Andy Farrell’s elevation to head coach of the British and Irish Lions is anything but a surprise.

The recently-crowned World Rugby coach of the year was odds-on favourite to land one of the sport’s most prestigious posts after establishing Ireland as global heavyweights.

His impressive impact in Dublin has attracted admirers far and wide and he will spearhead the 2025 tour of Australia with the full support of his predecessor.

“It is the opportunity now for someone else to be head coach and Andy Farrell would have my backing for the job,” Warren Gatland, who selected Farrell as one of his assistants for the Lions tours in 2013 and 2017, said in October.

“You cannot deny what Ireland have achieved as a nation over the last few years. There is no doubt that Andy has done a fantastic job.”

Farrell’s true emergence as the outstanding candidate to succeed Gatland came in 2022 when he masterminded Ireland’s stunning series success in New Zealand.

The historic achievement launched a 17-match winning streak which brought Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam glory, victory over each of rugby’s leading nations and a prolonged spell at the top of the world rankings.

Defeat to the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in October 2023 finally halted the record-breaking run of victories.

Yet that disappointment did little to damage the rising stock of a born leader renowned for emotional intelligence, superb man-management skills, a shrewd rugby brain and an unflappable mentality.

“Everyone runs into camp and never wants to leave – it’s an incredible place to be,” recently-retired Ireland captain Johnny Sexton said of the environment fostered by Farrell.

“I’ve not really seen a manager tick all the boxes like he does.”

Born in Wigan in May 1975, Farrell represented his hometown club in rugby league with distinction.

He made his first-team debut in November 1991 at the age of 16 – two months after the birth of son Owen, the current England captain – and regularly lifted silverware, in addition to twice being named Man of Steel.

Farrell switched codes to play for Saracens in 2005 but the transition was severely hampered by foot surgery and back problems, including a prolapsed disc after a car crash.

Injuries limited him to just eight Test caps in rugby union and kept him sidelined for the latter stages of England’s run to the 2007 World Cup final, where they finished as runners-up to South Africa.

Farrell was later joined at Saracens by a teenage Owen and then remained with the Premiership club following retirement in 2009 to begin his coaching career before joining the England set-up under Stuart Lancaster ahead of the 2012 Six Nations.

Four years later, the 48-year-old headed across the Irish Sea seeking to rebuild his reputation after being dismissed by newly-appointed England coach Eddie Jones in the aftermath of a dismal home World Cup.

Farrell, who initially served as Ireland’s defence coach under Joe Schmidt before stepping into the leading role following the 2019 World Cup, has since given the RFU cause for regret.

Following a rocky transitional period amid the coronavirus pandemic, his vision of a slick system of short, swift interplay clicked into gear in devastating fashion and to widespread acclaim.

His well-earned reward has been two contract extensions from the IRFU – initially until 2025 and then 2027 – and now an opportunity to lead the Lions.

The Englishman is tasked with returning the multi-nation team to winning ways following a 2-1 defeat to the Springboks in 2021.

“He loves everything about the Lions and he epitomises what’s great about it,” said two-time tourist Tommy Bowe, who was coached by Farrell on the victorious trip to Australia in 2013.

“He’s very much about working extremely hard on the pitch but also being able to have a laugh off the pitch and I think that’s what the Lions is.”

Andy Farrell has been confirmed as the British and Irish Lions head coach for their 2025 tour to Australia.

Farrell will lead the Lions for the first time after serving as an assistant under Warren Gatland for the 2013 and 2017 visits to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

“It is a tremendous honour and a privilege to be named head coach of the British and Irish Lions,” the 48-year-old Englishman said.

“There is a wealth of talent across Britain and Ireland, and I am looking forward to building a team that can deliver the ultimate goal of success in Australia.”

The British and Irish Lions are expected to name Andy Farrell as their head coach for the 2025 tour to Australia.

Farrell is set to take charge of the Lions for the first time having served as an assistant under Warren Gatland on the 2013 and 2017 trips to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

The 48-year-old Englishman would succeed Gatland in one of the most prestigious roles in the game having impressed during his four-year reign as Ireland head coach, masterminding a Grand Slam and a historic 2-1 series victory in New Zealand.

Ireland also topped the global rankings until being nudged into second place by South Africa, who were crowned back-to-back world champions last autumn.

While the World Cup proved a disappointment because of the quarter-final exit inflicted by the All Blacks, Farrell has shaped an outstanding side who should provide the largest number of players to his Lions squad.

The former dual code international missed the 2021 tour to South Africa because of his Ireland commitments, but he will lead the home unions against the Wallabies with the blessing of the Irish Rugby Football Union.

When Farrell’s contract was extended to 2027 in December, IRFU performance director David Nucifora said: “We’d be ecstatic if Andy was named coach of the Lions so hopefully that accolade is the next one for him.”


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Farrell won eight caps as a centre in 2007 following his move from Wigan rugby league club and then moved into coaching, first with Saracens and then with England, serving as an assistant to Stuart Lancaster.


He joined Ireland after the 2015 World Cup and succeeded Joe Schmidt as their head coach four years later.

He has yet to experience defeat with the Lions having helped clinch a 2-1 series victory over Australia in 2013 and drawn series with New Zealand in 2017.

Andy Farrell is expected to be named British and Irish Lions head coach for the 2025 tour to Australia on Thursday.

A month after agreeing a contract to remain in charge of Ireland until the end of the 2027 World Cup, Farrell is set to be confirmed as Warren Gatland’s successor in the Lions role at a lunchtime press conference in central London.

The 48-year-old Englishman is seen as the outstanding candidate for one of the game’s most prestigious posts, having masterminded last year’s Grand Slam and an historic 2-1 series victory in New Zealand in 2022.

Ireland also enjoyed a lengthy stay at the summit of the world rankings under his guidance until they were forced into second place by repeat World Cup winners South Africa last autumn.

Farrell would be leading the Lions for the first time, having impressed as an assistant coach under Gatland on the 2013 and 2017 tours, and his appointment would have the blessing of the Irish Rugby Football Union.

“We’d be ecstatic if Andy was named coach of the Lions so hopefully that accolade is the next one for him,” IRFU performance director David Nucifora said in December.

In addition to his management credentials, Farrell has the benefit of coaching the nation that is expected to provide the bulk of the touring party unless England, Scotland or Wales threaten Ireland’s ascendancy over the next 18 months.


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The dual code international won eight caps as a centre in 2007 following his move from Wigan rugby league club and then moved into coaching, first with Saracens and then with England, serving as an assistant under Stuart Lancaster.

He joined Ireland after the 2015 World Cup and succeeded Joe Schmidt as their head coach four years later.

An inspirational figure, he has yet to experience series defeat with the Lions having helped clinch a 2-1 victory over Australia in 2013 and a drawn series with New Zealand in 2017.

He was unavailable for the most recent tour to South Africa due to his commitments with Ireland but there is no objection this time from the IRFU, which is likely to grant him a sabbatical.

It will be the first time the Lions have been led by anyone other than Gatland since 2009, with Wales’ Kiwi boss having already ruled himself out of the running.

Next year’s tour schedule launches against Western Force on June 28, with the first Test taking place in Brisbane on July 19.

Rugby player Api Ratuniyarawa has been jailed for nearly three years after admitting sexually assaulting three teenagers in a bar days before he was due to play for the Barbarians.

The 37-year-old Fiji international had been in Cardiff ahead of the game against Wales last autumn when he attacked the three young women inside the VIP area of the city centre Revolution bar.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Ratuniyarawa went to the bar on three consecutive nights with his team-mates and on each occasion while drunk assaulted a victim.

Heath Edwards, prosecuting, told the court: “On November 4 the Barbarians played Wales at the Principality Stadium.

“The defendant had been selected to play for the Barbarians and together with the rest of his team-mates had attended Cardiff in the week before the game to attend media commitments and training for the fixture.

“The defendant appears to have spent many of his nights socialising in Cardiff in advance of the game.

“The defendant has repeatedly attended the Revolution bar on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights of the week in run-up to the fixture.

“On each of those occasions, of those visits, he sexually assaulted a different lady in the VIP area of the bar.”

At a previous hearing Ratuniyarawa pleaded guilty to two charges of assault by penetration and one charge of sexual assault.

Ratuniyarawa, of The Orchard, Kislingbury, Northamptonshire, denied two further charges of sexual assault relating to one of the three women and those charges were ordered to lie on file.

Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke, The Recorder of Cardiff, jailed Ratuniyarawa for two years and 10 months.

He was also placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years and given a three-year restraining order against one of his victims.

Passing sentence, the judge said: “I bear in mind the proposed starting points and ranges take into account the inevitable trauma of such offences.

“All the offences are aggravated because you were under the influence of alcohol and I bear in mind physical injury was caused as well as the psychological injury that was caused on all three occasions.

“For all three offences I note you stopped only because others intervened.

“On the other hand you are a man with no previous convictions and you are of positive good character and I accept that the remorse and shame you feel is genuine and I bear in mind the steps you have taken to address the cause of this behaviour.”

The father-of-four, who has also played for Northampton Saints and in France, has been without a club since Premiership club London Irish went into receivership in the summer, the court has previously heard.

He was hoping his appearance for the Barbarians invitational side would lead to winning a new playing contract but has since been forced to apply for benefits.

In victim impact statements, the three victims described the traumatic effects the assaults have had on their lives.

One said: “My attack came out of the blue and it was sudden, shocking and very, very painful and I felt degraded, embarrassed and humiliated. I still do.

“It was such a personal and painful violation.

“I feel anxious and upset when thinking about what happened and I can’t sleep at night without seeing my attacker’s face.”

Another said: “You took away my independence, my self-worth, and my confidence.

“There are moments that I can’t help think that if I didn’t go out that night, if I didn’t dress up like I did and if I didn’t drink any alcohol, if I didn’t go into this area it wouldn’t have happened.

“I wouldn’t have to be reminded of it every single day.

“The main reason for coming forward was to stop this from happening to other people.”

Ruth Smith, defending, said Ratuniyarawa had asked her to apologise to each of the three victims.

“It is with his deepest remorseful heart that he wants to convey how sorry he is with his actions the pain and damage he has caused to the victims and the shame he has brought to himself and his family,” she said.

“It is clear from watching the CCTV that the consumption of alcohol by the defendant was a highly significant factor in how the defendant came to act on the dates of these offences.

“The consumption of alcohol in these quantities was completely out of character.”

England prop Joe Marler has been ruled out of Harlequins’ Investec Champions Cup clash against Cardiff as his arm injury continues to be assessed.

It comes amid front-row concerns for England head coach Steve Borthwick ahead of the Guinness Six Nations.

Marler’s fellow loosehead props Ellis Genge, Bevan Rodd, Mako Vunipola and Val Rapava-Ruskin are also on the sidelines.

Borthwick’s problems include a four-match ban being imposed on Saracens’ Vunipola, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Although he will be available if required for the Six Nations, experienced campaigner Vunipola cannot play again until after Saracens’ Premiership appointment with Exeter, which is only a week before England’s Six Nations opener against Italy on February 3.

Genge, an England captaincy contender following Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Six Nations, last featured for his club Bristol on December 2. He has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Sale forward Rodd is out for the rest of this season after undergoing toe surgery and Gloucester’s Rapava-Ruskin, who was part of England’s World Cup training squad last year, is another long-term absentee following a knee operation.

On the 88-cap Marler, who was hurt during Quins’ victory over Gloucester 10 days ago, the club’s head coach Danny Wilson said: “There is still a little bit of assessment going on.

“Joe is a week-by-week process at the moment to make a full assessment of the time period and the time-frame.

“He is not going to play this weekend – that is pretty clear – but what I can’t give is a time-frame. There have been a few twists and turns with it.

“We are kind of in the middle of a full assessment.

“I know that is going to sound a little bit like it is taking a while to assess, but there is a little bit to this one so I am probably not really going to be able to give you much.

“Until we get a full picture and a full time-frame, and we are in that process at the moment, then I can’t really tell you a huge amount.”

The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to former Wales and British and Irish Lions full-back JPR Williams.

William, patron of the Welsh Rugby Union, posted a personal post – denoted with a W at the end of his message – in honour of Williams, who has died at the age of 74.

The prince said on X, formerly known as Twitter: “There was no one quite like him on the rugby field. A true @WelshRugbyUnion great, my thoughts are with JPR Williams’ family and friends. W.”

Williams, a fearless player known for his aggressive and attacking style, won 55 Wales caps and started all eight Tests on victorious Lions tours to New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa three years later.

He was revered among fellow Wales greats like Sir Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Phil Bennett and Gerald Davies and regarded as one of rugby union’s finest players.

A star performer during Welsh rugby’s 1970s golden era, he also captained his country on five occasions.

And Williams shone for the Barbarians in their unforgettable 23-11 victory over New Zealand in 1973, touching down in a game chiefly remembered for Edwards’ spectacular touchdown that completed a breathtaking length-of-the-field move.

Welsh Rugby Union president Terry Cobner, who played alongside Williams for Wales during two Five Nations Grand Slam-winning campaigns, saluted his contribution to the sport.

“Welsh rugby will remember him as one of our greatest players of all-time – those 55 caps, three Grand Slams and six Triple Crowns prove that,” Cobner said, on the WRU’s official website.

“He also played in all eight Tests in New Zealand and South Africa on arguably the two greatest tours undertaken by the Lions in 1971 and 1974.

“It was his drop-goal from near halfway that enabled the 1971 Lions to draw the fourth Test and win the series 2-1 against the mighty All Blacks – the only series victory by the Lions on New Zealand soil.

“A star in the making from his early school days at Bridgend Grammar, then at Millfield, he went on to thrill crowds at both London Welsh and Bridgend on the club scene. He was ‘box office’ wherever he went.

“This is a terrible loss for our game, but obviously an even worse loss for his wife, Scilla, and their three four children.

“The thoughts of the whole Welsh rugby family are with them at this difficult time.”

There were also tributes on social media from Wales’ Six Nations rivals Scotland and Ireland.

“JPR, the three most famous letters in sport if you lived in the 1970s,” Scottish Rugby said on X.

“Scottish Rugby extends its sincere condolences to family and friends of JPR Williams – and the rugby community in Wales – after the death of the former Wales and Lions full-back was announced yesterday.”

And Irish Rugby said on X: “A joy to watch on the field and a gentleman off it. Rest in peace JPR Williams.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.”

Such was Williams’ natural fitness that he continued playing into his early 50s for village club Tondu, often in the back-row, before finally hanging up his boots in 2003.

“We are devastated to share the news our club patron JPR Williams has passed away,” Tondu Rugby Club said on X.

“John was one of our game’s greatest players and will be missed by all at Tondu RFC. Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family and close friends at this incredibly sad time.”

John Peter Rhys Williams – known simply as JPR and who has died at the age of 74 – was one of Wales’ most celebrated players during his country’s 1970s golden era.

The tough-as-teak full-back gained a worldwide reputation for his fearless defensive play, rock-solid safety under a high ball and attacking prowess that saw him excel alongside fellow household names like Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Phil Bennett and Gerald Davies.

The JPR moniker took effect in 1973 to distinguish him from Wales team-mate John JJ Williams, and it was a rugby career highlighted by him winning 55 Test caps across 12 seasons, being an integral part of successful 1971 and 1974 British and Irish Lions Test teams and taking his place among a small group of Welshmen to win three Grand Slams.

Socks always around his ankles and long sideburns resplendent, he was as popular among rugby supporters as any of his illustrious peers, while away from rugby circles, he became an orthopaedic surgeon and was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

It could, though, have been a different sporting story altogether, given Williams’ prowess as a junior tennis player.

Born near the mid-Glamorgan town of Bridgend on March 2, 1949, Williams attended Bridgend Boys Grammar School and then Millfield School in Somerset, underlining his tennis potential by playing in and winning a British junior competition at the All England Club, Wimbledon, beating former Great Britain Davis Cup captain David Lloyd.

But rugby union was to be his calling, which he dovetailed with a career in medicine, qualifying as a physician in 1973 after studying at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London, by which time he was firmly established as a trailblazing full-back.

“I used to say that I spent half my life breaking bones on the rugby field, then the other half putting them back together in the operating theatre,” he said in his 2007 book JPR Given The Breaks – My Life In Rugby.

In terms of his club career, JPR was part of a great London Welsh team across the late 1960s and early 1970s, as they beat all-comers with a thrilling brand of rugby that gained its ultimate reward when seven players from the Exiles – JPR included – were selected for the Lions’ 1971 New Zealand tour, led by Welsh coaching mastermind Carwyn James.

Williams went on to play a major role in the four-match Test series, including landing a decisive drop-goal in the final All Blacks clash, which underpinned a 14-14 draw and ensured a 2-1 Test series triumph, a feat that has not been matched since by any touring Lions team to New Zealand.

He had been capped by Wales as a 19-year-old two years earlier, and by the time his decorated international career ended when he retired in 1981, he had carved himself a permanent place in Welsh rugby folklore.

His ability to turn defence into attack through a fearless physical approach won him countless admirers, and Wales knew they could rely on a rock-like player whose bravery under a high ball often showed little thought for his own safety.

Self-preservation was never high on his agenda, as illustrated to full wincing effect when he prevented a certain and likely game-changing try for France wing Jean-Francois Gourdon during a Five Nations match in 1976 by fearlessly barging him into touch at the corner as Gourdon sprinted flat out.

In rugby’s current era, the shoulder-led challenge might well have seen Williams concede a penalty, but it was a moment of raw-boned physicality that inevitably took its place in Welsh rugby’s history books.

Williams’ high pain threshold was graphically underlined during Bridgend’s game against the 1978 touring All Blacks. Having joined the Welsh club two years earlier, he was a key player to their hopes of upsetting New Zealand at the Brewery Field.

But during the game he was stamped on the face by New Zealand prop John Ashworth, leaving Williams requiring 30 stitches – his father Peter, who was a doctor, applied the touchline needlework – before rejoining the action.

That single episode, as ugly as it was, epitomised a player who appeared not to show pain, whether of the physical or mental variety.

Williams captained Wales five times by the time he stepped down from Test rugby – he also went on a second Lions tour, another successful one, to South Africa in 1974 – and boasted a remarkable record of never being on a losing Wales team against England in 10 Tests.

He gained an MBE for his contribution to the sport, and such was his superb natural fitness that he continued playing into his early 50s for village club Tondu, often in the back row, before finally hanging up his boots in 2003.

Like many of his international rugby peers, Williams has done much for charity, highlighted by him climbing Mount Kilimanjaro that saw a six-figure sum raised for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Williams, who worked as a consultant at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, leaves his wife Scilla and children Peter, Lauren and Annie.

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions full-back JPR Williams has died at the age of 74.

Williams, a fearless player known for his aggressive and attacking style, won 55 Wales caps and started all eight Tests on victorious Lions tours to New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa three years later.

He was revered among fellow Wales greats like Sir Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and Gerald Davies, and regarded as one of rugby union’s finest players.

His death was announced by Bridgend Ravens, a club that Williams served as a player and club president.

“Bridgend Ravens are devastated to announce the passing of JPR Williams,” the club said in a statement on their website.

“An icon of the world game, John Peter Rhys Williams served Bridgend Ravens as a player and most recently as club president.

“He was capped 55 times for Wales and made eight Test appearances for the British and Irish Lions.

“Highlights of his illustrious career included winning two Schweppes Cup titles with Bridgend in 1979 and 1980, and three (Five Nations) Grand Slams in 1971, 1976 and 1978 for Wales.

“Following his retirement from the game, JPR became a key figure of the club’s administrative team, serving as Bridgend Ravens club president – a role he held until his passing.

“JPR’s passing leaves a huge void at the club, and our thoughts are with his friends and family at this sad time.”

Gloucester have confirmed the signing of Cardiff and Wales scrum-half Tomos Williams from the start of next season.

Gloucester’s director of rugby George Skivington said he was thrilled to seal a deal with Williams, who has won 53 caps for his country and played in two World Cups.

“Everyone at the club is thrilled to welcome a player of Tomos’ calibre,” said Skivington.

“Anybody that has watched him play before, whether that be for Cardiff or for Wales, knows how much of an attacking threat he can be, and we’re excited to see what he can bring to Gloucester Rugby.”

Williams progressed through Cardiff’s junior and academy systems and has amassed over 100 appearances for the United Rugby Championship side.

He admitted it was a big decision to leave but believes it is the “right time” to test himself in the Guinness Premiership.

“I’m really grateful to Cardiff for everything they have given me in my career,” Williams said on Cardiff’s official website.

“This club is all I have known and after 11 years with the first-team squad, I feel the time is right to make a change.

“I am excited for a new chapter with Gloucester but remain 100 per cent committed to Cardiff and will always look back on my time here with great fondness.”

Owen Farrell’s service to English rugby has given him the right to leave Saracens on his own terms, according to Jamie George.

Farrell has held talks with Racing 92 over a move to the Top 14 leaders at the end of the season in a shock development that has come in the wake of his decision to miss the Six Nations in order to prioritise his mental wellbeing.

By departing for Paris, the nation’s record point scorer, talisman and veteran of 112 caps would become ineligible for selection by Steve Borthwick.

George is a leading candidate to replace the 32-year-old as England captain and, while he hopes his long-term team-mate stays at Saracens, he insists any move would come with the Gallagher Premiership champions’ blessing.

“The news was as much a shock to us as it was to everyone. It’s all speculation at the minute so I don’t know any more,” Funding Circle ambassador George said.

“Like when he decided to take a step back from international rugby, for me what Owen is doing is prioritising himself and his family.

“He’s a very intense guy and I don’t blame him for stepping back from the international game and out of the spotlight for a little bit.

“If he believes that going abroad is the best thing for him and his family, I would be very supportive of that.

“Obviously he would be a very big loss to everyone at Saracens because of the player and character he is, but there’s no guarantee that he is going.

“He’s given so much to the club, so much to the game and so must to English rugby as a whole.

“He deserves to make his own decision and whatever he decides to do he has the full support of everyone at the club.”

Unless Borthwick opts for a leftfield pick, either George, George Ford or Ellis Genge will lead England in their Six Nations opener against Italy on February 3.


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George, the nation’s undisputed first choice hooker who is set to be offered a ‘hybrid contract’ by the Rugby Football Union, has previously captained Saracens and the Lions.


“I’m hugely flattered to be in the conversation,” said George, who is poised to recover from a neck injury in time to face Bordeaux on Sunday.

“Obviously I’ve played with Owen my entire life so captaincy is something that has always fallen to him, and rightly so because he’s incredible.

“I have led teams before so it is something that I would really embrace and really enjoy.

“But regardless of who it’s given to, they will have my full support. I don’t see it changing who I am or how I am in and around camp, regardless.”

George has been involved in the creation of Team England Rugby Ltd, a new company that will replace the Rugby Players’ Association to negotiate with governing bodies on contracts and commercial matters.

“We’ll definitely still be working with the RPA in terms of welfare and we’ll be encouraging all the England players to still be members of the RPA because they do brilliant things,” George said.

“It isn’t anything to do with money. Team England is a non-profit organisation. We are not saying we are badly paid, we are fully aware that we’re well paid for what we do.

“But ultimately we want the players to be at the forefront of Team England day in, day out.”

– Jamie George is an ambassador for Funding Circle. For more information on Funding Circle and its range of financial products, see:

Former Scotland captain Mike Blair announced his retirement from international rugby on this day in 2013.

Blair made the decision in order to focus on life in France, where he was playing for Brive, while also allowing Scotland to uncover fresh options at scrum-half in time for the 2015 World Cup.

Stepping down from the world stage as a 31-year-old, he had made 85 appearances for the team and led the side 14 times.

“I’m in the very fortunate position of being able to decide myself when my international career ends. For me, that time is now,” said Blair, who retired despite remaining a regular starter.

“The fact that I still feel attuned to playing at international level has made the decision harder, but it’s not been reached lightly and I’m very confident that it’s the right decision.”

The 2009 British and Irish Lions tourist spent only one season at Brive and after two years with Newcastle, he joined Glasgow before his playing career ended in 2016.

England have yet to finalise the details of their ‘hybrid contracts’ but Steve Borthwick has revealed that setting players’ workload when on club duty will not be among his powers.

Up to 25 of the contracts will be given to leading squad members chosen by Borthwick with the deals worth £150,000 per year and ranging in duration from one to three years.

By providing a guaranteed annual sum in advance rather than paying match fees, it is hoped that England’s stars will be persuaded to stay in the Gallagher Premiership instead of pursuing the greater riches on offer in France’s Top 14.

The contracts will also give Borthwick more say in their conditioning and medical programmes when on club duty, but there are clear limitations to an arrangement which is expected to be approved in the Spring.

“The details are still being worked out but there will be no control of player game time,” said head coach Borthwick, who will also be unable to influence what position an England international fills when in action in the Premiership.

“Clearly there is the integrity of the league and we need to make sure the players are available for that. But there is also the understanding that England have the best players available when they are needed.

“We have got to make sure we find a system that works and we all want to see the best players playing for both club and country.

“We have outlined positions where we don’t have huge depth and we want to see the best players for club and country in those positions.

“The clubs want the best players playing and if you look at the minutes and compare them to teams such as Ireland, who have a different system, then since the World Cup the England players have played a lot of minutes.


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“How we get this system right is still being worked out but this is definitely a step in the right direction as we find the right solution.”

Borthwick names his squad for the Six Nations on January 17 and will be looking for a better performance than last year’s championship when England managed only two victories and finished fourth.

For the Red Rose boss it feeds into a bigger picture of underachievement in the competition.

“This is a special tournament. Now we’ve got some way to go. England in the last six years in the Six Nations have won 50 per cent of the games,” Borthwick said

“In four of those six years, England only won two games in the Six Nations. What England have done in recent Six Nations hasn’t been good enough so we’ve got work to do.

“I love this tournament and I want England competing again at the end of it for being at the top of the table.”

Saracens boss Mark McCall insists the Gallagher Premiership champions will fight to keep Owen Farrell after it emerged the England captain has held talks with Racing 92.

Farrell could conclude his 15 years as a regular in Saracens’ first team at the end of the season if he signs for the Top 14 leaders, who have released a statement denying an agreement has been reached.

The 32-year-old has already stood himself down from the Six Nations in order to prioritise his mental wellbeing and should he sign for Racing he will become ineligible for England selection.

McCall, speaking after Saracens’ 19-10 defeat at Leicester, admitted he wants Farrell to remain at StoneX Stadium, although he refused to elaborate further on news that has sent shockwaves through English rugby.

“I think having Owen Farrell in your team is what everybody would want,” director of rugby McCall said.

“It’s just not fair on anyone to talk about something that is speculation. Until there’s something to talk about, we’re not going to talk about it.”

Speaking before the game, McCall insisted that he would not begrudge any senior player if they wanted to leave north London.

“I can understand that when players have had long careers at one club, they would want to experience something different,” he told TNT Sports.

“There are a lot of good things coming out of the Premiership and we shouldn’t be talking it down. There are a lot of good clubs.

“We’re in the middle of transition and we have some players who have been at the club for a long time and who are nearing the end of the careers and we want to send them off with a bang.”

Along with his team-mates, Farrell endured a difficult afternoon in the East Midlands with mistakes by the skipper leading directly to two of Leicester’s three tries.

It produced Saracens’ fifth Premiership defeat of the season – equalling their entire total of losses for their 2022-23 campaign – and registered a third defeat in four matches in the competition.

“Owen went well. Like he always does, he led from the front and he had a good game. He’s very good at putting distraction to one side and we saw that again here,” McCall said.

“We don’t want to be losing matches, obviously. We want to play better than we’re playing. We haven’t quite had the season that we want – that’s obvious too.”

Leicester were impressive with commitment and intelligence stamped all over a hard-fought win that keeps them in seventh place but hints at better things ahead.

“We felt pretty comfortable and came away with a good four points,” Tigers head coach Dan McKellar said.

“When teams come here they know it’s going to be a physical battle and that’s what we wanted to give Saracens. They’re a quality side so we’re pleased.”

Saracens’ torrid weekend that began with revelations over Owen Farrell’s possible move to Racing 92 continued with a 19-10 Gallagher Premiership defeat at Leicester.

Farrell’s champions struggled on a hard-fought afternoon in the East Midlands with the England captain powerless to prevent a third league defeat in four matches.

News he has been in talks with Racing 92 over joining the Top 14 leaders next season emerged on Friday, sending shockwaves through Saracens and the Premiership even if an agreement has yet to be reached.

Farrell is England’s biggest star who has spent 15 years at StoneX Stadium, but a move to Paris would make him ineligible for the national side and land another blow on the credibility of a competition experiencing an exodus of players across the Channel.

If he does head to the French capital, on recent evidence he will be departing a troubled Saracens with their latest loss registering a fifth Premiership defeat of the season – their total for the whole of the 2022-23 campaign.

Errors by the 32-year-old contributed to two of Leicester’s three tries but Tigers also made life difficult for the visitors, their determination stamped all over an impressive display.

Farrell’s early contributions were with the boot when stationed deep inside his own half as Saracens faced an early onslaught from the hosts, but in the 12th minute he made a significant blunder.

Flinging out a pass intended for Elliot Daly, the ball was instead picked off by centre Dan Kelly who cantered over for the opening try.

Saracens hit back with a long-range try inspired by Daly’s athleticism that was finished by Tom Parton and, having landed the conversion, the England fly-half delivered successive pinpoint kicks that forced Leicester to scramble.

Having nudged Saracens five points ahead with a penalty, he then dropped a simple pass and kicked a ball straight into touch, inviting Tigers to attack from the edge of the 22.

With waves of Leicester runners building pressure, the visiting defence cracked with Matt Rogerson crashing over to open a 12-10 lead.

Kelly had a second try in which he outhustled Daly controversially chalked off and the frantic pace continued into the second half with both sides going close to scoring.

Leicester turned down three routine points in favour of going for the corner and they began hammering away at the whitewash, gaining the advantage of Maro Itoje’s departure to the sin-bin for not retreating 10 metres.

Saracens’ scrum was stood up and, with the white shirts buckling before the repeated attacks, quick hands delivered the key moment with Harry Simmons finishing in the right corner.

Leicester now had the cushion to close out the game and they did this in solid fashion to leave the visitors positioned in sixth place in the table.

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