The short-term future of James O’Connor and his return to Australia is assured, but doubts remain about his long-term plans after the World Cup in Britain next year.
Queensland are expecting O’Connor, who has 44 Test caps with the Wallabies, to remain in Brisbane after announcing last Friday that the back had signed a two-year deal with them – starting next season.
The Wallabies have been the source of great pain and great satisfaction in Bryan Habana’s glittering Test career.
After the anguish of the 2011 World Cup quarter-final – a game still capable of sending a collective shudder through a Springboks team room – and the elation of last year’s watershed Test victory at Suncorp Stadium, it is fitting that the South African winger will play his 100th Test against the Wallabies in Perth.
The Kurtley Beale No 10 experiment has been aborted, with Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie naming Super Rugby title-winning halves Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps to take on South Africa in Perth this Saturday.
Beale and Brumbies halfback Nic White have both been benched following the Wallabies’ 51-20 flogging from the All Blacks, but centre Matt Toomua, winger Rob Horne and star fullback Israel Folau have all held their spots in the backline.
Adam Ashley Cooper has shifted to the wing to cover for the retired Pat McCabe (neck), with Tevita Kuridrani getting the call-up at outside centre for the Patersons Stadium clash.
Yes, I know that James O’Connor has been a prat.
An official at the ARU who had to deal with him all the time told me that O’Connor was the worst of the Three Amigos – O’Connor, Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper.
He would encourage and lead his mates into trouble and then, somehow, slide away unscathed, while the other two copped the blame and the punishments.
Australian vice captain James Slipper says the Wallabies’ pack must shoulder some of the responsibility for Kurtley Beale’s underwhelming performance at five-eighth in Auckland 10 days ago.
After a two-Test experiment with Beale and Brumbies halfback Nic White at the helm of the Wallabies’ back line, Ewen McKenzie is set to debut the Super Rugby title-winning combination of Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps on Tuesday when he names the side to take on South Africa at Paterson’s Stadium.
But in a week in which the entire Australian line-up will be out to repair the Wallabies’ badly bruised reputation, Slipper leapt to Beale’s defence and said the pack had to give their back line generals something to work with.
“He’s a class player. We all know what he can do,” the Wallabies prop and Stan Pilecki medallist said.
The Springboks will look to “cut off supply” to Israel Folau to continue a remarkable 90 per cent success rate on the road for the past two years.
The Wallabies fullback was the only bright spot in Australia’s 51-20 hammering at the hands of the All Blacks in Auckland last month.
Wallabies prop James Slipper says it’s unfair to single out five-eighth Kurtley Beale for criticism following the side’s recent 51-20 loss to the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Calls are growing for Beale to be replaced at flyhalf by Bernard Foley for Saturday night’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa in Perth.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has denied reports that James O’Connor demanded a guaranteed World Cup spot to return to Australia.
McKenzie said O’Connor’s decision to leave a rich contract with Toulon signals an improved attitude.
O’Connor was revealed as a new signing for the Queensland Reds on Friday night. But unlike fellow recruit Karmichael Hunt, the ARU did not give him a financial top-up.
Playing in exile with Toulon, O’Connor reportedly demanded a spot in the Wallabies squad for next year’s World Cup from McKenzie or he’d stay with the French champions.
An unnamed source told L’Equipe: “James has two options. Either McKenzie guarantees him a place in the squad for the World Cup … or James feels that he is being recalled simply to make up the numbers, with no guarantees, in which case he will stay at Toulon.”
Will Skelton is eager to do battle with the “big boppers” of South Africa after turning in 80-minute audition for the Sydney Stars in their loss to Melbourne Rising at Leichhardt Oval.
Whether the rugby equivalent of a fight scene from Jurassic Park — 140kg Skelton duelling with South Africa’s lumbering monsters — occurs at the start or the end of the Test in Perth remains to be seen, but the big lock did what was asked of him by seeing out the entire match.
It wasn’t a pleasant Sunday for the Stars — pumped 45-13 by Melbourne — but Ewen McKenzie said if Skelton was to be considered to start against South Africa, the impact player needed to display a capacity to play 80 minutes.
The Waratahs’ super-sub hadn’t done that in more than three months but came through comfortably.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer expects higher standards in Australia than his side achieved against Argentina.
Although they beat the Pumas at home and away, neither of the wins were convincing with torrential rain slowing them down in Pretoria before they got out of jail in Salta.
Meyer admitted that he was not satisfied with their two performances thus far, and added that they will have to lift their standards if they are to get the better of a competitive Wallabies outfit.
The ACT Brumbies have declared Jarrad Butler a “star of the future” after the unheralded back-rower claimed a double delight at the club’s awards dinner on Saturday.
Butler emerged as the stand out player in a team boasting 13 Wallabies, winning his first Brett Robinson award as the players’ player for the Super Rugby season.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie still believes that his side’s thrashing by the All Blacks at Eden Park last Saturday was an “aberration” rather than a confronting measure of the gulf between the two sides.
McKenzie is playing down the need to make sweeping changes to his line-up despite the Wallabies 51-20 loss to the world No.1 New Zealanders in the Rugby Championship.
I always find it interesting how people think they need to reinvent the wheel. They think they can make it work better when in fact it is spinning around just nicely as it is.
The wheel I am speaking of is the Waratahs combination at five-eighth and inside centre, and the fact that it wasn’t used for the Wallabies for the opening two games of the Rugby Championship.
Publicly Kurtley Beale was happy about his selection at five-eighth and I am sure he was in his preferred position, but I wonder if privately he ever thought, “have I spent enough time in the role?”
Wallabies vice-captain James Slipper has underlined his standing as the most influential prop in Australian rugby by dominating the awards at the Queensland Reds’ gala ball.
Slipper became the first front-rower to win the coveted Pilecki Medal for a second time on Friday night while also taking out the People’s Choice award and the Spirit of the Reds award.
James O’Connor’s willingness to shelve any special contract demands is the first sign that a new maturity at the Queensland Reds will replace his old spoiled kid persona.
There were reservations initially at Queensland Rugby Union board level that a player with O’Connor’s rap sheet of poor discipline was a bad fit for the Reds.
When most people refer to the influence of Wallabies legend Mark Ella on rugby union, they recall his on-field wizardry and brilliance with the ball in hand.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika did on Thursday at a Randwick Rugby Club fund-raising lunch that feted Australian rugby’s four “Invincibles”.
Ella, who played 25 Tests from 1980-1984 before retiring at the of age 25, is one; along with Col Windon, Ken Catchpole and David Campese – all of whom played for the Galloping Greens.
The awful truth about the Wallabies’ hammering last weekend is that by 2015 the All Blacks could roll out an entirely different back line and dish it out all over again.
Wallowing in pessimism? Perhaps, but look at the stockpile of talent that wasn’t even in the 23 in Auckland that, in theory, they could select next year.
Springbok fullback Willie le Roux says he has settled in the role coach Heyneke Meyer has entrusted him with.
Le Roux has become a popular player in South Africa since making his Test debut against Italy in Durban in 2013.
His attacking influence has given the Springbok backline an expansive approach as he’s played a playmaker’s role in a number of tries scored over the past year. He’s also scored seven tries in his 17 appearances.
The Queensland Reds will on Friday night unveil James O’Connor and Karmichael Hunt as their blue-chip recruits for 2015.
Rugby’s worst-kept secrets will be revealed together at the Reds’ Gala Ball at the Brisbane Convention Centre, but diehard fans will be hoping for more.
Although O’Connor and Hunt, neither of whom will be in attendance, represent the franchise’s biggest recruitment announcement since Super Rugby kicked off in 1996, Queensland can’t fix the problems that plagued them this season with two outside backs.
Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau made national headlines when they defected from the NRL to AFL in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Folau finished a difficult, though lucrative, stint in the AFL in 2012 and is now one of rugby union’s top draw cards. Hunt, meanwhile, is poised to join him in the 15-man code with reports linking him to the Queensland Reds in 2015.
Test captain Michael Hooper says the Wallabies will hear a few home truths when they come back together for the first time since one of their worst losses to the All Blacks.
Hooper, who scored one of the Wallabies’ two late tries at Eden Park last weekend, described the side’s performance as ”terrible” and way off their best.
After a few days to stew on the 51-20 drubbing – he still has not watched a replay – Hooper said the Wallabies had to bounce back.
Jonathan Kaplan has questioned whether the Springboks understand the nuances at scrums and breakdowns.
Despite winning 33-31 in Salta at the weekend, the Bok front row suffered humiliation at the hands of Argentina, with the reputations of Jannie du Plessis and Gurthro Steenkamp taking serious body blows.
Kaplan noted this when he analysed the Boks’ performance on his website, www.ratetheref.co.za.
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.
The open letter written by Pat McCabe.
It has truly been an honour to represent the Brumbies and the Wallabies over the past five years.
While my playing career has not ended the way I would have liked, I consider myself extremely fortunate.
Fortunate to have met and shared experiences with special players and coaches.
Not until we get into the next group of games will we have some perspective and context in which to put the first two rounds of the Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks’ forward strength will be tested when they take on the Pumas and their physicality will be tested against the Springboks.
A win in either away game will put the Bokke in a powerful position, the Wallabies will have to bounce back from their thumping defeat at Eden Park or face an exit from calculations, and we will find out how many of their bullets Argentina has fired already.
There are two things that we can take from the second round of the Rugby Championship 2014.
- The All Blacks are clearly not ‘on the slide’. In fact if anything they are on the up and up and all the 12-all draw did was to inspire them to dick punch the Wallabies in their faces, hard.
- The Pumas’ ‘Bajada’ scrum is a thing of beauty, unless you are the Springboks, then it is a thing of nightmares.
The Waratahs are hopeful of locking in off-contract playmaker Kurtley Beale within a fortnight.
Coach Michael Cheika said he wasn’t taking anything for granted, but was reasonably confident of re-signing the 43-Test back for another season.
“It looks like it’s going better, so hopefully something’s going to happen there in the next week or two,” Cheika said.
Australia has announced a 30-man squad for its next two Rugby Championship matches, including the return of New South Wales Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Coach Ewen McKenzie said Wednesday that Polota-Nau will not be considered for selection in Australia’s match against South Africa in Perth on 6 September.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Victor Matfield is over his injury problems and will rejoin the Springbok squad when they get together for the Australasian leg of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, while Marcel van der Merwe has been called up for the injured Frans Malherbe.
Furthermore, Willem Alberts has also been drafted back into the squad, pending a fitness test on Thursday when the squad gets together in Johannesburg. Both Alberts and Matfield were part of the initial 30-man squad, but missed out on the victories over Argentina in Pretoria and Salta because of injury.
Now for some better news after the desperately close shave in Salta, Springbok fans: even Australians seem to believe South Africa will beat the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday 6 September.
The Sydney Morning Herald website has a poll up asking the simple question of the Castle Rugby Championship clash: “Who will win between the Wallabies and Springboks in Perth?”
Possession, Position, Pace – the Three P’s of rugby preached on a regular basis through his career by the great Otago man Charlie Saxton, and still applicable in this modern era.
But on Saturday night at Eden Park the All Blacks might have been more about the three “A’s”.
Accuracy, Attitude, and Anger?
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is clear that his team need to take a massive step up before they face the Wallabies in Perth in their next Castle Lager Rugby Championship game on 6 September.
The Bok captain arrived home from the great Salta escape – where the Boks needed a penalty four minutes from time to beat a plucky, aggressive Argentinean team – knowing that the weight of public outrage at the result would be waiting for his team.
But De Villiers is a pragmatist, and, as he points out: it wasn’t the greatest of performances, but a win is a win.