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Thursday’s Rugby News

Thursday’s Rugby News

Thursday’s Rugby news previews Bledisloe IV as the Wallabies seek redemption at Suncorp, and the team’s new scrum coach gets to work bringing the pack up to speed, while South Africa re-comits to the Rugby Championship and preparations for Super W gets underway at the Reds.


Bledisloe IV: Playing for pride

Michael Hooper

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie will yet again make a number of changes as he experiments with his squad ahead of their final game against the All Blacks in Brisbane.

In the forward pack, Waratahs back-rower Lachie Swinton is set to make his debut, starting at blindside flanker.

Hanigan will drop to the bench as cover for lock, and Rob Simmons will start, with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto is expected to be ruled out the match.

In the backline, James O’Connor returns to take up his starting flyhalf jersey, with Noah Lolesio hopeful of retaining a bench spot.

Irae Simone may keep his job at inside centre despite a underwhelming debut, but Reece Hodge could be a chance to start.

“We’re five or six weeks into a four-year campaign,” Rennie said after the heavy loss on Saturday.

“All I can say is we’re going to keep working hard, we think we’ve got some good kids coming through. We need to respond immediately.”

The Wallabies are still finding their feet under Rennie, and a mounting injury toll hasn’t helped, with an inexperienced backline outclassed last Saturday. What is more of concern is the inability of senior members of the team to step up and take command of the game. Players like Michael Hooper, Nic White and Dane Haylett-Petty have all played in important matches, but could not assert their authority in this series.

Rennie is expected to announce his Wallabies side around noon on Thursday.

The dark arts

Tongan Thor on the charge (Photo: Getty Images)

New scrum professor Petrus Du Plessis has stated the talent is there to turn the Wallabies scrum into a significant force. After only a few days of meeting his charges in person for the first time, Du Plessis said “We want to make the scrum a weapon so we can decide whether we attack or not and we can manipulate the opposition so we can attack much better.”

“We’ve got an impressive, athletic bunch of young guys coming through in Australia and it’s a massive pleasure to work with them.

“I believe the way they are going now, they are going to be heavily featured in the future for world rugby. The talent we’ve got at the minute is good enough to possibly have the best scrum in the world, I believe.”

No surprises in the fact Du Plessis was particularly impressed with Taniela Tupou.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete, probably one of the strongest props I’ve ever come across,” he said.

“His future’s really bright, he’s learning really, really well. I feel from here on we’ll see a different picture from him and hopefully a nice bit of dominance.”

Up until now, Du Plessis has been coaching remotely, and is excited to finally get his hands dirty.

“I’m probably the first international coach to coach via Zoom but I’ve enjoyed that and the boys have taken that really well. When I got here it was a quick handshake and off we went, get ready for the game.”

Partnership continues

Hooper charges into contact (Photo: Tom Offer)

All the SANZAAR nations have re-comitted to the Rugby Championship for the next decade. In a boon for the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa has confirmed they will play in the Rugby Championship until 2030, with SANZAAR announcing they will continue to compete against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in the international competition.

“The re-commitment by the four Union to the long-term future of the international game is an important start as embark in a new direction for both the Unions and the organisation over the coming years,” SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said in a statement confirming the news.

The Rugby Championship will be restructured going forward to feature a 12-match format with teams playing each other on a home-or-away basis through the new mini-tour match schedule that was adopted in 2019. It is hoped that Bledisloe matches will be re-shuffled to create more stakes in the Rugby Championship.

However, change to the relationship of SANZAAR is on the cards, with South Africa’s Super Rugby teams set to move north to compete in the Pro14 next season. Wether that is a permanent move is still to be decided, but the statement hinted that the make up of Super Rugby is set be restructured.

“The Southern Hemisphere rugby powers have recognised the need for change in these difficult times and have committed to an international rugby future through to 20130 that includes a restructuring of the SANZAAR entity, a brand refresh, new development initiatives and a restructuring of domestic club/provincial tournament structures,” the SANZAAR statement read.

Trial by fire

Zahara Temara passes to Coutrney Hodder (Photo: Stephen Tremain)

In case you missed it, Queensland Maroon and Grey squads have been selected and will go head-to-head this Saturday in Queensland Women’s XV select match, as players compete for spots ahead of the Super W season.

The game will feature 16 capped St.George Queensland Reds Super W players and nine Wallaroos, playing alongside some of the top performers from this year’s Queensland Premier Women’s competition.

Queensland Maroon will boast the services of capped Wallaroos Averyl Mitchell, Kiri Lingman, Liz Patu and Sammie Treherne, while Queensland Grey will be bolstered by Hilisha Samoa, Christina Sekona, Nareta Marsters, Cobie-Jane Morgan and Sarah Riordan.

Queensland Rugby Union’s High Performance Manager – Sevens and Elite Women Reg Tayler said: “We’ve put together two strong squads for this weekend’s match, with the best of the Queensland Premier Rugby competition as well as some regional talent.

“This is a great chance for the girls to put their hand up for selection ahead of the 2021 Super W program, but there will be more opportunities for players across various competitions to impress before next year’s tournament.

“This match will see some of the top performers from Premier Rugby rewarded for their efforts this season and provide the chance for some girls to play alongside Queensland and Wallaroos representative players for the first time.

“We’re also looking forward to the curtain raiser where Queensland Suburban and the Sunshine Coast Stingrays will showcase their talent and we’ll be watching with great interest.”

Check out all the details at the Reds website here. 

  • Keith Butler

    So the Brick with Eyes is a run on. Taking bets on how long it is before he’s warming the pine with a card. Wouldn’t argue if Lolesio was kept at 10 and with JOC at 12 (if he’s fit) but no way should Hodge be at 12.

    • Nutta

      I see your point on Swinton. He has the goods to be exactly what is needed and I confess I rate the fella – large frame, good motor, vigour in contact etc – but part of what made guys like Jack-Pot and Melon and WillyO so valuable was that little glint of craziness. And a yellow is just so costly these days… The funny thing about Fardy was we seemed to get all the good bits of a hardnosed 6 (including an uncanny ability to shift the offside line from which the likes of Poet wrecked so much damage) but without the cards. Same from McMahon as well. Ned was always going to be a Lock so maybe that time has finally come to make that move.

      JOC is in an interesting situation. I feel Lolly should be 10 on his own merits and I reckon Simone is the 12 on his own merits – but they are also better together given their Brumby association. It sort of leaves JOC out in the cold a bit as the latest incarnation 2Dads and even the later stages of Matt “You have no opinion” Burke. Mr Fix-It. Therefore if Simone is out because he is injured or rotated (after his first test?) then JOC gets the nod.

      But it does raise interesting questions over who is slotting the 2’s and 3’s. And given we still can’t score tries for love nor money, 3’s must be a very real focus for us. It’s a bit like scrummage – they very rarely win you a game these days but they can bloody well lose them for you.

      • Keith Butler

        Good point about McMahon. I rated him very highly. When he was with the Rebs and skippered the side we always seemed to play well. A natural leader. Would not have shifted Hoops or Poey for the 7 jersey but if he had been Fardy’s size the 6 jersey would have been his for a long time imo. Not just a glint of craziness but just plain crazy. Would run through a brick wall if asked.

        • Nutta

          Yes – another good example of how you can play on the edge without being a card magnet.

        • Patrick

          I’d have made him captain and dropped the Hooper guy.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        I think JOC at 12 providing a bit of settled composure for both Lolesio and either of Petaia or Paisami would be a great move

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    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      TBH I love his passion and I think he can be coached to have it focussed so he doesn’t give away cards. With you 100% on Hodge. I don’t rate him at anywhere except as a 15 and even then he lacks a yard of pace to be a good international one. Personally I think it’s time for him to move on.

      • Keith Butler

        After seeing his first game, against the Reds I think where he really got in their faces he seemed to go off the boil a bit. You’re dead right though, his aggression/passion need to be channeled otherwise it will be a wasted talent. My preference is for the silent but deadly type of 6.

  • Dally M

    Thanks Jack.

    “We want to make the scrum a weapon” – This is all well and good if you have a referee who will give you pay for that, which just isn’t happening these days.

    • Mart

      This is a good point. I honestly feel like we’ve had a dominant scrum for a little while now, with nothing to show for it

      • onlinesideline

        not being an international embarassment is good enough for me

      • Dominant scrums can still be a weapon but “ball at the 8’s feet, play on” has changed one element, it has to be pretty quick, without preengaging, and while referees are still guessing far too often, they are getting actively coached on how to referee the scrum by people who know – usually former props and locks – and they’re getting better at spotting some of the dark arts. Whether they call a reset or ping the side that cheated and tried to buy a penalty is a toss up.

        I think too, at international level, we’re seeing more and more sides pick a tight five where doing the scrum and lineout first is top of the requirements. Then you add on the X-factors. You don’t see players picked to play prop because “he’s great around the paddock” you seem them picked because “he’s a great tight head who is also great around the paddock.” Being truly dominant throughout is harder these days.

        • Mike D

          Are we still being judged on the reputation from pre 2012 scrum weaknesses? For years there we seemed to cop “Oz has a weak scrum so penalise them for the failed scrum. And look, they must have a weak scrum – see how often they’re penalised?”

        • I don’t think so?

          I don’t have the actual stats to hand, but from memory, both sides won a few penalties at scrum time in the last three matches.

          But, again my impression, international matches have fewer scrum penalties than they did 10, 15 years ago. (That’s not all on the Wallabies.) Referees are looking to let the ball come out, if they can, and won’t blow if the ball is available, whereas 10+ years ago they would blow if the scrums went up or down, regardless. They’d blow is the scrum went round, regardless… that just doesn’t happen no, so you need to be earning your penalties faster than you used to.

        • Who?

          “ball at the 8’s feet, play on”
          Sometimes… Depends on who’s reffing, and who they’re reffing. In Wellington, we were told, “ball’s at the 8, get it out.” Next scrum, identical situation, ABs were awarded the penalty we were denied…..
          Useless Williams.

        • There will always be bad referee calls, but in general refs call that far more often now, and are meant to, than they did 10+ years ago still.

    • UTG

      Very good point. If you’re not getting pay from having the dominant scrum then you’re effectively disadvantaging yourself by trying to force a penalty because you’re leaving the loosies engaged too long.

      A couple of times on the weekend we forced the ABs to wheel and BOK didn’t ping them. Our backrow had to go a lot further to get to the breakdown allowing the ABs to get quick ball the next phase. Very frustrating.

  • Cheika_Mate

    Stoked to see Swinton given a go, hope he rattles the cage legally. Its a shame the young rebels lock isn’t being spoken of for this game, has a strong partnership with Phillips and is a big unit. I can see why the coach is looking at Rob and Ned as the second rowers and cover for this game but long term they’re off to Japan, so lets look towards the future. I hear Cayden Neville has joined the squad, now his one I want to see more of before the end of this series with the rebels youngster.
    Talking about future Id also rather see the selectors keep faith in Lolesio and Irae Simone . Give them another chance, let JOC get his knee right and start from the bench if need be. Try nations is a longish series and we are busted for 12’s – not a fan of Hodge with 12 on his back – wing or full back please, not a centre or a 10. Pasami needs time to develop. Not sure why they have not called in Kyle Goodwin. His as close as we have to two cows – with an effective left boot.
    Sam Cane has been a revelation and has totally outplayed Hooper. I’m convinced this has to be Hooper’s last series as captain. No impact and the team to me don’t appear to be following him. White needs a big game. If his quiet again, its time to move on. Half back is not a problem in this country with a stack of good 9’s.

    • onlinesideline

      I agree re Hoops. Next year its gonesky.

    • I rewatched the game last night, I think saying White had a quiet game is tough. He was basically stuffing up their blindside attack single handed for a lot of the time. In a half when the ABs had some crazy amount of possession his effort on defence was huge.

      Was he quiet on attack? Sure. But it’s not actually his job to win the ball back, and when other players did that, he was always there. His passes to the first receiver were crisp and he was responsible for a chunk of the good kicks that the Wallabies produced as well.

      Could he have done more? Yes, for sure, I think, in particular, he could have done more talking to Lolesio to try and calm him down a bit (although it’s hard to reach him when he’s defending at 15 so much) but I think he did what was necessary on the night pretty well.

      Hooper, I’m biased, but yes. Off to the gulags with him.

      • Mike D

        Thanks for the insight. I will watch for that more in future. I thought it harsh to judge White’s attack when the first half he barely saw the ball and the forwards were getting pushed back.

        • Credit where it’s due, Who? pointed it out to me first. I tend to miss it in the first watch and certainly did on Saturday. Too many moving parts and I’m not usually that interested in what scrum halves are doing… which is my bad.

        • Who?

          Thanks Eloise, but I’ve gotta give credit to Nick Bishop for pointing it out a while ago. He pointed out that’s the way that White was asked to defend at the Chiefs, and that Rennie and Taylor, if they were smart, would use him the same way.

          He really was very, very impressive in his defensive work down that short side. I honestly don’t know that there’d be many better defensive performances from a halfback – it was Gregan knocking the ball out of Wilson’s hands level stuff, but all night rather than a single spectacular play. White and Slipper were, in my eyes, our best defensive players. By quite a margin.

          And few could blame you for not being interested in what scrumhalves are doing when they’re not taking too long to clear the ball and generally being irritating. ;-)

        • At one point I played 6. I liked scrum halves, especially those that snuck on the short side… but TV coverage of 9’s in defence is hard, even if you’re looking for them. It doesn’t show the work they’re putting in, all too often, even when they’re making the tackles!

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Jack, All on the line this week and I think the newbies would have learnt a lot from last week. Everyone says the difference between Super rugby and Test rugby is the speed of the game and it’s something that you can’t really replicate well at training so they’ll have got a lot out of that.

    I’m wrapped to see the Rugby Champions continue with both the Boks and the Argies. The real challenge will be if the Argies can maintain their growth with a local competition as I’m not sure they’ll easily fit into whatever competition the Super AU and Super Aotearoa push out in the future.

  • Alister Smith

    Perhaps it’s player workload management and a little bit of injury cover But, for mine, I think there are too many changes and the one I understand the least, even after reading the coaches explanation is Hodge at 10. It is bordering on the same sort of decision as Foley at 12. Of course at new coach has to try things but why can’t he just watch video of Hodges previous efforts at 10. I don’t think there is a need to repeat all of Cheiks mistakes. Surely there is some benefit in giving Lolesio a chance to learn from last week. I don’t imagine that anyone sees Hodge as a long term option at 10 so why play him there. I didn’t see much improvement personally when he came on last weekend in terms of our direction (maybe some defensely)

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Mad rugby supporter from Newcastle. Offering unbiased takes on why the Brumbies are the best team in Super Rugby.

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