Tag Archives: World Sevens rugby

The rising sun sets on the sunwolves

Back in 2016, a major revolution was afoot with the expansion of Super Rugby to 18 teams across six countries, four unions, both hemisphere’s and numerous time zones. The convoluted system incorporating four conferences was too hard to comprehend and player fatigue due to frequent flyer mileage was a factor that was difficult to manage. Micromanagement saw the teams culled to 15, but this is also seen as too cumbersome and a new 14 or 15-team competition will begin after the current broadcast deal expires next year; starting in 2021.

I remember in 2009 on the Gold Coast talking with then Japanese coach and All Black legend, John Kirwan. I brought up the idea of having a Japanese based Super Rugby franchise, to which Jk said, “No-way, impossible, the company teams in Japan are way too powerful“. In Australia, we could see the merit of a Japanese team with the time-slot 1 hour behind Eastern Standard Time wedged between the Western Force matches in Perth.

No-way, impossible, the company teams in Japan are way too powerful“.

Fast forward to 2019 and another All Black legend, current Queensland Reds coach, Brad Thorn. He’s come out strongly supporting the Sunwolves. After last Saturday’s match at Chichibu-no-Miya Stadium in Tokyo saying, “Look at that game today, look at the Sunwolves this season, they’ve been outstanding. It’s so good for rugby in Japan, look at the crowd. It would be disappointing and sad if Sunwolves were no longer part of it.

CJ with Brad Thorn both showing support the Sunwolves. Photo CJ on Instagram @brisbanerugbycom

Unfortunately, it’s official that from the Super Rugby 2021 season the Sunwolves will no longer be a part of the competition. In the words of SANZAAR CEO Andy Marino, “The decision to further consolidate the competition format to a 14-team round robin was not taken lightly. It has involved some detailed analysis and a thorough review of the current and future rugby landscape, tournament costs, commercial and broadcast considerations and player welfare in line with our Strategic Plan.”

Maybe John Kirwan was right, as sources have inferred that the JRFU never really liked the concept of the Sunwolves. This view was even voiced to SANZAAR by the JRFU as Marino reiterated, “SANZAAR was advised by the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) in early March that they would no longer be in a position to financially underwrite the Sunwolves future participation post 2020. The future of the Sunwolves will now be determined by the JRFU which has determined that Super Rugby no longer remains the best pathway for the development of players for the national team.”

There’s a lot of issues to be sorted out, with finances being a major concern, along with the disruption to the Top League season in Japan. Moving forward, it’s time to have a good chat with Andrew Forrest about becoming a part of Global Rapid Rugby.

Twiggy Forrest’s Global Rapid Rugby

CJ

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A New CEO at Rugby Australia

The annus horribilis at Rugby Australia culminates in current CEO, Bill Pulver, falling on his sword and a newly minted boss in Raelene Castle being named. From the outset, this caught the Australian rugby community off guard as a past player or rugby union minion was not elected. No NSWRU or QRU baggage to overcome or have to justify. Castle has worked for the past 4 years as the CEO of the Bulldogs Rugby League where she had to deal with the strong personality of Des Hassler, putting her in good stead for ‘handling’ the Wallabies coach, Michael Chieka. There were salary cap issues at the Bulldogs and Hassler was sacked after she had left, but it seems on the surface she did a good job. She also had 6 years before that as the head of Netball New Zealand building great relationships with other administrators, notwithstanding NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew.

If Rugby Australia had of picked Phil Kearns, then a business as usual mentality would have set in and the rot and coverups would have continued to permeate. Sydney’s North Shore brigade would retain its power base, leaving the rest of grassroots rugby to try and tread water unassisted.  This might have been where Eastwood President, Brett Papworth, may have been parachuted in, as he has had plenty to say about developing grassroots rugby (see here). Although, his health may have been of concern (more info). It was even believed that belated saviour of the Western Force rugby union, Andrew Forrest, could have even been given a nod, despite not having sports administration background (see IPRC).

So we turn to Ms Castle and her credentials certainly stack up as a competent administrator with high profile positions in various sporting landscapes. There will always be detractors out there, though, on a whole, it appears she has done a wonderful job. Also, she sees opportunities for both male and female athletes to develop with international opportunities not found in AFL or NRL. My question, however, turns to the fact that she is a New Zealander and an avowed supporter of the All Blacks, “There wouldn’t be a Wallabies-All Blacks Test match that I have missed in the last 35 years, unless I was travelling.” When every fibre in the collective conscious of rugby aficionados in the Australian rugby community focussed on regaining the Bledisloe Cup, would getting into bed with the ‘enemy’ be seen as a positive step? The overall attitude of the rugby leader is, of course, to build relationships and seek to increase participation in our game (that they play in heaven). Grow the grassroots and plant the seeds for Wallaby success. But, the end goal for young aspirants is to see a successful progression and ultimately an all-conquering Wallabies outfit with at least a Bledisloe Cup in the cabinet, then there may be a conflict of interest.

I hope I am wrong, though the Robbie Deans saga was arguably a mistake. Rugby followers are passionate beasts and any chink in the armour at the top is not looked on too fondly. Pulver has had some great initiatives for Australian rugby, especially in developing women’s rugby, but regrettably botched the handling of the Western Force in Super Rugby with a complete coverup and will forever hang his head in shame. Not since John O’Neill has Australian had a rugby boss of pedigree and after Ms Castle has sorted out New Zealand Rugby League’s failure at the RL World Cup she can attend to our rugby woes. Hopefully, she does not see this appointment as a stepping stone to take Steve Tew’s position as the head of New Zealand Rugby, because, with the announcement to apply for the Women’s World Cup in 2021 and the Men’s in 2027, we need someone here for the long haul.

HSBC WORLD SEVENS GOLD COAST Day 1

IMG_0110The first round of this season’s World Sevens rugby junket 2013/14 started at 10:30am on the beautiful Gold Coast with New Zealand playing USA in their Pool A match. The Kiwis were victorious over the Americans 38-0. This was followed up by the ever improving Kenyans, with a huge supporter base, smashing the Tongans also by 38-0. With a rain shower threatening, the action was boiling over on the field. And when the Aussies squandered a 21-0 lead over Scotland to draw their match, upsets were looking like a strong possibility.

I was with a nervous Australia 7s coach, Michael O’Conner, watching Samoa playing an impressive Scottish outfit. The latter almost forced another draw, however the Samoans were not giving up easily and managed a 19-12 win. O’Conner said, “We just have to win our next two matches to top our pool.”

Australia then accounted for Argentina 22-7 in the following match with their eyes firmly focussed on the 7:46pm match with Samoa. In the meantime New Zealand was progressing through nicely, easily beating Tonga 26-0 and defeating Kenya 31-0 in the twilight to top Pool A. Last year’s champions, Fiji, were looking alright until they lost to Wales in their last Pool C match 19-22 to Wales. Since Wales had lost 17-24 against Canada earlier in the day the top three teams all finished on 7 points. On count back Fiji topped Pool C.

South Africa had an impressive first day defeating France 29-5, Spain 38-7 and a strong England side 22-14. They topped Pool B and will play Wales tomorrow in the Cup quarter final, with England placed second in Pool B they will have to face Fiji in the quarters.

The Aussies played some of the best rugby I have seen them play to defeat Samoa 12-0 nil in the final match of Day 1. Thereby topping Pool D, which sets them up for a quarter final with Kenya tomorrow at 12:42pm –just like last year when they beat eventual champions Fiji in their last pool match. With Samoa coming second in Pool D, they will have to play the Kiwis at noon in their quarter final.

Basically going to form, Sunday’s action is going to be a mouth-watering feast of 7s rugby. If you are still without a ticket there are a few available at the gate so come on down.