Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at an injury update on Matt To’omua, the Wallabies refusing to lose confidence after Sunday’s loss, another lock heading overseas and the All Blacks name their Tri-Nations squad.
Matt set back
Wallabies centre Matt To’omua has received some bad news, with his groin injury set to sideline him for the rest of the season.
To’omua succumbed to the injury during the first half of Sunday’s loss, re-aggravating the injury that he picked up towards the back end of the Super Rugby Australia season.
Whilst he will have two sets of scans to confirm the initial prognosis, sources close to the Herald and the 30-year-old have all but accepted the fact that his season is almost certainly over.
This will be a major headache for Dave Rennie, who must decide whether to hand Irae Simone a test debut or potentially shift Hunter Paisami or even James O’Connor.
Prior to To’omua’s injury, Rennie reportedly said he would not look to draft players from overseas into the Australian squad for the Tri-Nations tournament.
In lighter news, the Wallabies are set to announce that they will wear their First Nations jersey on home soil for the first time in three years during the third Bledisloe test match.
The side hasn’t worn the jersey on home soil since its debut in the Test arena in 2017, where they upset the All Blacks 23-18 at Suncorp Stadium.
The new jersey will be significantly different to the one worn on that night, with WAM clothing refusing the use of the Aboriginal flag due to copyright issues.
“Our records show that the only contact we have had with Rugby Australia to date, has been in 2019 to advise them of our licence arrangement with [Indigenous flag creator] Harold Thomas and inviting them to contact us,” a WAM clothing spokesperson said.
“Rugby Australia did not respond to this letter and therefore no discussions regarding the use of the flag have occurred.”
The jersey will also be worn against Argentina at Bankwest Stadium on December 5, the final match of the Tri-Nations tournament.
Keep the faith
Wallabies prop James Slipper is refusing to concede the Bleidlsoe Cup despite Sunday’s dominant defeat.
With the All Blacks putting the wasteful Wallabies to the sword, it means that Australia must win both matches at home to break the 17-year drought.
However, the side remains optimistic that they can bounce back, with Slipper revealing that the loss hasn’t dented their confidence.
“The good thing is that we get to play them in two weeks’ time and I guarantee it will be better outcome,” Slipper told reporters.
“There’s a lot of confidence in the group and we’re well aware this Bledisloe is still alive.
“Yes, we let ourselves down yesterday but we’ve got two to go back at home and we’re pretty excited to get back and get stuck in because one thing this group wants to do is win the Bledisloe.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do but we don’t think we’re too far away as well.”
The squad is set to split up over the coming days, breaking the shackles of the COVID bubble which resided them to a hotel for the build-up of the opening test.
Slipper believes that this will help rejuvenate the players as they face an uphill battle starting on September 31.
“We’ve done a lot of work off the field building connections between the boys, it’s been one of those years when it’s been easy to do because we’ve been in each other’s pockets due to COVID,” he added.
“We had two weeks’ quarantine together in Christchurch so it’s a tight group and we’re working really hard and we know we’re going to get results.
“As an older boy in the group, I’m really proud of how the boys are handling it.
“But we’ve got a chance now to freshen up mentally, we’ve been in each other’s pockets for a month now and it’s important you take that mental break and come back ready to go.”
The exodus of locks continues after the Waratahs confirmed that Tom Staniforth is set to head overseas in 2021.
Staniforth has impressed since joining the club in 2018 from the Brumbies, amassing 40 caps for the Tahs.
However, the club has announced that he has opted to activate a clause in his contract to take his talent elsewhere, rumoured to be Top 14 club Castres Olympique.
“Stanners is a player and a person that we really value here at the Waratahs,” NSWRU General Manager of Rugby Tim Rapp said.
“He was tabled a great offer from an overseas club and we can’t begrudge him for taking that.
“As much as we’d love him to stay, we appreciate that the earning window in a player’s career is short-lived and he’s doing what’s best for himself and his family.
“He’s been a fantastic presence around the club since he arrived and will be sorely missed, everyone at the Waratahs wishes him the very best in the next chapter of his career.”
Whilst it was a difficult decision to make, Staniforth thanked the club for allowing him the opportunity to further his development elsewhere.
“I’m sad to be leaving Sydney, it’s been my home for the last three years and I’ve met some great people and made life-long friendships,” he said.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to live and play overseas and it’s something my wife and I are really excited about.
“The Waratahs have given me a platform to develop as a player and grow as a person, I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me back in 2018.
“There’s a lot of exciting things happening around the group, which I’d love to be a part of but the time is right to take on something new.
“I’ll be watching the boys progress closely and wish Rob and the group all the best in 2021.”
The All Blacks have announced their squad for the upcoming Tri-Nations in Australia.
The squad is fairly similar to the one named for the Bledisloe Cup, with just two new players called into the squad as cover.
Crusaders prop George Bower joins the squad as cover for Joe Moody, who is still recovering from a concussion and Nepo Laulala, who is on paternity leave.
Meanwhile, Hurricanes loose forward Du’Plessis Kirifi will shadow Ardie Savea, who has also been granted paternity leave.
The squad also features the inclusion of lock Mitchell Dunshea and centres Ngani Laumape and Peter Umaga-Jensen, who have already with the All Blacks squad as cover for the two Bledisloe test matchs.
The All Blacks will travel with 36 players initially to Australia on Sunday with Savea and Laulala set to join the squad over the next fortnight.
All Blacks Squad:
Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles and Codie Taylor.
Props: George Bower, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Karl Tu’inukuafe, and Ofa Tuungafasi.
Locks: Scott Barrett, Mitchell Dunshea, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i and Samuel Whitelock.
Loose Forwards: Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell, Cullen Grace, Akira Ioane, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea and Hoskins Sotutu.
Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith and Brad Weber.
Five-eighths: Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga.
Centres: Jack Goodhue, Rieko Ioane, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown and Peter Umaga-Jensen.
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie and Sevu Reece.