Thursday’s rugby news has some Wallaby optimism, more Brumbies staying on, Richard Graham safe for now and a serious lay-off for George North.
Wallabies on track, says Hooper
Michael Hooper has emphasised that in the wake of the squad’s three-day camp in Brisbane, the Wallabies have been instilled with a firm belief that they can win this year’s Rugby World Cup. Although Australia has slipped to sixth in the world, the Wallaby captain believed his team was on the right track.
“[The camp] has been a monumental move forward for us,” he said, adding, “Looking around the room at the 51 players there, there’s no doubt we’ve got the talent pool.” Cheika, along with assistants Stephen Larkham and Nathan Grey, have planned four or five more “morning after” gatherings between now and the end of the Super Rugby season and will also revive their 51-man squad in the coming week.
Brumbies re-sign two more
The Brumbies have continued to solidify their future playing squad, with news that Ita Vaea and Rory Arnold have signed two-year extensions. Vaea’s signing is particularly remarkable, given that the 26-year-old was told he would never play rugby again when doctors found blood clots in his heart in 2012. After a two year absence, Vaea has now played every game in 2015.
In other Brumbies news, David Pocock will rejoin the starting side, with Jarrad Butler shifting to No.8 and Blake Enever promoted to starting at lock. Assistant coach Dan McKellar suggested the change was a tactical move, saying, “It’s certainly not a performance selection by any means…we just feel Ita can give us real punch in that last 30 minutes.”
Graham safe til the off-season
Reds rugby boss Jim Carmichael has denied rampant speculation and guaranteed Richard Graham’s job til the end of the season. “No one is being moved on mid-season as some spoonful of sugar to appease the critics,” Carmichael said. “That’s not what Queensland rugby is about.”
The Reds CEO did say that the Reds would have to make a decision for next season and was also committed to adding a number of skill specialists to the coaching staff. While dissapointed in this year’s poor start, Carmichael added that Graham “is in charge at a time of significant change at the Reds with new players, transitioning from our previous coach, a new style and pathways being enhanced.”
North suffers another concussion
Welsh winger George North has suffered his fourth serious concussion in the past five months, raising serious concerns about his long-term health. The 22-year-old was knocked unconscious when struck by Wasps No8 Nathan Hughes’s knee as he was scoring a last Friday night, with his club now consulting with a neurosurgeon to determine the safety of any return to the field.
World Rugby medical adviser Dr Barry O’Driscoll has insisted that North should sit out the rest of the season under the care of a neurologist. Hughes has been controversially suspended for three weeks, despite the disciplinary panel conceding that there was no intention in his act, with the panel introducing recklessness as a sufficient mental state for the punishment.