Naisarani joins Wallabies training camp


World Cup No.8 Isi Naisarani has joined the Wallabies training camp as they look to bolster their back-row for the third Bledisloe CupTest against the All Blacks on Saturday.

The Melbourne Rebels big man was a surprise omission from the initial 44-man squad but has been given a second chance to impress Australia’s Test coach Dave Rennie.

Naisarani was slow to return in Super Rugby AU from a serious hamstring injury, with the Rebels holding him back after he failed to meet fitness and weight standards.

Rennie gave the 25-year-old similar feedback but he has been training in Canberra since in the hope of forcing his way into the Wallabies squad.

The Australians are still to settle on a back-row combination, with Rennie making changes after their 16-16 draw in the first Test and flagging more following their 27-7 second Test defeat in Auckland, although Naisarani is unlikely to be straight into the selection mix.

Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney has also joined the squad, replacing Waratahs rake Tom Horton.

After two matches in enemy territory Wallabies prop Scott Sio says the Wallabies can’t wait to be back in front of a home crowd at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.

Families of some of the players have joined them in camp in the Hunter, in a morale boost for those such as Marika Koroibete who hasn’t been able to see his Melbourne-based family for months.

After the promising draw and disappointing loss, the Australians need a victory to keep the four-Test series alive.

“It’s massive to be at ANZ,” Sio said.

“We know how passionate our fans are, so to be able to play in front of many people with gold jerseys on is very special to us.

“Just being back at home you can feel the vibe – everyone got a bit of time to see family, partners and kids and it’s created a lot of positivity in and around the group which is something I think we can put into our week.”

Sio said they had clear ideas about what needed improvement – namely missed tackles, which was almost double New Zealand’s tally, and a better kicking game.

The forward felt the team’s kicking problems were related to tackling, given the pressure they put on themselves at Eden Park.

“Obviously there were many parts of the game where we need to be better as a team if we want to beat the All Blacks,” Sio said.

“Playing positionally – within our kicking game I don’t think we gave ourselves the best chance to cut space down.

“They’ve got a pretty electric back three and if you give them time and space they’re very talented.

“The most important thing we took out of that game was kicking on our terms technically and making sure we’re set early in the defensive line so we can make the right reads.”

While the All Blacks arrived in Sydney on Sunday the Wallabies will remain in the Hunter until Thursday.





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Eastwood to face Gordon in final


Norths No.10 Angus Sinclair had a chance to seal the game in regulation time with a tricky penalty in windy conditions but it sailed a little right.

In a tryless game dominated by forwards, both teams had to watch their discipline and ultimately it was Eastwood who prevailed thanks to a couple of three-pointers from Tane Edmed when it mattered most.

Sunday's semi-final went down to the wire.

Sunday’s semi-final went down to the wire. Credit:Karen Watson

Had scores been tied at the end of 100 minutes, Norths would have progressed given they finished higher on the ladder. Sinclair, with a final kick, didn’t have the distance as the Woodies celebrated qualifying for their first final in five years.

“I probably knew I didn’t have the legs for the last one into the wind but I thought it was worth a shot. Unfortunately didn’t get it,” Sinclair told Channel Seven.

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“It was a tough old game of rugby and one for the purists but credit to Eastwood they probably just played a bit smarter. It could have gone either way. We had our chances, they had theirs and they took them.”

Edmed added: “I’m the kicker but those boys put in the hard yards the whole game and I’m just the bloke who knocks them over. The pressure was pretty hard.

“We really wanted to make that grand final and come up against a tough Norths team. I think a lot of people counted us out going into the finals series and these boys have the biggest hearts.”

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All Blacks Savea, Laulala miss third Test


All Blacks No.8 Ardie Savea and prop Nepo Laulala are on paternity leave and will miss the third Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia next weekend, coach Ian Foster has said.

Both players were absent when the squad boarded their flight across the Tasman Sea on Sunday but Joe Moody was in the party and Foster was upbeat about the experienced prop being fit to take the field at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium next Sunday.

“Ardie’s baby boy has arrived, so he’ll be joining us late this week,” Foster told reporters at Auckland Airport.

“Nep’s baby hasn’t been born yet, so we’ll let that happen first and then we’ll plan accordingly.

“But at this stage, the plan is that they’re both ready and available for the second (Bledisloe Test) over there.”

New Zealand could secure the Bledisloe Cup for the 18th straight year if they can avoid defeat in Sydney next weekend after a 16-16 draw in Wellington two weeks ago and last Sunday’s 27-7 victory in Auckland.

Hoskins Sotutu is the most obvious candidate to replace Savea for what doubles as the Rugby Championship opener, after coming off the bench in the two previous Tests.

But Foster said Akira Ioane and uncapped 20-year-old Cullen Grace were also in the frame.

“(Sotutu) has done the job that we’ve given him really, really well,” Foster said.

“So I guess now we’ve just got to go back and have a look and say ‘Well do we keep him in that role or do we change a few things around?’.”

Tighthead Laulala also came off the bench at Eden Park, but Foster’s main front row concern will be at loosehead after the experienced Moody suffered a concussion last week.

“We haven’t actually been able to put him through any rugby training yet but the signs are really positive,” Foster said.

“Today when we get over there and tomorrow he’ll go through his normal return-to-play protocols but the signs today are he’s looking pretty good.”





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Wallabies hoping to feel love in Sydney


Back on home turf, the Wallabies are embracing the love – literally – as they prepare for the third Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.

The Wallabies welcome loved ones into their training camp in the NSW Hunter Valley, with some like Melbourne Rebels winger Marika Koroibete reunited with his Victoria-based family for the first time in months.

Wallabies prop Scott Sio hopes the love-in continues at ANZ Stadium on Saturday after two hostile Tests in New Zealand.

After a promising draw and a disappointing loss, the Australians need a victory to keep the four-Test series alive.

“It’s massive to be at ANZ,” Sio said.

“We know how passionate our fans are, so to be able to play in front of many people with gold jerseys on is very special to us.

“Just being back at home you can feel the vibe – everyone got a bit of time to see family, partners and kids and it’s created a lot of positivity in and around the group which is something I think we can put into our week.”

Many in the team watched the AFL grand final on Saturday evening and Sio said there were lessons the Wallabies could take from Richmond’s resolve, and belief in their game-plan and players, to claw their way back from a 22-point deficit late in the second quarter.

Being able to call on a legendary three-time Norm Smith Medallist also helps.

“It’s pretty handy having someone like Dusty Martin on your team, he’s got a lot of X-factor about him,” Sio said.

“One of the biggest things is that they stayed staunch and continued to believe in what they’d achieved throughout the season, and knew if they put in what we call an ’80-minute performance’ they’d be thereabouts at the end.”

The Wallabies left Auckland following a 27-7 loss coach Dave Rennie described as a “step backward” after their first-up 16-all draw.

Sio said they had clear ideas about what needed improvement – namely missed tackles, which was almost double New Zealand’s tally, and a better kicking game.

The forward felt the team’s kicking problems were related to tackling, given the pressure they put on themselves.

“Obviously there were many parts of the game where we need to be better as a team if we want to beat the All Blacks,” Sio said.

“Playing positionally – within our kicking game I don’t think we gave ourselves the best chance to cut space down.

“They’ve got a pretty electric back three and if you give them time and space they’re very talented.

“The most important thing we took out of that game was kicking on our terms technically and making sure we’re set early in the defensive line so we can make the right reads.”

While the All Blacks arrived in Sydney on Sunday the Wallabies will remain in the Hunter until Thursday.





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Second Bledisloe Cup Test at a glance


A GUIDE TO THE BLEDISLOE CUP BETWEEN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND:-

WHEN: Sunday, 2pm AEDT

WHERE: Eden Park, Auckland

HEAD-TO-HEAD

* Overall: Played 191, All Blacks 133 wins, Wallabies 50 wins, Draws 8.

* Last five meetings

2020: All Blacks 16 dr Wallabies 16 at Sky Stadium, Wellington

2019: All Blacks 36 bt Wallabies 0 at Eden Park, Auckland

2019: Wallabies 47 bt All Blacks 26 at Optus Stadium, Perth

2018: All Blacks 37 bt Wallabies 20 at Yokohama Stadium, Tokyo

2018: All Blacks 40 bt Wallabies 12 at Eden Park, Auckland

THE COACHES

* Dave Rennie joins Michael Cheika, Robbie Deans, Eddie Jones and Rod Macqueen as Australian coaches to not lose in their first Test against the All Blacks. Only Macqueen and Jones went undefeated in the second.

* Already an unpopular choice as New Zealand coach, Ian Foster is the first All Blacks coach since Laurie Mains in 1992 to not win his opening Test.

KEY WALLABIES

Ned Hanigan

The scruffy-haired Hanigan has won over Rennie with his training efforts. The lock-cum-flanker is hopefully part of the answer to the Wallabies dodgy lineout.

Nic White

The halfback is expecting the All Blacks to come hard for him after the damage he caused in the first Test with his sniping around the ruck and clever kicking game.

Brandon Paenga-Amosa

The other piece of the lineout puzzle, the Reds rake replaces Folau Fainga’a who paid the price for three lost lineouts in the first half in Wellington.

KEY ALL BLACKS

Beauden Barrett

Superstar fullback Barrett returns after an achilles injury looking to add to his tally of 11 tries against Australia, with nine in his past six Tests.

Richie Mo’unga

Mo’unga led the All Blacks in run metres (94) last week but also made the equal-most errors in the contest so expect a more polished performance in game II.

Scott Barrett

The versatile forward returns from a four-month injury lay-off which saw him miss the entire Super Rugby Aotearoa season. The last time he faced the Wallabies he earned a red card.

THE STATS

* While the Wallabies have not beaten the All Blacks at Eden Park in 34 years they did beat Wales there in the 2011 World Cup bronze final.

* Playing their eighth draw last week, the All Blacks have always won the next Test between these sides.

* The Wallabies have lost by an average margin of 25 points across their past eight Tests at Eden Park since 2011.

THE TIP

* All Blacks by 7 points.





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Ireland hammer Italy in Six Nations return


Ireland breezed past Italy 50-17 to give themselves a crack at a fourth Six Nations crown in seven years as Europe’s rugby championship sprang back into life in Dublin.

Hugo Keenan bagged a debut brace, with fellow newcomer Will Connors also on the scoresheet for the Irish on Saturday.

CJ Stander, Johnny Sexton, Bundee Aki and Dave Heffernan all crossed too, with Edoardo Padovani and Paolo Garbisi finishing for the Italians.

Sexton finished with an 18-point haul but Garry Ringrose suffered a head injury scare in one of the few blows to Ireland’s straightforward afternoon at an Aviva Stadium empty of fans due to coronavirus restrictions.

Ireland’s facile win leaves Andy Farrell’s side requiring another bonus-point victory against France in Paris next weekend to seal yet another Six Nations crown.

Ireland claimed Six Nations glory in 2014, 2015 and 2018 under New Zealander Joe Schmidt, with the final tournament win featuring just their third ever Grand Slam.

But now new boss Farrell has the chance to steer Ireland to another Six Nations triumph at his first crack.

Putting four tries past France in Paris will prove an altogether different challenge from vanquishing the also-rans of Italy, however.

The Azzurri’s record Six Nations losing streak was extended to 26 with precious little issue, as Ireland hardly had to hit full stride.





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Pumas welcome Cheika into Sydney camp


Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has answered a call from Argentina’s Mario Ledesma as the Pumas prepare for the Rugby Championship.

Argentina have been joined in camp by Cheika, who will act as an advisor despite previously saying he would never coach against Australia.

Cheika’s arrival at the Puma’s training facility in Sydney created something of a stir but Ledesma was pleased to have him on board.

“The fact that Michael can now be at the training venue and in contact with the players is great,” Ledesma said.

“He is very enthusiastic about the team, he transmits lots of confidence and belief.”

Ledesma worked under Cheika at the Waratahs and at the Wallabies – with the Argentine the forward coach of Australia at the 2015 World Cup.

Ledesma left the Wallabies set-up in 2017 before coaching the Jaguares in Super Rugby and then Argentina.

Ledesma is out isolation after spending two weeks in a biosecure facility in Sydney.

He was among more than a dozen Pumas players and staff to test positive for COVID-19 last month before they travelled to Australia for the southern hemisphere tournament – which is now a tri-nations after South Africa’s withdrawal.

Having being released from isolation, the Pumas will have a contested training session against a NSW Waratahs XV on Saturday, a warm-up Ledesma feels is necessary for his players as many of them have not played since March.

Argentina face New Zealand in their opener on November 14, and again a fortnight later.

“Friendly matches are so important for us,” Ledesma said.

“Having the opportunity of playing at least three games before the debut against New Zealand, seems not too much but for us it is essential.”

Argentina will face Australia on November 21 in Newcastle and in the final match of the Rugby Championship on December 5 in Sydney.





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Wallabies rookie reveals his injury battle


Wallabies tyro Harry Wilson has revealed how his right foot ballooned to twice the size just three days before Australia’s second Bledisloe Cup clash with New Zealand.

It’s been well documented how Wilson spent 36 hours in an Auckland hospital last week before making a miraculous recovery in time to tackle the mighty All Blacks on Sunday.

But the 20-year-old back-rower only detailed his extraordinary week on Wednesday after returning to Australia for the final two games of the series in Sydney and Brisbane on October 31 and November 7 respectively.

Wilson said what started as a small cut, which he can’t even recall how it came about, developed into boil cellulitis that rendered him immobile less than a week after making a memorable Test debut in Australia’s series-opening 16-16 draw in Wellington.

“It was a bit different to a usual game week. I just had a little bit of a cut on my foot on Monday and then it progressively got worse,” Wilson said at the unveiling of the Wallabies’ latest Indigenous jumper.

“I did a big training session on Wednesday and then my foot was probably the size of two shoes.

“So on Thursday I had my foot all up and Friday we decided it was probably best to go to hospital to get it sorted.”

Wilson was pumped with antibiotics and spent almost every waking minute icing the foot in his race against the clock.

He was eventually released from hospital on Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours before going into battle in Bledisloe II at Eden Park.

“I pretty much didn’t move for 36 hours just to get it all out,” Wilson said.

“The swelling left and I kind of knew (I’d be OK to play) because about every four hours I was able to walk on it a bit better.”

Continuing his Cinderella year, Wilson’s foot fitted beautifully into his shoe and the Wallabies hardman managed to play 50 minutes in Australia’s 27-7 defeat.

“The boot ended up fitting on pretty well so I didn’t really notice it on game day, which was good,” he said.

Wilson did enough to suggest he’ll be retained for Australia’s must-win showdown in Sydney.

But, furious with seeing his side miss 40 tackles, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie threatened to wield the axe.

One player unlikely to back-up is midfield playmaker Matt Toomua, who is still awaiting the outcome of scans after limping off before halftime with a recurring groin injury.

“However long he misses, he’ll be a big loss,” his Wallabies and Melbourne Rebels teammate Dane Haylett-Petty said on Wednesday.

“He’s one of the leaders of the team and he’s probably been close to the form player so far, shifting out and doing a job at 12 and leading the defence.”





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ACT Brumbies star Irae Simone ready, willing and able if Dave Rennie and the Wallabies need him


The easiest and most likely option would be to promote Simone, in a like-for-like swap, while the other involves No.10 James O’Connor shifting out and uncapped Noah Lolesio taking the reins at five-eighth.

Simone’s Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has an inkling as to which way the way the Wallabies will go.

“He’s ready to step up and handle that,” McKellar said this week. “They need that second playmaker and that second voice. He certainly gives you that communication, that eyes and that vision you need. Irae won’t let them down.”

Without getting ahead of himself, Simone knows a door has opened and isn’t willing to let the chance slip.

“It would be huge … words can’t describe it,” Simone said of the prospect of a Test debut. “All the sacrifices you and your family had to go through … it makes you reflect on your journey and that’s what I’m truly grateful for. Hopefully I do get the opportunity and it’s something that no one can take away from me if I get the opportunity. It’ll be a memory I won’t forget and hopefully we get the win.

“I train like I’m going to play. My role is get my job right, learn my role, learn my detail, get my shit right and own it. The team stuff will fall into place. Nothing’s been said though. There’s a lot of chat and white noise.”

Former Wallaby Drew Mitchell believes Simone should wear the No.12 jersey, with O’Connor retained at first receiver for a match Australia need to win to keep the Bledisloe series alive.

Simone during a trial match with the Waratahs in 2017.

Simone during a trial match with the Waratahs in 2017. Credit:James Brickwood

“I think you play players in their position,” Mitchell said. “For too long we’ve tried to fix things by putting the best players in the XV. Because they can play the position doesn’t mean they should play the position.”

Simone, 25, was born in New Zealand but moved to Australia in 2014 to take up a gig with South Sydney’s junior rugby league sides. He switched codes and won a Shute Shield title with Northern Suburbs in 2016 before making his debut for the Waratahs in 2017.

After limited opportunities in 2018, Simone made the move south and hasn’t looked back.

His parents are still in Auckland and he says catching up with them last week before and after Australia’s 27-7 loss at Eden Park was difficult.

Simone on the training park.

Simone on the training park. Credit:Andrew Phan/Wallabies Media

“I haven’t seen them in a very long time and I was crying at the stadium because I couldn’t see them after,” said Simone, whose daughter and partner are with him in camp in the Hunter Valley. “Saying goodbye at the stadium was probably the toughest one for me.”

However, with New Zealanders now able to fly to Australia, Simone’s folks might cop the two weeks of quarantine on the way home to see their boy.

“I’m not going to lie, they probably will try and come over,” he said. “They probably wouldn’t tell me. That will probably hurt my mum and dad a bit [if they don’t come].

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“My family is really close, so they’d be pulling up a chair at my grandparents’ house and putting it on the big screen [if they stay in New Zealand].

“I think of my parents. The times they had to wake up early in the mornings, take me to training, drive me an hour to games … little things all add up. It’s the people along the way and I’m always truly grateful for that.”

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Rugby Australia cops another financial hit


Cash-strapped Rugby Australia remains furious with South Africa for pulling out of the Rugby Championship and admits the Springboks’ no-show will cost it – and all SANZAR’s competing nations – millions of dollars.

South Africa’s governing body only announced last Friday it was withdrawing, just two weeks before the tournament kicks off.

The world champions’ absence has forced SANZAR into reverting to a Tri Nations tournament featuring Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, with the original 12-match competition slashed to six.

It’s been speculation that South Africa will forego 50 million rand ($A4.3 million) for not fronting up.

“The financial loss for them will be great,” Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan said on Wednesday.

But the Springboks’ no-show will also seriously impact RA’s finances too.

Even before COVID-19 struck and wiped out the entire Super Rugby season, forcing RA to lay off more than 40 per cent of its staff and slash players’ wages, the governing body forecast a loss of some $9 million for the 2019-20 financial year.

Leaking more money because of South Africa is the last thing RA needs.

“It will cost us quite a lot of money but we’ll find a way through it,” McLennan said.

“We’ll find a way through it. We were surprised because South Africa did agree to the tournament scheduling.

“So we’re disappointed that they pulled out but we’ll just have to move on.”

McLennan all but ruled out RA seeking compensation from their South African counterparts.

“It is what it is. We’ll just all have to deal with it,” he said.

“We’ll just find a way to deal with it. It’s very tough for all sports in Australia through COVID.

“We’ve proven so far that we’re a pretty resilient organisation and we’ll just make it work.”





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