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Clermont plan raid on Japan's Top League to bolster depleted side: reports

By James Harrington
David Strettle

Top 14 side Clermont are planning a raid on Japan’s Top League to bolster their injury-ravaged three-quarter line, according to reports.

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They have their eyes on Panasonic Wild Knights’ Australian Digby Ioane (32) and two stars from Toshiba Brave Lupus – 53-cap 2011 World Cup-winner Cory Jane (34) and 17-cap All Black Richard Kahui (32) – French rugby media have said.

The desperate Japanese recruitment drive comes after veteran centre Aurelien Rougerie and winger David Strettle – as well as stalwart hooker Benjamin Kayser – were injured in Clermont’s first home defeat of the season against Castres at the weekend.

They join prop Loni Uhila; lock Sitaleki Timani; flankers Camille Gérondeau and Judicaël Cancoriet; scrum halves Greig Laidlaw and Charlie Cassang; fly-halves Camille Lopez, Patricio Fernandez and Luke McAlister; wings Alivereti Raka and Noa Nakaitaci; and centres Damian Penaud, Remi Lamerat and Wesley Fofana on an injury list that is longer than the club’s Sunday name of Association Sportive Montferrandaise Clermont Auvergne.

With player stocks already badly depleted, the latest injuries could not have come at a worse time for Clermont. As reported, Rougerie will be out for a month with a knee injury. Strettle (ligament strain) and Kayser (concussion) will also miss the weekend’s Top 14 trip to Racing 92’s U Arena for the last round of domestic league action before the fifth and sixth rounds of the Champions Cup kick off.

Clermont are top of Pool Two in Europe, with four wins from four, including back-to-back victories over Saracens. But quarter-final qualification is still not guaranteed. A win at Northampton or at home against Ospreys would be sufficient, but that queue of players outside the physio’s room will be a concern for coach Franck Azema.

In a rare slice of good news, another prop Davit Zirakashvili returned to action off the bench for the first time since November 6 against Castres.

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Of the potential new recruits from Japan, only Ioane has experience of the French domestic competition. He arrived at Stade Francais in 2013, after a successful run with Queensland Reds and the Wallabies. According to reports, he struggled with the change in culture and language. Rumour has it he sounded out then-Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie about an early return to Australia before the end of the first season of his two-year contract.

In the end, he stuck out the full term of his deal – scoring five times in 25 matches – before moving to Honda Heat in Japan, where he played 22 times before switching to Panasonic Wild Knights.

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finn 3 hours ago
Why the world needs a reverse Lions tour

I think there’s a lot of reasons this wouldn’t work, but if we’re just proposing fun things how about a “World Series” held the june/july following a world cup. The teams competing each four years would be: the current world champions The Pacific Islands The British & Irish Lions The World XV Barbarians FC to ensure all teams are fairly evenly matched, the current world champions would name their squad first; then The Pacific Islands would name next, and would be able to select any pacific qualified players not selected by the world champions, including players already “captured” by non-pacific nations who would otherwise have been eligible for selection (eg. Bundee Aki); the Lions would select next; and then The World XV and Barbarians FC would be left to fight over anyone not selected. Some people will point out that 5 teams is too many for a mid-year round robin, particularly as it would be nice to have a final as well; and they would be right! But because we’re just having fun here we’re going to innovate an entirely new format for rugby, where the round robin is played in one stadium over the course of one day, with each game lasting just 40 minutes with no half time or change of ends. The round robin decides the seedings for the knockouts, which are contested by all 5 teams in one stadium over the course of one day, according to the following schedule: Knockout Round 1: seed 5 v seed 4 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Quarter Final: winner of Round 1 v seed 3 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Semi Final: winner of Quarter Final v seed 2 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Final: winner of Semi Final v seed 1 (played as a standard 80 minute rugby match) for the round robin, teams would name a 15 man starting lineup and a 16 man bench. Substitutions during games can only be made for injuries, but any number of substitutions can be made between games. The same rules apply for the finals, except that we return to having a regular 8 man bench, and would allow substitutions as normal during the 80 minute final.

11 Go to comments
S
Simon 6 hours ago
Is the Six Nations balance of power shifting?

There are a few issues with the article. Despite somehow getting to a RWC semi final, England are nowhere near Probable status and should be swapped with Scotland on current form. France’s failure at RWC 23 has massively hit their mindset. Psychologically, they need a reset of gigantic proportions otherwise they will revert to, Top 14 first, international rugby an afterthought again. Ireland are allowed to play the way they are by less than acceptable officiating. Make no bones about it, with Easterby coaching, Ireland cheat, they break the rules at almost every facet of the game and generally referees, influenced by the media that Ireland are somehow playing the best rugby in the world, allow them. Scrums - Porter never pushes straight and immediately turns in. The flankers lose their binds and almost latch on to the opposition props. Rucks - they always and I mean always clear out from the side and take players out beyond the ball, effectively taking them out of being ready for the next phase. Not once do green shirts enter rucks from the rear foot. Referees should be made to look at the video of the game against Wales and see that Irish backs and forwards happily enter rucks from the side to effect a clearout, thus giving them the sub 3 second ruck speed everybody dreams about. They also stand in offside positions at rucks to ‘block’ opposing players from making clear tackles allowing the ball carrier to break the gainline almost every time. They then turn and are always ahead of play and therefore enter subsequent rucks illegally. Mauls - there is always a blocker between the ball catcher and the opposition. It is subtle but it is there. Gatland still needs to break the shackles and allow his team a bit more freedom to play rugby. He no longer has a team of 16 stone plus players who batter the gainline. He has to adapt and be more thoughtful in attack. Scotland are playing well but they have the creaky defence that leaks tries.

23 Go to comments
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