England hooker James Roby will continue his St Helens career into a 16th season, after the Betfred Super League leaders revealed they had taken up an option on his contract for 2019.
The 32-year-old has won every domestic title whilst with his home-town club.
Roby made his debut as an 18-year-old in 2004, and recently reached 400 appearances for the club.
Roby, who was awarded the award for Steve Prescott Man of Steel in 2007, was appointed as St Helens captain at the start of the 2017 campaign, and has helped them on their way to the top of the table at the halfway mark for the season.
“I’m really happy to stay at my home-town club,” Roby said. “Although there is a long way to go this season, everything is going well and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and next.
“I’m proud to have played at the Saints my whole career and I’m really looking forward to the future.”
England international back Alex Lozowski has signed a contract extension with the current Aviva Premiership leaders, Saracens.
The deal will keep Lozowski at the reigning European champions until 2020.
Lozowski, 24, has been a crucial player for the Saracens since he joined them from the Wasps last year, offering options not only at fly-half, but centre too.
His form has seen him rewarded with two England caps, whilst on the Argentina tour four months ago.
“We are delighted that Alex has agreed a new deal,” Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said.
“Alex will have an important role to play for us as he continues to develop as a player, so naturally we are very happy to announce that he will be staying at Allianz Park until at least 2020.
“In his brief time at the club, Alex has already shown how good a player he is, but the most exciting thing for us is how much improvement we believe there is to come from him alongside our core of young, hungry, home-grown players.”
Lozowski is not the only player to sign new terms with Saracens in the recent weeks, as he follows Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Nick Isiekwe to sign on the dotted line.
“I have really benefited from being in the environment and from being around good players and good coaches,” Lozowski said.
“I think being surrounded by the calibre of guys that we’ve got here is only going to bring your game up. I am really grateful to be part of this team.”
Manu Tuilagi has been named as one of the 37 man squad that Eddie Jones will take for a three-day training camp, which begins this weekend.
The Leicester centre hasn’t represented England on an international stage since 2016, as continuous injury setbacks threatened to hamper the 26-year-old’s career.
Seven of the chosen 37 – Dan Cole, Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Jack Nowell, Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson – will spend only one day at the camp, to undergo medical check-ups.
The England head coach said:
“We are at an incredibly important stage with two years to go to the Rugby World Cup in Japan, and there is still a big step to make if we want to be the number one team in the world.
“We are going to have to be meticulous in preparation in everything we do as we build towards Tokyo, and that is why this camp is vital ahead of this season.
“The players, coaches and staff will use these three days to reconnect and ensure we are all clear on what our priorities and expectations are ahead of the Premiership season, as well as the upcoming Old Mutual Wealth Series (in November).”
England training squad: Backs – M Brown (Harlequins), D Care (Harlequins), N Earle (Saracens), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Leicester), P Francis (Northampton), A Lozowski (Saracens), H Mallinder (Northampton), J Marchant (Harlequins), J Maunder (Exeter), J May (Gloucester), J Nowell (Exeter), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), H Slade (Exeter), M Smith (Harlequins), D Solomona (Sale Sharks), M Tuilagi (Leicester), A Watson (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester).
Forwards – D Cole (Leicester), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), T Curry (Sale Sharks), T Dunn (Bath), C Ewels (Bath), E Genge (Leicester), J George (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton), N Hughes (Wasps), N Isiekwe (Saracens), M Itoje (Saracens), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Robshaw (Harlequins), K Sinckler (Harlequins), S Underhill (Bath), H Williams (Exeter), M Wilson (Newcastle), B Vunipola (Saracens).
Hull FC will take on Wigan in Australia in 2018 for the first Super League game to ever take place outside of Europe.
Date: 10 February 2018
Venue: WIN Stadium in Wollongong
A week after the game, both sides will then take on Australian opponents. Wigan will face the South Sydney Rabbitohs, whilst Hull will face St George Illawarra Dragons. Both games will be in Sydney.
If either side qualifies, it will open the door for them to take part in the World Club Challenge or Series, which starts on the 24th of February.
Shane Wane’s Wigan side have previously played in Australia, when they were defeated 36-14 by the Sydney Roosters in 2014 during the World Club Challenge, but the Warriors will be hoping for a sweeter outcome this time around.
Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan said:
“We firmly believe that the Wigan and Hull fans will be as excited about this venture as we are and we have announced early to allow fans the chance to plan their trip to Australia.”
Whilst Hull chairman Adam Pearson also spoke:
“There will be a great deal of excitement from fans of both clubs and we’re sure many will want to travel to New South Wales for such an historic occasion, support their team and help showcase all that is good about rugby league in the UK.”
From the comforts of home in Tokoroa, New Zealand, where walking around the town barefoot was the norm, to the bright lights and fast moving pace of the City of Bradford in the North of England, where Robbie Hunter-Paul and his family were subject to a few gazes of disbelief as they walked around the city centre without wearing so much as sandals on their first day there.
It was safe to say Hunter-Paul had made a big change to his life, and at such a young age. But his move to Bradford Bulls would ignite the start of hugely successful career at the top of the Rugby League game in England, which spanned over the course of 17 years.
The 40-year-old was only 18 when the move to the Bulls came about, and to understand the cultural differences that was about to become a reality for him, he tuned in to Sky Movies to watch the Bradford based film Rita, Sue and Bob too.
“We were one of the first families in our neighbourhood to get Sky as we followed the Rugby League in Australia.
“I knew nothing about the culture in England, and I knew less about a city in the North of England called Bradford. Rita, Sue and Bob too is a British cult classic about a guy who sleeps with babysitters on a council estate in Bradford, and that was my introduction.
“You can imagine as an 18-year-old who was brought up as a mummy’s boy, that after watching that I had a firm grip on my mum’s skirt as I got off the plane when I arrived.”
The former Scrum-half believes British people are among the most tribal in the world, although he claims they don’t even realise to what effect. Hunter-Paul pinpoints his success as Captain of the Bulls at such a young age as being down to managing all of his teammates personalities, no matter where they had come from, no matter what ‘tribe’ they were a part of.
“Depending on what side of the street you grew up on in Britain, you will go ‘Nah I’m not speaking to that lot over there’. The melting pole which is a professional rugby team, you have so many different backgrounds and cultures.
“When it came to training, I’d train the house down. Very few people trained as hard as I did. Off the field I was very focussed, but when it came to being able to communicate on those different levels, I was able to do that. I was also wise enough and smart enough to know that 18 years of age, I didn’t know it all.”
1996 turned out to be a phenomenal year for the Kiwi, when he ended the season as the the Bulls top try scorer, before winning the man of the match award and the Lance Todd Trophy, after scoring three tries in the Challenge Cup final against St Helens.
“When I scored the first try I rolled over and there was a wall of 30,000 Bradford fans, it was just amazing. We were losing at this point so it got us back into the game and within 2 points. It was rock star moment.
“Do you know why rock stars do what they do? Put aside the money, it’s because it feeds that kind of adrenaline and endorphin release. It’s the strongest drug on the planet, and you can never replace that.”
Although throughout his career Hunter-Paul worked hard to never make costly mistakes, he’s reminded daily of one in a Grand Final between Leeds and Bradford where he fumbled the ball around the Bulls own 22 with only minutes to go, a mistake that eventually led to the Rhinos overturning the Bulls lead and winning the final.
“My father taught me one of the best lessons in life. He told me that if I made a mistake it’s not your fault, but if you make it again it damn well is. Because you should have learned from the first time you made that mistake.
“Did I always learn from the first mistakes? Hell no. Show me someone who didn’t. The people who are of the elite understand failure, they understand losing and making a mistake. Most of the time it’s the best lesson learnt. Did I let that mistake beat me up? No, I just had to move on.”
You don’t need to be a world class sportsperson to understand sibling rivalry. You fight, squabble and kiss and make up countless times before you grow up into men, and even then not a lot changes. Robbie played alongside his brother Henry at the Bulls, but they had to face up against each other as rivals too.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever played with or against. The way he was able to transcend his game to international level was exceptional. He’s a very driven man, and I picked up some of my skills from him.
“It was hard having to compete with someone growing up who was two years my senior, and two years physically more developed than I was, but playing with him every day developed me as a player.”
With his career in England blooming, a personal dream of the New Zealanders that stemmed back to being a six-year-old was about to become a reality in 1997, as he was set to represent his country for the first time. Not even his initial self questioning of his worth of wearing such a shirt would hamper one of the proudest days of his life.
“It was such an honour to lead the Haka against England, the other half of my life. That was a truly joyous day, and one of my proudest moments as a rugby player.
“I remember stood in front of my shirt whilst it was on the hook, and suddenly things go through your head like ‘am I even worthy of this jersey?’.
“Then the doggedness and drive that got your there in the first place comes out and says ‘snap out of it you pussy, pull this shirt off the hook and put it on.’ I was lucky to have a long stint as a New Zealand international, but you have to earn it.”
Although he came to England with little knowledge of the culture, he remains resided here, married to an English wife, with English children, and will be seen as legend that will forever have his story written in the Bradford Bulls history books. He may have moved to the country originally for his Rugby career, but he is quite happy to admit he stayed for the people – And thankfully he now has enough shoes to not worry about those looks of disbelief that shoe-less day it all begun.
Super League side Huddersfield Giants have been dealt a blow after finding out that full-back Scott Grix will miss five months of the new season with a shoulder injury.
Paul Anderson, head coach of the Giants, announced the bad news today – whilst Grix was in fact one of three players to suffer an injury during Friday’s loss to St Helens.
The shoulder injury appears to be similar to one that resulted in a limited amount of appearances for the 31-year-old during the 2014 season, but Grix had been a prominent figure last year making 24 apps.
“Everything you can imagine that’s gone wrong with his shoulder has done.
“He has had previous history with surgery on that shoulder and it will be a longer rehabilitation programme. We’re looking at five months.” Anderson told the BBC.
As previously mentioned, there were two other injuries on the night and those were announced as club captain Danny Brough, who had to be substituted after sustaining a dead leg – and Eorl Crabtree, who may be missing for a few weeks with a groin injury.
“It’s the first time in my history I’ve seen Danny in genuine pain.
“He’s a tough human being and he hates rehab, so he’s giving them a tough time.” Anderson continued.
The Giants will be looking to bounce back from the loss on the opening day of the rugby season when they face Wigan Warriors on Friday at 8pm in the John Smith’s stadium.
Three days ago the club announced that they had taken ex-St Helens winger Jamie Foster on trial, but it has now been confirmed by Anderson that he is on course to start Friday’s televised tie with Wigan.
“Jamie will play. He’s saying the right things but obviously he’s been inactive for a while. There is always a risk with that but we have no choice at the moment.
“What you are going to see over the next couple of weeks is the future of the Giants. We’re not likely to get anybody back soon. The young fellas will be loving it because they’re going to get an opportunity to play at home, on Sky, against Wigan, and challenge themselves.”
Sydney Roosters captain Mitchell Pearce has been stood down by his club following the release of a video where he appears to imitate a sex act on a dog.
Pearce’s advances were rejected by a female in the video, before he then picked up the dog whilst sat on the sofa. He was also accused of urinating on himself and the furniture in the flat, by the same woman.
Earlier on during the same day Pearce had posted a photo to his Instagram of he and his teammates embarking on a Sydney Harbour Cruise, following the conclusion of their morning training session. This all happened on Australia Day.
Newly appointed England captain Dylan Hartley has claimed he has “learned from his lessons” following his appointment ahead of the Six Nations tournament.
Hartley takes over from Chris Robshaw of the Harlequins with immediate effect. Robshaw had held the captaincy for four years.
The new England captain may be a controversial choice to some, having been caught up in high profile acts such as gouging, biting and striking – receiving bans totalling 54 weeks for his actions.
“My rap sheet is well documented and I will get reminded of it daily.” he told the press.
Although Hartley admits he always held faith that he would eventually be able to break back into the England squad, he admitted he was surprised to find out that he would not only do that, but captain his nation too.
“Yes I am surprised, but I will take it with two hands.
“I am confident in myself as a player at Test level. I have captained my club for six years and have learned a lot there.
“I sometimes get it wrong but it has gone well for me at Northampton too. You need to get yourself at a level to be competitive and confrontational. It has gone wrong in the past but it will stay there.”
Now the England camp have shown their faith in the 29-year-old, will he commit any silly offences once more?
“No, of course not. I have learned from my lessons and it is for me to live with. Now I have to lead by example and answer the critics. I am a motivated person.”
Hartley reacted on his personal Twitter account:
An honour and privilege to be leading @EnglandRugby into this coming 6 Nations tournament. Truly humbled by your messages of support 🌹