PRICE GETS AWARD

Former Australian rugby league Test prop Price has won a surprise award in New Zealand. Recognised for services to rugby league in New Zealand after playing 91 NRL matches for the Auckland-based Warriors and becoming the club’s longest-serving captain, proud Queenslander Price was initially unsure whether he was eligible.

“I didn’t know whether I was allowed to accept it,” said Price, who represented Australia in 15 Tests and played 28 State of Origin matches for the Maroons.

“I actually said to the lady, ‘You know, don’t you, that I’m Australian?”

RUGBY NINTH POPULAR AUSTRALIAN SPORT

A recent survey has concluded that Rugby is the ninth most popular sport in Australia. The sport of Rugby Union reached it’s all time high of being Australia’s fourth most popular sport in 2004 after Australia hosted the 2003 Rugby world cup and reached the final.

However since that time the sport has dropped to fourth to seventh and now to ninth in sports rankings over the past seven years.

A report by a brand analysis and research agency, Repucom says that when the 2007 Rugby world cup was taking place in France the sport had dropped from fourth to seventh.

GOOD SCRUM TO KEEP AUSTRALIA ON TOP

After Australia’s humiliating defeat of fans many pundits have predicted that the team could be even better with the good scrum. The Wallabies’ record Test victory over France was the perfect example of that. Has there even been such a dramatic contrast between the first and second halves of a rugby match?
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In the first half, the Wallabies scrum was castigated by New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence over and over again, and suffered the indignity of a penalty try in the 30th minute.

The three minutes before that was one of the most humiliating an Australian scrum has experienced in recent times. Unlike the England Test in Perth, when a rookie Wallabies pack of Ben Daley, Saia Faingaa and Salesi Ma’afu was pulverised, the seasoned front row that encountered France – Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore and James Slipper – was supposedly Australia’s best.

Reputation counted for little. The French scrum perched just five metres from the Australian line was repeatedly able to disintegrate the Wallabies. Twice Lawrence penalised the Wallabies for collapsing it, and on the third occasion had no alternative but to run under the sticks to award a penalty try. It was the right call.

COOPER’S FUTURE TO BE DECIDED

Quade Cooper’s future in the Australian Rugby Union team will be decided shortly, it has been revealed. The in-demand Wallaby fly-half is in the midst of delicate contract negotiations with the Australian Rugby Union, which is trying to head off huge bids to coax him into the NRL. Apparently one of the clauses is for England Rugby Tickets.

Cooper, 22, is not expected to make a decision on his playing career before flying out with the Wallabies for South Africa on Friday for their two Tri-Nations Tests with the Springboks.

Reports said Cooper and his manager met ARU officials on Wednesday and progress was made between the parties.

The Australian Super 14 player of 2010, who is in the sights of NRL clubs Parramatta and Newcastle, could reportedly look to sign a one-year ARU deal which would keep him in a strong bargaining position for beyond the 2011 World Cup.

ARU boss John O’Neill said he will travel with the Wallabies to the republic and is likely to continue talking with Cooper in a bid to secure him from the advances of rugby league.

Deans said the two weeks in South Africa would benefit the ARU’s hopes of keeping Cooper on its payroll.

AUSTRALIA RUGBY FOCUSSED

Australia Rugby Union Team are aiming for back-to-back wins and thus shed their inconsistency record. Wallabies back Berrick Barnes, set to take over from suspended Quade Cooper at five-eighth for the Etihad Stadium clash, says in the past Australia has been guilty of “believing its own press”.

“History has shown over the years, after a decent win, we get caught believing our own press,” Barnes said.
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“We’ll be focused pretty heavily this week on trying to rectify that and get back-to-back results.

He says it comes down to preparation and playing out the full 80 minutes of the Test match.

Australia Rugby Union is likely to appeal Cooper’s two-match ban for a dangerous tackle during their 30-13 win over South Africa in Brisbane, with an announcement expected later on Monday.

DEANS TIPS CAUCAU

Australia coach Robbie Deans has talked up the return of flying Fijian winger Rupeni Caucaunibuca to international rugby ahead of their one-off test next week.

Caucaunibuca, who plays for French side Agen, is expected to make his first appearance for his country since November 2006 in Canberra Stadium on Saturday after saying he wanted to play in next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.

“I’ve seen him do some remarkable things on the rugby field, things that no-one else in the world has ever done,” Deans told the Australian Associated Press on Sunday.

“He was a remarkable player in his time. I understand he scored 16 tries this year, so he’s still going pretty well.”

Rugby Stadiums in World Cup Bid

Australian World Cup officials left for FIFA headquarters today confident that they have solved a long-running dispute should the country win the right to stage the 2018 or 2022 event.

The rival codes of Australian rules football (AFL), rugby league and rugby union have been digging in their heels and squabbling over allowing their stadiums to be used for soccer but a compensation deal has now been struck over vacating venues and re-locating.

“This is great news for football and great news for the whole country as everyone will benefit if we win the right to host a World Cup,” said FFA chairman Frank Lowy.

The final touches to Australia’s bid have thus now been completed with the Bid Book ready to be submitted to FIFA on Friday (May 14).

The dossier, crucially, contains unqualified support of the other major sporting codes after the final agreements required by FIFA were signed over the weekend.

England Name Aussie Tour Squad

England manager Martin Johnson on Tuesday named the following squad for the tour of Australia and New Zealand in June:

Tour dates: June 8: Australian Barbarians (Perth), June 12: Australia (Perth), June 15: Australian Barbarians (Gosford), June 19: Australia (Sydney), June 23: New Zealand Maoris (Napier). Squad:

Forwards: Steffon Armitage, David Attwood, Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Paul Doran-Jones, Nick Easter, David Flatman, Hendre Fourie, Jon Golding, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Courtney Lawes, Lee Mears, Lewis Moody, Tom Palmer, Geoff Parling, Tim Payne, Chris Robshaw, Simon Shaw, Steve Thompson, Dan Ward-Smith, Rob Webber, Dave Wilson, Joe Worsley.

Backs: Delon Armitage, Chris Ashton, Matt Banahan, Olly Barkley, Danny Care, Mark Cueto, Toby Flood, Ben Foden, Shane Geragthy, Shontayne Hape, Charlie Hodgson, Ugo Monye, Joe Simpson, David Strettle, Mathew Tait, Mike Tindall, Dominic Waldouck, Richard Wigglesworth, Jonny Wilkinson, Ben Youngs.