Here’s the rugby morning headlines for Thursday, April 23
Wales poised to benefit from Rugby World Cup draw
Rugby World Cup chiefs are set to carry on with their draw for the 2023 tournament in France this autumn despite widespread disruption to the 2020 calendar caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Reports in France suggest the draw would not be postponed from the planned November 30 date.
And Claude Atcher, the head of Rugby World Cup 2023 told French media outlet L’Equipe, there will only be one stipulation made.
He told the newspaper the rankings due to the already played Six Nations matches won’t be taken into consideration unless the remaining matches from the competition are played.
That would mean the draw would be based on the rankings upon the conclusion of last year’s World Cup in Japan.
That would spell bad news for the likes of Scotland and Argentina, who were ranked 9th and 10th at the end of the World Cup.
Wales will be among the beneficiaries having seen their ranking dip due to disappointing Six Nations defeats to England, France and Ireland.
Wayne Pivac’s side are currently sixth in the world, meaning they are currently second seeds for the 2023 World Cup draw.
However, if the Six Nations is not completed later this year, Wales would jump back up to top seeds, giving them the best chance of a favourable draw.
Should the remaining Six Nations matches be played out in a few months time, it would put added pressure on the Wales-Scotland clash in Cardiff.
It may be a meaningless rubber in Six Nations terms, but it could well have huge implications for the next World Cup. There could be a significant shift in power if the Scots pull off a first championship win in Cardiff since their 27-22 victory back in 2002.
A win for Wales would see them jump over France into fifth place in the world rankings. But if Scotland can repeat that success of 18 years ago, they would leapfrog Wales and Australia into sixth spot with Wayne Pivac’s side slipping down to eighth.
If the unthinkable happened and Wales lost by 15 points or more at the Principality Stadium, it would have major consequences should they go on and play their held-over matches against Japan and New Zealand in the autumn, if the summer tour bites the dust due to the Covid-19 crisis.
It would mean a Japan victory over Wales would relegate Pivac’s side down to ninth spot in the rankings table, with Argentina (10th) also looking to overhaul them.
That would place Wales into a potential group of death replicating the scenario they faced in 2015 when being grouped with hosts England and the Wallabies.
Rugby World Cup 2023 seedings if the postponed Six Nations matches are not played.
Band 1 teams: South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales
Band 2 teams: Ireland, Australia, France, Japan
Band 3 teams: Scotland, Argentina, Fiji, Italy
Band 4 teams: Africa 1, Europe 1, Oceania 1, Americas 1
Band 5 teams: Oceania 2, Americas 2, Repechage 1, Repechage 2
Sir Clive Woodward’s 10-point plan to save rugby
England’s World Cup-winning coach has set out his 10-point plan to save rugby.
As the game’s leading nations go to the polls to elect Agustin Pichot or Sir Bill Beaumont as their next World Rugby chairman, Woodward has outlined his changes he would dearly love to see the head man implement.
And he told the Daily Mail: “Before they vote I would ask them, for the good of the game, to consider all the main issues and vote for the candidate they believe can make a difference and bring about change.
“Make a once-in-a-lifetime decision for the good of World Rugby.”
The most contentious of Sir Clive’s plans is the implementation of promotion and relegation at Test level.
He says the absence of this at international level going forward “will eventually kill the game” pointing out that European nations like Georgia, Romania, Georgia are Russia have nowhere to go.
He argues that two annual tournaments – one in Europe and the other in the Pacific – with the jeopardy of promotion and relegation would ignite the game.
Woodward also calls for greater democracy and governance in World Rugby plus more transparency.
The former Lions coach also craves an end to the terms Tier One and Two nations and more support for the Pacific-based countries plus a fair distribution of World Cup profits.
Having taken charge of the 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand, Woodward would love to see a wider role moving forward taking in trips to the Americas plus Pacific Islands and Japan.
His detailed plans would also rule out the possibility of players representing two nations in the future and the abolition of project players – when players serve a three-year residency rule and become eligible to turn out for their newly-adopted country.
Ulster players reminded of social-distancing measures
Guinness PRO14 outfit Ulster have been forced to remind their players to adhere to social-distancing measures after three players were pictured appearing to exercise in close proximity in the same Belfast park.
Two of the players in question, brothers Alan and David O’Connor live together, but they were joined by fellow Dubliner Marty Moore.
Ulster are adamant that the trio had not trained together as part of a prior arrangement and that Moore had bumped into his team-mates by chance.
An Ulster Rugby spokesperson told the Irish Independent: “A small number of Ulster Rugby players were pictured exercising in an open space as part of their individual training programmes. This was not a pre-arranged gathering and two of the players pictured are brothers who live in the same household.
“All training programmes issued to the players are designed to be done remotely, with specific social-distancing protocols included.
“The players have been reminded to respect social distancing when exercising outdoors and we shall continue to reinforce this message.”
100 cap goal motivating Wales star
Had the coronavirus never existed and Wales’ Six Nations campaign been completed, with the summer tours also on the horizon, George North would be heading into next season on 99 caps.
As it is, the 28-year-old is stuck on 95 caps but looks sure one day to reach a century.
“To play once for your country is huge. Along the way you have ups and downs but to get anywhere near 100 caps is incredible,” said North, who is a Dove Men+Care ambassador.
“One of the reasons I came to the Ospreys was to look after myself as much as possible and get to 100 caps.
“It’s so close now and it’s massive. I’d love to have that to my name.
“Hopefully I get there. I would be able to look back on my career with such fond memories.
“All the hard work, graft and focus will have gotten me to my end goal. Once you get into that bracket, hopefully people think you’ve been a half-decent player.”
Read North’s full interview with WalesOnline here.