Friday’s top rugby news sees Messam ruled out, the return of Madness, Nathan Grey joins the Tahs coaching staff and the Maesteg Rugby Club fire.
Messam a late withdrawal
The All Blacks have been forced into a late change for Saturday’s Test with flanker Liam Messam out with a hamstring issue. Stepping up for the Kiwis will be the Blues’ Steven Luatua, a man with only 10 minutes test rugby experience, compared to Messam’s 22 caps. That 10 minutes of experience for Luatua came back in June, during the All Blacks 24-9 victory over France in the third Test.
Coach Steve Hansen has little doubt that Luatua will handle the task in front of him though, saying he had ‘been preparing to play all week. He’ll be fine, he fitted into the last part of training good. We’re very confident that he’ll do a great job.’ There was also praise for Luatua from the Wallabies camp, with Hugh McMeniman who will face off against the Blues youngster praising his play, especially his work rate and ball running ability.
McMeniman keen to bring the madness
Ewen McKenzie’s first Test side sees the return of Hugh McMeniman who has not tasted international rugby since 2008. Talk around McMeniman often turns to his aggressive play that earned him the nickname ‘Madness’. Whilst he has praised Force coach Michael Foley for the way he has taught McMeniman to temper some of that overt aggression, the player believes that plenty of it will be needed on Saturday night.
Of his intended approach, McMeniman said that ‘Test match rugby is a different story. Maybe around Super Rugby I might temper it’. After five years away from the Test arena, it will be remarkable return for McMeniman who made the extended squad for the Lions series, but was not called upon by Robbie Deans and was never told why. Hopefully the man who said yesterday ‘I don’t mind a bit of pain’ can inflict plenty on the All Blacks.
Grey joins Tahs coaching team
Hard-hitting former Waratahs centre Nathan Grey has left his coaching position with the Melbourne Rebels to join the staff of his former team, the NSW Waratahs. Grey spoke fondly of his time in Melbourne, especially the opportunities to learn his coaching craft from the likes of Rod Macqueen, John Muggleton and Damien Hill. He also spoke of the joys and challenges that the job had brought saying ‘to set up a new team in the best provincial Rugby Union competition in the world far outweighs the difficulties and stress of competing at this level.’
Michael Chieka described Grey’s appointment as a ‘perfect fit in what I’m looking for to progress the direction the coaching staff is taking’. After performing both defensive and attack coaching roles at the Rebels, Grey’s focus at the Tahs will be on the defensive side of the game.
Welsh rugby club torched
In disappointing news from the Northern Hemisphere, the historical Maesteg Rugby Club in Wales has burned to the ground in a fire that authorities are saying was deliberately lit. Not only was the recently refurbished clubhouse gutted, the damage is so extensive that the stand at the ground may also need to be pulled down.
The Maesteg Rugby Club was formed all the way back in 1877 and the team play in the Division One West competition operating as a feeder club for Ospreys. The destroyed building had only recently been refurbished and the loss of the building will be a blow to club finances as most revenue comes from bar operations. The club is now scrambling to organise training facilities and ensure that the team is ready for the kick-off of the new season which is just around the corner.