Monday’s top rugby news has Benji finally in blue, SBW possibly back to rugby, the Wallabies looking at the new scrum laws and George Smith honoured, again.
Marshall finally signs
Benji Marshall has ended months of speculation and signed for the Auckland Blues for the next two years. Marshall reiterated his plans to represent the All Blacks, asserting, ‘I back myself in everything I do, and trying to make a successful switch it’s going to be a tough one.’ Coach Sir John Kirwan has echoed this sentiment, but believes the intense scrutiny of the code-switch will not affect the playmaker. ‘I don’t think the expectation will scare him,’ Kirwan said, hoping for a SBW-like transition.
Australia’s own flashy five-eighth, Quade Cooper, has received an endorsement of his play style from Wallabies attack coach Jim Mckay. In a possible selection nod, Mckay emphasised that he can forgive Cooper’s occasionally reckless decisions. ‘He makes things happen, he is innovative…I back Quade because I know what he can do,’ Mckay said.
NZRU offer SBW deal
The NZRU have reportedly offered Sonny Bill Williams a three-year deal which would see him return to rugby next season. In an attempt to lure the dual international back to union, NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew has presented a unique contract that would allow Williams to feature for the Kiwis in the Rugby League World Cup. Another option presented would enable Williams to play a second season with the Roosters, with a view to return to the Chiefs later next year.
‘The dialogue has been positive but we don’t have any ink on paper. We would obviously love Sonny to come back and play rugby here,’ said Tew, adding ‘It is up to Sonny and Khoder now.’ Williams said earlier this month that he was ‘50-50’ about returning to the Chiefs or remaining with the Roosters in 2014.
Scrum laws to favour Wallabies
Wallabies set-piece coach Andrew Blades believes that the incoming scrum laws could greatly benefit the Australian pack. The new ‘crouch-bind-set’ sequence is thought to limit the advantage of heavy forward packs and re-emphasise technical prowess. ‘Because we haven’t been one of the bigger packs in world rugby, that pure smacking in off the engagement is something … that’s worked against us,’ Blades said.
The law changes are supposed to slash the number of collapses and resets. This should also minimize the inconsistent discretion of the referee, which the Wallabies were unhappy with during the third Lions Test. Criticizing the Lions pack and referee Romain Poite, Blades said, ‘Teams have used that as an advantage to set referees up and say ‘we feel like we want to dominate, if things go wrong we want to get the benefit of the doubt.’
Smith voted Brumbies’ best
Legendary flanker George Smith has won the Brett Robinson award for the Brumbies’ best player for an astonishing 10th time on Saturday night. Returning to the ACT this year, Smith was just expected to serve as a back-up to Wallabies openside David Pocock. But after a season-ending knee injury to Pockock, Smith filled in brilliantly, showcasing his trademark strong pilfering and effective ball-running.
Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan said afterwards, ‘George is, in my opinion, the Brumbies’ greatest ever player, our most decorated player. His comeback this year was extraordinary.’ Smith will be sorely missed, returning to his Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath to get ready for the coming season. The other major awards went to Christian Lealiifano for best back and Ben Mowen for best forward.