The Independent

Saracens relieved after Champions Cup reprieve as Mark McCall turns attentions to quarter-final clash

The Independent

Saracens head coach Mark McCall is thankful an independent disciplinary committee have not ended the club’s efforts to defend their Heineken Champions Cup title this season.

Last Friday, the Gallagher Premiership side were fined €50,000 (£42,500) – half of which is suspended – for fielding an ineligible player in their January win over Racing 92, but crucially not deducted any points which would have resulted in them exiting the competition.

Prop Titi Lamositele played in the victory, which clinched a quarter-final spot, despite the American international’s work permit expiring on the day before the match.

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Committee chairman Roger Morris explained in a statement last week “this was an unfortunate sequence of events brought about by an administrative oversight” and Sarries will hope to put this latest controversial chapter behind them.

McCall said: “Titi has been at the club since he was 18 and has played however many games for Saracens so there was a difference between this case and other ineligible player cases in Europe.

Shape Created with Sketch. Rugby in 2019 – in pictures

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left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch.

Shape Created with Sketch. Rugby in 2019 – in pictures

1/99 1. Saracens vs Sale – 4 Jan

The year kicked off with reigning Premiership champions Saracens knocked off at Sale as the Sharks claimed yet another high-profile victim at the AJ Bell Stadium.

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2/99 2. Exeter vs Bristol – 5 Jan

Meanwhile Exeter Chiefs edged a tight affair against Bristol Bears to remain top of the Premiership table where they would remain until the end of the season.

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3/99 3. Saracens vs Glasgow – 19 Jan

Saracens record their second victory of the season over Glasgow Warriors to join the Scottish side, Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Toulouse, Edinburgh and Racing 92 in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup, making them the soul representatives of the Premiership left in the competition.

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4/99 4. Ireland vs England – 2 Feb

The Six Nations got underway with a bang in February as England recorded a rare victory against the odds in Dublin, with Manu Tuilagi returning to the starting line-up for the first time in more than four years. He would go on to feature heavily throughout the year.

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5/99 5. England vs France – 10 Feb

England continued to strengthen their credentials for the title with a demolition job on France, with Jonny May scoring one of the fastest hat-tricks in international rugby.

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6/99 6. Wales vs England – 23 Feb

But Wales stopped Eddie Jones’s side in their tracks with victory in a brutal encounter in Cardiff, with Warren Gatland’s men triggering one hell of a party in Cardiff.

AFP via Getty Images

7/99 7. Scotland vs Wales – 9 March

Wales made it four from four in week four as they laboured their way past Scotland at Murrayfield, giving them a shot at the Grand Slam.

AFP via Getty Images

8/99 8. Wales vs Ireland – 16 March

And with victory over a surprisingly subdued Irish side, Wales clinched the third Six Nations Grand Slam of the Warren Gatland era, in what was to be his final championship before leaving at the end of the year.

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9/99 9. England vs Scotland – 16 March

The Six Nations had one more shock in store as England raced out to a 31-0 lead over Scotland, only to find themselves 38-31 down going into the final minutes. A late George Ford try spared them the ignominy of defeat, but it did not spare their blushes.

AFP via Getty Images

10/99 10. England Women vs Scotland Women – 16 March

Meanwhile England Women wrapped up a Six Nations Grand Slam with a powerful performance over Scotland at Twickenham to spark wild celebrations.

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11/99 11. Leinster vs Ulster – 30 March

The post-Six Nations lull did not last long as Europe kicked back into gear, with Leinster sneaking an all-Irish derby quarter-final to knock out Ulster and keep their title defence alive.

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12/99 12. Saracens vs Munster – 20 April

Saracens meanwhile came through a controversial semi-final against Munster that took place in a half-empty Ricoh Arena in Coventry and against the backdrop of Billy Vunipola’s controversial Instagram comments, for which he was warned by club and country.

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13/99 13. Saracens vs Leinster – 11 May

In what many billed as the ultimate European final, Saracens battered Leinster into submission to reclaim the Champions Cup.

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14/99 14. Saracens vs Exeter 1 June

The Allianz Park side doubled up three weeks later as they defeated Exeter Chiefs in what was regarded as the greatest Premiership final ever witnessed, securing their status as the dominant club side in the northern hemisphere. Little did we know it at the time, but eyebrows were already raised.

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15/99 15. England Women vs New Zealand Women 14 July

England came up agonisingly short in the Women’s Super Series in the United States as the Black Ferns cemented their status as the world’s dominant women’s side with victory in the four-team round robin.

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16/99 16. England Women vs New Zealand Women – 14 July

The Black Ferns added the Super Series to their status as world champions.

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17/99 17. South Africa vs Australia – 20 July

The Rugby Championship kicked off with a shorter format as teams played each other just once with one eye on the World Cup, with the Springboks beating the Wallabies.

AFP via Getty Images

18/99 18. New Zealand vs South Africa – 27 July

Rassie Erasmus’s side sent out a real statement by securing a draw with the All Blacks in Wellington, which paved the way for them to have a shot at the overall title.

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19/99 19. Australia vs New Zealand – 10 August

The Wallabies then went and stunned New Zealand in Perth with their biggest ever winning margin after Scott Barrett picked up a red card, which triggered much debate among the rugby world over where the line had been moved to in contact with the head.

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20/99 20. Argentina vs South Africa – 10 August

The victory in Perth allowed South Africa to wrap up the title without playing in Argentina, but they smashed the Pumas to ensure they finished the shortened tournament as undefeated champions and went into the World Cup as favourites.

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21/99 21. New Zealand vs Australia – 17 August

Having awoken the bear the week before, Australia felt the full wrath of the All Blacks as they suffered a 36-0 whitewash.

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22/99 22. England vs Ireland – 24 August

The Rugby World Cup warm-ups meanwhile were playing out in Europe where England recorded an emphatic 57-15 victory over Ireland that exposed real problems in Joe Schmidt’s squad in a sign of things to come.

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23/99 23. RWC opening ceremony – 20 October

The Rugby World Cup opened in a sea of colour and lights in Yokohama as Japan 2019 got underway on 20 September.

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24/99 24. RWC Japan vs Russia – 20 September

The hosts opened their account with a solid if unflattering victory over Russia, though every second was cheered on by a passionate fanbase that would come to define what the entire tournament was all about.

AFP via Getty Images

25/99 25. RWC Japan-fans – 20 September

The Japanese public got behind Jamie Joseph’s side like never before as rugby fever swept across the nation.

AFP via Getty Images

26/99 26. RWC Australia vs Fiji – 21 September

Reece Hodge, right, was lucky to get away with a dangerous tackle on Peceli Yato

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27/99 27. RWC New Zealand vs South Africa – 21 September

The All Blacks got back on course with a convincing victory over the Springboks in what would prove their toughest pool game by a country mile. Business as usual, or so we thought…

PA

28/99 28. RWC Ireland vs Scotland – 21 September

Ireland also got back to their usual ways with a hard-fought victory over Scotland, which left Gregor Townsend’s side at risk of going out of the pool as they knew they would likely face a do-or-die clash against the Japanese.

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29/99 29. RWC England vs Tonga – 22 September

England opened their account with a gritty victory over Tonga, which saw Billy Vunipola duffed up by the country of his heritage and Eddie Jones’s side forced to slog it out before wrapping up the bonus point three minutes from time.

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30/99 30. RWC Wales vs Georgia – 23 September

Wales also made a shaky start to the campaign, though they did what they needed to by beating Georgia and setting themselves up for a showdown with the Wallabies.

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31/99 31. RWC Fiji vs Uruguay – 25 September

Fiji vs Uruguay was not the story when it came to Kamaishi as the rugby community came together to remember the area so heavily affected by the 2011 tsunami, with the stadium built as a reminder of those who died there on that tragic day eight years ago. Beautiful weather and a stunning backdrop looked down on a poignant game that meant so much to Japan.

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32/99 32. RWC Fiji vs Uruguay – 25 September

The game served up a fitting performance as the South American side stunned Fiji to record their greatest ever victory.

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33/99 33. RWC England vs USA – 26 September

England’s campaign continued to slowly tick along as they brushed aside the USA, who were reduced to 14 men when John Quill was sent off for a high tackle on Owen Farrell. It would not be the first time that the England captain was targeted.

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34/99 34. RWC Japan vs Ireland – 28 September

Japan recorded the upset of the tournament for the second World Cup running as they stormed an Irish side who looked shellshocked at what unfolded before them, sparking wild celebrations across the Land of the Rising Sun. Suddenly, Japan held their fate in their own hands.

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35/99 35. RWC Japan vs Ireland – 28 September

The pure emotion that poured out of the Japanese players proved a joy to behold.

AFP via Getty Images

36/99 36. RWC Australia vs Wales – 29 September

Wales held on to a slender advantage to beat the Wallabies in a corker at the Tokyo Stadium, giving Gatland’s side the advantage in Pool D.

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37/99 37. RWC Scotland vs Samoa – 30 September

Scotland meanwhile got back to winning ways with a convincing victory over Samoa.

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38/99 38. RWC New Zealand vs Canada – 2 October

The Barrett brothers became the first siblings to have three brothers starting the same World Cup match as Jordie, Scott and Beauden all featured in the landslide victory over Canada for the All Blacks.

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39/99 39. RWC England vs Argentina – 5 October

Owen Farrell found himself on the end of a second red-card tackle in as many games as Thomas Lavanini was sent off for Argentina in an England victory that guaranteed them a place in the quarter-finals with a game to spare.

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40/99 40. RWC England vs Argentina – 5 October

The victory would also see Jack Nowell return to action and score immediately, though his World Cup campaign would start and end on the same night in a 12-minute cameo.

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41/99 41. RWC Japan vs Samoa – 5 October

Japan continued their 100 per cent record with a victory over Samoa to secure a showdown against Scotland in a winner-takes-all contest.

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42/99 42. RWC New Zealand vs Namibia – 6 October

TJ Perenara finished one of the tries of the tournament as New Zealand overcame a resilient Namibia side to book their place in their last eight.

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43/99 43. RWC France vs Tonga – 6 October

France survived an almighty scare against Tonga after holding on to victory by just two points to reach the quarter-finals.

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44/99 44. RWC Scotland vs Russia – 9 October

Scotland nilled Russia to give themselves a chance of making the knockout stage.

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45/99 45. RWC Wales vs Fiji – 9 October

Wales and Fiji played out one of the games of the World Cup as Warren Gatland’s side just did enough to see off a brutal display from the Pacific Islanders.

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46/99 46. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

However the World Cup suddenly took a back seat as Typhoon Hagibis approached with wind gusts of more than 160mph and a very real threat to life, resulting in World Rugby taking drastic action to cancel matches for the first time.

AFP via Getty Images

47/99 47. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

England’s Pool C decider against France was cancelled, as was New Zealand’s game with Italy and Canada’s match against Namibia.

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48/99 48. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

The devastation from the typhoon left nearly 90 people dead and more missing across Japan.

JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images

49/99 49. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

Japan paid tribute to the victims of the typhoon along with the other teams with a moment of silence before kick-off, but somehow the Pool A decider between the hosts and Scotland went ahead as scheduled in Yokohama just hours after Hagibis had torn through.

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50/99 50. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

Japan delivered one of the great World Cup performances to reach their quarter-finals for the first time and send Scotland home.

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51/99 51. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

The victory was celebrated by the entire nation as the players soaked up their new hero status.

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52/99 52. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

The emotion of the victory was clear to see on the faces of the Japanese players, as demonstrated by prop Isileli Nakajima.

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53/99 53. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

The first quarter-final saw England deliver a rampant second-half display to defeat Australia.

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54/99 54. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

The win was widely celebrated by England as they banished the painful memories of 2015.

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55/99 55. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

The win was widely celebrated by England as they banished the painful memories of 2015.

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56/99 56. RWC New Zealand vs Ireland – 19 October

The All Blacks ran riot against Ireland to book their place in the semi-finals where they would take on England.

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57/99 57. RWC New Zealand vs Ireland – 19 October

The defeat brought the curtain down on Ireland captain Rory Best’s professional career.

AFP via Getty Images

58/99 58. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

France were leading their quarter-final against Wales when lock Sebastien Vahaamahina threw a deliberate elbow at flanker Aaron Wainwright to earn himself a red card.

AFP via Getty Images

59/99 59. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

The incident proved the turning point in the match as the numerical advantage gave Wales a way back into the contest.

AFP via Getty Images

60/99 60. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

Ross Moriarty scored the crucial try that kept Wales’s World Cup dreams alive.

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61/99 61. RWC Japan vs South Africa – 20 October

Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi proved the end of Japan’s World Cup campaign as South Africa secured their place in the last four.

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62/99 62. RWC Japan vs South Africa – 20 October

Japan were inconsolable despite already achieving something that had never been done by the nation before.

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63/99 63. RWC Japan vs South Africa -20 October

Jamie Joseph’s side had proven the fairy tale story of the World Cup for the second successive tournament.

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64/99 64. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

The first semi-final started with a bang as England chose to respond to the Haka by forming an inverted V facing the All Blacks.

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65/99 65. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

Eddie Jones’s side fed off the energy created before kick-off as Manu Tuilagi put them in front inside two minutes to give them a lead they would not relinquish.

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66/99 66. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

England celebrate one of their greatest victories after ending the All Blacks’s reign as world champions.

AFP via Getty Images

67/99 67. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

Japanese fans had no qualms getting behind the remaining teams left in the competition as a number showed their support for Wales.

AFP via Getty Images

68/99 68. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

Jake Ball and Faf de Klerk got to know each other as the pair clashed early in the second semi-final.

AFP via Getty Images

69/99 69. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

In the end South Africa had too much physicality for Wales as Damian de Allende booked the Springboks’ place in the final.

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70/99 70. RWC New Zealand vs Wales – 1 November

New Zealand beat Wales in the match no one wanted to play as they clinched third place.

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71/99 71. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Cheslin Kolbe celebrates scoring the opening try that put South Africa out of reach in the Rugby World Cup final.

AFP via Getty Images

72/99 72. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Makazole Mapimpi’s effort minutes from full-time condemned England to defeat in the final.

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73/99 73. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Siya Kolisi became the first black captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup as South Africa became three-time world champions.

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74/99 74. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Owen Farrell and his England side were left to ponder what could have been as they suffered World Cup heartbreak.

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75/99 75. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Billy Vunipola is left battered and bloody from the final as England applaud their defiant fans who remained long after the final whistle.

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76/99 76. RWC England vs South Africa – 4 November

Siya Kolisi celebrates the Springboks’ World Cup win on their return to South Africa.

AFP via Getty Images

77/99 77. Michael Cheika

The coaching exodus started as Michael Cheika left his role with the Wallabies in a messy row with Rugby Australia.

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78/99 78. Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen ended his lengthy reign as New Zealand boss following the third-place finish.

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79/99 79. Ian Foster

Hansen was eventually replaced by his assistant coach Ian Foster.

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80/99 80. Premiership begins – 18 October

The Premiership got underway midway through the World Cup as clubs looked to cope without their international players.

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81/99 81. Bristol vs Bath – 18 October

Bristol opened the season with an impressive victory over close rivals Bath.

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82/99 82. Saracens vs Northampton – 19 October

Saracens’ cause got even worse as they began their season with a defeat against Northampton Saints.

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83/99 83. Bath vs Exeter – 25 October

A number of World Cup stars got stuck straight into action, including Stuart Hogg as he made his Exeter debut against Bath just a week after Scotland’s elimination.

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84/99 84. Saracens scandal – 4 November

Just a day after England returned home from Japan, Saracens found themselves docked 35 points and fined £5.3m for breaching the salary cap in a story that would dominate the headlines for weeks to come.

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85/99 85. Dylan Hartley retires

The former England captain is forced to quit the sport after failing to recover from the knee injury that had kept him out of the entirety of 2019.

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86/99 86. Gloucester vs Toulouse – 15 November

The new European season got underway as Toulouse sent out a statement of intent by defeating Gloucester at Kingsholm.

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87/99 87. Exeter vs La Rochelle – 16 November

Exeter made early in-roads with a dominant display over La Rochelle to spearhead the English attack.

AFP via Getty Images

88/99 88. Barbarians vs Fiji

Eddie Jones swapped coach’s box at Twickenham as he took charge of the Barbarians against Fiji.

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89/99 89. Warren Gatland – 29 November

Meanwhile Warren Gatland returned to Cardiff as Baabaas coach the following week to take on the Wales side that he coached to fourth place at the World Cup just a month before.

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90/99 90. Wales vs Barbarians

New head coach Wayne Pivac gets the better of his predecessor Gatland – just – in an entertaining affair at the Principality Stadium.

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91/99 91. Racing 92 vs Munster – 23 November

Finn Russell scores an audacious nutmeg try as Racing 92 and Munster play out a thrilling draw in Paris.

AFP via Getty Images

92/99 92. Saracens vs Munster

The Irish side defeat reigning champions Saracens 10-3 at home, before losing in the return leg a week later when both sets of players were involved in a large brawl.

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93/99 93. Northampton vs Leicester – 30 November

Northampton Saints record their record victory in the East Midlands derby to go top of the Premiership.

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94/99 94. Doddie Weir – 15 December

Former Borders, Newcastle and Scotland rugby player Doddie Weir is awarded the Helen Rollason award for his ongoing battle against Motor Neurone Disease and charity work.

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95/99 95. Israel Folau

The sorry case surrounding Israel Folau finally reached a conclusion as the shamed rugby player reached a multi-million dollar settlement with Rugby Australia over his dismissal.

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96/99 96. Leicester Tigers vs Bristol Bears – 21 December

Exeter Chiefs go top of the Premiership after fighting back from behind to beat Leicester.

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97/99 97. Saracens vs Bristol Bears – 21 December

Saracens deliver one of the performances of the season to thrash Bristol Bears.

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98/99 98. Bristol Bears vs Wasps

Nizaam Carr scores a last-play try to give Wasps a crucial victory at Bristol.

PA

99/99 99. Harlequins vs Leicester Tigers

Harlequins took their annual festive ‘big game’ to Twickenham in their victory over the Tigers.

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1/99 1. Saracens vs Sale – 4 Jan

The year kicked off with reigning Premiership champions Saracens knocked off at Sale as the Sharks claimed yet another high-profile victim at the AJ Bell Stadium.

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2/99 2. Exeter vs Bristol – 5 Jan

Meanwhile Exeter Chiefs edged a tight affair against Bristol Bears to remain top of the Premiership table where they would remain until the end of the season.

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3/99 3. Saracens vs Glasgow – 19 Jan

Saracens record their second victory of the season over Glasgow Warriors to join the Scottish side, Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Toulouse, Edinburgh and Racing 92 in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup, making them the soul representatives of the Premiership left in the competition.

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4/99 4. Ireland vs England – 2 Feb

The Six Nations got underway with a bang in February as England recorded a rare victory against the odds in Dublin, with Manu Tuilagi returning to the starting line-up for the first time in more than four years. He would go on to feature heavily throughout the year.

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5/99 5. England vs France – 10 Feb

England continued to strengthen their credentials for the title with a demolition job on France, with Jonny May scoring one of the fastest hat-tricks in international rugby.

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6/99 6. Wales vs England – 23 Feb

But Wales stopped Eddie Jones’s side in their tracks with victory in a brutal encounter in Cardiff, with Warren Gatland’s men triggering one hell of a party in Cardiff.

AFP via Getty Images

7/99 7. Scotland vs Wales – 9 March

Wales made it four from four in week four as they laboured their way past Scotland at Murrayfield, giving them a shot at the Grand Slam.

AFP via Getty Images

8/99 8. Wales vs Ireland – 16 March

And with victory over a surprisingly subdued Irish side, Wales clinched the third Six Nations Grand Slam of the Warren Gatland era, in what was to be his final championship before leaving at the end of the year.

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9/99 9. England vs Scotland – 16 March

The Six Nations had one more shock in store as England raced out to a 31-0 lead over Scotland, only to find themselves 38-31 down going into the final minutes. A late George Ford try spared them the ignominy of defeat, but it did not spare their blushes.

AFP via Getty Images

10/99 10. England Women vs Scotland Women – 16 March

Meanwhile England Women wrapped up a Six Nations Grand Slam with a powerful performance over Scotland at Twickenham to spark wild celebrations.

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11/99 11. Leinster vs Ulster – 30 March

The post-Six Nations lull did not last long as Europe kicked back into gear, with Leinster sneaking an all-Irish derby quarter-final to knock out Ulster and keep their title defence alive.

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12/99 12. Saracens vs Munster – 20 April

Saracens meanwhile came through a controversial semi-final against Munster that took place in a half-empty Ricoh Arena in Coventry and against the backdrop of Billy Vunipola’s controversial Instagram comments, for which he was warned by club and country.

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13/99 13. Saracens vs Leinster – 11 May

In what many billed as the ultimate European final, Saracens battered Leinster into submission to reclaim the Champions Cup.

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14/99 14. Saracens vs Exeter 1 June

The Allianz Park side doubled up three weeks later as they defeated Exeter Chiefs in what was regarded as the greatest Premiership final ever witnessed, securing their status as the dominant club side in the northern hemisphere. Little did we know it at the time, but eyebrows were already raised.

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15/99 15. England Women vs New Zealand Women 14 July

England came up agonisingly short in the Women’s Super Series in the United States as the Black Ferns cemented their status as the world’s dominant women’s side with victory in the four-team round robin.

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16/99 16. England Women vs New Zealand Women – 14 July

The Black Ferns added the Super Series to their status as world champions.

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17/99 17. South Africa vs Australia – 20 July

The Rugby Championship kicked off with a shorter format as teams played each other just once with one eye on the World Cup, with the Springboks beating the Wallabies.

AFP via Getty Images

18/99 18. New Zealand vs South Africa – 27 July

Rassie Erasmus’s side sent out a real statement by securing a draw with the All Blacks in Wellington, which paved the way for them to have a shot at the overall title.

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19/99 19. Australia vs New Zealand – 10 August

The Wallabies then went and stunned New Zealand in Perth with their biggest ever winning margin after Scott Barrett picked up a red card, which triggered much debate among the rugby world over where the line had been moved to in contact with the head.

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20/99 20. Argentina vs South Africa – 10 August

The victory in Perth allowed South Africa to wrap up the title without playing in Argentina, but they smashed the Pumas to ensure they finished the shortened tournament as undefeated champions and went into the World Cup as favourites.

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21/99 21. New Zealand vs Australia – 17 August

Having awoken the bear the week before, Australia felt the full wrath of the All Blacks as they suffered a 36-0 whitewash.

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22/99 22. England vs Ireland – 24 August

The Rugby World Cup warm-ups meanwhile were playing out in Europe where England recorded an emphatic 57-15 victory over Ireland that exposed real problems in Joe Schmidt’s squad in a sign of things to come.

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23/99 23. RWC opening ceremony – 20 October

The Rugby World Cup opened in a sea of colour and lights in Yokohama as Japan 2019 got underway on 20 September.

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24/99 24. RWC Japan vs Russia – 20 September

The hosts opened their account with a solid if unflattering victory over Russia, though every second was cheered on by a passionate fanbase that would come to define what the entire tournament was all about.

AFP via Getty Images

25/99 25. RWC Japan-fans – 20 September

The Japanese public got behind Jamie Joseph’s side like never before as rugby fever swept across the nation.

AFP via Getty Images

26/99 26. RWC Australia vs Fiji – 21 September

Reece Hodge, right, was lucky to get away with a dangerous tackle on Peceli Yato

Getty

27/99 27. RWC New Zealand vs South Africa – 21 September

The All Blacks got back on course with a convincing victory over the Springboks in what would prove their toughest pool game by a country mile. Business as usual, or so we thought…

PA

28/99 28. RWC Ireland vs Scotland – 21 September

Ireland also got back to their usual ways with a hard-fought victory over Scotland, which left Gregor Townsend’s side at risk of going out of the pool as they knew they would likely face a do-or-die clash against the Japanese.

Getty Images

29/99 29. RWC England vs Tonga – 22 September

England opened their account with a gritty victory over Tonga, which saw Billy Vunipola duffed up by the country of his heritage and Eddie Jones’s side forced to slog it out before wrapping up the bonus point three minutes from time.

Getty Images

30/99 30. RWC Wales vs Georgia – 23 September

Wales also made a shaky start to the campaign, though they did what they needed to by beating Georgia and setting themselves up for a showdown with the Wallabies.

Getty Images

31/99 31. RWC Fiji vs Uruguay – 25 September

Fiji vs Uruguay was not the story when it came to Kamaishi as the rugby community came together to remember the area so heavily affected by the 2011 tsunami, with the stadium built as a reminder of those who died there on that tragic day eight years ago. Beautiful weather and a stunning backdrop looked down on a poignant game that meant so much to Japan.

Getty Images

32/99 32. RWC Fiji vs Uruguay – 25 September

The game served up a fitting performance as the South American side stunned Fiji to record their greatest ever victory.

Getty Images

33/99 33. RWC England vs USA – 26 September

England’s campaign continued to slowly tick along as they brushed aside the USA, who were reduced to 14 men when John Quill was sent off for a high tackle on Owen Farrell. It would not be the first time that the England captain was targeted.

Getty Images

34/99 34. RWC Japan vs Ireland – 28 September

Japan recorded the upset of the tournament for the second World Cup running as they stormed an Irish side who looked shellshocked at what unfolded before them, sparking wild celebrations across the Land of the Rising Sun. Suddenly, Japan held their fate in their own hands.

Getty Images

35/99 35. RWC Japan vs Ireland – 28 September

The pure emotion that poured out of the Japanese players proved a joy to behold.

AFP via Getty Images

36/99 36. RWC Australia vs Wales – 29 September

Wales held on to a slender advantage to beat the Wallabies in a corker at the Tokyo Stadium, giving Gatland’s side the advantage in Pool D.

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37/99 37. RWC Scotland vs Samoa – 30 September

Scotland meanwhile got back to winning ways with a convincing victory over Samoa.

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38/99 38. RWC New Zealand vs Canada – 2 October

The Barrett brothers became the first siblings to have three brothers starting the same World Cup match as Jordie, Scott and Beauden all featured in the landslide victory over Canada for the All Blacks.

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39/99 39. RWC England vs Argentina – 5 October

Owen Farrell found himself on the end of a second red-card tackle in as many games as Thomas Lavanini was sent off for Argentina in an England victory that guaranteed them a place in the quarter-finals with a game to spare.

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40/99 40. RWC England vs Argentina – 5 October

The victory would also see Jack Nowell return to action and score immediately, though his World Cup campaign would start and end on the same night in a 12-minute cameo.

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41/99 41. RWC Japan vs Samoa – 5 October

Japan continued their 100 per cent record with a victory over Samoa to secure a showdown against Scotland in a winner-takes-all contest.

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42/99 42. RWC New Zealand vs Namibia – 6 October

TJ Perenara finished one of the tries of the tournament as New Zealand overcame a resilient Namibia side to book their place in their last eight.

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43/99 43. RWC France vs Tonga – 6 October

France survived an almighty scare against Tonga after holding on to victory by just two points to reach the quarter-finals.

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44/99 44. RWC Scotland vs Russia – 9 October

Scotland nilled Russia to give themselves a chance of making the knockout stage.

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45/99 45. RWC Wales vs Fiji – 9 October

Wales and Fiji played out one of the games of the World Cup as Warren Gatland’s side just did enough to see off a brutal display from the Pacific Islanders.

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46/99 46. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

However the World Cup suddenly took a back seat as Typhoon Hagibis approached with wind gusts of more than 160mph and a very real threat to life, resulting in World Rugby taking drastic action to cancel matches for the first time.

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47/99 47. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

England’s Pool C decider against France was cancelled, as was New Zealand’s game with Italy and Canada’s match against Namibia.

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48/99 48. RWC Typhoon Hagibis – 10 October

The devastation from the typhoon left nearly 90 people dead and more missing across Japan.

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49/99 49. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

Japan paid tribute to the victims of the typhoon along with the other teams with a moment of silence before kick-off, but somehow the Pool A decider between the hosts and Scotland went ahead as scheduled in Yokohama just hours after Hagibis had torn through.

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50/99 50. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

Japan delivered one of the great World Cup performances to reach their quarter-finals for the first time and send Scotland home.

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51/99 51. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

The victory was celebrated by the entire nation as the players soaked up their new hero status.

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52/99 52. RWC Japan vs Scotland – 13 October

The emotion of the victory was clear to see on the faces of the Japanese players, as demonstrated by prop Isileli Nakajima.

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53/99 53. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

The first quarter-final saw England deliver a rampant second-half display to defeat Australia.

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54/99 54. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

The win was widely celebrated by England as they banished the painful memories of 2015.

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55/99 55. RWC England vs Australia – 19 October

The win was widely celebrated by England as they banished the painful memories of 2015.

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56/99 56. RWC New Zealand vs Ireland – 19 October

The All Blacks ran riot against Ireland to book their place in the semi-finals where they would take on England.

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57/99 57. RWC New Zealand vs Ireland – 19 October

The defeat brought the curtain down on Ireland captain Rory Best’s professional career.

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58/99 58. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

France were leading their quarter-final against Wales when lock Sebastien Vahaamahina threw a deliberate elbow at flanker Aaron Wainwright to earn himself a red card.

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59/99 59. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

The incident proved the turning point in the match as the numerical advantage gave Wales a way back into the contest.

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60/99 60. RWC Wales vs France – 20 October

Ross Moriarty scored the crucial try that kept Wales’s World Cup dreams alive.

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61/99 61. RWC Japan vs South Africa – 20 October

Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi proved the end of Japan’s World Cup campaign as South Africa secured their place in the last four.

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62/99 62. RWC Japan vs South Africa – 20 October

Japan were inconsolable despite already achieving something that had never been done by the nation before.

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63/99 63. RWC Japan vs South Africa -20 October

Jamie Joseph’s side had proven the fairy tale story of the World Cup for the second successive tournament.

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64/99 64. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

The first semi-final started with a bang as England chose to respond to the Haka by forming an inverted V facing the All Blacks.

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65/99 65. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

Eddie Jones’s side fed off the energy created before kick-off as Manu Tuilagi put them in front inside two minutes to give them a lead they would not relinquish.

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66/99 66. RWC England vs New Zealand – 26 October

England celebrate one of their greatest victories after ending the All Blacks’s reign as world champions.

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67/99 67. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

Japanese fans had no qualms getting behind the remaining teams left in the competition as a number showed their support for Wales.

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68/99 68. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

Jake Ball and Faf de Klerk got to know each other as the pair clashed early in the second semi-final.

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69/99 69. RWC Wales vs South Africa – 27 October

In the end South Africa had too much physicality for Wales as Damian de Allende booked the Springboks’ place in the final.

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70/99 70. RWC New Zealand vs Wales – 1 November

New Zealand beat Wales in the match no one wanted to play as they clinched third place.

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71/99 71. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Cheslin Kolbe celebrates scoring the opening try that put South Africa out of reach in the Rugby World Cup final.

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72/99 72. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Makazole Mapimpi’s effort minutes from full-time condemned England to defeat in the final.

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73/99 73. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Siya Kolisi became the first black captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup as South Africa became three-time world champions.

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74/99 74. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Owen Farrell and his England side were left to ponder what could have been as they suffered World Cup heartbreak.

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75/99 75. RWC England vs South Africa – 2 November

Billy Vunipola is left battered and bloody from the final as England applaud their defiant fans who remained long after the final whistle.

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76/99 76. RWC England vs South Africa – 4 November

Siya Kolisi celebrates the Springboks’ World Cup win on their return to South Africa.

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77/99 77. Michael Cheika

The coaching exodus started as Michael Cheika left his role with the Wallabies in a messy row with Rugby Australia.

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78/99 78. Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen ended his lengthy reign as New Zealand boss following the third-place finish.

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79/99 79. Ian Foster

Hansen was eventually replaced by his assistant coach Ian Foster.

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80/99 80. Premiership begins – 18 October

The Premiership got underway midway through the World Cup as clubs looked to cope without their international players.

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81/99 81. Bristol vs Bath – 18 October

Bristol opened the season with an impressive victory over close rivals Bath.

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82/99 82. Saracens vs Northampton – 19 October

Saracens’ cause got even worse as they began their season with a defeat against Northampton Saints.

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83/99 83. Bath vs Exeter – 25 October

A number of World Cup stars got stuck straight into action, including Stuart Hogg as he made his Exeter debut against Bath just a week after Scotland’s elimination.

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84/99 84. Saracens scandal – 4 November

Just a day after England returned home from Japan, Saracens found themselves docked 35 points and fined £5.3m for breaching the salary cap in a story that would dominate the headlines for weeks to come.

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85/99 85. Dylan Hartley retires

The former England captain is forced to quit the sport after failing to recover from the knee injury that had kept him out of the entirety of 2019.

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86/99 86. Gloucester vs Toulouse – 15 November

The new European season got underway as Toulouse sent out a statement of intent by defeating Gloucester at Kingsholm.

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87/99 87. Exeter vs La Rochelle – 16 November

Exeter made early in-roads with a dominant display over La Rochelle to spearhead the English attack.

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88/99 88. Barbarians vs Fiji

Eddie Jones swapped coach’s box at Twickenham as he took charge of the Barbarians against Fiji.

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89/99 89. Warren Gatland – 29 November

Meanwhile Warren Gatland returned to Cardiff as Baabaas coach the following week to take on the Wales side that he coached to fourth place at the World Cup just a month before.

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90/99 90. Wales vs Barbarians

New head coach Wayne Pivac gets the better of his predecessor Gatland – just – in an entertaining affair at the Principality Stadium.

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91/99 91. Racing 92 vs Munster – 23 November

Finn Russell scores an audacious nutmeg try as Racing 92 and Munster play out a thrilling draw in Paris.

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92/99 92. Saracens vs Munster

The Irish side defeat reigning champions Saracens 10-3 at home, before losing in the return leg a week later when both sets of players were involved in a large brawl.

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93/99 93. Northampton vs Leicester – 30 November

Northampton Saints record their record victory in the East Midlands derby to go top of the Premiership.

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94/99 94. Doddie Weir – 15 December

Former Borders, Newcastle and Scotland rugby player Doddie Weir is awarded the Helen Rollason award for his ongoing battle against Motor Neurone Disease and charity work.

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95/99 95. Israel Folau

The sorry case surrounding Israel Folau finally reached a conclusion as the shamed rugby player reached a multi-million dollar settlement with Rugby Australia over his dismissal.

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96/99 96. Leicester Tigers vs Bristol Bears – 21 December

Exeter Chiefs go top of the Premiership after fighting back from behind to beat Leicester.

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97/99 97. Saracens vs Bristol Bears – 21 December

Saracens deliver one of the performances of the season to thrash Bristol Bears.

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98/99 98. Bristol Bears vs Wasps

Nizaam Carr scores a last-play try to give Wasps a crucial victory at Bristol.

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99/99 99. Harlequins vs Leicester Tigers

Harlequins took their annual festive ‘big game’ to Twickenham in their victory over the Tigers.

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“And thankfully I think the committee agreed with that and thought the fine was what was appropriate.

“What was good about qualifying this year in Europe is we’ve used a lot more players than we have done in the past because we were targeting the Premiership until the relegation was confirmed.

“I think we’ve used 42 or 43 players in Europe and that quarter-final was hard-earned and earned by the whole squad, in particular in the last two matches when we went down to 14 men in both and managed to win both, which was a great achievement.

“It (the quarter-final) is something in seven or eight weeks’ time to look forward to.”

Saracens found out they would still face Leinster in April for a spot in the last four while playing Sale in the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-finals last Friday when the verdict of the independent disciplinary committee’s meeting in London was revealed.

Many wondered if the Champions Cup holders would be thrown out of the tournament, given back in the 2012-13 Challenge Cup Grenoble were deducted four points for fielding an ineligible player against London Welsh.

On that occasion Lotu Taukeiaho played for the French outfit even though he was not registered as a tournament squad member.

“Everyone knows Titi has been part of the club for a long time and played in five pool matches as well,” McCall added.

“In other cases the player wasn’t even in the European Cup squad. Titi was in our European Cup squad. It is just one of those things.”

With Saracens still in the Champions Cup, the focus at Allianz Park has turned to defending their crown with relegation from the Premiership confirmed at the end of the season for repeated salary cap breaches.

Head coach McCall admitted “a little bit” of planning has started over how best to use the squad during the six league games between now and the 4 April clash at last season’s beaten finalists Leinster.

“We have a week off in between after these first four Premiership matches so with some players, they won’t play all six of those games,” he said.

“They will play a good percentage of them, but not all six. We will try to rotate the squad and drill this period down to keep everybody busy.”

Titi Lamositele was ineligible when he played for Saracens against Racing 92 last month (Reuters)

After losing at Sale last weekend in the Premiership Rugby Cup, Sarries will welcome Steve Diamond’s team to Allianz Park in the league on Saturday.

McCall revealed the younger members who impressed in the defeat could feature in the second meeting in quick succession between the sides.

He added: “We’ve got 10 playing international rugby and a few people injured as well, so we’ll have a different team.

“But some of the lads that played on Friday night will get the chance to play again and against a team who are really on top of their game at the moment and one of the form teams in the Premiership.”

PA

George Sessions The Independent

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