Thursday, July 24, 2014

Southland Woman Booted Out Of Men's Rugby Grade - Should She Be Allowed To Play?

Southland women's rugby player April Miller who was playing rugby in the Southland Presidents Men's Grade has been banned from playing because she is a woman.  Miller is 18 years old and has great pedigree with her father and grandfather playing for Southland and her uncle Paul Miller playing for the All Blacks, Highlanders, Southland and Otago.

The problem is that there is no women's grade in Southland and her Pukerau team didn't mind her playing and her team always asked their opponents if it was an issue and their opponents usually didn't mind.  

Will April Miller now be lost to the game of rugby for life?  I am actually from Southland and it isn't as if the Presidents Grade is a really high level or anything.  I say as long as neither her team nor the opponents mind, then I don't have a problem with April Miller playing.

What happens if April Miller was going to be a New Zealand Black Ferns representative and her progress is being stopped?  I guess her only other option is to move to another province which offers women's rugby grades.

Should a woman be allowed to play rugby in a men's grade when there are no grades for women?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Super 15 Rugby Semi-Finals Preview Team Guide

There are only four teams left in the semi-finals of Super 15 Rugby 2014.  Ironically, despite having the most teams in the Top Six, there is only one New Zealand team left in Super Rugby 2014.

Both of the Super Rugby Playoffs were closer than expected with the Sharks and Brumbies only narrowly winning as expected.  Nearly everyone picked the Sharks to beat the Highlanders and they would have been sweating given that the Sharks only won by four points, while three quarters of tipsters picked the Brumbies to beat the Chiefs.

The Waratahs and Crusaders return after a week off and host the Brumbies and Sharks respectively.  It will be interesting to see if the bye was great to freshen up the players or if it has halted the momentum of the top two teams in Super Rugby?

For managers of Super Rugby teams, remember that you want to pick players from teams likely to be playing in the final next week.  The Crusaders and Waratahs are back in action and they will be at their cheapest purchase price.  It is therefore important to take some risks and mainly avoid Brumbies and Sharks as the two home teams are favourites to make the final. 

For Super Rugby Playoffs Team Lists go to

Crusaders vs Sharks
The Crusaders host the Sharks in Christchurch.  The last times these two teams met the Sharks won 30-25 in Christchurch.  This Crusaders team is beatable, but has been improving in the second half of the competition, while the Sharks will battle to win away from home

The Crusaders will go into this game with a ten point advantage because of factors like travel, home ground, conditions and refereeing decisions according to a previous article. 

The Sharks will take it to the Crusaders upfront like they did against the Highlanders and will look to bully them at set pieces.  The only problem is that the Crusaders have an All Blacks laden forward pack who will probably be able to nullify the Sharks main threat. 

There are some quality players on display in this game.  Richie McCaw returns from injury and joins world class players like Dan Carter, Israel Dagg, Kieran Read, Owen Franks and Sam Whitelock.  The Sharks have their own stars with the du Plessis brothers, Willem Alberts, Ryan Kankowski, Franc Steyn and Pat Lambie. 

This won’t be a pretty game, but it will be a brilliant clash in the forwards. 

The Sharks will bring some belief with them after they won the clash earlier in 2014, but this Crusaders team now has Dan Carter and Kieran Read to add to their leadership, while in Colin Slade, Nemani Nadolo, Israel Dagg and Ryan Crotty, they probably have more firepower in their backline.  Will the Sharks outside backs touch the ball?

Remember, the Highlanders’ win over the Sharks in Super Rugby 2014 gave them belief, but it also gave the Sharks motivation to win their playoff match.  Is the Crusaders vs Sharks any different?

Both of these teams have experienced plenty of finals rugby in the past and so they will know what to expect. 

You get the feeling that if the Crusaders can combat the Sharks set pieces and mauls then they will win at home. 

The Crusaders welcome back Richie McCaw, while the Sharks will miss “The Beast” but get Patrick Lambie back.

My pick: Crusaders

Players to watch: : 
For the Crusaders – Sam Whitelock, Matt Todd, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Nemani Nadolo are expensive, but could points producers.
The Sharks (not named yet) aren’t huge points’ producers in fantasy rugby, but watch for Franc Steyn, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and the young lock Stephan Lewies.  If Jean Deysel and Pat Lambie are starting, they could be worth a shot!

Waratahs vs Brumbies
The Waratahs finished the Super Rugby 2014 regular season as the minor premiers with some convincing performances, especially at home.  It will be interesting to see if the bye week last week was a blessing or a curse for the Waratahs.

The Brumbies shocked the Chiefs with some great counter-attacking, although they are more known for their more conservative territory based game.  Expect the Waratahs to be the team to score plenty of tries, while the Brumbies could be forced to try to dominate upfront since their backline is good, but not quite as dangerous as the Waratahs. 

It will be interesting to see the tactics that both teams take to this game.  Remember that the Waratahs have a largely Wallabies laden side who were running so hot towards the end of the season that the Brumbies who won’t have their mascot will have their work cut out for them.

The Brumbies win their rucks 96 percent of the time, so they are good at maintaining possession.

The Waratahs in 2014 now have the backline to complement their forward pack.  Their backline stars like Bernard Foley, Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper have the knack of unlocking defences this season.

My pick: Waratahs

Players to watch: :  Watch for the dynamic Waratahs backs like Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau.  Bargain priced Alofa Alofa is worth a shot if you are short of money, while the forwards like Jacques Potgeiter, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu and Tatafu Polata-Nau are a good investment given the Waratahs should play in the final next week.
Brumbies : Managers should look to Henry Speight, Ben Mowen, Jesse Mogg, Robbie Coleman, Scott Fardy and goal kicking Christian Lealiifano, while Matt Toomua is an inside back who won’t be goal kicking, but he has scored plenty of tries recently, so could be worth a shot.

Who will win Super Rugby semi-finals this weekend?

To sign up for the Rugby Championship Super Rugby Tips conference go to

Super 15 Rugby 2014 Semi Finals Team Lists Named

Super Rugby Semi-Finals Team Lists Named (home team first)
Saturday, July 26
Crusaders vs Sharks
Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, Richie McCaw, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Jimmy Tupou, Jordan Taufua, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl.

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 S'bura Sithole, 23 Tonderai Chavhanga.
Waratahs vs Brumbies
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (capt), 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Jacques Potgieter, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tola Latu, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Jeremy Tilse, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Mitch Chapman, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbon, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 25 Cam Crawford (two to be omitted).

Brumbies: 1.Scott Sio, 2.Josh Mann-Rea, 3.Ben Alexander, 4.Sam Carter, 5.Leon Power, 6.Scott Fardy, 7.Jarrad Butler, 8.Ben Mowen (captain), 9.Nic White, 10.Matt Toomua, 11.Clyde Rathbone, 12.Christian Lealiifano, 13.Tevita Kuridrani, 14.Henry Speight, 15.Jesse Mogg.

Reserves: 16.Ruaidhri Murphy, 17.Ruan Smith, 18.JP Smith, 19.Fotu Auelua, 20.Tom McVerry, 21.Michael Dowsett, 22.Joe Tomane, 23.Pat McCabe.

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Who Will Win The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens Gold Medal?

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games is here and with Rugby Sevens included for the fifth time, it will be interesting to see who wins the gold medal, especially given the lack of stars at the tournament and the inclusion of Rugby Sevens in the Olympic Games in Rio 2016.  

Countries are now taking Rugby Sevens even more seriously with Olympic Games glory up for grabs in two years.  This means more money is going into Rugby Sevens and therefore the Commonwealth Games will be more hotly contested than before with New Zealand, Australia, England, South Africa and Samoa the favoured teams.  There isn't the same depth in this tournament without some of the non-Commonwealth Games countries like Argentina, USA and France unable to attend.  

Because the Commonwealth Games clash with the end of Super Rugby, there will be very few Super Rugby players involved, meaning that it will be left up to the sevens specialists to win gold for their team and country.  

Bryan Habana is one of the only stars on display with the former Springbok winger being released by his club side.  It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to Rugby Sevens, but his inclusion has me picking a South Africa vs New Zealand final.

New Zealand is the current IRB Rugby Sevens title holder and has won every Commonwealth Games gold medal since 1998.  Interestingly though, they have usually had a few stars from the fifteens version of the game to boost their squad, but this time their squad will be lacking fifteens stars.  The problem is that in some previous seasons some stars from fifteens have returned to Sevens Rugby and caused more disrruptions than anything as they are totally different games.  The timing is also hardly ideal with Super Rugby coming towards the end and the Rugby Championship and ITM Cup only a few weeks away, leaving coach Gordon Tietjens little choice but to mainly stick to his Sevens Rugby players who usually play on the circuit.

Australia and England usually medal at the Commonwealth Games and given that England are playing close to home, while Australia has included Wallaby Liam Gill in their squad, both of these teams are likely to make the semi finals.

Most of the best teams in the world will be at this tournament.  New Zealand will have their work cut out for them with Australia, England, South Africa and Samoa also included.  Fiji aren't attending, while Scotland, Wales, Canada and Kenya are the other notable teams in the tournament.

Who will win the Rugby Sevens gold medal at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wallabies Squad For Rugby Championship Named

The Wallabies squad has been named for the Rugby Championship with only one test debutant in Brumbies winger Henry Speight who won't be eligible to play for the Wallabies until September.  Speight has been in great form in Super Rugby 2014 and deserved to be included, but his eligibility is in question after he was born and raised in Fiji before attending high school in Waikato, New Zealand.  The All Blacks really let this one slip through the cracks.

This is a new look Wallabies side without injured players like Stephen Moore, Will Genia and Quade Cooper out injured. 

Michael Hooper will captain this team which features some exciting players.  The Australian teams did better in Super Rugby in 2014 and this Wallabies team will be tough to beat in the Rugby Championship. 

This team will be based on the successful Waratahs Super Rugby 2014 team and so there will be plenty of combinations from Super Rugby.  There are some exciting young players.  If the Wallabies tight five can stand up to the All Blacks and Springboks then the Wallabies could get some wins and challenge for the Rugby Championship team.

SQUAD: Ben Alexander, Pek Cowan, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Nathan Charles, James Hanson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sam Carter, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Scott Fardy, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Wycliff Palu, Luke Burgess, Nick Phipps, Nic White, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Matt Toomua, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Henry Speight, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe, Joe Tomane.

What do you think of the Wallabies Rugby Championship squad?

Brumby Jack Banned From Waratahs Game

The Waratahs are up to horseplay again and have banned Brumbies mascot Brumby Jack from the sold out semi-final between the Waratahs and Brumbies at Allianz Stadium.

He won't be allowed onto the field to help get the crowd enthused, with Tah Man getting to entertain the crowds himself.

I think this isn't fair how only the home team is allowed a mascot at the ground, surely the Brumbies deserve to be represented at this crucial rugby match by Brumby Jack.

Do the Brumbies deserve to be allowed Brumby Jack at their Super Rugby semi-final against the Waratahs?

How Patriotic Should Super 15 Rugby Fans Be - Country or Team?

Now that there are only four teams left in Super Rugby 2014, should fans feel obliged to support the other team from their country or should people feel absolutely no obligation to support a team for their own country?

All three countries have at least one team left in Super Rugby 2014, should all New Zealand rugby supporters cheer for the Crusaders this weekend, even though they support the Highlanders, Hurricanes, Chiefs or Blues?  In the same vain should all Springboks supporters even if they don't support the Sharks support them in the Super Rugby 2014 semi-final?

In New Zealand, there is usually plenty of rivalry between Canterbury and fans from other provinces, but surely it is preferable to support the Crusaders against the Sharks, or is it?  The Crusaders have been referred to the All Blacks in drag, but because your team has been eliminated is it better to support them or a team from another country?  

It also depends on if you still consider Super Rugby franchises to be representing their provinces that they are based in?

As a Highlanders fan, the Crusaders are one of our main rivals, but I would still rather see a New Zealand team win than an overseas based team.  

We all remember when some Canterbury fans started supporting Australia when coach Robbie Deans was Wallabies coach!

Will you support/cheer for the remaining Super Rugby team from your country or because it is a rival, would you rather a team from another country wins?

All Blacks Rugby World Cup 2015 Squad - Who Will Make The Cut?

The Rugby World Cup 2015 is a year away, but I am worried about some members of the All Blacks squad who will be in their mid 30s when the Rugby World Cup 2015 is on.  The All Blacks have an impressive record between Rugby World Cups but plenty of their stars are getting old.

All Blacks players like Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane are in the over 30s category, will their old legs be fast enough to win the Rugby World Cup 2015?

It all depends how healthy the experienced All Blacks are and if some of them are passed their best.  It all depends on if the All Blacks selectors go for experience or youth.  They usually play it conservatively and so expect the tried and true experienced All Blacks to dominate this squad.  In saying this, don't expect to see Piri Weepu and Andy Ellis who featured at the Rugby World Cup 2011.

There will also be players returning from overseas for consideration like Richard Kahui and Hosea Gear, but there are so many options in the outside backs.

It is so difficult to condense the squad into only 30 players, although because match day squads carry an extra prop, the squad size may be increased to 31 or 32.

Who do you think should make the All Blacks 30 man Rugby World Cup 2015 squad?

Fullback - Who do we play at fullback given how awesome Ben Smith is there, but the All Blacks also have Israel Dagg and Charles Piutau who are fullbacks, while Smith can play on the wing.

Right wing is a position of concern with Ben Smith at fullback, Cory Jane is the next best option, but is he past it?  I think that Smith is better at fullback, so they should put Charles Piutau on the wing.  Other options include Frank Halai, Tim Nanai-Williams or Tom Marshall or how about the returning Hosea Gear or the versatile Richard Kahui who played there at the Rugby World Cup 2011?

The Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu midfield pair is under pressure.  Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui will return to add some pressure.  The young brigade of Malakai Fekitoa, Francis Saili and Ryan Crotty are other options.
Julian Savea gets the left wing spot hands down.

The first fives practically pick themselves, barring injury.  The question remains, is Dan Carter stil the top dog?  We have Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade in reserve, while Lima Sopoaga and Ihaia West mustn't be far behind.  

The halfbacks almost pick themselves with Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara and Tawera Kerr Barlow while some other options include Bryn Hall, Brad Weber and Augustine Pulu in contention.

The loose forwards will be a juggling act with plenty of Number Eights and Sixes who can cover openside flanker if needed.  

Number Eights - Kieran Read wins hands down, while Jerome Kaino, Victor Vito and Liam Messam can also play there.  

Openside flanker - Richie McCaw will get this gig, while Matt Todd and Sam Cane are the next options.  There are some other potential bolters in Luke Braid, Ardie Savea and Shane Christie.

Blindside flanker - Kaino, Messam and Steven Luatua are the best options, while Brad Shields is close.  Utility forwards are the ones to watch.

Locks - Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick are the first choices, while Luke Romano, Patrick Tuipulotu, Dominic Bird and Jeremy Thrush.  Luatua could cover lock and loose forward, while Joe Wheeler from the Highlanders can too.

Props - The props are obvious selections with Owen Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Tony Woodcock, Charlie Faumuina are obvious picks, while it will be interesting to see if some of the up and comers like Kane Hames, Jeff Toomaga-Allen or Joe Moody are up to it.  Ben Franks is still a good prop, while will we see overseas based players returning like John Afoa?  Ben Afeaki and Ben Tameifuna are both struggling with head injuries.

Hooker - Dane Coles and Keven Mealamu are streets ahead of the rest.  The All Blacks will need one other hooker.  There are plenty of solid but unspectacular options like Nathan Harris, Liam Coltman, James Parsons and Quentin MacDonald.  I like the look of MacDonald.  

It is difficult to narrow it down to a squad of only 30 players.  The IRB hasn't mentioned if they will extend squad sizes to 31 or 32.  It would be wise to carry six props now that two are allowed on the match day bench.  

There are some great players who will miss out.  They will be useful to add some depth and will join the squad if there is an injury, players like Cory Jane, Hosea Gear, Steven Luatua and Colin Slade will probably miss out at this stage, but would get the call up depending on injuries.

My All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad 2015
Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Richard Kahui, Malakai Fekitoa, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara.

Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw, Sam Cane, Victor Vito, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Tony Woodcock, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Dane Coles, Quentin MacDonald.

Who would you pick in your All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad 2015 with only 30 players allowed?

There are some excellent players that missed selection.  It depends on the breakdown of positions that the selectors want to go for.  Five props, 3 halfbacks, hookers and first five eighths might be enough.  Do they go for a 15-15 split or a 16 forwards 14 backs squad?

If 32 players are allowed then a sixth prop would be added with Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Kane Hames, Joe Moody, Ben Tameifuna and Ben Afeaki in the running.

I would then suggest they take an extra lock like Patrick Tuipulotu or Jeremy Thrush or a utility like Steven Luatua who can play lock in some of the pool games as well as cover the loose forwards.

For half of the All Blacks matches, it won't matter who plays in the black jersey, they will win anyway, but at the business end of the competition, the All Blacks will need their best combinations.  It is always interesting to see how much rest and rotation takes place as selectors balance keeping the players fresh with maintaining combinations.

Super Rugby Travel and Home Ground Advantage Worth 10 Points

We have all heard of home advantage, but a South African sports scientist has attempted to quantify just how much difference factors like travel and home advantage have on a game.
Dr Ross Tucker from the Sports Science Institute of South Africa has done some analysis and calculated that the home advantage is worth about five points, while travel is worth another five points, giving the Crusaders a 10 point headstart against the Sharks in the Super Rugby 2014 semi-finals this weekend.
"The reason it is so difficult to win overseas is because of the physiology of what it takes to travel. You lose sleep during an uncomfortable night on a plane and later because of jet lag. "
"Added to that, you're away from home, the other team is familiar with the stadium and the conditions, and the referee is subconsciously on their side."
This makes interesting reading.  Super Rugby Tips has discovered that 71 percent of games in Super Rugby 2014 were won by the home team.
It is hard to know if Dr Ross Tucker is mainly talking about the long trip from South Africa and New Zealand or not?  It is widely known that travelling from South Africa to New Zealand is tougher on the body than flying from New Zealand to South Africa, so the Sharks might struggle this weekend.
The Sharks did beat the Crusaders earlier this season in Christchurch, but as the Highlanders found out against the Sharks last week, this can actually be a bad thing.
All this means that there are several factors which influence sports tipping.  Not only is travel and home advantage important, but the referee, stadium, conditions, players, form and coaches are other factors which need to be considered.
Do you think that home advantage and travel factors are worth a total of 10 points in Super Rugby?