Will Rugby World Cup 2023 Answer Irelands Call 

Last weeks ‘Roar” looked at the French bid to host the Rugby World cup in 2023.

Today we look at the Irish claim, exactly one week before the Ireland 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid Presentation delegation present the emerald isle’s case to World Rugby, in London, on Monday September 25th, spearheaded by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD.

I would imagine that the Blarney Stone will be getting a fair bit of attention this week, but just in case that fails then  U2 and Bob Geldof will provide video pieces to strengthen the Irish cause, Geldof will recite the WB Yeats’ poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

Liam Neeson has also narrated the bids accompanying video so there is no shortage of big name backing.

The presentation team includes Dick Spring, Chairman, Ireland 2023 Oversight Board; Philip Browne, Chief Executive, IRFU; David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Philip Orr, President, IRFU; Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland’s Bid Ambassador and Niamh Briggs, Captain of Ireland Women’s Rugby Team

The team believe their presentation will reflect the vision and strong commercial credentials of Ireland’s proposition but also, critically, the creativity of the Irish people, which is what, they say, will make Ireland 2023 a tournament like no other.

The global distribution of Irish folk is a very important element of the bid, which   intends to demonstrate just how crucial they can be in assisting Ireland, and World Rugby, create a global stadium of 70 million people for rugby’s greatest showpiece, and in ensuring the eyes of the world will be focussed on Ireland and rugby for 6 solid weeks in 2023.

Twelve stadia have been designated for action north and south including the magnificent and iconic Croke Park

An enthusiastic team member told me

“We have spent more than 4 years assembling a world class bid and we are now very much looking forward to presenting a truly exciting and compelling vision, full of Irish spirit, to the Council on September 25th.”

Ireland are one of 3 countries presenting to World Rugby delegates in London on September 25th, the others being South Africa and France.

Each will have 30 minutes to make a formal presentation, followed by a question and answer session.

The final decision will be announced, following a vote involving the constituent Unions and associations of World Rugby, on November 15th.


France 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid Rocked By Scandal 

French president Emmanuel Macron’s has withdrawn as head of France’s delegation to visit World Rugby in London, on September 25th, amidst the latest scandal to engulf French rugby, the timing could not be much worse, just when a pivotal presentation needs to be made in a bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Rival bidders Ireland and South Africa must be rubbing their hands with glee.

Macron originally announced with great pride that he would be happy to personally lead the presentation, one of five to speak on behalf of the French bid.

The reason for the presidents change of heart has been officially been given as ‘a clash in schedule’  but the recent scandal that has engulfed French rugby president Bernard Laporte is the more likely explanation, and the fact that France’s minister for sport Laura Flessel has ordered an inquiry into the affair, makes it even more understandable why the President has chosen to distance himself from the situation.

Laporte, a former French national coach and a sports minister under Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, was accused of using his direct influence to have disciplinary sanctions against Montpellier reduced by the French Federation de Rugby appeals committee, as a result seven members of the appeals board resigned.

Monpellier rugby club is owned by Syrian-born billionaire businessman Mohed Altrad with whom Bernard Laporte had a direct business relationship.

Also Altrad’s construction company became the first ever shirt sponsors of the French team this year, and he is also a partner in France’s 2023 World Cup bid.

It was also revealed, last month, that Altrad Investment Authority, owned by Altrad, and BL Communication, managed by Laporte, signed a one-year partnership last February.

Montpellier were fined €70,000 and hit by a one-match stadium ban for allowing fans to display banners protesting against the proposed merger between Top 14 teams Racing 92 and Stade Francais last April.

It was reduced the day after it was imposed in June to a €20,000 fine only after Laporte made a phone call to the relevant appeals board.

Laporte rejected the allegations, telling “Le Parisien” newspaper that he didn’t try to influence the board’s decision but telephoned appeals board chairman Jean-Daniel Simonet to offer “political perspective”.

“Journal du Dimanche”  obtained a letter written by appeals board member Philippe Peyramaure to the chairman of the committee, Simonet in which he stated: “I was advised that the president of the federation [Laporte] had intervened to ask that we modify our decision in a way more favourable to Montpellier.”

That refers to an alleged phone call between Laporte and Simonet in which Laporte advocated a softening of the original sanction.

The startling fact is that Since June 30th, seven members of the appeals board have resigned.

Laporte argued that he stepped in to avoid further conflict between the French Rugby Federation and the League Nationale de Rugby (LNR), who are not exactly the best of buddies, a fact underlined by the failed merger of the two Paris Top 14 clubs, Racing 92 and Stade Francais, which ended up in the French courts.

The newspaper “Journal du Dimanche” obtained a letter written by appeals board member Philippe Peyramaure to the chairman of the committee, Simonet in which he stated: “I was advised that the president of the federation [Laporte] had intervened to ask that we modify our decision in a way more favourable to Montpellier.”

Laporte’s BL Communication ended their business arrangement with Altrad but there was more bad news for the FFR president when French sports minister Laura Flessel summoned him to her office .

My office has talked with him, he has submitted files, we are in full reflection. We expect further feedback and then we will have to decide,” she said.

She added that France’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid would go ahead “with or without” Laporte’s involvement.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for France’s world cup bid the French federation were forced into a public apology by World Rugby, for a tweet they posted, in which they suggested that a technical study conducted by World Rugby had France ahead in the race to host the 2023 World Cup.

The FFR tweeted the following apology on Thursday morning: “The FFR apologise for an inaccurate and misleading tweet it published on September 5 regarding the evaluation phase of the host selection process. It was incorrect to state that as a result of a technical study by World Rugby, the FFR is the leading candidate to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

“The FFR respects that the host selection and evaluation process is not complete and we reiterate our full support for a fair and robust process operated by World Rugby and its independent advisors.”

And to make matters even worse Phillipe Folliot, president of Rugby Parliamentary Friendship Society in France who, whilst supporting the Rugby World Cup bid, described it as “a big dress rehearsal” for the 2024 Paris Olympics adding that it was a “chance to test security”.

World Rugby are going to love their tournament being thought of as an aperitif to the Olympics, and if there is an event for the individual shooting of feet in the Paris Olympics, then France will bring home the gold.

Ireland, France and South Africa will make their final presentations to World Rugby in London on September 25th while the host for the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be announced at the governing body’s council meeting on November 15th.



A League Of Their Own Tyrrells Premier 15S 

With 10 clubs in a league format, the Tyrrells Premier 15s starts on September 16 and the clubs will play each other home and away, with the top four progressing to a two-leg semifinal stage and the winners to a final on April 29.

The RFU will invest £2.4 million over the next three seasons in the league and crisp-manufacturer Tyrrells is the first major sponsor of a women’s rugby competition in England.

It is understood these matches will be shown free of charge on the RFU website, although there are also plans to consider streaming via Facebook and other online platforms.

The launch of the new women’s league comes at a crucial moment for the sport after England’s run to the Women’s Rugby World Cup final, which ended with a frustrating but compelling defeat by New Zealand and the controversy over the RFU’s funding of the women’s team.

Following England’s victory at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup in France, the RFU first handed out central contracts to female players in 2014 to help them prepare for the inaugural Olympic sevens competition at Rio 2016, which saw an England-dominated Great Britain side narrowly miss out on a medal.

Fifty central contracts were awarded in 2016, 17 of them full-time, for the build-up to this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup but it was always planned that some of those contracts would not be renewed after the tournament as the focus reverted to sevens in 2018

Despite wide calls for a rethink on the central contracts decision, the RFU has stuck to its strategy of targeting funding at the most relevant format of the game in each competition cycle and concentrated its efforts on increasing England’s talent pool and developing a sustainable financial model.

This is why it is so keen to promote the Tyrrells Premier 15s, which it sees as a commitment to the women’s game unrivalled in world rugby and a key plank in its strategy to double the number of female players in England to 50,000 by 2021.

The inaugural Tyrrells Premier 15s season launched last Thursday with all 10 club captains, coaches and club directors of rugby attending an event at Twickenham Stadium.

 England Women’s captain Sarah Hunter, Wasps Director of Rugby, Giselle Mather and Nigel Melville discussed how the new competition will revolutionise the existing landscape of women’s domestic rugby.


Nigel Melville, RFU Director of Professional Rugby said: “It’s about raising the standard of the game and giving the athletes and clubs the support they need to be better. There was a gap between our club game and our international game so we wanted to put in a place a competition that was aspirational for younger players. We hope to double the number women and girls playing the game over the next four years to 50,000 players and a lot of them will want to participate in this league. This will help create better players.”


England Women captain and newly appointed Loughborough Lightening assistant coach and player Sarah Hunter said “The new Tyrrells Premier 15s is where the game needs to be in terms of professionalism, high-quality coaching as well as support from strength and conditioning as well as medical teams. The league has been crying out for this for years and for the RFU to come in and transform it is fantastic. It’s great to be involved in it on and off the pitch.”

Wasps Director of Rugby, Giselle Mather said: “I can already see the difference the increase investment is having at my club. The athletes are really excited, there is a huge buzz about the place. We have an strength and conditioning department now, the medical team has improved and everything is there for them because of the sponsorship we have got. The excitement is palpable. We can’t wait until the 16th for the competition to begin”


A new website, Premier15s.com will officially launch ahead of next weekend’s first round of of fixtures.


Tyrrells Premier 15s will operate in a league format with home and away fixtures confirmed today. The top four teams will progress to semi-finals played over two legs, culminating in a final on the 29th April. 

Full list of fixtures

Willie Duggan A Life Lived To The Full

Two weeks ago on a bright Sunday morning, I took the DART railway from Lansdowne Road, which skirted beautifully around sun-kissed Dublin bay, before arriving at Blackrock, a sleepy seaside town that overlooks the bay.

A town synonymous with Irish Rugby, the home of Blackrock College RFC, one of the oldest senior rugby clubs in Ireland, established in 1882, the club that produced so many great players, including Fergus Slattery, Brian O’Driscoll, Alain Rolland, and one William Patrick Duggan.

Little did I think that just a short time later, I would be reflecting Willie’s entire life, after hearing the news, last Monday, of his sudden and untimely death at the age of sixty-seven.


Willie Duggan In Blackrock Colours

Willie Duggan was a larger than life character from the amateur and wild days of rugby, he was as hard as nails, played 41 times for Ireland, and toured New Zealand with the 1977 British Lions playing in all four tests against the All Blacks.

The 1977 Lions To NZ With Willie Duggan Circled

His first cap for Ireland came in the 12-9 defeat of England at Lansdowne Road, in the 1975 Five nations.

In 1977 he became the first man to be sent off in a five nations match, (along with Geoff Wheel), following a punch up during the Wales v Ireland match in Cardiff.

Duggan always maintained that he was never sent off. “The ref came towards me and said would you mind leaving the field”, I said “Sure not at all, I was b******d anyway”

He scored two tries for his country and captained Ireland in his final international, a 32-9 defeat to Scotland at Lansdowne Road in 1984.

A heavy smoker during his playing days, once when running on to the field at Twickenham, when Ireland were playing England, he handed his cigarette to referee Alan Hosie before kick off.

Willie had what he himself called a pathological dislike of training.

His one concession to fitness being a breakfast of half a dozen raw eggs on the morning of a match.

“I always had the philosophy that if you took 30 players out for a night, and made sure they were p****d before they got to bed at 3am, then got them up at 8am, trained the bejasus out of them, then you would know who was up to lasting 80 minutes in an international”

Willie lived and worked in Kilkenny, where he ran “Willie Duggan Lighting Ltd” the shop he took over from his father, and with his passing one very bright light has certainly been extinguished.

There was never a dull moment with Willie Duggan, particularly when he was in the company of his great mate Maurice Ignatius Keane, and the pair of them became “legends” on the 77 Lions tour for their riotous behaviour, where “Moss” Keane earned the nickname “Rent-A-Storm.

With “Moss” having left us in 2010, the two of them are now reunited, which is desperately  sad for us but heavenly for them.

Rest in peace boys.


WRWC Final 2017 Roses & Ferns Blooming Marvellous !

Cyathea Medullaris and Rosales were nearly everyone’s predictions for the women’s World Cup final participants at the start of the tournement.

Or to give them their non scientific names, Black Ferns and Red Roses, a final that could be described as a horticulturalists dream.

But there are startling similarities between the rugby and flora aspects of both.

The Black Fern can grow quite large, block out Roses and will take advantage of any open space regardless of sun and shade.

Red Roses are extremely versatile, hardy (or even Amy Wilson Hardy) and can be placed in a variety of locations where they will flourish.

Planted in Dublin on August 9 they blossomed in the mixture of rain and warm sunshine that visited the Emerald Isle through the tournament, and were  hoping to reach full bloom in Belfast on Saturday night.

The Red Roses put on a magnificent first half display showing their true colours, and  put the Black Ferns well and truly in the shade.

But in an astonishing second half the Black Ferns suffocated the Red Roses, they blocked out every space and every chunk of light, and they trampled all over them causing an inevitable wilting and a 41-32 final score line.

But Roses will flourish once again, so now it is important that any required pruning takes place,that they are tended, cared for and nurtured to enable them to bloom again in early February. 

Harlequins Launch Women And Girl Programmes

At a sunny Stoop this morning Harlequins formally launched their Women and Girls programme ahead of the 2017/18 season.

In doing so, the Club has reaffirmed its commitment to growing and developing the women’s game by creating a pathway from grassroots to elite international rugby.

Girls can be introduced to the game through the Harlequins Foundation’s Switch programme and can then become more formally affiliated with the sport through the Harlequin Amateurs girls’ section.

Developing through minis, junior and teenage rugby, the option to play at a social or elite adult level is available through the Harlequins Ladies third, second and first teams.
The Harlequins first and second teams will compete in the RFU’s elite structures, while the third team will compete within the National Challenge 1 SE West League.

Commenting on the launch, Harlequins Global Development and Academy Director Tony Diprose said: “Developing women’s rugby is a key part of Harlequins’ five-year strategy as the Club looks to support the expansion of the game into new markets. Today is a landmark moment for Harlequins and we are so proud to be able to offer a programme that will enable aspiring girls to play and represent this great club at a high level.”

Formally launching the programme at The Stoop, members of the Harlequins Ladies first, second and third teams inspired the future generation of players by running a coaching session for 50 children on the pitch.

Participants included those on the Harlequins Foundation’s Switch programme, affiliated community clubs, and Harlequins Junior Members.

Under the watchful eyes of Harlequins Ladies co-Head Coaches Karen Findlay and Gary Street, the session was an exciting beginning to this long-term project.

“Today was about putting Harlequins at the forefront of the women’s game,” Street said. “We are all incredibly excited to be part of this venture in driving the development of our sport in a local, national and international environment.

“The interest in women’s rugby is ever increasing and we will be capitalising on the success of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, in which Harlequins has nine representatives, ahead of the inaugural Tyrell’s Premier 15s competition and beyond.”

In February, the RFU confirmed Harlequins’ place in the newly-formed Tyrell’s Premier 15s competition, which kicks off next month.

Having partnered with League and Cup champions Aylesford Bulls Ladies last season, they have been formally brought under the Harlequins umbrella, alongside the Harlequin Amateurs and Harlequins Ladies 3rd XV, for the 2017/18 season. 

Playing their home matches at Surrey Sports Park, Guildford, the Club has also confirmed that three matches will take place at The Stoop, against Bristol Ladies, Richmond, and Saracens.

Womens Rugby Where Do We Go From Here ?

There are 2.2 million women and girls now playing rugby at all levels, an increase of 142% since 2012, making it one of the fastest growing team sports in the world.

Katie Sadlier is World Rugby’s general manager of womens rugby, and there is an awful lot of corporate jargon and business speak in what she has to say, from intergrated development pathways to best practice governance standards, but I guess ever since the day a clearance kick became a defensive exit strategy there was no going back grammatically.

But in plain English, by 2025 the governing body has an ambition is to be a global leader in sport, where women have equal opportunities on and off the field play.

To this end “World Rugby Women’s Plan 2017-2025” is due to be cibsidered by the World Rugby Council in November.

I have been told that this plan has involved a consultation process involving  fans, unions, regional associations and broadcast partners in an attempt to generate increased interest in the women’s game, attract new investment and maximise the sports commercial value.

There is no mention of the players being consulted, most of whom at this World Cup will end up severely out of pocket, and with all their annual leave used up, but sadly thats nothing new.

Women’s rugby is a sleeping giant, the queues of people outside the UCD Bowl last week begging for tickets to watch Ireland v Japan was something I hadn’t seen in rugby since Wales v France at Cardiff Arms Park in 1978.

Ireland v Japan UCD Bowl

The Irish Rugby Union could have trebled ticket sales for the pool stages of this years tournament had they chosen Donnybrook or a similar larger venue as opposed to University College.

Also media demands need to be met and catered for to spread the word, not just the newspaper journos but also those on social media and electronic mediums who with the touch of a button can bring the wonders of the great occasion to phones iPads and computers by the tens of thousands.

We await with interest the “World Rugby Women’s Plan 2017-2025” I’ve already got my dictionary on hand to decipher it.

If it mentions stakeholders, then mine’s a medium eight ounce rib eye.