Leicester confirm ex-Australia assistant McKellar as new coach after Borthwick exit

By Sports Desk February 22, 2023

Former Australia assistant coach Dan McKellar has departed the Wallabies to take charge of Leicester Tigers from next season.

The former Brumbies boss will become the permanent successor to England coach Steve Borthwick at the Premiership Rugby club.

McKellar exits the backroom staff of new Australia boss Eddie Jones, who returned to the top job at the Wallabies following his own exit at Twickenham.

The 46-year-old's arrival at Welford Road signals the end of a coaching reshuffle between the club and the two nations, just months ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

"We are delighted to be able to confirm Dan McKellar's appointment to the head coach role at Leicester Tigers from next season," club chief executive officer Andrea Pinchen said.

"This has been a rigorous process, over a period of almost six months, and always been about ensuring that we found the very best coach to lead this club into the future.

"His style of coaching, his interactions and passion for wanting to improve players, his interest in developing Tigers-made players and our connection with our community has shown he understands the uniqueness of this club.

"Dan is committed to long-term success at Leicester Tigers, and we are looking forward to welcoming him and his family in the summer, before getting to work together."

McKellar will not take charge until the end of the 2022-23 campaign at Leicester, with the Tigers set to continue under interim boss Richard Wigglesworth.

The former scrum-half is then set to link up with former coach Borthwick and fellow assistant Kevin Sinfield as part of the national set-up ahead of the World Cup.

After losing their opening Six Nations game to Scotland, England bounced back to give their new boss a maiden victory against Italy earlier this month.

They next play Wales on Saturday, before games with holders France and championship favourites Ireland in March.

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    Gregor Townsend praised Scotland for bouncing back emphatically from their South Africa defeat to score 19 tries in back-to-back victories over Tonga and Romania and set up a World Cup Pool B shootout with Ireland for a place in the quarter-finals.

    The Scots have been playing must-win rugby since losing their opener to the Boks, and after beating Tonga 45-17 last weekend, they pulled off another bonus-point win by defeating Romania 84-0 in Lille on Saturday.

    The past two results mean Townsend’s team now have a chance to qualify for the last eight if they defeat Ireland in Paris next Saturday night either with a bonus point or by denying Andy Farrell’s side a losing bonus.

    “I’m really pleased with the way they’ve bounced back,” said the head coach. “A lot of hard work has gone in at training. We had a two-week break between South Africa and Tonga and we had three very tough, physical sessions in the heat.

    “The players trained really well this week as well so they’re putting in the hard yards that is required to then play at a level where you can score the amount of tries we’ve scored in the last two games, where we’ve been able to set up this shootout game with Ireland.

    “The credit goes to the players for how they’ve worked in training and in the matches against Tonga and Romania. Both games were very physical and you’ve got to win that physical battle, which we did.”

    Darcy Graham climbed from sixth on Scotland’s all-time try-scoring list to joint-second by touching down four times in the 12-try romp against Romania. The Edinburgh wing leapfrogged Duhan van der Merwe and Chris Paterson and is now level with Ian Smith and Tony Stanger on 24, just three shy of record-holder Stuart Hogg.

    “I think he’s someone who will create opportunities to score tries because of his willingness to get on the ball,” said Townsend. “He called a lot of the balls because he got back off the ground to be in position.

    “He saw space and he also is a great finisher. His footwork for the fourth try was incredible. He had a couple of assists as well, so he certainly plays for the team.

    “In the last two games, Darcy’s really gone for it and we’ve seen that in training. Sometimes it’s tough when you’re a winger and you’ve not had the game time he would have liked after he picked up that little niggle over the summer but he’s now flying and that’s brilliant to see.”

    Graham was one of only a few first-choice players to start against Romania as Townsend made 13 changes with Ireland in mind. The head coach was pleased with the way his back-ups performed against the eastern European minnows.

    “I thought the way the players applied themselves, to be given that opportunity you could see they wanted to go and grab it,” he said.

    “It has been a tough time for a lot of these players, to not play. Some of them have not played since our first World Cup warm-up game against Italy.

    “That was a deliberate policy to keep a 23 and 15 working as much as possible together as we built up to our South Africa game, and then when you have a two-week break, then another week versus Tonga, it is a long time to wait to play at a World Cup.

    “But they grabbed their opportunity tonight and whether that means they play next week will be decided in selection.

    “I’m really pleased with the level of competition, the depth we have and the individual performances tonight that means whoever goes out next week we can be confident of their ability to get the job done.”

  • Four-try Darcy Graham helps Scotland thrash Romania and set up Ireland showdown Four-try Darcy Graham helps Scotland thrash Romania and set up Ireland showdown

    Darcy Graham climbed from sixth to joint-second on Scotland’s all-time try-scorer list with four touchdowns in a resounding 84-0 victory over Romania which sets up a mouth-watering World Cup shootout with Ireland next weekend.

    The Scots ran in six tries in each half in Lille to inflict another demoralising defeat on their opponents, who were similarly outclassed by both Ireland and South Africa in their first two matches in Pool B.

    Graham, who started the evening on 20 international tries, wreaked the most damage on the eastern European minnows as his first-half hat-trick and another after the break took him ahead of both Duhan van der Merwe and Chris Paterson and up to 24.

    The prolific Edinburgh wing is now level with Tony Stanger and Ian Smith, and just three shy of record-holder and fellow Hawick native Stuart Hogg, who recently ended his career on 27.

    The Scots were so confident of getting the result they required at Stade Pierre Mauroy that they made 13 changes from the side that started against Tonga the previous Sunday, preserving most of their A-listers for the Ireland match in Paris which they must win with a bonus point or by denying their opponents one in order to reach the quarter-finals.

    There was no danger of the decision to field so many fringe men back-firing from the moment Hamish Watson got the Scots off and running with the first try of the match in the eighth minute.

    The experienced Edinburgh flanker – who has lost the number seven jersey to the burgeoning Rory Darge this year – marked his return to the starting line-up by bounding over on the right after Cam Redpath offloaded into his path as he was thwarted on his own charge towards the line.

    Ali Price – like Watson, another 2021 British and Irish Lions squad member who has become a peripheral player for the national team this year – got the second in the 17th minute after being played in by Graham.

    It was Graham’s turn to get on the scoresheet just four minutes later when he touched down following a brilliant individual run, bringing him level with his Edinburgh team-mate Van der Merwe, one of those given the night off.

    Romania – already bang up against it – completely imploded in the closing 10 minutes of the first half when they had three players sin-binned and conceded a further three tries.

    Hooker Robert Irimescu was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Ben Healy and just a couple of minutes later they were reduced to 13, when back-rower Florian Rosu was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul.

    Scotland took full advantage as Graham scored his second of the evening to move ahead of Van der Merwe and level with Paterson.

    Matt Fagerson bulldozed his way over for the fifth, but only after Ollie Smith had been the victim of a nasty high tackle in the build-up from Marius Simionescu, who became the third Romanian to be sin-binned before the break.

    There was still time before the interval for Graham to complete his hat-trick as the Edinburgh wing moved ahead of Paterson and into fourth place on his own. All six first-half tries were converted by Healy as the Scots went in 42-0 to the good at half-time.

    The scores kept coming after the break, with Chris Harris, Smith, Healy, Johnny Matthews – shortly after coming on for his debut – and Darge all touching down.

    Graham then raced over for his fourth of the night as the Scots ran up their second-highest win at a World Cup, finishing just five points shy of the 89-0 victory they enjoyed against Ivory Coast in 1995.

  • Jersey plight on players’ minds as England pursue World Cup glory – Danny Care Jersey plight on players’ minds as England pursue World Cup glory – Danny Care

    Danny Care insists England view it as a “privilege” to attempt to lift spirits after Jersey Reds’ financial collapse by delivering a successful Rugby World Cup.

    A dramatic Thursday began with the news that Jersey face liquidation unless emergency funding can be secured and ended with England qualifying for the quarter-finals on the strength of Japan’s victory over Samoa.

    The club that clinched last season’s Championship title are set to follow Wasps, Worcester and London Irish into administration, each of them victims of the financial crisis gripping the domestic landscape.

    Care believes Steve Borthwick’s men can play their role in giving the English game a much-needed shot in the arm by progressing deep into the World Cup.

    “It’s incredibly sad news – again. I can’t imagine how those guys are feeling. Alex Mitchell’s brother plays for Jersey and a couple of the lads have got good friends there,” Care said.

    “In a similar vein, I looked at the Premiership launch picture the other day and it just looked so sparse and bare. The 10-team thing kind of hit home then.

    “When you hear that a team that did so well in the Championship last season is no longer, it’s quite sobering. Our thoughts are with all their fans and all the players and staff involved there.

    “As the national team we have a massive role to play. We’re the lucky 33 who are out here on the biggest stage trying to represent everyone.

    “Is that more pressure on us? I don’t see it as that, I see it as a privilege that we can try and put smiles on a few people’s faces.

    “If we can put some smiles on their faces by doing well at this World Cup and giving some hope because there’s a massive responsibility whenever you wear this rose.

    “We’d like to win the whole thing, that’s why we’re here. The Jersey guys will be in our thoughts.”

    England have refused to celebrate their passage into the quarter-finals as Pool D winners with a match to spare knowing they must first negotiate Samoa in Lille on Saturday.

    By routing Argentina, Japan and Chile they have built momentum – albeit in the least competitive of the World Cup groups – that will sweep them into a knockout appointment most likely against Fiji on October 15.

    It represents a startling mood swing from last month when three defeats in four Tests left expectations on the floor.

    “The mood back homes seems to be that people are pleasantly surprised that we’re actually doing all right!” Care said.

    “Before the tournament people were saying a lot of stuff about the team. When you don’t play well do you deserve the negative stuff? I don’t know, but you get it when you wear this shirt.

    “The feeling we’re feeling is massive support and optimism and a belief that maybe there is something in this England team. We believe it as players.”

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