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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

Rugby Australia slams Rassie Erasumus’ comments surrounding Nic Berry

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Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images

Rugby Australia has condemned the commentary from South African Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus surrounding the performance of Nic Berry.

Berry found himself in the ire of the World Cup-winning coach following their first Test defeat against the British & Irish Lions.

In bizarre scenes during the week, Erasmus released an hour-long video in which he launches an unprecedented and ugly attack on Berry.

This has led to a swift response from RA, who labelled his actions ‘unacceptable’ in a statement late Friday afternoon.

“Rugby Australia has noted with dismay and concern the recent public commentary by South African Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, regarding Australian referee Nic Berry and other match officials,” the statement read.

“There is no place for abuse of match officials in Australian Rugby, with Rugby Australia committed to promoting a fair, safe and inclusive Rugby experience for all participants, officials and fans.”

Springboks score 55 metre try off the back of an uncharacteristic loose pass from Pollard

RA CEO Andy Marinos confirmed they have taken the issue up with World Rugby as they continue to show support for Berry.

“Match officials form the very fabric of our game – simply, the game would not exist without them. As a highly regarded and respected international referee appointed by World Rugby, the attack on Nic’s integrity, character and reputation is unacceptable,” Marinos said.

“We have been in contact with World Rugby, under whose auspices this Test Series sit, and understand that they are actively reviewing this matter as some facts presented were not accurate.

“It is important to ensure public attacks of this nature are not tolerated. We will continue to provide support to Nic at this time, as both his physical and mental wellbeing remains a priority for us.”

World Rugby released a statement on Thursday announcing they would look into the disturbing comments by Erasmus, who has found himself in hot water throughout the series for his strange role as a water boy.

“World Rugby notes the comments made by Rassie Erasmus. The nature of these will be raised with the union via the usual official channels and no further comment will be made at this stage,” they added.

Source – Australia Rugby

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International

3 changes for Boks

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(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made three changes to his starting team and six in total to the matchday squad for the key encounter.

Two of these changes are in the front-row, where Kitshoff – who made his Test debut against Ireland in 2016 – will mark his career milestone next to Frans Malherbe (prop) and Bongi Mbonambi in a new-look combination for the hosts.

Ox Nché – who packed down with Trevor Nyakane (prop) and Mbonambi last weekend – was ruled out due to the neck niggle he picked up in the first Test, but fortunately for Nienaber, Mbonambi’s hamstring strain has recovered sufficiently for him to start the match.

The other change in the starting XV was at No 8, where Wiese earns his first Test start after making his debut off the replacements bench against Georgia earlier this month.

Nienaber opted for a six-two split on the bench, which sees Nyakane and Vincent Koch provide cover at prop, while Marco van Staden takes over from Rynhardt Elstadt as loose forward cover along with Kwagga Smith, while Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse will provide support in the backline.

Damian de Allende, who retains his midfield partnership with Lukhanyo Am, will take one step closer to earning his half century of caps, as he runs onto the field in his 49th Test, while Lood de Jager (replacement lock) will earn his 47th cap if takes the field.

Steven Kitshoff will earn his 50th Test cap for South Africa.

“This is a massive game for us; it is do or die in order to stay in the race to win the series and we selected a team that offers continuity in selection, but also that we thought would be the best suited to achieve the objectives we have set for this match,” said Nienaber.

“Ox did well in the scrums last week and has been ruled out due to injury, but fortunately we have a world class player in Steven who can step into the starting team. The fact that this will mark his 50th Test will make this occasion even more important for him.”

Of decision to opt for a six-two split on the replacements bench, Nienaber said: “We have had an extra week on the training field after a few disruptive weeks in the build-up to the opening Test, so we are confident that the players in the squad will be able to deliver on the physicality and grit that will be required in this match.

“We need to be better in every area of the game this week, and the set pieces will be crucial in laying the foundations we need to execute our game plan effectively.

“We also spoke about our discipline and the aerial battle as a team, and we intend to work as hard as possible at training this week to correct the errors that cost us last week.”

Nienaber expected another epic battle against the British & Irish Lions, and he said the Boks were in the right frame of mind to bounce back from the disappointment they endured last week.

Frans Malherbe will start at tighthead prop, with Trevor Nyakane warming the bench.

“We disappointed ourselves last week, and we all know how important it is to bounce back with a strong performance and show our fighting spirit and pride as a team and nation,” said the coach.

“For most players the Castle Lager Lions Series is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we desperately want to win the series, so we will fight as hard as we can on the field to win this week so that we can achieve that goal.”

Ben O’Keeffe from New Zealand has been appointed as the referee for the match, with Mathieu Raynal (France) and Nic Berry (Australia) serving as his assistant referees, while Marius Jonker (South Africa) will be the television match official.

Springbok team to face the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 63 caps, 60 pts (12t)
14 – Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse) – 15 caps, 40 pts (8t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 16 caps, 15 pts (3t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Munster) – 48 caps, 30 pts (6t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 15 caps, 70 pts (14t)
10 – Handré Pollard (vice-captain, Montpellier) – 50 caps, 477pts (6t, 78c, 93p, 4d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) – 31 caps, 25 pts (5t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 1 cap, 0 pts
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers) – 57 caps, 25 pts (5t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 52 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 41 caps, 5pts (1t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – 87 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 40 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers) – 38 caps, 40 pts (8t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 49 caps, 5pts (1t)

Replacements:
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 35 caps, 30 pts (6t)
17 – Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) – 44 caps, 5 pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Saracens) – 21 caps, 0 pts
19 – Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks) – 46 caps, 25 pts (5t)
20 – Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls) – 3 caps, 0 pts
21 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 8 caps, 5 pts (1t)
22 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 12 caps, 25 pts (5t)
23 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 8 caps, 5pts (1t)

Facts and Stats:

  • Handré Pollard needs two penalty goals to equal Jackie Snyman’s record of six career penalty goals against the British & Irish Lions.
  • The Springboks need four tries to reach 100 tries against the British & Irish Lions in this 48th Test between the sides since 1891.

Miscellaneous:

  • The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is
  • There are 238 caps in the backline with 365 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 159
  • The average caps per player in the backline are 34, the forwards 45 while the players on the bench average 19.

Source – South Africa Rugby

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Rugby Championship

Quade Cooper back in Wallabies camp

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Quade Cooper - Wallabies Australia
Image Credit - Andrew Phan/Wallabies Media

Veteran playmaker Quade Cooper concedes he fell short in certain areas in the past and he’s determined to use his surprise Wallabies recall to ensure Australia’s brightest young rugby stars avoid the same fate.

Cooper had a coffee with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie last week in which he agreed to link up with the squad as a training partner before they flew out to New Zealand.

But James O’Connor’s ongoing groin issues and the cancellation of the trans-Tasman bubble led Rennie to make the decision to include Cooper in the main squad for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship series.

The Wallabies will fly to New Zealand on Friday for the first Test in Auckland on August 7.

The second Test is expected to be brought forward to August 14 and be played on All Blacks home soil, before the teams face off in Perth on August 21.

Cooper last played a Test for Australia in 2017 – a 15-minute cameo off the bench in a win over Italy.

He fell out of favour under then-coach Michael Cheika and moved to Japan in 2019 to link up with the Kintetsu Liners.

The 33-year-old has matured in leaps and bounds over the past three years, and has used the long COVID-19 enforced layoffs to rebuild his body.

Cooper faces an uphill battle to earn game time in the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.

Rennie said Noah Lolesio is the No.1 playmaker, while Matt To’omua, Reece Hodge, Duncan Paia’aua, and O’Connor (when fit) are other options.

Cooper knows his Wallabies recall might not lead to any game time but he’s eager to help out in any way he can.

The 70-Test veteran has taken his training and workout standards to new levels and he was full of voice during drills with his Wallabies teammates on Monday.

“You watch them go about their training,” Cooper said.

“You see things in them that you can look back and say, ‘Yep, I can help out there. I see where I went wrong at that age’.

“For me that’s something I can provide … to be able to provide an example of what it takes.

“I know where I fell short in the past, and hopefully now I’m in a position I can lead from the front in those areas and provide a little bit of guidance.”

Working with Lolesio is something that particularly excites Cooper.

“I think we can continue to help each other,” Cooper said.

“Even myself at 33 I’m there trying to learn, trying to soak up as much information as I can.

“Watching the way he went through those Test matches (against France) – he’s a phenomenal player, and I know he’s going to be a great player and a great asset to Australian rugby.”

Cooper has been training hard with a ‘5am club’ since returning to Australia a couple of months ago.

He has also ensured his skills have stayed sharp by joining his two younger brothers for training at their rugby league club in Brisbane.

Rennie feels Cooper’s inclusion in the Wallabies squad will prove to be invaluable.

“We have a young group of men who are impressionable, and ready for Quade to come in and be a positive influence,” Rennie said.

“He’s highly motivated. We saw him running around this morning, and he looked as sharp as ever for me.”

Source – Australia Rugby

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