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

1 comment:

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