Saracens' European Rugby Champions Cup defence started with a comprehensive defeat at Racing 92, while Dan Biggar kicked Northampton Saints to victory over Top 14 high-flyers Lyon on Sunday.

Sarries, who are reportedly not going to appeal against a 35-point domestic deduction for an alleged breach of salary cap rules, missed the quality of their England contingent still yet to return from Rugby World Cup duty in a 30-10 defeat in Paris.

Virimi Vakatawa broke through a gap in just the ninth minute to get Racing underway and Teddy Thomas, fresh off a hat-trick in last week's 25-9 beating of Stade Francais, squirmed over to stretch the lead.

Alex Lozowski finished for Saracens early in the second half after Nick Tompkins stole the ball when Finn Russell knocked on but the Scotland fly-half quickly made amends with a wonderful jinking try and Wenceslas Lauret completed a convincing Pool 4 success.

Biggar was making his first appearance since suffering World Cup semi-final heartache with Wales and was in fine form with the boot as Northampton earned a potentially priceless Pool 1 win.

The fly-half kicked 20 points, including six penalties, in the 25-14 beating of Top 14 leaders Lyon, who were outclassed at Franklin's Gardens.

Rory Hutchinson scored Saints' only try in the first half and Lyon missed out on a losing bonus point despite two second-half scores from Thibaut Regard.

Rounding out the action, a depleted Connacht side earned a fine 23-20 victory over Montpellier in their first Champions Cup outing in three years.

Backs Tiernan O'Halloran and Kieran Marmion were absent for the clash, as were big hitters Paddy McAllister, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, Gavin Thornbury and Sean O'Brien in the forwards.

However, tries from Paul Boyle, stand-in captain Tom McCartney and Caolin Blade helped Connacht start their Pool 5 campaign with a win at the Sportsground.

Sacked Wallabies international Israel Folau has blamed gay marriage and abortion for the bush fires devastating Australia.

Firefighters are reported to be tackling 120 blazes across the country, with 303 homes said to have been lost in New South Wales over the past week.

Folau, a devout Christian, had his contract terminated by Rugby Australia in April for a "high-level breach" after he posted "hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram.

On Sunday, footage emerged of the 30-year-old delivering a sermon at the Church of Jesus Christ in Kenthurst, claiming the bush fires are a message from God over same-sex marriage and abortion laws.

"God's word says for a man and a woman to be together, one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage to be together," Folau told those in attendance. 

"They've changed that law and have now legalised same-sex marriage.

"Abortion, it's okay now to murder and kill infants, unborn children, and they deem that to be okay.

"You have changed the law and changed the ordinance of these things, look how rampant these bush fires, these droughts...all these things have come in a short period of time. Do you think it's a coincidence or not?

"God is speaking to you guys, Australia. You need to repent." 

Rugby Australia and Folau failed to reach a settlement in June over the full-back's sacking and an unfair dismissal case began in court in August.

The former Waratahs back had been previously warned over his online posts in 2018.

Conor O'Shea says he "loved every minute" of being Italy head coach after deciding to step away from the role.

The Irishman had a contract through to May 2020 but has opted to resign with immediate effect.

O'Shea, a former London Irish and Harlequins coach, took over the Azzurri in March 2016, but Italy failed to make it out of the group stages of the recent Rugby World Cup.

"I loved every minute I spent in Italy and I really believe in what we have done and how it can be achieved in the years to come," O'Shea, who has been tipped to take up a position with the English Rugby Football Union, said via a statement on the Italian Rugby Federation's official website.

"We have started a process and generated a new, well-founded hope, but I also believe that the end of the Rugby World Cup represents the best time for everyone to make changes in view of the new cycle.

"I built friendships and made experiences that I will never forget. I sincerely hope to have left Italian rugby in a better position."

O'Shea's last match was the World Cup clash with South Africa, which ended in a 49-3 defeat to the eventual champions.

Italy needed to produce an unlikely victory over New Zealand in their final pool match in order to qualify – a fixture abandoned due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Garry Ringrose scored a hat-trick as last season's runners-up Leinster beat Benetton 33-19 and Clermont Auvergne thrashed Harlequins in the European Champions Cup on Saturday.

Leinster were beaten by Saracens in the final in May, but the 2018 Champions Cup holders started their quest to regain the trophy with a bonus-point Pool 1 win at the RDS Arena.

Ringrose was the star of the show, the Ireland centre crossing twice inside the first 14 minutes and completing his treble after the break.

Ronan Kelleher also touched down on his European debut before Johnny Sexton rounded off a slick move early in the second half, the Ireland fly-half also adding six points with the boot.

Tries from Dean Budd, Epalahame Faiva and Luca Sperandio were in vain as Benetton were second best in the all-Pro 14 encounter.

Challenge Cup holders Clermont hammered Quins 53-21 in the Pool 2 clash at Stade Marcel Michelin.

Alivereti Raka and Peceli Yato grabbed doubles as the Top 14 side scored seven tries, blowing Paul Gustard's side away.

John Cooney made amends for an incredible missed penalty by slotting over the winning points from the tee to give Ulster a 17-16 success in the other Pool 2 match at Bath.

Exeter Chiefs are the early Pool 2 leaders following a 31-12 bonus-point win at La Rochelle, while DTH Van Der Merwe scored Glasgow Warriors' only try in a 13-7 home triumph over Sale Sharks.

Munster opened their European campaign with a 32-13 Pool 4 defeat of the Ospreys on their travels, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway among their four try-scorers.

John Dyer starred as Fiji clung on to beat the Barbarians 33-31 in a thriller to win the Killik Cup at Twickenham on Saturday.

Number eight Dyer scored a second-half double either side of a try from Temo Mayanavanua to put the Pacific Islanders in command.

Enele Malele and Teti Tela crossed in the first half after Mathieu Bastareaud opened the scoring with a five-pointer for the Baa-baas and Andre Esterhuizen touched down for a try that Curwin Bosch converted to leave Fiji only 14-12 up at the break.

Fiji looked to be out of sight when Dyer claimed his brace, but South Africa Rugby World Cup winner Makazole Mapimpi grabbed two tries of his own and Morne Steyn finished off a great move in a dramatic finale.

The Barbarians, coach by England boss Eddie Jones, ran out of time to complete a stunning fightback but Tendai Mtawarira was given a rousing reception in his final international when he came off after having a try disallowed.

Former Ireland captain Rory Best also came off to a great ovation during a captivating encounter.

Toulouse staged an impressive second-half comeback to open their European Champions Cup campaign with a hard-fought 25-20 victory over Gloucester.

Premiership side Gloucester led 20-9 at the break, Joe Simpson crossing twice as the hosts held sway in the opening 40 minutes at Kingsholm.

Both were impressive finishes from the scrum-half that saw him break clear from inside his own territory. Danny Cipriani landed each conversion attempt plus a pair of penalties, giving Gloucester a useful lead at the midway stage of the Pool 5 clash.

However, four-time winners Toulouse roared back in the second half, scoring 16 points without reply to prevail on the road.

Thomas Ramos - who split the posts twice in the first period to add to Zack Holmes drop goal - and Romain Ntamack kicked a penalty apiece to close the gap before the Top 14 side struck the decisive blow just after the hour.

Scrum-half Sebastien Bezy darted over from close range after excellent work from his pack, leaving Ramos with an easy conversion to put his team ahead.

The full-back slotted over a further three points with 12 minutes remaining, giving Toulouse a five-point cushion they retained through to the final whistle.

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton has been added to his national side's coaching team by new head coach Wayne Pivac.

Warburton, who announced his injury-enforced retirement at the age of 29 last July, will serve as a technical advisor for the breakdown and defence on a campaign-to-campaign basis.

His appointment was confirmed on Friday, along with that of Byron Hayward, who will return to the WRU as defence coach.

"I'm delighted to be part of the senior national coaching team," said Warburton, who also skippered the British and Irish Lions during his illustrious playing career, in a WRU statement.

"It is a genuine privilege to be considered for such a role and I can't wait to do my upmost [sic] to contribute to help improve the team and players. With such a great group of players and management it is an amazing opportunity which I am very proud to be given."

Pivac has succeeded Warren Gatland following the New Zealander's 12-year stint as head coach and now has five former Wales internationals in his backroom team, with Warburton and Hayward joining Stephen Jones, Jonathan Humphreys and Neil Jenkins.

"I'm delighted to bring both Byron and Sam into the set-up and add to what is already a vastly experienced coaching team," said Pivac.

"Sam is one of the most experienced leaders in rugby with excellent knowledge and communication skills and having only recently retired he has a full grasp on the international game.

"We looked at the coaching structure and the roles of each coach and believed adding a second defensive role into the team adds value, adds a point of difference and allows a specialist to work in the contact area. I believe Byron and Sam will complement each other in the roles."

Wales' first game under Pivac is on November 30, when they will take on a Barbarians side coached by Gatland in Cardiff.

Sonny Bill Williams is determined to "turn some heads" with Toronto Wolfpack after revealing he took "stick" from team-mates over another cross-code switch.

Fresh from representing New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup, Williams has given up the 15-a-side game for another dabble in the 13-player code.

It will be a third stint in rugby league for the 34-year-old, who has also competed in professional boxing, and he has vowed to make an impact with the Super League newcomers.

He comes in on a salary worth a reported £2.6million per year, unprecedented money for a single player in the sport, with his signing a statement of intent by his new employers.

"As Toronto players, I think we're going out there to turn some heads," Williams said on Thursday. "But then also the amount of support the lads have back in Toronto, it sounds crazy.

"It's a journey, there's a bit of pressure there but it's so exciting."

He was speaking in London at a news conference to announce his arrival in the UK-centred league, with Toronto the ambitious Canadian outfit who played their first match less than three years ago.

Next term will be their first in the top tier, and Williams said he felt "really grateful and blessed for this opportunity but I understand what I'm coming into".

He is confident the level of pressure that will be on him and Toronto is something he can thrive on, explaining he was offered the chance to join coach Brian McDermott's team "around the World Cup time".

Speculation linking him to Toronto had been bubbling along for months, and Williams decided the time was right to leave Auckland-based Super Rugby side the Blues when a deal was tabled.

"Obviously the lads in the teams I've been playing for were giving me stick but I hadn't heard anything from the club. Once it all came about it came to fruition really quickly," Williams said.

"But I just go back to the conversations that I had with Brian. Yes, I'm a sportsman, but I need to have that purpose, something I really believe in, and just his philosophy, how he wants to play the game, I feel like the way I strive to play the game, I could be really suited to their style of play."

McDermott knows the new acquisition will raise the profile of Toronto's team, and Super League as a whole, after pointing to the huge numbers of television viewers that saw Williams in World Cup action.

"They're going to follow where he's gone to and take interest," McDermott said. "Now they may have no interest whatsoever to start with in Super League or the Wolfpack, but they are now going to do that."

Scottish Rugby has expressed its regret over threatening to take legal action against World Rugby during the World Cup and agreed to pay a £70,000 fine.

Chief executive Mark Dodson said Scottish Rugby had received legal opinion for a potential case against the world governing body if Scotland's clash with Japan was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

The decisive Pool A showdown between the hosts and Scotland at International Stadium Yokohama was in doubt with one of the most destructive typhoons in decades approaching.

Japan reached the quarter-finals and knocked Gregor Townsend's side out when the match went ahead as scheduled last month.

Scottish Rugby stated that it would "consider all options, which may include arbitration" after World Rugby ordered the organisation to apologise and pay a fine.

The matter is now closed, though, after Scottish Rugby opted against taking further action.

"World Rugby can confirm that the Scottish Rugby Union has expressed its regret and has confirmed it will not challenge World Rugby further on this matter.

"The Scottish Rugby Union has agreed to pay a donation of £70,000 to World Rugby and the matter is now closed. There will be no further comment from either party."

World Rugby stated last week that the fine will be donated to the ChildFund Pass it Back programme to assist with the ongoing relief effort in areas affected by Typhoon Hagibis.

Scottish Rugby has expressed its regret over threatening to take legal action against World Rugby during the World Cup and agreed to pay a £70,000 fine.

Chief executive Mark Dodson said Scottish Rugby had received legal opinion for a potential case against the world governing body if Scotland's clash with Japan was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

The decisive Pool A showdown between the hosts and Scotland at International Stadium Yokohama was in doubt with one of the most destructive typhoons in decades approaching.

Japan reached the quarter-finals and knocked Gregor Townsend's side out when the match went ahead as scheduled last month.

Scottish Rugby stated that it would "consider all options, which may include arbitration" after World Rugby ordered the organisation to apologise and pay a fine.

The matter is now closed, though, after Scottish Rugby opted against taking further action.

"World Rugby can confirm that the Scottish Rugby Union has expressed its regret and has confirmed it will not challenge World Rugby further on this matter.

"The Scottish Rugby Union has agreed to pay a donation of £70,000 to World Rugby and the matter is now closed. There will be no further comment from either party."

World Rugby stated last week that the fine will be donated to the ChildFund Pass it Back programme to assist with the ongoing relief effort in areas affected by Typhoon Hagibis.

Rory Best will captain the Barbarians against Fiji on his final appearance before he retires from rugby.

Former Ireland skipper Best is calling time on a 15-year senior career after Saturday's match at Twickenham.

It has now been confirmed the 37-year-old will lead Eddie Jones' side, with the England coach having also included three of South Africa's Rugby World Cup winners.

Makazole Mapimpi and loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira – also making the final appearance of his career – start, with Lukhanyo Am named on the bench.

In total, there are 10 South African players within the 23-man invitational squad.

Best's final international appearance for Ireland came in their 46-14 defeat to New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Barbarians: 15. David Havili, 14. Dillyn Leyds, 13. Mathieu Bastareaud, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Curwin Bosch, 9. Joe Powell; 1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Rory Best, 3. Enrique Pieretto, 4. Luke Jones, 5. Tyler Ardron, 6. Pete Samu, 7. Marco van Staden, 8. Josh Strauss.

Replacements: 16. Andrew Makalio, 17. Campese Ma'afu, 18. Hencus van Wyk, 19. Angus Cottrell, 20. Matt Philip, 21. Jano Vermaak, 22. Lukhanyo Am, 23. Morne Steyn.

Guilhem Guirado will miss the Six Nations after the France captain was ruled out for five months with a ruptured bicep.

Guirado suffered the injury just before the hour-mark on his Montpellier debut in a 19-19 Top 14 draw against his former club Toulon at Stade Mayol on Saturday.

Montpellier revealed on Tuesday that the hooker is to undergo surgery and will not be available until April.

The 33-year-old will play no part in Les Bleus' Six Nations campaign under Fabien Galthie, who replaced Jacques Brunel after the Rugby World Cup.

Montpellier have also lost wing Jim Nagusa for 10 weeks due to a knee injury.

Two-time Top 14 champions Montpellier travel to Connacht for their first European Champions Cup Pool 5 fixture on Sunday.

Eddie Jones fended off reports he interested in an NRL coaching role but is unsure how long he will remain England boss.

Jones has been linked with a switch to rugby league to take over at South Sydney Rabbitohs following England's Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa.

Rugby Australia expressed an interest in appointing Jones for a second spell as Wallabies head coach, but it was told he is unavailable.

Jones is contracted to England until 2021 but the canny Australian gave little away when asked about his future as he prepares to coach the Barbarians against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.

Asked about a potential move to the NRL, he told Sky Sports News: "There's all sorts of stories at the moment.

"I saw a story about me going to France, stories about going to Fiji - which is definitely a lot warmer than it is here."

Quizzed whether he would stay in his current role for the 2023 World Cup in France, he replied: "It's not really my decision. As you know, coaches are contracted by either a club or a union and we've got to perform. That's the only thing I'm worried about."

Jones also stated that, in hindsight, he picked the wrong team to face the Springboks.

"To a large degree, it was just one of those games. Some games you get caught. They started the game well. Things came off for them, things didn't go well for us." he added.

"We got on the back foot and couldn't get back on the front foot. If there's one thing I could have done now that I would have done, I would have changed the selection a little bit.

"I continually in the World Cup changed selection from game to game - in hindsight, I probably should have refreshed the squad a little bit.

"I'm not going to talk about individuals now. I just should have maybe changed the order of the 23."

Warren Gatland said he "politely declined" the chance to put his name forward for the New Zealand job as he had already committed to the Chiefs and the British and Irish Lions.

Gatland's long tenure as Wales head coach came to an end after the reigning Six Nations champions were beaten by the All Blacks in a Rugby World Cup third-place play-off in Japan at the start of this month.

The New Zealander signed a four-year deal to return to his homeland as Chiefs boss in June, during which time he will take a year away from the Super Rugby franchise to coach the Lions in South Africa in 2021.

Gatland says he has not applied to replace Steve Hansen as New Zealand head coach after already agreeing to take on two alternative roles.

"It was nice to be contacted [but] I politely declined putting my name forward," he told Radio Sport.

"I'm a little bit old school... I'd made the commitment to the Chiefs and I'd made the commitment to the Lions, it was important that I carry on with that ... honour the commitment I made to those two sides.

"Maybe sometime in the future I may get that opportunity again."

Wales will be without centre Jonathan Davies for the 2020 Six Nations after he was ruled out for at least six months due to impending knee surgery.

Davies, 31, sustained the injury during a pool game against Fiji at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

He missed the quarter-final against France but returned for the semi-final against eventual winners South Africa, while he also played in the bronze medal match against New Zealand.

The timetable for Davies' recovery means the Six Nations, which begins for Wales with a home fixture against Italy on February 1 and runs until March 14, will come too soon for him in his recovery.

 

Also set for a spell on the sidelines following Wales' return from the tournament in Japan is fly-half Rhys Patchell. Davies' Scarlets team-mate will miss between 12 and 16 weeks due to shoulder surgery.

Wales are defending Six Nations champions having achieved the Grand Slam in the 2019 tournament.

They will be under the leadership of Wayne Pivac following the departure of Warren Gatland, who spent 12 years at the helm.

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