31 May 2012

Super Rugby Stat Leaders (After 14 rounds)

After 14 rounds of enticing Super Rugby, the competition will take an unprecedented pause following this weekend's games to allow for the June Test matches to be contested (which will be previewed on this site next week).

The Springboks will be hosting England, the All Blacks tackle Ireland and the Wallabies will play both Scotland and Wales. The squads have been announced but do you agree with the selections of the southern hemisphere giants?

For your critical eye, Dumptackle rugby blog presents the statistical leaders in Super Rugby thus far. You can make your own mind up on who has been lucky to be included in their national squad and who could hold fair grievances for being left out!

What do you make of the stats? As always leave your views in the comments section below!

30 May 2012

Andy Robinson is more Ron Burgundy than William Wallace

Scotland regressing under Robinson
One of the enduring images of Scotland's dismal 2012 Six Nations campaign was their coach Andy Robinson thumping the perspex glass in his coaching box as he watched his side fumble their way to the wooden spoon. That simple act summed up the despair and pain which must have been coursing through his veins at that point.

Unfortunately for him, it rather evoked memories of Ron Burgundy in the film Anchorman who famously shrieked 'i'm in a glass cage of emotion!'. That character was meant to be a buffoon though.

No matter how passionately Robinson claims that he's the man for the job or 'kind of a big deal', the results at least seem to suggest otherwise. He seems to be able to make them into a competitive side, but like his time in the English hot seat, turning them into a winning side seems like a step too far.

29 May 2012

Pacific Nations Cup - Fiji and Samoa Preview

'Samurai Spirit' in 2011
The IRB Pacific Nations Cup gets under way next week, as Fiji, Samoa and  Tonga look to wrestle the trophy away from last year's surprise winners, Japan (who will be hosting this year's tournament).

Japan's victory last year was a victory for flair and innovative back-play as the Cherry Blossoms defeated their more illustrious rivals to win the cup for the first time. Their exhillarating 28-27 victory over Tonga was one of the games of the year and showed just how far they had come under the coaching of the now departed All Black legend John Kirwan. It is up to Eddie Jones now to plan Japan's defence.

Today though, we focus on two of the contenders aiming to steal their crown, as Dumptackle rugby blog gives a brief rundown on Samoa and Fiji's chances.

28 May 2012

The rise and fall of Romanian rugby - IRB Nations Cup set for kick-off

Many years ago, if you looked down your National side’s fixture list on tour and saw the words ROMANIA – Bucharest; it’s fair to say that it may have caused a fair bit of angst and trepidation. They had a very distinctive style of play built around an imposing and bruising pack of forwards. Welsh great Phil Bennett once famously remarked that the name ‘All Blacks’ sent a ‘shiver up your spine’ and ‘shudder through your heart’. Romania was not far behind in the intimidation stakes.
Throughout the early 20th Century, Romania had seen as a viable threat to the Home Nations’ domination in Europe. While they were not involved in the ‘Five Nations’, they were included in the Nations Cup from 1966 until 1973 and from then on the FIRA Trophy until 1997. Other sides competing included France, Italy and the Soviet Union. Even Nazi Germany had a go during the first four tournaments in the 1930’s.

22 May 2012

Harlequins vs Leicester - Aviva Premiership Final Preview

Twickenham will host yet another packed house on Saturday 26th May; with it's second major final in as many weeks. This time though, it will be showcasing England's two best club sides from the  2011/12 Aviva Premiership.

Table toppers Harlequins deservedly secured their passage to the final with a narrow 25:23 victory over the Northampton Saints in the semi-finals, while Leicester continued their impressive late season surge with a 25:14 win over the reigning champions; Saracens, to book their place in the showpiece. With the top two placed teams in the league standings meeting at Twickenham, the match is befitting of a final.

Shingler's List - Best (and worst) of the turncoats

What with all the debate surrounding the IRB's refusal to allow Steven Shingler to switch national allegiance to Scotland (due to having already represented Wales U21) ...along with the hype surrounding the potential debut of Edinburgh's 'Flying Dutchman', Tim Visser for Scotland, I have pulled out a list of the very best (and worst) players to have ever switched international allegiance in rugby union. Plus a few from league too....

Read on to see who made it in the dumptackle selections for the best and worst turncoats. Can you think of anyone notable missed out? As always leave your views in the comments section below!

20 May 2012

Leinster vs Ulster - Heineken Cup Final Review

Ulster remarked in the build up to the final that they were a team motivated by jealousy. That jealousy had developed a quiet determination in their ranks as well as a growing sense of belief. 'Stand up for the Ulster men' was the rallying call bellowed out by their fans. A murmur had become a crescendo. Their belief appeared warranted too.... Escaping the group of death and thrashing Leicester in the process was a real achievement. Becoming only the second team to win away at Thomond Park against their Irish rivals Munster also heightened this feeling. It was time for Ulster to step out of the shadows of their more illustrious brothers.

That belief though must have all but dissipated now. 80 minutes of fantasy rugby culminating in a 42-14 rout by Leinster, showed just how far they are from reaching the pinnacle of European rugby. The bar has been set and Leinster it appears are not for budging. With 3 Heineken Cup successes in the last 4 years, Leinster it appears are building a dynasty in Europe.

17 May 2012

Leinster vs Ulster - Heineken Cup Final Preview

The 17th Heineken Cup Final will be staged at Twickenham, the historic home of English rugby on Saturday 19th May. Don't be fooled though. For all those wearing rose-tinted glasses, it will be strictly an all Irish affair.

The climax of european club rugby's most prestigious tournament will be fought out between Leinster (vying for their third success in four years) and Ulster (who last won the tournament in 1999). Whichever side wins, it will be the fifth time in seven seasons that the winner's trophy will be showcased in an Irish trophy cabinet. At club level at least, Ireland seems to rule supreme.

16 May 2012

IRB to introduce new laws in 2012 - Haven't we been here before?

The IRB have announced that rugby union will be governed by 5 new laws in late 2012 while additional trials will take place concurrently. The new laws are to come into force in June (but effectively the Autumn) for the northern hemisphere, while they will only take effect in the southern hemisphere in 2013. 

It had been widely reported that there had been trials of propsed rule changes at an amateur level in Oxford and Stellenbosch this year, but I doubt anyone was expecting these changes so soon. Nevertheless they have now been sanctioned. For some, the changes may have come a little to swiftly.

14 May 2012

Banking on Potential - Assessing Steve Hansen's first All Black squad

So what exactly do Robbie Fruean and Andre Taylor need to do to get a shot with the All Blacks?

They have been tearing up opposition defences at will in this year's Super 15, yet have been overlooked to represent their country in June. Robbie Fruean may be wandering if he will ever get selected, such has been the apparent lack of confidence shown in him by All Black selectors in the last few years.

Some onlookers meanwhile had even claimed that the other absentee mentioned, Andre Taylor, had evoked memories of legendary All Black Christian Cullen with his daring attacking instincts. Despite these comparisons, his form was apparantly not enough to pass Steve Hansen's litmus test. Neither merited selection in the eyes of the selectors.

12 May 2012

Stephen Larkham's shock Brumbies return - Genius or Madness?

It appears that Australian legend Stephen Larkham is about to make the mother of all comebacks to rugby union in this years Super 15. The Brumbies enjoy a bye this weekend, but it seems that after more than one year out of the game, the man affectionately known as 'Bernie' will be trusted to take the reigns of Australia's conference leaders next weekend.

With Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano both ruled out through injury, Jake White has looked to the Brumbies attack coach to ease his flyhalf worries. It kind of makes sense given that he knows all the calls, but it does highlight the alarming lack of depth in Australian rugby. Something which Wallabies coach Robbie Deans will be well aware of.

11 May 2012

New All Black Squad - Will Steve Hansen stamp his mark?

Tomorrow, Steve Hansen and his assistants will announce their first All Blacks squad in charge. Don't expect too many changes. He has hinted to the media that his vision for the future is 'evolution rather than revolution'.

Their conundrum though will be whether to stick or twist with some of their established players. Does he back some of the All Blacks who have been flailing in this years Super 15, in the knowledge that whenever they have pulled on a black jersey in the past they have played like Superman or does he reward form?

9 May 2012

Pat Lam's job up for grabs - is John Hart the Blues' saviour?

 The time has finally come. After a string of horror results for the Blues, Pat Lam has effectively been given his marching orders. Ok maybe that is slightly misleading...he hasn't lost his job quite yet, but he has been told to re-apply for the post. That in itself is pretty damning.

Considering his record, his odds don't look too promising. This isn't a case similar to Graham Henry following the 2007 World Cup, where he successfully re-applied, fending off Robbie Deans in the process. Henry had a magnificent record over a long period of time and just one blip in a quarter-final. The Blues in comparision have been atrocious for weeks now and the board are clearly testing the water here to see just who is available and who is willing.

8 May 2012

Super Rugby Round 11 - Team of the Week

Once more Super Rugby gave it's fair share of thrills and spills this week with some exciting matches on offer.

Round 11 saw an absorbing grudge match between last years finalists, the Crusaders and Reds, with the men from Christchurch gaining some form of revenge for their agonising defeat last year.

 The Chiefs and Bulls meanwhile continued on their seemingly unstoppable rampage at the top of the table. Their  form is beginning to look ominous.

The Hurricanes showed us once more why they are probably the most attractive team to watch in the competition while the Blues showcased why they aren't...Surely Pat Lam's days as coach are numbered?

Even some of the cellar dwellars got in on the act, as the Rebels pushed hard against the Bulls to earn losing bonus points and the Cheetahs continued their suprising start to the season with a victory against the Force.

 But who made Dumptackle's team of the week? Read on to see who made the cut....and why.

Steve Hansen's Thorny Issue - Replacing an All Black Legend

How on earth do you replace Brad Thorn? That will be the first question raised by Steve Hansen and co when he and his selectors meet to draw up their first All Blacks squad of the year. It's an unenviable task for a very strict task master, but one that will need to be met head on if the All Blacks want to continue on their success from the World Cup .

Many All Black stalwarts have left since Hansen was given control of the All Black reigns, but crucially, there were already natural successors lined up in most of those positions. In fact in some cases, the tyros weren't sticking to the script and were ousting the veterans before their time was up.

6 May 2012

The Nemesis of English and French rugby - Alignment

Over the last few weeks, the same curious word has been popping up over and over again in rugby circles. So much so that eventuallly it sparked my interest and I decided that it could no longer be avoided!

Stuart Lancaster has mentioned it. So too have Wayne Smith and Graham Henry. Apparantly Clive Woodward even mastered it....but what is it?  More importantly, what does it mean?

The word so liberally bandied about is 'alignment'. The context being England and France's problem in achieving it.

The idea of alignment is to get domestic clubs and the international side on the same page. The result being that the players should be able to seemlessly move from one team to the other and back again, as the philosphy of playing style is the same or similar. So for example if England wanted to play a more expansive game (as has been indicated), then more and more sides in the Aviva Premiership would need to follow suit. That would mean Saracens would no longer be a kicking automation! The second point of alignment is simply increased access to International players during non international weeks.

5 May 2012

Players to Watch at the HSBC Sevens in Glasgow/ Twickenham

The Scotland leg of the popular IRB Sevens World Series begins today. New Zealand currently stand top of the table, 6 points ahead of perrenial rivals Fiji. With 2 events remaining and a potential 44 points on offer, this year's series looks like it's going to go down to the wire as always. Rather than predict a winner though, which is difficult due to Sevens' notoriously unpredictable nature...i've decided to go down a different route. In this post, Dumptackle outlines it's five players to watch during the Glasgow and Twickenham events. Read on to see who I think is going to tear it up this weekend!

Tim Mikkelson (New Zealand)

Tim Mikkelson is Mr NZ. He's an absolute workaholic on the field and has arguably been the most influential player in NZ sevens during the last few years. He may be underrated overseas but back at home his value is fully known. He's a real powerhouse. The Waikato man has the ability to run length of the field tries for his team and has dug NZ out of countless holes over the years. Whether it be scoring himself or setting up tries for speedsters such as Frank Halai or new sensation Waisake Naholo. His long strides defy just how much toe he has too.

4 May 2012

Ireland's Coaching Vacuum

Leinster celebrating historic win
The Irish provinces are enjoying an all-time high in club rugby. May 19th will see the final of Europe's most cherished club rugby competition, the Heineken Cup, contested between two Irish provinces; Leinster and Ulster.

The fact that Ulster have effectively booted Munster (a dominant side in recent years) into third position in the Irish hierarchy is rather significant. It shows a depth in Irish rugby which perhaps they have never before enjoyed to such an extent (apart from in the propping stakes). If you're an Irish fan it's hard not to have a glint in your eye thinking about the possible repercussions at International level.

Ireland will be travelling to NZ in June to complete a 3 match tour in the land of the long white cloud. Perhaps this year, more than any, Ireland, riding on the wave of provincial success, may have a shot at ending a long winless streak against their hosts, who could possibly suffer the usual 'world cup hangover' that seems to affect most winners.

However, have they indirectly handed NZ a long term advantage with the way they are structuring their provincial teams? Are they creating an 'Irish coaching vacuum'?

Rabbo-Direct 'Pro 12 Dream Team 2012 '

The Rabbo-Direct Pro 12 'Dream Team' for 2012 was officially announced today. A panel of 14 journalists from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales had been canvassed to select the team after 19 rounds. Currently 22 rounds have been played. The team which they came up with consists of four Scots, three Welshmen, three South Africans, an Englishman, a Kiwi, a Fijian and a certain 'Flying Dutchman'.

Visser top try scorer in 2012
Five of the fifteen selected  retained their place from last year's 'Dream Team'. Those players being Leinster Utility back Isa Nacewa, Ulster scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, Cardiff Blues' Munster bound centre Casey Laulala, Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss and Edinburgh's 'Flying Dutchman' Tim Visser on the wing.

The latter, incredibly, has now been selected for the last three consecutive 'Dream Teams'...no mean feat when you consider he plays in a struggling team (in the Pro 12 at least).

2 May 2012

Welsh rugby the moral standard-bearers

It appears that not all rugby players spend their free time embarking on alcohol fuelled rampages around town (a la Zac Guildford) or throwing dwarves across a bar (a la Mike Tindall) as the media might suggest. Some seem to follow Graham Henry's old mantra that "Better people make better rugby players".

It is well known that former Wales captain Gareth Thomas has led the charge against homophobia in sport in recent years; being one of the few openly gay professional sportsmen when he came out during his stint in rugby league. He has been rightly applauded for his bravery.

Now it seems that a former team mate of his (pictured on left) and a current star of the welsh rugby team, Adam Jones, will also be taking a  stance on an important matter which is close to his heart. Jones will be calling on all men to speak up for womens' rights in a campaign being launched at the Welsh Assembly, it was heard today.

Super Rugby Round 10 Review & Team of the Week


Blues 11 - 23 Reds
Lions 20 - 34 Brumbies
Chiefs 33 - 14 Hurricanes
Force 3 - 17 Stormers
Cheetahs 33 - 36 Highlanders
Waratahs 33 - 37 Crusaders
Bye: Bulls, Sharks, Rebels

The Chiefs, Stormers and Brumbies continued their march to towards the top spot in their respective conferences with strong, determined displays in round 10 and never looked like losing in all honesty.

The Chiefs seem to be improving as the competition goes on; Aaron Cruden in particular looking more and more assured at pivot. They must surely have an extra spring in their step too, with the news that Wayne Smith is looking to stay with them for the forseeable future.

 The Brumbies too seem to be benefitting from the structures Jake White has put in place. Their gameplan may be simple, but it is also tough, uncompromising and difficult to stop. Talking of uncompromising...the Stormers were solid this round if not spectacular, but did enough to get yet another away win under their belt; this time against the lowly Force. They surely will be there or thereabouts at the business end of the competition.

1 May 2012

The Form Guide - Super Rugby Leaders after 10 Rounds

The Chiefs, Stormers and Brumbies are currently leading their respective conferences after 10 rounds of Super Rugby 2012; each team typified by a solid, disciplined defence and a bit of x-factor too. While the Highlanders, Bulls and Crusaders have also shown enough in recent weeks to suggest that they will be challenging for honours at the business end of the competition too.

Today though, it's not about provincial allegiances...it's about whose in form for those tasty internationals coming up in June and the newly named 'Rugby Championship' that follows! Around this time of the season everyone starts to think of themselves as a bit of a national selector and after 10 rounds, there are enough stats to see if those hunches are justified or not.

For example is Beauden Barrett ready for international rugby, or is he still too rough a diamond? How about Johan Goosen for that matter...or Andre Taylor? Can Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger fill the sizeable boots of Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield? All these questions need answers!

In response tho these internal queries...I have compiled the top five players for a few key stats from the opening 10 rounds of the competition. Of course you do not judge a player's influence on the field by stats alone...but that doesn't mean that one should ignore them. Read on to see which individuals are leading the way.

The Catt that got the Cream - Catt Lands role after Smith snubs England offer

Will he or won't he? That has been the question asked of Wayne Smith's future the last few weeks. The possibility of Smith deploying his vast array of technical rugby knowledge, once so synonymous with the All Blacks, with England's young tyros has dominated the rugby media in recent weeks.

For the NZ public, the thought had initially been met with horror, but then a reluctant acceptance. Smith had earned his dues after all. He had spent 8 years as an All Black assistant coach and had even had a period prior to that has the top dog. The NZRU publicly admitted too that they would do everything they could to retain his services domestically. England knew his value and were fighting hard to secure his services.

Stuart Lancaster had even gone so far as taking a flight to South Africa to chat with his candidate during Waikato Chiefs' overseas tour last month. It appears though that the Wayne Smith saga has finally ended today, as he ultimately rejected Stuart Lancaster's plea to join the England coaching team.