Monday, February 24, 2014
There is a four-way tie at the top of the Six Nations table following England's tight 13-10 victory over Ireland on Twickenham on Saturday. England, Ireland, France and Wales are all on four points with two rounds left to play.
England came back from being 10-3 down after a well taken Rob Kearney try from Ireland. Mike Brown's break in the second half led to scrum-half Danny Care sprinting away, before the home side held on for a tense win.
Attention now turns to Wales, who England play next in two week's time.
"The Six Nations is open for everyone given the way the results have gone. It's been a fantastic championship this year," said coach Stuart Lancaster.
"We'll enjoy this win but we know that there's a big, big challenge coming in two weeks' time."
"We respect Wales because of what they've achieved over the last couple of years and their performance against France has given them confidence, so it will be a great game," he added.
An England win over Wales will give them the Triple Crown, but no team in the tournament can win a Grand Slam. Ireland are in the best position for an overall victory, with a points difference of +42, compared with England's +21, Wales' +6 and France's +1.
So despite the loss, Ireland are looking good and face Italy at home next, in what will be then Test cap record holder Brian O'Driscoll's final test at home. All four sides are still very much in it though, so the final two rounds of play will be fascinating to watch.
Posted at 7:00 am | 121 comments
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Scotland scored two tries and slotted a drop goal with time up to snatch a 21-20 victory from Italy in Rome on Saturday afternoon. Duncan Weir took his team into the lead at the death in what has become the yearly battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
Alex Dunbar scored twice for the visitors, while Tommy Allan and Joshua Furno scored for Italy as they looked on course for their first win of the campaign. Weir's calm head under pressure broke the hearts of all at the Stadio Olimpico. He said he was 'absoultely delighted' with the kick.
"It's the first time I have dropped a goal for Scotland and it has never been more important.
"In those pressure moments you can only focus on your routine. I made sure I got my ball drop right and got a clean connection. I'm just so thankful it went over.
"I ran off celebrating, going off my head. It was an immense feeling. I had no doubts about taking it on. Chris Cusiter put it on a plate for me, on the right side of my body. The whole thing went perfectly," added Weir.
Despite Weir's confidence in his own ability, Scotland coach Scott Johnson said he was surprised.
"I've been watching him in training for the three weeks and he hasn't looked like kicking one. I was delighted for him, because his is a position that carries a lot of responsibility. I seen some growth in the lad and I'm so pleased for him," Johnson said.
"We can't get carried away with a win that could have gone the other way. We got a little bit of luck but we showed great resolve. But it won't mean a lot if we don't put on a show against France."
Scotland play France at Murrayfield in two week's time, while Italy travel to Dublin to play Ireland.
Posted at 4:38 pm | 8 comments
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Wales's Six Nations campaign is back on track after they scored two tries to beat France 27-6 on Friday night. The defending champions ended France's unbeaten run in the tournament and bounced back from their own disappointing loss two weeks ago.
George North, starting at centre for the first time in a Test match, scored Wales' opening try before camptain Sam Warburton powered over in the second half. Referring to the loss to Ireland, Warburton said that this was exactly the response he wanted from his side.
Coach Warren Gatland added that they are back in contention (for a third successive title).
"I am often grumpy with these guys, but I am happy with that. The performance against Ireland wasn't good enough. We let ourselves down in Dublin. They responded well, with a good performance and a fantastic result," he said.
"The atmosphere was sensational and the players responded brilliantly to the pressure we put on them. I'm a great believer in giving players a chance to redeem themselves, and I think that's definitely what happened.
"When you're involved in a game that doesn't go your way, you want the chance to go out there and put things right. We have got a big game at Twickenham in a couple of weeks, but hopefully today will be a platform for that," he added.
Note: Below are updated extended highlights from the match
Posted at 1:03 pm | 68 comments
Thursday, February 20, 2014
New Zealand's brilliant try in their second Test win over France in June last year has been named the International Rugby Player's Association (IRPA) Try of the Year for 2013. Tryscorer Beauden Barrett becomes the first New Zealander to win the award.
The panel of judges comprised of Andrew Mehrtens, Tony Diprose, Paul Wallace and Thinus Delport. They chose Barrett's try from the shortlist of nominations, which included great tries by Ben Smith, Stuart Hogg, Jean De Villiers and Zane Kirchner.
"It was a great feeling to deliver this try for the team," said Barrett upon receiving the award.
"Like all tries, the ground work is done on the training field and by your team mates, and the buzz when any of the guys manages to dot down is why we play for each other. I am glad that others enjoyed watching it all unfold," added the 22-year-old.
The award capped off an amazing 2013 for the All Blacks, which included 14 wins out of 14 matches, and the Coach and Player of the Year awards, to name a few.
"With so many great international tries during 2013, involving both individual brilliance and collective effort, it is never an easy process to settle on one try," said Mehrtens. "However, when it came down to it, Barrett's try stood out for the judges due to the high level of skills involved by different players, and, most importantly, the teamwork required to make it happen."
2012 – Bryan Habana (South Africa) – South Africa v New Zealand
2011 – Radike Samo (Australia) – Australia v New Zealand
2010 – Chris Ashton (England) – England v Australia
2009 – Jaque Fourie (South Africa) – South Africa v British & Irish Lions
2008 – Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland) – Australia v Ireland
Posted at 9:11 am | 26 comments
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
This week's O2 Inside Line takes us into the England camp as they prepare for their Six Nations match against Ireland at Twickenham this coming weekend. Despite dominating Scotland two weeks ago, this will be a far tougher challenge for the home side.
England coach Stuart Lancaster has opted to include youngster George Ford in his matchday squad, saying that the time is right after experiencing a full three weeks of training.
"We have successfully integrated and included many young players over the last two years and George is the next exciting talent to make his mark in the senior squad and we are a looking forward to see him develop over the next few months," said Lancaster.
In the front row, prop Dan Cole saw a specialist and has since been ruled out for three months with a neck injury. Cole has a bulging disc and will be replaced by David Wilson.
In this week's O2 Inside Line some of the England players go through Player Analysis, looking at both Ireland and England. Team Mates features Jack Nowell and Billy Vunipola, and Player Cam is given to Billy Twelvetrees and Mako Vunipola, who gives us a guided tour of the weights room.
RFU's Ticket Officer, Hannah Collins, then talks us through the typical build up to a home Test.
15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 1 Joe Marler, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 David Wilson, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw, 8 Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 George Ford, 23 Alex Goode
15. Rob Kearney, 14. Andrew Trimble, 13. Brian O’Driscoll, 12. Gordon D’Arcy, 11. Dave Kearney, 10. Jonathan Sexton, 9. Conor Murray, 8. Jamie Heaslip, 7. Chris Henry, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 5. Paul O’Connell, 4. Devin Toner, 3. Mike Ross, 2. Rory Best, 1. Cian Healy
Replacements: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Jack McGrath, 18. Martin Moore, 19. Iain Henderson, 20. Jordi Murphy, 21. Isaac Boss, 22. Paddy Jackson, 23. Fergus McFadden
Posted at 7:31 pm | 12 comments
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Newport Gwent Dragons replacement prop Francisco Chaparro has been suspended for ten weeks following his red card for a dangerous tackle in the RaboDirect PRO12 match between Leinster and the Dragons on Friday evening. He has the right to appeal.
Chaparro cleared through the ruck by lifting Leinster replacement scrumhalf Isaac Boss, turning him past horizontal and then dumping him on his back with a fair amount of force. The Ireland number nine was clearly winded, and the referee sent the Argentine off after a TMO consultation.
Earlier today an independant PRO12 disciplinary committee, chaired by Pamela Woodman with Iain Goodall and Douglas Hunter, viewed video footage of the incident and listened to submissions by and on behalf of the player.
They determined that the offence committed, contrary to Law 10.4 (j), was at the top end of the IRB's scale of seriousness. In reaching their decision they took into account aggravating factors, including the need for a deterrent for that type of tackle, along with mitigating factors such as the player's previous good record, and conduct at the hearing.
Law 10.4 (j) Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.
Chaparro is suspended for ten weeks, which runs until midnight, Sunday 27th April 2014.
Posted at 6:44 pm | 66 comments
Monday, February 17, 2014
Pat Lambie scored a try after the hooter to give the Sharks a 31-16 bonus point victory over the Bulls in Durban on Saturday evening. There was controversy surrounding one of the tries though, and it has since been confirmed that it shouldn't have been allowed.
Impressive centre Paul Jordaan scored the Sharks' first try after an excellent break by winger Lwazi Mvovo. Ten minutes later Jaco Reinach crossed following a lineout and the intervention of the TMO.
It was ruled that lock Anton Bresler had not knocked the ball forward, or played his opponent in the air, but SANZAR referees boss Lyndon Bray has admitted that the try shouldn't have been awarded.
"We unfortunately got the TMO decision wrong," said Bray. "The Sharks forward did knock the ball forward out of the Bulls player's hands. Also, there was consideration to the fact that the Sharks player obstructed the Bulls player in the air."
Reinach was involved again on the stroke of halftime as he ripped the ball from number eight Pierre Spies before Francois Steyn's crosskick set up Odwa Ndungane for a great try in the corner.
Victor Matfield made his return to rugby after retiring in 2011, but he didn't have much of an affect on the outcome. Coach Frans Ludeke believes that he is a classy player and he'll continue to improve as the tournament goes on.
On fulltime the Sharks were searching for a bonus-point try, and they got it following multiple phases after the hooter. Lambie took the try well, ending on a personal haul of 16 points.
Posted at 11:14 am | 10 comments