For the first time in Look Who’s Talking Now history, we kick off this week with proof that actions speak louder than words; it’s not what Waratahs back rower Wycliff Palu said this week, but rather what he did, which kick-starts our wrap of RUPA members in the media.
Iain Payten and Jamie Pandaram used their Daily Telegraph column on Friday to regale this story from the Sydney Sevens:
Wallaby stars Michael Hooper and Palu were manning the Waratahs booth at the Sydney Sevens last week, posing for photographs and signing autographs, when a man approached with a question. Could he buy some NSW shorts at the booth? He was hot and wanted out of jeans.
The answer was “sorry, no”, but quick as a flash Palu opened up his training bag and gave the guy a pair of his Wallabies training shorts. For free. The man was so impressed he bought a Waratahs season membership on the spot!
Cracking stuff, Cliffy!
The Waratahs began their 2016 campaign under new Head Coach Daryl Gibson with a pre-season trial win against the Brumbies in Wagga Wagga last weekend, and they’ve now headed across the ditch to take on the Chiefs in trial match number two. One player who won’t return yet is Bernard Foley, with the star flyhalf still easing back into full training following a season in Japan after the Rugby World Cup, however Foley is confident he is good to go in Super Rugby despite the lack of a rest.
“If I’m back here I want to be playing if I’m fit and ready to go I want to be in that jersey,” he said. “I think it’s always a concern, going into the start of every season whether you’ve had enough preparation but for me I think I know my body quite well,” he said. “Maybe at some times I will be mentally drained but I think it’s going to be exciting for me to stay refreshed and going through different programs allows me to stay mentally refreshed.”
Every player is different, and Foley’s teammate Tatafu Polota-Nau is feeling refreshed after an extended break and a big year in 2015.
“I must say I definitely needed the break,” he told Christy Doran. “It was more from a mental perspective because it was quite a long year, but rewarding nonetheless with the journey of the World Cup. But in saying that, coming back has been great; it takes a while to get moving again, but with a bit of muscle memory it does come back.”
The topic of R & R dominated Australian Rugby this week, with plenty of speculation regarding David Pocock’s future intentions, including speculation he may look to study in the United Kingdom during a sabbatical year. Former Wallabies superstar Dan Vickerman did exactly that in his playing days before returning for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and he told Iain Payten he’d have no hesitation recommending that path to Pocock.
“The reason I did it was slightly different, I didn’t think I was going to come back and play again,” he said. “Going to one of the Oxbridge universities, it is one of those opportunities I thought about how hard I’d worked to just get in, so if I got in I’d be crazy not to take it. You don’t want to look back and say, ‘Geez, I wish I had of done that while I had the chance’. If David is thinking about going on a sabbatical… or a year of full-time study, that can only add value to the individual from a rounded perspective.”
“If he has his mind set on this, anyone who tries to stand in his way would be short-sighted. It is a wonderful opportunity if he has the chance to do it. You come back a more rounded individual and I believe that equates to a better player and a better ambassador for your game.”
To another Brumbies backrower now, and Scott Fardy had an eventful Tuesday as he explained to Chris Dutton from the Canberra Times.
Fardy was involved in a car accident that closed two lanes of traffic, required police to attend and resulted in him being sent to hospital after his vehicle was hit while driving in Civic on Tuesday. His vehicle was hit by another car and doctors spent time checking him for concussion, whiplash and any damage to his neck.
But if you think that would keep Australian rugby's blood-soaked warrior off the field, you're wrong! Fardy bounced out of hospital to arrive at Brumbies training less than 24 hours later and is set to play in the club's pre-season trial against the Queensland Reds tonight.
“At this time you're probably sick of the fitness trainers and doing the straight-line running, you just want to get into games so I'm looking forward to what should be a good clash," Fardy said. “This week there's opportunities for guys to get into the starting team or the game-day 23 so we're all pushing each other.”
Aidan Toua will also line up at Ballymore for the first time as a Brumby, and the former Reds speedster has had a busy week in the media as he’s been speaking with the Club website, the Canberra Times and the Courier Mail!
“It was good to finally get eight weeks of training put in to a game,” Toua said following the Brumbies’ trail against the Waratahs. “I thought our new shape that we’ve brought in this year was really good, there were a few timing issues but we’ll sort out this week.
“I spent a few years at the Reds and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I wouldn’t be where I am without the experiences I went through there. I’ve still got a lot of mates there but I’m wearing a different jersey now so when I cross that white line it’ll definitely be about winning a game against the enemy.”
His young teammates in the backline, Nick Jooste and Jordan Jackson-Hope, made a real impression in that first trial.
"They're both little tough guys, which is good, they like to rip in there. Obviously Jooste is known for his big boot, but if you watch [Saturday night] he wasn't scared to throw himself in,” Matt Toomua, leaving Australian Rugby at the end of the year, told the Canberra Times. “I know how intimidating that is, your first game against men, I thought he did really well.
“[Jackson-Hope] as well, he was quite often orchestrating [breaks]. Between those two guys we've got some good talent there. I've got to make sure they don't take my spot now – I'll tell [Larkham] they look good for next year!”
The Western Force take on the Asia Pacific Dragons this weekend, and star fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and his younger brother Ross told RUPA that the mood at the Club is very positive heading into the new season.
“Everybody at the Club’s in a really good space at the moment, and we’re ready to fly into this Super Rugby season; we’ve worked bloody hard this pre-season,” Ross said.
“We are looking at finals for sure; we’ve changed the way we’re playing, we’re trying to bring in such an exciting brand of Rugby and we’re loving training and playing as a group,” Dane added.
The Rebels have had a lot of success with Japanese Internationals in the past, with Shota Horie, Male Sa’u and Keita Inagaki all representing the Melbourne-based Club, and they’ve signed Kotaro Matsushima to keep that tradition going. Matsushima, who can play wing, centre or fullback, started all four World Cup matches, and was signed by the NSW Waratahs last year but never played a Super Rugby game. His mother is Japanese and his father from Zimbabwe.
“I am very excited to have this great opportunity for the second straight year (in Super Rugby)," Matsushima said. "I know that this challenge with the Rebels will help me grow and improve my rugby skills."
If you’re looking for a star trio from both the Men’s and Women’s Australian teams after the Sydney Sevens last weekend, you could do a lot worse than nominate Ellia Green, Lewis Holland and Henry Hutchison; therefore it works perfectly for this column that all have been in the press this week!
For Green, it’s all about the journey to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“All the countries are stepping up and bringing things out of the bag,” Green told World Rugby. “[Coach] Tim Walsh reminds us every single day how many days we’ve got to go, it’s in the back of our minds but we’ve got lots of boxes to tick off first. We’ve got a long way to go, we’ve got a pre-season, we’ve got however many training sessions and gym sessions, there’s just such a long road to Rio but, yeah, we are thinking about it and dreaming about it every day.”
Holland and Hutchison both had stand-out tournaments as Australia’s men’s side made the final only to suffer late heartbreak against New Zealand, and both chatted to Rugby.com.au’s Beth Newman.
“I thought I played alright,” the modest Holland told Newman. “There’s seven people out there and if you’re doing your job and they’re doing their job it makes it pretty easy. We haven’t played our best footy yet and we’re trying to work towards that so we’ve just got to keep putting money in the bank when we go back to training. (We want to be) doing all the little things right so when the key moments come in these final games we really put the nail on the head and put it to bed.”
Hutchison praised the impact of his teammates; he’s still young, celebrating his 19th birthday today!
“I was absolutely stoked to get picked to play in this Sydney tournament and whatever game time I get I just take with both hands and seize the opportunity and see how it goes,” he said. “I’ve been learning off guys like Ed Jenkins, Chucky (James) Stannard and Lewis Holland. They’ve been in the game for so long and to come into an environment with such old heads in the team is really helpful.”
Finally to our Social Supremo, and this week we’re giving up a big thumbs up to Ballymore Kid Junior Laloifi (and whoever his anonymous photographer is), as he prepares to run out in a Reds jersey for the first time this weekend; good luck Junior!