Thursdays Rugby News sees Round 1 squads announced, Injuries from the Wallabies camp, and Dempsey with some big shoes to fill.
Quade Cooper is set to make his long awaited return to Super Rugby, partnering up with his old mate Will Genia for the Rebels. The Queensland exile received asylum in Melbourne after spending a year locked out of the Reds, forced to play in Clubland.
Returning Rebel Luke Jones will partner with Matt Phillip in the second row after Adam Coleman was left out due to injury, more on that later.
New recruit Isi Naisarani will fill the void left by Amanaki Mafi as he looks to wear the number 8 jersey, along side Angus Cottrell (6) and Richard Hardwick (7).
Billy Meakes and Tom English partner up in the centres after Reece Hodge was given a few more weeks to over come his ankle injury.
Promising young hooker Jordan Uelese was another player to miss out, with the young man hoping he would have been fit for round one, after doing his ACL last season. The Rebels have not put a time line on his return given they see him playing a big role for the Wallabies later this year.
On the Brumbies front; Everyone’s favourite FLANKER returns to the starting line up wearing No.7, joined by Rob Valentini (6) and Lachie McCaffery (8) in the back row. Pete Samu was named on the bench.
Another Queensland asylum seeker will make his debut, with James Slipper named to start in the front row a head of Scott Sio.
Former Waratahs centre Irae Simone has earned him the No. 12 spot, linking up with Tevita Kuridrani in the centres as Toni Pulu gets his first Brumbies start on the wing.
Coach Dan McKellar began to see that there would be some selection headaches post their trial against the Waratahs, something he backed up during this selection.
“It’s the first time we have been in that position in a while, to be honest. We want competition and we need depth.
“They’re tough conversations to have … but as a coach it’s nice to have to make those calls.
“Tough choices but the players’ attitudes have been fantastic. We have a little theme that we are 1 to 40, not 1 to 23. And everyone knows how important their role is this week and just really proud how guys who have had to face a bit of adversity this week have dealt with it.”
1. James Slipper 2. Folau Fainga’a 3. Allan Alaalatoa 4. Rory Arnold 5. Sam Carter 6. Rob Valetini 7. David Pocock 8. Lachlan McCaffrey 9. Joe Powell 10. Christian Lealiifano © 11. Toni Pulu 12. Irae Simone 13. Tevita Kuridrani 14. Henry Speight 15. Tom Banks
16. Josh Mann-Rea 17. Scott Sio 18. Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin 19. Blake Enever 20. Peter Samu 21. Matt Lucas 22. Wharenui Hawera 23. Andy Muirhead
1. Tetera Faulkner 2. Anaru Rangi 3. Jermaine Ainsley 4. Luke Jones 5. Matt Philip 6. Angus Cottrell 7. Richard Hardwick 8. Isi Naisarani 9. Will Genia 10. Quade Cooper 11. Marika Koroibete 12. Billy Meakes 13. Tom English 14. Jack Maddocks 15. Dane Haylett-Petty
16. Robbie Abel 17. Matt Gibbon 18. Sam Talakai 19. Esei Haangana 20. Brad Wilkin 21. Rob Leota 22. Michael Ruru 23. Semisi Tupou
Initially thought to be coming off the bench this weekend it appears that Kurtley Beale will be the first Wallaby rested in 2019.
Beale played the most rugby of any Australian player in 2018, playing almost every minute in his 31 appearances across Super and Test match.
His absence means that new recruits Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley Cooper will partner up in the centres when NSW face the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Hunt, who has only been in Sydney for a few weeks after being exiled from Queensland, has impressed Daryl Gibson, filling the Waratah’s with confidence that he can rest Beale as long as required.
“He came to us in January, and you never quite know what shape they’re in and he presented in excellent shape and very quickly got up to speed and we’re very satisfied with where he’s at,” he said.
Despite only playing together for 10 minutes in a trial match, believes that the experience brought by Hunt and AAC will make up for their lack of time together.
“I think they bring a lot of experience,” he said.
“The bonus with both of them is the fact they can pick things up very quickly, very much on the same wavelength, talking about the game, that’s been very easy.”
The ability to select AAC in the centres highlights a level of depth the Waratahs have in their backline, with the ability to move Curtis Rona to 13, and Cam Clark off the bench and onto the wing.
Gibson will welcome back a host of Wallabies, who he rested through both trial matches, with Michael Hooper returning as captain, with Rob Simmons, Bernard Foley and Israel Folau amongst those returning.
Jake Gordon will continue to wear the NO.9 jersey with Nick Phipps out injured.
1. Harry Johnson-Holmes 2. Damien Fitzpatrick 3. Sekope Kepu 4. Jed Holloway 5. Rob Simmons 6. Ned Hanigan 7. Michael Hooper 8. Jack Dempsey 9 .Jake Gordon 10. Bernard Foley 11. Curtis Rona 12. Karmichael Hunt 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper 14. Alex Newsome 15. Israel Folau
16. Tolu Latu 17. Rory O’Connor 18. Chris Talakai 19. Lachlan Swinton 20. Will Miller 21. Mitch Short 22. Mack Mason 23. Cam Clark
The Hurricanes have yet to post their squad.
Adam Coleman will miss out of the season opener for the Rebels as he becomes another in a list of players to get injured during the Wallabies fitness camp lead by Michael Cheika back win January.
He wasn’t the only one who walked away from the Sydney camp with an injury, Nick Phipps, David Pocock and Dane Haylett-Petty also came home with issues.
Poey and DHP have been cleared to play this weekend with Coleman and Phipps both ruled out with calf injuries.
In fact Pocock also returned to the Brumbies with a calf strain.
Now 4 minor injuries may sound like minimal when examining the size of the training squad but it begs the question as to how beneficial the fitness camps are for the wallabies, especially when they are run by the head coach.
Recently Wallabies Head of Athletic Performance Hayden Masters resigned his post, the same day as the Larkham transition, after four years with the Wallabies. In that time we have seen two Michael Cheika led fitness camps that don’t appear to make the players fitter on the field.
Recently an article was publish talking about how Eddie Jones and Englands Head of High Performance Neil Craig, (former AFL head coach and sports scientist) worked together on a fact finding mission to get the most of players downtime on the field. The pair examined multiple different sports to get the best result for England Rugby. So far they are looking the goods.
In the AFL system High Performance managers and Heads of Strength and Conditioning play a vital role in player athletic development, and whilst the Head Coach still has the final say, they still have input.
The days of the Head Coach running fitness sessions are gone in the AFL, even as a form of punishment, they are still done in a smart manner. AFL clubs still have intense preseason camps, but they are still done in a controlled manner to manage player loads.
It makes one wonder how much input does Cheika have over the players fitness and conditioning, he’s he the one running the show or is it all just for show?
Edit: An article posted back in January on RUGBY.com.au confirms that the fitness camp was conducted with Michael Cheika at the reigns.
Jack Dempsey is set to make his return to Super Rugby in the No. 8 jersey, and thats something that has excited Waratahs captain Michael Hooper, who has likened Dempsey to from Aussie skipper and back rower Rocky Elsom.
It will be his first Super Rugby match since he tore his hamstring off the bone playing for the Wallabies against the Barbarians back in 2017. Despite a long time in rehab, the young back rower made his way back into the Wallabies squad at the end of 2018, but for Dempsey the goal is an injury free 2019.
“It’s firstly good just to have Jack back,” Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said.
“I think he’s had those two disrupted years for us and it’ll be really great for him to get some decent minutes and really string some games together.”
Captain Hooper, who will start at open side, with everyone’s favourite blindside Ned Hanigan named to start, are excited to be back on the field with Jack.
“It’s great for Jack to get a go in the Waratah jersey,” Hooper said.
“It has been a long time for him and a long road, and he is playing in a jersey he really wants to play in. I am super pumped to see him get out there this weekend, and he has really grown a nice combination with Ned in last week’s trial. That was good.
“He is very explosive and he brings some real finesse,” Hooper said.
“He sometimes looks a bit like Rocky Elsom when he runs the ball and he has got some of the on-field attributes with some of the skills he can pull out. There really are some similarities there.
“What comes to mind though is his ball-carrying ability and what he can do in manipulating defence.
“He is certainly great for our team on and off the field.
“He is very hungry to get in there and make a stand in a Waratah jersey this year.”
To try an accommodate everyone and get the most of their squad, the Waratahs are pushing Dempsey to No.8, to allow Hanigan the 6 jersey, and having Jed Holloway play in the second row.