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Friday’s Rugby News

Friday’s Rugby News

Friday’s Rugby News sees Super Rugby Round Five, Coronavirus Mayhem, Super W Round Three and More Petrol on the Refereeing Fire


SUPER RUGBY WEEK FIVE

Suncorp Stadium stock photo

Suncorp Stadium

Super Rugby is back for week five with three of the top sides on a bye and the Waratahs back from their bye and looking to open their account in what will be a fierce contest with the Lions. (Friday 715pm AEDT). The Tahs have had their last presser overshadowed by the latest rabble rousing from NewsCorp with Michael Hooper forced to defend accusations that players were gagged in some way during last years saga. In actual team news for the Tahs, coach Rob Penney has maintained the faith and kept his young guns in place for the showdown.  And surprisingly, despite looking woeful, the Tahs are currently favourites in the betting markets.

The Rebels make the trip over to Dunedin to take on the Highlanders in the shed (Friday 505PM AEDT) in a match Matt Toomua has described as a must-win. He told Rugby.com.au, “A lot of areas such as our structured defence, it’s probably the best we’ve done so we will take that now because ultimately we need a result,” while at the same time reflecting on last weeks loss to the Sharks. As an aside, wouldn’t it be interesting to see a player say that it was a game they could afford to lose and it didn’t actually matter. Apologies for that. With a 1-3 record, the Rebels do need the win to have a chance at keeping touch with the idle Brums and the Highlanders, who haven’t looked great thus far present as a real opportunity.

Coach Dave Wessels has resisted the urge to make mass changes, bringing back Toomua at 10 which has sent the unlucky Andrew Deegan back to the bench.

Up in Brisbane, the Reds have the opportunity, both on the table and in the minds of the public, to make advances when they play the Sharks at Suncorp (Saturday 615PM AEST). Brad Thorn has decided to tinker with his winning team, moving Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to the bench and recalling Angus Scott-Young and Harry Hockings to the starting side, Hockings making his first start of the season. Angus Blyth drops out of the 23 as does Bryce Hegarty, who makes way for the return of suspended speedster Filipo Daugunu.

After last weeks promising crowd number and big win, the Reds have a chance to capitalise and woo back some of the fair weather fans who have deserted them since the heady days of 2010-2013. It will be a test of maturity for the squad, as stringing together wins is something they have found very hard in recent years.

In other games this weekend, the Hurricanes play the Sunwolves in Napier, and this game is notable in that it will be the Super Rugby debut for Alex Horan, son of Wallaby great Tim. Alex will be starting at fullback in game after making the leap to Japan in the off-season. The Stormers host the Blues and the round is concluded by the Bulls taking on the Jaguares.

Tips: Highlanders v Rebels: Landers by 12, Waratahs v Lions: Lions by 8, Hurricanes v Sunwolves: Canes by 30, Reds v Sharks: Reds by 6, Stormers v Blues: Stormers by 10, Bulls v Jaguares: Jags by 3

Team lists for the weekend courtesy of ESPN here

CORONAVIRUS MAYHEM

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With the latest reports indicating the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) is spreading faster, the sporting world is reacting, with cancellations galore and major events such as the Olympics considered questionable. Rugby has not been immune to the threat with a number of competions all reacting in different ways to the ever evolving situation.

The Six Nations have already announced that the Six Nations games between Italy and Ireland on the first weekend of March being postponed, as reported here on the BBC. All three levels of Six Nations (Mens, Women and U20) are affected with the Six Nations body yet to determine when or if the games will be rescheduled. It  would be reasonable to assume that England’s game away to Italy on the final weekend are also in doubt at some level.

Closer to home, the Sunwolves home game against the Brumbies on the same weekend will be relocated somewhere, and with several home games to follow, you have to think that perhaps the Sunwolves will be spending the remainder of their season playing their games away from Japan and Singapore.

The Japanese Top League has begun suspending games as well, with the goal of rescheduling them at some point once the situation becomes clearer.

Global Rapid Rugby have not escaped with new team China Lions now being forced to play their home games in NZ (they are a joint venture with Bay of Plenty) and Australia, as reported via WWOS.  It would appear likely that Hong Kong based South China Tigers will have to adopt a similar approach.

 

MORE PETROL ON THE REFEREEING FIRE

Referee Rasta

Referee Rasta

As fans of this little old website would be aware, we started a wee bit of controversy after the Reds were diddled against the Jaguares, with research of SANZAAR penalty data appearing to show massive discrepancies in penalties awarded to the home team, especially in South Africa. It managed to get mainstream media attention in South Africa and it resulted in the GAGR twitter admins learning more than a few new swear words from adoring South African fans.

Not content with angering the South African public, GAGR then wrote to SANZAAR CEO Andy “is he a real person”  Marinos, outlining the concerns and making a request for neutral referees to be introduced. In fitting with GAGR’s new found status as rugby trouble maker, Marinos was quizzed about the issue by ESPN’s Sam Bruce yesterday, and showed he hadn’t actually really been briefed on the issue, saying “the data needed to be validated.” I’m hoping that given it is SANZAAR data, this shouldn’t take long.

Further, Marinos implied that it wasn’t really an issue at all, and that is was the result of bitter fans in Australia. In some respects he is right, and with games with penalty counts of 15-2 and 20-1 I am not surprised. However I digress. To add insult to injury, Marinos also alluded to Australian referee Angus Gardner and some criticism of his performances and the rugby community’s defence of him. Of course he didn’t mention that Gardner would have been refereeing games that Australia wasn’t playing in so accusations of bias (intentional or unintentional) can’t be made.

Marinos defended the current system of ‘meritocracy’ saying, ” I just don’t understand where, all of sudden, after 10 years of meritocracy, suddenly now neutrality becomes an issue because a team, or teams, are suddenly are now feeling aggrieved by processes.”

Even the winless Waratahs were dragged into it, with Michael Hooper being asked about it, to which he said, ““It hasn’t been spoke about, we’ve been focused on ourselves, were 0-3 so a lot of stuff that’s been going on the field has been because of us. We’re going to have to look at it much deeper, you want the best referees without doubt but if there is a trend the other way than it’s something that’s going to have to be brought up.”

Of course he is right, the Waratahs have been awful and no amount of refereeing bias would have hurt that, and they are yet to make the trip to South Africa this season.

My take on this situation is pretty simple: You can have merit based appointments and neutrality at the same time. Yes it will cost some more to send the refs away more but surely you could at least end one aspect of this argument dead in it’s tracks.

 

SUPER W WEEK THREE

Cobie-Jane Morgan starts for the Reds this week

Cobie-Jane Morgan starts for the Reds this week

After completely dominating WA Rugby last week, the Queensland Reds play their first (and only) home game at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday afternoon (335PM AEST) against the most improved team in the competition, the Rebels. After being totally outclassed in the first two seasons the Rebels have been a revelation, losing narrowly to the Brumbies and the Waratahs so far.

The Reds have had to make several changes to their team, especially in the forward pack with injuries and the long flight back from Perth already taking their toll on the squad. After initially coming off the bench last week, half Cobie-Jane Morgan returns to the team, with her backup not having to work too hard to remember her name.

As profiled by Rugby.com.au’s Emma Greenwood here, the reserve will be 16 year old prospect Destiny Brill who just happens to be a student at the school where Morgan is a teacher. Far from being odd, Morgan is relishing the opportunity to mentor (on and off the field) the younger players in the team, Brill included.

She told Greenwood, “I thrive on working with the young ones because one day they have to fill these jerseys or our shoes.” She went on to add that, “If you can plant seeds early enough in their career – and they’re already excellent players as they are because they’re here – then it gives you a warm feeling inside that the jersey’s going to be left in a better place.” Three other players are set to play some role in a Red jersey for the first time on Saturday, including the experienced pair of Canadian international Gabby Senft, and former Bristol Bear Alicia Greenhalgh.

In the weekend’s other game the Waratahs take on the Brumbies (435PM AEDT Friday) with the Tahs having the luxury of making several changes due to competion for spots as opposed to injury. This shapes to be a cracking game, with both sides looking strong, and the Waratahs looking to maintain their status as the top team in the competition.

Both games will be broadcast on FoxSports, Kayo and Rugby.com.au.

 

  • Reds Revival

    Merit based AND neutral. That’s brilliant Ben. Why didn’t I think of that? Moreso, why didn’t SANZAAR think of that?
    It would appear that Mr Marinos’ believes the best form of defence is attack, by throwing one of his own under the bus, with comments about Angus Gardner. Maybe that is more mis-direction than attack. And if they do base it on meritocracy, why is Egon Seconds still refereeing?

    • Braveheart81

      Egon Seconds has been dropped as a Super Rugby referee. So has Jaco van Heerden. On that basis they could argue that the meritocracy is working because underperforming referees are no longer part of the panel.

      Of course they should be trying to avoid it happening in the first place.

    • Da Munch

      A politicians answer with deflection and mirroring. Deflection via Angus and a mirror, which they will look into and deem everything is fine. ScottyFromMarketting couldn’t of done it better.

    • Yowie

      [nfos/] Yeah, I reckon that’s pretty poor form grabbing a referee (Angus Gardner in this case) and throwing him under the bus at the first hint of pressure over a structural policy.

      • Who?

        Thanks for the tag. :-)
        .
        Completely agree – as I said yesterday, the major issue with the scapegoating of Angus Gardner last year wasn’t that his decision was called into question, it was that it’s the ONLY one called into question, and that it’s done as a way of blaming a referee for a result, rather than an actual evaluation. If there were consistency – it referees’ decisions were regularly referenced, perhaps each Tuesday, and it wasn’t just the odd one here and there, then no one would blow up. But reality is that, currently, we see a singular referee publicly shamed by WR officials each year or two, and far worse performances are regularly ignored.
        It either needs to be all refereeing performances that receive comment, or none.

        • Yowie

          [nfos/] In my incidental observation, the refereeing bodies tend to get it* right most of the time, which makes the “throwing the scapegoat to the baying mob” incidents stand out as such outliers.

          [*keeping their internal criticism of referee performances internal while making acceptably bland public statements after a controversial game]

        • Who?

          And the crazy thing about it is they rarely do it about a truly controversial decision, something that’s blatant. They do it over lineball calls that could be interpreted either way, so long as those decisions are in the last few minutes of a test that goes against a more important nation. Like Stu Dickinson copping it from Paddy about (correctly) penalizing NZ against Italy. We never hear about it when an Aussie team cops it…
          Good thing Reg didn’t point out other obvious stats from the SANZAAR website about referees, like how any game involving Johnathan Kaplan and the Tahs invariably resulted in a loss (I think it was 14 losses and 1 win after 15 games).

        • Yowie

          Did some Tahs short-sheet Kaplans’s hotel bed and prank-order a load of room-service at some point?

    • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

      Then you need to be able to define how you assess if a referee is really neutral. If he officiate a game that have an impact on where his nations team will end up on the log can he truly be unbiased?

    • Jason

      Because the merit that they are looking for is ‘South African wins’ if you contribute you get games, if you don’t you…

  • AllyOz

    I think Marinos has just made a spelling mistake or perhaps it’s autocorrect.
    If you replace meritocracy with mediocrity it makes much more sense.
    ” I just don’t understand where, all of sudden, after 10 years of MEDIOCRITY, suddenly now neutrality becomes an issue because a team, or teams, are suddenly are now feeling aggrieved by processes.”

    • Mortahs Incoming – custardtaht

      There are a number of celebrities and producers who probably share that sentiment of Marinos.

      • Yowie

        under-rated comment btw.

        • Mortahs Incoming – custardtaht

          Perhaps it and/or the topic is a little too charged for people.

          It is not a defence of those people, just a statement of the situation.

        • Yowie

          True – as I found out earlier in the week. On my reading your joke clearly takes the p!ss out of the villains, but it’s a charged topic as you say.

        • Mortahs Incoming – custardtaht

          Yep and unfortunately not all use or accept humour when it comes to such topics.

    • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

      Mediocrity is the problem with SANZAAR’s more experienced referees retired after RWC or on 6 Nations duty. I remembered when Australian refs were pretty poor a decade ago and Kiwi Steve Welch relocated to become our best refs how we argued for merit as the basis for selecting referees. At the times the question of “bias” also came up as Kiwi was Australia’s best “neutral”. As long as referees reviews are thorough and unbiased competition among referees will help to improve their performance.

  • Mortahs Incoming – custardtaht

    Never really understood the quote “must win game”, I would have thought all games are a must win. After all, winning games is the objective and winning games gets you to the playoffs.

    The Reds v Sharks should be a good game, I think the Reds get up.

    The Tahd’s and Rebels, I think will record losses.

    • Crescent

      I am wary of the Sharks – they have had a pretty good tour so far and will be full of confidence. The Reds have been so close, yet are struggling to lock out games for a variety of reasons. If the Reds can get on top of their youthful enthusiasm and cut out conceding penalties in the wrong areas, they have the goods to topple the Sharks. Would be fantastic for them to deliver a great result for the home fans again.

      Tahs v Lions is going to be like watching two blind men in a boxing ring. Luck will play a bigger role than anyone will care to admit. If I wasn’t working tonight, would love to be there – because it’s close to home to keep the Uber cheap after the amount of alcohol it is going to take to drink this game pretty.

      Highlanders are going to do unspeakable things to the Scum, who currently irritate the shit out of me. On paper, they should be performing at a much higher level than they currently deliver. Time to shit or get off the pot.

      • Mortahs Incoming – custardtaht

        I going with Reds on the basis that they are at home in qld heat and humidity and this is the 4th straight away game.

      • Keith Butler

        Don’t know about unspeakable things but the Rebs need to get their act together. An away win would be great but the likelihood of that happening not good.

      • Mica

        Best description ever of Tahs v Lions being two blind men in boxing ring!! :)

    • HK Red

      You’re currently 0-2, I really hope you get one of your predictions correct. Will find out in a few hours!
      ;-)

      • Mortahs Incoming – custardtaht

        I suck bad this week!

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Ben, I love this “that it was a game they could afford to lose and it didn’t actually matter” Hahahahaha 100 points up in a game where you’re first in the competition and you’d playing the last team who has never won a game in 30 years and it’s still “I must win”
    Big weekend of rugby and I’m so looking forward to it. I like your picks although I think the Bulls might get up as I think they have the ability to swamp the midfield and keep the Jags backs quiet.
    The COVID-19 is a pain in the arse here. Not allowed off camp to the bars and restaurants and really constricted what we can do. Last couple of months here could be a bit boring. I’m glad they’re looking after the players and fans though and hopefully it won’t cause too many issues.
    No real surprises with SANZAAR’s response. Just goes to show they really do have their heads lodged up their arse

    • Yowie

      Last couple of months here could be a bit boring

      You could start some sh!t by lobbing a few grenades over the wire?

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        That’d fire things up. Heading out to one of the Northern islands soon and really looking forward to that

  • Yowie

    And surprisingly, despite looking woeful, the Tahs are currently favourites in the betting markets.

    I’ve ground an axe about institutional pro-NSW bias, but the bookies too?

  • Damo

    Has the standard of rugby or the players’ safety really been improved by having live feeds to the referee from the touch judges or the guy upstairs (no, not that one Izzy). The moment I see a touchie press that button and start speaking, I think “shit here we go”. I’m ok with the video review of something the ref wants to check but I would really like the other three to stop pro actively looking for trouble.
    I guess the point I’m getting to is that it is hard for us to be fully critical of the referee re possible bias if there are others who are effectively reffing the game as well. We rarely see a ref tell his “assistant” to nick off. He is more or less obliged to take the advice and act on it. The game has survived, and been entertaining, for a long time with just one bloke officiating.

    • A Dingo Stole My Rugby

      I actually think the reverse is quite common, where the on-field ref gives his opinion, and none of his assistants are game to put forward a dissenting view.

      On a different matter related to the virus, well done by all unions involved in moving the Sunwolves v Crusaders game to Brisbane in mid-March, to make sure it goes ahead as part of a double header with the Qld v Bulls game. Should guarantee a decent crowd.

      • Yowie

        Sunwolves coach’s pep talk:

        “Ok lads, less of a thrashing than last time we were here counts as a win, ok?”

        • Who?

          Wouldn’t it be great if the Qld crowd went fully demented, completely biased for that game? I mean, when it’s your team playing an opponent, you show respect. Well, I’d expect most would. But given this game is expected to be an absolute walkover for the Cantabrians, and given the Reds aren’t involved, it’d be a great opportunity to go full pantomime and boo every Crusaders touch, cheer every successful Wolves pass. Just have fun with it…

        • Yowie

          That would be hilarious. The Panto aspect has echos of the “Wendell’s a w@nker!” chants that used to go up at Qld home games every time Wendell Sailor touched the ball (or was near the sideline, or did or didn’t do anything) after his defection from Reds to Waratahs.

        • Mica

          Flaw in your plan – there will be more NZers at the game than Qld supporters.
          On this basis there will definitely be booing, but it will be for every penalty against the Cru and if Quade happens to rock up to watch the game.

        • Who?

          I know, I know… That’s normal for every Reds game, so a game with likely only the odd Qlder like Jake Schatz playing, there’s not much hope of the Wolves having much support.
          But no question it’d make a much better atmosphere for the event!

        • Yowie

          Some kind of “a free beer per ticket-holder for every Wolves try” promotion might gee-up some crowd support.

        • John Tynan

          That deserved a double up arrow.

  • Who?

    Poor old Hoops – who was stupid enough to schedule him into the presser?! He’s not the skipper anymore. Sure, he’s part of the leadership group, but they could’ve rotated through and found a non-Wallaby. Because the questions weren’t about Folau in the context of the Waratahs – even though he was a Waratah when he posted. They were about Wallabies being suppressed, given the article also referenced Kerevi and referenced Kepu skipping a Wallabies camp, not a Tahs camp.
    And if you’re talking to someone who didn’t have any restrictions, was part of the leadership group, why would they be aware of anything going on? It’s like asking white people if there’s racism (though, fascinatingly enough, white American Democrats are now more concerned about racism than black American Democrats, according to recent polls). It’s an exercise in futility.
    .
    That said, well done to Hoops for his comments about refereeing. Very mature.
    .
    Meanwhile, Marinos has demonstrated that he’s never been near a grass roots supporter. Because we’ve been on about neutral refs for years. It’s not suddenly an issue – what’s sudden is that, somehow, the deafening complaints made it to his tin ear.
    .
    6N’s, so, if England are also held from playing Italy, it definitely gifts the 6N’s to France without going the full distance. Because France can lose one of the next two games and still win if those games aren’t played. It would, in the eyes of many (non-French) supporters, tarnishes what would be an incredible turnaround victory. Because they did it by beating Italy, where their two nearest opponents lost points on the table by not facing Italy.
    The 6N’s needs to figure out how to get those games played.

    • Yowie

      [nfos/] Regarding the SANZAAR initial response, from my limited understanding of media training, the trick to answering the press on a new controversy is to state some alternative fact or angle or whatever – even if it’s a load of total BS. Due to media obligations to “report both sides” the paper has no choice but to say:-

      “When questioned, Mr Yowie denied being a pervert and said that local kids must be the ones raiding the neighbourhood clotheslines and putting the undies in his house”.

      • Who?

        My point about Hoops having to answer the questions about last year was that, if the Tahs were smart, they’d have done a separate presser for him on just that subject (perhaps a door stop?), in order to keep the main presser clean to promote their game this weekend. No complaints about his answers (and his answer on refs was great), just think it showed a lack of media management by the Tahs to allow their presser to get hijacked.

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    The debate about the “best” or “neutral” referees was prominent a decade ago when SANZAAR used “neutral” referees. The decision at that time was to choose the “best” referee instead of those that are perceived to be “neutral” due to their residency status. The problem then was that many key games including the finals were officiated by referees that didn’t have the experience or form and as most finals was played between South Africa and New Zealand teams and Australia was going through a bad referee patch there was a lot of discontent with the performance of referees. We also had the scenario where Kiwi referee Steve Walsh officiated games between South Africa and New Zealand when he relocated to Australia after running out of favour with New Zealand that undermined the whole “neutral” referee argument anyway.

    Residential status is a poor indicator of a vested interest or how unbias a referee is. A referees performance in any game can influence the positions on the log and the finalist regardless of the game they officiate. We banked on self-interest and competition for appointment to drive performance as those that perform poorly are dropped. This appears to work if I look at recent appointments.

    It is the role of Lyndon Bray and his team to monitoring referee performances including perceived biases and ensure that this is reflected in referees performance assessment and future appointments.

  • Reds Revival

    Even though the media rights are not in the news today, I was wondering if TEN were to pick up the rights, would they run a mid week analysis program? Or even better, could they run a weekly program like The Front Bar with 2 to 3 comedians to talk about the weekly games? If so, who would you like to see fronting the show? Would The Honeybadger get a go (given he has a relationship with Ten already)? Are there many comedians who are Rugby fans? And if so, why don’t we know about them already? I would love to see The Rugby Report Card boys get a go, but they would have to be on pretty late given their material. Carl Barron is a leaguie, but it would be great to get someone like him. What do you think? Who would be your hosts?

    • Yowie

      Are there many comedians who are Rugby fans? And if so, why don’t we know about them already?

      Subject matter too niche to appeal to a whole room of comedy club punters? I blame Murdoch and foxtel (and choose to ignore the private school roots of the sport).

      Honeybadger could probably handle hosting or co-hosting duties just fine.

      • Reds Revival

        But if you were going to be in the audience of a comedy show about Rugby, you would still be able to get a room full of fans. Admittedly, they would have to put on a wine appreciation class beforehand, with cheeses and hors d’oevres, but they would still go.

        • Yowie

          [nfos/] For a TV show taping – sure.

          Making a career out of it as a comedian touring the clubs – not so much in my opinion.

          Just guessing, but I reckon a Victorian comedian could probably get a whole room to laugh putting the boot into Collingwood, or a Sydney comedian Re Manly or Bulldogs due to mass appeal of those sports and the general cultural understanding of certain tropes.

          I think any mass cultural knowledge of Rugby would be pretty superficial and not leave a lot of subject-matter to work with after the “it’s for a posh private school minority” stuff is used up.

          I could be wrong though – someone at the Betoota Advocate seems to know enough about rugby to run topical joke rugby stories often enough.

    • Brumby Jack

      The guys from the Pillar to Post Podcast are really funny, and know a bit about rugby too. Jaybor has already worked with RugbyPass before

Rugby
@Ben_Marczyk

Passionate about rugby from the grass roots up. Usually found at Brisbane club rugby games, or being involved in the junior and schools system. Love a chat, happy to admit when I'm wrong. I will watch any game of rugby regardless of who is playing, from juniors through to tests

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