Friday’s rugby news has moving tributes, a challenge from Cheika, and finally… it’s time for the All Blacks and Lions to rock and roll!
Starting off on a more sombre note this Friday, Warringah Rat Lachlan Ward was farewelled yesterday at a moving ceremony at Oxford Falls in Sydney. The moving ceremony also included a tribute haka performed by his Warringah’s Polynesian Players, “The Brotherhood,” of which Ward had become a recent member.
It was a ceremony of both sadness at the loss of a member of our community, but also joy at a celebration of the life of the 24 year old, who died after collapsing during a fifth-grade game against Gordon nearly two weeks ago.
An estimated 3,000 mourners turned out to attend the service, including Manly Sea Eagles players Frank Winterstein and Akuila Uate and ARU chairman Cameron Clyne.
Speaking to the Manly Daily, Lachlan’s older brother Sam spoke of how proud his brother made him.
“Lachie, I am so scared for life without you”, Sam said, as he was surrounded by his family.
“As Dad said to me, our life hasn’t turned upside down, it has just taken a new direction. I don’t know exactly how it is all going to work from now on but I’m sure you will help to guide me, one way or another.”
Of his time in the club, Sam said his proudest moment was watching Lachlan take the field for the first time ever earlier this season.
“I was the proudest big brother ever, having him around the club.”
The club will pay tribute to Ward when they take the field once again on Saturday for The Lachlan Ward Rats Greats Memorial Match at 11am, with the 1st grade match against Penrith commencing at 3pm.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has offered a challenge to the Wallabies squad, after making six changes for the upcoming test against Italy on the weekend. The challenge is this: own your spots!
You know, be consistently good. Not be consistently crap.
Four of his changes are in the forward pack, with Stephen Moore resuming the captaincy
(for god sake), and Scott Sio, Lopeti Timani and Rory Arnold all getting the call up over Scott Higginbotham, Sam Carter, Tom Robertson and Tatafu Polota-Nau. Despite having the All Blacks in the back of his mind, Cheik said that his primary focus is producing a good performance against an under strength Azzurri in Brisbane.
“There’s been some tight calls and I suppose that’s the signal that the team’s looking for players who want to make those spots their own,” he said to Wide World of Sports.
“There’s a bit of giving these guys a chance to compete against each other in the series.
“We need to see players performing consistently and when they perform well, consistently, then they’re automatic selections.”
It seems though that every squad selection is not without it’s questionable calls, and the big one is the elevation of Rob Horne over the likes of Tevita Kuridrani.
(You freaking kidding me! He’s done bloody jack all this whole bloody season!)
Well at least he got one thing right.
“Moore comes in, he stays captain. It doesn’t mean Hooper stops leading,” he said.
Wallaby Squad: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Rob Horne, Karmichael Hunt, Sefa Naivalu, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Lopeti Timani, Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan, Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Stephen Moore (capt), Scott Sio.
On a more positive note, last night Christian Lealiifano took to the field for the first time in ten months as the Brumbies smashed the Asia Pacific Dragons 61-19 in Singapore. After spending the last tenth months undergoing a harsh battle against leukaemia, Lealiifano came on the 50th minute and looked like he’d never left, knocking over five conversions in the Brumbies victory.
Scott Sio heaped praise on his teammate, saying to Wide World of Sports that he was an inspiration to the rest of his teammates.
“To see how calm and collected he is with the adversity he’s facing on a personal front, it really tells you to sit back and put everything in perspective and say, ‘it’s really not that tough if we’re willing to stick together and push through it’,” Sio said.
Argentine halfback Tomas Cubelli also made his return after a severe knee injury early this season, and, as always, looked slick as hell.
Yep, he’s back. Former Wallabies coach John Connolly has come out and said that Australian rugby is performing so badly because it hasn’t been able to adapt well to changes in the game
In a frank article on Fox Sports, Knuckles was quick to not criticise his incumbent counterpart Cheika, but instead pointed out that Australian rugby needs to focus on the core areas of the game and was also struggling to keep pace with the high-octane style evolved in New Zealand and England.
(you’re telling me!)
“Scrum, lineout, goalkicking, we have to have a good look at that,” said Connolly.
“I think the different defence patterns that we employ these days, you have to fix up.
“Our adaption to the modern game has not been good so that’s a problem for us.
“You’ve got to work from the bottom up and the top down, I think that’s an important point to make.
“I’m hoping a lot more will be done at schoolboy level.
“We need the best possible coaching. There has to be a national approach in some ways to appointing our state head and assistant coaches.”
Connolly also supports the notion that Australia should have a reduction to four teams, but instead believes the Brumbies should merge with the Rebels and play the majority of their games out of Melbourne
(good luck trying to argue that to all the folks in Canberra).
He said it would be a backward step to remove the Force and have all the Australian Super Rugby franchises located on the east coast.
“It would just be mind bogglingly bad,” Connolly explained.
“I think the four teams is a good idea.
“If we make a decision for 10 years time, for the development of rugby is four teams from our major centres.
“The Brumbies could still play some games in Canberra.”
It’s Time to Walk the Walk
Quite frankly, I’ve been sick and tired of chatting about this damn British & Irish Lions tour and the fact that they still haven’t played the All Blacks yet. Well guys, we’re finally here! Tomorrow, the first test will kick off at Eden Park, and it’s about bloody time!
Warren Gatland made only four changes to the starting team that beat the NZ Maori 32-10, with Owen Farrell coming into fly-half over Ireland’s Johnny Sexton. If there has been any doubt about the Lions being pushovers, their performances over the last few games have well and truly put that to bed.
“We have picked a side based on form with a lot of players putting their hands up, especially from the Crusaders and Maori All Blacks games, and it was a lively selection meeting,” Gatland said (rugby.com.au).
“The win against the Chiefs was also extremely important for the squad and some players played themselves into the side.
“To beat the All Blacks you have to be courageous and play some rugby– you have to score tries and I think we have picked a team capable of doing that.”
Meanwhile, Steve Hansen has bolstered the All Blacks with the inclusion of imposing captain Kieran Read in the squad (who returns after having a broken thumb), as well more technical firepower in Ryan Crotty.
“It’ll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing Test to prepare for and to be part of,” Hansen said.
“It’ll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test.”
“They’ve [Read and Crotty] both been on target to return for this game all the way through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the squad, they’re really excited at what’s ahead of us.
“This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions. But in the end the three selectors felt this was the best combination.”
With both the squads named, the time for chat is over. It’s time to play.
All Blacks squad: 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Sam Cane, 8. Kieran Read (C), 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. Sony Bill Williams, 13. Ryan Crotty, 14. Israel Dagg, 15. Ben Smith. Reserves: 16. Nathan Harris, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Charlie Faumuina, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Ardie Savea, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23. Anton Lienert-Brown.
British & Irish Lions squad*: 1. Mako Vunipola (ENG), 2. Jamie George (ENG), 3. Tadhg Furlong (IRE), 4. Alun Wyn Jones (WAL), 5. George Kruis (ENG), 6. Peter O’Mahony (IRE), 7. Sean O’Brien (IRE), 8. Taulupe Faletau (WAL), 9. Conor Murray (IRE), 10. Owen Farrell (ENG), 11. Elliot Daly (ENG), 12. Ben Teo (ENG), 13. Jonathan Davies (WAL), 14. Anthony Watson (ENG), 15. Liam Williams (WAL). Reserves: 16. Ken Owens (WAL), 17. Jack McGrath (IRE), 18. Kyle Sinckler (ENG), 19. Maro Itoje (ENG), 20. Sam Warburton (WAL), 21. Rhys Webb (WAL), 22. Johnny Sexton (IRE), 23. Leigh Halfpenny (WAL)
*and there is still not a single damn Scot.