The Ospreys confirmed today that they have secured the signing of South Africa scrum-half Ricky Januarie.
The 27-year old Springbok has agreed a three-month loan with the region, which has today been approved by the WRU, to provide emergency cover in the scrum-half position with all three named scrum-halves in the Ospreys European squad ruled out through long term injury.
Under the terms of the new participation agreement, the governing body needed to rubber-stamp the addition of a non-Welsh qualified player, with the Ospreys already boasting the full complement of six in the current squad.
And under ERC rules, Heineken Cup sides can name an "additional player" each round, providing one player is removed from their nominated squad. This means Januarie is eligible for selection when the Ospreys take on Viadana in Rounds three and four of the elite European competition.
With Mike Phillips likely to be missing for another three months after suffering ligament damage to the distal tib/fib joint, Jamie Nutbrown suffering from damaged posterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament damage and Tom Isaacs ruled out for the season after a shoulder operation, Shane Williams has been left as the only possible scrum-half cover in the Heineken Cup squad. Under tournament regulations, the Ospreys are allowed to make one change to their nominated squad during the pool stage. Young scrum-half Rhys Webb is still making the first tentative steps back from a lengthy lay-off following shoulder and ACL reconstructions in the spring and is still some way from full fitness, forcing the Ospreys to look outside of the squad for cover.
Januarie, who has 40 caps for South Africa, will arrive in the region at the start of December, ahead of the Viadana fixtures on December 12th and 19th after the region today received WRU approval. Playing his rugby this year for Stormers in the Super 14 and Western Province in the Currie Cup, he made his Springbok debut against Uruguay in June 2005, with his last cap coming as recently as September, when he featured off the bench in South Africa's 32-29 win in New Zealand to round off a successful Tri Nations for the 'Boks. He also featured in the first test against the Lions in June, which finished 26-21 to South Africa.
Andrew Hore, Ospreys Elite Performance Director, explained:
"We have moved to secure Ricky's services because of the exceptional circumstances we face at scrum half at this moment in time. We had strengthened in this position during the summer, with the addition to the squad of two young, Welsh, scrum halves to complement the players already on the books, but with three of our scrum halves now ruled out with long term injuries, another some way from the levels of fitness required to be involved in such an intense competition, and an additional young Welsh scrum half in Liam Davies still developing, we have been left with little option but to look outside of the squad.
"December and January is a particularly tough period in the rugby calendar. It is make or break time in terms of European competition, and the possibility of securing a home quarter-final, and also, as far as our hopes of securing a top four position in the Magners League. The intensity of these games reaches almost test-match level with the Heineken Cup fixtures and a busy schedule of Welsh derbies, and it is clear that this is not the time to take risks.
"Throwing in a young player ahead of schedule, in terms of their return from injury or their own personal development, could be detrimental to both them individually, and to the Ospreys and Welsh rugby. The last thing we want to do is to use a player who isn't ready for the intensity of the Heineken Cup rugby and set them back some way. We remain committed to the development of local, young, Welsh talent, but our considered opinion is that on this occasion, the best course of action for us is to look outside of the region for an experienced, battle hardened scrum half who is ready to step into the intensity of Heineken Cup battle.
"There will still be plenty of opportunities for Rhys and Liam to get game time during the Magners League over this period, but we feel strongly that this isn't the time of year to over rely on our younger players. We have obligations to our fantastic supporters and stakeholders to perform as strongly as possible.
"Ricky Januarie certainly fits the bill. He is a proven performer at the top level of the game, and he is really up for it. Having just missed out on the Springboks' European tour squad, he wants to come to Ospreylia and send out a message, before returning home to join up with the Stormers for the new Super 14 season. We are grateful to the WRU for their understanding of the current situation, and we look forward to Ricky joining the squad for training next week, ahead of the Viadana matches."
Principality Stadium will host the UEFA Champions League Final in six weeks' time. WRU chairman Gareth Davies, Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford and Ambassador Ian Rush joined young sports fans at the trophy arrival at the venue to celebrate the magnitude of the event on Saturday 3rd June (kick-off 19.45).
British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton is looking forward to bringing together players from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales for the biggest challenge of their careers - a series against world champions, New Zealand.
For the fifth year running, Wales referee Nigel Owens will be in charge of proceedings at Judgement Day V at Principality Stadium. It promises to be 'extra special' for the Wales' favourite ref, as he will be making his 150th appearance in the league.
There will be no shortage of inside knowledge from Bowl Finalists Caerphilly and Amman United when they face each other on Sunday at National Finals Day. Caerphilly hooker Rhys Cleverly knows the Principality Stadium pitch better than most as a matchday groundsman, while Amman United can look to Wales' record try scorer Shane Williams for some helpful advice.
Two hundred and 40 teams competed in the inaugural Urdd WRU 7s held at Pencoed last week with Welsh internationals Steff Andrews and Jasmine Joyce impressed with the talent on display, as was Urdd chief executive, Sioned Hughes.
The countdown is on for Judgement Day V as tickets for the big day at Principality Stadium soar through the 50,000 mark. Players and coaches alike are bursting at the seams to play in the double header with Dragons coach Kingsley Jones claiming there is a 'real buzz' about the event.
WRU TV went behind the scenes when the four regions got together to test their skill set for the BBC's Scrum V Live rugby show, at the WRU National Centre of Excellene in the build up to Judgement Day V. Blues' Matthew Morgan was one of the stars of the show while the Dragons' Cory Hill proved a surprise package...the full set of results will be revealed on tv screens on matchday
Wales assistant coach Richie Pugh is confident his side can cause a few headaches in the Hong Kong Sevens this weekend. In a tough group, Wales kick off their campaign against New Zealand on Friday before playing Japan and Fiji, who are chasing their third consecutive Hong Kong title, on Saturday.
Bedwas had to overcome a stubborn Carmarthen Quins side before winning the Foster's Challenge Cup final in Bridgend with a 23-18 victory. Bedwas captain Nicky Griffiths pays tribute to his side who have claimed the club's first piece of silverware in the modern era.
Team coach Brett Davey is aiming to keep his unbeaten run in cup finals at Principality Stadium intact when his side take on Amman United in the WRU Bowl final, after he guided Caerphilly to a 20-14 win against Cilfynydd in the semi-finals.
Penallta are hoping to go one step further than last season when falling to Bedlinog in the WRU Plate Final. After a titanic struggle against Nant Conwy, they have given themselves a great chance, after a hard fought 18-13 semi-final victory.