Friday’s Rugby News has more transfers, a tough opening for our ladies at the RWC, some very worried Japanese Rugby officials, and Kerevi keen for combinations.
Faulkner heads home
With the absolute basket case that Super Rugby is, it’s a miracle that in the last couple of days there’s been so many signings. The Melbourne Rebels have been particularly busy on the signing front. Following them getting Amanaki Mafi to re-sign yesterday, the men from Victoria have announced another big signing: Tetera Faulkner from the Western Force.
Despite being Kiwi-born, Faulkner moved to Melbourne when he was 13. Growing up and plying his rugby there, his success saw him picked up by the WA club as as injury cover in 2011. Seven years of service later, he’s making the move back.
This was a find that Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson was particularly chuffed about when he revealed it on Melbourne radio station RSN.
“Tetera is a quality player and person who will bring experience, consistency and strong values to the Rebels,” Stephenson said.
“It is great to bring a Melbourne player home to represent the Rebels in front of so many family, friends and teammates that he grew up with.”
The Force have taken Faulkner to plenty of places, including into the current Wallabies Bledisloe Cup squad. But for him, the chance to move back home to Melbourne was something he didn’t want to miss.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue my rugby career back in Melbourne, a city that I hold dear to me,” Faulkner said.
“After getting my first big break with the Schoolboys in Melbourne, it feels like I’ve come a full circle so I’m excited to return home and contribute to the exciting future of the Melbourne Rebels and Victorian rugby.”
In other transfer news, the Brumbies have managed to re-sign James Dargaville for another season. The utility back is keen to make more of an impact in the nation’s capital, and will be looking for a big NRC season with the Canberra Vikings as a springboard to greater success.
The entire Super Rugby saga has weighed heavily on the mind of Dargaville’s decision, but he admitted that he had “unfinished business” in Canberra.
“It’s impossible to say that [the Super Rugby saga] doesn’t affect you day to day. But I just feel for those boys over in Perth and Melbourne where their lives are still in limbo,” he told the Canberra Times.
“I’m only 25, so I wasn’t in a rush to run off overseas yet. My main aim was to stay in Australia and at the Brumbies, so to get another year here is really good.
“We’ve got some pretty good centres at the Brumbies so it’s more of a weekly proposition of where do I fit into the team.
“There’s plenty of talent there, so it’s about getting a starting role and playing good rugby every time you get an opportunity.
“For the time being I am happy to play that [versatile] role, that’s just the balance the team needs with the other players we’ve got in the back line. You’ve just got to add what you can.”
Dargaville adds to what will be a solid Brumbies outfit next year. In addition to seeing the return of David Pocock, the Brums also look set to welcome Waratahs scrumhalf Matt Lucas and Leicester Tigers back-rower Lachlan McCaffrey, who are both rumoured to be close to finalising deals with the Canberra franchise.
The Worrying Wolfpack
The Western Force and the Melbourne Rebels have been putting up a hell of a fight in regards to staying in Super Rugby for the 2018 season. The Force are currently still in arbitration with the ARU, and many eyes are focused on that decision. And that is not just here in Australia.
If the ARU win, it is highly probable that they will assemble the board to call a vote on whether to cut the Western Force from the competition, with the Rebels escaping the cut. However, if the result does indeed fall that way, the ARU will have a large mountain to climb. The Force’s efforts have seen the club make many powerful friends in the last few months, including Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, who has made it very clear he will make sure the WA club stays.
However, if the Force win the arbitration, it will effectively mean that they cannot be culled before the end of the broadcast deal in 2020. Considering how many are wondering what the structure of the competition will look like at the end of that time (especially in light of talk of South Africa leaving the competition), this decision will throw a huge spanner in the works.
That will leave 16 teams, meaning the ARU will have to go to SANZAAR and say they cannot fulfil their obligation to cut a team for the competition. And, according to Wayne Smith at The Australian, that has the Sunwolves very worried.
The Sunwolves have already been told by SANZAAR to lift their game off the back of two very poor seasons in Super Rugby. Easily being the worst performing team over the last two years, Smith has apparently been chatting with folks in Tokyo, and they are worried about what may happen should the ARU be unable to cut a team.
“If they can’t get rid of a fifth Australian team, do SANZAAR stick with a 15-team competition?” a Sunwolves source told The Australian yesterday.
“If they do, then they will have to make a decision on who that other team is.”
The Japanese are certainly not hiding their concern, as they have made it clear that Sunwolves are an important cog in getting rugby a permanent foothold on the country ahead of the 2019 World Cup. Their plans were hindered by the re-signing of Japanese international Amanaki Mafi to the Rebels until 2019.
“We were looking to him to be part of the Sunwolves and ultimately of the (Japanese) World Cup campaign. But if he’s not going to be with the Sunwolves…
“The Sunwolves are an important preparation for the World Cup and if he is not part of that and there are other players who are part of that, then that’s a consideration the coaches will need to make.”
Some may take this with a grain of salt. But it is a serious question: if the ARU can’t cut a team, who else (aside from the Sunwolves) would be in line to take the cut?
Wallaroos fall to Ireland
It was a heartbreaking first match for our ladies at the RWC in Ireland, with the Wallaroos falling 19-17 to the hosts in Dublin yesterday morning.
The Wallaroos led for most of the match, and were ahead 10-7 with twenty minutes on the clock. However, the Six Nations runners-up stepped up a gear and dominated the territory to score two quick tries. The Wallaroos struck back through a try in the 73rd minute to Ashleigh Hewson. In the end, it was Irish flyhalf Nora Stapleton‘s boot that proved the difference in what was a tense match.
Despite the loss, coach Paul Verrell was really impressed with the improvement shown in his side, that weren’t able to grab a win on their Four Nations tour of New Zealand two months ago. He was particularly impressed with the defensive effort against the higher ranked Irish side.
“The team matched it with the Irish for the majority of the match and matched them in physically and put in a solid defensive display,” Verrell said to the West Australian.
“The Irish controlled possession for a large portion of the second half and kept the ball inside our own half and that prevented us from creating any real opportunities.”
The Roos will have to go back to the drawing board and will have their work cut out against their next opponents France, who currently lead their pool after smashing the Japanese 72-14. Their match against Les Bleus will be on August 14.
In other notable results, New Zealand were able to brush aside Wales, 44-12, while current champions England easily accounted for Spain, 56-5. However, the biggest victory saw Canada put the boot into Hong Kong, beating 98-0.
The site of Samu Kerevi heading back onto the field is certainly one that many fans will be looking forward to. He was one of the new shining lights of the Wallabies last year, and the Red’s back was quick to admit that he was keen to combine with the “X-Factor” that the Wallabies missed in June – a certain Kurtley Beale.
Kerevi was struck down by injury earlier this year after what had been an encouraging season personally for the Reds, which ruled him out of playing in June. He admitted that pairing himself with Beale might prove to give the Wallabies a much-needed boost to be competitive against the All Blacks.
“Kurtley is an exceptional player with an exceptional rugby brain,” Kerevi told Rugby.com.au.
“We have been doing a lot of opposed stuff with the boys and trying different combinations in the centres.
“For me, when I do train with Kurtley or train against him just seeing how he plays excites me.
“I know he can bring that X factor to the backline and then we have guys like Israel Folau out back, Tevita Kuridrani and Henry Speight out wide that can finish off amazing tries.”
The squad has been pretty quiet on the media front, training up at Cessnock ahead of the first test next Saturday. Fitness has been a key aspect to their preparations, and Kerevi said that the squad was happy to be past that aspect of their preparations so they could focus on trying to conquer the All Blacks.
Kerevi himself has been easing himself back into full contact this week, and despite having an injury-plagued couple of years, he thinks that he will be fit and firing come August 19.
“I took the opportunities that I got last year and brought it to this year,” he said.
“I want to make sure I take every opportunity this year.
“This group can change history and be part of it, that’s what excites me.”