Thursday, July 16, 2015
New Zealand host Argentina tomorrow in the Rugby Championship opener, fielding the first starting Test team to ever have over 900 caps. They have played Argentina 20 times, and won 19, drawing once. Here's a look at a few more stats, and the coach's preparation.
Argentina will face an uphill challenge when they start their campaign against the All Blacks in Christchurch, especially if stats and records are anything to go by. The World Champions have scored at least two tries in each of their games against Argentina, averaging 5.3 per match.
Los Pumas have scored just one try in the last three meetings between the two sides, losing by 15+ points in each of the last seven clashes. Furthermore, Steve Hansen's men have lost just one match in their last 29 Test matches.
Argentina did win their last Rugby Championship match, but have never won away from home, and will face a side that will start with four players with 100+ caps (Woodcock, Mealamu, McCaw, Carter), and will be the first team to start with five players capped 90+ times.
The hosts will become the most capped starting fifteen in history, with 920 caps, despite fielding a debutant in Waisake Naholo. The previous record was set by the same group when they beat Samoa, and the starting XV had 868 caps.
While Argentina did have the best ruck success in last year's tournament (95%), New Zealand scored the most tries (18) and conceded the fewest (7), while having the best tackling success at 88%, to Argentina's 83%, the lowest.
Kick off: Friday 17 July, 19:35 local, 07:35 GMT, 08:35 BST
New Zealand team:
15 Israel Dagg 14 Waisake Naholo 13 Ma'a Nonu 12 Sonny Bill Williams 11 Charles Piutau 10 Daniel Carter 9 TJ Perenara 8 Kieran Read 7 Richie McCaw (captain) 6 Jerome Kaino 5 Brodie Retallick 4 Luke Romano 3 Owen Franks 2 Keven Mealamu 1 Tony Woodcock Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor 17 Wyatt Crockett 18 Nepo Laulala 19 Jeremy Thrush 20 Liam Messam 21 Andy Ellis 22 Colin Slade 23 Ryan Crotty
15 Joaquin Tuculet 14 Horacio Agulla 13 Marcelo Bosch 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente 11 Santiago Cordero 10 Nicolas Sanchez 9 Tomas Cubelli 1 Marcos Ayerza 2 Agustin Creevy 3 Ramiro Herrera 4 Manuel Carizza 5 Guido Petti Pagadizaval 6 Juan Manuel Leguizamon 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe 8 Facundo Isa Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya 17 Lucas Noguera Paz 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro 19 Benjamin Macome 20 Javier Ortega Desio 21 Martin Landajo 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino
Nehe Milner-Skudder has had such an impressive debut season for the Hurricanes that he has been called into New Zealand's Rugby Championship squad, and although not in Friday's team to face Argentina, the experience can only help him.
Milner-Skudder, 24, first came to the fore when playing for rugby league side Canterbury Bulldogs under-20s before featuring for New Zealand in touch rugby. He then moved back to local club Manawatu and tore teams apart in the ITM Cup.
Hurricanes saw his potential and included him in their 2014 Super Rugby wider training squad before he became an official squad member in 2015. He hasn't looked back since.
"I don't know how to explain it, it hasn't quite sunk in, but I'm buzzing at the moment," Milner-Skudder said of his recent All Blacks squad call up.
"I was coming back from Palmy and with a bit of flooding going on we sort of took our time. I just walked in the door, turned the telly and heard my name. I was taken aback, it's a bit of a shock," added the player that has had everyone talking this season.
View the hot-stepping, fleet of foot, wing/fullback's debut Super Rugby highlights below.
We've posted another Milner-Skudder tribute, also very good to watch, on page two
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
In the lead up to this year's World Cup, World Rugby are looking back at previous tournaments, and speaking to those figures that had a large influence on the game. On this occasion it's referee Ed Morrison, who analyses his own performence in the 1995 Final.
Morrison says of the huge occasion in '95 that he had to lock himself away from all the fanfare that went on in Johannesburg, and indeed around South Africa, in the lead up to the final.
"I never thought South Africa could win it because the All Blacks were so good at that stage," he said of the side that coasted to the final, with Jonah Lomu wreaking havoc along the way.
He also admits, twenty years after the final, that the late Ruben Kruger probably did actually score the try that he disallowed. "Nobody said anything, because they won!"
All points were therefore scored with the boot, as the Springboks won it 15-12 in extra time, thanks to a Joel Stransky drop goal after a back and forth kicking duel with Andrew Mehrtens.
It's an interesting interview, giving us great insight into the emotions and thoughts that a key figure on that historic day went through.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
A few months back we wrote about how Matt Giteau could yet prove to be a key ingredient in the Wallabies' World Cup campaign. Back then he wasn't eligible for selection, but a turnaround has meant that he is now in camp, four years since last wearing gold and green.
The Australian Rugby Union relaxed their eligibility rulings to the point that Giteau, and Toulon teammate Drew Mitchell, are now able to play for their country despite plying their trade in the south of France. It's a ruling that while logical, just didn't seem on the cards.
Now, aged 32 and having won countless trophies with Toulon while playing with true greats of the game from all corners of the planet, Giteau finds himself back in the media spotlight.
While he's completely humble and plays down the enormity of the change in policy, his presence, and probable Test selection, could prove a masterstroke for a prolifically talented group of Wallaby players who at times perhaps just need some direction and guidance.
Giteau says that his favoured position would be inside centre, but he's just happy to contribute, while proving himself. "Every training session I am out there trying to prove myself and earn the respect of the players and the coaching staff," he told Australia's Daily Telegraph.
"A World Cup is a huge honour and a huge occasion. It is not something I want to take lightly, or disrespect the jersey by playing if I am not up to it.
"I have got to play in some big finals and we have won some comps. In those tight situations, those big games, you learn more and you become more relaxed. The more relaxed you are the better you are going to play, the more natural your game will be."
The below chat with Rugby HQ offers excellent insight into how Giteau sees Top 14 vs Super Rugby, how physical Wallaby training is, and how his brother in law would never cut it in Union.
The Wallabies host South Africa this coming Saturday at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. New Zealand host Argentina on Friday. View all this year's Rugby Championship Fixtures
Monday, July 13, 2015
So this happened in the NRL at the weekend. Yes, it's not Union, but it is unbelievable, so we had to share it. Not only was the flip out of this world, but there was a great flick pass and some slick hands after that too, before stunned Melbourne Storm leaked a try in the process.
Nathan Friend of the NZ Warriors got up high, took the catch then while realising he was going to flip and likely land on his head, he managed to get the pass away mid-air, through his legs. A few very neat passes later and Tuimoala Lolohea went over in the corner for a the try. Brilliant.
The Rugby Championship kicks off in Christchurch this Friday night with New Zealand hosting Argentina, before Australia welcomes South Africa to Brisbane the following evening.
The condensed three-round championship sees teams face each other once, with a champion to be crowned on August 8, before a stand-alone round on August 15 serves as final preparation for September's much-anticipated Rugby World Cup.
|Fri 17 July||New Zealand vs Argentina
|Sat 18 July||Australia vs South Africa
|Sat 25 July||South Africa vs New Zealand
|Sat 25 July
||Argentina vs Australia
|Sat 1 August - BYE WEEK|
|Sat 8 Aug
||Australia vs New Zealand
|Sat 8 Aug
||South Africa vs Argentina
|Note: Championship points will only be awarded over 3 rounds to establish a 2015 Champion
|Additional week of international matches
|Sat 15 August
||New Zealand vs Australia
|Sat 15 August||Argentina vs South Africa
The Springboks had an impressive first showing of the season as they proved too strong for a World XV at Newlands on Saturday. Willie le Roux scored a hat-trick, while Jean de Villiers made his return. The touring squad for the Rugby Championship has since been chosen.
Led by Bakkies Botha and featuring a number of South African and Toulon players, the World XV couldn't keep up with the intensity that the Springboks side showed up front, and the quality interplay and finishing out wide. The hosts scored seven tries, with Damian De Allende and Le Roux impressing in the backs, for a 46-10 win.
"We needed confidence from this match, so I am very happy with seven tries to one," said coach Heyneke Meyer. "Next week will be a different challenge though and we will be tested when we face Australia."
"We obviously need to fix a few things, but I am very positive with our performance today. To be honest, I actually expected the guys to be a bit more rusty out there, but our fitness and some combinations worked out well," added Meyer.
The Springbok squad on the way to Brisbane, for the opening match of the Rugby Championship against the Wallabies next Saturday, features 22 of the players who performed against the World XV.
Jean de Villiers was pleased with his return after an awful injury setback, but he will stay behind to regain match fitness with Western Province in their Currie Cup warmup matches.
"I would like to give as many of our squad members as possible game time in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup, so there will be changes against the Wallabies," said Meyer.
The Springbok squad that will travel to Brisbane is:
Forwards: Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger, Marcell Coetzee, Lood de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield, Teboho 'Oupa' Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe, Warren Whiteley. Backs: Damian De Allende, Bryan Habana, Jesse Kriel, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lionel Mapoe, Lwazi Mvovo, Rudy Paige, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Jan Serfontein, Morné Steyn.