Today’s rugby news sees the Wallabies training well, Australia A to take on Tonga on 14 July, a deaf Rugby World Cup wrap-up and NZ playing the underdog violin in a confusing mixed metaphor.
Wallabies train well
The SMH reports that the Wallabies have used Coogee Beach for one of their first big training sessions.
An oversize Wallabies squad is camped in Eddie Jones’ beloved beachside suburb this week, ahead of a final 33-man squad being named on Sunday for the Rugby Championship. Taking a week’s break after their seasons ended at the weekend, Brumbies players – and France-based locks Will Skelton and Richie Arnold – are the only missing pieces from the training group in Sydney. Following a session on Coogee Oval on Monday, Jones put his forwards on the nearby beach for day two for a session of wrestling, contact and breakdown work.
The Wallabies forwards also did some soft-sand mauling under the guidance of French coach Pierre Henry Broncan, and with coaches testing players’ control by pulling them sideways with long stretchy bands. Props Taniela Tupou and Angus Bell trained separately with a rehab group. Allan Alaalatoa missed the Brumbies’ semi-final with a calf injury, Wallabies scrum coach Neal Hatley gave positive updates on all three.
Alaalatoa, who Hatley rates as one of the world’s best tightheads, is set to be fit for the Wallabies’ first Test in Pretoria on July 8, and Bell “is flying” after a foot injury that ruled him out of NSW’s entire season. Hatley said the hope is for Tupou to also be available for selection for the Rugby Championship next month, after an impressive recovery from an Achilles’ tendon rupture last year. “People who have known him say this is the hardest he’s ever worked. I couldn’t be more pleased with him at the moment, on his day, he’s as good as anybody in the world, not just carrying the ball but actually what he does at set-piece, he’s a mountain of a man,” Hatley said.
[The hardest this writer has ever worked was when there were compulsory university tutorials scheduled first thing in the afternoon.]
Australia A v Tonga in Tonga, 14 July
Rugby Australia reports that an Australia A team will travel to Tonga to play the Tonga national team on 14 July. The sides will clash in the Pacific Island nation on the 50th anniversary of Tonga’s victory over the Wallabies at Ballymore in Brisbane; a match of great significance to Australia and Tonga where Fatai Kefu, the father of current Tonga coach and Wallabies legend Toutai Kefu, represented the Ikale Tahi.
The Australia A program was re-introduced in 2022, with tours to Fiji and Japan, and saw a number of players go on to make their debuts for the Wallabies on the season-ending tour of Europe and the UK, such as Langi Gleeson, Jock Campbell, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Ben Donaldson.
Rugby Australia’s General Manager, National High-Performance Programs, Adrian Thompson says the success of last year’s program showed its importance to the elite level of Rugby in Australia. “Last year showed how the Australia A program can help advance players take that next step into international Rugby,” he said. “It also provides some extra game-time for players on the fringes of the Wallabies squad – which will be increasingly important in this truncated Rugby World Cup season. Tonga has built an impressive squad under Toutai Kefu, and they will be tough competition for Australia A and at the World Cup later this year – it will be a great hit-out for both teams.”
Australia A will play the Ikale Tahi at 3:00pm local time (12:00pm AEST) on 14 July at Teufaiva Stadium in Nuku’alofa, Tonga.
Aussies win Silver and Bronze in Deaf Rugby World Cup
The Australian women’s deaf rugby 7s team won bronze at the Deaf Rugby 7s World Cup in Argentina. The Australian men’s team placed second.
“It was an incredible experience, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I never thought I would get to do,” 26-year-old Nikita Campbell (from Orange in the New South Wales) said to ABC News. Players from the men’s and women’s squads spent months fundraising in the lead-up to the World Cup to cover the cost of insurance, flights, and equipment, after receiving limited funding from RA. Newcastle player Wade Atherton first represented the Australian deaf rugby team in 2011.
He said the team had played a crucial role in changing perspectives on players with disabilities. “When I was younger it wasn’t an easy thing and when I got to representative sides I tried to hide it. The younger generations are a lot more inclusive and giving to a player with a disability,” Atherton said. “As a junior, everyone had warned my mum [that] to play contact sport is a ‘big no’ due to the devices we have inside our heads. If they got a pretty severe knock it can be a threatening injury. But as time has gone on those risks have reduced a lot, so we have seen a significant growth in the last two or three years.”
Nikita Campbell was born with a hearing impairment and uses bilateral hearing aids. However, in deaf rugby, players are not allowed to wear hearing aids, which can make for a nerve-racking experience according to Campbell. “In non-deaf rugby I play with hearing aids in, so to then play without them was a new, terrifying experience. For lineouts in non-deaf rugby there is usually a countdown or calls but in deaf footy you are simply feeling the person you are lifting and knowing what they are going to do. It is really hard to communicate which makes training so crucial, there are a lot of different ways to communicate besides just speaking and listening,” Campbell said. “It was just a really satisfying thing to know I can trust my team and myself, and play together so well in the process.”
All Blacks claim underdog status
Supersport reports that few people think New Zealand can win a fourth world cup in France this year but that should help the All Blacks’ title hopes, according to coach Ian Foster. Foster’s side are coming off a difficult season, having lost a first home series to Ireland and a first defeat to Argentina on home soil in 2022. That has tested home fans’ faith in their World Cup hopes, though bookmakers rate the All Blacks second behind hosts France to win it. The All Blacks are drawn with France, Italy, Uruguay and Namibia in Pool A at the 8 September to 28 October World Cup.
Asked by New Zealand media whether his team could win a record fourth World Cup, Foster said: “Absolutely. The good thung us not too many other people think we can,” he added. Foster named a 36-man squad on Sunday for the abridged Rugby Championship which starts on July 8, with the All Blacks to face Argentina in Mendoza.
Defending champions New Zealand have not won the southern hemisphere competition in a World Cup year since 2007 when it was known as the Tri-Nations (of which Australia are permanent champions) and Argentina had yet to join. However, New Zealand ended up winning back-to-back World Cups in 2011 and 2015, so the lead-up Rugby Championship has not proved a reliable form guide for the global showpiece.
“Last year we had a but of idversuty, we got tight, and we’re actually craving as many bug games as we can git at the moment,” said Foster. “We want to go un fully loaded to thus Rugby Championshup. I think ut’s important for us to git back up to speed really quuckly, and git our game right.”