A classic ‘game of two halves’ started with two prominent absentees. Warren Gatland’s appointment as Lions coach has left his Welsh team without their galvanising force and they looked shorn of purpose for much of the first half. Justin Tipuric’s omission amazed the Mole, particularly in light of Ryan Jones’ thumb injury. Continue reading
Of all the northern hemisphere teams touring southern hemisphere countries, Wales were the most confident. A number of factors were stacked in their favour: their players are well rested, due to the Welsh clubs’ lack of success in European competition [even those players based in France like Mike Phillips and James Hook had no involvement in the business end of the Top 14]; they had an almost entirely injury-free squad, with the notable exception of Big Bopper Jamie Roberts; and they were Grand Slam champions. They should have represented the Six Nations teams’ best chance of a series victory against an injury-ravaged Australia. Instead, they haven’t even been able to take the series to a third test. Continue reading
With due credit to Irish Times rugby correspondent Gavin Cummiskey, the key motivation that will have driven two national coaches in particular during this week is the potential impact that Saturday’s results in the Six Nations will have on World Ranking points. Continue reading
The English never fear the French. The French never fear the Irish. The Irish no longer fear the Welsh. The French are always wary of the Scots. The Welsh fear nobody, but hate the Irish (according to Gatland). The Scots always fancy themselves against the English. The Irish don’t know how to beat the French and when it happens it’s by accident. Ireland love the English as favourites, and always assume they can beat them. Continue reading
Italy have brought Mirco Bergamasco back into their team for the first time this tournament, as well as restoring Kris Burton to the No10 jersey after Tobias Botes’ poor showing two weeks ago in Dublin. 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
Wales have a lot to be happy about in the aftermath of their World Cup.
True, they came home with a 4-3 record, but this is cup rugby. If you don’t win them all, it’s better to come home with a 4-3 record than a 4-1 record: playing seven games is a better result than playing five.
There’s a bit of a mope to the papers today. Journalists can’t wait to tell us that it’s the end of an era, and that Ireland’s World Cup has ended in failure. Continue reading
Now that we have reached the point where the general public are being fed rugby stories every day as the third biggest world sports tournament reaches its climax, does the dedicated rugby follower have the expert answers for his or her work colleagues as the questions and comments are thrown? Continue reading