Happy Hump day fellow rugby lovers. At midday today we can start putting the disappointment from last week behind us and focus on the new disappointments coming this weekend. What will the weekend bring? Will Eddie make even more changes? Will NZ give players a run? Will I win Lotto? Who knows! Let’s just look forward to another great game this weekend.
We’ve got Entertaining Eddie, so where’s his winning personality?
A nice opinion piece here from Fitzy asking about where the winning is with the Wallabies. I think there’ll be a few more of these over the coming weeks unless something changes. This was written before last Saturday’s game saying that “after those first two Tests of your reign, you have not been everything we signed up for.” It goes on to say “Yes, we wanted Energetic Eddie, who’d use a cattle prod on everybody and everything, and project a sense that things were going to change around here – and we got that. You’ve been nothing if not entertaining.” However it then goes onto say what we really want with “But what we mostly wanted was Winning Eddie and where is that guy?”
The article then goes on about how he gets under the skin of people “just witness the wonderful line after the Wallabies had been done down by Argentina, that “the All Blacks better watch out”. Who saysthat kind of thing after a humiliation? Eddie does, it has been ever thus, and it has mostly worked for him”. And he has been so successful in doing so, that people are half-expecting magic to occur. Citing the words of All Blacks centre Anton Lienert-Brown to prove his case Fitzy quoted him as saying “When they play us, they go up another level and I guess with Eddie Jones at the helm now, he will definitely have a few tricks up his sleeve.”
However, and this is the fear I have if things don’t improve, Fitzy then goes on to ask “The only question is, what tricks, exactly? So far, Eddie is the magician who has indeed pulled two rabbits out of the hat but, sadly, they both brought to mind the Monty Python “Dead Parrot” skit: “E’s passed on! He has ceased to be!” The article then goes on about how Eddie might play in Melbourne with an all out attack that might just push the ABs into mistakes and get the win. Of course as we now know none of that happened and Eddie is now none from three. The reason for this article wasn’t to rub anyone’s noses into the loss but to demonstrate that if things don’t turn around the media may stop being so nice and will turn on both Eddie and the players in the same way that the English media did at the end and Australian rugby doesn’t need that.
I think Eddie needs to stop with the smart comments and trying to win the mind games before each game. They don’t affect the opposition at all and while they create column inches in the media, they run a huge risk of biting back and creating more hurt on Australian rugby than it needs.
‘Wise’ Quade Cooper steering battered Wallabies into second Bledisloe Cup battle
Surprisingly in a NZ site at Stuff here, Quade Cooper is lauded for his leadership. With the Wallabies missing two of their leaders, Quade Cooper has stepped up to help his troubled team try to match the might of the All Blacks.
The Australians headed straight from Melbourne to Dunedin to prepare for Saturday’s second Bledisloe Cup match. Playmaker Cooper started on the bench at the MCG but the animated 35-year-old could be seen laying down the law to the team for several minutes in a post-match huddle.
Youngster Tom Hooper, who made his starting debut at openside flanker, revealed Cooper took him aside at half-time and told him not to try to replicate his namesake, Michael Hooper. “I probably changed my game a bit too much and Quade had some really wise words at half-time and said, ‘We need you to play more like a lock than a seven, that’s why they’ve picked a big body’,” Tom Hooper said. “I probably went hunting a bit too much for the ball, if I’m being critical of myself, and I probably wasn’t as physical as I would have liked.”
I must admit I think that Jones could do worse than name Cooper as captain for the Wallabies. He’s improved so much since his younger days and I think he now has both the maturity and experience to provide huge benefits to the Wallabies. The only real weakness I can see is that the Wallabies need to stop White trying to run the show and just get the ball out to Cooper and let him do it.
Cooper has the vision and composure that White lacks and I think he would be a huge asset as a captain. It’ll be interesting to see where Jones goes on this for the next game.
Ian Foster to make changes for Dunedin
Ian Foster has indicated both here and here that he will make some changes for the Dunedin test. The need to blood uncapped players – loose forward Samipeni Finau and midfielder Dallas McLeod have yet to join fellow newcomers Tamaiti Williams, Cam Roigard and Narawa in getting a run – will be tempered by pragmatism. A defeat would be viewed as a major setback after three impressive wins in the championship, while the Wallabies will be frothing at the prospect of not adding to the three defeats under new coach Eddie Jones.
All Blacks assistant coach Jason Ryan said players had to earn the right to start with their efforts on the training track. “It doesn’t come easy in the All Blacks. It’s not like we’re just going to dish out test caps,” He went on further saying “You have got to pride yourself as a coach, and you have got to set them up if they’re ready. So, you have got to make sure you set them to succeed during the week”.
Foster said there was no need to remind the players of what was at stake, with a World Cup squad to be announced about 48 hours after the test in Dunedin. For the fringe players, however, it won’t be easy. A blinder could result in a trip to France. A shocker, or worse an injury, could have dire consequences.
As Foster says “It’s another chance to have a look at a few options, both in the way we play and in personnel. I think it’s fair to say you will see a couple of changes.” Given several players haven’t been blooded, or only logged limited minutes in the first three tests this year, he’s got to back them and while the test may be a dead rubber in one sense, as he says “We love the words dead rubber from one perspective, because that means we have done the job in the first test,” he said. “But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a test match. It’s a vital cog on our little step for the World Cup.”
Foster confirmed he wouldn’t risk captain and openside flanker Sam Cane, who didn’t play in Melbourne because of a sore neck, if not fully fit. He is likely to rest some key players who are fully fit, both to test others and give them a rest. Lock Scott Barrett, props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax and blindside flanker Shannon Frizell fit into that category, but Foster will also be cautious about de-powering a forward pack which conceded penalties against the aggressive Aussies at the breakdown in the first half at the MCG. I personally would like to see some changes, but not if it means our last game in NZ before the RWC is a loss. I guess we’ll see soon.
Referee Corner – My opinion on what happened.
Not a lot of controversy this last week in the Wallabies game. However Who did ask me to comment on the AB maul defence and asked whether the referee had got it wrong because he felt that at the 43rd minute Scott Barrett was swimming up the side and then collapsing the maul and should have been penalised and then at the 50 minutes there could have been a YC/PT because NZ swam up the side and after the Wallabies broke through forward, the maul was collapsed by NZ 1m from the tryline. Now first off I will declare my bias on this. I certainly didn’t notice it on the day and probably would have ignored it anyway because it was my team. I don’t feel guilty about that because we all do it. ( I mean look at Nutta trying to say Barrett was off side at that first try pffft! Proved wrong with pictures I note.)
I did have a look at the mauls. In the first one, Scott Barrett was always inside Shannon Frizzell and I’m absolutely ok with him driving forward. If that had occurred in a game I was refereeing I would have allowed it. As far as I saw he drove through the pack, got hold of the player with the ball and then held on preventing him from releasing it. Perfectly ok and a well deserved turnover.
The second one is a bit trickier. The maul rolled around and the ABs on the infield were turned until they were well behind the maul. The Australians then broke off and drove to the line with Leota wrestling with one of the ABs and then twisting and falling to the ground with him. The ball had been transferred behind the front part of the maul at this stage and when he went to ground he fell on the ball carrier who also went to ground. At this time one of the ABs (couldn’t get the number) then pounced on the ball and held it in and Barnes called it a held up maul and awarded the ball to NZ. Now in fairness this could have gone either way. The breakout from the original maul was fine and it took at least 4 ABs out of the picture. When Leota collapsed he fell on another AB and brought him to ground and this collapsed the maul. Barnes got caught behind the original maul and by the time he came around to the new one it had already collapsed and he didn’t really have a good view of what happened. I can see why he made the decision he did but maybe if he hadn’t been caught up in the first maul he may have pulled differently.
I don’t think it was a deliberate collapse and while it may have got a penalty I don’t think it was ever a card. Of course I am a tad biased as I admit but that’s how I saw it.