Friday, April 10, 2015
Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu signed recently for Scottish side Edinburgh, and will join them at the conclusion of the Super Rugby season in July. To go with the signing, we've pulled out this massive hit he made when just a schoolboy years back in New Zealand.
The imposing number 8 debuted for the Crusaders in 2008 at the age of 19 and played off the bench in their grand final victory that year. Manu switched over to the Highlanders in 2010 and has since become one of the franchises most consistent performers, while also amassing 71 caps for Canterbury in the ITM cup.
Injury wrote him off most of 2010 and 2013, and the Highlanders on-field performances suffered without him, 2013 in particular ending with an embarrassing 3 wins from 16 starts.
The emergence of Kieran Reed has cruelly blocked Manu from higher honours, with many considering him another victim of New Zealand's incredible breeding ground for talent.
Scottish fans will want to cool their jets though; unlike Sean Maitland, Manu does not qualify for the national side and in the past has signalled a preference to play for Tonga.
Manu's departure will leave a massive hole at the highlanders - he regularly leads the team for ball carries and tackles and captains from the front with intimidating physicality.
These are traits that have always been apparent, as this clip of Manu playing for Christchurch Boys High School in 2006 makes abundantly clear. Counter attacking from their own half Marlbrough spin the ball wide to their poor unsuspecting winger, who moments later gets absolutely crunched by a flying 17-year-old Manu.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Former Ireland international and current Harlequins head coach Conor O'Shea recently sat down with World Rugby to discuss the Six Nations stars who will impress when the Rugby World Cup rolls into England in 162 days.
Finn Russell will apparently become "a heck of a player" for Scotland, while he was also impressed with Stuart Hogg at 15 and Jonny Gray who "is young but still a key player".
For Italy, O'Shea can't look past the "untouchable" Sergio Parisse, but he also stressed the need for a goal-kicking 10.
Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc were the French picks despite hardly featuring over the spring, while Wales' biggest issue is if tighthead prop Samson Lee can be match fit before the start of the tournament.
England was more difficult but O'Shea says the player that they need back is Manu Tuilagi, while he could have chosen a whole host of players for Ireland but "Jonny Sexton is Joe Schmidt on the pitch".
Which country can go the furthest? Apparently it's hard to look beyond England at home and Ireland form-wise, especially if the Irish can keep their key players like Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy fit. Those two to play each other in the semi-final before playing a southern hemisphere country in the final.
Is there anybody you think he missed? Who will be your country's shining light?
Back in 2004 Rupeni Caucaunibuca was regarded by some as being the greatest attacking rugby player in the world. An opinion that is hard to disagree with upon evidence of this blast from the past clip of his hat-trick against the Crusaders back in February 2004.
Despite his problems in the later years "Rups" certainly shows what it takes to be a world class winger in the clip above. He displayed the perfect combination of pace, power and finishing to show what a talented force he once was.
This particular piece of brilliance helped the Auckland Blues win 38-29 on the night.
We certainly have our fingers crossed that the Fijian flyer makes good of his desire to play for Fiji in the Sevens for the upcoming 2016 Olympics, and if he manages to bring with him any of that magic from back in 2004, all the previous off-field issues will surely be forgotten.
Paul O'Connell was named the Six Nations player of the tournament recently, receiving over 26% of the public vote. This cements his place as one of the very best players in the game right now, and although we posted about him recently, this video is better.
In Greek Mythology, when Paris of Troy kidnapped Queen Helen, kings from across Greece assembled to bring their armies together to retrieve her and breach a city that had never before been breached.
Among these kings was Odysseus, cunning and clever and Achilles, a true warrior feared on the battlefield for his bravery and strength. Two captains who possessed two very different abilities without which the Greeks could not have won the battle of Troy.
Now, picture a different army, a Green army, lead by two equally famous and inspirational leaders vital to their success. Brian O'Driscoll cunning and clever and Paul O'Connell feared on the battlefield for his bravery and strength.
In 2009 and 2014 they tasted victory on the frontline together but many thought that without the quick mind of their Odysseus, Ireland would struggle in the 2015 six nations.
Such is the testament to the influence of O'Connell, unfazed by O'Driscoll's retirement he lead his team to their first back to back titles in over 30 years, as well as reaching personal milestones on the way.
Ireland now sit third in the world rankings and are looking like an army that few will want to fight as the world goes to war this September.
Regardless of Ireland's success at this World Cup, one thing is guaranteed; In thousands of years people will talk about the fearless warrior of Irish mythology. Paul O'Connell, one of the greatest soldiers the country has ever seen.
The RTE video below was made to commemorate his 100 caps for Ireland
credit: rte rugby
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
The Fox Sports Shortball highlights from Round 8 of Super Rugby are as entertaining as ever, including a Beauden Barrett wonder try, more players seeing red, and some monster hits along the way.
After another weekend of thrilling rugby, the Hurricanes notched up their seventh win of the season to remain unbeaten and spark conjecture that they could go undefeated for the year.
As the Wellington side held off a Stormers comeback to win 25-20, the talking point was Beauden Barrett's potential try of the season. Despite the fly-half getting the credit for the score, the 5-pointer will go down as one of the all time great team tries in Super Rugby.
James Horwill was red-carded and has subsequently been banned for one week following his forearm hit. His infringement cost his team dearly as The Rebels made use of their man advantage, beating the Reds 23-15 for their first home win of 2015.
Despite having Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Steyn currently serving bans, the Sharks were unable to maintain their discipline and Jean Deysel picked up a seven week suspension for kneeing an opposition player in the head.
To add insult to injury the Sharks were drubbed 52-10 by the Crusaders, who played part of the match with only 12 men for successive yellow-card offences of their own.
The Lions kept faith with their attack in Johannesburg and defeated the Bulls in the final play of the game, moving them up to 10th on the table as they got their fourth win of 2015.
Check out more Shortball videos in our Plays of the Week section
Sometimes it takes a sea change to reinvigorate yourself. Toulon playmaker Matt Giteau knows this more than most. Giteau was in Australia recently following injury, but has since returned to France, playing for Toulon in their Champions Cup Quarter Final against Wasps.
The reigning Top 14 player of the season made his international debut for the Wallabies at the age of 20, amassing 92 tests and 104 Super Rugby games before leaving the country in bitter circumstances in 2011.
Bagged by the media, his coach and fans the curtain fell down on his glittering international career with the Wallabies infamous 32-23 loss to Samoa that year.
'Exiled' to the Top 14, Giteau signed with Toulon, trading the cold of Canberra for the Mediterranean coast of Southern France.
Four years later Giteau is, considered by some, in the form of his career steering Toulon to back-to-back European championship titles and securing the Top 14-Europe double last year.
Former Toulon teammate and 2003 world cup final rival Jonny Wilkinson has gone on record saying that he can't fathom how Australian Rugby let the utility back go.
"He's exceptional, I don't quite know how a team ever let him go in Australia to come over here," Wilkinson commented late last year.
David Campese also recently included Giteau in the Australian team he would take to the 2015 World Cup, and former Wallaby coach John Connolly went further, stating Giteau was the ideal captain.
However, despite his stunning form Australia's current eligibility laws rule out any future caps for the 32 year old, automatically disqualifying overseas players.
Giteau has largely credited his turnaround to the birth of his sons, Levi and Kai, and the increased work-life balance playing in France has brought his family.
Australian fans will want to remember their names, as Levi and Kai certainly have sporting pedigree. Their mother Bianca Franklin is a professional netballer and sister to Australian Football star Buddy, while Matt's father, Ron, also captained the Canberra Raiders in the NRL.
Giteau was back in Canberra recovering from groin surgery recently so caught up with the guys from Rugby HQ about his rollercoaster career.
Would you pick him in the Wallabies squad for this year's Rugby World Cup?
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Saracens defeated Racing Metro 12-11 in the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup this weekend, but only found victory with the final kick of the match.
An incredibly close fought affair between the French giants and last year's finalists Saracens brought only one try, and the result wasn't decided until the last minute of play.
Man of the match, Racing Metro scrum-half Maxime Machenaud, displayed an all round masterclass in game management and distribution, not to mention scoring all of his team's points, but his performance alone wasn't enough to defeat the English club.
Despite leading at the break 6-5, Saracens went behind in the second-half and for all their efforts it looked as if they were going to finish the match second best. Error strewn attacking play constantly handing possession back to the home side, and the visitor's could see their European campaign slipping away.
Within the final minute, Racing were attempting to run down the clock and defend their two point lead by maintaining possession on their own ten metre line, whilst hawk eyed referee Nigel Owens could be heared to warn the French side about going off their feet in the ruck.
In the next tackle however, Racing were penalised for exactly such an offence having not heeded Owens' clearly audible warnings.
Up stepped the Argentinian outside-centre for Saracens, well known for his monster boot, Marcelo Bosch.
Despite rather "un-rugby-like" noises from the crowd attempting to distract Bosch, his aim was true and the subsequent whistle brought joy for Saracens and heartbreak for Racing Metro, as their European challenge ended in the cruelest of circumstances.
Saracens will face Clermont Auvergne in the next round, the semi finals, on April 18th.
Saracens have shared a great video showing the reaction from the bench as Bosch kicked the winner. You can view that on page two here, and check out the Related Posts for more monster penalty kicks.
credit: Boucherie Ovalie