Hurricanes power past Chiefs 39-19

The Hurricanes defeated the Chiefs at Wellington 39-19 and gathered a bonus point due to their six tries scored.

Unlike the first two games, the Hurricanes made less handling errors and converted their opportunities into tries. The Chiefs played well, although own errors condemned them to gather no points today. The Chiefs game, with Muliaina at centre and Sivivatu covering up the full back position shows how important is to avoid injuries early on the season.

I won't cease to repeat what a fabulous third-row the Hurricanes possess. Jerry Collins is simply the best blindside flanker I have ever seen. And today, both Masoe and So'oialo showed how damn good they are. They scored a try a piece and were the leaders at the breakdown.

Next week, the game is in Dunedin. If the Hurricanes win, they will find themselves playing for the semifinals later on. If they don't, it will be a pretty standard season for them.

In front of the haka

When you are a rugby-lover, no matter where you come from, one of the things you'll love to witness is the All Blacks perfroming the haka in front of you.

Thus, RWC, and specially the 20-teams format is so important. If only once every four years a team like Portugal will have the chance to confront teams like Australia, South Africa, etc...

Could you imagine being in the shoes of one of the red ones in this picture?

I think there's only one thing greater: being in the shoes of one of the black ones.

ELVs: My word, I finally know

Up to now, I have been quite reluctant about making any fast decission on the ELVs. I, like Deans, have always asked for more time for the teams to adjust and learn the best way to play under the new rules.

Now, I don't wait anymore. I know.

It is curious how it's not been any Super 14 game which has made my mind. It's been watching the 2005 Tri Nations game in Cape Town between the All Blacks and the Springboks. The Springboks managed to win 22-16 and the crowd sang so loud during the haka that it can't be overheard. But what has impressed me the most is to see how damn good are the africans when defending. Late and high tackles apart, it amazes me how they manage to constantly put pressure on the attacking side, how damn close they are to the attackers. You reckon how physical that game turns out to be. In that game, the All Black scrum was simply demolished by the Springboks. It is an All Black supporter who says so.

Now look at the ELVs. Look at the free space they create and the extra fitness they require. Look at how the Springboks defense relaxes as the 80 minutes go on. Look at the Habanas and du Preez's words on the ELVs.

South Africans are the masters of the defense. No one does it better. Force them to leave free space, force them to leave the attackers some momentum (you know, p = m·v) and see how they struggle. See how the South African franchises are struggling with these ELVs.

New Zealand franchises: 6 wins out of 10 matches
Australian franchises: 4 wins out of 8 matches
South African franchises: 4 wins out of 10 matches

So, don't you see a reason for aussies and kiwis to support these ELVs? Don't you see a reason for Habana and the others dislike the ELVs?

I do. If the ELVs are finally adopted worldwide, the task for the Springboks to adapt is going to be huge. I finally know.

Blues keep with Crusaders' pace

If the Crusaders manage to score 4 tries against the Brumbies in the opening round, so will the Blues against the Chiefs.

If they improve their performance next week in South Africa scoring 7 tries against the Bulls, so will the Blues do at Lions' home.

If Daniel Carter is the Crusaders gear and a reliable kicker, Nick Evans has geared the Blues and proven that perhaps he should have been picked up as kicker for the All Blacks ahead of Luke McAlister.

Did we witness Leon McDonald's superb attacking abilities last week? What is to be said of Isa Nacewa's?
Round four match against the Sharks seems to be the first real test for the Blues.


Gwlad 47 - Italy 8
Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mâd,
Dros ryddid collasant eu gwaed.

Gwlad, gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad.
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.

Crusaders outplay Bulls

19-54 is not the score you exactly would expect to get in an away game against the defending champions. The Crusaders have.

An impressive display by the Crusaders has shown some points:
  1. They are the main contenders for the title.
  2. Dominance in the forward pack is key for playing under the new ELVs.
  3. Canterbury produces high quality players, like Poki, at an unbelievable rate.
  4. Nucifora was right about the ELVs.

I can not agree with Fourie du Preez, when he suggests that the cause of their defeat was the own errors. They were outplayed.

Online Score: Hurricanes vs Reds

23 - 18 (full time)

0-3: Clinton Schifcofske (penalty goal)
0-8: Van Humphries (try)
0-10: Clinton Schifcofske (conversion)
5-10: Tane Tu'ipulotu (try)
7-10: Jimmy Gopperth (conversion)
7-13: Clinton Schifcofske (penalty goal)
10-13: Jimmy Gopperth (penalty goal)
15 - 13 Ma'a Nonu (try)
17 - 13 Jimmy Gopperth (conversion)
20 - 13 Jimmy Gopperth (penalty goal)
23 - 18 Jimmy Gopperth (penalty goal)
23 - 18 John Roe (try)

After a sluggish start, the Hurricanes went on to defeat the Reds by a close margin.

Daniel Carter

It is not easy at all to do this post about Daniel Carter. It is not as easy as to tell the emperor "you are naked". It never is.

Let's start from the beginning: Daniel Carter is probably the most skilled first five eighth in the world. He's also a first-class kicker, he's got the pace, the technique, the strength and the quickness; he's got to be the Roger Federer at the number 10. But unlike tennis, there's more, much more than one person fighting against another in rugby. There's a team to drag to victory.

And now, let's do some evil. Let us speak about what we don't like. Daniel Carter is not the best. Before I develop this unacceptable thought, let's remember some things:
  • October 2007: Carter says he's determined to continue helping the All Blacks.
  • November 2007: Carter says the burden of the World Cup is hard to bear and suggests he would like to taste northern hemisphere rugby.
  • February 2007: Carter says Jonny Wilkinson is better than he is.
  • February 2007: Carter is pondering leaving at the end of the season.

Daniel Carter loves the All Blacks. In 10 years time, he will feel happy if he achieves a win in a RWC with the All Blacks but will otherwise feel a vaccuum somewhere inside if he does not.

Daniel Carter has been labelled as "a star" and that's what has hurt him most ever since the moment he was given the label. Everybody expects him nothing less than perfection. Every once and again.

Daniel Carter can't wear the burden.

There's a lot of injustice with this player. He's good, he's awfully good, but he's not invincible. Pressure put on him can ultimately defeat him. He means it when he says Wilkinson is better. Jonny Wilkinson is not better, but he has won a World Cup! He's saying: "please, release me!!!" The first words you hore from him after the 2007 disaster were that he intended to stick with the team, his genuine intention was to continue trying. He does love the job, he does love the task, he does love the All Blacks. But once back in NZ, the pressure is all around. The national game, the national pride, the national choke.

I wonder who could have stood that. But anyway, as Deans says, World Cup obsession is the main cause of the downfall. Is it also one more reason for NZ players not bearing to stay in NZ?

All in all, the problem with Carter is not with Carter, it is with rugby. The All Blacks have not won the RWC and NZ cannot accept that. Blame Carter, blame Henry, McCaw, Tew, Holy Mary or Bart Simpson. The fact is that Carter has an impressive record with the All Blacks, has played awfully well sometimes, has won the Bledisloe, the Tri Nations... but the problem with him is the Webb Ellis Trophy.

He will lift it.

ELVs reactions so far

David Nucifora, Blues coach: 16-02-08 "The game is still basically the same. You have to have a strong set piece, you have to be organised with your defence. We put a lot of work into those areas but you have to also be aware the game will be quick and open up at times. I want to give credit to our conditioning staff, because it showed out there tonight that they have done an outstanding job"

Robbie Deans, Crusaders and Wallabies coach: 28-01-08 "It gives the ability to be harder around the contact area, to be hard on the people who they want to move, for example the tackler rolling away. If you get that message across with a free kick early and consistently it will clean the game up. If they don't get the response from the player they go to the sanctions that are greater."

Colin Cooper, Hurricanes coach: 01-11-08 "I would be surprised if there were big changes or variations in what we play in the Super 14"

Brian Habana, IRB 07 player of the year: 18-02-08 "It's got a lot more of a rugby league feel on it. There's no stop-start, the essence of what rugby is, anymore"

Fourie du Preez, Bulls captain: 16-02-08 "It's less enjoyable. It's not the sort of rugby I enjoy, it's too much like sevens. There's too much kicking and counter-attacking and not enough set-pieces"

Lyndon Bray, Referee: 19-02-08 "From what I've seen already this weekend and what I felt tonight was that the ball was much cleaner at the base of the tackle, we're getting a much cleaner delivery and one of the things I found really interesting in the warm-up games and again tonight is that traffic around the tackles and rucks is almost eliminated."

Bill Beaumont, former rugby player & IRB vice chairman: 19-02-08 "There was not a dramatic difference. Yes there were more free kicks but there was still a huge emphasis on set piece"

Round 1 Crusaders hero

The Crusaders can usually line up a team composed by 15 stars every day of the year. If they managed to shine each in a different round, the Crusaders would win the regular season with no losses and still two of them would remain to shine for the semifinals and the final.

Guess who was the shining star of round one for the Crusaders

Hint: his name starts with "L" and finishes with "eon McDonald" :P

Changes to the RWC seeding

Well, it seems that the meeting in New Zealand between the IRB, the NZRU, and the 2007 RWC organisers has made some progress.

Apparently, the most important thing about it all is the seedings, and it seems RWC 2011 will change them to ease the pool stage for the All Blacks. Instead of a seeding based on last RWC performance, the IRB rankings shall probably be used.

How nice. People not only will be able to say that the All Blacks only win the Webb Ellis Trophy if played at home, but also that the laws are changed to make things easier. As usual, some media in NZ are keen to remind us who is to be blamed after all.

According to the seeding method used for the last 20 years, top seeds would be SA, ENG, FRA and ARG. A terrible thing that NZ and Australia wouldn't become top seeds. A pool featuring South Africa, New Zealand and Wales could be, then, perfectly possible. I wonder what is wrong with it: the four 2007 World Cup semifinalists came from the arguably two toughest pools.

But let pride of being the top seed blind us all, let's make things change so the All Blacks are safe to pass through the pool as if it were a training and not real competition. Let the IRB rankings have the last word.

Just to make things clear; I am not against changing the way the seeding is done, I am just complaining at the moment we are doing it. Not at our RWC and not while we can be blamed of easing things for us.

Not this way.

Super 14 round 1 wrap up

It has not been such a great start of the Super 14 season. Blues and Crusaders won showing an impressive form and gathered a bonus point each while Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes lost. Specially disappointing was the performance of the Hurricanes in Brisbane, the only NZ team unable to score any try.

The Highlanders were close to bounce back and get on with a victory against the Reds during the second half, which makes us think that they are meant to gather some important victories this year.

The post-match comments of some players and coaches and aficionados about the ELVs and their effect are also interesting.
  • Monsieur Rugbycan is surprised at the speed that the game is played under the new ELVs.
  • Fourie du Preez, on the other hand, is a bit reluctanct to accept these ELVs as this very increased speed drives to more errors.
  • David Nucifora is happy with the physical conditioning of his players that ended up high in the second half and reckons intensity as the key factor this season.

Next weeks will be all important for the Auckland Blues as they face the Sharks, Lions and Cheetahs in South Africa and depending on their performance, they could set a foot in the semifinals path as early as round 5.

Hurricanes defeated in Sydney

The Waratahs are showing they are a more powerful side than most people thought. 3 wins and no losses during the preseason and a convincing victory over our Hurricanes in this first round, with our Hurricanes not getting even a single bonus point.

20 - 3 was the score after the 80 minutes

But next week the Reds are surely to suffer the Hurricanes revenge.

Clear win of the Blues over the Chiefs

The Blues have shown an impressive display of power with tries by Flavell, Rokocoko, Atiga and Lee to get a bonus points in their opening 2008 Super 14 game against neighbours Chiefs.

The score was 32 - 14.

A discovery

Nice nice site I have just discovered: Alternative Rugby Comentary or ACR. This is the way the welcome the 2008 Super 14 season.

Australia 1 - New Zealand 1

The Crusaders won earlier today their Super 14 match against the Brumbies. But so have the Reds against the Highlanders.

Thus, the score is even: 1 game all.

Unlike the previous one held in Christchurch, the game at Brisbane has not lacked emotion. In a huge second time, the Highlanders who were trailing 12-3 at first half came close to it as they got within a penalty goal range 19 - 16 with six minutes remaining. The final score was 22 - 16.

Bad news for the Highlanders who have shown big spirit but have only managed to get a single point. I wish this spirit will lead them next week in Canberra.

Online score: Crusaders vs Brumbies:

34 - 3 (full time)

Mose Tuiali'i (2 tries) Brad Thorn (1 try)

Dan Carter (1 try, 4 conversions, 2 penalties) Julian Huxley (penalty)

Congratulations to the Crusaders supporters: 5 points and a nice start of the season. Only 12 games remain to finish on top of the table.

Three, two, one ... Go!!

So, less than 7 hours and we're on it.

Today's matches will see the Crusaders at Christchurch against the Brumbies. I expect a clear win for the Crusaders, with Dan Carter on command. It could be of interest how the brand-new midfield performs but I don't really expect much of a Brumbies side that could perfectly be regretting Fisher's words more than anything.

The other game of the day will feature the Reds and the Highlanders. On my mind there's the Highlanders performance of last weekend, when the Otago franchise beat the Blues in a superb second time.

Shall we have a clear opinion on the ELV's after this first round?

Ka Mate Ka Mate Ka Ora...

Less than 16 hours and the 2008 season will have started.

Humour, Rugby and Wales

I had the clear intention of not writing any more words about the Six Nations. But this at totalflanker has made me change my mind. Luckily it's not a word, it's a video.

The author has plenty more at

And now, let's stick to Southern Hemisphere ;-)

Disciplinary matters and professionalism

  • Why was rugby once called a game for ruffians played by gentlemen?
  • Where are the gentlemen now?
  • Which problem takes australian players (Matt Rogers, Matt Henjak...) to so often have disciplinary issues?
  • Is this common to any rugby country in the world?
  • Does the behaviour changes when the game is played by amateur players?
  • Are we heading towards a NBA-like behaviour pattern?
  • Is the ARU right asking the Force not to use Henjak?What could be done in order to prevent these issues?
  • Is this a secondary effect of professionalisation?

(you can have a look to the rugbycan blog to see a rather large list of rugby ruffians)

Who would you pick as coach?

One of the stories I like most is that of Abraham Lincoln on his way to the White House. Isaac Asimov had a singular view on this in his famous book Isaac Asimov's book of facts; According to the book, Abraham Lincoln's political career was a crowned failure after the other until he became the 16th president of the United States.

We read today that Heyneke Meyer will quit coaching rugby. The coach of the only south african franchise to ever reign in Super Rugby seems to be very disappointed as he has not been given the Springboks coaching job. Well, it's a funny thing to read.

History is full of people who kept on trying until success came. In rugby, too. Take Robbie Deans, for example; Robbie Deans has a far more appealing record than Meyer can claim at Super 14 level and still, he has never had such a behaviour nor have I read anything unproper of him after the NZRU chose another candidate to coach the All Blacks. Instead, he has been appointed to coach the Wallabies. He, Robbie Deans, can deal with both success and failure and that he has shown for the last years. I have no doubt that his best years are yet to come and I'm sure of that because he's always fighting.

Would Abraham Lincoln have ever become president of the USA with Meyer's attitude?

Who would you pick as coach, a man like Deans who will keep fighting after a defeat or a man like Meyer who will step out of rugby after his last defeat?

Marc Hinton: You have got it all wrong

RugbyHeaven co-editor seems determined to go on and on with his personal war against Graham Henry. This is his new offensive.

I can imagine a large number of reasons for not behaving the way this journalist is behaving. Some of which have to do with the fact he's a journalist and even journalists should have a code of ethics. Some others have to do with more simple facts: readers are not as much interested as Marc Hinton is in his personal war against Henry.

  1. First thing: If I am in a 'crusade' against a man, and I am a voice of the media, how many times will I be allowed to talk against him without him being able to answer? Is it fair for the target of my hate? Of course, Graham Henry's popular enough to have a microphone whenever he wants but... Can he afford asking for a microphone to just answer a journalist every time the journalist writes about him?
    Marc Hinton writes with the positive knowledge that he will seldom be replied. (In fact, he would love to have such an attention from an All Blacks coach)
  2. Secondly: This journalist uses ambiguity to his benefit. When he suggests that all he has done is question the right of Henry to coach in benefit of another candidate he's being ambiguous to the limit of the truth. RugbyHeaven should admit that they have had their own crusade against Henry. They do think that Henry ought not to be the All Blacks coach (and that is something I respect). But they have used their voice to influence on people. They have not simply supported Deans. They have once and again attacked Henry, his failure, his mood, his words... they have even omitted the quotations of the players giving support to him...
    Marc Hinton is not telling the truth. At leat, not the whole story.
  3. Thirdly: In less than a week time to launch the Super 14, RugbyHeaven's co-editor should have a full pool of things to put his sight on. But all of a sudden, Henry comes back and says the media has been hard at him and all that matters to this journalist is engaging again in a battle against the All Blacks coach.
    Marc Hinton should not use his column (should not even give the impression that he is using his column) at RugbyHeaven for personal matters.
  4. Fourth: He simply cannot pretend it is not personal. He cannot pretend all that RugbyHeaven has done is showing their preferences for Deans. He cannot pretend they have not even tried to influence anything. They have. People go and read their articles saying how much they loathe Henry's work. And next day there's a poll in RugbyHeaven about who should be the next All Blacks coach. Stop treating readers as sheeps.
    RugbyHeaven has surpassed the concept of information and gone to the land of suggestion. And we who have read (and still remember what we have read) RugbyHeaven for the past four months, are aware.

To finish this post, a warning to Hinton: Journalism is what journalists do. Would you appreciate the work you are doing if you were the target and another person, the writer? Your work should be of the highest quality always, no matter how good is the All Blacks coach's job. And viceversa.

The All Blacks are a number of steps ahead

England has just defeated Italy 23 - 19 in Rome. Struggling again during the second half.
France defeated Scotland last week 6 - 27 at Murrayfield.

What Can I say? In RWC pool C New Zealand managed to defeat Scotland 40 -0 and sweep Italy 76-14.

The power is right there. New Zealand is a number of steps ahead of both England and France.

New Zealand's national sport is rugby, not hate.

In October the All Blacks had their worst ever performance in a RWC. The outcome of the All Blacks coaching job was determined on December and for these two long months no man had gathered more hate in New Zealand than Graham Henry. Why? Failure at the RWC is not a crime, is it?

Graham Henry has been out for longer than a month. Once the Super 14 season is starting again he is back and has for the first time expressed his opinion in this interview.

Criticised for the so-called journalists at RugbyHeaven for (among other things) not giving public account of what went wrong (as if he ought to), two of them seemed to be waiting for him to open his mouth to resume their holy war against him.

The first one, the guy you can see below is called Doug Golightly.

He is the author of the welcome-back article for the All Blacks coach. It is quite normal, RugbyHeaven is quite a good rugby site except when the All Blacks are the subject.

The other one is called Marc Hinton and looks like this

I can't understand his behaviour anyway. He's RugbyHeaven's co editor and that ought to mean some kind of responsibility, but when he writes this article to kick the Super 14 season off one can't avoid wondering what's going on?

Is RugbyHeaven so enamoured of Henry that they can't live a second without writing about him? Even when the All Backs are not playing? Is hate New Zealand's national sport or is it rugby?

To RugbyHeaven: Ladies and Gentlemen, Graham Henry is the All Blacks coach, like it or not. We all have our own ideas on what would we do if we were on command, but we are not, fortunately. Fortunately the person on command knows a full lot of rugby. Live with it.

On a roll

Last week he kicked all his 6 goals in and gave the pass for the decissive try in Twickenham. Today, the welsh first five eighths notched another 11 points and lifted the red dragons to a 30 - 15 victory over Scotland in Cardiff.

Now Wales has scored a perfect 2 victories in 2 games at the Six Nations.

James Hook and Wales are on a roll.

Preseason coming to and end

Preseason games are over. In 7 days time the franchises must be ready. It ends in a roll for Waratahs and Hurricanes while it may leave a few headaches to Nucifora's Blues and Deans' Crusaders.

If you can just leave aside all what is not strictly rugby in this article, you may realise what one of the main problems for the 'saders can be: the second five eighths. What will Deans try for the starting game against the Brumbies?

I am glad of what the 'canes have shown.

Jason Eaton is back and is a promise of a powerful forward pack for the Hurricanes. Something that will undoubtedly give Piri Weepu a lot of play.

Outside the two islands, a question mark over the Waratahs real power. What will Timana Tahu show? Can he lift the 'tahs up to 2006 and 2005 standards? Fisher's Brumbies have not showed their best but... are they really the force they used to be?

Meanwhile in another continent, we hear that Cheetahs and Lions could end up struggling because of an alarmant lack of depth. Not certainly the thing you would like your side to show in a season where a lot of emphasis on physical condition is expected.

What now? Who's going to make the semifinals? What are your picks? I still expect a lot of Blues, Crusaders and Hurricanes.

New Zealand Sevens II: The pearl

This is the pearl that was unfolded last weekend in Wellington.

Robbie Deans is open minded

Yesterday, we got to know Robbie Deans' opinion on the apparently taboo subject: A non new zealander to eventually coach the All Blacks. Robbie Deans seems a good pal, with no malice whatsoever, but I had the feeling that speaking too much about the politics of the NZRU shall not be appreciated in Oz.

The multitasked Crusaders coach expressed his view, very sensible, that the NZRU should (and thinks they have actually done) consider a foreigner for the job. Well, that is understandable provided he is the first Kiwi to coach the wallabies.

Today we have got to know more. He has stepped further on, saying that players of SA, NZ, AU should be able to play at any Super 14 franchise. Has he said too much? Will anyone accept it? Well, IMHO, that is quite common-sense, too! I don't think it should change things much, and, if it does at all, will undoubtedly be very smoothly. On the other hand, what is the good of binding the players to play a home Super 14 franchise? Deans' recipe would set the roots for expanding the Super 14 in a search for more investment to allow Souther Hemisphere players stay southern.

Robbie Deans is a guy that I am truly learning to respect and admire.

NZ Sevens: NZ win and... Yet another 7s star?

Impressive is not a word to describe Victor Vito's play this weekend in Wellington. It falls short. Do you remember Jonah Lomu's last-minute try in 2000 against Australia? Well, Victor Vito scored the winning try against Samoa in last minute of the final. Like the giant winger, Victor Vito has been moved from loose forward to wing to for the Sevens and now he seems to be the diamond Gordon Tietjens was speaking of.

New Zealand extends thus the current streak to 30 games without a loss and after the third weekend has scored maximum points and seems virtually unstoppable.

Are we witnessing the birth of a new star?

Jan 04: Latest opinions on Vito's performance

Jan04: Latest news on NZ winning the 2007-2008 Sevens series

Wales over England

If I am to pick a Northern Hemisphere side, I pick Wales. Wales is not only a rugby nation like no other; Wales was also the first test match that the All Blacks lost in 1905, a feat that only four other nations have accomplished. They rank second in the All-Time Six Nations winners only second to England.

Much has been said this week about England crushing Wales (being 62-5 the score last time they meet in early August during the pre-RWC). England hooligans (including many a journalist) were proudly fond of their line-up, amid earthquakes, volcanoes and other big superstars. So proud were that it seemed as if they had already won the Six Nations before the first game even started!!!

(How much it reminds me of the 1/4 finals of the RWC against France!)

Their sights were clearly put far beyond Wales.

Like All Blacks that bloody October 7th, England had a clear lead at half time. Like France, Wales kept on fighting until the end. Like France, they got their reward.

Congratulations to welsh fighters. And congratulations to Warren Gatland. I think this triumph in Twickenham can give him and the whole welsh squad confidence. Interestingly enough, at their RWC pool game against Australia, the best effort of the welsh side came once the wallabies were already on command.

For Wales, this victory at Twickenham can be the start of a very pleasant tournament (their only other away home will be at Dublin) whereas for until-last-week-almost-winners England will have to show their best next week in Rome or they could be in serious trouble.

This saturday leaves also the narrow win of the irish over Italy at Croke Park. All the credit should go to Monsieur Rugbycan for such an acurate foretelling of what the outcome of that test would be. Although Ireland secured the win, Italy has proven to be a very tough rival.