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Thursday’s Rugby News

Thursday’s Rugby News

Thursday’s Rugby news looks at the draw for the 2021 Super Rugby AU season, as the Western Force bolster their squad with some home-grown talent, while SANZAAR hands down its ban for All Black Ofa Tuungafasi and signing rumours emerge from Waratahs camp.


Super Rugby AU is back

Supr Rugb AU will lead into an expanded tran-Tasman comp in 2021.

Rugby Australia has confirmed the draw for the Super Rugby AU 2021 season. All 22 matches in the tournament will now be shown live through Stan Sports, set to launch next year with Rugby Union as their flagship offering.

The Western Force will return to the five-team tournament, with the competition to run for 10 weeks, followed by a finals series which sees second place to host third in a qualifying final on 1 May to earn the right to take on the minor-premiership winner in the Grand Final on 8 May.

“What a way to start 2021 and our new partnership with Stan and Nine,” Rugby Australia interim CEO Rob Clarke said on Wednesday.

“Our players are raring to go and are really keen put on a show for fans, with Super Rugby AU to light up living rooms right around the country.

“Super Rugby AU was terrific in 2020 and will get better next year as this next crop of Australian Rugby stars continue to develop, and they are complimented by some genuinely talented international players who have since arrived on our shores.”

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby will announce a trans-Tasman competition following their domestic competitions.

A six-week competition, in which the five Australian teams will play each New Zealand franchise once, is expected to be fast-tracked for 2021. The two top teams will then square off in a trans-Tasman Super Rugby final.

Home-grown talent

Michael McDonald playing Australia U20s

The Western Force has pinched back one of its young Western Australian players, after signing Australian U20 World Cup player Michael McDonald to a two-year contract.

McDonald made his Super Rugby debut this year for the NSW Waratahs after crossing the Nullarbor for more playing time. Now he is back at the club that started it all.

“It means the world to me to be back in Perth and with the Force. I absolutely love the place, so to be given the opportunity to pull the Force jersey on again is amazing,” McDonald said.

“I’m very passionate about this club. I grew up supporting and watching the Western Force since moving to Australia from Ireland when I was 13.”

Originally hailing from Ireland, McDonald is keen to link up with Irish rugby legend Rob Kearney, who was recently announced as the marquee signing for the upcoming season.

“It’s a dream come true to potentially line-up for the club alongside Rob Kearney. As a kid I watched him play for Ireland and Leinster for years. I’m really looking forward to learning as much as I can from him,” McDonald said.

This follows news that flyhalf Jake McIntyre will join the club on a two-year contract from French Top 14 side ASM Clermont Auvergne.

Prop suspended

Ofa Tuungafasi will join Swinton on the sidelines

All Blacks prop Ofa Tuungafasi has been hit with a three-week suspension by SANZAAR following his red card in the first half of Bledisloe IV at Suncorp last weekend.

He hit Wallabies wing Tom Wright with a dangerous high shot.

SANZAAR’s judicial committee has slapped Tuungafasi with a ban that will rule the prop out until the beginning on next year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa.

The three-man SANZAAR judicial committee deemed that Tuungafasi contravened Law 9.13: “A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.”

“Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including submissions from the player and from his legal representative, Stephen Cottrell, by majority decision the judicial committee upheld the red card under Law 9.13,” said a SANZAAR statement.

This means Tuungafasi will be out of action up to and including 20 February, a week before the Blues kick-off their season against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

The ban on Tuungafasi for three weeks is similar to the ban handed to Wallabies loose forward Lachie Swinton, who was also red carded on debut following a head high tackle on All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock.

Swinton was handed a four-week suspension for also contravening Law 9.13.

Swinton’s punishment was reduced from its initial six-week due to various mitigating factors, of which included the player’s early guilty plea.

Exodus continues

Karmichael Hunt looks set to leave the Tahs.

The NSW Waratahs look set to lose more experience in their roster, with Karmichael Hunt and Cam Clark joining the long list of departures in 2021. The Sydney Morning Herald believes Hunt and Clark have not been offered deals to stay.

They join the likes of Wallabies captain Michael Hooper (sabbatical), Waratahs captain Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Damien Fitzpatrick (retired), Tom Robertson, Tom Staniforth, Jed Holloway, Ryan McCauley, Michael McDonald and Pat Tafa heading elsewhere.

Having a broadcast deal sorted earlier might have helped the Waratahs secure talent, but the team is now committed to supporting their group of rising stars.

“You probably are going to lock in players a lot easier [had a deal been done] because they’re certain about their future,” Waratahs general manager Tim Rapp told SMH. “The uncertainty was the biggest thing that has affected people’s decision-making.

“We are losing some really quality people and some quality players who have got a bucketload of experience within that group. That’s definitely something you can’t shy away from. It’s fact. But we’ve got guys in and around Wallabies squads, which is going to be of benefit to them and us when they come back with us.

“It’s been conflicting, your emotions to it all, but at the end of the day you understand that they’ve got to do the best things for themselves. There’s a large number of people in time who I think will come back after they’ve had their opportunities elsewhere.”

Is there any club rugby players that the Waratahs should sign to bolster their squad for next year?

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Jack,
    fair call on the suspension and good to see a degree of consistency in the judicial. Nothing shits me more than having a so called independent body not being consistent. Tough luck for both Swinton and Tuungafasi but they both need to adapt their playing style to the new laws.

    Here’s a bold prediction. Force into the finals next year. Really glad to see a TT competition going ahead and it’ll only help the growth of the game and hopefully hold off some of the moves off shore.

    TBH I’m not so sure the Tahs are losing that much with either of those two going and I’m hoping they use the space for the development of home grown talent, and no friggen leaguies

    • Reds Revival

      A bold call for the Forcies! While they have an impressive looking team on paper, the issue will be getting the combinations to click. I think that they will struggle in the early stages, but finish very strongly. The problem with SRAU, is that you can’t drop too many games before you are out of contention.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        Yep a big call but they are building their team quite nicely

      • Alister Smith

        Great opportunity for McIntyre to learn under a world class 10.

      • JJ

        The Force started their pre-season training 3 weeks ago, in contrast to the Tahs who only start training on the 20/11/20. The 3 Argies are obviously not there yet. Not sure about the Reds, Brumbies and Rebels pre-season start ?
        So the Force will have a lot more time to work on their fitness, combinations, and games plans this time. Big contrast to this year, when the Force added Godwin, Lance, Holmes, Cowan, Kahui, and Frisby to their GRC/NRC squad at the last minute, after they had had sat in their hotel rooms for 14 days in Covid19 isolation.
        In addition the Force will hopefully play half their games in Perth this year.

        • Alister Smith

          I guess it depends on borders a little and there were some saying it might be March.

    • Who?

      Not sure we can call it consistent mate, not when the suspension was discounted 3 weeks for a clean record and early guilt plea, when:

      The three-man SANZAAR judicial committee deemed that Tuungafasi contravened Law 9.13: “A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.”

      How can it be an early guilty plea when it went to the judiciary?

      The discounting was 50% off for an early guilty plea, and then no loading for a clean record (whereas Swinton copped an extra week for his tarnished record). Tu’ungafasi’s off field YC for leading with his shoulder and breaking Remy Grosso’s face wasn’t considered.

      I don’t consider that to be consistent. It’s can be twisted to appear that way, but it’s not. An early guilty plea means you don’t require a ruling – Ofa required a ruling (the committee ‘deemed’). A clean record because a citing commissioner arguably got it wrong, and the off field YC wasn’t considered… It’s not a good look, but it’s consistent with WR’s judicial standards.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        I did say a degree of consistency. The thing is both will miss the rest of this competition so that’s good. Imagine the uproar if one had got only a 2 game ban or something.
        I think when they review the previous history only red cards form part of it. Not sure completely but I think that’s how it’s done

        • Who?

          I know. And it’s not meant to be a dig at you. But it does show the system is still very flawed. I really don’t get how you can have a judiciary committee ‘deem’ something and then call it an early guilty plea. That’s bizarre.

          Ultimately, the 6 week ban – the original term – was consistent across both players, and that shows some improvement. It’s the past history (where things were less consistent) and the early guilty plea in spite of a judicial appearance that are completely unexplainable.

        • moaning expat

          I think its because the judiciary still have to ‘rule’ on the punishment for the incident regardless of a plea taking everything into account. In law you can plead guilty and still be found innocent by a judiciary or Judge.
          The judiciary has never been consistent- especially with the ABs. And Farrell has escaped multiple foul plays for some reason- its embarrassing. My Pom friends say even they don’t know how he’s gotten away with it so many times.
          The in house refereeing -whilst not perfect was actually- all up- not too stupidly bad. I use my marker from the fact that i generally screamed and shouted at biased (or idiot) ref decisions far less in these 4 games than i have in the last 20 years with international refs at the Bled..

        • Graeme

          I don’t understand the whole halving of the ban because of pleading guilty. Obviously all players are counciled now to plead guilty to reduce the time of their sentence. But it also sends the message that if a player was hard done by, and the red card unfair or inconsistent, by contesting it they can expect a ban twice as long.

      • Alister Smith

        I don’t like the concept of a discount for an early guilty plea. If something is uncertain then it should be tested and an early guilty plea discourages further analysis. People then don’t contest because it is correct or incorrect but to take a benefit around sentencing.

        • moaning expat

          I get your point but an early plea saves time, money and shows you are contrite and own up to a fck up. It should be rewarded (by how much i dunno) Also if you go thru your career with a flawless record and fck up once that should be ‘rewarded’ too. If not that would provide a reverse incentive. Why bother to change your style if you are treated like everyone else whether it be the first or 50th offense.

        • Who?

          Perhaps the bigger issue is the scale of the discount? 50%’s a big discount. In real life, you can’t go, “Yep, I murdered the blighter, but I’m really sorry.” And then have your sentence halved. If it were 25%, that may feel a little more realistic.

        • Yowie

          I don’t think you can compare murder to “being a grub to a Wallaby”.

          The latter is much more serious.

        • Reds Revival

          Does this whole discount scheme opens the door to half yearly sales, and two for one deals?
          Commit a red card offence in our end of financial year sale, and then spin the chocolate wheel to get a reduction of up to 75% off. Hurry – Act now!

        • Alister Smith

          Steak knifes?

        • I suspect it’s centred around the UK justice system, where for minor and mid level offences – and a six week starting point for the ban is still a mid level offence – if you plead guilty early, you get a 50% sentence reduction. In the UK it’s to supposedly to encourage you not to waste the court’s time, although there are questions about the unintended consequences of the principle. The whole punishment framework “you did this, that’s worth n-weeks” is very reminiscent of our CJ framework, with increases for a qualifying bad previous record too.

          In rugby, I’m not so sure about it for the reasons outlined above. I think it gets tricky in some regards though.

          I think we’re all in agreement that the cards we saw on Saturday were right under the current framework but, equally, they’re pretty much technical cards for “direct contact to the head” rather than clear attempts to hurt the opponent. It wasn’t a swinging arm to the head of someone in the ruck, or shoulder driven into someone’s face, full force, instead of a tackle slightly misjudged.

          A more nuanced punishment scale that looks at those, examines the incident, and doesn’t reward the early guilty plea but tweaks it up and down might do justice better (even if you add tweaks afterwards for “previous bad record”). But it’s going to be a pain to administer at first and cause a lot more complaints of bias.

        • Who?

          That system – grading = time, with discounts for a clean record and early guilty pleas – has been in place in the NRL for at least 20 years, too. But not a 50% discount. It as adopted by the AFL sometime in the last 20 years. I used to hear on the news, “This player has this charge, which is this many points, but with an early plea they’ll only cop 86 points and will be available for next week.” I think the threshold was 100 points. If you hit 100 points, that’s a week. 200 points for 2, and so on.

          I don’t have an issue with an early plea discount, just seems odd it’s 50%.

        • That’s what makes me think it’s the UK CJS that they used. It’s pretty much a straight lift.

          I had a great deal of fun looking at it in a seminar when I was taking notes for a criminology student last year thinking “this looks really, really familiar” and given how heavy the influence of the RFU has been on the IRB (and WR) over the years I’m pretty sure they just lifted the principles.

        • Alister Smith

          25 % off for murder or for a high tackle

        • Who?

          For a high tackle. Not for a murder. That should be an automatic trial…

        • Damo

          I’m with you. I reckon the primary reason players take the early plea is that they and/or their legal rep are certain they won’t get off the charge. You can’t help feeling guilt is being rewarded. And of course it lets everyone save some legal bills.

      • Greg

        Small steps Who?…. 3 NZ players sent off; 2017, 2019, 2020. Is that a trend?

        And…. yellow card for cynical play by a Kiwi. I mean that just doesn’t happen (the yellow card I mean).

        • Who?

          Maybe it’s a trend… But, in the same way that women continue to point out that their wages are lower than mens’ wages (not wanting to get too political here, I know that’s a complex topic), we must continue to point out inequality until it no longer exists. Because today’s inequality (in sentencing) is a result of yesterday’s inequality (in citing). Same deal with Owen Farrell.

        • Yowie

          In the words of Al Murray the pub landlord:

          That’s why I let my female staff work longer hours. So they can earn the same as the men.

        • Who?

          The Guv’ is a genius. :-)

      • Jason

        I agree they need to look at at a minimum yellow card offences too but I’d like them to also look at penalties too.

    • Happyman

      Mate the new laws have bee around for some time now.
      The facts are coaches train the players to hit between the belly button and chest which does not leave a lot of room for error. Players need to be responsible for the outcome.
      Consistently is the issue when the Tu’ungafasi put the French winger in Hospital with a fractured scull and got a yellow after the game and then three for this it is inconsistent. The main issue is that WR wants players to bend when tackling and not be upright which causes the problems.
      For mine the on field sanction was enough as the intent is not to injure so I would have been happy for both to get a week.
      Farrell got six weeks for deliberate swinging arm and high with caused a a concussion that put the injured player out for longer
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMbb8ttqF8c

      That is inconsis

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        A degree of consistency but certainly not totally

      • Who?

        Let’s not forget, Farrell was given the clean sheet discount, even though tackles he made which were wrongly unpunished have been used by World Rugby as clear examples of foul play.

        Further, the scope of the injury should never be the determining factor for duration of a suspension. If it were, given the long term issues Farrell may have imposed with that tackle, his suspension should’ve been far longer. The sanction has been determined by World Rugby based on the punishment for the worst possible outcome from that infringement, not what actually happens case by case.

        • Happyman

          It is the consistency piece. It is hard to argue that the Farrell tackle is only twice as bad as both of these red cards.

        • Who?

          I absolutely agree that Farrell’s tackle was way worse than those on the weekend. It looked like attempted murder – never looked like anything other than a shot at the head.

  • Huw Tindall

    Gawd the Tahs need to recruit a few second rowers. Rest of the starting pack OK with HJH, Horton, Bell, Swinton, Dempsey and Tizzano.

    Backline they could do with some size in the centres. Is Moera sticking about?

    Reserve depth an issue again for the Tahs…defo looking like the weakest AU squad on paper right now.

    • Mart

      Would be nice to squeeze Pisami in. As the reds are chockers. Shame we didn’t see more from Hollaway

      • Reds Revival

        Paisami re-signed with the Reds for another two years just a couple of months ago.

        • Mart

          I know it was a pipe dream. Tahs short on centres and reds seem to be stacked

        • Reds Revival

          In all fairness, Thorn has been quietly locking away his young guns for as many years in advance as he can, while the Tahs are still reaping the benefits of the Gibson masterplan.

        • Alister Smith

          Maybe Gibson inherited Chain’s master plan. Sorry hadn’t seen anyone take a dig at Cheiks today so I thought it must be my turn.

          Personally I think that there could be a loan programme in rugby like they had in League for the Warriors this year. If you don’t select a player from your squad then they can be available for another team as long as they aren’t allowed to play against their original side. Side using them has to contribute to the costs of the player for that match.

        • Huw Tindall

          Good shout on the loan system. Something to share the talent around a bit and ensure we build depth and don’t end up with talent like Mack Mason not getting any time developing.

    • onlinesideline

      The Wallabies need some second rowers too. I aint joking. This is without doubt a big weakness. We have little depth. We need some class locks with big futures. Matt Philip has been very solid though but we need more.

      • Reds Revival

        I think the development of Hosea and Blyth, along with the return of the Prodigal Son (Rodda), should add some depth to our lock stocks ( and two smoking barrells).

      • Alister Smith

        I think Phillip is off at the end of the season anyway

        • onlinesideline

          Dont undertand these blokes – he fought tooth and nail to get the jersey and hes off already after a Covid season. Clearly bucks is winning over being a Wallaby. The amounts of guys who hand back the jersey …. different times we live in.

        • Alister Smith
        • Alister Smith

          Only a short term deal at least but missing super rugby next year

      • Huw Tindall

        Pretty thin on the ground when we’re relying on a vertan in Simmons and relative makeshift second rower in Hanigan to fill out the national side when LSL is injured. To be fair to Hanigan he’s done better than we all expected this year and is handy back/second row cover on the bench and more than serviceable at Super level. Still, he’s no Rodda twin or Skelton!

        • Got to hope with next season not being disrupted in the same way, the various second rows around the competition, and their hookers, step up.

          Otherwise next year, the starting Wallaby locks will be LSL and Hanigan…

    • OnTheBurst

      What’s old mate Izaak Rodda doing these days? Some one give Penny his number!!?!

      • Huw Tindall

        Could do a lot worse. Were rumours flying around that he was keen to move south.

        • Alister Smith

          I think he is NSW born – not that that means anything in Super Rugby

  • Mart

    Geez i just read that list. Do the Tahs even have a squad next year?!?

  • Damo

    So, out of the carcass of Super Rugby, it’s looking like a total of about 20 weeks of provincial rugby next year. SR Au + TT. Something to get our teeth into I suppose, although my personal preference would have been to go straight to a 10 team SR TT. Hopefully the quality of SR Au keeps improving from this year and develops into a quality comp, albeit small. From there I reckon there will be real anticipation when we start testing ourselves across the Tasman. All in all probably as good as we could have expected. I’ll be firing up Stan. I’m assuming the SR NZ style will be broadcast on Stan as well. Feb 19 start is a bit more civilised for the players as well.

    • onlinesideline

      But like you say, playing domestically and THEN going TT will create that anticipation. I really think the idea of domestic state derbies is a fantastic prelude to the TT in terms of just expressing ourselves as Aussie rugby players. To go straight into playing teams from different countries, albeit, from now on, just NZ, I always sort of found a bit un natural. Horse before the cart. First rumble up in a familiar enviroment, your home enviroment and from their go international. I think it will really work. And from a spectator point of view, sometimes people just want to watch local stuff to begin with. Once the teams are firing, bring it on.

      • Christopher

        Agreed. I was much more interested in Bledisloe this year without the indication from Super Rugby TT games.

        • onlinesideline

          100% – it was just all too familiar before

      • Damo

        Yeah, I have to admit it might really work. 2 separate short comps, 2 sets of finals. What will hopefully be a more accessible broadcast arrangement. One thing from a fan’s point of view is that all SR Au teams may well be “in with a chance” right up to the end of the 10 weeks. Hopefully it will help build the fan base and increase the focus on domestic rugby generally.

    • donktec

      I’m assuming the SR NZ style will be broadcast on Stan as well

      Ah, but is it?! Would make sense, for the broadcaster on each side of the dutch to do a swap, not sure if that’s been worked out as yet.

  • onlinesideline

    Now that it seems the Force is here to stay in Super rugby, how committed can Twiggy really be, deep down in the guts, to see the GRR through to errr, wherever he wanted to take it ?

    Wasn’t the whole thing based on the forces exclusion. I sort of feel sorry for the bugger. He has spent all this money and energy and Covid comes along and all of a sudden the Force are needed again to make up a 5 team aussie comp. Incredible. You couldnt write this stuff. IMO he should turf it and have some kind of re-entry party back into Super rugby to save face and just grow the Force into a powerhouse within the TT sphere. Take AFL on, head on and just focus locally.

    Does he really need the money which even if successful throughout Asia, would be peanuts compared to the good stuff he pulls out of the ground.
    Its all a bit weird to me.

    • Reds Revival

      From what I understand, he has been suitably impressed with the new RA honchos, and would be happy that they took the stand of “all 5 Aussie teams, or none at all”. However, he will be hesitant to put any real financial backing in until the change the RA structure to guarantee their future. I’m sure Moz, Habitual Offender, Hannes or Perth Girl could elaborate on that.
      I just hope that RA finds a way to have them included long term, as Rugby is definitely a growth sport in the West and needs to be part of Australian Rugby.

      • onlinesideline

        But I am sure the conversations between Twiggy and RA have already moved way beyond pleasantries and RAs intentions / long term plans have been well laid out to Twiggy. I dont know about paperwork but Im sure he knows enough already to make a call on GGR. In fact Im sure there would be some paperwork already established between the two – for their inclusion as of today.

        Maybe after what happened Twiggy is expecting a Japanese Yakuza like pinky cutting ceremony before he cancels GGR.

        I can see Matt Hodgson fly over to the east coast to oversee RAs act of contrition on Twiggys behalf.

        • JJ

          GRR has been cancelled for 2021. The CEO of GRR Mark Evans has resigned, No official announcements beyond that.
          The Force have signed 2 year contracts with a bunch of high class players, so I imagine the Force and those players must be very confident they will be playing Super rugby in 2022, and not drop back to GRR.

        • onlinesideline

          could be toast then

  • Cheika_Mate

    Im with you Huw. Backs aren;’t the issue at the Tahs its the forward pack they will field next year will be the problem. Lets hope Tah management actually watch their club rugby. The fwd packs of Norths, Eastwood, Gordon, Easts, Southern Districts did well, would be looking those clubs and some of those older players to shore up there pack. Just cannot rely on the youngsters to lift every week. Shame about Pat Tafa big unit has not really been given a go.

  • Tedward

    Tahs could do worse than the Goddard brothers at Gordon

  • juswal

    Here’s something more on the matter of head impacts. I mainly tune out FitzBoring these days but I’m following his work on this subject.
    https://www.smh.com.au/sport/it-s-at-the-stage-of-mild-dementia-and-he-s-only-40-years-old-20201111-p56dqf.html

    • Yowie

      Good article.

      Are you sure FitzSimons wrote it? Peter FitzSimons wears a bandanna to cover (what I assume is) a head covered in luscious hair. The picture of the article author shows a bald bloke.

      • juswal

        Fitz donated his brain to be studied. His hair hasn’t grown back since the surgery.

  • Happyman

    This ought to get some responses. The Wallabies need a new sponsor. Twiggy just purchased RM Williams.

    In his world of 3D wizards chess I see him taking on the sponsorship and leveraging it.

    Discuss.

    • Greg

      This is worth consideration…. but they are unlikely to have as much cash/kind as Qantas (used to have)

    • Reds Revival

      The Union crowd is definitely the target market for RM Williams, and it is an international brand. There could be some synergy there.

      • Alister Smith

        A new line of tweed jackets perhaps to capture a little more attention

  • Damo

    Apropos nothing here today, and yes, I am of a certain age, but I really hate the way league referees call players by their first names. When that skirmish started last night and those 2 blokes were trying to undress each other the ref is standing there screaming at 26 players by name like an out of control kindy teacher in the playground. I know it’s also happening a bit in rugby. Nothing like hearing Nigel Owens calling “black 7 over here please”. ( No, I know he almost never said that).

    • Damo

      Although thinking about it, how good would it be to give the rugby refs Hoss’s list.

Rugby

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

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