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Rugby Championship

All Blacks name squad & Captain for Steinlager Series

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Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The All Blacks selectors, Head Coach Ian Foster, Assistant Head Coach John Plumtree and former All Black Grant Fox, have named the squad for the 2021 Steinlager Series Tests against Fiji and Tonga.

  • Exciting talent unveiled with four new caps picked
  • Lock Samuel Whitelock named as captain

The 36-strong squad is as follows:

(With age, Sky Super Rugby club, provincial union and Test caps in brackets. New All Blacks are in bold):

Forwards

Hookers

Asafo Aumua (24, Hurricanes / Wellington, 1)

Dane Coles (34, Hurricanes / Wellington, 74)

Codie Taylor (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 56)

Props

George Bower (29, Crusaders / Otago, uncapped)

Ethan de Groot (22, Highlanders / Southland, new cap)

Nepo Laulala (29, Blues / Counties Manukau, 29)

Tyrel Lomax (25, Hurricanes / Tasman, 6)

Angus Ta’avao (31, Chiefs / Auckland, 14)

Karl Tu’inukuafe (28, Blues / North Harbour, 17)

Locks

Scott Barrett (27, Crusaders / Taranaki, 36)

Brodie Retallick (30, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 81)

Patrick Tuipulotu (28, Blues / Auckland, 35)

Tupou Vaa’i (21, Chiefs / Taranaki, 4)

Samuel Whitelock (32, Crusaders / Canterbury, 122) – captain

Loose Forwards

Ethan Blackadder (26, Crusaders / Tasman, new cap)

Shannon Frizell (27, Highlanders / Tasman, 13)

Akira Ioane (26, Blues / Auckland, 2)

Luke Jacobson (24, Chiefs / Waikato, 2)

Dalton Papalii (23, Blues / Counties Manukau, 4)

Ardie Savea (27, Hurricanes / Wellington, 49)

Hoskins Sotutu (22, Blues / Counties Manukau, 5)

Backs

Halfbacks

Finlay Christie (25, Blues / Tasman, new cap)

Aaron Smith (32, Highlanders / Manawatu, 97)

Brad Weber (30, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 7)

First five–eighths

Beauden Barrett (30, Blues / Taranaki, 88)

Richie Mo’unga (27, Crusaders / Canterbury, 22)

Midfielders

Braydon Ennor (23, Crusaders / Canterbury, 1)

David Havili (26, Crusaders / Tasman, 3)

Rieko Ioane (24, Blues / Auckland, 33)

Anton Lienert-Brown (26, Chiefs / Waikato, 49)

Quinn Tupaea (22, Chiefs / Waikato, new cap)

Outside backs

Jordie Barrett (24, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 23)

George Bridge (26, Crusaders / Canterbury, 10)

Will Jordan (22, Crusaders / Tasman, 2)

Damian McKenzie (26, Chiefs / Waikato, 27)

Sevu Reece (23, Crusaders / Tasman, 8)

The key feature of the squad is the selection of four new All Blacks, in young Highlanders and Southland prop Ethan de Groot; Crusaders and Tasman loose forward Ethan Blackadder; Blues and Tasman halfback Finlay Christie; and young Chiefs and Waikato player Quinn Tupaea.

The squad also sees the return of 2019 All Blacks loose forward Luke Jacobson and prop Angus Ta’avao. Midfielders David Havili, who last played for the national side in 2017, and Braydon Ennor are also back, along with senior All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, who recently returned from a playing stint in Japan.

In naming the first All Blacks squad for 2021, Head Coach Ian Foster said: “Firstly, on behalf of the selectors, I want to congratulate all players selected for this Steinlager Series squad, especially, the new All Blacks, Ethan de Groot and Ethan Blackadder, and Finlay and Quinn.  It’s an incredibly special day for them and their families and we look forward to catching up with them when we get into camp this week.

“There will be players who will be disappointed at missing out on selection and we feel for them as well.”

122-Test lock Samuel Whitelock has been named captain for the Steinlager Series, replacing Sam Cane who is still recovering from chest surgery.

“Sam Whitelock is the right man for the job.”

Ian Foster

“He’s hugely experienced, not just as a player but also as a leader, and he has great connections with Sam Cane and the leaders in the team as well. Our current leadership group is working hard together and we know Sam will lead the team superbly in the Steinlager Series.”

As well as Cane, several other injured All Blacks weren’t considered for selection, including props Ofa Tuungafasi and Joe Moody and midfielder Jack Goodhue. Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava was also not considered for selection due to injury.

Foster said the All Blacks had a clear goal for 2021 to be number one in the world again.

“This is going to involve hard work and a commitment to our preparation, whilst at the same time expanding our depth, with an eye to the future.”

The team will assemble for a three-day camp in South Auckland later this week before heading into the Tongan Test week.

Squad breakdown

The All Blacks squad is made up of 21 forwards (three hookers, six props, five locks and seven loose forwards) and 15 backs (three halfbacks, two first five–eighths, five midfielders, and five outside backs).

The squad is made up of nine Blues players, eight Chiefs, five Hurricanes, 11 Crusaders and three Highlanders, while 12 of New Zealand’s provinces are represented, with seven Tasman players, five from Canterbury, four each from Auckland, Waikato and Taranaki, three from Wellington and Counties Manukau, two from Hawke’s Bay, and one each from North Harbour, Manawatu, Otago and Southland.

The squad has an average age of 26, a total of 920 caps experience for an average of 25 Test caps per player.

The new All Blacks – mini bios

Ethan Blackadder

Born: 22 March 1995
Position: Loose forward
Height, weight: 190cm, 111kg

The son of former All Blacks captain Todd Blackadder, Ethan hails from North Canterbury originally but attended Nelson College. Blackadder was called into the Tasman provincial team in 2016 after a stellar club season. He became a regular starter for Tasman in 2017 as they made their way to the Premiership Final and in 2019, Blackadder helped the side secure its first provincial title. With the ability to play both lock and in the loose forwards, the versatile player made his Crusaders debut in 2018 and has 20 appearances for the Super side.

Finlay Christie

Born: 19 September 1994
Position: Halfback
Height, weight: 177cm, 82kg

Born in Scotland, Christie moved to New Zealand aged seven and attended St Kentigern’s College in Auckland before heading to Canterbury to study. He made his provincial debut for Tasman in 2016 and his eye-catching form saw him offered a Chiefs contract in 2017.  He played one season for the Chiefs before becoming a key player in Tasman’s run to the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership Final in 2017.  He played for the Hurricanes in 2018-2019 and then moved home to the Blues for the 2020 season. Christie is also a former New Zealand gymnastics representative.

Ethan de Groot

Born: 22 July 1998
Position: Prop
Height, weight: 190cm, 122kg

Raised in New Zealand’s deep south, the form of 22-year-old loosehead prop Ethan de Groot has been a highlight of the Highlanders campaigns this year. De Groot developed as a player at Southland Boys’ High School and rose through the Rugby Southland Academy and age group teams before making his provincial debut for Southland in 2018.  He made two appearances off the bench for the Highlanders last year before becoming a feature of the matchday 23 this year, scoring two tries in the ‘Landers win over the Waratahs in Sky Super Rugby Trans Tasman.

Quinn Tupaea

Born: 10 May 1999
Position: Midfield back
Height, weight: 186cm, 97kg

Quinn Tupaea announced his arrival on the provincial scene for Waikato in 2018 after starring at Hamilton Boys’ High School and as New Zealand Schools captain. A powerful runner and skilful with ball in hand, he started in 11 of his 12 appearances that season and was named Waikato Emerging Player of the Year. He took his outstanding form in his debut season with the Chiefs in 2020 and was named Chiefs Rookie of the Year. The club has signed him through to 2023. Tupaea also played for the Māori All Blacks against Moana Pasifika last year.

The 2021 Steinlager Series

1. All Blacks vs Tonga, 7.05PM, Saturday 3 July, plus Māori All Blacks vs Manu Samoa (kick-off 4.30PM), Mt Smart Stadium, AUCKLAND

2. All Blacks vs Fiji, 7.05PM, Saturday 10 July, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN

3. All Blacks vs Fiji, 7.05PM, Saturday 17 July, plus Tonga vs Samoa (kick-off 4.00PM) FMG Stadium Waikato, HAMILTON

Source – All Blacks Rugby

International

SA matches postponed due to COVID variant risk

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

In a statement, organisers said that due to the sudden developments that had placed South Africa on the UK and EU travel red list the matches would be rescheduled for later this season.

“The safety and well-being of our participating clubs’ players, coaches, support staff and match officials is the foremost priority and the URC is currently working with the four visiting clubs – Cardiff Rugby, Munster Rugby, Scarlets and Zebre Parma – to facilitate their return as soon as possible,” the statement advised.

“This decision is based upon the latest guidance against non-essential travel to and from South Africa, the ban on direct flights to the UK and other home destinations and the potential hotel quarantines enforced upon those returning from South Africa.

“As has been the operating practice throughout the pandemic, the URC will continue engaging with our Medical Advisory Group, our union shareholders and respective governments to plan according to the latest health guidelines.

“A period of assessment will now be required to better understand the impact of these new travel restrictions and how to reschedule these games within the current season. Given the nature and speed of these developments URC will provide further updates at the appropriate time through official channels only.”

Source – South Africa Rugby

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Autumn Nations Cup

World Rugby approves birth right amendment for players to transfer unions

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  • New process can benefit players and the global competitiveness of rugby
  • Fairness and integrity key principles that underpin the framework
  • Approval follows extensive discussion and collaboration across the game
  • Revised Regulation will apply from 1 January 2022

The World Rugby Council has approved an amendment to the sport’s regulations governing national team representation that will now permit an international player to transfer once from one union to another subject to demonstrating a close and credible link to that union via birth right.

From 1 January, 2022, in order to transfer from one union to another under the revised Regulation 8 (eligibility), a player will need to achieve the below criteria:

  • The player must stand-down from international rugby for 36 months
  • The player must either be born in the country to which they wish to transfer or have a parent or grandparent born in that country
  • Under the revised Regulation 8 criteria, a player may only change union once and each case will be subject to approval by the World Rugby Regulations Committee to preserve integrity

After 1 January 2022, any player who meets the above criteria can apply immediately for a transfer.

The Regulation 8 revisions will also align the “age of majority” across 15s and sevens. All players will now be ‘captured’ at 18 years of age to simplify the Regulation and improve union understanding and compliance.

Approval of the amended regulation follows requests by emerging nations and a subsequent wide-ranging consultation process with member unions, regions and International Rugby Players examining the possibility of amending the principle within Regulation that stipulates that a player may only represent one union at international level, save for specific circumstances relating to participation in the Olympic Games.

The benefits of the amendment include:

  • Simplicity and alignment: transfers are currently permitted in the context of participation in the Olympics in the sevens game. This amendment will create one aligned, simplified process across the game
  • Development of emerging nations: the player depth of emerging nations may be improved by permitting players, who have close and credible links to the “emerging union” through birth or ancestry, to “return” to those unions having previously represented another union
  • Player-focused approach: the process recognised the modern rugby environment, including global player movement, the current ability to capture players by selecting them on the bench, and the desire of some players to transfer having been selected a limited number of times for one union. It also examined the impact of any change on the integrity of the international competition landscape.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Approval of this landmark regulatory change is the culmination of detailed and widespread modelling and consultation across the game. We have listened to our membership and players and sought to update the regulation recognising the modern professional rugby environment without compromising the integrity of the international game.

“Any player who wishes to transfer will need to have a close and credible link to their new union, namely birth right or parent or grandparent birth right while meeting strong criteria, including a 36-month stand down period. We believe that this is the fairest way to implement progressive change that puts players first while also having the potential to support a growing, increasingly competitive international men’s and women’s game.”

World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte added: “We have listened to our membership and honoured our pledge to undertake wide-ranging review of this important regulation. We have consulted, sought feedback from our unions, regions and most importantly to players’ representatives, before making a recommendation to the Council. This change to how international rugby operates will provide transformational opportunities to players with dual backgrounds, providing they meet the key criteria sets out in the Regulation 8.”

International Rugby Players CEO, Omar Hassanein said:“The proposal to change the rules around player eligibility is something that we have worked on over many years with our member associations. Many players across the world will now benefit from the chance to represent the country of their or their ancestors’ birth, serving as a real boost to the competitiveness of emerging nations, which in turn, will benefit the game as a whole.” 

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British & Irish Lions

Independent misconduct hearing update: Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby – 2 Month Ban

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An independent misconduct committee has found that behaviour displayed by SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus towards match officials during this year’s test series between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions constituted misconduct.

The committee was chaired by Christopher Quinlan QC, together with Nigel Hampton QC and Judge Mike Mika (both New Zealand).

Six charges were brought by World Rugby against Rassie Erasmus for various breaches of World Rugby Regulation 18 and World Rugby’s Code of Conduct. The charges in summary were that Mr Erasmus:

  1. threatened a match official that unless a requested meeting took place, he would publish footage containing clips criticising the match official’s performance and then making good on that threat; published or permitted to be published the Erasmus Video containing numerous comments that were either abusive, insulting and/or offensive to match officials;
  2. attacked, disparaged and/or denigrated the game and the match officials;
  3. did not accept or observe the authority and decisions of match officials;
  4. published or caused to be published criticism of the manner in which a match official handled a match;
  5. engaged in conduct or activity that may impair public confidence in the integrity and good character of match official(s); and
  6. brought the game into disrepute when he published or caused to be published the Erasmus Video.

Having considered all the evidence, including oral evidence from the match officials, Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby, World Rugby, and submissions from the parties the committee found all six charges against Mr Erasmus proved.  

Two charges were brought by World Rugby against SA Rugby in accordance with World Rugby Regulation 18 and the World Rugby Code of Conduct. In summary, the charges were that SA Rugby:

  1. did not ensure that Rassie Erasmus complied with the World Rugby Code of Conduct and/or permitted Mr Erasmus to commit acts of misconduct; and/or did not publicly correct any comments or publications by or on behalf of Mr Erasmus that amounted to misconduct; and
  2. permitted and/or did not prevent Siya Kolisi and Mzwandile Stick to make comments at a press conference on 30 July, 2021 that were not disciplined or sporting and adversely affected the game of rugby; and/or did not publicly correct any such comments so as adversely affected the game of rugby.

Having considered all the evidence, including oral evidence from the match officials, Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby, World Rugby, and submissions from the parties, the committee found the first charge against SA Rugby proved.

Having considered submissions on behalf of both parties in respect of sanction, the independent committee decided on the following:

Rassie Erasmus

  • Suspension with immediate effect from all rugby activities for two months
  • Suspension from all match-day activities (including coaching, contact with match officials, and media engagement) with immediate effect until 30 September, 2022
  • A warning as to his future conduct and an apology to the relevant match officials.

SA Rugby

  • A fine of £20,000
  • A warning as to future conduct and an apology to the relevant match officials

The parties have seven days to appeal from receipt of the full written decision. 

The full written decision is available here.

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