The Good, The Bad and The Ugly As Rugby Hemispheres Meet

By Peter Lalanabaravi On November 14, 2012 @ 3:05 am In Rugby | No Comments

NZ fullback Israel Dagg scores against Scotland in Edinburgh at Murrayfield Stadium on Nov 11. (Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)

NZ fullback Israel Dagg scores against Scotland in Edinburgh at Murrayfield Stadium on Nov 11. (Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)

Australia faces a confident England in London on Saturday, only a week after being humiliated 33-6 by France.

Meanwhile, New Zealand will play Italy; South Africa plays Scotland; and Argentina plays France this weekend as southern hemisphere nations continue their Test tour of the northern hemisphere.

Australia Fall to Faultless France

Heading north, the Wallabies were confident of winning all four of their November internationals.

In their last encounter with France, the Wallabies won by an incredible 59-16, also in Paris. As well, the Wallabies were match fit, while France were playing their first game, with limited preparation.

But France played almost faultless, high-pressure rugby, and dominated all aspects of play.

Though they finished fourth in the 6 Nations, France have regained the form that took them to the Final of the World Cup last year.

The Wallabies dominated possession and territory, but rarely threatened France. The most significant—and most disturbing—aspect of Australia’s play was the lack of enthusiasm.

Former Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer said it took courage to win Test matches, as sides had to “risk failure to achieve success”.

There had been an “ominous” over-confidence from the Wallabies for several weeks.

He had “completely lost faith in the ability of this group”.

England Evolving

In London, England beat Fiji 54-12, as expected. But the whole squad must have been overjoyed to hear that France had beaten Australia.

When they viewed the game, their confidence would have risen sky high. England and Australia are fierce rivals in rugby and in cricket.

England coach Stuart Lancaster said he expects a backlash from the wounded Wallabies.

“They will be very motivated coming here and we need to make sure we are ready,” he said.

His players were grounded and focussed, not “shouting from the rooftops” after the victory over Fiji.

“We recognise the challenges ahead and we will have to up our game to win,” he said.

Full-back Alex Goode has been coming into the centres, to bolster the England back-line.

England has been a forward-focussed side for years, but Goode said that was about to change.

“We are trying to evolve,” he said. “Attack takes time for people to understand …”

He promised a “big improvement” against Australia.

“If we play as well as we can do then we are good enough to blow teams out of the water,” Goode said.

Argentina vs France

Argentina beat the 6 Nations champion Wales 26-16 in Cardiff, in what was the first upset of the November Tests. While it’s too early to say, it seems that Argentina’s elevation to the gruelling Rugby Championship this year has improved the side.

Captain and No. 8 Juan Martin Fernandez led from the front and was man of the match.

Argentina plays France, who look unbeatable. But then, so did Wales.

New Zealand, Scotland, Italy and South Africa

By contrast to the Australia-France Test, Scotland lost to the All Blacks 51-22 in Edinburgh, but played passionately and dominated the All Blacks at times.

Blind-side flanker Alasdair Strokosch said: “We set out to try to make it uncomfortable for them [NZ] and in spells we did.

“In spells we let them run through us and run round us, and that’s something we’re going to have to fix.”

It is that simple for Scotland. Unlike Australia, their attitude was excellent. All they need to do is to focus on their execution.

The All Blacks play Italy on Saturday. While the result is a foregone conclusion, the All Blacks are playing with such flair, skill and confidence, that they are the must-watch rugby side.

Nothing phases them. For example, when star fullback Israel Dagg was injured, his replacement, 3-Test new-comer Beauden Barrett, played like a veteran, seamlessly fitting into complicated back-line moves.

Italy beat Tonga 28-23, but were unconvincing.

South Africa sneaked home against Ireland 16-12 in Dublin. The Boks were down 12-3 at half-time and Ireland was well on its way to a famous victory. But South Africa increased the pace of the game and scored 13 unanswered points in the second half.

Flyhalf Patrick Lambie was finally picked by Boks coach Heyneke Meyer and, while not perfect, he was good enough.

The game between South Africa and Scotland will be hard-fought. As stated above, Scotland matched the All Blacks for much of their game. Scotland will be aiming for an 80-minute performance, which should be enough to beat the Boks.

Peter Lalanabaravi has over 30 years experience as a rugby writer.

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