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Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesday’s Rugby News examines the importance of Quade Cooper to an initial Rebels finals appearance, the Waratahs look to strengthen their defence, Karmichael Hunt opens up about his road to redemption and a former Rebel embraces a culture change in New Zealand.


Rebel march lies with Quade

Reds v. Rebels - Photo Review

As the Rebels begin their quest for an initial finals campaign in 2019 against the Brumbies on Friday, Wallabies and Rebels halfback Will Genia believes that his old Queensland and current half partner Quade Cooper is the key player to push the side to the next level.

Genia believes that Cooper’s experience and the chemistry that they share can lift the Rebels one step further than last year, in which the side missed the finals on points difference.

“It makes a difference when you have someone who’s a natural 10 who plays that position and understands his role and his biggest strength is his organisation which is probably something we lacked a bit last year,” Genia said.

“Essentially, he communicates the game as we’re playing, telling guys where to be, how he wants it to shape up and what not so I think he’ll make a huge difference to our team.”

Genia’s and Cooper chemistry will be crucial to unlocking the gluttony of weapons within the Rebels backline, which includes Wallabies Dane Haylett-Petty, Jack Maddocks and Marika Koroibete.

Despite their backline having more weapons than the US army, Genia was quick to point out the improvement and importance of their forward pack to their success as they get ready for a physical clash against the Brumbies.

“We’ve got guys like Matt Philip who was exceptional last year, who’s had an amazing preseason and just the whole forward pack in general.”

“I think they’re looking forward to ripping in physically because they understand this game against the Brumbies will be a test from that perspective so as far as the back line goes, we can’t do anything if they don’t do the job for us up front. That’s more so where the focus of the game is going to be.”

In further good news for the Rebels, captain Dane Haylett-Petty is expected to be fit for the clash after overcoming a slight calf tweak in Wallaby camp, which is positive news for the Melbourne outfit who are already expected to miss Reece Hodge as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury.

Waratahs aiming for tighter defence

KMP-G&G-SR-Waratahs-Brumbies-3264

One of the key areas of improvement earmarked by NSW Waratahs assistant coach Steve Tandy has been the side’s defence, which is set for an initial trial by hellfire when they host the Hurricanes at Brookvale Oval (I refuse to call it Lottoland) on Saturday.

The Hurricanes were the 4th top try scorers last year, led by half-man half-tank Ben Lam which bodes trouble for a side that conceded 59 tries last year, the 6th most of the competition.

This is a stat that Tandy is looking to rectify through changing the side’s defensive structure and patterns, ultimately making teams work harder to score.

“If you make the phase count go deeper and deeper, and look at different ways of getting the ball back, then I think the tries will look after itself. It’s really important we start the first phase, get on top or get parity there and then get into a system and stick to it,” Tandy said.

Tandy will look to rely on the experience of veteran outside back Adam Ashley-Cooper, who seemed to tighten up the Waratahs defence during their trial against the Brumbies and is expected to partner either Karmichael Hunt or Kurtley Beale in the centres with Lalakai Foketi expected to be out for at least a week.

“He’s been outstanding for the group,” Tandy said. “He’s been in Europe, Japan, he played a lot of Test rugby as well, so his knowledge and his experience coming back into something we want to improve – the defensive end of the game – has been a huge boost for us as a team. As a coach, having someone of his experience is always beneficial.”

The match is set to be played at Brookvale Oval, a ground which NSW officials have played down any concerns regarding the quality of the surface, which has faced some criticism due to its extensive history of injuries, accounting for nearly 10% of all injuries in the NRL in 2018.

But CEO Andrew Hore has downplayed any fears of moving the game, stating “We are looking at the management of the field this week, but it has been assessed by all parties and there is no reason to believe it won’t be fit for purpose and ready for Saturday.”

Hunt’s focus on blue before gold

Karmichael Hunt makes a break

One of the main redemption stories heading into the 2019 Super Rugby season is the return of Karmichael Hunt, who is set to play his first Super Rugby game in 19 months against the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Whilst Hunt still harbours hopes of pulling on the gold jersey and a World Cup berth in 2019, Hunt’s main focus is to return the favour of Waratah coaches, players and fans who have given him a second chance in rugby union.

“Its Super Rugby that’s most important right now, and playing my best football for the Tahs and making sure we win games.”

“The desire is always to play at the top level. I know what I am capable of, and what my talent is capable of, and what my work ethic gets me, so I was just grinding and hoping for an opportunity, and thankfully an opportunity has come through the NSW Waratahs.”

Hunt was frank about his past issues with drugs, which saw the AFL and League convert suspended for a total of six weeks and $30,000 for being found guilty of Xanax possession after cocaine charges were dropped, admitting that he did not adequately deal with his problems initally.

“I thought I was addressing my issues but I wasn’t doing it honestly,” Hunt said. “It’s been a process. I’d like to say after the first incident I’d learned my lessons but the reality is I hadn’t.”

“I have put a lot of work in over the last year with psychologists and doctors and things like that, but most importantly, I have been open and honest about how I am feeling, day to day. With my wife, with my kids, with friends, with media.”

Hunt has impressed head coach Daryl Gibson with his intensity and commitment over the preseason, happy to play wherever Gibson needs him to throughout the long Super Rugby season.

“I am pretty versatile,” Hunt says. “I know what I am capable of and Daryl has me at his disposal. All I am concentrating on right now is being the best version I can be at training, and off the field, and preparing as best I can to start the Super Rugby season.”

Jack forges a fresh path in Waikato

Melbourne Rising Jack Debreczeni breaks a tackle

Former Rebels and Australian Schoolboy Jack Debreczeni hopes that a fresh start playing for the Chiefs can help revitalise his Super Rugby career.

Debreczeni spent the majority of 2018 stuck behind Reece Hodge and headed over to New Zealand after failing to receive a contract with the side, linking up with the Chiefs after impressing for Northland in the Mitre 10 Cup.

“I just went over because my uncle was hitting up clubs in Mitre 10,” said Debreczeni, who has New Zealand heritage on his mother’s side. “I never thought it was a realistic opportunity to go over and play Mitre 10 and then my uncle went over and did the hard work for me and we connected with Northland.”

“But going over, I didn’t have any contracts, I wasn’t in any talks with any Super Rugby clubs in New Zealand, so I just went over open-minded to anything that came along. I was fortunate enough to get the Chiefs to come along with (an offer) and I was excited to join them.”

Debreczeni was initially cautious about heading over to a fresh country, however, he has revelled in the fresh rugby culture and training of New Zealand that he believes has transformed his rugby skill set.

“Heading over there, there were no expectations of me, no one really knew how I’d go being an Australian in a New Zealand comp,” he said. “I’d stagnated due to my own doing, I’d stagnated in Australian rugby, so it was time for a new change, a new challenge and I thought it was the right time to have a crack in New Zealand.”

“And then joining a new environment – I’d been at the Rebels for five years and I’d got accustomed to everyone at the place – so going to Northland was fresh, it was sort of like the first day at school again and you had to be on your best behaviour and be on your toes.”

Despite his own transformation, Debreczeni believes that Australian rugby must continue to put resources into improving their own development systems, especially the NRC.

“I think NRC still has a big place in Australian rugby,” he said “If you look at Mitre 10 and how successful it is, Australia needs to keep putting time and effort into it to grow that third level of players and grow the depth in this country. So I would definitely say, stay with NRC.”

  • Ian Rodger

    All this hype around quade. I hope he can deliver because otherwise the fans are going to turn on him quick.

    It would hurt for Oz rugby if Debreczeni lights up super rugby and turns in to a NZ level 10. Does anybody know if he is somehow eligible for the AB’s or does he have to go by the 5 year residency rule?

    • Nathan Williamson

      I believe he is eligible for the AB’s since he’s born in NZ

      • Ian Rodger

        Thanks. Imagine him scoring the wining try in a tight Bledisloe

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Somehow, I can’t see that happening…

        • Ian Rodger

          I agree, but then again stranger thing have happened . Look at that ex-tahs prop who was shit there but plays for the all-blacks now.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          True, better not to have to eat my words later!

        • Braveheart81

          Angus Ta’avao played for the All Blacks when they were missing about 10 injured props. I don’t think you can really say it was because they turned him into an excellent player. He played about 50 Super Rugby games for the Blues before he came to Australia.

        • Dud Roodt

          I still think it’s fair to say that when he was playing for the Tahs the ABs weren’t looking at him thinking “fuck me, wish we had a prop like him to select”.

        • Braveheart81

          Likewise, no one in Australia and particularly the Waratahs were looking at him thinking he was a good recruit. The same could be said the entire time he was at the Blues. After he went back to NZ, he didn’t have a contract, produced probably his best season of rugby in the Mitre 10 Cup and got rewarded with a contract with the Chiefs. He then got lucky with injuries giving him an opportunity to play Super Rugby for them consistently and then got selected for the All Blacks when they had a prop shortage.

        • Dud Roodt

          Yeah, it’s almost like being at the worst team in the NZ conference and a shitty Australian team wasn’t the best thing for his career

        • Braveheart81

          Ultimately, desperation and necessity were the best things for his career. The threat of having no contract and playing Mitre 10 Cup knowing that the ability to continue his professional career was on the line resulted in him being far fitter than he ever had been and playing really well.

          It seems like he’s a good team guy and was well liked amongst the players when at the Waratahs (and Norths). His stint at NSW would have definitely been better if he hadn’t missed half of it with a broken leg.

      • Huw Tindall

        Yup has a kiwi mum I believe. I think Debs will go OK and if he looks good it will be primarily because he is behind a decent forward pack.

  • Huw Tindall

    Cheers for another daily news Nathan!
    Quick thoughts:
    – I hope QC nails it. Whether I think he will is another question. Will be a tall order to capture the form of the Reds title year. Listening to Genia it sounds like QC is a real organiser in the backline. Calling plays and directing players around the paddock. Real on field leadership and direction. Have never heard Genia praise Foley in the same way. Regardless, we need some good news stories in Aussie rugby and QC can definitely generate a headline. I’m just happy he is back playing rugby at the elite level.
    – Steve Tandy seems like a great hire for the Tahs. Hopefully adds some starch in defence and if that means Beale at 15 or bench so be it.
    – Hunt is saying all the right things and appears to be doing all the right things. Like QC and Slipper good luck and I hope he goes well. Really hoping alongside two-dads he straightens up the back line and organises the players around him. Somebody has to in the Tahs backs. Beale seems more of an instinct player. Folau is too far form the action and is a ‘quiet’ player. Foley, of course, should be directing traffic, but given he swaps in and out of first receiver so often with Beale he can’t be that regular voice. That of course only leaves the 9 to organise, which is entirely possible but Gordon is still young and Phipps is too flat out to take a breath and direct traffic. Would really like to know more about this type of onfield leadership in this regards. Some teams clearly have it. I don’t think the Tahs do. Hoops can rally the troops but he can’t direct traffic.
    – Jack Deb. Good luck son. Relied below that I think any up tick in Debs form will be driven by playing behind a half decent pack. Was stuck behind the Rebels sub-standard forwards for so long. Yes, the wider coaching and skills will probably be better but can’t underestimate value of playing behind a decent pack.

    • Ed

      Call me crazy but I hope Tandy works with Foley, Beale and Folau on their tacking techniques. Kurtley made his test debut ten years ago yet is still one of the worst tacklers we have – he had the third most missed average tackles a game in SR last year (Foley was also in the top ten).

      • Huw Tindall

        Absolutely Ed. I’m comfortable moving one of Beale or Foley in defence (a lot of teams drop the 10 back on defence) but they could all do with improving their technique. Such bad defensive records just aren’t passable at Test level. It is to the point where I’d happily consider less attacking flare for more reliable defence. There is enough strike power outside Foley and Beale to get some points.

        • Ed

          Agree I’d like to see a more defensive 10/12/13 combo, particularly against the ABs. They know to take advantage of the Grey defensive tango.
          Kerevi and Marika were also in that top ten SR list last year.

        • Huw Tindall

          Yeah a worry. I think Marika was given some licence though to shoot out which makes for more missed tackles but it’s not good enough regardless. Kerevi isn’t very agile so seems to get stepped or sat on his heels quite easily.

        • tREDgic

          Kerevi defends OK (OK, not great) at 12 but he is terrible at 13 where there is extra space and different reading of the attacking player

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Hodge or Toomua inside Kuridrani is really the logical defensive centre combination.

          If Cheika selects on form and ability he might end up with Link’s preferred centres from 6 years ago: 12. Toomua, 13. Kuridrani.

        • Huw Tindall

          Could be a real chance once we find out who the 3rd selector is. I just want to know how we got through RWC2015 with Foley and Beale at 10/12? What’s changed? Have they got worse? Has the system changed exposing them even more? Have other sides found out a way to target them especially?

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Beale came off the bench for every game bar Scotland – which was his worst performance too I think.

          He also played on the wing, not in the centres.

          I also just think he was in one of his rare runs of golden form. Like in the 2016 rugby championship when he was far and away our best player.

        • Huw Tindall

          oh jeez yeah how bad is my memory!? Giteau of his own law fame was organising at 12.

        • Ed

          Giteau in RWC2015 Huw. Beale was super-sub who watched Nonu run passed him in the second half.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          I had blocked that from my memory…

        • IIPA

          On form ? You do realise the season hasn’t started right?

        • Who?

          To be fair, he wrote, “If” and “Might.” It’s certainly a possibility.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          More to the point, we don’t score any points with them anyway.

          Foley is a myth, and Beale only occasionally has good seasons. 2010, 2015 and the first half of 2016 are his only seasons at the Wallabies where I think he’s made a positive impact on results.

          It seems harsh, but it is how I see it.

        • Patrick

          Completely right. Beale would in theory be an awesome addition to a robust Giteau-Mortlocky backline, on the wing or at 12, but:
          1. We don’t have that at present
          2. He would be best at FB but was a catastrophe there defensively, I still have nightmares.
          So for now I would have him at best in the extended training squad.

    • Patrick

      “I have never heard Genia praise Foley in this way”… I’m dying

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        Huh?

        • Patrick

          From laughter

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Nathan,

    Lots to look forward o this year. I hope the players brought back and moved around do ok, but I must admit I don’t see a lot of strategic long term planning by most of the teams. It’s just a reuse of the old and bold and I feel as though there is a crisis in the near future when a large group of players are going to move on and no one behind them has been given any chances to develop into the positions.

    hanging out for Friday and the rest of the games this weekend. Picking; Chiefs, Brumbies, Blues, Canes, Sharks, Bulls and Jaguars

  • John_R
  • NSWelsham in London

    CALLING ALL GAGR’s – seeing KRL put his picks in is there a way on this site (or if need be another one) that we can set up a Super Rugby tipping comp? Great banter when it comes to the pointy end as to how well people are doing.. I was a part of a tipping comp (bragging rights was the winner) about 10 years back so i cant remember what the site was called. My pick for the weekend: Highlanders, Rebels, Saders, Tahs, Sharks, Bulls and Jaguars

    • Adrian

      Hi NSW
      Good idea.
      For the last couple of years I’ve only tipped in games involving Australian teams, and I’d like to see that as the comp.
      This weekend I’m going Brums and Canes.
      ie tipping Rebs and Tahs to lose, … but because it is first game anything could happen.
      I’m expecting Rebs and Tahs to improve after a game or two

Rugby
@NathW1997

Loved rugby since the day I could remember, got the nickname Footy to show that, I watch Matt Dunning's dropkick every night before going to bed

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