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Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesday’s Rugby News

Tuesday’s Rugby News has news of a special one’s return – and unfortunately it is not Jesse Mogg. There’s also Randwick news, Cheika news, and Miller Time.


Skelton Back?

Will Skelton yellow card against Scotland

Michael Cheika was in the airport yesterday and so was the media, asking him questions about who he will select for the World Cup. The 31-man squad is set to be revealed on Friday.

One name Cheika blurted out was Will Skelton, who has been receiving rave reviews playing for Saracens. Asked what names might still be up for selection Cheika said:

“(Jack) Dempsey, (Tom) Robertson, not sure even if Will Skelton is still on the table.”

“We’ll have a look and see what the discussion is there over the next day or two, before the squad is selected. If the situation about coming back to Australia is any clearer.”

Asked if he was serious, Cheika backed himself up.

“He would be, if his contract situation was right, to meet the rules,” Cheika said.

“That would be the only way, and look, that’s highly unlikely right now with only a day or two to go. But more to pick from, the more options that gives us all the time.”

Since May there has been chat that Skelton was being dangled a shiny carrot by RA, and it was originally reported that Size 43-shoe man wanted to come back in 2021.

Regardless, Cheika and the selection panel will look to trim the squad down to 31-man, deciding whether or not they’ll go with 2 hookers or 2 halfbacks, or if they’ll bring Jesse Mogg back into the fold by popular demand.

“There are still some highly competitive positions and again, it (rests) on the configuration of the squad, how many forwards to how many backs, the specialist positions – how many of those,” Cheika said.

“Without giving away too much you’d imagine they’ll be the first discussions had and from there we’ll decide which players, because that decides how many you’ll have in the rest of the squad.”

Winning Obsession

522382-wallaby-dan-crowley-amid-the-victorious-1998-bledisloe-cup-winners

Obsession! That’s what Michael Cheika (via rugby.com.au) reckons the Wallabies have to treat winning like…if they want win more or something.

“The attitude it takes, the preparation, how consistent you have to be, how obsessed you have to be, if you want to be a winner,” Cheika said, looking up from his copy of How To Be Succesful 101: The Jesse Mogg Story.

“Because, I will be honest, we weren’t terrible last night. We did a lot of good things but the key moments were dominated by the opposition and that part is when you’re on, and you’re really on and at the next level up, those key moments you take a lot of the time.

“And you could see the difference between the week before and this week, where those opportunities we took last week and we didn’t this week.

“If you break the game down, there were some key moments in areas we dominated last week, that we didn’t dominate as well this week. That was pretty clear right? So the knock-on effects lead to opportunities lost or taken.

“That consistency is really important for us. We know we can play at a good level but we want to play at a better level going into the Cup, and we know at that tournament there are seven games you want to get through with a W, so consistency is absolutely imperative.”

The last time the Wallabies went on a winning run was in 2017, when they won four games in a row. The last time they won five in a row was during the 2015 World Cup.

“We are hurting but that’s part of the character you get. You get back up now,” Cheika said.

“That’s what footy players do. The week before it was the other end of the spectrum.

“The key is to not believe too much of either. Always keep your feet on the ground, understand that most of the success you get comes from hard work. It’s from doing the things you don’t want to do.

“The hard sesssions and enjoying them, because in all walks of life that’s usually the way success is achieved.  If you look at the series overall, we had a better series than last year, we got one. We got a win on the board in this series, so that’s a positive. We want to improve and build on it.”

Miller It’s Time

Mighty Miller. Ably filling big shoes.

It’s time to change for the man they call Miller Time, aka Will “Miller Time” Miller, who’s decided that his time is up at the Waratahs and that Canberra shall now be the best place to grow his brand.

The Brumbies have signed the Waratahs flanker, in other words.

“With the departure of David Pocock, we wanted to bring in a backrower who has an on-ball presence and Will certainly will bring that,” Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar said in a release (via rugby.com.au)

“He is a very skilful player and a good link between the backs and forwards. He has the ability to play on an edge and he can be very creative in attack.

“Will has played a lot of rugby over the past few years and he’s played a significant role in the development of his club side Norths, helping them to a Premiership in the Shute Shield in 2016.

“He’s a good country boy who’s worked hard at club rugby to get his opportunity at Super Rugby level and has proven that he belongs at this level.”

Miller, who is originally from a cow berry farm near Berry, added that he’s super excited to join the team when the Venerable Jesse Mogg made his mark.

“I’m really excited to get down to Canberra and rip in,” Miller said.

“The Brumbies have had a spectacular year in 2019, and I look forward to helping build on that moving forward.”

Randwick on TV

Lautolo, Renie celebrates 240813D-2310.JPG

The much-discussed Argentina-Randwick World Cup warm up is set to be televised, according to a report in the SMH.

Apparently Fox Sports is planning to televise the 2:30pm game on 7 September, sandwiching it between the All Blacks vs Tonga game at 12:30pm, and an NRC game at 4:30pm. Completing the rugby extravaganza would be the Wallabies v Samoa game at 6:30pm.

It is expected that the NSWRU will help Randwick field as strong of a side as possible, with Sekope Kepu, Ned Hanigan and Rob Simmons all potentially made available. NRC players may also be given a release to play for the Galloping Greens. Will Harrison, Ben Donaldson, Mitch Short and former Wallaby hooker Adam Freier could also be on the team sheet.

It’s also expected for that the game and surrounding apartments around the beachside Coogee Oval will be crammed with spectators. While there was initially some concern over having the game on the same day as the Wallabies final home test, the SMH says that RA is doing all it can to make the game go as smoothly as possible, with busses to Parramatta even be put on to ferry supporters who aren’t scared of crossing over Anzac Parade.

The Pumas, who base themselves in Coogee when they’re visiting, decided to take up Randwick’s offer a game instead of game against Fiji.

  • juswal

    If Will Skelton is taken to Japan, forget about anyone staying in Australia to play Super Rugby and aim for the Wallabies. They’ll all know they should take long-term contracts overseas with a little window for the RWC.

    • Twoilms

      Super Rugby is done for regardless. The teams are all averaging below 10k fans per match. Not sustainable.

      • juswal

        We’re not ready to write off all Australia-based second tier rugby. I hope.

        • AllyOz

          If Super Rugby was to fall over we will still have something whether it be an NRC or an evolution/combination of Shute Shield Hospitals Cup. NSW and Qld would still be able to pick rep teams and Perth still has the Force while ever Twiggy’s generousity and Perth fans enthusiasm lasts. It would perhaps be less than ideal but it would be something to watch. We may have to endure some period of time like an A League type comp (with much lower total crowds and overall participation numbers) and our best players only being brought back for the test windows but I think there is limited capacity for Europe to absorb all players. Some accommodation would likely come about in an expanded Global Rapid Rugby or perhaps through allowances into ITM. We assume that abandoning Super Rugby will leave us with nothing but there was rugby here prior to 1996 and there will be something beyond 2020.

        • juswal

          Thanks for the considered response, Al. I think you’ve doubled my original concern: we’re not far from having all our full-time pros —not just the incumbent Wallabies —playing in the northern hemisphere.

          There will be no second tier (provincial, professional) here; the NRC will still be third tier and clubs will be fourth.

          And when it’s time to select a Wallabies squad, it will come from England and France. They’ll fly home for the Bledisloe matches and return promptly. The EOYT squad won’t start with a camp in Oz; they’ll be over there already.

        • AllyOz

          I can see a situation where that is the case.

          It won’t be good for our development overall, just producing players for other competitions and, if it was just for one competition, let’s say they all played in the UK, that would probably be better than scattered across Japan (which I see as a lower standard with limited match time), France and the UK (where it tends to be too much rugby from a player perspective).

          I think fears about Super rugby are real. The crowds and the interest are dropping off. I would offer just one correction in that, if there is no second tier then third tier becomes second tier but that is only semantics and what you really mean is that the level of rugby is the same. I don’t think that is sustainable.

          One thing that I am uncertain about though is how do European clubs pick good players if they don’t see them play super rugby or for the Wallabies. They seem to want, particularly in France and Japan, big names for their roster to draw the crowds. If we have no super rugby will they be paying big bucks for the Randwick 10 or the locks from Uni? I think, in between there somewhere, there is an equilibrium. While they may not acknowledge it, we do provide value to European and Japanese clubs by giving them known names. I can’t yet see the situation that there is in the Premier League Football where scouts come to Australia and take 14 year old kids into boarding schools and academies to develop in England but maybe that is the next step. I can sadly see a situation where the interest at the top level falls sufficiently for the GPS schools to fully abandon rugby and the public schools won’t pick up the slack and it then virtually dies out as kids go to AFL and League (and I think AFL wins that eventually).

          The biggest problem we have is that the Wallabies are the only level we have that pays for itself (until you get to the volunteer driven and amateur player level in clubs and schools). So in our current setup, apart from the $50 per player tariff on club players all or most revenue is driven by the Wallabies. We need our second tier to at least pay its own way and, if third tier is really sustainable it needs to get a lot closer to doing that too.

        • juswal

          The main threats to Super are outside Australia. South Africa’s franchises have other ambitions and the revenue from pay TV is drying up. The comp could disappear, regardless of the loss/lack of interest at ground level in Australia.

          Regarding the second vs third tier question, it’s not as straightforward as “if there is no second tier then third tier becomes second tier”. The first tier is international. The second tier is provincial and fully professional. The third tier is semi-pro and the fourth tier is the traditional club-level competitions.

          The lack of a third tier in Australian rugby was a problem for ages. We created the NRC (and the ARC before it) to fill the third-tier gap and provide a pathway from club to pro.

          If we lose the Super franchises and comp, it won’t turn the NRC into our second tier. The NRC will remain at the third tier and there will be a gap at the second tier. Our second tier players will all be in Japan and Europe.

          This scenario brings us back to your question: how will overseas second-tier clubs/franchises spot Australian talent if there is no Super comp? I couldn’t even speculate about that at this stage.

        • Who?

          I guess the question for French recruiters is, how did guys like Brock James and the like make it in France? There’s quite a few decent 10’s who never really saw any Super Rugby who were recruited to France. I’m not sure how that happened?

    • Huw Tindall

      Is Skelton signed for Premiership in 2021 or is he a Nick White type who has signed for RA but has this upcoming 19/20 Premiership season to run. Same as what Toomua did this year. If it’s the former then agree he shouldn’t be anywhere near the score. If he does a Nick White then not so bad although fact White has been available for the whole TRC makes a big difference.

      • sambo6

        im pretty sure its the former huw.

        also…while I was open to the idea 2 months ago, and bringing him in to have a look during TRC, picking him totally sight unseen, when the 4 locks in the squad have actually done alright would be an absolute joke. Cant see it happening.

        • Huw Tindall

          I’m leaning that way too Sambo. If he REALLY wanted to come back surely they would have done a deal pre TRC. Can’t parachute him in now no matter how good he is.

        • sambo6

          Yep, as good as sarries are (and I reckon easily as good as the top super sides)…..it’s not test rugby and will Skelton is not david pocock……

        • AllyOz

          While it has been an area of limited depth in the recent past, I agree, it seems to be one of the few areas where we have some real depth and quality at the moment. other areas where we have traditionally had some strength we look a little thin in.

      • Keith Butler

        With Kruis and Itoje tied to England for the RWC and the 2020, Skelton will be an integral part of the Saracens scrum. Why would they release him?

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Saracens wouldn’t have a choice. Cheika can enforce article whatever because it is during the international window.

        • Keith Butler

          Cheers. Didn’t know that. So he could be available for the RWC and back to Sarries at the end of the comp and ready for the European Cup and the pointy end of the Premiership.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Yep. But it would make me really sad to see him there. I can just about stomach White’s and Toomua’s returns, in which they play super rugby the season after their international return, but as I understand it Skelton would be signing for super rugby 2022-23, and would only be available for the end of 2022.

  • Bobas

    I’m a bit concerned that there is an article of the possibility of 4 matches of rugby in a row on fox sports and not even a whisper that Jeese Mogg could be asked to commentate.

  • Who?

    Miller’s an insightful signing from the Brums. Whilst it’s noted that the Reds have stored up both McReight and Wright, those guys will benefit from time to mature. Miller’s already there – he’s in his prime, he understands his body and his craft, he’ll have an immediate impact.
    .
    Hopefully the Tahs will use the vacancy created by Miller’s departure to sign a big young lock out of the NRC.

    • Huw Tindall

      With Miller and Cusack the Brums have 7 sorted for 2020. Add in McCaffrey, Valentini and Pete Samu and it’s a pretty handy back row unit!

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        Jahrome Brown was one of our better players this season. I think the team performed manifestly worse at the breakdown when Cusack was elevated above Brown towards the end of the season.

        From what I’ve seen thus far as good of a player as Miller is, I would have him behind Brown.

        • Brumby Runner

          Yep, spot on Darryl.

        • Huw Tindall

          Ah forgot about Brown! Very promising debut this year. Miller is a classic on baller but Brown seemed to have a more rounded game akin to a 6 maybe so will watch with interest.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Brown might not force quite so many turnovers (maybe), but I think he hits more defensive and offensive rucks than any Aussie 7 but Pocock. He could probably play 6, but he will always perform the role of a ruck monkey grafter.

          I suspect it will be either Brown or Miller who makes it into the 7 jersey next season, given McCaffrey, Samu and Valetini will be competing for 6/8.

        • Huw Tindall

          Tough luck for Cusack then but I think he has signed a between season contract with the 7s hasn’t he? That didn’t really help Michael Wells at the Tahs who went from being a big unit in 7s to a smal back rower in 15s.

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      Suspect we may see the Brumbies try and pinch whichever of McReight and Wright is behind the other in a couple of years.

    • UTG

      Need LSL back south of the border (which isn’t going to happen since he’s signed till 2021 with the Reds). Rodda, Blyth, and Hockings are a good trio for the Reds give us New South Welshmen some scraps.

      • Who?

        Agree. Though, northern rivers… So many of them support Qld in Origin (speaking from some school experience here). It’s weird.

        • AllyOz

          We do not….well OK sometimes we do (particularly after they win 8 in a row). It’s sort of weird but it’s much easier to relocated from NR to Brisbane for Uni or work and its only 3 hours now to Brisbane from the Clarence River compared to 7 (and a bit) to Sydney. Once you start following people in that comp. then you naturally look there yourself.

        • Who?

          I’m talking early 90’s, so not long after another dominant Qld era. :-)

        • AllyOz

          During the strong Qld rugby era throughout the 90s I was on and off playing in the Brisbane comp (between country NSW, country Qld and Brisbane for work). I always went for NSW but then you had clubmates etc making the Qld side so you wanted NSW to win but you wanted your mates and club mates to do well. I think I am more or less a Qld supporter for rugby now but, in my heart, I am a NSW country fan first and foremost (then maybe Qld Country).

        • Who?

          So, Cockatoos, Heelers, then maybe the Reds?
          I’m not parochial in Rugby. I was when I followed League (before I found Rugby), but not so much with Rugby. I just want the Aussie teams to succeed, playing good Rugby.

        • UTG

          We’ll see how long that lasts now Cook and Teddy have ushered in a new NSW dynasty. Pretty sure the Northern Rivers will be blue again soon.

        • Who?

          Cook and Teddy? I quit league before I left NSW, in the mid 90’s. :-)
          But it’s only right that NSW people support NSW…

        • UTG

          Apologies, probably a bit obtuse for those who aren’t followers of “the other code.” In short, two players we’d take in a heart beat as League converts.

          On another note, maybe it’s because our Super sides have been so poor in the last few years and we just want to see them winning consistently, I’d say state parochialism in Union is declining. I don’t really care about take taking LSL back because he was originally from NSW, I just reckon it balances out the sides better and you don’t get talent like Hockings or Blyth stuck in a queue when they’re good enough to start.

  • Huw Tindall

    Adam Frier on the team sheet for Randwick v Argies? Must be a having a josh Nick as Freier is an employee of RA and 39 years old. Still, should be a cracking day of rugby!

    • IIPA

      Huw, Freir is a Randwick God and has never stopped playing. He started pretty much all the Wicks Shute Shield games in the number 2 jersey this year.

      I don’t know if I’d rate him in the top half of hookers in the comp at 39 but he still goes alright.

      • Huw Tindall

        Wow I didn’t realise he was still going around. What a warrior!

        • juswal

          I’ve seen him playing this year. It was odd, but he’s out there in the firsts.

    • Hoss

      Even at his best he was poo.

      • IIPA

        That’s a bit of a low blow from you Hoss… I mean he was never quite big enough ( or dynamic like Coles) to be a really good international hooker. An early model Hugh Roach kinda guy…

        But he’s done a lot for the game and yeah still going despite a lot of injuries so he must love it.

        I’ll put it down to “Eden Park shits”.

  • Patrick

    Ok I’m just going to put this out there but wtf else could Hanigan possibly be doing if not playing that match??

    Surely he is not still in the frame??

    • Huw Tindall

      Modelling Wallabies’ clothing sponsors gear by the looks of things

      • Patrick

        I can live with that! ;)

  • sambo6

    This Skelton thing sounds like a total media beat-up. You actually read what Cheika said, and sounds as likely as nic white, luke jones, james o’connor…..me….getting the call-up…..

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Nic,
    So all the Wallabies need is obsession. That and go harder and enjoy the hard work. So nothing to do with skills, decision making, tackle completion or tactics? Wow we are so wrong! The trouble is so are all the coaches of the other teams that keep beating the Wallabies as they all value the things Cheika doesn’t.
    Whatever occurs, Skelton will not be the saviour of Australian rugby and this obsession with the next best individual who will change things around needs to stop. One individual will never be the solution it will always be based on skills, leadership, tactics, decision making and teamwork.
    Not confident on the RWC and not because of the players, because of the coaching and leadership that is letting the team down

    • Bernie Chan

      The more he talks, the more he sounds like a politician. He utters much nonsense…His team got beaten is just about all aspects of the game last week, but apparently that’s not a problem. If one didn’t know the result, listening to Cheika one would think the game was close….

      • Cornchips

        I agree, it’s always attitude attitude attitude with him. Where was the plan A and plan B last weekend? Or most weekends? Our inability to adapt seems to be the major issue with this team and that starts in the coaching box. But you know, players just need more attitude to keep doing the things that don’t work! That way they can just do it faster and harder…not that sure a good attitude can last in that situation.

    • onlinesideline

      I dunno – as much as the things you mentioned are vital, the acquisition of players and player selections are still vital too. They augment each other. Its the nature of his job. Look how White has transformed the attack, how CLL has transformed the 10 role and how Nisarani is major go forward for us. Skelton would just be another cog in the wheel and if he did his job that would benefit us – its that simple.

      I think what you are reacting to is this new phenomenan of “getting players back” from the UK. This is a new thing mate and fact of life for us, not so much for the kiwis. Whether its guys from UK or residency for Islanders, we need every bloke there is that makes the team better. Agreed its changed the balance of power in favour of players and makes the coach look a bit undignified for lack of a better word, but Cheika is facing reality in my book because this IS the new reality for us. Hes humbling himself / coaches role – to win at any expense. I dont think he views Skelton as a saviour but just more depth. This is clearly his strategy. Depth, depth, depth and he sees himself as the man manager to make it happen. Its a totally different enviroment to NZ…unfortunately.

      • Keith Butler

        While Skelton has made some big gains he still has one fundamental weakness virtually zero line out presence. There are a few locks playing here that I’d take before him, Matt Phillip being one.

        • onlinesideline

          agree he’s not a jumper, but we coud organise around that. He takes 3 blokes on his shoulders when he trucks up, he cleansout like nobodys business, he has offloading skills to boot, he bends the line, hes a huge presence in rolling maul. Hell I would take him over Matt Phillip any day of the week and I like Phillip too. He would have to be subbed intelligently and a few changes to lineout but otherwise bring it on. The guy is an absolute beast and a mobile beast now.

        • Ads

          Arguably he’d be a better 6 than LSL. I’m not saying he should be, but in terms of line-bending, ruck clearing, off-loading. Still too slow for a proper 6, but probably a better 6 than LSL.

        • Keith Butler

          Get what you’re saying but would make LSL look like Usain Bolt.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Skelton is even more of a lock than Salakaia-Loto. At least Salakaia-Loto is a quick lock. Skelton is a slow lock who is immensely powerful.

        • Keith Butler

          The day that Skelton plays at 6 will be the day I throw the towel in.

        • Ads

          Agree Keith, but if Cheik is looking to replicate the Tah’s premiership gameplan, he could go for him at 6. As above I don’t think he should. Just that he might. I haven’t watched any of the Sarries stuff to see if his loss of weight has given him a bit of extra speed or just improved his previously terrible stamina.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Not convinced about that. Wasn’t the back row generally Potgieter, Hooper and Palu? That’s one powerful ball-runner in Potgieter, Hooper in Hooper and one tight-playing grafter in Palu.

          For the Wallabies, Naisarani fills the Potgieter role, Hooper is Hooper and the issue is in the lack of a 6/8 who does the hard yards at the breakdown and in defence. Skelton doesn’t fill that role at all (neither does LSL). Fardy would have, but Cheika got rid of him.

          Cheika’s plan at the Tahs in 2014 was never going to work at the international level.

        • Ads

          Think JacPot often ended up in the row despite being a proper 6, and Palu was often injured was my memory. Cheik loved/loves those power guys over the grafters. Like you say Fardy would be perfect currently assuming good form etc. I’m just saying Cheik might see a fit Skelton equivalent to a JacPot as the power runner.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Didn’t JacPot jump at the line out? Cheika has never valued the line out that much. You can get away with that at super level, but not at international level.

        • onlinesideline

          both

        • Hoss

          And Saracens player of the year with a few stellar locks also in the side. Not a bad rap.

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        I struggle to work out where Skelton would fit. As he is still no more than adequate – at best – in the line out and doesn’t call. Arnold doesn’t call either and is a guaranteed starter, which means we need to pair him with a caller starting and need at least one more caller on the bench.

        Maybe he makes the bench in a 6-2 split? But otherwise, I don’t see how it works.

        I think that New Zealand will be forced to make concessions to overseas based players sooner or later. The two biggest problem positions for the All Blacks are 6 and 12 (where there isn’t really a clear answer). That’s because their best 6 (Luatua) and 12 (Ngatai) both went overseas.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I hope they don’t change. The shortage in any position is just a season away from being sorted and I’d rather they kept it as is. We’ll always lose players but the pool behind them is still large enough to develop and cover the loss

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          I don’t think that’s true. Results over the last 18 months have indicted that gap between the All Blacks and the other guys is narrowing, not widening.

          I also don’t think there’s anything to suggest that there are great new guys at 1, 3, 6, 8, 9 or 12 for the All Blacks. Suspect the All Blacks will continue to fall back closer to the pack after the World Cup. South Africa look like the best team in the world right now.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I think it’s more because some other countries are developing their people better now and the gap is closing rather than NZ becoming worse. It was always going to happen and was expected. Most teams are closing along with NZ playing the top 4 less often. This November will show who the best team is so I’m not really concerned about it now. TBH I’m thinking a SA NZ final and if that occurs I’m comfortable that NZ will win.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Maybe. But New Zealand’s win rate has declined significantly since 2015, and from 2015 to now we have seen, for perhaps the first time, a considerable number of foreign based Kiwis that should make the All Blacks.

          The other teams are definitely improving, but New Zealand don’t really have world class options at 1, 3, 6, 8, 9 or 12 coming through. Ngatai and Luatua are guys that arguably could have made a world 15. New Zealand declined a lot against other teams and little indication that the gap will widen.

        • Kokonutcreme

          It’s funny when comparisons are made about the All Blacks winning record since the last world cup as the comparison is really against themselves.

          I don’t have concerns about the lack of depth in certain positions for the All Blacks as this is nothing new. These problems are all cyclical, one position causes reason for concern and then all of a sudden you’re blessed with options.

          As an example for much of his career there was no compelling alternative to Dan Carter, after the events of 2011 everyone was blaming the coaches for not developing a successor to Carter forgetting of course that you can’t materialise something out of thin air.

          Then Cruden left the Hurricanes for the Chiefs to get more gametime and all of a sudden we realised how good this kid was, his departure meant another young kid called Beauden Barrett got more game time for the Canes, and another promising youngster Lima Sopoaga decided his best chance was to leave Wellington for Dunedin and take his chances with the Highlanders.

          The talk about other teams narrowing the gap between themselves and the All Blacks is what was expected when the game turned professional. Professionalism was supposed to equalise international teams but instead the All Blacks achieved even greater heights, particularly since 2004.

          The biggest difference I’ve spotted between the teams who are more competitive against the All Blacks is that they share similar profiles in terms of player size, natural style of play and where they’ve improved the most.

          England, Ireland, Wales and South Africa are teams that have bigger body types compared to the All Blacks, they’re also teams that are happier to spoil rather than create play and they’ve tightened their defence from set play but most significantly from unstructured play. These teams also play possession rugby focusing on a high ruck count and strong set pieces, keeping the ball close to their chests so to speak frustrating other teams in making errors.

          Whereas the All Blacks could rely on profiting from turnover ball, kick returns and mismatches, they’re finding it much tougher against these opposition compared to the Wallabies who are more similar in profile to the All Blacks and crucially want to play footy not just spoil, this is why the Wallabies suffer heavier losses against the All Blacks compared to other teams.

          South Africa have settled on a policy now that gives them the best of both worlds and has created the greatest depth of talent available than any other team. Will that work for NZ? It’s hard to know as most our best players remain in NZ which is the biggest difference between us and SA as most of their best talent has left. Its interesting that England, Ireland and Wales have now adopted NZ’s policy of only selecting home based players.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Yeah, I can’t quite agree with that.

          Results are declining across the board for the All Blacks. The great alternative options they had in many positions (including 6 and 8) in the late 00s and early to mid 2010s have disappeared.

          In the last 12 months the All Blacks have have:
          – played the Boks twice at home for a draw and a loss;
          – lost 2 out of the last 3 to Ireland after never losing to them previously;
          – lost 2 out of the last 6 matches against a terrible Australian side that is 0-5 against England over this last period;
          – failed to win a home Lions series

          Meanwhile, they have a dearth of world class options in key positions and no spectacular young players coming through. The All Blacks have never really bene able to replace the class of players they lost after he 2015 World Cup. The current coaching staff seems to lack the magic of the Henry/Wayne Smith years.

          I suspect New Zealand may continue to be the best team team in the future (although it may also be South Africa). However, they are certainly coming back to the pack. I suspect we will see a win ratio closer to 70% than to 90% going forward. The decline will be more marked if the northern hemisphere continues stealing so many top players from New Zealand.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Yeah but I think the win rate of 70% is actually better and will help NZ progress more than a win rate of 90%. A high win rate can hide deficiencies as they don’t seem to matter so much. As the losses occur these issues become something that needs to be addressed.

          The real issue we face is that we need Australia to be up in our face and pushing us as they have done in the past as they are the team we play the most and a disputed game against them will develop us much more than any walk over.

        • Kokonutcreme

          Just out of interest I’d love to know who these great alternative options for 6 and 8 you’re thinking of from the late 00’s and early to mid 2010’s.

          If I were to start from RWC 2003, our blindside was also our captain Reuben Thorne.
          He was replaced by Jerry Collins who was no.1 until his departure in 2008. His rivals were Jonno Gibbes and Sione Lauaki.
          From 2008 we saw Adam Thomson and Jerome Kaino fight it out for the 6 jersey before Kaino established himself as the incumbent in 2009.
          After Kaino’s departure for Japan in 2012, Victor Vito was tried before Liam Messam re-emerged and became the incumbent before Kaino’s return in 2014.

          We’ve only had 3 no.8’s since 2003 – Xavier Rush in 2004, followed by Rodney So’oialo on the EOYT in 2004, and then Kieran Read since EOYT 2009. When Read has been injured there’s only been short term fill-ins including Richie McCaw, Victor Vito but certainly no compelling rivals to threaten the incumbent.

        • From NooZealand

          Yeah! brother. I like that.

        • AllyOz

          I would rather take Sam Carter – he isn’t the most aggressive forward but he is high work rate and technically sound and a good lineout manager. I personally think he was actually slightly ahead of Rob Simmons in the Super Rugby season, has a good combination with Arnold and would be good back up in the squad but we probably don’t need him if we include LSL in our locks and select another 6

      • Keith Butler

        Like the pack not sure about TPN though. Between the pair of them Sio and Thor might even be able to lift Big W off the deck.

        • onlinesideline

          just for the scrum…. hypothetically – the rest hes goneskys

      • Hoss

        Spot on OLSL. Spot on.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Yeah while you make some good points and to an extent I agree with them, he’s also alienated a whole lot of good players so he can keep his love children playing and refused to develop those coming through. Look how little time some of the so called depth have played and how they have never been actually developed.
        Skelton may be a good player and he may add something, I don’t really know and while he’s rocking it up north that is not always an indicator he’ll do well here. I just think the whole approach is wrong

        • onlinesideline

          I totally agree that he doesnt develop players well ie Banks and Jones case in point.

      • AllyOz

        I think LSL is close to those locks when assessed as a lock – but not quite what we need at 6 – I would place him higher than Simmons’ in general play

      • AllyOz

        I think Cheik can make himself look undignified without the help of the players OLSL ;)

    • AllyOz

      It funny but the sides that seem to have the obsessive quality that Cheika is chasing also seem to have a dispassionate, process driven, skills focused approach to the game. I would argue recent All Blacks and Irish teams, the Melbourne Storm and the late 90’s early 00’s Broncos had elements of that. to my mind obsessive teams are obsessed not with winning but with attention to detail on the processes and skills it takes to win.

  • Packy

    What has Jesse done to earn the jokes – you stuck on the Lions game?
    Look how fast he was last year
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=48&v=m7nf4RtDwDA

    • BigNickHartman

      …Jokes?

      • Bernie Chan

        The lad has ‘gas’…good step/swerve as well. Wasn’t he one of the fastest footy players in Oz at some stage when he was at the Brumbies? In any code…? He sure looked good in the above, brief, clip…

  • OnTheBurst

    What do you think of Jesse Mogg? Rate him?

Rugby

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

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