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15 November 2014
Match Review - New Zealand v Scotland
I've got to be honest here, in the touring All Black Supporter's bus I was in last Saturday in Edinburgh as we headed out to Murrayfield to see New Zealand play their rugby test against Scotland I told our people on the microphone that 'if Scotland are EVER going to beat the All Blacks then tonight's the night!'
I said it with much firmness! And I meant it too!
But moments later when someone handed me a clipboard and asked me to put a pound into the kitty and 'pick a score' I promptly wrote down 'All Blacks 41 Scotland 21.'
So I kinda thought New Zealand would win it OK - though there was that niggle in me that Scotland's team could be a downright nuisance in the game. They had won well the previous week against Argentina and their team was the same to play New Zealand.
But Scotland could not win it. It was a tough game, just like last week's at Twickenham, really - and this All Black team knows how to win it seems - whatever circumstances are thrown at them and whoever is playing in the black shirts (where one still can't see the numbers!).
But who could be satisfied at the bumbling, fumbling, effort of mixed messages which New Zealand put on?
Actually firstly, I blame the coach Steve Hansen. Yes, I know he has to give players in his party of 35+ who are all fit and keen, game time on the playing fields while they are here, otherwise they sit around and probably start to grumble and plot that he's a bastard for NOT giving them game time.
But on the other hand if you put out a team with 13 changes from the week before, with players out of position all over the park, how can they be expected to be fired up and looking like a team unit straight out of the sheds and into a test match?
Obviously they can't or couldn't against brave, fiery Scotland. That much was confirmed by the lack of cohesion, teamwork, and backs-forwards togetherness from the All Blacks from start to finish.
Scotland on the other hand played with 110% zest from start to finish. Their lineout was very impressive, the two Grey brothers (looking like Ben Nevis and Ben Lomond - two mountains), their scuttling loose men were very committed (including a former Wellington lad Ben Cowan playing the game of his life) and in a couple of other players, like the runaway try-scorer Tommy Seymour and fly half Finn Russell, they had the best players on the field.
Of the All Blacks I liked Charles Piutau on one wing but was confused to see Colin Slade on the other. Someone told me Shaggy Hansen would be wanting to see how much of a 'utility' Slade really is. When sometimes Slade looked slow and uncomfortable was alarming to note.
But actually no other All Blacks impressed; and even some, like Dan Carter and T.J.Perenara close to the scrums, sometimes were way short of a good international standard.
Sad to say that eh? What is the future for both these men we may ask more and more in the weeks ahead. Especially as one is so young and the other so new.
Auckland fullback Ben Atiga replaced Mils Muliaina near the end of the Rugby World Cup match v Tonga in Brisbane; sadly Atiga's only All Black appearance.
Queensland and Australia
86 internationals for Australia 1991-2001
One of Australian rugby’s most recognizable and powerful rugby personalities, the modest, lanky Queenslander John Eales had a career at the top which spanned more than a decade and included playing in three World Cups. That in itself is a superb achievement but when the winning of the World Cup twice, as well as being captain once, are added in, his world status is further elevated.
John Eales was a 21 year old in just his second season of senior football when he played his first test on his home ground of Ballymore in Brisbane, against Wales in July of 1991. The Wallabies won 63-6 and followed that with a 40-15 win six days later in the second test in Sydney. A fortnight later and young Eales had outjumped the fast-rising New Zealand lock forward Ian Jones as Australia stormed to a 21-12.
The speed of his rise continued. By November that year he had played a World Cup final and after only being an international player for just a week over three months he had shared in the 12-6 win over England at Twickenham.
In many respects his career never looked back from that heady start. His play, as a tall leaping lock forward was always strong and authoritative, his goal-kicking from the lock forward position was often a real bonus to his Queensland and Australian teams. One time, early in his career, in a Brisbane club game, he let fly with a dropped goal attempt from half way. The ball flew high and true between the posts. The modest Eales dismissed the kick as if it were nothing. When he took over the captaincy of his country he was almost as laconic in accepting the honour. Not that Eales wasn’t proud, he was quietly delighted. He took to leadership as if to the manner born. It brought out in himself an ability to also bring quiet influence, confidence and respect from his teammates. A number of seasoned Australian writers rate him among their very best captains of all time. Those same writers say he is the best forward that country has ever produced.
Certainly as a player Eales was a true utility, playing in more than one position in the forward pack, (lock and number eight forward) yet he was also a multi-skilled performer around the field. He had such talent that somewhere on one of his journeys one of his mates called him ‘Nobody’ but it was not a reference to his quiet and shy manner. The name was a shortened version of ‘nobody’s perfect.’ The name was a backhanded compliment to his rare gifts.
John Eales played everywhere in the rugby world and, as already listed, had probably more success than any other player. By the time he reached the 1999 Rugby World Cup he was one of the most familiar faces of the world game. But retirement was looming. He had only reached the final’s series after a long and careful buildup recovering from a shoulder injury. But he played the World Cup with more than his usual authority and vigour; at one point it the final against Wales in Cardiff he demanded of the referee; Andre Watson of South Africa, that he should look closely at the tactics of the French players; ‘if you do not look at their foul play I will take my team off the field.’ Coming from Eales it was absolute that something was going on.
When the Wallabies won by the resounding margin of 35-12 John Eales took the Cup from Queens Elizabeth II and held it high. Though he played on for one more season that was the summit of his superb career.
His total of 86 test matches was then a Wallaby record for a forward; only the winger David Campese had played more. (Only Tim Horan and Jason Little were also in two World Cup winning teams; but does Eales being captain in one final just lift him a little higher?)
After the finish of the 2011 Rugby World Cup who were the youngest and oldest players from all countries to win a World Cup medal 1987-2011?