Thursday’s rugby news has Folau cleared for the Wallabies midfield, Cheika warned for his ref dealings, a shifting Reds backline and an All Blacks legend retiring.
Folau could be pushed to centres
Wallaby coach Michael Cheika has asserted that he is very much open to picking Israel Folau in the centres for the World Cup. While Cheika emphasised that Tevita Kuridrani has excelled in the Test 13 jersey, he added, “Everyone’s seen at the Waratahs he’s spent much more time in the front line, getting more involved. You’d have to think there is a possibility he might do that [for the Wallabies].”
In terms of his selection process, the Wallabies head coach placed a premium on the ability of individual players to fulfill a set mission within the team setup, also saying that he does not concern himself with any statistical analysis of a player’s worth.
Cheika warned for approaching ref
Cheika has also been handed a formal warning by SANZAR for approaching a referee during the Waratahs win over the Blues. Cheika was found to have approached Jaco Peyper in front of the other match officials to seek clarification on a scrum interpretation during half-time
“There is no evidence that the referee was influenced by the exchange in his handling of the match, nor in the circumstances has there been a breach of the SANZAR Code of Conduct,” said a SANZAR spokesperson. While Cheika was on a suspended six-month ban for abusing a camerman last year, the ruling that the code was not breached ensured no further sanctions were imposed.
JOC out and Hunt starting
A calf injury to James O’Connor has forced a restructure of the Reds backline ahead of their two-match South Africa trip. Coach Richard Graham has pushed Nick Frisby into the starting flyhalf role, while O’Connor’s withdrawal also sees utility Lachie Turner moved to the wing, with Karmichael Hunt at fullback in his first starting spot since being busted for cocaine possession earlier this year.
“He hasn’t had a great deal (of match fitness) but I can tell he is really looking forward to getting into the game from the start,’’ Graham said of Hunt. One bright spot for the struggling Reds will be will be the inclusion for the first time this season of Wallaby lock Rob Simmons.
Legendary lock Brad Thorn has confirmed he will retire at the end of this English Premiership season. After switching to the 15-man code from being a successful Test and Origin player in the NRL, New Zealand-born Thorn then went on to earn 59 caps for the All Blacks, the last of which being the 2011 World Cup Final.
“My goal was to play top-level rugby at 40 and to play well, and I’ve done that,” Thorn said, more recently helping Leinster lift the 2012 Heineken Cup. With this, he became the first man to play in victorious World Cup, Super Rugby and European Cup teams.