Bronze Final Preview
Australia 21 Wales 17
The Bronze Final has always been a bit of an oddity, both teams are out of the tournament, players are probably at the end of a long season and looking forward to returning home, and everyone else’s attention is on the final. But in the infinite wisdom of the IRB, who can spot a money-making opportunity a mile away – just ask Alesana Tuilagi – we have the Bronze final between Australia and Wales on Friday night.
To the credit of the coaches and players, both teams appear to fielding their top players or at least those that remain standing after seven weeks of bruising international rugby. Both teams will be smarting after their respective losses, Wales will have been practicing penalty kicks and Australia, well, just about everything really, or may be how to avoid the All Blacks at the next world cup.
The Openside Predictor gives the match to the Australians but only by a four point margin, really not much in it. On paper this looks like a great game and would be the game to watch this weekend if it wasn’t for the fact that the other match will totally over-shadow this game.
If you’re at a loose end on Friday night it may just be worth tuning into this one.
France 9 Wales 3 (19 -27)
This game had everything, refereeing controversy, missed kicks and a nail-biting finish. Unfortunately for Wales, it also had a losing team, who ironically scored the only try of the match through scrum-half Phillips. Red card or no red-card, Wales still had plenty of opportunity to win this game, with four missed kicks. France just hung on for dear-life.
New Zealand 20 Australia 6 (36 – 21)
Within the first few minutes of this game you could see this was not going to be Australia’s night. When Quade Cooper’s opening kickoff sailed into touch on the full, and Weepu’s kick from the ensuing scrum bounced into touch about 5 metres from the Australian goal-line, not many people would have put money on the Wallabies. The game continued in a similar vein with Australia’s game breakers seemingly unable to conjure anything up to break the All Blacks. New Zealand’s Nonu scored the only try of tha game and Weepu again turned in a good kicking performance with four penalties. Australia replied with a penalty from O’Connor and drop goal from Cooper.
Wales Team for Semi-Final
Time ran out for Welsh fly-half Rhys Priestland yesterday, when it was announced he will not be in the starting fifteen for the semi-final against France on Saturday night. James Hook will slot into the role, bringing 57 caps-worth of experience into the team. Otherwise it’s the same team that dealt with Ireland in Wellington last Saturday evening.
Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams, James Hook, Mike Phillips, Gethin Jenkins, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (c), Toby Faletau
Semi-Final Team News for Wednesday
Whilst the All Blacks as a team may look strong, individual players seem to be falling by the wayside as the tournament progresses. Having now lost two number 10s to groin injuries with Colin Slade going down in the Argentina quarter-final, Stephen Donald is now called into the squad, along with winger Hosea Gear who replaces Mils Muliaina who injured his shoulder during his 100th test match for New Zealand.
On the upside backs Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui are available for selection for this weekend’s semi-final clash with Australia.
Fullback Kurtley Beale is nursing a hamstring injury he received just before the end of Australia’s epic battle against South Africa on Sunday. If he doesn’t recover in time for the semi-final match, Adam Ashley-Cooper is likely to play fullback for the game against New Zealand on Sunday.
Another team with fly-half concerns are Wales, with Rhys Priestland injuring his shoulder during their quarter-final match against Ireland on Saturday. Again the coaching staff will take a ‘wait and see’ approach with the injury, with James Hook or Stephen Jones likely candidates to fill the role if Priestland doesn’t recover in time.
World Cup Semi-Final Preview
We are now less than two weeks away from finding out which team will be crowned Rugby World Champions. Only four teams are left in the hunt, Wales, France, Australia and New Zealand and all will be acutely aware that their performances over the next two weeks will define their status within world rugby for the next four years. Will they be also-rans or glorious victors? This weekend the four teams will be reduced to two after the semi-finals are played at Eden Park in Auckland. We’ll take a very look at how the Openside Predictor sees the two matches panning out and give you an insight who the winners and losers may be.
Wales 27 France 19
With a resounding defeat of Ireland last weekend, the Welsh team are going from strength to strength as the World Cup progresses. The Openside Predictor sees no reason to doubt that the team will continue its great run and predicts an 8 point defeat of France. Although France played well to beat England, their inconsistency may well let them down against a Welsh team that are improving game by game.
New Zealand 36 Australia 21
No team has yet really troubled the hosts, even when briefly behind Argentina at the weekend, you always felt the All Blacks would step up a gear and eventually dominate the Pumas. The Openside Predictor sees this All Black domination continuing next weekend against Australia. Some may say the Wallabies were lucky against South Africa, others will say they played good defence, whatever the reason for their quarter-final win, their form will have to improve to make any dent in armour of the All Blacks. New Zealand by 15 points? No reason to see why not.
What a great weekend of international rugby we had! Great to see teams playing at 100% intensity with everything on the line. We’ll start with a couple of bizarre facts from the weekend, only one winning team, New Zealand, had a 100% record in the pool phase. Looks like losing a game in the pool phase may not be a bad thing after all. Three of the four teams left in the tournament are coached by New Zealanders, Graham Henry, Warren Gatland and Robbie Deans. Anyway back to the games and first up we had the Celtic clash between Ireland and Wales in the capital city, Wellington.
Wales 22 Ireland 10 (23-18)
Wales’ recent ranking improvement appeared to have been justified as three tries from JJV Davies, Phillips and SM Williams were more than enough to see off the challenge from the Irish. Only Earls dotted down for the Emerald Isle as the Dragons continue their great form in the 2011 World Cup. Will this be the World Cup where Wales take the rugby world by storm? Next up they face northern rivals France.
France 19 England 12 (19-25)
Well the Openside Predictor got this match totally wrong with a predicted England victory. It was third time lucky for coach Livremont playing Parra at number 10 when after two losses, the French dominated England to take the match by 19 points to 12. Both teams scored a couple of tries but it was two penalties by Yachvili and a drop goal from Trinh-Duc that nudged the French ahead.
Australia 11 South Africa 9
If you just saw the Quade Cooper highlights from this game, you could have reasonably assumed that South Africa had taken this game easily. But somehow Cooper’s teammates covered his errant kicking, handling and tackling to beat the Springboks in what was the game of the weekend in terms of excitement if not skill. Australian captain Horwill scored the only try with great Australian defence denying any tries for Souith Africa.
New Zealand 33 Argentina 10 (40-10)
Tries from Read and Thorn and a great kicking performance from Weepu ensured that Argentina never really had a look-in in the final quarter-final. Whilst the All Blacks were not firing on all cylinders they easily overcame the Pumas and still look good to capture the World Title for only the second time despite numerous injuries to key players.
Wales v Ireland Team Line-ups
Wales team to face Ireland in Wellington on Saturday night
L Halfpenny, G North, J Davies, J Roberts, S Williams, R Priestland, M Phillips, G Jenkins, H Bennett, A Jones, L Charteris, A-W Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau
Winger Shane Williams and Lydiate return from injury, Davies is picked over Scott Williams and lock Wyn Jones gets the nod from coach Warren Gatland.
Meanwhile Ireland name an unchanged team
R Kearney, T Bowe, B O’Driscoll (capt), G D’Arcy, K Earls, R O’Gara, C Murray, C Healy, R Best or S Cronin, M Ross, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell, S Ferris, S O’Brien, J Heaslip
Rory Best will start at hooker if he passes a fitness test after injuring his shoulder last weekend.
World Cup 2011 Pool Phase Wrapup
And now we have only eight. Twelve teams have now packed their bags and are on their way home, most expected to be making the trip right now, but some would have thought their visit to New Zealand would last at least a week longer. Here’s a quick rewind of the weekend’s games and how the final round of pool matches played out.
We had a sense an upset was coming. We’d had (perhaps ironically) Canada beating Tonga and Argentina over-coming the Scots, but they really weren’t major upsets, we were due a BIG one! And on Saturday night in Wellington we got it. When Tonga led at half-time by 13 to 6, we sensed something special was about to happen, rugby history was about to be made. The brave Tongans hung on, desperately at times, in the second forty minutes to close out a momentus 19 to 14 victory over the French. To say the French played within themselves is an under-statement, yet take nothing away from the Tongans, they went out determined to win and shut the French down. But like a cruel plot twist, France will progress to the quarter-finals and Tonga travel home, such is the way of sport, a lack of bonus points prevented them from making the quarters. In the other Pool A game, a rampant and Dan Carter-less New Zealand team over-whelmed a brave Canadian team by 79 points to 15.
After the excitement of the Wellington upset, Scottish fans hoped for a similar experience in Auckland in the final game on Saturday and for 76 minutes it looked as if they would cause the second upset of the day. But England’s winger Chris Ashton broke Scottish hearts when he scored in final minutes of the game, the scoreline finishing 16 – 12 to England. Only an unlikely Georgia victory over Argentina would see the Scots taking any further part in the World Cup. However Argentina ground out a 25 to 7 win to claim second spot in Pool B.
In a contrast to Pools A and B, nothing untoward occurred in Pool C. Australia over-whelmed the Russians and Ireland ran out easy winners in their clash with Italy. Ireland and Australia progress to the quarters, the rest fly home.
Pacific Island hearts were truly broken in this pool over the weekend, with Both Samoa and Fiji losing to South Africa and Wales respectively. Samoa pushed the South Africans close but South Africa did just enough to win 13 points to 5 and register four wins out of four to claim the pool. Wales followed up with a convincing win over Fiji, with a 66 to nothing rout.
What a great weekend it was to open up the 2011 Rugby World Cup with. Who could have predicted that the so-called minnows of the tournament would have pushed the larger teams so hard? But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look back to Friday night and the opening game of the 2011 Rugby World Cup between New Zealand, our hosts, and their local Pacific Island rivals in Tonga.
After the smoke from the amazing opening ceremony fireworks had cleared we were treated to the unusual sight of double haka, with the Tongans performing their own version of the New Zealand haka. And then the games began!