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).
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.
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 🌹
Former-English national team coach Sir Clive Woodward believes English Rugby Union has become a “laughing stock”, after it was revealed that Sam Burgess was to leave Bath to return to Rugby League in Australia.
Burgess made his decision after the disappointing Rugby World Cup campaign from the hosts, a squad he was a part of.
Woodward does not blame the now South Sydney Rabbitohs player for what he calls an “all-time low” and a general “mess” for the English rugby union game.
The 2003 World Cup winning coach was not the only notable figure in the sport to speak out following the announcement, as current head coach for the England team Steve McNamara said Burgess could have gone on to become “one of the greats”.
Burgess scored four tries in his one year stay at Bath, having played a total of 21 matches for the Somerset team.
Woodward spoke about the RFU and the way they had been wrongly congratulating themselves in recent years for the direction English rugby had been heading in.
“The RFU has spent the last four years congratulating itself on the direction in which we’re heading, but the truth is we have marched confidently into a total mess.
“We are the laughing stock of not only world rugby but also sport and business. The rest of the world says those involved in English rugby are arrogant. I hate this reputation, but that is exactly what the RFU has been.
“The saddest part is the players and fans have been let down. To get it right on the field of play you have to get it right off the field.”
The Millennium stadium was at full capacity as the Welsh side took on the Fijian’s in both nations third matches of this years World Cup.
It was a frantic start to the match, as Wales looked to gain the early advantage. And the Welsh faithful wouldn’t have to wait long to get their first try, as on six minutes scrum-half Gareth Davies smashed through the Fiji backline to open the scoring. Giving great credit to Wales, it had been coming. Dan Biggar converted too, to take Wales into a 7-0 lead.
You could have been forgiven for thinking the game could have swung massively in Wales’ favour now they’d got their first try, but in fact what happened was the Fijians rallied – and were rewarded with their first points of the game on 13 minutes as Ben Volavola kicked home a superb penalty to reduce the deficit to 7-3.
Volavola was then awarded another chance four minutes later, but this time he cannoned the ball well wide of the posts.
That missed penalty kick would have reduced Wales’ advantage even further, but instead the Welsh would get a penalty of their own a couple of minutes later – and Davies couldn’t miss, meaning Wales went back into a seven point lead at 10-3.
Wales should have had their second try of the game on 23 minutes as they broke following a turnover deep in the Wales half. The Welsh had men over and should have scored had it not been for a wonderful last ditch tackle just before the try line. Fiji were then awarded a penalty, and had escaped.
Wales were then awarded their second try as Scott Baldwin picked up on the line and tapped down, before Biggar nailed the conversion taking Wales to 17-3 with six minutes to go before half time.
As half time approached Fiji were awarded a penalty for the scrum collapsing, and this time Volavola made no mistake scoring three important points just before the break, and leaving things at 17-6 at half time.
Sadly the University had organised a student lock-in for tonight so the writer of this article had to head to that to buy some new clothes with some glorious discount.
England won their opening match of the Rugby World Cup 2015 after a convincing 35-11 victory over Fiji at Twickenham, with Mike Brown the hero of the night following his two tries.
After the wonderful opening ceremony, including a speech from Prince Harry – the real stuff begun, as Fiji started the match, and more importantly, the Rugby World Cup 2015.
England didn’t allow the visitors to settle into the game before they got their first points of the tournament, courtesy of a penalty conversion by conversion by George Ford, who couldn’t have struck the ball much more perfectly – giving the tournament hosts a 3-0 lead.
Fiji were then handed the chance to level the scores with a penalty of their own just a few minutes later, but Ben Volavola was incredibly unlucky as he hit the post.
With 11 minutes gone England increased their score with a penalty try, on the back of powerful rolling maul. The hosts had been awarded a penalty a few moments prior after a dangerous tip-tackle on Jonny May. Ford then went on to slot the conversion away, giving England a 10-0 lead.
Fiji were guilty of some poor tackles and England were getting plenty of promising penalties, and with 22 gone the second try of the game came. The English players worked the ball out with quick precision to the left and it was Mike Brown who powered home upping the score to 15-0, with Ford not taking the conversion opportunity this time – so 15-0 it remained.
Mild controversy was to follow five minutes later, when Fiji were awarded a try before then having it chalked off. Nikola Matawalu raced down the right and was simply unstoppable, or was he? Jonny May and Mike Brown were the two chasing down Matawalu and just as he looked to have scored the try the Fijian knocked on, on the line.
But Fiji would in fact score a try just moments after, as England conceded the scrum before Nemani Nadolo caught a wonderful cross field kick in the goal area, reducing the deficit to 15-5 – but they too would miss the conversion, as Volavola failed in his attempts.
Half time was edging closer after a thoroughly entertaining opening 40, but there was time for both England and Fiji to score three more points each, both from penalties – taking the scores to 18-8 with four minutes left to play.
Despite late pressure from Fiji, and a failed penalty attempt from England, both sides went into the half time break at 18-8 in what was an excellent display from both nations.
Fiji missed a good opportunity to reduce the deficit further seven minutes into the second period, but Nadolo missed on this occasion.
After a middle of the park battle for 15 minutes, Nadolo had another chance from a penalty – but once again he squandered the chance to bring Fiji within a try score of catching England.
That wake up call wasn’t loud enough for England, who gave Fiji another penalty opportunity. Volavola didn’t make the mistake his colleague had only moments earlier, and brought Fiji back in the game at 18-11.
The visitors were back within seven points of levelling the scores for a matter of minutes before England converted a penalty through Owen Farrell, extending the lead once more to ten at 21-11.
With only 8 minutes remaining England looked to have put the game out of Fiji’s sight as Mike Brown was the hero once more, scoring the try – and Farrell scored from the conversion, making it 28-11.
England went in search of the bonus point they would be awarded for winning with four tries scored, and it looked like they may have left it too late with the 80 minutes up, that is until Billy Vunipola powered through the Fijian back-line to score the all important try. With the bonus point already in the bag, Farrell converted to leave the score at 35-11 at full time in what was a commanding display by the hosts.