Happy Thursday everyone, had a great catch up with a few of the G&GR boys at a bar on Friday, it was an enjoyable night talking rugby and putting faces to names.
It was a bit like the joke a group of rugby supporters walked into a bar….. (I can’t remember what happened next.)
It is a tough balancing act how much rugby is too much. Our friends at Rugby Pass have published an interview with the English captain Courtney Lawes espousing the view that they are running on empty. The English season now runs from September to July. The reduced salary cap has led to smaller squads which has led to the higher profile players having to play more. Australian players who have signed with English clubs next year can expect to be driven like a rental car.
At the heart of the issue is the difficulty marrying the increased number of games being played by Gallagher Premiership clubs with the lower salary cap that depletes playing resources. With the state of finances in Australian rugby I am sure Australian players can understand how they feel.
Given the intensity of test rugby it is understandable why the attrition rate is so high. Personally I think it is yet another reason to reduce the number of replacements allowed in a game.
Wallabies Remain Calm Despite Niggle
I think any objective observer can see the English have a plan to unsettle the Australians with some off the ball stuff during the games. Frankly it has always been part of the game and good luck to them.
I am a firm believer that our best is better than their best Wallabies by 18.
Wallabies assistant coach Dan McKellar believes the side will be better equipped at dealing with ‘niggling’ tactics from the visitors as they prepare for the decider. Both sides are locked at 1-all as the action heads to the SCG, set to be a sellout as international rugby returns to the ground for the first time since 1986.
The English have found success frustrating the Wallabies over the first two tests with their physical style, with Nic White taking exception to an elbow to the back of his head off the ball. The incident caused conjecture as the boisterous Suncorp crowd called for more than just a penalty.
McKellar remained confident they will not get ‘sucked in’ on Saturday as he called on the referees to look after it. “It’s pretty pointless these days isn’t it? You go rushing in and your third man in and you’re on the receiving end of a yellow card,” the forwards coach suggested. “It all comes down to emotional control and making sure you’re not getting sucked into those sort of tactics. The officials will be world-class on Saturday and it’s their job to look after. It’s not something we plan or put tactics to in this environment. We have much more important things to worry about that’ll go a fair way towards deciding a test match than a little niggle.”
Edinburgh appoint Michael Todd as defence coach
I know you have never heard of him but, for mine, this is a worrying export of quality IP of the sort we need to keep in the country. From The Offsideline
MICHAEL Todd has been named as Edinburgh’s new defence coach and will join up with the capital club later this month. The 32 year old, who has been in the equivalent post with the Queensland Reds for the past two years, is currently working with Australia ‘A’ in the Pacific Nations Cup competition. He will replace Calum MacRae, who left for Benetton last month, in Mike Blair’s coaching team at the DAM Health Stadium.
“I’m very excited to join Edinburgh Rugby, which has such a rich and long history,” Todd said in a press release issued by his new employers. “I can’t wait to get started and contribute to the team and the club. I’m really grateful to Mike [Blair] for allowing me the opportunity to work with him and his team. I can’t wait to work alongside the coaches who are doing an incredible job. I’m just so keen to get started and help contribute and develop a team that is on the rise. My young family and I are so excited to come over and fully immerse ourselves in the culture and experience as much as we can in Scotland. I have lived in a few different places around the world but this will be the first time for my wife and daughter to live somewhere outside of Australia – we can’t wait.
“It’s always daunting stepping into a new environment and challenge but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. A new league brings new challenges and learnings, while the Heineken Champions Cup is the pinnacle of rugby in the Northern Hemisphere – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”
Todd was born in Harare and represented Zimbabwe at age-grade level before moving to Queensland in 2009. He played as a forward at university, then embarked on his coaching career in 2013 when he was hired by the Reds as a performance analyst. He worked in that role with Munster in the 2014-15 season then returned to the Reds as a senior analyst. In 2020 he was promoted to defence coach.
“We are absolutely delighted to have been able to bring someone of Michael’s expertise into the club,” Edinburgh head coach Blair said. “It was a lengthy process to make sure we got the right man and we believe that the knowledge he holds, his growth mind set and his desire to improve individuals within a defensive system, will fit our environment really well.”
The Northern Perspective 10 takeaways from week two of the Summer Tours
1. History was made
And more than once. Not only did Wales beat South Africa for the first time ever in the Republic but Ireland did a number on New Zealand for the first time down under. In fact, it was a great day for European rugby with five wins in all … France, Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. Just the fillip the somewhat stale rugby world needed. Kudos especially to Ireland. Although helped by a red card shown to Angus Ta’avao, the men in green looked the better team for long periods of this match. It will be interesting to see if the All Blacks can recover their winning ways, not to mention that aura of invincibility that has clung to them like a Ready Brek halo for decades now.
2. Kiwi fans should know better
The Dunedin crown booed referee Jaco Peyper after that red card but goodness only knows why? Lab rats learn faster than some rugby players and Ta’avao made zero attempt to lower his point of contact on Garry Ringrose. It wasn’t just a red card it was a dumb, avoidable, slam dunk, nailed down and obvious red card. Ta’avao didn’t just ruin his own day, and that of the legion of Kiwi fans, but he also ended Ringrose’s game and perhaps the Irishman’s tour? Rugby has a duty of care to its players and the Dunedin fans should know better.
3. Scotland improved
Although arguably only because they could not get any worse. Are you a glass half full or half empty sort of person? I only ask because the former will rave about Scotland’s clinical second half and the running lines of Sam Johnson and Mark Bennett. The latter will instead concentrate on the fact that, at least for the first 40 odd minutes, the Scots appeared unable to pass the ball or, when they did manage that feat, to catch the stupid thing. Some players appeared to have met in the sheds five minutes before kick-off. And if they can play that well in the second half why on earth were Scotland so bad for the opening 40? A coach’s only task is to persuade his charges to play to their potential every time they step on the field and Gregor Townsend is failing badly on that count. Twin opensides Hamish Watson and Rory Darge made a big impact on both sides of the ball and their back-row buddy Matt Fagerson was very much busier than last weekend. But they are, to some extent, papering the cracks.
4. You can only beat the team in front of you
How ordinary were Argentina? Nothing like the giants who beat New Zealand just two short years ago. You fear for them in the upcoming Rugby Championship.
5. Ben White catches the eye
I have argued before that Ali Price doesn’t offer enough threat with the ball in hand and the point was underlined when his replacement, London Irish scrummy Ben White, showed him how. In the lead up to Mark Bennett’s crucial score just after the break, White made not one but two half breaks, offloading to Rory Darge the first time and Bennett, for the score, the second. A threat from nine means that defenders have to watch two or more attackers which is obviously more difficult than one and White made good use of Scotland’s quick ruck ball.
6. Sorry, but Blair Kinghorn looks happier manning the last line
He was a fly-half at schoolboy level and I couldn’t understand why the powers that be switched the leggy 10 to a full-back when he turned pro way back in 2015. Fly-half is a big ask and young players need years of experience in the hot seat to produce the goods at the highest level. But now, after years of playing in the 15 shirt, Kinghorn looks far more comfortable as the last line of defence and the SRU have only themselves to blame for messing him about in the first place.
7. Japan falls short.
I was a little condescending about Japan last week and wrong to be so because they should have won their second match against France at the weekend after leading 15-7 at the break. It was an emotionally charged game coming so soon after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and 57,000 odd fans packed the National Stadium to cheer on the Cherry Blossoms. Japan played much the better rugby with their backs’ ability to keep the ball alive in the contact zone contributing to two superlative team tries. Check them out on YouTube. Japan ultimately lost by 20-15 but they had the ball over the French try line six minutes from time with a simple kick to win the game only for the TMO to inform Scottish referee Mike Adamson that Japan’s breakaway Tevita Tatafu had dropped the ball in the act of scoring. Or, to be more accurate, in the act of not scoring. Japan won’t win anything next year but no one will take them lightly. They play fast and loose but their rugby is far more accurate than some other teams that have tried that route and failed. Only the set scrum allowed France to win this one.
8. Gareth Anscombe earns plaudits
Anscombe kicked the touchline conversion that gave Wales their monumental win over the Bokke. He had taken over the kicking duties when replacing Dan Bigger and he also takes credit for the floated miss-pass that gave Josh Adams the few centimetres the winger needed to score in the corner. Anscombe’s kick was never going anywhere other than through the middle of the posts from the moment it left the tee.
9. And so does Andrew Porter
Ireland can occasionally struggle against power teams (France and South Africa especially) but while Andrew Porter is on the field they have a fighting chance. The giant prop scored two tries against New Zealand and he was a wrecking ball at the set scrum. He can play both sides of the scrum, which is gold dust, having started out at loose, moving to tight-head before being shunted back again. Still only 26 years old, he has been living in the shadow of Tadhg Furlong but not, I suspect, for very much longer. Is there a better loosehead around?
10. England impress
Australia are another team that can be bullied at the highest level and in Billy Vunipola England boast one of the biggest bullies in the game. I mean that as a compliment. He was looking stale a while back but having sat out the Six Nations, Billy V looked like he was enjoying himself mightily on Saturday, certainly when compared to one week earlier. The England pack upped the ante and bossed the possession stats 54/46%. Perhaps even more importantly, England showed some composure when Australia threatened a comeback in the third quarter, and the 10/12 axis of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell finally looks like it’s coming together. Might England yet make a late bid for World Cup glory? They have the easiest group of all (Japan and Argentina are the other seeds) although whether an easy pool is a help or a hindrance come the World Cup is a moot point.