PARIS — French captain Pascal Pape has warned retiring Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe that he will want to forget his last clash with Les Bleus in Paris on Saturday. Sharpe, 34, hangs up his boots at the end of the four-Test European tour that begins against a French team desperate to claw their way back into the top four of the world rankings ahead of next month's Rugby World Cup draw. Pape, who captained the young French side in the one win, one loss tour of Argentina in June in the absence of injured flanker Thierry Dusautoir, was asked what he thought of 112-Test fellow lock Sharpe on Wednesday. Rather than launch into a glowing praise of the popular Australian, Pape's response was straight to the point. "We expect that he won't have too good a memory of his last game in Paris," said 32-year-old Pape, who had a chuckle with the team translator after making the comment.
WELLINGTON — Blues Super Rugby coach John Kirwan admits he unsuccessfully pursued high-profile Australian code-hopper Israel Folau. Former Australian and Queensland rugby league back Folau is poised to return to the 13-man code after walking out on the final two years of a lucrative AFL contract with the Greater Western Sydney club. Kirwan said he left an expression of interest with Folau's agent, believing the 23-year-old had potential similar to that of Sonny Bill Williams, who has forged a career in rugby league, rugby union and boxing. "I didn't hear back so I took that as a no," Kirwan told The New Zealand Herald. "From what I've heard, he's a talented player. A bit like Sonny Bill, it might take him a while to get used to things but it would be worth the wait." The newspaper reported that Super Rugby champions the Chiefs also pursued Folau.
ABs thumb up
EDINBURGH — Three new international rugby rules being unveiled on the upcoming series in Europe have been given the thumbs up by All Blacks veterans Andrew Hore and halfback Piri Weepu. Rule number one: The ball has to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck with a warning from the referee to use it. If the ball isn't used then a scrum will be awarded to the opposition. Two: The referee's scrum engagement message will be "crouch, touch, set", taking a step out of the process. Three: An extra prop forward is to be fielded on the reserve bench, extending the team size from 22 to 23. Hooker Hore and Weepu say there haven't been any extra sessions at trainings to polish up on the changes prior to the Test against Scotland at Murrayfield on Monday (AEDT) but both agree the All Blacks will benefit.
DUBLIN — Injury-hit Ireland suffered another setback ahead of their clash with South Africa when Paul O'Connell was ruled out of this weekend's match at Dublin's Lansdowne Road with a back problem. Officials had hoped the veteran lock's injury was easing after seeing O'Connell train with the Ireland squad earlier this week. But an Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) statement issued on Wednesday said the 33-year-old O'Connell, in line to have won his 86th Ireland cap this weekend, was unfit. "O'Connell returned to training at the start of this week and took a full part in the squad sessions on Monday and Tuesday, but suffered a reaction and will not be fit for selection for this weekend's game," it read.