It’s time again for the Taylors Wines Top 5, where we wrap up the best of Australia’s professional players in the media this week (and also give you a great wine tip courtesy of Taylors)!
Preparations for The Rugby Championship have stepped up a notch this week as the Wallabies firmly ensconced themselves in Cessnock, following last week’s Bledisloe Cup trial (click here to see the highlights), while Rugby Australia also used this week to announce the finer details of their bid for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021.
Club Rugby continues around the country this weekend, with GPS and Easts competing for the right to play UQ in the Queensland Premier Rugby final and the Shute Shield competition in its’ final round before knockout action begins. There’s a Preliminary Final between the Melbourne Unicorns and Moorabbin Rams in Victoria’s Dewar Shield, while Tuggeranong Vikings and Gungahlin Eagles square off looking to force their way through to play Royals in the John I Dent Cup Final in the nation’s capital.
It’s also the final round of action in the West in the Fortescue Senior Rugby competition, while the Western Force will tonight host the Hong Kong Dragons in the latest World Series Rugby fixture, with Brynard Stander and Marcel Brache each raising the bat to make their 50th appearance for the Force; that game will be live on Fox Sports 503 from 8:30pm (AEST) and delayed nationwide on 7Mate at 11:00pm.
You can catch Manly & Eastwood live on 7Two at 3:00pm Saturday, replayed at 11:00pm on Fox Sports 501, with a replay of the Queensland Premier Rugby Preliminary Final to be broadcast at 5:00pm on Wednesday August 15th, and the Grand Final to be shown LIVE next weekend, both on Fox Sports 501. Finally, the latest episode of Rugby Union South Australia will air at 3:30pm Sunday on NITV.
1. Campo backs potential debutant Banks
In over 100 appearances for the Wallabies, as well as countless others with the Australian Rugby Sevens team, it would be an understatement to suggest that David Campese has a fairly good eye for the game.
Speaking with Eamonn Tiernan in the Canberra Times following the Wallabies’ trial match, Campese singled out uncapped squad member Tom Banks as somebody he’d like to see given the opportunity to play in The Rugby Championship.
“I saw him in the Barbarians and then a couple of times for the Brumbies and I think the Wallabies need guys like Banksy and Kurtley Beale because they are so unpredictable," Campese said.
“If you look at when we were at our best when we had Joe Roff, Steve Larkham, Chris Latham, myself, there were a lot of players around who were unpredictable. Guys like [Michael] O'Connor, the Ellas, they’d keep the opposition guessing and that's where we've got to get back to instead of barging up and running into players.
“It's up to him but the thing he's got to realise is every game is your best game, I've always believed if you don’t try you never know how good you can be. I'm sure his motto would be very similar at the moment, he's played very well this year and showed plenty of times it doesn't matter if the pressure is on, he's willing to have a go."
Capable of playing on the wing or at fullback, but with the likes of Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Marika Koroibete and Reece Hodge as potential competition, Banks himself said he’s more than happy to play anywhere to wear the Gold jersey for the first time.
“I'd be happy to play wherever, I do like fullback but I'm happy to play wherever he [Cheika] puts me," Banks said. “The system we play sort of promotes that second fullback...so I feel really comfortable on the wing [too].
“It's [Bledisloe debut] obviously the dream a lot of people have, but to come against them [New Zealand], there's no bigger stage. So that would be unreal. After probably the South African tour I had with the Brumbies I think I re-found my confidence and what I want to try and do on the rugby field. I think that's the biggest thing, confidence, playing without fear. I've really tried to bring that into the camp."
Click here to read the full story.
2. Coming face to face with the king of the jungle
During his sabbatical year in 2017, Wallabies and Brumbies star David Pocock prioritised spending time in his native Africa doing environmental work with his partner Emma.
As he explained to the Daily Telegraph’s Jamie Pandaram, it was whilst in a Zimbabwean National Park that he came face to face with something more intimidating than facing the haka, playing a Test match at altitude or having to take on the greatest Irish side in the history of the game; a lion!
“We visited Mana Pools, right on the north near the Zambezi river, it’s one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been, stunning scenery, one of the few national parks you can get out and walk,” Pocock said.
“We were with Nick Murray, a really experienced guide, he started guiding in Mana Pools in 1988, the year I was born, so it gives you a lot of confidence when someone knows the landscape and animals so well. There was a pride of lions, and he knew the females really well, but there’d been a few males who had kicked the older males out.
“And they were quite new and not habituated to people. He said we can walk up to them and see what happens, see how close we can get. The females didn’t care at all, they were just lying around, lift their head every now and again, they’re the laziest animals, they lie around for 20 hours a day.
“So we started getting closer, checking out this male and female. The female didn’t care but the male was getting a bit agitated. He started a deep growl, we were pushing a bit closer, and all of a sudden he flew out of the bushes and charged about 15 metres.”
In that moment, one of the world’s most famous rugby players had to use all his courage to do as he’d been taught.
“You’ve just got to stand still, you can’t run, the one thing you cannot do is run because then you’re done,” Pocock said. “As soon as you run they think you’re prey, whereas if you stand your ground, with most animals there is that fear and respect for humans, so they’re not going to go out of their way to risk trying to kill you.
“It was just incredible being in their environment, because you understand how fragile humans actually are. You take away the modern buildings and things, you’re pretty vulnerable on foot. He pulled up about 30 metres away, and then went back to the female. Those were the amazing experiences we got to have in that time because you’re not constrained to a plan.”
Click here to read the full story.
3. Tatafu’s back!
Tatafu Polota-Nau may be far and away Australia's most experienced hooker but the 84-Test veteran is not expecting to swan back into the Wallabies No.2 jersey, as he explained to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Georgina Robinson.
Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Folau Fainga’a and Tolu Latu stand in his way, and ‘Taf said he had been impressed by what he’s seen of them in the June Test series, Super Rugby and now in Wallabies camp.
“I look back to when Tolu and I were in the Waratahs and I was saying 'mate I'm waiting for you to kick my butt out of here' and I feel like he's there," he said. “It's his destiny if he really wants it. He's probably experienced what it takes and I really am in awe of the other hookers because seeing their form in Super Rugby has given me a big challenge to come back and see what they've got against me. If they get the No.2 jersey, they've earnt it."
Polota-Nau was in the starting front row that beat the All Blacks 23-18 in Brisbane last October and believes this group has what it takes to win in Sydney next week, as long as they stick to a game plan.
“The game plan's set here and we've just got to trust ourselves and each other to stick to it for the 80 minutes," he said. "As cliché as it sounds, that's probably been the most inconsistent thing I've found in my career, to stick to a structure for the whole 80 minutes. There's times when you isolate yourself because you've made a mistake and you're dwelling on that as opposed to forgetting it and moving on.”
The Wallabies most consistent performance since that evening was again in Brisbane, but against Ireland in the opening Test in June. There Australia dictated terms and used their big forward pack to get a roll on over the visitors, never letting them into the game. Polota-Nau was enjoying a European summer break but watched keenly from afar.
“We showed that in patches in the June series against Ireland," Polota-Nau said. "Obviously it started really well [in the first Test] and I don't know what it's down to – but lapses in concentration just mentally. But [not] sticking to the structure has been our biggest inconsistency. It's great that the young boys are really pushing that as opposed to the wiser guys in the squad, because I feel like if they can voice it our it speaks volumes in terms of us as a whole squad being on the same page.”
Click here to read the full story.
4. Samu ready to face Crusaders teammates
Fresh off winning a second straight Super Rugby title with the Crusaders, in his final game for the franchise after signing with the Brumbies for 2019, Wallaby backrower Peter Samu has spoken to Rugby.com.au’s Beth Newman about coming up against his mates in the Bledisloe Cup next weekend.
Samu says long-time Crusaders teammate Richie Mo'unga deserves to start for the All Blacks in the opening Bledisloe Test next week, despite Mo’unga being firmly down a pecking order headed by Beauden Barrett when it comes to Test selections. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen appears reluctant to throw Mo’unga into the starting fray ahead of Barrett and even hinted this week that he may struggle to squeeze into the 23 at all.
“He's been playing some outstanding footy and I think it will be deserving (for) him to be starting in that 10 jersey for that first Test,” he said. “It'd be also special to run up against him if I get the chance. I think when it comes to big games he goes up another couple of levels and he's a real good leader as well,” he said.
“I think put him in any situation and he'll take it with both hands. He's quite unpredictable, he's got some crazy feet and he's got a good pass on him, maybe if we shut down his time and space we might do alright,.”
Samu comes into the Wallabies’ Bledisloe camp with a uniquely intimate knowledge of the current All Blacks. Only two days ago he was still celebrating with teammates who will become his foes in nine days’ time, but he wasn’t shy in starting some pre-Bledisloe banter.
“I've been throwing a bit of chat before I left so get the mind games started already so should be good,” he laughed. “It was definitely tough leaving the boys and the place. There were definitely a few tears shed on those last few days and it was real tough but it's good I get to still catch up with them. I hope I can bring something back from over there and help out where I can (with the Wallabies). So, there's no more secrets.”
Click here to read the full story.
5. Hamish pays tribute to Quade
The story of Quade Cooper’s continued non-selection for the Reds this year, and the incredibly mature way he has responded and starred for Souths in Queensland Premier Rugby, has been told many times. What we haven’t heard, however, until now, is how it affected the man selected to fill his sizeable boots; young gun Hamish Stewart.
Speaking to Fox Sports’ Christy Doran, Stewart explained that it was an unusual feeling to be asked to replace a player who he has long idolised, and continues to respect greatly.
“It was a little bit weird at the start when I heard he (Cooper) wasn’t going to take part,” Stewart said. “But that’s the job sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t’ always go to plan, but you have to build on that.
“Quadey is just naturally a raw talent — still is — I’m not quite sure of what the go was. But that’s for the coaching staff to decide that. Me and Jono (Lance) decided to play our own game and try and do the best for the team because that’s the main objective at the end of the week.
“We had our wins and had our losses and built.”
Indeed, it was only a little over 12 months earlier that Stewart was living the dream learning the ropes behind Cooper — one of a number of players that the talented playmaker idolised growing up.
“I did idolise Quadey, Matt Giteau and all those guys — heroes of Australian rugby,” Stewart said. “Me and Quadey have always been good friends. We used to room together last year. We always have high words of each other.”
Certainly, there’s a lot to like about Stewart. He’s hard, defends well and isn’t afraid to take the ball to the line. It’s why Wallabies coach Michael Cheika brought him camp over the past two years and gave him some minutes off the bench in their internal trial.
But whether he can end the Reds’ finals drought and lead them into the playoffs next year for the first time since 2013 remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, the training wheels are well and truly off now for Stewart.
“I had a bit of Quadey last year and learnt a lot off him and Jono this year,” he said. “They’re two different players and I’ve learnt a little bit off both those players, so I’ve benefited a lot from them.
“Having that older mentor there really does help a younger player. Just to learn the ropes. Just to learn little technical things that you might not learn by yourself.”
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 Pinot Noir…
In the wine world, pinot noir is the difficult child!
Attention seeking, and needing lots of love and care from viticulturalists and winemakers alike, it is the variety beloved of those red winemakers who love a challenge. Good pinot is ethereal and quite frankly there is no other wine like it.
Click here to head to the Taylors Wines website (18+ only).