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The Wrap: All roads lead to Yokohama

Geoff Parkes Columnist

176 Have your say

    When the Rugby World Cup was first played in 1987, fans of the concept welcomed the context it bought to a hitherto unstructured rugby schedule.

    The ability of all rugby nations to tangibly measure themselves against each other every four years was welcomed by players and fans, and the title ‘Rugby World Cup champion’ has without question become the defining prize in rugby.

    Further, a World Cup allowed rugby – which was in the last throes of amateurism – to fully unlock the commercial potential inherent in a genuinely global sport. This realisation has allowed the game’s administrators to monetise the sport in a way that underpins the continued global development of rugby in what are now 121 member countries.

    A contrary view was that a World Cup would become too overpowering and that too much discussion and too much planning would be centred on a four-yearly prize, rendering everything that happened in between subservient to the Holy Grail.

    And so it was that, with both the Wallabies and All Blacks very much conducting business typical of a mid-point in the cycle, the weekend past marked almost exactly two years to the day until the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, scheduled for the International Stadium in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo.

    A Japanese stop-over en route to season-ending internationals in Europe makes good sense – more so when it provides an opportunity for the Wallabies to familiarise themselves with a location and venue that they hope to return to for the final stages of the World Cup.

    (Image: Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

    The draw announced last week for the tournament has the Wallabies scheduled to play in Sapporo, Tokyo (at Tokyo Stadium), Oita and Shizuoka. It is only if the Wallabies make it through to the semi-final and final that they will return to Yokohama, hence the value of this stopover.

    Note also that it was announced last week that the third Bledisloe Cup match for 2018 will not be played in New Zealand but will be moved to Japan. As yet the venue is not confirmed, but there are obvious benefits if it is Yokohama. If not, then a match at Tokyo Stadium will suit the Wallabies equally as well given that they have a crucial pool match against Wales on that ground. The All Blacks will play Japan there the following week.

    This is an understandable move by New Zealand Rugby. On one hand, they are forgoing a home ground advantage for the Bledisloe Cup, opening up an opportunity for Australia to break what will be by then a 15-year drought, but on the other hand, they are paying heed to the two factors that overwhelmingly dominate rugby on and off-field: winning the World Cup and making enough money to keep their best players at home.

    In that respect, the All Blacks’ match against the Barbarians at Twickenham meant very little in terms of assessing the 2017 team and their performance this season, but it meant much more in terms of their long-term build-up to the 2019 World Cup and shoring up New Zealand Rugby’s finances.

    When I met with New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew earlier this year, he had no qualms with saying that this Barbarians match was “unashamedly” scheduled as a money-making venture. In that light, one wonders if Rugby Australia execs were enviously calculating the difference between a 62,000 gate at Twickenham and a 17,000 roll-up at Allianz Stadium the week prior – and wondering if that justified trashing their own domestic competition in the process.

    (Image: Matt King/Getty Images)

    The most memorable Barbarians games have been played at the completion of spring tours when the composite side has resembled a Lions-style selection of the best players from the home unions and with the traditional addition of one promising uncapped player. That way the tradition of open-style – or Barbarians-style – rugby has been able to be maintained while retaining a north versus south edge to the contest.

    But in 2017, with Northern Hemisphere players firmly attached to clubs that have priorities other than the health of international rugby, that concept is dead in the water. Hence the construct of Barbarians sides that – in Sydney last week and London this week – contained far too many players from the same nation to make the contest anything other than totally disposable.

    There is clearly an audience for rugby of this type. But faced with the option of watching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in an exhibition tennis match versus two guys ranked in the mid-200s scrapping for a life-changing qualifying spot in a grand slam main draw, I would take the two battlers every time.

    It was no accident that the best sports event of the weekend was – by a country mile – the Rugby League World Cup match between Tonga and Samoa simply because you could see, hear and feel what it meant to the players and supporters.

    Brothers playing against each other, teammates against best friends and – in the case of Richie Mo’unga, Mitchell Drummond, Dominic Bird, Atu Moli and Dillon Hunt – five players who will now join the All Blacks on tour rendered this contest meaningless, although that is not to decry the efforts of the players who certainly strived to provide value for those in attendance.

    Leader in that respect was Lions flanker Kwagga Smith, probably the player with the most to prove after being omitted from South Africa’s end of season touring squad. And from the All Blacks point of view, with Yokohama in mind, Steve Hansen will have noted how comfortable and assured Mo’unga looked on the Twickenham stage.

    The most telling image, however, was one of Hansen watching the match in the stands flanked as usual by Ian Foster on one side but without Wayne Smith on the other. While the All Blacks are proven masters at succession planning, it isn’t hard to imagine how much rockier their journey to Yokohama is going to be without Smith centrally involved.

    (Image: David Rogers/Getty Images)

    The Wallabies, missing three key members of their starting backline, were accomplished and professional in putting together an easy 63-30 win against what must be said was a very disappointing Japanese side. The locals failed to cope with the Wallabies’ defensive line speed, failed to respect possession or the touchline and, for the first 60 minutes, resembled a rabble, not the side that did their nation proud at the 2015 World Cup.

    Their effort was encapsulated by the kick on halftime by halfback Fumiaki Tanaka that gifted Tevita Kuridrani his second try – a horrible piece of rugby from a player who should know better. In Jamie Joseph, Tony Brown and John Plumtree, Japan have assembled a noteworthy coaching team that will almost certainly ensure they are far more organised and competitive come the World Cup, which their country – and the tournament itself – badly needs them to be.

    Kuridrani would go on to share five tries with Samu Kerevi, which spoke to their total dominance of the midfield and also the Wallabies continuing to demonstrate efficiency at the recycle, providing them with more of the continuity and go-forward that has become increasingly evident as the season has progressed.

    Individually, most eyes were on Reece Hodge to see how he measured up at flyhalf, with a number of plusses, minuses and too-soon-to-tells eventuating. Hodge was serviceable in attack and faultless from the kicking tee, although when punting he chose to do so from a pocket directly behind his halfback, a tactic unlikely to cause concern to stronger sides.

    Defensively Hodge adopted Bernard Foley’s ‘second fullback’ role, which at first glance was a little surprising but which on second thought allowed for continuity and consistency in the team pattern. Whether Hodge has sufficient evasive skills to run the ball back from fullback or is wasted out of the frontline defence remains to be seen.

    (Image: AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    One obvious work-in-progress is Hodge’s passing, not rolling the ball out of the fingers like most natural distributors at flyhalf but favouring the wrist pump popularised in 1980s rugby league by players like Brett Kenny. If Hodge ends up half the player Kenny was, that augers well for Australian rugby, but for now I expect there will be many joining me sitting on a crowded fence.

    As for Yokohama’s International Stadium, it too deserves a mixed assessment. An impressive arena, it will serve Japan well for the World Cup and is particularly suitable for the pomp and visuals of an opening ceremony.

    It suffers, however, like all rugby stadiums do, when they contain an athletics track inside it. Immediately fans are set back a long way from the action, which diminishes atmosphere. The truncated, compromised in-goal areas, although they might meet lawful minimum requirements, take away rightful options from the attacking side.

    Alarmingly there was also evidence that the dreaded nematode worm has found its way to Japan, with large chunks of turf being ripped up at some scrums. The Japanese way is to politely bow and to assure that everything is okay, but expect World Rugby to be asking some serious questions of the organising committee this week about the suitability of the playing surface.

    Congratulations to the Canberra Vikings and Queensland Country for setting up a worthy NRC final next weekend, to be played in Canberra. It was a near thing for the hosts, with the Perth Spirit playing a spirited final ten minutes while a man down. However, Canberra’s defensive organisation and simple game plan have held them in good stead all competition.

    They will need to be at their best again next week, particularly if the nimble-stepping, sweet-passing Taniela Tupou is allowed anywhere near the latitude the Fijian Drua gave him in their semi-final.

    Two years is a long time in rugby, but make no mistake: the Tongan Thor is also on the road to Yokohama. It’s going to be one heck of a ride watching him get there.

    Geoff Parkes
    Geoff Parkes

    Geoff is a Melbourne-based sports fanatic and writer who started contributing to The Roar in 2012 under the pen name Allanthus. His first book, A World in Union Conflict; The Global Battle For Rugby Supremacy, was released in December 2017 to critical acclaim. For details on the book visit Meanwhile, his twin goals of achieving a single figure golf handicap and owning a fast racehorse remain tantalisingly out of reach.

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    The Crowd Says (176)

    • November 6th 2017 @ 7:18am
      Drongo said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      The ABs scrap home against a scratch Barbarians and you pretty much ignore the match? Why did it ‘mean very little in assessing the team’s performance this year’? Because you want it too? I’d would say it meant a lot and the steady decline from a position of absolute dominance was clearly on display again against a team put together about 5 minutes ago.
      While the Wallabies hammer the Japanese test team at home and you give faint praise and emphasise that the Japanese were ‘very disappointing’? Don’t think so, they scored 3 tries and 30 points, did you miss that part? Yeah, well, you have your target audience in mind I guess. Don’t want to wake your fans from their zombie hypnosis.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 7:36am
        Jerry said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        Cause it was largely a second string All Black side.

        • November 6th 2017 @ 9:00am
          Internal Fixation said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

          Drongo is trying to get a rise but within all the noise is a point. The All blacks depth is not there. Take Barrett and Read brilliance out of Bled 2 and Oz have won it back.

          Sure – NZ has union depth far greater than Australia and have been able to compensate well but the player drain to Europe seems to now be taking its toll.

          Injuries like the RWC 2011 would possible sink the campaign in 2019. Particularly away from home.

          • November 6th 2017 @ 9:15am
            KiwiHaydn said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

            Isn’t that the point though? The All Blacks have now used over 40 players this season, and have still won everything that counted. IF the ABs had lost in Dunedin, the Wallabies would’ve faced a very different beast in Brisbane. Interesting point you make about the player depth though – the All Blacks were without 6 of their first choice starters in Brisbane and came close. How would the Wallabies go without any of Hooper, Folau, Genia, Foley, Pocock or Beale, let alone without all 6 of them?

            • November 6th 2017 @ 9:54am
              Internal Fixation said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

              The All Blacks have done very well To stay at the top.

              But it would be nice to still have Cruden for example to come in for Brisbane.

              2 years ago I would have said luck related to injuries would not sink the AB juggernaut.

              Now, if a Brisbane type scenario repeats at Japan I’m not so sure. Of course a hell of a lot changes in Rugby in 2 years – look at England.

            • November 6th 2017 @ 10:00am
              David said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

              But the All Blacks haven’t won everything that counted. They drew the Lions series.

              • November 6th 2017 @ 11:44am
                Connor33 said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

                That’s true. No one seems to mention that Lions’ series, albeit only a few months past. Probably goes down as NZ’s Vietnam or Afganistan: ‘don’t speak of it.’

                Though, to be fair, it was second string Ab side in some of the Lions games–much like, the Baa Baas games. Their 10 is case in point. But isn’t that the typical excuse when the Abs get beat or put in a poor performance: “we sent out our second stringers…” Or we were poisoned, or we were robbed….;-)

              • November 6th 2017 @ 12:00pm
                rebel said | November 6th 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

                I take it you were absent from these pages after Bled 3

              • November 6th 2017 @ 12:10pm
                KiwiHaydn said | November 6th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

                The trophy is in the cabinet, right?

              • November 6th 2017 @ 3:07pm
                ClarkeG said | November 6th 2017 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

                Or we could simply adopt your typical excuse Connor.

          • November 6th 2017 @ 9:27am
            Jacko said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

            But take Folau and Genia out of Bledisloe 2 and NZ win anyway….What ifs dont count

            • November 6th 2017 @ 9:57am
              Internal Fixation said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

              Of course.

              But 2-3 years ago the All blacks would have won in Brisbane with their depth.

              Didn’t happen this time

              • November 6th 2017 @ 10:00am
                Jerry said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

                3 years ago they needed a conversion after the final whistle to win it. If Cane doesn’t drop the ball on that pick and go, maybe they win this year. 5 years ago they had a tryless draw at the same venue.

                Fine margins between wins & losses and I’d be careful reading too much into one or two results.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 7:57am
        Train Without A Station said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

        Allowing 30 points was disapponting.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 8:57am
        KiwiHaydn said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Get a grip Drongo. It was a thrown together All Blacks team with many players who hadn’t played for a while and others that had NEVER played in combination with each other, up against a team of quality players in an exhibition match. And the ABs still won. Nothing more than a glorified training run. Meanwhile the Wallabies played a sub par Japanese team and got then win.

      • Columnist

        November 6th 2017 @ 9:04am
        Brett McKay said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        So, after having a crack at Geoff’s writing last week, that crossed the line so far that your comment was removed by the site, you’ve come back to take issue yet again, Drongo?!?

        Wow, your self-importance levels must really be dialled up currently. Or you’re just really invested in your label.

        Either way, solve the problem yourself:

        • Columnist

          November 6th 2017 @ 9:20am
          Geoff Parkes said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          What Drongo takes issue with is a New Zealander on a supposedly Australian site who, according to him, is on some sort of trojan horse mission to secretly sabotage Australian rugby.

          It’s a tiresome as it is pathetic. Perhaps Russell Crowe threw a phone at him once?

          • November 6th 2017 @ 9:35am
            Jerry said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

            We should put him & zhenry in the same room.

            • November 6th 2017 @ 5:53pm
              Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | November 6th 2017 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

              Apologies Geoff, on behalf of Drongo, who is struggling with his manners.
              What’s more, he is giving us legitimate critics of NZ a bad name?.
              Thanks for the article. And it brings up some interesting points. Japan is about to enter the world rugby arena at a completely new level. Is this the first Tier2 nation to host a Cup?

              And Drongo, if you were looking for a black-eye-patched commentator to have a crack at you picked the wrong bloke.
              Get back ten, no back chat.

          • November 6th 2017 @ 11:22am
            rebel said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

            All true Geoff, but the poor confused soul claims he doesn’t have a problem with kiwis.
            No wonder he keeps changing his name.

          • November 6th 2017 @ 3:45pm
            Cuw said | November 6th 2017 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

            does australia have something like the 1St amendment to the US Constitution ? 🙂

            • November 6th 2017 @ 4:26pm
              Ed said | November 6th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report


        • Roar Pro

          November 6th 2017 @ 1:33pm
          Andy Thompson said | November 6th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

          I translated his comment from Social Media Kiwi-Speak to “You didn’t say how awesome the ABs were and how crap the Wallabies played to let in 30 points, bro”

          • November 6th 2017 @ 2:58pm
            Jerry said | November 6th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

            Who are you talking about? Drongo’s an Aussie saying the opposite of that.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 9:37am
        ClarkeG said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        It’s ok Drongo. The match has been more or less ignored in NZ as well.

        • November 6th 2017 @ 3:47pm
          Cuw said | November 6th 2017 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

          maybe , but the match commentary said there was 62 524 crowd.

          now when was the last time such a crowd watched a match in NZ ?? 😛

          • November 6th 2017 @ 4:05pm
            Jerry said | November 6th 2017 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

            I imagine it would have been when NZ won it’s 2nd RWC in 2011….

            • November 6th 2017 @ 5:53pm
              Cuw said | November 6th 2017 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

              6 long years?

              • November 7th 2017 @ 6:50am
                Jerry said | November 7th 2017 @ 6:50am | ! Report

                Seems like just yesterday….which would make it this morning that they won their 3rd RWC at Twickers….

                Ah, memories. Thanks for that.

              • November 7th 2017 @ 2:55pm
                Cuw said | November 7th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

                ” Seems like just yesterday…”

                sounds like a song 🙂

          • November 6th 2017 @ 8:49pm
            ClarkeG said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

            Cuw I was taking the p… purely for Drongo’s entertainment. As is often the case he appears in need of some.

            • November 6th 2017 @ 9:06pm
              Cuw said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:06pm | ! Report

              so was i , just a diversion tactic 🙂

              sometimes its better to stay away from such garbage and have a little laugh.

              as they say in netiquette – don’t feed trolls 😛

      • November 6th 2017 @ 9:57am
        Jp said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        The wallabies struggle to pull 62000 for a test match, All blacks building great depth for 2019.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 10:51am
        mzilikazi said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        “Yeah, well, you have your target audience in mind I guess. Don’t want to wake your fans from their zombie hypnosis.”

        Drongo, I think your approach to disagreeing with parts of this article is , shall I say, ill judged and sadly quite offensive.

        The so called “fans” you refer to are, I would judge, often highly intelligent and perceptive rugby brains. For my part, I get value from both the articles and the excellent discussion that follows.

        I don’t know what your background in the game is, but would be very interested to hear what it is.

        Finally, I would suggest you reconsider your final sentences in your post.

    • November 6th 2017 @ 7:19am
      Cynical Play said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      Both Barbarian games were are A bit of farce with OZ B vs OZB(2) followed by NZ vs NZ(A) plus Kwagga Smith (what a game he had), but the Oz game was high farce with The Parrot let loose.

      The big back line success against the smaller Blossoms will not be repeated against Wales. But which K to keep and at what position. It’s anyone guess what Cheika will select, but I think Genia, Foley, Hunt, Kerevi, Koirabete, Hodge, with Beale at 15 is possible.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 7:54am
        Train Without A Station said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        Japan (and also increased migration to European Competitions) has basically killed the Barbarians concept.

        In the past many capped internationals would be available at this time of year. Now they are playing for Japanese (and European clubs). But specifically those playing for Japanese clubs are often playing year round.

        This has meant that the quality of players selected has diminished dramatically.

        In the game vs the Wallabies for example, Sam Carter was one of the better credentialed Barbarians. Typically it would be a team full of players like that.

        • November 6th 2017 @ 4:05pm
          Cuw said | November 6th 2017 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

          as far as i know the japan Top league is on holiday now.

          also the saffas Currie cup is finished.

          the only competitions that are on-going is in Europe.

          so if any good players are not available , then the main reason is that they are playing in Aviva or Top 14 or whatever , in Europe.

          one major factor i think is the spate of injuries in Europe , especially in Aviva. they are signing a lot of players on short term contracts as injury covers.

          for eg.Wasps have signed Nizam CArr and Nathan Charles as injury cover .( there may be others I am not keeping up) .

          another reason maybe that European nations and japan have named their squads for the up coming tests – so it is very unlikely they will release anyone for Babaa games.

          only guy i can think of from Europe is Ackermaan. all others are saffas and kiwis who have finished domestic seasons.

        • November 6th 2017 @ 10:51pm
          markie362 said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:51pm | ! Report

          I can remember when in the baabaas games it was frowned upon to kick the its win anyway u can

      • Columnist

        November 6th 2017 @ 8:56am
        Geoff Parkes said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        I think that backline will be pretty close to the mark CP.

        • Columnist

          November 6th 2017 @ 10:06am
          Geoff Parkes said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

          Kuridrani for Kerevi

        • Roar Guru

          November 6th 2017 @ 3:09pm
          Sluggy said | November 6th 2017 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

          Genia, Foley, Koro, Hunt, Kuridrani, Hodge, Beale.

          Bench – depends if he goes 6/2 or 5/3, but a spare 9 and an outside back if 6/2.

          • Roar Guru

            November 6th 2017 @ 3:26pm
            jeznez said | November 6th 2017 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

            Am sure Foley will be 10 if healthy but would really like to see:

            * the centres retained
            * Hunt trialled at 10
            * Hodge onto Speight’s wing so he can play that second FB role

            Think that players all in position for attack and defence, a 10 capable of playing very direct, three solid boots out there and Kerevi’s line-breaking/offloading would all enhance our play.

            Am also with all the posters calling for McCalman over Hanigan, and Timani over him as well on the bench.

            Based on who is on tour and who we hope to be fit/overcoming minor injuries:

            1. Sio
            2. Polota-Nau
            3. Kepu
            4. Simmons
            5. Coleman
            6. McMahon
            7. Hooper
            8. McCalman
            9. Genia
            10. Hunt
            11. Hodge
            12. Kerevi
            13. Kuridrani
            14. Koroibete
            15. Beale

            16. Uelese
            17. Faulkner
            18. Alaalatoa
            19. Phillip
            20. Timani
            21. Powell
            22. Foley
            23. Speight

            Would fill me with quite a bit of joy – think it has zero chance of happening though.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 9:08am
        Fionn said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Don’t see Kuridrani being dropped given how he has been the lynchpin of our defence, and how fantastically he attacked against Japan. I think either we see 12. Kerevi-13. TK or Kerevi is sitting on the bench again. I wouldn’t mind seeing an 11-15 of 11. Koroibete, 12. Kerevi, 13. Kudirani, 14. Hodge, 15. Beale. Beale can pop in from fullback and be the second playmaker.

        No idea who will be at 10, I guess it depends on upon Foley’s illness and Hunt’s injury.

        • Roar Pro

          November 6th 2017 @ 12:48pm
          Matt Davis said | November 6th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

          My guess, pending health is Foley-Hunt at 10-12 leaving Beale at the back.

          With the starting players looking more or less settled, i think a big question going forward is going to be the bench composition-one of the great strengths of the RWC15 team was having a player like Beale on the bench who could slot in across the back-line and change the shape and pace of the attack.

          Next big work on for Cheika/Larkham should be getting those “finishers” back as opposed to straight subs…

          • November 6th 2017 @ 1:19pm
            Fionn said | November 6th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

            Pretty straightforward in the backline—Hunt inside back and Banks outside back.

            Between the number of locks we have you would have thought that one of Arnold, Tui, Philip and Rodda can fulfil that role. Front-row reserves look pretty set barring no injuries, and Uelese and Alaalatoa are fine finishers.

            Gordon is probably more of a finisher than Powell but Louwrens is better than either of them.

            Between Naisarani, Pocock, Hooper, Hardwick and Valetini we will have a back-row finisher also.

            I think things are looking good.

            *knocks on wood*

            • Roar Guru

              November 6th 2017 @ 2:22pm
              jeznez said | November 6th 2017 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

              Tet Faulkner over Robertson would be a very welcome change for the short term among the FR options

    • November 6th 2017 @ 7:56am
      Train Without A Station said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Geoff very interesting that after the uproar of the ARU mentioning the prospect of shifting a Bledisloe, many of the moaners, many of which pointed to the NZRU saying they’d never do similar, are quiet over this.

      On the game, I think Hodge showed exactly why he’s not a 10. Just doesn’t have the decision making. He threw an intercept to a waiting opponent, seemingly because he’d decided he was going to pass and didn’t adjust given the defence.

      • Columnist

        November 6th 2017 @ 9:13am
        Geoff Parkes said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        Hi TWAS

        That’s a fair point about the Bledisloe and, some hypocrisy aside, I guess highlights the respective positions of the two countries and where they sit with their respective supporter bases.

        Australia is short of money but hasn’t won the cup for 14 years. Rugby AU would be pilloried for relinquishing home advantage even if it came with a huge payday.

        NZ is not as short of money but short nevertheless. But because they haven’t lost the cup for 14 years the NZRU has some currency which enables them to move it without the same uproar.

        • Roar Guru

          November 6th 2017 @ 10:25am
          Train Without A Station said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          Play 2 games in Australia hasn’t helped us win the Bledisloe either though.

          • Columnist

            November 6th 2017 @ 10:37am
            Geoff Parkes said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

            No it hasn’t.
            But I don’t expect that that sort of explanation, if it came out of Rugby Australia HQ, would go down too well… 🙂

            • Roar Guru

              November 6th 2017 @ 10:39am
              Train Without A Station said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

              If they came out with the cure for cancer it wouldn’t go down too well…

              • November 6th 2017 @ 3:44pm
                dennisthemenace said | November 6th 2017 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

                if they were finding the cure for cancer it’d explain why their rugby administration is up Shizzle creek without a paddle

              • November 6th 2017 @ 5:17pm
                In Brief said | November 6th 2017 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

                There is a load of whinging on this site. Much of it is unwarranted, particularly when related to Michael Cheika and the Wallabies. The criticism of Pulver was overall harsh when you consider his achievements including the NRC. However, it is not possible to rationally or sensibly defend the ARU’s decision to cut the Force or the way it executed this poor decision. So one has to admit, through gritted teeth perhaps, that the criticism is justified in this case.

              • November 6th 2017 @ 11:48pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:48pm | ! Report

                No, you just refuse to accep any potential and actual reality around the Force being cut.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 10:45am
        Cynical Play said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        Agree on Hodge. Notwithstanding his excellent general skills and large heart, I kept wanting him and Beale to swap. Hodge was a little hesitant (not a criticism) and mostly shuffled the ball along, though he offloaded that lovely inside ball for the Speight try. He let the outer backs do their thing, but he did not take the line on, or introduce any thought for the defenders that he might take the line on. I see him as the 15 for the whole tour. He has excelled at the back, can catch and boot long, he would be exposive like Latham if given time to polish the 15 attacking game. If we are just selecting players on tour, then Beale would be best used at 12 if Foley plays, or at 10 if he doesn’t, with Hunt into 12. When Beale slotted in at 10 against the Blossoms it just looked like he was better at attacking what was in front of him than Hodge. So if Foley doesn’t play against Wales I would like to see a backline of Genia, Beale, Hunt, Kuridrania, Koir, Speight (on the back of the Blossoms run), with Hodge at the back.

        • November 6th 2017 @ 11:24am
          Connor33 said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:24am | ! Report

          Nah, I thought Beale at 10, but what happens is Beale –by being in a more structured 10 position — would mean we lose his instinctual play from broken play. His lines usually come from his FB position. His line and pass to Kerevi was excellent for Kerevi’s try in the 53 rd minutes.

          Interestingly, when Hodge plays on the wing, he also runs really good lines from a deeper position. The secodn argentina game s a good example, among others.

          With Foley at 10, we have a running 10 that keeps the defense in two minds.

          I think Hodge was quite good at 10, but the 10 position is a tough one. Heck, look at Beadan Barrett against the Baa Baas, among other games this season. And he’s playing behind the best pack in the world.

          • November 6th 2017 @ 11:34am
            Cynical Play said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

            I’ve felt all year that BBs best position is 15.

            Agree re Beale having more license away from 10.

            Let’s hope we get through without having to find out how Hodge would go at 10 against the Europeans.

            Still love Hodge at 15 though..

            • November 6th 2017 @ 11:53am
              Connor33 said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

              Yeah, I reckon since the second Bledisloe Beale has been playing de facto 15–and Hodge moves into 12 on defense.

              I hope this continues: Hodge’s defense is excellent at 12. Better than Beale, and this is where the musical chairs actually works.

              It’s seems also that with Beale we have dual 15s: Folau and Beale.

              Aswell as dual 10s: Foley and Beale–making Hunt probably the best player come in for Folau next week despite Kerevi’s good game this week.

              Kerevi could be a game breaker against the NH teams–coming on with 18-20 minutes to go–with Beale passing the type of ball he passed Kerevi for that try in the 53rd minute. Impressive.

              • November 6th 2017 @ 12:51pm
                Cynical Play said | November 6th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

                yeah the Hunt straight swap to 15… would work

              • Roar Guru

                November 6th 2017 @ 2:25pm
                jeznez said | November 6th 2017 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

                How about:

                9. Genia
                10. Hunt
                11. Hodge
                12. Kerevi
                13. Kuridrani
                14. Koroibete
                15. Beale

                Everyone can defend in position while having Hodge and Beale covering the two fullback positions at the back.

                Big ask on Hunt but he has played the position before – just not for a while.

              • Roar Guru

                November 6th 2017 @ 3:01pm
                jeznez said | November 6th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

                Bench of Powell, Foley, Speight.

              • November 6th 2017 @ 4:11pm
                Farmer said | November 6th 2017 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

                I liked Kerevi’s go forward on saturday so would be happy if he is retained there. Hunt could come back via the bench with Foley at 10.
                Beale Hodge and Hunt all cover multiple positions so maybe a 6:2 split on the bench? With the fast paced game the Wallabies play an extra lock/flanker would be handy in the final 20.
                Is Tui available yet?

              • Roar Guru

                November 6th 2017 @ 7:08pm
                jeznez said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

                Yep – think there is zero chance that Foley doesn’t play if available.

                The backline I’ve offered above except with Foley at 10 and Hunt on the bench offers the minimal changes assuming Genia and Foley are fit. (noting Cheika is likely to have Phipps as his reserve 9).

                That group with Phipps and Hunt on the bench enables a 6:2 split, or as I mention above the option to have Speight there if they go for a 5:3

              • November 6th 2017 @ 10:06pm
                Worlds Biggest said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

                I don’t get the love for K-Hunt. He is a good defender and an abrasive type like Toomua however I just don’t think he has the wheels to make a real impact at this level. Certainly not at Fullback, he could be a handy 10-12 backup player but imo he shouldn’t be pushing Kerevi out of 12 and Beale at 15.

              • Roar Guru

                November 6th 2017 @ 10:25pm
                jeznez said | November 6th 2017 @ 10:25pm | ! Report

                I’m only suggesting him as a 10 or bench player so definitely not suggesting Kerevi at 12 or Beale at 15 should be challenged.

                My view is that Hodge is best utilised on his wing given current personnel giving us him and Beale with boots in the back field and two players that benefit from a bit of space and time in front of them.

                Hunt v Foley then comes down to how Cheika wants his 10 to play – they both play direct, both have reasonable short passing games. Neither has a major long passing game. Hunt has the benefit of a bigger kick out of hand and being able to defend in position.

                Foley is a better support runner but I don’t think Hunt is much behind him.

                I think it is worth a look (also think Cheika is very unlikely to look at the option)

          • November 6th 2017 @ 11:57am
            Dave_S said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

            Connor I agree, both Hodge and Beale look better value when they can chime in from deeper and wider than 10/12.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 1:23pm
        ethan said | November 6th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

        You only need to look at his pass to see why Hodge is not a 10. The only reason its a conundrum trying to work out his best position is because his two biggest strengths are kicking (typically associated with a 10), and running lines (typically associated with outside backs).

        Fullback may be the best of both worlds, but doesn’t avoid the passing issue. I think 13 or wing. It wouldn’t be too hard tactically to utilize his big boot in exits from those positions.

      • November 7th 2017 @ 4:55am
        Terry Tavita said | November 7th 2017 @ 4:55am | ! Report

        it’s his first time in the wallaby jersey at 10..he did some good things..foley has been at 10 for a while now..he’s not getting any better..

    • November 6th 2017 @ 7:56am
      Daveski said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Morning Geoff….. Japan were a bit dissapointing and Tamaka had a poor game highlighted by that aimless kick but I thought they copped a pretty raw deal from the ref in the first 25-30mins which put them on the back foot.

      Some of the laws designed around protecting the player….eg: when Shota Horie dropped his head a little early and TPN slightly changed his direction it meant he went into and over Horie’s head and shoulder. TMO interjected and all of a sudden Japan have had to give the ball back and retreat 40m back downfield for an absolute nothing incident.

      Missed the ABs BaaBaas game but glad to hear Kwacha played a beauty. Such a good player. I think Werner Kok would be just as good if he ever switched to 15s.

      Good win for the Maori too in front of a Canadian record crowd (29.5k). Canada are never super strong between world cups as many of their best players are tied up in 7s ( Hirayama, Moonlight, Jones, Zaruba) but between this match and the Vancouver leg of the World 7s there is obviously real appetite for rugby in British Columbia.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 7:59am
        Train Without A Station said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        The Horie tackle wasn’t a “nothing incident”. It was a no arms tackle.

        Most importantly there was zero effort at all to wrap arms.

        Sometimes in those tackles the speed means the runner is thrown too quickly to wrap, but Horie made zero effort to.

      • Columnist

        November 6th 2017 @ 9:01am
        Geoff Parkes said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        Morning Daveski

        Yes Horie was unlucky there, it was clumsy more than a deliberate ‘dive bombing’ example.

        And yes, the NZ Maori scored some nice tries with Akira Ioane prominent. He needs to take a step up this coming SR season and strong leadership on this tour is a good place to start.

        • November 6th 2017 @ 9:13am
          Fionn said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          He was no more ‘unlucky’ than anyone who accidentally tackles someone and slips a bit high, or someone who mistimes their tackle and tackles someone in the air or a little early. It was only a penalty, which is what you deserve if you accidentally do what he did.

          Test rugby is about putting pressure on your opponents, he were under pressure and was rushed into a poor decision.

          • Columnist

            November 6th 2017 @ 9:22am
            Geoff Parkes said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

            Yes, not saying it wasn’t a penalty Fionn, it clearly was.
            But there was no intent, he just got into a muddle.

            • November 6th 2017 @ 11:20am
              Dave_S said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

              Does anyone else think that TPN was also a little lucky not being pinged for leading with his knee into that tackle tackle? Pretty sure a Somoan was carded for it at the last RWC, in what I thought was a less obvious case.

              • Columnist

                November 6th 2017 @ 12:36pm
                Geoff Parkes said | November 6th 2017 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

                I had a look at that Dave and can ‘sort of’ see where you’re coming from.

                But on the other hand, players are allowed to run with the ball and if rugby got into looking at all cases like this in detail then I’d expect the game would end up in a pretty sorry state.

                You might recall Samoa’s Alesana Tuilagi getting a 5-week ban at the last World Cup for leading with his knee on (co-incedentally) a Japanese player? Caused quite a stir at the time I recall.

              • November 6th 2017 @ 12:51pm
                Dave_S said | November 6th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

                Fair enough Geoff, I’m happy to consider Tuilagi’s case as the aberrant one.

            • Roar Guru

              November 6th 2017 @ 11:30am
              Train Without A Station said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

              But there was no intent at all to try and wrap either arm as well from Horie.

              You see similar low tackles where the player is thrown over the shoulder so quick that you don’t get to wrap the arms properly, but in his case Horie just push his arms to the ground and lead with the shoulder.

              • November 6th 2017 @ 1:27pm
                Daveski said | November 6th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

                I don’t know TWAS, he was completely front on ( shoulder leading tackles aren’t usually like that and his arms were curled in the preparing to tackle motion but then he just dropped his head and TPN barrelled over the top of him.

                It was awkward but both players were moving at the pace of snails and seriously you see dozens more intense cleanouts where the shoulder is leading per game than that tackle

                Maybe I’m being a bit biased – at that point I wanted Japan to make a game of it and that was a pretty tough call… If the ref had blown it up I’d probably have no issue… it was the time wasting TMO interruption that probably most annoyed me too.

              • November 6th 2017 @ 2:45pm
                Dave_S said | November 6th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

                Daveski it wasn’t one of the worst no-arms tackles by any means (notably, no WBs seemed to take issue with it at the time), but is this one isn’t unlawful then where do you draw the line? How do you define what is /isn’t a lawful / lawful tackle. I think it’s better to call them all an infringement and then use cards to distinguish the worst cases.

                Reasonable point regarding shoulder-led clean outs, maybe it’s time to look more closely at those too.

      • Roar Guru

        November 7th 2017 @ 7:25am
        Carlos the Argie said | November 7th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

        Oh dear! I didn’t see Daveski’s comments before I wrote mine. Sorry….

    • Roar Guru

      November 6th 2017 @ 8:53am
      Machooka said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      Morning G… it’s a wet morning in old Sydney town, after a wet w’end. Finally the rain has come as it was much needed. Hence, a cacophony of Duck Ewes… and I would plump for option 4! 😉

      Hey, I really enjoyed the BaaBaas game and thought it very entertaining… as it should be in the context it’s played. Mind you, I was joined by Yorkshire for the game and that’s only because it’s like England, and England is the best.

      Gotta say that Kwaaga reminds me of Hooper. Both have that look of been chasing parked cars. Both have massive motors, and both are hamstrung by their size… maybe.

      As to Japan I, also, thought it entertaining considering it was an alternative Wallaby that was on show… but dear Blossoms didn’t do themselves any favours in front of their home support.

      The NRC Final should be a cracker… the two best teams to play-off for the chocolates. Really looking forward to see who comes out on top!

      • Columnist

        November 6th 2017 @ 9:07am
        Geoff Parkes said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        You raise an interesting possibility Chook. A ‘Gladiator’ style TV showdown between Hooper and Smith with them competing head to head across ridiculous challenges, like who can hit a parked car and drive it back the furthest.

        In the very remote case of injury (because they both seem indestructible), Chris Cloete would be on standby.

        Almost impossible to pick a winner at this stage.

        • November 6th 2017 @ 4:39pm
          Cuw said | November 6th 2017 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

          Chris Cloete is not that quick over grass – compared to Smith and Hooper .

          u need Ardie or some of the other 7S players who are also flankers.

          Sacha Valleau (France). Antonio Kiri Kiri (NZ). Savenaca Rawaca (Fiji). Sam cross (Wales i think ).

          a few others whose names i forget from Argies , Kenya , even Canada and Spain

        • Roar Guru

          November 7th 2017 @ 5:22am
          Carlos the Argie said | November 7th 2017 @ 5:22am | ! Report


          May I humbly suggest that you should have also covered the NZ Maori – Canada game? Not so much for the Maoris but for Canada, a perennial RWC attendee.

          I only saw the second half on youtube, as I just arrived back from a week in Europe. The Canadians missed a lot of players based in Europe but they were still horrible. The Maoris with very little ball scored at will. Charlie Ngatai was immense as was Shaun Stevenson. The forwards were dominating the scrums, the poor Canooks were jogging backwards in most of them.

          The referee was the most “important” referee in the USA, Curt Weaver. He made a few pedantic calls and many errors, he was not to international standard, but thinking about it, not many referees are. I think he refereed last year Uruguay-Argentina, or some other teams where both speak Spanish. He doesn’t. Who on earth chooses an English speaking only referee to blow the whistle in this acrimonious match? He had many problems in the scrums there too. I have sympathy for him because I can see he tries!

          Anyway, my two cents. I was on London and tempted to stay over the weekend to watch the NZ-BaaBas match, but penny wisely, I came home.

          • Columnist

            November 7th 2017 @ 9:23am
            Geoff Parkes said | November 7th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

            Hi Carlos

            Canada is an interesting one, worthy of a full column at some point. Always considered to have plenty of potential but almost no progress now relative to other international teams since the game became professional.

            They badly need a regular professional presence in either the Pro14 or SR or both, but with SR regressing instead of expanding that now looks a long way away.

    • November 6th 2017 @ 9:34am
      Wombat said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      Foley and Genia come straight back in next week
      If Hodge is in the starting 15 then he shd take over the goal kicking and penalty kicks for touch, his length is much greater than Foleys. Foley shd do all the kicking from restarts.
      I wouldn’t have said this earlier in the year, but missing Dempsey is huge. Hannigan at blind side is a no no for me!
      I’m a Tahs fan but would not have him in the 23.

      • Roar Guru

        November 6th 2017 @ 9:52am
        PeterK said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        If McCalman started at 8 (or 6) with McMahon at 6 it would be as good if not better than when Dempsey played.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 11:29am
        Connor33 said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        Yes, Hanigan cannot be in the team. It’s like playing with 14.5 players.

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