I might as well start off by saying this question isn’t going to be answered in this blog post, but I want to see what all of you think is the best rugby moment ever. Of course this is all about personal preference, and everybody that has ever supported rugby has a moment that they [...]
A rugby related video here. Twickenham plays host to the Top Gear crew in what most be the most machine filled game of rugby ever.
Hats off to the WRU! That’s not always the most common phrase used by Welsh regional rugby supporters but today’s Easter weekend Judgement Day in the Millennium Stadium was a well organised, enjoyed and thought out idea. As a Dragons supporter, losing in a good game to the Scarlets, I was impressed with the amount [...]
Don’t get left out of the Scrum Very few sporting occasions can match the atmosphere of a top-flight rugby match. The sheer size, skill and physicality of the players can often make for clashes of gladiatorial proportions, making it one of the most exciting of all spectator sports. This year may be drawing to a [...]
I might as well start off by saying this question isn’t going to be answered in this blog post, but I want to see what all of you think is the best rugby moment ever. Of course this is all about personal preference, and everybody that has ever supported rugby has a moment that they cherish above all others.
My favourite moment has to be Shane Williams’ try against France to give Wales the lead in the 2008 Grand Slam match. It was an hour in with the score 9-9 and a loose pass by a French player looked as if it was going to be pounced upon, but not with the intensity we saw when Shane kicked it forward and won a foot race against the French players ahead of him before just getting to the ball over the try line before the defence could. This lead was then maintained with kicks from Stephen Jones and then a last break away try from Martyn Williams. It is one of my first memories of watching a rugby match and I always think of it as my favourite moment. However it is only a tight winner over certain Welsh moments in the 2011 World Cup and the Six Nations win over England in the tournament this year.
So, that was my favourite moment, what is yours? The point of the post is to see what everybody else thinks is the best moment of rugby they have ever witnessed. Leave a comment below!
A rugby related video here. Twickenham plays host to the Top Gear crew in what most be the most machine filled game of rugby ever.
Hats off to the WRU! That’s not always the most common phrase used by Welsh regional rugby supporters but today’s Easter weekend Judgement Day in the Millennium Stadium was a well organised, enjoyed and thought out idea. As a Dragons supporter, losing in a good game to the Scarlets, I was impressed with the amount of fans, not just from Newport, that turned out in the capital to see their teams play. The crowd was lively and the atmosphere was great considering the teams have extremely varying targets and ambitions for the remainder of the season. When it comes to local rugby, rivalry is always more important that the league standings. The Welsh regions have struggled in many departments as of late and this day really has brought much more spirit into the regional game. Let’s just hope the WRU try this again and don’t let it be a one off success.
It looks like some referees fancy their chances as players!
Don’t get left out of the Scrum
Very few sporting occasions can match the atmosphere of a top-flight rugby match. The sheer size, skill and physicality of the players can often make for clashes of gladiatorial proportions, making it one of the most exciting of all spectator sports.
This year may be drawing to a close but the season is already in full swing and fans can rest assured they are in for a real feast of rugby in 2013. In England, Harlequins and Saracens are setting the pace in the Aviva Premiership displacing for now the traditional powerhouse teams Leicester, Bath and Gloucester.
In the Rabodirect Pro12, Brian O’Driscoll’s Leinster team are making the early running with their traditional rivals Munster not far behind. Leinster got one over the men from Thomond Park in October so the rematch in April is likely to be something to savour. The tussle between the Welsh and Scottish regions look set to be equally exciting with the Swansea-based Ospreys returning to form and the robust Glasgow squad chalking up some notable wins so far.
January sees the culmination of the Heineken Cup’s group stages. French teams Toulouse, Toulon and Clermont have all made imposing starts to Europe’s premier rugby competition although Harlequins and Saracens are also fairing well. Sarries must however make the difficult trip to Racing Metro while Leicester will be looking to gain revenge for their defeat at Toulouse.
The LV Cup, which pits the best Welsh teams against their English counterparts, also boasts some mighty tussles with a mouth-watering double header in February set to be a highlight. The Ospreys take on an exciting Harlequins outfit at home while the Scarlets host English heavyweights Leicester at Parc-y-Scarlets.
The Six Nations, the showpiece of the rugby calendar, will see last year’s Grand Slam winners Wales seeking to retain their crown. The task for the Welsh looks tough however with a resurgent England squad – with new coach Stuart Lancaster at the helm – looking impressive. The strength of the Irish and Scottish forward packs is not to be discounted while France, who will be hugely disappointed with their performance last time, out, will be out for revenge.
This year, of course is British and Irish Lions year and thousands of fans are expected to make the long journey south to see their heroes take on the Australians in a thunderous three-match test series. The cream of the best rugby playing talent on these shores will also play seven other fixtures, including a one-off match in Hong Kong against the Barbarians.
Watching any top-flight sport these days isn’t cheap however and rugby unfortunately is no different. The cost of tickets, travel, pre and post match drinks (and snacks) can make for an expensive day out.
Have you thought about raising some money by de-cluttering the house and perhaps selling off one of those dozens of mobile phones you have stashed in your kitchen draw? You may be surprised at just how much you can raise if you decided to sell that samsung galaxy s you’ve been meaning to get rid of.
Dai Young has been selected to coach the Barbarians when they go head to head against the British and Irish Lions next year in Hong Kong. The game will be the warm-up match for the Lions and to say the players, playing under Welsh coach Warren Gatland, will be up for it is sure to be an understatement. The clash is going to be a game in which the Lions will be attempting to prove themselves as a solid and fully functional team, whilst also seeing certain individuals out to prove their worth in the eyes of the coaching staff. Dai Young collected 51 caps for Wales during his career and is currently placed at the Director of Rugby at London Wasps. He is no stranger to either side of this match, playing in all three tests during the Lions 2-1 victory over Australia in 1989, however Young has coached the Barbarians previous to this event. In 2011 he was the man in charge of the Barbarians during their wins over Wales and England. As well as the honour of coaching the invitational team against the Lions, he will also be in control for the annual clash against England, which takes place on May 26th 2013. But Young has described the opportunity to play the Lions in their first tour game as “the icing on the cake.” Goodluck to Young, as what he faces in Hong Kong is not going to be an easy feat no matter what players he can call upon for this monumentous event.
RugbyUnionBlog was one year old on Wednesday! Hence, I am giving away a Weight Training Program worth $49.00, thanks to Pro Training Programs. To enter you simply have to comment below saying ‘Competition’ and provide a valid email address in order for me to contact you if you have won. To check out the programme you can follow this link and make sure you check out the whole website. I will choose the winner by using a plugin on the 14th November. When you comment, if it does not appear straight away, do not worry as it is being moderated and all comments will be accepted as long as they are not double entries. Good luck!
The following is a guest post by Tim Cronin
The All Blacks completed a clean-sweep of the Rugby Championship on the weekend, winning the inaugural season of the re-vamped Southern Hemisphere tournament and moving several steps closer to the world record of 18 consecutive test-match victories. But were the New Zealanders really that good, or was the whole competition in general suffering from ‘Post-World Cup Blues’?
While the world champions may have finished the competition light-years ahead of their opponents, they weren’t as dominant as the final table perhaps suggests. Sure, they comfortably dispatched the Wallabies in their first two matches, but in both encounters they failed to really put their trans-Tasman foes to the sword.
They didn’t necessarily deserve their win over the Springboks in Dunedin, and were outplayed for much of the game in atrocious conditions at home against Argentina. They did finish strongly though, playing with flair and confidence in the return match against Los Pumas, and dispatching the Springboks in clinical fashion in the Republic in the final round.
But there are plenty of work-ons for the coaching staff as they eye the Northern Hemisphere Tour at the end of the year. An expansive, attack-minded gameplan won’t always work for the All Blacks, particularly on the softer turfs of the UK, and they desperately need to develop depth in both the midfield and the loose-forwards.
But at least the Kiwis have some silverware in their cabinet. Sneaking in to second place in the final standings, the Wallabies were the team who attracted the most criticism over the course of the competition. Robbie Deans has obviously failed to connect with his players and the Australian Rugby Union as a whole, a point emphasized in the media by star play-maker Quade Cooper.
But it wasn’t just discontent in the camp that threatened to completely derail the Wallabies’ campaign. Over the last few months they have been subjected to one of the worst injury streaks I can remember, the wounded players all being crucial members of their side.
The Wallabies certainly weren’t great, and I think Deans will struggle to keep his job, but I think they showed heart and pride to win their last game in hostile conditions in South America, and they’ll be a much different, and better side, once their star players recover from their injuries.
The Springboks are another side who attracted intense criticism from their own fans and media, directed both at their conservative game-plan and their inability to dominate sides physically, an aspect of the game South African sides have always prided themselves on.
But I don’t necessarily think the ‘Boks are in bad shape. New coach Heneke Meyer was always going to need some time to ease his way in to the role, and, after seeing his original game plan fail he showed that he can adapt and evolve, the side which played the Australians and the New Zealanders in the final two rounds a vastly improved one from that which took the field in the first four games.
He’s blooded a wealth of young players, most notably in the pivot role and at loose-forward, and those players will have benefitted immensely from their time in the Springbok jersey. Yes, they underperformed, but I think the young talent that is emerging in South Africa at the moment is exciting enough to suggest great things lie just around the corner for the mighty ‘Boks.
The team I’m most concerned for is Argentina. On face value it looks like things couldn’t be better for Los Pumas, and they definitely made their mark on the Championship this year.
But they are a team that rely on emotion to keep them competitive in big games. They pump themselves up, particularly in front of their home crowd, and tear in to the fray. The result is aggressive, brutal and confrontational. But it’s also exhausting, and not once was this approach sustainable for 80-minutes, or sufficient to get them over the line and secure a win.
My fear is that next year, without the emotion of their debut season in the ‘big time’, and with the added weight of expectation on their shoulders following a number of impressive performances this season, they will find the going much tougher.
The Pumas played out of their skins this year, but the fact remains that they are a team with limitations – while effective in contact their forwards are undeniably one-dimensional, while their backs lack the genuine flair of the other nations in the Championship. They will improve in these areas, but that won’t happen over night, and I think the 2013 tournament will be a tough one for the brave Argentinians.
All in all, while there was some exciting, entertaining rugby played, the standard of the competition was not what it could have been. The world champions won without playing outstanding football, and it could be said that they were simply the best of four teams that all underperformed. That’s just the way the international game seems to go in the year directly following the world cup though, and I think the Northern Hemisphere sides will find themselves in similar form when the Southern Hemisphere nations tour at the end of the year.
The following post is a guest post by Tim Cronin.
Yes, I realise that the 2015 World Cup is a long way away, but I’m sure that somewhere in the back of his mind, All Blacks’ coach Steve Hansen is looking ahead, and I daresay that his current squad, and the talent he is introducing to it, holds a number of hints as to the way he is thinking about the future of New Zealand rugby.
The NZRFU seems to have finally got their player retention right. While they normally lose a host of players following the World Cup this year there are only really three of note – Mils Muliana, who, while a great servant to NZ rugby, had reached his used by date anyway; Jerome Kaino, who is a big loss, and the money-hungry Sonny Bill Williams, who was always going to leave anyway. But of the players that are left, who will still be around in 2015, and who’s likely to be in the side which seeks to become the first country in the history of the Web Ellis Cup to retain their title as World Champions?
In the front-row, Owen Franks is the first name that will be written down. Brother Ben Franks is still likely to be competing at the highest level as well, but the other two veterans who are currently in the mix, Tony Woodcock and Wyatt Crockett, could be pushing their luck to be available in 3 years time.
Fortunately there is a host of young propping talent in the New Zealand system, including gigantic Chiefs’ prop Ben Tameifuna and two Aucklanders, the versatile Charlie Faumuina and the highly promising Ofa Tu’ungafasi, a member of the NZ U20 side and a player with almost unlimited potential.
Lock is a no-brainer, and will only change in the case of injuries, with Sam Whitelock destined to be the senior member of the second-row, and Luke Romano and Brodie Rettalick beside him.
Keiran Read will be at number 8, and I believe he will be the captain of the side by then. Richie McCaw subjects his body to far too much brutality during the course of a season, has already lost his top-end speed, and I fail to see how he can make the World Cup in 3 years time, no matter how determined the courageous leader may be.
That leaves both openside and blindside flanker up for grabs, and to be honest the cupboard is pretty bare. NZRFU officials will be praying that young Sam Cane continues to develop physically, as he appears to be the best bet at the moment, but looked ridiculously small compaired to the rest of the ‘adults’ when he made his test debut against Ireland earlier this year.
Matt Todd continues to stand-out for Canterbury and the Crusaders, but the All Blacks’ selectors seem to have gone cold on him. At Blinside there is further debut, with neither Liam Messam or Victor Vito having seized their opportunities in the black jersey when they had them.
Counties-Manukau have a young player by the name of Jimmy Tupou who is a prodigious talent. Capable of playing in the second row as well, he is big and robust, runs hard and is mobile, and possesses sensational ball skills. He is definitely one to watch, as is Number 8 Jordan Taufua, currently on-loan to Tasman but contracted to Canterbury. These two youngster may well feature in the All Black mix in the next two years.
At halfback there is a wealth of talent, and I think the three number 9s that will head to the 2015 tournement are in the system already. As long as Aaron Smith stays injury free he has a decorated All Black career ahead of him. He is so much better than anyone we’ve seen in New Zealand in recent years at halfback that I’m convinced he’ll play 80+ games in the famous black jersey. Wellington’s TJ Peranara and Waikato’s Tawera Kerr-Barlow are both exciting talents who will also be there or there-abouts.
The big question mark lies at ten. Can Dan Carter make it to the next World Cup? I am doubtful, but whereas in past years that would have been terrifying to an All Black fan, the coming-of-age of Aaron Cruden in this year’s Super XV means New Zealand rugby now has a genuine replacement for Carter at first-five. Additionally, Taranaki and Hurricanes’ pivot Beauden Barrett continues to go from strength to strength.
In the midfield there is a lack of depth, although I genuinely believe Sonny Bill Williams will show up on the scene again just in time to throw his name in the selection hat. If Conrad Smith is still around he is the only other potential captain other than Read, while Nonu could also make 2015, although I think that probably hinges on how strong the lure of money overseas becomes.
Richard Kahui will be young enough to feature, but the injury-prone utility back just cannot seem to get consistent game-time under his belt, and while he is obviously a big talent, remains somewhat of an unknown.
If he can sort his fitness out (an issue brought about by on-going medical problems with his heart), and iron out some defensive deficiencies, Robbie Freuan’s boots could fill the blockbusting, game-breaking spot that SBW has now vacated, while Rene Ranger remains a diamond in the rough, and New Zealand would certinaly benefit from seeing him ‘get his head screwed on properly’.
In the outside backs there is a wealth of talent. Israel Dagg is the incumbent fullback, but if Hurricanes’ fullback Andre Taylor continues to develop his game Dagg could have some stern competition for the starting jersey. Ben Smith will be an asset to New Zealand rugby for a number of years, his versatility and reliability only now becoming fully appreciated.
Corey Jane is young enough to make 2015, as is Zac Guildford, while Julian Savea is a player that the current coaches obviously like. Hosea Gear is an interesting one, and only time will tell how long he is prepared to put up with the unpredictability that has shrouded his career at the top level before he packs it in and heads off shore to chase a big pay-day.
All in all New Zealand is on track in terms of player development, although some areas such as loose-forward and midfield need urgent attention before they become real concerns heading in to the defence of their World Crown in 2015.
What are your thoughts about the future of the All Blacks? Do you agree with Tim? Make sure to comment below!
A comment from George
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This is not new news I know, but just a quick thought that now the London 2012 Olympics has started I can’t help but think that rugby is surely going to benefit from making it’s, in my opinion, late debut as an Olympic sport at Rio 2016. The mass exposure that rugby, even though in the sevens form, will obtain is most likely going to be a catalyst for the introduction of rugby in those countries who have yet to discover rugby or recognise it as a major sport. This in turn will hopefully lead to rugby as a whole having more participants at all levels and see more countries breaking into the international stage. However that is four years away and between now and the introduction of rugby as an Olympic sport we have one Olympics, one World Cup, one Lions Tour and one Commonwealth games to enjoy.