England defence coach Paul Gustard set to be named new Harlequins boss

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Harlequins plan to make an official announcement about their team management on Monday amid reports Paul Gustard is to leave England to join the Aviva Premiership club.

England defence coach Gustard has been linked with a move to the Twickenham Stoop, just 15 months prior to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The former Leicester, London Irish and Saracens flanker is under contract with the Rugby Football Union until after the 2019 tournament and is due to tour South Africa with England this summer.

Gustard has worked with England boss Eddie Jones since January 2016. He helped England to back-to-back Six Nations titles, but Jones’ men finished fifth this year.

Harlequins finished 10th in the Aviva Premiership and director of rugby John Kingston in April revealed he would be leaving at the end of the season, despite agreeing a contract extension in January.

Jones last week dismissed reports of the possibility of Gustard leaving as “rumours”.

The Australian also said there was no contingency plan in place in the event of Gustard leaving.

Jones said: “I don’t have a contingency plan for staff, I don’t have one for every staff member. If a situation arises then I’ll deal with it.”

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Huge upsets in Top 14 playoffs see Lyon knockout Toulon after extra time and Castres eliminate Toulouse

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Mike Harris was the match-winner for Lyon

Lyon have reached the French Top 14 semi-finals for the first time despite drawing 19-19 with favourites Toulon, advancing courtesy of scoring two tries to their opponents’ one.

The extra-time win against the three-time European champions gave Lyon a semi-final clash against Montpellier next weekend.

Toulon led 13-6 and then 19-16 in extra-time before New Zealand-born Australian international fly-half Mike Harris booted his third penalty of the match seven minutes from the end to secure the draw and victory.

“To come here to the Stade Mayol and win, it’s incredible,” said Lyon coach Pierre Mignoni whose side were only promoted to the top flight two years ago. “I said to the players that we had everything to win, even if journalists said we had nothing to lose.”

Lyon had lost 39-11 to Toulon on the same ground in the regular season in December, an occasion that Mignoni described as his team being “in a hole”.

“We were on a run of defeats then after a good start to the season but I always knew we’d qualify [for the play-offs]. We could have sunk but the players all worked very hard.”

Toulon skipper Mathieu Bastareaud was left heartbroken after another fruitless season for the big-spending club, whose last Top 14 title came in 2014.

They were runners-up in the last two seasons while this year’s European Champions Cup campaign ended in a quarter-final loss to Munster.

“It’s a huge disappointment, it’s sad and very frustrating,” said the French centre. “We had lots of chances but couldn’t take them. It’s a bad season. The club has ambitions to win titles but again we have won nothing.”

In the other elimination match an impressive Castres overcame Jody Jenneker’s sending off to win 23-11 at Toulouse and secure their place in the semi-finals.

South African hooker Jenneker saw red in the 60th minute for his aggressive response to Maxime Medard’s swinging arm, but the visitors held on to book a date with Racing 92.

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Exeter's Rob Baxter calls for improved performance against Saracens in Aviva Premiership final

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Rob Baxter is demanding an improved performance compared to those produced on Exeter‘s last two Twickenham trips as the champions prepare to face Saracens in next Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final.

The game is a repeat of the 2016 final, which Saracens won 28-20, while the Chiefs return to defend a title they clinched following an extra-time triumph against Wasps last season.

An Exeter victory would see them become only the fourth club after Saracens, Leicester and Wasps to successfully defend Premiership silverware since the competition began 20 years ago.

And the form guide has so far held, with this season’s top two clubs after the regular 22-game Premiership campaign now going head to head.

“Personally, I think an Exeter versus Saracens final is a very good final,” Chiefs rugby director Baxter said.

“It probably drives the merits of finishing first and second in the league – the two home semi-finalists in the final.

Olly Woodburn of Exeter Chiefs celebrates scoring a try

“For a lot of reasons, it could make a really good final. I wouldn’t say we go there expecting to win. We go there with an expectation of we know we can play well there.

“Two years ago, we lost by eight points after not starting well, and last year we came up with a win with an improved performance. I would like to think what we are aiming for is an improved performance on last year.

“For me, we have got to go there with an expectation that we will play better than in the last two finals, because that is what you should do as a team.”

Exeter brushed aside play-off debutants Newcastle 36-5 at Sandy Park, with fly-half prospect Joe Simmonds kicking 19 points and Nic White, Olly Woodburn and Don Armand scoring tries.

The Chiefs remain unbeaten in all competitions since mid-February, setting up a heavyweight showdown against a Saracens side through to a fourth Premiership final in the past five seasons.

Baxter added: “We went into the (Newcastle) game with some definite goals of what we wanted to achieve, and the players worked very hard to achieve them.

“The lads will have a bit of time to get themselves refreshed and ready for training on Monday, and a lot of what we have got to prepare for is the style of play we want to adapt against Saracens.

“We have done OK against them. We have beaten them twice in the Premiership this season, albeit with probably a different side to what they are putting out now. We always like to think we are very competitive against Saracens, and we would like to think we will be again.”

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