Manu Tuilagi smashes Tom Williams

Top14 player imposter!

JDV smashed by Benoit August

The Northampton Saints 30m scrum!

Bastareaud huge hit on Rory Lamont

All Blacks skills - Pt 2 In the backyard

Trinh-Duc sets up Harinordoquy try

Wales vs England 1999

Greg Holmes great hit on Francois Louw

Monday, November 30, 2009

Argentina snatch victory over Scotland with a late dropgoal

Argentina ruined the Murrayfield festivities as they beat Scotland 9-6 on Saturday, a week after the Scots historic win over Australia.

Scotland had hoped for a clean sweep of their Autumn Internationals, after they had beaten Fiji, then Australia in successive weeks.

Phil Godman kicked two penalties to give Scotland a first half lead, but it was Argentina’s Martin Rodriguez who kicked two of his own in the second half, then clinched victory for the visitors with a late dropgoal.

The scalp of Argentina, third place at the 2007 World Cup, would have meant a dream start for coach Andy Robinson. Former Captain Jason White believes that Robinson will make huge changes for Scottish rugby.

"I have worked under four Scotland regimes in my nine or so years on the Test scene - at the start there was Ian McGeechan with Jim Telfer and then Matt Williams followed by Frank Hadden,” he said.

"Now Andy is the man in charge and his approach is completely different to all the others. He and his management team are doing things his way and I believe it is the right way.

“Okay we lost, which was hugely disappointing. But the bottom line is that we do have an excellent squad of coaches, managers and players at the moment.

"I'm convinced that two wins out of three spells out that we have the makings of a bright future.”

Argentina played a far better game in the second half, and combined with errors and a sending off from the home side, got themselves in a position to win the match.

"We lost against England playing well but with some mistakes. Then we didn't play well against Wales," coach Santiago Phelan said.

"This game was very important for us. To get a good result is very important for the continuity of this team."

Time: 07:21


Saturday, November 28, 2009

France thumped at home by rampant All Blacks

The All Blacks, wearing all white, outclassed France in Marseilles as they ended their end of year tour with another win by beating the French 39-12.

Despite having a poor Tri Nations, New Zealand ended their northern hemisphere tour unbeaten after wins over Wales, Italy, England, and now France.

Tonight they showed a brand of rugby that’s been missing over the past few weeks, and lacking in their own game for some time. They got it back though, as they showed all the flair and skill that made them the most feared team in the world for many years.

Five tries were scored by the All Blacks, namely from Sitiveni Sivivatu, Mils Muliaina, Jerome Kaino, Cory Jane and Conrad Smith. Dan Carter was back to his best too, kicking 14 points.

Owen Franks was yellow carded late in the match after tempers flared between the two sides. The All Blacks played a few minutes with 14 players, but it made no difference to the result as they’d done more than enough to secure the great win.

Captain Richie McCaw has since been named IRB Player of the Year, a somewhat surprising choice as he beat out favourites Fourie Du Preez and Brian O’Driscoll.

"It's a huge honour," said McCaw. "One guy gets this but you can't do it without your mates." McCaw was also quite naturally delighted with the convincing display against the French.

"It was an incredible Test match between France and New Zealand and we appreciate that," he said.

The All Blacks play the Barbarians in London next weekend, a match which will see them up against a strong Baa Baas side. A win there will cap off a fantastic end of season tour.

Time: 09:52
Note: Better quality highlights will replace these sometime soon.


Australia bounce back to beat Wales in Cardiff

The Wallabies came back strongly after their shock defeat at Murrayfield last weekend. Written off by their fans and media, the young side bounced back to beat Wales 33-12 at the Millennium Stadium.

It was the biggest home defeat of Warren Gatland’s reign, and came shortly after he said he wants Wales to be in the top 3 of world rugby by 2011. Australia though, were the team that showed why they’re currently there, as they looked comfortable all match.

They got off to a great start with three tries in 16 minutes from Digby Ioane, James Horwill, and David Pocock. Wales weren’t helped though by the injury losses of Shane Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, and Matthew Rees.

Man of the Match Matt Giteau kicked 13 points and played a part in two of the tries, making amends for his vital missed kick last weekend. Tatafu Polota-Nau scored their fourth try in the second half.

Wales were booed off the field by sections of the 74 339 crowd, as they failed to create tries despite having one or two pretty good chances. Poor execution and decision making cost them dearly in the end.

For the first time in 11 Tests this year that Wales had leaked four tries or more, something that defence guru Shaun Edwards will need to reflect on ahead of the Six Nations. Gatland himself will also need to do a lot more thinking if he wants his side to be serious contenders for the World Cup in 2011.

"It's the most disappointing performance since I have been involved with Wales," Gatland said afterwards.

"Australia were the better team and deserved to win. They came here pumped up and dominated most facets of the game. They completely dominated the air, produced one of the best offensive displays from an Australian side, their scrum was strong and they were better than us at the contact area.

"But the four tries they scored came from our mistakes and turnover ball. We need to be more desperate as a team but today will be a huge learning experience for a lot of the younger players.

"It was a good lesson for us and we weren't good enough. As coaches we will be honest with ourselves but now it's about how we respond to the disappointment."

For the Wallabies, their tour could have been so different. The difference between two wins out of four and a Grand Slam was simply a last gasp try for Ireland, and a missed conversion kick against Scotland.

All in all, their media gave them a mauling over the last week, but this young side have shown that they’ve got it in them to dig deep when needed, and will take a lot of positives away from a tour that they no doubt learnt a lot from.

Time: 08:23


Ireland beat South Africa at Croke Park in Dublin

Dublin will celebrate tonight as their Ireland team beat South Africa 15-10 at a cold and misty Croke Park earlier today. Flyhalf Jonathan Sexton was the hero of the day as he showed great temperament to kick all the points for his side, slotting five penalty kicks in terrible weather conditions.

The irony of the match is that it was the Springbok’s two most powerful assets all year – the lineout and the boot of Morne Steyn – that let them down.

They did score the only try of the match though, with Schalk Burger gliding through in the first half, setting up a 10-6 half time lead for the visitors.

Sexton kicked Ireland back in front in the second half, following a few unforced errors from the Boks, as well as one or two lapses in discipline.

South Africa dominated the scrums, but it was the Irish forwards who got the better of the break down as they turned over Springbok ball repeatedly. Rob Kearney at the back was also sensational for the home side, showing what a class act he is under the high ball in particular.

The conditions were ultimately dealt with better by the home side, but it came down to Ireland slotting their kicks, and South Africa missing theirs.

"You have to kick your penalties. They took their chances but we didn't," said captain John Smit.

"We did a lot of damage in the scrum and that gave us a huge amount of impetus. But our lineouts and kicking let us down but ironically those have been our strengths this year."

Springbok coach Peter De Villiers has confessed that fatigue played a part after a successful, yet exhausting year. "We want to honour rugby and do the best we can," he said.

"If we'd picked the second team people would have thought we're looking down on them but maybe we should have rested a few senior players. We must regroup and build on what we've achieved this year."

Brian O’Driscoll reflected on how pleased he is that the Ireland team have turned things around, considering they lost 22-3 to New Zealand a year ago.

"This win was very pleasing - it's all about continuing to progress," said O'Driscoll."We were in a dark place this time last year and we did a lot of soul searching and there was huge honesty. To turn it around as quickly as we have done is a huge credit to everyone involved, not just players but management too.

"I’m glad to come out on the right side of a result. The last three times we’ve been good enough to win in Dublin. Now the pressure’s on us to go down there (to South Africa) and pick up a scalp."

Following the match in Dublin, South Africa have been named IRB Team of the Year, while Ireland coach Declan Kidney was named IRB Coach of the Year.

"It's been a huge year for us and to top it off with a recognition like this, to secure the top prize is massive. It was a huge ambition of many of the guys to beat the British & Irish Lions, it was a goal to be victorious so that was a great highlight for us during the year," said Smit.

Ireland themselves have played ten, won nine, and drawn one this year.

"I don't know what to say really, the team have been superb over the last 12 months,” said Kidney.

"I feel my role is overstated, I haven't made a tackle all year! But for my family putting up with me and the players putting up with me even more I'd like to accept it on their behalf."

Time: 08:42


Friday, November 27, 2009

Ireland vs South Africa at Croke Park - Preview

One of the biggest matches of the year takes place at Croke Park tomorrow as the much anticipated meeting between the champions of the north and the champions of the south will play out in front of 82 000 fans.

Grand Slam winners Ireland will be looking to claim the scalp of Tri Nations winners South Africa in a match that for some, will determine who gets the bragging rights for the next few months.

Both sides have had fantastic years, and whatever the result, that can’t take away from all that's been achieved for each team throughout the year.

Despite the loss to France recently, South Africa are still considered the best team in the world by many, so Ireland are looking to change perceptions as many of their senior players aim for revenge for a Lions series that they feel should have gone their way.

John Smit has said that it’s a pity only 82 000 could get a ticket for the match, as it’s bound to be a fierce encounter with plenty of niggle and hopefully some attractive rugby to go along with that. Brian O’Driscoll tried to play down the hype, but the Irish media have stressed the North vs South element throughout the week.

The Springboks have brought in Jean De Villiers and BJ Botha to stabilise the backline and scrum respectively, but De Villiers, now a Munster man, will start off the bench as Wynand Olivier will run out in the first fifteen.

World Cup winning number eight Danie Rossouw has been brought in to play in that self same position, while John Smit is back at the familiar position of Hooker, beefing up a scrum that’s come under much scrutiny on this tour.

The biggest talking point of the week in Ireland has been that Ronan O’Gara has been placed on the bench and they’re retained young flyhalf Jonny Sexton, who looked impressive throughout the season for Leinster, and then last week against Fiji.

It’s possibly the biggest game of the end of year tours, but that’s if you’re not French or Kiwi, as those two sides meet in Marseilles for a match that will be fascinating to say the least. There probably won’t be time to get a preview up for that game, but it’s also set to be a must watch. Between the two, Wales hosts Australia in a match that the Aussies will have to win to avoid another mauling from their local press.

Ireland 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (c), 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Tomas O’Leary, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tony Buckley, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Sean O’Brien, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 Ronan O’Gara, 22 Gordon D’Arcy.

Springboks 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Jean de Villiers.

Time: 05:22
Note: Thanks to our friends at Supersport


Top 14 Highlights - Round 13

It was a busy day yesterday for Rugbydump. The re-development of the site is taking shape nicely, the archives are being updated, and RD found its voice with a short interview on BBC Radio. Things are back on track today though with highlights from the latest round of the French Top 14.

Castres hosted Toulouse and annihilated their pack, laying the platform for tries to be scored by Cameron McIntyre, Thomas Sanchou, and two for Chris Masoe. Freddie Michalak scored for Toulouse, but it wasn’t enough to stop the 30-10 bonus point win for the home side.

Bayonne also picked up a bonus point win as they beat Montauban 38-13. Sam Gerber was prominent in the match which produced some great tries. Thibault Lacroix scored two, while Gerber himself scored a late try.

Montpellier against Bourgoin was a dramatic match which had the result sealed two minutes from time with a surprise Eugene Van Staden try. Bourgoin tried in vain as they came close to scoring at the end, but now sit in a poor position in the relegation zone.

Felipe Contepomi made his much awaited debut for Toulon when they hosted Brive. Fotu Auelua scored in the first half, with points being kicked by Sebastian Fauqué, and a late penalty to Contepomi, which extended the final score to 19-10. Simon Azoulai scored Brive’s solitary try.

Young French centre Mathieu Bastareaud turned out at Number Eight against Racing Metro at the Yves du Manoir. This Paris derby lacked nothing despite missing a a host of players on international duty. Ollie Phillips scored the first try of the match following a nice break by Mark Gasnier.

An old fashioned forwards punch up allowed the backs to have a match of their own, as a kick ahead resulted in a try for flying Fijian winger Sireli Bobo. Bastareaud scored a nice try on the wing, but it wasn’t enough as Racing Metro won 20-18.

Biarritz picked up a good 16-13 win over Clermont at the Stade Marcel Michelin despite Clermont leading 10-3 at the break following a try and penalty from Benoit Baby. Dimitri Yachvili kept Biarritz in the match with some good goal kicking, before a last minute try and conversion sealed the win.

Time: 10:10


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jonah Lomu comeback for Marseilles-Vitrolles

Jonah Lomu made his much anticipated return to rugby on the weekend as he turned out for his new club Marseilles-Vitrolles in the French Third Division.

Lomu, now 34, has battled with illness an injury for many seasons now, was the major drawcard as 2500 people and over 100 media personal flocked to the ground to watch Lomu's new team thrash Montmelian 64-13.

Jonah didn't do much in the match, and apparently looked nervous and unsure of himself. He was playing at centre, and said he actually struggled with the language, which hindered his play.

"It was a little difficult to understand my team-mates who were talking very fast in French," said Lomu. "I asked them to speak a little less quickly. I have to gain in confidence, and to communicate better with them. I did feel a bit lost on the pitch at times."

Lomu enjoyed the occasion nevertheless. "This was the first match, I was not expecting a miracle. My welcome was extraordinary, as much from the public as from my team-mates," he said.

Lomu's new home in Marseilles is just a few minutes from the hotel the New Zealand team are staying at ahead of their meeting with France. Former Wellington teamate Ma'a Nonu says they're eagerly anticipating a visit from the legendary All Black.

"He's still got that respect. The boys hold him in high regard. He's always going to be a legend in every kid's eyes. It will be good to have him around," Nonu said.

"Jonah's one of those big fellas that looks after the young guys. He used to live in Maupuia, the big orange house on the hill. That was Jonah's castle.

"I just lived down the road in Miramar and he used to pick me up for training. I was pretty lucky ... He had a few nice cars too.

"He's a generous guy, a big giant that's always friendly. Everyone loves him," Nonu said.

We had requests for footage of Jonah's return, so here it is. It doesn't feature much action from him at all, as he had a pretty quiet match, but it does show the hype that surrounds everywhere he goes. There's also a pretty decent hand off. French speakers, this ones for you.

Time: 02:00
Note: Thanks for france3.fr


Barbarians against the All Blacks - Cardiff Arms Park 1993

As is tradition, the All Blacks played the Barbarians on their final match of their end of year tour overseas tour in 1993. The match was played at a packed Cardiff Arms Park, the same ground that hosted the legendary 1973 meeting between the same teams.

The 1993 crop of All Blacks included the likes of Zinzan Brooke, Frank Bunce, Inga Tuigamala, and a young Jeff Wilson, who was a goal kicker at the time and notched up 50 points on tour.

The Barbarians had the Irishman Eric Elwood at flyhalf, along with Lions legends Scott Gibbs and Scott Quinnell. Sporting a full head of hair was Neil Back on the flank. Frenchman Olivier Roumat scrummed down at lock alongside Paddy Johns, while Wallaby Ewan Mckenzie played in the front row.

Wilson, only 20 at the time, made his Test debut for the All Blacks against Scotland on that tour. He got them off to a good start in this match with his accurate goal kicking, which was followed by a rather dodgy looking try from a lineout right on the Baa-Baa's try line.

Powerhouse wing Inga Tuigamala then scored a sensational try as the Kiwis opened it up and he stormed over showing his trademark pace and power. Look out for his run that flattened Gibbs, and then his nice hit later in the match.

Elwood kept the Barbarians in the match with some excellent goal kicking before his crosskick almost resulted in a try for Nigel Walker. Take note of the clearing kick and charge down that followed.

Lock Ian Jones then got on the end on one of the great All Blacks tries after some superb passing between backs and forwards. The All Blacks won the spectacle 25-12 in the end.

The same two sides will meet again at Twickenham this year on December 5th. It will be the 10th fixture between them since first meeting in 1954.

The Barbarians squad has been announced and will include Lions players Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, and Andy Powell, as well as Springboks Bryan Habana, Victor Matfield, and Fourie Du Preez. Wallabies Matt Giteau, Rocky Elsom and George Smith will also play, and to make things interesting, Joe Rokocoko will line up against his countrymen. Full squad here.

Time: 06:33


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Matt Stevens on life away from rugby

The rigours of international rugby take their toll on each player in a different way. One man who couldn’t handle the pressure is now getting used to life off the field, away from the sport he loves. No Lions tour. No England internationals. No rugby.

Bath prop Matt Stevens was suspended in January this year after he admitted to taking cocaine. He was banned from the sport for 2 years, and will only be back in action in January of 2011.

That’s a long time to be out of the game, and many have questioned if the 27 year old will even have a career at all when he finally comes back after his ban has expired.

Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio has openly criticised Stevens' club, Bath, for not showing the 32 times England capped prop enough support.

"No one condones the use of recreational drugs in any way whatsoever in sport, but a player I think should be given help by his rugby club rather than booted out," Dallaglio said after offering Stevens an informal contract at Wasps.

Bath have since shown interest, as earlier this week they said that they’d like to have him back.

"I've spoken to Matt about where he sees his future and what he'd like to do. We'd love him to come back to us and I have made that clear," explained Bath chief executive Nick Blofeld.

"I may not have been at the club for very long, but in that time it's clear that Matt's presence at the club has been missed both on and off the pitch.

"He is a big character with strong leadership skills and a lot of charm. It therefore came as a shock to everyone when the news broke and we had no precedent when it came to dealing with it.

"Matt has kept very fit and has even become a Brazilian Ju Jitsu Champion, which is an extraordinary feat and demonstrates again his drive and determination to succeed," he added.

Stevens is currently spending all his time running a coffee shop with former teamate Lee Mears, as well as learning martial arts. He's welcomed his club's the positive outlook on the situation.

"I'm very pleased that Bath have spoken to me and said they'd like me to come back," he admitted.

"It's obviously early days for my future rugby career but Bath and the rugby club are obviously still a big part of my life and I'll give it very serious consideration."

This interesting interview gives us an insight into what it's been like for the disgraced prop, and we finally get to hear exactly what drove him to breaking down and doing what he did.

Time: 03:41


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ireland too powerful for Fiji in Dublin

Ireland followed on from their draw against Australia last weekend with a comfortable 41-6 win over Fiji at the RDS in Dublin on Saturday.

Leinster flyhalf Jonathan Sexton, standing in for the rested Ronan O'Gara, was impressive as he landed five conversions and two penalties on his first Test start.

He picked up the Man of the Match award on his debut, with coach Declan Kidney saying he was impressed by Sexton’s maturity out there. Fijian coach Glen Ella also praised him.

"I was impressed by Ireland's No. 10," Ella said. "He has a bright future for many years to come."

Fiji proved competitive at times but were outmuscled as Ireland scored five tries. Left wing Keith Earls scoring two, while others came from captain Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney, and Shane Horgan.

Despite the significant score margin, O’Driscoll said Fiji were better than it seemed.

"One thing I have learned is that you have to grind down sides. That took us 60 or 70 minutes," the captain said. "The days of cricket scores in these sorts of matches are behind us."

Ella also thought the scoreline flattered the Six Nations champions slightly.

"We actually played much better than 41-6," he said.

"Obviously, Ireland are a quality team, they are very clinical. Naturally, we are disappointed but, in saying that, we improved from the Scotland game. We did, however, have a problem competing for the full 80 minutes."

Time: 05:51


Scotland The Brave upset the Wallabies at Murrayfield

The Murrayfield faithful turned out to witness what has been described as Australia's worst Test defeat in decades as Scotland beat them 9-8 on Saturday.

The Wallabies, ranked third in the world, lost to a ninth ranked Scottish team who picked up their first win over the Australians in 27 years.

With supposed saviour Robbie Deans in charge, the Wallabies have reached new lows according to their media, as they’ve lost for the seventh time in Test rugby this season.

"It may be the worst Test loss by Australia since the 1973 crash to Tonga in Brisbane," the Sunday Telegraph's Jim Tucker said.

"Certainly, no Test played by the Wallabies since has been frittered away with such dominance of possession, territory and genuine chances."

Greg Gowden of the Sunday Herald said: "The Wallabies had untold attacking opportunities to defeat a second-rate Scotland team who basically just defended and defended all night to win this game.

"This is one of the most inexplicable moments in Australian rugby history and without doubt their worst moment of the professional era,” he added.

Scotland defended like trojans as they kept out a determined Aussie outfit who had the better share of the possession and had a chance to win it but for a missed kick by Matt Giteau at the death.

Scotland coach Andy Robinson was ecstatic with the win, praising his team, calling it the most courageous performance he’s ever been involved in.

"The effort that has been put in, the way the team got off the floor and defended - and credit to Graham Steadman for the way he's put this defence together - was incredible.

"The amount of ball that we gave Australia to play with throughout the game and the courage that the players had to get up and keep knocking them over.

"We needed a bit of luck, I thought the guys worked hard to establish that luck. If we can perform like that, with that same courage every time we go on the pitch, then we can grow a team and that's what we're about now.

"I'd like us to play with a little bit more ball and want to keep hold of it a little bit more," joked Robinson. "But that's the levels that we've got to improve and it just shows you we do have to improve with our ball in hand. That's a platform now for us to be able to do that."

Time: 08:44
Extra: Discuss the match here or indepth on the forum.


France crush Samoa at the Stade de France

France achieved another good win this weekend as they cantered to a 43-5 victory over Samoa at the Stade de France in Paris.

Last weekend they beat South Africa in Toulouse, and this performance, in which they outclassed the Samoans, will give them confidence ahead of their next clash, with the All Blacks.

France were ruthless as they ran in seven tries in total, with three being scored in the first 15 minutes of the match. Dimitri Szarzewski, Vincent Clerc and Yannick Jauzion, got them off to a great start before Thierry Dusatoir and Benjamin Fall added tries to take them to a 33-0 halftime lead.

"My players knew how to cut the Samoans' wings early with an excellent first quarter of an hour's play. New Zealand will be an altogether more complicated proposition than Samoa. We know we have to be performing at our best," said French coach Marc Lievrement.

His captain Sylvain Marconnet added: "We knew this would be a tough match mentally. We're a group that get on well together, we're ambitious. The captain that I am today is satisfied with his troops."

France played with less intensity in the second half, but still managed to score two tries through Francois Trinh-Duc. Samoa got on the scoresheet in the final ten minutes, with a consolation try scored by Iosefa Tekori of Castres.

Time: 06:40
Extra: Join the forum discussion here.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wales with comfortable win over Argentina in Cardiff

Wales put on a much improved all round display as they beat Argentina 33-16 at the Millennium Stadium earlier today.

Star winger Shane Williams found form again as he scored two tries while flyhalf Stephen Jones looked commanding from early on, scoring a try and kicking everything asked of him.

Wales had the majority of possession but went into the break at only 13-3 ahead. Argentina's Martin Rodrigeuz could have made the gap even narrower, but he hit the post with a penalty.

Wales scored their second try 30 seconds after the restart when Williams scored between the posts following a Luke Charteris charge down. Jones did the rest with the conversion.

Rodriguez kicked two well taken penalties to keep the visitors in contention at 20-9, but Leigh Halfpenny's booming halfway line penalty took the lead further ahead once again.

Jonathan Davies was charged down by Rodriguez who gathered to score, and then convert, the try. A few minutes later Williams pounced on a loose ball and went over for his second.

Halfpenny kicked another penalty late in the game, stretching the final score to 33-16.

Time: 05:55
Extra: Discuss in more depth on the forum.


New Zealand beat England at Twickenham

New Zealand recorded their eighth successive win over England with a 19-6 victory at Twickenham on Saturday after scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan scampered over for the only try of the match in the 57th minute.

The All Blacks lifted the pace in the second half on a treacherous surface which contributed to a series of unforced errors from both sides after heavy rain throughout the week.

Cowan's try came after relentless recycling by New Zealand as they surged on to the attack, although the home supporters thought the final pass from captain Richie McCaw had gone forward.

The teams were tied 6-6 at halftime with Dan Carter and Jonny Wilkinson kicking two penalties apiece. Carter overtook Andrew Mehrtens as New Zealand's top international points scorer before the break but also missed two penalty attempts. (Reuters)

Time: 04:53


Springboks finally come right as they beat Italy in Udine

South Africa scored four tries to get their end of year tour back on track as they beat Italy 32-10 in Udine earlier today.

The tour so far has been less than satisfactory, as they've lost to Leicester and Saracens in warm up matches, and France in their first Test. Today they put things right though, as despite Italy's valiant challenge, the South Africans came out on top with a comfortable win in the end.

Wing Bryan Habana, sporting his best Movember moustache for the occasion, scored early on with a nice try in the corner before he turned provider for Jaque Fourie to score under the posts.

Flyhalf Morne Steyn had a rare off day with the boot, but still managed to kick two penalties and converted two of South Africa's four tries.

Italy came back into the game late in the first half as flyhalf Craig Gower set up Gonzalo Garcia for a nice try that split the Bok midfield defence in two.

Italy powered through a number of scrums, but the Springboks moved captain and prop John Smit to hooker, resulting in a far more stable scrum, and the Boks turning things around as they drove through the Italians on a few occasions later in the game.

Scrumhalf Fourie Du Preez finished off an excellent team try in the 53rd minute as South Africa looked totally in charge in the last quarter. Replacement Wynand Olivier then sealed the win in the closing stages with his first Test try.

Time: 06:03


Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Funnies - National Anthem goes up in smoke

It's been a week since the horror that took place prior to kick-off in South Africa's 20-13 loss to France in Toulouse. While the dust has settled somewhat, this joke of a performance is worthy of a place in our archives.

Disgracing ones country is no laughing matter, but you can't help but find Reggae singer Ras Dumisani's rendition of the South African national anthem pretty humourous.

There's plenty to choose from. Was it the out of place bongo drums, the high pitch as he got into 'Die Stem', or simply the look of utter dismay on the players faces afterwards?

On a serious note though, the wailing from Reggae Ras angered the Springboks, who then had to witness a rousing performance of the French anthem, La Marseillaise.

"Every time you go out on the field and sing the national anthem, it's very important for us and that's something that really fires you up because you know you're playing for your country," said a visibly upset Victor Matfield.

"It was a joke out there. The guys couldn't sing along to it and even the crowd were starting to laugh. It was very disappointing."

Many have speculated as to who appointed the singer. The South African embassy in France was originally blamed, but they've since distanced themselves from it saying that they had only provided the French Rugby Federation with Dumisani's agent's name, as it was the only name it had of a South African singer living in France.

SA Rugby Union President Oregan Hoskins has since revealed that he received an official apology from his counterpart in France. He said that he's accepted that French rugby officials did not deliberately try to "sabotage the anthem and, as much as the performance still rankles, we regard the matter as now closed".

Dumisani has been interviewed since, and even performed the anthem again on various radio stations. He was just as bad.

"No one told me they were upset with the singing," he said. "In fact, someone just came up to me and told me how beautifully I had sung. Everyone at the stadium told me I sang well, even after the match.

"The Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika has been my tune since I was a baby. How can I not know the words? I am the biggest reggae man in South Africa and the Springboks are my team."

Lets hope that's the last time we see Dumisani, or any other poor singer, making a mockery of an anthem before a big match. One would have thought there's an official screening process by now. I think it's safe to say that after this fiasco, there will be.

Time: 02:03


Behind the scenes with a Television Match Official

This weekend we have another feast of rugby action which is bound to produce some tight matches and the occasional match changing decision. As we saw last weekend, the man blowing the whistle is in a highly scrutinised position and needs to be on top of his game at all times.

Luckily for him, the Television Match Official (TMO) was brought into the game a few years back. Many questioned it's use, as they felt it would slow the game down and cause more harm than good.

These days though, it's become an integral part of the game, with referees referring to it whenever there's even the slightest bit of doubt involved in a decision.

Yes, at times the TMO can be overused by refs, but all in all it's a brilliant option to have and you can be sure that the whole of Ireland is today wishing that it was used in football, one of the few remaining sports that still refuses to bring the available technology into the game.

This interesting video gives us a nice behind the scenes look at what it takes to be a television match official, and how the process takes place after the referee has called for the TMO to come into play.

Time: 03:07


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Saracens beat South Africa at Wembley

South Africa's midweek side failed for the second time on this tour as they went down 24-23 to Saracens at Wembley on Tuesday night.

The visitors had a healthy 18-6 lead at halftime, but Saracens, whose team started with 10 'ex' South Africans, came back thanks to tries by Ernst Joubert and Brad Barrit, as well as a 75th minute match winning drop goal by Derick Hougaard.

It sounds like a report from a Currie Cup match, but the Brendan Venter coached side (who insist they're not London South Africa), quite simply had the better second half as they mixed it up physically and scored the points when it counted.

"This was a brilliant evening for the club," Venter said. "We have shown a lot of ambition, and with the guy hitting the crossbar, us winning in the end and with 46,000 people watching - it doesn't get much better than this."

Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir said "We have brought a whole lot of youngsters over here. Some have shown they are world-class players and others have not."

The South African's were impressive in the first half, but failed to turn up in the second as Saracens came back into the match. Hougaard had a horrible night with the boot, and was even booed at times as he kept persisting with badly struck drops.

Ironically, it was he who finally slotted one late in the game, winning the match for a jubilant Saracens in front of a highly impressive amount of fans at the stadium.

It was a strange night for South African fans though, because despite losing, all Sarries points were scored by their own countrymen. Hougaard was a Bulls legend, Joubert captained the Lions, and Barrit was a Sharks midfield warrior for years. The latter is now also eligible to play for England, so his SA days are over.

We've included some of the big hits from the match, as there were plenty on show. Enjoy.

Time: 07:26


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Saracens fan wins £250 000 in the ultimate Crossbar Challenge

Last night young Stuart Tinner took home a £250 000 jackpot after completing a crossbar challenge at halftime in front of 46 000 people at Wembley.

The stadium erupted as Tinner, wearing socks to make the kick, hit the crossbar with his first attempt during halftime of Saracens 24-23 win over South Africa.

Tinner, 24, is a job centre worker from Hertfordshire and still lives at home with his parents. He’s a hooker for Welwyn RFC fifth team.

He was chosen at random, along with two others, after sending in a text message while sitting in the stands.

"I guess I just kicked it as hard as I could and I don't really believe what happened. If you're going to feel the ball then you can't have shoes on. You've got to really get a feel for the ball.

"I have already spoken to my parents and they told me to keep my feet on the ground. They saw it on television," he said.

Saracens are on a huge marketing drive to get more people to get to watch the matches live. This season they’re staging four matches at Wembley in an attempt to increase their supporter base.

Tinner hitting the crossbar will have done wonders in terms of media attention. Saracens did apparently take out insurance to cover the competition prize.

"What we try and do at Wembley is to provide a great game of rugby and extra - and with a guy winning quarter of a million at half-time, we had something a lot of people will remember," said Saracens chief executive Ed Griffiths.

"It's an amazing feeling, I'm still in a daze. It won't change me, I'm still going to work in the morning but what a night it's been. I support Saracens but I don't get to see them very frequently but you can put me down as a season-ticket holder now," Tinner enthused.

"This is the second best day of my life - the best was when I lost my virginity."


Note: We've added a pretty funny behind the scenes clip with the jackpot winner.


Wycliff Palu's yellow card hit on Rob Kearney

One of the biggest talking points from the Ireland vs Australia draw at Croke Park was the Wycliff Palu sin-binning for an alleged dangerous tackle on Rob Kearney. We'll have another look at it as it's still a big topic for discussion.

Kearney collected the ball and rather than kick, he chose to run straight into 120kg Palu, who put in a massive hit that rocked the Ireland fullback to the floor.

Referee Jonathan Kaplan was slightly behind where the tackle took place, and obviously saw Kearney bounce off the hit from Palu, leading him to believe it had the impact of a traditional shoulder charge type hit.

"I thought it was a pretty good hit but he obviously saw it the other way," a baffled Palu explained later.

"When I started seeing him reach into his pocket, I was trying to say 'sorry let's talk about it' but I think he'd already made up his mind. I think he said no arms, shoulder charge."

Palu’s arms looked to be wrapping around his man as he made the front on tackle. There was no shoulder charging motion, and the hit seemed to be at the correct height to be considered legal.

We’ve included comments from the BBC’s Keith Wood, Jeremy Guscott, and Jonathan Davies. Interestingly, it’s the Irishman Wood who is the only one who views the hit as illegal, while the other two neutrals think it’s perfectly fine.

Ben Tune, in the Australian studio, also couldn’t believe Palu was yellow carded.

The Wallabies were playing pretty well at the time and with Palu off for ten minutes, lost a little momentum. Do you feel that Kaplan got it wrong, or was he correct to yellow card Palu?

Time: 03:22


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

South Africa meet Saracens for prematch drinks

Professional rugby can unfortunately come with the sacrifice of losing all that is great about the game. The off the field fun is disappearing as players are in peak physical condition, and also have to be on their best behaviour at all times.

Saracens host South Africa tonight in a friendly tour match at Wembley. A few night ago the teams got acquainted with one another and had a good old fashioned night in at the pub.

For some it was a matter of catching up with old friends, especially with the South African element that currently exists at Saracens. For others, it was a chance to meet new friends and get closer to the guys they'll be up against come kick-off at Wembley.

"Both squads got together for a meal on Sunday night and it was fantastic for the players and coaches to just sit down and have a chat and also see a few friendships renewed," said Saracens head coach Brendan Venter.

"But come kick-off both teams will want to win what promises to be a fiercely contested game and a historic occasion at one of the best sporting venues in the world."

This type of meet-and-greet probably doesn't happen very often these days, what with the hectic schedules of the players, and of course the fierce competitiveness that exists.

It's great to see though, and perhaps initiatives like this will go a long way towards bringing back more of the traditional rugby clubhouse gatherings at grounds. Not long ago, players and fans would mingle and have a drink and a chat after a match. It's sorely missed by older rugby fans, who no doubt have many tales to tell of nights spent drinking with famous players.

Festivities aside though, tonight will be a chance for the South African Dirt Trackers to redeem themselves after their poor performance against Leicester last week. It's pretty much the same team that will run out against Saracens, minus the front row from that night, who've all flown him injured.

Possibly expansive, most definitely physical, this should be an intriguing battle once again.

:: Spoiler Alert ::
Saracens have beaten South Africa 24-23 thanks to a Derick Hougaard dropgoal late in the game.

Time: 01:44
Note: Thanks to Skysports for the clip

Saracens Team: Michael Horak, Noah Cato, Kameli Ratuvou, Brad Barritt, Michael Tagicakibau, Derick Hougaard, Neil de Kock, Rhys Gill, Ethienne Reynecke, Richard Skuse, Mouritz Botha, Hugh Vyvyan, Wikus van Heerden (c), Justin Melck, Ernst Joubert. Replacements: Schalk Brits, Carlos Nieto, George Kruis, Andy Saull, Kevin Barrett, Alex Goode, Rodd Penney

South African Team:
Earl Rose, Odwa Ndungane, Juan de Jongh, Wynand Olivier, Jongi Nokwe, Ruan Pienaar, Heini Adams, Wian du Preez, Adriaan Strauss, CJ van der Linde, Danie Rossouw, Andries Bekker, Jean Deysel, Dewald Potgieter, Ashley Johnson. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Heinke van der Merwe, Alistair Hargreaves, Davon Raubenheimer, Francois Hougaard, Meyer Bosman, Riaan Viljoen


Sean Lamont takes care of the Fijian wingers

The Lamont brothers returned to international rugby on the weekend as they were recalled by new Scotland coach Andy Robinson for the match against Fiji at Murrayfield. Right wing Sean managed to make his impact felt with two great hits.

Both brothers have been out of the limelight in recent times as they battled back from bad form and injury problems. The Evans brothers, Thom and Max, then emerged as the Scottish brothers on the block, which overshadowed the Lamont’s to an extent. Because of that, this recent call up came as a nice surprise to Sean.

"To get the call with the amount of talent that Scotland has in the back three, I'm very surprised, but very happy," he said.

Younger brother Rory disagreed though. "I wasn't surprised," said the full-back. "I was hopeful that we'd both get picked. Having seen Sean play, I knew he was back to his best rugby and I knew he had a good chance."

Scotland expected a bit of a physical stuff against Fiji, which is perhaps one of the reasons why Robinson went ahead with the selection of the powerful, well built outside backs.

"I expect hard hits, occasional high hits and the odd swinging arm, as you do against the islanders," said Rory. "Genetically, they're just a little bit different to British players. They're strong and quick. But I feel ready for it."

Ironically it wasn’t actually the Fijians who put in the biggest hits of the match, but Rory’s brother Sean, who as you can see here nailed both of the South Sea Islander's massive wings with two awesome tackles.

Time: 01:16


Monday, November 16, 2009

Bryan Habana cited for alleged kick on Vincent Clerc

Springbok wing Bryan Habana has been cited for an alleged kick on Vincent Clerc during the Test between France and South Africa in Toulouse on Friday night.

The French achieved a famous 20-13 win in the South of France, but once again there's been another citing after a weekend of international rugby.

Habana is accused of kicking out at Clerc, who was lying on the floor at the time.
The case will be heard by the International Rugby Board’s disciplinary committee on Wednesday.

According to citing commissioner for the match, Scott Nowland from Australia, Habana contravened Law 10.4 (c), which covers kicking an opponent.

With the clamp down on foul playing currently taking place, Habana may find himself banned for a lengthy period if deemed to be guilty. The recommended entry level for kicking an opponent is four weeks. That would mean he'd miss out on the upcoming Test against Italy, as well as the clash with Ireland the following week.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the decision is, considering that it wasn't as clear cut as one might think. If you want to play devil's advocate you could say that judging by Habana's reaction, Damien Traille may well have pulled the wingers leg towards him, either intentionally or when trying to pull himself up.

The main thing that would indicate that would be Habana's expression and line of sight.

On the other hand though, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck...

17/11/09 UPDATE:
Bryan Habana has been cleared of foul play and is free to play against Italy this weekend.

The IRB's judicial officer for the match, Lorne Crerar, considered a series of video clips as well as the player's explanation and was unable to determine, upon the balance of probabilities, that Habana had deliberately kicked Clerc.

A statement issued by the Six Nations disciplinary committee, which oversees the European November internationals, said that a "detailed examination of the video clips shows the upward body movement of France number 15 (Damien Traille) while gripping the lower leg of Bryan Habana, pulling Habana's leg towards him and the prostrate player (Clerc)".

Time: 01:14


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ireland and Australia draw after dramatic late try

Australia’s hopes for a Grand Slam are over as Ireland scored a late try to take their meeting to a dramatic 20-20 draw in front of a capacity crowd at Croke Park.

It was a nail biting finish to an exciting match, as Ireland pounded away at the Wallaby line in the last few minutes. They were rewarded when Brian O’Driscoll breezed through a huge gap to score a late try, which was converted by Ronan O’Gara.

The Wallabies scored early on through winger Drew Mitchell, then Rocky Elsom scored in the 62nd match, which looked as though it could have been the winning try.

Tommy Bowe had scored for Ireland shortly after Australia had opened up a 13-6 lead. Matt Giteau and Ronan O’Gara exchanged penalties before Wyclif Palu was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Rob Kearney.

The Wallabies held off Ireland’s late onslaught, but eventually the pressure told as the gap opened and O’Driscoll did the rest.

"We felt like we left a lot of good opportunities out there, and big improvements can be made, but there were pleasing aspects from the game,” O’Driscoll said afterwards.

"We hung on until the death when things weren't going brilliantly for us and that is the mark of a good side. We gifted them an early try and had to battle our way back into the game.

"That was down to a bit of miscommunication between me and Ronan and it gave them a headstart.

"We had to play catch-up and that makes it difficult against a good side like Australia,” he added.

Wallaby captain Rocky Elsom was disappointed to concede the late try that cost his side the shot at achieving a Grand Slam.

"If we had defended that last phase, we would have deserved to win but who would have thought, in his 100th game, Brian would come up with the goods?," asked Elsom.

"I thought we could have stopped that last play but they executed it really well."

Time: 02:01
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England booed but come up with win over Argentina

England were booed by their home crowd at Twickenham on Saturday after a disorganised Argentina team stayed in the match to only go down 16-9 in the end.

A week ago England lost to Australia, and this performance against the South Americans has disappointed the expectant fans.

England coach Martin Johnson has since admitted that the fans were justified in being vocal about the team’s performance.

"I think we probably deserved it. Errors really hurt us. We had far too many. At times we could have kept the ball in hand but didn't," he said.

"We kicked poorly, we didn't chase well and they put the pressure back on us. It ultimately comes down to finding a way to win the game which we did. We have got to improve for next week. We can't produce a performance like that again. It wasn't good.

"At times the crowd had every right not to be happy. A lot of them kept with us and that was great."

"Jonny Wilkinson made couple of errors more than normal but his presence steadies the team. That is what veteran players do."

Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, whose team plays Wales next weekend, indicated that England were predictable. "We analysed how England were going to play and it didn't surprise us. It will be even tougher at the Millennium Stadium.

"We put England under pressure. Our defence was really, really good. I am just disappointed that, from one little mistake, we ended up losing the game.”

Centre Gonzalo Tiese was disappointed with the loss but proud of how the team played.

"England have been together for three weeks. We just met up and had to go through every aspect of the game briefly because we didn't have enough time.

"We had a smart game plan. We played some smart rugby. We controlled the game for long periods of time. We have a good base now and hopefully with an extra week we can improve a lot," he said.

Time: 07:20
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Scotland brush aside Fiji at Murrayfield

Scotland coach Andy Robinson got his career at the helm under way with a comfortable 23-10 win over the Fijians at Murrayfield on Saturday.

It was coach Robinson’s first match back in Test rugby after the disastrous end to his England coaching stint three years ago. He replaced Frank Hadden in June, and couldn’t have asked for a better start after the comfortable win over the dangerous Fijians.

"Very, very satisfied; I thought, the first 35 minutes, we were in complete control," said Robinson.

Phil Godman kicked 13 points, while tries were scored by Johnnie Beattie and Graeme Morrison. Fiji scored a try of their own just before the halftime interval through Vereniki Goneva.

"They came back into the game and they got that opportunity just before half-time, which is a little bit frustrating, because it was the first time that they looked dangerous on our line," said Robinson.

"That's what Test rugby's about, to put more points on the opposition when you've got the pressure on.

"We coughed up too many balls. We just made a few too many errors, gave a few too many penalties away - easy penalties to give away, which gave back the control to Fiji.

"These are lessons that we've got to learn. This is the first step so we are not going to get carried away, there is a lot to improve on and the guys understand that," he said.

Scotland has tough matches against Australia and Argentina coming up over the next few weeks.

Time: 04:29
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The All Blacks too strong for impressive Italy in Milan

There was an amazing atmosphere at the San Siro in Milan on Saturday as Italy fought hard against the All Blacks in front of an incredible 80 000 rugby fans, but went down 20-6 in the end.

New Zealand coach Graham Henry fielded a largely second string side, with Ben Smith, Mike Delany and Tamati Ellison all making their test debuts. In the past a second string side would still manage 50 against the Italians though, who normally struggle with depth.

The lack of cohesion within the All Blacks side showed, as they lacked fluency on attack and made a number of mistakes.

"It is just a pity that the game didn't live up to its billing," Henry said. "There was a lot of errors on both sides, but it was a very good experience for our young players. There were three making their debuts and others who hadn't played a lot of test rugby, so it was a good experience for them."

The home side led briefly though as flyhalf Craig Gower kicked a penalty before the All Blacks shot ahead with two Luke McAlister penalties and a Corey Flynn try after 25 minutes.

McAlister landed another kick, and it was 14-3 to the visitors at the halftime break.

He slotted another kick early in the second half, while Italian centre Gonzalo Garcia was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle in midfield.

Italy’s forwards put huge amounts of pressure on the All Blacks in the scrum, and won a penalty for their efforts in the 57th minute, which Gower duly slotted. McAlister got another penalty with just over 10 minutes left, but it was Italy who looked most likely to score.

The pressure at the scrum told as Neemia Tialata was eventually yellow carded following numerous collapsed scrums.

"There was one area of the game in which we were better and that was the scrum," Italy coach Nick Mallett said.

"You try to use your strengths to try and score, so you become very disappointed when after seven minutes and five scrums you aren't allowed to score a try.

"As far as I'm concerned if a referee has seen four penalties and he has shown a prop a yellow card, I think we should have had a penalty try."

Time: 01:28
Note: Better quality highlights will be up when possible.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wales hang on to beat Samoa at the Millennium Stadium

Wales narrowly beat Samoa 17-13 in a bruising encounter with a tense finale at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Friday night.

Wales scored early thanks to a try by wing Leigh Halfpenny, but the visitors pegged them back in the second half, and scored an intercept try through Seilala Mapasua which brought the scores to within four points.

"We wanted to be more ruthless in our approach, but unfortunately we weren’t," said Wales coach Gatland. "We created a lot of chances and 11 line breaks to their two and should have put the game away comfortably.

"But our finishing simply wasn't clinical enough. We have to learn from our mistakes and in the first-half we kept kicking the ball away.

"We felt physically that if we kept playing with tempo their forwards would struggle and tire later on. It was a very frustrating game and we didn’t get any real momentum going."

"The game should have been out of sight by the time they got their interception try - that was a 14 point try because if he hadn’t have caught it we would probably have scored," said Gatland.

"It was a little bit too close for comfort in the end and we put ourselves under pressure. But we have come away with a win."

Samoa can be proud of their effort, and will head to Paris next weekend on a high as they will take on France.

"The boys can be very proud of themselves for pushing a top tier nation so close," said Samoa captain George Stowers.

"It was a case of so near but our performance showed we deserve more games against the big teams especially after just a few days together.

"For many of us it was the first time we had played Wales so this was a great heads up for where we are against the best teams.

"Against France next week we have to be smart, keep our discipline and play for the full 80 minutes as well as putting in the big hits."

Time: 08:18


France beat the Springboks in Toulouse

France beat World Cup holders South Africa 20-13 in a physical yet scrappy match in front of a passionate home crowd in Toulouse.

The dire night for the Springboks started early on, with an absolutely appalling rendition of the national anthem, sung by a Paris based reggae singer who amused the crowd but angered the players.

It was clear from pretty early in the match that the Springboks struggled to cope with the dewy surface, coughing up possession more often than not. France dealt with it better, feeding off the Springbok mistakes.

The French forwards took it to the Boks up front, and not only won a few of the scrums, but seemed to get in their faces enough to throw them off their game.

"We were quite happy about it. For once, it's good to see that it's not their opponents who are bleeding, but them," said France prop Fabien Barcella.

"We felt they weren't expecting this level of combat from us. We're all very happy that we managed to take it to them.

“The South Africans are very tough physically, so it's a great honour to beat this remarkable South African team," Barcella said.

"It was very hard and it was a very tough scrap. But we're not going to stop now. ... It's not because we beat the South Africans that we're going to start acting like kings."

At the break South Africa led 13-10, following an opportunistic try from John Smit after a poor lineout throw in from French hooker William Servat.

In the second half France defended well and kept their discipline, giving away only one penalty, whereas it was South Africa who seemed to blown up on a regular basis by referee Wayne Barnes.

Julien Dupuy, despite a few misses, managed to kick four penalties, along with Vincent Clerc scoring a try. Morgan Parra also slotted a kick late in the game.

The Springboks, whose handling was of a poor standard throughout the match, aren’t making excuses for the loss.

"The French came out firing. Their intensity was very high and they got stuck into everything," Victor Matfield said. "Yes, it was wet out there, but it was wet for both sides. They definitely didn't spill as many balls as we did, so we will have to look at ourselves."

The South African cause wasn’t helped by playing the match with 14 men for 20 minutes. Ryan Kankowski and Morne Steyn were both yellow carded. Regarding the match on a whole, Steyn feels they need to make better use of possession.

"You have to use all the ball on the ground," Steyn said. "We will have to go back to the drawing board Monday and see where we can improve for the next two tests."

Time: 07:03


Friday, November 13, 2009

Samoa upset Wales in 1991 & 1999

Samoa take on Wales at the Millennium Stadium tonight in what should be an intriguing match that's filled with intensity and no doubt, the occasional bruising hit. Wales will be favourites, but right of the Samoans at your peril, as the Welsh found out in both 1991 and 1999.

The 6th of October 1991 was, at that time, by far the darkest day in Welsh rugby history. A country rich in rugby culture and respected and feared in the seventies particularly, the proud nation of Wales was taken totally off guard by the under-dog Western Samoan team.

It was a World Cup pool match at Cardiff Arms Park which Wales fully expected to win. The result meant that they failed to make it out of their group.

The Western Samoans did boast the likes of Apollo Perelini, Frank Bunce, Brian Lima, Stephen Bachop, and Pat Lam, but were still a largely unknown factor in their first ever World Cup.

After the match, there was a famous remark made that went something like "Thank heavens Wales weren't playing the whole of Samoa."

In 1999, history repeated itself as Wales once again went down to the South Sea Islands, who were then competing solely as Samoa. It was the World Cup again, and Wales were the hosts, so after the last two failures, they were determined to do better.

Graham Henry was coach, and Rob Howley captain.

"Whilst everything was pretty rosy, the Samoan team that day had Va'aiga Tuigamala and Pat Lam playing for them, along with Graham Bachop who had actually been coached by Graham Henry," Howley said.

"In the Samoan game they did a job on our ball-carrying players and we could not create any forward moves at all because we were relying on those particular players."

Wales lost the match 38-31, and the Samoans picked up yet another World Cup win over a great rugby nation.

So while tonight it isn't the World Cup, and Wales are still the favourites to win the encounter, they'll no doubt be a little more wary of the hard hitting Samoans than they were back in '91, and '99. It should be another cracking match.

Time: 03:16


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