Thursday’s Rugby news previews Bledisloe III, with some hints at selection changes for the Wallabies, and club rugby gears up for finals times, as the Hospital Cup and Shute Shield get set for Grand Finals this weekend.
Bledisloe III: Redemption
The Wallabies are set for some changes after that loss to New Zealand in Eden Park, with coach Dave Rennie considering a re-shuffle in the backline for Bledisloe III.
According to some reports, Tom Banks will make way for returning veteran Dane Haylett-Petty, following Dane’s recovery from an adductor injury.
While Banks played both matches against the All Blacks this series, it is believed he hasn’t done enough to cement his spot. Haylett-Petty last played at fullback for the Wallabies during the 2019 World Cup.
Another change to the backline will be the inclusion of Irae Simone, who is tipped to replace Matt To’omua at inside centre. To’omua will miss the remainder of the international season with a groin injury.
The other possibility to start is young gun Jordan Petaia, who has up until now only featured from the bench, with Hunter Paisami playing well enough to keep his starting jersey.
Wallabies assistant coach Scott Wisemantel has previously said that form in training would determine selection.
“When Dave came on he said selection would be based on form,” Wisemantel said. “Obviously now that Super has finished and they’re not playing games regularly, it has to be training. Shirts have been given out on the basis of training performances. On that basis, it means that everyone is a chance.”
Saturday’s Test is a must win for the wallabies if they want to return the Bledisloe Cup to Australia for the first time since 2002. The Wallabies must win their two remaining games against the All Blacks.
Building something special
A member of the Wallabies team that last held the Bledisloe Cup in 2003 has thrown his support behind coach Dave Rennie.
George Gregan told SkySports’ The Breakdown that he has been impressed with the way the Wallabies have been progressing under the new coach in such an exceptional year, suggesting that Australian rugby is on the cusp of something special.
“I think it’s trending and tracking in the right direction,” Gregan said.
“You saw that with the first test match result against the All Blacks in Wellington. It was a really spirited performance. And you can see that Dave Rennie and the coaching group he’s assembled have really had a big impact on a really good young talented group with some talented players who have experience.
“There’s always been talented players within Australian rugby, it’s just a matter of making sure they’re all on the same page and pulled in the right direction.
“There’s good support for the national coach at all levels. I thought the way the Reds and the Brumbies played at Super Rugby AU was really impressive. You’ve seen players picked on form with a winning habit going into the national setup.
“And Dave Rennie as we know, history shows it doesn’t matter if it’s with the Waikato Chiefs, New Zealand under-20s when he won many championships and also when he when across and did a great job in Edinburgh, the guy knows how to transform teams and create a really good, I guess, attitude, belief, the buzzword is culture, within the teams that he coaches. I think we’ve seen that early doors.”
University of Queensland coach Mick Heenan is chasing a record sixth Hospital Cup trophy on Saturday.
The achievement would put him on top of the premiership leaderboard, ahead of Ron Price and the late Joe French, who both have five.
Price coached a dominant Brothers sides captained by Tony Shaw, which won five straight titles between 1980-84, while French coached Brothers to five premierships between 1946-53.
Heenan can go one better, with his Uni team enjoying a golden era of premiership glory not seen since the days that Ashley Girle, Norbert Byrne, John O’Neill and Bob Templeton coached Uni to seven between 1960-70.
Heenan’s success has been attributed to being an excellent man manager, and that includes being brutally honest at times.
“Players have pretty good bullshit radar so it’s better to be honest than fudge it,” Heenan told Jim Tucker at rugby.com.au.
As Uni prepare for battle against minor premiers Easts, Heenan will be without Angus Scott-Young (knee ligaments) for the grand final, but the coach is confident in his team. Fergus Lillicrap will come in to replace Scott-Young, with the backrow stacked with talents of Sam Wallis, captain Pat Morrey and Mitchell.
“The key thing is I still enjoy coaching with a group of young men trying to achieve something worthwhile,” Heenan said.
“I get a kick out of watching guys improve and that fix of competing every weekend.”
Dyed in the wool
The Shute Shield season will culminate when Gordon go against Eastwood at Leichhardt Oval in the Grand Final on Saturday.
For Gordon, it will be a remarkable turnaround under coach Darren Coleman, after the team finished in the bottom of the ladder in 2018 before DC took over the reigns.
Gordon backrower James Lough has been through it all at the club, and has seen the Highlanders rebuild itself. The team is now a far cry from those bleak days in 2018, which included a 97-14 defeat against Norths. It still pains Lough to think about it.
“Complete devastation. It was probably the lowest point in rugby for me…we were outmanned, outgunned and underprepared,” Lough recounted to rugby.com.au.
“The club was in a dark hole but being part of some tough years is also part of what drives us in this grand final.”
A home-grown Gordon backrow will be leading the charge this weekend, with 2019 World Cup Wallaby Jack Dempsey, Tom Silk and Lough all coming through the junior ranks.
“I have a strong and long history with Gordon in the family and it’s very exciting to come back to the club to compete for something special,” Jack Dempsey said.
“I came out of the womb hearing war stories about the great Gordon teams, Tony winning in ‘93 and so on.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play at a Rugby World Cup with the Wallabies and for the Waratahs but, when you construct a bucket list for your career, playing a grand final with your club from juniors is very close to No.1.”