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All Blacks to face England and Ireland next year

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The All Blacks have not faced England since Eddie Jones took over after the 2015 World Cup but that will change when they will face Ireland and England next year in November.

Irish media have reported that the All Blacks will take on Ireland in Dublin next November, continuing a rivalry which has produced several tight games under Joe Schmidt’s reign in charge.

A last-gasp 24-22 All Blacks victory in 2013 was followed by a 40-29 defeat in Chicago and 21-9 victory in Dublin last year, with the Chicago triumph being Ireland’s first win over the All Blacks.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt pinpointed the All Blacks as one of the teams on their November schedule.

“I think we’ve got Argentina and New Zealand,” Schmidt said in a press conference.

“You never know the tier two [opponents] until later but I think it is Argentina and New Zealand.”

There could also be another game on Ireland’s fixture at a neutral venue, potentially a second clash against the All Blacks, but Schmidt is yet to confirm details.

“We’ll always get asked for a fourth game. We are very conscious of looking after the provinces as well. It is a little bit of a compromise.

“We haven’t had a formal request from anyone yet but if there is one, as we got for the match in Chicago, then we’d consider it if it comes up and we’d try and stay in touch with the provincial coaches and see if we can make it work.”

The clash means that the All Blacks will play all of the current top five in the world rankings – with England (2) and Ireland (3) both on the end-of-year schedule, and the regular Rugby Championship games against Australia (4) and South Africa (5).

The Irish leapfrogged the Wallabies into third spot after defeating Argentina 28-19 in Dublin while Michael Cheika’s team recorded a surprise 53-24 loss to Scotland in Edinburgh.

The three-time Six Nations champions have enjoyed a memorable November test series, going through their three-match schedule undefeated after scoring wins over South Africa and Fiji as well as the Pumas.

Their 38-3 thrashing of the Springboks a fortnight ago was particularly noteworthy, as it was their largest-ever winning margin over the two-time world champions.

All Blacks best in the World for 8 years and counting

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If you where living in space the last 8 years or been in a coma then it will be news to you that New Zealand All Blacks have been the number side in the world for eight straight years now witha ranking of 93.99.

The closest ranked team after them is the English with 90.87. More than 10 ranking points seems to be a fair reflection on the gab between the All Blacks and the other

They moved into the number 1 spot in 2009 taking it from the Springboks

Over the past eight years as the number one team in the world they have taken two World Cup titles and from the 109 test they played they only lost nine and draw three. The brag with a avarange points difference of +2111 and average 4.4 tries a game.

The All Blacks have clearly been the best side in the world for almost 10 years now and still counting.

New Zealand edge French XV

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New Zealand managed to claim a 28-23 victory over a France XV in an entertaining contest at Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Tuesday.

Crossings from Liam Squire, Matt Duffie, Patrick Tuipulotu and Ngani Laumape got the All Blacks the victory but they held on in the end.

For France, Gabriel Lacroix (2) and Henry Chavancy claimed their five-pointers but they’ll know they could’ve made it a winning evening.

It was an entertaining first 40 in Lyon as France recovered from Squire’s 10th minute try, which was set up by a pass from Jack Goodhue.

Sopoaga converted the try but France were level five minutes later when Francois Trinh-Duc knocked over the extras to Lacroix’s crossing.

The end-to-end action continued when slick handling led to David Havili setting up Duffie on the right. But soon after, a stray pass was gobbled up by Lacroix near to his own 22 and he set off for a sprint to the line, beating Lima Sopoaga to the chalk as France now trailed 14-12.

Trinh-Duc though made amends for his conversion miss when adding a penalty on 36 minutes as France went in with their noses in front.

New Zealand went close to scoring through Nathan Harris but the TMO’s intervention stated that the visitors were in touch in the lead up. They were only denied for two minutes though as lock Tuipulotu got over to move his side back in front, with the extras making it 21-15.

One sensed the visitors were about to turn the screw and when Laumape barged over Vincent Rattez on 55 minutes it became 28-15.

Replacement fly-half Jules Plisson managed to reduce the gap to 10 points via a penalty goal and with Goodhue sent to the sin-bin with 10 minutes remaining, the French were very much back in the match and had their tails up. That seemed highly unlikely 15 minutes earlier.

Not now as flank Sekou Macalou’s break ended up with Chavancy finishing off and suddenly France were only five points behind at 28-23.

But New Zealand managed to hold off any further home attacks as the returning Goodhue booted the ball out with time up to seal the win.

The scorers:

For France XV:
Tries: Lacroix 2, Chavancy
Con: Trinh-Duc
Pens: Trinh-Duc, Plisson

For New Zealand:
Tries: Squire, Duffie, Tuipulotu, Laumape
Cons: Sopoaga 3, Mo’unga
Yellow Card: Goodhue

Barrett to captain All Blacks against Barbarians

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They are not quite the baby blacks but the team Beauden Barrett captains for the first time this week has a distinct next generation feel about it.

This match against the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday (NZT) could well be labelled opportunity day. Glance through the All Blacks starting team and every player, other than Barrett and possibly Waisake Naholo, are not considered incumbents.

That stretches to the bench where the All Blacks have, as expected, included all three rookies – Asafo Aumua, Matt Duffie and Tim Perry.

This match, the first of their five-match northern tour, was always going to see the All Blacks give fringe and new players chances.

“It’s pretty rushed for them isn’t it? Preferably you’d want to give them a couple of weeks before you even looked like putting them in but this Baabaas game suits having those boys in the side,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said of his rookies who have only spent one week with the team. “It’s too much to ask them to come straight in and play so we’ll put them on when things are right.”

From David Havili’s maiden start at fullback to Ngani Laumape’s anticipated crack at second five-eighth to Jerome Kaino’s long awaited return, talking points abound.

But among the raft of changes, Barrett’s selection stands out. Captaining the All Blacks in Kieran Read’s absence is a special honour in his 60th test. Barrett is sure to bring spark and guidance to an otherwise green backline that also features Seta Tamanivalu’s first test start on the left wing.

There was a school of thought this match offered a repeat chance for Lima Sopoaga to learn and grow after his disappointing outing in the last Brisbane defeat. But with Barrett sitting out that match with concussion, having come off in the first half in Cape Town, the All Blacks feel their star playmaker needs game-time before the French test in Paris next week.

“We need a leader and it’s a good opportunity for him to lead,” Hansen said. “He needs a game – he hasn’t played for four or five weeks so we might as well start him and then we know where he is at.”

Outside TJ Perenara and Barrett there is intrigue in the young, attacking-minded midfield duo of Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown. Injuries haven’t helped, but the All Blacks midfield is yet to fully gel this year. While Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty will return next week, this is still a chance to apply pressure.

In the loose forwards Ardie Savea gets the nod with Matt Todd given another week to get his groin right and Sam Cane included as cover, probably for openside and No 8. Savea’s presence sets up a clash with brother Julian who will run out for the Baabaas. Vaea Fifita wears the No 6 jersey for the third time this year, pushing Kaino to the boot of the scrum.

Hansen made it clear what he expects from Kaino after the 81 test veteran missed the last seven tests.

“Just want to see Jerome. He’s a physical player; good ball runner. He hasn’t had a lot of rugby so the gas tank will be running on empty pretty early I’d suggest but as I said to him ‘I don’t care if you only play for 30 minutes just give me everything you’ve got’ then we can build on there.”

The onus will be on Luke Romano to run the lineouts, and heat has been applied to Scott Barrett to raise his game with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock absent.

“There’s been an opportunity there for a few weeks we’re just wanting on someone to take it.”

With 13 Kiwis in the Baabaas squad, Hansen believes they will genuinely challenge.

“This will be a tough game I’m picking. It’s like a New Zealand trial so everyone will have plenty to say about it. We know the quality of the people that are in the Baabaas. It’ll give us a good gauge of where these boys are at.”

All Blacks team:
David Havili, Waisake Naholo, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Seta Tamanivalu, Beauden Barrett (c), TJ Perenara, Jerome Kaino, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Nathan Harris, Kane Hames

Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Tim Perry, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Lima Sopoaga, Matt Duffie

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Tragic news as Retallick loses unborn son

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Our thoughts and prays are with All Black Brodie Retallick who will miss next weeks clash with the Springboks after the death of his unborn son.

Retallick was rested for the All Blacks’ 36-10 win over Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday and was scheduled to join the team during the week.

“Brodie and his wife Niki have lost their baby boy prematurely, which is incredibly sad news,” Hansen said in a statement.

“We’re feeling for them at this sad time and our thoughts are with them and their families.”

Retallick’s wife, Niki, had been pregnant with their second child, after the pair had a daughter last year.

Sam Cane, Ryan Crotty, Lima Sopoaga, Liam Squire and Sam Whitelock, who were also held back from the Argentina Test, have already arrived in South Africa.

The All Blacks go to South Africa having already wrapped up the championship after the Springboks drew 27-27 with Australia on Saturday.

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Franks out for rest of the season

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All Blacks prop Owen Franks has been ruled out for the remainder of the rugby season due to his ongoing Achilles injury.

Franks, who had already been ruled out of the Rugby Championship, will now also miss the end-of-year tour after deciding to undergo surgery on Friday.

The All Blacks and Crusaders had been managing Franks’ problem all year, but he was a late withdrawal from the second Bledisloe test after the injury became more serious.

“It’s better to get it right and let him have a full recovery and a pre-season and get back for the Crusaders,” Hansen said today.

The All Blacks will also be without Waisake Naholo for this weekend’s clash against Argentina, with the Taranaki winger ruled out due to a concussion suffered against Counties Manukau.

Auckland flanker Blake Gibson has been called into the squad, with Hansen wanting to have a closer look at the 22-year-old within the All Blacks environment.

Ryan Crotty, Sam Cane and Wyatt Crockett have all overcome their respective ailments to be fit to play on Saturday night.

While Cane is available to play the Pumas on Saturday, Gibson’s inclusion is significant because it gives an indication of the selectors’ thinking in terms of a succession plan.
Matt Todd would have been next in line but has fractured a hand, with Hansen saying Otago pair James Lentjies and Dillon Hunt are also in the mix.

“With Matt Todd getting injured it created a thought process of ‘gee whizz, who is next?’,” Hansen said. “It came down to Blake and the two Otago boys Lentjies and Hunt, and we just felt let’s have a look at Blake this week and get some better information on him. You can watch as many games as you like but having him in your training environment is good and in the next wee while we’ll probably have a look at the other two as well.

“[Blake] is good over the ball – he’s a strong, physical player, his history in the game is pretty good. He’s a New Zealand under-20 player with a lot of talent and has done a good job, although he’s copped a few injuries, with the Blues and Auckland.”

Hansen hinted at making changes to his line-up for the test at Yarrow Stadium.

“It’s a fine line. On one hand you’re looking to grow your squad. On the other hand you’re trying to grow combinations. If you chuck in all the travelling as well – it’s a lot of travelling. Whatever we do it will cause some conversations so that will be good for the game. The expectation will be that we will field a very good side and we’ll go from there. It doesn’t matter who plays, the expectation is we will do well.”

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Savea drop out of All Blacks squad

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Julian Savea has been dropped from the All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship after the squad was announced by coach Hansen.

Savea has been in and out of  the team for some time now and question marks over his discipline and on-off form over the last couple of season.

A devastated runner with the ball and try scoring monster is what most people see when the name Julian Savea.

His defence have always been a question mark and he was not seen as a good player under the high ball.

A fit-again Nehe Milner-Skudder makes his return to the team and a recall for prop Nepo Laulala, the 33-man squad contains the majority of frontline players that featured against the British & Irish Lions.

Laulala’s call-up comes in the absence of Charlie Faumuina, who is plying his trade overseas.

All Blacks squad:
Forwards – Dane Coles, Nathan Harris, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire.
Backs – Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Lima Sopoaga, Ryan Crotty, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett, Israel Dagg, Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith.

SBW cleared to play Aussies

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All Black centre Sonny Bill Williams will be available to face Australia in their Rugby Championship opener following a suspension hearing.

An appeal by Williams against the matches which a disciplinary committee counted towards his four-week suspension following his red card for dangerous charging contrary to Law 10.4(g) during the second New Zealand versus British and Irish Lions Test in Wellington on 1 July has been upheld by an appeal panel independent of World Rugby.

A game being played by New Zealand against Counties Manukau and Taranaki on 11 August that had been excluded from the suspension by the original disciplinary committee has now been deemed to comply with the regulations’ definition of a “match” and, as such, that match will be included as part of the player’s suspension. Accordingly, Williams is suspended from all forms of rugby up to and including 11 August.

The hearing took place on 1 August and was heard by an appeal committee that is independent of World Rugby, chaired by Mr Justice Graeme Mew (Canada) along with Shao-Ing Wang (Singapore) and Stefan Terblanche (South Africa).

All Blacks get ready for Championship

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With the Vodacom Super Rugby coming to the end this weekend the Rugby Championship nations are getting ready for what should be a very exciting international season.

All Blacks coach Hansen has named three new players when he announced a wider training squad this week.

These include Highlanders pair Richard Buckman (utility back) and Tom Franklin (lock), along with Chiefs prop Atu Moli, as they prepare in Christchurch.

Off course no Crusaders players were named in this training group due to the Super Rugby final this week in Johannesburg.

The final squad for the Rugby Championship will be named on August 7.

All Blacks coach Hansen said the new faces involved because they had the opportunities to bring them in while the Crusaders were away for the Super Rugby Final in South Africa.

Rather than waste the opportunity we’ve seized it with both hands and brought people in that we want to find a little more about, other people that we think aren’t far from getting in the squad,” he told the All Blacks’ official website.

Atu Moli is a young tighthead prop and we’ve just lost Charlie [Faumuina] so we’re looking to the future and it’s a good opportunity for him to come in and work with someone like Mike Cron on the scrummaging side of his game and then, after the camp, we can know a little bit more about him.”

Buckman is a utility player and who can play in multiple positions along with Ngatai and others.

We don’t know a lot about him from a personal point of view,” said Hansen “We’ve not had him in any of our camps before, we’ve seen him play and we’ve liked what we’ve seen.”

Centre Malakai Fekitoa hadn’t been included in the camp but while he was still available until the end of the season it was felt he would be taking the place of someone they could learn more about, like Buckman.

Nothing had changed in the selectors’ thinking when it came to players who were heading overseas. If there were two similar players the player who was staying would be the one selected, Hansen said.

Chiefs utility Damian McKenzie is being looked at as a fly-half. “Damian [McKenzie] is a very, very good rugby player,” added Hansen “We see him as someone who could do that role [coming off the bench at first five-eighths] once we’ve seen him play some more rugby at 10.

There was no clear third fly-half at the moment behind Beauden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga but they were aware Waikato were going to play McKenzie at pivot while he was a good goal-kicker as well and he had been in fine form at full-back.

Looking at it from a World Cup perspective, Hansen said there could be value in giving McKenzie training time in order to be a prospective third half-back they could call on.

He’s got a big part to play in the All Blacks over the next few years, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

They were also having another look at lock Dominic Bird. He was a big man, and maturing while Patrick Tuipulotu was also back, both of them players they have had in the past and who they are still watching.

During the camp they would be looking to work on mental skills and the skill sets that they don’t get the time to work on during the heat of a campaign.

We won’t be doing a lot of normal Test-week training we’ll be breaking it down and spending a lot of time with the specialist coaches taking the skills that we think are critical to our game being at the level we need it to be,” explained Hansen.

All Blacks training squad:

Forwards: Dane Coles, Nathan Harris, Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Dominic Bird, Tom Franklin, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Akira Ioane, Jerome Kaino, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire

Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Lima Sopoaga, Richard Buckman, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Charlie Ngatai, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Julian Savea, Ben Smith

Sonny Bill Williams to miss first Bledisloe Cup clash

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Sonny Bill Williams will miss the first Bledisloe Cup Test between Australia and New Zealand after World Rugby confirmed his ban would run until Aug. 20, reports ESPN

All Blacks centre Williams was sent off in his side’s second Test defeat to the British & Irish Lions for a shoulder charge on Anthony Watson.

Earlier this month he was handed a four-week suspension, which equates in practice to four matches under World Rugby regulations.

The All Blacks had hoped to have Williams available again by Aug. 6 but the fourth match put forward, between Counties Manukau A and B a day previously, failed to meet criteria set by the global governing body.

World Rugby has also ruled that the All Blacks’ pre-Rugby Championship warm-up on Aug. 11, that involves both Counties Manukau and Taranaki, did not qualify as it will be played over three periods of 40 minutes.

All of which means the Rugby Championship opener between New Zealand and the Wallabies on Aug. 19 will now count as the fourth and final game of the ban, with Williams not available for selection until the All Blacks host Australia in Dunedin a week later.

‘It’s great for rugby’ – Hansen

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New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen expects his charges to be “sharpened” when they run out for the decisive third Test against the Lions.

After losing 24-21 to the Lions in Wellington in a series levelling result, it all comes down to Auckland this weekend for bragging rights.

Hansen has seen a positive of last Saturday’s result and believes his men should relish the challenge that awaits them at Eden Park.

“If we want to see our game continue to grow, to foster the things that it does in the way of camaraderie, to teach us lessons about life, good and bad, we have got to keep encouraging our game to be strong,” he told the All Blacks website.

“The big thing about when you lose is that it’s painful isn’t it? It sharpens the mind, it sharpens the attitude. You look at things probably a little deeper than you normally do.

“We try to learn when we win, but in this case we had a side that beat us because on the day they were a little better than us.

“We have to acknowledge that and then go: ‘Okay, how can we be better than them?’ We’ll do that through the week, do our best to stay 15 on 15 and then see if we can get some strategies going.”

Defeat at home is a rare thing for New Zealand but coach Hansen again views last weekend’s loss as something they can use to their benefit.

“Sometimes we brush over the cracks that are there. When you lose, the cracks get exposed,” Hansen said.

“There’s not a genuine Test match that doesn’t challenge you physically, that doesn’t challenge you mentally. It’s great for rugby, and it’s great for this team of ours. We’re having to learn, as a young team, how to cope with that. So it’s good.”

He added: “Rugby has been needing something like this for a while. It’s now got it, so everyone will be a bit nervy about that because it could go either way and how exciting is that?

“It’s moments like this that go down in history and excite young people to say: ‘Hey, I want to be part of this’, not only as a player, but also as a fan.”

Lions win second test to keep series alive

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It was a nervous start for both teams as they try to settle down in the test match with the All Blacks with ball in hand first up.

The Lions started the get ball in hand and they made some in rows in the All Blacks half but little knocks and forward passes stopped their progress.

The All Blacks got first opportunity to score points but Barrett first kick went against the upright.

With both team trading penalties, the big moment in the test came when Sonny Bill Williams was send off the field with a red card for a shoulder against a player head.

The referee had no other choice than giving him a red card as the law protect the players head. This gave the Lions a one-man advantage for the rest of the test.

Hansen then took Kaino off, and put Laumape on in midfield to get a centre pair in the rainy condition, it was a brave call to say the least.

The All Blacks kept the pressure on the Lions even with 14-men and the teams were only able to trade more penalties before halftime to have a 9-all sharing of the scoreboard.

The last part of the half the All Blacks made a big step-up to keep the Lions in tack.

The second half had it all as they two teams gave it all in Wellington and it was the All Blacks that took the lead with the one man down and kept the penalties coming.

They went into a lead that seems to have the Lions scrabbled for bits and pieces but also force them to make allot of mistakes.

The Lions got a blow early in second half when they got a yellow card which have been easily a red card with a shoulder to Barrett head but the French referee decided it is just a yellow card.

The Lions finally got things together to score the first of their two tries in the match. This seemed to make the turnaround for them as they started to dominate and hit the All Blacks back as well.

When the second try was scored they were level on 21 on the scoreboard with ten minutes to go.

Playing in the right areas of the field they forced an important penalty with a few minutes to go and took the lead 24-21.

Handling the pressure in that final minutes of the test they hold on and got the win to take the series to the final test to decide who will take this one.

The Lions showed great character and deserved the win leaving the All Blacks having to take the fact that they did not score a try and must do it all next week again to win the series.

The scorers:

For New Zealand:
Pens: Barrett 7
Red Card: Williams

For British and Irish Lions:
Tries: Faletau, Murray
Pens: Farrell 4
Con: Farrell
Yellow Card: Vunipola

Preview: All Blacks v British & Irish Lions

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To be brutally honest New Zealand should seal the series this weekend against the British & Irish Lions but would it not be great for the series if they do manage to beat the All Blacks in Wellington to take it to the last test next week.

The problem the Lions face this week is far bigger than the previous week as they will have to cope with the fact that they were beaten up front last week and in  the small battles at ruck time.

The skills from the All Blacks was also as expected far better than that of the Lions and they have taken the opportunities which on the other side the Lions did not manage.

This week also see the All Blacks selecting a team that looks like they will be going out full on attack which does not spell anything good for the Lions.

What does may work in the Lions favor is the fact that rain is expected on Saturday but then again we have seen that the All Blacks skill and attacking ability does not suddenly take a back seat when they play in wet conditions.

Lions coach Gatland has also made some selections that raised eyebrows with Ben Te’o that was one of the best Lions players on the field being drop to the bench for the second test.

 

The other selection that seems strange was that e dropped last week captain O’Mahony totally from the match day squad and promoted Warburton to captain and a start in the second test.

Warburton have not really shown good form this year and in the tour so far but he is taking a last resort chance as this is do or die for the Lions comes Saturday.

England’s Itoje gets a well deserved start in place of Kruis which should put some more fire in the Lions pack.

Gatland also rolled the dice and picked Sexton at ten and Farrell at twelve in the backline.

 

The All Blacks too have made changes, although theirs were enforced due to the absence of Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty. That means the chief destroyer of the Lions for the Highlanders, Waisake Naholo, comes in, as does Anton Lienert-Brown, with both high-class internationals.

With Naholo and Rieko Ioane at the wings the Lions can expect a All Blacks team that will run at them all day and these two big boys can run for miles and do not mind the contact aspect of the game.

What ever happen this is going to be a classic and one of those games that you will not be able to turn away for one minute. This will be a test that will define Gatland as he as a coach have never beaten the All Blacks.

 

Prediction: Simple ……All Blacks by 20 points.

The teams:

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ngani Laumape

British & Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Sam Warburton (c), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell

Naholo back at wing for All Blacks

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All Blacks coach Hansen made two changes for the second test against the Lions with Naholo and Lienert-Brown starting the test.

Naholo comes in for injured Ben Smith but will play on the wing with Dagg moving to the fullback position. Lienert-Brown gets his chance at centre in partnership with Sonny Bill Williams whihc makes way to include Laumape on the bench.

Hansen said: “Whilst it’s disappointing to lose both Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty, it creates an opportunity for others. ‘Izzy’ (Israel Dagg) is a world-class back three player, as is Anton in the midfield, and both Waisake and Ngani are coming into the Test side following outstanding performances against the Lions for their respective Super franchises.

“Whilst we were happy with the win last weekend, we know that it was just a start, in what is a three-test Series. That means the job is far from done. It’s going to require us to take our game to a higher level. It’s going to be very demanding, physically and mentally, on both sides.

“We’re aware the British and Irish Lions have their backs to the wall and will chuck everything at us to keep themselves alive in the Series. They are a quality side who we respect immensely.

“In reality, last week’s Test could’ve gone either way had they taken more of their chances. Our job will be to make sure that we shut down their counter-attack better than we did last weekend and at the same time, win the critical moments across the 80 minutes. As always, it’ll start with the battle of the tight five.

“We’ve worked hard throughout the week in our preparation here in Wellington and are now looking forward to Saturday.”

This test can give the All Blacks the series win and we can expect that they will give it their all to secure the win and the series win. One thing we always know about the All Blacks is that they start slow in the year but every week they get better and better so we can expect a good test match as both sides wants to win this one badly.

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ngani Laumape

All Blacks still miles in front of the rest

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I been told the last couple of weeks that the All Blacks are beatable, that the Lions will beat them and now the Aussies are also saying that they will win against the All Blacks in this years Rugby Championship.

Is it just me or has the world gone absolutely mad?

I do not think people really see  the distance the All Blacks are in front of the rest in world rugby. The fact that they can loose their front line center and fullback early in a match and still make the British And Irish Lions look ordinary should tell the story to most but then you have those dreamers that will tell you otherwise.

Maybe we do not understand what the word  skill really means.

Skill is not just the ability to throw the ball around make a backward flip pass or a chip kick and pass kick, skill in the game of rugby are much much more.

It is the ability to see space, to stay calm when you up against it, to make something out of nothing and the ability to last longer than the other team in the game.

That is just a few I mentioned because the game of rugby today is all about skill and if you do not have it you cannot be compare to a team like the All Blacks. They are the best coached, conditioned and have reserve players that will be in most countries test teams who do not even have a test spot.

There is one team that have come closer to the New Zealanders and that is England but in the same breath they have not played the All Blacks in recent years so we cannot really compare the two.

Lions supporters are going on, on the fact that Ireland had the one win in USA last year and that England equal their wins in a row against tier 1 nations, but that counts for nothing as no team have been able to beat the All Blacks consistently in the past 10 years.

To win a once of match against the All Blacks or to run them close does not mean the gap is closing it just mean that on the day you came close or you succeed. Teams and coaches have tried many things to get under the All Blacks skin but did not really succeed. Gatland have tried as the last couple of weeks he first said they scrum illegal, then it was blocking and after the first test he suggest the All Blacks are going out to injure his star scrumhalf Conor Murray, this all just seems a bit desperate from a coach that knows he is under pressure.

The Lions are a great group of players but making so many mistakes in a test match will never get you pass the All Blacks as you need to be perfect and have some luck your way as well.

What does make the All Blacks better than other international teams?

It all starts with the way New Zealand rugby does things. For all New Zealanders it is about what is for  the better of All Blacks rugby, not provincial rugby not franchise rugby but All Black rugby. They all have this same common goal and they all work towards it and most important they have been lucky enough that the All Blacks jersey means more to most players in New Zealand than the big bucks in Europe and Japan.

Now for Cheika to come out and say that his awful Aussies have a chance against the All Blacks is not even a joke it is just a plain stupid comment.

Australia problems is not with Cheika and his national team it goes to the Super Rugby teams who have been absolutely horrible this year and they have now brought that culture to the national side. They do not look like a family in that team and the skills are absolutely a disgrace for Australian rugby. The players looked unfit with passion shown in their game.

The All Blacks and most New Zealand teams almost play the perfect game of rugby and to beat them you need to be near perfect everytime you run out against them and Australian rugby is not even close to that.

Skills and passing game has always been the one thing the Aussie teams had been good at if not the best, but to sit through any Australian Super Rugby match and now even their test team is worst than drinking “Kaster olie”

With a few weeks to go before the start of the Rugby Championship, one can only think that Cheika comments was what he had dreamed off on Friday night and not reality.

And for those still thinking the Lions will beat the All Blacks, you live in the same dream world as Cheika….

 

Brilliant second half gives All Blacks win in first test

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It was the All Blacks that got first blood in the three test series with a good win over the Lions on Saturday when they beat them 3-15.

The All Blacks were just too good in the second half and scored tries when it matters with the Lions that will be upset with the chances they missed with so much dominance in the first part of that second half.

The game started as we expected with both teams trying to take the lead and score first points.

The Lions had the better start and almost scored a try with in the first two minutes but only great defence bundled them out in the corner.

It was then the turn of the All Blacks to show their skills with the ball and attack the Lions lines. The Lions had to make some tackles to keep them getting close to the line.

Tackles going in from both side was massive as they try to get one past each other.

The All Blacks starting to win the mini battles and were camping inside the Lions twenty-two to force a penalty and the first points to take the lead 3-0.

The All Blacks kept the pressure on the Lions and from a quick penalty from Smith the ball went wide to Taylor on the wing and scored in the corner.

This gave them a lead of 10-0 after 20 minutes.

The Lions got some time on ball and got a penalty to get on the board. The All Blacks replied with a penalty themselves and the lead was 13-3.

Next, we saw the try of the season with the Lions running from their own twenty-two to score a brilliant try and reduced the lead to 13-8 after 37 min.

It seems that the Lions started to get back into the game at the end of the first half and with already Ben Smith and Crotty off for the All Blacks they took their chances.

The teams went into the break with the All Blacks leading 13-8.

The Lions was all over the All Blacks at the start of the second half putting huge pressure on the All Blacks.

Their defence have been brilliant knocking the All Blacks back each time they have the ball. That put huge pressure on the All Blacks and for the first time in a long time they looked like they were panicking.

With all the pressure, the Lions put on the All Blacks it was the All Blacks from a perfect scrum that scored next in the corner and took the lead to 20-8 after 58 minutes.

Lions were their own worst enemy not taking the chances coming their way in that second half.

The Lions started to struggle in defence and slipped tackles giving the All Blacks plenty of opportunity on attack.

The All Blacks as expected just stepped up another gear and scored another brilliant try after yet another penalty by Barrett to take the score to 30-8 with 7 minutes to go.

The Lions did get a chance to get over the line for a last time after the hooter to make the final score 30-15 but will feel well beaten by a better team.

Just too many mistakes from Lions on attack and not able to counter the brilliance of the All Blacks.

Next week it is Wellington turn for the second test as the All Blacks lead the test series 1-0.

Scorers:

All Blacks – Tries: Codie Taylor, Rieko Ioane (2). Conversions: Beauden Barrett (3). Penalties: Barrett (3).
British & Irish Lions – Tries: Sean O’Brien, Rhys Webb. Conversion: Owen Farrell. Penalty: Farrell.

Preview: All Blacks v British&Irish Lions

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The lines have been drawn in the sand and the time has come to see who will stand at the end of eighty minutes…

It is most properly the most anticipated test series in the modern time rugby  as the British and Irish Lions will face-off against the World’s number side in their own back yard.

Not even Hollywood could have scripted this better and we are in for an epic battle between two top sides for the next three weeks.

All these sideshows are done and dusted now and all that is left is for the real test to separate these two quality teams. Allot have been said about Lions coach Gatland but it it was time he made the hard decisions for the better of the team.

The biggest of them all is to not be drawn into selecting his tour captain for the first test but pick the best team who have been showing the form that is needed to take on the All Blacks. Peter O’Mahony will captain the side in the first test which see tour captain Sam Warburton starting on the bench.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland said: “We have picked a side based on form with a lot of players putting their hands up, especially from the Crusaders and Maori All Blacks games, and it was a lively selection meeting.

“The win against the Chiefs was also extremely important for the squad and some players played themselves into the side.

“We have continuously been strong at set piece and have been good defensively in the last two or three outings. But to beat the All Blacks you have to be courageous and play some rugby – you have to score tries and I think we have picked a team capable of doing that.”

Liam Williams was selected at fullback and Elliot Day on the wing. In the pack is exactly the same as the one that beaten the Crusaders a few weeks ago with the back row of O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau and Gatland added: “It’s a reward for how the back row has gone. There is a nice balance there while Peter captained the side against the Maori All Blacks and has done a good job.”

“We are excited about the 15 that take the field but also the very strong and experienced bench players who will have an impact.”

For the All Blacks their captain Read is back to lead his team on the field on Saturday which means that Ardie Savea moves to the bench. Ioane have replaced Julian Savea on the left wing as well for this important first test match.

In the midfield Hansen went for Crotty and Sonny Bill Williams which will see Lienert-Brown move to bench. With Barrett at the important ten jumper Hansen have not yet decided who between Cruden or Sopoaga will back him up on the bench, that decision will be made on Friday.

Hansen said: “This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions. But in the end the three selectors felt this was the best combination to take on the Lions in the first Test.”

Hansen added it was great to have Read and Crotty back.

“They’ve both been on target to return for this game all the way through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the squad, they’re really excited at what’s ahead of us.”I’d also like to congratulate Rieko on getting his first start for the All Blacks. His outstanding form throughout the season this year, including against the Lions, has earned him his start on the wing.”

Hansen said there was a massive amount of excitement within the team.

“There’s a real understanding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The players are well aware of the history of the All Blacks and the Lions and are determined to respect that history with their performances.

“We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team; probably one of the best to have toured here. It’ll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing Test to prepare for and to be part of. We know the importance of this match and we will bring real energy and intensity. It’ll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test.

“There will be a unique and electric atmosphere at Eden Park on Saturday night. It’s something we’re really looking forward to and we can’t wait.”

For sure this test match and the series will be won and lost at set piece time, without the ball you can have as many skilled players, but they won’t score any tries.

The All Black back line will be a handful but the Lions defence have been brilliant in the last three games. Apart from the forward battle that will be huge, we need to take note that the two best 10’s in the world at this stage will face each other. There play and partnership with their halfbacks will be crucial.

One thing is for sure, we cannot wait!

Prediction: Anyone that can predict this outcome is worth the money he spend on betting, this is going to be a tough one and I give it to All Blacks with 4 points just because they are at home.

Teams:

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 George Kruis, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Tadgh Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Jonathan Sexton, 23 Leigh Halfpenny

Action packed Rugby Weekend

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We moving into the second week of the June Internationals and we have some great exciting test matches to look forward to as well.

Last week we did not see any real surprises with the stronger teams winning their test matches but this week could see a change in the guard as some of those test matches were very close.

The U20 World Championships will conclude this weekend with England and New Zealand that will fight it out for the title on Sunday as they respectively beaten South Africa and France in the semi-finals earlier this week.

Here is the games to look forward to from the U20 World Championship:

Under 20 Championship 11th Place: Samoa v Argentina 09:45 on SS1

Under 20 Championship 9th Place: Ireland v Georgia 10:45 on SS1

Under 20 Championship 5th Place: Scotland v Australia 12:15 on SS1

Under 20 Championship 3rd Place: South Africa v France 13:15 on SS1

Under 20 Championship Final: England v New Zealand 15:45 on SS1

First up will be Tonga that take on Wales in a double header at Eden Park on Friday, with the All Blacks playing later there first warm-up match before next weekend’s first lions test. Wales will be slightly weakened as some of their star players are in the Lions squad but this is a perfect place to breed the new generation Wales players against a good Island team in the Tongans.

Wales coach Robin McBryde has named eight uncapped players in his matchday 23 to face Tonga at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.

Three of head coach McBryde’s eight debutants will start, including last season’s PRO12 top try-scorer Steffan Evans, who lines up on the left wing. Former Wales U20 forward Seb Davies will feature at lock, while European Player of the Year nominee Thomas Young packs down on the openside.

Gareth Davies and Sam Davies are named as the scrum-halves, with captain Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams filling the centre roles. Alex Cuthbert starts on the right wing, and Auckland native Gareth Anscombe at full-back.

The front row is comprised of Nicky Smith, Kristian Dacey and Tomas Francis, as Cory Hill joins newcomer Davies in the second row. Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi are named at six and eight respectively.

Ellis Jenkins and Cory Allen are the only capped players on the bench, while Scarlets duo Wyn Jones and Ryan Elias and Cardiff Blues’ Dillon Lewis form the replacement front row. Newport Gwent Dragons back rower Ollie Griffiths, Scarlets scrum-half Aled Davies and Gloucester-bound fly-half Owen Williams complete the bench.

Prediction: Wales to take this one by 16 points

Teams:

Tonga – 15 David Halaifonua, 14 Nafi Tu’itavake, 13 Siale Piutau (c), 12 Vili Tahitu’a, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Latiume Fosita, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi, 7 Nili Latu, 6 Dan Faleafa, 5 Sitiveni Mafi, 4 Leva Fifita, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Latu Talakai.
Subs: 16 Suliasi Taufalele, 17 Sila Puafisi, 18 Phil Kite, 19 Sione Tau, 20 Mike Faleafa, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 Kali Hala, 23 Kiti Taimani.

Wales – 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts (c), 11 Steffan Evans, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Nicky Smith.
Subs: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Ellis Jenkins, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Cory Allen.

All Black coach Hansen will be expecting his All Blacks side to hit the ground running on Friday as they prepare for the first test against the Lions when they face Samoa.

Highlanders and All Black number fifteen Ben Smith will lead the All Blacks against Samoa on Friday as he will be the 68th player to lead the mighty All Blacks. The team includes Hurricanes duo Jordie Barrett and Vaea Fifita, who set to make their Test debuts from the bench.

Another milestone in the match will go to Beauden Barrett as he will run out in his 50th Test. The match 23 sees World cup Winners Sonny bill Willians in his first game back for the All Blacks since the 2015 World Cup final and Harris also making a return to test rugby.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said: “We’d like to congratulate everyone who has been selected for this Test, particularly ‘Benda’ (Ben Smith), who will captain the side for the first time.

He’s been our Vice-Captain for a few years now and captain of the Highlanders, where he’s been doing a fantastic job, so was the logical choice. He leads by example and is an inspiration to his teammates.

“It’s also going to be a big night for Jordie and Vaea as they’re both likely to play a part on the night. They’ve both been in great form and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do at this level.

“Whilst we asked for this game to help us prepare for the Lions series, once it became a reality, it then took on its own importance — this is a Test match against a quality and very capable opponent.

“Samoa is about to kick off the qualifying stage of their Rugby World Cup campaign, so this will make them even more dangerous. The Samoans are always a challenge and will play with a high level of physicality and skill. At the very minimum, we will need to match that.

“This first week has been about bringing together the players from the five different Super clubs and reintroducing them to the All Blacks way. We’ve had a good week and are really looking forward to this match.

“It’s going to be a unique night with two Tests being played at the same venue featuring four teams that are well known to New Zealand fans. It’s a night that shouldn’t be missed, as I’m picking there will be a lot of great rugby played so get on down there and show your support.”

Samoa coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia has also announced his side for Friday’s Test match against the All Blacks as eight of the 23-man squad will be donning the famous blue jersey for the first time on Friday – though former Crusaders centre Kieron Fonotia is the only one who will feature in the starting XV.

29-year-old Fonotia will be making his debut alongside Stade Français prop Paul Alo Emile and Auckland scrum-half Auvasa Falealii, who are expected to be called on from the bench.

Joining the new boys is a swathe of established Test players who will balance out the arrival of the debutants with their experience, despite the absence of veterans David Lemi and midfielder Rey Lee-Io due to injury.

Ieremia said not starting so many debutants came about as a response to the threat of experimenting against the All Blacks.

“We are wanting to put on a performance that will make our nation and most importantly ourselves proud,” he said.

“Our performance will give us a ‘rugby barometer’ as to where are at – there is no better challenge and opportunity than playing the number one team in the world.

“This will give us an indication of where we are at, because it is important to build momentum going into June-July internationals.”

Eighteen of the players included ply their trade in the UK and France, with just five members of the squad based in the Southern Hemisphere. Tim Nanai-Williams is the only one who plays Super Rugby.

One can only see one winner here but this will be a hell of a match to watch as everyone is looking to see how the All Blacks will look on the field this year before they take on the Lions next week.

Prediction: All Blacks to win with 20 plus points

Team:

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Jordie Barrett

Samoa: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Albert Nikoro, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Tusiata Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Chris Vui, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Maatulimanu Leiataua, 1 Viliamu Afatia
Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Taiasina Tuifua, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Auvasa Falealii, 22 D’Angelo Leuila, 23 Ken Pisi

 

The last match on Friday will be the first of two test between the South African”A” side and the French Barbarians. A few fridges players have been called up to the South African “A” side for Springbok coach Coetzee to have a look at a little bit closer.

South African ‘A’ coach Johan Ackermann has named seven Springboks in his squad to face the French Barbarians at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Ackermann earlier appointed Juan de Jongh (19 tests) as captain for the two match series against the French Baabaas and also included fellow Springboks Lwazi Mvovo (17 tests), Ruan Combrinck (7 tests), Jano Vermaak (3 tests) and Uzair Cassiem (1 test) in the run-on team, while Trevor Nyakane (28 tests) and Francois Venter (3 tests) are on the bench.

Eight other players – Lionel Cronje, Dewaldt Duvenage, Ruan Botha, Wilco Louw, Franco Marais, Thomas du Toit, Ox Nche and Jason Jenkins – represented the Junior Springboks earlier in their careers.

French Barbarians head coach Pierre Mignoni has named a strong starting XV for the clash against South Africa ‘A’

The side will be captained by Lyon’s former France fly-half Frédéric Michalak who forms a halfback pairing with Bordeaux-Bègles scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues.

Elsewhere in the back-line, Louis Dupichot of Pau starts at full-back while La Rochelle’s Gabriel Lacroix and Arthur Bonneval of Toulouse are the starting wings and Jonathan Danty and Jean-Baptiste Dubie, who play for Stade Français and Bordeaux-Bègles respectively, line up as the midfield combination.

Prediction: South Africa to take this one by 10 points

Teams:

South Africa A – 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronjé, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Francois Venter.

French Barbarians – 15 Louis Dupichot, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Jonathan Danty, 12 Jean-Baptiste Dubie, 11 Arthur Bonneval, 10 Frédéric Michalak (c) 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Judicaël Cancoriet, 6 Anthony Jelonch, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Malik Hamadache, 2 Rémi Bonfils, 1 Khatchik Vartanov.
Subs: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Clément Ric, 18 Tommy Raynaud, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Romain Sazy, 21 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Clément Poitrenaud.

 

Saturday test matches kick of with a great one in Australia as Scotland will take on the Aussies early Saturday morning.

Scotland have been saying all week that they are confident in beaten the Aussies in their own back yard which makes up for a great test match as the brave Scots will surely go out with all they got against Australia. It has not been an easy year for the Aussies as they have been dumb in threats of law-suits and their Super Rugby teams being well below par so far.

As a national side the Aussies is a different cattle of fish and they will not be a easy bet to go against come Saturday morning.

Reds wing Eto Nabuli will make his Test debut for the Wallabies as he replace the Fijian Henry Speight, who has been ruled out with a hamstring strain.

That is the only change to the Wallabies starting XV that beat Fiji 37-14 last weekend.

It seems there is still no place for the former Aussie captain Moore in the starting team as he was named on the bench again for Saturday test against the Scots.

Meanwhile, Scotland have made eight changes to the team that beat Italy 34-13, with entirely new back-three and front-row combinations.

Prediction: Aussies should take this by 15 points

Teams:

Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: TBC on Friday

Scotland – 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid.
Subs: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Matt Scott.

Next up will be the big one on Saturday as the New Zealand Maori side take on the struggling British and Irish Lions side who should be close to the test side that will take on the All Blacks next week in the first test.

Just after the Lions supporters though that they are back on track with their great win over the Crusaders last Saturday they came back this week and loose a game they should have won against the highlanders. One thing the Lions will need to learn and learn fast is that any New Zealand team are fit and willing to play 120 minutes or more.

The game is finish when that final whistle blow…

This will be as close as they will get to a test for the Lions and surely this match is a must win at all course for the visitors.

The Lions have a strong side to take on the Maori team and it will be as hard as nails on Saturday.

The Maori side have a few names that could have easily have been in the All Black squad which makes this an even harder test for the visitors. The closes you will get to an All Black side is to face the New Zealand Maori team and that is exactly what the Lions will have to do on Saturday.

Prediction: For some reason I think that the Lions will win this one by 9 points

Teams:

New Zealand Maori – 15 James Lowe, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rob Thompson.

British & Irish Lions – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 George North, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Elliot Daly.

The second test for the Springboks will be much tougher than last week in Pretoria not just because the French have 9 of their Top 14 finalist back in the frame but they would have learned a bit more about the Springboks in last weeks lost.

Coetzee decided to keep the same team as what did the work for him in Pretoria with only Mapoe coming into the midfield with the head injury to Kriel.

There were talks this week that Coetee may opt to move Serfontein to the 13 jumper and bring in Frans Steyn at 12 but it seems the coaching team decided to go with continuity rather than make too many changes.

All five players who made their Test debuts last weekend – Andries Coetzee (full-back), Raymond Rhule (right wing), Courtnall Skosan (left wing), Ross Cronje (scrum-half) and Dillyn Leyds (utility back) – were retained by Coetzee, who said he wanted to maintain continuity and build momentum.

“We kept changes to a minimum and one change to the squad means we can continue to work on our continuity, which is so important,” he said.

“This is a new group, so playing together again means that the important combinations are gaining more experience. It is also nice to reward good performances and all of them deserve another opportunity.”

Upfront the Springboks will have a massive onslaught from the French and they still have no real fetcher in the team which could be a mistake going into this test match.

Although the Springboks did not loose the set pieces as such last week they also did not dominated it and we can expect a 40% improvement from the French in Durban this weekend.

Guilhem Guirado at two and Jefferson Poirot at number one will be a hand full and the Springboks will have to expect a tough old battle in the scrums with the French captain leading the way.

Prediction: It will be a huge improvement from France but the Springboks should still win this test giving the win to them with 6 points

Teams:

South Africa

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds

France

15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Romain Taofifeuna, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot

Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Julien le Devedec, 20 Bernard le Roux, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Nans Ducuing

 

It will be something of a pride thing for the Argentinians as well as to get a win at home on Saturday when they face England in the second test.

 

Each side’s respective defence coach might have not enjoyed reviewing the tape but England’s win ticked all the entertainment boxes, settled late on by Denny Solomona’s ultimate act of redemption with that solo try.

No wonder Argentina were spitting at the outcome, having been in a position to win the game after Juan Martín Hernández’s drop goal and after producing some sensational attacking rugby.

Daniel Hourcade will have been fuming but it certanily makes the task of motivating his team this week a lot easier. Making just one change to his side, the addition of Ramiro Moyano on the wing in place of Matías Moroni, the same group of players have been given a chance to make amends.

He explained: “We had control, but we lost and that gave us a lot of anger. We have focussed on being more precise and when we make mistakes we need to react faster so that [England] do not hurt us.”

Accuracy with ball in hand isn’t always easy to achieve when playing at the tempo Argentina have produced in recent years, but there is certainly room to be more accurate. Defence – making 62 tackles out of 79 last week – and the lineout with ten wins from 13 both need work.

As for England, Eddie Jones happily welcomes back Chris Robshaw to his back row but will be intrigued at how Piers Francis, making his first start, and Sam Underhill on debut get on.

Francis is starting to look like an excellent bit of business for Northampton Saints, with Blues supporters unhappy to see him leave and the well-travelled 26-year-old acquitting himself well on his first cap.

Underhill will be under slightly more pressure. The 20-year-old Bath-bound flanker has been hailed as England’s solution at number seven for close to two years now, the traditional style of fetcher that English rugby has lacked for some time.

His efforts for the Ospreys, and the consequent race for his signature along with Jones’ public approval, mean that expectation levels are higher than normal for Underhill. High hopes are warranted.

Win or lose, Jones is sure to be delighted at having built some depth and to have learned about a number of new and young players.

The Curry twins, Nick Isiekwe, Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Maunder might have all been with the U20s in Georgia over the last few weeks. The experience they will have gained with the senior group will have been of huge benefit moving forward.

Better off in terms of personnel for the return of Robshaw and with Underhill at seven – not that Tom Curry disgraced himself by any means last week – England look in a strong position to make it two from two on tour.

Prediction: As motivated as Argentina will be for revenge, England look strong at the breakdown this week and should be tipped to pick up a 20th win in 21 Tests under Eddie Jones. Argentina by 10

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertanou, 22 Juan Martín Hernández, 23 Matías Moroni

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Will Collier, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Denny Solomona

Other internationals taking place this weekend:

17 Fiji v Italy ANZ National Stadium, Suva 04:30
17 Japan v Ireland ECOPA Stadium 07:00
17 Canada v Romania Ellerslie Rugby Park 23:00
18 USA v Georgia Fifth Third Bank Stadium 01:00

 

The World Club 10s are also on this weekend which will fill the spaces between all the test matches.

The World Club 10’s is an 8-team, 10 aside invitational tournament featuring leading professional clubs from around the world including the Toyota Cheetahs, Western Force, Africa Pasic Dragons, Harlequins, Plus500 Brumbies, Vodacom Blue Bulls, Pyrenees and Bubota Spears.

The tournament is being held on the beautiful island of Mauritius and will feature clubs from all the greatest leagues in the world including Super Rugby, The English Premiership and France’s Top 14. The Stadium will have a real party atmosphere with music and entertainment all day including a fanzone just outside featuring food and drink stalls, a music stage and various other activities for fans.

Each Squad consists of 16 players, with 10 players on the field at a time. The matches consist of two 10-minute halves with a 2 minute half time.

The team is made up of 5 forwards (3 in the Front row, and 2 in the 2nd row), with 5 backs. In short the 10s format allows the traditional virtues of Rugby as a game for all shapes and sizes, and ensures that specialist positions of the XVs format are showcased in a shortened format.

The World Club 10s provides a Tournament which Professional teams play
alongside non-professional and social players compete in an environment that only the great sport Rugby Union can create.

The World Club 10s will be on Super Sport, you can get the full broadcast schedule on their website

The SuperSport Challenge is also ongoing here is the weekend matches….

15 Border Bulldogs v Eastern Province Kings BCM Stadium, East London 17:00
15 Griquas v Sharks Tafel Lager Park 19:00
16 Valke v Golden Lions Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park 14:30
16 Leopards v Griffons Olen Park, Potchefstroom 18:00
17 Welwitschias v Pumas Hage Geingob Stadium, Windhoek 14:00
17 Boland Kavaliers v SWD Eagles Malmesbury 15:00

Test matches will start on Friday morning already with three matches to look forward to….

 

 

Kaplan reveals the challenges of controlling an All Blacks test

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World Rugby’s most experienced referee has opened up on the “challenges” of controlling All Blacks tests and warned match officials to be vigilant of illegal New Zealand tactics in the upcoming Lions series.

In a column written for the London Telegraph, South African Jonathan Kaplan turned the spotlight on several of the world champions’ tactics at the breakdown and taking players out off-the-ball.

They were two of five “key areas” that Kaplan, the world record holder for the most tests (70) and who retired in 2013, targeted in the column which analysed why officiating Lions Tests in New Zealand is so challenging.

“New Zealand are masters of the subtle nuances which often determine the difference between winning and losing,” wrote Kaplan.

“I refereed the All Blacks 18 times, often in tough encounters where they invariably found a way to get over the line.

“It helps a lot to have a rugby culture ingrained in their youth and I believe they have the most developed philosophy on the game, included in which is their physical conditioning, which allows them to up the tempo deep into the sharp end of matches.”

Kaplan told the Telegraph there would be “lots of pressure on the match officials” during the Lions tour. “The whole country will basically come to a standstill. That is a beautiful thing, but it makes it ultra-intense,” he wrote.

Listing “flooding the breakdown” as the No. 1 area Steve Hansen’s men were particularly adept at, Kaplan claimed “turnovers are the name of this game and the All Blacks’ tactics in this area reaps big rewards”.

“They often flood the breakdown with numbers when there appears to be a numerical mismatch, some of it not always legal,” Kaplan wrote.

“Once again, the rewards far outweigh the odd penalty. If they get quality ball in this situation, they have the game breakers and steppers to kill off any team.”

Kaplan argued the All Blacks were also guilty of the “questionable tactic which one sees periodically of the killing of quality ball after a line break or close to the goal line”.

“I remember a few years ago when England toured New Zealand, Marland Yarde was correctly shown a yellow card after an indiscretion post-tackle by Nigel Owens, who I still regard as the best ref in the world,” he wrote.

“However, a few seconds earlier, New Zealand should have been penalised on their line after Malakai Fekitoa held on to Freddie Burns a metre from his own try line.

“He should have been sent to the sin-bin – the game was in the balance – but in the event they dodged the bullet. Instead of England having a numerical advantage and a penalty five metres from the try line they ended up with 14 on the field and the game was as good as gone.”

Kaplan urged match officials for the Lions tour to more vigilantly police the tactics, arguing the game’s integrity is at stake.

Officials should use all means possible including video replays.

“There can be no more important aspect than the correct upgrading of sanction when needed. This is vital to maintain not only the desired shape of the game, but also its very integrity.”

Kaplan called for match officials controlling the Lions matches to have a game plan before kick-off on policing lineouts and scrums and was also scornful of the “nefarious” tactic of clearing out opponents who are not taking part in a ruck or post-tackle situation.

“It happens consistently every week down south – and with all southern hemisphere international sides, especially New Zealand – and it is a tactic referees are very poor at picking up,” he argued.

“It causes a huge amount of frustration for the non-offending team, who are trying to defend legally and often leads to retaliation as a result.

“Teams get away with it quite often and hence some big holes are opened up for the attack to exploit.

“It is not a popular penalty to give against the attacking team.”

Kaplan also attacked the tactic of teams slowing down a game in the dying minutes with negative play.

“I would make it very clear prior to the series my views on winding the clock down with a pick-and-go,” he wrote.

“It is a blight on the game, but referees also need to be consistent. Pulling a rabbit out of the hat late in the game for an infringement which has been allowed all day is the worst outcome.”

Thanks to- NZ Herald

Mark Reason: I have never known a time when there was so much sly cheating in rugby

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A week or two ago I questioned the behaviour of Aaron Smith, which has not shown much sign of improvement, writes MARK REASON for stuff.co.nz

The Lions face a hell of a job getting into New Zealand.

They will be obstructed by photographers, held back by officials and yellow-carded for lifting their luggage past the horizontal. Well-wishers will come in at the side. Reporters will question their every move.

But that’s the modern game for you. Once upon a time the Lions would have sailed through the airport on a tide of goodwill. But in 2017 rugby is coming dangerously close to anarchy.

Referee Angus Gardner will be in charge of the first match of the Lions tour in Whangarei.

 Angus Gardner may prove to be just about the most important man on this tour. The Australian is in charge of the Lions first match against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians at Toll Stadium on Saturday night. It is vital he sets the standards.

It is vital that Gardner comes down hard on all the back-chatting and cheating that is plaguing our game.

 Some of the stuff that went on last weekend in Super Rugby was simply unacceptable and I am afraid to say that most of the really bad behaviour came from the New Zealand sides.

Let’s start with dissent. Not so long ago players were marched back 10 metres for back-chatting referees. Officials wouldn’t have a bar of it.

Rugby used to pride itself on its zero tolerance of the loudmouths. It is what distinguished the game from football, a game which swirls with abusive obscenity.

 A week or two ago I questioned the behaviour of Aaron Smith, which has not shown much sign of improvement.

But at the weekend the worst culprit was TJ Perenara. When the South African referee Egon Seconds correctly penalised the Canes on their own line, Perenara went off on one.

He began haranguing the referee who he appeared to address as “bro”.

He jabbed his finger at him three times and complained about the penalty count, telling the ref, “You’ve got to even it up bro.”

He whinged and he heckled. It was appalling.

Seconds should have told Perenara that he was not prepared to be spoken to like that and shown him a yellow card. Instead he meekly said, “Can you just manage the offside line?”

Seconds is a young referee. He is also a trailblazer, which is fairly apt for a former player who once clocked 10.3 seconds for the 100m.

Seconds is black, which is a rare sight in South African refereeing. It is about as rare as seeing a Maori or Pacific ref at the top level in New Zealand.

That is something which needs to change, not for the sake of quotas or political fairness, but for the sake of equity on the rugby pitch.

I wonder if there is sometimes some unconscious racial bias to some of New Zealand’s refereeing.

It is something that would benefit from some statistical research.

But there is no doubt that levels of dissent are on the rise at the top level.

Former international referee Bob Francis said to me, “The current levels of dissent are unacceptable.”

Romain Poite and Jerome Garces (who are in charge of the Lions matches against the Canes and the Chiefs and the second and third tests) will be firm around that stuff.

“Smith was disgraceful in that match you highlighted. Players need to be marched (back 10 metres). They need to be given a real serve. But a lot of the refs are accepting it as part of the game. They have to take action.”

They need to take action around many areas of the game. The constant holding and obstruction is a plague on rugby.

How can it be that a Crusaders try was allowed to stand the other weekend when Owen Franks was holding back a would-be tackler.

If you freeze the action at the moment when Nathan Harris was held and ask if he had a chance of getting to Jack Goodhue, the answer is clearly yes.

Yet Franks received no punishment.

Even if the try had stood, which it should not have done, Franks should have been shown the yellow card for cheating.

At the weekend, Malakai Fekitoa tackled Rob Horne after a clear out. Another yellow card, please.

All the chisellers and panhandlers and obstructors and holders and blockers should be yellow-carded.

They are all cheating. It is as simple as that.

And little has been said about the behaviour of Elliot Dixon at the weekend. He was the player who was illegally cleared out of a maul.

The officials judged that Dixon was tipped past the horizontal, which is questionable if you look at the line of his legs from feet to hips.

It was a borderline call for which Dean Mumm received a yellow card.

Incidentally TMO Shane McDermott had a shocker in what was a one-man advert for neutral officials.

He cost the Waratahs 14 points at least and arguably another 12.

But to go back to Dixon. When he came down out of the maul, Dixon landed on his hands elbows and knees. His head took no significant impact.

Yet Dixon immediately rolled over and put his hand to his head. We then had the pantomime of the trainer coming on and putting Dixon through a series of checks.

We went down this route when Sam Warburton was correctly sent off at the 2011 World Cup for a tip tackle.

Vincent Clerc made an absolute meal of it and Warburton subsequently said how unimpressed he had been by the Frenchman’s writhing antics.

I fear Dixon’s behaviour was in the same category, exaggerated to exact maximum punishment for the opposition.

We could do without any of this stuff during the Lions series.

When Perenara kicked a ball away after a penalty on Saturday, three other Canes had a dab at it.

Aaron Smith also ran off with the ball after a penalty and went to ground like he had been shot when a Tahs player tried to get it back. Mumm was deeply unimpressed.

But we should all be, especially the refs.

So let’s hope the players from both the Lions and New Zealand get what Francis would call an early “serve” during this tour.

I have never known a time when there was so much sly cheating in rugby. It is time for the refs to get a grip.

 Thanks to Stuff

No dickheads allowed! The All Blacks

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A fascinating insight into the mentality the Lions will face from the All Blacks has been delivered from within the Kiwi camp.

The world champions’ mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka has revealed how he introduced a “no dickheads” policy, which is operated by the players themselves.

Enoka has worked with the All Blacks for 16 years, during which time they have won back-to-back World Cups.

He says the point of the policy is to wean out inflated egos and make everything about the team, with his central belief being you can’t “be a positive person on the field and a prick off it”.

“A dickhead makes everything about them,” he told Adidas’s Gameplan A.

“They are people who put themselves ahead of the team, people who think they’re entitled to things, expect the rules to be different for them, people operating deceitfully in the dark, or being unnecessarily loud about their work.

Gilbert Enoka with Steve Hansen

“Often teams put up with it because a player has so much talent. We look for early warning signs and wean the big egos out pretty quickly. Our motto is, if you can’t change the people, change the people.

“The management might not spot these counterproductive behaviours. The players and leaders themselves should call others out for their inflated egos.

“Our coach Steve Hansen, a brilliant man, once came into a team meeting a few minutes late.

“As he walked in, one of the senior players stood up and said, ‘Coach, you can’t be late. Not again, please.’ So it’s actually the team monitoring this behaviour.”

Enoka was pivotal in introducing the Kapa o Pango haka in 2005, which was designed to make the Maori ritual seem relevant again. He says culture is crucial to any team.

“You can have all the strategies in the world, but in the end, what will enable you to overachieve – or underachieve – is your culture,” he said.

“We nourish the All Blacks culture every day by drawing from our rich Maori heritage. In our cornerstone philosophies, the team towers above the individual. You will never succeed on your own, but you will be successful as an individual if the team functions well.

“As the custodian of the culture, I make sure everyone has a sense of belonging. When you walk to the pitch, you should feel you belong to this place and that it’s fed and nourished by the people. Too many organisations focus on the vision and values when they should feed a sense of belonging instead, especially if you’re working with a myriad of cultures.

“As a team, you can sit down and allow yourself to be vulnerable. It’s a powerful strategy – once I’m prepared to share my vulnerability, and everyone else is too, we create an environment that becomes a culture of acceptance.”

Thanks to

Lions squad announced

1

Via Telegraph

Dylan Hartley has been omitted from the British and Irish Lions squad for this summer’s tour to New Zealand.

Hartley is the third successive England captain to miss out, following in the footsteps of Chris Robshaw and Steve Borthwick, but the RBS 6 Nations champions still supply the largest contingent, numbering 16 players.

Head coach Warren Gatland has selected a 41-man squad for the 10 fixtures culminating in a three-Test series against New Zealand, including surprise call-ups for Ireland full-back Jared Payne, England wing Jack Nowell and Wales back row Ross Moriarty.

Hartley has lost out to England team-mate Jamie George, who has been selected despite acting as understudy at hooker for his international captain Rory Best and Ken Owens.

Despite reports of his inclusion, there was no place for two-time tourist Jamie Roberts but Jonathan Joseph has made the cut as one of the centres.

There are two Scots present in wing Tommy Seymour and full-back Stuart Hogg, with the remainder of the squad made up of 12 Welshmen and 11 players from Ireland.

Squad :

Loosehead props: Joe Marler (England); Jack McGrath (Ireland); Mako Vunipola (England)

Hookers: Rory Best (Ireland); Jamie George (England); Ken Owens (Wales)

Tighthead props: Dan Cole (England); Tadhg Furlong (Ireland); Kyle Sinckler (England)

Second rows: Iain Henderson (Ireland); Maro Itoje (England); Alun Wyn Jones (Wales);
George Kruis (England); Courtney Lawes (England)

Flankers: Sean O’Brien (Ireland); Peter O’Mahony (Ireland); CJ Stander (Ireland); Justin Tipuric (Wales); Sam Warburton (Wales) CAPTAIN; Ross Moriarty (Wales)

Number eights: Taulupe Faletau (Wales); Billy Vunipola (England)

Scrum-halves: Conor Murray (Ireland); Ben Youngs (England); Rhys Webb (Wales)

Fly-halves: Dan Biggar (Wales); Johnny Sexton (Ireland)

Centres: Elliot Daly (England); Jonathan Davies (Wales); Owen Farrell (England); Robbie Henshaw (Ireland); Ben Te’o (England); Jonathan Joseph (England); Jared Payne (Ireland)

Wings: George North (Wales); Anthony Watson (England); Jack Nowell (England); Tommy Seymour (Scotland); Liam Williams (Wales)

Full-backs: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales); Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

England test with All Blacks off the table

11

England’s dreams of playing the All Blacks this year have been dashed, with the RFU now set to rubber-stamp the world champions’ game against the Barbarians on November 4.

Eddie Jones’ team, fresh from winning the Six Nations, were hoping to test themselves against the world’s No 1 side and there were suggestions that RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie could veto the Barbarians-New Zealand fixture at Twickenham on that date.

However, Sportsmail has been told that Steve Tew, the chief executive of the NZRU, has insisted to Ritchie that the All Blacks wish to fulfil the match that had been provisionally agreed late last year.

The intention is to mark the union’s 125th anniversary with a celebratory – and lucrative – match against the famous invitational club, before the serious business of their European tour sees them play Tests against France, Scotland and Wales.

Sportsmail exclusively revealed that Ritchie was striving to engineer a match between Jones’s team and the world champions on that date outside the official autumn window.

The top two sides in the global rankings are not due to meet until November next year but the RFU wanted to bring them together sooner and Jones, as head coach, gave his support for the plans last weekend.

Such was Ritchie’s apparent determination to push through this additional Test, there were fears that the RFU board would veto the Barbarians-New Zealand fixture – not just at Twickenham but anywhere in London.

That in turn would have diminished the anticipated revenue if the game was moved outside the capital – which is home to a large antipodean community.

Tew has been so set on the matter – no doubt reflecting the wishes of All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen – that it appears the RFU have been forced to back down and abandon attempts to force through an England v New Zealand showdown this year.

As the national governing body, they have to approve all matches within their jurisdiction, but exercising their right to veto the Barbarians game would have left them open to accusations of being heavy-handed and churlish.

There are concerns within the RFU that allowing the world’s premier team and box-office favourites to play at Twickenham prior to England’s campaign against Australia, Argentina and Samoa may adversely affect ticket sales or corporate hospitality profits.

Yet Ritchie and his fellow executives have seemingly pulled back from the brink by letting the game go ahead.

Since Sportsmail reported that the RFU were trying to arrange for Jones’s side to face the All Blacks, there have been widespread suggestions that their motives were purely financial.

However, that was a dubious claim, as the additional Test would have entailed an unprecedented fee to the NZRU and also demands from the Premiership clubs for a 50-50 split of all profits in return for releasing their players outside the official window.

England have not played New Zealand since November 2014, so by the time they next meet, there will have been a four-year hiatus. The countries will now contest just one match in this four-year World Cup cycle, having locked horns six times in the 2011-2015 cycle.

Jones insisted last weekend and again on Monday that he was very keen for his record-breaking team to take on the game’s pre-eminent force.

But there had been criticism of the plans owing to the thorny issue of player welfare – and now that it appears the fixture won’t take place, the Australian can proceed with his stated intention of resting some of England’s Lions contingent, which should be substantial, during the autumn series.

Daily Mail

Jordie Barrett for All Black nr 15 spot

0

Hurricanes assistant coach Richard Watt believes that full-back Jordie Barrett could earn a New Zealand call-up, if he gets a bit of luck.

Barrett has been in excellent form in the opening weeks of the season with his versatility certainly one positive he has working for him.

And Watt is confident in the young player’s ability to step up if a call came to don the black jersey, adding that he’s “right in the frame”.

“Sometimes you’ve got to be lucky, if there’s injuries in that position, if Nehe [Milner-Skudder] is down and Izzy [Israel Dagg] is still out and something happened to Bender [Ben Smith] again then he’s right in the frame, for sure,” he told the Dominion Post in an interview.

“The good thing about Jordie is his versatility and he can probably play anywhere in that backline apart from nine which is pretty valuable to have. They took him on the tour last year and they’re pretty happy with him. The good thing about it now is he gets some time to play and show his wares with Nehe out. He’d definitely be in the frame.”

Watt also thinks centre Ngani Laumape is banging on the All Black door and will have been heard after consistently excellent showings.

“I’m sure Jordie will go close and Ngani, last year he was injured quite a lot and it was his first year back in rugby and he was finding his way,” he added.

“Now he’s really settled in and is understanding his position and doing a lot of work with [assistant coach] Jason Holland and he’s playing hard. He’s a handful, eh?

“From a New Zealand point of view we’re lucky he didn’t put Bender on the sideline for another six weeks. When he gets those little legs pumping, good luck. It’s a bit like Ma’a [Nonu], a power runner in that channel.”

Hurricanes flanker Callum Gibbins signs with Glasgow

0

Hurricanes flanker Callum Gibbins is the latest Europe-bound Kiwi rugby player after signing a three-season deal with Glasgow.

The openside specialist will work under current Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, who takes charge at the Scottish club when the Super Rugby season finishes.

The 28-year-old becomes Glasgow’s third new signing ahead of next season, along with Stormers duo Huw Jones and Oli Kebble.

Gibbins played 25 times in two seasons for the Hurricanes, primarily as a back- up for All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea. He has already played under Rennie and his new assistant Jason O’Halloran after captaining Manawatu at NPC level.

“Each of the teams I’ve represented, and all the fans who have supported those teams, hold a special place in my heart,” Gibbins said.

“There is no doubt I’ll miss the people I’ve been involved in during my rugby career to date.”

Thank to

BNZ Crusaders team to play Hurricanes

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The BNZ Crusaders have their final pre-season hit out this Friday evening before the season proper begins.  Head Coach Scott Robertson has named a strong side to take on the Hurricanes in Waverley, including 11 All Blacks.

Sam Whitelock will kick off his 2017 Captaincy, and he will be assisted by his two vice-captains for the season, Matt Todd and Ryan Crotty.

“We are thrilled to announce Matt Todd and Ryan Crotty as our 2017 vice-captains,” Robertson said.  “They are both natural leaders who make a huge contribution through their intelligent reading of the game.  They are stalwarts of the team  – Ryan has already notched up over 100 caps and Matt is on track to mark his century this year – and have the respect of their teammates.”

Friday’s clash with the Hurricanes kicks off at 5pm at the Border Rugby Club in Waverley.  The BNZ Crusaders will play their 2017 season opener against the Brumbies the following weekend, 7:35pm Saturday 25 February at AMI Stadium.  Tickets are on sale now for that game through ticketdirect.co.nz

BNZ Crusaders team to play the Hurricanes:

 

1.  Tim Perry RESERVES
2.  Ben Funnell Joe Moody
3.  Owen Franks Wyatt Crockett
4.  Scott Barrett Michael Alaalatoa
5.  Sam Whitelock (c) Codie Taylor
6.  Pete Samu Luke Romano
7.  Matt Todd (vc) Quinten Strange
8.  Whetu Douglas Mitchell Dunshea
9.  Ere Enari Jed Brown
10. Richie Mo’unga Jordan Taufua
11. George Bridge Bryn Hall
12. Ryan Crotty (vc) Mitchell Drummond
13. Jack Goodhue Mitch Hunt
14. Seta Tamanivalu Sione Fifita
15. Israel Dagg David Havili
  Sean Wainui
  Manasa Mataele
  Marty McKenzie

Can of worms opened with Cruden leaving?

6

It took a bit longer but New Zealand is also now feeling the big wallets in Europe with the news that 28 year old Aaron Cruden has signed with French club Montpellier on a three year deal.

This means that he will not be able to pull the All Black jersey over his head anymore as the New Zealand policy state you have to play in New Zealand to represent the country.

Time will tell if this will be the start of many other top players in new Zealand will also be making the move to Europe to earn more money. Cruden was earmark not so long ago as the man to replace Carter after the 2015 World Cup but injury, discipline and the rise of Barrett force him to the bench more than in the starting fifteen for the All Blacks.

South Africa and of late Australia have been feeling the exodus of players for years now and had to coupe with the bigger pound in Europe which the All Blacks have been lucky to escape but with Cruden moving over one can only expect that this is a start of many more to follow.

Either New Zealand rugby will also start losing plenty top players to Europe and Japan or they will have to change their stands on who is eligible to play for the All Blacks.

It is an open question if World Rugby and the European unions will start to putting in stronger policies  to limit the overseas players. I was always under the impression that to many overseas based players is more bad than good for the country but that is just me.

Cruden still have allot to offer the All Blacks but was forced to say his goodbyes, “It’s with great sadness that this will be my last year playing rugby here in New Zealand, representing Manawatu, the Chiefs and also the All Blacks. Personally I would like to thank all of the rugby fans across New Zealand for all of the loyal and continued support that you have given me throughout my career.”

Thanks also to my friends and family. They have stuck by me and given me all that support that was needed for a young kid from Palmy to live out a childhood dream. I look forward to the next six months in New Zealand. Firstly Super Rugby with the Chiefs and hopefully making a good run at that title. If the future holds an All Blacks jersey in the Lions series I will be working hard to make sure that happens,” Cruden said.

Cruden, 28, debuted for the All Blacks in 2010 and quickly built a reputation as a gifted playmaker and accurate goal-kicker. He is fourth on the all-time All Blacks Test point scoring list with 322 points.

Cruden has reportedly agreed a two-year contract with the option of a third at €800,000 per season.

Club president Mohad Altrad has long been an admirer of Cruden and he’ll replace the outgoing Demetri Catrakilis, who moves to Harlequins.

Where have the All Blacks’ 60 tries in 2016 come from?

11

WITH 60 TRIES in their 10 Tests so far in 2016, the All Blacks have been a relentless attacking machine writes Links.com

Clearly, these five-pointers have been the difference between New Zealand and everyone else in 2016, and we are almost certain to see more of them against Ireland on Saturday.

Before we delve into further analysis of the Kiwis this week, ahead of their meeting with Ireland in Chicago’s Soldier Field, it’s worth examining how Steve Hansen’s men have scored those tries.

Possession platforms

New Zealand’s two biggest sources of tries are turnover and kick return possession, which most rugby observers could have confidently suggested without a deeper analysis of each of the 60 scores.

PP

21 of the All Blacks’ tries, or 35%, have come from turnovers – a category in which we’ve included opposition handling errors, breakdown steals, lineout steals and blocked-down kicks.

The Kiwis have scored 14 of their 60 tries, or 23%, after passages of kick return, ie. running a fielded kick back at the opposition.

Essentially, these figures underline that the All Blacks are ruthless at attacking in situations where the opposition is transitioning into defence. Hansen’s side are excellent at identifying and exploiting space as defences attempt to organise themselves.

The All Blacks, and New Zealand teams in general, invest a lot of training time into working on turnover and kick return attack, meaning their strike rate in this area is unsurprising.

The only other try analysis of this nature we’ve completed was based around Ireland’s tries under Joe Schmidt from the beginning of his tenure in 2013 until just before the 2015 World Cup.

In that run of 22 Tests, beginning with a win over Samoa, Ireland scored 58 tries.

That analysis last year showed that Ireland had scored 26, or 49%, of their tries from lineout platforms, whereas the above graph shows that the All Blacks have notched 11, or 18%, from that possession source.

Ireland under Schmidt from 2013 through to before the 2015 World Cup had scored 11 of their tries, or 19%, with turnover possession, while they only managed three tries, or 5%, from kick return.

Zero-ruck mindset

The impression when watching the All Blacks has always been that they strike rapidly in the early stages of their possession, and the numbers certainly back that up.

Ruck

Above, we see a represenation of the number of rucks in each of the passages of attack that have led to a New Zealand try in 2016.

24 of their tries, or 40%, have involved zero rucks.

83% of the All Blacks’ tries have been scored after passages of attack involving three rucks or fewer, very much reflecting the mentality they bring in possession.

Hansen’s side have a mindset of avoiding rucks as much as possible, ensuring that the defence has little or no time to recover as it looks to get to grips with the All Blacks’ play.

It is worth underlining that the vast majority of tries in the sport of rugby come in the very early stages of possession, but the All Blacks excel nonetheless.

Our analysis of Ireland last year showed that 20 of their 58 tries had come on first phase, ie. with zero rucks, although it is fascinating to note the differences in those scores when viewed alongside the All Blacks’.

There are many different types of zero-ruck scores, and a larger proportion of Ireland’s came from the execution of detailed starter plays or close-range mauls.

New Zealand do have a high proportion of scores direct from the set-piece, particularly the scrum, but many of their zero-ruck tries have come from scintillatingly-rapid attack with ball in hand in unstructured situations.

Long-range danger

The well-worn phrase is that the All Blacks are capable of ‘scoring from anywhere,’ and that is another aspect of their try-scoring that is reflected in the numbers, although perhaps not to the extent that might be expected.

Area

The majority of New Zealand’s tries in 2016 have originated in between the two 22-metre lines of the pitch.

They have the ability to strike from deep, and consistently do so from just beyond their own 22-metre line. However, they have not scored a large number of tries from inside their own 22 this year.

That may well change in the coming games, of course, but we have seen the All Blacks bringing an exiting mindset with their possession inside their own 22.

They will attack running space if the opposition clearly shows it, but there is also a desire not to have the opposition camped in their 22.

From the 22-metre line onwards, the All Blacks’ mindset of striking with ball in hand is extremely strong and they are a consistent threat.

Locations

Above, we see a represenation of the location of possession source for each of the All Blacks’ tries this year, as well as the type of platform. The All Blacks’ tryline is on the right of the image, with the opposition tryline on the left.

We can clearly see how the All Blacks use close-range scrums to strike effectively, with their flatness to the gainline and simple, clever use of decoy runners often breaking the defence down.

Their kick return tries are understandably focused around and behind the halfway line, where they often gather the ball from poor opposition exits and clinically punish them.

Tries with the lineout as the possession platform have all started inside the opposition half, while turnover scores are distributed relatively evenly around the pitch – the All Blacks will pounce from anywhere with this kind of possession.

A question of timing

The All Blacks’ fitness, combined with the quality of players they can bring off the bench, means they are especially dangerous late on in games.

Analysis of the timing of the All Blacks’ tries in 2016 shows that 50% of them have come in the final 30 minutes of games.

ChartGo

Many teams struggle to deal with the Kiwis’ conditioning, bench impact and 80-minute focus, and this is one of the major challenges for Ireland in Chicago and Dublin this month.

Expect Joe Schmidt to fill his bench with explosive, mobile ‘impact’ players as he seeks to ensure that the trend of the All Blacks’ dominating from minute 50 onwards does not continue.

Life of the ball

The All Blacks’ passing ability has perhaps been the most enjoyable aspect of their attack in 2016, with all players in their squad capable of delivering the ball accurately to team-mates in space.

Pass

43% of their tries have come at the end of passages of attacking involving three passes or fewer, again underlining the All Blacks’ ability to strike with clinical speed in the earliest stages of their possession.

However, many of their try-scoring passages of attack also feature a larger number of passes, reflecting the Kiwis’ desire to shift the ball away from the point of contact when possible.

With every member of their team comfortable with passing, the Kiwis regularly sweep the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, providing their most dangerous players with one-on-one opportunities in space.

We’ve included offloads in the above numbers, as they are essentially passes out of the tackle, but it is fascinating to drill into that area a little more.

Over the course of all the attacks leading to the All Blacks’ tries this year, they have offloaded successfully 54 times.

More pertinently, those offloads have very often been the key to them scoring, the real point of difference that has broken the defence.

Offloading ties into the All Blacks’ mentality of avoiding rucks whenever they can. Their world-class skill level in terms of handling, catching and reflexes also means that the offloading policy comes with lower risk.

Beauden Barrett scores a tryBeauden Barrett has four tries in seven Tests this year.Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Looking back to our analysis of Ireland’s tries between November 2013 and the 2015 World Cup, there were only 14 offloads made in the passages of attack leading to their 58 tries, with just four players – Brian O’Driscoll, Chris Henry, Ian Madigan and Jamie Heaslip involved.

In contrast, Malakai Fekitoa, Patrick Tuipulotu, Kieran Read, Dane Coles, Isreal Dagg, Jerome Kaino, TJ Perenara, Ryan Crotty, Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Anton Lienart-Brown, Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Codie Taylor, Ardie Savea, Wyatt Crockett, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick, George Moala, Liam Squire and Ben Smith have all thrown at least one successful offload in passages of attack leading to All Blacks’ tries this year.

Those players come from virtually all positions on the field, underlining the uniform skill levels of the All Blacks.

While the offloading threat comes from all angles, captain Kieran Read and centre Anton Lienart-Brown have been particularly effective with their offloading in 2016 and have demonstrated a heightened ability to release the ‘riskiest’ offloads.

That risk is, of course, somewhat negated by their skill set, with both men displaying their supreme offloading ability in 2016.

We will look at the All Blacks’ offloading threat, and the various other elements of their try-scoring ability, in greater detail in the coming days.

All Black Charles Piutau gets engaged to Lineti Latu

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A former All Black has proposed to his girlfriend in the city of love.

A niece of Charles (Salesi) Piutau posted a photo of him bending down on one knee in front of his girlfriend Lineti Latu in Paris.

Piutau, 25, holds Latu’s hand and has an open yellow ring box in the other hand. The Eiffel Tower is in the background.

Niece Nainai Tuamoheloa posted her congratulations to Facebook today.

“CONGRATULATIONS to my uncle Salesi Piutau on poppin that question to his soon to be wifey Lineti Latu love and miss you both.”

Piutau joined the All Blacks training squad during the 2013 Super Rugby season. On June 22, he made his test debut against France in New Plymouth. He currently plays in the fullback or wing position for Irish club Ulster in the Pro12.

NZ Herald

All Blacks see off France

0

A 24-19 victory at Stade de France on Saturday night gave New Zealand their 10th consecutive win over France.

The result means the All Blacks finish 2016 with just one defeat, while France failed to make amends for their narrow loss to Australia last week despite playing very well against the World Champions.

Indeed, the French will be asking themselves how they lost this game because they dominated all the key stats. The scoreboard doesn’t reflect just how good their performance was and they will be disappointed to come away with a defeat after dominating most of the game.

New Zealand once again showed their class when it mattered most, their ability to absorb pressure and punish oppoisiton mistakes setting them apart from the rest. They were nowhere near their best and yet celebrated they 10th win in a row over France.

One look at the stats and France will be kicking themselves that they didn’t come closer to win this game. They had the upper hand at scrum time, dominated territory and possession throughout the game but especially in the first half, made 10 clean line breaks, executed 21 offloads and missed only four tackles.

The All Blacks missed 20 and conceded a whopping 13 penalties, and yet they never looked in danger of losing this game.

France lost this game at the breakdown, where they conceded 19 turnovers compared to five from the Kiwis and the hosts also lost four lineouts. In the end, their failure to convert their domination into points when in the opposition 22 cost them dearly, with the final pass too often not going to hand.

Watching France it was like they took a leaf out of Ireland’s book in the way they started the game. They were clearly up for the challenge. They generated quick front foot ball early on and tested the New Zealand defence, especially in the first half where they put the defence under immense pressure with their hard running.

But it was the All Blacks who scored first when Beauden Barrett, in another outstanding performance, gave a clever cross kick which Julian Savea collected before an inside pass to Israel Dagg saw the full-back have enough pace to cross the whitewash.

France continued to probe the Kiwi defence and their offloading saw them make several visits to the opposition 22. However, they struggled to finish off promising field positions time and again and some desperate New Zealand defending along with that elusive final pass saw the hosts cough possession too many times.

Maxime Machenaud kept France in the game with two penalties which meant they only trailed 10-6 when the half-time whistle went.

The hosts would have been kicking themselves for nit making more use of their domination, especially since the All Blacks are known as a second-half team.

That was indeed the case as the Kiwis grew into the game as the second half progressed. For the upteenth time France found themselves in New Zealand’s 22 and they were on the attack out wide when Barrett intercepted a pass and ran 90 metres against the run of play to extend his team’s lead to 17-6.

From there the All Blacks slowly started to take control of the game and when they found themselves in France’s 22 they did what the hosts had struggled to do all game – score.

From a ruck in the 22 Kieran Read took the ball up and affloaded the ball to Charlie Faumuina who crashed over from close range to put the nail in France’s coffin.

To their credit the hosts never gave up and once again made it to the brink of New Zealand’s tryline, but the final pass wasn’t there. It told the story of their night.

However, they finally managed to score thanks to some quick thinking from Baptiste Serin. France were awarded a scrum 5m out and when they won the penalty Serin took a quick tap and gave a brilliant no-look inside pass to Louis Picamoles who went over for the five-pointer.

Serin slotted the conversion which gave France renewed hope of getting a result. A penalty with three minutes to play was nailed hy Serin which made it a five-point game, but France were stuck in their own half for the final few minutes which resulted in another disappointing loss for Les Blues.

The scorers:

For France:
Try: Picamoles
Con: Serin
Pens: Machenaud 2, Serin

For New Zealand:
Tries:
Dagg, Barrett, Faumuina
Cons: Barrett 3
Pen: Barrett

Source: Planet Rugby

All Blacks get win over Ireland

2

New Zealand withstood a second-half onslaught from Ireland to grind out a 21-9 victory at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday, Reports Planet Rugby

It was always going to be a tough ask to beat the All Blacks twice in three weeks and even though they couldn’t pukk it off, Ireland should still feel pleased with their performance against the World Champions.

The visitors has the better first half, but Ireland came back strongly in the second. Unfortunately for them, this New Zealand victory was built on an incredible defensive effort.

All eyes were on New Zealand to see how they would respond to their first ever loss to Ireland two weeks ago in Chicago. They didn’t wait long to make their intentions known.

It was another inspired, committed performance from the Irish, but this time they couldn’t find the space and create the scoring opportunities that were so evident two weeks ago in Chicago.

The possession and territory stats were pretty even in the first 40, but New Zealand were again guilty of conceding too many penalties – eight alone in the first half. Ireland, on the other hand, conceded only four in the entire game.

What makes New Zealand’s victory even more impressive is the fact that they were twice reduced to 14 men and still managed not to concede a try.

The hosts were ravaged by injuries in the first half, losing Jonny Sexton, CJ Stander and Robbie Henshaw throughout the first 40 minutes.

The visitors came out firing from the kick-off and made a statement of intent when Malakai Fekitoa scored in the corner after collecting a cross-kick from Beauden Barrett, who had an outstanding game.

The try was the result of 13 phases, but the Irish didn’t wait long to get on the scoreboard too. Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien were brilliant for Ireland and their sniping runs around the fringes. Twice Ireland went over the line and twice they were held up, and after Aaron Smith was sent off for another breakdown infringement Sexton slotted a penalty to get the hosts on the scoreboard.

What happened next you don’t often see at the highest level, but Barrett scored New Zealand’s second try directly from first phase. A scrum just outside Ireland’s 22 resulted in Barrett getting the ball at first receiver to run through a gap and score.

It was way too easy and with the conversion it gave the All Blacks the cushion they needed to ease the pressure and keep Ireland at bay.

Paddy Jackson added another three points for Ireland after a relentless attack on the All Blacks line resulted in only a penalty, despite them having been reduced to 14 men.

Ireland came out guns blazing in the second half, but unlike two weeks ago they struggled to convert their increasing possession and territory into points.

New Zealand were forced to make 166 tackles in the game and was successful with 144 of them, compared to Ireland’s 76.

That defensive effort was again tested when Fekitoa was sin-binned for a high tackle. Yet Ireland couldn’t make their numerical advantage count and it was during this period there the game was essentially won for the Kiwis, their defence once again proving too strong to Ireland’s onslaught.

Jackson added another penalty to reduce the deficit to just five. But when Fekitoa went over for his second after some slick interplay by the backs it sealed the result.

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Pens: Sexton, Jackson 2

For New Zealand:
Tries:
Fekitoa 2, Barrett
Cons: Barrett 3

Test Preview – Ireland v New Zealand

0

This one will be a classic when New Zealand take on Ireland in Dublin this weekend as there is a score to settle with the Irish for the All Blacks.

ire-v-nz

Ireland have been the only team that could stop the black wave in the rugby world a few weeks ago in America and end the winning streak of 18 in-a-row wins for the men from New Zealand. Although the All Blacks had a few injuries going into that game the Irish was the better team on the park that day.

What made this win over the All Blacks even more special for the Irish was that was the first win over the All Blacks in 111 years.

One can expect both teams to come out firing with Ireland that will want to proof that that test in the States was not a flook and the All Blacks will want to set the record straight.

Like in any test the match will be decided up front and the half back combination that needs to fire, and this was exactly how Ireland beat the World Champions two weeks ago.

With some excremental choices two weeks ago All Blacks coach have picked his strongest possible side this time around for this weekend. This just show how much this game means for the coach and players.

Hansen will be looking at certain senior p0layers to carry the team this weekend with captain Kieran Read in-front of the line and with Barret, Coles and Smith just behind them.

Hansen highlighted the importance of this weekend’s match and gave the home side the favorites tag ahead of the clash.

“As expected, there is huge excitement and anticipation within our squad ahead of this weekend’s Test against the Irish,” he said.

“While there was obvious disappointment at the loss in Chicago, disappointment doesn’t win Test matches – it’s about having great preparation and attitude, and delivering on the day. We know the challenge we face from Ireland will again be massive and we are going into the game as the underdogs.

“They’ll be full of confidence and committed to delivering on their home patch. So we will have to take a massive step up, to get the performance we are looking for. It is a challenge that this team needs right now and how we respond will tell us a lot about ourselves. As I said, we are very much looking forward to Saturday.”

2016: Ireland won 40-29 in Chicago
2013: New Zealand won 24-22 in Dublin
2012: New Zealand won 60-0 in Hamilton
2012: New Zealand won 22-19 in Christchurch
2012: New Zealand won 42-10 in Auckland
2010: New Zealand won 38-18 in Dublin
2010: New Zealand won 66-28 in New Plymouth
2008: New Zealand won 22-3 in Dublin
2008: New Zealand won 21-11 in Wellington

Prediction: One tend to believe that the All Blacks as the best team in the world will be well prepared this time around and will take the win by 10+ points

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Garry Ringrose

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Waisake Naholo

 

Whitelock and Retallick back for All Blacks

0

The All Blacks have named the side that will run out in Ireland this weekend to take on the only team that were able to beat them in 18 test.

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Coach Hansen assesed all his players this week and brough back Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick at lock for the All Blacks, but Kaino was unable to be ready and his place wil be taken by Liam Squire at the side of the scrum.

Hansen has gone with Leinert-Brown and Malakai Fekitoa in the midfield to replace Rayn Crotty and George Moala. One change which will be seen as a tactical or form decision is to moved Israel Dagg to the right wing in place of Naholo.

It is a reflection of how good a player he is,”said Hansen on why Dagg was selecteds. “We felt that Waisake [Naholo] needed a game in Chicago and Izzy had a busy season. If you were picking the best team every week and you had everyone physically and mentally fresh, Izzy would play every week. But that’s not the nature of the beast is it? This is the 13th test and we have gone around the world twice in the last six, seven weeks and people aren’t mentally and physically fresh so you have to give people opportunities to have a breather.”

He [Dagg] got one in Chicago and maybe it wasn’t the right time to give him one but then maybe he would have needed one this week. You have got to roll the dice and you have got to back the people you have got.”

Hansen also wanted to hear nothing on anyone trying to talk Barret down who was recently crowned world player of the year by World Rugby.

We have all the confidence in the world in Barrett,” said Hansen. “His last performance he missed two kicks and Crudes has missed two kicks when he has played and last week he kicked really well against Italy. It is about what we want and how we want to play and both of them are good enough to startBut we just think that Beauden is playing well. Like most of the team in Chicago, they didn’t have a great day out and he didn’t have one. But you would expect all of that group to play better. Whether that is good enough for us to win the match or not, we will have to wait and see. If we had talked about playing Cruden a couple of weeks ago everyone would have said we were stupid. Now because we have lost one game everyone thinks Barrett should get chopped.”

It’s the old story isn’t it – the people who have to make the decisions are the ones who will be judged and everyone else’s ideas don’t get challenged they don’t get to see them happen because if they are not the same as ours, they don’t happen. We have got a lot of confidence in Beauden and a lot of confidence in Crudes and both of them will get game time I am sure.”

All Blacks squad to face Ireland (with Test caps in brackets):

1. Joe Moody (22)
2. Dane Coles (47)
3. Owen Franks (88)
4. Brodie Retallick (58)
5. Samuel Whitelock (82)
6. Liam Squire (7)
7. Sam Cane (39)
8. Kieran Read – captain (95)
9. Aaron Smith (56)
10. Beauden Barrett (47)
11. Julian Savea (50)
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (6)
13. Malakai Fekitoa (22)
14. Israel Dagg (59)
15. Ben Smith (59)

16. Codie Taylor (13)
17. Wyatt Crockett (56)
18. Charlie Faumuina (44)
19. Scott Barrett (2)
20. Ardie Savea (10)
21. TJ Perenara (27)
22. Aaron Cruden (45)
23. Waisake Naholo (10)

Source- NZ Herald

All Blacks steamroll Itay

4

New Zealand put last weekend’s loss to Ireland behind them as they claimed an emphatic 68-10 win over Italy in Rome on Saturday, Reports Planet Rugby

full-ab

Italy had to face the anger of the world champions who bounced back strongly after that defeat in Chicago. It was a comprehensive win for the All Blacks,who outscored their hosts by 10 tries to one in the end.

The game began with the All Blacks running the ball from all areas of the field and Malakai Fekitoa crossed for the first try in the fourth minute.

Aaron Cruden slotted in the conversion as New Zealand took an early seven point lead. Italy replied via a penalty from Carlo Canna and the game looked even at 3-7 around the 15-minute mark.

But the floodgates soon opened and New Zealand kept offloading the ball at will while the Azzurri struggled to keep up with the pace and power of the world champions.

Tries from Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu and Israel Dagg took the game away from the hosts while Cruden delivered great performance and was impressive in the playmaker roles. He also kicked all of his seven conversions to add to the home side’s pain.

Wyatt Crockett scored next after some skilful handling as the Italians did not have an answer to the pace and intensity of the All Blacks. Crockett had a good game in general and also helped to set up a couple of tries.

Italy were looking towards their captain, Sergio Parisse, to make an impact in the game but the hosts did not have continuous possession of the ball which meant they were always playing catch-up. The New Zealanders were so good in defence that the Italians rarely played outside their own half.

The score at the end of the first half was 3-35, with the only points for Italy coming from Canna’s penalty .

The All Blacks continued with their expansive play and prolific try scoring during the second half as they stepped up a couple of gears on attack. A cross-field kick from Cruden towards Dixon set up the next try as the big loose forward ran 40 metres upfield before easily offloading the ball to Luatua who took it over the line.

Fekitoa scored his second try of the game close to the hour mark and then Dixon scored a try after Aaron Smith made an important break.

Another example of the All Blacks dominating the game was that they did not score any penalties. They opted for the scrum or kicked for touch in a vid to score tries and were rewarded most of the time. Their strength in the scrum was supreme and, as usual, pace with the ball on the field was a sight to behold.

Italy scored a late consolation try through Tommaso Boni after Edoardo Gori intercepted a loose pass and Boni ran more than 50 metres before dotting downe. Tommaso Allan kicked the conversion perfectly to take Italy’s score to 10 points.

Two more tries from the All Blacks, who continued to dominate until the end of the game, and a couple of conversions from Sopoaga, who only missed one shot at goal, meant that the visitors sealed a resounding win in Rome.

Rieko Ioane, the 19-year-old debutant, showed his power as they scored the ninth try of the game after forcing his way through the Italian defence before Waisake Naholo crossed for the 10th try three minutes before full-time.

The scorers:

For Italy:
Try:
Boni
Con: Allan
Pen: Canna

For New Zealand:
Tries:
Fekitoa 2, Faumuina, Tuipulotu, Dagg, Crockett, Luatua, Dixon, Ioane, Naholo
Cons: Cruden 7, Sopoaga 2

Sam Cane to lead All Blacks against Italy

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As expected, New Zealand have made a heavy investment in youth for their clash with Italy, selecting a side that could easily enough fit the moniker Bambino Blacks.

all_blacks_logo_3071

Sam Cane will have his second taste of the captaincy in a side that has an average age of 25 and an average of 22 caps. As a contrast, the All Blacks team that took the field in the last World Cup final had an average age of 29 and an average of 65 caps per player.

Three of that 2015 team – Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Ma’ Nonu – had between them more caps than the entire starting XV that will play Italy at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday morning.

This is one of the youngest and least experienced All Blacks teams in almost a decade and one whose potential clearly excites head coach Steve Hansen.

There are 12 changes from the team that started against Ireland – Cane, Patrick Tuipulotu and Waisake Naholo are the only survivors as the priority this week is partly being driven by the need to rest a handful of senior players ahead of what will certainly be demanding tests against Ireland and France.

There are two new caps are on the bench – Rieko Ioane and Liam Coltman – and there are second appearances for Scott Barrett at lock and Damian McKenzie at fullback.

Steven Luatua is recalled at No 8 for his first start in two years and both he and Elliot Dixon, who will win his third cap on the blindside, have been asked to show their physicality and aggression.

With Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden providing play-making guidance, there are steady hands on the tiller and Israel Dagg will offer a strong voice in the back three.

“There was always going to be regardless of what happened in Chicago,” said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. “It is that time of year – if we don’t make changes we are going to run out of petrol and it is an opportunity for some people to tell us what they have got at this level.

“The midfield is probably a little different because we don’t have many options there but pretty much yes [it is the team they always planned to pick.”

The inclusion of Leinert-Brown, McKenzie and Ioane means the three youngest men in the tour party are all going to be involved. Leinert-Brown has established in his six tests so far that he is cut out for this level and Hansen is hoping that McKenzie and Ioane can do the same, because as well as being the youngest, these two possess outrageous talent.

McKenzie was one of the stars of the Super Rugby season and had a 20-minute cameo in Buenos Aires which may have opened his eyes to the true nature of test football.

“That test rugby is different to Super,” says Hansen of what he hopes McKenzie will have learned. “You don’t have as much time and things are a lot quicker and you have got to control the football. That is the big work-on for him. Even in the Maori game the other day, he had three runs and turned the ball over twice.

“We will be looking for him to look after the rugby ball in the contact. He’s not a big man – we all know that, but he’s got other attributes that make him an international quality player. He’s got to adjust to the speed of the game and use those qualities to his advantage.

“Rieko is all about work ethic and growing that. He knows that and understands that and is doing his best to do that. He’s a big boy and he’s quick, one of the quickest if not the quickest in the team.

“We want to see him touch the ball a lot on attack. Defensively the other night for the Maori he was outstanding. We want to see him touch the ball as often as he can on Saturday and in the right places.”

The matchday 23 is (with Test caps in brackets):
1. Wyatt Crockett (55)
2. Codie Taylor (12)
3. Charlie Faumuina (43)
4. Patrick Tuipulotu (11)
5. Scott Barrett (1)
6. Elliot Dixon (2)
7. Sam Cane – captain (38)
8. Steven Luatua (14)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (24)
10. Aaron Cruden (44)
11. Waisake Naholo (9)
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (6)
13. Malakai Fekitoa (21)
14. Israel Dagg (58)
15. Damian McKenzie (1)

16. Liam Coltman *
17. Joe Moody (21)
18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (3)
19. Brodie Retallick (57)
20. Matt Todd (6)
21. Aaron Smith (55)
22. Lima Sopoaga (5)
23. Rieko Ioane *

Source- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue: All Blacks pay for their arrogance

6

The All Blacks paid for their arrogance on a magnificent day for test rugby, as Ireland’s historic victory made many of us wish that we had somehow got to Chicago.

Tamanivalu replaces Moala

1

Chiefs and Taranaki centre Seta Tamanivalu has been called into the All Blacks tour to replace George Moala whose elbow injury in the 29-40 loss to Ireland had resulted in him returning to New Zealand on Monday, reports Planet Rugby

all_blacks_logo_3071

Moala pulled the ligaments and tendons off his elbow and won’t not need an operation. Ryan Crotty’s hamstring injury was likely to recover by the last game of the tour against France so he will stay with the tour.

Tamanivalu would join the side in London en route to Rome as he was already in England with the Barbarians.

It was a great opportunity for him, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said, because he had been in and out of the side and while the injury issues were a hindrance they also represented a great opportunity to develop the depth of the side.

Reflecting on the loss on Sunday, Hansen said in recent times Ireland should probably have won in Christchurch in 2012 and then in Dublin a year later.

“They’ve come out this time and played really well and won the game,” he told the All Blacks’ official website.

“I don’t think it’s something that is going to hang round our necks and strangle us to death that we have lost to a good Ireland side.

“What we’ve got to fix is the issues in our game.”

Playing Jerome Kaino at lock would be an issue for some people but Hansen said the scrum was ‘really good’, and although there hadn’t been too many scrums in the first half, Kaino scrummed well.

“The lineout wasn’t his problem,” added Hansen.

“The lineout was a throwing problem and Colesy [Dane Coles] has been throwing really well all year so we’re not going to lose too much sleep over that. We’ll get that sorted pretty quickly.

“The role of playing in that middle of the park role was new to him [Kaino] and he probably over-thought it a wee bit and therefore didn’t carry as strongly as he possibly could. Before the match you would say that would be his strength.”

Test Preview – Ireland v All Blacks

3

 

It’s been three years since Aaron Cruden converted Ryan Crotty’s late try to secure a win for New Zealand and break Irish hearts in Dublin, reports Planet Rugby

That result at the Aviva Stadium meant so much to the All Blacks as they ended 2013 with a 100 percent record in Tests in a thrilling game.

Ireland were understandably distraught after all their hard work had come to nothing, but it was a much-improved effort from 60-0 in 2012.

What they will have gained from the narrow defeat is that they can compete with the All Blacks and after a long shift in Super Rugby, June and the Rugby Championship, the driving force for Ireland will now be to find out if New Zealand are feeling the effects of so much rugby.

Steve Hansen is without three of his second-rows but that appears to be the only real concern for him from a coaching viewpoint. Possibly the goal-kicking of Beauden Barrett is something that needs addressing, as winning fixtures via tries alone will not continue forever, no matter how well they play. Barrett has been outstanding this year but if he cannot sort out his strike then Hansen has to look elsewhere.

Hansen has though managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat in terms of selection as Jerome Kaino starts at lock, with Scott Barrett on the bench. Sam Cane and Liam Squire are the flankers while George Moala gets the nod at centre alongside Ryan Crotty. Aaron Smith is at nine.

Smith will be desperate to return to the rugby field in Chicago this weekend and with TJ Perenara having put the pressure on with brilliant performances in his absence, how the Highlander goes will be an interesting watch. Patrick Tuipulotu also has a big opportunity to impress.

Ireland, whose form has dipped since back-to-back Six Nations success in 2014 and 2015, enter Soldier Field without Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien. They do however have Rob Kearney back at full-back, behind a solid midfield of Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne.

But this is surely going to be a huge ask for Ireland to hit the ground running in their first international since June, with New Zealand, in contrast, having blown their Rugby Championship rivals away only a month ago. Expect Ireland’s winless drought against them to continue.

Players to watch:

For Ireland: With Sean O’Brien still to return, Ireland must rely on the power of Jack McGrath and CJ Stander while Jordi Murphy and Jamie Heaslip will also add their unique strengths to the cause. McGrath is surely currently a player on Warren Gatland’s Lions squad list after his consistent performances for his country over the past couple of years. He’ll relish his personal battle with Owen Franks, as will many.

For New Zealand: Back in the side after an injury, Sam Cane usurps Matt Todd and Ardie Savea to the seven jersey. Todd filled in admirably last time out while Savea is very much a work in progress, bursting with talent so this is a position that has depth. Cane will rise to a challenge – as he did whenever he was given a rare chance in Richie McCaw’s era – so expect him to slot back in seamlessly this Saturday.

Head-to-head: The Irish need a commanding performance from Johnny Sexton or they will not win this game. When bossing his team-mates while also being solid with his running and kicking game, there are few better fly-halves in the world. We have not seen that from Sexton for a while and Chicago on Saturday is the perfect opportunity for the Leinsterman to put that right against an untried All Black midfield duo. Meanwhile all Kiwi eyes will be on Beauden Barrett especially off the kicking tee following his recent woes. As already mentioned the All Blacks simply cannot persist with such a low percentage goal-kicker, with Barrett set to be eager to prove he has the nerve this weekend.

Previous results:

2013: New Zealand won 24-22 in Dublin
2012: New Zealand won 60-0 in Hamilton
2012: New Zealand won 22-19 in Christchurch
2012: New Zealand won 42-10 in Auckland
2010: New Zealand won 38-18 in Dublin
2010: New Zealand won 66-28 in New Plymouth
2008: New Zealand won 22-3 in Dublin
2008: New Zealand won 21-11 in Wellington

Prediction: Ireland will make life difficult, mostly early on, but the All Blacks’ class will then shine through. New Zealand by 15.

The teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Garry Ringrose

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 George Moala, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Jerome Kaino, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa

Ireland squad to face All Blacks

0

Ireland have confirmed the 27 players that will travel to Chicago on Monday to play against New Zealand at Soldier Field on Saturday, November 5.

ireland

Although there are a number of bumps and bruises from involvement in the weekend’s PRO12 fixtures the squad selected has been declared fit to travel.

Players returning to full fitness Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson and Peter O’Mahony along with Paddy Jackson, unavailable due to personal reasons, will not make the trip to Chicago.

The players trained this morning at Carton House and will train again on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s match versus the All Blacks.

Ireland Squad for New Zealand: Finlay Bealham, Rory Best (c), Joey Carbery, Sean Cronin, Ultan Dillane, Tadgh Furlong, Craig Gilroy, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Robbie Henshaw, Billy Holland, Rob Kearney, Kieran Marmion, Jack McGrath, Luke McGrath, Jordi Murphy, Conor Murray, Jared Payne, Garry Ringrose, Donnacha Ryan, John Ryan, Jonathan Sexton, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, Andrew Trimble, Josh van der Flier, Simon Zebo

Preview – Springboks v All Blacks

9

Nobody have been able to stop the All Blacks this year, in fact they have demolished everyone that dare came on the same field as them and it will be the Springboks last chance to try and get that win against the worlds best team.

pumas-v-all-blacks

It has not been anything close to a smooth transition for new Springbok coach Allister Coetzee since he took over from Meyer in April this year. In fact it has been somewhat of a panicking when it came to selections with different combinations almost every week.

With the South African public getting more vocal every week, the pressure to turn it around gets more on the Springboks.

They may have already clinched the Rugby Championship title but New Zealand still have plenty to play for when they face the Springboks at Kings Park. The All Blacks need one more victory to equal the record of 17 consecutive Test wins, a feat previously achieved by two previous All Blacks sides.

Most nations are for ever looking to be the first team to upset the All Black apple cart and get that win that so many want. This weekend the Springboks get there last chance of the year and with Morne Steyn again selected at fly half everyone including the All Blacks knows what game the Springboks intend to bring to the Kings Park turf

The New Zealanders are favorites to win the test and end the season unbeaten but at home the Springboks are normally a different team and they normally have close contest against their old rivals.

It seems we will have the conservative approach against the full out skills from the All Blacks comes Saturday. They will be eager to dominate with the forwards and putting pressure on the All Blacks so that they have Steyn to slot over the penalties and build a score.

The problem is that the Springboks have yet again a different 9,10,12 and 13 starting the match and to top this all they have gone again for only two backs on the bench. Coetzee explain that it is high risk for high reward but last week this selection almost cost the Springboks the match.

Against Australia they might survive such a risk but against a world class team like New Zealand it can be yet another devastating defeat.

With De Allende back in the midfield it also beg the question again on the defense of the Springboks. It is a known fact that De Allende has not been the best defending midfield player over the past year and it could be the hole the All Blacks needed to concentrate on.

Fire power at the back three are also not the most explosive that we have seen from a Springbok side and one does not see the Springboks scoring much tries out wide on Saterday.

The All Blacks have all the skills, players and game to take yet another test match this year and only time will tell if the Springboks have it to upset and take a win on Saturday

Previous results:

2016: New Zealand won 41-13 in Christchurch
2015: New Zealand won 20-18 in London (RWC semi-final)
2015: New Zealand won 27-20 in Johannesburg
2014: South Africa won 27-25 in Johannesburg
2014: New Zealand won 14-10 in Wellington
2013: New Zealand won 38-27 in Johannesburg
2013: New Zealand won 29-15 in Auckland
2012: New Zealand won 32-16 in Johannesburg
2012: New Zealand won 21-11 in Dunedin
2011: South Africa won 18-5 in Port Elizabeth
2011: New Zealand won 40-7 in Wellington

Prediction: Can not see any other result than a All Blacks win by +20 points.

The teams:

South Africa: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Stephen Kitshoff, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Willie le Roux

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 George Moala

Date: Saturday, October 8
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Johnny Lacey (Ireland), George Clancy (Ireland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

Dan Carter: Ex-All Black star’s drug test ‘showed anomalies’

3

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Former All Blacks Dan Carter and Joe Rokocoko gave drug tests which showed “anomalies” before this year’s Top 14 final, says French newspaper L’Equipe. The BBC reports.

But the New Zealand pair’s manager says both had therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) – giving them permission to take prescribed medicines.

Simon Porter told the New Zealand Herald: “We have been aware of the issue for a few weeks. Our understanding and assurances we’ve had are all the documents around TUEs were in place.”

Fly-half Carter, 34, and winger Rokocoko, 33, scored 20 points between them as Racing Metro beat Toulon 29-21 in the June final.

L’Equipe says all players were tested by France’s national anti-doping agency before the final and urine samples from the two revealed traces of corticosteroids.

The newspaper also names a third player.

But Porter is quoted as saying the players were “relaxed” about the reports.

Carter, man of the match in the Top 14 final, played 112 Tests for New Zealand and was part of the All Blacks side which won the Rugby World Cup a year ago.

He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

Rokocoko scored 46 tries in 68 Tests between 2003 and 2010.

Juan Imhoff is also on the list as the Argentine also showed anomalies.

Dan Carter

De Allende starts

6

South African Springboks center Lionel Mapoe stands during the National anthem ahead of a Rugby Championship Rugby union match against New Zealand All Blacks on July 25, 2015 in Johannesburg. AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN (Photo credit should read MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

 

De Allende moves to inside centre, Faf de Klerk comes in and the shift of Juan de Jongh to outside centre leaves us in a very interesting position against the All Blacks.

Faf de Klerk and Damian de Allende were included in Springbok starting line-up to face the All Blacks in Durban on Saturday in the final Test of the 2016 Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

The two personnel changes are both due to injuries – scrumhalf De Klerk comes into the starting team again as a replacement for Rudy Paige, who suffered a concussion in the victory over the Wallabies in Pretoria, while De Allende replaces Jesse Kriel, who was ruled out of action as a result of his groin injury.

In a positional change in midfield, Juan de Jongh moves from inside to outside centre, with De Allende now wearing the No 12 jersey. The two wings, Bryan Habana and Francois Hougaard, will swap jerseys for this Test.

The rest of the match-day squad was kept unchanged from the line-up that defeated the Wallabies by 18-10 last Saturday.

“Unfortunately for Rudy, he will not have completed his gradual return to play protocol by this weekend, which gives Faf another opportunity in the No 9 jersey,” said Springbok coach, Allister Coetzee.

He added: “Damian should slot in well next to Juan de Jongh in the midfield as they play together for their Vodacom Super Rugby franchise.”

According to Coetzee, the bench made a very good impact against the Wallabies: “I expect them to do a similar job this coming weekend. Furthermore, our set-piece have functioned very well and I am hoping for the same against a very good defensive lineout and scrum from the All Blacks.

“The All Blacks will be a huge Test, they are number one side in the world and they have great form at the moment. We are playing at home and the boys are looking forward to the encounter against the world’s best team.

“It is important for us to end the campaign with a good performance against a very good All Blacks side. What I would like to see is that that we keep on improving as a team and build on our continuity and converting more of our opportunities into points.”

The match will be the last home Test match for Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss, who will retire from international rugby at the end of the season. New Zealand has already won the 2016 Castle Lager Rugby Championship and a positive result will enable the South Africans to finish in second place.

The Springbok team to face the All Blacks in Durban:

Position Name Franchise / Province / Club Test Caps Test points
15 Pat Lambie Cell C Sharks 52 137
14 Francois Hougaard Worcester Warriors (England) 38 25
13 Juan de Jongh DHL Stormers 18 15
12 Damian de Allende DHL Stormers 19 10
11 Bryan Habana (vice-captain) Toulon (France) 122 330
10 Morne Steyn Stade Francais (France) 65 721
9 Faf de Klerk Emirates Lions 7 0
8 Warren Whiteley Emirates Lions 11 15
7 Oupa Mohoje Toyota Cheetahs 13 0
6 Francois Louw Bath (England) 51 40
5 Pieter-Steph du Toit DHL Stormers 16 15
4 Eben Etzebeth DHL Stormers 52 10
3 Vincent Koch DHL Stormers/Steval Pumas 6 0
2 Adriaan Strauss (captain) Vodacom Bulls 62 30
1 Tendai Mtawarira Cell C Sharks 83 10
Replacements:
16 Bongi Mbonambi DHL Stormers 2 0
17 Steven Kitshoff Bordeaux (France) 6 0
18 Julian Redelinghuys Emirates Lions 7 0
19 Lood de Jager Toyota Cheetahs 24 20
20 Willem Alberts Stade Francais (France) 40 35
21 Jaco Kriel Emirates Lions 6 0
22 Lionel Mapoe Emirates Lions 8 0
23 Willie le Roux Canon Eagles (Japan) 38 45

Can the Boks cause an upset? Will this team be competitive?

 

Four changes for All Blacks to face Springboks

0

New Zealand All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has named a team with four changes for this Saturday’s Rugby Championship match against South Africa in Durban.

all_blacks_logo_3071

All Black halfback Aaron Smith did not feature for the All Blacks against Argentina last week so TJ Perenara retains his place from last week.

In the forward pack lock Sam Whitelock moves from the bench to the starting five jersey, replacing Patrick Tuipulotu; loose forward Jerome Kaino is back in the six jersey, with Liam Squire moving to the replacements; while Matt Todd takes over the seven jersey from Ardie Savea, who also moves to the replacements.

Charlie Faumuina replaces Ofa Tu’ungafasi as one of the replacement props.

In the backs, wing Waisake Naholo returns to the matchday 23 replacing Julian Savea in the 11 jersey. George Moala is the only other backs change in the matchday 23, coming in for Damian McKenzie in the replacements.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “The selectors believe we have picked a strong combination for this Test. We’ve been able to bring fresh players back into the group which is vital at this time of the year and allows us to continue to grow some depth.

“We are especially looking forward to this game as any Test match against South Africa is seen as one of the matches of the season. We’re expecting to be facing a very confident South African team after their win over Australia, and a torrid battle against our traditional foe. We’re expecting them to throw the kitchen sink at us,” Hansen said.

“We’ve had a well-planned preparation this week, with the aim of ensuring that we have a full tank come Saturday, and also clarity in our game so that we can bring our own physicality and intensity to the contest.”

New Zealand

1. Joe Moody, 2. Dane Coles , 3. Owen Franks , 4. Brodie Retallick , 5. Samuel Whitelock , 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Matt Todd , 8. Kieran Read (c), 9. TJ Perenara , 10. Beauden Barrett , 11. Waisake Naholo , 12. Ryan Crotty , 13. Anton Lienert-Brown , 14. Israel Dagg , 15. Ben Smith

16. Codie Taylor , 17. Wyatt Crockett , 18. Charlie Faumuina , 19. Liam Squire, 20. Ardie Savea , 21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22. Lima Sopoaga, 23. George Moala

 

Smith suspended

10

All Black scrum-half Aaron Smith has been suspended for one Test by the New Zealand coaching staff.

ccca2eb2c96f1ac827ca0ca511a2b4e3

The star New Zealand number nine was suspended by Steve Hansen on Wednesday after breaching team standards regarding behaviour according the All Blacks Twitter account.

Smith broke protocol after being caught taking a female friend into the bathrooms at the Christchurch Airport.

The scrum-half accepted his punishment after senior players within the side decided how he should be penalised.

UPDATE: Halfback Aaron Smith has been suspended for one Test after breaching team standards regarding behaviour, Steve Hansen says.

Hansen says Smith was seen by entering a toilet cubicle with a female friend at Chch Airport the day after the Chch Test.

Hansen says Smith accepted his behaviour was not of All Blacks standard. Team leaders decided on punishment.

All Blacks not taking Argentina lightly

0

all_blacks_logo_3071

This weekend we resume with the Castle Rugby Championship and with New Zealand already taken the championship, most teams will look to get the problems sorted out.

New Zealand will travel to Argentina to face the Pumas in Buenos Aires on Saturday and South Africa will host the Aussies in Pretoria.

New Zealand will be aware of the threat the Argentina team hold at home and they will have to be clinical in their approach for this test match. Despite beating Argentina 57-22 in Hamilton three weeks ago New Zealand assistant-coach Foster knows that scoreline didn’t reflect how competitive Argentina were for the first 40 minutes of that Test.

He has warned his players to be weary of the Pumas as they would have learned allot from the defeat they suffered in New Zealand a few weeks ago.

“They will see some really good things [from the first 50 minutes of the match],” Foster told Radio Sport. “I guess you can talk about their 50 minutes, I mean we did pretty well in that last 30, but we’ve got to be careful because they would have learned a lot about us in that last 30, so we’ve got the same issues that they’ve got. Are they going to carry on playing that sort of game? Are they going to play a little bit more conservatively? They’re the sort of things we mull over and try to figure out how they’re going to go.

“Ultimately for us, we just want to make sure that we keep our tempo going and we exercise our right options within our game structure and we find that’s the most important thing for us.”

Having already secured the Rugby Championship title Foster said it was tempting to give some of the younger players an opportunity to play this weekend.

“It’s tempting because we know inside the camp, there are guys training really well and jumping out of their skin, so we balance that up with all the other variables we have got to consider, which is we still want to growing our game and keep getting better. “It’s a matter of how we change, and what positions we change to make sure that if we are putting newer players in there, they’ve got players around them that enable them to go out there and do what they need to do.”

All Blacks on attack

4

After losing another match against the All Blacks, and joining the rest of the world in seeming wonder at how the All Blacks just seem to know what to do, at which point in a game, I decided to have a look at their attacking structures. This makes sense, as it is one of the aspects of their game that draws a lot of attention. So how do these All Blacks manage to break down defenses? Just looking at the featured image will show how hard the support players work to get into position.

 

I started by looking at last year’s world cup. In the world cup, I believe they kept it simple. An attacking player has all the rights under the laws. As the telegraph states “It is almost as if they have worked backwards from the question: If you did not have to worry about where your support was coming from, what would you do?”. The answer to that is relatively simple. I’d take the ball up in whichever way I wanted to, as I knew I could then pass either left or right, and someone would be there. Or go to ground and someone would be over the ball. So what did the All Blacks do to create this situation at the world cup?

 

They used what is now known as a flying baseball diamond shape. The tip of the diamond is the player with ball in hand. He takes it up, with two players, one either side, that can take the ball if he passes either left or right. Then there is the player right behind to clean up if mistakes are made or the ball goes to ground, once the line is broken, they form the diamond again as quickly as possible. This is one way they ensure quick clean ball and also enable their player to keep the ball alive. The ball can be moved, often without looking, into space because they know the runners are coming. This is not an entirely new concept, rather an innovation of existing formations. Remember the truck and trailer we practised at school, where we line up behind the attacking player to clean out? The Boks use this with pods as well.

 

This is however not the only way they attack, it is one of their main plays, but once they have done this and pulled in defenders, they still do go wide. The problem with just going wide at every opportunity is best explained with this analogy. Give 4 kids the ball to form an attacking line and get 3 kids to defend it. The attacking players will invariably line up in the direction the player with the ball goes. The problem with this is, you give the defense the opportunity to line up, as they know which way you are going. normally the Kiwi’s however, will line up behind the player with ball in hand and only when the move has started, will the support players split right or left, once the attacking player has decided which way to go. The key to this though, is fast ball in the middle of the field. This will continue, until they either score or runs out of space and contact is made. Then the diamond is normally formed again as quick as possible, to give options either side. A look at one of the masters at keeping the ball alive, SBW, runs, he normally attack with a diamond around him. They have trained this way, to give him maximum attacking edge.

 

The Diamond has to be practiced though. But it is also safe. Dan Carter works on knowing his oppositions weaknesses and will normally run straight for this of a set piece. His left and right players will drop back so they can see the number on his shirt. He then pops either left or right, leaving the ball to hang. If his support players have run to fast and cannot get the ball, the rear of the diamond, has the responsibility to get hands on ball. Sounds easy but takes practice. It makes it difficult to defend against. You know what they are going to do, but stopping it needs solid defensive structures, with every player knowing his role on defense. If this does not happen, like at the Boks, we see lots of tries scored.

 

Throw in fitness and conditioning, as well as trust in the system, and you have an almost unbeatable team. A team that sticks to it’s plans, clears out ball fast, is difficult to defend against. Throw in pin point kicking and almost no offensive mistakes like knock ons, and you can see how this team is beating all comers. The whole psyche of the All Black player, is something that amuses me, so if I look like I am a fanboy, I apologize. I firmly believe we need to improve our line and support on attack and this is one of the reasons I like looking at how the AB’s does it. I will look at how the Lions have done it this year as well, as they have been one of the front runners in super rugby. Maybe we’ll see similarities. But what is clear to me, is that for our ball in hand approach to improve, we need more structure on attack, higher fitness levels and a break down of our old ways. There are more things to improve on, like peripheral vision, etc, but to know what to do on attack, is a great step in the right direction.

Another disappointing test against All Blacks

19

Have always been the biggest in test rugby when the All Blacks and Springboks run onto the same field but this year the All Blacks have been 10 steps ahead of any other team.

full-ab

The All Blacks put pressure on the Springboks from the start with the Bokke looking nervous in the early parts. Pressure was also put on Goosen at the back early on by the All Blacks kicks down field.

Although the All Blacks were doing all the play in the game, they did not really got going with allot of penalties from both teams.

The Springboks were good enough in the first twenty minutes to stop the All Blacks defense and working hard on the ground. A much better performance from Flo on the ground.

The Springboks got a few holes and with pressure gave Habana the space to score the first try of the test.

The joy was not long lasting with Jantjies making a huge mistake from kick-off and the All Blacks have the perfect attacking scrum and with quick hands Dagg went over for the All Blacks first try.

With the All Blacks keeping the pressure on the Springboks with some great line speed they had great attacking opportunities.

Another mistake from the Springboks on attack gave the All Blacks another attacking scrum which they scored again with Savea going in at the corner.

The Springboks had good parts on attack but with forwards receiving the ball standing still, they did not make any ground.

With a penalty to the Springboks just before half time the two teams went into the break with 15-10.

The second half did not start great for the Springboks as there kicking game fell apart and it took the All Blacks not long to take advantage from it and score their first try of the second half.

The mistakes on defence did not stop for the Boks as they slipped tackles with All Blacks running hard in the space giving them another try and their bonus point.

The All Blacks exploit the lapses in defense from the Springboks and they just shift the ball with great skills to score in the corner and extend the lead to 34-13 after 65 min.

Defense and making wrong decisions kept being the biggest problem for the Springboks giving the  All Blacks another opportunity from a scrum to make it 6 tries to 1 after 72 min.

It seemed the Springboks have lost their set pieces when Marx came on for Strauss which you cannot afford against this All Blacks team.

At the end it was six tries to one and 41 to 13 for the All Blacks gave them another bonus point win.

The scorers:

For New Zealand
Tries: Dagg, J Savea, B Smith, A Savea, Whitelock, Perenara
Cons: Barrett 4
Pens: Barrett

For South Africa
Tries: Habana
Cons: Jantjies
Pens: Jantjies 2

PosTeamPWLBPPts
1118100
2108200
332000
411000
522000

Test Preview – All Blacks v Springboks

12

South Africa against the All Blacks is normally the match both countries supporters look forward to in the year but this time around it seems that it will only be the New Zealanders.

all-v-spring

The Springboks have been unconvincing this year so far under Allister Coetzee and the knives have been out since the first Rugby Championship match against the Argentinians in Nelspruit. Lats week match against a very poor Aussie team also did not help the Springboks as they lost a game they should have won easily.

The Aussies have been founded wanted throughout the year going down to a whitewash against Eddie Jones England side and they also took a hammering against the All Blacks in both test this far.

The Springboks do have a few regulars on the sideline which did not help Coetzee in building his team since he took over in April. His sections have confused the public and his game plan that the players have showed this far on the park unconvincing to say the least.

We all know that Coetzee had a few problems to overcome which was out of his hands starting with the fact that SARU only appointed him in April after Meyer resigned already in December last year.

But excuses aside one expect the Springboks to at least improve game to game and that have not been the case. Not good defense at critical times and changing critical positions within the team did not help Coetzee in building confidence with his players in the team.

The All Blacks have been the best team in the world for several years now and one can even say this All Black team has gone a step further this year.

With world class players in all positions, and that includes the bench, rugby coaches all over the world is figuring out how to get one over them.

The only way South Africa stand any chance of an upset is to go back and do the basics right and play a conservative game on Saturday. One need to crawl before you can walk, before you can run and this Springbok team struggle to crawl at this stage.

Set pieces will be important and one just hope that their will be no senseless kicking from the Boks and if they kick that pressure will be put on the All Blacks.

The All Blacks simply don’t lose at home and while the Boks have historically been one of a few teams who could push them all the way, that seems highly unlikely this time round.

Argentina was able to rattle the All Blacks last week with hard hitting at ruck time and playing straight from rucks and set pieces which found the All Blacks defense wanting. This will force the All Blacks to commit more players to contact situations and open up the space in the backline.

Whatever you think this will be a bruising battle and although most gives this one to the All Blacks, the Springboks has been the one team that have always been the All Blacks most difficult opponents.

New Zealand have made two changes to their matchday squad with Ardie Savea that comes in for the injured Sam Cane and Matt Todd coming into the squad as loose forward cover. Lima Sopoaga also replace the injured Aaron Cruden on the bench.

For the Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit gets his first start of this year’s Rugby Championship with Vincent Koch that starts at tighthead prop and Willem Alberts and Malcolm Marx come onto the bench.

Previous results:

2015: New Zealand won 20-18 in London (RWC semi-final)
2015: New Zealand won 27-20 in Johannesburg
2014: South Africa won 27-25 in Johannesburg
2014: New Zealand won 14-10 in Wellington
2013: New Zealand won 38-27 in Johannesburg
2013: New Zealand won 29-15 in Auckland
2012: New Zealand won 32-16 in Johannesburg
2012: New Zealand won 21-11 in Dunedin
2011: South Africa won 18-5 in Port Elizabeth
2011: New Zealand won 40-7 in Wellington

Prediction: Many will disagree with me but I think it will be much closer than it is too be believed by the public. All Blacks by 10 points.

The teams:

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Damian de Allende

PosTeamPWLPts
111810
210820
33200
41100
52200

Could a NZ B team beat the Boks?

17

Justin Marshall recently stated that a NZ B team could probably beat any top 4 team.

And while it would be difficult to argue with him, it does sound a bit arrogant.

As an exercise, I have put together what I see as an All Black B team.

1 Hames
2 Taylor
3 Laulala
4 Romano
5 Bird
6 Dixon
7 Todd
8 Squire
9 Kerr-Barlow
10 Cruden
11 Piutau
12 SBW
13 Fekitoa
14 NMS
15 Smith

16 Harris
17 Crockett
18 Faumuina
19 Luatua
20 Taufua
21 Perenara
22 McKenzie
23 Tamanivalu

Now I know some of these players are out injured and not available for selection, but this is a bloody good team.

I could imagine them beating the Boks as well as Aussies. How NZ has this amount of depth coming from such a small country, is mind blowing.

When looking at the current Bok setup where defense and counter rucks as well as clean outs on attack, is a thing of the past, I could easily see them hammer us.

The fact is, that the All Blacks are nearing Legend status, they never lose, they never say die.

In fact, the last time they have tasted defeat is now just over a year ago. They do not lose often and that has given them self belief that is missing in other teams.

Even when the chips are down, they trust the game-plan and more importantly, the players around them.

An All Black knows that the player next to him will do his job. That is what makes them so good.

But that is not the only thing that makes them so good. Their nation grows up learning skills from a young age.

Every school buys into the type og game the All Blacks play, the net result is that almost any reserve can step up and know what to do.

When looking at the Boks, we have two major unions, the Bulls and Stormers, not really sure of which game-plan they wish to follow yet, the Lions playing an expansive game, built around trust and strong set pieces and speed at the breakdown, the Sharks slowly finding their rhythm but also not 100% sure how they want to play yet and the Cheetahs leaking tries, even though they love to attack.

This all translates into a confused bunch when they get to the Boks.

To confuse them even more, you have an inexperienced backline coach, who still needs to learn his trade, a coach under all sorts of political pressure and clearly as confused as the players as to how they should play.

It all just becomes… well confusing.

Sorry, I lost my train of thought there, back to the All Blacks. As you can see from above, every player knows what is expected from him, by the time he gets to the All Blacks.

So would a B team beat the other top 4 nations? Probably, but not just because of depth and talent.

They will beat them, because the structures in NZ rugby, allows them to feel at home and comfortable with the game-plan.

There is a lesson in there for SA Rugby. Let’s hope they can find it.

Savea gets start for All Blacks

6

All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea, a whirlwind of activity as a substitute in his previous five tests, will be given the opportunity to make his mark from the first whistle against the Springboks on Saturday reports NZ Herald

all_blacks_logo_3071

Given Sam Cane’s torn hamstring suffered against the Pumas in Hamilton last weekend, Savea’s selection is not surprising.

And, as Cane, the All Blacks’ regular No7, is probably out for the rest of the Rugby Championship – away matches against Argentina and South Africa – Savea is set for an extended run should he remain injury-free.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has shown a willingness to go with continuity for his recent selections – there are no other changes to the starting XV.

With Crusaders flanker Matt Todd picked as Savea’s back-up on the reserves bench for the test at AMI Stadium, the only other change to the match-day squad is due to an injury to Aaron Cruden.

A groin injury suffered in training has ruled him out. Lima Sopoaga is Cruden’s replacement on the bench.

Hansen’s consistent selection policy suggests Savea will also start in the No7 jersey against Argentina in Buenos Aires on October 2, and against South Africa in Durban a week later. It is likely to be a sort of insurance policy for the 22-year-old, who will be told to play his natural game and not try to do too much too early against the big Springboks pack.

Working in tandem with skipper Kieran Read, playing his 91st test, and the in-form Jerome Kaino, Savea will look to quickly settle into his defensive and linking roles.

His explosive ball-carrying – so eye-catching for the Hurricanes as they swept to their maiden Super Rugby championship – will be considered a bonus, at least initially.

There was a suggestion that Blues midfielder George Moala had recovered from his knee injury, but Hansen has resisted the temptation to change the Ryan Crotty/Malakai Fekitoa combination which performed well at Waikato Stadium last weekend.

Similarly, lock Luke Romano retains his position on the reserves bench after a busy night as a replacement against the Pumas.

Rather than carry two loose forwards on his bench as he did in the two tests against the Wallabies, Hansen went for a specialist lock reserve against the more physical Pumas, and has done the same for the Boks, who will present a similar challenge.

“We’re really looking forward to Saturday’s encounter, as South Africa is one of our traditional foes,” Hansen said. “We have built up a great relationship over the past few years and respect the South Africans immensely.

“We know they’ll be hurting and desperate to get a result after their loss [against Australia] on the weekend. Therefore, our personal preparation this week will have to be at the highest level – bone deep with real clarity,” he added.

“We’ve worked hard this week on improving in the areas we felt weren’t good enough last weekend. We’re confident that those areas have been addressed and our performance will be improved.

“We are always striving for improvement and with South Africa having their backs to the wall, we know nothing but our best will be good enough. Accuracy with intensity will be paramount.”

The matchday 23 is (with Test caps in brackets):

1. Joe Moody (16)
2. Dane Coles (42)
3. Owen Franks (83)
4. Brodie Retallick (53)
5. Samuel Whitelock (78)
6. Jerome Kaino (72)
7. Ardie Savea (5)
8. Kieran Read – captain (90)
9. Aaron Smith (53)
10. Beauden Barrett (42)
11. Julian Savea (46)
12. Ryan Crotty (20)
13. Malakai Fekitoa (18)
14. Israel Dagg (54)
15. Ben Smith (54)
16. Codie Taylor (6)
17. Wyatt Crockett (51)
18. Charlie Faumuina (39)
19. Luke Romano (25)
20. Matt Todd (3)
21. TJ Perenara (22)
22. Lima Sopoaga (2)
23. Anton Lienert-Brown (2)