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The Drawing Board (15/6/2012)

Hello and welcome to Who’s Playing Who?’s weekly rugby blog. This week saw the first ever break in Super Rugby history for the internationals. So not that many games played over the weekend, but they were high quality none the less. The northern hemisphere teams are currently undertaking tours of each of the southern hemisphere countries, which is a step in the right direction for me. This allows for more drama to unfold during the course of the series, and gives teams a chance to work each other out over a few weeks. Well done whoever had the foresight to bring these back.

Foreign affairs

Ireland are currently undertaking a tour of New Zealand at the moment, England are in South Africa, Wales are in Australia, France and Italy are in Argentina and Scotland are doing the rounds in the Pacific Island nations.

New Zealand 42 – 10 Ireland

Debutant winger Julian Savea scored a hat-trick to inspire New Zealand to an impressive  win over Ireland. The Irish had no answer for the pace and power of world champions’ backline and the Hurricanes winger ran in three tries inside the first 43 minutes of his first international outing. The running lines and swift incisions of Israel Dagg, Conrad Smith and Savea caused Ireland problems throughout and coach Declan Kidney will need to come up with a way of negating the dangerous New Zealand backs if Ireland is to avoid a series sweep.

Australia 27 – 19 Wales

Australia bounced back from their shock mid-week defeat to Scotland with a victory over Wales in their clash. Alex Cuthbert crossed for a try and Leigh Halfpenny kicked 14 points as the Six Nations champions threatened to pull off an historic win. But it was not enough to recover from early scores by Rob Higginbotham and Will Genia before Pat McCabe crossed to snuff out the Welsh recovery. Tri-Nations holders Australia recovered from the defeat to Scotland to end Wales’ run of six wins in a row and leave caretaker coach Rob Howley facing an uphill task for the rest of the three-Test series.

South Africa 22 – 17 England

South Africa battled to a victory over England in their clash at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday. Morne Steyn and Jean de Villiers touched down as a second-half South African barrage finally broke England’s resistance. England met the Springboks challenge head on at Kings Park and were level at 6-6 at half-time after Owen Farrell and Steyn traded penalties. South Africa began to gain the upper hand after the break as Steyn and captain De Villiers broke through and the hosts held on despite two more Farrell penalties applying pressure. Ben Foden claimed a late England consolation after the final hooter and head coach Stuart Lancaster will take some heart from the fighting display of his players.

Other Results:

Argentina 37 – 22 Italy

Japan 20 – 24 Tonga

Fiji 26 – 29 Samoa

Brumbies 15 – 25 Wales

SA Barbarians South 26 – 54 England

Previews

SOUTH AFRICA V ENGLAND –  South Africa goes into the 2nd Test leading the series with their win last weekend and with coach Heyneke Meyer only making one forced change you can be sure not much is going to change with regards to game plan being played by the Boks on Saturday. One of Stuart Lancaster changes features the inclusion of the experienced Toby Flood instead of the young Owen Farrell after Farrell’s not so convincing match against the Boks last weekend. The inclusion of Flood could spell out that England could be relying on Flood’s ability to put in some tactical kicking.

On South Africa’s side they would hope for Francois Hougaard and Frans Steyn to pick up their game for this weekend after having quite a quiet game last weekend. On England side they will be looking at Toby Flood and Manusamoa Tuilagi to get things going for them. South Africa should have enough firepower to edge the English but should aim to replicate their effort in the second half to do so.

NEW ZEALAND V IRELAND – Looking at the team announcements I honestly cannot see a different result than we saw last weekend. The All Blacks have won 24 of the 25 games and I don’t think they are about to pick up their first lost against Ireland I’m afraid. For Ireland Gordon D’Arcy will bring much needed experience to the backline and will strengthen the center combination together with Brian O’Driscoll (because last weekend Keith Earls looked very uncomfortable at inside center) which could make things a bit more difficult for Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith.

The Irish would have worked on their defensive game as it was definably below par in the 1st and hopefully the aimless kicking of Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray was addressed because all that did was give away possession, they must be more clinical with their tactical kicking otherwise the All Blacks will keep running back at them all day. The trio of Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and Kevin McLaughlin will have to be at their best at the breakdown because with the injury to Victor Vito the All Blacks called up Adam Thompson who is like a one man army at the breakdown and then off course they still have McCaw in the mix.

Personally I think Ireland will be competitive for the larger part of the first half but with the All Blacks scavengers (McCaw and Thompson) on the loose and Dan Carter in outstanding form I’m afraid this one is going to end the same way as last weekend. All Blacks to win this one for me.

AUSTRALIA V WALES – With the 1st Test finishing with a point’s difference of only 8 points (thanks to a late minute try in the 68th minute to open up the scoring gap) you can expect the Wales to come out all guns blazing to try and win the 2nd Test. After trailing 17-3 in the 1st Test they fought their way back to trail with only one point (19-20) later in the match thanks to a breakaway try from Will Genia.

Once again the battle at the breakdown will be vital and this time Sam Warburton will be hoping to get one back on David Pocock as Pocock hands down overshadowed Warburton in the first Test match. The inclusion of Wales former captain Ryan Jones also brings some experience to the mix and although it’s to the expense of Toby Faletau.

The stand out players for Wales last week was Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Adam Jones,Gethin Jenkins and Ashley Beck and another big game will be needed from them. The stand out players from Australia last weekend was Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Berrick Barnes and Will Genia.

Wales will at this time also be more acclimatized and with two games on Australian soil you can expect them to be more prepared for this Test but like the Welsh the Australians would also be more prepared with this being their second week on national duty. Both teams like to play a running style of rugby so we can expect both teams to throw the ball around and in such close games as this (and believe me this is going to be a close one) the team who will win this one will be the one who is more clinical and uses every opportunity that comes their way. Going to be brave here and say that Wales will just edge it.

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