Before I jump in to the All Blacks vs Wales game, I want to touch on the fact that there will be teams from Japan and Argentina in the Super Rugby competition come 2016. It's awesome! Anyone who disagrees shouldn't probably not frequent the pages of the Niche Cache as your small minded approach isn't matched here.
It has obvious financial benefits for the Unions as there will be more advertising/sponsorship money floating around as well as a plethora of marketing opportunities. But there are also some sneaky opportunities for our Kiwi players, while either team from Tokyo or Buenos Aires picking a whole bunch of Kiwi players would completely defeat the purpose - they'll probably need a few lads to be competitive. I'm not sure how the player payment structure will work but if either franchise has some decent money behind them they could offer a few decent Super Rugby players some good money to bolster their squads. The ideal situation would be that they find a middle ground where the majority of their squad is local, but they splash the cash to provide a few Kiwis an opportunity to earn some dosh without giving up their All Black chances. This could be a much better option than going to Europe and saying bye bye to the black jersey.
Anyway, Wales. Sorry Wales but you're going to face the wrath of the returning All Blacks who will be keen to put together a performance that gets them back on track. Well the track of perfection that is. Any time we get to see the Conrad Smith/Sonny Bill Williams partnership in action is reason enough to plant your backside on the couch and Smith will be keen to continue to build that chemistry. Other selection notes include Ben Smith getting the fullback job which gives Charles Piutau another go on the wing. That means a bit more power on the wings but they give up the all round game of Israel Dagg, expect Ben Smith to slip in and out of attacks as he's at his best running the ball.
In the forwards, well it's the return of the ruthlessness. I love this All Blacks pack and the back row/locks stocks are at full strength. My front row knowledge is limited so I'm not too sure who's the top tier there but they'll be fine.
No Dan Carter? Logical and with the All Blacks having 3 number 10's to call upon there needs to be a wise spread of game time. This week we get to see what Beauden Barrett is made of, which offers up a whole heap of intriguing little sub-plots - Ben Smith vs Israel Dagg and whether Barrett can make another major impression will give the one eyed All Black fan plenty to enjoy.
Another competition with a bit of a re-structure is the ANZ Championship. It's reasonably confusing but if you stare at your screen long enough you'll figure it out, don't expect me to explain it in any detail though - An NZ conference and Australian conference, the best 3 teams qualify for playoffs, top 2 from each conference cross over and figure out who's the baddest. But both conferences play teams from the other conference throughout the season? Ugh, kinda dumb. Don't see what's wrong with just a normal table, home and away badabing badaboom, top 2, final. Simple.
I'd say to the decision makers - if you want more publicity from non-netballin' folk like me, simple is better. Ah well, it should be good with the Challenge Trophy also being introduced which is basically the Ranfurly Shield. Wise move, hopefully they'll settle on this for longer than a few years so that once they've won folk like me over, it'll stay the same.
We don't do a whole lot of Netball here, but that's because we're dumb males who don't watch it. So if you think you'd like to give some Netball coverage a go, let us know!