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Super Rugby

Israel Folau

Wanted man… Israel Folau playing against the All Blacks.

The risk of losing star Wallabies like Israel Folau after the 2015 World Cup has prompted the Australian Rugby Union to change its rules to allow overseas sabbaticals.

The Australian Rugby Union will dangle a sizeable carrot to lure the country’s top players to sevens in the lead up to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

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Brad Thorn

Brad Thorn: One of a kind

Bigger, faster, and stronger – it’s a wonder any professional rugby player lasts more than a handful of seasons before terminal injury strikes.

Professional rugby players’ representatives love to say how short their client’s careers will be – usually while negotiating for a pay rise.

They operate in an increasingly brutal arena, one tackle away from enforced retirement.

The average size of an All Black forward increased from 100kg to 113kg since rugby went professional in the mid-1990s and the backs have ballooned from 82kg to 94kg.

Collisions are now compared to car crashes. Concussion has become an unwelcome theme.

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Stephen Moore

Stephen Moore will take over as Brumbies captain in 2015.

Stephen Moore will take over as ACT Brumbies captain in 2015.

Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore will captain the Brumbies for the 2015 Super Rugby season.

Moore will replace Ben Mowen, who quit Australian rugby to pursue his career in France.

The Brumbies will announce Moore’s appointment on Wednesday morning, backing the experienced hooker to guide the club to Super Rugby success.

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Pat McCabe

Wallaby Pat McCabe returns from New Zealand.

The Brumbies have watered down head coach Stephen Larkham’s comments that hardman Pat McCabe has retired, saying the 26-year-old’s playing future hinges on a meeting with the Wallabies’ doctor.

McCabe fractured his neck in the Wallabies’ 51-20 loss to the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday, with Larkham telling ABC radio on Wednesday morning the 24-Test winger had decided to hang up his boots after consulting with a specialist.

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James O'Connor

HE’S BACK: Reports are saying James O’Connor is set to sign on with the Reds.

The Queensland Reds will confirm the worst kept secret in rugby on Friday night when Wallabies’ prodigal son James O’Connor is announced as their new signing.

News Corp is reporting that the Reds will announce that O’Connor has signed a two-year deal at its Gala Ball in Brisbane.

O’Connor had his 44-Test career put on hold last year after the Australian Rugby Union tore up his contract after the 24-year-old was escorted off a flight to Bali by Australian Federal Police at Perth Airport.

He has since enjoyed a sixth-month stint at London Irish in the English Premiership before signing a short-term deal with European champions Toulon in the French Top 14 competition.

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Michael Hooper

Top Tah… Michael Hooper celebrates after winning the Super Rugby title.

He missed out on the Bledisloe Cup last weekend, but Wallabies captain Michael Hooper added to his bulging portfolio of individual accolades by winning a second straight, NSW Waratahs Players’ Player of the year award on Tuesday.

Openside flanker Hooper, who led NSW to their maiden Super Rugby title following a late season knee injury to first-choice skipper and fellow back rower Dave Dennis, polled 277 votes.

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Craig Joubert

Craig Joubert

New Zealand rugby is claiming its second referee apology in a week, with Craig Joubert said to have admitted he was wrong with a ruling that probably cost the Crusaders the Super Rugby crown.

The Waratahs won a tense final three weeks ago in Sydney 33-32, with the winning points coming from a penalty when flank Richie McCaw was penalised for entering a ruck from the side with a minute remaining in the match.

Had the kick missed, the Crusaders would have had possession and would have been unlikely to yield their 32-29 lead with time almost up.

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Juan Smith

Juan Smith

The boyish smile on the face of Juan Hugo Smith masked the trauma that he endured in the past four years, when it seemed an Achilles injury ended his career.

At 33, with 69 Test caps for South Africa, he is one of the most seasoned players in the Springbok team to face Argentina in Salta on Saturday.

Captain Jean de Villiers, also 33 and 97 Tests, and recalled prop Gurthrö Steenkamp, 33 and 51 Tests, are among the few that can match him for experience in the team that will take to the field at Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena.

Smith is the epitome of a player who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to return to the international arena, after it seemed his career had come to an abrupt end.

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The past few years has seen Rugby’s world be dominated by one group of Villains that we have come to respect, hate, admire, deride, sledge and applaud. Let’s take a look at these Bad Guys and their alter-egos – whilst not forgetting that most of these guys eventually get their comeuppance. – Enjoy!

 

15. Ben Smith -Keyser Soze – The usual Suspects
Keyser Soze

Keyser Soze – The Usual Suspects

This is one of those moments where we are lulled into a false sense of security. The guy looks harmless enough and seems to melt into the background when surrounded by other more unsavory types. But it is with the Big reveal that things unfold and the manipulator truly emerges.

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Brad Thorn

Brad Thorn: Still going strong at 39

Brad Thorn will continue his incredible 444-game career beyond his 40th birthday with English rugby giants, Leicester.

Meanwhile another code-hopper is preparing for his own return to action with Sonny Bill Williams hoping to return for Sydney Roosters either this weekend or next.

Williams will be hoping to sign off in rugby league – for now anyway – with a second straight NRL premiership before he returns to Hamilton to re-join Super Rugby’s Chiefs.

Both Williams and Thorn are incredible cross-code stories. But who deserves the mantle as the greatest code-hopper of all time?

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Brad Thorn

Brad Thorn: Still going strong at 39

Leicester Tigers have confirmed the arrival of World Cup-winning former All Black second row Brad Thorn.

39-year-old New Zealander was referred to by Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill as “one of the great all-time rugby players the world has ever seen.” He is expected at the club at the end of September.

Thorn became the first player to win World Cup, Super Rugby and Heineken Cup titles and arrives from the Highlanders having previously represented the Crusaders and Leinster.

“He is a very driven individual,” Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury.

“He wants to play in the Premiership and he wants to win the Premiership.”

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Francois Steyn

Frans Steyn wil nie n “GELDJAGTER” genoem word nie.

​”Ek is nie ’n kind nie.”

Só het Frans Steyn glo op die laaste krisisvergadering tussen hom en die Suid-Afrikaanse Rugbyunie (SARU) gesê voordat hy opgestaan, uitgeloop en die Springbok-groep vaarwel geroep het.

Dit was nadat meer as een vergadering tussen hom en SARU oor sy terugkeer uit Frankryk skipbreuk gely het.

SARU het aanvanklik in 2012 skriftelik ingestem om Steyn se kontrak met ’n Franse bemarkingsmaatskappy uit te koop sodat hy weer heeltyds vir Suid-Afrika beskikbaar kon wees. SARU het die paaiemente daarvoor stiptelik betaal – tot in Januarie 2013 toe betalings skielik eensydig gestaak is.

 

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WP RugbyWhen the Springboks finished off their 2013 campaign with a victory over France in Paris, coach Heyneke Meyer spoke about the need for South African rugby to undergo revolutionary change in order to close the gap that the All Blacks enjoyed when it came to conditioning and mental strength.

At the start of the 2014 Castle Lager Rugby Championship, he continued the theme of revolution, this time talking about the need to bring greater intensity and tempo to the Bok game, to be able to out-think opponents now that the days of bludgeoning opposition with physicality are in the past.

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Israel Folau

Israel Folau breaks his ankle playing for the Broncos in 2009.

Israel Folau believes God broke his ankle in 2009 to teach him a lesson about boozy weekends and random one-night stands with women.

Folau believes God took him out of the NRL to endure two years of toil in the AFL to humble him.

Then, only after Folau had reconnected with God, did He open the door to rugby, in which he now stands as the man to end 12 years of Australian agony by leading the Wallabies to victory over the All Blacks in tonight’s Bledisloe Cup opener.

And if you think Folau is crazy, he doesn’t care.

“I want to advertise who Jesus Christ is, which is the thing that means most to me,” the Wallaby fullback says, patting his heart hard.

“I know it’s got nothing to do with footy, but that’s what drives me every single day.”

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Derick Minnie

“Cheers vir eers!” Derick Minnie op pad vorentoe Saterdag teen die Bloubulle op Ellispark.

Niemand wil dit hard sê nie, maar almal weet dit: Suid-Afrikaanse rugby is in die #2%$.

Vir diegene wat onlangs uit ’n diep slaap uit ontwaak het, hier is die feite: Net een Suid-Afrikaanse span kon dit tot in ’n Super Rugby semi-finaal maak. En daar het hulle ook in die pomp geduik. Die ander klomp – die Bulle, Stormers, Leeus en Cheetahs het redelik swak gedoen.

Hoe kan ’n land soos Suid-Afrika, wat meer spelers as Nieu-Seeland en Australië saam het, so sleg uit die bus uit bliksem?

Om daardie vraag te beantwoord, moet ons teruggaan tot ons terugkeer tot internasionale rugby in 1992.

Dan sal ons sien dat ons intussen nooit pasaangeërs was nie. Nie met taktiek nie en nie met afrigting nie.

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Panic StationThe Vodacom Blue Bulls are already in crisis mode – and it’s only the first round of the Absa Currie Cup season.

Coach Frans Ludeke called in the players to Loftus Versfeld on Sunday night for an emergency meeting – following their humiliating 41-13 opening loss to the Xerox Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday – where players were read the riot act.

Following a disappointing Vodacom Super Rugby season, and this start to a much-vaunted Currie Cup campaign, the players were told to either shape up or ship out as Ludeke vented his anger after the loss.

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Hosea Gear

Hosea Gear

Former All Blacks wing Hosea Gear is quitting northern hemisphere rugby and heading to the Chiefs in a bid to play in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Gear, 30, has signed a one-year contract with the Chiefs to play in next year’s Super Rugby competition as he makes a bid to return to the international stage and challenges again for a World Cup wing spot.

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Rory Arnold

Brumbies recruit Rory Arnold, the tallest player in Super Rugby.

If you thought NSW Watarahs and Australian Wallabies battering ram Will Skelton was big, meet ACT Brumbies recruit Rory Arnold, the tallest player in Super Rugby.

The 208cm, 130kg lock created huge headlines last year after being involved in an alleged biting incident in South Africa, but Arnold is determined to make a big impact at the Brumbies for the right reasons.

While man mountain Skelton weighs in at 140kg, at 203cm he can’t match Arnold, who is equal in height with former South African player Andries Bekker. They are the tallest players in Super Rugby’s 19-year history.

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Wycliff Palu

Wycliff Palu has revealed some of the different methods Michael Cheika has used to motivate the Waratahs.

Mastercoach Michael Cheika’s multitude of secret motivational techniques to turn the Waratahs from paupers to premiers can now be revealed.

While the story of the golf clubs given to players before the grand final win over the Crusaders last weekend has been well told, it was only one element of Cheika’s unique strategy to build a squad of players used to failure into a champion team.

Long-serving Waratahs backrower Wycliff Palu is one of the best examples of how Cheika’s ideas transformed players. The burly No.8 was forced to walk from Central Station to the Waratahs’ office at Moore Park every day as part of a daily ritual to ensure he didn’t become complacent after a decade at the club.

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Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith

After much speculation in the media the Highlanders are happy to announce today that Aaron Smith has re-signed with the Highlanders for two more years through to the end of the Super Rugby season in 2016.

Smith said “I love living and playing rugby in Dunedin, it’s my home and I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”

“I love the team and can’t wait to get back out on the field in front of our home fans in 2015”.

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Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo will remain at the Crusaders for two more years, after reports in New Zealand said the giant Fijian winger “never had any intention of going anywhere else”.

“We have loved having Nemani in the Crusaders this season, as have our fans, so it gives me great pleasure to confirm that he will be returning to the team next year and in 2016,” Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said.

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Pictures of Crusaders rugby players on a hunting trip in South Africa are being used by an environmental organisation in its fight against what it calls canned, or joy ride, hunting.

George Whitelock, Tyler Bleyendaal, Sam Whitelock, Tom Taylor and Ben Funnell

George Whitelock, Tyler Bleyendaal, Sam Whitelock, Tom Taylor and Ben Funnell with guides on a hunt in South Africa.

It is reported that the players shown in the four pictures posted by the Landmark Foundation on its Facebook page were Tom Taylor, George and Sam Whitelock, Ben Funnell and Tyler Bleyendaal. In each picture, one or more of the players was posing beside a dead animal. The animals were a zebra, a blesbok, a gemsbok and an eland.

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Todd Blackadder

ONE MORE YEAR: Todd Blackadder talks to the media during this season’s Super Rugby campaign.

Crusaders boss Hamish Riach has endorsed Todd Blackadder and his coaching team for at least another season.

Although Crusaders head coach Blackadder and his assistants Dave Hewett, Tabai Matson and Aaron Mauger have signed with the franchise until the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season, the honouring of such agreements can be subject to confidential conditions related to a team’s performance or whether they make the playoffs.

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Jerome Kaino

Jerome Kaino showing off some leg, but for a very good cause.

Yes that is Jerome Kaino sporting a Northern Mystics dress!

The Blues and All Blacks flanker got stuck into his workout routine in this dashing baby blue netball outfit at Unitec yesterday, all in the name of charity.

Kaino is one of four ambassadors of the Child Cancer foundation who were challenged to carry out crazy acts in order to raise money for the One Day for Child Cancer Ambassador Challenge.

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Solomoni Rasolea

Solomoni Rasolea

Utility back Solomoni Rasolea has become the latest player to commit to the Western Force by signing a two-year contract extension.

The 23-year-old’s re-signing continues the Force’s retention run that has already seen Nathan Charles, Dane Haylett-Petty, Rory Walton and Chris Alcock re-commit to the Western Australian club in the past 10 days.

Rasolea has been a regular face in the Force’s match 23 over the past two seasons since joining the Force from the Australian Sevens side.

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Melbourne RebelsWestern Force captain Matt Hodgson has been awarded the 2014 Nathan Sharpe Medal at the HBF Stadium in Perth yesterday.

This is the third time Hodgson has claimed the premier award, having previously received the club’s Player of the Year Award (now Nathan Sharpe Medal) in 2009 and 2010.

In the night’s other awards, crowd favourite Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins was voted the Members’ MVP; lock Adam Coleman took out the Rising Star; and Ben McCalman and Sam Wykes were joint winners of the newly named Geoffrey Stooke Award (formerly the Force Man Award).

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Nemani Nadolo

RACIALLY ABUSED: Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo has tweeted about being racially abused.

The actions of a “stupid” lone drunkard who racially abused Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo was an anomaly that should not tarnish his great season, says coach Todd Blackadder.

“After all I’ve done to contribute to this lovely city of Christchurch to be called a UN FIT CHUBBY [N****] is disappointing [sic],” the Fijian-born Nadolo tweeted at 2.48am today.

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Waratahs

Waratahs celebrating their maiden Super Rugby victory.

The Waratahs won a drama-laden Super Rugby grand final 33-32 in Sydney with Bernard Foley breaking the Crusaders hearts by kicking a 45m penalty in the final seconds.

This frantic contest had multiple dramas, starting with the Crusaders trailing 14-0 in as many minutes, losing their talismanic general Dan Carter with an ankle injury in the first half and then having to mount a spirited comeback in front of a record 62,000-strong crowd.

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Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods’ swing, the unlikely source of Cheika’s motivation.

Michael Chieka didn’t quite take a sledgehammer to the Waratahs’ chronic problems; he took golf clubs instead.

As his players gathered in the change-room before the biggest Super Rugby game of their careers, and for most the biggest in their lives, Cheika slowly began to pull out 23 golf clubs, each personalised with female names.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

He’s loath to talk about dynasties and sustained dominance, but NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is already plotting a path to back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

With a season remaining on his three-year contract, Cheika laughed off speculation he could be heading off to coach the Argentine national team after guiding the Waratahs to their Holy Grail.

“What, for a holiday? No, I’m here. We’re well into our planning for next season,” Cheika said after the Waratahs’ last-gasp 33-32 win over the Crusaders in Saturday night’s final.

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Richie McCaw

PRETTY ANNOYED: Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw was hurting after he gave away the match-winning penalty to the Waratahs.

Two of the Crusaders’ favourite sons were ironically also their own worst enemies during an epic Super Rugby final last night, as Richie McCaw and Andrew Mehrtens both made significant contributions to the Waratahs’ historic triumph.

The All Blacks captain was a focal point of the Waratahs’ match-winning penalty in the final minute at ANZ Stadium while Mehrtens – who famously confirmed the Crusaders third title in Canberra in 2000 with a coolly taken three-pointer – played a more peripheral role in the Waratahs dramatic 33-32 victory.

Ultimately it was Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley who took centre stage by directing his seventh successful penalty attempt just clear of the crossbar with less than 30 seconds to play in a contest that completed the Waratahs resurrection as the dominant force in Australian rugby.

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Richie McCaw & Sam Whitelock

Richie McCaw cuts a forlorn figure after the match.

Todd Blackadder’s pre-match prediction that the Super Rugby final would be determined by a few crucial moments came back to haunt him as a “50-50″ call condemned the one-time competition kings to another bridesmaid experience.

Bernard Foley’s last minute penalty secured the Waratahs their maiden title on Saturday in Sydney and extended the Crusaders wait for their eighth to at least an eighth year.

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Bernard Foley

The moment: Bernard Foley puts boot to ball in the hope of winning the title.

When the Waratahs were awarded a penalty inside the last minute of Saturday’s night Super Rugby final against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium, Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley didn’t flinch.

He immediately stepped up to take the kick – even though from 43-metre the attempt might be slightly out of his range.

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