This blog is about rugby. It has little to do with yellow press. However, it seems that rugby is more often than a bunch o other sports involved in yellow press affairs, the latter being the consequences of the english tour of New Zealand.

That's the reason for this blog to have its say about violence and rugby. I hate to mix them both in a sentence.

First thigns first; inappropriate behaviour off the field is a matter that affects all, not just poms. Second, and more importantly, we are not surprised to see the names of these 4 people involved in such allegations. And this is the wrong thing as it's inside our minds.

As long as we "understand" or "expect" or "tollerate" or "anything but absolutely reject" bad behaviour off the field and the "doers" (and that includes Doug Howlett to my bitter sadness), these things will continue and people will find the way to excuse them.

I don't know what these tourists did in New Zealand, nor what has really happened for them to be in the razor's edge without having been charged by the New Zealand police. What I don't stand is the idea that these and similar things are normal. We are all guilty for them being normal, unless we don't hate them loud enough.

Why Robbie Deans is an excellent coach

I don't know if he is the best. I know, however, that I like him better than all the Meyer, Henry, Kidney, de Villiers, White, Gatland and other species that roam the world coaching here and there.


Well, forget for a moment all the Crusaders titles, right? Forget about the Super 14 and his successes. Pay attention only to his manners.
  • When it was public that the All Blacks coach position was open for applicants, he looked at him and said: "I think I am ready for the next stage". He was New Zealand's people favourite but the only thing he cared about was whether he was ready or not. It is not easy to have things clear and be honest when anything in New Zealand relating to rugby has so many attention drawn.

  • He is a leader and as such, cares for his people and is responsible for them. Mistakes and successes are shared and belong not to the individual. When the Crusaders fell to the Highlanders in the last rounds of the Super 14 2008, he did not blame at any player, but spread the guilt amongst all, he being the first. As a leader, what impresses me most is the freedom that he gives to his players. After her first game as wallaby coach, against Ireland, what he did was praising his players for trying new things. He said he meant them to try these things. Imagine the difference between a coach that says: "I never ever want you to do this" and another one that says "Well done, we must try new things. This time it did not work but, do you think it could work next time if ...?" The difference between making someone feel valuable and making someone feel he does things wrong.

  • He is often looking to collaborate with others. I will never forget the offer he sent to all the Super 14 coaches coaching Australian sides to share their impressions about the players they were coaching. Only Laurie Fisher did not want to cooperate and it made it impossible. I imagine him being the first to give the All Blacks coaching staff his views on the Crusaders players, if needed.
  • An important detail: He teaches, he cares. Look at him technically helping Luke Burgess, look at him telling Dan Carter to do with his future what he (Dan Carter) thinks is best.
  • He knows what his people need. Just take a look at the wallaby camp; they are the side with more changes after RWC'07. And the season has been designed to let them grow as a group first (with a clever first test and two weeks time after it to build from it) and as a team afterwards. Just what is good for Australia.
  • He does what he thinks is right. As when he raised Dan Carter to the vice-captaincy of the Crusaders or when he took Brett out of the semifinal against the Hurricanes to include Bateman.

And now, get back the memories of him riding the horses of the Crusaders to their titles and see how proud their players were of their coach the last day they were together on a field. Compare it to the Waratahs coach Mckenzie, who was sidelined by his skipper Vaugh when he spoke after the Super 14 final game.

I like Robbie Deans as coach and I think he will produce an outstanding performance for the wallabies. My question is, have Australia enough material for Deans?

Weekend Review

The All Blacks romped England 44 - 12.
McCaw has a serious injury that will rule him out of most of the Tri-Nations.
South Africa looked not very bright in their 26-0 defeat of Italy.
Australia A scored 90 points against a weak Tonga side (they were beaten last week by Japan, too).
New Zealand are playing against England in the final IRB Junior World Championship, the score being 3-0. Mind you, 8-0.

Tri Nations preview

The Super 14 is over. Internationals are on course and they show they good old-fashioned gap between north and south. What about the Tri Nations? How are the teams performing? How will they fare through July and August games?

Let's take a look at them:

All Blacks: No one will doubt of the inmense quality in the kiwi pool of players. In normal conditions, the All Blacks would be clear favourites to win the tournament. But there are two issues that have been threatening New Zealand's national squad ever since RWC failure: Players exodus and Graham Henry. Exodus towards the wealthy north has affected many an All Black: Hayman, Howlett, McAlister, Kelleher, Mauger, Gear, Jack... and recently Nick Evans and Jerry Collins have also quitted. On the other hand, the controversy around Graham Henry has issued many a trouble to the NZRU and, it was feared, even amongst the very players. To make things worse, New Zealand's favourite son Robbie Deans has coached the Crusaders without a trace of irony or polemics to their seventh title and it has been with great sorrow that the kiwis have seen him cross the Tasman.
The two international games played have somewhat diminished the pressure on the All Blacks. Good victories over Ireland and England have answered many a question and, more importantly, may have shown the solution to a problem that the All Blacks are carrying since back in 2005: the mid-field. Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith may be the answer and this more than anything lifts the spirit in the All Black camp. So the Tri Nations is awaited with anxiety and excitedness in the land of the long white cloud.

Wallabies: The Wallaby side may have a great advantage over their rivals. It is the only one side which could register a bad result, even coming last at the Tri Nations and still, be confident about the future. That is the credit of Robbie Deans, a luxury that not many a coach nowadays can benefit of. The key to Deans and the Wallabies is that theirs is a long-term partnership and no just a one-year deal. Being said that, I am sure it is not in their plans to get such result and, given the quality of the Aussie squad, they are actually title contenders in everyone's mind, which may be a difference to any of the other two teams (if you are amazed of me implicitly saying that the All Blacks are not clear favourites for everyone, go and see Zinzan Brooke's opinion). But Australia is more, far more than a selection of the best aussie players. They have got Deans. And to help you make a whole picture about how important that change may be, let me just quote him a few days ago. All in all, it makes me wanna write a post over Deans, I think he deserves it.
Coming back to the team, it is a big oportunity for many a player. In a time of change, without names like Larkham, Gregan and Latham for the first time in a decade, it is a chance for the Giteaus, Tuqiris and other species to rise to the top, with Mortlock the only link between past and present. The future is in the name of the Shifcofskes. However, the weak point of the Australians could be again the scrum. It is something that has hurt in the past (remember the RWC quarterfinal) and, with the ELVs in play, New Zealand and South Africa could take a fair advantage over the aussies. It is going to be interesting how Deans manages this one.

Springboks: It is amazing how the World Cup champions and by far the less changed side from last year is apparently also the weakest of the three. It does not give much credit to the Rugby World Cup certainly (but of course I am an All Black supporter, maybe I am a bit biased against a tournament so ellusive to us), but it does put a lot of pressure over Peter de Villiers. Perhaps the hardest time of the three head coaches is that of Peter de Villiers. Henry has half of the country against him, Deans must start over again but has the whole country behind him, but de Villiers can't afford a single mistake or he will be ferociously devoured by the roaring public opinion. If he succeeds, however, he could change the future of the country. And I don't mean rugby (here I am just quoting Monsieur Rugbycan). The problem is, they don't look like succeeding. Northern exposure to Matfield, Montgomery and co seem to have somewhat softened them or perhaps they have never been really that good. It is a pity that they won't face Ireland next week but Italy instead, as the celts have become a touchstone for the southerners this season after playing exceptionally weel both against New Zealand and Australia. A good win against Ireland would suit them well, but a scrappy win against them would simply put to much question marks over the Springboks. Unlike the All Blacks and the Wallabies, the Springboks are in our minds as a much more finished product, whereas the other two have a long way before the peak. After scrum struggles against the Welsh in the first game, things went worse in the second, being the whole team who struggled to get a win in the final minutes. At http://www.keo.co.za/ the scrum was not thought to be a problem and they were confident that it would only get better but, to quote Monsieur Rugbycan again: "What makes you think you are so f...... good at scrummaging?"

All in all, I am quite confident the All Blacks will win. I want to see, however, how this Wallaby side is handled by Deans as, I think, does the whole rugby world.

quote of the day

«What I did like was the preparedness of the guys to play, even the wide kick such as Berrick's. That's great. If we're not prepared to give things a go we won't succeed. You just cannot play conservatively at Test level and hope to achieve what we want to achieve.»

Robbie Deans

Hodgson is not to blame

It is funny that after the comprehensive sweep of the english team, Rob Andrew pointed at the first five as a place needing some rethinking.

I mean, he could have said the same silly thing about any but only one of the fifteen positions on the field, as only Ojo seems to have performed at a high level.

But given what Gatland considers "gaining some respect" when playing the Springboks, maybe Andrew is targetting a 10-point defeat for next weekend...

And perhaps he does not need Hodgson at 10 to lose.

quote of the day

«In France there are 150 South Africans playing in their professional leagues»


Rugby around the world: Iberia

I kindly remember one comment in the NZ Herald last year about the pool rivals for the All Blacks (Italy, Portugal, Romania and Scotland)

"Portuguese scare me. I don't know anything about Portugal".

Spanish as I am it made me smile; How high this kiwi aficionado rated the rugby in Iberia (Spain and Portugal)!!! Portugal managed to score two tries against the All Blacks, true. But they received 105 points against, if I am not mistaken.

The truth is that Portugal and Spain play in the same division, and they cannot certainly pose any threat to any Tier 1 nation.

But, alas, some news are nice to read, and the news that Spain and Portugal are engaging their own SuperRugby competition is certainly good news.

  1. Ten teams, 5 from Spain, 4 from Portugal, 1 from Gibraltar (since Gibraltar belongs to Britain, they could be hot-favourites, don't you think? :-)
  2. 10 players in each team will get paid (that is how professionalism can be introduced in Iberia)
  3. The name shall be: "Liga Super Iberica"
  4. Kicks off in 2009 hopefully

No country for old men

According to Percy Montgomery, ELVs will require more fitness. In his own words:

«I’m really looking forward to the ELVs. They’ll be introduced in the Vodacom Tri-Nations, so needless to say I’ve been working hard on my fitness. Watching a few of the games from the Super 14 has reinforced that it’s really not an old man’s game!»

"Stu who?"

It is a famous story that the first time that a young David Campese heard about legendary All Black Stu Wilson, the wallaby answer was: "Stu who"?

What follows is Stuart Wilson's views on one of the all-time best rugby players in the world. It is a tale of old, as you will see.

«Well, David Campese hit New Zealand, his first tour over here. We’d heard about this brash, upstart little prick from Sydney
– you know, he was running around, goose-stepping, and saying he’d do this and do that. We saw him during the provincial games. He was good – without a doubt the most exciting talent we’d seen for years – and I’m saying, ‘He’s on my wing, I have to mark him.’ So I said to the big gorillas, ‘Look boys, I catch him, we get him in the ruck, you do it to him: we’ll give him the good, old fashioned New Zealand welcome, all right? I want size-fifteen boots right over the top of him.’ They said, ‘Can you catch him?’ I said, ‘I’ll try.’ Well, for three Tests I tried but couldn’t catch him. We had the boys sharpening their sprigs. They said, ‘Stuey, this time we’ll get him.’ I even brought Bernie Fraser over from the other wing and gave him 10 minutes. I said, ‘Bernie, you come have a crack at him. I can’t catch him – he’s too quick.’ He had the goose-step, he had the chip and chase, he had the typical cockiness of all Australian backs. But we just couldn’t get near him – he was that good. He knew that we were after him, and he knew that if he’d got into the Doctor Death House, as we used to call the rucks, than Doctor Death would deliver. So he would always scoot around. When he got into the heavy weather, he’d make sure that he’d scramble out of the rucks before our boys could get to him. A good player, damn him. He made life hell for me for three tests.»

The All Blacks step past Irish

It was not easy. Nervousness ruled the first half, while the rain and the icy cold temperature was the winner of the second spell. The irish defense held and they commited themselves to their Munster's pick and go tactics. They kicked a lot and kicked awfully well.

But in the end, the only two attacking actions the All Blacks produced were enough to win the game 21-11. I was delighted at the first one by Conrad Smith. Simple but most efficient, he took advantage of the nice pass by Carter and out-manouvred the so-called best centre in the world just to serve a perfect pass to Sivivatu to finish it off. I think this will help Conrad Smith and the All Blacks mid-field.

Concern rises when the sights set on the english. They will be tougher. But today fears are put aside. The All Blacks looked consistent, and the quality is no doubt there waiting for a more proper chance to appear.

Julian Huxley

News at last from planet Julian Huxley.

You will surely remember that the Brumbies player he had a brain tumor diagnosed.

Although he won't be able to play again, he will join the Brumbies coaching stuff as is said here.

Best of lucks for Julian Huxley!!!

Conrad Smith speaks

He's supposed to be intelligent as he's got a law diploma. He's supposed to get the 13 jersey. And these are his impressions about playing at centre:

«It's not an easy position. I've always said that the hardest thing to finding a replacement is that you need a lot of experience in that position.»

«It's something I talked a lot to Tana about. He played wing and he only felt happy at centre late in his career. You look at a lot of centres and the better ones around are older players.»

Conrad Smith dixit.

Do not expect anything spectacular from the Irish

Unlike the english, french or welsh teams, the Irish national side has not substantially been changed from the one that so poorly performed during RWC 07 and so averagely walked through the 6 Nations.

Just look at the names; it's the entire good old Munster forward pack, with old good O'Gara at first five and the good old Leinster backs.

Do not expect any change in their game plan, do not expect any new weakness or any new strength.

Just remember the 2005 test at Dublin (45-7) or the two 2006 tests at Hamilton and Auckland (34-23 and 27-17). This is the irish side that the All Blacks are facing within three days.

It will not give account on how have the irish improved. It will make for how much have the All Blacks declined.

Is the Pacific Nations the second toughest yearly-tournament in the world?

That the Tri-Nations is the toughest tournament (RWC apart) is something no one can deny. But, when Fiji defeats the utterly Grand-Slam fashion winner of the 6N, when Tonga has a 25-25 score against world champions South Africa with 5 minutes to go, and with an Australia A side full of Super 14 players and a NZ Maori side that could kick asses of any Tri Nations side...

These are some of the names that Donny Stevenson has named for the New Zealand Maori:

- Tim Bateman
- Daniel Braid
- Stephen Brett
- Callum Bruce
- Keith Cameron
- Aled de Malmanche
- Jason Eaton
- Hosea Gear
- Liam Messam
- Shannon Paku
- Piri Weepu

to name some "known" names. (it is a different question how "maori" this team may be) But the real question is: Is this the second toughest tournament in the world? Or is the 6N tougher?

England, France, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy?
NZ Maori, Australia A, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Japan?

Well, there are two things that are out of any doubts:

-which competition of the two generates more revenue.
-which competition of the two provokes more yawns.

Good day.

Note: Do you remember the Classic All Blacks putting 41 points one week ago against the Leicester Tigers? This very team has been put to the edge of a loss against the National Japan team. 15 - 13 was the score.