Fans enjoy the party atmosphere at the USA SevensBy Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features EditorI’ve been in Las Vegas less than 24 hours but it’s already become clear that this city lives up to its reputation. They certainly knows how to party in Vegas and they tend to do things on a grander scale than anywhere else.So what’s this got to do with rugby? Well, the USA Seven is taking place in Vegas this weekend and they are hoping to make their event as popular as the Dubai and Hong Kong tournaments. And they seem to have all the ingredients for success. The Sam Boyd Stadium is a fantastic venue, fans have been drawn from all over and – as you’d expect for Vegas – there’s a real party atmosphere. The fact that Sin City is an attraction in itself is sure help attract more fans as the event grows in popularity. Rugby might not be the biggest sport in America, but the fact the Sevens is being televised live on NBC for the first time is sure to grow its supporter base, especially when they see the atmosphere being generated at the stadium. The tournament has even got its own set of cheerleaders – the Super Sevens Sweethearts. It seems a sport isn’t a sport in the States unless you have scantily-clad girls dancing on the pitch!England bought into the party spirit too – wearing their ‘Tequlia Sunrise’ shirts as they sealed their passage to the quarter-finals with a narrow 17-14 win over Argentina to top Pool A. They’d made far easier work of their earlier opponents, seeing off Guyana 49-0 – Tom Powell scoring four tries – and beating France 33-14. Fantastic four: Tom PowellMy hotel here is called The Cosmopolitan and the crowd here certainly lives up to that description. As well as the expected support for USA and Canada, there are plenty of fans cheering on the likes of England, Argentina, South Africa and Samoa. Flags from across the 16 competing nations fly proudly under Nevada’s clear blue sky – and they’re making the most of the international fan festival at the venue, where you can sample food from all 16 competing countries. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
EXETER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 15: Adrian Jarvis of Bristol in action during the Greene King IPA Championship match between the Cornish Pirates and Bristol Rugby at Sandy Park on September 15, 2013 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The Greene King IPA Championship: Here’s you’re next instalment from England’s competitive second tierBy Richard GraingerIt was all change in the GKIPA Championship with a shock first defeat for the leaders and a spectacular first win for the bottom-placed side. And with Bristol suffering their second consecutive loss, four clubs now sit in behind the Exiles on 33 points.Terrible tackling spells trouble for top clubsBristol 22, Leeds Carnegie 28Two losing bonus points did little to soften the blow as director of Rugby Andy Robinson blamed Bristol’s poor tackling for his side’s first home defeat of the season. “You have to make the tackles,” said Robinson, “if you don’t, you won’t stop opposition teams scoring — it’s as simple as that.”But it could have been a lot worse as Carnegie led by 5-21 shortly before the break, and when Ben Harris rumbled over in the second half to bag a bonus point, Leeds looked home and dry at 10-28.Touchline converter: Adrian JarvisIt needed a touchline conversion by Adrian Jarvis, following George Watkins’ last-gasp try, to bring up Bristol’s second bonus point and leave the hosts with a scoreline that flattered their lacklustre defensive performance.Frantic finish leaves Blues on top Bedford Blues 28, London Welsh 26A staggering 20 points were scored in the last three minutes of this pulsating encounter at Goldington Road on Saturday.“An excellent advert for the Championship,” was an elated head coach Mike Rayer’s summary after he had seen the lead switch three times in as many minutes. Jake Sharp received a kindly bounce to break away for the try that looked to have sealed the hosts’ third win in the 80th minute only for Alex Davies to touch down seconds later. Davies’ conversion attempt would have seen the Exiles leaving with a draw but it drifted wide and they left with only a losing bonus point.“We lost the game purely on woeful missed tackles,” said head coach Justin Burnell. “We’re obviously disappointed, but it wasn’t going to happen.” He added: “Against Bristol we didn’t miss those tackles but today we did and hence we lost the game.”Turnovers place Trailfinders on path to recoveryJersey 18, Ealing Trailfinders 28If Ealing are to have any chance of Championship survival, this was a game they had to win, and they won it in some style, securing a try bonus point at St. Peter. It looked like another hard day at the office as the visitors conceded 12 points within the first quarter before they capitalised on the first of two turnovers. Tom Bedford crossed to reduce the arrears to 12-7 before Phil Chesters scored a brace of second half tries and put Andrew Henderson in to notch the bonus point. This leaves Ealing a mere six points adrift at the foot of the table.Albion lose again at homePlymouth Albion 17, Rotherham 28Albion’s faithful have had little to cheer about at Brickfields as their team has yet to register a home win this season. It never looked likely either on Friday night as the Titans, who are enjoying fine form this season, were always in control and won more convincingly than the three-try all count suggests.Mantella adds to Mose woesLondon Scottish 38, Moseley 17Head coach Kevin Maggs considered that the scoreline flattered the Exiles but the 12 points given away from scrum penalties tells it’s own story.A Miles Mantella hattrick and tries from skipper Mark Bright and Olly Grove underlined the hosts’ dominance based on the power of their pack at the Athletic Ground on Saturday.Neot enough: Hallett put Pirates aheadNottingham notch late drawNottingham 27, Cornish Pirates 27There was no let up to a scintillating weekend of Championship action with a 27-27 draw at Meadow Lane on Sunday.Despite dominating both possession and territory in the first half, the Green and Whites were unable to pull clear of the Cornishmen who held the upper hand after the break. It looked as if the visitors had done enough when Rob Elloway barged over with three minutes remaining, for the visitors’ third try. Keiran Hallett added the extras but Nottingham replacement Matt Jarvis kicked a last minute penalty to make it honours even.And finally, the GK IPA Championship takes another break as the second tier clubs return to British & Irish Cup action this weekend, continuing through for the next fortnight.
Joe Schmidt has rung the changes for part two of Ireland’s tour in Argentina. Find out more about the team below… Versatile: McFadden has covered both midfield and wing positions for Ireland but starts at 13 on Saturday JOE SCHMIDT has reinforced his team with Leinster’s RaboDirect Pro12 winners for Ireland’s second Test against Argentina on Saturday. Schmidt had always intended to give all of the 29 players on tour a run in one of the match day squads, so changes were fully expected, and he added: “There’s been a lot of travelling on tour so the fresh guys will give the team a little bit of a boost.”In the midfield, Darren Cave will start at inside centre at the Estadio Jose Fierro in Tucuman. Cave made more metres than anyone else on the pitch last week with 95, and though he missed a couple of tackles Schmidt’s intention was always to give him a run out at 12. The versatile Fergus McFadden will start at 13, and Schmidt said: “Never in an international do you start with 15 and not make changes. We see it as an advantage going forward to have a player like Fergus who can fill many positions.“There’s been some precaution taken with Luke (Marshall) but before the tour we always wanted to look at Darren at 12. Robbie Henshaw didn’t make it, but we’d thought about that combination.”Treetops: Toner will return to the second row alongside O’ConnellRob Kearney has returned to the full-back position, having recovered from the RaboDirect Pro12 final 10 days ago, and Andrew Trimble and Simon Zebo retain their places on the wing. Schmidt praised Zebo’s tackle accuracy – he made nine tackles and missed one in last week’s Test – while posing a threat while carrying the ball, though stressed that the Munster wing still had areas that needed to sharpen up. Johnny Sexton has retained his place at fly-half, and will start alongside former Leinster team-mate Eoin Reddan, with Conor Murray, who suffered a dead leg in last week’s game, dropping to the bench.In the pack, Dave Kilcoyne will win his second Test start at loosehead, alongside Rory Best and Mike Ross. Jack McGrath drops to the bench as tighthead cover, and Schmidt said: “Jack’s played tighthead in the AIL and has trained incredibly well at tighthead this week. It also gives James Cronin a window of opportunity.” Cronin will earn his first cap on Saturday having missed out on a spot in the 23 last week.Sightseers: Enjoying a day off in Tucuman on WednesdayThe Six Nations winning partnership of Devin Toner and captain Paul O’Connell will be reunited on Saturday, and O’Connell said: “I’ve only played with Dev since he’s been an established international, and he has a calm head. He calls the lineouts at Leinster, so every game he’ll call two or three of the lineouts. Wherever Dev goes teams tend to stay away from because of his height, and he’s quick for a big man. His ball carrying is something for other second rows to aspire to, and he’s another set of eyes on the pitch for me.”Robbie Diack, who made ten tackles and stole two lineouts in Resistencia last weekend, is unlucky not to be included in this week’s 23, but he gives way to Rhys Ruddock who steps in at six alongside Chris Henry and Jamie Heaslip. The Leinster No 8 and Ireland vice-captain has only come off the bench twice for his country in 66 Tests, and said of the experience: “I found it tougher to prepare coming off the bench, because I’ve done it for Leinster a good few times and found it different but not hard, but on Saturday it was different and harder coming off the bench for Ireland.” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Ireland XV to face Argentina: Rob Kearney; Andrew Trimble, Fergus McFadden, Darren Cave, Simon Zebo; Johnny Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Dave Kilcoyne, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell (capt), Rhys Ruddock, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip.Ireland reps: Rob Herring, James Cronin, Jack McGrath, Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, Conor Murray, Ian Madigan, Noel Reid.Click here to watch highlights from last week’s gamehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJsSm6-FUBU
RW verdict: Two Sean O’Briens in Ireland’s back row would be confusing, but this leader won’t stop at U20s.Want to stay up to date with rugby’s hotshots every month? Why not subscribe to Rugby World? Click here for the latest subscription deals, and find out how to download the digital edition here. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS How long have you been at Connacht?Since I was a young lad playing U15s. I did a trial and joined after that.Who has been a big influence on your career?Jimmy Duffy. He coached me for two years of U18s. His breakdown work is particularly good and he’s always given good advice. I’ve played in the U19 and U20 teams since then.When did you first play?When I was five. My rugby-mad dad took me to my local club, Galwegians.Always been a forward? I played out-half until I was 12 and was a No 8 at school. Now I’m a second- or back-row. I don’t mind which; their roles are becoming quite similar. Who do you look up to?Paul O’Connell. He’s the one you aspire to play like.What are your goals?To win the JWC and get into the senior Connacht squad.You’re U20s captain. Is that a role you enjoy? Yes, I’ve captained other teams too. I prefer being captain to not; it makes me perform better.
As Murrayfield prepares to welcome the Welsh, Scotland great Colin Deans argues for an infusion of young blood up front Driving force: Former hooker Colin Deans believes Vern Cotter is improving Scotland Credit: Inpho “It was pleasing to hear that George North won’t be playing for Wales this weekend because as a Northampton Saints fan I’m a great fan of his. He makes ground and draws players out of position and his absence will be beneficial to us. We can probably attack Liam Williams more than we would have attacked George.“People have sussed what Wales are about and England made them look pretty ordinary. It’s our first home game and we should be full of confidence. We’ve got the personnel, especially from nine outwards. It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve had attacking players from nine to 15. So I’m quietly confident we will beat Wales, as long as we can get a good start.” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS If Scotland’s front row needed any extra motivation for Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations match against Wales, they needn’t look far to find it. For Colin Deans, Scotland’s 1984 Grand Slam hooker, believes experienced trio Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and Euan Murray – who sits out this weekend’s match because of his religious beliefs – are failing to meet the demands of modern Test rugby and need to be discarded.Deans saves his bluntest criticism for former Scotland captain Ford, who plays in the No 2 shirt that Deans wore with distinction for his country 52 times from 1978-87.“Ross should be giving a lot more than he is for someone with 80 caps. He has been found wanting, and I think he gave away a couple of penalties against France. A player of his size and experience should be leading more and handling more than he is,” says Deans, who runs his own company, Profoil, in England’s East Midlands.“A modern-day hooker needs to be very mobile and carry well and make big hits, and he isn’t giving enough energy to the team. He’s not explosive enough. There are a lot of good young hookers about, such as Fraser Brown and Pat MacArthur, and we need to blood them.”In fine form: Fraser Brown of Glasgow WarriorsFord’s lineout stats have impressed during the reign of new head coach Vern Cotter, but Deans says: “With the two Gray brothers being the towers they are, I could probably hit them. The lineout is a huge strength and (replacement) Jim Hamilton doesn’t weaken the side. He’s been all round the world and is a great asset.”Deans believes Ford should have been converted to a prop forward three or four years ago, and argues that the SRU’s director of rugby Scott Johnson must look at opportunities to train players for different positions in order to get the best men on the park. At nearly 31, it’s too late for Ford to switch now and Deans also favours sidelining two other older heads in Murray, 34, and Dickinson, 31. The three share 184 caps worth of experience.“Euan is not the player he used to be, and Alasdair used to be more dynamic – international rugby is just a bit beyond him. They’ve been great servants but they’re both stopgaps, players who don’t offer enough in the latter part of their careers. The front row is a bit of a concern.”Young man’s sportDeans, whose son Roddy coaches Scotland U16, is certainly a champion of youth. And in his view previous Scotland regimes have been reluctant to give younger players a chance to express themselves. It took an injury to give then teenager Stuart Hogg his Test debut three years ago and there are other examples of young talent flourishing in the current team.“You need to blood youngsters – the ones who went on tour last summer all did well. Rugby is a young man’s sport, although Paul O’Connell might differ. You don’t know how well a player can play until he has to play.“Finn Russell was a nobody two years ago but he got his opportunity through injuries and he had a fantastic game against France. Mark Bennett had to go to France (joining Clermont) to get a game – and he’s been a revelation. These players will only get better.”Memories to treasureDeans can speak from experience because in 1986 he captained a Scotland side in Wales that included relative ‘unknowns’ in the Hastings brothers, Finlay Calder, John Jeffrey and David Sole. All five went on to become British & Irish Lions. The Scots played some great rugby in Cardiff that day but went down 22-15 in a match famous for Paul Thorburn’s monster 64-metre penalty. Indeed, the Scotland-Wales fixture has thrown up all manner of iconic moments, such as Gerald Davies’s try and John Taylor’s touchline conversion in 1971, Gareth Edwards’s try in the mud in 1972, and Phil Bennett’s classic try in 1977 (see video below).Mercifully, there was no TMO in those days because the latter try (not to mention Edwards’s ‘greatest-ever’ try for the Barbarians) might have been chalked off for a forward pass. At the very least, there would have been an interminable wait before the try was awarded, killing the moment.More recently, we’ve seen the great scores by Jonathan Davies and Ieuan Evans, and John Leslie’s ten-second try to spoil Graham Henry’s Six Nations debut, and Deans can add plenty of other memories to the list.“My first away International was in Wales and they had Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, JPR, JJ, Fenwick, the Pontypool front row – all legends. It was a baptism of fire and I was overawed in many ways but we didn’t do badly.“After Graham Hogg came on as a replacement, there were seven Hawick lads on the field and that shows how good Hawick were at that time. Cranston and Renwick were a fantastic centre partnership, Brian Hegarty was a great seven, Alan Tomes won 40-odd caps, Norman Pender was a man-mountain of a prop. Hawick were on the crest of a wave and here we were playing against the greats of Welsh rugby.“I weighed 12 and a quarter stone and the press used to call me ‘slight but swift Deans’. In modern rugby I wouldn’t have been able to contemplate playing at that weight. But Ian McLauchlan was very experienced, Norman was a man-mountain and we had the run that day.” Wales won 22-14 on their way to a Grand Slam.The memories come thick and fast for Deans. “In 1981 I had my first win with Scotland, because I don’t count the France win in 1980 as I came off with a rib injury. Then in 1982 we beat them in Cardiff (34-18). We scored one of the great tries when (Wales’) Gareth Davies chipped and Roger (Baird) took it in his 22 and skipped around two Welshmen and passed to Iain Paxton, who passed to Alan Tomes. I was inside Alan and as a Hawick man I expected the pass, but he gave it to Jim Calder outside him. I’ll never forgive him!“We ripped them apart that day, and it was the start of Wales’ decline and our incline. In 1984 we had the Jim Aitken one-yard try at the start of our Grand Slam year. Wales-Scotland games have always had something happening.”Dynamic youngsters: Deans likes the exciting young Scottish backsExploiting North’s absenceFast-forward three decades and Deans likes what he sees from Cotter’s Scotland, notwithstanding the front-row selection issue. He would also play wing Dougie Fife ahead of Tim Visser when everyone is available.“I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Vern Cotter is a new voice and an excellent coach, as his track record shows. He’s picking players who are playing well, not picking on reputation. He’s brought in a load of youngsters and I like his approach. From a line breaks point of view and an entertainment point of view we deserved to beat France.
Bulls and Sharks cull mercilesslyThe Bulls and the Sharks did little to persuade seasoned veterans to reconsider offers from overseas clubs after both suffering mediocre Super Rugby campaigns. The Bulls will wave goodbye to Springboks Pierre Spies, Flip van der Merwe and Francois Hougaard who are joining Japanese and French clubs after Super Rugby. Promising young flank Jacques du Plessis is also leaving the Loftus kraal for the south of France at Montpellier.France-bound: Pierre Spies is one of a number of Bulls players leaving the Super Rugby teamLegendary lock Victor Matfield is retiring for a second time while stalwart wing Akona Ndungane is also hanging up his boots. At the Sharks, a complete overall is starting early with the confirmation that Bok front rowers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis are heading to France to reconnect with former Bok coach Jake White at Montpellier. Flank Willem Alberts is also heading north to French club Stade Francais.Stormers claim third SA Conference title The Stormers underlined their credentials as the most successful South African franchise in the 15-team Super Rugby era with their third Conference title in five years. The Bulls and the Sharks have won one each. At the time of writing the play-offs hadn’t been concluded and the Stormers were still in with a chance of winning their maiden overall title.Underrated: Allister Coetzee of the Stormers has an excellent record in Super RugbyCoach Allister Coetzee, who will join Japanese club Kobelco Steel in July, has quietly emerged as the most successful South African coach of this era. Since 2011, when Super Rugby expanded to 15 teams Coetzee has led the team 82 times with 52 victories for a 63.4 per cent winning ratio. By contrast the Bulls and Sharks, in the same period, have a 56.1 per cent and 55.8 per cent winning ratio respectively.Pumas win Vodacom CupThe unfashionable Mpumalanga Pumas from Nelspruit, which gave South Africa its current player of the year Duane Vermeulen, recently captured the Vodacom Cup title. This competition, which runs concurrently to Super Rugby and features full strength ‘smaller’ unions against second stringers from Super Rugby franchises in their provincial colours, signalled the Pumas’ intentions to become a big club.Old boy: Bok star Duane Vermeulen was a former Mpumalanga Puma, who captured the Vodacom Cup titleThey beat Western Province in the final and have laid down a marker for the upcoming Currie Cup. The Pumas will be able to recall several key players such as tighthead prop Vincent Koch (Stormers), lock Lubalalo ‘Giant’ Mtyanda (Sharks), scrumhalf Faf de Klerk (Lions) and flank Renaldo Bothma (Sharks) from Super Rugby loan duty to bolster their ranks in the Currie Cup. Western Province are desperately trying to secure Koch’s services on a permanent basis but the Pumas have so far declined all their offers. Bulls, Sharks and Stormers all on the lookout for a new coachAfter a disappointing Super Rugby campaign with a splintered coaching staff, Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold has indicated there is an intense search to find a new coach. Gold took on duel coaching duties during the campaign alongside Brendan Venter, but the situation did not work. Venter commuted from his medical practice in Cape Town once a week and also handed the pre-season duties while Gold completed his obligations at Kobelco Steel in Japan.Decision time: Stormers director of rugby Gary Gold must choose their next coachThe Stormers are looking to replace Coetzee with a high profile name. John Plumtree, the former Sharks coach, Ireland forward’s coach and now assistant at Super Rugby pacesetters the Hurricanes, has been linked to the job. Former All Black, Western Force and Lions boss John Mitchell has also been approached about his availability in Cape Town. But he lives in Durban and might choose to throw his hat in with the Sharks if they make a concrete offer.Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is set for a move upstairs at Loftus with either current Springbok forward’s coach Johan van Graan, or Matfield taking over as coach.Boks second RWC training camp ticks more boxes – Bekker in mixSpringbok coach Heyneke Meyer revealed at a Springbok World Cup training camp in Cape Town that he had had talks with Japan-based lock Andries Bekker about a possible return to Test rugby after two years in the international wilderness. The 2.08m giant who won 29-Test caps, has been unavailable due to contractual constraints with club Kobelco Steel. Tall-order: Andries is said to be close to a first Test return in two years as cover for Victor MatfieldBut Meyer and Bekker had a heart-to-heart and Bekker said he wanted to play Test rugby again and that he would go back to his club and put in a request. Victor Matfield, 38, is currently the Boks’ first choice No 5 lock. Promising understudy Pieter-Steph du Toit is currently out with a knee injury. Bekker’s availability would solve one problematic position. Meyer is also understood to be badgering veteran centre Jaque Fourie to reconsider his international retirement and make one last push for the World Cup squad.And finally…Jean de Villiers back in full-trainingSpringbok captain Jean de Villiers has made a remarkable recovery from a horror knee injury sustained against Wales last November and was seen in full training with the Stormers in early June. Coach Allister Coetzee ruled out any chance of De Villiers turning out in the Super Rugby play-offs, but the development was good news for Meyer and the Boks. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Jean de Villiers is on the comeback trail, Andries Bekker is in from the cold and Pierre Spies is off to France. It’s all happening in South Africa this month Comeback kid: Jean de Villiers has made a remarkable return from injury and has World Cup firmly in his sights
Ireland fell to an agonising one-point loss against a vulnerable French outfit and there is frustration that Joe Schmidt’s men approach the England game winless Taking contact: CJ Stander and the Ireland backrow have carried hard but not much end resultOur backrowers haven’t passed much this Championship, preferring contact and we haven’t been able to turn that into any kind of front-foot ball. The plan to actually score tries isn’t clear anyway, but with no ball, we aren’t threatening the whitewash.Non-impact benchIreland (until the RWC quarter final anyway) have made a virtue out of something that was a weakness in the fag end of Deccie’s reign – the bench. Not this time though – while Tommy O’Donnell was one of Ireland’s better players, the backup front row forwards had a torrid time.Thinking to do: Joe Schmidt may make changes on the bench for EnglandFergus McFadden replicated his Leinster form this season, and Ian Madigan‘s first act was to overcook a restart. Injuries are exposing Ireland’s lack of depth, but Ulster followers (not just supporters) will point to Paddy Jackson and Craig Gilroy and wonder what difference they could have madeIreland’s midfield: defensive lynchpins but attacking void Ireland’s centres, Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne, both had excellent games in defence, but aren’t providing much of an attacking force when outside backs are picked as much on their rucking as their try scoring. By Whiff of CorditeIreland’s Six Nations three-peat hopes are all but over after a dispiriting one point defeat in Paris. The game was eye-bleedingly poor and was undoubtedly the lowest point of Joe Schmidt‘s competitive reign. The French try, when it came, was after a ten-minute scrum and felt inevitable, in a similar way the Welsh try last week. It’s hard to argue that Schmidt’s methods don’t produce results, but three points in two second-halves tells a story of its own. So what did we learn?Calling Mike Ross. Ireland needs youThere’s no point denying it, Ireland still are heavily reliant on old Mike Ross. Since the 2011 Six Nations, the Wales and France games are the third and fourth competitve outings not started by Ross.Man in the middle: Mike Ross is still invaluable to Ireland at the set-pieceNathan White struggled again, and if Ireland are to get out of Twickenham alive – we mean with two points in the bag – they need Ross back to shore up the scrum, or hope Mako Vunipola reverts to his wet-behind-the-ears 2013 scrummaging ability. With any luck the former is more likely.Leaders lackingAs well the aforementioned Ross, Ireland are missing huge chunk of leaders in the pack – Paul O’Connell has retired but Peter O’Mahony, Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien (when he made a cameo 20 minutes) and Iain Henderson have left big personality and leadership holes.Leadership void: The likes of Peter O’Mahony has left a big gap in the Ireland packThe replacements are all players with ability – indeed Healy may not be first choice – but you can’t replace hundreds of caps worth of international experience and not suffer the consequences.Lack of breakdown threatLinked to that is the strengh of our breakdown work…or lack of strength on Saturday. Ireland players have excelled at ball presentation and accurate clearouts under Schmidt, and the inability to manufacture any sort of decent possession meant our somewhat predictable attack became utterly predictable. What could have been: Ireland ponder their one-point loss to Les Bleus No way through: Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw are brilliant defenders but lack in the creativity stakesThe players themselves are good, but when starved of primary possession, we don’t seem able to manufacture try-scoring opportunities. Winning by defence is fine when you eke out enough points, but a scoreless second half hinted that we are doing isn’t quite working. Domestic backline selection debates (always involving Ulster players!) are a moot point if kick-chase and rucking remains the plan .. and we can’t execute it LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
Scrum-half skulduggeryRugby must be vigilant to prevent the cynicism so prevalent in football from creeping into the sport.Football has belatedly – by about 30 years – responded to acts of simulation by bringing in bans from next season for those who dive. But it will find it harder to combat the chronic problem of attackers choosing to make contact with defenders so as to dupe the referee into giving a penalty.A near equivalent in rugby is a defender choosing to run into an attacker and then claiming he was prevented from making a tackle on a ball-carrier. I haven’t seen anyone do this yet but you sense it’s going to happen.Naughty! Crusaders scrum-half Bryn Hall was told off for trying to extract penalties in Suva (Getty)Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris tried to claim he was obstructed in the play that brought a try for Crusaders’ Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, but in fairness he was marginally hampered by Owen Franks.In the same match, referee Mike Fraser felt obliged to warn both scrum-halves for deliberately passing the ball at an opponent on the wrong side in order to draw a penalty. This is a habit that’s on the increase and well done Fraser for telling the No 9s to cut it out.On a positive note, how fantastic that Chiefs took the fixture to Suva (as last year) so that Fijians could watch top-class Super Rugby on their doorstep. They were queuing outside before the gates opened and a crowd of 17,000 showed what an appetite there is for New Zealand rugby on the islands.Davies indisciplineYou might think I would chastise Steff Evans for the tip tackle on Garry Ringrose that jeopardized the Scarlets’ hopes of winning their Guinness Pro12 semi-final. But no, that is to some extent an occupational hazard.Body blow: Marius Mitrea sends off Steff Evans but Scarlets still won in Dublin (Huw Evans Agency)Instead, I’m highlighting the daft indiscipline by Gareth Davies that preceded that passage of play. With Scarlets poised to have an attacking five-metre scrum, the scrum-half initiated a tussle with Johnny Sexton and was penalised, gifting Leinster a pressure-relieving clearance to touch. TAGS: HighlightScarlets Sizzling Scarlets take top billing on a semi-final weekend to savour, Scotland reign at Twickenham and a hammer blow for the Lions as Billy Vunipola pulls out the tour THE SAINTSScarlets’ history makersBilly Vunipola’s injury cast a cloud over a weekend of four huge club semi-finals – and three of them proved to be belters. Pride of place goes to the Scarlets (27-15 at Leinster) for becoming the first team to win an away semi in the Guinness Pro12 play-offs.It’s not being wise after the event to say that their 5-1 odds were overly generous, because the Scarlets had only lost one of their previous 11 league games and were scoring tries for fun. Nevertheless, that one blot was a 45-9 rout in Dublin in round 17 and the expectation was that Leinster’s pack, with two Lions props to the fore, would deny Wayne Pivac’s side a platform to play off.Up the reds: the Scarlets celebrate their backs-to-the-wall 14-man victory against Leinster (Inpho)In the event, the home side never really got going; perhaps they were shell-shocked by the stunning handling and offloading that conjured tries for Steff Evans, Aaron Shingler and Gareth Davies in the first half-hour.After Steff Evans’s red card, openside James Davies filled in at left-wing and finished Man of the Match for a performance that included three precious turnovers.“If we had a choice of him over other opensides in the country we would take James every day,” said Pivac. “If you put him on the wing he doesn’t flinch, he just goes out there and does the job. He has a great skill-set and a very big heart.”Zebo’s cookingScarlets, whose only Pro12 title was in 2004, will face three-time champions Munster at Aviva Stadium on Saturday (6.15pm).Munster’s 23-3 defeat of Ospreys was more mundane but did feature a classic counter-attack try by Simon Zebo after Justin Tipuric’s clearing kick seemed to have ended the danger. Keith Earls fielded it and combined with Andrew Conway and Francis Saili to put Zebo over for the game’s outstanding moment.Classic try: Tom Habberfield and Dan Evans can’t prevent Simon Zebo scoring for Munster (Inpho)“Turning and burning” was Zebo’s phrase for it after the game, when he also explained his ‘stirring the pot’ try celebration. It’s borrowed from basketball star James Harden and means something’s cooking!Slade’s perfect puntThere was a time when I was convinced that Exeter’s Henry Slade should have been the first name on England’s team sheet. Now 24, he suffered a broken leg and hasn’t quite pushed on but he remains a formidable talent, and one with time to win 100 caps (he has 95 to go).It says much for the depth of Exeter’s resources that they can afford to leave him on the bench for an Aviva Premiership semi-final but Slade came on to make a difference.The 60-metre touch-finder he delivered at the end of Chiefs’ 18-16 win over Saracens was a thing of beauty. “One of the great kicks of all time” was how Sarries DoR Mark McCall graciously described it and it gave Chiefs the field position from which they drove over the line and Sam Simmonds scored the winning try. With Exeter City playing a Wembley final on Sunday, expect hordes of Devonians to invade the capital.Leaving it late: Sam Simmonds’s try puts Exeter into their second successive Premiership final (Getty)Was this Exeter’s greatest-ever victory? It’s hard to disagree. They played really high-quality phase rugby, with almost no errors, and even then they only just won. That tells you how good this Saracens team is, because a normal team would have wilted under the pressure.The result was an excellent one for the Lions because Sarries’ five remaining Lions will be spared another huge game ahead of the departure to New Zealand.Before Billy Vunipola’s withdrawal (see below), I felt there was a strong chance that all five of Saracens’ Lions forwards could make the Test pack to face the All Blacks. Now it can only be four – Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Mako Vunipola and Jamie George – but for one club that could still be called greedy!Eighty and out for AshIt was a pity that Chris Ashton didn’t get the farewell he deserved, the Saracens wing taking his leave just ten minutes into the match.Only Tom Varndell and Mark Cueto have scored more tries than the Toulon-bound former rugby league man, who finishes his Premiership career with 80 in 131 games, the first 33 of them scored for Northampton.Where it began: Chris Ashton on his way to his very first Premiership try, for Saints in 2008Not everyone cares for his ostentatious finishing (for me, the Ash Splash adds colour) but he has been a wonderful addition to English domestic rugby, with his tracking of the ball changing the way union wings play the game.Right result at the RicohTrying to prevent Exeter’s first English title will be Wasps, the latest of whose six triumphs was nine years ago. Their helter-skelter 21-20 win over Leicester included a four-minute uninterrupted passage of play (66-70 minutes) that almost brought players to their knees.Defiantly heroic though Tigers were, Wasps deserve to be lining up in Saturday’s Twickenham final (2.30pm) after scoring 89 tries and 13 try bonus points during the regular season. Only Exeter (86 and 15) can match that attacking potency.Strong guy: Guy Thompson has Tigers’ defence in a muddle during a cracking semi at Wasps (Getty)Scots do it again Counted out: Billy Vunipola goes down with the injury that has cost him a Lions tour place (Getty Images) Amid all the club drama, there was plenty to celebrate in sevens. In the HSBC London Sevens that concluded this season’s world series, Scotland retained their London title with a 12-7 defeat of England in the final, captain Scott Riddell scoring the winning try.The Scots, who had also reached the Paris final a week earlier, pulled off an extraordinary win over New Zealand in the quarter-finals. They trailed 21-0 at half-time and had got back to 21-17 when an assistant referee spotted that the Kiwis had eight men on the field during a substitution – a mistake they also made in Sydney last year.Jamie Farndale crossed from the penalty to give Scotland victory by 24-21.London calling: Scotland Sevens celebrate retaining their London title at Twickenham (Getty)England, who were handicapped by injuries to Tom Mitchell, Dan Bibby and Ollie Lindsay-Hague, still came close to winning the cup and their second-place finish in the series is their best since 2006, when their current coach Simon Amor was the captain.Dan Norton, the all-time record try-scorer in the series with 261, scored a sensational try in the final when he ran through most of the Scotland team and sat George Horne down with a delicious final piece of footwork.But biggest plaudits go to South Africa, who reached eight of the ten cup finals over the season, winning five of them, to secure their second series crown (after 2008-09).They will be favourites for the 2017-18 series that includes a new venue in Hamilton and will be followed by the 2018 Sevens World Cup in San Francisco on 20-22 July, tickets for which will go on general sale exactly one year before the tournament.THE SINNERSBilly’s bad shoulderOnly one place to start – the shuddering news that England No 8 Billy Vunipola has withdrawn from the Lions tour with a shoulder injury.It’s stating the obvious to say that the worthy James Haskell is not a like-for-like replacement because there is no one like big Billy.Running repairs: Vunipola during the defeat at ExeterIt’s not just that he can carry the ball into contact with two or three defenders and yet still it looks like he’s the one doing the bullying. Against Exeter on Saturday he won a huge turnover when Saracens were under the cosh just before half-time, and later he produced a remarkable ripped steal as the Chiefs thundered forward from a driving maul.He is a big-game player, a Test-match animal to use Ian McGeechan’s phrase, and irreplaceable. He would have been a shoo-in for the Lions Test No 8 shirt that will now be contested by CJ Stander and Taulupe Faletau. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS As everyone knows, matches and momentum can swing on such moments. Gareth, if Conor Murray has the ball during a pause in play on Saturday, don’t go waving your arms near his face!For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here.
Top ten: Sexton won a Grand Slam but failed to make Opta’s team of the tournament (Getty Images) Some other notable exclusions are Alun Wyn Jones, and Keith Earls, with Cory Hill and Jonny May taking those positions. Both have caused considerable debate. Statistical Analysts OptaJonny have selected their team of the tournament, with some notable omissions. Do you agree with their team of the tournament? Who made it into your team?Don’t hesitate to let us know, and also don’t forget to follow Rugby World on Facebook and Twitter. Johnny Sexton Omitted From Opta’s Team of the TournamentWith the Six Nations finishing, the inevitable ‘teams of the tournament’ spring up everywhere and with Ireland winning the Grand Slam, most selections include Irish players like Conor Murray, Tadhg Furlong and Johnny Sexton.Well not according to Opta Jonny, who did indeed select Murray and Furlong, but no Sexton. He guided Ireland to their first Grand Slam since 2009, so his omission is perplexing – but Opta’s Index system claims Italian fly-half Tomasso Allan was the best ten in the tournament.Related: Six Nations Team of the Weekend Round Five LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS But there were some positions that cannot be argued with, like Murray, who was the best player in the tournament according to their stats.Jonny Gray made a ridiculous 100 tackles during the Six Nations, the first man ever to hit the triple-figure mark. He only missed three for the entire tournament.CJ Stander is a no-brainer too. He made an astounding, tournament-leading 96 carries in the tournament, which was eight off tying his own record for a single Six Nations Championship.In fact the XV has several other interesting aspects to it. Such as the inclusion of five Scottish players, Stuart McInally, Gray, Hamish Watson, Huw Jones and Stuart Hogg.That means Scotland had one third of the positions which was more than any other country. Ireland had four, and England, Wales and Italy all had two each. Sadly there are no Frenchman, with Mathieu Bastareaud, Guilhem Guirado and Remy Grosso probably the only players standing a chance of getting in.
Wales Autumn Internationals Squad Replaced: Sonny Bill is injured so Crotty comes in to face Ireland (Getty Images) New Zealand Autumn Internationals SquadFor Australia, England, Ireland and ItalyForwards: Dane Coles, Nathan Harris, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Whitelock, Vaea Fifita, Dalton Papalii, Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Matt ToddBacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Waisake Naholo, Ben SmithFor JapanForwards: Asafo Aumua, Liam Coltman, Tyrel Lomax, Reuben O’Neill, Tim Perry, Angus Ta’avao, Luke Romano, Jackson Hemopo, Gareth Evans, Dillon Hunt, Luke Whitelock LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Expand Autumn International Fixtures 2018 How To Watch The 2018 Autumn Internationals Autumn International Fixtures 2018 Expand The All Blacks and Steve Hansen have named their squad for their upcoming matches against Australia in Bledisloe 3, and their Autumn International matches against England, Ireland, Italy and Japan.The matches against England and Ireland are hotly anticipated, with the All Blacks having not played England since 2014, and they last lost to Ireland in Chicago back in 2016.As a result, Hansen has named a strong 32-man main squad with several big names returning from injury like; Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Brodie Retallick and Liam Squire. Additionally, Dalton Papalii is a new All Black and Matt Todd comes in to replace an injured Sam Cane and unavailable loose forwards Shannon Frizell and Jordan Taufua.The introduction of Todd is a step away form the usual All Blacks selection policy after he was selected despite playing for Japanese club Panasonic Wild Knights. Usually players have to play in the country to be selected.Exception: Matt Todd has been selected despite the usual NZRU selection policies (Getty Images)Hansen has also named a 19-man wider training squad for the All Blacks match against Japan. This features seven uncapped players who are Tyrel Lomax, Reuben O’Neill, Gareth Evans, Bryn Hall, Brett Cameron, George Bridge and Matt Proctor.Hansen has clearly decided to use this period to prepare for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan next year. He said; “Having the extra group come to Japan will allow us to send the bulk of our main squad to London early to acclimatise and prepare for what will be three big Test matches in the Northern Hemisphere, starting with England.“Bringing in the wider squad players also allows us to grow our player depth and will expose them to the international arena, which we think will be great for their development and, in turn, will benefit New Zealand Rugby in the long-term.“We’ll also be using the Japanese leg of our Tour to road test a few things ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup, as we will be using the same hotels and training facilities while we are there. We’re also playing Australia and Japan at two of our Rugby World Cup venues,” How To Watch The 2018 Autumn Internationals The All Blacks have named a 51-man squad for their upcoming matches. Take a look at which teams are playing… Make sure you know when, where and on… Wales Autumn Internationals Squad New Zealand Autumn Internationals SquadSteve Hansen has made 11 changes to the side that lost to Ireland last weekend.Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett are the only players to keep their places. In fact all three Barrett brothers start with Jordie replacing Ben Smith on the wing and Scott coming into the second row.Additionally Dalton Papalii could earn his second cap off the bench.“The Italians will bring plenty of line speed, with a wide defensive spread, and again allows us to experience playing this type of team,” Hansen said.“They’re big men who play with a lot of passion and pride.“Our goal will be to create quality set-piece ball and lightning quick ruck ball, coupled with a real accuracy in our decision-making so we can use our skill-sets accordingly.”New Zealand team to face Italy in the Autumn Internationals – 24th November Damian McKenzie, Jordie Barrett, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Waisake Naholo, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Ofa Tuungafasi, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Patrick Tuipulotu, Scott Barrett, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read (c).Replacements: Nathan Harris, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Angus Ta’avao, Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papalii, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Richie Mo’unga, Rieko Ioane.New Zealand team to face Ireland in the Autumn Internationals – 17th November Damian McKenzie; Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Karl Tu’inukuafe, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Kieran ReadReplacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Anton Lienert-Brown.New Zealand team to face England in the Autumn Internationals – 10th NovemberDamian McKenzie, Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Kieran ReadReplacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty Take a look at the Welsh squad for… Backs: Mitchell Drummond, Bryn Hall, Brett Cameron, Ngani Laumape, Matt Proctor, George Bridge, David Havili, Nehe Milner-SkudderDon’t forget to follow Rugby World on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news from the world of rugby. Collapse