September 29, 2023

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Exercise makes you strong

Michael Hooper returns to Wallabies training ahead of the Spring Tour

Michael Hooper returns to Wallabies training ahead of the Spring Tour

Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper returned to full squad training on Wednesday eager to take back his Wallabies spot on merit.

James Slipper, the man who replaced Hooper as skipper when Hooper walked out during the Argentina tour, said his mate was happy to be back in the fold and ready to battle for a place in the squad.

“I think he’s moving in the right direction,” said Slipper of Hooper’s progress since returning to Wallabies camp.

“He wouldn’t put himself up for selection if he didn’t feel like he was ready to contribute and perform.

“Speaking to Hoops, he’s happy. He’s still working on things behind closed doors and that’s natural. A lot of us are doing that as well. So it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air for him. I’m sure he feels like the first day of school at the moment.”

Slipper predicted a quick return for the No.7 warrior.

“He’ll be picked on merit. Knowing Hoops well he wants to fight for his position. He doesn’t want to roll up and just walk into the team and on the training paddock you’ve already seen it today,” Slipper said.

“He will get stuck in and he’s just competitive naturally. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s in and around the team that first game.”

Slipper was surprised when he was thrust into the captaincy in Argentina but is happy to have the burden as long as he’s required to.

“Firstly it’s just great to see him back. Hoops has been a big part of our team for the best part of a decade if not more so,” said Slipper.

“He’s been missed. He’s one of our most experienced players. He’s the most capped Wallaby captain. So that sort of leadership, that sort of experience having been taken out of the team throughout the year was tough.

“It was a bit of a shock to most of the players. That’s what makes it so great to see him back because what he did was brave and not many other players would do that. He’s going to add a lot off the field but definitely on the field.”

Michael Hooper during Australia Wallabies Training Session at Royal Pines Resort on July 13, 2022 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Michael Hooper during a Wallabies training session. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Rassie explains Jantjies absence

South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus says Elton Jantjies’ omission from the Springboks’ northern hemisphere tour is based on rugby reasons rather than rumours of a dalliance with the team’s dietician.

“The only reason we’re not selecting him is because he’s not playing any rugby currently,” Erasmus said, ruling out the player was being sanctioned.

South African media suggested the married Jantjies had spent a weekend with team dietician Zeenat Simjee. Both Jantjies and Simjee have denied the allegations.

It was further reported that Jantjies left bills unpaid during his stay.

“Elton is a Japanese player, he’s not contracted to SA Rugby, he’s not a PONI (Player of National Interest),” said Erasmus. “If he’s not involved during a match-week, then he’s free to take the weekend off in his personal capacity. We can’t be held responsible if a guy isn’t paying his water and electricity bill. What he does in his personal capacity is his business.

“He wasn’t part of the match squad, so he broke no team protocols.”

Iva and Elton Jantjies (Source: Instagram)

Iva and Elton Jantjies (Source: Instagram)

Erasmus said there was a path back to the team for the flyhalf.

“We can’t compare him to fellow flyhalves for now, but a fit Elton Jantjies is four years younger than Johnny Sexton and if he plays good rugby, the door will always be open for him,” said Erasmus.

Erasmus also confirmed that Simjee, who along with Jantjies was sent home from the tour of Argentina, would travel with the Boks on the northern tour.

“Zeenat is definitely joining us. I just want to reiterate that she wasn’t sent home as part of a sanctioning. She came back to merely deal with personal reports that were written about her,” said Erasmus.

“The alleged incidents happened when the Springboks weren’t in [match-week] camp. She went home to be closer to her family and to deal with the reports. None of those reported events happened when we were in camp.

“She wasn’t punished at all. She needed to get to her family, specifically her father and get some assistance, whether it was legal or emotional support for going through a difficult time.

“It was also a measure to give the team the best opportunity to focus for the last two weeks of the Rugby Championship campaign. That was important. There’s no ammunition not to take her on tour.”

Jacques Nienaber’s Springboks have named a 26-strong squad for a three-day training camp at Stellenbosch to prepare for the tour. They called up 17 South African-based players and nine who are playing in Japan

Dempsey eligible for Scotland

Former Wallaby Jack Dempsey has qualified to represent Scotland after missing selection for Australia’s northern tour.

The 28-year-old former Waratah played the last of his 19 Tests on October 11, 2019, meaning he qualifies for the Scots due to his mother’s father and a three-year stand down.

Dempsey is expected to be named on Thursday AEDT, although his chances of playing against Australia on October 30 could be scuppered by injury.

Dempsey has made his mark as a backrower with Glasgow since joining last year.

Wales name squad

Leigh Halfpenny, Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric are in line to make their comebacks for Wales in their November internationals more than a year after they last appeared for their country.

But five-eighth Dan Biggar and back Liam Williams miss out because of injury.

Biggar has been captain this year, replacing the then-injured Alun Wyn Jones. Jones is back but not guaranteed to be skipper as he is not a certain starter.

Coach Wayne Pivac said on Tuesday he would make a decision after this weekend’s round of club rugby.

“There’ll be a captain for the series, but there might be more than one as few players play four tests,” he added.

The New Zealander named a 35-man selection, made up of 20 forwards and 15 backs.

There are five uncapped players with a promotion from the under-20 side for Joe Hawkins, a return for uncapped Josh Macleod and first call-ups for Dane Blacker, Sam Costelow and Rio Dyer.

“It’s great to have Ken, Justin and Leigh back after long-term injuries,” Pivac said.

“They are three great players who have served Wales very well. They are all British & Irish Lions, so quality players. We’re excited to have them in the squad for obvious reasons. We have a number of young players in this squad so it will be great for them to rub shoulders with these experienced ones.”

Pivac said the new inclusions were an eye not only on next year’s World Cup but the tournament after that.

“There’s a lot of young players we’ve been keeping an eye on for a number of years through the age group system and now playing club rugby,” he added.

“There’s a view of the here and now in this squad, but also beyond Rugby World Cup 2023 to the tournament in 2027, so there’s some young guys getting the opportunity to taste the camp environment. They may or may not get game time, but it will be a great experience for them.”

Also returning are Jac Morgan and Rhys Priestland, who were last called up for the Six Nations at the start of the year, loosehead props Rhodri Jones and Nicky Smith for the first time since the 2021 mid-year matches campaign and Christ Tshiunza, who made his senior international debut last November.

Wales will play test matches on four consecutive Saturdays in November against New Zealand, Argentina, Georgia and Australia at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.

Squad:

Forwards: Adam Beard (Ospreys), Ben Carter (Dragons), Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Dragons), Dewi Lake (Ospreys), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff), Dan Lydiate, Josh MacLeod, Jac Morgan (all Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers), Will Rowlands (Dragons Rugby), Nicky Smith, Gareth Thomas, Tomas Francis, Justin Tipuric (all Ospreys), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs), Sam Wainwright (Saracens)

Backs: Josh Adams (Cardiff), Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys), Dane Blacker, Sam Costelow (both Scarlets), Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys), Rio Dyer (Dragons), Leigh Halfpenny, Kieran Hardy (both Scarlets), Joe Hawkins, George North (both Ospreys), Rhys Priestland (Cardiff), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), Nick Tompkins (Saracens), Owen Watkin (Ospreys), Tomos Williams (Cardiff).

Rieko retained

All Blacks midfielder Rieko Ioane has extended his contract with New Zealand Rugby until the end of next year’s World Cup.

The 25-year-old has committed to staying in New Zealand with the Blues in Super Rugby Pacific.

“I’m really excited to be signing through until 2023,” said Ioane. “My time with the Blues has been awesome. I love the turnaround we’ve had and I’m keen to continue building on what we have done as a team.

“With the All Blacks, I feel as though we have started something special. I’m looking forward to a huge Northern Tour and putting in the work to get us in good shape for next year.”

Say it ain’t so!

Pub managers in Wales are terrified their bars might run dry due to strike action scheduled during the autumn internationals.

Drivers at GXO, who deliver 40 percent of the UK’s beer supplies, are on strike between 31 October and 4 November and Wales play New Zealand on 5 November, the day after the strike ends.

(With PA)