Ashley-Cooper dedicates Australia’s win to departed friend

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LONDON (AP) After playing a significant role in Australia’s extraordinary win over Wales at the Rugby World Cup, Adam Ashley-Cooper quietly slipped away from euphoric teammates and fans to try and put a smile on the face of an old mate.

Perhaps for the last time.

Guy Grinham played rugby with and against Ashley-Cooper as kids on the central coast of New South Wales state, north of Sydney, and later took different paths but stayed involved in the game – one as a professional player, and one as a referee.

It was among Grinham’s last wishes that he see the Wallabies playing at the World Cup. His brother and a mate put together a “bucket list” for Grinham when he was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago. A big item was the trip to London.

Ashley-Cooper and his teammates did their bit to help out.

“I thought the least we could do as a team was to do as much as we can to get him to that game, and play for him against Wales,” Ashley-Cooper said at the team base near London on Friday. “We got a really good result.

“It was a really nice moment to be able to share that win with him and his family. Everyone was smiling.”

Grinham, who was married with two children, died this week.

His condition deteriorated during the trip to London, to the point where he was bedridden and needed medical support to get to the match last Saturday. World Rugby helped with the ticket, and converted a corporate box for Grinham and his family.

“They got off the plane here in London, and (Grinham’s condition) went down pretty significantly with the cancer spreading through to his back – his vertebrae,” Ashley-Cooper said. “He was told to fly his parents over to say his final goodbyes.”

The 111-test Wallaby made a key tackle in the match to end a Welsh siege of the try line while Australia was down to 13 men with two players in the sinbin.

Ashley-Cooper went to see Grinham in hospital before and after the 15-6 win against Wales, and said the visits helped him keep the tournament in perspective.

“When I went and saw him after the captain’s run … it was emotional,” he said. “You realize how lucky we are.

“I got a lot out of it, given the sad circumstances, it was a real eye-opener. But I was really happy I got to share something with him after the game and put a smile on his face. A genuine smile on his face.”

Ashley-Cooper has one more reason to ensure Australia stays on course for a third Rugby World Cup title, starting on Sunday with a win over Scotland at Twickenham.

World Rugby postponing July test matches

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World Rugby has postponed July test matches involving southern and northern hemisphere nations because of ongoing restrictions on international travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport’s international governing body issued a statement Friday saying the mid-year test window will be rescheduled when cross-border travel and quarantine regulations are relaxed.

New Zealand had been scheduled to play Wales and Scotland, Australia was set to play Ireland and Fiji and South Africa had planned to host Scotland and Georgia. World Rugby said the postponement is due “to ongoing government and health agency COVID-19 directives.”

Bill Beaumont re-elected as World Rugby chairman

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Former England captain Bill Beaumont has been re-elected as World Rugby chairman on Saturday after beating Agustín Pichot, the current vice-chairman.

The sport’s governing body says the 68-year-old Beaumont achieved a first-round majority of 28 votes to 23.

Beaumont says: “I am honored to accept the mandate of the World Rugby Council to serve as the international federation’s chairman once again.”

He begins his four-year term after a council meeting on May 12.

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte becomes Beaumont’s new vice-chairman.