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NRL’s ‘next level weapon’ is RA’s No.1 target, NZR boss backs Foster (for now), Eddie successor blow


Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has revealed Roosters NRL star Joseph Suaalii is top of union’s wish list as it looks to raid NRL ranks ahead of a home World Cup in 2027.

RA’s interest in the 18-year-old is well known, and McLennan also tipped Bulldog Matt Burton as a potential target last month.

“We were sad to lose Joseph to league, but there’s an incredible pathway through to the 2027 Rugby World Cup, if he and others want it,” McLennan said on Saturday

“We have to do the private equity deal, get some money in the bank, but yes, we absolutely will be targeting league stars.”

Suaalii is under contract for two more years at the Roosters but is believed to have a clause on his contract that allows him to consider external offers at the end of each season.

Wendell Sailor, who made the jump from league to union and played at the 2003 World Cup described a Suaalii raid as a “no brainer”.

“I have seen what he’s done this year for the Roosters and he is just a next level weapon,” Sailor said.

“He’ll play anywhere in that Wallabies backline … You could build a team around him and he could be there for a very long time in either code.

“But obviously, the Wallabies, we shouldn’t have lost to England this year but if you have someone like (Suaalii) in there, he’s your X-factor. You pay your money for your X-factors. He has proven himself already, he made the New South Wales Origin squad at the age of 18.”

NZR’s qualified backing for Foster

Embattled New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson has put his qualified support behind coach Ian Foster and attempted to fend off criticism of his organisation after copping serves from Steve Hansen and former CEO David Moffett.

“As we’ve signalled he’s certainly the person to lead the team to South Africa and we’re making sure that we’ve got everything possible in the way of resourcing and support to make sure that’s successful,” Robinson told NZ radio.

He would not be drawn into discussing around Foster’s hold on the job should he lose to the Springboks next month.

“I’m not going to speculate on things like that. We’re really focused and have spent time in the last 10 days primarily around focusing on our people internally when the sorts of things that have been going on with the speculation, and then making sure the team and then the management team have what they need to succeed.”

Robinson was also reluctant to go into detail on Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who this week admitted he was open to coaching a rival nation at the World Cup.

“We certainly understand the sentiment of our fans that’s been coming through loud and clear. We know Razor has a huge amount to offer the game in New Zealand in the future and we’ve obviously got a contract with him around that,” said Robinson.

“Commenting any further on that wouldn’t be appropriate.”

Robinson and NZ Rugby also came under fire when Hansen said the relationship between the players and the board and the executive as “the worst it’s ever been”.

“He’s someone I’ve known for a long time and I know he’s passionate about the game and New Zealand. He’s made a great contribution to it. I’ve certainly reached out to him and we’ll have a catch-up at some stage,” Robinson said.

“He said some things that I wouldn’t agree with and we’ll have that conversation. I know he’s also incredibly protective of Ian [Foster] and he’s protecting his mate too – and we all understand that.”

Robinson said he remained committed to the role and accepts that “there’s going to be criticism”.

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster before the Autumn Nations Series match between Ireland and New Zealand at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

“The organisation is on a really exciting and solid path at the moment. We’ve come through Covid and obviously some other things around more recently with the disappointment with the series that we’ve had to contend with, but behind the scenes we’re involved in some really exciting, constructive and positive stuff that I think can transform our game for the future.

“I’m really committed to that, I’m really privileged to be in the role, I love the role and being part of what we’re building at New Zealand Rugby in a really strong team.

“I came into the role knowing that eventually there would be situations like this where people have strong views around things like that. You have to learn to accept that don’t you. It’s no different than any of the key public leadership roles in New Zealand.”

Farrell extends with Ireland

Andy Farrell has signed a two-year contract extension to stay as Ireland head coach until 2025 in what is seen as a bid to head off interest from England.

Farrell, who lead the side to a series win in New Zealand, was seen as a potential successor to Eddie Jones after the 2023 World Cup, but has signed through to the end of 2025.

Farrell is an England dual international and considered an obvious choice post Jones.

“As a group we have made it clear that we are building towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and we have taken some decent strides in recent months,” said Farrell, 47.

“Ahead of the tour to New Zealand myself and performance director David Nucifora looked at the opportunities and challenges facing the national squad after the tournament in France.

“I am excited about continuing to work with the group and with the next generation of Irish international players.”

Farrell spent four years from 2011 as England’s defence coach under Jones’ predecessor Stuart Lancaster.

RFU rules on transgender players

England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Rugby Football League (RFL) will restrict transgender participation in the domestic game, with the governing bodies recommending that only players recorded as female at birth be allowed to play in the women’s category.

The RFU said last week that it began a review of its existing policy in 2020 with a survey that got over 11,000 responses.

It held extensive consultation, studied scientific evidence and sought guidance from other sporting bodies before voting on the policy amid safety and fairness concerns, with 33 in favour, 26 against and two abstaining.

“The RFU Council has determined that until such time as new further peer-reviewed science is available, a precautionary approach is appropriate to ensure fair competition and safety of all competitors,” it said in a statement on Friday.

The RFL board also approved its new gender participation policy, which will take effect next month and be reviewed by November 2024.

“For all contact Rugby League from Under-12s and above, there will be a female-only category, in which players will only be permitted to play in the gender category of the sex that was originally recorded at birth,” the RFL said.

“Non-contact Rugby League … and Wheelchair Rugby League remains mixed-gender and available for all without any gender-based eligibility criteria.”

World Rugby last year banned transgender players from competing at the elite level of the women’s game, citing safety concerns.

World Athletics and soccer’s world governing body FIFA are among a number of sports federations reviewing their guidelines on the involvement of transgender athletes following world swimming body FINA’s ruling to ban anyone who has been through male puberty from elite women’s competitions. read more

RFU president Jeff Blackett said many people would be disappointed by the decision but it was “based on all the scientific evidence available”.

The RFU added that it also considered the merits of a case-by-case assessment process but it was no longer a viable option due to the “difficulties in identifying a credible test to assess physiological variables”.

Trangender players whose sex recorded at birth is female may still play in the male category if they provide written consent and a risk assessment is carried out.





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