Wednesday’s News sees the return of Sexton, Junior Wallabies doing the Italian Job, The 2019 Super Rugby season draw release and the All Blacks under fire
Irish looking for Sex(ton) to bounce back
The Irish will look to recall star flyhalf Johnny Sexton to attempt to level up the series against Australia this Saturday at AAMI Park.
It has been reported that Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will recall Sexton to the starting line up after throwing young playmaker Joey Carbury to the wolves during the side’s 18-9 loss in the first test.
Sexton noted that he wasn’t accustomed to the role of coming off the bench and was itching to return to the starting line up.
“It’s all about starting, you want to get that starting place,” Sexton said on Tuesday. “It’s not something I’ve done in a long, long time with Ireland so it needed a bit of getting used to.”
Sexton admitted that the Irish did not deal with the pressure and tactics that Cheika brought to the test and they needed to change how they dealt with his unique style of operating.
“Any team that plays under Michael Cheika will bring that and we knew it was coming but we probably didn’t deal with it was well as we could have in terms of allowing them to come out of the line and hit us”.
In positive news for Chekia and the Wallabies, Ned Hanigan and Allan Alaalatoa are a strong chance to line up for the second test match.
Hanigan has been recovering from a knee injury and faced his first major test during the side’s contact session on Tuesday, needing to get through it unscathed to be considered a chance.
“I’m going to try and push for Saturday, today’s probably the tester,” he said before the session.
“If it holds up today, then it’s just going to get better throughout the week, so obviously the day off tomorrow, so if it pulls through today it should be alright to get fully into it on Thursday and be eligible for selection.”
Allan Alaalatoa was cautious about his chances after being ruled out of the first test with an ankle sprain.
“Hopefully get it right and then by the end of this week, not too sure, just got to see how it pulls up day by day and not running at the moment, so we’ll just see how it goes.”
Junior Wallabies complete Italian Job
The Junior Wallabies have defied being a man down for the majority of the match to defeat Italy 44-15 to advance to the 5th place playoff at 2018 Under 20 World Championships.
Remarkably, it was a red card to blindside flanker Michael Wood in the 25th minute which set off the Australian side into action. The under 20 side started the game sluggish, with the Italian side opening up a 10-5 lead before Wood was handed his marching orders.
Wood was sent off after attempting to clear the ball out of the ruck with his feet, only instead to come in contact with an opposition player’s head.
To their credit, the Australians settled, responding through a penalty to Ryan Lonergan and earned prime field position when Efi Maafu forced a pilfer penalty.
Some superb hands from Maafu, Hamish Stewart and Semisi Tupou set up a brilliant try for the star flyhalf moments later, handing the Australians the lead 15-10 heading into the halftime break.
When play resumed, numbers were levelled up for 10 minutes when reserve Italian prop Matteo Nocera was sent to the sin bin for a tip tackle on Angus Blyth.
This provided the Australians with the opportunity to strike clear with another sharp run from Jordan Petaia putting the Australians in the field position required for Fraser McReight to charge over and open up a 22-10 lead.
The Junior Wallabies were then able to kick clear from there, with a second try to McReight and Bailey Kuenize sealing the victory.
They’ll next play Argentina on Sunday for the opportunity to finish 5th, a position higher than they finished at the previous year’s tournament.
Super Rugby draw marks death of Tens, Reds
Whilst the current season is on break for the International Test matches, SANZAR has gone ahead and released the draw for the 2019 Super Rugby Season. Whilst it seems too far to look ahead towards the 2019 season, there have been a few interesting points that have come out of the launch.
The season is set to begin on February 15, with the derby between the Brumbies and Rebels set the kick off the season for the Australian conference. The tournament will commence earlier than usual, running uninterrupted for 21 weeks straight, to coincide with the shortened Rugby Championship and the Japan World Cup.
The earlier starting time has all but assured the death of the Brisbane Tens, according to the Courier Mail. Organisers had already flagged issues and doubt in regards to holding the tournament within a World Cup year.
The earlier start date of the competition has seemingly confirmed these fears as it has left a lack of available weekends to host the event.
Another interesting point to come out of this release was the nightmare start to the tournament that the Queensland Reds have received.
The Reds would have been looking to a strong start to the tournament after a less than stellar 2018 campaign (so far), however, the draw has given the Queensland side no favours.
Brad Thorn’s crew face one of the toughest starts in the competition against teams all bound for this year’s finals, the Highlanders, Crusaders and the NSW Waratahs in Sydney (March 9).
The clash against Thorn’s men will bring a packed house to Suncorp Stadium and hopefully this inspired crowd can send the Reds off to a strong start and return them back to the glory days of the early 2010’s.
The full draw can be found here
All Blacks play dumb to favourable referee treatment
After receiving a mountain of favourable calls against the French, the All Blacks have rubbished any claims that they get an easy ride from the referees. This came after inexperienced referee Luke Pearce was criticised for two decisions that all but handed the All Blacks momentum and the win against the French 52-11.
Controversy has surrounded the yellow card shown to French lock Paul Gabrillagues after a high tackle, which swung momentum in what began as a tight Test at Eden Park.
The referee was criticised for then doing nothing more than penalising All Blacks Sam Cane and Ofa Tu’ungafasi for caving in the head of Remy Grosso, fracturing the French winger’s skull and ruling him out of the series.
Former international Rob Debney wrote a column for The Times claiming New Zealand “get away with murder”. He believed that match officials subconsciously favour the triple world champions because of the extra scrutiny they are under.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster denied the claim, pointing out they were among the most-penalised teams last year in world rugby. They were handed eight yellow cards and a red to Sonny Bill Williams, a figure unmatched by most nations.
“Clearly we don’t think we get any favours from the referees at all,” Foster said. “It’s hurt us, yellow cards. We’re like other teams – we don’t like going down to 14. It’s something we work hard to make sure technically we’re as sound as possible.”
Considering there have been no other instances of the All Blacks and other New Zealand Super Rugby teams receiving preferential treatment from the match officials, I’m sure this is just merely a coincidence and it will be back to normal for the second test*.