Welcome to Monday’s news, GAGRs! I hope you’re all doing well after Saturday’s phenomenal match in Bris-vegas. I, for one, struggled to sleep for a number of hours due to the excitement of the victory! We’ll have a recap of the Wallabies victory, the British and Irish Lions Tour, other international matches. Finally, a quick thought about a trend that has been steadily creeping in to the game in the last few years… As always, happy to hear your thoughts in the comments. Happy Monday! :)
Le Decideur – Wallabies v France Game 3
What. A. Game!!! What. A. Series!!!
The Wallabies produced their best performance since the Bledisloe in Perth in 2019 to win a famous victory over the French side in the 3rd Test in Brisbane with a final score of 33-30. I haven’t, personally, been captivated by a test series in a number of years. Indeed, initial reports suggest 952,000 viewers during the final moments without including Stan and 9Now figures with an average viewer rate of ~651,000. That is a phenomenal result for Rugby AU and their associated sponsors.
Say what you will about the French side; they were the side selected to come out to Australia and represent their country. They certainly did not see themselves, nor play, as some second, or third, string side. Indeed, many of these players will be knocking on (read: barging down) Fabien Galthie’s door for more opportunities at a national level. They were an impressive outfit and will benefit immensely from this experience.
Despite the early misfortune to Daugunu and the equally unfortunate sending off of Koroibete, the Wallabies steeled themselves like we haven’t seen for many years. Some players have surely locked down spots in the 23 for some time. I definitely note that one series win doth not a World Cup make and we still have plenty of room for improvement. At the same time, for this squad to achieve a series win in the way that they did over the three matches demonstrates that Rennie’s influence is starting to seep in. Ditto indeed for Dan McKellar and impact with the forwards.
Whilst I have never been the biggest Hooper fan, I’ll gladly eat humble pie and acknowledge that this was the best performance from him as a captain, well, ever! The highlight for me was his interaction with Ben O’Keeffe. Notably, it was mentioned by commentators that he did not allow the frustration of the Koroibete sending off to affect his relationship. I quite enjoyed the banter when pointing out that “37,000 fans disagree with you” which brought out a wry smile from O’Keeffe. Again, the influence of Rennie (against his immediate predecessor “He Who Shall Not Be Named”) on a leadership perspective cannot be lost. Furthermore, I wonder if his sabbatical in Japan where he worked directly with Kieran Read, et al may have yielded some extra benefits which might not have been so obvious.
Anyhoo… A jolly good result but still plenty to work on and look forward to. Bledisloe ahoy!
British and Irish Lions Tour 2021
Another interesting week within the British and Irish Lions Tour of the Republic. A loss to the “Springboks A” side (who are they kidding… It was a 4th Test!) during the midweek (17-13) and a win over the Stormers (49-3) on Saturday means that the domestic schedule of matches is over. The eagerly awaited first test of the series starts next weekend!
Not unsurprisingly, there hasn’t been much of a game plan exhibited by the BIL as yet. Indeed, it is difficult to identify exactly who the BIL staff have identified as their starting 23. The selection table is always divisive within one country let alone carrying the weight of the Home Nations! Although you could historically bet your house plus some on a bit of Warren-ball, there is still a possibility of, say, a Marcus Smith surprise at some point. Indeed, there are question marks as to whether previous automatic selections, say Farrell or Murray, would even make a 23. Overall, I’m going to play it remarkably safe. I will bet on a relatively ‘expected’ match day 23 inclusive of big-name stars, e.g. Farrell, Murray, etc. for the first test; however, it should be a literal belter (pardon the pun…). With the Australian Nic Berry in charge, expect the breakdown to be policed quickly yet fairly. The set piece battle will be ferocious and I expect nothing less than some exceptional physicality. Both teams have everything to lose, though the World Champions maybe slightly moreso. Bring on next weekend!
A Bane of My Rugby Passion
This weekend saw one of my absolute pet peeves creep into our sport: whinging. From Jalonche’s now infamous ‘dive’ to some carrying-on in the NZ v Fiji game, the way the game has headed in recent years is not in the spirit of rugby.
I listened with great interest in the 47th minute of the NZ v Fiji match to commentator Grant “Nisbo” Nisbett calling the game. He made an excellent point about how teams are utilising what soccer calls ‘simulation’ to get the attention of the officials, particularly of the TMO. In this example, there was a kick that seemingly went out on the full. The official on the touch line, Jordan Way, made a reasonable decision considering his line of sight was impeded by the none-too-small figure of Nemani Nadolo! Whilst it was nice in a way that the ‘correct decision’ was eventually made, the manner in which the decision was arrived at was unsavoury. Indeed, Law 6A4(a) states that “The referee is the sole judge of fact and law”. In this instance, Murphy quite rightly trusted his assistant referee’s decision and went back for a scrum option. There was a plethora of NZ players whinging at Damon Murphy which thus instigated a TMO ‘unofficial check’. It was messy and unnecessary. At the end of the day, the officials called it as they saw it and that should be good enough. This comes back to the captain’s referral which I ABSOLUTELY hate and Nisbett said as much, too.
This act of simulation was never more obvious with the French captain’s involvement in Koroibete’s sending off. I don’t want to descend into an argument about the justification of the red card as what is done is done. For me, whilst there are many so-called ‘blights on the game’, this is one that gives me the absolute shits. World Rugby must take a serious stance on this and look into ways to eliminate this from our game. In particular, we do not want to see this come (further) to the level of community rugby. As Nigel Owens famously said… “this is not soccer!” Hear, Hear, Nigel! Perhaps you can provide Jalonche with a similar roasting like you did Stuart Hogg in 2015….
Other International Matches
There was an entertaining battle for RWC 2023 qualification in NZ with Manu Samoa playing against Tonga. Despite the atrocious conditions, the game was still an enjoyable one to watch. Despite the aggregate score line from the first test, the Tongans pressed Manu Samoa consistently through the game. I particularly both sides efforts at the tackle and ruck. In the end, there had to be a winner and Manu Samoa will progress directly to RWC 2023. Tonga have a RWC play-off this weekend against the Cook Islands.
Argentina played a home match at Millennium Stadium against Wales. Again, another gripping encounter which saw some excellent physical battles and some quality rugby played in the blistering conditions in the UK at present. Argentina came away with a 33-11 win against a Wales side that ran out of steam and class at the end.