O’Connell nears Stade exit

Paul O’Connell’s stay in Paris with Stade Francais will end once this season is done, it is understood.

The Munster legend agreed a two-year deal with the Paris outfit but will leave the club at the end of the current campaign by mutual consent, say well-placed sources.

O’Connell is forwards and lineout coach at Stade, who currently lie eighth in the Top 14 standings, outside the crucial top six slots for the play-offs. They have had an indifferent season under South African coach Heyneke Meyer, and have lost nine of their 19 games, including four of the last five.

Reports in the French media also link another ex-Munster man at Stade, attack coach Mike Prendergast, with a potential move from Stade to Toulon, though nothing concrete is imminent on that.

Meanwhile, World Rugby are examining a series of significant law changes to be tested in closed trials after this autumn’s World Cup.

A three-day player welfare and law symposium in Paris has produced eight new rules which are designed to improve safety, with a particular focus on forcing teams to commit less to defence, thereby reducing the number of collisions.

Among the proposals being considered is a ‘50-22’ rugby league-style kicking law that would enable the attacking team to get the put in at a line-out, despite having kicked the ball out.

Also under examination is the possibility of upgrading yellow cards to a red upon reviewing the incident while a player is in the sin-bin and also lowering the height of a tackle to below the waistline.

“Rather than just look at the laws to improve the game as a spectacle and then whether it has a player welfare impact, we have tried to devise laws that have a direct player welfare impact,” said World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper.

“That’s the first time we’ve looked at it in that sense. This is really about looking at the shape of the game and working out what can actually have a material effect on some of the outcomes we’re having in the injury rates.”

Elsewhere, Ben Te’o and Billy Vunipola have apologised to team-mates after they returned late from a drinking session following England’s 38-38 Guinness Six Nations draw with Scotland.

The pair broke team rules by staying out until the early hours of Sunday morning, when the rest of the squad had gone back to their hotel in west London.

It is understood that England consider the matter dealt with and there will be no repercussions from head coach Eddie Jones.

Players are allowed to drink under Jones’s watch and, while there is no curfew in place, it is expected that the team stay together while out.

It is only the second breach of discipline since Jones took over in December 2015: The first saw Manu Tuilagi and Denny Solomona sent home from a pre-season training camp in 2017 because of a similar offence.

England finished runners-up in the recent Guinness Six Nations.

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