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Thursday’s Rugby News

Thursday’s Rugby News

Thursday’s Rugby news looks at the Super Rugby AU playoff between the Rebels and the Reds, proposes a return of the Probables V Possibles trial, as a beloved Tah moves West, and fans are left in the dark about the Rugby Championship.

 


Paying-off potential

Reds playmaker James O’Connor looks for support against the Rebels. (Photo: Brendan Hertel/QRU)

Two teams with plenty of potential will be looking to cash in when the Melbourne Rebels travel to travel Suncorp Stadium to take on the Queensland Reds in the first ever Super Rugby AU playoff on Saturday night.

For the Rebels, they will be looking to put their star-studded backline to good use.

This will be the Rebels first finals of any kind in Super Rugby, and their Wallabies players have to step it up in order to clinch a Grand Final berth.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Reds are starting to put together the pieces and can be a formidable side when they get the ball rolling. Coach Brad Thorn has shirked the “young team” tag for the last couple of seasons, and this year above any other would be a golden opportunity to nab some silverware.

It’s true that senior players are few and far between at the Reds, but it is also true that most of their young guns have been in the system for a while, and need to repay the faith for Brad Thorn, who is quickly running out ‘re-building years.’

Thorn seemingly instilled the virtues of a winning attitude into the squad at training this week and Reds rookie Fraser McReight says the squad was hyped up for finals footy after getting the backing from the coach.

“(Coach Brad Thorn) sort of gives you a bit of confidence in his own rugged terms, a license to be energetic, be a pest,” he said.

“My big growth was picking and choosing my battles against quality opposition, who can clean you out really easily.

“I’ve been pinged multiple times but it’s a learning curve … and it’s my job to go hunting for the ball.”

A crowd of 26,500 will be permitted to attend the match, with the Reds hopeful for a strong turnout.

Best of the best

Could a Probables V Possibles game be added to the calendar?

There are growing calls for a Probables V Possibles game to be scheduled before the up-coming test season.

Bringing back the Probables v Possibles trial could provide quality content for broadcasters and give the wider playing squad meaningful game minutes leading into a unique test window, with so much of the international schedule undecided. Already Western Force and NSW Waratahs players picked in Dave Rennie’s PONI squad have been asked to stay and prepare for national duties, and a squad of 46 players is expected to be announced following the conclusion of Super Rugby AU.

The enlarged squad is due to the fact that the Wallabies won’t have the luxury of being able to call on troops from outside the COVID-19 quarantine bubble. A Probable V Possibles match would at least give the wider training group something to do beyond holding tackle pads.

As opposed to a State of the Union game, which would exclude quality players from outside of NSW and Queensland, a Probables v Possibles match would provide the spectacle of some tasty match ups going head-to-head for the right to don a gold jersey. Sio V Tupou, White V McDermott, O’Connor V Toomua, DHP V Banks.

Michael Cheika held an entertaining Wallabies trial back in 2018, under lights at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney in front of a healthy crowd of nearly 10,000 spectators.

Last weekend’s North V South match was a roaring success, and Rugby Australia needs to capitalise on the national profile of the Wallabies as much as possible.

It was also proposed by Matt Toomua, among other players past and present, that a Pasifika V Super Rugby All Stars could provide quite the spectacle, as well as engaging with Australia’s fervent Polynesian supporter base.

Whatever format, a match up between the best Super Rugby players fighting for higher honours is an exciting prospect. What should the match up be called?

Moving West

Tom Robertson will join the Western Force.

The Western Force has announced the signing of Wallabies prop Tom Robertson.

Robertson arrives from the Waratahs after playing 62 games for the NSW side, and has 24 Wallabies caps to his name.

In fact, the 26-year-old became Wallaby No. 898 after making his debut in Perth at HBF Park in the 36-20 Rugby Championship victory over Argentina.

The Dubbo Kangaroos junior said the opportunity to work with Force head coach Tim Sampson was a major factor in his decision to head west.

“One of the main reasons why I wanted to play for the Force next year is Tim Sampson, who I think is world class,” Robertson explained. “Tim has a great reputation within the rugby community, and I can’t wait to learn and play under him.”

“I’ve played with a lot of the Force players before, the likes of Fergus Lee-Warner and Kyle Godwin, who are great guys.”

“I’m really motivated to help the Western Force squad grow. Western Australia has a lot of young rising talent, and the Force has shown this year that they can play great rugby.”

Force head coach Sampson said Robertson’s ability to switch to either side of the scrum would prove invaluable to his side.

“He’s a versatile prop, who can play at either tight-head or loose-head and will be a great addition to the quality of front rowers within our current squad,” Sampson said.

“Although still young, Tom comes with experience and we look forward to welcoming him to Western Australia, a place I am sure he has fond memories of after making his Wallabies debut at our home ground back in 2016”.

The Force plan on making a number of other player announcements in the coming weeks.

In the dark

Marika Koroibete during the Rugby Championship. (Photo: Stephen Tremain.)

The details of this year’s Rugby Championship are hopefully set to become a little bit clearer, with a conference call planned between the SANZAAR partners today to resolve confusion surrounding the tournament.

Administrators have yet to nail down plans for the annual test championship, with organisations from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina all coping with the Covid-19 pandemic at different stages.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster named his first squad on Sunday, and new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie plans to unveil his squad after the Super Rugby AU final, but so far, all that is on the schedule is tentative plans for a Bledisloe Cup series.

SANZAAR has not released much information beyond saying that they plan to run the championship in a ‘hub’ scenario in the November-December test window. The only viable countries to host it would be Australia and New Zealand, with six Argentine players testing positive for Covid, and South Africa remaining typically non-committal about the whole thing as they only just now return to rugby.

Some reports suggest New Zealand will host the other nations for the duration of the tournament starting in November, while others suggest that Australia could pinch the hosting rights. It still remains very much up-in-the-air, and some pundits are getting frustrated. Sir John Kirwan blew up about it on The Breakdown on SkySports.

“What’s upset me the most, is, we have created an amazing environment in New Zealand. Even this last lockdown was only in Auckland. Our Prime Minister said the other day it can happen, so I don’t know why the tournament is not here. How can Fiji go to London?,” Kirwan said.

“So why aren’t we having this competition in New Zealand? With England, with whoever it is. We’ve made all this sacrifice to make it the safest country in the world and what is happening? I’ve heard it’s going to be in Brisbane. Fiji is going north. What is happening?”

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Jack,
    Bit of redemption for both teams on the cards this week and it’ll be interesting to see how they adapt. I just hope it’s not like that first golden point period where both teams were more scared of losing than winning and it turned into a bore fest. I personally think the Reds have it over the Rebels but I do admit it could go either way. Isn’t it great having that feeling of uncertainty in the game.
    Possibles vs Probables wins for me and makes a lot more sense than a SOO game that will only further infuriate the other states and make the Forces reach out to NZ sound like a good plan to them.
    Interesting move by Robertson and with the independent funding in the West it may not be the last. Good for the Force as some clever signings could see them be even more competitive and that is good for Aus rugby – if they stay with Aus rugby.

  • Ads

    Bloody Force stealing our players. Have they no shame?! Oh sorry that only works when players move East. What a great opportunity for him to develop.

    • Yowie

      I can understand wanting to get out of the Waratahs/NSW by any means.

      • Alister Smith

        He doesn’t actually intend playing for the Force – he just wants to holiday on the Margaret River but its the only way he can get around the McGowan border closure – rugby being “essential” work, of course.

      • UTG

        Don’t you guys always say you get your gold jersey when you get your sky blue? Looks like the Wallabies dream is over for Trobbo then…

        • Yowie

          Stay tuned for when Rugby Australia Q Branch comes up with a reversible gold/blue jersey as a cost-saving measure.

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          Available from all good RM outlets in Bondi, Coogee, Randwick and their new Western Suburbs store in Paddington.

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      • Custardtaht

        Thank god he isn’t moving to Qld. If he had kids he’d have to pick which one can come.

        • Yowie

          Having twins makes that sort of unthinkable decision easier.

        • Brisneyland Local

          the one with the most rugby skills. Easy problem solved! ;-)

  • Dally M

    Thanks Jack.

    Possibles v Probables doesn’t engage the casual or non-rugby fan.

    State of Origin (Union) alienates the other states.

    But i really like Toomua’s idea. You sell it as Pasifika v SR All Stars and you make up those teams from the possibles and probables. You have a genuine Wallaby selection trial, it gives the Pasifika players a chance to represent their region and it’s something that would attract the casual & non-rugby fans!

    • Timbo

      Why not both a Probs vs Poss and Pasifika vs SRAS?

      • Dally M

        Too many games to fit into an already crowded schedule, and the one game would serve both purposes with the number of Pasifika players already in the Wallabies.

        • Timbo

          fair play. What we know is, the North v South was brilliant for the game and NZ selectors. Might have given them a few headaches but when you have players going one on one with their positional competition, but not a bad problem to have.

        • Who?

          I think the better argument is, “Wouldn’t the Pasifika team be too studded with Wallabies compared to the Super Rugby All Stars..?”

          If it’s this year only, it may work to have both. Given there’s no certainty about any scheduling beyond next weekend.

        • Reds Revival

          Another question would be, how many of the All Stars would be too sore/injured to play after playing against Pasifika?

        • Yowie

          Good point.
          I think an All Blacks v Pasifika game should be scheduled for just before each Bledisloe game, with a special rule that any Pasifika players serving out weeks-off for red card offences get to play the AB game.

        • Reds Revival

          Can we enlist Owen Farrell for the Pasifika team? As my old coach used to say, they can’t run without their head.

        • Geoffro

          Theres more than a few non pasifika,non wallabies that would go ok I reckon

    • Keith Butler

      Like your idea. Pick your teams everyone.

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      I think there’s far too much effort looking at trying to attract the casual fan and it’s to the detriment of rugby and the true fans. The law deviation here and all this talk about how scrum resets, not enough running rugby and the like is bad for rugby in my opinion (was going to say humble opinion but no one would believe that anyway). The true rugby supporter likes rugby because of the contest that occurs and the way all laws, except the rolling maul which is a pet hate of mine, are designed to allow for a fair contest. We don’t actually want that to change and it isn’t the laws stopping attractive running rugby, it’s the dumb tactics employed by coaches that stops it. The only law changes I’d like to see are the ones around the rolling maul and stopping dickhead 9’s slowing the ball out of the rucks. 1 leg over a ball as it’s rolled back is not in the ruck.
      Sorry I ramble, my point is that true fans would love a possible vs probables and if it doesn’t appeal to the casual fan then that’s their issue

      • Yowie

        dickhead 9’s

        It’s less tautologous to just say “9’s”.

      • Dally M

        Only problem with that is, the more fans you have the more money you make & the more attractive the product is to broadcasters.

        The rusted on fans are not enough unfortunately.

    • RedAnt

      Both ideas are far superior to a State of Origin. Personally I think a Possible v Probables game is probably a better option for the Wallabies selectors, but I do think the novelty and potential ‘tribalism’ of the Pasifika v All-Stars could make it a great spectacle.

  • Hoss

    Robbo to the West ??

    Evidence perhaps of Darwins hitherto relatively unknown – theory of reverse evolution.

    • Custardtaht

      I think a Karen late last year said this, or words to the effect, about what Darwin’s theory of natural selection is;

      Dig a big hole, call it Western Australia and dump all the weak and retards in it.

      • Geoffro

        Her name wasn’t Gina was it?

        • Custardtaht

          Can’t remember, Gina sounds familiar, but then again it could’ve been Clive.

  • Reds Revival

    I really like the Pasifika v All Stars concept. However, my fear is that we will discover that “White Men Can’t Jump, and They Can’t Play Rugby Either” (which will be the sequel). The Rock will play Tongan Thor, and Jack Black will play James Slipper.

    • Who?

      Who will Kevin Hart play? And Karen Gillan?

      • Reds Revival

        That’s easy. Kevin Hart plays Moses Sorovi, and Karen Gillan plays Amy Perrett (obviously). Or if you take her monniker “Killer of Men”, then she could play Sean McMahon.

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