Welcome to Friday Gaggers and all the Rugby News fit for publishing.
Today let’s recap the Tahs season with Renew 2022 Review. Put on your Kevlar vest and visit Stateside with ‘Torn in the USA’. Preview this weekend’s SF match-ups with ‘The Weight of a Nation’. Take a look at a possible Wallabies squad announced this weekend with ‘Sunday. Bloody Sunday’. And wrap it all up with ‘Friday’s Goss with Hoss’ now touring an RSL club near you.
RENEW 22 REVIEW.
I must admit only a small part of me can be disappointed with the Tahs crashing out last week, in what was really, at the start of the year, an unlikely Super Rugby Finals appearance.
To be a winless & rudderless rabble in ’21 and concede a torrent of points against all comers, to a season that yielded an eight win, six loss record, wins against Kiwi sides, including a win in New Zealand for the first time since 1875, were entirely unexpected from even the most ardent Tahs fan and as many on here might suspect, I am guilty of a slight Tahs bias in my rugby views.
Georgina Robinson in the SMH writes an interesting piece along the lines of the Tahs still needing a ‘few big bodies’ in the Jacques Potgieter mode as perhaps some pieces of the missing puzzle to take the ‘next step’, but no matter how you view it ‘Renew 22’ was a resounding improvement and a step to a successful future.
However, a lot said and written this week about the possible return of Tolu Latu and the pending return of Gilbert Beale to the Tahs franchise and I admit I’m not jumping out of my skin about the prospects of either donning the sky blue, this isn’t a matter of ‘forgiveness’, but, one of other players who are coming through being stymied by the possible returns. I would, however, say that with a strong team culture & with a clear identity of who they are as people & as an organisation, then Latu (in particular) will need to show genuine change. I am all for redemptive arcs when they are based on humility, resolve and actions over any amount of ‘words’.
From the outside looking in, coach Coleman strikes me as a gent who will not mince his words, nor be slow to act if all they are building at Tah Town comes under threat from anybody.
As Nutta said through gritted teeth this week, ‘a strong Tahs means strong Rugby in Oz’ to that end & the side continuing to remain humble, have fun and evolve than surely success in Orange shall follow for us all.
You’re welcome Australia, you’re welcome.
TORN IN THE USA?
When they’re not busy shooting defenseless children, the Yanks have turned their attention at ruining their fledgling Major League Rugby or ‘MLR’ comp and as a side-effect maybe, just maybe, also starting a chain reaction that could end with losing hosting rights for the 2031 RWC.
In a ‘mysterious’ decision by the MLR or LA Giltinis owner Adam Gilchrist (no not ‘that’ one – some gym owner dude) and depending on who you believe, the LA Giltinis have either been ‘withdrawn‘ from the competition by its owner, which is in retaliation for his other franchise, the Austin Gilgronis (snappy names huh!) being disqualified by the MLR for salary cup breaches, or, the counter position from the MLR is some vague social media ‘statement‘ on Twitter saying the disqualification is due to a ‘violation of league rules’. If so, what rules?
To be frank, the truth of this matter, at present, is rather obscure. Reporting back here from ‘former players’ now in the media, are subjective and laced with ‘loyalties’ to their mates and former Oz players aligned with the Giltinis. Whilet the MLR ‘statement‘ is at best vague and at worst deceptive, reporting at theguardian.com goes on to say:
‘Sources across the US game said the expulsions from season-ending playoffs were for breaches of rules surrounding the salary cap.‘
Now, ‘cheats’ should never prosper, unless you’re in a nearly All Black jersey, then it’s a God-given right. ‘If’ indeed both the LA & Austin sides are guilty of salary cap breaches then they should be punished accordingly. The governing body needs to be transparent, strong and clear in it’s communication. Equally though, if the LA decision is based on ‘other’ criteria, that too should be communicated to the world, thus sending a clear message to World Rugby that the MLR is in control and acting appropriately and proportionately.
Wherever the truth lies, the last thing the code in its professional infancy in the States needs are stakeholders waging a divisive, nasty and prolonged public battle and threatening both the development of the code and perhaps in turn, the hosting of the RWC in 2031.
Free advice to the Seppos, get it sorted & pronto so you can return to your true national pastime, shooting one another.
WEIGHT OF A NATION
Then there were four.
It’s ‘no regret time’ for the four sides left standing this year. It’s knock-out football, mistakes punished, calmness rewarded and the ever mystical ‘bounce of the ball’ to have a say as well. Times, teams and coverage courtesy of rugby.com.au tea lady and part time journo, Nathan Williamson.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Friday 10 June 5:05 pm AEST at Orange Theory Stadium, ad-free, live and on-demand on Stan Sport
Referee: Nic Berry Assistant Refs: Brendon Pickerill, Jordan Way TMO: Chris Hart
I saw Happy’s stats around Razor Robertson and his coaching record and it was impressive reading. BUT, they are only numbers and the only numbers that matter are those on the scoreboard with the ref blows full time.
For the record, the Saders are the most winningest side in SR history, their pedigree is unchallenged and their ‘production line’ of talent is a thing of beauty, but they have very rarely put it all together on the field this year and at times have been very unCrusaderish in basic skills and for the record they are 1-1 with the Chiefs as well this year.
The Chiefs will be respectful for sure, but scared or nervous? No chance. The Chiefs edge the Saders up front, cancel each other out in the backrow, but with no Blackadder (who is a huge loss – for any side) the Chiefs have the advantage in the loosies and with Sam Cane coming from the pine, it’s here I see them getting home.
I expect a torrid battle, electric backs and an enthralling contest all round, yet I can’t shake the feeling the Chiefs will ‘hold on’ and get home just. Here’s hoping the match officials can give us an open and flowing contest (looking at you Nic ‘The Pistol’ Berry)
Fearless Prediction: Chiefs by 3-5.
Blues v Brumbies
Saturday 11 June 5:05 pm AEST at Eden Park, ad-free, live and on-demand on Stan Sport and Nine Network
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe Assistant Refs: Angus Gardner, Stu Curran TMO: Shane McDermott
Wow. If the Brumbies of the second half last week turn up to the cesspit that is Eden Park (anyone else see the irony in the Stadium name?) then we could be in for a belter of a match.
The thing that impressed me so much last week from the Ponies was just their unyielding commitment to the cause. No panic, no poor options, just a group understanding of the plan and making cool decisions under pressure. Perfectly exemplified when during the second half, when skipper 7As pointed to the posts for a penalty shot even though the Canes were under the pump a fraction. The camera pans to the coaches box and Chuckles was channeling his inner Cheik and apoplectic at 7As call, but to me it showed a calmness and resolve to accumulate points & wear down the Hurricanes. Low & behold, a few moments later the Ponies score a try, miss the conversion and all of a sudden they are now 8 clear and the Canes needed to chase the game and the rest is history.
In all of that though, one stat stood out for me: A Savea 16 ‘carries’ for 26 metres gained. The main attacking threat and the ‘go to’ man of the entire Hurricanes pack was cut down and man-handled by 7As and Tom Hooper all match and as a result the Ponies imposed their will on the game. Smart. Committed. Effective.
So to this week and the challenge that are the competitions best side, the Blues. I said last week that this Blues side would beat most ‘test’ sides, they are that good and I stand by that. Well coached, big, physical, electric pace and dangerous from anywhere on the field, they are the real deal. To be any chance the Ponies must firstly confront and nullify the physical challenge and then look to stop the scintillating Beauden Barrett at #10 and to that end, the loss of Ikitau is a BIG deal.
Say what you want about Len’s attack, his left foot kicking and his link play, but for mine he is the best defensive back in all the Oz sides, just ahead of Hamish Stewart. LK’s defensive ‘reads’ are first class, his tackling technique (usually) effective and he very much is the ‘defensive general’ of the Ponies backline, so he will be missed.
Likewise a fair bit of negativity towards Nic ‘The Lip’ White after last week’s match, which is surprising. For the record, I love the bloke (when he’s not playing against the Tahs). He demands the best from himself, his team AND match officials. He has the best all round kicking game of all Oz #9s (I still hate the caterpillar kicks in the games though) and has found a good balance in his overall game between running, passing & kicking, admittedly that ‘gap’ has closed though this year with Gordon really nipping at his heals.
And the sugar on top for all Oz & Brumbies fans? The return of ‘Sideshow’ Bob Valetini, before injury, my player of SRP 2022.
This will be an evenly fought, close & willing contest, but the Brumbies showed me last week they have the tactics, the players, the on-field leadership and the rugby maturity, coolness and ‘smarts’ to get the result.
The Blues are a class outfit, have won 218 in a row this season, but they have also used their ‘get out of jail free’ cards, twice and they won’t get a third one here.
Fearless Prediction: Brumbies. By 6.
SUNDAY. BLOODY SUNDAY.
This Sunday Moses & Co will name their first Wallaby squad for 2022 to take on Dr Evil, Eddie Jones and his Soap Dodgers over the coming weeks and a squad that will likely be the ‘nucleus’ for the RC after that. Who are the ‘bolters’ who has fallen from grace, ‘The Nippon 3’ of Kerevi, Cooper & Koroibete have been confirmed and just what are your expectations for who will be selected to wear the fabled Cadbury Orange jersey?
Adding to the intrigue, don’t forget Moses & Co also have the luxury of an ‘Australia A’ side this year to also trial a few ‘possibles & probables’ so this could be very interesting.
Pigs – Tupou, Alaalatoa, Slipper, Bell, HJH,
Sex Workers: Porecki, Lonergan, Fainga’a
Tall timber: Philip, Holloway, Frost, Swain, Rodda
Loosies: Hooper, Wilson, Valetini, Samu, Leota, McReight
Yappers: White, Gordon, McDermott – in that order.
62.50%’s: Cooper, O’Connor, Lolesio
Moisturisers: Kerevi, Perese, Paisaimi, Ikitau
Faffers: Koroibete, Kellaway, Petaia, Wright, Banks, Campbell.
No doubt there will some ‘established’ names trying to improve their form in the ‘A’ squad as well as those coming back from injury. But I expect players like Sio, Fa’amausili, Hodge, Kaitu’u, Neville, Uelese, Foketi, Tom Hooper, R Lonergan, Tom Robertson, Billy Pollard and co to feature in that series as a means of both signaling they are ‘on the radar’ for higher honors, but also keeping them fit and as ‘standby’ options in case of injury to those in the main squad.
I’ve shown you mine, so now you show me yours, what does your squad look like?
FRIDAY’S GOSS’ WITH HOSS
‘Pacific 4 Double Header’
This Sunday sees a double-header from Auckland’s ‘the Trust’ Stadium with our Wallaroos v The Female Seppos. While the Black Ferns take on Canadia. Our Golden girls will be looking for their first ever win over the USA and to ice this game after playing so well, for so long against the Kiwis last Monday, eventually going down 23-10 after leading at half time.
Stan is showing both games live:
Game #1 10.08am AEST of USA v Wallaroos (10.15 kickoff)
Game #2 12.36pm AEST of Canada v NZ (12.45 kickoff)
Go well Wallaroos
‘Camp Wallaby’ back.
In a back to the future move RA have announced that the Wallabies will have a central ‘base’ at the home of the Russian Mafia, the Gold Coast for all tests this year.
Pros and cons to the decision for mine. Pros – regular base, settled routines, all facilities on one site. Cons – lack of ‘face time’ in cities to promote the game. That said, it worked for our 99 RWC team and the success that followed through the early 2000s, so why not try it again.
Listening to The Dropped Kickoff lads latest and they touched on just how we should look at 2022 SRP from an Oz v Kiwi side win/loss performance, that saw ‘us’ getting 7 wins from 25 games against genuine Kiwi sides (excluding MP & Drua fixtures or results). That equates to a 28% win record. The Brumbies got 3 wins, Tahs 2, Rebels 1, Force 1 & Reds – a ‘globe’ – again.
To me, while the results improved, it’s still shite and we as fans, must not lower our expectations. It’s only through higher expectations, in turn driving higher expectations & standards across Oz sides, that we can expect ‘bottom up’ pressure and growth for our SR sides. Accepting anything less than 50% wins against Kiwi sides is accepting mediocrity.
rugby.com reports The Wallabies will be the first International to be held at the fully redeveloped Allianz Stadium Sept 03 when they take on The Catholics as part of TRC. Have a few mates with inside intel who inform me the new stadium is an absolute cracker too. Nathan – any free tickets, I am an accredited journo now, kind of.
Until next week, ‘carn The Brumbies & Wallaroos.
I’ll be in Mexico this weekend, might see you about.
Hoss – Out