27 Nov

Wales v All Blacks, Cardiff, 25 November 2006
by Tracey Nelson
27 Nov 2006

Hmmm, I’m glad I’m not Paddy O’Brien trying to find decent refs for next year’s World Cup – at the moment he’d be hard pressed to find three in either hemisphere who can proficiently police the breakdown and the tackled ball area. Ah well, I’ll save that for another column given there is so much to say on it.

The usual stats: First 3 to Breakdown relates to who is getting there to protect the ball carrier, or attempting to get a turnover from a tackle on the opposition, and hopefully also doing some cleaning out in the process. Completed Tackles means actually bringing the player and ball to ground (ie. snuffing out the movement), not assists in the tackle situation – so only sole-effort tackles are noted, other than in cases where it is impossible to split a combined tackle. Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Please note that I do NOT call a slipped tackle a tackle, it gets noted as a missed tackle.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each total. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute.

First 3 to Breakdown
Hayman 29 (19+10)
McCaw 28 (17+11)
Robinson 25 (17+7)
Oliver 16 (12+4)
Williams 14 (14+0)
So’oialo 14 (13+1)
Smith 13 (3+10)
Woodcock* 12 (2+10)
Collins 11 (8+3)
Muliaina 9 (3+6)
Ryan* 6
Thorne* 6
Tialata 6
McAlister 6 (4+2)
Carter 5 (5+0)
Sivivatu 5 (4+1)
Kelleher 3 (3+0)
Weepu* 3
Hore* 3
Evans* 3
Gear 2 (1+1)
Completed tackles and assists
McCaw 22 (10+12) and 2
Collins 16 (4+12) and 1
Hayman 12 (6+6) and 0
Carter 11 (7+4) and 1
Robinson 10 (4+6) and 0
Smith 8 (5+3) and 0
Hore* 6 and 2
So’oialo 6 (3+3) and 2
Weepu* 5 and 0
Muliaina 5 (3+2) and 0
McAlister 5 (3+2) and 1
Evans* 4 and 0
Kelleher 4 (1+3) and 0
Oliver 4 (3+1) and 0
Williams 4 (1+3) and 0
Thorne* 3 and 1
Tialata 3 and 0
Woodcock* 3 (0+3) and 1
Sivivatu 2 (1+1) and 0
Ryan* 1 and 0
Gear 1 (0+1) and 0
Missed and slipped tackles (11)
McAlister 3 (2+1)
Sivivatu 1 (0+1)
Gear 1 (1+0)
Tialata 1
Williams 1 (1+0)
Carter 1 (1+0)
Weepu* 1
Hore* 1
Evans* 1
Penalties conceded by NZ (15)
Ruck/Maul 6
Tackle 6
Scrum 2
Other (throwing ball away) 1
Yellow Cards 2
Penalties conceded by Wales (9)
Tackle 5
Ruck/Maul 2
Lineout 1
General offside 1
Turnovers by NZ (14)
Knock on 10
Forward Pass 2
Tackle 1
Ruck/Maul 1
Lineouts
A total of 28 in the game
First half (13)
NZ 3/3
Wales 9/10
Second half (16)
NZ 1/1
FRA 7/7

For the first time in a very long while, the All Blacks won all their own throws to the lineout. Wales only lost one of theirs, with a good steal by Robinson.

The All Blacks conceded a Free Kick at the first scrum of the game (Welsh feed) for going in before the ref’s call to engage, a penalty for deliberately wheeling the scrum and for McCaw detaching too soon. Wales were having a lot of trouble maintaining a stable scrum but managed to secure their own feeds even in the face of a disintegrating scrum.

Scrums
A total of 16 in the game
First half (8)
NZ 3/3
Wales 4/4
Second half (8)
NZ 1/1
Wales 7/7
26 Nov

All Blacks vs. Village Idiots
by Paul Waite
26 Nov 2006

No, not ‘the Welsh’, and certainly not the Welsh rugby team.

The Welsh Rugby Union decided that it would be a great idea to dismiss The Haka, shifting it from its traditional (and only meaningful) slot just before kickoff.

Despite assurances that it was just a one-off due to the marking of 100 years of rugby between the two nations last year, the All Blacks were informed about a month ago, that once again the Haka must be done between the National anthems. Apparently, “negotiations” (a word used by WRU) had been on-going up until the kickoff. By negotiations, they mean that they were insisting on the change, and the All Blacks were consistently saying “sorry, but no”.

A decision made by the real Village Idiots of World Rugby, and a transparent attempt to defuse the haka, relegating it to a side-show entertainment and stripping it of its true meaning.

Protestations by the WRU that they want to “respond to the Haka” with the Anthem are utterly ridiculous. Over a century of tradition, the Haka is a challenge issued by the All Blacks to their opponent just before the two teams go into battle. The key thing is, it’s between the two rugby teams, not between the All Blacks and some bit of totty warbling a bloody anthem with the crowd. If that then what next? Maybe the English will insist the Haka is done after the game in downtown Twickenham, where they want the local Morris Dancers to “respond” to it. Perhaps the French might like to move it to the previous lunchtime, and respond to it by cooking a really mean six course banquet – “eat our soufllés and despair! you silly All Noirs!”

The All Blacks Haka belongs to the All Blacks – the players, not the NZRFU, or anyone else. The hosting Unions, as always, have the right to veto it – it has historically been performed at the invitation of the hosts. What they don’t have the right to do is dicate how it is done or when. Either it’s performed just before kickoff, as it always has been, or not at all. Take it or leave it.

Anyway the issue blew up in the WRU’s faces, as the All Blacks called their bluff, and quite rightly took the Haka indoors and performed it as a part of their own match preparations in the changing rooms. It beggars belief that the WRU, surely head of rugby in a Nation which loves and embraces the great traditions of the game more than most, should seek to do this.

Let’s hope some vestige of sanity exists in the Welsh rugby halls of power, and they see sense next time, or they’ll continue to be the laughing-stock of the World’s rugby village.



The other village idiot was the grinning imbecile with the hair-triggered whistle refereeing the game. I knew we were in for trouble when he penalised Richie McCaw for “coming in late from the side” in a tackle, when McCaw was actually the tackler, and made his tackle legally, and immediately released in text-book fashion.

The test was puctuated by a further series of too-hasty, and flawed decisions from our ‘newbie’ test referee, Dave Pearson, who nonetheless cackled and grinned like your friendly neighbourhood lunatic all the while, obviously enjoying his debut hugely. Let’s hope he enjoys his post-match peer review as much. The cap on it all was the ridiculous penalty try he awarded to the All Blacks. Ok, there was a Welshman desperately killing the ball 1m out from the line, but all that was required there was a penalty and a sin-bin. There are plenty of times tries are NOT scored from that position, so the All Blacks wouldn’t “probably” have scored. God knows he’d been keen enough to sin-bin the All Blacks all through the test, although Hore’s stupidity meant he roundly deserved his.

I only mention referees when I think that their performances have adversely and significantly affected a game. This performance did just that. Though it didn’t affect the outcome, the score being too lop-sided an affair, it did detract hugely from the rugby on both sides of the ledger. His too-quick-by-half rulings had both teams on tenterhooks, wondering what he’d whistle for next, and that resulted in some terribly robotic phases of attack and defence at times.



But enough of the idiots of the piece. The first half was one of pure majesty, as the All Blacks swept past their opponent’s defence in a Black Wave down the left to score a wonderful try through Sivivatu and Luke McAllister early on, and set the tone for the test.

After that it was all the Welsh could do to hang on until the relief of the half-time whistle and “only” a 28-3 deficit. In-between, there was no joy at all for the home team, the home crowd, or the WRU. It was All Black. In the scrums, the Welsh were never in it. From the very first one the All Blacks were demolishing their opposites, and only the help offered to them by the incompetent nincompoop with the whistle kept it from becoming a rout. Apparently, when a scrum is driven backwards by a dominant pack, and wheels then that means the All Blacks (for it was they) were “deliberately screwing the scrum”. As if the weaker scrum has to always go backwards in a straight line, or something. I’d say it was just as likely that a scrum has a weaker side, of the two. In other words it’s totally impossible to make that call in a normal test match. The forces in the scum are a complex affair which rarely cancels, and hence usually results in movement of some form, so for our little debutante to make that decision he’d have to have the Wisdom of Jove, or the Omnipotence of God. Bullshit.

Actually I’m sick of seeing this kind of rubbish officiating from referees these days, unfairly protectiing a team struggling in the scrum at test level. The All Black pack have trained long and hard on technique as well as strength to get where they are, and to have that dominance partially nullified against a lesser opponent which hasn’t put nearly the amount of work into it, puts an ugly blight on the game. It just adds to the sense that the scrum, one of the most awesome and unique spectacles in World Sport, is under attack from officialdom. Of course it would probably be useless to complain to the IRB, because they seem to have pulled on the jersey of the team for The Problem XV, not The Solution XV.

Looking back at the brighter side of things, Dan Carter couldn’t failed to have impressed the legendary Barry John as to his credentials for the position of The World’s Perfect 10. The man was everywhere. He kicked from hand flawlessly, and long. His place-kicking was also high-class, except for one uncharacteristic short-range miss, which we can probably blame on Millenium’s Dead Turf Syndrome. But most of all his tactical awareness, and incisive breaks were the hallmark of another top-notch All Black performance.

Alongside him the rest of the backline did their bit. The midfield is still a work-in-progress, showing some good and bad moments, but never looking weak for that. Kelleher bore the brunt of the half-back’s effort, putting in some super work in the first half when things were tense and loose ball needed tidying up.

In the forwards the scrum was, as mentioned, mighty. Tialata has really grown over the past 12 months into a world class loose-head prop, and on the other side Carl Hayman is without peer. In the locks, apart from a bad handling error early on Robinson gave the lineout that solidity he always does, stealing one throw off the Welsh. His partner Ali Williams had another excellent game, capped off by his stunningly good 50m clearing kick to touch from the 22m, which he made when covering in defence. The loose forward trio is currently the World Rugby Benchmark for such. McCaw, So’oialo, and Collins are such damaging bastards on defence, and challenging runners on attack, sucking the life out of their opposites over a full 80 minutes (well, only 70 for Richie, care of Whistling Willy Wanker and The Sin-bin Factory), as evidenced by the pained expressions on some of the Welsh players’ faces.

So this test was a great and fitting finale to an interesting and valuable end of year tour.

We’d all like to take this opportunity to say a big ‘well done’ to the All Blacks, coaches and management, wish you all an early Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and thank you for what’s been a tremendous year of rugby.

Time to dust off the barbie, and get some good old R&R in!

The Haka Team

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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20 Nov

France v All Blacks, Paris, 18 November 2006
by Tracey Nelson
20 Nov 2006

Much better effort from France this week, although still not enough to topple the ABs who continue their good record against France in Paris.

The usual stats: First 3 to Breakdown relates to who is getting there to protect the ball carrier, or attempting to get a turnover from a tackle on the opposition, and hopefully also doing some cleaning out in the process. Completed Tackles means actually bringing the player and ball to ground (ie. snuffing out the movement), not assists in the tackle situation – so only sole-effort tackles are noted, other than in cases where it is impossible to split a combined tackle. Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Please note that I do NOT call a slipped tackle a tackle, it gets noted as a missed tackle.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each total. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute.

First 3 to Breakdown
McCaw 36 (16+20)
Hayman 27 (14+13)
Collins 22 (7+15)
Williams 17 (10+7)
Woodcock 16 (10+6)
Jack 16 (7+9)
Mealamu 14 (6+8)
MacDonald 14 (6+8)
Sivivatu 13 (9+4)
Carter 11 (8+3)
So’oialo 11 (4+7)
Muliaina 10 (5+5)
Nonu 9 (2+7)
Rokocoko 4 (3+1)
Hore* 3
Masoe* 2
Tialata* 2
Eaton* 1
Ellis* 1
Completed tackles and assists
McCaw 18 (5+13) and 3
Collins 13 (2+11) and 0
So’oialo 12 (5+7) and 0
Williams 11 (3+8) and 2
Hayman 7 (1+6) and 2
Tialata* 7 and 0
Carter 6 (1+5) and 1
Nonu 6 (1+5) and 1
Muliaina 6 (2+4) and 0
Masoe* 5 and 1
Eaton* 4 and 0
MacDonald 4 (0+4) and 0
Rokocoko 4 (0+4) and 0
Jack 3 (1+1) and 2
Mealamu 3 (1+1) and 0
Kelleher 3 (1+2) and 1
Evans* 2 and 0
Woodcock 1 (0+1) and 1
Sivivatu 0 and 1
Missed and slipped tackles (6)
Sivivatu 1 (1+0)
Collins 1 (0+1)
Hayman 1 (0+1)
Williams 1 (0+1)
So’oialo 1 (0+1)
Mealamu 1 (0+1)
Penalties conceded by NZ (9)
Ruck/Maul 2
Offside (ruck) 1
Tackle 5
Backchat 1
Penalties conceded by France (8)
Ruck/Maul 2
Lineout 1
Tackle 4
Backchat 1
Turnovers by NZ (14)
Knock onl 6
Spilled 3
Tackle 4
Other 1
Lineouts
A total of 25 in the game
First half (17)
NZ 6/6
FRA 9/11
Second half (8)
NZ 5/5
FRA 3/3

In the first half NZ had one untidy slap back of the ball from the front of the lineout by So’oialo – Kelleher struggled to pull it in and ended up losing possession as the French forwards swarmed through on him. In the second half Williams took the ball at the front of the lineout only to have it ripped off him by the French pack. France lost two lineouts in the first half, the first due to plenty of pushing and shoving by both sides as the ball was thrown to the back of the lineout, and the second was a throw to the middle that was tipped by Williams and pulled in by Jack.

Better scrum this week from France – the All Blacks conceded a Free Kick at the first scrum of the game (French feed) for going in before the ref’s call to engage. France also caused a few problems for the All Blacks when it came to clearing the ball from the base of the scrum, resulting in the All Blacks fumbling and losing possession on their third scrum feed five minutes before half time.

Scrums
A total of 18 in the game
First half (9)
NZ 4/5
FRA 4/4
Second half (9)
NZ 5/5
FRA 4/4
18 Nov

Crouch – Touch – Kiss – Fondle
by Paul Waite
18 Nov 2006

The IRB, and assorted sycophants have got it badly wrong.

It’s too Politcally Correct for words. Listen to this drivel from IRB chairman Dr Syd Millar, on the official IRB Web site – a clear case of wanting to have your cake (“physicality in rugby”) and wanting to eat it as well (doing away with same). The poor wee thing has become all confused and obviously thinks that talking about wanting to do something is the same as actually doing it. In popular parlance, he talks the talk, but he isn’t walking the walk.

Here’s the quote:




“An essential element of rugby is its physicality. This has to be appropriately balanced with the welfare of participating players and the IRB continues to take such issues very seriously.

“The IRB believes that the contested scrum is an integral part of the game and that rugby is unique in that its playing charter provides the opportunity for individuals of all shapes and sizes to play the game,” said Millar.

He added, however, that expert medical and technical advice had indicated it was appropriate for the game to adopt a “less vigorous scrum engagement sequence”.




There is a *lot* wrong with the above piece of bollocks. First of all, Millar knows that every red-blooded rugby fan hates the idea of the front-rows being emasculated like this. So he leads off by assuring us that physicality is an “essential element” of the game. Of course the new engagement rules do that essential element right in the eye, so he’s taking it head-on to try and bluff his way through all the objections. No hiding from the truth from this boy.

The key thing is the phrase “appropriately balanced”. Well, Syd, it ISN’T appropriately fucking balanced. How’s that?

An appropriate balance to address the safety issues we see would be to simply invest more of the IRB’s cash mountain of Rugby World Cup money in some better grass-roots coaching, and keep banging away at how the coaches, players and referees should look after each other on the park. Particularly focussing in on the lower echelons of the game where this kind of issue is more prevalent, and avoid screwing everything up for the top levels. End of story.

Emasculating the whole game is all the way across town from being “appropriate” in terms of balance in my view. It’s a bloody disgrace.

And what the hell is this “expert medical and technical advice” which indicated it was appropriate for the game to adopt a “less vigorous scrum engagement sequence”?

Shit, what if boxing listened to all the “experts” out there baying for less blood, and the various associations world-wide decided to adopt the appropriately balanced decision to remove “the hit” from that? Or maybe all the boxers have to wear those big rubber sumo suits, head-gear, and pillows over their fists. After all, it’s “dangerous” isn’t it?

As I’ve said before, rugby is NOT safe. If you want “safe” then go and play bloody tiddlywinks. This path leads to the total destruction of everything we admire and love about the game, and the sad thing is, this scrummaging issue isn’t the first step along it. We’ve already more or less seen true rucking out-lawed. The refereeing of on-field confrontation is another area where good old-fashioned flare-ups have been stamped on ridiculously hard. Take a look at other sports with a bit more of a clue – it’s the nature of the game, so roll with it and use it. For a hundred years it had evolved nicely, but recently we’ve been seeing players being treated like miscreants for the most minor of offences. Ridiculous.

Removal of the scrum hit can be brushed off very easily by the morons who have introduced it. “The scrum will still be a contest” they say. Of course it will, but that statement is an empty one. What matters to us all is what kind of contest it will be. The answer to that is, obviously, a less full-on, less conrfrontational, more controlled, and much less physical one.

That brings me to the other of Syd Millars statements. He re-asserts that rugby is still a game for “individuals of all shapes and sizes”. The reason he said that is because a criticism of the new scrum law is that we are de-powering the scrum, and it will result in less physical, smaller front rows. So again, he’s taking it head-on, in the hope we’ll trust they’ve thought it through, and all will be well.

It’s rubbish. They haven’t the vision to see what will happen over time. The trouble is, for some years it won’t be evident, so everyone will think they made a great decision. The forwards already playing won’t suddenly change their attitudes, or physiques. They might enjoy it less, with the polite “kiss and make up” scrum engagement, making them feel like fucking kids being told by dad to behave, but they’ll get on with it.

It’s down the track that bothers me more. A big part of the front-rowers’ psyche, is that ‘nefarious front-row club’ thing. What goes on between the two opposites is their thing, and their business. The hit is all a big part of that, and not just the hit in itself, but the ability of two front rows to fight for dominance on their own terms, unhampered by pansy-arsed control-freak rules wielded by pencil-necked referees. Seeing the lie of the land, this kind of sportsman is simply going to look to another sport to get the kind of confrontational outlet they want.

As to size, let’s think harder about it than the IRB have. You might think that because the scrum will still have to push, having engaged like nice little boys, they will need to be just as big and strong. Wrong. I’ve seen strong-men, weighing little over 100kg pushing trucks, simply by technique. The same guys wouldn’t stand a chance if they were banged into hard by a big scary prop of the old school. Making and withstanding impact is where size counts. So in the future, we’ll have coaches picking smaller, faster front-rowers who can master the scrum-pushing technique, but don’t need to have the kind of ballast to make and withstand a true scrum hit. Rugby League forwards, here we come and Syd, bollocks to your statement about “all shapes and sizes”.

Finally, it comes as no surprise to find Jason Leonard is one of the proponents of this misguided rule change. In his time, he wouldn’t have been able to frighten my granny packing down in the front row. I’ll bet they didn’t canvas any of the Argentinian front-rowers, or the likes of other hard-men of the past and present like Fran Cotton, Carl Hayman or Os du Randt say or, moving away from the front-row itself perhaps Colin Meads or Martin Johnson might have been able to offer some constructive words of advice?

The whole thing is, as I have said before, the thin end of the wedge. If we let this happen, and keep happening (because we haven’t seen the end of it yet) then the game will be unrecognisable to us all in 10 years.

And we’ll all be the poorer for that.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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16 Nov

Think BIG
by Paul Waite
16 Nov 2006

Ok, let’s do it right. Heads it’s Eden Park, tails the waterfront jobbie….

Right! The big doughnut on the waterfront it is. Well, it’s about as good a way as any of the mechanisms the so-called People In Charge (a.k.a. “Mother” Hubbard) up in Auckland have managed to come up with. What’s all that shit about getting people to phone up, or voting on the council website all about? What kind of balanced opinion is that going to give them?

Christ on a crutch, someone in charge needs to make a decision BASED ON FACTS, not some skewed poll of god knows what cross-section of “the public” who happen to get up and lodge one (or maybe many more) opinions.

I’ve no fucking idea which to choose (in any definitive way at least) myself. I simply don’t have enough facts. In the main, it’s the facts concerning the Waterfront Option which are conspicuous by their absence. If I knew more about what it would look like, how long it will take to build (including consents), how the transport is going to work, how the whole waterfront area would be developed, how Ports were going to manage to keep working whilst the ground is snatched from underneath them, how the costing is broken down, and what the uncertainty is for all these, then I might be able to volunteer an opinion on it.

Instead, like everyone else, I’m left with the less than useless nebulous opinion “the waterfront stadium looks kick-ass, so if it can be done in time, and it will end up nice, and won’t fuck anything up, and won’t increase my rates or tax, then way-to-go mate!”.

Now look across at Eden Park. That’s a safe bet. Extending and improving one of our premiere rugby grounds, with tradition and history behind it is pretty well predictable. As a result I can easily believe it can be done well, and on time, and more or less at the proposed budget. All things that I can’t know about the waterfront option.

So, the way forward is NOT to base the decision on fucking talkback, but for the Government and Auckland Coucil bodies to get together with engineers and architects, and make the correct decision based on hard facts. Something “the public” will not have remotely enough time to do.

As I see it, public opinion on this is split into two camps. The waterfront supporters are the bungy-jumpers of this World. They don’t mind taking a punt, trusting some half-sober yobbo with B.O. and no proper job to tie their ankles up securely with a few disturbingly frayed bits of rubber of a length hopefully much less than the drop, and then jump. They can’t know that it’s all going to work out, but it looks so fricken’ cool they just have to do it.

The Eden Park faction are the better-safe-than-sorry, look-before-you-leap folks of this World. They like to see all their ducks in a row, counted and stood up nicely for knocking over one by one. Uncertainty of any kind upsets them, and has them fearing the worst.

Ok there’s also the Traditionalists who want Eden Park because their Great great great great great great Grandmothers’ dog used to go there and watch the All Blacks, and occasionally hump the leg of one when a lineout happened to be within shagging distance, and have a bloody good dump at the same time (mainly when the crowd made a loud noise and scared it shitless), and they want their grand childrens’ dogs to bask in the glow of that same wonderful old tradition.

But is that a good enough reason for an Eden Park vote. Or is it all just a nice warm pile of doggy-dos?

I’m a traditionalist myself, and *hated* seeing Athletic Park dismantled and replaced by that wanky little circular effort they built. Why? Mainly because it’s just too small, and secondly because it’s round, like a bloody circus ring fit only for sawdust and clowns, not rugby. Rugby grounds should be rectangular, end of story. There’s a purity about that shape which brings the crowd into direct communication with the nature of the game istelf – which is end-to-end via cross-field moves. There’s nothing “circular” about rugby, except the wind whistling around The Caketin.

The Caketin was a good idea, done wrong. Turns out I’m not as much of a traditionalist as I supposed. I didn’t mind Athletic Park being razed; just the fact it was replaced by the wrong thing.

Here in New Zealand we’ve been thinking too small with our stadia. I’ve believed this ever since The Caketin was built, and all of a sudden I could never get tickets for the big All Black tests here in Wellington anymore. All it needed was another 10-15,000 seats and everyone would have been as happy as we used to be at Athletic Park.

So when I look at this Great Stadium Debate, I say to all New Zealanders (downs tumbler of scotch, and puffs on cigar) Think Big!

Stop thinking small increments, and for once, let’s decide to build something that will be a showpiece for New Zealand, large enough to house great events – A National Stadium.

You’ve guessed it. I’m in favour of the Waterfront Option. I don’t know jack-shit about how (or whether) it can be done in time, or any of the other things I mentioned above, but for me it’s the only option worth persuing.

Do it right. Do it BIG. And do it on the water!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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15 Nov

Yakety YAC – Don't Talk Back
by Paul Waite
15 Nov 2006

Ok, we’ve got something which is meant to pass for a ‘Top Team’ selected for the Paris test, but there’s still something amiss with the selection of Ma’a Nonu as second-five.

As a Wellington supporter I love seeing Ma’a bust those Super-14 defences apart, and give his opposites in the provincial championship a pasting. In those arenas his limited ball-in-hand game, and dodgy defence don’t matter much.

But at test level he leaves me underwhelmed. Contrasted with Aaron Mauger, he seems to only have about 40% of the package. His vision of what’s going on around him in terms of opportunities and options remains mole-like in its scope. His defence is still a big liability against teams that can exploit it, such as Australia, and the Boks (even the French if they manage to get front-foot ball). This latter issue continues to be highlighted by his penchant for repeatedly steaming up out of the defensive line for the ‘wonder hit’, and a lack of nouse as to where to be usually resulting in him choosing the same player as someone else to mark, leaving a gap two or three times per game.

Added to that, a second-five simply has to have some of the silky skills of the No.10, to be considered for that position at test level. A tactical kicking game is essential, to provide those extra options when we are under pressure or on attack, and the first-five is under too much pressure. Nonu provides none of this, and as far as I can see, never will.

Now onto the reasons given for Mauger’s axing. Apparently he was a bit off form, and not under an injury cloud as was initially supposed. Ok, so what’s the best way to get someone back into form? Well according to our esteemed selectors, the best thing all-round is to simply drop the player and (presumably) hope that he re-acquires it through running around a training paddock, or maybe through the water he drinks, who knows?

The best way to get a player back up to his best form is to play him, end of story. Here we are, ostensibly beginning our preparations for the World Cup, and playing our top side, and Mauger isn’t there practicing his combination with Mils at centre (and playing himself into form in the process). Idiotic.

What it looks like is more YACS at work. Yet Another Combination Syndrom. Stick Ma’a in at second-five with Mils, a combination we’ve never seen before (let alone ever want to see again), and “Wow! it might be The One!”.

I fully expect we’ll be treated to more YACS for the test against Wales. They won’t be able to help themselves I bet.

On the other hand they might stagger me, and only make the sensible change of putting Mauger in the 12 jersey, and playing the same team again (barring injuries) to give us the minor (but welcome) benefit of two whole games together.

Yeah, that should build us enough momentum for the World Cup alright.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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14 Nov

National Stadium
by Tracey Nelson
14 Nov 2006

A collective groan went up around New Zealand when Sports Minister Trevor Mallard declared on Friday November 10th that the Government was in favour of a $500 million waterfront stadium rather than a $320-$385 million upgrade of Eden Park. Not because we don’t want to see a new national stadium (I personally think that would be great), but because we are only too aware of the implications of the Government’s request for Aucklanders to decide on which venue they want. Remember the V8 Racing saga? He underlined his request with the statement ‘The big test for the success of the Rugby World Cup is going to be how Aucklanders get in behind one stadium or the other. If you can’t get unanimity in Auckland, it will go to Jade’.

Outstanding work, Trevor. So he’s charging the Auckland City Council (Hubbard’s mob, who are supposedly in favour of the waterfront option), the Auckland Regional Council (who still want Eden Park) and the residents of greater Auckland to all agree by November 24th on which stadium they want to go ahead. This, from a collective group of councils and citizens who probably couldn’t manage to organise an explosion in a munitions factory.

Mr Mallard has also not endeared himself to Cantabs by trying to use Canterbury-Auckland rivalry as a way of getting Aucklanders to make a snap decision on their choice of stadium. Jade Stadium is to undergo an upgrade to increase the permanent seating capacity to 43 000, with additional temporary seating to allow a 55 000 capacity for major event such as the RWC – however, the Government is not going to provide any funds for the upgrade even should Jade Stadium become the Final venue by default from Auckland. That also assumes the IRB would allow the Final to be shifted from Auckland to Christchurch. The IRB would have the right to allocate the 2011 Rugby World Cup to a different country if we could not fulfil our contracted promise to build a world class 60 000 seat stadium – although I see there are now question marks over whether it was 60 000 or 50 000 that was signed off in the agreement.

Four hours after the press conference we were informed that there was nothing official in place, but the advice from the City Council and the ARC was ‘for people to phone, email or get in touch with local council’. Yet another brilliant display of the total lack of cohesive governance in our largest city that, even with the forewarning they would be asked to choose between the two venues, nobody had thought to organise some official avenue for the citizens of Auckland to register their choice. Apparently the citizens have to wait until Wednesday before making their views official.

It got even better. By Sunday we learnt that there was a breakaway faction from within the city council who wanted to persuade the Government that Carlaw Park should be considered as an upgraded venue. What planet are these people on? The Government stated very clearly that Auckland city has a choice of two venues. Neither of which is Carlaw Park. Why throw this red herring into the mix at this stage of the game? Would it not be more useful to focus on the task at hand rather than create a storm in a teacup that is merely a pointless diversion from the decision required?

So here we sit, the fate of the 2011 Rugby World Cup – an event we haven’t hosted for 20 years, no thanks to the total stuff up the NZRU made with the co-hosting rights with Australia in 2003 – sitting in the hands of the people of Auckland. We can only hope that the City Council and Regional Council can actually manage to collate the citizens’ votes and provide the Government with a firm answer on November 24th, because otherwise we run the very real risk of the IRB throwing up their hands in horror and handing the tournament to another country. Mr Mallard has declared ‘If we fail to deliver on the World Cup, I’ll be fired’. I can assure him that would be the just the tip of the iceberg for both him and Auckland should we lose the hosting rights for yet a second time…

13 Nov

France v All Blacks, Lyon, 11 November 2006
by Tracey Nelson
13 Nov 2006

Manifique! What a superb peformance by the All Blacks to beat France by a record score, eclipsing that memorable victory in Paris in 2004. Amazingly the All Blacks managed to pile on 47 points while having less of the territory and possession, and also didn’t concede a try all game in probably their best defensive effort of 2006. France managed their lone 3 points from a drop goal in the 20th minute of the game, so were kept scoreless for 60. If you wanted to be picky you could say that our goal kickers had an off day (Carter 5/8 and McAlister 0/2), that our restarts are still shaky and we didn’t really manage to create anything from set piece. But that would be churlish in the extreme. This was a performance to cherish and revel in, and it was probably lucky for France that the All Blacks didn’t have more possession otherwise they probably would have put 60 points on them.

The usual stats: First 3 to Breakdown relates to who is getting there to protect the ball carrier, or attempting to get a turnover from a tackle on the opposition, and hopefully also doing some cleaning out in the process. Completed Tackles means actually bringing the player and ball to ground (ie. snuffing out the movement), not assists in the tackle situation – so only sole-effort tackles are noted, other than in cases where it is impossible to split a combined tackle. Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Please note that I do NOT call a slipped tackle a tackle, it gets noted as a missed tackle.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each total. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute.

First 3 to Breakdown
McCaw 15 (9+6)
Woodcock 11 (10+1)
Ryan 11 (9+2)
Collins 11 (6+5)
Hayman 10 (8+2)
So’oialo 10 (5+5)
Oliver 7 (5+2)
Smith 7 (4+3)
Rokocoko 6 (4+2)
Sivivatu 5 (4+1)
Mealamu* 4 Williams 4 (3+1)
Carter 4 (1+3)
MacDonald 3 (1+2)
Nonu* 2
Tialata* 2
Kelleher* 1
Eaton* 1
Completed tackles and assists
Collins 17 (6+11) and 1
So’oialo 14 (1+13) and 0
Hayman 13 (4+9) and 1
Ryan 12 (5+7) and 3
McCaw 9 (5+4) and 3
McAlister 9 (5+4) and 1
Smith 8 (4+4) and 2
Eaton* 7 and 2
Williams 6 (0+6) and 2
Oliver 5 (3+2) and 0
Rokocoko 4 (1+3) and 1
Nonu* 3 and 0
Woodcock 3 (1+2) and 1
Carter 3 (1+2) and 1
Weepu 3 (0+3) and 0
Kelleher* 2 and 0
Mealamu* 2 and 0
Muliaina* 2 and 0
Tialata* 1 and 0
Missed and slipped tackles (15)
McAlister 5 (0+5)
Sivivatu 2 (1+1)
Ryan 2 (0+2)
MacDonald 1 (1+0)
Collins 1 (1+0)
Hayman 1 (0+1)
Williams 1 (0+1)
So’oialo 1 (0+1)
Mealamu* 1 (0+1)
Penalties conceded by NZ(16)
Ruck/Maul 7
Tackle 4
Offside general play 2
Lineout 1
Holding player back 1
Backchat 1
Lineouts
A total of 34 in the game
First half (13)
NZ 4/5
FRA 6/8
Second half (21)
NZ 7/9
FRA 9/12

The All Blacks lost an attacking lineout throw (Williams, front) in the first half, partly due to poor work in the air and also good contest from France. France lost two throws – one badly directed to back of their lineout that Mccaw got, and one untidy slap back at the front that Williams got his hands on that led to McCaw’s try. In the second half Williams knocked-on one throw at the front, while another throw to the middle of the lineout was also lost (didn’t see jumper). France had problems with their throwing in the second half and lost three throws, although the All Blacks were penalised for holding on to the jumper in one instance.

Huge problems for France, with the All Black scrum being dominant throughout the game. France conceded two Free Kicks in the first half on NZ feeds, and lost two of their own feeds as the All Blacks pushed them through 90 degrees – the last scrum of the first half resulting in turnover ball to NZ and a try to Carter.

Scrums
A total of 17 in the game
First half (12)
NZ 4/4
FRA 6/8
Second half (5)
NZ 1/1
FRA 4/4
7 Nov

England v All Blacks, 5 November 2006
by Tracey Nelson
7 Nov 2006

Not a bad first-up hit out for the All Blacks in their opening game of the northern tour given they haven’t played together for a couple of months and some players (notably the loosies) hadn’t played much more than 40 minutes of rugby in the eight weeks prior to this test match. A record defeat for England on their home ground, although they did manage to outflank the All Black defence on a number of occasions scoring three tries in the process – although we all know it should have been four had the match officials had any degree of sense amongst them in not awarding England’s first breach of the All Black line. Unbelievable decision.

Thankfully the lineout seems to have settled down with the re-introduction of Keith Robinson to the fold, although I shan’t hold my breath that all our problems in that area are completely solved yet. And there is still the issue of our inability to get the ball from restarts…

The usual stats: First 3 to Breakdown relates to who is getting there to protect the ball carrier, or attempting to get a turnover from a tackle on the opposition, and hopefully also doing some cleaning out in the process. Completed Tackles means actually bringing the player and ball to ground (ie. snuffing out the movement), not assists in the tackle situation – so only solo-effort tackles are noted, other than in cases where it is impossible to split a combined tackle. Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Please note that I do NOT call a slipped tackle a tackle, it gets noted as a missed tackle. Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each total. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute.

Note: due to some less than satisfactory camera work by the English there were live parts of the game that were missed while they were doing replays, hence these stats are not necessarily as comprehensive and correct as those I can normally gather.

First 3 to Breakdown
McCaw 25 (18+7)
Robinson 20 (13+7)
Thorne 19 (11+8)
Hayman 14 (7+7)
Mauger 12 (10+2)
Masoe 11 (7+4)
Woodcock 10 (9+1)
Jack 10 (7+3)
Muliaina 10 (6+4)
Gear 9 (8+1)
Mealamu 8 (5+3)
Rokocoko 7 (5+2)
Carter 7 (4+3)
Nonu 5 (3+2
Sivivatu* 2
Dermody* 2
Ellis* 1
So’oialo* 1
Hore* 1
Afoa* 1
Completed tackles and assists
McCaw 14(7+7) and 2
Masoe 10 (4+6) and 1
Nonu 9 (4+5) and 1
Mauger 7 (3+4) and 3
Jack 7 (3+4) and 1
Hayman 7 (3+4) and 1
Robinson 7 (3+4) and 1
Thorne 6 (4+2)
Kelleher 6 (4+2) and 1
Carter 5 (0+5) and 1
Mealamu 4 (2+2) and 1
Woodcock 4 (1+3)
Rokocoko 2 (1+1)
Gear 2 (1+1) and 1
Muliaina 2 (1+1) and 1
Ellis* 3 and 1
Missed and slipped tackles (8)
Nonu 3
Mauger 1
Rokocoko 1
Robinson 1
Jack 1
Woodcock 1
Penalties conceded (11)
McCaw 2
Thorne 2
Masoe 2 + yellow card
Mauger 1
Jack 1
Ellis 1
Dermody 1
Muliaina 1
Lineouts
A total of 29 in the game
First half (14)
NZ 6/7
ENG 6/7
Second half (15)
NZ 5/7
ENG 7/8

The All Blacks lost one throw (Thorne) at the back of the lineout in the first half, while England also lost a long throw to the back of their lineout. In the second half a long throw to the back of the lineout was again lost as England stole the tap, while the other lost throw was a Not Straight call. England lost one lineout in the second half which was a clean steal in the middle (Robinson). NZ throws were to Robinson (4/4), Jack (3/3), Masoe (3/3) Thorne (1/2), and two I couldn’t see as the cameras weren’t on the lineouts!

3 Nov

The Hit Must Stay!
by Paul Waite
3 Nov 2006

The “busies” have been, well, busy again down in the depths of the IRB Rugby Laws think-tank.

A change to rugby’s Rule 20 has been approved by the International Rugby Board rugby committee and a full board meeting in Dublin next month is expected to ratify it, effective from January 1st 2007.

Sometimes I wonder whether this think-tank committee actually occupies a room done out in white rubber walls, and the inmates forced to wear those funny jackets with sleeves that lace up at the back.

It seems to have an obsession with “speeding the game up”. Has anyone asked players or spectators whether they think it’s necessary? It’s plenty fast enough now thankyou very much. Thankfully there is still the odd pause to draw breath, consider tactics, and savour proceedings due to lineouts, try-scoring etc. and that wonderful set-piece, The Scrum.

Up on the Think Tankers’ list, entitled “How To Speed the Game Up Until It All Goes By In A Blur”, is a proposal to remove The Hit from scrummaging. The problem with the scrum (apparently) is that a lot of time is “wasted” (their word not mine), whilst the two gnarly front-rows exchange the kind of pleasantries that have entertained craggy forwards and ardent fans of the game for decades. They have also used the smokescreen of “safety issues”, but more of that later.

The solution to this so-called problem, is to change the Laws so that The Hit is outlawed, and both teams have to politely bow down and then gently engage like a bunch of fucking nancyboys engaging in a furtive snogging session, presumably before the referee tells them they can actually start pushing. God preserve us.

There are two possibilities: either the idiots proposing this change have no conception of how this emasculation will change the face of the game, or they know perfectly well. I’m not sure which is worse. Either way, it can’t be allowed to be carried through, it’s as simple as that.

What they are suggesting will rip the heart out of the forward game, make redundant the immense amount of training and the natural physical talent embodied in the likes of Carl Hayman, Os du Randt, Andy Sheridan et al, and remove one of sport’s most thrilling spectacles.

The scrum will edge ever more towards the laughable version presented in rugby league. It won’t happen overnight of course, because the currently existing props won’t suddenly vanish, and are still strong. Misguided proponents of this change will seem to be correct. But over time, because of the emasculation of front-row combat, prospective front-rowers will look to other areas, and to other sports for the same outlet. The scrum will eventually be more and more de-powered, less of a test of strength and more of a restart opportunity. Lighter, faster players will be preferred, where they had to be massive and strong before, and we will then see the erosion of one of the cornerstones of rugby – that it is a game for all body-types. There will be no place for the burly prop anymore.

I can’t for the life of me understand why the IRB would sanction such a far-reaching destruction of such essential, and well-loved attributes of the game. It’s absolutely unforgiveable.

Finally let’s debunk the smokescreen argument regarding safety. Rugby is NOT safe. Neither is crossing the road, frying eggs, or touring a foreign country. I’m sick and tired of hearing of official bodies wetting themselves trying to “make things safe”. It’s like bloody Councils and playgrounds. In my day, you had a great big fuckoff slide about the same height as Everest and twice as fucking slippy, and it was fun. Once I went down one of these head first at about the speed of sound as usual, just to see what that was like. One badly cut lip later I knew, and didn’t do it quite that way again – I wasn’t stupid. These days, everything has to be safe, so the slides are placed on 6-inches of cushioned rubber, are about 3-foot high with railings, and have a special anti-slip surface which means most kids weighing under 150kg just sit there with the friction preventing any of that unsafe downward motion.

At test level there is no problem with safety. Sure you may get a once in a blue moon accident, but that’s life. All other professional levels are the same, and where it is an issue due to inexperience etc, then hey, let the referee bring in special measures like Golden Oldies for sure, but don’t flush the whole game down the gurgler just for them. Players know the score, and love the skill and strength of timing a good hit, the fans love watching it so let them do it for crying out loud.

That’s all I have to say on the safety issue. It’s a smokescreen and nothing more, and isn’t even worth debating in my opinion.

The main issue is what the hell are the IRB thinking of by threatening to radically change the face of the game, in in such a unilateral manner?

Think about it, and get vocal about it before the game is ruined for good!

Addendum: The IRB referees top honcho, New Zealand ex-international ref Paddy O’Brien no less, has come out in the media in an attempt to placate. His stance is that removing the hit won’t take anything away from rugged front row play. Bollocks Paddy. It’s like telling a pair of stags they can’t smash heads in rutting season to decide who gets the sheila, and instead have to politely mesh and “shove”.

What it is is a crappy thin end of a nasty wedge called “emasculation of the game” and nothing more or less than that. We may have to consider the possibility that there are agendas at work here, staying nicely hidden. I believe that there may be commercial forces wielding their power behind the scenes to sanitise the game of what they consider to be stuff unpalatable to the vicarious TV-watcher. First the ruck was banished, now the scrum hit. What’s next on the list?

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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