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Wednesday’s Rugby News

Wednesday’s Rugby News

Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at the career transformation of James O’Connor, U20 coach Jason Gilmore’s warning to fans, Nick Frisby’s stunning admission ahead of his return and the push to reduce substitutions


Wild child no more

James O'Connor waits QLD Reds v NSW Waratahs 2020 Photo Credit QRU Brendan Hertel

Reds captain Liam Wright has praised the transformation of reformed bad boy James O’Connor as he looks to guide the Reds to the Super Rugby Australia title.

O’Connor has had a wild journey throughout his career, experiencing a rapid turn from ‘the next big saviour’ to ‘fallen angel’ at an alarming rate.

However, the 30-year-old has appeared to matured mentally and spiritual after his time in England, which was on full display last Saturday as he iced the game for the Reds.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed in the eyes of the Reds skipper, who was full of praise for the man that he has become, believing that the time he invested in himself off the field is starting to show on it.

“From what I watched growing up of James O’Connor he’s a completely different person,” Wright said.

“He’s a really good fellow to be around. He’s a leader in our group.

“He puts a lot of time into his craft which I think upon reflection on his 30th birthday, that’s what he sort of figured out was missing from earlier years.

“He just invests a lot into himself, into this team and I think the results are starting to show really well.”

The Reds are preparing for their first taste of the FIFO lifestyle that awaits away teams, with Wright likening it to preparing for a club footy game.

“A lot of our boys have come through the club footy system, which is kind of similar, you don’t have all the luxuries before and after you’re just going there to play footy and enjoy that,” he believes.

“We’re really looking forward to getting back to basics like that.”

Gilmore’s warning

Fraser McReight runs the ball QLD Reds v NSW Waratahs 2020 Photo Credit QRU Brendan Hertel

With the Australian rugby community continuing to fawn over the next generation of players coming through, their former U20s coach Jason Gilmore is urging for patience as they continue to develop.

Having taken over as defensive coach for the Waratahs, Gilmore is well aware of the young talent that is coming through the grade at the various Australian Super Rugby clubs.

However, he has urged fans and selectors to be patient with this group and not treat them like “28-year-old veterans”, fearful at the increased pressure that they may receive due to their inconsistencies.

“They’re always the new thing, they get signed quickly and pitch-forked into playing Super Rugby really quickly and because teams in Australia in the last few years traditionally haven’t done so well, teams are chasing victories,” Gilmore said.

“The added pressure that gets placed on the young guys is almost like they’re judged like they should be 28-year-old veterans.

“When their performances aren’t consistent as a 19 or 20-year-old, you can see some of the guys losing their contracts and going overseas. You’ve got to pay overs to get them back.”

Despite this, Gilmore admitted that he was impressed with the way that the likes of Harrison, Lolesio and Wilson had stepped up to the rigours of Super Rugby, believing that their competitiveness sets them apart from the rest of the squads that he has had.

“What this current block has shown is how quickly they have been able to handle playing Super Rugby well and I think that’s been the most satisfying thing from my perspective,” he said.

“You only have to look at the weekend’s efforts; Noah Lolesio at the Brumbies has continued his form from the first couple of rounds. Will Harris debuted. [Reds duo] Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight played really well again.

“Knowing the boys personally, they are so competitive and they want to win. That is probably the thing that has separated them from some of the other younger guys that have come through. These guys want to win and win now.”

Frisby’s fightback

Nick Frisby went from zero to hero and back to zero, with a second half try then yellow card

Nick Frisby went from zero to hero and back to zero, with a second half try then yellow card

As he prepares to return from Rugby’s wilderness, former Reds and current Force halfback Nick Frisby has admitted that his axing from the Queensland set-up was the wake-up call that his career needed.

Frisby found himself out of favour at the Reds, failing behind Moses Sorovi in the pecking order just 12 months after representing his country.

Coupled with a demotion to club rugby after he failed to attend a recovery session on the account of a late-night drinking session, Frisby’s time with the Reds was abruptly cut short with two years left on his deal in 2018.

Having spent time at French side Bordeaux and then spent the better part of two seasons with Glasgow, Frisby believes that the decision by current coach Brad Thorn to sack him was a blessing in disguise.

“I think I was just so comfortable in Queensland,” he told RUGBY.com.au.

“I’d lived there my whole life, I’d been at the Reds for eight years I think by then and I took my opportunities a little bit for granted.

“I had a few incidents off the field as well…Thorny had the balls to stand up and say, ‘Look it’s time to move on’, and I respect that and it’s been good for me.”

As a result, he harbours no ill-feelings towards his former club, with the focus now solely on impressing his old club coach Dave Rennie.

“I don’t hold any grudges or any regrets about how it all played out,” he said.

“It’s been good to, after that, to get out of Australia and go and try something different overseas and I’ve really enjoyed that but in saying that, really excited to be back in Australia now.

“I’ve really missed being at home and excited to get back into Super Rugby over here.”

Reduced subs on agenda

Eddie Jones runs his eye over the England warmup - Photo by Keith McInnes

Eddie Jones runs his eye over the England warmup – Photo by Keith McInnes

As the game continues to innovate, World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont
has backed the move to reduce the number of substitutions once international competitions are able to return from the COVID break.

The move would see teams limited to just five or six changes throughout the match as the code looks to make matches more open whilst reducing the number of high-impact collisions.

England coach Eddie Jones is a firm supporter of the move and Beaumont has confirmed that they will look to trial it in elite competitions whilst reassuring fans and players that special dispensation would be given if a player picks up a genuine injury and can not be replaced.

“Our priority is getting people playing again and getting a structure to the season for the rest of this year but after that, we are going to be looking at this [replacements] without doubt,” Beaumont told The Times.

“Personally, I’m an advocate of reducing the amount of substitutes but to do so bearing in mind that player welfare is paramount and no injured player should be forced to remain on the field as they were in my day.

“At the moment there’s almost no change in the pace of the game if you can change more than half the team. We have to trial it in elite competition to ensure you don’t have any unexpected consequences from the change.”

World Rugby is already in the process of studying the effects of this reduction, attempting to determine whether replacements are more likely to cause injury to fatigued players or if it is fatigue itself that made it more likely that one starter causes injury to another starter.

Whilst I like the concept of the idea, I do question what’s deemed to be an ‘injured player’ as it seems to open up a very grey area for coaches to exploit.

  • Hoss

    Cheers Nathan,

    There’s actually plenty of ‘feel good – good news’ stories around Oz Rugby at present and its actually really-really refreshing

    Stories of hard fought redemption, honesty, self awareness and the looming crop of ‘Nexters’ to fill the empty void of my competitive soul, let alone the trophy cabinets at Rugby HQ. Add in the Force back in the comp, seeming calmness from RA and the possibility of a ‘Magwitch’ type rich benefactor in the form of Private Equity dollars injected into the game and the dark clouds of the past now dont seem so threatening and are slowly fading from view.

    Long may it last.

    • idiot savant

      What did you do with Hoss?

      • Hoss

        Every now and again positive Hoss sneaks through a fracture in my psyche and i let him out in the real world for a brief roam around. I would however state normal Hoss is getting testy, humping the furniture and defecating in the darker recesses of my mind. There’s trouble brewing.

        • Nutta

          Ever seen the movie Alien?

        • Hoss

          Is that the one were people escaping persecution, war, famine violence and destitution are kept on a remote island in the middle of the pacific as not to scare the ‘white folk’, or am i thinking of the sequel ‘Illegal Alien’?

        • Who?

          Illegal alien? Are you an Englishman in New York?
          That’s where my head immediately goes when I hear those two words together.

  • Damo

    So many of his Under 20 boys coping, and in some cases, starring in Super rugby has got to make for a happy Gilmour.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Nathan, really loving having you and the team back.
    Gilmore is bang on. Some of these youngsters are looking hold but they’re all going to make mistakes at times and we need to let them do that and learn from them. I just hope they come with an attitude to get better and improve unlike the last few years when players seem to have just stagnated or gone backwards once they hit the Super or test level.

    Like Hoss I’m loving the good news stories and whatever it is that has shut the elite has beens, never beens and wish I was beens up long may it continue. It’s so cool not hearing a series of complaints about RA and others I’m loving it.

    I like the idea about reduced replacements. I’d also like them tied to injury replacement only but not sure that can be achieved. I think forcing players to make decisions when fatigued is a good idea and it is likely to even the field somewhat.
    Looking forward to the Force this weekend. Rock on

    • ATrain

      I think a domestic Super Rugby comp is probably an ideal way to introduce the young U19/20s into the game.

      I think the real issue would be plunging some or too many of them into a four test series against the All Blacks that could be a very challenging time for some of our more experienced players let alone the newbies. It could potentially stall some young blokes progress for a number of years.

      Sink or swim is OK with the right players but there are some of these blokes who would benefit for a bit more experience at Super Rugby level before facing the ultimate test against the ABs.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        absolutely. and regardless, don’t hype them up to much, let them make mistakes, and make sure they continue to develop

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    I wonder when RA will make the call on games scheduled to be played in Melbourne. I would like the Force vs Brumbies home game in two weeks time to be played in Perth and not Melbourne… hope the Force can convince the WA government that it can be done safely. The AFL hub will be a good example of what is required to make it happe.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Move them all to Qld I say rather selfishly.
      Mind you they may trouble finding grounds as almos the whole AFL has moved here.

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        Force home game in Queensland? This while the Force fans cannot wait to watch their team play… I just hope RA do not leave it too late.

        • Brisneyland Local

          I meant the VIc and NSW Teams, maybe even the POnies too. Especially now that infected Victorians are turning up in the ACT. WA is as safe as houses. They just have to make a decision and act on it.

  • Nutta

    This is all so disgracefully positive. Fk youse all.

    I have a long memory. I’m not swayed by JOC just yet. But that said he doesn’t need my approval. Good luck to him.

    Frisby – same. There is a lot to be said for growing up.

    Kids growing up – my old dad used to caution to not look at a fella’s first game (or even season), but look at his third run once the bruises set in and he’s no longer the ‘unknown new bloke’ and the defences have adjusted. It was seeing if he had the physical robustness and the maturity to handle it. Physically, look no further than poor young Ned or even James Slipper who took near 3yrs to recover from a premature 40min vs Castrogiovanni and emotionally, look no further than sideways at JOC himself.

    Furthering that line, but in a slightly different context, perhaps Tupou may absorb a thing or three from Frisby & JOC. I get the feeling things are not on stable ground with him atm. He appears to be trying hard but misses the mark and so tries harder which makes it a bit worse. Perhaps he needs to just back off a fraction and underplay a bit for a while.

    • ATrain

      not sure how “unstable” he is? He has calves like pool table legs and a very low centre of gravity. But I know what you mean – he will come up against some very good older props and there will be some lessons learned. Sorry I can’t say that anymore can I. He will have some learnings…I am no grammar expert (which is abundantly clear from my posts) but I think “learnings” is almost up there with “we will be versing such and such this week”. Really gives me the tom-tits – not so much the players but coaches and media also using these fake words now.

      • Nutta

        Not calves. Cows.

      • Brisneyland Local

        His Calves are twice as big as my thighs!

    • Who?

      Might be right about Tupou. But perhaps that’s the opposite side of Thorn’s pushing? That he’s pushing the young fella hard, perhaps too hard? Because we know that, if nothing else, Thorn’s all about effort. And no one can fault Tupou for effort, only for the direction of that effort.
      The fact that Thorn backed him up and complained about his carding would support that thesis.

      • Nutta

        Fair point. I would only caution the young fella that there is good effort and there is bad effort. There is a difference between being a proper hard-nosed hard-playing hard-man as opposed to being … otherwise. That said, it’s also a fine line. As a young man once myself full of bull-headed desires I made the blue of going over that line frequently as a rash young bloke and it did me no favours down the line.

        For me, I had no real problem with his charge-downs. Whilst there was contact, he didn’t attack a knee, swing an elbow or similar brutalities. I think folk need to remember in the new world of head-injury sensitivities this is still a contact sport that people choose to play of their own volition and a fair amount of contact is part of the game. However that is NOT how Referees and Marketers see it. And unfortunately one holds the whistle and the other holds the cheque-book so their opinions count more than mine. So he needs to address it or become a liability to his team as a penalty magnet.

  • formerflanker

    Re subs – I have a hazy recollection of doctors on the sideline making judgements about who could and couldn’t be replaced due to injury.
    That may be a way forward today, but all schemes are open to “interpretation”.

    • Who?

      I reckon there should be something along the lines of “first five subs are ‘free’, anything else, the player has to miss the following week.” Proof of injury. Otherwise it’s too open to interpretation and judgement from people who are under pressure.

      • I don’t mind that.

        An alternative would be to have a neutral doctor make the call on HIAs and injury replacements. We transport neutral refs for test matches at least, and we play elite rugby in major cities. It can’t be beyond the power of the game to find a neutral in those cities who is a qualified doctor in the right sort of field to say they’re not fit to continue. If it’s the Rebels v Reds, find, for example, a doctor from India who is a mad cricket fan, but got the right sort of sports medicine/trauma medicine background to assess the injured players rather than relying on the team doctors.

        If the neutral doctor says it’s an injury replacement, no charge, otherwise 5 tactical replacements. That way, if you have a prop who is injured in the first 10 minutes, as happened in one of the matches over the weekend, you don’t lose one of your tactical replacements.

        • Who?

          Thought about a neutral doctor. Not opposed, but it’s harder to satisfy fans… Appearance of impropriety and all that. Whereas a week off’s easy.

          It can be tactical, though. Say, if you have that prop get injured in the first 10, you’ve got options. If you think they’ll be right for next week, you might choose not to burn them as an injury replacement and call them a tactical sub. If you know they’re gone (concussion, serious injury), you call the player an injury replacement (at some time before you need/use your last tactical sub) and write the player off for the next week.

        • That would work too.

          I think, being Welsh, I’ve been burnt by bad calls from a home doctor saying “he has an HIA” and a prop being replaced with crazy scrums late after the match should have been over.

          The ref can’t overrule that, even though he might think the doctor is playing games…

          Maybe it’s only needed at test match level, and you’d have a rugby doctor from the same country as the referee who oversaw all injuries.

          That said, letting the team make an instant decision about whether to declare it as a tactical or an injury sub would work too. The clear injury subs would still be covered, and you’d still get limited tactical substitutions.

        • Who?

          Yeah, I don’t like that whole home doctor thing… It rarely feels right. And it can’t be easy for the doctor – “Can’t you just call it a HIA..?” “Can’t you carry out a blood capsule?” There has to be a disincentive for the player coming off, and if they’re genuinely injured, then the odds are they’ll miss next week anyway.

          That said, I actually don’t mind letting teams have a little while – providing they’ve got tactical subs up their sleeve – to decide whether or not a substitution’s tactical or injury-enforced. We’ve seen teams with players trying to stay out there when it’s pretty clear they should come off. Players with head knocks (before HIA’s), players with bad ankle and hamstring injuries. Players who usually go, “I should’ve come off…” Right after they let in an easy try.

          But if they’re not certain whether or not they want to take the week off, provided they haven’t burned their tactical subs and they have time, why shouldn’t they be able to choose? Why does it need to be an immediate decision? It adds an extra level of intrigue and skill, in the same manner as referring decisions to the third umpire in cricket. But I think fairer. Effectively, a light ankle sprain may be considered a tactical substitution – because the replacement’s better able to fill the role. But a light ankle sprain might be fine for next week, so it may be better tactically not to burn the player for next week and instead burn a tactical sub.

          It’s a rare thing that would add complexity and intrigue, and, as you’ve probably worked out by now, I love complexity and intrigue. :-)

        • I think “immediately” needs to be in terms of a sensible medical assessment. Not “immediately” like release the ball, but not “by the end of the match” either.

          I’m out of my field of expertise here, but given an HIA is 10 minutes, I’d suggest that’s a good starting point.

  • John Miller

    Every time I hear Liam Wright speak to the media I’m impressed. For such a young bloke he is candid but constructive in his opinions (his coach might actually take some lessons), leads his team around the pitch with assurance, makes good, logical on-field decisions, finds the right balance of present but respectful with the whilstleblowers, and plays with energy, edge, hard shoulders and the right dash of see you next Tuesday, for a backrower. And how good is it to have a tackling, scavenging, line-out catching, clean out merchant with great game awareness and zero fear. Old head. Young shoulders.

  • Who?

    Whilst I’m very pleased to see JOC’s become a much better adjusted human, so he can live a better life off the field, I’m not sure that icing kicks to win games was ever really an issue. It’s like people have forgotten the 2010 Honkers Bledisloe.

    • Nutta

      And a magnificent nudge it was at that.

      • ATrain

        off the ground, no tee, no sand with a leather (weather susceptible) ball…..a decent effort

        • Nutta

          Yup. Already a heavier ball (leather vs synth) but then also damp. Plus also remember that guy was an amateur with a day job – not the finely honed 24/7 professionals of today. It just makes me smile watching stuff like that.

        • Hoss

          Id be happy to hit a solid wedge that far.

        • Nutta

          I get anxious about running that far at training!

        • Greg

          Training?

        • Nutta

          A fable gathering of well intentioned, overweight has-beens whose primary focus is to discus the pub-menu, the new bar-maid and argue over the clubs philosophy regarding lineouts before adjourning for drinks.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Ah yes that sounds familiar!

      • Brisneyland Local

        Nutta thanks for sharing that. That is pure gold.

Rugby
@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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