New Zealand Rugby
Canterbury’s Tom Taylor has been called into the All Blacks after Aaron Cruden was dropped following his boozy night out in Auckland.
Taylor made a composed starting test debut against the Wallabies in Wellington at first five-eighth last year, kicking four penalties and a conversion in the 27-16 win.
He will provide back-up to Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade in the pivotal role over the next two weeks as the All Blacks attempt to secure their third straight Rugby Championship title in La Plata and Johannesburg.
Taylor last played for the All Blacks in November in the 54-6 rout of Japan in Tokyo and has since struggled for form this season, being used in almost every position in the backline by the Crusaders.
Aaron Cruden’s pocket as well as his pride will take a hit in the wake of a boozy night in Auckland, while he can also expect to face a New Zealand Rugby Union misconduct hearing.
The All Blacks flyhalf has expressed his “embarrassment” and “shame” after missing the All Blacks flight to Argentina and subsequently losing his place in the squad for Rugby Championship tests against the Pumas and South Africa.
First-five Aaron Cruden will miss matches against Argentina and South Africa after a late night drinking incident.
Aaron Cruden was found keeping his head down at his Hamilton home today – over 10,000 kilometres away from his All Blacks team-mates – after he was kicked off the trip to Argentina for having a late night drinking session in Auckland.
Ben Smith’s talents might be appreciated more if he rebranded his image and called himself Benji Smith.
A couple of things became clear about Ben Smith last week.
The first is that he’s probably the most natural and best-equipped footballer New Zealand has produced in the professional age.
The second is that he’s in danger of that fact never being widely acknowledged.
Last week we reached the one year landmark before next year’s World Cup.
The All Blacks’ run since their breakthrough success on home soil has been nothing short of extraordinary. They’ve lost only one game in that time and over the last two years alone forged a 21-test unbeaten run.
Twelve months is a long time in rugby. Just look at the turnaround of the Highlanders this season. So much can happen in that time. Predicting what will happen is almost impossible, but here goes.
The All Blacks may have been grounded in Auckland overnight after their flight to Santiago was cancelled, but their ambitions remain sky-high as they look to keep alive an unbeaten run dating back to November, 2012.
Former coach Sir Graham Henry created a few ripples when he suggested the world champions could do with some adversity ahead of their defence of the global crown next year in England.
Henry spoke of the benefits that come from regathering the forces following a defeat and wondered aloud if the All Blacks, who have lost only one test under Steve Hansen, might be the better for the introspection that follows a loss.
International coaches – and selection panels before them – traditionally prize solidity at centre, and nowhere more than in England.
Which is not to say that they’ve not had great creative centres; Jeff Butterfield, Jerry Guscott and Will Greenwood had talents that would have been welcomed in any team in the world.
The school term has finished and the report cards have been dispatched.
This makes it as good a time as any to deliver a summary on how the Wallabies have fared since Ewen McKenzie took over the top job 14 months ago.
Record wise, the Wallabies are on an impressive run, winning 11 of their past 12 games, but the goal has to be to win against the top nations, South Africa and the All Blacks.
They have achieved one of those two desired outcomes.
Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons I have observed during the opening stages of the McKenzie era:
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen can see where his predecessor, Sir Graham Henry, is coming from.
But Hansen wants his team to continue improving without the need of a loss as a wake-up call.
Henry, with Hansen as an assistant, steered New Zealand to the World Cup title in 2011.
However, 12 months out from the start of their defence, Henry is worried they might get too used to winning and believes some adversity, namely a loss, might have benefits.
Crusaders vs Rebels to get the season underway in Christchurch on 13 February.
Defending champion Waratahs to start at home against the Force in Round 1.
Anzac Centenary weekend sees all 10 Australian and New Zealand teams in action across Round 11 (two derbies and three Trans-Tasman clashes).
Waratahs host the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium in a Round 15 re-match of the record-breaking 2014 Super Rugby Final.
All five South African teams are in action on home soil during Rounds 1-3.
Only 4 points separated the All Blacks from the Bokke in Wellington, but, as expected, New Zealand were the victors.
Australia managed a 7 point win against the Pumas so there were no surprises for Round 4 of the Rugby Championship.
There we many positives to be taken out of the game from a South African perspective, the biggest being the form of Handré Pollard playing in his first real big Test.
On a humid morning in February, Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver took the microphone and made the extraordinary declaration that 2014 was the year of the Waratahs.
Not a ball had been kicked, no one knew which Kurtley Beale would turn up in round one and, though they boasted the best and most expensive playing roster in the country, this was the Waratahs, after all.
While local rugby supporters should feel genuine pride after the Springboks went toe-to-toe with the All Blacks away from home, the reality is that, in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.
The chasm between the top two sides in world rugby appears to be narrowing. However, if Heyneke Meyer’s men are to scale the summit, I believe their work ethic off the ball must improve markedly.
While I’m not questioning the players’ character and commitment, I would challenge each of them to analyse the game objectively and ask themselves: Did I chase the kicks hard enough, did I defend with sufficient integrity when the All Blacks played the ball wide and was my discipline sound?
Sir Graham Henry believes Steve Hansen’s All Blacks have the ingredients to carry out a historic defence of the Rugby World Cup at next year’s tournament in England.
Henry delivered New Zealand their second World Cup at home in 2011 following their victory as hosts of the inaugural tournament in 1987.
No team has won back-to-back titles and no All Blacks side has triumphed away from home.
But, a year out from next year’s tournament, Henry is backing the current side to buck history.
“For sure, but it won’t be easy,” warned Henry who oversaw the quarterfinal disaster in 2007 before redeeming himself.
All of the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks, traditionally South Africa’s strongest franchises in Super Rugby, have reason to feel fairly upbeat about their 2015 ordinary-season schedules.
SANZAR revealed the roster for next season – the last before the competition expands yet again – this week, and at least on paper there seems a better chance of the SA challenge being better than this year’s (only the Sharks made the playoffs, and were losing semi-finalists) as the draw is largely kind to the domestic trio of superpowers.
Jake White’s Sharks were widely considered to have had a dream draw in 2014, given the opportunity it presented for them to build a tidy head of steam on South African soil – including a generous allocation of Kings Park games – before their overseas leg.
World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry has committed the ultimate sin in rugby-mad New Zealand, suggesting it would not hurt the All Blacks if they lose a game before they defend the Webb Ellis trophy next year in England.
The All Blacks have lost just once since Steve Hansen succeeded Henry after the successful World Cup campaign in 2011, winning 32 of their 35 Tests. They have also drawn twice with Australia.
The Australian Rugby Union is attempting to lure the British and Irish Lions back Down Under for a money-spinning kick-off to their 2017 tour of New Zealand.
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver has revealed bold plans for a one-off Lions blockbuster which would go some of the way to recouping lost revenue from next year’s World Cup season.
The Lions provided a massive cash injection to the code last year when they played nine games around the country to packed houses, including a drought-breaking 2-1 Test series victory over the Wallabies.
Sir Graham Henry would pick Dan Carter for the next World Cup though admits the veteran first-five now needs to earn his starting position ahead of two young “world class” alternatives in Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.
Today is a year-to-the-day before the Rugby World Cup tournament began at Twickenham with a match between England and Fiji.
The defending champion All Blacks will launch their campaign two days later with a match against Argentina at Wembley Stadium.
When Steve Hansen says the laws of rugby need to be revised, modified and made easier to play, to referee, and to understand, the rugby world should take notice.
The All Blacks under Hansen’s adroit coaching are in an era even more golden than previous great eras.
They are not only playing winning rugby, they are playing rugby the way it is supposed to be played – with courage, physical strength, high skills and the intent to score tries while stopping opponents from doing so.
USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville, who famously captained England on his international debut against Australia in 1984, had a successful top flight coaching career with both Wasps and Gloucester, winning England’s domestic league and cup competitions. But when he left Kingsholm in 2005 he knew that he needed a new career challenge and a change of scenery.
“I couldn’t see myself coaching in the same type of role for another 10 years,” said Melville. “I’m interested in the development of sport and how organisations improve. The opportunity at USA Rugby came up – the new board was different to the average rugby board. I was sucked in by their ambition.”
The Blues have confirmed the signing of former All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan for next season.
Cowan played 51 tests for the All Blacks and 108 games for the Highlanders before a two-year stint with English club Gloucester.
The 32-year-old, who was playing for Tasman in the NPC, would fill the void left by Piri Weepu’s departure and compete with incumbent Bryn Hall.
“Jimmy brings competitiveness, plenty of experience and great game awareness which is something we were really looking for,” Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said.
“We’ve got some good young guys coming through in Bryn Hall, Ihaia West and Simon Hickey coupled with Dan Bowden coming back but we still felt we were lacking a bit of experience through that combination.
Malakai Fekitoa seems set to start for the All Blacks at second five-eighth in Argentina next week with Ryan Crotty still working his way back to fitness after a facial fracture.
Crotty was expected to recover for the test against the Pumas in La Plata next week, but would instead make his return in the NPC with Canterbury and join the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship finale against the Springboks at Ellis Park on October 4.
The All Blacks may march on undefeated but the weekend demonstrated palpably that South Africa are going to be big-time World Cup threats.
Maybe bigger even than the hosts who are also going to take some beating at Fortress Twickenham.
Sure, the Springboks weren’t able to get up and end their five-year losing streak on New Zealand soil, but boy did they get close. And a year out from the Cup it’s significant that they’re knocking on the door.
The 36-Test run began with a win over Australia in the final game of the 2009 Tri Nations, played at Westpac Stadium. The All Blacks cruised to victory 33-6.
Names in the All Blacks side that day included Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko, Jimmy Cowan, Aled de Malmanche, Jason Eaton and Tom Donnelly – on debut. Ma’a Nonu, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read are the only players from Saturday’s match who also appeared in that Test.
It came as an innocuous question from an All Black supporter on Twitter, but it summed up the feeling after Saturday’s epic Springboks-All Blacks test in Wellington.
“After that, don’t you wish Ellis Park could be next week?” he asked. The answer is a big resounding yes.
It wasn’t because we lost and wanted revenge. It wasn’t because the Boks will be kicking themselves for coming so close against the World Champions.
What a difference a week makes…
The Rugby Championship:
We saw 2 very good test matches, particularly the All Blacks vs Springboks game, played in the Cake Tin.
It was played at tempo for the duration of the match and was superbly refereed by Jerome Garces. Chalk and cheese between what we saw last week.
He seemed to be able to make his decisions with ease, without pressure, and for the most part they were well timed, and accurate. He added huge value to a compelling test match which was deservedly won by the All Blacks.
Ma’a Nonu didn’t win the respect and admiration of his South African opposite Jean de Villiers with a big tackle or a crunching run.
The All Blacks second five-eighth saved his classiest moment for the quiet of the changing room where doctors surveyed his broken forearm at halftime during Saturday’s Rugby Championship match at Westpac Stadium.
Nonu’s test, and season, were over, a steel plate inserted in his arm yesterday morning, but as the ambulance doors swung open to take the 32-year-old across town to Wellington Hospital, Nonu thought not of his misfortune and considerable pain.
Instead, he pulled off his No 12 jersey and instructed his handlers to take it to the opposition changing room where it could be collected by de Villiers after he completed his 100th test for the Springboks.
The All Blacks say South Africa have returned to their time-wasting antics, at the same ground where they first accused them of feigning injuries eight years ago.
Senior New Zealand players voiced their concern at the number of Springboks who sought medical treatment during the All Blacks 14-10 win in Wellington on Saturday.
Captain Richie McCaw and No 8 Kieran Read regularly remonstrated with French referee Jerome Garces, believing the tourists were deliberately slowing the speed of the Test to nullify New Zealand’s high-speed approach.
The Springboks put a positive spin on their narrow defeat to the All Blacks in a bruising encounter on Saturday, saying they learnt valuable lessons a year out from the World Cup.
The 14-10 defeat in Wellington all but ended the Springboks bid to prevent the All Blacks claiming the Rugby Championship trophy for a third successive year.
It also came at a price, with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar out for up to eight weeks with knee ligament damage and a question mark over flanker Francois Louw, who suffered an arm injury.
But in the plus column, coach Heyneke Meyer saw a valuable return from his gamble to play 20-year-old Handre Pollard and 21-year-old Jan Serfontein against the top side in the world.
All Blacks center Ma’a Nonu will not play rugby again in 2014 after undergoing surgery on a broken arm sustained against South Africa on Saturday.
Nonu suffered the injury in the first half of the 14-10 win over the Springboks in Wellington and was replaced at halftime but only after having played for nine minutes after suffering the injury when tackling opposite number Jean de Villiers.
The injury means Nonu will miss New Zealand’s remaining Rugby Championship matches against Argentina in La Plata in a fortnight and South Africa in Johannesburg on October 5. He has also been ruled out of New Zealand’s November tour to the United States and Britain.
Thinus Delport acknowledged that New Zealand’s superior experience and mental strength was the difference as they earned a late victory.
He said: “It’s that winning mentality – not panicking, staying calm, making the right decisions.
That’s what it boils down to. One simple error at this level and the game changes.
Brutal as this confrontation was, it was the subtle and cerebral touch of the All Blacks’ collective boots which separated them from South Africa.
This was test rugby in its most pure form. A brutal contest of physicality from the moment Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen levelled All Black captain Richie McCaw in the opening minutes.
It was a shame there had to be winner, but such is sport.
Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar will miss the rest of the Rugby Championship after suffering a knee ligament injury in the 14-10 defeat to the All Blacks in Wellington.
Pienaar was carried from the field in the 36th minute after a swinging leg from team-mate Duane Vermeulen connected with his leg.
Team doctor Craig Roberts confirmed the 80-Test veteran is likely to face several months on the sidelines.
So amper, maar alle aanduidings is dat die Springbokrugbyspan weer op die regte pad is ná sy naelskraapse nederlaag gister teen die All Blacks.
Dit is die eenparige mening van ’n klompie kenners by wie Rapport gaan kers opsteek het ná die Slag van Wellington.
“As ons die All Blacks só kan vat in Wellington, kan ons hulle op neutrale velde in die Wêreldbeker-toernooi klop,” meen die voormalige Bok-slot Krynauw Otto. “Dit was weer simpel foute wat ons, nes in Australië, die wedstryd gekos het. Tien foute minder en ons het gewen.”
This was an absolutely wonderful Test match.
It was what all rugby players and supporters want to see or be involved in.
The referee was outstanding in the game, absolutely clear, no controversial incidents and no yellow cards.
The Springboks played by far their best match this year. A lot of it had to do with the positive mindset that came into the team from the selection of Pollard.