Tuesday, July 31, 2007

RWC on Canadian TV (chirp, chirp, chirp...)

Earlier this month I reported a rumour:

Look for news shortly that Setanta have finally found a TV partner in Canada to show the RWC.

No news to report yet, but a little bird tells me to keep my eye out for a release statement circa August 10th.

Not holding my breath, but anxiously anticipating... stay tuned!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Refs "can't afford to let myths grow."

Some excellent news and some choice comments, long overdue.

Via Rugby Planet:

Paddy O'Brien, the International Rugby Board (IRB) refereeing co-ordinator, has declared war on Rugby Union's whingers.

O'Brien said coaches, players and officials will not be allowed to question referees' decisions at the World Cup in France later this year, while coaches will also no longer be allowed to meet with referees before matches. [...]

"We're not going to accept this at the World Cup. Those players doing so will be penalised at once." [...]

"I am determined that the World Cup will be won by the best team on the paddock, not in newspaper columns and certainly not by a coach running to a newspaper, bleating.

"We are banning all meetings between coaches and referees [allowed before the Tri-Nations game at Eden Park] before World Cup games.

"No other sport allows coaches to go in and see referees, armed with laptops, statistics and photos, before a game. Rugby should not be the first; it is absurd.

"Referees must referee what they see in front of them on the field during a game, not have pre-conceived ideas through coaches trying to influence them 24 hours before a match even starts.

"We will be putting a huge emphasis on that point before the World Cup begins." [...]

O'Brien blames the trend on growing pressure on coaches, and the willingness of some reporters to pass on as gospel everything a coach says.

"I think some coaches believe they can use the media to get the upper hand, and some reporters have no credibility at all," he said.

"But as I say, this World Cup should be won by the best team. I don't care which side that is but I do know that referees cannot afford to listen to public opinion and they can't afford to let myths grow. They have to deal with facts."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Rod Snow back in Team Canada

Just the other day Al Charron was speculating that veteran international prop Rod Snow might be added to Canada's World Cup squad, replacing Nanyak Dala. Charron has proven prescient. But there's an unspoken mystery - deemed here, quote, "mutually agreeable circumstances" - surrounding the reasons why. Ian Kennedy at Rugby Canada releases the statement:

Twenty-three year-old Nigerian born flanker Nanyak Dala has been forced to withdraw from the preliminary Canada squad of 32 announced earlier this week. Taking his place is 57 cap holder Rod Snow, currently Canada's most capped prop, who, should he earn a place on this 2007 squad, will be going to his fourth Rugby World Cup.

"Due to mutually agreeable circumstances Nanyak Dala has had to withdraw his name from the World Cup squad," says Canada coach Ric Suggitt. "Nanyak is respected for making this difficult decision and his presence will be missed as we move forward in our World Cup preparation and I fully expect that he will be back in the squad for future tours." [...]

Veteran prop Rod Snow will join the Canada squad in Toronto on August 10th and will be available for Canada’s international match against Portugal on August 11th in Toronto and August 18th in Ottawa. Rod will then continue on with the team to St. John's.

Snow last played for Canada in its RWC Qualifying match against the USA in his home-town of St. John’s last August. He capped his performance by scoring his eighth try for his country in front of a multitude of delirious fans, many watching the former Newport professional play for Canada live for the first time.

Snow scored his first try for Canada in his third international game at his first World Cup game against Romania at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He then went on to play in every one of Canada’s World Cup games at the 1999 World Cup in France and the 2003 World Cup in Australia. He has played in a total of 10 RWC games.

The rest of the story, here.

So, add a lone Newfie to the squad.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

World Cup Countdown

We're six weeks away from the kick-off to RWC 2007 in France. All the major test match action is behind us, and it's now down to the teams to prepare for the Big One. In the next couple weeks we'll be previewing team chances. For the time being, here's the Pool groupings and TV schedule.

RWC 2007 Pools

South Africa


New Zealand



Friday 7 September:
France v Argentina, Stade de France, St Denis, Pool D - 3:00 pm ET

Saturday 8 September
New Zealand v Italy, Marseille, Pool C -- 7:45 am ET
Australia v Japan, Lyon, Pool B -- 9:45 am ET
England v USA, Lens, Pool A -- NOON ET

Sunday 9 September:
Wales v Canada, Nantes, Pool B -- 8:00 am ET
South Africa v Samoa, Parc des Princes, Paris, Pool A -- 10:00 am ET
Scotland v Portugal, St Etienne, Pool C -- Noon ET
Ireland v Namibia, Bordeaux, Pool D -- 2:00 pm ET

Tuesday 11 September:
Argentina v Georgia, Lyon, Pool D -- 2:00 pm ET

Wednesday 12 September:
USA v Tonga, Montpellier, Pool A -- 8:00 am ET
Japan v Fiji, Toulouse, Pool B -- Noon ET
Italy v Romania, Marseille, Pool C -- 2:00 pm ET

Friday 14 September:
England v South Africa, Stade de France, Pool A -- 3:00 pm ET

Saturday 15 September:
New Zealand v Portugal, Lyon, Pool C --7:00 am ET
Wales v Australia, Cardiff, Pool B -- 9:00 am ET
Ireland v Georgia, Bordeaux, Pool D -- 3:00 pm ET

Sunday 16 September:
Fiji v Canada, Cardiff, Pool B -- 8:00 am ET
Samoa v Tonga, Montpellier, Pool A -- 10:00 am ET
France v Namibia, Toulouse, Pool D -- 3:00 pm ET

Tuesday 18 September:
Scotland v Romania, Edinburgh, Pool C -- 3:00 pm ET

Wednesday 19 September:
Italy v Portugal, Parc des Princes, Pool C -- 2:00 pm ET

Thursday 20 September:
Wales v Japan, Cardiff, Pool B -- 3:00 pm ET

Friday 21 September:
France v Ireland, Stade de France, Pool D -- 3:00 pm ET

Saturday 22 September:
South Africa v Tonga, Lens, Pool A --8:00 am ET
England v Samoa, Nantes, Pool A -- 10:00 am ET
Argentina v Namibia, Marseille, Pool D -- 3:00 pm ET

Sunday 23 September:
Australia v Fiji, Montpellier, Pool B -- 8:30 am ET
Scotland v New Zealand, Edinburgh, Pool C -- 11:00 am ET

Tuesday 25 September:
Canada v Japan, Bordeaux, Pool B -- NOON ET
Romania v Portugal, Toulouse, Pool C -- 2:00 pm ET

Wednesday 26 September:
Georgia v Namibia, Lens, Pool D -- Noon ET
Samoa v USA, St Etienne, Pool A -- 2:00 pm ET

Friday 28 September:
England v Tonga, Parc des Princes, Pool A -- 3:00 pm ET

Saturday 29 September:
New Zealand v Romania, Toulouse, Pool C -- 7:00 am ET
Australia v Canada, Bordeaux, Pool B -- 9:00 am ET
Wales v Fiji, Nantes, Pool B -- 11:00 am ET
Scotland v Italy, St Etienne, Pool C -- 3:00 pm ET

30 September:
France v Georgia, Marseille, Pool D -- 9:00 am ET
Ireland v Argentina, Parc des Princes, Pool D -- 11:00 am ET
South Africa v USA, Montpellier, Pool A -- 2:00 pm ET

6 October:
QF1: W Pool B v RU Pool A, Marseille -- 9:00 am ET
QF2: W Pool C v RU Pool D, Cardiff -- 3:00 pm ET

7 October:
QF3: W Pool A v RU Pool B, Marseille -- 9:00 am ET
QF4: W Pool D v RU Pool C, Stade de France -- 3:00 pm ET

13 October:
SF1: W QF1 v W QF2, Stade de France -- 3:00 pm ET

14 October:
SF2: W QF3 v W QF4, Stade de France -- 3:00 pm ET

19 October:
3rd place play-off, Parc des Princes -- 3:00 pm ET

20 October:
Final, Stade de France
-- 3:00 pm ET

Click here to view the full Rugby World Cup 2007 playing schedule.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sports blogging: mainstream or criminal?

Two interesting tidbits from Globe and Mail sports columnist William Houston perked my curiousity last month.


Hockey blogging

The New York Islanders have created a workplace for bloggers at Nassau Coliseum, the first by a sports team in the New York area and perhaps all major professional sports. "What we determined is the blogosphere can no longer be ignored," said Chris Botta, the vice-president of media relations for the Islanders. "We believe it is a significant new avenue to grow the popularity not just of the Islanders, but of the game of hockey."




A newspaper reporter was expelled from the press box during a National Collegiate Athletic Association championship baseball game between Oklahoma State and Louisville last Sunday because he was blogging live.

Brian Bennett, a reporter for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., was told that live blogging during championship events is against NCAA policy.

Live blogging involves providing updates and commentary while a game is in progress.

Bennie Ivory, the newspaper's executive editor, was quoted as saying: "It's clearly a First Amendment issue. This is part of the evolution of how we present the news to our readers."

But the NCAA considers live blogs a "live representation of the game." Blogs containing action photos or game reports are prohibited until the game is over.

This is really a rights issue, not unlike those involving television and radio. Non-rights-holding TV networks cannot air action footage until a game is over. Non-rights-holding radio stations are not supposed to air reports until a game is over, although they often bend the rules.

Image source: krishworld

Canada's 2007 RWC squad

Rugby Canada reports:

Canada head coach Ric Suggitt and his staff have named a 32-man, 2007 Rugby World Cup (RWC) squad that will begin its preparatory cross-Canada tour in Vancouver on August 5th.

The squad contains 18 forwards and 14 backs and possesses a blend of experience and potential. The age-range spans 15 years, from Mike James at 34 years-of-age to Nathan Hirayama at 19.

The squad will be reduced by two men during August in order that the required, final, 30-man squad will leave for France on August 31st,” says Suggitt.

With 51 caps, scrum-half Morgan Williams will captain Canada for the tournament. Playing at his third Rugby World Cup, Williams returns to the country where he burst onto the world stage, scoring two tries against France at the 1999 RWC.

Veteran lock Mike James comes back into the squad for the first time since Canada’s qualifying match against the USA in St. John’s Newfoundland a year ago. France will be his fourth World Cup, after which James will retire from a 12-year international and professional career. [...]

Read the entire press release here.



Scott Franklin
prop - Castaway-Wanderers - Regina, Saskatchewan

Dan Pletch
prop - Oakville Crusaders - Lucan, Ontario

Mike Pletch
prop - Oakville Crusaders - Lucan, Ontario

Jon Thiel
prop - Bayside - White Rock, British Columbia

Kevin Tkachuk
prop - Glasgow Warriors (Scotland) - Regina, Saskatchewan

Aaron Carpenter
hooker - Brantford - Brantford, Ontario

Pat Riordan
hooker - Burnaby Lake - Burnaby, British Columbia

Mike Burak
lock - Pau (France) - Vancouver, British Columbia

Jamie Cudmore
lock - Clermont-Auvergne (France) - Squamish, British Columbia

Mike James
lock - Stade Francais (France) - Burnaby, British Columbia

Luke Tait
lock - Overmach Parma (Italy) - Barrie, Ontario

Colin Yukes
back row - Agen (France) - Edmonton, Alberta

David Biddle
back row - Meraloma - Vancouver, British Columbia

Nanyak Dala
back row - Wild Oats - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Adam Kleeberger
back row - University of Victoria - White Rock, British Columbia

Stan McKeen
back row - Cornish Pirates (England) - Vancouver, British Columbia

Sean-Michael Stephen
back row - Béziers (France) - Oakville, Ontario

Mike Webb
back row - Swilers - West Vancouver, British Columbia

Ed Fairhurst
scrum-half - Cornish Pirates (England) - Victoria, British Columbia

Matt Weingart
scrum-half - Castaway-Wanderers - Williams Lake, British Columbia

Morgan Williams (captain)
scrum-half - Albi (France) - Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia

Nathan Hirayama
fly-half - University of Victoria - Richmond, British Columbia

Ander Monro
fly-half - Waterloo (England) - Edinburgh, Scotland

Ryan Smith
fly-half - Montauban (France) - Caledon, Ontario

Craig Culpan
centre - Meraloma - Auckland, New Zealand

Derek Daypuck
centre - Castaway-Wanderers - London, Ontario

David Spicer
centre - University of Victoria - Victoria, British Columbia

Nick Trenkel
centre - Capilano - North Vancouver, British Columbia

Justin Mensah-Coker
wing - Albi (France) - Vancouver, British Columbia

James Pritchard
wing - Bedford (England) - Sydney, Australia

Mike Pyke
fullback - Montauban (France) - Victoria, British Columbia

DTH Van der Merwe
fullback - James Bay AA - Regina, Saskatchewan

Non-Traveling Reserves:

Fisher, Mark
back row - Southern Districts (NSW) - Sydney, Australia
Jackson, Josh
back row - Bordeaux Bègles (France) - Lantzville, British Columbia
Cannon, John
centre - Doncaster (England) - Abbotsford, British Columbia
Evans, Matt
centre - Hartpury College (England) - Victoria, British Colmbia
La Carte, Tony
centre - Castaway-Wanderers - White Rock, British Columbia
Van Camp, Dean
centre - Velox-Valhallians - Port Perry, Ontario
Hearn, Ciaran
fullback - Baymen - St. John’s, Newfoundland
Abrams, Aaron
hooker/prop - Castaway-Wanderers - Mississauga, Ontario
Atkinson, Oliver
lock - Bordeaux Bègles (France) - Gormley, Ontario
Ault, Stu
lock - Barrhaven Scottish - Ottawa, Ontario
Barbieri, Mike
prop - Overmach Parma (Italy) - Toronto, Ontario
Dunning, Casey
prop - Pertemps Bees (England) - Calgary, Alberta
Exner, Iain
prop - Pau (France) - Rossland, British Columbia
Perizzolo, Mauro
prop - Burnaby Lake - Burnaby, British Columbia
Snow, Rod
prop - Dogs - St. John’s, Newfoundland
Fleck, Pat
scrum-half - Meraloma - Vancouver, British Columbia
Henderson, Brodie
wing - Abbotsford - Chilliwack, British Columbia
Witkowski, Kris
wing - Castaway-Wanderers - Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia


Coach: Ric Suggitt
Assistant Coach: John Tait
Assistant Coach: Glen Ella
Assistant Coach: Kevin Wirachowski
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Tyler Goodale
High Performance Director: Geraint John
Manager: Bob McGeein
Assistant Manager: Terry MacPherson
Video Analyst: David Johnston
Physical Therapist: Kim Oslund
Physiotherapist: Vince Avery
Massage Therapist: Sandra Bosich
Doctors: Dr. Mike Wilkinson & Dr. Andrew Everett
Press Officer: Ian Kennedy
Special Ambassador/Interpreter: Al Charron

A quick glance at the 32-man squad and some number-crunching sees most of Canada's national rugby team comes from British Columbia, with sixteen - or half the bodies - coming from the Pacific coast. Ontario is represented by seven players; Saskatchewan punching above their weight with four; Alberta a single; and only one from the Maritimes - captain Morgan Williams of Nova Scotia. Alas, no Quebeckers or Manitobans. There are three "accented" Canadians ~ that's to say, three players with Canadian passports who reside outside the country, each from Scotland, New Zealand and Australia. Fifteen of the 32-man squad ply their trade with professional teams in Europe.

Al Charron weighs in with some relevant (and funny) comments especially concerning tattoos and superstitions. Click here.

Stay tuned here for more developments, comments, previews and predictions about Canada's big RWC challenge ahead...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

All Blacks win Tri-Nations, Bledisloe.

The All Blacks won the Tri-Nations decider and retained the Bledisloe Cup, downing the Wallabies 26-12 at Eden Park yesterday. A heavy downpour prior to kick-off and a drizzle through most of the first half meant a heavy track with surface water. Rather than play a wide lateral game, the All Blacks stuck to a simple and smart game plan, kept it tight, and eventually strangled the Wallabies to death.

The game's first half was a nail-biter, with Australia holding a 9-6 advantage late before Dan Carter slotted a pair of penalties, the last after a silly mistake by Wallaby fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper near the stroke of halftime.

At that point Kiwis fans had every right to be worried, leading by three points on Ashley-Cooper's gift, and having only scratched out a meagre 38% ball possession.

Whatever coach Graham Henry screamed at his players at halftime, he should bottle and take to the World Cup, because a different side ran onto the paddock for the second half, and that's where we saw the strangulation. Truthfully, the Wallabies never looked remotely close to scoring a try.

Dan Carter brought his kicking boots and was stroking them from all over the pitch, accumulating 21 of his teams' points via seven penalties. Only one try was scored in the game, by prop Tony Woodcock after a sustained series of goal-line scrums set up by the Moment of the Match - New Zealand replacement halfback Brendan Leonard snaffling a cheeky intercept off the back of a crumbling Wallaby scrum and right under the nose of the legendary Wallaby scrumhalf.

Wallaby heroes George Gregan and Stephen Larkham played their last test matches in New Zealand, although neither had much impact on the game. Captain Stirling Mortlock, on the other hand, was a handful, but again, none of his breaks and hard yards amounted to much.

Former RWC-winning All Blacks Sean Fitzpatrick and Grant Fox weigh in with their verdicts.

The All Blacks regularly get slagged by press, fans and other sides as "chokers," but the Tri-Nations title is New Zealand's eighth - double the number of championships their rivals the Wallabies and Springboks have won combined.

After the match New Zealand selectors announced their World Cup squad:

All Blacks World Cup Squad

Backs: Mils Muliaina, Leon MacDonald, Doug Howlett, Joe Rokocoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Isaia Toeava, Conrad Smith, Luke McAlister, Aaron Mauger, Daniel Carter, Nick Evans, Byron Kelleher, Brendon Leonard, Andrew Ellis.

Forwards: Rodney So'oialo, Chris Masoe, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerry Collins, Sione Lauaki, Reuben Thorne, Ali Williams, Chris Jack, Keith Robinson, Carl Hayman, Neemia Tialata, Tony Woodcock, Anton Oliver, Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pardon The Interruption

Open letter to Dan Le Batard, Miami Herald:

Dear Dan,

Earlier this past week on Pardon The Interruption, you debated with Michael Wilbon, arguing that rugby players are not as tough as NFL players.

I suppose it depends on your definition of "toughness" -- you seemed to have it confused with "size" -- but Wilbon was right.

Sure, NFL players are much bigger. Certainly the linemen.

But rugby players play both ways. They don't have multiple rotational substitution. They don't have time-outs. They don't run to the sidelines inhaling pure oxygen as if they just swam the Gulf of Mexico. Rugby Players play a full game, tackling, running the ball, scrummaging, kicking, fielding kicks, and more. They have to do all that whilst thinking on their feet.

Rugby players don't take breaks looking to the sideline for plays drawn up by coaches -- they are obliged to make decisions spontaneously. That's mental toughness, not hiding behind a coach to do the thinking for them.

Rugby doesn't have special "wimp" rules to protect quarterbacks, punters and place-kickers. And, as Wilbon rightly points out, rugby players don't wear helmets.

Now, as to that size argument... can you imagine Tony Siragusa or Warren Sapp running off their feet for 80 minutes, no timeouts, no TV breaks? Be honest.

Can you imagine the Gramatica brothers being "tough" enough to covert touchdowns and then make defensive goalline stands? (If you watched Martina's lameass girlie block on Jordan Babineaux on the blown field-goal at the end of the Seahawks-Cowboys playoff game last year, your answer would have to be a resounding "Not on your bloody life!!")

The average size of an international rugby forward is 6'3" and 245 lbs. That's about the size of Junior Seau. Less you need reminding, Seau is a pretty tough customer, who can hit pretty hard. He's like the NFL equivalent of the All Blacks' Jerry Collins, one of rugby's biggest hitters and a fellow Samoan. But Collins doesn't wear a helmet! Perhaps you have noticed the extraordinary number of Polynesians who play in the NFL, punching way above their weight. (The Steelers Troy Polamalu, another "Samoan" and one of the NFL's biggest hitters, weighs less than 210 lbs!). What's the percentage of Polynesians living in the United States? Yet, what's the comparative percentage of Polynesians that play in the NFL and NCAA football? Do the math. They are hard-nosed tough customers, and most of the ones that still actually live in Polynesia (Samoans, Tongans, Maoris) play the sport of rugby.

Another comparison: The average rugby forward is about 10-15 lbs heavier than NHLers like Bob Probert, Eric Lindros and John LeClair, all three considered "big men" and tough imposing physical characters in that sport. Scott Stevens weighed only 215 pounds -- you gonna dare to say that hard hittin' sonuvabitch ain't tough?

Yes, rugby has it's share of smaller skill players, similar to NFL special-team greats Steve Tasker and Billy Bates, another pair of pocket battleships. Size ain't everything! Indeed, every time a rugby team trots a Sumo wrestler onto the field, they quickly find those big men can't cut the stamina for twenty minutes, to say nothing of finishing a complete eighty minutes. If you can grasp why NFL coaches don't send players like Larry Allen onto the playing field to receive punts, you're taking baby steps to learn the sport of rugby.

I could go on, but I'll spare you the slapdown. If you'd like to know more, be sure to bookmark the rugby blog and I'll set you right.

Aside from all that, I think you're a pretty entertaining guy, and hope you get your own TV show some day.

Cheers, R.T.

C.c. Mr. Michael Wilbon

Friday, July 20, 2007


The Tri-Nations championship decider goes tomorrow. Only the RWC 2007 Final itself will be a bigger rugby game than Saturday's trans-Tasman dogfight. Both teams will start full-strength teams - no excuses. The pressure is squarely on the All Blacks, who remain hot favourites for the World Cup, despite being chastized with a late loss to the Wallabies in Melbourne three weeks ago. That aside, Australia have their own pressures. It'll be the last Bledisloe contests for retiring future Hall of Famers George Gregan and Stephen Larkham, and both will be looking for a win to claim Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations silverware as well as a devastating psychological advantage going to France. The Wallabies have not won a road (-or "away") Tri-Nations fixture since 2001.

Starting line-ups:

New Zealand: 1. Tony Woodcock, 2. Anton Oliver, 3. Carl Hayman, 4. Keith Robinson, 5. Chris Jack, 6. Jerry Collins, 7. Richie McCaw (captain), 8. Rodney So'oialo, 9. Byron Kelleher, 10. Daniel Carter, 11. Joe Rokocoko, 12. Luke McAlister, 13. Isaia Toeava, 14. Doug Howlett, 15. Mils Muliaina. Reserves: 16. Keven Mealamu, 17. Neemia Tialata, 18. Reuben Thorne, 19. Chris Masoe, 20. Brendon Leonard, 21. Aaron Mauger, 22. Nick Evans.

Australia: 1. Matt Dunning, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Guy Shepherdson, 4. Nathan Sharpe, 5. Dan Vickerman, 6. Rocky Elsom, 7. George Smith, 8. Stephen Hoiles, 9. George Gregan, 10. Stephen Larkham, 11. Drew Mitchell, 12. Matt Giteau, 13. Stirling Mortlock (captain), 14. Mark Gerrard, 15. Adam Ashley-Cooper. Reserves: 16. Adam Freier, 17. Al Baxter, 18. Hugh McMeniman, 19. Mark Chisholm, 20. Phil Waugh, 21. Scott Staniforth, 22. Chris Latham.

Date: Saturday 21 July 2007
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 local (07.35 GMT) 03:35 AM ET (Toronto, New York)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)
Assessor: Brendan McCormick (Australia)

Rugby Planet prediction: All Blacks by 10 points.

Complete Rugby Planet preview - click here.

The All Blacks vs. Wallabies test match is available LIVE on Mediazone Rugby Channel. Click here for details. Kick-off at 03:35 AM ET early Saturday morning July 21, 2007 (Toronto, New York).


Monday, July 16, 2007

3N: ABs down Bok B

The All Blacks made life difficult for themselves Saturday before scorching a tired and bedraggled Springboks for three late tries to run out 33-6 victors and set up a championship final with the Wallabies next weekend.

Despite predicting a 22-point AB victory, Rugby Planet called New Zealand's 27-point win a "struggle."

The All Blacks forward coach thought otherwise:

Assistant coach Steve Hansen says the All Blacks' 33-6 win over South Africa in Christchurch on Saturday night compares favourably with their razzle-dazzle record defeat of France in Lyon seven months ago.

In an eye-raising comment if ever there was one, Hansen said an inability to catch the ball at key times was the only difference between the error-ridden display at Jade Stadium and the remarkable 47-3 romp at Stade de Gerland on last November's European tour.


Meanwhile, Hansen revealed that the All Blacks were largely bluffing with their play through the first seven tests. There would be numerous changes to the game plan before the World Cup, he said.

"If we're still playing the same style of game we're playing now and doing the same moves, then we're going to be vulnerable because everyone will analyse it.

"We have to go to the World Cup and do something different. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work that out."
(Is Hansen's comment a bluff...?)

Inky examines the butter-fingers:

The All Blacks took a long time to get going against the Springboks at Jade Stadium on Saturday night, but when passes finally started sticking they finished with three tries in a late stampede.

Graham Henry said something interesting afterwards when it was suggested that he might not be thrilled with the way the All Blacks had played, winning margin notwithstanding. "The systems were good," he emphasised, unwilling to accept that the 33-6 scoreline was worse than they should have posted.

It implied that their fast and loose style, their willingness to commit more handling errors by being more adventurous, was a policy they'll continue with. The pace the All Blacks play at will bring about more dropped balls and unsympathetic passes as a matter of course, but so long as they're playing with the majority of possession and therefore playing more of the rugby they will win way more often than not.
The All Blacks vs. Wallabies Tri-Nations decider goes next Saturday at Eden Park, Auckland.

New Zealand vs. Australia
Saturday, July 21, 2007 at 03:35 AM ET
Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand
Mediazone Rugby Channel broadcast


Thursday, July 12, 2007

3N: All Blacks vs. Springboks preview

Following on from the Tri-Nations post below, Rugby Planet has their All Blacks vs. Springboks review up ~ click here.

New Zealand: 1. Tony Woodcock, 2. Keven Mealamu, 3. Carl Hayman, 4. Chris Jack, 5. Keith Robinson, 6. Reuben Thorne, 7. Richie McCaw (captain), 8. Rodney So'oialo, 9. Piri Weepu, 10. Dan Carter, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 12. Luke McAlister, 13. Isaia Toeava, 14. Doug Howlett, 15. Mils Muliaina. Reserves: 16. Andrew Hore, 17. Neemia Tialata, 18. Jerry Collins, 19. Chris Masoe, 20. Brendon Leonard, 21. Conrad Smith, 22. Nick Evans.

South Africa: 1. CJ van der Linde, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 4. Albert van den Berg, 5. Johann Muller (captain), 6. Wikus van Heerden, 7. Pedrie Wannenburg, 8. Jacques Cronjé, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 10. Derick Hougaard, 11. Jaco Pretorius, 12. Wynand Olivier, 13. Waylon Murray, 14. Breyton Paulse, 15. JP Pietersen. Reserves: 16. Gary Botha, 17. Eddie Andrews, 18. Gerrie Britz, 19. Hilton Lobberts, 20. Michael Claassens, 21. Peter Grant, 22. Tonderai Chavhanga.

Date: Saturday 14 July 2007
Venue: Jade Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19.35 local (07.35 GMT) 03:35 AM ET (New York, Toronto) Saturday morning
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch judges: Nigel Owens (Wales), Paul Marks (Australia)
Television match official: James Leckie (Australia)
Assessor: Bob Francis (New Zealand)

Rugby Planet prediction: New Zealand by 22 points.

All Blacks vs. Springboks test match available LIVE on Mediazone Rugby Channel. Click here for details. Kick-off at 03:35 AM ET early Saturday morning July 14, 2007 (Toronto, New York).


Tri-Nations puddle-jumps to Aotearoa

The SANZAR Tri-Nations tournament is still up for grabs.

The South African and Australian home legs of the tournament have been completed and the remaining two test matches will be hosted in New Zealand, starting with the Boks against the All Blacks this Saturday. Preview pending, stay tuned...

Last weekend an under-strength Springbok side got the early lead on the Wallabies, leading 17-0, before the Australians tightened their defence and fought back for a comeback-victory for the second time in as many weeks. The victory was a dreary affair that will have done nothing to sell the sport, but the Aussies again showed some resiliency and steel, pitching another 2nd-half shutout just as they had done a week earlier against the All Blacks. Final score: Wallabies 25 Springboks 17.

The Wallabies currently top the table on 9 points. The All Blacks sit level with the Boks on 5 points, but have a game in hand on both opponents, and have tests matches remaining against both sides to be contested at home.

Current 3N table standings after Round Four:

Team P W D L F A B Pts
1. Australia 3 2 0 1 64 54 1 9
2. New Zealand 2 1 0 1 41 41 1 5
3. South Africa 3 1 0 2 60 70 1 5

Friday, July 06, 2007

RWC Canadian tv rights redux

Will we see some RWC on Canadian TV after all...?

Catching up on the past couple weeks, I received a press release dated Friday, June 29th from MediaZone, blaring:

MediaZone Rugby is the Official Broadband Provider of the Rugby World Cup!


Do you want to watch every match from the 2007 Rugby World Cup? Would you also like to get LIVE audio feeds, match previews, halftime and fulltime highlights, interviews, and be able to see classic Rugby World Cup games? If the answer is yes, then you need the official broadband video service created by the unique partnership of the sport’s governing body, the IRB, and the world’s leading provider of online oval action, MediaZone Rugby. RWC Plus will show all 48 matches on a 24-hour delayed basis, available to either stream or download, plus all the extras mentioned above that will make you feel like you’re following the tournament on the ground in France without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.

The RWC Pass includes all the coverage and bonus content you need to fully enjoy the tournament that will crown rugby’s world champion. The RWC Pass is available to rugby fans around the world for the incredibly low price of $49.99 and can be purchased beginning July 31st when the RWCPlus site is officially launched.

RWC Plus will also offer a Knockout package, Supporters packages, and individual games on a Pay-Per-View basis. The Knockout deal includes all four quarterfinals, both semifinals, 3rd place match, and the Final for $34.99. The supporters packages let you watch every match from your selected team, no matter how far they progress in the tourney. For any of the top twelve teams the price is $34.99 and for the bottom eight countries it’s $14.99. If you just want to pick and choose particular games, the pool matches are $3.99, quarterfinals are $7.99, and the semifinals, third place game, and the Final are $9.99 each.

The best deal available is to buy a RWC Pass and a MediaZone Rugby All Access Pass together for $139.99. This combination will let you watch rugby year round because it includes the entire World Cup, plus LIVE coverage of every televised match from the Super 14, June Tours, Tri Nations, Currie Cup, and Air New Zealand Cup. That’s nearly 300 matches a year for less than fifty cents apiece!

The quadrennial quest for the William Webb Ellis trophy produces incredible rugby and incomparable drama and you won’t want to miss a minute of it, so check back here in one month’s time to lock down your ticket to Rugby World Cup 2007!

Best Regards,

Rugby Channel on MediaZone

Strangely enough, that same announcement isn't highlighted on MediaZone's actual website, so one hopes the right hand knows what the left is doing.

The arrangement is curious in light of the RWC North American broadcast rights agreement signed with Setanta a couple months ago. (See here and here.)

I wrote Nick Taylor, the Director of Marketing & Communications at Rugby Canada, asking him what he knew about Setanta's broadband RWC rights. Were they, perhaps, rights holders to TV and PPV broadcast licenses only? I asked to shed any light on how the various RWC broadcast properties were bring allocated.

Taylor got right back to me on his little Blackberry (invented, designed and manufactured right here in Waterloo, Ontario BTW), with a tantalyzing reply, which may be a new revelation to me only (I'm generally the last guy to learn anything, and hey, I've been away from all electronic media for weeks), but I rush to post now:


There appeared to have been a loophole that allowed Media Zone enough wiggle room to take hold of the broadband rights.

Setanta will still have the TV rights and I believe the right to simulcast to web anything that goes live.

Look for news shortly that Setanta have finally found a TV partner in Canada to show the RWC.

Nick Taylor
Director of Marketing & Communications
Rugby Canada

Red emphases mine!

Hold your breath rugby fans...

Rip van Red Terror back in biz!

O-kay, still rubbing the sleep outta my eyes...

I just returned from a working vacation on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Good times. I haven't seen the NZ vs. Canada test match yet ~ nor any of the Tri-Nations tests ~ but will watch the tape shortly. Until then, I have some basic housekeeping to catch up on.

I did manage to listen to last Saturday's All Blacks vs. Wallabies clash at Melbourne, lounging in a hammock on a hot sunny Saturday morning overlooking the Bay of Fundy, from Radio Australia's shortwave radio service. It was a stupefying come-from-behind win for the home side Aussies. The radio commentary was Australian, probably ABC feed. I can't remember the names of the Aussie commentators (possibly incl. Tim Gavel?), but they were spelling out fairly decisively that referee Jonkers was a plonker, that the All Blacks were monstering the Wallabies across the track and looked threatening most of the game, but were undone by stupid mistakes (i.e. kicks out on the full, dropped passes on try-scoring overlaps, a supposedly terrible missed Rico Gear tackle that they claimed would have his head on a chopping block, and they were howling about a line-out thrown-in by Keven Mealamu that they agreed was the worst throw-in they had ever seen (they said he threw it straight to the halfback (true?))). The commentators were obviously delighted by the Wallabies pluck, fight-back and win, but they were unconvinced about the quality of it.

I am certainly glad R. Australia makes these live audio commentaries available for overseas listeners. Radio New Zealand International used to broadcast NPC, S12, ABs and Warriors NRL matches to the Pacific Islands and beyond for years, but Radio Sport got greedy and tore up their agreement (as if a domestic Kiwi radio listener was going to turn off his AM and FM radio in order to hunt the matches down on a shortwave receiver with signals aimed thousands of miles away interfered by every lightning strike across the Pacific, instead.). So, kudos to R.Oz.

Will get up-to-speed with a Tri-Nations review after tomorrow's Wallabies vs. Springboks clash. All three teams are level at one win and one loss apiece at the halfway point of the tournament, but one suspects the advantage is running in the All Blacks favour. They are the only team with an away win to their credit, and have still to host their pair of home tests. The South Africans will play both their remaining games on the road, and with inferior starting lineups to the side that beat the Wallabies and lost narrowly to the All Blacks at home.

Australia: 1. Matt Dunning, 2. Adam Freier, 3. Guy Shepherdson, 4. Nathan Sharpe, 5. Dan Vickerman, 6. Rocky Elsom, 7. George Smith, 8. Stephen Hoiles, 9. George Gregan, 10. Stephen Larkham, 11. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Matt Giteau, 13. Stirling Mortlock (captain), 14. Mark Gerrard, 15. Julian Huxley. Reserves: 16. Sean Hardman, 17. Al Baxter, 18. Hugh McMeniman, 19. David Lyons, 20. Phil Waugh, 21. Scott Staniforth, 22. Drew Mitchell.

South Africa: 1. CJ van der Linde, 2. Gary Botha, 3. Jannie Du Plessis, 4. Johan Ackermann, 5. Johann Muller, 6. Wikus van Heerden, 7. Pedrie Wannenburg, 8. Bob Skinstad (captain), 9. Ruan Pienaar, 10. Derick Hougaard, 11. JP Pietersen, 12. Wynand Olivier, 13. Waylon Murray, 14. Breyton Paulse, 15. Bevin Fortuin. Reserves: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Eddie Andrews, 18. Albert van den Berg, 19. Jacques Cronjé, 20. Michael Claassens, 21. Peter Grant, 22. Jaco Pretorius.

Date: Saturday 7 July
Venue: Telstra Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20.05 local (10.05 GMT) 06:00 AM ET (New York, Toronto)
Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Steve Walsh (New Zealand), Kevin Deaker (New Zealand)
Television match official: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand)
Assessor: Michel Lamoulie (France)

Rugby Planet prediction: Australia by 6 points.

Wallabies vs. Springboks test match available LIVE on Mediazone Rugby Channel. Click here. Kick-off at 06:00 AM ET early Saturday morning (Toronto, New York).