It’s finally here – Round One of the 2019 Super Rugby season, a season which takes on even greater significance than usual with the crescendo that is the Rugby World Cup to come in September.
Whose performances will catapult them into the Wallabies frame, lock in their spot in the starting side or see them bolt from out of the blue to be an unexpected selection? There’s also the second season of the Buildcorp Super W kicking off next weekend, with no shortage of excitement about the continued growth of that competition!
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 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 One!
Brumbies vs. Melbourne Rebels, 7:45pm Friday 15th February, GIO Stadium, Canberra
Brumbies: 1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Fainga’a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. David Pocock, 8. Lachlan McCaffrey, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Christian Lealiifano (C), 11. Toni Pulu, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Tom Banks.
Reserves: 16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Blake Enever, 20. Peter Samu, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Wharenui Hawera, 23. Andy Muirhead
Melbourne Rebels: 1. Tetera Faulkner, 2. Anaru Rangi, 3. Jermaine Ainsley, 4. Luke Jones, 5. Matt Philip, 6. Angus Cottrell, 7. Richard Hardwick, 8. Isi Naisarani, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Billy Meakes, 13. Tom English, 14. Jack Maddocks, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty (C). Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Matt Gibbon, 18. Sam Talakai, 19. Esei Ha’angana, 20. Brad Wilkin, 21. Rob Leota, 22. Michael Ruru, 23. Semisi Tupou
NSW Waratahs vs. Hurricanes, 7:45pm Saturday 16th February, Brookvale Oval, Manly, Sydney
NSW Waratahs: 1. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2. Damien Fitzpatrick, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Jed Holloway, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Ned Hanigan, 7. Michael Hooper (C), 8. Jack Dempsey, 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Bernard Foley, 11. Curtis Rona, 12. Karmichael Hunt, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. Alex Newsome, 15. Israel Folu.
Reserves: 16. Tolu Latu, 17. Rory O’Connor, 18. Chris Talakai, 19. Lachlan Swinton, 20. Will Miller, 21. Mitch Short, 22. Mack Mason, 23. Cam Clark
Click here to see the full round of Super Rugby fixtures.
1. No shocks at 2019 Queensland Reds Pre-Season Camp
While their fans are forced to wait another week to see their team in action, with the Queensland Reds disappointingly fixtured a first round bye despite the ‘clean air’ in Brisbane this weekend, rest assured that the squad are fired up and ready to go in 2019!
In 2018, then-new Head Coach Brad Thorn told his players to jump on board a bus as a group towards the back end of pre-season; we’ll let new Reds Captain Samu Kerevi take over the story from here, via this interview with Fox Sports’ Sam Worthington.
“Thorny told us we were going to the Gold Coast for a retreat, basically,” Kerevi explains. “So the boys were in their kit, ready for the beach.”
It was a stitch up of the highest order. Instead of surfing and sun bathing, the Reds were put through the wringer, both mentally and physically, as they endured an old-fashioned army camp. Food and sleep were at a premium as Thorn revived an old Wayne Bennett pre-season favourite from his Brisbane Broncos days.
Now in his second year at the helm, Thorn repeated the dose in January, but this time around the squad were fully aware of what was going to happen – not that it meant that the camp was easy.
“It was pretty tough,” Kerevi explained. “Last year was probably tougher in the sense that we didn’t know what was coming. This year we knew it was coming. They gave us a bit more food this year than last and it was an awesome experience.
“We walked miles and miles — I don’t know how many — we pushed trailers, we carried people, injured combatants that we had to carry for ages, a couple of hours for walks. We had to swim in the river and make a boat out of nothing, with wooden stuff. That time together and those team activities — there was nights where we’d think we’d sleep but we wouldn’t.”
“It was awesome for us, it really brings the team together knowing how much the mind can push the body. You think your body can only get to a certain stage but with perseverance and the mind, pushing those limits, you can actually do more than what you think. So in that sense it was really awesome to find out how far we can go, how far we can push the body, how far we can mentally handle that pressure.
“That’s going to really help us in games, when we know we’ve been through tougher situations. We know to stick to what we’ve practised so we can get the result that we want.
“In that sense, that’s what the camp was really good for. A lot of people may say physically it’s tough, but I think mentally it challenged us more than anything.”
Click here to read the full story.
2. Fearless Banks ready for big 2019
Last year, Brumbies outside back Tom Banks mounted an insatiable case for Wallaby squad inclusion, eventually making his debut for the national side although not necessarily securing an automatic place in the 23.
With the Rugby World Cup on the horizon, he’s acutely aware of the competition for places in the back three for the green and gold; the names Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau, Jack Maddocks, Marika Koroibete, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Karmichael Hunt, Sefanaia Naivalu, Jordan Petaia, Curtis Rona, Henry Speight, and even new Brumbies teammate Toni Pulu, will be in the mix.
As he explained to the Canberra Times’ Chris Dutton, however, the licence to thrill that he has been given by his coach Dan McKellar has him primed for a career year.
"[McKellar] spoke about the things he wanted to see in me,” Banks said. What I learnt was to not take it for granted, nothing is guaranteed, and you've got to earn it. That's how I want it to be.
“And the biggest thing was just about playing without fear. I think that has helped me a lot. The thing I took out of last year was knowing what it takes to be good at the next level.
"Not just being good but being able to stand out as well. To do that you've got to have everything right. The things you don't think about, even they have to be top notch."
Click here to read the full story.
3. Quade back – and aren’t we pumped!
One of the most-anticipated comebacks in Australian Rugby gets underway this week, as mercurial superstar Quade Cooper wears the Melbourne Rebels’ five stars for the very first time following a year of Club Rugby in Brisbane.
Jettisoned from the plans of Brad Thorn at the Reds, Cooper’s talent and unpredictability will return to the deserved global platform alongside former Reds and Wallabies halves partner Will Genia; a mouth-watering prospect.
Speaking to RUGBY.com.au’s Beth Newman, Cooper explained that he was focused on performing in Navy before thinking too much about a return to the Wallabies team.
“To be honest, I don't see that, myself, being here to make the World Cup squad,” he said. “It's just a different jersey that I'm wearing, different opportunity and I'm not looking too far past doing the best I can here for Melbourne.
“If I do well, then things might open up but it's not about focusing on the outcome. Those decisions are out of my hands and they have been for my whole career so I don't intend on changing them or magically changing someone's mind on who they choose or anything like that.”
Genia himself is struggling to contain his excitement about rekindling the partnership which secured a Super Rugby title in Brisbane in 2011.
"It makes a difference when you've got someone who's a natural 10 and who plays that position and understands his role," Genia told AAP. "His biggest strength is his organisation and that's something we probably lacked a bit last year. He tells guys where they need to be, how he wants them to shape up, so I think he will make a huge difference to our team.
"We know each other's game so well but it's more a case of trying to fit into the structure of how we want to play as a team. We've got a pretty specific game plan heading into the Brumbies game of how we want to play so it's just concentrating on doing our jobs within that system."
4. Rocky re-incarnate?
It seems appropriate that on his 36th birthday, we’re talking about former Wallaby Captain and NSW Waratahs and Brumbies superstar Rocky Elsom. A powerful backrower, it appears his former teammate Michael Hooper sees a slew of similar characteristics in ‘Tahs teammate Jack Dempsey, back in blue after an injury-ravaged season in 2018.
Speaking with Jamie Pandaram in the Daily Telegraph, Hooper waxed lyrical about the return of ‘Demo’.
“[He’s got] power, he’s really explosive, and then some real finesse, he sometimes looks a bit like Rocky Elsom when he runs the ball,” Hooper said. “And he’s got some attributes, some skills he can pull out, there really are some similarities there.
“What comes to mind is his ball-carrying ability, what he can do in manipulating the defence. He’s very hungry to get in there and make a stand in the Waratah jersey.”
Hooper said the Tahs’ game plan against the fast-paced Canes would be tailored to their own high-tempo style.
“We’re a mobile forward pack, and we’ve got some real killers in the backline, so how we can recycle ball, move that around, get some ball in the air to our really talented guys in that space, regardless of what the Hurricanes are going to bring to us, is key.
“We’re sticking to what we’re good at. We’ve played a bit together at national level, it’s great for Jack to get a go at Waratahs level, it’s been a long time for him, a long road, playing in a jersey he really loves to play in.”
Click here to read the full story.
5. Super W: The Master & The Apprentice
As the Buildcorp Super W heads into its’ second season, the chasing back looking to steal the championship from the NSW Waratahs includes the Queensland Reds, Rugby WA, Melbourne Rebels and Brumbies.
The Brumbies boast one of Australia’s most decorated and well-credentialled female Rugby players in Louise Burrows, former Wallaroo and full-time school teacher, and in a remarkable twist of fate also boast one of the students at the very school she teaches at.
Canberra Girls Grammar teenage sensation Grace Kemp is expected to make her Brumbies debut in Round One alongside 40-year-old hooker Burrows. Kemp wasn't even born when Burrows first pulled on the ACT jumper more than two decades ago, and she said it was a dream come true to play for the Brumbies alongside one of her idols.
"It is a bit weird she's a teacher at school, but I learn so much from her, and she’s one of my role models, so it’s great to finally play with her," Kemp told the Canberra Times’ Eamonn Tiernan.
"I’ve been looking up to her for about three years now because she's a Royals senior and I’m a junior. I've watched most of her games, so it's amazing to play alongside her.”
Harden Red Devils export Kempt has been going to Brumbies games with her family since she was a child and admits she never thought she'd get to represent the famous Club.
"It means so much to me, I used to come over and watch the men play with my dad and brothers, and it's just amazing to be able to run out in this jersey and represent the state. I've always been a Rugby fan, and I was about five when I went to my first Brumbies game, my family loves it. My dad and brothers all played but never at this level.
"I didn't think I'd be wearing this jersey one day, but here I am. I played a curtain raiser at Canberra Stadium when I was younger and always wanted to do it again so I can't wait for round one."
Burrows backed Kemp to thrive from her first minute of Super W.
"Gracie, with her size and strength at 17, if she's kept in a program like the Brumbies, she could really develop into a mature Rugby player at a very young age," Burrows said. "Coming from Royals she has a little bit of experience already because there didn't use to be a girl's junior competition, give her a few years and she could be playing Wallaroos."
Click here to read the full story.
And now, for an exclusive tip from our friends at Taylors Wines, and this week we’re talking glassware…
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