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Scott Johnson's roller coaster first weekend as Australia's national director of rugby

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Israel Folau of the Waratahs. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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Scott Johnson’s first day as national director of rugby finished on a low but day two gave him some reason for optimism as the country’s Super Rugby teams continued down their unpredictable pathways.


Hours after telling journalists on Friday that the Wallabies boast a fighting chance to win the World Cup, the flagship Waratahs team were undone in embarrassing fashion by the lowly-ranked Sunwolves.

Equilibrium was restored a day later when the Melbourne Rebels produced their most compelling rugby, beating the Queensland Reds 32-13 to leapfrog the Waratahs atop the Australian conference.

If first impressions mean anything, Johnson – who is also a new Wallabies selector – would have pencilled a host of Rebels names into page one of his notebook.

Will Genia is probably spelt in pen but his halves partner Quade Cooper’s case for a Test recall is firming by the week as the pair pulled the strings against their outclassed former team.

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Most members of an abrasive Rebels pack are mounting cases too, none more so than flanker/lock Luke Jones and bullocking No.8 Isi Naisarani, whose Australian eligibility ticks over next month.


Classy winger Jack Maddocks is the season’s leading try-scorer with eight, adding two more to his tally via assists from Cooper’s boot.

Coach Brad Thorn’s youthful Reds must bounce back in three straight games against South African foes if they are to lift from the bottom rung they share with the Jaguares and Sunwolves.

A week after stunning the Crusaders, the Waratahs were rudderless in Newcastle, crashing 31-29 to a Sunwolves team who preyed on their mistakes.

Rested five-eighth Bernard Foley was sorely missed, with the little-used Mack Mason seemingly out of his depth and Kurtley Beale also enduring a night to forget at inside centre.


More mandatory rotation looms for Waratahs stars in coming weeks, including Israel Folau and Michael Hooper, their two most consistent performers who haven’t missed a minute all season.

There was a bye for the Brumbies, whose return next week is against the competition-leading Crusaders in Christchurch.

That’s a daunting prospect given how quickly the nine-time champions recovered their poise with a 32-8 thumping of the Hurricanes, turning their table-topping clash into a lop-sided clinic in Wellington..

The Waratahs will also travel to New Zealand to face the Blues while the Rebels host the Sunwolves and the Reds stay in Brisbane to face the Stormers.

Elsewhere in round seven, the Bulls scraped past the Sharks 19-16 in Durban and the Chiefs also left it late to pip the Jaguares 30-27 in Buenos Aires.

The improving Blues made it three straight wins and clambered into the top eighth by seeing off the Stormers 24-9 at Eden Park.



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