Well, G&GRs…. What a ‘shit’ weekend that was. Despite our delight at watching the Kiwis get pasted by our Irish brethren, we weren’t able to down Eddie’s Englishmen when it counted. Bugger. The DDFs were able to beat the Taffs and the FISMs came away with a last gasp win over the Jocks. All up, means the four ‘main’ north v south teams finished in a deadlock of six wins each. Still, wouldn’t we all have loved seven (not you, NZ).
Otherwise, we have seen a bit more of a shake-up with the world rankings (which, in reality, mean sweet fa), Samoa winning the Pacific Nations Cup with a daring victory over F1J1, and another case of early onset dementia for a former world class player. So, folks, where to from here? Let’s see what we can salvage from the July internationals.
JULY INTERNATIONALS – WEEK THREE
Australia v England – Article here. Well, this was disappointing to say the absolute least. The worst part for me is that England weren’t really that much better than the Wobs in two out of three tests. Yet here we are, yet again, on the wrong end of a score line. The second worst part is that there are so many basics going wrong for the Wobs. We’re talking the absolute fundamentals and areas that, despite being pointed out all over the place, aren’t being fixed. We have players that have egos that outweigh their ability on the park and players that, by all rights, probably shouldn’t even be on the park. The injury count, while never an excuse, was absolutely a factor, too.
The distinct areas that Dave Rennie and co MUST fix before the Rugby Championship are:
- The ruck work. Too many times players didn’t commit thus we either had slow ball or were turned over through PKs for ‘holding on’ or we got blasted by a counter ruck. I’m going to lay this on the tight five as, apart from a scrum, this is their core role.
- The handling. For too long, Australian rugby has not had both the vision and creativity to perform intelligent, ‘heads up’, rugby. Furthermore, our top level players are making it to national level with below average skills. For this I don’t blame Rennie. It isn’t his responsibility to teach players this. It firmly resides with all levels below. I noted with extreme interest in the season at how the Brumbies were practising their handling. I wonder how many of the other Super clubs were doing something similar? Judging by Nela ankle breaker to Frost and Hodge’s effort to go both behind and over a speeding Tom Wright, I daresay not much.
- The smarts. Australia has historically been known as an above-average intelligent rugby side. We may not have the size of, say, the DDFs, or the silky skills of the Kiwis… but somewhere along the line we lost who we are. Similar to Gatland-and-Jake-ball, we have to introduce deception into the attack. I noted how flat Sexton was against the Irish and how subtle his wraparounds were. Compare this to how telegraphed the Australian attack was, not to mention one dimensional (so much out the farking back!) that any team can use a rush defence and filter us to the sidelines. Now, when we get it right (a la Wright’s try), gee we look good… but when we don’t… Yikes! Furthermore, as above, we have players not fulfilling their core roles and simple skills. We must do something different, even a bit unexpected. An example is the kick-off returns. Marika is constantly targeted and, again, gave up possession when least needed. Bloody do something about it!
On top of this, Dave Rennie’s win percentage now sits at 39%. Clearly something has to change. Now, I don’t want to lose Rennie as there are still positives here. But time is definitely running out, as is patience. Fortunately, the media attention is across the ditch with their own coaching and team problems. A winning series for the Kiwis may well have heaped more pressure on DR. I would think that there could well be some tough, but necessary, decisions ahead. Let’s break this down:
Front row – scrum was 50/50. While failing to get ascendency, it was not on skates backwards. Nela is badly out of form and is playing like a bloke who thinks he’s worth a million a season but wants to do fark all to earn it. Rumours from earlier in the season seems to indicate he doesn’t like workload.. Well, chum, at this level, earn it or fark off. You opened your gob and didn’t back it up. Life lesson there is earn it where it counts… on the farking scoreboard! It’s a shame that Sio was injured as I thought he was making a difference. Bell, 7As and Slipper, apart from a few iffy PKs, played solidly. Porecki was accurate with his throwing. FF… well, to give him
backhanded credit he played a lot better than T2 (not that it was hard to do so!).
Locks – I thought Frost played bloody well, but he and Philip still have work to ensure a stable platform for the front row. It will be interesting if Arnold is in for TRC to replace Kerevi (Comm games). Swain will have learnt a hard lesson as well. Credit where it’s due, the lineout was mostly functional and stole plenty of English ball.
Loosies – Hoss mate… look away. I think it’s time we look past Hooper as both 7 and captain. In the first test, he earned a few PKs, mostly from a poor refereeing performance that, for me, incorrectly rewarded Aus. The second and third test he was not physically able to assert himself and, despite making most tackles when he wasn’t ‘rag-dolled’, was a complete liability in attack. Indeed, he was not able to secure any turnovers that I recall either. Is McReight the answer? Probably not as he is the same size as Hooper, though is better on the ball. I’d like to think outside the box a bit and consider someone like Jahrome Brown or starting Pete Samu (despite his versatility on the bench). Even a Liam Wright (if he’s available) or similar like Langi Gleeson or even Luke Reimer or Tim Anstee, all of whom are physically bigger than Hoops. I absolutely don’t doubt his passion for the Wob jersey… but I still don’t see the leadership capacity in him going forward. Sorry, Hoss et al. I daresay this might kick off a bit…
Halves – pass, just. I actually preferred a Gordon/Lolesio combination. White was OK but was hampered by an ineffectual pack. He made some dumb decisions at times, too. Tate was never going to have the ability to change a match with 20 minutes at the end and it’d be wrong to blame him for it. He still doesn’t have the pass for test level footy. Having Quade back may well be interesting but is he both fit and available? In similar fashion to thinking outside of the box with the loosies, do we bring an Edmed/Donaldson into camp as well? As we’ve seen, who knows what can happen with a few injuries.
Centres – Kerevi did things he couldn’t do before Japan. He seemed to shoulder a helluva lot of responsibility. Consequently, he was targeted. Ikitau for me is still the favoured 13. Paisami pass.
Backs – Gee Tom Wright was impressive over the past two tests. Another one who, if he keeps his ego in check, can be a damn good footy player. Marika’s work rate last night was outstanding as well. Hodge, well, he can kick (and tbh he looked scared to go for the long PKs). Otherwise, he played exactly like he has done all season. Time for Hodge to be
So, who do we look to bring into Camp Wallaby from the Aus A sides or elsewhere? Well, I’ve mentioned some names above… but I’d like to see Jock Campbell bought in for a crack at 15. Sure, he doesn’t set the world on fire, but he’s a better bet for me than Hodge or Beale (God help us). Do we then bring, say, a Will Harris as well? I don’t think anything is off the table at the moment as, well, “it ain’t working now!” (Hoss, 2022)..
All Blacks v Ireland – Article here. Well, I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this at all re the AB coaching staff and their captain. A la Eddie hooking Danny Care, Fozzie hooking Cane at a pivotal moment with 15 minutes to go sent wave of bewilderment across the commentary. For me, it’s almost as though Fozzie was hanging Cane out to dry which, judging by some comments on various sites, is probably the case! The AB board and current crop of coaching staff are, allegedly, as bad as some RA boards and coaches have been. So the question is, do they have the cojones to inflict reputational damage on themselves? Well, since they’re middle-aged, entitled white men, I daresay they don’t and NZ will be stuck with Fozzie for a wee bit longer. Don’t get me wrong though, if you thought Wayne Barnes was unpopular, it has nothing on Fozzie at the moment.
Let’s take a moment here as well to reflect on how bloody good the Irish were. Yes, I’ve heard the jokes about peaking a year out from the RWC as well but, by crikey, are they looking top notch. The only worry would be the health and fitness of Johnny Sexton. When Will Jordan made his break, Sexton wasn’t within cooee! They have to find a way to give Carbery more game time.
Remember, in RWC 2023, it’s most likely that, of New Zealand, South Africa, England and Ireland, only two of these teams will make it out of the quarter final stage. Right now that’s problems for the South.
South Africa v Wales – Article here. The DDFs have defeated the Taffs in the deciding third set to regain some pride for the Southern Hemisphere. TL;DR… Wales ran out of gas and, dare I say it, ran out of emotion after the previous two test matches were thrillers. The DDFs resting the majority of their side in the second test meant they were always going to be fresher. Wales certainly didn’t disgrace themselves though and will look to the positives ahead of the November internationals.
Argentina v Scotland – Article here. To be honest, I’m not as impressed by the Pumas as others might be. I certainly don’t think that they’re as good as they look. A truer reflection I think is the team from the second test. Let’s not forget that in the games where they won, it was very late efforts full of emotion. Classic Chieka wins i.e. full of the emotion and spirits and ‘yeehaw, go the boys’ with very little substances. Furthermore, this was not a strong Scotland either. I know you can only play the team in front of you but, like the Wobs, there’s a lot of work for Cheika and co to do before the Wobs arrive in a few short weeks. Then again, a home series win is good for the rugby juju.
PACIFIC NATIONS CUP 2022
Samoa have won the 2022 PNC after defeating F1J1 on Saturday afternoon. Article here. Fiji will be exceptionally disappointed to come away with only one win, particularly after spending the vast majority of the season together as the Drua.
Australia beat Tonga in their final game and awaited the result of the Samoa v F1J1 game to see who would be crowned champions for 2022. Alas, it was not to be for the Aus A side.
Credit where it’s due for World Rugby and the respective governing boards for sorting the PNC out and appointing top notch referees as well as some emerging referees. The teams have long deserved a quality tournament and it’s really been good rugby to watch. For too long, the Pacific Nations have been pillaged for their talents with nothing done to create a sustainable pathway for their players. Long may this format continue in the Islands!
CHILE THROUGH TO RWC2023
Los Condores will line up in Pool D at Rugby World Cup 2023 after they overturned a 20 point aggregate deficit to beat the USA in Glendale on Saturday.
Chile have qualified for the Rugby World Cup for the first time in their history following a pulsating 52-51 aggregate victory against the USA in the Americas 2 play-off. Los Condores looked to be heading for defeat as, having lost the first leg 22-21 in Santíago last weekend, they conceded three tries inside the opening half hour in Colorado on Saturday to leave themselves 20 points behind in the tie. When USA captain AJ MacGinty scored a 58th minute penalty they trailed by nine points on aggregate. However, Santiago Videla’s late penalty, which gave them the lead in the tie for the first time, ensured they broke the hearts of home fans to claim a 31-29 victory on the night and a place at RWC23. Chile will line up in Pool D in France next year, alongside England, Japan, Argentina and Samoa.
Who said rugby in the (South) Americas was dead? We now have Chile, Uruguay and, of course, Argentina through! This does spell a lot of problems for the USA. While they still have a chance to be a part of the RWC, they do so through a final qualifying tournament later in the year against Portugal, Kenya and the loser of Tonga and Hong Kong. Seeing as they’re the hosts of RWC2031, they’ll have to sort their high performance out quick smart. MLR, while still in its infancy, really must get a move on in terms of professionalism and quality.
RYAN JONES DIAGNOSED WITH EARLY-ONSET DEMENTIA
Former Wales captain Ryan Jones has revealed his fears for the future after being diagnosed with early -onset dementia aged 41. Jones, capped 75 times and a member of the British & Irish Lions squad on the 2005 tour of New Zealand, received the diagnosis of probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in December last year.
Heartbreakingly, during his interview, Jones said: “I feel like my world is falling apart. I am really scared because I’ve got three children and three step-children and I want to be a fantastic dad. I lived 15 years of my life like a superhero and I’m not. I don’t know what the future holds.”
We all wish him well.
Before you all ask, I am rather unsure about the somewhat maverick decisions of Barnes and Carley from the weekend in their assessment of mitigating factors for the respective head clashes. It isn’t something that we have had any directive that I know of here in club land. I totally get the old adage that fourth grade players said to me as a young referump… “We don’t care if you’re good or shit; we only care if you’re consistently good or consistently shit”. 🤷♂️
Right, folks. Stay tuned. I daresay we’ll have some ‘hot off the press’ action from across the ditch one way or another this week!
As we have no major international footy for a few weeks, I encourage you all to get down and support the clubs. Buy a snag and a brew or two. Make a funny sledge at the refs (but don’t be a dick). Most of all, keep on loving the rugby!