I go away for just a straightforward skiing weekend and it all kicks off again in the salary cap scandal.
The news that Saracens will be relegated at the end of this season broke over the weekend, which is a quite extraordinary twist. The initial punishment seemed very severe, and Saracens insisted that they would comply with all regulations and requests.
However, now it seems that they are not compliant at all, and rather than opt for openness and transparency, they have chosen relegation. This gives them a season in the Championship to get their house in order, slightly further from the limelight, before they’ll almost certainly win promotion back to the Premiership.
I had thought that the salary cap might precipitate a change in the Premiership structure, with ring-fencing a possibility but that seems unlikely now because it would be seen as forgiveness for Saracens’ crimes.
This really is an incredible story, and I feel like something has to change, even if it isn’t ring-fencing after all.
Another broken arm for Billy Vunipola
As if your employer imploding and providing nothing but uncertainty wasn’t bad enough for Billy Vunipola, he broke is arm yesterday and will miss the Six Nations.
He’s obviously a key player for England, but given his injury record, now feels like a good time to find a suitable backup.
Ben Earl and Alex Dombrandt come to mind as players that could be given a chance when Eddie Jones names his squad today. Is anyone else putting their hand up for selection?
Borthwick leaving England Rugby
Steve Borthwick will leave his role as England assistant coach at the end of the season with Jason Ryles from Melbourne Storm joining in November.
It has already been announced that Borthwick will move from forwards coach to skills coach for the upcoming Six Nations, which seems like an odd move to me. What’s next, Jason Robinson joining as lineout coach?
Jones said: “I have had a great seven years with Steve. He is a loyal, hard-working and analytical coach but I understand he needs now to get out on his own following this campaign. He’s made that decision and we are really pleased for him.
Jason Ryles, who is currently coaching at the Australian rugby league side, Melbourne Storm, will join Jones’ coaching staff ahead of the Quilter Internationals later in the year as skills coach.
Ryles has been assistant coach of Melbourne since 2016 and helped them to Premiership success in 2017, two other grand final appearances as well as last season’s Minor Premiership. He was also assistant coach for the Junior Kangaroos in 2016 and 2017 and the New South Wales U20s State of Origin side in 2012. He has briefly spent time in recent seasons with England assisting Jones and his coaches.
The 40 year-old made his playing debut in 2000 for St George Illawarra Dragons before moving to the French super league side, Catalans Dragons, for two years. He returned to Australia in 2010 to play for Sydney Roosters and then the Storm in 2012. He played 15 times for the Kangaroos and represented NSW eight times in State of Origin.
Ryles said: “I am really excited about the opportunity to work in a world-class programme with the England national team and someone like Eddie with his experience is very appealing for me. It will be a real honour to work with some of the best coaches and so many quality England players.
“I was really impressed in the times that I have come into camp previously with how organised everything is and it’s been a really enjoyable experience from which I have learned a lot. My background as a former rugby league player and coach I hope will be really useful and add to the overall programme.
“I’d like to thank Storm for the great opportunities the club have given me both as a player and a coach. I’ve loved my time at this club, working alongside a great group of coaches and players, and our family has certainly enjoyed life here in Melbourne.”
Jones said: “We are really pleased that Jason Ryles will be joining us as skills coach in November after his commitments finish with the Melbourne Storm. He has worked intermittently with us over the last few years so has a good awareness of the setup. He comes from a rugby league background and we feel what he can offer as a coach, particularly with the forwards around the ruck, will help us with the way the game is going.”
Heineken Champions Cup Round 5 Results
Here are the results from the final round of the Heineken Champions Cup at the weekend, along with the Superbru predictability:
Lyon 24 – 36 Northampton 87%
Treviso 0 – 18 Leinster 99%
Ulster 22 – 15 Bath 98%
Harlequins 19 – 26 Clermont 92%
Sale 7 – 45 Glasgow 68%
Exeter 33 – 14 La Rochelle 98%
Munster 33 – 6 Opreys 99%
Saracens 27 – 24 Racing 56%
Toulouse 35 – 14 Gloucester 97%
Montpellier 35 – 29 Connacht 62%
These results mean that the quarter-final lineups are as follows:
Clermont v Racing
Toulouse v Ulster
Exeter v Northampton
Leinster v Saracens
A couple of tasty ties in there. What were the main talking points from the weekend?