Greetings, G&GRs. Welcome to Monday’s Rugby News. What a curious range of emotions to go through, eh? After what turned out to be, arguably, one of the best World Cup finals in rugby history on Saturday, those of us who bothered to stay up to watch the Wobs quickly regretted it. Indeed, I’m still shaking with fury as
we speak I type… but we’ll get to that! There’s a wrap of all complete test matches from this weekend and anything else that rears its head in the next 12 hours or so! Stand by folks, I reckon there’ll be a number of Gaggerlanders going nuclear! If the G&GR chat is anything to go by, it could be a loooong day of rage. Let’s hear it!
WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP 2021 (PLAYED IN 2022) – FINALS
Well, folks, that’s the end of what surely goes down as the best women’s World Cups in history – for now! Congratulations to the Black Ferns on their victory, commiserations to the Red Roses in what was arguably the best spectacle of grand final rugby I’ve seen. Indeed, after the comparative horrors of other ‘showpiece’ events, this was truly a breath of fresh air. Credit to the BF masterminds in Wayne Smith and Ted Henry among the other support staff and players. After the shambles of the previous administration, their influence really shone through. Wonder if Wayne would be interested in a job across the ditch…. 🤔
Firstly, the bronze final between France and Canada. As the NZ Herald says, “It wasn’t the prize they came to collect but France still celebrated joyously after crushing Canada this afternoon to take home the bronze medal. Left heartbroken by a one point loss to the Black Ferns in last weekend’s semi-final, France quickly recovered in the third place playoff to show why they were considered among the pre-tournament contenders.” Similarly for Canada, they’d played their final the week before against the Roses and came into this match looking fatigued and worn down. This is entirely unsurprising for a team that is pretty much all amateur. In between the few moments of intensity, the Canadians were outgunned, outmuscled and outclassed by a superior French outfit thoroughly deserving their third place. What was more impressive from the French, despite their disappointment in not making the final, was how they enjoyed their moment and took nothing away from the other teams’ successes.
On to the final. Well then, what a game we had the privilege to witness. The game ebbed and flowed and, even as a neutral, had me on the end of my seat. No doubt the vino to the English winger hurt the English team; however, what many on socials and comments of ‘other sites’ still fail to grasp is that these sorts of illegal actions ended the tournament of the player she recklessly injured through poor technique. Accident-Schmaciddent. It’s been almost four years since these interpretations were brought in. That’s plenty of time, in any environment, to learn what not to do. That said, I bet the NH unions wished for 20 minute red cards now!
As the Guardian says, “A world-record crowd of 42,579 for a women’s fixture added further resonance to an occasion which had everything. Neither side really deserved to lose but New Zealand’s sixth try of the night with eight minutes left, scored by the replacement wing Ayesha Leti-I’iga after a world-class offload from the centre Stacey Fluhler, was something special. It boiled down to a classic clash of styles, particularly after Thompson’s departure. For the most part England’s set piece and driving maul were outstanding, with the hooker Amy Cokayne collecting a close-range hat-trick, but the Black Ferns backs were also an ever-present threat. On a clear, dry day, it made for glorious entertainment and maintained the feelgood theme of the past few weeks. Clearly it helped to have the host nation in the final, but people have also genuinely enjoyed what they have been watching.” It’s this last part that I wholeheartedly agree with. Sure, there have been the occasional blowouts (entirely expected considering where the women’s game is at present) but the top matches have been nothing short of exceptional.
Finally, with any game must come a referee. Full credit to Hollie Davidson (Scotland), Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa), Aurelie Groizleau (France) and Ben Whitehouse (Wales) for their outstanding refereeing. No referee is perfect, and no match is perfect; however, this was as close to outstanding as any referee could hope to achieve. Kudos, team!
For those who do think they can do better, pre-season is about to start. Hit KARL or me up in the comments and we’d be happy to point you in the direction of your local referees’ society.
THE IMPACT ON THE “STATUS QUO” OF RUGBY
As far as I can tell, the ball is now firmly in World Rugby’s (and RA’s) court in terms of how women’s rugby progresses around the world. There have been uncountable positives from this tournament, including cultural phenoms like Ruby Tui (below) and Portia Woodman, to Grace Hamilton, to Sarah Tucker among others who have provided inspiration to many young folks (and older as well!) and embraced the true spirit and message of rugby. Further, the level of rugby being played is now at a sufficient level to bring unions kicking and screaming (for the most part) into the 21st century. But the most important takeaway from this tournament is twofold. The first is the spirit of rugby and how this was embraced by all teams. The level of comraderie, the care of their teammates and others, the way the players interacted with fans and, importantly to me, the officials, was simply first rate. While it isn’t always fair to compare to the men’s game, which is a vastly different beast, in this area, the women’s game absolutely rains it down on the men. I’ve never enjoyed watching rugby as I have the last few weeks. The true spirit of rugby and how the game was played by all teams is something that really ought to be looked at in the men’s fixtures. The second is that the women have proven they belong on the world stage, with all the flags, streamers and support they deserve. The women in rugby not only deserve the very best because, well, it’s fair, but because this tournament has surely shown all sane naysayers that the product is valuable, marketable and sustainable.
Robert Kitson’s article said it perfectly: ‘This was the biggest game of women’s rugby ever played and, somehow, it exceeded even that lofty billing. New Zealand are the Rugby World Cup champions but only after a quite stunning contest that demonstrated why the tournament has captured the imaginations of so many. England will feel bereft, but they played a full part in perhaps the best World Cup final in history.” Spot fuqing on.
To those at RA (who I know read G&GR… well, maybe not Wednesdays but that’s understandable) – professional contracts by 2025 simply isn’t good enough. A fully professional outfit and, at least, a semi-pro domestic competition is required by the end of 2023. Not only for the benefit of our rugby, but because it’s the right bloody thing to do. At the moment, I’d sooner watch our ladies play than the men.
Bring on the 2025 edition… I can’t wait!
DOWN A RABBIT HOLE
This one is a quick one, yet potentially a fraught topic among some. There was one moment in the WRWC final that I’d like to look at. It was when the English kicked the ball out on the full with roughly 10 minutes or so to go. The decision from referee Davidson was that the ball was ‘touched’ by the Kiwi in an attempt to charge down. Therefore, the lineout, despite going out on the full, would go to England. What happened next left me decidedly uncomfortable. The host broadcasters managed to find a super slo-mo, zoomed in shot of the kick which showed no clear touch on the ball by the BF player. Thus, the decision was made (not 100% by whom) to reverse the decision and head back for a BF lineout. In context, I appreciate that the correct decision was made; however, does this then take rugby down a rabbit hole of every decision suddenly being put up on the big screen (especially by home broadcasters) to incite the crowd and potentially turn the tide of the game. In isolation, this was quite a moment in the match as the Kiwis went on to score from the ensuing lineout. My question is: where does this stop? It would be very easy to argue that there is a penalty in every ruck, so are we going to have big screen replays and TMOs interjecting every play? Does it only happen on ‘clear and obvious errors’ (i.e. without super slo-mo and 872487621x zoom) or does this lead us to the ‘Rassie Root’ (not to be confused with WR’s
kink punishment). Rugby is an imperfect game. These decisions happen and I’m a big believer of ‘rugby karma’ working these things out.
WALLABIES v ITALY
Well, folks, here we are. The article that has taken me the longest to write. I’m still so fuqing angry, I was actually shaking with rage last night and found it hard to sleep, but here goes.
Well played to Italy. Anything less is going “full Saffa” and, channelling my inner WRWC, we don’t do that. To label the Italians as easybeats is doing serious disservice to a team that is absolutely on the rise. A significant investment in their under 20s and other junior programmes is reaping the rewards. Further, they have a number of established, quality players rather than relying on the historic individual brilliance of players like Parisse or Castrogiovanni. But what strikes me most is how ‘rugby smart’ Kieran Crowley and his men are. It took me a while to realise that this is exactly what the Wallaby blueprint should be – play to your strengths and dominate them. Be aware of your weaknesses and continually develop your skills in those areas. My soul hurts a bit to say this, but Morgan Turinui and Goog Harrison were spot on when discussing the match last night. They identified two main areas: ‘heads up rugby’ ability and the ability to deceive. The Wobs have neither. Full credit to the Italians for exposing yet another chink in our orange armour. They earned their first ever victory against Australia. Records are made to be broken after all, but I must admit I’m getting a bit over the records being against the Wobs!
So, the match. Well, I’m sure you’ve all either watched late Saturday night/early Sunday morning the absolute clusterfuq that game was. To say I was raging was the understatement of the year. Indeed, I didn’t know whether to laugh, Hogan Hulk smash or cry. I certainly felt the tears of rage building.
To sum up – the whole thing was shit. I’m not quite sure what we, or the coaching staff expected though. 12 changes, albeit some forced, to a side is arrogance in the extreme. And boy does this Australian side have a lot of arrogance.
Forwards were all but inept for a lot of the game. I lost count at the number of times Lolesio, Paisami and Ikitau were forced into cleaning out because the forwards were nowhere to be found. I’ll try to stick with one or two of the positives: Skelton (yes, credit where it’s due, maybe still not 100% impact but better – I liked him off the back of the lineout) and Swain. Their efforts at the lineout and maul were bloody good. Samu managed a few turnovers in an otherwise disjointed performance. 7As and Gibbon were solid in the scrums. Hanigan (again) and McReight were found out by a more physical and aggressive pack. But my scorn will be reserved for one player in particular: Folau Fainga’a. Now, I know I have history in criticising this turkey so I’ll try to keep things so people’s feelings aren’t hurt. In my opinion, he should be punted on the first flight back to
“IDGAF land” Perth with “never select again” stickered on him. Similar to the Russian army, not only could he fail to hit a barn door with a tank, but his entire attitude is pathetic. What right did he have to get up in the faces of the Italians and start to carry on like a pork chop in the 30 odd minute mark when the Wobs were 17-8 down. You have to earn the right to be arrogant, and even then, it’s such a disgusting attribute to a team that it really must be stamped out. Adding to our hooking woes, Noss Lonergan’s first throw was disappointing. I REALLY hate to say it (I know, KARL, I know) but do we need to look at either BPA or *shudders* Latu? *Gives self an uppercut*. 👊👊
Now, I completely disagree with Jim Tucker’s perception of Noah Lolesio’s impact. I would challenge ANYONE to find ANY five-eight to have made any impact in that test match with the ball and possession he got. I’m so sick and fuqing tired of Australian rugby media and ‘hangers on’ having a crack at the 10 for the failings of a forward pack and the team in general. Unless there is quality, safe, front-foot ball, you ain’t gonna get anything. Further, to scrap heap a chap whose development has been more stunted than
KARL a hobbit’s is beyond ridiculous. I can only imagine the shit shovelling that Foley would have given us. On top of this, Jake Gordon has surely played his last game (pending injury) for a while. His yellow card was deplorable. That exceptionally poor decision gave the Italians possession, momentum and confidence. Further, it forced a reshuffle of the Australian backline (i.e. Jock to 9) and lead to a 14 point difference. For an experienced player (indeed, the Tart captain), that decision is unforgivable. Have a seat next to Folau on the plane – see ya! It is time Ryan Lonergan is introduced to the set up. A halfback that can pass, run and kick goals. Yes please.
The centres were OK, though Paisami is still trying to be a Kerevi 2.0 without the subtleties Kerevi now has. The wings were solid and certainly didn’t suffer from a lack of trying. Tom Wright continued his ‘Tour of Rocks and Diamonds’ with an excellent finish to a try in the corner and some better defence. Indeed, Marky Mark finished with five tackles (the highest of the backs I believe) and chopped well. Jock has his first half fuqed by Gordon’s cheese, though was solid under the high ball. Unfortunately, he is still suspect in defence. A poor read lead to at least one Italian try.
The bench wasn’t much chop either. This game demanded an impact from the pine which didn’t eventuate. Such a shame. Dr Tom Robertson joins FF and JG on the flight home after his crucial second of stupidity that cost us dearly. Further, if Donaldson’s kick had been a few metres to his left then this paragraph might be different. Alas, he missed and here we are. Do I blame him? Abso-fuqing-lutely not. That we could make such a fundamental tactical error for the second week in a row (taking off the chief decision maker and kicker) when the game was on the line was a disgrace. How on earth can you justify putting a debutant in that position? This event alone will scar him for life.
Which comes to my final paragraph: coaching. I still hold a glimmer of hope that this is all a part of a cunning plan; alas, whatever this plan is supposed to be is looking more Baldrick than Blackadder by the match. I simply cannot fathom how you expect an entirely new team, some of whom haven’t played in weeks, others less than 30 minutes, and expect anything different than what we got. The combinations and trust were not there. Players still didn’t know what they were doing or where they were supposed to be. The area that was most galling? That would be the most spoken word from the Wallaby coaching staff – DISCIPLINE. There was none. 15 penalties given away yet again with an average of 14 per match. A team cannot hope to win when constantly shooting themselves in the bollocks with a bazooka like this. Now, every team will give away unavoidable penalties and maybe even the odd 50/50 every now and again. You can live with those. But what is totally unforgivable is the continual amateur, selfish and completely avoidable penalties. It’s clear that whatever message is being sent is not sinking in to an entitled and arrogant playing group that don’t seem to give a shit because the same issues keep happening. It’s high time that Dave Rennie, who by all accounts is a lovely bloke, spits a dummy and holds these alleged professionals to account. Indeed, I would infer than Dan McKellar has his fingers all over this lack of discipline, too. We are less than one year out from the RWC where we are now looking increasingly likely to fail to make our way out of the pool stages. Rugby (in) Australia cannot afford for that to happen. It’s time where clear decisions around player responsibility (and, indeed, coaching responsibility) is shown for all. It would certainly start with some players given a permanent heave-ho and the team being selected on who will be in the XXIII come September 2023.
Late news we’re hearing is that the RA Board will meet in late November to discuss, among other things, Rennie, et al. I still think moving him on won’t happen (financially and who the fuq else) and is akin to admitting an error (RA doing that? LOL!). But it does start the conversation of who’s next. Names I can think of are: McKellar (hope not), Thorn (RA hates him), Gilmore (unlikely) Cron (unlikely), Coleman (would have to be his way or the highway, so unlikely) then international coaches post-RWC like Jamie Joseph (nice, Norman), EJ (Rugby gods help us), Razor (doubt he will) and others. One thing is clear though, the whole bloody organisation needs a cleanout. So, is there a DoR around? EJ in that role? Or look to bring Nucifora back (as a fellow referee said, RA hates him so he’d be perfect!).
LATE BREAKING NEWS – RASSIE IS A C…..
Other match results:
England 52 defeated Japan 13 – match report here
Ireland 35 defeated Fiji 17 – match report here
France 30 defeated South Africa 26 – match report here
Wales 20 defeated Argentina 13 – match report here
Scotland 23 defeated by New Zealand 31 – match report here
Tonga 39 defeated Chile 10
Canada 37 defeated Netherlands 25
Samoa 20 defeated Georgia 19
Spain 34 defeated Namibia 15
Romania 16 defeated by Uruguay 21
All Black XV 21defeated by Barbarians 35 – match report here
World Cup Qualifiers
Portugal 85 defeated Kenya 0
USA 49 defeated Hong Kong 7
The winner of Portugal v USA next week takes the final RWC23 place. Article here