Thursday’s Rugby news sees the NSW Waratahs welcome the Melbourne Rebels to the SCG, as the ACT Brumbies take on the Force across town at Leichhardt Oval, while Australia’s World Cup bid gathers momentum and the Springboks are left stranded on home soil.
Friday night Rugby see the Melbourne Rebels return from the bye to take on the NSW Waratahs at the historic SCG.
The Tahs were close to victory last Saturday night against the ACT Brumbies – having put themselves into a dominant position midway through the first half. A last gasp Issak Fines try on fulltime handed the Brumbies the win, but belief is starting to grow throughout the Tahs squad, following a rocky start to Super Rugby before the COVID lockdown.
Waratahs coach Rob Penney and the rest of the coaching staff have empowered the young team to take control of the decision-making and tactics during the game. Tahs fullback Jack Maddocks has been feeling the benefits, and has been challenged to take on a leadership role from the back.
“The coaches are very big on us here taking ownership and trying to read the play and read the game,” said Maddocks. “The first part of that is having your eyes up and reading that it’s on.”
Tries like James Ramm’s on the weekend, which came about following a quick-thinking cross-field kick from flyhalf Will Harrison is giving the group a confidence boost.
“The big part of that play is having the confidence to actually go and do it. That’s something which it takes a while to instil from a coach’s perspective – that confidence and that no fear factor.
I think the way we are in this environment, if that had not come off, no one would have blown up. It’s a very small thing but there is a lot given into it – the player’s vision to see that and secondly the confidence to do it.”
Meanwhile the Rebels will be looking to get their first win in Super Rugby AU. Flanker Michael Wells hopes the team can go one better after the draw against the Reds in Round Two.
“Winning is a bit of a habit. So we have to find the habit, and hope that gets ball keeps rolling after we get our first win,” said Wells.
On Saturday the Western Force will clash with the ACT Brumbies on neutral territory at Leichhardt Oval in New South Wales. The Western Force will be hoping to get their first win over the Brumbies since 2013.
Force skipper Ian Prior told rugby.com.au’s Captain Call that the Brumbies are the team to beat this year. “They have been the cream of the crop in terms of Australian franchises over the last few years, and there’s a great dynasty that’s been established at that club, and there’s been a reason for it.”
They’re an exciting team. They have been able to expand on what their repertoire was over the last couple years, and they have been able to really evolve, which is quite dangerous when you think about.”
Prior hinted that the Force would target the Brumbies set piece, especially their line-out which faltered against the NSW Waratahs last week.
“You can’t win the game without the ball, and that comes from set-piece the majority of the time. The Waratahs did a fantastic job, and Rob Simmons is an experienced campaigner. You’ve got Ned Hannigan there as well, guys that can really compete and make a nuisance of themselves.”
Prior will go for scans on his shoulder that he injured tackling James O’Connor during Friday night’s game, but said he felt the injury was just a bad “stinger.”
New Western Force recruit Greg Holmes will miss the game with a broken thumb. Tom Sheminant may be an option to come into the 23, while returning Force prop Pek Cowan may have to wait a week before getting drafted into the match-day squad.
Cowan is back from Japan and ready to rip in. “As soon as I heard that we might have the opportunity to play Super Rugby again I thought there was no other team I would love to be a part of,” he said.
World Cup reinforcements
Wallaby great Gary Ella is among the new additions to join Rugby Australia’s Rugby World Cup advisory board.
Chaired by Sir Rod Eddington, the board was set up last month to spearhead Australia’s bid to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup.
Gary Ella represented Australia six times between 1982 and 1988, and has been an advocate for Indigenous representation across all forms of rugby, working with the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development team and the Classic Wallabies.
Ella said he was thankful to be included on the team working towards securing the hosting rights for another World Cup.
“I want to thank Hamish for his leadership and proactivity as we look to secure a tournament that would be transformational for rugby here in Australia.
“I know from my experience at all levels of the game, what a fantastic opportunity a home Rugby World Cup would provide for communities across the country and what that investment would mean for our future generations.”
Also joining the board is IOC vice-president John Coates, who said: “The Rugby World Cup is one of the world’s major sporting events on the global calendar and the positive effect it would have on Australia would be immeasurable.”
“This bid is a terrific opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of Australians young and old while also showcasing our incredible country to the rest of the world.”
Rugby AU chairman Hamish McLennan welcomed the two new members to board, saying, “John and Gary are two terrific additions to the Advisory Board and they join an already formidable team, as we begin to develop a bid that delivers significant return to the Australian economy as well as World Rugby,” he said.
The South African Rugby Union has confirmed that they will not host any Tests in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The cancellation of all six home internationals will create a financial hole to the national union, which made small profits in the last two years.
However, National rugby union chief executive Jurie Roux did not rule out the possibility of the Springboks playing abroad later this year.
The Springboks have not played since lifting the World Cup in Japan last year, and face an uncertain schedule for the remainder of as travel restrictions will limit their ability to go on tour.
South Africa are due to play Italy, Ireland, France and Wales during November, but this is looking unlikely, considering their July internationals against Scotland and Georgia have already been cancelled. It’s a huge blow for the world champion Springboks, as the tour would have provided vital preparation for the British & Irish Lions in 2021.
It appears the Rugby Championship will go ahead, with all games to be played in New Zealand. South Africa’s preference is to participate in the tournament.
“Whatever we can fit into that window we will and we are trying to deliver the Rugby Championship, which would almost certainly be in the bubble in New Zealand,” said Roux during a virtual media conference.
“If we do that there will be no time for other internationals, and in any case the Northern Hemisphere has been clear that they want to complete the Six Nations and then play a tournament with Japan and Fiji in that period.”
Meanwhile, Roux has waded into the war of words surrounding the future of Super Rugby, reiterating that: “There is a legal and binding agreement with the SANZAAR alliance, and anyone in breach of that would put themselves in a position to be held liable,”
“We have not been kicked out of Super Rugby. If anything, New Zealand kicked themselves out of it,” Roux said.