Dan Carter gives a life-affirmingly SHIT performance
Mark this day people. Archive this in your backup drive; ALT+PRINT SCREEN it, paste it into a PowerPoint presentation on your favourite pen drive; back it up to your iCloud. Dan Carter was completely, utterly and logic-defyingly SHIT today versus England.
Average men around the world rejoice. From this day forward, this day will be known as "Dan Carter Has A SHIT Day At Work Like Me Day"
Preview: Autumn Internationals, Week 3
Wales vs New Zealand, Millennium Stadium, 17:15, Saturday
For John Keats, autumn was the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness; thus far for Wales it has been the season of SHIT and raging timidness. Their forwards have been bullied by the packs of second/third-tier Southern Hemisphere nations, and the backs have been without guidance, sense or skill. Can they fix it this week? Doubtful in terms of result, but they must in terms of performance.
The team selection itself suggests a lack of direction with Rob Howley using a "one week on, one week off" policy with the 7 and 10 jerseys; a decision that seems unalloyed to any consideration of form or evidence. Priestland is back in this week, despite being awful both vs Argentina, when brought on against Samoa, apparently suffering from some kind of ball phobia that causes him to ship it on via a pass or aimless kick regardless of the game situation in front of him. Warburton is without any form at all, and if the plan is to let him play himself back to the level his class demands he perform at then why drop him in the first place?
Let's face it, not one European Team expects to win against the All Blacks, but Wales and Howley cannot afford another stinker. I fear a week is not long enough to fumigate their current form.
Spotter's Badge: Commentators wax about Jamie Roberts' barnstorming runs, 0.025 seconds later he's stopped dead on the tackle line.
England after the jump, and if you fancy a flutter on any of the matches this Autumn then you can find some great value and deals at FREEbets
England vs South Africa, Twickenham, 14:30, Saturday
England make six changes this week after a flaccid display against the Wallabies. If they achieve nothing else the new personnel up front are required to make them more competitive at ruck time, as a repeat of last week's flabby rucking disgrace is unacceptable. The likes of Morgan, Wood and Launchbury suggest more dynamism will be achieved, but my age and salary suggest I should have more money in the bank than I do, so that's where suggesting gets you.
Can England beat South Africa at home? Yes, but don't be too expectant. Given the last couple of performances England fans should be happy with better rucking and faster ball. Once that is achieved they can turn their attention to Barritt and Tuilagi doing sod all with it and coming up with solutions for that. And, of course, we have the 43rd coming of James Haskell, international rugby's equivalent of an unflushable turd, to look forward to.
Boks by 7 is the B&M call.
Spotter's Badge: Jean de Villiers and Brad Barritt vying to see who can get the edge in the stunning lack of creativity battle in midfield.
Preview: Autumn Internationals - Week 1
We're back and make no apologies for the short-lived nature of our retirement. That's all that's going to be said about that.
It's Autumn Internationals time; a time when European teams enter a form of rugby user acceptance testing before the go live system date of the Six Nations in February and Southern Hemisphere teams drag their arses around the globe after a long season to freeze their conkers off in games they'd probably rather not play but still usually win anyway. But that doesn't stop us fans from lapping it up.
England vs Fiji - 2:30 Saturday
Stuart Lancaster sends out an inexperienced team against the perennially entertaining tryers from the Pacific Islands. Despite being a hit by injuries, the home side should still have too much quality for a visiting side who have about as much support from their home union and clubs as a drunk man gets from his sleeping wife when he demands sex at 2am. It's a miracle they even turn up, really.
If the game's poor you can always sit and smile about the fact that not a single one of the England players will be James Haskell.
More previews after the jump....
Wales vs Argentina - 2:30 Saturday
This kick-off clashes with England vs Fiji, so the neutral will face the not so tough call of watching this game. Grand Slam champions Wales go into this fixture without Adam Jones, which in recent times has usually meant they effectively go in without a scrum - not a good thing against the Pumas. All eyes will be on the latest person tasked with filling the hairy void, Aaron Jarvis, and also on Rob Howley who many fans have not a great deal of faith in.
Argentina come off the back of a fitful but respectable first season in The PoundStretcher Rugby Championship but, like the toddlers of chav parents on a plane, they really don't travel well and Wales should see them off.
This game is also another opportunity for commentators to be become woozy with excitement about Juan Martin Hernandez before he plays like a third team show-pony. AGAIN.
Ireland vs South Africa - 5:30 Saturday
Ireland, still in that difficult transitional period that they seem to have been in for as long as anyone can remember face a South African team who had a pretty miserable Primark Rugby Championship. This blog is looking forward to having another look at Eben Etzebeth, the latest in the long line of Bok Locks who come out of the womb as a fully formed terrifying beast of a man.
Ireland's potential to come out of this transitional period well will be fully tested given the lack of six nailed-on starters through injury (O'Driscoll, O'Brien, Ferris, O'Connell, Best and Kearney). The best they can hope for is probably a decent performance as the Saffers should have too much for them.
Scotland vs New Zealand - 2:30 Sunday
Scotland are going to lose, but in Tim Visser and Henry Pyrgos there are a couple of new player to have a look at while they chase All Black shadows, so that's nice.
Rugby Video: Zinzan Brooke admits that the New Zealand should not have won the Rugby World Cup
“For more insights and analysis from the Heineken Ambassadors into Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, please visit www.thisisthegame.com.”
The only adequate response to the France haka fine is...
...to show this video again. Note how the NZ players are not even facing the opposition during this "challenge" they are laying down, they are facing the stands.
Why? because the Haka used to be a bit of novel entertainment for the crowd, and we all enjoyed it to be fair. This was until some overly earnest people and, of course, the sponsors got hold of it and turned into into a quasi-religious ceremony that sucked all the joy from it.
Kiwis will tell us that our joy is nothing to do with it, that they perform it for cultural reasons and if we don't like it then tough. Fine, but if such pre-match rituals are important to the All Blacks, or any other nation with such a tradition, and nothing to do with entertainment or the crowd, then logic dictates that they should do it in their dressing room. This would put an end to the frequent palaver that oppositions reactions to it cause, such as that which the IRB have created with France this week.
Fact is, the only people who really want to see the haka are people who take a passing interest in the game of Rugby. It's neither entertaining for, nor wanted by most serious rugby fans.
As a perfect example of this, my mum rang me the night before the RWC Final to ask me what time it kicked off, when I pointed out my surprise that she wanted to watch it she responded with, "I don't, I just want to watch the haka."
Rugby World Cup Final: Most Deserving Team 9 – 8 XV Angry Men
By Boris, our resident Frenchman
Merde! Merde, merde, merde, merde, merde. So the ”worst team to ever make it to a RWC final” gave us one of the best finals ever played. Maybe the best. Who knew? I’m shattered, and frankly I feel very, very Welsh today (mental note to self: ask wife for a vintage Wales jersey at sports-depoque.com for Xmas). Close, but no cigar for France. To the AB’s: congratulations and well done. The most deserving team in the history of the game got the cup back after 24 agonizing years. I’m happy for the Kiwis, I truly am, although my heart won’t stop bleeding for some time, seeing how close France were to become champions.
It took me all of 20 seconds to know that something special was brewing. The time to see half the French crying during the anthems. Immediate reaction: we’ve just morphed into Argentina, and being the emotional latin animals that we are, I just knew that this kind of emotion brings out the best in French teams. Then, there was the way they fronted the Haka. Well, that was quite a moment wasn’t it? Dusautoir’s face when they were all holding hands forming a V told everything. And then the way they marched on to find themselves in the NZ half of the pitch, that was a statement of intent. I’m sure the old farts at the IRB will slap a penalty on France for doing this, but stuff them. France showed respect when accepting the challenge, and then laid down a challenge of their own. Fair enough. France is not always the best of rugby nations, but you can count on them to come up with something dramatic for big occasions.
After that, no wonder that the game itself was so ferocious. The intensity was very high in the AB’s-Wallabies, semi, but this was up one notch again. And, surprise, surprise, France played. And played well to boot. Against any other team, they would probably have scored more tries, but the Kiwi defense was outstanding. Likewise the French defense when the AB’s had their own sequences in attack. As the first half was building, I kept saying to myself: we’re in this game. The AB’s were not too flash, and Weepu was morphing into James Hook. Just enough to sow some seeds of doubts in the normally formidable machine wearing black. And then France made a bad, bad mistake defending on a lineout close to their line. They opted to contest the throw in two blocks, leaving a huge gap for Woodcock to score. Now, this is the kind of stuff you can do when defending 30 metres out, but surely not 5 meters out of your line, where all players should have lined up to defend against a maul. This cost us, very, very dear, and gave NZ some breathing space at half time.
By then, both starting fly-halves were gone. Parra copped a knee to his face by McCaw. Said McCaw being the best player of the last decade, I always wonder if things ever happen by accident with him. After all, this was our most consistent kicker lying on the floor. But I watched some replays, and it really looks like he his focusing at cleaning out Dusautoir and going for the ball. So, in my book, this was an accident. Poor Cruden then proceeded to do his knee and Donald was in. I live 10,000 km from Auckland, but I swear I could hear the collective gasp of the entire New Zealand population when he got on the field. This guy has been vilified by Kiwi supporters and journos alike for the past 2 years. Last year, a journo wrote he shouldn’t even get close to seeing a black jersey, nevermind wearing one. The same hack probably hails him as a hero today.
Back after half time, the intensity did not drop. Some good pressure from the Kiwis saw them rewarded by a penalty, and it was 8-0 afterDonald knocked it over. But credit to France, they refused to die, and after some good attacking work, they finally got rewarded through the player who deserved it most, Captain Thierry. Converted, that brough France back to 1 point. The faces in the AB’s coaching team were pale beyond white. They pushed this big, red button with “Panic” written on it, and proceeded to empty their bench. At this stage, I reckon they were seriously shitting themselves, way more than they’d care to admit post game.
France kept on applying pressure, but the Men in Black did not crack, except when they gave away a penalty with 15 minutes to go. Much to my amazement, Trinh Duc lined up to kick it. WTF?!? The guy is not even the regular kicker in his club, has never kicked for France before, and he’s the one kicking this? When Yachvili is still on the pitch? This defied belief, so I just knew something bad was going to happen, and soon enough the ball was flying right of the posts. By then, I started to have a horrible feeling in my gut: Joubert did not look like penalizing the AB’s even for blatant offeces, so missing that rare penalty was bad, and so it proved. The Blacks managed to hang on to their lead despite some good effort from France, a bit like France did to Wales last week. I guess what goes around comes around, and you cannot always count on luck to get you out of jail.
Pick of each teams: Woodcock, Thorn and the back row for the Blacks. Backline was solid if unspectacular for them, Weepu was shocking with the boot. Special mention to McCaw for his leadership, and an ability to be offside all the time and not get penalized. For France, Dusautoir was immense. Don’t think I’ve witnessed an individual performance sticking out of a WC final like his. I thought he outplayed McCaw, and this doesn’t happen often. Bonnaire, Nallet, Harinirdoquy not far behind. In the backs, Yachvili was good but why oh why didn’t he kick the penalty at 65 minutes? Much to my surprise, Rougerie had a good game at 13, he was rock solid. And Trinh Duc showed us the benefits of having a specialist flyhalf. He had a great game apart from that kick.
Now, a few words on the referee. As a matter of fact, I thought Joubert refereed the French really well. It’s just a shame he did not referee New Zealand at all. Can’t understand the first penalty at scrum against France when Franks was clearly boring in and down. Then, it was a free ride for McCaw at ruck time. I understand the guy is more talented than most at getting away with murder, but some stuff was really blatant. Then there were the crooked throws in the lineout that went unnoticed, which is hardly the hardest part of the game to referee. And a few high tackles or shoulder charges that should have been penalized as well. If anyone wants to show an aspiring player what it means to have the home advantage with a ref, this game would serve as a good example.
Having said that, even if some decisions were dubious and really harsh against France, I do not feel it was daylight robbery. Not like in 1995 when Bevan stole the semi-final from France so that Clint Eastwood could make a movie. It’s disappointing that a ref has so much influence on the outcome of a final, but it’s part of the game, like the wind or the rain. No point bleating against Joubert, who is a very good ref under normal circumstances. With or without him, France had their chances and could not take them. I have to take a bite off the shit sandwich I served Wales with last week: we missed a kickable penalty, a relatively easy drop goal, and made a big defensive mistake on our line. It’s not the kind of things you can get away with at this level of competition, against the best team in the world.
Talking about shit sandwiches, I hope the TV pundits and journalists will have a rather large serving, for yet again writing off a side before the game was played. It’s hard to believe these people actually get paid for coming up with that crap. Special mention to Stephen Jones and Peter Bills, the Laurel & Hardy of world rugby. Minus the humor.
Some parting words: as much as I love NZ and thought they were terrific hosts, I am disappointed they somewhat lacked class after their victory. They could have acknowledged France for pulling themselves together and giving them a run for their money. I’m disappointed that McCaw refused to swap jerseys with Bonnaire for the second time in two games. I understand he would want to keep the one for his 100th cap, but discarding the same guy twice in a month is not in the spirit of the sport. Likewise, I don’t think I’ve heard any Kiwi thanking Jo Maso for allowing them to play in black despite winning the toss for the jerseys. There is positively no chance that, in a final played between the two teams in France, they would have allowed us to play in blue in similar circumstances.
It was a fitting end to a marvelous competition. If you’d asked me before the tournament what I’d wish in my craziest dreams, I would have said a NZ-France final, with a narrow Kiwi victory and a magnificent Frace side. I got just that. I’m inconsolable that France did not win, as this type of occasion does not present itself very often, but in my heart of heart, I know the turds wearing blazers at the FFR do not deserve a world cup victory. Neither does the second division coach who has been in charge for 4 years. At least not ahead of a Kiwi federation that makes most of the right calls, and the best coaching unit in world rugby. At least the players have restored their reputation and can fly back home with their head held high. If you’d told me as much on the day after we lost to Tonga, I would have laughed and adviced to take your pills.
Now, I have to get back to life without the world cup. It sucks. But it has an upside: Lievremont is no longer in charge. This almost, almost makes my day. Well, not really, but let’s pretend anyway.
Rugby World Cup Final Preview: France vs New Zealand
So it all comes down to this. After six weeks and a great deal of matches we're left with a giant, black clothed monolith of punishment and guile, playing at home, versus some blokes who hate their coach, lost against Tonga, and only just scraped past a 14-man opposition in the semi because Wales couldn't find a single bloke who had any kind of sentient link between his eyes and his foot.
We're all praying for one of those French miracles that occasionally happen against the All Blacks. But, as anyone who has tried it knows, praying is a bit like masturbating: it makes you feel good for a bit but does nothing to bring the scenario that is the focus of your actions any closer to fruition in reality.
Some are clinging to the fact that France were competitive against the Kiwis for twenty minutes in the group game, althought this theory is flawed slightly by the mauling NZ gave them EVERY TIME they got the ball. Beyond that there is very little point in analysing this match as in every area France should get prison shamed.
I'm sorry to be so negative, but I expect this final to be the dampest squib since Jonny Wilkinson wiped his brow on a copy of a Haynes manual for a Toyota Corolla.
B&M Prediction: All Blacks by 20
Spotter's Badge: Ma'a Nonu runs one of his angles and breaks into so much open space that he claims it as an extension of his iwi's land.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read
Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Adam Thomson, Andy Ellis, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams
France: Maxime Medard; Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Maxime Mermoz, Alexis Palisson; Morgan Parra, Dimitri Yachvili; Jean-Baptiste Poux, William Servat, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Pape, Lionel Nallet, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Julien Bonnaire, Imanol Harinordoquy
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Fabien Barcella, Julien Pierre, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Jean-Marc Doussain, Francois Trinh-Duc, Damien Traille
Rugby video: The legends talk about the Rugby World Cup finals.
Scott Quinnell pulls no punches about France here.
For more insights and analysis from the Heineken Ambassadors into Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, please visit www.thisisthegame.com.
Rugby World Cup, Semi Final Preview: New Zealand vs Australia
As a rule this blog doesn't believe in fairy tales.
Such yarns demand a suspension of disbelief beyond even that required to accept Matt Banahan as a World Cup rugby player. But, there is one such story that, if you were to have told it some 24 years ago, it would have been roughly as plausible as that one about England becoming good. And so it was that the tale of the All Blacks only winning one world cup did come to pass....
Can they sort it out this time? This blog has nothing to offer but conjecture.
Even without Carter, New Zealand should win this game. They are at home, they are dead good and stuff, and they have Dagg, Nonu and McCaw.
On the other hand; they tend to lose at around this time in the Big CUp. And ,if anyone can balls it up for them it's Pocock and the Aussies, who have taken pissing on All Black chips to such an art form that the Tate are looking seriously at it as an installation in some godawful museum somewhere next year.
But, surely the AB's will sort it this time?
B&M Prediction: All Blacks by 5
New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.
Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams.
Australia: Kurtley Beale/Adam Ashley-Cooper; James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper/Anthony Fainga'a, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dan Vickerman, James Horwill (capt), Rocky Elsom, David Pocock, Radike Samo.
Replacements: Tatafu Polota Nau, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Anthony Fainga'a/Rob Horne
SHIT/GOOD Ratings: New Zealand 31 Argentina 10 - New Zealand ratings
by Richard O'Hagan*
The All Blacks sqeaked through against the Pumas, two late tries giving the scoreline a far more flattering look than they deserved.
Ma'a Nonu - Although the All Blacks didn't play well there were few shockingly bad performances, but the usually reliable Nonu butchered at least three attacking moves simply by taking his eye off the ball as it was passed to him. Schoolboy errors from such a good player.
Sonny Bill Williams - Whilst accepting that New Zealand are a bit short of wingers at the moment, he looked utterly wasted out there and whilst he himself did everything asked of him you suspect that the game would have been more comfortable if he had been brought into it a lot more.
Mils Muliaina - Looks to have lost almost all of his pace and it was no surprise when he was brought off on halftime
Piri Weepu - Put in the performance of the tournament so far. Superb passing, superb kicking from hand, superb place kicking. Why Graham Henry ever thought that Jimmy Cowan was a better option is baffling; it is akin to preferring a Pot Noodle to a twelve course Chinese banquet.
Cory Jane - The Pumas couldn't contain him and the fact that it took his side so long to cross the goal line was no fault of his.
Conrad Smith - Proved why he is the premier 13 in world rugby.
Handling - Nonu's errors aside, the speed and dexterity of the All Black passing was wonderful to see, especially in a tournament where so many sides have struggled to keep hold of the ball.
*The Editor was supposed to be doing this one, but he's off celebrating it being four years since he passed his GCSE resits, so you've got me again