The first season of Global Rapid Rugby is here! There have been some false starts over the last two years but the Western Force have done a good job with exhibition seasons. The fans in Western Australia are really looking forward to this and hopefully fans will be picked up in the other competing cities.
I had a chat with Craig to get up to speed with what’s been going on in Western Australia from a rugby point of view. Also I went along to the China Lions v Manuma Samoa pre-season game. Read what I learnt from watching that game as well as watch my interviews with the Lions Head Coach and fly-half.
Before I get into the picking, this is the first season so there are lots of unknowns. There is going to be a lot of guesswork especially in the opening rounds as we get to size-up the teams. You have been warned.
Fijian Lutui v China Lions – China Lions by 5
This should be a cracking contest. The Fijian Lutui existed last year and have strong connections with the NRC Fiji Drua team. That means we are not looking at a brand new team that don’t know each other. So how did they go last season? 2 wins and 2 losses:
- Fijian Latui 38–32 Kagifa Samoa
- Fijian Latui 15–27 Western Force
- Kagifa Samoa 31–37 Fijian Latui
- Western Force 45–24 Fijian Latui
Essentially they beat Samoa and lost to the Force. However they weren’t on the end of massive drubbings by the Force (we’ll get onto that later). My initial thoughts is competitive side.
The China Lions on the other hand are a brand new team. However they are coming into this season as one of the more fancied sides. The reason for that is the team is based around the Bay of Plenty provincial side with a few friends from Southland, Waikato and North Harbour.
In their preseason game they had a comfortable win over Manuma Samoa. Now we did have a red card in that game for Samoa and we saw the player replaced after some time. Yup one of the law changes. However that shows that a lot of these players do know each other well.
I’m going for the China Lions as they have already been name checked as a fancied team in interviews that I’ve seen. Also they haven’t had to integrate their Chinese players yet as they can’t travel over from Shanghai. This team knows each other and is used to winning after topping the Mitre 10 Cup Championship last season.
Manuma Samoa v South China Tigers – South China Tigers by 3
Samoa did take part last season in the exhibition games. However the Global Rapid Rugby website says “The team is separate from the team that participated as Kagifa Samoa in the Pacific Showcase in 2019.”
This is a brand new team and I saw that last weekend in their pre-season game. Also as I mentioned above they got a red card, that was for a punch so we might see some disciplin issues from the Manuma.
Whilst the team is based in Samoa and does have locally based players, they have also recruited heavily from the Mitre 10 Cup for Samoan heritage players. Getting those players from different places and getting them to gel will take time.
The South China Tigers did take part last year and here are their results:
- Western Force 45–22 South China Tigers
- South China Tigers 29–19 Asia Pacific Dragons
- Asia Pacific Dragons 41–26 South China Tigers
- South China Tigers 16–40 Western Force
Just the one win and conceding 40 or more points against the Force in both games. This team is sourced from the Hong Kong Elite Player system for their national team. However that national team is 22nd in the world. Even so this team should know each other well and be up to speed straight away which is why I’m backing them for an early win.
On a side note having five away games followed by five home games is a tough schedule for the Tigers.
Western Force v Malaysia Valke – Western Force by 50
The Western Force are the only side that are full-time professional and together as a squad all year round. That gives them a massive advantage and we shouldn’t be surprised they only lost one game last season. That was to Japan A.
The Force are heavy favourites to win the whole thing and should be looking for TBPs early on to build a lead on the ladder.
Malaysia Valke did play one game last season against the Force. The result was a 74-10 loss. Hence you can see why I’ve gone for a big margin in this game.
The Valke are a partnership with Currie Cup province side of the same name (Falcon in English). They are in the second tier of the Currie Cup where they finished fourth last season. I think this is going to be a tough season for the Valke and hopefully it’s seen as a long term project.
Record So Far
Well this is only round 1 so we’ll be seeing how it goes.
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