Thursday, February 26, 2015
Before the Six Nations started we posted a Journalists preview piece that proved fairly popular, so here is a follow up, as some of the top UK and Ireland rugby writers discuss which teams have impressed, and how things are poised ahead of this coming weekend.
There is a specific focus on each individual team as we approach the mid-point of the tournament, so if you're from one of the six nations, you may be interested to hear their thoughts. For the neutral, as said at the end of the video, it should be a fascinating weekend.
On Scotland's meeting with Italy at Murrayfield, the feeling is that the hosts should take it.
"They are going to be a really interesting team by the time the world cup comes around," said the Evening Standard's Chris Jones, while the Daily Mirror's Alex Spink felt Scotland should have beaten Wales, rather than narrowly lose 26-23. "The look on Vern Cotter's face at the final whistle suggested he won't put up with that again," he said.
On the big Ireland vs England clash, feelings were mixed but they all felt it would be a tight contest.
"I think we (Ireland) can outsmart them, but if it becomes a power-based game, we can't live with them unfortunately," said the Irish Times' Gavin Cummiskey.
On France and their potential, Chris Foy of the Daily Mail said: "They've got so much potential in there and it's just so sort of bizarre and unsettling for them that it's not coming out, and frankly, I'll be very surprised if they have a major say in how this title goes."
On Wales: "They've kept themselves in it with that win in Edinburgh, and they pulled that out late on, so that was impressive, but I think they're just short of Ireland and England this year," said Duncan Bech of the Press Association.
Your thoughts: How do you feel each team are placed going into the weekend, and at this midway point in the tournament? Let us know in the comments below
Thanks to RugbyMedia
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
It has been an eventful few days for Kiwi forwards, as three were suspended following striking and punching incidents in round two of Super Rugby. Owen Franks, Kane Hames and Hayden Triggs will all be out of action for a few weeks.
To start with, Crusaders and All Blacks prop Owen Franks has been banned for two weeks for striking after he targeted Josh Hohneck of the Highlanders twice in their clash on Saturday.
Replays were shown of the Franks incident but the referee didn't bother to check, so he stayed on the field. A citing followed however, and he was given what some may say is a fairly lenient sentence considering the intent he showed.
"The player submitted that he was attempting to remove the Highlanders player from the wrong side of maul," SANZAR Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner said. "His intention was to remove the player, who was quite bigger than him, by grabbing him around the chest which would require some force, then using his bodyweight to attempt to force his opponent down and away from the ball.
"The player conceded that in these attempts, he struck his opponent with his arm in a careless way, but there was no malice intended. After taking all relevant facts of the incident into consideration, I found the incident to have a lower end entry point for breaches of 10.4 (a) Punching or striking which stipulates a two week suspension," Stelzner noted.
In the same match prop Kane Hames of the Highlanders had a go at Crusaders lock Dominic Bird, clearly connecting with his cheek. It also wasn't picked up at the time, but he has since been suspended for 5 weeks.
"After taking all relevant facts of the incident into consideration, I found the incident to have a mid-range entry point which stipulates a five week suspension," Stelzner said.
"Several aggravating factors for the case included the injury to Mr Bird and a deterrent for this type of conduct occurring in the game, resulting in a two week increase to the sanction. This was then reduced by two weeks due to Hames' remorse and prompt guilty plea for the incident."
In the case of Blues lock Hayden Triggs, his incident was a bit different in that there wasn't much footage available. All we could really see was him having a swing (or two) at Duane Vermeulen, causing the burly number eight to fall to the floor.
Triggs received a straight red card, putting his team at a disadvantage, which the duty judicial officer took into account. He also noted that Triggs was acting in retaliation, although he didn't reveal what specifically provoked the punches.
"I found the incident to have a low-range entry point which stipulates a two-week suspension. This was then reduced by one week due to Triggs' prompt admission of guilt, remorse for his actions and excellent disciplinary record in over 10 years of playing professional rugby," Stelzner said.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Newport Gwent Dragon's skipper Rynard Landman is likely to receive a heavy ban after being red carded and cited for elbowing an opponent during his side's 30-25 Guinness Pro12 defeat to Connacht. Landman will face a disciplinary hearing this week.
The hefty South African lock was shown the straight red card for taking out Connacht flyhalf Jack Carty only 15 minutes into the match. Scottish referee Lloyd Linton, after looking at the big screen and chatting with his fellow officials, was left with little choice.
We saw Landman, sometimes referred to as 'Ligtoring' (Lighthouse) on RD two years back when he scored a try, did a great celebration but then was called back as it was disallowed.
Those were happier times (even if it was disallowed!), because now he's facing a significant ban that could be as long as 8 weeks after his foolish misdemeanour. He tweeted the following:
Taking to twitter to express one's remorse appears to be a good way to lessen a sentence these days. Not that this was in any way disingenuous, but every bit helps when it comes to the disciplinary hearing, where he will need to explain his actions and convince the panel that his actions were not only out of character, but he is genuinely remorseful for what he did.
As it was, his moment of madness left his team in the dirt and nobody will know that more than the man himself, as he watched from the sidelines while they manfully took on a talented Connacht side.
A Pro12 statement said that the hearing will take place later this week. For now, you can view the incident near the beginning of the highlights video below.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Waratahs skipper Dave Dennis made two ferocious tackles as his side bounced back from opening round defeat to beat the Rebels 38-28 in Melbourne on Friday night. Hits below, plus you can also see the blooper that resulted in a League convert being yellow carded.
In an exciting match that ended with Kurtley Beale scoring the winning try for the Waratahs, Dennis made his first huge hit early on, smashing Jack Debreczeni and getting a turnover for his side.
Dennis missed last season's Super Rugby title winning finale due to an injury layoff that included a third knee reconstruction. This season he is playing in the second row, and despite being just 192cm and 113kgs, he feels that he can excel and make a difference in the position.
"I've always felt that lock is a position people think you've got to be 120kg and two metres tall; if you've got a good technique and you've got good guys around you, you can get away with playing a little bit lighter," he said in preseason.
Capped 18 times by the Wallabies as a loose forward, his mobility has aided the Waratahs cause, and against the Rebels he found himself in position to stop two backs dead in their tracks.
First it was Debreczeni and then the second tackle, on former Reds sharp shooter Mike Harris, was tough to watch. Harris stayed down, causing the officials to take a look at the tackles legitimacy, but play was waved on Harris was forced to leave the field after the knock.
As that happened, young winger Taqele Naiyaravoro, a Fijian flyer who scored two tries on the night and used to play rugby league for the Wests Tigers, was yellow carded for making a rookie mistake.
He tapped the ball out dead in-goal deliberately, which is allowed in League, but not in Union. Another convert, Israel Folau, did the same thing when he first started out. Naiyaravoro was sin-binned, then watched on in horror as the Rebels scored what could have been the match winning try.
"Just putting it down, it wasn’t in my head, I thought it's be easy just to knock it out. To be honest I didn't know, which was my fault, and I learnt a big lesson so it's not going to happen again," said Naiyaravoro, who remains eligible for both Fiji and Australia.
Both hits from skipper Dennis can be seen in the video below. Brutal.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Super Rugby is back which means that it's that time of year when the Fox Sports guys put in the long hours to bring us all their weekly serving of random titbits from the week gone by. According to Sean Maloney there will be no more Top 5's, so this new format is set to replace those segments.
On this occasion they feature some outrageous clips from the USA Sevens, a shocker of a missed try from Super Rugby, a George North/Israel Folau renenactment in club rugby and that man Sean O'Brien casually clearing out two or three forwards in the Six Nations, as you do.
View our Top 5 archive for more great funnies and brilliant rugby moments from years gone by
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Jamie Heaslip has accepted the apology offered to him by Pascal Pape on Twitter last night. The French lock faces a disciplinary hearing today to judge whether he will be banned or not for the knee to the back that has possibly ended the tournament for both.
France second row Pape was shown a yellow card by referee Wayne Barnes for kneeing Heaslip in the back during the weekend's Six Nations clash in Dublin, a contest that Ireland won 18-11. He will appear before an independant disciplinary committee in London today.
Heaslip was replaced shortly after the incident, and will miss the England match due to the injury, damage to three vertebrae. He may be available to play again in four weeks.
"Although this injury causes a good deal of discomfort, it does not impact on the structural integrity of the spine, and once healed should pose no long term issues," said an Ireland medical report.
"Typically this injury is treated akin to a soft tissue injury, according to symptoms. Jamie is already feeling more comfortable and it is hoped that he will be available to play again in approximately four weeks," it said, also confirming the injury: "fractures of the transverse process of three vertebrae".
Last night, Tuesday, Pape took to twitter to apologise to Heaslip. He wrote in French, saying "Sincerely sorry to have injured @jamieheaslip in this action of the match, not at all my intention to do him any harm #objectivityforsome", to which Heaslip graciously replied "Thanks for your message. Rugby is a physical game and one accepts that can happen. I accept your apology completely".
French coach Philippe Saint-Andre has defended his man, saying that he didn't think it looked as though it was a deliberate knee to the back.
"When you watch the images of the incident I don't think you can say it was deliberate," said Saint-Andre. "However, I said to Pascal you received a yellow card just at the moment we were gaining the upper hand both physically and territorially as we were in their 22.
"Although we didn't concede many points it was still a pivotal moment. You expect something like that from an inexperienced player, not one with over 50 Tests under his belt. It was the worst possible moment for that to happen."
Pape has been banned for 10 weeks following two days of hearings in London.
The panel ruled that the offence was 'at the top end of World Rugby's scale of seriousness', and banned him for 15 weeks before reducing it by 5 due to his 'admission of foul play and his experession of remorse for what had occurred'.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Fiji stunned Wellington Sevens winners New Zealand with a convincing 35-19 cup final rout at the USA Sevens on the weekend. There were some sensational tries scored over the course of the tournament, so here is a look at the best, plus highlights and more.
New Zealand were missing a few players due to injury but Fiji came out flying, thanks in part to the hoards of Fijian fans that took to the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
"It means a lot for us. We've talked about improving our defence and discipline and today it has paid off," captain Osea Kolinisau said.
They raced off to a 21-0 lead at the break, before New Zealand scored 19 points in vain.
"I thought we came back brilliantly at the end to score 19 points," said coach Gordon Tietjens.
"It's been a tough week. It was always going to be quite demanding getting into a final, 10 minutes each way against a team like Fiji, but we learn from that. We started slowly and you can't start slowly against a team like Fiji. They got a lot of loose ball, they've got a lovely set of skills and they scored some great tries."
Jerry Tuwai Vunisa and Semi Kunatani scored two tries each, with another from Savenaca Rawaca.
Australia beat England to win the Plate, while France beat Argentina 29-5 to take the Bowl, and Canada eased past Samoa 26-10 to win the Shield.
The next tournament, the sixth of nine, is in Hong Kong on March 27-29. South Africa remain top of the standings with 93 points following their 31-0 third place play off victory over hosts USA.
New Zealand are in second place overall on 88 points, with Fiji two points adrift in third.
Below are Seven of the Best tries from the tournament, featuring some outstanding pieces of play (look at Brazil's try!). After the jump you can see the highlights from the final day, including the knockout stages and the Cup final. Which is your favourite try?