Round Five of the Super Rugby season sees all four Australian teams in action for the second week in a row, with the Brumbies hosting the NSW Waratahs in Canberra (Friday, 7:45pm AEDT) and both the Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels looking to claim victories overseas.
The Reds head to Tokyo to take on the Sunwolves (Saturday, 3:15pm AEDT), with a high of 13 degrees and light rain forecast, while the Rebels will be looking for their first ever win in South Africa (and to maintain their perfect 2019 record) when they clash with the Lions in Johannesburg (Sunday, 00:05 AEDT); it'll be hot and humid in the Republic!
In the fourth road of Buildcorp Super W, Queensland will look to hit back from last week's narrow loss when they host the Brumbies (Saturday, 6:00pm AEDT), while Rugby WA enjoy some home comforts after two straight weeks on the road when they host competition leaders NSW (Sunday, 6:30pm AEDT).
As always, we’ll keep you up to date with all of the best player stories being told in the media with our weekly wrap, the Taylors Wines Top 5, brought to you by our good friends at Taylors Wines (and accompanied by a handy wine tip every edition).
We’ll also bring you all of the Australian Super Rugby team selection news, and fixture information, to make sure that if you can’t get there in person, you know exactly when to lock your television to Fox Sports’ outstanding coverage of the game, or to fire up your Kayo Sports app.
So, with all that said, let’s get into it – Super Rugby, Round Five
Brumbies vs. NSW Waratahs
Brumbies: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Folau Fainga’a, 3. Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. Tom Cusack, 8. Lachlan McCaffrey, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Christian Lealiifano (C), 11. Lausii Taliauli, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Tom Banks.
Reserves: 16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. James Slipper, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Murray Douglas, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23. Mack Hansen.
NSW Waratahs: 1. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2. Damien Fitzpatrick, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Jed Holloway, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Ned Hanigan, 7. Michael Hooper (C), 8. Jack Dempsey, 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Bernard Foley, 11. Alex Newsome, 12. Kurtley Beale, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. Curtis Rona, 15. Israel Folau.
Reserves 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17. Rory O'Connor, 18. Chris Talakai, 19. Ryan McCauley, 20. Lachlan Swinton, 21. Nick Phipps, 22. Mack Mason, 23. Cameron Clark.
Sunwolves vs. Queensland Reds
Queensland Reds: 1. JP Smith, 2. Alex Mafi, 3. Ruan Smith, 4. Harry Hockings, 5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 6. Angus Scott-Young, 7. Liam Wright, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Moses Sorovi, 10. Isaac Lucas, 11. Sefa Naivalu, 12. Duncan Paia’aua, 13. Samu Kerevi (C), 14. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 15. Hamish Stewart.
Reserves: 16. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17. Harry Hoopert, 18. Feao Fotuaika, 19. Angus Blyth, 20. Caleb Timu, 21. Tate McDermott, 22. Teti Tela, 23. Filipo Daugunu
Lions vs. Melbourne Rebels
Melbourne Rebels: 1. Tetera Faulkner, 2. Anaru Rangi, 3. Sam Talakai, 4. Ross Haylett-Petty, 5. Adam Coleman, 6. Luke Jones, 7. Brad Wilkin, 8. Isi Naisarani, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Reece Hodge, 12. Billy Meakes, 13. Tom English, 14. Jack Maddocks, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty.
Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Matt Gibbon, 18. Jermaine Ainsley, 19. Matt Philip, 20. Angus Cottrell, 21. Michael Ruru, 22. Sione Tuipulotu, 23. Marika Koroibete.
1. Cummo prepares to face old friends
It's the Rugby comeback we didn't know we'd ever get to see; Nick 'Honey Badger' Cummins playing at the top level again, named in the World XV team to take on the Western Force in the Global Rapid Rugby series showcase opener in Perth next Friday.
Cummins last played for the Force in 2015 after eight years in Super Rugby when he scored 17 tries in 87 appearances and won 15 Wallabies caps.
“It will be so good to get home, strap on the boots and have a trot at the old stomping ground in front of the Sea of Blue," Cummins told Nick Taylor in The West Australian.
"There's still a few kilometres left in these old getaway sticks and I’ll be out to bag as much meat in the corner as I can. I’m looking forward to having a fair crack at these new Rapid Rugby rules. There won’t be any complaints from us backs that’s for sure, the more running Rugby the better.
"That’s what we all love and that’s what Rapid Rugby is all about. I can’t wait to get on the charge. I’ve been keeping in shape but maybe someone get an ambo on standby just in case.”
Cummins will team up with another former Wallaby, winger Digby Ioane, in a line-up studded with big names and World Cup and Super Rugby winners like former All Blacks and Crusaders players, Andy Ellis, Wyatt Crockett and Corey Flynn, and the Chiefs' Fijian flyer Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
2. Isaac settling straight into Super Rugby
It's been a tough start to the year for the Queensland Reds, without a win in their opening three matches, but one of their shining lights has been young gun Isaac Lucas, with the utility back looking instantly at home at Super Rugby level.
He made his first start against the NSW Waratahs in the slightly unfamiliar position of fullback in Sydney last week, and as he told The Australian's Wayne Smith a few situations arose against the Waratahs that a specialist fullback might have handled differently.
“There are a few things about the position that are different and there’s a lot that I’m learning but I’m really enjoying being there,” Lucas said. “If I get the chance in Tokyo, I’ll fill that second playmaker role and help out whoever the 10 is. I won’t overplay my hand, steer the team around as best I can and take my opportunities when they come.”
He has since been named to start in the 10 jersey this week, with Bryce Hegarty ruled out due to injury. At only 84kg, Lucas is arguably the smallest player in Super Rugby not wearing a No 9 jersey and not surprisingly he admits to being inspired by the Damian McKenzie, the one All Black who has shown it’s not how big you are that’s important.
“Obviously I don’t have his speed but I love the way he is quick on his feet and plays what’s in front of him. He’s gone to 10 now and can break a game wide open and is not afraid to have a go. He is not the biggest man but he can open teams up and I just like the way he goes about it.”
3. Newsome ready to show he belongs in starting team
NSW Waratahs winger Alex Newsome had an instant impact off the bench in Round Four, scoring a scorching try with almost his first touch of the ball, and he's been rewarded with a starting spot in Canberra this week; a spot, he told Darren Walton, that he's determined to keep.
"Any time that you can get to wear the blue jersey it's obviously a big occasion. To definitely start the game is even more sweeter," he said. "It's certainly a very competitive backline this year. You've seen guys who haven't got much game time yet. So, for me, the goal is just to try and start each week and get that consistency on the field because sometimes it's hard.
"There's nothing more frustrating than being on the bench and not knowing how much time you're going to get."
He will be the only non-Wallaby when he joins superstar Israel Folau in lining up outside Test aces Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Curtis Rona, Bernard Foley and Jake Gordon on Friday night; but that thought process hasn't even entered his mind.
"It's funny, you probably don't segregate Wallabies and non-Wallabies when you train together each day," he said. "I've got full confidence in myself not only to rely on those guys but also to bring my game to to table and help those guys on the field and help the team as well."
4. Pocock unsure of future beyond this year
He's been arguably one of Australia's best three or four players of the last decade, but the constant physical duress and interests outside of Rugby mean that David Pocock is beginning to consider his Rugby mortality.
Speaking with Jamie Pandaram in the Daily Telegraph, 'Poey' admitted that even with a signed contract to play for Japanese club Panasonic in hand for after the Rugby World Cup, Pocock confesses retirement is a possibility by November.
“Every Rugby player has to think about it, life after Rugby and their long-term health,” Pocock said. “The reality is it’s a game that does take a toll on your body, and we all know that as players. So yeah, it’s something to think about. I haven’t thought a huge amount beyond the end of this year. I’ve signed [with Panasonic] for the post-World Cup season, I signed that a few years ago, and then after that, there’s no real plans.
“We’ll just have to wait and see. I’ve always tried to get the most out of what’s in front me, and if you look at this year, it’s a massive year for Australian Rugby, there’s plenty to do at the Brumbies, and obviously after that there’s the World Cup.
“There’s plenty of time to sort out what happens after that.”
By the end of last year Pocock’s neck was in such a dire state, he was pulled out of the final Test against England, and cancelled his annual summer trip to Zimbabwe to do rehabilitation through December and January.
“The neck’s feeling good,” Pocock says now. “I’ve done quite a lot of strength work on it, stuff with [Rugby Australia’s head of athletic performance] Dean Benton, [Brumbies director of athletic performance] Ben Serpell, and then Steve Babic, who has been doing some grappling and wrestling stuff with us in Canberra, he works with the Raiders as well. So just having a different perspective, some different strength exercises as well, it’s feeling a lot better. I put a fair bit of work into that over the Christmas-New Year period and I’ve continued that through the start of the year and I’m continuing that.”
5. No regrets for Muirhead, three years on
In 2016, Brumbies outside back Andy Muirhead was one month into a job as a linesman in Brisbane after completing his apprenticeship. However, never quite able shake a desire to truly pursue a full-time Rugby career,he handed in his resignation to the surprise of his bosses and rolled the dice on his Rugby potential, moving to Canberra and playing with John I Dent Cup club Royals.
“Rugby was something I wanted to do full-time and sometimes you've just got to put all the eggs in one basket and give it a go,” he told Rugby.com.au's Beth Newman. “That was sort of my last shot at playing with a Super Rugby team so I had to do it otherwise I would've been pretty gutted, just left wondering if it would ever happen I guess.
“My workplace back in Brissie was a pretty sought after job and they don't really get too many people resigning so when I handed in my resignation they rang up to double check that's what I wanted to write down because they weren't really expecting it, to be honest."
Having that qualification, a path encouraged by Muirhead’s mother Janelle, is a safety net for Muirhead but it also may ironically have been the thing that kept him in Australian Rugby.
“A big thing my mum always drove into me - I always wanted to do football but she always made me do the trade,” he said. “Probably if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have gone down that path, I would've just tried to play footy full-time from when I was younger but I'm pretty lucky to have her there to put me in the right space and say, ‘No, you've got to think outside of footy first’, and just in case it doesn't work out or if injuries happen.
“I don't think I would be where I am now at all if I didn't go down the path I did. “Obviously after not getting too much love from Super Rugby clubs when I was younger, even when I was trying to, I probably would've just been lost overseas somewhere playing somewhere over there."
And now, for an exclusive tip from our friends at Taylors Wines, and this week learning about how wines age…
The higher quality wines age better than inferior ones because they have more acids, sugars, tannins, minerals, pigments, esters and aldehydes. As wines age, tannin levels diminish and acid levels reduce. In terms of flavour, different wines age in different ways.
For instance, with a Cabernet Sauvignon, the ‘grippy’ effect of the tannin diminishes, the fruit flavours increase while the oak integrates with the wine and balances with the fruit flavours. As wines age, ‘secondary’ flavours emerge like toast, toffee, cashew and bacon, in addition to a maturing of the rich berry flavours. Chardonnays tend to develop flavours like caramel, butterscotch vanilla and cashews, while the acids diminish and oak flavours become less dominant.
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