These are your evening rugby headlines on Thursday, April 4.

O'Connor signs new deal

Wales' newest cap Harri O'Connor has signed a new contract with the Scarlets.

The 23-year-old tighthead won his first Test cap during Warren Gatland's side's defeat to Italy on the final day of this year's Six Nations, having appeared during their uncapped fixture against the Barbarians in November. He had previously been called up by Wayne Pivac for Wales' tour of South Africa in 2022 but didn't play.

Having joined the academy with his younger brother Sam, Yorkshire-born O'Connor made his senior Scarlets debut in 2020. He has gone on to make 36 appearances for the region, including 15 this season, and has now committed his future to Dwayne Peel's side by putting pen to paper on a new deal.

“It has been an incredible few years for me, from making my senior debut for the Scarlets and playing alongside my younger brother, then touring with Wales and winning my first cap," he said. "For me now, it is about continuing to push on and develop my game, play regularly for the Scarlets and try to add to that cap.

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“I am fortunate that the club have had confidence in giving opportunities to young players and we feel we are building something here for the coming years. I have learnt a lot from the experienced players in the squad about what it means to wear the Scarlets jersey and I’m looking forward to playing my part in moving the side forward.”

Head coach Peel added: “It was fantastic to see HOC win his first cap during the Six Nations. In terms of prop forwards, at 23, he is still learning the trade and is one of a number of talented young front-rowers we have at the club. Like the players we have already re-signed for the coming seasons, they are going to be a big part of this club. We are rebuilding the squad and are excited about players like HOC who have so much potential at this level.”

O'Connor follows Tom Rogers, Dan Davis and Ben Williams in penning new deals at Parc y Scarlets, while Toyota Cheetahs hooker Marnus van der Merwe will join the region for the 2024-25 season. In announcing the prop's new deal, the region said "further announcements on renewals and new signings will be made in the coming weeks".

Ford to miss Ospreys clash

England fly-half George Ford will miss Sale's Challenge Cup trip against Ospreys at Bridgend on Saturday.

Sale coach Alex Sanderson says Ford will be rested for the last-16 fixture at the Brewery Field, with Elite England players being limited to a maximum amount of minutes in a season.

"We have to rest George (Ford) and there is some tactical rotation that is going in place," said Sanderson. "We believe we have a strong enough team to compete and give ourselves a shot at going through."

Rob du Preez, who has also been playing at centre, will be an option at fly-half for Sale in Ford's absence.

"As one door shuts, another door opens and du Preez probably has greater physicality," said Ospreys head coach Toby Booth. "George is probably one of the best game managers out there with an ability to unlock a defence. The challenge moves to a different form, but it is still going to be a difficult challenge."

Wales prop Nicky Smith is available for the Ospreys after missing the win over the Lions with a rib injury, while hooker Sam Parry is battling to be fit for Saturday's match.

Dragons speedster commits future

Oli Andrew has become the latest Dragons homegrown talent to sign a new contract with the region.

The 20-year-old, who made his senior debut against Glasgow Warriors in February, has put pen to paper on a new deal, having impressed for Newport RFC in the Indigo Premiership. The former Wales U20 star has scored 21 tries in 28 games for the Black and Ambers.

Andrew becomes the fifth Dragons player to agree new terms this week, following Harri Ackerman, Joe Westwood, Morgan Lloyd and Che Hope. While he has struggled with injuries, head coach Dai Flanagan says the youngster has "huge potential" while he matches the likes of Rio Dyer and Ashton Hewitt for pace.

"Oli has been unfortunate with injuries in recent times that have restricted his opportunities, but he is a player who has huge potential," said Flanagan. “Oli was an outstanding age-grade player who really produced some excellent performances for Wales Under-20s.

“He has an eye for the try line and is exceptionally quick, matching the likes of Rio Dyer and Ashton Hewitt. Oli’s target now is to get a consistent run of games under his belt and show he can develop into the player we know he can become over the duration of his new contract.”

After the new deal was confirmed, Andrew added: "I'm really pleased to sign a new contract and I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead."

France prop sentenced

Disgraced France international Wilfrid Hounkpatin has been handed a 12-month suspended prison sentence after being convicted of domestic violence.

The 32-year-old prop, who earned one cap for Les Bleus back in 2021, was charged with the offence in January this year after being accused of attacking his partner. He had been suspended by his club Castres following the incident, which saw him kick down a door and grab the victim by her wrists before pinning her against a bed frame while squeezing her neck.

He apologised for his behaviour during Wednesday’s court hearing, with AFP reporting him as saying: “I exerted pressure on the lower neck. I was never violent with her. I try to contain my force as best as possible."

He was found guilty of domestic violence with a judge sentencing him to 12 months in prison with a two-year probationary suspension. Under the terms of his probation, he is prohibited from visiting the home of his ex-partner but will be able to see her as part of the care of their three children. He must also take a course on intra-family violence and not carry weapons.