Here’s your round-up of all the latest rugby headlines from Wales and beyond for Wednesday, February 3.
Shane backs Ireland for victory in Cardiff
Wales’ record try-scorer Shane Williams admits Wayne Pivac’s squad are “still trying to find their feet” ahead of Sunday’s Six Nations opener against Ireland, and admits Andy Farrell’s men will be favourites at the Principality Stadium.
The former winger has come to the defence of Pivac, who oversaw a difficult year as Wales limped through a disappointing autumn campaign, and insists the Kiwi has all the tools needed for success.
However, he still believes there are issues, and he admits Ireland are likely to leave the capital with the victory on Sunday.
“Wayne has definitely got the firepower within that team to do very well,” Williams told RTÉ’s Game On.
“He’s had a tough time. He was building for the future, building for the World Cup, blooding a lot of players.
“I think we went through four or five scrum-halves during the Autumn Nations Cup series and we still don’t know who our number one choice is.
“He’s been up against it definitely. The Welsh team did get better as the autumn series went on and we finished quite strongly and looked pretty good, but in terms of where we are as a squad, England, Ireland and Scotland are above us.
“I do think [Ireland] are more advanced in the way they want to play and are far more comfortable in the way they want to play. Wales are still trying to find their feet.”
Warren Gatland begins Lions scouting mission
Warren Gatland is set to begin his Lions scouting mission this weekend when the 2021 Six Nations begins.
England host Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday while Wales host Ireland in Cardiff a day later, with the Lions boss being given special dispensation to attend the behind-closed-doors fixtures.
MailOnline report that the former Wales boss is due to fly into the UK on Wednesday, February 3, from his native New Zealand ahead of planning for the series against South Africa, with significant uncertainty still hanging over it.
Australia have stepped forward and offered to host the series, and a decision on the fate of the Lions tour is set to be made this month.
Man City investors make move for stake in New Zealand rugby
New Zealand Rugby has received an offer of $465million (£245.7m) from US technology firm Silver Lake for a 15 per cent share of commercial rights valued at $3.1 billion (£1.64b).
According to the New Zealand Herald, talks have been ongoing between the two parties for more than nine months, and the terms of the move are still yet to be finalised.
The deal is reportedly subject to the green light of the majority of the provincial unions, with a decision likely to arrive before New Zealand Rugby’s annual general meeting in April.
The NZ Rugby Players’ Association, along with ex-All Blacks players, coaches and women’s side the Black Ferns are also set to be part of the nationwide consultation period.
While reports have suggested there is a positive mood to the move, there is also an understanding that selling a stake in the national game is likely to generate polarising reactions.
Should it go through, it will be just the latest investment from Silver Lake, which already has stakes in the City Football Group, whose whose flagship team is Manchester City, UFC, and the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns NBA franchise the New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers.
Ireland facing crucial call ahead of Wales clash as Doris withdraws
Ireland boss Farrell, meanwhile will be without key back rower Caelan Doris for this weekend’s clash.
The 22-year old was expected to be a nailed-on started for the visitors, but has withdrawn from the squad and returned to Leinster for further assessment on a potential concussion.
It come as a big blow to the Irish, but forwards coach Paul O’Connell insists taking Doris out of the squad is the right call.
“They are two injuries you don’t ever want to be messing around with, you have to be careful,” said O’Connell.
“I am not sure we know length of time on either of them. It’s frustrating for them and frustrating for us.
“Caelan is obviously a fantastic player. I worked with him in the U20s and he was incredible.
“He has that X-factor and we need those players in world rugby.”
Meanwhile, Quinn Roux has also been ruled out due to a neck injury
Farrell has since added Munster back row Gavin Coombes and Leinster’s Ryan Baird to his squad ahead of this weekend’s clash.
Taylor banned for three games
Scotland centre George Taylor will miss Edinburgh’s clash with the Dragons later this month, after receiving a three-match ban for his recent red card against Zebre.
Taylor was sent off by referee Gianluca Gnecchi for what was deemed a dangerous tackle on opposite number Antonio Rizzi at the Stadio Sergio Lianfranchi last month.
The initial ‘entry point’ for such an offence is usually six weeks, but a disciplinary process halved the suspension due to “mitigating factors including admission that actions warranted a red card, remorse shown during the proceedings and previous clean disciplinary record.”
Taylor will now sit out a low-key ‘A’ game against Glasgow Warriors tomorrow, and will also miss the trip to Rodney Parade on February 12, as well as the visit of Munster to Murrayfield on February 20.
He will return in time to face the Scarlets on Saturday 27th February.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk