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Rugby evening headlines as WRU make major announcement, Nigel Owens shocked by Wales and third coach faces calls to be sacked

Here are the latest rugby headlines on Tuesday, March 22

WRU announcement

The £20m loan debt facing Wales’ four regions has been renegotiated and spread over 20 years, it has been confirmed.

This re-financing agreement with Welsh Government was first revealed by Gist Vile earlier this month and now the deal has been unveiled publicly.

An £18m CLBILS emergency loan was originally taken out with the NatWest bank by the WRU in October 2020 in order to keep the Welsh professional game afloat amid the huge losses incurred due to Covid, with a further £2m secured from World Rugby. The £20m was passed to the regions, with the Scarlets receiving £5.5m, the Ospreys and Cardiff £5m each and the Dragons £4.5m. They were then faced with having to repay it over a three year period.

Now the loan has been refinanced via a new Welsh Government £18m loan which will be repayable in equal quarterly installments by 2040, while a deferment has been negotiated over the further £2m of World Rugby funding. So the full £20m that was lent to the regions is now being extended to a 20-year term when it comes to repayments.

It was been welcomed by the Welsh regions and WRU as a major development to help keep the professional game afloat.

Nigel Owens shocked and fearful for Wales

Welsh refereeing legend Nigel Owens has spoken of his shock and fears for Wales’ World Cup campaign after the defeat to Italy on the weekend.

Owens didn’t see the 22-21 loss coming, insisting Wayne Pivac’s side will not get out of the group stages at next year’s tournament on current form. And he has questioned whether the squad’s attitude was right ahead of the game.

Read next:Video footage shows Alun Wyn Jones looking lost as players’ desire questioned.

“This is as low as Wales have been for a number of years,” said Owens to William Hill. “They have never lost to Italy in Cardiff before. They have had some low times in the past, which every team goes through, but losing at home to Italy is something that has never happened before. It’s pretty low.

“They have got to go to South Africa in the summer – hopefully, they will have a few players coming back from injury and a couple of other players might start the games. They really need to sort out who the best team is going to be and start getting some wins and getting confidence back going into the World Cup. There is no hiding the fact it was very disappointing at the weekend.

“They are going to have to improve on where they are now or they are not going to make the knockout stages of the World Cup, simple as that, based on current form. There has been a lot of changes, not sticking with the same team. But to be fair to Wayne Pivac, it’s understandable as some players aren’t on their best form, so you need to bring people in.

“They haven’t got a player that stands out in a few of the particular positions and are not on top of their game at the moment. They will need these players to get back into form. There is the summer tour to South Africa, which is going to be a massive ask, and the autumn internationals.

“I thought they were improving as the tournament was going on, but Saturday was a shock. They went backwards and I don’t know why. Nobody knows why. The players and coaches will be scratching their heads too. Whether they were too confident, thinking Italy were going to be a foregone conclusion? I don’t know.”

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Third Six Nations coach faces calls to be sacked

A third Six Nations coach is facing calls to be sacked, with pressure mounting on Scotland chief Gregor Townsend after a disappointing campaign.

The Scots promised much but delivered nothing as they lost to Wales and were soundly beaten by Ireland and France to finish fourth. Their problems were compounded when six senior players, including captain Stuart Hogg, were disciplined for breaking team protocols after victory over Italy.

The Scottish Daily Mail has not pulled any punches, branding Townsend’s team “the laughing stock of the Six Nations”, as well as “complacent, smug and indisciplined”. The paper has called for Townsend to go and has called out SRU chief executive Mark Dodson for his silence.

It comes after Wayne Pivac has also faced demands he be sacked, while England’s media have rounded on Eddie Jones and the RFU following another Six Nations failure.

Conbeer gets new deal

Scarlets winger Ryan Conbeer has signed a new contract at the Welsh region.

Conbeer’s deal comes hot on the heels of fly-half Rhys Patchell, centre Scott Williams and lock Sam Lousi all committing their futures to the Llanelli-based side. Conbeer has impressed this season with a number of eye-catching performances.

The 23-year-old said: “I am enjoying my rugby here, working hard on my game and looking to get as much time in the jersey as I can. There is a lot of competition for places in the back three and that drives us all on.

“I have also learned so much from the experienced boys, who have helped me develop my game. Dwayne is keen to push the younger boys through and it is up to us to take those opportunities. We have got some big games left this season, which I hope to be involved in, and hopefully we can finish the campaign strongly.”

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