands, Lomu scoring a sensational four tries in a 45-29 victory.

Lomu set the tone with a stunning early solo score, brushing off Tony Underwood and darting past Will Carling before steamrollering his way through Mike Catt and touching down.

He clinically added another three tries to set up a final against the hosts, which the Springboks won at Ellis Park.

 

Deja vu at Twickenham

England must have felt they had already seen more than enough of the imposing Lomu ahead of another World Cup showdown at Twickenham 21 years ago.

The two sides were locked at 16-16 in a Pool B match when Lomu produced another moment of magic in the second half.

He bolted down the left flank at great speed, hurtling past Jeremy Guscott and beating another three defenders before dotting down for a sublime score in the corner.

The All Blacks went on to win 30-16, thanks in no small part to the unstoppable Lomu.

 

All Blacks suffer Les Bleus despite jaw-dropping double

October 31, 1999 was a day to forget for New Zealand fans but Lomu sparkled again in a painful World Cup semi-final defeat to France.

He conjured up another jaw-dropping individual try when a swarm of blue shirts were unable to halt his charge from midfield.

Lomu added another for the showreel early in the second half after combining magnificently with Jeff Wilson as the All Blacks steamed into a 24-10 lead.

France came storming back at Twickenham, though, winning a thriller 43-31 to leave New Zealand shell-shocked despite the brilliance of Lomu.

 

Scotland blown away

Lomu's only other Test hat-trick came in a 69-20 demolition of Scotland in Dunedin. 

The All Blacks ran riot at Carisbrook in 2000, Lomu again taking centre stage with a world-class display of finishing.

Sheer strength, persistence and a blistering turn of foot gave him an opening try, getting over the line having got back to his feet after being taken down briefly by Chris Paterson.

His other two tries were more straightforward as weary Scotland were given a brutal lesson.

England defence coach John Mitchell expects Saracens duo Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola to make "good decisions" over their futures.

Itoje has been linked with a loan move to Racing 92 and there are no certainties over which club his England team-mate Vunipola will play for next season after Sarries were relegated from the Premiership for breaching salary-cap regulations.

England head coach Eddie Jones is unable to select players based overseas, but Mitchell is confident Itoje and Vunipola will still be available for selection.

The New Zealander said: "I'm sure Eddie, as he is very good at, is guiding them and helping them and they have probably sought his advice.

"They've got family and friends and people within Saracens who they trust. 

"I'm quite confident that they will make good decisions, that are right for them and their families and also that are right in terms of playing Test rugby for England because they are two guys who love playing for England."

Mitchell knows the coaching staff and players must be ready to adapt their methods when rugby union returns after being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The RFU and our medics are working very closely with the government and it’s important I leave it with them," he added.

"No one knows what the pecking order will be. I guess it's just sensible that non-contact sports will be the creators of the start, I guess, and we'll learn from what we experience and what they go through. When we eventually get the green button then we as a coaching group will need to be ready.

"We're going to have to be creative and innovative around how we do things. A lot of our players are going to be better for this as well because they've had to find a way to train with home constraints.

"We are going to have to find different ways to train based on the distancing."

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