Waratahs Latu and Skelton cited

NSW Waratahs forwards Tolu Latu and Will Skelton and one of their potential Super Rugby opponents next week, have all been hit with alleged foul play citings after being involved in lifting tackles.

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Hooker Latu and lock Skelton were both cited for their involvement in a tackle on Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock in the 17th minute of Saturday’s match at ANZ Stadium.

Latu was given a yellow card at the time and Skelton went unpunished, but upon review the citing commissioner deemed that the alleged action of both men met the red card threshold for foul play.

Any suspension would rule them out of at least the first game of the Waratahs South African trip against the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend.

A few hours after the game in Sydney later, Lions hooker Robbie Coetzee was hit with the same alleged foul play citing as Latu and Skelton following an incident in the match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

Like the two Waratahs, Coetzee was cited for contravening law 10.4 (I) which refers to lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the players head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.

Coetzee was given a yellow card at the time.

If Latu was banned it would mean the Tahs might have to resort to starting with their third-string hooker, Hugh Roach and pluck someone out of club rugby as his backup.

Last week Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said their leading hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau would not be taken to South Africa to give him another couple of weeks to recover from his second bout of concussion this season.

News of Latu and Skelton’s citings could have been an unpleasant surprise for Cheika, who after the game felt neither man was likely to get into trouble.

“The match officials were all there and they took a long look.” Cheika said.

“He (Whitelock) didn’t land on his head.

“It was an awkward combination of the two, they were trying to hold him up for the maul, one was up top.

“Sometimes it just happens, so I wouldn’t expect that anything was going to happen.

If Skelton is suspended, Cheika will have another quality lock to call upon, with former Wallaby Dean Mumm linking up with the Waratahs in South Africa.

Mumm is heading there from Europe after completing his English club commitments.

Skelton and Latu will each appear before a SANZAR judicial hearing conducted through a video conference on Monday at 3.30pm AEST.


Hoffman hails Blues’ new Bash Brother

Ryan Hoffman says NSW debutants Josh Jackson and David Klemmer are ready to fill the shoes of `Bash Brothers’ Paul Gallen and Greg Bird and does not expect them to miss a beat at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.

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The Bulldogs pair have been called into the Blues line up for Gallen (hip) and Bird (suspension) for the first game of NSW’s Origin shield defence.

As the Blues wrapped up their training camp at Coffs Harbour on Sunday, Hoffman nominated the two debutants as being among the most impressive.

“Josh Jackson has got a very, very simple role but you know he’s going to do that role well,” Hoffman said.

“That’s what we require. All the new guys have impressed me. I guess that’s the benefit of having kids who are debuting who are really confident in their abilities. They just come into this Origin scenario and they know they’ve got what it takes.

“It’s all about putting it all on the field and `Klem’ is the same.

“He’s running hard in training, just as I’m sure he’s going to be running hard on Wednesday night and that’s what we want to see.”

After completing a training run at their Coffs Harbours base on Sunday, the team will fly to Sydney in the afternoon as they ramp up preparations for Origin I.

While Queensland has had to deal with several headaches, including question marks over the fitness of Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges and the withdrawal of Daly Cherry-Evans, it has been smooth sailing for the Blues at Camp Coffs.

The team has had an almost ideal preparation for Game I so far with few hiccups and the laid-back coastal city providing a settled backdrop and few interruptions.

“We’re confident in what we’ve done and we’ve put the right steps in place,” Hoffman said.

“We have two more sessions including today’s session to put that final polish on and we’ll keep on building.

“We’re not trying to be perfect today, we just want to make sure we’ll be perfect on Wednesday night.”


Knights not taking Baby Broncos lightly

Newcastle say they are more worried about ensuring they have not presided over a false dawn rather than the returning Wayne Bennett and his undermanned “Baby Broncos”.

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The Knights are favoured to wrap up back-to-back wins against Brisbane on Monday night after snapping a five-game losing streak against the Wests Tigers last week.

The Knights will be missing just one player because of State of Origin in Beau Scott, after Dane Gagai was released from Queensland camp when Greg Inglis was cleared of tonsillitis.

The Broncos will be without Corey Parker, Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire and Darius Boyd however they are not suffering a dearth of experience.

Dale Copley, Daniel Vidot and David Stagg slot back in while their spine remains pretty much intact, with their halves and hooker remaining the same.

The Broncos have been ordinary without their Origin stars in the past three seasons, winning just two of five games, however they will field just one debutant in Joe Boyce against the Knights.

“I don’t think you can view them any differently,” Knights winger James McManus said.

“It’s been the same story for the Broncos for years and there’s always young and enthusiastic guys getting their opportunity at this time of year … And they’ve still got some great players in their team, we certainly can’t take them any differently.”

Monday night’s match will mark Bennett’s first visit to Hunter Stadium since quitting the Knights and returning to coach Brisbane this season.

McManus said the Knights’ most pressing priority was getting their NRL finals push back on track after looking strong early in the season when they won their opening four.

“There’s always room to improve and regardless of the win we certainly have a lot of things to work on,” McManus said.

“The determination we showed in our (defence) and we just dug in for each other on the weekend and that’s what we need is that desperation.”

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Knights have won just 13 of 43 matches against the Broncos.

* Last year the Broncos beat the Knights by a cumulative margin of 80-12 across three games.

* Brisbane is the only team Newcastle has not defeated at Hunter Stadium since 2011.

* Newcastle has busted the most tackles of any team this season, and has made the fourth most linebreaks.


Pendlebury up forward a growing trend

He played alongside him for two seasons and has coached him for the previous four, making Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley the perfect judge of Scott Pendlebury’s AFL career to date.

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The Magpies skipper brought up 200 games in style against the Suns, crafting out 35 quality touches and booting three goals in Collingwood’s 20.12 (132) to 9.9 (63) victory at the Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.

Jamie Elliott (five goals) and Jesse White (four) also starred for the Pies alongside defender Marley Williams (33 disposals), while key midfielder Steele Sidebottom returned from a thumb injury with 32 touches.

Pendlebury appeared to be sluggish during the opening minutes of the 69-point win, but any doubts of the 27-year-old’s effectiveness were alleviated when the 2010 Premiership winner kicked his first goal in the 3rd minute.

Collingwood’s number 10 set up Travis Varcoe before kicking his second inside the final 20 seconds of an inspired first quarter where he started in the forward line.

Having had the rare pleasure of coaching Pendlebury and also having him as a teammate during the midfielder’s fledging years as an AFL footballer, Buckley says it’s the little things his captain does which make him a complete professional.

“It looks like everything’s been plain sailing for ‘Pendles’, he’s been robust, he backs up every week, but I think what that hides is he’s been challenged, he’s probably been vulnerable, he’s had to reinvent himself,” Buckley said.

“He’s had to face self-doubts; he’s had to push the little man off his shoulder that’s saying ‘maybe not today, maybe I don’t have to do these extras, maybe I can give this one per-center a miss, the ice-bath or the diet or the sleep’, but he’s pushed through those.

“We all have them, but he’s pushed through them. It looks like it comes naturally to him, it looks like it’s easy, but it doesn’t happen that way.”

Collingwood’s midfield depth allowed Buckley to start the five-time All-Australian up front against the Suns, with the move paying off immediately as Pendlebury took four marks, including three inside the forward-50, while raking up 11 disposals during the opening quarter.

Buckley says the versatility of his skipper means he can continue nurture his younger midfield brigade.

“Pendles is damaging wherever he goes. If he’s being sat on we can use him in different places to our advantage,” he said.

“We know if we want to continue to develop a side that can challenge the best sides, we need to develop (19-year-old) Jordan de Goey, his ability to go through the midfield, Jamie Elliott (22), his ability to go through the midfield, Alex Fasolo (22) at times, Jarryd Blair (25), Tim Broomhead (21) we’re looking to develop our youth in the right doses.”

The Magpies currently sit fifth on the ladder with a 5-3 win-loss record and will be full of confidence heading into their round nine clash against North Melbourne next weekend.


Real heavyweight Ronaldo backs coach Ancelotti

Perez is widely expected to make Ancelotti the scapegoat after Real ended the season without winning a major trophy but the intervention of dressing-room heavyweight Ronaldo may make him think twice.

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Ronaldo netted a hat-trick in Real’s final game of the campaign on Saturday, a 7-3 drubbing of city rivals Getafe at the Bernabeu, taking his tally at the top of the La Liga scoring chart to 48 goals.

It was his best single-season haul in Spain’s top flight since he joined from Manchester United in 2009 and two short of the record of 50 set in 2011-12 by Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, who scored 43 this term.

After the match, Portugal captain Ronaldo posted a message on his Twitter feed with a photograph of himself and Ancelotti.

“Great coach and amazing person,” Ronaldo wrote. “Hope we work together next season.”

Ancelotti, who led Real to a record-extending 10th European title and a King’s Cup triumph in his debut year in Spain in 2013-14, has made it clear he wants to carry on but said on Saturday if Real do let him go he would take a year out.

His contract runs until the end of next season and he said he expected to meet with club officials early next week to discuss his future.

Media reports in Italy have suggested the 55-year-old could return to former club AC Milan, with whom he won the European Cup as both a player and coach.

Napoli’s Spanish coach Rafa Benitez is the frontrunner to replace Ancelotti at Real, where he had a stint as a youth trainer, according to local media.

Real’s Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez also backed Ancelotti after Saturday’s game.

“He arrived two years ago and he knows the team, he knows how we are and how we go about things,” he told Spanish television. “But it’s not my decision and it’s not my place to talk about it.”

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)