Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at the Force’s new signing, Liam Wright’s response to Matt Toomua’s claims of delaying tactics, a fixture swap between Waratahs and Rebels and Rod Kafer’s thoughts for the future of Australia’s domestic competition
Force nab Kahui
The Western Force continue to bolster their squad after announcing that they have signed New Zealand outside back Richard Kahui.
Kahui joins the club following a seven-year stay with Japanese Top League outfit Toshiba Brave Lupus, having played an integral role in the Chiefs 2012 Super Rugby-winning title squad.
The 17-cap All Black had been isolating in Queensland since the Top League’s shutdown, revealing that the opportunity to join a side ‘that really stands for something’ was too hard to turn down.
“I was at the beach with my son and I got a phone call from my manager asking, ‘Do you have any interest in playing for the Western Force?’, I think that was the Wednesday two weeks ago and by Friday they said, ‘We want you to come,’ and I was asked to make a decision,” he said during his press conference.
“In the recent years, I’ve played rugby to support my family and look after our future and I thought as I’m coming to the back end, I’d love to play for a club that really stands for something and in a competition I really love.
“This opportunity’s popped up at a perfect time, it’s close to home for me, my family’s going to come and join me which. It’s hard being away from home in Japan. It really happened quickly, literally from the first call to when I turned up here maybe five days.”
Force head of rugby Matt Hodgson was ecstatic with the signing, believing that he brings much-needed experience to the squad.
“With 68 Super Rugby caps and a number of domestic and international honours to his name, Kahui is another quality signing for us,” he said.
“His knowledge of the game, defensive ability and the level of professionalism he brings to training will be huge for our season, we can’t wait to see him out there in the blue and black.
“It’s not just his on-field exploits that we’re excited about, as his insight and winning mentality are sure to prove invaluable for the entire team.”
The Wright serve
After Rebels flyhalf Matt Tommua lashed out at ‘delay tactics’ after their 18-all draw against the Reds, captain Liam Wright has fired back, telling them to have a long, hard look in the mirror.
Toomua was critical of the time-wasting tactics used by both teams throughout the 90 minutes, calling on the referees to crack down on them (here’s an idea Matt, stop doing them!)
When asked about these comments, Wright brushed off any concerns regarding their fitness, suggesting that the Rebels were more at fault.
“With people going down, I definitely don’t think that was on our side,” the Reds skipper said.
“Our guys are a fit team and want to play footy, and were up for it the whole time.
“We won’t see them for another five weeks…but we’re not too worried about what Matty is down there saying at the moment.”
Both managed to find a common point though, with Wright liking his idea of shifting ‘Super Time’ to ‘first try wins’, believing that the current system offers little reward for risky, attacking plays.
“It was a bit of a battle of who could not make a mistake instead of trying to play real decisive attacking footy,” he admitted.
“Especially entering the side of the attacking ruck, so why would you play in your half?
“There’s just not real reward for playing in your half, which is part of what it was.
“That (a try to win) could be a good change … that could one to look at.”
Wright was more concerned with his side’s disappointing lineouts, believing that they will need to take advantage and control momentum swings during their clash against the Force.
“We haven’t been too happy with them in the last two weeks,” he said.
“We had a lot of lineouts (against the Rebels) so we won a lot of ball but then we also ended up losing about five on the trot with a few mistakes so that’s something we’re trying to clear up this week.
“I think it’ll come but we’ve just got to make sure it’s crisp come Friday.”
Waratahs offer swap to Rebels
With Victoria continuing to deal from a second coronavirus wave, the Waratahs have confirmed that they have swapped home games with the Rebels.
Pending travel and other restrictions, the NSW Waratahs will (hopefully) head south for their final regular-season game in Round 9, with their round four clash moved to the SCG.
NSW Rugby CEO Paul Doorn believes that the move is in the best interest of the competition and the two teams.
“The Rebels are in a really difficult situation [with travel restrictions] and we sympathise with the challenges they’re currently facing on a number of fronts,” Doorn said in a statement.
“We have a responsibility as a game to support them as best we can, and it was a great example of two clubs and Rugby Australia coming together to reach a beneficial outcome for the competition.”
Along with this, the Waratahs confirmed that they will also host the Reds at the famous ground in round six, locking in their home venues for the competition.
With their future secured, Doorn was pleased to have secured a consistent home ground for their side as they prepare to face the Brumbies at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
“It was a great night at the SCG [against the Force] and we’re so excited to be able to lock in the rest of our home games,” Doorn said.
“We’ve been working closely with the [SCG] Trust to coordinate these fixtures in a very busy and challenging sporting landscape and they’ve once again been fantastic in helping get this over the line.”
“The consistency of venue will be extremely beneficial from a high-performance perspective and I know the players enjoy playing at the SCG – a ground we have an excellent record at in recent times.
“Our Members and corporate partners were able to enjoy the game live at the SCG and we’re now working towards expanding that offering in line with bio-security protocols.”
Kafer calls for standalone comp
As both sides of the Tasman continue to bicker over what a potential domestic competition looks like, Rod Kafer has joined the chorus of people that are calling for an Australian-only tournament.
In an exclusive piece with Rugby.com.au, Kafer believes that the Super Rugby model has failed to set the foundations for a competitive Wallabies lineout, pointing out the Wallabies declining world ranking and a lack of Bledisloe success.
“In 20 years, Australia has slipped to seventh in the world, lost 17 consecutive Bledisloe series and only won the Tri-Nations or Rugby Championship titles in World Cup years where the tournament is shortened,” he argued.
“As we look towards 2021 and beyond, with the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, the chance for change is here. So many competition models have been thrown up by many influential figures in recent months and a trans-Tasman option seems to be the one that continues to come up.
“Despite everything we’ve seen over the last two decades, we’re still contemplating an Australia-New Zealand competition. That is a fundamentally flawed concept.”
He points to codes such as the NRL and A-League, who have found success whilst operating as a primarily domestic competition, believing that a similar Australian-centric model will create a positive outcome for rugby both on and off the field.
“Super Rugby’s major Australian competitors in the NRL, AFL and even the A-League have a positive Australian narrative out of each weekend they play,” he believes.
“Australia’s biggest rugby stars spend more time playing overseas than they do in Australia, when you factor in internationals and Super Rugby tours.
“Meanwhile, aspiring rugby players and fans of the game are swamped with stars of all the other major codes.
“Why not create our own competition, invest in ourselves and then be able to reinvest in the Australian rugby community?”