These are the headlines from your rugby night on Friday 21st January.
Blake Ferguson in jail for nearly a month after drug arrest
Rugby player Blake Ferguson spent nearly a month in a Japanese prison after a drug arrest in Tokyo.
The 31-year-old Australian, who was a teammate of Wales international Jake Ball, is said to have been found in possession of cocaine after his arrest on December 30.
The incident took place on the eve of the new Japan Rugby League One campaign, which saw former Parramatta Eels talisman Ferguson make his rugby debut at Green Rockets Tokatsu.
But his contract was terminated before he had a chance to play, with the Mirror reporting that his management team is working hard to get the New South Walian home – but he will remain behind bars for more than three weeks after his arrest.
The Japanese authorities have no tolerance for drug charges. Charges of drug possession in Japan carry a maximum jail term of five years.
Biggar left out of Northampton match selection
New Wales captain Dan Biggar has not been included in Northampton Saints’ 23rd game against Racing 92 in Paris in the Champions Cup on Sunday.
The Wales fly-half is listed as one of the players ineligible for selection for the Saints’ final group game, with George Furbank filling the number 10 berth instead.
But Biggar is reportedly having a “regeneration” week and rest, with Courtney Lawes in the same position, with the Wales skipper not facing any issues negatively affecting Six Nations preparation.
Read more: Mark Drakeford’s advice for those attending the Six Nations games
Owen Farrell doubts for Six Nations after new injury
Owen Farrell has become a doubter for England’s Six Nations after sustaining another injury while training for his club Saracens.
It was hoped that 30-year-old Farrell would make his comeback after a two-month absence due to ankle surgery in Sunday’s Challenge Cup match with London Irish at Barnet.
But the England captain has been ruled out by another setback and the Rugby Football Union has revealed he will not be attending the pre-Six Nations training camp in Brighton next week when a captain’s armband is issued. His participation in the remainder of the tournament will depend on the severity of the new injury, the nature of which has not been specified.
“Owen Farrell suffered an injury in training for the game against London Irish this week that forced him out of the game,” a Saracen statement said.
“Owen was back in full training after recovering from the ankle injury he sustained against Australia during the Autumn Internationals. We’ll have a further update when he sees a specialist early next week.”
Farrell has not played since stumbling against the Wallabies on November 13 – his 100th cap including appearances from Lions – and Saracens are currently making his recovery.
Toulouse v Cardiff canceled as the region of Wales takes a 28-0 win
Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup match between holders Toulouse and Cardiff in France has been canceled after a number of positive Covid-19 tests at the hosts’ camp.
EPCR said Cardiff had been awarded the game by trailing 28-0 by five match points.
“Following a meeting of an independent competition risk assessment committee, the EPCR has been informed that the Heineken Champions Cup, the fourth round between Stade Toulousain and Cardiff Rugby, scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday 22 January) at Stade Ernest-Wallon, cannot be held.” continue,” said EPCR.
“Discussions with Stade Toulousain and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby took place before the Match Risk Assessment Committee, made up of doctors from the EPCR Medical Advisory Group and independent medical specialists, informed EPCR of its concerns as Stade Toulousain had registered a significant number of positive Covid-19 test results within his tournament squad.
“And because the risk of further contamination was considered too great, it was unfortunately decided to cancel the competition.”
Final auditions for Wales Women’s contracts
Wales Women’s head coach Ioan Cunningham has appointed a training squad of 42 players for the first camp of the year, which will act as one of the final two auditions for the remaining Welsh Rugby Union contracts.
Twelve players have become full-time professionals and a further nine have signed permanent contracts to become semi-professionals. A maximum of six part-time contracts are still on the table.
It means 21 players will compete this weekend to impress Cunningham and his coaching team, both for contracts and places in the Six Nations and World Cup rosters later this year.
The training squad is made up of eight unfettered players: forwards Madi Johns, Lilliana Podpadec and Sisilia Tuipulotu – who has torn up the English top league – plus backs Sian Davies, Lowri Norkett, Emma Swords, Bethan Wakefield and Carys Williams.
Read more: Meet Wales’ new professional players who have left full-time jobs to accept the first WRU contracts
Cunningham said: “There are players we have not yet seen as a management team – from seasoned internationals who have come back from injury, players who have put in great performances for their clubs in England and Wales and some who have been identified among our senior WRU talent. ID days earlier in the season.
“We have a big year ahead of us and there are certainly opportunities this weekend and in the weeks ahead for players to raise their hands for inclusion in Six Nations and Rugby World Cup rosters – and for the remaining permanent contracts. We are building 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.
Ospreys and Scarlets name teams for Europe
Both the Scarlets and Ospreys will be in European action this weekend.
The Scarlets have identified a strong squad for their final Champions Cup group game against Bristol Bears on Saturday (5:30pm kick-off), as Dwayne Peel’s squad – with four changes – welcome fans back to Llanelli for the first time since October.
Wales Six Nations team members Johnny McNicholl and Liam Williams have switched places in the back three. Check out the full Scarlets v Bristol Bears team news here.
As for the Ospreys, they will be in action against Sale Sharks (13.00 kick-off) on Sunday at AJ Bell Stadium.
Harri Deaves, an open flanker tipped for a great future after showing real quality for Wales in last year’s Six Nations Under-20s, is stepping in to side with Toby Booth. Check out the full team news from Sale Sharks v Ospreys here.
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