Tonight's rugby news as Welsh players on standby for Gatland call and Cardiff to announce signings

James Botham is a possible contender to be added to the squad to play South Africa
-Credit: (Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)


Here are the latest rugby headlines on Friday, June 7.

Wales hopefuls watch and wait

Warren Gatland and a number of Wales hopefuls will be keen observers as the Ospreys take on Munster tonight in the URC play-off quarter-final.

An away victory for the Welsh region would see six members of Wales' summer squad absent from training all of next week and unlikely to feature against South Africa on June 22, even if the Ospreys lost a potential semi-final next weekend. If they were to go all the way, the final is scheduled to be played the same day as the Test against the Springboks.

Gatland is already without a number of players for the Twickenham encounter against the world champions because English-based players are unavailable due the fixture being outside of the international window.

The Wales coach has said he will add to his squad in the coming days in the event of an Ospreys triumph at Thomond Park, with a flanker and winger possibly needed to cover Jac Morgan and Keelan Giles given the make-up of the squad. The likes of James Botham and Taine Basham would be at the front of the queue for the back row role, while Cardiff's Welsh-qualified wing Gabriel Hamer-Webb is an outside candidate who could come into consideration in the back three amid suggestions he was considered for the original squad.

The possible absence of Owen Watkin in the centre is likely to be mitigated by the call-up for Eddie James, although Johnny Williams would likely be the next in line.

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Cardiff to announce raft of signings

Cardiff are set to announce a number of signings in the coming days, with Wales international Aled Davies among at least four new players to be unveiled.

The Welsh region are also set to sign South African number nine Johan Mulder, while a flanker and lock are also high on the agenda. Welshman Dan Thomas, who has recently left Bristol Bears, is a leading candidate for the back row position.

Cardiff coach Matt Sherratt said: "We're not far away now so I think by the ned of the next week we'll have three or four. It will be people from good environments who can help our young boys come through.

"I think we have got something special in terms of the amount of Cardiff boys playing for Cardiff. And we need to build around that some quality and experience."

Cardiff have already recruited the likes of Callum Sheedy, Ed Byrne, Danny Southworth and Iwan Stephens.

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Bath 'back where we belong'

By Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent

Bath will face Northampton at Twickenham on Saturday after being transformed from Gallagher Premiership no-hopers to title contenders in under two years.

South African Johann van Graan has overseen a remarkable revival since starting the task of waking a sleeping giant in July 2022.

When he arrived at the Recreation Ground from Munster that summer, Bath could not sink any lower, having propped up a then 13-club Premiership after winning just five of their 24 games during the 2021-22 campaign.

But Bath are now back on English domestic rugby's biggest stage following a nine-year absence, seeking a first Premiership crown that would end their 16-year wait for major trophy honours.

It is all a far cry from the pre-Premiership era - Bath won six league titles in nine seasons between 1987 and 1996 - yet provides glowing evidence of the impact Van Graan has made.

"We are very respectful of the history and the heritage of Bath Rugby, and that is why a lot of us came to the club," head of rugby Van Graan said.

"It is because of the history and what it represents. For us as a group we respect our past, but this is about this group.

"Since we started on July 11, 2022, we have focused on what we need to do - becoming tough to beat, putting the pride into our jersey and then getting better.

"Since we started in week one, the message has been to treat every week the exact same - never too high, never too low - and to start every week on zero and get better.

"After 18 (Premiership) rounds, we said we would see where we are. That got us into a home semi-final, which we treated as a one-off game, and now we are in the final.

"So, you can never predict, but we are exactly where we should be, and all credit to the players and the staff that have worked incredibly hard to put us in this position.

"There is one game remaining, and two very good teams are going to compete in it."

Glasgow made to make semis despite form

By Anthony Brown, PA

Franco Smith is unfazed by Glasgow's underwhelming ending to the regulation United Rugby Championship season as he fully expects his team to rise to the big occasion against Stormers in Saturday's play-off quarter-final.

Warriors go into the showdown with the South African side on the back of consecutive defeats against Bulls and Lions and an unconvincing victory over bottom-of-the-table Zebre.

Smith is confident his team, who finished fourth in the URC table, are ready to regain their best form when it matters most.

"Everything must be kept in perspective," said the head coach. "I think we reached a period in the season where we had already qualified and done what needed to be done.

"Last week's result wasn't going to change much in relation to this week. The focus from the start of the week has been really good.

"It was special this week, you can see the players are eager to get out and express themselves. For the last couple of weeks they have felt ready for the big occasion and hopefully they can channel that energy into a smart performance against Stormers."

Glasgow - who welcome back captain Kyle Steyn - are buoyed by the knowledge that they won 20-9 in their last meeting with Stormers at Scotstoun in November.

"It was good to have won that game," said Smith. "It is obviously better to use a victory rather than a loss against them in preparation for that game but it does not affect much in our preparation this week.

"We looked back at it a little bit as a coaching group to see what was done and how it worked but that's not going to influence this game at all.

"This is going to be a completely new challenge because it's a one-off match, it's knockout rugby, it's not going to be as liberal, I would think, as it was in the previous game."

Stormers finished fifth in the URC, one place behind Glasgow, and Smith is anticipating a tough test.

"They had a rough start and they dropped some games which they were used to winning but they are still the finalists of last year and the team that won it the year before," said the Warriors head coach.

"They've still got the same players there, the same quality. They've got a lot of Springboks across the board, their coaching team has been with them for a while, so they have good continuity.

"They've got a solid platform so it's going to be a tough ask to come out on top."