Warren Gatland rallies the fans

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Gatland is happy to publicly state he is looking for results in the Autumn series and he admits the time is now right for a big win. “We have got time before the World Cup, but not much time, and we want to see performances this November which show we are going in the right direction.” Wales coach Warren GatlandWarren Gatland has sounded a clarion call to the nation for Wales fans to fill the Millennium Stadium to its rafters for the four Autumn International games.Gatland declared: “We need a big win and the fans, together with the Millennium Stadium factor, can really help us. Once we beat one of these big sides the floodgates will open and we really feel we are on the cusp of having a very special Wales team on our hands “We have reached a tipping point in the development of this side and a full house against the Wallabies for that first game in November could be the thing to take us to that next step and kick start our international season in the most important of years for Welsh rugby.“With both South Africa and Fiji in our World Cup pool next year and New Zealand and Australia leading the rugby world at the moment these matches are also vital potential scalps for us.” He declared that if his team wins against any of the top three nations then the players involved should be a lot closer to selection for the RWC opener against the Springboks next year. “The Wales side on display against the Wallabies on Saturday November 6, if it wins, should closely resemble the side which carries the expectations of a nation on its shoulders in that first RWC outing agains the Boks in less than a year and the same can be said for the Springboks and All Blacks matches,”he said.center_img Tickets for any of the four games are just a phone call or a click away for fans.Visit www.wru.co.uk/tickets or call 08442 777 888 now!last_img read more

Jamie Cudmore forgetting he isn’t in a boxing ring

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS TAGS: Wasps Jamie CudmoreDid someone say 99? Unfortunatley Jamie Cudmore yet again fails to hold back his temper, and Tim Payne is the first to feel a punch from the Clermont blindside, who later sees yellow. It descends into a full-on brawl, with even the crowd joining in!last_img

Rebels welcome the Lions to Melbourne

first_img“Melbourne loves rugby and I expect Victorian rugby supporters to turn out en masse for these games,” Mr Baillieu said. “Our fans are known for their passionate vocal support and this tour will be a hugely exciting event for rugby and for Melbourne and Victoria.The full Lions Tour schedule is:DATE                             MATCH                                                           CITYWednesday, 5 June       Lions v Western Force                                     PerthSaturday, 8 June           Lions v Queensland Reds                                BrisbaneWednesday, 12 June     Lions v Combined NSW-Qld Country             NewcastleSaturday, 15 June         Lions v NSW Waratahs                                   SydneyTuesday, 18 June          Lions v Brumbies                                             CanberraSaturday, 22 June         LIONS v QANTAS WALLABIES                    BrisbaneTuesday, 25 June          Lions v Melbourne Rebels                               MelbourneSaturday, 29 June         LIONS v QANTAS WALLABIES                    MelbourneSaturday, 6 July             LIONS v QANTAS WALLABIES                    Sydney “We see this as another big step forward for Rugby Union in Melbourne. The Rebels enjoyed tremendous support from our members in 2011 and we are thrilled to attract games of this calibre for the local Rubgy Union community. The British and Irish Lions have an illustrious history, dating back to its first official tour in 1910 and we are honoured to be a part of this.“The Lions always attract plenty of travelling supporters and they will be welcomed by our own Rebel Army at AAMI Park. I am sure our Members share our excitement,” Boland said.Victorian Premier and RaboDirect Rebels patron, Ted Baillieu, said the tour was further recognition of Melbourne’s status as Australia’s sporting and major events capital. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu (L) talks with Australian rugby union star Quade Cooper (2/L), ARU Managing Director and CEO John O’Neill (2/R) and Welsh international player Gareth Delve (R) at the announcement of the schedule for the 2013 British and Irish Lion rugby tour, in Melbourne on November 28, 2011. The Lions will play the Wallabies in three Tests on their nine-match tour of Australia in 2013. The Lions, featuring the best players from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, will take on Australia in Brisbane on June 22, Melbourne on June 29 and Sydney on July 6, 2013. AFP PHOTO / WILLIAM WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images) Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu (L) with Quade Cooper (2/L), ARU CEO John O’Neill (2/R) and Gareth Delve (R)Melbourne Rebels CEO, Steven Boland, has welcomed today’s announcement that will see Melbourne host two matches, including one of three Tests, when the British and Irish Lions make their long-awaited return to Australia in 2013.The Lions visit Australia only once every 12 years, and will reignite a rivalry that exploded in 2001 when the Wallabies won a thrilling and sold-out series by two Tests to one.On the 2013 Tour, the Lions will play nine matches around Australia, with two set down for Melbourne under a long-term agreement between the ARU and the Victorian Coalition Government, through the Victorian Major Events Corporation.The five-year, five-event agreement, which includes a solid commitment and ongoing support for the development of Community Rugby activities in Victoria, starts in 2012 with the second Test against Wales at Etihad Stadium on Saturday 16 June. It continues with the two Lions tour matches in 2013, before a Test against France in 2014 and a Test against England in 2016.The centrepiece of the agreement is the two Lions matches, with the Lions spending a week in Melbourne, playing the RaboDirect Rebels on Tuesday 25 June at AAMI Park.Four days later the Lions will face the Qantas Wallabies in the Second Test at Etihad Stadium – the same venue for the corresponding Test back in 2001. RaboDirect Rebels CEO Steven Boland welcomed today’s announcement.last_img read more

Edinburgh sign Georgia international Dimitri Basilaia

first_img Memorable moment: Basilaia scored against England during the RWC in New ZealandEdinburgh Rugby today welcomed a significant boost to the club’s physical dimension with the signing of Georgia number 8 Dimitri Basilaia from Valence d’Agen.The announcement serves as the latest signing for the Murrayfield club, which booked a place in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup with an historic 19-14 win over Toulouse, lining up a clash with RaboDirect PRO12 rivals Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in three weeks’ time.An international ever-present since 2008, Basilaia played a significant role in the much-praised physicality which underpinned Georgia’s Rugby World Cup in 2011.He started all of the nation’s World Cup matches against Romania, Scotland and England – scoring his second international try against the men in white with a trademark surge from the base of the scrum.Subject to a working visa, the 23-time capped 26-year-old will join the club at the start of the next season (2012/13) and will form a key part of an increasingly powerful forward unit being forged at the club, which will also welcome Free State Cheetahs’ prop WP Nel this summer.Basilaia said: “First of all I’d like to congratulate Edinburgh Rugby for their impressive victory over Toulouse in Heineken Cup. It’s a great honour and opportunity for me to join such a high profile club and I’m really looking forward to being part of a very exciting future and playing alongside some very talented players. I’m in great shape, both physically and spiritually, and can’t wait to pull on the black and red shirt of Edinburgh Rugby.” “He’s a fantastic fit for this club and will contribute a huge amount to an increasingly aggressive and combative forward unit at Edinburgh Rugby, while his ball handling skills are such that we can maintain and strengthen our fast-paced, offloading game.“Dima has a tremendous work ethic and attitude to the sport. He’s very excited about joining the club and I know he’ll give everything to honour the black and red jersey.” DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Dimitri Basilaia of Georgia (L) makes a run during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between England and Georgia at Otago Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) Head coach Michael Bradley first spotted the talents of the destructive ball carrier when he served as a technical coach alongside former Scotland and current Georgia head coach Richie Dixon in the build-up to the nation’s Rugby World Cup.Bradley was delighted to confirm the signing believing that Basilaia has the ability to join the likes Jaba Bregvadze, Akvsenti Giorgadze [Toulouse] and Davit Zirakashvili [Clermont Auvergne] as the latest Georgian export to make a big impact on the European stage.He said: “I believe that Dimitri [Basilaia] will prove to be a very significant signing for Edinburgh Rugby. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALSlast_img read more

French focus: Top 14

first_imgBrive encounter: Shane Geraghty hopes to mark an eventful stay in France with success in the Amlin Challenge CupNO DOUBT about it, Shane Geraghty’s stint in Brive has been eventful, writes Gavin Mortimer. The 25-year-old was to the fore again on Sunday, steering the unfashionable French club into the semi-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup courtesy of a 15-11 defeat of the Scarlets. As usual Geraghty made sure his shock of blond hair was noticed, not just by the quality of his game but also by a reckless tackle that earned him ten minutes in the cooler. Geraghty finished the game nursing a knock to his shoulder, the same one he injured on the opening day of the Top 14 season against Agen. Fortunately this time around the damage to the former England fly-half seems slight.The original injury sidelined Geraghty for five months and derailed his plans to try and force his way back into the England reckoning three years after he won the last of his six caps. His return came against Perpignan on  28 January and coincided with Brive’s first league victory in almost three months. Two more victories followed in quick succession, against Stade Français and Lyon, but Geraghty was then banned for 20 days (along with team-mate Pablo Henn) as a result of a brawl during the win over Lyon. Geraghty was found guilty of “striking another player with the hand, the arm or the fist” but the ban had run its course by the time Brive met the Scarlets.That victory against the Scarlets means Brive travel to Biarritz on 28 April for the right to meet either Toulon or Stade Français in the Challenge Cup final next month. For English fans the ideal scenario would be Toulon against Brive, a final that would pit Geraghty against Jonny Wilkinson.In 2007 Geraghty was the 20-year-old tyro tipped to oust Wilkinson from England’s World Cup squad. He burst onto the international stage in stunning style, coming on as a substitute against France in the 2007 Six Nations and inspiring England to a memorable 26-18 victory. The Guardian described Geraghty – who created the match-winning try – as “sublime” and added that “Wilkinson now has some serious competition”. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS But the rivalry never materialised. Despite winning another cap against Wales that season, Geraghty failed to make Brian Ashton’s World Cup squad. When Martin Johnson took over from Ashton the following season, Geraghty fell behind Wilkinson, Danny Cipriani and Toby Flood in the England pecking order.A move from London Irish to Northampton in 2009 failed to resurrect his England aspirations and last summer Geraghty made the decision to move across the Channel. “At Northampton I took one step forward, two backwards. I had the feeling I’d reached an impasse,” Geraghty explained last week in an interview with French newspaper La Montagne. “I didn’t want to go to another club in England. I wanted a new challenge, a place where I could develop as a fly-half.”center_img Asked to compare the English Premiership with the French Top 14, Geraghty rates the latter the tougher of the two. “Here you have to fight for each point and the victories away from home have a lot more significance,” he said. “In the Top 14 the game is more forward-orientated. You have to first win the right to allow your backs to have the ball.”Geraghty believes Brive are capable of springing a surprise against Biarritz, although the club’s overriding priority is to avoid the drop to Division Two. They are ninth in the Top 14 and, with trips to Toulouse and Clemont to come, the relegation dogfight promises to be a bitter scrap for survival. Perhaps that’s why Geraghty is being non-committal about his future. Asked if he would be at the club next season, the Englishman replied: “We’re in discussion. Brive have been very good to me and I really like my life here, but I still need a little time to decide.”last_img read more

England can still win the war

first_imgBlood and glory: Jean de Villiers put in a captain’s shiftOver eagerness also cost England at the scrum, where looking to grasp an early advantage they persistently conceded free kicks in the first half. A combination of nerves and adrenaline, combined with England’s lack of experience, played a significant part in their defeat but on what is a tour designed to blood England’s youth and gel their team together, defeats are not necessarily a bad thing. DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – JUNE 09: England’s (L-R) Dylan Hartley, Ben Youngs, Mike Brown, Mouritz Botha and Ben Morgan look dejected after their teams defeat during the First Test match between the South Africa Springboks and England at Kings Park Stadium on June 9, 2012 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Power play: England need more than just grunt up the middle of the parkBy Ben ColesSATURDAY WAS not a good 24 hours for Northern Hemisphere sides on tour, but before the evening kick-off in Durban there was still cause for England fans to be optimistic. Despite losing the first Test by a five-point margin, a great chance has, undoubtedly, gone begging. However, all is not lost as the England bandwagon rolls on to Johannesburg.What England did well for large portions of the game was gain parity with the Springboks physically, absorbing the bullocking runs spearheaded by Bismarck du Plessis and Willem Alberts in particular, before putting in some thunderous hits of their own. It was only after the half-time whistle, and particularly in the key third quarter that the Boks practically bullied a weary England out of the game, that the match was won.They were also sharp at the breakdown considering their lack of a traditional fetcher – seven out of South Africa’s nine penalties conceded came at the ruck area – but too often England were too eager to stop South Africa as early as possible, finding themselves offside on three occasions which were all pounced on by Morné Steyn.center_img In fact, a lot of what England produced on Saturday was encouraging, the attack aside (more to come on that later). Manu Tuilagi will be a far better player after his roughhouse encounter with Jean de Villiers – one all between those two when it comes to thunderous tramples over your opponent – and his try-saving tackle on Pierre Spies truly was a moment of magic. Mike Brown appeared more than capable under the raining Gilberts, Ben Foden on the wing looked comfortable, taking his try with particular aplomb, whilst debutants Joe Marler and Tom Johnson both started with a bang and were a part of a very effective lineout unit – winning 10/11. None of them were outstanding, but this tour is about development and not results. Which is where Owen Farrell comes in.Adept as always with the boot, too often Farrell was found sending out passes that were not good enough. There is no doubting his excellence when it comes to defence and kicking, but that is the type of player that England do not need at fly-half. Mediocrity going forward plagued England at the Rugby World Cup and in Durban apart from the occasional burst from Tuilagi or surge from Foden, England simply did not produce enough opportunities.Disconsolate: England have plenty to ponder before Jo’BurgThe whole reason for Foden and Brown’s inclusion at the back was to field the inevitable barrage of Springbok kicks, but it was England who produced a range of box kicks from Ben Youngs and efforts from Brown, Farrell and even at one point, Dylan Hartley. The balance was uneven and it wasn’t until England flung the ball wide for a Foden consolation score that they showed some promise. Coincidentally this happened after Brad Barritt had left the field due to injury.England face a dilemma over Barritt going forward. Injury has ruled him out the 2nd Test in Johannesburg – he underwent an operation for a lacerated eye in Durban on Sunday – meaning England will look for a new midfield combination. A fantastic defender, thus far in his international career he has failed to produce enough in attack. England have options at centre – Jordan Turner-Hall, George Lowe and Anthony Allen are on tour – but alternatively England could look at either Toby Flood or Jonathan Joseph. Stuart Lancaster can either move Farrell into inside centre, or bring Tuilagi infield to second five-eighth with Joseph at 13. The combination of Tuilagi and Joseph has been whispered about for some time – the perfect balance of raw power and pace. Naturally there are question marks over whether they can produce defensively, especially against the power of the Boks, but England must be more inventive if they are to improve. The 22-17 result in the first Test was by no means embarrassing, but work remains to be done.last_img read more

Statistics: Who will be rugby’s Golden Shoe winner?

first_imgAs it stands, Varndell’s 12 tries in 16 games sees him edge ahead of Naipolioni Nalaga of Clermont Auvergne and Tim Visser of Edinburgh Rugby, who both have 11 tries (although having only played 11 games, Visser has an impressive strike rate of one try per game).Fellow Wasp Christian Wade is a step down with nine tries and Timoci Matanavou of Toulouse, Metuisela Talebulamaijaina of Bordeaux-Begles, Andrew Fenby of Scarlets and DTH Van Der Merwe of Glasgow Warriors are all locked on eight tries apiece. There are four rounds left in each of the three competitions before it is playoffs time. So if this is restricted to the Regular Joe, hustle and bustle of week-in-week-out elite rugby and only regular season rugby scores are taken into account, who will claim the shoe?It would be no surprise if Varndell continues his rich form, but with the Wasps still to face miserly defences Saracens, Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs as well as Sale Sharks on the last day there is no guarantee he will score. And predators like Visser and Nalaga will still be lurking… LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALScenter_img Man in form: Tom Varndell is currently the top scorer in Europe’s top three leagues, with 12 dots so far this seasonBy Alan DymockAS A nimble Tom Varndell danced up the touchline against Northampton Saints at the weekend – an act of human dressage so well timed that both teams must have choreographed it a week in advance – he notched his twelfth try of the season and his 72nd in Premiership history, only five behind leader of the pack Mark Cueto, who has 77.This is impressive outright, but it also makes the Wasps winger the most prolific try scorer in the top European leagues.So if, like football, rugby had a Golden Shoe competition where the most prolific poacher in the Aviva Premiership, RaboDirect Pro12 and Top 14 where compared, who would have bouquets throw down as they are fitted with a shiny espadrille at the end of the season?last_img read more

Lions 2013 Player Profile: Rory Best

first_img On the move: Rory Best makes a break during Ireland’s opening Six Nations win over Wales in CardiffA SHOCK omission from Warren Gatland’s original squad, Best was called up after Dylan Hartley’s verbal assault on referee Wayne Barnes in the Aviva Premiership final saw the hooker banned for 11 weeks, the Saint turned sinner ending his tour before it had even begun. Best was far more disciplined in his domestic final, although he couldn’t help Ulster overcome Leinster to lift the RaboDirect Pro12, and has proved to be a consistent performer since making his Ireland debut in 2005.WHY SELECTEDHe was unlucky not to be one of the 37 players announced on 30 April for he has probably been the most consistent hooker in the British Isles for the past three seasons. An accurate lineout thrower, a strong scrummager and a valued leader he is a strong addition to the Lions squad.TEST PROSPECTSGatland has already said that Best now has a chance to make the Test team following his call-up, so it’s clear the coaches appreciate the quality of play the Irishman can bring to the tour. He’s vastly more experienced than Richard Hibbard and Tom Youngs, but needs to show he can contribute as much in the loose as he does in the tight because his rivals for the No 2 shirt are effective with ball in hand.GREATEST DAYLeading Ireland to victory over Scotland in March 2012. Not only was he captain for the impressive 32-14 win at Murrayfield but he also contributed the first of Ireland’s four tries.IF HE WERE A FOODCheese – reliable choice, late addition to menu.New Lion: Best training in Hong KongFAST FACTS Odds for Test team 4-1Club UlsterAge 30 (15 August 1982)Born CraigavonDimensions 5ft 11in & 17st 4lbCountry IrelandTest caps 67Test points 35 (seven tries) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS NOT FOR FEATURED Every 2013 Lions player is profiled in the July edition of Rugby World, with Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan giving his verdict on each member of the squad. Pick up your copy when it goes on sale on 4 June.last_img read more

Passion behind Stade Français Top 14 success

first_imgBut Stade’s position is not quite as rosy as their shirts. When Thomas Savare, like his father a passionate rugby fan, decided to rescue Stade Français it was against the wishes of his two sisters. Their discontent has deepened as their brother’s initial investment has swelled to an estimated €30m.Old heads: Felipe Contepomi played for Stade in less stable financial timesMatters came to a head 12 months ago when the sisters were “evicted” from Oberthur’s management board, a move for which they are currently seeking redress at a commercial tribunal. Last month their lawyer claimed that Oberthur’s investment in Stade Français was “ruinous and too risky.” Even the patriarch of the family, Jean-Pierre, has allegedly expressed privately his “strong concern” at the amount of the money swallowed up by Stade Français since 2011 although he continues to support his son publicly.The sisters can point to the €8m of losses suffered by Stade Français in the last 18 months but their brother would no doubt retort that the club is moving out of the red, what with the rise in attendances, the TV rights money and – assuming Stade don’t suffer a collapse in form in the next four months – qualification for next season’s Champions Cup.Classy number: Wallaby scrum-half Genia has been linked to StadeCertainly Savare can’t be accused of throwing money to the wind. Last summer Stade Français recruited modestly, bringing in just five new players of whom none could be called superstars and preferring to trust in a squad that has a distinctly French flavour to it. Recently there has been talk of Will Genia signing for Stade after the World Cup but the Wallaby scrum-half is believed to have penned a pre-contract agreement with Bath, and Savare has allegedly told Genia he’ll won’t pay the hefty sum for breaking that contract; if he wants to come to Paris he’ll have to reimburse Bath out of his own pocket. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Stade Français have christened the renovated Jean-Bouin Stadium with a host of victories that have seen them rise to the summit of the Top 14 table THESE ARE good times to be a Stade Français fan. Currently level on points with Clermont at the summit of the Top 14 table, the Parisian outfit have claimed some notable scalps this season, including home and away victories against reigning champions Toulon.The only Top 14 club undefeated at home this season, Stade have turned the renovated Jean-Bouin Stadium into something of a fortress and repaid the faith of their young and ambitious president, the 47-year-old Thomas Savare.Top 14 presidents receive a lot of bad press on both sides of the Channel. Most of it is undeserved. Of course they have egos and ambitions but so would anyone who has invested millions of their own money into a sporting enterprise.Savare is among the less flamboyant Top 14 presidents but he has much about which to be proud. Stade Français were arguably the predominant French club domestically in the first decade of the millennium winning four Top 14 titles. But the club was plunged into a financial crisis in the summer of 2011 when the then president Max Guazzini was a victim of a bad business deal, forcing him to announce that the club needed €6.6m to survive.Driving force: President Savare has saved Stade from likely bankruptcyThe DNACG, French rugby’s financial watchdog, got involved and only Savare’s rescue package staved off Stade’s expulsion from the Top 14 and likely bankruptcy.Savare’s family business is Oberthur Technologies, a security solutions company that began life in 1842 manufacturing bank notes and is now the 53rd wealthiest company in France with a €900m revenue. Thomas succeeded his father, Jean-Pierre, at the helm in 2008.Nearly four years after Savare intervened to save Stade Français they are once more a force to be reckoned with. Attendances have risen, thanks to their attractive new stadium that can hold 20,000, and sponsors are clamouring to be associated once more with the club that likes to think of itself as the capital’s most glamorous.center_img Winning form: Skipper Sergio Parisse celebrates beating Toulon with his team That’s Savare for you. He’s a hard-nosed businessman, someone who served his apprentice in a New York investment bank in the 1990s. His munificence is not to be manipulated. And like all businessmen he expects a return on his investment. When Stade Français lost to Wasps in last season’s Champions Cup play-off, Savare was bitterly disappointed, questioning the players’ mental strength and accusing them of complacency. Yet the defeat made him even more determined, as he told one reporter who asked if he regretted rescuing Stade Français. “It’s an investment of passion,” he said. “And even if it’s proved more difficult than I’d anticipated at first, the passion is still there.”Subscribe to Rugby World for exclusive features and stories about rugby around the world. Click here for the latest deals.last_img read more

Don Armand: all you need to know about the latest player England have turned to

first_img TAGS: Exeter Chiefs Man of the Match at the Premiership final2003 Alex King (Wasps)2004 Lawrence Dallaglio (Wasps)2005 Lawrence Dallaglio (Wasps)2006 Charlie Hodgson (Sale)2007 Alesana Tuilagi (Leicester)2008 Simon Shaw (Wasps)2009 Geordan Murphy (Leicester)2010 Jordan Crane (Leicester)2011 Schalk Brits (Saracens)2012 Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)2013 Anthony Allen (Leicester)2014 Stephen Myler (Northampton)2015 Owen Farrell (Saracens)2016 Alex Goode (Saracens)2017 Don Armand (Exeter)For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here. Don Armand has been been called into a 32-man England squad for their final Six Nations game against Ireland. Learn more about the Exeter Chiefs back-row… LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Super start: Armand in action for the Stormers in Cape Town in 2012 (Gallo Images/Getty)I played in the Western Province team that won the Currie Cup for the first time since 2001. That goes well on your CV and Exeter Chiefs ended up getting hold of my agent or vice versa, I don’t really know how it happened, and I came over.I had this image of England as raining 24/7. People in South Africa call it Mud Island. Then I arrived on a stinking hot day (in June 2013) and I was in jeans and a jersey and sweating, I was just wiping my head all the time. It’s certainly not what I thought it was.What I like about England is that all the services run well. It’s easy to live in a community and be able to give back to it at the same time. What do I dislike? Sometimes the winters can drag on.My all-round game has benefited at Chiefs. My confidence has grown. Everybody is expected to play, from one to 15. Wherever you are on the field in loose play you’ve got to be able to handle the ball. I’ve developed technically at the lineout and at loose-forward scrummaging. Coaches like Rob Baxter and Ali Hepher and Rob Hunter help you improve in ways you didn’t even know just by building your confidence and looking at the little things that make a big difference.Try time: Armand scores against Sale Sharks, one of 90 Premiership tries by Exeter this season (Getty)The sum of the parts makes the whole. A lot of coaches have contributed in different ways. Kevin Foote, who followed John Dobson and is now assistant coach at Western Force, taught me about passion for the game and competitiveness. He made each individual feel so important. Matt Proudfoot taught me a lot of technical aspects about lineouts.But the most influential coach, because of the way he made sure I could stay and play my rugby at UCT, was John Dobson. He went above and beyond what a coach would normally do and he did it out of being a genuine person.I really enjoyed last year’s England Saxons tour. We won both games and it was a great experience because it was the first international-level rugby I’d played. One player who stood out was Nick Tompkins, who has dazzling feet and made a lot of line breaks. He’s quite young still and you have to give a lot of credit to Saracens. Other teams might have thrown a youngster in and put a lot of pressure on him to perform week in, week out and it might not have been beneficial to his game. I think there’s a lot to come from him in the future. He just has to wait his turn.My Exeter Player of the Year is Kai Horstmann. As he was boasting the other day, he hasn’t missed a training session this season. He’s quite funny – he’s got some lame jokes – and he’s a fantastic guy for the team, on and off the field. He’s always been a pretty talented player, he’s just getting the game time now to show that.Elite list: Jack Nowell became the fifth player to score in two separate Premiership finals (Getty)We have a different point of view on the play-offs this year. We know that if we get to the final it’s not ‘Well done, we’ve got to the final’, we want to go there and win it. Last year we were quite happy for making the final when we should have been angry that we lost. It’s been a driver for most of the season that if we get back there we want to win it.I got married to Rayanne in the week of the LV Cup semi-final – 8 March 2014. The eighth was a special day for us because it was on our eight-year anniversary. I missed the semi-final win at Bath and only played in the final (v Northampton) because James Hanks injured his neck. We had a delayed honeymoon in Crete.We have two kids, Miles and Lori. They’re both under three. My mum and my sister, Janine, have just moved over to live with us. Mum sold everything and has got a job and is trying to get her feet on the ground again. Janine helps out with marketing or ticketing at Chiefs, wherever they need extra hands. I’ve missed her lots because we’ve been here for three-and-a-half years without really seeing much of them.Dad is getting involved with the Victoria Falls pigeon race competition. He’s aiming to go back to Zimbabwe to work with his brother on it. They hope to make it a million dollar prize money for the winning pigeon. Dad is going to help run the lofts.Emotional: Rob Baxter after steering Chiefs to glory seven years after reaching the top flight (Getty)The best place I’ve been is Lake Kariba, in Zim. You hire a double-decker boat and it’s just you and your closest friends or family. At night you sleep under the stars and by day you fish or watch game on the islands – you can go on a smaller boat and look at the elephants or rhinos or hippos. You’re not stuck in front of a TV and the weather’s always fantastic.The Lions will beat New Zealand 2-1. New Zealand is New Zealand but I’m from England so I’m going to back the Lions. You have to support your mates.Anyone playing at Premiership level should have aspirations to play Test rugby. That’s got to be enough to make sure you’re giving your best for the team day in, day out. If something comes of that (nationally) brilliant but if not it shouldn’t affect your performance. It’s a good motivator but Chiefs is who I’m playing for, and they’re the ones I’ve got to look after. Don Armand: all you need to know about the latest player England have turned toSuccessive defeats for England in Edinburgh and Paris have set alarm bells ringing. Back-row forwards Nathan Hughes and Courtney Lawes will have scans on Monday on knee injuries sustained during the 22-16 defeat to France. Yet England’s problems at competing the breakdown – which has seen them concede a flood of penalties in recent weeks – had already increased the clamour for a rethink in the back row.Step forward Don Armand, whose sustained excellence for Exeter over the past three seasons brought him a first England cap in Argentina last summer but nothing since.England call-up: Exeter Chiefs back-row Don Armand in action against Saracens this month (Getty)A ruptured knee ligament wrecked the first half of his 2016-17 season, but he returned to spearhead the club’s successful push to become English champions for the first time. The Exeter player was outstanding as the Chiefs overcame Wasps 23-20 in extra time in the Aviva Premiership final, becoming the first forward to win the Man of the Match award since Chris Robshaw in 2012.Rugby World interviewed Armand in our Uncovered section before last season’s play-offs, when he told us about his rugby journey from Harare to Devon via Cape Town…I’m Zimbabwean born and bred. Mum and Dad were farmers; they grew hypericum, an ornamental plant with red berries and small yellow flowers. They’d ship them off to Holland for distribution in Europe.I started rugby at age six or seven. At Highlands Junior School in Harare. I played rugby, swimming, hockey, tennis – every sport possible.My first rugby coach was Debbie Cairns, who taught me to love the game and also that you have to work hard to play rugby; it’s not a game where you can just run on the field and play.At 13, the family moved to Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. We were forced to because of the land invasions by Robert Mugabe’s government. We got out in 2001, before it got really bad. A few farms had had shootouts and guys had been killed. When the government started blocking the roads we moved into town and Dad would drive out. But then they started beating up workers and we had to move.Tireless: Only Thomas Waldrom made more than Armand’s 21 carries in the Aviva final (Getty)The business went under. We moved to a similar climate so we could carry on farming but the crops picked up diseases and we didn’t have the money to cure them. So Dad went into fertilizer sales and Mum did office work. They got divorced when I was 18.I’ve changed my mind on the ‘three dinner party guests’ question. I once gave Robert Mugabe as an answer so I could ask him why he does what he does. But now I’d want a better class of person! Mike Tyson was there just in case Mugabe gave the wrong answers…Bob Skinstad would still be there. He’s also from Zimbabwe and very charismatic. He coached me at university (University of Cape Town) and I learnt a lot from him. He was very much into one-on-one, he’d make you feel valuable.He runs the Cape Town Tens and one year the UCT and Maties (Stellenbosch University) teams were quite drunk and getting riled up in the bar. It could have got nasty but Bob got up on the table and started singing the national anthem. Everyone stood up and joined him and it completely changed the atmosphere. That’s the kind of story you tell about him.Historic: Exeter celebrate their first Premiership title, having lost to Saracens in last year’s final (Getty)Moving to South Africa was hard. I was stepping up to senior school (Maritzburg College) without knowing anyone. But that’s the beauty of our sport, you make friends a lot easier because you have a common ground.I got a rugby scholarship to UCT. I met my missus (Rayanne) at school and she was dead-set on going to UCT to study chartered accountancy. It’s a prestigious university and I ended up getting a small bursary from UCT’s rugby club to study psychology and HR there.My UCT coach, John Dobson, changed my rugby career. He organised a better bursary that enabled me to cope financially and see out my three years plus. I learnt so much from him in terms of team dynamic. The right man for the job is better than the most talented man for the job because of how important the team environment is.They started a competition called Varsity Cup. It was played every Monday night and from there I got to play Vodacom Cup and train a pre-season with the Stormers. My lucky break came because Stormers had seven injuries, guys like Duane Vermeulen and Nick Koster, and I ended up going on tour for my Super Rugby debut in 2012, playing five minutes against Western Force. Cream of the crop: Don Armand receives his Man of the Match award at Twickenham (Getty Images) last_img read more