The southern hemisphere rugby season is now well and truly underway, with the first two rounds of Super Rugby Pacific already in the books.
And this week Australia's Super W competition also begins.
We discuss that and more in the latest edition of Rugby Real or Not.
Australian rugby doesn't place enough value on the lock position
Not real. I think in the past this has certainly been the case, but the reality of having depth and different options in the second-row has finally hit home in Australia. And Dave Rennie is all too aware of the need for quality locks, hence why he worked hard to bring both Matt Philip and Izack Rodda from overseas. Obviously the money on offer overseas is exorbitant, and Rugby Australia only has so much to throw around at this point. The governing body is never going to be able to compete with $1.5m per season deals, the kind of which will see Rory Arnold move from French to Japanese rugby. But that doesn't mean it doesn't sting when guys like Lukhan Salakai-Loto, in particular, and Nick Frost also decide to head offshore. Salakaia-Loto is about to hit the prime of his rugby career, while Frost would have been a real project player - and still could be - for the 2027 World Cup. You only have to look at guys like Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Eben Etzebeth, Maro Itoje and others to see the importance of a quality second-row pairing. I think Australian rugby was slow to the line, but that reality has now very much hit home. Izack Rodda's contract extension through to 2024 is an example of that, and the likes of Darcy Swain and Matt Philip should be focal points when their deals are up this and next year, respectively.
- Sam Bruce
The Waratahs are beatable in Super W 2022
Not real. After four undefeated seasons, the Waratahs women's program continues to grow from strength to strength and it's unlikely anyone will be able to slow them down. Featuring 20 Wallaroos squad members, the Waratahs have unbelievable depth, but it will be tested with the loss of wing Maya Stewart to an ACL injury as well as fly-half Arabella McKenzie, who'll miss the opening rounds of the tournament while playing in New Zealand. The Tahs' biggest threat remains the Queensland Reds, but just days out from the season opener, the Reds have taken a hit with their coach Rama Chand stepping down for personal reasons. While this won't derail their season, it'll no doubt have an impact. Meanwhile, the fixtures are in the Waratahs' favour, with the grand final rematch not scheduled until the final round, which should see McKenzie back in the squad, bolstering the already impressive backline. Alongside their experienced core, which features Wallaroos skipper Grace Hamilton, Illiseva Batibasaga and Mahalia Murphy, the Tahs have several young guns to watch including Margot Vella, who'll need to step up in Stewart's absence, Piper Duck and Georgina Tuipulotu, who became the youngest Waratahs player in 2021. Kicking off their season against the Brumbies on Saturday, expect the Waratahs to start their season with a bang and build swiftly towards the final.
- Brittany Mitchell
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be an All Black by the end of the Rugby Championship
Real. He has only played one game of Super Rugby, but there was more than enough in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's debut against the Hurricanes to suggest he has the game to be a success at Test level. That's not to say there weren't any mistakes - even the casual rugby fan would have been aware of Tuivasa-Sheck's first-half infringements and he was rightly penalised as a result. On both occasions, his rugby league instincts took over. Unfortunately for Tuivasa-Sheck, he also was responsible for the key defensive error that led to the Hurricanes' match-winner. But in his offload, acceleration and footwork, Tuivasa-Sheck clearly has the game to be a success at Test level. The three-Test series against Ireland might come too soon, with David Havili, Quinn Tupaea and Anton Lienert-Brown all in the mix, particularly with Jack Goodhue getting closer to a return at outside centre. But with the inevitable injuries to come, and time running out before next year's World Cup, it's hard to see how All Blacks coach Ian Foster won't want to get him into the squad before the year is out. Tuivasa-Sheck will get better with every game he plays, and it will be a huge shock if he hasn't spent some time in the black jersey by the time the Pumas' wrap up their two-Test tour in September.
- Sam Bruce