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)!
This week sees the Australian Men’s team back in action in Singapore for the very first time under the tutelage of new Head Coach Tim Walsh, while the Waratahs are the only Australian Super Rugby team not in action as they enjoy a bye ahead of next week’s match against the Blues at Brookvale Oval in Manly.
The Rebels are the first Aussie team in action this weekend as they take on the Stormers in Cape Town at 11:05pm on Friday (AEST), while the Reds host the Lions on Saturday afternoon, 3:05pm at Suncorp Stadium. Finally, the Brumbies host the Crusaders in Canberra on Saturday evening at 7:45pm, looking to get the ball rolling for Aussie teams against Kiwi opponents for 2018.
Click here for full list of Round Eleven Super Rugby fixtures.
In Singapore, the Aussie men face off on Saturday in a tough pool against Scotland (1:00pm), New Zealand (4:50pm) and Wales (7:54pm), with Cup Quarter Finals from 12:30pm on Sunday, while the Australia U20s team will play for the first time this year when they take on Fiji at Bond University on Friday (7pm).
Click here for the full list of Singapore Sevens fixtures.
All Super Rugby and Singapore Sevens fixtures will be broadcast live on Fox Sports, with the Australian U20s match to be streamed live via Rugby.com.au.
1. Chucky on the mend and hoping to go out in style
The horrific injuries suffered by James ‘Chucky’ Stannard were deeply upsetting for everybody in Australian Rugby.
One of the most popular professional players that the game has ever had here, and a star of both the Super Rugby and Rugby Sevens circuit for many years, it cruelly ruled him out of playing in a home Commonwealth Games in what he has already said will be his final year of playing the game.
In good news, however, he has set the target of playing one last time in San Francisco in July, telling the Fox Sports Rugby Podcast that he is still recovering but would like to make it to the Rugby Sevens World Cup.
“I’m going okay; some days are really good, and some days are pretty poor as my wife Kim will tell you. I have to take each day as I can, which is frustrating being such a competitive person, I want to get out of bed and do the things I was doing a couple of weeks ago, but the reality is I have to rest up and recover and then hopefully I’ll be okay for the Rugby Sevens World Cup.
“They haven’t given me a timeline; it’s basically on how I feel. The first thing is waiting for all of my scans to be clear, and then I can start setting my goals and hopefully getting through all of them and getting to San Francisco but if that doesn’t happen I have to play with the cards I got dealt.
“It would be very special, just like any tournament when you get to put on the Australian jersey and play with your mates. It would be a great way to finish and I’ll be trying really hard to get there, but I need to be fit, and I need to actually be selected!”
Stannard also speaks to Christy Doran, Stephen Hoiles and Nick McArdle about supporting his teammates on the Gold Coast, the transition under new Coach Tim Walsh and his own coaching aspirations
Click here to listen to the full podcast, which also features a guest appearance from Super W-winning Wallaroos star Grace Hamilton.
2. The best of frenemies
The story of Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa, Brumbies and Wallaby front-row teammates, has been told many times.
They grew up together and played for West Harbour, alongside Rebels’ pivot Jack Debreczeni, but another element which hasn’t been told as many times is the fact that Michael Alaalatoa was there too.
Allan’s younger brother made his Super Rugby debut for the Waratahs but has called Christchurch and the Crusaders home for the last few years, and this weekend he will come up against his brother and Sio; the first time he’s ever played against Scott.
"It's special for Allan for sure and for me too, I'm looking forward to playing against Mike if he's in there," Sio told the Canberra Times’ Chris Dutton. "We grew up playing on the same teams.
“I'm the same age as Mike and Allan is the same age as my younger brother, Pat. I haven't had the chance to play against Mike so far, so I'm looking forward to it. I wasn't on the field when Mike came on in 2016 and I was injured last year, so the opportunity to play against someone you've grown up with will be something special.”
The Brumbies have struggled for consistency this year, going down to the Jaguares last Sunday, and although it is a daunting task this weekend Sio knows that results are becoming critical if they want to feature in the Super Rugby finals.
"We're at a point now where we have to really knuckle down and go over every single part of our game. We have to keep learning as a group, implement new things and improve what we're already good at.
"A new week means a new challenge and a new style. What better challenge than playing against the Crusaders, who have been one of the best teams for such a long time.
Click here to read the full story.
3. Young guns looking for their big chance in Cape Town
While many have focused on the experienced players who joined the Melbourne Rebels this season, headlined by the likes of Adam Coleman, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty and Geoff Parling, there have also been some exciting signs from a youth perspective.
Young fullback Jack Maddocks has had an outstanding campaign, with Jordan Uelese and Fereti Sa’aga both having an impact in the front row, and this week against the Stormers three players aged 20 or younger will be unleashed.
Harrison Goddard (20 years old) and Semisi Tupou (19) are expected to add to their games tally of two and one Super Rugby appearances off the bench on Friday, while 19-year-old front-rower Sama Malolo is in line to become Rebel Number 131 should he be called into the fray.
The Rebels have never won in South Africa, but as young scrumhalf Goddard explained on the Rebels website it’s a great chance to achieve history.
“To get an opportunity in South Africa is massive and I’m going to take it with both hands,” Goddard said.
“First of all the altitude (is a challenge). The crowd is so supportive of their clubs and you’ve just got to block them out and play your own game, I think that’s the biggest thing over here.
“As much as I can, I…(want) to prove myself and keep learning at the Rebels. Things are going well and hopefully I can get a few more games under my cap this year.”
The most senior player of the trio, Goddard said he has been able to pass on some advice to his younger teammates.
“We’re all in a similar boat – they’re all younger than me.
“I told (Malolo) just to be confident, back his ability and have the confidence to go out there and do your thing. Last year I made my debut and it was really special.”
Tupou and Malolo also spoke about their excitement ahead of the game on Friday night (AEST); check out the full interview here.
4. George utters the 'R' word
He's like the Energiser Bunny, but it appears that 37 year old Australian Rugby legend George Smith is beginning to think about the end.
In an interview with The Australian's Wayne Smith, George tells his namesake that this season with the Reds might be his last one.
“I’m not in a desperate position to sign a new contract with anyone,” said the 111-Test veteran, whose contract with the Reds expires at the end of the season. “My situation is more about getting back, playing well and then I’ll assess things. I have thought about retirement — you tend to do that when you hit your 30s, it’s a natural thing — but I want to see how I go now.
George also says some interesting things to say about Reds young guns Hamish Stewart and Jordan Petaia, who wasn't even born when George made his debut in the then-Super 12 competition!
Click here to read the full story.
5. Anstee ready to step up
Finally, we return to Rugby Sevens and just eighteen months after making his debut on the World Series, Tim Anstee wants to use his status as a regular member of the Australian squad to step up his leadership capabilities as well.
With Stannard, Lewis Holland, Ed Jenkins and Tom Lucas among leaders not in the latest squad due to injury, or in Jenkin's case injury-enforced retirement, Tim's 17 caps sees him tied with John Porch behind only Sam Myers (34) and acting Captain Jesse Parahi (41) in the SIngapore Sevens squad.
As he told Rugby.com.au's Sam Phillips, there is no time better than the present to stand up.
"I want to take on a leadership role and take on that role on the field," Anstee said. "I want to impose myself on the other teams, put my hand up when the big moments come and if I can do that this weekend, that'd be great."
Anstee praised the role Parahi has played in his role as acting Captain.
"Jesse's been great ever since he has taken on the captaincy role," Anstee said."He's had a few big tournaments in Vancouver, Las Vegas and even at the Comm Games. He's been working hard and we can't wait to get behind him this weekend."
Click here to read the full story.
And now, for an exclusive tip from our friends at Taylors Wines, and this week we’re teaching you about decanting…
When decanting wine, pour the wine slowly and try to keep the sediment in the bottle.
Don’t pour all the wine if you notice any sediment, which is quite natural for a good red wine. Leave those last few millilitres of wine in the bottle, leaving the wine you are serving clean and clear.