First steps

Super Rugby Aotearoa: preseason week 7

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Tip-On!

If you want to look back on the international debuts of some of the greatest All Blacks of recent decades, you can find a selection of highlights — including Christian Cullen’s hat trick against Samoa in 1996, and Richie McCaw’s man-of-the-match performance against Ireland in 2001 — here.

There are still a limited number of places available on the free webinar previewing Super Rugby Aotearoa which I’m co-hosting with Brian Fitzpatrick (of BF Sports Analysis) on Monday 22nd February.

This will run in two different time slots: first at 7:30am UTC, and again at 8:00pm UTC. If you’re interested in attending either session, you can register here for more details.

All in-game data per ESPNScrum unless otherwise stated.

Pieces of silver

The prospect of serious private-equity investment in rugby is not a completely new phenomenon, but Silver Lake’s proposed NZ$465m deal for a 15% stake in ‘CommercialCo’ — a new entity incorporated by New Zealand Rugby to hold the union’s commercial assets, as reported by the NZ Herald — is interesting in a number of ways.

In Europe, CVC has taken stakes in top-level competitions which are each controlled by a number of different stakeholders: the constituent clubs in the case of the English Premiership, and the constituent unions in the case of the Pro14 and the Six Nations.

However, were the Silver Lake deal to be completed, it would leave them in a different position entirely: dealing as a minority partner with a single stakeholder only — NZR themselves.

NZR is able to operate alone in this way only because of the strength of the All Blacks brand, and this is surely the primary commercial asset that Silver Lake will be looking to maximise.

While there is some scope to see domestic revenues increase as a result of the investment, success in the new lines of business on which the minority investor has designs — “future revenue streams such as streaming, Esports and global coaching clinics” — will all require that brand to retain its prestige in the eyes of millions of consumers beyond the shores of New Zealand.

But that brand is contingent on success, and NZR knows it: by their own admission, their organisational vision depends on “rugby teams in black that are unrivalled, [and] a high-performance system that produces the world’s best talent”.

And having unrivalled national teams and producing the world’s best talent is itself contingent on factors outside the union’s control — the performances of rivals, and those nations’ own production lines of talent.

Although NZR can try and act in order to maximise the chances of that status being retained over the long term, it cannot guarantee that it will happen — and that is where the underpinnings of this deal are slightly precarious.

Foreign fields

Last weekend, there were 49 Kiwis1 playing in top-level competition overseas2:

Wales vs. Scotland

Willis Halaholo (23) vs. Blade Thomson (6)

Ireland vs. France

Jamison Gibson-Park (9), James Lowe (11) vs. Uini Atonio (18)

Gloucester vs. Bristol

Willi Heinz (9), Jason Woodward (15) vs. John Afoa (3), Chris Vui (5), Jake Heenan (6), Nathan Hughes (8), Siale Piutau (12), Charles Piutau (15), Alapati Leiua (23)

Harlequins vs. Leicester

Elia Elia (16) vs. -

Exeter vs. London Irish

- vs. Blair Cowan (7), Terrence Hepetema (12), Motu Matu'u (16)

Worcester vs. Wasps

- vs. Brad Shields (6), Jimmy Gopperth (12), Malakai Fekitoa (13), Jeff Toomaga-Allen (18)

Harlequins vs. Loughborough

Amy Cokayne (2) vs. -

Toulouse vs. Pau

Charlie Faumuina (3), Pita Ahki (12), Iosefa Tekori (18), Jerome Kaino (19) vs. Siegfried Fisiihoi (1), Luke Whitelock (8), Jale Vatubua (12), Daniel Ramsay (18)

Bordeaux vs. Stade Français

Ben Botica (10), Ben Lam (11), Ben Tameifuna (23) vs. Telusa Veainu (14)

Racing 92 vs. Lyon

Dominic Bird (5) vs. Jordan Taufua (8), Toby Arnold (14)

Castres vs. Montpellier

Paula Ngauamo (16) vs. -

Toulon vs. La Rochelle

Brian Alainu’uese (5), Tane Takulua (9), Isaia Toeava (10), Ma’a Nonu (12) vs. Victor Vito (8), Ihaia West (10)

Bayonne vs. Brive

Joe Ravouvou (14), Mat Luamanu (19), Michael Ruru (20) vs. So’otala Fa’aso’o (19)

Loose threads

In case you missed it on Twitter over the offseason

  • Will Jordan’s cameo opening the batting for Team Rugby in the T20 Black Clash

  • Some examples of the footballing skills Zarn Sullivan displayed at fullback for Auckland during last year’s Mitre 10 Cup

Quick hits


“Kiwis” = anyone who has spent time in the country’s development system as an age-grade player (e.g. Jale Vatubua), as well as any players to have represented New Zealand internationally (e.g. Joe Ravouvou)


“Top-level competition” = Tier 1 internationals, Champions Cup, Challenge Cup, Premiership, Premier 15s, Top 14, Pro 14, Super Rugby AU and Top League