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Black And Bleu!

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Black And Bleu!

Black And Bleu!

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BUT first, the News….
 
1) Nisbo gets a gong! Grant Nisbett MNZOM. And as he is about to call his 300th test. Total Respect.
 
2) Tony Carter steps down as head of the Blues: Carter makes a dignified exit, acknowledging what has become painfully obvious. The Blues board may know how to run a business, but they don’t know nearly enough about running a rugby franchise. Others should be feeling the heat. The search starts for a new leader and they simply cannot afford to get it wrong.
 
3) Pete Samu is released to play for the Wallabies: A far more dangerous precedent than in the case of Brad Shields. It wasn’t about NZR or even the Crusaders, Samu has been let out of a deal with the Tasman Mako, who have invested five years in him. What do they get in return? Who’s next?
 
4) Radradra plays Sevens for Fiji. Brilliant on every level, because you just know France and probably Australia would have been cooking up ways to get him into blue or gold. Flaws included, there is a bit of the Rupeni Caucau about him.
 
5) Liam Squire gets off: The yellow card was soft, but the ruck clean out was risky, especially a week out from a test. However, if he’s lucky to avoid suspension then how about Julian Savea? Hopefully the Bus apologized to that bug he was trying to crush.
 
6) Jordi Barrett eats takeaways in the wrong place. Look, if I woke up to find people I didn’t know in my house I’d be alarmed too, but his mate made a mistake and they were in the wrong house, but they left straight away and no-one got harmed and really, why was this treated like some sort of national scandal?
 
7) The Baby Blacks win well, despite three yellow cards. It’s not going to cost you against Wales, but it will further down the line. Zero tolerance it is. Learn from it quickly, fellers, because there’s a target on your back.
 
8) Injuries bite. OK, so the situation may not be quite as bad as first feared, but there are still some lingering concerns and a Brodie Retallick injury that was first greeted with suspicion is now worryingly real.  
 
Super Rugby Power Rankings:
 
1) Crusaders: Go into the break with a perfect 10 on the trot, after surviving a late spate of injuries to overcome the Chiefs. They keep it simple, they play to their strengths, and they have a container load of interchangeable parts.
 
2) Highlanders: Still have a chance to grab fourth spot and just to be in this position is testament to a strong team bond, a fantastic work ethic, and the brilliance of their small group of big names.
 
3) Hurricanes: Remain in a good spot, but they’ve slipped a bit over the last fortnight, and might need the down time to tidy up the house. Bit of a question mark over their kicking game, especially their 22 exits. But hey, still better than most.
 
4) Chiefs: While the focus was on the Crusaders injury situation you have to remember just how many players the Chiefs have had sidelined, and when you add the mighty Retallick to that list at half time, how well they did to stay in the hunt. Against the Waratahs they had a few problems on D, against the Crusaders the attack got out of sync at crucial times.
 
5) Blues: Awful. All that ball, so little to show for it, again. No matter how long they hold onto it, someone always throws a risky offload, or passes to no-one, or makes a bad kick, or duffs a lineout, and until that changes, nothing will change.
 
Australian Conference:
 
THE Reds v Waratahs game didn’t come with any of the usual pre game hype, but at least delivered this time on the entertainment front, even if some of the D was as soft as custard. 
 
The ‘Tahs got the win they needed, with the Rebels breathing down their neck after a deserved win at Eden Park, while the Brumbies got it done against the Sunwolves, although probably too late to save them from  an early finish.    
 
South African Conference: 
 
THE week off brought a more realistic look to the overall table, and left the Lions grip on second place and a potential home semi looking a little shaky.
 
About half of the Springbok squad went to Washington and lost an error riddled, rain soaked, poorly televised game to an understrength Welsh team.
 
Big picture, this will have done little to advance the cause of rugby in the US of A. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it properly.
 
AND so we come to the June Internationals:
 
FRANCE may well provide a much tougher challenge than many first anticipated, especially given the casualties in the All Black ward. We’re not quite talking the Baby Blacks scenario of 1986, but it might pay to remember 2009.
 
It is shaping as a fascinating few weeks, with Ireland bringing a powerful side to Aus, and Eddie Jones taking a weakened England to face the latest “New” Springboks, with a loud clock ticking in the background and poisoned pens poised.
 
Make sure you join us on Rugby Nation 4.30 on Prime, plus replays on SKY for every moment that matters