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Wales Online
Wales Online
Katie Sands

Tonight's rugby news as Ellis Jenkins returns, controversial ref handed reprieve and World Cup HQ raided

Here are the latest rugby headlines for Wednesday, November 9.

World Cup headquarters raided

French financial prosecutors have raided the headquarters of the 2023 Rugby World Cup organising committee as part of an investigation into possible management irregularities, organisers said.

The searches took place after the French government asked this summer for an audit by France's top financial watchdog into possible wrongdoing at the rugby union tournament committee, which was then headed by Claude Atcher. The chief executive was sacked last month following a separate investigation by French labour inspectors into his workplace conduct.

French financial prosecutors said they opened a preliminary investigation last month into charges of "favouritism, influence peddling, corruption and any other related offence relating to the management" of the organising committee. The prosecutor's office confirmed the raid at the headquarters in Paris and added that searches took place at other locations.

France 2023 said in a statement that the searches were "a continuation of the mission of the General Inspectorate of Finances, mandated this summer by the government to verify the management of the organizing committee's entities". The committee said it would not make further comments.

The men's rugby union World Cup starts in 10 months in Paris.

In a separate corruption case also involving French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte, prosecutors are seeking a two-year sentence, including one year in jail, for Atcher. He has been accused of embezzling tens of thousands of euro from the federation by using his close bond with Laporte. A verdict is expected on December 13, with Laporte also facing possible time in prison if convicted.
The organising committee's board of directors has appointed Julien Collette - Atcher's former deputy general director - as his replacement.

Mathieu Raynal handed reprieve

French referee Mathieu Raynal has been handed a reprieve following his controversial time-wasting penalty in the final minute of Australia v New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.

The decision to penalise Bernard Foley for time-wasting when he had a penalty ready to kick into touch with his time almost up was met with Australian furore, as the divisive decision handed the All Blacks possession and they soon scored to claim victory.

Raynal kept his appointment as an assistant referee for that follow-up Bledisloe Cup match at Eden Park, but slipped down the referee pecking order when World Rugby announced its officials for the 40 matches in the Autumn Nations Series whereby he was given a single match to officiate: Romania v Samoa on November 19.

But Raynal will now take charge of Ireland v Fiji in Dublin on Saturday after South African official Jaco Peyper reported an injury.

A World Rugby statement read: “World Rugby has confirmed a change to the match officials for the Ireland vs Fiji match on November 12. Mathieu Raynal (France) will now referee the match at Aviva Stadium in the Autumn Nations Series. Raynal replaces Jaco Peyper (South Africa), who is unavailable due to injury. The other appointments remain unchanged with Tual Trainini (France) and Jordan Way (Australia) as assistant referees and Chris Hart (New Zealand) as the television match official.”

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Ellis Jenkins returns

Ellis Jenkins will make his latest rugby comeback when Cardiff face Bristol Bears on Friday night (7.45pm kick-off) as Dai Young's men bid to build match sharpness ahead of their trip to South Africa later this month.

Jenkins returns to the No. 7 jersey to make his first appearance of the season after recovering from a knee injury. He lines up with Shane Lewis-Hughes and James Ratti in the back-row. Hooker Liam Belcher will captain the visitors for the first time, joined by Brad Thyer and Keiron Assiratti in a new-look front row, with Matthew Screech and Rory Thornton forming the lock partnership.

Academy youngster Cameron Winnett replacing Ben Thomas at full-back is the only change in the backline from the 25-17 defeat to Edinburgh a fortnight ago, with Jarrod Evans and Lloyd Williams continuing at half-back, Mason Grady and Max Llewellyn linking up in the midfield and Jason Harries and Theo Cabango lining up on the wings.

Wales international Ioan Lloyd starts at fly-half for Bristol, who will head to Cardiff for a return fixture on the eve of Wales v England next February.

Bristol : Noah Heward, Deago Bailey, Joe Jenkins, Harry Ascherl, Gabriel Ibitoye, Ioan Lloyd, Will Porter, Aristot Benz-Salomon, Jake Kerr, Jonathan Benz-Salomon, Ed Holmes, Joe Joyce (capt), Joe Batley, Fitz Harding, Magnus Bradbury.

Replacements : Harry Thacker, Yann Thomas, Jay Tyack, Dan Thomas, Sam Lewis, Andy Uren, James Williams, Rich Lane.

Cardiff: Cameron Winnett, Jason Harries, Mason Grady, Max Llewellyn, Theo Cabango, Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams, Brad Thyer, Liam Belcher (capt), Keiron Assiratti, Matthew Screech, Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Ellis Jenkins, James Ratti.

Replacements: Efan Daniel, Corey Domachowski, Will Davies-King, Teddy Williams, Gwilym Bradley, James Botham, Ellis Bevan, Ben Burnell, Harri Millard, Aled Summerhill.

Rio Dyer inspired by Louis Rees-Zammit

Rio Dyer has taken inspiration from fellow Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit and his rapid emergence into becoming a world star. Dyer has already matched the Gloucester speedster on two counts for Wales - scoring a try on full Test debut and touching down in his first international home game.

The 22-year-old's blistering first-half finish provided a rare Wales highlight during their 55-23 defeat against opening Autumn Nations Series opponents New Zealand. And while British and Irish Lion Rees-Zammit could not add to his eight Wales tries, a prodigious work-rate on and off the ball meant he and Dyer challenged New Zealand's defence.

With a combined age of just 43, the pair could find themselves in harness for next year's World Cup among Wales' exciting back-three resources that should also include players like Josh Adams and Liam Williams.

"When Louis was breaking through, I was at the Dragons looking on with Wales," Dyer said. "He is roughly the same age as me, and I would look at what he was doing to better his game, to stay in the squad and what I could do.

"You take what they are doing and try and put it into what you want to be. A load of coaches have told me to always just back myself, no matter what. It won't always come off, but to just keep going and keep going, and something will pay off in the end."

Wales continue their autumn series by tackling Argentina at the Principality Stadium, with head coach Wayne Pivac due to name his team on Thursday.

Ulster sign South Africa prop on a three-year deal

Ulster have confirmed the signing of South African World Cup-winning prop Steven Kitshoff.

Kitshoff has agreed a three-year deal and he will join the United Rugby Championship province after next year's World Cup in France. The 30-year-old helped South Africa win the World Cup three years ago when they defeated England in the final.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland said: "As one of the best players in his position in the game right now, he will bring a world-class edge to our front-row which will benefit our squad now, and in the development of our younger players as they come through the Ulster system. His set-piece excellence and the physical edge to his play will, together with his winning mindset, be a real asset to us when he joins us next season."


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