An initial 25 man Wallabies squad has been named for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour. I wouldn’t call it the most experienced Wallabies line up but there are a few old heads in there including Adam Ashley-Cooper, Steve Moore and Benn Robinson. Israel Folau has been named, although Wallabies coach Robbie Deans insinuated he could just be “an option” at fullback or on the wing. Controversial fly half Quade Cooper was not named to the squad, most likely due to his defensive deficiencies.
Injuries caused a few selection problems for the Wallabies. The Waratahs v Brumbies Super Rugby game over the weekend was one of attrition, with 5 potential Wallabies going out injured. Tatafu Polota-Nau fractured his arm and will miss the Lions tour completely. Veteran George Smith hurt his knee and is out indefinitely. Christian Lealiifano, Rob Home and Pat McCabe also left the field injured. Smith in particular could have been a difference maker at the breakdown. He’s been on fire this Super Rugby season for the Brumbies and being a veteran of the last Lions tour his leadership and experience would have been invaluable for the Wallabies.
The 25 man squad looks like this. Courtesy of ABC News:
The Lions tour kicks off June 5th in Perth when they take on the Western Force. The first Wallabies game is June 22nd in Brisbane.
I love rugby, it is a beautiful game in its intricacies, but it is those same intricacies that make it great that also contribute to one of my greatest hates of the game – bad refereeing. It’s exceedingly difficult to referee a game of high quality, high stakes rugby. Every referee calls it differently – some are anal about scrums, some are anal about the breakdown, others don’t call anything and others are just simply blind.
As a suffering Wallabies fan I believe we have been on the wrong side of some very bad and very missed calls over the years, especially when a Kiwi is calling the game (Wales was onside maybe twice in 80 minutes last night, for example). Past Wallabies players have complained bitterly to ref (*cough* George Gregan *cough*), hoping to ‘assist’ the ref in making sure the next call goes the way of the Wallabies. It never worked.
Last night we saw a fresh approach to referee relations by recently anointed captain David Pocock. Pocock not only had a barnstorming game, coming a close second in man of the match-ness to, ahem, Berrick Barnes, but he also took it upon himself to compliment the referee. He had kind words to say to referee Chris Pollock when his own team was penalised for something or rather (there wereso many penalties last night) early in the game and he also had kind things to say when Wales was penalised.
Did this result in the penalty on the 80th minute of the game that led to Michael Harris’ game winning penalty conversion after the siren to win the game? Probably not, but anything that casts the Wallabies in a kinder light to the referees is fine by me. Anything to get an edge. I want that damn Bledisloe back.
When James Horwill comes back from injury Pocock has to retain the captaincy. He’s been excellent in the past 2 Tests, not just as a player, but as a leader as well.
Former Wallaby fly half Michael Lynagh suffered a stroke on Wednesday and the news has sent shock waves throughout the Australian rugby community. Lynagh is a fit and healthy 48 year old these days so the news was greeted by surprise and serious concern amongst his peers and fans.
Former team mate and Wallaby prop Ewen McKenzie (now coach of the Queensland Reds) had this to stay:
“I was about to speak at a conference. It caught me completely by surprise. I had to chase (for information) it literally before I got up and spoke so it was a bit disconcerting… It’s a big shock. I’m in the same age bracket (McKenzie is 46). When these things happen to people you know really well, it’s not a good thing… There’s lots of those memories come back. You start thinking about that. You take some of those memories for granted. When misfortune strikes, those things come back. (But) it sounds positive at the moment. Hopefully he will recover well… I played a lot of Test football with him. He’s a quiet guy but one of those guys who commanded respect through performance. There are obviously some big moments there, the quarter-final against Ireland in 1991.”
As McKenzie mentioned, Lynagh is most fondly remembered as one of the heroes of the 1991 Rugby World Cup for Australia. He scored the game winning try in the quarter final against Ireland and went on to be a key player in the victory over England in the final. Enjoy the highlights…
My thoughts are with him and his family and I hope he pulls through without any long lasting affects.
You can read more on the Brisbane Times site
Sky Sports 1 HD (New Zealand feed)
Grant Nisbett, Jeff Wilson
The Kiwis take their rugby so seriously that anything besides a biased, truthful (not factual) call of the game is impossible. In the end their lack of a sense of humour made them look a little silly. In the final 10 minutes of the game the Highlanders were given a penalty near the half way mark. Waratahs fly half Halangahu, with a big smile on his face, tested the wind in the indoor stadium with a handful of grass when indicating he would take a shot at goal. Referee Bryce Lawrence laughed, Halangahu giggled and the Kiwi commentators thought he was seriously testing the wind. They picked on Halangahu for forgetting he was inside and even went so far as to say there may be a breeze in the corners of the stadium near the doors. Oh boy.
Now Onto The Game:
Bryce Lawrence. Seems I’m doomed to watch rugby refereed by this ass clown.
All kinds of awful. Get the thesaurus out, look up ‘terrible’ and ‘biased’ you could use any one of the synonyms to describe Bryce Lawrence’s performance. Penalty after penalty, very few of which were actually a correct call. Ben Robinson was the victim of 2 awful calls in his own half, one which led to the eventual game winning penalty kick. He was caught on the wrong side of the ruck and tried to roll away but Highlanders scrum half Jimmy Cowan basically jumped on him and cried foul straight away. There was more milking going on than at a Mainland dairy. Then there was the constant infringements by the Highlanders at the breakdown. They won the breakdowns constantly because there was always 2 or 3 of them laying all over the ruck playing the ball with their hands and yet, no calls. Then there was that awful call against the Waratahs on the wheeled scrum late in the 2nd half. Not even the one eyed Kiwi commentators could fathom that one. THEN as McCutcheon was laying on the ground almost passing out from pain after his broken ankle (more on that later), Bryce Lawrence is giving the medical staff a hard time about taking so long. So not only is he a one eyed, useless referee, he’s also a prick. Just abysmal.
Waratahs 17 Highlanders 18
Tries – Smith, Hardie
Pen – Slade 2
Conv – Slade 1
Tries – McCutcheon
Pen – Halangahu 4
Conv – Zip
Few in this one. The game was great to watch so I didn’t really take much notice of anything going on around it. Nice stadium they’ve built there in Dunedin, although I miss Carisbrook.
This was a great physical game. Both teams played hard and fast and by the 65th minute there were lots of tired players on both sides. I think there may be some injuries reported after this one.
Kicking was awful from both sides. Early on the Highlanders missed 2 fairly easy penalty kicks and Halangahu’s missed conversion on the McCutcheon try was… a crapshoot. The Waratahs can look back on that after losing by one point and.. well, best not to talk about that.
This was a game with 2 sides who had completely different tactics. The Waratahs wanted to play a positional game, attempting to kick the ball deep with regularity and not running with the ball from their own half. The Highlanders wanted to keep that ball in hand and run, run, run. Despite the Waratahs holding the lead for most of the game and potting penalty kicks here and there the Highlanders stuck to their guns and were rewarded in the end with 2 good tries to the Waratahs 1.
Speaking of the Waratahs try, let’s run through that one. Highlanders had the ball in their own half and decided to kick it. Slade dropped it onto his left boot and Waratahs flanker Patrick McCutcheon charged it down with great precision, collected the ball and stormed to the try line. The Highlanders player tackled him awkwardly from behind, McCutcheon’s ankle snagged strangely and snapped like a piece of celery.
The most impressive thing from McCutcheon was that he still scored the try and it wasn’t until a few seconds after that he almost passed out in pain. His teammates were congratulating him as he lay on the ground, probably not realising that his foot had almost fallen off. That’s Patrick’s season done.
The game finished in a flurry, with the Waratahs being rewarded a penalty on the 80th minute and choosing to take the scrum in the offensive zone. They won clean ball, spread it to the backs, worked through a few phases and I was waiting, just waiting for Bryce Lawrence to call a penalty. He didn’t. In the end the Highlanders forced an error, jumped on the ball as it popped out the side of a ruck and Cowan tried to kick it into touch. He chose the wrong side to kick for though and it didn’t even come close to touch. His winger had to take the ball and rush it over the line to secure the win.
Overall I think the Waratahs were ripped off by bad refereeing and by poor goal kicking. If they can’t kick well they would be best to run the ball. They have a strong forward pack and talent in the backline, why not use it?
Fox Sports Live
Greg Clark, Tim Horan, Rod Kafer
Nothing outstanding for this game, apart from Tim Horan assuming Paddy Ryan celebrates St Patrick’s Day.
Now Onto The Game:
Surprisingly good. All penalties were fair (even the penalty try and sin bin to Polota-Nau IMO) and he handled the spiteful play well, especially the sideline brawl and complaints of eye gouging. My only complaint would be his calls at scrum time. It’s not just Bryce Lawrence though, it’s for all refs. They just have to speed up the scrum calls. There’s no need to pause before you say pause. That’s the point of the ‘pause’ step. Pausing, then saying pause, makes a double pause. That leads to problems for the props and slows the whole process down.
Rebels 19 Waratahs 35
Tries – Penalty try
Pen – J O’Connor 4
Conv – J O’Connor 1
Tries – Carter 2, Kepu 1, Foley 1
Pen – Foley 1, Halangahu 3
Conv – Halangahu 3
AAMI Park in Melbourne is just a beautiful looking football stadium. I haven’t had the pleasure of watching a game there yet but I’m looking forward to getting down there one day.
Their choice of opening song for the players as they run onto the field is interesting – Do You Hear The People Sing from Les Mis. If they love Les Mis so much I’d prefer they used Master of the House. Now that would be abstract.
When the Waratahs and Rebels play now they compete for the Weary Dunlop Shield. Weary not only invented tyres (lies), he was also the 1st Victorian inducted into the Wallabies Hall of Fame.
The Waratahs were just too good for the Rebels again. They ran well with the ball and played with lots of confidence. As a result they ran over 4 tries for the bonus point win.
Tom Carter scored 2 tries in the 1st half and proved himself to be quite the agitator. The Rebels complained about him constantly early on. With agitating and scoring skills like that he could be the Waratahs version of Brad Marchand.
Both teams displayed a willingness to keep hold of the ball and run with it and for me, after watching the Brumbies/Force game last week, this was great to watch. The Rebels just couldn’t keep the play going phase after phase, either knocking it on her letting the Waratahs slow things down for them at the breakdown.
Sekope Kepu played his 34th Super Rugby game and scored his 1st ever try. He got the ball 15m out and busted through 2 tackles to storm over the line. I love seeing the big guys score tries.
The game was spiteful throughout but things were possibly at their ugliest after the second Waratahs try. Carter scored the try and immediately complained to the referee about an eye gouge. Bryce Lawrence placed the incident on report and Rebels lock Adam Byrnes has since been cited for the incident. Punch and shove and call each other names but never, ever gouge someone’s eye. That’s just not on.
Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau was sinbinned in the second half for his work in the maul that led to the Rebels penalty try. With Polota-Nau off the field, flanker Dave Dennis had to take a throw in and it was the flattest, most crooked thing imaginable. He’ll never complain about his hooker’s throws again.
Fox Sports Live
Greg Clark, Greg Martin, Phil Kearns, Rod Kafer
Rod Kafer’s declaration of having eaten “200,000 pies while in Canberra”. Kafer kept up the foody talk later in the game, claiming that his diet of “lots of salt & vinegar chips” kept cramps away.
Now Onto The Game:
Exactly what you would expect from Bryce Lawrence. By the end of the game the Brumbies fans were hating him as much as the South African fans. He missed an obvious knock on late in the game and called penalty after penalty throughout. Perhaps he was keen to give Nic White and James Stannard practice – they definitely need it.
Brumbies 19 Force 17
Tries – J Mogg, R. Coleman
Pen – N White 3
Tries – J Stannard
Pen – J Stannard 4
The Brumbies choice of pre-kick off music is brilliant – “Lux Aeterna” by Clint Mansell from the Requiem For A Dream score. That’s enough to fire anyone up to steal the ball in rucks like they were stealing their mother’s TV.
A not so inspired choice is to play a brumby “neighing” when they kick off. It sounds like a recording from a glue factory.
Canberra Stadium has erected a giant McDonald’s M at the southern end of the ground. Perhaps it’s there as motivation for Ita Vaea, or perhaps it helps to get him running in the right direction.
Those electronic advertising boards flashed and scrolled harder than Sonic the Hedgehog. This game should have came with an epilepsy warning.
It was also very nice of the Brumbies fans that actually attended the game to be so quiet that we could hear every word said on the ground on the broadcast. The highlight for me was when Nic White was attempting another penalty shot from the sideline and you could hear one angry fan screaming “You get bonus points for scoring tries, y’know!”
These were few and far between in what was quite obviously the first game of the season for these sides. Scratchy game all round.
The first half was mostly a kicking duel between Nic White and James Stannard. Unfortunately these guys are not Jonny Wilkinson or Dan Carter. Stannard kicked an easy one right in front to open the scoring, then a minute later White potted an easy one to even the scoring. The kicking highlight of the night was White’s 53m penalty kick that soared over the black dot. It was a huge kick. After that things went downhill on the kicking front.
It was a kicking duel only because the discipline from these sides was terrible and Bryce Lawrence being Bryce Lawrence, was more than happy to call them every single time. Penalties were 7-6 to the Brumbies at the 34 minute mark. Principal Strickland was yelling slacker so much he fell of his porch.
Moore’s first line out throw of the season was more crooked than his nose. He really has to stop using that shnoz as a guide.
Nathan Charles’ first thrown in wasn’t much better, but for whatever reason it wasn’t called.
The first try of the game came from a great short pass by Matt Toomua off a 5 metre scrum. He did the Gregan shuffle 2 steps to the right and fired it right onto the chest of Jesse Mogg who blasted through a gap wider than Northbourne Avenue.
Shockingly, White missed the conversion from an absolute pisscutter of a position. He hooked it further than I do off the 1st tee at Thredbo. Fortunately for the ball boys it didn’t end up in a river though, unlike my ball.
Stannard scored every point for the Force, including a nice try on an open wing in the second half. This brought the score to 19-17 and if he had been able to convert his own try the last 20 minutes of the game might actually have been interesting.
The crowd got overly excited when either team ran with the ball for more than 5 metres. The key to getting fans back into Canberra Stadium? Run with the ball, score tries. Unfortunately this game was so dull that the Canberra Raiders have a fair chance of stealing fans back this year based on this game alone.