Friday’s Rugby News sees all you need to know about the last regular round of Super Rugby, club corner, more out the Reds corner and the Force keeping the faith.
Well, it’s the last round of the regular season, and there’s plenty of rugby going on all around the country.
We’ll kick off our predictions in WA this week, where the Western Force will return to the field this Saturday at NIB Stadium, coming up against a Samoan side that recently qualified for the World Cup. However, they scraped in by the skin of their teeth, and it came with a berating from the nation’s PM.
With that in mind, the Island Nation will be looking to make a statement here, and grab an unlikely win. If there was any chance for them to get a win, it is now. The Force have lost their last two games, putting in a valiant effort against the Rebels and getting blown off the park by the Crusaders.
They have named a strong squad however, so expect plenty of sparks to fly come Saturday night.
Western Force Squad: Harrison Lloyd, Feleti Kaitu’u, Tom Sheminant, Johan Bardoul, Jeremy Thrush, Henry Stowers, Chris Alcock, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior ©, Andrew Deegan, Brad Lacey, Henry Taefu, Marchel Brache, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Peter Grant. Reserves: Heath Tessmann, Cameron Orr, Chris Heiberg, Leon Power, Tevin Ferris, Issak Fines, AJ Alatimu, Jack McGregor.
All the luck in the world to Samoa, but the Force will be hungry to get back in the winner’s circle for their fans, and they will want to make a statement here. Force by 14 or more.
Heading into Super Rugby, the Reds kick things off for the Aussie teams when they will play their final match of the year against the Sunwolves.
It’s devastating that this match won’t be the farewell for George Smith, but I hope plenty of Reds fans will get down to Suncorp to say farewell to the legend.
The Reds themselves will use the game to blood some talent, with Angus Blyth set to debut from the bench, while Tate McDermott will get his debut in the starting lineup. Lukhan Tui will also be back.
Reds Squad: Jono Lance, Filipo Daugunu, Jordan Petaia, Duncan Paia’aua, Eto Nabuli, Hamish Stewart, Tate McDermott, Scott Higginbotham (c), Liam Wright, Caleb Timu, Lukhan Tui, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, JP Smith. Reserves: Alex Mafi, Harry Hoopert, Ruan Smith, Angus Blyth, Angus Scott-Young, Adam Korczyk, Moses Sorovi, Teti Tela
The Reds will take confidence from their defeat of the Rebels last week, and they’ll be motivated to win this one and finish the season on a high. As much as the Sunwolves have had their moments this season, their capitulation last week doesn’t give me confidence that they can pull the upset. Reds by 10.
Down in Dunedin, the Rebels meanwhile have a chance to make club history and book a maiden finals berth. The squad currently are clinging onto eighth place, with the Sharks and Brumbies still a chance of knocking them out. A win here though would put that race to bed.
The only negative is they are without Adam Coleman, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty and Geoff Parling, who have all been ruled out due to injury.
However, they do come up against a Highlanders side that has leaked eighty points in the last two weeks, and are also missing some stars of their own in Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Luke Whitelock.
Dave Wessels has made four changes to the side that went down in Brizzy, with Sefa Naivalu, Ross Haylett-Petty, Fereti Sa’aga and Sam Talakai coming into the starting lineup.
Rebels Squad: Jack Maddocks, Sefa Naivalu, Tom English (c), Billy Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge, Michael Ruru, Amanaki Mafi, Colby Fainga’a, Angus Cottrell, Ross Haylett-Petty, Matt Philip, Sam Talakai, Anaru Rangi, Fereti Sa’aga. Reserves: Nathan Charles, Tetera Faulkner, Jermaine Ainsley, Sam Jeffries, Richard Hardwick, Harrison Goddard, Jack Debreczeni, Lopeti Timani
Last week I said it was now or never for the Rebels to nail down that top eight position. Extern results went their way and they were lucky that they kept their spot. They need to show up this time, because in this case, every point matters. If they put a performance like they did last week, it won’t be enough. Highlanders by 5.
Lastly, the Waratahs and Brumbies do battle in Sydney on Saturday night in a match has a decent amount of hype building up to it.
The Tahs are already guaranteed a finals placing, having wrapped up the Aussie conference last week. They’ve been in solid form, and will be favourites to win. Unsurprisingly, they’ve named an unchanged lineup.
However, they’re coming up against a Brums side with everything to play for. The men from the capital have been making a late charge to the finals, with three wins in their last four weeks. More concerning though is that they knocked off the Hurricanes at home and very nearly beat the Chiefs in Waikato.
The Brumbies have to win with a bonus point to equal the Rebels tally. Unsurprisingly, they’ve gone brawn for go-foward in the piggies, naming Rory and Richie Arnold in the starting line-up, the first time both brothers will start together. Scott Sio will also return to the starting lineup.
Waratahs Squad: Israel Folau, Cam Clark, Curtis Rona, Kurtley Beale, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Bernard Foley (c), Nick Phipps, Michael Wells, Will Miller, Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Jed Holloway, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Tom Robertson. Reserves: Tolu Latu, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Paddy Ryan, Tom Staniforth, Brad Wilkin, Jake Gordon, Bryce Hegarty, Alex Newsome
Brumbies Squad: Tom Banks, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Kyle Godwin, Andrew Muirhead, Christian Lealiifano (c), Joe Powell, Isi Naisarani, David Pocock, Blake Enever, Richie Arnold, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio. Reserves: Connal McInerney, Nic Mayhew, Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, Sam Carter, Lachlan McCaffrey, Matt Lucas, Wharenui Hawera, Lausii Taliauli
This match has got the makings of a classic. While my heart says my Brumbies can pull an upset given their recent form, my head says that the Tahs have the form and the homeground advantage to sneak this one home. Tahs by 2.
In other matches, the Chiefs will host the Hurricanes, the Crusaders will host the Blues, the Bulls will travel to Joberg to face the Lions, and the Sharks will be looking to steal the Rebels finals spot with a win over the Jaguares in Durban.
Hey, hey, it’s club corner day!
Starting off in WA again, the regular season of the Fortescue Metals Group Premier Grade came to an end last week, with Palymra defeating ARKs 22-20, Nedlands defeat Coastal Cavaliers 46-17, Associates knock over the Southern Lions 35-12, Cottlesloe overcame a determined Wanneroo 24-19, Perth Bayswater fell away from home to Kalamunda 20-12, and Joondalup grabbed a solid 32-14 win over UWA.
Last time I checked, Associates and Nedlands were neck and neck at the top of the ladder. Unfortunately, both the RugbyWA website and Rugby Link don’t have any information at all about who won the regular season, nor of any of the other games this weekend. Any of our WA rugby readers know of anywhere else I can go to do the preview for the finals?
Up in beautiful Brisvegas, round fifteen of the Hospital Challenge Cup dished out some quality rugby, with University of Queensland winning 52-21 over Norths, GPS grabbing a 22-29 away win over Wests, Bond Uni drew 24-24 with Souths, and Brothers defeated Sunnybank 27-24.
Round Sixteen Fixtures:
Norths v Easts
Sunnybank v Bond University
Wests v University of Queensland
Souths v GPS
Brothers have the bye.
Down in the Nation’s Capital, Round Fourteen of the John I Dent Cup saw Gungahlin knock Queanbeyan 27-24, Royals get back to winning ways over Tuggeranong 19-15, and Uni-Norths smacked Easts 41-17 at home.
Round Fifteen Fixtures:
Uni-Norths v Royals
Queanbeyan v Easts
Tuggeranong v Wests
Gungahlin have the bye.
Round Ten of the Coopers Premier Grade in Adelaide saw Onkaparinga knock over Brighton 41-33, Souths Suburbs go down at home to Old Collegians 17-44, and Burnside hammered Woodville 54-7. Ouch.
Round Eleven Fixtures:
Old Collegians v Onkaparinga
Woodville v Souths Suburbs
Burnside v Brighton
Down in Melbourne, Round Eleven of the BLK Dewar Shield saw Box Hill grab an important 30-27 win over ladder leaders Melbourne, Melbourne Uni overcame a determined Endeavour Hills 34-22, Moorabbin destroyed Footscray 63-5 and Harlequins grabbed a important win away from home against Power House, 22-24.
Round Twelve Fixtures:
Box Hill v Power House
Footscray v Endeavour Hills
Harlequins v Melbourne
Moorabbin v Melbourne Uni
And last, but certainly not least, in beautiful Sydney Round Thirteen of the Intrust Super Shute Shield saw the Students knock over Eastern Suburbs 36-29, Southern Districts went down at home 27-34 to West Harbour, Warringah and Manly fought out an unbelievable 20-20 draw at Rat Park, Eastwood and Parramatta put on a hell of a show at TG Milner, with the Woodies prevailing 53-36, and Northern Suburbs beat Gordon 46-25.
Round Fourteen Fixtures:
West Harbour v Eastwood
Eastern Suburbs v Southern Districts
Manly v Randwick
Parramatta v Sydney University
Gordon v Warringah
Get down to support your club rugby this weekend. The season’s end is closing fast, so remember to get on it and have a blast!
A lot has been said about Brad Thorn‘s coaching strategy and ‘no-bullshit’ attitude. However, for he admitted to rugby.com.au then when it comes to the drug issues that have plagued the squad all year, there is a personal reason as to why he is so determined to crack down on it.
“When you’re talking about cocaine to me, it’s a serious issue,” he said.
“I know that probably these days people are saying it’s more prevalent but once again, it’s the Queensland Reds – this is part of the Queensland Rugby Union.
“I don’t want (cocaine) to be around this team, this club or the kids around this club.
“I’m a dad – I’ve got four kids and on my wife’s side one of her siblings had some issues with drugs and it’s a tough thing.
“I know they call them party drugs and stuff now but you can call them whatever you want – they cause issues in people’s lives.
“I don’t really want to talk about it too much because I want to respect my wife and her family – my family – I guess.”
However, Thorn admitted though that he does believe in redemption and recovery, even in his players.
“But the good news is, he [his brother-in-law] got through that.
“It’s not great for society, it’s talked about in the newspapers and it’s a challenge for society.
“There are a lot of young guys coming through and it’s important to me that they have good mentoring from myself or that the club culture is strong,” he added.
“As much as I want them to go on to be great players and have great careers, I also want them to be great people and humble.
“So kids have good role models when they see a Reds player – he plays good footy and someone that the way he goes about his stuff shows good qualities.
“What I’m doing is trying to build something.
“I think I said to you [the reporter] earlier in the year either I take it through or I leave it for the next guy.”
The Reds are reportedly very keen to keep Thorn on, with QRU chairman Jeff Miller declaring Thorn as a potential ten year coach for the club.
If that is the case, Quade Cooper will probably have to go and find another place to play. Earlier in the week, outgoing RUPA boss Ross Xenos expressed that he felt it was time for the Reds to give him, James Slipper and Karmichael Hunt another chance, following the news that those players might not even play NRC.
“These guys have committed to playing their rugby in Queensland,” Xenos said to Fox Sports.
“They’re playing the cards they’ve been dealt.
“It’s not only the on field behaviour, but actually, some of the reports coming out of Souths and some of the work that Quade’s done off the field, the impact that Quade playing for Souths is having on other clubs in the competition — when they can build their games against Souths as ‘Quade Cooper Day’ — there’s interestingly been other flow on benefits I think for premier rugby in Queensland off the back of the position the players have taken.
“I think that there’s probably a lot of people out there who were surprised how respectfully these players have handled these situations, and that they haven’t thrown their toys out of the cot, and that they haven’t gone and stepped outside the lines of respectful conduct and the like, and they’ve gone back and they’ve accepted, again, the cards that they’ve been dealt.
“And they’ve been as good role models for the game as they can be.
“They’re doing their best to accept responsibility for what they’ve done and get on with things.”
We believe in Twiggy
Four tests into the era of World Series Rugby, the Western Force‘s cause towards a new competition looks to only be getting stronger.
Despite going down in their last two games, interest in the game in WA is still very high, and Ian Prior admitted to the Sydney Morning Herald that he has complete faith that Twiggy will be able to deliver a viable Asia-Pacific competition.
The Force have looked to be building something strong this year, and will be the only NRC team heading into the competition with games under their belt. This puts them in a huge advantage come round one on September 1, and it would be a huge coup for the men from the West if they were able to claim the coverted Toast Rack once again.
Organisers are reportedly set to announce more details about the new IPRC competition shortly after the final exhibition game between the Force and the Panasonic Wild Knights on August 17.
“We’ve been getting some feedback that next year is going to go ahead,” Prior said.
“We should have some more clarity over the next couple of months.
“But from what we’ve heard, there’s been some encouraging signs with discussions … with other teams.
“The positive signs are there. We’ve just got to keep our faith in them, and make sure we keep working hard on the field.
Prior admitted as well that a lot of the players admitted to taking a leap of faith with Twiggy, signing onto the Force knowing that the new competition was far from set in stone.
Considering the forthcoming announcements, it looks like their faith is set to be rewarded.
“It was a leap of faith [from the players] coming here to start with,” Prior said.
“But you’ve seen how quickly World Series Rugby has come together.
“And seeing how involved Andrew is and how keen he is to get the whole World Series Rugby off the ground and running as the premier competition in the world is quite exciting.”
The Force will play their fifth exhibition game on the weekend against Samoa.