Simply signing an All Black is not a golden ticket for European clubs

first_imgNorthampton had signed the Wales fly-half Dan Biggar before recruiting Boyd. He is a contrasting 10 to Beauden Barrett, all competitive hustle and bustle and suddenly Northampton was not the club he had joined. Wales left Biggar on the bench for their major internationals last autumn in favour of the more attacking Gareth Anscombe but Boyd is coaxing a different side out of the former Osprey.Biggar has profited from having Piers Francis outside him, but the England international will be out for up to six weeks after suffering a shoulder injury during last Friday’s victory over Exeter. He may only miss one Premiership match with rounds of the Challenge Cup and the Premiership Cup taking up the rest of the month after this weekend, and the way the Saints are now using possession has helped them offset struggles up front.Change takes time. It was hard not to feel for Sopoaga at Twickenham last Saturday, a marquee signing struggling to make his mark. He prefers to stand deeper than most Premiership outside-halves but, unless operating off turnover ball, it makes the gainline harder to breach. He remains the player Wasps recruited but with the Premiership campaign now at the halfway point and his side tumbling down the table he needs to start emulating the good Evans.• This is an extract from our weekly rugby union email, the Breakdown. To subscribe just visit this page and follow the instructions. Share on Facebook Read more “One of the biggest surprises I had when joining Racing was that everyone did what the coach said,” Carter said in an interview with the Observer last summer. “In team meetings, players would not say a word … I had to bite my tongue. There was no awareness of playing what you see. My career has been about backing my instinct and being prepared to go against the gameplan.”Boudjellal signed Carter’s fellow World Cup winner Ma’a Nonu at the end of 2015 but was soon complaining that he had expected more. The New Zealand wing Julian Savea has failed to make an impact at Toulon this season; all that is gold does not always glitter.Lima Sopoaga’s arrival at Wasps this season was intended to mitigate the loss of Danny Cipriani but the New Zealand fly-half has taken time to adjust to the Premiership, not helped by injuries to the players inside and outside him, Dan Robson and Jimmy Gopperth. He is further proof that it is unwise to expect an instant return from pedigree players when they are exposed to a distinctly different climate. Reuse this content Topics Share on Messenger Such is the impact New Zealand have made at all levels of the game for so long that their players and coaches are always in demand. Pau thought they had signed Julian Savea’s brother, Ardie, after this year’s World Cup, only for the flanker to agree a new contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union, prompted by the neck injury suffered four months ago by the first choice All Black in his position, Sam Cane.A number of New Zealanders will be off to Europe, including the experienced Ben Smith and Kieran Read. The latter, who has been lined up by Racing, makes commercial sense, like the Carter deal: All Blacks spend their careers having their playing loads closely monitored but in France they play even when not fully fit. It is Read’s presence and all that he stands for that Racing, settled into their new stadium, will look to exploit.There have been a number of examples of New Zealand players who have successfully made the transition, notably Nick Evans at Harlequins. It is not so much how quickly they adjust but that they do. Carlos Spencer, another All Black 10, dazzled intermittently for Northampton and Gloucester but was never going to bring the controlling influence Premiership coaches demand. Rugby union The Breakdown: sign up and get our weekly rugby union email. Support The Guardian When Daniel Carter joined Racing 92 after the 2015 World Cup he was treated like rugby royalty. He arrived in Paris to a fanfare, introduced on a prime time television show not as the world’s highest paid union player, as he had become with a contract in excess of £1m a year, but as one of the greatest of any generation.The expectation was that Carter would dazzle in the Top 14 as he had for the Crusaders and the All Blacks but the environments were markedly different. The signing was condemned by the Toulon owner, Mourad Boudjellal, as a triumph of commercialism over rugby: he should know, given the number of southern hemisphere pensions he has boosted since resurrecting the club, but the Carter effect went beyond boosting Racing’s turnover.They made two European Champions Cup finals in his three years there and won the Top 14 but Carter’s influence at a club that included five other former All Blacks was, if not muted, understated. Boudjellal’s point was not made out of mere jealousy: Carter had to adapt to Racing and French rugby, not the other way round. The same applies to coaches. Northampton raised eyebrows last year when they announced Chris Boyd was arriving from the Hurricanes, home of the Barrett brothers. A club that for a decade had been arguably the most structured side in the Premiership had turned into risk-takers.Boyd said immediately on arriving in England that he would not look to turn the Saints into the Hurricanes, not least because the ingredients were different; evolution not revolution. New Zealand coaches who join clubs in the Premiership or Top 14 are confronted by something they have not experienced at home – relegation. Share on Pinterest Share via Email Read morecenter_img Twitter Pinterest New Zealand rugby union team 2019, World Cup fever No 3: rugby union hits Japan amid uncertainty Lima Sopoaga has taken time to adjust at Wasps. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images Facebook The Breakdown Since you’re here… This must not be the year when rugby union trashes its finest qualities Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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Fifa urges Thailand to release Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi

first_imgFifa has urged Thailand’s government to immediately release the Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, who has been held in a Bangkok prison for nearly two months and fears he will be tortured and possibly killed if he is sent back to his home country.In a letter to Prayut Chan-o-cha, the prime minister of Thailand, Fifa warns that Araibi is “at serious risk of mistreatment in his home country”. It also stresses that Araibi should not have been arrested in Thailand while on his honeymoon because he was granted political asylum by Australia in 2017 after being tortured in Bahrain. Thailand Share on Pinterest Facebook Araibi was arrested in Thailand on 27 November on vandalism charges because of an Interpol red notice which had erroneously been issued at the request of Bahrain – contradicting Interpol’s own regulations that notices will not be issued “if the status of refugee or asylum-seeking has been confirmed”. Despite Interpol lifting the notice on 4 December, Araibi’s detention was extended for 60 days, pending a court verdict on whether to extradite him to Bahrain.However, the footballer believes Bahrain’s determination to extradite him is connected to comments he made in Australia three years’ ago about the torture he underwent in a Bahrain jail in 2012. Araibi also accused one of Bahrain’s most powerful figures, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa – a member of Bahrain’s ruling royal family and president of Asia’s governing body for football, who at the time was in the running for Fifa president – of discriminating against Shia Muslims and using his power to punish pro-democracy athletes who had protested against the royal family during the Arab spring in 2011.“This is nothing to do with my conviction, Bahrain wants me back to punish me, because I talked to the media in 2016 about the terrible human rights and about how Sheikh Salman is a very bad man who discriminates against Shia Muslims,” said Araibi, who once played for the Bahrain national team. “I am so scared of being sent back to Bahrain, so scared because 100% they will arrest me, they will torture me again, possibly they will kill me.”Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the human rights watchdog Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said Fifa must do more to help secure the footballer’s release. “While Fifa has reached out to the Thai authorities, they have yet to question their own senior vice-president Sheikh Salman. Why has he remained silent?” he said.“Fifa must also ensure that there will be consequences for both Bahrain and Thailand’s national teams if this persecution doesn’t end immediately. Fifa must do everything in their power to save Hakeem’s life,” he added. “Every second he spends in detention should be counted as a failure of Fifa to put its full weight behind this player.” Football politics Pinterest Australia sport Topics Share on Facebook Fifa Share on Twitter Share via Emailcenter_img Bahrain Bahraini refugee, Hakeem Al-Araibi, who lives in Australia, has been detained in Bangkok on a disputed Interpol warrant. Photograph: Hakeem Al-Araibi/The Guardian Share on Messenger Share on WhatsApp Share on LinkedIn ‘Please help me’: refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi tells of his Thai jail ordeal “Mr Al-Araibi is currently being detained in prison in Thailand awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings to Bahrain,” Fifa’s general secretary, Fatma Samoura says in the letter. “This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since Al-Arabi now lives, works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia, where he has been accorded refugee status.“When according refugee status to Mr Al-Araibi, the Australian authorities concluded that he is at serious risk of mistreatment in his home country,” she adds. “Fifa is therefore respectively urging Thailand to take the necessary steps to ensure Mr Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia at the earliest possible moment.”Fifa has also asked the Thais for a meeting with senior figures in its government and the players’ union Fifpro so the case can be resolved “in a humane manor”.In an interview with the Guardian from Bangkok Remand prison, Araibi said he was “terrified” and “losing hope” after being imprisoned since late November. “How can they keep me locked up like this?” he added. “Please help me, please. In Bahrain there are no human rights and no safety for people like me.” Read more Twitter Hakeem al-Araibi Reuse this contentlast_img read more