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Thread: Crouch, Bind, Set - The Rugby Union Thread

  1. #201
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    An improving Lions team full of confidence should face the All Blacks now. Very excited for the match and hoping for a win. Expect a loss though.

  2. #202
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    Great result for the Lions today. I'm still not optimistic about Eden Park but they've done better than many expected and can come home with their heads held high.

  3. #203
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    Crouch, Bind, Set - The Rugby Union Thread

    We've had plenty of Rugby threads that have gotten a little bit of traction over the years, which I guess could be merged into this one. Ultimately, though, once that tournament is over they just kind of lay dormant, and I figure that an all purpose one, like we've got with the football, could be the way to go.

    Lot of things to comment on. Billy Vunipola is injured again, and given his vocal opposition to extending the season I think that's going to raise some more comments about player welfare in the near future. Certainly something that World Rugby has to get a handle on.

    We've got a little while yet before the Autumn Internationals, where England will obviously be without Billy and Wales will be without skipper Sam Warburton, so we'll focus on domestic stuff for the moment. Wasps have lost two in a row and don't look like the side that they did last season. Can't rule out a playoff appearance but there are so many solid sides in the middle of the Prem, even Newcastle, that it doesn't look a safe bet. In fact right now it's hard to look past one of Chiefs or Saracens.

    In the Pro14, Ospreys have started really badly, and the Cardiff Blues would have been panicking if they'd lost to Connacht as well. I think the big surprise so far is the Cheetahs smashing Leinster.


    Be good to get a lot of different opinions, discussions and perspectives in here - a tactical question though to try and get the ball rolling. Come the six nations, do you think the future will be teams lining up with essentially an extra fly-half at 12, a la the Sexton-Farrell combination, or was that a flash in the pan for the British Lions because you can't leave either of those two out?

  4. #204
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    Wales are crumbling. They do that every now and again. I fully expect the 6 Nations to be England vs Ireland. It'll be interesting to see how the countries do in the Autumns. I expect New Zealand to destroy and the other games to be more competitive. Both Argentina and Georgia could cause some upsets.

    I don't know if that was the future or just for the Lions. I would guess the latter as I think other coaches won't adopt it and those two were special to the squad. I think teams doing that would be found out.

  5. #205
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    I'm agreed with you on the six nations. The best regions in the Pro14 are the Irish ones, and they've got a solid base of players. England have a ridiculous talent pool now - at least two deep everywhere and with four or five options in some positions. England also have the advantage of playing Ireland in London, while you'd think they'll still have enough to go to Italy, Scotland, and a struggling France and win.

    I mean, England have been playing that way for a while now to get both Ford and Farrell into the same side. I don't think an inherently cautious coach like Gatland wouldn't have tried it if he hadn't seen that Farrell could play at 12 at international level already. In Wales case, I think the interest comes because Jamie Roberts has seemingly passed his most influential days, and with him playing for Harlequins he's potentially going to have to be left out to accommodate younger players who aren't based in Wales. Without him, there's only one out-and-out centre with much experience - Scott Williams. So the option is there to try and get both Dan Biggar and someone like Rhys Patchell of the Scarlets in and play more expansively.

    Now, with that said the real issue that Wales seem to want resolved is for Liam Williams to be the full back and for Halfpenny to be shunted out to the wing, if he gets into the side at all. There's a huge push for more positive selections and Halfpenny at 15 is seen as a safety first option, one less likely to hurt an opponent than the counterattacking strengths of Williams.

    But Gatland's law is definitely the elephant in the room. The policy has been expanded to four non-Welsh based players for the world cup before dropping back down to two, but the financial clout of England still makes that look massively impractical. With Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar heading to France and England respectively at the end of the season, presumably they'll have two of the spots, and there's nothing to make me think Faletau of Bath will have a third. That leaves Liam Williams, George North, Jamie Roberts, Ross Moriarty, Rhys Priestland, and basically any other player based outside Wales all fighting for the same spot. Right now you'd have a hard time looking past Liam Williams, but I'm not sure Wales can afford to leave out all those other players.



    Anyway, back to England for a minute. Sale's win over Gloucester looked like the big talking point of the weekend last Saturday and it looks like another rollercoaster year for the men from Kingsholm. But then the East Midlands teams picked up two wins on the Sunday (with Leicester's win over the Champions particularly impressing) and Bath beating Wasps. So I think there are early signs that some of the old big names are picking themselves up of the canvas and will put themselves into the mix this season. Either way, it's anything but predictable.

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    I think if there's a silver lining for Scotland, it's that Glasgow are the last undefeated team in the Pro14. I don't think they're going to mix it with Llanelli or the Irish provinces when the end of the season comes along, but it's a definite improvement. Can see it being important for players like Jonny Gray and Ruaridh Jackson to have a few wins under their belt before the internationals come around. I mean, Glasgow's successes haven't always translated in the past, but with Scotland's general trajectory being upwards at the moment you wonder if it's the time to take advantage.

    The big news of the week is that Gatland's law might be scrapped in favour of a system more like the Australian one, where there's no exceptions but a limited number of caps minimum if you want to play outside Wales and still play for the national side. I think that the WRU are trying to fudge the issue a bit, where they'll be able to play anyone they want to while still having a policy that they say will protect the regions. I don't see how it will protect them in practice because the guys in possession of the shirts are often in their mid-20s, so the younger guys wouldn't necessarily have a welsh shirt to try and keep.

    Big improvement for the Ospreys, but they still lost to Scarlets. You wonder where they are going to be able to get the wins to turn their season around at this point.

    Bit of a surprise to see Wasps all the way down in 10th. I know there's a lot of injuries and Beale was a huge presence last year so they'll be missing him, but you wonder why things have failed to click for them to this extent. Saracens looking pretty imperious at the top. They'll need to lose momentum when they lose their internationals or they'll run away with it.



    Bit of a break for the European competitions now. Be good to see how everyone gets on against the bigger French teams.

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    Wales and Scotland between them might have fucked the Six Nations, and with it Rugby in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Ignoring the contraction in the market as a result of Brexit, they resisted the sponsorship offer from RBS, saying that there was a better deal out there to be had. There wasn't, and when they went back to RBS found the original offer was - surprise surprise - no longer on the table. So they've lost around £5m for next season, and there's no security beyond that. Unless they snap RBS up at the same money I reckon they'll lose even more.

    I don't know much this will affect the Scottish Union because I'm less knowledgeable about their business, but it's fairly awful news for England and Wales. While the Premiership in England is flying high, financially it is built on a house of sand. All it would take is one of their owners to move out of the game and you could see a massive club in the shit.

    But if things seem bad for England, it's even worse for Wales. While the financial situation in England is far from rosy, in Wales there isn't even enough latitude to paper over the cracks. We know that none of the regions can compete with the English or French for money. We know that since regionalisation, one club has folded and another has had to be taken over by the WRU. There's even talk of the Cardiff Blues being the second club to be taken over by the Union, and given their financial problems you cannot rule that out. The clubs can't afford to have their budgets cut any more if regional rugby in Wales is to survive and be competitive, so its inevitable that this will hurt Welsh Rugby where it really hurts - grassroots level.

  8. #208
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    If Wales are stopping Rhys Webb from playing they ruined any chances of being decent in the future anyway. Can you imagine if Brazil stopped any player with less than 60 caps playing outside Brazil in football?

    They seem to keep making silly decisions which eventually hurt Rugby from the top down. Shit falls downhill and this will destroy the only sport Wales have ever been particularly good at.

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    Wow. I felt sure they were going to rig this so that they could have all their top players in the side. This is huge for Wales, as he's one of the few genuinely world class players that Wales have. I'd say that there is a question mark now over whether you play Webb at all in the coming six nations, or whether you make the commitment to go with Sam Davies of the Scarlets. They are the in-form Welsh team anyway, and you might prefer to give him a year to play himself in for the 2019 season, when you've obviously got Ireland and England at home in the Six Nations but the world cup as well. But then, you do become easier to beat in this six nations, unless Davies excels himself. It's a tough decision.


    I do think the money hitting the grassroots is more important than Webb, because one hurts you now and for 2-3 years while the other could hurt you for 20-30. But yeah, they both speak to the WRU's main issue over the past twenty years, which is mismanagement. The only thing they've really got right over that time has been the hiring of Warren Gatland. I dread to think where Wales would be if they hadn't got someone who can at least make the team hard to beat in.

  10. #210
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    It’s a mess.

    Gatland won’t be managing the Lions again and I can’t really blame him. He was treated badly and with disrespect he didn’t deserve. He is stubborn, old school and plays a certain style but, he is a quality coach. He’ll be missed .

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    Yeah, I do think he's been treated fairly shabbily, both by the press in New Zealand and by some members of the rugby playing fraternity back in the UK and Ireland. With that said, I'm not sure that he will have been in line for the job again, if I am completely honest. The elephant in the room is that Eddie Jones has had a much better last couple of years than Gatland and will be out of the England job by the time they tour South Africa, so he'd have been my pick anyway.

    That's not to take away what Gatland has achieved with the Lions, and he would have been my second phone call if Jones had turned it down. But his record probably isn't as good over the last few years as Jones has been with Japan and England, and Eddie also has the advantage of working with South Africa when they won the RWC in 2007, so he's got more of an inside perspective on South African Rugby. For me he's still got to be the man for the job.


    But although I think that, it is a bit of a disgrace that arguably the best Lions coach in history has felt the need to leave like this. Definitely leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

    The news yesterday is that Webb's deal is binding with Toulon, so he's not going to be able to walk out on it so he can represent Wales without taking a bit financial hit.




    Good wins for some of the Irish regions. Ulster over Wasps, Connacht away at Oyonnax, Leinster over Montpellier convincingly. Munster only drew with Castres but given their own performance and the way it ended, they'll be happy enough. A lot of people seem agreed that there should have been a penalty for hands in the ruck at the death. I know the levels are different but I watch at grassroots level a bit and as the ball is off the ground this would usually be 'out' on an amateur pitch, but I can certainly see why it's a controversial one. Even the Irish media are saying Munster got away with one. Link here with a video of the incident.

    https://www.balls.ie/rugby/munster-5-375731


    I'm not sure that there is much else really of note from this round of European games. Osprey's continue to struggle. Exeter looking like a tougher proposition in Europe already. Sarries look like they might win everything. That's about it really.

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    The squads for the autumn internationals are out. Could post them all but as this has become very Anglo/Welsh I'll stick to just the two. Couple of big stories - Marler's ban costs him his place and James Haskell is left out on form grounds for England, while Marland Yarde has been overlooked in favour of Denny Solomona, who doesn't seem to have hurt himself too much in that Tuilagi situation.

    For Wales it's largely a young side, partly through choice and partly through necessity with a lot of injuries. Big question marks over the back row with Warburton and Moriarty out and then Tipuric and Lydiate both having question marks over their fitness. Clearly attempts to expand the strength in depth of the squad here with plenty of senior players left out. The interesting call has to be the fact that Rhys Webb is still in the side and Sam Davies has been left out, which makes me think that Warren is definitely thinking of running with Webb at Scrum Half until he goes to Toulon - a situation which, let's be honest, is going to fuck Wales over for 2019 unless they find a way around it or Webb's replacement is able to hit the ground running.

    England squad:

    Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Danny Care (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Piers Francis (Northampton Saints), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Marcus Smith (Harlequins) *, Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).
    Forwards: Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Nick Isiekwe (Saracens), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby) *, Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs), Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs).


    Wales squad

    Forwards: Rob Evans, Wyn Jones, Nicky Smith, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Samson Lee, Kristian Dacey, Elliot Dee, Ken Owens, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Cross, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric;
    Backs: Aled Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland, Owen Williams, Jonathan Davies, Tyler Morgan, Hadleigh Parkes, Owen Watkin, Hallam Amos, Alex Cuthbert, Steffan Evans, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams.

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    Back to domestic Rugby this weekend. But before a look at the games, some news.

    Rob Howley will be leaving Wales when Gatland's contract is up after the 2019 World Cup. For a lot of people he has been the heir apparent, though I don't think many Welsh fans will be sad at the news. The one thing you have to say is that they've got to start thinking about who is going to come in now because the WRU don't have the best track record at this kind of thing. First question is do you go for a Welshman, take a punt on a non-Welshman who has done well in the Welsh game like Wayne Pivac, or go after a John Mitchell or Jake White in the hope of finding the next Warren Gatland? The long and short of it is Wales are the 'third best, at best' on paper and need the right coach in place or they'll have more bad days than good ones.

    I've heard that Clive Rowlands has also waded into the Rhys Webb situation, saying that it's madness a Welshman can't play for Wales because he plays in France but a Kiwi can because he's played in Wales for three years. And while I understand why the rules are all in place, he has a point. Meanwhile the Irish have dealt with the Simon Zebo situation far more effectively by simply dropping him now, rather than having it hang over the 2019 world cup preparations. Another example of the organisation of Irish rugby up against the Welsh shambles.

    Last note on Wales - four fly-halfs and four centres called up for the Autumn Internationals would seem to suggest that Gatland is going to try two playmakers at some point, and try and get them playing some more expansive Rugby. With Dan Biggar the chosen one, it's also the only way to get either of the two Rhys's - Patchell and Priestland - into the side.

    Right so some thoughts on the weekend's games.

    Cracking inter-pro between Ulster and Leinster. Really high standard of Rugby, and a huge win for Leinster away in Belfast.

    The Gloucester win over Bath is huge, not just because Bath have looked really decent at times this season but because it's away from home - and if Gloucester can start to perform away the sky is the limit for them.

    The Leicester Tigers look like they might be starting to click. Probably still going to be a bit light up front to win anything this year but they're starting to click and that'll mean a top four finish, you'd think.

    Ospreys are still poor, despite a win over the Dragons. In fact the only Welsh region worth saying anything about are the Scarlets, who are going to be the best Welsh team by a mile. Cardiff Blues still struggling a bit. The most optimistic side outside of Llanelli are probably the Dragons, who are the weakest of the four regions but at least seem to be moving in the right direction now. And there's a real buzz around Rodney Parade, and not just because Gavin Henson is back with his rock-star profile.




    Coming to another week now. Some interesting results in the Anglo-Welsh cup, the big win for Harlequins over Saracens being the most interesting.

    But Wales are not shaping up well for the Australia game. Having picked Rhys Webb, he's now looking to shake off injury in time to play. And there's more issues with the back row. Sam Warburton is out injured as we know, but now it sounds like Tipuric is racing to be fit too. Moriarty is also out, so if Tipuric doesn't get fit it'll be Faletau and two inexperienced players. Meanwhile Australia will have Michael Hooper and two pretty experienced players with him.

    Nothing really to report for England. They've got their own back row experiments going on but they're about four deep in every position, so it's not a bad time for them to be experimenting, with Argentina up here.

  14. #214
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    So the next round of international games are here, which in Britain is usually when interest in the game picks up. Here are the fixtures that I think'll be of most interest to the community here (apologies if I've missed your team off)

    Saturday 11th November 2017
    Scotland v Samoa
    England v Argentina
    Wales v Australia
    Ireland v South Africa
    France v New Zealand

    Saturday 18th November 2017
    Wales v Georgia
    England v Australia
    Scotland v New Zealand
    Ireland v Fiji

    Saturday 25th November 2017
    Scotland v Australia
    England v Samoa
    Wales v New Zealand
    Ireland v Argentina

    Saturday 2nd December 2017
    Wales v South Africa


    Wales are playing that extra game against South Africa as a money spinner at the end.


    Some of the team news is out for the weekend. Wales have gone fairly uninspiring in the back three, with Halfpenny staying on at full back and Williams continuing to accommodate him on the wing. Tipuric doesn't make it which means Navidi of Cardiff Blues, one of their few bright spots this season, starts at Openside. Shingler is at blindside so it's a fairly inexperienced back row. Webb isn't going to make it so Gareth Davies is scrum half. But the interesting call is the two-playmaker midfield, with Gloucester's Owen Williams starting at inside centre. Trying to replicate the Sexton/Farrell combo, after all. There are eight Llanelli players in the team.

    Australia have Hodge shifting to the wing to make way for the returning Foley, who'll be partnered with Genia again in the half back positions.


    England are rolling the dice a little bit against Argentina. There's only a second cap for Sam Underhill at openside, but other than that it's an experienced pack. But in the backs injury to Nowell and a rest for Farrell mean Anthony Watson gets a chance on the wing, and Henry Slade comes into inside centre to partner Joseph and take the ball from George Ford. With no recognised centre on the bench, if the Slade/Joseph combination doesn't click, the options are Lozowski in at 12, or to throw Rokoduguni on and move Daly from the wing to centre.


    EDIT: Good catch on the fixtures, Nony!
    Last edited by Prime Time; 11-09-2017 at 09:53 AM.

  15. #215
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    England playing Argentine twice in one day? (Just joking)

    Wales will struggle massively against any of the big 3 and maybe even Georgia. Iím not usually that pessimistic, but as you say, the squad is uninspiring. The positive is my 6 nations tickets are cheaper if they do badly. Iím going to see New Zealand and Georgia so hope Iím wrong!

    England have to aim for 3 wins Iíd say from those 3. Australia is often a great match and Iíd expect the same this time.

    The Irish match against Argentina could be great. Iíll be watching that with huge interest.

    I fully expect New Zealand to win their matches. Itís a shame theyíre not playing England.

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    Well Wales should be able to give South Africa a game. Australia is so unpredictable. You are right though, Georgia is a potential banana skin.

    They've been forced into change in the back row. The ambitious bit is playing the extra playmaker at 12. But literally every one in Welsh Rugby has been calling for Liam Williams to move to 15 and they have stayed with the conservative option.

    I think England are at the point where they are thinking about winning every game now. But there's also a sense that if we are going to lose matches, now is probably the best time in the Jones project to drop games. I won't overreact if they do, so long as it's educational.

    Interesting test for Ireland, the Argentina game. Given how England have done against Argentina through the summer then they will want to put down a similar marker.

  17. #217
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    Speaking form the Australian side of the ledger we go into the Spring (for us) Tour with a bit of a jaunt in our step having beat the All Blacks in our most recent matchup however it has been a season of some really good highs - the last two matches with NZ being prominent ones but also pretty terrible lows, smashed by England in Autum and NZ destroyed us in our first match with them. There has also been a regular phenomenon of false dawns in our rugby team for a number of years where it will look like the team has turned a corner and is finally executing at a high level only to quickly fall into old habits where our set piece is a mess and basic skills go missing. The Tour will go to show if the recent upward tick in form is something that is going to last.

    When looking over our team we have the usual dangerous attacking backs and a fantastic number 7 however we have slowly been getting some quality big units in the locks and also have a fly half who can control the match quite well but also open up if need be in Foley. He has slowly come back into form but we will need him at his best.

    The question with Australia will always be the scrum and against some of the bigger teams we will face some stern questions. We have handled ourselves fairly well throughout the Rugby Championship but Southern Hemisphere teams have never been the benchmark scrumwise.

    It will be an intriguing tour for us, if it really goes poorly then we could well see Michael Chieka on the chopping block, despite his impressive work in the past with the Wallabies he hasn't got a lot of friends in the media or the main office and the knives were quick to come out when we got beaten by England and then NZ earlier in the year. Winning will always keep a coach secure though.

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  18. #218
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    Bah. We did better than I thought.

    Fuck England. It’s all about the Irish this weekend.

  19. #219
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    Well I'm just happy Australia got away with a win.

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    Ha, obviously can't get on board with fuck England, but the Irish result is the clear standout. Must be a record win over South Africa and a real marker thrown down.

    Meanwhile, England were just okay. No better. Two possibilities: 1) Going to have to reassess how much depth we have on the strength of that performance or 2) it's a blip and doesn't matter because they were still good enough to win.

    Wales - Australia was an odd one in a way. Lots of positives for Wales but the handling let them down, often in crucial places. Best attacking display for a couple of years but still a 13th loss to The Wallabies.

    As for Australia, it's hard to know how best to judge that performance and result. Given the difficult couple of years they have had, I would say that it was a professional job, they controlled the scoreboard if not the game, and managed to see off a spirited side with a man off the field for ten minutes.

    I don't think either team will be too dispirited. Wales will take heart for the two games they have a real chance of winning and probably finish them both. Australia won't be fearing England having done the job against Wales.

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    Couple of things I want to ask about -

    1) How people think Australia will do against England after both sides respective first games? I imagine less to fear than previously anticipated.

    2) Whether the positives in the Welsh performance have improved the mood ahead of the Georgia game, or if the weaknesses against Australia potentially playing into a physically tough Georgian teams strengths is a worry.


    But actually, the real breaking news is that the 2023 Rugby World Cup is going to France. It's not a surprise in some senses because it's far and away the most commercially valuable of the three bids and would clearly pump more money back into the Unions, which is what they all need at the moment. But they have had to go against their own report by not giving it to South Africa, which will raise eyebrows. And Ireland will probably kick off about it again. South Africa are already very upset about it, perhaps understandably. You have to wonder if they'll come in for it again for the 2027 tournament, or if the way will be cleared to take it to the Americas for the first time. Argentina would love to host it to boost their own game, but you know that the pot of gold for World Rugby would be to host it in the US, possibly in combination with Canada. Though the potential for empty seats there does make that a very risky venture. Can't imagine an American giving up the NFL to turn out for a pool game between Namibia and Romania.

  22. #222
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    Sorry...

    1). Well.
    2). Greatly. But weíll probably lose now.

  23. #223
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    Well after a decent start to the end of year tour against Wales the Wallabies got thoroughly put in their place by England.

    Not too surprising really, it is never nice to lose to England but if we couldn't beat them in Australia earlier this year it is unlikely we'd ever have much chance at Twickenham.

    Michael Cheika is complaining about the ref's but when the score reads like it does in this match it is more than just a few dodgy calls that sunk your team.

  24. #224
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    Walesí reserves were uninspiring. Scotland fell to pieces after a phenomenal first half. Ireland were disappointing. England were outstanding.

    Australia couldíve at least put up a fight. Bah.

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    I don't know, I didn't think it was as bad as that for Australia. They were very much in the game for seventy minutes. Second best? Sure, although the form table suggests that they probably should be, but they did cause a lot of problems. But if the one that was held up had been given to Australia, it's basically level scores and the Jonathan Joseph try doesn't happen. The game turned on very fine margins for sure, and it was just that the bounce of the ball was with England on the day. In a sense I think that was probably fair because they did play the better stuff, and I'm of the opinion that most of the big calls were right, but it was still far closer than the scoreline suggested to me. The only debatable one was the one ruled out just before Joseph's, although I never saw a compelling angle that proved the ball was ever even grounded. You could argue it should be an Aussie penalty for offside, I guess, which with a try coming the other end almost immediately would still have changed the game.

    The one thing Cheika could be aggrieved about is that Maro Itoje should probably have spent time in the sin bin, and that England got away with repeat infringements in a way that Michael Hooper didn't in the first half.



    The Wales game was a bit of a slog, to be honest. Georgia did themselves a lot of credit though the talk before the game was that they needed to win to lay down a marker. Ultimately I think Wales are just that bit too good for them at the moment, but god, they weren't that good on the night. I think Gatland made too many changes, personally, and when it turned out the Georgians were big and tough and weren't going to lie down, there weren't enough wise old heads to steel the youngsters and get them through it. Became a hard watch in the end. That stuff with the prop at the end was just as cynical as what the French pulled on the Welsh in the Six Nations, too. A farce of a finish.


    The real excitement seemed to come from the Scots, who were brave in defeat. Some real champagne Rugby against the All Blacks. Ireland scraped one out against a much-improved Fiji team. The gap between France and Ireland was reinforced with the Springboks winning away in Paris, which'll probably cost the French coach his job knowing Bernard Laporte.

    And Worcester finally got the monkey off their backs by beating Northampton in the Premiership.

  26. #226
    Lamb of LOP anonymous's Avatar
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    I enjoyed the Scots display and am at the game today. Hoping Wales don’t disgrace themselves. Samoa should be a formality and there’s a lack of mouth watering fixtures. Argentina vs Ireland should be fun.

  27. #227
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    Cracking Scotland performance. The red came just as Australia were starting to take control but it was deserved. And you can't argue with the way they took advantage.

    Wales didn't take advantage though. Bossed the first half and went in behind because New Zealand took their chances while Wales butchered their own. Second half the All Blacks were much improved and, with a little luck going their way, made Wales lament their early wastefulness. Avoided disgrace by a mile but make no mistake, that was a chance.

    Professional job by England. Not worth adding much to that. Good but as expected and anticipated.

  28. #228
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    Wales weren’t ready to beat the all blacks. It was embarrassing. They laid it out on a plate and Wales chose to try and cook their own recipe which failed. Then got beaten for it. It was also very sad. I loved the performance though, and believe it can result in results.

    Scotland game was amazing. Loved it and love a competitive Scottish team. I hope they win the 6 nations more than any country in it, I feel they deserve a win.

  29. #229
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    I don't think they're the best team by any stretch, so deserving a win in that sense is probably a bit off the wall, but since Italy don't really have a chance you are looking at that them as the most realistic winners to have not won for a while - the other four teams have won it in the eight tournaments since 2010 while Scotland haven't even really challenged in the six nations era, so it would be good for the tournament if they could have a go, and it'd be good for the fans who probably do deserve something to cheer about.

    Actually, if you think about it, look at same of the names who played the last time Scotland won: Gregor Townsend, Doddie Weir, Kenny Logan, Duncan Hodge, Gordon Bulloch, Stuart Grimes.... it's a while ago, now!


    Internationals over for all but Wales and South Africa, who've fit in an extra game for some extra dinero. The controversy is that Wales are picking a New Zealander. Nothing new there, but rather cynically he is going to play on the very day that he becomes eligible for Wales, which has left a bit of a sour taste in the mouths of many - including the Welsh traditionalists.

    At club level the big news is probably the latest attempt at an injury return for Manu Tuilagi at Leicester this weekend. But I guess the question is whether or not his England prospects are really still intact, or whether there's been too many injuries and too much trouble? With Joseph and Slade as competitors for the 13 shirt, Daly an option, and the 12 taken up with another playmaker, you wonder if there's much chance for him now, especially as Eddie Jones has exhibited a willingness to go with Ben Teo.

  30. #230
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    Bit surprised 'Nony wasn't back here to celebrate the win over South Africa, although the way that ended then maybe it didn't feel quite so much like a win as it would normally.

    I think what the autumn has maybe proved is that Wales are a bit more up and down than England and Ireland. They've got undeniable qualities and when you come up against them at the races they are a difficult proposition, but they'll also struggle to reach that form as consistently as the really good teams.



    Meanwhile Saracens seems to have struggled through the international window, and I bet Shinobi is loving seeing Gloucester flying in the Premiership table.

  31. #231
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    So off season down south. People are still ridiculously calling for Cheika to be sacked. If we sack the choach every time we lose a couple of matches we will never have a chance to get any kind of momentum. We have also cut down on our domestic teams which will hopefully concentrate the talent a little and lift the overall standard of our teams in the Super Rugby Comp which will hopefully flow onto The Wallabies.

    I think sadly the Wallabies will never be the best team in the world, our talent stocks are too split over 3 codes of which rugby is the smallest. If some of the guys who dominate League and AFL here were to have grown up playing rugby instead of their sport we would potentially have a much stronger base to build a team from but domestically those two other sports are just much bigger deals.

    Who do you guys have as favourites for the Six Nations?

    Kenny Omega v Chris Jericho: Judas In My Mind

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  32. #232
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    Natwest Six Nations 2018

    The Six Nations, with some of the most keenly felt rivalries in all of sport, is fast approaching. The first game is 32 days and 3 hours away from now.

    Right now England are odds on favourites to win. This reflects both their status as the most likely champions but also the fact that they are traditionally over-backed. Still, they have a great chance of winning three consecutive titles for the first time in the six nations era.

    But Ireland won't be too far behind. Only a fool would say they have no chance. They have beaten New Zealand and more recently humbled South Africa, which means they can absolutely beat England on their day. And there is huge confidence amongst Irish fans that they'll do just that.

    There's a flurry of bets coming in for Scotland, who are looking better than they have for a generation and have the advantage of playing England in Edinburgh.

    Wales have injury issues to overcome, France are all over the place, and Italy are expected to just make up the numbers again. But don't be surprised if any of those teams turn the form book upside down.


    Right, that is my quick look at the tournament. Who have you got, and why? And how will your boys do?

  33. #233
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    To make some bold predictions...

    Wales will come bottom.
    Italy will come 4th above France and Wales.
    Scotland will beat England in Scotland but England will win the tournament.

  34. #234
    Can't really see past England - if we're going to be serious contenders for next year's World Cup, we have to be targeting a Grand Slam. To do it, we've got to see off a strong Ireland team, and a resurgent Scottish side that is probably stronger than it has been at any point in the last 25 years. The challenge for Eddie Jones is getting his combinations right, and there are question marks over a number of players; Dylan Hartley is under pressure, and is not performing at club level. What is the best midfield combination? The likes of Henry Slade are asking big questions - are Farrell and Joseph the right combination at 12 and 13, or should Ford make way to accommodate a creative centre? The spectre of Manu Tuilagi looms large, too - despite having made no imprint in the Jones era, it's clear that if fit, he will be in the thoughts of Eddie Jones. It's a big spring for Mike Brown, too.

    I watched Gloucester play Sale at the weekend - I've caught three games at Kingsholm this season, and somehow we've won all three under different types of pressure each time. The Premiership table just looks wrong at the moment; Leicester down in 9th, Northampton Saints 10th. Saracens are somehow 2nd, despite a horrific run in recent months. It makes it very difficult to predict who might end up in the playoffs - you would assume at this stage Exeter will be there, and Saracens will be favourites to make it too, but it would only take a tricky couple of weeks for any of the next few to drop out of contention completely. It's a very intriguing season, and there's plenty of time for players to put themselves forward a year out from the World Cup. There's some big name players not really delivering at the moment, and some unknowns making waves.

  35. #235
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    Some interesting thoughts on England there. Arguably the hooker's shirt should go to Jamie George but it looks as if for now, he's going to stick with Dylan Hartley. As for the centres, right now I think Tuilagi is further away from getting a game than you might think. Doesn't seem to be in with much of a chance until he puts down some consistency for his club.

    Slade is in the mix for sure, especially with the injuries to Teo and Daly that have occurred in recent weeks, but I'm not 100% sure he's done enough to get them to unseat Farrell or Ford, or to break that axis that Eddie Jones seems to like. If he is going to get in it'd probably be at the expense of Joseph, who Jones has been willing to drop in the past anyway. The fact you've got Piers Francis in the Brighton training squad seems to indicate he wants to stick with two playmakers, too.

    If there's one area I think other teams may just have the edge on England, it's the back row. Robshaw is a doughty pro and Vunipola is great when he's fit, but you can't rely on the latter and Robshaw is a good player rather than a world beater. And I don't think we've got an experienced, genuine seven - and that's in an era where some teams are opting for a second seven style player at blindside. If Billy Vunipola were to go down injured then I don't imagine there's a trio we could play that would match O'Brien, O'Mahoney and Stander as a unit. Not on paper at least.


    Right now this is who I imagine has the shirts (not saying it's who I'd pick) and judging by who is currently fit...

    M. Vunipola, Hartley, Cole; Launchbury, Lawes; Robshaw, Itoje, B. Vunipola; Youngs, Ford; Farrell, Joseph; Nowell, May, Brown.

  36. #236
    Who would you pick, out of interest?

    This would be my team...

    Watson, Nowell, Daly; Joseph, Slade; Farrell, Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Cole, Launchbury, Itoje, Robshaw, Underhill, B Vunipola.

    Finishers: Hartley, Marler, Sinckler, Lawes, Hughes, Care, Ford, May

    Jones has gone out of his way this week to say Tuilagi needs to shift some timber to stand a chance of getting in. England don't need him at anything less than his fittest and strongest - we have too many good players to need to waste a pick on a half fit Tuilagi. That goes for the whole squad, actually. Owen Farrell might be the only player you'd risk with an injury.

  37. #237
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    Exactly the same front 8 as you.

    A few months ago I was going for Watson at full back but I think he's declined a bit and Brown is finding his form again. And then I would probably err on the side of caution and stick with Ford/Farrell.

    So same front 8 and then backs of Brown, Nowell, Daly; Joseph, Farrell; Ford, Youngs.

    It's a far less bold team selection, I have to admit that.

  38. #238
    With all that being said - I think we'll see a horses for courses type of approach. The team I've picked will probably cut teams like Italy and Argentina to ribbons, but will get murdered by New Zealand. Your side might be a little more sluggish in attack, but probably a safer bet against the big Southern hemisphere sides and Ireland.

    There's only a couple of players I think are nailed on for the World Cup, though. Itoje, Launchbury, Vunipola, Youngs and Farrell. The rest...you never know. There's loads of competition for places. Neither of us mentioned George Kruis, for example. Marcus Smith could make a push as a wildcard selection. There's talk about young Ben Vellacott at scrum half getting England honours (he's represented Scotland youth groups) - given the way he's forced his way into the Gloucester team in recent weeks, I wouldn't be shocked, and the kid is electric.

  39. #239
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    There's also a bit of a swings and roundabouts thing going on. Ford keeps you moving forward more than Farrell and is probably a bit more of an inventive 10, so what you maybe lose from not having Watson in you probably make up there. Similarly, we've seen Farrell unleash Joseph and Daly in ways that a more traditional 12 just probably wouldn't. I admit, though, that Brown is definitely a bit of a safety first pick, even though he has had a few good games lately.

    I agree there's only a couple nailed on. Funny you mention Kruis, was just thinking about him the other day. The Lions did him no favours really, and he doesn't seem the same player since he was dropped after that first test. He's still good, but when you add that Launchbury and Lawes have both raised their games massively, that Itoje is such a genetic freak, and Jones has shown willingness to look at other locks too, it means you end up on the outs. Hearing great stuff about Smith, you've got to think this 'apprentice' role is about getting him ready for the world cup. Will have to keep my eyes open for Vellacott but did see he'd scored a try for Gloucester recently. Scotland are going to be livid as we've had Gary Graham off them too by the looks of things, and renaissance or note they aren't in a position to lose good players to us.



    To try and make this a bit less anglocentric, I'm going to offer my 15 for an injury hit welsh side when they line up at home against Scotland. I am assuming that there are no more setbacks but that the people who are supposed to miss out, will.

    L. Halfpenny, L. Williams, S. Evans; S. Williams, H. Parkes; D. Biggar, R. Webb; R. Evans, K. Owens, S. Lee; A.W. Jones, C. Hill; J. Navidi, J. Tipuric, A. Shingler.

    There's an argument that Jonathan Davies brother, the Scarlets flanker James, should be in the side anyway, but given the injuries you'd have to think he'll get a call. But it's a big ask. With the elder Davies missing, and then Warburton, Faletau, Moriarty and Lydiate all likely missing in the back row, not to mention no George North, no Jake Ball... there's going to be a lot of pressure on this team to deliver despite missing some senior players.

  40. #240
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    If there is a way into the England side, it might be at lock. Lawes admitting his own form hasn't been great might open a door for Kruis or even Isiekwe. Though for the tests and starts especially, it probably just settles the debate about where Itoje plays, and he'll fit in there next to Joe Launchbury. I'm not convinced you can get Itoje and Robshaw into the same back row successfully anyway.


    Ireland have been relatively lucky with injuries so far, but they've had a bit of bad luck now. First choice centre pairing is disrupted as Ringrose will miss at least the start of the Ashes. Bit of debate in some of the Irish papers about how Schmidt will change it up and whether Henshaw will move across or not. Still not a patch on the injuries the Welsh have. You can add Hallam Amos to the list above, too.


    Just to round it all off, Scotland are missing a prop through injury, but will be glad to have Hogg back if his return goes as expected.

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