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Retallick keen to get back in All Blacks mix

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(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Former World Rugby player of the year and All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick is back in New Zealand and keen to be involved in Test rugby again after a two-year stint in Japan.

Retallick said it was good to be back in New Zealand, especially after the restrictions he had been living under in Japan.

“Even getting out of MIQ and walking around without a face mask on felt a little bit weird for a couple of days. It’s exciting to be back and [I’m] waiting to see if I get named next week.

“I’m looking forward to getting stuck into New Zealand rugby again,” he said.

Down a little on his usual playing weight, he had been working during the last three or four weeks on conditioning himself and putting some weight on.

Because the amount of rugby he expected to play across his two seasons was reduced by Covid, while he had one period of around two and a half months where he did no training.

“I’m hoping to reap some rewards out of that, and the body is in a good spot, it’s had plenty of time to rest. I hope that pushing on for the next couple of years I’m going to reap the rewards of having that decent break, and also a good pre-season to get the body conditioned [for 2022],” he said.

Returning to the All Blacks and Test rugby would be a different level but he said he would be comfortable if that involved a starting spot in the side.

“I realise that being out of New Zealand it’s been different and I’ve got to earn my spot. I’m comfortable either way [whether starting or off the bench]. It is going to be a little bit odd coming back in and getting used to it,” he said.

Retallick said he still tried to be physical in his approach in Japan, and admitted he received his first red card, in a pre-season game, although he felt it was debateable.

“I’ve worked hard at my technique. Obviously the players over there are a lot smaller so I’ve been working on the body height and that will be the area that will be the main focus in the next few weeks,” he said.

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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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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