Round Three of the Super Rugby season kicks off this evening, with two Australian teams in action as the Hurricanes host the Brumbies (5:35pm AEDT) and the Rebels host the Highlanders at AAMI Park (7:45pm).
It's part of a huge weekend of Rugby, with the Queensland Reds also hosting their first home match of the season against the Crusaders (Saturday, 7:45pm) as part of a double-header which also sees the Queensland Women's XV take on Rugby WA in the Buildcorp Super W, before the XVs action comes to a close with the Brumbies Women hosting the Rebels Women on Sunday afternoon.
The Australian Men's Rugby Sevens team also return to action on the World Rugby Sevens Series in Las Vegas, featuring in a tough pool alongside Fiji, Wales and Scotland.
As always, we’ll keep you up to date with all of the best player stories being told in the media with our weekly wrap, the Taylors Wines Top 5, brought to you by our good friends at Taylors Wines (and accompanied by a handy wine tip every edition).
We’ll also bring you all of the Australian Super Rugby team selection news, and fixture information, to make sure that if you can’t get there in person, you know exactly when to lock your television to Fox Sports’ outstanding coverage of the game, or to fire up your Kayo Sports app.
So, with all that said, let’s get into it – Super Rugby, Round Three!
Hurricanes vs. Brumbies
Brumbies: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Folau Fainga’a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Blake Enever, 6. Pete Samu, 7. David Pocock, 8. Lachlan McCaffrey, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Christian Lealiifano (C), 11. Chance Peni, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Tom Banks.
Reserves: 16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. James Slipper, 18. Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Darcy Swain, 20. Tom Cusack, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Wharenui Hawera, 23. Tom Wright
Melbourne Rebels vs. Highlanders
Melbourne Rebels: 1. Tetera Faulkner, 2. Anaru Rangi, 3. Sam Talakai, 4. Luke Jones, 5. Matt Philip, 6. Angus Cottrell, 7. Brad Wilkin, 8. Isi Naisarani, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Bill Meakes, 13. Tom English, 14. Jack Maddocks, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty.
Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Matt Gibbon, 18. Jermaine Ainsley, 19. Adam Coleman, 20. Richard Hardwick, 21. Rob Leota, 22. Michael Ruru, 23. Reece Hodge.
Queensland Reds vs. Crusaders
Queensland Reds: 1. Feao Fotuaika, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Harry Hockings, 6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 7. Liam Wright, 8. Angus Scott-Young, 9. Moses Sorovi, 10. Hamish Stewart, 11. Sefa Naivalu, 12. Samu Kerevi, 13. Jordan Petaia, 14. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 15. Bryce Hegarty.
Reserves: 16. Alex Mafi, 17. JP Smith, 18. Ruan Smith, 19. Caleb Timu, 20. Scott Higginbotham, 21. Tate McDermott, 22. Duncan Paia'aua, 23. Isaac Lucas
1. Slipper at home in the nation's capital
We start in Canberra this week, where Wallaby loosehead prop James Slipper has been a revelation in his first season in Brumbies' colours after his well-publicised challenges in 2018.
Speaking with the Canberra Times' Chris Dutton, Slipper explained that the shift was exactly what he needed.
"This move is something that needed to happen for me and it's just one of those things, you've got to jump in head first for the team and for the city," he said. "I understand that I have let down and disappointed many Queensland and Australian rugby fans over the last year - something I will have to forever live with. But hopefully I can repay them this year for everything that's happened.
"I'm out of my comfort zone in Canberra and I'm enjoying it, but the biggest change was not having my family around. In the end, they're just happy if I'm happy."
Slipper's breach of the Illicit Drug Policy in Brisbane happened at a time of great turmoil in his life as his mother was diagnosed with cancer, resulting in mental health challenges and ultimately poor-decision making, but he has taken ownership of his actions in admirable fashion and taken plenty of learnings from the experience.
"My mum beat breast cancer about 15 years ago. We were younger then, it probably didn't hit me hard because of that. But to get another go at it is just bullshit," Slipper says in an open and raw interview. "I went the wrong way about things and that's the embarrassing bit because mum can go so well. I didn't deal with it well. That frustrates me, but it is what it is. It was the wrong thing. But everything that has happened has brought us together [as a family] and she's a good example of how you should live your life. That's what I take out of it.
"The biggest thing I've learnt from it is to talk, and talk openly [to family]. Everyone in our family will tell you I was hard to talk to on anything deep. But that's one thing I've improved. And just to make time for the people who are special to you.
"Since everything has happened, I think we're a lot closer as a family. Our communication is better. I probably took it for granted being an hour up the road, so now we talk most days. I know mum is doing well, so that's all that matters. She's incredible, she trains every morning. That makes it easier for me, she's just really keen to get down to Canberra and hang out here."
Slipper's heart still lies in Queensland and has no ill-feeling towards the Reds. But being injury free and having his first full pre-season since 2008 has given him what he needed.
"Down here I'm out of my comfort zone. One thing I always realised was that the Brumbies were strong because of Canberra. I've watched a lot of guys come down here and they've turned club players into Wallabies. A lot of it is down to the program and the club, but it's also Canberra. I've got no one else here but the footy boys. For me, everything here is about the Brumbies.
"I had a coffee with Dan McKellar and as soon as I spoke to him I knew this was the right spot for me. I'll always love Queensland, it will always be home. But this needed to happen and this is the place I love to be right now.
"It would be nice to get some success down here. I'm just excited to play rugby again. It's not a soap story, but I'm enjoying myself, the Brumbies, Canberra ... I've got a new perspective. Hopefully I can repay the Australian rugby supporters this year, and in the fans in Queensland for everything that's happened. I've still got aspirations to play really good rugby, I can't tell if that takes me back to [the Wallabies]. But I want to play well for the Brumbies."
Click here to read the full story.
2. Phipps lifts the lid on January Wallaby Camp
It was the Wallaby pre-season camp which saw Nick Phipps, Adam Coleman, David Pocock, Dane Haylett-Petty and Sefa Naivalu suffer injuries on the eve of the Super Rugby season, but according to Phipps himself the attention it has received in the aftermath has been over the top.
Speaking with Sam Worthington, Nick McArdle and Christy Doran on the Fox Rugby Podcast this week, Phipps made it clear that the camp was actually incredibly valuable on a number of levels, although conceding that the fitness component could have been handled better as players were flogged somewhat unexpectedly immediately after their off-season breaks.
“I tore my calf in that Wallaby camp on the 7th of January and since then I’ve been nursing back to health. It (the camp) has been painted like a real death march or something,” he joked.
“We had to come back at a certain level of fitness and competence to do things. I sort of pride myself on getting that stuff done — if I need to get stuff done I’ll get it done in the holidays. I came back and day one we went straight into some noisy stuff (intense sprints) and I pinged my calf towards the end of the session. I wasn’t the only one, I had Poey (Pocock) and Dane (Haylett-Petty) with me and then I think Adsy (Coleman) did his...
“It was frustrating because if there’s three or four blokes from the Wallabies squad who you can trust to do all the work and be ready to go it’s probably us blokes and then we’re sitting on the sideline. But I don’t know, I think it was just a bit of luck, we went real quick, real fast and luck sort of got us four.”
But overall, Phipps said the pre-season national camp was a “really good concept.”
“Yeah, I got injured but the rest of the camp was really positive,” Phipps said. “We did a lot of great work with the S and C (strength and conditioning), it’s a good opportunity for the players to be really selfish about themselves, getting their bodies right, ready for the season and also having a lot of one-on-one time with the coaches and understanding what they want us to work on through the Super Rugby season.
“Cheik actually had a really good presentation about what he expects from players in different groups, to pass the selection criteria and that maps out your season ahead, so you can sit there and start to tick your goals off and really plan ahead. I know there is a lot of stuff out there saying how it was poorly run — it was quite well run.
“But I guess it is disappointing that a few of us pinged our calves. It’s frustrating but injuries happen. To be honest, who’s to say that if we went back to the Waratahs we wouldn’t have done it then? So obviously annoying but that’s life.”
Click here to read the full story.
3. Boyle buoyant about Buildcorp Super W
After making her Wallaroos debut in 2017 as the youngest member of the Australian Women's Rugby World Cup squad, Millie Boyle was gutted to miss the entire inaugural Buildcorp Super W season last year following rotator cuff surgery.
The Women's XVs game has changed markedly in that time, with Wallaroos double-headers for the Bledisloe Cup last year and again this year and NSW winning Super W at the first attempt, but Boyle managed to get through the AON Uni 7s series last year and return to XVs action with Queensland as they started their 2019 campaign with an emphatic 112-0 win over the Melbourne Rebels.
"It was a really good first hitout as a team," she told Rugby.com.au's Emma Greenwood. "We didn't get the chance to get a trial game in, so I think we were just going in hard and playing what we normally do in training, playing our set plays, and it really paid off.
"And we didn't ever drop (intensity) at all, we just kept going which is really good to see. I got shoulder surgery around this time last year, so that was my first game for Queensland and I'm really looking forward to this weekend and playing the Western Force girls.
"Our main priority is looking at getting that one step up from last year and taking the Super W comp out and then looking into those Test matches and when they are," she said.
Click here to read the full story.
4. Billy focused on the job at hand
Having been a part of the Wallabies' setup for a couple of years, it's completely understandable that Melbourne Rebels centre Billy Meakes headed into the 2018 season with a Test debut firmly front and centre. That being said, it didn't eventuate and in hindsight he believes it may have affected the way he played.
“I did a big reflection at the end of last season and was probably just focusing on what was next after Super Rugby and thinking about that Wallaby mix a little bit too much and for me, if you peel it all back you've got to be selected first for the Rebels and then you've got to be playing well week in, week out and that stuff takes care of itself,” he told Rugby.com.au's Beth Newman.
“For me, it's just peeling everything back, concentrating on making the team for the Rebels, playing well here and if that stuff happens it happens. I had a goal at the start of the year that I wanted to play for the Wallabies and be all and end all is I didn't play for the Wallabies.
“So, you've got to be pretty harsh on yourself, you've got to reflect pretty hard and then you've got to reset goals, figure out how you're going to get there and that's the plan I've come up with and how I'm going to move forward."
Meakes was impressive in the Rebels' week one win over the Brumbies and said he was benefitting from stringing a full preseason together after a number of injury-affected years.
“I've probably just had a better preseason or a longer one than I've had in the past,” he said. “I haven't had a proper preseason for a couple of years now.
“It's been nice to actually have a full block just working on my body and that was something that I reflected on the back end of last year, that I wasn't probably fit enough to last the full 80 and play at my best and then that top end speed as you spoke about. That's something I've been working really hard with the S&C staff with and hopefully starting to see the benefits of it now.”
Click here to read the full story.
5. Network preparing Quirk for life after Rugby
Preparing for life after sport is something of the utmost importance for professional athletes, with involuntary retirement levels extremely high and livelihoods changing in a second when players get injured, don't get re-contracted or simply decide that they have had enough.
In this first-person take in The Australian Financial Review, alongside Chairman of Suncorp Christina McLoughlin, 2016 Olympic Games Gold Medal winner and current Australian Women's Rugby Sevens star Alicia Quirk OAM talks about the role the Minerva Network, which pairs female business leaders with elite sportswomen for mentoring, is having on her preparations for life after Rugby.
"After we won Olympic Gold, there was a significant increase in our team's exposure and interest from sponsors, businesses and people who wanted to associate our brand and our face with their companies. There was talk about agents or management, but I was happy to represent myself and didn't want to be aligned with too many things. But I needed some guidance.
"I'm good friends with Christine (McLoughlin's) father and he said, "If you need any help, my daughter works in a business in Sydney, and she's got great connections and she'll help you navigate this space. So I called Christine and said, "I don't really know what my value is and where I can fit into that corporate space." That's where the idea of a mentor relationship came about, and our conversations brought Minerva to life towards the middle of 2017.
"There were other women in business who'd had similar conversations with athletes, and a few fantastic brains got together and decided they could share what they had learnt with young, aspiring athletes.
"My aspiration is not only to go to the Tokyo Olympics and win a second gold medal, but also to use the opportunity with Christine to foster sponsorships. I'm a qualified physiotherapist and finished my degree while playing. So we're looking at aligning with a corporate partner that has the same values as me as a health professional, as a sporting professional and as an up-and-coming leader within the sport.
"I would like an ambassador role. Christine and I think of companies that would be well aligned and mutually beneficial; looking at what they can do for me now, and what I can do for them in terms of being an ambassador for their brand, and what positive image I can portray for them. Christine and I speak and email regularly, sometimes weekly, and I live only 10 minutes away from her. It's a very fluid relationship. Christine might say to me, "This is a great contact, I'll introduce you to them at the next Minerva thing." We try to have Minerva workshops, where all mentors and mentees come together, every three to four months."
Click here to read the full story.
And now, for an exclusive tip from our friends at Taylors Wines, and this week learning about how wines age…
The higher quality wines age better than inferior ones because they have more acids, sugars, tannins, minerals, pigments, esters and aldehydes. As wines age, tannin levels diminish and acid levels reduce. In terms of flavour, different wines age in different ways.
For instance, with a Cabernet Sauvignon, the ‘grippy’ effect of the tannin diminishes, the fruit flavours increase while the oak integrates with the wine and balances with the fruit flavours. As wines age, ‘secondary’ flavours emerge like toast, toffee, cashew and bacon, in addition to a maturing of the rich berry flavours. Chardonnays tend to develop flavours like caramel, butterscotch vanilla and cashews, while the acids diminish and oak flavours become less dominant.
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