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Rugby evening headlines as star winger remains in Japanese jail and Owen Farrell news rocks England

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Rugby player Blake Ferguson remains in a Japanese jail almost a month after a drugs arrest in Tokyo.

The 31-year-old Australian, who was a team-mate of Wales international Jake Ball, is alleged to have been found in possession of cocaine following his arrest on December 30.

The incident happened on the eve of the new Japan Rugby League One campaign, in which former Parramatta Eels talisman Ferguson was set to make his rugby union debut with Green Rockets Tokatsu.

 

 

But his contract was terminated before he had a chance to play, while the Mirror reports that his management team are hard at work trying to get the New South Walian home – but he remains behind bars more than three weeks following his arrest.

Japanese authorities take a no-tolerance approach when it comes to drug charges, with drug possession charges in Japan carrying a maximum of up to five years in prison.
New Wales captain Dan Biggar has not been included in Northampton Saints’ matchday 23 to face Racing 92 in Paris in the Champions Cup on Sunday.

 

 

The Wales fly-half is listed among the players not considered for selection for the Saints’ final pool stage match, with George Furbank instead filling the No. 10 berth.

But Biggar is understood to be on a “regeneration” week and is being rested, with Courtney Lawes in the same position, with Wales’ skipper not experiencing any issue which will negatively impact Six Nations preparation.
Owen Farrell has become a doubt for England’s Six Nations after suffering a new injury in training for his club Saracens.

 

 

It was hoped Farrell, 30, would make his comeback after a two-month absence because of ankle surgery in this Sunday’s Challenge Cup clash with London Irish in Barnet.

But England’s skipper has been ruled out by a fresh setback and the Rugby Football Union has revealed that he will not be attending next week’s pre-Six Nations training camp in Brighton when a captaincy update will be issued. His participation in the rest of the tournament hinges on the severity of the new injury, the nature of which has not been specified.

“Owen Farrell suffered an injury in training this week ahead of the game against London Irish, ruling him out of the match,” a Saracens statement said.

 

 

“Owen was back in full training having recovered from the ankle injury he sustained against Australia during the autumn internationals. We will have a further update after he sees a specialist early next week.”

Farrell has not played since hobbling off against the Wallabies on November 13 – his 100th cap including Lions appearances – and Saracens are currently looking after his recovery.
Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup game between holders Toulouse and Cardiff in France has been cancelled following a number of positive Covid-19 tests in the hosts’ camp.

EPCR said that Cardiff had been awarded the match by a 28-0 scoreline with five match points.

 

 

“Following a meeting of an independent match risk assessment committee, EPCR has been advised that the Heineken Champions Cup, round four fixture between Stade Toulousain and Cardiff Rugby scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday, 22 January) at Stade Ernest-Wallon cannot go ahead,” EPCR said.

“Discussions with Stade Toulousain and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took place before the match risk assessment committee, made up of medical doctors from EPCR’s medical advisory group as well as independent medical specialists, advised EPCR of its concerns as Stade Toulousain had recorded a significant number of positive Covid-19 test results from within its tournament squad.

“And with the risk of further infection deemed to be too great, regrettably the decision was made to cancel the fixture

Wales Women head coach Ioan Cunningham has named a 42-player training squad for the first camp of the year, which will act as one of two final auditions for remaining Welsh Rugby Union contracts.

 

 

Twelve players have become full-time professionals and nine more have signed retainer deals to become semi-professional. Up to six more part-time contracts will be tabled.

It means 21 players will be vying to impress Cunningham and his coaching team this weekend, both for contracts and places in the Six Nations and World Cup squads later this year.

The training squad includes eight uncapped players: forwards Madi Johns, Lilliana Podpadec and Sisilia Tuipulotu – who has been tearing up England’s top competition – plus backs Sian Davies, Lowri Norkett, Emma Swords, Bethan Wakefield and Carys Williams.

2

Owen Farrell of England kicks a penalty (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)
Here are your rugby evening headlines on Friday, January 21.

Blake Ferguson in jail almost a month after drugs arrest
Rugby player Blake Ferguson remains in a Japanese jail almost a month after a drugs arrest in Tokyo.

 

 

The 31-year-old Australian, who was a team-mate of Wales international Jake Ball, is alleged to have been found in possession of cocaine following his arrest on December 30.

The incident happened on the eve of the new Japan Rugby League One campaign, in which former Parramatta Eels talisman Ferguson was set to make his rugby union debut with Green Rockets Tokatsu.

But his contract was terminated before he had a chance to play, while the Mirror reports that his management team are hard at work trying to get the New South Walian home – but he remains behind bars more than three weeks following his arrest.

Japanese authorities take a no-tolerance approach when it comes to drug charges, with drug possession charges in Japan carrying a maximum of up to five years in prison.

 

 

Biggar left out of Northampton matchday squad
New Wales captain Dan Biggar has not been included in Northampton Saints’ matchday 23 to face Racing 92 in Paris in the Champions Cup on Sunday.

The Wales fly-half is listed among the players not considered for selection for the Saints’ final pool stage match, with George Furbank instead filling the No. 10 berth.

But Biggar is understood to be on a “regeneration” week and is being rested, with Courtney Lawes in the same position, with Wales’ skipper not experiencing any issue which will negatively impact Six Nations preparation.

 

 

Read more: Mark Drakeford’s advice for people attending the Six Nations games

Owen Farrell a doubt for Six Nations after new injury
Owen Farrell has become a doubt for England’s Six Nations after suffering a new injury in training for his club Saracens.

It was hoped Farrell, 30, would make his comeback after a two-month absence because of ankle surgery in this Sunday’s Challenge Cup clash with London Irish in Barnet.

But England’s skipper has been ruled out by a fresh setback and the Rugby Football Union has revealed that he will not be attending next week’s pre-Six Nations training camp in Brighton when a captaincy update will be issued. His participation in the rest of the tournament hinges on the severity of the new injury, the nature of which has not been specified.

 

 

“Owen Farrell suffered an injury in training this week ahead of the game against London Irish, ruling him out of the match,” a Saracens statement said.

“Owen was back in full training having recovered from the ankle injury he sustained against Australia during the autumn internationals. We will have a further update after he sees a specialist early next week.”

Farrell has not played since hobbling off against the Wallabies on November 13 – his 100th cap including Lions appearances – and Saracens are currently looking after his recovery.

Toulouse v Cardiff cancelled as Welsh region handed 28-0 victory
Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup game between holders Toulouse and Cardiff in France has been cancelled following a number of positive Covid-19 tests in the hosts’ camp.

 

 

EPCR said that Cardiff had been awarded the match by a 28-0 scoreline with five match points.

“Following a meeting of an independent match risk assessment committee, EPCR has been advised that the Heineken Champions Cup, round four fixture between Stade Toulousain and Cardiff Rugby scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday, 22 January) at Stade Ernest-Wallon cannot go ahead,” EPCR said.

“Discussions with Stade Toulousain and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took place before the match risk assessment committee, made up of medical doctors from EPCR’s medical advisory group as well as independent medical specialists, advised EPCR of its concerns as Stade Toulousain had recorded a significant number of positive Covid-19 test results from within its tournament squad.

“And with the risk of further infection deemed to be too great, regrettably the decision was made to cancel the fixture.”

 

 

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Final auditions for Wales Women contracts
Wales Women head coach Ioan Cunningham has named a 42-player training squad for the first camp of the year, which will act as one of two final auditions for remaining Welsh Rugby Union contracts.

Twelve players have become full-time professionals and nine more have signed retainer deals to become semi-professional. Up to six more part-time contracts will be tabled.

It means 21 players will be vying to impress Cunningham and his coaching team this weekend, both for contracts and places in the Six Nations and World Cup squads later this year.

The training squad includes eight uncapped players: forwards Madi Johns, Lilliana Podpadec and Sisilia Tuipulotu – who has been tearing up England’s top competition – plus backs Sian Davies, Lowri Norkett, Emma Swords, Bethan Wakefield and Carys Williams.

 

 

Read more: Meet Wales’ new pro players who have quit their full-time jobs to accept first WRU contracts

Cunningham said: “There are players we haven’t seen yet as a management team – from seasoned internationals who have come back from injury, players putting in good performances for their clubs in England and Wales and some who were identified at our senior WRU talent ID days earlier in the season.

“We have a big year ahead and there are certainly opportunities this weekend and in the coming weeks for players to put their hands up for inclusion in Six Nations and Rugby World Cup squads – and for the remaining retainer contracts. We are building strength in depth across the board which will be key this year.”

Forwards: Gwenllian Pyrs, Cara Hope, Donna Rose, Cerys Hale, Madison Johns, Kat Evans, Carys Phillips, Kelsey Jones, Molly Kelly, Abbie Fleming, Gwen Crabb, Natalia John, Liliana Podpadec, Sisilia Tuipulotu, Alex Callender, Alisha Butchers, Bethan Lewis, Manon Johnes, Siwan Lillicrap, Georgia Evans.

 

 

Backs: Ffion Lewis, Keira Bevan, Megan Davies, Emma Swords, Elinor Snowsill, Flo Williams, Robyn Wilkins, Lleucu George, Kerin Lake, Gemma Rowland, Hannah Jones, Lowri Norkett, Meg Webb, Courtney Keight, Bethan Wakefield, Caitlin Lewis, Sian Davies, Lisa Neumann, Jasmine Joyce, Carys Williams, Kayleigh Powell, Niamh Terry.
Both the Scarlets and Ospreys are in European action this weekend.

The Scarlets have named a strong side for their final Champions Cup pool match against Bristol Bears on Saturday (5.30pm kick-off) as Dwayne Peel’s side – which boasts four changes – welcome fans back to Llanelli for the first time since October.

Wales Six Nations squad members Johnny McNicholl and Liam Williams have swapped positions in the back-three. See the full Scarlets v Bristol Bears team news here.

As for the Ospreys, they are in action against Sale Sharks on Sunday (1pm kick-off) at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Harri Deaves, an openside flanker tipped for a big future after showing real quality for Wales in last year’s Under-20s Six Nations, steps into Toby Booth’s side. ù

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