London Irish suspended as takeover deal collapses

By Sports Desk June 06, 2023

London Irish have been suspended from rugby union’s entire league structure after becoming the third Gallagher Premiership club to collapse this season.

The Rugby Football Union has confirmed that neither Irish’s owner Mick Crossan nor the American consortium planning to buy the club were able to prove they had the finances to compete in the top flight for the 2023-24 campaign.

Furthermore, the outstanding 50 per cent of May’s payroll owed to staff and players has not been paid before the final deadline set by the RFU of 4pm on Tuesday.

It means that Irish join Wasps and Worcester in becoming a casualty of the financial crisis gripping the Premiership, which will now become a 10-team competition.

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  • Warren Gatland lauds Wales achievements as they keep ‘punching above our weight’ Warren Gatland lauds Wales achievements as they keep ‘punching above our weight’

    Warren Gatland has hailed Wales’ ability to keep “punching above our weight” after clinching a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

    It maintains Gatland’s 100 per record of reaching the last-eight in four World Cup campaigns as Wales head coach.

    And the achievement is further underlined by where Wales were just six months ago on and off the pitch.

    They finished fifth in the Six Nations, with a solitary win being against Italy, while Welsh professional rugby was engulfed by financial issues and contractual uncertainty for many players.

    That scenario almost led to Gatland’s squad going on strike in protest over the situation just days before Wales faced England in Cardiff.

    Now, though, they find themselves at the business end of a World Cup, having progressed from Pool C with one game to spare and seemingly on course for a quarter-final clash against Argentina in Marseille on October 14.

    “There were a lot of things going on before the Six Nations,” Gatland said, following a record 40-6 victory over Australia that confirmed Wales’ progression to the knockout phase.

    “Contract issues and the players getting offered them, and then just understanding the frustrations from them in terms of security, future, families and stuff.

    “I probably didn’t realise at the time the impact that had on the coaching staff and probably even myself.

    “I had to sit back and let things unfold until after the Six Nations, when you can get a squad together.

    “We have been together for four months now. You know you can put the detail, preparation and hard work in that we always pride ourselves on.

    “We are such a small nation as a tier one nation in terms of playing numbers, and we are proud that our success has been based on hard work and punching above our weight.

    “Everyone has made a lot of sacrifices in the last four months, and the message from me beforehand was ‘you get what you deserve in life’ from putting that hard work and effort in.

    “We have been through some pain and tough times. We have pushed some players right to the edge, and they have fronted up.

    “We have got a brilliant balance in this group in terms of taking the mickey out of each other and some real banter, which is brilliant.

    “But when they are asked to front up and perform at training, they get their heads on and they knuckle down.”

    Wales were World Cup semi-finalists in 2011 – the first time for 24 years – and 2019, with that achievement now having an outstanding chance of being repeated.

    Among Wales’ many successes in the tournament so far has been co-captain Jac Morgan’s form and leadership, which he highlighted through an immense display against Australia.

    It evokes memories of New Zealand in 2011 when a 22-year-old Sam Warburton was handed the captaincy reins and delivered magnificently. At 23, flanker Morgan is so far ticking every box.

    Gatland added: “He is still a young man, and I threw him in at the deep end. He has been absolutely outstanding.

    “I have a huge amount of admiration for him. He is definitely a player who leads from the front, and he did exactly that (against Australia). It was a brilliant performance from him.”

  • Scotland must ‘do it the hard way’ to qualify from group but know what is needed Scotland must ‘do it the hard way’ to qualify from group but know what is needed

    Gregor Townsend admitted Scotland will have to “do it the hard way” if they are to reach the World Cup quarter-finals but the head coach is hoping the renewed clarity of their situation in Pool B can help his team in their quest to progress.

    After Ireland’s narrow victory over South Africa on Saturday and the Scots’ bonus-point 45-17 win over Tonga on Sunday, the picture has become slightly clearer for everyone in a lop-sided section containing three of the top five teams in the world rankings.

    From Scotland’s perspective, they now know they will have to get a bonus-point win over Romania in Lille on Saturday and then ensure they defeat Ireland in Paris the following weekend with a bonus point or win by more than seven points to deny the Irish a losing bonus.

    Townsend is pleased that his team emerged from the past weekend with five points and still with a fighting chance of qualifying.

    “It keeps us on track,” he said. “The South Africa-Ireland game could have gone either way, it was a close Test match.

    “But the fact South Africa picked up a bonus point means now it’s a straight shoot-out between us and Ireland.

    “If South Africa pick five points up against Tonga – which they might do, they might not – that would mean they will likely get to 15 points.

    “So we are competing with Ireland to get to 14 points, unless either of us pick up bonus points in our game against them.

    “Ireland are already on 14 points, so we have to get to 10 points (by beating Romania on Saturday) to make sure it becomes a straight shoot-out between us and them, and if we were to win that game by more than seven points we get through to the quarter-final. It’s as straightforward as that.

    “We know it’s going to be a difficult challenge against the number one team in the world. We’re going to have to do it the hard way to get out of this group but we believe in our players.”

    Finn Russell admitted Ireland’s win over the Boks has made things slightly more difficult for Scotland because they will have to beat the Irish by more than seven points – as opposed to simply beating them by any score – but the stand-off does not feel it has changed things significantly for his side.

    “Ideally for us South Africa would have won but we know what we need to do now,” he said. “We knew what we had to do against Tonga, and going into the Romania game we know what we need to get to have that final game against Ireland in Paris.

    “I don’t think it’s changed too much for us because after (losing to) South Africa, we were always going to have to go and beat Ireland. We knew at the start this was potentially a situation we could be in.”

    The Scots scored seven tries against Tonga – all from different players – but Russell feels they will have to be far more clinical going forward, particularly against the Irish.

    “Seven different try-scorers is great but I think we left five or six chances out there potentially,” he said.

    “It’s great we’re getting balls out wide, the backs scored a few tries, we got a driving maul try which is really pleasing as well but there were times when we got to five metres from the line and we’ve got to do a lot better there.

    “It’s good the boys are scoring but I think we need to be a lot better and a lot harder on ourselves in training and in games.

    “It doesn’t matter if there’s one guy that scores seven tries or seven individuals, it’s a team effort. But we need to up it. If we want to progress in this tournament we need to be a lot better than that.”

  • Jonathan Humphreys only has Georgia on his mind after Wales’ impressive win Jonathan Humphreys only has Georgia on his mind after Wales’ impressive win

    Jonathan Humphreys says Wales are looking no further ahead than next opponents Georgia as their Rugby World Cup campaign continues to gather impressive momentum.

    A record 40-6 victory over Eddie Jones’ Australia confirmed a quarter-final place one game inside the distance.

    Wales will top the pool if they defeat Georgia in Nantes next week, before a last-eight clash potentially against Argentina in Marseille.

    But while Wales have reached the tournament’s business end for a fourth successive World Cup, assistant coach Humphreys underlined that there are no thoughts beyond Georgia.

    “We need to fully concentrate on Georgia. We know we are in the quarter-finals, but Georgia is a massive game for us,” Humphreys said.

    “We want to keep momentum going and we don’t want to fall off the standards we are setting. We will just focus on them.

    “We want to finish top of our group. It was only a few short months ago that Georgia beat us at the (Principality) stadium.

    “We will be treating them with massive respect. Like we said in the changing rooms afterwards, our focus after a couple of days off will turn directly to Georgia.

    “For us, the next thing is to finish top of our group, and then the quarter-final becomes the massive part for us. Literally, that’s it – I think it is dangerous to be thinking anything other than that.”

    Georgia beat Wales 13-12 during last year’s autumn Tests, and Humphreys added: “They deserved it, they were excellent on the day.

    “It is not about revenge or anything like that. It’s about making sure we’re at our best to win the game and top our group.”

    Wales are a team transformed from the Six Nations earlier this year, when only Italy finished below them.

    Significant momentum has been generated, a Welsh rugby nation believes again and there is every chance that a semi-final appearance will be Wales’ minimum World Cup return.

    “He (Wales head coach Warren Gatland) has just taken us back to the DNA of this team – be fit, work hard.

    “We believe that we work harder than anybody else, and that is a powerful tool. We are becoming a very tough team to beat.

    “You see the team spirit here, you see everyone walking around with their families and kids. We are a very united group.

    “In our meeting room yesterday where we have food, there was a big family event going on with all our kids, families and wives.

    “You could hear them all laughing and joking and having a good time. We reiterate we do this for them – that’s what it is about. Right down to the bones, it is incorporated in everything we do.

    “It was definitely a memory to cherish yesterday. Leaving the hotel with all the families clapping you on the bus, and then just seeing the excitement and seas of red as you are going in on the bus.

    “It has been like that everywhere we’ve been. When you see a (fans) village in the middle of the city just full of people in red singing the national anthem, it is awesome, a great feeling.”

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