Friday’s Rugby News sees All Blacks Near Full Strength, Argentinian Ambush? , Autumn Cup Preview, and Rennie Backs Red Card Discussion
ALL BLACKS BACK NEAR FULL STRENGTH
After last week resting a number of players right through the team, All Blacks coach Ian Foster has rung the changes once more, reinstating key positional players ahead of this Saturday’s clash against Argentina.
Clearly not happy after the performance last week, Foster has named what looks to be close to the strongest possible All Blacks line up, with a couple of players in particular unlucky to be dropped from the side.
Key to this reshuffle is the return of Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga in the halves, which forces Beauden Barrett back to fullback and Jordie Barrett to the wing.
Caleb Clarke returns on the other wing, with the unfortunate Rieko Ioane who only managed 20 minutes on the park before the red card forced him to leave the game. In the midfield, Jack Goodhue returns at inside centre, forcing Anton Lienert-Brown to shift out one spot.
The forward pack is not immune from the changes either, with a new front row of Joe Moody, Dane Coles and Tyrel Lomax installed. The second row sees the return of Patrick Tuipulotu and Shannon Frizell returns at blindside flanker.
When quizzed about the changes for this game, Foster was unapologetic, telling rugby.com.au that, “The Argentinians are well coached by Mario Ledesma and we have a lot of respect for them You only need to go back to Buenos Aires last year, when we had a real arm wrestle with them, to know how tough they can be (the All Blacks narrowly won 20 -16).
“They’ve been in Australia for a number of weeks, they are well-prepared and this is their first Test of 2020 so it’ll be a massive occasion for them and their country so we have to be ready.”
So despite Argentina having only two games of rugby against an Australia A type team and little else in months other than training, Foster is sending his top team to face them as opposed to against an Australian side that while hadn’t gotten on top of them to that point were battle hardened and had plenty of rugby under their belts?
Either disrespectful or a catastrophic error on the part of Foster last week by resting so many key players and putting out the strongest team he can is the only way he knows how to fix it. Interesting.
ALL BLACKS (1-15): Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Tyrel Lomax, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Whitelock, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane (c), Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Caleb Clarke, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie Barrett, Beauden Barrett
RESERVES: Codie Taylor, Alex Hdgman, Nepo Laulala, Tupou Vaa’i, Hoskins Sotutu, Brad Weber, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie
By the time of writing, Argentina had named their team to face the All Blacks on Saturday, but coverage of it is still sparse. It was announced on the Puma’s twitter feed but there has been no accompanying media. Which is interesting as rugby.com.au was very keen to discuss the AB’s team selection.
As a result there is little insight that I can bring to the team selection, in terms of the view of the coaching team or an interview with players.
So let’s look at the team as we can see it, and then discuss the chances of springing what would have to be a massive upset. Of course, we said that about last week didn’t we?
Team: 1. Nahuel Tetaz, 2. Julian Montoya, 3. Francisco Gómez-Kodela, 4. Guido Petti, 5. Matias Alemanno, 6. Pablo Matera (C), 7. Marcos Kremer, 8. Rodrigo Bruni, 9. Tomas Cubelli, 10. Nicolas Sánchez, 11. Juan Imhoff, 12. Santiago Chocobares, 13. Matias Orlando, 14. Bautista Delguy, 15. Santiago Carreras
Replacements: 16. Facundo Bosch, 17. Mayco Vivas, 18. Santiago Medrano, 19. Santiago Grondona, 20. Tomas Lezana, 21. Gonzalo Bertranou, 22. Lucio Cinti, 23. Santiago Cordero
Good parts of the team would be familiar to many observers with a decent knowledge of rugby with Montoya, Petti, Matera, Kremer, Cubelli, Sanchez, Imhoff and Orlando having decent experience. The key question with this team is how ready are they to face an All Black team back to full strenghth and keen to prove a point after last weeks very non All Black like performance? This of course would have been the case no mater what team the Pumas put out on the park.
With no real rugby since the closure of Super Rugby early in the year, and a disjoited start to their preparation marred by multiple positive COVID tests then an escape to Uruguay to continue training camp, then several weeks in Australia with only two friendly games with an Australian selection.
With a lead up like that you could almost expect a drubbing or at least excuse a big loss on their part, and this is still the more likely result.
But the Kiwis know they will at least be in for a fight, with games between the two in recent years perhaps closer than one might imagine, including last year when New Zealand escaped with a four point win in Buenos Aires.
Clearly the Argentinians will still rleish the contest but you have to image the brains trust of Ledesma and Cheika will be really looking towards the games against the Wallabies to really stick it to their former employer, and fans will still remember the debacle of a game on the Gold Coast in 2018.
AUTUMN CUP PREVIEW
With the Autumn Cup upon us, the new, prestigious, annual and inaugural event is in store to set the hearts of rugby lovers the world over aflutter. So with that in mind, lets have a look at the tournament, some of the key storylines and have a stab at some predictions.
First off, the competition is comprised of eight teams that have been split into two pools of four. Pool A is England, Wales, Ireland and Georgia, and Pool B consisting on Scotland, France, Italy and Fiji. All teams will play the other in their pool, culminating in a finals weekend over December 5-6 where first in Pool A will play first in Pool B and so on to determine all the placings. This means a plethora of rugby for those with either sleep impairments or room on your recording devices.
While it is a great opportunity for Fiji to play more prominently on the world stage the real chance is for Georgia, who have been making a case for years that they should either join an expanded Six Nations or flat out replace Italy. While Georgia are arguably in the tougher pool. some strong efforts should give more weight to their case.
Let’s face facts here, this tournament is nothing more than an attempt by the Northern unions to bring in some much needed TV revenue which has been decimated by the COVID pandemic.
While on paper you would consider England and France likely to be the favourites to meet in the final, typical French behaviour might make their pool more interesting. In an attempt to hammer a deal out with the powerful French clubs, the FFR had to agree that if a player played in against Wales and Ireland in the matches in late October, then they could only be picked to play once Nations Cup game, so we could be seeing a weakened French outfit at times.
With so little on offer prestige wise it is likely we will see some experimentation from the traditional Six Nations powers, as they look to blood new players and look at combinations ahead of the Six Nations, which is scheduled to commence in February.
The competition starts with Ireland taking on Wales at 450AM EDST Saturday, followed by England and Georgia (Sunday 1250AM EDST), and France and Fiji (Sunday 1150PM EDST).
RENNIE BACKS RED CARD DISCUSSION
After Bledisloe Four was changed/ruined/enhanced/insert view here by two red cards last weekend, there have been varying calls from pundits of all types about whether the cards were merited, the length of the suspensions handed down and also the framework around the process for issuing the cards.
After the Kiwi team weighed in yesterday about their views on the system, Wallaby coach Dave Rennie has offered his perspective on the situation saying that he would welcome a discussion about it.
He told ESPN Rugby that, “I’m certainly not arguing with the decisions made on the weekend, I thought Nic Berry handled them very well, he went through a process and made his decisions.
“Under the current law, contact with the head you’re going to run the risk of being sent off and unfortunately two men did. But I think the safety aspect of our game is really important, obviously the judiciary agreed with both decisions and both guys got suspended.”
Rennie went on to add that he was looking as much at the overall foul play framework as opposed to simply the tackle rule, things like taking a player out in the air and the like have come up for scrutiny in the recent past.
Like it or not, under the current frameworks, both the tackles were red cards. But there has been considerable debate around whether the framework needs to be loosened to give more leeway or if the actual issue is the red card removing a player for the remainder of the game is the real issue.
Some have argued that a “red card” should be losing that particular player for the rest of the game but being able to replace them after 10 minutes. The question is whether that is enough of a sanction for an offence that warrants the removal in the first place? Would foul play be less or more prevalent if players knew their team would only be short for 10? Hit us up in the comments and have your view.