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Wednesday’s Rugby News

Wednesday’s Rugby News

Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at two of the Brumbies’ Wallaby contingent in doubt for their Waratahs clash, The Rebels name their squad for their South African tour, the Reds looking to bounce back ahead of their Toyko trip and opposition to the proposed World League leads to talks about format flexibility.


Brumby duo in doubt for NSW clash

Brumbies' prop Allan Alaalatoa starring out his opposite as a scrum is being packed.

The Brumbies could enter their crunch Super Rugby clash with the NSW Waratahs without star Wallabies Allan Alaalatoa and David Pocock.

The pair suffered injuries in last week’s 29-26 loss to the Melbourne Rebels, a game in which they led by 16 points at halftime, before being run down to suffer their second loss to the side in a month.

Both were substituted at similar periods of the game last week, with Alaalatoa being cleared of any major damage to his wrist whilst Pocock is still trying to manage a niggling calf issue, which has troubled him since ‘that’ Wallabies camp in January.

After their 1-3 start to the season, the Brumbies can ill-afford to be missing players of their quality, with a loss potentially putting them as far back as 10 points from the top of the Australian conference.

Despite their poor start, Brumbies No.8 Lachlan McCaffrey still believes the ACT franchise could topple the Waratahs on Friday night with or without their ace players.

“The coaches are lucky, they’ve got different players in every position they could pick,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Allan looked like he’s pretty sore and Poey is just managing things with the back-row.”

The Brumbies were still positive despite the heartbreaking loss against the Rebels, in which they lost their second match in a month to the Melbourne outfit on the back of blowing a 16 point lead at half time thanks to the inspired play by Wallaby halfback (and new Brumbies owner) Will Genia.

“That first 40 minutes I think is the best 40 minutes of rugby we’ve played in a long time,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will go down to Melbourne and dominate like we did in that first half, they’re a really quality side. “When we stuck to our game plan, they didn’t have many answers for us.”

McCaffrey missed the match with the Rebels due to the resting policy implemented by coach Dan McKellar and is a definite inclusion for the clash with the Waratahs.

This policy has come under question by many as a result of the side’s slow side, but McCaffrey was unfazed by the rest period, noting its importance in a long Super Rugby (and hopefully Wallaby) season.

“It’s never nice having the week off but I think it’s important in a long season,” McCaffrey said. “There’s a method to what (the coaching staff) are putting in place.”

Rebels name South Africa tour squad

Matt Philip is tackled by Hamish Stewart.

Matt Philip is tackled by Hamish Stewart.

The Rebels have added four players to last week’s matchday 23 ahead of their two-match South African tour.

The included players are Pone Faumausili, Angus Cottrell, Sione Tuipulotu and Campbell Magnay, who have been added to last weekend’s matchday sqaud ahead of what’s expected to be a true litmus test for the undefeated Rebels side, which are set to play the Lions and Sharks.

The most important news coming out of this squad was the clearance of Wallaby Locks Matt Philip and Adam Coleman to travel, who are expected to join the squad with the rest of their Wallaby camp contingent on Tuesday.

Philip played through an infected foot in the win against the Brumbies, which forced the lock to be removed at half-time and seeking hospital treatment when the infection got worse after the match.

“I had this cut on my foot that got infected a couple of days before the [Brumbies] game,” Philip told The Australian.

“Someone came down on my ankle with their long studs and put a deep cut in my foot and then it started to get infected. I could feel it coming because I was starting to get really sick. I’ve had something like this before but it’s Super Rugby and you don’t want to miss a game, particularly a home game, so I tried to push through it.”

Fellow lock Coleman is expected to be cleared of a concussion that shortened his playing time last week against the Brumbies, with the eight-day turnaround hopefully allowing for a full recovery in time for the clash in Johannesburg against the Lions.

The squad is as followed: Matt Gibbon, Robbie Abel, Sam Talakai, Matt Philip, Adam Coleman, Rob Leota, Brad Wilkin, Isi Naisarani, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Marika Koroibete, Billy Meakes, Tom English, Jack Maddocks, Dane Haylett-Petty, Anaru Rangi, Tetera Faulkner, Jermaine Ainsley, Luke Jones, Ross Haylett-Petty, Richard Hardwick, Michael Ruru, Reece Hodge, Pone Fa’amausili, Angus Cottrell, Sione Tuipulotu, Campbell Magnay

Reds focused ahead of Sunwolves hunt

JP Smith wins a turnover

JP Smith wins a turnover

The Reds are all business ahead of their clash against the Sunwolves in which they assume the rare tag of being the underdog against Super Rugby’s most improved side in 2019.

The Reds were thrashed 63-28 by the Sunwolves last year in Tokyo and prop JP Smith has insisted that the side will be all business as they look to bounce back from their derby loss against the Waratahs.

“This is not a trip to go sightseeing this is real for us, not a holiday,” he said before the team flew on Tuesday. “I think their minds started to drift away from what our jobs were (last year).”

“It’s something we need to prove to ourselves … we’ve been really hard towards each other … can’t wait to get into the week.”

The Reds have been hammered for their performance in the loss to the Waratahs, with Fox Sports commentator Rod Kafer savaging the side for their single minded approach to the contest.

“The Waratahs were ready for the challenge, they knew it was going to be a scrum battle. So you’ve got to develop more elements into your arsenal if you’re going to attack — you can’t build a whole game just around a scrum and a maul, there’s got to be more,” Kafer said.

“And when conditions change you’ve got to have the capability to change with them. No point looking at it going ‘hey, it didn’t suit us, we couldn’t play our game. Develop more in your game.”

The Reds task may become tougher with flyhalf Bryce Hegarty in doubt for the clash as he continues to battles through rib soreness. If he misses the clash, the likely replacement is young gun Hamish Stewart, who was dropped to the bench for last week clash with the Waratahs.

World League flexibility

Opposition to the World League format could lead to less contest like this

Opposition to the World League format could lead to less contest like this

World Rugby are prepared to be flexible on the makeup of the World League after mounting opposition continues to arise from clubs, unions and players.

One of the main stinging points of the tournament has been the proposed end of year semi-final and final format, which would see finalists play five weekends in a row, a move which has been opposed by the international players’ union.

However, the removal of this period would leave international teams with a maximum of 12 matches during the calendar year, one less than what the Wallabies played last year and two less than in 2017.

Therefore, World Rugby are expected to stand firm on the format ahead of their meeting on Thursday in Dublin, which will be attended by representatives from all tier one nations, along with Fiji, Japan and the International Rugby Players Council.

This comes after the English and French club rugby competitions came out against the proposed World League, outlining their dissatisfaction in being excluded from the talks along with how it contradicts the binding San Francisco agreement formed two years ago.

“The San Francisco agreement reached in January 2017 by all stakeholders, including LNR (French Rugby League) and PRL (Premiership Rugby), represented a proportionate structure for all parties with an international calendar adopted until 2032,” said a joint statement.

“The professional leagues now seem to be excluded from this new work, even though the World Rugby project would be a major change to the San Francisco agreement for all elements of the professional game, and impact other competitions.”

The organisations have also hinted at potential legal action to protect their position stating “LNR and PRL regret the fact that World Rugby is not fully involving all stakeholders in seeking a consensus and they can only reserve the option to take any action to preserve their rights and competitions”

Another issue that is set to be discussed is the introduction of promotion and relegation in Six Nations, a move that has been endorsed by English boss Eddie Jones and Italy boss Conor O’Shea.

  • theduke

    As for Pocock and AAAAAAA- if in doubt leave them out. No-one* wants to see the Waratahs win, but these guys have careers which are bigger than a single game. Well done again to the ref for stopping the game to take Coleman off for the HIA.

    *Obviously if they are playing a non-Australian team I will support them.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Agree. It’s a long season and both of them are neededin Japan.

    • Anonymous bloke

      100% agree, though the loss of quality when Pocock and AA came off against the Rebels was massive and gives me some qualms. Back row less so as Samu/Cusack/McCaffrey are solid, but Makin left a lot to be desired.

  • Who?

    Wouldn’t it be terrible if the top teams could only play 12 Tests in the World League?! That’s not enough! It might even force them to play non-Tier 1 nations – how would they cope, having to play Georgia, Samoa, Tonga, etc?!?!

  • I think the real problem with the World League is not the broad concept but the fact that some early-to-mid phase discussion documents got leaked or uncovered by some good journalism and are now being discussed as the final arrangement.

    Add in the fact that there are a LOT of interested parties, most of which are incredibly resistant to ANY sort of change – see RA and Cheika as one sort of example, whatever their reasons – and there’s lots of uproar.

    I do have sympathy for a competition that routinely calls for the teams to play five weekends on the trot at the end of the year in a meaningful, increasingly hard contest. The November tests, for the SH sides, typically contain a “weaker” side for the fringe players to have a run out. That’s good for developing the game in other countries, yes, but it also means the big names at the end of a long season have a weekend off to recover. That will be gone and that’s not going to be good for player welfare. There’s a reason TRC and the 6N are both not played straight through, and it’s not to build the anticipation among the fans.

    Ignoring an agreement that was signed and is due to run until 2032 – IANAL and I don’t know the details and I haven’t poked too hard, I suspect there may be some hyperbole but I suspect there’s more than a kernel of truth too – is either stupid or just proof it’s a draft plan and there was a lot more work that was intended to be done. My money is on the latter. While WR has some stupid ideas, they’re not usually that inept about contracts they’ve signed.

    All that said, a competition that mixes things up, gives us a good contest and a meaningful end of year series could be good for the game. I don’t know that this structure is the right one: multiple 8 team leagues, then groups of 8 play three knockout rounds at the end of the year, but you do something clever like the top 6 from the top league and the top 2 from the second league make one group of 8 for the finals series, the bottom 2 from the top 8, the middle 4 from the second 8 and the top 2 from the 3rd 8 and so on. The losers of the quarters progress too, so you have rankings for all, like in a sevens tournament. Once you’re got your final rankings from 1-32 or whatever, you assign them as such for the next year’s play. Having 8 team leagues and 3 finals takes up 11 internationals in a year, This would let you keep a 6N and TRC intact if you wanted maybe, as you could put in enough extra international matches to play those games as additional matches outside the league, or rather than the matches in those championships that match to a league match count for both the league and their respective championship.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Morning Eloise, I’m not so enamoured by the whole concept. As you mentioned the current EOYT is actually a good way of introducing fringe players into the team and that would go with the new competition. Not sure when and how this would then occur except if a team said “this year we aren’t going to win, we’re going to build depth by introducing new players towards the depth we need for the next RWC” I can’t see that going down well.
      If this competition is a one off between the RWC then I see merit in it but I’m not so sure the fans see the current games as poorly as WR does

      • Huw Tindall

        100% agree on world league if it’s a one off between RWCs. I’ve also said before that it should double as the seeding the for RWC. At the moment the seedings are essentially decided 3+ years in advance so by the time RWC rolls around you could have dramatic changes in form and really lop sided groups.

        In saying this I’m not sold on the world league thing at all in the first place. You made some great points in your post above which I agree with. Tell any test player that the games are meaningless and I think you’ll get a steely stare at best and smack in the chops if you’re lucky.

      • I do agree that a big group of fans, and a lot of players as Huw has commented, see a lot of the tests as important. I think there are issues around the timings of the current windows, and I’m not sure there’s much that the World League does to address those.

        The June and November tests are set at the end of the respective hemisphere’s seasons, but they’re just before the critical point of one hemisphere’s season and then just as another starts really cranking into gear.

        Clubs down South go on hiatus and lose their star players, potentially for the last few rounds and the finals if there’s an injury, and they all lose whatever momentum they had. Clubs up North lose their star players for a chunk of pre-season, then play about 6 matches, then lose their star players for 5+ weeks. In both hemispheres they know it’s coming, but it’s hardly ideal.

        I do agree that the blooding new talent issue is something that needs to be addressed. That’s part of the reason that, past the first season, I mixed the pools pretty hard. With the current rankings, in the first year the top pool would be NZ, Ireland, Wales, England, SA, Australia, Scotland and France. But the finals, assuming all the matches go to form, would have Fiji and Argentina swap for Scotland and France. We already see NZ play alternate players against Argentina in TRC. Wales put out fringe players against Fiji in November. There is space for those fringe players and younger players to be blooded. You could mix harder, and swap 3 sides, that would see Australia play the finals in the lower group and Japan move up on the current rankings, but give more chances for blooding young talent. (Note that this is based purely on current rankings, if a given side plays itself into the top 5 in the league it would stay in the top group, I’m not predicting Australia would go down.)

        Depending on how the matches are scheduled, if the EOYT becomes a knockout tournament in 3 rounds, there’s a fourth weekend in the normal slot which could take the role of the current widening participation, blood new players matches. One really easy way to do that – if you have 4 knockout groups of 8 (or 6, 8 or any other even number), the sides that finished 1st in the top 2 groups play, the sides that finished 2nd and so on, and you repeat for the pairs of groups.

        I’m not 100% sold on this idea – I think tbh there’s a lot more mileage to be had from moving the NH club season dates slightly. Move the June window back so it’s after the SR finals but I think there will be a lot more screaming if that happens.

        I could go for a four-yearly tournament in the off-years to the RWC to settle the seeding too rather than an annual contest, although I think an annual contest has better buy in over time.

    • Andrew Luscombe

      “Good” journalism destroys most things. It’s all about making controversy about everything so that open discussion and progress is difficult everywhere.

      Yes, the governance structure of rugby is a mess. There is no body that can gather together sensible suggested plans, evaluate them independently, and then do what’s likely to be best for the sport overall.

      Same as most leagues in most sports, fringe players would get a run near the end of the “home and away” rounds for teams where a win has little effect on the competition outcome, or where a loss is unlikely.

      World Rugby is planning to fit the world league within international windows. They might try to negotiate the final to be past the end of the window, and I’m sure the’d pay Premiership Rugby for their trouble.

      Finals drawing different number of teams from different standard pools is under explored. There are possibilities there. Particularly for a sport like rugby that has disparate groupings of countries geographically. It is used in world cup qualifications for both soccer and rugby. It’s not much used elsewhere. It can be adaptive too – e.g. if a group’s teams do well enough in the next stage that group gets an extra team qualifying next year.

      • I’m old enough when I remember good journalism not being about making controversy. But I remember the change too, sadly.

        While I agree that governance is a mess, if they came to me, offered me $10M and said “evaluate which is the best and give us your honest opinion” I’m not sure I’d take that particular poisoned chalice. I don’t have a dog in the fight, except as a fan. I don’t have professional ties to any organisation that has a dog in the fight. I used to play, but strictly on an amateur basis, so technically I guess I have some ties that way.

        But I think the best solution might well be either stick with what we’ve got – everyone’s used to that – or pick the one that hurts everyone the least. Because while I’d happily see some changes – I’d like to see the current June tests have fitter NH sides and not screw up the end of the SR season for example – any tweaks are going to be a mess.

        One solution that might work, and would be HUGELY unpopular. It wouldn’t have a world league per se.

        Jan-Jul: Superior Club Competition. SH – SR, NH – Heineken Cup, Leagues (without home and away or smaller competitions). No internationals.

        Aug-Nov: Inferior Club Competition: NZ ITM Cup, SA Currie Cup, Aus NRC. NH?? Prolonged International Window consisting of (in some order) NH visits SH, TRC and 6N, SH visits NH. (Or, alternatively, new WRL.)

        The Top 14, PRO14 and Premiership at a minimum will scream bloody murder. It hacks their season around, although they can have a second tournament with their star players absent in a block and plan for it, so once they get used to it, the clubs will have the income to cope with new regime I’m sure.

        I don’t know for sure what the fitness people would say about rest periods and so on, that would have to be worked in, but that kind of broad time table might work and I think it would improve things. But I really can’t see them going for it. And I might be a lone voice, howling in the wilderness.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Nathan, it’s a big week for both the Reds and Brumbies and this could be make or break for both of them. I feel that if things don’t improve they could both be fighting for the wooden spoon of the conference.

    The trip to SA will be a real test for the Rebels. They have played very well so far and no reason to think this won’t continue but away from Australia will be a big challenge.

    As I mentioned below I think the whole World Rugby competition is a bit meh! I personally don’t agree that the current games are meaningless, I mean ask the Irish if beating NZ was meaningless and I think you’ll find it very much was. I also wonder how countries are going to bring fringe players throughif every test is a knockout game. I think an annual World Cup – which is what it is, will lose its status very fast and it will affect the real RWC. I think there are other ways to improve the game around the world that could be looked at and the leaders of the game have too much self interest to look at them.

    • Missing Link

      The Rebels can really make their mark this year in SA. They’ve been so close in recent years with a draw but have never won a game on SA soil. A win this year on tour will do wonders for the team confidence and put other teams on notice.

      Speaking of the Rebels, there was talk about Debreczeni having a great NPC season and signing with the Chiefs. Ironically, the Chiefs are playing like the Rebels of old, I wonder if they’ve asked Debreczeni to divulge Tony McGahan’s game plan from a few years ago so they can use it :)

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Hahahaha mate that’s good. I see MacD is likely to go back to 15 this week. Personally I think its just that Cooper is the Graham of NZ rugby. Lots of experience but its all bad

    • Hoss

      Pffft – best way to beat the Brumbies is give them a sizeable lead and let them take care of the rest.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Hahahaha well it’s been true so far this year

      • Keith Butler

        Similar to what the Saders did to the Tahs a few seasons back. Always thought there was something a bit dodgy about that game.

  • Duncher

    New Brumbies owner… Gold!

  • OnTheBurst

    Did anyone clock the article in the Courier Mail about WB team selection for the RWC?

    I gather it’s calling for the Genia-Cooper nexus to be restored, but it’s behind the Murdoch paywall…

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@NathW1997

Loved rugby since the day I could remember, got the nickname Footy to show that, I watch Matt Dunning's dropkick every night before going to bed

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