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Rugby World: Banned Rassie sends Rennie cheeky message of solidarity, Eddie enthused by mini World Cup

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16th December, 2021
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As the rugby world settles in for its Christmas holiday season, there’s obviously less action taking place on the pitch but plenty is going on off it.

‘Tis the season to be jolly if you like transfer talk, contract rumours and good old fashioned fantasy speculation. So let’s get stuck in as Rassie Erasmus sends Dave Rennie some festive greetings, the All Blacks hire a man who knows how to build a defensive wall and the NRL potentially sets its sights on some all star defections.

Interesting theory sees Jordie Barrett in NRL by 2024 season
When Jordie Barrett said on the What A Lad podcast that he often thinks about playing in the NRL, the rumour drums started beating.

“To be honest, every off-season or every time I’m sitting there watching a rugby league game, I think, s**t I’d love to go over there and play some league just for a season,” said the All Black when asked about the chance of him playing in the NRL.

Of course, there are plenty of top rugby stars who look at rugby league and think that they would love to test their skills, however there’s a big difference between this response in a podcast and Barrett pulling on the purple of the Melbourne Storm or the red, white and blue of the Roosters.

But there is a series of puzzle pieces that could all fall into place that could turn this from a rumour into a reality.

First of all, we need to think about how Barrett could reach a point of wanting to leave New Zealand rugby. This is a two-step process.

It starts with Jordie not playing as many minutes as he’d wish for the All Blacks. We’ve seen that despite his wonderful talents, he is not the nailed down first choice for a specific position.

If Ian Foster favours the Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga combo at full back and fly half then Jordie is fighting for a wing spot where Sevu Reece and Will Jordan will be first choice with the occasional Reiko Ioane appearance

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There has been talk this week of moving Jordie into the centres but many, including former All Black Israel Dagg are against the idea. Speaking on SENZ Breakfast Dagg was clear that Jordie does not belong in the centres and said that “For me, Jordie is a fullback.”

So in this situation, Jordie is not the regular full back and becomes more of a bench player.

Secondly, there has to be less of a pull of him to hang around on that bench and that will naturally come after the 2023 World Cup in under two years.

So we’ve got Jordie struggling to get a regular starting gig and wondering whether he wants to hang around on the bench for another four years to give another World Cup ago in 2027.

Then we add in another key aspect – as discussed last week, the NRL have made it clear that they are coming after New Zealand rugby and have a cash rich plan to steal the dominance away from the All Blacks and rugby. A successful defection of a handful of All Blacks would help this plan for sure and with his public admission of the appeal that the NRL holds, why wouldn’t he be a key target for some informal chats in the coming months.

He could even play a couple of seasons in the NRL before coming back to the Canes and going after the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

Hunter Paisami re-signs with Queensland and Wallabies until after 2023 Rugby World Cup
There have been plenty of positives from the Dave Rennie era at the head of the Wallabies, but in the past few months some of the player availability challenges have been frustrating and at times even embarrassing.

Struggles with convincing clubs and players to make themselves available for international selection and issues with bringing players back to play in Australia after they’ve left have highlighted just a few of the problems that Rennie and RA are facing as they look to build the strongest possible squad for 2023 and beyond.

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Therefore, the news that Wallabies centre Paisami has confirmed that he’ll be playing in Australia for at least the next two years is obviously excellent for state and country. He’s played in 15 of 20 of the Wallabies Tests over the past two seasons and after giving way to Samu Kerevi in the Rugby Championship this year he was one of the better players on the Wallabies’ tough European tour this Spring where his attacking and defensive talents stood out.

It’s easy to forget that Paisami is only in his second season of professional rugby and Dave Rennie believes the 23 year old has plenty to offer. “He’s a good young man with an impressive skill set who’s only going to improve and that’s really exciting for Reds and Wallabies supporters,” said Rennie earlier this week.

Could 2023 see more caps for the Tahs and Wallabies for Kurtley Beale?
Speaking of player signings, Georgina Robinson has written in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Waratahs and Rugby Australia are trying to bring the 95 Test veteran back to Australia from his current club Racing 92 in France.

Dave Rennie was very complimentary of the positive influence that Beale had on the Wallabies camp when he joined them during their recent winless Spring Tour and after selecting him to play several times, many believe that Rennie is eager to see the utility back come home.

“Everyone talks positively about him. He’s a good man, he’s genuinely passionate and cares about the jersey. He was really impressive and very emotional about his time back in the jersey. It was really good to see,” said Rennie.

The Tahs would surely love to have him back – after their winless season in 2021, they would be desperate for the experience that Beale would bring.

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However, before getting carried away about a longer term return to the Wallabies for Beale, it is worth noting that he was only brought into the Wallabies squad in November once players like Tom Banks and Reece Hodge had been ruled out through injury, and Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi were unavailable to tour.

Rennie has shown that he’s more than happy to bring back players who everyone thought were done with international rugby but whereas Cooper was a match winner in his return, Beale put in a couple of pretty average performances in losing sides. Passion for the jersey is great, but not enough to get you a Test cap.

Rassie taunts World Rugby as he treats every day of his two month ban like a Friday
South Africa Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus has shown that he’s managing to find ways to keep himself busy and stay positive during his 60 day World Rugby ban.

In a recent tweet, Erasmus shared a video that included an impressive meat collection ready for a braai, some freshly pulled draught beers and a red wine collection.

In the video Erasmus says “Every day is like a Friday. It’s a terrible ban, eh. Here’s to the weekend,” and goes onto comment “We’ll handle every day like a Friday and enjoy it and work hard on our discipline and get it right.”

Another of his tweets seems to be directed to Dave Rennie and has Erasmus saying “Coach Rennie, this one (drink) is very cold and it’s waiting for you,” possibly in reference to Rennie’s outspoken views on how his Wallabies were treated by the referees when they lost to Wales recently.

Having been banned from rugby for 60 days for his hour-long criticism of what he believed to be poor officiating from the first Springboks vs. British and Irish Lions Test, Erasmus doesn’t seem to be too worried about any further punishment from his online commentary.

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Northern Hemisphere continue their strong end to 2021 with key World Rugby awards
After a strong end to 2021 on the pitch with England going unbeaten and Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France all picking up big wins over the Wallabies and All Blacks, the Northern Hemisphere have continued their form off the pitch with an armful of awards from World Rugby.

Last week it was announced that the French had won the best tries of the year for both the men’s and women’s games and while the World Rugby XV of the year had plenty of Southern Hemisphere representation, the big awards also went to European sides with France’s Antoine Dupont claiming the men’s player of the year and Zoe Aldcroft from England, claiming the women’s player of the year.

The oldest discussions in international rugby is just how cranky can Eddie Jones get with reporters, but the second oldest is which hemisphere is more dominant at any given time.

With the All Blacks losing twice on their recent tour, the Wallabies three times and the Springboks once it was a pretty poor way to end the year. Of course there are plenty of reasons/excuses including long periods in COVID bubbles, playing away from home, selection issues and so on but the results are the things that matter and they did not favour the southerners.

2022 will be an exciting year as the battle of the hemispheres continues – England tour Australia, Ireland head to New Zealand, Wales to South Africa and Scotland to Argentina before the Spring Tours come around again. Another set of results like the ones we’ve just had and the Northerners could quite rightly lay claim to heading into the World Cup year on top.

Eddie Jones excited about mini World Cup as All Blacks travel to Twickenham in Spring 2022
The English RFU has confirmed that their England side will play Argentina, Japan, South Africa and the All Blacks in a series of matches that coach Eddie Jones has referred to as a “mini World Cup” that his side will use as a “litmus test” ahead of the 2023 tournament.

The announcement that England will play the All Blacks for the first time since their clash in the semi final of the 2019 World Cup has got fans and the money men at the RFU very excited.

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Seeing the New Zealanders at Twickenham is quite a rare occurrence – it’s only happened twice in the past eight years and the RFU plan to cash in with tickets expected to cost over $350 at the top end and the match overall predicted to earn the governing body over $27million.

England will have the chance to go head to head against two of their 2023 World Cup Pool opponents in Argentina and Japan before testing themselves against the two best sides in the world currently.

With the series of matches taking place a year out from the World Cup, Jones is clear about how important it is for England.

“These fixtures will be a really important part of our preparation for the 2023 World Cup,” explained Jones. “It’s almost a mini-World Cup in itself and we’re fortunate to have it less than a year before the tournament. It will be a good litmus test for the team to see where we are at, culminating in playing first and second in the world.”

While it will still be a brutal clash, the match against the Springboks will fall outside of the Test window and so they won’t be able to select any of their players who are based overseas. Three of these matches will be the last ones England have against Southern Hemisphere before the World Cup and Jones is clearly placing a high level of importance on the performance and results.

Does Joe Schmidt’s appointment to All Blacks selection panel signify a change in style?
Former Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is joining the All Blacks selection panel when Grant Fox steps down in July 2022 and the appointment raises some interesting questions about whether New Zealand are considering a change in style.

Schmidt was loved by the Irish and delivered three Six Nations title to the country but was never quite able to deliver the results fans craved when it came to the World Cup. He’s currently working with the Auckland Blues as they prepare for Super Rugby Pacific and there are some who expect Schmidt’s influence to go beyond purely naming of players.

Gregor Paul, writing for Rugby Pass, believes that Schmidt’s insight into the South African and Northern Hemisphere style will be hugely valuable for Ian Foster and his team.

“What he will be bringing to the All Blacks is an ability to analyse the northern sides and South Africa, see what they are really doing and build counter-strategies for the All Blacks to employ,” believes Paul.

The appointment has been confirmed at a time when the All Blacks have been going through a deep analysis of their failings in 2021. As discussed last week, the New Zealanders didn’t waste any time once returning home to start the post mortem with the leadership team and coaches using video calls while in quarantine to start honing in on what needs to improve between now and September 2023.

Foster is clear that Schmidt’s role is to challenge the All Blacks even further and help them see some harsh realities that they might have missed so far.

“At times you’ve got to expose yourself to being really challenged. The fact Joe has a different perspective on the game is vital for us,” said Foster this week when asked about Schmidt’s appointment.

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