25 Sep

Rugby World Cup 2011: All Blacks v France, Auckland, Game Stats
by Tracey Nelson
25 Sep 2011

The usual analysis of the All Blacks game, being the First 3 to the Breakdown, tackle stats, penalties conceded, turnovers, the lineouts, and scrums.

Some notes on these stats:

First Three to the Breakdown stats are looking for those players who are getting to the tackle/breakdown quickly and are also being useful by either cleaning out opposition players or setting up ruck ball. Anyone arriving and just leaning on the ruck isn’t included, so there are times when I will only tally one or two players. Likewise, if four players arrive simultaneously and perform a clean-out and setting up of a ruck, I will include all four in the stat.

Completed Tackles means that player actually brought the ball carrier to ground (ie. as the Laws of the Game actually described the tackler), not assists in the tackle situation which are tallied separately.

Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Most importantly, I do NOT included slipped tackles in the Tackles Made stats, it gets noted as a missed tackle. Either you’ve made the tackle or you’ve missed it.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each TOTAL. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute. This week: Sonny Bill Williams for Cory Jane at 33 min, Andy Ellis for Piri Weepu, Ali Williams for Sam Whitelock, and Andrew Hore for Keven Mealamu all at 55 min, Colin Slade for Richard Kahui at 61 min, Ben Franks for Owen Franks at 68 min, Anthony Boric for Adam Thomson at 72 min.

Try scorers: Thomson, Jane, Dagg (2), SB Williams.

Team: Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (c),Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Dan Carter, Richard Kahui, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Sonny Bill Williams

Points Scored NZ France
Tries 5 2
Conversions 3 2
Penalties 1 1
TOTAL 37 17

Penalties/Free Kicks Conceded Pen FKs
NZ 11 0
France 7 1
TOTAL 18 1

NZ Penalty Offences
Tackler Nonu 1
Tackled player Mealamu, McCaw, Kahui 3
Ruck leaving feet Hore 1
Maul offside Thomson 1
Obstruction Kaino 1
Scrum McCaw, Woodcock(3) 4
TOTAL   11

France Penalty Offences
Tackled player 2
Ruck leaving feet 1
Offside 2
Scrum 2
TOTAL 7

Turnovers Conceded by NZ
Knock-ons Mealamu, Thorn, Ellis, Nonu, Thomson 5
Forward pass Carter 1
Intercepted pass Carter 1
Scrum   1
TOTAL   8

Turnovers Conceded by France
Knock-ons 8
Forward pass 1
Tackle 2
Ruck 1
Lineout 1
TOTAL 13

Tackle turnovers won by NZ
Tackle Kaino,Thomson
TOTAL 2

Linebreaks
Carter 2
Nonu 1
Jane 1
Dagg 1
Weepu 1
SB Williams 1
A Williams 1
TOTAL 8

First 3 to Breakdown Total Per half
McCaw 31 21+10
Thomson 30 20+10
O Franks 24 18+6
Woodcock 24 14+10
Whitelock 20 18+2
Thorn 19 18+11
Mealamu 18 13+5
Kaino 18 12+6
Hore* 15  
Smith 8 7+1
Kahui 6 6+0
Dagg 4 4+0
A Williams* 3  
Jane 3  
Nonu 3 3+0
Carter 3 2+1
B Franks* 2  
SB Williams* 2  
Boric* 2  
Ellis* 1  
Slade* 1  
Weepu 1 1+0

Ball carries and metres gained No of carries Metres
McCaw 11 42
Whitelock 7 16
Woodcock 7 18
Kaino 6 23
Mealamu 5 25
A Williams* 3 12
O Franks 3 4
Thorn 2 10
Thomson 1 15
Hore* 1 2
B Franks* 1 2
TOTAL 47 129

Completed Tackles and Assists Tackles Assists
McCaw 24 (10+14) 1 (0+1)
Smith 14 (6+8) 0
Thomson 13 (8+5) 2 (0+2
Woodcock 10 (4+6) 1 (1+0)
Carter 8 (2+6) 3 (2+1)
Kaino 8 (3+5) 0
O Franks 7 (6+1) 2 (2+)
Thorn 7 (5+2) 2 (2+0)
A Williams* 5 1
Nonu 5 (1+4) 1 (0+1)
Weepu 4 (4+0) 1 (1+0)
Mealamu 4 (3+1) 0
Ellis* 2 1
Kahui 2 (2+0) 0
Dagg 2 (1+1) 0
Hore* 1 2
B Franks* 1 0
SB Williams* 1 0
Whitelock 1 (0+1) 2 (1+1)
Jane 0 1
TOTAL 119 20

Missed and Slipped Tackles
Carter 3
Woodcock 2
Whitelock 1
Thomson 1
Weepu 1
Nonu 1
Smith 1
Slade 1
SB Williams 1
TOTAL 12

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 6 7
Second half 2 2
TOTAL 8 9

NZ Line-out Jumpers Won From
Whitelock 4 4
Thomson 2 2
Thorn 1 2
Quick throw 1 1

France Line-outs Won From
First half 7 7
Second half 5 6
TOTAL 12 13

NZ Scrums Won From
First half 4 4
Second half 6 7
TOTAL 10 11

France Scrums Won From
First half 2 3
Second half 5 5
TOTAL 7 8

25 Sep

Good Moaning
by Paul Waite
25 Sep 2011

Good MoaningThe ‘French’ gendarme in the Allo’ Allo’ TV series was an amusing impostor and, I have to tell you, there was more to the French team the All Blacks beat 37-17 last night than meets the eye as well.

It was a cold winter afternoon on the 26th June 1999. I and a bunch of friends sat shivering up in the infamous Millard Stand at Athletic Park here in Wellington on the occasion of the last test match that legendary venue was to host before being pulled down.

We had scored ourselves the ultimate seats for this historic test match, right up in the highest row of the Millard. Near to kickoff time Murray Mexted slowly ascended the perilously steep stand steps aided by two sherpas. As he summited and divested himself of his ropes and crampons, he bantered with the crowd, then made the even more perilous climb up a ladder and into the little shed perched on four spindly pillars of rust known, laughably, as the ‘commentary box’.

Looking down from the top of the Millard from just underneath that shed, the view was perfect, but not one for sufferers of vertigo. There it was laid out like a snooker table below you, the stand angle so steep that you felt if you over-balanced forwards, you would end up in a free dive onto the kickoff spot.

To add to the atmosphere, one of Wellington’s famous southerlies was streaming across the ground, freezing the fans, and rattling the questionable latticework of rusty ‘meccano’ which comprised The Park. But we loved it all the same and The Caketin is no replacement. But I digress.

That day the French were paying the All Blacks a visit for a ‘warm-up’ test prior to the 1999 Rugby World Cup which was to kick off later on that year in October. As well as seeing off Athletic Park, I and 38,000 other fans had come to see the All Blacks begin their Cup preparations in style, and they didn’t disappoint, winning emphatically by 54-7 and scoring 7 tries to 1.

After the match we had a great evening, and toasted how good this All Black team were looking, and what a great psychological filip it was to have put them firmly in their place before the tournament.

The next day I was flying back to Auckland and happened to find myself on the very same plane as the French team, with a couple of them sitting next to me. I looked around surrepticiously and listened, taking care not to look too much like a smug All Blacks fan. However it quickly became apparent that, far from being a team smarting from their loss, the French were in great humour. They weren’t bubbly, exactly, they were just calmly enjoying the trip like a bunch of tourists. It became clear that the result mattered not a jot to them. They had come down to New Zealand to have a good time, play some rugby, perhaps gather some intelligence on us, and then return. Nothing more.

It’s a facet of New Zealanders, insofar as rugby is concerned, that we struggle with this concept. We can’t imagine travelling across the World to play an international test match without doing all we can to win, and to agonise over the whys and wherefors if we lose.

History shows that the French rose to the occasion in the semi-final of that World Cup to knock the All Blacks out of the tournament with one of the most fabulous come-from-behind victories in the history of the game. The recollection still hurts like hell, as an All Black fan.

Fast-forward to the Rugby World Cup pool game against France last night.

There was a lot of talk during the week about France fielding a ‘B’ team, and not attempting to win the game.

The only thing I have to say about this is that, although no team goes onto the paddock with a mindset that they want to lose the game, there is an approach (with the French especially) whereby they aren’t going to be in their cups sobbing about a loss in a local bar in the wee hours if they do happen to come second.

This is the case here. The French have obviously looked at the Pool, looked at what lies ahead in the knockout stages, and rightly fixed on the pathway which suits them, and that is to come second in the Pool. They went out with a lower than top-strength team, saving some of their players and strategies for later.

The All Blacks, for their part treated this very much as a full test match, fielding their top XV and going all out to win, as they had to.

For 40 minutes (from the 10th minute to the 50th) they played some sublime rugby, with Dan Carter back to his shimmying best and, apart from goal-kicking, looking every bit the best No.10 in the Cup so far. After initial mistakes the Smith/Nonu midfeld looked strong and penetrating, and Israel Dagg was simply mercurial. In the forwards Richie McCaw, earning his 100th test cap no less, was his usual legendary self, aided and abetted by Jerome Kaino, about whom some French forwards will be having nightmares for days.

But it was far from an 80 minute performance, a fact not lost on Graham Henry who rated it 8 out ot 10. Carter threw an intercept try to the French, there were defensive lapses, and after the 50th minute play became very loose and lost structure. More worryingly the substitution of Hore and Williams on for Mealamu and Whitelock caused the scrum to go from being dominant to being dominated. Woodcock went from damaging his opposite to getting penalised for putting a hand on the ground. This caused the All Blacks to concede ground, penalties and eventually a try.

Seen as a progressive improvement this pool game was excellent, as long as the problems and flaws which were exposed are addressed.

And if it transpires that we meet the French again in the World Cup
Final, forget all about this pool game. They won’t bear any resemblance
to that team, and neither will the test.

All Blacks 32
Israel Dagg 2, Adam Thomson, Cory Jane, Sonny Bill Williams tries
Dan Carter pen, 3 con, drop goal

France 17
Maxime Mermoz, Francois Trinh-Duc tries
Dimitri Yachvili pen, 2 con)

HT: 19-3

Paul Waite

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20 Sep

RWC – Stats at the midway point
by Tracey Nelson
20 Sep 2011

Who has the best attack, best defence, has conceded the most penalties? Some quick stats from the tournament at the halfway stage of pool play.

Please note that these stats include the game played between Italy and Russia on Tuesday 20 September, so that all four pools have had five games played to make up the first 20 of the overall 40 games of pool play.

Team Points For Tries Points Against
New Zealand 124 19 17
France 93 10 40
South Africa 66 8 19
Italy 59 9 49
Samoa 59 7 29
England 54 7 19
Fiji 52 6 74
Argentina 52 6 21
Scotland 49 4 30
Canada 44 4 66
Australia 38 4 21
Ireland 37 3 16
Namibia 37 3 98
Wales 33 2 27
Tonga 30 3 66
Romania 29 3 77
Japan 28 3 130
Russia 23 3 66
USA 23 2 28
Georgia 16 1 56

Pool Total points Tries
A 319 39
B 203 21
C 180 21
D 247 27

Pool Penalties Cards
A 115 0
B 115 3
C 102 0
D 106 2

Team Penalties con Cards
Romania 28 1
England 27 2
Australia 27 0
Canada 26 0
Argentina 26 0
New Zealand 25 0
Japan 25 0
Samoa 25 1
Namibia 22 1
Russia 21 0
Fiji 21 0
Tonga 20 0
USA 20 0
France 10 0
Ireland 19 0
South Africa 19 0
Wales 19 0
Georgia 18 0
Scotland 16 0
Itlay 15 1

Referee Penalties awarded Match Av
Alain Rolland 53 26.5
Steve Walsh 51 25.5
Bryce Lawrence 39 24.5
Jonathan Kaplan 47 23.5
Craig Joubert 42 21.0
Nigel Owens 41 20.5
Alan Pearson 41 20.5
George Clancy 36 18.0
Wayne Barnes 33 16.5

20 Sep

Cup Balls: Kev & Nev’s View
by Paul Waite
20 Sep 2011

Kev and NevFollowing the surprise announcement of their robot ref, Kev Dagg and Neville Shepherd have been invited back by Haka to share some of their views on the coming week of exciting Rugby World Cup action.

Nev: We’re betting that, if you’re an Aussie fan, you’d be as sick as a dog that fell in the sheep-dip after seeing your team tipped up by Ireland like that.

Kev: Humbled.

Nev: Steady Kev. You ever seen a humble Aussie?

Kev: Good point. Anyway Genia and Cooper got done up like a dinner and a lot of folks this side of the ditch are saying ‘about time’. Looks like our Aussie cousins are going to meet South Africa in the quarters and to be honest I don’t fancy their chances there.

Nev: Could be dog tucker.

Kev: But never write those underarm bowlers off. If they get Pocock back, get the Doc to extract Digby’s thumb from his backside, teach O’Connor to kick, and really put it together they could win that and no mistake. Trouble is, a pack which couldn’t out-scrum Ireland has to get the wood on the Bokke tighties.

Nev: About as much chance of that as England players understanding The Laws. Did you see that rubbish with Georgia – what was that Kaplan joker on, valium? How many ruck penelties did he need before fishing the yellow plastic out?

Kev: Yeah that was slack. You had to admire those Georgia lads though. Hard yakka turning out to play the Poms four days after the Jocks eh? But they got stuck in alright. Some sore Pommie bodies after that one even if they did win.

Nev: So we reckon that, as usual, the Poms will play like the brown stuff on my milking shed floor but win their pool. I see in the papers they’ve already had their traditional crisis meeting where they ask each other what the bloody hell is the go with all the penalties, and then remember it’s because of the intentional cheating.

Kev: And having cleared that up they’ll come out and cheat at international standard instead of club standard and get through to the quarters and then the semis.

Nev: But that’s looking a bit too far ahead. The match of the round this week is going to be Scotland v Argentina without a doubt.

Kev: Yes it’s a do or die game this one. We fancy the Jocks to shade the Argies and put themselves in line for the pool runners up spot there.

Nev: Yeah they’ve banned bagpipes and lumped them in with those.. what’re they called Kev.. vulvazeelas?

Kev: Something like that. That’s like waving a tartan kilt at a jock that is. We think that’ll fire them up enough to get them through, whilst at the same time we do appreciate the absence of strangulated cat noises on the terraces.

Nev: England are facing off against Romania which should knock a few more dents into them. Those Romanian forwards are big units and that’s a fact. A tight first half and a Pom win by 3-4 tries by the end on that one we reckon.

Kev: The boys are playing France but we’re picking the Frogs to play it coy as usual. They’ll keep their powder dry, field a weak team, lose handsomely and not care a jot because they were always aiming to go through second so why get their perms in a tangle.

Nev: What about our lad Zac? Hung out to dry for having a few too many after the win in Auckland and the loss in Brisbane.

Kev: Would never have happened in Pinetree’s day.

Nev: Though I think most of the others might have got dropped for not drinking enough.

Kev: There is that.

Nev: Just to wrap it up, the rest of the games are pretty much business as usual stuff as far as results go, but we’ll be expecting more good footy to be played in all of them.

Kev: Yep, that’s one thing we’ve been served up plenty of this World Cup!

Thanks to Kev and Nev for that interview, and we’ll be back to hear more of their thoughts next week.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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20 Sep

RWC Summary and Predictions
by Paul Waite
20 Sep 2011

Let’s have a look at the story so far in the pools at RWC2011, and then have a quick look at what might (or might not) lie ahead as we zero in on the knock-out phase.

The 2011 edition of the Rugby World Cup continues to deliver more cracking games as compared with 2007. The first weeks of pool games are normally a succession of thrashings delivered with appropriate hauteur by the ‘tier 1′ teams to the ‘minnows, with the occasional evenly contested minnow-vs-minnow encounter. Not this time around!

In fact the term ‘minnow’ is now officially defunct. Inappropriate. There are no teams at RWC2011 which deserve that condescending label, and the people who, after 2007, were suggesting we revert to the 16-team format are thankfully being shown up for the short-sighted idiots they are.

Even the All Blacks’ 83-7 rout of an under-strength Japan falls into the same perspective, given the 145-17 stomping in 1995. The Brave Blossoms competed for the full 80 minutes and were not daunted, just over-matched.

There were other examples of the massive increase in global playing standards by the tier 2 teams. England vs Georgia was a classic. Georgia were playing a team which has won the Rugby World Cup once, and been finalists twice. To say they competed is an epic understatement. Georgian forwards, most of them looking like Popeye’s nemesis, Bluto, fired themselves into the English defensive line like missiles, and their heroic efforts earned them a close 10-17 deficit at halftime. They eventually went down 10-41 as they tired and leaked points in the second half, but given they were being forced to play only FOUR DAYS after their previous pool game against Scotland (a hard-fought 15-6 defeat), that was unsurprising. England left the field looking battered by the encounter, and still utterly confused by the Laws of the game.

The game of the round was undoubtedly Australia vs. Ireland played at a rainy Eden Park. Leading up to this Ireland had suffered through a forgettable August of World Cup build-up games losing to Scotland, England and twice to France. But it was a fired-up team of Emerald-isle men who really took it to the jaunty Aussies in Auckland. Though the damp conditions probably helped, it was mainly the shutting down of play-makers Genia and Cooper which delivered the surprise 15-6 result. That and a ton of Irish passion.

To say that the Aussie World Cup plans are now derailed is over-stating it, but they have undoubtedly been severely dented. Ireland still have to make good on their leg-up, but victories over Russia and Italy would seem to be well within their scope. If that happens then Australia will come second in the pool, and probably meet South Africa in the Quarter-final. An early exit therefore looms for one of the Southern Hemisphere giants. The Wallabies need to be very worried about this as the Boks, historically, have been well suited to beating them in this kind of pressure-cooker encounter.

All the other pools seem to be on course for the following probable quarter-finals in the knock-out phase of the cup:

QF1: Ireland vs. Wales
QF2: England vs. France
QF3: South Africa vs. Australia
QF4: New Zealand vs. Argentina or Scotland

QF1 does offer Samoa an outside chance of getting there ahead of Wales, but Wales have Namibia and Fiji to play, whereas Samoa have Fiji and South Africa, so it will be very difficult.

With QF4 Argentina are 3 points behind Scotland but Scotland has yet to play England which may well result in a zero points haul and Argentina has Georgia which should get them at least 4. So the Scotland vs. Argentina pool game next week should decide which of them goes through to the knock-out stages.

Looking too far ahead is dangerous, but we love danger so let’s throw the clich├ęd (and boring) ‘one game at a time’ rule out of the proverbial window.

In some parallel universe, the above quarter-finals will produce these semi-finals:

SF1: Wales vs. France
SF2: New Zealand vs. South Africa

And, being an All Blacks supporter, and a lover of symmetry I can’t help but predict that the 2011 Rugby World Cup final will be the same as the inaugural World Cup held in 1987 in this country:

Final: New Zealand vs. France

And the result of that will obviously be a New Zealand victory by 29-9.

Eh bien!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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18 Sep

Cup Balls: Robot Referee At Large
by Paul Waite
18 Sep 2011

gortIn a shock revelation it has come to light that one of the referees at this World Cup is a robot, developed specifically to provide what the makers term ‘a bit of a leg-up’ for the All Blacks.

At their invitation I went to interview South Island farmers Kev Dagg and Neville Shepherd.

PW: ‘Well we’re all quite taken aback by this obviously. What made you do it?’

KD: ‘It was that quarter-final in the last lot – the one that the ref lost for us by missing the forward pass. We decided we’d like a referee in our comp here, who was doing unto others as we got done unto us.’

PW: ‘So you built your own referee?’

NS: ‘Yeah, I had a few old tractor parts and Kev had moved over to dairy and had miles of number eight spare.’

KD: ‘The prototype looked a bit like a tractor tangled up in a fence, but a bit of midnight oil and a visit to the local.. ah.. body-shop got it looking cracker.’

PW: ‘What do you call it?’

NS: We were going to call it ‘R2D2′ but we thought that might give the game away.

KD: ‘We ended up calling it B.R.Y.C.E.’

NS: ‘That stands for ‘Bollocks Ref, You Can’t!’, with an ‘E’ added on the end to make it into a real name.

KD: ‘Yeah the players we tested it on kept on shouting that. Bollocks ref, you can’t.’

NS: ‘At least that’s what it sounded like.’

PW: ‘Yes, I see. Could you explain what it does?’

NS: ‘It referees a footy game, but with a few differences from your normal ref.’

KD: ‘Yeah, we’ve programmed all the footy Laws into it, but added a lot of randomness to how it blows the whistle at rucks and scrums.’

NS: ‘Those were the two areas we thought we could get away with. Not even the players know what the hell is going on there, so nobody would be the wiser.’

KD: ‘We modelled it on the sheep’s brain, which has the bloody thing running in one direction then the other at the drop of a hat depending on whatever sounds it hears or whether lots of its mates are running about.’

NS: ‘That’s right. Bit of a problem stopping it shitting all over the paddock every five minutes. We’ve sorted that out.. probably.’

PW: ‘Fascinating. And you say it’s actually been reffing in the Cup already??’

NS: ‘Yep. Obviously we can’t give away which games or the powers that be would give it an early shower.’

KD: ‘Let’s just say that one of the teams got so hot under the collar their jersey numbers were peeling off, and the other one we targeted was Australia.’

NS: ‘Because of the under-arm bowl.’

KD: ‘We’ll never forgive or forget that.’

PW: ‘Righto. And your robot ref is registered as a New Zealander, so it can’t referee the All Blacks?

KD: ‘Oh god, no mate.’

NS: ‘Bloody oath no. That wouldn’t do at all.’

So there you have it. The Cup is harbouring a robot referee, undercover as it were, and silently undermining the chances of the All Blacks’ opponents. If you can spot which one it is, then please let us know unless your name is Robbie Deans.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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17 Sep

Rugby World Cup 2011: All Blacks v Japan, Hamilton
by Tracey Nelson
17 Sep 2011

The usual analysis of the All Blacks game, being the First 3 to the Breakdown, tackle stats, penalties conceded, turnovers, the lineouts, and scrums.

First Three to the Breakdown stats are looking for those players who are getting to the tackle/breakdown quickly and are also being useful by either cleaning out opposition players or setting up ruck ball. Anyone arriving and just leaning on the ruck isn’t included, so there are times when I will only tally one or two players. Likewise, if four players arrive simultaneously and perform a clean-out and setting up of a ruck, I will include all four in the stat.

Completed Tackles means that player actually brought the ball carrier to ground (ie. as the Laws of the Game actually described the tackler), not assists in the tackle situation which are tallied separately.

Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Most importantly, I do NOT included slipped tackles in the Tackles Made stats, it gets noted as a missed tackle. Either you’ve made the tackle or you’ve missed it.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each TOTAL. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute. This week: Andrew Hore for Keven Mealamu and Sonny Bill Williams for Cory Jane at 44 min, John Afoa for Owen Franks, Ali Williams for Victor Vito at 58 min, Jimmy Cowan for Andy Ellis and Piri Weepu for Isaia Toeava all at 61 min, and Anthony Boric for Brad Thorn at 71 min.

Try scorers: Kahui (2), SB Williams (2), Smith, Kaino, Mealamu, Ellis, Slade, Toeava, Hore, Nonu, Thomson.

Team: Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Richard Kahui, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Isaia Toeava
Reserves: Andrew Hore, John Afoa, Ali William, Anthony Boric, Jimmy Cowan, Piri Weepu, Sonny Bill Williams

Points Scored NZ Japan
Tries 13 1  
Con 9 1
Pen 0/1 0
TOTAL 83 7

Penalties/Free Kicks Conceded Pen FKs
NZ 11 0
Japan 11 1
TOTAL 22 1

NZ Penalty Offences
Tackler Jane, Kahui 2
Tackled player Nonu, Kaino 2
Ruck off feet A Williams 1
Offside Nonu 2
Obstruction Smith 1
Scrum Woodcock(3) 3
TOTAL   11

Japan Penalty Offences
Tackler 2
Tackled player 1
Ruck leaving feet 1
Offside 2
Scrum 4
Obstruction 1
TOTAL 11

Turnovers Conceded by NZ
Knock-ons Kahui, Ellis, Jane, Slade, Nonu, Smith, A Williams, SB Williams 8
Forward pass SB Williams 1
Spilled ball Thorn, A Williams 2
Pass to opposition Slade (2), Kaino, Kahui 4
Ruck 1
Maul 1
Tackle Kahui 1
Lineout Thomson(2), overthrown 3
Kick out on full Toeava 1
TOTAL   22

Turnovers Conceded by Japan
Knock-ons 7
Forward pass 1
Spilled ball 1
Tackle 3
Ruck 4
Lineout 5
TOTAL 21

Tackle turnovers won by NZ
Tackle Jane, Nonu, Thomson
TOTAL 4

Linebreaks
Kahui 2
Nonu 2
Toeava 2
Vito 1
Kaino 1
Smith 1
SB Williams 1
Cowan 1
TOTAL 11

First 3 to Breakdown Total Per half
Thomson 23 12+11
Whitelock 21 10+11
Vito 19 12+7
Woodcock 18 11+7
Kaino 15 9+6
Thorn 14 7+7
Franks 13 9+4
Hore* 11  
Mealamu 8 7+1
Nonu 7 5+2
Kahui 7 5+2
Smith 6 3+3
Boric* 4  
A Williams* 3  
Jane 3 3+0
Toeava 3 2+1
Cowan* 1  
Slade 1 1+0

Ball carries and metres gained No of carries Metres
Kaino 8 78
Thomson 7 52
Vito 5 25
Woodcock 4 10
Hore* 3 12
Whitelock 3 21
Mealamu 3 20
Afoa* 2 15
Thorn 2 20
A williams* 1 2
Franks 1 8
TOTAL 39 263

Completed Tackles and Assists Tackles Assists
Smith 12 (5+7) 3 (1+2)
Woodcock 9 (1+8 0
Whitelock 7 (3+4) 4 (1+3)
Kaino 7 (2+5) 0
Thomson 7 (3+4) 0
SB Williams* 5 0
Vito 5 (5+0) 1 (0+1)
Kahui 5 (1+4) 2 (1+1)
Jane 5 (5+0) 0
Slade 5 (3+2) 0
Nonu 5 (3+2) 0
Franks 4 (1+3) 0
Ellis 4 (2+2) 0
A Williams* 3 0
Mealamu 3 (3+0 1 (1+0)
Thorn 3 (3+0) 1 (1+0)
Weepu* 2 0
Boric* 1 1
Cowan* 1 0
TOTAL 93 13

Missed and Slipped Tackles
Kahui 2
Thorn 1
Thomson 1
Vito 1
Nonu 1
Smith 1
Hore 1
Weepu 1
TOTAL   9

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 7 8
Second half 3 5
TOTAL 10 13

NZ Line-out Jumpers Won From
Thomson 4 6
Whitelock 4 4
Kaino 1 1
Quick throw 1 1

Japan Line-outs Won From
First half 3 4
Second half 3 7
TOTAL 6 11

NZ Scrums Won From
First half 4 4
Second half 6 6
TOTAL 10 10

Japan Scrums Won From
First half 2 3
Second half 3 3
TOTAL 5 6

17 Sep

All Blacks Rout Japanese 83-7
by Paul Waite
17 Sep 2011

Though it’s hard to judge individual performances against such a weak opposition, it’s safe to say that this pool game saw the All Blacks step up a gear in their preparations for the knock-out stages, and also gave us slightly more clarity on what their top selection is.

Looking ahead we have to ignore the 13 try to 1 point-scoring festival, and instead focus on what happened out there. For starters we had another ‘experimental’ 22 playing, especially so given the injury withdrawals during the week of Muliaina, McCaw, Dagg, and Carter. Given the makeshift nature of the team which eventually ran out onto Waikato Stadium, the insights it produced were excellent.

Looking at the overall picture it was pleasing that the team kept its discipline and structure for the full 80 minutes, even when subs came on, many playing out of position. Also pleasing was the number of set-piece moves that were practiced on the night, and with a high success rate. And once again we saw the All Blacks honing their mauling skills, something that has been absent from their repertoire for too long.

There were negatives as well of course. Colin Slade had a ‘mare of a game, missing easy kicks from the tee, fumbling the ball and throwing the intercept pass that gave Japan their solitary try. I have some sympathy with him however, given the kicking percentage across the whole Rugby World Cup so far is only about 60% and outstanding kickers such as Jonny Wilkinson are struggling with it. Clearly RWC Ltd. has, once again, allowed some manufacturer to create yet another ‘special’ World Cup Ball, which flies like a bag of dirty washing. You only have to watch the thing wobbling about in flight to see something is very wrong with it. [Ed: new information indicates the ball is the same one used in the 6N and other European comps with no complaints, and if so clearly the kickers are at fault not the ball!]

The early kicking problems seemed to sap Slade’s confidence, and he got into that ‘it’s all going wrong’ mindset. He’s a lot better than he showed, but it would be great if he could find some form, fast!

At halfback Andy Ellis was busy and accurate, and there isn’t anything obvious to separate him from Weepu and Cowan. However given the weakness of the opposition, I’d say that Cowan and Weepu still rate as the top two, with Weepu a shoe-in due to his ability to cover the No.10 jersey.

The wings are also still a bit of a conundrum. Kahui has definitely sewn up left-wing, but Jane on the right was a bit tentative without doing anything wrong. Toeava may get the nod from the selectors here vs. France we shall see.

Finally, I think that this game saw Sonny Bill Williams cement a place on the bench in the selectors’ minds, covering wing and midfield. They have been trying very hard to get him into the frame due to his perceived game-breaking abilities, and I would say that he has done that now. The starting midfield was always going to be the Nonu/Smith partnership, which once again showed its class in this match.

For my part I would prefer a Kahui, Jane, Dagg back three now, persevering with Jane on the right wing due to his quick-silver cleverness in tight situations, and expertise under the high ball. However the selectors might pick Toeava on the right instead.

Looking at the forwards, once again the lack of physical presence from Japan makes it difficult to reach solid conclusions. Plus points were that Thomson proved he has recovered fully from his arm injury, Woodcock got in a good form-building run, and Boric got on the field. It was great to see those trademark burrowing runs from skipper for the night Keven Mealamu too. But the standout forward of the night has to be Jerome Kaino who is building up the kind of unstoppable form that will be hugely valuable in the rounds to come.

Apart from the points above, the other big win on the night was that the All Blacks got through it with no further injuries.

All Blacks 83
Smith, Kahui (2), Kaino, Mealamu, Ellis, Slade, Toeava, Hore, SB Williams (2), Nonu, Thomson tries; Slade 9 con

Japan 7
Onozawa try; Williams Con

Halftime: 38-0

The Haka Top XV:
15 Israel Dagg
14 Richard Kahui
13 Conrad Smith
12 Ma’a Nonu
11 Cory Jane
10 Daniel Carter
9 Piri Weepu
8 Kieran Read
7 Richie McCaw (c)
6 Jerome Kaino
5 Brad Thorn
4 Anthony Boric
3 Owen Franks
2 Keven Mealamu
1 Tony Woodcock

Reserves:
SB Williams, Jimmy Cowan, Colin Slade, Sam Whitelock, Adam Thomson, Ben Franks, Andrew Hore

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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14 Sep

Carry On Tinkering
by Paul Waite
14 Sep 2011

After a brief flirt with picking a reasonably consistent team last season, the All Blacks Selectors are back to spinning the bottle once again. Just about the whole of the New Zealand rugby-going public, as well as most media pundits know in their guts that a Top XV must be played together, but it is not a feeling shared by the Three Wise Men.

The team announced to play Japan on Friday is as follows:

All Blacks: Woodcock, Mealamu, O. Franks, Thorn, Whitelock, Kaino, Thomson, Vito, Ellis, Slade, Kahui, Nonu, Smith, Jane, Toeava
Reserves: Hore, Afoa, Williams, Vito, Weepu, Cowan, SB Williams

[Ed: the team above has been changed after various 'minor' injuries occurred in training resulting in Carter, McCaw, Muliaina and Dagg being ruled unavailable. In fact, the resulting team looks a lot more balanced and useful than the original]

Let’s first talk about the specifics of this selection. In the backs we have Andy Ellis starting at halfback. With Jimmy Cowan and Piri Weepu presumably the top pair, and Cowan obviously short of game time this is a missed opportunity to start the Southlander and help his return to form which is lacking currently. Ellis is the third in line and should be just training until needed.

At full-back we have the most predictable change with Mils coming back. Love him as I do, I would simply play Dagg in every game from now on to hone his combinations there. I won’t be betting against Mils being handed another outing simply to make up his 100 either. [Ed: Mils now ruled out due to hamstring strain]

On the bench we have Sonny Bill Williams, which is an illogical choice for replacement cover. It looks to me like the only reason he is there is so Ted can carry on tinkering with combinations in midfield. Expect him to replace Nonu in the final 20 minutes for an outing with Smith perhaps.

In the forwards the tinkering continues. On the bench we have the venerable Ali Williams who, bless him, is fairly obviously a shadow of his former self, and doesn’t look like improving much more during this campaign. Out in the cold, not even selected, is Anthony Boric who badly needs game time after his injury lay-off. On top form Boric offers what we need so why isn’t he either starting or on the bench?

Finally picking Tomson at No.8 is another experiment. Vito did some good things at #8 in the Tongan test, so why not keep him building there whilst Read is out and develop him into his understudy? Against Japan I’m betting McCaw spends time actually doing the #8 job whilst Thomson ranges the field anyway. The only logic behind this selection is to give Thomson a run to prove his arm is ok again. [Ed: Vito now in due to McCaw minor injury in training]

Tinker, Tailor Told-ya, Failure.

So it comes down to this: rugby aficianados throughout New Zealand believe that there is value in a Top XV playing together, or a Top 22 if you like. Ted & Co. don’t.

Why do we think that a Top XV should be picked and played through now? What is it that this would give us?

An All Blacks team which knows itself to be the Top XV undergoes a subtle but powerful shift in mindset.

When it sees itself as such, the Top XV realise that they are The Ones. The buck stop with them and nobody else. It takes a few tests to properly sink in and have its effect as well – you can’t just pick it, and tell it to go out and perform today, it doesn’t work like that.

Identify and play a Top XV in tests one after another, and you get the best that the selected players can produce. Combinations click in to a higher level as players use the almost subconscious knowledge of particular habits which might only exist as a complete thing for a few weeks at a time.

And it’s these small improvements which the All Blacks have been missing out on, and which allow teams to overcome unusually difficult tests, such as those which have ejected them from previous World Cups.

By tinkering and fiddling about, these All Blacks selectors are missing out on this. Presumably they think that it’s good enough for us to play the Top XV from the QF onwards or the last pool game. That is, in my humble opinion, cutting it too fine.

They are on record as saying that this is a long tournament. Well, guys, it isn’t too bloody long if you get knocked out in the Quarter-final, is it?

My Top XV: Woodcock, Mealamu, O. Franks, Thorn, Boric, Kaino, McCaw, Read/Vito, Weepu, Carter, Kahui, Nonu, Smith, Jane, Dagg
Reserves: Hore, B. Franks, Whitelock, Vito/Thomson, Cowan, Slade, Toeava

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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11 Sep

Cup Balls: Heeeeeere's Jonny!
by Paul Waite
11 Sep 2011

England versus Argentina down in sunny Dunnydin turned out to be a corker of a game which took Los Pumas to the verge of victory with 8 minutes to go, before the dastardly Poms stole it 13-9 with a last-gasp try.

To be frank, apart from the final slightly fluky result, bugger-all went well for the English in their opening match of Rugby World Cup 2011. By half-time they were 6-3 down on the scoreboard, hadn’t looked like scoring a try, had watched Jonny Wilkinson miss most of his kicks at goal, had one man in the sin-bin, and all the numbers were peeling off their cheap imitation All Blacks kit.

To make things worse, judging by facial expression and some lip-reading, they thought they were being refereed by an alien life-form which had taken over the body of Bryce Lawrence and had been sent here to Earth for the sole purpose of putting them out of the tournament.

I have news for them, Brycie isn’t an alien, but is definitely a ‘special’ referee and all New Zealanders are thankful that he can never, ever, officiate in a game that the All Blacks are playing.

In a typical incident the whistle would shrill, followed by a polite request for clarification from the English forward penalised. "The fookin’ ‘ell was that fookin’ for??" asked the player, rising from his rightful position on the Argentine side of the ruck and carefully dropping the player he had by the neck. "You can fook right off" he prompted in an attempt to gently guide the referee’s thought processes in the right direction.

"Off your feet, playing the ball on their side of the ruck!" spat Bryce, in an officious and suspiciously metallic tone of voice.

At this the English forward (name omitted to protect the guilty) looks dumbstruck, then turns around and walks back to his mates with an expression of incredulity plastered across his gormless visage "that referee is an alien that’s taken over a human body" he whispers to them, and they nod in somber unison. "Probably a victim of a pod last night, I’ve seen it on’t telly.. it can happen" he adds. His team-mates look embarrassed. The "pods" are obviously a ridiculous notion.

Everywhere you look you can see panic rippling under the surface of the English players’ faces. They are in a nightmare situation. The Argentine forwards are much too strong for them to rumble the ball up-field for Jonny to droppie them out of trouble, they can’t win with penalties because they are the ones conceding most of them, and the ones they do get (horror of HORRORS), Jonny misses!

Yes folks, that nightmare of English rugby is upon them – the only way to win this game is to move the ball wide. Dear God.

Martin Johnson, doing an accurate impression of a mad bison with an angry wasp up its bottom, disappears in a storm of papers and body-parts as he thrashes about like a loony in his cubicle. Never one able to conceal his emotions, the sentence "I am going to rip the arms off everyone in the squad if they don’t win" is writ large across his face. Actually it was writ large in dripping red letters on the inside of his cubicle window, but I digress.

Back on the pitch the Argentinian team was self-destructing. Players were launching themselves into rucks and tackles as if they had spare bodies in pods, waiting for them back in their hotel rooms. Unfortunately this meant that the current bodies were being carted off the paddock in large numbers and eventually this allowed the English, on about their second visit all game into the Argie 22m, to score a try.

So the Poms won, against all the alien forces (referee, the Other Team, Laws of the game) that were arrayed against them.

But well done Argentina – you played all of the rugby!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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