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International

Steve Hansen makes decision on his future

All Blacks head coach has made a decision.

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Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

It’s been an action packed week for New Zealand rugby with Ben Smith announcing he’s off to France and Nehe Milner-Skudder also en-route to Europe. With a press conference called for 9am (NZ Time) was All Blacks coach Steve Hansen about to bring some good news or confirm that he too would be on his way.  

In typical laid back Steve’s fashion, he simply said, 

“I’m going”

The 59 year old whose contract is due to expire at the end of the 2019 World Cup will have been part of the All Blacks coaching ticket for 16 years. Prior to taking the head coach role in 2012 he worked as the assistant coach to Graham Henry.

“I just think that after 16 years it is the right time to move on after the World Cup. It is the right thing for the team. We can have a fresh pair of eyes come into the team,” said Hansen.

Hansen added, “It’s been a huge privilege to be part of the All Blacks for such a long time and I’m really looking forward to, and excited by the challenges, of the next 12 months. We’ll be attempting to do something that has never been done before – to win three consecutive Rugby World Cups. I’m highly motivated by that, as is the whole group, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

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Hansen felt it was important to make the announcement about his future now so that New Zealand Rugby had plenty of time to identify his successor.

“This is a critical process which shouldn’t be rushed and shouldn’t be made in the turbulent period that tends to follow a Rugby World Cup campaign.”

Hansen said he hadn’t made any decision on his future at present and his focus was on preparing for the 2019 season.

All Blacks Chairman Brent Impey has lead the tributes to Hansen.

“On behalf of the New Zealand Rugby Board, I’d like to thank Steve for his enormous contribution to our national game. He’s hugely respected, clear in his views, and will leave the job as one of the greatest ever All Blacks coaches.

“His record is unsurpassed. The All Blacks currently hold all the major trophies we play for, he played a critical role in the back-to-back-Rugby World Cup victories in 2011 and 2015, and we wish him and the team all the very best for next year’s campaign.

“Whatever happens next in Steve’s career, his place as a New Zealand rugby legend is guaranteed,” 

All Blacks Chairman Brent Impey

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said Hansen had overseen “one of the richest periods in All Blacks history.”

“On his watch the All Blacks have had a winning rate of close to 90 percent – a remarkable run of sustained success”

“As well as his success on the field, he will also be remembered for his bold selections and the way he and his management team provided the opportunity and environment for the players to achieve their full potential on the international stage.

“He cares deeply about the game and the wider issues facing it and his views are hugely respected not only in New Zealand but internationally.

“On behalf of New Zealand Rugby, we congratulate Steve, his wife Tash and his family on his contribution to New Zealand Rugby – and the contribution he’ll continue to make in 2019 – and we all look forward to what next year will bring.”

Without doubt, there will be a few names bandied about as potential successors with Joe Schmidt, Ian Foster and Scott Robertson already being mentioned. One thing that is for sure is that whoever gets the gig will have a tough act to follow.

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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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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