Debuting Quartet Highlight First Match Day 23 in '23

The Melbourne Rebels have confirmed their Match Day 23 for Saturday’s opening match of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season against the Western Force at HBF Stadium.Italian international, Monty Ioane, will make his long-awaited Super Rugby debut after being named at left wing, joining Tuaina Taii Tualima, Vaiolini Ekuasi and Alex Mafi, who will all run out for the Rebels on the Super Rugby stage for the first time.Mafi makes up an imposing front-row alongside Wallabies’ pair Matt Gibbon and Sam Talakai.Meanwhile, Tuaina Taii Tualima will pair with Victorian Josh Canham, following an outstanding pre-season campaign after signing with the Rebels last July, while popular Rebel, Josh Kemeny, has been named for his first match since 2021.Kemeny will be joined in the backrow by Richard Hardwick and Brad Wilkin, who will lead the Rebels out for the first time since been elected stand-in Captain last week.Wilkin says his teammates are focused on the challenge ahead and determined to start the season off with a win.“The whole Club is driven to put our best foot forward and put into practice all of our learnings and hard work from this pre-season,” said Wilkin.“we’ve taken advantage of our great facilities and built great consistency and habits together, so we’re excited for round 1 and really believe we’re in a good spot to push on and have a successful season.”Ryan Louwrens returns at scrumhalf, while 22-year-old Carter Gordon will look to build on last year's strong season finish, named at flyhalf.The experienced Stacey Ili joins Vice Captain Reece Hodge at centre, while Monty Ioane will combine with Lachie Anderson on the wing, with Nick Jooste selected at full-back.Following their impressive displays against the Brumbies, Jordan Uelese and Isaac Aedo Kailea have been named as forward replacements, joining the hulking Pone Fa'amausili.Trevor Hosea will provide crucial late game firepower as he returns the field for the first time since 2021, while the powerful Tamati Ioane and Vaiolini Ekuasi have also been named.Ekuasi has impressed with his carrying and overall physicality this pre-season and looms as one to watch having worked under the close watch of All Blacks stars Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii and Hoskins Sotutu.Lukas Ripley and James Tuttle round out the Match Day 23, with Tuttle set to play his 50th Super Rugby cap. After arriving at the Rebels in 2020, Tuttle has played 25 matches over three seasons and has developed into one of the Club’s most influential and respected voices.The Melbourne Rebels face the Western Force in Round 1 of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season, kicking off at 10:00 PM (AEDT). The match will be shown ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sports.

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Peter Bosz after Lyon’s third straight defeat: “I’m going to drink a lot of alcohol.”

Speaking in the wake of his Lyon team’s narrow loss to Paris Saint-Germain last night, Peter Bosz indicated that he was not worried about his job safety and that he saw improvement in his players’ performance.

His words transcribed in RMC Sport, the Dutchman pointed out that his defence was sitting too deep in the first half, which led to Lionel Messi’s early opener.

“In the first half, we weren’t [playing] as I want to see us. Our defensive line was too deep, we weren’t going into challenges… I tried to correct that at the break and it was better in the second half, even if we had our best chances in the first. But we have to be honest and recognise that PSG had lots of chances as well. We know we were playing against a very, very good team with exceptional players.”

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“[On how he will handle the international break] I’m going to drink a lot of alcohol after these three defeats [smiles]. On a more serious note, we were bad against Lorient, against Monaco we didn’t deserve to lose as we played well, and today the players gave it all. I won’t turn my back on what I saw, we’re going in the right direction. Is there a sense of progress? Absolutely. The most important thing is the points, I understand that well, but as a manager I also look at how my team plays, and on that point I can’t say anything.”

“[On whether he is worried about his job] No, I’m never worried. If they don’t give me time, then that’s how it is. But I have a clear idea of my work and how I want my players to play. We’re training hard and we’re doing all we can to win games.”


Six Nations: Stuart McCloskey unsure why Joe Schmidt overlooked him but pleased with his current involvement with Ireland

Ireland centre Stuart McCloskey admits he is not sure why former head coach Joe Schmidt chose to overlook him in the past and feels his game has developed since.

Current head coach Andy Farrell has opted for McCloskey far more frequently, and the robust runner is set to continue in the Irish midfield for Saturday’s blockbuster Test against Ireland.

Happy with current selection

When asked what Farrell sees in him and what Schmidt did not, the centre was not sure but is delighted to be getting a run in the current set-up.

“I don’t know, maybe I’m a better player now than I was back then,” the centre said.

“I think my game has improved. There’s obviously been a lot of competition in there. Maybe I just didn’t fit Joe’s eye. But here, that’s in the past, not something to worry about now.

“I probably had a bit more hard feelings at the time but I’m a bit older, that’s the way it is sometimes, you don’t get the luck, you don’t get the rub of the green.

“It will be five (starts) in a row at the weekend, so it’s a nice place to be in.

“I feel a lot more comfortable now with my game and what I can do, whether it’s the first or 80th minute, whereas I was over-thinking it when I was younger.”

Relishing the opportunity

The Ulster star has filled in well for the injured Robbie Henshaw, staying ahead of Bundee Aki in the pecking order.

With seven years between Test caps, running out for Ireland is that much more important for the centre.

“It’s not the end of the world, it’s only rugby at the end of the day, but I put a lot of effort into my game so it’s nice to get games and to show what I can do,” he said.

“I think everyone relishes playing for Ireland, it’s the pinnacle of your game and where I wanted to get to, so it’s nice.

“I’d say it makes me relish it a bit more now and I do appreciate it a lot more.”

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Official | Steve Mandanda replaces injured Mike Maignan

Rennes goalkeeper Steve Mandanda (37) has replaced AC Milan’s Mika Maignan (26), who has withdrawn from the France squad through injury. Le Parisien are reporting that he could be out for three weeks, potentially missing two Champions League clashes against Chelsea. 

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Mandanda will be in the squad for France’s final Nations League fixture against Denmark on Sunday – a match that will be Les Bleus’ last before the World Cup in November. 

Mandanda hasn’t been selected by Didier Deschamps since Euro 2021, but having switched Marseille for Rennes this summer, he has enjoyed a positive start at the Breton club and has earned himself a recall.

Maignan meanwhile, is one of two France players to withdraw from the squad following the departure of Jules Koundé. Like Maignan, he was injured in the first half of Thursday’s match against Austria, during which Les Bleus came out comfortable 2-0 winners. 

According to Le Parisien, Maignan has sustained an injury to his left calf, and could be out of action for up to three weeks, potentially missing both Champions League matches against Chelsea. 

Igor Tudor praises Jonathan Clauss after Marseille’s 3-0 win over Angers

Marseille notched up a 3-0 victory over Angers in their first Ligue 1 fixture after the international break, with Jonathan Clauss starring with one goal and two assists for the home side.

 In the post-match press conference, OM manager Igor Tudor heaped praise on the full-back, revealing how satisfied he was to coach a player like Clauss. As quoted by RMC Sport, the former Hellas Verona boss said: 

“He’s an incredible player, I knew that from the first time I saw him. And he’s a good boy, it’s a pleasure to coach him.”

Since the start of the season, the 30-year-old Frenchman, signed from Lens in the summer transfer window of 2022, has been extremely influential. Under the management of Tudor, Clauss has already earned eleven appearances, racking up one goal and four assists for OM.

With the win on Friday, Marseille, with seven wins from nine Ligue 1 games, have claimed the top spot on the points table. In the league, they next take on Ajaccio in a mouth-watering Ligue 1 fixture on October 8. 

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Leonel Pontes: “When I see Nuno with Neymar, it makes me laugh”

Nuno Mendes’ former coach at Sporting CP, Leonel Pontes has spoken highly of the full-back’s attitude on and off the pitch while taking a thinly-veiled dig at PSG playmaker Neymar.

In an interview with L’Équipe, Pontes heaped praise on the 20-year-old left-back for being humble in a PSG squad that has multiple flamboyant figures. Mendes’ ex-boss said:

“When I see him with Neymar, it makes me laugh because Nuno is the opposite. He is not at all exuberant, someone who will appear on social media and show his life. He likes to be with his loved ones and keeping a form of modesty. And despite his current and future potential, I don’t think it will change. He is too well-bred for that.”

PSG signed Mendes from Sporting on a permanent deal in the summer transfer window of 2022. Since arriving in Paris one season earlier, the youngster has cemented his place in the team’s starting XI, having already played 12 games in the 2022/23 season across all competitions.

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Laurent Blanc underlines the need for mental change at Lyon

Laurent Blanc has arrived at Lyon at a time when the club is in desperate need of positive results. They currently sit 9th on the Ligue 1 points table, having amassed four defeats in their last five league matches and drawn one. 

Hired as a replacement for Peter Bosz, Blanc expressed the need for a mental change in the players. As transcribed in L’Équipe, the former Paris Saint-Germain boss said:

“The situation does not reflect the objectives set. The players are old enough to know that they have to perform better. We will have more time to work in November. But we have to work on the mental side, and that is not the easiest thing. Then we’ll have to take time to put things in place. I don’t think that the players don’t care, they are concerned.”

Blanc will manage his first game on Sunday as they lock horns with Rennes in a crucial Ligue 1 fixture.

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Kylian Mbappé hesitant on going to Ballon d’Or ceremony

Le Parisien report that Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappé is considering not attending Monday evening’s Ballon d’Or ceremony.

With his international teammate Karim Benzema the favourite to become France’s first Ballon d’Or winner since Zinédine Zidane in 1998, the Paris Saint-Germain man may not even be in the top five, according to Mundo Deportivo.

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The French forward, who came in 9th place last year, had in an interview with France Football previously stated that he believed Benzema was the worthy winner this year. He added that he would place himself on the podium alongside Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mané.

While Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to be among those at the Paris ceremony to see his former teammate succeed Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé is said to have made his decision regarding his attendance, but has not made it public yet. Messi, meanwhile, will not be present given that he has not been named among the 30 finalists.

PREVIEW | Ajaccio v PSG: Touchline family affair as Christophe Galtier takes on son in Corsica

The league leaders are gearing up for their furthest-flung away trip of the season as they fly out (we’ll let them off this one time) to Corsica to face a resurgent Ajaccio side. The newly-promoted side put an end to Marseille’s unbeaten start to the season before coming back from behind to draw in Troyes, in a mini-run of form which has lifted them off the bottom of the table. 

After unexpectedly earning promotion last season, with just 19 goals conceded across the campaign, Ajaccio cobbled together a merry band of veterans to take on the top flight that included Romain Hamouma, Yoann Touzghar and Thomas Mangani (combined age: 105). Unsurprisingly, the islanders were tipped to be duly relegated. But with just one loss in their last four games Ajaccio have shown they can compete, spurred on by the defensive nous of Cédric Avinel and Oumar Gonzalez, and the creative outlet of Riad Nouri and recently-arrived Brest outcast Youcef Belaïli.

The Stade François-Coty’s reputation as a tough place to come to is well-earned, although paradoxically Ajaccio’s two wins this season have come away from home. PSG are well-acquainted with the adversity which comes with a trip to the capital city of Corsica, having often struggled to scrape results back when their opponents were last in Ligue 1, just under a decade ago – a 0-0 draw in 2012, for instance.

The match will also be something of a family affair, as Christophe Galtier takes on his son Jordan, Ajaccio’s assistant manager, for the first time. The former midfielder  at the helm of the Corsicans’ youth teams, which he took on while still in his twenties. Now on the bench alongside Olivier Pantaloni, Galtier the younger is looking to carve out a name for himself in management, away from his father’s shadow.

With Sergio Ramos and Danilo Pereira sidelined – the first through suspension, the second with injury – the title holders will line up again with the four-man defence Galtier debuted against Marseille, as confirmed by the manager himself in his pre-match press conference. Presnel Kimpembe returned to individual training sessions this week, but will not be rushed back tomorrow. Fabián Ruiz, who impressed in Sunday’s Classique, joins midfield regulars Marco Verratti and Vitinha in the middle of the park once again. Neymar is out suspended after picking up three yellow cards in ten appearances this season, with Pablo Sarabia expected to take his place on the frontline again.

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As PSG navigate their way through selection headaches, off-the-pitch scandals and the Kylian Mbappé situation, the stars could be aligned for another Ajaccio upset, especially as the visitors have one eye on their Champions League clash against Maccabi Haifa in midweek.

PSG predicted lineup v Ajaccio:

Gianluigi Donnarumma – Achraf Hakimi, Nordi Mukiele, Marquinhos, Juan Bernat – Fabián Ruiz, Marco Verratti, Renato Sanches – Lionel Messi – Pablo Sarabia, Kylian Mbappé.

Gerson upset with Marseille as January move looms

As reported by L’Équipe Marseille midfielder Gerson will start to look for a move away soon, having not featured under Igor Tudor as much as he would have liked. His father (and agent) spoke to L’Équipe about his 25-year old son, and a departure already planned in the January transfer window. 

“I’m going to try to be balanced, but I can’t hide the fact that we are angry. It’s a very problematic situation. How can a player who is in full possession of his abilities be left out overnight, without any chance to show his football? It is incomprehensible. We are really sad because this coach (Igor Tudor) is preventing us from dreaming of a place in the group for the World Cup with Brazil. There is so little time left to show ourselves (before the squad is announced on 7 November)…”

“We’re going to look elsewhere. It’s inevitable. We’re going to organise ourselves to leave as soon as the next transfer window. If Gerson is no longer important for OM, then we will find a club that will know how to value him. Several have already come forward. We haven’t had any explanation from the coach. That’s why I’m going to talk to Pablo (Longoria) today (Monday) to find out what’s going on. Physically, Gerson is in great shape but he is sad and upset. And so am I!”

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