Fridays Rugby News sees Latu revived, Kolesi in, the nationality of the next Wallaby coach, and Foley handling selection snub.
Tolu Latu Clears The Air
Tolu Latu tends to polarise peoples opinions. What not in doubt is his talent as a footballer. What put people off was the penalties and off-field partying that came with it. It all came to a head about four months ago when Latu was found drunk, groggy and unlicensed behind the wheel of his still-running car at a set of traffic lights on a busy Sydney road.
The moment news broke of the incident — two days later as Latu and the Waratahs hopped onto the team bus to play the Reds in Brisbane — it appeared the hooker had run his Rugby World Cup race.
His teammates and coaches — already dealing with the one of the biggest controversies in Australian sporting history in Israel Folau’s sacking — were livid, particularly as they were kept in the dark by Latu.
Already considered a ticking time bomb on the field, Latu’s troubling off-field incident looked like killing off not just his “dream” of playing at a World Cup but also his career in Australian rugby.
This cat had had his nine lives at the tender age of 26.
Latu was fined $1300 for the incident and lost his licence for a further three months after pleading guilty to drink driving and driving on a suspended licence.
His selection completed a remarkable return that not even Latu could foresee a few short months ago.
“To be honest, no I didn’t (think this moment would come),” Latu told foxsports.com.au.
“It’s been a disappointing year with the Waratahs.
“Not getting much game time because of on-field and off-field incidents that I regret, and definitely have learnt from.
“If you asked me earlier if I thought I was going to be here, no I definitely did not.
“It was always a dream and a goal of mine since I was a young kid.
“To get the opportunity to go there to a World Cup and achieve that and hopefully do great things at a World Cup is exciting.”
Latu said his family, particularly his mother, helped him come out of the darkest chapter in his life.
“My mum was definitely a big part of that and my cousins and my immediate family,” Latu said.
“My teammates at the Waratahs were reaching out to me and I had all sorts of help, and I’m thankful for that and grateful for their help and helping me through those dark times.
“I’m glad now that I’m on the other side.”
Siya Kolisi is In!
In bad news for everyone but South Africa, their captain Siya Kolisi has won his race to be fit after being named in their world cup squad.
Kolisi had been a doubt since injuring his knee in May, missing the Springboks’ triumphant Rugby Championship campaign. However, he returned to play 53 minutes in their last Test, a 24-18 win over Argentina in Pretoria on August 17.
The Boks are among a small handful of teams with a realistic chance of being crowned world champions on November 2 and Kolisi, their first ever black Test captain, is seen as an important figure on and off the pitch.
“I’m nervous, but also excited because I know who is in my corner,” Kolisi said as the squad was unveiled.
“I have guys with a lot of leadership skills. We have been working hard the last two years to make sure we gain some respect back, but our work is not done yet.”
South African squad for the Rugby World Cup:
Forwards (17): Schalk Brits, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi (capt), Kwagga Smith, Duane Vermeulen
Backs (14): Faf de Klerk, Herschel Jantjies, Cobus Reinach, Elton Jantjies, Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Frans Steyn, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Cheslin Kolbe, Warrick Gelant, Willie le Roux.
Local Coach For Wallabies Gig?
Here’s a tough one, do you want the next Wallaby coach to be an Aussie or not?
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle insists her organisation is committed to developing and promoting local coaches despite suggestions three of the nation’s plum posts could next year be occupied by New Zealanders.
Former All Blacks lock Brad Thorn will coach Queensland for a third straight Super Rugby campaign, media speculation suggests Kiwis Dave Rennie and Rob Penney are favoured to take over at Wallabies and Waratahs respectively.
Daryl Gibson, a former All Black, resigned after four years as the Waratahs coach to open up a vacancy while Wallabies incumbent Michael Cheika has already indicated he will leave if Australia don’t win the World Cup in Japan.
Castle said there wouldn’t be discussions concerning the Wallabies top job until after the World Cup final on November 2, but admitted more had to be done to foster Australian-born coaching talent.
“Rugby Australia has held it’s hand up and said it hasn’t done enough in the past to focus on developing young Australian coaches to make sure they can come through.
“That’s the work that we’re doing to make sure that we have identified that talent.
“We’re putting the support networks around them and next time those contracts roll through we’ll have Australian coaches in those roles.”
Foley Says Snubbing Has Been Difficult.
The man with the least deserved nickname in Australian Rugby, Bernard ‘Iceman’ Foley is finding it a little difficult being on the selection outer with the World Cup looming.
Foley finds himself behind Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua in the pecking order. A fact I find a little strange because I’d put him neck and neck with Lealiifano and well ahead of Toomua but what would I know.
“It has been tough but I’ve actually really enjoyed being a part of the squad,” Foley said. “It’s always difficult not playing but it allows you the luxury of seeing the game a little bit differently and working on my own game, my body and all components of my game.”
Foley has played more Tests (42) than any other Australian back since the last World Cup and sits second on the overall list of games played for the Wallabies behind captain Michael Hooper (44) in that period.
The Wallabies have won 38 per cent of games that Foley has played since the 2015 tournament.
Lealiifano’s excellent Super Rugby form was irresistible and while he hasn’t mounted a watertight case to wear the Australian No.10 jersey against Fiji on September 21, he is certainly favoured to do so.
There are similarities to four years ago when Foley and Quade Cooper were going head-to-head for the No.10 Wallabies jersey. Eventually Foley won out, leading Australia to that famous victory over Scotland and then to a World Cup final.
Three weeks out from the 2015 tournament few pundits could declare with certainty whether Foley or Cooper was going to get the nod as the side’s chief playmaker.
Cheika and selectors may factor in Foley’s performances at the last World Cup and if so, the 69-Test veteran is ready to go.