And it’s another Friday, folks. My spirits are not high, going into the weekend’s test matches. I like the look of the latest Wallabies 23 but I’m not confident that they’ve been knitted into a competitive team with a complete game plan and 80 plus minutes’ worth of mental fitness.
Australia v New Zealand
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne – 7:55 p.m. (AEST) on Saturday, 29 July
Ref: Wayne Barnes; ARs: Karl Dickson, Christophe Ridley; TMO: Tom Foley.
Australia: 1. Angus Bell, 2. David Porecki, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Nick Frost, 5. Will Skelton, 6. Jed Holloway, 7. Tom Hooper, 8. Rob Valetini, 9. Tate McDermott, 10. Carter Gordon, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Samu Kerevi, 13. Jordan Petaia, 14. Mark Nawaqanitawase, 15. Andrew Kellaway.
16. Jordan Uelese, 17. James Slipper, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Richie Arnold, 20. Rob Leota, 21. Nic White, 22. Quade Cooper, 23. Izaia Perese.
New Zealand: 1. Ethan de Groot, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Shannon Frizell, 7. Dalton Papali’i, 8. Ardie Savea (c), 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 11. Mark Telea, 12. Jordie Barrett, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Will Jordan, 15. Beauden Barrett.
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Samuel Whitelock, 20. Luke Jacobson, 21. Cam Roigard, 22. Anton Lienert-Brown, 23. Caleb Clarke.
So, Eddie Jones continues to treat The Rugby Championship as a rolling selection trial and in particular, a road test of the biggest bodies available to him. Starting his less-experienced halves pair and not picking a dedicated openside flanker are giveaways that he doesn’t care about the result here. All he wants to see this week are forwards who are willing and able to deliver the impacts and backs who can hold the line in defence.
New Zealand have all the Barretts, again; Cane is out, his foot still aching after kicking a reckless fan; Whitelock is a lock on the bench and there’s a good centre on the bench as well. I can see no weaknesses, now that they’ve fixed the coaching team.
Prediction: Wallabies by 2.
Also scheduled for the next 48 hours:
Samoa v Fiji at Apia Park, Apia – 12:00 noon (AEST) on Saturday, 29 July
Japan v Tonga at Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Higashiosaka – 8:30 p.m. (AEST) on Saturday, 29 July
Scotland v Italy at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh – 12:15 a.m. (AEST) on Sunday, 30 July
South Africa v Argentina at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg – 1:05 a.m. (AEST) on Sunday, 30 July
Last Friday’s column went over length and I failed to make timely mention of the disgraceful performance of NZ Sky commentator Grant Nisbett in the Springboks–All Blacks match in Auckland on 15 July. Throughout the game, he called Bongi Mbonambi ‘Em-banombi’; he called Kwagga Smith (playing in 6) ‘Franco Mostert’ (Mostert was playing in 7) and he called five-eighth Damian Willemse ‘Mapimpi’ (Makazole Mapimi was wearing 11). On one occasion in the second half, after getting Willemse’s name right for once, he miscorrected himself, saying ‘or Mapimpi, at least’.
It’s nuts, because Mbonambi, Smith, Mostert, Willemse and Mapimpi all have test careers dating from before the last World Cup (which they won), and Mostert has nearly 100 caps. It’s doubly nuts that nobody on the broadcast team gave him a word at half-time.
Sad to say, the Australian commentary team on Stan has an offender just as offensive. For years, Sean Maloney has been robbing Allan Alaalatoa of two his surname’s six syllables, drawling it as Arler-toa. His producers and co-commentators have either never noticed or never bothered to pull him up on it. In the Wallabies–Pumas match, Maloney allocated one of those missing syllables to Mark Nawaqanitawase, whom he called ‘Na-wongity-tawase’ as the winger performed a beautiful swan dive over the tryline.
These clowns ought to show respect to the players whose efforts they’re making a living off.
Up your game
Eddie Jones has made a successful career out of unsettling people. Relentless, intense and at times brutal; his tirades are so cutting, those on the receiving end have said it is almost as if they are scripted and rehearsed.
He is the ultimate outsider who has come to dominate world rugby with his hyper-competitiveness, dogged determination and infamous takedowns. He has coached three national teams – Australia, Japan and England – and was a consultant to a fourth – South Africa – on its way to a World Cup victory in 2007.
His coaching stints have brought success; Australia’s near-World Cup win in 2003, Japan’s unlikely emergence as a rugby force and the revival of an underperforming English side. They have also been marked by controversy, player burnouts and high staff turnover.
For more, follow this link
Red-carded Japan back row Michael Leitch will be available for the start of the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France after only getting a three-match ban that can be reduced to two with the successful completion of tackle school.
It was not until a tweet appeared from the World Rugby social media team that Sara Cox realised she had made another piece of history.
Cox, who has blazed a trail for female match officials in her nine years as an international referee, knew how many tests she had refereed heading into Canada’s World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023 encounter with Australia earlier this month.
But she did not know that taking charge of her 35th test at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa on 15 July would make her the most-capped female test referee of all time.