All Blacks slammed for starting alcohol company, James O’Connor frontrunner for No.10 jersey

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New Zealand rugby league legend Graham Lowe has criticised All Blacks Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown, along with former All Black Stephen Donald, for launching an alcohol company he says targets youngsters.

The trio are co-founders of a premixed drink brand called Grins, which is being heavily marketed on social media in New Zealand.

Lowe, a former chair of the Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising, expressed disappointment and surprise at the players’ involvement and at New Zealand Rugby, who have their own alcohol sponsors, for allowing them to be involved.

“I’m very surprised that they’ve gone into it. I just think it’s tacky,” Lowe told NZ radio station Newstalk ZB.

“To be an All Black or a former All Black and to be involved in a campaign that is focused towards young people, I think, quite apart from everything else, is tacky. I’m a bit disappointed and surprised.

Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown of the All Blacks celebrate a try during the Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks, part of The Rugby Championship, at Optus Stadium on September 05, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

“I think we’ve come to a sad place. Surely those men can see and are aware of the harm that this can cause and it should not be up to the governing body or whoever – I’m sure they’ll have their own view on it. It shouldn’t be up to that, it should be up to us all as individuals.

“We know what harm it can cause. It doesn’t cause harm to everybody, but for some it can cause and start off a painful and terrible life. And if these guys aren’t aware of that, they’re just taking the low hanging fruit, which is what they are [doing]. It’s a really tacky stain on their careers.

“They’re probably getting paid good money to do it. At the end of the day the dollars overrule what’s right and what’s wrong. Should young people be exposed to alcohol advertising? No, in my view they shouldn’t. There’s no grey area. It’s either right or it’s wrong. I think it’s wrong.”

JOC a frontrunner for No.10

The Wallabies are contemplating a five-Test tour of Europe to finish the year as their path to the 2023 World Cup in France takes shape.

Dave Rennie’s side will host England for three Tests – in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney in July – before two games in Argentina in August.

They’ll be followed by two home Tests against South Africa and then a two-Test Bledisloe Cup – first at home, then in New Zealand at venues still to be finalised – against the All Blacks.

Australia will then play Italy, France, Ireland and Wales on an end-of-year tour, while a plan to also play Scotland is in its infancy.

A five-Test European tour, likely to begin in late October, would serve as an ideal build-up to the French World Cup showpiece over a similar time frame less than a year later.

The Wallabies have collected an 8-3-9 record since Rennie’s arrival, three draws among a win and two losses in 2020 followed by a 7-7 split last year.

That 2021 campaign included two and one-point losses to Scotland and Wales respectively on the Spring Tour, as well as three straight losses to New Zealand before a five-game winning streak.

A loss at Twickenham last year was their eighth straight to England, Australia keen to end that drought on home soil ahead of a potential World Cup quarter-final against Eddie Jones’ side next year.

“You look at 2020, that was where we started, and then last year we improved on that,” captain Michael Hooper said of their arc towards France 2023.

“The expectation on our group is to improve again this year and if we can do that into the following year, then we’re looking pretty good come 2023.”

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A 40-man squad not featuring any foreign-based players assembled on the Gold Coast at the weekend. 

Rennie said Queensland Reds five-eighth James O’Connor’s solid form made him a “frontrunner” for the No.10 against England after Japan-based Quade Cooper had impressed following his shock call-up last year.

“James has been excellent; very influential in the form of the Reds which is great to see,” Rennie said.

“He had a big year last year for the Reds as well and then got injured prior to the French series and took a long time to come back from that.

“So he’s certainly a frontrunner but Quade’s still an option for us.”

‘They’re a proud nation and coming to attack’

Dave Porecki reckons the Wallabies could play England next week, so impressively detailed was the squad’s three-day Gold Coast camp.

Problem is, they have to wait three months for Eddie Jones’ under-pressure squad, who have beaten Australia in their past eight Tests, to arrive.

The NSW Waratahs hooker knows not to get ahead of himself too, a calf injury derailing what seemed a certain Test debut on last year’s Spring Tour.

Back in Australia after six seasons in the English Premiership with Saracens and London Irish, the 29-year-old is firming again in a position that no man is yet to stamp his authority.

“I got pretty close and then my body broke down, so I’m a little bit more pessimistic this year and my mission is just to play very well for ten weeks,” he told AAP after the weekend’s Gold Coast camp.

Dave Rennie

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“I know from personal experience over the years you can easily have your name taken off a list.”

With Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Tolu Latu in France and unlikely to be called in for July’s three-Test series and Jordan Uelese on the outer, Porecki is in a race with Folau Fainga’a, Feleti Kaitu’u and Lachlan Lonergan to wear the No.2.

His experience may help, Porecki used to bumping into English teammates and rivals in the streets of London before heading back to Daceyville in 2020.

“They’re such a proud nation and they’ll be coming here to attack,” he said of the 2019 World Cup finalists, who endured a 2-3 Six Nations campaign to heap pressure on their Australian coach Eddie Jones.

“They’ll be a different animal from Six Nations – I’ve played against most of them, know exactly what they’re like – their media is ruthless over there and they’ll definitely react.

“They’ll be coming to bash you as a forward, it’ll be a battle.”

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie suggested on Tuesday that England may introduce some new tricks on their Australian tour ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Porecki though hinted they had a good understanding of what lay ahead and had already begun their homework.

“Coming into this camp you see how organised, detailed it is to give us a taste of England with analysis on the scrum, lineout, their backrowers,” he said.

“It plants the seed and you almost felt like we could play next week, knowing what we’re up against and how we expose them.”

The hooker also left camp with a clear understanding of Rennie’s desire to employ a multi-skilled talent with a high work rate in his position.

“If you can nail your set piece that’s golden, but you must add elements to your game,” Porecki said.

“But I’ve always wanted to play that way anyway, not just throw line-outs and scrum.”

(With AAP)

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