European Champions Cup organisers have launched an investigation into a mass melee during Saracens' win over Munster on Saturday.

Tempers flared during the second half of a 15-6 Pool 4 victory for the defending champions at Allianz Park.

Sarries assistant coach Alex Sanderson alleged in an interview with BT Sport that a comment about England hooker Jamie George's weight made by the Irish province's chief medic sparked the fracas.

Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, later added: "Clearly, this shouldn't happen, we all know that. I don't think what was said to Jamie was good at all. It started a 30-man brawl.

"Owen Farrell got penalised for running into the melee but, from what I saw, 29 other people ran into it. It was a strange penalty to give and it was instigated by a member of their staff who said something horrible to one of our players.

"Something pretty bad was said at Jamie. He wouldn't have reacted the way he reacted otherwise. We'll take our time to decide whether we do anything."

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) on Sunday confirmed it will look into the ugly scenes.

"EPCR has decided to investigate incidents which occurred during the second half of the Champions Cup, Round 4 match between Saracens and Munster Rugby at Allianz Park yesterday," a statement from the governing body read.

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

Munster remain second behind Racing 92 with two matches to play despite the defeat, a point better off than Sarries.

Saracens breathed new life into their European Champions Cup title defence as the Vunipola brothers starred in a 15-6 win over Munster at Allianz Park.

The reigning champions, who have lifted the trophy in three of the past four seasons, had won just one of their opening three games and came into the game trailing Pool 4 leaders Racing 92 by 11 points.

They were 6-3 behind against Munster early in the second half when a melee ensued after Jamie George appeared to be enraged by a conversation with a member of Munster's staff.

The brawl spilled over onto the advertising hoardings and, once it had subsided, Munster got a penalty which JJ Hanrahan missed.

Saracens soon came alive as Billy Vunipola, with three men converging on him, flipped a brilliant pass out to Sean Maitland to score before Mako Vunipola dotted down eight minutes from time to leave Sarries just one point behind second-placed Munster.

Leinster, the side Sarries beat in last season's final, made it four wins from four in Pool 1 with a dominant 50-21 victory over Northampton as Garry Ringrose scored a hat-trick.

The Ireland centre went over twice in the opening six minutes before Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kearney earned Leinster a bonus point prior to half-time.

Ringrose completed his treble after James Lowe had scored, with Caelan Doris crossing for Leinster's seventh and final try.

Premiership leaders Northampton - whose try-scorers were Dan Biggar, Ollie Sleightholme and Ahsee Tuala - now trail Leinster by 10 points with two games remaining.

Robin Copeland's 81st-minute try earned Connacht a 27-24 success over Gloucester, while Marco Lazzaroni's late score proved the difference in Benetton Treviso's 25-22 triumph against Lyon.

Toulouse beat Montpellier 26-18 while La Rochelle edged past Glasgow Warriors 12-7.

 

The Scarlets have confirmed they have held discussions with New Zealand Rugby over Brad Mooar joining the All Blacks coaching staff.

Mooar is in his first season with the Pro14 club after replacing new Wales boss Wayne Pivac.

The former Crusaders assistant coach's stay in Wales could be short, though, as he is wanted by newly-appointed All Blacks head coach Ian Foster.

Llanelli-based club the Scarlets on Saturday revealed talks had taken place over a potential return home for Mooar, but negotiations are only at an early stage.

"We have been made aware that newly-appointed All Blacks head coach Ian Foster would like Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar to join his New Zealand coaching team at the end of the 2019-20 season," said a Scarlets statement.

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

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

The Scarlets are fourth in Pro14 Conference B and occupy second spot in Challenge Cup Pool 2 ahead of their clash with Bayonne.

Racing 92 moved six points clear at the top of Pool 4 by beating Ospreys 40-27 to record their ninth successive home pool win in the European Champions Cup.

The 2017-18 runners up were without Teddy Thomas, the competition's leading try-scorer, but Racing's two wings - Louis Dupichot and Juan Imhoff - scored three of their team's six tries to shine in the absence of their key man.

The French side had a 40-5 lead just 15 minutes into the second half and eased off as a result, with Ospreys scoring four of their five tries in the closing 23 minutes.

With the bonus-point win, Racing opened up a six-point gap above Munster, who face reigning champions Saracens on Saturday.

Luke Morgan's try saw Ospreys get on the board first but Dupichot, capitalising on a charged-down kick, and Imhoff, intercepting a wayward pass to run in, turned the game on its head.

The two wings combined again for Imhoff's second and full-back Simon Zebo secured the bonus point before half-time. 

Replacement Georges-Henri Colombe barged over after picking the ball up from the back of a ruck for a fifth Racing try and Yoan Tanga was similarly unstoppable from close range shortly after.

Ospreys salvaged some pride and made the scoreline more respectable, though, Lesley Klim handing off Zebo en route to his first try, with the wing adding a second score late on after Luke Price and Shaun Venter had also gone over. 

John Cooney scored 19 points to take his tally for the season to a tournament-leading 54 as Ulster defeated Harlequins 34-10 to move six points clear in Pool 3.

Ireland scrum-half Cooney contributed a try in each half, three conversions and an early penalty, with Ulster becoming the first team to win four games in this season's competition.

Luke Marshall, Matt Faddes and Tom O'Toole were Ulster's other try-scorers, Stephan Lewies providing Quins' only five-pointer.

Johnny Sexton faces a battle to be fit for Ireland's Six Nations opener against Scotland. 

The fly-half suffered a knee injury during Leinster's European Champions Cup victory over Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens last weekend.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is unsure how long his captain will be sidelined but is hopeful he will be ready to face Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in Andy Farrell's first game in charge on February 1.

"You would love if he was back [to play for Leinster before the Six Nations], but it's probably more realistic for Ireland," Cullen said.

"He's seeing somebody in the UK and he'll go back there just to get an update in a couple of weeks.

"He's working hard to try and get himself back as quickly as possible, but he won't be a million miles away [for the start of the Six Nations] hopefully."

Scott Fardy will skipper Leinster in the absence of Sexton in the return fixture against Northampton in Dublin on Saturday.

The Pro14 champions, runners-up in Europe's premier club competition last season, are top of Pool 1 with three wins out of three.

Rob Baxter and his senior Exeter Chiefs coaches have signed new deals with the Premiership club.

Director of rugby Baxter has extended his stay at Sandy Park until 2023 along with head coach Ali Hepher, forwards coach Rob Hunter and skills coach Ricky Pellow.

Baxter masterminded Exeter's first Premiership title two years ago and has also overseen two Anglo-Welsh Cup triumphs.

The long-serving Baxter is targeting further glory after committing his future to Chiefs.

"Personally, I'm absolutely delighted to have agreed a new three-year contract extension," said Baxter.

"However, I'm even more pleased that the other coaches have also agreed similar extensions. I think it's a real indication of how happy we all are working alongside one another each day.

"Together, we understand the ambitions of the club moving forward - and of how exciting this next period is going to be for the rugby club.

"I think as a group we all feel that everything we want to achieve can be achieved here over these next three years, so it's exciting times for all of us and I'm looking forward to us building on the fantastic foundations we have laid as a collective group."

Australia have appointed former England assistant Scott Wisemantel as their new attack coach.

Wisemantel worked closely with Eddie Jones over 18 months up until the end of this year's Rugby World Cup, which saw England reach the final before losing to South Africa.

Australian Wisemantel will now return home to work with new Wallabies boss Dave Rennie, who has replaced Michael Cheika.

The 49-year-old has also had roles in Japan and France, with this being his first position back in Australia since working with the Waratahs in 2010.

"I'm really looking forward to returning home to Australia after 10 years and for the opportunity to work alongside Dave Rennie," Wisemantel said after signing a four-year deal.

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

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

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

Wallabies general manager Chris Webb thinks luring Wisemantel, who worked as a skills coach with the national side earlier in his career, should be seen as a significant move as they look to build a set-up that can end a 20-year wait for a World Cup win.

"Scott's return to Australia is a huge coup for the Wallabies," Webb said.

"He's got great experience and has had success with club sides in Europe as well as with other international sides, but I also know what he's like as a person and as a coach and he will add tremendous value to the group.

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

Scotland wing Tommy Seymour has retired from international rugby.

Seymour finishes his Scotland career with 20 tries in 55 appearances, an impressive tally good enough for fourth on his country's all-time list.

He appeared in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, scoring in four successive matches as Scotland reached the quarter-finals four years ago.

Seymour was the British and Irish Lions' top try scorer in the 2017 tour to New Zealand, crossing three times.

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

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

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

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

"When he got the opportunity to play regularly - first at Glasgow [Warriors] and then with Scotland - he went from strength to strength, adding elements to his game each season.

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

Ian Foster knows he will have to "reinvent" himself after stepping up to replace Steve Hansen as head coach of New Zealand.

Foster was on Wednesday appointed as All Blacks boss on a two-year deal.

The 54-year-old spent eight years as assistant to Hansen, who left his post following the Rugby World Cup.

Foster is aware he must stamp his own mark on the role in order to make New Zealand the best in the world once again after they were beaten by England at the semi-final stage in Japan.

"I guess I've got a job now to reinvent myself a bit with the public and with the media." said Foster.

"I've been eight years as an assistant coach and my job was to try to be the best assistant the All Blacks needed me to be.

"We've had a big fella [Hansen] there who I love greatly and he's got his own style and my style has been to complement that.

"Now it's time for you to see me in a new light and that's up to me to show you that I'm innovative, I've got a sense of direction of where I want this team to go, and I'm extremely passionate about adding a new touch to it and to really grow and get some mana back on the field, which we feel we might have lost."

Foster, whose contract starts at the beginning of 2020, got the nod over Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson, who was also interviewed for the job.

Incoming New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson hinted Robertson's time may come to take charge of his country.

"As someone who knows Razor well as a former team-mate, he was a very impressive candidate and these decisions are never easy." said Robinson.

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

Ian Foster will step up from assistant to head coach of the All Blacks, it was confirmed on Wednesday.

Foster replaces Steve Hansen at the helm of New Zealand on a two-year deal beginning in 2020, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced.

The 54-year-old has been an All Blacks assistant coach since 2012.

"The NZR board has today ratified Ian Foster as the new head coach of the All Blacks from 2020," NZR chairman Brent Impey said in a statement.

"He brings world-class international experience to the role, an incredibly strong coaching team, and we think he'll do an outstanding job. 

"The interview process was extensive and really difficult, which reflects the very strong applications from both candidates."

Foster was delighted to take the job, with Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson having also been interviewed.

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

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

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

Rob Baxter admitted the closing stages of Exeter Chiefs' 22-20 European Champions Cup win over Sale Sharks were agony for him.

The Chiefs made it three wins on the bounce in Pool 2 to edge towards the quarter-finals but the visitors had to absorb late pressure at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday.

Jono Ross' score for the Sharks set up a tense finale and director of rugby Baxter was left in considerable anguish on the touchline.

"The last 10 minutes were the longest 10 minutes of my life," he said after his side failed to score in the second half. 

"Sale kept coming and we couldn't relieve any pressure. I thought we tried to close the game out a little bit early and nearly paid the price.

"We had to show some fighting qualities to see them off."

Opposite number Steve Diamond, whose side remain in the hunt for a spot in the next round, paid tribute to his team's effort.

"The lads played really well," he said. "We changed things up in the week with our attack and I think that went well.

"I thought our forwards matched them today and probably edged them towards the end."

Exeter Chiefs made it three wins from as many European Champions Cup Pool 2 games with a 22-20 victory over fellow Premiership side Sale Sharks.

The action was concentrated in an entertaining first half at the AJ Bell Stadium, where Stuart Hogg was pivotal in a penalty try and touched down for another five points.

Sale responded through Akker van der Merwe's two tries, but Luke Cowan-Dickie crossed to ensure Rob Baxter's men were ahead at the interval.

The second half was scoreless until Jono Ross' late try gave Sale hope, but Exeter saw out the victory to move to the brink of securing a quarter-final spot.

Gloucester revived their hopes of reaching the knockout stage with a first win in three attempts in Pool 5.

After back-to-back defeats, in which they had the consolation of taking losing bonus points, the Premiership side defeated Connacht 26-17 and gained a try-scoring bonus point.

Having trailed at the break, the hosts roared back to triumph at Kingsholm Stadium, with Tom Marshall touching down in each half, while Louis Rees-Zammit and Jake Polledri also got in on the act.

Connacht were hamstrung by Kyle Godwin's dismissal as they were left at the foot of the table.

In the same group, Toulouse continued their 100 per cent record with a dominant 23-9 victory over Montpellier.

Warren Gatland believes the knee injury that deprived Wales of Gareth Anscombe was a decisive factor in the country's Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa.

Gatland saw a glittering career as Wales coach end in disappointment as they again fell short of World Cup glory in 2019.

Having overseen defeats in the semi-finals in 2011 and quarter-finals in 2015, Gatland guided his side to the last four in Japan, only for them to suffer an agonising 19-16 loss to the Springboks.

Anscombe sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury in Wales' warm-up game with England, and the fly-half's absence was keenly felt by Gatland as they were denied by the eventual champions.

"We gave it everything in that semi-final against South Africa and at 16-16 with 10 minutes to go we were in control of the ball, the momentum had swung our way, I thought we were going to win and get ourselves into a World Cup final," Gatland told WalesOnline.

"It wasn't to be but that's just rugby, it's sport. I was gutted.

"That was the first time that I felt we really missed a player and that was Gareth Anscombe. He was a big loss for us.

"I've loved my time in Wales. The people have been amazing."

Enormous applause around the stadium as Warren Gatland signs off from Wales duty. What a twelve years it's been. #DiolchWarren pic.twitter.com/7z4swrAGw1

— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 1, 2019

"Rhys Patchell did really well for us in a World Cup and Dan [Biggar] was excellent.

"But I just felt that the balance we had with Anscombe and Biggar beforehand, they complemented each other really well. They're different types of players and you're able to use them differently and use your strengths differently.

"It was the first time in my entire coaching career I felt that the loss of one player had a real effect.

"If you lose someone like [Taulupe] Faletau – and we know how good he is – we've got other players who are able to fill the space.

"A fit Faletau at his best would have been significant but there are other quality loose forwards there, so I felt like we could manage that.

"Anscombe is someone that we missed."

Leinster made it 10 wins from 10 to start the season as they routed Northampton Saints 43-16 in the European Champions Cup to move five points clear at the top of Pool 1.

The Irish province, beaten in last season's final by Saracens, ran in seven tries to beat Premiership leaders Saints, who came into this game having won both of their first two games in this competition.

Three Dan Biggar penalties, added to a try from Ahsee Tuala, meant Northampton led 16-14 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

However, Andrew Porter dotted down for Leinster's third try, following earlier scores from James Lowe and Rhys Ruddock, to ensure the visitors were leading 19-16 at the interval.

Northampton then failed to score a second-half point, while Cian Healy, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath and Ed Byrne all crossed in Leinster's handsome victory.

Ulster moved top of Pool 3 as John Cooney's 79th-minute penalty earned them a 25-24 success over Harlequins.

Both sides scored three tries apiece, Elia Elia going over twice for Quins, but Cooney kept his cool from the 10-metre line to seal the win for Ulster.

Defending champions Saracens were beaten 10-3 by Munster to suffer their second loss in Pool 4.

Peter O'Mahony crossed for the game's only try in the 31st minute, with all the points scored prior to the interval, and the only sour moment for Munster came in the 82nd minute when Arno Botha was dismissed for dangerous play.

Teddy Thomas accounted for two of Racing 92's six tries in their 40-19 rout of Ospreys, who were left to rue Dan Evans' red card after just 37 seconds.

The full-back was given his marching orders for kicking Thomas in the face as he collected a high ball, and Ospreys never recovered.

Elsewhere, Lyon beat Benetton Treviso 28-0, while Glasgow Warriors edged past La Rochelle 27-24.

Samu Ezeala scored twice and set up another as Clermont Auvergne outclassed Bath 34-17 in the European Rugby Champions Cup at the Rec.

The Pool 3 clash was nicely poised at the break with Rhys Priestland's converted score for Bath answered by George Moala, who squirmed his way over from close range.

Clermont stole ahead as a couple of Greig Laidlaw penalties sandwiched Priestland's three pointer and were in command when Moala's clever pick-and-go preceded a fine offload for Ezeala to touch down.

Ezeala turned provider for Alexandre Lapandry to further stretch the lead before scoring his second of the night after excellent work from Isaia Toeava.

Jonathan Joseph managed a late consolation for Bath, who with two points to their name from three games have no realistic chance of progressing from the pool stages.

Clermont, conversely, are top of the pool, although Ulster can go back to the summit by beating Harlequins. 

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