Sunday, August 28, 2011

Time to back Ireland, and New Zealand for the World Cup

Practise your tackling, Sir! (picture from )
Saturday , August 27
Ireland 9 - 20 England
Australia 25 - 20 New Zealand
Ireland England
I’m trying to make this a match a match report rather than an autopsy or a wake, you may not believe it, but I am trying promise. I didn’t see the whole match, and had the misfortune to miss Tuilagi brushing Earls aside to score England’s opening try, but the commentators made up for that by talking about it non stop. So what went wrong for us to finally break our winning streak against England? That can be fixed in time for the World Cup anyway? Well, our line out has gone very shaky, so let’s hope Gert Smal can work a bit of magic in the next few weeks and get that right, because it wasn’t too long ago we were guaranteed our own ball, and often in with a shout on the oppositions throw. We also need to play centres at centre – it’s a radical concept I know, but Earls proved on Saturday he’s not a centre’s bottom. Please let’s play McFadden there if needs be.  We’ve really got to work on our defence, as we even made Mike Tindall look masterful and composed as he set up Armitage’s try. Yes we that bad! But it’s the first time since forever that Geordan’s been back in the team, and Bowe is still rusty, so we can and will improve. Murray shouldn’t even be on the bench in any of the big matches after a fairly headless display.
Harder to fix is going to be our lack of physicality – we absolutely milled England the last time they were here. Losing Heaslip and Wallace didn’t help, but that’s one area we need to seriously step up a gear. Blunt attack is the other area that’s a worry – put Kearney and O’Driscoll back and we’ll look a lot sharper, but it was pretty distressing to see us aimlessly battering against a solid English line in the last 10 minutes.
Losing Wallace is a blow, a big one, but did we really ever have him? He seems to have really struggling with injury.Jennings has big shoes to fill.
But all in all, there’s no point in getting depressed, we’re off to the World Cup, we only need to beat Italy to get of out our group, and after that it’s one offs when anything can happen. Going into the thing with sober expectations is probably the best thing for us, we have a Heineken winning team in the mix there, and fantastic players from one the premier teams in Europe in the last 5 years, Munster, we can play better, and we will, C’MON IRELAND!
England meanwhile, look confident, didn’t really do too much but took their chances when they came. They are going to need more than they showed on Saturday to make any waves at the WC, but their curve is on the up.
Australia New Zealand
All the pundits are queuing up to announce the choking has started already. I don’t buy it myself, they were never really up for this one, for whatever reason, even the haka looked like they were trying to convince themselves about how potent they were. Australia, to their credit, played really well, and all things being equal are certainly in with a shot at the World Cup. The All Blacks seldom had decent front foot ball to attack from, I know how good the Australian backline attack is, but I think their defence is suspect. Losing Read was a big blow, Thompson less so as I’m not a fan, would have had a host of others before him. At home, with the players at their disposal, this World Cup is still New Zealand’s to lose. But it’s only right that Australia get to bask in the light of a well deserved win over the AB’s, and their first 3N in 10 years.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Showdown at the the OK corral (AKA the Aviva) for Ireland and England, and All Blacks to pip the Walllabies.

Time to perform (picture from )
Saturday , August 27
Ireland vs England 14:30
Australia vs New Zealand 11:05
First off, a look at the matches, and then a quick look at the Ireland World Cup squad.
Starting off in Dublin, where Ireland welcome England to the Aviva stadium. This is a big one, a huge game for both teams. They both been underwhelming in the build up matches, although England did at least beat Wales, while Ireland are still to open their Summer 2011 account. A win here is non-negotiable for both teams, so it’s going to be irresistible force coming up against an immovable object (and I rather fancy England, with their focus on size, in the immovable object role). They both desperately need a win to kick start their 2011 World Cup campaign. Ireland v England is always a massive game anyway, and I’m struggling for adjectives here, this one is going to be – epic!
Both teams could pinpoint a 20 minute spell in their last team which would trouble any opposition – and a good 60 minutes that wouldn’t scare too many teams. For me, England are really missing Ashton and Youngs, and their centres leave me cold. Would have loved to see Barkley in there. They need to work out how to get Fodden more involved, and I’d also like to see armitage being given a crack at centre. Finally, their pack is looking ponderous, unlike the cement mixer treatment they giving most teams in the 6 nations.
Ireland look about 10% where they need to be to do some damage at this World Cup. I’m hoping that D’Arcy and O’Driscoll are going to shake off the ring rustiness off their first outing of the season. Then the whole team needs to show a bit of composure – be patient, run it when it’s on, but kick intelligently too. We have the firepower, we have the passion, just a bit of composure lads, and we can down the English for the umpteenth time in a row. I’ll do an update when the teams come out.

So those are the teams below, good to see Geordan back. I'm not sure about our centre pairing though, neither D'Arcy nor Earls has much form at themoment. I hope they set Ferris on Tuilagi as soon as possible. Not so sure if Ireland are going to win without O'Driscoll.

Ireland: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Tom Court , 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Conor Murray, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Fergus McFadden.

England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Mike Tindall (captain), 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Nick Easter, 7 James Haskell, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Joe Simpson, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Delon Armitage
Australia All Blacks
This is the Tri-nations decider, with the Boks, perennial jokers in the pack, gifting both teams an opportunity for the title. The match will not be graced by James O’Connor, omitted for acting his age and going out on the tear the night before the squad announcement. That makes way for Fainga’a in the centre, a better balanced backline now anyway in my opinion. Elsom has been relieved of the captaincy,  with Horwill a good replacement. This is as good a team as the Wallabies could have put  out, but is it going to be enough to take out the 50 stone gorilla in the black corner?
This is fairly close to an All Black A team, with only fatty Piri Weepu (sorry, horizontally challenged) and Adam Thompson the bolters. They are oozing with confidence at the moment, and on paper should take the Aussies no problem.  But Australia are one of two teams (France are the others) that make a habit of pooping the New Zealanders party, and they’re at home today as well..  Over the 80 minutes, in what is going to be a brutal encounter, maybe it’s the bench that is going to make the difference, and as the Blacks have more potent options there, I’m going with an All Black win, but only just.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu , 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 John Afoa, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Isaia Toeava.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Anthony Fainga'a, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu. Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 TBA.
Ireland Squad
The big talking point of the squad was the exclusion of O’Leary and Fitzgerald, and the inclusion of Buckley. By weight, we could have left Buckley at home and taken them both! But only 30 players could go, and I feel for Fitzgerald, would have taken Horan instead of Buckley, but it’s Kidneys head on the block and he’s doing what he thinks is best for the country. Time to get behind the coach and team and do something special at the World Cup!
Ireland's World Cup 30: Rory Best, Isaac Boss, Tommy Bowe, Tony Buckley, Tom Court, Sean Cronin, Leo Cullen, Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls, Stephen Ferris, Jerry Flannery, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Denis Leamy, Fergus McFadden, Geordan Murphy, Conor Murray, Sean O'Brien, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell, Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Eoin Reddan, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace, David Wallace.
BTW do me a fovour a drop over to

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ireland falter again Springboks (Can I kick it? Yes you can!) get a win, and Wales on fire

Where's Geordan? (Picture from )

Saturday , August 20
Wales 28 - 13 Argentina 
Scotland 23 - 12 Italy 
Ireland 22 - 26 France
Ireland France
What a pleasure after seeing the Boks kick everything, to see Ireland passing and running so freely. They started like a house on fire, and were good value for their 8-0 lead after Healy scored a try after a series of attacks. After that try though, things went distinctly pear shaped, and it was foul up bleeps and blunders central.  We seemed to kick quite often, and poorly, drop the ball and pass to no one in particular. That let France back into the game, and their confidence grew, the trys came, and they built up a handy lead. When we gifted them an intercept try the game was all over. What is it about Ireland and finishing strongly though? They started to click again in the last 10 minutes, and we fully deserved our two trys at the end. Who had good matches? Sean O’Brien made ground, Fitzgerald had a good break, Trimble continued his strong run of form, the front row was solid, and O’Connell is getting back to his best. Looking Iffy – O’Leary, who passed much better but made some real howlers too, and it wasn’t  Earls finest hour either. Felix Jones did fine until he went off injured, but really, where’s Geordan?
France meanwhile, have all the tools at their disposal, but Lievremont will no doubt still find a way to stuff it up. O from 3 is obviously not an ideal start for Ireland – I suppose we can only get better, just feel like we’re neeearly there, maybe once all the changes stop happening we’ll hit our straps.

Springboks New Zealand
So the Boks eventually open their 2011 account against a B All Black team. For the first 20 minutes, it looked like it was going to be a walkover, as the All Blacks shredded the Bok defense. But a combination of good scrambling defense, utter desperation, and a lack of composure in the last 5 meters by the AB’s meant that somehow the Boks survived, won a bit of ground, kicked a few penalties and hung in there, building up a lead against the run of play. They still look rusty as hell, and to say their play is one dimensional, is a vast overstatement of their dimensionality. Can I kick it? Yes you can! The only time Jaques Fourie touched the ball was when an All Black passed it to him. Fourie du Preez looks way off the pace, but they had a few bright lights, Bismarchk du Plessis was awesome, they had a very solid scrum, Heinrich Brussow is back big time, and Habana looks to be back into the groove. For the AB’s Slade had a few good touches, a few bad touches, and if Carter gets injured they’re shagged. Dagg was good in flashes, as was Kahui, but even the All Blacks can’t throw together untested combinations and expect them to click straight away.
Wales Argentina
This was an excellent game. Argentina were tough as teak, and dominated the first part of the game with both territory and possession. They had hardly anything to show for it though, and at the first opportunity presented to them,  Wales scored a try. they look sharp fit, and ready for the World Cup, they got better and better as the game wore on, while the Argies got steadily worse.  Stand out players for me were Knoyles, and Alun-Wyn Jones is in the form of his life. Nicolas Vergallo looked sharp for Argentina. Lee Byrne looks off the pace, as he would with such a long lay off.  The good times for Wales continue!
South Africa 18 - 5 New Zealand

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ireland to flay the French, South Africa to slay the All Blacks and Wales to wallop Argentina

Felix Jones (Picture from

Saturday , August 20
Wales vs Argentina 14:30
Scotland vs Italy 17:00
Ireland vs France 17:00
South Africa vs New Zealand 15.05
Ireland France
Ireland: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (capt), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Tom Court, 18 Mike McCarthy, 19 Stephen Ferris, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Luke Fitzgerald
15 - Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers)14 - Johne Murphy (Young Munster/Munster)13 - Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)12 - Ian Keatley (Munster)11 - Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster)10 - Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster)9 - Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster)1 - Tony Buckley (Sale Sharks)2 - Sean Cronin (Leinster)3 - John Hayes (Bruff/Munster)4 - Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster)5 - Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster)6 - Kevin McLaughlin (St. Mary's College/Leinster)7 - Shane Jennings (St. Mary's College/Leinster)8 - Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Replacements:16 - Damien Varley (Garryowen/Munster)17 - Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster)18 - Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)19 - Niall Ronan (Shannon/Munster)20 - Conor Murray Garryowen/Munster)21 - Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster)22 - Ian Whitten (Ballymena/Ulster)
So these are the teams to face France and Connacht.  The team for Ireland is pretty well our top squad, with the only surprise being the inclusion of Felix Jones so hats off to Kidney for not playing it safe. Although Geordan Murphy must have the thickest skin in the squad. Looks like if you play in England, they treat you like you’re English!  Good to see O’Driscoll and Darcy back. Would love to have Bowe back in action as well, hopefully that will be soon. Tomas O’Leary gets another chance to try and demonstrate that he’s the No. 1 choice, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.  Fantastic to see Ferris on the bench again, the French will hope he stays there.
France: 15 Cedric Heymans, 14 Maxime Médard, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 David Skrela, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louise Picamoles, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Pascale Papé, Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements:16 Guilhem Guirado , 17 Fabien Barcella , 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Raphaël Lakafia, 20 Dimitri Yachvili, 21 David Marty, 22 Vincent Clerc, 23 Luc Ducalcon.
This is the French team, and it’s impressively strong when you think 13 changes have been made from last week. No point trying to second guess which 15 Lievremont thinks is stronger, because it’s patently obvious that he doesn’t have a clue who his strongest 15 is. Frankly, he doesn’t have a clue full stop.  Look at the riches he has available to him though. Think DK has got the upper hand with his team continuity, and at home, it’s going to be a green day.
South Africa New Zealand
The 2011 Tri-nations has been a damp squib for the Saffa’s, can they end it with a bang? They’ve picked good looking team, I would have stuck with Butch, but apart from that it looks well. Also great to see Bismark back. There is likely to be a nice air of desperation about the team as they go looking for their first win of the season. The All Blacks haven’t sent over a full strength squad, with Carter and McCaw in particular likely to be missed.  I get the sense, rightly or wrongly that the AB’s see the Boks as easy meat, and expect lots of running rugby and tries. They’d better be careful. Without Carter, I’m backing the Boks.
South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Butch James
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Isaia Toeava, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Adam Thomson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (capt) 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Cory Jane.
Wales Argentina
Wales get Byrne, Halfpenny, Adam Jones and Davies back for this match, good looking team, and interesting to see Knoyle at scrum half. Argentina are at full strength, looks like some of the guys are getting a bit long in the tooth, but it would never pay you to underestimate Argentina.  Wales look to be on a roll though, so I reckon they’ll take this.
Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jamie Roberts, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 James Hook, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Ryan Jones (capt), 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Andy Powell, 19 Justin Tipuric, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 Stephen Jones, 22 Aled Brew.
Argentina 15 Martin Rodriguez, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Gonzalo Camacho, 10 Felipe Contepomi (c), 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 8 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Mario Ledesma, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16Agustin Creevy, 17 Martin Scelzo, 18 Mariano Galarza, 19 Alejandro Campos, 20 Alfredo Lalanne, 21 Nicolas Sanchez, 22 Juan Imhoff.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

France adopt traditional one crap half approach, looting of Chariot wheels, and Springok front row dominated by Aussies- yes they were that bad!

Donncha Ryan (picture from )
Saturday , August 13
Wales 19 - 9 England
France 19 - 12 Ireland 
Italy 31 - 24 Japan
Canada 27-7 USA
South Africa 9 - 14 Australia
Ireland France
France played to their strengths and adopted their traditional game plan – play brilliantly in one half, and crap in the other. In the first half, they were just about unstoppable, running freely and putting immense pressure on Ireland which caused loads of Irish mistakes. Vincent Clerk, the irritating little shit (albeit a talented one), scored his obligatory try against Ireland. It could have been a lot worse at half time, but Ireland hung in there, and went in only 10 points down. It didn’t look like Ireland had performed, but they had actually managed to contain France pretty well.
Then, in the second half, it was all different. Do you think Kidney and Lievremont put their heads together before the match and there were lots of nods and winks as they split the halves? Anyway, Ireland started to really run at France, and it worked, they seemed to make good ground every time they tried something. Then the class of the subs told, as O’Connell and Heaslip hit the ground running. Murray looked good too what an environment to make a debut. There were problems – the lineout was bad, it got better with O’Connell and Flannery, but we still coughed up right on their line in the last few minutes.  We only have two props, Healy and Ross.  Other than that, Trimble gets better each match, and Ryan must be pencilling his name onto the list with another useful performance. We’re building nicely! For France, their backline was outstanding as always and Mermoz’s departure probably contributed to a wobbly second half. The new number eight Lakafia had an awesome debut.
South Africa Australia
This is what it’s come to - Australia put the Springbok  front row to the sword – yes the Boks were that bad. By kind courtesy of Sky, I only caught the 2nd half, and it wasn’t great rugby by either side, the rain didn’t help, but the Aussies definitely looked better. For the Boks, it was 13 changes from the last offering, so they looked rusty – this was their first competitive match this year. It wasn’t an out and out disaster, I rate the Aussies, but the match was there for the Springboks to win.  They have old players and some sort of game management was going to be needed, so their build up is probably sensible. Basically I don’t have very high expectations for them at the World Cup. A bit of tinkering will help – John Smit should not be on the field, and if I was Pieter, I’d bench Bakkies, Roussow, and Jean de Villiers for the next match. Next week is the All Blacks. Gulp. For the Aussies, Genia and Ioane were as sharp as ever.
Wales England
Yes, so the looting spreads to Cardiff as some chariot wheels go missing. It took a supreme effort from Martin Johnson, visibly shaking with rage, not to grab the mike off old chum Will Greenwood and shove it where the sun don’t shine so he could get busy dismembering his team in the changing room. They spurned numerous first half chances, and paid in the second half.But it’s not time to push the panic button yet – he changed 12 players from last week, and they had home advantage then. Bit worrying when your B team does better than you’re a team, but it’s a blip. He needs to tinker a bit – not sure who should be captain as Moody always seems to be injured, and  his tinkering needs to remove Tindall and Hape. Apart from that the A team needs game time.
For Wales, Hook is my man! Priestland  is really stepping up to the plate, Henson is gone by the looks of things, Warburton is in amazing formand  Faletu played much better as well. Good times for Wales!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sprinboks to lose at home, Ireland to win away(maybe) and Wales to go all the way this time(possibly)

A picture is worth a thousand words...
Saturday , August 13
Wales vs England 14:30
USA vs Canada 16:00
Italy vs Japan 19:45
France vs Ireland 19:45
Saturday , August 13
South Africa vs Australia
Ireland France
France have played Ireland a big compliment by picking a strong team for their match in Bordeaux. It’s possibly not their out and out  A team but these are quality players and Raphaël Lakafia is the only new cap to start. They obviously want to win this one, and while they are going to be a bit rusty, Ireland are going to have their work cut out here. 

So this is Ireland, now with extra strength! The big guns are out in the front row, which are going to be needed, and Kidney has deployed his ultimate weapon of destruction at flank in the shape of Sean O'Brien. And on the bench we have Heaslip and O'Connell, so now I'm really looking forward to this match!  We're probably going to hit full strength next week, but this team has an exciting look to it, I reckon Earls will shine, and lets see what Murray can do. As O'Gara is the only specialist fly half in the 22, I expect Wallace at 10 at some stage, so it'll be interesting how that works out. Hard to predict this match, but Ireland could sneak it.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Donncha Ryan, 5 Leo Cullen (c), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Tony Buckley, 18 Paul O'Connell, 19 Jamie Heaslip, 20 Conor Murray, 20 Fergus McFadden, 22 Felix Jones.

France: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 David Marty, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Raphaël Lakafia, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Romian Millo-Chluski, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Sylvain Marconnet
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Lionel Nallet, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 David Skrela, 22 Maxime Médard, 23 Fabien Barcella.
South Africa v Australia
I was watching highlights of the Australia/Ireland match the other day from the 1991 World Cup, told from an Aussie point of view. Nick Farr-Jones – ‘They were very friendly, hospitable, couldn’t do enough for us, then when we got on the field they beat the hell out of us!’. After Ireland went ahead in the last 4 minutes through Gordon Hamilton’s try, this is what the players were thinking: Tim Horan ‘We’re on the plane, we’re going home.’ Michael Lynagh – ‘We’re going to win, we just need to stay calm’ John Eales ‘My clothes are in the washing machine at the hotel and I won’t have time to pick them up before we fly home!’
That was an awesome Wallaby side, but how is the 2011 edition going to fare on Saturday? They arrive on the back of playing exceptionally well against the All Blacks but still getting thumped. Consistency is not their byword – in the last year they were the only team to beat the All Blacks, they got beaten by England, thrashed France and lost to Samoa. Sentiment in the Republic is that the Wobblies are due for another hiding. I’m not so sure...
The Springboks to me at the moment are a lot like England were before the last World Cup. Some really talented but aging players, coaching all over the place. Is a two week break going to have transformed players like Matfield, Habana, Du Preez into world beaters again? I know we’re supposed to be getting their A team this week but South Africa just don’t look hungry enough anymore, and while their defence should still be rock solid, I don’t see them offering much in attack. Coaching wise, I couldn’t see Pieter de Villiers finding his particular coaching skills on offer in demand from any other team, at international or club level. Australia meanwhile, apart from a world class front row, have all the ingredients to make things happen, flair, beef, skill, just not the consistency. I’m going with a win for the Aussies, I don’t think the Boks are going to be able to contain their enthusiasm.
This is the Bok team:
South Africa: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Butch James, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Danie Rossouw, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Morne Steyn, 22 Gio Aplon.

Good to see Brussow back, this team is no pushover, but will they have the dynamism?

Meanwhile, Higginbotham and Sharpe have come in for Australia.
Wales England

So these are the teams, starting with Wales who are looking a lot more attacking this week. I'm a fan of Hook, good to see Priestland get another shot, and my only quibble is in the orange figure of Gavin Henson. I don't doubt he has aboility, but when in the last few years he has shown any form to justify his inclusion?

England are big and mean again, but Foden, Ashton and Flood add the flair they need. Tindall and Hape don't inspire very much in midfiled, but with Lawes champing at the bit we could see some fireworks.

So who's it going to be? If England won last week with a weaker team, this should be easier this week with a stronger team. Would love to see Wales run them close though.

Wales: 15 James Hook, 14 George North, 13 Jamie Roberts, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Lloyd Burns, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Josh Turnbull, 19 Justin Tipuric, 20 Tavis Knoyle, 21 Scott Williams, 22 Aled Brew.
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Mike Tindall (c), 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Hendre Fourie, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 James Haskell, 20 Danny Care, 21 Charlie Hodgson, 22 Matt Banahan.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ireland Scotland, Wales and England all do OK and the All Blacks shine

Saturday , August 6
 Scotland 10 - 6 Ireland
 England 23 - 19 Wales
 New Zealand 30 - 14 Australia

Starting off with Ireland/Scotland, this was a match where I was expecting to concentrate on the Irish ‘performance’, to draw attention away from the fairly sizeable loss they were likely to incur. Well, never mind that, they nearly pinched a win, leading up until the last 5 minutes. Scotland were fairly near full strength, whereas Ireland only had 3 or 4 potential first choices playing. So it went pretty right for Ireland, and fairly wrong for Scotland, they beat our first team last year, and I was expecting a bit more from them. Sean Lamont was their stand out player, the only one who seemed to be able to make a break. It’s a bit harsh, but Scotland so badly need a bit of flair in their backs, a bit of incision otherwise it’s just waves of attacks with players running straight into tacklers.

Now to that Ireland ‘performance’ - stand out players were Fitzgerald, getting back to his best, Kearney who has a few rough edges but looks his back, and to my amazement, Leamy who lead from the front, give away no penalties/yellow/red/cards and did everything you’d expect from a captain and an international professional. Trimble also played well, and depth in the wings is looking good. O’Leary did OK, his all round play is good, but he needs to pick the pace up, as that suits Ireland’s game. Boss look faster and passed crisper when he came on. Ireland defended really well, that was a fantastic effort, and looked much sharper than Scotland on attack. Pity the match wasn’t 5 minutes shorter! Flannery had a good little run at the end.

All Blacks/Australia

There was a marked difference between this match and the other two, these sides were both full strength and up to speed. Speed was a big difference, the pace was breathless. And you’d have to say, the Wallabies aren’t often going to play that well and lose. They were made to look ordinary by a masterclass from the All Blacks – defend, defend, then score with the one opportunity presented. Dan Carter was godlike, from the kicking tee, kicks out of hand, line breaks, tackles turnovers, drop kicks, he was unbelievable really. All the New Zealanders were excellent, with Conrad Smith putting in another star turn.

Quade Cooper was given no space, put under huge pressure and didn’t cope too well, but he’ll be back. O’Connor and Genia played well, Higginbotham made some good runs, and Ioane was excellent as always. They need a bit more beef at lock, and look a bit short of ideas at centre. All the sides preoccupied with size at centre (England, South Africa, Australia at the moment) should have a look at Brian O’Driscoll and Conrad Smith and think about skill over size. So a loss for the Aussies, but I’d say they’ll fancy their chances against the Boks.

Finally England/Wales. Don’t much like the England black, especially at home, what’s wrong with the white? Wales looked closer to full team than England, but quite a few late minute changes, with Stephen Jones dropping out at the last minute, and Stodart leaving the field injured in the second half, they ended up a lot more experimental. England had size, size, size all over the pitch, new/returning players to look at, and some them put their hand up. Tuilagi had a good debut, Armitage looked really sharp, and Stevens put in some sterling work. Some put their hands down as well – Flutey was pretty invisible, and then probably in no danger but I didn’t see Tom Palmer do too much.

Wales defended well, and looked more incisive than England, with Williams, North and Warburton all having fantastic matches. I know England are going to get better, but they have work to do, and need to get more creativity into centre – I was thinking maybe Armitage? Fodden and Flood will get them pumping again I’m sure. Wales with a few more first choice players are going to be really hard to beat at home, next week. England Won, but it was prey well honours even performance wise.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rugby Feast - Scotland/Ireland, England/Wales, and the All Blacks get ready to squash the Wobblies

Jerry Flannery (picture from )

It’s typical isn’t it, you wait for ages for a decent international to come along, and then three come at once! And with seamless efficiency, as usual, they are all on nearly at the same time! The spoilsports in the Southern Hemisphere couldn’t be convinced to move their match to a later slot, just because it would’ve been in the middle of the night, or some such feeble excuse.


Saturday , August 6

New Zealand vs Australia 08:35

International Matchs

Saturday , August 6

Scotland vs Ireland 14:15

England vs Wales 14:30

Each match has it’s own appeal, and will be keenly studied as a form guide for the WC. (That’s the World Cup) (although the WC is the perfect place to study form). I’m expecting the NH teams to mix their selections up a bit, then hit full strength by the end of the month.

Patriotism means I start with...

Scotland vs Ireland

This is a perfect warm up for Ireland. Scotland are a nuggety side, seem to have Ireland’s measure recently, and are always more than up for it at home. Hopefully, we’re going to show them the respect they deserve, bring our A game, and kick our Celtic neighbour’s arses. Scotland have picked a side which has a backbone of experience, and a bit of experimentation with players like Jackson and Ansbro, and some new faces on the bench. It’d wouldn’t pay you to underestimate them I’d say (insert favourite cliché concerning kilt, claymore, or at a pinch, Braveheart ).

Scotland: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Nikki Walker, 13 Joe Ansbro, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Rory Lawson (capt), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.

Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Alastair Kellock, 19 David Denton, 20 Greig Laidlaw, 21 Nick De Luca, 22 Jack Cuthbert.

Ireland meanwhile have a few big names in the frame for this weekend who’ve been absent for a while, with Flannery, Kearney and O’Leary all tipped to start. Apparently the plan is to give all members of the squad two and a half to three games, so there is going to be quite a bit of rotation. I’ll give an update when the team is announced.

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Mike McCarthy, 5 Leo Cullen (capt), 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Tom Court.

Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 John Hayes, 19 Mick O'Driscoll, 20 Kevin McLaughlin, 20 Isaac Boss, 22 Felix Jones.

So Flannery is on the bench, Kearney and O'Leary are in, and McFadden and Trimble get to show their wares in the midfield, while Leamy, Ronan and McCarthy feature in a new look loose trio. It's a debut for Connachts Mike McCarthy. Good to see Felix Jones on the bench as well. That's a fresh looking team, a chance for some fringe players to stake a claim. There are not that many familiar combinations so they may take a while to get going, but we're not going to be bored anyway.

Then continue with the most competitive match...

New Zealand vs Australia

It’s number one and two in the World, both playing full strength teams, so absolutely, this is going to be a beast of a match. The Wallabies started their campaign by hammering the hapless Boks, then handing them over for a thorough milling by the All Blacks. So we know they can both beat a sub standard (or possibly any standard, but let’s not run ahead of ourselves) Springbok side, but who’s going to win when they play each other?

The Reds have been the shining light in Australian rugby this year, winning the Super Rugby Cup, and there a lot of Reds in the Aussie team, with the main two to watch out for being Quade Copper and Will Genia, in an unchanged team from their last outing. If both of them don’t end up with size 15 All Black boots all over them, I’d be very surprised. That will cut off the links to players like O’Connor, Ioane and Beale.

The All Blacks have made a few changes from last week, more dynamism in the pack, and the introduction of Piri Weepu being the main features. Man for man, I expect the Wallabies to get beaten up in the pack, the All Blacks are stronger, more agile and more street smart. There’s no point sitting on the fence is there? Now having said that, I was expecting the All Blacks to physically mash the ‘Boks’ last week, in the same way that Samoa steamrollered the Wallabies three weeks ago. And it wasn’t like that, the All Black backs had their evil way with the Springboks, but if anything it was All Blacks getting injured in the physical forward confrontations.

Mmm, still think the AB forwards will dominate. The New Zealand backs are just as exciting, and more experienced than the Wallabies.

The Aussies will be right up for this one and the All Blacks are always a bit worried about those Wobblies. However, using the Boks as a yardstick, New Zealand are going to win by 14 points, and I think that’d be a fair result, maybe a bit closer.

And finish with the match that sold out Twickers...

Manu’Rocky’ Tuilagi and Charlie Sharples , and Lewis Moody are tipped to start for England, so we could see fireworks of all sorts, in front of a huge sell out crowd.  The pressure is going to be on England to come up with the goods in front of their fans.

This is the England team.

England: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Danny Care, 8 James Haskell, 7 Lewis Moody (capt), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Corbisiero.

Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mouritz Botha, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Richard Wigglesworth, 21 Charlie Hodgson, 22 Charlie Sharples.

I think big is the best word tro describe them. In the back 7, Armitage and Care are likely to be the main sources of inspiration, the rest are mainly run over rather than run round players. I'd like to see Sharples get a run. Stevens makes a return as well.

I like the look of that Welsh team, would have liked to see Hook in there, but apart from that, and the fact they look a bit light in the front row, they are going to give England a very good run for their money. Looking forward to this match a lot. If I had to pick a winner - think Wales might just do it!

Wales: Rhys Priestland; George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones, Michael Phillips; Paul James, Huw Bennett, Craig Mitchell, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (C), Toby Faletau. Replacements: Lloyd Burns, Ryan Bevington, Luke Charteris, Ryan Jones, Tavis Knoyle, Scott Williams, Morgan Stoddart