NSW Waratahs on course for quarter-final against Brumbies after win over Highlanders

The bigger picture is that the Brumbies’ title hopes to rest almost entirely on a fit Rob Valetini, but that Papalii non-decision will hurt given what they put in on Saturday.

3. Gray hair time for Dave Rennie.

Taniela Tupou isn’t playing, Hunter Paisami isn’t playing, Izaia Perese is battling a knee injury, Rob Valetini’s out, Reece Hodge hurt himself against the Hurricanes, James O’Connor looked distinctly uncomfortable as he left the field during the Reds’ win on Friday, and his best wing Andrew Kellaway is playing in the midfield to fill a hole at the Rebels.

James O'Connor is battling injury ahead of the July Test window.

James O’Connor is battling injury ahead of the July Test window.Credit:Getty

Who’d be a Wallabies coach, particularly as Samu Kerevi’s side Suntory won at the weekend, meaning the midfielder will play in the Japan Rugby League One final next week. Most of these issues will resolve themselves before the visit of England, but this is the time of the year Test coaches would like their bigger names fit, and in form.

4. What’s the plan for the Force and Rebels?

Another week, another 50-point loss for the Force, and further signs of the Rebels’ defensive issues in their 45-22 defeat against the Hurricanes. Neither result was a surprise, and the reality is that neither side is capable of being competitive on a weekly basis.

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It’s an enormous challenge for Rugby Australia, because the existence of the Rebels and Force alone can’t be seen as a sign of success.

They certainly need help, whether that’s in the form of an Australian draft (which I don’t like), funding equalization (more palatable, given RA’s top-ups are largely used at the Brumbies, Reds, and Waratahs) or a new post -Super Rugby competition that will give them a chance to bring their players up to speed (probably the best option). You can forget about a New Zealand draft.

It’s unworkable on a number of fronts, and with New Zealand depth already stretched I would question whether the quality would be there to make it worthwhile for Australia teams. Inertia on this issue, however, is not an option.

5. Izzy’s relegation battle.

It hasn’t been plain sailing for Israel Folau in Japan, or former Waratahs coach Rob Penney. The pair are embroiled in a relegation battle with their side, NTT Shining Arcs, and there is now a genuine chance they will be demoted to Japanese domestic rugby’s second tier next season.

The Shining Arcs were beaten 33-25 at home by the Mitsubishi DynaBoars in the first of their two-legged playoff at the weekend, which means they have to win by nine points in the return leg next week to maintain their first division status.

Japanese rugby has its challenges, but the nervous end to the season for Folau and Penney suggests that the overall competitiveness of their competition is improving.

team of the week

1. Harry Hoopert (Reds)

2. Dave Porecki (Waratahs)

3. Allan Alaalatoa (Brumbies)

4. Darcy Swain (Brumbies)

5. Rob Leota (Rebels)

6. Tom Hooper (Brumbies)

7. Michael Hooper (Waratahs)

8. Will Harris (Waratahs)

9. Jake Gordon (Waratahs)

10. Tane Edmed (Waratahs)

11. Mark Nawaqanitawase (Waratahs)

12. Lalakai Foketi (Waratahs)

13. Josh Flook (Reds)

14. Luke Ripley (Rebels)

15. Jock Campbell (Reds)

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