England star Owen Farrell named in Saracens squad to take on Leinster in Champions Cup quarter-finals

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England lynchpin Owen Farrell will start for Saracens against Leinster.

England star Owen Farrell has been named in the Saracens team for Sunday’s European Champions Cup quarter-final clash against Leinster.

Farrell suffered a quad muscle injury during England’s Six Nations loss to Ireland at Twickenham 13 days ago.

Saracens Rugby director Mark McCall said earlier this week that Farrell probably had a 50-50 chance of making the Leinster game. He missed last Saturday’s Aviva Premiership victory over Harlequins.

But the fly-half, who was last season’s Champions Cup top points-scorer, is set to start in Dublin, with his fellow England international Alex Lozowski on the replacements’ bench.

Lock George Kruis, who also sat out the Quins game, has recovered from a back injury to partner Maro Itoje in the second-row, while prop Mako Vunipola returns to the starting XV and captain Brad Barritt features after having surgery on a fractured cheekbone in midweek.

Barritt, meanwhile, believes the Champions Cup holders will face “the form team in Europe” this weekend.

Leinster, packed with members of Ireland’s Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning team, cruised through their qualifying group by claiming six successive victories and collecting 27 points from a possible 30, leaving Exeter, Montpellier and Glasgow in their slipstream.

“We know what is on the line now, we know we are playing against the form team in Europe,” former England centre Barritt said.

“However, we know as the Saracens team when we are close to what we can do in terms if our performance, we go there with full confidence.

“This team has always thrived on these big occasions and going to these big stadiums. We got a taste for it last year with the semi-final at the Aviva Stadium against Munster.

Brad Barritt claims Sarries face Europe's form team this weekend.

Brad Barritt claims Sarries face Europe’s form team this weekend.

“We were outnumbered in fans and in not having the comfort you have at home, but this team is galvanised by these experiences.

“We had a similar challenge in 2013, when we finished as eighth seed and had to go to Ravenhill for Ulster, who were the top seeds. It was probably an even more daunting environment in terms of a passionate home crowd.

“Playing at the Aviva Stadium is probably a little bit in our favour in that it is not Leinster’s out and out home ground. They don’t play there every week.

“It is a huge opportunity for this team (Saracens) to stake a claim. Win this game and you are in the hunt and you have a semi-final in your own country.”

Munster and Toulon, two teams with five European titles between them, meet at Thomond Park in Limerick on Saturday, while there is an all-French clash on Sunday when Clermont Auvergne host Racing 92.

Peter O'Mahony and Munster welcome Toulon to Thomond Park.

Peter O’Mahony and Munster welcome Toulon to Thomond Park.

“We’ve come up against Toulon a few times, and the calibre of player they have is incredible,” Munster captain and Ireland Grand Slam winner Peter O’Mahony told www.munsterRugby.ie.

“We can talk about them all day, but we’ve got to have a good look at ourselves as well and put our best foot forward on Saturday.

“If we play averagely, or just above average, we will probably have a good score put on us. So we have to have the best performance of the season so far if we are going to be in with a shot.”

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Australia sevens captain to miss Commonwealth Games after 'alleged unprovoked assault'

David Cooper 30/03/2018
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James Stannard during Australia training.

Australia’s sevens rugby captain James Stannard will miss the Commonwealth Games after being punched in the head in an “alleged unprovoked assault”, police and Rugby Australia said on Friday.

The 35-year-old, who had been at a farewell dinner for outgoing head coach Andy Friend late Thursday, was allegedly attacked in the Sydney suburb of Coogee early Friday, New South Wales state police said.

“As a result, he fell and struck his head on the pavement,” police said in a statement.

Rugby Australia said Stannard was in hospital in a stable condition with a fractured skull and would miss out on the Commonwealth Games, which will be held on the Gold Coast from April 4-15.

“Right now, he’s got some time to heal and he’s not available for the Comm Games,” Rugby Australia’s high-performance general manager Ben Whitaker told reporters in Sydney.

“It’s obviously a massive disappointment for all of us and James and his family.

“Once that’s all sorted, then we can look at how he can return to play.”

The governing body said earlier that two of Stannard’s team-mates Lewis Holland and Ben O’Donnell, as well as Friend, detained the alleged attacker – a 22-year-old Briton – until police arrived.

“The 22-year-old man who threw the punch then fled the scene, but was apprehended by witnesses until police arrived and placed him under arrest,” NSW Police added.

The British man, charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, was granted conditional bail Friday and is due to return to court on April 19.

Stannard was to lead Australia’s sevens team at the Commonwealth Games after injured captain Holland was ruled out earlier in March.

Rugby Australia said in mid-March that Friend’s contract, due to expire in July, would not be renewed.

Current women’s sevens coach Tim Walsh, who is leaving his role after the Commonwealth Games, was selected as Friend’s replacement.

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Mike Phillips Rugby Academy running three spring camps in Dubai

Dan Owen 29/03/2018
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Mike Phillips, right, with Emlyn Jones

Wales and British Lions legend Mike Phillips is to hold a series of rugby camps in Dubai.

Phillips, the lead coach of the Mike Phillips Rugby Academy, has been one of the most recognisable faces in world rugby for more than a decade and is now passing on his knowledge to the younger generation.

The scrum-half has joined forces with Dubai-based Just Play to form the academy and is also drawing on the experience of Emlyn Jones, a coach with more than 25 years of experience in the game.

Sessions focus on children having fun and enjoying themselves while practicing drills that Phillips has selected from his days playing professionally.

Now the team is holding three sessions for children aged 7-14 at Emirates International School in Jumeirah.

The three-hour sessions will put children through their paces, while maintaining a fun-filled environment – the mantra Phillips wants to apply to all his coaching.

“It’s just about having fun really,” Phillips said. “I want to see kids going out there and expressing themselves. It’s a great way to stay healthy, make new friends and learn some of the values of rugby that can be so important in a child’s development.

“No matter where in the world you go there is always respect between players and between fans, and it’s great to be part of that, and those are values we will be trying to get across along with trying to help develop the game here in the UAE.”

The camps will be for both boys and girls, as one of the key things for the 99-times capped international is trying the develop the female game in the country.

“In recent years we have seen more females getting involved in the game, not just within the UAE but globally, with a thriving women’s professional game and a growing female development programme.  This is great for the future of the sport and something we are very keen to encourage.”

Having set up the Academy in January, Phillips has been delighted with the reaction from children and parents alike and is looking forward to developing this further.

“It’s amazing to think we have only really been up and running a couple of months,” he said. “The children have been fantastic, I am really hands on and have a lot of fun working with them. The parents have been great too – they know how rugby can play a huge part in a child’s development and have been really supportive.”

What: The Mike Phillips Academy Spring Camp

Where: Emirates International School, Jumeirah

When: April, 1, 3 and 5. 8am – 11am

Price: AED 150 for one session, AED 400 for all three

Contact: To register email [email protected] or call 04 348 3869

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