Rugby

Japan Top League on hold

The competition had been due to start this weekend but with 10 positive tests at Kobe Steelers on Thursday taking the total to 67 league-wide, organisers said they were now aiming for a mid-February start.

Last year's season was cancelled entirely because of the pandemic.

"Japan Rugby Football Union and Top League have had discussions and we want to do everything we can to have this year's Top League season," said JRFU Chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi.

Argentina overhaul team for second crack at All Blacks

Ledesma had made only minor tweaks to his side for last week's clash against the Wallabies after the breakthrough win over New Zealand in their tournament opener, but drew fully on his squad for Thursday's team announcement.

Nicolas Sanchez, who has scored all of Argentina's 40 points in their first two matches, remains at first-five with inspirational captain Pablo Matera and Marcos Kremer retained in the back row and Guido Petti at lock.

England too good for Ireland

England top the group A standings with nine points with one game remaining away to Wales next week and remain on course for a potential competition decider at home against France or Scotland, who meet tomorrow.

It was something of a strange performance from England, who were always in control but barely fired an attacking shot in the second half, seemingly content to display their admittedly impressive defensive organisation and aggression as Ireland banged away in midfield.

SANZAAR, Six Nations in talks over global rugby calendar

Southern hemisphere rugby body SANZAAR and the Six Nations have entered a consultation process aimed at creating an aligned global rugby calendar "in total transparency with unions, clubs and players".

The hope is to have international windows that are aligned between the northern and southern hemisphere, to lessen the overlap between club and country fixtures and free players from domestic commitments for internationals.

Rugby's Olympics involvement under threat following World Rugby elections scandal - report

Kean was the official nominated by the Fijian Rugby Union – and seconded by France – to run for a place on World Rugby’s executive committee, but that nomination has since been withdrawn following revelations of a manslaughter conviction in 2007.

Fresh allegations of homophobia and discrimination also contributed to Kean’s demise from the global organising body’s ruling council, and that could impact whether rugby remains in the Olympics.

Masoe heading home prematurely

Masoe suffered a career-ending spinal injury in a pre-season friendly in January.

The Samoa international has made great progress with his recovery, but was informed on Monday that he must leave Pinderfields Hospital this week amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Masoe says he is not ready to be discharged and warned people who are not obeying government lockdown rules that they should understand the consequences of their actions.

Ardie Savea named rugby player of the year

Savea was awarded the supreme award the Kelvin Tremain trophy at an awards dinner at the SkyCity Convention Centre in Auckland on Thursday evening.

He also picked up the All Blacks player of the year award and also Super Rugby player of the year.

Savea was not at the awards, however, having undergone knee surgery on Wednesday.

Black Ferns Sevens co-coaches Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney were named New Zealand Coaches of the Year, and the Black Ferns Sevens were crowned New Zealand Team of the Year for a second consecutive year.

Tonga to finalise Rugby World Cup squad this week

The 'Ikale Tahi held on to defeat the Western Force 19-15 in Nukuʻalofa on Saturday in their first home match for two years.

Despite the wet conditions, head coach Toutai Kefu said it was a great experience for the squad to be back in Tonga and have the chance to connect with local fans.

"Apart from the downpour it would have been a really good spectacle but nevertheless everyone enjoyed playing back at home," he said.

Tonga target Japanese pace

The Brave Blossoms opened their PNC campaign with an impressive 34-21 victory over Fiji last weekend and 'Ikale Tahi coach Toutai Kefu said the World Cup hosts could not be allowed to dictate today's game.

"Japan are a very formidable side. If they get their own way they're very hard to beat. What I was surprised at was how Fiji defended. I thought they were quite poor there. I've seen much better defence from them. They just pretty much let Japan have it their own way and play their own style," Kefu said.

Pivac and Wales to face Gatland

Pivac will replace Gatland in charge of the Six Nations Grand Slam champions following this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

But Gatland, who has led Wales for 12 years, will soon return to Cardiff as the Baa-Baas coach, adding an intriguing narrative to Pivac's debut match.

Pivac said: "The Barbarians are a special side and it will be a great way to start my Wales career facing the Baa-Baas and, of course, Warren.