Sunday, June 29, 2014

Scotland 0, International travel and injuries 1

 Lood de Jager
 Lood de Jager (picture http://bit.ly/1ofjwEk)

It was Scotland 0, International travel and  injuries 1 in the Scots final tour match. Even against a slightly experimental Springbok side, Scotalnd would have needed a full rested team to even get close. As it was, they were blown away for 20 minutes, made a comeback for 20 minutes, but then surrendered the second half completely. 

For the Boks, Pollard had a good solid debut, de Jager was great with great with 17 tackles and 2 tries, Burger made 19 tackles and Fourie du Preez is the best distributor of the ball in world rugby. But, really, they were all good. For Scotland, Pyrgos looks like their best option at 9 now by a long way. Rob Harley made 16 tackles and looks like one to watch.

Tough end to the season for the Scots, but 20 minutes on top against the Boks isn’t too shabby, I think Vern Cotter has a lot more to get from these guys.

Saturday , June 28
South Africa 55 - 6 Scotland

Friday, June 27, 2014

Scotland have their work cut out against the Springboks!

 Handre Pollard
 Handre Pollard ( picture http://bit.ly/ToJ6LX )

After a feast of international rugby over the last month, the well has finally run with just one remaining match. Scotland have travelled around half the world and three continents to arrive at their final tour match, a date against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth. The Springboks haven’t tampered too much with the team that gave them 3 from 3 this month, with  Handre Pollard, the U20 sensation the only noteworthy change, the rest look like squad rotations. Without taking anything away from Wales, they were rubbish last week, and deserved to lose, so I’m expecting a backlash from them.

Scotland have shipped a fair few injuries on their trip, and field some inexperienced players in the pack. They have a run of victories under their belts, but this is a massive step up again, playing 12th in the worlds to 2nd in the world. They have physicality in spades, but that is going to be tested by the daddy of all physical teams, and their backline play, while developing, is going to struggle to be incisive. Overall, it could be a tough day at the office for the Scots, so I’m going with a decent Springbok win.

Saturday , June 28
South Africa vs Scotland

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Good news for Scotland, heartbreak for Wales

 Lions 2009: Bakkies Botha's ban for dangerous play is upheld after unsuccesful appeal
 Missed (http://bit.ly/1uU3wIL)

Scotland struck a blow for the North with a hard fought victory over Argentina on Friday. They might do their fans a favour and stop leaving it up until the last minute to win, but the wins are coming, and that has to be a confidence booster.

I didn’t see it, but France pulled their normal stunt of trying only 33% of the time, all in the second test this time.

England meanwhile, couldn’t bring the same intensity of the previous two weeks to their last match. In the first half, this wasn’t New Zealand finding a new gear, it was a racing bike v a tricycle. England to their credit managed to draw the second half – they are a good team with a lot of potential, and just need a few players back and more matches under their belts. The All Blacks match at Twickenham in November will be eye wateringly intense.

South Africa and Wales wrapped things up, with a horror show loss for Wales in the last two minutes.
Leading by thirteen points with 8 minutes to go, they must have felt like their second victory ever over the Boks was in sight. But shipping a try and then a penalty try took it all away from them. South Africa were there for the taking,  but Welsh indiscipline, bad luck and harsh rulings conspired against them. They need more leadership – after Charteris’s penalty, the old heads should have calmed it down, even if it meant conceding a try and then getting  down the other side of the field. South Africa looked like they were expecting a cake walk, they need Bakkes back, and need to find a bit of leadership themselves.

Finally, Japan under Eddie Jones claimed another scalp in the shape of Italy.

Saturday , June 21
Australia 39 - 13 France 
New Zealand 36 - 13 England 
South Africa 31 - 30 Wales 
Japan 26 - 23 Italy 
Friday , June 20
Argentina 19 - 21 Scotland 

Friday, June 20, 2014

France are the great hope for the North this weekend!


 'mon Thierry (picture http://bit.ly/1kUkOQq )

Scotland get things going tonight with a tough tip to Argentina. The wins have been coming this tour,but this is their biggest test. Both teams have physical packs, and base their play around that, so its not likely to a feast of running rugby. You can take it as read that the breakdown is going to be a mess, there’ll be a least one major punch up, and that it’ll be a one score game, which I think Argentina will just shade.

New Zealand England is an interesting one. England have gone with the form players from the first two matches, while New Zealand are experimenting a little more.  The series may be gone, but there is still huge amount of determination from each side to get a result. I’m expecting the All Blacks to be a lot more relaxed, while England will be more determined than ever, likely to be the match of the weekend, with the  All Blacks just closing it out again.

Hopefully Australia France won’t be as dull as last week. I’d like to see at least ONE win for the North, and this match has the best potential to deliver that, so, ‘mon France!

South Africa Wales brings the weekend to a close, and the Springboks are going to be only to keen to bring the pain again. Wales will have to man up massively, but more than that, they have to re-discover that 15 man blitz attack that brought them 6 Nations glory. Hard to see that happening though, they look fed up and ready for their summer hols, so I expect the Boks to win without too much effort.

Friday , June 20
Argentina vs Scotland 
Saturday , June 21
Australia vs France 
New Zealand vs England 
South Africa vs Wales 14:00

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Argentina are tough with a capital F at home!

 
 Man on the rise( Picture http://bit.ly/1qi8dON )

Ireland wrapped up their first series win in Argentina, with a hard fought win in Tucum├ín. It wasn’t that pretty to watch, it was actually fairly ugly to watch, apart from a few flashes of class from each team.  Zebo took a well planned try, and Madigan closed it out with a typical slippery run – he is lethal from 5 meters out. MOTM for me was Rhys Ruddock, who put in a mighty shift, very hard to put down, and tackling like a Trojan. Ireland’s defense has not  been that flash this tour, and Argentina always bring a stifling physicality to things. So they probably had more good breaks than we did, but we kicked our penalties and played smarter rugby. Ireland haven’t had a series win down there for a good reason – they are tough with a capital F at home. Elsewhere, emerging Ireland emerged 66-0 over Russia, and the U”0’s lost their semi 42-15 to England.

England started red hot against New Zealand, winning the first half, but the All Blacks finally kicked into life, and ran in the tries to take the match away. England got a few tries back but the match wasn’t as close as the final score suggests. But England have showed they can perform, they just need to finish their opportunities better, and keep their focus for 80 minutes. Did the All Blacks score all their tries while England were down to 14? They are certainly nowhere near their best, and won’t want to be conceding three tries that easily again.

France turned up for the Australia match, it a was tight, fairly boring match really, but at least the French could hold their heads up again.  The series is gone, but they are in with a chance of a consolation victory next weekend.

Warren Gatland obviously gave the Springboks all the motivation they needed with his talk of a series win, absolutely thumping Wales in Durban. That was just raw power, turned up to 10. And in between the raw power was a lot of skilful back play that unlocked the Welsh defense all too easily. Wales are going to have to really man up next weekend, and match the Boks for brutality, otherwise, it’s only going one way.

Finally, Scotland squeezed past Canada, nothing too flashy, but at least the wins are coming.
International Match

Saturday , June 14
Australia 6 - 0 France
Argentina 17 - 23 Ireland
Canada 17 - 19 Scotland
South Africa 38 - 16 Wales
New Zealand 28 - 27 England


Friday, June 13, 2014

We want to see Ireland kick more arse faster this weekend!

 
 (picture http://bit.ly/1n8Kziy)

Ireland have made a number of changes to their lineup for Saturdays match with Argentina. This is a lot more like Irelands’ full team, and we want to see them kick more arse faster! Good to see some new names on the bench with Rob Herring, James Herring and Noel Reid getting the opportunity to show their wares. Argentina bring in two new players, but with most of their big names gone, I can’t see that they’ll be able to offer more than intensity and physicality, so a decent win for Ireland.

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best , 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements:16 Rob Herring, 17 James Cronin, 18 Jack McGrath, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Noel Reid

The All Blacks will hoping that the rust has been scrubbed off this week as they take on a full strength England side. Did England make New Zealand angry last weekend? Will they pay for it this weekend? I’m expecting it to be another tight match, still a home victory though. I interested to see how Care’s tempo will influence the English game. England play Canterbury on Tuesday and will play in special jerseys, which will later be auctioned and the funds donated to the Canterbury rugby earthquake charitable trust. Fair play.

Australia get to face the full French team this week. With Parra starting, France should at least be competitive, hopefully they’ve done a bit of tackling practice, but I think they’ll still lose.

Wales are looking for a clean sweep against the Springboks. Good to be positive, buuut… Wales are going to have to pull an awesome performance out the bag to do that, they haven’t been playing well for ages, and South Africa are just dripping with talent and experience. I think the Boks will get home easily enough.
Scotland have win under their belts as they face Canada  next. Canada should be tougher competition than the USA were, but the form is with the Scottish, so they should get that one over the line.

Finally, emerging Ireland take on Russia tonight, some real new faces there, but they should still do the business.

Emerging Ireland v Russia
15- Johne Murphy (Young Munster/Munster)*14- Craig Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster)13- Eoin Griffin (Galwegians/Connacht)* 12- Stuart McCloskey (Dungannon/Ulster)* 11- Andrew Conway (Blackrock College/Munster)* 10 - Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster) 9- Paul Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster)
1- Callum Black (Malone/Ulster)* 2- Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)* 3- Michael Bent (Dublin University/Leinster) 4- Mick Kearney (Clontarf/Connacht)* 5- David Foley (UL Bohemians/Munster)*
6- Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster)*C 7- Tommy O'Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) 8- Robin Copeland (Cardiff Blues)*

International Match
Saturday , June 14
New Zealand vs England 
Australia vs France 
South Africa vs Wales 
Canada vs Scotland 19:00
Argentina vs Ireland 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ireland and Australia roar home, the All Blacks squeak in!

 4 March 2014; Ireland's Iain Henderson after a press conference ahead of their side's RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against Italy on Saturday. Ireland Rugby Press Conference, Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
 ( picture http://bit.ly/1kQ42Y )

Ireland put Argentina away fairly easily in the end, it wasn’t a complete performance, they butchered a few chances, and gave the Argentineans way to much space sometimes, but for a second string side, it’ll do. Iain Henderson was my MOTM, he was everywhere, and doing good things too. Robbie Diack had a solid game, as did Darren Cave, there’s a bit of settling in of the combinations, but that’ll come. Zebo worked really hard, and great for Marmion and Ah You to get their first caps. Argentina couldn’t oftenput the phases together to threaten, and their discipline is poor. But they’ll step up again next week no doubt.

First up Saturday was New Zealand taking on a weakened England side. Turns out it was just a well for the All Blacks they were playing a B team, otherwise they wouldn’t have escaped with an unconvincing win, where a draw would surely have been the fair result. England matched them physically, and found gaps in their defense they are going to have to plug in a hurry. Ma’a Nonu, looks past his sell by date, Brodie Retallick made far more telling mid field breaks. I’m really looking forward to the second test, where there are going to be some interesting choices for Stuart Lancaster, with a lot of in form players.

France surrendered as only the French can do, apart from a few flashes from Chouly and Fofana, it was a forgettable day at the office for them. Having said that, Morgan Parra put them on the front foot immediately when he came on , and with a bit more talent to start next week, they might not completely disgrace themselves. For Australia, Israel Folau must rub himself in Vaseline pre match, he was nearly impossible to tackle or grab hold off. Looks like the Wallabies are back.

The Sprinboks dished out a heavy defeat in the end to a World 15, even if the visitors had the upper hand in the first 20 minutes. The Bok scrum needs a bit of work, but I’m amazed at the skills that players like Bakkies have come back with from Europe, he could take Nonu’s place in centre tomorrow! Calling up all their overseas players means that the Springboks now have a pretty staggering wealth of players to choose from.

Finally, Scotland got the Cotter win off to a good start with a win over the USA. They’ve always had the pack, but add in players like Hogg and Visser, a solid looking 10 in Finn Russell, and things are looking up for Scotland.

Saturday , June 7
Australia 50 - 23 France 
New Zealand 20 - 15 England 
Argentina 17 - 29 Ireland 
South Africa 47 - 13 World XV 
USA  6 - 24  Scotland 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Saturday internationals - get ready couch, it’s going to be along day…

 
 New cap (http://bit.ly/1hlx2X9)

That’s a serious line up of matches for Saturday! Get ready couch, it’s going to be along day…

The Irish match is the last of the day, and should be entertaining, albeit for the lack of Argentina’s European stars. Meanwhile Ireland have dragged their one European star half way across the world… You wouldn’t want to get carried away with how weak Argentina will be – they’re at home, and it’s going to be physical intense stuff. But because there’s not the quality there of their A team, it does give Joe Schmidt a chance to bring some new talent through. So great to see starts for Diack, Cave, Henderson and McGrath, and to have the likes of Marmion and Ah You on the bench. I think Madigan should be starting, and Sexton at home, but that’s me. I think Ireland’s defense will win it, comfortably.

In the order of play, there’s the All Blacks taking on a weakened English side. It should still be a good game, the AB’s will be rusty, and England have a lot of good players to choose from these days. I can’t see past an All Black win, but should be good to watch.

Australia have a weakened French side to take on – who knows which French side will turn up, so anything could happen there. The Wallabies are going to be on an up curve this year I think

The Springbok/World 15 match should be pretty awesome – that’s as strong a World 15 as you can get really, with a few South  Africans aiming to remind Heyneke Meyer that they should still be in the Springbok frame. The Springboks should win, but watch this space..

Saturday , June 7
New Zealand vs England 
Australia vs France 
South Africa vs World XV 
Argentina vs Ireland 
Sunday , June 8
USA vs Scotland 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Leinster get clinical!




 What did you think of Heaslip's haircut, Rob?

If it was ever in any doubt, Leinster underlined their class with a clinical win over Glasgow, to end their season on a high. Glasgow have great young team, and hung on well in the match up until the sixty minute mark. Attacking the Leinster try line, they turned over the ball, lost 75 metres, and the game in that moment. BOD may have limped off after 8 minutes, but the spirit of his play lived on, with fluid attacking moves that were just too quick and slick for Glasgow to cope with. Glasgow’s defense was murderously effective, driving Leinster back in the tackles, but Leinster had the variety in their game to cope with that and find another way through. In fairness to Matt O’Connor, Gopperth had his best match in an age, and Madigan at 13 is a very interesting proposition. Zane Kirchener has proved a very good buy, and D’arcy just oozes class and experience. And BOD got to say goodbye to the RDS with another good win, finally drawing his glittering career to close.

I was spot in England, where Northampton came out on top, in extra time over a Saracens side seriously up for the match.

And Toulon closed out their season in style, getting the double Heineken Cup and T14, and giving Jonny Wilkinson a fitting send off in the process.

RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 34 - 12 Glasgow 
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , May 31
Saracens 20 - 24 Northampton 
RaboDirect PRO12
Leinster 34 - 12 Glasgow 
Top 14
Toulon 18 - 10 Castres