Sunday rugby headlines as Jamie Roberts linked with shock Super Rugby switch and England face savage Six Nations blow

Here are the latest rugby headlines on Sunday, January 23.

Roberts posed for Australia move – reports

Wales legend Jamie Roberts is set for a shock switch into Super Rugby with the Waratahs, according to reports down under and at home.

The Sydney Morning Herald claim Roberts will join the New South Wales based side as injury cover for young center Joey Walton, who is out for the season with a knee problem.

The Daily Mail say the move isn’t done and dusted but report Roberts “is in advanced talks and could move by the end of month, in time for the Super Rugby season.”

The Dragons man had a brief stint in South Africa with the Stormers before a return to Welsh rugby, but this would represent a new chapter in his glittering career.

Roberts, 35, won 94 caps and played three Tests for the Lions on a rugby journey that saw him in club colors of Cardiff Blues, Racing, Harlequins and Bath, as well as the Stormers and Dragons.

He has good memories of Sydney, having replaced Brian O’Driscoll for the decisive Lions Test in 2013 and scoring the final try as Warren Gatland’s men thrashed Australia 41-16.

The blockbusting center has not featured for Wales since 2017 and according to a Waratahs official is said to be “excited about spending some time in Sydney”, report the Herald.

He would bring what is viewed as much-needed experience to a young Waratahs backline.

The season kicks off for the Waratahs against new Super Rugby side Fijian Drua on February 18. They then have games against the Reds and the Brumbies.

Time will tell whether Roberts is playing for the Aussie outfit, or still with the Dragons at that point.

He is under contract with the Gwent region and it remains to be seen whether they would grant early release from that deal in time for Roberts to start the Super Rugby season.

Farrell could miss entire Six Nations

England captain and playmaker Owen Farrell could miss the entire Six Nations, report the Telegraph.

Farrell has not played since undergoing ankle surgery playing for England against Australia in the autumn, but was named for the tournament by Eddie Jones earlier in the week.

However, he had to pull out of a planned comeback for Saracens this weekend and will see a specialist to determine the severity of what the paper say is a new lower-leg injury sustained in training.

The Telegraph say the star could be facing a new eight-week lay-off, “throwing Farrell’s entire Six Nations into doubt.”

They report an optimistic prognosis would be a return for the final two England games against Ireland and France in March, but if so Farrell would not have played any rugby since November 13.

The news comes as a huge blow to Jones, who has made Farrell a kingpin. Indeed Farrell has played in every single one of England’s 30 Six Nations fixtures during the Jones era.

In Farrell’s absence, Courtney Lawes is tipped to lead England into battle when they meet Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5.

Scarlets’ nightmare in Europe ends with a beating

Dwayne Peel expressed his disappointment after his Scarlets side were blown away 52-21 by Bristol.

The English side dominated the closing quarter to put an end to the Scarlets’ nightmarish Champions Cup campaign.

For an hour, the west Walians were evenly-matched with the Gallagher Premiership outfit in a relentless clash before a collapse left the scoreline completely lopsided.

After a campaign that has seen a forfeit, a cancellation and a French thrashing in Bordeaux, the final quarter seemed almost in keeping with how things have panned out for the Scarlets side this season.

It left coach Peel saying: “I’m disappointed because at 60 minutes we were in it, but I felt we gave away points far too easily. We gave up either the lost kick-off, a missed tackle, or a poor exit, and let them back into it.

“I think the lesson for us is that we can’t afford to give points away easy after we’ve worked hard for our points. I’m sure when we look back it, we’ll think okay that was better, but 31 points in the last 20 minutes is pretty tough reading for us.

“The competition for us on the whole has been fractured at best. The last two weeks have been two beats, but we move on and concentrate on the URC. We’ve just got to go back on the horse and put things right.”

Wales will see a better Watkin

Wales will see an improved version of Owen Watkin when the center joins up with Wayne Pivac’s squad for the Six Nations.

So reckons Ospreys head coach Toby Booth after the 26-cap player ended a prolonged exile from the Test environment with a place in Pivac’s panel for the upcoming championship.

It’s a selection that has gone under the radar amid the focus on new captain Dan Biggar, the inclusion of uncapped Jac Morgan, Dewi Lake and James Ratti and talk of excluded players.

But Booth reckons Wales will not regret the decision on Watkin.

“Owen has been one of our most consistent performers,” said the Ospreys’ head coach.

“Defensively he’s always been very good, but he’s made improvements in his attacking game.

“We’re pleased because he’s worked really hard, acting on the feedback he’s been given, just as Adam Beard did.

“Playing at 12 allows him to get his hands on the ball more often, so that positional adjustment has helped. He’s also smarter at picking the right line. Instead of just running straight at people he’s running at weak shoulders, which has helped him create tackle busts and line-breaks and have more opportunities to offload through tackles.

“He’s become more attack-focused, serving Wales and him better and the Ospreys as well because we’re playing on the front foot.”

Sale boss – Bring on the Ospreys

Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson has urged his side to front up to the challenge posed by Ospreys in the Heineken Champions Cup this afternoon.

Sale need a victory in their final Pool A clash to book their place in the knockout stage, and Sanderson knows his team need to bounce back from their defeat at Clermont Auvergne last time out with a big performance at AJ Bell Stadium.

“We need to win this one to get to the last 16,” he told the club’s website. “We are due a turn in form – we’ve had some really honest, hard conversations this week.”

“We’ve got a lot of our senior players coming back this week. We were missing six or seven of our front loaders last week, and even so we could have beaten them.

“I believe we’re going to push on because we’re training well, the messages are right, we’re having honest conversations and the feeling is good, so yeah, bring them on.”

O’Brien scores four tries as Leinster rout Bath

Leinster marched on in the European Champions Cup with a 64-7 demolition of a Bath side whose wretched run of form and injuries continued with another head injury to England flanker Sam Underhill.

Jimmy O’Brien crossed four times as the Irish province finished their Pool A fixtures with 15 points and a points difference of +136 – despite forfeiting their second game in Montpellier 28-0 due to Covid issues.

Leinster, who ran in 10 tries, fielded eight of the Ireland starters who toppled the All Blacks, including captain Johnny Sexton.

Mapimpi hat trick helps Sharks go top

Makazole Mapimpi scored a hat-trick of tries as the Sharks climbed to the top of the United Rugby Championship’s South African Shield with a thrilling 47-37 win over the Lions in Johannesburg.

Sean Everitt’s men fought back from conceding two early tries to emerge with a victory that sees them replace their hosts at the summit after six matches.

Northampton tie with Racing 92 cancelled

Northampton’s Heineken Champions Cup tie at Racing 92 today has been canceled because of several positive Covid-19 tests at the English club’s camp.

Tournament organizers European Professional Club Rugby said Racing 92 had been awarded the match by a 28-0 scoreline with five match points.

The cancellation ends winless Northampton’s hopes of making the Champions Cup round of 16 and pretty much secures Racing finishing top of Group A.

Northampton could still qualify for the knockout stage of the European Challenge Cup, with clubs finishing between eighth and 11th dropping into the second-tier competition.

On Friday, the Champions Cup ties between Leicester and Bordeaux-Begles and Toulouse and Cardiff were canceled because of coronavirus, as was Newcastle’s Challenge Cup clash against Toulon.

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