Welcome, GAGRs, to Monday’s Rugby News. Well, three in a row, eh? I do like the sound of that! Not to mention a certain country of Dutch Dirt Farmers getting beaten, too. How very exciting! Apart from a review of the weekend, lets have a think about a potential contracting style moving forward and considering options for Women’s rugby. Happy Monday*, everyone!
*posted early on Sunday night… I stupidly said ‘yes’ to a back-to-back hospital shift. RIP me.
Wallabies v Los Pumas
Check out Sully’s post-mortem here.
Well, friends, this was definitely an interesting game. For me, I felt the back line was absolutely purring. Of particular note was the presence of doing the rugby basics right. This was noticeable in none other than Samu Kerevi. Once pigeonholed (by me… and probably many others) as a hard running centre who couldn’t pass, he has shown off his newfound skills wonderfully over the past few tests. The key to his game now? Holding the ball in both hands as well as deft changes of line. Whilst Kerevi is the biggest visual improver in this facet of the game, all of the Wallabies backs are demonstrating these nuances much to their benefit. Indeed, I can barely think of a time in the first half where the back line truly faltered. Amazing! Rugby, despite its many flaws, can still be a simple bloody game! And within this simple game are the simple skills. The execution of these skills, particularly in the first half, was probably the best I’ve seen from the ‘Princesses’ in many years.
Unfortunately, this did not quite extend to the ‘Piggies’ up front. Once again, the line out became the Wallabies Achilles’ Heel and, with that, squandered many missed opportunities. Folau Fainga’a, Izaak Rodda and Matt Philip have to wear that and sort it out. ASAP. Nella seemed to have developed a promiscuity for the ball after his exploits last week; unfortunately, he forgot that we have to actually keep possession to do anything with it. If it were a KFC 24 piece bucket, there is no chance he drops it. Treat the ball the same way, big fulla!
I completely agree with Dave Rennie and understand his ‘grumpiness’. Los Pumas were there for the proverbial kill. The lack of execution of fundamental skills (kick out on the full, conceding PK after scoring, etc.) is still an area of concern. We have not quite learned this from the matches against the ABs. Further, leaving at least two tries begging after poor choices in attack must’ve left Scott Wisemantal going spare. As much as I liked the energy Tate brought, he was a key reason (for me) that we faltered. He did not have the assertiveness to get Marika (and others… but he was noticeable) the fuck out of the way many times and, indeed, from doing the old ‘pick’n’go’ which caused a breakdown of momentum. Indeed, his poor choice to snipe from halfback further led to a missed opportunity. I doubt any player would have the gonads to steal Nic White’s ball sans risk of a mouth guard being hurled towards your head (along with some choice halfback tantrum sledging) so this way poor from me. I don’t want to eliminate the heads up play; however, at no point was there anything really going. Still…. a win is a win! There should always be areas to improve upon after a game.
Los Pumas. Well, they never were REALLY in the hunt. This was still an improved performance from the pesky Argentines. They successfully wound up the Wallabies (no thanks to the Clown I assume…. Prick) and, through sheer bastardry, caused mayhem at the set piece. What they are lacking is game time and combinations, as well as a decent 9/10 combination to unleash their backs. They will get there.
Looking ahead, I can see the opportunity for a few of the dirties to get their chance. As much as the relaxation of the Giteau Law shits me, there is no point bring Mad Dog back from Japan to hold tackle bags. Expect him to possibly come in for Hooper/Valetini. Though I’m liking Rennie’s idea of earning every jersey and picking the best side, there did seem to be an element of fatigue about some Wallabies players. Some fresh blood won’t go astray in the fowards, me thinks. Backs… I’d love to see exactly the same in order to build the combinations. this depends on the plans for Quade, of course. Otherwise a straight swap with JOC 2.0/Groin 27.0.
All Blacks V DDFs
Whilst it was VERY easy to predict the type of match we were going to get, I didn’t expect the result to be quite as close as it was. A final scoreline of 19-17 in the traditional rival’s 100th test probably does justice to the contribution both sides have made to rugby; however, it is probably not testament to where both sides are.
Nearlies – probably played their worst match this calendar year. So many errors and a distinct feeling is disjointedness which was very much unlike the Kiwi side we usually see (from the rear-view mirror *sigh*). Again, is Foster truly the right coach for the job? It will be very interesting to see how the Kiwis run out this weekend in search of their own Southern Hemisphere ‘Golden Slam’. There is the opportunity to really stick the dagger into the DDFs which is tantalizing in its own right.
DDFs – whilst everybody and their dog knew precisely what they were going to do and how they were going to do it, at times the Kiwis simply didn’t have an answer to the onslaught from the DDFs. That all being said, TAsanalytics have put together a six minute clip on the ‘dumbest six minutes of rugby in Springbok history’ – see below. To be honest, it’s very hard to disagree with that assessment as it was as dumb as Reece Hodge’s kick a few weeks ago against the Bokke. Quite simply, the ingrained method of ‘kick the ball away and force the opposition to do something’ simply doesn’t cut it, at least, not outside a RWC. The mentality of ‘kick, kick and kick again’ will certainly cost the Bokke a lot more games and true supporters than it will gain. Particularly against a side like the ABs who thrive on the ability to play heads up rugby when faced with a jagged defence.
Jacques Nienaber must be feeling an absolute SHITTONNE of pressure now. His statement post-match of “we deserved to win” was complete bollocks. You don’t deserve anything in a test match. You earn it. Quite simply, the Bokke have been Wallabies-esque at being their own worst enemy.
Contracting of Players
You’ll all be aware that I am no lover of the Giteau Law, nor of the relaxation of said Law. Indeed, if there was any more proof that this spells problems, the Pumas and the results from the first round of the Pro 14, where the Saffa domestic sides are playing, ought to show that the release of players from local comps is a FUCKING STUPID idea. That Benetton, the historical whipping boys of the Pro 14 with their fellow Italian side, Zebre, can be on a winning streak against the Saffa sides is worrying indeed. Even if the Italian side is “technically” champions (Covid sure made that comp interesting….), it’s an ominous sign for their season.
Now, there are always going to be perils of contracting. Let’s be honest, Rugby AU have proven themselves to be absolutely atrocious in this regard (see Folau case…). There have been myriad ideas floated around. What I would like to see is players of the PONI squad plus a few more would be thus eligible for the sabbatical clause after X amount of tests. This way, they earn their big bucks (preferably in Japan… shorter, less physical in a way, season) and are still eligible for Wallabies selection and can bring their newfound skills and ideas with them instead of being perennially lost to international rugby a la Mad Dog. We have seen players like Hooper, Kerevi, Kelleway, etc. benefit from their time away. Indeed, the ginger ninja credits his time away from these shores as a chance to get the dickhead knocked out of him. Hear hear! What Australian rugby cannot afford is a loss of key players and the structure of a decent home-based professional competition.
In the UK, Men’s Premiership clubs have been aligning themselves to Women’s Premier clubs. Indeed, now in its fifth season, there are 10 clubs, all of whom are professional (an audit in 2020 removed two amateur clubs in favour of Prem club backing). There are plenty of positive reasons for this to happen:
- link to existing structures
- link to existing player pathways
- link to existing facilities – ground, medical, gym, rehab, etc.
- Ability for current players to work on coaching, etc.
Whilst still in its infancy, there is a lot to be liked about the beginnings of the professional era for the game of rugby within the Women’s space. Indeed, we see similar with the Farah Palmer Cup across the ditch with teams generally lined up with an equivalent Men’s NPC side. This then provides extra development for match officials and generates exposure to the game for girls and young women looking to take part in the game. Further, with a RWC (Women’s) in NZ in 2021, there is certainly an appetite for the game.
A few year ago, Rugby AU lost a major sponsor, BuildCorp, over their failure to develop a female super competition. Whilst this has, thankfully, been brought about, there is still not quite the same level of development at present in Australia. Whilst funding will always remain a roadblock for Aussie sides, at least in the near to medium future, there must be a way for these competitions to be expanded past the four game round robin competition completed in one week in Coffs Harbour.