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10 Jun 2012

June Internationals - Team of Week One

The June International window churned out some pretty enticing test matches in week one, as the Southern hemisphere exercised their dominance on the men from the north. The All Blacks hammered a confident Ireland side at Eden Park, helping dispel fears of any potential 'World Cup hangover' while the Springboks came out on top in a brutal affair in Durban against England.

Wales will probably be the most disappointed side, as they mostly flattered to deceive, losing to an understrength Australian side despite coming into the game with an unheralded sense of belief. It appears the Six Nations is not a worthy benchmark for global dominance.


For your critical eye though, Dumptackle Rugby Blog scanned the games with intent and after much deliberation, produced week one's team of the week.


What do you make of the selections? Please leave your views in the comments section below!



1. Tendai Mtwarrira (South Africa)

There was a lot of hype in the press leading up to the first test surrounding how England would cope with 'the Beast'. His opposite, Dan Cole, toiled manfully for a while, at first gaining parity but eventually succumbed to the South African physical prowess. Mtwarrira was at the forefront as the Springboks began to put the heat on in the scrum and the loosehead prop was also a frequent and destructive ball carrier. An impressive game considering he has only played a handful of games this year.

2. Tatafa Polota-Nau (Australia)

Polota-Nau could possibly have expected a hard day at the office against a rock-solid Welsh front row in the first test. He shaded his opposite though in Brisbane, putting in a stirling performance throughout. The hooker gave the Wallabies pack an added energy in the loose which was missing in Newcastle and his power certainly shored up the Wallabies scrum. He must surely be pushing Stephen Moore for a regular starting spot.

3. Owen Franks (New Zealand)

There was no clear candidate for this spot in my humble opinion, so I went for the player who seemed to be the most steady; Owen Franks. Not his best game of all time but he did enough to make sure the All Blacks always had a steady scrum, cleared rucks and made his fair share of tackles too.

4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)

The youngster had some big boots to fill, but performed admirably with a monstrously physical effort in the tight. If anyone was wondering who would fill Bakkies Botha's vacated 'enforcer' role....you have your answer. At one point he looked like he was going to crucify England fly half Owen Farrell as things got a little tasty on the touchline. A long international career awaits the Stomers rookie.

5. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)

Whitelock's game seems to have grown to another level in 2012 and it's a good thing too given the retirement of the All Blacks' legendary lock Brad Thorn. At the grand old age of 23, he has become the main man in the locking department, but that pressure seems to weigh rather comfortably on his broad shoulders. The Cantabrian led a slick lineout for the Blacks against Ireland and could be seen rampaging round the park too. His new locking partner, Brodie Retallick, has made the news for his spectacular yo yo test results, but Whitelock must have a similarly impressive engine.


6. Willem Alberts (South Africa)

Alberts probably inflicted more pain than anyone during this weekend's test matches, with a truly sadistic 80 minutes of rugby. He was a constant thorn in England's backside, it must be said. The backrower was colossal from start to finish, making punishing runs time after time and dishing out his fair share of crunching tackles too. Performances like this will make him a key Springbok in the coming years. Given Heyneke Meyer's direct tactics, one suspects it is a certainty.


7. Chris Robshaw (England)

 There were a number of opensides who put their hands up for selection here. Richie McCaw gave an accomplished performance for the All Blacks, displaying how his game has become so multi-faceted since his debut as an out and out 'fetcher' back in 2001. Sean O'Brien was also terrific in a losing team. The breakdown was probably the only area where Ireland were superior. The spot in the team had to go to England's current goldenboy Chris Robshaw though.The Quins captain seems to keep defying logic with his impressive displays and his turnovers against the Springboks even earned the praise of Aussie (Kiwi) ref Steve Walsh. Who said refs had to be impartial?


8. Kieran Reid (New Zealand)

Kieran Reid was an outstanding contributor to NZ's mauling of the Irish in Auckland. His catch and run from the kick-off almost capped it all off, but he was hauled down agonoisingly short. Still though, it was testament to the man's athleticism. He could be a legendary All Black and kiwi fans everywhere can sleep easy knowing that when/if Sir Richie retires, the All Blacks have a bonafide captain in waiting.

9. Will Genia (Australia)

The little nipper is building himself a pretty nice portfolio of wonder tries isn't he? His exploits in last year's Super 15 final were perhaps eclipsed by his mesmeric effort against the Chiefs this year, but seing as his latest solo effort was in an international (against Wales no less), perhaps this is his best? Genia seems to have the ability to put a defender on his arse with his swivelling hips, a feat I don't tire of seeing. Pundits who suggested Mike Phillips was the premier halfback in world rugby should be ashamed! A mention too goes to Aaron Smith of New Zealand. It seems they have unearthed a real gem.


10. Dan Carter (New Zealand)

Class Personified. Need I say more? We...just in case you need any convincing, take a look at his behind the back flick pass in the second half. Genius.

11. Julian Savea (New Zealand)

As current world cup champions, New Zealand were hardly in need of a rugby saviour, but it seems they have one anyway in Wellington's 'triple threat' Julian Savea. The nickname came from his fellow team-mate Beauden Barrett who warned the during the week that young Savea can run round you, chip over you and run over you. His prophecy held true as the flying wing bagged a hat-trick on debut. His defence too was imposing. All in all he took to international rugby like a duck to water. Something tells me we will be seeing a lot more from the former 'IRB U21 player of the year' in the years to come.... Special mention also goes to Bryan Habana who seems to have rediscovered his form following a stale patch and Australia's ever slippery winger Digby Ione.


12. Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand)

 Jean DeVilliers started his tenure as Springbok captain with a resolute performance in the 12 shirt. In defence he seemed impenetrable and the centre also scored a crucial try against the English to settle any creeping nerves. He is however no Sonny Bill Williams. SBW rewarded his coach for selecting him to start with a human wrecking ball performance against Ireland; full of dancing feet, basketball offloads and powerful hits. The fact that he made Brian O'Driscoll seem anonymous tells it's own story. As Wayne Smith mentioned in the week, SBW has come of age as a rugby union player in 2012.

13. Conrad Smith (New Zealand)

As per the above, Smith produced yet another accurate and clever display for the All Blacks, underlining his status as the best centre in the country. His clever running lines and crisp timing gave his outsides acres of room to gain maximum yardage. With Richard Kahui and Robbie Fruean snapping at his heels too, the Hurricanes gave the public (and selectors) a timely reminder that his spot is not up for debate.

14. Alex Cuthbert (Wales)

Cuthbert continued his meteoric rise in professional rugby with a commanding display against the Wallabies. His Six nations success was no fluke. During one passage of play he outsprinted Digby Ione and then also capped off a fine display with a swerving try in the right corner. With a little more help form his team-mates, Wales could have caused the upset so many had hoped for. It's a pity his fellow winger George North limped off injured as the two seemed to cause some trouble early on.

15. Mike Brown (England)

Brown's selection at fullback was met both with praise and bemusment in the English media this week. Some questioned whether the incumbent Ben Foden deserved to be shunted to the wing, while others praised Stuart Lancaster's pro-active thinking, in selecting two fullbacks (in face of an aerial assault). One has to say that Brown's selection was warranted following his nerveless display. One sliced kick apart, Brown was faultless in diffusing potentially difficult bombs. Corey Jane and Rob Kearney will no doubt be asking for Brown's number. A new opening in the 'bomb squad' awaits.

19 comments:

  1. It will no doubt come across as a one-eyed comment, but Isreal Dagg did little wrong on Saturday - and a whole lot right.

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    1. @Kiwi.

      Israel Dagg showed some nice touches...but he also made a glaring mistake when he failed to convert a simple two on one, as he passed too early for Guildford! I berated Owen farrell for doing the same last week, so i have to judge Dagg with the same critical eye!

      I also think he had an easier ride and since he didn't particularly stand out, Brown seemed the more worthy choice. Having said that I think Foden played well too and could have been the 15, but he was selected on the wing for England!

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    2. Hawkes Bay Houdini11 June, 2012

      I was gonna say Dagg would be the only change but then I forgot about that two on one he screwed up! Perhaps Brown deserves the spot for this week, but Dagg is definitely the best full back in the world at the moment.

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  2. Anonymous10 June, 2012

    Agree with so much here, but De Villiers seemed impenetrable to you? He seemed unable to deal with the power of Tuilagi, who ran over him three or four times. Impenetrable is a bit of a stretch...

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    1. Perhaps impenetrable was hyperbole, but he still stopped Tuilagi in his tracks on many occasions - no easy feat.

      In my opinion Tuilagi looked dangerous but he didn't exactly run clever lines, he just used raw power and you need a bit more guile than that against the Springboks. De Villiers came out on top when you consider he scored an impressive try too.

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  3. Brown did wuss out of a tackle that led to a try. I haven't seen that at international level for a very long time.

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    1. To be fair Stuart, I don't think anyone would have stopped De Villiers from there and actually Brown seemed to get injured in the tackle, so not sure I agree on your assessment. He ended up holding his shoulder if you remember rightly!

      I think you could say that about Toby Flood though. He seemed to get monstered quite a few times when he came on. I think the lead up to the second try saw Flood try to tackle one of the springboks but he just fell away and let the guy make an offload. When you're playing against the Boks, you just can't afford to let them get a roll on.

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  4. Jean De Villiers played at 13 over the weekend - Frans Steyn held the #12. De Villiers is usually at 12, but moved out one to accommodate Steyn. Having said this, DeV often defends at 13 off set-pieces, when playing 12 for the Stormers.

    Regarding his defence, there were a couple of times that he was pummelled by Tuilagi, but not to the point that Tuilagi managed to make it count. De V either managed to hold on in the roll, or was bounced but slowed him down sufficiently to allow the cover defence to do their bit... Regardless, there were a few occasions when DeV bounced Tuilagi himself, when DeV had the ball and was busting the line... Given that Tuilagi outweighs our props, I think he did very well, under the circumstances...

    My 2 cents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @ The Rod - good analysis on De Villiers there. I think from what I saw although Steyn had the 12 shirt, the two seemed to interchange on attack (as obviously both have experience playing as the second receiver).

      I know some people have brought up the fact that Tuilagi was difficult to handle but for me, DeVilliers did so, as Tuilagi's efforts didn't actually result in anything did they? De Villiers was also a strong ball carrier and no one was going to stop him that close to the line. It was a captain's innings in his first test with the added responsibility.

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  5. Llewellyn11 June, 2012

    Came here after a reading a comment on Planet Rugby. This team is far superior to their one published today.

    They had Contepomi and Roncero in the side. Now i'm a big fan of Argentinian rugby and I hope they do well in the Rugby Championship but let's be honest, if you were to pick those positions after the games played this week, would they really warrant a spot? This is far more realistic.

    One change though for me still. David Pocock at 7. Tough Luck!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Nah Robshaw deserved the spot. On paper coming out on top of Sam Warburton seems pretty impressive but I think Warburton looked a bit jaded in Brisbane.

      Robshaw was a key player in keeping England in the game. If it wasn't for his turnovers, SA could have really got a rumble on, such was the superiority of their posession (in terms of percentage).

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    2. I don't think there is any doubt that David Pocock is a superb 7 and will be a legendary player for the Wallabies. His coach Robbie Deans even called him the greatest physical 7 he has seen (and he coached a certain Richie McCaw at the Crusaders). Having said that, I just think Robshaw shaded him this week for reasons highlighted above. In no way do I regard Robshaw a better player though.

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  6. It is difficult to argue with most of your selections. I didn't see much of the SA vs England game but would have thought it was tough to beat Sean O'Brien who was brilliant against the All Blacks onslaught!

    The strange thing was that some Ireland players played well against the All Blacks like O'Brien.

    You didn't include many from the Australia vs Wales game, but it wasn't as memorable as the New Zealand vs Ireland game.

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  7. OK, on closer inspection I will name my team here. There are some close calls for some positions.

    Here is my June International Rugby Tests - Team of Week One

    15.Israel Dagg (New Zealand)

    14. Alex Cuthbert (Wales)

    13. Jean De Villiers (South Africa)

    12. Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand)

    11. Julian Savea (New Zealand)

    10. Dan Carter (New Zealand)

    9. Will Genia (Australia)

    8. Kieran Read (New Zealand)

    7. Sean O'Brien (Ireland)

    6. Willem Alberts (South Africa)

    5. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)

    4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)

    3. Owen Franks (New Zealand)

    2. Bismarck Du Plessis (South Africa)

    1. Tony Woodcock (New Zealand)

    http://www.superrugbytips.com/2012/06/june-international-rugby-tests-team-of.html

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Nice team there Scotty.

      I thouhgt Tony Woodcock had a good game too. Semmed to enjoy being out of the terrible Blues environment at Super 15 level. He was up against a pretty green tighthead for ireland though, so seeing as he wasn't a standout, I though the beast warranted selection. You picked a pretty awesome team though. Bismark DuPlessis and Sean O'Brien are beasts.

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  8. Cuthbert is a dream. What a career he has ahead of him! Good luck for tomorrow Wales.

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    1. Yes...he's been quite the find. Cuthbert and orth in tandem are going to cause quite a lot of trouble over the next few years. Who thought Wales would get over the loss of Shane Williams so quickly?!

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