Thursday’s Rugby news sees the Force take on the Tahs on the Gold Coast, and the Reds look to rebound against the Rebels, while Rugby Australia snaps up another young gun and the Blues are on high alert in the lead-up to their showdown with the champion Crusaders.
Feel the Force
The first game of Super Rugby AU will see the Western Force take on the NSW Waratahs on Friday night at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast. The Force will be looking to pick up where they left off after the bye and notch up their first win in Super Rugby AU against the Waratahs on Friday night.
The last time the two teams met, the Force let the game slip through their fingers after racing to a 14-0 lead, but eventually the Tahs mounted a comeback to take the game 23-14.
Coach Tim Sampson is hoping they can breakthrough for a maiden victory, after proving they can match it with the best in this new domestic competition.
A point of pride for the Force is their scrum and lineouts, with veteran lock Jeremy Thrush providing much-needed leadership and the impressive Fergus Lee-Warner adding some mongrel to the pack.
Meanwhile the back row has been the surprise packet of the competition. Henry Stowers, Tevin Ferris and Brynard Stander have been workhorses, earning consistent selection in Green & Gold Rugby’s Team of the Week.
Meanwhile, veteran All Black centre Richard Kahui and Wallaby Kyle Godwin have added some starch in midfield, and Godwin is eager to aim up against the Tahs, with speculation he will be joining the NSW team next year.
“We’re raring to go this week,” Godwin said. “We’re so close to getting that win. We’ve been playing some great rugby and haven’t been rewarded yet, but we’ll keep pushing, keep ticking along and I’m sure the win will come soon.”
For the second game of Super Rugby AU, the shell-shocked Reds take on the rejuvenated Rebels. With last weekend’s results, both teams are still firmly in the hunt for the finals, and a win in this game could prove pivotal to the standings.
The Reds in particular had no answers for the Waratahs last weekend, and struggled at scrum and lineout time, a facet of the game the Queensland side usually pride themselves on. I shudder to think what Brad Thorn had in store for them when they rocked up to training.
Taniela Tupou has stepped up his efforts of late, consistently playing for the full 80 minutes. Quizzed on whether he is in the best shape of his career, Tupou admitted there was room for improvement.
“I wouldn’t say the best, I’m getting there and it’s a lot better than last year I think,” he told rugby.com.au.
“A few things I need to work on, been playing some big minutes and ready for some more I guess.”
He has now turned his attention to being a leader in the forward pack, which extends to Queensland’s newest debutant (and Tongan Thor’s new protege) Zane Nonggorr, who had a tough night out.
“I didn’t really say much to him in the speech but I spoke to him after the game,” said Tupou.
“He did well at the start but he got the yellow card so he was a bit disappointed. There’s a lot for him to work on and I’m pretty happy to help him out and stuff.”
It is time for the Reds to take this competition by the scruff of the neck if they are finally going to deliver on potential.
Tahs bolster their squad
The NSW Waratahs have locked in rookie winger James Ramm, who has signed a two-year contract this week.
Ramm, who was Man of the Match on Saturday in the Waratahs surprise victory over the Queensland Reds, now leads Super Rugby AU in clean breaks, and sits equal first on defenders beaten.
“I’m just loving every minute of it,” Ramm said following news of his re-signing.
“To be a part of this squad and represent the Waratahs is something I’m really proud of, and to have been able to share that (debut) with my family and friends this year is a memory I won’t forget.
“There’s been some frustrating times (with injury) but that’s made this year all the more enjoyable.”
It is encouraging to see these young guns sign some long-term contracts, with the future of Super Rugby yet to be decided. Ramm is the second young prospect to commit to Australian rugby since the contract freeze was lifted earlier this month, after the Queensland Reds’s secured Hunter Paisami’s services for another two years.
The much anticipated Blues v Crusaders clash is in doubt following the New Zealand Government’s decision to put Auckland in a three-day lockdown.
The Blues are scheduled to host the Crusaders at Eden Park in front of a sellout crowd for the final round of Super Rugby Aotearoa, but a spike in community transmissions in Auckland has thrown a spanner in the works.
The Blues released a statement last night which read: “The Blues along with fellow Super Rugby Aotearoa partners and NZR are currently assessing the impact of both the Blues-Crusaders and Highlanders-Hurricanes games with the move to Covid-19 Level 3 in Auckland and the rest of the country to Level 2,”
“NZR is in close and constant dialogue with Government and we will pass on more information when we have it.
“We are working through all the numerous scenarios and will probably be in a better position to comment with more clarity tomorrow (Thursday).”
“The players and staff are now based at their homes awaiting updates, ensuring they are meeting all health and tracing requirements to keep safe.”
“We are busy this morning readying our facility for shutdown as per level 3 requirements, cleaning gym equipment which will be dispersed around players so they can continue to train and prepare for our final game.”
New Zealand Rugby are expected to make an official statement concerning the game after seeking more information from the Government.