The Rugby Championship 2015 – Seven Things We Learnt

The Rugby Championship 2015 is over with the Wallabies the unlikely winners given that they started the competition as the third ranked team.  Here are seven things we learnt from the Rugby Championship 2015;

1)  The focus was definitely on aiming towards the Rugby World Cup with all teams testing some new players and combinations.  We won’t find out until October, if we could read much into The Rugby Championship 2015 or not, because it is hard to say if we saw all teams playing at full strength.  We all know the fact that no team has won The Rugby World Cup and Rugby Championship/Tri Nations in the same season.

2)  In Rugby World Cup year there were only three games per team and the draw was very important.  The All Blacks and Pumas only hosted one game each, while the Wallabies were lucky enough to host both the Springboks and All Blacks, which did give them an advantage.  With only three game per team, it meant that there was no room for a slip up by any team.

3)  Were the Pumas foxing all along?  The Pumas were comfortably beaten in the end by both the Wallabies and All Blacks, before turning the tables on the Springboks.  Were they simply foxing by keeping their cards close to their chests knowing that they will play the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup?

4)  Have the Wallabies shown the blueprint for beating the All Blacks?  The Wallabies played a rushed defensive game and aggression at the breakdown to unsettle the All Blacks.  Playing both David Pocock and Michael Hooper together worked well.  It is hard to know if the All Blacks will figure out how to combat such tactics by the time the Rugby World Cup comes around. Continue reading The Rugby Championship 2015 – Seven Things We Learnt

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ITM Cup 2015 Preview – Who Are You Picking?

The ITM Cup 2015 is nearly here for another season following a surprising 2014 season which breathed new life into the competition with “Cinderella” stories Taranaki and Manawatu winning the Premiership and Championship respectively, while Wellington was relegated to the Championship for 2015.

It is difficult to know if the usually dominant bigger unions like Canterbury and Auckland will fight back this season, or if the likes of Taranaki and Tasman will repeat the dose in 2015.  It makes for a surreal competition when the usual heavyweights like Wellington, Waikato, Canterbury and Auckland struggling more than usual, while Taranaki, Tasman and Counties were three of the teams to watch.

Not to be forgotten, the ITM Cup Championship saw Manawatu who were barely expected to make the semi-finals, going on to win the Championship convincingly beating the likes of their former Central Vikings partners, Hawke’s Bay and other solid teams like Southland, Otago, Northland, Bay of Plenty and North Harbour.  It will be fascinating to see Wellington in the Premiership, given their pedigree and history.

Being a Rugby World Cup year, the ITM Cup will play second fiddle to what is happening in the UK, but there will still be plenty of interest domestically, with the ITM Cup starting before the Rugby World Cup.

The ITM Cup has a habit in recent seasons of unveiling some magnificent young talent and has been very fast paced in recent seasons.  The All Blacks will be missing from the competition this season, so plenty of ITM Cup teams will be sweating not only on the health of players, but also if they make Steve Hansen’s All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad.  There is also the added problem of teams losing players to other nations.

Continue reading ITM Cup 2015 Preview – Who Are You Picking?

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The Rugby Championship 2015 Round 3 Preview – Who Will Win?

The Rugby Championship is nearly over already, with the Southern Hemisphere giants going at it for only one more action packed rounds. In all honesty, it is hard to know what to make of the Rugby Championship 2015, given that the focus for all teams is the Rugby World Cup. This means that we should expect to see some testing of new combinations and fresh faces included in teams to see if they sink or swim, while there will be a fine line between blooding players and resting them.

It is crazy to think that given the intensity of test matches between the best teams in the world including the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies, we would see players being blooded or new combinations. The traditionalists probably struggle with this concept, but the bigger picture is a Rugby World Cup starting soon.

Interestingly, most fans and teams know not to read too much into this condensed version of the Rugby Championship, but there are such high expectations on the All Blacks for example, that they will have to be careful to tread that fine line between winning and experimenting. This competition will be fast paced with only three matches for each team, so one defeat could be all it takes to eliminate a team from winning the championship. No team has ever won both The Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup in the same calendar year. Continue reading The Rugby Championship 2015 Round 3 Preview – Who Will Win?

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