Sunday, April 01, 2007

Monday Morning Left-Wing Eleven (07/10/2006)

July 10, 2006

1. The New Zealand All Blacks continued their record home winning streak, opening the 2006 Tri-Nations tournament with a convincing 32-12 win over Australia at Jade Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday.

2. Stephen Jones, the chief rugby correspondent for The Times of London says the All Blacks won because they are cheats:

"Kaplan also gave New Zealand a try after a blatant illegality and frankly, some of the officiating at the breakdown defied belief. New Zealand players dived over rucks and drove in at the side all evening and if Elsom’s offence was worth a sin-binning then at least seven All Blacks could have joined him. "

3. John Drake, whose pinky-finger knows more about the dark secrets of the engine-room than most of us ever will, points to the real difference between the two sides:

"The All Black scrum monstered Australia where they are really struggling. You could argue that any New Zealand Super 14 prop would make the Australian side."

4. Stephen Jones, chief rugby correspondent for The Times of London says the All Blacks won because the referee was one-eyed and inept:

"The performance of Jonathan Kaplan, the South African referee, appeared to be staggeringly one-sided, costing Australia dearly."

5. Former Wallaby World Cup winning captain Nick Farr-Jones has a slightly different perspective: "[New Zealand] smashed us."

Farr-Jones, on the expert panel for the live New Zealand television broadcast, was aghast at Australia's miserable forward performance, which showed the Wallabies remain well short of the top international powers in up-front play.

"We got bashed up front - not just in the scrum, but also in the back row," Farr-Jones said. "As our scrum was on the skids, the win could have easily been far more than 20 points. And now the Springboks will try to take us up front. At the moment, we have been tarnished."

6. Asked if the Springboks would be targeting the Wallabies' scrum, South African head coach Jake White said: "As much as we can."

According to White the Wallabies' scrum problems have been coming for a long time and former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones (a close friend of White) noted two years ago that the Wallabies face a front row crisis.

"Everyone that understands rugby says the game's won and lost in the tight five," White told reporters at the Boks' base in Brisbane on Monday.

"Didn't Eddie [Jones] ask two years ago to sort it out? It shows the importance of planning ahead.

"Eddie said they needed to look at the front row crisis and you could see it coming.

"I am surprised because he did say a couple of years ago that they need to look at getting front-rankers back into rugby."

Despite making it clear that the Boks would tagret the Wallaby scrum, White felt that the Boks' scrum would probably not be as strong as the Kiwis combination of Carl Hayman, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock.

"That is a very, very strong front row," he said. "Obviously we'd like to replicate that but let's be quite honest, we don't probably have the same manpower as they do up front."

7. Ex-All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick agrees:

"But that scrum got the Australians. As I said last week, they still have that vulnerability there. The refs are on to them now and don't let them get away with anything and the cumulative effect of being done over in the scrums showed in that last 20 minutes when they were pretty much out on their feet."

8. But Stephen Jones, chief rugby correspondent for The Times of London says the All Blacks won because they are still searching for world-class players in the tight-five:

"New Zealand’s problems were also evident. Their basic skills and devil were as marked as ever but they are still searching for world-class players in several positions — notably at second row, where Jason Eaton was successful in reintroducing the mullet haircut to rugby but was unconvincing elsewhere."

9. Former Wallaby-great Andrew Slack thinks the Wallabies need more than just an improved scrum and a better referee:

"After viewing the video of the game a couple of million times, as is his wont, Wallaby coach John Connolly may well come up with those two words, dumb and inexperienced, as the main reasons why his side didn't make it a closer run thing.

"Even to the uninitiated (about 99.9 per cent of the populace) the greenhorn Wallaby front rowers were out of their league.

"Of course, they'll never rise to the higher leagues without experiences like Saturday night, but a back-peddling scrum is like the chicken-pox in a grade three classroom. Sooner or later it's going to affect everybody.

"Scrum woes can often create lineout woes, breakdown woes and brain explosion woes."

10. Stephen Jones, chief rugby correspondent for The Times of London reluctantly conceeds the All Blacks maybe, just maybe won because they simply dominated the Wallabies in the set-piece, especially in the scrum:

"The other major difference between the teams was in the scrum. New Zealand’s scrummage is now one of the best in the world but Australia’s was a humiliating disaster area. "

11. Minutes before test kick-off, television cameras caught a brief shot of All Black hardman Jerry Collins urinating on the Jade Stadium pitch. There's an outraged thread about this at The Silver Fern concerning a NZTV3 "hatchet job" on Jerry Collins. The TV news report has video evidence showing Collins might be a serial offender. The clip is actually pretty funny.


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