Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Not to be outdone by the high scoring Six Nations, Round 6 of Super Rugby served up some excellent bits of play, including a few top tries. Here is Sky NZ's look at three of the best, including two Crusaders scorchers and a dramatic late winning try for the Lions in Melbourne.
View more great tries from around the world of rugby
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Monday, March 23, 2015
Rugby fans across the world will be all to familiar with Nick 'The Honey Badger' Cummins, mostly due to his outstanding interviews coining such phrases as 'sweating like a gypsy with a mortgage' and 'going off like a bag of cats'. He left for a while, but now he's back.
Cummins was granted a release from the Japanese side Coca Cola Red Sparks to re-join his beloved Western Force side for the 2015 Asteron Life Super 15 season. Cummins had made the deal to sign for the Japanese side after his father - who was named Queensland's Father of the Year in 2012 for raising eight children, two with cystic fibrosis - was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Even better news for rugby fans is that Cummins is also eligible to play for the Wallabies in 2015 and if selected he could feature in their 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign in England.
His return to the Force is no mystery, as he wants a chance of breaking into the Australia team for this year's World Cup, claiming that it is 'a big one to tick off' and to have a few more caps to add to his previous 15. His scoring of a try – or 'bagging a meat pie' as he puts it – against Australia for the Barbarians in their 40-36 loss clearly whetted his appetite for more top level rugby
Cummins will return to Red Sparks at the end of the Super 15 season to prepare for their 2015/16 Top League season and made it known that he is extremely thankful to 'the Western Force and more importantly the Coca Cola Red Sparks in Japan for making my return back to Australia possible'.
His return to the Force has been welcomed by his former teammates and as Cummins himself puts it, "I don’t know if they are laughing with me or at me, but either way is a win".
The Honey Badger admits that he found it hard to settle down in his new oriental surroundings in Japan, but after meeting his teammates and engrossing himself in the culture, he started to enjoy life in his new home. Especially the all you can eat Yakiniku Korean BBQ restaurants.
credit: foxsports australia/rugby hq
Sunday, March 22, 2015
France number ten Jules Plisson was left wondering who had allowed a runaway bull into Twickenham on Saturday, only to return from a world of pain to realise it was England second row Courtney Lawes who had thumped him to the ground.
The recently back from injury Lawes was in his usual ferocious form, epitomising his desire with a trademark monstrous tackle on the French playmaker.
Well known for his ability to put formidable pressure on opposition fly-halves, Lawes's execution was timed to perfection as he made contact just as Plisson passed the ball.
Fully committed to the challenge, the English lock was subject to some French remonstration immediately following the hit, but subsequent replays showed that there was no fault in Lawes's technique and referee Nigel Owens was happy for play to continue.
To Plisson's credit, having taken some time to catch his breath and comprehend what had just happened, he returned to his feet and threw himself back into the game – but was perhaps a little more wary of Lawes's whereabouts whilst in possession.
Video of the hit has been circulated widely since the match, with this one, in which you can hear referee Owens reacting to the tackle, already reaching around half a million views in just one day.
England went on to win the match 55-35, which although it was an impressive victory, wasn't enough to win the Championship, as they finished second for the fourth consecutive year.
You can view more of Lawes' brutal hits in the Related Posts below this video
England had the advantage of playing third on the final day of the Six Nations, so knew exactly what they needed to edge Ireland to the title - a 26 point winning margin over France. As it was, an epic match ensued, but England came up short when they won 55-35.
It was a battle within a battle, as England put on one of their best ever performances to give themselves a real shot at the title, but the French, playing only for pride, scored some wonderful tries of their own and never gave up in front of a jampacked Twickenham.
On a day when Wales scored 60 against Italy and Ireland scored 40 against Scotland, England's 55 points against arch rivals France simply weren't good enough, leaving a bitter-sweet taste for fans, and players, who came within inches of claiming a Six Nations title.
Ben Youngs, who scored two tries in the pulsating game, was left heartbroken post match.
"I don't really know what to say. I'm devastated... First of all, congratulations to Ireland. From our point of view, we're devastated. We gave it a crack, but you can't let them get back in the game.
"Each time we got a try they seem to get one back and that was the biggest disappointment.
"But we were determined not to leave anything out there or waste any chances. It's not very often you score seven tries, beat France and walk off feeling pretty sick. But at least we have the consolation of winning a big game at Twickenham and showing people that we can finish off moves and score plenty of tries when we play this way," the Man of the Match scrumhalf added.
Coach Stuart Lancaster said he was gutted to come second again, but praised his team.
"I said to the boys that's one of the most courageous performance I've seen from a team. To go down like we did and show the character to come back. It was an unbelievable game of rugby and it was desperately disappointing not to get that try at the end."
"We played some fantastic rugby and those two first tries from France hurt us but it will go down as one of the great games of rugby. Credit to Ireland for winning the championship, they beat us and congratulations to Joe [Schmidt] and all his team."
England, Ireland and Wales all finshed the tournament on 8 points, but Ireland's suprior points difference of 63 (to England's 57 and Wales' 53) proved crucial. France came fourth, while Italy's victory at Murrayfield kept them off the bottom, where Scotland bagged the wooden spoon.
Ireland ran away with things at Murrayfield on Saturday, beating Scotland 40-10 to set them up to retain the Six Nations trophy and celebrate with their travelling fans just a few hours later. It was their first back-to-back Championship title win since 1949.
Powerhouse Sean O'Brien was in commanding form yet again, scoring two tries to add to those scored by Paul O'Connell and Jared Payne, who picked up his first for his newly adopted country. With the result, England couldn't pull them in, despite a valiant effort against France.
O'Brien has since said that the squad have learned some valuable lessons in this campaign, with the loss to Wales last weekend something that ultimately will benefit them in the long run.
"Looking back now it might not have been the worst thing in the world," said O'Brien.
"We know we can learn and move forward. That was the biggest thing to come out of last week; that we didn't do our jobs correctly and we didn't do what we did during the week. If we approach the game like we did, for instance, make sure everyone is going 100 miles an hour, we know we are never too far away."
Brian O'Driscoll reiterated O'Brien's thoughts, stating that a Grand Slam victory might have done more harm than good. "If we had won the Grand Slam, going into the World Cup, there would have been an absolutely insane amount of pressure on the boys.
"That being said, we've won the Six Nations and there's still going to be that pressure and that level of expectation. We're playing with a huge amount of confidence, we've got a very distinct understanding of what our strategy is and what our game plan is.
"Everyone's singing off the same hymn sheet. If we can be fortunate with not losing too many players to injury I don't see why we can't find ourselves in a semi-final - all bets are off when you get to that point," said the Ireland legend.
The victory at Murrayfield equal's Ireland's biggest ever winning margin over Scotland, which was 36-6 in 2003. Most importantly, it gave them enough of a buffer to not only overtake Wales, who were excellent against Italy, but also England, whose 55-35 win over France was in vain.
In the end, the points difference was as follows: Ireland +63, England +57 and Wales +53.
Wales produced an unbelievable second half performance against Italy as they chased the Six Nations title, attempting to rack up as many points as possible in Rome. Leading just 14-13 at halftime, they ended up winning 61-20, putting them in a strong position.
It was a day of mixed emotions for Welsh fans, as they ended up coming third overall, with Ireland in winning and England coming second, within a converted try of snatching the championship.
George North scored a hat-trick, while Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Scott Williams, Rhys Webb and Sam Warburton all scored too, and flyhalf Dan Biggar kicked 15 points with the boot.
Despite not managing to get into pole position, Wales coach Warren Gatland has backed his side to get out of Rugby World Cup's Pool A 'pool of death', that includes England and Australia.
"If we've got the players fit and available we’re good enough to come out of that group and even to the win the World Cup. We have momentum and all the confidence that goes with that", he said.
"We won't be going into the World Cup with any fears of not qualifying from our group.
"There is no fear about playing England at Twickenham or Australia as well because we know we will be in good shape as long as everyone stays fit and clear of injuries. We can go there with some real confidence and belief that we can get out of our group.
"You have sides ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in the world, so that shows how tough it is to get out of that group, while Fiji with preparation will be tough as well. It is unfortunate that you are going to have one of the big teams not making the quarter-finals. That's what has happened to us and we are confident we can get out of that group and progress to the quarter-finals," Gatland added.
We'll have more Six Nations highlights and reaction over the course of the next few days