The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

This week in the Top 5 we wander through the good, bad and ugly from the weekend,  look at a long list of names,  talk NRC equality, briefly visit Wales, recap some of the wackiness  that is Australian Rugby and revel in some awesome NRC highlights.No, you’re not going mad, yes that is 6.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Good – The inclusion of 3 development players for the Wallabies squad, Cheika continuing to bring in more young guys to build depth. Jermaine Ainsley, Duncan Paiaaua and Folau Faingaa will be with the squad in the lead up to Bled 3.

Bad – The memories of those working at the ARU.  I can’t belileve how many times I heard Pulver, Clyne and co say “I can’t recall”or “I’m not sure”.

Ugly – The weather for the Brisbane City v Rising match. Seriously, if a scrum collapsed in the wrong place a front rower could have drowned! That, and Stephen Hoiles’ use of the word physicaler (I don’t know how to spell it, I’m not an expert on made up words), as in more physical.

2017-NRC-Brisbane-City-v-Melbourne-Rising-7

That’s a lot of names

In the past week we have heard about 2 young Rugby players who could now be lost to rugby in Australia. 17 year old Charlie Rorke has been signed by the Canberra Raiders while Nick Frost, son of former ARU retention manager (as reported in yesterday’s Daily News) has signed with the Crusaders. These 2 have joined a long list of Australian players who are no longer playing rugby in Australia. How long? Well take a look.

I did a bit of research and have listed all of the Australian players currently playing overseas (not including those who will be returning for Super Rugby, ie Pocock and Lealiifano).

To be clear, I’m not saying all of these players should be here, playing Super Rugby, or that we have 3 or 4 Super Teams worth of players outside the country. I just found the numbers interesting.

Guinness Pro 14

  • Andrew Deegan, Jarrad Butler – Connacht
  • Junior Rasolea – Edinburgh
  • Ratu Tagive, Sam Johnson (Australian Schoolboys A) – Glasgow
  • Scott Fardy – Leinster
  • Paul Asquith, Dylan Evans – Scarlets
  • Cruze Ah-Nau – Zebre

French Top 14

  • Tom Murday, Jake McIntyre – Agen
  • Luke Jones, Leroy Housten, Blair Connor – Bordeaux Bègles
  • Poutasi Luafutu, Alfie Mafi – Brive
  • Afusipa Taumoepeau – Castre
  • John Ulugia, Sitaleki Timani, Peter Betham – Clermont
  • Liam Gill, Mike Harris – Lyon
  • Joe Tomane, Jesse Mogg – Montpellier
  • Phoenix Battye, Curtis Browning, Mitch Inman, Ulupano ‘UJ’ Seuteni (Australina U 20) – Oyonnax
  • Ben Mowen – Pau
  • Afa Amosa, Brock James – La Rochelle
  • Hugh Pyle – Stade Francais
  • Jonah Placid – Toulon
  • Tala Gray, Zack Holmes – Toulouse

French Pro D2

  • Lotu Taukeiaho – Aurillac
  • Tyrone Viiga, Josh Valentine, Rodney Iona – Béziers
  • Luke Burton (Australian U20) – Biarritz
  • Rory Walton – Carcassone
  • Chris Tuatara-Morrison – Colomiers
  • Iese Leota – Massy
  • Clint Eadie – Narbonne

Aviva Premiership

  • Nathan Charles, Ben Tapuai – Bath
  • Greg Holmes, Dave Dennis, Mitch Lees, Nic White, Lachlan Turner – Exeter
  • James Hanson, Cameron Orr (Australian U20) – Gloucester
  • James Horwill – Harlequins
  • Matt Toomua, Nick Malouf (Australian 7s) – Leicester
  • Saia Fainga’a, Dave Porecki, Jake Schatz, Brendan McKibbin, Ben Meehan – London Irish
  • Harrison Orr – Falcons
  • Rob Horne – Saints
  • Kieran Longbottom, Will Skelton – Saracens
  • Michael Dowsett – Worcester

 Japan Top League

  • Michael Stolberg, Anthony Fainga’a – Kintetsu Liners
  • Adam Ashley-Cooper – Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers
  • Liam Dunne – Kubota Spears
  • Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco (just turned 22, played for Sunwolves), Brackin Karauria-Henry, Franklin Calugay (21 years old, played QLD GPS) – NTT Shining Arcs
  • Jordan Smiler, Matt Giteau, Campbell Magnay – Suntory Sungoliath
  • James Moore – Toshiba Brave Lupus
  • Wycliff Palu, Ben Lucas – Toyota Verblitz
  • Corey Thomas, Kane Falconer (20 years old), Ed Quirk, Michael Bond – Canon Eagles
  • Matt Mafi, Daniel Heenan, Sam Wykes, Berrick Barnes, Digby Ioane – Panasonic Wild Knights
  • Caderyn Neville, Peter Kimlin, Sam Greene, Mark Gerrard – Toyota Industries Shuttles

 

That list doesn’t take into account players in the Japanese lower division, like Chris Alcock, Aiden Toua, Jack Debreczeni, players in the Mitre 10 cup or playing Super Rugby in NZ, such as Mike Alaalatoa (Crusaders), Pat Sio (Otago), Nigel Ah Wong (Counties Manukau), or players in other parts of the world – I even heard on twitter, via a well-respected GAGR regular Romania has an eye on some of our Under 20s.

Chris Alcock socres for the Brumbies

Chris Alcock scores for the Brumbies

Is it a long list? Hell yes it is – 98 players including those mentioned at the end. 99 including Sean McMahon. In fact during the Senate inquiry, Mr Ross Xenos, CEO of RUPA, stated there were 124 Australian players playing overseas who had played Super Rugby. Considering I have some on my list who have never played Super Rugby, the list just keeps getting longer. Are all of those players of the quality we need for Super Rugby/Wallabies? Of course not. But when you look closely, it’s quite frightening just how many of our players are leaving.

To put them into some sort of categories – there’s the ones that have headed off to finish up their careers. That would be the likes of AAC, Rob Horne, Peter Kimlin, Mark Gerrard, Gitts etc.

There’s the guys who never really made much of an impact in Super Rugby, Michael Dowsett, Jonah Placid, Brendan McKibbin, Ben Lucas.

There’s the ones that were so full of potential but decided to up and go. These ones confuse me a bit. I personally think they were up to Super Rugby standard, but were either not given a decent chance, had a poor run or played really well and decided to go anyway –Ben Meehan, Jesse Mogg, Jack Debreczeni etc etc.

Then there are the well-established players, Wallabies even, who left, was it for the money? Who knows – Joe Tomane, Ben Mowen, Matt Toomua, Liam Gill, Luke Jones, Nic White, Scott Fardy. IMO some of these players left after being looked over for national duties they (and many fans) felt they deserved, there are names there that definitely seemed to be on the outer with the Wallabies.

But the ones I find most concerning are the guys in their early 20s who head OS. On the Shining Arcs (Japanese Top League team) website, I found an interview with Franklin Calugay, a winger. He has only just turned 22 in the past month, was selected for development by the Waratahs but decided to head to Japan. Or 22-year-old Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, also playing for the Shining Arcs, who played for the Sunwolves in Super Rugby this year. There are also a handful of players who played for the Australian Under 20s in the past 3 or 4 years who are now overseas. Andrew Deegan was outstanding in the NRC last year, he’s now playing for Connacht after not playing a single Super Rugby match.

The ARU said one of the reasons for cutting a Super Rugby team was the lack of talent in the country. Unfortunately, in doing so, have they also cut off pathways for some younger players who will now have no choice but to play overseas if they want to develop their career?

 

NRC – is the playing field level?

This week there were some blow outs in the score lines. Queensland Country, Canberra Vikings and Brisbane City all had big wins. The Vikings game in particular, had some people asking “Well what do you expect? It was basically a Super Rugby team vs a bunch of club players.”

With the Wallabies having a week off and the likes of Phipps, Speight, Timani and Arnold sent back to get some game time in the NRC, the numbers are definitely out a bit this week, with more of the pro players involved.

The Vikings are a pretty Brumbies heavy team, likewise Brisbane City and the Reds, Perth Spirit and the Force. Some have been wondering where all the Waratahs players are. The Waratahs website lists 16 Waratahs contracted players not including Wallabies (I guess that’s a fair chunk of their players right there … ;-) ) split between the 3 NSW based teams, with a handful of those 16 being fringe players such as Ryan McCauley, Maclean Jones and Kelly Meafua (who I cannot find any reference to on their site). Looking at it, there does seem to be a shortage of Tahs compared to Reds, Force and Brumbies players. There has been talk of a maximum number of Super rugby contracted players for each team, which would mean some players having to move away from their home town for 3 months or so, or it could lead to players not playing NRC at all or heading overseas. I don’t know the answer.

But it did illustrate one big point. On the weekend we saw how big the gap is between Super Rugby and Club Rugby. If the Vikings game was, as people were saying Super vs Club players, then that’s one hell of a gap, keeping in mind some of the Super players for the Vikings aren’t even consistent starters for the Brumbies. If anything, it shows there is the need for a competition at that level in between club and Super, to develop more players to a higher level.

Nick Phipps in his first outing for the Rams.

Nick Phipps in his first outing for the Rams.

Copy Cats!

If you have been reading social media in the past 12 or so hours, or know any Welsh Rugby fans, I’m sure you know that some of them are not happy about the new regulations brought in by Welsh Rugby. Taking the lead from the ARU (I bet that’s a first!) they have imposed a rule where if a player signs internationally, they cannot return to represent Wales unless they have 60 Welsh caps.  Previously, players at clubs outside Wales required one of four wildcard picks from Gatland to represent their country, with that figure dropping to two for the 2019-20 Rugby World Cup season

The new rule is effective immediately and doesn’t apply to players already playing internationally, however it does apply to a certain Rhys Webb, who has recently signed with Toulon, and it is this which is causing some angst with Welsh Rugby fans (well the ones I follow on Twitter anyway!). Despite the fact that he signed before the rule was brought in, he will now be ineligible for Wales, having only earned 28 caps, unless he gets out of the deal with the French club. According the Gatland, he has only signed a letter of intent, not a full contract so is able to get out of it (and don’t we know all about letters of intent with Toulon!!)

I believe the reasoning varies as to why it was implemented, over here it was to allow certain players from offshore to return and play for the Wallabies (cough … Giteau law … cough). Over there I believe it is to try and prevent players from leaving. I wonder if it will be any more effective in retaining quality players than it has been in Australia?

foley wales 2014

Highlights of this week’s off field plays

Riveting, interesting or just boring and predictable; whichever way you look at it it’s been a fairly big week for Aussie rugby off the field.

With the Senate hearings appearing to come to a close last night we can all await the Senate report and see if anything comes of it. So what did we learn? Well it’s hard to miss the point that owning a rugby franchise is quite lucrative if you’re a consultant. Between the ARU board and the Management team there seems to be a lot of people that are involved in a lot of things but don’t know anything about what that actually is or what was going on. I suppose it’s only money. The only thing that seemed to be missing from the whole episode was the Nigerian Prince; but then again, the dealings with him may be commercial in confidence. The Senators were also pretty pushy around the who’s fingers are in what’s pies and the potential “jobs for the boys” and conflicts of interest.  It was pretty mean of you tax payers to arm politicians (well interns) with Google and put the ARU under the pump with facts. Cameron Clyne also mentioned that the game has been working together in the last week like never before which it was hard not to snigger at the irony.

Speaking of which, the coaching summit was held. The Mst’s have unrestricted access via the All Blacks “bug” (it won’t be discovered as its commercial in confidence) to get some inside information. Knowing that week in week out last season we have seen every successful idea each SR team and coach had used, and every coach had studied what each was doing while Kafer analysed it from the side lines, the collective sum of Aussie rugby genius was heard to suggest they should get back to basics. So without a clue of what to do all season, but now doing it by committee internally, the pressure was on to come up with something. Our bug was a bit patchy cutting in and out (the irony right – mirroring the performances of Aussie teams) but we did hear that one key point discussed heavily. Apparently it’s all about going wide and down the train tracks; it minimises the requirement for skills other than running which apparently appealed to the group as well as some other clear benefits which will help the supporters. After many hours of being facilitated, the group has come up with this explainer as a training (pun intended) aid for Aussie rugby. It’s a pretty high level technical training video of where to run to score tries:

 

Apparently, the genius behind this will double as a distraction for what’s going on on-field when Aussie teams are playing. There are also strong rumours that Allianz is replacing the super big screens not only to stop the painful replays which initially supporters thought was a blooper real on repeat (if only), but they are going to be replaced with mirrors as the smoke and steam of the train will add to the spectacle and ambiance according a recent match day experience poll.  AAMI in Melbourne, the home of the Rebels, are waiting until later in the year to do any stadium modifications. Stadium officials want to wait and see if the Rebel supporters will lift their heads out of their cupped hands to watch any of the games, or see if the tears of the supporters are still enough to obscure whatever it is that is going on for 80 minutes as they come to terms with supporting the Force. It won’t be seen in Canberra as the stadium is not modern enough and being a source of warmth supporters may chase after it. The Reds have raised concerns that the mixing of Quade “the Wizard” Cooper and a train will bring out the nuts in bay 9 ¾. (no- I refuse to make any joke about Reds supporters playing with their magic wands at games!).

So that’s it for this week. Next week we will cover Rugby’s consistency in approach; a “real” skill it possesses. Scheduling a Baa Baa’s game which will directly affect the NRC teams and potentially the whole competition? Brilliant! Then we’ll touch on the annual cut-a-team plan, oh sorry; “ARU Board always looking at every option” or something like that (you think it would have stuck after Clyne said it like a thousand times last night!) as the Sydney based NRC teams aren’t performing.  Nah, actually, I tell a lie about next week. By the time you have read this I will have already moved on to the fact that the Bledisloe 3 is on the weekend to support some really good NRC games (and Mitre 10).

 NRC Highlights (yep, we’re back to a bonus 6th item!)

  • Footyyy

    Wow, Lachie Turner is still playing.

    • Harry

      Mark Gerard even more astonishing

      • Jimmydubs

        Should tap him as a part time kicking coach.

    • I appreciate playing for Exeter, albeit current Aviva champions, is not the same as playing Super Rugby and definitely not the same as playing test rugby. But Turner is there as cover for one of England’s rising stars and steps in very nicely. He’s a different player to Nowell but while there’s a difference in pace and style, there’s not a dip in quality. Nic White is probably the current form 9 in the competition. He’s not as good as Genia in his best games IMO, but he’s more consistent and if he qualified, I would pick him as my starting Wallaby 9.

      • Westo

        The English league is definitely not the same as Super rugby, but lets be clear, that it is of an excellent standard. I was really interested in reading the number of players playing for Exeter, when only seven years ago they were promoted from Div 1 and have been strong ever since (within reason). However the flip side is London Irish who also had a plethora of Ozzies over the year, but are totally ordinary and have been relegated and re-promoted in the same period. You could say say that this sums up the inconsistency of AUS rugby.

        • Exeter are very much an exception, although the Newcastle Falcons seem to be following their model. There is an up-and-down pattern that’s much more common… although Irish might survive this year as Worcester are looking poor and their coach is off, and they have other off-field issues that seem to be spilling onto the pitch as well.

      • mikado

        I’ve seen very little of Exeter this season, but White looked inconsistent to me against Glasgow. This despite playing behind a dominant pack.

        • Could be, that’s the one game I haven’t really seen of theirs.

  • Adam Taylor`

    I love reading the Tuesday top 5 every week…thanks for time spent on research and writing. It is really appreciated.

    • MST

      Thanks for that.

  • Mick Bowen

    Julian Salvi missing from Exeter Chiefs list of players

    • MST

      You know what’s funny? On the weekend I started looking some of this up. I specifically remember turning to Mr MST and saying “Hey, did you know Julian Salvi is still playing?”
      Then I go and leave him off the list. Facepalm.
      There’s also other players like the Smith Twins, formerly of South Africa but now Australian that I forgot and I’m sure plenty more.

      • Who?

        Great article, as per usual! Two quick things.
        First off, Frost is moving to the Crusaders, and you missed two of the Aussies there. Michael Ala’alatoa you had, but you missed Digby Ioane, and, crucically, Pete Samu. A player who would’ve been a Wallaby this year if he were playing back here at home. Peter Samu or Dempsey/Hanigan, it’s not a hard choice for me!
        Secondly, the imbalance in quality in squads is all down to the poor way the NSWRU (and, to a lesser extent, the ARU) handled the NRC’s franchise placement. The reason there’s so many Reds in City and Country is that they’re run by the QRU, and they’re assigned (generally) by where they grew up. If you’ve got any Country roots (or more accurately, non-Brisbane roots – which applies to interstate imports), you’re supposed to play for Country (though Vanzati’s strangely playing for City), unless there’s already a heap of depth in your position. So you end up with Tupou playing for Country (because Auckland’s not in Brisbane), and a backline of Tuttle – Stewart – Paia’aua – CFS. That’s a pretty handy backline! Country’s underperformed in the past, but that’s partially because City has won 2 of 3 titles, and there was previously a fairly clear difference in coaching quality.
        If the NSWRU – and ARU – were smarter, they’d have tried to link some of the Vikings with NSW Country, and had NSW Country, the Rams and Rays all receiving players through the NSWRU and some form of draft (if required). Rather than the SS-based system, which sees clubs listed as part of one team, with all their players running out for another squad.
        I wouldn’t have had the Spirit or Rebels tied to any NSW clubs – they deserve a leg up in the comp, to develop the game in their regions, and to strengthen combinations for the respective Super clubs (when they both existed).

        • MST

          Yeah, I did mention Frost going to the Saders. I also said I didn’t look into the NZ teams (Super or Mitre 10), I just gave a few names off the top of my head.

        • Who?

          I know – just thought I’d mention them, as they get you to the magical 100, and they were both mentioned in a couple of other stories I read about Frost’s signing. :-)

        • Tomthusiasm

          Just read that Digby and the Crusaders have parted ways, Ioane will commit full-time to the Wild Knights in the Japan Top League.

          https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/super-rugby/98006879/digby-ioane-leaves-crusaders-for-fulltime-career-in-japan

      • G_Beard

        Didn’t see Luke Morahan on the list, and although short term Jono Lance is in the U.K. At the minute as well.

        • MST

          Must have missed Morahan. Wouldn’t be surprised, it was a hell of a lot of info to go through scrolling through that many squad lists looking for names/flags. I know there are some that were missed, some that may have signed later on or transferred.

        • G_Beard

          Firstly apologies, upon reread my initial reply read as very blunt. Wasn’t the intention.
          Huge list of overseas players and will get worse before it gets better.
          The outside view that ARU doesn’t give a shit about the players in Australia is not one that they want to continue to foster, as it has been noted it will take a generation to rectify.

  • Harry

    I may have missed him, it was a depressingly long list, but was Tyrell Lomax listed? IMO the biggest loss to Australian rugby this year, along with Michael Alaalatoa. Both world class props in the making.

    • jamie

      They’re both heading to Super Rugby teams, so no they weren’t listed. Big losses though

  • Dally M

    A lot of names – It just confirms the bullshit excuse that we do not have the player depth.

    We have a player retention problem.

    Sure some of these guys won’t set the world on fire but they are the missing level of player between the contracted Wallabies and the players we are asking to play Super Rugby that aren’t ready for it yet.

    • Adam

      I completely agree.
      It’d be interesting to see ratios of overseas players v. contract players (or a similar measure). I am sure South Africa, New Zealand and the pacific nations would boost similar if not worse ratios of players leaving their shores to pursue paid employment as a rugby player.

      • New Zealand usually do worse but don’t often miss their current players, with a few notable exceptions over the years – they lose fringe players and older ones but they do lose a lot of those.

    • Jasper Sapien.

      let’s not forget the guys who choose league, AFL, basketball or even rowing instead of rugby too. THE Talents there, it’s just managed terribly.

    • mikado

      The player retention problem is underpinned by a money problem. There’s simply more money (relatively speaking) in the NH than in Australia.

      • Who?

        Agreed. But that doesn’t justify us losing up and coming players to NZ… Like Michael Ala’alatoa, Peter Samu and now Nick Frost. And they’re just the currently visible ones – without thinking about Cameron Skelton (appears still to be playing in the Waikato – and we mustn’t forget that the ‘little’ Skelton brother, Logan, who’s taller than both Will (the shortest, amazingly!) and Cameron, is only 16 and will be coming through the ranks) and a good number of others over the years. It’s not like they’re paying the big bucks…

  • Wales are moving to the “Giteau Law” model because they had a variant of “we won’t pick if you play overseas” and it wasn’t working. It was a bit trickier than that, because a chunk of their internationals already had overseas contracts when it was introduced and there were no central contracts with the WRU outside of national appearances at the time, although “dual contacts” are being introduced as well.

    The problem Wales has, is the Pro 12/Pro 14 pays badly, and if you live in S. E. Wales and play in S. W. England you don’t even have to move… the commute from places like Bridgend to Bath is only about 50 miles, and you can be paid 2-3x more.

    The Giteau Law might not work either but it’s possibly better than the mess they’ve got now.

  • Adrian

    Obviously most of the overseas players are there due to money.

    Some are of SR standard clearly, but see it as sensible to accept 2x the money they get here.

    Those that are borderline SR get more money than SR playing in Europe and Japan.

    IF
    we had more money, these guys would give much more depth to our SR teams, and they’d do much better
    BUT
    we just don’t have the money…. period

  • dsb

    There is enough players overseas to start another super rugby team. Maybe we could locate it in Perth!!

  • Bay35Pablo

    French 2nd division having 9 players is damning. We have barely 4 pro teams and they run deep due to their cash.
    However, 2 English Premiership clubs having 10 between them (Exeter and Irish) is a joke. Quite frankly the Europeans treat the SH as a labour pool and screw us. They have the cash so they can just poach talent to fill their ranks. If we cannot afford to keep our talent it’s our fault. Between EU labour laws and grandparent passports players can get a gig. But you have to wonder whether they could just tighten up eligibility to help both hemispeheres. Euro rugby will go the way of the English Premier League. There will be barely a local player in the top flight in 20 years and their national sides will be in trouble. But it won’t matter as they will have killed rugby in the SH, and the 6N will be chock full of Jarryd Haynes whose dreams were always to play for …. (checks who eligible for) Scotland.

  • Brendan Hume

    …”Well it’s hard to miss the point that owning a rugby franchise is quite
    lucrative if you’re a consultant. Between the ARU board and the
    Management team there seems to be a lot of people that are involved in a
    lot of things but don’t know anything about what that actually is or
    what was going on.”

    Australian Rugby in a nutshell at the moment. How sad that a pathway to accountability to the rugby community seems to be so obscure.

  • HK Red

    MST, that’s a bloody amazing list, appreciate the time and effort put in. One thing……
    .
    “There’s the guys who never really made much of an impact in Super Rugby,…….., Ben Lucas.”
    .
    I’m a bit torn here. I know the guy never really cemented a place, mainly because the quality of the specialist players around him at the time, but as a utility back I think he was massively underrated. Could play any position in the backline, but favoured 9,10,15. He filled in admirably wherever needed, never letting the side down and tbh, generally being one of the best of the backs. I was absolutely gutted when the Reds let him go

    • Who?

      Given a choice this year between Frisby, Tuttle, Sorovi and Lucas, I pick Lucas…

  • formerflanker

    Irony alert – son of retention manager lost to NZ rugby.
    Raises the old question of why select him for Oz schoolboys if he’s not going to play rugby in Oz.

    • Funk

      Pretty much sums up the ARU for me!

    • Tomthusiasm

      I don’t think he’s necessarily lost to Oz rugby, unless he has NZ lineage, he’d have to wait years under new eligibility laws, wouldn’t he?

  • Michael Bell

    Add Senio Toleafoa to the list of Aussies overseas. He played 2 or 3 games for the Waratahs in 2017 and is now playing for Nevers in Pro D2 and doing VERY well.

    Evan Olmstead, never got the crack here, so headed to Canada and has now played over 20 Test matches and plays for Newcastle Falcons. Another one forced overseas who had to change allegiances because he didn’t attend Shore School.

  • RedSheep1989

    Damn, that was a great read! Great work, especially on working out the overseas player MST

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