Rugby Union


Royals use international flavour for Canberra rugby season

They communicate with nods, hand signals and "the language of rugby".

Royals coach Russell Ingram is banking on a multicultural five-man combination to help them chase an elusive premiership this year.

But while it's got the makings of the start to a joke, the Royals' Tongan, Samoan, Argentinean, Japanese and Australian combination is confident it can break down the language barrier to chase John I Dent Cup success.

The Royals' back row and halves combination boasts worldwide experience.

Blindside flanker Soakai Tai - a two-time competition best and fairest winner - is from Tonga.

Recruit Steve Sioni is from Samoa, scrumhalf Pedro Rolando is from Argentina and flyhalf and Brumbies Japanese recruit Harumichi Tatekawa is the chief playmaker.


Canberra junior Brendan Woodward rounds out a five-man combo, describing it as a "multicultural sandwich" and admits it's almost impossible to nail down the language of choice.

When Tatekawa arrived at Brumbies training he needed a translator to help him communicate with his new teammates.

"They'll be speaking the language of rugby, that's for sure," Ingram said.

"They'll be fine. But I guess we'll find out when they play. If it clicks, it will be pretty dynamic. But that's what we don't know, we haven't played a lot of footy together.

"There won't be too many words spoken, it will be more about calling plays and even though they speak different languages, they understand that."

The multicultural line-up will have to wait a week before testing themselves in Canberra's premier division.

The opening round of the season on Saturday was cancelled as the ACT government closed Canberra's sports venues because of wet weather.

It means Royals will have to delay their bid for premiership redemption after losing the grand final to Tuggeranong last season.

There are just six Royals players from the grand final who are fit to start the season.

Openside flanker Woodward missed most of last season after dislocating his thumb in a game against Queanbeyan.

His left thumb was so badly dislocated, it was turned around and facing him. But after it popped back into position, Woodward pushed through pain to attend his 21st birthday party before going to hospital for surgery the next day.

He's the only Australian in the Royals combination from blindside flanker to flyhalf.

"I had to have a full thumb reconstruction. I had three months in a cast and another month-and-a-half of strength and rehab, but now it's great and it doesn't bother me at all," said Woodward, who's studying to be a paramedic.

"I don't remember how it happened, I just remember seeing my thumb and seeing it wasn't pointing the way it should. I didn't think it was right, it was pointing towards my body.

"It will be an experiment with the [international back row], but most people in the team are pretty good with English. Once you're in a blue jersey it doesn't matter what nationality you are or what language you speak.

"I feel like I'm in a multicultural sandwich, but it doesn't bother me."