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Friday’s Rugby News

Friday’s Rugby News

It’s the final news day for the year. Friday’s Rugby News has concerned Fijians, some concerned Reds, and news from the guys and gals of Aussie Sevens rugby.


Rokocoko warns

Drua fans flying the Fijian flag.

Drua fans flying the Fijian flag.

Starting overseas, a major topic of discussion has begun to surface in the Top 14. On Wednesday of this week, Stade Francis players Josaia Raisuqe and Waisea Nayacalevu stood trial over a drunken brawl in a famous Paris nightspot. Raisuqe was also charged with sexual assault.

The trial has highlighted many issues in regards to player conduct outside of the rugby field, but also conversely, has raised issues about Pacific Islander player treatment, education and management. The latter topic is one of particular importance to former Racing 92 and All Black veteran Joe Rokocoko, who believes this court case highlights many of the issues he sees every day when it comes to Pacific Islander players getting signed to French clubs.

While the topic is based within the context of France, it does put a lot of things in perspective in regards to many PI players who are recruited internationally.

Rokocoko is heavily involved with the significant contingent of Fijian rugby players in the Top 14, working with them through the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) association.

He admitted that while the enthusiastic recruitment of Fijian players by French clubs such as Clermont and Brive has done much for Fiji Rugby, it also comes as a double-edged sword, according to an interview he had with the AFP. 

“On one hand they are recruiting such young players and sometimes even the federation isn’t aware of what’s going on,” he said.

“Salaries are too low and Fiji, Tonga or Samoa lose out.

“That’s what you hear from over there.

“On the positive side, it’s a chance for the player to go abroad, to learn a different culture, to play better and to develop his game.”

Rokocoko has spoken to Raisuqe and Nayacalevu. In the interim period, Stade has kept on Nayacalevu, but sacked Raisuqe.

“They went through a hard time. I met them a week after the incident, they said they’d made the wrong choice and they really regretted it.

“This has been hard for them but it’s a good way for us, for Fijian players, to open our eyes, it could also happen to us.”

While Rokocoko highlighted the incident is a major wakeup for overseas Fijian players in France, he also cautioned many of the French clubs for their treatment of Fijian players, saying that the events concerning Raisuqe and Nayacalevu are not an isolated incident.

“It’s more than just a window dressing, especially for those suffering from depression,” Rokocoko said.

“We’ve had cases of suicide (Tarbes winger Isireli Temo took his own life in 2016), and regret not having acted earlier.

“For a French person, they think that just because the player has a smile, everything is fine.

“But that’s normal, they don’t express their feelings, they don’t reveal their problems.

“In Fiji, we smile, and carry on.

“That’s a mentality we are trying to change, to get the Fijian players to talk about their problems, to share things, so that they don’t feel homesick.

“I don’t know if the academies already do this but they should have one month courses on French life, to learn about taxes, and everything a player needs to know before leaving home.

“That would ensure that Fijians don’t come here without knowing the French system, what their contract involves, so he’s treated fairly and that he won’t be in for any nasty surprises.”

Thorn backs Smith

George Smith makes a break

George Smith makes a break

Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn is hopeful George Smith will be able to make a return to the Reds in 2018. Smith has been battling a back injury he sustained in Japan’s Top League for the past five weeks, and looks to be seeking specialist help here in Australia.

But Thorn is still hopeful that the injury won’t signal an end to Smith’s incredible career.

“He’s getting a few opinions – which is the smart thing to do – and we will find out more about that,” he said to rugby.com.au.

“He’s a real valued guy and hopefully there’s a good result there.

“He’s trying to look at those opinions and he’s keen to play footy.

“I don’t think he’s thinking about that sort of thing [retirement] at the moment.

“I think he was playing a game or training, felt something, played on and I guess when you’re aware there is a niggle or something you get it checked and something needed to be done about it.

“It’s just whether or not it’s a long term thing that puts him out or if it’s a shorter term thing.”

Thorn also took some time out to answer questions in regards to the recent Reds squad announcement, and hopes that everyone in the squad will look to compete hard to get a place in the starting team. For Thorn, he is particularly excited about the match up between Quade Cooper and Hamish Stewart.

“It’s a competitive environment so game on, as far as I’m concerned.

“That’s all I’ve ever known – people have said I’m not an experienced coach but what I am experienced in is playing professional footy and I’ve been doing that for a long time.

“I love to compete, I love the competitive environment and that’s what it is.

“I never got picked because I was a nice guy, you’ve got to earn the right and compete for a spot – it’s healthy.”

Sevens Corner – Gals

womens-sevens

While the Wallabies finished up this week just gone, the World Sevens series is getting underway today in Dubai (check out Fraser’s piece on it from yesterday).

Starting with the girls, it looks to be encouraging times for our Womens team. While 2017 didn’t live up to the highs of 2016, the inaugural AON Womens Sevens tournament showed that there is plenty of talent in Aussie rugby, and there’s high hopes the gals can bring a new strategy and tactics to their first event in Dubai.

Charlotte Caslick admitted that they have been working hard with coach Tim Walsh leading up to the tournament.

“We have been trying some new tactics and we will be putting them on show in Dubai”, she said to rugby.com.au. 

“I’m not really sure what to expect from the other nations.

“Leading into this big year it is the time to try new things and see what works and what doesn’t.”

For co-captain Sharni Williams, this season of Sevens will be particularly important, as it well lead into the Commonwealth Games next year on the Gold Coast.

“We’ve put all the preparation we can into this series to start off with a bang,” she said.

“This will really show us how we have prepared for the series.

“It’s probably not the pressure, it’s more trying to juggle all of those tournaments and to be peaking at the right times.

“I think we trust our conditioning staff and that they’ve got the right things on board and the right knowledge.

“We put our trust in them to go out and perform and do everything we possibly can each and every tournament.

“There’s no ‘which tournament should we win, which tournament should this happen, where should we taper off’.

“It’s now or never and let’s go out and give everything in every single tournament.”

Sevens Corner – Guys

James Stannard, Con Foley, Tom Cusack

Meanwhile, the boys campaign will officially get underway after the girls, and James Stannard is expecting the new rookies of the squad to rise to the occasion and deliver big after a disappointing campaign last year.

Stannard has been part of the Sevens outfit since 2010, and admitted that the game has undergone a lot of changes in that time.

“Every country is a bit different in the way they’ve changed,” Stannard said to rugby.com.au.

“The sport I played back in 2010, compared to now, back then there was a lot of pull out sort of rugby – not much contact.

“Now there is a lot of contact and I think the game is evolving. Teams are adjusting to the way the game is evolving.”

This season is looking a lot more encouraging for the Mens team, as the pre-season tournaments have seen many successes. For the team now, it’s all about translating that into the main tournament.

“Young guys like Maurice Longbottom have played a lot of exciting football over the last four tournaments and earned himself a spot and a debut for this World Series in Dubai,” said Stannard.

“They’re great assets to the team and I’m looking forward to seeing them play.

“We have had a bit of preseason success which gives us a lot of confidence first up but more importantly it gives us some good momentum coming into Dubai for the opening of the season.

“The more frequently you can be playing footy, the better you are going to be as a team.

“We have had some success and we are excited about that but we are under no illusion that we have got to back that up this weekend in Dubai.”


Hey folks, other Nick here. As mentioned above, with 2017 all but over on the Aussie rugby season front, this will be our last daily news segment of the year. I’ll be back next year but I just wanted to give a shoutout to Nick H, who finished up doing the news for good on Wednesday. It’s been a blast doing the news with you, and I look forward to plenty more banter at future NRC games with Pedro.

Finally, thanks to all of you who continue to read, listen, comment, contribute to and donate to the site. We have a frankly awesome rugby community here, and that all comes down to guys and gals like you. You are the reason GAGR keeps going, and the reason why we can afford our massive corporate yacht.

Hope you all have a safe and happy Christmas holidays, and I’ll see you in the new year.

  • Who?

    Nick and Nick, you’ve both been major highlights in an otherwise dreary yet. Which is quite a dismal thing to say, because it understates just how well you’ve both handled the year. Well done on keeping what feels like a growing sea of unrest – but also a growing number of commenters (though I could easily be wrong!) – engaged throughout the year.
    Hartman, all the best for whatever it is going forward.
    Wasiliev, enjoy the break!

    • Ads

      Well said!

    • Gottsy

      Rumors are going around that Nick H is joining dave rennie and Jamie Joseph in the race to take the reigns from Michael Cheika

      • whatwouldberniedo

        I would give my left nut for Dave Rennie as the wobs coach. Not sure what he’d do with it though.

        • Human

          I hear that he is partial to a bit of small bore target practice so it might not be out of the question ;-)

      • Ruggaman

        Yeah top quality coach, he is basically the Scotland backline coach because the entire Glasgow backline plays for Scotland

    • Happyman

      Nick and Nick Thanks for your work this year on the best rugby site in Australia. Hope to see you back in full flight next year, Have a safe and merry christmas.

  • Pedro

    The NRC banter is always good, congrats on crossing the finish line on an “interesting” year in Aussie rugby.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Nick, my thanks to you and the team at GAGR. This site has been fantastic to be part of. You and your team along with the interaction from the many supporters has been a lot of fun. To all the contributors, readers and commentators on this site, I hope you all have a great restful Christmas and New Year and I look forward to catching up with all of you in 2018.
    Let’s hope for better things next year.

    I do like what I’m hearing from Brad and I think he’s going to make a real difference at the Reds.

    • HK Red

      I really hope so KRL, it’s been hard to watch them the last few years. I’m really hoping this year signals a turnaround, in management and on-field results.

    • Reds hopeful

      I agree KRL i also believe that Brad T will play the best player’s available at the time. With the mantra of do the hard work or someone else will.

      I hope he can make some real change to the reds this year.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Absolutely. No free tickets from that guy

    • Brisneyland Local

      Yep you are preaching to the converted there. The Reds next year will be fit and disciplined. If I were a player I would be shit scared of not performing. For once they have a coach that can and has done it better than them. Watching him still doing contact drills with Qld Country an d the U20 side, it was bloody brutal.
      He says the right things, says what he means, and means what he says. There are no platitudes, just the business of playing good football.
      I am quietly optimistic.

  • sampro

    Fox Sports. 4pm (QLD) Monday. It will be good viewing… “The Season”.

    https://youtu.be/OpOv3cSRKxQ

  • Brisneyland Local

    Nick W, great work for the year mate. I dont know what I am going to do over the coming weeks with no sanity break from the daily grind of corporate life. Maybe you should leave o[en a holiday page where we can all come to and vent and dicuss to save us all going mad over the Xmas holidays.

    Look forward to seeing the first post next year. I hope you eat and drink too much!

    Wesołych Świąt

  • Reds hopeful

    It would be a real shame to lose smith. I went to every home game last year with my lad and got him to watch smithys workrate. For a nearly 40 year old he is outstanding.

    If the rest of the team put in as much effort as george we would be able to easily play 80 mins and finish games on a winning note.

    I do think we need to temper our expectations on 2018 season tho. As a bloke said it wont happen over night, but it will happen.

  • Adrian

    Nick, thanks for your column all year.

    The year started poorly, got better then faded in Wallaby terms.

    In ARU terms it started with “promise (es)”, got worse, worse still, and is maybe beginning to be forgotten. The 4 SR teams might be more competitive in 18, than in 17.

    NRC was successful

    For 2018, please come back?

    I’ll do my predictions in a separate post

  • Adrian

    My predictions for 2018:

    SR
    Reds 4th (because of Thorn)
    Rebels 5th (because of Coleman, Maffi and Wessels)
    Waratahs 6th (because of Beale, Folau)
    Brumbies 7th (because of Pocock, Naisarani)

    Wallabies to defeat Ireland 2:1
    Folau
    Koreibete
    Kurandrani
    Beale
    Hodge
    Foley
    Genia
    Pocock
    Hooper
    Dempsey
    Coleman
    Rodda
    Kepu
    TPN
    Sio

    Latu
    Alaalatoa
    Slipper
    Arnold
    Tui
    Gordon
    Hunt
    Kerevi

    If TPN unavailable at this time, then Uelese into squad. If Dempsey not recovered, then Tui, with Caleb Timu into squad. Naisarani not available until later in year.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      As usual Adrian your eternal optimism is awesome to see. I think the Brumbies will be higher than the Tahs, in fact unless there are some big changes in the next month or so I can’t see the Tahs getting higher than 12. I think the Irish series will depend very much on whether they see it as a time to rest senior players or to maintain continuity prior to RWC. If its the later then I think the Wallabies will struggle as they have a very good side.
      Have a good Christmas mate and I’ll hear from you in the new year.

      • Kevino

        At the moment Ireland might be becoming it’s own worst nightmare heading into a World Cup. Talk of O’Mahony and Stander going overseas as the money on offered in Ireland is 1/3 what they would be getting from the England and France contracts. On the back of losing Zebo and Ryan. Henderson looking abroad as well, hope it’s all manager talk and they are resigned.

        If Ireland have the current depth they will win the series 3-0. Can’t see the current Wallabies improving while Cheika is at the helm and still not picking players in the preferred positions (Hooper starts than Pocock is on the bench or other way round, think Pocock needs to start at 7 if he comes back in form). The back row has not been balanced in 3 years now and if you came up against POM, SOB, CJ back row they will run riot.

        • P00chie

          I’d be amazed if O’Mahoney went anywhere.

          Stander will follow the money

          Massive strength in depth there for Ireland anyway

          On paper I’d fancy Ireland for 3-0 but it rarely works out that way and I don’t know if Ireland has the killing mentality that England has.
          2-1 Australia

        • Bakkies

          I doubt that Stander will follow the money. He will be a Irish citizen soon and is quiet settled in Limerick

        • P00chie

          Being a South African citizen, and in the Sprinboks squad, didn’t stop him.
          He’s only in Ireland for the money.

        • Bakkies

          He went to Ireland due to the Bulls cutting his contract and ex Munster manager Shaun Payne recommended him. It was either work on the family farm or move abroad to continue with his career.

        • Parker

          Ireland to win. 3:0 because of Foley

    • Simon Powell

      I think Beale and Folau are going to be more of a handicap then what you give them credit for Adrian. Include Foley in the mix and the Tahs are going to struggle to hide three players in defense. Its not so easy to hide 2 on both wings as Scotland and England showed the Wallabies the over the last 2 weeks.

      Hopefully sooner rather than later, the Wallabies and the Tahs selection committee(s) will realise that there is more value in players that can defend as well as attack.

      Just a quick question for everyone – is there a difference between the Wallabies and the Waratahs selectors?

      • Adrian

        I guess we’ll see next year.
        Have a good Christmas Simon

        • Simon Powell

          Thanks mate – and you too.

    • Patrick

      I’d have mcmahon over Hooper we still need someone to make metres in tight.

      • Adrian

        He’s not available next year. Apparently he’ll be available for WC.

        If he was available next year I’d have him in the 23, possibly starting or on bench, and sharing that role with both Pocock and Hooper. I’d have one backrower who could jump, eg Dempsey

        • Simon Powell

          Just a quick question – why is Pocock an automatic selection. Yes he was very good in the past. He has had 12 months off, and the game has changed. Lets see what he does in Super Rugby before he we start checking ASICS have a Wallabies jerseys in his size.

        • Who?

          I’d agree with you, except for the fact that there are so many Wallabies who are automatic selections who have done far, far less than him. And whilst he’s had a few months off, his little spell in Japan should have him fairly primed to start the year fairly fresh but fit. At least a few of the automatic solutions should looking for the sort of break that Pocock’s taken…

        • Patrick

          Sure, let’s do that, but let’s just prepare his jersey at the same time :)

          He had 12 months off before, you may recall…

        • Patrick

          OK fair enough, 7. Pocock 6. Hooper and 8. McMahon is not so bad, but I would rather someone like Dempsey at 8 and McMahon at 6.

    • Ed

      Adrian,
      Is the teams’ prediction for the OZ/NZ conference or overall?
      If a full or close to full strength Irish squad comes here in June, they will have a huge advantage – Joe Schmidt. He will have various tactics to exploit our weakness, like what Eddie and Gregor did recently. At this stage, 2-1 to Ireland.
      Enjoy your break.

    • idiot savant

      Interesting SR predictions Adrian. My money is on the Brumbies topping the Australian conference on the back of a great defence, great set piece, and a dominant back row preventing opponents from getting regular quick ball. I look forward to seeing Naisarini and Valenti pull defences in with regular hit ups around the ruck.

      I think the Rebels will come second in the conference. They have a hell of a list but may not have enough time to get the cohesion. Set piece will be strong and outside backs lethal. But id be surprised if the inside backs in Genia, Lance, and Hodge gel quickly.

      Im going for the Tahs to come third. Initially I thought they could win it as a side with that many top Wallabies cant have two bad years in a row. The return of Beale will ignite the trio that won them the comp. However the gap to other squad members is greater than other teams and I think their forwards wont have the go forward or breakdown presence to get enough dominance.

      I think the Reds will come last because the step to the next level will be huge for their young list. I think the young bodies will tire as the season goes on and the young halves will be targeted for special treatment by every opposing side. Losing margins will be tighter on the back of improved defence. But if everybody in the Reds set up holds their nerve and Thorn avoids the sack I think they will top the conference in 2019.

  • Ruggaman

    You guys are really great, i enjoyed this year listening to you. Its nice to know that we in SA aren’t the only ones who are pissed of with some of the things happening in our sport. Wish you guys happy holidays and looking forward listening to you guys next year. Will you be doing previous/predictions before SR? I had a look at the Rebels and they made some great player signings with Wessels as coach and slashing ticket prices. Dark horse for knockout stages perhaps?

  • Sammy dullard

    Great insight again from gagr. Quade Frisby and vanzati all released from reds today. One would imagine that’s news worthy

Rugby
@Nick_Wasiliev

Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician and second-rower trying to kick start a writing career in an increasingly bonkers world...

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