With Liam Gill practising his French, and David Pocock preparing to cover new school books, it feels like Michael Hooper (left) and Sean McMahon could be setting up a nice little rivalry for the Wallabies no.7 in 2017..
The Roar: Round 6 could be something of a moving week in Super Rugby, with all but one game pitting teams in close table proximity against each other.
The 8th-placed Lions host 7th-placed Crusaders. The Blues in 13th host the 12th-placed Jaguares. The 3rd-placed Brumbies host the competition-leading Chiefs. The two cellar-dwellers meet in Port Elizabeth, and the South African derby pits the 11th-placed Bulls against the Cheetahs in 14th. To finish, the Waratahs in 10th host the Rebels in 9th.
It represents an opportunity for all winners to jump ladder positions, and when viewed like this, it does add some further overall intrigue to the round. So here’s this week’s talking points:
1. Michael Hooper vs Sean McMahon – the start of something? 2. What would constitute a moral victory for the Force in Dunedin? 3. Off-field issues versus a lap of the southern hemisphere? 4. 18th versus 17th a potential match of the round? and.. 5. Was there method to the madness of Benn Robinson’s honesty?
Returning Liam Gill can add a presence at the Reds’ breakdown that hasn’t been missing, per se, but has certainly been diluted in the opening month of the competition. Image: ABC Grandstand
The Roar: Is Round 5 the point in the first half of the season where teams start making statements of intent?
Teams in the top half of the table can open a gap on those in the bottom half, while those stuck around mid-table can stay in touch with the leaders. No-one can win the comp in Round 5, but another loss in Round 5 might create – or underline existing – doubt about a team’s credentials. The prickly posturings, then:
Can the Brumbies really avoid the whole boardroom circus?
Is this the biggest game ever for the Rebels?
Are the Hurricanes properly back?
Can Liam Gill and James Slipper bring the Reds’ much-needed spark? and..
Wallabies and Western Force no.8 Ben McCalman during the Rugby World Cup last year. He headed off to Japan just four days after the Final. Image via Wallabies Facebook.
The Roar:Wallabies and Western Force no.8 Ben McCalman has absolutely no regrets about spending his off-season playing in Japan, and said this week he’d have no hesitation recommending the flexible contract option to teammates contemplating the option.
After playing with Top League champions Panasonic over the summer, McCalman is refreshed and ready to make his Super Rugby return this weekend, named on the Force’s bench to take on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
“Mate, I loved it,” he told me from Perth this week, of his experience in Japan. “Certainly a bit of a culture shock, and the language barrier’s interesting at times, but it was a very enjoyable style of rugby the boys played…”