Highlanders

Highlanders coach sparks trans-Tasman war

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Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has sparked a trans-Tasman war of words after likening Australian Conference Super Rugby to schoolboy rugby.


Joseph gave his backing for the new Super Rugby format which has more derbies but he also infuriated Western Force coach Richard Graham by belittling of all-Australian duels.


“You watch the Waratahs play the Reds and it’s different rugby. It’s like school stuff while we are at war,” Joseph told Wellington’s Dominion Post.


Force coach Graham has demanded that Joseph explain himself and insisted Australian matches are just as intense as New Zealand fixtures


“It’s a ridiculous statement,” Graham told AAP. “I’d like him to come out and clarify what he means.


“Throwing a statement out like that means nothing in the context of things.


“You have a look at any of the games that have been played in Australia this year.


“Our games against the Reds, the Waratahs have all been physical by nature and, generally speaking, good contests.


“So what Jamie Joseph says, I couldn’t care.”


Reds coach Ewen McKenzie and NSW’s Test prop Benn Robinson agree with Graham and McKenzie said you only have to look at the casualty list after the Reds matches against the Waratahs and the Rebels.


Reds Ben Daley (broken nose), Digby Ioane (facial fracture), Luke Morahan (shoulder), Mike Harris (knee) and Ben Lucas (shoulder) were all caused in the bruising encounters.


“I know from the hospital ward after the game, they’re not soft games,” McKenzie said.


“From our perspective, the derby games have proved quite difficult.


“We haven’t been scoring a lot of tries in those games and they’ve been quite defence-oriented.”


Prop Robinson also found Joseph’s comments bewildering.


“Every game you want to be winning and playing your hardest all the time, so they’re quite strange comments,” he said.


“For sure each team is unique in the way it plays and each game is a unique challenge.


“Some teams might carry the ball more and that means you might have to make more tackles in some games, so that can be seen as a more physical game.”


Robinson says that he does not believe Australian teams lack any of the toughness of their southern hemisphere rivals.


“I don’t see any disparity between us and the way the South Africans and Kiwis play or the way we approach the games,” he said.


“Teams down in the south of New Zealand play a different style to teams up in the north, so you might say that the teams down south play a more physical game.


“But all games are played at 100 per cent all the time.”


Despite Joseph’s grumblings, Graham, McKenzie, Robinson and Waratahs coach Chris Hickey all agreed that the conference system was as fair as it could be.


“It’s freshened the competition up and, from a supporter’s point of view, you get to see your own provinces at least playing against everyone at home once a year, which hasn’t happened in the past,” Graham told AAP.


“So I’m all in favour of it. In the end, you just have to win enough games.”


Robinson added that he had thoroughly enjoyed the conference format.


“I think all the teams throughout the competition have found it an enjoyable and tough experience.”

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