Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at Adam Ashley-Cooper’s return to the Wallabies, the optimism of the Welsh ahead of the upcoming test, the rebranding of World Series Rugby and Eddie Jones’ radical suggestion to improve officiating in rugby
Ashley-Cooper ready to get up and Adam
With the Wallabies set to begin their Spring Tour in the early hours of Sunday morning against Wales, one of the main talking points has been the sudden return of Adam Ashley-Cooper into the Wallabies framework.
Ashley-Cooper had targeted his return from the European and Japanese wilderne$$ into Australian rugby as the 2019 Super Rugby season, attempting to reprise the role of the veteran Wallaby back hunting one last shot at the William Webb Ellis trophy that won Matt Giteau acclaims back in 2015 (coming to theatres next spring).
However, injury to the incumbent centre Reece Hodge saw his return to the Wallabies squad acclerated, a move which even took Ashley-Cooper by surprise.
“I wasn’t expecting to come on tour – there’s an opportunity and there could be the possibility of Super Rugby next year to get to that World Cup but apart from that I wasn’t expecting to come on tour,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“When Cheik rang a couple of weeks ago, I was in Japan playing Top League, he discussed the potential of coming back into the squad and coming on tour and I told him I’d jump at the opportunity.”
Ashley-Cooper was unsure about the role that he would play across the tour, noting that his main priority was to start building connections with the new wave of Wallabies that have come through the system over the past two years.
“I am not sure if I will get the opportunity to play but if I have the mindset and I am competing than I am sure I am creating healthy competition around the squad…The guys are still using the same language, similar shapes and terminology but apart from that it’s just the new faces, so for me I’ve got to establish those relationships.”
His selection has led to him putting any talks about his Super Rugby destination on hold for 2019, although most reports have him at Winx like odds to join the Waratahs.
“There’s been chats with a few teams back home but I didn’t expect to come on the tour so those discussions are on hold at the moment, I certainly made it clear that is the way I want to get to a World Cup is by playing in a Super Rugby competition and a Super Rugby team and earning that selection later on in the year.”
Dragons ready to fire
Speaking of the test match, Wales have been openly optimistic about their chances against the under-fire Wallabies, hoping to break their 13 games losing streak which has spaned a decade. Their hopes of breaking the hoodoo have been boosted with hooker Ken Owens and flanker Ellis Jenkins declared fit for the clash.
Owens broke his nose during the side’s 21-10 win over Scotland and has been cleared of any head injuries, whilst Jenkins is set to return to the team after missing the victory with a shoulder injury.
“Ken has a bit of a cut on his nose, but that is not going to stop him from doing anything, We will just keep an eye out for contact stuff, but it is nothing major… Ellis (Jenkins) definitely is back in selection talks, they just have a couple of tests to pass before they are deemed fit but they are moving in the right direction.” Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde said.
Their inclusion is huge for the Welsh side, who believe that this is their best opportunity to claim victory over the Australian side, according to 1/2 of Wales’ modern-day rugby version of Mount Rushmore; Sam Warburton and Shane Williams.
Warburton backed the home support of the rapturous Cardiff crowd to carry the side over to victory, although stopped short of calling the under fire Wallabies vulnerable.
“I can put my hand on my heart and say that Wales are good enough to beat Australia. If 75,000 supporters can believe the same thing and express that in their voices on Saturday, Wales will beat Australia and end that losing run,” Warburton said.
“Are Australia more vulnerable than ever before? I wouldn’t say so, Whenever Wales play Australia, the Australian players who have been in supposedly poor form or lacking fitness always turn up.”
Williams believes that the hit out against Scotland, despite their sloppiness, had set to the side up perfectly to break their drought.
“However flawed a performance it was against Scotland … I’m far more convinced now that we can end that run of 13 consecutive defeats to the tiresome Wallabies because the players have got a full, tough 80 minutes under their belts,” Williams said.
Forrest’s vision undertakes rapid rebrand
With Andrew Forrest set to expand World Series Rugby globally in 2019, the competition has undertaken a complete rebranding, under the title of Global Rapid Rugby.
This was confirmed by Forrest and the competition’s website, which has provided further information about the teams that are set to take part in what the website describes as a “rugby revolution”.
The new name comes after talks with World Rugby due to the similarities that existed with the organisation’s name with the original competition and represents Forrest vision for the expansion and growth of rugby across Asia to build the appeal and development of rugby beyond traditional markets.
“It’s a brilliant new name for a brave new beginning,” Forrest said. “Rapid Rugby is the perfect name that speaks directly to what we will deliver in 2019 and beyond – a dynamic sports and entertainment concept.”
“We are working hard on taking the success of the 2018 series in Perth (played under the banner World Series Rugby) and super-charging it for the Asia Pacific region and I am confident it’s going to be even more innovative and exciting than what people experienced this year.”
From 2019, it is expected that teams from Hawaii, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Fiji were set to join the Western Force in the expanded eight-team tournament that is set to contain a purse of $1 million.
The competition will continue to implement the innovative rules such as rolling substitutions and power trys, and will look to work with World Rugby in order to make the game more entertaining.
“Our team continues to work alongside the sport’s governing body, World Rugby, to develop new rules that will make our brand even more appealing. Their input is obviously invaluable,” the website said.
Despite my early scepticism about the competition, you have to give credit to Forrest for his efforts to expand the sport across the most populated continent and hopefully, the competiton can generate fresh interest in the sport within the region.
Two for the price of one
As the fallout from Owen Farrell’s controversial tackle continues, Eddie Jones has taken inspiration from Union’s little brother in relation to how to solve issues regarding the officiating of the game.
Jones believes that the sport should look to adopt a similar approach to the NRL in the appointment of two referees in order to deal with the complexity surrounding the decision-making process and the constant pressure that they have faced.
This has sufraced due to the conjecture around the rugby community about the legality of Owen Farrell’s tackle on Andre Esterhuizen which denied the Springbok a penalty shot that would have provided them with the opportunity to steal the victory on the siren.
“I just think the game is getting more intense. All the data shows that” Jones said on Monday. “The game went for 100 minutes on the weekend, with 39 minutes of the ball in play. 61 minutes now are where the players can recover, so the intensity of the hits, the quickness of the contact.”
“We are asking one referee to do it the way they did it when blokes like me were playing, jogging around the field basically. And he’s still doing the same job. So I think the referees are doing a great job. At some stage in the future, probably not in my time, they may have to look at two referees on the field.”
This is the first time that the system has been suggested by someone of Jones’ statue and in theory, would see one referee focus on the play surrounding the breakdown whilst the second referee would examine and maintain last feet in the backline.
Whilst this is a good idea in theory and the system has provided success in increasing the success rate of on-field decisions and faster speed at the breakdown, the system is not perfect and has often lead to the over-refereeing of certain situations, which would most likely lead to slowly play and more controversy.