Bath’s Ollie Lawrence named Gallagher Premiership player of the year

By Sports Desk May 10, 2023

England centre Ollie Lawrence has been named Gallagher Premiership player of the year at the end of a season that saw him emerge from Worcester’s financial ruin to make an impact at Bath.

Lawrence found a new home at the Recreation Ground in October after the Warriors were placed into administration and he took the opportunity to revitalise a career that had been troubled by injury.

Not only did the 23-year-old help Bath qualify for the Heineken Champions Cup, his powerful running saw him recalled by England and he was a mainstay of their midfield during the Six Nations.

He beat fellow nominees Owen Farrell, Jasper Wiese and Robert du Preez to win an award that was decided by experts of the game and presented at Premiership Rugby’s awards dinner in central London.

Breakthrough player of the season went to London Irish’s Tom Pearson, the 23-year-old back row who is pressing hard for England selection.

Saracens’ Mark McCall took the director of rugby of the season award after guiding his team into the Premiership play-offs by finishing top of the table in the regular season.

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    Danny Care insists England will resume their World Cup quest armed with inspiration from Europe’s stirring Ryder Cup victory.

    Care was among four England players to send a good luck message to Luke Donald’s team from a golf course in Le Touquet, where Steve Borthwick’s squad are based ahead of the final Pool D game against Samoa.

    Europe emerged 16½-11½ winners against the United States on Sunday and for Care one aspect in particular stood out about their performance.

    “Team spirit is the reason the best teams are successful,” the veteran Harlequins scrum-half said.

    “I don’t know many environments where you wouldn’t have a good team spirit and the team ends up winning a tournament or a league or a trophy at the end of it.

    “I was an outsider watching the Ryder Cup but they looked more aligned and close than the American team did.

    “You could see it, you could feel it just watching on the screens. You could see how much it meant to them. That’s definitely something we’re trying to harness – how much it means to us.

    “Europe hung in together, fought for everything. Those little half points that they saved. We can definitely take some inspiration from those lads.

    “The golf they played was unbelievable. We haven’t shown much of that in Le Touquet, some of our lads!”

    England have forged their own winning path so far in the World Cup, polishing off Argentina, Japan and Chile with plenty to spare.

    Even with Samoa left to play they have qualified for the quarter-finals as group winners to continue an impressive revival since losing three of their four warm-up Tests in August.

    “Sometimes you have to go through some bad stuff to get to the good stuff,” Care said.

    “Maybe our bad stuff was those warm-up games, to get us to look at ourselves and go ‘Right, we need to pull together a little bit’. It’s going to take everyone to win this.”

    England play Samoa in Lille on Saturday, with Borthwick naming his starting XV on Thursday evening.

  • Jonathan Humphreys urges Wales not to ‘go off-script’ against Georgia Jonathan Humphreys urges Wales not to ‘go off-script’ against Georgia

    Jonathan Humphreys says that Wales “cannot afford to go off-script” when they tackle Rugby World Cup opponents Georgia in Nantes on Saturday.

    Wales need a point from their Pool C finale to win the group, having already secured a quarter-final place through beating Australia by a record 40-6 scoreline nine days ago.

    They lost 13-12 at home to Georgia when the countries last met almost a year ago, and Wales assistant coach Humphreys has emphasised a fierce sense of determination in the camp.

    “There has been a bit of an edge about training, which is what we want,” forwards specialist Humphreys said.

    “We are just keen to continue the progress that we’ve shown. That is a big driving force for us, and we have talked constantly about that.

    “I expect them (Georgia) to play a bit, and they are strong up-front – we are under no illusion about that.

    “They are a dangerous outfit, and we cannot afford to go off-script.”

    Few could have imagined Wales reaching the last eight just 11 months after Georgia triumphed 13-12 in Cardiff, and Humphreys added: “We’ve had five months together. We are more like a club team than an international team.

    “We came in earlier than most teams, we know what we wanted to improve and we haven’t deviated from that.

    “Probably the messages that went out in May, they haven’t changed at all.

    “Every day, it has been working on those fundamentals that we felt were important and would make a difference.”

    Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made six changes for the Georgia clash, with Dewi Lake captaining a side that also sees starts for wing Rio Dyer, fly-half Gareth Anscombe, scrum-half Tomos Williams, lock Dafydd Jenkins and flanker Tommy Reffell.

    Centre Nick Tompkins will continue his midfield partnership with George North, meanwhile, and look to maintain the form that has made him among Wales’ most impressive performers at the tournament.

    “We want no dip in our performance,” Tompkins said.

    “We want to get better, we don’t want to take our foot off the pedal – that’s the last thing we want. We want confidence and momentum and to keep on going.

    “I want to just keep getting better and keep pushing myself. There are a lot of things I need to improve on.

    “I am happy with some areas, but there are some things I really need to push myself on.

    “You look at some of the other centres out there and how well they are doing, and you want to emulate that.

    “Being together as a squad for five months means you can have those little conversations and make little tweaks.

    “You are all looking for little things to tweak and improve. It has been really healthy, and it has been all of us pushing each other.”

    Tompkins has also voiced his support for the World Cup bunker system, whereby incidents of foul play can be referred and a yellow card retained or upgraded to red.

    “I like it,” Tompkins added.

    “Decisions are tough at the moment anyway, referees are under a lot of a pressure to keep the game moving quickly and get the right decision.

    “I think it is brilliant, I like that model. To cut down the pressure we put on referees, especially, is good.”

  • Ali Price: Enhanced maturity helping with frustration of losing Scotland spot Ali Price: Enhanced maturity helping with frustration of losing Scotland spot

    Ali Price feels his enhanced maturity has helped him respond positively to the frustration of losing his status as Scotland’s first-choice scrum-half in the lead-up to the World Cup.

    The 30-year-old had made the number nine jersey his own for three years from the start of 2020 to the end of 2022, a period that incorporated a call-up to the British and Irish Lions squad in 2021.

    However, Price was dropped at the start of this year’s Six Nations, with the burgeoning Ben White taking his place. He is now effectively vying with his on-form Glasgow colleague George Horne for a place on the bench.

    Price admits such a scenario would have “eaten him up inside” a few years back and caused him to react in an unconstructive manner but he has been able to take a more philosophical view on it and is at peace with the situation.

    Asked if he had been able to enjoy the World Cup, despite starting only one of the three matches – Saturday’s victory over Pool B minnows Romania – Price said: “Yeah, I really have actually.

    “From four years ago, getting injured in the first game and going home, I’ve matured as a person in my outlook.

    “This situation a few years ago would have eaten me up inside. I’d have probably been negative about decisions or selection issues.

    “At times you have to accept that there are good players playing well in your position. It can happen and other guys take their opportunities and you have to bide your time.

    “I think that’s the kind of realisation I’ve come to, the bigger picture. All I can do is focus on myself and get myself to where I want to be.

    “I believe that when I’m at my best, I give the coach the hardest challenge of whether to select me or not and that’s all I can control.

    “That’s my outlook and it has been for the last couple of years. It means I enjoy it more. I’m doing what I love, I’m with a group of boys I get on with really well.

    “That’s the bonus at the end of the week, being selected, but at the same time if I’m not, I’m contributing to those guys going out there and doing the best for the team and that’ll get us the results we need to progress.

    “I think I’ve matured in that way in terms of disappointment at not playing when I’d like to be.”

    Despite losing his Scotland place, Price feels he is now back “in a good spot” in terms of his overall game and mindset.

    “It’s been frustrating at times, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “Everyone wants to play but I feel that during the Six Nations there was maybe a bit of a turning point for me in terms of seeing progress in myself in training.

    “I was fit, I was healthy and I was making the most of the opportunities I had on the field.

    “The starts have maybe been less than I would have liked or what I had previously but I feel any time I’ve had on the pitch and in training, I’ve got myself slowly back to a place where I’m happy with how I’m performing.

    “The game at the weekend was a lot of fun, I think how I facilitated the game and put others into space is one of my strengths. I really enjoyed the team performance we had. I was happy with how it went and I’m in a good spot.”

    Price is desperate to get the chance to add to his 65 caps by having some involvement in Saturday’s showdown with Ireland in Paris.

    The Scots must get a bonus-point win or deny the world’s top-ranked side a losing bonus in order to reach the quarter-finals.

    “It’s huge,” said the scrum-half. “It would be one of the biggest games of my career if I was given the opportunity to play.

    “I’ve not had as many minutes as I would have liked to have had this year but I think every chance I’ve had, I’ve shown what I can do.

    “I’ve steadily got myself back to where I want to be as a player. It’s a big training week and what will be will be, but everyone is sticking their hand up.”

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