Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia says he is ready for the Springboks' physical onslaught

Alex Broun 7/09/2018
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Will Genia barks out the orders to the Wallabies pack

Wallabies scrum-half and Queensland Reds legend Will Genia knows exactly what is waiting for him when he runs out on to the hallowed turf of Suncorp against the Springboks.

“They try to bludgeon you,” Genia told Sport360 from Brisbane.

“When you play against the All Blacks it’s the speed and the tempo of the game but with the Springboks – one thing I remember from playing against them is just how physical it is.

“Once they start getting on top of you physically they can certainly hurt you.”

After two tough losses against New Zealand, and the end of a 16th straight unsuccessful Bledisloe Cup campaign, Genia could almost be excused for feeling a little relieved that the All Blacks are in the rearview mirror.

But the now Melbourne Rebels No9 says he will prepare no differently than if he was facing the world champions.

“I can only speak on my behalf,” says the 92-Test veteran says, who will take to the field on Saturday at 14:00 UAE time. “But the thing is for me it’s a Test match, regardless of who you’re playing – and (we’re) coming up against traditionally one of the best teams that play the game.

“For me it’s a big Test match whether it’s the All Blacks or South Africa, England, whoever it is – I certainly don’t approach it any differently and it doesn’t feel any different.

“When you play against the All Blacks there’s always that cap hanging over your head that you haven’t won the (Bledisloe) Cup in 16 years but in terms of the match itself and approaching it any differently, it’s definitely not.”

Genia is man-handled by Coenie Oosthuizen

Genia is man-handled by Coenie Oosthuizen

The Wallabies and Springboks could not be closer matched currently, with the teams unable to be separated in both Rugby Championship matches last year – a 23-all draw in Perth followed by a 27-all draw in Bloemfontein.

“I think it displays where both teams are at in terms of regeneration and building,” agrees Genia.

“They’ve obviously had to have a number of new guys come in as well to their squad.

“You look at the World Cup in 2015, there were a lot of older stars (Bryan Habana, Schalk Burger and Bismarck du Plessis to name a few), now there’s a lot of new blood coming in who are fresh in the international arena.

“So I think it’s a very good indication of where both teams are at.”

The 30-year-old has some great memories of playing against the Boks, including his second Test, which was played against South Africa at the picturesque Newlands in Cape Town.

“I was honestly just so amazed by the atmosphere,” he recalls.

“I was 21-years old and I couldn’t believe I was so lucky just to be there to be playing against guys like Victor Matfield, Bakkies (Botha), Bryan Habana.

“I remember speaking to Matt Giteau before the game and just saying to him I really want to get out on the park and get into it. I remember getting 15 to 20 minutes (he came on for Luke Burgess as a second-half replacement in the 55th minute) and I think I handled myself okay.

“I remember thinking ‘I can actually do this. I can handle myself at this level. I can make it.’

Genia in his test debut against the Boks in Cape Town in 2009 - David Pocock is in the background and Bakkies Botha

Genia in just his second Test, played against the Boks in Cape Town in 2009 – David Pocock is in the background and Bakkies Botha

“So it was a pretty significant game on top of the fact that you’re in Cape Town, you’re playing the Springboks at this amazing stadium with this incredible atmosphere.”

His favourite memory however of playing against the Springboks is not the David Pocock-inspired victory in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. It was his first-ever Test start, less than a month after that game in Cape Town, at his favourite ground.

“My first international Test match start was actually against the Boks at Suncorp in 2009,” he says. “So that would be the one I remember the most.

“It was my first start and I ended up with man of the match that day (so) it was certainly something I won’t forget.

“It was one of those games where I don’t remember being nervous at all. I just remember thinking ‘I want get out there and do what I do’.

“I felt like I belonged because the group (captained by George Smith) made me feel that way.

“It was a really special day, Suncorp was my home ground, there was probably no better place to have my first international start.”

The Springboks are also close to Genia’s heart as they once boasted the player who the 2011 Super Rugby winner regards as “the greatest half-back of all time” – Fourie du Preez.

Will with the great Fourie du Preez (on right) in the RWC 2011 quarter-final

Will with the great Fourie du Preez (on right) in the RWC 2011 quarter-final

“He’s the one I think is the best ever, without question,” enthuses Genia. “And not just in South Africa, ever.

“He’s the guy I admired greatly as a young half-back coming through, and someone I felt I could base my game around.

“He was the complete half-back who had everything – he could pass, he could run, he was a bit of a playmaker, he managed to control the game, more often than not he always made the right decision.

“Coming up against him, (which he did seven times in his career) was a thrill but it was also an incredibly tough ask – not just for me but for any Wallaby team that I was part of.”

Wallabies fans have cause for optimism on Saturday as the man affectionately known as “Sanchez” has played the Boks five times in Brisbane for four wins and just one loss.

He also scored one of his two tries against the Boks in Brisbane, in 2010, darting over from close range in the last five minutes to put the gloss on an impressive 30-13 victory.

Papua New Guinea-born Genia shares the positivity about bouncing back post-Bledisloe.

“The results (against the All Blacks) were incredibly disappointing,” he acknowledges. “But it’s all about perseverance.

“We love what we do. We feel so grateful and so privileged for what we are able to do and representing our country.

“It’s never lost on us how important that is, so we always make sure we are as well prepped as we can possibly be to play and that certainly is going to be the case for the remainder of the Rugby Championship.

“There’s obviously going to be pressure on us to perform and to win and to get some results, but no more than the pressure that we put on ourselves.

“So we’re looking forward to ripping in and making sure that we play some good rugby and get some results.”

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Chris Ashton denied chance to play before England name autumn series squad

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Chris Ashton has not played for England since 2014.

Chris Ashton has been denied the chance to play before England name their autumn squad after the date for the conclusion of his suspension was moved to October 15.

Ashton was given a seven-week ban for a tip-tackle on Rory Kockott made during Sale’s pre-season friendly against Castres last month, preventing him from playing in the first six matches of the club season.

However, due to a discrepancy with the Sharks’ fixture list his return date has been moved from October 9 to October 16.

The dual code international had penciled in the Challenge Cup clash with Perpignan four days earlier to make his Sale debut, but that door has been closed by the adjustment.

It means he will not have played a game by the time Eddie Jones names his squad for the autumn series against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia on October 18.

Jones strongly hinted on Wednesday that he would select the former Saracens and Toulon wing in his training squad for England’s camp in Bristol later this month anyway, but his match inactivity remains a blow.

“Due to a change to Sale Sharks’ fixture list, Ashton’s suspension will now run until Monday 15 October,” a Rugby Football Union statement read.

Ashton won the last of his 39 caps in 2014 and has yet to make an appearance under Jones after receiving a total of 23 weeks of suspensions in 2016.

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England coach Eddie Jones warns Danny Cipriani about bad behaviour

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Eddie Jones (left) and Danny Cipriani

England head coach Eddie Jones has warned Danny Cipriani he cannot continue getting into trouble if he wants to keep his World Cup dream alive.

Jones has not closed the door on the 30-year-old fly-half despite seeing him hit the headlines for the wrong reasons once again last month when he was fined £2000 after admitting charges of common assault and resisting arrest during Gloucester’s pre-season tour of Jersey.

Cipriani, whose career to date has been punctuated by off-the-field issues, was also charged by the Rugby Football Union with “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game”, and although no further punishment was meted out, he has been warned his chances are fast running out.

Asked if continued misdemeanours would impact upon his international career, Jones said: “Everything impacts, everything impacts on selection.

“We will make a decision on whether he’s going to add value to the team. If a guy gets in trouble all the time, you’ve got to have second thoughts about it.”

Jones revealed he had spoken to Cipriani, who started his first game for England in a decade in South Africa this summer, this week and would judge him on his conduct within the England camp.

He said: “I have chatted to him. I went down to Gloucester on Monday and had a quick chat with him.

“He was punished by his club, punished by whatever happened with the RFU. He’s now back playing and we’ll look at him in terms of how well he plays.

“We never close the door on anyone. Everyone makes mistakes. He was very contrite afterwards, realised he’s done the wrong thing and we move on from that now. He’s just got to put himself in the selection mix.”

Jones was speaking at St James’ Park in Newcastle, where his team will play Italy on September 6 next year in one of four warm-up Tests before heading to Japan for the World Cup.

The Australian maintains he is “100 per cent” confident he has everything in place and insists “30.5” berths in his 31-man squad are effectively filled.

Jones, whose side have lost five of its last six Tests, including a 2-1 series defeat in South Africa, said: “We’re in a great position. Couldn’t be in a better position.”

Asked why he believed that, he added: “Because we know we can win. We know the sort of rugby we can play where we can win.

“We have found out where we are weak and we are weak in certain areas. We’ve got 12 months to fix it and we know we can fix it, and that puts us in a great place for the World Cup. You couldn’t plan it better.

“No-one ever likes to lose Tests, but the reality is those Tests taught us a hell of a lot – a hell of a lot – about how to prepare, and I am still working out how to get the best out of the players, that is the reality.”

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