Southern Hemisphere wins the rugby derby
Last week, as reported on The Roar, I asked a number of rugby fans around the world to pick the winners of the June 9 Test matches.
My correspondents were right about the All Blacks-Ireland game (admittedly a no-brainer, right about the Boks being too strong for England, correctly chose the Pumas over Italy, but wrong when they predicted that Wales would defeat the Wallabies.
So instead of the projected 3-1 win for the Southern Hemisphere, the result was a southern whitewash.
In San Juan, Felipe Contepomi scored 22 points as Argentina, staffed mainly by domestic players, ran in four tries and burned Italy 37-22. Next Saturday the Pumas face France in Cordoba, and Philippe Saint-Andre has included nine new caps in a youthful squad.
My London pals bemoaned the fact that England couldn’t or didn’t take advantage of a poor first half by the Boks. They applauded some members of the White pack – although Marler and Morgan disappointed them – and covered their eyes when a replacement front row was slaughtered.
They’re wondering if their team is ever going to get a penetrative midfield. They’re also wondering if Lancaster can bring Foden and Ashton into the game the way Habana gets into it.
They cheered Tuilagi pulling off the tackle of the match to deny Spies a try. Brad Barritt lacerated an eyeball, had it successfully treated, but is out of the game next Saturday in Jo’burg, and Mike Brown is out of the entire tour with a thumb ligament injury.
South Africa-born Nick Abendanon and lightweight Toby Flood could start in a reshuffled line that had better do more than shuffle if England are to win.
My Saffer pals lifted a pint of Hansa to Habana, Alberts and Coetzee, and came out of their seats when de Villiers raced for the line and barged over as if he were 21 again. They pointed out that Frans Steyne did okay without employing any of his long-range kicks.
They feel that in the remaining two Tests, lack of quality depth will work against England as much as the high altitude.
My Kiwi friends are hardly crowing as Ireland was depleted by injuries before they arrived, and picked up two more – Healy and Earls – meaning they may have to fly out some replacements for Saturday’s match.
They’re delighted by the new debs, Aaron Smith and Julian Savea, and if the pack and Carter and Dagg continue playing the way they did, they feel the ABs have to be odds-on favourites to take the Four Nations.
My Welsh pals said they howled with dismay when Warburton threw a wild pass and five points went up in smoke. They feel Priestland should be dropped and Mike Phillips given a severe talking to. They saw Lydiate run out but couldn’t find him during the game itself.
Faletau busted his hand and couldn’t perform. They doffed their hats to Genia and Pocock and the way the Wallabies came back from the edge of exhaustion. They’re hoping that Gatland and Howley can do a little creative rearranging.
My Aussie mates are hoping that Horne, who tried to fend off a six-foot-six winger coming at him at speed, will be dropped, along with Vuna, who had a defensive nightmare. Some of them are wondering if Ioane will be relieved of his role, which is currently closer to that of a No. 8 than a winger, and be played at 13 so as to give him some space to break out and fly.
They’re more than happy with the job Adam Ashley-Cooper did. They feel that Barnes held up pretty well but getting him to stop those hand-over-possession punts may be a lost cause. They want Moore to start ahead of Tatafu Polota-Nau.
It seems to be impossible to get Polota-Nau to make solid tackles rather than potentially self-damaging ones, and he needs a baskball pro to show him how to lob a ball.
Predictions? 3-1 Southern Hemisphere again. The lone Southern loss will, so they figure, be Argentina’s.
They won’t have enough top-level pros to counter a French side which, so we hear, intends to return to the old run-from-anywhere style Les Bleus made famous.
The All Blacks will win big again, and the Boks will lower the boom on a revamped but no stronger English team to ensure a series win.
Another series up for grabs is, of course, Wales versus the Wallabies in Melbourne. Wales will give it all they’ve got but so will the Wallabies, and if Deans rings the right changes Australia will take it.
One thing that’s not going to change in any of these three games is the fast pace, which is a mite quicker than England, Ireland and Wales are used to in the Six Nations.
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