Wednesday’s Rugby News examines worries around the SCG surface, the Folau that is scoring tries for fun, the resting of a giant Rebel and the return of the Honey Badger.
SCG all good on the surface
The SCG has been given the green light (unofficially) ahead of the Waratahs clash with the Crusaders on Saturday. The ground has come under heavy criticism after transforming into Bondi Beach after the first couple of mauls and scrums in the side’s derby against the Reds two weeks ago.
In response, the SCG Trust has replaced 3000 square foot of the ground after it came through Friday’s NRL match and Sydney’s weekend deluge unscathed and the Waratahs have been given unofficial assurance that the ground is safe to go.
Waratah prop Sekope Kepu was unfazed by talks about the quality of the surface, noting the importance of adapting to the conditions regardless of what is thrown up at them.
“I believe they’ve re-turfed it and looked to improve it, particularly after what happened in the Reds game and as far as I know we are out there, and regardless of the surface, you just have to adapt to the conditions and whatnot…We will be going out there to scrummage as per normal and do a job,” Kepu said.
Kepu was surprisingly calm on the issue, considering himself and fellow prop Matt Dunning tore their ACL’s when the turf at Wembley Stadium similarly “rolled up” and collapsed like its current inhabitants Tottenham (joke for the round ball fans), during a Wallabies match with the Barbarians in 2008.
The clash will be an emotional one, with it marking the first match back for the Crusaders after the awful tragedy in Christchurch, which led to the cancellation of their match with the Highlanders and talks of potential name changes coming under serious consideration.
Waratahs star Israel Folau was especially affected on the NSW side of this encounter, with his wife originating from New Zealand and having family who lived in Christchurch, resonating the positive thoughts sent out by the rugby community towards the area during this time of hardship.
“We definitely feel for the people that have lost their lives and their families and obviously it’s going to be very emotional,” Folau said “Everyone has different beliefs and different followings but you just wouldn’t think something like that would happen in places like New Zealand but unfortunately that’s the way the world is going.”
The try-scoring Folau
If you said that a Folau would be the leading try scorer after 5 matches, the majority of people would instinctively think that Israel would be carving up the competition.
However, it’s another Folau, Folau Faingaa, who has found the try-line more than anyone, with his double against the Waratahs making him the first Australian player since Andrew Walker to score in five consecutive games.
The ability to find the try line has bolted Faingaa into prime position for the vacant Wallaby hooker position due to the nature of his tries, with all five coming from the back of the rolling maul.
This has resulted due to the strong start to the season by the Brumbies pack, particularly their front row who should be three of the first names on Cheika’s team sheet if they keep their performance up.
This would bruise the egos of most wingers, which are generally bigger than the average rugby team’s dinner bill. However, Brumbies winger Henry Speight was all praise for his teammate and the work that their forward pack has put into creating those tries.
“He is probably five ahead of me and other backs,” Speight said. “(Faingaa) is really benefiting from the strong work they are doing as a forward unit, and if it is good and it is not broken, let’s stick at it.”
This was shared by fellow front rower Scott Sio, who sprouted the old saying of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ in regards to the Brumbies continuing to go to their rolling maul in attacking situations.
“I live with him, so he reminds me that he’s the top try scorer in the Australian conference every day,” Sio said. “I think we’ve harped on, just making sure we get around our core roles and our knowledge in the team and he’s reaping the benefits of it at the moment and I’m really happy for him and we’re just going to continue to support him.
“If our maul keeps going well, he could be top try scorer in all of Super Rugby so hopefully fingers crossed we can continue that form this week.”
Up and (not) Adam
Rebels lock Adam Coleman has been rested ahead of the side’s clash with the Sharks on the weekend.
Wallaby and Rebels lock Adam Coleman has been rested ahead of his side’s clash with the Sharks in Durban.
Coleman travelled back to Australia on Monday night whilst the rest of the side headed onto Durban as part of the Wallabies resting policy ahead of the World Cup.
He joins the likes of Kurtley Beale, who was left out of the Waratahs’ round one team, along with Izack Rodda and Taniela Tupou, who were rested from the Reds win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo last week, to fall victim of the resting policy introduced by Rugby Australia to minimise fatigue ahead of the season-ending tournament.
As part of the policy, Rugby Australia has indicated potential matches to Super Rugby franchises to rest players who are either being considered or apart of the Wallaby set up, with the preference being put on overseas matches, however, the final decision would always be with the clubs.
It seems that coach Dave Wessels has taken this advice through the resting of Coleman, indicating that the side’s clash with the Sharks would be an opportunity to rest some of its international players before their departure from Melbourne last week.
It is still unclear whether anyone else from the Rebels Wallaby contingency would be stood down from the clash.
However, after their heartbreaking loss to the Lions on the weekend, the Rebels will be keen to play a strong side to ensure that they maintain their position on the top of the Australian conference.
There have been some questions in regards to the Rebels leadership after their last-minute loss to the Lions, particularly around the lack of pressure put on the referee as a result of the one-sided penalty count.
“But what the unfathomable penalty count showed was a lack of leadership at the Rebels. It was one of their shortcomings last year and it remains an issue. A nicer bloke than Dane Haylett-Petty you will not find, but he is new to the captaincy and still finding his voice,” said Fox Sports rugby reporter Christy Doran.
“An experienced captain would have reminded Seconds of the penalty count, of the fact it won’t reflect well on him and there are, in fact, two teams playing…A seed of doubt goes a long way in sport.”
Cummins raring for his return
Nick Cummins is going off like a cut snake ahead of his return to rugby for the World XV as they get set to play his old side, the Western Force, on Friday night in the initial match of the Global Rapid Rugby season.
Cummins returns to the rugby field after his adventure on reality TV to find love came with all sizzle and no steak and his return to play the side which he played 87 Super Rugby games for has left him as nervous as a mouse in biology class.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of memories there, mate, and a lot of training sessions down here actually- pre seasons- a lot of throwing up, that sort of thing- all really positive,” said Cummins.
“You’re making me nervous (reminding me how long ago I played). I’ll probably be gassing it down the sideline and there’ll be some sniper will get up and get me, because the old hammies aren’t conditioned that well.”
Cummins was looking forward to his return to the game, having last played professionally for the Coca Cola Red Sparks in Japan in 2016, believing that the exciting law changes of Rapid Rugby would allow for more ‘pill’ to come his way and greater opportunity to bag a couple of ‘pies’.
“It means just spin it wide and have a go, that’s what it’s about isn’t it,” he said. “High energy, putting bums on seats, the people want to see that sort of stuff. This nine-point try business from inside the 22 – mate – swing it wide.”
This clash marks the first of the expanded Rapid Rugby series, which is set to feature teams from China, Fiji, Samoa and a combined Asia Pacific team.
This reflects the fresh investment that World Rugby and particularly Andrew Forest has put into the Asian region, which is crucial for Rugby’s prosperity according to World XV coach Robbie Deans.
“There’s no doubt that Asia’s going to be big in the future, economically and in the game,” said Deans, “Out of necessity World Rugby needs to cater for this area, and clearly Rapid Rugby want to be part of that, and I’ll be very surprised if they’re not…There will be a lot of people who will want to join them, the concept’s good, the community-based concept is good.”
Deans has named a strong side for what is expected to be an exciting clash, with former Force and Wallabies flyer Digby Ioane part of the squad, along Springbok Gio Aplon, ex-All Blacks and Crusaders trio, Andy Ellis, Wyatt Crockett and Corey Flynn and 50-Test Argentinian back rower Leonardo Senatore.