Monday, June 09, 2014
The Wallabies got their Test season off to an excellent start with a 50-23 thrashing of France in Brisbane on Saturday evening. They scored seven tries to France's two, but will be concerned about the loss of captain Stephen Moore to injury.
Israel Folau continued his great form by scoring the first of the night, followed by tries to Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hooper, Nick Cummins, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale and Pat McCabe.
"He is a class player," said France coach Philippe Saint-Andre when referring to fullback Folau.
"He's a match-winner. He showed that tonight. Australia were very strong in contact and won 70-80 per cent of the collisions. They were physical with a lot of urgency, and we panicked too much."
Hooker Moore limped off early with a medial ligament tear, so will be out for a large part of the year, while debutant Sam Carter is out for the series with an ankle injury that he played through.
"I thought he'd (Moore) done a brilliant job even prior to this week. He and I had worked pretty well. I was pleased with the progress we were making off the field," said coach Ewen McKenzie.
"It leaves a bit of a void, because we had a lot of stuff in the pipeline and his priorities now change to rehabilitation and getting back, and we have to keep playing."
Moore will undergo surgery today, then start the long road to recovery. "There's nothing you can say, you go into the time warp required for it to mend. The surgical side becomes the priority and you get on with it. He's a pragmatic guy but emotionally, he was obviously shattered."
France and Saint-Andre need to regroup quickly if they're to avoid a 3-0 whitewash down under.
Posted at 7:12 am | 22 comments
Sunday, June 08, 2014
The All Blacks scored a late Conrad Smith try to deny England a famous Eden Park result in what was a scrappy yet thrilling Test match on Saturday. The hosts snuck it 20-15 with minutes to spare, but England will take heart from their performance.
As we've come to expect with New Zealand, even when they play badly they somehow manage to win. This was the case in Auckland after a rusty showing that will surely be their weakest of the season. Dropped balls and a weak scrum nearly led to an upset in the opening game of the series.
England, fielding a weakened side that didn't include those that took part in the Premiership final, took it to the hosts and with new flyhalf Freddie Burns kicking superbly, stayed in the match right up until the death. They'll rue missed opportunities, as the game was there for the taking.
"I have mixed emotions at the moment," Burns said post match. "First and foremost it's gutting because as a team we gave ourselves an opportunity to get something from the game. To be pipped like we were at the end is gutting.
"But personally I was happy with how I went. Hopefully I silenced a few critics. I've never doubted myself, especially in this environment. Hopefully I've proved I can manage a game and kick my goals in the toughest rugby arena in the world."
It'll be all change for the second Test next weekend, but Stuart Lancaster has some tough selection issues to contend with. As the cliche goes, it's a good problem to have.
"We don't want to get carried away as we didn't win the game, we lost," said Lancaster. "We have to make sure we rectify that next week.
With less territory and possesion, the All Blacks will be pleased to have snatched victory but no doubt realise that they'll need to be more accurate and clinical come next weekend.
"We got there in the end but we need to be a lot better going into the second Test because we expect England to be better," captain Richie McCaw said. "We got what we expected from England. It was pretty competitive around the breakdown and we expected the physicality they showed.
"We were a bit rusty in the first half. Test rugby is a step up in intensity and pace and it felt like we were half a yard off it," added McCaw.
Posted at 12:18 pm | 77 comments
Friday, June 06, 2014
On the eve of the Wallabies vs France series kicking off, the guys at Fox Sports have put together this belter of a compilation featuring some of the best moments of French Flair from the last however many years. There are also a few random bits in there too.
It's the first time Australia have hosted Les Bleus in a three-Test series since way back in 1990 so while you never can quite tell what to expect, it's sure to be a thrilling series.
The big story of the week is James Horwill's demotion as captain of the Wallabies, with former teammate Stephen Moore stepping up to lead the team, while Horwill starts off the bench.
France are without their regular captain too, as Thierry Dusautoir has an injured bicep.
As part of the build up we get to look at some of the most sensational French flair tries ever scored, all nicely put together by beret wearing, French speaking Sean Maloney.
Kick-off: 20:00 local, 10:00 GMT, 12:00 CEST
Australia: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Nick Cummins, 10-Bernard Foley, 9-Nic White, 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Scott Fardy, 5-Sam Carter, 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Stephen Moore (captain), 1-James Slipper Replacements: 16-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17-Pek Cowan, 18-Paddy Ryan, 19-James Horwill, 20-Ben McCalman, 21-Nick Phipps, 22-Kurtley Beale, 23-Pat McCabe
France: 15-Hugo Bonneval, 14-Yoann Huget, 13-Gael Fickou 12-Wesley Fofana, 11-Felix Le Bourhis, 10-Frederic Michalak, 9-Maxime Machenaud, 8-Bernard Le Roux, 7-Damien Chouly, 6-Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5-Yoann Maestri, 4-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3-Nicolas Mas (captain), 2-Guilhem Guirado, 1-Thomas Domingo. Replacements: 16-Christopher Tolofua, 17-Vincent Debaty, 18-Rabah Slimani, 19-Alexandre Flanquart, 20-Antoine Burban, 21-Morgan Parra, 22-Remi Lamerat, 23-Brice Dulin
Posted at 2:45 pm | 13 comments
Thursday, June 05, 2014
Exeter Chiefs flyhalf Henry Slade made a solid senior England debut against the Barbarians at Twickenham. Not only did he score a try in the 39-29 defeat, but he showed great courage against an extremely physical Baa Baas side.
With a few names ahead of him in the pecking order, 21-year-old Slade didn't make it on the plane to New Zealand, but enjoyed what was a tough day at the office. He found himself having to tackle hard-running Rene Ranger on more than one occassion, which resulted in an impressive shiner.
"He is a pretty tough bloke and I was just trying to bring him down, and thankfully I managed to do that, but his knee or one of his boots hit me in the eye," Slade said post match.
He got his body in the way of the Kiwi center as the Barbarians scored their first try. That opened up a cut that needed stitches, and shortly after returning to the field, Ranger hit him again.
"They made a break down the outside, I tackled Rene Ranger, and either a knee or one of his boots hit me in the eye, and that was it really. I was just trying to get in the way of him and get him down for the second one, and luckily it worked.
"It was just great to be back on the field and to be able to get on with it."
Slade ended with a try and 16-point haul, something his Jonny Wilkinson would have been proud of. The Chiefs flyhalf has looked up to him for the last ten years, and actually bumped his head on a table when the then England kingpin kicked his famous World Cup winning dropgoal back in 2003.
"When Jonny kicked that drop-goal I was sat underneath at table at Ivybridge rugby club, and I jumped up and smacked my head on it when he scored," he explained.
"He's been a massive role model both on and off the pitch too, the way he went about himself and was committed and dedicated to trying to be the best. Defence is so important at fly-half because you're in the middle of the line, and that's something certainly Jonny has shown.
"It's important to be strong there, hopefully I did that at the weekend, that's what I was trying to do: I do enjoy defending to be fair."
Ranger's low center of gravity and powerfully built frame, along with his balance, means that he'll always be a threat. This weekend he'll be looking for some Springbok scalps when he starts for the World XV against South Africa at Newlands.
Posted at 1:13 pm | 25 comments
Fresh from double finals success, Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes is raring to go and full of confidence ahead of the series against New Zealand. He had another excellent game on Saturday, including one massive trademark hit in particular.
Lawes played a big part in the Saints' 24-20 Aviva Premiership final win against Saracens at Twickenham, as well as the strong season, but now shifts focus to the All Blacks, who have at least one player on their side that doesn't really seem to know who he is.
When asked about the England squad, New Zealand's Brodie Retallick struggled to name any of them. When pushed for an answer he said 'Michael Lawes'. He might have gone blank, genuinely doesn't know, or it was simply a deliberate attempt to wind up the tourists and media.
If the latter, it seemed to work as just about every rugby newspaper or website published a story about it this week (and now we can be added to that list).
Unavailable for the first Test, Lawes says that there are just two big games left in the season, so he's relishing the challenge. "Most of our players who are going to New Zealand produced good individual performances. I'm going to go there brimming with confidence, ready to enjoy myself.
"It has been a very long year, but it's just two more games, so you've just got to crack on. You will always be up for a Test match - we will fire into them. I am going to go out there looking to enjoy myself, get ball in hand and build on this confidence I've got through the season," he said.
On Saturday Charlie Hodgson found himself on the wrong end of hard-hitting Lawes as the Saints lock launched into him with a trademark hit, something we've seen repeatedly over recent seasons. Respect to Hodgson though, now 33-years-old, who took it well and hopped straight back up.
You can view more of Lawes' big hits in the Related Posts below this
Posted at 11:06 am | 21 comments
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
Toulon completed the European double on Saturday, beating Castres 18-10 to win the French Top 14 final just eight days after retaining the Heineken Cup. It was a fitting send off for Jonny Wilkinson, who says he's one of the luckiest people alive.
By now you've probably seen the highlights or heard about what happened, but for those that haven't and for the sake of our archives, below is a nice highlights package that shows the key moments from the final, as well as some of the Toulon celebrations post match.
While the Heineken Cup may seem like a bigger achievement, this is the one that all French teams strive for, and it's been over twenty years since Toulon last raised the famous Bouclier de Brennus.
Wilkinson bowed out in style by not only winning two of the most biggest titles on offer, but ended on a personal high by scoring 15 points with the boot. That included a trademark wrong-foot-right-foot drop goal. Delon Armitage kicked the other three points with a long range penalty.
On Monday he tweeted that it's been: 'An amazing honour to have been part of this Toulon squad four the last 5 years, to have seen what I have and to have played with such legends'.
Castres scored the only try of the game through Scottish back Max Evans, but Toulon's might showed and their stars came to the fore up front, allowing Wilkinson to take the points of offer.
Congratulations to all involved and farewell to the likes of Wilkinson, and former Springboks Danie Rossouw and Joe Van Niekerk, who are also retiring from rugby.
Posted at 1:10 pm | 10 comments
Tuesday, June 03, 2014
If you missed it on what was a jam-packed day, here is a quick wrap-up of the Aviva Premiership final between Saracens and Northampton Saints. Saints won the game 24-20 in dramatic fashion, and coach Jim Mallinder has since had his contract extended.
While Saracens were aiming for a unique double of the Heineken Cup and the Premiership titles, they ended up with runner-up tags in both, while Saints achieved a double of their own, winning the Amlin Challenge Cup final a week earlier, then the Premiership title 24-20 at the death.
Jim Mallinder said this week that Saints are a 'superb club' and coaching them is 'a brilliant job'.
"There are not many positions like this in world rugby and I've loved every minute of being here. We've had a few ups and downs, but generally we've been on the up since being in the first division that first year. We're getting better and better – not just as a team and a squad, but as a club, and it's something I want to be a part of.
"I'm more motivated now than when I first came here. The challenges are huge. There are plenty of ambitious clubs in the Aviva Premiership and we want to be better than them," he said.
The focus now turns to the England side, with Waller one of those players added to the squad to take on the All Blacks in New Zealand. Other Saints players to join the tour party include Luther Burrell, Lee Dickson, Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, and Stephen Myler.
From Saracens, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell, Alex Goode, Billy Vunipola and Richard Wigglesworth have all flown over to New Zealand too. The first Test is this coming Saturday.
Posted at 11:31 am | 31 comments