Monday’s Rugby News sees the aftermath of the Brisbane Tens, all Super Rugby coaches on the same footing, more news on both the RA and WA front, and the latest results from the Six Nations.
Blues, Queensland tally up at Tens
I think everyone can agree that the Brisbane Tens was, once again, a real highlight of the pre-season. We had tries, big hits, and even the Honey Badger attempting to channel his inner Bob Hawke.
On the results front, the end result on the Mens side was much to be expected. The New Zealand teams dominated the competition, topping all three conferences. The Blues eventually ran out winners, defeating the Hurricanes 10-7 in the final. It is the first piece of silverware in four years for the men from Auckland, who have spent the last few years at the bottom of the Kiwi conference. Keeping all things relative though, they’re still bloody good. For more detailed results of the whole tournament, click here.
On the home front, it was another disappointing tournament. The Aussie teams only managed to pull off one win from nine matches against Kiwi opposition, with the Reds beating the Chiefs 19-7. But hey, at least we actually beat a Kiwi team, unlike the year before.
While the results were once again lopsided, there was at least a lot more encouraging signs that this year might (fingers crossed) be a lot better for the Aussie teams, with three of those eight losses against the Kiwis coming down to a margin of three points or less. The Reds and the Waratahs also made the top six, albeit in the two lowest placings.
I’ll call a spade a spade though. We’ve got a long, long way to go to get back to beating the Kiwis regularly. I’m curious to hear what the rest of you GAGRs thought of the Tens.
But for now, Blues coach Tana Umaga said the result was a valuable starting point for his side.
“We’ll take any win at the minute, very happy with that, especially with the group we have over here,” he said to rugby.com.au.
“Some guys have been with us for two months, some two weeks but they showed some real resilience to combine together.”
On the Women’s front, Queensland ran out as the inaugural Tens winners after coming back against a tough NSW outfit, winning 10-5. The finals match also featured one of the best hits so far this year, with eventual player of the tournament Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea slamming Olivia Brooks in the 27th minute. It’s a hit that still brings a tear to my eye.
— WaratahJesus (@waratahjesus) February 10, 2018
The Brumbies Women meanwhile finished in third, while the Rebels ended the tournament as wooden spooners. Overall, it was a fantastic exhibition of the future of Women’s rugby in this country.
Unity in Harmony
There’s been a lot of rumblings across the ditch. The country with a rugby program that no one else can match is caught up in the middle of a controversy between Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd and the All Blacks coaches, which surfaced on stuff.co.nz last week.
“Already Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has voiced his concern that the All Blacks coaches are to impinge so visibly on Super Rugby, and there have been murmurings of discontent from other franchises. It’s the first time since 2007 there has been this level of disruption,” wrote Marc Hinton.
The entire controversy is that Steve Hanson wants four multi-day camps throughout the Super season to help the All Blacks prepare for their June series against France. This decision has pissed off all the Super Rugby clubs, who reportedly think this was organised without them being consulted.
Immediately, any Aussie readers here would be sitting back and laughing in that sort of self-deprecating, sadistic, ‘you-know-nothing-of-hell,’ kind of way, considering the last twelve months of bullshit that we’ve all had to go through (and still are going through) on and off the field would make this mild disagreement look like a playground spat.
But, aside from the whole Brad Thorn-Quade Cooper debacle (which wasn’t even really that much), it’s been pretty quiet on the homefront.
Michael Cheika opened his first press conference for the year last week in a relaxed fashion, offering praise to a lot of the work that has been going on behind the scenes. Following the coaches conference that took place last year, the Wallabies coaching team, being Cheika, Stephen Larkham, Nathan Grey and Mick Byrne – will make a total of 48 visits to the franchises this year as part of their new plan.
“Last year we got together with the Super Rugby clubs and really nutted out a bit of a strategy forward for all of us”, Cheika said to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s not perfect but I think we made a big advance on last year and I want to recognise those guys early on. They’ve made some sacrifices themselves which I would like to think will bring them benefits in the long run.”
The Wallabies themselves do regular camps during the Super Rugby season, but Cheik admitted that even when it comes to organising that, he plans to do it with coordination from the Super Rugby coaches.
“Last year we agreed we could have two camps during the year if we wanted to, just for two or three days, but I don’t know if I’ll take them or not,” he said.
“You don’t want things like that to be a pain in the backside for everybody. We’ll just see what happens. I’ll talk to the coaches and we’ll work it out together.”
It wasn’t only Cheika who is feeling good about this new strategy. All of Super Rugby coaches have also been highly positive towards it.
“Everybody behind the scenes has worked incredibly hard over the last couple of months to really set a course for Australian rugby,” Rebels coach Dave Wessels said on Sunday during the Super Rugby launch in Brisbane.
“Not only from a coaching perspective but all the high performance staff, all the CEOs … I realise these things aren’t going to take five minutes; it’s not going to happen tomorrow.
“But I know we have the right people working hard and we have some really good thinking in place that I think will be a game changer for us over the next couple of years.”
What? RA actually doing stuff?!
Outside of the Brisbane Tens, it’s also been a big couple of days off the field. The biggest surprise is the fact that Rugby Australia were actually able to do something competent for once and convince someone to sponsor them.
Motor company Land Rover will be the Wallabies ball and shorts sponsor until the end of 2020, following the end of the sponsorship deal with BMW. This isn’t the first rodeo Land Rover have had with Aussie rugby, being a current sponsor for the Brumbies, Shute Shield club Sydney University and Aussie Sevens player Charlotte Caslick. They have also partnered with the Rugby World Cup and the British and Irish Lions.
“Land Rover have been fantastic supporters of Australian Rugby for several years through their partnerships at Super Rugby level and we are thrilled that they have extended this association to the Wallabies but also at Shute Shield level through Sydney University,” CEO Raelene Castle said on Friday morning.
“This partnership will be incredibly beneficial for our Wallabies program and the synergies between the two brands run deep. Both pride themselves on performance and precision and that permeates through everything they do.
“Today’s announcement is just the start. We are looking forward to working with Land Rover to build a long and successful partnership that benefits both organisations for many years to come.”
The other big news that came out at the end of last week from RA was the announcement of a deal with Twiggy and the IPRC. Following news that Twiggy would be pushing ahead with the competition regardless of RA approval or not, RA deputy chairman Brett Robinson confirmed that the main issue between the RA and the IPRC, Wallabies eligibility selection, had been dealt with.
“We are comfortable with any of the footballers playing with the Force being considered for the Wallabies,” Robinson confirmed to The Australian on Friday.
“Where we have drawn the line in the sand is stipulating that Australians playing for any of his (five) overseas teams will not be considered — unless, of course, they meet the 60-cap threshold.
“Having Wallabies stars playing at home is important for the young kids growing up, because heroes need to be visible. Once you give that up, there will be little to stop northern hemisphere countries raiding Australia.”
While there is the problem that some Aussie players under the sixty-cap threshold may still not be able to play if they move to one of the new Asia-Pacific teams, it is bloody fantastic that the Force will be back under eligibility selection. Frankly, in my opinion, they should never been considered not to be eligible. This may come as a shock to many at RA, but they are actually in Australia.
With many players including Pek Cowan and Heath Tessmann still in WA, the Force plan to play a bunch of exhibition matches before returning with a new-look NRC side before the start of the IPRC this time next year.
Six Nations Review, Rd. 2
Finally, the Six Nations finished Round Two on Sunday, and there were some really bloody exciting matches that went on in the Northern Hemisphere.
First off, as to be expected, Ireland absolutely put the boot into Italy in Dublin, winning 56-19. Backing up their solid last gasp win against France, the Irish turned it on, with the victory easily handing them the top of the table in the Six Nations.
They’ll be hosting Wales next round, while the Azzuri head over to Marseilles for what could be their biggest chance to get a win this season, against France.
It was a nail biter over at Twickenham, with England and Wales having a classic low-point scoring arm wrestle. Two English tries proved to be the only thing that could separate the two sides in their 12-6 win, but on multiple occasions Wales looked to have the upper hand, and kept coming back through their goal kicking.
Wales will head to Dublin next round on the 23rd Feb, while England could find themselves facing a hostile reception when they head to Murrayfield.
Finally, last night, Scotland won the inaugural Auld Alliance Trophy, which is awarded to commemorate the war dead of the French and Scottish rugby communities. They overcame France in a brilliant match at Murrayfield, prevailing 32–26. France looked dangerous for most of the match, and outscored the hosts in terms of tries, but six penalties and two conversions to Greg Laidlaw proved to be the difference.
Scotland will host England next round, while France will look to get their first win of the season back home against the Azzuri.