Monday’s Rugby News looks at the new Reds captain, the Force’s homecoming, a Waratahs bolter pushing for gold and a Six Nations recap
Six Nations wrap
England has bounced back from their shock Scotland loss, dominating Italy 41-18 at an empty Twickenham.
Four second-half tries would secure the victory for Eddie Jones’ men, with winger Anthony Watson scoring a double.
Despite the pair of tries, it would be his wing partner that would steal the show, with Jonny May leaping over defenders to score an incredible try, impressing Jones.
“He’s obviously been watching rugby league,” he said.
“It’s traditionally a way of scoring, a smart way, in the NRL – absolutely brilliant.”
Meanwhile, Wales would continue their unbeaten start, coming from behind to beat Scotland 25-24, overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit.
However, the win was not without controversy, with Scottish prop Zander Fagerson dismissed after a clumsy cleanout smashed the face of Alan Wyn Jones.
Louis Rees-Zammit would eventually produce an incredible individual effort to take the lead for Wales, scoring his second try after a brilliant chip-and-chase.
In the final match of the round, France beat a valiant Ireland 15-13 in Dublin.
Tries to Charles Ollivon and Damian Penaud gave the French a 15-3 lead at the half-time break, with Les Blues looking for their first win in Dublin since 2011.
However, the Irish, who were without Johnny Sexton or Conor Murray, refused to give, with a try to Ronan Kelleher and a Ross Byrne penalty setting up the grandstand finish.
In the end, the French would hang on, retaining their spot on the top of the ladder.
The Queensland Reds have confirmed that James O’Connor will lead the side in their opening round clash against the NSW Waratahs.
It comes after regular skipper Liam Wright was ruled out for the majority of the Super Rugby AU competition after suffering an ankle injury.
The news would come as a shock to many given O’Connor’s non-commital stance towards the club.
During the off-season, it was revealed that JOC had expressed interest in leaving Queensland to head for the other Super Rugby A and sign with the Chiefs.
Given the incredible journey that he’s gone through, the news was enough to bring him close to tears when told by coach Brad Thorn.
“When Brad told me the other day I had quite an emotional moment where I just reflected on my whole journey,” said O’Connor on Sunday.
“Being in Australia, going away, coming back, just everything that’s been a part of it.
“It’s truly humbling.”
O’Connor beat out the likes of Fraser McReight and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto for the honour, with the 30-year-old hoping that the added responsibility will allow him to continue to motivate and inspire his side.
“Since I’ve come (back to the Reds) I’ve really wanted to be involved and give my all, and that’s possibly why I’ve got the call up,” he said.
The news was welcomed by former Red and Wallaby Tim Horan, who tweeted his approval on Sunday.
“A great reward for James O’Connor being named captain,” Horan wrote.
“A strong leader who will continue to enhance the Reds culture.”
Horton hears a Du
Waratahs hooker Tom Horton has admitted the prospect of pulling on the gold jersey is driving him in 2021 as the side prepares for the start of the Super Rugby season.
Horton was one of the major revelations from the inaugural Super Rugby Australia season, stepping up after the retirement of first-choice hooker Damien Fitzpatrick.
His impressive string of performances saw the 23-year-old included in the Wallabies squad for the Tri-Nations despite playing less than a dozen Super Rugby games.
Whilst he is still waiting for his debut cap, Horton admits his time spent in Wallabies camp is the motivating factor to take the next step in 2021.
“It hasn’t really changed the pre-season,” Horton said.
“The call-up has made me more driven to keep building on last year.
“I’m just trying to keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months and keep training hard and playing well.”
The Wallabies coaching staff are keeping a close eye on Horton and the rest of the Waratahs, with scrum coach Petrus du Plessis a noticeable onlooker at training on Tuesday.
Having spent the majority of 2020 coaching over Zoom, Du Plessis’ presence was a welcome one as he attempts to improve how Australian teams perform at scrum-time.
“He was more giving us a platform to work off,” he said on Du Plessis.
“He was giving us some ideas on how other teams scrum, how European teams scrum and how we can adapt to that.
“He wasn’t trying to change anything. He was just giving us ideas to develop our scrum from it.”
The Waratahs will be without enforcer Lachie Swinton for the opening round, with the loose forward serving the final match of a four-week ban following his Wallabies red card against the All Blacks.
Not just the words of Skylar Gray/Diddy but what’s been shouted from the rooftops in Western Australia as the Western Force prepare to host their first Super Rugby game in nearly four years.
The Force are set to welcome the defending champions ACT Brumbies in front of what’s expected to be a packed-out HBF Park on Friday.
For centre Marcel Brache, whose been one of the key players that have been with the club through every step until the resurrection, the ‘incredible experience’ has been on his mind since they was forced to relocate to NSW due to COVID concerns.
“It’s a really exciting time for the players, the organisation, but most of all the fans and rugby community in Western Australia,” he told media.
“To have rugby back at HBF Park and Super Rugby back for our supporters both near and far is very exciting and we hope that it is an incredible experience come Friday.
“It’s an awesome occasion and we’re expecting a really tough battle. It doesn’t get any bigger or better than facing the champions.”
The match also marks the debut for Irish legend Rob Kearney, who will pull on a different shade of blue after making a name for himself at Leicester.
Having missed Ireland’s last Test in WA by 12 months, Kearney is looking forward to the experience of playing in front of a ‘Sea of Blue.’
“It’s a new beginning. It’s a different team of blue and I’m really excited to be here,” he added.
“We’ve talked about the season opener and how there’s going to be a genuine Sea of Blue there with everyone dressed up and the stadium is going to be packed out.
“I think that’s really exciting and as a playing group, we are really excited to see everyone.”