Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at a Waratah recruitment near-miss, July internationals, changes at the Rebels, and Lions tour strategy.
Crusaders recruit Matera after Tahs decline
The Crusaders have recruited abrasive Argentinian loose forward Pablo Matera after the Waratahs rebuffed Matera’s interest in playing for NSW.
The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed that Michael Cheika (2020 assistant coach to the Pumas) informed the Waratahs that they could recruit the back rower to Sydney.
Mario Ledesma first revealed in 2019 that Matera is keen to play for NSW and is a massive fan of Sydney (for some reason).
Waratahs chief executive Paul Doorn confirmed they’d been contacted about Matera and declined to make an offer.
“We’ve got an amazing group of people that are loose forwards, particularly with Michael Hooper coming back. We’ve just (decided) we need to prioritise the positions we need.”
Matera briefly lost the Pumas captaincy in 2020 when historical “xenophobic” tweets emerged during the Rugby Championship.
Punters with a bet on a “multi” for Tahs players’ social media controversies will rue this missed recruitment opportunity.
(NSW Waratahs v Hurricanes, Friday 14 May, SCG, Sydney, 7:45pm)
Wallaroos & Wallabies 17 July double-header at Suncorp
The three Wallabies Tests against France have been shoehorned into 11 days (with one midweek test) to accommodate French club commitments and COVID-19 quarantine. Some of the top French players are unlikely to be available on account of France’s Top 14 club final on 26 June.
A Brisbane decider may still be on the cards if the soufflé can rise at least once in Sydney or Melbourne.
Wallabies v France, Wednesday 7 July, 8.00pm AEST at Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Wallabies v France, Tuesday 13 July, 8.00pm AEST at AAMI Park, Melbourne
Wallaroos v Samoa, Saturday 17 July, 5.00pm AEST at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Wallabies v France, Saturday 17 July, 8.00pm AEST at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Wallaroos v Samoa, Thursday 22 July, 7.30pm AEST at Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
Friend-of-GAGR Dave Wessels has stepped down as Rebels coach ahead of the Trans-Tasman series. Assistant coach Kevin Foote has become Interim Head Coach, with Wallabies attack coach Scott Wisemantel assisting in a short-term capacity. Current Wallabies Forwards coach Geoff Parling remains as forwards coach while assistant coach Shaun Berne moves on.
With the next game against the Blues this Saturday (AAMI Park, Melbourne, 7:45pm) the reshuffled leadership group seek to get Marika Koroibete more involved.
“Exactly that – we’re looking for some clarity on how we actually do that,” Foote said.
“Guys like Marika, the more they’re touching the ball and the more we’re giving them one on one contests that’s the style of game I’m keen for us to play.”
The Rebels’ start to the trans-Tasman season is not helped by the suspensions of lock Trevor Hosea, No.8 Isi Naisarani and prop Pone Fa’amausili.
Gatland to select Dad’s Army for Lions SA tour
Warren Gatland has picked his oldest ever squad for the Lions tour of South Africa, kicking off on 24 July 2021. The 2021 average age is 28.5, similar to the 2009 SA Lions squad (28.1). In 2013 the squad for Australia was 26.1 and in 2017 for New Zealand it was 26.8.
This indicates a pattern of selecting younger players for the Wallabies, mid-range players for the All Blacks and grizzled veterans for the Springboks.
Lions attack coach Gregor Townsend drew upon his time playing for the Shorks to comment on the South African approach to be countered.
“Their mentality is based on running over the top of you. I remember playing a pre-season friendly and John Smit was our captain. We were struggling to get over the gain line running off 9. We came into a huddle and I said: ‘Guys, we need to be moving the ball wide.’
John looked at me and said: ‘No, Gregor, we just need to run harder off 9.’
That sums up South Africa.”