Welcome to Monday’s Rugby News, GAGRs! The Wallabies certainly looked a wee bit wobbly on Saturday evening in their match v Japan whilst the Darkness easily accounted for the Yanks. In other news, there have been some signings for the Super sides for 2022 and the race for the 2027 RWC heats up. Let’s dance, folks!
Wallabies v Japan
Firstly, let me get this out there. I was truly dumbstruck at both the ignorant and arrogant comments floating around social media channels in the aftermath of the Wallabies win. The complete unawareness by some of the rugby crowd (assuming mostly the casual fan) of the abilities of the Japanese side is myopic and uninformed. Japan are 10th in the world and are still flowing from the energy from the 2019 RWC. Indeed, Scotland, Ireland and South Africa have all felt the wrath of the Cherry Blossoms in the past six seasons. Furthermore, this is precisely the sort of side, and match, that, in recent Wallabies history, we have lost. I recall the 2011 loss to Samoa in Sydney prior to the RWC in NZ as well as multiple losses to Scotland (Newcastle and Edinburgh) which shows that any team, on their day, can be winners. The days of the out-and-out hiding for sides in the ‘second tier’ are, mostly – fuck you, USA… you ruined my point…, behind us. That said, a USA side not missing their best talent would have put up more of a fight.
OK, now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s reflect on the performance of the GAG. The first twenty-odd minutes passed in an absolute heartbeat. Indeed, I couldn’t believe how quickly time went. This is credit to both the teams and to referee Paul Williams for not piss farting around. The Wallabies sustained pressure and possession, though were guilty of pushing that last pass. What was lacking was the chemistry Quade has built with Kerevi. Paisami, for all his talents, is not yet in the same league. This meant it was tricky to get Ikitau/Kelleway/Wright/Hodge/Paisami involved as much possible. Quade of old was on full show and his deft handling to open up Valetini was glorious to watch. Wright’s line for his early try was similarly well done (though his poor defence for the first Japanese try was not so good). After this, the Japanese were able to wrest the momentum from the GAG, who were guilty of turning over possession. One aspect that will please the coaching staff, and Dan McKellar, was the Wallaby ability in the air. This included multiple Matt Philip stolen throws.
Second half was errily similar to the first. An early try to a superbly worked forward’s move that would have surely seen Phil Kearns nutting in his evening beverage. A completely unnecessary cheese to the Japanese winger for a shoulder charge after the whilst then allowed the Wallabies to build up pressure for Leota to cross for his first meat pie. Naturally of course, the intercept try made its way back into the Wallaby repertoire which brought the Japs closer and raised the pressure on the Wallabies to buck back. Another penalty to the Japanese saw a score of 27-23 before a try to Connal McInerney in the final ten secured a well-fought win to the GAGs.
A reflection on how the game was refereed: it is clear that WR are making a clear focus of players arriving AND staying on feet a priority. This was refereed consistently and accurately. I was pleased to see the ‘tackler not releasing’ being penalised as well. One area I felt that WR may have back off in is the ‘clear and obvious onside’. For me, if we can get the clear tackle area (i.e. tacklers roll and clear release) and teams CLEARLY onside then the game flows really well.
New Zealand v USA
Well, not really much to write home about here. NZ gave the Yanks an absolute walloping that isn’t really good for anyone. The USA, even with a full-strength side, were on a hiding to nothing and this turned into more of a glorified training run (with a hefty pay-day at the end) for the Nearlies.
The game was all but over after 15 minutes with the ABs out to a 26-0 lead. Credit to the USA for at least scoring some points. The Kiwis will benefit from having some up-and-coming players exposed to text match conditions and the US will still benefit from the experience of playing the best side (mostly because they can’t take much else away!).
Enough said really… Except for a ‘good luck’ to the Northern Sheep Rooters.. I reckon you may need some lube for your game v the Nearlies next weekend!
On a sad note, it was a lovely gesture from USA Rugby to take the opportunity to respect the passing of Sean Wainui. Similarly for the All Blacks to remember him with an 11 second pause (his jersey number) prior to the haka. Vale, Sean.
Super Rugby 2022
Some solid signings for Moana Pasifika this week, including Lincoln McClutchie (watch his game from the NPC this weekend… the pin-point cross-field kick for a try was class!) and the Tongan loose forward trio of Waikato back rower Jack Lam, Counties Manukau flanker Alamanda Motunga and Canterbury No 8 Henry Time-Stowers have all been plucked out of New Zealand’s NPC to add to the expansion franchise’s growing roster. Sekope Kepu’s signing will provide plenty of scrummaging experience, too.
On Aussie shores, my Ponies have signed Cam Clark and Chris F-Sautia whilst Solomone Kata has been released from his contract to stay in NZ. I would love for him to stay involved with rugby union so I’m hopeful that Moana may offer him a contract, too. I’d be really bloody interested in seeing a second Lynagh son make his way to Aussie shores, too. Eddie has potentially let Louis Lynagh slip through England’s hands (thanks, mate!). If I were Dave Rennie and co., I’d be making sure to offer a decent package to the young bloke. Perhaps Twiggy could sign him for the Force… that’d be a hell of a backline!
The Fijian Drua released a clip this week which I found absolutely incredible. The clip gives the cultural significance and history of the Drua as well as background to the side. Very much worth a watch if you haven’t seen the video yet:
For me, I’m really interested in the Super Rugby Pacific series. Of course, we have to get through the AIs and then a well-deserved Christmas break. That said, if this can be marketed really well, I sense a turning point for rugby in Australia and the Pacific region coming.
Rugby World Cup 2027, 2029 and 2031
Earlier this week, the USA Rugby announced their candidacy for the 2027 and 2031 Men’s RWCs and the 2029 Women’s RWC. This places them into direct competition with Australia for the 2027 edition.
With my gold tinted glasses on…. Fuck off, you Yanks (for 2027)!.
With my gold tinted glasses off, the USA is simply not ready to host the tournament in 2027 from a rugby playing perspective. I certainly recognise that, financially and from a growth perspective, the USA is still a market that has yet to be truly tapped into. Even soccer, arguably the most popular sport in the world (*shudders*), barely makes a dent compared to gridiron, basketball and baseball. The Yanks are a proud people of a proud country; what cannot be allowed to happen is their side to be humiliated on the world scene in front of billions, especially on their own in a growing market. If rugby is any serious chance of taking root (despite this argument being thrown around for as long as I can remember), they must be able to see the proverbial score on the board.
Let’s compare their current rugby scene with that of a relatively similar country in terms of rugby: Japan. Japan and the USA both have a proud history of rugby in their countries, though it would be fair to say both were minnow countries until the turn of the millennium. From there, rugby has kicked off (pun intended) in Japan, with the huge growth of the Japanese Top League attracting both players and finances that countries like Australia can only dream of. Further, there has been a long-term approach of securing coaching talent for the club scene. Japan is now seeing the influx of talent in their prime rather than as a way to increase the salary at the end of a player’s career.
Comparatively, the USA has had as many stop and starts as the Australian third tier competition has. Whilst the MLR will only be good for the USA in the long term, it must continue to survive and thrive. Covid was almost the end of the programme prior to the second edition starting. Crucially, they have struggled to make the finals of the RWC 2023 competition which begs the question that, if hosting in 2027, will their programme be enough to see them qualify? My contention is that they require an extra few years to cement their status and have their programmes running at full flight. This may make all the difference in terms of the USA being as successful as Japan were in 2019.
Right, Folks. That’s all for tonight. Happy commenting!