These are your rugby headlines on Friday, May 26.
Wainwright shocked by Alun Wyn announcement
Wales star Aaron Wainwright says it was a shock to learn of Alun Wyn Jones’ sudden retirement decision last week.
Jones announced in a statement that he would not be available for selection at this autumn’s Rugby World Cup, deciding instead to retire from the international game. Jones is now facing his final few games of professional rugby over the next seven days when he is set to feature for the Barbarians against a World XV on Sunday and Swansea RFC at St Helen’s next Wednesday.
Wainwright, who has also been picked by the invitational side, said it would be an honour to play alongside Jones as the curtain comes down on a glittering career.
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Wainwright said: “It’s very nice to be involved in this with him. It was a shock to me to hear that he was going to be retiring, as I’m sure it was to everyone else. When you see all the stats put up in numbers and in writing, it’s mind-blowing to see how much he’s achieved and what he’s done for the game in Wales.
“I’m incredibly proud to be able to share the pitch with him again on the weekend, another one where he’s going to be leading out as captain which I can’t wait for.”
Jones will skipper the Baa-Baas against the World XV at Twickenham before a fitting appearance against the Whites in Swansea next week.
Day one of Wales mini-camp
A number of Wales players have been pictured in training at the Vale resort as preparations for the World Cup in France begin to take shape.
Warren Gatland has already named his 52-main extended training squad, with it set to be trimmed down before they embark upon their first overseas training camp in Switzerland in early July.
The WRU tweeted yesterday some pictures of players being put through their paces at the Wales base with the caption: “First group in for mini-camps. Dechrau’r gwaith caled! #WelshRugby | #AllezLesRouges.”
Later, a video documenting the first day was posted, with head of physical performance Huw Bennett explaining the mini-camp was a five-week block. “We are here to work hard and we are here to enjoy ourselves,” he said when addressing the assembled players.
In attendance were the likes of Rio Dyer, Taine Basham, Will Rowlands, George North, Dan Lydiate and Owen Williams, among others. The players were seen doing some ball work on the field and some weights in the gym.
Winger at centre of tug-of-war
England and Scotland are gearing up for an international tug-of-war over Sale winger Tom Roebuck.
The youngster was called up by Eddie Jones for England’s autumn training camp in Jersey but wasn’t capped. He was raised in Cheshire but was born in Inverness and Scotland have been in touch over his eligibility. He has also received a call from England head coach Steve Borthwick.
Alex Sanderson, Sale’s director of rugby, said: “Scotland have been knocking and Tom has had a call from Steve (Borthwick), rightly so, because he wants to keep his options open, regarding back-three selection.
“Let’s face it, the competition is high, with (Henry) Arundell, (Anthony) Watson, (Freddie) Steward and those guys. There are good wingers around. But these are the games that count. These games are the most intensive ones and the kind of games that you make your reputation on; these big occasions.”
The player himself said: “I’ve not really made too much of a decision about it because I haven’t had to yet. I would love to play international rugby. At this point, I have not had to worry too much about it. That’s a good position to be in.”
Earl out to put down marker
Ben Earl is looking to help Saracens regain the Gallagher Premiership title and put down an early World Cup selection marker at Twickenham on Saturday.
Saracens flanker Earl has been among the league’s most consistent performers, highlighted by him winning Premiership player of the season last year. But while his England career is into double figures in terms of caps, he has made just two Test appearances since March 2021.
Earl’s experience of the Six Nations this term was restricted to a combined 52 minutes off the bench against Scotland and Italy, with back-row starting berths in Steve Borthwick’s team being fought out by the likes of Ben Curry, Jack Willis and Lewis Ludlam.
A Premiership final puts himself firmly in the spotlight, though, ahead of England’s World Cup countdown towards France later this year gathering pace.
“The moment you start looking for excuses, the moment you start thinking I am just unlucky, my face doesn’t fit, is probably the moment you give somebody the reason to drop you,” Earl said.
“I’ve kind of got to stay with it. Steve was unbelievably positive about my work in the Six Nations. Unfortunately, selection didn’t always go my way, but I am trying to stay positive and put my best foot forward in these big games, which are probably the games he is looking at the most.
“I think I have played as consistently as I did last year, which was a big challenge of mine. There is no point winning some of the accolades I did last year and not backing it up. Selfishly, the elephant in the room is that I wish I could have played a bit more for England in that Six Nations campaign.
“For whatever reason, I didn’t, and I have learnt a lot from that. I am looking forward to going again, putting my best foot forward in these big games, which has been a big focus of mine.”