Negotiations ongoing to stop Welsh strike
t may have been a down-weekend in the Six Nations, but the drama continued off the park in Wales where there remains a real chance the players will strike this week and force their game against England to be called off.
Negotiations are ongoing and it appears today that agreement has been reached on two of the main sticking points between the players’ representatives and the WRU.
The union have conceded their position on the controversial 60-cap rule which prevents the national team from selecting players with fewer than 60 caps playing abroad, while they are also open to co-opting a players’ representative on to the Professional Games Board.
However, the biggest sticking point remains pay as the players dig their heels in on the amount of their wages that would be guaranteed rather than incentives-based.
Dropping the 60-cap rule would make the regions even less competitive, so incentives-based deals are unattractive to players competing with squads on bigger budgets from Ireland, Scotland, England, France and South Africa.
Negotiations are continuing in a bid to save the fixture.
In reality, if the game against England doesn’t go ahead the financial hit would be so large there wouldn’t be any money to pay anyone.
England call for Ford
George Ford’s stock has been rising steadily during his injury-enforced absence and it was little surprise to see him recalled to Steve Borthwick’s squad over the weekend.
The duo worked together at Leicester Tigers where Ford adapted to the former second-rower’s conservative tactics perfectly, curtailing his creative impulses to play a controlled kicking game that got the Midlands club all the way to the Premiership final.
Injury prevented him from getting them over the line before he moved to Sale, but as Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell struggled to gel in his absence it’s seemed increasingly likely that Ford’s return was on the way.
Does he go straight back in against Wales after just 80 minutes of rugby for Sale? It wouldn’t be a surprise.
Number of the day
10 – Ireland have never picked up bonus point wins in their first two Six Nations fixtures
Gilroy dances his way into oblivion
A “mixed bag”. That’s how Joe Schmidt rated Craig Gilroy’s performance in Ireland’s 63-10 win over Italy in Rome in 2017.
The Ulster winger had just bagged a hat-trick at the Stadio Olimpico, but that didn’t impress his Kiwi coach much. So unimpressed was Schmidt, that Gilroy never played for him again.
It was the Ulster winger’s first Six Nations appearance under the ex-Leinster supremo and he came off the bench to replace Robbie Henshaw early in the second-half, dancing his way to three impressive tries.
If he was basking in the moment, it didn’t last.
“I thought it was a mixed bag for Craig,” Schmidt said.. “There was a couple of defensive things, positionally, that I think he’ll learn from.”
It wasn’t a hat-trick thing. CJ Stander also bagged three that day and was a firm favourite of the coach.
Ireland 64 Italy 10
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw (Craig Gilroy 47), Simon Zebo (Ian Keatley 75); Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray (Kieran Marmion 69); Cian Healy (Jack McGrath 51), Niall Scannell (James Tracy 63), Tadhg Furlong (John Ryan 54); Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner (Ultan Dillane 61); CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien (Josh van der Flier 69), Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Davidson back coaching with Castres
Not strictly Six Nations news, but former Ireland second-row Jeremy Davidson has gone back into coaching with his old club Castres.
The 1997 Lion was relieved of his duties by bottom side Brive in October, but he hasn’t had to wait long for his opportunity after Castres sacked Pierre-Henry Broncan after last weekend’s loss to La Rochelle.
Castres are 11th in the Top 14 and have turned to ex-Aurillac coach Davidson to steer themselves away from the relegation battle.
Quote of the day
“He is a born leader and galvanises those around him” – David Nucifora heaps praise on Peter O’Mahony who has signed a new contract until the end of next season.