Today's rugby news as legend to 'bring steel and stern edge' and Gatland's changing room team talk revealed

-Credit: (Image: WRU/YouTube)
-Credit: (Image: WRU/YouTube)

Here are your rugby headlines for Saturday, June 29.

Flanagan: Tiatia will bring steel and edge

Dai Flanagan believes Filo Tiatia will make a huge impact on the Dragons next season.

Tiatia arrives back in Wales this weekend more than a decade after he left the Ospreys and will be Flanagan's "right-hand man" on the coaching staff next season, according to the Dragons boss.

The New Zealand international, 53, garnered thousands of admirers in this corner of the work for his work on the field and on the staff at the Ospreys. He went on to coach at Toyota Verblitz, Sunwolves, Japan and Auckland, but will be in Gwent next season.

At a fans' Q&A, Dragons head coach Flanagan said Tiatia will "bring steel and a stern edge" and challenge the culture of the group, according to the South Wales Argus.

Former Ospreys coach Sean Holley knows Tiatia well from his days at the Ospreys and last month said on BBC Scrum V: "The biggest thing for me is Filo Tiatia, who I worked with at the Ospreys, he is going to be huge for them.

"I said this to Dai Flanagan, it's more off the pitch with Filo, his coaching will be planned and detailed, but it's more the cultural aspect. The values, how they conduct themselves, the one percenters that are very important. The little big things. He is going to transform that dressing room."

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Wales international and former Ospreys star Alex Cuthbert then weighed in, adding: "Tiatia will come in and he will look out [for] the people who are not really there for the right reasons and there's probably too many in that club, which is probably why they only win three or four games a year.

"He is going to come in and really clear out the players who should be there and shouldn't be there."

Gatland's changing-room talk revealed

Warren Gatland's post-match debrief to his Wales players after the heavy defeat by South Africa has been documented in a new WRU video.

The Union have released a new YouTube series called 'Gwlad connected by Vodafone', which charts the national team's summer tour, including their clash with the Springboks at Twickenham last weekend.

After the game, and before the cap presentation for the four debutants, we got a snapshot of what Gatland said to his team in the immediate aftermath of the 41-13 defeat by the world champions.

Addressing the players, he said: "In particular, that first half when we went under the pump, we hung in there at 14-13, I thought it was a real credit to you guys.

"But I think there was a lot of things for us to work on in terms of nailing a few key moments for ourselves. The physicality you showed, I thought that was a huge plus from us in terms of putting yourself out there and putting in some big hits and fillers in.

"So I think there's a long way for us to go and let's be positive about where we can keep improving as a team over the next few weeks."

England international announces retirement

Former England international Billy Twelvetrees has hung up his boots at the age of 35, his club Ealing Trailfinders has confirmed.

The versatile player, who was a stalwart for Gloucester, played both at centre and fly-half, earning 22 caps with his last appearance in 2015. Twelvetrees celebrated winning the Championship with Trailfinders in his final season.

His career kicked off with Bedford Blues before he moved to Leicester Tigers in 2009, where he clinched the Premiership title in his debut season. In 2012, he transferred to Gloucester where he made an impressive 273 appearances during his 11-year stint with the Cherry and Whites.

He was appointed club captain for the 2014-15 season and led the team to their second European Challenge Cup victory.

Gloucester paid tribute to him on X, stating: "A true Cherry & White legend calling it a day. Thanks for all the memories, Billy."

At Trailfinders, he was part of the first team outside the top tier to reach a Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final, in addition to winning the second-tier title.

Ealing's director of rugby Bill Ward spoke highly of Twelvetrees on the club's website, saying: "Although we only had Billy with us for a year, he made a big impact on our squad. His career speaks for itself and he can be incredibly proud of all that he has achieved.

"We will miss him as a player, but more than that he is one of the good guys and a really good bloke that we will miss even more. We wish him all the best for the future."

Ex-All Blacks boss: NZ fallen behind northern hemisphere

Former All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has admitted that New Zealand Rugby (NZR) still has a lot of ground to make up after falling behind their rivals in recent years.

The Rugby World Cup runners-up felt that they became "very isolated" after Covid struck, resulting in them getting an unrealistic view of their own game. Foster's All Blacks struggled following the 2019 global tournament and only really recovered at the end of 2022 before they had an impressive campaign at the World Cup in France.

However, there are still some structural issues within NZR, as well as the game as a whole in the country, which Foster believes is hampering the national team.

"In Covid, we became very isolated for obvious reasons and we basically spent two years playing ourselves. In order to generate interest, and it's a pretty tough market to generate interest, we were telling people that Super Rugby was the best competition in the world," he told The Times' The Ruck podcast.

"If a player played well then Super Rugby coaches were saying he's the best player in the world, but really we were just playing ourselves. Even if some of that might be true, at a certain level, it's certainly not a good thing for the mindset of the player.

"Suddenly you hit the international stage and the rest of the world have carried on playing and growing. It wasn't really until 2023 that I really believed we could start catching up."

The declining interest in Super Rugby, their premier club competition, has also played a part. The exit of South African franchises could be another potential setback.

"By the end of it (2023) we were getting close to where we want to be, but that period has done some damage. Structurally, we're still a level below. Super Rugby and the NPC is struggling in terms of how we see its place," Foster added.

"We still aren't really as dominant in that age-group rugby, which was always a given, really, and now we struggle against a lot of the bigger teams with the systems the other countries have put in place."