England and British & Irish Lions star Anthony Watson signs new Bath deal

Duncan Bech 14/11/2018
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The Lions drew 1-1 with the All Blacks in 2017.

England wing Anthony Watson is one of four players to have agreed contract extensions with Bath.

Second rows Charlie Ewels and Elliott Stooke and prop Nathan Catt have also signed new terms with the Premiership club, but it is Watson who is the key member of the quartet to be retained.

The 24-year-old British & Irish Lions wing, who can also play full-back, is in his fifth season at the Recreation Ground.

An automatic selection by Eddie Jones when fit, his England career has stalled this year due to repeat Achilles surgery and he is not expected to make his comeback until the midway stage of the Six Nations.

“Anthony is a role model to our players with his work ethic and commitment to the club,” Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder said.

“He’s currently out with an Achilles injury but that has not stopped him working tirelessly with our medical team to ensure he gets back to the field performing at the levels he expects of himself asap.”

Back rows Taulupe Faletau and Zach Mercer, wing Semesa Rokoduguni and prop Beno Obano recently signed new deals at Bath.

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Wales great Neil Jenkins criticises "unbelievable" Halfpenny decision

Andrew Baldock 13/11/2018
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Neil Jenkins has a stark warning for Wales.

Neil Jenkins has described as “unbelievable” the decision not to award Wales a penalty against Australia after the challenge that floored full-back Leigh Halfpenny.

The Welsh Rugby Union confirmed on Monday that Halfpenny is suffering from concussion and currently following relevant protocols.

The 80-cap Scarlets star was forced off following the 73rd-minute challenge by Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi.

Kerevi clattered into Halfpenny after the Wales player kicked to touch from inside his own 22, leaving him sprawled on the turf.

But referee Ben O’Keeffe took no action against Kerevi, before Wales claimed their first win against Australia for 10 years when Dan Biggar, who replaced Halfpenny, struck a 77th-minute penalty to secure a 9-6 victory.

“It’s unbelievable, how do you think that’s not a penalty?” Wales kicking coach Jenkins told WRU TV.

Leigh Halfpenny endured an off-day against the Aussies, missing two presentable kicks at goal before being floored late on.

Leigh Halfpenny endured an off-day against the Aussies, missing two presentable kicks at goal before being floored late on.

“I’m not quite sure what the rules state at this time, but Leigh is a tough old player who is constantly getting up and playing on and doesn’t go down lightly.

“For him to go down and suffer an HIA (head injury assessment), there is certainly some form of head contact.

“The referee didn’t think so on the day, so we’ve just got to get on with it. He will go through his protocols and see where he is later in the week.”

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is expected to make wholesale changes for next Saturday’s Principality Stadium clash against Tonga, which Halfpenny would probably have been rested for anyway.

But he will be key to hopes of beating South Africa in 12 days’ time, with Wales needing two more wins after defeating Scotland and Australia for a first autumn Tests clean sweep.

Samson Lee, meanwhile, has been released from the Wales squad due to a hamstring injury.

The WRU said that prop Lee, who was not available for Wales’ opening November games against Scotland and Australia, has been released back to the Scarlets for further treatment.

Wing George North and prop Tomas Francis both went off with knocks early in the second half against Australia, and Jenkins added: “We’re hoping Tomas Francis will be okay for the weekend, and it’s the same with George North.

“The boys are a bit battered and bruised because it was a tough, tough Test match, as you would always expect against Australia.

“We managed to scrape through for the first time in 10 years to make it back-to-back victories at the start of the autumn for the first time. We are very upbeat.”

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Brian O'Driscoll and Tana Umaga finally bury the hatchet over 2005 Lions tour

Nick Purewal 13/11/2018
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Brian O'Driscoll lies prone on the pitch during the first Lions and All Blacks Test in 2005.

Brian O’Driscoll and Tana Umaga insist any lingering scars from the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour have finally healed.

O’Driscoll admitted he still carries regrets over the fallout from Umaga and Keven Mealamu’s tackle that left him with a dislocated shoulder and ended his tour of New Zealand just 41 seconds into the first Test in 2005.

Some 13 years after the flashpoint, the former Ireland and New Zealand captains sat down together in Dublin – to draw a line under the incident, and the aftershocks, once and for all.

Even on last year’s Lions tour – the first back in New Zealand since O’Driscoll’s injury cut short his captaincy in 2005 – Umaga was not inclined to address the issue.

But finally the pair have come together, revealing that over a sequence of meetings and with no little humour, the hatchet has been buried.

“We parked it a long time ago,” said O’Driscoll, meeting up with Umaga ahead of Ireland facing New Zealand in Dublin on Saturday.

“It was one of those things. Was it unfortunate? Yeah. Should you have dealt with it slightly differently? Yeah.

All smiles: All Black captain Tana Umaga and Lions skipper Brian O'Driscoll ahead of the 2005 series.

All smiles: All Black captain Tana Umaga and Lions skipper Brian O’Driscoll ahead of the 2005 series.

“You’ve got to move on. You can’t bring those sorts of things through life.

“Listen, we’re able to have a laugh and take the p*** about it now, properly.

“Sometimes you don’t get an opportunity to meet up with people in a controlled environment. We see each other at events here and there and have a quick word.

“Actually, to have a get together and chew the fat and properly get to talk and not feel scarred by it is refreshing and, I hope, it’s dead after this.”

New Zealand stars Umaga and Mealamu upended O’Driscoll at a ruck in the first Lions Test in Christchurch in 2005. O’Driscoll dislocated his shoulder and his tour was over.

Neither All Black faced punishment at the time or after the match, sending the Lions into a frenzy. Coach Sir Clive Woodward and spin doctor Alastair Campbell went on the offensive, but to no avail.

O’Driscoll was upset Umaga had not checked on his well-being on the night. Umaga later branded the Ireland and Lions skipper a “sook”, Kiwi slang for cry-baby, in his autobiography.

The Lions and All Blacks drew the 2017 series.

The Lions and All Blacks drew the 2017 series.

Few rugby feuds have lingered longer, or seemingly with such depth of feeling.

When the Lions faced Auckland on last year’s New Zealand tour, Umaga suggested it was time to move on. Centre Sonny Bill Williams even interrupted a press conference question directed at the now-Auckland coach Umaga as interest in the incident refused to dissipate.

“We had a great dinner; that was the key thing for us, to have time together,” said Umaga, as the pair spoke together.

“You pass each other fleetingly at matches and engagements. To really sit down and chew the fat around that was great.

“That’s just part of this game. We can’t change the past. Yet, it is something whenever I do something that I get asked about.

“It is well settled between us as Brian has said. Hopefully this will really put it behind people and we will make peace with it now.”

O’Driscoll conceded this issue should have been long since confronted, but revealed his relief at now fostering a much-improved relationship with Umaga.

“It dragged on probably longer than it should have because, maybe, it wasn’t nipped in the bud,” said O’Driscoll.

“There are some things you wish you could go back and change. From my point of view, I am sure Tana too, there are aspects there too I wish I could have done differently too.

“We met up during the summer at a golf event and it was like being back at school with your mates.

“As ex-players when you park the international stuff you are able to get on all the more because that adversarial aspect is not there anymore.

“The smart thing would have been not to have waited 13 years to do this; it might have worked out a little better.”

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