Reds' moves good for rugby
WHAT massive movements at the Reds this week.
I did not see this one coming, not at this point in the season, anyway.
But if we have a long-term look at this from a few angles, we can understand the reason behind these movements, and see some very positive impacts for Australian rugby from them.
First, the move of Ewan "Link" McKenzie from Reds coach to head of coaching (or whatever the title) for Queensland rugby is just that - great for Queensland rugby.
On hearing of Link's role at the Reds two years ago, I happened to be speaking with Paul Carozza, the head of the Reds Academy.
I made the point that I was not sure of Link's coaching abilities, but I knew he knew his footy, was intelligent and had a "holistic" view of the role of a pro coach and its connections with the overall strength of the code.
Well, Link has proved me wrong about his coaching ability, but his real strengths are in his big-picture view, understanding of the business of rugby and desire to leave a positive legacy for Queensland rugby.
That is great news for Reds fans and also sets the standard for other provinces to follow.
An unknown is how Ewan's replacement, Richard Graham, will fare with the Reds. But that is a story for another time.
Another positive for Aussie rugby is that Link's progression frees him up for a possible shot at the Wallabies' coaching position. It is absolute folly to think that this possibility has not played a role in the coaching changes at the Reds.
We are all ambitious and we all want the best coach to be coaching the country.
I see real positives for Australian rugby as a result of the changes in Queensland's coaching structure.
We're with Michael
NEWS of Michael Lynagh's possible stroke took me by surprise, and I'm sure it did you too.
A bloke who was a popular and positive part of our rugby viewing from the early 1980s through until the mid '90s - a fit and youngish bloke mind you - you could not expect, or be "ready" for, such news.
We wish Noddy and his family the best in these challenging circumstances.
I'm sure he'll pull through and be up and about in no time.
Noddy was with me through eight years of my career at all levels, club (Uni), state and country.
Noddy, the five-eighth, and I, the half-back, shared a love of surfing and other social pastimes - we were around each other quite a bit.
We worked well together - he made me look good on far too many occasions on the field and I made him look good off the field.
There were not too many more influential blokes in Reds and Wallaby history, and it was a privilege to play with him for such a long period.
But my goal is to not offer a "eulogy piece" here - quite the opposite.
This is about Noddy and wishing him and the family the best as they approach any challenges ahead.
No doubt, they'll have the support of just about every rugby fan around the globe.
And there'll be plenty of waves to catch and written-ink to throw Noddy's way over the next few years.
I'm happy to continue making him look good in public.
Follow Peter Slattery @pjslatts on twitter
ROUND 9 PREVIEW
HIGHLANDERS V BLUES at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, 5.35pm
Highlanders: 5th five wins - two losses. Blues: 14th one win - six losses.
Last clash: R18, 2011 Blues 33 b Hurricanes 16 in Auckland
The Highlanders have a poor record against their north island neighbours, having not beaten the Blues since 2006. The Blues can't take a trick this season, however, managing just a solitary victory. Highlanders lock Josh Beckhuis will play his 50th game for the Dunedin franchise tonight and expect him to celebrate with a win.
REDS V STORMERS at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 7.40pm
Reds: 9th four wins - three losses. Stormers 2nd six wins - one loss.
Last clash: R8, 2011 Reds 19 b Stormers 6 in Cape Town
The Reds are coming off the bye and they will be keen to kick on from where they left off in the win against the Brumbies two weeks ago - having goalkicker Mike Harris back in the line-up will go a long way to doing that. Lock Adam Wallace-Harrison is also set to return to strengthen the defending champions line-up. The Reds will be keen to win their third consecutive game against the Stormers who have lost Springbok centre Jean de Villiers and Andries Bekker. Bryan Habana has been named at centre.
HURRICANES V CRUSADERS at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 5.35pm
Hurricanes: 6th four wins - three losses. Crusaders: 7th four wins - three losses.
Last Clash: R18 2011 Crusaders 16 b Hurricanes 9 in Wellington
A Kiwi derby always provides great viewing and this will be no different. Tom Taylor was outstanding for the Crusaders at fly-half last week, his 31-point haul including a try, conversion and eight penalties. His battle with Beauden Barrett should be a beauty. All Black star Dan Carter has again been named at second-five in his 100th game for the Crusaders.
WARATAHS V REBELS at Sydney Football Stadium, 7.40pm
Waratahs: 10th three wins - four losses. Rebels 12th two wins - five losses.
Last clash: R2, 2012 Waratahs 35 b Rebels 19 in Melbourne
The Waratahs beat the Western Force last week and will be looking to take advantage of a Rebels line-up which was awful against the Brumbies in Canberra. Some of the tackling from the Rebels was unacceptable and a repeat here against the 'Tahs could lead to another big loss. Rocky Elsom will make his first NSW appearance since 2008 after coach Michael Foley named the flanker on the bench, opting to stick with the same starting side for a fourth consecutive match.
SHARKS V CHIEFS at Kings Park, Durban, 1.05am
Sharks: 8th four wins - four losses. Chiefs: 1st six wins - one loss.
Last clash: R5, 2011 Chiefs 15 b Sharks 9 in Hamilton
The Chiefs are setting a cracking pace, winning their past six games and they are no slouches when it comes to winning in South Africa. They have won four of their last five and won't give up top spot without a fight. The Sharks won't be a pushover though on their home patch - they have won their past three and 12 of their last 14 games at home. Defence has also been the cornerstone of the Chiefs' surge this season, conceding just 136 in seven games, the second-lowest number in the competition behind the Stormers.
BULLS V BRUMBIES at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 3.10am
Bulls: 4th five wins - two losses. Brumbies 3rd four wins - three losses.
Last clash: 2010 Bulls 50 b Brumbies 32 in Pretoria
Springbok star Morne Steyn had a shocker with the boot last week and the high-flying Brumbies must be hoping it happens again if they are to dramatically improve their dreadful playing record in South Africa. The Australian conference leaders lost both games they played in the Republic last season and have won only twice in their past nine visits there. The Brumbies were superb against the Rebels last week but playing against the Bulls will certainly provide them with a stern test. The Brumbies have brought in Andrew Smith and Ben Alexander, moving rookie tourists Tevita Kuridrani and Ruaidhri Murphy back to the bench.
BYE: Cheetahs, Force, Lions