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International

All Blacks Coach to Step Down After 15 Years

One of the most respected coaches in rugby is to leave his duties with the All Blacks following the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup

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(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

All Blacks forwards coach Mike Cron has confirmed he will be stepping away from the national side at the end of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

The 64-year-old is well-known among the rugby community and has been involved with the All Blacks since 2004.

Cron is looking forward to the rest of the year with the team, where he will be involved in his fifth Rugby World Cup.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky and had a wonderful career coaching at international level and I’m really looking forward to this last year with the team. It will be my fifth Rugby World Cup this year (four with the All Blacks and one with Wales) so is the right time to step down from the international game,” he said.

Cron has been coaching for 37 years and although he plans to move aside from the international game, he still hopes to continue helping younger talent develop.

“That’s my other passion. As well as coaching younger players and helping them hopefully reach their potential, I’m also keen to help out the young coaches of the future, so looking forward to doing that,” he added.

His time with the All Blacks has included back-to-back World Cup successes in 2011 and 2015, while he could make it a hat-trick if they are to win again this year.

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew paid tribute to Cron and is looking forward to continuing to work alongside him in a different capacity.

“Crono is a national treasure and thousands of players, from school, club, provincial, Super Rugby, the Black Ferns and of course the All Blacks, have been coached and mentored by one of the best rugby coaches in the world. He has a real desire to mentor young players and coaches and really cares about their development, so we’re delighted he will continue to contribute to the future of the game in New Zealand,” he said.

Meanwhile, All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen, who is also set to depart the All Blacks set-up at the end of the tournament, spoke of how fortunate he has been to work with Cron.

“Sometimes in life you’re lucky to come across a real influencer in your career. For me, Mike Cron is one of those people. He’s one of those guys I’ve leaned on from day one of my coaching career. Initially, that was around scrummaging, with Canterbury and the Crusaders, and then with Wales. Then I suggested to (former All Blacks Head Coach) Graham Henry that we bring him into the All Blacks,” he said.

Hansen noted how Cron can help anyone and is delighted that he will continue to work with New Zealand Rugby.

“His ability to teach anyone – younger, older, male or female – is world renowned and the greatest gift that Crono has is his ability to always keep learning and to keep giving. I’ve seen him coach club, provincial, Super and international rugby, plus even a stint overseas, all in the one year. As ‘Tewy’ said, he is a national treasure. He and his family must be immensely proud of everything he has achieved throughout his career, not only with the All Blacks, but with all the teams and individuals he has coached. It’s great that New Zealand Rugby hasn’t lost him completely,” he added.

Hansen concluded by thanking Cron for all his work with the national side.

“On behalf of the All Blacks family, we’d like to thank him for his many years of service. I’d also like to congratulate him and April on making their decision and wish them all the very best for the future,” he finished.

As mentioned above Cron will be hoping to add a third successive Rugby World Cup to the All Blacks cabinet come the end of the year and the All Blacks will want to ensure he goes out on a high too.

International

Naisarani to Debut for Wallabies Against Springboks

Isi Naisarani is set to make his international debut for the Wallabies when they take on South Africa this weekend

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(Photo by Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has named his squad for his side’s opening Rugby Championship game against South Africa this Saturday at Ellis Park.

Melbourne Rebel Isi Naisarani is the only player in the starting XV that is uncapped at test level, while Harry Johnson-Holmes could also make his debut off the bench following injuries to both Scott Sio and Tom Robertson.

On the other hand, Nic White is set to make his first appearance in gold for over four years and has been selected ahead of regular starter Will Genia at scrum-half, who takes a place on the bench.

Like White, James Slipper will make a long-awaited return to the Wallabies team as he opens up at prop for the first time since 2016.

Slipper is joined by Folau Fainga’a and veteran Sekope Kepu in the front-row, while Izaak Rodda and Rory Arnold partner-up in the engine room.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, joins captain Michael Hooper and Naisarani in what is a fierce looking back-row.

White links-up with Bernard Foley in the half-backs, with the terrifying combination of Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani outside them at 12 and 13 respectively.

Reece Hodge begins the game on the left-wing, with Dane Haylett-Petty on the right and Tom Banks completes the line-up at 15.

Speaking ahead of the clash Wallabies head coach Chieka is looking forward to taking on the Springboks at Ellis Park, a place the Wallabies haven’t been to since 2008 and haven’t won at since 1963.

“This is an opportunity for our team. We really want to begin building momentum to take us towards our goals in 2019. The players are impatient to play at Ellis Park where our Wallabies haven’t had an opportunity to play for quite a while. We know we go into the game as heavy underdogs but most of the players have had a touch over three great weeks of training to prepare, so really they just can’t wait to get out and get into the battle. I’m feeling a lot of belief and commitment from the people in this Wallaby squad. They’ve all invested a ton of effort into our preparation and I know the 23 men selected to represent us all on Saturday will do us proud,” he said.

The Wallabies will be hoping to end their long wait for a win in Johannesburg when Saturday comes around as they look to build towards the World Cup, and they haven’t taken many risks in their squad selection which shows how much this means to them.

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

1. James Slipper (86 Tests)

2. Folau Fainga’a (7 Tests)

3. Sekope Kepu (103 Tests)

4. Izack Rodda (17 Tests)

5. Rory Arnold (19 Tests)

6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (11 Tests)

7. Michael Hooper (c) (91 Tests)

8. Isi Naisarani*

9. Nic White (22 Tests)

10. Bernard Foley (68 Tests)

11. Reece Hodge (33 Tests)

12. Samu Kerevi (vc) (25 Tests)

13. Tevita Kuridrani (58 Tests)

14. Dane Haylett-Petty (30 Tests)

15. Tom Banks (3 Tests)

Reserves

16. Jordan Uelese (2 Tests)

17. Harry Johnson-Holmes*

18. Taniela Tupou (11 Tests)

19. Rob Simmons (94 Tests)

20. Jack Dempsey (10 Tests)

21. Will Genia (100 Tests)

22. Matt To’omua (42 Tests)

23. Kurtley Beale (83 Tests)

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International

Five New Faces in All Blacks Squad for Pumas Clash

There are five debutants among the matchday 23 for the All Blacks as they prepare to face Argentina

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(Photo credit MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images)

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has named five uncapped players in his 23-man squad to face Argentina this Saturday in Buenos Aires.

Hansen has handed winger Sevu Reece a starting role following an impressive season for the Crusaders, while Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson, Josh Ioane and Braydon Ennor have all been named on the bench for the All Blacks opening game of this year’s shortened Rugby Championship.

As well as them there is an interesting selection with Jordie Barrett being named on the left-wing. The 22-year-old has played on the right-wing once before for the All Blacks but has switched to accommodate Reece it would seem.

There is plenty of experience mixed among the youth with the likes of Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett and Ben Smith all starting.

The front-row is made up of Ofa Tuungafasi, Dane Coles and Angus Ta’avao, with Retallick and Patrick Tuipulotu slotting in behind in the second-row.

Vaea Fifita, captain Cane and Ardie Savea start at six, seven and eight respectively.

Aaron Smith and Barrett partner one another once again in the half-backs, while Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown are just outside them in the centre positions.

Jordie Barrett, Reece and Ben Smith make up the starting XV.

As well as the youngsters on the bench there is also the return of Brad Webber who is in line to make his first All Blacks appearance since his 17-minute debut against Samoa four years ago.

Head coach Hansen spoke of how he is excited to see the new players in the test environment for the first time.

“As always, with the first game of the season, we’ve worked hard on building our relationships, re-establishing our connections and combinations and getting clarity in our roles. We’ll continue to nail the details further in training throughout the week so that we are bright, clear and excited to play with real intensity come Saturday. It’s going to be exciting to watch how the new All Blacks perform along with their more experienced teammates. The team is a mixture of experience and raw enthusiasm, which I’m sure everyone is looking forward to seeing come together and play,” he said.

He went on to discuss how Argentina will not be an easy test and believes that the Pumas will be fully up for the challenge following the Jaguares impressive form in the Super Rugby this year.

“We have the utmost respect for Argentina. We know that we’ll be facing a confident, physical side. Their players will have taken a lot of confidence and self-belief from the Jaguares Super Rugby season, and with the inclusion of their overseas players, there will be added excitement to their group. They will see this game as a massive opportunity to make a statement and it will be our job to make a statement of our own,” he added.

New Zealand will hope to kick-start their Rugby Championship with a win, knowing that their Crusaders contingent will return to the squad next week, with this being a chance for some players to lay down a marker in their absence.

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

1. Ofa Tuungafasi (26)

2. Dane Coles (60)

3. Angus Ta’avao (3)

4. Brodie Retallick (75)

5. Patrick Tuipulotu (21)

6. Vaea Fifita (9)

7. Sam Cane – captain (58)

8. Ardie Savea (35)

9. Aaron Smith (82)

10. Beauden Barrett (73)

11. Jordie Barrett (9)

12. Ngani Laumape (10)

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (33)

14. Sevu Reece *

15. Ben Smith (72)

Reserves:

16. Liam Coltman (4)

17. Atu Moli *

18. Nepo Laulala (17)

19. Jackson Hemopo (3)

20. Luke Jacobson *

21. Brad Weber (1)

22. Josh Ioane *

23. Braydon Ennor *

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International

Three Debutants in Springboks Team for Wallabies Test

South Africa will hand three players their test debuts during Saturday’s clash against Australia

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(Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Rassie Erasmus has named his Springboks squad for his team’s Rugby Championship opener against Australia on Saturday.

Within the squad there are three in Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies and Lizo Gqoboka, with the former two starting at blindside flanker and scrum-half respectively.

With Siya Kolisi still missing through injury, Eben Etzebeth will captain the Springboks for the 12th time.

Elsewhere, the front-three is made up of 107-cap prop Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane.

While Etzebeth is joined in the engine-room by Lood de Jager, with Elstadt, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Francois Louw at six, seven and eight respectively.

Debutant Jantjies partners Elton Jantjies in the half-backs, with Andre Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel outside them in the centre.

As Aphiwe Dyantyi is currently out injured it’s Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi on the wings with Warrick Gelant finishing the XV from full-back.

There is a serious amount of experience on the bench with the likes of Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn and Dillyn Leyds among the subs.

SA Rugby director of rugby Erasmus is happy with his squad and believes that his team can win the shortened championship.

“The squad have trained together for more than three weeks and this match is important for us to start a very important rugby year. We want to win the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and we have a specific plan, which starts Saturday with the first Test against the Wallabies. We have planned to mix things up in the first two Tests of the season, in order to give game time to as many of the players in our wider squad, and we believe this is the right combination to face a very good and competitive Australian side,” he said.

Erasmus went on to talk about how Etzebeth is an ideal leader and is looking forward to opening up their international season.

“We are excited for the forthcoming year and I want to congratulate Rynhardt, Herschel and Lizo on their first inclusion in a Springbok match-day squad, while the leadership role is not something new for Eben. The build-up has been good and there is definitely a very good vibe for match. Australia have prepared very well for this match and they have spent two weeks at altitude to acclimatise to the Highveld, so we are in for a great contest,” he added.

The Springboks kick-off their shortened Rugby Championship against the Wallabies on Saturday, before playing the All Blacks and finishing up their tournament against Argentina.

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

15. Warrick Gelant (Vodacom Bulls), 5 caps – 5 points (1 try)

14. Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks), 6 – 20 (4t)

13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), 40 – 60 (12t)

12. André Esterhuizen (Cell C Sharks), 6 – 0

11. Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks), 4 – 20 (4t)

10. Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions), 33 – 229 (2t, 42c, 45p)

9. Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers), uncapped

8. Francois Louw (Bath, England), 65 – 45 (9t)

7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 46 – 20 (4t)

6. Rynhardt Elstadt (Toulouse, France), uncapped

5. Lood de Jager (Vodacom Bulls), 38 – 20 (4t)

4. Eben Etzebeth (captain, DHL Stormers), 75 – 15 (3t)

3. Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls), 37 – 5 (1t)

2. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 26 – 15 (3t)

1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 107 – 10 (2t)

Replacements:

16. Schalk Brits (Vodacom Bulls), 11 – 5 (1t)

17. Lizo Gqoboka (Vodacom Bulls), uncapped

18. Vincent Koch (Saracens, England), 13 – 0

19. Marvin Orie (Emirates Lions), 1 – 0

20. Marcell Coetzee (Ulster, Ireland), 28 – 30 (6t)

21. Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints, England), 10 – 10 (2t)

22. Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France), 56 – 132 (10t, 5c, 21p, 3d)

23. Dillyn Leyds (DHL Stormers), 9 – 5 (1t)

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