Ciao e benvenuto a venerdi!
G’day Gaggers and welcome to Friday’s Rugby News. Today sees a mixture of contemplative, wistful and ticked-off rugby emotions, often times overlapping. So let’s dive deep into the mixed bag of unmedicated mayhem with a review of Le Frogs match with ‘Ruck me Dead!‘. Preview the Wallabies upcoming test with ‘Orange & The Concreters‘. Keep Keith Butler calm with ‘War of the Roses’. Offer free advice with ‘Enough Already’ and fare thee well another rugby week with ‘Friday’s Goss with Hoss’, currently in talks with JK Rowling for an ‘R’ rated remake of ‘The Philhossopher’s Sword’.
RUCK ME DEAD!
Hard to know what to think about last week’s result ain’t it?
On the one hand some of you numpties on here, apart from Reverend Nutta and his ‘reverse Aussie psyche’, predicted a French win and by plenty at that. Roll forward a week and well, you know the rest.
I’ve been feeling strangely prozacian with the result. Sure we could’ve and probably should’ve pulled off a win for the ages. Certainly we scored a contender for try of the year (although the English Roses’ try in the RWC is also brilliant). Absolutely our forwards ‘fronted up’ against the vaunted Les Bleus piggies and overall I reckon the team probably get a collective 6.5, perhaps even a 7, on the patented Hossometer. So by-the-by it was a reasonable showing, albeit against a rusty Frog outfit having their first hit out for seven months, so should we read too much into it? Buggered if I know really.
One point, though, has stood out up north, like a proverbial large dog’s reproductive housing and that’s been the Wallabies breakdown work, or more correctly, the complete lack thereof.
ESPN sport match stats for the match shows Les Frogs winning 91 of 92 of their ruck ball, for a staggering 98% success rate. Compare that to Les Orange winning 62 of 70 or 88%. Not only were France 10% better on their own ball, but a whopping 29 times more, they secured their own pill, not only that, but often under little duress of an Aussie ‘counter’.
Now drill down even further and you see the Wallabies also conceded 12 turnovers to Les Bleus 10 and with the ruck stats above, it’s a miracle our guys stayed in the contest, let alone all but won the damn thing. And that’s without me getting started on shite kicks (Spanners, The Clydesdale and Whisky Tango Foxtrot was that Sideshow Bob? Ok, you kicked-chase a ripper in SRP, but man, that abomination you unfurled in Paris looked like my 3 iron last Sunday on the 13th at The Vintage, people are still unsure how it went backwards), crooked lineout throws, horrid passes that directly gifted France a ‘try’ (still don’t reckon he grounded it – but the ink is dry on that one) shite kicks, horrible defence to lose the game and more shite kicks.
What’s noticeable for me is we simply have little or no presence at rucks. We have no dedicated fetcher, onballer, pest, nuisance or impact at the breakdown – none. We battle to retain our own ball and pose no risk to the opposition’s pill, thus allowing more of them to stand off rucks on attack or conversely go hard at our pill as the odds are reasonable of at least significantly disrupting our ball, making our boys easier to defend against. Now, before everyone jumps on the anti-Hooper wagon, no longer is the fetching up to one player, but our pack as a collective, especially our loosies hunting as ‘a pack’.
To that end just who exactly are our best 6, 7 & 8 combinations in the context of a unit of loosies working in tandem? But, more broadly, if you don’t have that ‘unit’ then surely consideration must be given to players like Latu who is traditionally good over the ball, admittedly more so when sober and not already sent off.
Be interested in your thoughts of what that loose trio looks like. As a conversation starter Pete Samu and Charlie Gamble (when qualified) must surely be part of the picture. Valetini is our #8 for as long as he wants, so how do you create ruck pressure then with your other selections?
If we don’t address those combos and our deficiencies at ruck time, it won’t matter who our backs are.
Ruck me dead indeed.
Orange & The Concreters
Italy v Wallabies at Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence on Saturday 13 November, (12:00am AEDT Sunday)
Dave Rennie has made 11 changes to his side to face the nation that brought the world concrete and plumbing, the Italians, this Sunday our time.
It’s as much an interesting team by who is not selected, as who is selected as DR is on record as saying he would run his very best team (current injuries aside) out against Oirland. So, without disrespecting our suburban grass hating, concrete column loving counterparts, this team sheet yells more about next week than this and that’s scary folks, because Foley & Hodge are among ‘our best players’. How’s that for rugby reality slapping you right across the face!
A couple of debutants are among the mix with Nawaqanitawase starting and Donaldson on the bench with Lolesio getting a rare start. Surely Marky-Mark is a real chance of muscling out Tom Wright for a wing spot for the Oirish test, given The Ginger Ninja appears to be a certainty on the other flank. Wright proved to be at his frustrating best last week. One minute he uses his blinding pace, setting up that try and yet later getting completely burnt in D, along with Campbell to surrender the lead and ultimately the match. Hence his ‘John Denver’ moniker, some days are diamonds, some days are stones, usually on the same day.
I get this is a test and all opponents are due their respect. But to not win by 20+ against Italy will be unacceptable, regardless of Italy’s growth or threat or blahdy-blah-blah. It’s Italy, you beat them, you beat them well.
I would, however, note: take a look below at who AR1 is and who the TMO is! Did anyone else just feel a cold wind blow through them?
Fearless Prediction: Australia by 22.
Wallabies: 1. Matt Gibbon (4 tests) 2. Folau Fainga’a (35) 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c) (61) 4. Nick Frost (7) 5. Will Skelton (22) 6. Ned Hanigan (26) 7. Fraser McReight (8) 8. Pete Samu (30) 9. Jake Gordon (17) 10. Noah Lolesio (15) 11. Tom Wright (20) 12. Hunter Paisami (22) 13. Len Ikitau (23) 14. Mark Nawaqanitawase* 15. Jock Campbell (2) Replacements 16. Lachlan Lonergan (6) 17. Tom Robertson (28) 18. Taniela Tupou (45) 19. Darcy Swain (16) 20. Langi Gleeson (1) 21. Tate McDermott (19) 22. Ben Donaldson* 23. Jordan Petaia (22)
Match Officials: Referee: Brendon Pickerill (NZR) Assistant Referee 1: Mathieu Raynal (FFR) Assistant Referee 2: Adam Leal (RFU) TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)
WAR OF THE ROSES.
New Zealand v England. Eden Park. Saturday 12th November STAN 5:30pm AEDT
This one’s for KB, rest assured I’m truly chastened.
I have to admit to being wowed by RWC2021 and the quality of the matches, the breadth of the ambition shown, especially when that ambition tantalisingly translates to brilliantly executed rugby. It’s there for all to admire in the execution of skills, the physicality, the understanding of the players, all of this allowing for some sensational rugby and exhilarating tries. Sure, Oz fans may rightfully salivate at the try of the Wallabies last week and while it was bloody brilliant, it was no better that that of England’s Roses against Canada in last week’s semi-final (2:07 minutes into this Youtube clip). Now, to be totally fair, that footage does not do the try justice, as Canada had been hammering away at the Roses line for multiple phases, then a turnover, then rugby poetry from the Roses and a 90 metre dash (that probably covered 130 metres, I reckon).
More brutal than brilliant, the Black Ferns snuck into the final by one point against a brilliant but ultimately ‘French’, French side. With France up by 10 at one stage and then with a chance to seal the win in the final seconds, the game was pure rugby theatre. It ebbed, it flowed, there were cards, penalties, drama, brilliant rugby and ultimately the outcome all hinging on a single kick with under one minute to go. Who’d be a goal kicker hey! A final spot beckons, it’s a routine kick for French #10 Caroline Drouin, from a comfortable distance and angle. But is anything really ‘routine’ with a RWC final spot on the line? To my eye, Drouin actually ‘shins’ the ball completely, the ball fades wide and short and a nation of 24,718 mostly human-like creatures erupts in celebration.
So to the final.
What benefit a home crowd? What benefit the ‘routine’ of playing at home, surrounded by family, friends and familiarity? What ‘lift’ from a retiring coach in Wayne Smith and ‘Sir Ted’, Graham Henry? But what pressure from the crushing weight of expectation?
Likewise, The Roses will have demons of their own. Thirty-one games unbeaten. Unbackable favourites leading into the tournament, they haven’t missed a beat. Even when Canada pressed and pressed hard, you always had the feeling that England had the game in their control and were simply ‘waiting it out’ to impose their mercurial will and impressive power game. This week really promises to be a match of the Roses trying to impose their physical will and grind down the Black Ferns. With the Ferns looking to counter and play with pace at every opportunity.
Who am I backing? To be fair it feels unnatural to back either. The Roses are historically the world’s best rugby side and are a likeable bunch, but are English. The Kiwis, well they are our neighbours, almost our brethren, one of us, kind of, but, they’re Kiwis. My heart or my head? Ahh bugger it, let spite have a say.
Fearless Prediction: Roses by 6
Before we get to the teams. One overlooked facet of the RWC has been the sensational officiating by the female referees. Their communication, calmness, clarity and just ‘feel’ for the contest has been the BEST example of match officiating in a tournament I’ve seen in an eternity. The sparing use of the TMO, their engagement with captains and players alike has been exemplary and added to the spectacle and enjoyment. Take a bow ladies, you have made the RWC2021 a thing of rugby beauty. Well played indeed.
Teams courtesy rugby.com.au
Tricky one this, what with mental health awareness one of the few positives to come from COVID impacts and more men in particular encouraged to speak up and own their struggles, seek help and be supported, but Samu Kerevi, a tip if I may: JUST STOP WHINING!
Every time I read about Samu at the moment it’s how ‘hurt’ he is and ‘let down’ he feels about treatment from RA, Oz rugby and media in general, before talking complete gibberish about future contracts to create fake market pressures to benefit himself (well the capitalist in me loves that, but the rugby fan hates it).
I like him as a rugby player, our side is soooooooo much better with him at #12, he’s genuinely world class and possibly our only player, when fit, to make a World XV, certainly a World XXIII. But, I’d also ask, is he considering transitioning to become an adult movie actor? Cause every time of late he opens his mouth it’s to ‘moan’.
No one begrudges players doing the best they can financially. Rugby as a profession has a relatively small, but lucrative, window of money-making opportunity and not all ex players will transition to annoying STAN commentator (Goog, cough cough, Harrison), or half time analyst and apparent multiple pie devourer, Drew ‘Chins’ Mitchell, or transition to coach, merchant bank tosser, after dinner speaker or paid endorsement type roles for fluffing about, so cash in while you can. Likewise a rugby player is only ever one injury or one diagnosis away from retirement. Just ask Rob Horne for example. And with the science around ’cause & effect’ of CTE becoming better understood who wants that as part of their future. Certainly not I. So, if you can make yen while the sun shines, go well my friend.
But, when he tells of his ‘hurtful’ experience and then waffles on with (paraphrasing):
‘I’d love to come back to Oz, but I’m not sure where I fit in, Australian teams centres are just so good at present, but I hear life’s good in France and the UK has cheap cars for lease, but I love the lifestyle of Japan and I haven’t made any decision yet’ I just want to scream!
Samu, buddy. You are not a ‘victim’. Yep, Lex Marinos ballsed up a few things. Yep, you’re dirty at RA for the Izzy BBQgate affair. I get that too, all of that. But you earn what, around $1m dollars per year? You travel the world and have RA and other bodies fawning all over you and catering to your every need. You get invited back to wear the hallowed orange jersey, released for Olympics and Commonwealth Games events. Have flexible contracts and employment options around the globe with ‘$200 a month Mercedes-Benz leases’ as part of the considerations and yet ‘you’re hurt’?
Sorry, but that doesn’t even come close, suck it up sunshine.
FRIDAY’S GOSS WITH HOSS.
Big shout out to Wallaby skipper number #85 and a very deserving one at that, Mr 7As himself, Allan Alaalatoa. Well deserved for a the big bopper who always puts in a solid shift in the jersey. Go well & good luck captain, my captain.
Folau the musical
Just when you thought it was safe to go back outside in leather chaffs – he’s back! Look, it’s been done to death, or so we thought, but the ABC is to air a documentary titled ‘Folau’. At first I thought it was about crooked lineout throws and doing not much around the field, then I realised it was about Dusty Springfield himself, Mr Israel Folau and the events and insights of those in that orbit a few years back.
Truth be told, I meet several of Izzy’s qualifying criteria for a ‘southern sojourn’ when the time comes to shake of this mortal coil & as a rugby tragic as well, I’ll probably watch it while Lucifer and I share a bourbon or two and Adolf runs around and prepares the spare bedrooms for Vlad and Donald. More details available from the ABC
Bonkers in Honkers.
Not since a team of triers in 1988, who never amounted to much after that, has an Australian men’s 7s side won in the title in Honkers. And not just won, but lose to Samoa along the way and then knock out the Kiwi side and then roll the Fijians in the final for good measure. Brilliant result for the men’s side who may just start to get out of the shadow of our all conquering women’s 7s side.
Brew bashfest brew
Apparently STAN brewmeister, Sonny Brew Williams is also a boxer brew, who fought some other brew who beat the TV brew senseless in a few minutes, brew. The other brew, not the TV brew, is like 98 years old chubby brew and still beat the snot outta TV brew Sonny Brew. Now apparently STAN asked us non-brews to part with cash brew to see the chubby brew v TV brew brew-ha-ha, but this brew’s money wouldn’t be wasted on some staged brew v brew blue to see who the real brew is.
Third – Fourth ’21 RWC playoff
You can catch France v Canada Saturday 12th November 2:30pm AEDT live and exclusive on STAN.
Until next week. Go you Wallabies
Hoss – out.