The Roar
The Roar


Rugby News: RA responds to Souths' 'wet lettuce sledge' over Murray pursuit, Leota re-signs, Borthwick pulls No.10 shock

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9th March, 2023
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South Sydney have had enough of Rugby Australia’s very public schmoozing of Cameron Murray, but RA boss Hamish McLennan has responded in typically bullish fashion.

McLennan and Wallabies coach Eddie Jones have both name checked Murray, a schoolboy rugby star, as a potential target when his deal with Souths expires in 2025.

Jones told SEN that Murray could have a similar impact as Sonny Bill Williams did when he switched codes.

Souths CEO Blake Solly told the Sydney Morning Herald that rugby needed to focus on its own issues rather than chase his player.

“Cameron is a great player, he’s a great person, and he’s developing into a wonderful leader,” Solly said.

“It’s been a privilege at Souths to watch him go from being the talented junior footballer to an NRL player to a Kangaroo.

“I’m not surprised rugby have shown an interest in him, but the fact is he’s contracted until the end of 2025, and we’d love him to stay longer. In truth, rugby really needs to get its own house in order.

“It continues to lose talented kids to rugby league every year, it has financial challenges, and it will need more than some NRL signings to solve their many problems.”


RA chairman Hamish McLennan responded: “That’s not much of a sledge. It’s like being hit with a wet lettuce. Why is he being so sensitive? And we make no apologies for showing an interest in Cam Murray. He grew up playing rugby union. It’s a free market.”

Murray, who was captain of Newington’s 1st XV, is high on Jones’ wish list.

“I reckon Cameron Murray is a standout,” said Jones.

“You think about what Sonny Bill Williams did when he came from league to union. I know Cameron Murray is a different sort of player, but he’d have that effect on players.”

Leota re-signs


Rob Leota has re-signed with the Rebels and Wallabies until the end of 2025.

The 26-year-old becomes the latest key Wallaby to re-commit to Australian Rugby until at least the British and Irish Lions Series.

He made his Test debut in 2021 in the win over South Africa on the Gold Coast and has played 13 Tests, starting eight times.

Melbourne born and raised, Leota was named Rebels captain this year, following 44 Super Rugby caps for his boyhood club, after making his debut as an 18-year-old in 2016, the same year he represent the Junior Wallabies.

Leota said: “I’m stoked to re-sign with the Rebels and Rugby Australia for two more years.”

“Melbourne is my home. This is the club I grew up supporting and the one that gave me my first opportunity to live out my dream, so to be able to re-commit to them was really important to me and my family.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to work hard to get back on the field as soon as I can and do everything I can to put my hand up for Wallabies selection later this year.”


(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones said: “Rob’s got the potential to be a consistent Test player.”

“He’s currently working hard to get himself back on the field and we hope to see him back out on the paddock for the Rebels soon.”

Melbourne Rebels General Manager of Rugby Nick Stiles said: “Rob’s re-commitment to the Rebels is fantastic news for our club and the community.”

“After rising through as a Northern Panthers junior, to our Academy system, everyone at the Melbourne Rebels has been so proud watching him grow into a damaging Super Rugby player and a homegrown club Captain and a Wallaby.

“Rob is a team-first, high-character guy and an important leader at our club, so it’s exciting he wants to remain part of what we’re building here at the Melbourne Rebels and in the Victorian community.


“Having someone like Rob re-commit to our club, and help drive our culture and ambitions will help inspire more Victorians to get into our game and support the Melbourne Rebels.”

Borthwick pulls Smith surprise

Steve Borthwick insists that Owen Farrell’s demotion to England’s bench was based on more than goalkicking as he made the shock decision to pick Marcus Smith at fly-half for England’s clash with France.

For the first time since 2015, Farrell has been overlooked for the No.10 jersey, with Borthwick displaying the ruthless streak in selection that has already accounted for Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs.

With England’s captain limited to a supporting role from the bench, Ellis Genge will lead the team in Saturday’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham until Farrell steps on to the pitch.

It has been a solid if unspectacular championship so far for the 31-year-old Saracen, who has started all three games, but his accuracy off the kicking tee has been an unacceptable 47 per cent.

Borthwick, however, insists that while his success rate of completing just seven out of 15 shots at goal was a factor in selection, it was only one of several.


“Every kicker has small dips and the great kickers always come back and improve their percentage,” England’s head coach said.

“I consider every aspect and you’d expect me to do that. I try to do this job as thoroughly as possible.

“Owen’s been kicking brilliantly in training this week, as has Marcus. There are wider aspects to be considered within this game and gameplan, not simply the goalkicking.

“If you were to track all the teams I’ve selected there have been some pretty bold decisions.

“I’ve tried to pick the right team for that game, I don’t consider how it will be perceived by the outside.

“Owen has been brilliant, as he always is. He trains brilliantly and he leads this team fantastically well, whatever role he’s playing.”

Smith is viewed as a better fit to execute England’s strategy against France, whose colossal pack provides power at the cost of mobility.


The electric Harlequins playmaker started the Six Nations in the number 10 jersey against Scotland but then had to settle for cameo roles off the bench against Italy and Wales, with his game time in Cardiff limited to just 14 seconds.

He was released for club duty last weekend in a call perceived to be his marginalisation, but having delivered a classy man-of-the-match display against Exeter, Smith now finds himself given the task of launching England’s backline.

“As I always do, I go through the gameplan we wish to play, the specific tactics we wish to play against the opponents and the strengths they have,” Borthwick said.

“Marcus will be on the field at the start of the game and Owen on the field at the end of the game. That’s what I feel is the right blend against this opponent.

“France have a big, powerful pack and they kick the ball further than anyone else kicks it.

“Fundamentally, you have to deal with those two challenges because off the back of them they have pace, especially with the way Antoine Dupont plays.”

Genge leads England for the first time on his 47th cap to continue his climb through the ranks that began when he was child growing up on a rough council estate in Bristol.


“Ellis is a fantastic leader, a natural leader and he’s somebody the players follow,” Borthwick said.

Wales rocked by strike threat

Warren Gatland has revealed that a threat of possible player strike action before Wales’ Six Nations clash against England caused “quite a significant split” and “tension” within his squad.

Wales head to Rome for a Six Nations appointment with Italy on Saturday, having lost their opening three games.

Another defeat, and a first Six Nations wooden spoon for 20 years beckons, given that Wales’ final fixture is against France in Paris.

Welsh regional rugby is in crisis, with all four teams – Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets – facing major funding cuts, leading to vastly-reduced contract offers for many players whose deals expire at the end of this season, and a player exodus appears inevitable.


Along with thorny subjects like Wales’ former 60-cap national selection rule and fixed-variable contracts, off-field problems led to the prospect of a players’ strike before England’s Cardiff visit last month.

Although a strike was averted and the England game went ahead as scheduled, with Steve Borthwick’s team winning 20-10, Wales head coach Gatland said: “In terms of the stuff that was going on off the field, that definitely had an impact.

“There was quite a significant split in the group over which way to go, and I think that definitely caused some tension within the group for a couple of weeks.

“I think if things do get signed and get sorted and we get Welsh rugby back on the right track, I think it will be positive for everyone.

“Time was the healer. It was definitely quite fractious there, which is understandable because people have different opinions.

“I don’t have an issue with that, but sometimes that can create tension and on reflection that definitely happened with guys having strong views one way or the other. I think things have settled down over the last couple of weeks.

“There were big moments in the England game where there were no celebrations from our players – no slapping backsides or congratulating guys about turnovers.


“That has sort of been the message this week, making sure we celebrate as a group. When I look back and saw we weren’t doing that against England, that is probably a reflection of where we were as a group.”

Gatland has made six changes for the Stadio Olimpico encounter, with full-back Liam Williams, wing Rio Dyer, halfback Rhys Webb, prop Wyn Jones, lock Dafydd Jenkins and flanker Jac Morgan called up.

Leigh Halfpenny (hamstring) and Dan Biggar (back) were not considered, while other players absent include lock Alun Wyn Jones and flanker Christ Tshiunza.

Webb makes a first Test start since October 2020, replacing Tomos Williams, and Dyer is preferred to Louis Rees-Zammit, who is joined on the bench by the likes of George North, Rhys Davies and Tommy Reffell.