Thursday, November 07, 2013
France have a testing line-up this November, starting with the All Blacks on Saturday. It's set to be an action packed few weeks for Les Blues, with bruising rugby and plenty of action. Here is a short psych-up preview from the French Rugby Federation.
France will host two of the top three teams in the world, plus Tonga inbetween. The biggest thing on their minds right now though will be the first big challenge, a meeting with the All Blacks, the team they so famously knocked out of the Rugby World Cup in 2007, and met in the final in 2011.
The French have opted for the tried and tested in what could well be a tight contest. They've gone for Morgan Parra at scrumhalf, with form number nine Jonathan Pelissie not getting a shout. Remi Tales will partner Parra, while captain Thierry Dusautoir will provide the usual hard graft up front.
"I picked Morgan for his experience and his kicking skills," Philippe Saint-Andre said. "We will have to be intelligent and focused defensively. There is obviously some fear when you face New Zealand. We should build on that fear, it must not annihilate us. We will need to run and be creative."
The All Blacks have named their most experienced pack in history, with 538 collective caps amongst the forwards. Out wide Cory Jane returns, with Charles Piutau on the other wing. Up front the loose trio of Liam Messam, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read are sure to prove a handful.
"France are one of our great rugby foes and there is a rich history of matches between our two countries, so we are certainly looking forward to this weekend," said coach Steve Hansen.
"We know this weekend's Test won't be easy - the French will come at us with real physicality, passion and something new.
The All Blacks will be wearing their alternate white strip, with a red poppy embossed on the sleeve to mark Armistice Day (November 11), the anniversary of the end of hostilities of World War 1. The last Test between the two sides in Paris was in 2006.
Brice Dulin, Yoann Huget, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Médard, Remi Tales, Morgan Parra; Yannick Forestier, Benjamin Kayser, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Papé, Yoann Maestri, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Wenceslas Lauret, Damian Chouly Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Vincent Debaty, Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Antonie Claassen, Jean-Marc Doussain, Camille Lopez, Gael Fickou
New Zealand team:
Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Charles Piutau, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Liam Messam, Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Ryan Crotty
Posted at 3:56 pm | 20 comments
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Following England's win over the Wallabies, this week's O2 Inside Line analysis the victory, takes you behind the scenes with a glimpse inside the gym and at training, and looks ahead to the Test with Argentina this coming weekend.
Sky Sports' Alex Payne steps up to host this episode of a new look O2 Inside Line, giving England fans an exclusive angle on life inside the camp.
Mike Brown and Owen Farrell do a bit of Player Analysis, while Gloucester and England teammates Ben Morgan and Freddie Burns have a chat about some of the off-field goings on, including gaming.
Chris Robshaw touches on life in the gym with Player Cam at Pennyhill Park, and then we learn more about British & Irish Lions and England Strength and Conditioning coach Paul 'Bobby' Stridgeon, who reveals that he competed for his country in wrestling at the Commonwealth Games.
While the teams haven't yet been announced, reports suggest that Christian Wade could come in on the wing, replacing either Marland Yarde or Chris Ashton.
15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Lee Dickson, 1 Joe Marler, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 David Wilson, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 8 Billy Vunipola
Replacements 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Alex Goode
Posted at 5:37 pm | 4 comments
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Canada hosted the New Zealand Maori All Blacks on Sunday as part of the latter's tour of North America. Despite Canada scoring first, the visitors scored six tries to win 40-15 in front of over 20 000 fans in Toronto.
Halfback Jamison Gibson-Park scored twice after a late switch to the starting lineup after Piri Weepu was ruled out with a knee injury shortly before kickoff (but still led the Haka).
Weepu has since returned home, as has hooker Hika Elliot, who picked up a neck injury midway through the first half. Tasman hooker Quentin MacDonald will replace Elliot, while Wellington halfback Chris Smylie will come in for Weepu.
Canada were expected to play a tighter game but surprised the Maori side by spreading the ball at every opportunity, and managed to score early on. They couldn't maintain it though.
"When they got an opportunity, they converted it. When we got an opportunity, we didn't quite nail it,'' said Canada coach Kieran Crowley, whose team now heads to Europe to meet Georgia, Romania and Portugal. The Maori team will play the United States in Philadelphia next weekend.
The official highlights below cover the Haka, some of the chances and all the tries
Posted at 1:30 pm | 18 comments
Monday, November 04, 2013
New Zealand continued their unbeaten run this year with a comprehensive 54-6 victory over a competitive Japan side in Tokyo on Saturday. The visitors eased into the match and in typical All Blacks fashion, wore down their opponents then piled on the points.
Japan, who host the 2019 Rugby World Cup, looked an improved outfit as they competed well in the opening half hour. It took the All Blacks ten minutes to score their first try, through Charles Piutau.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen felt that his side weren't up to scratch, and demanded more.
"I'm disappointed with some of the players and I'll tell them. They had to get up for a game we were expected to win and some didn't manage to do that.
"We got caught occasionally trying to play Japan's game, which they play better than we do, a helter-skelter game. There were some lessons to be learned. But we scored eight tries so we can't grumble too much," Hansen added
The home crowd of 26 000 appeared pleased with the 28-6 halftime score. In 1995 when the two sides met the final score was 145-17, and in 2011 it was 83-7, so by the time the final whistle blew at 54-6, progress seemed to have been made.
That said, it was a changed, somewhat experimental New Zealand side ahead of their European tour. They play France this coming weekend in Paris, then England and Ireland on consecutive weekends.
"I don't think it's going to take too much to change the mindset for Paris. Next week is going to be a hell of a match so it won't take much to turn the screws," said skipper Richie McCaw.
Below are highlights from the match and following the Live Stream from Saturday, you can watch the full match replay here (geo-blocked in some territories).
Posted at 6:05 pm | 0 comments
Sunday, November 03, 2013
England came from behind to beat the Wallabies 20-13 in a scrappy game at Twickenham on Saturday. If the tourists had won the match they would have moved resumed their spot at number three on the world rankings. Instead it's another disappointing loss in 2013.
Mike Brown had a stellar game from fullback for England, claiming Man of the Match with an impressive performance that included some neat touches, runs and some great defence.
Opposite number Israel Folau was dangerous for Australia and although they had led 13-6 at the break, Chris Robshaw scored in the second half, then a fairly controversial Owen Farrell try gave England the win, pleasing coach Stuart Lancaster.
"This time last year the scoreline was the other way around. It is better to have won than lost, that's for sure," he said, also heaping praise on fullback Brown, who he described as outstanding.
"His ability to beat people with his feet and break tackles and the general fight he shows in his game, it's a real important quality we want in the team.
"And I thought Chris and Tom Wood were outstanding. They both led from the front. While they are still relatively new in terms of caps, I thought both of them led the pack very well. Chris scored a good try and was involved right the way through the game, as he always is," Lancaster added.
It was Australia's eighth defeat in eleven Tests this year. The Grand Slam, which was last achieved in 1984, will have to wait for another year. They face Italy next weekend.
"It's hugely disappointing," said Ben Mowen, who replaced James Horwill as captain for this fixture.
"Just after half-time was a real opportunity for us to skip ahead and put pressure on England but we missed a few opportunities and they were extremely urgent.
"When you have that urgency, married up with a few things going your way, they created that momentum and took those two tries, so you've got to give them that respect," he added.
To his credit, Mowen brushed off talk of the second try - where Dylan Hartley appeared to obstruct Stephen Moore and create a channel for Farrell to slip through - being a questionable call.
"It doesn't matter what you feel. The refs decision is the refs decision and we'll always back that."
Posted at 2:18 pm | 62 comments
The England and Australian Legends met for a fun run around at the Twickenhham Stoop on Thursday night in honour of the ten year anniversary of the 2003 Rugby World Cup final. Steve Thompson scored this wonder try, then had a pint or two to celebrate.
A few days between the meeting of the two sides at Twickenham, this game set the mood and as it turns out, the final result was the same, as it was back in Sydney in 2003.
The Aussie side missed a few of the genuine legends that obviously couldn't make the trip across, but it was good to see the likes of Andrew Walker on show. Unfortunately he was partly to blame for the moment of the night however, as Thompson rolled back the years to score this belter.
A former loose forward turned hooker, Thompsons sidestep, acceleration and dummy even impressed Jason Robinson, who was up there in support, and incidentally, had a great night himself. Stirling Morlock wasn't playing, but was sideline and loved every moment of it.
"It's great that the Australian legends came here tonight. A big part of rugby is being fierce competitors on the field and great mates off it," said the former Wallaby captain.
"Rugby is one of those sports where you can have a beer with your opponents afterwards and share a few war stories. This game has given me so many great friendships with people from all walks of life. Tonight was all about raising money for charity and reconnecting with guys who you haven’t seen in a long time.
"It was a fantastic match and the legends set a really high standard - many of them showed they’ve still got the X factor. It was also a pretty nice finish for the home crowd to see Steve Thompson run the length of the pitch, throw a couple of dummies and score in the corner," Mortlock added.
Proceeds from the match, which the England Legends won 17-12, will go to various charities.
Below is a look at the try as well as chats with Thompson, Robinson, Phil Vickery and Andy Gomarsall, who as part of the great coverage on the night, was mic'd up so we could hear him.
Posted at 8:41 am | 8 comments
Thursday, October 31, 2013
The biggest Test this weekend is the clash between old foes England and Australia. It's ten years since the two sides met in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, so with memories of that historic day in mind, it should be a fierce contest. Team news below, with O2 Inside Line.
Both teams were named earlier today, with a surprising change to the Wallabies as coach Ewen McKenzie has taken the captaincy away from James Horwill and has handed it to Ben Mowen.
"I just want James to concentrate on his football. I know what he's capable of and the team needs him at his best," McKenzie, who has named Quade Cooper as vice-captain, said.
For the home side, England coach Stuart Lancaster has selected Lee Dickson at scrumhalf ahead of Lions tourist Ben Youngs, while Joel Tomkins comes into the midfield for his Test debut.
Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury make an exciting second row partnership, while both captain Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood are on the flanks, and young Billy Vunipola gets his first Test start.
"We are looking forward to the challenge of playing Australia - they have made great strides under Ewen McKenzie and their new coaching team and they are formidable opponents," said Lancaster.
Mike Brown, Chris Ashton, Joel Tomkins, Billy Twelvetrees, Marland Yarde, Owen Farrell, Lee Dickson; Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw (c), Billy Vunipola. Replacements: Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler, David Wilson, Dave Attwood, Ben Morgan, Ben Youngs, Toby Flood, Ben Foden
Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Sitaleki Timani, James Horwill, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Ben Mowen (c) Replacements: Saia Fainga'a, Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Ben McCAlman, Nic White, Christian Leali'ifano, Bernard Foley.
In this first episode of O2 Inside Line for the season, Toby Flood and Alex Goode analyse what happened the last time the two sides met, we get to see a bit of the training that takes place, and some of the players take part in a few quickfire questions.
Posted at 3:13 pm | 14 comments