Two British Rugby Players Have Died After Suffering From 'Breathing Problems' While on Tour in Sri Lanka – TIME


Two British Rugby Players Have Died After Suffering From ‘Breathing Problems’ While on Tour in Sri Lanka
Two amateur British rugby players have died after complaining of breathing difficulties while on a tour of Sri Lanka. Thomas Howard, 25, and Thomas Baty, 26, from Durham, England were admitted to hospital on Sunday after visiting a nightclub in the Sri …
Second British amateur rugby player dies on Sri Lanka tourThe Guardian
British rugby players die from ‘breathing difficulties’ on Sri Lanka tourCNN
Mystery surrounds second British rugby player death in Sri Lanka after suffering breathing difficultiesThe Independent
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Rugby: No justification for Umaga being kept on by the Blues, says rugby writer Wynne Gray – New Zealand Herald

There is no justification for the Blues to have kept on coach Tana Umaga, says rugby writer Wynne Gray.

Despite having struggled in their 2018 campaign, the Blues announced yesterday that Umaga’s reign in charge of the franchise will continue after extending his contract to the end of the 2019 Super Rugby season.

The Blues also confirmed that former All Blacks fullback Leon MacDonald will be joining as assistant coach.

Speaking to Radio Sport Breakfast, Gray said he was confused by the Blues’ decision to extend Umaga’s contract.

“I’m just confused as normal about what the Blues are doing,” said Gray, who has written several books about rugby and the All Blacks, and also writes a weekly column for the Herald.

“I can’t see any justification for Tana being kept on quite frankly. He’s had three years, success has been minimal.

“You’ll hear [Blues CEO] Michael Redman carry on about how they’re making progress but really, when you look at other franchises with first year coaches for example, the Highlanders and the Chiefs, they’re doing far better than the Blues already. So I just can’t see the justification for keeping him on.

“And bringing in an assistant coach for next year who was reluctant to travel and go to the Crusaders about a year ago, I don’t get it.”

Tana Umaga and the Blues squad. Photo / Getty Images
Tana Umaga and the Blues squad. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues have had another disappointing season under Umaga during his third season in charge, winning just three of their 11 games this season.

They’re also in the midst of a horror run against New Zealand opposition, having failed to beat a Kiwi side in their last 16 matches.

Gray said it is up to the Blues board and leadership to turn things around for the ailing franchise.

“[Finding the best person for the job] is something for the board and people whose responsibility it is, they need to have been proactive and gone and investigated who’s around and who’s available,” Gray told Radio Sport Breakfast.

“The history of the franchise in the last 15 years suggests [this] pattern will continue.

“You’re always optimistic every year that it might change but the thread is getting thinner and thinner.

“Every year or every three years we will hear something along the lines from a CEO ‘this coach is going to make a huge difference’. Well, we haven’t seen it for 15 years have we.

Leon Macdonald and Tana Umaga. Photo / Photosport
Leon Macdonald and Tana Umaga. Photo / Photosport

Speaking after yesterday’s announcement, Blues boss Redman said while the board wasn’t satisfied with current performances, they don’t believe firing Umaga is the answer.

“The board believes there are positive improvements taking place at all levels at the club, and that Tana still has a contribution to make,” said Redman.

“Changing head coach now would mean we throw out three years of hard-earned experience and starting again which we believe is the wrong thing to do.

“At the same time, the expected shifts in on-field performance are yet to be achieved and we are examining every aspect of team selection, preparation and support as our fans would expect.”

Umaga said he was also disappointed with the team’s results and knows they need to improve quicky.

“We are in the results business. Believe me, no one at the Blues right now is happy with where we are at, but everyone has bought in to our plan, believes in it and works so hard every day to perform,” Umaga said.

“There are significant parts of every game where we are achieving that, and just a few basic things that let us down and convert those tight games into positive results.”

Ben Ryan: 'I felt no joy in my last final with England … I was completely flat' – The Guardian

“I much preferred Fiji – even with a dictator in charge, a boss who was convicted for manslaughter, my phone being bugged, the bankruptcy and black magic – than my last year at the RFU,” says Ben Ryan, as he sips on a double espresso and reminisces about an extraordinary journey that culminated in him guiding Fiji’s sevens side to Olympic gold in Rio.

We are in a cafe not far from Twickenham, where Ryan worked for six years as the England sevens coach before falling foul of what he calls the Rugby Football Union’s “machiavellian” struggles for power and influence, “with people above you who can only be trusted never to be trustworthy”.

Ryan applied to become Fiji coach after a friend texted him to say he had seen it advertised on Twitter. One 3am interview by Skype later he was offered the job – and on a whim he accepted. “It was scary and risky,” he admits. “But it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Initially he wondered whether he had made the biggest mistake of his life. It did not help that when he took his first training session there was no kit or water and only a couple of balls to practise with – or that he was not paid for six months.

There were other challenges, too. At his first tournament he passed a player who had built a tower of 10 pains au chocolat each with a fried egg on top for breakfast – a meal the player considered healthy because he was getting plenty of protein. And just before the 2016 Olympics one of his players, Pio Tuwai, was convulsing in his room saying he had been possessed by a witchdoctor. “His eyes were rolling – it was very bizarre,” Ryan says.

Many players were also very poor. Jerry Tuwai lived with his family in a one-room shack with corrugated-iron walls, no running water, gas or electricity, but was moulded by Ryan into one of the heartbeats of the team.

But whatever clouds he faced always evaporated on the pitch. “It was absolutely joyful,” he says, beaming at the memories. “We weren’t chucking GPS units on. I wasn’t getting my boss telling me they’re only allowed 10 minutes’ contact a week. It was the purest form of rugby and I loved it.”

Yet Ryan says the culture of the squad was just as important to Fiji’s success. Of all the stories he tells, one stands out: in 2015 the squad were on a plane when two passengers collapsed with suspected heart attacks. While the stewards revived them, his team got to their feet and took over the job of serving lunch and drinks to the rest of the plane. “They went down the aisles, handing out napkins and asking passengers whether they wanted chicken or fish,” Ryan says. “It wasn’t a stunt and they weren’t prompted. It was just a natural thing to do for them – to be nice. But that’s what we had as a group. Of course we worked hard. But none of the senior management team ever shouted at the players. And we had fun.”

Never was that more evident than in August 2016 when Fiji’s 43-7 destruction of Great Britain in the final earned the country the first Olympic medal in its history. After what he had seen from his players in the tunnel, Ryan knew his team were going to win.

“I can think of dozens of occasions where I’ve been more nervous than that Olympic final,” he says. “Honestly, hand on heart, there wasn’t any of that feeling – we were so relaxed beforehand I knew we were going to win.

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“My captain, Osea Kolinisau, once said to me: ‘If you’re ever in a tunnel and you’re opposite a Fijian that’s smiling, you’d really better watch out.’ It’s their perfect state, they’re relaxed but ruthless. They are the loveliest people off the field but they can switch to being ultimately very ruthless on the field.”

But life was not always perfect. Ryan moved to Fiji having not done due diligence and only later discovered the Fijileaks website, with its tales of corruption, bribery and prisons stacked with political opponents.

He is unusually guarded when it comes to talking about Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a military coup in 2006, had a keen interest in rugby – as well as his brother-in-law Francis Kean, the president of the Fiji Rugby Union who served time in jail for kicking a man to death. He soon understood not to make eye contact with Bainimarama in meetings and let him dominate the grip when the pair shook hands.

“But at least you knew where you stood with him,” Ryan says. That was not the case with the RFU which, he claims, failed to support fully his vision for the England sevens team. “My last tournament with England was the Sevens World Cup in Moscow in 2013,” he says. “We got to the final but I felt no joy. I was completely flat.”

Would he go ever back to Twickenham? “It’s something I’ve thought about a lot,” he says. “Not on the performance side but I would seriously consider a role that involved getting more state school kids to play rugby.”

Ryan is increasingly animated as he points out how the 80% of children who go to state schools should provide the talent pool for the national team. “But there is no one at the RFU in charge of state school rugby,” he says. “My old school down the road is the biggest boys’ comprehensive in the country but we haven’t produced any professional rugby players since me in 1997.”

Ben Ryan waves to the cheering crowd in Suva upon their arrival from Brazil. Tens of thousands of Fijians cheered and some openly wept as they braved heavy rain to attend the victory ceremony in the capital.

Ben Ryan (centre) waves to the cheering crowd in Suva upon their arrival from Brazil. Tens of thousands of Fijians cheered and some openly wept as they braved heavy rain to attend the victory ceremony in the capital. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

For now Ryan is happy doing consultancy work with French Rugby, World Rugby and UK Sport. And while he will not comment directly on speculation he is on a shortlist for the head coach role at Harlequins, he does admit part of him would love to apply his philosophy to the 15-man game.

“I would like to prove that with 15s you can succeed by playing a style of rugby that empowers the players, isn’t overly attritional and where everyone in the squad is treated with kindness and respect,” he says.

Meanwhile, despite Fiji’s gold medal, he wonders how much has really changed. “The Fijian boys are paid only about £4,000-£6,000 a year,” he says. “Sadly they don’t want to pay the boys the same money as a government minister, say, because they feel there’s so many people waiting to take a player’s place. They can be thrown away and discarded.

“It’s very sad,” he adds, the pain evident, “but there’s no legacy in Fiji. Only another day and another struggle.”

Sevens Heaven, The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji’s Olympic Dream by Ben Ryan, is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 31 May, priced £20

British rugby player from Durham team dies in Sri Lanka – BBC News


Image copyright

Image caption

A 26-year-old man died in hospital in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo

A British amateur rugby player has died and another is critically ill after complaining of breathing difficulties on returning from a nightclub in Sri Lanka.

The pair had been touring the country with Durham-based Clems Pirates RFC when they visited the club in Colombo.

Sri Lanka Police said a 26-year-old man had died in hospital at 12:00 local time on Sunday.

A team mate is said by police to be in a “very” critical condition.

The team arrived in Sri Lanka on Wednesday and began the tour with a game against Ceylonese Rugby and Football Club (CR & FC) in Colombo.

According to the police, British players went to a nightclub after the match and returned to their hotel in the early hours of Sunday.

The two players complained of breathing difficulties to the hotel management at about 10:00 on Sunday.

One died shortly after being admitted to hospital less than two hours later.

‘Families supported’

Police said a post-mortem examination would be carried out later.

A police spokesman told the BBC: “Both men had returned from a nightclub and had complained of breathing difficulties, and they were admitted to the hospital, one died and another is in very critical condition.”

Durham City Rugby Club, which oversees rugby union “veterans” team the Pirates, said in a statement the pair suffered “non-rugby related breathing problems” and were admitted to hospital.

“Subsequently, one of the two has died and one remains in hospital,” the statement said.

Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union director Rohan Gunerathne said the organisation was looking into the matter, but confirmed nothing happened on the rugby pitch during the match.

A British High Commission spokesman in Colombo said both families were being supported, and they were in contact with the Sri Lankan medical services.

Preparation the key to Rugby World Cup success – The Japan Times

I’ve got a calendar here and it says 495 days, four hours, five minutes and 23 seconds to the World Cup. We track it very closely.

We started a strategic plan for the World Cup in 2016, not long after I took over the England team. You look at it not only from a logistic point of view but also from a physiological point of view, selection point of view, tactical point of view. You’re putting that all into one strategic plan to get yourself to be at your absolute best for the World Cup when it starts.

Everything is geared toward being at our best for the World Cup. But along the way you have to win games of rugby. You can’t just follow long-term strategy. Sometimes the short-term and long-term strategies conflict but that’s part of the process — knowing when to prioritize the longer term and when to prioritize the shorter term.

For instance, in our games in November last year, we didn’t play Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell because they’d come off the British and Irish Lions tour. We felt we needed to give them a break to ensure that two years down the track, at the World Cup, they’re going to be in as good condition as they can be. So you are always looking to get the balance right.

We would ideally have liked to base ourselves in one place in Japan and then travel to the games, but at the end of the day the World Cup organizers decide where you can and can’t stay. Once they make their decision, you’ve got to follow their decision and come up with the best plan you can.

You can only control what you can control. We don’t control what the World Cup organizing committee does. So we know where we’re going to stay and it’s up to us to come up with the best plan, the best logistics, the best environment for our team to flourish.

I think it’s great for the local community to host the World Cup teams, there’s no doubt about that. Having England in Sapporo, Yokohama and Tokyo is great for the community and great for rugby.

The support of the crowd at any event is important. Our aim is to be the second-best-supported team, after Japan. Everyone loves the All Blacks but there’s no reason why they can’t love us. I’ve got a fairly strong connection with the Japanese rugby community and I hope that will hold us in good stead.

We’ve just finalized our squad for our June tour to South Africa, and we’ve probably got about 20 players unavailable for various reasons. That makes it a challenging tour but it also creates an opportunity for young players coming through. If they show they can handle test rugby in South Africa and continue to improve, they could force their way into the World Cup squad.

In the week before we go to South Africa, we’re setting up our training center to be the same temperature conditions as Tokyo. It will give the players the experience of those conditions. It’s not the same as being there but we’ve got to be able to control what we can control and give our players the best preparation we can.

Everyone likes to keep winning but high performance is not linear. If it was, everyone would do it and it would be easy. It involves crests and troughs, and the ability of a team to get out of a trough quickly is the test of a good team.

Us having a bad patch was always going to happen. We weren’t going to keep winning at 96 percent. No team in test rugby does that. The All Blacks win at about the high 80s. This was always going to happen and it’s how we respond to it that’s the important thing.

Peaking at the World Cup comes down to experience. Experience of the preparation. You want to go into the World Cup with momentum. You want to feel like you’re a team that is improving, not just hanging on.

But you also need to peak for certain games. You have to win your seven games, and within that you have one or two crucial pool games. You’ve got a quarterfinal where, if you’re ranked in the top four as we are, then you’re generally going to be playing against a lower-ranked team, and that’s always a tricky game. And then in the semifinal and final it’s best foot forward. You just have to be able to do it on the day.

Preparation is everything. You’re either prepared to win or you’re prepared to fail. There’s an old quote by Muhammad Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee. He said: “Never go into a fight unless you’re the best-prepared fighter.” It’s the same in rugby.

A well-prepared team can beat a team that’s better physically and athletically. We did that with Japan against South Africa in 2015. If you’re better-prepared tactically, you can beat other teams. When it comes to the World Cup, you have to maximize your resources and that means maximizing your preparation.

Eddie Jones is the head coach of England’s national rugby team. He coached Japan from 2012-2015.

Chiefs scrap their way past Stormers for vital Super Rugby win in Cape Town – Waikato Times


The Chiefs score penalty try to defeat the Stormers in Cape Town.

A second-half penalty try has propelled the Chiefs to an important Super Rugby victory over the Stormers in Cape Town on Sunday morning (NZ time).

A week after conceding a vital automatic seven-pointer of their own in the loss to the Jaguares in Rotorua, this time, with the same referee – Mike Fraser – officiating, it was the Chiefs who were on the right side of the call, as they went on to win 15-9 at DHL Newlands.

In a dour contest featuring plenty of handling errors from both teams in what were lovely conditions, the visitors managed to score two tries to none to bag a vital four competition points.

The Chiefs celebrate their crucial penalty try which saw them defeat the Stormers in Cape Town.


The Chiefs celebrate their crucial penalty try which saw them defeat the Stormers in Cape Town.

Behind 6-5, it was a powerful scrum – a feature of the Chiefs’ day – which saw them awarded the penalty try in the 65th minute, after repeated penalties against the Stormers’ pack.

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That proved the difference, as the Chiefs held on, in a game which took on extra significance because their next fixture on tour against the Sharks will see them stripped of their All Blacks because of a clash with a national camp.

The Stormers' loss was their first at home this season.


The Stormers’ loss was their first at home this season.

It certainly wasn’t vintage stuff – the Chiefs spurned several options of shooting for goal early on, in favour of lineouts, but they squandered the opportunities, and it was Stormers first five-eighth Damian Willemse who opened the scoring, off the tee, after quarter of an hour.

Spending most of the time inside their own half, the Chiefs were still able to find the game’s opening try, in the 22nd minute, when Damian McKenzie cross-kicked under penalty advantage, Solomon Alaimalo gathered after an unpredictable bounce, and linked up with Anton Lienert-Brown, who ran in to finish.

The duo teamed again down the left touch just a couple of minutes later, but this time the bounce of the ball wasn’t to be the Chiefs’ way, with a chip kick over the top eventually evading the clutches of Brad Weber.

Angus Ta'avao was a key part of the Chiefs' success, with a fine scrum platform laid.


Angus Ta’avao was a key part of the Chiefs’ success, with a fine scrum platform laid.

But it was the little halfback who was quickly a saviour at the other end of the park, when it looked certain the Stormers would re-take the lead as Damian de Allende sliced through, only for the hand of Weber to pop the ball free over the goal-line.

The hosts continued to camp down the Chiefs’ end till halftime, but even with McKenzie sending a lock kick out on the full, the Stormers’ poor execution saw them unable to capitalise.

After the hooter McKenzie lined up a shot at goal from 52 metres, but it fell short and the Chiefs retained a 5-3 lead after a 40 minutes neither team would care to remember.

Brad Weber, in his first start in six weeks, was able to celebrate his 50th game in style.


Brad Weber, in his first start in six weeks, was able to celebrate his 50th game in style.

While both teams were willing to spread the ball, things were again punctuated by errors early in the second spell. McKenzie had the chance to extend the margin but missed his third shot from four attempts, before the Stormers were rewarded for some smart long kicking and went in front off the boot of Willemse in the 54th minute.

The Chiefs threw everything at the Stormers in response – building 15 phases in and around the hosts’ 22m – but the home side’s defence held for some time.

At the 61st minute there was a kickable penalty option but the Chiefs opted to scrum. Another penalty came and another scrum, with a try looking imminent, only for a wayward Shaun Stevenson pass. But another penalty and another scrum then saw a huge shunt from the visitors, and there came the defining penalty try.

The icing was seemingly put on the cake in the 75th minute, when Stevenson regathered his own grubber to score, but assistant referee Nick Briant found a knock on from Charlie Ngatai in the leadup, which TMO Willie Vos could not find reason to overturn.

In any case, penalty advantage was being played, and McKenzie slotted from in front for a nine-point lead, and while SP Marais responded with two minutes left, the Chiefs weren’t to surrender late, as the Stormers found no way through from deep inside their own territory.


Chiefs 15 (Anton Lienert-Brown try, penalty try, Damian McKenzie pen) Stormers 9 (Damian Willemse 2 pen, SP Marais pen) HT: 5-3.

 – Stuff