Hello humans & welcome to a packed G&GR Friday’s Rugby News!
Let’s start with Destiny Fulfilled and the return of the contest for the William Webb Ellis cup to our shores. Preview The Ponies & Crusaders in ‘There can be only one’. Look at Round #13 of SRP. Be King for a Day and play Wallaby selector and round it all out with Friday’s Goss with Hoss, currently subject of a Four Corners investigation.
You bloody beauty!
It’s official ladies and gents, Bring Back Bill #2 has been confirmed. The announcement was made late Thursday evening (AEST) after a vote by World Rugby Council in Dublin, cementing Australia as the first country to host the showpiece men’s rugby event for a third time in 2027 (following the inaugural event in 1987 and in 2003), while also welcoming the women’s tournament for the first time in 2029.
It’s no coincidence World Rugby made the decision Thursday Night NSW time to coincide with G&GR Friday’s News, and what news it is. Well may we all have anticipated, hoped, prayed, wished and dreamt for it, well, today it has come to be.
I was lucky enough to attend several games when we last hosted the RWC in 2003 from the opening ceremony and match against the FISMs, to that semi against the ABs with the famous Sterling Mortlock intercept & George Gregan ‘4 more years boys, 4 more years’ quote. Only to have my heart torn asunder by Sir Bloody Jonny Mongrel Wilkinson’s right foot. I must admit, though, I sat with my then 12 yo son (bought my tickets off ebay from a Pom) in a sea of white jerseys and better nature, friendlier, more sociable fans I am yet to find anywhere.
This is the beginning of an opportunity for our game that could be truly code-changing and legacy building. Under the stewardship of The Hammer and the experts he has built around him let’s hope that mistakes of the past, as told by Wayne ‘Yoda’ Smith in the SMH, are confined to history and that 2027 & 2029 will stand as beacons for years to come for rugby in Oz.
Now RA has a story to tell with contract negotiation, player retention, marketing, private equity, sponsorship, succession plans et al. The initial hard work’s been done & won. Now it’s time for calm heads and well thought out current & future plans to be established.
I am sure there was ‘wheelin & dealin’ a plenty to get to this result. But, like a visit to my local butcher to buy snags, I don’t care or want to know how they made ’em, I just want to eat ’em and ‘no’ Yowie, that’s not a euphemism (not to be confused with a ‘Ewe-for-prison’ which I believe is a NZ Department of Corrections conjugal visit program).
To RA and all involved in the planning, the bid, the politics, the presentation, from this fan and I am sure tens of thousands more, thank you and well done…………so far.
Now make it count.
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!
Brumbies v Crusaders
Friday 13 May 7:45 pm AEST at GIO Stadium, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
This match is so HUGE it deserves its own article.
Following on from the stellar RWC news we have potentially the biggest Trans Tasman match of the last five years to keep up the positive vibe around Oz Rugger and kick off round #13 of Super Rugby Pacific
Australia’s best side v the best of Middle Earth in a ding-dong battle with the result likely to reverberate around more than the SRP Ladder, especially ‘if’ The Ponies get up.
I read a comment on G&GR about the ‘controlled violence’ of the Brumbies forwards and I thought that beautifully captured the essence of the Ponies, but not entirely all of it.
This year what has stood out is the week in-week out consistency of the ‘next gen’ of Ponies. No longer is consistency the domain of just grizzled old veterans like Jimmy Slips, 7As, The Lip, Samu, etcetera, it’s now a mainstay of Valetini, Brown, Lolesio, Ikitau, Simone & co and it’s that improvement for mine that marks a more complete Ponies side than recent years.
So to this match. I don’t reckon you can underestimate the loss of Sideshow Bob Valetini to the Ponies cause. For mine he is the out & out forward of the entire competition. His charges with ball in hand are fearsome, his ‘hits’ in defence thundering, his work rate, running lines and general play, for mine, make him the premier forward so far this SRP season and the Wallabies are all the better for it.
Likewise young Noah Lolesio has played an understated and controlling hand at #10 this season showing a rugby maturity and class beyond his years. He’s vastly improved his general kicking and plays both a quality distribution game or a growing running game. No, he’s not near Princess Mo’unga from the Saders (but who is), but he’s certainly advanced his game and all Oz rugby fans benefit from it.
Now the Crusaders, where do you start? All Black-laden, the world’s best #10, vastly experienced players from the South Island rugby powerhouse, who incidentally are also the most consistent and proven rugby side on the planet over many years. Extremely well coached and with threats across the paddock.
One intriguing selection though does stand out: Leicester Faninga’anuku selected on the pine for the Crusaders. This guy carves up defences and scores tries for ‘shuts & guggles’. He would be among the first picked in any international first XV and is perhaps the most dangerous attacking player in NZ and that’s a fair wrap. For me, this is an acknowledgement from the Saders’ coaching structure that this will be a close game throughout and they are looking for Faninga’anuku to perhaps be the point of difference in the last 15 to get the result against a tiring side.
I expect this game to be high octane from start to finish. Quick taps, ball in play and end-to-end attacking rugby. Now in years gone past that may have been a recipe to beat Australian sides, but in 2022 with fitness and skill levels improved in Oz, and especially at the Brumbies, it’s no longer a guaranteed blueprint for Kiwi success. And don’t underestimate just how good the Ponies 12-15 are either, especially Lenny Ikitau at #13.
Let’s also hope Gus Gardner can get his reffing mojo back and help deliver us a magnificent spectacle.
Fearless Prediction: The Kiwi Killers to continue their march toward greatness. Ponies by 4.
SPR ROUND #13
All teams, times & coverage details courtesy of rugby.com.au
Highlanders v Western Force
Friday 13 May 5:05 pm AEST at Forsyth Barr Stadium, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
You concede 53 at home, you ain’t going to get the chocolates across the dutch. While I agree with the signing of Cron for next year, announcing it as early as they did effectively consigned this year’s season for the Force to the toilet, and Tim Sampson, nor his players deserve that. But……
Fearless Prediction: Highlanders by 25
Fijian Drua v Moana Pasifika
Saturday 14 May 2:35 pm AEST at CommBank Stadium, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
The battle of the newbies for bragging rights. MP were brutal at their breakdown work last week and pushed the Tahs hard all the way (relax peeples – never in doubt) and we know the joy and Fijian soul that goes into the Drua’s efforts, although last week was pretty horrific viewing.
Hard to pick this one for a variety of reasons. My heart says Fiji but the brutality of the MP side lingers large. Still, should be an awesome atmosphere out at Parramatta for this one.
Fearless Prediction: MP by 12
Blues v Queensland Reds
Saturday 14 May 5:05 pm AEST at Eden Park, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Happy wrote a good piece yesterday about the injury-ravaged Reds side, and he was right when saying that despite the Reds losses they have been largely ‘in’ the games till the end, sometimes surprisingly so.
This week sees JOC 2.0 return to add composure and rugby smarts to the side and certainly their backline looks far more assured for his return. BUT, the backs can only play with the ball their forwards secure and I can’t see the Communists Piggies securing enough ‘front foot’ ball against a formidable Blues pack for the fairies to do their thing.
Fearless Prediction: Blues by 19
NSW Waratahs v Hurricanes
Saturday 14 May 7:45 pm AEST at Leichhardt Oval, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
The Tahs return to the scene of their grandest victory in an age, this time to face Ardie Savea’s Hurricanes. How bout i just save words here – y’all know what’s a comin’ next.
Fearless Prediction: Tahs by 14
Melbourne Rebels v Chiefs
Sunday 15 May 2:00 pm AEST at AAMI Park, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport
Can’t really find a positive to align against the Rebels, sorry. Last week’s performance was devoid of any discernible positive effort, spirit, soul or attitude and that don’t correct itself in a week. Whatever ails the Mexican side is bone deep and the season can’t end soon enough for them.
Fearless Prediction: Chiefs by 35
KING FOR A DAY.
We are 12 rounds into SRP and it’s been 6-7 weeks since you selected your initial G&R Wallabies squad for 2023. So with that said, who would you pick now?
Who are your bolters, who’s solidified their spot, who’s fallen from favour?
Click on this link to vote & please share with any Rugby loving mates – the more votes the better.
The G&GR Wallaby Squad 2.0 will be revealed in next Friday’s Rugby News.
‘That’s alright Hossy, that’s alright with you. That’s alright Hossy, just any Tah will do’
FRIDAY’S GOSS WITH HOSS.
New strips a trip.
How good is the new ‘First Nations’ jersey and just why isn’t this our ‘permanent’ strip? For mine it’s an absolute cracker of a strip and I’d love it to be our permanent look.
Ned man walking
Most Australians favourite Tah and Wallaby certainty, Ned ‘Flanders’ Hanigan slips back into the Tahs jersey this week and returns via the pine for the sky blue. His return can only bolster competition for spots in both the sky blue & orange jerseys (aren’t they the same thing?). In further good news former prop Paddy Ryan returns to add depth to front row stocks with HJH likely out for the rest of the SRP season.
Wot e said
Another week, another reason to read Reason on stuff.co.nz
‘COVID, Pause, Reset’
You’ve certainly got to feel for the MP side don’tcha. Season one in SRP was always going to be challenge enough let alone with multiple COVID disruptions. To their credit they have sucked it up and hooked in. Super Rugby Pacific officials have now confirmed the postponed round 10 match between Moana Pasifika and Western Force has been rescheduled for Tuesday May 24.
It’s the vibe
Is it just me is it or is the whole vibe around Oz Rugby a notch or two up from previous years? Good news stories both on and off the field, steady professional stewardship from ‘the suits’ and improving/ competitive performances from our boys & girls on the paddocks.
Ain’t life grand.
Until next Friday – go you good things.