As we finish up our list of the 50 players we think are set to make a splash in 2024, it’s important to recognise…
Scott Robertson’s former teammate Andrew Mehrtens says the new All Blacks coach wouldn’t have made a good coach in the “old model” he had in his playing days – but backed him as the right man for right now.
Mehrtens told NZ radio show The Platform that Razor has the skillset to make a success of his time in charge of the national team as successor to Ian Foster.
“You can’t have the prescriptive model that we had 30 or 40 years ago, which worked then. It was basically a coach telling the team what to do, and you might have one or two leaders on the field calling the shots,” Mehrtens said.
“Now it’s around decision-making processes and stuff like that, and putting the environment in place so that guys and girls can train to their optimum during the week.
“Razor’s massively into that. He was one of the guys I played with; you would have never thought in the old coaching model that he would have been a good rugby coach, but it’s evolved and he’s evolved with it, and he’s fantastic.
“He’s always thirsty to learn, he’s very good at delegating, he doesn’t get intimidated by having an expert in their field alongside him. He’s got no kind of ego in that regard, he just wants to provide the best environment for the players.”
Robertson will freshen up an All Blacks team that is set to be missing key players who have headed overseas.
It’s a task Mehrtens believes he’ll relish.
“I don’t think he will be scared of coming in and rebuilding. He’s done that with the Crusaders, he’s proved his longevity at the Crusaders,” Mehrtens said.
“Yes, he’s had class players, but he’s developed a lot of those class players himself. He’s certainly not afraid of rolling his sleeves up and taking a player with raw talent, raw ability and refining that player.
“He’s unproven at Test level, yet has he earned his chance to be there? Absolutely, he couldn’t have done any more to get to the position that he is now.
“We’ll soon see whether it does come across to international rugby. I think his approach will. He’s very much about empowering the players and creating an environment to allow them to drive their own destiny, and that’s very important.”
Mehrtens says Robertson will have to be sharp to counter the rise in resources in northern hemisphere unions.
“We’ve got it even tougher now in New Zealand with us competing against these countries with big resources. You look at France and how much they’ve developed over the last 10 years in their consistency and depth,” Mehrtens said.
“Having a coach like Razor, he’s a natural innovator. He doesn’t rest on his laurels, he always looks to try and be better. I think that’s great for the All Blacks because we need to be that.”
Owen Farrell will return to club rugby on Sunday (AEST) in his first outing since deciding to stand down from the England team.
The 32-year-old fly-half has opted to miss the Six Nations – and there are suggestions his Test career is over – after choosing to prioritise “‘his and his family’s mental well-being”.
The England skipper was booed by his own fans during the World Cup.
He will be back for Saracens for their Champions Cup opener against South Africa’s Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
“Owen is available and he’s going to play this weekend,” said director of rugby, Mark McCall. “He’s trained fully over the last two days.”
McCall was asked if Farrell would benefit from being able to concentrate on club rugby.
“That’s a very simplistic way of looking at this. I wouldn’t dare to presume anything. I find it a bit uncomfortable talking too much about something which is really, really private, so I’d rather not say too much,” McCall replied.
Australia’s flying Olympic hopefuls in the women’s sevens are determined to make it back-to-back world series triumphs in Cape Town this weekend after launching their season with a brilliant victory in Dubai.
Last year’s victory at the same event was supposed to be the launch pad for coach Tim Walsh’s team to kick on and enjoy another all-conquering campaign – but instead they didn’t win another tournament all season as New Zealand dominated.
But after ending the Kiwis’ world record 41-match unbeaten run last Sunday in the Middle East for a fourth straight triumph in the Dubai Sevens, the Aussies, now naturally enshrined as the ‘Queens of the Desert’, want to ensure the same scenario doesn’t materialise in the build up to next August’s Olympics in Paris.
And back in Cape Town, the venue where they won the World Cup in 2022, Walsh is trusting in the same 13 who prevailed in Dubai to deliver again.
“The future of this team is bright, and we cannot wait to get stuck into things in Cape Town,” said Walsh.
“The challenge this week is to continue where we finished in Dubai. Day two in Dubai was one of the best performances I have seen from this team.
“We beat the next best three teams in the world in true Australian Women Sevens style. We played ruthlessly and adapted to each opposition accordingly – it was a very polished performance filled with desire and skill.”
Three of the team – captain Charlotte Caslick and sisters Maddison and Teagan Levi – were all named in World Rugby’s Dubai ‘Dream Team’, with Maddison breaking her own record for most tries in a tournament with a dozen.
Levi’s performance had Caslick cooing of the 21-year-old powerhouse: “If she doesn’t go round you, she goes through you…”
After an accomplished debut tournament with a lightning 40-metre try in the opening match, 22-year-old Kaitlin Shave, the former high school sprint star, retains her spot.
Alysia Leafau-Fakaosilea, who received a red card in the semi-final in Dubai for a dangerous high challenge, has been selected too, but can’t play until the knockout stages because of her suspension.
The women look well set to make the quarter-finals without much trouble as they have a fairly kind draw against Fiji, Spain, and Japan in Pool A. They beat the Japanese by a record 66-0 scoreline in Dubai.
The same can’t be said for their male counterparts, who face Samoa, Canada, and defending World Series champions New Zealand in their group.
Matt Gonzalez has had to return home with a rib injury and is replaced by 19-year-old James McGregor, who played fullback for Australia U18s last year and is set to make his Sevens debut.
Rugby New York is the latest franchise to have folded as Major League Rugby faces serious issues in the US.
The 2022 MLR champions were unable to find the capital required to continue and players are reportedly looking for new homes.
The Toronto Arrows recently folded after the death of their owner.