Here’s your roundup of all the latest rugby headlines from Tuesday, June 14.
Williams hails Bennett’s influence
Shane Williams says watching Phil Bennett’s genius inspired him to become a Welsh rugby hero in his own right. And he revealed how Bennett saved him from a potentially embarrassing situation just a few years ago.
Bennett, a legend of the game, sadly passed away on Sunday at the age of 73 after leaving an indelible mark on the sporting landscape due to a career littered with highlights that will live with fans for years to come.
But no Welsh player has scored as many tries as Williams, who despite his modest stature has become a legend in his own right, and is widely regarded as one of the best wingers of all time.
And, he says, Bennett’s influence was a significant one during his most formative years.
He told the BBC: “I was born in 1977 and that’s when I think the best Welsh try was scored. It was Phil Bennett against Scotland.
“As soon as I saw this essay I thought ‘wow, if someone like this can do this, it will inspire me’, because I wasn’t the tallest of guys growing up. I struggled in school with some of the bigger boys.
“That inspired me enormously. He was an absolute genius on the pitch. He also had a huge heart. He never avoided a tackle. He got stuck in and I just looked at him in awe and just thought ‘ I wanna be that guy.
But Williams has just as many fond memories of his hero away from the pitch, and recalled one night when Bennett stepped in to save him from potential embarrassment during a night out at Llanelli.
“I remember five years ago I played a game for my local club in Lampeter and I got hit in the face and broke my cheekbone.
“The problem was that after the game I had a speech to make at the Diplomat Hotel in Llanelli.
“I couldn’t speak. Phil was sitting on the table in front of me so I tried to tell him ‘look at Phil, I’m going to fight tonight’.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry about it boy, I’ve got it all sorted’, and he went upstairs for an hour. He took over my speech and talked about me, Llanelli and Wales from the years 70. I didn’t have to lift a finger.
“That sums up Phil to be honest with you.
“I will always have fond memories of this man.”
Scottish women are getting an unprecedented injection of cash
Scottish women will be able to train full-time ahead of the World Cup thanks to an “unprecedented” support program from Scottish Rugby.
The governing body has said it intends to increase its investment in the team to over £500,000 in 2022 alone.
Head coach Bryan Easson described it as “a huge boost” ahead of the finals, which are due to take place in the fall.
“Having the players train Monday to Friday for 11 weeks will be hugely beneficial,” he said.
“We will be able to go deeper and more detailed in our work on and off the pitch than ever before.”
Scotland are in Pool A with Australia, Wales, as well as defending champions and hosts New Zealand, with the competition due to start on October 8.
Galthie names Baa-Baas squad for England clash
Charles Ollivon is set to join skipper Fabien Galthie’s Barbarians side as they prepare to face England at Twickenham on Sunday.
Ollivon is joined in the 24-man squad by Toulon team-mates Louis Carbonel, Jean-Baptiste Gros and Christopher Tolofua, while Australia’s Will Skelton and Fiji’s Levani Botia are also in the squad fresh off their European triumph with La Rochelle.
Pierre Bourgarit, Thomas Lavault and Danny Priso are also in the game, as well as the Englishman George Kruis, who returns to Twickenham to play his last match against his country.
Barbarians head coach Galthié said: “It is an honor to be called upon to select and coach the Barbarians, an institution with strong values rooted in the history of our sport.
“We will share with the selected players this precious heritage: an offensive, adventurous, ambitious game that is the hallmark of the BaaBaas.
“We have already planned to study some historic moments together, such as Gareth Edwards’ 1973 try against the All Blacks. This BaaBaas state of mind remains a fertile ground for the expression of talents, we will have at heart to succeed in our mission and to give all fans a great rugby moment.
Levani Botia (Fiji, La Rochelle), Pierre Bourgarit (France, La Rochelle), Louis Carbonel (France, Toulon), Batiste Couilloud (France, Lyon), Dylan Cretin (France, Lyon), Jean-Baptiste Gros (France, Toulon ), Sipili Falatea (France, Clermont), Antoine Hastoy (France, Pau), George Kruis (England, Panasonic Wild Knights), Thomas Laclayat (Oyonnax), Thomas Lavault (La Rochelle), Nolann Le Garrec (R92), Sekou Macalou (France, Stade Français), Davit Niniashvili (Georgia, Lyon), Trevor Nyakane (South Africa, R92), Charles Ollivon (C) (France, Toulon), Damien Penaud (France, Clermont), Danny Priso (France, La Rochelle), Will Skelton (Australia, La Rochelle), Max Spring (France, R92), Yoan Tanga (France, R92), Christopher Tolofua (France, Toulon), Virimi Vakatawa (France, R92), Tani Vili (France, Clermont )
England full-back Freddie Steward believes his Leicester colleague George Ford played a key role in his development as a player.
Steward hopes to end an unforgettable period of his career on Saturday by helping Leicester clinch a first Gallagher Premiership title since 2013.
Despite making his England debut just 11 months ago, Steward has quickly become a fixture for club and country.
And the 21-year-old recognizes fellow international Ford, who will join Sale later this summer, as a major force behind that rise.
“I think the guy who was most influential in terms of players would probably be George,” Steward said.
“Training against a guy like that and with a guy like that, who is one of the best fly-halfs in the world at handling full-backs, it just helped my game go on.
“He often made me look like an idiot, but those are times when you learn and improve.
“I hope this isn’t the last time we play together.
“I think he’s one of those players that you appreciate more when you play with him, just the time he creates for other players and the way he puts them in the space. The little things, it’s just magical.”