Wales Prop Nicky Smith Signs New Deal For Ospreys . . . And Wales Women Are Off To NZ

Wales Nicky Smith during the June International Test match at Eden's Park, Auckland. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Wales Prop Nicky Smith Signs New Deal For Ospreys . . . And Wales Women Are Off To NZ

By Paul Jones

Wales prop Nicky Smith has rejected interest from English clubs to re-sign for the Ospreys.

The 28-year-old loose-head – who has won 41 caps – has re-signed for his region in a significant boost following a raft of departures from all four of the Welsh sides.

Smith had been linked with a move to a number of clubs over the border but will be at the Ospreys again next season, although the regions have not specified the length of the new deal.

Smith said: “This is my home region. I’ve been at the Ospreys since I was a teenager and it’s where I’ve played all my professional career so far.

“I want to play a significant role in helping the region to achieve its goals and make our supporters proud. We’ve got a great group of boys here and the coaches are all pushing us to be the best team we can be.”

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth had admitted a few weeks ago there was a strong possibility he could lose Smith to rivals over the boder as the contractual crisis between the Welsh Rugby Union and the regions dragged on.

Booth said: “We were delighted to get this one over the line. It’s important to us that we retain our best homegrown talent and Nicky signing is further evidence of that.

“He has been one of our key leaders this season and is a crucial component of our pack. Whether it’s in the set-piece or open-play, he’s a difference maker.

“He’s an incredibly dedicated and hardworking player who always puts the team’s goals first. He’s the epitome of professionalism.”

Meanwhile, in the women’s international game, Wales and England will head for New Zealand in October as the world champions host the sport’s elite teams in the inaugural WXV tournament.

World Rugby has confirmed the venues and dates for the new three-tier competition, which seeks to increase “the competitiveness, reach and impact” of the 15-a-side women’s game across the globe.

Eighteen teams will take part in the event, with the top six battling it out in WXV 1 in New Zealand across three weekends on October 21 and 28 and November 4, the next six contesting WXV 2 in South Africa on October 14, 21 and 28, and WXV 3 using the same dates but with the venue dependent on the nations qualifying.

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We made a pledge at a spectacular Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand to accelerate the advancement of the women’s game.

“Much progress is being made at rapid pace and today we are marking another milestone with confirmation of the dates and venues for the inaugural WXV competition.

“With women and girls leading our strategy to grow the sport on a global basis, this competition will increase the reach and impact of the sport and drive the overall competitiveness of women’s international rugby as we look forward to an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup 2025 in England and subsequent Rugby World Cups in Australia in 2029 and USA in 2033.”

Beaten World Cup finalists England, France and Wales have already booked their places in WXV 1, while Scotland and Ireland will participate in WXV 2 and WXV 3 respectively with Italy and Spain playing off to decide the final European participants in those groups.

The World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023 will determine the remaining three teams in WXV 1 and one team in WXV 2, with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States contesting the competition featuring the top two teams in Oceania and North America.

WXV 3 will comprise two sides from Europe and one each from Asia, Oceania, Africa and South America.

Each division in the annual tournament will be played out as a cross-pool format, with promotion and relegation – although not for the first two years leading up to the 2025 World Cup – adding spice.

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