O’Connor waiting in the wings for a chance at redemption. Photo: Patrick Hamilton, AFP
Yes, I know that James O’Connor has been a prat. An official at the ARU who had to deal with him all the time told me that O’Connor was the worst of the Three Amigos – O’Connor, Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper.
He would encourage and lead his mates into trouble and then, somehow, slide away unscathed, while the other two copped the blame and the punishments.
Referee Chris Linwood from UAE during a match officials’ session at TOP in Stellenbosch: Photo: IRB
One of the key presentations at the IRB’s Talent Optimisation Programme (TOP) in Stellenbosch, South Africa, recently was entitled “Where is rugby going?” and it’s a safe bet that the simple answer to that question is “onwards and upwards”, in no small way thanks to courses such as this one.
The ninth edition of the TOP just concluded, hosted for the eighth time by the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, about 50km east of Cape Town, and situated in an historic rugby centre. It targets coaches, trainers and match officials from unions that don’t have their own high-performance programme.
This year’s course involved 34 participants from countries as diverse as Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Romania and Russia but it was also attended by delegates from Argentina and Scotland.
Arch-rivals Krasny Yar (in green) and Yenisey-STM battle it out for Krasnoyarsk’s bragging rights. Photo: IRB
The choice of England as the host nation for next year’s Rugby World Cup is a fitting one, as it is of course the birthplace of the game. There is a good sense of continuity after the 2011 edition in New Zealand, as the Land of the Long White Cloud is considered one of the sport’s great heartlands. There is a sense of the battle for the Webb Ellis Cup moving from one side of the world to the other.
The southern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk may not be the geographical halfway point between Eden Park and Twickenham but it is not too far from it at nearly 8,000 miles from Auckland and almost 4,500 miles from London. So, perhaps it is apt that the Russian city is to play host to the Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifier between Russia and Zimbabwe with a place in the repechage final against either Uruguay or Hong Kong up for grabs.
Krasnoyarsk is a city that represents the love and passion for rugby outside the traditional strength of Europe’s Six Nations and the southern hemisphere hotbeds of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina. Irish rugby fans may be somewhat familiar with the city as it played host to Ireland in 2002 as part of the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2003.
Waratahs backrower Wycliff Palu attacks against the Brumbies last weekend. Photo: Roar
I have been genuinely surprised to read and hear suggestion that Michael Cheika’s team will start the Super Rugby final as anything other than favourites.
The Waratahs finished the season in top spot, scored the most tries by some margin, and conceded the second fewest in the competition.
They’ve comfortably been the best team in the competition in the back half of the season, too, and go into the final on an eight-game winning streak.
Henry Speight stands next to grandfather, the late Ratu Josefa Iloilo.
When Henry Speight finally pulls on the Wallabies jersey in September, Australian rugby must extend much gratitude to his late grandfather Ratu Josefa Iloilo, the former Fijian president.
“He was one of the most influential people in my life, he made me the person I am today,” Speight says.
Had it not been for the advice given to Speight by Ratu Iloilo, the superstar winger would be playing in New Zealand and likely sporting an All Black top.
To know Speight is to understand his childhood.
Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau are making an impact in rugby union. Photo: AAP
When Israel Folau was spotted having a coffee with the NRL’s head of football Todd Greenberg last week, it fuelled speculation that a return to rugby league was on the cards for the dual international.
Combined with sightings of Bulldogs coach Des Hasler at a Waratahs match – reportedly to watch Kurtley Beale play – it had the rugby union community in a slight panic, fearful they may be losing two of their biggest drawcards, and best players, to the 13 man-a-side game.
Folau hosed down any rumours on Fox Sports’ Rugby HQ on Thursday night, proclaiming the coffee was merely a chance meeting, along with highlighting the fact that it was Greenberg’s birthday and the two know each other well.