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Queensland Rugby Union announces Queensland Rugby Challenger series and Japan tour



The Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) has today announced a two-match series between a Queensland Reds Development team and a Queensland President’s XV to provide further development opportunities for elite, non-contracted players in Queensland.

The Queensland Rugby Challenger series, which will be held at club venues in October, will see contracted Reds players take on the best of the StoreLocal Hospital Cup competition, with the series culminating in a tour to Japan.

Queensland will take on their sister-state club the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights on November 4 with spots in the travelling squad on offer following the two matches.

Reds General Manager of Professional Rugby Sam Cordingley said: “As a club, we are excited to travel to Japan and play our Japanese partner the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights as part of our 2023 preparations.

“It was unfortunate we had to postpone last year’s match due to COVID-19, but we thank the Wild Knights for their continued support to ensure this historic fixture could still take place.

“Just like Queensland teams did in the 70’s and 80’s – the Reds will tour once again in the off-season, with our time in Japan set to provide a valuable development opportunity for our squad and Queensland’s best developing players ahead of next year’s Super Rugby Pacific season.

“Given the significance and history surrounding the event, this will be a capped fixture which will afford a number of Queensland’s best amateur players the opportunity to receive a Queensland Reds Cap and number.”

Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights General Manager Hitoshi Iijima said: “We are very pleased to have a world-class Rugby team the Queensland Reds from Queensland Australia, a twin city of Saitama Prefecture, to Kumagaya Rugby Stadium to play this fixture.

“We would like to deeply thank the Queensland Reds, for making the decision to travel to Japan despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, we give our deepest gratitude to Saitama Prefecture, Kumagaya City, and all those involved for their support and cooperation.

“We hope this match will lead not only to the growth of the Wild Knights, but also to further friendship between the two cities and development of Rugby in Japan.”

The Queensland Rugby Challenger series is set to provide prospective Super Rugby players with the chance to test their ability at a level between club and professional Rugby.

The series will also be used to trial several law variations to increase ball in play time and improve the spectacle for fans.

In a throwback to the amateur era, teams will come together following each match, with speeches from captains and coaches, and acknowledgements to match officials and players of the match.

Staff will also get opportunity to test themselves at the next level, with the President’s XV to be chosen purely from the Hospital Cup talent pool on and off the field.

Reds Super W Head Coach Simon Craig (Easts) will lead the President’s XV coaching team, supported by Elwee Prinsloo (Wests) and Elton Berrange (UQ).

Cordingley said: “The Queensland Rugby Challenger series will further increase our connection between the amateur and professional games in Queensland.

“We’ve had a development gap for too long compared with other Rugby nations. These matches will afford the Reds squad more playing time together while at the same time providing opportunities for our best amateur Queensland players and coaches to be involved in representative Rugby.

“This series will provide a platform for innovation, which is difficult to trial during Super Rugby, as well as bringing back some of the points of difference our great game has has.

“The Challenger Series and Japan Tour is a starting point which we will aim to grow in future years.”

The President’s XV side will be selected following the QPR finals series, with the StoreLocal Hospital Cup Grand Final taking place at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday 18 September.

The subsequent tour match against the Wild Knights will be the inaugural fixture between the sides following the announcement of their bilateral alliance partnership in 2020.

The connection between the two teams will be further highlighted during the tour when the Reds and Wild Knights celebrate the 30th anniversary of their first match against each other in the Saitama Prefecture. The teams will play for the Saitama-Queensland Shield, named in honour of the relationship between the two Sister States.

In 1991, a Queensland touring team captained by Michael Lynagh that included names like Tim Horan, Jason Little, John Eales, Brendan Nasser (father of current Reds frontrower Josh), plus Paul Carozza (current Reds Academy Head of Talent Identification) and their physiotherapist Cameron Lillicrap (current Reds Assistant coach) took on a Saitama XV side which featured the Wild Knights’ General Manager Hitoshi Iijima.

The Queensland Reds and Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights will continue to work proactively together to promote and contribute to the development of each team and region in both Queensland and Saitama Prefecture before-and-after November’s historic match. 

It follows Panasonic shifting their home base to Saitama Prefecture located in the Greater Tokyo Area which shares a sister state relationship with Queensland.

Saitama Prefecture was Queensland’s first sister-state relationship formed in 1984 and remains one of the most active among the many currently still operating between the two countries.

Queensland Rugby Challenger Series

Queensland Reds Development XV v Queensland President’s XV

Saturday 8 October, Location TBC

Saturday 15 October, Location TBC

Queensland Reds Japan Tour

Queensland Reds v Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights – Friday November 4th, Kumagaya Rugby Stadium

Content & Images from – Queensland Reds Rugby

Super Rugby

All Blacks halfback Folau Fakatava taking no chances in race to be fit for 2023 World Cup



“In rugby you can’t control when you get injured,” Fakatava told Newshub. “All you can do is come back stronger.”

And with the World Cup kicking off in September, that’s exactly what the two test All Black plans to do.

Fakatava got a taste of international rugby in 2022 – he was part of the All Blacks squad all year but was limited to just two appearances off the bench before his season ended.

“I was really hurt when I heard I’d torn my ACL,” he continued. “But at the same time, you really can’t do anything about it.”

But as Fakatava chases one of three halfback spots in Ian Foster’s World Cup squad, he’s taken matters into his own hands.

“I’ve decided not to do the surgery,” he revealed. “My goal this year is to be back out there for the World Cup.”

A third ACL surgery would’ve ruled him out of contention for France, as a conversation with the All Blacks doctor James McGarvey reassured Fakatava avoiding surgery could work.

“He had a look at my other knee, and found out there’s no ACL in that. 

“That gave me confidence to hopefully do that with my other one.”

There are protections in place to ensure Fakatava is back on the field as close to the start of Super Rugby as possible.

Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby

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Super Rugby

Reds, Wild Knights partnership continues to provide opportunities for Queensland Rugby



The Queensland’s Reds’ partnership with the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights continues to reap benefits, with Buildcorp Reds Academy Ryan Schultz travelling to Japan to undertake professional development under Wild Knights coach Robbie Deans.

Schultz, who coaches Queensland’s U18 side and the Anglican Church Grammar School First XV outfit, spent 11-days immersed in the League One program, learning directly from Deans and his coaching group in Saitama.

Schultz was a part of two game days and a full training week, a unique and exclusive opportunity made possible by Queensland’s relationship with their sister-state club.

“I was fully immersed in their training week,” Schultz said. 

“I was involved in coaching meetings, player meetings, leadership meetings and their training sessions.

“Luckily enough they had a B’s game on the Saturday, followed by Sunday where they played Toyota Verblitz so I got that full week experience of game to game.”

Schultz relished the opportunity to learn from Deans, who has delivered the Wild Knights five premierships in his eight-year tenure.

“It was awesome to be able to see Robbie Deans as a head coach and leader,” Schultz said.

“Seeing him operate behind the scenes, in the meeting rooms with coaches and players, and then on the training paddock was awesome.

“He’s been there for eight seasons so it’s a really well-established program and a real player-led environment.

“The field belongs to the players, so it was really good to see that in real-time and then how that’s developed away from the training paddock.”

Now back in Australia, Schultz will bring his learnings to Queensland’s next generation of Reds with his role as head coach of the Reds U18s and Tier 2 Academy squad.

From the attacking focus of the Japanese game, to Deans’ emphasis on core skills, Schultz has returned from his trip as a better coach.

“Robbie has a big philosophy around accuracy coming first – that technical skill development,” Schultz said.

“Being able to execute skills under pressure is a big thing, so I think how we develop that in our training programs at the Reds will be really important.

“At the moment we’re focusing a lot on technical skill development, so it really reinforced what we’ve been planning and implementing here.

“Japan play exciting, attacking footy over there, there’s a lot less focus on kicking and more around attack.

“I was able to pick up a lot of detail around the attacking part of the game and the skillset.

Following Queensland’s inaugural tour to Japan last October, Schultz’s visit is another example of the partnership paying dividends for Queensland Rugby.

“It’s an awesome partnership,” Schultz said.

“I know the Reds squad really enjoyed their tour on November and being there and talking to the Panasonic staff about it, it was really beneficial to them.

“To be able to over and learn and grow, and then bring that back to our Academy is really exciting.”

Content & Images from – Queensland Reds Rugby

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Super Rugby

Former English International to join the Highlanders



English first-five Freddie Burns will join the Highlanders for the 2023 edition of DHL Super Rugby Pacific. Burns, currently playing for Leicester Tigers in the English Premiership has agreed terms with the Highlanders, and with the support of Leicester, will land in New Zealand prior to the first round.

The 32-year-old Burns will bring with him a wealth of experience having started his first-class career with Gloucester back in 2010. His first turn at Leicester was between 2014-2017 before three seasons with Bath and Burns has over 200 appearances in the Premiership to his name. In 2021 he had a short sojourn in Japan before returning to Leicester for the 2022 season.

A former England U20 representative he represented the senior side five times most notably debuting against the All Blacks in 2012, replacing Owen Farrell, in their 38-21 victory.

A prolific goal kicker and tactically sound first-five, who can also play fullback, he was the toast of Leicester when he dropkicked the winning goal for the Tigers against Saracens in the 2022 Gallagher Premiership final.

Burns is looking forward to the experience.

“As a young lad I grew up watching Super rugby in the early hours of morning. To have the opportunity to represent such a prestigious club as the Highlanders in the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season is a huge honour. I look forward to getting started and adding to the group both on and off the field”

Highlanders Head Coach Clarke Dermody has welcomed the arrival of the experienced playmaker.

“Having a player of Freddie’s calibre available to us in such a crucial position is a real boost for the squad. Last year we were exposed at 10 due to a run of injuries and while we covered the situation, we were asking a lot of Sam Gilbert and Vili Koroi who are not regular starting first-fives. Freddie’s arrival will provide us with that extra insurance against that scenario playing out again in 2023”.

Burns will be the second international back to be added to Dermody’s 2023 squad with Argentinian outside back Martin Bogado also set to play in Highlanders colours.



Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby

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