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
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
This great moment comes from the Connacht Eagles game against Rotherham Titans at the Sportsground in Galway recently. We were hoping to get hold of longer footage, but have decided to post as is, as it's a wonderful piece of piece of play from a young player.
In Round 2 of the British & Irish Cup, Connacht Eagles trailed 6-12 at the break but thanks to two tries in the second half, scored by Darragh Leader and Eoin Masterson, they found themselves in with a chance of victory.
With 60 seconds left in the match they were behind 24-25, but were awarded a penalty for a scrum infrigement inside their own 10m line. A shot at goal was the only option, so Leader stepped up to place the ball, attempting to steal a few inches in the process.
Watch carefully as he quite comically tries to move the ball forward not once, but twice, as referee Andrew Jackson prevents him from doing so and makes sure it gets placed in the correct spot.
Once settled, 20-year-old Leader confidentaly nailed the monster penalty that cruised through the uprights with meters to spare, and the Eagles won the match 27-25.
The clip comes from the Connacht digital team, not TV, so there is no commentary and it cuts out shortly after the kick unfortunately. Still, what a fantastic match winning kick.
Posted at 4:40 pm | 7 comments
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Aaron Cruden has been through a lot in a very short time. In 2008 he was diagnosed with cancer, then just three years later was playing for the All Blacks in a Rugby World Cup Final. This video documents his story, and also gives you the chance to win lunch with him.
As we first featured four years ago, at just 19-years-old Cruden was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2008, throwing his world into turmoil. The promising flyhalf had to undergo surgery and intensive chemotherapy, putting a sudden halt on his burgeoning rugby career.
Through his positive attitude and the support of loved ones, he came out on top and actually captained the New Zealand under 20 side at their victorious 2009 Junior World Championship. He was later named IRB Junior Player of the Year, and since then his career has soared.
For a long time Dan Carter has been the driving force behind the All Blacks' backline play, and while it looked unlikely that he would ever be replaced, Cruden (and indeed Beauden Barrett) has stepped up to show that the World Champions lack nothing in attack - even when Carter is unavailable.
While many fans may not realise how Cruden got to where he is today, this new video from official partners AIG shows that not all journeys to the top are straight forward. It also serves to create awareness for testicular cancer and the importance of early detection.
AIG, Major Global Sponsor of the All Blacks, offers a Male Cancer Cover Plan that can provide financial help should you be diagnosed with a covered cancer. From as little as £1.99 per month, (£25,000 Standard cover for a man aged 18 to 49) you can be covered for 4 types of Male Cancers, including testicular and prostate cancer. To find out more click here
WIN! WATCH THE ALL BLACKS TRAIN IN LONDON
Please note: The Prize Draw has now ended. To view the list of Prizes, Draw Dates and Terms & Conditions visit www.aigdirect.co.uk/prizedraw.
Posted at 4:21 pm | 1 comments
The Sharks defeated Western Province in the showpiece of South African domestic rugby on Saturday, scoring two tries to one as they left Newlands with a 33-19 victory. Since the match, the Springbok squad for the tour of the UK and France has been chosen.
Western Province got the better of the two sides in last years' final in Durban, but this time around it was a reverse fixture and a far different result. The Sharks powered to the win with notable performances from young lock Pieter-Steph Du Toit and halfbacks Charl McLeod and Pat Lambie.
McLeod got an intercept try early in the game, and later on he crossed for another after an excellent build up and some quality ruck clearance by both forwards and backs. Lambie, while having missed a few kicks, kept the scoreboard ticking with two very well taken dropgoals.
"We knew that we needed to win the collisions and the easiest way to win the collisions is to get off the line aggressively. We did that well and put them under pressure," said Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson, who has Brendan Venter as part of his team, and John Smit as new CEO.
Young Du Toit has been rewarded with a Springbok call-up, as has flyer Gio Aplon, prop Frans Malherbe, hooker Scarra Ntubeni and scrumhalf Louis Schreuder.
The Springboks face Wales, Scotland and France on tour, starting in Cardiff on November 9th.
Below are highlights from the final, featuring all the tries, near misses and a few big hits
Posted at 2:41 pm | 9 comments
Brock James produced a piece of magic to set up a crucial try as Clermont survived a scare at the hands of Brive on Saturday, eventually coming out 36-29 victors. A late dash helped them extend their unbeaten home record at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin.
Brive were leading 26-23 with fifteen minutes left in one of the Top 14 games of the weekend.
Napolioni Nalaga had scored earlier in the contest but thanks to a piece of individual brilliance - or an incredibly lucky pass - he crossed for his second try with ten minutes left in the game. Replacement James, who made the wonder pass to free up the Fijian on the wing, then kicked them to victory.
The last time we saw this type of pass - almost a carbon copy in fact - was when Highlander Tamati Ellison did it against the Crusaders earlier this year. His reverse pass put Ben Smith away for a try, and was promptly called one of the greatest passes ever seen by commentator Scotty Stevenson.
This one is right up there, and in terms of significance in the match, was perhaps even better.
What was also impressive was that with such an apparent lack of control, and the nature of the flick, the ball didn't go forward at all so the legitimacy of the try was never in doubt.
Clermont are now second on the Top 14 table after ten rounds, two points behind leaders Toulouse.
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Posted at 7:51 am | 18 comments
Monday, October 28, 2013
Incredibly strong winds hit Ashburton on the South Island on Saturday, affecting the Meads Cup Final between Mid Canterbury and North Otago to the point that twenty minutes in, a restart kick got blown back 50m, well over the deal ball line.
North Otago's Ed Keohane had already seen the power of the gale-force northwesterly, but while he may have attempted to keep this restart low, mother nature had other ideas.
"Have they learned their lesson from the last kickoff that went into touch,'' remarked the commentator, before watching on in astonishment as the ball got swooped up and travelled all the way over the dead ball line, resulting in a scrum restart on halfway.
"I've never seen that. I have never seen that before, in 45 years of watching rugby," said fellow commentator and pundit, Richard 'Pod' Turner.
Perhaps the closest we've seen to this type of thing in the past is when in 2008, then Leinster flyhalf Felipe Contepomi's penalty was blown back, after it had already gone through the posts.
Mid Canterbury claimed it's first ever Meads Cup title with a 26-20 win over North Otago.
Posted at 10:32 am | 17 comments
Sunday, October 27, 2013
The Tasman Makos held off a comeback from Hawkes Bay to claim the ITM Cup Championship title, earning promotion to the 2014 Premiership. The 26-25 thriller was one of the matches of the weekend, eclipsing the main final for entertainment value.
Hawkes Bay started well as Ihaia West and Zac Guildford combined to silence the home crowd at Nelson's Trafalgar Park. Tasman soon levelled things up and looked in control at halftime, before a miraculous late try gave the visitors a final shot at glory.
Young West, whose fantastic play this season has earned him a call up with the Maori All Blacks, wasn't able to convert Chris Eaton's late try from the sideline as a thrilling match came to a close.
Earlier Marty Banks' intercept and 95m sprint had put the hosts in a great position, adding to his sensational season and growing reputation as a game changer.
While West had thrown the vital intercept - that resulted in 5 points for the opposition rather than 7 for his team - he had a chance to redeem himself at the death, but under unbelievable pressure his kick never looked like going over. It was a cruel finish for such a talented young player.
"I feel sorry for Ihaia because those things can either make you or break you, but he is quailty player so he will bounce back," said Tasman veteran Joe Wheeler post match.
It was a frantic finish to a match that exuded quality, with some outstanding ball handling, support play and on regular occasion, great defence. Tries were also scored by Bryce Heem and Liam Squire for the Makos, and the excellent Brendan O'Connor for the Magpies.
Posted at 3:06 pm | 5 comments