When Robbie ‘Dingo’ Deans announced that he’d crossed the Tasman to take over from John Connolly as head coach of the Wallabies back in December 2007, it was pretty enormous news in New Zealand. Continue reading
The Mole made an ass out of umption and was up soreheaded at 8am to watch a game that didn’t kick off for three hours. Here’s mud in yer eye, REM sleep! Continue reading
It’s strange to say that somebody who’s only winning his second cap could teach somebody who has been to three World Cups and two Lions Tours a thing or two, but one of the odd pleasures of this second test was not seeing Paul O’Connell carry static, one-out ball into contact and go to ground. Brodie Retallick didn’t get on the ball much: he just went around charging into rucks and bashing things. Continue reading
While this was a very good performance from Ireland, it’s not as though it can’t be improved upon. In some ways it was similar to the 15-6 win over Australia in RWC11 – you couldn’t fault the intensity of the players on the pitch, or the decisions made by the management in selection or substitution, but tactically there’s still quite a lot of ground for improvement. That’s encouraging. It’d be downright grim if you had played as well as you could possibly play and not beaten a team who weren’t at their best. Continue reading
Maybe the most heated rugby rivalry in the Six Nations Championship takes centre stage and top billing in round three. England and Wales are both on course for a Grand Slam (shudder the thought) and Saturday evening’s game should not only be a competition between which nation’s legendary ex-player can provide more inept BBC Commentary (we’ll take Guscott over Davies in that contest) but also a competition to see which backline is the boshiest (where we plump for the Welsh).
England have been deeply unimpressive in the tournament so far, arguably outplayed by more physical teams with the inability to convert physical dominance into points – Scotland can’t score tries, Italy couldn’t kick snow off a snowy rugby ball – and were rescued by a pair of blockdowns by Charlie “Dan Akroyd” Hodgson. But scoff as we might about the English, they’ve survived two away trips and come up smelling of Orc and now have a chance to bring the much fancied Welsh crashing back down to earth in Fortress Twickers.
Last year, England were reveling in their two victories over Australia (one down in the southern hemisphere in June 2010 and a really whomping at HQ in November) and were really starting to believe their own press – turns out we can learn something from the Martin Johnson team after all – and put a hurting on a Welsh side on the opening Friday night in Cardiff on the way to a Championship only marred by their blitzing in Lansdowne.
Scotland showed last weekend that a defense more aggressive than the Irish could stultify the big hard-hitting runners in the Welsh backline, but conversely the Welsh showed themselves to be extremely clinical when the cracks started to appear against a 14 man defense by creating intense pressure in the tight before leaving the Big Bopper, JJV Davies or Cuthbert (who had a fine game) running against an extremely stretched Scottish backline.
Meanwhile the English backrow looked deeply unconvincing and was outplayed by the more dynamic and aggressive Scots, in particular by Rennie and Denton, and will be coming up against another of strong point of the Welsh team. If the English choose their own Welshman at No8 Ben Morgan, things could be interesting, but the combination of the relentless Faletau, Lydiate, the re-born Ryan Jones, Tiporuc or God’s-gift-to-mankind Sam Warburton will dominate the pedestrian Dowson-Robshaw-Croft axis. If the Welsh has perpetrate turnovers in key areas, they have shown that they have the game intelligence to capitalize on pressure and produce scores. Assuming post-magnet Rhys Priestland has his kicking boots, this means penalties and more than likely tries.
Bookies have the Welsh as narrow favourites but logic suggests that the Welsh are more than three points better than the English. Welsh by 7.
It seems really distasteful to criticise Les Kiss. He comes across as a hell of a nice guy and a chap absolutely brimful of integrity. He has been the most innovative defense coach in Ireland’s history and his demeanour, his depth of knowledge about how the game is played at the highest level today and his record all point towards ideal head-coach material. Continue reading
James Horwill has long been a focal point for any team he is a member of. His appointment as captain of Australia’s World Cup squad confirmed his leadership role. His influence was immediate as a confident Australia got stuck into New Zealand from the first whistle and showed no respect for reputation. Horwill has already captained Queensland to the Super 15 title this season and this victory meant that his team won the Tri Nations title for the first time in a decade. Continue reading
The Tri Nations will be decided this weekend in Brisbane. Australia and New Zealand enter level on points after three games. New Zealand won the teams’ earlier encounter. Continue reading
Boks Club Baby Blacks; Eat Bones
South Africa sent a largely back-up team to Wellington under a vastly experienced hooker three weeks ago, and New Zealand returned the compliment yesterday. Kevin Mealamu captained a half-strength side missing a wealth of stars: Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read, Brad Thorn and Mils Muliaina, the established spine of the side, were all left cooling their heels back in New Zealand. It’s a cliche in rugby circles that there is no such thing as a bad All Blacks side, and though any team would miss players of the calibre of those listed above, Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Ali Williams and Jerome Kaino, all front-rank forwards, were present and correct. Continue reading
New Zealand can put one hand on the Tri Nations trophy this weekend by winning in Port Elizabeth.
Pieter De Villiers’ term has been marked by eccentric and controversial comments. He has kept the bulk of Jake White’s 2007 team rather than putting his own stamp on things by introducing a new generation of players. If his team wins the World Cup, all of this will be glossed over. South Africa’s tour at the beginning of the tournament put paid to any chances they had of winning the Tri-Nations as de Villiers sent over his B team. This weekend, he goes with the big guns. Continue reading