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Dave Rennie confirms Wallabies captain.

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Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

New Zealander Dave Rennie has made the biggest call to date since coming on board as Wallabies coach by reappointing incumbent captain Michael Hooper to take his team forward.

While it’s a new dawn in Australian rugby, Rennie has opted for the experience and hard-nosed approach of Hooper to drive the Wallabies forward in the post-Michael Cheika era. The next generation of Australian leaders like Fraser McReight and Liam Wright will have to wait.

During Cheika’s six-year reign, the Wallabies coach was regularly accused of showing favourism and being “blue eyed” towards the Waratahs and, in particular, Hooper.

But Rennie’s decision emphatically smashes the pedestal that many think Hooper stands on.

Hooper – barring injury – will lead the Wallabies out against the All Blacks on October 11 at Sky Stadium in Wellington for his 100th Test. He will become the quickest player in Test history to reach the century milestone

Only George Gregan (59) and John Eales (55) have led the Wallabies on more occasions than Hooper (46), but Rennie’s appointment should see the openside flanker become the longest serving Australian captain in the nation’s history.

Ever since first addressing the Australian media on January 23, Rennie has made it crystal clear that he would pick his team first and captain next.

Form would be the driver of selection and for that reason he would wait until appointing his captain unlike the All Blacks who appointed Sam Cane as their skipper in May.

On Wednesday, Rennie said the decision to reappoint Hooper was an easy one given his consistency throughout 2020.

“I’ve been really impressed with Hoops,” Rennie said.

“We’ve spoken a lot over the past nine months and it’s highlighted his passion and commitment.

“He’s a good man with an outstanding work ethic and he’s a great role model for our young men coming through.

“He’s keen to lead, and is highly respected by the Wallaby family. In the end his appointment was a straight forward decision.”

Hooper became the youngest player in half-a-century when he was thrust into the role in 2014 as a 22-year-old when Stephen Moore went down with injury against the French in Brisbane.

Since then the boy from Manly has always said that captaincy is a “privilege” and not something he’s craved nor sought.

On being appointed, Hooper maintained that stance and added that he was encouraged by what was brewing at the Wallabies in the early stages of the Rennie-era.

“It’s an absolute honour to be the Wallabies captain and I want to thank Dave, the Wallabies management team as well as Rugby Australia for their support and endorsement,” Hooper said in a statement. 

“It’s a privilege to wear the Wallabies jersey, I feel proud to lead my teammates and to represent those players that have before and all Australians.

“I’m really excited about this group and the direction we are heading. We have already spent some quality time together, defining who we are and what we stand for and what we play to achieve in the coming months.”

Last month former teammate Stephen Hoiles and current Wallabies teammate Matt To’omua told RUGBY.com.au that appointing Hooper as captain was a “no-brainer”.

“I think he’s been a great captain and I think he’s only going to get better,” To’omua said.

“Yes, it hasn’t been the most successful time but these are learning moments for him. 

“I’d caution against (a change). He just has a wealth of knowledge and experience and that’s all a part of it.

“I look back to England in 2015 and then where they went to in 2019, I don’t think they get to the final in 2019 if they don’t experience that hardship and, to me, that’s how I see our journey with Australia as well.

Nor does the decision mean that Hooper will necessarily captain the Wallabies right throughout the four-year World Cup cycle.

Both of last year’s World Cup finalists switched their captains midway through the previous four-year cycle, with Springboks back-rower Siya Kolisi taking over Warren Whiteley in 2018 and England playmaker Owen Farrell from Dylan Hartley.

A similar situation could take place with the Wallabies, with Hooper to turn 29 next month.

Nonetheless, his appointment means that he will wear the No.7 against the All Blacks next month.

Just who joins him in the back-row remains far from clear, with Brumbies duo Rob Valetini and Pete Samu the favourites to complete the back-row.

Press release from Rugby Australia

Rugby Championship

Joe Schmidt to join All Blacks as Independent Selector

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

One of New Zealand’s leading coaches, former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, is to replace former All Black Grant Fox as the All Blacks Independent Selector.

Fox will be stepping down after next year’s Steinlager Series selection after a decade as a Selector, firstly under former Head Coach Steve Hansen and latterly alongside current Head Coach Ian Foster and fellow selector John Plumtree.

In announcing the appointment, Foster said it was exciting to have someone of Schmidt’s calibre take on the role.

“Joe will bring a wealth of New Zealand and international experience into the role, so we are delighted to have him join us. He will work closely with me and ‘Plums’ on selections but his insights will be valuable in other areas as well, so we look forward to having him join us.”

Schmidt is currently working part time with the Blues for next year’s Super Rugby Pacific competition and will then join the All Blacks, with his first All Blacks selection role to be helping select the squad for the Rugby Championship.

Schmidt was formerly an Assistant Coach with the Blues from 2005 to 2007. He coached Ireland from 2013 to 2019, winning three Six Nations titles, and also won titles coaching French club Clermont Auvergne and Irish club Leinster.  He was also recently World Rugby’s Director of Rugby and High Performance.

Schmidt said: “It’s humbling to be involved and I’m looking forward to learning more about the players and the All Blacks environment and helping out as best I can.”

Foster added that Fox had planned to leave his role as Independent Selector following Rugby World Cup 2019, but he was delighted that he’d been able to convince him to stay until early next year.

“Foxy has been huge for me personally and for the team as a whole and we were so grateful to have him involved for longer than expected.  He says now is the time for him to fully focus on his family and business interests.  We will farewell him closer to the time when he finishes up next year.”

Source – All Blacks Rugby

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International

Leicester confirm signing of Springbok

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leicester Tigers will welcome World Cup-winning fly-half Handré Pollard to the club ahead of the 2022/23 season. 

The South Africa international will make the move to Leicester from French club Montpellier.

The 27-year-old has been capped on 60 occasions by the Springboks since making his Test debut against Scotland in 2014 while still a member of the South Africa Under-20s squad.

Pollard played youth rugby for Western Province, in Cape Town, while attending Paarl Gimnasium School and was selected for South Africa Schoolboys in 2012.

That same year, Pollard was selected for the Junior Springboks as an 18-year-old and remained in the squad for three successive seasons, captaining the age-grade national side in his final year. 

In 2013, Pollard moved to the University of Pretoria and represented UP Tuks while also making his provincial debut for the Blue Bulls in South Africa’s Currie Cup competition.

His Super Rugby debut followed in 2014 for the Bulls, who he would represent for the next five seasons, as well as a lone campaign for Japanese club NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes in 2015/16. 

After playing in South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup win, Pollard joined current club Montpellier. 

An accomplished goal-kicker, he has registered more than 600 points for the Springboks at an average of more than 10 points per Test.

He represented the Barbarians in 2018 and recently shared in South Africa’s series win over the British & Irish Lions.

Speaking about the addition of Pollard to the Leicester Tigers squad for next season, Head Coach Steve Borthwick said: “Handré is a world-class fly-half who brings with him a wealth of experience from Super Rugby, Top14 and international rugby.

“He is a World Cup winner who has been highly sought-after from clubs all over the globe. But, most pleasingly, he sees Leicester Tigers as the club for him.

“What has impressed me most in our dealings with him has been his desire to be a part of what we are building at this club but also his desire to develop, learn and grow as a player and person.

“This is a very exciting signing for the club and one I hope Leicester Tigers fans are excited about.”

Discussing his decision to join Leicester Tigers, Pollard said: “I am excited to join Leicester Tigers, to be a part of this great group of players at a special club and challenge myself, test my limits and be the very best I can be for the team.

“The club is going brilliantly at the moment and I know there is an expectation to continue that, to keep getting better because getting to the top is hard but staying there is even harder.

“There are bigger deals on the table, but I’ve made this decision to work with Steve [Borthwick] and to be a part of an unreal, great club at Leicester Tigers which has such a great history,” he added.

The Springboks fly-half also spoke of his excitement ahead of playing at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

“I don’t know the whole history of Leicester Tigers, but this is a club that is so well renowned worldwide,” he said.

“Everybody I have spoken to about playing there, for Tigers or an away team, say it’s the one stadium that is on another level.”

Pollard will link up with his new Leicester Tigers team-mates at the conclusion of international commitments ahead of the 2022/23 season.

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Rugby Championship

Sam Cane commits long-term future to New Zealand

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Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

All Blacks, Chiefs and Bay of Plenty loose forward Sam Cane has recommitted to New Zealand Rugby, inking a new deal with his national union, Super Rugby club and province through to 2025.

29-year-old Cane has been a mainstay of the national game since making his professional rugby debut with the Gallagher Chiefs as an 18 year old in 2010 and made his All Blacks debut two years later. The 2015 Rugby World Cup winner has gone on to play for the All Blacks in 77 Tests (56 starts) and captained the team ten times. He has played 126 times for the Gallagher Chiefs.


Cane said he was stoked to be committing to New Zealand Rugby for four more years.


“My passion for the game, whether it’s playing for the All Blacks, Gallagher Chiefs or Bay of Plenty, is as strong as when I started playing, so it was an easy decision for me to extend my contract, and my wife Harriet and I are excited about what the future holds.


“I’m now looking forward to spending summer with my family and friends, and coming back ready go to again in 2022.”

All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster, who selected Cane as his captain last year, said: “We are thrilled that Sam has made a long-term commitment to New Zealand Rugby.


“He’s an instrumental part of the All Blacks leadership group in his role as captain and I know that following a year in which he missed a lot of rugby with his significant injury, he is fully committed to being at his very best in 2022 and beyond, which is exciting.


“We’re delighted for him and Harriet.”

NZR General Manager Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum added: “We are blessed to have a person of Sam’s calibre playing in New Zealand and he has been an exceptional and loyal player since coming into the professional ranks as a young man. 


“He’s one of the most respected players and voices in our game and all the teams that he has played for have benefitted from his outstanding play and leadership. We’re delighted that he has chosen to stay with New Zealand Rugby for four more years.”


As part of his contract, Cane has the option of taking a non-playing or playing break from the New Zealand game in 2024.


Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said: “Sam is an exceptional player and highly respected leader, who has a great rapport with both coaches and players. He is passionate about the teams he is involved with and continues to demonstrate that through his ultra-consistent performances on the field.


“We are incredibly fortunate to have his services and look forward to seeing him continue to further his already impressive career.”


Chiefs Rugby Club CEO Michael Collins added: “Having Sam recommit for another four years is an outstanding result. We are incredibly proud of what Sam has achieved so far for the Gallagher Chiefs, All Blacks and Bay of Plenty. We are very much looking forward to seeing him on the field in Super Rugby Pacific in 2022 and beyond.”


Bay of Plenty Rugby Union CEO Mike Rogers said Cane had always been incredibly proud of his roots in the Bay of Plenty.


“When he has the opportunity, he goes out of his way to support rugby in the Bay and even when he’s not physically able to be present, he’s always engaged and prepared to offer his time and support in other ways.


“He made a massive contribution to our environment this year during the Bunnings NPC as he was returning from injury and remains a massive inspiration to the thousands of young male and female players that play rugby in Bay of Plenty.”

Sam Cane – mini bio

Name: Sam Cane
Born: 13 January 1992, Rotorua
Position: Loose forward
Weight: 107kg
Height: 1.88m
Provincial team: Bay of Plenty
Super Rugby team: Chiefs
Test Debut: 16 June 2012 vs Ireland in Christchurch
Test Caps: 77
Test Points: 80 (16 tries)

Source – All Blacks Rugby

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