Monday’s Rugby News looks at the Wallabies upset victory, James Slipper’s 100th test match, the Force’s new flyhalf and the Pumas finalise their preparations against the RA XV
The Wallabies have pulled off a massive upset, overcoming the All Blacks 24-22 in the fourth and final Bledisloe Cup test match.
The first half would see both teams reduced to 14-men after All Blacks prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Wallabies flanker Lachie Swinton were sent off for high tackles.
With the All Blacks taking the lead at the start of the second half, flyhalf Reece Hodge would kick the Wallabies ahead before a try to Taniela Tupou sealed the result.
It caps off a remarkable comeback after suffering their worst loss in Bledisloe history just seven days earlier.
Despite the positive finish to the Bledisloe series, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie remained grounded, conceding that they shouldn’t overvalue the dead-rubber victory.
“You don’t win the Bledisloe Cup by winning one and drawing one,” he told reporters in his post-match press conference.
“What it tells us is that if we work hard enough for each other we can get results against anyone. But it doesn’t count for much tonight unless we back it up against Argentina in a couple of weeks.
“We’re trying to grow our game. There’s a lot of stuff we haven’t had time to do because of the (COVID) situation, so I’m excited about where we can take this team. But we’re not going to get carried away with tonight. It was a great result, but we’ve got to keep building on that.”
Captain Michael Hooper was hoping that performances like that could become the norm after his 50th in charge.
“It’s a good start for them and (we) expect that we want to make that the norm,” Hooper said.
“We make no bones about where we want to go as a team, and those guys are going to be a big driving factor in that so bottling that feeling and pushing each other and demanding more out of each other, which the young guys have brought and vice-versa from the top-down, is going to be important to go where want to go.”
Onto the next 100
Prop James Slipper is looking to build on his time as the leader of the Wallabies pack after bringing up his 100th cap.
Slipper become the 13th man to bring up the century for Australia, however, the unlucky number came back to haunt him as he was forced off the field with a suspected dislocated elbow.
“I had the best week in terms of messages, videos. James Horwill was obviously a big part of my career here at the Reds and Wallabies and I FaceTime’d him actually yesterday,” Slipper said.
“It was a really special week and it was led by (his teammates), here.
“I didn’t realise how liked I was. It made it special but the icing on the cake tonight was actually getting the result.”
Having brought up the milestone with a win, the 31-year-old’s new priority is to improve on his 53 per cent winning percentage in gold.
“Short story, no, when you set out – I’m sitting next to Tom Wright now who’s debuted – you never think about playing 100 Tests,” he added.
“I had some twists and turns and am very surprised that I’ve actually made it here, but at the end of the day, I really want to win.
“One hundred is good, but winning is better and we need to do more of that.”
Having rejuvenated his career in the nation’s capital, Slipper was proud to see the next generation of players come through the Australian system, having been replaced on the field by new Wallaby no. 940 Angus Bell.
“I’ve enjoyed my last two years in Canberra, seeing players like Tommy (Wright) come in, (Lachie) Swinton, (Angus Bell) Belly,” Slipper said.
“Direction wise, I’m really excited and we’ve just got to be more consistent, not leave it until the last game of a series, a dead rubber, to win.”
The Force have continued their roster overhaul, signing former Reds flyhalf Jake McIntyre on a two-year deal.
McIntyre returns to home soil after spending over three years in Europe, including two seasons as the top scorer for French top-flight outfit Sporting Union Agenais.
Having most recently turned out for French Top 14 side ASM Clermont Auvergne, the 26-year-old called the decision to return home a ‘no-brainer’, eager to be apart of the strong and rich WA rugby community.
“For me it was a no-brainer to join the Force. I share the ambition the club has shown, and I want to grow with the club to achieve success,” McIntyre said in a statement.
“After talking with players like Brad Lacey, there’s obviously a very strong rugby community in WA, which I can’t wait to contribute to and be a part of. It’s rare you find a place where players only have positive things to say, so I think that speaks volumes for the family culture at the club.
“I’m really looking forward to playing rugby back home in Australia in front of family and friends, that’s going to be special.”
Head of rugby Matt Hodgson believes that McIntrye will be a valuable asset to the squad, adding some much-needed depth to their impressive backline.
“Jake brings exceptional positional and tactical awareness to the squad,” Hodgson added.
“His vision and rugby intelligence are strong assets, so we’re looking forward to seeing that on display on the training track and during the 2021 season.
“It’s always great to have Australian players return home and having seen him thrive in France, we’re excited to see Jake show the country what he’s capable of in a Force jersey.”
Isi Tune-up game
Argentina has finalised their preparations for the Tri-Nations, cruising to a 57-24 victory over a Rugby Australia XV at Leichardt Oval on Saturday.
The clash marks the final game of a two-‘test’ series against the selected team made up of Wallabies squad members and Sydney-based players.
The Pumas would take the first test 19-15 which I feel like I need to include because even the most die-hard Australian rugby fans probably didn’t know it was on last Friday thanks to a lack of support/advertisement from the marketing pigeon.
Anyway, onto game two and it was a dominant showing from the Pumas, who were able to welcome back the majority of their European-based players after they served a separate quarantine from their teammates.
Incoming Force halfback Tomas Cubelli and fullback Santiago Cordero crossed for doubles as they ran in nine tries in the dominant showing over 90 minutes (3 x 30 minute periods).
Discarded Wallabies No.8 Isi Naisarani was the standout for the RA XV, crossing over twice before appearing to hurt his knee in the 54th minute.
Flyhalf Will Harrison was another that caused significant headaches for the Pumas, picking up from his strong showing in the opening test match to press his claim for selection in the final two tests of the years.
Meanwhile, new Wallaby Fraser McReight built off his debut with some solid work around the ruck, joined by strong showings from fellow debutant Irae Simone.
The Pumas will be hoping to build off these showings when they face the All Blacks on Saturday at Bankwest Stadium.