Thursday, September 30, 2010

TEST RUGBY THIS WEEKEND: Take 2

Looks like Finland v Greece has been postponed. Instead we have...

Estonia v Finland in Helsinki (International Rugby Partnership Shield)

2010.10.02 Finland_v_Estonia

Test match poster. Image from http://www.fira-aer-rugby.com/forum2007/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3574

Estonia is the newest international rugby team in Europe. They played their first game in the autumn, against Finland at home , and lost 15-22. Estonia is yet to take part in the European Nations Cup competition.

More later.

No word as yet as to when the Greece v Finland game will take place.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

INTERNATIONAL RUGBY TEST: Tonga v Chile

29.09.2010
Tonga v Chile in Santiago

20[1] 48[1]

Venue: Estadio Atl├ętico de San Carlos de Apoquindo

Referee:

Preview
This will be a first in international rugby. This is the first time these two teams have met at 15's test rugby. It is the first time Tonga has visited South America.

Tonga are on their way to the America's rugby Championship. To be held in Cordoba, Argentina, the tournament will feature the 'A' sides of Canada, United States, Argentina (The Jaguars) and Tonga (who will compete as Tonga 'A'). Tongan players involved in European rugby and in competitions in New Zealand and Australia are not included.

Sponsored by the IRB,the aim of the tournament is to provide a platform for developing players in the four Unions ahead of their participation in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. “This new-look Americas Rugby Championship represents a great step forward for the Game across North and South America, providing an expanded competition format that will generate exciting and competitive matches, while allowing the participating Unions to take a closer look at the development of their elite domestic-based players ahead of RWC 2011...Canada, USA, Tonga and Argentina are all priority Unions for our High Performance investment programme and this new tournament structure is central to the IRB’s strategic aim of increasing global competitiveness and in particular the performance of Tier 2 teams at Rugby World Cup,” said IRB Head of Development and Performance Mark Egan.

No Previous Encounters

GWC Rugby Rankings
Chile, before this match, does not register on the World Table

Prediction: Tonga by 20 points

Teams not available

Sources
http://www.consur.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=512:daniel-graco-el-juego-de-tonga-es-fuerte-en-todas-sus-lineas&catid=3:chile&Itemid=9

http://www.oceaniarugby.com/tonga_a_exposure.html/ref/582

http://www.irb.com/newsmedia/mediazone/pressrelease/newsid=2040380.html#new+look+americas+rugby+championship+unveiled

http://rugbyworldcup-argentina2023.blogspot.com/

TEST RUGBY: This Weekend 2 October

02.10.2010
Armenia v Switzerland in Bale (ENC 2B)
Greece v Finland in Helsinki (ENC 2D)

Briefly
The Northern Hemisphere international rugby season begins this Saturday. Four teams will clash in the lower divisions of the European Nations Cup. Armenia travels to Switzerland whilst Greece plays Finland in Helsinki

The whole structure of the ENC has been altered for the 2010-12 competition. An extra team was added to the division just below 1A, the top division in the competition. The second division was renamed 1B, Germany relegated from 1A whilst the Netherlands was added to the new 1B to bring the number of teams in that competition to six.

Back to this weekend. ENC 2B consists of five teams. Armenia was left at this level, whilst Slovenia were promoted. The other teams being Serbia, Andorra and Switzerland.

The first test match in this division sees Armenia against Switzerland. Armenia had the misfortune to have the amazing Lithuanians take the division title and with promotion. Armenia are odds on favourites at this stage to move up to the next level by 2012. In the first round in 2008 Armenia won 35-15 at home against the Swiss but dropped their away game last season 0-18 amid rumours of rifts within the team and the Union

Switzerland had a very ordinary season last year, finishing last in the division. Luckily there was no relegation because of the promoted Netherlands further up in Division 1B. It's rebuilding time for them. A win at home will boost moral and set the season up for success.

Greece were tucked in second behind Israel in this division last year. They are now favourites to take this division. Finland finished last and although have the home advantage, Greece looks the winner. Greece won both games against Finland in 2008-10; 12-10 away and 31-10 at home.

For a complete look at the structure of the European Nations Cup 2010-12 go to http://www.rugbyinternational.net/, scroll down to tournaments and then click on FIRA-AER 2010-12.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

TEST RUGBY RESULT: New Zealand 23, Australia 22

11.09.2010
New Zealand 23, Australia 22 in Sydney

Briefly
I watched this game live. At 19-6 I thought, 'man, these Wallabies are going to run the AB's off their feet. Those Aussie backs look dangerous'.

Well as it turned out the All Blacks changed their game plan late in the second half from trying to match their opposites with equal back line flair to a gutsy forward-dominated attack. (like the AB's in the good old days!) That sapped all the flair and energy out of the Australians. It was a predicted move after being down by so much but if Matt Giteau had been on target the Aussies would have lead 28-6 early in the second half and I'd have doubts as to whether the AB's would have been able to come back from that far back.

I still think the Aussies lack front five grunt. They have everything else back to fullback. They would have the most dangerous backline in all test rugby at the moment. There were times when they made the New Zealand back line look very ordinary. But at this level of rugby you have to be able to match their tight five with your tight five or else you are sunk. Late in that half the Wallabies were sunk.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

BLEDISLOE CUP: Australia v New Zealand

11.09.2010
New Zealand v Australia in Sydney (Tri Nations; Bledisloe Cup)

Regret due to other commitments I wont be able to cover this match today.

Prediction: New Zealand by 10 points

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

INTERNATIONAL RUGBY: CONSUR B Change

The CONSUR B tournament, involving Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru, has been moved away from Bogota and will now take place in Medellin, 24-31 October.

http://www.consur.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=479:los-sudamericanos-mayor-y-juvenil-b-se-realizaran-juntos&catid=29:torneos&Itemid=72

Sunday, September 5, 2010

TRI NATIONS RUGBY: South Africa Dumped

04.09.2010
Australia 41, South Africa 39 in Bloemfontein (Tri Nations; Mandela Plate)

Briefly
Australia avoided the wooden spoon in this competition by defeating South Africa in Bloemfontein for the first time since 1933. A last minute penalty goal by Kurtly Beale sealed the victory after South Africa worked their way back from 6-31 down at one stage. As per last week, Australia dominated initially, built up a big lead only to have the South African's capitalise on errors and work their way back into the game.

kurtley beale wallabies celebrate

The winning moment. Image unashamedly poached from planet-rugby

Oh so many questions. So many highs and lows for both teams. Australia scored more tries than South Africa and deserved their win but a win to South Africa looked certain with two minutes to go.

Australia I feel has the positives from this outcome. This is a young side. Looking at next years Rugby World Cup they look the team that will be the improving unit. They are young and inexperienced compared to South Africa and New Zealand. By next year, as Robbie Deans indicated last month, they will that much more experienced and wiser. Despite a mixed Tri Nations campaign, to me the future looks good for Australia.

I cannot say the same for South Africa. 2010 has been a dreadful season. Experienced players have lost form, newcomers have not made their mark and the overall unity that surfaced last season is missing. The coach, Pieter de Villiers, has made plenty of public blunders when talking about rugby and his team. He has, off the field, been an embarrassment to South African rugby. That's been tolerated whilst, as in 2009, the team was winning. Now in 2010 the South African rugby team and its management has gone pear-shaped. It don't look good!

Some interesting comments from planet-rugby forum.

From Robo. "For South Africans let's hope that this defeat signals the end of a dismal Springbok coaching career that produced endless controversy and a dismal Tri-Nations for supporters. Evident is that Peter de Villiers does not possess sufficient skill, knowledge of the game or selection skills (or selection gumption!) to take the Springboks anywhere. They haven't progressed one iota this season. Not an original idea or approach. The game moved on and the Boks marked time. An utterly clueless coach. His self-proclaimed "brilliant defensive system" was non-existent in the first quarter of this game - and it lost them the game. After that it would seem that mainly guts and pride brought the Boks respectibility. And yes, there were touches of real skills, not least from Victor Matfield. If the Boks had run the ball in that last minute and a half they almost certainly would have won, but no, it was back to the old, worn-out bash game, and it got them nowhere. What a waste of a season Peter de Villiers has produced! All the hopes dimmed and then expectation of Bok recovery dashed, accompanied incessantly by idiotic P Divvy side shows. One thing is evident, only lunacy in SARU would permit this debacle to continue - but, that said, I'm not counting out lunacy winning.

Congraulation to Robbie Deans. He finally got what he deserved".

Pintails1 said.."A thrilling game for all wrong the reasons. The Boks have not once been ready for an 80 minute encounter during the entire Tri-Nations. Aside from Steenkamp, Matfield, Berger, and Morne Steyn (and even in his case only because of his exceptional goal-kicking), this entire team needs to be reengineered and it should be clear that PDV is not the man for the job. First team players who do nothing for long periods of time and players who come off the bench and consistently concede vital penalties should not expect to keep their places in a team of the Springboks' stature. I must laud the All Blacks and the enthusiasm of the Australians and bemoan the pedestrian and complacent Bok performances in 2010".

And from MediaB. "I hope Peter de Villiers stays. He has Character and says what needs to be said. All the Tri Nations games were tight so lets cut this BS about any coaches needing to be sacked based on performance here. The journos were saying Robbie Deans was irredeemable last week. Those media swine play far too bigger role in rugby".

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

TRI NATIONS RUGBY: Australia Battle South Africa Again

04.09.2010
Australia v South Africa in Bloemfontein (Tri Nations; Mandela Plate)

Venue: Vodacom Park

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Preview
South Africa will play their final game test rugby in this series today. They won against Australia in Pretoria last Saturday. Both sides have won against each other so far this year so this game should settle the winner of the Mandela Plate at least. But are there other issues on the minds of both players and coaches prior to this test match.

Despite their win last week the South Africans are having a worrying form slide which started on the Northern Hemisphere tour last November. Prior to that they were decisive Tri Nations winners for 2009. Players have lost form, the team is no coherent and faith in their coach, Pieter de Villiers is slipping. Another poor performance, or worse still a loss, could herald in a new coach and new players for this years November Northern Hemisphere tour. It would be perilously close to the 2011 Rugby World Cup but a proud rugby nation like South Africa has a zero tolerance level for a team and coach that under performs.

Australia coach Robbie Deans has hinted to his team that players who don't measure up soon will find themselves out of Rugby World Cup contention. Perhaps the Australians are beginning to ask questions of their coach as well.

2009 Peter De Villiers Robbie-Deans-hand-off_2348303[1]
Is the writing on the wall for these two coaches? Images thanks to planet-rugby

So the scene is set not for whomever is the winning team today but whom may the losers be.

Last Five Encounters
28.08.2010 South Africa 44-31 in Pretoria ( Tri Nations; Mandela Plate
24.07.2010 Australia 30-13 in Brisbane (Tri Nations, Mandela Plate)
05.09.2009 Australia 21-6 in Brisbane (Tri Nations, Mandela Plate)
29.08.2009 South Africa 32-25 in Perth (Tri Nations, Mandela Plate)
08.08.2009 South Africa 29-17 in Capetown (Tri Nations, Mandela Plate)

Last Encounters In Bloemfontein
03.08.1996 South Africa 25-19 (Tri Nations)
21.09.1969 South Africa 19-8
02.09.1933 Australia 15-4

Few and far between appearances by the Australians in this inland city. The only win being back in 1933.

GWC Rugby Rankings
World Table-South Africa 2nd, Australia 3rd

IRB Rugby Rankings
2nd-South Africa (86.75), 3rd Australia (84.52)

Prediction: South Africa by 7 points

Teams

34[1]

South Africa
F Steyn (Racing Metro, France); JP Pietersen (Natal Sharks), J Fourie (Western Province Stormers), J de Villiers (Wstern Province Stormers), B Habana (Western Province Stormers); M Steyn (Blue Bulls), Francois Hougaard (Blue Bulls); G Steenkamp (Blue Bulls), J Smit, Capt. (Natal Sharks), J du Plessis (Natal Sharks); D Rossouw (Blue Bulls), V Matfield (Blue Bulls); S Burger (Western Province Stormers), J Smith (Free State Cheetahs), P Spies (Blue Bulls)
Replacements
C Ralepelle (Blue Bulls), CJ van der Linde (Free State Cheetahs), F van der Merwe (Blue Bulls), R Kankowski (Natal Sharks), R Januarie (Western Province Stormers), J de Jongh (Western Province Stormers), G Aplon (Western Province Stormers).
Head Coach: Pieter de Villiers

7[1]

Australia
K Beale (NSW Waratahs); J O'Connor (WA Western Force), A Ashley-Cooper (ACT Brumbies), M Giteau (ACT Brumbies), D Mitchell (NSW Waratahs); Q Cooper (Queensland Reds), W Genia (Queensland Reds); B Robinson (NSW Waratahs), S Moore (ACT Brumbies), S Ma'afu (ACT Brumbies), M Chisholm (ACT Brumbies), N Sharpe (WA Western Force), R Elsom, Capt. (ACT Brumbies) D Pocock (WA Western Force), B McCalman (WA Western Force).
Replacements
S Faingaa (Queensland Reds), J Slipper (Queensland Reds), D Mumm (NSW Waratahs), R Brown (WA Western Force), L Burgess (NSW Waratahs), B Barnes (NSW Waratahs), A Faingaa (Queensland Reds).
Head Coach: Robbie Deans