Luxury homebuyers can now get an art collection as part of the deal

Los Angeles real estate company The Agency is selling homes complete with artwork and furniture. The piece shown is called “The McCoys II” (2019) and is by artist Shaina McCoy.

The Agency | Nils Timm

When Paul Lester joined a luxury real estate agency in Los Angeles, he decided to organize a Beverly Hills property viewing with a difference: he effectively turned it into an art opening, inviting prospective buyers of the home — and those who might be interested in purchasing the artwork he displayed in it.

Individual artworks sold, and so did the property — for a premium. “We were successful in selling the house I would say for a more of a valued number than you might expect, because the entire package was seen as elevated,” Lester told CNBC by phone. The buyer also purchased some of the art displayed.

That was more than a decade ago. Since then, Lester has made it his mandate to feature “significant” work by contemporary artists — alongside designer furniture — in the high-end properties he’s listing, which is often available to buy.

Lester, a partner at real estate firm The Agency, is currently selling several new-build luxury homes in Beverly Hills designed by architecture firm Olson Kundig, and has a put together a “full collection” of art in a handful of them.

Paul Lester, a partner at Los Angeles real estate firm The Agency, said he had made it his “mandate” to feature artwork in the properties the company sells. Seen here is the interior of a home that is part of a collection known as The Houses at 8899 Beverly. The artwork is “Rainbow Universe” (2015) by Lazaros.

The Agency | Nils Timm

The homes — known as The Houses at 8899 Beverly — start at around $5 million. Rather than simply being “staging” pieces brought in temporarily, the art and furniture is also available to purchase, Lester said. The Agency worked with consultancy Creative Art Partners on the homes, which feature work by a number of artists, including Michelle Mary Lee, an arts educator, and Irvin Pascal, a British sculptor and painter.

Homes that are ready to move into, known as “turnkey” properties, are becoming popular with buyers. “We do see people more than not right now — especially with new construction — wanting an entire package that works well,” Lester said. “There have been circumstances where people walk in and say ‘I want this room … I’ll take the furniture and I’ll take the art. I absolutely love it this way and is that possible?’ And we’re able to say ‘yes it is’,” Lester said.

The trick with choosing artwork for such properties is to make sure it works well with their interiors, said David Knowles, founder of art consultancy Artelier, which supplies art for real estate projects in the U.K., U.S. and the Middle East.

“It’s hard to get a kind of uniqueness and a character across if what they’re selling is a turnkey project, because the … art has got to appeal to a wide audience,” Knowles told CNBC by phone. “The art needs to feel like it belongs there,” he said.

To do that, Artelier might commission pieces that have a connection to the area the home is in, and has artists make pieces that will precisely fit the dimensions of the space. This tends to work better than borrowing work from a gallery to display in a home temporarily, Knowles said.

Artelier, an art consultancy, commissions work to fit the dimensions of a wall, or panels, as seen in this living area at a home in Eaton Place, London.

Fenton Whelan | Artelier

Lester’s team discusses whether the art should match a home’s design or contrast with it. They might chose a colorful palette for a more monochrome property, or a mix of abstract work and portraiture, Lester said. Work is sometimes commissioned for properties; other times, Lester might ask artists whether they have pieces available in a particular color.

Artelier has sourced artwork to hang on the walls of some of the world’s most prestigious addresses, such as London’s One Hyde Park, the residences at the Dorchester’s One at Palm development in Dubai, and for an apartment within Eighty Seven Park, an oval-shaped Miami beachfront building designed by Renzo Piano.

London developers are keen to appeal to overseas buyers looking for vacation homes in the city, Knowles said. The consultancy is commissioned by interior decorators or real estate developers to source artwork for wealthy property buyers who “know what they like, and they have got good taste. Or they’ve got someone that works for them that has got good taste,” Knowles said.

Artelier is often the bridge between artists and developers or property buyers, groups that “come from two different worlds,” Knowles said. He works with artists to help them understand that their work can be seen as a luxury product and that clients expect something “exceptional.” At the same time, Artelier might explain to clients that something like a bespoke ceramic piece is likely to have imperfections, such as finger marks.

Artelier commissioned a collection of artwork for the public areas at One at Palm Jumeirah, Dorchester Collection, a residential building in Dubai. The artwork displayed is by textile artist Kristy Kun.

Tooze Studio | Artelier

For Lester, the artwork in The Houses at 8899 Beverly creates an additional opportunity for marketing. “We’re about to start … a campaign, which is going to highlight the artists … which I’ve found to be very effective. So in effect, you’re getting another opportunity to tell the story about the home because you’re telling the story about the art as well,” he said.

The Houses are comparatively more affordable than other properties Lester has on his books. “I have several right now that are privately being offered … The house might be worth let’s say $60 million, $70 million, but the artwork in the house is probably worth $200 million,” he said. Buyers at that level might inquire whether the vendor would consider selling one or two of the artworks, Lester said.

While real estate agency Savills doesn’t often sell art as part of a property deal, the company’s co-head of prime central London, Richard Gutteridge, advises clients to leave artwork on the walls during viewings.

“It is an accessory that a lot of people do identify with. At the top of the market, it’s a layer of [that] lifestyle,” he told CNBC by phone. Gutteridge oversees sales in what he calls the city’s “golden postcode” — Belgravia, Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Mayfair. He said a home’s art collection is occasionally worth as much as the property.

“As much as that helps the [sales] journey, it’s quite nice when [buyers] refocus on the house … The artwork often turns people’s heads,” Gutteridge said.

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Champions Cup: Marcus Smith stars as Harlequins thrash Cardiff, Exeter progress but Sale and Bristol lose


Harlequins’ Nick David in action against Cardiff

Harlequins took a giant stride towards progressing to the knockout stages of
the Champions Cup with a bonus-point victory over Cardiff in a thrilling game at
a sold-out Arms Park.

Cardiff competed fiercely in the first half hour but were then out-gunned by some exhilarating play from the visitors, who ran in eight tries in the 54-15 win.

Jack Walker, Will Evans, Andre Esterhuizen, Will Beard, Dillon Lewis, Fin Baxter, Tyrone Green and Marcus Smith all touched down for Quins.

England fly-half Smith converted seven of the tries in a personal points tally of 19.

Thomas Young scored two tries for Cardiff, with Tinus de Beer adding a penalty and a conversion.

Smith led out Quins on his 150th appearance for the club, but they were soon behind when De Beer kicked a fourth-minute penalty.

Early ferocity from Cardiff rattled their opponents and it resulted in a try for the Welsh region. Quins failed to deal with a well-judged cross-field kick from De Beer, with lock Seb Davies knocking the ball into the path of Young who raced 40 metres to the line.

Quins soon responded with a try from Walker after an unstoppable line-out drive, before Cardiff made two mistakes in quick succession to give the Londoners another attacking platform.

Willis Halaholo knocked on before De Beer lost substantial ground by kicking straight into touch. As a result, the visitors were able to win a penalty but they turned down a simple kick at goal in favour of more attacking options, however, it proved the wrong call.

The hosts suffered an injury blow when young full-back Cam Winnett was led off and failed an HIA, but they still led 8-7 at the end of a compelling first quarter.

Cardiff then produced a stunning second try. On the halfway line, they cleverly created for Harri Millard to make ground down the right flank before Tomos Williams was on hand to provide Young with his second try.

The English outfit reacted swiftly to score a try of equal merit. Quick hands and excellent ball-retention sucked in the defence leaving Esterhuizen with a 30-metre run-in.

The entertainment was now breathtaking as Quins looked in desperate trouble on their own line, but somehow Smith conjured up a gap to send Will Evans racing to near halfway. With men in support, Evans chose to kick as Tomos Williams was able to dash back and save the day.

However, Quins were not to be denied as a strong from Nick David set up a try for Evans before more incredible handling saw Beard just hold off a cover tackle from Mason Grady for the bonus point and a 28-15 half-time lead.

Within four minutes of the restart, Quins had another when Care gave Smith a walk-in try after the Cardiff defence was torn to shreds.

With Quins firmly in control, the action slowed but the visitors were still able to emphasise their superiority with late tries from front-rowers Lewis and Baxter before Green took his side past the 50-point mark.

Leinster and Exeter progress to knock-outs but costly defeats for Sale, Bristol

Leinster continued their 100 per cent start in the Champions Cup with a crushing victory over Stade Francais on Saturday.

Pool Four rivals Sale still have work to do to join them in the last 16, however, after going down to a bonus-point defeat against Stormers in South Africa.

Leinster were highly impressive as they ran in seven tries in an emphatic 43-7 win at the Aviva Stadium.

James Lowe began the rout after 17 minutes and Josh van der Flier and Dan Sheehan added further scores before the break.

Jordan Larmour and Caelan Doris then claimed two apiece after the break with Stade Francais limited to a late consolation from Joris Segonds.

Sale were edged out by four tries to three as they suffered a 31-24 loss in Cape Town.

Tries from Hacjivah Dayimani and Suleiman Hartzenberg gave Stormers an early advantage and, with Leolin Zas later scoring two, the hosts were able to stay ahead despite replies from Jonny Hill, Agustin Creevy and Sam Bedlow.

Bedlow was sin-binned in a dramatic ending but the Sharks clung on for their bonus point as Manie Libbok, who had earlier kicked 11 points, missed the resulting penalty.

Henry Slade’s late touchline conversion of Zack Wimbush’s try secured Exeter a 19-17 victory over Glasgow which sealed their place in the knockout stages.

The Chiefs could have lost in a dramatic end to the match, though, as Glasgow secured a five-metre scrum from the restart.

It was Exeter’s put-in but the ball ran loose for replacement Euan Ferrie to crash over but TMO replays showed he had broken from the scrum early and the try was disallowed.

Also in Pool Three, Munster boosted their hopes of reaching the next phase with a 29-18 triumph at Toulon.

The Irish province trailed 10-0 early on but recovered to lead 17-13 at the break and then powered on to their first victory in this season’s competition with tries from Tom Ahern and Calvin Nash.

Alex Nankivell and Simon Zebo had crossed in the first half in response to Duncan Paia’aua’s early score while Jack Crowley landed three conversions and a penalty.

In Pool One, Bristol‘s hopes of reaching the knockout stages were dealt a major setback as South African challengers the Bulls beat them 31-17 at Ashton Gate.

The west country club must now beat Connacht in Galway to have even an outside chance of making the last 16, but they are still likely to be reliant on results elsewhere.

Bristol Bears' Gabriel Ibitoye (left) is tackled by Vodacom Bulls' Khutha Mchunu

Bristol Bears’ Gabriel Ibitoye (left) is tackled by Vodacom Bulls’ Khutha Mchunu

Bristol were overpowered by a physical, unrelenting Bulls team, conceding tries to wing Sergeal Petersen, prop Khutha Mchunu, flanker Elrigh Louw and hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels, with fly-half Johan Goosen kicking three conversions and a penalty, and centre David Kriel landing one conversion.

Bulls’ bonus-point triumph owed everything to their overwhelming scrummaging superiority, with Bristol restricted to tries from scrum-half Kieran Marmion, wing Gabriel Ibitoye and number eight Magnus Bradbury, plus one AJ MacGinty conversion.

The Gallagher Premiership side could have no complaints, while the Bulls underlined credentials as a force in the 24-team competition.

Connacht slipped to their third successive defeat as they were beaten 34-20 in their Pool One encounter at Lyon.

Sean Jansen stunned the hosts with an early try but the French side hit back through Thaakir Abrahams and Alexandre Tchaptchet.

Cian Prendergast and Tadgh McElroy touched down to keep Connacht in contention but, with 12 points from the boot of Paddy Jackson and further tries from Mickael Guillard and Abrahams, Lyon had enough.

Ulster‘s hopes of going through remain in the balance after they were overpowered 48-24 by Pool Two leaders Toulouse.

Antoine Dupont was in inspired form, scoring two of his side’s seven tries and having a hand in a number of others as the French side secured their spot in the last 16.

Peato Mauvaka also touched down twice after Matthis Lebel had opened the scoring. Alexandre Roumat added another in a dominant first hour.

Tom Stewart, Will Addison and Nick Timoney restored some respectability to the scoreline for Ulster but Emmanuel Meafou put the seal on Toulouse’s performance.Thomas Ramos weighed in with 11 points.



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Take a look inside the new Raffles hotel in London

History seeps from the walls of the Old War Office in Whitehall, London, Winston Churchill’s former workplace.

Once the beating heart of Britain’s military empire, the headquarters from which some of the most consequential decisions in modern U.K. history were made, the building is now forging a new future as one of the capital’s leading luxury hotels: Raffles London.

A painstaking eight-year renovation has seen the Grade II* listed Edwardian Baroque building — located on the site of the Palace of Whitehall and a stone’s throw from Downing Street — shake state secrets for mystique of another kind, as the first European location of the iconic Singaporean brand.

It’s the magic combination: the building, the location and the name, Raffles.

Fiona Harris

Communications director, Raffles London

“It’s the magic combination: the building, the location and the name, Raffles,” Fiona Harris, Raffles London’s communications director, told CNBC Travel.

The hotel’s opening last month marks a full circle moment for the Raffles brand, whose name and original location pay homage to Sir Stamford Raffles, the British diplomat who founded modern Singapore.

The building’s new owner, the Hinduja Group, which purchased a 250-year lease from the Ministry of Defense in 2016, started as a trading company in colonial India in 1914 and is now a global conglomerate.

CNBC Travel took a tour of the £1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) redevelopment — here’s a look at its 100-year transition from control center of the British empire to luxury stable for international visitors to the U.K.

An emblem of British history

Originally built for the British Army between 1899 and 1906, the vast OWO building served as an embodiment of imperial influence at its height.

At the time, more than 2,500 British army men and women worked within the building’s 1,100 rooms and two-and-a-half miles of corridors.

The Grade II listed Old War Office was built for the British Army in 1906 and is based on the site of the original Palace of Whitehall, home to several former British monarchs, including Henry VIII.

Raffles London

That grandeur remains today under an extensive renovation by EPR Architects, through which much of the building’s original features have been restored.

Inside the grand lobby, an Italian marble imperial staircase and double-tier chandelier do justice to a building that served as the birthplace of the British Secret Service and the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

A new Italian chandelier, whose design is said to symbolize international trade, was delicately installed by a company that typically handles nuclear equipment.

CNBC

Above it, the first floor features the balcony from which Churchill would address his staff, giving way to the former offices of various political and military heavyweights, including David Lloyd George and Lord Kitchener.

“This building would have been full of state secrets,” Harris said.

The Old War Office was occupied by various political and military leaders, including wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. A replica of his desk and a bust is displayed in the Churchill Suite.

CNBC

Churchill’s own office — dubbed by Harris as “the room where all the big decisions were made,” including the move to join World War II and the decision behind the D-Day landings — is no less grand in its new life as a suite, with a replica desk and bust of the former prime minister.

Pivot to the future

The Churchill suite is just one of the rooms reimaged in tribute to the building’s history by the late Thierry Despont, whose architectural accolades include the restoration of New York’s Statue of Liberty and the interior redesign of Manhattan’s residential skyscraper 220 Central Park South.

All in, the hotel houses 120 suites and rooms, including five heritage suites in the former offices of political and military leaders, and eight corner suites named after notable women and female spies.

Raffles London is home to 120 rooms and suites, including eight corner suites named after notable women and female spies.

Raffles London

Meanwhile, deep underground, a three-floor excavation expands the building’s area by more than a third to 800,000 square feet, making way for a ballroom, a 65-foot swimming pool, and a Guerlain spa.

The addition of nine new restaurants run by multi-Michelin star chefs, including three by Argentina’s Mauro Colagreco, aim to burnish the hotel’s credentials as a culinary epicenter for the city, while three new bars seek to showcase the building’s unique history and location.

A 65-foot subterranean swimming pool at the heart of Raffles London’s four-story spa, which includes nine Guerlain treatment rooms and a gym.

Raffles London

Guests at the Guards Bar and Lounge, for example, can enjoy a prime position from which to watch the famous changing of the guard ceremony while sipping a London Sling ($29), a gin and cherry cocktail inspired by its Singapore namesake.

Those seeking more discretion can opt for the subterranean spy bar, located in an old interrogation room, from where they can pay homage to the various spies whose secrets were held within its walls.

Saison, run by Argentine Michelin star chef Mauro Colagreco, is one of nine restaurants and three bars at Raffles London. It is housed in the former library where James Bond author Ian Fleming used to write.

Raffles London

And for non-paying guests, there is an opportunity to visit and tour the building on one of 11 annual open days — a part of the Ministry of Defense’s lease agreement.

“We’re flipping it on its head,” Harris said of the building that once required security clearance for admittance. “It doesn’t matter if you’re super rich or you just want to come for coffee with a friend. It’s open to everyone,” she said.

London’s new luxury wave

A stay at Raffles London is not without a significant price tag. A night in one of the hotel’s classic rooms costs around £1,100 ($1,340), while a stay in one of its five most exclusive suites will set guests back between £18,000 and £25,000 per night.

Those who prefer to stay forever can also do so, budgeting upward of £8 million for one of 85 Raffles branded OWO residences. At the time of writing, around half of those units have already sold — to buyers from the U.S., China and the Middle East — though a five-bedroom penthouse priced at £100 million remains there for the taking.

A roll top bath takes center stage in the opulent bathroom of the Granville Suite, named after British spy Christine Granville.

CNBC

The hefty sums come as Britain’s economy and much of its population remain under financial pressure amid high inflation. And yet Raffles is not alone in betting big on London’s luxury market.

In September, another £1 billion hotel, The Peninsula, opened on the corner of Hyde Park, and in the coming months, a Mandarin Oriental, a Rosewood and a new sister hotel to Claridge’s, The Emory, are all set to launch in exclusive pockets of the capital.

An art installation of suspended, fragmented poppies pays homage to the Royal British Legion, a charity for members and veterans of the British Armed Forces.

CNBC

OWO’s owner, Hinduja Group Chairman Gopichand Hinduja — who, incidentally, purchased the property in 2016 ahead of a Brexit-based downturn — said the investment showcased Britain’s long-term appeal as a luxury travel market.

“We don’t go on short-term,” Hinduja told CNBC in July. “The U.K. is an important country, and everyone loves to come to London whether it is for holiday or it is for business.”

“We have converted that place into peace and solace,” Hinduja added of The OWO building. “It is a unique, singular property. It is a place of destination.”

The Granville Suite is one of five heritage suites at Raffles London, each occupying rooms which previously served as offices for some of Britain’s leading politicians and military leaders.

CNBC

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Rugby World Cup 2023 team guides: Pool D – England, Argentina, Japan, Samoa, Chile


England, Argentina and Japan are all in Rugby World Cup 2023’s Pool D

We look at everything you need to know from Rugby World Cup Pool D, as 2003 champions England, Argentina, Japan, Samoa and Chile clash…

Rugby World Cup 2023 Pool D fixtures

  • Saturday September 9: England vs Argentina (8pm, Marseille)
  • Sunday September 10: Japan vs Chile (12pm, Toulouse)
  • Saturday September 16: Samoa vs Chile (2pm, Bordeaux)
  • Sunday September 17: England vs Japan (8pm, Nice)
  • Friday September 22: Argentina vs Samoa (4.45pm, Saint-Etienne)
  • Saturday September 23: England vs Chile (4.45pm, Lille)
  • Thursday September 28: Japan vs Samoa (8pm, Toulouse)
  • Saturday September 30: Argentina vs Chile (2pm, Nantes)
  • Saturday October 7: England vs Samoa (14.45pm, Lille)
  • Sunday October 8: Japan vs Argentina (12pm, Nantes)

England’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Quarter-finals

1991: Runners-up

1995: Fourth place

1999: Quarter-finals

2003: Champions

2007: Runners-up

2011: Quarter-finals

2015: Pool Stages

2019: Runners-up

Key player

Maro Itoje. When England reached the Rugby World Cup final in 2019, second row Itoje was a player playing out of his skin, excelling at each and every aspect of Test rugby. His form has been patchy since, but with selection question marks all around Steve Borthwick’s side, if Itoje can reach his top levels, he could lead England far.

Maro Itoje was a pivotal performer in England's run to the 2019 World Cup final, and will be seeking to return to those levels

Maro Itoje was a pivotal performer in England’s run to the 2019 World Cup final, and will be seeking to return to those levels

Head coach

Steve Borthwick. England head coach since December 2022, Borthwick was also previously England forwards coach under Eddie Jones between 2016-2020, before coaching Leicester Tigers as head coach between 2020-2022, winning the 2021 Premiership title.

The 43-year-old has had just one Six Nations campaign to date, which saw no improvement on Jones’ displays as they finished fourth after defeats to Scotland, France and Ireland. They also suffered World Cup warm-up defeats to Wales and Ireland.

Steve Borthwick took over from Eddie Jones as England head coach, but has not started well in the role

Steve Borthwick took over from Eddie Jones as England head coach, but has not started well in the role

England’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (19): Dan Cole, Ellis Genge, Joe Marler, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Theo Dan, Jamie George, Jack Walker, Ollie Chessum, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, George Martin, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Lewis Ludlam, David Ribbans, Billy Vunipola, Jack Willis.

Backs (14): Danny Care, Alex Mitchell, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell (c), George Ford, Marcus Smith, Elliot Daly, Ollie Lawrence, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Arundell, Max Malins, Freddie Steward.

Argentina’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Pool Stages

1991: Pool Stages

1995: Pool Stages

1999: Quarter-finals

2003: Pool Stages

2007: Third place

2011: Quarter-finals

2015: Fourth place

2019: Pool Stages

Key player

Julian Montoya. The Argentina skipper is a crucial leader for this Pumas squad, and pivotal to their scrum, lineout and maul efforts as a hooker. For Argentina to be a threat in this World Cup, their set-piece and discipline needs to be able to hold up and compete.

Leicester Tigers hooker Julian Montoya is Argentina's current captain

Leicester Tigers hooker Julian Montoya is Argentina’s current captain

Head coach

Michael Cheika. Argentina head coach since March 2022, Australian Cheika – Wallabies head coach between 2014 and 2019 – will depart the role after the World Cup, with Felipe Contepomi taking over.

Cheika has brought a noticeable improvement to Pumas displays, leading Argentina to a 2-1 series win over Scotland in July 2022, in addition to victories over Australia home and away, the All Blacks on Kiwi soil and Pool D opponents England at Twickenham.

Former Australia head coach Michael Cheika has improved the Pumas, overseeing wins vs New Zealand, Australia, England and Scotland

Former Australia head coach Michael Cheika has improved the Pumas, overseeing wins vs New Zealand, Australia, England and Scotland

Argentina’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (18): Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Francisco Gómez Kodela, Joel Sclavi, Thomas Gallo, Eduardo Bello, Julián Montoya (c), Agustín Creevy, Ignacio Ruiz, Matías Alemanno, Tomás Lavanini, Guido Petti, Facundo Isa, Pablo Matera, Juan Martín González, Santiago Grondona, Marcos Kremer, Rodrigo Bruni, Pedro Rubiolo.

Backs (15): Gonzalo Bertranou, Tomás Cubelli, Lautaro Bazán Vélez, Santiago Carreras, Nicolás Sánchez, Santiago Chocobares, Lucio Cinti, Jerónimo de la Fuente, Matías Moroni, Emiliano Boffelli, Mateo Carreras, Rodrigo Isgró, Juan Cruz Mallía, Martín Bogado, Juan Imhoff.

Japan’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Pool Stages

1991: Pool Stages

1995: Pool Stages

1999: Pool Stages

2003: Pool Stages

2007: Pool Stages

2011: Pool Stages

2015: Pool Stages

2019: Quarter-finals

Key player

Kazuki Himeno. Just as Michael Leitch was an outstanding back-row forward and leader for Japan in 2015 and 2019, in 2023 the star man is No 8 Himeno. The 29-year-old’s performances have been so strong he spent a season playing for the Highlanders in New Zealand in Super Rugby, and is a superb carrier of the ball and breakdown operator.

Japan back-row Kazuki Himeno is a superbly talented player

Japan back-row Kazuki Himeno is a superbly talented player

Head coach

Jamie Joseph. Japan head coach since 2016, New Zealander Joseph will be departing after the World Cup in France. He led the Brave Blossoms to stunning World Cup victories over Ireland and Scotland as hosts in 2019 and to a historic quarter-final place, where they suffered defeat to eventual winners South Africa.

Jamie Joseph oversaw a stunning 2019 World Cup campaign for Japan on home soil, but they have largely struggled since

Jamie Joseph oversaw a stunning 2019 World Cup campaign for Japan on home soil, but they have largely struggled since

Japan’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (18): Keita Inagaki, Craig Millar, Sione Halasili, Koo Ji-won, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Asaeli Ai Valu, Shota Horie, Atsushi Sakate, Kosuke Horikoshi, Jack Cornelsen, Warner Dearns, Uwe Helu, Amanaki Saumaki, Pieter Labuschagne, Shota Fukui, Kazuki Himeno, Michael Leitch, Ben Gunter

Backs (15): Naoto Saito, Yutaka Nagare, Kenta Fukuda, Lee Seung-sin, Rikiya Matsuda, Jumpei Ogura, Ryoto Nakamura, Tomoki Osada, Shogo Nakano, Dylan Riley, Siosaia Fifita, Semisi Masirewa, Jone Naikabula, Lomano Lemeki, Kotaro Matsushima.

Samoa’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Not invited

1991: Quarter-finals

1995: Quarter-finals

1999: Quarter-final playoffs

2003: Pool Stages

2007: Pool Stages

2011: Pool Stages

2015: Pool Stages

2019: Pool Stages

Key player

Steve Luatua/UJ Seuteni. We’ve split Samoa’s key player into two, an outstanding forward and an outstanding back. World Rugby’s new eligibility laws, which mean players who do not represent a nation for a three-year period can return to play for the country of their birth or that of a parent/grandparent, has seen a number of talented players from the Pacific islands return to squads.

Flanker Luatua picked up 15 All Blacks caps until 2016, and is a fabulous operator who could grace any forward pack, while La Rochelle’s European champion Seuteni is one of the best centres in the world.

Samoan centre UJ Seuteni was outstanding as La Rochelle beat Leinster in Dublin to win the 2023 European Cup

Samoan centre UJ Seuteni was outstanding as La Rochelle beat Leinster in Dublin to win the 2023 European Cup

Head coach

Seilala Mapusua. Samoa head coach since August 2020, Mapusua picked up 26 Test caps as a centre for Samoa between 2006 and 2013.

It has been some time since Samoa have picked up a marquee victory in Test rugby, but with some of the players now available to Mapusua via World Rugby’s new eligibility laws, and Pool D not being a toughest group by any means, a quarter-final spot is not beyond the realms or aims.

Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua picked up 26 Test caps as a centre for Samoa between 2006 and 2013

Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua picked up 26 Test caps as a centre for Samoa between 2006 and 2013

Samoa’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (18): Michael Alaalatoa (co-c), Paul Alo-Emile, Charlie Faumuina, Jordan Lay, Seilala Lam, Sama Malolo, Luteru Tolai, Brian Alainuuese, Theo McFarland, Sam Slade, Chris Vui (co-c), Sootala Faasoo, Miracle Fai’ilagi, Fritz Lee, Steven Luatua, Alamanda Motuga, Taleni Seu, Jordan Taufua.

Backs (14): Ere Enari, Melani Matavao, Jonathan Taumateine, Christian Leali’ifano, Lima Sopoaga, Alai D’Angelo Leuila, Tumua Manu, Duncan Paiaaua, UJ Seuteni, Nigel Ah Wong, Ed Fidow, Neria Fomai, Benjamin Lam, Danny Toala.

Chile’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Not invited

1991: Did not enter

1995: Did not qualify

1999: Did not qualify

2003: Did not qualify

2007: Did not qualify

2011: Did not qualify

2015: Did not qualify

2019: Did not qualify

Key player

Martin Sigren. The skipper is one of only three players in the squad who plays outside of Chile, with the 27-year-old back-row currently a Doncaster Knights player. The 26-year-old has spoken about his nation’s ‘remarkable qualification’ and will lead the side with enormous passion.

Doncaster Knights back-row Martin Sigren will captain Chile in their maiden Rugby World Cup

Doncaster Knights back-row Martin Sigren will captain Chile in their maiden Rugby World Cup

Head coach

Pablo Lemoine. Chile head coach since 2018, Lemoine picked up 48 caps for Uruguay as a prop between 1996 and 2010, and leads Chile into their first ever Rugby World Cup after beating Canada (54-46 on aggregate) and then the USA (52-51 on aggregate) in qualifiers.

Former Uruguay prop Pablo Lemoine has been head coach of Chile since 2018, as they beat Canada and the USA to qualify

Former Uruguay prop Pablo Lemoine has been head coach of Chile since 2018, as they beat Canada and the USA to qualify

Chile’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (17): Javier Carrasco, Salvador Lues, Matías Dittus, Iñaki Gurruchaga, Esteban Inostroza, Augusto Bohme, Tomás Dussaillant, Diego Escobar, Javier Eissmann, Pablo Huete, Santiago Pedrero, Augusto Sarmiento, Alfonso Escobar, Raimundo Martínez, Clemente Saavedra, Martín Sigren (c), Ignacio Silva.

Backs (13): Lukas Carvallo, Marcelo Torrealba, Benjamín Videla, Rodrigo Fernández, Santiago Videla, Pablo Casas, Matías Garafulic, José Ignacio Larenas, Domingo Saavedra, Franco Velarde, Nicolás Garafulic, Iñaki Ayarza, Francisco Urroz.



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Ireland vs England: Teams and talking points ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup warm-up Test in Dublin


Ireland captain James Ryan admits to some nerves for the team ahead of the match against England

James Ryan admitted lack of competitive rugby in recent months for many of the Ireland team means there will be nerves for the hosts going into Saturday’s Rugby World Cup warm-up Test against England in Dublin.

It is a second preparatory international for world’s No 1-ranked team, who are regarded as one of the favourites to triumph at this year’s global gathering on the back of completing the Grand Slam in year’s Six Nations, but spluttered past Italy with a largely second-string selection a fortnight ago.

Since then, Andy Farrell’s squad have been on a week-long training camp in Portugal as they fine-tune themselves for next month’s tournament in France and skipper Ryan knows there is expectation on Ireland as they face an England side aiming to shake off two patchy performances against Wales.

“I think there’s a bit of nerves heading into this game,” Ryan, who deputises as captain with Jonny Sexton suspended, said.

“It’s the first game for a lot of us of this summer and playing England at home, there’s always a little bit of pressure. The lads are keen to make a statement with selection and everything coming up.

“This has never been a warm-up game for us. It’s been very much a Test match, that’s the way we’ve prepared for this game all week. It’s obviously a lot of the guys’ first appearance of the summer, so it’s going to be tough but we’re not going to make any excuses.”

England head to Dublin on the back of a 19-17 win over Wales at Twickenham, which saw them rebound from the defeat in Cardiff the week before but still left Steve Borthwick’s side facing plenty of questions about the potency of their attacking game.

George Ford secured England's win over Wales at Twickenham

George Ford secured England’s win over Wales at Twickenham

George Ford, who kicked the winning points for England against Wales and starts at fly-half for the visitors on Saturday, acknowledged there are improvements to be made but insists they are working on getting it right ahead of their tournament-opener against Argentina on September 9 in Marseille.

“My experience is that of all departments of the game, it takes the longest to get the attack functioning,” Ford said. “We want to speed it up, we want to get there as quickly as possible.

“We know there’s an urgency that we need to start attacking better and causing problems and scoring tries – we understand that.

“The main thing is how we can be more potent when we’ve got the ball, how we can get the outside backs in space with the ball to create damage and cause chaos.”

An unfamiliar-looking Ireland team stuttered past Italy in their World Cup warm-up match two weeks ago

An unfamiliar-looking Ireland team stuttered past Italy in their World Cup warm-up match two weeks ago

Ryan believes Ireland have their own issues in attack to iron out as well after head coach Farrell labelled their 33-17 victory over Italy in Dublin on August 5 “clunky”.

“We must have been distracted a little bit by something,” Ryan said, reflecting on that game. “We were a little bit off. I just thought our attack wasn’t where it needed to be, it wasn’t as cohesive or as fluid as it usually is.

“In fairness, they put us under a lot of pressure defensively. They like to get off the line quickly and be aggressive in their defence, so maybe we got a little bit spooked by that at times and we weren’t as calm maybe and accurate as we needed to be off the back of it.

“There were a few lessons in the game and we need to be better because England have a couple of games now under their belt and they will definitely be looking at this fixture as one which is as big for us as it is for them.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has criticised the

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has criticised the “circus” surrounding his son Owen, with the England captain’s World Cup participation in doubt.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has criticised the “circus” surrounding his son Owen, with the England captain’s World Cup participation in doubt.

The build-up to this match has been overshadowed by the controversy around England captain Owen Farrell’s red card for a dangerous tackle on Taine Basham which was subsequently not upheld by an independent disciplinary panel.

Farrell still faces a wait to see if he will be able to take part in the World Cup though after global governing body World Rugby chose to appeal the panel’s decision and he has been withdrawn from the England squad for Saturday’s match.

Courtney Lawes will instead skipper the side and the flanker feels there are wider disciplinary issues England need to address after Henry Arundell, Freddie Steward and Ellis Genge were all sin-binned against Wales last week as well.

“We had a few silly cards that you really don’t want to get in Test match rugby,” Lawes said. “We’ve really been on the discipline from day one in camp, talking about how important it is at the World Cup.

Courtney Lawes says England have a talented squad that is capable of proving their critics wrong at the World Cup.

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Courtney Lawes says England have a talented squad that is capable of proving their critics wrong at the World Cup.

Courtney Lawes says England have a talented squad that is capable of proving their critics wrong at the World Cup.

“It was disappointing to get so many cards and give away so many penalties last week. It’s something we’re constantly working on and hammering down.

“We can’t afford those kinds of mistakes against Ireland. You’re not going to go a season without a card, but to the best of your ability you’ve got to be smart and streetwise with your actions.

“Even in those split seconds you’ve got to have a cool head and hopefully make the right decisions at the right time.”

Teams for Ireland vs England (5.30pm)

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 1 Andrew Porter, 2 Dan Sheehan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan (captain), 6 Peter O’Mahony, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 Cian Prendergast.

Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Finlay Bealham,19 Joe McCarthy, 20 Caelan Doris, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Keith Earls.

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 David Ribbans, 6 Courtney Lawes (captain), 7 Ben Earl, 8 Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Ollie Lawrence.



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Wales 20-9 England: Gareth Davies and George North help hosts to World Cup warm-up victory in Leigh Halfpenny’s 100th game

Marc Bazeley

@MarcBazeley

Gareth Davies and George North both scored tries, while Leigh Halfpenny kicked two goals and two penalties; Marcus Smith kicked England’s points; England head coach Steve Borthwick names his squad for the World Cup on Monday, with the sides clashing again at Twickenham next Saturday

Last Updated: 05/08/23 8:59pm


Gareth Davies goes over for Wales’ first try against England

Second-half tries from Gareth Davies and George North saw Wales kick off their Rugby World Cup preparations with a 20-9 victory over an out-of-sorts England at the Principality Stadium.

It was a battle of the kickers in the first 40 minutes, with three successful penalties from the boot of Marcus Smith compared to two from Wales’ Test centurion Leigh Halfpenny, giving the visitors a 9-6 lead at half-time.

But the hosts seized the initiative eight minutes into the second half when Gareth Davies was on hand to finish for a try and they surged further in front thanks to George North going over from close range just before the hour mark, with Halfpenny converting both.

Louis Rees-Zammit was unfortunate not to add a third try for the hosts before full-time when he was adjudged to have knocked on after a TMO review, but that did not take the shine off the result or the performance from Warren Gatland’s new-look team.

Inexperience no barrier as Wales youngsters seize opportunity

Halfpenny may have been making his 100th Test appearance for Wales, but the relative inexperience of the rest of Gatland’s team was shown by the fact the only other members of the starting XV with more than 50 caps were North and scrum-half Davies.

They were dealt an early blow too when hooker Ryan Elias was forced off six minutes in with a suspected hamstring injury, which will be of particular concern to Gatland given Ken Owens has already been ruled out of the World Cup due to a back problem.

Nevertheless, several of those players with only a handful of caps to their name came to the fore, with lively fly-half Sam Costelow, making his first Test start, and skipper in only his 10th appearance Jac Morgan playing key roles in the first try of the game.

Wales: Tries – Davies, North; Conversions – Halfpenny (2); Goals – Halfpenny (2).

England: Goals – Smith (3).

Having kept in touch with England thanks to Halfpenny’s goals in the first half, Wales took a 48th-minute lead after 22-year-old Costelow put a deft attacking kick to the right wing for Aaron Wainwright. The No 8 then sent fellow back-row Morgan racing away, who in turn fed support-runner Davies to finish.

Then it was the turn of the big guns to make their mark, with Dan Biggar – off the bench in place of Costelow – putting in a testing grubber kick which set in motion an attack finished by North on 59 minutes after he stepped a defender to create space and ghost over from close range.

Exciting winger Rees-Zammit, still only 22 but with 26 international caps already, was unfortunate not to add his 10th Test try when he chased down his own chip kick, knocking on while trying to ground the ball. Nevertheless, it was still a dominant display from Wales and a proud day for the 23-year-old Morgan, who was named player of the match as well.

Disjointed showing leaves England with plenty of questions

For England, meanwhile, the intrigue beforehand had been as to how Harlequins club-mates Smith and Danny Care would perform alongside each other in the halves, although in the 49 minutes they were on the field together there was not much to show for their partnership.

George North dives in for Wales' second try against England

George North dives in for Wales’ second try against England

Care’s kicking game was solid and his determination to get quick ball from the ruck encouraging, yet he was unable to make any of his trademark sniping runs before being replaced by Jack van Poortvliet, while in the first half Smith was always looking to run and put in some good kicks along with booting three penalties to put the hosts in front.

England’s best chance for a try arguably came when the fly-half and two other Quins team-mates, Alex Dombrandt and Joe Marchant, linked up in the 29th minute for an attack which opened Wales up. However, Max Mallins was unable to finish and Wales regathered the ball after a wayward offload.

Handling errors were a concerningly recurring theme for England in the match and they ended with those in double figures by full-time, ceding scrum dominance and the foothold they had given themselves in the first half by gaining more metres and dominating the territory.

What they said

Wales head coach Warren Gatland, speaking to Amazon Prime:

“I was a little bit apprehensive this morning because I wasn’t quite sure how things were going to go. I know the players have been working hard.

“I was looking for a performance and it was a good start today. It was a performance I was looking for and I thought the guys out there gave a performance today.”

England head coach Steve Borthwick, speaking to Amazon Prime:

“I thought in the first half we created lots of opportunities, but we turned over too much ball in the opposite 22 and you can’t do that in Test rugby. There are areas for improvement, but I thought the positive was how many entries we got into the opposition scoring zone.

“This game is one piece of information to help build a full picture [for selecting England’s World Cup squad], and I’ll make the decision in the next 24 hours.”

England did look the better side in the opening period, their sloppiness in possession aside, but as Wales stepped up their intensity in the second half, the visitors inexplicably dropped off.

“Credit to Wales in that 50-65 minute period, they were very, very good,” Borthwick said.

“Every one of these experiences will be positive for us as we build over the next few weeks to the World Cup.”

What’s next?

Wales and England do it all again on Saturday August 12 when they reconvene at Twickenham for the second Rugby World Cup warm-up clash against each other. First, though, England’s players face a nervous wait to see who will make Steve Borthwick’s 33-player squad for the global gathering when it is announced on Monday.



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Marcus Smith: Can fly-half grasp England World Cup audition against Wales on Saturday?

England name their 33-man World Cup squad on Monday, with head coach Steve Borthwick expected to include Marcus Smith among three fly-halves for the tournament; Saturday’s game against Wales is the 24-year-old’s first start since England’s record 53-10 loss to France at Twickenham in March

Last Updated: 04/08/23 1:10pm


Marcus Smith will start for England on Saturday for the first time since a humbling home defeat to France in the Six Nations

Marcus Smith is determined to make the most of his starting opportunity against Wales on Saturday as he looks to cement a spot in England’s 33-man Rugby World Cup squad.

Smith – originally seen as the most likely out of Owen Farrell, George Ford and himself to miss out – is expected to be named in England’s squad announcement on Monday, with head coach Steve Borthwick indicating he intends to take three fly-halves to France for the tournament which starts on September 8.

The 24-year-old Smith, who possesses an “incredible skill set” according to Borthwick, will make his first start for England on Saturday since featuring in the humiliating record 53-10 loss to France at Twickenham in the 2023 Six Nations earlier this year.

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“Every time you get an opportunity to play for England, you’ve got to show the best of yourself because you know how competitive it is to even be in this building, let alone play,” Smith told Sky Sports.

“With that comes a responsibility that we’ve got to deliver this weekend. If and when we do, fingers crossed for [the squad announcement] Monday.

“I don’t want to look too far forward. I’m very excited for the weekend, [Cardiff] it’s a special place to play and a big Test match against Wales – there’s nothing that comes bigger, especially in a World Cup year.”

England suffered a record 53-10 home loss at Twickenham to France in the Six Nations earlier this year

England suffered a record 53-10 home loss at Twickenham to France in the Six Nations earlier this year

Smith added to reporters: “France was a long time ago now and I’ve played a lot of rugby since then.

“It was a tough afternoon and I have learnt a lot of lessons. It has definitely put me in a much better position as a person and on the field as well as a player.

“I would not say I want to rectify it, but I am a very competitive person.”

Borthwick hails Smith’s ‘incredible skill set’

Borthwick hinted at Smith’s potential inclusion in his World Cup squad in Thursday’s press conference, saying: “Right now I have got a pretty clear framework.

“In those key positions you need to have depth, three players who can play in that position.”

Steve Borthwick has called on Marcus Smith and Harlequins team-mate Danny Care to make the most of their on-pitch partnership when they face Wales for England on Saturday.

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Steve Borthwick has called on Marcus Smith and Harlequins team-mate Danny Care to make the most of their on-pitch partnership when they face Wales for England on Saturday.

Steve Borthwick has called on Marcus Smith and Harlequins team-mate Danny Care to make the most of their on-pitch partnership when they face Wales for England on Saturday.

The England head coach added: “I rate Marcus exceptionally highly. He has an incredible skill set and an ability to find space. He recognises when there are defenders that he can pick off.

“He can either pull them out of the line and put other people through space or find space himself. I’ve been hugely impressed with Marcus throughout this camp but also in all my interactions with him.

“He’s a young man who has already achieved a lot in the game, but he’s got even more exciting things to achieve in the future.”

Borthwick also told Sky Sports that he is keen for his players to grasp their final chance to push their case for selection against Wales on Saturday, even if it doesn’t result in them making the initial 33-man group.

“I want to see them bring all of their talent, that they’ve got so much of, onto the pitch on Saturday night,” he said. “I’ve picked these players because of what strengths they have and what they can bring.

“There’s a number of places to be absolutely confirmed but I’m also well aware that over these next weeks before the tournament starts that things change. There are always bumps and bruises – there are players not named on Monday that could well feature within the tournament itself. There’s always opportunities.”

Ellis Genge will captain England against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday

Ellis Genge will captain England against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday

Danny Care joins Smith at half-back for the visit to Cardiff, while Ellis Genge captains an otherwise inexperienced side littered with fringe World Cup contenders.

“It’s the ultimate, captaining your country,” Genge said. “It fills me with joy and pride. And I get that from the messages from my family.”

Watch New Zealand vs Australia live on Sky Sports

England’s clash with Wales isn’t the only international being played out on Saturday, with Scotland hosting France and Ireland facing Italy among the northern hemisphere sides.

From the southern hemisphere, New Zealand and Australia will face off in the early hours of Saturday morning – live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event from 3.30am.

Tate McDermott will lead Australia out for the first time in the second Test against New Zealand on Saturday

Tate McDermott will lead Australia out for the first time in the second Test against New Zealand on Saturday

Australia will have a new captain and the All Blacks will field a new-look line-up when they meet in Dunedin in the second Bledisloe Cup Test.

Scrum-half Tate McDermott has been named to lead the Wallabies four months after he was left to consider his future when left out of coach Eddie Jones’ first squad of the season.

McDermott is the fourth captain the Wallabies have used in as many matches this season after Michael Hooper, James Slipper and Allan Alaalatoa.

Highlights of the Rugby Championship clash between Australia and New Zealand at the MCG in Melbourne.

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Highlights of the Rugby Championship clash between Australia and New Zealand at the MCG in Melbourne.

Highlights of the Rugby Championship clash between Australia and New Zealand at the MCG in Melbourne.

His elevation is due to Hooper’s continuing recovery from a calf injury and Alaalatoa’s Achilles tendon injury which saw him carried from the field in last weekend’s 38-7 first Test defeat to the All Blacks, seeing them retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 21st straight year.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has made 10 changes to his starting 15 for the second Test, handing debuts to back-rower Samipeni Finau and winger Shaun Stevenson.

Also live on Sky Sports Action on Saturday is Argentina’s clash with South Africa, with kick-off in Buenos Aires at 8.10pm UK time.



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Charles III coronation open to all faiths

King Charles III hopes his coronation will serve to bridge the religious and cultural divides in diverse Britain.

Rabbi Nicky Liss won’t be watching King Charles III’s coronation. He’ll be doing something he considers more important: praying for the monarch on the Jewish sabbath.

On Saturday, he will join rabbis across Britain in reading a prayer in English and Hebrew that gives thanks for the new king in the name of the “one God who created us all”.

Liss, the rabbi of Highgate Synagogue in north London, said British Jews appreciated Charles’ pledge to promote the co-existence of all faiths and his record of supporting a multifaith society during his long apprenticeship as heir to the throne.

“When he says he wants to be a defender of faiths, that means the world because our history hasn’t always been so simple and we haven’t always lived freely; we haven’t been able to practise our religion,” Liss told The Associated Press. “But knowing that King Charles acts this way and speaks this way is tremendously comforting.”

At a time when religion is fueling tensions around the world — from Hindu nationalists in India to Jewish settlers in the West Bank and fundamentalist Christians in the United States — Charles is trying to bridge the differences between the faith groups that make up Britain’s increasingly diverse society.

Achieving that goal is critical to the new king’s efforts to show that the monarchy, a 1,000-year-old institution with Christian roots, can still represent the people of modern, multicultural Britain.

Supreme governor

But Charles, the supreme governor of the Church of England, faces a very different country than the one that adoringly celebrated his mother’s coronation in 1953.

Seventy years ago, more than 80% of the people of England were Christian, and the mass migration that would change the face of the nation was just beginning. That figure has now dropped below half, with 37% saying they have no religion, 6.5% calling themselves Muslim and 1.7% Hindu, according to the latest census figures. The change is even more pronounced in London, where more than a quarter of the population have a non-Christian faith.

Charles recognized that change long before he became king last September.

Defender of faith

As far back as the 1990s, Charles suggested that he would like to be known as “the defender of faith,” a small but hugely symbolic change from the monarch’s traditional title of “defender of the faith,” meaning Christianity. It’s an important distinction for a man who believes in the healing power of yoga and once called Islam “one of the greatest treasuries of accumulated wisdom and spiritual knowledge available to humanity.”

The king’s commitment to diversity will be on display at his coronation, when religious leaders representing the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh traditions will for the first time play an active role in the ceremonies.

“I have always thought of Britain as a ‘community of communities,”’ Charles told faith leaders in September.

“That has led me to understand that the Sovereign has an additional duty — less formally recognized but to be no less diligently discharged. It is the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practice through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals.”

That’s not an easy task in a country where religious and cultural differences sometimes boil over.

Just last summer, Muslim and Hindu youths clashed in the city of Leicester. The main opposition Labour Party has struggled to rid itself of antisemitism, and the government’s counterterrorism strategy has been criticised for focusing on Muslims. Then there are the sectarian differences that still separate Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Head of state

Such tensions underscore the crucial need for Britain to have a head of state who personally works to promote inclusivity, said Farhan Nizami, director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

Charles has been the centre’s patron for 30 years, lending his stature to Nizami’s effort to build an academic hub for studying all facets of the Islamic world, including history, science and literature, as well as religion. During those years, the centre moved from a nondescript wooden structure to a complex that has its own library, conference facilities and a mosque complete with dome and minaret.

“It is very important that we have a king who has been consistently committed to (inclusivity),” Nizami said. “It is so relevant in the modern age, with all the mobility, with the difference and diversity that exists, that the head of this state should bring people together, both by example and action.”

Those actions are sometimes small. But they resonate with people like Balwinder Shukra, who saw the king a few months ago when he officially opened the Guru Nanak Gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship, in Luton, an ethnically diverse city of almost 300,000 north of London.

Shukra, 65, paused from patting out flatbreads known as chapatis for the communal meal the gurdwara serves to all comers, adjusted her floral shawl, and expressed her admiration for Charles’ decision to sit on the floor with other members of the congregation.

Referring to the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, Shukra said that “all the people (are) equal.” It “doesn’t matter” if you are king, she added.

Some British newspapers have suggested that Charles’ desire to include other faiths in the coronation faced resistance from the Church of England, and one conservative religious commentator recently warned that a multi faith ceremony could weaken the “kingly roots” of the monarchy.

But George Gross, who studies the link between religion and monarchy, dismissed these concerns.

The crowning of monarchs

The crowning of monarchs is a tradition that stretches back to the ancient Egyptians and Romans, so there is nothing intrinsically Christian about it, said Gross, a visiting research fellow at King’s College London. In addition, all of the central religious elements of the service will be conducted by Church of England clergy.

Representatives of other faiths have already been present at other major public events in Britain, such as the Remembrance Day services.

“These things are not unusual in more contemporary settings,” he said “So I think of it the other way: Were there not to be other representatives, it would seem very odd.”

Charles’ commitment to a multifaith society is also a symbol of the progress that’s been made in ending a rift in the Christian tradition that began in 1534, when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church and declared himself head of the Church of England.

That split ushered in hundreds of years of tensions between Catholics and Anglicans that finally faded during the queen’s reign, said Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the most senior Catholic clergyman in England. Nichols will be in the Abbey when Charles is crowned on Saturday.

“I get lots of privileges,” he said cheerfully. “But this will be one of the greatest, I think, to play a part in the coronation of the monarch.”

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Simon Middleton: Women’s rugby kicking comments not derogatory, just an observation | ‘Female golfers use different tees to men’


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Simon Middleton has told Sky Sports his comments regarding place-kicking were not derogatory, pointing to female golfers teeing off differently to men

Simon Middleton has told Sky Sports his comments regarding place-kicking were not derogatory, pointing to female golfers teeing off differently to men

Simon Middleton has said his comments that place-kicking from the touchline in women’s rugby is “unfair” were just an observation and not derogatory, adding ‘female golfers tee off differently.’

Ahead of England’s Round 3 Women’s Six Nations clash vs Wales in Cardiff, Middleton said the parameters for goal-kicking in women’s rugby should be changed, adding: “If a try is scored [within five metres of the touchline], the option should be there, maybe not to bring it into the 15-metre line, but maybe 10 metres from the touchline.

“I think that could impact the game and change it positively. I think it is a bit of an unfair game for female kickers because so much about goal-kicking relies on power.”

Ahead of Saturday’s Round 4 clash between Ireland and England in Cork, Middleton exclusively told Sky Sports that his comments were just an observation, adding he still thinks a change would benefit the women’s game.

“Maybe it’s me being naïve, I don’t do social media and stuff like that, but there’s clearly been a strong reaction both ways to it,” Middleton said.

“For me, it’s just an observation made on 10 years of being in the game.

Middleton makes the point that he has been asked the same questions regarding women's place-kicking since 2015

Middleton makes the point that he has been asked the same questions regarding women’s place-kicking since 2015

“And it’s born out of being asked the same questions now about what we see, as I was back in 2015 and 2017. Which is why female kickers’ percentages from the touchline aren’t as good as male kickers.

“There’s a physical disparity, and lots of it can come down to technique, without a shadow of a doubt, but there is lots that can be factored in.

“It’s just an observation. If you think about how we can make the field a fairer playing field at times.

“Again, I use the analogy of women golfers as opposed to male golfers, using a different tee. There’s nothing derogatory or anything aimed in it at all.

Middleton's suggestion is place-kicking from the touchline and five metres in, should be moved 10 metres in from touch

Middleton’s suggestion is place-kicking from the touchline and five metres in, should be moved 10 metres in from touch

“It’s just how can we give players that practice religiously, what I would class as a fairer chance of executing their skill.

“We’re looking at everything all the time to try and improve the game, and if people don’t think it would improve the game, then that’s fine.

“It was literally just an observation, but caused a bit of a stir didn’t it?”

England skipper Marlie Packer played down the controversy,” saying: “There’s been some light-hearted stiff about in response, which is quite funny. And then there’s obviously some people that are very opinionated on it.

“I think when he said it, he was just putting it out there.

“The game is always evolving: tackle height, scrum laws, maul laws. We’re always looking for player safety but also to make the game more exciting.

England's Marlie Packer says Middleton was 'just putting it out there' with regards to his place-kicking comments

England’s Marlie Packer says Middleton was ‘just putting it out there’ with regards to his place-kicking comments

“Look, it’s just someone else’s opinion on something which might make it a bit more enjoyable, and a bit more people sitting on the edge of their seats kind of rugby.

“For me, we need to score close to the posts. Let’s help our teammate out, score close to the posts, and then we don’t even need to talk about this situation.

“Because the accuracy, the hard-work, the training they put into their kicking, you couldn’t question it. So let’s try and help each other out.

“So all the Tweets and articles people have written about it, leave them to it.”

England have picked up heavy victories over Scotland, Italy and Wales so far, and will likely do so again vs Ireland

England have picked up heavy victories over Scotland, Italy and Wales so far, and will likely do so again vs Ireland

Ireland are on a steep learning curve | Red Roses skipper Packer: Middleton was just putting it out there

The Red Roses next face an Ireland side who have gone from 2015 Grand Slam winners to failing to qualify for the most recent Rugby World Cup after losses to Spain and Scotland.

Ireland have suffered heavy defeats to Wales (31-5), France (55-3) and Italy (24-7) so far in this championship, and have been beset by off-field issues in recent times.

Head coach Greg McWilliams has most recently had to come out and deny the IRFU is sexist.

“Ireland are on a learning curve, and at times it feels a really steep one. We’ve been on it in the past,” Middleton said.

“But ultimately, our job is to be the best we can be. We’ve got players right across the squad who are looking to prove points, coming back from injury, looking to keep the shirt, to get the shirt.

“As a group, we want to be better every time we play. That’s our foundation.

The Ireland Women's side are in a very tough spot at the moment

The Ireland Women’s side are in a very tough spot at the moment

“We put some really good stuff together against Wales, but there was definitely some stuff we need to be better at.

“We’ve been focussed on that this week, and transferring our work in training to the game.

Middleton departs his role as Red Roses head coach at the end of the 2023 Six Nations, having been in position since 2015, leaving him with two games left in charge.

“I’m really enjoying it. I love competition anyway,” he added.

“It’s like anything in your job, you’ve got to put the hard yards in with training. The players and staff are exactly the same.

“Everything we do it for is competition. When we get in there’s such a buzz, and we have such a brilliant group together.

“We all went out last night, 49 of us, for a meal. And they were taking the mickey out of me and having a good laugh at me as I was struggling with a quiz desperately.

“I did remind them who picks the side, but it doesn’t bother them anymore! So I’m going to miss that. I’m going to really miss being around the group.

Middleton leaves his post at the conclusion of the 2023 Women's Six Nations next weekend, having been in charge since 2015

Middleton leaves his post at the conclusion of the 2023 Women’s Six Nations next weekend, having been in charge since 2015

“The thing that’s really pulling at me at the moment is I can see the game going upwards. It’s going to go massive.

“The ball is rolling and it’s only going to go faster. Last week, we had 8800 at Wales. Fantastic occasion, with stands full and the chair on the field.

“It’s a real great vibe, and you can’t not miss that.

“But I am good at leaving things behind. I’ll move on and whatever I’m doing next, I’ll enjoy. And I’ll certainly take a lot of memories with me.”



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Six Nations review: England exposed to the Farrells’ importance in testing campaign


Owen Farrell and Andy Farrell pictured after England’s loss to Ireland to end the 2023 Six Nations

Sky Sports News’ James Cole takes a look back on the 2023 Six Nations, assessing the state of play with each side ahead of the World Cup in France later this year…

Ireland

Ireland were, quite simply, head and shoulders above the rest in this year’s Six Nations.

Ireland’s Six Nations 2023 results

Saturday, February 4 Wales 10-34 Ireland
Saturday, February 11 Ireland 32-19 France
Saturday, February 25 Italy 20-34 Ireland
Sunday, March 12 Scotland 7-22 Ireland
Saturday, March 18 Ireland 29-16 England

The grand slam was a fitting end to an excellent campaign – and, indeed, an excellent 12 months. They’ve now won 10 Tests in a row, which including an historic series win in New Zealand.

Jonny Sexton seems to be getting better with age and may think twice about his decision to retire after the world cup.

Their back three have all taken their games to another level – James Lowe, Mack Hansen and Hugo Keenan are now a lethal combination. They’ve also got huge strength in depth in their squad to call upon.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was delighted to clinch the Grand Slam on home turf while England's Steve Borthwick admitted his side fell short.

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was delighted to clinch the Grand Slam on home turf while England’s Steve Borthwick admitted his side fell short.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was delighted to clinch the Grand Slam on home turf while England’s Steve Borthwick admitted his side fell short.

And as for head coach Andy Farrell, he has created an environment in which his players can express themselves and thrive.

Hansen said as much this weekend, suggesting the motivational skills of Farrell are unrivalled

“All the coaches [deserve credit] but Andy, he can just get you up for a game like no other,” Hansen said. “He just seems to say all of the right things and it just sounds cooler in his accent as well.

The RFU must be wondering why on earth they let Farrell go in 2016.

2023 Six Nations final standings

Team W D L SD BP P
Ireland 5 0 0 79 4 27
France 4 0 1 59 4 20
Scotland 3 0 2 20 3 15
England 2 0 3 -35 2 10
Wales 1 0 4 -63 2 6
Italy 0 0 5 -60 1 1

France

France were slow starters in this campaign and weren’t at their best – not until they produced one of their greatest ever performances to destroy England at Twickenham.

France’s Six Nations 2023 results

Sunday, February 5 Italy 24-29 France
Saturday, February 11 Ireland 32-19 France
Sunday, February 26 France 32-21 Scotland
Saturday, March 11 England 10-53 France
Saturday, March 18 France 41-28 Wales

Italy were beaten by just five points in Rome in the opening round, they then lost to Ireland and only just held off Scotland before everything finally clicked as they ran riot against England.

Weaknesses had been exposed against Ireland, but you sense this French side will peak when it matters.

France captain Antoine Dupont had another outstanding tournament

France captain Antoine Dupont had another outstanding tournament

In captain Antoine Dupont they have a freakish talent who can single-handedly turn a game, while their back three of Damian Penaud, Thomas Ramos and Etan Dumortier are clinical.

Add to that the fact have one of the biggest and most powerful packs in world rugby and it’s clear why they are bookies favourites to win the World Cup on home soil later this year.

Scotland

Scotland had an excellent campaign and one that has left Scottish supporters wondering why head coach Gregor Townsend’s future beyond the World Cup remains in doubt.

Scotland’s Six Nations 2023 results

Saturday, February 4 England 23-29 Scotland
Saturday, February 11 Scotland 35-7 Wales
Sunday, February 26 France 32-21 Scotland
Sunday, March 12 Scotland 7-22 Ireland
Saturday, March 18 Scotland 26-14 Italy

Finn Russell was scintillating throughout and now that he and Townsend have healed their differences, Scotland are hitting their straps.

Finn Russell was a standout performer for Gregor Townsend's Scotland side

Finn Russell was a standout performer for Gregor Townsend’s Scotland side

What’s more, Blair Kinghorn’s performance against Italy, which saw him bag a hat-trick, has shown also their depth at No 10.

Giant winger Duhan Van der Merwe has taken his game to another level, and the centre combination of Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu has been a big success.

Scotland hadn’t won their first two games in this competition since 1996, but they put that to bed with impressive wins over England and Wales. It’s just such a shame that they find themselves in a World Cup pool alongside South Africa and Ireland, from which only two will progress.

England

England are a side in transition and they’re running out of time to be competitive in France.

England’s Six Nations 2023 results

Saturday, February 4 England 23-29 Scotland
Sunday, February 12 England 31-14 Italy
Saturday, February 25 Wales 10-20 England
Saturday, March 11 England 10-53 France
Saturday, March 18 Ireland 29-16 England

New head coach Steve Borthwick has been quick to lay the blame on his predecessor Eddie jones – but Borthwick’s decision to drop Owen Farrell in favour of Marcus Smith against France backfired massively.

Steve Borthwick said England's heavy Six Nations defeat to France was 'painful'.

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Steve Borthwick said England’s heavy Six Nations defeat to France was ‘painful’.

Steve Borthwick said England’s heavy Six Nations defeat to France was ‘painful’.

England fans learnt the hard way just how crucial Farrell is to this side, whether at 10 or 12, which is something that Jones preached for years.

Up front, England’s pack restored some pride on the final weekend in Dublin but the lack of strength in depth – particularly at prop – is striking. Number 8 also remains an issue and calls for Zach Mercer to get a chance will grow.

Behind the scrum, Freddie Steward has been a revelation and was outstanding. His red card in Dublin was harsh and shouldn’t overshadow how well he has played.

Freddie Steward was controversially sent off for England in their final Six Nations game against Ireland

Freddie Steward was controversially sent off for England in their final Six Nations game against Ireland

In Ollie Lawrence, Borthwick has another ball carrying centre aside from Manu Tuilagi, while Jack Van Portvliet has usurped his Leicester team-mate Ben Youngs at No 9. When you look at it like that, Borthwick has made big strides in evolving this team.

The defeat to France aside, England have made progress, albeit they are still well short of the best.

Maybe one day they’ll reflect on that night Twickenham turned Les Bleus and conclude it was a tough but crucial lesson.

Wales

It was a turbulent campaign for Wales, both on and off the field.

Wales’ Six Nations 2023 results

Saturday, February 4 Wales 10-34 Ireland
Saturday, February 11 Scotland 35-7 Wales
Saturday, February 25 Wales 10-20 England
Saturday, March 11 Italy 17-29 Wales
Saturday, March 18 France 41-28 Wales

Head coach Warren Gatland’s reappointment brought much hope to Welsh fans but it didn’t materialise in this campaign.

The chastening defeat to Scotland was a reality check for many. Off the field, the contact row and threat of strike action before England’s visit to Cardiff divided the squad and the game itself.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland oversaw a turbulent Six Nations campaign on and off the field

Wales head coach Warren Gatland oversaw a turbulent Six Nations campaign on and off the field

On the pitch, Gatland continuously chopped and changed his teams during the campaign as he struggled to find the balance between evolution and revolution.

The emergence of young centres Joe Hawkins and Mason Grady is a big plus. Wales also have a plethora of talented back rowers but lacked cutting edge when it mattered.

That said, they’ll be hard to beat come the World Cup – and were they to meet England in the quarter-finals, you wouldn’t rule out Gatland masterminding another England downfall.

Italy

Italy may have ended up winless and with the wooden spoon but they showed they can now compete with the best.

Italy’s Six Nations 2023 results

Sunday, February 5 Italy 24-29 France
Sunday, February 12 England 31-14 Italy
Saturday, February 25 Italy 20-34 Ireland
Saturday, March 11 Italy 17-29 Wales
Saturday, March 18 Scotland 26-14 Italy

Had they been more clinical against Wales and Scotland, Kieran Crowley’s side could well have produced an upset.

They were also the better team in the second half against England, while they pushed both France and Ireland closer than anyone would have predicted.

Italy were much improved in this year's Six Nations

Italy were much improved in this year’s Six Nations

Italy are better now than ever before – but they must start taking their opportunities.

Unfortunately for them, they find themselves in a World Cup pool alongside New Zealand and hosts France. It’s hard to see them emerging from that one.



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