20 Dec

RWC Hosting Venues Announced
by Tracey Nelson
20 Dec 2009

Twenty-three New Zealand centres – 16 in the North Island and seven in the South Island – will host at least one of the 20 participating teams.

There are 20 teams particpating in RWC 2011, four of which have yet to qualify. The teams will be based in 23 centres, ten of which are non-match centres – Bay of Islands, Rodney, Taupo, Tauranga/Mt Maunganui, Gisborne, Wanganui, Masterton, Blenheim, Ashburton and Queenstown.

A range of criteria was applied to assess each option, such as:

  • all accommodation options on match days will be no more than 50 minutes drive from the match venue
  • all training facilities will be a maximum of 30 minutes drive from team accommodation
  • enduring benefits (how much of a catalyst for facility improvement as a result of the allocation of a team)
  • cost containment (minimising cost of domestic air travel)

The duration of stay in each centre varies from 2 to 25 nights. Teams will be based at 47 training venues, which inlude 18 rugby clubs and 7 schools. The allocation of accommodation and training venues for the knock-out stage of the tournament will be determined by ballot for the teams that qualify, and will be located in the cities hosting these matches (Wellington and Christchurch for the quarter finals, and Auckland for the semis, Bronze Final and Final).

Centres and the teams they will host are listed below, with the total number of nights a team will stay there in brackets.

Centre Hosted Teams
BAY OF ISLANDS Canada (6), Tonga (4), Asia qualifier (3)
 
WHANGEREI Tonga (10), Canada (3), Asia qualifier (2)
 
RODNEY Asia qualifier (11), Samoa (5), Namibia (3)
 
NORTHSHORE France (25), South Africa (4)
 
AUCKLAND New Zealand (15), Fiji (8), England (7), Ireland (6), Samoa (7), Scotland (5), Tonga (5), Australia (4)
 
HAMILTON Wales (13), New Zealand (7), Asia qualifier (3), Samoa (2), Fiji (2)  
TAUPO South Africa (9), Wales (5), Irealand (4)
 
ROTORUA Namibia (7), Samoa (6), Irealand (4), Fiji (2), Europe 2 (2)
 
TAURANGA/MT MAUNGANUI Fiji (9), Samoa (4), Europe 2 (3)
GISBORNE Namibia (12)
 
NAPIER Canada (15), Asia qualifier (2), France (3)
 
NEW PLYMOUTH USA (10), Ireland (4), Namibia (4), Wales (3), Europe 2 (3)
 
WANGANUI USA (6)
 
PALMERTSON NORTH Argentina (7), Europe 1 (7), Play-off winner (3)
 
MASTERTON Europe 1 (7)
 
WELLINGTON South Africa (17), Wales (9), New Zealand (8), Fiji (7), Australia (6), Tonga (6), USA (5), France (3), Canada (3)
 
NELSON Itlay (21), USA (4), Europe 2 (2)  
BLENHEIM Europe 2 (10)
 
CHRISTCHURCH Argentina (23), England (19), Australia (16), Scotland (11), Italy (7), Europe 2 (6), Europe 1(3)
ASHBURTON Play-off winner (6)
 
DUNEDIN Europe 1 (11), Play-off winner (8), Ireland (7), Scotland (5), Italy (3), England (3)
 
QUEENSTOWN Ireland (6), Play-off winner (4), England (3)
 
INVERCARGILL Play-off winner (7), Scotland (4), Argentina (3)

9 Oct

All Blacks Test Venues 2010
by Tracey Nelson
9 Oct 2009

The All Blacks will play their opening test match of 2010 in New Plymouth as the Taranaki city secures its second test match after the All Blacks played Samoa there in 2008.

Six venues in total will host the All Blacks’ home games next year, with Dunedin hosting Wales for the very first time in what could be an historic occasion as it is likely to be the last time the All Blacks play at Carisbrook with the new Otago Stadium due for completion in 2011.

The June international series sees a one-off test against Ireland in New Plymouth, followed by two test matches against Wales played in Dunedin and Hamilton. The Investec Tri-Nations kicks off with the All Blacks hosting South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland, and then again the following weekend in Wellington. The All Blacks have a two week break before travelling to Australia for a test against the Wallabies before returning to New Zealand to host them at the newly completed AMI Stadium in Christchurch the following weekend. After another break the All Blacks travel to South Africa to take on the Springboks in Johannesburg and Pretoria, before returning to Sydney to play the Wallabies in the final game of the Tri-Nations.

The June-September 2010 schedule is as follows:

Date Match Venue
June 12 All Blacks v Ireland New Plymouth
June 19 All Blacks v Wales Dunedin
June 26 All Blacks v Wales Hamilton
July 10 All Blacks v South Africa Auckland
July 17 All Blacks v South Africa Wellington
July 24 Australia v South Africa Brisbane
July 31 Australia v All Blacks Melbourne
Aug 7 All Blacks v Australia Christchurch
Aug 21 South Africa v All Blacks Johannesburg
Aug 28 South Africa v Australia Pretoria
Sept 4 South Africa v Australia Bloemfontein
Sept 11 Australia v All Blacks Sydney

1 Jun

First All Blacks squad for 2009 named
by Tracey Nelson
1 Jun 2009

The All Black selectors have named their 26 man squad to play the Iveco Series against France and Itay in June. They have named a new captain in Mils Muliaina,and there are three new caps – prop Wyatt Crockett and lock Isaac Ross (both from Canterbury),and Tanerau Latimer (Bay of Plenty). One notable absentee from last year’s All Blacks is No 8 Rodney So’oialo.

The sqaud is:

FORWARDS: Tony Woodcock,Wyatt Crockett, John Afoa, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Isaac Ross, Adam Thomson, Tanerau Latimer, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read, Liam Messam.

BACKS: Jimmy Cowan, Brendon Leonard, Piri Weepu, Stephen Donald, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Richard Kahui,Joesevata Rokocoko, Rudi Wulf, Cory Jane, Mils Muliaina (captain), Isaia Toeava.

Rodney So’oialo is being rested for this Iveco Series to recover from a neck injury, and will be named in the TriNations squad in July.

Key points from the press conference with the All Black coaches:

- Ali Williams has made a good comeback from his archilles injury but is not confirmed to be fit to start in the first test against France in Dunedin on June 13th. Bryn Evans will come up from the Junior All Blacks squad and start from the bench should Williams not be ready for that game. Evans is seen as a lock who performs the basics well, is good at restarts, a good ball carrier and one for the future.

- Wyatt Crockett is a good athlete, excellent lineout lifter and performs his role cleaning out at the breakdown well. He has worked on his scrummaging this season and is highly rated by Mike Cron.

- while there is no specialist No 8 from any of the Super 14 sides named in the squad, the selectors are confident that Liam Messam has the skill set and experience to play in this position. They also feel that Kieran Read is another to have the skill set to play at No 8.

- Sione Lauaki ‘makes too many errors at test match level’ to be considered for the squad and needs to demonstrate a decrease in the number of errors in his game.

- Adam Thomson will start at openside against France and is seen as their first choice at 7. Tanerau Latimer ‘will provide good competition’ for this position.

- Isaac Ross ‘has the potential, athleticism and skills to be a top international footballer. Has good aerial skills and is a very good athlete’ which is what put him ahead of the other locks named in the Junior All Blacks.

- Piri Weepu will be the back up 1st 5 to Stephen Donald for this series, and then they will reconsider the situation accordingly for the TriNations.

- Cory Jane and Isaia Toeava are both possibilities on the wing. The selectors have picked fullbacks with the speed of wingers, and wingers with fullback qualities such as high ball skills and kicking ability as this is an area you can ill afford to be caught out in under the new laws.

- Toeava is capable of playing nearly all backline positions but is primarily seen as a fullback/wing who can cover midfield.

- Bryn Evans and Owen Franks will join the All Blacks from the Juniors as part of the extended squad.

The Junior All Blacks have also been named to play in the Pacific Nations competition in Fiji this June.

FORWARDS: Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Jamie MacIntosh, Aled de Malmanche, Hika Elliot, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Bryn Evans, Tom Donnelly, Karl Lowe, George Whitelock, Victor Vito, Sione Lauaki.

BACKS: Alby Mathewson, Chris Smylie, Colin Slade, Luke McAlister, Ryan Crotty, Anthony Tuitavake, Robbie Fruean, Hosea Gear, Lelia Masaga, Rene Ranger, Tamati Ellison, Israel Dagg.

27 Apr

Super 14 Summary – Round 11
by Tracey Nelson
27 Apr 2009

Not the greatest of weekends for the NZ teams, with the Hurricanes the one shining light as the Highlanders, Blues, Crusaders and Chiefs all went down against their opposition. The table saw more shifts with the Hurricanes replacing the Chiefs in first place while the Chiefs slip down to third, the Blues are in fifth, the Crusaders in eighth and the Highlanders are tenth.

Highlanders v Stormers (11-18)

With the score standing at 6-0 to the Highlanders at half time it was a brain implosion by George Nauopu early in the second half that set the Highlanders on the path to defeat at Carisbrook on Friday night. Having made a good burst with the ball in hand, Nauopu chose to ignore the men outside and put through a grubber kick which was grabbed by Peter Grant who then offloaded to the Stormers’ Fijian winger Sireli Naqelevuki who pounded off downfield to score. This was quickly followed with a penalty goal and the Stormers hit the lead.

The Highlanders did come back with a try of their own when Israel Dagg ran into the line from fullback and with some wonderful footwork evaded several tacklers before feeding his right winger Ben Smith who scored in the corner. But their inability to quell the Stormers, who were desperate for a win on what has been a disappointing tour away from the republic saw Peter Grant put the game out of sight with a try after the Stormers had stretched the Highlanders defence close to the goal line with a series of rucks.

For a second week in a row the Highlanders were outmuscled up front and their scrambling defence was often tested and found wanting, not helped by poor decisions with the ball in hand leading to turnovers. This loss effectively puts the Highlanders out of reach of making the playoffs as they now head offshore to finish their season with two games in South Africa against the Sharks and Lions before meeting the Force in Perth.

Highlanders: Smith try; Berquist 2 pen.
Stormers: Naqelevuki, Grant tries; de Waal 2 pen, 1 con.

Blues v Reds (24-31)

The Blues managed to grab two bonus points from this match but many would argue they really didn’t deserve to after putting on a performance they would rather forget at North Harbour Stadium. It’s hard to know whether the game will be best remembered for the lights going out 4 minutes into the game and play not resuming for another 50 minutes, or the bumbling efforts of the Blues as the Reds hit high gear and made them look like idiots for all but 10 minutes of the game.

The Reds struck first with a penalty to Berrick Barnes before the lights went out, but it took them twenty five minutes after play resumed to put their next points on the board which came via a super try to Barnes who used the wet conditions to slide over the line from 5m out after the Reds backline sliced the Blues open. A hospital pass from Taniela Moa to Joe Rokocoko resulted in a turnover in the Blues 22 and the Reds took full advantage from the resulting 5m scrum to put skipper James Horwill over and go out to a 17-0 lead. The Blues hit back with a try to Isaia Toeava from a lineout in the Reds’ 22, and the teams went into halftime with the visitors ahead 17-7.

Whatever was said in the changing sheds had little impact on the Blues, as their defence was cut to ribbons by simple draw and passing done with speed and precision by the Reds as they put men into space time after time. The Reds also used the windy, wet conditions far better than the Blues and kept the home side camped in their own half with well placed kicks into the corners.

The Reds went on to run in tries to Ioane and Fetoai before the Blues finally shook off the cobwebs and strung together some phases to run in three late tries to finish within seven points. They now hold the record for the most bonus points scored in a Super season, and it may well be this that sees them challenging for the play-offs over the next few weeks – although an ever increasing injury crisis around their loose forwards may put paid to that hope.

Blues: Toeava, Sali, Haiu, Gopperth tries; Gopperth 2 conv.
Reds: Barnes, Horwill, Ioane, Fetoai tries; Barnes 1 pen, 4 conv.

Hurricanes v Brumbies (56-7)

The Hurricanes blew the Brumbies off the paddock on Saturday night in a scintillating display of rugby that had fans on their feet for most of the game. They ran in eight tries as they comprehensively thumped the Brumbies, in a pleasing reversal of the dross dished up by the Blues in the previous game that evening.

They didn’t get off to the best of starts, a bungled lineout giving the Brumbies a gift try to prop Ben Alexander from the resulting free kick, which was converted by Stirling Mortlock. This was, however, to be the only scoring by the Brumbies as the Hurricanes wound up a gear and started playing high-octane rugby.

We all know they are capable of great rugby on their day, and there’s always some team that cops it – this time it was the Brumbies and they ended up being dealt their biggest loss in Super rugby history. The Hurricanes almost blew their first try when Ma’a Nonu ignored the overlap outside him and went himself, but his power allowed him to offload in the tackle and Cory Jane dotted down in the corner before the defenders took him into touch.

Conrad Smith was the next to score, with marvellous width of passing creating pressure on the Brumbies defence, and Smith charged over from a free kick. Minutes later the Brumbies got caught on their own 22 aftera clearing kick failed to find touch and it was Nonu again showing immense strength to bust through Mortlock’s midfield tackle to put Tamati Ellison over in the corner. David Smith was next to score after Conrad Smith’s break put him into space down the sideline and he regathered his own kick through to score.

More tries came the way of the two locks, Jeremy Thrush and Bryn Evans, Zac Guilford (from a superb pass from Ellison), Victor Vito, and then Guilford again after a clever reverse pass from Willy Ripia put David Smith into space and Guildford was the benefactor at the end. This was a game that kept its pace and energy up for the full 80 minutes, and the fans were rewarded with some wonderful continuity and finishing. The question remains though whether the Canes can continue this form onwards or trip yet again at the fateful moment. Surely if they can maintain this form they are looking like title contenders.

Hurricanes: Jane, C. Smith, Ellison, D. Smith, Levave, Guildford(2), Vito tries; Ripia 5 con, 2 pen
Brumbies: Alexander try;. Mortlock con

Cheetahs v Crusaders (20-13)

This game was a complete contrast to the Hurricanes-Brumbies, although they way the Crusaders started you may well have been fooled into thinking something great was about to unfold. For the first 20 minutes of the game the Crusaders had it all over their opposition, running strongly and putting players into gaps. They had their first points 10 minutes into the game when Kahn Fotuali’i spotting a gap around the base of a ruck and ducked over to score.

But after 20 minutes it was like someone had pulled the fuse, as the Crusaders inexplicably stopped putting the ball into space and started to take the Cheetahs’ forwards on in the collision zone. Poor kicking, bad passing and a failure to clear the ball into touch put the Crusaders under considerable pressure as they turned the ball over, and eventually it led to a mis-match on defence and Jongi Nokwe changed the angle to leave the defenders flat footed as he ran in to score by the posts.

The score was 13-10 in favour of the Cheetahs at half time, and the two sides battled it out without any points forthcoming for quarter of an hour into the second half until some sloppy tackling technique saw the Crusaders penalised
on their own 22. The Cheetahs took the points and now had a six point lead. Stephen Brett had the chance to kick a penalty, but as has been the way this season he missed.

Six minutes out from fulltime the Crusaders conceded a try from an attacking lineout by the Cheetahs, when slack defence allowed the Cheetahs to get front foot ball that saw their fullback Daniller run in for the match winning try. The Crusaders hit back desperately and in injury time were awarded a penalty on the sideline. Captain McCaw had obviously lost faith in Brett, and called up Leon MacDonald to do the honours. MacDonald duly obliged and slotted the ball down the middle of the uprights to give the Crusaders a solitary bonus point from a game most expected them to win, and win well.

Cheetahs: Nokwe, Daniller tries; Olivier 2 pen, 2 con
Crusaders: Fotuali’i try; Brett pen, con, MacDonald pen

Bulls v Chiefs (33-27)

The Bulls took their home winning streak to seven and in the process broke the Chiefs 6-match winning streak to keep the intrigue as to who the top four teams will be alive and well. The Bulls scored the first try of the game and it came to their nuggety hooker Derek Kuun who took a pop pass close to the line and crashed over for the tackle. The Chiefs came back with a try to Sione Lauaki, who was unstoppable close to the line as he took three defenders with him after the Chiefs mounted an attack from a scrum on the Bulls’ 22.

Slow clearance from the base of a ruck near halfway proved fatal for the Chiefs, when Kuun intercepted and showed remarkable pace to outsprint the cover defence and score. A poor clearing kick by Stephen Donald put the Chiefs under pressure 10 minutes from halftime and as the Bulls mounted the counterattack a high tackle from Lauaki felled Bryan Habana and earned him a spell in the sinbin.

But it was the Chiefs who scored first while Lauaki was in the bin. Liam Messam took a quick tap from a free kick and passed the ball out to his winger Mickleson who sprinted up the sideline before throwing a long pass infield to Callum Bruce who went over to score. The Bulls finally managed to make the most of the Chiefs being down a player, and scored right on halftime with a try to Wynand Olivier from a set move from a free kick on the Chiefs’ 5m line to go into the half time break ahead 27-20.

The second half was a low scoring affair, with two penalties the only points scored by the Bulls. The Chiefs clawed their way back with a move from a lineout on the Bulls 22, with Richard Kahui hitting the line hard to score under the posts. However, the Chiefs’ lineout was again their achilles heel and too many turnovers of possession ultimately cost the Chiefs their chance to take an important win.

Bulls: Kuun(2), Oliver tries; Steyn 3 pen, 3 con, dropped goal
Chiefs: Lauaki, Bruce, tries; Stephen Donald 2 pen, 3 con

In other results:

The Western Force beat the Lions 55-14

The Sharks and Waratahs had the bye.

9 Apr

Heads-up
by Tracey Nelson
9 Apr 2009

Some law interpretations, latest news and thoughts on Sean Fitzpatrick’s comments about the Super 14 competition.

LAW INTERPRETATIONS

There were a few discussions around some rulings after last weekend’s games. In particular there seems to be some confusion over entry through ‘the gate’ at the breakdown, along with what constitutes being held in the tackle. So let’s take a look at ‘the gate’ first.

The Gate
When a tackle occurs, an offside line develops. Any player not involved in the tackle (ie. if you’re not the tackler or the tackled player) must approach the tackle area from behind this imaginery line. Once a ruck has formed, players must enter through ‘the gate’, which is essentially the hindmost foot of the hindmost player from your side bound in the ruck. You can think of the gate a bit like a cattle stock race, players essentially need to draft themselves into the back of the ruck in a straight line running parallel to the sidelines. Joining a tackle situation, ruck or maul from the side is viewed as ‘not entering through the gate’, otherwise known as offside entry. How wide is the gate? Probably the width of two props, if you stop and think about it logically.

Held in the tackle
Plenty of debate around the penalising of Masaga in the Chiefs v Lions game on Saturday night. Was the penalty for playing the ball in the tackle correct?

Yes. Because Masaga was brought fully off his feet (onto his elbows and knees) on the ground, the tackler had hold of his ankles and Masaga’s momentum had been halted. Had Masaga placed the ball on the ground then picked it up again as he regained his feet, he would have been fine. But by not releasing the ball when tackled on the ground and getting up again, he was playing the ball on the ground. The difference with Dwayne Sweeney’s try which was almost the same but he wasn’t penalised, was that Sweeney was never at any stage completely off his feet, he wasn’t held and his momentum was never halted. Therefore he was within his rights to keep holding the ball and playing on.

LATEST NEWS

SKY Televison Ltd have been granted the sole broadcasting rights for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, with all 48 matches to be broadcast in high definition. All matches will be screen on the SKY Sports channels and the Rugby Channel. RWC Ltd will be looking to licence live free-to-air broadcasts in New Zealand for up to 16 games, including the opening match where the All Blacks will play Tonga, and the knock-out matches (quarter-finals and semi-finals).

FITZPATRICK’S VIEWS ON THE SUPER 14

Last weekend former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick, now resident in the UK, slammed this year’s Super 14 competition suggesting that from what he had seen in the Super 14 was not as good as what is being played in the Premiership and Heineken Cup.

Of course, this immediately outraged NZ fans who pointed out the current Southern Hemisphere domination of their Northern Hemisphere counterparts in the test match arena, and the current world rankings where England sits at #6.

Pointing out the Chiefs v Blues match, Fitzpatrick said ‘it was probably the worst and most disappointing game of rugby I have seen. If you think that is great, free-flowing rugby to watch, we are obviously watching two different games. That’s not what I see as a great game’.

I have to say I agree with him. Sure it was ‘entertaining’, that’s if you think watching non-existent defence by both sides get ripped up. Great sides do not leak points like a seive, and while many will argue that you just need to have more points than the opposition at the end of 80 minutes, I’d suggest that it’s a lot easier to do that when you’re not letting the opposition score than when you allow them to run in 20+ points against you.

I would also agree with Fitzpatrick that the Super 14 is lacking structure, and too much ‘helter-skelter’ rugby is being played. Add to that some of the woeful kicking in play we’ve seen this year, along with numerous un-forced handling errors, you can’t help but think he’s got a point. There’s no argument from me that the unstructured, almost Sevens-style rugby some NZ sides are currently playing is very poor preparation for the upcoming international season.

Too many sides seem incapable of performing the basics, such as receiving the ball from restarts, winning their own ball at set piece, chasing kicks and contesting the ball in the air to put pressure on the opposition, and even setting their defence correctly against a set-piece move from the opposition. Make these mistakes against the Springboks or France, and you’ll pay dearly for it.

Nobody wants to watch a test match where it is only penalty goals or drop kicks, of course we want to see tries scored. But free-flowing play can only come when your set-pieces and game basics are good, and I would question whether some of the rugby we’ve seen sides like the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes would cut it at the higher level.

12 Mar

RWC 2011 Match Schedule and Pool Match Venues announced
by Tracey Nelson
12 Mar 2009

Lancaster_ParkThe opening match of RWC 2011 will be played between New Zealand and Tonga at Eden Park on September 9th. The RWC 2011 Match Schedule and Pool Match Venues were announced today in Auckland by by RNZ 2011 Ltd Chief Executive Martin Sneddon and RWC Ltd boss Mike Miller. With Auckland’s Eden Park already set to host the two semi-finals and the final, and Wellington and Christchurch will hosting the four quarter finals, there has been much anticipation as to where the pool games will be played.

Auckland (Eden Park), Wellington and Christchurch have been allocated five pool matches each while North Shore, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Dunedin will each host three matches. Whangarei, Nelson, Palmerston North, Napier and Invercargill will host two matches. There were submissions from 11 regions across New Zealand, comprising 16 match venues in total.The regions which applied to host Pool Matches were: Northland, Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu, Wellington, Nelson Tasman Region, Christchurch and the Southern Region (Otago/Southland).

Our philosophy all along has been a Stadium of Four Million. We believe today’s announcement, building on the knock-out decisions announced last year, takes us further towards the fulfillment of that promise said Mr Snedden.

Auckland and the Southern Region’s proposals contained three venues while the Bay of Plenty’s proposal included two venues. All of these regions have also included applications to host teams as part of their proposals. Regions which have applied to host teams only are: Marlborough, Tairawhiti (Poverty Bay/East Coast), Taupo, Aoraki Region (Timaru), Ashburton, West Coast, and Wanganui.

The opening weekend of the tournament will seeArgentina meeting England in Christchurch, and South Africa playing Wales in Wellington as well as communities in Invercargill, New Plymouth, Rotorua and North Shore getting their first taste of Rugby World Cup action. The second weekend will feature the Australia v Ireland clash, while the third will seeNew Zealandtake onFrance. The pool stage wraps up with deciders taking place across all 4 pools.

The quarter-final match-ups were also confirmed, with the top two teams in Pool A (featuring currently qualified teams New Zealand, France and Tonga) and Pool B (featuring Argentina, England and Scotland) playing off in Christchurch. Wellington will host quarter-finals featuring the winners and runners-up from Pool C (featuring Australia, Ireland and Italy) and Pool D (featuring South Africa, Wales and Fiji).

The four quarter-finals will be played on the weekend of October 7, 8 and 9, 2011. The semi-finals will be played on the weekend of 15 and 16 October while the Bronze Final will be staged on Friday October 21 at Eden Park, followed by the Final on Sunday October 23 at the same venue. The two day break after the Bronze Final allows us to better prepare for the Final on Sunday, and should also ensure a huge festival night for Auckland on Saturday said Sneddon.

Today marks the culmination of a 22 month process that has involved regions from every part of New Zealand.We are pleased that all 11 regions will have the opportunity to host matches. Given that a total of 16 venues were proposed, we do appreciate that there will be disappointment among those who have missed out. The RWC 2011 Regional Coordination groups, of which there are 22 around New Zealand, will now evolve from having an initial focus on bidding for hosting rights into regional core tournament and festival delivery agents.”

The 20 team bases will be announced later this year.

2011 Rugby World Cup Match Schedule

 

14 Sep

A Heart-stopper At Ballymore
by Paul Waite
14 Sep 2008

solr_pmAll you middle-aged New Zealand fans who were previously worried about the health of the old ticker can be assured that it must be as strong as an ox’s this morning. If you made it through the hair-raising final five minutes of this test, where heart-rates throughout the land must have been pushed up into the zone labeled “Seek Urgent Medical Assistance” on your local gym’s exer-cycle consoles, are either now recovering nicely in the CCU, or are going to live to get a birthday telegram from the Queen.

It wasn’t a test for the rugby purist, that’s for sure. But the sight of Richie McCaw hoisting the Bledisloe Cup after a nail-biting 4-point win was enough to warm the heart of any All Black fan.

The win away from home in a Wallaby stronghold was never going to be easy. Coming into it after three weeks of no rugby, apart from the training rout against Samoa ‘C’ in New Plymouth, was always going to be the toughest element of the campaign, and so it proved with the All Blacks looking decidedly off the pace for the first 50 minutes.

But they rose to the occasion, dug deep and turned in a stunning 25 minutes, putting on 21 unanswered points, and essentially putting the Bledisloe Cup in the cupboard for another year. Almost.

With around 5 minutes left, and with an 11-point lead the Wallabies were staring down the barrell of a two-try deficit. They had to cross the All Black line twice to win. At that stage of the test it looked impossible, due to the fact that the All Blacks had been dominating the breakdown so strongly for the previous 25 minutes. But that didn’t daunt the Australians who swept down the left with a fantastic piece of interplay between Tuquiri, Giteau, Cross and Mortlock. The ensuing rucks saw a brave challenge thwarted by strong Black defence again and the New Zealanders won a defensive 5m scrum. With front-row replacements on, and Brad Thorne also subbed, the Black scrum machine faltered. Afoa’s tight-head side was wheeled backwards and Kaplan ruled a turnover. The Wallabies then scored through Ryan Cross to bring them within 4 points.

The remaining 3 and a half minutes of the test were a heart-stopping blur, as the Wallabies, who had looked extremely dangerous running the ball all game, carried it up-field 60-70 metres with some at times brilliant inter-plays. The All Blacks finally got their hands on it with yet another breakdown turnover, and Weepu cleared the ball out of the ground to set the seal on it.

The first half belonged to the home team, who enjoyed more or less all of the possession, and despite the All Blacks drawing first blood with a nice try to Mils Muliaina in the right-hand corner. It came from a rare All Black attack through a Jimmy Cowan burst up the middle, and a ruck centre field, followed by quick hands feeding the ball out far enough to outflank the Wallaby defence and cash in on the two-man overlap.

For the rest of the half the All Blacks were mainly defending. Clever Australian defence read all their attacking plays and shut them down. Conversely the All Blacks policy of standing back and watching the Wallabies run the ball at them allowed quick metres to be made, and once it was on a roll any structure in the Black defence was shredded, making it easy for the team in Gold to run the game.

Nevertheless the All Blacks scrambled just enough, and always just in time to keep them out, and it wasn’t until a defensive blunder occurred that they added to their lone penalty. Opting to go to the air for once, Giteau, who had until then been having a bit of a ‘mare with the boot, cross-kicked out to the right touchline where Hynes jumped and in-passed in the air to fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper. The All Blacks had he and another Wallaby player covered, but Muliaina and Kahui collided and let Ashley-Cooper slip past for an easy try. It should be noted that All Black wing Sitiveni Sivivatu also took out Peter Hynes whilst he was in the air, so if the try hadn’t been scored, it would have been a penalty.

At half-time the score was 10-7 to the Wallabies.

The second half started where the first ended – with the Wallabies in control of possession, and seemingly able to run right through the All Blacks defence at times.

Aussie lock James Horwill was on the end of another of these forays to take the scoreline out to 17-7 early in the second 40 after some good work by Giteau and No.8 Richard Brown.

Then the All Blacks woke up, looked at the time, and decided to go to work.

On attack at about the halfway line the All Blacks spun the ball left, found Conrad Smith who straightened in that wonderful way that he does, stepped inside Cross and made the midfield break. As the defence reacted and chased he looked left, saw the largest winger he’d ever seen, in the form of Tony Woodcock and with a lovely flick of the wrists delivered a pin-point pass right to hand. The loose-head prop, who seems to have a handy habit of scoring tries against Australia, thundered down the touchline all the way from the 22m mark to go over for a fine winger’s try. The Australian props would have noted that there was nothing in the least “mythical” about it.

Carter nailed the conversion from the touchline, like threading a needle from 40 metres.

Play continued to swing the All Blacks way as they intensified their efforts in defence, and more particularly at the breakdown, where they started winning turnover ball.

So’oialo then popped up in about the 60th minute, putting in a telling burst over halfway and sewing disarray into the normally organised Australian defence. He then fed Sivivatu, who continued the success before being lowered, however he spotted Weepu looming up, popped the pass and the half-back went over to score a nice try. Carter converted again.

Another All Black period of pressure ensued, building to Carter receiving the ball 10m out from the line. Jinking and swerving he wrong-footed Ryan Cross who barely laid a hand on him, fended off another defender and slipped right through the defensive line to dot down under the sticks. The conversion brought the searing All Black scoring burst to an end with the scoreline standing at a crowd-silencing 28-17 with 10 or so minutes left.

The Wallabies threw the kitchen sink into it, again making ground easily with some lovely Giteau interplays down the left, and ending with the Cross try described earlier, and bringing the test into that heart-testing last 3 minutes with 4 points between the teams.

This test was definitely one for the All Black fans, players and coaches to savour. It brought the Bledisloe Cup back home, won the Tri-Nations, proved that Graham Henry, Wayne Smith, and Steve Hansen are still fantastic coaches, and vindicated their re-selection by the NZRU.

Not a bad little night’s work all-in-all.

We now have the end-of-year rugby to look forward to, which from a New Zealand perspective can now be looked at in a positive light, as an opportunity to move the squad, which is very much still in a re-building phase, forward.

Well done to the All Blacks, and to all the coaching staff!

Last, and not least, all the very best to Greg Sommerville who played his last test for the All Blacks last night. His super performance underlined what a difficult job his replacement will have in stepping up.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook

10 Sep

The BASICS: How to beat Australia
by Tracey Nelson
10 Sep 2008

The ledger so far in 2008 is one win each between the All Blacks and Wallabies. The Wallabies won the first match in Sydney 34-19, the next week being a total reversal in Auckland with the All Blacks emerging 39-10 victors. With both the TriNations and the Bledisloe Cup on the line in Brisbane this weekend, what do the All Blacks need to do in order to beat Australia and put both trophies in the cupboard until next year?

BREAKDOWN
Possibly the most vital part of the modern game, particularly under the ELVs. The All Blacks were without Richie McCaw in Sydney, and in his absence they were beaten in the loose forward battle for domination at the breakdown by George Smith and Rocky Elsom. In Auckland the All Blacks had their captain back while the Wallabies were without an injured Rocky Elsom, and the tables were turned. McCaw turned on a text-book display of openside flanker play, and led his team to a resounding victory seven days on from their loss in Sydney. There is no doubt that when the All Blacks are minus McCaw and the Wallabies minus Elsom, both sides struggled to dominate at the breakdown. This weekend will be the first test in 2008 where both players will meet, so all eyes will be on the breakdown. It will be imperative for McCaw to have support at the breakdown and not be operating alone, for without that support the combination of Smith and Elsom could dominate.

ACCURACY
The reason I was underwhelmed by the All Blacks’ 101-14 win over Samoa last week was that despite the cricket score they managed to clock up, the accuracy of their game in doing so was well below what will be needed to beat Australia. Passes need to be infront of players so they can run on to it, instead of stopping to grasp at a ball going behind them. If space is created, players need to run into the gap and not at the defender. Lineout throws need to be pinpoint, pick and go’s must be supported, mauls need to be well-formed and the ball available to the halfback. Most importantly, kicks in general play must be chased and pressure put on the receiver.

SET PIECE
In theory the All Blacks have the upper hand here. Without a doubt our scrum is better, but whether the Wallabies can put pressure on via their halfback as Samoa did to such good effect remains the question. Under the ELVs with defensive backlines required to be 5m back, it is the perfect platform from which to launch a set-piece move if you have the dominant scrum. So far this TriNations it has been the All Blacks on the receiving end of set piece moves from scrums resulting in tries, hopefully this can be rectified this weekend. Both sides have scored tries from lineouts, in Auckland the All Blacks scored a set-move try from a 5m lineout while the Wallabies scored from a scintillating backline move from a lineout on half way.

INTENSITY
This game is about as much as what is happening inside the players’ heads as it is what happens out on the field. While you cannot control the bounce of the ball or the direction of the wind, everything else is controllable. At this level it only takes a momentary drop in intensity and concentration to allow the opposition a chance, the gap, the loose pass or lineout throw. Brisbane’s test match will discover which team can dig deepest, which team can apply tactics and pressure the best, and which team can keep their cool under fire.

CONTEST
The one thing that has stood out in this year’s TriNations is that all three sides’ lineouts have been vulnerable when contested. The All Blacks have historically not contested many opposition throws but in the last two test matchs in Auckland and Capetown they upped the number they were contesting, with excellent results. Australia and South Africa have long benefitted from contesting on New Zealand’s throws, but at long last the worm appears to be turning. It would be disappointing not to mention a foolish strategy not to see the All Blacks put pressure on the Wallaby lineout this weekend, particularly inside the Wallaby 22.

SCRAMBLE
If there has been one glaring defect in the All Blacks’ game this year, it has been their inability to scramble on defence. This has only shown slow signs of improvement as the season has gone on, but as the scramble defence improved inexplicably the set piece defence started to stagger. No doubt Graham Henry has been working hard on his defensive patterns after the All Blacks were exposed from a 5m attacking lineout by Samoa last week, but it will be the scrambling abilities of our defence that will most likely be called into action against Australia this weekend.

A win or draw against Australia in Brisbane this weekend will not only give the All Blacks the title of TriNations champions for 2008 but will also guarantee the retention of the Bledisloe Cup for another year. A loss however, will give the TriNations mantle to the Wallabies and put the Bledisloe Cup on the line in the one-off test match to be played between the two sides in Hong Kong in November.

4 Sep

All Blacks v Samoa, New Plymouth, 3 September 2008
by Tracey Nelson
4 Sep 2008

There were a few positives to come out of the mis-match of the All Blacks’ 101-14 win over an understrength Samoa side last night – in that the people of New Plymouth got to see the All Blacks play on their patch, and the All Blacks themselves got a physical hit out after no rugby for almost four weeks. No major injuries is probably another positive, but that’s about where it ends.

At halftime Graham Henry was asked how he thought the game was going and his response was “Good and bad. I think we did some really good things and scored some good tries. But the scrum is unstable at the back and we’re not clearing from the scrum”. He was not happy about the try the All Blacks conceded in the first half, stating that it was a soft try from a lineout and “you practice defence from that sort of thing so it’s a little bit irritating”. The coaching trio were also annoyed that a couple of times when tries had been on players hadn’t passed the ball, and so in the second half were looking for stability at scrum and first phase along with clearing out well at ruck time.

So did they get that ? At times yes. But for the most part this was a shabby display where the All Blacks did not exhibit accuracy with the ball in hand, demonstrated poor option-taking on numerous occasions, did not play with structure or control when it was called for, and more alarmingly some of the problems we thought we’d eliminated in Auckland crept back into the game. The inability of the All Blacks to consistently win the ball when receiving from the restarts, particularly when there is no pressure from the opposition, must surely be driving the coaches to distraction. Crooked throws to the front of the lineout and inaccurate long throwing were also back like an annoying squeaky floorboard.

When pressure was put on at the back of what was a ridiculously dominant All Black scrum, there were fumbles and poor clearing by captain of the day Rodney So’oialo. Both tries scored by Samoa were borne of the All Blacks’ inability to scramble quickly on defence, the Samoans benefitting from a fragmented All Black attacking line being at sea defensively when the ball was turned over in the tackle and a blindside attack was mounted. Indeed, the accuracy and timing of the Samoan passing to score this try put most of the All Blacks’ efforts to shame. Again, not what I’d imagine the coaching trio would have been wanting to see.

However, Henry stated after the game “The guys stuck to the game plan pretty well and were professional in what they did, and that’s what we wanted them to do”. Quite what the game plan was I’m not sure, but I find it hard to believe the team were told to go out and play festival rugby as their lead up to Brisbane. No doubt Mr Henry would point the finger at me for concentrating on the negatives, but frankly there were more negatives than positives in the way the All Blacks played this game and whether it truly was more than just an opposed training run is certainly still up for debate.

For the record the All Blacks won the game 101-14, the halftime score being 47-7.

Quick stats:

Restarts received by NZ Won From
First half 3 6
Second half 6 7
Total 9 13

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 6 7
Second half 0 1
Total 6 8

NZ Scrum Clearances Cleared From
First half 5 7
Second half 3 4
Total 8 11

4 Sep

All Blacks v Samoa, New Plymouth, 3 September 2008
by Tracey Nelson
4 Sep 2008

There were a few positives to come out of the mis-match of the All Blacks’ 101-14 win over an understrength Samoa side last night – in that the people of New Plymouth got to see the All Blacks play on their patch, and the All Blacks themselves got a physical hit out after no rugby for almost four weeks. No major injuries is probably another positive, but that’s about where it ends.

At halftime Graham Henry was asked how he thought the game was going and his response was “Good and bad. I think we did some really good things and scored some good tries. But the scrum is unstable at the back and we’re not clearing from the scrum”. He was not happy about the try the All Blacks conceded in the first half, stating that it was a soft try from a lineout and “you practice defence from that sort of thing so it’s a little bit irritating”. The coaching trio were also annoyed that a couple of times when tries had been on players hadn’t passed the ball, and so in the second half were looking for stability at scrum and first phase along with clearing out well at ruck time.

So did they get that ? At times yes. But for the most part this was a shabby display where the All Blacks did not exhibit accuracy with the ball in hand, demonstrated poor option-taking on numerous occasions, did not play with structure or control when it was called for, and more alarmingly some of the problems we thought we’d eliminated in Auckland crept back into the game. The inability of the All Blacks to consistently win the ball when receiving from the restarts, particularly when there is no pressure from the opposition, must surely be driving the coaches to distraction. Crooked throws to the front of the lineout and inaccurate long throwing were also back like an annoying squeaky floorboard.

When pressure was put on at the back of what was a ridiculously dominant All Black scrum, there were fumbles and poor clearing by captain of the day Rodney So’oialo. Both tries scored by Samoa were borne of the All Blacks’ inability to scramble quickly on defence, the Samoans benefitting from a fragmented All Black attacking line being at sea defensively when the ball was turned over in the tackle and a blindside attack was mounted. Indeed, the accuracy and timing of the Samoan passing to score this try put most of the All Blacks’ efforts to shame. Again, not what I’d imagine the coaching trio would have been wanting to see.

However, Henry stated after the game “The guys stuck to the game plan pretty well and were professional in what they did, and that’s what we wanted them to do”. Quite what the game plan was I’m not sure, but I find it hard to believe the team were told to go out and play festival rugby as their lead up to Brisbane. No doubt Mr Henry would point the finger at me for concentrating on the negatives, but frankly there were more negatives than positives in the way the All Blacks played this game and whether it truly was more than just an opposed training run is certainly still up for debate.

For the record the All Blacks won the game 101-14, with the halftime score being 47-4.

Quick stats:

Restarts received by NZ Won From
First half 3 6
Second half 6 7
Total 9 13

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 6 7
Second half 0 1
Total 6 8

NZ Scrum Clearances Cleared From
First half 5 7
Second half 3 4
Total 8 11