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Ireland Will Take on the All Blacks & Wallabies in Autumn Series

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All Blacks & Wallabies playing rugby

Ireland dominated this year’s Six Nations competition, claiming their 16th title. They won four out of five games, with their sole loss coming against England by the slimmest of margins, 22-23. 

While Ireland proved they’re the best team in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re yet to find out how they stack up against the Southern Hemisphere sides. That’s all about to change in autumn when New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and Fiji all gear up for a shot against the Six Nations champions.

All of the games will be played in Dublin at the Aviva Stadium. The first clash will be against the All Blacks on November 8, followed by a showdown against Argentina on November 15. Then, the Flying Fijians will attempt to storm Dublin on November 23. In the final match of the series, the Wallabies will be looking to make up for their poor World Cup showing and will play Ireland on November 30.

This a grueling schedule as Ireland will take on four world-class teams in one month. The notable exception from the Southern Hemisphere teams is the Springboks. Ireland is traveling to South Africa in July for a two-test series.

Pundits Tip Ireland to Beat the All Blacks

New Zealand broke Ireland’s World Cup dreams in the quarterfinals, defeating them 28-24. The Men in Green are keen to get revenge, and this time, they’ll have home-field advantage. History is not on Ireland’s side, having beaten New Zealand just five times while the All Blacks have racked up 31 victories.

Dublin hasn’t been much of a fortress for the Shamrocks. 18 matches have been played in the Emerald Isle, Ireland has won two games, New Zealand has won 15, and one match ended in a draw. However, trends are meant to be broken, and the All Blacks have looked human in recent years, losing a lot more frequently than usual.

If Ireland is going to beat the All Blacks, they need to take their attacking opportunities with both hands. While New Zealand are unbelievable in attack, at times, they get lazy in defense. Unlike other teams, they give teams a lot of time on the ball and the space to run.

Ireland will need to take advantage of this space to consistently gain ground. Then, when the moment is right, spin the ball wide and look to make a line break. Ireland will no doubt find chinks in the All Black’s armor, but the question remains if they then turn these opportunities into points.

Ireland Should Be Too Strong for Argentina and Fiji

Argentina are no pushovers, but the South American team doesn’t travel well. In fact, they’ve never beaten Ireland in Ireland despite having 10 cracks at the Shamrocks. It’d be a major upset if the Pumas can down Ireland in Dublin. 

However, you can’t completely write off Argentina. The Pumas have defeated Ireland six times, three times in Argentina and three times at a neutral venue. The secret to Ireland’s victory will be punishing Argentina during set pieces, controlling the ball, and well-placed kicks for touch.

Fiji hasn’t fared well against Ireland in the past, losing all seven encounters. The Fijians will struggle to compete with Ireland for the full 80 minutes, but don’t be surprised if they score a few exciting tries. Ireland needs to take advantage of lazy defenders and Fiji’s weak scrum. This game has the potential to be a blowout and be over before half-time.

The Wallabies Are an Interesting Challenge

The Wallabies were dreadful at the 2023 Rugby Union World Cup, being eliminated prior to the knockout stage. Australia is still in the rebuilding phase, and they have a lot of young and untested players. 

Ireland will be the clear favorite, but Australia is catching Ireland at the end of the series. The fresh Aussies have a solid chance to cause an upset. The Wallabies have a winning record against Ireland, winning 22 of 37 matches. Of the games played in Ireland, Australia has won 11, while Ireland has only tasted victory on eight occasions.

Despite Australia’s impressive record against Ireland, the Men in Green should still get the job done. In fact, we’re backing Ireland to complete a clean sweep of the autumn series and send all of the Southern Hemisphere teams back home nursing losses!

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Rugby Union

The Six Nations Is Likely Planning to Expand

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Australia vs Georgia at Rugby World Cup

Who wouldn’t love to see the Springboks and their rampaging forward packs plow into the English Twickenham or take on the Welsh in front of 70,000+ singing fans at Millennium Stadium? Former Wales and British & Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton isn’t fond of the idea.

Warburton thinks the Six Nations should be reserved for European teams. He thinks it’s too random to add South Africa to the competition. What’s next? You add New Zealand and Australia, and then you basically have the Rugby World Cup instead of a unique competition.

While Warburton thinks adding South Africa to the Six Nations is a step too far, he’s in favor of adding more teams to the competition. The Welsh flanker believes Georgia is the perfect addition to the tournament. 

Georgia Is Banging on the Door Demanding Entry to the Six Nations

Georgia has been campaigning for years to secure a spot in the Six Nations; until now, their requests have fallen on deaf ears. However, as the level of rugby in the Caucasus nation continues to increase, more and more fans want to see the Lelos competing with the big boys.

Currently, Georgia plays in the second-tier version of the Six Nations, the Rugby Europe Championship. The Lelos have been extremely dominant in this tournament, which features the likes of Poland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Romania. 

Georgia has won the tournament seven times, including in 2024. During this year’s tournament, they went undefeated and were rarely challenged. The Lelos definitely have the skills to compete in the Six Nations. While they would be massive underdogs to win the tournament, they definitely could eke out a win or two against the lesser-ranked teams. 

Georgia Is Rugby Mad Country

When most people hear of Georgia, they immediately think of the state in America, not the tiny nation of 3.7 million people located on Russia’s southern border. However, its proud rugby team is trying to change that.

Georgia can trace its love of rugby back to ancient times when a game called Lelo Burti was invented. The rules are simple: carry a ball across a certain line by any means necessary. The game is known for being extremely violent and would pit tough mountain villagers against each other. From this folk game is where the Georgia rugby team takes its nickname, the Lelos. 

However, Georgia’s passion for the modern sport of rugby is largely thanks to billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune thanks to iron ore producers, steel plants, banks, and real estate. Ivanishvili is a rugby fanatic who has spent millions of dollars on building training facilities, hiring coaches, and paying players. His goal is to one day see Georgia in the Rugby World Cup.

Georgia Rugby has a $17.5 million annual budget, and the team is filled with full-time professional players. The level will only increase as the next generation, coming through Ivanishvili’s academy system, debuts for the national side.

What About South Africa?

It may seem like an odd choice to add South Africa to a European rugby tournament, however, South African club teams are already playing in European competitions. Teams like the Lions, Cheetahs, Stormers, and Bulls compete in the United Rugby Championship, the Champions and Challenge Cups. Would it really be such a big step to add the Springboks to the Six Nations?

South Africa is the reigning Rugby World Cup champion and, year in and year out, field incredibly strong sides. No doubt that all teams in the Six Nations would benefit from playing against another world-class team. However, something feels wrong about overhauling the European nature of the competition. By adding South Africa, it feels like the Six Nations will be turned into a mini World Cup. It’d be a shame to lose the European heritage of the tournament.

At the moment, there’s been no official word from the Six Nations’ organizers on adding a seventh team but it seems inevitable. Both Georgia and South Africa would add a unique element to the tournament. To maintain the Six Nations as a European competition to help the growth of the game it makes sense to include Georgia in the next tournament.

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Rugby Union

South Africa’s Absence Leaves a Big Hole in Super Rugby Competition

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South Africa vs New Zealand Rugby Union World Cup 2023 featuring Jordie Barrett, Scott Barrett, and Pieter-Steph du Toit

South African rugby teams dumped Super Rugby in 2021 and switched to the United Rugby Championship, where they now compete against the best clubs in Europe. Without the presence of the South African clubs, the standard of the Super Rugby competition has taken a nosedive.

Jordie Barrett believes that the level of New Zealand rugby is also suffering because players don’t get to compete against Springboks until they’re selected for the All Blacks. Going from playing against the Waratahs or Moana Pasifika to then finding yourself battling giant South African forwards is a massive step up in competition. 

Barrett is convinced that competing against South African professional teams known for their passion and hard-nosed style of play is the best preparation for test rugby. He said that playing against South African teams in Johannesburg and other cities played a crucial role in his development and that the South Africans always have big physical forward packs that put a lot of pressure on you.

Barrett’s Concerns

Barrett believes that up-and-coming New Zealand players are missing a crucial step in their development. Professional players need to slowly increase their level of competition so they can adequately adjust. If talented players go straight from club rugby to playing test matches, the results can be disastrous. Just look at what happened to the Wallabies at the World Cup after Eddie Jones picked a very inexperienced side.

The 27-year-old All Black also misses the touring aspect of going to South Africa, saying, “To be able to go to South Africa and play against the South African sides on a two or three-week tour, they were the best times of your life almost, and we miss going to South Africa, for sure.”

What Happened to Super Rugby?

Super Rugby used to be the pinnacle of club rugby and was the best competition in the world. It started way back in 1996 with 12 teams hailing from New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia. The teams were littered with All Blacks, Springboks, and Wallabies. Week in and week out, young professional rugby players could test their mettle against living legends. 

The problems started in the 2000s when the league was hell-bent on expanding. Soon, there were five teams from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, which seriously reduced the quality of play because the countries just didn’t have the depth to field the teams. 

Also, many of the top players were being lured to Europe on massive contracts that the Super Rugby teams were unable to match. The competition hit rock bottom when it nearly went under during the global pandemic, and the South African teams decided to ditch Super Rugby entirely.

Now, there are five Australian teams, five New Zealand teams, and two Pacific Island teams. The quality of Australian rugby is at an all-time low. The Pacific teams are still in the development stage, so the competition is dominated by New Zealand clubs.

What Does the Future of Super Rugby Look Like?

Unfortunately, the future of Super Rugby looks grim. Rugby Union continues to decline in popularity in Australia after years of failing to advertise the game to new markets. The sport only has a following in Queensland and New South Wales, which is dwindling.

Recently, the only professional rugby team in Victoria, the Melbourne Rebels, went bankrupt and looks unlikely to play next season. Also, the Western Force based in Perth is losing money and can’t draw a crowd. 

As the quality of Australian rugby declines, Super Rugby is going to be more and more dominated by New Zealand teams. It won’t be long before it’s basically a domestic competition. Expect to see the most talented players from New Zealand and Australia head overseas to play in European competitions, where the level is much higher, and they can command million-dollar contracts.

Super Rugby is on a serious decline. The competition needs a miracle to return to its former glory. Unfortunately, the South African teams aren’t coming back, and Australian rugby continues to decline. Over the long haul, this could really hurt the development of the next generation of All Blacks, who will be thrown into the deep end of test rugby without the proper preparation that South African club teams provided.

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Rugby Union

Melbourne Rebels Refuse to Let Financial Woes Ruin the Season

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Rugby Union Field at Sunset

Professional rugby union is in a poor financial situation in Australia due to declining interest, which has seen crowds and viewing numbers tumble. Super Rugby teams are struggling to attract sponsors and generate revenue, so it wasn’t a massive surprise to see the Melbourne Rebels enter voluntary administration one month before the Super Rugby season was set to kick off. However, what shocked fans was the fact that the Rebels have continued to play throughout the season despite the club’s serious financial problems.

The Melbourne Rebels is believed to be $15 million in debt. Rugby Australia (RA) has stepped in to foot the bill for this Super Rugby season, but the club’s future remains in doubt. Without support from Rugby Australia, the club will fold. Amazingly, the CEO of the Melbourne Rebels revealed that the club had just $17,000 in its bank accounts and advised staff members to seek government handouts as the club had no means to make payroll.

Rugby Australia and Melbourne Rebels in a Court Battle

Phil Waugh, the head of Rugby Australia, said, “RA is committed to ensuring the Melbourne Rebels play in the 2024 Super Rugby competitions, and we’ll support their preparation for the new season.”

However, Rugby Australia refused to make any decisions about the future of the club and if they’d be around for the 2025 season. Waugh said, “As custodians of the game, we are determined to ensure that RA is making responsible decisions for a sustainable and successful future — we’ll work with the Rebels and the relevant stakeholders to that end.”

Following his statements, Rugby Australia sought to liquidate the club. However, the Melbourne Rebels took Rugby Australia to court, claiming they’re owed millions of dollars’ worth of funding, which was withheld. The Rebels believe Rugby Australia owes the club $8 million, which Waugh and Rugby Australia have strongly denied.

The directors of the Melbourne Rebels blame a $1.5 million reduction in funding combined with a Rugby World Cup budget blowout for the debt spiral. The club’s former chairman, Paul Docherty, who gave the club $100,000 per year via sponsorship deals, is also in financial strife. Many of his companies have been liquidated after owing $50 million.

The Melbourne Rebels Continue Playing

In the first game of the Super Rugby season, the Melbourne Rebels lined up against the ACT Brumbies. The Rebels were resoundingly thumped as they failed to score a single try and lost 3-30. The poor performance on the pitch mirrored their woeful financial situation. 

The loss was described as humiliating and just added salt to the club’s wounds. The Brumbies looked in fantastic form, scoring four tries, with Charlie Cale and Corey Toole both bagging a double. The Brumbies five-eighth Noah Lolesio managed the game well, directing ACT’s attack. He’s fresh back from a stint with Toulon in France and appears to have leveled up his game.

Despite struggling against the Brumbies in their opening Super Rugby game, the Rebels managed to redeem themselves with a gutsy win over the Western Force. The Force looked to have won the game after Michael Wells scored in the corner, giving the team a 34-19 lead. However, the Rebels had other ideas, as they scored 29 unanswered points to win the game. The Rebels’ fullback, Andrew Kellaway, had an incredible game, scoring two crucial tries.

The Western Force, who are now winless in their 2024 Super Rugby campaign, will be looking to bounce back when they take on the Brumbies. We hope they’re working overtime on their defense, as in just two games, the Force already has a -44 points difference.

What Will Happen to the Melbourne Rebels Next Year?

The Melbourne Rebels will likely shut down after the 2024 Super Rugby season. The debts are way too high, and they have no way of paying back the $15 million owed. Rugby Australia also has no intention of bailing the club out past 2024. 

The best thing the Melbourne Rebels can hope for is a merger with Moana Pasifika, but that also looks like a long shot. Unfortunately, it looks like Melbourne will lose its only professional rugby union team. The demand for a professional rugby team in Australia’s second biggest simply isn’t there as AFL continues to reign supreme.

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