Samisoni Taukei’aho has been a shining light for the All Blacks in 2022. Photo / Photosport
Newstalk ZB rugby commentator Elliott Smith analyzes the latest from the world of rugby.
A prediction … God bless the Chiefs and Waikato for re-signing Samisoni Taukei’aho last May – a month before he was
even called up to the All Blacks for the first time as an injury replacement – through to 2024. It was put to me last week in Mooloo country that Taukei’aho had overseas deals on the table that he turned down to stay and now he’s developing into one of the world’s best hookers. It seems inevitable his next contract will involve New Zealand Rugby’s top brass to keep him here, and as a
lawyer in study, he’ll be able to make sure he gets the right deal for himself.
A suggestion … On the subject of hookers, George Bell out of Canterbury looks the business. He only made his provincial debut a few weeks ago, after a taste of Super earlier in the year as the Crusaders grappled an availability crisis, but the New Zealand under-20 captain appears to be a real comer. With no clear answer to the back-up to Taukei’aho currently and with an eye to the future, it’s time to revive the old apprentice scheme that turned Ardie Savea and Jordie Barrett into All Blacks starters and take him on this year’s end of year tour.
An observation … Reports emerged up north this week that Qatar – of the questionable human-rights record – has set its sights on hosting some of the marquee fixtures of Europe’s United Rugby Championship in future after the country’s state-owned airline Qatar Airways inked a three-year partnership with the competition.
No guarantees are in place for any fixtures, but it seems like potentially a matter of
time. Now, there’s not much new here with the biggest sport in the world taking their showpiece there later this year, but a domestic rugby game soon becomes a test match and despite their recent form, the All Blacks remain the biggest brand in the rugby world. There’d be no bigger drawcard. You see where I’m going? It makes me uneasy.
An explanation … Continuing that theme, does the LIV Golf scenario of recent months remind anyone of the World Rugby Corporation chase of the 1990s for the world’s top players? Slightly different scenarios, but the emergence of LIV Golf should sound an alarm to World Rugby – 27 years since the game went pro. Rugby has been able to point to the prestige of the Rugby World Cup as well as test rugby, but look at the PGA Tour – a tour with a storied history that players are happily ditching (as well as possibly the chance to play majors) to link up with a Saudi-state funded golf circuit for teams called Majesticks and Iron Heads (possibly the most egregiously offensive thing about it all).
A tribute … Willie Los’e was unfailingly polite and generous with his time for young broadcasters. He stepped into the breach last year when my expert commentator was unavailable at the last minute for a test match when Willie was down to do sideline comments. He pivoted and did both jobs at once with aplomb. That was Willie to a tee, nothing seemed to faze him.