What Did We Learn?

Posted: August 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

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Yesterday was a great day for rugby fans (unless you’re Australian) as some big games were played out. Here’s what we learned from them.

New Zealand v Australia

1. There is a reason Steve Hansen has the winning record he has. The All Blacks started with a kicking game yesterday and deployed it very well. They were patient and, eventually, the scores came. They outplayed Australia all over the field.

2. Dan Coles is becoming the best hooker in world rugby. He isn’t far from top of the list, but yesterday was another reason why he should be. He worked all over the park and showed great skill and acceleration to take his try.

3. Conrad Smith is still a cut above other world 13s. His work rate yesterday was enormous, and he capped off his night with a well taken try.

4. Quade Cooper will not be the man to lead Australia to glory. He was offered a chance at redemption yesterday and he blew it. His yellow card was the second needless binning in three weeks, and left his side without its play-maker for ten important minutes. The fact that Kurtley Beale replaced him straight after the binning, and did well (he put an important hit on Carter to stop a well worked move almost immediately) shows Cooper will be blessed to get on the plane.

5. Even when Israel Folau is quiet, he is still a phenomenal footballer. He patrolled the air, took every ball and scored a try for his effort. Wales and England will need far more than a kicking game with this man at 15.

Ireland v Scotland

1. The sign of a good team is one that can play badly and still win. Ireland’s performance was way off what it was against Wales last week, but they came out with a good win. They’ll take heart from that travelling to England next month.

2. Ian Madigan has shown he is the second choice Irish 10 once and for all. He made a good impact yesterday, and his cross field kick to set up a try was inch perfect. Paddy Jackson, when introduced, didn’t pull the strings the way Madigan did. His place in the squad is almost assured.

3. Simon Zebo showed his versitulity with a great performance from full back. His positioning was fantastic, he ran good lines and was brilliant in both attack and defence. His ability to play on the wing as well as 15 should prove enough for him.

4. Dave Denton is now giving the 80-minute performances that Vern Cotton wants to see. He worked tirelessly all over the pitch and was one of the few Scottish players who probably deserved to be on the winning side. If he keeps the work rate up, he may or not feature on the world cup squad, but a Lions place would surely be there for the taking.

5. Scotland need to learn how to win games. 7-7 at the break offers a brand new game in the second half. They weren’t chasing the game and their defensive structure was good. They need to learn not to panic, to keep playing their own game and close it out. They won the wooden spoon in last year’s six nations, with three losses of less than seven points. Once they get in the habit of closing out tight games and winning, they’ll become a reckonable  force, but the world cup may be coming too soon for that. 

England v France

1. Anthony Watson is in. He has to be. Although his second try was made by Jonny May, his first was sublime. His step left Dulin for dead, and there’s not much more he could have done throughout the game.
Video link: Watson try.

2. Alex Goode may have only played for circa 50 minutes, but what a 50 minutes it was. He patrolled the back well, looked for space constantly in attack and joined in as first receiver when he wanted to exploit it. His kick for May’s try was also great skill.
Video link: Goode kick, May try.

3. Picamoles has to start at eight for France in the competition. He was brilliant in the loose, and covered ground throughout the entire game. His breaks were clever, as was his footballing. He has lost some weight so now he is no longer just a bruiser, but an all-round better footballer.

4. François Trihn-Duc needs to do more. His opposite number, Owen Farrell, outplayed his yesterday in every way. With French scrum-halves traditionally taking kicks for goal, Trihn-Duc should have less pressure on him in running the game. We didn’t see that yesterday.

5. Henry Slade and Sam Burgess both put their hands up for contention yesterday. Slade was slick in attack and showed fantastic hands and recognition in attack to put Watson in the corner. Burgess was energetic in defence and attack. He finished the game with 12 tackles and played a large part at 13 off set pieces. Lancaster will have a headache of a decision.

A side note to congratulate Richie McCaw on becoming the most capped player of all time yesterday.

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