Thursday’s Rugby News has Genia back, the Springboks and Pumas making some line-up changes, Folau allowed to play from instinct and Toulon making some questionable signing moves.
Genia starting again
Will Genia will return to the starting halfback position as Ewen McKenzie looks to utilise his dynamic running game this weekend. The relegation of Nic White to the bench is the only change to the starting line-up. Bernard Foley could also make his Test debut, with the versatile back coming onto the bench in place of Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Meanwhile, The Pumas have made two changes to their backline for the match against Australia. Veteran Felipe Contepomi will return to the centres, while Horacio Agulla will be moved up to the starting wing position. The powerful Argentinean scrum is unchanged. With just two points separating the two teams, a win for the Pumas could have the Wallabies drop to Rugby Championship wooden spooners. [/one_half]
Folau given more freedom
Israel Folau has insisted that he will play from instinct rather than relying doggedly on any kick-first tactics. ‘From now on in I’m going to try to play on feeling and reacting to what the opposition presents,’ Folau said. Wallabies coaches have told the superstar fullback that he has a bit more leeway to play what’s in front, rather than always trying to fit into team structures.
However, Folau’s influence might be diminished by the Puma’s dominant scrum. Wallabies prop Ben Alexander emphasised the need to match the Pumas in between the ears, asserting, ‘They’re not lower, they’re not any bigger, any heavier. They just mentally want to scrum for longer.’ While the scrum was somewhat improved against the Springboks, Argentina will offer a step-up in competition. [/one_half]
Boks change two for decider
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has made two changes to the starting line-up to face the All Blacks in Saturday’s Rugby Championship decider. Bismark du Plessis has been pushed back into the starting hooker position, despite the great performance of Adriaan Strauss against the Wallabies. Meyer emphasised the importance of du Plessis’ physicality and leadership. Juandre Kruger will also come in for the suspended Flip van der Merwe, with Franco van der Merwe’s elevation to the bench.
Meanwhile, centre JJ Engelbrecht remains a 50-50 call, with the medical team to decide whether or not the Bulls midfielder will play after Friday’s captain run. If Engelbrecht’s bruised quadriceps muscle does not rapidly improve, Jan Serfontein will be promoted to starter. The Boks need to win with a bonus point and deny the All Blacks their own to win the Rugby Tournament. [/one_half]
Toulon continue spending spree
The Cardiff Blues have accused Toulon of engaging in ‘illegal’ tactics in trying to sign Leigh Halfpenny. According to the Blues, Toulon planned to fly the fullback to the Riviera for weekend talks aimed at securing his signing on a three-year contract worth one million Euros a year. Blues chairman Peter Thomas asserted that this approach could not be entered into without the Welsh club’s permission, as Halfpenny is under contract until the end of the season.
‘Under the terms of Leigh’s contract, no club is free to talk to him until next February. Any contact before then is an illegal approach,’ said Thomas. Toulon adopted a similar approach to Ulster’s Springbok scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, recently announcing that he had signed a two-year deal from next year. [/one_half]