Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at Tolu Latu’s suspension, Scott Fardy’s decision to stay in Ireland, Pocock raring to return to the Brumbies and the high praise that a former Wallaby centre has for a future Wallaby star.
Tolu hit for six
Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu has been suspended for six weeks after pleading guilty to “a dangerous charge into a ruck or maul” at the final moments of the Waratahs nailbiter against the Sunwolves.
The incident in question pertains to Latu attempting to clear out flanker and fellow Aussie Ed Quirk in the 79th minute, with the hooker proceeding to charge into the ruck, rather than binding, and injuring the knee of Quirk, which will keep the flanker sidelined for the next two months.
Latu’s offence was deemed by SANZAAR to be reckless and dangerous and “merited a top-end entry point of 10 weeks due to the vulnerability of the victim”, which was worked down to 6 due to his “good” behaviour and his initial guility plea.
The timing of this suspension will ensure that Latu will not return to the field until week 11 against the Sharks since the Waratahs have two byes during the suspension period.
The length of the suspension has shocked many, most particularly Daryl Gibson who was surprised about the outcome of the judiciary, but wary of the message that SANZAAR were looking to send with this decision.
“We have accepted the suspension from the foul play review committee,” Gibson said. “Naturally we are disappointed to lose him from the squad this early in the season.”
“While I was somewhat surprised at the duration of the suspension, it puts all players and teams on notice about what SANZAAR consider to be dangerous play and the hard-line stance they are taking. I am backing our team to step up and fill the gap Tolu will leave.”
The six-week suspension is the same length that Pierre Schoeman received for biting Richard Hardwick on the stomach and four less than what Joe Moody got for elbowing Kurtley Beale over the past 12 months.
With this in mind, Latu’s suspension seems a bit overblown and the incident was not worth the initial 10 weeks that was handed to him. Personally, I think the incident did not warrant being labelled as reckless, more of a careless act of not wrapping his arms whilst clearing our and a mid-range suspension of around four weeks would have been more sufficient.
Regardless of length, the incident adds to the rap sheet of Latu, who was yellow carded twice at international level last year and this suspension raises further questions about whether his temperament can be tolerated with a World Cup around the corner.
No Fardy party in Japan
Any hopes of Scott Fardy returning to the Wallaby fold for the World Cup have been put on hold, with the flanker re-signing for Irish club and European champions Leinster for another year.
Fardy was a key member of the Wallabies 2015 World Cup run and has represented his country 39 times. However, Fardy seems to have fallen out of favour with current boss Michael Cheika, who has not selected the blindside flanker since 2016.
Since leaving the Brumbies in 2017, Fardy has flourished in the new environment in Ireland, winning the European Champions Cup and Pro 14 in his debut season, culminating in his nomination for European Player of the Year.
His success ensured he was in high demand, with the flanker rejecting a move back to Japan in the search for more success and trophies.
“I had an offer to go back to Japan to where I was originally years ago, it was something I considered for a moment but my family have just settled here and I didn’t want to pick them up and move,” Fardy said.
“I made that decision a while ago and I’m happy to be here for another year and continue to go after trophies…Winning games is enjoyable and I’m enjoying that process…I’m still learning, even at my age, I come in every Monday for the review and I’m still learning something from the game we’ve played.”
Fardy’s decision to stay overseas does not come as a surprise to Rugby Australia officials, who indicated his enjoyment with his new surroundings late last year, along with the fact that his family had settled in nicely with the culture of the club.
“We’re enjoying it, my wife’s settled in well and the young fella’s growing up pretty quickly. We’re enjoying our time here in Dublin. With the squad, you’ve got and the leaders here and the staff as well, no one’s really selling you anything. With the senior players and junior players here, it’s easy to get caught up and enjoy your rugby.”
Go for Po(cock)
The Brumbies are expected to welcome back David Pocock for their clash with the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Pocock has had a less than stellar start to 2019, initially racing the clock to be fit with a hamstring strain before coping a knock on the head 5 minutes into the Brumbies opening round clash with the Rebels, causing the flanker to be ruled of out the contest with the Chiefs with a concussion.
Pocock was expected to be rested for the clash due to his past history of head and neck injuries, however, Pocock has pasted all the necessary HIA protocol tests and will be raring to go against the Hurricanes on Friday.
The return of Pocock is a significant boost to the ACT side who will be brimming with confidence after their performance against the Chiefs, and livewire fullback Tom Banks believes that Pocock’s inclusion will be invaluable to the Brumbies hopes of securing their first win in New Zealand since 2014.
“He’s a world-class player,” he said. “The thing he brings is the turnovers he can bring it just helps us as a backline to attack unstructured defences. “That’s what we try and do and he’s the best at getting turnovers.”
Banks was quick to quell the hype surrounding their emphatic victory last week, stating the importance of backing up a performance like that and attempting to do it week by week.
“Knowing you can put in a performance like that, now the hard thing is to back it up. That’s what we’re trying to do this week, just not be complacent and really go again this week,” he said.
The Hurricanes are expected to welcome back All Blacks Beauden Barrett in place for his brother Jordie along with flanker Ardie Savea. “Beaudy is in the conversation. He’s been gunning to play, so he’s ready to go.” said assistant coach Jason Holland. “Every time you get an experienced All Black back it’s a big lift to the boys and that’s what’s happened this week.”
Petaia receives Wallaby wrap
Former Wallaby Tim Horan believes that teenage superstar Jordan Petaia has the ability to become a Wallaby great if he continues on his current trajectory.
Petaia was one of the Reds best, if not the best, during their hard-fought loss against the Highlanders in Dunedin last Friday and Horan believes that the star teenager will draw the crowds back to the box office ahead of their opening home game against the Crusaders.
“It was a fantastic performance and something that Australian rugby’s been looking for – who are the next couple of stars that are coming through,” Horan said. “I think another 5000 to 7500 people will turn up here on Saturday just to watch Jordan Petaia.”
The breakout performance had many believe Petaia to be a bolter selector for the Wallabies World Cup squad, with Horan echoing similar thoughts if Petaia is able to put a similar level of performance together consistently.
“One game doesn’t make a player and he would know that, he’s young enough to know that and he’s got some reasonably experienced players around him – like Samu Kerevi – to lead his way and make sure that he keeps his feet on the ground and understand that it’s about stringing five to 10 games together like he did on Friday night” Horan said.
The partnership of Petaia alongside Wallaby inside centre Samu Kervei were dominant in the performance against the Highlanders and the strength of their connection could be essential for Petaia’s chance to be one of the youngest players in World Cup history (7th youngest if he debuts in the initial game against Fiji, 2nd youngest try scorer if he manages to score during the tournament).
“There’s a lot of depth. You’ve got Tevita Kuridrani, Karmichael Hunt’s playing very well there, you’ve got Kurtley Beale,” Horan said.
“But we’ve really performed well in World Cups where we’ve had combinations of players – whether it’s Jason Little and myself early on, whether it was myself and Daniel Herbert in ’99 or whether it’s the Giteaus and the combinations later on…You need people who have been playing together.”