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We have 3 NEW SuperBru Pools for all to join!

  • The RBS 6 Nations 2016 starts on 6 February 2016, so hurry up and do not delay to register for it!
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This year we will do it a bit differently and open our Pools up to all readers of Rugby-Talk.com, but we encourage you to register as a subsciber on Rugby-Talk.com anyway, as our banter and commenting about our Pools will mostly take place here on the website and not on the SuperBru banter boards! It is so easy to register and such fun to discuss rugby here.

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Rosko Specman

Rosko Specman

Latest news on the Wellington Sevens Final is that referee Matt O’Brein has now apologized for his officiating during the Final. Too little too late, one feels. On the positive side it can only be good for the game if referee’s man up after the match. I also like Neil Powell’s handling of the situation, in terms of his communication with the referee, players and media.

The article below was published on stuff.co.nz earlier today.

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Matt O'Brien

Matt O’Brien during the Wellington Sevens final

In a recent article published on stuff.co.nz, sport scribe Mark Reason ripped into referee Matt O’Brien’s officiating during the Wellington Sevens Final between South Africa and New Zealand.

The article below was published on stuff.co.nz yesterday.

New Zealand won the Wellington leg of the Sevens championship, after a nail biting finish, beating South Africa 24 / 21 in the Final.

OPINION: Brendan Venter, the former Springbok centre and current technical director of Saracens, has called for an investigation. And it is not cricket in Mumbai or tennis in St Petersburg that Venter is concerned about, but rugby in Wellington, the home of the New Zealand Rugby Union.

The Springboks are outraged by both the refereeing of their Pool match and their Final against New Zealand at the Wellington Sevens and while it may go against the grain to feel empathy with a South African rugby supporter, they have a point. Continue reading

Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

Die Afrikaanse Naweekpers het verskeie rugbyartikels geplaas en ons bespreek so klompie daarvan onder EEN Artikel.

(To our Non-Afrikaans readership, our apologies that you won’t be able to understand this article, however a very large contingent of our readers are Afrikaans, so we unashamedly accommodate them in this article. The News basically relates to Heyneke Meyer and Frans Ludeke possibly heading to Japan for coaching positions, Francois Hougaard being made available for Super Rugby duties at the Bulls during March to May and suggestions of Referee favouratism and blunders against the Blitzbokke in the Final at the Wellington Sevens Tournament this weekend).

Die nuutste aanduidings is dat beide Heyneke Meyer en die voormalige Vodacom Bulls afrigter, Frans Ludeke, nou in lyn is vir afrigtersposte in Japan.

Verder blyk dit ‘n feitlik uitgemaakte saak dat Francois Hougaard gedurende Maart tot Mei nie deel van die Blitzbokke groep sal uitmaak nie maar ‘n bedeling met die Vodacom Bulls gesluit het wat hom vir ongeveer 8 Super Rugby wedstryde gedurende Maart tot Mei beskikbaar sal stel.

Die laaste aspek wat bespreek word is aantuigings dat die Skeidsregter in die Finaal van die Wellington Sewestoernooi in Nieu-Seeland, seker blatante en ooglopende foute begaan het, om sodoende die Blitzbokke te laat verloor ten gunste van Nieu Seeland, wie op tuisbodem die kroon gevat het in die naweek se toernooi.

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World Rugby Sevens SeriesThe 3rd leg of the 2015 / 2016 season (1st tournament of 2016) took place in Wellington, New Zealand on 30 & 31 January 2016.

Defending champions New Zealand won the Final, once again against South Africa’s Blitzbokke, by 24 / 21 after trailing till deep into the dying seconds of the match.

It was an epic Final, with New Zealand’s never say die attitude, winning it in the end for them. It was the 2nd time on the weekend that South Africa could not close out a game against New Zealand where they were well in front and deservingly so, near the end.

 

Day 1:

Hosts and defending champions New Zeland won all 3 of their matches on Day 1 of the HSBC Wellington Sevens to march into the quarterfinals after dramatically beating South Africa’s Blitzbokke 19 / 14 in the last match of the day.

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series leaders Fiji and Australia also maintained 100% records with impressive displays at the Westpac Stadium, as the 3rd Round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series continued to entertain.

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John Hardie

John Hardie in World Cup action for Scotland

He doesn’t know what possessed him to visit the old Lockhart Hotel that day, but it was an experience John Hardie is never likely to forget.

“The most scared I’ve ever been,” says Scotland’s openside flanker.

The setting is a building in Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island – a holiday resort about an hour and a half from Dipton, the farming country where Hardie was born and reared.

Legend has it that there was a fire in Lockhart’s place in the late 1800’s. Three generations of the family perished.

Only a girl called Mary survived – and she haunts the place to this day. Many Kiwis have gone there over the years and many talk of the sense of foreboding that exists behind that main door.

Hardie’s now one of them. Chilled to the bone, he says. “Never going back. Never ever.”

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Super RugbySANZAR is about to introduce a radical new bonus point system to this year’s Super Rugby competition, with teams no longer getting the bonus point for scoring 4 tries.

The radical proposal, which mirrors a system being used in the French top 14, will now see teams needing to score at least 3 more tries than the opposition to score a bonus point.

The change, which is set to be announced on Thursday in Australia, is a tweak to still encourage teams to play attractive rugby in lopsided contests, and give both sides something to play for, while not taking their foot off the pedal if they have established a good lead in their respective games.

Thus if a team scores 4 tries, they will need to limit the opposition to 1 try if they want the bonus point. If the opposition scores twice, then the team will need to score 5 tries in order to claim the bonus point in the competition.

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Todd Blackadder

Todd Blackadder

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has taken a swipe at the SANZAR brains trust over their proposed Super Rugby innovations.

He called the proposed changes to the Super Rugby bonus point system “bizarre” and suggested there was a lack of consultation with franchises on the matter.

The SANZAR initiative, that is expected to formally unveiled early next week, also include a number of minor law variations for the 2016 Super Rugby season.

While some of the expected law innovations still require World Rugby approval, the biggest innovation – a change to the try-scoring bonus points – is what has caused the biggest stir.

The SANZAR change will see the bonus point awarded to teams who score 4 tries or more in a game scrapped and replaced by 1 for teams that score 3 tries more than their opponents.

Blackadder called the proposed change “bizarre” and queried the lack of consultation with franchises on the matter.

The mooted change, widely reported by media in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand on Thursday, is a copy of the system used in the French Top 14 league and aimed at keeping lopsided games alive for longer periods.

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Southern KingsThe Southern Kings have confirmed a number of new signings following a week of intensive training with the SA Rugby Mobi Unit.

Chief Operating Officer, Charl Crous, confirmed that Pumas flanker, Chris Cloete, (24) and Sharks Lock John-Charles (JC) Astle (25) had been secured on loan for the season.

Following initial trials, Crous also confirmed the Southern Kings have also retained the talent of SWD utility back Leighton Eksteen (21) who has played at Scrumhalf, Flyhalf and Fullback, as well as SWD’s Luzuko Vulindlu (28) who has played at Centre and Wing. Both have been secured on loan from SWD for the season.

Sharks Centre Lukhanyo Am (22) has also secured a position in the squad on loan.

Crous said Sharks hooker, Monde Hadebe (25) would be returning to the Sharks for rehab following a slight back sprain that will see him out of action for between 4 to 5 weeks.

Crous also confirmed hooker Martin Ferreira (26) and lock, Tazz Fuzani (25) had been secured on contract for the Southern Kings season for 2016.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks’ 5 missing international players — away in Japan completing their club duties — are expected back in Durban before the end of the month.

New vice-captain Marcell Coetzee, JP Pietersen, Namibian backrower Renaldo Bothma and new signings Willie le Roux and Jacques Potgieter will join the Sharks squad a week before they leave on their pre-season tour of France early in February.

A member of the Sharks management yesterday said that the squad to travel to France would be announced next week and a decision on whether the Japan-based players would be included for the 2 friendlies has still to be made.

The Sharks will play 2-time European champs Toulon on Friday 5 February, before taking on Toulouse 6 days later.

New Cell C Sharks captain Pat Lambie said that it was likely that all the tour members would be given an airing during the 2 games but added that taking on the 2 Top 14 French clubs would be a major challenge.

Head coach Gary Gold said he wanted tough opposition for his young charges ahead of a fresh season.

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All Black greats united to pay tribute to Jonah Lomu with a powerful haka, as thousands of fans packed a memorial service at New Zealand rugby’s spiritual home, Eden Park.

A grim-faced Buck Shelford led more than 20 former internationals in a “Ka Mate” haka while the legendary wing’s casket was carried into a hearse.

Former teammates including Tana Umaga, Justin Marshall and John Kirwan joined the emotional tribute on the same turf that Lomu once dominated as a player.

“Jonah, you were a freak on the field and a gentle, caring giant off it,” former All Blacks coach John Hart said.

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Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo

New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchise the Crusaders have confirmed that Fijian Rugby World Cup winger Nemani Nadolo will not be extending his contract with the Christchurch team next season.

Nadolo has agreed to play his rugby in France for French club Montpellier after the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Fijian winger Nadolo was raised in Brisbane Australia and has had playing stints in the UK, France, Australia and Japan but his career only really took off when he joined the Crusaders.

Nadolo is now 1 of the hottest wingers in World Rugby but it was not long ago that he was with the Waratahs and was unable to make the match day team.

The winger left Sydney and played for Bourgoin between 2010 and 2011 before joining Japan’s NEC Green Rocket where he was brought to the attention of Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.

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Andy Marinos

Andy Marinos

New SANZAR CEO Andy Marinos has backed South Africa’s Southern Kings and Japan’s Sunwolves to cause upsets in Super Rugby 2016.

The Southern Kings have at least played a season of Super Rugby before, while the Sunwolves are making their debut as the competition expands to accommodate a side each from Japan and Argentina as well as an extra South African side.

The EP Kings’ serious financial troubles over the past few months have raised questions over their fanchise participation in the competition, but the Sunwolves have not yet named a head coach for the season while they also do not have a full player roster.

But Marinos was a voice of calm on Wednesday morning, backing the Japanese franchise to get their ducks in a row before the tournament begins at the end of February.

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Todd Blackadder

Todd Blackadder

The Crusaders have announced that Todd Blackadder will step aside as head coach at the conclusion of the 2016 Super Rugby season.

“This will be my 8th season coaching the Crusaders, and every minute in the role has been a privilege, but moving on at the end of the 2016 season is the right thing for me and the right thing for the team,” Blackadder said.

“I have been so fortunate to be able to do my dream job for all of these years, but 8 years is a relatively long time in coaching and I feel that the time is right for someone else to take the reins and lead the team in their own direction in the future.

“One of the important things to come out of our 2015 season review is that distractions were a problem for us last season, so that is why I was keen to make my intentions clear before the season begins to avoid my future becoming a distraction for the team during the 2016 season,” Blackadder said.

Blackadder took over from Robbie Deans as head coach of the Crusaders in 2009. He has coached the team to 4 Super Rugby Semifinals and 2 Finals so far, and the final against the Waratahs in 2014 marked his 100th game in the Crusaders’ top job.

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Andy Marinos

Andy Marinos

SANZAR has appointed Andy Marinos as the organisation’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

His new job will formally commence on 1 January 2016 and he replaces Greg Peters – who is taking over as CEO of the new Argentina Super Rugby team.

The South African, who is no stranger to the position, having previously served as CEO between 2008 – 2010, brings a wealth of business and rugby experience to the role, both as an administrator and professional player.

Marinos re-joins SANZAR from SARU, where he has served as General Manager of Commercial & Marketing for the past 5 years, in addition to SARU Acting Managing Director and Board Member (2008 – 2010), Springbok Team Manager (2008), Manager of South African National Teams (2005 – 2010) and World Rugby Sevens Advisory Group (2008 – 2015).

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Barbarians Rugby - Victor Matfield & Bakkies Botha

The world’s most famous invitation club, the Barbarians, will aim to entertain when they celebrate their 125th year of existence.

The BaaBaas will host a strong Argentinean Los Pumas team at Twickenham on Saturday.

However, coach Michael Cheika’s message to his Barbarians team was simple.

“Keep it simple, have a go and back yourselves,” Cheika told the BaaBaas players.

Argentina have a slightly different focus.

Having finished 3rd in The Rugby Championship – the 1st time hey did not finish last – and 4th in the Rugby World Cup, they hope to finish their year on a winning note.

Wing Santiago Cordero, 1 of the sensations for the Pumas at the Rugby World up, said it is going to be a “pretty tough” game.

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Jonah Lomu

Jonah Lomu

Queen Elizabeth II offered her condolences over Jonah Lomu’s death as the rugby legend’s family revealed they were planning a send-off as big as the great man himself.

The family said they had been overwhelmed by a global “outpouring of love” after the charismatic winger died unexpectedly on Wednesday aged just 40, leaving a wife and 2 young sons.

Former All Blacks coach John Hart said feelings were so intense in Lomu’s native New Zealand that Auckland’s Eden Park stadium may be needed as a venue for a public memorial.

Flanked by the player’s relatives outside the family’s Auckland home, Hart said Prime Minister John Key’s office had relayed condolences from the Queen to Lomu’s widow Nadene.

“(She) has written to the prime minister specifically asking for a message to be sent to Nadene and the family to say how much she mourns the loss as well,” he told reporters outside Lomu’s Auckland home.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw holds the Webb Ellis Cup aloft

Richie McCaw has confirmed he is hanging up his boots and retiring from professional rugby.

The 34-year-old All Blacks captain and most capped All Black of all time has drawn the curtain on his stunning international career which started in Dublin 14 years ago, almost to the day, and ended in London last month when he hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup aloft for the 2nd time.

McCaw announced his decision at a media conference at the New Zealand Rugby offices in Wellington on Thursday.

“I’m hanging up my boots having accomplished everything I could have ever dreamed about in the game. Knowing that I was able to end my career by helping the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup Final is a hugely satisfying feeling,” he said.

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Jonah Lomu

R.I.P. Jonah Lomu

New Zealand rugby union great Jonah Lomu has died aged 40.

Lomu, who scored 43 tries in 73 matches for New Zealand between 1994 and 2002, had been diagnosed with a rare and serious kidney condition.

It forced him to quit the game and he had a kidney transplant in 2004, but the organ stopped functioning in 2011.

“Jonah was a legend of our game and loved by his many fans both here and around the world,” said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew.

“We’re lost for words and our heartfelt sympathies go out to Jonah’s family.”

Family spokesman John Mayhew told New Zealand television that Lomu’s death was “totally unexpected” and that he had only arrived back from the UK on Tuesday, after spending time there for the Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said: “The thoughts of the entire country are with his family.”

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Ian Foster

Ian Foster

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster has extended his contract with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) through to 2017, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew announced on Tuesday.

Foster has been assistant coach alongside All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen since 2012.

“It’s been an honour and a privilege to have worked for the All Blacks over the last few years and to help the team achieve its goals, including winning the Rugby World Cup, and I look forward to getting stuck into next season after the summer break,” Foster said.

Steve Tew paid tribute to Foster’s work with the national team, which has fashioned a stunning record of 49 wins, 2 draws and just 3 losses, in their 54 Tests since 2012.

“Ian has provided outstanding coaching of the All Blacks over the last 4 years. He has a calm yet forthright style which works well in the team and his strategic thinking and development of the All Blacks’ back play, which is his specialist area, has been exceptional. We look forward to his ongoing contribution over the next 2 years.”

Tew confirmed that All Blacks forwards coach Mike Cron had also re-signed with NZRU through until 2017.

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Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga

Amongst the Super Rugby news this week is the announcement that Tanerau Latimer will return to Super Rugby and join up with the Blues.

Lima Sopoaga has also extended his stay at the Highlanders.

Meanwhile the Brumbies will lose Matt Toomua to Leicester Tigers when the European season of 2016 / 2017 starts after Super Rugby of 2016, but therefore he will still be available for the Brumbies in 2016. The Brumbies have also signed hooker Robbie Abel with the Brumbies’ Extended Playing Squad for 2016.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Double Rugby World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw is expected to confirm his decision to retire from rugby this week, New Zealand media reported on Sunday.

McCaw, who turns 35 on 31 December, led the All Blacks to their 3rd Rugby World Cup triumph 2 weeks ago when his side beat trans-Tasman rivals Australia 34 / 17 in the final at a packed Twickenham stadium in London.

The All Blacks were the 1st team to retain the trophy, after the openside flanker led the team to victory in 2011 while playing with a broken foot.

McCaw had done little to dampen expectations that he would retire after this year’s Rugby World Cup, though never explicitly said he would, preferring to state he would not make up his mind until the global showpiece ended.

He was not named last month in the Canterbury Super Rugby squad for 2016 though New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Crusaders said there was space for him if he chose to play on.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew says Rugby World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw will make an announcement on his playing future “shortly”.

McCaw, who led New Zealand to victory at the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups, indicated he would likely retire after this year’s tournament in England but is yet to make a definitive announcement.

His comments immediately after the All Blacks’ Cup final win over Australia suggested the 148-Test veteran might be considering continuing his international career.

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Steve Tew

Steve Tew

New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew said it was premature to speculate about Japan joining The Rugby Championship.

The sport is currently on a high in the Asian nation after the Brave Blossoms’ exploits at the Rugby World Cup, which included a stunning 34 / 32 win over South Africa, but there are already concerns about its preparations for the expanded Super Rugby competition next year.

With Japan set to host the next edition of the Rugby World Cup in 2019, World Rugby is keen to consolidate its popularity in a large and potentially lucrative market.

The governing body’s chairman Bernard Lapasset said on a trip to Tokyo this week that Japan should join The Rugby Championship, which currently comprises New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.

But New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said a more immediate concern for Japanese rugby was fielding a competitive side in the Super Rugby competition in 2016.

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Chris Pollock

Chris Pollock

New Zealand referee Chris Pollock has announced his retirement from international rugby.

According to reports, the 43-year-old Pollock has returned to full-time teaching in his home province of Hawke’s Bay.

Pollock was on the refereeing panel for the recent Rugby World Cup and his last match as an assistant in the Bronze Final between South Africa and Argentina.

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Springboks vs All Blacks

Durban, and not Johannesburg, will host back-to-back Rugby World Cup winners, the New Zealand All Blacks next year.

The South African Rugby Union revealed that the 3-times Rugby World Cup champion All Blacks will play the Springboks in Durban on 8 October in The Rugby Championship encounter between the 2 sides on SA soil.

The Springboks and All Blacks have played each other in Johannesburg 5 times in the last 6 years – with 2011 the exception, when they met in Port Elizabeth.

Durban last hosted a Springboks versus All Blacks Test in 2009, with Newlands completely off the map (for the biggest face-off in the game) since 2008.

The exceptionally large All Black following in Cape Town, which have become increasingly vengeful towards the Springboks (even spitting at players), is the main reason why Newlands will not host the All Blacks in the near future.

Bloemfontein (2009) and Pretoria (2006) have also not seen an All Black Test in years.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland will quit his post after the 2019 Rugby World Cup and return to New Zealand, media reports in his homeland said on Friday.

Gatland, already Wales’ longest-serving coach after taking up the position in 2007, said he wanted to head home and possibly take a break before resuming his career in New Zealand.

“I’m here (Wales) until 2019 and the plan for me then is definitely to come home for a period,” he reportedly told commercial radio.

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CrusadersChiefsSANZAR is delighted to reveal that Super Rugby is coming to the Pacific Islands for the 1st time as Fiji is announced to host the Round 15 clash between the Chiefs and the Crusaders.

The match, to be played at Suva’s ANZ Stadium, will see Fiji become the 8th nation to host a Super Rugby fixture, joining Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Japan, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

SANZAR Interim CEO, Brendan Morris, welcomed the exciting news.

“In 2016, Super Rugby is being delivered to more countries and more fans than ever before. Not only will we see games played in Argentina, Japan and Singapore for the 1st time in history, but we are delighted to partner with the Fijian Government, the Chiefs and event promoter Fortress to deliver the 1st ever match to the Pacific Islands.

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British & Irish LionsThe British & Irish Lions have announced that Canterbury will be their Official Apparel Partner for the 2017 tour of New Zealand.

The new deal sees Canterbury hold exclusive rights to manufacturing both the match and training kit alongside a new lifestyle range for the Lions.

John Feehan, British & Irish Lions CEO, said, ”We are delighted to be working with Canterbury as our new Apparel Partner.”

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Nehe Milner-Skudder waving to Auckland crowds at the All Blacks homecoming

Nehe Milner-Skudder waving to Auckland crowds at the All Blacks homecoming

The All Blacks returned home to a frenzy of hakas and hysteria on Wednesday, with even the players stunned as 50 000 fans packed central Auckland to celebrate their Rugby World Cup victory.

“It’s huge to come back and see all this support and everyone turning out, it’s just overwhelming,” the tournament’s breakout star Nehe Milner-Skudder said as the crowd at the city’s Victoria Park roared approval.

The All Blacks arrived from London early Wednesday morning and celebrations began even before they stepped off the plane, with dozens of airport workers performing a haka on the tarmac to welcome them.

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Nehe Milner-Skudder

Nehe Milner-Skudder

New Zealand and Australia’s World Cup finalists join forces in a superstar Barbarians’ squad when they take on Gloucester and Argentina this month. Add a sprinkling of South Africans to it and you have the Barbarians squad.

Wing Nehe Milner-Skudder, the All Blacks’ opening try scorer in the 34 / 17 win against the Wallabies, is just 1 of 7 All Blacks in the squad.

Milner-Skudder will be joined by Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Charlie Faumuina, as well as fellow wing Waisake Naholo, when the world famous invitation club returns to action at Kingsholm on 17 November before taking on Rugby World Cup semifinalists Argentina in the Killik Cup match at Twickenham Stadium on 21 November.

Tevita Kuridrani – the scorer of Australia’s 2nd final try – has been added to the squad and joins Wallabies captain Stephen Moore and flank Scott Fardy in a 24-man group.

The squad also contains one of the world’s greatest lock partnerships in South Africa’s Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha who are backed up by rising star Lood de Jager.

Barbarians head coach Michael Cheika will have formidable firepower at his disposal with the likes of Fiji’s World Cup star Nemani Nadolo lining up with South Africa’s Pat Lambie and Australia’s Joe Tomane.

There is world class front row potential with Moore and Faumuina alongside South Africa’s Tendai Mtawarira, while flank Fardy was 1 of Australia’s most consistent Rugby World Cup performers.

There are 2 uncapped players in the squad: Cheetahs’ centre Francois Venter and Hurricanes flank Ardie Savea.

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Steve Hansen & Richie McCaw with the coveted Webb Ellis Cup

Steve Hansen & Richie McCaw with the coveted Webb Ellis Cup

Fans will be able to welcome back the All Blacks at homecoming celebrations in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington this week.

The All Blacks will travel home with the help of sponsor Air New Zealand which has sent an all black Boeing 777-300 to London to pick up the Rugby World Champions.

The team touches down on Wednesday morning at 07:00 NZ Time, arriving at Auckland International Airport before departing for an overnight stay in the city.

Aucklanders will then get a chance to celebrate their Rugby World Cup triumph at a very special event featuring the team at Victoria Park in central Auckland at midday.

The next day Christchurch will welcome the All Blacks with a street parade and official reception at Hagley Park. On Friday, Wellington will celebrate the All Blacks success with details and timing to be confirmed.

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World RugbyAs well as winning a host of new admirers for their adventurous approach throughout Rugby World Cup 2015, beaten semifinalists Argentina and headline-grabbing Japan have also enjoyed the biggest rise of all the competing nations in the World Rugby Rankings. Both are ranked 3 places higher than where they were when Rugby World Cup 2015 began at Twickenham Stadium on Friday 18 September.Los Pumas have moved up from 8th to 5th thanks to their 2nd place finish behind New Zealand in Pool C and the way that they effortlessly brushed Ireland aside in the quarterfinals.

A disappointing World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup campaign this summer left Japan languishing 13th in the rankings, and at that stage few people would have predicted what they would go on to achieve in England: 3 wins from 4 and a place in tournament folklore.

The Brave Blossoms’ historic 34 / 32 win over South Africa in Brighton may not have been enough to book them a place in the knockout stages but it did help them return to the world’s Top 10.

With points exchanges doubled to reflect the importance Rugby World Cup matches no-one fared better than Japan, going from 72.06 rating points pre-tournament to 77.05 at its conclusion.

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All Blacks celebrate winningOne of the things that this recently completed Rugby World Cup should have done is put an end to some of the justifications that are perennially forwarded for percentage tactics and neglect of the skill sets and strategies that the 2 finalists boasted and employed in their passage to the Twickenham Stadium decider.

For a start, what happened to that wet weather everyone was talking about and which was supposed to a justification for grinding tactics? It rained in the semifinal between South Africa and New Zealand, where the Kiwis proved once again that they are just as good at the things that the Springboks are supposed to do well as they are.

The tournament was of course not played in the English winter. In fact, you could argue that this year it wasn’t played even in autumn, particularly early on, when cities and towns like Brighton, Birmingham and Newcastle had more of a feel of late summer than a feel of early autumn.

That, coupled with the fact that so many of the Pool games were played on fast paced surfaces built for soccer, tipped the scales towards the quick paced Southern Hemisphere style game. When Wales coach Warren Gatland was asked why the Southern Hemisphere nations shut their northern rivals out of the semifinal Round, he mentioned something about conditions south of the equator facilitating the development of more of a running rugby skill set.

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Richie McCaw & Steve Hansen to be knighted?

Richie McCaw & Steve Hansen to be knighted?

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and coach Steve Hansen will be offered knighthoods following New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup triumph.

But the timing will depend on when they retire, Prime Minister John Key said on Monday.

McCaw, 34, has already turned down the honour once, after New Zealand’s 2011 tournament win, saying he did not feel it was right to accept while he was still playing.

Key was asked if the inspirational skipper would be approached again about putting a “Sir” before his name in the wake of the 34 / 17 Cup final win over Australia and said: “That’s right.”

However, he said the offer would remain on hold until McCaw decides his future.

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