Richie McCaw is back to captain the All Blacks against the WallabiesAll Blacks Coach Graham Henry and his Assistant Coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have named the All Blacks team to play Australia in the final Investec Tri Nations Test at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, on Saturday 27 August.The side includes ten of the starting XV who featured in the 30–14 victory over the Wallabies in Auckland earlier this month, with Richie McCaw returning to captain the side in his 98th Test.Owen Franks returns to the front row alongside prop Tony Woodcock and hooker Keven Mealamu who started last week’s Test against South Africa. Brad Thorn is back at lock together with Sam Whitelock, who was in last week’s run–on team, while in the loose forwards, Adam Thomson is at blindside flanker, McCaw is at openside and Kieran Read is at number eight.In the backs, Piri Weepu gets the nod at halfback, Daniel Carter is again in the 10 jersey, the All Blacks most capped midfield Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith are reunited, with Nonu also joining Walter Little as the most capped All Blacks second five–eighth (45). Zac Guildford and Cory Jane will start on the wings, with Mils Muliaina at fullback.All Blacks Coach Graham Henry said: “This is a tournament–defining match for the team. The winner wins the Investec Tri Nations, it’s as simple as that. Australia are a dangerous team to play and they will be looking to bounce back from the loss against us in Auckland, so we will have to play at our very best. It’s going to be a massive Test match.” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The All Blacks and Wallabies have played each other 141 times, with 96 wins to the All Blacks, 40 to Australia and five draws. The last Test at Suncorp Stadium was in 2008 when the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 28–24.Starting XV:1. Tony Woodcock (75)2. Keven Mealamu (85)3. Owen Franks (23)4. Brad Thorn (51)5. Samuel Whitelock (17)6. Adam Thomson (21)7. Richie McCaw – captain (97)8. Kieran Read (31)9. Piri Weepu (48)10. Daniel Carter (81)11. Zac Guildford (6)12. Ma’a Nonu (59)13. Conrad Smith (48)14. Cory Jane (24)15. Mils Muliaina (97) BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 24: Richie McCaw of the All Blacks warms up during a New Zealand All Blacks training session at Church Grammar School on August 24, 2011 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images) Reserves: 16. Andrew Hore (54)17. John Afoa (33)18. Ali Williams (65)19. Victor Vito (7)20. Andy Ellis (20)21. Colin Slade (5)22. Isaia Toeava (31)Number of Test caps in brackets
20 September | 19 September | 18 September | 17 September | 16 September Fans attend the 2011 Rugby World Cup pool A match Tonga vs Japan at the Northland Events stadium in Whangarei on September 21, 2011. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images) Japan had many of their fans in townThe Rugby World Cup 2011 official YouTube channel will be releasing daily videos to give you the chance to be part of the experience no matter where you are in the world. It allows you to follow the progress of the tournament, plus look at other things to do while in New Zealand.All the reaction from Japan’s match with Tonga, plus we talk development with the International Rugby Board regarding how well Tier Two nations have done so far. Plus we pay another visit to Christchurch. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS 2. LLOYD WILLIAMSHe may have been limited to a bench role this time but expect him to have the No 9 on his back in four years’ time. He showed in the last 15 minutes against Australia what he’s capable of, keeping the tempo up as Wales pushed for that late try and taking play all the way to the Wallabies line. He can pass well off both hands and, more importantly, can pass quickly; he gets the ball out of the contact area as fast as he can giving Wales the best opportunity to do some damage.Power play: Dan Lydiate3. THE BACK ROWSo much has already been said about Sam Warburton and his skills, but we shouldn’t forget his back-row buddies Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau. Lydiate is one of the hardest workers in the team and puts in tremendous tackles while Faletau proved in the France defeat that he has a skill-set beyond his 20 years, controlling the ball at the back of a retreating scrum and getting Wales on the front foot with his powerful surges with ball in hand. 4. ATTITUDEThis Wales side are different from their predecessors. Young and confident, they play with a belief that the men in red have not always possessed. They’re serious about achieving success and are prepared to make the sacrifices for it, even if it means laying off the beers post-match. If they can maintain that attitude for the years to come and increase their self-belief even further they should do well. Very well indeed. Opening gambit: Shane Williams, playing in his last RWC game, scored Wales’ first try against AustraliaBy Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor at Eden ParkWALES DESERVED to end this World Cup with a win but it wasn’t to be. Neither Australia nor Wales excelled in a rather drab third-place play-off, but it was the Wallabies who emerged 21-18 winners at Eden Park.Wales put together a great spell in the last five minutes, keeping the ball and working their way from their own half into Australia’s 22 before stretching the Wallabies defence to such an extent that Leigh Halfpenny skipped over for a late try. They should be credited for that commitment to a losing cause but ultimately it was a sad end to their tournament.The men in red missed Rhys Priestland desperately, neither James Hook nor Stephen Jones looking comfortable at ten or bringing the best out of this back-line. So Warren Gatland’s side return home having finished fourth at the World Cup – and losing their three games by a total of five points. How much different would things have been had Priestland been fit or either of their other fly-halves had been able to slot a penalty or two.It may have been a disappointing finish, but there are still positives they can take.…1. RHYS PRIESTLANDThe effect of the Scarlets fly-half on this team was most evident when he wasn’t playing in Wales’ last two games. He’s an instinctive and clever player who plays flat and can time his passes to great effect, bringing his powerful midfield runners onto the ball at pace or spreading it wide to a dangerous back three. He should be installed in the No 10 shirt now and stay there all the way to RWC 2015. He’s responsible for getting Wales’ back-line firing again.
In at No 10: Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton crosses for one of his two tries against Argentina last monthBy Al DymockLIKE WINSTON CHURCHILL riding a T-Rex through the season finale of Downton Abbey whilst singing a Mumford and Sons number, the autumn Internationals came to a rousing crescendo.Logic be damned: England had toppled the All Blacks at the same time as Australia claimed a third victory on their end-of-season tour. All at once you were at pains to think of anything other than the Lions tour.The Australians were diving back under the equator with surprisingly brusque wins against England and Wales while the swinging chariot was crushing Kiwis. It was beautiful in its absurdity because for one manic minute everyone thought of England as the boundless inventors and as Australia as the stuffy win thieves.Tickets for the Six Nations should sell out quicker than Peter Andre on the phone to a TV executive. However, before that, it is the English and Irish resurgence and the cataclysmic collapse of Scotland and Wales which will be on Warren Gatland’s mind.Who stood up during the autumn Internationals and consistently said: “I am a Lion”?15. Leigh Halfpenny His bravery almost got him seriously hurt against Australia in the last game of the series, but his consistency has seen him out in front of all the other candidates this autumn.Making a splash: England’s Chris Ashton14. Chris Ashton In truth picking him is a gamble. It is a gamble, however, that would get under the skin of the Australians. They would target him; get distressed by him. He might even score like he did against the All Blacks.13. Manu Tuilagi The Twickenham faithful were treated to an imperious display by Tuilagi as he slipped into 13 against New Zealand. He was brutal in his efficiency. Four tries in four autumn Internationals can’t be ignored, either. Of course if O’Driscoll gets fit, he slips to 12…12. Brad Barritt For all Tuilagi’s explosive adventure, he sometimes needs a minder. Barritt may not be the most exciting player, but his defence is solid and he guides Manu through. Until Jamie Roberts can prove he is up to it, BB is an option.11. Craig Gilroy This may be flavour of the month, but his impact has been one to savour. Even Gatland says he’s on his mind. He is quick, if a little nervy. 8. Jamie Heaslip Earmarked as a potential skipper, Heaslip is a rounded player who loves to get near the try-line. With big beasts in front of him he can damage anyone and he is maturing to a stage where he can bark orders at those beasts.Follow Al Dymock on Twitter @AlanDymock 10. Jonathan Sexton He may not be up for the IRB Player of the Year award, but his consistency and performance against Argentina sees him above the rest. You’re more assured of what you’re getting than if you picked Owen Farrell.9. Mike Phillips Much improved and still physical, but he is picked because there is nothing you can set your watch by elsewhere. There are options in England and with Conor Murray, but Gatland will be worried about who he can rely on for a whole tour.1. Ryan Grant The only player to shine for Scotland, Grant carried well and tackled brilliantly while his team-mates were sitting on their backsides feeling sorry for themselves. Not just a one game wonder.2. Richardt Strauss Okay, so he isn’t the most physical or the silkiest, but Strauss has grown on me. His arrows are better than the rest and he knows winning like the back of his hand, thanks to time at Leinster. This is Gatland’s danger position.3. Dan Cole He is so lovely and nice and scrum savvy that I want to recite poetry to the big fella. Oh Danny C, you’ve won a fan in me. When you’re bruising All Black props, I feel my heart fall through my socks.Heaven at seven: Wales’ Sam Warburton4. Joe Launchbury A loveable scamp, young Joe. He pedals about without a care in the world, handing folk off and nicking lineouts. His work-rate and potential could be utilised. He could be going vertical.5. Richie Gray His quality and level of industry have him in here, but he needs confidence and some big games if he’s to make the team in real life.6. Chris Robshaw Forget blunders; forget the number on his back. Look at what he offers. Tackling and rucking as he does may shave years off his life but he is helping destroy opposition.7. Sam Warburton The talent is there. What Sammy needs is pressure lifted so he can play with freedom. If there are leaders in the back row with him he can focus on the task at hand and forget about having to apologise for the squad all the time. NOT FOR FEATURED LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
Things get even more high tech when you take a look at the watch strap, which contains a hidden USB that you can plug directly into your phone, computer or tablet to give you in-depth analysis of your performance history. Runners can also set reminders, access distance information, maps, and find out about any changes in elevation that might occur en route. Impressive stuff, huh? The Nike+ range is known for the range of trainers which link up to iPods to become a pedometer but this sports watch is an easier solution!Speedo Aquabeat 2.0 Underwater MP3 PlayerRunners and gym-goers have been able to listen to their favourite tunes on the move for decades, with increasingly high tech pieces of kit. It’s about time underwater MP3 players got an update to give swimmers just as many options in the pool as in the gym. The latest innovation from Speedo now features a screen, making it easy to find the tunes you want while you’re in the water. Allowing you to listen to your favourite tracks in the pool or at the beach to an underwater depth of 3m, it floats too, just in case.You can listen to MP3 or WMA files, and choose between the 4GB and 8GB version, giving you space to store between 2,000 and 4,000 tracks. Create playlists tailored to your sessions, or hit shuffle to listen to tunes at random, the Aquabeat 2.0 also features a built in radio and stopwatch.Gill Quick Dry Towel THANKS TO the arrival of smartphones, tablets and apps, we’re an increasingly tech-savvy society, and the rise of technology hasn’t escaped the gym. Today the workout world if flooded with gadgets and gizmos, some promising results that are just too good to be true.But some of these new fitness-tech arrivals are a genuinely helpful addition to your training sessions. Helping you monitor your progress, push yourself harder, or simply making your workouts more enjoyable, these cool gadgets undeniably make life in the gym that little bit easier.Whether you’re looking to improve your own fitness regime, or looking for something to treat the fitness fanatic in your family this Christmas, here’s a roundup of some of the most useful workout gadgets to have arrived on the scene this year.Nike+ Sportswatch GPSA must for any runner looking to get up to speed, this nifty bit of Nike kit uses TomTom powered GPS technology to enable you to record your time, distance and pace. It’ll also tell you exactly how many calories you burn while you exercise, and all this data can be converted into Nike Fuel. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Performance fabrics have revolutionised the sports world in recent years, with wick away fabrics meaning we can say goodbye to soggy t-shirts and clammy workouts. Gill has taken the technology a step further and launched a new range of towels that are an invaluable addition to any sports bag.Made from an ultra-lightweight microfibre, the towel can absorb up to six times their own weight in water, dry instantly, and feature both an anti-bacterial finish and anti-odour technology to keep your gym bag smelling fresh.
The RBS 6 Nations began with a bang – not least in Cardiff where the Wales v England match was packed with drama and controversy. Ireland, Italy, France and Scotland all joined the party on Saturday and all three games had their share of heroes and villains Suspecting they were to be “treated” to a longer than usual pre-kickoff spectacular, England skipper Chris Robshaw refused to take his team onto the pitch until Wales were also in the tunnel. The referee apparently told him that if Wales did not follow England out within a minute, he would bring England back in. I did not have a stop-watch on the time-lag, but with Sam Warburton running out alone to mark his 50th cap, I suspect the curfew was broken. What is certain is that the match kicked off seven minutes late.Plenty of people criticised the laser show which greeted Wales, including former Wales captains Gareth Thomas and Gwyn Jones on BBC’s Scrum V, with Thomas saying it wound England up and helped them. He is forgetting it was Wales who took a 10-0 lead, but England came back so well in the second half that the advantage was cancelled out.After all the bickering in the tunnel on Friday night, there have been calls for teams to walk out together from now on in the Six Nations. I hope that does not happen as I think it would be a shame for the individual sets of fans to be denied the chance to roar their team out just because one nation has taken things too far. The WRU needs to rein in the hype and let the fans build the atmosphere.Heading for troubleI saw it, you saw it, the crowd in the Millennium Stadium were said to have seen it on the big screen, but reportedly no one involved in the Wales team management saw George North hit the turf face first like a sack of spuds after Richard Hibbard’s head connected with his jaw. North had already been off for one concussion check in the match, but the Wales wing played on after clearly being momentarily knocked out.This week he will be checked for concussion under graduated return to play protocols before he is allowed to play against Scotland. Whether or not Warren Gatland and the medics saw him fall, as they were treating someone else, does this raise a general issue about the duty of care that should be afforded to players in game-time? We maybe at a tipping point in international rugby where an independent medical TMO needs to be employed to watch solely for such incidents. What matters is how the George North’s of this world will be in ten years’ time? It’s not an area rugby can afford to be negligent about.Heading for the floor: George North on his way to the turf. Photo: Huw Evans Agency Phased outEngland should have beaten Wales by a greater margin because they had a try wrongly disallowed by the match officials. Dave Attwood dived over the line in the second half but the score was ruled out because Nick Easter crossed in front of the ball carrier early in the move.He was clearly offside, so Wales should have had a penalty at that point, but play then continued for three phases before Attwood “scored”, and as the television match official is only allowed to go back two phases from a try-scoring opportunity, the five-pointer should have been allowed. Magic moment: England’s Stuart Lancaster (left) and Graham Rowntree celebrate. Photo Getty Images Reluctant spectator: A disconsolate Sean O’Brien watches the game in Rome. Photo: InphoWhere it hurtsThe final sinner this week is Sean O’Brien’s left hamstring, for forcing him to withdraw from Ireland’s team at the last minute in Rome. The flanker tweaked it in the warm-up and so sat the game out with ice on his leg, instead of being let loose on the Test stage for the first time since November 2013. Mend soon, Sean. The SaintsPutting the boot inEngland led 18-16 in Cardiff as the last two minutes of their RBS Six Nations clash with Wales began. Despite England’s second-half dominance, the game was on a knife-edge, but when the visitors were awarded a penalty, George Ford stepped up and hit the target from almost 50 metres to seal the win.Place-kicking can be one of the more erratic parts of Ford’s game and a few months ago I would not have backed him to land the crucial kicks in the biggest games, but Friday’s ice-cool display from the England No 10 has changed all that perception.Form guyEngland coach Stuart Lancaster responded to the clamour to bring Bath’s in-form centre Jonathan Joseph into the team and was rewarded when Joseph stepped and wriggled his way to the try-line early in the second half to put England right back in the game. The newcomer showed he is up to the task of Test match rugby, but most of his team-mates also featured strongly in England’s 21-16 win at the Millennium Stadium.James Haskell and Chris Robshaw were immense in the back row, Ben Youngs was sharp at scrum-half, Anthony Watson took his try well, capitalising on a clever grubber kick from Mike Brown and Billy Twelvetrees came off the bench like a man (or two or three men) possessed to help close the game out. The fact that Joseph’s try came after 20 phases of possession tells you what a great team effort it was from England.Jumping for joy: Wales Women celebrate their 13-0 win over England. Photo: Huw Evans AgencyBeating the bestIt wasn’t all bad news for Wales this weekend, as their U20s and Women both beat the reigning World Champions, England.The U20s won 20-15 in Colwyn Bay, thanks partly to magnificent defending in the last five minutes. It was the first time Wales had beaten England in that age-grade – and Wales Women achieved only their second victory over England when they shut out the World Champions 13-0 at St Helens on Sunday afternoon.Catrin Edwards and Laurie Harries scored the tries for Wales against an England team which featured eight of last year’s World Cup finalists.Tearaway TommyHaving expected to be on the bench for Ireland in Rome, Tommy O’Donnell suddenly found himself in the starting line-up at a moment’s notice after Sean O’Brien injured his hamstring in the warm-up. O’Donnell responded in fine style with a great all-round display – including 12 tackles and nine carries – and capped it with a barnstorming individual try, run in from the 10 metre line.To stand out on your first Six Nations start is no mean feat and O’Donnell did just that. Praise is also due to another Six Nations rookie, Ian Keatley, who kicked four penalties and a conversion for Ireland.Central role: Mark Bennett was in great form for Scotland in Paris. Photo: InphoTop MarkScotland lost 15-8 in Paris but they had more reasons to be cheerful than France in some ways, as there were plenty of positives in their performance.Jonny Gray and Stuart Hogg both had good games but for me the stand-out Scot was centre Mark Bennett, for a couple of key contributions.He played a telling role not once but twice the in the build-up to Dougie Fife’s try, first off-loading to Hogg as Scotland raced up the left, then appearing in the line on the right to step Wesley Fofana and pass outside to Euan Murray, who in turn gave the scoring pass to Fife.As the game entered its last ten minutes, with France 12-8 up, Yoann Huget looked certain to score a match-sealing try, but Bennett was on hand to knock the ball out of his hands as he headed for the line.Light fantastic? The show at the Millennium Stadium missed the mark this time. Photo: Huw Evans AgencyThe SinnersHype or tripe?The Welsh Rugby Union’s Chief of Whiz-bangs-and-flashes may not be the most popular bloke in Cardiff today. Having prided themselves on creating some spine-tingling pre-match moments with their blackouts, flames and fireworks in recent years, the WRU attracted nothing but criticism for Friday evening’s over-the-top fiesta/fiasco (delete as applicable). LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Paying the penaltyScotland really only have themselves to blame for failing to beat France in Paris for the first time since 1999. They played the more enterprising and skilful rugby by a mile, but kept the home side in the contest by conceding 11 penalties, many of them kickable. Blair Cowan (twice), Euan Murray and Geoff Cross were all guilty and punished by Camille Lopez’s goal-kicks, while Dougie Fife went from hero to villain as, having scored for Scotland, he conceded an utterly needless three-pointer when he petulantly threw the ball into the stand after taking it into touch. Slow startIreland came into the Six Nations as favourites and duly won their first game, beating Italy 26-3, but it was pretty dull fare from Joe Schmidt’s team. They had the majority of the possession and territory, but took the ball into no fewer than 128 rucks and only off-loaded five times in the whole game. Mark Bennett managed four off-loads on his own for Scotland!Hopefully Ireland will turn on the style a little more against France next weekend.
Magnificent sevens: Both Matt Kvesic and Steffon Armitage have designs on England’s World Cup squad English opensides Matt Kvesic and Steffon Armitage are both in action this weekend. We examine their cases for World Cup inclusion. Post-match, Sean O’Brien voiced his opinion that Armitage had been “illegal” throughout his shift. Certainly, Matt O’Connor‘s men had reason to feel aggrieved here.Resting on his forearms beyond the ball, Armitage cannot be supporting his own bodyweight:That Wayne Barnes awarded Toulon a penalty advantage says as much for the difficulty of officiating the breakdown – a manic maelstrom of limbs – as it does for the fact that a reputation be your friend at times.Whistle blowingOverzealousness and poor judgment can easily lead to a string of infringements. Although Kvesic is still just 23, he is very mature and rarely gets caught the wrong side of the law.This jackal against Exeter Chiefs back in January was a text book example of how to tick all the boxes a referee is looking for:First off, as James Hook follows up his up-and-under to fell Thomas Waldrom, Kvesic holds his hands out in front of him to indicate he is not part of the tackle:From there, he is free to latch on and does so, supporting his bodyweight amid the attentions of three opponents:Having braced himself and shown immense strength, Kvesic cannot be shifted and Andrew Small pings Waldrom for holding on.Precisely 79 seconds after taking the field in Marseilles, Armitage eked out something as well:Involved in the initial tackle on O’Brien, he must make a concerted effort to demonstrate daylight between himself and his opponent, even for a millisecond, before clamping on.From the reverse angle, we can see how polished and proficient Armitage is in this drill:Recycling machinesAs alluded to earlier, any openside has a significant say in resourcing rucks on attack. Often, this means diving in when their side is short on numbers to shift any circling vultures and ensure the movement can continue.While Kvesic’s senior international career has been stop-start, he has been excellent in this regard. In the mid-week game last June against the Crusaders, he won the man-of-the-match gong, aiding England’s cause with unheralded moments like this:England almost fall victim to a robust counter-ruck from All Black Luke Whitelock here, but Kvesic’s bravery and quick thinking salvage the situation.Two England backs have blown past the ball, leaving it exposed and therefore ending the ruck. Assessing the situation, he crouches to pick up……before absorbing the impact and falling backwards to present a target to his support, in this case James Haskell, who can protect the ball from incoming Crusader Jordan Taufua:Another subtle intervention from Kvesic in a white shirt came this January as Ireland Wolfhounds were beaten 18-9. Track him during Henry Slade‘s try.After shipping on to Elliot Daly, he gets to his feet to make a decisive clear-out, allowing scrum-half Lee Dickson a pristine platform from which to deliver the scoring pass:Toulon’s power runners mean Armitage is rarely required to scramble back behind the gain-line. Still, a blend of technique and intelligence means he is rarely beaten to the punch.Indeed, this time he won a penalty for the Top 14 giants as he looks to clear Murphy before Jimmy Gopperth has rolled away from the tackle area:Armitage’s next assignment is the might of Clermont, and he will relish the chance to maraud around Twickenham.Justifiably, fear of rocking the boat may be too overpowering for Lancaster to pick him for the World Cup. But you can be sure his prowess has been studied at length. TAGS: GloucesterHighlight Watch how Kvesic threatens the ball, forcing the attacking support to overcommit and leave Tipuna isolated once more:With nobody guarding the ball, the New Zealander’s pass is high under pressure from Sione Kalamafoni and the Gloucester defence can shoot up, eventually forcing a knock-on.Minutes after coming on in the Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster, Armitage was posing similar problems.As the Dubliners come right here, the ex-London Irish 29 year-old pounces with intent, forcing Isaac Boss into a rushed kick:The key here is how Jamie Heaslip follows Jordi Murphy into the breakdown because he knows one clearer is simply not enough to quell Armitage:This leaves Leinster understaffed and only Boss’ quick thinking prevents a loss of possession.Clean stealsIn the same way that buying more lottery tickets heightens your prospects of winning the jackpot, high work-rate, allied to sound decision-making around when to commit, offers more chance of pilfering the ball.Kvesic reaped rewards against Newcastle on numerous occasions, first from this ruck:And then by stripping it clean out of Rob Vickers‘ paws just outside his own 22:Gloucester spread the ball left and scored through Billy Twelvetrees immediately, reinforcing the notion that turnover ball provides the best foundation from which to attack.Toulon benefitted from this principle against Leinster. Watch their break-out subsequent to Armitage forcing the ball loose from Luke Fitzgerald‘s carry: The number seven is almost as sacred in modern Test rugby as it is at Old Trafford, Manchester United’s theatre of dreams.Thanks to a lineage of eye-catching, influential players from Jean-Pierre Rives via George Smith to Richie McCaw, the position of openside flanker has become almost as venerated as American football’s quarter-back.Unless you have been living under a rock for a couple of years, debate surrounding England’s selection there will be frustratingly familiar – excruciatingly so, perhaps.Toulon’s outstanding Steffon Armitage has thus far been barred from adding to his five caps because of a self-imposed RFU ruling decreeing that home-based players should be prioritised.A string of individual accolades as well as two European titles have not been sufficient for Stuart Lancaster to trigger a rather vague ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause. It must be stressed that captain Chris Robshaw has probably been his country’s standout performer in this period anyway.But the breakdown is one area England must get absolutely right if they are to taste World Cup glory. As Graham Rowntree regularly points out, it is are the sport’s most common occurrence. Consequently, a gifted exponent is worth their weight in gold.For opensides, sapping opposition ruck-speed and generating quick ball are primary concerns. Though punters bemoaned an inability to deal with Ireland’s kicking game, this was the main deficiency when England lost 19-9 in Dublin – Joe Schmidt’s charges won the tussle on the deck comprehensively.Armitage has been in the spotlight all week. His case will become even more compelling if he wins a third successive European crown on Saturday. That said, another candidate for an England back row berth is in action this weekend too.Friday evening sees Gloucester clash with Edinburgh to decide the Challenge Cup. Matt Kvesic is the Cherry and White talisman, and possesses serious pedigree. Two Tests against Argentina back in summer 2013 at the age of 21 yielded 36 tackles for the former age-group rockstar, plus many other pivotal contributions to a pair of victories.Enjoying a brilliant season, Kvesic is coming good at an intriguing time. Both he and Armitage are bustling carriers and skilful link men, but here is a look at how their breakdown work compares.Perpetual motionWorld-class openside play is not merely about snaffling the odd Hollywood turnover. The best are relentless disrupters who make their presence count whenever possible. Take this sequence of breakdowns from Gloucester’s 42-40 defeat of Newcastle Falcons on Saturday.As the visitors attempt to settle into their phase-play at Kingsholm, Kvesic simply wants to cause chaos. First, he sniffs an opportunity to come around the side and pinch the ball.However, referee Ian Tempest clearly tells him the ruck is still live and he has to get back onside. Kvesic cooperates and there is no penalty:As Newcastle bring the ball right, Kvesic trusts others to tackle, staying on his feet and in the game. At the next ruck, he sees a chance to make things messy:Here, he works off tackler Elliott Stooke. After Stooke has brought down Scott Lawson, Falcon Josh Furno slips off the clear-out so Ally Hogg steps in. This leaves the ball exposed, so Kvesic comes through the gate:Some quick-thinking from scrum-half Ruki Tipuna, who leaves the ball to join the breakdown, keeps Newcastle in possession. It unravelled in two phases time though: LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Kvesic can probably look forward to a place in the 45-man summer training and from there he must impress. A tournament place is far from guaranteed.Whatever happens though, England know the value of breakdown specialists. This weekend will make for interesting viewing, not to mention more fanatical discussion.
For the latest Rugby World subscription offers click here and find out how to download the digital edition here. By Alex ShawTo coin a phrase from legendary former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s squeaky bum time in Super Rugby.With just two rounds of regular season games left to play, teams from all over the southern hemisphere are jockeying for position in the imminent playoffs. With the new conference system that has been brought in as a result of teams from Japan and Argentina being added to the competition, there is plenty still to play for, particularly in Australasia.In South Africa, the winners of the Africa 1 and 2 conferences have been decided. The Stormers top Africa 1 with 41 points and though mathematically the Bulls, who sit in second with 32 points, could catch them, it’s extremely unlikely. The Stormers finish up their season with games away to Western Force and at home to the Kings and given the form they are in, it’s safe to say that they will pick up at least one win and secure Africa 1. In fact, they don’t even need a win, a draw or two losing bonus points would do it.The Lions, meanwhile, have wrapped up Africa 2 with two games left to play, sitting pretty at the top with a competition-high 47 points and the Sharks, on 35 points and second in Africa 2, are unable to catch them.Old friends: The Stormers’ Eben Etzebeth gets re-acquainted with Bok team-mate, Lood de JagerThere is, however, one wildcard spot up for grabs across the two African conferences and that will be hotly contested by the Bulls and Sharks. The Sharks take a three-point advantage into the final two rounds, where they will welcome the Cheetahs and Sunwolves to Durban. The Bulls face the same opposition, first hosting the Sunwolves before heading to Bloemfontein to take on the Cheetahs. The Sharks will be favourites for the wildcard as a result, with the Bulls hoping that one of the two teams can upset the odds and beat the Sharks in Durban. Based on the form of the Cheetahs and Sunwolves this season, it’s a fairly forlorn hope for those in Pretoria.The Stormers and Lions have been comfortably the best two teams in South Africa this season and by wrapping up their respective conferences, have secured themselves home quarter-finals in the playoffs. Trying to discern which of the New Zealand and Australian sides will join them, however, is a much trickier prospect.The New Zealand conference is particularly hard to read. The Chiefs currently sit atop the conference with 46 points, whilst the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders are all hot on their heels, with 45, 44 and 43 points respectively. Those three chasing sides all currently sit in wildcard spots and as a result, only the Brumbies, who top the Australian conference with 39 points, would make the playoffs from Australia. The Waratahs also have 39 points, but the Brumbies take the spot as stands by the virtue of having more wins than their rivals from Sydney.Leading from the front: All Blacks captain Kieran Read keeps the Highlanders defence busyConfused yet? If not, these permutations of how things may end up might just tip you over the edge.This week the Chiefs head to Queensland to take on the Reds and the Brumbies head to Auckland to meet the Blues. Both games are winnable for the conference leaders but they will be challenging to say the least. Elsewhere, the Crusaders host the Rebels, the Highlanders travel to Argentina to play the Jaguares and the Waratahs and Hurricanes meet in Sydney in a game that could all but end the Australian side’s season. A loss for the ‘Tahs to the Hurricanes and a Brumbies win in Auckland would be a nail in the coffin for Daryl Gibson’s men.Then, heading into the final week, there are a plethora of potentially winner-takes-all fixtures, including two mouth-watering New Zealand derbies. The Highlanders host the Chiefs and the Crusaders meet with the Hurricanes in Christchurch, with all four teams potentially still being in a position to top the conference. With home advantage in both of their final fixtures (Rebels and Hurricanes), the Crusaders are a strong candidate to emerge atop the conference log when all is said and done.Inspiration: David Pocock is due back from injury to drive the Brumbies play-off pushAs for the Australian sides, the Brumbies will welcome the Force to Canberra in a match they will be hopeful of securing at least four points, whilst the Waratahs will head to New Zealand to meet the Blues. Given the form of the Kiwi franchises this season and the fact the Waratahs finish up their season facing two of them, including one in New Zealand, they will be hard-pressed to usurp the Brumbies atop the Australian conference and, somewhat counter-intuitively, even more hard-pressed to overtake one of the chasing New Zealand pack in the wildcard spots. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS If the season finished today, the quarter-finals would look thus.Lions vs SharksChiefs vs HighlandersStormers vs HurricanesBrumbies vs CrusadersOnly the Waratahs and Bulls are mathematically capable of breaking into that selection of eight and even then, it would require teams above them to slip up. The Waratahs’ fate is in their own hands, within reason, as a bonus point win over the Hurricanes this week would bring them level with the Kiwi side on points. They would also be level on wins but the Australians would move above the Wellington side on the overall ladder due to a superior points difference, which is the third separator in Super Rugby after points and wins.Feel the burn: The Waratahs’ Israel Folau out paces the Sunwolves defenceThe Bulls have no such opportunity to beat a team above them in the standings and they are completely reliant on the Sharks slipping up or the Stormers having an unprecedented meltdown.Whilst the ‘Tahs will continue to scrap for top spot in the Australian conference and/or a wildcard slot, the most compelling aspect of the next two weeks could well be the race between the four Kiwi sides for top spot in the New Zealand conference and the much-coveted home quarter-final.The fixture list favours the Crusaders and if they can avoid an away quarter-final, it will take a brave man to bet against them lifting their eighth Super Rugby title and first since 2008.Whatever the permutations may be heading into the final weekend, the fact all four of these New Zealand teams meet each other should offer an enthralling spectacle. Mark it in your diaries now. With only two rounds of the Super Rugby left before the knock stages, RW assess the permutations and likely outcomes
The final day of pool action in Dublin determined the Women’s World Cup semi-finalists LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS After three days and 18 games, the 2017 Women’s World Cup semi-finals are known – and they look set to be cracking games.New Zealand and Canada kicked things off on day three, but this match between the teams ranked two and three in the world was nowhere near as close as expected. When the two sides met in June, the Black Ferns’ winning margin was only 12 points; two months later it was 43, the four-time champions overwhelming Canada 48-5.Too much power: The Black Ferns break through against CanadaIt’s been a disappointing tournament to date for the 2014 finalists, their big win over Hong Kong followed up by a hard-fought 15-0 victory against Wales – the lack of a bonus point counting against them in the race for the best runners-up spot – and they simply couldn’t cope with the pace and precision of a New Zealand team that has looked sharp in all three of their games.It was England v USA next up at UCD’s Billings Park to determine who would top Pool B. Both sides started on ten points but England started well and had the four-try bonus point wrapped up in a little over half an hour. It was a more physical confrontation than they had experienced against Spain or Italy but the forwards excelled and the rolling maul delivered four tries across the 80 minutes.The USA didn’t crumble, though, and added a further three tries to the one they scored in the first half to secure a bonus point – and the drop in performance by England will be a worry for Simon Middleton and the back-room team.Brought together: Simon Middleton speaks to his team following the win over USA“It was a massive game of two halves,” said England fly-half Katy Mclean. “In the first half we stuck to the plan a lot better, the position and possession battle. It was important to turn them and our set-piece has been a massive part of our game this season.“We’re disappointed (with the second half) but we can’t take anything away from America. They wanted a bonus point to come out of group and get fourth spot, and they thoroughly deserved it. We’ll be very critical of ourselves – we need to playing for 80 minutes.”FOR THE LATEST SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS, CLICK HEREThe final match of the day determined the semi-final line-up. Ireland needed to win to reach the last four of their own tournament having failed to pick up bonus points in the wins over Australia and Japan, but France came out firing to lead 21-0 after 30 minutes.Overjoyed: France celebrate their vitally important win over IrelandTo Ireland’s credit they showed tremendous resolve in the second half, monopolising possession and territory, but they couldn’t get across the whitewash until the final minute and that meant their chance of a comeback was gone. Tom Tierney described his squad as “heartbroken” at missing out on the semi-finals of a home World Cup and they paid for poor first halves in all three of their pool matches.Captain Claire Molloy said: “We met a very good France side who came at us with everything and executed very well. We made simple errors and we didn’t have the ball. Credit to France – they didn’t let us play. Without the ball you can’t play rugby.“It was immensely frustrating when we worked hard to get into the 22 and simple handling errors let us down. I’m proud of the girls in the last five minutes, the relentless work-rate we saw in the first two matches was there again.”Will they celebrate in the semis?: Amy Wilson Hardy of EnglandFrance defended well when Ireland did build phases and also prevented the hosts from getting their rolling maul going by not engaging when the Irish looked to set the drive at the lineouts. Given England’s strength in this area, the defending champions will need to have a plan to deal with such tactics or one of their key attacking weapons will be nullified.All teams will be doing their homework over the coming days ahead of Tuesday’s play-offs in Belfast.Pool ACanada 5-48 New ZealandWales 39-15 Hong Kong Pool BEngland 47-26 USAItaly 8-22 SpainPool CAustralia 29-15 JapanFrance 21-5 IrelandTuesday 22 August Fixtures 9th-Place Semi-finalsItaly v Japan (noon, Queen’s University)Spain v Hong Kong (2.30pm, Queen’s University)5th-place Semi-finalsIreland v Australia (2pm, Kingspan)Canada v Wales (5pm, Queen’s University)Semi-finals On the rampage: Alex Matthews of England is tackled by Sara Parsons of USA TAGS: Highlight New Zealand v USA (5pm, Kingspan)England v France (7.45pm, Kingspan)
It was simple.It was clinical.It was beautifully finished!Here’s how Josh Adams scored the opening try of the 2020 #SixNations!Watch on @BBCOne or follow live text here: https://t.co/qQkhJGpyKt#bbcrugby #sixnations pic.twitter.com/v9Zr9EmjRp— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) February 1, 2020 Nick Tomkins has to start for Wales next week surely. Class.— David Flatman (@davidflatman) February 1, 2020It seemed as if Wales might not register a bonus point but North crashed over from close quarters with four minutes remaining before Adams applied the finishing touch with the clock in the red. Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric, who topped the tackle count with 21, was awarded Man of the Match by the BBC’s Jonathan Davies, a decision he jokingly tried to change after Adams had got his hat-trick.“It’s a great team performance,” said Tipuric. “It’s nice to start the campaign with a bonus-point win and it makes it special to have a zero on the board, too. It’s a great start.“I think we can keep getting better and better. It’s just a snapshot of what we can do today. Hopefully we can improve as the tournament goes on. The strength in depth in the back row in Wales is crazy really, whoever takes the field has to put a shift in.” Wales had taken control from the off, knitting together 15 phases in the opening minutes.Biggar, given the kicking duties ahead of Halfpenny, twice punished the visitors after Alessandro Zanni and Tommaso Allan failed to roll away at the breakdown. And he obliged again to make it 9-0 after Andrea Lovotti tripped Halfpenny as he chased his midfield chip.Colourful presence: Italy supporters ahead of the match in Cardiff (CameraSport/Getty Images)Italy regularly got the ball in Matteo Minozzi’s hands but they made little headway against the thick red wall. They also fell foul of referee Luke Pearce; by the time they won their first penalty, from a 22nd-minute scrum, Wales had already chalked up six penalties. The penalty count evened up by the finish but the damage had been done. Gosh Josh: Wales wing Josh Adams scores his second try despite the tackle of Leonardo Sarto (Inpho) Johnny McNicholl, winning his first cap on the right wing, was forced off for an early head injury assessment (HIA) after sustaining a bloody nose from Alun Wyn Jones’s stray shin at a ruck. That introduced Tompkins to the fray for his first cap and he won a significant turnover penalty in the ten minutes before McNicholl returned.Wales led 21-0 at the break, Biggar converting the second Adams try from the touchline. But it might have been more because the lively Tomos Williams just failed to gather the ball after charging down an attempted clearance by Allan, while the scrum-half was denied a score on another occasion because of a Halfpenny knock-on in the build-up.Italy enjoyed a bit more possession in the third quarter but eventually Tompkins restored the natural order with a jinking finish and soon after he put in North for a try that was disallowed on TMO review because of a knock-on. Wales head coach Wayne Pivac was “very pleased” to keep Italy scoreless in their #SixNations opener pic.twitter.com/a7cPeIBCER— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) February 2, 2020Pivac called it a “far from perfect” performance, highlighting the passivity of Wales’ defence and the breakdown as work-ons. Such is the coach’s prerogative, but 42-0 is a pretty strong statement first up by the holders.He had praise for Adams, whose hat-trick was the first by a Welshman on home soil in the championship since Maurice Richards’s fireworks in 1969.“On the biggest stage in world rugby (RWC 2019) he was the top try-scorer so he has got to be right up there,” said Pivac. “What I liked was his last try; he could have easily just parked up on his wing but he came close to the ruck and scored late on.“With Stephen Jones running our attack and the way we want to play the game, wingers get more opportunity potentially. So I think he will enjoy the way we play.”Scrum-half Gareth Davies, hooker Elliot Dee and centre Owen Watkin should be fit to face Ireland next Saturday in Dublin, while full-back Liam Williams remains a doubt.Landmark: Alun Wyn Jones, tackling Niccolo Cannone, notched a Welsh record 35th Six Nations win (Getty)WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl (Nick Tompkins 11-22), George North, Hadleigh Parkes (Nick Tompkins 53), Josh Adams; Dan Biggar (Jarrod Evans 69), Tomos Williams (Rhys Webb 61); Wyn Jones (Rob Evans 56), Ken Owens (Ryan Elias 64), Dillon Lewis (Leon Brown 61), Jake Ball (Cory Hill 56), Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau (Ross Moriarty 53).Tries (5): Adams 17, 18, 80, Tompkins 59, North 76.Cons: Biggar 2, Halfpenny 2. Pens: Biggar 3. Dan Biggar > through the legs > Josh Adams > TRY!It’s all about the skills for @WelshRugbyUnion#WALvITA #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/lsFsPvAh0l— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 1, 2020Adams had crossed for his first try on 17 minutes after Italy’s defence was caught too narrow and Leigh Halfpenny delivered a perfect pass into the path of Adams, who scored in the corner. Watch his opening effort here… LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Josh Adams continues his prolific scoring as Wales open the 2020 Six Nations with a 42-0 defeat of Italy. Watch the cheeky pass by Dan Biggar that helped set them on their way Hat-trick for Adams as Wales thrash ItalyJosh Adams bagged a hat-trick as Wales launched the Wayne Pivac era in emphatic style with a bonus-point Guinness Six Nations victory over Italy at the Principality Stadium.The Cardiff Blues wing scored twice in 13 first-half minutes to take the game beyond Italy’s reach and touched down in the game’s final play to notch his treble. It takes his try tally to 14 in just 22 Tests, the most prolific scoring rate in international rugby over the past 12 months.On a day that ticked almost all the boxes for the defending champions, there was also a beautifully taken try on debut from replacement Nick Tompkins and a 40th Test try by his fellow centre George North, whose performance in the unfamiliar 13 position went swimmingly against admittedly modest opposition.Slide rule: Saracens centre Nick Tompkins marks his impressive Test debut with Wales’ third try (Inpho)The 42-point margin is Wales’ second biggest win against Italy, who were left grim-faced after failing to trouble the scoreboard. The same scoreless fate befell them in a pre-World Cup friendly against England last autumn, but this match in Cardiff had far more riding on it.Italy’s set-piece work was impressive, particularly the scrum, and there was a fine debut from lock Niccolo Cannone, but new Azzurri head coach Franco Smith has much to pick over in his review. It extends Italy’s record losing run in the championship to 23 games.The match was effectively won by half-time after Adams’s double built on three early penalties by Dan Biggar, who conjured a sublime moment of skill for the second try.Wales were already 14-0 to the good when the Northampton fly-half bamboozled Italy’s defence with a through-the-legs pass for Adams to dive over in the corner.Take a look at the try here… ITALY: Matteo Minozzi; Leonardo Sarto (Jayden Hayward 56), Luca Morisi, Carlo Canna, Mattia Bellini; Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley (Guglielmo Palazzani 56); Andrea Lovotti (Danilo Fischetti 47), Luca Bigi (capt, Federico Zani 69), Giosué Zilocchi (Marco Riccioni 47), Alessandro Zanni (Marco Lazzaroni 47), Niccolò Cannone (Dean Budd 71), Jake Polledri, Sebastian Negri (Giovanni Licata 56), Abraham Steyn.Rock-solid: Callum Braley puts in at a scrum, one area where Italy stood their ground (CameraSport/Getty)Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.