Happy Monday, GAGRs and welcome to Monday’s Rugby News! This weekend saw the unveiling of the Wallabies squad for The Bledisloe and Rugby Championship and pending location swaps for these matches, the first test between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions and a ‘Good Luck’ message to our Olympic Rugby 7s stars!
Wallabies Squad for BC and TRC
Dave Rennie has named his 42-man squad for the upcoming matches against the Kiwis, Bokkes and Los Pumas. Until approximately 7pm on Sunday, there were no particular surprises sans Duncan Paia’aua returning from Toulon. I don’t recall if he has signed any contract with a Super side; however, he appears to be the first beneficiary of the ‘Giteau Law’. Considering that the Tahs pair of Harrison and Donaldson are ineligible to travel (being based in NSW?) as they have not been a part of the ‘bubble’ and would be required to participate in quarantine, it was a smart move on Rennie’s part to bring a seasoned campaigner. Speaking of seasoned campaigner, the news of the mercurial Quade Cooper returning, initially as a mentor in place of JOC, is, for me, a masterstroke. Say what you will about Quade, but he has experience on the biggest stages and is a player many of the current crop would have grown up idolising. Having Cooper even as a sounding board is invaluable to a generation of rugby stars. Whether he gets any game time is another matter; I would suggest it is unlikely but not impossible. Further inclusions of Izaak Rodda, Pete Samu, Nick Frost and Tom Robertson deepen the squad for these tests. Jordan Petaia, Scott Sio and Nic White return from their respective injuries, too.
Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Banks, Angus Bell, Pone Fa’amausili*, Lalakai Foketi*, Nick Frost*, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper (c), Len Ikitau, Feleti Kaitu’u*, Andrew Kellaway, Marika Koroibete, Rob Leota*, Noah Lolesio, Lachlan Lonergan, Ryan Lonergan*, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight, Andy Muirhead*, Isi Naisarani, James O’Connor, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Duncan Paia’aua*, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Pete Samu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Lachlan Swinton, Matt To’omua, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Harry Wilson, Tom Wright.
Covid causes schedule uncertainty
The Wallabies are bracing for changes to the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship schedule with the quarantine-free border restrictions with the Kiwis being halted for two months. Dave Rennie has suggested that there may be a second round of matches over the ditch on back-to-back weekends as a clear possibility to ease the route of the teams to return back to Australia. The likely dates at this stage appear to be the 7th and 14th of August in New Zealand (Eden Park and Wellington) followed by a match in Perth on either the 21st or, more likely, the 28th August. What any further outbreaks in Australia mean for the schedule is still quite unclear (as is expected).
British and Irish Lions Tour and other international matches
Well, it turns out Nutta stole my bloody story line with his excellent wrap from the first test between the British and Irish Lions and the Springboks…. Ya bastard! Follow the link to have a gander at his piece: https://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/leeus-braai-bokke-1st-bil-vs-springbok-test/
In other international results, we saw the RWC qualification match between Tonga and the Cook Islands in Pukekohe with the Tongans winning by a comfortable 54-10 margin. Although the first 20 minutes was, dare I say, dominated by the Cook Islanders, the class of the players Tonga were able to assemble (due to Covid and European clubs) eventually sealed the match in their favour. Onwards to play the winner of the Asia matches between Hong Kong, Malaysia or South Korea. The Cook Islanders have one last chance to progress to RWC 2023 in a winner-takes-all qualifying tournament in the coming months with the remaining sides from Asia, Americas and Europe and Africa.
Olympic Sevens to Look Forward to
The Olympic event that us GAGRs have been waiting for… the Olympic Rugby Sevens! Having been deprived of the shortest format of the game for much of the last year, I’m firmly looking forward to some Sevens action in Japan over the coming weeks. For those interested, the schedule is here: https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/rugby-sevens/olympic-schedule-and-results.htm
As always, it will be very hard to look past the Fijians and the Kiwis for the gold medal. As we know, sevens is a bitch of a sport to predict with any small moment suddenly causing a match-turning, or even winning, event! Indeed, the series could go absolutely any direction. One thing can be certain though… Plenty of big hits, exhausting runs and plenty of entertainment!
Good luck to both Australian sides and to the Australian referees selected to officiate, too.