‘I thought someone was taking the p—‘: Ikitau’s classic response to meteoric Wallabies rise

Australia’s rookie star Len Ikitau has revealed his first thought when Dave Rennie messaged him last year to invite him into the Wallabies camp. “I thought someone was taking the piss and lying,” the 22-year-old said on Tuesday after it was revealed he had re-signed with the Brumbies and Wallabies until after the 2023 World […]

‘I thought someone was taking the p—‘: Ikitau’s classic response to meteoric Wallabies rise

Australia’s rookie star Len Ikitau has revealed his first thought when Dave Rennie messaged him last year to invite him into the Wallabies camp.

“I thought someone was taking the piss and lying,” the 22-year-old said on Tuesday after it was revealed he had re-signed with the Brumbies and Wallabies until after the 2023 World Cup.

Ikitau made his international debut against France this season and has played every game in the centres during The Rugby Championship.

His excellent campaign was capped with a try double in the Wallabies 30-17 win over South Africa in his hometown Brisbane on Saturday night.

(Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

“I scored two tries, but they were team tries I guess, I was in the right place,” Ikitau said. “I feel like I’m just trying to get better each week and improve my game.”

Ikitau started all games of the Brumbies Super Rugby games at No.13 this year scoring six tries including a match winner against the Hurricanes.

He was picked as a bolter in Rennie’s first Wallabies squad last year after less than 80 minutes of Super Rugby.

It was, he admits, a huge transition and one he struggled with last year.

“When I was in the squad, I was too shy or didn’t want to speak to anyone, kept to myself and I guess a year later it’s different, I’m much more confident in myself and my ability so I’m just happy to be in the squad again,” he said.

There has been plenty of change in the Wallabies centres with Hunter Paisami, Matt Toomua and Samu having spent time there, along with Ikitau having to fit alongside two fifferent No.10s in Quade Cooper and Noah Lolesio.

“It’s been good having Quade there and [James O’Connor] now,” he said. “They’re experienced, they’ve done it all in the game. And that was good to learn from them and keep learning.”

Ikitau sat beside former Brisbane Boys College schoolmate Darcy Swain at Tuesday’s press conference in Townsville.

“He had a big left foot step and two massive shoulders,” Swain said when asked about his early impressions of Ikitau.

“I remember he came out of school for his first session down in Vikings and the man was benching 140 for eight, it was ridiculous for an 18-year-old, I can’t even do 120kgs for one now.

“He’s a big unit so his physicality, he’s one of the most physical centres in the game, and on top of that he’s elusive with great skills and he’s always had that from a young age, he’s just gotten better.”

Ikitau gave thanks to his teammate for helping through his early shyness.

“There was a couple of times I just wanted to go home and he kind of stopped me from doing that, so I’m just thankful for having Darcy there,” Ikitau said.

Swain meanwhile revealed a Wallabies commitment to “project themselves” as force to be reckoned with ahead of the 2023 World Cup.

“At the start of camp we pitched the idea of the World Cup in two years,” Swain said. “Not knowing who will be there but, regardless, it’s about what we can do now for the team in order to project ourselves to where we want to be in a couple of years time.

“Every week is important. It’s building momentum now. And making sure that we play the right type of footy and give ourselves confidence that we can build and build and build towards that.

“The last two games were great wins but they count for nothing if we don’t back it up.”

He said Argentina are a great side despite losing all four matches so far in TRC.

“We know they play with a lot of physicality and a lot of passion,” said Swain.

“We’ll give them the same respect as we give South Africa and New Zealand. Knowing, that there’s going to be threats and at the same time opportunities, we’re going to have to be good both sides of the ball.”

The Wallabies are on a high after the Springboks double but Swain said “from a team perspective, that that means bugger all if we don’t go out there and do it again.

“No one will remember winning two games against South Africa, everyone will remember us losing against Argentina.

“We’ve got to be we’ve got to be just as good if not better this week against the passionate Argentina.”

Source : The Roar More   

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‘What the Boks can learn from Shane Warne’: Fans dissect SA rugby’s predicament

The 100th Test between the ascendant All Blacks and the slipping Springboks is just around the corner. I was tired of talking to the same people about the same things in the same way. I was tired of my own thoughts. So, I had an hourlong chat with two grassroots rugby experts from the Cape. […]

‘What the Boks can learn from Shane Warne’:  Fans dissect SA rugby’s predicament

The 100th Test between the ascendant All Blacks and the slipping Springboks is just around the corner.

I was tired of talking to the same people about the same things in the same way. I was tired of my own thoughts.

So, I had an hourlong chat with two grassroots rugby experts from the Cape. Uncle Basil, an old school coach, and a straight-talking salt-and-vinegar woman named Verity.

What ails the Boks? What is the fix? Where is the most pressing problem? Do we have a chance? Where did it all start to go wrong?

Uncle Basil is a careful man, who makes a plan. He coached at schools and provincial level, and a couple of his players have gone all the way. So, he does not favour an easy breezy Bok system.

“When a player plays, he enjoys it because all the systems are working. A team has fun when things are going according to plan. But in the game, there can be a dip, and then it goes the other way. It see-saws. When players don’t believe in the system, they can just think ‘ag, this game is over.’ Then a coach needs to lift the players or find the right captain to lift the players.”

(Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

He is also fine with the blindside Bok attack: “The blindside is the place to attack because the defensive coaches will have their slowest players on that side. Change back and attack the blindside to find the bigger forwards to allow your smaller players to find the holes.”

But Verity points out the blindside has become too predictable: “They don’t want to be enterprising. Something innovative. Make the other team wonder: what the heck did the Boks just do? We don’t take enough risks. We don’t believe we have the flair.”

Uncle Basil had to agree with that: “Just passing to Damian de Allende, to bend his head and cause a ruck in the middle of the field, and play three phases, or kick on first phase. This is predictable. We never play from first phase.”

So, why did it work in the World Cup?

Verity points out: “The way we played was successful in a tournament. But after that one tournament, it is not sustainable. The World Cup was an event. We won that event. But now we have to move on.”

But is there time to avoid a hiding? Uncle Basil isn’t sure: “Anyone can change. But to change in a week is a difficult thing.”

He thinks of the Wallabies as the canary in the gold mine: “Australia always shows us the flaws in our rugby.”

On that we all agreed.

Verity likes the Wallabies’ and All Blacks’ willingness to throw new players into the mix, and goes outside rugby to make her point.

“We should use the younger guys,” she says. “Give them an opportunity to play against everybody. Look at what Australia did in cricket? Why was Shane Warne so good? They let him play as a young guy. He played against every single nation.

“So, in the World Cups, he totally mesmerized them. He was a spinner. He was the main destroyer. Because he had the opportunity for four years. The All Blacks have a core of the older, but the new ones are just as good. They can replace them, and they all do the job. You need to take a risk.”

She also loves the post-try ritual used by the Wallabies: “Every time after Australia scored, they had a little huddle. They all came together. A moment. I would like to hear what they say. Is it, can we do something different?” In contrast, she says, Boks high five after a try.

The other proposition upon which we al nodded our heads is the true status of Jacques Nienaber. Uncle Basil put it like this:

“Jacques was always the assistant coach. The defensive coach. And he was very good. He was put there because Rassie was there. They went to Munster together. Jacques just stepped in as the Springbok coach. There are other coaches can do a better job.”

Verity thinks “The players see Jacques as the guy implementing what he is told to do. He is the second person. He can always say it was from Rassie. Maybe he’s not really the coach.”

There was also a sad concurrence that Willie le Roux is past it.

Uncle Basil: “When you see Willie running with the ball now, you see a guy who doesn’t know what to do with the ball. He’s good with the high ball, but that’s not enough, now. Unfortunately, that is what is happening now with Willie.”

Verity pointed out the awful timing of Willie’s passes: either too early or too late.

Both bemoaned Faf de Klerk’s mental discipline, but neither would endorse a lack of fitness theory. “I think we have a mental problem,” said Verity. “They are fit as they can be. It’s mental. They just waiting for the All Blacks.”

Neither would rule out a famous Bok victory in Townsville.

“The braais are going to be high this weekend,” notes Verity. “We are still the champions.”

But her cautionary caveat: ““After the 50th minute, if you haven’t caught up to the All Blacks, they will slay you. You are gone. They will annihilate you.”

Uncle Basil’s sober voice: “If you want to beat the All Blacks, you have to score three or four tries. But we are relying on opponents making mistakes. When we are more than seven points behind, our players start losing interest or trying too hard.

“Maybe it’s a mental thing and you are 60 minutes into the match and you start to lose rucks or lineouts, you get this mental fatigue.”

We tried to agree on a 9-10-15 and bench selection pattern to front the All Blacks.

By 2-1, we settled on Cobus Reinach to start, for his change of pace. Verity’s dissent was for Herschel Jantjies.

At flyhalf, Uncle Basil pointed out: “Johan Goosen is putting up his hand for selection. We need a playmaker. Someone to put de Allende into space.” But we had no agreement; which is basically where the Bok coaches are, and so they stick with Handre Pollard.

At fullback, Willie only got one vote (Uncle Basil).

On the bench, Uncle Basil spoke for all of us: “This idea of a Bomb Squad was only good for the World Cup. But we need another backline player. We have a strong pack of forwards. It’s ok. We need more playmakers.”

So, there it is. A focus group.

Solutions: keep the pack, bring speed to the nine and fifteen, and stop calling our bench a bomb squad and stop pretending Nienaber is head coach. Have a few proper playmakers on the bench. Instill something new. Keep thinking on the field. And lift for the All Blacks.

Is anyone listening?

Source : The Roar More   

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