Thursday’s Rugby news sees Jordan Petaia facing another injury setback, pressure mounts for Australian Super Rugby sides for round four, Nick McArdle returns to give a State of the Union, and the Western Force go head-to-head against a Shute Shield club in a curtain-raiser.
Young flyer busts wing
In news that will send disappointed groans throughout the Reds organisation, and Australian rugby in general, young gun Jordan Petaia has been ruled out for the 2020 season.
The Reds confirmed that Petaia has suffered a dislocated shoulder which requires surgery, sidelining him for up to 20 weeks. This means Petaia, after two games, will effectively be out for the rest of the Red’s campaign.
Rugby.com.au reported that Petaia underwent scans on Tuesday after arriving back in Brisbane with his Reds teammates on Monday night. Further consultation with surgeons and Reds and Rugby Australia medicos determined he will go under the knife for a full reconstruction.
It will be a long road through rehabilitation, casting serious doubts on his ability to be ready to play in the Wallabies July Series.
There is still hope he could make a comeback during The Rugby Championship in August and September.
The question is, should he be rushed back into top-flight rugby considering his age and his horror run with injuries?
The Reds are hosting the Sunwolves for their first home game of the season, with a reshuffle needed in the backline to compensate for the loss of Jordy. Hunter Paisami is tipped to start in the 13 jersey for the game.
Pride on the line in round four
Aussie fans will see a return of Saturday arvo rugby, with the Rebels hosting the Sharks in Ballarat at 2.45pm AEDT for their round four clash. This is the first time the Rebels have taken a regular season round to country Victoria, and it is hoped the move will win the hearts and minds of fans and players out in the region. On Tuesday, Melbourne Rebels and Rugby Victoria hosted a rugby clinic at Ballarat Highlanders Rugby Club, with more activities planned for game day.
Later on Saturday afternoon, the Brumbies take on the Chiefs in Hamilton at 5.05pm AEDT. After a heartbreaking loss to the Highlanders last week, the Brumbies are out for redemption, and are hopeful they can be the first Aussie team to notch a win against a Kiwi side this year. They haven’t won in New Zealand since March 2014 when they beat the Hurricanes. Rob Valentini has the belief that the Brumbies can win against a classy Chiefs side.
“It’s about fronting up as a team,” said Valentini. “We’ll get the job done if we get around each other. If we bring the energy, we can pull an upset.”
Immediately following that, the Reds host the Sunwolves at Suncorp at 7.15pm AEDT. The Queensland team are looking for their first win of the season against a dogged Sunwolves team containing a mish-mash of mercenaries from around the world rugby landscape, including a crop of Aussies.
It’s a must-win for the Reds, who are under pressure to deliver on their potential after a steady rebuilding phase under Thorn. It will be interesting to see how the backline shapes up after Petaia’s injury. Also, whoever is named at 12 will potentially line-up against Ben Te’o, who was rumoured to be joining the Reds before signing with the Sunwolves.
Across all Aussie Super Rugby teams playing this weekend, it is time for the experienced heads still running around to step up and take these games by the scruff of the neck. Check in for all the team sheets here.
West vs East in Perth
The Western Force will host Shute Shield side Eastwood at Success Sportsplex on Saturday in a pre-season trial, as a warm up for the second season of Global Rapid Rugby.
“Eastwood is a very successful Sydney club and it will be a good test to see if things are working on the field and where our conditioning is at,” Force captain Ian Prior told Western Force Media.
The game will act as a curtain-raiser to the RugbyWA Women’s Super W round two clash against the Queensland Reds. The Western Force will take on Eastwood at 2:00pm AWST, directly followed by RugbyWA Women playing the Queensland Reds at 4:00pm AWST for Super W round two action.
“It’s fantastic, between RugbyWA and the Force, we are one club and it’s great to represent the WA rugby program and pathway as a whole organisation and we are honoured we can add to the women’s event,” Prior said.
“It’s going to be great to get our first competitive match out of the way and then enjoy some top-class rugby when we watch the RugbyWA side play afterwards.
“The team (RugbyWA Women) have some young exciting talent, WA always seems to produce good players male and female, so I think we’ve unearthed some stars there.”
The Force will also play a trial game against a Newcastle representative side at No.2 Sportsground on 29 February before the Global Rapid Rugby season kicks off on 14 March.
Super Rugby conundrum
The question of dropping another Australian side of Super Rugby has again been a topic of conversation. On Sky Sports’ The Breakdown it was suggested that the Sunwolves remain in the competition and one of the Australian teams fall out following their poor start to the season, where Australian sides are 6-0 against foreign competition.
A welcome face has returned, as Ex-Fox Rugby host Nick McArdle was invited on the show to provide an insight on the state of rugby in Australia.
“The game is struggling here and that’s a part of the discussion, do we reduce once again after having lost the Western Force just a couple of years ago. Do we get rid of another team and go back to three,” said McArdle. “At the time there was even talk about maybe keeping the Force and merging the Brumbies and the Rebels, that’s still on the table in some people’s minds anyway.”
The old argument that in Australia, rugby is behind League and AFL in the pecking order was raised, as was resources dedicated to juniors and grassroots. Interestingly, discussion turned to concerns over the resources being devoted to the coaching system.
“Why do we have a New Zealand coach coaching at our biggest province in the Waratahs at the moment?” asked McArdle.
“Why have we got Dave Rennie just about to start as coach of the Wallabies? The reason is he was the best man for the job and everyone’s comfortable with that, except that: why was he the best man for the job? He was the best man for the job because we haven’t put the resources into the coaching structure and the coaching pathways. There was nobody ready, nobody was ready to take over the Wallabies. That is an indictment on the Australian system at the moment.”
Is there any coaches from ClubLand ready to step up to Super Rugby level?