Wednesday’s rugby news has McCalman let off lightly, Cheika shifting his starters, Larkham worried about Schalk and a European Cup deal finally reached.
In-form Western Force no.8 Ben McCalman will only miss one match for his dangerous tackle on prop Kane Hames over the weekend. SANZAR judicial officer Nicholas Davidson QC handed down a two week ban in response to McCalman’s guilty plea, but with the team allocated a bye in round seven, the Western Force will only be without their star backrower for this week’s match against the Chiefs.
The loss of McCalman makes the game against the unbeaten Chiefs even harder. But the Force have opened the season with surprising form, having the opportunity to notch three wins in a row for the first time since 2007. ‘The past two weeks have shown the quality of players the Force have…we are busy getting something special,’ said new recruit Wilhelm Steenkamp. [/one_half]
Cheika changes line-up
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has made wholesale changes to the team that lost to the Brumbies last week, with four new startes to face off against the Rebels on Friday. Sekope Kepu will replace Ben Robinson at loosehead prop after a poor set-piece showing over the weekend. Cheika emphasised that Kepu was unlucky to miss out on a starting position right off the bat, adding, ‘He’s done what he needs to do to force his way back into the side.’
Meanwhile, William Skelton will return to lock, pushing Jacques Potgieter to flanker and captain Dave Dennis to number eight. This means that Wycliff Palu, who was tearing through opponents in the early rounds, will be relegated to the bench, with the NSW coach emphasising, ‘We’ve got to make sure we use Cliff correctly.’ [/one_half]
Larkham bracing for Schalk of old
Although Schalk Burger has played just three games in two years after suffering life-threatening bacterial meningitis, Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham is predicting the legendary Springbok to recapture his world player of the year form on Saturday night. ‘He’s getting back to his best. A lot of the Stormers’ play revolves around him,’ Larkham said. The Brumbies will be looking to contain the powerful Stormer ball-runners and build their fourth consecutive win.
In some positive news for the ACT team, Wallabies centre Christian Lealiifano will play his first match since his ankle surgery this weekend, lining up for the Tuggeranong Vikings in a trial match. Wallabies winger Joseph Tomane will also be injected for his first game since round one. [/one_half]
Euro cup drama settled
After two years of seemingly fruitless negotiations, a new European Cup accord will be signed this week. The details of the new competition were reportedly finalised when officials from England, France and Wales met on Monday. A notable change will be the control of the Six Nations committee, which will take over the responsibilities of running the tournament from the European Rugby Cup Ltd. A majorly contentious issue, the broadcasting arrangement, was also apparently solved, with Sky and BT Sports agreeing to share the rights to the new tournament.
The new-look European Cup will include 20 teams: six from the Premiership and Top 14 and seven from the Pro 12. The proceeds will also be divided equally between the three leagues with merit money from the quarter-finals onwards. [/one_half]