Greetings, G&GRs! I trust your weekend was spent in a rugby-viewing bliss. We’ve seen the opening six matches of the Women’s RWC in the Auckland district of New Zealand, Australia ‘A’ play their second game against the Japanese XV, a Reds v Chairman’s XV match with variations, autumn international referee appointments. Happy Monday, folks!
WOMEN’S RWC – ROUND ONE
Well, we’re off to a cracking start over in
Hobbiton Auckland and Whangārei, New Zealand for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup played in 2022. I won’t go into every game as there simply isn’t enough time, space or brain cells. I’ve attached the World Rugby match reports for you to go through. That said, from what I’ve seen, I think we can be confident in the product as a whole. Some of the skills, tries and, not unsurprisingly to those who have seen women’s rugby, huge hits in defence! I loved the Australian response to the Ko Ūhia Mai which was the same time as the RNZAF fly over. Spine tingling stuff! Further, I’ve seen nothing but the true spirit and values of rugby on show. Full credit to the teams for putting on a show! Here’s to a cracking second week of matches.
France 40 – South Africa 5 – match report here
Canada 41 – Japan 5 – match report here
New Zealand 41 – Australia 17 – match report here
England 84 – Fiji 19 – match report here
Italy 22 – USA 10 – match report here
Scotland 18 – Wales 15 – match report here
Have there been a few blow-out score lines? Yes. But the teams have been competitive for most of if not the entirety of the matches. In all honesty, it really does remind me a lot of where the men were circa 2003, with the clear disparity between the top, say, 10 sides and the rest. The women are exactly here. Further, the advent of professionalism (farking finally) for some teams (got the hint yet, RA?? 🙄), in even the most basic way, is showing clear dividends for their country. For other countries, the dearth of match and player experience, as well as the lack of fully professional resourcing, will only inhibit their ability to match the ‘big guns’ going forward.
If I use a case study of the Fijian side as a way to compare against England (not trying to pick on Fiji at all, but it’s a good study):
- Since their debut test in 2006, they have played a mere 19 tests (inclusive of Saturday’s game).
- England’s win streak of 26 games is more than Fiji have played combined in their history.
- This is Fiji’s first RWC. They weren’t invited until 2006 and didn’t qualify until RWC 2021. England have played every RWC since 1991 and never finished lower than third place (1998).
- Fiji have never played a European side, let alone a Six Nations side.
- The total test caps for Fiji is 123. They selected four players yet to play a test. Compare this to England where Sarah Hunter alone has played 135 tests and have a team total of 1,214 at a ratio of 1:9.87 tests and have two players sharing the lowest cap total of four.
- Nine of Fiji’s tests have been against Tonga or Samoa.
- Fiji have never played New Zealand or South Africa. They played Australia for the first time in 2022.
- This Guardian article helps explain why the English are so bloody good.
Best wishes to Australia’s Amber McLachlan who will referee her debut RWC test match next weekend in the USA and Japan!
JAPANESE XV v AUSTRALIA A
According to rugby.com.au, Australia A have scored a last-minute conversion to take the chocolates over the Japanese Select XV in Fukuoka’s Best Denki Stadium. You can view the match on
the Queensland Reds Facebook page Stan. Thanks, Da Munch for pointing out my editing error… *facepalm*
For me, Tom Banks has earned the right to at least tour, though Jock Campbell didn’t do a huge amount wrong either and ought to have his ticket booked. I’m still highly impressed by captain Ryan Lonergan, whom I think has leaped Jake Gordon and Tate McDermott in what he can offer to a side (i.e., leadership, passing, defence and, crucially, a reliable boot from 45m+). Otherwise, the others to have decent games were Fa’amausili (though I still question his work off the ball, he takes a farking eternity to get back to his feet post-contact in attack and defence), Gibbon was all work rate, Wilkin was productive at flanker, No.8 Langi Gleeson made five strong first half charges to get his team rolling and versatile Seru Uru was good off the bench. With the Japanese playing an extremely up-tempo game, this was no ‘easy’ game for the Wobbly Wannabees.
On the other hand, for me, Suli Vunivalu has completely validated what Rennie has been implying about him. He was lacklustre for most of the game and showed very little desire and effort to be involved, which modern day union wingers cannot be caught doing. As far as I’m concerned, see ya buddy. Based off the two games, I think Donaldson shades Edmed at present as well. The centre pairing wasn’t too good either and this may well be tinkered with for next week’s match.
The squad has one more match next Friday evening to impress Dave Rennie et al, for a plane ticket (preferably not flying QANTAS or they’ll likely end up in Cuba or something) to the autumn internationals. It’s a bit of a shame we couldn’t bring the whole squad over for, say, two mid-week matches against willing teams. Alas, beggars can’t be choosers and we’ve had more this season than, well, since I can remember at least. I genuinely think there may well be a few bolters, and hopefully a few bolts into other players like Ol’ Yella’.
The Kiwis have announced their squad for the internationals. See here for the link.
AUTUMN INTERNATIONAL REFEREES ANNOUNCED
World Rugby announced the referees for the outbound tests over October and November. The full list of appointments can be found here for the home countries and here for the final RWC23 qualifiers to be played in Dubai.
Australia’s matches are to be refereed by:
- Luke Pearce (RFU) v Scotland
- Jaco Peyper (RSA) v France
- Brendon Pickerill (NZR) v Italy
- Ben O’Keeffe (NZR) v Ireland
- Matthew Carley (RFU) v Wales
It may interest some to know that Mathieu Raynal’s only test match in this window is Romania v Samoa.
QUEENSLAND REDS DEVELOPMENT v QUEENSLAND CHAIRMAN’s XV
This was a match designed by RA as a test of ‘innovations’, aka simply implementing the existing laws, to speed the game up. Well, from what I saw on the Facebook stream before I had to turn off the feed in disgust at the continual mention from the commentary of “the new rules”, it’s LAWS for fark sake 🤬🤬, “this is a wicked speed game” and “it’s all about the pace” despite no ‘clear and obvious’ evidence of the game being any faster than what I have seen elsewhere, particularly at that level. It wasn’t without irony that, at the 27th minute mark, there was a tactical ‘injury’ of a forward, thus the whole point of any quick set up was gone. I’ll still reserve my complete judgement until stats are released showing a clear difference in ball in play time (albeit with a limited scope of experimentation). If there is no mention or release of stats by RA this week, consider the experiment failed IMO.
Curiously, I’ve heard on the grapevine that, during the Ponies v Rebels trial match in Albury last weekend, a Ponies staff member was tasked with timing the set ups of scrums and line outs and the timing of kicks. By their estimation, only one kick was not taken within the prescribed time. Naturally, the question of “why the fuck are we bothering with ‘law innovations’ then?” was asked. Fair point. I guess it’ll still come back to consistency and actual implementation at the professional, televised level. I actually think a clear and obvious clock for scrums, lineouts and kicks should be implemented, say on the big screen, at a professional level. Further, I’m quite happy to see the ‘use it’ call being strictly enforced, especially before the bloody caterpillar is formed. As I said last week though, we still have to be very careful of what we wish for lest we turn our beautiful game into either mungo ball or something that doesn’t translate into the international game.
Be well, folks!