Today’s rugby news as star ‘loving life’ after quitting Wales and Maro Itoje linked with shock move amid £1m demands

  Hawkins ‘loving it’ after quitting Wales

Joe Hawkins has admitted he’s loving his new life at Exeter Chiefs after quitting Welsh rugby and putting his international future on hold to play in England.

The 21-year-old center has five caps for Wales, but because of the Professional Rugby Board’s 25-cap rule, he is no longer eligible to play for Wales after leaving the Ospreys for an English Premiership team this summer.

Even though he struggled in his maiden start at Sandy Park last weekend, he proved what he was capable of in the Chiefs’ thrilling victory over Gloucester on Sunday night, winning man of the match just a few days after receiving his coach’s open support. Rob Baxter had predicted earlier in the week that Hawkins would advance quickly, and he paid him back with a superb performance as Exeter won 25–24 in a thrilling finale.

Following the full-time whistle, Hawkins was handed his award and told TNT Sports that he had settled in well down south, with a sizeable Welsh contingent making him feel at home.

Asked if he was enjoying his time at his new club, he replied: “Yeah, I’m loving it down here so far. I think it’s credit to the boys [who made it] so easy for me to settle in. All the Welsh boys down here, it’s like a home away from home really. So I’m loving it so far and looking forward to the future.

Hawkins added: “It’s pretty well-documented that we’re a pretty young side, but I don’t think we let that phase us, we’re not thinking about that when we’re playing. We’re just focused on getting better in every training session and taking it weekend by weekend and growing as a team. I think we definitely took big strides forward tonight.

Itoje linked with shock move

England player Maro Itoje is forced to choose between moving abroad or accepting a significant wage cut to stay at Saracens, and he has been linked to an unexpected move to the Top 14.

From the following season forward, Premiership clubs will only be permitted to have one “marquee player” on their roster due to new wage cap regulations. Captain Owen Farrell of Saracens is expected to take that position, since Itoje’s rumored £800,000 annual contract is expected to become prohibitive for the team.

As a result, he has reportedly been offered a whopping 50 per cent pay cut, with with Sarries offering him an extension in the region of around £400,000 per year to keep him at the club. With other Premiership clubs also already filling their quota of marquee players, Itoje looks set to head overseas in a move that would end his Test

career with England and might cast doubt on his participation in a third tour with the Lions.

With France international Romain Taofifenua departing Lyon at the conclusion of the season to pursue a reported transfer to Racing 92, Lyon has suddenly become an unexpected destination for the 29-year-old. Itoje’s demands for an incredible £1 million salary each season, according to the Rugby Paper, could be a roadblock, though, given the team is only said to have allocated £570,000 for Taofifenua’s successor.

The same source claims that Toulon has considered making a play for the 6′ 5in star. Either way, he would no longer be able to play for Steve Borthwick’s England team, ending his career.

Welsh derby coach could face ban

Dragons coach Dan Baugh could be slapped with a ban after he put his hand on referee Ben Whitehouse’s arm during this weekend’s derby match with Ospreys.

Former Canada international Baugh had been running water on to the pitch throughout the first half of the Dragons’ 20-5 win over the Ospreys at Rodney Parade, but wouldn’t return to the pitch in the second 40 as he landed himself in hot water just before half-time.

After Ospreys wing Mat Protheroe was red-carded for a high tackle on Will Reed, Baugh let his feelings known

in the direction of Whitehouse while the official chose the appropriate penalty. “You will be in the stand if you ever shout at me like that again,” the referee warned him when he addressed him.

The Welshman became enraged when Baugh responded that he was speaking to his own players while placing his hand on Whitehouse’s arm as the official looked away. “This man stays off the field from now,” a startled Whitehouse told his teammates, adding, “Don’t touch me.”

While others in attendance thought it was humorous, Baugh might yet be subject to more consequences. The head coach of Pau, a Top 14 team, received a 10-week suspension last year for grabbing the arm of a referee.

Monye supported

Ugo Monye has received an outpouring of support from the rugby community after he revealed he had suffered

racial taunts after Gloucester was defeated by Exeter.

During his co-commentary shift at Sandy Park for TNT Sports, the former England winger turned pundit became upset when he overheard a fan using a racial slur repeatedly without anyone nearby challenging them. “”Leaving Sandy Park and one supporter running through crowd starts shouting ‘N****, N****’,” Monye wrote on X. “A disgrace. Nobody questioned it, voiced a complaint, or even brought it up.

“He walks off after a mild scuffle and fans are now telling me ‘We’re with you’,” he said. “You’re with me, B******. You weren’t with me when the most egregious racism I’ve ever saw or heard from a spectator at a live game was displayed. Very annoyed”

Numerous players, teammates, and supporters have sent him supporting notes. Dan Frost, a forward for the Chiefs, wrote: “After a fantastic rugby match, I’m furious to come home and see this. Completely shameful. As a club, I hope we can locate this person. @ugomonye, I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

Presenter and former England star Martin Bayfield continued, saying, “Just learned about the racial taunts used towards Ugo at Sandy Park. Since Ugo is a friend and coworker, this affects me personally, but it’s wrong for anyone to do this at any time, anywhere, or to anyone at all. Make the offender accountable and expose them for this hate.”

Premiership Rugby also released a statement on the subject, wishing Monye “full support” and asking anyone with knowledge of the incident to come forward.

“Premiership Rugby is aware of the accusations of racist abuse suffered by Ugo Monye at Sandy Park following the Exeter Chiefs match against Gloucester,” said the statement. “Premiership Rugby stands together with our clubs and players in the fight against racism, and we extend our complete support to Ugo Monye.”

“Our game and society are completely devoid of racism. The Exeter Chiefs have opened a thorough inquiry, and we are pleading with anyone with knowledge to come forward.

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