050. Matches 24, 25 and 26

RWC2019 Match 24: Australia 45 Uruguay 10

Cheika’s Chumps carried on with their high-tackling ways, coughing up two more yellow cards in the 13th and 28th minutes.

The earlier disclosure that Cheika has never briefed his players about the World Rugby tackling protocols is straight-up malpractice, and it’s coming back to bite them.

Yes they got a bonus point win against the 18th ranked team in the world, and they debuted the brightly-talented 19-year old Jordan Petaia, but there are just too many ifs, buts and maybes about their pool performances to think they’re going to go deep.  They failed to score in the fourth-quarter.  Chronically bad tackling technique is just the headline symptom of a team that’s putting in plenty of effort but in a slightly wrong direction.

Uruguay, on the other hand, can take much heart from another willing performance. They scored the last try in the match, keeping alive a record of scoring at least one try in every match.  Not too shabby for a bunch of semi-professionals.

 

RWC2019 Match 25: England 39 Argentina 10

Another match that promised much given what was at stake, but was put in its box by a red card.

This time it was serial bad-boy Lavanini who went kaput, and ended any chance of Argentina getting out of the pools. His high shot on Owen Farrell in the 17th minute was stupid, blatant and par for the course. Numpty.

Even so, it took a while for England to settle into a rhythm, but when they did, they showed why they’re going to be tough in the knockout stage. They play a low-risk pattern based on possession and collision by big monsters upfront, and only spreading the ball when the proverbial my dead granny could score. Brutal but/and effective.

I caught up afterwards with a gaucho who had flown Buenos Aries – New York – Tokyo, with tickets for all the Argentinian matches, sad face missing his wife and kids, and all for no joy at all. Not a happy cowboy, and putting the blame on Super Rugby for exhausting the same group of players week in week out.

I quietly suggested that they should think about getting a coach who used to play in the backs. Mario Ledesma is a good bloke and all, an excellent scrum coach, but if you were raised in the front row you’re unlikely to love or understand the running and passing game so much.  (Exhibit B: Warren Gatland.)  The Argies have a history of fluent running backs, which they they should return to.

I don’t think he heard me over the sound of his tears splashing into his beer.

 

RWC2019 Match 26: Japan 38 Samoa 19

The ferocious excitement lit by Japan’s win against Ireland was tangible in the City of Toyota Stadium.  Japanese fans are now daring to believe that their team can, should, will win every match.

And why shouldn’t they when the team is coming along with such joie de vivre.  Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown have done an outstanding job instilling real rugby intelligence across the field.  They know what they want to do, and they go out to do it.

This was exemplified in the final plays of the match, when the Brave Blossoms were comfortably ahead having scored three tries and a swathe of penalties. But they wanted the bonus point for the fourth try, knowing it could mean the difference between getting a quarter-final spot or watching from the sidelines.

So they went for it, and got it in the 4th minute of overtime. The crowd, as they say, went wild.

Samoa again showed the challenge of having a squad of guys mostly in their 30s.  The legs just don’t last like they used to, even if the heart and head are willing.

There are so many Pasefika playing for other teams at the tournament.  It would be unfair to call the official guys the leftovers, but the fact is that professional rugby spots the best Pasefika talent at an early age and takes them away and doesn’t release them for international duty.  New Zealand is not the worst offender by any means*, but we have a responsibility to use our heft at the international level to find a way that provides the benefits of professionalism without undermining national teams.

Robert van Royen’s piece on foreign-born players in Tier One teams is worth a read.

For a start, the All Blacks have four players who were born elsewhere: Sevu Reece (Fiji), Nepo Laulala (Samoa), Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Tonga), and Shannon Frizell (Tonga).  On the other hand, there are 13 men born in New Zealand who are appearing for other teams at this World Cup.

Scotland wins the booby prize for most foreign-born players (14 out of a squad of 31), and Australia isn’t far behind (12). Argentina gets the medal for having exactly zero.

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