Wednesday’s Rugby News explores the return of key Wallabies and a beloved jersey, the Rebels and Reds tie down key players for Super Rugby season, Fiji’s Super Rugby bid stalls and the English injury list grows.
Cheika’s squad boosted for Contiki tour
With Michael Cheika set to name his squad for the Wallabies tour through Japan and Europe, he’s set to retain a similar squad to the Rugby Championship along with the timely inclusion of injured stars.
Cheika is set to unveil the squad of around 30 on Thursday, with the players due to fly to Japan on Saturday night for the 3rd Bledisloe test match before they complete the rugby version of the Contiki trip throughout Europe.
Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani and backrower Pete Samu are set to return from injury, making themselves available for selection for the Canberra Vikings in their NRC semifinal against the Drua on the weekend.
The pair is set to join the Wallabies squad after their commitments with the Vikings are done, along with Reds centre Samu Kerevi, who has been recovering from a ruptured bicep suffered during the Ireland test series.
These are welcome inclusions and provide timely boosts to the depth of the side, who are set to miss Lurkam Tui for the Tour along with the captain of the ‘batting above his average’ XV Matt Toomua and Tatafu Polota-Nau, who will miss the clash in Japan due to club commitments before returning for the European Tour.
Speaking of the Tour, the Wallabies are preparing to roll out their widely popular Indigenous jersey when they take on the old enemy England at Twickenham.
The jersey drew rave reviews for its design and ability to put the All Blacks in a trance for long enough for us to beat them, with some calls for it to be adopted permanently.
However, the jersey will remain a one-off annual occasion, with players pleased and privileged to be wearing the Dennis Golding designed jersey again.
“The whole team was really honoured to run out in the Indigenous jersey last year to recognise not only the role of Indigenous players in the Wallabies throughout history but as a broader recognition of Indigenous culture and its importance in our country,” Michael Hooper said.
“I was pleased that we were able to play in a way that was fitting of the occasion in Brisbane last year and we are very keen to come up with a strong performance again in London at the end of our tour.”
Red and Rebel Reinforcements
The Reds and Rebels have tied down further reinforcements for the upcoming 2019 Super Rugby season.
Starting up north, the Reds have resigned classy young breakaway Adam Korczyk who joins the likes of Samu Kerevi, Izack Rodda and JP Smith in recommitting to the Queensland side in the last month.
Korczyk had a breakout season for the Reds this year, clearly establishing him as a player for the future and he was excited to remain in red.
“I love Queensland, I love playing for Queensland and for me staying in Queensland was the best option for my rugby career progression,” he said.
“It’s a competitive environment we have here at the Reds – especially in the back-row group with guys like Scott Higginbotham, Liam Wright, Caleb Timu and Angus Scott-Young and it’s just going to make me better.”
Meanwhile, the Rebels continue to add to their never-ending depth by signing towering Lock Luke Jones for the next two years.
Jones returns after two years playing for French side Bordeaux and was looking to return home after his stint playing for the Barbarians in Sydney and still believed he had plenty to give to Australian rugby.
“I’m not content with my rugby as yet and to continue my development as a player, the most important consideration for me was to find a world class rugby program that would help take my game to the next level,” Jones stated.
“Speaking with David Wessels and a few of my former teammates and looking at the quality of the list at the Rebels, it’s going to be a great challenge for me week to week to earn my spot. I wanted to return to Australia and the fact that I get to return to Melbourne just makes it that much more satisfying.”
Fiji left on island time
Fiji’s Super Rugby bid has been left on island time for now as negotiations for the World League delay an agreement on the future of the Super Rugby.
Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) submitted a bid to join the southern hemisphere’s professional rugby competition in June, but have all but given up hope of success after SANZAAR upped its financial demands on prospective entrants.
This figure was understood to be in the ballpark of $14-17 million, which have destroyed the hopes of nationally-led bids of countries such as Samoa and Fiji, who seemed like obvious inclusions in the new system.
The FRU now look likely to seriously entertain an approach from ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s renegade World Series Rugby, which is desperately hunting for further teams in a bid to launch an eight-team competition by next March.
SANZAAR’s appetite for expansion has appeared to have cooled down and is contingent on new and current entrants bringing revenue into the partnership, which Fiji lack in principal despite having the facilities to host a team.
Regardless of this expansion talk, any further talk on the future of the Super Rugby is set to be pushed back to 2019 as World Rugby continues to work on the formation of the World League.
The concept was looking at having the 6 best sides from both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere compete in a competition outside of World Cup years, with advocates hoping to put the proposal in front of broadcasters in time for the next round of World Rugby meetings in November.
The World League appears to have the backing of the SANZAAR nations along with France as they see it as an opportunity to raise broadcast revenue for all nations (because of course that’s the main thing they take out of it, not the opportunity it opens up for greater exciting matches between nations).
The main sticking point seems to be the distribution of money, with concerns about whether the likes of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales would be able to come to an agreement with SANZAAR nations, who only represent 30% of broadcast revenue worldwide.
Hoepfully this gets sorted soon so we can finally receive some closure regarding the future of the Super Rugby and let’s pray that it doesn’t drag on like other Super Rugby decisions.
Vunipola adds to England’s broken spirit
England continues their bad luck with injury, with Number eight Billy Vunipola set to miss three months after having surgery on his broken arm.
The Sydney born backrower broke his left arm during Saracens’ 13-3 Champions Cup victory over Glasgow on Sunday and will miss all of England’s November internationals, including the Wallabies’ visit to Twickenham on November 24.
Vunipola had only recently returned to action after fracturing his right arm during England’s mid-year tour of South Africa and it adds to a long list of injuries that have restricted him to starting three internationals in two years.
“It’s awful news for Saracens and England, but mainly for Billy. You really feel for him,” England half Danny Care said. “I saw first hand a week or so ago, Harlequins against Saracens, he had a man-of-the-match performance. He was absolutely brilliant that day and showed what he could do when fully fit.”
His absence leaves a black hole at the number 8 position for Aussie Eddie, who was already missing Sam Simmonds through injury and Nathan Hughes through Twitter brain explosion.
Vunipola’s brother prop Mako also suffered a calf strain during the clash while second row Nick Isiekwe added to the national team’s injury woes by suffering an ankle sprain.
Both players will be monitored but should be fit for the Spring Tour, however, this continues England’s bad run with injuries that have depleted their side ahead of clashes against South Africa, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Vunipola will join the growing list of injuries for the English side with lock Joe Launchbury ruled out after knee surgery last week while Bath fullback Anthony Watson and Johnathan Joseph were already ruled out with a torn Achilles and ankle injury respectively earlier in the year.