Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at a possible change for the Wallabies, O’Connor’s role heading forward, the Reds lockdown Thorn and added motivation for the Wallabies to score tries during the Tri-Nations
Alaalatoa ready to go
Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa is ready to step up as he firms for a starting role on Saturday.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie had opted to start Taniela Tupou in the opening two games, with the pair sharing a half each during the last match.
However, reports from The Herald have revealed that 7A’s is set to get the nod with directions from Rennie to ‘empty to tank’ in the first 40 minutes.
“Understanding that we may only get 40, we empty the tank,” Alaalatoa told reporters.
“That’s going to be the best thing for the team, getting more efforts out of us over a short amount of time.
“Both of us offer different skill assets and it’s a huge positive for the team, for both myself and Nela.
“We continue to tell each other off the field that we have to continue to push each other and challenge each other on the field.”
Having become a regular 80 minute player for the Reds, Tupou concedes that they need to learn to adapt in order to match it with the might of the All Blacks.
“It’s a bit weird. I’m so used to playing 80 in Super Rugby and coming off at 60 or 40 it feels like I’ve done something wrong,” Tupou said.
“But we have obviously have a world class tighthead in Allan and it doesn’t really matter who starts or who’s on the bench. We work really well together and that’s something we’re trying to build here, at the Wallabies.
“Whoever plays, it doesn’t matter. We will just support them. It’s been good.
“Hopefully I get some more minutes this week. Let’s see if I play first.”
Perfect (at) 10
Wallabies fly half James O’Connor has rejected suggestions that he should move into the centres, looking to embrace the roles and responsibilities that he shied away from for so long.
The opening Bledisloe was the first time that JOC had worn the Wallabies No.10 since the final match of the 2013 British and Irish Lions series.
Having returned to Australia as a centre following his exodus to European rugby, O’Connor admitted that he essentially ran away from the position after losing confidence in his abilities.
“After that [British and Irish Lions] series…I just didn’t have the understanding I do now of how to control the game,” O’Connor said.
“I felt I went into my shell and didn’t fire my shots as I had at Super Rugby before.
“In terms of running away, I didn’t want to play 10 any more, so I moved to 15 and played a little bit on the wing. I always knew in the back of my mind 10 was the goal.
“I made 12 a good home for the time being. I learnt all the skills there and what I needed from my 10 and from my outside backs. It’s been a natural progression as I’ve matured, using my mind more and less of my body, and playing more for the team than looking as an individual.”
Whilst suggesting that it could ultimately be a possibility that Rennie eventually shifts him to 12, O’Connor is adamant that he is best placed in the ten jersey.
“I feel like this is my best spot to give my all,” he said.
“I’m comfortable there now and I feel like I’m bringing my own element to 10 and really enjoying it.”
After their Super Rugby AU grand final appearance, the Queensland Reds have retained the majority of the coaching staff for 2021, headlined by head coach Brad Thorn.
Under Thorn’s helm in 2020, Queensland won their most amount of games since 2013 and remained unbeaten at home throughout the entire Super Rugby AU season.
Thorn is joined by assistant coaches Jim McKay (attack) and Michael Todd (defence), Damian Marsh (Athletic Performance Manager), Gina Nelson (Team Physiotherapist) and Thomas Barker (Team Manager) all recommitting for next season.
“We’re pleased to have Brad and several of our key staff remain at Ballymore,” QRU CEO David Hanham said in a statement.
“In an ideal world we would’ve liked to do a longer deal with the coaching team, but due to all of the uncertainty the coaching staff and Board have agreed that the initial extension should be for 12 months, with a review once there is certainty on the broadcast and competition structure for 2022.
“We made a decision five years ago that led to investing and rebuilding our football academy and connecting to our club and school talent pathways in Queensland. We knew Queensland had the talent, we just needed time.
Thorn was pleased to recommit to Queensland, believing that they are starting to reap the benefits of their heavy investment into the pathways and rugby community.
“I’m honoured to be staying on with the club,” he said.
“I’m very happy to have Jim McKay and Michael Todd by my side again, plus all our team staff for next year too.
“We’ve invested in our pathway in bringing guys through. It’s good to have a consistent squad with minimal changes for next year. They’re all mates and you’re seeing that connection out on the field.
“We’ve reconnected with the state and the Queensland Rugby community. We’ve seen a lot of growth in our game this year, but our focus remains on improving and continuing the build. We are looking forward to the challenge ahead in 2021.”
If the Wallabies weren’t already amped up for the upcoming Tri-Nations, they have just received an added boost with the Australian Rugby Foundation (ARF) committing $5,000 for every try scored by the Aussies during their four test matches.
The Australian Rugby Foundation (ARF) is Rugby Australia’s national fundraising body and charity partner, designed to support the organisation as well as rugby in Australia through increasing investment in all aspects of the rugby community.
The campaign raised more than $155,000 in 2019, and ARF executive director Peter Murphy was hopeful that they could double the figure in order to continue to provide opportunities for thousands of kids across Australia.
“This campaign has achieved some huge wins for grassroots Rugby over the past two years,” he said in a statement.
“Our Classic Wallabies and Wallaroos have been able to deliver dozens of free kids’ clinics to thousands of kids in rural and metro areas across Australia.
“In 2021 we want to amplify those experiences so that more children have the opportunity to be part of our great game.”
Interim RA CEO Rob Clarke was proud to associate with the organisation, believing that it represents all that is good with rugby.
“We’re very grateful to have the ARF on board as our Charity Partner during the Tri Nations campaign,” he added.
“The foundation does a fantastic job of connecting our top teams with our grassroots and that’s what the spirit of rugby is all about.”