The Western Force have moved into the Super Rugby Pacific top eight with a 27-22 home win over the Hurricanes but could still lose…
We now move from Malaga, the birth place of Pablo Picasso, to the city of Seville, which legend has it was built by Hercules and where flamenco originated.
It starts Friday evening and matches can be seen on the World Rugby YouTube channel, Facebook and website.
Saturday 29 January – Australia versus Kenya (12.49am AEDT)
Saturday 29 January – Australia versus Scotland (7:07pm AEDT)
Sunday 30 January – Australia versus Canada (12:33am AEDT)
Friday 28 January – Australia versus Belgium (11:50pm AEDT)
Saturday 29 January – Australia versus Spain (6:03am AEDT)
Saturday 29 January – Australia versus France (11:40pm AEDT)
The World Series in Spain has reminded us how much we miss travelling. The south of Spain in Malaga and Seville would have been quite enjoyable, although a bit cool.
We also realised how much we miss New Zealand and Fiji not being in the tournaments but at the same time it is exciting for rugby to have Belgium, Germany, Poland and this weekend Portugal getting a run.
For the Australian teams last weekend’s Malaga performance was not up there with their performances in Dubai. Maybe it was the coaching swap. Maybe it was over confidence. Maybe the other teams just improved more. Who knows.
The men started off really poorly, having a draw with Germany. They improved with a good win over Japan, but most teams were defeating Japan, so no big tick there.
Then they were defeated by Ireland, who just seemed to want it more. They put in a terrific effort against the USA in the quarter-final, probably their best performance of the tournament.
Then got belted (like everyone) by South Africa in the semi-final. Finally in the bronze playoff they lost to England, who they should have beaten. England had eight debutants and had two yellow cards. They just did not play a good game.
Overall for the men, it was probably not quite a pass. With a bunch of youngsters and an ad-hoc program with only eight full-time players, they did okay to come fourth. But they have to be mindful there was no New Zealand or Fiji.
What are the take-outs?
The men give away too many penalties, especially around the ruck. Maybe it’s a reflection of a lack of size and physicality. Maybe they are just pushing the envelope too much.
But in sevens, possession is king. You cannot give the ball away.
They missed the hard, straight running of captain Nick Malouf, that level head they can pass to when they need a settling run, go into contact, not lose possession, and provide a reset.
Corey Toole from the Brumbies’ academy was the player of the tournament, which is a statistical assessment combining tackles, line breaks, offloads and carries. He is also an excitement machine with outstanding speed.
Lastly, the coach may have to assess the role of Maurice Longbottom. I have been a long-time fan. I really enjoy the way he plays and his skill set.
There is an issue with his defence and he does not try and get over the ball for a pilfer, which all players have to do these days.
By the end of the pool rounds in Malaga, while the women were undefeated, they were not as efficient and clinical as they were in Dubai.
They had good wins over Belgium and Spain, but they struggled to win against an aggressive Ireland. They defeated the Canadians in the quarter-final. The Canadians, to be fair, are going through a serious rebuild.
The loss to Russia was a big surprise, except that the Russians’ in-your-face approach has always made the Aussie women uncomfortable.
But on the plus side, they came back in the bronze medal game and convincingly defeated France, the Olympic silver medalists. The score was 33-10, which was a surprise.
In terms of pass/fail, the team would probably rate it as a fail. It was great to get a bronze medal but they would have expected to be in the final.
What are the take-outs?
Coach Tim Walsh has a jigsaw puzzle. He has the pieces, even if he did not select them. He just has to put them together correctly. It will be interesting to see what changes he makes.
The old saying ‘you don’t know what you have until you lose it’ applies to the unavailability of Sharni Williams. The team missed her hard, direct running, her ability to run off Charlotte Caslick’s hip, and her ability to settle things down when it gets a bit frantic (similar to Nick Malouf in the men’s team).
The women do not have the size to win the collision. When they dominate possession, play at a fast pace, and do not go into contact or collisions, they are very difficult to beat. It requires high levels of fitness and error-free execution.
In Malaga, by the semi-final, they were looking a bit tired. Interestingly, compared to the two Dubai tournaments, their tackle count was up 57 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. But they still topped the try count (26, 27, 26) in all three tournaments.
Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea is a dynamo, particularly in defence, but is also a danger in attack. She is a player the opposition players must be on the look-out for to see where she is in the defensive line (and not run there).
I am not sure why but Lily Dick didn’t get too many minutes (compared to Dubai) but she provides hard, direct running and is a beast over the ball.
Maddison Levi is really providing a point of difference, especially in the air for restarts. She also topped the tournament for line breaks and tries. Plus she is developing a very good combination with Caslick, with Williams unavailable.
So off to Seville we go and maybe some sangria.
Lily Dick, Faith Nathan, Dom Du Tuit, Alysia Lefau Fakaosilea, Charlotte Caslick, Madison Ashby, Tia Hinds, Sariah Paki, Demi Hayes, Maddison Levi, Teagan Levi, Jakiya Whitfeld, Cassie Staples, Bienne Terita.
Ben Dowling, Stu Dunbar, Henry Hutchinson, Kirisi Kuridrani, Darby Lancaster, Nathan Lawson, Maurice Longbottom, Henry Paterson, Dietrich Roache, Jed Stuart, Corey Toole, Josh Turner, Solomone Vosaicake, Yool Yool.