Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at Swinton’s suspension, Nine’s broadcast innovations, Eddie’s wild tactic and the new member of the Wallabies camp.
Swinton draws four
Australia and Waratahs flanker Lachie Swinton has had a rough time at World Rugby’s ‘Wheel of Punishment’, handed down a four-match suspension for his high tackle on Sam Whitelock.
Swinton made history, becoming the first Wallaby on debut to be sent for the field for a high tackle that many believed didn’t warrant it in the first place.
However, SANZAAR has thought otherwise, handing him a six-match ban, which was set to be three with an early guilty plea, however, has been bumped up to four due to multiple prior offences.
“Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including submissions from his legal representative, Maryjane Crabtree, the Foul Play Review Committee upheld the Red Card under Law 9.13,” Adam Casselden SC said in a statement.
“With respect to sanction the Foul Play Review Committee deemed the act of foul play merited a mid-range entry point of six weeks due to the World Rugby instructions that dictate any incident of foul play involving contact with the head must start at a mid-range level.
“However, taking into account mitigating factors including the fact the Player has pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, the Foul Play Review Committee reduced the suspension to four weeks. The Player was not entitled to a full 50% reduction due to the presence of two prior offences on his record.
“The player is therefore suspended for 4 weeks, up to and including Saturday 6 February 2021.”
All Blacks prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi faces the panel on Tuesday night (at the time of writing) for his tackle on Wallabies winger Tom Wright.
After securing the broadcast rights for the next three years (with a two-year option), Channel Nine has hinted at a raft of changes and innovations in the hopes of producing an ‘NRL-standard broadcasts’ for Super Rugby and the Wallabies
Nine CEO Hugh Marks has made his desire for innovation very clear in rugba leag, one of the driving forces behind the introduction of the six-again rule which significantly improved the pace of play.
Whilst he concedes that he can’t do the same thing to the laws of a global sport, Nine is eager to lead to way when it comes to transforming how it is broadcasted.
This includes drone technology, up to double the number of cameras, a fresh commentary team and a revamped graphics package, which was one of the key motivators behind Rugby Australia’s unanimous decision to go with Nine.
“We were very impressed with the approach Nine’s production innovation and what they want to bring to the game,” RA chief executive Rob Clarke said.
“I think they feel as though there is a real option to lift the production levels and take it to a new standard.
“I think they’re looking at additional cameras and using additional technology to just enhance the way fans can engage through the broadcast platform.”
This will likely continue into the booth, with names such as Drew Mitchell already considered to be in their plans for the future.
“I’ve had more opinions about commentators in the last two weeks than I care to remember,” Marks said.
“Mind you, it’s better than someone asking me on the sideline about Today show hosts or Richard Wilkins or any of that sort of stuff. It’s nice to have something new and creative to turn your mind to.
“What is going to be the right mix going forward? I will expect you see some change – details of which are yet to be resolved – but we have already started talking to people and I think there are a lot of great people around rugby. There are a lot of good options for us.”
Someone that we definitely know that will be brought in as a consultant is Ben Kimber, which is a great move if anyone has seen his work with The Rugby Ruckus podcast/newsletter (PS. if you need a journo/commentator, let us know)
Always one to push the boundaries, Eddie Jones is set to implore a radical change for England’s clash against Georgia.
Thinking outside of the box, Jones has revealed he’s keen to start with nine forwards and six backs in their Autumn Nations Cup opener.
This was a tactic brought in by Jones when he was in charge of Japan, using to success in a previous clash against ‘The Lelos’ in 2015, starting former Reds number eight Henrik Tui on the wing before the 2015 World Cup.
“Georgia are the fathers of wrestling. They are all about manhood and being physical,” Jones said.
“I remember the last time we played them for Japan before the 2015 World Cup, we played them with nine forwards and six backs, such was the strength of their pack.
“We won 13-10. The previous time we played them we were pumped 25-12, so it worked brilliantly.
‘We might consider doing the same again. Ollie Thorley, Ben Earl – there are a number of guys we are trying to make into hybrid players.”
With all sports facing a significant financial strain as a result of the pandemic, Jones is keen to start moulding ‘hybrid players’ with squad sizes diminishing.
“How teams operate will be different. Every sport, particularly rugby, has been blown up through television rights and what will happen is that squads will become smaller and will need more multi-skilled players,” he said.
“We got criticised a lot for playing like Tom Curry, who can play six, seven and No8, but they are the sort of players you’re going to need to have: Jack Nowell being able to play wing or flanker, Ben Earl being able to play flanker or wing.
“So my message would be to learn what you can now, find a way to be active and productive and be ready for the future.”
The Wallabies are set to welcome a fresh face in camp with former Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu set to join the squad when they reconvene on Wednesday afternoon.
The Herald broke the news on Tuesday that the Fijian flyer is set to join coach Dave Rennie’s squad and begin training with the group on Wednesday, pending COVID testing.
Whilst it may come to a shock to many, this is a regular practice for the Wallabies, who have a history of blooding/drafting players of interest into camp, usually for Spring Tours.
This was used to introduce former Storm teammate and Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete into the set-up, who travelled with the group in 2016 before making his debut 12 months later.
His inclusion should be no indication of a shock debut like certain publications have alluded to, with the report suggesting that it is ‘extremely unlikely’ that he features against Argentina.
Vunivalu will likely use the experience to get back up to speed with the 15-a-side code, having made his name with Auckland rugby nursery Saint Kentigern’s before briefly featuring in the Auckland Blues’ academy squad.
Vunivalu blossomed into one of the NRL’s premier wingers during his five-year, capping his time in the sport with a premiership, scoring a sensational individual, intercept try for the Storm.
Whilst he has admitted in the past that he still harbours dreams of returning back to the Storm, the allure of a gold jersey remains a strong one for the 24-year-old.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” he told NZ Herald.
“It would be a dream to wear the green and gold Wallabies jersey.”