Thursday’s rugby news has Ben Smith praised, another Brumbies re-signing, a massive ban for a Canberra rugby player and Read back for the Crusaders .
Ben Smith rated above Izzy
Highlanders fullback Ben Smith would keep Israel Folau out of a World XV spot, according to Reds coach Richard Graham. “Ben Smith is, for me, the best fullback in the world on form,” Graham said of the perennial All-Black. “I think his ability to find space, carry the ball in both hands and set up people around him is very, very good.” The 27-year old Smith has cpontinued his form from last season, named New Zealand’s Super Rugby player of the year for 2013.
The Reds will be boosted by the return from suspension of prop James Slipper. Unfortunately, flanker Ed Quirk suffered major knee ligament damage at training this week and will be out for six-months after surgery.
Sio re-signs with Brumbies
Scott Sio is the latest big-name ACT player to re-sign with the franchise, staying on until at least the end of 2016. The youngest of the Brumbies prop-stocks, Sio came to Canberra on an EPS contract at the start of 2012 but has since gone on to become a regular in the Brumbies front row and an option for Ewen McKenzie’s Wallabies.
On the other side of the scrum, Ben Alexander might be forced onto the bench with a recurring neck problem, with the club possibly starting Ruan Smith to manage Alexander’s playing time coming into the Super Rugby finals and Test season. Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher also said winger Robbie Coleman was struggling with a virus and could be omitted from the squad.
Rugby player banned for 56 weeks
A Canberra rugby union player has been banned from the sport for 56 weeks, or effectively four years, after reportedly wiping blood on match referee Robert Boyes and then punching an unsuspecting opposition player as he was leaving the field with a red card. The ACT rugby judiciary handed down the judgement on Wednesday night, which saw the player banned for eight weeks for the punch and 48 weeks for the blood incident.
The judiciary could have handed down a judgement from 24 weeks up to a complete life ban. Mr Boyes said that officials needed to take a stand against such threatening behaviour for the sake of referees.
Read returns for Crusaders
All Black no.8 Kieran Read has confirmed that his concussion symptoms have finally subsided and he will be able to captain the Crusaders again, preparing to play the Western Force on Friday night. Read was only able to start training last week, being told to avoid all exercise while he was still feeling the symptoms of a high shot from Chiefs lock Mike Fitzgerald. Although the Crusaders captain looked ready to play last week, he was struck down by a heavy head cold.
The Crusaders will be without international props Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett, although this seems to just be a rotation exercise by coach Todd Blackadder. A Crusaders win will put them at the head of the New Zealand conference.