Planet Rugby


Victor Costello's decision to retire at the end of the season marks the end of a high-profile career that spanned 39 caps with Ireland. Irrespective of how Leinster fare in their Heineken European Cup quarter-final, against Leicester at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, Costello is likely to have at least one more glamour occasion on the pitch.

Costello in demand

He was delighted to receive an invitation recently from Martin Johnson asking him if he would be available for the former England and Lions captain's testimonial match at Twickenham on June 4th.

Already confirmed for that match is Jonah Lomu, who hopes to make his return to professional rugby following a kidney operation. Lomu is to lead the team that takes on Johnson's crew and the response from former All Blacks to line out one more time with the giant wing has been phenomenal. Former New Zealand coach John Hart has come out of retirement to oversee the preparations of Lomu's team.

Williams digs in

Matt Williams refuses to buckle despite the verbal flak flying around Scottish rugby at the moment. Rumours of bust-ups between players and management have been circulating in Scottish media circles and the clamour for the Australian-born coach's head is gathering pace.

Williams has met the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) to discuss the recent Six Nations Championship, in which Scotland only managed a single victory, over Italy, thereby narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon.

Several former Scotland internationals have been queuing up to lambaste the current coaching set-up but Williams and his assistant, Willie Anderson, remain defiant. The Australian described reports that talks have been held to discuss his future as Scotland rugby coach as "inaccurate", arguing he didn't feel under threat of losing his job. "The wealth of negative, inaccurate comment has made the positives of the (Six Nations) tournament impossible."

Williams believes he is totally committed to the next World Cup. But the SRU have done nothing to dispel rumours and this doesn't bode well for the coach. Scotland have lost 14 of 17 Tests under Williams.

In fairness to the coach he's not exactly oversupplied with players and inherited very limited stock.

The suggestion coming from Scottish parts is that the cash-strapped SRU is not in a position to pay off Williams, who has a contract until the 2007 World Cup. That is assuming they wish to do so.

No wounded Lions

Clive Woodward won't be taking any walking wounded to New Zealand this summer. The Lions coach confirmed in an interview with BBC radio that all injured players, including Jonny Wilkinson, will have to prove their fitness before getting a plane ticket.

Ireland's Gordon D'Arcy will be hoping to do just that this weekend in making the Leinster team. If he were to miss out then the chances of Woodward taking him to New Zealand, given the coach's latest public utterances, would seem slim.

Woodward confirmed: "Jonny won't definitely go. There is no point taking him unless he's 100 per cent fit. But he's confident he'll be back to play a couple of games before we go. Before we leave the country I want to make sure everyone is fit. It is quite a straightforward situation. If Jonny is fit, he will go."

Woodward was pleasantly surprised by Wales's Six Nations success.

"All of the Welsh players are in contention," he said and showed a sense of humour when he added: "At the start of the season someone told me the squad should be 14 Irishmen and Jonny but it's changed to 14 Welshmen and Jonny."

Rugby speak

"Personally I was disappointed with the response of the Blues. There were three headshots and there are three lots of stitches in our camp as a result of that. The game got away from them quite early and that's how it manifested itself."

- Crusaders coach Robbie Deans was shocked by the number of cheap shots administered by the opposition in a recent Super 12 match.