Friday’s Rugby News sees all of the squads for the weekend, other upcoming fixtures at home and overseas, Rugby Australia establishing a new national ID program, and Poey’s return date confirmed!
Starting off in Super Rugby, the squads for three of the Aussie teams are out and there’s plenty to talk about.
Beginning with the derby, the Rebels have had to make one big change, with skipper Adam Coleman out due to sternum soreness. However, they do have a solid replacement in Ross Haylett-Petty, who will join Matt Philip in the second row. Tom English has been handed the captaincy duties, and will look to build on the Rebels impressive start to the season.
They have also been bolstered by the return of Marika Koroibete and Richard Hardwick from injury, who will come off the bench for the Stockade. Ben Daley will also get his first appearance for the club.
Meanwhile, the Brumbies have welcomed back a pivotal player in Scott Sio, who will come into the starting lineup. He will also be joined by Lolo Fakaosilea, with several players moving around in the scrum. The Brumbies scrum was far from it’s usual standard last week against the Reds, and Dan McKellar is determined to get it right again.
“We were really disappointed in our scrummage against the Reds and it wasn’t to our standard,” McKellar said.
There will also be four changes to the Brumbies bench, with exciting NRC prospect Folau Fainga’a, prop Faalelei Sione and lock Richie Arnold bringing some late game grunt to the forward pack, while Andy Muirhead has his first start in 2018.
Rebels Squad: Dane Haylett-Petty, Jack Maddocks, Tom English (c), Reece Hodge, Sefa Naivalu, Jack Debreczeni, Will Genia, Amanaki Mafi, Angus Cottrell, Lopeti Timani, Ross Haylett-Petty, Matt Philip, Jermaine Ainsley, Jordan Uelese, Tetera Faulkner. Reserves: Anaru Rangi, Ben Daley, Sam Talakai, Colby Fainga’a, Richard Hardwick, Michael Ruru, Billy Meakes, Marika Koroibete.
Brumbies Squad: Tom Banks, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Kyle Godwin, Chance Peni, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Powell, Isi Naisarani, Lolo Fakaosilea, Lachlan McCaffrey, Sam Carter (c), Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Josh Mann-Rea, Scott Sio. Reserves: Folau Fainga’a, Faalelei Sione, Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, Richie Arnold, Tom Cusack, Matt Lucas, Wharenui Hawera, Andy Muirhead.
This has got the makings of a really good game, with the both sides looking to prove a point. As much as I want my Brumbies to get up, I reckon the Rebels are going to take this one.
Meanwhile, up at Suncorp Stadium, the Reds have made one change for their match against the Bulls, with Filipo Daugunu coming in onto the wing at the expense of Duncan Paia’aua, who has moved to the bench. This move will see Chris Feauai-Sautia move to outside centre, and Samu Kerevi move to inside centre.
The forward pack will remain unchanged, with Brad Thorn having faith in the squad that beat the Brumbies.
“We’ve made a few changes in the backline, bringing Chris into the centres and Filipo onto the wing,” Thorn said.
“Chris has been in great form and offers a lot in the centres.
“He played there throughout the NRC and provided plenty of go forward for the team.
“It’s also a good opportunity for Filipo to get his first start.
“The Bulls will be a tough challenge but the team is looking forward to running out in front of their home fans again this weekend.
“Hopefully the team can go out and make everyone proud.”
Reds Squad: Aidan Toua, Filipo Daugunu, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Eto Nabuli, Jono Lance, James Tuttle, Caleb Timu, Liam Wright, Adam Korczyk, Kane Douglas, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper (c). Reserves: Alex Mafi, JP Smith, Sef Fa’agase, Harry Hockings, Angus Scott-Young, Tate McDermott, Hamish Stewart, Duncan Paia’aua
The Reds are looking like an improved side, but will need to play an up-tempo game to knock over this Bulls side. The lads on the podcast are predicting the Bulls will win this one, and I’m inclined to agree. But hey, I was wrong last week.
As for the Waratahs, they are still to name their squad against the Jaguares as of Thursday night.
Hope everyone enjoys their rugby this weekend.
Outside of Super Rugby…
There’s a bloody huge amount of rugby going on this weekend, so we’ll start domestically.
Super W kicks off tomorrow night, with Queensland hosting NSW as the matinee game before the Reds play the Bulls. Both squads look bloody dangerous, with Wallaroos and Tens stars aplenty. Fans are going to want to get along to this, it’s gonna be a cracker.
The other Super W match will be just as spiteful, with the WA Womens side hosting the Victorian Womens at the beautiful Cottesloe Rugby Club in Perth on Sunday. WA Rugby fans should really get along to this one, as it’ll look to be just as fierce as when the Perth Spirit knocked over the Melbourne Rising in front of 4,000 fans in the NRC.
“The Women’s Sevens team’s resurgence – some of that has been the competition that they played domestically – unearthing new talent and giving new players an opportunity to play more together,” said Rod Kafer, Rugby Australia’s New Special Projects manager.
“That’s really important and the Buildcorp Super W gives us that opportunity again.
“We have the Wallabies, we have the men’s and women’s Sevens team and we have the Wallaroos.
“That’s right at the pinnacle of our game – they wear our national colours – they’re a national team and we need to take pride in giving our teams the best opportunity to win and be successful.”
Back at Super Rugby level, round 4 will get off to a flyer when the Highlanders come back off the bye and face the Stormers, who have had a bloody tough time of the road the last few weeks. Open and shut result.
Following the Aussie derby, the first kiwi derby will kick off on Saturday with the Hurricanes hosting a dangerous Crusaders outfit in Windy Wellington. I’m tipping the visitors for this one, but the Hurricanes could very easily spring a surprise, as the Crusaders do have plenty of injury concerns. Reckon this one will be the match of the round.
After the Reds play the Bulls, the Sharks could find themselves coming up against a tricky opponent in the Sunwolves, who look to have improved out of sight this year. If the Sharks play like they did last week, we could have an upset on the cards.
Finally, the last non-Aussie match will see another game that will be contender for match of the round, with the Lions hosting the Blues. It’s been a frustrating start to the campaign so far for the Blues, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon here.
And, lastly we head overseas to the Six Nations, with the penultimate round kicking off tomorrow.
In what’s been a close competition this year, this round sees a scrap for top honours between Ireland, England and Scotland.
Starting in Dublin, the Irish will look to have one hand on the trophy when they host the Scots. If the Irish win, they will take a big lead at the top of the table, and could potentially win the whole thing (barring another result in Paris).
If Scotland however pull the upset, which many can see happening, they could find themselves in contention to win the trophy in the final round, when they head to Rome to face Italy. But this result is dependant on the same result in Paris.
It’s time to dream for Scotland. They have never won the Six Nations in it’s current form, so this will be the match that will define how far they can go as a resurgent team.
The second match is that crucial result in Paris, and both the Scots and Ireland are banking on England losing for their respective results. If England win, it will effectively set up the decider for the trophy at Twickenham next week against the Irish.
But, while France have been looking far from their best this season, they finally snapped an eight match losing streak and got back to winning ways when they beat Italy last round. A win here will do much to put a smile on the faces of long suffering fans, and nothing would be more enjoyable for French fans than effectively ending England’s chance to win the Six Nations.
Finally, the last match sees Wales host the Azzuri in Cardiff. The Welsh have been looking an improved side this year, and are still mathematically a chance of winning the competition (albeit, against very high odds). But they’re going to want to win big here. As for Italy, it’s all about pride now.
The last time they beat the Scarlets was back in 2003. Surprisingly though, the last four matches between these two have gone Wales way, but by a margin of ten or less. Maybe there might be a surprise here?
Australia’s Got Talent?
Oh look! Another Rugby Australia pathway program! Lost count of how many there are now.
But this one does look like a goodie. Remember the days when Australia used to have a national academy? Then Bill Pulver and the new board came along and it fell to the job of the Super Rugby clubs? Yeah, that one.
Well, things look to be going back to the way they were, with the governing body set to announce a new and improved talent ID program.
This came after RA’s high performance panel and the Super Rugby managers met yesterday in Brisbane to iron out the plans, which are hoped will (according to Fox Sports) provide a significant boost for the code’s fight for young talent.
“The (previous system) didn’t have the national approach that I now think is going to almost intuitively make that system stronger,” explained national high performance manager Ben Whitaker.
“It went back to the five individual Super teams saying ‘right, we’ve got to look after ourselves.’
“What do we need in a year or two years?’
“It didn’t mean that we dropped the ball, but when Bill [Pulver] first came on, elements of that national system dissolved.
“Whether right or wrong the national academy was in place at that stage.
“That sort of function went back to the Super teams and that created a little bit more of ‘well this is mine.’
“Not sharing anything because ultimately we’ve just got to win.’
“But you can see in the last 12 months — there was a feeling even before that — but in the last 12 months we’ve formalised that approach now.
“And there’s commitment and agreement that if we don’t identify talent from as young as 13-14 years of age and bring them through the system, if that’s not attended to nationally with the contribution of all the Super teams, it’s never going to be strong.”
The focus of this academy will be to ensure that players can be encouraged from a young age to pursue rugby, and also ensure that there is depth in all key positions. This is particularly important, as many positions now (such as hookers, and fly-halves) in Australia lack a lot of depth.
The wait is nearly (hopefully) over…
Sniff. Sniff. Can someone smell a breakdown?
David Pocock certainly can, because he’s officially set a date for his return to Super Rugby.
We haven’t seen him since the end of 2016, and frankly, I can’t wait for the big lad to come back.
So when is he targeting his return? The end of this month. His goal is to be back fighting against the NSW Waratahs at their derby match in Canberra on March 31.
Dan McKellar made it no secret that the Brumbies are keen as hell to have him back in fighting form, but are making sure he’s a hundred percent fit before he gets on the park.
“We’ll see how the next couple of weeks go, but he’s (Pocock) provided a lot of enthusiasm and energy over the last couple of days,” McKellar said to rugby.com.au.
“We always thought in and around the bye week (for Pocock’s return) but he’s on schedule to play in that (Waratahs) game and he’ll get some good weeks of training.
“One thing we do here though with our medical staff is we don’t rush guys back, we make sure they’re fit and able to play.”
His return would see the Brumbies forward pack return to full strength.
Even writing that made me keen to see him back in action.