Friday’s Rugby News sees Rugby Australia’s plan to fend off the poaching of talent, round four of the NRC Corner, the Uni 7s squads for round 3, and Kerevi re-signing with the Reds.
RA have a plan
Watch out guys! RA have a plan that is going to change the world.
As reported in The Australian, the governing body announced yesterday that they will be introducing new tiers to its Super Rugby Academies, bringing in boys as young as 15 in an attempt head off poaching from the likes of AFL, the A-League and the NRL.
This technique has often been used by the NRL to pinch talent from a young age, which begs the question, considering the concerns about the draining of talent, as to why Rugby Australia are only doing it now.
The level of tiers will begin at 15 and 16-year-olds, with a second stage for 17 and 18 year olds, and a third stage three for school-leavers in the 18 to 20+. These academies will be complimentary to the school and club programs the kids will already be involved in, and according to Ben Whitaker, the general manager of high performance for Rugby Australia, the potential players they’ll be able to access will be considerable.
“We envisage these programs touching 2000-odd players at different levels,” Whittaker said.
“Some will have access to representative teams into championships, others will get more assistance around technical, tactical and physical development, other to holistic development and as you come through the system the attention in those areas is increased.”
Whittaker admitted that the planned program is attempting to address identified gaps in the current system.
“It’s never easy to land on a model that every single stakeholder is completely happy with, however, we have taken a consultative approach that acknowledges the needs and tremendous value that schools and clubs deliver.”
There will be more meetings today as to how the new system will interact with the Australian Schoolboys team.
What do we reckon GAGRs? Do we think this initative will work?
In the other big news, Australia’s chances of hosting the 2027 World Cup have taken a beating, with World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont suggesting yesterday that the World Cup could be held only in non-traditional rugby nations following France in 2023.
“World Rugby will have to have a philosophical debate going forward”, he said to Fox Sports.
“It’s important that we are commercially successful but we do need to have that debate whether the next World Cup following France will go to an emerging country or an established country that actually needs a bit of help as well,” he added.
“Do you say to Argentina, do you say to Ireland, Canada, the USA, these are countries we’re going to because actually strategically, that is going to make the biggest difference in that area?”
If it was the case that the World Cup would go to an emerging nation, it would put a serious sting in the side of bids from Australia, South Africa and Ireland, while putting a lot of wind into the sales of the two emerging nation bids in Argentina and the USA.
The NRC Corner is back again, as we hit the halfway point in the season. Feels weird that we’re already halfway.
Saturday starts with two matches that will be contendors for match of the round. First off, we head to Adelaide for the first ‘home game’ of the season for the Melbourne Rising, when they take on Brisbane City.
Both sides are coming off big wins (against NSW opposition) the round before, but the Rising are looking the more dangerous of the two. Since getting smacked in Fiji in round one, they nearly pulled off a big upset against QLD Country in Townsville, and absolutely mauled the NSW Country Eagles in Armidale. They look a very different side to the team that finished with the wooden spoon last year.
Brisbane City have had a spiratic season, with big losses to the Western Force and the Fijian Drua and a win against a pretty woeful Sydney Rays outfit. But even with that win, it is clear there are a lot of stuff still to be ironed out at Ballymore, judged by the fact they let the Rays score 28 points in that second half.
Honestly, the Rising are looking more dangerous so I’m predicting they’ll take this one home by 10 or more. Hope the SA rugby crowd get down to this one and show the governing body that it’s time for more support of rugby in the Festival State.
Next up, we head over to Bond University on the Gold Coast for what will be an interesting clash between QLD Country and the Western Force.
Country are currently the only undefeated team in the comp, and showed they’ve still got it when they brushed aside the Drua last week. The Force meanwhile have also looked dangerous, however their defeat to a very good Canberra Vikings side last weekend exposed a couple of chinks in their armour. They’ve shown this year, however, that they can bounce back quickly, so I reckon will be much improved from their loss in the nation’s capital.
Regardless, this is going to be an gem of a game, and one which will probably go a long way to deciding who will make the semi-finals. It’s a tough one to call, but I’m going with QLD Country to take it out by 7.
Sunday, however, sees two matches that I, as a NSW fan, will dread.
Fresh off their win in the NSW derby on Wednesday, the NSW Country Eagles will head to Armidale to host a dangerous Vikings outfit.
While it is good to have a win under their belt, the Eagles will be up against it this weekend. While they had a quartet of Wallabies return for their win over the Rays, Sekope Kepu, Ned Hanigan, Tolu Latu and Tom Robertson will all be on the plane to South Africa on Saturday. Add to that, their best performing player in Jake Gordon will be earning a call up too.
While I love seeing so many Eagles in the Wallaby squad, the loss of these personnel is going to make Sunday even more difficult, especially in a time when the NSW teams really need to notch up some wins.
The Vikings by comparison, have hit their stride well after their first round loss to Country, with wins over the Rays and the Force. Add to that they’ll have Wallaby Joe Powell coming back into the side (whom Gordon will take his place on tour), their squad will only look stronger.
As much as the Eagles have performed well on Wednesday, it’ll be a hard slog in Armidale. Canberra by 14.
And lastly, the match I dread most of all, being the Sydney Rays against the Fijian Drua at Concord Oval.
Let’s call a spade a spade: it’s dark times for the Rays at the moment. I said in their season preview that they had the toughest task of all the NRC teams this year, and it couldn’t be more true after their first three games.
The team has been outplayed in every game, the Sydney rugby community haven’t really embraced them, and this weekend, arguably their most experienced forward in Rob Simmons will most likely be on the plane to the Rainbow Nation. This weekend is their last chance for a shot at the finals, and they’ll have to play out of their skins to have any hope of being competitive against the Drua.
The Drua don’t have a good record on the road, but even if they had a shocker I reckon they’d still beat this Rays side.
Not much else to say. Drua good, Rays not so good. Get down to Concord if you want to watch some flying Fijians go mental. Drua by 30 or more.
Check out the NRC squads here. Enjoy your footy this weekend, and remember, hugs not drugs.
Round three of the AON Uni7s kicks off this weekend over at University of Queensland in Brisbane, which will see the top of the table up for grabs between three major teams.
1. Macquarie Uni – 38
2. Uiversity of Queensland – 36
3. Griffith Uni- 34
4. University of Canberra – 24
5. Bond Uni – 20
6. Uni of Tasmania – 18
7. University of Sydney – 18
8. University of New England – 14
9. University of Adelaide – 14
10. University of Melbourne – 4
Currently, there are four teams that could technically take the lead, but realistically the competition has turned into a three way race.
Firstly, the Mac Uni Rays, unlike their male counterparts, have been in scintillating form, being the big improvers on last year. With a silver in Round One, they came back in Round two to become the first team other than UQ to win a round of the tournament.
Secondly, UQ are only just behind the Rays in second, and have been slightly off the pace compared to previous years. This weekend sees a good opportunity to restore the status quo at home, so they will be up for this one.
And lastly, the surprise package is Griffith University, who has leapfrogged Bond Uni to become a legitimate challenger for the silverware. Griffith have picked up a silver and bronze in the first two rounds, but this weekend they see a golden opportunity to grab top spot.
“For us it’s just about sticking it out until the end, as you saw from the first tournament it’s not enough to just kill it in those first round games and the semi-final,” Griffith coach Moana Virtue said to rugby.com.au.
“We really have to put in right till the end.
“We came third in the first tournament, second in the second tournament so for us it’s exactly what we said at the start of the season, that this would all be about progression and we feel like we’re on the right path.”
The competition kicks off this Saturday at UQ. For check out all the squads for the teams here.
This weekend also sees the inaugural Queensland Premier Rugby 7s, which will also be played at UQ.
With squads from all of Hospital Challenge Cup teams, there are high hopes the competition will do much to improve Aussie Mens Sevens playing stocks. This weekend will also see the Mens coach Tim Walsh watching on from the sidelines, which will spur on the players to do better.
“There are definitely boys who are untapped to Sevens who could transfer pretty quickly,” Easts coach Sione Fukofuka said to rugby.com.au.
“I would like to think we have one or two in our group that have the physical attributes but just need to learn some more.
“I know speaking to (Reds high performance Sevens manager Lachlan Parkinson) that Walshy will have his eye on the competition as it puts our best group of players in that one space in the space of a day.
“In terms of talent ID that’s pretty unique and it’s pretty special to spend 12 hours watching the best talent in Queensland.”
You’ll be able to watch both the Aon Uni7s and the Queensland Premier Rugby 7s through streaming them on rugby.com.au.
Signings and Admissions
Big Bopper Samu Kerevi has re-signed with the Queensland Reds, in a contract that will see him stay at Ballymore until the end of 2019.
Despite reports he was linked with the Brumbies, Kerevi has chosen to stay in Queensland for another year, guaranteeing he will be involved in preparations for next years World Cup.
“I’m excited to stay in Queensland for one more year, my family was a big factor in staying,” Kerevi said to rugby.com.au.
“The young boys coming through the club is what keeps me at the Reds.
“I see the potential – not long ago I was in their shoes so to have one more year with them will be special.”
Kerevi is the latest in a long list of players who will be coming back for the Reds, including Izack Rodda, JP Smith, Filipo Daugunu, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Aidan Toua and Alex Mafi.
“Brad (Thorn) has been awesome in changing the culture and mentality of not just the team but also the organisation.
“In saying that, in any successful team there’s always room for improvement.”
In the meantime, Kerevi is looking to get back to playing again, and is scheduled to be in line to play to play next for the Wallabies in their third Bledisloe test against the All Blacks in Japan.
“First thing is first and that’s getting back to fitness and playing well for my club and hopefully being picked to represent Australia through the year and into the World Cup,” he said.
“Right now my goal is to hopefully make the back-end of the NRC, or even the Club 7’s Series but that all depends on how my rehab goes.”
In other Wallaby news, Ned Hanigan spoke to the media ahead of the Wallabies trip out to South Africa on Saturday, and admitted it’s been a long week in camp, particularly after Lukhan Tui incident. He also stepped in to defend Tui, saying that considering the emotional week prior to the match against the Pumas, his angry reaction towards the fan was “reasonable.”
“It’s probably something that’s in the back of my mind a little bit because it’s hit home,” he said to rugby.com.au.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a shed that’s been so solemn.
“It’s hard to rock that feeling but the important thing is that we rock up on Saturday and we’ve got an opportunity.
“I know we say it a little bit but we’ve got an opportunity to go over there to Africa and Argentina on an away tour and stamp our foot on the Rugby Championship.”
Hanigan hopes that the team can show to fans that the players still very much ‘cherish’ the opportunity to play for the Wallabies.
“Our main thing at the moment is to display a performance on the field that they [the fans] can be proud of,” he said.
“We know if we play that way we’re going to get the results.
“We’ve got an identity piece that we hang up and we’ve probably gone away from that over the last couple of weeks and I think really going back to that and driving that home (is important) and it’s an opportunity in this away tour that it’s just us over there.
“The families that are getting up and supporting us at crazy hours of the morning when we’re playing, we want them to see on the TV screens at home what that Wallaby jersey stands for and we don’t want to be accused of not cherishing or anything ever again.”