"Leigh Halfpenny has declared his ambition to remain a contender for international honours with Wales after announcing his decision to play for Toulon from next season. The Wales and British and Irish Lion full-back says his move from the Cardiff Blues to Heineken Cup Champions Toulon is the right decision at this stage of his career. 'Having taken time to consider every option in detail, I believe the decision to move to Toulon is the best decision for me and my continued development as a rugby player and as a person,' said Halfpenny.... 'Toulon are fully supportive of my international desires and duties and I would like to thank them for this as it was an important factor in my decision'." - Planet Rugby
"The 22-year-old's steely resolve was evident in last autumn's QBE International against Australia, in which he scored 15 points as England prevailed 20-13. Just as impressive as his points haul was his recovery from a challenging spell when he missed three successive penalties and showed hesitancy on the ball to spearhead the fightback. It was exactly the temperament that England view as indispensable and the Saracens outside-half admits his mindset was shaped almost from the start. 'Keeping it together is something I learned pretty early on - when I started playing,' he said. 'Why should you let it affect you? You've got to move on. There's too much to focus on in terms of your next job. If you're focusing on what has just happened then you're not going to have a grip on the game and that's what a fly-half's job is. Irrespective of how a kick went, you've got to back yourself and go again. You've got to have a clear head and think about what went wrong, but then you've got to put it behind you and move on. I just get on with it'." - Daily Mail
"Jonny Sexton has left his Racing Métro teammates and supporters wanting more as he signed off for Six Nations duty in style. The Ireland out-half put in an inspirational 74 minute shift for the Parisian side this afternoon as they rediscovered the winning touch at home and climbed into the Top 14′s Heineken Cup slots. Racing put four-time European champions Toulouse to the sword and recorded a much-needed 25-5 win. Sexton opened the scoring after five minutes at Stade Francais as he chased after a Jacques Cronje charge-down on a Lionel Beauxis clearance attempt. He converted his score to make it 7-0. The former Leinster man turned provider soon after as he drew his man and teed up teammate Mike Phillips for a relatively simple score. The move was sparked by a brilliant intercept and break by winger Marc Andreu. Additional penalties from Sexton made it 18-0 on the half-hour mark." - The Score
"Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw will head into this year's RBS 6 Nations determined to banish the disappointment of Sunday's Heineken Cup thrashing at Munster. The Edinburgh Rugby captain was left reeling after his side were beaten 38-6 in Limerick, in what was Laidlaw's final match before the 2014 tournament kicks off. The 28-year-old, who has also featured at fly-half for Scotland, could not prevent Edinburgh from slipping out of contention for a place in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter finals. And, after a break from competitive rugby next weekend, Laidlaw will return to Ireland for Scotland's RBS 6 Nations opener in search of a different outcome." - RBS 6 NationsMorgan Parra, Maxime Machenaud & Jean-Marc Doussain, France
"Preferred at scrum-half were Maxime Machenaud and Jean-Marc Doussain as Parra continues to fight his way back from a knee injury sustained in the autumn. When asked if Parra could still play a role in the tournament however Saint-Andrew only replied: 'We will see'. But the former Sale head coach is confident that his squad have more than enough cover for the 25-year-old Parra, whose trusty left boot has helped him to 320 career international points. 'Morgan was still a replacement (Sunday's European Cup game between his side Clermont and Racing-Metro), he is still making his way back, and has not yet achieved his goal of being fully match fit,' said Saint-Andre. 'For the moment, we have Maxime Machenaud and Jean-Marc Doussain. We have confidence in both of them'." - RBS 6 Nations
"Mirco Bergamasco's international career looked to be over after the 30-year-old fractured his kneecap during a Test against Australia in November of 2012. Surgery and a long recovery period followed for the experienced Italian winger. Bergamasco suffered another setback last summer when French club Racing Metro, whom he had joined in 2010 from rivals Stade Francais, decided not to offer him a contract extension. While his move to Italian outfit Rovigo in July was a step back in his club career, it served as a platform to return to the national team just six months later.'coach Jacques Brunel told me that the door of the national team is always open and that it depended on me,' Bergamasco said." - The Independent
"I have to say that I'm a little surprised, but very thankful. First of all I have to thank everybody that voted for me. I just want to pay my respects to Marta and Abby who have had an incredible year too.
You never get a success like this on your own. I have to thank my teammates and my goalkeeping coach who raised me to a level that I never thought I'd get to. Also I have to thank the people in my private life, I have a great family who have been a great support to me over the years. My friends have also been very supportive to me. Thanks to everybody."
"First of all I have to say a great thanks to all of my team-mates with the club and the national team. Without all of their efforts this would not have been possible. I am very happy, it is very difficult to win this award.
Everybody that has been involved with me on a personal level I have to thank. My wife, my friends, my son. It is a tremendously emotional moment. All I can say is thank you to everybody that has been involved."
“There’s no grass in the middle of the field, not one blade. I’ve played on fields that were a lot worse than that in terms of football, so the grounds crew deserves credit.”Of more significance, Lambeau in January usually means less than ideal weather. Yesterday was no exception as Dawson discussed:
“You can’t necessarily prepare for zero degrees and left-to-right wind. Leather gets hard in cold weather. When it’s this cold, the ball doesn’t want to go anywhere. That was the challenge that was there for us today. At the end of the day, you either make the kick or you don’t.”Dawson's game winning kick was set up by a 14 play, 65 yard, five minute drive.
“To put together a drive like that under any condition is big-time, but especially today with all the factors working against us… getting it into a manageable situation, if there was such a thing tonight....Just prior to the kick, Dawson had limited interaction with his teammates.
I owe that kick to the whole offense."
“It’s kind of like (being) the guy with the no-hitter going in the dugout. No one wants to talk to him.... A couple of guys patted me on the head. We all have jobs to do, and I knew I had to do mine.”
During his previous 14 years in the league, all with Cleveland, Dawson had played in only one playoff game.“I saw, from my perspective, the guy off the left wing get what I thought was a jump prior to the snap. I hurried up a little bit, knowing either I’d make it or get a retry 5 yards closer.”
"I waited a long time to win a playoff game. I finally got to do it and it was worth the wait."
"Hit it pure. Stroke the ball clean and hit it pure. It's really just like any golfer that's lining up to play a playoff hole. They've got to hit their drive pure, they've got to hit their approach shot pure, they've got to hit the putt pure. ... That's just the term for perfect. You hit it and you hit it pure."Graham had spent the first 14 games of the NFL season unemployed.
"You're hanging out on a Sunday and you go somewhere to dinner and you see a game on TV, you don't want to watch it because you're not playing. When you finally get your opportunity, all of a sudden you can put SportsCenter back on, you can watch all the NFL you want, because you're once again in it and you don't have to resent it at all."With only two game remaining in the regular season, the saints decided to release Garret Hartley. Graham ended up winning the job.
"It was tough. Throughout the year it was tough. I had never gone this late in the season and not been on a team. I got workouts from a lot of teams and I was told, 'We are going to give our guy another chance. We'll just see what happens.' Thankfully not a lot of kickers got hurt this year, but it was just slow. But as you see it's a marathon, not a sprint."Weather conditions (cold and windy) in the game were not ideal for kicking. Eagles kicker Alex Henery missed a 48 yard field goal attempt in the second quarter and saw his final kickoff returned 39 yards to give the Saints a short field on their game winning drive.
“The ball is not going to travel as far on a cold day. There’s no excuse – just miss something like that. I have to be better there, help the team out. It just shows that every point matters in a game like this....Following the game, Shayne Graham said of his game winner:
I thought I hit the last kickoff pretty good, actually, going into the wind there. It’s just science. The ball doesn’t fly as well in cold weather. You could tell both kickers were going about goal line to the five-yard line [in the south end zone]. That’s kind of what you get. You have to work with it. I’m not sure. It just got outside of us. It got out, I guess you could say.”
"I didn't doubt it for a second, felt comfortable and confident, and luckily I got bombarded on the field after the play and it was a great feeling....Graham also elaborated on the fact that he has not been with the team very long:
As a kicker, this is what you live for, a chance to contribute to a big win like this. The guys worked so hard for this and it's a great feeling to give them the win they deserve."
"It feels really good, especially when it's a do-or-die situation. Sometimes you can kind of want that easy way out, want your team to win a blowout. But sometimes you can get a special feeling when you are part of something your team puts together and get the win and the points that you score are the difference. The way our offense drove the ball down the field it was beautiful. How could I not draw confidence watching those guys drive the ball down the field?... If I had been here for 14 years or if I'd been here for one game, my job is the same thing so that is all that really mattered. I've been here for three weeks I guess, and I feel like I've been adopted into a family. It's just a really comfortable, tight group here."
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