Ardie Savea named rugby player of the year

Savea was awarded the supreme award the Kelvin Tremain trophy at an awards dinner at the SkyCity Convention Centre in Auckland on Thursday evening.

He also picked up the All Blacks player of the year award and also Super Rugby player of the year.

Savea was not at the awards, however, having undergone knee surgery on Wednesday.

Black Ferns Sevens co-coaches Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney were named New Zealand Coaches of the Year, and the Black Ferns Sevens were crowned New Zealand Team of the Year for a second consecutive year.

NZ Heartland team to play Samoa features five from Whanganui

Former NZ Heartland Player of the Year Lindsay Horrocks (2015-2016) returns, fellow national Heartland old hands Campbell Hart (2018) and Craig Clare (2017-2018) are named, while Peni Nabainivalu (2018 and in 2016 for Buller) and newcomer Timoci Serawalu also join the fray.

All are Wanganui union players, although Serawalu is currently on loan to Horwhenua-Kapiti.

The match against Samoa is the opening game of the Pasifika Challenge II, the double header also features Tonga v Fiji as part of their Rugby World Cup preparation.

Samoa govt plans to build new national rugby stadium

Manu Samoa beat Tonga 25-17 in their Pacific Nations Cup opener on Saturday, but the game was almost called off before kick-off, with the playing surface resembling a mud-bath following heavy use during the Pacific Games and significant rain in the Samoan capital.

Samoa's Minister for Sport, Loau Keneti Sio, said the pitch at Apia Park is built on swampy land and agreed it was in need of an upgrade.

He said the government wants to build a new home of rugby on the other side of town and the sooner the project can get underway the better.

Pivac and Wales to face Gatland

Pivac will replace Gatland in charge of the Six Nations Grand Slam champions following this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

But Gatland, who has led Wales for 12 years, will soon return to Cardiff as the Baa-Baas coach, adding an intriguing narrative to Pivac's debut match.

Pivac said: "The Barbarians are a special side and it will be a great way to start my Wales career facing the Baa-Baas and, of course, Warren.

Manusina women stun Hong Kong in Asia Pacific Champs

The Manusina raced out to a 17-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes in Lautoka, against a Hong Kong team which had convincingly defeated Fiji at the weekend.

Lock Apaula Kerisiano Enesi, debutant hooker Eta Mailau and fullback Soteria Pulumu scored tries for Samoa.

Co-captain Marilyn Live also found the tryline as Samoa went into half-time with a commanding 22-0 lead.

Hong Kong fought back in the second spell with three tries but substitute Ta'imua Taiao and a second from fullback Pulumu sealed a convincing Samoan victory against the 2017 World Cup attendees.

Manusina anticipate step up in Asia-Pacific Champs

The Manusina finished runners up at the Oceania tournament in November, in their first international matches in four years, beating Papua New Guinea and Tonga before being outclassed 43-12 by eventual winners Fiji.

Head coach Ramsey Tomokino has selected 12 new caps in a 27-strong squad to face Hong Kong and Fiji and believes they can be competitive against difficult opposition.

Manu Samoa coach challenges team to start winning

The governing body wants a 12 team global competition to start in 2022, that would feature teams from the Six Nations and Rugby Championship as well as two additional countries based on world rankings, currently Fiji and Japan.

Samoa have won only five of their 20 test matches since the last World Cup, with their only successes in the last two years coming against European minnows Germany and Spain.

Steve Jackson, who was appointed in September last year, said that had to change.

Japan not ready for World League: Jamie Joseph

If signed off, the competition will involve 12 teams made up of the four Rugby Championship teams, along with Japan and the United States, and the Six Nations teams in a round-robin competition, but it wouldn't include any Pacific nations.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) boss Steve Tew said the latest proposal isn't acceptable to NZR and the plan has been heavily criticised by the International Rugby Players Council, including All Blacks skipper Kieran Read.

Joseph said they simply don't have the structures in place or the resources to be involved at this point.

Brown desperate for England recall

The full-back was dropped during the Test series defeat to South Africa in June and was overlooked by Eddie Jones for the November internationals.

Harlequins stalwart Brown is determined to add to his 72 caps and will discover on Thursday whether he has been selected by Jones.

"Obviously I'm massively disappointed not to be involved, because I'm desperate to play for England." the 33-year-old, speaking on behalf of Land Rover at an off-road driving event, told Omnisport.

Pumas scrum becomes Achilles heel

The former Wallabies forwards coach will bring quiet confidence but a lack of faith in his scrum across the Tasman following Argentina's 46-24 loss to the All Blacks in Nelson.

Saturday's Rugby Championship Test against Australia on the Gold Coast will be Ledesma's first against his former team since taking charge of the ninth-ranked Pumas from Daniel Hourcade six weeks ago.

He is perturbed by a slide in Argentine scrummaging standards, once considered the rock their game was built around.