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THAT'S ON REPORT

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THAT'S ON REPORT

THAT'S ON REPORT

BarrettB_NZvFRA_Wgtn_2018

THE red card was a bummer.

It sucked the life out of the test, and left people feeling short changed.

You can’t blame Angus Gardiner. He made a measured judgement in exact accordance with World Rugby requirements. He’d have been in big trouble if he’d not gone red.

It seems harsh, but World Rugby has opted to take grey areas such as intent or the lack of it, clumsiness, accidents and so on, out of the equation as they try and prevent catastrophic injuries to players thrown off balance while airborne.

Players are leaving it too late to decide whether they are going to be able to contest the ball in the air - I once watched Izzy Dagg chase a high kick, but bail out a full ten metres before the point of contact, opting for the Plan B of hitting the receiving player the second he got back to earth.

Benjamin Fall didn’t make that decision, and ended up in no man’s land. There was nothing malicious in his actions and he was unlucky. 
But Beauden Barrett was unlucky too, suffering a head knock that could easily have been a lot worse.

People talk about a NRL style report system, and for the sake of the spectacle it might be worth considering a case like Fall as being an automatic yellow and then a mandatory severe ban - I’m talking six weeks minimum - if found guilty of reckless play likely to cause injury.

But it’s about safety, and players are just going to have to learn to take the low risk approach to chasing high kicks.

***

AS for the All Black performance, well it was pretty average.

Maybe they buttoned off mentally after the red card, and if so it’s not much of an excuse.

There were two areas of particular concern.

They were often beaten at ruck time, conceding turnovers and penalties because of inaccurate support for the ball carrier. This may be due to an adjustment to the way they set up their forward pods in general play, and not everyone being on the same page yet.

And the backline did not function well after the departure of Barrett, with some poor passing and a lack of combination.

Damien McKenzie is a brilliant player, but the jury is still out on whether he can be an effective number ten, or give greater value as a strike player off the bench, in the very same way Barrett was in his early years.

With Barrett out they might be tempted to start D-Mack in Dunedin to give him more time in the role, and perhaps prove their own point, but surely it’s a good time to give Richie Mo’unga a shot.

***

BY comparison, the test matches in Melbourne and Bloemfontein were fantastic.

Ireland dominated Australia in many departments, monopolising territory and possession, and proving to be the far more accurate of the two teams. They ran at David Pocock, and their support play at the breakdown kept him from influencing the game the way he did in Brisbane.

But the Aussies were good enough to stay in the contest right to the end, and might have got closer but for more dumb off the ball stuff.
The decider in Sydney should be a cracker, but with Will Genia out of the Wallabies with a busted arm I’d back Ireland to take it.

Meanwhile after years of frustration and discontent in South Africa there’s a sudden wave of optimism.

The Blitzboks won the World Sevens Series, the Junior Boks topped the Baby Blacks for third in the World Under 20s and a new look Springboks have wrapped up the series with England.

Suddenly the talk of quotas and political interference has evaporated. These teams appear genuinely reflective of the “Rainbow Nation” and to make Siya Kolisi captain is a stroke of genius by new boss Rassie Erasmus.

It is great to see Duane Vermeulen back playing so well, and he has been at the forefront of South Africa’s powerful forward play.
Faf de Klerk has energised things at halfback, and a healthy Handre Pollard has been impressive at 10.

But England have been poor.

Both times they have been gifted healthy starts by the shambolic wide defence of the Springboks, but haven’t been good enough to capitalise on that and other shortcomings in the Boks game.

The continual cheap shotting by Mako Vunipola and Maro Itoje, and the petulant post match interview by Ben Youngs could well be pointers to a deep discontent in this team, and frankly that would be no great surprise.

***

THE inability of the Junior All Blacks to do better than fourth at the World Championships is disappointing.

The side was full of talent, but struggled to contain the big forward packs of France and South Africa.

It’s nothing to be too worried about, as the strength of the junior ranks tends to be very cyclical. If New Zealand has a below par year next year it would be more of a concern.

And besides, France were definitely the best team there, and given the way the crowds rallied behind them, it was a fitting result for a very good tournament.

***

FINALLY it was great to see Semi Radradra playing for Fiji.

Having already played league for Australia, he could have been a Wallaby, and France would love to have added him to their foreign legion, but Radradra has opted to play for his homeland and was instrumental in their win over Georgia to claim the Pacific Nations Cup.