Friday’s Rugby News sees Valetini hurt, Wallaby back row under pressure, the SCG turf fiasco, and Crusaders name change talk.
Rob Valetini start-stop career has stopped again. The talented 20-year-old has struggled with knee problems since he debuted and this time is no different. Apparently, this time is not so bad because it’s not the medial ligament he’s hurt twice before. Whatever the injury his predicted recovery time is expected to be six to eight weeks.
Blocka Dutton talks of Valetini getting back on the park to stake his claim for a Wallaby World Cup berth in this article and while I can recognise the incredible talent he possesses I don’t share Blocka’s belief that he should go.
From his article: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has been keeping a close eye on his development, although the Brumbies have warned against expecting too much too early from the powerfully-built flanker.
The Brumbies have 11 games left in the Super Rugby season, including a clash against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Sunday afternoon.
The Wallabies’ Backrow Under Pressure
Over on Rugby pass there’s a great article from Chips Blanch discussing the Wallaby back row options. He talks about the pooper and the alternatives and which camp the fans fall into. Got to say despite Pocock and Hooper being our two best backrowers I’ve never been a fan of playing them at the same time.
Over to Chips.
There were some real positives for Australian rugby, however, mostly around the performance of our blindsides and no. 8’s. Luke Jones had a standout game for the Rebels in the 6 jersey, showing the impact he can have around the park when he doesn’t have a prop’s arse resting on his shoulder. Isi Naisarani gets over the gain line more often than not, which is a big contributor to the Rebels being able to play as flat as they have been.
Lachie McCaffrey completely dominated an all-Wallaby backrow. He is a smart player that has a knack for big plays, something that comes in handy in test matches (hint hint). Over in Tokyo, Scott Higginbotham had moments of brilliance, but it is obvious his mind is elsewhere and who could blame him? It is absolutely criminal the way he has been frozen out of the national setup over the last few years. The overall positivity around the back-row was somewhat dampened by this and another injury to Rob Valetini, but let’s talk about why these good performances are so important for Australian rugby.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Wallabies since the last World Cup has been the inability of the forwards to consistently give the backline a good platform to attack from, in general play and at set-piece. Tight five aside, why then do we consistently pick a backrow whose strengths don’t lie in getting over the gain line, resulting in slow, contested ball for our (usually) very sharp backline?
It’s no coincidence that the last good game the Wallabies played against the All Blacks was in 2017 at Lang Park, where Sean McMahon started at 8 with Jack Dempsey alongside him at 6. Two natural ball carriers working in tandem had the All Blacks on the back foot, and funnily enough, we ended up winning that one.
You know it makes sense.
And… The SCG Gets New Turf!
After the farce that was the Waratahs v Reds scrum battle at the SCG two weeks ago, where the Reds were cruelly robbed of one of the few perceived advantages by the pitch and the south-east coast elitists who prepared it, new turf has been laid.
The Sydney Cricket Ground has been given the green light to host the Super Rugby match between the New South Wales Waratahs and Canterbury Crusaders on Saturday after having 3,000 square metres of turf replaced.
Concerns were raised about the safety of the pitch following the Waratahs’ round four win over the Queensland Reds which left the turf pocked with huge divots and prompted criticism from Reds coach Brad Thorn.
The Waratahs said in a media release on Wednesday that the New South Wales Rugby Union, the SCG and independent consultants had inspected the pitch and “deemed the field to meet Super Rugby standards.”
Seriously, we was robbed!
Name Change Talk Continues
I can’t help but wonder what the conversation would be like if an Australian sporting team was in the same situation the Crusaders are in. Would we have the same class and respect that the New Zealanders have shown? Sadly, I doubt it. One only has to look at the debate we’ve had over gay marriage and Australia day being proof of the pudding.
Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson says he supports the initiative of Crusaders bosses to scrutinise the suitability of their title and imagery following last Friday’s terror act in which 50 people were killed at two mosques by an Australian gunman.
Critics have raised concern over the use of a name they say is offensive to the Muslim faith.
The Crusaders issued a statement saying the name was meant to reflect “the crusading spirit of this community” but understood the concerns raised and would consult widely.
Original Crusaders chairman Donald Stewart revealed to stuff.co.nz that he had reservations about the name when the Super 12 was launched in 1996.
Stewart said the name was given to them by New Zealand Rugby, which had full control of the process.
“I had doubts on the basis that we were trying to project ourselves globally with an international competition,”
“And I wondered whether this name might prove offensive to some potential viewers. I probably didn’t share that opinion widely.”
Sam Whitelock chimed in,
“I think at the moment this is much bigger than rugby,” Whitelock said in a video issued by the Crusaders.
“We are just trying to make sure we take the appropriate time and make sure we are respectful and those decisions will happen in time.”