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Wallabies coach’s sly ‘Lebanon’ dig at league, Yeo cleared over concussion, Dolphins nab Titan

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has had a sly dig at rugby league’s international profile in response to a question about State of Origin.

Dave Rennie, a New Zealander, was asked if he watched the first Origin game and if there were any players he fancied bringing to rugby ahead of the 2023 World Cup.

While praising the spectacle, he managed a cheeky shot at the rival code.

“Every game you watch, you see some incredible players,” said Rennie. “There’s amazing depth in that sport in this country. And really it’s probably the only country that plays the game, almost.

“It’s not massive in New Zealand, it’s northern England, it’s barely played in France.

“You go to a World Cup and Australian guys play for Lebanon or the island teams and that sort of thing. So you’ve really got the best players in the world all playing in this competition.

“So yeah, a lot of great athletes and certainly guys who played rugby at high school and got lured into league, certainly guys we’d love to get back.”

Titan signs for Phins

Titans prop Jarrod Wallace has been announced as the next signing for the Dolphins in 2023, joining the club on a two-year deal.

Wallace, who has six Origin appearances for Queensland, has been one of the shining lights in a poor Titans team, including a rare hot streak of three tries in two games in recent weeks.

He is the latest addition to an experienced forward pack, with Jesse and Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi joining from Melbourne, Mark Nicholls from South Sydney and Ray Stone from Parramatta.

NRL clears Blues over Yeo concussion claims

The NRL has cleared the handling of Isaah Yeo’s head knock despite Queensland star Cameron Munster claiming it didn’t take rocket science to know the NSW lock should have left the field.

The fallout from Yeo’s series-opening tackle continued on Thursday, with NSW advisor Greg Alexander admitting he also thought the Blues star should have been taken off and the incident had affected the player.

In a brutal first hit, Yeo’s head appeared to make contact with Josh Papalii before he fell backwards and lost his balance in retreating to the line.

He was also assisted by Blues teammate Tariq Sims as he regathered stable footing, before resuming his place in defence.

Yeo was allowed to stay on the field, with the NRL’s independent doctor only wanting a category-three on-field check rather than requiring a 15-minute off-field check with a category two or ruling him out of the match with a category one.

Yeo insisted afterwards he was not concussed and said he had merely lost his balance on the slippery surface as he got up.

Munster claimed the incident was similar to the one that forced him to be ruled out of Game II in 2020 after two minutes, and was a bad look for the game.

“It wasn’t rocket science, you could see he wasn’t well,” Munster said.

“It makes me sick (to see it) but someone’s got to put their hand up and take responsibility for it, cause it’s not on.

“We’ve been speaking about it for years and years about the welfare of our players and our heads. You want to showcase that in the biggest game of the year.”

Isaah Yeo of the Blues is tackled during game one of the 2022 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 08, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Isaah Yeo of the Blues is tackled (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Under NRL protocols possible head knocks are spotted before an independent doctor in the bunker pores over replays from different angles.

Motor incoordination such as balance disturbance and clumsiness are considered as indicators that require a player to be checked.

“I know it’s an Origin game … but someone’s got to take a stand,” Munster said. “I didn’t want to go off (in 2020), I passed all my HIAs and everything, but because I stumbled and wasn’t right they pulled me.”

NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley said the incident had been assessed with the game’s chief medical officer and indicated the league was okay with the process.

“While there were indicators that could have supported a category-two assessment, the decision to have the team medical trainer conduct an on-field check did not reveal any signs that an off-field HIA was required,” Annesley said.

“This decision was supported after a further check by NSW medical officer, Nathan Gibbs, at halftime and again at fulltime, with the player not exhibiting any symptoms of concussion.”

While medical officials in the bunker had access to replays showing Yeo stumbling to the line, it has also emerged they were not shown to NSW officials on the sideline.

Yeo has a history with concussions, but was insistent after the Blues’ 16-10 loss he was not suffering side-effects of a head knock following the tackle. “I felt fine,” he said. “I remember everything, I’ve been knocked out and it definitely wasn’t that. I just lost a bit of balance.

“(It was) just the contact, I reeled out of it and I was just trying to get my footing to get back in the line.”

Cameron Munster Game 1 Origin

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Munster stays off beers amid Maroons celebrations

The beers were flowing in Queensland’s dressing rooms – but the man of the moment was happy to give them a miss.

Cameron Munster has credited a booze ban for his tremendous run of form that reached new heights in Wednesday’s upset State of Origin defeat of NSW in Sydney.

The man of the match terrorised the Blues’ defence and came up with a handful of clutch defensive plays in a 16-10 win, their first in Sydney since 2017.

The Melbourne Storm five-eighth says he hasn’t drunk alcohol since checking himself into for a four-week rehabilitation stint in the off-season to address drinking and gambling addictions. 

That drastic move came after the infamous Storm post-season white powder scandal almost cost him his NRL contract.

“It’s been easy, it doesn’t faze me … I haven’t had an urge or feel like I’m missing out,” he said of his first dry Origin camp.

“I’m still enjoying my life and the good times without it.

“Although when Alfie (Langer) gets a couple of drinks in him he wants his little buddy back .. but the boys respect that I want be to playing my best footy.”

The No.6 insists he isn’t sure how that happens, describing Wednesday’s carve up as a “little bit of madness”.

“I don’t know what I’m doing but .. I don’t think the defence does (either). It’s a nice trait to have,” he said. 

But, however it occurs, Munster said his new off-field discipline meant it’s happening more often than ever before.

“Not drinking, being fitter (means I’m) a little more present in games and training,” he said.

“Giving a lot more to the younger boys coming through, a bit more guidance, I’ve been getting a lot more kicks out of that.”

Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga said Munster was the most naturally talented player he’s shared a field with.

“I don’t know how he does it. I wouldn’t say a loose cannon, a controlled cannon,” he said of Munster’s game style.

“He’s off the piss and look at him, he’s reaping the rewards.”

Queensland now have the upper hand ahead of game two in Perth on July 26 and the luxury of a third game at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

Rookie coach Billy Slater proved his smarts with clever use of his bench, particularly after ankle injuries to winger Xavier Coates and backrower Jeremiah Nanai.

Nanai returned to the field but Coates is facing a stint on the sidelines, Slater acknowledging that extended squad members and North Queensland teammates Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi would be jostling to replace the Storm flyer in Perth.

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