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Rugby Championship

McKenzie relishing rare opportunity in 10 jersey

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(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Circumstances created by Covid-19 have provided Damian McKenzie with only his second start at first five-eighths for Saturday’s Fortinet Rugby Championship Test in Brisbane against Argentina.

In the absence of Richie Mo’unga on paternity leave, and only he and Beauden Barrett in the All Blacks tour group as specialist first five-eighths, McKenzie has been entrusted with the playmaking role against an Argentine side looking to make up for a disappointing loss last week.

McKenzie with 34 Tests – 13 as a substitute and 20 starting at fullback – played his only other starting role at first-five against France, at Dunedin, in 2018. That was a 49-14 victory where McKenzie crossed for two tries and landed seven conversions.

McKenzie said Brisbane this weekend was an opportunity to have a chance in the position. He was comfortable taking it on after starts in Super Rugby, with the Chiefs, and as a substitute in Tests.

“It’s a challenge, and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Preparing for the role was not too different from the approach he took when playing fullback. But he now had the ‘keys to the bus’, so it was about getting his game management sorted.

Confidence built during the week’s preparation for a game, and he had concentrated on nailing that during the build-up.

What was different about starting was the requirement to break the opposition down instead of coming on as a substitute when play tended to open up more, something that suited his natural running type of game.

Beauden Barrett had been working with him during the tour, and learning from him had helped him be confident in what he could do on the field.

“As a driver, I want to be in the game as much as possible, so it’s about creating opportunities for other people around me and just making sure I’m in control and driving the team around the park where it needs to be.

“It’s different, but that’s not to say I’m going to chuck everything I know out the window and go to be a robotic player. I’ve still got to play my game,” he said.

With Chiefs team-mate Quinn Tupaea starting outside him at second five-eighths, McKenzie said they would be looking to play their games and not try to be anyone else.

“Quinn had a great season for us carrying the ball so we’ll look to do the simple things well and stick with what we know. If we can do that I’m sure everything else can flow off and we can put some good stuff together,” he said.

Source – All Blacks Rugby

Autumn Nations Cup

All Blacks bring up a century in Washington DC

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(Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Making the most of their starting opportunities the All Blacks’ less experienced players took them with both hands in a 104–14 record win over the United States Eagles in Washington on Sunday (NZT).

Second five-eighths Quinn Tupaea, halfback Finlay Christie, lock Tupou Va’ai and centre Braydon Ennor all had respective impacts as the All Blacks posted 16 tries against two.

Apart from a phase through the middle stages of the second half, the Eagles were shut out of the game, and the All Blacks recovered to come home with two tries in the last three minutes to reach their century.

Scoring the first of their nine first-half tries only 29 seconds into the game when flanker Luke Jacobson scored the first of two tries, the All Blacks set the tune from the outset.

Speed was the obvious difference between the sides. It showed up in the All Blacks’ decision-making, and it was demonstrated in their handling and unrelenting support play.

Every time an All Black’s progress was impeded there was someone on hand to carry on the momentum.

Common contributors in set-up plays were Va’ai and Tupaea, who were frequently responsible for giving the ball tidily to those coming through to join breakdowns and allowing the ball to be moved quickly and effectively.

Prop Ethan de Groot scored a try on starting debut six minutes into the game while tighthead prop Angus Ta’avao crossed for his first in the 32nd minute and then backed that up by opening the second half scoring after flanker Dalton Papalii had worked with fullback Damian McKenzie to open the defences.

McKenzie’s speed on the outside break was a constant problem for the Americans throughout the game and produced the first try of the game for Jacobson.

On the left wing Will Jordan was able to feast on the wealth of possession to score three tries while first five-eighths Richie Mo’unga scored a lovely try halfway through the first spell, chipping ahead for Jordan to regather and then feed back to the Crusader. He was tripped but got back up and had enough time to run in the try during a 23-point haul.

An electric break he made early in the second half saw him link with McKenzie who then had flanker Dalton Papalii inside him to score.

The USA had reward just before halftime when lively halfback Nate Augspurger broke from a ruck and had the speed to run away and score what was the first United States try in all matches against New Zealand. That was supplemented in the second half when former North Harbour Sevens player and wing Ryan Matyas got over in the corner.

Flanker Hanco Germishuys was a constant presence in the home defence but lacked the support the All Blacks enjoyed. First five-eighths Luke Carty showed some good touches when the USA was able to build some momentum.

But there were few other moments to savour, as the pressure didn’t ease up as the replacements were ushered onto the field. Centre Anton Lienert-Brown scored almost immediately, inevitably off a good ball from Tupaea.

Replacements first five-eighths Beauden Barrett, hooker Dane Coles and halfback TJ Perenara all crossed before the end to set up the remaining four Tests of their 2021 programme.

Scorers: United States 14  (Nate Augspurger, Ryan Matyas tries; Luke Carty 2 con) New Zealand 114 (Luke Jacobson 2, Ethan de Groot, Will Jordan 3, Damian McKenzie, Angus Ta’avao 2, Richie Mo’unga, Quinn Tupaea, Dalton Papalii, Anton Lienert-Brown, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, TJ Perenara tries; Richie Mo’unga 9 con; Damian McKenzie 3 con). HT: 59-7

Source – All Blacks Rugby

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Rugby Championship

All Blacks named for Washington Test

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Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The All Blacks team has been named to play the USA in the 1874 Cup Test match at FedExField in Washington DC on Saturday 23 October (Kick-off: 3.30PM EST, 8.30AM Sunday 24 October NZT).

The matchday 23 is (Test caps in brackets. New caps in bold):

1.   Ethan de Groot (2)
2.   Asafo Aumua (4)
3.   Angus Ta’avao (19)
4.   Samuel Whitelock (127) – captain
5.   Tupou Vaa’i (7)
6.   Luke Jacobson (10)
7.   Dalton Papalii (9)
8.   Hoskins Sotutu (8)
9.   Finlay Christie (3)
10. Richie Mo’unga (27)
11. George Bridge (16)
12. Quinn Tupaea (4)
13. Braydon Ennor (2)
14. Will Jordan (9)
15. Damian McKenzie (37)


16. Dane Coles (76)
17. George Bower (8)
18. Tyrel Lomax (10)
19. Josh Lord – new cap
20. Sam Cane (74)
21. TJ Perenara (75)
22. Beauden Barrett (98)
23. Anton Lienert-Brown (53)

It will be a special day for new All Blacks lock, 20-year-old Josh Lord, who has been named on the bench and will have huge experience around him for his first Test match, with All Blacks Captain Samuel Whitelock returning at starting lock, alongside Tupou Vaa’i.

In the starting front row, prop Ethan de Groot gets his first Test start after two appearances off the bench this year, hooker Asafo Aumua gets his second Test start of the year and Angus Ta’avao provides experience at tighthead prop.  George Bower and Tyrel Lomax are the prop reserves, with Dane Coles, making his eagerly-awaited return to the All Blacks, on the bench.


The starting loose forwards are the exciting young trio of Luke Jacobson at six, Dalton Papalii at seven and number eight Hoskins Sotutu, with the hugely experienced Sam Cane making his welcome return to the national side via the bench, after missing the international season to undergo chest muscle surgery. He will be playing his 75th Test.

In the backs, it’s a first Test start for halfback Finlay Christie with Richie Mo’unga at 10. The inside pairing sees Quinn Tupaea come in at 12 and Braydon Ennor, in his first Test start, is at centre.  Will Jordan and George Bridge are on the wings and Damian McKenzie is at fullback.  The All Blacks will have huge international experience in the back reserves, with halfback TJ Perenara, first five-eighth Beauden Barrett and Anton Lienert-Brown ready to make impact from the bench.

This will be the fifth time the All Blacks and USA have played each other, with the last Test in Chicago in 2014, and is the first Test of the All Blacks Tudor Northern Tour.

All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said: “We’ve had a great week’s build-up here in Washington DC. The early part of the week was about recovering from our travel and getting clarity around some concepts in our game and we have slowly been building in intensity and getting into our work.

“The chance for us to play in a new city and new stadium is pretty special and the group is really excited and looking forward to the occasion. It’s time to get back into our groove after our break in Australia and with a number of players having not played for awhile. It’s time to get our game going again and we are ready to go.”

Speaking on the newest All Black, Foster said: “Josh Lord is a young man who’s been really enthusiastic since he came in. He’s bringing a lot of energy and learning a lot and we’re looking forward to seeing him go.”

On the players making their first Test starts, Foster added: “Ethan (de Groot) has been raring to go in recent weeks.  We’re really excited for him, he’s been training well and he’s a quality player with a big future.

“Finlay has made the most of his opportunities and he just keeps growing his game and getting better and better and we’re delighted at how he’s going. Braydon has had a year disrupted by injury but he’s back.  He’s running fast and we’re again looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

The All Blacks and USA will be playing for the 1874 Cup which references the year rugby was first played in the United States, a collegiate match between McGill and Harvard University.

Source – All Blacks Rugby

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International

SA Rugby assumes administrative control of Western Province RFU

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SA Rugby has advised the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) that it was invoking its constitutional power to take administrative control of the Union.

The advice was provided following a decision by the Executive Council (Exco) of the South African Rugby Union on Monday.

Experienced former SA Rugby CEO, Rian Oberholzer, has been appointed as an administrator and will assume oversight of the union’s affairs immediately. His remit includes supervision of the operational affairs of Western Province (Pty) Ltd, which manages the professional playing teams of the DHL Stormers and Western Province.

The president of Western Province, Mr Zelt Marais, was informed of the decision this morning (Tuesday).

SA Rugby president, Mr Mark Alexander, said the decision had been taken with extreme reluctance.

“We had engaged with the WPRFU over a number of months on the challenges the organisation faced and tried to assist them in finding solutions,” said Mr Alexander.

“We attempted to partner in a joint oversight committee but were frustrated in our attempts to receive accurate information and engage constructively.

“However, the Union has regressed in its attempts to extricate itself from those challenges and we could no longer stand by.

“This is very much the last resort, but it had become apparent that the Union’s leadership was incapable of putting in place the actions to regularize its position.

“Several of the Union’s stakeholders have contacted our offices to express their dismay and we are aware of the public alarm.

“Clause 29 of the constitution of the South African Rugby Union charges that all unions have to ‘conduct their business affairs in such a way that, at all times, they are in a sound financial position, comply with the laws of the Republic and adhere to the requirements of good governance’.

“It is Exco’s view that WPRFU has failed that test and we could no longer distribute SA Rugby income in that knowledge. On that basis we have taken this decision with a heavy heart.”

The powers of clause 29 allow for the “assumption of responsibility for the affairs of unions…[including] the suspension from office of their elected and/or appointed officials, and the appointment by SARU of administrators, who shall assume all decision-making powers of the unions at both governance and operational levels, and who shall have the authority to direct employees, including chief executive officers, on a day to day basis, such administrators to report and be accountable to and to take direction from the executive council.”

Mr Alexander said that all stakeholders – the union’s commercial partners, broadcaster, coaching staff, players’ union and Vodacom United Rugby Championship partners – had been advised of the decision.

He assured supporters that the appointment of an administrator was to stabilise the Union’s governance and operational business and was not to have any direct influence on DHL Stormers affairs.

“Clause 29 gives us the authority to remain in administration until the Union’s affairs are stabilised,” said Mr Alexander.

“It is not possible right now to put a timeline to that – although it is our intention and desire to make this process as short-lived as possible.

“The most important thing right now is to quietly go about the off-field business so that coach John Dobson and the DHL Stormers squad can focus on performing to their best in their debut season in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.”

Source – South Africa Rugby

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