Thursday’s Rugby news sees the Reds and Waratahs battle it out at Suncorp, the Brumbies host the Rebels in Canberra, players agree to another paycut deal and Japan and Fiji potentially move north for a new tournament.
State of the Union
One of the oldest rugby rivalries is set to be reignited for the Super Rugby AU opener. The NSW Waratahs will take on the Queensland Reds at Suncorp stadium on Friday night, and already players are champing at the bit to get a piece of each other.
“We’re very looking forward to going out and smashing some new South Welshmen,” said Reds captain Liam Wright.
“I think if you ask any of the boys, this is the number one game on their calendar and we’re just lucky we get to start with it and can’t wait to get out there Friday night.”
The Reds and Waratahs didn’t lineup against each in this year’s Super Rugby comp, but did play in a preseason trial in Dalby, which Queensland won.
The Waratahs brought in league hardman Paul Gallen to speak about the Queensland-NSW rivalry, while Reds coach Brad Thorn has provided all the motivation the Queensland team needs.
Both teams will be fielding fairly young line-ups. NSW will be relying on their inexperienced backs to take charge following the departure of Kurtley Beale, and injuries to Jake Gordon, Lalakai Foketi and Karmichael Hunt. They have some exciting prospects, with Will Harris starting at the back of the scrum, and powerhouse prop Tiaan Tauakipulu set to come off the bench.
Meanwhile, the Reds have a stacked backrow, with Liam Wright, Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson forming a formidable trio.
“I’ve always fancied the lineout so to get back in there and do some more jumping will be pretty cool I think and it allows us to unleash,” said Wright of his move to the otherside of the scrum.
“I think we’ve still got that real good combination going in the back row with me, Harry and Fraser, so I think we’ll work well with each other and it’s not a huge change for my game, just a bit more set piece-orientated and then me and Frase will try and get around as much of the field as we can.”
Rebels with a cause
On Saturday night, the Brumbies will host the Rebels in Canberra. It has been a rocky to the start of Super Rugby AU for the Rebels, with multiple curveballs thrown at the team in the lead up to their opening game.
The Rebels were forced to relocate to the nation’s capital after a spike in COVID cases forced Victoria to tighten their border restrictions. The team will now be based in Canberra for the foreseeable future.
Rebels centre Billy Meakes believes the competition could be the perfect proving ground to push his case for national selection, with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie emphasising that form will trump all other criteria when picking players for the Test side.
“It’s quite an amazing opportunity we have with this new Super Rugby AU to put your hand up for selection,” said Meakes.
“It’s almost like a trial every week, you’re playing against you direct competition for jerseys at the national level and every single week you’re playing against Australian players so a strong run of form can definitely put you in contention.”
Meakes has been on the Test fringes since he came back from England in 2017 but has not cracked the 23 in that time.
“It’s hand on heart the most important thing to me,” he said.
“There’s so much uncertainty at the moment and no one really knows what’s going on next year but for me, all I’ve ever wanted to do was play for the Wallabies and that’s still all I want to do. It’s definitely at the forefront of my goals and something I’m working towards and I’ll be doing my best in everything I can to get there again. Fingers crossed I can play as well as I want to and that’ll take care of itself.”
The Brumbies will be looking to replicate their great early season form in this truncated domestic season, and are the favourites to take out the Super Rugby AU title.
Winger Andy Muirhead said players felt the responsibility to perform on the field. “We like to think of ourselves as a pretty dynamic backline so it’ll be a good way to see where we’re at after a break against a red hot backline that the Rebels have.”
Just two days away from Super Rugby AU kicking off, it is being reported that Australia’s Super Rugby players have finally agreed to a 30 percent pay cut until September 30 after a confirming a new deal.
After intense negotiations over the last few weeks, players from the Brumbies, Rebels, Waratahs and Reds and Rugby Australia agreed to the updated conditions last night.
Under the existing deal, players were on an average of 60 percent cuts weighted towards the highest-paid players but this new agreement will be applied as a uniform reduction across the board.
The news will come as a relief to the Australian rugby public after reports last week suggested that players were threatening potential strike action. We can now turn our focus to the on-field action.
As rugby.com.au put it, this new reduction is in line with the pay cuts that Rugby Australia’s executive are currently on and that of Wallabies coach Dave Rennie when he begins his tenure. The 30 percent reduction also applies to match payments and bonuses.
The original deal put in place in April was set to run until 30. That deal has now been renegotiated after the the Super Rugby AU competition was finalised. Another agreement will be negotiated when plans for the Wallabies 2020 season are clearer.
Rugby Australia CEO Rob Clarke praised the playing group for their “cooperation” in the negotiations.
“Australians all around the country are currently facing an incredibly difficult economic environment and rugby is certainly no different,” he said.
“The professional players have acknowledged the important role they play in ensuring the future health of rugby in Australia and I thank them for their cooperation throughout this negotiation, to ensure the competition starts this coming Friday night.”
Australia’s Sevens players remain on the original deal and what their future looks like is still yet to be confirmed after the remainder of the World Series season was cancelled on Tuesday.
The Irish Independent is reporting that Japan and Fiji will be invited to an inaugural eight-team tournament to compete against the Six Nations sides in November and December.
Negotiations between unions and clubs are ongoing as World Rugby looks to settle on the 2020 fixture schedule and the formation of a global season.
The new-look tournament would replace scheduled matches against southern-hemisphere opposition, as Covid-19 has made international travel increasingly difficult.
The Southern Hemisphere teams are looking to recoup some of their losses by playing each other, but surely they could fit in a couple of games against Fiji and Japan?
Ireland was due to face Australia, South Africa and Japan at the Aviva Stadium in November, but those fixtures are set to be replaced by a tournament involving two pools of four, with matches played on November 14, 21 and 28. The final would take place on 5 December.
The fate of this year’s Six Nations remains a mystery, and would have to factor in the resumption of Premiership Rugby. The Champions Cup final is scheduled for 17 October, and the English clubs have earmarked the following weekend for their final.
Talks about the global calendar are even more complex, with the clubs in England and France raising objections to a proposal by the World Rugby working group representing the Six Nations and southern hemisphere nations to move the July window for Test matches to October to create a new international series.