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The Best Skills were on show in June's Test window

I'm pretty sure that Ireland, Wales and Italy are all in the Northern Hemisphere.

2 Months, 3 Weeks ago

England win in Melbourne to take first ever series victory in Australia

I understand your point, but if you have so much extra possession, territory, metres going forward etc, you're going to be scoring more points if you don't keep losing the ball. Australia kept racking up the good stats that should have got them over the line, but the turnovers killed them. It's usually been a strength of Aust backs that they can break the line of even a tough defence, but in this game they showed very little of that. So the phases just mount up and the turnover comes.

3 Months, 1 Week ago

England win in Melbourne to take first ever series victory in Australia

The Poms deserve their series win because they've played to their strengths, being the best drilled NH forward unit in this part of the world since their WC-winning crew and a very reliable goal kicker. I would add that their defence was terrific too but the real story there, in my opinion, is how impotent the Australian backs were. Even taking into account the Eng line speed and grit, the Wlbs just offered no real test for the defence, running predictable lines repeatedly until they lost the ball. Over 70% possession and territory and then coughing up 24 turnovers to 10. The contrast to their 2015 WC backline is stark and points up Australia's perennial problem with genuine depth in many positions. Not that England's backs offered much in attack either, but they just haven't needed to.
Oz missed Pocock badly but generally the pack did OK, winning a couple of crucial scrum penalties and getting the maul over the line. There were a couple of bizarre calls by Joubert, but in truth the Wallabies had plenty of time and lots of chances to win this one and they couldn't make it happen.

3 Months, 1 Week ago

The Chiefs score six tries to thump Wales in midweek match

Yesterday I was reading about what a valuable hit-out the Chiefs match would be, and a chance for players knocking on the door of test selection to make their claims for Wellington. To quote Mr Gatland, "it's a huge opportunity for these players, they have trained hard and are ready to get game time under their belts". Planet Rugby predicted Wales to get home by more than 10 in a "morale-boosting win".
Today I've been reading about what a waste of time mid-week matches are and an unfair burden on these highly paid professional athletes. What a difference a day makes.

3 Months, 1 Week ago

New Zealand composure leads to 27th consecutive win over Wales

At half-time I thought this might've ended up closer and gone either way. I didn't have the usual confidence at the break that the ABs would reset well enough to blitz the second half. Simply because Wales were playing so well. First-up rustiness has brought NZ back a couple of notches in effectiveness before, but in this case Wales didn't wait for them, they just put the foot down and roared on past. They deserved the half-time lead and more, and were well in it till the last quarter. I don't see North play a lot but this was maybe the best I've seen him against a good side. I'm thinking Wales might still get a win out of this series.
NZ will have a look at some of the stats, fluffed passes and blown tries and know they'll be a lot better next week. They'll probably have to be. And I enjoyed watching Ardie Savea play at this level… he's gonna be a handful.

3 Months, 2 Weeks ago

5 Classic Moments from New Zealand vs Wales Clashes

I won't be going back and forth on this one Larry. I think we can agree that there was biffo from both sides in those days because they could get away with it, and there was the ethos of sorting things out "on the field". I often see stuff in those old tests that would cause a flurry of replays, cards and media apoplexy today. I'm not making a judgement either way, the game has changed… mostly for the better in my opinion.
But a couple of comments.
The Murdoch try is a classic case of momentum. He was running with the ball in his possession and hit the ground just before the line, skidding well over it by about a metre without making any sort of extra movement. That would always have been given back then, just as it would be now.
In the Williams case, he is actually given the ball by Thomas a couple of paces short of the line, is knocked to the ground, and then lunges forward from a position lying on his side on the ground, swinging his arm over the line. That was never given as a try in those days.
You say that Murdoch's try "wasn't very different"… but it was clearly different in the crucial matter of him not having to make an extra lunge from a position lying on the ground. That's the crucial difference. It worries me a little, Larry, that as a ref you don't see that difference :).
Even the official WRU website only describes the two situations as "almost similar", which is about as unconvincing a comparison as I can imagine without actually saying that they aren't truly comparable at all.
Bill McLaren thought it was a try because the ref blew the whistle and stuck his arm straight up in the air! As soon as he saw it was for a penalty, he knew why and said so, including mentioning that the ref was in excellent position.
The more I watch this the more correct the decision looks.

3 Months, 2 Weeks ago

5 Classic Moments from New Zealand vs Wales Clashes

As soon as I saw the heading for this on RD I knew you wouldn't disappoint me Larry, and sure enough, it's the day that Wales was robbed (again). But I honestly think you should let go of this 1972 obsession and move on. It really was a long time ago and there have been many many more contentious decisions in the intervening years, with the All Blacks being on the wrong end of their share. And I'm not at all convinced that this one was wrong. Johnson was a good referee and he was perfectly placed, and the laws were different then. Nobody at the time who knew the game well would have been surprised at the try not being given, going on what we can see on film. An All Black try disallowed under the exact same circumstances would have been greeted with nodding agreement by each and every Welshman on this earth, no question.

Another interesting incident from that test was early on when the Welsh hooker, Young, came around the front of the lineout, ran towards the NZ number 8 Sutherland who was kneeling on the floor and kicked him square in the face. Even the Welsh crowd went Ooh! He then trotted away followed by the ref and several All Blacks, letting Young know what they thought of it all. Meanwhile Sutherland can be seen feeling around for his nose. In these day of ARs and the TMO, Young would be looking at a red card and maybe a couple of weeks cooling his heels. Some of those old test matches were pretty wild and wooly and it's often pretty unwise to try and claim the high moral ground for either side.

As for this weekend, recent history suggests that the first test is Wales' best chance, the All Blacks regularly being pretty scrappy first time up. I'm looking forward to it.

3 Months, 2 Weeks ago

England beat Wales in tour warmup match at Twickenham

My tuppence worth, as a complete neutral. The ball was intercepted, went straight down and bounced backwards. Play on.

3 Months, 4 Weeks ago

Super Rugby 2016 - Round 4 Highlights feed

You can hear some discussion after the try and at one point the ref says "… it's a maul" (2:41). So he obviously thought that the ball came loose before the pack of players went to ground and Robertson was in his rights to pick it up. A close thing, but it's hard to tell from the angle we have.

6 Months, 1 Week ago

Nemani Nadolo HUGE charge sends debutant flying and leads to great Crusaders try

All due respect to Duffie, but this clip makes me laugh every single time I watch it. To be honest, after looking pretty good last week, the Blues were almost comically bad at times in this match with more than one or two Keystone Cops moments in open play. This bit of slapstick was right in the spirit of things.

6 Months, 3 Weeks ago