Rugby News: ‘Great news for Australian rugby’ – Wallabies welcome Schmidt, Jaco Peyper calls time on career, Shields aims for All Black jersey
Wallabies stars have reacted overwhelmingly positively to the appointment of Joe Schmidt to the head coach role, with the likes of Andrew Kellaway, Lalakai Foketi and Mark Nawaqanitawase looking forward to working with the new coach.
“It’s great news for Australian Rugby,” Foketi said to Nathan Williamson at Rugby.com.au.
“The boys were talking before about his history and what he’s done for Rugby in Ireland and he was with the All Blacks when they made the final in the World Cup.
“It’s great. I think this year is a massive change for Rugby in Australia. Everyone’s excited and it gives everyone a fresh start as well so that’s all we’ve been talking about.”
“It’s good to have someone with that success and I wish him all the best to bring that to us here in Rugby,” winger Mark Nawaqanitawase added.
“Hopefully he can help us change some things and be a bit more successful. We need to start with wins, especially against those Kiwis side and then hopefully all the Aussie sides are cracking and ready to take on the Kiwis and take it into the Test season.”
The positive reactions coincide with the first unveiling of a new snippet being released today from an upcoming World Cup documentary on Stan Sport, which Andrew Kellaway admitted will take fans behind the scenes and show what happened during Eddie Jones’ ill-fated campaign.
Taniela Tupou and Andrew Kellaway joined @TheTodayShow to give them an exclusive sneak peek at the upcoming Stan Original Documentary Series on the @Wallabies, coming soon, only on Stan. #WallabiesDoco #StanOriginals pic.twitter.com/f3LkmT2iCt
— Stan. (@StanAustralia) January 20, 2024
The Melbourne Rebels back echoed the sentiments of his fellow Wallaby co-stars.
“I think a new coach brings a whole host of things and for us after an interesting 12 months, it’s a breath of fresh air for us. It’s exciting,” Kellaway said to Weekend Today.
“Hopefully it pushes us in the right direction, because we’re not where we want to be at the moment…we’re all really disappointed with how the last 12 months shaped up for us.
“A new coach is a positive push in the right direction.”
Peyper calls time with the whistle
South African referee Jaco Peyper has officially announced his retirement from officiating.
Coming off the back of an Achilles tendon injury during the Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter-final between Wales and Argentina in Marseille, Peyper was subsequently ruled out for the upcoming Six Nations tournament due to his struggles recovering.
Instead of planning a return, the 43-year-old referee has admitted it’s time to call it a day, finishing as the sixth most-capped test referee in the history of the sport, taking the field with the field for 67 test matches.
Peyper was especially noted for his contributions to South African rugby and will finish as the third highest-capped referee from the Rainbow Nation, following Jonathan Kaplan and Craig Joubert.
“I literally grew up next to the rugby field as my dad was a coach, and later on I played and coached the game before I took up the opportunity to go into refereeing,” Peyper admitted to RugbyPass.
“There are always tough times at high-end refereeing, but since making my first-class debut 17 years ago rugby has only been good to me.
“It’s been a great journey, I have made many wonderful friends and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many fantastic places around the world.
“All things considered, now is perhaps the best time to step away from active refereeing to spend more time with my lovely wife and two beautiful daughters, as well as my growing business interests.
“There are many people I would like to thank and will do so personally, but I want to give a special word of thanks to the CEOs of SA Rugby for backing me, the support I’ve received from the High-Performance division, my fellow match officials and World Rugby management, and specifically the Springboks, whom I’ve worked with closely and who have helped me become a better referee.
“I’d love to say what a super opportunity refereeing is to be involved with the game you love, even though it’s perceived as such an unforgiving job – I have made friends in all rugby-playing countries and cultures and see some of the most awesome places whilst we called it work.
“Rugby is part of my life, and although I’m closing the door on active refereeing, I would love nothing more than to stay involved in this wonderful game and plough back after what it’s given me.”
Many figures in World Rugby have extended their thanks to Peyper, including chairman Sir Bill Beaumont and Word Rugby High-Performance 15s Match Officials Manager Joël Jutge.
“Jaco’s impressive career speaks for itself. Beyond the statistics, it was the consistently high level that he operated at over the last four-year cycle that is particularly impressive,” said Jutge.
“Beyond the field, his character was very evident, and I will never forget how, despite being desperately disappointed that his Rugby World Cup 2023 ended in injury, he unselfishly remained in camp, supporting the wider team, sharing his experience and lifting spirits. It was superb.
“On behalf of the World Rugby match officials management, I would like to say a massive thank you to Jaco and wish him and the family the very best for the future.”
Zach Mercer ‘done’ with English national representation after missing call-up
Gloucester loose forward Zach Mercer returned to English rugby with the hopes of making the England side for the 2023 Six Nations, only to miss out on the squad.
Speaking to the BBC, the two-capped-forward was also omitted from England’s World Cup squad, and criticised England’s coach Steve Borthwick as someone who does not “value what he can offer.”
“I’m older, more mature, I put the international selection aside now, I’m done for the time being with that and I’m just going to focus on Gloucester,” Mercer said.
Making Borthwick’s training squad ahead of the Six Nations, the 26-year-old recovered from an ankle injury and was hoping to return to the international sphere for the first time since 2018.
Having hoped to have done enough to make the cut, it alas was not the case.
“To come back and get given three weeks in a training camp and that was it, I was really disappointed with that,” Mercer said.
“I’ve been open with Steve, I’ve told him my opinions on it. I thought I haven’t really been given a crack which is what I feel like, to not even be given a game to try and prove myself is tough.
“I just don’t feel like he values what I can offer as a player and that’s me being honest, I don’t think he values what I can bring.
“Obviously I don’t fit into the system that he wants to run and, whether I agree with that or not, it is what it is.
“My focus now is on Gloucester and England can take a step aside for the moment.”
Brad Shields hopes to catch Razor’s attention and swap white for black
Following a short-term signing with Top 14 side Perpignan, ex-England back-row Brad Shields is hopeful he can break into the New Zealand picture for new coach Scott Robertson.
The 32-year-old has returned to New Zealand to sign for the Hurricanes and played for Wellington in the NPC. He hopes to play for his country of birth, which will see him in stiff competition with the likes of incumbent Scott Barrett.
“There’s always a desire to play at the next level, whatever that might look like,” the back-rower told RugbyPass.
“To get the opportunity to play international rugby again would be an absolute dream come true.”
Shields now qualifies for the All Blacks under World Rugby’s new eligibility laws, having last taken the field for England in 2019 under then-coach Eddie Jones.
“I’ve tried hard to work on my mental game a little bit, and I’ve been trying to block out these last few months just to ease my way back into the environment with Wellington and the Hurricanes.
“My first goal was to play really well for Wellington. Probably had a couple of average moments I reckon but the next step is to have a really good pre-season and put my best foot forward for the Hurricanes.
“All I can ask for myself is to play well and help the team, guide them, and hopefully point them in the right direction to play a Super Rugby final again.
“Whatever happens outside of that is out of my control from what I’ve learned over my career. I’ve just got to focus on what I can do at the moment and enjoy the moment as well.”
He endured a tumultuous period following the folding of Wasps and is hopeful his time back in New Zealand can be an opportunity to reset for himself and his family.
“It was just really good timing [to return to Wellington]. Sometimes, when it’s stressful in life, you look for familiar things, and this is familiar. It makes me excited.”