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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Dubai Exiles look to keep unlikely treble dream alive in West Asia Cup final at Bahrain

Matt Jones 28/03/2018
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Dubai Exiles are aiming for the West Asia Cup (Gerhard Botes).

Dubai Exiles head to the cauldron atmosphere of Bahrain on Friday to try and complete the second stage of what would be an unlikely treble, knowing that once again they are the underdogs.

Jacques Benade’s men have been here before this season though. They were second favourites heading to West Asia champions Jebel Ali Dragons a week ago for the West Asia Cup semi-final, but prevailed in a tense contest in which both sides had a man sent off.

They have been underdogs the whole 2017/18 season; first scrapping to repair their damaged reputation following a woeful 2016/17 campaign and then battling back after a promising start was eroded as Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Bahrain and Dragons surged ahead in the Premiership.

They will again be the unfancied side in Saar. An attempt to overturn Jaen Botes’ two yellow cards against Dragons failed, while they already have a few injuries and additional players missing as they’re teachers on school holidays.

But no-one at the club is using these issues to make any excuses, with players and coaches adamant they are heading west to add the West Asia Cup to their Dubai Sevens title.

“We had Tuesday off to recover. The game against Dragons was a belter, but a sore one,” joked Northern Irish lock Stephen Ferguson.

“We’re so happy to come out on the right side of the result but the job’s only half done. Anyone going to Bahrain is an underdog.

“The place is electric to play at. We are all just excited to put on a show for their awesome crowd. And hope we can deliver.

“We love to prove people wrong and we love to prove to ourselves that on our day we can deliver. It’ll be a great game and if you can’t be there, get on Facebook and watch it. One not to be missed.”

South African head coach Benade encapsulated the Exiles approach to the game by defiantly stating: “We are missing a few players due to teacher holidays and injuries, but we are going there to win the final.

“We lost both games to Bahrain this season but we also know that we could have won both. It’s a big ask of the boys but we are always keen for a challenge and proving people wrong.”

Friday will be a special day for the hosts and their head coach Louie Tonkin.

The Welshman has revolutionised the club since coming in nearly two years ago, transforming a middling team into championship contenders.

They were one of four teams fiercely contesting the Premiership title. But having come up short in the big games during his tenure, Bahrain delivered in their semi-final by toppling reigning Cup champions Quins in Abu Dhabi a week ago.

They lost a heartbreaker to Quins in this final 12 months ago, after a storming first half was undone by their opponents’ brilliance in the second. And Tonkin is reminding his team that while they have the advantage of a home final, their lack of experiencing success gives Exiles an edge.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be hosting a final. A really exciting day for the club. It’s been the best part of 10 years since the club hosted anything like this and it’s going to be a fantastic occasion for all involved,” said Tonkin.

“We were ecstatic after the win last week but the focus this week has been bringing ourselves back down to earth and the fact we haven’t won anything yet.

“The boys have worked so hard all season to create this opportunity, to bring home silverware in front of their home crowd.

“But we know Exiles are a good side. Physical pack, great 10, big centres. They’re a real threat to anyone and any team that can go to Dragons twice in a season and win is a dangerous team.

“So we know, despite the results we’ve had against them (Bahrain beat Exiles 18-15 and 19-11 in the Premiership this season), it’s going to be a real battle and one we’re ready for.”

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