Tuesday’s Rugby News looks at Les Leulua’ial’i-Makin’s Achilles tendon, the Reds World tour, captain Hooper and Jordan Uelese’s hamstring.
Brumbies injury blow!
The ACT Brumbies Have suffered an injury blow before the new Super Rugby Season has even kicked off. Leslie_Leuluaialii-Makin has been ruled out for the season with an Achilles tendon rupture.
The tighthead prop was due to rejoin the Brumbies ahead of their round one clash against the Reds at GIO Stadium, but will instead undergo surgery on his injury.
The word on the street is James Slipper has put his hand up to play both sides of the scrum.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said the club would look at replacement options but it may mean a call-up to action for 2019 Junior Wallabies prop Bo Abra, who has been training with the team in Leulua’iali’i-Makin’s absence.
“Firstly we’re devastated for Les. He’s represented the jersey 50 times and is such a big part of the organisation and well loved by the playing group and staff,” McKellar said.
“As a club, we will be doing all we can to help support him through his surgery and our medical staff will be there to help him with his rehab in order to get him back on the field as soon as possible.
“We’ll be having a look around to see who’s available as a replacement but we are happy with how Bo Abra is progressing after training with our squad during pre-season.”
Brad Thorn’s Tour Mentality
My mate Jim Tucker, when I say mate I mean I sat next to him in the press box once but, was too in awe to say a single word to him, shows his usual insight when he talks about the crap deal the Reds got this year. I’ll let Jim explain.
Road warriors or road kill? The Reds’ no-excuses mantra will be tested to the full when Friday’s visit to Canberra starts a taxing 33,000km travel stretch.
The toughest first-up schedule for any team in Super Rugby awaits the Queenslanders, with three games on three continents to start the season.
Coach Brad Thorn sees the sunny side of tackling the Brumbies, the Lions in Johannesburg (February 8) and the Jaguares in Buenos Aires (February 16) as a three-game tour.
Look, I wouldn’t blame SANZAAR for trying to keep teams away from Queensland in February but, sending the Reds on a world tour for our weather is a bit rough. Coincidently it’s predicted to be 41 degrees in Canberra on Friday, 11 degrees hotter than Brisvegas.
Plenty hinges on a strong first-up showing on Friday night in a city where Thorn’s players have copped heavy defeats in 2018 (45-21) and last year (40-27).
The Reds showed some excellent cohesion in two good trial wins but so did the Brumbies in their 45-14 success over Melbourne Rebels in Albury on Thursday night.
Both sides are still putting together the final pieces of the pack.
Wallabies lock Izack Rodda (ankle) and prop JP Smith (knee) did not play a minute of the trials but their training has all been angled toward being ready to play in Canberra.
“I’ll be back into contact training this week so I’m looking to be ready to go,” Rodda said.
Added Thorn: “Izack probably could have played two weeks ago but we’ve been wanting to get him fully right for this game.”
Michael Hooper Could Be Longest Serving Skipper
Look, I’ll admit that when Michael Hooper first came on the scene I wasn’t his biggest fan but as the years have rolled on he’s grown as a player and a leader and earnt my respect.
If Hooper keeps the Captain’s armband under new coach Dave Rennie, and I think he should, he could pass both John Eales and George Gregan by the end of the year.
Not only does he (presently) fall short of these two legendary figures on the statistical front but on the affection front, as well. Hooper has never endeared himself to the Australian rugby public to anything like the same degree.
Why that should be is something of a mystery. New Waratahs coach Rob Penney was speaking as a knowledgeable if neutral onlooker when he claimed Hooper probably was the best player, or close to it, for most of those 46 Tests. No doubt his observation will anger many people but it is hard to know why.
The only awards that really count are those where performances are judged by peers and Hooper is one of only four players to have won the John Eales Medal twice, while he is far and away the most prolific winner of the Matthew Burke Cup (for best Waratah), with six.
Surely that puts to bed the question of his quality as a player. He is the most consistent and dependable member of the side, his work is deeply respected by his fellow players and, for good measure.
Wayne Smith goes on to list all the reason he thinks we don’t love Hooper and he nails it on a few like his part in the Kurtley Beale incident. And while I can see he’s a great player I’ve never really held him in the same regard as I hold Eales and Gregan. What’s your take on why that is.
Jordan Uelese is a great rugby player. Good enough to play a part in all five of the Wallabies World Cup games but, he has a problem.
He has only managed to start four Super Rugby matches in his three years at the Melbourne Rebels. Now there is news of a hamstring injury ruling him out for at least the first four rounds of this year’s competition.
Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels has denied persistent rumours that Wallabies hooker Jordan Uelese was in such doubt for the season that the club had been forced to seek out a replacement player.
Wessels on Sunday confirmed Uelese was likely to miss the first four rounds of the Super Rugby season with a hamstring injury but said the club’s medical staff were confident the 23-year-old would be able to play after that.
“We have not drafted (former Waratahs hooker) Hugh Roach in as a replacement,” Wessels said.
Wellington-born Uelese came to Melbourne with his family as an 11-year-old and is one of eight Victorian players in the Rebels’ squad of 40.
He is one of five players ruled out of the Rebels’ opening Super Rugby match against the Sunwolves in Tokyo because of injury.
Flankers Richard Hardwick, Brad Wilkin and Josh Kemeny, and halfback James Tuttle, are all still in rehab.
The Rebels play the Sunwolves in Fukuoka at 14:45 on Saturday