Friday’s Rugby News sees Super Rugby AU Week 3, Dan Carter’s return and un-return, Club Rugby kicks up a notch and SANZAAR Says Something Maybe
SUPER RUGBY AU WEEK THREE
This week sees the next two instalments of Super Rugby AU, and after last weeks dismal Friday night game which wasn’t helped by funereal commentary, hopefully some drier weather and the return of the attack minded Brumbies can set up some more appealing encounters.
First up on Friday (705PM EST Fox Sports and Kayo) sees the Reds hosting the team that used to be known as Queensland B, (until the point where they beat them regularly), the Force. Now I am sure I didn’t win too many friends by essentially saying the Force didn’t have a chance last week but in the end, the lack of a truly competitive game since 2017 showed in the second half. And that was essentially what I was getting at- chalk this season up to experience and build to next, whether that’s part of the wider Australian landscape or back in the Global Rapid Rugby cocoon. For the record, yet again, I think there is a place for them in the wider Oz system and I am glad they are back.
Anyway onto this weeks game, which Rugby Reg, with his usual classy and witty headline has previewed here. The Reds have made a few changes, losing lock Angus Blyth to injury which sees Angus Scott-Young come in. The other change sees Jock Campbell shift to fullback and Chris Feauai-Sautia come onto the wing. Bryce Hegarty gets moved to the bench. Added also to the bench this week are props Dane Zander and Jack Straker and lock Ryan Smith.
The Force keep their 23 mostly intact, bringing Ollie Atkins onto the bench for Johan Bardoul. I expect a similar game to last week for the Force, a strong start but perhaps dropping off in the second half, and the Reds to finish on top. The Reds intensity to the end was one of the few endearing qualities from last week and one they wouldn’t have shown a few years ago.
The other game sees the Brumbies come back from the bye to face a Waratah side (Saturday 715PM EST Fox Sports and Kayo) that knocked off the Force but will be facing a much tougher challenge knowing the Brums poleaxed them just before the halt to rugby.
The Brumbies make only the one change, with attacking weapon Tom Banks slotting back into fullback, displacing Mack Hansen who was excellent against the Rebels.
After a couple of bruising games the Waratahs have made a few changes to freshen up. Karmichael Hunt comes into the team after his excellent bench effort last week and will play 12, moving Joey Walton to 13, Alex Newsome to the wing and odd man out Mark Nawaqanitawase to the bench.
Upfront, Tom Robertson comes back from injury and starts and Tom Horton comes in at hooker for the excellent Robbie Abel, and Jack Dempsey starts in place of Will Harris at 8.
While I think the scoreline will be closer than the previous time they met, I don’t expect the Brumbies to be beaten. They have been the form Oz side all year and I don’t expect that to change on Saturday.
Tips: Reds by 14, Brumbies by 12.
CARTER TO FINALLY DEBUT- UNTIL..
After all the excitement of his signing, there had been no sighting of Dan Carter in Blues’ colours, and other than one run in club rugby it was beginning to look like he might not get a chance to wind back the clock at all.
All that changed on Thursday, with the legend named to come off the bench against the Hurricanes (Sat 505PM EST Fox Sports and Kayo)
Calf tightness in Thursday’s run ruled him out. Bugger. The match now becomes more about the return of Beauden Barrett to Wellington as we have reached the half way point of Super Rugby Aotearoa. I’m sure Dane Coles is lining up to give Barrett more lip at every opportunity as well. Team wise the Blues have made three changes, all due to injury with Emoni Narawa on the wing for Caleb Clarke while in the pack Kurt Eklund and Aaron Carroll replace James Parsons and Blake Gibson.
For the Canes. they will welcome back talismanic Coles and Jackson Garden-Bachop comes back at ten.
ESPN Rugby has the teams here
The other game sees the seemingly hapless Chiefs go up against the Highlanders. With teams not yet published at time of writing the game is perhaps a little bit of a mystery, but you can’t help but think the Chiefs are due for a win. They have come desperately close a couple of times, highlighted by the last clash against the Mountain Men where they thought they had won it with a late field goal, only to be denied in the dying seconds by return fire.
Regardless, this competition (and the quality of commentary) have been miles above Super Rugby AU so expect decent rugby regardless.
Tips: Caness by 3, Chiefs by 5.
CLUB RUGBY ROUND UP
With club footy kicking off in a few places and the Shute Shield (pinnacle of world rugby if you ask some Sydney folk) getting underway it was about time re-instituted the Friday look at the weekend ahead.
Over in WA, we are two rounds down with six of the 14 teams unbeaten. This early on it is possibly a bit early to gauge the frontrunners but we should see some patterns emerge in coming weeks. The last two Premiers, Cottesloe and Associates are in the top two so you imagine they will lead the charge again in 2020.
In SA, we are three rounds in and it looks like Brighton and Old Collegians are the two form teams early on.
Victoria in in limbo following the wider pandemic issues the state is facing, while the ACT was cleared on Thursday to resume after last weeks Victorian hiccup. They kick off this weekend with the game of the week looking to be Canberra Royals v Uni-North Owls.
Trial games in Brisbane will commence next weekend, with the competition itself resuming the first week of August.
Now onto Sydney, with a new look Shute Shield with the addition of Newcastle and the rebirth of Penrith. A new look commentary team will showcase games nationally on 7Two each week and this week it is the grand final rematch between Sydney Uni and Warringah. Other games include Southern Districts v Eastwood, West Harbour v Northern Suburbs, Manly v Western Sydney, Randwick v Newcastle, Gordon v Eastern Suburbs.
This is the time to (safely) get out and support your club. Go out, spend some time out and grab a game, see some new bucks and old stagers get around and support your club that has no doubt been doing it tough.
GAGR News Alumni and well to do man about town Nick Wasiliev has gone and snagged himself a regular club column over at rugby.com.au and you can see it here where he takes a look at the upcoming weekend games and gives some insight into how things are playing out.
What are you all waiting for!
SANZAAR SAYS SOME THINGS MIGHT HAPPEN AT SOME POINT
After being missing in action for a good part of the pandemic and the rather oddly insisting the wider Super Rugby competition was still a goer even when New Zealand and Australia had announced their own things, the boffins at SANZAAR have managed to make an announcement about the 2020 Rugby Championship that if you followed the headlines would have indicated good news.
This article on Rugby.com.au and since updated trumpeted a release from SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos that stated there was a firm plan to run the Rugby Chanmpionship in one central location and that it would be all exciting and wonderful.
The announced location was New Zealand, with just the one problem. There was no actual plan, no work had been done to secure entry to a country that is currently closed to all foreigners.
Marinos says, “Critical to this, however, is alignment with the New Zealand Government around its requirements for this to take place. SANZAAR is well advanced in option planning with New Zealand Rugby, which in turn, is now seeking New Zealand Government approval. It is hoped that details on the TRC will be announced in the near future.”
So in essence, no actual plan or announcement.
Given the quality of the communications coming from SANZAAR this year (who could forget their snarky response to the ref bias issue), one does have to wonder why they even bothered making this announcement when they did. It isn’t like there is large queue of available places to host the thing.
The big hurdle in this is likely to be the NZ Government- sure they love their rugby, but they also love their COVID free position and I’m guessing that a serious amount of arm twisting would need to happen before they would agree to it.