Comedy gold as All Blacks' coach Steve Hansen declares Wallabies favourites for Bledisloe Cup

Alex Broun 6/08/2018
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You have to give it to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. He certainly hasn’t lost his sense of humour.

Despite holding the Bledisloe Cup for the last 15 years, winning 33 of the 42 matches played during that period, and at almost unbackable odds – Hansen has declared the Wallabies the favourites for this year’s series.

That’s the same team that has beaten New Zealand just seven times in the last decade-and-a-half at a win ration of 19 per cent, including 11 losses by 20 points or more.

But it all means nothing to the All Blacks’ boss.

“After the Rugby World Cup, this is the most important trophy we play for,” he said, somehow keeping a straight face.

“We lost to Australia the last time we played them, so no doubt they’ll have a lot of self-confidence and are worthy of starting as favourites.”

Someone also needs to remind Hansen that New Zealand actually hold the Bledisloe Cup and have done so stretching back to almost last century as the 2015 Rugby World Cup winner spoke of wanting to “recapture” the famous trophy.

To do that he just needed to stroll into the NZRU offices to see the Cup is in the same spot it has been since 2003, save for being taken out once a year to be raised above the head of the All Blacks captain.

You could accuse Hansen of playing mind games if it wasn’t so laughable.

The Wallabies haven’t even got near claiming back the Bledisloe, being comfortably lapped in the annual series.

Indeed the All Blacks have only been in danger of losing the Cup twice in that period – 2007 and 2015, when they lost the first Test in the series, before comfortable victories in the remaining matches.

But in an attempt to remove complacency, Hansen continued to talk up his Rugby Championship opponents.

“We’ll face quality opposition throughout the Championship,” he said.

“Both Australia and South Africa appear to have grown their games and will come at us with real energy and conviction, while the Argentinians have a new coaching group, which will present new challenges.

“All of this means that this year’s Rugby Championship will be a well-contested competition and we’ll need to once again raise the bar across the board when it comes to our preparation, our skill levels and how we handle pressure.

“Being comfortable is not an option.”

Hansen will continue to tell himself that but when Hurricanes mid-fielder Ngani Laumape, who would currently walk into most starting Test XVs in the world, can’t even make the squad – it gives you an idea of how strong the All Blacks are.

Laumape will, however, provide cover for Sonny Bill Williams, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, while hooker Liam Coltman will cover for Dane Coles, who is expected to return to Test match rugby after a long time on the sideline due to concussion.

The squad also features two uncapped players: Crusaders prop Tim Perry and young Chiefs halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

Another feature of the squad is the return of No8 and Captain Kieran Read, who missed the series against France through injury, while lock Brodie Retallick also returns to the side after 11 months away from Test rugby.

It’s a frightening thought what these two World Rugby Players of the Year, in 2013 and 2014 respectively, will add to an already invincible team.

The squad has a total of 1,078 Test caps and boasts the best players in the world in every position barring a few.

The All Blacks squad will assemble in Christchurch on Thursday before taking on the Canterbury and Otago provincial sides in the Game of Three Halves match at AMI Stadium on Friday night.

A squad of 32 will then head to Sydney on Sunday to prepare for the first Bledisloe Cup Test on August 18 at 13:45 (UAE time).

ALL BLACKS SQUAD

Forwards:

Hookers

Dane Coles (31, Hurricanes / Wellington, 56)

Nathan Harris (26, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 13)

Codie Taylor (27, Crusaders / Canterbury, 32)

Props

Owen Franks (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 98)

Joe Moody (29, Crusaders /Canterbury, 34)

Tim Perry (30, Crusaders / Tasman, uncapped)

Karl Tu’inukuafe (25, Chiefs / North Harbour, 3)

Ofa Tuungafasi (26, Blues / Auckland, 17)

Locks

Scott Barrett (24, Crusaders / Taranaki, 19)

Brodie Retallick (27, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 68)

Samuel Whitelock (29, Crusaders / Canterbury, 99)

Loose Forwards

Sam Cane (26, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 55)

Shannon Frizell (24, Highlanders / Tasman, 1)

Jackson Hemopo (24, Highlanders / Manawatu, 1)

Kieran Read (32, Crusaders / Counties Manukau, 109) – Captain

Ardie Savea (24, Hurricanes / Wellington, 25)

Liam Squire (27, Highlanders / Tasman, 17)

Luke Whitelock (27, Highlanders / Canterbury, 5)

Backs:

Halfbacks

TJ Perenara (26, Hurricanes / Wellington, 45)

Aaron Smith (29, Highlanders / Manawatu, 74)

Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (23, Chiefs / Taranaki, uncapped)

First five-eighths

Beauden Barrett (27, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 65)

Damian McKenzie (23, Chiefs / Waikato, 15)

Richie Mo’unga (24, Crusaders / Canterbury, 1)

Midfielders

Ryan Crotty (29, Crusaders / Canterbury, 37)

Jack Goodhue (23, Crusaders / Northland, 1)

Anton Lienert-Brown (23, Chiefs / Waikato, 24)

Sonny Bill Williams (33, Blues / Counties Manukau, 46)

Outside backs

Jordie Barrett (21, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 5)

Rieko Ioane (21, Blues / Auckland, 16)

Nehe Milner-Skudder (27, Hurricanes / Manawatu, 11)

Waisake Naholo (27, Highlanders /Taranaki, 19)

Ben Smith (32, Highlanders /Otago, 67)

2018 Rugby Championship (all times are local)

1. vs. AUSTRALIA. Saturday 18 August, 7.45PM, ANZ Stadium, SYDNEY
2. vs. AUSTRALIA. Saturday 25 August, 7.35PM, Eden Park, AUCKLAND
3. vs. ARGENTINA. Saturday 8 September, 7.35PM, Trafalgar Park, NELSON
4. vs. SOUTH AFRICA. Saturday 15 September, 7.35PM, Westpac Stadium, WELLINGTON
5. vs. ARGENTINA. Saturday 29 September, 7.40PM, Jose Amalfitani Stadium (Estadio Velez Sarsfield), BUENOS AIRES
6. vs. SOUTH AFRICA. Saturday 6 October, 5.05PM, Loftus Versfeld, PRETORIA

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Leicester Tigers hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau recalled to Wallabies squad for Bledisloe Cup clash

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Tatafu Polota-Nau is back in the Wallabies squad

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has today announced a 36-man squad for a training camp in Cessnock ahead of the opening Bledisloe Cup clash at ANZ Stadium on Saturday August 18.

82-Test veteran Tatafu Polota-Nau has been selected after Cheika elected to rest the 33-year old in the June Ireland Series.

The squad features six uncapped players including rookie sensation Jordan Petaia, who shone in Friday night’s Bledisloe Cup trial at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.

Petaia and Rebels centre Billy Meakes add cover to the midfield after injuries ruled out Test regulars Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi.

Captain Michael Hooper will continue his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury that he suffered in the final Test against Ireland while Crusaders’ Super Rugby champion Pete Samu will re-join his Wallabies teammates this week after completing his club duties in New Zealand.

The squad will be revised following the camp in Cessnock with the Wallabies to reconvene next Sunday at a fan day in Blacktown in Sydney’s west.

Wallabies 36-man squad for Cessnock training camp ahead of opening Bledisloe Cup clash

(Test caps, Super Rugby side and age)

Forwards

Jermaine Ainsley* (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 22)

Allan Alaalatoa (23 Tests, Brumbies, 24)

Rory Arnold (15 Tests, Brumbies, 28)

Adam Coleman (23 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)

Folau Faingaa* (uncapped, Brumbies, 23)

Ned Hanigan (13 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 23)

Michael Hooper (c) (82 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 26)

Sekope Kepu (94 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 32)

Tolu Latu (7 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 25)

Brandon Paenga-Amosa (3 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)

David Pocock (69 Tests, Brumbies, 30)

Tatafu Polota-Nau (82 Tests, Leicester, 33)

Tom Robertson (21 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 23)

Izack Rodda (7 Tests, Queensland Reds, 21)

Pete Samu (3 Tests, Brumbies, 26)

Rob Simmons (85 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)

Scott Sio (46 Tests, Brumbies, 26)

Caleb Timu (2 Tests, Queensland Reds, 24)

Lukhan Tui (7 Tests, Queensland Reds, 21)

Taniela Tupou (4 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)

Backs

Tom Banks* (uncapped, Brumbies, 24)

Kurtley Beale (74 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)

Israel Folau (65 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)

Bernard Foley (58 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 28)

Will Genia (90 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 30)

Dane Haylett-Petty (21 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 29)

Reece Hodge (27 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 23)

Marika Koroibete (11 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)

Jack Maddocks* (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 21)

Billy Meakes* (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 27)

Sefa Naivalu (7 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)

Jordan Petaia* (uncapped, Queensland Reds, 18)

Nick Phipps (64 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)

Joe Powell (4 Tests, Brumbies, 24)

Curtis Rona (3 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 26)

Matt Toomua (33 Tests, Leicester/Melbourne Rebels, 28)

*denotes uncapped

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Nigeria Black Stallions appoint new South African coach Bronson Weir

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New Nigeria Black Stallions coach, Bronson Weir

South African Bronson Weir has been appointed as the head coach of Nigeria’s National Team, the Black Stallions.

The appointment was announced on Thursday by the Nigerian Rugby’s (NRFF) president, Kelechukwu Mbagwu, following the re-admittance of Nigeria to international competition by Rugby Africa.

Bronson’s first assignment will be to lead the Black Stallions in the friendly against Niger Republic in Niamey on August 11.

The friendly game is seen by many as symbolic because it will be the first activity of the federation on the international scene after their election and inauguration in 2017.

Mbagwu also announced that Nigeria will be participating at the 2018 Africa Rugby Regional Sevens in Ivory Coast on September 15-16.

Meanwhile, the federation has opened Rugby House in Lagos for the smooth daily operations of rugby affairs in Nigeria.

“To this end, Mike Archer has been appointed as the General Manager of the NRFF,” said Mbagwu.

“He is going to take over the day to day running of rugby and seasoned administrators will work under him.”

The president also announced the appointment of Martin Crawford as Elite Rugby Director.

“The latest landmark is part of our plan for a comprehensive data base of rugby players in the country and embark on our Get Into Rugby program fully,” he continued.

“This will put an end to an era of no records which has continued to kill the game in Nigeria.”

About Bronson Weir

Bronson Weir worked from 2008 to 2011 with the South African Students Sevens team in different capacities.

He started as assistant coach and manager of the team in 2008. In 2010, he was appointed as head coach for the SA Students team for 2010 and 2011.

As coach, Bronson won the Casablanca Sevens competition in 2010 and 2011. During the SA Students team’s participation in the Central Sevens competition in France, the team won in 2010 and finished second in 2011.

As coach, Bronson worked with players such as Okkie Kruger, Justin Geduld, Cheslin Kolbe and Jamba Ulengo, who are now playing on the World Rugby Sevens Series and have played Varsity Cup, Vodacom Cup and Super Rugby.

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