France are rejoicing after Les Bleus achieved their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2012 with a 25-13 victory over England at the Stade de France.
That result was good enough to push them up to second on World Rugby’s Test rankings behind only South Africa, with the All Blacks at No. 3 and Ireland nipping at their heels one spot further back.
Meanwhile down south, Dave Rennie named his first Wallabies group of 2022 and New Zealand’s Super Rugby Pacific teams continue to battle COVID-19 outbreaks.
Read on as we tackle some of the big talking points in the latest edition of Rugby Real or Not.
Wallabies shouldn’t pick players who are signed to play overseas next season
Not real. The selection of Nick Frost in the 40-man Wallabies squad for a training camp on the Gold Coast next month raised plenty of eyebrows on Sunday, particularly out of Queensland. Frost has signed to play in Japan next season, yet was still included as one of six locks in Dave Rennie’s squad. But as Rennie pointed out during his press conference on Sunday, he selected Brandon Paenga-Amosa for the series against France last year, despite the Reds hooker having signed to play with Stade Francais, which should put any suggestion of a conspiracy against Queensland to bed. While there is the very real chance that Frost won’t eventually make his Test debut against England, it can’t hurt to give him a taste of the Wallabies environment; we did, after all, see Rob Leota backflip on a similar deal last year, and he went on be one of the finds of the season. And if you look at the lock position, aside from Rory Arnold who Rennie is tipped to bring back for the three-Test series against England, there is genuine uncertainty as to whom should fill the remaining positions, likely four, in the squad. It may be that any of Arnold, Darcy Swain, Jed Holloway, Matt Philip and Cadeyrn Neville all prove to be better options to face England, and Frost heads off to Japan later this year as a result. But the Brumbies lock has already come on from last season and a few quiet words of further encouragement from the Wallabies staff can’t hurt, particularly forwards boss and Brumbies coach Dan McKellar who can be in his ear constantly. The message then for Reds duo Angus Blyth and Ryan Smith? Take your game to another level and demand selection.
– Sam Bruce
The addition of Fijiana in Super W is doing more harm than good
Not real. The Fijiana Drua have been spectacular since their introduction into the Super W competition this year. So far they’ve made easy work of their opposition, with the Queensland Reds the only team to keep them to under 30 points, while they’ve scored over 130 points in their first three matches, and conceded less than 35. It could be said the Fijiana have an unfair advantage over their competition, as they’re essentially a Test team playing in a provincial competition, however, their addition to the competition gives the Australian franchises one extra game and gives their players added exposure to some of the top flight players they’ll be facing if they’re to represent the Wallaroos. Teams in the Super W competition have been improving steadily, especially the Western Force, Melbourne Rebels and Brumbies, and the inclusion of Fijiana, while at the moment means blowout scores, should in the long run help Australia’s players improve rapidly, both domestically and internationally.
– Brittany Mitchell
France are the team to beat at next year’s World Cup
Real. Oh you better believe that’s the truth. At last, Les Bleus are capitalising on their rich talent streams; their Six Nations Grand Slam triumph proof that they will be incredibly hard to beat on home soil next year. Over the last six months they have beaten seven of the world’s top 10 rugby nations, and will have the chance to add the Wallabies and Springboks to that list later this year. They say a measure of a quality team is how many players from that side would be included in a World XV. Looking at France’s line-up, there could be as many as six or seven. As well as the game’s standout player right now, skipper Antoine Dupont, you could argue that each of Gregory Aldritt, Paul Willemse, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille, Romain Ntamack and Gael Fickou could all mount a case to be deemed world’s best in their respective positions. But what makes this current group of France players different is that they have shown they can overcome adversity, and aren’t prone to complete mental disintegration like so many of their predecessors. They had several excellent try-scoring opportunities early on against England – most notably Fickou’s dropped ball as he ran through a yawning gap – yet Fabien Galthie’s side settled and were never seriously headed thereafter. They also conceded just seven tries across their five Six Nations matches, defence coach Shaun Edwards clearly having an impact just as he did with Wales. This team will only get better over the next 18 months and, crucially, they have significant depth to cover injuries that will inevitably hit their squad at some point. They will never have a better chance to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.
– Sam Bruce