French rugby seeking approval for radical move to introduce 12 replacements

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The Top 14 want to bring in 12 replacements from next season

Teams in the French professional rugby leagues of the Top 14 and Pro D2 might be able to field 12 replacements per match next season, up from the current eight.

In a joint statement, the French rugby federation and the LNR, the body that runs professional rugby in France, said the proposed increase in the number of subs was in response to a medical study on how to best avoid injuries in the sport.

The proposal requires the stamp of approval from World Rugby, but the LNR told AFP it was confident of getting the green light for the radical change. A response from World Rugby was expected within two weeks.

Should the proposal go through, it would allow any “tactical” replacement to come back on for a teammate who had been injured or suffered a knock to the head.

Currently, only front-row forwards are allowed to re-enter the field of play in case of injury to the vital positions of prop and hooker.

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Crusaders stalwart Wyatt Crockett set to record Super Rugby double century

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Wyatt Crockett is set to bring up his double century in Super Rugby

Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett will make rugby history yet again this week, becoming the first player to record 200 Super Rugby caps.

Crockett has been named to play in the Crusaders’ home game against the Highlanders on Friday night, in a match that marks a historic double century of appearances since his Crusaders career began against the same side back in 2006.

Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach said: “200 games is an unprecedented achievement, and for Crocky to have represented the same club throughout his Super Rugby career is testament to his dedication and loyalty to this Crusaders team.

“This milestone not only resonates with the current Crusaders squad and management, but former coaches and team mates, as well as rugby fans worldwide. There is no one more deserving of this accolade and we congratulate Crocky on what is a proud moment for himself and his family.”

Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson added: “To reach 200 games at this level takes an immense amount of talent, commitment, and personal sacrifice over a long period of time, and Crocky certainly sets the benchmark for passion and professionalism among our group.

“Crocky continues to make a massive contribution to the Crusaders jersey in what is his 13th season with the club. He’s well-respected by the squad and management alike, and is the ultimate team man. We are proud to be able to celebrate this achievement with him.”

The Christchurch-born prop became the most capped Super Rugby player of all time in April 2017 when he broke Keven Mealamu’s record of 175 games.

To date, he has 55 Super Rugby points to his name, and three Super Rugby Championships – in the 2006, 2008 and 2017 seasons. In 2011 Crockett was recognised as New Zealand Super Rugby Player of the Year.

Crockett said: “This milestone simply wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the many coaches, management, team mates and supporters I’ve had along the way.

“I’m humbled by the support I’ve received this season and throughout my rugby career, which has made each game I’ve played for this club just as memorable and special as the last.

“I am honoured to have represented a team that I am immensely proud of for the past 13 years, and to have the opportunity to reach 200 games at home, in front of my family and friends, is something I know I’ll look back on fondly at the end of my Super Rugby career,” Crockett finished.

Crockett’s first class career began in 2005 with Canterbury, and he went on to earn 73 caps for the provincial side.

He made his All Blacks debut in 2009 and played the last of his 71 tests against Wales in November last year. In 2015, he was a member of the successful All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad.

The 35-year-old played his 200th Crusaders game against the Chiefs on Saturday June 2, but this weekend’s match will be recognised officially by New Zealand Rugby as it marks 200 appearances in Super Rugby (Crockett was a member of the Crusaders side that played the British and Irish Lions in June last year). An official presentation will follow after the final whistle on Friday night.

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said Crockett had cemented a place in New Zealand rugby history: “On behalf of New Zealand Rugby, we salute Crocky on his 200 Super Rugby games.

“He’s done so much for the game here in New Zealand and this is a very special milestone achieved by a very special man.

“Crocky has played his entire Super career – 13 seasons in all – for the one team, his beloved Crusaders, and it’s fantastic that he’ll play this 200th match in front of his wife Jenna, sons Sonny and Emmett, the rest of his family and friends, and the Crusaders fans.

“When he hangs up his Crusaders jersey at the end of the Super Rugby season, he can do so knowing that he will leave as one of the greats of our game,” Tew said.

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said: “SANZAAR would like to congratulate Wyatt on reaching this amazing milestone of 200 Super Rugby matches.

“He is the first player to ever reach this milestone, and to play so many matches at this level is testament to his professionalism and strength of character.

“He has been an outstanding servant and ambassador to the game of rugby and, of course, to the Crusaders since his Super Rugby debut in 2006.

“We wish him all the very best on Friday against the Highlanders.”

Yesterday it was announced that the stadium in Christchurch would be renamed ‘Wyatt Crockett Stadium’ for this game, in recognition of Crockett’s 200 match milestone.

Fans will also have the opportunity to show their support for Crockett at the game.

5000 ‘Crockzilla’ headbands will be given away at the gate, with those fans who wear the headbands given the chance to win one of seven jerseys signed by the man himself, from one of the 13 seasons he has been in the team.

Crockett brings up 200 Super Rugby games in what will be his final season with the Crusaders.

He announced his retirement from international and Super Rugby in February this year, but will join the Tasman Mako for the next two Mitre 10 Cup seasons.

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Chris Ashton joins Sale after Toulon release

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Chris Ashton has joined Sale after being released by Toulon, the Gallagher Premiership club have announced.

The former England wing was granted a release from the final two years of his contract with the French side due to family problems.

The move potentially opens up a route back to the England side for the 31-year-old, having been ineligible for international selection during his spell in the Top 14.

It also takes the former Northampton and Saracens player back to his native north-west, where he began his professional sporting career in Rugby league with Wigan.

Ashton said in the statement: “This really feels like going home. I’ve always thought, in the back of my mind, that I’d return to the north to play Rugby and I’m delighted to be joining Sale Sharks.”

Ashton joined Toulon last year and enjoyed an outstanding first season in Top 14, setting a new try-scoring record of 24 in 23 games.

The move, however, had precluded him from adding to his 39 England caps under the Rugby Football Union’s selection policy and there had been speculation he could be lured back to the Premiership.

Sale director of Rugby Steve Diamond said: “Chris is obviously a world-class signing. Chris wanted to return to this country to fulfil his potential with England again, and we thought that he’d fit in well here.

“He’s a multi-talented, superb professional who has experienced the benefit of the successful culture at Saracens.”

Ashton, who had previously been out of favour with England coach Eddie Jones, made no mention of international ambitions himself.

He said: “In Toulon, I’ve added to the experience I gained at Saracens. There are many players at Sale Sharks with whom I’m looking forward to playing.

“I’m not coming to rest on my laurels. I feel I’ve got a lot of Rugby left in me and would like to make an impact and help to take the club back to their winning ways of 2006.”

Toulon confirmed that Ashton also had family reasons for wishing to return to England.

A statement read: “At the request of the player, Rugby Club Toulonnais decided to release Chris Ashton from the two years remaining of his contract.

“The English player was no longer in psychological condition to remain in France, and therefore with RCT, because of important family problems.

“RCT wishes Chris Ashton good luck in pursuing his sporting career.”

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