Wales captain Jones 'very confident' of being fit for Six Nations opener

By Sports Desk January 07, 2021

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  • England call up Arundell for first time ahead of Australia series England call up Arundell for first time ahead of Australia series

    England head coach Eddie Jones has included Henry Arundell in his 36-man training squad ahead of July's Test series with Australia.

    London Irish flier Arundell has caught the eye with a string of impressive performances since making his Premiership debut in February. 

    The 19-year-old, who is also eligible to represent Scotland and Wales, may now be in line for a maiden senior England appearance against the Barbarians next month.

    That match at Twickenham on June 19 will act as a warm-up ahead of July's three-match series in Australia, starting with a showdown at Optus Stadium in Perth.

    Arundell is joined in England's latest training squad by fellow uncapped London Irish player Will Joseph, who is the younger brother of former England centre Jonathan.

    Owen Farrell is also included after missing the Six Nations with an ankle injury, while Anthony Watson returns to the Red Rose fold following an injury lay-off of his own.

    Ten uncapped players have been included in total and seven members of the squad have 50 caps or more, including the returning Mako Vunipola.

    Ben Youngs, Joe Marler, Henry Slade and Jamie George are all rested for the three-day training camp, which runs from Sunday to Tuesday.

    "We're going to use this camp as an opportunity to prepare a base game for the Barbarians fixture and for a really important Australia tour," Jones said. 

    "We'll focus on how we want to play, how we want to be as a team off the field and continue to develop the squad cohesiveness and behaviours.

    "It is also 16 months to the World Cup and every minute counts. We want a hard-working and enjoyable environment for the players and make sure we are all on the same page. 

    "We want to take a look at some younger players and prepare a base camp for the Barbarians game, particularly as we will be without the Premiership finalists.

    "We also want to give some senior players a rest as we get to a crucial part of the season. These players will still be in contention for the Australia tour."

    England beat Australia at Twickenham in November, but that preceded a disappointing 2022 Six Nations campaign as they lost three of their five matches and finished third.

     

    England training squad

    Forwards

    Alfie Barbeary (Wasps), Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons), Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Nic Dolly (Leicester Tigers), Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins), Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints), George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcons), Tom Pearson (London Irish), Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks), Will Stuart (Bath Rugby), Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Jack Willis (Wasps).

    Backs

    Henry Arundell (London Irish), Orlando Bailey (Bath Rugby), Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby), Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints), George Furbank (Northampton Saints), Will Joseph (London Irish), Louis Lynagh (Harlequins), Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints), Harry Randall (Bristol Bears), Marcus Smith (Harlequins), Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers), Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks), Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby).

  • Bale 'likely' to return to English football as agent confirms Madrid exit Bale 'likely' to return to English football as agent confirms Madrid exit

    Gareth Bale could be set for a return to English football when his Real Madrid contract expires next month, according to his agent Jonathan Barnett, who has confirmed the winger's imminent exit from the Santiago Bernabeu.

    The 32-year-old already looked set to leave Los Blancos at the end of his deal, with Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti saying last month that Bale wanted "to finish on a high note" with the club.

    While Madrid wrapped up their 35th league title recently, Bale's role in that success was virtually none-existent, with the former Tottenham man making just seven appearances all season in all competitions, totalling just 290 minutes of action.

    Bale has won four Champions League titles during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, scoring three goals in finals of the competition (one against Atletico Madrid in 2014 and two against Liverpool in 2018).

    However, he has attracted the ire of the club's fans ever since he paraded a flag bearing the slogan "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order" after helping his national team qualify for Euro 2020, and was described as a "parasite" in Spanish sports daily Marca earlier this year.

    Bale remains a key man for his country, scoring a brace in Wales' 2-1 World Cup qualification win over Austria in March to put them within one win of reaching the tournament in Qatar, and Barnett says the result of the Dragons' June play-off against either Scotland or Ukraine will inform any decision on the player's future.

    He also hinted Bale could return to England next season, having returned to Tottenham on loan for the duration of the 2020-21 campaign. 

    "Gareth will leave Real Madrid, but we have to wait for what Wales will be able to do," Barnett told Portuguese outlet Record.

    "It all depends on whether Wales qualify for the World Cup, then we will make a decision, which may vary on whether or not Wales go to the World Cup. 

    "Is he likely to return to England? I think so, but we'll have to wait and see."

    Wales will face either Scotland or Ukraine on June 5 in Cardiff for a place at the World Cup, where they would face England after being drawn into Group B. 

  • Racing 92 13-20 La Rochelle: Last year's runners-up to face Leinster in Champions Cup final Racing 92 13-20 La Rochelle: Last year's runners-up to face Leinster in Champions Cup final

    La Rochelle will face Leinster in the European Champions Cup final after beating Racing 92 20-13 in an almighty battle at Stade Bollaert-Delelis.

    A year after losing to Toulouse in the final, La Rochelle will have another chance to be crowned European champions for the first time at Stade Velodrome on May 28 after fighting back to defeat their Top 14 rivals on a hot Sunday in Lens.

    A second-half penalty try, which resulted in Racing being reduced to 13 men for around eight minutes, was a key moment in the semi-final as it put La Rochelle in front for the first time.

    Ronan O'Gara's side edged out the Ireland legend's former employers to set up a repeat of last year's semi-final in Marseille, Ihaia West making amends for an off day with the boot by sealing it with a try right at the end.

    Nolann Le Garrec put Racing in front with an early penalty and West failed to make it 3-3 when he missed a straightforward chance from the tee.

    Virimi Vakatawa extended the Paris club's lead with a sharp sidestep to squeeze beyond two defenders and dot down for an opening try, which Le Garrec converted after 25 minutes.

    La Rochelle applied sustain pressure and although Raymond Rhule had a try ruled out as the ball was not clearly out of a ruck when he scooped it up, West's penalty got them on the board and Gregory Alldritt powered his way over on the stroke of half-time.

    West was unable to add the extras and the La Rochelle fly-half was off target with another penalty early in the second half before the ice cool Le Garrec booted Racing into a 13-8 lead.

    Ill-disciplined Racing were rocked when Camille Chat and Cedate Gomes Sa were sent to the sin bin in quick succession, the second offence resulting in a penalty try that put last year's runners-up 15-13 up with just under half an hour go.

    A disjointed and sloppy La Rochelle side failed to increase their advantage while Racing were two men down, during which time Le Garrec missed from the tee twice.

    Pierre Popelin stepped up to miss a penalty at the other end, but O'Gara's men ended Racing's hopes of winning the Champions Cup for the first time, with West diving over to seal it.

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