2010: International Rugby Review

5 01 2011

This is obviously a far from comprehensive review (being as it is based on our own personal ideas) so please feel free to let us know your own thoughts about the year just past.

First of all some Highlights…

New Zealand’s Tri Nations Performances

New Zealand have been brilliant all year but none more so than in the opening two fixtures of the Tri Nations.  Playing probably the most exciting high precision rugby we have ever had the pleasure to witness, the All Blacks destroyed  South Africa twice on consecutive weekends before going on to be unbeaten in this years competition. After a middling year in 2009 they showed once more they are the team to beat and with the World Cup coming in October of this year it would take a fairly imaginative piece of reasoning to suggest that they will not break their one remaining hoodoo.

Led by the evergreen and ever excellent Richie McCaw, marshaled by the incomparable and newly crowned leading point scorer in world rugby, Dan Carter, and sporting other such once in a generation talents as Mils Muliaina they are a side to be treasured as one perhaps verging on rugby perfection.

Despite this, Kiwi’s are a bunch who are particularly hard to please when it comes to rugby – the curse of being a side who win 75% or more of their games is that people do expect error free performances played in style – and won’t be happy with anything less than being world cup champions later in 2011. Yet, we do feel, admirable as it is to strive for more and coming as we do from a less richly talented rugby nation, that they should simply appreciate the AB’s a little more for what they are…

Scotland’s Win Against South Africa

At the other end of the rugby playing spectrum of quality, precision, pace and guile are Scotland. It is true they have improved beyond recognition under the intelligent coaching of Andy Robinson and have a pretty good set of loose forwards, yet even their most ardent supporters would admit they are a side of limited means. Brushed aside in the most dismissive of fashions by a New Zealand team who barely got out of second gear, they came up against the Springboks the following week.

In a performance filled with all those traditional Scottish attributes that the rugby media in the Northern Hemisphere love to wax lyrical about, Scotland defended brilliantly while taking all their available scoring opportunities. Dan Parks, in years gone by a derided and flakey figure, led the way and like the year before, Scotland had a famous victory to savour.

England Dominate Australia at Twickenham

From an English point of view there were one or two major highlights over the course of the year including the away win over the Aussies back in June. Yet the one that stood out for most fans would have been the 35-18 home win at Twickenham where England simply played Australia off the park in a style most would normally equate with southern hemisphere sides. Dominant in all aspects of the game and capped off by a remarkable long range try from Chris Ashton, this was one of the finest days to be an England fan, certainly over the last 8 years if not ever.

English Pride

Being an English fan has been hard for the last few years. Ever since the euphoria of that glorious night in Sydney back in 2003 died away and the cold reality hit of a changed regime and lesser players, it has been one disappointment after another. Coupled with an apparent desire to play the most unattractive rugby possible, frustrating selection decisions (Steve Borthwick anyone?!) and repeated obfuscation by the men in charge of England rugby, it has not been a happy period.

With Martin Johnson appearing to have finally found his feet in the coaching world and England now at least having a discernable sense of direction as well as a couple of good wins over southern hemisphere opposition under their belts, we have felt our pride returning. With many people offering England up as favourites for the Six Nations and a possible semi final place in New Zealand, we hope that our nascent confidence is not dashed immediately after this upwelling of national fervour.

And Now For Some Low Lights…

Southern Hemisphere Dominance

Despite one or two positive results in the Autumn along with a few close calls, it is fair to say that there is still a sizeable gap in quality. All the Celtic nations flattered to deceive with a distinctly average South Africa and young Australia side getting away with three out of four wins whilst France were frankly appalling. It is unlikely that on current evidence it will be a northern side lifting the Webb Ellis trophy in October and, quite frankly, it is business as usual.

France’s Failures

France entered the Summer internationals and the Autumn Internationals as Six Nations champions and the most likely team to upset the southern hemispheres hegemony. A dreadful tour of South Africa followed by a distinctly poor home series in the Autumn means that once again they find themselves in a very French form of disarray. Probably the most talented northern side on paper, Lievremont is now being left with an enormous amount to do if they are going to challenge down under come October.

Most Entertaining Player

Dan Carter. Probably the best ten ever, worlds record point scorer and a player whom we could watch all day long. Only other player we considered for this honour was his New Zealand team mate, Sonny Bill Williams whose off loading game was a joy to behold on the Blacks’ northern tour.

Heroes of the Year

Mils Muliaina. As key to the All Blacks as his captain and fly half, he goes on and on whilst never letting his standards drop.
Ben Youngs. Young, exciting and brilliant, this has been a breakthrough year for the Leicester scrum half. Long may it continue.

Villain of the Year

Pieter De Villiers. Singlehandedly does more to bring the South African rugby team’s name into the mud than anyone in the history of the game. A poor coach and a ridiculous man.

Any thoughts?

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One response

5 01 2011
Jonathan

Pretty hard to disagree with your thoughts Bradders.

For me, I thought the Welsh and Irish sides let themselves down with some poor showings, especially in the Autumn. The one bright spot for the Welsh in my opinion was Dan Lydiate; he was impressive throughout the Autumn and has a huge future in the Welsh backrow.

Bismarck du Plessis – wow, just in awe of this guy. He gets better and better, and what a ferocious player, love watching him in action.

PdV – how is this man still in a job? Bring a Nick Mallett, or Jake White back in and this team would be far ahead of their current game

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