Fitzy forced to hang up his boots
Former All Blacks skipper Sean Fitzpatrick poses with the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup silverware in 1997
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Recurring knee injuries compelled former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick to retire. The hooker played a total of 92 Tests for New Zealand starting with his debut against France in 1986 and culminating with his appearance as a replacement against Wales at Wembley in 1997. He bowed out of the international stage as the most-capped All Black of all-time. Fitzpatrick also held the New Zealand captaincy from 1992, when he took over from Gary Whetton, until he hung up his boots in 1997 and in doing so set another All Blacks record of 51 appearances as skipper. He played al his provincial rugby, a total of 127 matches, for Auckland who claimed the NPC title a remarkable eight times between 1987 and 1996. He also represented the Blues in the Super 12 as they captured the prestigious title in its first two seasons in 1996 and 1997. He was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1997 and since retiring has remained a presence in the sport.
Gareth Jenkins was appointed as Wales' new coach to replace 2005 Grand Slam-winning boss Mike Ruddock, who resigned from the post earlier in the year after contract negotiations with the Welsh Rugby Union broke down. Jenkins made his name at Llanelli RFC where he was a member of the famous side that beat the touring All Blacks in 1973. Injury prematurely curtailed his playing career but he returned to Llanelli as coach in 1982 and would stay for the next 24 years. A Wales assistant coach during the 1993-94 season, he was passed over for the coaching position in 2004 when the WRU opted for Ruddock and subsequently served as assistant coach on the Lions' tour of New Zealand in 2005. He was later sacked as Wales coach in 2007 after his side failed to reach the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals. A shock defeat to Fiji - his 13th in 20 matches in charge - proved to be the tipping point.
Former England international Jeff Probyn was born. The Wasps prop was selected for the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 but had to wait until the following year for his debut against France at the age of 31. The last of his 37 caps came against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in 1993.
Leinster lost 21-14 to Perpignan at Lansdowne Road in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup. An off-form Leinster led going into the last quarter thanks to a try from Gordon D'Arcy but their Top 14 rivals rallied with a try of their own from Pascal Bomati and another by replacement hooker Marc Dal Maso sealed the win. Perpignan would later lose to Toulouse 22-17 in the all-French final.
Donncha O'Callaghan and Paul O'Connell shone in Munster's rousing 25-17 Heineken Cup semi-final triumph against Castres in the hostile surroundings of the Stade de la Méditerranée in Béziers. The Irish province would later be beaten by Leicester Tigers 15-9 in the Millennium Stadium finale in a game remembered for the 'Hand of Back' incident. Leicester flanker Neil Back knocked the ball out of Munster scrum-half Peter Stringer's hands at a crucial scrum allowing the Tigers to claim possession and seal the win.
A brilliant dropped goal by Carwyn James in extra time gave London Welsh a 14-11 semi-final win against Wasps in the Middlesex Sevens. The strains of the match took their toll on the Welsh who were well-beaten in the Final by St Luke's College, Exeter.
London Scottish beat guest side Hawick 15-11 in the Final of the Middlesex Sevens. It was the Exiles' fourth successive Middlesex title, equalling the record set by Harlequins between 1926 and 1929.
London Welsh capped an excellent season by winning the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham. The team led by John Dawes beat Richmond 16-3 in the Final.
Coventry became the first club to win back-to-back RFU Cup finals, beating London Scottish 26-6 in front of 7,000 spectators at Twickenham.