A beautiful rugby game
Code-hopping superstar Sam Burgess will have a chance to book his place in the England rugby union side’s World Cup squad after being handed a Test debut by coach Stuart Lancaster for Saturday’s warm-up match against France at Twickenham.
Burgess has been selected by the World Cup hosts just 10 months after his high-profile cross-code switch from rugby league, having bowed out by winning the Clive Churchill medal as South Sydney claimed the NRL title.
The 26-year-old Burgess has been picked at inside centre, not blindside flanker where he produced his best performances for club side Bath last season, and will line-up alongside fellow uncapped player Henry Slade in midfield, with experienced five-eighth Owen Farrell alongside the two new Test centres.
That Burgess has made it this far in his quest to play at the World Cup, which starts next month, has proved highly controversial with a number of pundits arguing he has done little in his time in union to warrant such rapid promotion for all his success in league.
But England coach Lancaster said Monday: “We will see if Sam can translate what he’s done in training, which is clearly good otherwise I wouldn’t have taken this chance to look at him against France.”
Lancaster, making it clear he had picked an experimental side, added: “I’m open minded about what Sam can do – this isn’t the team that’s going to play against Fiji in our first World Cup game, this is the team to look at options.
“We need a balance in our backline, a balance of ball players, carriers and finishers. Sam ticks the ball carrier box.
“And obviously there’s the physical nature of backlines and you need to look at that element, particularly defensively.
“It’s an option for us to look at and it will be interesting to see how well Sam goes,” said Lancaster who, in common with all World Cup coaches, must name his final 31-man squad for the tournament by August 31.
Among the replacements is five-eighth Danny Cipriani, available for selection in England’s World Cup squad after he was re-bailed last week until November following his arrest on suspicion of drink-driving.
Saturday’s match is the first of three World Cup warm-up fixtures for England, who will face France in Paris the following weekend before welcoming Six Nations champions Ireland to Twickenham on September 5.
England begin their World Cup campaign proper against Fiji in a Pool A match at Twickenham on September 18.
The so-called ‘group of death’ also features the Wallabies and Wales, meaning at least one of the sport’s major nations will crash out before the quarter-finals as only the top two teams from each of the four pools go through to the last eight.
Last weekend saw Australia beat world champions New Zealand 27-19 in Sydney while Wales lost 35-21 to Six Nations kings Ireland in Cardiff.
Following allegations of racial abuse last Saturday in the South African Springboks versus New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Championship at Ellis Park, a similar incident occurred on Sunday in New Zealand.
According to the New Zealand Herald, police are investigating a racial incident at a club game in Christchurch. The team came to the field in a nice airport car, and strutted around before getting into the game. Christchurch Club wing Sake Aca was reportedly heckled repeatedly following a match against Lincoln University. After spectators hurled racial insults at him, the Fijian requested to be sidelined by the coach. While Daniel O’Brien, Christchurch’s head coach, said several of his players were abused throughout the game, he noted that Aca seemed particularly upset over it.
The incident at Ellis Park involved racial abuse from Afrikaans supporters in the stands and toilets. One match attendee and his three Namibian friends were unrelentingly insulted by this mob. Another man, thirty-year-old Daryl Lewis from Johannesburg, described similar harassment. Lewis described how a security guard, who mistakenly skipped line at a urinal, was told that this was “the old South Africa,” not “the new South Africa,” and he didn’t “have a place here.”
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Thousands of people came out for this years Can-Am Rugby Tournament in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.
Marc Okicich is both a United States veteran and avid rugby player. He and a group of Marine Corps veterans formed a team 10 years ago in honor of a fallen player, Kevin Shea. “We lost a very significant Marine, friend, dad, and rugby player on September 14th, 2004 in Iraq,” Okicich said.
This weekend their team, the Old Breed Rugby Club competed in the 42nd annual Can-Am tournaments in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, New York. “We’re about a higher cause than just rugby, but this tournament, the tournaments we play in, bring us together,” Okicich said.
Rugby enthusiasts of all ages came out to play and watch as teams competed in the championship games on Sunday.
“I love the game and the people who play it. Anything else would just be a run on,” said Tom Sciacca, a member of the Mountaineers Rugby Football Club.
Over 100 teams were entered in various categories, from Men and Women’s Clubs to age groups of 55 and over. Many former players, including Jan Plumadore, came out to cheer their old teams on. “A lot of the players who came as young players in the 1970s were back in the 1990s as parents, now they’re back today as grandparents watching their grandchildren play in the same tournament,” he said.
Though the teams consist of adult players, local youth rugby teams got a chance to play throughout the weekend. “Our high school kids, our teenagers, they play today. They’ll be featured at half-time. And then yesterday we had the flag rugby–the non-contact rugby for the young children in Lake Placid, and they were featured earlier in a half time moment,” said Doug Ferris, a youth coach.
The top teams are awarded with plaques and free registration for next years games, but winning wasn’t the number one goal on everyone’s minds. The Old Breed Rugby Club raised around $1,500 for a special scholarship fund in honor of Kevin Shea. “Unfortunately today we came up a little bit short in the final, but I think what’s more important is that our club and our influence has grown, and we are able to help the children of Marines and Marines in need,” Okicich said.
Organizers say this year was a success for all.
Police in New Zealand have launched an investigation concerning racial abuse at Christchurch during a club game. A similar incident is alleged to have happened previously in Springboks-All Blacks Test at Ellis Park where fans reported racial abuse at the Rugby Championship on Saturday.
In last Sunday’s match, Sake Aca, the Christchurch Club wing, broke out in tears during a match against Lincoln University. Spectators began shouting racial slurs. Aca asked his coach to remove him from the game. Daniel O’Brien, the head coach for Christchurch Club, commented that several of the team’s players had endured similar abuse. He said that Aca was especially upset.
Other alleged racial exchanges took place away from the crowd as well. A fan said he had gone with his three friends from Namibia to the game. He said they had racist comments directed at them in the restrooms as well as the stands.
Daniel Lewis, another who witnessed an incident, reported that a security guard was grabbed by a man standing in line for the urinals in the restroom. The security guard had mistaken the line to be for the cubicles, not the urinals, and had gone ahead of the line. The guard tried to explain this to the man. However, Lewis said, “The guy told him that this isn’t the new South Africa, this is the old South Africa and he must [expletive] off out of here and he doesn’t have a place here,” continued Lewis.
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