Tonight's rugby news as England star reveals snus habit and Wales coach excited by Botham 'X-Factor'

James Botham of Wales
-Credit: (Image: © Huw Evans Picture Agency)


Here are the latest rugby headlines on Friday, June 21.

Botham has the 'X-Factor'

James Botham has been tipped to bring some X-Factor to the Wales back row in the absence of Jac Morgan.

The Cardiff star has been plagued by injuries over the past few seasons and would surely have won more than 10 caps if he had stayed fit. Wales were dealt a hammer blow this week when World Cup co-captain Morgan was ruled out of the summer series, but this has presented Botham an opportunity when he lines up at openside against South Africa at Twickenham.

SIGN UP: Get the new exclusive Inside Welsh rugby newsletter for full insight into what's really going on around all the big issues. This special offer will get you full access for the entire year for just £10 instead of £40.

"I think he'll bring energy and physicality," said Wales forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys. "He's been unlucky with some injuries at the start of the year.

"He came in with us and got injured against Scotland early doors. What he is is very very tough.

"He gritted his teeth through that Scotland game when he had quite a significant injury but didn't tell anybody and just played on. He certainly gives us X-Factor. Things happen around him."

The question mark surrounding Botham is where best to play him with the 26-year-old capable of covering the whole back-row.

"I think he's been excellent for Cardiff since he came back but it's just a case of whether he's a seven, a six or an eight," said Humphreys.

"Or is he somebody who can play across all of them?

"He's between a six and a seven I think. It's a huge opportunity for him on the weekend."

Listen to the latest Welsh rugby podcast

Axed England star admits 'snus' habit

Kyle Sinckler has revealed he developed a snus habit that harmed his performances and eventually saw him axed from England's squad after the Rugby World Cup.

The prop, who will join Toulon in France next season, said he started taking the smokeless tobacco product when he was younger and trying to lose weight. He explained to The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast it helped supress his appetite.

He said: "There was loads of other things that were happening behind the scenes, loads of habits that I was doing that were not conducive to being a world-class athlete, that kind of all came out after.”

He described snus as “very addictive” and “not good for your performance” and admitted what he was doing contradicted his efforts to act as a good role model.

“In terms of like where I want to be and the person, the man I want to become, I can’t be saying one thing on the socials and putting out a message like that. And then behind closed doors, I’m acting like a victim, the world’s against me and I’m doing snus.

“The whole thing is just... it doesn’t work like that, you know? So it’s like at the end of the day, I’ve reaped what I sowed, you know?”

Former England team-mate Jonny May, a regular on the podcast, described Sinckler’s admission as “powerful... because a lot of people in rugby are hooked on this stuff. I don’t know enough about it, but it can’t be good for us”.

England star's Eddie Jones warning

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent

Ben Youngs has warned England that Eddie Jones remains an elite coach whose second term with Japan will be driven by his recent failures.

Jones and Steve Borthwick will go head to head for the first time when the Australian and his former number two clash in the master and apprentice duel that underpins England's tour opener in Tokyo on Saturday.

It has been just 18 months since Jones was sacked by the Rugby Football Union for a downturn in results, yet before returning to Japan he squeezed in a disastrous homecoming with the Wallabies that ended when they failed to emerge from the group stage of last autumn's World Cup.

But the 64-year-old has the highest win rate of any England head coach with 73 per cent and Youngs, his first choice scrum-half for the whole of his seven-year reign, insists he is still a formidable operator.

"Eddie is honestly one of the best coaches I've ever had. Tactically, he's very, very good," said England's most capped player, who will be in action for Barbarians against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.

"For whatever reason it didn't work with Australia. That doesn't make him a bad coach. He's still a very good coach. He's still very intelligent in how he sees the game.

"We had a really successful time at England. We had some tough periods, of course we did. But he's honestly one of the best coaches I've had.

"I'm sure he'll embrace the challenge of Japan. I'm sure he'll bottle everything how it unfolded with England and how it unfolded with Australia.

"You just know that because of what he's like as a character, he'll be taking Japan back to the World Cup in Australia.

"It wouldn't surprise me if suddenly Australia and Japan are in the same pool - that's just the way the stars align with him - and he would love it.

"Rugby needs characters like Eddie and he brings a lot of entertainment. He divides opinion, I get that, but if I got the opportunity to work under him again I would jump at it."

URC final preview

By Anthony Brown, PA

Franco Smith believes Glasgow's stunning semi-final win at Munster has set them up perfectly to handle the 'hostility' they will face from the Bulls' home crowd in Saturday's United Rugby Championship Grand Final in South Africa.

The Warriors triumphed 17-10 over the holders at Thomond Park last weekend and now they must win away at another of the URC's most intimidating venues when they run out at the 51,000-capacity Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

Smith feels their recent experience in Ireland will stand Glasgow in good stead for their biggest game of the season.

"I think we've learned a lot from last week's game," said the head coach, a former South Africa international. "There were 20,000 Irish supporters at Thomond Park and it could have been intimidating but I think we've taken a lot from that in our preparation for this week.

"We know we will face a pretty hostile crowd over here as well. It will be double the number of last week but again it's about just focusing on the task at hand and not getting engulfed by the occasion."

Smith is leading his side into a second final in two seasons at the helm after losing to Toulon in last year's Challenge Cup showpiece in Dublin. The head coach feels his team has evolved since then as they bid to end a nine-year wait for silverware.

"Last year we had another final opportunity, and this one is obviously the pinnacle of this season so we're really looking forward to being a part of it," he said.

"There have definitely been a lot of lessons learned. From the quarter-final match at home to Munster last year and the Challenge Cup final against Toulon, we've learned a lot and we've taken some of those learnings into our pre-season and then through the whole season.

"We're looking forward now to our next challenge and our next step."