Chiefs set to field bulky front row in 2016

The Chiefs continue their big signings during Super Rugby offseason, snapping up New Zealand U-20’s captain Atu Moli for two years.

Credit: Stuff NZ via Google Images

Moli will prove to be a bigger signing for the Chiefs than a lot of fans will realize and completes what will be a massive front row in 2016.

With the departure of Ben Tamiefuna to France, Moli joins Nepo Laulala to add massive bulk to the Chiefs front row. Not only does Moli bring considerable size, his credentials are already worthy of a player who can make an impact in Super Rugby.

Moli captained the New Zealand U-20’s to a World Championship this year and has impressed early in ITM Cup with Waikato.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says that Moli has a big future ahead of him and has worked well in the clubs development squad.

“His work ethic and desire to develop his game is impressive and we have got to know him quite well over the past couple of seasons,” Rennie said.

Other big signings for the Chiefs in offseason include Dominic Bird, Warriors league star Glen Fisiiahi, and Crusaders prop Nepo Laulala

Alex McKinnon’s loss of support deserved

What happened to Alex McKinnon in 2014 was tragic, but the events of the last week are a disgrace, not just to rugby league, but the sports community in general.

(Photo credit: 9News via Google Images) 

During an interview with 60 Minutes, McKinnon publicly slammed Melbourne Storm forward Cameron Smith, saying he was offended by comments that Smith had made just after the tackle where McKinnon was paralysed.

McKinnon went on to say he is offended that Smith hasn’t been in contact with him since the incident.

Channel Nine seemed to be outraged when Cameron Smith snubbed an interview during Origin on Wednesday night, but Smith is angry at the network, and justifiably so.

Smith was blindsided by the comments McKinnon made, and the public support that has been generated for Smith in the last few days is good to see.

McKinnon has rightly deserved some of the criticism sent his way since the 60 Minutes interview.

What happened that night in Melbourne was tragic, and the worst way for such a talented young player to have his career cut short, but in no way does any emotional issues related to this serve as an excuse for how McKinnon has publicly aired his issues with Smith, it is unfair as well as unprofessional considering McKinnon’s continued involvement with the NRL post injury.

If McKinnon continues making such statements in interviews, he will quickly lose a lot of the respect he has gathered in the last 14 months, and he will only have himself to blame.

Warriors fall at Nines once again

The Warriors failed to make good on their standing as strong contenders to win the NRL Nines after yet another heartbreaking result for fans to swallow.

2015 Auckland Nines

One can’t help but wonder if this is a sign of things to come for the Warriors in 2015.

The Warriors came into this years edition of the NRL Nines probable contenders in the eyes of most, but the product on the field over the course of the weekend was anything but.

A good performance against the Titans was followed up by a loss to the Raiders.

At one point the Warriors had a massive lead over the Raiders but they managed to blow it somehow.

Heading into finals day, the Warriors went up against the Tigers knowing that nothing short of a victory would keep their Nines title hopes alive.

What followed was arguably the most dominating performance of the tournament, the Warriors thrashed the Tigers and booked a place in the quarter finals with ease.

Fast forward to the dying moments of the quarter final against the Sharks, a pass that should have been taken in the corner all but shattered Warriors hopes, and then a shock knock on during the final attacking phase confirmed it.

The Warriors crash out of the Nines, a match earlier than last year no less.

And thus, it becomes harder and harder to have faith in the Warriors in the wonderful arena that is the NRL.

Sam Burgess hailed a hero in emotional league farewell

Set for surgery in the coming days, Sam Burgess last night won the Clive Churchill Medal last night after helping Souths win their first NRL Premiership in 43 years.

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Hailed as one the bravest acts in recent league history, Burgess played on for the full 80 minutes after breaking his cheekbone on the very first hit up of the grand final.

On the first tackle of the game, Burgess slammed into a Bulldogs defender, suffering a head clash and breaking his cheekbone.

Burgess immediately signaled to the trainer, and during the post match he confirmed the injury.

It was an emotional night for Sam Burgess, who’s much talked about departure from league has been a big talking point in the buildup to the final. With just over a minute to go, and the title in the bag, Burgess was down on his knees crying emotionally and could be seen speaking, most probably thanking and praying to his father who passed away several years ago, and the man Burgess says had a major affect on his career.

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After Greg Inglis’s final try, the Rabbitohs allowed Burgess to kick the final goal, and the brit just narrowly missed the conversion before being hoisted high into the air by his teammates.

Burgess should be hailed for his accomplishments, leaving his greatest feat until the biggest game of his career and steering the South Sydney Rabbitohs to their first NRL title in over 43 years, a streak which lasted longer than the lives of every player in the organisation. Burgess was a part of one of the most heart warming victories in NRL history, and it is the perfect way to sign off his league career.

Wether Burgess does well in union remains to be seen, but his legacy in rugby league has been signed, sealed, and delivered.

SBW returning to the NRL after next Union stint likely

Sonny Bill Williams will likely return to the NRL at some point before the end of his career, but if this is to be his last appearance in league, the man who so many follow has more than paid his dues to the faithful since signing with the Roosters.

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It seems like only yesterday when brand SBW quickly left the Bulldogs and exited the NRL completely.

Fast forward a few years, and a Rugby World Cup win with the All Blacks as well, Williams was back in Australia and playing for the Roosters.

There was immediate uproar at how Channel Nine packaged Williams’s first game back, many called it a WWE-style promo which was just too staged when the network used Williams’s voice, taken from an interview, as a “inside the mind” style commentary while he warmed up on the sidelines and took to the field for the first time in a Roosters jersey.

But the on field performances were not controversial, capturing the NRL Premiership with the Roosters in 2013, and helping the side to one game short of the grand final the next season.

In doing so, Williams also managed to win back the hearts of the general NRL fan base, excluding the Bulldogs supporters.

Williams has said he will leave the NRL with no regrets but hasn’t ruled out a potential return to league after his rugby union stint back in New Zealand ends, presumably after two years.

It is entirely likely that the Roosters may be where Williams will end his famous career.

Bigger things are ahead for SBW for now, including the birth of his first child in the next month or so, before Super Rugby begins with the Chiefs in January’s pre season.

With his wife expected to give birth in sometime around November, it remains to be seen if Williams will make his much talked about return to the All Blacks during the end of year tour to the USA and Europe, and talk of Williams outing against the Wallabies mid October in Brisbane hasn’t been discussed in either camp Hansen or camp SBW.

While Roosters fans will no doubt be sad to see SBW leaving Australia, they should be quite confident that it probably won’t be the last time they see him in the red, blue, and white jersey.

SBW’s All Black return doesn’t need to be fast tracked

With Ma’a Nonu out for the rest of the year, it shouldn’t be so quickly assumed that Sonny Bill Williams’s inclusion is an absolute must.

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There is plenty of talent at centre in and around the All Blacks camp already. The likes of Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa are both decent backups to Conrad Smith. With the probable return of Daniel Carter set to begin come the November test match in Chicago, this would also be the time for SBW to return to the All Blacks as well, and not a second sooner.

This all goes on the assumption that Smith, Crotty, and Fekitoa remain injury free during the Argentine and South African matches prior to the break before the end of year tour.

If another injury were to occur in the Auckland back line, then sure enough bring SBW in.

Carter could potentially even play at second five as the battle between Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett will likely continue.

A media commentator has already expressed that All Black coach Steve Hansen is “high up” on the controversial SBW, and would like to see the Roosters star walk straight into the camp upon his return to New Zealand. Hansen hasn’t confirmed or denied that. Others believe that it would be prudent for Williams to play a game for Counties Manukau in the late stage of the ITM Cup to get his feet back on the ground in union.

SBW is destined to return to the All Blacks in November, or potentially even late October in the third and final matchup with the Wallabies for the year.

But as exciting as that is going to be, his return shouldn’t be labelled as a must because of the Nonu injury.

Reaction: Warriors win still leaves nothing to be optimistic about

The Warriors becoming the first team in the NRL to keep the Gold Coast Titans scoreless is all well in good, but don’t pin too much hope on this team going very far should they make the finals.

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Lets be completely honest here, in this victory this afternoon, the Warriors played a team that have only won two out of the last fourteen games in the premiership. The Titans were always going to be a relatively easy win. 

The performance last week against a proper title contending side in the form of the Roosters said all that needed to be said. The Warriors in the last couple of weeks have imploded from being a finals certainty to a team which may just scrape into the playoffs, with the typical math and “lets hope other results go our way” hoedown which seems to be a talking point each season for this talented but always failing Warriors franchise. 

In the first half today, the Warriors were near flawless. But the second half left a lot to be desired, and the Warriors potentially even made the Titans look somewhat decent, which in reality, they really weren’t. The Warriors only scored a single try in the second half, compared to the many in the first. 

The victory today will effectively mean nothing if the Warriors lose to Penrith next week.

Should they beat the Panthers, and hopefully for a kiwi perspective they do, are the Warriors really a side that is going to go past one or two matches in the finals series?

Maybe three weeks ago you would think yes, but make no mistake about it, the Warriors are a team who have disappointed time and time again.

In the two grand finals the Warriors have made, they imploded on both occasions. 

The 2014 version is a different side, weaker in some aspects but stronger and others. Players like Johnson, Vatuvei, Tomkins, and Hurrell are capable of winning you those finals footy games, but when you look at the form teams that the Roosters in particular are in, it is hard to see the Warriors making it to ANZ Stadium for grand final day in a months time. 

At the start of the season the Warriors were a franchise in complete disarray, there was the drama with the management, but when the new coach Andrew McFadden came onboard things changed almost overnight.

Up until the recent downfall, McFadden would have been proud of his men. 

But many Warriors fans should be hesitant to be too positive about what a potential victory against the Panthers next weekend could do.

Sure it could mean a place in the finals, but not much more than that.

A 42 – 0 thumping of a terrible Titans side that hasn’t done anything in the premiership this year is not anything to get on the bandwagon for, and it would be wise to stay as pessimistic as possible for at least the next couple of weeks.

The Warriors are not a premiership winning side, and history will repeat itself in the coming weeks. Wether it happens in the form of a defeat to the Panthers or in the first week of the finals remains to be seen.  

SBW’s All Black exemption is to be expected

The news that Sonny Bill Williams will be eligible to return to the All Blacks without playing a single game of domestic rugby was among the most expected rugby news announcements in 2014, and it isn’t a major surprise.  

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The NZRU have clearly invested much in Sonny Bill Williams, and having him play in the match against the USA Eagles in Chicago is clearly a pulling point for both the NZRU and the US Rugby Association. The All Blacks versus USA match will be a massive brand builder for the game of rugby in the states, and it would in many ways be fitting for Williams to be present for that in some shape or form. 

In a perfect world, the US Rugby Association would like to have Daniel Carter, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, and Sonny Bill Williams all playing in the All Blacks squad, for both revenue and the viewer numbers those players bring on their own. 

The most important factor in today’s debate has been the rules of the NZRU. Rules are, a player has to have been playing domestic rugby in order to be eligible for international selection. Is it right that Sonny Bill Williams, despite his credentials, be allowed to be given exemption of this? 

A lot of people both inside and outside of rugby think not, and have taken to social media today to express the injustice. 

It is important to keep in mind that none of this may even be an issue.

If the Sydney Roosters do not make the NRL Grand Final, then Williams is almost certain to play a game for the Counties Manukau Steelers before the All Black tour of the US and Europe begins in early November.

In many aspects, if Williams were to play for the All Blacks without playing a single game upon his return to union, it would indeed be a little unfair on other players who perhaps should be in the All Blacks, and have justified those selections through form. 

The NZRU have left the selection of Williams completely up to All Black coach Steve Hanson, though it is hard to not see the brand that is SBW pulling on the black jersey before the year is out.