Happy Monday RDU’s! Well didn’t Thursday evening’s squad announcement set the cat amongst the pigeons? We will have a look at that at the end of this article in what will definitely be BLL coming in off the long run-up, in Wallabies Dilemmas! Lets just say I am not happy Jan! But firstly, we will roll out the Weekend’s results, in what were two really interesting and contrasting encounters for completely different reasons. And then have a delve into “Lead-up Issues’ that all squads are now facing prior to the kick-off of the Big Dance! So come on Lad’s and Laddette’s let’s get into it. RDU style!
France 30 defeated Scotland 27 – Well what was to be the game of the weekend, the Haggis Eaters face the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys in France, see match report here. In what proved to be a match well worth watching in full, the French ended up victorius, but only just. For the first 10-15 minutes the French appeared really quite clunky, and the Scots seemed to have the advantage. Then as sure as you can say, Antoine Dupont, the Frogs got the legs back and started clicking, surging ahead.
The Haggis Eaters copped a cheese which didn’t help their chances but managed to climb their way back into the game. But then Duhan van der Merwe limped off injured. A missed conversion will be something that theymay well rue. France held out in the end for victory, but you can see the French and other European teams starting to blow the cobwebs out and combinations starting to gel. The French lost their excellent flyhalf Romain Ntamack to injury. So both sides will be sweating on scans for positive results.
England 19 Defeated Wales 17 – In a game that ended up being between two teams that both desperately tried to throw this one away, England managed to just suck less and claim victory. For a full match report go here.
In a game that had 5 cheeses and 1 Shiraz, it was clear that both teams were having significant discipline problems. Initially, I thought it might have been the pedantic Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli, but believe it or not I rewatched this game, and every card was warranted. With England already down to 13 players, Owen ‘No Arms’ Farrell, landed yet another shoulder charge to a Welsh player’s head. Not initially picked up in play, the TMO ‘check checked’ the Georgian whistleblower, and after a quick review, old ‘No arms’ was sent to the bin with a cheddar. A further five minutes into the game, with the Soap Dodgers down to 12 players, Farrell was given a glass of Shiraz to wash down his cheese.
Even with a 3 man advantage for 7 minutes, Wales weren’t able to close out the game. To add insult to injury, copped another yellow themselves in the last 5 minutes, and in a battle of ‘who could care less’ a very lackluster England managed to walk away with the W. Both coaches here will have a lot of head-scratching and deep reflection to work out how that game went so badly for both of them.
The only positive I took from this absolutely terrible display of Rugby Union is that maybe, just maybe, the Wallabies aren’t really as bad as we might think! Maybe?
With the northern hemisphere warm-up games underway, a number of key issues popped into my head whilst watching them sitting in my hotel room in MacKay sipping on a wee bourbon. All of these issues present risks and challenges for all of the teams as they try and navigate their way to France. Let’s have a look at them:
Injuries – In the Scotland V France game, the French lost Romain Ntamack, and the Scots lost Duhan van der Merwe to injury. Both are crucial players in their World Cup chances. Whilst I do not suspect the injuries are season-threatening, it just shows it is a real ‘luck of draw’ type scenario leading into the Bill, let alone in the Bill itself. I ponder if Ireland loses Johhny Sexton, what their betting odds would look like to take out the big dance. Same, same, if France were to lose Antoine Dupont. Either way, there are still a number of warm up games to come and I am wondering how much the coaches are being kept awake at night by the potential of injuries to key players.
Suspensions – In the lead up matches the ‘Guinness Drinkers’ are minus Johhny Sexton due to suspension. On what some would say was a very lenient judiciary. Good old ‘No-Arms’ will face the judiciary early this week courtesy of his Shiraz on Sunday morning. Now if all happened as per a non-RWC year, Sexton would have copped at least 6 weeks. Owen Farrell, who has significant form and a rap sheet as long as this old second rower is tall, should more than likely cop 5-6 weeks. Let’s see what the ‘chocolate wheel of justice’ spins up for us this week.
Discipline – The two matches over the weekend were a contrast in discipline. The France V Scotland game, saw one cheese to the Haggis Eaters, and no cards to the Frogs. Their play for most of the game was tight, and disciplined. Although the Soctts copped a bit of Nic Berry ‘love’ for infringing repeatedly inside the 22, but as a whole it wasnt too costly for them. Contrasting with that was the England V Wales game. Both teams infringed to their hearts content, and Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli wasnt having any of it and sent the naughty children to sit with their hands on their heads for 10 minutes facing the wall. 5 yellows and a red has to be about the most carded game I have watched in the last 10 years that I can remember. And as mentioned previously, I think that every one of them was warranted. These two teams particularly, but to be honest all teams, are going to have to be careful in the RWC. I have a funny feeling the referumps are under strict riding instructions. Discipline will be key!
The Wallabies Dilemmas
The squad announcement by Eddie Jones on Thursday night has caused much consternation. Our own Resident Hoss was very positive about it on Fridays News. I on the other hands was pretty pissed off. I have calmed down a little in the last few days, realising that there is a lot of water to pass under the birdge between now and then, and things may and probably will change. But watching the European warm up games over the weekend had me thining closely about the following issues.
Kicking – Watching France V Scotland, other than one missed conversion by the Scotts, both teams were slotting their kicks from all over the ground. When three was on offer, most of the time they took it, and nailed them. Not all of them were easy penalities and conversion either. The Wallabies are going in to the game with 1 x Flyhalf, whose kicking has not been the best in his last two outings. We know Nic White can kick them occaisionally, but we dont have a strong and dedicated kicker. The folly of this strategy really came home to me over the weekend, and I think Dr Evil really needs to think about his options here.
Redundancy – When France lost Romain Ntamack, their back up 10 (who is a specialist dedicated 10) came on and France proceeded on. Whilst the replacements game organisation wasnt as smooth and consistent as Ntamack, they still came through and sealed out the very tight game. The question I pose to all of the RDU crowd is, are we as confident if Carter Gordon goes off injured or with a HIA, that Donaldson will bring us home in a tight squeeze? Sure as god made little green apples I am not. Redundancy is key in knock out comeptitions. And the Wobs dont have it!
Depth is key here ladies and gents, and the Wallabies in most positions, don’t have much depth. In addition to this, injuries never come at a good time, and our old mate Murphy says that they will come when you need them the least. The Wallabies squad is structured with a weighting heavily skewed towards the forwards. The backs have utilities as cover. As Eddie found out last time he went with a 6-2 bench, the odds were not stacked in his favour. And I believe this will be the same for this squad in the RWC. You put it all on black when you are playing with your winnings! You certainly dont put the house on it.
Rugby Smarts – The weekends games provided us contrasting displays of rugby smarts. France and Scotland both played smart games. Antoine Dupont is a maestro and knows when to play and when to hold. His distribution is sweet, and he sets his team up for advancement. Scotland did very well in phases of attack and used their kicking game to advantage. Players with brains who can recognise what is in front of them and adjust as they go. Players not locked into one game plan, but are well drilled enough to to recognise that what is in front of them is out of pattern, so they re-orientate. The Wallabies have proven unable to do this. It is great, like in Bled II when we get the break and we have EnZUd down 17-3. But when the opposition come out firing in the second half and you cant adjust then, what are you going to do?
I think Eddie has listed a squad to grab media attention and to try and demonstrate that he is the new broom and is sweeping clean. I dont have a problem with sweeping clean, but do it after the world cup. Which is what RA probably should have done with coaches, rather than giving it to the Dr Evil less than a year out from the big dance.
Anyway, enough of my cynical views of things! Over to you RDU’s! Have at it!