World Cup winning coach Steve Hansen says the Wallabies and England have an “easy ride” at this year’s tournament but neither feature in his four contenders to lift the trophy.
The New Zealander will coach the World XV against Eddie Jones’ Barbarians side at Twickenham on Sunday night (AEST).
The Australians and England are on the weaker half of the draw, with the pools drawn up on world rankijngs more than two years ago.
England are in pool D with Japan, Argentina, Samoa and Chile and if they top the group would face Wales, Fiji or Australia in the quarter-finals, avoiding the likes of Ireland, France, South Africa and the All Blacks until the semifinal stage.
“If you are Australia or England at the moment, you are rubbing your hands, aren’t you? You are going to get an easy ride in if you do things right,” said Hansen.
Hansen, who coached the All Blacks to a World Cup win, said Australia or England are in the mix, but he expects the winner to come from the other side of the draw.
“I think [Australia] are a big show. I think England are a show for the same reason. They’re on that side of the pool and they’re being left alone while the big guys all knock themselves out. If you ask me who was capable of winning it, I think probably France, Ireland, the All Blacks, and South Africa – one of those four.”
Wallabies star Marika Koroibete has withdrawn from the game with an unspecified issue, replaced on the wing for the World XV by Fiji Sevens player Kaminieli Rasak.
There will be two current and three former Wallabies featured in the game with Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Rob Simmons featuring for Eddie’s BaaBaas and Israel Folau and Nick Phipps picked by Hansen for the World XV. Former Queensland Red Harry Hockings, based with Suntory in Japan, also gets a jersey for Hansen’s team.
Folau’s appearance is already garnering interest with the Rugby Football Union’s decision to fly a Pride flag at Twickenham as a result of his selection.
Barbarians forwards: Nic Dolly, Taulupe Faletau, Alun Wyn Jones, Stephan Lewies, Steven Luatua, Enrique Pieretto, Carlü Sadie, Rob Simmons, Harry Thacker, Sione Vailanu, Aaron Wainwright, Alex Waller, Tom West, Kai Yamamoto.
Barbarians backs: Gareth Anscombe, Quade Cooper, Aaron Cruden, Francois Hougaard, Sam Johnson, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Li, Jack Maunder, Adam Radwan, Taichi Takahashi, Seta Tamanivalu.
World XV forwards: Fraser Brown, Niccolò Cannone, Elliot Dee, Allan Dell, Harry Hockings, Wyn Jones, Oli Kebble, Michele Lamaro, Viliame Mata, Jordi Murphy, Sebastian Negri, Api Ratuniyarawa, Marcus Street.
World XV backs: Bryn Hall, Adam Hastings, Israel Folau, Ngani Laumape, Sbu Nkosi, Rhys Patchell, Nick Phipps, Charles Piutau, Semi Radradra, Kaminieli Rasaku.
Family reasons for Lukhan’s return
Northampton Saints say issues with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto’s family are behind his decision to return home to Australia with immediate effect.
In an exclusive report on Monday, The Roar reported that Salakaia-Loto has signed with the Rebels for next season and immediately qualifies as a home based player for the Wallabies.
The 26-year-old lock joined the Saints ahead of the 2022-23 season after a difficult time playing under Brad Thorn at the Reds.
Salakaia-Loto made 24 appearances for Saints.
“We’re disappointed to see Lukhan return home to Australia, but he made it clear that, while he has enjoyed every moment of his time as a Saint, his family have not settled so far away from home,” said the club’s Director of Rugby, Phil Dowson.
“No matter what, as a rugby player your family always has to come first, so we understand Lukhan’s decision and wish him the best moving forward.”
Salakaia-Loto added: “I’m leaving Saints with a heavy heart as I loved my first season representing Northampton and being part of a special group of players here.
“I believe the Club has everything in place to challenge for major silverware in the years ahead, but you have to put your family before everything else, and being on the other side of the world from the rest of our loved ones has been difficult.
“So, we’ve made the decision to return home to Australia, but I’ll always cherish the short time I had in Black, Green and Gold, and how all the Saints supporters welcomed us into this community in Northampton.
“I’m leaving some great teammates and friends, but I hope the boys can kick on again next season – and I’ll be supporting everyone at Saints from afar.”
Wallabies No10 Bernard Foley is the only Australian to win a place on the Japan league’s team of the year.
Foley led his Kubota Spears team to the title last weekend and his club teammate, Springboks star Malcolm Marx was one of four South Africans named on the selection.
Back-rowers Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kwagga Smith and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, also made the XV.
Foley will be hoping to one of the overseas players called up by Eddie Jones for the start of the Rugby Championship – against the Springboks – in July.
Japan Top League team of the season 2023
Why Maugher quit MP
Aaron Mauger says Moana Pasifika’s dreadful run of defeats had nothing to do with his decision to stand down as the team’s head coach.
Mauger won’t be returning for the third year of his contract – and even though his team hasn’t won a game this year he was still backed to continue.
“It’s time to go home to the family,” Mauger said. “It’s been such a special privilege to be a part of it, especially in the role of head coach.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve in a short time in testing conditions. That hasn’t all come to fruition on the scoreboard, but there are so many celebrations we’ve been able to share and witness along the way.
“There has been so much awesome stuff going on here and I’m sure the club will be successful in the future.
“But as I said to the team this morning, time is precious and I have a wife and four young children down in the South Island who have allowed me to become a part of this journey and to help establish a foundation for Moana Pasifika, which I feel we’ve done.
“But now my time is required back home, around the people who are most important and I’m looking forward to going home to do that.”
The team is set to become the fourth club in Super Rugby history to go an entire season without winning a game. They face Drua and the Waratahs in their final two games of Maugher’s reign.