Connacht Rugby along with HC Financial Advisers have today announced a renewal of their multi-season sponsorship agreement which will see HC continue to act in their capacity as 'Connacht Rugby's official Business Advisers' until the end of the 2016/17 season.

HC Financial Advisers was established in 1988 and is today the largest Financial Services Company in the West of Ireland. Speaking at the launch, HC's CEO Hannah Kiely said:

"We are delighted to welcome this continuation of our partnership with Connacht Rugby. Like Connacht, HC Financial Advisers are an ambitious and forward-thinking organisation and we are glad to be offering financial and business advice to the organisation throughout one of Connacht's most exciting periods in their history. This announcement builds on the existing relationship with many of the Connacht players and staff, fulfilling their financial needs and we look forward to the culmination of this exciting season."

Connacht Rugby Sponsorship Manager Gavin Duffy added:

"Aligning our own brand with an established and trusted regional brand is very important to us. We are delighted that HC Financial Advisers recognise the direction Connacht Rugby is heading in and that they want to continue with us on the journey."

EddieJones has announced his England squad ahead of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations campaign.

The 33 man squad will meet at Pennyhill Park on Sunday 24 January to prepare for their opening match against Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday 6 February.

Jones has named a number of uncapped players to the England senior setup. Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks), Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby), Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs), Paul Hill (Northampton Saints), and Maro Itoje (Saracens) are all included.

There are call ups for Chris Ashton (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) and Marland Yarde (Harlequins) who missed selection for England's Rugby World Cup squad earlier this season.

Gloucester Rugby back row forward Matt Kvesic and Exeter Chiefs hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie are also named. Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi is included in the Elite Player Squad having last played for England in June 2014.

England Head Coach Eddie Jones said: "We have selected a squad of players who we think can go to Murrayfield and win. This is our number one priority, to start with a win, so we have picked a squad which is a mix of experience and potential.

"The long-term strategy for England is to develop a side who can be the most dominant team in world rugby, so we have chosen a lot of new players on the growth we see in them. We see these players growing into England players of the future and developing into a side who can be the best in the world. Our aim is to develop a squad where there is depth and competition in every position.

"I have spoken to some of the players who have not been selected. Naturally they will be disappointed and that is how it should be. They know what they need to do to get back into this squad. The door is not shut for anyone. There is no such thing as a shut door because of injuries and loss of form. There will always be opportunities to anyone playing consistently well in the Premiership and Europe."

"We will be without Manu Tuilagi for the Scotland game but we will continue to work with Leicester Tigers and Manu and see where he is as the Six Nations progresses. With big European weekends ahead there may be further changes once we assess the fitness of the players.

"I am really excited about working with England and together with Steve and Paul we hope to build a team that will reflect the level of talent that exists within the English game."
England Senior squad for RBS 6 Nations and Elite Player Squad

Forwards
Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Jack Clifford (Harlequins)
Jamie George (Saracens)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (Wasps)
Paul Hill (Northampton Saints)
Maro Itoje (Saracens)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby) *injury replacement for Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Matt Mullan (Wasps)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby) *injury replacement for Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

Backs
Chris Ashton (Saracens)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Elliot Daly (Wasps)
Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby) *injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs) *injury replacement for Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Marland Yarde (Harlequins)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)


NOTES:
Jonny May has not been considered due to a long-term injury.

The British & Irish Lions and Standard Life Investments today announced that the global asset manager will become a Principal Partner for the 2017 tour to New Zealand.

Standard Life Investments will sponsor the world famous jersey in a deal that replaces the association with HSBC.

British & Irish Lions CEO John Feehan said: "Standard Life Investments is a perfect fit for the British & Irish Lions, who represent the best of the best in the Home Nations.

"We wanted a partner who shared the same values of respect, integrity, discipline and friendship, we have found that partner in Standard Life Investments.

"We are looking forward to working with Standard Life Investments, a brand that is synonymous with excellence as we head into the ultimate challenge against the double World Champions."

Standard Life Investments is also the first and only Worldwide Partner of the Ryder Cup. Keith Skeoch, Chief Executive Officer, said: "I believe that teams which work together succeed together. For me, the Lions personify this.

"Being part of their tour to New Zealand in 2017, the first in 12 years, presents us with an opportunity to raise awareness of our business globally and to inspire both our people and our clients.

"At Standard Life Investments we believe our commitment to excellence, our depth of expertise and our team of talented people gives our clients confidence for the long term.

"Associating our brand with partners who share our values and ambition will help us to strengthen our business and build our brand around the world".

Mitre 10 will be the new title sponsor for the national domestic championship, formerly known as the ITM Cup and the Heartland Championship which was previously supported by Pink Batts.

With the inclusion of the Women's Provincial Championship and support of the Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 tournament, Mitre 10 becomes the first sponsor of all major fifteens domestic rugby competitions in New Zealand.

NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew said the partnership with Mitre 10 would provide benefit across both men and women's provincial rugby, and reflected an exciting commitment to the domestic game.

"Mitre 10 is an iconic New Zealand company with a great number of staff over its 80 stores and connects with hundreds of thousands of Kiwis every year. They clearly love their rugby and are a perfect fit for our game.

"By backing our major domestic competitions and the Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under 19 tournament, Mitre 10 will establish themselves as a committed supporter of rugby in New Zealand through to 2020."

Mitre 10 General Manager Marketing Dave Elliott agreed the partnership with NZR was a strong fit with the values that the company admires.

"As a 100 per cent New Zealand owned and operated business, we're dead keen on supporting Kiwi activities and rugby is definitely one of these," Mr Elliott said. "We're proud to be able to do our bit to help the domestic game get even stronger and provide a platform for the finest players to emerge.

"Rugby, particularly at the domestic level, reflects so many of the traits that we value at Mitre 10: commitment, passion, satisfaction in getting the job done, a sense of community and a large dose of Kiwi-ness."

Mitre 10 is currently working with NZR to explore ways it can engage and assist grassroots rugby communities through the partnership.

"This is not just about supporting the game at the top level, but getting stuck in and seeing the game thrive at the grassroots as well," Mr Elliott said.

Mr Elliott said the competition will give Mitre 10 and Mitre 10 MEGA stores great exposure right across the country.

"We know that rugby is closely followed by fans throughout New Zealand, and we're proud to be associated with these competitions," Mr Elliott said.

Steve Tew also paid tribute to outgoing sponsors ITM and Pink Batts for their support of the national provincial competitions.

"New Zealand Rugby is grateful for the enthusiastic support of ITM since 2010 as it helped showcase our national provincial championship and also thankful for Pink Batts sponsorship of heartland rugby since 2013.

"2016 presents new opportunities for our competitions to really engage with fans and we look forward to working with Mitre 10 to showcase our game and the provincial pride that exists throughout the country."

Market-leading sports drink Energade has renewed their associate sponsorship of the Springboks for a further five years, the South African Rugby Union (SARU) announced on Friday.

Launched in 1993, Energade was the first sports drink on the South African market and to this day is a trusted brand amongst teams, sportsmen and women.

"Our association with Energade dates back to 1999 and it's wonderful to see them continuing their support of the Springboks," said SARU CEO Jurie Roux.

"We know that Energade pick their involvement with sports sponsorships very carefully and it speaks volumes that they have decided to renew with us, especially as we're currently in a tough economic climate.

"In top level sports hydration is critical, especially in our typical South African conditions, and that is where the world-class product we receive from Energade makes a big difference."

Paul Kerr, Category Executive for Beverages at Tiger Brands, said the renewal of the Springbok sponsorship made sense on many levels for Energade.

"Sponsoring the Springboks gives credibility to our brand, which is why we've decided to extend our involvement for another five years," said Kerr.

"We have chosen only pinnacle sponsorships that we feel we can get the best credibility out of, and get the best of leverage at the same time."

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) today announced a long-term partnership with Old Mutual Wealth, the UK's leading wealth management business, as a Principal Partner of England Rugby.

The four-year agreement will see Old Mutual Wealth become title partner of the England Men's and Women's autumn internationals, which will both become the Old Mutual Wealth Series from 2016. This is the first time England Women will have a title partner for their autumn series.

The England Senior team will play four consecutive Tests against Southern Hemisphere opponents in 2016 at Twickenham Stadium against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia* with all four matches broadcast live on Sky Sports HD.

England Women will play home fixtures against France and Canada with the match against Canada taking place at Twickenham Stadium following the Argentina international. They will also play an away Test against Ireland on Sunday 13 November and a potential further home fixture with another opponent is being arranged

The partnership was unveiled at Twickenham Stadium with Old Mutual Wealth Ambassadors and England players Mike Brown, Joe Launchbury and Women's captain Sarah Hunter.

Speaking of the support Old Mutual Wealth will provide to the women's game Hunter said: "It's fantastic to have Old Mutual Wealth on board as partner for our autumn series. This is a significant step forward for the women's game and it's great to get that recognition from such a leading and respected company. The Old Mutual Wealth Series will be great preparation for us as we head into the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup. Not only will we be able to face some quality opponents, the squad will be boosted with players returning from the sevens programme."

England fullback Mike Brown said: "It's great to be able to take on four such quality teams on back to back weekends. It allows us to test ourselves against some high calibre opposition and it's great that Old Mutual Wealth is supporting the series."

Sophie Goldschmidt, RFU Chief Commercial & Marketing Officer, said: "We are delighted to welcome Old Mutual Wealth to the RFU family in an expanded partnership. As one of the UK's leading wealth management businesses, they have a fantastic heritage and it's great to have them make this commitment to men's and women's rugby in England. We look forward to building on that with them over the next four years."

Paul Feeney, Chief Executive, Old Mutual Wealth, said: "We are delighted to announce this new partnership with English Rugby. It's a wonderful and rewarding sport. One which manages, uniquely, to bring together extreme passion and mutual respect. As a new breed of wealth manager, we admire that combination and seek to emulate it in our business. We are building Old Mutual Wealth for those who want to make a positive difference, for themselves, their families and their communities. We hope that our involvement with the sport will go beyond the branding, to build the sport and help it prosper."

The new partnership will also see Old Mutual Wealth assume title sponsorship of England Men's annual May fixture, which from 2016 becomes the Old Mutual Wealth Cup. The first opponents England will face in this fixture will be Wales in a capped match at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday 29 May.

Old Mutual Wealth will also be supporting a significant grass roots rugby programme, with more details following in the New Year.

  • RFU announces 100 new artificial pitches for grassroots rugby
  • Each pitch will also be floodlit

The RFU Council at its meeting today approved a strategy to invest in Artificial Grass Pitches (AGP) which will see 100 artificial, floodlit pitches installed across the country over a four-year period. This is a significant capital investment into the community game.

The investment will fund two types of pitches in locations across the country to ensure maximum access and rugby participation:

  • 60 on rugby club sites to be used by the host club and other local clubs, enabling games to be played and training to be maximised.
  • 40 on community sites with a guaranteed number of hours for use by rugby.

While there are close to 700 AGPs in England, rugby can be played on less than 10% of them due to the others not complying with the World Rugby specification for build and performance, which includes criteria such as ball bounce, head impact and carpet joint strength. Of the 10% that are usable, less than 10 are currently located on community rugby club sites.

The major driver for installing artificial pitches is to sustain and grow participation in the game against a backdrop of increasing pressure on natural turf pitches, changing player expectations, competition from other sports investing in artificial pitches and changing weather conditions.

Over the past four years, RFU data shows that wetter winters are having a serious impact on the rugby season, resulting in more games and training sessions being cancelled. In February 2014, 1,766 adult games were lost over two weekends due to bad weather and over 600 natural turf pitches remained unplayable for 3 weeks afterwards.

Steve Grainger, RFU Rugby Development Director said: "With changing expectations and aspirations it is clear that rugby, like other sports, needs to provide playing surfaces that meet modern requirements.

"Following Rugby World Cup 2015 there has been an upsurge in interest in rugby, not least from aspiring coaches, referees and young players, and this is an exciting opportunity to further develop our community rugby facilities."

The project will get underway with an initial six of the 60 rugby club pitches aiming to be operational in September 2016.

Dates for the Ricoh Arena confirmed as November 2/3 2016

Rugby Expo, the largest B2B conference and exhibition focused on club rugby, has agreed a new long-term partnership with Wasps Rugby Club that will see the event move to the Ricoh Arena in 2016. The new long term agreement is designed to support and facilitate the growth plans of the event, which starts this year on Thursday 26th November in its final berth at Twickenham Stadium.

Rugby Expo, which is now well established in the rugby calendar and has continued to be well supported by the home unions, leagues and wider associations including the RPA and ARA. The event has been at Twickenham since 2011 but from 2016 onwards will move to the well-appointed Ricoh Arena, which since 2014 has been the new home of Wasps.

The venue is fast becoming the second home for the sport and moving the event to the Midlands will widen the reach of Expo, with 75% of the country within a 2-hour drive of the stadium. The club already has excellent relationships with its local community clubs and Expo hopes to build on this to grow the second day of the event when community clubs from across the country will continue to attend Rugby Expo free of charge.

Commenting on the new agreement, Jonathan Wilson, Event Director for Rugby Expo said, "We are really excited by the opportunity presented to us by Wasps when we first initiated conversations to move the event to the Ricoh Arena. We want to create a truly national event and welcome more clubs from both the professional game and community game, grow the number of exhibitors and partners and moving to the Ricoh Arena helps facilitates this growth.
"We have always had a good working relationship with Twickenham Experience but in order to achieve our ambitions we had to move the event as we have simply reached capacity after 5-years of selling out all the available exhibition stands while at Twickenham.

"Having met with David Armstrong, Andy Gibb and their team, we are very confident the club will get right behind the event and work with us and our existing partners to build on the platform we have created, as we look to maximise the potential of Rugby Expo over the next three years."

Wasps Group CEO, David Armstrong, said: "We are delighted that the Ricoh Arena has been chosen to host Rugby Expo for the foreseeable future. The Ricoh Arena is the perfect environment in which to bring together sport and business and we look forward to welcoming a range of rugby businesses and supporters, from both the elite and community based game. We are fortunate that the Ricoh Arena has a large-scale capacity and are excited about working with Rugby Expo to help grow an event which has already expanded significantly over the past few years."

Rugby Expo 2016 will take place at the Ricoh Arena on November 2/3.

For more information on the event visit www.rugbyexpo.com

The British Basketball League (BBL) has today announced they have agreed a partnership with technology company, Pogoseat. The mobile platform will be available for BBL Finals and to the twelve teams with the support of the leagues official ticketing agent, Tickets.com.

Pogoseat will deliver a unique mobile technology to facilitate in-venue seat upgrades and experiential opportunities for fans. The BBL are constantly looking to enhance the game day experience for fans and Pogoseat will work closely with each BBL team in customising the offering for fans.

Pogoseat has worked with multiple teams and venues across North America since the company was founded in 2012. The technology is first of its kind and has already proven to be popular in the US with fans of Basketball, Ice Hockey, American football and Baseball. Pogoseat recently announced a deal with AEG, which includes exclusive partnership to offer upgrade technology at the O2 Arena in London.

The BBL will be one of the first of many across the UK and Europe to offer fans real-time upgrades. Andy Webb, Chief Operating Officer of BBL, enthused "We are delighted to have teamed up with Pogoseat to extend our offering for fans of the game in the UK. Pogoseat are a market leader in this field and we look forward to working with them".

Kiran Patel, Managing Director UK of Pogoseat stated, "The BBL is a fast-growing league and this is an exciting opportunity to leverage our technology and assist the league in enhancing the fan experience. We will continue to work closely with both the BBL and Tickets.com to develop and deliver new technologies in support of our joint goal of ensuring fans maximise their in-stadium experience."

Pogoseat's upgrade solution is integrated with Tickets.com's ProVenue ticketing system and forms part of Tickets.com's Registered Developer Programe. As part of their flourishing partnership in the US, it will extend into Tickets.com's UK and European clients, initially starting with the BBL. The program has seen widespread success particularly with their mutual client, the San Francisco Giants, who are one of the most highly regarded American sports team for their technological capabilities and fan experience.

Tickets.com International Managing Director/Executive VP Derek Palmer said, "I'm thrilled to be part of this exciting announcement that further extends our working relationship with Pogoseat and our existing partnership with the BBL. We are constantly looking at ways to support our partners to add maximum value to their fan experience, to build loyalty and to leverage more ways to encourage more fans to support their team at the arena. The BBL are an incredibly innovative and progressive partner and we are excited to be working with both them, and Pogoseat to further enhance the match day experiences for BBL fans across all twelve teams in the league."

England today appointed Eddie Jones as England Head Coach on a four-year contract, starting in December. Jones will take charge of England ahead of their opening RBS 6 Nations game against Scotland at Murrayfield on 6 February.
The Australian has had a long and successful coaching career, winning trophies both domestically and internationally, having also spent time coaching in England.

His first major piece of silverware came in 2001 after leading the ACT Brumbies to their first Super 12 title and in doing so becoming the first side other than a New Zealand team to win the tournament.
He took charge of the Wallabies between 2001 and 2005 and delivered Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup success. The national side reached the 2003 Rugby World Cup final on home soil, losing narrowly to England.

After spells with the Queensland Reds and Saracens, the 55 year old took up a technical advisor role with the Springboks in 2007 helping the South Africans win their second World Cup having beaten England twice, once in the pool stages and then again in the final. He later became Director of Rugby at Saracens until 2009 and then coached the Japanese club side Suntory Sungoliath.

Jones returned to the international arena in 2011 as Head Coach for Japan where his mother was born. His achievements included arguably the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history when his side beat South Africa 34-32 in the dying moments of their opening match of the tournament this year.

Japan went on to win three of their four pool matches and their performance saw them move into the top ten of the world rankings. Following the tournament he was appointed Head Coach of the South African Super franchise, The Stormers, before agreeing terms with the RFU.

Eddie Jones said: "Firstly my thanks must go to Rob Wagner and everyone at Western Province Rugby for understanding my decision and allowing me to return to the international stage so quickly. The opportunity to take the reins in possibly the world's most high profile international rugby job doesn't come along every day however, and I feel fortunate to be given the opportunity.

"I'm now looking forward to working with the RFU and the players to move beyond the disappointment England suffered at the World Cup and hope to build a new team that will reflect the level of talent that exists within the English game. I believe the future is bright for England."

RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie said: "We promised to recruit a coach with proven international experience and we have done that. Eddie is a world-class coach, with extensive experience at the highest level with Australia, South Africa and Japan. We believe that the appointment, which was unanimously approved by the RFU Board, is the right one to bring England success in the short, medium and long term.

"We are confident Eddie can build on the strong foundations already laid, with this talented group of players largely remaining together through to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and beyond. We are grateful to the Stormers for their co-operation in releasing Eddie early from his contract."