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Rugby evening headlines as Welsh region have one last shot at avoiding whitewash
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Rugby evening headlines as each Welsh region to have 'different purpose' and Leinster destroy Toulouse

By Simon Thomas

Dragons boss points to Irish set-up

Dragons chairman David Buttress says it needs to be accepted that each Welsh region has “a different purpose”, much like the situation in Ireland. He was speaking in the wake of all the speculation about the future of the pro teams in Wales, following a proposal that one of them should be axed.

Buttress is adamant all four regional sides need to be retained in order to provide an adequate player pool. He also dismisses the notion that one of them may become a development team, a role some have suggested might be handed to the Dragons.

“I don’t think that’s the right language, no,” he said in a TV interview with BBC’s ScrumV.

“The reality is all four teams have a different role today and have had for the last 10-15 years. None of them have been funded equally through this period. But will a team be a development region? No, because that wouldn’t make sense for that particular team and it wouldn’t make sense for professional rugby in Wales.

READ NEXT: New young Welsh fly-half has 'mental future' and is already coaching at just 20

“We should accept though, a bit like in Ireland, each team has a different purpose. I think that’s a smart way to structure your game, so that each team is bringing different things to the success of the four teams and the national team.”

He added: “It’s really important each region continues because the Welsh national team needs to have a player pool that’s as big as possible to compete alongside the likes of Ireland. I think contracting the player pool would obviously be the wrong thing to do. We have got to invest in the four team set-up so we set the Welsh national team up for success over the next decade.

“We are going to have some tough decisions to make, though, about what is going to work and be sustainable. We have got a financial model coming out of Covid that is strained. Clearly, off the back of Covid, we are going to have to make some tough decisions about the financial structure of those teams because we can’t stay in the same place we are now. We all know that.”

You can read more from David Buttress here, while this was the statement from the Professional Rugby Board following this week's big meeting to discuss the future of the Welsh game.

Leinster into Champions Cup final

Leinster are through to the final of the Heineken Champions Cup after a convincing 40-17 victory over holders Toulouse in the first semi-final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. They will now meet the winners of Sunday’s all-French showdown between Racing 92 and La Rochelle. The final will be staged at the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles on Saturday, May 28.

Leinster outscored Toulouse by four tries to two, with winger James Lowe crossing twice and flanker Josh van der Flier also going over in response to an early long-range effort from World Player of the Year Antoine Dupont.

Back row Selevasio Tolofua rounded off a maul drive in the final quarter to give the visitors some hope, but it wasn’t to be for them, with Leinster sealing a thoroughly deserved triumph with a late score from full-back Hugo Keenan.

So it was Irish eyes that were smiling come the end of a game which was played out in front of a crowd of 42,076, with Man of the Match Johnny Sexton landing six shots at goal.

Through to the final for the first time since 2019, Leinster will now be looking to win the European Cup for a fifth time, which would equal Toulouse’s record haul.

Itoje urges rugby to learn from F1

England and Lions star Maro Itoje has called for the marketing of the game of rugby to be improved in order to reach a wider audience.

“There’s no way you can tell me Formula One is more exciting than rugby. It is not. Yet it’s definitely packaged better,” the Saracens second row told the Daily Mirror.

“We need to cross-connect and reach new territories. Engage with those outside the stereotypical rugby world. Be more imaginative. Test the waters.

“If rugby is able to do that you will see a growth in the sport, a growth in engagement, a growth in participation. If the status quo remains, we’ll get the same results. You can’t expect anything different.”

Itoje, who lines up for Saracens in Saturday night’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Toulon out in France, added: “The main stakeholders in control of the game really do need to take this matter seriously. Rugby is very good at speaking to its own market, at preaching to the choir. There’s an awful lot of room for improvement.

“The clock is ticking, but a lot of people are relatively comfortable with the status quo. The status quo is okay, it serves a purpose. We’ll still get exciting games, big play-off matches that get people interested, Twickenham will still be sold out, we’ll still feel excitement in and around the Six Nations.

“But the challenge is to look for something that is even greater. With anything in your life you need to be purposeful with your actions if you want to make meaningful change.”

Wasps beaten in thriller

Wasps bowed out of the European Challenge Cup at the semi-final stage as they were beaten 20-18 by a powerful Lyon side at the Matmut Stadium. Lyon will now face either Toulon or Saracens in Marseille in what will be not only their first European final but their first final in any competition since 1933.

Fly-half Leo Berdeu contributed 15 points for the French club, including a superb counter-attacking try, while hooker Yanis Charcosset also touched down. Wasps scored two tries of their own courtesy of scrum-half Dan Robson and centre Jimmy Gopperth, who also kicked eight points.

This semi-final may have been played in 30-degree heat, but it did not stop either side from playing their part in a high-paced thriller, with Wasps left to rue their error count after leading 8-3 at half-time.

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Dive Deeper:
Rugby evening headlines as Welsh region have one last shot at avoiding whitewash
The latest rugby headlines and news bulletins from Wales and beyond
Maro Itoje: 'The clock is ticking but a lot of people are comfortable with the status quo'
Excl: As rugby bosses meet to try to work out a future for the sport, Saracens' England star warns 'there's…
Leinster ‘best team in Europe’, says Toulouse coach before semi-final
Ugo Mola, Toulouse’s coach, said: ‘We play a team that totally masters European games,’ while Racing 92 face La Rochelle…
Sunday rugby headlines as dazzling teen Wales want is compared to Christian Cullen and English club chase Welsh ace
Here is your rugby news for Sunday May 15
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
James Lowe at the double in Leinster’s Champions Cup demolition of Toulouse
Leinster produced one of the most emphatic performances in recent European history to sink the defending champions Toulouse and reach…
Owen Farrell vents frustration as Saracens lose to end English involvement in Europe
Toulon 25-16: Toulon power to victory to set up all-French European Challenge Cup final against Lyon
Get all your news in one place