Grand Salami time
Before getting to tomorrows' excitement, a quick summary of last weekends' test match action ... England got their arses handed to them in a large way at Twickenham, falling to South Africa with a record loss of 42-6. Yes, they really were that bad. From World Cup champs to Tier-Two chumps in only five years. Danny Cipriani, the England's biggest wunderboy since Jonny Wilkinson underwent a Springbok baptism by fire and came through it by getting dropped for the All Black test. ... Canada was skunked for the second time in three test matches, falling to Scotland 41-0 at Murrayfield. The Canadians did well to hold the Scots to a 15-0 lead, but tired late and fell off the tackles. Hopefully coach Kieran Crowley will have reassessed his talent level and depth against professional rugby players and implement the right programs and strategies to bring development and success in the coming years. Read the Rugby Canada test match report here, plus Doug Crosse's Canadian tour wrap-up. ... Hard to call the kilted beat-down on the beavers 'n lumberjacks a restoration of northern hemisphere pride, but Ireland carried the banner and was the lone big dog from the north to take down a southern side, by handily waving aside Argentina 17-3 at Croke Park. That was about the extent of northern pride. Are the Pumas really ready to step up to the Tri-Nations? ... An extraordinary scene played out at Millenium Stadium where Wales put the changing-room haka debacle behind them, locked arms at centerfield and confronted the All Blacks Kapa O Pango haka and then stood their ground and would not budge an inch. Has Millenium Stadium ever sounded louder? Both teams refused to budge and back away from each other, with referee Jonathan Kaplan intervening, requesting both teams start the game, and All Black skipper Richie McCaw blinking first and withdrawing his men. It seemed to work for the first spell when the spirited Welsh took to the break with a 9-6 lead, and "Pride of Wales" Joe Calzaghe and cohort levitating from their seats believing an historic Welsh victory was on the cards. But New Zealand put the petal to the metal in the 2nd half and killed the fairy tale by running the Six Nations champions off the park scoring the last 26 points of the match. Wallaby flanker George Smith is not easily recognizable without his dreadlocks, but he was back to his cheating best as Australia skated past France 18-13 in the icy conditions in Paris, and Italy got torn a new one by the unpredictable Pacific Islands combo who pasted the Azzurri 45-17 at the, err, Gigolo Stadium.
The international test season concludes this weekend with a much leaner schedule, only two tests, but what good ones they are. The All Blacks travel to Twickenham looking to tame England, collect a "Grand Slam" and claim the prize of the inaugural Hillary Shield.
Same tee-off time, the Wallabies tackle Wales hoping to keep a perfect 20-nil record of SH teams versus NH teams this season:
Welsh carry the hopes of a hemisphere
Greg Growden in Cardiff
November 28, 2008
WALES are the only side left that can redeem northern hemisphere rugby, with the Tri Nations tourists having been all-conquering so far - and the Wallabies are on red alert.
In the 18 matches involving the leading teams of the two hemispheres over the past year, the victory tally stands at 18-0 to the SANZAR sides over the Six Nations outfits. [...]
That does not hide the fact the northern hemisphere teams are a long way behind their southern counterparts - as shown by the International Rugby Board rankings, which have New Zealand, South Africa and Australia holding the top three spots, followed by Argentina. England sit fifth, followed by Wales, France, Ireland and Scotland.
Even more revealing were statistics published in The Guardian this week. Rugby writer Paul Rees reported that since the game turned professional, the Six Nations teams' success rate against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand had declined substantially.
In the amateur era, the success rate was 28.9 per cent. In the professional era, despite England's 12 victories over the southern powers from 2000 to 2003, it has been 19.3 per cent.
England's success rate since the advent of professionalism in 1995 has gone from 31.6 per cent to 36.7, but the Celtic nations have dropped right off. During the amateur era, they boasted a 25.4 per cent success rate. Since 1995, they have only won seven and drawn one, while suffering 84 losses to the SANZAR teams, for a success rate of 8.2 per cent.
Accordingly, when the IRB's Player of the Year list featured just one southern hemisphere nomination among the five candidates, the touring SANZAR countries were incredulous.
On with the previews...
ENGLAND vs NEW ZEALANDENG v NZ Rugby Planet preview
England: 1. Tim Payne, 2. Lee Mears, 3. Phil Vickery, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. Nick Kennedy, 6. James Haskell, 7. Michael Lipman, 8. Nick Easter, 9. Danny Care, 10. Toby Flood, 11. Ugo Monye, 12. Riki Flutey, 13. Jamie Noon, 14. Paul Sackey, 15. Delon Armitage. Reserves: 16. Dylan Hartley, 17. Matt Stevens, 18. Tom Croft, 19. Tom Rees, 20. Harry Ellis, 21. Danny Cipriani, 22. Dan Hipkiss.
New Zealand: 1. Tony Woodcock, 2. Keven Mealamu, 3. Neemia Tialata, 4. Brad Thorn, 5. Ali Williams, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Richie McCaw (c), 8. Rodney So'oialo, 9. Jimmy Cowan, 10. Daniel Carter, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 13. Conrad Smith, 14. Joe Rokocoko, 15. Mils Muliaina. Reserves: 16. Hikawera Elliot, 17. John Afoa, 18. Anthony Boric, 19. Kieran Read, 20. Piri Weepu, 21. Stephen Donald, 22. Isaia Toeava.
Date: Saturday, November 29, 2008
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT (9:30 a.m. ET (New York, Toronto))
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Touch judges: Nigel Owens (Wales), George Clancy (Ireland)
Television match official: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Assessor: Steve Hilditch (Ireland)
ENG v NZ Rugby Heaven preview
WALES vs AUSTRALIAWAL v AUS Rugby Planet preview
Wales: 15. Lee Byrne, 14. Mark Jones, 13. Tom Shanklin, 12. Jamie Roberts, 11. Shane Williams, 10. Stephen Jones, 9. Gareth Cooper, 8. Andy Powell, 7. Martyn Williams, 6. Ryan Jones (c), 5. Alun-Wyn Jones, 4. Ian Gough, 3. Adam Jones, 2. Matthew Rees, 1. Gethin Jenkins.
Reserves: 16. Richard Hibbard, 17. John Yapp, 18. Luke Charteris, 19. Dafydd Jones, 20. Martin Roberts, 21. James Hook, 22. Andrew Bishop.
Australia: 1. Benn Robinson, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Al Baxter, 4. Mark Chisholm, 5. Nathan Sharpe, 6. Hugh McMeniman, 7. Phil Waugh, 8. Richard Brown, 9. Luke Burgess, 10. Matt Giteau, 11. Digby Ioane, 12. Stirling Mortlock (c), 13. Ryan Cross, 14. Peter Hynes, 15. Drew Mitchell. Reserves: 16. Adam Freier, 17. Matt Dunning, 18. Dean Mumm, 19. George Smith, 20. Sam Cordingley, 21. Quade Cooper, 22. Lote Tuqiri/Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Date: Saturday 29 November, 2008
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT (9:30 a.m. ET (New York, Toronto))
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Touch judges: Dave Pearson (England), Romain Poite (France)
Television match official: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Assessor: Michel Lamoulie (France)
WAL v AUS Rugby Heaven preview