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Ex-All Black stars in Japan as Rennie's Steelers continue rise

By AAP
(Source/J Sports)

The Kobelco Kobe Steelers have continued their rise up the Japan Rugby League One standings after a comfortable 27-17 win over Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo.

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The team of ex-Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, who dropped three games in a row earlier in the season, are now sixth, just two points outside of the top four on a congested table in which the gap between fourth and seventh is just two points.

Former All Blacks midfielder Ngani Laumape scored Kobe’s opening try in the capital, while former England back-rower Nathan Hughes was a try scorer for the Black Rams.

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Defeat left the Black Rams, who are coached by the Inverell-born Peter Hewat, hovering dangerously above the bottom of the table, having won just once to occupy one of the three spots for teams who would be condemned to the post-season relegation series.

Saturday action saw ex-Wallaby centre Curtis Rona score his fifth try of the season as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars beat Shizuoka Blue Revs 53-45, with former Northampton and Dynaboars five-eighth James Grayson posting 28 points for the victors, including two tries.

All Blacks No.10 Richie Mo’unga was also a tryscorer as Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo beat Yokohama Canon Eagles 27-7 to remain unbeaten after seven rounds, one point behind competition leaders Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.

The two meet on March 9.

Defending champions Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay ran in nine tries to beat Wallaby Quade Cooper’s Hanazono Kintetsu Liners 54-19, with Wales fullback Liam Williams and All Blacks hooker Dane Coles among the tryscorers.

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Kintetsu remain winless, one point above bottom side Mie Honda Heat.

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Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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