One Percenters: Super W format worth sticking with, Honey Badger to make rugby return

by Beth Newman, Emma Greenwood and Iain Payten

NSW Rugby CEO Andrew Hore is confident Super W will evolve into a more evenly competitive tournament in coming years.

While NSW and Queensland have had some memorable battles in the first two seasons, this year's competition kicked off with two big floggings for the Melbourne Rebels side.

The Rebels took a major step up against RugbyWA in round three and will have a bye before playing NSW in the final regular season round in Bathurst.

Hore pointed to the AFLW as an example rugby should follow, with the Aussie rules body expanding the competition despite some fluctuations in quality.

While generally very successful, the AFLW has come under fire for some dour displays with many of the games relatively low scoring.

"I've got to be honest, the AFL is a pretty poor standard and they've decided that they'll stick at it," he said.

"You are going to get, from time to time, blowouts. We've got to stick at it. You can't run away from these things.

"Hopefully in four or five years time - the Rebels are very proactive in their schools - if we get enough young ladies feeling aspirational (about the game) this is a moment in time people will forget in 30, 40 years time.

"Will it matter, ultimately, with the big picture in mind, with where we want to take women's rugby in Australia? I probably think not. We're better to crack on, support the Rebels and keep ourselves strong as well."

Hore also said the development of the new Allianz Stadium, which was finally green lighted in court on Friday, would help ensure the Waratahs could play more double headers.

While there are pros and cons when it comes to Super W-Super Rugby double headers compared to standalone matches, the Waratahs a

When the women played a double header in 2018, they were forced to use facilities next door to the stadium for change rooms and Hore was adamant there had to be adequate failities for both teams to use.

Pulu in the mix, Meakes misses the Wallabies cut

The superstar teammates inside him are in Sydney for Wallabies camp but in-form centre Billy Meakes is one of the fringe players who missed the cut.

Meakes, whose combination with Quade Cooper in Super Rugby has been seamless in 2019, travelled with the Rebels to South Africa on Sunday.

Brumbies winger Toni Pulu is one of the newer faces in the Wallabies squad, after being in the wider squad in the January camp.

Karmichael Hunt is another high-profile absentee, though Cooper and fellow former Red James Slipper were invited to the Sydney camp.

Petaia goes under the knife

Reds young gun Jordan Petaia has had surgery on his foot as he races the clock to be fit ahead of the World Cup.

Petaia suffered a Lisfranc ligament tear in his foot in the opening minutes of the Reds' loss to the Crusaders last week and underwent surgery to realign the bones in his midfoot ahead of a four-month rehabilitation.

The gun teen, who missed making his Wallabies debut on last year's spring tour when he suffered a hamstring injury, will be on crutches and in a moon boot for several weeks before likely going under the surgeon's knife again to have any plates and screws removed from his foot.

While Petaia will miss the remainder of the Super Rugby season, the boom youngster is still considered a chance for the World Cup in September if his recovery remains on track.

Queensland captain Samu Kerevi is already missing his centre partner.

Reds coach Brad Thorn said the injury was disappointing for Petaia.

“He’s a really bright prospect and he’s important for the team but it gives other guys opportunities,” he said.

“With Jordan, hopefully it’s the start of a long career  and sometimes that’s part of professional sport, getting injuries.

“It’s just really disappointing.”

Badger to make rugby return

He wasn't the most successful Bachelor in history and now Nick Cummins is returning to an arena he knows better than reality TV - the rugby field.

Cummins will be part of Robbie Deans' World XV to take on the Force in this year's Global Rapid Rugby series on Friday March 22.

The winger will play alongisde former Wallabies teammate Digby Ioane in the World squad, a group that will also include former All Black Wyatt Crockett.

That march 22 match will be the first in the Force's fixtures this year, ahead of clashes with sides from Asia and the Pacific.

SQUAD

World XV

Gio Aplon (South Africa), Yoshikazu Fujita (Japan), Nick Cummins (Australia), Digby Ioane (Australia), Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Fiji), Dylan Riley (Australia), Inga Finau (New Zealand), Kosei Ono (Japan), Leon Fukofuka (Tonga), Andy Ellis (New Zealand, captain), Leonardo Senatore (Argentina), Hugh Renton (New Zealand), Michael Curry (New Zealand), Shota Fukui (Japan), Michael Oakman-Hunt (Australia), Jack Cornelsen (Australia), Hamish Dalzell (New Zealand), Tom Moloney (Australia), Chris King (New Zealand), Shohei Hirano (Japan), Wyatt Crockett (New Zealand), Greg Pleasants-Tate (New Zealand), Corey Flynn (New Zealand)

Aussie derbies draw in viewers

It's still early in the season but the signs are positive when it comes to viewership, if this weekend is anything to go by.

Both Australian games drew in a healthy viewership on a weekend where Super Rugby had no competition from the NRL or AFL.

Friday night's Brumbies-Rebels match drew in 92,000 while the Waratahs-Reds had 128,000 viewers on Saturday night.

Both of those numbers are well above the 2018 average of 71,000 across all Super Rugby matches, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Son of a gun Hardy makes Super Rugby debut

It may not have been a five-minute cameo but did Australian rugby fans get a glimpse of the future when Jack Hardy made his debut for the Reds late in their loss to the Waratahs on Saturday night.

Hardy, who turns 20 later this month, is the son of former Wallaby Mitch and  a product of Western Australia's Future Force program, who made his way to Queensland in the off-season in a bid to play Super Rugby.

Mitch Hardy played eight Tests for Australian between 1997-1998 before packing his family up and heading to Perth where he worked for Rugby WA in development roles.

The demise of the Western Force was a blow for the younger Hardy but after impressing Reds coaching staff in the pre-season, Hardy won a contract and made his debut on the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday night, with members of his University of Western Australia club in the stands.

The young fullback is also a member of Australia's Junior Wallabies squad and set to play a part in the world championships in Argentina in June.

Mafi joins Sunwolves squad

Former Rebel Amanaki Mafi was called into the Japanese Test squad last week and now the former Rebels no.8 has been confirmed as an inclusion for the Sunwolves in Super Rugby.

The Sunwolves announced his addition to the squad on Sunday, opening the door for Mafi to play his first game of Super Rugby since 2018 in the coming weeks.

Mafi is still facing assault charges in New Zealand after an altercation with former teammate Lopeti Timani in July last year. 

Initially he was not going to be included in the Japan squad with the criminal proceedings still ongoing but Jamie Joseph has since changed that view.

Coaching duo recognised by Sports Australia

Rebels Super W coach Alana Thomas and Queensland school coach Beth Whaanga have both been named among the women to be part of a new landmark national sports program.

The pair will be part of Sport Australia's Talent programs, aime at improving female representation in sport.

Whaanga and Thomas are two of just 33 women who were selected for the program out of hundreds of applicants.