Friday’s Rugby News sees Super Rugby Round Six, Super W Week Four, Six Nations Back Again and The Men’s Sevens Tour Stops in Canada eh
SUPER RUGBY WEEK SIX
Super Rugby is back with a rare Friday triple header to kick things off. After last week’s promising results (Queensland excepted), the Australian sides will be looking to maintain some of the momentum, with at least two of the Friday games looking winnable for the Aussies.
First up is the Brumbies fresh off their bye, and facing the semi-homeless Sunwolves in the much more travel friendly (for the Brums) location of Woolongong. (Friday 1445 AEDT). Fresh off a bye and their somewhat surprising win away to the Chiefs, the Brums will likely make light work of the Sunwovles. Steve Lenthall previews the game here.
With only a dozen games left in their existence and no home games in the forseeable future you could almost expect the white flag to go up from the Sunwolves, but co-captain Jake Schatz told Sam Bruce of ESPN he wasn’t making excuses, saying, “We were always going to be doing lots of travel, so it was more behind the scenes, they were working a lot harder than us [logistically].” In a thoughtful piece, Schatz discusses a number of issues such as the travel, the decision to join a team with a limited life and the support of the Japanese rugby public.
Over in Christchurch, a reshuffled Reds team face the Crusaders (Friday 1605 AEST) with all the odds against them. Missing James O’Connor through injury and resting Tate McDermott and Izack Rodda certainly hasn’t filled Rugby Reg with much hope as he previews the game here. I think Reg might be actually a little too optimistic, despite tipping the Reds to lose by 24. If the Crusaders get on top early, it could get ugly.
Back to Woolongong, and the Waratahs take on the Chiefs (Friday 1815 AEST), and the Waratahs will be hoping to make it two on the bounce after a positive if not complete performance against the Lions last week. They will be up against it with injuries forcing out captain Rob Simmons, along with Tom Robertson, Jake Gordon and Mark Nawaqanitawase. The breakdown will be key here with Sam Cane battling Michael Hooper around the ground. Kurtley Beale takes up the leadership gong with Simmons out.
Down in Melbourne the Rebels have named an unchanged 23 for the first time in five years as they seek to double up on their shock win last week in NZ against the Highlanders. They will play a Lions side who were beaten by the Waratahs last week but looked dangerous at certain points. The confidence will do the Rebels the world of good and with a half decent crowd, should win.
Other games see the Hurricanes play the Blues, with the Blues firing after winning 2 from 2 in South Africa. The Sharks get home to play the Jaguares and the winless Bulls take on the Highlanders.
Tips: Sunwolves v Brumbies: Brums by 38, Crusaders v Reds: Saders by 29, Waratahs v Chiefs by 6, Hurricanes v Blues: Canes by 4, Rebels v Lions: Rebels by 8, Sharks v Jaguares: Sharks by 11, Bulls v Highlanders: Landers by 7
Team lists for the weekend courtesy of ESPN here
SUPER W WEEK FOUR
The biggest game of the season is on us, with the finalists the last two seasons going at it again in what will more than likely decide who goes through to the Final and hosts it. Coming off an astonishing 104-3 win over the Rebels, Queensland will be looking to take their first win over NSW and put themselves in the box seat.
In what will likely be the best game of rugby played on Australian shores this weekend, the two teams will match up on Saturday afternoon (3pm AEST) at Ballymore, and the Reds are looking forward to the home field advantage this time around. Vice Captain Kiri Lingman told Emma Greenwood from Rugby.com.au, “We’ve spent a lot of time playing them in NSW, so it’ll be good to see how we go with our families here and our home ground at Ballymore, it’s our favourite place to play.”
Despite the massive win last week, coach Moana Virtue has made five changes to the starting 15, including the return of Lingman to lock from injury. Lavinia Gould moves to 7 from the centres to allow the debut of UQ player Haj Moseby. In the halves, Ayane Hirata gets the start over Cobie-Jane Morgan, who drops to the bench. Bree-Anna Cheatham and Sarah Riordan come onto the bench, with Riordan returning after missing all of 2019 through injury.
NSW have also been busy making a few changes to the starting pack, with Wallaroo Emily Chancellor coming into the backrow along with prop Oneata Schwalger and lock Noella Green.
In all seriousness, watch it if you can. Streaming on Rugby.com.ay at 3pm AEST.
The other match this week sees Rugby WA hosting the Melbourne Rebels. Both sides have been on the wrong end of cricket scores from the Reds the last two weeks so will be looking to make amends. Melbourne especially will be hurting after last week where Queensland simply ran rings around them. It was somewhat disappointing for a side that had been the real improvers to go backwards like that and hopefully this should be a good contest.
SIX NATIONS BACK
Despite the Covid-19 outbreak in Northern Italy, the heartland of the sport in that country, it looks like all games in the Six Nations will go ahead, with the exception of Ireland v Italy. After the last round of games France have established themselves as the front runners, with England and Ireland close behind.
This week should see that pack stay close to each other, the French travelling to Scotland and England meeting Wales at Twickenham. Once the Irish play Italy you imagine they will pick up that win to keep them close. The game in England looks to be the best of the two, with the usual rivalries playing their part. Wales haven’t quite hit their straps under new coach Wayne Pivac while England have played well without excelling after their first up loss to France.
The Welsh aren’t going to go down without a fight though, with back-rower Ross Moriarty telling the BBC, “Getting stuck into people physically is my bread and butter so I’ll definitely be trying to do that from the start. We know if you don’t match England physically you’ve got no chance, especially in their backyard.”
With Wales having not beaten England at Twickenham in the Six Nations since 2012, there will be a lot to prove for the Welsh and for the English, their realistic chances of Six Nations success ride on this game.
Up in Scotland, the French team will be looking to get one win away from the title and the Grand Slam as they take on a Scottish team who it must be said have been a bit unlucky to only win against Italy.
Next weeks games also look to be in some jeopardy, with the BBC suggesting the English game in Italy, currently slated to be played behind closed doors will be postponed. This potentially means that depending on the French results, the title may not be decided for months.
Tips: England v Wales (Sun 0245 AEDT)- England by 9, Scotland v France (Mon 0100 AEDT) – France by 6
WORLD SEVENS SERIES MEN IN CANADA
The Mens Sevens Series moves north after last weeks round in Los Angeles, with the Aussie Men looking to better what was a promising fourth place finish. It was looking pretty good for them until the semi finals when they ran into the Fijians, and then just missed out on the bronze against the Kiwis.
Relative consistency is the key this week with only one change to the 13 man sqaud, with Tim Anstee making a return after nearly 12 months out replacing Angus Bell. Consistency is also the key to the pool stages, with the Aussies facing the three same opponents as last week in Scotland, Samoa and the United States.
Coach Tim Walsh is keen to build on last weeks effort, which is something the Aussie men haven’t really been able to do over the last few years. Too often they have done very well in the pool only to fall over on the second morning. With the Olympics (theoretically) only a few months away this is something Walsh is keen to address, telling Beth Newman from Rugby.com.au, “Much like last weekend we’re looking to go out and make a statement, especially as we draw closer to the Olympics its important to continue to build on strong performances so we can hit the ground running in Tokyo.”
In terms of overall standings, New Zealand and South Africa lead the way by virtue of their consistency, with a gap to a chasing bunch including Fiji, France, England and Australia.
Australia plays it’s pool games on Sunday at (AEDT) 0422 Scotland , 0734 Samoa , and 1046 USA.
Games will be broadcast on FoxSports, and Kayo