ScoMo snubs Sharks in stunning revelation
Prime Minister Scott Morrison might be the Cronulla Sharks' No.1 ticket holder but he's still a massive rugby supporter at heart, telling Rugby Confidential in an exclusive interview that it was his "first love".
The PM attended last Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match between the Wallabies and the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium - where he was the guest of honour at a VIP function packed with movers and shakers including former leader John Howard, former governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove, New Zealand High Commissioner Dame Annette King, International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates and many business leaders.
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He was presented with his own "ScoMo" Wallabies jersey after addressing the well-heeled audience to confirm the government's pledge of $8.8 million to propel Australia's bid to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup, and gave an insight into his long connections with the game.
As a child, he played with Clovelly Eagles and said he used to go to Randwick and kick the ball with the Ella brothers.
"It is true, my first love was rugby," he said. "I grew up in a rugby family."
In a sit-down interview with Rugby Confidential, Morrison revealed just why he is so keen to see the World Cup return to Australia for the first time since 2003, to give the country a boost after the gloom of the pandemic.
"It's important economically but I also think it's quite important socially in Australia," he said.
"Sport is a language in Australia for people to get back out and do the things they normally do, the participation side, and it's also nights like this, it's the things we look forward to and engage in, it's part of the Australian way of life.
"On the economic side the benefits are obvious, the same reason we get behind the Rugby World Cup bid is the same reasons we got behind the women's football World Cup and it's the same reason we're getting behind the (2032) Brisbane Olympic bid and all of these things.
"The business and economics of events are a no-brainer and particularly when you're focusing on things you do well and these sorts of events we do very, very well."
Don't expect any announcement on rugby's new broadcast deal this week.
It's down to existing partner Fox Sports, and rivals Nine, but Rugby Australia's chief executive, Rob Clarke, is said to be busy with other duties for the rest of the week.
Given Clarke is leading the negotiations on the rights, it would be a surprise if RA was to make an announcement by Friday evening.
It is also worth noting that the Super Rugby structure hasn't been resolved. Most likely, in 2021 we'll see Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa run in tandem, before a combined trans-Tasman competition is played.
There is growing confidence that from 2022, there will be a settled trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition of 12 teams - the existing five franchises each from Australia and New Zealand, joined by two Pacific Island teams, the Pasifika Moana and Fiji.
However, it's far from confirmed. The interested broadcasters will be heartened by the announcement from SANZAAR that South Africa has committed to the partnership for the next decade. While it has been widely reported that the move means The Rugby Championship is sealed for the next 10 years, speculation in South African media that the Springboks will only commit to the tournament for three years and explore Europe beyond that will concern local officials.
There was panic in the Wallabies camp last week when barbers were invited to the team's Hunter Valley hotel to give players haircuts.
The barbers are mates of one player, and there were concerns their entry into camp compromised the team's COVID-19 protocols.
The players rocked fresh fades for last weekend's game but unfortunately didn't look as fresh on the pitch.
Needless to say, there's been tighter restrictions around the squad in Pokolbin this week.
A TEAM IS OPTION B
Irae Simone and Fraser McReight were playing against the All Blacks last weekend, but on Saturday they'll be representing "Australia A" against Argentina in a trial match.
Simone made his Test debut at ANZ Stadium but has been dropped from the Test squad, as has McReight, who came off the bench in the record 43-5 defeat.
Backrower Rob Valentini, who played in the 16-all draw against the All Blacks in Wellington, also starts for the RugbyAU Selection XV, as does Isi Naisarani, and lock Cadeyrn Neville, who was only brought into camp this week after injury to Lukhan Salakaia Loto.
MORE RUGBY NEWS
The practice match in Sydney will allow the Los Pumas a final hitout before they face the All Blacks the following week at Bankwest Stadium.
Argentina defeated Australia A 19-15 last weekend in their opening trial game.
On the RugbyAU Selection VX bench, the name Harry Wilson raised some eyebrows, given he is starting for the Wallabies in Brisbane. This is, in fact, a different Harry Wilson who is a Waratahs Academy player.
RugbyAU Selection VX
15. James Ramm 14. Mark Nawaqanitawase 13. Len Ikitau 12. Irae Simone 11. Triston Reilly 10. Will Harrison 9. Joe Powell (captain) 8. Isi Naisarani 7. Fraser McReight 6. Rob Valetini 5. Cadeyrn Neville 4. Trevor Hosea 3. Vaauli Faamausili 2. Connal McInerney 1. Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Reserves: 16. David Porecki 17. George Francis 18. Darcy Breen 19. Max Douglas 20. Josh Kemeny 21. Henry Robertson 23. Tane Edmed 25. Kristian Jensen 27. Harry Wilson 28. Lachlan Anderson 28. Charlie Gamble 29. Philip Potgieter.
Originally published as ScoMo snubs Sharks in stunning revelation