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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika has insisted that he will be able to juggle his jobs as Wallabies and Waratahs coach throughout the 2015 Super Rugby season.

The Waratahs went unbeaten at home last year on their way to winning their first Super Rugby title which led to Cheika being appointed as Wallabies coach after Ewen McKenzie stepped down.

Cheika will step down as Waratahs coach at the end of the 2015 Super Rugby season but as they lost their first match since he took on the dual role questions would inevitably follow about whether he would be able to concentrate fully on both roles.

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WaratahsThe Waratahs have named an unchanged starting line-up for their match against the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.

Pat McCutcheon and Peter Betham are added to a list of reserves that will travel south, with coach Michael Cheika naming his bench closer to the game.

Flyhalf Bernard Foley will celebrate his 50th Super Rugby cap this week, while teammates Adam Ashley-Cooper and Stephen Hoiles will notch their 50th Waratahs Super Rugby caps in the same match.

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WaratahsMichael Cheika has named his team for Round 1 as the Waratahs get their Super Rugby defence underway against the Force on Sunday.

Taqele Naiyaravoro has been named in the starting line-up for the first time in his career, while Dave Dennis and Matt Carraro will make their returns from injury.

Meanwhile, new addition to the squad, Rugby League convert Sam Lousi, has been named on the bench.

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Sam Lousi

Sam Lousi

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has targeted rugby league convert Sam Lousi as the long-term replacement for lock Kane Douglas, the one significant departure from the squad that won last year’s Super Rugby title.

The work done by the hulking second row trio of Springbok Jacques Potgieter, Will Skelton and Douglas played a large part in building a solid platform for the running game that took the Waratahs to their first championship in August.

The departure of Douglas for Ireland was a blow not only for the Waratahs but also for the Wallabies, who Cheika will guide into the World Cup this year as well as leading the Super Rugby title defence.

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Brendan McKibbin

Brendan McKibbin

English Premiership Rugby club London Irish have announced that they have signed Waratahs 2014 Super Rugby No 9, Brendan McKibbin, on a two-year deal.

McKibbin was part of the Waratahs squad that were crowned Super Rugby Champions last season and has 63 Super Rugby caps to his name.

Formerly of the Queensland Reds, Scotland born McKibbin made his debut for the New South Wales outfit in 2011 and went on to become their first choice scrum half amassing 234 points for the side in 59 appearances.

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Israel Folau

Israel Folau

Israel Folau could soon be making an appearance in the Waratahs – and even the Wallabies – midfield as he continues to be an unpredictable threat.

The fullback’s midfield ambitions have been given a major boost after Waratahs coach Michael Cheika green-lighted a move for his talented player.

Cheika was careful to put a long lead time on Folau’s dream of donning the No 13 jersey but said such a change would give the Waratahs – and possibly the Wallabies – the element of surprise against their rivals.

“It’s a different way of getting him the ball,” Cheika said.

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Sekope Kepu

Sekope Kepu

Both Sekope Kepu (Waratahs) and Nic White (Brumbies), have added their names to the long list of Australian Players who will pack up and go play rugby in France after the Rugby World Cup of 2015.

 

Sekope Kepu:

Australian international prop Sekope Kepu has become the latest addition to the conveyor belt moving players from the Southern Hemisphere to France.

Kepu signed a three-year deal with ambitious Top 14 club Bordeaux-Begles.

The 28-year-old Wallaby – who will join after this year’s World Cup – is the second player from the Waratahs to join the club coached by former France captain Raphael Ibanez.

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Super RugbyWith Super Rugby fast approaching it is important to have a look at what each of the teams are doing in their preparations and who they have at their disposal.

As the teams prepare for this brusing competition there is the oppourtunity to test out combanations as well as see how the new boys go.

The Sharks will travel to French champions Toloun to test out their game plan against the Galacticos of rugby while the Bulls will take on the Cheetahs in a traditional pre-season match in Polokwane.

The Australasian sides will also warm up against each other with the Highlanders setting up a comprehensive pre-season schedule due to the first round bye.

The ‘transfer market’ has made the upcoming Super Rugby season an exciting prospect with some big names in James O’Connor and Nick Cummins returning to Australia.

Menawhile, the Bulls have bolstered their squad with some excellent former Cheetahs players.

Finally, and unsurprizingly, Ma’a Nonu has made another move – this time back to the Hurricanes.

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Nick PhippsScrumhalf Nick Phipps has signed a two-year contract extension with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), which will keep him with the Wallabies and Waratahs until the end of 2017.

Phipps started all 14 of Australia’s Tests in the past year, taking his tally of Test caps to 28 – since his debut in 2011.

Wallaby coach Michael Cheika welcomed Phipps’ decision to sign, saying the 25-year-old is “someone who is prepared to do whatever it takes to make things happen and I am sure we will see that from him over the next three seasons”.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika is unfazed about a possible mass exodus of players after next year’s World Cup, following the departures of veterans James Horwill and Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Lock James Horwill, captain at the 2011 World Cup, agreed to a three-year contract with English club Harlequins as he prepares for his first spell in English rugby.

On the same day, French Top 14 side Bordeaux announced they had agreed a two-year deal with wing Ashley-Cooper.

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Adam Ashley-Cooper

Adam Ashley-Cooper

French Top-14 side Bordeaux-Begles have announced on Wednesday that they had agreed a two-year contract with Australian international Adam Ashley-Cooper to join them after next year’s Rugby World Cup.

“Apart from being the great player he is, Adam Ashley-Cooper particularly impressed us with his extraordinary competitive spirit and his willingness to embrace our ambitious plans,” Bordeaux club president Laurent Marti said.

The 30-year-old Wallabies centre or wing has won 104 caps for Australia and is expected to play a leading role in their World Cup campaign in England next October.

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Super RugbyTwenty-three newly contracted Australian rugby players have gathered in Sydney for the 12 annual RUPA Induction Camp at St Andrew’s College.

In attendance are players across all five Australian Super Rugby teams and the National Sevens who have been offered their first full time or Extended Playing Squad (EPS) contract for 2015.

Last year the Camp involved players including Will Skelton, Alofa Alofa, Jack Debreczeni, Curtis Browning, Samu Kerevi and Adam Coleman.

In 2014, the camp includes five players from the Brumbies, four from the Waratahs, Rebels and Force, three from the Reds and, for the first time, three members of the women’s National Sevens squad.

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Dave Dennis

Dave Dennis

Waratahs captain Dave Dennis revealed that he went to America to speed up the rehabilitation program, following a knee injury.

Dennis was among the first batch of Waratahs that began pre-season training this week, as they look to defend their Super Rugby crown.

He was among the first group of returning players, which include senior team members Pat McCutcheon, Paddy Ryan and Jeremy Tilse.

They are joined by seven new faces, including former New Zealand Warriors Rugby League player Sam Lousi.

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Sparse Crowd

Empty spaces – Yet another sparse crowd has the ARU concerned.

On a humid morning in February, Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver took the microphone and made the extraordinary declaration that 2014 was the year of the Waratahs.

Not a ball had been kicked, no one knew which Kurtley Beale would turn up in round one and, though they boasted the best and most expensive playing roster in the country, this was the Waratahs, after all.

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Will Skelton

Will Skelton in action for NRC club Sydney Stars.

Warathahs coach Michael Cheika has defended Will Skelton’s work ethic after the giant lock was left out of the Wallabies tour party to build fitness in the NRC.

Skelton’s conditioning came under the spotlight on Wednesday when Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said a decision had been made to get more games under his belt after playing only 106 minutes of rugby since the Super Rugby final.

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Jacques Potgieter

Jacques Potgieter

He became an honorary Australian by starring for the Waratahs in their Super Rugby triumph but Jacques Potgieter is set to go from teammate to fierce Test rival with a recall to the Springboks later this month.

The wildman flanker, who became a cult hero for NSW, is a favourite of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer and News Corporation understands Potgieter will be drafted into the South African squad for home games against Australia and New Zealand.

Potgieter is currently playing in Japan for the Fukuoka Sanix Blues but recently returned to South Africa on holidays and spoke with Meyer at the Boks’ first Test win over Argentina at Loftus Versfeld.

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Mark Ella - Randwick 1984

Learning from the greats… Mark Ella playing for Randwick in 1984.

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.

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Kurtley Beale and his Waratahs teammates

Feeling good: Kurtley Beale and his Waratahs teammates celebrate their Super Rugby triumph

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.

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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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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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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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Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan

Retired South African referee Jonathan Kaplan says the Crusaders can feel hard done by after a late penalty cost them the Super Rugby title.

The Waratahs beat the Crusaders 33-32 in the Super Rugby final in Sydney last Saturday courtesy of a late penalty by flyhalf Bernard Foley.

The Crusaders looked headed for their eighth Super Rugby crown when flyhalf Colin Slade put them in front with a penalty in the 76th minute.

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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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Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper playing for the Brumbies, before White deemed him surplus to requirements.

When the scholars trawl through history and attempt to unearth the origins of a Waratahs premiership, they may settle on two names.

Michael Cheika and Israel Folau? No? Okay, what about Kurtley Beale, or Nathan Grey?

All those will feature, certainly.

But in the timeline but they’d have to go back further and head 287km south to Canberra.

There they’d find the names Jake White and Ita Vaea, and a moment-in-time conversation between the new Brumbies coach and a kid with six starts called Michael Hooper.

The year was 2011 and Hooper had been at the Brumbies for two seasons; serving as back-up to the legendary George Smith in his debut year.

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Super RugbyIt is the Finals of Super Rugby 2014 this weekend! The Waratahs host the Crusaders.

This weekend decides the honors for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

What a game we have to look forward to!

The Waratahs have been good and consistent all season whereas the resurgent Crusaders, who absolutely pummelled the Cell C Sharks last weekend have hit a rich vein of form.

A winner is difficult to predict, there are game breakers on either side, no matter how you look at it. In the final analysis the 2 best Super Rugby sides of 2014 are in the Final and both deserve to contest for ultimate glory in 2014.

13 Other Challengers already now lay by the wayside, done and dusted, only 1 more game to come…. this one!

Who do you think will take the crown and Why?

Let the game continue…. let the battle commence!

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Phil Waugh says he will be one of the great Waratahs and Daryl Gibson believes he is the “free spirit” rugby badly needs.

Jacques Potgieter just thinks he has never played with anyone better.

“I think Kurtley is the best rugby player I’ve ever played with and the best I ever will play with,” Potgieter says. “The best of the best. When he gets the ball it is like in slow motion, he has got so much time with the ball. And the thing he has taught me is that he always backs himself.”

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