Friday’s Rugby News has more on the Wallabies squad, Foley hitting 50, the Australian Schools side getting ready to rock and roll and the NRC squad chat.
No, I tell a lie. It’s only three. But for Izack Rodda, Jack Dempsey and Marika Koroibete it will be a case of being thrown in at the deep end when they play at altitude tomorrow against the Springboks.
All three players have certainly shown their potential as future Wallabies, and their inclusion in the squad has come at the expense of Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan and Henry Speight. The rest of the squad is pretty consistent with previous squads, with the exception of a notable inclusion in former skipper Stephen Moore, who was selected ahead of young gun Jordan Uelese.
So, why hand them their first debut starts now?
Well, according to Michael Cheika, it has come off the back of some pretty consistent form from all three players, whether they be coming off the bench or otherwise.
“I just thought I would give him a crack and give him a go,” Cheika said about Rodda’s inclusion over Simmons to Rugby.com.au.
“Simmons hasn’t been poor in any way but maybe how we start, how we finish, it’s going to be a big forward battle I would say.
“We’ll unleash him out there when he’s fresh and ready to go.
“I don’t think there is any risk there because he has come off the bench and played well in two big games and I can’t see why starting is any different – it’s a step along the way.”
Dempsey’s inclusion has come more off the back of giving Hanigan a break, given the young rookie has started seven tests in a row this year.
“Realistically he (Hanigan) should never had to play seven games in a row from his debut when he wasn’t even playing Super Rugby at the start of the year,” said Cheik.
“We could have given him a chance, taken him out, give him another chance and let him build.
“But he has done so well. It’s a different challenge for him this week.”
“[But] The eyes roll in the back of the head with Jack (Dempsey), if you know what I mean,” he added.
“He gets very aggressive and that’s what I like. I like that. You have to have one or two of those guys in your pack. He loves the contact and he loves to get into it.
“That’s one of the big reasons I like him as a player.”
Finally, on Koroibete…
“He did well in the first game and now starting he will have a chance to prepare himself for the whole week and get ready.
“He still has a bit to work on in terms of finding his lines off set-pieces and things like that but defensively and his work-rate, and stuff like that, he’s on the money.”
1. Scott Sio, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Adam Coleman, 6. Jack Dempsey, 7. Michael Hooper (C), 8. Sean McMahon, 9. Will Genia, 10. Bernard Foley, 11. Reece Hodge, 12. Kurtley Beale, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Marika Koroibete, 15. Israel Folau. Reserves (one to be omitted): 16. Stephen Moore, 17. Tom Robertson, 18. Allan Alaalatoa, 19. Rob Simmons, 20. Lukhan Tui, 21. Ned Hanigan, 22. Nick Phipps, 23. Samu Kerevi, 24. Henry Speight
Should the Wallabies be successful in South Africa, it’ll be their first win there since 2011. Meanwhile, the All Blacks will look to all but wrap up Rugby Championship for another year when they face the Pumas in Buenos Aires.
Foley hits 50
Bernard Foley will reach an important milestone in his career in Saturday, notching up his 50th cap for the Wallabies when he takes to the field in Bloemfontein.
While his career has seen plenty of highs and lows, since the start of the Rugby Championship he has certainly lived up to the nickname ‘Iceman’, achieving a completely perfect kicking record in every single match this Championship except the thrilla in Dunedin. Currently, he’s kicked twenty out of twenty-three conversions/penalties this championship.
“It’s a good chance for us to be coming up against a team that’s probably hurting a little bit, to go out there and put our front foot forward,” he said.
However, he did open up on how his experience has affected his role in the squad.
“Naturally, as age and experience dwells on you, that’s something you probably push off a little bit. But I’ve enjoyed taking a leadership role amongst this team. It’s not something that I guess feels natural for me or something I really set out to do, but it is something that I now really enjoy.
“Helping out the younger guys, helping them experience the greatness of playing rugby and playing for the Wallabies because it is a great opportunity and something we all cherish.
“For me, it’s about trying to help them out by any little way I can, and also keep challenging myself to improve in that area.”
For all of the ups and downs of his career, I think it’s fair to say the bloke has more than earned his fifty caps. Looking forward to more outstanding games from him, like that beauty of a performance that knocked England out of their own World Cup two years ago (head to 1:44 for my personal favourite Foley moment).
Heading into this weekend’s sport, we start with the latest edition of international schoolboys rugby.
The action begin first at Knox Grammer School here in Sydney on Monday October 2nd, kicking off with the Australian Schools Barbarians taking on NZ Schoolboys at 1pm, before the Australian Schools tackle on Fiji Schools at 3pm.
The following week (October 7) however Schoolboy rugby will get the chance to really show off, with it’s matches serving as curtain raisers to the much anticipated round six clash between the Greater Sydney Rams and the Fijian Drua at TG Millner. The Barbarians take on Fiji that day first at 11am AEST, before the showdown between Australian Schools and NZ Schools at 12.50pm. Those matches will be streamed on rugby.com.au, before the Rams and Drua fight it out as the final match of the day.
“We’re really looking forward to hosting these matches and I know our two Australian squads have been working hard in preparing to play at home,” ARU Head of National XVs Programs Adrian Thompson said to Rugby.com.au.
“To host this year means we are fortunate in that we can give more opportunities to the Australian Barbarians side to play International rugby and will expand our depth as these young men continue their journey in rugby over the coming years.
“Australian Schoolboys matches have an important place in the Australian Rugby calendar and is an important cog in our pathways machine in producing elite talent.”
NRC/Aon Uni Sevens Goss
It’s a big festival of rugby this weekend, particularly at Bond University on the Gold Coast. But we’ll get to that in a sec.
Starting off with the NRC, the squads are in for most of the teams this week, and it looks to be a real case of coaches sticking with and deciding their squads for the remaining four rounds of regular season after this one.
You can check out the NRC squads in their entirety here.
The Canberra Vikings are sticking with a heavily-Super Rugby packed side, including Blake Enever, Wharenui Hawera and the ever reliable Tom Banks. They have every right to stick with a strong squad, as they will be coming up against a powerful Fijian Drua side who have left their squad relatively unchanged from their two successful home games. Their match kicks off tonight.
The Melbourne Rising will be looking to take another surprise scalp and get off the bottom of the table when they travel up to Bond University to face Queensland Country on Saturday. The Rising have nailed down a good balance of Super Rugby and Dewar Shield experience, but they will have a tough time against an in-form country side looking for their first ever third win in a row. As of Friday morning, they are still to name their squad.
Both the Perth Spirit and Brisbane City are playing their cards pretty close to the chest for their match on Sunday in Perth, with both of their sides still to name their squads for the match as of Friday morning.
And finally, the NSW derby on Monday will see a more Tah heavy NSW Country Eagles host the Sydney Rays in Goulburn. Andrew Kellaway returns to fullback, while Thomas Staniforth and Ryan McCauley will provide the beef upfront that proved pivotal in getting the Eagles over the line against the Vikings. The Rays are still to name that squad.
Get out there and support your club rugby and NRC, and you can do that by heading over to Bond University. In addition to the Rising-Country match, Bond University will also host the Aon Uni7s, Junior Gold Cup and the State Under-16s grand finals.
The Uni 7s is of particular notice, as it will be the final of four womens sevens competitions. University of Queensland have won the last three, and a win here will see them clean sweep the entire competition.
For those of you looking for something new to your rugby, get along to this festival of rugby that celebrates the rising male and female stars of our game. Have a read of our thoughts on the Uni Sevens here.
**Breaking News** Changing of the Guard
We usually don’t add on stuff after publishing news, but this isn’t exactly an ordinary day. Dave Wessels is officially heading to the Melbourne Rebels, and Nick Stiles has been sacked by the Queensland Reds in favour of Brad Thorn.
Starting with Wessels, the former Western Force coach has been in unbelievable demand following his impressive season with the men from the west. So demand in fact, that Irish club Munster had made it clear that they were close to forming a deal with Wessels and were prepared to throw the chequebook at him to get here.
But Wessels himself has spoken a lot about how much Australian rugby means to him, and has decided to stay here in Australia, to coach the Melbourne Rebels. This was confirmed officially today by Wessels in a statement.
“I’m very grateful to everyone at the Rebels and within Australian rugby for helping make this move possible,” Wessels said in a statement.
“For me, the decision was driven by a strong feeling of unfinished business in Super Rugby. I’m very passionate about rugby and the game in this country has provided me with the opportunity to fulfil my dream to coach professionally. Part of repaying this faith is realising the success that I know we’re capable of.
“Make no mistake, our goal is to win Super Rugby. We’re finalising an exciting group of coaches and players who will not only contribute to building an enviable and winning culture at the club but who will progress us towards that ultimate goal.”
“We’re delighted that Dave will be joining us,” said Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson.
“He’s one of the brightest and most sought-after coaches in world rugby.
“He showed real leadership through an incredibly difficult period at the Western Force and has demonstrated his ability to build a world-class rugby program.”
Even Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was pleased with Wessels decision to stay in Australia.
“He has done an outstanding job in Perth and I say that because I have seen the players that have come in here and how they’ve come in with their attitude into the camp,” Cheika said.
“I would really like to see them stay in Australian rugby for sure.”
While it’s encouraging news for the Rebels, the Reds meanwhile are back to square one, announcing the removal of Stiles from the Head Coaches role. After co-coaching the Reds in 2016, 2017 was the first year Stiles had full control at the club.
According to Fox Sports, Stiles has the worst record of any Super Rugby coach in history in charge of more than 35 games. He was contracted until the end of next year.
According to the Telegraph, Brad Thorn’s work methods have clearly left an impression on the Reds. Add in the improved performances of NRC cellar dwellers Queensland Country, and it ain’t hard to see that he will be the front runner to take the lead coaching role.
This comes after the whole John Connolly debacle this year, which saw the former Red and Wallaby coach take the Reds successfully to courts, winning $150,000. And, of course, another bitterly disappointing Super Rugby season.
Whoever is selected, they have a hell of a mountain to climb to win back supporters, and fast.
The Link era seems like an eon ago.