Neutral November - Wales - Green and Gold Rugby

Neutral November – Wales

Neutral November – Wales

It’s November, the time for some midnight Wallaby action. How will they think of ways to waste our time with needless red cards this year? Answers on a postcard please.

This November I think I’m going to hedge my bets and come at this 3-5 week international break as a neutral. And by that, I mean I’ll keep up to date on all the other games happening, between teams you only see at the World Cup – and some you haven’t heard of.

I genuinely enjoy this time of year; it’s interesting for me to see the results and some highlights of the other international teams, to see how they’re improving or regressing, or just what’s going on. And obviously it’s a nice time to choose the next ship to jump to when the SS ARU sinks.

Technically, the 3 week international window starts this weekend. Sometimes it can start one week earlier and last one week longer. So you could say I’m late, but whatever I’m going to rifle through the games this weekend and try to add some of my uninformed opinions to each team just for fun.

What Happened Last Week

The All Blacks, who had stayed in Japan another week, put out a second string but still belted the Brave Blossoms 69-31. 31’s still a huge score to put against the Kiwis, even though there were eight debutants for the Darkness. One of them was Melbourne-raised Tyrel Lomax – guess he’s not coming back now.

Wales beat Scotland in Cardiff, 21-10. This was just a random test match the two nations put together for some reason – it wasn’t attached to the Six Nations at all. There was a bit of dismay in parts, because a Welsh club team was playing a Scottish club team in an important club match on the same weekend. Proof that deliberate fixture overlapping isn’t something unique to Australian rugby!

But what’s important is that Wales is now the second best team in Europe – and the competition is much stronger than when they were the best team 6 years ago. Scotland aren’t at all a bad side. Wales won’t be easy beats on Saturday.

England beat South Africa 12-11 in a game I didn’t see, while Ireland thumped Italy 54-7. People are saying Italy is getting better but what the hell have their union been doing since they got admitted into the Five Nations in 2000? They’re now ranked 14th, behind Fiji, Japan, Tonga and Georgia.

The Games This Weekend


They’re playing Wales. The Wallabies have won all games between the two, going back to 543 BC or something.

However, Wales are getting better and Warren Gatland is beginning to add something to their attack other crashballs. Gatland coached the Lions to victory against the All Blacks 3 years ago – is he finally beginning to adapt?

This Welsh team game second in the Six Nations this year. Ireland grand-slammed (5 wins from 5), while Scotland tied the Welsh for 3 wins (Wales beat Scotland who beat England who beat Wales). So they’re no one to sneer at.

Check out Shane’s preview here.

England vs All Blacks

As discussed on the pod, Hugh is quite right that this is half the game that it would have been 18 months ago when England were on top.

Since then, the cart has wobbled quite a bit. They were beaten by Scotland 25-13 this year, which would be very funny if the Wallabies hadn’t been. England also had a massive panic when Italy deliberately stopped engaging the ruck in their 2017 game.

Hopefully this game won’t be the ABs running away with it.

Italy vs Georgia – GAME OF THE WEEK

After the Six Nations is the Rugby Europe International Championships, which Georgia have won about the last 10 times in a row. So they’ll be salivating like Homer Simpson to take on perennial sixth-placed Italy of the Six Nations to show everyone that the Six Nations should expand. (It won’t though, for money reasons).

If you haven’t caught any of Georgia’s games in the past couple of years, you’ve missed out. They have national obsession with the scrum; the buffet industry must be booming in Tbilisi. Check out their squad list, and you’ll see Toulon, Wasps, Racing Metro (Paris) and other Top 14 clubs there, and the Sunwolves, next to many of their forwards.

If you look at their backline only three players – centre Tamaz Mchedlidze (Agen) and 22 year-old scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze (Brive) – have got some game time at tier 1 clubs. And even then, Lobzhanidze has only played 20 games. However. they’re slowly accepting that backs are an important part of the game and their play is beginning to show for it. Just check out this try from last year:

Another sign of their growing power is the u20 Georgian side overpowering the u20 Irish earlier this year in the u20 World Cup.

Italy on the other hand, are Italy. They were trounced by a 1.5 string Irish team in Chicago and will be facing a Georgian side eager to prove themselves.

The Italians are, like Georgia, slowly getting better. Their two teams, Benetton and Treviso, are managing to snap a couple of wins in the Pro 14, probably helped by the inclusion of the woeful Kings and Cheetahs (who both sit bottom of their respective conferences).

But, while Scotland, Wales and Ireland have all zoomed off in front of them, Italy still remain far far behind. They’re getting a bit skittish, or justifiably annoyed however you want t0 look at it, about the upcoming game and talk of a 7 Nations with Italy coach Conor O’Shea (4 wins in 22) calling the talk ‘tripe’ and ‘rubbish’.

Either way, should be a cracker.

Other Big Games

France will be playing South Africa 3 hours after the Wallabies game. I don’t know what to expect from France, but after their recent improvements against All Blacks and disappointment against England the Boks will be hoping for an easy win. It’d be so good if France were good again, but their club culture is a bigger obstacle to the FFR than the state thing is to the ARU.

Ireland’s playing Argentina. The Pumas are definitely back on the path towards being a solid side under Mario “Mendoza” Ledesma, after Daniel Hourcade’s reign fizzled them out. However, Ireland are as good as the Kiwis now so it really should be an easy win for them.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s doing their bit for international rugby, playing Fiji at Murrayfield. USA is playing Samoa in Spain, not sure why but it is what it is. The ancestral homeland of half of the Wallabies squad Tonga is also playing the French Barbarians in Bordeaux.

World Cup Qualifying


The captains of Germany, Canada, Kenya and Hong Kong standing awkwardly in Marseille

The repechage tournament – in other words, the wild card competition – is also on this weekend.

Canada, Germany, Hong Kong and Kenya will play a round robin over the next three weeks, in Marseille, to decide who will go to Japan.

First up, Hong Kong is playing Germany before Canada takes to Kenya. The Canadians, despite being ranked lower than Hong Kong (23rd vs 21st) will be favourites to win, but lately their standing has fallen considerably.

The really interesting story from this is Germany (ranked 29th). I’ve already written how they Steven Bradbury’d their way into the repechage tournament. The short version is, every team but Georgia and Russia and Germany were disqualified for playing ineligible players. Germany finished rock bottom, after their billionaire benefactor pulled all funding – and all the good players – from the German union.

Now, the benefactor (Hans-Peter Wild) and the union have made up, and Germany’s going to give it a red crack. If they don’t succeed, well then everyone will probably lose their jobs.

It’d also be great to see an East African nation like Kenya get more involved in rugby, as their 7s side has always been a joy to watch. They’re ranked higher than Germany (28th), so hopefully the rankings will foreshadow a close contest.and

Other Small Games

Russia is taking on Namibia in Russia (both teams will be at the RWC next year), while Brazil is taking on the Maori All Blacks. The MABs played and beat the Americans in America last week, so they’ll no doubt prefer having this holiday than playing NPC or whatever it is they do.

Main fixtures


Italy Georgia 1am 1230am 12am 1130pm 10pm
Scotland Fiji 130am 1am 1230am 12am 1030pm
England New Zealand 2am 130am 1am 1230am 11pm
French BaaBaas Tonga 2am 130am 1am 1230am 11pm
Wales Australia 420am 350am 320am 250am 120am
USA Samoa 430am 400am 330am 300am 130am
Ireland Argentina 530am 500am 430am 400am 230am
France South Africa 700am 630am 600am 530am 400am
  • skip

    Rob simmons post card:

    Even if he receives no card, he generally absents himself from the game anyway.

    • Who?

      Can’t believe anyone’s making Simmons card jokes when Latu’s had two in a row!

      • skip

        It’s about how he doesn’t contribute, card or no card………..

        • Who?

          Stereotypes… Don’t watch the last game.

  • Alister Smith

    That first try is unbelievable – there is no way that ball isn’t going dead before he gets there….but he get’s it. I think I would be putting some kryponite in his shorts if I was playing against him.

    I have only been once myself but I think the lads in the Maori All Blacks will enjoy the scenery in Sao Paulo City after the game tonight – some of the most beautiful ladies in the world and, with a population of 20 mln in the greater city area, no shortage of them. Then down to Santos beach on Sunday for the recovery no doubt.

    • Greg

      That try is indeed unbelievable.

      So to, the Farrell shoulder charge!

      • Who?

        Nothing in it. He’s low, he’s got both arms forward looking to wrap, the ball carrier lowered himself into the tackler and led with both shoulders. That type of ball carrying is as much a shoulder charge as anything you see in defence… How else are you supposed to tackle someone entering contact like that?

        • Greg

          With your arms? :-)

        • Who?

          Yeah, sure………. The question is more technical than that. How are you meant to position your body? You could argue that you go low, but in doing that, with the crossfield run, you open yourself up to being stepped if you lead with your left shoulder, or copping a knee in the face if you lead with your right. Farrell went higher and went with his right shoulder. That wasn’t technically the correct option, he could’ve gone in roughly the same height but with the left shoulder, which could’ve opened the ball carrier up, but Farrell’s done the typical ‘back’ thing and tried to make a dominant shoulder tackle (i.e. he’s a right hander, he’s trying to tackle on his right shoulder). But with a cross field runner, you can’t go in too low, as you’ll get stepped too easily.
          In going in high, both the tackler and ball carrier have led with their ‘hard parts’, their shoulders (and the ball), and so the collision’s been pretty elastic. They’ve bounced. If one had buckled a little, they’d have stayed in contact longer, and an arm might’ve managed to bind. But they didn’t. And it’s even tougher to bind when the ball carrier’s entering contact side on and you’re putting your head in front of his shoulder. It’s a long way to reach, especially in such a short distance.
          End of the day, the ball carrier lowered himself into the contact and Farrell was making a clear attempt to wrap with his left arm. Any attempt to wrap with his right arm was prevented by the ball carrier’s fend in the action of the tackle (look at 1:05 in the clip). It’s quite arguable that the ball carrier was showing a bigger shoulder than Farrell. I’ve no issue with Gus’ call. I’ve got a much bigger issue with ball carriers running like that (and that includes going back to the way Julian Savea used to do similarly, except lower, so he could merge his elbows and knees. It wasn’t safe. I don’t like League, but I do respect the fact they penalize players who lift their knees out of stride going into contact.).

  • andrewM

    ‘Some Midnight Wallaby action’ Nick? Not sure if I know anyone else with a Macropod fetish..
    I haven’t kept an eye on the progress of the Cheetahs and Kings in Pro 14 – are they really that bad?

    • BigNickHartman

      Pro 14 has some pretty average teams – Ireland and Wales both have 4 so there’s a few gaps. Plus, there’s two Italian teams. Both the Kings and Cheetahs are bottom, with 1 or 2 wins only between. Bad news

  • GeorgiaSatellite

    Thanks for the write-up, Nick. I can tell you that the food is indeed plentiful here in Tbilisi. And bloody good too. I was at that Canada game – marvellous stuff. Coach Milton Haig (he’s a Kiwi, but a good bloke despite that) reckons the Lelos are underdogs due to a number of injuries (and playing in Florence), but are up for the challenge. Lobzhanidze is a real talent. I saw him at the U20s tourno played here last year and he kicked a penalty from behind halfway. Big boot for a little fella. The scrum is so good that the Welsh cheated in Cardiff last year when a prop was carded (the guy he replaced had been warming up on the sidelines, but all of a sudden became ‘injured’ when the YC was shown with a scrum on their 5-metre line at the death).

  • Parker

    I’m listening to a radio commentary of the game in Cardiff and I’m losing it. It sounds like we are going from mistake to mistake. Can’t believe we didn’t take the shot at goal. What a pathetic bit of captaincy. Sounds like our attack and defence were coached by the Keystone cops. What a debacle.

  • laurence king

    Well, the Wallabies showed nothing. The backs just shuffled the balled sideways so they’ve learnt nothing since the Argentinian game. And Simmons and Hannigan came on and knocked on and gave up the game deciding penalty, What Shimmanigons.

    • Geoffro

      Shite rugby from both sides.Pocock and Genia the only 2 with reps intact.That rubbish Wales side probably should have won by more given H/penny very uncharacteristic misses.On the basis of that it will be a bloodbath against the Poms.

      • laurence king

        Well Cheika’s appalling management of this side has seen them slide down the rankings and one wonders if even Italy will be a bridge too far. Castle’s mandate for success was three wins and it looks like one will probably be all we’ll get. I’m sort of cynically interested in what Cheika’s got to say about this loss

        • Geoffro

          He needs to keep his mouth shut and make some changes quick,he couldn’t possibly spin that performance.Beale needs to be dropped right out of the side he’s so far of his game and the only reason to keep Foley is we’ve no other flyhalves but bench him.After that performance we’re likely to see AAC – what a mess,shitty lineout,butterfingered forwards,scrum falling apart, nil penetration in the backs,no gameplan (but according to the captain they did train well during the week so he’s very disappointed they lost – what crap)

      • Parker

        It was a cripples’ match

        • laurence king

          Well, in the Wallabies case we know what’s disabling them or I should say who.

    • NickAJW

      I just don’t even know what to say. After the first 20 minutes I actually wanted is to lose, even though I would have preferred them to decide to start playing sensibly and win…

      I honestly think that our players are just legitimately looking worse. Watching Scotland, Ireland, and England it makes me wonder with the cattle we have, how can we be so bad. It’s almost like they’re knackered the whole time or something.

      • Parker

        Maybe it’s an inappropriate conditioning/training regimen

      • Geoffro

        The only one who knows his job is Pocock.I don’t reckon they’re knackered,they just look like a bunch of headless chooks.

        • laurence king

          I think you just described Beale’s performance to a T


Hopes to play David Pocock in the inevitable biopic. Lifelong fan of whoever Jarrad Hayne is currently playing for.

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