THE BREAKDOWN

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NZ pride on the line when Canes host Tahs

Can the NZ conference finally get one over the Aussies by beating the Waratahs?

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Embattled Rebels coach Damien Hill has handled well the recent speculation over his future in Melbourne. He is certainly not the first coach and will not be the last to find himself under fire early in the season - Waratahs, anyone? - but the issues he has confronted with his playing group have been more serious, and his handling of the recent Kurtley Beale crisis deserves recognition. It is, however, a near certainty the Rebels board will cast around for interested candidates should the faltering club slump to their sixth loss of the season against the Force in Perth on Saturday. It is understood the board has not yet made that call but after two seasons in charge and one as assistant coach, Hill is running out of time to turn around his fortunes.

Plan ''B'' in play

The Sydney clubs are resigned to the implementation of ARU boss Bill Pulver's ''Super B'' rugby competition as the latest incarnation of the badly needed third-tier competition. But they're not resigned to competing with it for attention, and have appointed Norths president Tony Crawford to lobby on their behalf for a staggered season. The club presidents' proposal would see the Super B competition run over the first 10 weeks of the regular Super Rugby season, with the Shute Shield following. Crawford, father of Waratahs rookie Cam Crawford and the former long-serving chief executive of law firm DLA Phillips Fox, could find some sympathy on the timing front, since Pulver is keen to give clubs their best chance to thrive. But there is also a distinct feeling the outcome of the joint ARU, QRU and Sydney Rugby Union Premier Rugby taskforce review will mean a shorter, tighter and more competitive club competition in Sydney next year. What that means for some of the clubs struggling to field teams and stay afloat financially, such as Gordon and Penrith, is unknown.

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Retro active: The Wallabies' new jersey is 25 per cent lighter, but seemingly much brighter. Photo: Supplied

Launch pads

Speaking of club rugby, the calendar has been packed with season launches over the past fortnight. Manly held its bash on Thursday night, Penrith welcomed Waratahs coach Michael Cheika and NSWRU chair Nick Farr-Jones to theirs last week, and Randwick will on Friday host Pulver, Alan Jones and federal minister Peter Garrett at their own. The Galloping Greens will also announce the formalisation of their relationship with UNSW, with vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer coming along to take part. The smart clubs know their futures lie in economies - or at least communities - of scale. Gordon, despite their financial woes, are developing a closer relationship with UTS. It's all a bit reminiscent of the plan floated by RUPA boss Greg Harris to align every rugby club in Australia with a tertiary institution.

Tops on team

It's a little bit green, a little bit parochial and more than a little bit 1970s Socceroos. We're even wondering if mullet 'n' mo' aficionado Berrick Barnes had a hand in its design. It's the new Wallabies jersey, complete with a green patch coat of arms, thick green stripe and, in case the British and Irish Lions need a navigational tool, the Southern Cross emblazoned across the torso. The jersey is also, says manufacturer KooGa, 25 per cent lighter than its predecessor. Next off the production line will be Australia's secret weapon in the supporters' wars. Desperate to prevent a repeat of the sea of red that greeted the Wallabies at the Gabba in Brisbane 12 years ago, the ARU has been working up a very clever garment for Wallabies fans to don in the stands. We can't say too much now but we can guarantee it won't be as stifling or unflattering as the ''Golden Suit'' onesie, nor as cutesy as the popular spirit hoods, which were great last year but too cuddly for the incoming Lions.

Twitter- @geerob