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All Blacks Star Set for Return to Action

The All Blacks look set to have a full compliment of midfielders to pick from this weekend according to their assistant coach

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(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams appears ready for selection ahead of this weekend’s clash with the Springboks according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

Williams has been reduced to very little game time this season following a succession of injuries the latest of which, a hamstring injury picked up in training two weeks ago, left him out of the team’s 20-16 win over Argentina.

However, Foster believes that the 51-cap All Black has overcome his injury and depending on how he does in training over the next couple of days will decide if he is chosen to play.

“He’s travelled well, trained fully today, so again it’s a matter of making sure he’s come through that with no ill effects tomorrow [Wednesday] and Thursday morning, and see what unfolds,” he said.

Foster admitted that Williams is anxious about returning to action following his recent injury woes and with the World Cup just around the corner.

“He’s a bit nervous. He wants to know what’s happening and he’s like every other player now. There’s that apprehension and excitement, but at the end of the day we’ve got to get him focused on learning and doing what he needs to do then we’ll make the selections that we see as right,” he added.

The assistant coach made a point of noting that although the 33-year-old may be fully fit his place in the team this weekend is not certain as he might once again be rested for the future.

“There’s no doubt at this stage you end up balancing at selection the need for us to give people opportunity to make final decisions for World Cup, versus the need for us to be growing our game, versus the need to win a test that’s pretty special to us. It’s a bit of a tightrope you walk. We just need to make sure when we put a player out there it’s the right thing for them and also that they’re at the right place to help advance our game,” he finished.

With Williams being side-lined for the clash with the Pumas last Saturday and Jack Goodhue being one of the eight Crusaders to be rested, Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown started in the centre and put in a perfect showing.

However, with Williams and Goodhue both set to be back this week head coach Steve Hansen will have a full compliment of midfielders to choose from.

The only missing star centre is Ryan Crotty but after fracturing his thumb he was ruled out of the entire Rugby Championship campaign before it even began. All of which means that Williams will have a chance to gain some much-needed game-time and put his hand up for a place in Hansen’s 31-man World Cup squad that will head to Japan in September.


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Fans flock back to see the Boks in action

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South Africa Rugby - Image Credit Asics

The Springboks came close to a claiming a fifth Castle Lager Rugby Championship title this season, and although there was disappointment in the end, the men in green and gold still performed very well, with a number of Boks dominating the individual statistical analysis of the competition, while South African rugby supporters made the most of the opportunity to return to stadiums.

Due to the COVID-pandemic, the Boks last played in front of fans in South Africa in 2019, and this year just under 300,000 supporters streamed through the gates at the six Tests in South Africa.

For the three Tests against Wales (in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town), and the three Castle Lager Rugby Championship encounters on home soil (in Nelspruit, Johannesburg and Durban), 297,298 supporters – or a superb 98.91% of full capacity at the six stadiums – saw the Boks in action in South Africa.

Jacques Nienaber’s team finished the Castle Lager Rugby Championship with four wins from their six matches, their most since 2014 and 2013, when they also finished second behind New Zealand with four wins.

South Africa beat Argentina twice (38-21 and 36-20 for a nett points’ difference of +33), won one against Australia – their first away win in the competition over the Wallabies since 2013 – and lost one Down Under (24-8 and 17-25 for a nett points’ difference of +8), and ended equal with New Zealand on one win and one defeat (26-10 and 23-35 for a nett points’ difference of +4).

Zoning in on individual performances in the last two months of international rugby, Malcolm Marx’s influence in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship was clear for all to see, with the Springbok hooker dominating in a number of key areas.

Marx scored two tries – the same as his team-mates Damian De Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Kwagga Smith – which placed them joint-third on the list of top try scorers, behind All Blacks hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho with five, as well as flankers Juan Martin Gonzalez of Argentina (4) and Fraser McReight of Australia (3).

But Marx also dominated on the ground, where he topped the list of breakdown turnovers won, with seven. Second on the list was Springbok captain Siya Kolisi with six, followed by Pumas captain Julian Montoya (five).

The All Blacks duo of Ardie Savea and Sam Whitelock, and Argentina’s Pablo Matera, were all on four, while Kwagga Smith and Steven Kitshoff won three each.

Lood de Jager made the most tackles of any Springbok with 62 (he placed fourth overall, behind the Pumas trio of Marcos Kremer (79), Montoya (66) and Gonzalez (66), while Marx and Kolisi came in at joint-ninth with 54 tackles each.

The Boks’ strongest ball carriers were Jasper Wiese (51 carries for 307m won), De Allende (48 carries for 333m) and Marx (40 carries for 222m).

Four players were tied at the top of the list for average metres gained per carry, namely SA’s Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Canan Moodie and New Zealand’s Caleb Clarke, all with an average of 13m, with Clarke’s 540m the most metres gained by any player in 2022, while Mapimpi’s seven clean breaks were the most this season.

The Boks’ starting locks ruled in the air, with De Jager’s 26 lineouts won topping the list, and Etzebeth coming in second with 25.

The top points’ scorers during the competition were Argentina’s Emiliano Boffelli and New Zealand’s Richie Mo’unga, both of whom scored 71 points in their six games, with Bok flyhalf Handre Pollard coming in at third with 32 points in three games.

Content & Images from – South Africa Rugby


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Barrett relishes opportunity in 12 jersey

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It didn’t take long after Saturday’s 40-14 Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship win over Australia for new second five-eighths Jordie Barrett to feel the effects of his changed role.

While he played nearly three-quarters of the earlier Test against Australia in the position, it was a full-fledged effort on Saturday. He remarked that he wouldn’t have to wake up in the morning to feel the effects of the different, and more physically challenging, role at second five-eighths.

 

He was already feeling the effects.

 

“It’s different. I felt like I couldn’t get out of fourth gear, particularly with accelerations, decelerations, and more collisions.

 

“That’s just the nature of being in the midfield. I still love playing 15 [fullback], and I love playing 12 [second five-eighths]. I just enjoy an opportunity to play for the All Blacks.”

 

Barrett was able to give something back by causing his markers to feel his strength with some charging runs at their line.

 

“Rugby hasn’t changed, and if you can get some gain-line off set-piece and nullify it on the other side of the ball, you go a long way toward winning a match.

 

“They’ve got some outstanding carriers, Valentini, Pete Samu and some good outside backs and midfield players with some feet.”

 

He said he prepared for the traffic that came to his area and concentrated on that in his preparation.

“They have some big ball carriers particularly off set-piece and if they can get some ascendancy and gain-line it bleeds out into the rest of their game so I knew that if we knocked it on the head there that we could bring their game to a bit of a halt so it was a big mover there tonight.”

 

“If we could stop them at the gain-line it helps the rest of our boys. Our forwards one to eight were outstanding tonight and it makes the backs jobs a lot easier.”

 

The All Blacks’ Championship-winning effort was driven by a desire to show their worth to home fans and the closeness of their first Test with Australia.

 

“We weren’t too proud of our last quarter last week, and it could have gone in a different direction, so we knew, coming back to New Zealand, and Eden Park, it’s a place where we hold a high account, and we wanted to put on a performance that our fans and New Zealand are proud of.

 

“Consistency is important, it’s what we strive for every day as All Blacks. The last few months haven’t been up to standard but I think we’re heading in the right direction now.”

 

The scrum and maul had allowed the All Blacks to piggyback their way up the field and then kick to gain 50 metres went a long way toward winning Test matches.

 

Barrett said his employing the spiral punt was something he had been working on, especially with the Adidas balls used in New Zealand. David Hill and Ian Foster had been encouraging him to use the kick, and he had been practising it a lot.

 

“If I have got time on the ball I feel like I can peel off an extra 10-15 metres so I was lucky to get a couple away.”

 

Content & Images from – New Zealand Rugby


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6 Nations

Emerging Ireland Matches To Be Streamed on IrishRugby.ie

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All three Emerging Ireland games in the Toyota Challenge will be streamed live on Irishrugby.ie.

The squad arrive in Bloemfontein today (Tuesday) and will train in Greys College tomorrow (Wednesday) ahead of their opening fixture against the Griquas on Friday 30th September.

Related News

The game against the Griquas kicks off at 12.45 Irish time and will be available to view live on Irishrugby.ie.  The match day 23 to face the Griquas will be named on Thursday.

Emerging Ireland play the Pumas on Wednesday 5th October (KO 4.00pm) and the Cheetahs on Sunday 9th October (2.00pm)

Emerging Ireland Squad: Meet the Players – click here

Emerging Ireland Toyota Challenge Fixtures 2022

Windhoek Draught Griquas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Friday 30th September 2022, KO 12:45 (Irish time)

Airlink Pumas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Wednesday 5th October 2022, KO 16:00 (Irish time)

Toyota Cheetahs vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Sunday 9th October 2022, KO 14:00 (Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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