The Taylors Wines Top 5, brought to you by RUPA’s Official Wine Partner Taylors Wines, brings to you five of the best Australian Rugby interviews in the media this week.
As we return to Super Rugby, and in this instance the penultimate round of the regular season fixtures, so much of the talk appears to be centred around the possible axing of a Super Rugby team in Australia at the conclusion of this season.
Despite this, the show must go on and we're fortunate enough (thanks largely to the West Australian timezone) to be treated to an all-Aussie double header on Friday evening, as first the Reds host the Brumbies (7:45pm AEST) before the Force host the Rebels (9:55pm AEST). The final Australian involvement in the round sees the Waratahs host the Jaguares for their first ever game on Australian soil on Saturday, 7:45pm AEST.
1. Four Rebels extend their stays
Since the lifting of the ARU's contracting moratorium six weeks ago, a number of players who were due to be off-contract at the end of the 2017 season have been able to re-commit to their Clubs and Australian Rugby. This week, the Melbourne Rebels announced four players' commitment to the Club; Steve Cummins, James Hanson, Fereti Sa'aga and Nic Stirzaker.
As reported by Rugby.com.au's Beth Newmans, Wallabies hooker Hanson considered a number of different outcomes in the face of the current situation, where the Rebels may no longer be in the competition.
“I was pretty confident that what ever happened that I was going to be right, in terms of if it didn't work out here, potentially somewhere else in Australia or worst case I'm doing my studies so I thought of every different scenario down to Plan E or F,” he said. “Myself, my wife and my family were confident in the plan we put together and thinking about it in that depth helped a lot with where I was at and that was the advice I was giving to the guys around the club was 'think of your best case scenario and also your worst case scenario'.”
Hanson said it was pragmatism, rather than pessimism, that had him thinking about every scenario.
“Definitely. I think you've got to - even if, I was to be injured or whatnot, it's the same scenario that you’re out of a job,” he said. “So, for me as a player you've always got to be thinking about that next little phase in your life.”
2. Jono jumps at the chance to stay out West
Joining 'Chibba' in extending his tenure in Australian Rugby is his 2011 Super Rugby winning teammate, and close friend, Jono Lance.
Lance, who also won a 2014 Super Rugby title at the Waratahs before shifting to Perth, has been an outstanding pick up for the Force and although he is yet to make his Wallabies debut he did travel on the European Spring Tour, and is right in the frame.
"I'm really pumped to be staying in Perth," he told AAP's Justin Chadwick. "The last two years have been really exciting for me, I feel I've made Perth my home now and really enjoying the group of guys here, it's our own little family.
"This is my third team and I can safely say the fans here are as good as you'll get. They stick around through the tough times, they get behind you when you need it and I know something is building in this team, so it's going to be great when we get to share that with them."
3. High hopes for Horne
Waratahs and Wallabies veteran Rob Horne has already signed abroad with Northampton next season following a decade in Super Rugby.
While the current state of Australian Rugby is dominated by off-field distractions, and the Wallabies and Australian Super Rugby teams have struggled for consistency over the last eighteen months, Horne still believes that Australian Rugby will rise again soon.
“It’s not the end of the world, which seems to be the current narrative,” Horne told Iain Payten. “I know, too, just talking to people around the place who come up to you and have a chat, there is so much underlying support for rugby that it is up to us as players just to go out and perform. The support that’s just underneath the surface is there, and they want to give it. You have seen in club rugby.
"The turnout to club rugby has been immense this year because there is such a passion for the game. But through the external stuff, too, there has been a bit of disheartenment about things. Obviously there is a fair bit going on outside the walls and a bit of noise, but there is so much ability there and I think there is plenty of upside there. I am completely comfortable and confident in the game in Australia because I know how much support there is. That’s why I feel confident about rugby in Australia. The game is not in as bad a shape as has been portrayed.
“For Australian rugby, we are benchmarked against the best team in the world and that’s fair enough. Until we can compete and beat them regularly, that’s going to be the way we are judged and I think as players we are content with that. That’s the only way you should be judged, if you are the best in the world or not.”
4. Inspiration from Australia's newest champ!
From Horne to Horn, and ahead of their visit to Suncorp Stadium tomorrow night the Brumbies are taking inspiration from a Queenslander in school teacher turned boxing world champion Jeff Horn as they fight for an unlikely Super Rugby title.
Horn shocked the boxing world defeating Manny Pacquiao at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday and the Brumbies will kick-start their run into the finals at the same venue. The bookies gave Horn no chance and have the Brumbies at even longer odds, rating the ACT men a $67 shot to be crowned Super Rugby champions, but prop Scott Sio says they can produce their own fairytale.
"How amazing was that, it's a pretty proud moment for Australian boxing to go up against such a huge figure in Manny Pacquiao and come out victorious, so I think we can draw a bit of inspiration from that and the fight he brought for the entire 12 rounds," Sio told Eamonn Tiernan of the Canberra Times.
"I don't think anyone was going to give us a shot from the start of the season anyway so I guess it's nothing different for us.
"We've been written off from the start so we'll use that underdog tag and build on that and stick together and see what happens in the next five weeks."
5. Simmo's Suncorp Farewell
Superstar Reds and Wallabies lock Rob Simmons told the Courier Mail's Jim Tucker that he will knock back feelers from clubs in England and Japan if he can find another home in Australia to keep alive his Wallabies dream, as he prepares for his final Reds home game after nine years and a title in Brisbane.
“What comes next (with a club) is a bit unknown but I’m still motivated to get back into a gold jersey," he said. “There’s interest from Japan, England, everywhere basically but there are a lot of unknowns out there (with one Super Rugby club to be chopped).
“A few decisions need to be made so other people can make a few decisions.”
And finally, for this week's Taylors Wines bonus tip...
Did you know you may have been drinking your red wine at the wrong temperature this whole time? The concept of drinking red wine at ‘room temperature’ actually comes from the chilly drawing rooms of Medieval France. Since Australia is much warmer than those chilly castles, most winemakers and sommeliers recommend you chill your red wine slightly, to ensure it is at the best temperature for drinking!