What’s Wrong With The Wallabies? Pt.2

Berrick Barnes [Waratahs], David Pocock [Force], James Horwill [Reds], James O’Connor [Rebels] and Stephen Moore [Brumbies] – a photo like this gives the impression that Australian rugby talent is distributed equally across all five franchises … it isn’t. If they showed five players from each team, you wouldn’t recognise six of the lads wearing Force or Rebels jerseys.

Before we get into the personnel, injury, tactical and discipline problems that have beset the Wallabies in recent times, it’s important to cast a cursory eye over the structure that supports the international team.

The Mole is of the strong opinion that the ARU have eyes bigger than their bellies when it comes to ‘growing the game’. They’ve expanded for the sake of expanding, not for the sake of winning more trophies.

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The Team That Never Travelled: Part Two, The Second Row

Jerome Thion [France]: Thion is in the prime of his life as a second row: 33 years old, 115kgs, 45 starts for France and two World Cups. The Biarritz man has locked the French scrum with Lionel Nallet in a lot of big games but has been surplus to requirements since the defeat to Italy. Continue reading

Ruhspuct thuh Huhkuh, Smuddy: NZ World Cup Squad Review

Graham Henry has named his squad, and the most striking news is that neither Sitiveni Sivivatu nor Hosea Gear are in it. As mentioned in the match review of the recent SA vs NZ test from Port Elizabeth, New Zealand have an absolute rake of top-quality wingers who would find a place in the starting line-up of many other teams in the world cup – the two lads join ‘Walk Away’ Rene Ranger, Joe Rokocoko and Lelia Masaga at poolside, or possibly in one of those big Auckland bars like the one that’s in the start of Once Were Warriors. If Uncle Bully tries to do a runner again, he’s not going to get very far. Continue reading

Scotland RWC 2011 Squad Preview

Scotland. Looking at their squad, you nod your head and take a breath in and think to yourself: “Y’know, there are some pretty serious players there.” I do, anyway. Then you remember the last couple of times you saw them play, and just how abject they can be.

Andy Robinson has announced his captain as Alaistair Kellock, which to my mind immediately rules out the likelihood of them starting their best lock pairing, Nathan Hines and Richie Gray. Kellock is a fine player in his own right, a good captain and seems like a lovely chap in the Rob Wainwright mould, but Gray is already looking like he could be Victor Matfield’s successor as the best No5 in world rugby, and Nathan Hines is long-established as one of the top front jumpers and tighthead locks in the northern hemisphere. Hines has great hands, a mean-streak a mile wide and ridiculous stamina – he played in more games than any other Leinster player last year [when you include his Scottish internationals] in one of the toughest positions on the pitch. Playing him at blindside, as Andy Robinson did during the Six Nations, gets him on the pitch but doesn’t take best advantage of his unique capabilities. Gray is going to have a great world cup – he’s both a phenomenal athlete and a proper rugby player, making tackles all over the park, dominant at lineout time and an excellent runner in the open field with an eye for the offload. The sky is the limit for this lad, and I’ve no doubt he’ll be piling up Man of the Match awards and contract offers from French clubs. Continue reading

Boks Club Baby Blacks: SA vs NZ Match Report

Fleshlumpeater and Gizzardgulper share moment, lunch

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

Irish RWC 2011 Squad Preview

For What It’s Worth

When journalists go about choosing a squad for the world cup – and just about all of them have done it – there’s a distinction between those who try to pre-empt Declan Kidney’s announcement by picking the ‘right’ squad i.e. the squad that will go to the world cup, and those who pick ‘their’ squad, i.e. the squad that they would choose were they manager. Continue reading

The Scrum Half Equation

Boss, Murray, Reddan, O'Leary, Stringer: Choose Your Weapon

The Irish squad selection for RWC 2011 is due to be announced on Monday, and the smoke is clearing from one of the most hotly debated positions: scrum-half. Declan Kidney’s initial training squad selection saw the inclusion of no fewer than five scrum-halves [Isaac Boss, Conor Murray, Tomás O’Leary, Eoin Reddan and Peter Stringer], and it is widely expected that three will tavel to New Zealand. Continue reading

Mortlock, Cipriani and the Melbourne Rebels

The Melbourne Rebels roll into the RDS tonight, and while the Anglesea Terrace Ultras will have all eyes fixed on the performance of a young Leinster team with a number of debutants, two big names in the visitor’s side will provide another focus to the casual viewer.

Stirling Mortlock and Danny Cipriani are big names in world rugby, despite the fact that neither of them are perhaps the draw they were three years ago. Back in 2008, Mortlock was the captain of the Wallabies, and Cipriani was coming off a magnificent performance where he oversaw the dismantling of Ireland in the final game of the Six Nations at Twickenham. Within the English rugby media, the rush to acclaim Cipriani as the heir to injury-prone Jonny Wilkinson  – ‘injury-prone’ is putting it mildly; maybe ‘injury-decimated’ is more accurate – may have been unseemly, but it wasn’t totally without evidence. Cipriani’s game that day showed a rounded game management and leadership that, allied to his natural pace and footballing skills, seemed to mark him out as a potentially world class outside half.

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Connacht vs Ireland XV

While it was never going to amount to anything much more than a disjointed trial match, there were some fine examples of openfield running, some well-taken tries and some contentious hits in tonight’s Ireland Select XV vs Connacht in Donnybrook.

For those selected on the Irish XV, it was a last shot to impress Declan Kidney before the final warm-up game against England; for Connacht, the first tentative steps of their biggest season to date, the prize of Heineken Cup rugby upping the ante from the last number of years spent contesting the Parker Pen and Amlin Cup.

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