London Welsh has agreed with its head coach, Lyn Jones, that he can be released from the third and final year of his contract with the Club.

The release is for personal reasons and reflects a wish by Lyn to move back to Wales to be nearer his family and home. The Club entirely understands the reasons for the move, is sympathetic to Lyn's request and is ready to accommodate it and provide all the support it can to ensure the move works well for Lyn and his family.

Commenting on the move, the Club's Chairman, Bleddyn Phillips, said: "We are very sad to lose Lyn but after several meetings with him over the past week or so it is abundantly clear that he wishes to move back to Wales for very understandable personal reasons and to be closer to his family. We are very fortunate to have had someone of Lyn's calibre as our head coach these past two seasons and, as a Club, owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for all that he has achieved for London Welsh.

"I have got to know Lyn very well on a personal basis and we will miss his intuitive feel for the game, as well as his wise counsel, greatly. I know that the players and fellow members of the coaching staff will equally miss his utter dedication and commitment to the Club coupled with his professionalism and strive for excellence across all elements of the game.

"The Club is well under way in the process of choosing a successor to Lyn and has already identified a short list of three eminently qualified people to take over the role of head coach. We very much hope to be able to move forward and finalise such discussions in the next few days and then make an announcement. Meanwhile we offer Lyn, his wife, Helen, and all his family our very best wishes for the future and can assure them always of a very warm and grateful welcome at the Club."

Lyn Jones said: "It's been an unbelievable journey with London Welsh, but sadly, and I do sincerely mean sadly, it now personally draws to a close.

"Just when I thought, as a coach, I'd experienced all what the game can offer, London Welsh happened.

"The last two years have proved both exhilarating and challenging in Richmond, but my return to Wales has to happen and I leave with hope that I have helped players improve in a small way.

"The Club has the vision and ambition to ensure a successful pursuit of retaining its position as one of the top teams in English rugby, and I wish it all the very best for the future.

"I've made many life long friends here and I'll make sure our paths will cross again one day. To all at London Welsh I say a heartfelt thank you."

IMG Media has announced that its live sports channel for alrlines and cruise ships, Sport 24, will broadcast all remaining matches from the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia. 

The agreement, which commenced yesterday with the Lions beating Western Force in a convincing  69-17 win, will also show the three Test matches against Australia, starting on June 22. 

Richard Wise, senior vice president, IMG Media said: "The British & Irish Lions has a unique place in world rugby and the tours only happen once every four years so we are delighted to be offering passengers across the world the opportunity to see the team live in the air and at sea. The tour is another exciting addition to the top-class offering from the channel and we have more to announce soon."

Greg Peters, chief executive of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby (Sanzar), the organisers of the Super Rugby competition, added: "This broadcast partnership is an exciting new development for sport content. The British & Irish Lions Tour commands immense interest across the globe and we are thrilled to have a platform in Sport 24 to showcase all the games live to fans at 30,000 feet or cruising the oceans of the world. This is a first for rugby union as never before have travellers been able to watch live games in this manner."

The draw for the 2013/14 Heineken Cup has taken place this afternoon in Dublin, with some mouth-watering prospects in store for the group stages of next season's event.

Defending champions Toulon have been drawn in Pool 2, and will face Cardiff Blues for the second season in a row, as well as Glasgow Warriors and Exeter Chiefs.

Pool 1 has served up some very enticing encounters, with three times winners Leinster drawn against the Premiership final runners-up Northampton, as well as Ospreys and new French champions Castres.

English champions Leicester are in Pool 5, alongside RaboDirect Pro12 table toppers Ulster, French side Montpellier and Treviso.

Blues fans will certainly not welcome the news that they will have to face European player of the year Jonny Wilkinson for a second successive season, with the world cup-winning fly half extending his stay on the Cote D'Azur for another season.

Both pools one and four could see the fight for qualification go right to the wire.

In Pool Four, this season's beaten finalists Clermont will face 2011 English champions Harlequins, as well as a
Scarlets side who will be desperate to make up for their poor European campaign last season. Big spending Racing Metro, who will have the likes of Lions pair Jamie Roberts and Jonny Sexton in their ranks come the new campaign, complete the group.

Pool Six, with Edinburgh and Gloucester joining perennial contenders Munster and Catalan side Perpignan, also looks tight.

With Connacht and Zebre completing the Pool Three line-up, both Toulouse and Saracens should be hoping to make it into the knock-out stages, with one of the pair qualifying as one of the two best runners-up who join the six group winners in the quarter-finals.

2011-12 Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Harlequins have announced they will join some of the biggest names in the world game for the World Club 7s event on 17th -18th August at Twickenham.

The inaugural World Club 7's competition will be the first time that both Northern and Southern Hemisphere provincial and club stars will be competing together, alongside some of the most promising talent in the 7s game. The competition will also see two more sides from this years J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7's Championship, as well as Auckland from New Zealand, the ACT Brumbies from Australia, Western Province of South Africa and Buenos Aires from Argentina.

The meeting of rugby's emerging and top level sides is completed with sides from New York, Los Angeles and Moscow.

Harlequins director of rugby, Conor O'Shea said: 'You only have to look around the globe to see how important sevens is becoming in the world game. We are pleased to be taking part in this ground-breaking tournament. The teams taking part represent the best of world rugby so we're looking forward to measuring ourselves against them. We will field a strong team, which may include Danny Care and Mike Brown, and I hope our supporters can get along to Twickenham. It promises to be two great days of rugby.'

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty, commented: 'Rugby is about to enter a unique era for the sport with Sevens - which is finally returning to the Olympics - at the centre of what we believe will be a huge growth in all forms of the game. Rugby's long-awaited return to the Olympics means that many of the players who could be battling it out for gold in Rio in 2016 will be on show at Twickenham on 17-18 August.'

Zebre Rugby have added to their list of commercial partners, with the Italian RaboDirect Pro12 side announcing a new sponsorship deal with Zar-X Sports.

The UK-based apparel brand becomes the team's official supplier of technical team wear and new main sponsor from the start of next season.

Zar-X Sports already have existing sponsorship agreements in place with the Israeli national team and English Championship side Bristol Rugby.

Brad George, managing director of Zar-X Sports, said: "Zar-X Sports are delighted to be working alongside Zebre Rugby, both Zar-X and Zebre have huge ambition and we see this as a great partnership. We are excited for the season ahead."

Jason Say-Ludlow, sales director, Zar-X Sports, added: "We are extremely excited to be working with Zebre Rugby as the official kit supplier for the next two seasons as this gives us a perfect opportunity to engage with the Italian market. Our aim is to build Zar-X Sports into an international brand and we see Zebre Rugby playing a big part in this playing in the RaboDirect Pro12 and Heineken Cup."

Zar-X Sport will be showcasing their increasing presence within rugby with their first appearance as an exhibitor at Rugby Expo 2013 at Twickenham  Stadium on November 13-14 . To join Zar-X Sport at this industry-leading event, please click here

Super League side Castleford Tigers have announced that they have agreed a restructured sponsorship deal with beer brand Carlsberg UK.

As part of the new agreement, the iconic Tetley's brand will appear as one of the Club's sponsors on the home and away kit during the 2014 season. The deal follows the announcements last week that the Tigers have also agreed new sponsorship agreements with Ritz Bingo and Crossley Tyres.

Castleford Tigers' Commercial Director, Mark Grattan said: "We are thrilled to have Tetley's, one of the UK's most celebrated brands, on the Club's kit next season.

"Tetley's is a well recognised brand and is established in Rugby League through their sponsorship of the Challenge Cup and previously of Super League.

"When the Commercial team came into the Club three months ago, one of our targets was to agree a restructured deal with Carlsberg UK and I'm pleased that we have achieved that.

"This is the latest in a number of new sponsorship deals that we will be announcing over the coming weeks, including our main kit sponsor."

Carlsberg UK Sales Development Manager, Scott Mullooly said: "I am delighted that Tetley's will feature on the new Castleford Tigers shirt for next season.

"It represents a fantastic opportunity to increase Tetley's brand association with Castleford Tigers and build on our investment with the Super League and Challenge Cup.

"I believe this is testament to our longstanding business relationship and we will continue to support the Club as a partner and help to assist the Club's ambitions for the future."

Castleford Tigers currently sit 12th in the 2013 Super League table, with 17 games played.

The RFU has announced two new partnerships with In2Touch and the England Touch Association (ETA) as part of its O2 Touch scheme.

The three year agreements will see the organisations working excluslively with the RFU and O2 Touch to expand the reach of and participation in touch across the country.

Working alongside O2, the RFU is committed to establishing 75 new O2 Touch Centres by June 2013 and a further 100 during 2013/14. The initiative aims to broaden the reach and appeal of the game as the RFU creates a lasting legacy for the sport in the build up to and beyond RWC 2015.

The new partnerships will:

  • See the 16 existing In2Touch-owned leagues in England re-branded under the RFU/O2 Touch Rugby banner
  • Grow the profile of and increase the participation rate in these existing leaguesSet up and deliver new leagues under the RFU/O2 Touch Rugby banner
  • Increase touch participation with priority of importance placed upon adults (aged 14+) in clubs and generally throughout communities in England
  • Increase the number, and improve the quality, of touch referees and coaches in England through providing dedicated courses and qualifications by working with the ETA
  • Support the ETA's representative touch teams and enhance and widen the player pathways through RFU funding of international team wear.

Alastair Marks, RFU Head of Rugby Growth said: "We are delighted to be joining forces with two quality organisations in In2Touch and the ETA. They both have a wealth of expertise and experience in touch which will be invaluable as we look to grow the game's profile and increase participation.

"These partnerships will help us expand our offer beyond our existing 51 club-based and ten university-based O2 Touch Centres. They will also see O2 Touch entering the league market for the first time. Touch is a great way to keep fit and have fun and we are looking forward to introducing even more people to playing."

Michael Abromowitz, Managing Director, In2Touch added: "The RFU, with the launch of the O2 Touch programme, have embarked on a fantastic initiative which we are very proud to be involved in and assist in hopefully becoming the premier touch programme, not just in Europe, but the world.

"We are really looking forward to working with the RFU and the many rugby clubs affiliated to the RFU, to assist them in creating sustainable programmes of touch activity that will hopefully become a mainstay of every rugby community in England."

Gregg Cropper, President of the ETA, said: "England Touch is very excited about the partnership we are entering into with the RFU. We have an established framework for touch in England, but the sport has a relatively low profile.

"By partnering with the strongest brand in world rugby, we truly believe we can take the sport to new levels – both in terms of participation numbers and performance.

"Touch is a fantastic and extremely accessible sport for men and women of all ages and ability, and this partnership will enable a much greater percentage of the population to experience it firsthand."

For more information and to get involved, visit www.rfu.com/o2touch.

 

The sport of rugby is continually being exposed to new innovations and advancements in training techniques and technologies, and there is nothing more revolutionary than the GPS tracking vests.

These vests are wirelessly connected to a device which measures distance, speed, acceleration, heart rate, body load and impacts all during training or match play. The GPS sports products have transformed how professional sports teams plan and assess their athletes during training, matches, recovery and can analyse how successful a player's rehabilitation is.

This new innovation in performance analysis is one that has been adopted by the British and Irish Lions on their current tour of Hong Kong and Australia, with the touring players using the Catapult GPS / Accelerometry system. The Lions will be taking 35 Catapult S4 units to track the full squad in all training sessions and matches during the tour. The Lions have just played their first warm-up game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong, and have now arrived in Australia, playing six matches against Australian Provincial teams and three tests against Australia in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The data collected from the Catapult system will be analysed by Dr Brian Cunniffe, the Lions Sports Scientist and Adam Beard, the Lions Head of Strength & Conditioning.

The tracking devices can be worn during training or competition, with someone on the sideline using a laptop or portable device monitoring a player's every move. New Zealand and Australia have been using this technology since January 2010, giving them the extra edge when training and competing, particularly in the 7s format of the game. The GPS system can show when a player becomes fatigued, and how much force they put into a tackle. Information which is sent directly to a wireless device from which they can decide if the players are working hard enough or not, or are not being physical enough in contact. The bench can also use this technical information to determine whether players need to be substituted or not.

Monitoring player's movement and workload with the tracking vests is only the first step of much technological advancement in rugby performance. Its introduction will only enhance training techniques, with coaches being able to tailor individual training programme's specifically catering for a player's physical strengths and weaknesses.

Not only improving the quality of training, the GPS systems can also help reduce the risk of players sustaining injuries, assessing the major points of contact in tackles and consequently being able to implement a rehabilitation programme for injury prevention. The RFU implemented a 3 year research project using GPS systems in 2009, analysing the impact of tackles on player's bodies with the aim of reducing the number of players suffering from serious injuries such as dislocated shoulders.

With the information available from the GPS devices, it's hard to criticise a piece of equipment which looks like it can only improve player performance and continue in the ever growing innovations being used in rugby today.

By James O'Neill

London Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips has today provided the following statement regarding the outcome of last night's Championship Final which cemented Welsh's relegation from the Premiership. 

"In light of the outcome of last night's Championship Final and confirmation of the relegation of London Welsh from the Aviva Premiership, I should like to make the following observations coupled with our congratulations to Newcastle for promotion back to the Premiership and commiserations to Bedford in what was a most spirited and closely contested set of games.

Before commenting on three aspects of our future which I know everyone is keenly interested to know more about but which it would have been premature and imprudent to comment upon prior to the result last night, may I in the first place thank everyone associated with the club over the past season for all their hard work and commitment which has seen us rightly regain our place among the leading clubs in English rugby.

We have performed with passion, dignity and displayed a competitive edge which many had not thought feasible given our late arrival in the Premiership and our relative shortfall in central financial funding. That we were still in a strong position to retain our place in the Premiership until very late in the season is a tremendous tribute to the players, coaching staff and everyone involved with the administration and running of the club - not least the supporters and followers who have shown unstinting support and loyalty despite the challenges and difficulties which we have had to face in recent months. To all I offer our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

It is precisely because of the above factors that it is important to underline that last season should not be regarded as a 'one-off' but rather as part of a continuous and sustained path to maintain our status as a leading professional rugby club with a clear ambition to regain our place in the Premiership. To achieve this we need financial stability, a solid 'home ground' and supporter base and, thirdly, a competitive squad to ensure we can again challenge seriously for a place in the top flight of English club rugby.

Taking each of these elements in turn, I am pleased to say that we have in place the financial resources to ensure we can indeed compete effectively among the top Championship clubs next season. This is fundamental to our continued success and to ensure that the all the hard work and success we have achieved is not allowed to dissipate and be squandered over the coming season. There are several people who have already committed substantial funds for next season and we are confident that several more will likewise lend their support in the weeks ahead.

The second element is to ensure we have a solid and commercially viable 'home' ground from which we can build upon and develop in the short, medium and long term. While some might understandably contend that we should now return to our long established home at Old Deer Park, there appears to be a much larger element among our supporter base who favour building upon and enhancing our increased and hugely committed following in the Oxford area, drawing not only from the local communities but also the long standing and incredibly loyal fans from Old Deer Park. This of course is also closely linked with the need to be commercially viable at the top flight of club rugby and the level of attendance for 'home' games is likely to be demonstrably higher if we continue to play in the Oxford area and thereby strengthen our following and support base - coupled of course with our traditional strength and support from Old Deer Park who have travelled so regularly and faithfully along the M40 in recent months.

There are at least two or three opportunities available to us in terms of ground location in the region for next season (including the Kassam Stadium where we have the option but not obligation to renew). There have been a number of discussions with several grounds and local clubs and we are very close to finalising what we trust will be an optimum solution for the club in both financial terms as well as the level of facilities available next season. Ease of access, public transport and parking are of course all elements which likewise need to be taken into account and we very much hope and expect a decision to be made within the next week to ten days. This of course is in addition to returning to Old Deer Park which remains very much an option but which is perhaps less consistent with an avowed intent to remain a strongly competitive Championship/Premiership club.

The third and final element is of course the squad itself and the coaching and support elements. We are very fortunate indeed to have a top class head coach in the shape of Lyn Jones and he, together with Kingsley Jones and our lead physio Chris Jenkins and Strength and Conditioning coach Ryan Campbell have been a tower of strength this past season along with their colleagues who have worked unstintingly with the players in making us as competitive as we have been. As regards the team itself, part of the price of success has of course been that several of our leading players, including our long standing captain Jonathan Mills, have, understandably, received offers from other Premiership clubs.

To these players we offer our heartfelt thanks for all the hard work and commitment they have shown to the club in recent years and wish them every success for the future in their new surroundings. But the great majority of our squad will remain with us and we also have a further eight new signings of top quality players who are very much looking forward to playing with us next season. We have worked long and hard in recent weeks to ensure that we will be in a position to put out a very strong squad next season and an announcement on this will be made in the next few days. This will serve to reinforce the messages above about our commitment to maintain our position as a top flight rugby club and our clear goal and objective to regain our place in the Premiership.

Finally, my thanks to you all for your patience, understanding and continued commitment and loyalty in what has been a very challenging, yet at the same time highly rewarding, period in the club's long and distinguished history. It is very much appreciated and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible next season as we pursue our goal of winning the Championship."

Melbourne Storm have appointed former Harlequins rugby union chief executive and coach Mark Evans as their new CEO.

The 54-year-old, who spent a decade with Quins, has been handed the new role after the NRL champions were sold by News Limited to a private consortium put together by New Zealand entrepreneur Bart Campbell.

The Storm have been owned by News Ltd since entering the premiership in 1998.

Outgoing chief executive Ron Gauci said: "This is an important moment in the history of this great club. My appointment in July 2010 was all about making this day possible.

"We are delighted Mark Evans has become CEO. He is regarded as one of the best CEOs in any form of rugby in the UK and he has considerable rugby league experience."

Campbell, a former lawyer now based in England, is currently the non-executive chairman of the international sports management and marketing company TLA Worldwide.

The other new Storm shareholders will be announced in two weeks.