Leicester Tigers axe head coach Matt O’Connor just one game into season

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Matt O'Connor has been axed by Leicester

In what must be a new record for speedy dismissals Leicester Tigers have today announced the departure of head coach Matt O’Connor with immediate effect – just one game into the new season.

Assistant coach Geordan Murphy, an eight-time Premiership title winner and double European champion in 16 years as a player at Tigers, will take charge of team affairs on an interim basis.

O’Connor began his second spell at the club in the closing rounds of the 2016/17 season and guided Tigers into the Premiership semi-finals at the end of that campaign before a fifth-place finish the following year.

In their first round match on Saturday they were thrashed 40-6 at Exeter Chiefs.

Leicester Tigers club chairman Peter Tom CBE said: “Matt was appointed head coach in April 2017 on the basis of his previous Premiership experience and his knowledge of the club. But we believe the time is right to make this change in the best interests of the Tigers moving forward.

“We would like to thank Matt for his hard work and commitment to the club in two spells at Welford Road, and we wish him and his family well for the future.”

Former Tigers captain Murphy will assume control of team affairs immediately alongside coaches Mark Bakewell, Boris Stankovich and Brett Deacon.

Tom added: “As a club, Leicester Tigers will always aspire to challenge for major honours in the incredibly competitive arena of professional elite club rugby and everyone at the club will fully support Geordan and the management group in driving the team forward.

“Geordan knows the expectations and ambitions of the Tigers as well as anyone after more than 20 years here as player and coach, and we wish him and the team the very best for the challenges ahead.”

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Bristol Bears get good news on former All Blacks star Charlies Piutau's injury

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Charles Piutau should be back by the end of October

Bristol Bears have been boosted with the news that Charles Piutau does not require surgery and could be available for selection by late October.

It was initially feared that the full back – who sustained a shoulder injury in the pre-season defeat to Connacht – could have been ruled out for 4-6 months.

However, following a surgical consult on Saturday, it was confirmed that Piutau would not require surgery.

The All Black will work with Rory Murray and the club’s medical team throughout the rehabilitation process to return to full fitness.

Head coach Pat Lam said: “We had some really positive news regarding Charles’ shoulder following the surgical consult and it’s great that he won’t be sidelined for too long.

“We don’t want to lose somebody of Charles’ ability for any amount of time, but that’s the nature of the sport and it really underlines the importance of having depth and quality in every position.

“Charles is a hugely positive person and he’s raring to go with his recovery. He’s desperate to play for Bristol Bears and contribute to the team. He will play a big part for the club this season and will be in the mix, battling for a place in the side, in the not too distant future.”

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Bahrain start Champions League with impressive win against Kandy

Matt Jones 2/09/2018
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Tom Bell celebrates after his try for Bahrain. Pic courtesy of ThePapare.com.

Louie Tonkin praised the impact of his new players as well as a handful returning from long-term injuries as Bahrain beat Kandy to put themselves in the driving seat to claim the maiden trophy of the 2018/19 season.

Bahrain are competing alongside the Sri Lankan champions as well as Abu Dhabi Harlequins in the pre-season Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League tournament – which has acted as the traditional curtain-raiser to the Gulf rugby season since 2015.

The West Asia Cup champions won 31-20 in Sri Lanka, with Tonkin all the more pleased as it was his side’s first run-out of pre-season, having been training for just a month.

“I’m very happy with the win. It was a great performance considering we’re only four weeks into the pre-season,” said the Welshman, who led the club to their first trophy in eight years as they beat Dubai Exiles in last term’s West Asia Cup final.

“The most pleasing thing was the new boys who were making their debuts had a good performance. We had three long-term injuries back too and they played extremely well.

“Adam Wallace missed most of last season and came back in and led us exceptionally well. We had three yellow cards so there was a lot of leadership needed and he was immense for us in the middle and carried a lot of ball.

“We also had Ross Preedy and Rich Muncaster off the bench. Munky’s been out for almost a year so it was very pleasing to get him out there.

“He played very well and got us a penalty try that got us the bonus point late on, so very, very happy and looking forward to the next challenge which is (Abu Dhabi) Quins in two weeks.”

Kandy travel to Abu Dhabi this weekend before Bahrain host Quins on September 14 in what is likely to be a showdown for the trophy.

“The guys’ intent to win was excellent,” added Tonkin.

“We spoke about making sure we win the battle of the effort. It was huge to go there and start with a win and build some momentum.

“I was pleased with the defence. The guys worked hard for each other. We were defending 13 or 14 phases which is pretty unheard of in our league.

“In attack we wanted to strangle them and play very direct and I’m happy with the way that went. It was the right thing to do for the first game. We thought we would be more physical than them but we’ll try and open that up now as we go forward.”

Lindsey Gibson went over at the back of a driving maul to open the scoring before Thilina Wijesinghe’s penalty made it 5-3.

Luke Radley made it 8-3 when he added a three-pointer midway through the half, and another two made it 14-3 at the break to Bahrain.

The visitors exerted their dominance further after the interval when Suna Famitao crossed wide on the left, Radley failing to land the touchline conversion, as Tonkin’s men led 19-3.

Kandy’s efforts were finally rewarded as Buwaneka Udangamuwa found himself in space and did well to get a pass out to Wishwamithra Jayasinghe, who touched down in the left-hand corner to score their first try of the game.

Wijesinghe’s conversion made it 19-10 and his penalty then cut the gap to six.

Two tries in just two minutes killed Kandy’s comeback though, Tom Bell and a penalty try taking the men in red clear. Burnwell’s effort came after he burst through two tackles before impressively outsprinting the cover defence on his way over the line.

Repeated scrum infringements led to the fourth, bonus point score, with Lahiru Daulagala’s late try only a consolation as Bahrain left the Nittawela Stadium in confident mood as they look to end Quins’ two-year reign as champions.

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