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Thread: Smith: Wallabies squad, RWC, future of Super

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    Smith: Wallabies squad, RWC, future of Super

    Discussion points.

    Lock it in Rennie: Why new Wallabies squad is all about the 2023 World Cup

    By Wayne Smith
    June 14, 2021 — 12.01pm

    The announcement of the Wallabies squad to play France marks what Winston Churchill might have described as “the end of the beginning” in the four-year cycle between World Cups.

    Players who missed out on selection in Dave Rennie’s 38-man squad will surely now be considering their futures. Those passed over last year could at least console themselves with the thought that Rennie was working from scratch. He had his own ideas, certainly, but he was also heavily influenced by Australian voices, most especially director of rugby Scott Johnson and assistant coach Scott Wisemantel.

    This time, it is a different story. Injured players aside, this is very much a squad which conforms to Rennie’s vision of a Webb Ellis Cup contender. Some serious re-sculpting has been done. Two years out from a World Cup is about the time when Test coaches make the move from experimenting to locking in players and combinations. After all, September 8, 2023, the date of the RWC opening match in Paris, is bearing down fast.

    Western Force loosehead Tom Robertson may have been the most conspicuous omission from the side but he was not the only one. Rebels’ halfback Joe Powell, that most honest of footballers, probably now realises that, short of an injury crisis, he will never be viewed as any better than the fourth or even fifth-best halfback in the country.

    That is a slap in the face for a player who consistently is one of the better-performing members of a Melbourne side which, despite winning only three of 13 matches this season, still supplied nine players to the Wallabies.

    And was there more to Izack Rodda’s omission than met the eye. Rennie insisted that when it came to a choice between a veteran and a rising star, he tended to favour the younger man. Yet 24-year-old Rodda – a starting Test lock at the 2019 World Cup in Japan – was excluded while fellow Force second-rower Sitaleki Timani, who will turn 37 during RWC ’23, was not. Given the messy circumstances in which Rodda departed Queensland, was Rennie perhaps letting more time pass before re-acquainting him with his former Reds team-mates?

    Speaking of the Reds, how will Angus Scott-Young view his own omission? He is one of the smartest footballers in Australia and already has made a reconnaissance trip to Cambridge to scout out his possible future. But he had put aside all thoughts of academia to focus on the Wallabies. There is no doubt that rival backrowers Rob Valetini, Isi Naisarani and Michael Wells all raised their hands, but it is difficult to see what more he could have done.

    Pete Samu, who played number eight in Bledisloe I last year, Jordan Uelese, Folau Fainga’a, Irae Simone, Liam Wright…there are, in fact, 16 players who were named for the Wallabies in 2020 who have been cut from this year’s squad. More than a full team. That’s still an awful lot of quality players who now are in the outer squad for the World Cup. And the big money foreign offers keep on coming.

    The Wallabies, of course, are not the only ones undergoing a course reset at present.

    The Waratahs and the Rebels both were waiting until the end of Super Rugby trans-Tasman before cranking up their selection of head coaches. Melbourne is almost certain to install Kevin Foote, the current interim coach, permanently. He was once Dave Wessels’ coaching boss at the University of Cape Town but later his subordinate in Perth and Melbourne. Certainly the fight his Rebels showed on Saturday to deny the Crusaders a finals berth will not have gone unnoticed.

    The Tahs, however, will have to dial it all the way back to zero before starting again. After a winless season, none of the current coaches realistically stands a chance. The new coach, whoever he might be, will probably want to retain only half the NSW squad and cut the rest. That won’t happen, of course, but that’s frankly an honest assessment of what the Waratahs need.

    While all this is happening, Rugby Australia is trying to devise a competition structure for next season. Complicating the mix of Super Rugby AU or trans-Tasman or some form of hybrid is the model put forward by Queensland coach Brad Thorn, his director of rugby Sam Cordingley and team manager Tom Barker.

    This proposes that RA go directly to its end goal, a competition involving the top five sides not just from Australia and NZ but also from Japan. Importantly, they mean existing clubs like the Panasonic Wild Knights and Suntory Sungoliath, not an invented entity like the Sunwolves.

    Robertson the biggest hard-luck story in Rennie’s Wallabies squad
    The three men have not been prescriptive and have left it open to whether the new competition should be played as a round robin series also involving Fiji and Moana Pasifika or split into a Champions Cup and a Challenge Cup or broken up into pools. But it deserves to be debated

    https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-u...14-p580ug.html

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    Noted the omissions of Robbo and Rodda from Rennie's plans....

    The other interesting thing for me was the last three paragraphs. Seems more like AU plus wider Euro style champions league than old style Super Rugby.

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    Kiwis must drop hubris if Anzac alliance is to rise from SANZAAR ashes

    Kiwis must drop hubris if Anzac alliance is to rise from SANZAAR ashes

    By Wayne Smith
    June 28, 2021 — 3.30pm

    It’s a fine mess New Zealand has landed us in but, as the smoke thins and all players are able to sort out where the dangers are coming from, it is becoming annoyingly clear that Australia’s rugby future is inextricably linked with the Kiwis’.

    As with most modern-day catastrophes, the origins of the problem can be traced back to the early days of COVID last year. New Zealand was attempting to sort out its domestic competition structure in the face of a global pandemic and issued an arrogant press release that painted the rugby world in black and white terms – mainly black – and effectively disbanded SANZAAR. The Kiwis’ weren’t intending to offend everyone, but that’s precisely what they did.

    They gave Australia the barest of nods, suggesting magnanimously that maybe two Australian teams could be worked into Super Rugby Aotearoa but it was the dismissive way in which they simply shut down the joint venture that had the South Africans hopping up and down.

    Now, truth be told, the South Africans may well have been dancing with glee. They had also been looking to extricate themselves from SANZAAR for quite some time as they attempted to manoeuvre their way into the Six Nations, so the Kiwi announcement would have been seized on as a face-saving out.

    But there was also genuine rage to go with their bluster. They had just won their third World Cup, beating an England team that a week earlier had put the cleaners through the All Blacks, and yet here were the Kiwis suggesting they weren’t welcome in any future Super Rugby Aotearoa competition. Talk about waving a red rag in front of a nation of Bakkies Bothas!

    Now we have reached the point where red rags really are being waved in front of South African faces. The British and Irish Lions have just arrived in the country, their landing coinciding with the shocking news that three Springbok squad members have tested positive to COVID-19. That’s three among the 15,036 new cases in the republic, and it was enough to force the cancellation of South African team training. It’s now anyone’s guess whether the whole tour will play out on schedule.

    If the tour is a diplomatic success, it could well reinforce South Africa on its northern trajectory and set the course for world rugby over the next decade and beyond. Of course, as the Lions tours of Australia (1989) and New Zealand (2005) proved, it could just as easily descend into disaster, in which case the reigning world champions might lose their enthusiasm for the northern hemisphere and reconsider their plans to relocate.

    Still, if South Africa does push ahead, all the while maintaining its rage against all things New Zealand, SANZAAR will be officially declared dead within a year or two. That certainly is the fear that is energising the upper levels of RA.
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    It is Australia’s blessing and curse to find ourselves sharing the same gravitational field as New Zealand.

    As bad as SANZAAR has been over the decades, what might follow it? Presumably, some kind of Anzac alliance, supplemented by Argentina, Japan and Fiji. As always, the devil is in the detail but unless the Kiwis are prepared to deal equitably with Australia, they could find that Plan B doesn’t work out for them. Instead, Rugby Australia could also break off and go it alone.

    Funnily enough, that’s an option enjoying remarkable support in this country, with fans and broadcasters both reacting well to the success of Australia’s domestic Super Rugby AU competition. Yet we are kidding ourselves if we think that a series involving the five Australian teams — and perhaps the Fijian Drua — is sustainable. Even the Kiwis found that their Super Rugby Aotearoa crowds started to drop off as teams were meeting fellow New Zealand franchises for the fourth time in the season. It would be the same for Australia.

    It is Australia’s blessing and curse to find ourselves sharing the same gravitational field as New Zealand. It has always been an uncomfortable environment but, if South Africa does depart, things could become downright claustrophobic. Still, what alternative do we really have?

    A trans-Tasman model is needed to benchmark Australia’s progress — or lack thereof. And as a competition model, it is the one that makes most sense, at least as far as RA and the Australian and New Zealand franchises are concerned.

    Only the NZRU is complicating matters. While they must realise they need Australia to underpin their own domestic competitions, they are being totally evasive when it comes to that clause in the SANZAAR contract that stipulates that the joint venturers should equally divvy up their broadcast spoils.

    There was once a time when Australia would have rolled over and meekly accepted whatever deal New Zealand would have been prepared to offer. They would have been so appreciative that the Kiwis allowed them to play in the same competition. But those days are over, killed off by the clodhopping diplomacy of a year ago.

    Now there are different players and a new reality. Respect and fairness would seem to be a helpful starting point for negotiations.

    https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-u...28-p584xz.html

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    If the tour is a diplomatic success, it could well reinforce South Africa on its northern trajectory and set the course for world rugby over the next decade and beyond. Of course, as the Lions tours of Australia (1989) and New Zealand (2005) proved, it could just as easily descend into disaster, in which case the reigning world champions might lose their enthusiasm for the northern hemisphere and reconsider their plans to relocate.
    Not being facetious or narky, this is a genuine question, but seeing as the Lions won in '89 and lost 3-0 in 2005, what was commonly disastrous about those two tours? I've read the British press describe the 2001 tour to Australia as "forgettable" because they lost that series, but that whole tour and the series was utterly enthralling and I'd pick either of those two teams to beat any test side from the 26 years of professional rugby.

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    Japan and the Pacific Islands for Aussie Super 9's!

    Let's have one of these in WA! Click this link: Saitama Super Arena - New Perth Stadium?

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    The O'Driscoll incident? Don't know about 89. Feel like that got savage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
    The O'Driscoll incident? Don't know about 89. Feel like that got savage.
    Yeah, that did get a bit nasty. I think he's talking about tours where stuff might have happened on-field but then flowed on to off-field relations.

    89 was a bit like that. See extract of a 2009 article below - the comparison to Bodyline might be over-egging , but it turn sour. The off-field us v them antagonism even extended through to the 91 RWC held in the UK.

    ------
    Battle of Ballymore offers cautionary tale for today's Lions
    'The most violent game of rugby ever played' - Ian McGeechan

    Twenty years on there are plenty of *parallels. The Lions have been beaten in the first Test, the pack humbled and undergoing major surgery. The man calling the shots in South Africa is Ian McGeechan as it was in Australia in 1989. Even the referee in both first Tests had the same name; Bryce Lawrence is the son of Keith Lawrence, in charge when the Lions went down 30–12 in Sydney.

    However, in the unlikely event McGeechan is tempted to borrow from history when he sends his Lions out at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow in an attempt to save the series, two of the major characters at the heart of the ultimately successful British Lions of 1989 today urged caution. "They'd all be sent off," said Finlay Calder reviewing the game that turned around the tour he captained in 1989 – the second Test at Brisbane, described by Mike Teague as the most violent game of rugby ever played.

    Calder and Teague, the man of the series, both believe the 2009 Lions can still win the series, starting in Pretoria today, but not by staging a repeat of the match that came to be known as the Battle of Ballymore – rugby's answer to the Bodyline Series when it came to souring relations between Britain and Australia.

    With 20 years' perspective Calder described the encounter, in which amazingly no one was dismissed from the field, as "juicy, a bit juicy". At the time Clem Thomas, the Observer's rugby correspondent, Lions archivist and a former Swansea flanker famous for a raw-boned style, wrote that in a series "as physically demanding as any I have witnessed" the second Test "in particular provided scenes of violence of which neither side could feel proud".

    Nick Farr-Jones, the Australian captain, went further, predicting that the third Test could develop into "open warfare". "As far as I am concerned the Lions have set the rules and set the standards," said Farr-Jones who spent part of the *Ballymore game rolling on the ground brawling with his opposite number, the Wales scrum-half Robert Jones, "and, if the officials are going to do nothing about it, then we are going to have to do it ourselves.We won't sit back and cop it again."

    The blazers also got involved, Australian committee men producing a video spliced with selected highlights that they forwarded to "the Committee of the Four Home Unions for their information and for any action they may deem appropriate".

    Nothing did happen, and according to Thomas it was a little back-door diplomacy between McGeechan and the respected Australian assistant coach, Bob Templeman, which restored peace to the series. "They got together and decided it was impossible to wage war and play good rugby," wrote Thomas, "and were adamant that there would be no trouble in the final Test."

    And that's how it turned out, with the series revolving on a horrid mistake by the Wallaby wing David Campese that was pounced on by Ieuan Evans. However, in some parts of Australia, McGeechan is still seen as the evil genius who devised a way of undermining a team who were to become world champions two years later.
    ----

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    Maybe they were thinking of the '74 tour and the 99 call?

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