Friday’s Rugby News sees the teams for the weekend, club/NRC corner, the teams for the AON Uni Sevens and the QRU unveiling a new competition.
Also, apologies for there being no pods this week. On the GAGR front, two of us are overseas at the moment and we were unable to lock in a time to chat with Ben Darwin. We will have one next week for you though.
Back up for the Boks
After what was a really fun weekend of NRC action and the Shute Shield grand final, we are now thrust back into the roller coaster that is test match footy, with the resumption of the Rugby Championship this weekend.
Michael Cheika has decided to do something different (*shock horror*) with a couple of surprise selections peppering the Wallabies squad that will be coming up against an equally desperate Springboks outfit.
Izzy Folau is back in the starting lineup as fullback, but Bernard Foley has been moved to the bench, with Kurtley Beale starting at flyhalf and Matt Toomua pairing with him at inside centre. For context, this is the first time Foley has been on the bench since 2014, with every other test since then seeing him start on the run on-side. It’s also Beale’s first crack at flyhalf since 2014.
The move hasn’t shaken Foley, with reports surfacing that he is in line to sign a new contract with Rugby Australia next week.
“I suppose I just wanted to shake it up a little bit,” Cheika said to rugby.com.au.
“I think we’ve had some good things that have happened in the games, I know that hasn’t been brought out but there’s been some good things and I think that Toomua’s return, he’s shown a lot of good things as well around the place and he’s brought some of that on-field as well.
“I just thought I’d try a different combination and give them an opportunity together.”
There is no denying the shitstorm that will envelop Cheika though if he loses this test. Since the two Bledisloe thumpings, there’s been no denying the pressure on him to keep his job has been significantly ramped up (even though there really isn’t anyone who can replace him). A loss would not only make the calls for his head even louder, but it would also drop the Wallabies to seventh in the World Rankings, which would be their lowest ranking ever.
Wallabies Squad: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Matt Toomua, Marika Koroibete, Kurtley Beale, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper (c), Lukhan Tui, Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio. Reserves: Folau Faingaa, Tom Robertson, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Ned Hanigan, Joe Powell, Bernard Foley, Jack Maddocks
Springboks Squad: Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (c), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff. Reserves: Malcolm Marx, Tendai Mtawarira, Wilco Louw, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Embrose Papier, Handré Pollard, Cheslin Kolbe
While it would be easy to hound the team again, if there is any time the team needs to step up for their coach, it’s now. This is a back-against-the wall-type scenario. And I’m going with my heart and saying the Wallabies will win by 5. Go lads.
What are your predictions GAGRs and GAGRettes?
Meanwhile, across the ditch in New Zealand, the All Blacks will take on the Pumas down in the beautiful city of Nelson on the South Island. The All Blacks have made nine changes to their squad, with the biggest one being the inclusion of Richie Mo’unga to start at flyhalf.
As mentioned in yesterday’s news, Steven Hansen emphasised that the selections were not a reflection of the way the team see the Pumas.
“This is not a reflection on Argentina but rather a desire by us to grow the experience and depth of our squad,” Hansen said to Fox Sports.
“We also know that if we don’t use the whole squad across a long season, we’ll run out of steam later in the year.
“The high expectation we place on ourselves remains the same, regardless of who we’ve selected. The All Blacks jersey demands this.
“We’re very aware of the Argentinian challenge. We know they’re hungry for test success against the All Blacks and, after their recent win over South Africa, they’ll be coming here confident.”
The Pumas have looked a vastly more dangerous side under Mario Ledesma, and it’s easy to forget that earlier this year, when the Jaguares toured NZ during Super Rugby they won every single game. That being said, they lost to the Hurricanes and Crusaders at home, so go figure.
Only a fool would not tip the All Blacks to win in New Zealand, though I reckon the Pumas will offer up a bigger challenge than many expect. All Blacks by 14.
And, if all else fails and this weekend makes you depressed, look to your right for some rugby that will definitely cheer you up…
It’s another edition of what’s going on at the more local level, and we’ll start with the obvious one.
The Intrust Super Shute Shield came to an end in spectacular fashion last week as 15,500 fans watched Sydney University outplay Warringah to win 45-12. Despite the return of Super Rugby players for the Students, what undid the Rats more in the end was the small mistakes they made. That, and that their scrum got absolutely monstered.
But regardless, it was great to see that much support yet again, and it served as a great send-off to what has been an interesting season, with the highs of more exposure and success contrasting with the lows of Penrith being removed. Before you know it though, it’ll be back around again.
Many would be thinking the Shute Shield Grand Final is the final club match of the year, but in fact, we have one last grand final for this year’s club corner: the South Australian Coopers Premier Grade Grand Final.
Last weekend saw the preliminary final, with Burnside knocking over Old Collegians 41-35 to book their place in the grand final against Brighton this weekend.
Brighton pulled off an outstanding win during the semi-finals when they defeated Burnside at home, booking themselves a home grand final. Burnside will see this weekend as the chance to get some much needed revenge, and with the quality of rugby on display from those two teams this season, fans in Adelaide should get along for what will be a fantastic match on Saturday afternoon.
Grand Final Fixture:
Brighton v Burnside
With that final club match set to play out, rugby fans outside of Brisbane will have to settle in and watch round two of the National Rugby Championship. This weekend we are back to four fixtures, with the Sydney Rays and the NSW Country Eagles making their return to the fold.
Last weekend saw three fantastic games and the largest opening round crowds in the competition’s history (with 5,000 turning up in Fiji, and 4,500 in Brisbane).
This weekend however, there is a high chance those crowd number records could be broken.
The first match will see the Fijian Drua look to get their first ever win against Brisbane City when they host the two-time champions in Lautoka. While Brisbane City do have a lot of talent in their squad, they were exposed by an unbelievably clinical Force outfit last weekend, and I think it’ll be the same story this weekend. Drua by 14.
The second match on Saturday sees us head to Concord Oval in Sydney, with the Sydney Rays coming up against the Brumbies-heavy Canberra Vikings outfit. There’s no telling what’s going to happen with this match, as the Vikings, even with their Wallabies in their squad last week, couldn’t get the job done against the men from country Queensland. The Rays do have plenty of talent, and could spring a surprise in their first match.
However, I think the Vikings will overcome this Rays side, simply due to the fact that they’ve had an extra week together to gel. Add to that, after last weekend, they’ll be determined for a win. Vikings by 7.
Next up will be, in my opinion, the match of the round, and one that will hopefully see a bumper crowd. The Western Force (as the Perth Spirit) were able to pull big numbers last year at UWA Sports Park. This weekend, they’ve promised a whole array of family entertainment on the surrounding fields in the lead up to the main game against NSW Country, which will also be the first challenge for the Horan-Little Shield this year.
If there is anywhere that will be a tough place to win, it’s here. Country have a lot of firepower, especially up front. However, I don’t see them beating this Force side that have played so many games together, in front of a packed, blue hill. Force by 15 or more.
Finally, we head to Townsville for what looks to be a promising clash between current champions QLD Country and the Melbourne Rising. The Rising were simply outplayed by the Drua last week. But their squad has a lot of individual talent, and they should be a lot better together as a unit this week after their first hit out.
It’s a shame they’re coming up against the current champions, who looked fantastic in Canberra last week. With their first home match in front of a usually vocal crowd up north, I expect Country will want to turn up for this. QLD Country by 14.
Get along to enjoy your club rugby and NRC action this weekend, and as always, stay classy.
(BREAKING NEWS: Speaking of NRC news, just before I published this it was reported on rugby.com.au that the Melbourne Rebels are launching a major push to sign Quade Cooper for next year. It is reported that Queensland are in talks are open to find any way to clear the $650,000 they still are contracted to provide Cooper from their books. Dave Wessels is apparently behind the push to bring Cooper south, and Will Genia has been talking up the chance of the deal actually happening. Stay tuned).
Attention, Canberra rugby fans!
You think there’s no footy on this weekend in the nation’s capital? You’re wrong!
Round Two of the AON Uni Sevens kicks this weekend down at the University of Canberra, and all eyes will be on University of Queensland, as they look to go back-to-back after their first round win down in Hobart.
However, a lot of the newer teams showed they’ve got plenty of chops, including Sydney University (who finished in 4th).
“Even from Aussie youth (Sevens), it’s a major step up, coming and versing all the big girls and the girls on the World Series circuit from a lot of different countries,” said Uni’s teen star Jakiya Whitfeld to rugby.com.au after Hobart.
“I think you’ve just got to give it your all, don’t be scared because, otherwise they’ll see that.
“Just take that step up and give it to them.”
“I think we came in here not really knowing what was going to happen.
“I think we really gave it to some of the teams and definitely showed girls what Sydney Uni is made of.
“I think we just work from here and get better and go back hard, train and hopefully get that medal next time.”
University of Queensland will still be deserving favourites, however Hobart did show that they could be beaten, with the Macquarie University Team (the Rays), beating them on the first day.
With the likes of Aussie Womens Sevens players Samantha Treherne coming in for Griffith and Emily Chancellor for Mac Uni, the quality of rugby on display will certainly be good.
University of Queensland
University of Sydney
University of Canberra
University of New England
University of Tasmania
University of Adelaide
University of Melbourne
Speaking of Sevens…
The QRU announced plans to rapidly expand their sevens program, unveiling a new competition featuring that will feature each of the nine Queensland Premier Rugby clubs.
The new competition, titled the Queensland Premier Rugby Sevens will kick off this month. The format will be much the same at the current AON Uni Sevens tournament, with four rounds taking place at four locations between September and November.
Round One will coincide with University of Queensland‘s AON Uni Sevens leg on September 22. The three remaining tournaments will be held at Brothers on October 6, Wests on November 3 and Easts on November 17.
“The growing popularity of Sevens has all the Premier Rugby clubs engaged and interested in the game, so it made sense for us to have our own competition,” Sunnybank GM Gaven Head said at the launch.
“Previously clubs have played in other competitions elsewhere, which can be expensive, and given the quality of our 15s competition, it seems fitting for us to come together and have a Premier Rugby Sevens competition.
“Queensland Premier Rugby as a competition and brand is well regarded and all nine clubs are on board.
“The competition secures the Sevens pathway in Queensland. Players join Premier Rugby clubs to chase their aspirations in the 15s format, and now they can do the same in Sevens.”
There is no denying, that with the benefits the Uni Sevens has had on the Aussie Womens Sevens team, that having this competition will be hugely important for the mens side.
On top of the nine Hospital Challenge Cup sides fielding an outfit, there will also be three invitational teams. Reportedly, the Australian Defence Force, Northern Territory, and a Barbarians side from Sydney will make up the numbers.
The matches will see the pool games played during the day, before the finals kick-off in the evening.
“The unique format will be special, one day and on one field,” Head said.
“We will have night session and people can enjoy it live or watch online. All the teams will still be playing in the night session whether they’re at the top of the ladder or at the bottom.”
“We’ve had an established pathway for Women’s Sevens in Queensland,” said QRU Sevens High Performance Manager Lachlan Parkinson.
“With the help of the QAS, for a number of years and have had players such as Demi Hayes and Emma Sykes go on and star on the World Series and at the Commonwealth Games. We hope we can create the same clear pathway for the Men.”
And, of course, you will be able to stream the games live on redsrugby.com and rugby.com.au.