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
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
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.”
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
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.”