Bledisloe Cup: First Test Talking Points

The All Blacks came to Sydney looking to keep a great record at ANZ Stadium intact and they will leave satisfied with a dominant 47-29 victory over the disappointing Wallabies.

Here are my talking points from what was a cracking game of rugby no matter the result:

1. Three men called Smith

They won’t get as many of the plaudits as some of their contemporaries but the games of Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith and Ben Smith were nothing short of outstanding. Aaron Smith bested Will Genia and that is saying something given that he is the best in the world. There is no better defensive centre in the game than Conrad Smith and he showed it again tonight. Ben Smith played James O’Connor off the break for the 53 minutes they were opposed and scored a hatrick of tries. Massive games for the 3 men called Smith.

2. Lord McCaw is back

Love him or hate him Richie McCaw is probably the best player in the game and he again showed that tonight. Off the back of his sabbatical I questioned his fitness and of course he proved me and any others who dared to question him wrong. He did get penalised more than usual in this game much to joy of Australian fans and those playing a certain drinking game.

3. Cruden factor: Who needs Dan Carter?

When Dan Carter first got hurt many Australian fans would have breathed a sigh of relief. Frankly, his replacement Aaron Cruden was just brilliant tonight and really the question needs to be posed: should he have been selected for the All Blacks as the first choice fly half. For mine he should have been and he showed why in this game. Injured at the 70th minute mark All Blacks fans will watch his rehab closely.

4. O’Connor = non-factor

I get why James O’Connor was selected for Australia. He does have an X factor about him that one suspects could swing a game. The problem is that we so rarely see it we don’t know what it looks like! Starting on the wing he just looked out of place and behind the pace and seemed to rarely be in position. Was moved to full back in place of Jesse Mogg at the 55 minute mark and whilst he was enterprising in patches was mainly innocuous. A late try should not mask how poor his performance was. Performances by O’Connor are not matching the reputation or alleged class he has and now is the time for a change!

5. James Slipper: Australia’s best

There was much consternation from those south of the tweed about the selection of James Slipper in the place of Benn Robison and boy did Slipper play a game and a half. Whether it was in the scrum, in close contact or running out in the backs James Slipper was in everything in this game. At scrum time he was the best of any prop on the field for mine and will grow in confidence from that performance.

6. New Scrum Law = why did we need a change?

This was the first many Southern Hemisphere fans will have seen of the new scrum laws and can anyone say they were happy with them? If the idea behind the law change is to make the scrums better and more contested then they have failed dismally frankly! The new process of pre-binding seems to slacken the engagement and make it virtually impossible to feed the ball straight. Well done IRB: another worthless change softening the game!

7. Give McKenzie some time: the early signs are good!

I know the result would suggest otherwise but I take away some confidence from this game. That confidence comes from some obvious influences of Ewen McKenzie seen in the Wallabies in this game. The run in the forwards, a McKenzie haul mark in Queensland, particularly the props running in the line, was excellent to see. This team is a work in progress and will improve with time. Anyone expecting immediate results needs to wake up to themselves!

New Zealand were simply too good in this game. The return bout between these two teams is in seven days in Wellington (assuming the ground is safe for play). Much improvement needed for the Wallabies even to get close frankly!

Rugby Union: Wallabies team to face the All Blacks announced

Ewen McKenzie has named his team for the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney this weekend.

The full team is:

Jesse Mogg, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali’ifano, James O’Connor, Matt Toomua, Will Genia, Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Hugh McMeniman, James Horwill (C), Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Res: Saia Faingaa, Scott Sio, Sekope Kepu, Scott Fardy, Liam Gill, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani

Coach McKenzie has made seven (7) changes to the run on side that Australia last ran out against the British and Irish Lions on 6 July 2013. There are eleven changes in all from the time Robbie Deans last picked a team.

Breaking Rugby News: Dan Carter out of the Bledisloe Cup

In breaking news out of Wellington Dan Carter, New Zealand’s star number 10, has been injured in training and scans have showed a small tear in his calf. He will be out for up to four weeks which will mean he will be unavailable for both Bledisloe Cup fixtures that form part of the Rugby Championship.

Aaron Cruden presents as the obvious replacement for Carter and given Cruden’s excellent form for the Super Rugby Champion Chiefs that could prove to be less of a blessing for Australia than one would expect to receive from a player of Carter’s stature being sidelined.

Rugby Union: My Wallabies Team to face the All Blacks

As there is a break is hostilities in the Ashes, it is time to focus on other sporting events coming up this weekend and there is no big sporting event upcoming that the first Bledisloe Cup Test match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks on Saturday night.

Ewen McKenzie has named of squad of 30 for the game and has suggested that he will wait until just before game time to name his number 10. Given that delay, it is time to look into the crystal ball and make my own selections for this weekend’s test match. So here is Shumpty’s Wallabies XXII:

1. Scott Sio

2. Stephen Moore

3. Ben Alexander

4. James Horwill

5. Scott Fardy

6. Ben Mowen

7. Michael Hooper

8. Jake Schatz

9. Will Genia

10. Quade Cooper

11. Nick Cummins

12. Christian Lealiifano

13. Adam Ashley-Cooper

14. Israel Folau

15. Jesse Mogg

16. Albert Anae

17. Sekope Kepu

18. Rob Simmons

19. Liam Gill

20. Nic White

21. Matt Toomua

22. Joe Tomane

In picking this squad I have looked for combinations and form over reputations and thus it will be no surprise that I am picking mainly Brumbies and Reds players. Matt Toomua only misses out because of the form of Genia and Cooper together for the Reds. The Brumbies front row gets my nod and I have put Albert Anae on the bench because of his versatility in being able to play all three positions up front. Jake Schatz is my bolter: I have a preference for Ben Mowen at number but given the squad to choose from it is pretty obvious that Coach McKenzie will be playing him at 6 so Schatz gets rewarded for a brilliant season at the back of the scrum for the Reds.

I find no place for James O’Connor in my team. The reason is simple: he is out of form and needs some time in club rugby to regain same.

It will be a fantastic test match in Sydney to kick of the Rugby Championship and, if Australia is to have any hope of getting back the trophy, one that Australia must win given that the last two fixtures between the teams will be played in New Zealand (Westpac Stadium and Forsyth Barr Stadium).

Rugby: Wallabies Squad for the 1st Bledisloe Test named

Ewen McKenzie has named a squad of 30 for the first test match against New Zealand on 17 August as follows:

James Horwill (capt), Albert Anae, Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Quade Cooper, Nick Cummins, Kane Douglas, Saia Faingaa, Scott Fardy, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Jesse Mogg, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, James O’Connor, Jake Schatz, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White

It is a heartbreaking statistic for Australia fans that not one of these players has played in a victorious Bledisloe Cup campaign.

McKenzie has been quoted as saying: “We don’t need to make a decision publicly about the play-making role until one hour before the game” so Australian fans will be nonethewiser as to the number 10 to be chosen until close to game time it would seem.

Wallabies Squad Named for the Rugby Championship

Ewen McKenzie has named his 40 man squad for the Rugby Championship this morning. The squad is:

Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Betham, Quade Cooper, Nick Cummins, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Anthony Faingaa, Saia Faingaa, Scott Fardy, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Mike Harris, Michael Hooper, James Horwill, Sekope Kepu, Peter Kimlin, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Jesse Mogg, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, James O’Connor, Nick Phipps, Tatafu Polota Nau, Hugh Pyle, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Jake Schatz, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White.

This squad will be parred back to a 30 man squad in advance of the first test on 17 August.