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Old 09-10-2007, 05:08 AM   #91
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Originally posted by Axver


Tana Umaga




This name equals Rugby, you can easily translate this name with rugby.................
What a player, really miss him! What is he doing now?
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Old 09-10-2007, 05:30 AM   #92
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Originally posted by babyman
This name equals Rugby, you can easily translate this name with rugby.................
What a player, really miss him! What is he doing now?
Tana Umaga was such a brilliant leader. Maybe not quite on the level of Sean Fitzpatrick, but even when his play was less than perfect, his presence was enough to inspire the team. And he left at just the right time for Conrad Smith to come through and assume the role of All Blacks centre.

Nowadays, he's actually near your part of the world! Neighbouring country, in fact. A country we're all watching closely this month. He has a coaching role at French provincial club Toulon - who incidentally have some big signings for the upcoming season, including fellow ex-All Black Andrew Mehrtens, Wallaby George Gregan, and Springbok Victor Matfield.
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Old 09-10-2007, 05:40 AM   #93
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Axver, do you remember John Kirwan? He coached Italy for a couple of years, he was a tough one, he also sung the italian anthem on every game! What a person this one, really strong personality! How was he as player? Was he a good one?
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Old 09-10-2007, 06:00 AM   #94
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I was born in 1987, so when I was little, Kirwan was a big name in rugby - his best years were around 1986-88. He last played for the All Blacks in 1994. He was a godly winger; when he retired, he held the record for most tries by an the All Black, 35 - as you probably saw, Doug Howlett equaled Christian Cullen's current record of 46 by scoring 3 tries against Italy. If you were making a dream team of All Blacks from all eras, Kirwan would definitely have to be considered for the wing - though the country's produced so many insanely good wingers that I don't know how you'd pick. I mean, just in the last 10 or so years, we've seen wingers such as Jeff Wilson, Jonah Lomu, Joe Rokocoko, Doug Howlett ...
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Old 09-10-2007, 07:37 AM   #95
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Quote:
Axver: The French can be unpredictable though.
hey axver, as you know 'they're predictable unpredictable...' (Andrew Mehrtens)
in fact the frogs are some kind of a bogeyman for the ABs ... 1999
GO THE ALL BLACKS!!!! GO GO GO all the way through RWC glory
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Old 09-10-2007, 07:41 AM   #96
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hey axver, as you know 'they're predictable unpredictable...' (Andrew Mehrtens)
Ha, yes. And having Laporte as coach is just making them even more peculiarly unpredictable.

Quote:
in fact the frogs are some kind of a bogeyman for the ABs ... 1999
Bad memories. But we DID beat France to win the first World Cup in 1987! Here's hoping for that sort of good fortune again. No way the froggies are beating us. We've a Cup to bring home.
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Old 09-10-2007, 08:16 AM   #97
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Ireland went easy against Namibia, I'm really curious to see how they will play against Argentina and mostly France. England also against USA. Until now, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia look definitely better than the other european fav teams.
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Old 09-11-2007, 12:38 AM   #98
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Hey thanks for the great response..

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

Truer words about Aussie commentary have not been spoken! I particularly hate how they rope in a token Kiwi for Bledisloe Cup games, but it usually tends to be the least intelligent and articulate Kiwi in the entire country. And when it's not a woefully thick one, it's somebody who's weak-willed and just lets the Aussie commentators jabber on with their nonsense.

Channel 10 really were hilarious after the NZ vs Italy game. I loved how they were trying to talk down the All Blacks' victory by pointing out that Australia didn't let in any tries against Japan. Hmm, wonder why? Probably has something to do with the fact Italy's 9th in the world and Japan's 18th, below even Romania and Georgia!
The Aus back-clapping after the predictable result against Japan was a bit nauseating, and yes I did note that the AB's more impressive result was downplayed or all but ignored in the Aus media, appearing as a by-the-by footnote.

I haven't seen too much of the matches so far (not enough coffee), only snippets of the repeats and the overall wrap-up of the results so far presented on their shitty panel show. I've seen just enough to realise that the commentary is headed in a very familiar direction..

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

I have concerns for the international game too, mainly due to the complete dominance New Zealand manages to apply (post-1987 World Cup semi-finals excluded). Unless you're South Africa and maybe Wales, you really can't say you've ever been consistently competitive with the All Blacks. Australia's current success makes a bit more sense when considered in historical context. I maintain the Wallabies at the moment are a flash in the pan and are already showing signs of serious decline.

Australia was not at all a rugby force until the 1980s, partly due to the fact that they got continual experience in the Bledisloe Cup. If you spend decades playing quality opposition and have a decent albeit class-exclusive base, you're eventually going to hit a patch where good coaching combines with enough quality players. Australia's largely had that for the last couple of decades. But note the lack of depth. If they lose Latham, they're stuck with Huxley. Ashley-Cooper is a starting winger despite being shit. MATT FUCKING DUNNING IS ACTUALLY IN THE TEAM! When Australia had a string of injuries a couple of years ago, they lost 8 out of 9 games (I think the lone win was over Italy - just). Now people like Gregan, Mortlock, and Latham are reaching the end of their careers. Nobody of comparable ability really seems to be coming through. I'm sure Australia will linger around the top ten, I'm not saying they're about to become a Portugal, but I expect that in 2-3 decades' time, we'll still be talking about Kiwi and Springbok dominance, while Australia will be around where England and Scotland are nowadays.
Yeah, it's difficult to explain but I just don't 'get' how Australia is more than moderately successful at international rugby, so your flash in the pan theory fits well. Wikipedia reckons that we have 165,219 registered club players, but I'd like to examine that more closely as it's higher than I'd expect. The sceptic in me (and I think you can see a lot of it here ) thinks that maybe they've cheated a little by counting any kid - boy or girl - who's enrolled in a private school as a 'registered player'. No, I don't really think so but it would be nice to see a breakdown of that figure. I guess my view of rugby union participation in Australia has been skewed by living in a rugby league heartland for so long, though.

Agreed on the lack of depth in the Wallaby team. I look at the squad, at those usual suspects who it seems have virtually owned their jersey for years, and can't help but think that there mustn't be nearly enough talent and/or competition at the domestic level. In practically any elite level sport, there is a natural turnover of talent as guys or girls burst onto the stage, hit peak form, then inevitably become less of a force as either they become less physically capable or the game standard itself evolves. I'm not saying that there aren't some freakishly good sportspeople who can't dominate for many years (eg, see US Open thread), but in the case of the Wallabies I just don't believe that the form of some of the guys has been consistently great to warrant continual selection. So I can only conclude that the alternatives waiting in the wings must be fairly weak, as you suggest...

And don't get me started on Matt "The Hindenberg Turned Athlete" Dunning. Reminds me of the old arguments over whether or not tenpin bowlers could call themselves athletes..

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

Yeah. I think the only good league convert was Rogers and losing him back to league was quite possibly the worst thing to hit Australian rugby since Sailor and Dunning were picked for the Wallabies. Sailor was a hack, I've already made my thoughts clear on that. Tuqiri took far too long to become a solid player, though nowadays he's become one of the better Wallabies.

The new ARC should hopefully go some way to helping the development of real union players. Though with horrible team names like the Sydney Fleet and East Coast Aces, I can see why people would stay away ...
The league guys have (or had in the case of Sailor) great potential but as I mentioned they're all at sea without the gifted play makers to create the broken play opportunities, eg. throw the long flat cut-out pass to put them through a gap, or kick through for them to create hell for the opposition. There is little or no cohesive flair in the overall team play within the Wallabies; no doubt being created in the minds of the opposition.

Timana Tahu is the next cab off the rank and he is of much the same mould as the other guys. Rogers was a bit more of a play maker himself, though now back in league he's a bit past his prime I think..

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

While this is the case, I don't think it's as severe as in cricket. I mean, in cricket, outside of the big eight, you might as well just not bother unless Bangladesh has a good day or Mugabe finally fucks off in Zimbabwe. In rugby, if you don't talk about the All Blacks for a minute, teams as far down as #12, Fiji, can be competitive (hell, Fiji are the best 7s team in the world except possibly for New Zealand!). Even #13, Canada, has been a quarter-finalist before and I think has a degree of potential. A 16-team World Cup is fair. It gives the top 10-12 a good bash, and brings in some minnows who can give the top teams a run, especially those currently in a slump (looking at you, Scotland). 20 teams ... well, it's questionable. I'm still in favour of it. You couldn't go to 24 though.
Fair call, but I think that the big gap is still there between the very top contenders and the rest, and I'd be happier with 16 teams for the World Cup. I suppose you also have to consider how the prestige of the WC might be affected if, say, decades from now only a handful of sides have still only ever come close to winning it? Also, rugby is obviously a very physical game so it's important to have that balance between a fair contest with a true outcome, and one that presents too many opportunities for players to submit to injury. Having said that I can understand that from a Kiwi's point of view injuries aren't as much of a worry when you have tremendous depth in the squad..

Getting back to the gap (or gulf?) between some of the WC nations though, and this is a bit of a wild tangent but I'd be curious to see how some of the very top rugby league teams (ie, from UK, NZ, and Aus) would place in a rugby union World Cup IF provided with considerable training and conditioning to adapt their playing style for union. One of the biggest hurdles would probably be the guys bulking up for the scrums not to mention learning proper scrummaging techniques.. and yes, line-outs.. and more players needing to be able to have a general kicking game. It would be a challenge, but an interesting one. I'm not thinking a token couple of month's training, by the way, more like a dedicated 18 months of extremely intense training and even competition. How would they fare alongside the top national sides, and the lesser ones?

Looking at it from the other side, a team such as the AB's would no doubt make an excellent league side.. I'd pay good money to see them challenge the New Zealand Warriors side, say in a charity match or something.. Who would do the Haka though?

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

I doubt any rugby game would end in that, but if it does, I question its fairness. Think of a game that ends tied at 30-30. Team A scored six tries but converted none of them; team B landed ten out of ten penalties. While that's an extreme example, it shows that a team whose defence leaks like a sieve and whose attack is insipid could nonetheless win due to having a quality kicker. Reducing players would be an interesting idea, but I haven't really thought about it.
Yep fair point, I think that each kicker must be different however. In any case it's a pretty hollow, unfair way to finish a match - at World Cup level, no less. Am liking the idea of progressively reducing the players on the field, though I wonder who would choose these.. and wouldn't it suck to be the first ones ordered to leave the field? As you say the odds are against any match being drawn to that point anyway..

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

I think 3 for a penalty is fair, as it should be worth more than a conversion. Maybe conversions from right out front should be worth only one, but definitely a conversion from the sideline deserves two, so three for penalties. However, drop goals are harder than either conversions or penalties, so I actually advocate four points for a drop goal. There is the problem of teams structuring their play around drop goals, but a good defence should make that less of a threat, and an offence based on drop goals will never be an equal substitute for an offence based on scoring tries.
Hmm, I'm not so sure, and I'd definitely be opposed to upping dropgoals to four points. As it is I find that the game is currently a little too oriented towards grinding away through the rucks and kicking rather than putting the ball through the hands, and four points per dropgoal would likely only make it even moreso. A very dominant side could be completely lacking in enterprising attack, yet very solid and aggressive in defence.. and also happen to have a few guru kickers within its ranks. Sure dropgoaling is difficult, but given enough players coming through the ranks and having the dedication to master the art, how could you stop them? A freak kicker(s) could burst onto the scene and decimate what used to be a team sport. I think I'd be happier with two points, and perhaps even one.

Three points for penalties, OK yeah they -probably- should be worth more than conversions. As I mentioned, the worry is that (same as with any international sport) referee interpretations of rules tend to differ between nations. I guess you could argue that an erroneous penalty out of kicking range could be just as harmful though, if it leads to a try and conversion..
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Old 09-11-2007, 03:59 AM   #99
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Old 09-12-2007, 06:03 AM   #100
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Nick Mallet is gonna be Italy's new coach after the worldchampionship................... Great choice, but Pierre Berbizier will always have lots of merits for having brought Italy a step forward
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Old 09-12-2007, 06:34 AM   #101
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Well, well, well. After downing France, Argentina seemed to make hard work of beating Georgia, 33-3. I expected a higher margin of victory than that.

Tonight we've got three games.

USA vs Tonga: The US is 15th in the world and Tonga's 14th, so this should be a closely fought battle. I think the Yanks have the better team though, so I'm picking them to scrape through with a win.

Japan vs Fiji: 18th in the world vs 10th in the world. Fiji should win this easily. However, I imagine this will be an entertaining game to watch. The Fijians are famous for their prodigious skill at the 7-a-side form of the game and the Japanese like to play fast-paced rugby. I'd stay up and watch if I didn't have early classes at uni.

Italy vs Romania: This should be a comfortable victory for the Italians. 30+ points. Romania's really been on the decline and I don't see them hindering Italy much; the only team they'll beat is Portugal. In contrast, Italy probably won't lose a game until they get beaten by the winner of Group D in the quarter-finals.
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Old 09-12-2007, 07:18 AM   #102
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And now for a long response ...

Quote:
Originally posted by Zihua
The Aus back-clapping after the predictable result against Japan was a bit nauseating, and yes I did note that the AB's more impressive result was downplayed or all but ignored in the Aus media, appearing as a by-the-by footnote.
The Australian media has a tendency to downplay pretty much every other sporting event in the world, unless you're watching SBS for the soccer. Sure, Australia's not as bad as the Yanks, but I really am tired of "here's a huge piece about a totally predictable and rather dull Aussie win, now let's just give the score of a far more interesting game and move on to what some other Aussie predictably did ..." I never watch sports reports any more. Not just because of that factor, though. I'm tired of seemingly endless rugby league/AFL highlights reels and then a dodgy half-arsed report on union that shows two tries and some irrelevant footage of a has-been player on the sideline.

Quote:
Yeah, it's difficult to explain but I just don't 'get' how Australia is more than moderately successful at international rugby, so your flash in the pan theory fits well. Wikipedia reckons that we have 165,219 registered club players, but I'd like to examine that more closely as it's higher than I'd expect. The sceptic in me (and I think you can see a lot of it here ) thinks that maybe they've cheated a little by counting any kid - boy or girl - who's enrolled in a private school as a 'registered player'. No, I don't really think so but it would be nice to see a breakdown of that figure. I guess my view of rugby union participation in Australia has been skewed by living in a rugby league heartland for so long, though.
Yeah, that high amount of registered club players is surprising, but then again, you know what the most popular youth sport in New Zealand is? Soccer. But almost all serious sportspeople eventually switch to rugby as their main game. That's not to say they abandon soccer, though: Dan Carter recently played some club soccer in Christchurch!

What I think really must be considered is that while rugby union is pretty class-exclusive here, that's also true to varying extents in the other major rugby powers. There are only 2, possibly 3, exceptions. New Zealand is obviously the first exception, where rugby is far more important than anything else (I do wonder happens when pregnant women go into labour during World Cup finals featuring the All Blacks? If I were female and pregnant, that'd be my worst nightmare). The second is Wales, where rugby is also the people's game and explains why Wales has such a rich rugby history. My possible third is South Africa - but we'd need GibsonGirl to weigh in here. From the perspective I've gained, rugby in South Africa appears to be pretty race exclusive, with whites forming the vast bulk of players, but within that group, it seems to cross class boundaries.

Quote:
Agreed on the lack of depth in the Wallaby team. I look at the squad, at those usual suspects who it seems have virtually owned their jersey for years, and can't help but think that there mustn't be nearly enough talent and/or competition at the domestic level. In practically any elite level sport, there is a natural turnover of talent as guys or girls burst onto the stage, hit peak form, then inevitably become less of a force as either they become less physically capable or the game standard itself evolves. I'm not saying that there aren't some freakishly good sportspeople who can't dominate for many years (eg, see US Open thread), but in the case of the Wallabies I just don't believe that the form of some of the guys has been consistently great to warrant continual selection. So I can only conclude that the alternatives waiting in the wings must be fairly weak, as you suggest...
It's just ridiculous when you look back on past Wallabies teams and see the same names recurring over and over again. You almost start wondering when John Eales will be dragged back into the team. I think Australia's looking particularly weak at the back these days. Meanwhile, the New Zealand selectors must have one of the worst jobs on earth. How do you pick between Sivivatu, Rokocoko, Howlett, Gear, Muliaina, etc.? Of course, what I find ironic at the moment is that while we have some of the greatest depth at lock in the world, with six players of international calibre, we seem to be struggling to keep them healthy! Ali Williams and Chris Jack are the only two in match condition at the moment, and we don't want to over-play them early in the Cup. I can't believe this is Chris Jack's last World Cup. He's one of my favourite forwards ever. The man just does not give up, no matter how badly you knock him down and injure him.

Regarding Australia's league converts, I think the main problem was that they were thrust straight into the Wallabies. They got no opportunity to really master the breakdown and you could tell their quality of play really suffered for it. Someone like Sailor just did nothing but stood to the side. When he did attempt a tackle, they were ineffective, and if you got him in a good tackle, he found it very difficult to recycle the ball. At least Rogers, like you said, was a playmaker himself. I always feared him; I think the fact he was deceptive and a good kicker allowed him to invent space where there wasn't any. When Sailor would just get knocked over by a feather, Rogers would dummy or chip-kick and be on his way. I felt the Wallabies under-utilised him and I don't blame him for going back to league.

Quote:
Fair call, but I think that the big gap is still there between the very top contenders and the rest, and I'd be happier with 16 teams for the World Cup. I suppose you also have to consider how the prestige of the WC might be affected if, say, decades from now only a handful of sides have still only ever come close to winning it? Also, rugby is obviously a very physical game so it's important to have that balance between a fair contest with a true outcome, and one that presents too many opportunities for players to submit to injury.
It's interesting to note some early minnow results. Look at how Namibia has pushed Ireland and Georgia weren't wasted by Argentina. I feel that at 20 teams, it's enough space to provide valuable experience to minnow countries. If you cut it to 16, you'd have a problem of minnows having no access at all. The current top 15 would have a lock on all but one spot, and the 16th would in all likelihood just be competed between Romania and Japan. In past years, that 16th spot would have been assurred to Romania. I feel you need 20 teams to allow Japan, Georgia, and Namibia access - they may get totally thumped by the top five, but it gives them a good bash against the rest. Maybe 18 teams would be better?

Your league mention is interesting. The attacking flair of the league teams would give them great opportunities on attack, but I feel their defence would leak like a sieve. An equally powerful attacking force such as the All Blacks would probably destroy even the best league team you can possibly make. However, the Aussie league team against a Northern union team like England would probably give the Aussies a win. I will forever maintain that rugby is played properly in the Southern Hemisphere. The Home Nations have too much defence and too little offence. Also, your league mention brings to mind something else. The farcical league World Cup has featured the New Zealand Maori. Their union equivalent is one of the world's better sides, including a thumping 74-6 win over the US earlier this year that perfectly illustrated the gulf in talent between the #1 and #15 countries in the world. This World Cup to me seems to have 19 times who deserve to be there and fucking Portugal. Cut Portugal, bring in the New Zealand Maori, and there you go, 20 teams who should be there.

Oh, and I nearly forgot the other comment I wanted to respond to, your mention of what if it's just the same teams winning over and over again. Check out the soccer World Cup! Only seven countries have won it in 18 tournaments. Rugby's had 4 in 5. At this same point in the soccer Cup's history, 3 had won. After 10 Cups, 6 unique winners. In the eight since, only 1 new unique winner. So I say not to get too worried about the Rugby World Cup just yet. Out of teams who can conceivably win it, France and Wales haven't done so yet and New Zealand and South Africa are still waiting to do it again. Out of countries that have never lost to New Zealand, Ireland and Argentina could still do it given favourable fortunes.

Quote:
Hmm, I'm not so sure, and I'd definitely be opposed to upping dropgoals to four points. As it is I find that the game is currently a little too oriented towards grinding away through the rucks and kicking rather than putting the ball through the hands, and four points per dropgoal would likely only make it even moreso. A very dominant side could be completely lacking in enterprising attack, yet very solid and aggressive in defence.. and also happen to have a few guru kickers within its ranks. Sure dropgoaling is difficult, but given enough players coming through the ranks and having the dedication to master the art, how could you stop them? A freak kicker(s) could burst onto the scene and decimate what used to be a team sport. I think I'd be happier with two points, and perhaps even one.

Three points for penalties, OK yeah they -probably- should be worth more than conversions. As I mentioned, the worry is that (same as with any international sport) referee interpretations of rules tend to differ between nations. I guess you could argue that an erroneous penalty out of kicking range could be just as harmful though, if it leads to a try and conversion..
Yeah, this is true - I suppose as far as scoring goes, I support retaining the status quo. I don't see too much drive to change it. And I think that with penalties, there's really very little you can do with inconsistent refereeing. It's a problem every sport has, and I'm more worried about it in cricket (I want LBW decisions taken away from the on-field umpires). I used to respect the IRB's selection criteria a lot, as they seem to have quite high standards, but Stuart fucking Dickinson is still there and even at this World Cup! Incomprehensible. He is the worst referee in history. I will never forgive him for the 2003 game between New Zealand and England where he blew 33 penalties! By the end of the game, the Wellington crowd was booing every time he gave a penalty, even when it was in favour of New Zealand!
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Old 09-13-2007, 02:42 AM   #103
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Italy looked bad yesterday, though I'm sure Romania isn't so weak as many may think. But I'm not so optimistic about passing to the quarter-finals for Italy, it will be hard to beat Scotland.
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Old 09-13-2007, 02:58 AM   #104
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Quote:
Originally posted by babyman
Italy looked bad yesterday, though I'm sure Romania isn't so weak as many may think. But I'm not so optimistic about passing to the quarter-finals for Italy, it will be hard to beat Scotland.
I'm blown away that Italy had such a hard time beating Romania. Back in the eighties, Romania was under-rated - but that was because Ceacescu was funnelling money into sport as part of his idea of Romanian greatness. But since then, funding has gone down, equipment has aged, and the team's not as good as they used to be, so I figured Italy should walk all over them, especially with their Six Nations experience bearing fruit.

As for the other games ...

Seems my USA vs Tonga prediction didn't quite come off. 25-15 to the Tongans. It'll probably be Tonga's only win, and the USA won't win a single game.

Fiji vs Japan must've been a good game, 35-31 to the Fijians. I wish I'd seen it.

I'd also like to say right now that I think New Zealand vs Portugal this weekend should be called off. I don't believe that game should be played. It's going to be a thumping, that's no secret, and I don't see what good it will do for anyone. When New Zealand thumped Japan 145-17 in 1995, it set Japanese rugby's development back at least a decade and I fear a similar outcome for Portugal. And out of self-interest, I don't want to see any of our players get injured in such a completely meaningless match. I'd be spewing if I were an Australian fan, with Gerrard's injury after only being on the field for a minute in the game against Japan.
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Axver is offline  
Old 09-13-2007, 10:31 PM   #105
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Join Date: Jul 2005
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Hi sorry for the very lengthy reply. No wonder I don't post often, this is too much hard work. :P How do you folks do it??

So please feel free to chop and ignore, as much of this on rereading is more sidetracked rants than arguments..

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

The Australian media has a tendency to downplay pretty much every other sporting event in the world, unless you're watching SBS for the soccer. Sure, Australia's not as bad as the Yanks, but I really am tired of "here's a huge piece about a totally predictable and rather dull Aussie win, now let's just give the score of a far more interesting game and move on to what some other Aussie predictably did ..." I never watch sports reports any more. Not just because of that factor, though. I'm tired of seemingly endless rugby league/AFL highlights reels and then a dodgy half-arsed report on union that shows two tries and some irrelevant footage of a has-been player on the sideline.
Hehe yep that sounds pretty much right. The self-aggrandising (?) in the Aussie media makes me cringe, and I think that they play a significant role in swelling pride to the point of arrogance in the Aussie sporting culture. It gives us a terrible image. I'm patriotic enough to enjoy seeing Australian sporting individuals or teams do well, but not at the expense of humility and dignity..

Re the narrow sports coverage in Australia, it's all about the ratings and the right target demographic for the advertisers I guess, same as with the rest of their news, their game shows, the glut of crime shows, etc. At least we're very fortunate enough to live in a digital age where we have so much more control over which media we can experience. It will be interesting to see whether commercial television networks will be able to step it up to stay as relevant as the other media sources. I think that ultimately there will be the expectation that individuals will be able to completely customise everything that they watch or read or listen to, and broadcast television doesn't seem to be a good fit for that model. For you Kiwis, the dream of around the clock rugby highlights could be closer than you think..

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

Yeah, that high amount of registered club players is surprising, but then again, you know what the most popular youth sport in New Zealand is? Soccer. But almost all serious sportspeople eventually switch to rugby as their main game. That's not to say they abandon soccer, though: Dan Carter recently played some club soccer in Christchurch!
Hehe, I wonder how Dan Carter's insurers and/or sponsors felt about that? Sort of like Michael Schumacher having a kick between races? Not surprising that soccer is the biggest junior sport in New Zealand before the players typically defect to rugby - soccer is much easier to learn, and playable almost anywhere. And parents don't have to be as concerned about spinal injuries. There's a similar pattern in Australia and also I believe in the US, and probably quite a few other countries, although of course the differences between them are which sports are taken up once the kids have done their dash with soccer. In NZ, rugby is fortunate to have such a monopoly..

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

What I think really must be considered is that while rugby union is pretty class-exclusive here, that's also true to varying extents in the other major rugby powers. There are only 2, possibly 3, exceptions. New Zealand is obviously the first exception, where rugby is far more important than anything else (I do wonder happens when pregnant women go into labour during World Cup finals featuring the All Blacks? If I were female and pregnant, that'd be my worst nightmare). The second is Wales, where rugby is also the people's game and explains why Wales has such a rich rugby history. My possible third is South Africa - but we'd need GibsonGirl to weigh in here. From the perspective I've gained, rugby in South Africa appears to be pretty race exclusive, with whites forming the vast bulk of players, but within that group, it seems to cross class boundaries.
Hm yeah not sure where exactly the South African rugby player base comes from, but I take your point that the Australian situation is similar to that of some other powerful rugby nations, including England. The promotional media here tries hard to break down the barriers though, typically employing that failsafe sales pitch of the Aussie rivalry with certain other nations. I think that they do a pretty good job of convincing the general population that Australians love their rugby a lot more than they actually do.

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

It's just ridiculous when you look back on past Wallabies teams and see the same names recurring over and over again. You almost start wondering when John Eales will be dragged back into the team. I think Australia's looking particularly weak at the back these days. Meanwhile, the New Zealand selectors must have one of the worst jobs on earth. How do you pick between Sivivatu, Rokocoko, Howlett, Gear, Muliaina, etc.? Of course, what I find ironic at the moment is that while we have some of the greatest depth at lock in the world, with six players of international calibre, we seem to be struggling to keep them healthy! Ali Williams and Chris Jack are the only two in match condition at the moment, and we don't want to over-play them early in the Cup. I can't believe this is Chris Jack's last World Cup. He's one of my favourite forwards ever. The man just does not give up, no matter how badly you knock him down and injure him.
Haha yep I think everyone pities the New Zealand selectors while envying their coaching staff! Just think of the poor guys who could easily slot into any other international side yet probably never get a look-in for the NZ squad. Tough life for them. Or are those the guys that end up in league, you think? :P

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

Regarding Australia's league converts, I think the main problem was that they were thrust straight into the Wallabies. They got no opportunity to really master the breakdown and you could tell their quality of play really suffered for it. Someone like Sailor just did nothing but stood to the side. When he did attempt a tackle, they were ineffective, and if you got him in a good tackle, he found it very difficult to recycle the ball. At least Rogers, like you said, was a playmaker himself. I always feared him; I think the fact he was deceptive and a good kicker allowed him to invent space where there wasn't any. When Sailor would just get knocked over by a feather, Rogers would dummy or chip-kick and be on his way. I felt the Wallabies under-utilised him and I don't blame him for going back to league.
The fact that those league players were poached and fast-tracked into the domestic sides and soon after the national side says a lot about the lack of depth in Australian rugby, doesn't it? Sure it may have been as much or more about marketing than sporting merit, but still.. if those guys could push their way into Wallaby jerseys ahead of other dedicated rugby contenders, it makes the situation look fairly dire. On the other hand it is handy that much of the skills across the two codes translate very well, and from the perspective of countries such as England, New Zealand and Australia it does provide a potentially fantastic well of talent to drawn from.

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

It's interesting to note some early minnow results. Look at how Namibia has pushed Ireland and Georgia weren't wasted by Argentina. I feel that at 20 teams, it's enough space to provide valuable experience to minnow countries. If you cut it to 16, you'd have a problem of minnows having no access at all. The current top 15 would have a lock on all but one spot, and the 16th would in all likelihood just be competed between Romania and Japan. In past years, that 16th spot would have been assurred to Romania. I feel you need 20 teams to allow Japan, Georgia, and Namibia access - they may get totally thumped by the top five, but it gives them a good bash against the rest. Maybe 18 teams would be better?

Your league mention is interesting. The attacking flair of the league teams would give them great opportunities on attack, but I feel their defence would leak like a sieve. An equally powerful attacking force such as the All Blacks would probably destroy even the best league team you can possibly make. However, the Aussie league team against a Northern union team like England would probably give the Aussies a win. I will forever maintain that rugby is played properly in the Southern Hemisphere. The Home Nations have too much defence and too little offence. Also, your league mention brings to mind something else. The farcical league World Cup has featured the New Zealand Maori. Their union equivalent is one of the world's better sides, including a thumping 74-6 win over the US earlier this year that perfectly illustrated the gulf in talent between the #1 and #15 countries in the world. This World Cup to me seems to have 19 times who deserve to be there and fucking Portugal. Cut Portugal, bring in the New Zealand Maori, and there you go, 20 teams who should be there.

Oh, and I nearly forgot the other comment I wanted to respond to, your mention of what if it's just the same teams winning over and over again. Check out the soccer World Cup! Only seven countries have won it in 18 tournaments. Rugby's had 4 in 5. At this same point in the soccer Cup's history, 3 had won. After 10 Cups, 6 unique winners. In the eight since, only 1 new unique winner. So I say not to get too worried about the Rugby World Cup just yet. Out of teams who can conceivably win it, France and Wales haven't done so yet and New Zealand and South Africa are still waiting to do it again. Out of countries that have never lost to New Zealand, Ireland and Argentina could still do it given favourable fortunes.
True, there has been some surprising resistance from the minnows! Good to see.. I also wish that I could've seen that Fiji v Japan match..

Maybe - hopefully - the gulf isn't as bad as I sometimes think it is. Your example of the New Zealand Maori destroying the US illustrates some of the problem though. Could you see the US team ever beating the Maori? I'd doubt it would happen, yet there they are in the World Cup. Sure more teams in a competition means more stadium and televised matches, and more revenue for the stakeholders, but the only hazard that a team such as the US or Portugal presents is that of injuring players from one of the marquee teams. It's a World Cup and they'll never get close to winning it, so what's the point? Anyway that's what started me down the hypothetical path of throwing in NZ and South African 2nd, 3rd (etc) string teams. How would they go? Then onto the rugby league teams. It'll never happen of course, or at least not in a way that could give us a true indication of their potential, but it's fun to muse over.

By the way I have to disagree on the league defence being flimsy, why do you say that? And don't say "Wendell Sailor". If you mean because of the necessary adjustment to defending around the ruck, ie. rolling mauls, while being able to maintain their defensive position, then I agree that it would be a big challenge to adjust to that style of play, but remember this is assuming that they would be provided with a LONG period of intense training and match practise. Yes the attacking games are fairly different, but I think that it's actually in league where the ball is put through the hands more often and the defence needs to be more skilled in reading deceptive attacking plays and sliding as needed as the attacking team employs decoy runners. In turn the attackers need to employ more creativity as each time the ball is played they are generally facing an intact defensive line, ie. no players committed to the ruck, and their goal is to try to create space in it. It's an interesting contrast..

And geez you've even gone and done some research on the soccer World Cup! I should've done this myself for comparison, so thanks for looking into it.. I didn't know that so few had won it, I must say that I always get the feeling that it's a much tighter competition yet the stats say otherwise, huh? At least for the overall winners, that is. As a competition though I think the teams are more evenly matched than in rugby. A minnow team such as Australia who just barely scraped into the 32 for once holding the cup winners Italy to a 1-0 scoreline is a fair indication of the competitiveness of soccer, and in rugby terms that would be something like New Zealand just scraping past Georgia; it's not going to happen, is it? It's at least heartening that in rugby no one team has had it their own way, though I have a feeling that that may well apply in this WC campaign..

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver

Yeah, this is true - I suppose as far as scoring goes, I support retaining the status quo. I don't see too much drive to change it. And I think that with penalties, there's really very little you can do with inconsistent refereeing. It's a problem every sport has, and I'm more worried about it in cricket (I want LBW decisions taken away from the on-field umpires). I used to respect the IRB's selection criteria a lot, as they seem to have quite high standards, but Stuart fucking Dickinson is still there and even at this World Cup! Incomprehensible. He is the worst referee in history. I will never forgive him for the 2003 game between New Zealand and England where he blew 33 penalties! By the end of the game, the Wellington crowd was booing every time he gave a penalty, even when it was in favour of New Zealand!
Yeah I remember that game. Given the circumstances at that point in the tournament, I suppose they shouldn't have had an Australian refereeing it, period. But anyway yeah true, a referee or umpire can have a tremendous bearing on the result of any match in any sport. I'm 100% with you on having video umpires for LBWs in cricket, why wouldn't they?? Everyone knows it's inevitable, why not just start doing it now. Heck I'd be happy if they could employ the video umps across the board, eg, for catches as well, again following that mantra that the official's individual judgment shouldn't affect the outcome of the game. I can't think of any example where a video referee or umpire has interrupted the flow of the sport too much, and does anyone really mind stopping the game for a few moments if they know that the forthcoming result is almost certainly going to be the right one?
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