Monday’s Rugby News outlines the World Cup squad, looks at past Wallaby captains throwing their support behind the team, recaps the rugby home and abroad and explores a strange career change for a former international
World Cup squad confirmed
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has announced the 31 men that will represent Australia at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Eighteen players will be playing in their first World Cup, which will contain 1406 combined appearances for the Wallabies, 399 more than the side that went to England in 2015.
The squad is highlighted by the mix of youth and experience, with Adam Ashley-Cooper, at 35, becoming the oldest Wallaby selected for a World Cup and Petaia, at 19, the youngest.
Ashely-Cooper edged out boom Brumbies fullback Tom Banks, who is joined by the likes of Luke Jones, Liam Wright and Joe Powell in an extended training squad, who will remain with the squad until next week’s clash with Samoa.
“We’ve become a really tight group and it was a very difficult process in picking only 31 players, but I know each player selected will travel to Japan with the full support of those teammates who won’t board the flight,” Cheika said.
“We have worked really hard at building each week and each game so far this season, and play a brand of rugby that Australia would be proud of and get every player contributing towards the outcome.
“It’s also important that we select a squad that will handle the tournament play and our draw in particular at the Rugby World Cup, as well as maintain a strong competition for places in the team.”
The Wallabies will head to New Caledonia for a ten-day training camp before they return to play Samoa on September 7 at Bankwest Stadium as their farewell match before they (hopefully) reclaim the William Webb Ellis Trophy.
Backs: Kurtley Beale, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Jordan Petaia, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, James O’Connor, Samu Kerevi, Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano, Bernard Foley, Nic White, Will Genia
Forwards: Isi Naisarani, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper (c), David Pocock, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Allan Alaalatoa, Taniela Tupou, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Tolu Latu, Folau Fainga’a, Jordan Uelese
Extended Wallabies squad members
Joe Powell, Tom Banks, Liam Wright, Luke Jones, Tatafu Polota-Nau
Past World Cup captains back current generation
Several past Wallaby captains have thrown their support behind the current squad, believing that they have a chance if they can repeat the form shown in Perth.
The announcement of the squad doubled as a celebration for the nine ex-captains that have led the Wallabies at the World Cup since it was introduced in 1987.
1987 World Cup captain Andrew Slack referred to this year’s edition as ‘the toughest’, believing the side needs to repeat the performance shown against the All Blacks over several weeks if they want to win the World Cup.
“It’s not easy and I think this is the toughest World Cup,” Slack said.
“There are five or six teams with real chances, so to do it three weeks in a row would be special. We are going to have to step up to be able to do it.
“Beating the All Blacks in Perth showed they can do it once. The key to winning World Cups is (winning) week-in, week-out.
“The confidence they got out of that, despite the fact they didn’t go particularly well the following week, they know there is something there they can work on. It is not as if they’re bashing their head against a brick wall.
“The trick in a World Cup is to do it three weeks in a row.”
1995 World Cup captain Michael Lynagh shared this belief, calling for consistency from the side in order to conquer what he believed was one of the easiest pools in the World Cup.
“I like their Perth form, I thought that was pretty good. If they can re-create that, we’re in good shape,” he said.
“That was a really important result. As the guys know, and the public and the fans know, they are capable of putting on a performance like that. It just needs to become a bit more consistent.
“I think our pool is probably one of the easiest ones. There’s Wales – number one side in the world – and Fiji, who are dangerous, but if you get through that, which you’d think we should, whether it’s one or two, you have three games to win the thing after that.
“And if they reproduce that Perth form, then they can do that.”
With the Northern Hemisphere nations finalising their warm-up fixtures for the World Cup, England have sent a timely reminder of their class to the competition, thumping Ireland 57-15.
The English ran in eight tries to two to record both their highest points total and largest winning margin against their neighbour from the west.
In other results, Scotland has registered their first win in six Tests as they beat France 17-14 at Murrayfield, with a converted try from Chris Harris securing the result.
With the Wallabies having the week off, all focus in Australian rugby went to club rugby, where three competitions across the country holding their grand finals.
We start in Sydney for the Shute Shield where Sydney Uni has won back-to-back premierships with a 21-16 win over Warringah at Bankwest Stadium.
The Students were dominated and outplayed in the first 60 minutes, with the Rats racing out a 16-0 lead.
However, the turning point of the game would come with the introduction of Nick Phipps into the contest, replacing Jake Gordon in the 52nd minute.
Phipps would spark Uni into action, with the premiers running in three tries in ten minutes to secure the victory.
Heading down to Victoria, Melbourne Unicorns have taken out the Dewar Shield with a 37-15 win over Box Hill.
Melbourne and fierce rivals Harlequins have had a stranglehold on the trophy for the better part of the last decade but Box Hill was a fairy-tale contender in 2019.
However, there would be no dream ending with the Unicorns backing up their impressive regular season where they won the minor premiership, running in four tries to two.
James Sooialo’s lethal boot was the main difference in the game, contributing 17 points to secure back-to-back titles for the first time since 2015.
Finally, in Western Australia, Cottesloe has knocked off minor premiers 17-10 in a thrilling contest at Kingsway Sports Complex.
The contest looked like heading for extra time, with both sides locked at 10-all with eight minutes to go.
However, front-rower and former Samoa U20s captain Ivan Fepule’ai would barge over the line to break the deadlock, gifting Cottesloe the title for the first time since 2009.
From Twickenham to Takedowns
In one of the craziest stories of the year, former English international James Haskell has signed a deal to fight for British MMA company Bellator.
Haskell represented England in 77 occasions across his 17-year career, playing in two World Cups and playing a crucial role in their Grand Slam in 2016.
He retired from rugby union in May after struggling with toe and ankle problems at the back-end of his career.
Haskell hinted at his desire to switch over to MMA during his rugby career, revealing that he adopted training methods from various disciplines of the sport to improve his fitness and strength.
“It’s a fantastic form of training, it builds strength and endurance and has helped me to manipulate and move people on the rugby pitch. It has definitely benefitted my game.” Haskell told JOE.
His debut fight is expected to take place during the first half of next year.
“Known as one of sports great characters, Haskell is sure to bring his livewire, quick-witted and at times no-nonsense personality to the sport of MMA – along with genuine, knockout power,” Bellator said in a statement.
“Standing at 6ft 4in and weighing in during his rugby career at 260lbs, Haskell will compete in Bellator’s heavyweight division which features the likes of current champion Ryan Bader, challenger Cheik Kongo, MMA veteran Josh Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko.”
This transition got us at Green and Gold thinking about the perfect trainers for Haskell, with many in the rugby community well versed in various martial arts.
Judo coach Dane Coles: Showed perfect technique during his hip toss of Nic White last week.
Striking coach Manu Tuilagi: Pretty self-explanatory
Strength and Conditioning coach Eben Etzebeth: Also pretty self-explanatory, he has arms bigger than my future
Wrestling coach Joe Moody: Multi-time national wrestling champion growing up, also used to throwing guys onto their head