Stick with Mogg, Latham tells Wallabies

Former Wallabies fullback Chris Latham believes coach Ewen McKenzie will be well rewarded by keeping the faith in under-fire novice Jesse Mogg for Saturday night’s return Bledisloe Cup battle.

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As exciting as the prospect of Israel Folau being shifted to No.15 is, Latham says big-kicking, long-striding Mogg has the ability to develop into a long-term Test fullback, and expects him to show his true colours against the All Blacks in Wellington.

The Brumbies custodian endured a forgettable run-on Test debut in last weekend’s 47-29 loss in Sydney, highlighted by a poor missed tackle for a second-half try to Conrad Smith.

There’s been fervent calls for McKenzie to move Folau from the right wing to the fullback position for more attacking opportunities after barely touching the ball in his Bledisloe debut.

But the Wallabies coach has indicated he’ll keep his backline intact, and make just one change to his starting 15, with Brumbies lock Scott Fardy set to replace injured Hugh McMeniman (shoulder) at blindside flanker when he names his team on Thursday.

On flying into Wellington on Wednesday McKenzie backed his incumbents – also including rookie five-eighth Matt Toomua – to stand up and deliver at Westpac Stadium.

“They are all up to it,” he said. “We picked (Toomua) in the first place.

“I don’t really pick people or get rid of people on one game.”

That would be applauded by Latham, an attacking marvel of 78 Tests over a decade, who took a long time to settle in the No.15 jersey after a rocky five-year apprenticeship.

“I rate Jesse Mogg quite highly,” Latham said on Wednesday. “He’s got a lot of potential there.

“You need the backing and the confidence of the coach (to perform).

“His first Test, if anything, he was just probably guilty of trying too hard.

“In that position of fullback, and I’ve been there myself, if you make mistakes they are generally exposed and seen a lot more.

“I think it would be a bit harsh to not pick him this week.”

While Latham dismissed the option of switching James O’Connor from the left wing, he did admit Folau’s X-factor provided a luring alternative at the back.

But he also felt there was an element of risk in handing the code-hopper the No.15 jersey as he’s yet to still mastering the defensive and positional aspects of the position.

The All Blacks, even with a fourth-choice flyhalf, are experts at exposing minor weaknesses and there’s concerns Folau could be “found out” due to his lack of experience.

“It’s a tough choice,” said Latham, a member of the last Australian team to beat the All Blacks on NZ soil, way back in 2002 in Dunedin. “You’d be a silly man to question his ability to catch a high ball and kick.

“My hat goes off to him with his talent and what he’s shown thus far with the limited experience he has.”

Likely Wallabies starting team: Jesse Mogg, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Lealiifano, James O’Connor, Matt Toomua, Will Genia; Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.

RICARDO’S BUSINESS || A$ back above parity for how long?

After slumping around US10c in the space of a month, it just goes to show how sentiment driven our markets really are at the moment.

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The surge overnight comes on renewed hope that a solution to the European debt crisis will be found.

The leaders of France and Germany are expected to reveal details of that plan sometime next month.

But it’s interesting to see, that the Australian dollar’s relative weakness in recent weeks have actually benefited retailers.

NAB’s Business Survey released today showed a rebound in business sentiment, back into positive territory.

There’s two main reasons for this; firstly the fall in the Australian dollar over the month. But some experts say, given the rebound in our currency, it makes this survey obsolete. Furthermore, ANZ is forecasting the Australian dollar will average US$1.10 over the last six months of next year.

The second player in business confidence is fresh speculation of an interest rate cut. Last week, the Reserve Bank revealed that it may cut the official cash rate if it needed to stimulate the economy. The market has clearly taken that to mean interest rates will come down soon.

CommSec today noted that a rate cut on Melbourne Cup day may be on the table, if inflation numbers released on October 26th shows that consumer prices are moderating.

ANZ meanwhile, has two interest rate cuts priced in over the next six months.

But let’s not forget the man who went out on a limb when most other commentators and economists were not even considering the possibility of loosening monetary policy.

Bill Evans from Westpac predicted back on July 15, following Westpac’s Consumer Sentiment Survey that there’d be 100bps worth of cuts coming our way, starting with the first in December.

Times have changed.

Exciting backline adds new dimension to Springbok challenge

Exhibitions of flair-filled, free-flowing rugby in three June tests have encouraged hopes that South Africa have a strong chance of success in the four-nation competition, starting with the weekend’s opening test at home to Argentina in Johannesburg.

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The six tests between now and the beginning of October are also about continuing to build for the Rugby World Cup in 2015 as coach Heyneke Meyer looks to find a settled side he can polish up over the next 24 months.

Backs Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Willie le Roux and Jan Serfontein have been the subject of much excitement and have also come in for hefty praise from Meyer after the impact they had in wins over Italy, Scotland and Samoa two months ago.

They are likely to lead a more flamboyant attacking style as Meyer this week challenged them to “take a step up and show they can do it against the best teams in the world”.

“We have very exciting backs at the moment and when we created scoring opportunities (in June) we finished them,” he told reporters in the build-up to the first international at Soccer City on Saturday.

Le Roux was one of the revelations of Super Rugby with the Cheetahs, where his unpredictable play catapulted him into the national team set up.

Engelbrecht and Serfontein are explosive midfielders while speedy winger Basson has shown a clean pair of heels to many opposing defences.

DOMINANT PACK

Any platform for expansive midfield play will come from a dominant pack with the Springboks showing a marked improvement after the disappointment of last year’s Rugby Championship, where they won only two of six matches and were comprehensively beaten at home by New Zealand in their final test.

Meyer says the set piece is a source of pride now with lineouts and scrumaging much improved. Extra work on the new scrum laws formed a large part of this week’s preparations, with a powerful pack still central to the game plan.

“We are a much more settled side and a much better side this year,” he insisted.

Areas of concern, however, remain, as evidenced by the recall of Japan-based scrum half Fourie du Preez, a 62-cap veteran who last played for the Springboks at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

South Africa is also grappling with the exodus of key players to club rugby in England, France and Japan and the potential implications on player availability over the next two years.

A third of the 30-man squad now turn out for overseas clubs, a source of major concern for the South Africa Rugby Union who are to look at ways of curbing the exodus even though stalwarts like Bryan Habana and Morne Steyn are part of the 2015 plans.

“Players playing locally will always get first consideration,” SARU chief executive officer Jurie Roux told reporters last week. “Provided that the selectors have faith in their abilities.

“However we are in a unique situation with six players who were part of the Bok squad last year now deciding to go overseas.

“You can’t just replace so many players in the middle of the season.”

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

European stocks push higher

Europe’s main stock markets have mostly risen as traders responded to positive economic data and the latter stages of the current earnings season.

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London’s FTSE 100 index of leading shares dipped 0.02 per cent to 6,618.46 points approaching midday on Tuesday, as heavyweight miners retreated in value, offsetting news of a strong rebound for British manufacturing.

Frankfurt’s DAX 30 advanced 0.30 per cent to 8,423.63 points after official data showed that German industrial orders had risen by 3.8 per cent in June.

The CAC 40 in Paris climbed 0.17 per cent to 4,056.86 points.

“After a decent run up in recent weeks, blue-chip mining stocks have cooled as lower metals prices take the steam out of the rally,” said Matt Basi, head of UK sales trading at CMC Markets.

The euro climbed to $US1.3278 from $US1.3255 late in New York on Monday.

The US dollar edged up to 98.25 yen from 98.22 yen.

Sterling was steady against the European single currency, while it jumped to $US1.5376 from $US1.5352 on Monday.

Britain’s manufacturing output rebounded with a bang in June, official data showed on Tuesday, providing further evidence of the country’s broad-based economic recovery.

Output jumped 1.9 per cent in June from May, when it had fallen by 0.7 per cent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

Traders also digested further earnings updates, which along with improving European and US economic data, have helped to lift stock markets over the past month.

The DAX and CAC indices have each rallied by about 8.0 per cent in value since the start of July.

On Tuesday, shares in InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) jumped 3.0 per cent to 1,966 pence after the company announced a 25 per cent increase in first-half net profits thanks to a strong showing by its US operations.

Profit after tax jumped to $US340 million ($A381.98 million) in the six months to the end of June compared with net earnings of $US271 million in the first half of 2012, said the company that owns the InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotel chains.

IHG added that it would pay shareholders a special dividend totalling $US350 million.

Asian stock markets closed mixed on Tuesday as investor concerns lingered over a potential tapering of US monetary stimulus, analysts said.

Hong Kong was dragged lower by a near five-per cent tumble for the share price of heavyweight HSBC Holdings.

On Monday, the banking giant announced a 22-per cent rise in half-year net profit on lower costs and falling bad-debt charges, slightly below analysts’ estimates.

It warned that slower Chinese growth was affecting its main market Asia.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, the price of gold slipped to $US1,293.12 an ounce on the London Bullion Market from $US1,304.75 on Monday.

Spain nabs paedophile pardoned by Morocco

Spanish police have arrested a convicted paedophile who had his pardon revoked by Morocco’s King Mohamed VI after it sparked angry protests in the north African country.

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Daniel Galvan Vina, a Spaniard found guilty of raping 11 children aged between four and 15 in Morocco and sentenced in September 2011 to 30 years in prison there, was detained in Murcia in southeastern Spain, a Spanish interior ministry spokesman said on Monday.

Galvan, who once worked at the University of Murcia, will be taken to Madrid to appear before Spain’s top criminal court, the National Audience, which will decide his fate, the spokesman added.

The 63-year-old was among 48 Spanish prisoners who were pardoned by King Mohamed VI and freed last week from jail following a visit in mid-July to Morocco by Spain’s King Juan Carlos.

A royal palace statement said the king had been unaware of the nature of Galvan’s crimes and had ordered a probe into his release.

Earlier on Monday, the Moroccan monarch dismissed the director of prisons after an inquiry blamed his department for Galvan’s release under royal pardon.

“The inquiry concluded that the said administration inadvertently provided erroneous information about the criminal record of the prisoner in question when requested by the royal court,” a palace statement said.

The pardon sparked outrage in Morocco, which has seen several high-profile paedophile arrests in recent months.

Galvan was convicted after videos he made of his crimes at his home in Morocco were used as evidence.

On Friday night, baton-wielding police dispersed several thousand people who tried to rally in front of the parliament in Rabat.

“We still don’t understand what is behind this affair,” said primary schoolteacher Fatima Imelouane, who took part in a protest held on Friday in the Moroccan port of Kenitra where Galvan once lived.

“Why this pardon? Why the revocation? Who is responsible and what are the government and the justice minister (Mustapha Ramid) doing?” she asked.

New demonstrations were planned for Casablanca on Tuesday and Rabat on Wednesday.

The Moroccan justice ministry said Galvan and the 47 other Spanish prisoners received the royal pardon in response to a request from Spain’s king.

But Spain’s royal household said Juan Carlos had not asked for the release of Galvan or any other Spanish prisoner during his visit and had only shown interest in the wellbeing of Spanish nationals held in prisons in the north African country.