Oval Talk

  • Leicester Tigers hitting form at right time

    Spring is that glorious time of year when the sun comes out, the grounds thaw and the leaves re-appear on trees. It is also the time when one of English club rugby's traditional powerhouses, and indeed the only club to have remained at the pinnacle of the domestic scene for the past decade and a half, start to turn it on. This season looks to be no different for the Leicester Tigers.

    There is something about the club that sees them always begin to click as the business end of the season approaches. Be it the return of their huge international contingent from Six Nations duty, the realisation

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  • Wilkinson’s Lions call still a long shot

    The news that Jonny Wilkinson has penned a new one-year contract with Toulon on Tuesday will only serve to fuel the nostalgic speculation that the former England fly-half could be a surprise inclusion in this summer's British and Irish Lions squad.

    The 33-year-old, who is the second-highest point-scorer in Test history, has been linked with a return to the squad in recent months, even though the man himself has played down - in fact, all but dismissed - his chances of featuring.

    Wilkinson, who has been pondering his retirement from the game, has been in fine form for Top 14 leaders Toulon and

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  • Wales and Lions rugby star Jamie Roberts qualifies as doctor

    Welsh rugby international Jamie Roberts has qualified as a doctor having spent the last eight years studying while playing the game at the very highest level.

    The powerful centre - a key member of the Welsh side that won the Grand Slam in 2012 and the Six Nations title in 2013 - received the results of his medical exams from Cardiff University on Monday, confirming that he is now Dr Roberts.

    "My nickname amongst team-mates has for some time been Doc, and I've always felt like a little bit of a fraud," said Roberts, who fitted his studies around playing duties with both Wales and the Cardiff

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  • Stringer will thrive at Bath after calling time on Munster spell

    Peter Stringer should benefit from regular playing time at Bath after deciding to call time on his Munster career in the summer, where Conor Murray is first-choice scrum-half.

    The 35-year-old has agreed to sign a permanent deal with the Aviva Premiership side after spending a successful loan spell at the Rec in the second half of the current campaign.

    Stringer's contract will run until the end of the 2013-14 season, ending his 15-year professional career at Munster, where he had fallen down the pecking order.

    Read the full post by Kieran Beckles of the Yahoo! Contributor Network

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  • O’Connell in line for British & Irish Lions call-up

    Paul O'Connell has thrown his name right back into contention to be included in Warren Gatland's British and Irish Lions squad for the summer tour of Australia, with increasing calls for the Munster star to be named captain.

    O'Connell put in a man-of-the-match performance as he inspired Rob Penny's men to a shock 18-12 quarter-final victory over reigning Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins on Sunday, proving a colossus at the Twickenham Stoop.

    It's been described as one of the second row's best-ever performances as he embodied Munster's intensity and ruthlessness, shining in the lineout as

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  • Why on earth do these men play rugby?

    After two rugby players shrugged off sickening injuries at the weekend, you have to wonder exactly why men insist on playing such a brutal sport.

    Saracens Number Eight Ernst Joubert looks without a care in the world in a photo that circulated on Twitter this week.

    The big South African seems blissfully unaware of the state his nose is in, pointing in several directions as only a rugby forward’s honker can.

    The 32-year-old’s schnoz is hardly an oil painting at the best of times, but that has got to hurt. Perhaps he was so delighted by his side’s 27-16 European Cup quarter-final win over Ulster

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  • Old stagers thrust themselves into the Lions limelight

    Munster captain Paul O'Connell

    The end of the Six Nations has shifted the home nations' rugby focus firmly onto the Lions tour this summer, and with it has come an abundance of speculation over who will be selected.

    There is another group of players who have the potential to add plenty to the tour, but who get rather less media limelight: the OAPs of the game. The old stagers who are in the twilight of their career, but would certainly be available for a month long summer tour.

    The Heineken Cup games this weekend reminded us that several such players still have plenty to offer.

    FULL ARTICLE: Old stagers thrust themselves

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  • Ulster affected by injuries and loss of form

    Ulster exited this season's Heineken Cup at the quarter-final stage after a 27-16 defeat by Saracens. Mark Anscombe's starting XV was composed of players returning from injury, like Tommy Bowe, while the distraction of the Six Nations has affected Ulster in recent weeks.

    It resulted in a performance lacking cohesion. With Saracens in ruthless form, Ulster just didn't turn up, encapsulated by hooker Rory Best, who had a torrid afternoon. Ruan Pienaar, back on kicking duty for Paddy Jackson, struggled in the early stages with two penalty misses as Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell helped fire his

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  • Rugby’s dark side being exposed

    It has not been a great week for rugby in the press. The tragic news that a Royal Marine, enjoying some downtime in Durban, was beaten to death outside the stadium after the Sharks v Rebels game last weekend sent shockwaves through the rugby world. A terrible anomaly in a sport whose culture is defined by respect and camaraderie amongst fans, it is nonetheless worrying and shocking.

    There has also been plenty in the news recently about players themselves misbehaving. Whilst the All Blacks' Zac Guildford and Australia's Kurtley Beale are the latest to fall foul of alcohol-fuelled

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  • Rob Baxter's addition to Stuart Lancaster's England coaching team for the Red Rose's tour of Argentina is a fitting reward for the 42-year-old.

    Read the full post by Kieran Beckles of Yahoo! Contributor Network

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