Super Rugby preview: Crusaders stacked with returning All Blacks against Highlanders, Hurricanes to add more misery for Blues

All five Kiwi teams battle it out this weekend in round 18 of Super Rugby, 1 NEWS NOW's rugby expert Campbell Burnes breaks down this weekend's action.

Crusaders v Highlanders: Crusaders by 12

The Highlanders will be in severe trouble if they again miss 45 tackles. As it is, they will be in severe trouble anyway as the Crusaders have loaded up with 11 All Blacks in their starting XV. Three All Blacks cannot even make the 23. Then there is the return of Kieran Read after eight months away from top footy, while the venue is renamed Wyatt Crockett Stadium in hour of the astonishing 200-match milestone for the popular prop. It just doesn’t seem possible for the Highlanders to win… does it?

Liam Messam.
Chiefs v Jaguares, Super Rugby, Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua, New Zealand on the 4th May 2018. Copyright Photo: Jeremy Ward / www.photosport.nz
Liam Messam Source: Photosport

Chiefs v Brumbies: Chiefs by 15

The Brumbies tackle well but are limited with their attack (lineout drive anyone?), whereas the Chiefs tackle well and have all sorts of attacking X-factor. I like the Sam Cane v David Pocock match-up, but I am keen to see if Chiefs fullback Solomon Alaimalo has as much room to run free as he received in Suva. There is little to suggest the Brumbies will become the second Australian side to win on NZ soil in 2018.

Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes on the charge against Stephen Perofeta of the Blues. Super Rugby match, Blues v Hurricanes at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. 11 May 2018 © Copyright Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung / www.photosport.nz
Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes on the charge against Stephen Perofeta of the Blues. Source: Photosport

Hurricanes v Blues: Hurricanes by 19

Beauden Barrett, Brad Shields and Vaea Fifita are back for the Hurricanes. Ben Lam is the shock omission from the starting XV as Chris Boyd seeks to drag his charges out of this malaise which has stymied their momentum a fortnight out from the playoffs. Shields raises the ton while his Blues counterpart Jerome Kaino suits up for the 138th time. Of more import is that Augustine Pulu is back to help keep TJ Perenara quiet, literally and figuratively, with James Parsons on the bench. That injection of experience will not be nearly enough for the Blues.

Crusaders' Jordan Taufua touches down, but the try is overturned during the Highlanders v Crusaders, Super Rugby Round 5, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. 17 March 2018. Copyright Image: Derek Morrison / www.photosport.nz
Jordan Taufua crosses for a try that would later be overturned. Source: Photosport



Average Joe to Olympian: How NZR's new initiative paves a path for sevens triallists to Tokyo Games

New Zealand Rugby says the new initiative it has launched today could see some undiscovered Kiwi talent head to the Tokyo Olympics as part of the World Champion All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens squads.

The Ignite Sevens was announced today which will see New Zealanders under the age of 23 able to trial for spots in the two sides.

NZR head of high performance Mike Anthony says the programme was designed to "encourage talented athletes from all sporting codes, regardless of rugby experience, to come forward and have a go at sevens".

"Our national Sevens teams compete at the highest level on the world stage and we want to be sure we are casting the net as wide as possible and tapping into the huge reservoir of athletic talent that exists across New Zealand."

Coming from a touch and hockey background Grace Steinmetz admits she is still getting used to contact. Source: 1 NEWS

People registered their interest earlier this year before NZR's high performance sevens coaches and trainers selected 96 players (48 men and 48 women) who will assemble in Auckland from 21 November to 24 November for a training camp and tournament.

The selected athletes will have their strength, speed, skill and agility measured before three days of training to start the camp.

Then, on the final day, players will be divided into four teams to play against each other in the inaugural Ignite7 tournament with three men and women selected by scouts to attend national development camps next year.

"The selected six players will be training alongside the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens in the New Year," Anthony said.

"It’s a massive opportunity that will give these players access to the full benefits of NZR’s high performance system and it effectively opens the door for selection into our two national Sevens teams."

After that, the chosen six can become full-fledged Sevens players in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan much like how Black Ferns Sevens players Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman did in 2016 after a similar programme.

High performance manager Tony Philp says the Ignite 7s could be a big break for untapped Kiwi talent. Source: 1 NEWS


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'I will be joining an elite Test team' - John Mitchell confirmed as new England defence coach

Former New Zealand head coach John Mitchell will be joining Eddie Jones' staff as England's defence coach until the end of next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Mitchell will leave his role of Executive of Rugby for South African Super Rugby side the Bulls and join up with former Wallabies boss Jones this month to help prepare for their upcoming run of internationals, including a clash against Australia on November 24 at Twickenham.

The 54-year-old replaces Paul Gustard, who took over as head coach of English premiership side Harlequins this season.

"This is an exciting opportunity to work with England Rugby and support Eddie Jones as head coach," Mitchell said.

"I will be joining an elite high-performance programme, test team and coaching group where I will use all my experience and focus to bring the necessary clarity and confidence to the players from a defensive perspective."

England's defence has come under intense scrutiny after a poor run of form in 2018 that has included five defeats in eight internationals.

Three of those losses came in the Six Nations as the defending champions finished a dismal fifth, and criticism has mounted in the wake of their 2-1 series defeat in South Africa.

The hope is that Mitchell's experience will aid an upturn in form. The New Zealander previously served as forwards coach to Clive Woodward when the latter was in charge of England between 1997 and 2000.

As head coach of the All Blacks, he won 23 of 28 tests and led the team to a third-place finish at the 2003 Rugby World Cup and consecutive Tri-Nations titles.

"Defence is a key pillar of our game and John is an experienced coach," said Australian Jones.

"He's coached the All Blacks, USA Rugby and a number of Super Rugby sides so he will bring a wealth of experience and add to the coaching mix we have here."


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'It's a great opportunity' - Canterbury law student dabbles in new NZ Rugby initiative, Ignite Sevens

Canterbury sevens player Grace Steinmetz only played the game last year in December and is now having a crack at making the national women’s team.

New Zealand Rugby has started a new initiative Ignite 7 which sees 48 female and 48 male athletes take part in a four day event on November 21.

Players will go through a field of testing before playing in a televised one day tournament to earmark new talent.

"Hadn't played rugby or sevens before, so come from a touch and hockey background," said Steinmetz.

The 20-year-old law student hopes to one day wear the Black Ferns women jumper as she tries out her hand in the Ignite 7 tournament.

"It is something I would love to do one day, I think it's a great opportunity for sevens now girls, it's professional and it can be your job now," she said.

"I don't have to worry about my law degree, like I can just go and train and be a professional athlete which is definitely a goal of mine."

Coming from a touch and hockey background Grace Steinmetz admits she is still getting used to contact. Source: 1 NEWS


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Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup tickets to go on sale, All Blacks fans urged to get in quick

All Blacks fans are urged to get in quick if they are to secure seats at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, with officials warning tickets will sell out fast one year out from the tournament.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the William Webb Ellis Cup after winning Rugby World Cup Final. New Zealand All Blacks v Australia Wallabies, Twickenham Stadium, London, England. Saturday 31 October 2015. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the William Webb Ellis Cup after winning Rugby World Cup Final. Source: Photosport

Half a million tickets have already been pre-sold with tickets set to be open for sale to the public at 1pm today (NZ time).

Head of the Rugby World Cup Alan Gilpin believes there will be an "unprecedented demand" for tickets which involves the home team, Japan's Brave Blossoms and the top tier nations.

"All the matches involving Japan, definitely all the matches involving New Zealand... England, Australia are experiencing high demand and we would expect they will be sold out very quickly," said Gilpin.

The All Blacks begin their title defence against the Springboks in Yokohama, the evening after the tournament opener between Japan and Russia in Tokyo on September 20, 2019.

Adult ticket prices are expected to range from ¥10,000 - ¥40,000 (NZD $136-$544) while tickets to the final on November 2 to cost anywhere between ¥25,000 - ¥100,000 (NZD $340-$1361).

"When you bring Rugby World Cup to a place like Japan, you hope that people will get behind it and the demand will be there – and it really has been," said Gilpin.

"It's a fantastic story for the event and a good message of confidence for the organising committee."