Friday’s rugby news has some discontent with the NRC, the Tahs talking down league rumours, the Brumbies making a backline change and the Highlanders boosted by the return of Ben Smith.
Force unhappy with NRC procedure
The Western Force are said to be dissatisfied with the requirements of the the new NRC. Under ARU rules, all players not selected for the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship campaign must play in the NRC, which kicks off next month. As each NRC team is only allowed 16 Super Rugby players, many contracted by the Force will have to make extended stints interstate, being unable to fit into the numbers of the Perth Spirit.
At the same time though, coach Michael Foley emphasised that the new competition will give the club a chance to grow, saying, “The NRC is a great opportunity for more local players to stake their claim for higher honours.”
Cheika shrugs off NRL rumours
NSW coach Michael Cheika is unconcerned with the suggestions that stars Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale are considering defecting to NRL clubs. Cheika said that talks to keep Beale at the Waratahs were “headed in the right direction” and emphasised that Folau was contracted until next year’s World Cup, playing down the recent picture of Folau and his agent Isaac Moses meeting with NRL head of football Todd Greenberg.
In positive news, the Waratahs’ run of form has been rewarded with the team confirming late yesterday that more than half of the 43,500 seats at Allianz Stadium had been sold just a day after tickets went on general sale, with a probable sell-out occurring as early as this weekend.
Brumbies opt for Coleman
Robbie Coleman has been picked ahead of Wallabies winger Joe Tomane for Saturday’s Super Rugby qualifying final against the Chiefs. Coleman will replace veteran winger Clyde Rathbone, who has tweaked his hamstring, remaining the only change to the starting Brumbies side which soundly defeated the Force 47-25 last week.
“Robbie’s had a good prep this year and has performed well for us on the wing and he deserves a spot there,” coach Stephen Larkham emphasised. Coleman, a former Sevens star, has scored seven tries to be the competition’s third-leading try scorer.
Ben Smith returns
The Highlanders will be boosted by the return of co-captain Ben Smith for their finals match against the Sharks in Durban. The All-Blacks fullback has recovered from an infection thought to be caused by a superficial graze on his leg following the Highlanders’ 44-16 loss to the Waratahs two weeks ago.
The Highlanders will need to step up their play after their scrum and lineout struggled in heavy losses to the Waratahs and Crusaders recently. “You have to be at your absolute best when you play against the best teams in this competition and I’m not sure we’ve done that in the past two weeks,” coach Jamie Joseph said.