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Rugby World Cup

Wallabies Set to Announce New Attack Coach

Australia are to confirm their new attack coach with less than 100 days until the start of the World Cup

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Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika is to announce his new attack coach for the World Cup in Japan within the next week.

Australia have been searching for a replacement for Stephen Larkham (who looks set to take a role in the Munster coaching set up), since his departure in February, but director of rugby Scott Johnson told the media on Thursday that an announcement would be made shortly.

“There will be a decision made in the next couple of days. There’s been reasons why we’ve held off … we’ve been looking at the candidates, some are internal and some have got other jobs to do so there will be an announcement imminently,” he said.

Johnson, who was speaking at a Melbourne Rebels function ahead of the final regular season games of this year’s Super Rugby, also believes that the Wallabies are in with a serious chance of upsetting the odds at the tournament.

“I think New Zealand’s dominance is probably a little closer than it was in previous World Cups and I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner lost a pool game. There’s five or six teams who could win but it’s a fickle competition in favour of us – the weather will be good and the decks will be fast and that will suit us,” he added.

Johnson was the attack coach for the national side at the 2007 World Cup, however, he confirmed that he was not in the running this time around.

Although an announcement is due soon there is still no clear indication of who will take up the role.

It is rumoured that ex-Wallabies Matt Giteau and Brian Smith are in with a chance along with Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson and Rebels assistant coach Shaun Berne.

Whoever does come in will only have five test matches to get across their style and philosophy so they will have to be ready for a quick transition.

International

All Black Star to Turn Out for Grassroots Side

An All Blacks legend is set to play for a grassroots outfit in order to gain match fitness ahead of the Rugby World Cup

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Blues and All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams could play for club side Ponsonby for the next two weekends in a bid to gain vital match fitness ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

Williams has been unfortunate with injuries during this years Super Rugby campaign, limiting him to only three starts, making his last appearance on June 15th following 10 weeks out after undergoing knee surgery.

With such a small amount of rugby under his belt in recent months The New Zealand Herald are reporting that his solution is to play for grassroots side Ponsonby.

It is believed that he has already spoken to and agreed terms to play with former All Black Kevin Senio and sevens star Rocky Khan, who are involved with the club.

Williams is a contracted Counties player and had to seek clearance in order to turn out for Ponsonby, which has apparently been granted.

If he is selected, Williams could face Grammar TEC this weekend and Eden the following week in what would be vital game time for the 33-year-old.

Ponsonby has produced the most All Blacks of any grassroots team, including recent stars Rieko and Akira Ioane.

Williams will be desperate to prove himself with the All Blacks starting their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina on July 21st and will be hoping to make it to Japan in the long run as New Zealand seek their third World Cup in a row.

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International

Ireland Star Returns from Injury Lay-Off

Ireland have been handed a massive boost ahead of their World Cup preparations as a key man has confirmed he is fit and ready to go

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Leinster and Ireland lock Devin Toner has confirmed that he is back in training after a nasty knee injury in what will be a huge relief to Joe Schmidt.

Toner went off injured during Leinster’s PRO 14 semi-final win over rivals Munster last month and there was a fear that he had done serious damage.

However, while speaking at a launch of for Energia’s new official energy partnership with Irish Rugby and being title sponsors to the All-Ireland League, the second rower confirmed he has been back training since last week.

“It’s great, I’d say if there was a game coming up, I’d probably be able to play. I’m not doing contact or mauling or anything. I’m just doing kind of linear running and stuff from side-to-side. If I had to play, I would be able to strap it up and be able to play,” he said.

He went on to discuss how the pre-season is working and how he will be raring to go within the next couple of weeks.

“The way pre-season is, we did a hard two-week block. We have a week next week where we still have to kind of train on our own and then we are back in. When we come back in for that week, I’m hell for leather doing everything then, so it’s grand. It could have been a lot worse than what it was,” he added.

Toner, who was unfortunate earlier in the year as he sustained a long-term ankle injury, and admitted he was worried that he would be missing for a long time once more initially but thankfully things weren’t as bad as he thought.

“To me it felt bad because I have never done my knee before. I felt a little bit of a pop, so I thought it was bad, but because I was able to walk off the pitch and put weight on it, they told me it wasn’t too bad. It was a grade-two medial. A lot of lads have done it and said it was grand and that I would be back in five or six weeks,” he finished.

Toner will certainly be on the plane to Japan as long as he can stay fit as Ireland head to the tournament looking to reach a first semi-final at a minimum.

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International

Former Aussie Star Seeking International Return

One of Australia’s most controversial players has his eyes on a return to international rugby with the Wallabies

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Former Wallabies back James O’Connor could be in line for a recall to the national side and a possible place at the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

A report that featured in The Australian claims that Rugby Australia are lining up a bid to bring O’Connor back to Super Rugby for the end of the 2020 season and beyond.

If they manage to tie him down to such a contract the 28-year-old would then become eligible for selection in the Wallabies team.

It is believed that although head coach Michael Cheika is yet to speak to the 44-cap Aussie, but new director of rugby Scott Johnson has begun making moves that would see O’Connor return to Australia.

O’Connor currently plays for English Premiership outfit Sale Sharks and has been there since 2017, with his contract set to expire at the end of next season.

He moved to Manchester following scandals which saw him removed from an airport for a drunken incident and being arrested in Paris along with former All Black Ali Williams under the suspicion of attempting to buy cocaine in early 2017.

However, despite all of this O’Connor has played on and appears to have turned a corner which has caught Johnson’s eye.

Following a trip to Iceland last year O’Connor made clear his intentions to play for the Wallabies once more and promised he is not the man he previously was.

“I now know who I was but more importantly, I now see who I must become. It is time for me to share my truth. I have a deep desire to play for the Wallabies again. I have learnt from my mistakes and I am now ready. Ready to bleed green and gold. Ready to bleed for my brothers. Ready to bleed for the people. I will be back playing in October and I will have my eye firmly on the World Cup. I will not let myself or anyone down again. Time to shine!” he said on Instagram last September.

O’Connor played for the Queensland Reds before has final appearance in a golden jersey, a 14-13 win against Argentina in 2013. Since then he has represented London Irish, Toulon and Sale.

However, with so many players set to depart Australian shores over the coming months this may be the perfect time for O’Connor to resurrect his Wallabies career.

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