Another eventful weekend of rugby saw the All Blacks winning a scratchy and frustrating match against Italy, South Africa taking the Lions series in Pretoria and more red faces in the French camp.
The Lions lose by two points in a thriller - and the moaning begins
After the melodramatic and unsuccessful 2005 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand went pear shaped for the Lions, the high pitched squeals of Brian O’Driscoll, Clive Woodward and Alistair Campbell complaining as they actively launched a hate campaign on Tana Umanga could be heard throughout the world.
Unfortunately for Woodward and co, the moaning didn’t translate into points on the field in 2005 so it was a good idea when the Lions squad of 2009 decided to keep their complaining about the opposition behind closed dressing room doors for their tour of South Africa.
This all unravelled after the scintillating second test when several incidents off the ball saw a number of Lions players hospitalised (and lest we forget Schalk Burgers’ very obvious eye gouge in front of cameras, touch judges and other team members).
South Africa turned up to play dirty according to the spotless Lions who of course with players like Simon Shaw and O’Driscoll would never do anything collectively underhanded as a spear tackle or eye gouge. Yeah right.
So now that the Lions have lost, the dressing room door has been opened and the insults in the British media are out. While I agree that Schalk Burger should be punished for his offences (and since writing this, has been), the British and Irish media maybe need to take a look in their own back yard before they get all self righteous and start throwing stones.
It is bad when the game is played dirty, but it isn’t just the All Blacks and Springboks who are guilty of those offences. The British and Irish Lions lost and already the moaning has gone up a gear. It looks like sour grapes, as per usual. Haven’t they learnt anything?
All Blacks at new lows
It was a shambolic and frustrating display at Jade Stadium on Saturday night for the All Blacks’ test match against Italy. The Italians managed to restrict the All Blacks to the smallest ever margin and the celebrations were evident in the Azzuri coaching box after the game.
The problem for the All Blacks according to the media is all about the 9 / 10 axis. Personally I think there are a few more rotten apples in the barrel of the New Zealand backline. For a start, where is the attacking potency of yesteryear? It certainly wasn’t on display on Saturday. This is as much to do with Luke McAlister’s error ridden game as it is to do with a lack of intelligence and collective nous.
Poor Mils Muliaina - who was the best back by far on Saturday - cannot be the brains for a backline that had arrogance (yes, trying to run in your own 22 for the majority of the game because you think you’re going to score a 10 try haul against the Italians is arrogant) and stupidity (even when the 10 try haul didn’t look like it was going to happen, they didn’t know how to change their tactics. Duh – dumb).
Why did the backline stand so flat behind the first five eighth? Murray Mexted - love him or hate him - was right. The All Blacks had no go forward and never really looked like getting over the gain line. Instead the fancied themselves doing little flashy moves that came to nothing: running criss cross dummies and executing silly little hospital passes to each other. It was a depressing sight to watch.
Once an attacking team with flair and ingenuity, I fear to say they look more like an English backline now – running backwards and sideways, pointing and yelling idiotically, and no structure or skill. This is not looking good for the Tri nations at all.
The only upside (and I’m clutching at straws here) is that the South Africans under their foot in mouth prone coach Peter De Villiers may not be as strong as they could potentially be. After all, the Lions theoretically were never expected to beat the Boks. But the northern hemisphere side took them pretty close and often played the better rugby.
Also, the Wallabies only managed the one try against France in what was described a ‘turgid’ match on Saturday. Not exactly the roasting that everyone was expecting. Only time will tell I guess
The New Zealand media is having a field day with plays on Bastereaud’s name and the sentence ‘lying bastard’. All very obvious and unsubtle. The unwitting centre it turns out didn’t get assaulted by any New Zealand thugs but into a scuffle back at his hotel room with his team mate.
Wellington mayor and property developer Kerry Prenderghastly waded into the drama demanding Bastereaud make an apology to the people of Wellington. How very typically parochial of us. I guess the police investigation costs should be covered by the French but it’s become a bit of a non story now and I do kind of feel for the ‘French Nonu’.
He is just a young guy who is (obviously) a bit stupid and panicked. Now his reputation has been tarnished with this story making rugby pages throughout the world. How embarrassing for him and his family. As Graham Henry said, he’s a young guy and all young guys do stupid things from time to time. Unfortunately for him, this one has made worldwide headlines.