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sheek

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Joined May 2007

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A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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When is an Aussie really an Aussie?

Ben Ryan, the English coach of the Fijian rugby sevens gold medal winning team at the Rio Olympics, caused quite a stir recently with his caustic observations of how the Pacific Islands were being effectively ‘stripped’ by the major rugby union powers.

Pickett,

Interestingly, talking to a mate today over coffee & brekkie, we agreed no sport has tried to do an inside job on destroying itself quite like rugby union, especially in Australia.

Rugby league will never win the gold medal from union in this regard, although sometimes it tries mighty hard!

It is time for the rugby codes to reunite

Nick – downsizing to… ???

Can Japan repeat the Brighton Miracle at the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

Nick – I think you’re 100% right there…

Can Japan repeat the Brighton Miracle at the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

Surfside66,

Thanks. The fascinating thing about NFL is that passing the ball (other than the quarterback) is still allowed. They call it ‘lateral passing’.

But possession is so vital that players are instructed to never pass the ball unless of course, in desperation as time is running out in your classic “catch-up” play.

Of course, lateral passing is seen more often in College football, but very rarely in NFL.

I don’t mind 4 footy codes in Australia. I guess I’ve had plenty of time to accept the status quo.

But I do agree, perhaps union & league, might be forced to merge or one suffer a takeover in the future. The introduction of women’s pro sports now means the sponsorship dollar is being squeezed even more.

This is a ew problem that wasn’t there before. So union taking over league in Australia might happen anyway. Financial considerations might make it an imperative.

It is time for the rugby codes to reunite

Last Straw,

This is a subject that fascinates me & I’ve even written about it in the past here on The Roar.

Let’s begin with a diversion. Sports historian Sean Fagan has done more research on the evolution of the rugby codes than probably anyone else bar Englishman Tony Collins.

He used to write regularly on The Roar before he got fed up with all the immature sniping. But in his research he found that rugby was changing so rapidly & often in the mid to late 1800s, that characteristics featured in the game eventually found their way elsewhere.

Did you know that the kick-to-kick (Australian football), down rule (American football), play the ball (rugby league), as well as rucks & mauls (rugby union), were all characteristics of rugby at one time or another.

Rather than come up with something original, originators of these other football codes, borrowed characteristics that had already been tried in rugby.

But I digress.

If union & league merge in the future, it won’t be driven by fans, but by commercial interests, obviously. Money speaks all languages, & as Kerry Packer famously said, we’re all whores for money to greater & lesser degrees.

So when a bunch of people feel they can make a motza from a merger, they’ll push it. However, I more likely believe there will be a hostile takeover of league by union.

Besides, a key problem to merger is deciding on agreeable rules. The key problem is what happens to the tackled player?

If there is continuous struggle for possession, then it remains union. If there is a stoppage to play the ball, then it is league. Neither side wants to give ground here.

While league may be stronger in only Australia & PNG (irrelevant due being developing nation), union is stronger almost everywhere else in the world. So union has no motivation to barter, it will simply steamroll.

If such a takeover comes to pass, it will be bittersweet for league in Australia. They will have to play union, but will provide most of the iconic clubs.

Let’s presume a mythical 20 team national comp. We might have six clubs from union – Sydney Waratahs, Brisbane Reds (2nd team), Canberra Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels (2nd team), Perth Force & Adelaide Falcons.

The remaining 14 clubs will all be ex-NRL, with some losing out due lack of places, including Raiders, who might have to bow to Brumbies. But of course, that’s debatable too.

Now to the enduring question, would Australian rugby union have been stronger without the interference from rugby league?

The short answer is yes. But it is also a qualified yes, with some caveats. All those wonderful Kangaroos, given the same background in union, would have definitely stiffened the Wallabies, but not necessarily where it matters, unfortunately.

A short 10 year window, 1899-1908, provides a disturbing clue. It was already evident in this short time-frame, that while we produced outstanding backs & backrowers, we already had a significant weakness in our tight forwards, & especially in the scrum.

Unlike NZ & SA, who realised at the ‘get-go’ the importance of set-pieces in union, us Aussies were obsessed with fancy-Dan backline play. The idea that we had to secure good possession before we could toss it around flamboyantly, took a very, very long time to penetrate the brain.

Would the players from league have alleviated this problem? Only partially. The best & toughest league props were rarely particularly big men. So, although they would have brought fire & brimstone to the pack, size & technique would often still be missing, even if they grew up on union.

Keep in mind also, it took the Kangaroos until the 1970s before they began beating the British Lions on a regular basis. And I think it wasn’t until the 1990s that the Roos finally went ahead on the win-loss register.

Still, it would have been a nice problem to have, being able to select the best available from all our outstanding union & league players throughout history.

As for the future, I doubt if I’ll see a merger or takeover in my time (I’m almost mid-60s). But then again, if enough people think they can make a pile of money from a merger/takeover, it’ll happen in the blink of an eye.

It is time for the rugby codes to reunite

Harry,

2 tries in the last 10 mins after the Boks have suffocated them with 30-40 odd points.

Can Japan repeat the Brighton Miracle at the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

Nick,

“Can Japan repeat the Brighton miracle at the 2019 rugby world cup”?

No.

Can Japan repeat the Brighton Miracle at the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

Hullo Dublin Dave,

Trust you are well. While the Irish heritage in me might be hoping for an upset, my feet are grounded in reality. NZ will beat Ireland & England will beat Australia.

Of course, long ago David upset Goliath against the odds, but that’s because Goliath was arrogant, overconfident & complacent. Had Goliath been wary, watchful & vigilant, David would have got nowhere.

That’s the true moral of the tale – be vigilant, not complacent.

NZ very rarely let their guard down, because they’re conditioned to win everything. They had their ‘down tools’ moment against the Wallabies in Perth recently. That won’t happen again for quite a few years.

England will also be suitably motivated. Four years ago they tanked in their pool when they were expected to top it. Also, assistant coach John Mitchell will remind them of what happened to his ABs back in 2003 when they didn’t give the Wallabies sufficient respect in their semi-final clash.

The same will happen in the South Africa-Japan game. The Brave Blossoms might have blindsided the Boks four years ago, but the Boks are fully awake this time. They will employ their famous boa constrictor tactics on Japan, suffocating them of possession & space.

The only quarter-final up for grabs is Wales-France, where Les Blues are the one team capable of defying form & just about everything else. Although, I still expect Wales to prevail.

So that’s it for me, England & NZ to meet in one semi-final, & SA & Wales to meet in the other semi-final.

Law of averages could be a worry for New Zealand

Highlander,

When word reaches Eddie’s ears that Highlander, the sharp-eyed rugby aficionado, says he has blinked, he will allow himself a quiet smile of satisfaction.

That’s precisely what he wants his opponents to think…

Eddie Jones proves two can play at the selection surprise game with England team announcement

Highlander – I rate Farrell, always have.

Eddie Jones proves two can play at the selection surprise game with England team announcement

Gee, not a bad side when the likes of Marler, Cole, Kruis, Joseph & especially Ford are on the bench.

Eddie Jones proves two can play at the selection surprise game with England team announcement

Hi Spiro,
I would caution against any comments along the lines of: “Japan has done more than enough to now be regarded as a fully fledged tier one nation”.
We all thought the same when the magnificently combative Canucks took the game to the mighty All Blacks in their quarter-final back in 1991.
Where is Canada today?????????? 28 years have passed & the state of Canadian rugby couldn’t be more parlous.
I agree with you that each world cup writes its own narrative as it unfolds. This is so true. The Brave Blossoms are riding their own tsunami of nationalistic fervour.
But I would like to see Japan beat the ‘big 8’ consistently away from home before declaring “they have arrived”.
Before the world cup began, Romania was good enough to be a ‘final 8’ contender in the late 70s & early 80s. Remember, they lost only 6-14 to the ABs in 1980. Where are they now?
Fiji have been around on the international stage since the end of WW2 but never threatened as a ‘final 8’ contender. Where are they now? Sure, still winning 7s tournaments, but out of their depth in XVs.
Samoa rocked the world at successive world cups in 1991 & 95, with their NZ-inspired power plays. Where are they now?
Argentina has progressed steadily, while Italy, despite enjoying ‘6 Nations’ status, has demonstrated little improvement in 20 years. Where are they right now!
From the lofty heights of 1991, Canadian rugby has reversed faster than an Italian WW2 tank! No, it is much too early to be suggesting Japan “has arrived”.
What they have achieved thus far is most impressive, but they still have a long way to go to reach “critical mass”.

Whatever happens next, the Brave Blossoms have changed Japanese rugby forever

Nick,

There’s a great story of Don Bradman meeting the West Indies cricket team in their pomp during the 1988/89 series. Bradman had recently turned 80.

As he walked around the dressing room shaking hands, he remarked how he would have struggled against such a fantastic pace battery.

Patrick Patterson, built like a Panzer tank, brutally fast but not necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed, was impressed.

“Wow”, he said, “do you really think you would have struggled against us”?

Bradman allowed a suitable dramatic pause to pass before replying, “Well, you must understand, I am now 80 years old”.

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

Nick,

As good as Mike Hawker was beside Mark Ella, & later Mike Lynagh (only briefly), one of my greatest regrets was not seeing Wally Lewis in a Wallaby jumper, & especially playing at #12 between Ella (#10) & Mick O’Connor (#13).

Lewis could do anything Hawker or Lynagh could do, but was so much better.

That would be rugby heaven, & even moreso when you chuck David Campese & Brendan Moon on the wings & Roger Gould at fullback.

It was chronologically feasible in the early to mid 80s, but sadly, didn’t happen.

Those who were around then, & see what the Wallabies dish up today, well, you might understand the frustration & regret that these spindly amateur guys from the 80s would have run rings around these gigantum pro behemoths of today in terms of skill & nous.

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

Hunters – I still think AAC is past his use-by date. Just my opinion.

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

Bigbaz – certainly agree with this.

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

Yeah Ken

I know, & I was also stirring the pot. Cheers!

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

PeterK,

The 1977/78 schoolboys coach Geoff Mould whose team included 3 Ella brothers, Wally Lewis, Mick O’Connor, Mike Hawker, Tony Melrose & Dom Vaughan (all Wallabies with Lewis a revered Kangaroo & O’Connor a dual international), instructed his team to “never kick”.

This might have been sound at this level, where the emphasis was to develop the attacking skills of the players (not that these guys needed much instruction in this area).

But to not kick at senior level, & especially at test level, is really quite dumb.

Stats show the ABs (best attacking team in world) apparently kick most often & a thoughtful attacking kick (chip, grubber, up & under, cross, centre) is often shown to be quite effective in breaking the defensive line.

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

Bigbaz,

As Nick has pointed out, since other nations are moving away from 4 jumpers back to 3, the Pooper combination now makes more sense than previously.

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

Why’s AAC even in the mix? He’s about 85 years old now!

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

Ken,

You been visiting the fairy tales section of your local library?

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

PeterK,

Interesting you say WBs have edge in pack. I have enough confidence in WBs pack to seek parity, but I wouldn’t think they’re any better.

But England are smarter, both on-field & off-field with their coaching. Who would’ve believed Eddie Jones & John Mitchell working together for England!

England shouldn’t require reminding the importance to guard against complacency or over-confidence. There’s enough players who were part of the disastrous 2015 campaign backing up, I think.

Besides, Mitchell will also remind them how his 2003 ABs expected to easily account for the WBs, but were given a rude reckoning.

I can only see England losing if they fail to bring their A game.

Wallabies (lineout) rising: Rugby World Cup quarter-final hope against England

Is Nobody even a person?

The Wrap: Japan’s Blossoms do rugby and their people proud

Jibba Jabba,
“Why on earth would you need to be accountable to the country you are born in?”
Must be wonderful to live in a country where you can be anything, & do anything, & not feel any allegiance, or responsibility, or accountability to that country.
One day when the Chinese invade us (for our living space & resources), or perhaps even the Indonesians (they won’t need weapons, just out-populate us), all those people living off the hog in Australia might have to decide pretty quickly who they are, & what they stand for.
War/invasion, etc, has a wonderful way of concentrating the mind…..

The Wrap: Japan’s Blossoms do rugby and their people proud

MitchO,

Thanks for that. Leitch’s background was pointed out to me & I think it is terrific he identifies as Japanese. No problem there.

The Wrap: Japan’s Blossoms do rugby and their people proud