News in Brief
Thorn cleared for Bulls clash
The influential Brad Thorn will pack down against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday
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- The Crusaders were handed a massive boost ahead of their Super 14 rugby semi-final when lock Brad Thorn was cleared to start against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
All Blacks workhorse Thorn has been in doubt all week with a tight hamstring that prevented him playing against the Blues in Auckland last week. He emerged unscathed from training overnight and will take his place in the second row alongside Isaac Ross.
Thorn, who had been bracketed with Michael Paterson, will be a crucial presence in the Crusaders pack, marking hardened Springboks pair Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha. Half-back Andy Ellis, who has sore ribs, is listed as "likely to start" in a Crusaders media release this morning but team management won't make a final decision until just before kickoff.
- The future shape of domestic rugby competitions in New Zealand has been outlined after a two-day workshop in Wellington, with details to be released next week.
New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew and Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chairman Bruce Cameron told a press conference today that the workshop involving the top 14 unions, second-tier Heartland unions and players' association representatives had ticked off a number of important boxes.
"The process has just begun, not completed but we think we have made some real progress and created some real momentum," Tew said. "There's a view that the change we believe is necessary can now be achieved."
With financial structures crumbling at some of the top 14 unions, the NZRU had tried to cut the number of teams to 12 last year but had to back down after a revolt. However, the unions decided to return to the table to consider the format, number of teams, promotion/relegation, salary cap and the impacts of any change at this week's workshop.
Tew said the unions had endorsed a set of objectives, attributes and principles for the competitions. The key ones were that the competitions must: include Super rugby players; have a stand-alone window (which also recognises the windows for club rugby and Super rugby); feature a full round-robin and playoffs; be affordable and sustainable and provide meaningful competition for all 14 unions in the Air NZ Cup and maintain the strength of the Heartland Championship.
- The Scarlets have announced the signing of one of Wales' hottest new home-grown back prospects, 18-year old Tavis Knoyle from Neath RFC.
- Dale Atkins has taken a potshot at the New Zealand Rugby Union after learning he won't be reappointed as the Black Ferns women's national coach this year.
After two unbeaten years in the role, former Canterbury No.8 Atkins said he was told last month he was not wanted just 14 months out from next year's Rugby World Cup.
"When the NZRU want to cut budgets and save money they chop programmes and that's one of the first programmes to go, the Black Ferns," he told The Taranki Daily News.
"All they do is give lip service to the girls."
An NZRU spokesperson said the union was still going through a recruitment process and no decision on the role had been made.