Today’s rugby headlines as ex-Wales boss wants radical new law and Sir Graham Henry gets World Cup job

Here are the latest rugby headlines for Thursday, April 21.

Johnson calls for radical law change

Former Wales boss Scott Johnson wants rugby’s powerbrokers to mirror basketball in a bid to crack down on foul play. The flamboyant Australian, who took the Wales helm after Mike Ruddock’s controversial departure and also coached the Ospreys, lobbied World Rugby to create more space and speed in the game with the new 50:22 and goal-line dropout laws, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Having been the driving force behind those changes, as well as pitching plans for a 20-minute red card which would lead to a replacement coming on for a sent off player after that period, Johnson is now advocating another radical new law.

This time he wants to stamp out teams repeatedly offending when under the cosh in defense with an automatic yellow card after a certain number of infringements, rather than leave it to the referee’s discretion. This would include any offenses which occur when a penalty advantage is already being played, but which tend to get overlooked.

The plan would mirror what happens in basketball where individual players have a five-foul limit and teams also get a limit before they are forced to exit the action. Johnson says something similar needs to happen in rugby, with the penalty count kept on a scoreboard for transparency and the 12th offense automatically leading to the player infringing being carded.

“Once you hit your mark, a player goes off,” he said. “People are scared of it, but if you take the time to analyze it I could show you 15 clips in the last 12 months where there are three advantages or more in one passage of play. I sit there going ‘why isn’t it all that counted?’

“When they come back on, the count starts again at six, or whatever number you come up with. Make it transparent, put it on the scoreboard. That’s what I am pushing next. I will keep pushing.”

Henry part of Black Ferns World Cup team

Former Wales boss Sir Graham Henry has been named as part of the new Black Ferns coaching team – headed up by ex-All Blacks coach Wayne Smith who becomes director of rugby – as New Zealand prepare for this autumn’s Rugby World Cup.

A damning review into the team’s culture led to the resignation of head coach Glenn Moore last week less than six months from the tournament, which is being hosted by defending champions Black Ferns. The review into team culture found squad members had been subjected to culturally insensitive comments, alleged favoritism and body-shaming from coaches.

Now, New Zealand Rugby has announced its new coaching team to take the team forward. Smith, who joined the Black Ferns as technical coach earlier this month, becomes director of rugby, and will be assisted by Wesley Clarke and Whitney Hansen, who has been promoted from the intern coaching role she has held for two years.

Men’s World Cup-winning coach Sir Graham Henry will join the team in a coaching support role while specialist coaches, including Mike Cron, will be used throughout the year.

The review was launched after hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate went public with her complaints that she suffered a mental breakdown because of critical comments made by Moore. She alleged Moore had told her she did not deserve to be on the team and was “picked only to play the guitar”.

Biden plans greatest World Cup in history

President Joe Biden has thrown his full backing behind a United States bid to host the World Cup and pledged it would be the greatest tournament in history. The President sent a personal letter to World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont as part of a World Cup package put together by USA Rugby who want to host the men’s global showpiece in 2031 and the women’s event in 2033.

Beaumont and World Rugby bosses will assess the proposal and announce their decision within the next month. The support and letter from Biden is seen as key to get the USA bid over the line and hugely grow the sport across the Atlantic.

Biden wrote: “The United States strongly supports the effort to bring the World Cup tournament to our country and looks forward to working with Rugby World Cup Limited to help deliver the most successful Rugby World Cups in history.”

I have promised to “promote the development of rugby in the United States and worldwide in a sustainable and humanitarian manner, without any discrimination whatsoever, regardless of race, nationality or creed”.

Biden himself is a huge rugby fan and according to the Guardian recently hosted a White House visit of former Ireland and Lions full-back Rob Kearney. A number of host cities for matches have been mentioned, including Washington, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.

Davies outlines his concussion horror

Former Wales star James Davies has candidly spoken about his decision to quit rugby and the horror he went through with concussion. The Wales openside and Scarlets fans’ favorite called him time on his career after issues which have plagued him since November 2020 when he played his last game in the back-row for Wales against Georgia in Llanelli.

Davies says he gave absolutely everything he could to make a comeback, but in the end he had to grudgingly admit defeat. However, putting so much effort into a possible return, and then finding he just could not do it, has enabled him to come to terms with his decision.

“Obviously it’s gut-wrenching, but I think the right decision has been made,” he said in an interview with the Scarlets’ YouTube channel. “The first six months were pretty much just a migraine the whole time.

“I’d come in because the specialists would say it was important to keep busy, keep training. But initially I was doing just 10-minute spins on a bike and I’d have to get off because I was feeling dizzy, unwell, my head would be throbbing.

“I’d be driving home just worried if I’m going to get home because my head was over the shop. I was getting neck pain, my visuals were off, the symptoms you can have through concussion. I probably had the lot.

“Those first six months they were just constant. My head just felt like it was going to explode sometimes.

“I got to a good place around November, but it took a little glancing blow in training. I went through the same symptoms again, the same cycle, but in a condensed period. It was scary really, showed my vulnerability again.” you can read Davies’ full story here.

Italy scrum-half quits

Italian scrum-half Callum Braley has announced his retirement from international rugby. The Treviso nine, who started the Azzurri’s famous win over Wales in the Six Nations, wants to focus more on his career with Northampton, who joins him in the summer.

“It was a very tough decision to take,” said the 28-year-old, who was capped 15 times by Italy.

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