Rugby

Friday’s Rugby News

Friday’s Rugby News

Friday’s Rugby News sees the Wallabies squad for South Africa, NRC Corner, a call for changes in tackle laws and a call for Pacific Island Inclusion.


Time to Shine

Taniela Tupou

Taniela Tupou

International rugby resumes this weekend with the final two weeks of the Rugby Championship, and strangely, the competition is still up in the air.

The wins to South Africa and Argentina a fortnight ago have thrown the ladder open somewhat, and with two weeks left, more upsets could be on the cards.

The good news for the Wallabies is that Michael Cheika has finally listened to the legions of screaming GAGR commentators on Twitter and handed Taniela Tupou his first test start this weekend against the Springboks. In addition, Pete Samu and Lukhan Tui will be out of the squad, making way for Michael Hooper and Rob Simmons.

“He can build the concentration from the very start and make sure he nails it all and obviously he’s got a lot of talent and only got six caps now,” Cheika said of Tupou.

“I thought it might be a good opportunity for him in what will be a pretty difficult atmosphere I imagine and (with) a good front row opposite for him to show what he’s got.

“I believe in him a lot as a player and I’m sure he’ll do a very good job.”

Wallabies Squad: Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau, Reece Hodge, Matt Toomua, Marika Koroibete, Kurtley Beale, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper (c), Ned Hanigan, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Taniela Tupou, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio. Reserves: Folau Faingaa, Sekope Kepu, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Rob Simmons, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Jack Maddocks.

Springboks Squad: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (c); Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse

After last match, I reckon (or at least hope) the lads have done some soul searching and will put in a better performance. But the Boks should be favourites here. I reckon the pain will continue this weekend. Boks by 4.

The other match sees the Pumas (who are currently enjoying their most successful season in Rugby Championship history), hosting the All Blacks in front of a sellout crowd in Buenos Aires. The All Blacks have made seven changes to the squad that lost in Wellington last round, with a notable inclusion being former Waratahs prop Angus Ta’avao. While the changes are notable, the All Blacks look to be viewing the Argentineans as more of threat as much as they have in the past, with Richie Mounga, Sonny Bill Williams and Luke Whitelock the most notable changes.

The Pumas look a different side at the moment, having knocked over the other two teams in the competition. The All Blacks are a cut above though, so I see this going to the away team (but by a much smaller margin than in Nelson). All Blacks by 10.

And finally, in some exciting news around our national teams and  Rugby Australia‘s bid to host the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, the governing body has brought on Rod McGeoch, the man who was instrumental behind the successful Sydney 2000 Olympics bid, to help spearhead our bids for both the Womens (and Mens) World Cups.

McGeoch was also behind the successful bids for the Athens Olympics in 2004 and the London Olympics in 2012.

“The sports themselves are really going to do the bid …. I am just there in the background to help, to hone the bid up, to emphasise what I think are the key messages. Because in events like this it is quite competitive,” McGeoch told rugby.com.au.

“The government is behind this initiative and asked me to do it, and this government is a proven performer. This state has the seal of approval, because of the Olympic Games and other international events.

“Somebody else might be saying it is not your turn yet or it should be in another part of the globe. My job is meet all those arguments.”

NRC Corner

QLD Country v Western Force

QLD Country v Western Force

NRC Corner kicks off on a blinder this week, and has big shoes to fill after last week served up one of the most entertaining rounds in the competition’s history (not to mention some decent crowds).

This weekend will see the last roll of the dice for two teams to get into the top four. The first of these is over in Fiji, when the Fijian Drua host the NSW Country Eagles in Nausori.

The Drua finally broke their away losing streak last week with a come-from-behind win against the Sydney Rays, their third win of the campaign. With only two regular rounds after this match, a win here would effectively guarantee them a place in the semi-finals.

By comparison, it’s now or never for the boys from the bush. In what has been a shocking year for the NSW teams, NSW Country Eagles have looked the better of the two sides, and last weekend came close to knocking off a heavyweight team in the Canberra Vikings. The squad looks to have gelled decently considering their disrupted buildup, but to win in Fiji is a tough ask. Lose here though, and any chance of making the semi-finals is effectively over.

The Eagles should put up a bit of fight, but the Drua are just too good at home at the moment. Drua by 14 or more.

It’ll also be the last roll of the dice for the Melbourne Rising, who have arrived in the nation’s capital this week to take on the Vikings. The men from Canberra are currently enjoying a solid position in the top three, but last week were nearly undone by the Eagles in Armidale. They were lucky to grab the win, and a win here at home would all but guarantee a semi-final position.

By comparison though, the Rising lost a match they were favourites to win, going down to Brisbane City in Adelaide. With only one win to their name, they need to leave Canberra with four points, otherwise their chances of Toast Rack glory are as good as finished.

The Rising will be determined to make amends, but with their tough schedule clearly starting to affect the team I think the Vikings will pull away in the last twenty and win by 10.

Sunday will see the biggest rivalry in the NRC return, with Brisbane City and Queensland Country playing for the Andy Purcell Cup in Brisbane. City have looked the most dangerous of all the outlying teams, currently only four points behind the Western Force in the competition. However, inconsistency has been their season in a nutshell, and they’ll be coming up against one of the most consistent sides in the competition.

QLD Country went down in a surprise loss to the Force last weekend at Bond University, a result that saw them lose their top spot on the ladder. With a win here guaranteeing a semi-final playoff, they’ll want to start on the right foot on ensure they have a good run home in the last two rounds. Add to that, they love showing the City boys who is boss.

Queensland Rugby fans should honestly get along to Wests on the weekend, cause this match is going to be a beauty (and probably the match of the round). I think Country will take it, but only by 5.

And lastly, the Western Force will be back in front of the hill in Perth when they host the Sydney Rays in the second challenge match for the Horan-Little Shield this year. It’s been a surprisingly quiet year for the Shield, with the men from the West keeping a firm grasp on it. It is hard to stop the Force in front of a packed crowd in Perth. A win here, and they’ll effectively be safe for the semi-finals.

For the Rays, this season is now all about pride. However, they did come close to knocking over the Drua at home last week, so they do have it in them to take down this Force side. It would be a much-needed boost for NSW NRC fans if they were to pull it off. Maybe playing for pride will galvanise the squad?

I don’t see it happening though. I think the Force will take this by 12 or more.

Check out the squads here, and remember, if the international rugby makes you grumpy this weekend, watch some NRC, make a fruit smoothie and put some spinach in that bad boy. Enjoy your footy this weekend.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Eto Nabuli receives a yellow card for a high tackle on Peter Grant

Eto Nabuli receives a yellow card for a high tackle on Peter Grant

World Rugby are thinking of enacting substantial changes to laws around tackling, in an attempt to reduce the risk of concussion.

According to the lads at Fox Sports,  the tackler is 2.6 times more likely to receive a concussion than the ball carrier, and a head injury is 4.3 times higher for a tackler, even when it’s a legal tackle.

World Rugby, who have been meeting in Sydney over the last week, has put an idea forward of changing the laws around tackles relating to the tackler that puts the onus on the tackler’s technique and phase out upright tackles as their solution.

It is, that if the tackler makes an incorrect tackle and gets concussed, they can also cop a blow of being suspended because they’ll be deemed to be at fault.

World Rugby’s chief medical officer Martin Raftery told reporters yesterday that it was an important solution to reduce concussion and improve the method of tackling players use.

“What we’re trying to do through a number of processes is to bring the tackle height down to protect more the tackler rather than the ball carrier,” he said to Fox Sports.

“Yes, we’ve got to protect the ball carrier as well but the focus is on the tackler.

“There’s three phases and one phase is increasing the sanctions.

“By increasing the sanctions for illegal tackles, we’re more likely to protect the ball carrier but we’re hoping by increasing the sanctions, it draws attention to that issue and therefore the coaches start to improve the technique which then brings about lowering the tackle height.

“Second intervention is the high tackle warning system.

“That’s about penalising a tackler for being upright in a tackle who has then clear and obvious contact with the ball carrier.

“And it doesn’t matter whether the ball carrier is injured or the tackler is injured.

“If they’re upright and there’s clear and obvious head contact, he’ll receive an extra penalty, which is an off field penalty.”

But before you throw your beer, soda water, smoothie or whatever up in the air and say, what the heck is going on here, these changes won’t even be trialled until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, as no rule changes can be made less than a year out from a World Cup.

Regardless, this is an interesting one. It leaves me with plenty of questions. How the hell do you police it? What if there are other factors in the tackle that influence the tackler getting concussed? So many questions, not enough answers.

What are our thoughts on this GAGRs? If it helps, Chibba Hanson’s got a pretty good analysis on it.

Let Them In!

Fijian fans happy with the result.

Fijian fans happy with the Drua’s result in Sydney last week

Fiji Coach John McKee is on a rampage, and is determined to lobby SANZAAR into including Pacific Island Nations in an expanded Rugby Championship. 

Debate around a Pacific Island Super Rugby team has been a hot topic for many years now, but McKee believes that many of these nations could not only benefit from having a regular schedule against their larger Southern Hemisphere opponents, but they could also be competitive against them.

“It would be great for rugby in this region for a Pacific team to be in either Super Rugby or the Rugby Championship — or both,” McKee said to Fox Sports. 

“I think there will be change around the competitions in the next cycle and there will likely be more of a push for the Rugby Championship to perhaps expand.

“I’m not in any of those talks, but I’d love to see it happen.

“For a country like Fiji it would really be a massive, massive boost to our game and help us improve our international competitiveness.”

Fiji would be the most notable inclusion, being an incredibly proud rugby nation. While they currently sit in tenth in the World Rankings, they’ve always been a competitive outfit, and are the current Mens Sevens Olympic Champions.

And to say the game is an obsession there is an understatement: when their team won, the Fiji Mint made a $7 note commemorating the win.

McKee also believes that the injection of a Pacific team would do much for both the RC and Super Rugby, both of which have been struggling in terms of game quality and attendance in 2018. Add to that, it would also stop the Polynesian player drain to Europe.

“Even if it was based out of Fiji you’d see a number of Samoan and Tongan players playing in that team as well,” McKee said.

“Just because Super Rugby really fits in with the international calendar.

“We’d have more of our top players playing closer to home or at home in Super Rugby rather than playing in Europe which has its challenges.

“I honestly believe it would be a great boost for the competition.

“The competition needs something different.

“It needs something to really re-energise the fans and having a Pacific brand of rugby in Super Rugby could do that.”

In other Super Rugby news, the Queensland Reds have signed the attack coach who won the team their 2011 title, Jim McKay. 

McKay has been coaching professionally for over twenty-four years, and will be at the Reds from next month on a two year contract, taking him through to the end of 2020.

McKay helped out Tonga in the last World Cup, and until this announcement, had been plying his trade in Japan.

“I am extremely passionate about Queensland and the Reds,” McKay said in an official statement, published by the Courier Mail.

“I’ve got to know Brad (Thorn) over the past year and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Rugby
@Nick_Wasiliev

Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician, second rower. Still trying to make sense of the 21st century. Dropped a debut novel last year...

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