Gloucester star Danny Cipriani has been named the Premiership Rugby Player of the Season for 2018-19.

The fly-half has enjoyed an outstanding debut campaign at Kingsholm and was rewarded with a new three-year contract last month.

Cipriani's form has not been enough to force his way into the England XV, having last featured for his country in June 2018, but he has caught the eye domestically. 

He was named the league's best player this season and Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann hailed the high-profile 31-year-old's ability to perform under pressure.

"I'm very pleased and so happy for Danny," said Ackermann. "I'm so proud of him – it's always a big thing when a player joins a club and there's a bit of pressure on you to perform.

"You have to adapt to the style of the team and the coaches involved, and I can only speak highly of Danny's commitment to the team."

Meanwhile, the Director of Rugby of the Season award went to Saracens' Mark McCall, with the club having won the European Champions Cup. 

Pat Lam has agreed a long-term contract with Bristol Bears until 2023.

Lam took over as head coach in 2017 and led Bristol to promotion to the Premiership in his first season in charge.

Bristol won a club-record 16 successive fixtures in that campaign and then comfortably survived in the top flight, finishing ninth.

The Bears' 51 points are the most earned by a promoted club since 2007.

"I'm proud to commit my future to Bristol and it was an easy decision to make," said Lam, whose title has been changed to director of rugby.

"We've set out a plan to bring a Premiership trophy to Ashton Gate and we're at the start of that journey."

 

Wallabies and Brumbies star Scott Sio has signed a new three-year deal with Rugby Australia (RA).

Sio, 27, has made 55 Test appearances for Australia since his debut in 2013, a year after he played his first game for the Brumbies.

He will remain in Australia and with the Brumbies until at least the end of 2022 after his new deal was announced on Wednesday.

"I'm super excited to re-sign. I've obviously been at the club for a long time and I've seen a lot of what we're trying to grow," Sio said in a statement.

"It's really cool to be part of the youth's next progression as well. I've seen that Noah Lolesio and Len Ikitau have re-signed too so it's great to be part of their journey as well.

"It's a special town. I've spent eight years of my life in Canberra and you get pretty close with the fans, and I really appreciate that so I'm looking forward to a couple more years.

"Winning the World Cup with the Wallabies is the goal this year so we need to recognise the steps to get there. We just had a camp in Brisbane and it was great to get the vibe and what we want to do moving forward."

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was thrilled with Sio's decision to re-sign.

"I'm really pleased for Scott and for Australian rugby that he's committed long term. He's already given so much to each of the teams he plays in but he's still got plenty left to give," he said.

"One thing that stands out with Scott is his commitment to the cause. He's always committed to being a better person, a better player and contributing to a better team."

Leinster and Ireland prop Cian Healy has signed a new two-year deal with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

The 31-year-old forward has agreed to remain with the Pro14 champions and European Champions Cup runners-up until the end of the 2021 season.

Healy, capped 88 times by Ireland, is excited by what the future holds for club and country after putting pen to paper on an extension four days before Leinster face Glasgow Warriors in the Pro14 final.

"Pulling on a Leinster or an Ireland jersey is something that I have always taken a huge amount of pride in and I am thankful for every opportunity I get. I am delighted therefore to have extended my IRFU contract and to continue to line up for Leinster." said Healy.

"I believe that we have built something special at Leinster and with the national team and I want to contribute as best I can to both teams in what will be a hugely exciting few months and years ahead. 

"There has been some difficult times over the last few years for me personally with injury but the support within the Leinster and the Irish rugby family was very humbling and it's something that I won't forget.

"It made this decision all the easier knowing that I was part of something bigger than just a rugby team. I hope to play my part in helping Leinster and Ireland achieve further success over the next few years and I'm looking forward to the next chapter in that journey."

George Smith said he "lived the dream" in 20 years as a professional after the Australia legend announced his retirement.

The 38-year-old, who won 111 caps for the Wallabies, called time on his career after a short spell with Premiership side Bristol Bears.

Smith also featured for the likes of Toulon, Lyon, Stade Francais and Wasps after beginning his career with Super Rugby club the Brumbies.

The flanker, fifth on the list of Australia's most-capped players, stressed he will end his playing days with no regrets.

"Finally the day has come where I officially announce my retirement from professional rugby," Smith said.

"It's been an absolute privilege to play professionally for the past 20 years. Rugby has provided and given me so much.

"The dreams that I had of playing rugby professionally as a young bloke, I'm fortunate to say that I've lived them and experienced so much more during my time."

Smith, the first John Eales Medallist in 2002, added: "The day my father registered me with the Warringah Roos at four years of age in Manly, I found myself returning to the game every year thereafter,

"I was extremely lucky in my career to have landed myself in Canberra as a young 19-year-old kid, having the luxury of being tutored by the finest peers and coaches in the game at the Brumbies."

Israel Folau has declined the option to appeal against his Rugby Australia (RA) ban, but is still considering his options after his contract was terminated last week.

The 30-year-old was sacked by RA on Friday following a hearing over his anti-homosexual social media post last month, in which Folau, a devout Christian, uploaded an image on Instagram that said "hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators".

Folau, who had been warned by RA for similar comments last year, was found guilty of a "high-level breach" of the governing body's code of conduct and RA confirmed on Monday that the former Wallabies and Waratahs star had not appealed.

"The 72-hour window for Israel Folau to appeal his high-level code of conduct breach and sanction has expired," RA said in a statement.

"As Folau has not notified the panel of his intention to appeal, the code of conduct process has now formally concluded.

"With the code of conduct matter complete, Folau's employment contract will be terminated."

However, Folau issued a statement of his own that was widely circulated in the Australian media on Monday in which it was noted that he was "considering all potential avenues" with regards to further action against RA's decision.

"The last few weeks and, in particular, the last 72 hours have given me considerable opportunity to reflect and think about my future," he said.

"I will not be exercising my right to appeal Rugby Australia's decision to terminate my employment contract."

He added: "My decision not to commence Rugby Australia's appeal process is in no way an acceptance of the judicial panel's findings.

"I simply do not have confidence in Rugby Australia's ability to treat me fairly or lawfully throughout this process."

Folau, who has made 73 appearances for Australia, had previously said he would be willing to walk away from the sport but added in his statement: "I believe I still have a lot of rugby left in me."

Bordeaux Begles' hopes of securing a Champions Cup place and a spot in the Top 14 play-offs evaporated in dramatic fashion as they threw away a 29-point lead to lose 43-36 to Toulouse, who are now certain to finish first in the regular season.

George Tilsley scored a hat-trick as the hosts dominated the opening 40 at Stade Chaban-Delmas, outscoring their opponents five tries to one.

However, Toulouse came roaring back in the second half, with Guillaume Marchand's try kicking off a comeback that saw Arthur Bonneval and Thomas Ramos both go over twice. Ramos also landed four conversions and a penalty to finish with 21 points.

Bordeaux can no longer make the top six, while Toulouse cannot be caught at the summit.

In-form Montpellier sneaked up to sixth, above La Rochelle on points difference, with a 42-25 triumph over Stade Francais that eliminated the latter from play-off contention.

The game was fascinatingly poised at 21-20 with 10 minutes remaining when Stade's Laurent Sempere became the third player to be yellow carded.

Montpellier took full advantage, running in three tries to secure victory and a valuable bonus point.

Sunday's other game saw second-placed Clermont Auvergne beaten 32-11 by Toulon in an ill-tempered fixture. Toulon's Romain Taofifenua was red-carded in the 54th minute, while there were also an astonishing five yellows shown in the second half, four of them significantly hampering Clermont, who were briefly reduced to 12 men.

 

Racing 92 boosted their hopes of qualifying for the European Champions Cup by thrashing bottom side Perpignan 52-14, while Lyon's win over La Rochelle confirmed they will have a home quarter-final in the Top 14 play-offs.

Perpignan were already relegated and they were heavily beaten in their final home fixture as Racing ran in eight tries to move up to fourth in the table on Saturday.

Six of those scores were shared equally between two men – Louis Dupichot and Simon Zebo each grabbing hat-tricks – while Dominic Bird and Finn Russell also touched down.

Jonathan Wisniewski's 19 points with the boot helped Lyon to a 29-19 victory that saw La Rochelle slip out of the top four.

Charlie Ngatai's try saw Lyon move ahead in the 51st minute, with Wisniewski slotting over two conversions, four penalties and a drop goal in a fine individual performance.

Castres also moved above La Rochelle into fifth as Wilfrid Hounkpatin and Loic Jacquet crossed either side of half-time in a 17-10 success over Agen.

Pau ensured their safety with a 22-0 triumph over Grenoble, who will contest a relegation play-off.

Exeter Chiefs wrapped up top spot in the Premiership by beating Northampton Saints, who sealed a top-four berth regardless due to Harlequins' narrow loss at Wasps.

The Chiefs could have been pipped at the summit by Saracens, but their surprising defeat at Worcester Warriors in the last round of regular-season fixtures rendered Exeter's result immaterial.

But an impressive campaign continued at a pace for the Chiefs in a 40-21 defeat of the Saints, who they will now host again in the play-off semi-finals at Sandy Park.

It was 21-21 at the end of a frenetic six-try first half that saw Cobus Reinach touch down with a 95-metre effort shortly before the whistle despite Courtney Lawes and Alex Waller being in the sin bin.

But Matt Kvesic, Dave Dennis and Luke-Cowan Dickie scored as the Chiefs ran in 19 unanswered second-half points.

Quins agonisingly missed out on fourth due to a 27-25 loss at the Ricoh Arena, with Saints' one extra win proving crucial as the teams each finished on 56 points.

A Joe Simpson double had seemingly put Wasps out of sight in the second half but Danny Care's score and five points from James Lang's boot brought Quins back into it.

Lima Sopoaga's penalty edged Wasps nine points clear, but Elia Elia's late try set up a grandstand finish.

Lang had the chance to steal it with a last-gasp long-range penalty, only for his strike to fall short

Much-changed European champions Sarries were beaten 31-29 at the Warriors, who were grateful to Josh Adams' score and Duncan Weir's penalty with the clock winding down, while relegated Newcastle Falcons went down with a whimper in a 19-12 loss at home to Bristol.

Bath snatched sixth and the final European Rugby Champions Cup berth after a dramatic 32-31 win at Leicester Tigers.

Jacques van Rooyen's close-range try and Rhys Priestland's extras meant Bath edged out Sale Sharks, despite their impressive 46-41 win over Gloucester in a match that had 13 tries.

Leinster's class ultimately shone through as they defeated Munster 24-9 to set up a Pro14 final against Glasgow Warriors.

The defending champions defeated their Irish rivals in front of a packed-out RDS Arena in what was for the most part an attritional semi-final.

Ireland flanker Josh van der Flier was influential on his return from groin surgery, earning the man of the match award for his brilliant work at the break down, while Ross Byrne kicked 14 points.

Sean Cronin and James Lowe tries ensured there was a comfortable-looking scoreline but Munster hung with the home side for much of the contest.

Munster were leading for much of the first half as a couple of Joey Carbery penalties cancelled out Byrne's early three-pointer and Lowe was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.

Leinster rode out the numerical disadvantage, though, and Byrne kicked his side into a three-point half-time lead.

Niall Scannell was sin-binned early in the second half for Munster before Byrne and Carbery traded penalties once again.

The decisive moment came in the 55th minute when an overlap on the right led to Cronin touching down for Leinster.

Lowe also went over in the closing stages after the ball was worked off the back of a scrum, leaving Leinster free to prepare for next week's final at Celtic Park. 

The Reds ran in six tries but still suffered an 11th straight Super Rugby loss to the Waratahs, while the Blues ended a 15-game losing run against the Chiefs at Eden Park.

Bernard Foley registered a try and 20 points from the tee as the New South Wales side edged out their Queensland rivals 40-32 in a tightly contested meeting at Suncorp Stadium.

Australia fly-half Foley got the Waratahs off the mark in the fourth minute, but the Reds hit back through Angus Blyth and Jock Campbell, the latter charging down the right after a fantastic offload from Samu Kerevi.

Michael Wells regained the lead for the visitors, only for tries from Sefanaia Naivalu and Bryce Hegarty, who went over after Chris Feauai-Sautia intercepted a pass from Foley, either side of the interval to help send the Reds eight points clear.

Hegarty showed tremendous footwork to dot down under the posts in response to Alex Newsome's score, before Foley converted Wells' second of the match to send the Waratahs one point clear with 25 minutes remaining.

Alex Mafi set up a tense finale when he crossed in the 65th minute, but a trio of late penalties from Foley ensured it was Daryl Gibson's side that triumphed.

The Blues claimed a first win over the Chiefs since 2011 - and boosted their play-off hopes by picking up a bonus point in the process - with a 23-8 triumph.

Scott Scrafton did brilliantly to hold up Jesse Parete but Chiefs took the lead when Rieko Ioane's attempt to offload Etene Nanai-Seturo's kick to the corner was seized upon by Mitch Karpik in the 17th minute.

Harry Plummer's first Super Rugby try was followed by scores for Melani Nanai and Ofa Tu'ungafasi, who made it a 10-point game on the hour mark in controversial fashion.

The All Black prop's effort was allowed to stand despite him appearing to lose control of the ball amid contact with a Chiefs player as he powered over the line.

New Zealand flanker Sam Cane was denied a try when it was deemed he propelled himself forward in the tackle and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti scored after the hooter to seal a memorable victory.

Glasgow Warriors thrashed Ulster 50-20 in a seven-try rout at Scotstoun to coast through to next week's Pro14 final at Celtic Park.

In what was Stuart Hogg's final home appearance before departing for Exeter Chiefs, the Warriors were in devastating form in Friday's semi-final.

Tommy Seymour scored twice against his former club, while Ali Price, Rob Harley, Kyle Steyn, Peter and George Horne all touched down in front of a vociferous home crowd.

Marcell Coetzee, Rob Herring and Michael Lowry each scored for Ulster, but there was little the Irish province could do to deny the Warriors – who were last crowned champions in 2015. 

Seymour's powerful opener set the tone, Price held off Iain Henderson to stretch the lead and Harley barged over from close range before the break.

Hogg was influential in creating Seymour's second and Steyn was involved in some fine interplay with Ryan Wilson before Coetzee went over for Ulster just after the hour.

The Horne brothers then got in on the act either side of Herring trimming the deficit and not even Lowry's try at the last could dampen the Warriors' spirits ahead of a showdown against either Leinster or Munster.

Former Scotland international Tim Visser is to retire at the end of the season, Harlequins have confirmed.

Visser called time on his Test career 12 months ago having scored 14 tries in 33 appearances.

The 31-year-old wing has now opted to pursue opportunities away from rugby, ending a four-year stay with Premiership side Quins that saw him score 39 times in 66 matches.

"I'd like to thank everyone at Harlequins for the opportunity to be part of such a fantastic club. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time here," Visser told the club's official website. 

"I feel now is the time for me to move on to new challenges outside of rugby with my young family. I'm looking forward to trying and proving myself in a completely different career."

Netherlands-born Visser started his career with Newcastle Falcons before joining Edinburgh in 2010. He qualified to play for Scotland through residency in 2012.

The Jaguares became the first foreign team to beat the Hurricanes in Wellington since 2015 as the hosts suffered a 28-20 loss in the absence of star man Beauden Barrett.

New Zealand international Barrett was again rested on Friday at Westpac Stadium, where his brother Jordie had a night to forget.

The Hurricanes were ahead thanks to Vaea Fifita's early score when full-back Jordie Barrett batted the ball out of the back of the in-goal area to earn a yellow card and hand the Jaguares a penalty try.

It proved to be the turning point as Agustin Creevy and Jeronimo de la Fuente crossed before the interval, when the Jaguares were 21-8 up, and Julian Montoya's second-half score helped the visitors hang on, even though Ngani Laumape and Kane Leaupepe went over for the Hurricanes.

The Jaguares' first victory over the Hurricanes temporarily moved them to the top of the South African Conference before the Bulls regained that place following a 32-17 victory over the Rebels.

Marika Koroibete's two tries came in a losing effort as the Rebels missed the chance to go top of the Australian Conference.

Handre Pollard provided 17 points for the Bulls, and was one of their four try-scorers, along with Cornal Hendricks, Burger Odendaal and Rosko Specman.

Mako Vunipola is unlikely to play much part in England's Rugby World Cup warm-up matches after Saracens confirmed the prop will require "a minimum of three months to recover" from hamstring surgery.

The 28-year-old, who has appeared for England 53 times, came off in the first half of Sarries' 20-10 European Champions Cup final victory over Leinster in Newcastle last weekend.

Speaking on Thursday, Saracens' director of rugby Mark McCall had said Vunipola's domestic season was likely over, meaning he would play no further part in the defending Premiership champions' bid to regain the trophy.

McCall had said Vunipola would not miss the World Cup but, with the club now confirming he will be absent until at least mid-August, there is little time for him to get up to speed before Eddie Jones' side travel to Japan for the tournament.

Vunipola appears set to miss both warm-up contests against Wales in August, while the clash with Ireland on August 24 and Italy on September 6 may also come too soon.

England then head to the World Cup, with their first fixture against Tonga on September 22.

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