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)!
Round 14 of the Super Rugby competition sees the Melbourne Rebels celebrate their return to form against the Brumbies last week with a bye, while the boys from Canberra have the challenging task of trying to reverse that result in Johannesburg against the Lions (Sunday, 1:15am AEST).
In the only Super Rugby match of Friday night, the Reds head to Wellington to take on the Hurricanes at 5:35pm; they welcome back Captain Scott Higginbotham for the game against one of the competition favourites.
The Waratahs came oh so close against the Crusaders in Christchurch, their second straight losing bonus point performance against Kiwi opposition, and they’ll be hoping to make it third time lucky against the Highlanders on Saturday night at Allianz Stadium (7:45pm).
Click here for full list of Round Fourteen Super Rugby fixtures.
1. Angus gives the scoop on ‘Thorny’
He’s been one of the revelations of the Super Rugby season, with some even tipping him as a Wallaby bolter, and Angus Scott-Young has revealed that Reds Head Coach Brad Thorn is a key reason why he has settled into professional Rugby so seamlessly.
Thorn has coached Scott-Young throughout the pathways, from Queensland U20s, to National Rugby Championship (NRC) and now the Reds, and as he told ESPN’s Sam Bruce, that consistency has helped him immensely.
"When I was in the 20s, he came straight across from playing at Leicester ... so he was fresh off the footy field, he was pretty much still a player himself.
"I think it's an interesting perspective because he's played the game for a long time, played a ridiculous amount of games, and he has knowledge in areas where maybe a long-term coach who's been removed from the game [as a player] wouldn't have, especially as a forward.
"I think it's very important for the Reds to hold onto him, he's had some massive impacts on the Reds this year. I've come through with him through the Under 20s to Queensland Country and I've seen the way he works for a couple of years now, and he brings a great brand of rugby to Queensland.
"I think it's very important for him to stay for a couple of years just to solidify his work. So hopefully he sticks around."
Click here to read the full story, where he also talks about his famous Wallaby father and learning from George Smith.
2. Mid-week beers a thing of the past for Anaru
Melbourne Rebels hooker Anaru Rangi, Kiwi-born and raised but now eligible for Australia, hasn’t exactly had a traditional route to Super Rugby.
He’s flying and in great form now, hotly tipped to make his Test debut against Ireland next month, and as he told AAP’s Melissa Woods he’s come a long way from when he was working as a tradie and playing Club footy in Western Australia.
“I'm a bit of a late bloomer as (Rebels coach) Dave Wessels likes to call me.
“I never really took rugby seriously until I moved to Perth and left a few mates behind in New Zealand and actually gave it a good crack so I owe a lot to the Australian system for giving me a shot.
Rangi admitted that just a year or so ago he couldn't have played 80 minutes as he did against the Brumbies last week. Carrying at least an extra 20 kilograms and spending more time in the pub than the gym, he said he wasn't up to it.
"There wasn't a lot that was strict about me in those days," said Rangi, who is down to 104kg. "Being a tradie there was certainly a few beers midweek - more than I'd like to confess to so I definitely needed a lot of work.
"I gave up the beers and started cooking at home and training hard and the weight started to fall off."
Speaking of his chances of Wallaby selection, Rangi isn’t backing down from the potential opportunity.
"The hooker position is up for grabs for whoever wants to take it by the reins and make it theirs so that's what I'm trying to do."
Click here to read the full story.
3. Turning the page on a new Sevens star
Australian Rugby fans would be used to the fantastic photography of Rugby.com.au’s resident snapper Stu Walmsley, but he’s also a great scribe and ahead of last weekend’s Langford Sevens Walmsley caught up with rookie Page McGregor to find out a bit more about her.
While the Australian Women’s team finished as runners up in Canada, McGregor was one of the fresher faces in the team alongside Lauren Brown, Yassmin Meakes and 13th player Lily Dick.
It was McGregor’s second World Rugby Sevens Series tournament, but the former Cabramatta Leagues Club groundskeeper showed she belongs at this level after switching over from Rugby League, where her sister Rae represented New Zealand at last year’s World Cup.
“I love the 14-minute games - they’re only short - but it requires you to have a lot more skill. More one-on-one tackling, you’ve got to be really smart for this game and it just roped me in.”
In a sure sign that her teammates are enjoying having her in then squad, Page revealed that her contributions to team playlists and dance-related activities have led to her being nicknamed ‘Michelle’, after the member of the trio known mainly for not being Beyoncé.
“They call me Michelle (Williams), after the not-so-good one in Destiny’s Child, even though I’m going to say I’m the best,” McGregor told Walsmley.
“When we have down time, if there’s no meetings after dinner, we’ll play some cards and maybe practice some dance moves. Even on the way to training when we’ve got the music on in the bus, if there’s a Beyoncé song I’ll be singing the loudest, but maybe not the best.
“In Dubai, the girls were using that to pump me up in the dressing rooms before the game. They were saying; ‘you’re not Michelle any more, when you’re out on the field, you’re Beyoncé.”
Click here to read the full story.
4. Higgers finds the balance
On Wednesday’s episode of Fox Sports’ Kick & Chase, presenter Sean Maloney went into the home of Reds Captain Scott Higginbotham in a great little feature.
‘Higgers’ showed off his love for ‘old things’; his motorbike, which he partially built, his vinyl record collection and some old finishing’s within his and wife Maddy’s home; “I just thing it was done better back then, it was a better style,” Higginbotham says.
But it’s been the arrival of their first son, Aubrey, which has really played a key role in attracting visitors to their home. Higgers explained to Maloney how Aubrey’s arrival has helped to re-enforce his belief around the importance of balance, and ensuring Rugby isn’t everything in his life.
“This is the main attraction in the house at the moment,” Higginbotham says as he picks up his son. “This is the little fella, Aubrey Jay Higginbotham. It’s pretty surreal that he’s here, and now you’ve gotta keep him alive!
“It’s great, I’m only a few weeks into it but it’s awesome. I wouldn’t say it makes me want to be a better footballer, but it makes you see injuries and suspensions and being at home as opposed to possibly missing out on travelling with the team as not as much of a negative anymore.
"I think balance has been the biggest factor in my career. I didn't want to just really focus on Rugby and that be my whole life, because with the ups and downs that happen in the game that's a pretty tough way to live your life.”
Click here to watch the full video.
5. Roachy, Jed & T shoot the breeze ahead of Club Rugby round
On Saturday, each NSW Waratahs player will wear socks representing a rugby club that has played a important role in their development to celebrate club round.
Earlier this week, RugbyNews’ Sam Ryan caught up with Southern Districts No.8 Jed Holloway, Eastwood hooker Hugh Roach and West Harbour winger Taqele Naiyaravoro to talk about their experiences playing club rugby and find out why they still take every chance they get to head back.
“I played my junior footy for Hunters Hill before I went to Newington and played for Gordon growing up,” Roach said. “After school I went down to Canberra for a season and when I came back to Sydney I wasn’t really aligned to a club. I almost went to Norths but then I decided to go to Eastwood and I’m really glad I did, I’ve loved it ever since.
“I came in as a bit of a nobody but everyone welcomed me straight away and I managed to play my way into first grade, playing No.7 actually. We played in a Shute Shield grand final that year, which we lost, but it was an unreal experience.”
And how did Jed end up at Southern Districts?
“I grew up in the country up in Yamba and never really made any of the rep sides, so the Buccaneers were my only club for a long time. I headed down to Sydney for year 12 and played at Waverley. My old man used to play for Port Hacking, who merged with St George to form Southern Districts, so we still had a few family connections down that way. Kane Douglas was also there and he was from Yamba so I was trying to follow in his footsteps.”
Finally, how did Wallaby winger Naiyaravoro end up at West Harbour?
“I played for Parramatta originally but when I came back from my time overseas, I was living closer to Concord so I decided to head down and play there.
“I didn’t get to spend as much time as Roachy and Jed at their clubs, but I quickly realised how much club rugby means to people and that’s why every chance I get to go back and play club, I take it. I really enjoy playing with the boys who are trying to make Super Rugby and I just try to help as much as I can.”
The boys also spoke about Club rivalries, playing against each other and the best non-professional players they’ve seen in the Shute Shield; click here to read the full article.
And now, for an exclusive tip from our friends at Taylors Wines, and this week we’re teaching you about Merlot…
Merlot is one of the most misunderstood grape varieties!
While it has a reputation of being a soft, easy drinking quaffer, the world's most famous merlot, Chateau Petrus from the Pomerol district of Bordeaux, is the exact opposite.
Merlot is a very popular blending option to round out other bolder varietals.