Friday’s Rugby News sees the Super squads for the weekend, the other big rugby matches, Hunt copping a fine and the Commonwealth Rugby squads announced.
There will be a slightly different format to Super Rugby this weekend, with only one match on Friday, and Australian festivities kicking off on Saturday night down in Canberra.
The Brumbies are currently the lowest ranked Aussie team, sitting on only one win for the season. They are up against a similarly placed Sharks outfit, who themselves only grabbed their first win of the year against the Sunwolves at home last weekend.
Dan McKellar has made six changes to the starting lineup, with Wharenui Hawera, Andrew Muirhead, Lausii Taliauli, Blake Enever, Tom Cusack and Folau Fainga’a all getting the nod to come into the squad.
“I’ve picked a team this week that is all about the team performance, and not so much on individual performance,” McKellar said.
“It’s what I think will allow us to take the opportunities that we’re creating.
“Are we in trouble?
“You don’t want to be 1 out of 3, but we’d much rather get a really good result in front of our fans and turn around our record at home, which has been around 50 per cent in recent years.”
Brumbies Squad: Andrew Muirhead, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, (c) Lausii Taliauli, Wharenui Hawera, Joe Powell, Isi Naisarani, Tom Cusack, Lachlan McCaffrey, Blake Enever, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio. Reserves: Connal McInerney, Nic Mayhew, Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, Richie Arnold, Lolo Fakaosilea, Matt Lucas, James Dargaville, Tom Banks
Personally, (no bias or anything) but I think the Brumbies will be motivated to get back to winning ways at home after losing to what looks like the two strongest teams in the Aussie conference, so I predicting a close win for the men from Canberra. Brums by 4.
We don’t actually have any squads from the other Aussie teams as of 11:45pm on Thursday night, as the other Aussie matches are a little later on this round. When the squads become available, I’ll upload them into the comments section.
The Reds will be taking on the Jagaures on Sunday morning AEDT, in what will be a mouthwatering match that should offer a great deal of scrum porn. If the Reds get up over the Jags scrum they’ll take this one, but the Jags might’ve turned a corner with their win over the Tahs.
The last match of the whole round will see the Waratahs hosting the Rebels in Sydney, with the Tahs looking to spring a much needed surprise win, while the visitors will be looking to make club history by clean sweeping the Aussie conference for the first time ever and opening a commanding lead at the top of the Aussie conference.
Rebels for me. With how clinical they’ve been, they only look like they’re getting better and better, and I think that will continue here.
For more information on the upcoming squads, head to Fox Sports here.
In other matches…
The Super W continues this weekend, with two intense matches set to kick off in Canberra and Sydney.
The Brumbies Women will join the fun when they host a hurting Queensland side on Saturday night in a curtain raiser to the Brumbies-Sharks match. Both sides will be looking to make a statement, with QLD seeking revenge for their loss last week while the Brums will be looking to signal their intentions for the season early.
The second match will be a curtain raiser in Sydney, when NSW Women come up against a dangerous looking Western Force outfit. NSW had to grind out a win last week, but they’ll be coming up against an outfit who absolutely slaughtered the Rebels. Special mention must go to Courtney Hodder, who ran in six tries. Fans should really get to this one, it’s gonna be an absolute cracker.
Now, onto Super Rugby.
Kicking off festivities this weekend will be the Bulls travelling to Waikato to play the Chiefs. This match will be one that the Chiefs should take home pretty comfortably, so I’m predicting they’ll win by ten or more.
The unquestionable match of the round will be up next, with the Highlanders hosting the Crusaders in the South Island grudge match. Both sides have been looking the goods at the moment, but the Saders did lose last week in a gritty encounter with the Hurricanes. But stuff it, I’m going with home ground advantage and saying the Highlanders will take it by a converted try.
Following the Brumbies-Sharks match, the Stormers will be hosting the Blues in Cape Town. The Stormers are more of a handful at home, but considering the Blues beat the Lions last week, I reckon they’ll do the job here too. Blues by 10.
And finally, in the last non-Aussie match of the round, the Lions will host the Sunwolves. Oh god. Lions by 40 or more.
Heading overseas, the last big matches are that of the final round of the Six Nations. Ireland have already clinched the trophy with an unassailable eight point lead over second placed team Wales. But there is still plenty to play for, with only three points difference separating second and fifth place.
Starting off in Rome, Italy will aim to salvage some pride when they host Scotland. The Azzuri have an okay Six Nations record against the Scots, having won seven matches and lost 11 since entering the comp. They have also been statistically more competitive this season. But they still have a long way to go start being competitive at this level.
I reckon the Scots will take this one pretty easily.
The second match is the one that everyone has been waiting for, with England hosting champions Ireland at Twickenham. Many have already begun to sense that #downfall2018 has begun, and a loss here would send many English fans into a panic.
If Ireland win it, they’ll pick up their first grand slam and Triple Crown since 2009. Personally, I’m backing the Irish to win by 4, they’re looking like the team to beat this year. I pity the team that has to go up against them in the June series (oh wait…)
Finally, Wales will look to finish as runners up when they host a resurgent French side in Cardiff. Les Bleus have really stepped up their game the last two weeks with back-to-back victories against Italy and England, and a win here to clinch the runners up position would be a solid way to finish off an encouraging season after many frustrating years for French rugby.
Wales will want to win this for exactly the same reasons, and I think home ground advantage will prove the difference here (especially considering France don’t travel very well). Wales by 10.
Hunt becomes the Hunted
Finally, we have some news about him.
Karmichael Hunt has been slapped with a penalty by Rugby Australia for bringing the game into disrepute, which he has to accept. If not, he must face a Code of Conduct hearing at the governing body.
Hunt was previously charged with cocaine possession back in 2015, and for that he was fined $30,000 and was stripped of his vice captaincy role.
But, regardless of what happens next, Hunt could still be playing rugby in Australia this year. That is, if the Reds want anything at all to do with him.
Considering his previous record and the ruthlessness by which Brad Thorn is managing the Reds, its unlikely that we would see him in a Reds jersey this year. According to The Australian, they’re pretty keen to get him off their books and into Europe or Japan.
It also adds to the fact that many fans and sponsors have reportedly complained to the Reds about Hunt’s behaviour, and have made it explicitly clear they don’t want him to wear a Reds jersey.
Add to that, current Reds fullback Aidan Toua has also been in bloody good form recently.
In short, Hunt is going to be in an uphill battle to retain his current role in Queensland.
All roads lead to the Gold Coast
The Womens and Mens Sevens teams for the Commonwealth Games were named at Rugby Australia HQ in Sydney yesterday, as both sides will look to improve on encouraging Sevens seasons by bringing home the gold in front of the home crowd.
The squad for both looks to be a solid blend of youth and experience, with the only big concern being that mens captain Lewis Holland will have four weeks to recover from a hamstring injury in time for the tournament.
“He is so instrumental for us as a group, not only his football, his football is fantastic, but just as a leader and as a person, he’s crucial for us,” coach Andy Friend said to the Daily Telegraph.
“So we are ‘fingers crossed’ he’s going to be right. If he’s not, then our other leaders are going to have to step up and will have to fill that void. But we are confident he’s going to be right.”
“I will be fine,” Holland said.
“We have four weeks until we play. It’s just about that recovery phase.
“I have been there and done it before. It’s not ideal but those are the things that bob up in sport.”
David Campese was on hand, and is confident that both teams can top off a solid year on the Sevens front with Commonwealth gold.
“I think it (home crowd factor) is a big advantage,” Campese said.
“The crowds are behind you and at the Sydney Sevens, both the mens and womens teams did a great job.
“When you have family and friends, there is something in you that just makes you play well. Playing here, at home, I hope it is going to help us.”
For the Womens side, they will be chasing history by aiming to win the first ever Womens Sevens Commonwealth Gold Medal, the same feat they achieved at the Olympics two years ago.
Sevens Mens squad: Lachlan Anderson*, Timothy Anstee*, Thomas Connor*, Lewis Holland (c)*, Boyd Killingworth*, Maurice Longbottom*, Thomas Lucas, Samuel Myers, Benjamin O’Donnell*, Jesse Parahi, John Porch*, James Stannard, Charlie Taylor*
Sevens Womens Squad: Charlotte Caslick*, Emilee Cherry*, Dominique Du Toit*, Georgina Friedrichs*, Ellia Green*, Demi Hayes*, Shannon Parry (c)*, Evania Pelite*, Alicia Quirk*, Cassandra Staples*, Emma Sykes*, Emma Tonegato*, Sharni Williams (c)*
*Commonwealth Games debut