30 Aug

O'Neill At It Again
by WAJ
30 Aug 2007

Only 8 sleeps to go!

Yep the latest out of the mouth of big John is to push for a challenge
competition between the top sides from the ARC and the ANZC.

So what are
the benefits, or not as the case may be, for each country – NZ: a bit of
money, more games in an already long season, help to improve the depth
of Australian rugby.

Australia: a bit more money (and they are chewing
through their WC profits impressively), more games for their younger
undeveloped players against good opposition.

So do we want to continue
helping them improve their game, or have we done enough over the last 20

I watched a few of the NH WC warm up games over the last couple of weeks.
I don’t know how much you can take out of it as all teams are giving
players game time, but France look good – everyone else pretty much

Engerland stop at #9, and you can’t win with 9 men, Ireland
struggled like hell against Italy and lost to Scotland, are only 80%
without O’Driscoll and have a crap scrum, Wales are straight out awful,
Scotland have monster forwards, and thus will be a good workout for the
AB’s, but nothing else. Italy were the best of this lot, excluding
France, great scrum and bloody tough up front, again good for us, no
backs of course – they should have beaten Ireland.

They will all lift
when it starts for real, but I just cannot see the top 4 being anything
other than France, Aust, SA and us.

And what is with these dickheads who commit a foul act these days. First
the Hawkes Bay prop and now the Waikato lock. In these days of maximum
media coverage and stiff penalties for foul play why would you even go
there? Both of these players’ seasons are effectively over. Dumb, dumb
and dumber still!

The player who has most caught my eye so far this season is Isaac Ross.
Jock’s boy has All Black written all over him. Big, strong and athletic,
wins lineouts against the throw, scores tries on the wing from cross
kicks etc etc.

And so to the games:

Hawkes Bay v Auckland – HB have been the Cinderella story of the season
to date no question, but tonight the bubble will burst big time.
Unfortunately for HB they will meet an Auckland side on the rebound from
a disappointing performance against Taranaki and will come to play.
Auckland are superior in all aspects and the final score will reflect
Auckland 13+

Counties Manukau v Wellington – The only hope for CM is whether Wellington’s
poor away form continues. But then CM are no Hawkes Bay and thus expect
a comfortable Wgtn victory. Thought Nonu looked the best he has been for
a while until injured last week, and you can tell this because he throws
a decent pass or two. If he plays his match up with Ta’auso will be the highlight of the game.
Wellington 13+

Otago v Southland – Aah yes the derby to end all derbies – who can roll
their R’s and enjoy a kilt on a cold windy day more. Both have been
disappointing so far and have struggled in their wins and been shocking
in defeat. I fancy Southland here in a close one. They like nothing more
than stuffing their northern neighbours and this passion will be enough
to get them up in a game of two very even teams. I feel sorry though for
the new Highlanders coach though having to pick a team from this lot.
Southland 1 – 12

Tasman v Bay of Plenty – So Caleb Ralph plays for his umpteenth team
against the team where it all started. And he is in the right team this
week as well. BoP can’t buy a win, and against an honest side who know
how to win when the opportunity beckons, will remain rooted to the
bottom of the table.
Tasman 1 – 12

Northland v Taranaki – 2 mid table teams who are pretty evenly matched.
But Northland have been pretty solid at home so far this season. Their
defence has held up well and they kick the goals to keep winning the
clutch games. A win will go a long way to cementing a top 8 position and
against a Taranaki team who are gutsy but seem to forget to win they
will be too strong.
Northland 13+

Waikato v Canterbury – Can’t wait to see this – just a pity it won’t be
until next Thursday for me :-( Has all the makings of a classic. Two evenly
matched forward packs, with Canterbury perhaps having a slight edge at
the set pieces, and Waikato in the loose. Canterbury look to have the
edge in the backs(with 4 ex-AB’s of recent vintage) however and the Duck
needs to take those around him under his wing if Waikato are to win
this. Can the inexperienced midfield hold up. Expect Tuali’I to run at
them a lot, and the Waikato loosies will need to work overtime to help
out here. The battle of the 1 5/8′s is a cracker and whoever plays
better could determine this game. I think Canterbury have too many
Canterbury 1 – 12

North Harbour v Manawatu – Attendance records and TV ratings could be
under threat here – how low can they go? Is anyone evenly remotely
North Harbour 1 – 12

Regards Waj

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