Friday’s Rugby News sees a less than enthusiastic Rugby Championship preview, club corner, the latest in the Wallaroos camp, Ashley-Cooper potentially coming home and the Stockman preparing to meet the best in the west.
Still need the therapy after last week? We have two podcasts that can help you immensely.
…Time and Time Again
Well bollocks. This time last week I poured my heart out. Guess pride comes before a fall.
It was a depressing weekend of footy last weekend. And now, it could be about to get worse.
Michael Cheika and the entire squad has been absolutely slammed on all fronts for the Wallabies performance last week. But this weekend, they head into a literal black abyss at Eden Park, a place where the green and gold haven’t won since 1986.
I wasn’t even to be born for another nine years the last time they won, and nothing in this squad convinces me that this is the week it’ll end. So I’ll take anything better than last week. An eighty minute performance. A match where we can say we left everything on the paddock. Anything.
And to be honest, these squads worry me:
WALLABIES Squad: Dane Haylett-Petty, Jack Maddocks, Reece Hodge, Kurtley Beale, Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper (c), Lukhan Tui, Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda, Allan Alaalatoa, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio. Reserves: Folau Faingaa, Tom Robertson, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Pete Samu, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Tom Banks
ALL BLACKS Squad: Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Waisake Naholo, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (c), Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Nathan Harris, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown
What a place for Tom Banks and Folau Faingaa to potentially make their debuts. There is no harder place to debut. Good luck to them.
By my recollections, the last time the All Blacks lost at Eden Park in general was back in 1994. They’ve won pretty much every single game since then, with the exception of their draw last year against the British and Irish Lions.
I don’t think we’re going to win this. I doubt any Wallabies fans think we’re going to win this. And I’m done talking about this. All Blacks by 20.
In the murky wilderness of misery of the last week, it’s been easy to forget about the other match in the Rugby Championship, which sees the Pumas host the Springboks in Mendoza.
The Boks were triumphant last week in their 34-21 win, but it is clear already that this Argentinean side under Mario Ledesma already looks much improved since their winless June series.
Add to that, Mendoza is a difficult place to win. Mendoza was the sight of the Pumas first ever draw against the Springboks in their first year of competing, and the Wallabies have also lost at this ground.
My predictions of this one still favour the Boks, as Ledesma still has plenty of chinks to iron out in this squad. But I think we’re going to have a close one. Boks by 5.
Club corner is upon us once again, and ladies and gentleman, we have a winner! Or should I say, three winners!
Starting up at Ballymore, GPS picked up their first Hospital Challenge Cup in twenty-two years, knocking off favourites University of Queensland in front of a crowd of 6,000. The 23-16 scoreline was a classic display of finals footy, and served as fitting end to a impressive season (both in the quality of the footy and the growth of it’s profile) in Brisbane.
Down in Melbourne, the Melbourne Unicorns denied Harlequins a back-to-back title as well, getting revenge for their loss in the semi finals with a 22-16 win on a rainy afternoon. The crowd still turned out in force on the hill, and were treated to a spectacular game of footy between the old foes for the BLK Dewar Shield.
And lastly, in the nation’s capital the John I Dent Cup was again contested between two bitter rivals in the Tuggeranong Vikings and the Canberra Royals at Viking Park. In a fantastic match, the Vikings knocked over the Royals to win 29-17. It has been recurring theme of every year it being a toss-up between the two sides but this year, the Vikings denied the Royals back-to-back premierships, which if won, would have been the first time the Royals would have completed such a feat in 26 years.
Not going to lie, it was really fun covering these seasons and I look forward to seeing the squads of these respective sides develop as they head into NRC pre-season.
However, the club footy doesn’t stop, with semi and quarterfinals a plenty across the country.
Starting in Sydney, the Intrust Super Shute Shield had some outstanding quarter finals matches. Starting off over at Sydney Uni, the Students knocked off a resilient Eastern Suburbs outfit 21-13, Warringah showed their premiership credentials with a 34-28 win over Manly at Rat Park, and Northern Suburbs defeated Eastwood 16-10 to be the other team to be knocked out of contention.
This weekend will be a backs against the wall scenario for the Marlins and the Rats, who will have to pull off a tough victory away from home to make it into the final.
Sydney University v Manly
Northern Suburbs v Warringah
It’s also semi-finals week in South Australia, with the Coopers Premier Grade finals series kicking off. In the final regular season last week, Old Collegians knocked off Souths Suburbs 54-24, Woodville got hammered by Burnside 7-78 and Brighton defeated Onkaparinga 49-23.
However, while there have been a lot of lopsided games this season, the South Australian semi-finals should serve up an interesting series of games over the next three weeks. Hope fans in Adelaide get down to your local matches and show some support.
Burnside v Brighton
Onkaparinga v Old Collegians
While it’s semi-finals time in New South Wales and South Australia, we do have one grand final on this weekend.
It’s the final week of club rugby time over in WA, with the Grand Final of the FMG Premiership Division approaching. Last weekend saw a massive upset, with minor premiers and favourites Nedlands being knocked off by the fourth place Kalamunda outfit 19-24, while Associates had to scratch tooth and nail for their win in a 27-24 win over Wests Scarborough. It was a genuinely enthralling semi-final series and hopefully will set the stage for an amazing match this weekend.
By my records, Kalamunda haven’t won the comp since 2008. Associates have had more success during this decade, but with UWA and Nedlands dominating the last few years, a win here would give a great opportunity to put a stamp on the growth in the club. Looks set for be a fantastic end to the club season in the West, so if you’re in Perth get along and show some support.
Grand Final Fixture:
Associates v Kalamunda
And with that, another edition of club corner comes to an end. Hope those folks in Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne enjoy a nice weekend off before the start of the NRC, and for everyone else, get along and show some love to clubland. Peace out.
While last weekend was a depressing state of affairs for many Wallabies fans, there was one small glimmer of light that peeped through the clouds: the Wallaroos-Black Ferns match.
While the home side went down 11-31 in their first home game since 2008, there was a clear sense of improvement and newfound confidence in the girls that took to the field, and at times during the game they really troubled the Kiwis. Compared to two years ago when they lost 67-3, and the transformation of the squad is becoming more apparent, day by day.
If you haven’t had the chance to check out some of the highlights, some of the tries they served up were pretty special.
This weekend however will see the Wallaroos enter enemy territory, when they face their trans-Tasman rivals at Eden Park.
The girls will welcome back their World Cup centre Sarah Riordan, who returns from an ankle injury. This marks the only change in the Aussie outfit, with the Kiwis naming an unchanged side.
WALLAROOS Squad: Mahalia Murphy, Mhicca Carter, Atasi Lafai, Sarah Riordan, Samantha Treherne, Trilleen Pomare, Cobie-Jane Morgan, Grace Hamilton, Georgia O’Neill, Emily Chancellor, Rebecca Clough, Michelle Milward, Evelyn Horomia, Liz Patu (c), Emily Robinson. Reserves: Darryl Wickliffe, Melissa Fatu, Hana Ngaha, Alisha Hewett, Kiri Lingman, Fenella Hake, Crystal Maguire, Shanice Parker.
BLACK FERNS Squad: Selica Winiata, Renee Wickliffe, Stacey Waaka, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Alena Saili, Ruahei Demant, Kendra Cocksedge, Aroha Savage, Les Elder, Charmaine McMenamin, Charmaine Smith, Eloise Blackwell, Aldora Itunu/Leilani Perese, Fiao’o Faamausili (c), Phillipa Love. Reserves: Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Cristo Tofa, Perese/Aleisha Nelson, Jackie Patea-Fereti, Linda Itunu, Kristina Sue, Krysten Cottrell, Chelsea Alley.
It’s tough coming up against the best side in the world, but unlike our mens team, I get a sense from the Wallaroos that every game they’ve played they’ve consistently found ways to improve. They keep getting better and better. If they keep this improvement up, it’s not going to be a case of if the wins start to come, but when. Honestly, it’s really refreshing to see that. And good on them for always turning up and having a red-hot go.
The Black Ferns will be pumped to play at Eden Park so I don’t see our girls breaking their duck against the Kiwis here. But hey, stranger things have happened. If they just keep trying and leave everything out on the paddock, we can’t ask for more than that. Black Ferns by 20.
In other news…
Legendary Wallaby veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper is set to make a return to Australia, in a bid to have a crack at his fourth World Cup next year.
The 34 year old, 116 test veteran is eligible under Giteau’s Law to play in the squad, but his return to Australia’s shores would put him firmly in Michael Cheika‘s radar to be involved.
Currently, Ashley-Cooper has been plying his trade in Japan, but with their season finishing early to prepare for the World Cup, Cooper would be able to jump straight over to Australia, and two clubs are reportedly after his signature.
Firstly, the Western Force. According to Fox Sports, the WA club (with Twiggy’s cash in hand) can offer Cooper a superior financial deal to come over next year and play in the new World Series Rugby competition. With the Force also cleared by Rugby Australia, Ashley-Cooper would still be eligible for selection.
However, the second club is his beloved Waratahs, who have been more involved with Cheika’s preparations for the World Cup. The club is reportedly interested in getting AC’s signature, due to his experience and versatility that is needed at the club. In addition, with the departures of Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Kellaway and Irae Simone, the Tahs might have a bit more money to play with to lure him over.
Ashley-Cooper hasn’t confirmed a move yet, however he made it no secret that he wanted to come back last year when he spoke to the Sunday Telegraph.
“I never made any decision to finish up,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“I am just kind of sitting there not out at the moment, waiting for the next innings.
“The fire is still burning there for sure, and there is obviously that 2019 World Cup down the track.
“To get to four World Cups, I reckon that would be a pretty special achievement and something I could be pretty proud of.
“But that’s a long way away.
“I realise there is a good depth of talent there at the moment so it is not like there is any guarantee of selection in a Wallaby squad.”
Should Ashley-Cooper get into the squad that has been tasked with getting back Bill, he will equal George Gregan‘s record of appearing at four World Cups.
And finally, for those folks in WA who are hoping to see a bit more of the Western Force before they take to the field at UWA Sports Park in the round two of the NRC, they have a match tonight at 6pm over at the Rockingham Rugby Club against the Australian Stockman’s Rugby Union team.
The Stockman have already grabbed a win under their belt on their WA tour, with them defeating the Force U/19 side 19-36 on Monday. This match should be an absolute cracker and it is in support of men’s mental health, so we hope fans in WA will get along and support a good cause, while also watching a fantastic game of footy.
For more information about the match, have a listen to our most recent ‘Dropped Kick-Off’ podcast (we’ve got another few of them in the pipeline too).
Enjoy your weekend of rugby guys, and go the Wallabies and Wallaroos.