Alun Wyn Jones backs Wayne Pivac in defiant message

‘You have to graft… change is the most difficult thing’: Alun Wyn Jones backs Wayne Pivac in defiant message as Wales captain looks to prevent three defeats on the spin ahead of blockbuster showdown with England

  • Wales travel to Twickenham next week to take on England in the Six Nations 
  • The 2019 champions have lost their last two games and tension is growing 
  • Under Warren Gatland, the Welsh side never lost three games on the bounce
  • Alun Wyn Jones has given backing to new coach Wayne Pivac’s long term future 

Wales’ oracle has spoken and delivered doses of reality to his nation.

Alun Wyn Jones does not talk much, but when he does it is worth listening to the totemic captain.

Only Richie McCaw has now played more Tests than the 34-year-old lock, and when it comes to Wales Jones is the best person to place new coach Wayne Pivac’s start into context.

Alun Wyn Jones has launched a staunch defence of new Wales head coach Wayne Pivac 

The 2019 Six Nations champions have lost their last two games in a row in the competition

He has played in every Six Nations tournament since 2007 – the last season Wales lost three-in-a-row – has won three Grand Slams and finished in every other position in the table too, apart from last.

Having had the highs and lows, this is the skipper’s verdict of 2020 so far.

‘Test rugby is about winning and we’ve not done that,’ he says of the two defeats from three.

‘The performances in patches have been pleasing, but only to a point.

‘It is only pleasing when you win.

Wales head into next week’s blockbuster clash with England hoping to avoid a third defeat

‘You can be really reactionary and throw the baby out with the bathwater or you can step back and think there is change.

‘I said from the outset that change is no excuse and there are a large proportion of players still here.

‘It’s getting more of those performances to get results rather than stepping back and pointing fingers. That’s what we are trying to avoid.’

It could be seen as crushingly ironic that in the Warren Gatland era Welsh fans were desperate for their team to play more attacking rugby, and as soon as they try to under Pivac all they now want is victories.

‘People who asked for it in the past…you hear those perceptions and noises in the background,’ Jones adds.

‘As a group of players you cannot be reactionary.

Wales fans have grown concerned with new coach Pivac’s attacking style of play

‘We are trying to play heads-up and develop the style Wayne wants. That’s a positive but we are scrutinised, and rightly so, by the scoreboard.’

The one uncomfortable fact is that Gatland’s guys never lost three Six Nations games in a row. Defeat at Twickenham would mean that is the new reality for Wales.

While Jones is quick to tell critics to lay off Pivac, he is very keen to stem the tide and move on.

‘Warren is not here,’ comments Jones in his matter-of-fact style.

‘It’s uncharted territory and the pressure is on. It does not get any easier.

‘It is Wayne’s first one but Warren, while he had a first one, had 12 years to establish himself and everyone was used to what he was about and what he did.

‘From the coaches’ point of view, you cannot compare from 2019 to 2020.

‘You don’t want to think about losing a third one. It is difficult.

Under Warren Gatland’s pragmatic approach, Wales never lost three games consecutively

‘The comparison is a tough one, unfair from the coaching point but as players we do not want to go into that uncharted territory.’

There will be no Grand Slam this year, nor a championship title (unless coronavirus-related cancellations contrive a crazy turnaround) but Jones reminds his public it was not all ribbons, ticker-tape and trophies previously.

‘We won a championship in 2013 and a Slam last year but you forget the period before,’ he says of three fourth-placed finishes between 2009 and 2011 as well as coming third in 2014 and 2015 as well as fifth in 2017.

‘It’s dangerous to think anyone has a divine right to the championship.

‘You have to graft and change and it is difficult. Whatever line of work you’re in, change is the most difficult thing. It is no excuse.’

With Eddie Jones’ England up next at Twickenham – where the Australian has lost just twice in his reign since 2016 – things are hardly getting easier.

Jones says Pivac’s tenure has only just begun and he needs time to impose his ideas

But, as ever, the Welsh will be fired up trying to storm their neighbours’ fortress.

‘It’s funny, I don’t want it to sound like tales from the crypt but I’ve been involved in a few good ones and a few bad ones,’ says Jones who has won at Twickenham three times. Only Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams won on four occasions there.

‘A few World Cup warm-ups were bad. It’s the whole week: you know what is coming.

‘The nature of the beast means it alters a bit when you cross the Bridge. It is something to enjoy.

‘England are putting the pieces together to be the complete team they showed they were in the World Cup. They are trying to get back to that.

‘It is pretty rudimentary, not the way they play but in the way they impose themselves.’

Alun Wyn Jones has no trouble imposing himself. He knows it is time to step up.

The messages from the oracle should not be disregarded.


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AFL well-placed for any coronavirus shock: McLachlan

The AFL has only "limited exposure" to the coronavirus and is well-placed to weather any economic shocks from the spread of the disease, according to AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan.

McLachlan suggested that, as a domestic game played within this country, the coronavirus posed fewer business risks for the AFL than sports that were more international.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan.Credit:AAP

His views follow fears that the Olympic Games in Tokyo – the quintessential international event – faces significant challenges, with a potential pandemic later this year, while the Australian stockmarket, like Wall Street, has taken a major hit in recent days.

But McLachlan said the AFL acted on the advice of the federal government to keep going about normal business.

While he did not address the possibility of games being affected, the AFL's understanding, based on government advice, is that there is only a very low risk of games being cancelled or planned without spectators, as has happened with soccer games in Italy’s north, where the virus has been more widespread.

"We take advice from the federal government, the relevant organisations," he told The Age. "At the moment, the advice is, as recently as yesterday from our prime minister, is to keep going about our business. You obviously look at what's going on.

"Right now, I can't wait to get to the football tonight," said McLachlan, who was speaking late on Friday before the bushfire appeal game. "And you know we can only deal with where we are at the moment. We take the advice of those in charge.

"Exposure for us is limited. Things may change. Because we're a domestic game and, at the moment, the coronavirus has implications for those with supply chain or international links and that's not where we're at.

"So as we sit here today, without looking too far into the future, our economic exposure is limited. We look to the federal government and the relevant interested bodies for advice and, you know, until that changes, that's where we're at."

The panic gripping much of the world about the virus did not deter more than 51,000 fans from attending the state of origin game between Victoria and the All-Stars team on Friday night. The AFL's major corporate partners – NAB, Toyota, Virgin, Coca-Cola, Telstra, Coles, Marsh and BHP – are secure on largely long-term deals, although there are some clubs with small sponsorship exposure to China.

The St Kilda-Port Adelaide game, scheduled to be played in Shanghai, China, in late May is under threat, however, and is most likely to be relocated back to Melbourne.

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Uncapped Sharks prop shines amid fresh injury concerns for Moylan

A fresh calf injury has put Matt Moylan's season back another few weeks as coach John Morris comes to terms with a serious shortage of backs.

Moylan watched Cronulla's 28-16 win over Manly at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium in a polo. There were no signs of fellow injured stars Josh Dugan and Bronson Xerri.

Uncapped Sharks prop Toby Rudolf was the star of the show on Sunday.Credit:NRL Photos

On field, it was hard not to notice the impact of Cronulla rookie Toby Rudolf.

While big name props Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods seemingly went through the motions in their stints on the field, Rudolf did anything but.

He had 11 runs for 89 metres and scored a well deserved try in the second half after running a cracking line off five-eighth Braydon Trindall.

Rudolf provided a desperately needed burst of energy for Cronulla, whose fans would have taken some solace from the win.

Rudolf was part of the Newtown Jets team which claimed the Canterbury Cup against Wentworthville last season and coach John Morris must hand him a round one debut.

"He's been one who has certainly put his hand up through preseason," Morris said of the uncapped prop.

"He showed a lot of promise at the back end of last year for Newtown. He came off an ACL injury – which is never easy – but he got back on the field and finished off a good year with Newtown by winning the state final and he's had a really good pre-season.

"The last step was to trial well and he shone for us up there in PNG last week and I thought he was really good today."

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Carlton stun Crows in AFLW grand final rematch

CARLTON 0.2 2.3 4.5 5.6 (36)
ADELAIDE 1.2 3.2 4.3 4.4 (28)
GOALS Carlton: T Harris 2 D Vescio M Prespakis N Stevens. Adelaide: A Considine A Hatchard E Jones R Metcalfe.
BEST Carlton: M Prespakis T Harris C Wilson C Dalton G Egan D Vescio. Adelaide: A Hatchard E Marinoff E Phillips J Mules S Allan.
UMPIRES Craig Fleer, Andrew Crosby, Tom Bryce.
OFFICIAL CROWD 7,281 at Richmond Oval.

Carlton have toppled reigning AFLW premiers Adelaide, reversing last year's grand final result in a gutsy eight-point win.

The Crows crunched the Blues by 45 points in last year's premiership decider in front of 53,034 fans at Adelaide Oval.

Darcy Vescio kicks the sealer for Carlton in the final term.Credit:AAP

This time Adelaide's fans, out in force with 7281 at Richmond Oval on Sunday to witness the return from injury of superstar Erin Phillips, were stunned by the brilliance of Carlton on-baller Madison Prespakis and key forward Tayla Harris.

The Blues showed they are right in 2020 premiership calculations as they improved to a 3-1 win-loss record, while Adelaide slipped to 2-2.

Prespakis, the Blues' best and fairest in her first season last year, won 20 touches, while Harris booted two goals.

And when it came to the crunch in a frenetic final quarter, the experienced Darcy Vescio booted the only goal for the term to seal the deal for the Blues.

Justine Mules attempts to shrug a Tayla Harris tackle.Credit:AAP

Phillips made her AFLW comeback 336 days after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in last year's grand final.

Maddy Prespakis was among Carlton’s best.Credit:AAP

The dual premiership superstar and two-time league best-and-fairest winner started playing deep in attack but had spells on the ball later, desperately trying to lift her side, and was one of the Crows' best.

Adelaide, hit by an ankle injury to star ruck Jess Foley in the third quarter, led for much of the game but the Blues dominated the stats sheet and claimed the lead midway through the third term through a Harris goal.

Crows ruck Rhiannon Metcalfe, also returning from an ACL injury after missing last season, grabbed her place in the spotlight when she bounced through the opening goal of the game with a cool snap.


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Legend blasts ‘spineless’ Super League bosses over Folau decision

Legend Garry Schofield has blasted “spineless” rugby league bosses for allowing Israel Folau to play the sport.

And he also let rip at “hypocritical” boxing chiefs over their handling of Tyson Fury and his own controversial views on homosexuality.

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Catalans Dragons sparked a firestorm in January by signing 30-year-old Folau — who was booted out of union in Australia after a homophobic rant.

Deeply-religious Folau will make his first appearance on English soil at Hull FC today.

Schofield, Great Britain’s joint most-capped star, warned the Aussie to expect plenty of stick after claiming “hell awaits” gay people.


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And he added: “I just don’t get why the authorities are allowing things like this to happen.

“People in charge of sports are spineless. I find it despicable the way authorities allow people to get away with it.

“I think Folau will get plenty of hammer — and rightly so.”

Home fans are expected to wave rainbow “gay pride” flags today at the KCOM Stadium to welcome Folau.


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In the past WBC world heavyweight champion Fury made similarly unsavoury comments.

Yet the British fighter escaped punishment from the British Boxing Board of Control, who ruled he was “exercising his right to freedom of expression”.

And retired Schofield, 54, is angry at what he sees as double standards. He raged: “I just think it’s so hypocritical.”

Israel Folau plays his first rugby super league game with The Catalan Dragons against the Castleford Tigers. Picture: Ella PellegriniSource:News Corp Australia

Folau’s appearance comes two days after Pride in Hull and Queer AF groups held an event to support the city’s annual display of gay pride.

Super League does have a history of giving players a second chance, as Schofield points out Fury has admitted to using recreational drugs.

Fury also served a ban for using steroids, although some of the Brit’s behaviour has been attributed to his well-documented mental health struggles.

The Folau furore now risks overshadowing Catalans’ season.

Steve McNamara and his players have been living in a goldfish bowl in Perpignan, as Aussie journalists follow Folau’s fresh start.

And James Gordon, editor of, added: “The sheer hysteria around Folau compared to the adulation around Fury is bizarre.”

This article first appeared in The Sun

Originally published asLegend blasts ‘spineless’ Super League bosses over Folau decision

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Bulldog Toogood avoids serious knee injury

The Western Bulldogs feared the worst when star forward Bonnie Toogood hurt her knee in Saturday’s AFLW loss to West Coast.

Collingwood's Ash Brazill had on Friday night become the 10th AFLW player to rupture an ACL either in preparation for, or during, this season.

Bonnie Toogood has escaped serious injury,Credit:Getty Images

There's no doubting the Bulldogs missed the 22-year-old once she went off. The change in structure it caused may have been critical in the final result.

"She was looking good and she's been building every week. Her effort is outstanding and if she doesn't mark it, she tackles, pressures and does everything," Burke said.

"It did change a lot. Because of the size and length of the ground, we had a special plan where to play Bonnie and with a taller player behind her. But that's football."

Burke once again couldn't question the endeavour of the Bulldogs against the Eagles, but at times their desire to do too much comes at the expense of sticking the game plan.

That's something he wants to see an improvement in, starting next Sunday against Collingwood.

"We just lost some of our shape and structure a little bit. Once we got under the pump a little bit, we got a bit frantic. We all want to save the day and sometimes we can lose where we want to be," Burke said.

"I don't blame the girls for that because they just want to give more and more effort, but sometimes that effort takes us away from some of our plans.

"We just have to have a bit more composure in those situations."


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Gay rugby club set to give ‘pantomime villain’ Folau colourful welcome

Israel Folau will be greeted with rainbow flags by members of a gay rugby club with a transgender captain when he makes his first appearance on English soil for Catalans against Hull FC on Sunday (2am Monday morning AEDT).

The cross-code star and fundamentalist Christian recently became the most contentious signing in Super League's 25-year history after joining the Dragons on a one-year deal.

After being thrown out of rugby union, the 30-year-old centre was banned from returning to rugby league in the NRL.

Israel Folau can expect to run out to some pantomime booing in Hull.Credit:AP

There were, though, no such barriers to moving to Super League to the disgust of many, not least Keegan Hirst, the former Wakefield player who came out in 2015.

"We came to the wrong conclusion and I think it was a sad day for Super League," said Robert Elstone, Super League's executive chairman, admitting the furore had cost him sleep.

There is a long road to redemption as Tyson Fury, who previously voiced homophobic views but regained the heavyweight world title last week and is now being hailed as a sporting hero, can testify.

But as debuts go, scoring a try in a home win against Castleford a fortnight ago was perhaps as much as Folau, or Dragons coach Steve McNamara, could have hoped for.

Folau seems certain to be cast as pantomime villain by the people of Hull at the KCOM Stadium this afternoon.

Ian Farrugia is a Hull FC supporter and member of Hull Roundheads, a gay rugby union club formed in August 2018 who last year won a Special Equality and Diversity Award at the Yorkshire Volunteers Awards.

Farrugia told London's Sunday Telegraph: "Folau has basically said you're going to hell for something you can't control – your sexuality – so a number of us from Roundheads will be at the game specifically to show support for the LGBT community.

"There might be a pantomime boo and jeer for Folau right at the start of the game but I think that will be it.

Folau and inset, a fan displays a rainbow flag on his debut for Catalans Dragons in Perpignan.Credit:Getty/Twitter

"We will proudly display our rainbow flags and there will no doubt be others as there is a huge gay scene in Hull. Our captain, William Bourne, is a transgender male and had previously played in a women's team.

"Becoming a part of the Roundheads has given him the acceptance and confidence to be comfortable in his own skin, like many in our team."

Karen Horton, vice-chair of independent supporters group FC Voices, agrees there is unlikely to be a widescale protest against Folau.

She told London's Telegraph: "My son is gay and when Folau joined Catalans my initial response was one of anger.

"My son was quite upset with his comments but I said to him that there will probably be Polynesian players within Hull's squad who probably have the same religious beliefs as Folau. The big difference is they haven't damned gay people to hell on social media.

"There are players who have played in Super League and still do who have done far worse than voice a vile opinion."

Indeed, misdemeanours involving Super League players past and present range from cocaine use, assault, domestic violence, drink driving and even lewd behaviour with a dog.

Many of the miscreants apologised and showed genuine remorse but Folau has not removed his post.

Farrugia added: "Rugby league and union are such inclusive sports and everyone involved in our club feels happy with who they are. But if you're struggling with your sexuality and the sport you love approves a guy who says 'you're going to burn in hell'… what message does that send out?"

What cannot be denied is Folau's natural talent. "He could be Man of Steel," predicted Hull coach Lee Radford. "He's multi-talented in union, league and AFL.

"He'll get the same moans and groans as what anybody playing for Hull KR would get, I imagine."

Pantomime season beckons in Hull on Sunday – albeit a few weeks late.

The Sunday Telegraph, London

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PRO14: Munster seal bonus point; Dragons edge out Cheetahs

We round up the action from Saturday’s two PRO14 matches, which saw Munster and the Dragons both take victories…

Munster 29-10 Scarlets

Gavin Coombes scored an 84th-minute bonus-point try as Munster overcame 14-man Scarlets at Thomond Park.

Opening his try account at senior level, the Cork-born replacement lock crossed twice during the final quarter as Munster’s Conference B rivals paid the price for Sam Lousi’s 33rd-minute red card and a late Tevita Ratuva sin-binning.

Hard to describe how incredibly difficult the conditions were for both sides….and the supporters!

A huge thanks to all the Munster fans who came out to support the team today! #MUNvSCA #SUAF

The third-placed Scarlets trailed 10-3 at half-time, with Munster Academy No 8 Jack O’Sullivan touching down soon after Tongan lock Lousi’s dismissal for punching during an off-the-ball incident.

Munster captain Billy Holland and Scarlets replacement Javan Sebastian traded tries either side of the hour mark but Ratuva’s 70th-minute yellow card opened the way for Coombes to grab a closing double which leaves Munster only two points behind table-topping Edinburgh.

Dragons 13-10 Cheetahs

Sam Davies booted a penalty with the last kick of the game as the Dragons beat the Cheetahs in a scrappy encounter at Rodney Parade.

Winger Jared Rosser scored the only try for the Dragons, while fly-half Davies kicked his side’s other points, including the winner.

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Taranto injury takes gloss off Giants’ annihilation of the Swans

Greater Western Sydney's reigning best-and-fairest winner Tim Taranto could be facing a long spell on the sidelines after injuring his shoulder just 10 minutes into the club's Marsh Series pre-season campaign on Saturday.

In a horror start to their 94-point mauling of the Sydney Swans, Taranto's right shoulder – which was already heavily strapped – dislocated from its socket as he reached for the ball in a stock-standard contest, and the look on his face immediately suggested he knew he was in strife.

Tim Taranto was all smiles at quarter-time, but the Giants face an anxious wait to learn how bad his shoulder injury is.Credit:Getty Images

The 22-year-old didn't return, spending the rest of the afternoon with ice on his shoulder, and will be sent for scans in the coming days to determine the extent of the damage. The Giants will be praying surgery isn't required.

"It's disappointing for Tim," said GWS assistant coach Amon Buchanan.

"He's obviously a bit flat about it at the moment but we'll look after him over the next few days and hopefully we get some good news on that. It slipped out and went back in, which is a good thing, I think."

Both the Swans and Giants had fresh faces in the ruck – Sam Naismith (left), who didn’t play a game in 2019, and Sam Jacobs, who joined GWS from Adelaide in the trade period.Credit:Getty Images

Taranto enjoyed a break-out season last year, playing every game as the Giants reached their grand final and averaging 27 disposals and five clearances on his way to the Kevin Sheedy Medal.

It would be an immense blow if he were to miss an extended period – although perhaps no other club in the AFL is as equipped to deal with the loss of a top-line midfielder than GWS, who had an embarrassment of riches sitting in the stands at the Blacktown International Sports Park and still did it easy against their cross-town rivals, who scored only one goal after quarter-time.

Eight of their best players didn't take part in Saturday's clash – new skipper Stephen Coniglio, Coleman medallist Jeremy Cameron, Lachie Whitfield, Josh Kelly, Toby Greene and Nick Haynes had all played in the State of Origin for bushfire relief match in Melbourne the night before, while Zac Williams and Callan Ward are recovering from injuries.

That simply provided an opportunity for their next rung of players to step up, and the results were stunning. Academy product Tom Green, in his first competitive outing, suggested he will add to Leon Cameron's selection headaches this season with 21 touches, six clearances and two goals, as did second-year midfielder Jackson Hately (25 disposals, eight clearances, one goal).

Zac Langdon, who played only three games in 2019 because of foot and ankle injuries, also grasped his opportunity, kicking three of his five majors in a 10-minute burst as GWS took control of proceedings with a six-goal second term. They would pile on 15 unanswered goals until Will Hayward broke Sydney's 2½-quarter drought with only six minutes left to play.

If this was any real indication of what is to come – and as always at this time of year, that's up for debate – then the Swans might be in for another long year. They barely gave a whimper after the first term as the contest devolved into a glorified GWS training run.

"There's not much to take out of it," said Swans assistant coach Brett Kirk.

"Unacceptable performance, well below the standard we set for our footy club.

"Whether it's a pre-season game or a grand final, there's some non-negotiables in footy and we just didn't get it done today.

"The positive is, if you're looking for a positive, there's a couple of weeks until round one. We've got to have a good, hard look at how we performed and then learn from it."

Granted, Sydney were also missing some key players – Tom Papley, Callum Mills and Jake Lloyd also played in the Origin game, while Lance Franklin, Isaac Heeney and Sam Reid are among those injured. But even if they all played, it felt as if there still would have been a fair gap between these two sides.

There are a couple of green shoots for the Swans to be excited about, though, such as draftee defender Will Gould, who announced his arrival with a brutal bump on stand-in Giants skipper Matt de Boer in the opening minutes.

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Waratahs call on SANZAAR to investigate eye contact on Simmons

The Waratahs have asked SANZAAR to look into a possible act of foul play from Lions second-rower Ruben Schoeman on NSW captain Rob Simmons during their 29-17 victory in Sydney on Friday night.

The incident was not picked up during the match, but a photo emerged on Saturday showing Schoeman’s fingers making contact with Simmons’ eye region.

Ruben Schoeman makes contact with Rob Simmons’ eye on Friday night.Credit:Peter Mitchell

Footage of the incident in the 23rd minute shows Schoeman trying to stop Simmons going through the middle of a maul and then touching, albeit for a short period of time, the second-rower’s eye with his middle and ring finger.

Simmons dis not appear to react to the contact and got up and continued to play. The incident occurred just after Schoeman returned to the field from an earlier scuffle with Simmons that saw him yellow carded.

In the ninth minute, Simmons and Schoeman broke away from other players and ended up on the ground, the latter pushing the NSW captain’s face with his forearm.

Schoeman receives a yellow card for striking Rob Simmons in Friday’s match at Bankwest Stadium. Credit:AAP

Referee Angus Gardner said the push in the face was unnecessary and sent Schoeman off for a 10-minute stint on the sidelines.

When Schoeman returned it was only a matter of minutes before the contact with Simmons' eye was made.

World Rugby laws state that "a player must not physically or verbally abuse anyone. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to, biting, punching, contact with the eye or eye area".

It is unclear whether SANZAAR will take the matter further and while the Waratahs did not want to comment publicly when sent the photo by The Sun-Herald, officials were hopeful the incident would be looked at when footage of the match is reviewed.

The Waratahs said Simmons did not suffer any injuries as a result of the incident, however admitted the photo was not a good look for the game.

A SANZAAR spokesperson said only that “normal citing procedures will apply”.

The Lions were contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, Simmons and Jake Gordon could be in doubt for next Friday's clash with the Chiefs in Wollongong, but their respective injuries appear to be less serious than first thought.

Simmons has a high ankle sprain, with the good news being that there was no sign of syndesmosis. He will rest over the weekend and continue to wear a moon boot before being assessed again at training on Monday.

As for Gordon, who left the field in the first half for precautionary measures, the club says his hamstring niggle isn't on the serious end and will be monitored at the start of the week.

The Chiefs have three wins from four starts this year and Waratahs coach Rob Penney knows they will be far trickier opponent than the Lions.

“No disrespect to the Lions, but the Chiefs are a different kettle of fish,” Penney said. “There are lots of areas that we’ll need to be more efficient in. We’re not going to be able to kick as loosely as we did. The Chiefs are very dangerous on the counter.

“They’ll build pressure, keep the ball for long periods, offload … all those dangerous things that we know will come from a team like the Chiefs. We need to hold onto the ball, be clinical and back our attack. We're going to need to lift the intensity.”

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