'The boys really backed themselves' – Aaron Mauger thrilled with Highlanders' attack

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger is pleased with his side's attack, following their season opening 41-34 win over the Blues in Dunedin last night.

In his first Super Rugby match in charge of the Highlanders, Mauger's side were fluid in attack, outscoring the Blues and their potent backline to claim their season opener.

Speaking after the match, Mauger spoke about his pride in his team following their win.

"I think the attack was good," he said.

"The boys really backed themselves with the pictures they were seeing."

"We hadn't seen too much of the Blues, obviously being the first game we had a bit of pre-season footage - I thought the guys in the moment called the right plays and executed. It's always nice to score 41 points first up."

The Highlanders were on fire in the 41-34 win over the Blues last night. Source: 1 NEWS




Ireland legend hails NZ's rugby approach - 'I had no idea of their way of coaching'

Former Ireland first-five and current Crusaders assistant coach Ronan O'Gara has spoken about the superiority of coaching in New Zealand, having helped the Christchurch franchise to a second straight Super Rugby title.

O'Gara, 41, joined the Crusaders at the beginning of 2018, with his impact quickly noticed by fans as first-five Richie Mo'unga's performances showed the impact of the 128-Test veteran's influence.

Speaking to The Telegraph, O'Gara was full of praise towards the impact New Zealand rugby has had on him as a coach.

"The positivity of rugby in New Zealand has rubbed off on me," he says.

"It has changed me massively. It is intense but fascinating. I had no idea of their way of coaching. I was of the model of telling players. They don't believe in that."

"Their mantra is, 'Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.'

"New Zealanders are humble and they practise skills, running, passing. Simple things to say but complex actions on the field. But the players there come in every day with this desire to get better, every day."

O'Gara also went on to confidently assert that the All Blacks could be beaten, however victory on a consistent basis against the defending world champions is another proposition entirely.

"Of course, the All Blacks can be beaten. But consistently beaten? I don't know about that, I don't think the natural talent is any better than what we have here."

"One thing you know, though, is that the All Blacks will perform. It is up to the other nations to perform, too."

Ronan O'Gara Assistant Coach of the Crusaders  during the Super Rugby match, Crusaders V Hurricanes, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand, 25th May 2018.Copyright photo: John Davidson / www.photosport.nz
Ronan O'Gara. Source: Photosport

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'He's keen for it' - Michael Cheika backing Israel Folau's switch to wing

Israel Folau has been named to make his Wallabies return against Argentina - but not in his usual position.

Instead, coach Michael Cheika starts Folau on the right wing for tonight's Rugby Championship clash on the Gold Coast, meaning the in-form Dane Haylett-Petty will remain at fullback.

Folau hasn't started a Test match on the wing since the 2013 Bledisloe Cup, having worn the No.15 jersey for his past 61 consecutive international appearances.

It's another selection curve ball from Cheika as he seeks to restore more potency to Australia's attack after a lean return in terms of points scored across their six outings so far this year.

Cheika still thinks Folau's best position is at fullback but said Haylett-Petty deserved to remain in the No.15 jersey, and Folau had responded well to the call.

"He's keen for it ... no-one volunteers and tells the coach where they're going to play. It's not like (reality television show) X Factor, they can't vote on it," Cheika said.

"He's just keen and excited to be back playing."

Star flanker David Pocock has also been earmarked for a return to the starting side after missing last week's win over the Springboks.

Cheika is adamant both Pocock (neck) and Folau (ankle) are fit to play after both were included in his original team to face South Africa only to drop out later.

Adam Coleman, who was also scratched from the Wallabies team on match-day to be with his pregnant partner Tonia, has been named on the bench with Izack Rodda to start alongside Rory Arnold in the second row.

Meanwhile, veteran prop Sekope Kepu has returned to the 23-man squad after surprisingly missing selection last week to replace Tom Robertson.

Cheika has resisted calls to start Taniela Tupou despite his match-turning performance off the bench against the Springboks.

Argentina comfortably beat South Africa at home last month before a spirited showing ended in a 46-24 loss to New Zealand last weekend.

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Michael Hooper (right) captains Israel Folau at the Waratahs and Wallabies. Source: Photosport


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Neck problems to plague the rest of David Pocock's career

David Pocock admits he may have to manage his war-torn neck for the rest of his career as he prepares to make his Wallabies return as captain.

The flanker will step in for injured skipper Michael Hooper (hamstring) against Argentina on the Gold Coast tonight after missing last week's defeat of South Africa.

The injury is a result of Pocock's dominance at the breakdown, with opponents pulling and twisting at his neck in an attempt to remove him from is position over the ball.

World Rugby maintains a strong stance on issues such as high tackles, dangerous play and intentional knockdowns but no action has been taken to penalise any illegal neck-rolling that has led to Pocock's discomfort this year.

While confident he has proved his fitness to clash with Los Pumas, Pocock admits he will need to sit down next week and establish some long-term safeguards.

"It's something I'll have to talk to medical staff about and have a bit of a plan," he said.

"I've got through enough contact (at training this week) to give me the confidence to play and that's the focus at the moment."

Argentina boast an imposing forward pack but coach Mario Ledesma, who built his resume as the Wallabies' forwards coach for three years, won't resort to illegal tactics to stop Australia's pilfering master.

"Trying to be before him, beat him to the ruck," Ledesma said when asked how to counter Pocock.

"But everybody tries and not everyone succeeds."

Argentina carry plenty of zip in their backline, too, and could be hard to handle at what is expected to be a fast Cbus Super Stadium surface perfect for free-flowing rugby.

Factoring in Israel Folau's aerial threat, Ledesma says his biggest focus has been preparing for the Wallabies' first-phase play.

Both sides boast a 1-2 record in the Rugby Championship with the victor set to move into outright second if New Zealand beat South Africa.

Australia are aiming for back-to-back wins while the visitors were plucky in a loss to New Zealand last week that followed a comfortable defeat of the Springboks on home soil.

Australia's David Pocock, left, catches the ball as teammate Sekope Kepu looks on.
Australia's David Pocock, left, catches the ball as teammate Sekope Kepu looks on. Source: Associated Press


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