Opinion: If you want a Rugby Championship test with an aura of inevitability, go no further than Saturday night’s match between the All Blacks and the Pumas.
The Argentinians are coming in having been outscored 77-0 in their last two outings, with the test last weekend on the Gold Coast as good as over as soon as Nepo Laulala’s shoulder connected with Pablo Matera after the opening kickoff and almost knocked the Pumas hardman into Broadbeach.
Despite Laulala getting a rest this weekend, this result is unlikely to be any different, even though Ian Foster has made 11 changes to his side including an entirely new starting pack.
What is likely is that most will be rolled off with plenty of minutes left on the clock as, while he’ll never actually admit it, Foster looks towards the next fortnight and the massive clashes with the Springboks. Or, at least, reasonably massive given that the South Africans just lost to the Wallabies.
The main other points of note relating to the All Blacks are a couple of surely unintentional selection landmarks. Jordie Barrett, George Bridge and Will Jordan make up the first all Pākeha back three for the team since 1991, when Kieran Crowley, John Kirwan and Terry Wright took the field.
The rest of the backline is all Māori, while it’s difficult to ascertain whakapapa of players way back in the day, that surely has to be a record. Add in Tyrel Lomax and Codie Taylor and it’s a massive Māori contingent, which is fitting for Te Wiki o Te Reo.
Lessons to learn NZ Netball
Once again though, the drama has been more intense away from the All Blacks. Back in Aotearoa, it seems as if NZ Rugby should probably pick up the phone and ask NZ Netball how to make the current lockdown situation work for them.
The Silver Ferns’ series with England has not only seen the English team arrive and safely get through MIQ, but also the release of several players from Auckland to join the home side.
The spots in quarantine were booked well in advance and presumably too was the knowledge of what to do if another lockdown occurred, so whoever at netball’s governing body sorted that out deserves a drink tomorrow night.
But, then again, a job well done is still simply doing one’s job. That’s more than can be said about the debacle over a number of Auckland-based NPC players getting out of the city and then being ordered back because they hadn’t actually been allowed to.
Maybe someone at NZR should pick up the phone and give NNZ a call, because someone needs to figure out how to fill out a government form – or at least tell their provincial teams how to.
Mixed reaction to plans for more frequent World Cups
The other big issue of the week is the news that World Rugby wants to have the World Cup every two years, on the surface a reaction to FIFA’s proposal to do the same with football. Like the news of the proposed 12s tournament last week, the plan has been widely rubbished.
While it definitely seems like a cash grab (what isn’t these days, though?), it has to be considered that this is very much a reiteration of what WR tried to do a couple of years ago with their doomed Nations Championship project.
Even though it was met with a mixed response, there were actual tangible positives to that idea. The best being a realignment of the global season and the ability of Tier 2 sides to overtake the ones languishing near the bottom of Tier 1, potentially altering the pecking order for good.
Unsurprisingly, the plan was shouted down by the likes of Scotland and Italy, who would have nervously been eyeing Georgia and Fiji. This new idea of simply holding the World Cup more often is pretty obviously a way of WR rehashing what they wanted to do in 2019, without upsetting the establishment.