Newly promoted Bayonne celebrated an opening-day upset as the new Top 14 season began on Saturday, winning 24-17 away at Racing 92.

Bayonne won the Rugby Pro D2 title last season to seal their return to the top flight and used that momentum to spring a surprise as they visited Racing in the first round of fixtures.

The visitors trailed 17-7 at half-time after Michael Ruru's try only briefly cancelled out a Racing lead that was forged by Yoan Tanga Mangene and restored by Juan Imhoff.

But after Teddy Iribaren's penalty on the stroke of half-time, Racing did not score again.

Romain Barthelemy kicked four second-half penalties of his own, while Aymeric Luc added a second Bayonne try, as Racing's ill discipline cost them, with Tanga Mangene and Hassane Kolingar each yellow-carded.

Fellow promoted side Brive had a less successful return to the big time as they lost 33-14 at Pau, despite seeing the hosts reduced to 14 men after just 20 minutes.

Pau led 7-0 at the time of Matthieu Ugena's dismissal and managed to stretch their advantage to 23-14 before Brive themselves had a man, Joris Jurand, see red, with the home side then running in two late tries.

Elsewhere, champions Toulouse were beaten in the first match of their title defence, going down 30-25 at Bordeaux-Begles.

The sides shared five tries, eight penalties and three yellow cards, with Matthieu Jalibert decisively crossing moments after Selevasio Tolofua's 65th-minute sin-binning.

Lyon thrashed Stade Francais 43-9 for a bonus point, which Toulon also claimed as they triumphed 44-25 at Agen.

Castres and Montpellier were separated by just two points either side of the play-off line last season and the former, losers on that occasion, edged victory by a point on Saturday.

Eddie Jones is hopeful England prop Mako Vunipola did not suffer a serious injury setback when his return to action was cut short against Ireland.

The Saracens front row was ruled out for three months with a hamstring problem in May, meaning he was playing for the first time since the injury on Saturday, a matter of weeks before the Rugby World Cup.

But Vunipola failed to finish the game after coming on as a replacement, prompting fears of a major issue ahead of the tournament in Japan.

Coach Jones was unsure of the extent of the problem but stayed optimistic after an impressive 57-15 win at Twickenham.

"He just felt his hamstring a little bit," Jones told Sky Sports. "We're not sure how serious it is. We're cautiously optimistic he'll be okay."

There was a moment of concern for Ireland, too, with Cian Healy hobbling off shortly before half-time after receiving treatment for an ankle problem.

And there was also a head injury assessment (HIA) for Conor Murray, who briefly came back on before being withdrawn.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was positive, though, saying: "Conor passed his HIA, he was fine.

"We had a bit of a breakdown in communication - I wasn't going to put him back on, so that was a slip-up on our behalf and we got him off.

"Cian's had an x-ray and the ankle is normal. He sprained it and was pretty uncomfortable. The good news is he did walk from the pitch, so hopefully that's a little bit of promise for us."

Rory Best admitted Ireland are "nowhere near" where they need to be just a month out from the Rugby World Cup after a humiliating defeat to England.

Ireland were subjected to a record defeat against England at Twickenham, Manu Tuilagi and Maro Itoje running the show while Joe Cokanasiga scored twice in a 57-15 home win.

The visitors had the opportunity to move to the top of the world rankings with victory but instead go into next week's match with number one side Wales reeling from an awful defeat.

Ireland were extremely sloppy, with their lineouts woeful, and captain Best acknowledged the need for considerable improvement in the coming weeks.

"We can be a lot better and we have to be a lot better," he told Sky Sports. "That is not up to the standard that we set ourselves.

"Quite frankly, it is hard to describe it without using a lot of profanity. We're going to have a look back at what went wrong. It will not be pleasant, but we're going to have to get better.

"We're nowhere near where we need to be and the only positive we can take from it is that it's the middle of August and not the middle of September. We need to improve significantly across the board."

Owen Farrell was understandably more upbeat about England's display – but promised there is still more to come ahead of the tournament in Japan.

He told Sky Sports: "We are still building. I think there is a lot left in us.

"We are still looking forward to playing our best rugby. That, for me, is very exciting.

"We are building. The most exciting thing is that we have got a lot of good rugby in front of us, hopefully, and we've got to make sure it keeps going that way."

Scotland gained a measure of revenge over France by fighting back to win 17-14 at a sold out Twickenham, but there are injury concerns for Gregor Townsend ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Les Bleus hammered their Six Nations rivals 32-3 in Nice last weekend, but squandered an 11-point lead to suffer a defeat four weeks before the World Cup starts in Japan.

Lock Sam Skinner, wing Tommy Seymour and debutant back-row Blade Thomson came off with injuries in a much improved display from Scotland and Townsend will be hoping for positive news on the trio.

Damian Penaud scored a first-half double, but Sean Maitland's converted try and a Greig Laidlaw penalty reduced the deficit to four points at half-time.

Chris Harris charged over for the only try of the second half and France were unable to respond as Scotland made amends for a drubbing a week earlier.

Peter Horne gifted France an early try with a stray pass which the alert Penaud intercepted and darted away to touch down and the wing added another after Laidlaw's penalty had Scotland on the board.

Influential fly-half Finn Russell got Scotland ticking and set up Maitland for Scotland's opening try with a long, inviting pass just before the break.

Thomson went off after taking a bang to the head and Seymour also underwent a head injury assessment before centre Harris crashed over following bulldozing work from the forwards, with Laidlaw adding the extras.

Scotland saw out the victory, but the sight of Skinner being helped off would have been alarming for head coach Townsend.

Saracens will begin the defence of their Champions Cup title away at Racing 92, while Challenge Cup champions Clermont Auvergne will face Harlequins.

Premiership holders Saracens became the first English club to win Europe's flagship club tournament for a third time last season, and will get their Pool 4 campaign up and running on November 17.

Reigning Top 14 champions Toulouse get the tournament started two days earlier, taking on Gloucester.

Clermont were hugely impressive as they claimed the Challenge Cup title last term, beating La Rochelle 36-16 in Newcastle, and host Harlequins on November 16.

Benetton, who last season became the first Italian side to qualify by right for Europe's top competition, face PRO14 champions Leinster in their opening fixture.

Meanwhile, the Challenge Cup will kick-off with a clash between Enisei-STM and Worcester Warriors in Krasnodar.

Seven former European title winners – Brive, Cardiff Blues, Leicester Tigers, Pau, RC Toulon, Stade Francais Paris and Wasps – are involved in this season's Challenge Cup, which along with the Champions Cup, will culminate at the Stade Velodrome in May.

Jim Mallinder has left his England role for an opportunity with Scotland that he said was too good to turn down.

Mallinder joined the Rugby Football Union (RFU) as the performance pathway coach in June 2018 and was tipped as a potential replacement for Eddie Jones when the England coach's contract expires in 2021.

However, on Friday he was named as Scottish Rugby's new performance director after Scott Johnson left for Australia in April.

Mallinder led Northampton Saints to the final of the European Champions Cup in 2011 and to Premiership glory three years later.

The former Sale Sharks and England Saxons coach also oversaw an England XV in a 51-43 success against the Barbarians at Twickenham in June.

"I'm sad to be leaving the RFU as I've really enjoyed my time here, in particular getting to work with some fantastic people in a wide range of roles within the men's pathway. I will miss working with them all but this was an opportunity that I couldn't refuse," said Mallinder.

"It's a chance to lead a long-term programme, work with talented people, and I'm looking forward to moving up to Scotland and getting started."

Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson said: "I am delighted to have secured Jim in what is a pivotal and vital role within our high-performance structure.

"He has a proven track record of developing players across a range of different career stages and I want him to strengthen and deepen the pathway our players will take into the professional game and develop the skills and behaviours they will need to succeed at their respective highest levels."

Australia captain Michael Hooper expects David Pocock to be "dominant" upon his return from injury at the Rugby World Cup.

Pocock has been out of action since March due to a calf problem and was not passed fit for the humbling 36-0 Bledisloe Cup Test defeat against New Zealand in Perth on August 17.

However, head coach Michael Cheika on Friday included the experienced flanker in his 31-man squad for the upcoming tournament in Japan.

Hooper and Pocock formed a formidable back-row partnership dubbed as 'Pooper' at the 2015 World Cup and the captain is pleased they have been reunited.

"I love playing with Dave and what he's bringing to the squad," said Hooper.

"Because he hasn't been on the field lately he's actually upped his stuff in a different way, how he can contribute, how he can impact the group off the field and it's been really noticeable.

"To have that going on and then he's imminent to get on the field and play some good minutes now.

"He's going to do us no surprise when he comes back. The guy's physically in fantastic shape. I imagine when he hits the ground running he's going to be dominant again."

Hooper and Pocock started games together despite both being openside flankers and Cheika was unwilling to confirm if he will return to using them in tandem.

"That's the decision to make isn't it. Michael [Hooper]'s the captain so it's either them together or we make the decision that one plays one game and one plays another," Cheika said.

"We'll just prepare for the Fiji game, see what's the best combination for that game and we'll go from there."

Australia face Samoa in a warm-up match on September 7 before beginning their World Cup campaign against Fiji in Sapporo two weeks later.

Uncapped rookie Jordan Petaia has been included in Australia's 31-man squad for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Petaia missed most of the Super Rugby season due to a Lisfranc injury but the exciting 19-year-old back is set to feature at the World Cup, which gets underway on September 20.

The Reds sensation was set to make his debut against Italy last year, however, a hamstring injury delayed his international bow for 2015 World Cup runners-up the Wallabies.

Now, Petaia – the only uncapped player in Michael Cheika's squad – is poised to become the youngest World Cup player in Australia history.

There are not too many surprises in the Wallabies team, though Cheika opted to select just two half-backs in Will Genia and Nic White, with Joe Powell left out and giant lock Will Skelton not on the list.

"We've become a really tight group and it was a very difficult process in picking only 31 players, but I know each player selected will travel to Japan with the full support of those team-mates who won't board the flight," said Cheika, who included Powell, Tom Banks, Liam Wright, Luke Jones and Tatafu Polota-Nau as extended members for the team's pre-World Cup camp and Test against Samoa.

"We have worked really hard at building each week and each game so far this season and play a brand of Rugby that Australia would be proud of and get every player contributing towards the outcome.

"It's also important that we select a squad that will handle the tournament play and our draw in particular at the Rugby World Cup, as well as maintain a strong competition for places in the team.

"These next few weeks are about building and adding that little extra edge as a squad and we'll be working hard to make sure we deliver on the qualities we want people to see when we run out on the field in Japan.

"We have five extra train-on members coming with us to New Caledonia and then we'll return to take on Samoa, who we have had great clashes with in the past."

Australia will face Samoa in Sydney on September 7 before kicking off their World Cup campaign against Fiji on September 21.

The Wallabies are also scheduled to meet Wales (September 29), Uruguay (October 5) and Georgia (October 11) in Pool D.

 

Australia's 31-man Rugby World Cup squad in full:

Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Folau Fainga'a, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Isi Naisarani, David Pocock, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese.

Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, James O'Connor, Jordan Petaia, Matt To'omua, Nic White.

Owen Farrell and George Ford will start while Mako Vunipola has been named among the replacements for England's Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Ireland.

Captain Farrell will shift to inside centre and make up a midfield pairing with Manu Tuilagi to accommodate fly-half Ford at Twickenham on Saturday.

Farrell and Ford will be in the same starting line-up for the first time in over a year in England's last match before flying out for the tournament in Japan.

Prop Vunipola is set to feature off the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury, while fit-again duo Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have been included in the back row.

Jonny May comes back in on the left wing, with Joe Cokanasiga moving to the other flank and Eddie Jones has gone with Jamie George, Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler in the front row.

Jones said: "The players have come back in a very good physical and mental state and we have had a good preparation this week. We purposefully made the week short looking ahead to the World Cup where this might happen beyond our control.
 
"It is the third of four games for us and come September 8, when we get on the plane, we want to be ready to go. This is another step forward for us.
 
"This weekend we will be looking to gain more game fitness and testing different sorts of game strategies. We have a specific way of how we want to play and the focus is very much on ourselves."

 

England: Elliot Daly, Joe Cokanasiga, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements:  Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes, Mark Wilson, Willi Heinz, Piers Francis, Jonathan Joseph.

Johnny Sexton will miss Ireland's Rugby World Cup warm-up match against England on Saturday.

The Leinster fly-half has been struggling with a thumb issue and has been left out of Joe Schmidt's team for the match at Twickenham.

With Joey Carbery absent due to an ankle problem, Ross Byrne will make his first Test start and hope to stake his claim for World Cup selection.

Schmidt has made 12 changes from the team that beat Italy 29-10 on August 10, with Rory Best returning to captain the side and Cian Healy joining him in the front row for his 90th cap.

Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier team up in the back row, while Conor Murray, Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki and Rob Kearney return in the backs.

Ireland XV: Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Ross Byrne, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Jean Kleyn, Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Tadhg Beirne, Luke McGrath, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway.

Former England rugby union star James Haskell has signed a contract with mixed martial arts promotion Bellator.

Haskell, who made 77 Test appearances, in May announced the end of his 17-year rugby career, which included three Six Nations titles and a Grand Slam in 2016.

The 34-year-old trained in MMA while playing rugby and is expected to make his debut in the cage in 2020.

A Bellator statement read: "Leading mixed martial arts promotion Bellator MMA is excited to announce the signing of international rugby star James Haskell to its elite roster of athletes.

"Haskell will compete in the Bellator heavyweight division and is expected to make his professional MMA debut for the global promotion in 2020."

Ben Te'o has joined Toulon on a short-term deal after calling time on his spell with the Worcester Warriors.

The 32-year-old New Zealand-born England international left Worcester in April, and was not included in Eddie Jones' 31-man squad for the upcoming World Cup.

Top 14 side Toulon have now signed the free agent, who will provide cover for players leaving the French club to take part in the World Cup, which runs until September 20 to November 2.

Te'o has signed for Toulon until November, with the club announcing the deal on Wednesday. The centre will undergo a medical on Friday.

An 18-time England international and two-time British and Irish Lion, Te'o joined Worcester in 2016, after spending two years at Leinster.

Toulon's fellow Top 14 sides Racing 92 and 2018-19 champions Toulouse had also been credited with an interest in the former NRL star.

Sergio Parisse will lead an Italy squad that includes Leonardo Ghiraldini, fit again following a serious knee injury, at this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Director of rugby Conor O'Shea confirmed his list of 31 names on Monday, with Ghiraldini selected after recovering from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament sustained during the Six Nations in March.

The hooker has won 104 caps for his country but is currently without a club. He will serve as a vice-captain to Parisse, who is set to appear in a fifth edition of the tournament.

O'Shea has also included Wasps full-back Matteo Minozzi after he scored a hat-trick of tries in Sunday's resounding 85-15 win over Russia, as well as Gloucester's Bristol-born scrum-half Callum Braley.

"Choosing the 31 players for the Rugby World Cup - and talking to those who will not continue the adventure with us - was probably the hardest thing I have done since I've been in the rugby world," said O'Shea.

The Azzurri are in Pool B alongside reigning champions New Zealand, South Africa, Namibia and Canada.

"Compared to when I started my journey here, we now definitely have a better team, with more internal competition and much-improved performances," added O'Shea.

"Recently, we have shown that we can play against the top teams when we play our best game.

"At the World Cup we absolutely must win against Namibia and Canada and then focus on the other two big challenges we have. I believe that against South Africa, with this team, we can create an opportunity on our day."

Before the tournament, Italy are scheduled to play Tests against France and England on August 30 and September 6 respectively.

 

Italy's 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup:

Forwards: Simone Ferrari, Andrea Lovotti, Tiziano Pasquali, Nicola Quaglio, Marco Riccioni, Federico Zani, Luca Bigi, Oliviero Fabiani, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Dean Budd, Federico Ruzza, David Sisi, Alessandro Zanni, Maxime Mbanda, Sebastian Negri, Sergio Parisse (capt), Jake Polledri, Abraham Steyn

Backs: Callum Braley, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tito Tebaldi, Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Luca Morisi, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Jayden Hayward, Matteo Minozzi, Edoardo Padovani

France stormed to a dominant 32-3 victory against an over-matched Scotland to launch their Rugby World Cup preparations in emphatic style.

Jacques Brunel's side beat Scotland 27-10 in this season's Six Nations and this was an even more sapping experience for their visitors in Nice.

The damage was done by first-half tries from Alivereti Raka, Maxime Medard and Gregory Alldritt, with Medard adding a second before Antoine Dupont went over with an hour played.

Gregor Townsend's men host the same opponents next weekend at Murrayfield, where they will need to make a better start than the botched line-out that allowed Raka to gleefully charge over on the end of Wesley Fofana's second-minute pass.

Medard touched down in the corner to make it 15-0, Camille Lopez having dispatched his initial attempts from the tee.

Adam Hastings kicked Scotland's solitary points but was in the sin-bin when the France pack obliterated their opponents in a rolling maul, with Alldritt the beneficiary.

Francois Cros was the latest home player to tear through Scotland's meagre defensive efforts in the 54th minute, allowing Medard a gleeful run to the line.

Dupont benefitted from Damian Penaud's mazy run, with Lopez adding the extras before France eased to the close, giving Townsend plenty to think about before the sides reconvene in Edinburgh.

Sbu Nkosi produced two flashes of brilliance as South Africa ground out a 24-18 victory over Argentina at Loftus Versfeld.

The Sharks wing dashed over for a pair of silky tries that were out of keeping with the quality in the rest of the contest, with only a late disallowed score denying Argentina a famous win.

South Africa, who start their Rugby World Cup campaign against holders New Zealand on September 21, caused a surprise by winning the recent Rugby Championship ahead of the All Blacks, Australia and Saturday's opponents.

This was their final home Test before going for global glory in Japan, and it was a tough contest, with coach Rassie Erasmus seeing his side given plenty of trouble by the Pumas.

His Boks had won 46-13 in Salta when they travelled to Argentina for last weekend's Rugby Championship finale, but this never looked like being a similarly one-sided match.

Led by hooker Schalk Brits, who at 38 years and three months became South Africa's oldest first-time captain, South Africa were often sluggish 

Elton Jantjies booted South Africa ahead in the 18th minute but Argentina responded in kind through Joaquin Diaz Bonilla.

Nkosi skipped in down the right for his first try, with a stylish shuffle of his feet before darting for the line. Jantjies rattled the post with the conversion attempt.

Argentina hit back right at the end of the half with an interception try, Guido Petti seizing on a loose pass from Cobus Reinach to run in from halfway. Diaz Bonilla added the extras and the Pumas held a 10-8 half-time lead.

Nkosi produced a sparkling run and dived over for his second try, taking the aerial route to avoid a last-ditch Pumas tackle.

But there was plenty of mileage left in the contest, with Diaz Bonilla and Jantjies exchanging penalties before Pablo Matera pounced for a try from a line-out by the Boks line.

Jantjies kicked another penalty to nudge the hosts 21-18 in front yet Argentina looked to have won it when Lucas Mensa charged through to dot down late on.

An earlier obstruction on Vincent Koch resulted in the try being disallowed, to South Africa's relief, and Jantjies added the resulting penalty to secure a narrow win.

Page 1 of 93
© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.