All Blacks star Beauden Barrett says he is still suffering concussion symptoms eight weeks after he copped a head knock in the All Blacks loss to Ireland, while Sean McMahon has continued his blistering start in Japan. Welcome to Rugby World.
Barrett left the field in the November 15 match, won 29-20 by the Irish, and reveals he is battling to be back to full fitness ahead of the Blues’ Super Rugby Pacific campaign opener.
“[I’m] still sort of getting over a few ongoing issues from the Irish game,” Barrett told New Zealand radio network Newshub.
“I’m taking it very lightly, and will hopefully get on top of it soon. But I’ve certainly had a well-rested time off.”
“I’m pretty confident I’ll get back for the start of the season,” he told Newshub. “At the moment, [I’m] just taking it very lightly.”
Barrett won back his All Blacks starting No.10 jersey off Richie Mo’unga last season after briefly falling down the pecking order.
It’s not the first time Barrett’s battled head problems, having also suffered issues in 2018.
McMahon on fire for Suntory
Wallabies loose forward Sean McMahon has taken his try tally to five in two rounds in the Japan Rugby League One competition.
McMahon inspired Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath to an emphatic 50-8 win over Toyota Verblitz on Sunday.
McMahon was in devastating form to add to his hat-trick a week earlier in a 60-48 win over the Toshiba Brave Lupus with a first half brace.
His teammate, All Blacks’ Damian McKenzie, scored his first try for Suntory and added 15 points with the boot.
McKenzie, who kicked 25 points in his Japan Rugby League One debut a week earlier, said: “It was a great game. It was quick. That’s one thing about Japanese rugby, it is very fast.”
Israel Folau, meanwhile, suffered defeat in his second game after his match-winning performance on debut for Shining Arcs. They were beaten 19-9 by Kubota Spears.
‘Rugby is what drove me’
There is an excellent interview with former Brumbies and Warriors player Solomone Kata on the New Zealand Herald website ahead of his debut with Moana Pasifika this season.
In what is quite an emotional read by Liam Napier, Kata reveals the challenges he had to overcome to play at Super Rugby level.
Kata emerged from a household of nine brothers and three sisters in Tonga with opportunities and food scarce.
“As a young boy from Tonga with 12 siblings we didn’t have any breakfast or lunch,” Kata told the Herald.
“After school we would come home and have taro. If you get tuna cans and mix it with the taro leaves that would be a special treat on Sundays. During the week we would go to school and hustle for something to eat.
“When I was growing up we would find something to play rugby with – a flat water bottle, jandals or climbing the coconut tree and throwing them down to catch it. They’re little things but they’re related to rugby.
“I only went to school for rugby. That’s what drove me.”
Kata talks candidly about his time with the Brumbies and in rugby league, and the challenges of moving to New Zealand with barely any English language to draw on.
“Looking back on my career and where I came from, for someone really fresh with no English, to achieve all those goals it’s really special,” he says
“I can tell my kids the story of where I came from. My main goal is to take them back to Tonga so they appreciate what they have here. Now I’m living my dream.”
The Englishman driving French defence
If France can step up and win the Six Nations starting next month they’ll have a former English rugby league hero to thank for making them tough to crack.
Scottish legend Ian McGeechan says it’s “impossible to overstate” the impact Edwards has had a defence coach with Les Blues since joining in 2020.
McGeechan, writing in his column for The Telegraph, said Edwards’ finger[prints were all over their recent victory over the All Blacks.
“Previous France teams might have crumbled, but this time they kept their heads, stayed in the game, regrouped and regathered. Psychologically, for a young group of players, that was very important,” wrote McGeechan.
“You could feel the hand of Shaun Edwards in that recovery. It is impossible to overstate what an impact he has had on France.
“Shaun is just what France needed, and team manager Raphael Ibanez knew it. He is one of the most intelligent coaches you will meet but it is his emotional intelligence as much as his tactical intelligence that is so important. That and his character.
“When you watch Galthie speak about him there is always a little smile on his face. Shaun has this infectious enthusiasm which rubs off on everyone.”
Les Bleus won the Six Nations title five times in nine years from 2002 to 2010, but it is 12 years since they were last crowned champions.
McGeechan has backed France to win this time around, but accepts the standard will be very high this season.
France will play Ireland, England and Italy at home, with Scotland and Wales away.
Rassie back at the coal face
South Africa’s controversial director of rugby Rassie Erasmus heads back to work this week after the end of his two month ban from World Rugby.
Erasmus was stood down after his infamous ref rant video aimed at Aussie Nic Berry.
Erasmus will officially be able to start work again as the director of rugby, but he will only be able to get involved with matchday activities again in October.
Erasmus, who has spent much of his ban producing some entertaining social media posts, handed his account over to his daughters on Monday and they showed they share the big man’s sense of humour – thanking World Rugby for only banning their dad for two months because they’re tired of having him at home.
My daughters seem to be more happier than me to go back to work!! On a serious note!! The last part of their chat I fully agree with ???????? pic.twitter.com/QgwI7HTgGI
— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) January 16, 2022
Sevens teams named
Fiji and New Zealand teams have withdrawn from the two Spanish legs of the world Sevens series, but our Aussie teams are ready to participate.
A travelling party of 28 players will depart for Spain to play the legs in Malaga and Seville, starting later this week.
The Aussie Women’s Sevens will look to claim their third-consecutive Sevens World Series title for the second time, last achieving this feat during the 2015-16 World Series.
Meanwhile, the Australian Men’s program will travel with a new leader, as Henry Hutchison temporarily replaces Nick Malouf as the men’s team captain, with Malouf taking leave from the program to get married.
After a nail-biting final in Dubai, the men’s team will be looking to go one better in Spain, after falling just short of current World Champions South Africa by three points.
Australian Men’s Sevens Head Coach John Manenti said ion a statement: “It’s fantastic to be again able to return to the World Series and represent our country given all of the COVID disruptions the team has faced over the break.
“While I’ve only had a short time in charge of the men’s program, as a staff, we have identified some areas of the team’s game from Dubai which we will look to improve on in Spain and this is a challenge which I know excites the entire men’s program.”
Sonny Bill says he would have liked to play for Samoa
Sonny Bill Williams has spoken in support of World Rugby’s new international eligibility rules and said he might have played for Samoa at the 2019 World Cup had they been in place then.
Williams, 36, announced last week he was fighting Barry Hall as he “scratches the itch” to give boxing a proper attempt after eight professional fights.
SBW has been training with heavyweight champ Tyson Fury in the UK.
Morecambe ???????????? pic.twitter.com/iaA6RFfUj1
— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) January 15, 2022
He told stuff.co.nz that he would have made the mopst of new laws that allow players to represent a second country three years after finishing with their first choice.
SBW said his support for Pasifika rugby is in part fuelled by a sense of injustice that rugby politics prevented the island nations from being fairly represented on the big stage.
“No one wants to see the All Blacks beating Tonga by 100 points, because that’s not a true representation of the competitiveness and the quality of players that Tonga has produced,” Williams said.
“If we had more competitive game, more high-profile players playing in them, then you’d get more money in the game. We all the know the politics in sport, especially in the islands, but it’s a step in the right direction [the eligibility change].”
SBW also expressed his delight that Moana Pasifika have been included in the revamped Super Rugby Pacific competition.
“About time,” he said. “I don’t understand the politics of rugby, and I understand there were a couple of teams vying for that spot [Moana Pasifika and Kanaloa Hawaii], but it’s just great to see.
“It’s just great to see a team from the Pacific Islands being pushed into that space. You know, it’s been a long time coming. We represent so much on the field but we lack that representation off it.
“It’s a changing of the times, hopefully, and God willing inshallah we can see many more things like this.”