Here are the latest rugby evening headlines on Thursday, April 21.
Wyn Jones has surgery as Scarlets injury list grows
Wyn Jones has undergone knee surgery and Johnny McNicholl may not play rugby again for months, but Wales star Ryan Elias is ready to return to action for the Scarlets. Coach Dwayne Peel has provided an update on his growing injury list at Parc and Scarlets as the west Walians are set to be boosted by Elias’ return.
The Scarlets have been cursed in recent weeks, with a number of internationals suffering knocks. However, as they seek revenge on the Dragons this weekend after last Saturday’s defeat in Llanelli, they will at least be boosted by the return of Wales hooker Ryan Elias.
Peel confirmed that the man who has held the Welsh number two jersey this season is fit to return after a head knock suffered against Cardiff. Influential lock Sam Lousi, who limped off in the warm-up last weekend, should also be fine for this weekend’s trip to Rodney Parade.
However, there are a few others who are still set to be out for some time. “Liam [Williams] has been in training this week so we’ll see how he goes,” Peel said when asked about the fitness of his full-back.
“Wyn [Jones] had an operation on his knee. I’m not saying it’s not a big operation, but he’s had a clearout of his knee following the Cardiff game. He’s back with us now so it’s not a long-term injury. His procedure was last week so he’s back in and on the road to recovery.
“Johnny [McNicholl] potentially won’t play again for us until the end of the season. He’ll be out for a while. He hurt his knee from him in the Cardiff game. These injuries have been a tough one. Couple of big ones for us so we’ll see how it pans out.”
Peel also confirmed that Sam Costelow and Blade Thomson are both undergoing graded return-to-play procedures after suffering head knocks and likely won’t feature this weekend.
Cheslin Koble ruled out with broken thumb
Cheslin Kolbe has suffered yet another injury setback and will be sidelined for “several weeks”, Toulon have confirmed. The Springbok star broke his thumb against Benetton last weekend and had successful surgery on Wednesday.
“Cheslin Kolbe, who was injured in the last match [Toulon vs Benetton Treviso], will be kept out of action for several weeks,” a club statement said. “Victim of a broken thumb, the South African international underwent surgery, an operation which was successfully carried out. The entire Rugby Club Toulonnais team wishes Cheslin a very good recovery.”
Kolbe’s debut for Toulon at the end of 2021 was initially delayed due to a leg injury during a training session with the ‘Boks and the 28-year-old was ruled out of the latter part of the Rugby Championship and the Boks’ November tour of theUK.
Wales head to South Africa this summer for a three-Test summer series.
Ospreys star signs new contract
Ospreys tight-head prop Tom Botha has signed a two-year contract extension to remain at the region until 2024. The 31-year-old headed for Swansea in 2018, having previously played in France and for the Cheetahs in his native South Africa.
“I know I have improved as a player but you can always do more and improve to be a better player,” he said. “Having a player like Tomas Francis, a senior Wales international, has been great and kept me on my toes and pushed me to get better.
“I have been with the Ospreys for four years and I really like where we are going since [head coach] Toby [Booth] arrived here. We have really improved as a squad and this is just the start of the program he has put in place here. The Ospreys are now my home from home and the boys have been really good to me.”
Wales star reveals contract rejection
Wales Six Nations star Robyn Wilkins has revealed she had to turn down a part-time Welsh Rugby Union contract. The science teacher, who works at Bassaleg Comprehensive School in Newport, is one of the few members of Ioan Cunningham’s squad who are not contracted, with 12 players having signed full-time deals in January with a dozen more part-time deals following.
Gloucester player Wilkins has been switched from fly-half to center for the round-four fixture against France on Friday night, in place of Kerin Lake, after coming off the bench against Wales’ Celtic cousins before starting at No. 10 against the Red Roses . But, unlike most of the matchday 23, she has been preparing while holding down a full-time job too.
“I was in talks about a retainer contract as I am a teacher,” says the 27-year-old, who will win her 59th cap. “I was hoping to combine the two and juggle a retainer contract, but I was unable to do that. Ideally, I would have loved to have taken a retainer contact. I am very envious of the other girls.
“But even though I couldn’t take it this year, hopefully there will be opportunities in the future. I still like to think I am young enough at the grand old age of 27 to take one potentially in the future. For now, I am focused on the Six Nations and then the World Cup and then hopefully another opportunity for a contract will come.”
Wilkins is keen to stress her thanks for the support from her school, saying: “I have been very lucky with my school, obviously I wasn’t able to take a retainer, but they have allowed me opportunities to go and play for my country They are supportive if I have to go training with Gloucester, letting me miss a meeting once in a while or now with the Six Nations I might need to miss a Friday.”
Now, she is calling on her teammates to front up and be “squeaky clean” when they face France at Cardiff Arms Park (8pm kick-off). Wales have enjoyed an excellent Six Nations campaign so far, beating both Ireland 27-19 and Scotland 24-19 before losing to the world number one side England, whereas France have won all three of their games so far, beating Italy 39-6, Ireland 40-5, and Scotland 28-8.
“I think it is about using learnings that we took from the England game,” said Wilkins, whose father Gwilym played for Bridgend and Wales. “England play in a similar way to France. Their forwards are dominant, and we expect the French forwards to be dominant.
“Their kicking game is strong. It’s like the men’s team, they are strong up front, but it’s their kicking game that gets them into good positions to then attack from. Whoever is kicking we need to put them under pressure and not give them any easy outs or positions to allow them to kick however many 50/22s they want. We need to be squeaky clean, and we need to front up.” The match is being broadcast live on S4C from 7.50pm, with English commentary available.
Cabango back in the mix
Wonderkid wing Theo Cabango is back available for Cardiff’s derby clash with the Ospreys at the Arms Park on Saturday evening. The 20-year-old has sat out the last couple of matches against the Scarlets and Harlequins amid a couple of niggles and an awareness of the need to manage him carefully. Prior to that, he had scored four tries in his five outings this season, producing some scintillating finishes.
Cardiff attack coach Matt Sherratt said: “It’s been brilliant to watch. He’s got something you can’t coach. He’s quick, he’s really strong and he’s got really good agility, so that gives him a massive head start on most players. The great thing is he doesn’t seem to let the magnitude of any game effect him.
“He just goes out and does what he does. If I’m honest, I’ve probably just let him get on with that. Sometimes, if you fill players’ heads with too much technical and tactical stuff, you can actually lose what their point of difference is. I have just really encouraged Theo to go out and do what he did at age-grade and Cardiff RFC and so far he has responded really well. He is back available for this weekend now.”
Summit meeting on head-high tackles
A top-level meeting of rugby officials will be held next week to address inconsistencies over the handling of high tackles and head contact in the game. There has been huge debate in recent weeks about the way such incidents are being refereed and dealt with by disciplinary panels, amid a flurry of red cards and yet other instances of players escaping sanction.
The new United Rugby Championship head of officials Tappe Henning believes there needs to be a co-ordinated approach across the board so players and coaches know where they stand.
“We are a bit concerned there is still a lot of inconsistency in how it’s being dealt with and the mitigation process,” said the South African former Test referee. “On some occasions, the mitigation is being looked for and we would like the mitigation to show itself rather than being chased.
“We are having a URC and EPCR workshop next week to discuss this before we go into our play-off stages, so we can align ourselves a bit better and have a better understanding between match officials, but also so players and coaches know what to expect.” You can read the full interview with Henning here.