Australia's new era will begin with the same captain as Michael Hooper was reappointed by Dave Rennie on Wednesday.

Head coach Rennie, who replaced Michael Cheika after last year's Rugby World Cup but began work in June, named a youthful first squad earlier this month - including 16 uncapped players, eight of whom debuted in Super Rugby this season.

However, there was still room for six-year Wallabies skipper Hooper, although no captain was initially indicated in the selection.

Rennie had previously said no decision had yet been made on the identity of his on-field leader, but he announced a "straightforward decision" on Wednesday.

"I've been really impressed with Hoops," Rennie said. "We've spoken a lot over the past nine months and it's highlighted his passion and commitment.

"He's a good man with an outstanding work ethic and he's a great role model for our young men coming through.

"He's keen to lead and is highly respected by the Wallaby family. In the end, his appointment was a straightforward decision."

Hooper added: "It's an absolute honour to be the Wallabies captain and I want to thank Dave and the Wallabies management team, as well as Rugby Australia, for their support and endorsement. 

"It's a privilege to wear the Wallabies jersey, I feel proud to lead my team-mates and to represent those players that have before and all Australians.

"I'm really excited about this group and the direction we are heading. We have already spent some quality time together, defining who we are and what we stand for and what we plan to achieve in the coming months."

Former Wales assistant coach Rob Howley has been appointed by Canada in the same role after serving a ban for breaching World Rugby's anti-corruption and betting regulations.

Howley was given an 18-month ban in December, nine months of which are suspended for two years, after it was discovered he made 363 rugby bets over a four-year spell - including on Wales games during his time with the team.

Those misdemeanours ended Howley's 11-year spell as Warren Gatland's assistant, with the 49-year-old sent home from last year's Rugby World Cup before the tournament started.

The suspension - announced in December - was backdated to September 2019, meaning he could return to the sport from June this year.

And Howley has now accepted a job with Rugby Canada that will also see him work as a consultant with the Toronto Arrows for the 2021 Major League Rugby season.

"I'm excited to get to work and help prepare Canada for Rugby World Cup qualification," Howley said in a statement.

"I am also looking forward to my first season in MLR with the Toronto Arrows.

"There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the synergy of a professional club loaded with domestic players in an emerging league to help support the national team - it is very similar to my past experience coaching in Wales."

Howley was tipped to take over as head coach of Italy before the betting breach was revealed and has more recently been linked with the top job at Wasps.

Canada head coach Kingsley Jones said: "Rob is one of the most highly regarded coaches in international rugby and I'm ecstatic that he will be joining us at Rugby Canada.

"He's someone that I've known and respected for a long time, and the opportunity to have Rob join our program is a huge step forward for Canadian rugby. His experience and expertise will benefit not only our young players but our entire coaching staff."

Bath produced a stunning second-half comeback to beat Gloucester 31-20 in the Premiership.

Matt Banahan's try 17 minutes into the second half against his former club gave Gloucester a commanding 20-3 lead at The Recreation Ground.

But Bath, who had hoped to have 1,000 fans in attendance as part of a pilot scheme abandoned by the UK government on Tuesday, stormed back in unbelievable fashion, scoring 28 unanswered points.

Tom Dunn went over twice in the space of five minutes before Lewis Boyce gave Bath the lead and Ben Spencer crossed to secure a bonus point two minutes from time.

Bath move second with a game to play, in which they will face relegated Saracens. They are six points clear of fourth-placed Sale Sharks and fifth-placed Bristol Bears, though both have a game in hand, in the race for the top four.

The United Kingdom government has paused plans for the return of fans to live sporting events in England from October 1 due to the rise in coronavirus cases.

On Monday, the COVID-19 alert level in the UK was raised to a four, meaning transmission of the virus is "high or exponentially rising", with prime minister Boris Johnson set to outline fresh measures to halt the increase in cases.

Plans to bring supporters back into stadia were placed under review earlier this month and pilot events were restricted to 1,000 people in attendance.

However, government minister Michael Gove confirmed to BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that pilot schemes were now on hold, as are plans for fans to return in staged phases, representing a major blow to a struggling sports sector.

"We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn't going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans," Gove said.

"We're looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.

"The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it's in the nature of major sporting events that there's a lot of mingling."

Sport has been taking place mainly behind closed doors in the UK since it returned following a full lockdown in March.

Approximately 300 spectators were granted access to the World Snooker Championship final at the Crucible in Sheffield, while a friendly between Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea in August saw 2,500 fans allowed into the Amex Stadium.

But Gove said the decision has been taken in part due to the criticism the government received for allowing full attendances to sporting events in March, when COVID-19 was posing a growing threat.

The decision to allow the Champions League last-16 match between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid to go ahead brought scrutiny with Liverpool council probing the impact it had on the spread of the disease, while there is pressure to look into whether the Cheltenham Festival should have been permitted to proceed at full capacity.

"People look back now at the beginning of the pandemic at some of the major sporting events then and ask the question why were they allowed to go ahead," added Gove.

"What we must do is look at sporting events now with caution but we also recognise that sport is a vital part of this nation and we're looking at everything we can do to support our athletes, our great clubs, through what will be a challenging time."

The latest development comes at a time where the sports industry continues to count the cost of the global pandemic.

Over 100 leaders from sports bodies have requested emergency funding in a letter to the prime minister.

Sport England has handed out £200million for emergency cases, but with clubs continuing to lose money many have said that does not go far enough.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told the BBC earlier this month that teams were looking at losing £700m if fans are not allowed back into grounds during the 2020-21 campaign, saying it was "absolutely critical" they were brought back.

Exeter Chiefs will face Toulouse in the European Champions Cup semi-finals after overcoming fellow Premiership side Northampton Saints.

The Chiefs reached the last four of the Champions Cup for the first time in their history thanks to a 38-15 triumph at Sandy Park on Sunday.

It was a scoreline that did not reflect how close the encounter was at one stage, with Northampton – who went ahead through Dan Biggar's early penalty – only four points behind at half-time.

However, second-half tries from Jack Nowell, Jonny Hill and Jacques Vermeulen, who also went over in the first half, put Exeter out of sight.

Sandy Park will be the venue for Exeter's semi-final on Saturday, as they take on Toulouse, who comfortably dispatched Ulster 36-8 at Stade Ernest Wallon.

Cheslin Kolbe was the star, with the South Africa wing scoring twice in a dominant display.

Kolbe grabbed both of his tries during the first half, with Antoine Dupont, Pita Ahki and Thomas Ramos getting in on the act after the interval, before John Cooney got a late consolation for Ulster.

Saracens were spurred on by the prospect of "another week together" after holding off a fightback from Leinster to reach the European Champions Cup semi-finals.

The star-studded squad Sarries have assembled will be hit by departures at the end of the campaign after they were administratively relegated from the Premiership for salary cap breaches.

However, the holders appear determined to go out on a high in European competition and a dominant first half was enough for them to defeat the Pro14 champions 25-17.

They led 22-3 at half-time, Alex Goode kicking three penalties and converting his own try while Elliot Daly added another pair of three-pointers.

Andrew Porter and Jordan Larmour crossed for Leinster in the second half to narrow the gap to five points, but Saracens held on and Goode's late penalty clinched victory.

Captain Brad Barritt - who will leave the club at the end of the season - said: "It was the prospect of having another week together.

"We know after this season there will be a slightly different-looking squad and we owed it to ourselves to have a big game. We showed a huge amount of character playing in games that don't mean anything.

"Today was about fighting for something tangible. We owed it to ourselves to represent the Saracens badge and I couldn't be more proud of my team."

Saturday's other quarter-final saw Racing 92 claim victory over Top 14 rivals Clermont Auvergne.

Racing led 24-8 at half-time, with six penalties from Teddy Iribaren and tries from Louis Dupichot and Francois Trinh-Duc key to the 36-27 success they claimed despite a spirited second-half showing from Clermont.

The Brumbies were crowned Super Rugby AU champions as young playmaker Noah Lolesio sparkled in their 28-23 win over the Reds.

It ended a 16-year wait for a title for the Brumbies, who were good value for Saturday's win against opponents who too often let their discipline go awry.

Among many fine performances, it was 20-year-old fly-half Lolesio who caught the eye at the GIO Stadium, as he bent the contest to his will on a first outing since suffering a torn hamstring two months ago.

The man of the match got the first chunk of his 13-point haul as he and James O'Connor exchanged early penalties before Folau Fainga'a was the beneficiary of a furious 17th-minute drive to put the Brumbies in front.

Andy Muirhead finished smartly for their second score after Lolesio drew four defenders but an even better try followed for the Reds – Jordan Petaia embarking upon a dazzling run through the midfield before a deft backhanded pass allowed number eight Harry Wilson to touch down.

O'Connor's penalty to close the first half meant the deficit was trimmed to 15-13 at the interval but the Reds' haphazard start to the second period proved decisive.

Tom Banks darted through the defensive line as the Brumbies switched play from right to left for their third try, with Lolesio adding the extras before confidently thumping home a drop goal.

Filipo Daugunu was then sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle and, although Angus Blyth scrambled to touch down a loose ball in the 64th minute, the Brumbies were able to hold on.

It might have been a different story had O'Connor, who also kicked 13 points, not lacked his usual poise when he dropped a straightforward pass in front of the posts four minutes from time.

Harlequins booked a top eight Premiership finish and a European Champions Cup spot with a 28-15 win over Gloucester.

In front of a 1,000-strong crowd at Kinghsolm - just the second game Premiership fans have been allowed to watch since the resumption of action last month - the hosts started sluggishly. 

Marcus Smith plundered three penalties in the opening 10 minutes before Cadan Murley raced away from Stephen Varney for Quins' first try.

Gloucester were punished for a number of squandered chances when Stephan Lewies intercepted a pass on the halfway line and powered forward for the visitors' second try. 

Gloucester improved after the break, reducing the deficit through Jake Polledri's try but Quins restored their advantage when Scott Steele pounced from close range. 

Matias Alemanno went over on his Gloucester debut but it was too little, too late for Gloucester, who need two more points from their remaining two games to guarantee eighth place.

 

 

Saracens thumped title favourites Exeter Chiefs 40-17 in the final Premiership match between the teams for at least a season.

With Saracens heading down to the Championship, punished for breaching salary-cap rules, they will hope to make a swift return and re-establish the rivalry with the Devonians.

A five-try performance from the home side secured the points on this occasion, yet both sides were significantly under-strength, with their focus firmly on next week's European Champions Cup quarter-finals.

Saracens, without suspended England captain Owen Farrell, turned up tries from Rotimi Segun, Dom Morris, Elliott Obatoyinbo, Jaco Venter and Cameron Boon.

Facundo Cordero, Will Witty and Dave Dennis replied for Exeter, whose six-match winning run since the league re-started came to an end.

Next Saturday sees holders Saracens go to Pro14 winners Leinster in the Champions Cup, followed a day later by Exeter's home test against Northampton Saints.

The race to join Exeter in the four-team play-offs intensified as the day ended with the sides in second to fifth position separated by just two points.

Sale Sharks fell from second to fourth place after losing 37-22 at home to Bath, for whom Rhys Priestland booted 17 points.

Bath's tries came from Ruaridh McConnochie, Jonathan Joseph and Ben Spencer, who crossed twice, as they nudged up to third in the table.

Wasps now sit second, after they picked apart Bristol 59-35, knocking the Bears down to fifth spot.

They had eight try-scorers in the bonus-point success, with Jack Willis, Josh Bassett, Tom Cruse, Will Rowlands, Zach Kibirige, Dan Robson, Tom Willis and Gabriel Oghre all going over, as well as a penalty try.

Lowly Leicester Tigers secured a 28-24 win over Northampton Saints, with Ben Youngs marking his 250th appearance for the club by bagging a fifth-minute try.

Worcester Warriors enjoyed a 40-25 win at Twickenham Stoop against fellow strugglers London Irish, with Francois Hougaard and Ollie Lawrence both scoring a pair of tries.

Dave Rennie has named 16 uncapped players in an extended 44-man squad for Australia's Test season.

Australia will play two Tests away to New Zealand in October before hosting The Rugby Championship from November.

Rennie, who took over from Michael Cheika as head coach last November after a quarter-final elimination at the Rugby World Cup, selected a youthful squad.

Of the 16 uncapped names, eight have only made their Super Rugby debuts this season, while 13 of the other players included have under 10 international caps.

No captain was named but incumbent Michael Hooper is among the more experienced players picked in the group.

Rugby Australia had permitted two overseas players to be named in the squad but ultimately none were selected, though Tolu Latu may still be called up depending on the severity of an injury to Jordan Uelese.

Injuries for Matt Toomua, Jordan Petaia and Dane Haylett-Petty will also be monitored.

"This is a really exciting day for us," said Rennie.

"We've picked this squad on form and on potential and I know the whole group are chomping at the bit to get stuck in and push their case for a Wallaby jersey.

"There's a big game [the Super Rugby Au final] to come on Saturday night down in Canberra but personally, I'm really looking forward to getting out on the grass in a week's time to start putting in the work together.

"When we picked the squad, we had to consider how we will handle the rigours of the Test calendar ahead.

"It is obviously a big squad which is due to COVID restrictions as we can't bring players in and out but each of one them is there on merit."

The Brumbies were the best represented team with 13 selections.
 

Australia squad: Jermaine Ainsley, Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Banks, Angus Bell, Filipo Daugunu, Pone Fa'amausili, Folau Fainga'a, Jake Gordon, Ned Hanigan, Will Harrison, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Tom Horton, Trevor Hosea, Len Ikitau, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Marika Korobiete, Noah Lolesio, Jack Maddocks, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight, James O'Connor, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, Joe Powell, James Ramm, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Pete Samu, Rob Simmons, Irae Simone, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Lachie Swinton, Matt To'omua, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright, Tom Wright.

Leinster beat Ulster 27-5 to claim a third successive Pro14 title in emphatic fashion on Saturday.

Heading into Saturday's clash in Dublin looking to extend their undefeated run, Leinster fell behind after four minutes.

James Hume ran in a fantastic opener for Ulster, who were in the hunt for their first trophy since 2005-06.

However, James Lowe quickly got Leinster on track, with any hopes of an Ulster comeback swiftly extinguished after the break.

Billy Burns' pass – which seemed to have been aimed at Marcell Coetzee – was gathered in by Robbie Henshaw, who burst over for Leinster's second, with Caelan Doris' score swinging the match firmly in the holders' favour.

It was enough to secure a 17th straight Pro14 win, with Leinster becoming the first side in the competition's history to take the title seven times and on three consecutive occasions.

With one piece of silverware secured, Leinster's focus will now switch to next weekend's Champions Cup quarter-final tie with Saracens.

The Reds booked a Super Rugby AU final against the Brumbies with a confident 25-13 victory over the Rebels at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

Brad Thorn kept them same XV that started the Reds' impressive 26-7 win against the table-topping Brumbies last weekend and they came out on top against the Rebels, who only reached the qualifying final thanks to a last-gasp try against the Western Force.

Jordan Petaia got the Reds off and running in the ninth minute when he intercepted a pass from Matt Toomua and sprinted 60 metres to touch down.

Toomua and James O'Connor traded penalties before Petaia went off due to a head knock, and, after he was joined on the sidelines by Chris Feauai-Sautia, Marika Koroibete helped restore parity with a fine score before half-time.

O'Connor converted a try for Lukhan Salakaia-Loto between the Rebels being hurt by Australia internationals Dane Haylett-Petty and Toomua being forced to leave the pitch with injuries.

Reece Hodge took over kicking duties for the visitors and split the posts with a penalty but O'Connor restored the Reds' seven-point cushion.

The Rebels also lost Wallaby hooker Jordan Uelese to an arm problem and Filipo Daugunu finished the job for the Reds in the 75th minute.

Alfie Barbeary scored a memorable hat-trick as Wasps destroyed Leicester Tigers to keep up their Premiership play-off bid.

Malakai Fekitoa and Tom West scored after Cameron Henderson had put Tigers ahead, giving Wasps a seven-point advantage at half-time at the Ricoh Arena.

The visitors, captained by Ellis Genge for the first time, came unstuck in the second half as they endured the biggest league defeat in their history.

Barbeary's treble came as Jacob Umaga, Sam Spink and Zach Kibirige also went over, while Leicester lost Ben Youngs and Guy Porter to the sin bin in an ill-disciplined display.

Wasps head coach Lee Blackett said of 19-year-old Barbeary, who was making his first Premiership start: "He's a big project and he's nowhere near the finished article.

"There are plenty of areas of his game he needs to keep working on. We're trying to manage him by picking him in the back row."

Wasps are fourth in the table, a point above Bath, who claimed a 40-15 win over Worcester Warriors thanks largely to 15 points from Josh Matavesi.

Leaders Exeter Chiefs made certain of their own play-off spot after downing Gloucester 35-22.

Joe Simmonds converted all five tries, including his brother Sam's, as the leaders made it seven wins in a row despite allowing Gloucester late scores through Matt Banahan and Josh Gray.

Sale Sharks moved into second with a 24-17 win over Saracens, who were without the banned Owen Farrell, while London Irish suffered an eighth straight defeat after surrendering a 15-10 half-time lead to lose 38-15 to Harlequins.

Bristol Bears romped to a 47-10 Premiership win at home to Northampton Saints thanks to four tries in the space of 10 second-half minutes on Tuesday.

The hosts climbed back up to second in the Premiership with a comfortable victory, their second in a row after consecutive defeats last month.

Bristol earned a 21-3 half-time lead after a rush of early scores through Harry Thacker, Alapati Leiua and Andy Uren at Ashton Gate.

Northampton responded with Josh Gillespie crossing just before the hour-mark, but another flurry saw the Bears in complete control.

Luke Morahan followed Chris Vui, Ben Earl and Piers O'Conor over the try line in a big home win.

New Zealand have named seven uncapped players in their squad for the 2020 Rugby Championship.

New coach Ian Foster, assistant John Plumtree and former All Black Grant Fox have selected a 35-man group.

The newcomers are Alex Hodgman, Tupou Vaa'i, Quinten Strange, Cullen Grace, Hoskins Sotutu, Caleb Clarke and Will Jordan.

However, it remains to be seen when, where or indeed if the tournament will go ahead as the coronavirus crisis continues to impact on sport across the globe.

Argentina have confirmed six positive COVID-19 tests recently, casting significant doubt over the viability of the tournament.

Nonetheless, Foster was pleased to be able to announce his squad for whatever challenges may lie ahead this year.

"We're hugely excited at the calibre of the players selected for this All Blacks squad of 2020," he said. 

"It's been a great process working through the selections and I've really enjoyed working with Plums [Plumtree] as part of the new selectors group.

"Plums, Foxy and I have been as excited as everyone at the rugby we have seen in what has been an incredibly difficult year for everyone.

"The result is that we can now announce a team that is rich in experience and a little battle-hardened after the Rugby World Cup, but forward looking with the inclusion of a number of new players.

"We're delighted with the balance of the group and we look forward to whatever the challenges of 2020 throw at us."

Foster took charge after Steve Hansen stood down following New Zealand's 2019 World Cup campaign, when was ended by England at the semi-final stage.

All Blacks squad:

Forwards: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Quinten Strange, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane (capt), Shannon Frizell, Cullen Grace, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu.

Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece.

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