Rugby News

9 July 2004

Rugby News GLOBAL SEASON - PLAYER BURNOUT CONTROVERSY England's disastrous Southern Hemisphere tour has again raised questions about the length of the international season. Many of the 30 English players on tour had gone without a significant break from rugby for the better part of two years, and with the Zurich premiership season starting at the end of August, have just 7 weeks to recuperate before starting allover again. The current set up sees two 'international windows' in use, with the Southern Hemisphere taking inbound tours during June and July and the Northern Hemisphere reciprocating in November and December. The downside to this bulk of international traffic is it leads to meaningless games featuring tired and disinterested players. Following his side's two test loss to South Africa, Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan was clearly in favour of a Global Season. "You could see we were at the end of a very long season", O'Sullivan said. "And although they gave everything, they needed a break and did not get it. "If you look at the tour results of England, Scotland and us, it does look as if the idea (of a global season) should be looked at." The current season appears to have another, more worrying effect, of cheapening test match rugby. Increasingly, touring sides are filling their ranks with players for no better reason other than they are fit and willing to travel. One answer could be one two month block set aside for inbound and outbound tours. While it would require major reshuffles on both sides of the world, it could see an end to lopsided tours and be better for the long term health of players worldwide. The International Rugby Board has player burnout at the forefront of its current agenda. More to be revealed. NEWS SPRINGBOK RUGBY SINKS DEEPER Following our report in RUGBYeNEWS.com (Thursday July 1, 2004. "Conflict of interest surfaces at SARFU"), more division has surfaced within the camp, with the SA Rugby Players Association (SARPA) having representation at SARFU denied. This was an about face whereby Hennie Le Roux, former Springbok and President of SARPA, attacked the board with the comment "It is a case of the liars leading the blind, and the blind are in control of Rugby." "You can't build a future for South African Rugby when you have somebody like Brian Van Rooyen (SARFU Managing Director) running the show," Le Roux said. "His behaviour is inexcusable. How can he expect players to be loyal and committed?" More mud is sure to fly and some will stick. Stay tuned. ALL BLACKS DIVIDED BY 10 Carlos Spencer or Andrew Mehrtens? That is the dilemma again facing New Zealand rugby after Spencer's lukewarm performance at Fly-Half in the All Blacks' two test series against England. The flamboyant style of the Auckland number 10 doesn't suit the style of rugby employed under new coach Graham Henry, and with the first match of the Tri-Nations series against Australia in Wellington on July 17, fans are demanding answers. As Gregor Paul wrote in a recent edition of New Zealand's weekly Rugby News Magazine, "Spencer can't be shackled, his game is built around natural instincts and an unparalleled ability to pull off the outrageous. "Having Spencer out there playing against 14 tired Englishmen was like having an Alcoholic tend bar. Somehow he managed to resist temptation and stick to the game plan, but why select the most naturally gifted and instinctive talent and ask him to play percentage football? "This time last year, Mehrtens had lost his hunger for rugby and looked to be carrying too much weight, which was a factor behind his continuing injury dramas. In a side lacking a solid forward platform, coach John Mitchell needed a magician at number 10, rather than someone to act as a rudder. The dynamics have shifted under Henry, and throw in the fact he can goal kick and you wonder how selectors could be contemplating anything other than starting Mehrtens on July 17. "Those who remain unconvinced should consider how devastating Spencer could be off the bench. Let Mehrtens grind down the opposition and gain superiority on the scoreboard and then inject Spencer with a licence to play his natural game. "Having sensible debate on the issue though is almost impossible, with the pair serving as metaphors for the provinces they represent. To Crusaders loyalists, Spencer is nothing more than an arrogant show pony, epitomising the worst excesses of Auckland. To Blues supporters, Mehrtens is too fat, too old, too soft, and guilty of bottling it on big occasions." And so the dilemma continues. HOME AND AWAY FOR INAUGURAL CLASH Question. When is an All Black home game not an All Black home game? Answer? When any Polynesian side plays in New Zealand, and especially in Auckland. The Pacific Islanders take on the All Blacks at Albany's North Harbour stadium this Saturday night, New Zealand time, in the first ever meeting between the two sides. Some 16,000 tickets have been pre-sold for the match, which is a record for the venue. With thousands of Fijians, Tongans and Samoans migrating to the Auckland area over the years, the All Blacks will meet stiff resistance both on and off the field. BLACKS GET IN GEAR Still in New Zealand, and Auckland winger Rico Gear has been rushed into the All Blacks starting 15 for the clash with the Pacific Islanders. Gear will make his international debut in the match, coming in for the injured Doug Howlett. All Blacks: Mils Muliaina, Rico Gear, Tana Umaga (captain), Daniel Carter, Joe Rokocoko, Carlos Spencer, Justin Marshall, Xavier Rush, Marty Holah, Jono Gibbes, Keith Robinson, Chris Jack, Carl Hayman, Keven Mealamu, Kees Meeuws Reserves: Sam Tuitupou, Nick Evans, Byron Kelleher, Mose Tuiali'i, Jerry Collins, Greg Somerville, Andrew Hore. Pacific Islanders: Seru Rabeni, Lome Fa'atau, Brian Lima, Seremaia Bai, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Tanner Vili, Mosese Rauluni, Sisa Koyamaibole, Alivereti Doviverata, Sione Lauaki, Ifereimi Rawaqa, Inoke Afeaki (captain), Taufa'ao Filise, Aleki Lutui, Soane Tonga'uiha Reserves: Joeli Lotawa, Tevita Taumoepeau, Felipo Levi, Semo Sititi, Steve So'oialo, Tane Tu'ipulotu, Sireli Bobo. ISLANDERS WANT IN The Pacific Islanders are reportedly prepared to forego lucrative TV money for the chance of being included in an expanded Super 12 tournament. Spruiking for admission to SANZAR, Islanders boss Charlie Charters says they'd be happy to make their money through gate takings and sponsorship, leaving revenue gained from News Corporations sponsorship of the game in the Southern Hemisphere to the "Big Three" - Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. WOUNDED WALLABIES PREPARE FOR TRI-NATIONS The Wallabies returned to their rural training base on Thursday Australian time, still feeling somewhat second best following Saturday's hard-won 29-14 victory over the Pacific Islanders in Adelaide. The Australians have named an extended 27 man squad - including 3 halfbacks - for the clash with New Zealand in Wellington on the 17th. Of most concern is Captain George Gregan, who suffered shoulder damage in the win. He'll be given as long as possible to prove himself fit for the Tri-Nations opener which, if fit, will also be the Australian skipper's 100th test. Australian squad for the match against New Zealand in Wellington on July 17: Al Baxter, Matthew Burke, Brendan Cannon, Mark Chisholm, Matt Dunning, Matt Giteau, George Gregan, Nathan Grey, Justin Harrison, Nic Henderson, Matt Henjak, Stephen Larkham, Chris Latham, David Lyons, Stirling Mortlock, Jeremy Paul, Clyde Rathbone, John Roe, Wendell Sailor, Radike Samo, Nathan Sharpe, George Smith, Lote Tuqiri, Daniel Vickerman, Phil Waugh, Chris Whitaker, Bill Young. HIGH STAKES FOR LIONS TOUR Don't kid yourself next year's British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand won't play out like a mini World Cup campaign. It's a contest neither side wants to lose, with both likely to rewrite normal procedures in order to get the edge. News continues to filter in about the proposed make up of lead in matches on both sides of the globe, with the Lions eyeing a rare home test prior to departure against either Argentina or the Pacific Islanders. The All Blacks too don't want to come into the three test series cold, and are reportedly eyeing an early clash with Australia to prepare themselves for the Rugby showcase of 2005. On the field, World Cup winning skipper Martin Johnson has refused to rule out the possibility of making a return to the international arena for the tour. It comes in response to Lions Coach Sir Clive Woodward's claim he will consider all players for selection, regardless of their international status. SCOTLAND SELL HOME SOIL The post World Cup financial bonus felt by many Unions around the world hasn't stretched to Edinburgh, with the Scotland Rugby Union putting land surrounding Murrayfield on the market in an attempt to clear some of it's 20 Million pound debt. The Scottish Union's financial woes will be eased somewhat by the news Murrayfield will play host to the 2005 Heineken Cup final. The Scots beat a number of contenders to play host to the decider, to be played in late May. And still in Scotland, the Borders town of Melrose has yet again created Sevens history. After playing host to the first ever tournament in the abbreviated form of the game, the Melrose club has claimed the first ever beach sevens competition, played on the Isle of Islay. SIX NATIONS 2005 DRAW RELEASED Six Nations champions France will play host to Scotland in the opener to the 2005 tournament at Stade de Francais on February 5. Saturday 10 July Test Match Canada vs France at York Stadium, Toronto Test Match New Zealand vs Pacific Islands Warriors at Albany, NZ LAST WEEK Saturday 3 July Test Match France 39 d United States 31 Test Match Australia 29 d Pacific Island Warriors 14 Sunday 4 July Test Match Italy 32 d Japan 19 IRB WORLD RANKINGS as at Monday 5 July 2004 RANK COUNTRY 1 New Zealand 2 Australia 3 England 4 France 5 South Africa 6 Ireland 7 Wales 8 Argentina 9 Scotland 10 Fiji 11 Italy 12 Samoa 13 Canada 14 Romania 15 USA 16 Uruguay 17 Portugal 18 Japan 19 Tonga 20 Morocco 21 Korea 22 Georgia 23 Russia 24 Chile 25 Ukraine * IRB Rankings are updated each Monday. The number in brackets is the movement in a country's ranking from the previous week.
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