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Today’s rugby news as Wales ‘champion’ to say goodbye and England star left ‘shocked and angry’

Here are your rugby headlines for Sunday, December 24.

The Welsh ‘champion’ said goodbye

Former Wales top flight Samson Lee will be suitably rested after he was selected to lead the Scarlets ahead of their Boxing Day clash with the Ospreys.

The 31-year-old announced his retirement earlier this month because he was unable to fully recover from the Achilles injury he suffered in training last March. After 164 appearances for the Scarlets, Lee has made the “difficult” decision to call time on his 12-year professional career, but fans will have the chance to show their appreciation ahead of the derby at Parc y Scarlets – much to the delight of coach Dwayne Peel.

The Scarlets boss said: “I didn’t really know Samson before returning to the club as coach, but he’s been a great servant and a great ambassador for the club. “He can be proud of what he has achieved on the field throughout his career. I hope he gets the reception he deserves because he is a champion.

READ MORE: The referee was sent off the field by Wales and England stars when he heard gasps of distress on live television.

READ MORE: Scarlets v Ospreys team news as the Welsh side leads the cavalry back

“He pushed standards even when he was injured and commanded huge respect from the players. He was very proud to be a Scarlet and he will be a big loss to us.”

More than 9,000 tickets have been sold for the festive fixture, as Peel’s side seek revenge against the Ospreys after they were beaten 31-9 in Swansea last month.

British star ‘shocked and angry’

England international Zach Mercer admits he was “shocked” to be left out of Steve Borthwick’s World Cup squad but is now focused on making the cut for the upcoming Six Nations.

The Gloucester back has endured a difficult time since signing for his new club, with his omission from the league squad followed by an ankle injury. However, he is now back to full fitness and is looking to prove himself heading into the new year.

A trusted member in the eyes of many, Mercer admitted that the call took him by surprise, told Daily Mail: “When I was released from the England camp, I felt disappointed, sad and a little angry. That definitely shocked me.

“I never thought I was guaranteed to go to the World Cup, but I wanted the chance. I hadn’t been in an international environment for two years so it was a completely new environment for me, but it was hard to accept. I just don’t think Steve feels this is the right time for me and whether I agree or disagree with him; It’s an essential part of rugby.”

However, Mercer failed in his steps and immediately “turned to trying to be a good husband and father”. It finally worked out when he was able to be there for the birth of his daughter Iris in July and support his wife.

“I look back on it in a positive way,” he admits. “That I was there when my baby was born and was there when she started growing up. If I had been at the World Cup, I would have missed the first three months of her life. It’s wonderful to be home with my wife.” and honey, and it’s a great, positive distraction while the World Cup is going on.”

Discussing his plans for next year, the 26-year-old added: “The Six Nations is coming up and I’m fit and back playing so we’ll see what happens. I haven’t heard anything yet from Steve but I’m just focused on getting myself back into that position. There are a lot of good number 8s playing well in the Premiership so it will be a battle again.”

Biggar is back in action

Dan Biggar was back in action for Toulon on Saturday night but he could not prevent them from losing to Toulouse.

The Welsh great, who retired from international rugby after the World Cup, has been sidelined since early November after injuring his back while trying to move into the Top 14 side.

The flyhalf made his first appearance since then but he could not inspire his team to victory as hosts Toulouse ran out 25-17 winners. Biggar played for an hour before being substituted.

Cokanasiga puts Bath first after Borthwick’s message

By PA Sports Staff

Head of rugby Johann van Graan was “extremely delighted” for wing Joe Cokanasiga after an impressive performance in the 25-17 win over Harlequins. Cokanasiga’s strong performances in two tries helped lift his club to the top of the Gallagher Premiership at Christmas.

Van Graan said: “Joe is disappointed not to be at the World Cup. But there have been some very good exchanges from (England coach) Steve (Borthwick) and England about what he needs must improve. In terms of atmosphere, he has improved.” too much. I always tell him he’s the greatest winger I’ve ever coached – and I’ve been lucky to coach some very good and very fast wingers.

“Joe’s size is something he can use a lot. And he used it today. Those finishes! Like the one in the left corner, he passed three who literally has the strength to finish. I’m very happy for him.”

After scoring his fifth bonus-point win, Van Graan added: “We talked about it during the week and said there was a possibility of going top of the table.

“It makes Christmas a lot more enjoyable, but the most important thing is that the people of Bath are smiling and I think we put on a great show for them.

“All credit to Quins. It was 8-5 at half-time but it was like two heavyweight boxers, each punching each other. That’s what makes the Premiership really special. There are so many teams and matches fought very closely together.”


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