Apparently, the URL tells me this is is our 200th edition of the Friday Rugby News. Time flies. Today’s news sees the Super Rugby draw named, an elephant (or lack of) in the room, France throwing more money at World Rugby, and squads named for the NRC.
Super Rugby Draw Announced
The biggest news story is the announcement of the 2018 Super Rugby draw.
Let’s call a spade a spade: the eighteen team format was bollocks, and good riddance to it that it now no longer exists. Super Rugby has gone back to the three conference system, with the Jaguares staying in the SA conference, the Sunwolves joining the Australian conference, and the Kiwi conference staying the same.
All teams will play 16 matches (eight home and eight away) and have two byes. The “new” system will also see a greater emphasis once again placed on derby matches, so we better get used to even more games of Australian teams beating Australian teams while we struggle to beat everyone else.
The finals will again include eight teams, with the three conference winners plus the next highest five sides on the overall ladder.
“It was not an easy decision to reduce the number of teams but a necessary one considering the outputs from the strategic review to date,” SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said to Fox Sports.
“The tournament was not working with 18 teams, the structure was confusing, the outcomes of matches were becoming too predictable and the fans and stakeholders had, through our surveys, voiced their concerns.
“SANZAAR respects that, as a consequence of this, Australia and South Africa have had to make some very hard decisions since our announcement in April that 2018 would revert to 15 teams.
“It is a difficult time for many in this respect particularly those within the affected teams and their fans. We understand the outpouring of disappointment and associated passion shown for these teams.
“To not have done anything would have been irresponsible and would have had a significant impact on the long-term sustainability of the game within our markets.”
The Brumbies are set to have the easiest schedule of all the teams in the revamped Super Rugby competition, opening their season against the Sunwolves (A), Reds (A), Rebels (A) and Sharks (H). However, their good run at the beginning will come back to bite them later down the track, with a tough run home in the final few rounds.
The Reds have the exact opposite, a tough start followed by a great run home (being the Tahs (H), Blues (A), Rebels (H) and Sunwolves (H). They do have one period of being away from home four weeks in a row, which will be crucial to their campaign. But there’s no excuses this coming year. They HAVE to have a better year.
The Waratahs have a similar season to the Reds, in that they have two particularly tough stretches during the season (including against four Kiwi opponents in consecutive weeks), but a stellar run home against the Rebels (A), the Sunwolves (H) and Brumbies (H). It should be a good year for the Tahs, unless they once again struggle to schedule their games properly with the A-League.
Finally, the Rebels will start their season with four straight derbies against the Reds (H), Sunwolves (A), Brumbies (H) and Tahs (A), which is an ideal start after the shocker they had this year. They will have their toughest games against SA and Kiwi opposition in consecutive weeks, which will be a challenging. They will also finish their regular season in New Zealand against the Highlanders.
For all details around the squads run during the season, click here.
“Super Rugby in 2018 will reignite the local rivalries here in Australia with home-and-away derbies returning and fans will be treated to more matches in better timeslots,” Bill Pulver said to Fox Sports.
“So this new competition format is a big win for rugby fans in Australia.”
But let’s cut the rubbish for a minute. All the places I’ve been looking at for this article, the vast, vast majority of fans are not excited by this announcement at all. If anything, they’ve been putting the blowtorch on it.
And honestly, I get it. Personally, it’s hard to get excited about Super Rugby after seeing this. It’s hard for me to even be excited about writing about it now. The fact that Super Rugby is now back to where it was three years ago. The fact that the whole fan base feels utterly disconnected from the competition. And most of all, the fact that, in all those season previews, there isn’t going to be a mention of that little battler team from WA.
This is the first official document from SANZAAR that doesn’t include the Western Force. For me, it really hits home, and I feel like it has for many other rugby fans too, judging by their comments.
I’ll be honest about it: it bloody sucks. The whole situation sucks. The whole decision making process sucked. The end result sucked. And now, the aftermath of this whole mess sucks even more. What a rubbish year this has been.
Yo want more dough?
Yep, another generic trophy pic.
If the Beatles once said that money can’t buy you love, no one clearly has told that to the French Rugby Union. The French have thrown an unbelievable amount of money at World Rugby in an attempt to win the rights to host Bill for 2023.
To host the World Cup, the host nation must pay the governing body $A203 million to stage the tournament. So France decided they’d up their offer by an extra $50 million yesterday, apparently 100 percent guaranteed by the French government.
“You have to pay a fee to host. It is a minimum. We have proposed not 120 million pounds but 150 million pounds,” French bid leader Claude Atcher reportedly said to British Media (via Rugby.com.au).
Atcher argued that while Ireland and South Africa have also applied for the World Cup, a vote for France would be vital in safeguarding rugby’s future as a global game.
“We have a responsibility to support the development of rugby in the world because, if we don’t do anything, in five to 10 years you will have two, three to four teams on the same level and that’s all, and then rugby will die,” he said to The Guardian a few days before.
The three bidding nations will make presentations to the voting bodies of World Rugby on Monday. After a decision-making period, the final decision to be announced on November 15 of this year.
Kefu’s daughter steps up to Sevens
Enough of the bad news, here’s something much more cheerful.
Toutai Kefu was an absolute machine on the rugby field back in the day, and it seems to have rubbed off heavily on his daughter Olivia, who participated in the inaugural Girls Sevens State Championships at Logan City Rugby Club yesterday.
Olivia was reportedly a late starter to Sevens, but it certainly rubs off when your Dad was part of a team that won the World Cup and you have an uncle who also pulled on the green and gold jersey.
“My dad played for the Wallabies a long time ago,” Olivia said to The Courier Mail.
“He tries to give me advice but I don’t really listen … I like the coach’s perspective.
“One of my goals is the Olympics after what the girls did winning a gold last year.”
It’s a goal that is certainly achievable, given the rise of Womens Rugby and the launch of the new AON Womens Sevens competition earlier this year.
“Rugby sevens has grown massively and it’s not just perfect timing for Olivia but lots of teenage girls,” said older Kefu.
“I always said to my wife Rachel that none of our daughters would play rugby but times, opportunities and enjoyment change.”
While older Kefu is mostly focused on coaching the Tongan national team, he has kept a close eye on the Wallabies, and admitted he was pretty annoyed at their performance against the Springboks.
“Not finishing off South Africa when the teams drew in Perth really frustrated me and the Wallabies better be prepared for an ambush when they next play them.”
But, he did take time out to praise Sean McMahon, the man currently occupying his traditional position, for praise.
“He brings mongrel, aggression and works hard and other teams are fearful of what he can do which are always good elements for a Test back row,” Kefu said.
Squads out, Guns out
The squads for round four of the National Rugby Championship are out, and a couple of teams are looking ready to through the kitchen sink at each other.
You can check out the squads (including the updated amendments) here.
There are three particularly notable names in the squads this week: the first is Kyle Godwin, who looks to be a much-needed return for NSW Country Eagles when they play against the Canberra Vikings in Armidale. The Eagles have looked really off pace attack wise this year, so a more experienced head in the backline will be a big factor in the game. As of Thursday night, the Vikings still haven’t named their squad.
Perth Spirit have brought some serious firepower over with them to Fiji, including the likes of Matt Philip and Isi Naisrani. While they’re currently having plenty of fun in the sun, they will have a tough encounter against them in the form of the Drua, who were way too good for the Eagles last week. But it is good the Piggies have backed several players from the Pindan Premier Grade. Expect plenty of fireworks with that one.
The Sydney Rays don’t look to be resting on their laurels either, adding Waratah Bryce Hegarty to their starting lineup against Queensland Country, who are still to name their squad as of Thursday night. The Rays will need all the experience of Super Rugby players to overcome a dangerous Country outfit. They haven’t dropped a game so far against Country in their history, but records have been tumbling all year so far in the NRC.
Finally, the Greater Sydney Rams have already made clear their intent on grabbing a win against Melbourne Rising this weekend down in Melbourne, with the naming of a relatively unchanged squad. Considering their two wins thus far, this may not be a bad move, even despite their loss to Perth last week. If anything, it might’ve given the squad a solid kick in the teeth to do better. As of Thursday night, Melbourne is still to name their squad.