Highlanders and All Blacks back Ben Smith could possibly play again before the end of the Super Rugby regular season before his departure to France.
Highlanders assistant coach Mark Hammett has confirmed that Smith could return to the match day squad for their game with the Waratahs next week, which would be a week earlier than expected.
“Bender [Smith] is close. He was pushing very hard to get to this week, this is week five and they always say it takes about six weeks for that injury,” he said.
Smith may have played his final game at the Forsyth Barr Stadium before his move to Top 14 side Pau. However, although Smith would be desperate to play at home again Hammett wants his star man to be fully fit to feature next week.
“He’s highly unlikely for this week, we’re not trying to play games. But that’s because we really want to have him there for the final week,” he added.
Highlanders fans will really want to see the 76-capped All Black before he goes and will hope their side can qualify for the play-offs.
In more good news for the franchise Josh McKay, Liam Squire, Jackson Hemopo and Tevita Li all look set to return for the team’s clash with the Bulls this week having missed the South African tour for different reasons.
Samu extends Brumbies & Wallabies stay
Wallabies and Brumbies backrower Pete Samu has re-signed with Australian Rugby until the end of 2023.
Born in Melbourne, 30-year-old Samu has settled at the Brumbies after a unique Rugby story saw him play in Cornwall in the United Kingdom straight out of school before returning to play for Randwick in Sydney, followed by a stint in New Zealand where he won two Super Rugby Championships with the Crusaders.
He was lured home in 2018 to the Brumbies where he again tasted Super Rugby success in 2020.
Known for his athleticism, speed and skill, the versatile backrower made his International debut in 2018 against Ireland but narrowly missed selection in the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad.
He has since gone on to wear the Wallaby gold 19 times, starting at openside flanker against Wales in the side’s final Test of 2021 and will chase a maiden Rugby World Cup berth in 2023.
Wallabies and Brumbies backrower, Pete Samu said: “I’m really happy to have my future sorted out early on in the year so I can focus on playing my best Rugby for the Brumbies in Super Rugby Pacific.”
“I’ve loved my time here at the Brumbies since coming over in 2018, it’s a special club and my family and I are really settled here in Canberra.
“I feel I’ve got a lot of improvement left in my game and to be able to work alongside world class coaches like Laurie (Fisher) and Dan (McKellar) week in week out will help me achieve that.”
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said: “Pete’s a great team man and we’re thrilled he’s extended his commitment to Australian Rugby.”
“His athleticism and speed are a point of difference across the backrow and we think his best footy lies ahead of him in the gold jersey.
“He’s had an unorthodox journey to get to where he is and you can see how motivated he is to make the most of his opportunities.”
Brumbies coach, Dan McKellar said: “It’s great for the Brumbies to have Pete locked in for another season.”
“He’s got a point of difference in attack you don’t see from many backrowers and when he’s healthy and on form, he’s a genuine match winner.
“He bought into what we’re about here at the Brumbies from very early on and he’s extremely popular, both within our group and among our members and supporters so we’re all thrilled to have him in a Brumbies jersey until the end of 2023.”
Brumbies name side for Super Rugby opener
A familiar Brumbies side will kick off the club’s 2022 Super Rugby Pacific campaign at 2pm on Sunday against the Western Force at GIO Stadium.
Andy Muirhead will make his 50th appearance for the Brumbies, the winger having become an integral part of the Brumbies squad since joining as mid-season injury cover in 2017.
Backrower Ed Kennedy and centre Ollie Sapsford are the two potential debutants in the team, with Brumby 143 Jesse Mogg set to wear ACT colours once again as a finisher.
Up front, Allan Alaalatoa will lead the Brumbies once again in 2022 from tighthead prop with veteran James Slipper at loosehead and Folau Fainga’a at hooker.
Cadeyrn Neville returns to the side at lock halving missed the end of 2021 with injury, while Darcy Swain looks to kick on from an impressive 2021 partnering Neville in the second row.
A familiar looking backrow sees Brett Robinson Medal winner Rob Valetini start at blindside flanker with Pete Samu occupying the number eight jersey. ACT local and pathways product Rory Scott earns the starting spot at openside having made a strong impression in his rookie season last year.
In the backs, Nic White and Noah Lolesio reignite their halfback partnership to start 2022.
Irae Simone and Len Ikitau combine in the centres, Ikitau having made big strides in 2021 with both the Brumbies and in Wallaby gold.
Muirhead and Tom Wright earn the wing spots for round one with Muirhead on the left and Wright on the right.
Tom Banks has been a cornerstone of the Brumbies for a number of years and begins the season in the fullback jersey.
A strong replacement pack sees Wallaby hooker Lachlan Lonergan, Brumbies centurion Scott Sio and pathways product Tom Ross as the front-row finishers.
Nick Frost will provide impact at lock with Kennedy the final forward reserve.
The Brumbies will benefit from Ryan Lonergan’s impact and goalkicking at halfback with Sapsford and Mogg completing the matchday squad.
Brumbies head coach, Dan McKellar said: “We’re in a strong position heading into round one and fortunate to be able to pick a team full of guys with experience and who have been with us for a number of years.”
“We believe those established combinations will be key for us especially in these early rounds, but those selected will know there’s quality in the squad pushing them hard for spots.
“An afternoon kick-off in front of our members, supporters, friends and family to get the season going; we’ll be raring to go come 2pm Sunday.”
BRUMBIES TEAM FOR ROUND ONE OF SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
1. James Slipper
2. Folau Fainga’a
3. Allan Alaalatoa (c)
4. Darcy Swain
5. Cadeyrn Neville
6. Rob Valetini
7. Rory Scott
8. Pete Samu
9. Nic White
10. Noah Lolesio
11. Andy Muirhead**
12. Irae Simone
13. Len Ikitau
14. Tom Wright
15. Tom Banks
16. Lachlan Lonergan
17. Scott Sio
18. Tom Ross
19. Nick Frost
20. Ed Kennedy*
21. Ryan Lonergan
22. Ollie Sapsford*
23. Jesse Mogg
*Denotes potential Brumbies debut
**Denotes 50th Super Rugby/Brumbies cap
The Brumbies will play the Western Force in Round one of Super Rugby Pacific on Sunday February 20 at 2:00pm AEDT. Get yours tickets now.
Source – Brumbies Rugby
Super Rugby Pacific 2022 law variations
Rugby Australia, New Zealand Rugby and SANZAAR have today confirmed the law variations approved by World Rugby that will be applied for the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific season.
Super Rugby Pacific 2022 will see two Law Variations included for the season: Replacements for red-carded players after 20 minutes; and the introduction of Golden Point extra time for regular season matches.
If a player is red carded he may be replaced after 20 minutes by another player. The 20mins from when a player is red carded to when they may be replaced is measured as “game time”.
If a regular season match is tied at the end of normal time a 10-minute golden point period is played after a five-minute break; The first team to score (by a penalty, drop-goal, try, or penalty try) will be the winner. If no points are scored in the Golden Point period then the match is declared a draw.
Click HERE for further details on the above Law Variations
Rugby Australia General Manager of Professional Rugby Services, Ben Whitaker said: “The red card and ‘Golden Point’ law variations ensure the fans are treated to competitive, exciting matches under all circumstances. These competition variations will ensure players and teams can showcase the rugby power of the Pacific to fans around the region and the world.”
New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby & Performance Chris Lendrum said the focus this year was the speed of games was aimed at creating a spectacle for fans, “Super Rugby Pacific is played at an incredibly high tempo and we think the skills on display are the best in the world. Fans want to see fast, continuous rugby with less stoppages and we’re committed to making that happen.”
The 2022 Super Rugby Pacific Season will officially kick off this Friday, 18 February, when the Waratahs take on competition newcomers the Fijian Drua at CommBank Stadium in Sydney.
Click HERE for Tournament format details
Click HERE for Where to Watch Super Rugby Pacific 2022
Goal-line dropouts for a ball grounded in-goal and the 50/22 kicking variation are now official global law trials. Therefore they are applied in all matches under World Rugby regulations and captured by the laws of the game so will be applied to Super Rugby Pacific.