Veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper joins boom rookies in Wallabies train-on squad ahead of Spring Tour

Alex Broun 29/10/2018
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Adam Ashley-Cooper playing for Kobelco Steelers

Rookie sensation Jordan Petaia has been called into Michael Cheika’s train-on squad for the 2018 Spring Tour after a memorable National Rugby Championship (NRC) campaign for Queensland Country.

The 18 year-old would become the third youngest player to ever debut for the Wallabies, should he make an appearance in the November internationals against either Wales or Italy.

It caps a remarkable rise for Petaia who starred for the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby last season, after only making his debut in round eight against the Brumbies.

Petaia is joined by fellow rising star Rob Valetini, who will join the squad as a Development Player.

Valetini has overcome an injury interrupted season for the Brumbies to dominate for the Canberra Vikings in the NRC and will earn vital experience in Europe ahead of 2019.

Veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper has also earned a squad call-up for the first time since 2016, after injuries ruled out key outside backs Reece Hodge (ankle) and Tevita Kuridrani (pectoral).

Ashley-Cooper won’t have to travel far with the 34-year old currently based in Japan for Kobe Steelers in the Top League, and he’ll be keen to prove to Michael Cheika this week that he’s ready to join George Gregan as the only Australian to play in four Rugby World Cups, if selected next year.

Matt Toomua will also join the squad in Odawara, Japan for a week-long intensive training camp at the base the Wallabies will use ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The train-on squad will be revised before departing for Wales on Saturday for the first Test of the tour.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said: “Jordan (Petaia) has just got a lot of good touches. He’s a good lad, he wants to succeed, he wants to do the work, he’s eager.

“Having him here with us on these next few weeks will give him an idea of what’s required at the level and give him a chance to make a play for the World Cup squad.

“Adam (Ashley-Cooper) will train with us, we’ll see where he’s at. He’s come on the tour with us to be available for selection, he’s not coming for a holiday.”

“His experience is important and also just his versatility, his ability to cover a few positions. With him and then a guy like Jordan, it’s probably a good balance. We need a couple of extra backs here on the trip,” Cheika said.

2018 Spring Tour

Wales v Wallabies at Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Sunday 11 November at 21.05 UAE time

Italy v Wallabies at Stadio Euganeo, Padua, Sunday 18 November at 17.45 UAE time

England v Wallabies at Twickenham Stadium, London, Sunday 25 November at 18.45 UAE time

Qantas Wallabies train-on squad ahead of 2018 Spring Tour

(Test caps, Vodafone Super Rugby side and age)

Forwards

Jermaine Ainsley (1 Test, Melbourne Rebels, 23)

Allan Alaalatoa (30 Tests, Brumbies, 24)

Rory Arnold (19 Tests , Brumbies, 28)

Adam Coleman (28 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)

Jack Dempsey (7 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 24)

Folau Fainga’a (6 Tests, Brumbies, 23)

Ned Hanigan (18 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 23)

Jed Holloway (uncapped, NSW Waratahs, 25)

Michael Hooper (c) (88 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 26)

Sekope Kepu (100 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 32)

Tolu Latu (10 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 25)

Brandon Paenga-Amosa (4 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)

David Pocock (75 Tests, Brumbies, 30)

Izack Rodda (14 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)

Rob Simmons (91 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)

Pete Samu (7 Tests, Brumbies, 26)

Scott Sio (52 Tests, Brumbies, 27)

Taniela Tupou (9 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)

Backs

Adam Ashley-Cooper (116, Kobe Steelers, 34)

Tom Banks (3 Tests, Brumbies, 24)

Kurtley Beale (81 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)

Israel Folau (70 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)

Bernard Foley (65 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)

Will Genia (97 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 30)

Jake Gordon (uncapped, NSW Waratahs, 25)

Dane Haylett-Petty (28 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 29)

Samu Kerevi (22 Tests, Queensland Reds, 25)

Marika Koroibete (18 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)

Jack Maddocks (5 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 21)

Sefa Naivalu (8 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)

Jordan Petaia (uncapped, Queensladn Reds, 18)

Nick Phipps (70 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 29)

Matt Toomua (39, Leicester Tigers/Melbourne Rebels, 28)

Development Player

Rob Valetini (uncapped, Brumbies, 20)

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Eddie Jones says England players in 'best condition' he's ever seen them

Duncan Bech 26/10/2018
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(L to R) Nathan Earle, Ben Youngs, Chris Ashton and Henry Slade at England training

England underwent speed training overseen by a sprint specialist who has worked with Arsenal as their Portugal camp began in earnest on Friday morning.

It was the first time Jonas Dodoo, who also includes Danny Cipriani and Anthony Watson among his clients, has worked with Eddie Jones‘ men after being flown in from London to join the 36-man squad in the Algarve.

The backs were put through a succession of drills including knee-high runs holding batons above their heads and running against resistance bands.

Australian defence mastermind Jason Ryles was also present at a rainy first session of the week as England stepped up preparations for their series opener against South Africa on November 3.

Ryles, an assistant coach with Rugby league club Melbourne Storm, has been used on an intermittent basis by Jones to provide assistance ahead of major campaigns.

All 36 members of England’s squad were able to take part in a sodden session having arrived in Portugal on Wednesday, finally giving Jones some good news after the dreadful succession of injuries that has hampered the build-up to a crucial series of Quilter Internationals.

Watson, Billy and Mako Vunipola and Chris Robshaw are among the players missing for the Tests against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia, but Jones has at least welcomed back Manu Tuilagi and Ben Te’o from the treatment room.

England’s head coach insists his team selection for the opener against the Springboks will take shape after Friday’s training session.

“We’ll have a reasonable idea then. It’s exciting – very exciting. We’ve lost 320 caps but we’re still going to put together a really good team,” Jones said.

“We’ve got a number of players coming back who I haven’t seen for a long time like Te’o and Manu. They bring a different dimension to the team.

“And at this stage of the year our players are in the best condition I’ve seen them in over the three years.

“I’ve never seen them looking leaner, with better body composition. Mentally they’re in a really good spot.

“I think a World Cup sharpens their focus and not having been on a Lions tour allows them the necessary rest and recovery.

“And I think the clubs are doing a great job of looking after them. So it’s a combination of those factors that has left our players in a good spot.”

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All Blacks not so big in Japan and other talking points ahead of Bledisloe three

Alex Broun 26/10/2018
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The third Bledisloe Cup Test of the year, between the All Blacks and the Wallabies, is set down for this Saturday (kick off 10:00 UAE time) in the unfamiliar location of Yokohama in Japan – the venue for next year’s Rugby World Cup final.

The game ended up in Japan as New Zealand decided to move the third match to help them get in some acclimatization ahead of the global showpiece.

They also were (justifiably) confident that they would have retained the Bledisloe after two matches so home ground advantage would not be required in the finale.

Here are our talking points ahead of the match:

Gulf in class

It’s a dead rubber but don’t expect the All Blacks to ease up, and even if they did they’d still win comfortably. You know the All Blacks are in control when they start to pity the Wallabies.

Both coach Steve Hansen and flyhalf Beauden Barrett have been desperately trying to talk up the Australians pre-game.

Hansen in a bizarre comparison likened Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to no less than the great Sir Alex Ferguson.

While Barrett, referencing Australia’s (albeit impressive) fightback against Argentina – when they came back from 24-points down at half time – said the Wallabies have turned the corner.

Which exact corner that may be is anyone’s guess, perhaps from oblivion to also-ran?

“We always get a confident Australia, there’s no doubt about that,” said Barrett.

“They’ve probably rediscovered that bit of belief that may have been missing. It was a great comeback, we acknowledge that – be we weren’t surprised to see them come back.

“We can’t take for granted that we’re going to just keep winning.”

The Wallabies did come back last year in Bledisloe 3, after losing the first two, but don’t expect a similar result on Saturday. You only need look at the team sheets to see the gulf in class.

The All Blacks have some huge matches coming up against England and Ireland and they will be using this hit-out as much needed match practice.

Records up for grabs

The New Zealand media is trying to keep supporters interested by hyping up the records that the All Blacks could break in Yokohama.

It’s a testament to how one-sided the series has been (38-13 in Sydney and 40-12 in Auckland) that New Zealand are a good chance to break no less than five all time Bledisloe Cup records.

They need to win by 29 points or more to set a new record for the biggest points differential in a series (currently +81, only set in 2016).

In the same vein they need 39 points to set a new record for most team points scored in a series, which is currently 116 (scored in four games in 2010). If they do that they’ll probably score the five tries to make it the most tries scored in a series (currently 16 in 1972).

In terms of individual records Beauden Barrett needs just 12 points to break Dan Carter’s record for most points in a series (54, set in 2009), and Barrett needs just one try to set a new mark for most tries scored in a series (he’s currently tied on five with Ben Smith in 2013).

At least there’s something at stake.

Lack of interest

When one side wins a two-sided sporting contest for 16 straight years the sporting public tend to tune out, and that is what has happened with the Bledisloe.

Even though they are one of the top sporting teams on the planet, their biggest fans still want to see a contest – and that is not something they have got against the Wallabies, for some time (see above).

The home Bledisloe Tests for the All Blacks are sold out but ticket sales have been declining in Australia steadily over the last decade. A proud sporting nation Australians don’t like to watch their countrymen lose.

A similar lack of interest has transferred to Japan where the 72,000 capacity Nissan Stadium is set to be half full by kick-off.

The All Blacks play Japan in nearby Tokyo on November 3 and it seems local fans are far more interested in supporting the home team than watching a Bledisloe cake walk. Hard to blame them.

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