Friday’s Rugby News has the Bledisloe squads, the start of the club corner grand finals, the Womens Bledisloe Squads and the final match of World Series Rugby… yeah, this is a bumper edition.
Normally I’d do a small preview for all the matches this weekend, but I’ve been feeling really strange in the lead up to this match. So I thought I’d get this off my chest, as a rugby fan.
This is the best time of the year for rugby fans here in Australia. It’s that match. It’s that time again, for us to have a crack against the mighty All Blacks. For all the endless digs back and forth, and all the banter we get from Kiwis about how we lose time after time, at least at my work, all the Kiwis know that this is the match that matters. And honestly, it’s great. It’s great that this match is important to both sides, even despite the fact that it’s been so one-sided for so long.
I was nine years old the last time the Wallabies won the Bledisloe Cup. I don’t even have that many memories of it, it was that long ago. And I’ll be honest, I’m in a weird head space about this match this weekend.
In the past, like many of us, I’ve been guilty of going into this yearly fixture with a feeling of blind optimism, thinking that this is the year that we’d finally win back Lord Bledisloe, only to have it thrown back in our face by the darkness. Once again, being shown up. Once again, being outplayed.
But I also am a part of that generation that was lucky enough to catch the tail end of that great Wallaby era of the Nineties and early Noughties. I remember a cold night at ANZ Stadium in 2004, when I went to my first rugby match with my dad, that I watched the Wallabies come back from a halftime deficit to beat the All Blacks 23-18. George Gregan fist-pumping the air as he booted the ball into touch was etched into my brain.
Or that match in Brisbane in 2011, when Radike Samo palmed off Adam Thomson and ran the length of the field to score under the posts.
I’ll be honest, I have no idea what’s going to happen this weekend, but I know I’m not blindly optimistic like in years gone by. It’s been such a rough ride since the last World Cup. Yes, Ireland and England have been playing some amazing rugby the last few years, but the All Blacks are the best team in the world. You know that’s the case because everyone is always trying to compare themselves to them.
But here’s what I do know. I do know that we have a good team, that has the potential to do great things.
That match in Dunedin last year was unbelievable. That match in Brisbane was even more so. And dare I say it, even though we lost the Ireland series, it was so refreshing to see us play some great, smart, attacking rugby, push a legitimately great side in Ireland and (almost) pulling it off. It said to me: yeah, this Wallabies team can do great things. From reading all the comments, chatting to folks on this website and doing the podcasts, I feel like I’m not the only one that’s feeling this. This is a team that can beat the All Blacks.
So yeah, we’ll have a crack. Maybe this will be the year, maybe not. But win, lose or draw, I reckon this is a Wallabies side that can do great things.
Wallabies Squad: Tom Robertson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Tui, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Marika Koroibete, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau. Reserves: Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Peter Samu, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Jack Maddocks
All Blacks Squad: Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith. Reserves: Nathan Harris, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Tim Perry, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown
Go the Wallabies!
In the other big match of the Rugby Championship this weekend, the Springboks will kick off against the Pumas. Many would see the Boks as heavy favourites here. The Pumas didn’t win a single match during the June series, losing two matches convincingly to Wales and one match against Scotland. The performances were so bad, it cost head coach Daniel Hourcade his job.
But surprisingly, Saffa media is wary of the men from South America, for two big reasons. One, not a single South African team was able to beat the Jaguares in Buenos Aires during the Super Rugby season. And two, that was because they were coached by former Wallaby forwards coach and Puma legend Mario Ledesma, who has now taken Hourcade’s job as the Pumas head coach.
I’m still backing the Boks on this one, but that will throw a spanner in the works.
The preliminaries are done and dusted. Here we are ladies and gents for a special edition of club corner:
We’ll start in Sunny Queensland, last week’s preliminary final saw GPS hammer the crap out of Easts, winning 52-14 to book a rematch with University of Queensland this weekend. Uni of Queensland have had a well-earned week off, so GPS might have the momentum to spring a surprise win. That being said, Uni of Queensland have been playing like freaks all season, and the prelim result would wake them up even more to the potential threats of that GPS side. Either way, it’s going to be a thriller for the Hospital Challenge Cup at Ballymore.
Grand Final Fixture:
University of Queensland v GPS
In the other big news out of Queensland, Fox Sports will broadcast the final for the first time ever, with Greg Martin leading the coverage and totally prepared to swoon all over Queensland rugby for an afternoon.
“The code in Queensland can only benefit from this further initiative between our two organisations, which will carry Queensland Premier Rugby’s biggest game of the year into the lounge-rooms of rugby fans across Australia,” he said to rugby.com.au.
Down in Canberra, the Preliminary Final of the John I Dent Cup at Viking Park last week saw another demolition, with Tuggeranong hammering Gungahlin Eagles 58-7 to book their spot in the grand final this weekend against Royals. Tuggeranong have been the team to beat all season until they went down to Royals in the semis a fortnight ago, so a win this weekend would exactly some sweet revenge on last years Cup winners. Should the Royals win this weekend, they’ll win their first back-to-back titles in 26 years.
Grand Final Fixture:
Royals v Tuggeranong
Also, shout out to GAGR favourite Brett McKay, who has been working on the live stream down there in national’s capital all season. He should be on hand down at Viking Park this weekend, so be sure to say hello.
It was a similar story last week down in Melbourne. Favourites Melbourne Rugby Club have been dominating all season, but went down to Harlequins in the BLK Dewar Shield semi final a fortnight ago. However, there was to be no repeat last weekend, as they brushed aside Moorabbin 34-7. This sees them have the chance to get some much needed revenge over the Quins. The Harlequins meanwhile will be looking to go back-to-back this year. Considering the two clubs have been the strongest of the last decade, it’s almost no surprise that another final will involve both teams.
Grand Final Fixture:
Harlequins v Melbourne
Away from Grand Finals, things are heating up in the other club competitions around the land. In WA, the FMG Premiership Division is over and it’s Semi-Finals week, with the winners meeting up in the Grand Final next weekend. Nedlands, Associates, Wests Scarborough and Kalamunda will be throwing their hats in the ring to decide who is the best in the west, so be sure to get along to those two matches this weekend before heading over to NIB Stadium to watch the Force.
Nedlands v Kalamunda
Associates v Wests Scarborough
It’s qualifying finals week over in Sydney, following the last regular round of the Intrust Super Shute Shield. I found myself down at North Sydney Oval last week on a beautiful day, and watched the Randwick and Norths grades beat the crap out of each other for several hours, before the first grades took to the paddock, with Northern Suburbs cleaning up Randwick 36-19. In other results, West Harbour beat Parramatta 62-7, Southern Districts went down 39-40 to the Rats, Manly and Eastwood drew 27-27, and Sydney University beat Gordon 66-21.
The result sees the Students, Shoreman, Marlins, Rats, Woodies and Beasties qualify for the top six. With the business end of the season now in full swing, get down to support your team in Sydney.
Qualifying Finals Fixtures:
Sydney University v Eastern Suburbs
Warringah v Manly
Northern Suburbs v Eastwood
And lastly, the final regular round of club rugby this season will be played out in beautiful Adelaide, with the last regular season round of the Coopers Premier Grade. Last week, Burnside defeated Onkaparinga away from home 27-32, Old Collegians defeated Woodville 57-10 and Souths Suburbs went down 19-65 to Brighton.
This results this weekend won’t make any impact on the final standings of the competition going into the semis next week, with Old Collegians, Brighton, Onkaparinga and Burnside all guaranteed a spot.
Round Fifteen Fixtures:
Old Collegians v Souths Suburbs
Woodville v Burnside
Brighton v Onkaparinga
With us on the home stretch for club rugby this year and the NRC only just two weekends away, be sure to get along and support your club rugby teams this weekend.
The Gals are up
It’s a back-to-back Bledisloe this weekend, and the Wallaroos are out to look to grab their first win against the Black Ferns ever.
The last time there were fixtures like this, our gals got beaten 67-3 in test one, but showed huge signs of improvement in test two, going down 29-3. The girls have had other successes too since then, including defeated Ireland during the Women’s World Cup last year.
But, much like the Mens Game, the Black Ferns are the team to beat in Women’s Rugby, with England being the only team that comes close to regularly competing against them.
These are exciting times for the Women’s Game in Australia though. With an outstanding Sevens program, a successful and growing Uni-Sevens competition, a brand new Super W competition, and calls from Raelene Castle to have every test series be back to back affairs for the boys and girls, the Wallaroos could soon be playing a lot more tests.
Even more so, this weekend’s match will be the first time ever the Wallaroos will be paid to play!
“We’ve had a really excellent build up to our first match of 2018 and the team is chomping at the bit to get out there and play some rugby,” Coach Dwayne Nestor said to rugby.com.au.
“I’ve been really impressed with how this team has taken on the detail of the way we want to play and physically worked hard over the last few months – it’s all come together in camp quite well.
“This match is going to be incredibly tough, but it’s a challenge we are really looking forward to.”
The Wallaroos have named five debutantes in the run-on side, with another four off the bench. The Black Ferns are also going for youth, naming five debutantes of their own in their squad.
Wallaroos Squad: Emily Robinson, Liz Patu, Evelyn Horomia, Michelle Milward, Rebecca Clough, Emily Chancellor, Georgia O’Neill, Grace Hamilton, Cobie-Jane Morgan, Trileen Pomare, Sammie Treherne, Crystal Maguire, Atasi Lafai, Mhicca Carter, Mahalia Murphy. Reserves: Darryl Wickliffe, Melissa Fatu, Hana Ngaha, Alisha Hewett, Kiri Lingman, Alice Tonumaivao, Fenella Hake, Shanice Parker.
Black Ferns Squad: Pip Love, Fiao’o Faamausili, Aldora Itunu, Eloise Blackwell, Charmaine Smith, Charmaine McMenamin, Lesley Elder, Aroha Savage, Kendra Cocksedge, Ruahei Demant, Alena Saili, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Stacey Waaka, Renee Wickliffe, Selica Winiata. Reserves: Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Cristo Tofa, Leilani Perese, Jackie Patea-Fereti, Linda Itunu, Kristina Sue, Krysten Cottrell, Chelsea Alley
Best of luck this weekend girls! Go the Wallaroos!
Yar a wizard, Berrick!
Sorry rugby fans in WA to push you to the fourth news story of the day, but it’s been a big one!
The final match of World Series Rugby kicks off this weekend, and there’s been a lot of fanfare since former Wallabies coach and current Panasonic Wild Knights coach Robbie Deans showed up in Perth.
The Western Force have got back to winning ways the last two matches, dispatching Samoa 33-5 and defeating a strong Hong Kong outfit 45-24.
This weekend should prove to be a bigger test for the men from the West, with Deans naming a strong squad including the likes of Berrick Barnes, Akihito Yamada, Shota Horie, Daniel Heenan, Craig Millar and Tom Moloney.
“It’s going to be huge. We are going to treat it as the biggest challenge we’ve had,” said young Force winger Clay Uyen said to the West Australian.
“They look red hot. As far as competition goes this will be right up there.
“They like to look for work, they play an expansive game, they can pop up anywhere and when you inject their speed it becomes very hard to overcome.
“They are aggressive coming off the line, are fast and come out of nowhere. It’s terrifying.
“We are certainly going to have our work cut out in the back three with Berrick Barnes there.
“We are expecting the wizard to cast his spells.”
The Force will bring in some of their more experienced players from the side that won last week, and will also look to cover injuries to Chris Alcock, Tom Sheminant, Masivesi Dakuwaqa and Rod Davies.
Force Squad: Cameron Orr, Heath Tessmann (vc), Chris Heiberg, Leon Power, Jeremy Thrush, Harrison Orr, Tevin Ferris, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior (c), Andrew Deegan, Brad Lacey, Henry Taefu, Marcel Brache, Clay Uyen, Jack McGregor. Reserves: Feleti Kaiut’u, Harrison Lloyd, Kieran Longbottom, Fergus Lee-Warner, Henry Stowers, Issak Fines, Peter Grant, George Pisi
As good as the Wild Knights roster looks, I think the Force will take this one. They’ve picked up a head of steam over the last few games, and a win over this team will be a perfect way to cap off what has been a really interesting set of games. Force by 10.
On a side note, Aussie rugby fans in general should watch this game with keen interest, as Twiggy and the lads at Force HQ have hinted for a while that, following this last WSR match, there will be a major announcement regarding the forthcoming Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.
And lastly, the Force will play one more game next week before the start of the NRC, against the Australian Stockman’s Rugby Union team. Nick H and I recently had a chat to them on the most recent edition of The Dropped Kick-Off (which you can listen to at the top of the page, or here).
WA fans, you should seriously get along to this. The Stockman lads announced their squad earlier this week and I reckon they’ll give the Force a run for their money.
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT 2018 FORWARD PACK Join with us in congratulating the #ClubAndCountry players selected to head west and play fixtures against @rugby_wa Under 19’s and @westernforce We’re proud of every squad member who has sacrificed time and money for this experience and look forward to going into camp, in Perth on the 18th August. Stockman Rugby has a two fold selection process. The first is to alert rugby unions Australia wide for player recommendations and advertise for any interested players to submit a rugby resume. The second is to directly select players from club and country competitions. This selection process levels the playing field and presents an opportunity for players hungry enough to seize the opportunity. We believe this represents one of the biggest amateur rugby opportunities in recent times. #ForClubAndCountry #ThisOneGoesToTheHungry #WellDoneLads #Stockies4Life #GrassRootsRugby Powered By: BLK Global, Hertz Australia Hyatt Regency Perth, Bayside Physiotherapy and Athletes Gel.
A post shared by Stockman Rugby Union (@stockmanrugby) on pm PDT
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT 2018 BACK LINE & SUPPORT STAFF Join with us in congratulating the #ClubAndCountry players selected to head west and play fixtures against @rugby_wa Under 19’s and The @westernforce. We’re proud of every squad member who has sacrificed time and money for this experience and look forward to going into camp, in Perth on the 18th August. Stockman Rugby has a two fold selection process. The first is to alert rugby unions Australia wide for player recommendations and advertise for any interested players to submit a rugby resume. The second is to directly select players from club and country competitions. This selection process levels the playing field and presents an opportunity for players hungry enough to seize the opportunity. We believe this represents one of the biggest amateur rugby opportunities in recent times. #ForClubAndCountry #ThisOneGoesToTheHungry #WellDoneLads #Stockies4Life #GrassRootsRugby Powered By: BLK Global, Hertz Australia Hyatt Regency Perth, Bayside Physiotherapy and Athletes Gel.
The Stockman will play the Western Force U/19s on August 20, while playing the Force’s main squad on August 25th. Be there or be square.