RWC 2015 is starting to get to the end with the Rugby Championship Competition hijacking the affair with an all southern hemisphere semi final round. Two cracking games ahead, New Zealand V South Africa and Australia V Argentina.
There is a play off for 5th place – they have just renamed it the 6 Nations!
One thing to say the timing of the tournament has favoured the Southern Hemisphere with those teams coming off the Super 15 rugby comp and then the Rugby Championship. Team cohesion, fitness and the chance to iron out the bugs over a season has helped. On the other side the Northern Hemisphere teams are really only at the beginning of their seasons so (match) fitness and time for the team to build structures was more limited. The English RFU may be asking themselves if the timing of the tournament was a factor in the early exit.
Anyway on to the games…
New Zealand V South Africa
A game worthy of a final and a special treat for a semi to offer up such a great game. This will be very physical encounter, the Boks are primed to ‘rip the heads’ off the All Blacks, or at least that is what Steve Hanson is telling his stars. I don’t think that would phase the All Blacks though they love the physical challenge, and then will run around and all over the Boks if they survive the initial 15 minutes onslaught. The All Blacks key strength over many years (with very few lapses) is their ability to build within the game to control the pace and flow. Another thing the All Blacks do so well is they support play as soon as one makes a break there is always one or two others just off their shoulders waiting for the ball, it carves teams up.
I wish the Wallabies could play more like that! If the South Africans can hold the pace and keep the physicality going, they could be well placed towards the end of the game. The loss to Japan will be a distant memory and the proud Boks will still be looking for redemption.
It will be a torrid affair but I am going with the All Blacks to win by 7+. However see the end of this post for an interesting alternative to the two teams to meet in the final.
Australia V Argentina
Wow the Wallabies turned in the Wobblies at the worst possible time giving Scotland the brave the slight glimmer of a semi final spot, only to have their hearts not just broken but ripped out and stamped on by the ref (note not the Wobblies).
I wont say anything on that except (well ok I am…) really the ref called what he saw in real time and it is good he can’t go to the TMO, games would go for several hours longer if they could, it would get ridiculous. People already vent frustration with scrums taking three whole minutes!! I have watched the replay several times, regardless of Phibbs going or not going for the ball the Scottish lock in front of Phibbs was also offside and interfered with Phipps so in my view two Scottish players were offside and stopped the Wobblies from taking advantage of the knock on, penalty any time.
Anyway Rugby has an ethos of respect for the ref which has now been trampled on by several high profile ex-players who really only want the attention on them and the atrocious actions of World Rugby to release a statement saying he got it wrong is very poor. Did they address or review all the other ‘dubious’ decisions in the match or only just this one. It needs to be consistent because, in my humble opinion, the Wobblies were very hard done by on several scrum penalties (not all though) and the Scots scrum tactics (pulling back, angle/boring in and several times the flankers directly bound onto the Australian props!) were worse than England’s, which were rightly blown up. Ok I wasn’t going to say anything on that but too late now.
The last part on this the Wobblies coach rightly pointed out regardless the Wobblies still needed to kick it, and it was by no means an easy kick. Lucky for the Wobblies Bernard ‘Iceman’ Foley can certainly hold his nerve.
The Wallabies will be better prepared now, they have had a very large wake up call and will be on extreme alert for a very passionate Argentina who are playing some great Rugby in their own style. This will be a tough game for both sides however I think the pure emotion and efforts of Argentina to get the win against France will be draining while the Wallabies will have been jarred out of their complacency, or at least Cheika will have flogged them on the training park.
The big question remaining is the fitness of three key players for the Wallabies, Sio, Pocock and Folau. All three are lock-stones for the Wallabies World Cup hopes. It is not looking good for either Sio or Pocock, however could Cheika be playing mind games?? I sure hope so because the Wallabies forwards are a lot stronger with Sio and Pocock. Folau is … well he just is capable of anything so having him on the field would be great. In all this though both Ben McCalman and Sean McMahon make for very handy replacements along with Kurtley Beale, if he is on his game that day.
The Wallabies will win but not by a lot Wallabies by 1-7. C’mon the Wallabies!!!!!
Alternative outcome I think about (exciting prospect…)
The All Blacks go down to the South Africa and the Wallabies turn back to the Wobblies and we have an Argentina V South Africa final. The ‘Latin passion’ rises to the fore with the Argentinians beating the South Africans like they did in the Rugby Championship in South Africa!
That would be a game equally worthy of my predicted final: Wallabies v All Blacks!
– Clan Daddy