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Foley taking lessons from 2019 into Wallabies second coming



Returning Wallaby Bernard Foley is heeding the lessons of the 2019 Rugby World Cup as he looks to lead a new generation of players from a similar path.

Foley remained in Japan after their quarter-final exit to England, plying his trade in Top League with Kubota Spears.

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The 32-year-old had accepted his International career could be over, despite qualifying under old Giteau law criteria before chats begin with coach Dave Rennie last year.

Whilst he initially knocked back Rennie’s advance, it allowed him to reflect on his own career, ‘liting the fire again’ for a return in time for the Tests against the Springboks in Adelaide and Sydney.

“Dave and I first spoke after the French series and we had a really good, open chat about whether that was the right timing or somewhere else down the line and for me personally, it wasn’t the right to come in given I was coming back from overseas and bubble and having some family stuff. It probably wasn’t the right time and wasn’t in the right mindset,” he told reporters.

“It gave me time to reflect and really dive down into what I personally needed, lit the fire again about coming back in. We had open chats for the rest of (2021) and this season so to have that call-up and chat three weeks ago, I was eager and jumped at the opportunity.

“I’d always hoped and thought about it but I never thought the opportunity would come up again, especially leaving and going overseas knowing the eligibility had the ability to change, I had to be content with not getting the opportunity again when I left in 2019.

“To now get the opportunity to be back in the squad and wear the colours, I’m pretty grateful and excited to get that second opportunity.”

Not only did he reflect on his career, Foley took the time to understand where it went wrong in 2019.

It provides a unique position in a squad lacking older heads due to injury and withdrawals, urging them to embrace the moment.

“I think we were in a place where we cared too much,” he reflected. “We tried to force it too much and tried too hard to change the outcomes and go in there and have an unbelievable tournament.

“I suppose that’s where the intent and purpose was alright but the exception and how we carried it out, we weren’t able to circuit-break ourselves enough through those couple of years leading up into the World Cup.

“That’s what I’m enjoying about being in here and really understanding there’s only a finite time in this jersey and in this program, doing what we get to do so to make the most of it and enjoy it.

“That’s what I’m trying to tell a guy like Langi (Gleeson), it is a finite amount of time you get to spend in these programs so make the most of every day.”

From the outside looking in, there are clear comparisons to be made between 2019 and 2022 within the halves department as the Wallabies struggle for stability.

In the first three Tests of 2019, then coach Michael Chieka went with three different halves combinations before appearing to settle on a Nic White-Christian Leali’ifano combination ahead of the World Cup.

Bernard Foley is out to teach the lessons of 2019 to a younger generation. Photo: Getty Images
Bernard Foley is out to teach the lessons of 2019 to a younger generation. Photo: Getty Images

However, this changed throughout the tournament as the combo of White, Leali’ifano, Foley and Will Genia were slotted and changed until their ugly exit to England.

Whilst White has remained a constant figure over the past 12 months, Rennie has experimented with Noah Lolesio, James O’Connor and Quade Cooper.

Cooper was the frontrunner before injury and a Spring Tour withdrawal left O’Connor and Lolesio battling for positions.

Lolesio was preferred for England, then replaced by the Reds playmaker, with the experienced O’Connor now out of the squad completely.

Despite this, Foley believes it’s in a much better position than three years ago, excited to add to the ‘healthy’ competition.

“Combinations and time together builds better relationships and creates that understanding, I think 2019 it was completely different from what we have now,” Foley explained.

“The intention and the purpose was right back then just the execution and game plan (wasn’t). I think what we are working with today is competition for spots is a healthy thing within teams. You want guys to drive but coming in and seeing here for one day, everyone is working with each other to get a better outcome and product.

“That’s the exciting thing from the short time I’ve been here is looking to add to that.”

Foley has kept fit after the end of the Japanese season, training with the Waratahs alongside the next generation of halves in Ben Donaldson and Tane Edmed.

He also took the chance to praise Lolesio for his outlook, despite the young half finding himself constantly in and out of the side.

The two barely got a chance to cross paths before Foley’s departure but the Brumbies’ confidence and control is something that has instantly impressed the 71-Test veteran.

“How we can develop these young guys now is really exciting,” he believes.

“I’ve done some work with Benny Donaldson and Tane Edmed, now in here with Noah, I’m really excited because I see these guys as immensely talented. They have the composure, mentality and the Rugby IQ to run teams, they just need the time in the saddle to really understand and master their craft.

“It’s difficult just being young in this environment but I’ve been really impressed with (Noah) coming in and meeting him, just how composed and confident he is. I don’t think it’s been knocked around, I think he’s a guy who can come in and call the shots. I’m excited to be working with him and seeing how he sees the game and will run it.”

Content & Images from – Australia Rugby

6 Nations

Henshaw: Our Defence Was Good, But We Can Go Up Another Level



Entering match week four of the Rugby World Cup, Robbie Henshaw is feeling fully charged and refreshed after a ‘nice and chilled’ few days in Paris during the Ireland’s squad down time.

The picture has changed in Pool B since Ireland’s 13-10 win over reigning champions South Africa. The Springboks are top of the table on 15 points following their 49-18 defeat of Tonga, with Scotland, as expected, coming right back into contention with back-to-back bonus point victories.

Unbeaten Ireland still have their destiny very much in their own hands, sitting on 14 points with the Scots on 10, but it does mean that Saturday night’s Celtic derby at the Stade de France is effectively a shootout for the quarter-finals.

Ireland have dominated this fixture in recent seasons with eight straight wins, and have won twelve of the last 13 meetings. However, you write off a Scottish team at your peril, and Henshaw knows exactly the type of challenge they will pose.

“Every time we play Scotland we know they’re going to come for us,” he said, speaking at the team base in Tours. “Now we can see what it means to them and what they want to chase, and what we want to chase as well in terms of getting those four (pool) wins.

“They’re going to come and have a go like they always do, through Finn Russell and getting the ball to the width. They’ll have a plan and we’ll just need to make sure we’re rock solid and we attack it.”

Henshaw got another half-an-hour of game-time under his belt against South Africa, coming on during Garry Ringrose’s first half HIA and then as a permanent replacement just past the hour mark.

The Athlone man has played in four of Ireland’s last five matches, including starts against Italy and Samoa in the lead up to the World Cup. If he gets an opportunity to feature this weekend, he readily accepts that he has to make the most of it given the form of the other centres.

Bundee (Aki) has been brilliant. His body is in great shape, he is flying fit, as has Garry. The lads’ performances have been consistent.

“Bundee has been flying in terms of getting tries. He’s been letting us know he’s near the top of the try scorers’ list (with four tries so far), which we’ve been having a laugh about!

“They’ve been outstanding. Whenever I get a chance to come in, it’s making sure I put my best foot forward and whenever I come off the bench, put in a good performance.”

As well as Henshaw, Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey, who is in buoyant mood after the birth of his second son, is pressing to be involved and make his World Cup debut, as is the versatile Jimmy O’Brien, who played at centre against the ‘Boks last November.

Ireland’s strength in depth in midfield – and clean bill of health – is a huge asset at this stage of the tournament, especially if the starting pair for Saturday continue to produce the sort of form that Aki and Ringrose have across the opening three rounds.

“There’s always in the past – Six Nations, Novembers – there’s always been one of us (centres) in or out due to injury or whatever,” acknowledged Henshaw, who scored his eighth Test try against Scotland in March 2021.

“Hopefully we can keep us all fit. But the quality we have, we’ve great strength in depth in those positions, even the likes of ‘Earlsie’ (Keith Earls) being able to come in at 13 and Jimmy, the depth we have here is key for playing in a World Cup because anything can happen.”

The 30-year-old Leinster star admitted it was ‘all hands on deck’ when he was initially sprung from the bench against South Africa. It was his chop tackle on Pieter-Steph du Toit that allowed James Lowe to get in for a turnover at a crucial stage.

Keeping Jacques Nienaber’s men to just one try – and eight points in all – was a huge factor in the overall outcome. That was also the case when Ireland beat Scotland in the 2022 and 2023 Six Nations, winning 26-5 in Dublin and 22-7 in Edinburgh respectively.

As things stand, Ireland have the third best defensive record across the pools, conceding 32 points so far compared to host nation France’s 25 and England’s 22. Maintaining those standards will be vital against Scotland in such a high-stakes encounter.

“We had a good look at what we did against South Africa. I think our defence, we showed some great pictures in defence but we know we can go (up) another level,” insisted Henshaw.

“Definitely in attack, we took some steps forward but we left some opportunities out there as well. Looking at everything from our set-piece lineout, how can we get better there? In the first few moments we missed a few lineouts and that let South Africa off the hook a bit.

“Definitely we’ll break down bits like that and make sure we learn from it and we grow.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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Springboks get the job done and now wait



South Africa Rugby - Image Credit Asics

The Springboks all but guaranteed their place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals – barring a mathematical miracle for Scotland – by edging their way to a 49-18 victory (halftime 21-8) over a feisty Tonga on a balmy evening at the Stade de Marseille on Sunday night.

The Boks’ 31-point margin of victory ­– allied to a bonus point for scoring four tries – means that for Scotland and Ireland to go through at the Boks’ expense, the former needs to beat the latter by 21 points while Ireland score four tries in defeat.

In that scenario all three teams would have 15 log points; Scotland would progress with the best points difference, while Ireland would oust the Boks by virtue of having won the head-to-head match.

As Scotland have lost their last seven matches against their celtic rivals it is preposterous to think that they might now achieve such a result after the Boks eventually took care of business by claiming the bonus point in the 49th minute as they racked up seven tries in total.

But it was not easy in front of a Tonga-favouring crowd of 60 387. The ghosts of Lens haunted the opening quarter as Tonga dominated possession to recall the nail-biting affair of the 2007 tournament when the Boks escaped by the skin of their teeth with a 30-25 victory.

The Pacific Islanders opened the scoring with a penalty by flyhalf William Havili in the third minute after a shaky start by the Boks who missed the kick off to set an unhappy tone.

Andre Esterhuizen on the attack.

Andre Esterhuizen on the attack.

The Boks hit back in the fifth minute from their only visit to the Tongan 22 in the opening quarter, when the ever alert scrumhalf Cobus Reinach took a quick tap at a five-metre penalty and ran in in the corner.

Their next visit was only 15 minutes later after repeated Tongan attacks from a succession of penalties had been repulsed. Centre Andre Esterhuizen made one of several tackle busting runs to give field position but a try for centre Canan Moodie owed much to good fortune. Handre Pollard’s pass bounced forward off the shoulder of prop Vincent Koch for Moodie to collect the loose ball and elegantly swerve past the last line of defence.

The Boks were now beginning to assert a measure of control and Deon Fourie claimed a second Springbok try at the back of a driven maul as the Tongan pack began to falter. Pollard converted all three – two from wide out on the right – to give the Boks a 21-3 lead before Tonga were let back into the game.

A penalty for offside as a Tongan attack was broken up by offensive defence on halfway was turned into a lineout five metres out and after half a dozen phases 151kg prop Ben Tameifuna flopped over the line from barely a metre.

The more dynamic Jesse Kriel – on as a replacement for wing Makazole Mapimpi following a head clash in which Tongan scrumhalf Augustine Pulu was lucky to escape a yellow card – drove in from close range after a succession of drives had exhausted Tonga’s defence.

Willie le Roux goes over for a try in his 90th Test.

Willie le Roux goes over for a try in his 90th Test.

Tongan right wing Fini Inese crossed in the corner from a long looping pass after repeated attempts to beat down the front door from more drives had failed.

The Boks responded in the left hand corner through Willie le Roux from Moodie’s pass after Manie Libbok – on for Pollard – had dislodged the ball in a tackle as Tonga tried to run out of defence.

Hooker replacement Marco van Staden added the sixth in similar style as the match entered the final quarter and the Boks three times looked on the verge of claiming a seventh – once through Esterhuizen and twice through wing Grant Williams – before a break out from their own half by replacement flyhalf Patrick Pellegrini ended in a third for Tonga.

The seventh finally arrived in the final minute when Kwagga Smith’s all action play was rewarded with a try under the cross bar. Libbok landed his third conversion from three attempts to round off a challenging but ultimately successful night.


Springboks 49 (21) – Tries: Cobus Reinach, Canan Moodie, Deon Fourie, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith. Conversions: Handre Pollard (4), Manie Libbok (3)

Tonga 18 (8) – Tries: Ben Tameifuna, Fine Inisi, Patrick Pellegrini. Penalty goal: William Havili.

Content & Images from – South Africa Rugby

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Cane cautious yet optimistic following Italy victory



All Blacks captain Sam Cane said they would not be getting ahead of themselves based on one big win [96-17] over Italy at the Rugby World Cup.

Cane, who came off the bench for his first appearance in the tournament after recovering from a back injury, said there was always the memory of their loss to France in their opening game to keep them on the straight and narrow.

But, he said, he felt like the side was ‘building nicely’ with a shorter week before they play Uruguay on Friday (NZT).

“There will absolutely be areas where we will pat ourselves on the back and we executed things well [against Italy], but knowing our coaches, they will be looking through things with a fine tooth comb and highlight things that we may have done or probably won’t get away with against better teams.”

Cane said sitting on the sideline through the first three games had been frustrating, especially the tournament opener against France.

“I’d been looking forward to that game for a long time.

“Back troubles can kind of pop up out of nowhere sometimes and it can be quite frustrating. Sometimes they can come right quickly and other times they can linger and cause issues. Unfortunately for me, it was just lingering and as I would increase my training load it would flare up a little bit again. Never really badly but enough to be frustrating.”

“The night before, we were watching the Samoa game, and I just thought ‘Man, I can’t wait to get out there’. The excitement levels were a wee bit higher than normal. [There’s] Nothing like having a few games off to make you appreciate how good it is out there.

“To come through unscathed is a bonus as well.”

Hooker Dane Coles scored two tries after coming on as a substitute and said, “It’s always good to play with a bit of a free spirit and have run, have a jam and play what we see. You can always take a lot of confidence out of that.

“There will be a bit of a spring in the step with the lads, but this has been two weeks of preparation. We put a lot of hard work in.

“It was nice to score a meat pie [try] down the sideline, I was pretty stoked.”

Coles said the team had celebrated with his long-time teammate lock Sam Whitelock for his achievement in reaching 149 Test caps, the most by an All Black.

“Bloody old mate, didn’t smile all week. Nah, it was good. He’s not one for the spotlight, so he was in his own little world during the week. Even on the bench, I was trying to get a laugh out of him, but not much was going on.

“We did a special presentation in the sheds with him. I actually had a whisky. I’m not a big spirit drinker; I don’t really drink, but I said, ‘Mate, I’ll have a drink with you’.

“We just sat down with a few lads and tried to finish these whiskies. It was good. He’s a good man, and we’re stoked for him.

“He was in the gym this morning on the watty (watt bike) and straight back in.”

Content & Images from – New Zealand Rugby

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