Red cards don't always ruin a contest and what else we learned from All Blacks' second Test against France

1.Red cards do not always ruin a contest

Hansen says he would like to see a way of keeping players 'in the park' after situations like the one Benjamin Fall suffered. Source: 1 NEWS

The Wellington Test was not ruined because of the harsh red card handed to Benjamin Fall. It was ruined by poor, uneven play by both teams. France was long on courage and commitment, but short on attacking verve and panache. Its limitations were clear. The All Blacks were just loose and profligate with the ball. It smacked of the Wales-France 2011 RWC semifinal. Even when Sam Warburton was sent off, Wales should have won but just played badly. France was slightly less mediocre on the night. Do not blame the red card, even if the law – as in the case of Fall – is an ass.

2.Richie Mo'unga is the No 2 No 10 in NZ

Most of us already knew this, to be fair. It was not that Damian McKenzie played poorly after replacing the concussed Beauden Barrett at the 12-minute mark. Far from it. But he failed to exert control with his kicking and tactical game. This was not entirely his fault, as the pack was not able to wrest control. But the time is ripe for the classy Richie Mo'unga to show us his wares in the starting XV.

3.The French are better than we thought at the breakdown

Much of the All Blacks' game is based around swift ball from the ruck. Get in there and disrupt the flow and you go a long way to hindering their patterns. Jacques Brunel rang the right changes, Kevin Gourdon shifting to No 8, and Kelian Galletier and Mathieu Babillot on the flanks. As a trio, they worked collaboratively at the breakdown, exhausting Sam Cane and forcing several turnovers. The French needed to be more Jean-Pierre Rives than Olivier Magne. It worked.

4.The All Blacks are not quite as good as they think they are

The All Blacks were far from their best in last night's 26-13 win. Source: 1 NEWS

We know the All Blacks are past-masters at winning even when they have not played well, but it is fair to say they have hit their straps in only about 40-45 minutes out of 160 in the series thus far. They are a long way from being able to call upon their best XV, but it goes to show that cohesion and match fitness do not just come to the fore as of right. Improvement was expected from the pack after Eden Park, but it never came, despite yeoman work from Sam Whitelock. Time to ring the changes for Dunedin.

5.The French cannot buy a trick on this tour

They say you make your own luck. Maybe. Maybe not. But sometimes you are dealt dud hands. After lock Paul Gabrillagues was unfairly binned at Eden Park, the French might have thought lightning would never strike twice. Cue the Benjamin Fall incident. Then you shudder at the thought of what might have been if second five Geoffrey Dumayrou had not been held up over the line early doors or if young replacement hooker Pierre Bourgarit had not rabbited over the line not long after TJ Perenara’s sinbinning. Zut alors!



Wallabies 'just as tough' as All Blacks, says Springboks star

A rare win in New Zealand showed South Africa what they were capable of but halfback Faf De Klerk won't be satisfied unless they produce the same precision against the Wallabies on Saturday.

The Springboks revived their Rugby Championship campaign with a rousing 36-34 defeat of the All Blacks in Wellington that followed losses in Australia and Argentina.

In the hours that followed that upset, the Wallabies were shocked 23-19 by Argentina on the Gold Coast and as a result arrive in Port Elizabeth for Saturday's rematch with their backs firmly to the wall.

The loss dropped Australia to an all-time low of No.7 in the world and, not having won in South Africa since 2011, they face an uphill battle to claw off the bottom of the Rugby Championship ladder.

Rassie Erasmus said maybe in a Rugby World Cup the All Blacks would have thought about a drop goal. Source: 1 NEWS

But De Klerk says the visitors boast a threat equal to that of the All Blacks and will prove dangerous as the hosts strive for their own consistency.

"We enjoyed the win (in New Zealand) but after that, after we got dressed, the guys started talking about how we need to replicate this," he said.

"On their day, I don't think Australia is a worse side than New Zealand so I think this is just as tough for us.

"Every week we count the opportunities we create ... (in the Brisbane loss there were) so many times could have scored and didn't.

"We were almost our worst enemy in that game."

Australia and South Africa drew twice in last year's championship, while each side beat the other at home in 2016.

In their most recent clash in Brisbane last month the Wallabies prevailed 23-18 over the Springboks.

Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick reasoned that both squads were in the midst of rebuilding with veteran players returning from European stints.

"We are in a similar phase ... they have lost some of their experienced players," he said.

"They got Kurtley (Beale) and (Will) Genia back and they are talking of getting (Adam) Ashley-Cooper back into their squad and Faf is now back for us."

The Wallabies pair's return in particular will have Stick on his toes come Saturday.

"They are hurting and we have recently been there so we are not going to underestimate them," he said.

"They have a good coaching staff and you look at Beale and Genia, who on their best day can destroy any team."

Willie le Roux says last night's win is much needed for South Africa. Source: 1 NEWS


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World Rugby consider Test calendar shake up, propose 'League of Nations' concept

In a radical shake-up of the Test rugby calendar, World Rugby are considering implementing a 'World League' concept to give meaning to the international game.

Based on European football's UEFA Nations League, a proposal of a 12-team league pitting northern hemisphere sides against their southern counterparts, in order to do away with meaningless series' between countries.

Teams would be split into four groups of three, with teams playing three pool matches, before a semi-final, and final. A different host country would hold each pool's matches

French outlet Midi Olympique reported that World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot had pitched the concept to NZR CEO Steve Tew, as well as French and South African counterparts, Bernard Laporte and Jurie Roux.

The move would see both the Rugby Championship and Six Nations competitions remain intact, however it would do away with the June and November windows.

Such a move would see Super Rugby and the northern hemisphere club season run interrupted.

"If you ask me as a businessman, the business side of it is not working," Pichot told The Guardian earlier this month.

"If you ask me as the playing side, it's not working. Is the international game under threat? I think it is. Look at the balance sheets of some nations and you can see exactly where we stand."

If the current world standings were to be implemented, the likes of Fiji, Tonga and Japan would join the northern and southern hemisphere nations, giving the supposed minnows more opportunities against the top tier. 

Autumn International, Twickenham, London 8/11/2014  
England vs New Zealand All Blacks
New Zealand's Ryan Crotty is held up short
Photo: James Crombie/www.photosport.co.nz
The match is the first between the All Blacks and England since 2014. Source: Photosport


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Watch: Former All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea combine for brilliant long range try for Toulon

Former All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and Julian Savea have combined for a stellar try in Toulon's big 33-3 win over Agen, at Stade Mayor in Toulon yesterday during a French Top 14 competition fixture.

Toulon led 19-0 at halftime over Agen with Fekitoa scoring a long range stunner late in the second spell.

In the 75th minute of the match, Fekitoa delivered a wide skip ball for Savea just outside Toulon's own 22 metre line, off a scrum set piece move.

Savea opted to kick, with the star left winger regathering the ball inside Agen's 22, before offloading the ball to Fekitoa who went in under the goal posts to score.

Toulon play Clermont Auvergne in their next Top 14 match this Sunday, at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin stadium in Clermont-Ferrand.

The pair came up with a bit of magic in their side's 33-3 win over Agen in the Top 14 competition. Source: Top 14 Officiel


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'We need to be better' - TJ Perenara calls for All Blacks to lift intensity against the Pumas

All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara says his side need to step it up a gear against Argentina, as they look to lock away the Rugby Championship trophy for a third consecutive year.

A bonus point victory in Buenos Aires on Sunday will secure the All Blacks the trophy, with one more game next week in the competition against the Springboks.

The All Blacks star even managed to join in in the Argentinian capital. Source: ESPN

But Argentina will have some confidence going into their home Test against the All Blacks, after they defeated Australia 23-19 in the Gold Coast a fortnight ago and edged the Springboks 32-19 last month in Mendoza.

"We played them in Nelson and we won, but it was a tough game," said Perenara.

Shannon Frizell of the All Blacks on the burst during the Investec Rugby Championship match, All Blacks V Argentina , Trafalgar Park, Nelson, New Zealand, 8th September, 2018. Copyright photo: John Davidson / www.photosport.nz
Shannon Frizell of the All Blacks on the burst Source: Photosport

"I guess the opportunities they took into their game exploited some of our flaws. For a team to be able to do that, well, we take great pride in what we do out on the field and they dismantled us a few times out there.”

Argentina were competitive for the first 65 minutes of the Test in Nelson earlier this month, but were outclassed 46-24 by the All Blacks.

"We know the threats that they have and we just know, as a unit, we need to be better going forward," he said.

"If we play to the level that we played in Nelson, we don't know if that is good enough this time, especially over here in their back yard.

"We know we need to step it up and play better than we have played against them this year already."

The All Blacks suffered their first loss of the Rugby Championship to South Africa in Wellington two weeks ago, going down 36-34 at Westpac Stadium.

The All Blacks have a chance to wrap up the Rugby Championship trophy with a bonus-point victory in Buenos Aires on Sunday. Source: All Blacks TV


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