Today's rugby news as young England wing targets Wales call-up and Scotland fire back in roof row – Wales Online

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The latest rugby headlines on Friday, February 2
Former England Under-20s international Gabriel Hamer-Webb is after Wales honours after he signed a one-year deal to return to Cardiff for the 2024-25 season.
Hamer-Webb, who is Welsh qualified, spent a short stint with the Arms Park side earlier this term, making four appearances for the Blue and Blacks, scoring on his debut against former club Bath.
He left the club at the turn of the year and recently spent some time with Northampton Saints. Get the latest news by signing up for our Rugby newsletter.
READ MORE: Gatland tells absent Wales star to stay with family and George North to return
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But he has now put pen to paper on a deal to play his rugby in the Welsh capital next season – and has a Wales cap in his sights.
Hamer-Webb, 23, said: “I’m immensely pleased. My family are all from here so it’s brilliant to get back to my roots. I really enjoyed my time at the club earlier this season. The boys were so welcoming and it only took a week or so until I felt part of the team. I really loved it.
“The Bath try obviously meant a lot to me but getting that debut try against the Stormers in a win against a stacked South African team was great.
“Next season I just want to get back into the team, keep building the momentum, helping the team collectively to get better and hopefully push on to Wales.
“I was obviously disappointed to leave Bath (at the end of last season) but the amount of learning experience I have gained to bring here, and the more time I spend with Cardiff will really improve me as a player.”
Cardiff head coach Matt Sherratt added: “We were really impressed with Gabriel during his spell here earlier this season and we are pleased to secure his services for 2024-25.
“He is a superb athlete, a great professional and he offers us a bit of versatility in his ability to play wing and full-back.
“We saw a glimpse of his potential with some impressive performances in Blue and Black, he suits our style of play and I have no doubt there is more to come from him in Cardiff.”
By Phil Blanche, PA
Gregor Townsend has defended Scotland's decision to keep the Principality Stadium roof open for their Guinness Six Nations opener in Cardiff. Wales head coach Warren Gatland called the decision "disappointing", saying it would impact upon the atmosphere and noise in the 74,500-capacity stadium.
Tournament regulations say both sides must agree to have the roof closed. Scotland head coach Townsend said: "I thought we had 48 hours to decide, but they said on Wednesday you have to come to a decision.
"I looked at the forecast and it looked quite nice, I'd much prefer playing with the roof open if we can. It's noisier when the roof's closed, that's why they're disappointed. They don't get that (advantage).
"If the pitch is greasy it's not great conditions, but it would be better playing in heavy rain. When we looked, it was good weather with 20 to 30 per cent chance of rain in the morning."
Rain is actually now forecast in the Welsh capital on Saturday evening, with the game kicking off at 4.45pm. But Townsend remains philosophical should that happen, saying: "I hope the weather stays dry, we want it to be a dry day.
"If that's the case the conditions will be better because the ball does get greasy and sweaty when the roof's closed.
"You play rugby at every other ground that doesn't have a roof. So you play in the dry and the wet. If it's a wet day it will be trickier to move the ball, but I have confidence our players can do that, or find another way to put pressure on the opposition through defence and a kicking game.
"I hope it's rain in the morning and dry in the afternoon, but we do play in the winter in our sport so players are used to a wet ball."
Leigh Halfpenny has been named in the Crusaders' starting XV for their clash against Munster this weekend.
The two teams meet at a sold-out Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday as the Super Rugby Pacific champions face the URC holders in a special friendly game in Cork.
Both teams are without a host of players, with Munster players away with Ireland and All Blacks left at home in New Zealand.
But Halfpenny does start for the visitors in a back three which also includes Macca Springer and Chay Fihaki,
Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Sean O’Brien, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Shay McCarthy, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Ethan Coughlan, 8 Jack O’Sullivan, 7 Alex Kendellen (c), 6 Ruadhán Quinn, 5 Fineen Wycherley, 4 Gavin Coombes, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Eoghan Clarke, 1 Josh Wycherley
Replacements: 16 Scott Buckley, 17 Mark Donnelly, 18 John Ryan, 19 Kamil Nowak, 20 Jack Daly, 21 Daniel Okeke, 22 Neil Cronin, 23 Tony Butler, 24 Rory Scannell, 25 Colm Hogan
Crusaders: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Chay Fihaki, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Macca Springer, 10 Taha Kemara, 9 Mitch Drummond, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Dominic Gardiner, 5 Tahlor Cahill, 4 Quinten Strange (c), 3 Owen Franks, 2 George Bell, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Ioane Moananu, 17 Kershawl Sykes-Martin, 18 Seb Calder, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Christian Lio-Willie, 21 Noah Hotham, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Ryan Crotty, 24 Josh Southall, 25 Heremaia Murray
By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent, Rome
England have revealed Marcus Smith could miss the entire Guinness Six Nations because of the calf injury that has ruled him of at least Saturday's opener against Italy and Wales a week later.
A clearer picture over Smith's fitness will emerge next week, but in the meantime veteran George Ford has been installed at fly-half for the Stadio Olimpico showdown with Fin Smith deputising from the bench.
Fin Smith is one of five uncapped players in the matchday 23 and should all of them get time on the field, it will be the highest number of new caps awarded in a single match since Stuart Lancaster's first game in charge in 2012.
Centre Fraser Dingwall and flanker Ethan Roots are included in the starting XV while Smith, back row Chandler Cunningham-South and wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso feature on the bench.
In a boost to England, Alex Mitchell has recovered from a leg wound to take his place at scrum-half, but the player who was expected to partner him at half-back faces an anxious wait to see if he will be involved at all over the coming weeks.
"Marcus will go back to England today (Thursday) and have further investigations later this week. He won't be available next week," Borthwick said.
"We're not sure exactly when. Hopefully he will play in the latter part of the Six Nations, but it will be a number of weeks. We'll know more next week."


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