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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ITM Cup Round 2 Preview 2014



The ITM Cup Round 2 features the first Ranfurly Shield challenge from an ITM Cup team when Counties hosts Otago, while the Waikato vs Canterbury game shapes as the other feature match when you consider that these two teams were the form teams of the ITM Cup Round 1.


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After ITM Cup Round 1, it is definitely worth picking some relatively large margins.  Last week most games ended in double figure margins, so it is worth differentiating yourself from others in your tipping conference by picking some lopsided scores.  I have also picked mainly away wins, don’t be surprised given that more than fifty percent of teams won at home last week that there might be an upset this week.

The ITM Cup Round 2 starts with the Southland Stags making one of the longest trips in New Zealand rugby to play North Harbour.  It will be interesting to see if the Stags can continue their good form from the first round against North Harbour who they have a good recent record against.  It will be interesting to see how Southland lad Robbie Robinson goes at fullback for Harbour.  His form last year for the Stags was patchy.  Expect the experienced Stags pack to get them home in this one.  Lima Sopoaga is also a class act at this level.  The Stags unveiled some quality running backs against Bay of Plenty, proving that they aren’t one trick ponies any more.  Harbour has some quality players from Super Rugby in James Parsons, Tevita Li and Bryn Hall, but probably lack the quality across the park to win.

Waikato host Canterbury on Friday night after both teams recorded impressive wins in Round 1.  Canterbury will be without Tom Taylor and their All Blacks, but should still win, but their match against Waikato will be closer than initially anticipated.  Waikato has some quality young players who stood up against Wellington and might give Canterbury a fright.  I am still picking Canterbury, but it will be closer than Canterbury’s win last week!

Hawke’s Bay hosts Taranaki in the Bay’s second crossover match of the season.  The Bay were humbled by Tasman, but Taranaki probably won’t threaten them as much as Tasman.  This match is crucial for both teams, although these sides have opposite aims this season.  Taranaki will be lucky to survive the ITM Cup Premiership, while Hawke’s Bay are looking to win the ITM Cup Championship.  Watch for Ihaia West to inspire a narrow win for the Bay.

Two of the usual cellar dwellers of the ITM Cup Championship, Northland and Manawatu host the big boys in Wellington and Auckland respectively.  Both Wellington and Auckland will be disappointed after last week and should be too strong, even if they are away from home.  Travelling to Manawatu and Northland is never easy, but surely Wellington and Auckland will be too strong.

Counties Manukau will be looking for an improved performance in the Ranfurly Shield challenge against Otago.  Otago won the Ranfurly Shield last season after over 50 years, but this time you get the feeling that they won’t fly under the radar so easily.  While Otago will be fired up, so will Counties Manukau who have a Super Rugby studded side who could easily put 30 points on Otago if they are at the top of their game.  They will be annoyed at only drawing with Taranaki last week and so they will need a major improvement.  Counties should retain the Shield and I am picking them to win comfortably after an initial arm wrestle.

If Tasman are to threaten for a semi-finals spot in the ITM Cup Premiership then they will need to put away Bay of Plenty.  The Steamers were disappointing against the Stags and don’t look to have enough big name players to beat Tasman.  Tasman also has the ability with their Super Rugby players and could win quite convincingly if things click in this afternoon game.

Who are you picking to win ITM Cup Round 2 matches?

Super Rugby Tips ITM Cup Round 2 Picks

Game
Date and time
Your pick
[8] North Harbour v Southland
21 Aug 19:35 (local)
21 Aug 19:35 (your time*)
Southland 
[9] Waikato v Canterbury
22 Aug 18:05 (local)
22 Aug 18:05 (your time*)
Canterbury 
[10] Hawke's Bay v Taranaki
22 Aug 20:05 (local)
22 Aug 20:05 (your time*)
Hawke's Bay 
[11] Northland v Wellington
23 Aug 14:35 (local)
23 Aug 14:35 (your time*)
Wellington 
[12] Counties Manukau v Otago
23 Aug 16:35 (local)
23 Aug 16:35 (your time*)
Counties Manukau 
[13] Manawatu v Auckland
24 Aug 14:35 (local)
24 Aug 14:35 (your time*)
Auckland
[14] Bay of Plenty v Tasman
24 Aug 16:35 (local)
24 Aug 16:35 (your time*)
Tasman 


The All Blacks Squad For The Rugby Championship Round 2


The All Blacks squad has been named for their Rugby Championship return match against the Wallabies at Eden Park.  The main talking point is who will replace the injured duo of Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino.  As expected, Liam Messam wears the Number Six jersey, while Ryan Crotty who came off the bench to replace Nonu in the drawn test in Sydney gets a rare All Blacks start, and joins the returning Conrad Smith in the midfield with Malakai Fekitoa moving to the bench.  There are no other changes to the All Blacks squad despite a mixed performance against the Wallabies last week.  Charlie Faumuina replaces Joe Moody on the bench.

What do you think of this All Blacks squad to play the Wallabies at Eden Park? 

Can this All Blacks team beat the Wallabies and retain the Bledisloe Cup?

The All Blacks Starting XV to face the Wallabies...
1. Wyatt Crockett (28)
2. Dane Coles (19)
3. Owen Franks (58)
4. Brodie Retallick (28)
5. Samuel Whitelock (55)
6. Liam Messam (32)
7. Richie McCaw - captain (128)
8. Kieran Read (63)
9. Aaron Smith (30)
10. Aaron Cruden (33)
11. Julian Savea (23)
12. Ryan Crotty (7)
13. Conrad Smith (78)
14. Cory Jane (49)
15. Ben Smith (30)
Reserves:
16. Keven Mealamu (114)
17. Ben Franks (32)
18. Charlie Faumuina (20)
19. Steven Luatua (12)
20. Sam Cane (15)
21. TJ Perenara (4)
22. Beauden Barrett (20)
23. Malakai Fekitoa (3)

The Rugby Rulebook Has Too Many Words!

This infographic sums up the problems associated with the sport of rugby union with over 45,000 words in the IRB rulebook compared with approximately half the number in rival codes rugby league and Aussie rules.  Maybe this is why rugby referees struggle, just look at the refereeing in The Rugby Championship  with the interpretation of the laws in rugby and why even the best players in the world get confused and penalised, especially around the tackle ball and rucks.

Rugby is far more complicated than most other sports, making it difficult for even the professionals to know all of the laws, let alone rank amateurs. 

 https://twitter.com/NRLData/status/502020086564016128

The Rugby Championship 2014 Round 1 Team of the Round

Agustin Creevy was the best player in The Rugby Championship Round 1, do you agree?

The Rugby Championship Round 1 was played in difficult conditions here is our Team of the Rugby Championship 2014 Round 1 based on statistics from fantasy rugby website www.testrugby.com 

There are plenty of surprises in the Team of the Round with Argentinian hooker Agustin Creevy named the Player of the Round.  This sums up the frustrations of Round 1 when a front row forward takes the honour.  It wasn't a round for the outside backs!

Willie Le Roux gets the nod at fullback ahead of Israel Folau and Ben Smith, while there were some low scoring players in the usual high scoring positions of outside back and inside back.

Creevy gets the Number 2 jersey ahead of Bismarck du Plessis, Nathan Charles and Dane Coles.  While both Kieran Read and Richie McCaw miss out in their positions.

The Wallabies props get the nod, while Pat McCabe won a low scoring battle with the other right wingers.  Damian de Allende gained selection ahead of Adam Ashley-Cooper, while Aaron Cruden was the best first five eighth despite not even scoring 200 testrugby.com points.

The selections for this team also show what positions you should pick players from with fullbacks, hookers and Number Eights scoring well.

The Rugby Championship Round 1 Team of the Round based on jersey number is.

15. Willie Le Roux (RSA)
14. Pat McCabe (AUS)
13. Damian de Allende (RSA)
12. Matt Toomua (AUS)
11. Julian Savea (NZL)
10. Aaron Cruden (NZL)
9. Aaron Smith (NZL)
8. Duane Vermeulen (RSA)/ Juan Manuel Leguizamón (ARG)
7. Michael Hooper (AUS)
6. Francois Louw (RSA)
5. Sam Whitelock (NZL)
4. Brodie Retallick (NZL)
3. Sekope Kepu (AUS)
2. Agustin Creevy (ARG)
1. James Slipper (AUS)

The Rugby Championship Team of Round 1 2014 by country sees a relative lack of All Blacks for a change.

The Rugby Championship Team of Round 1 2014 by country is 
Australia 5
New Zealand 5
South Africa 4
Argentina 2

Who would you select for the Rugby Championship Team of Round 1?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where Should The Super Rugby 18th Team Be Based - Japan or Singapore? Have Your Say!

The Super Rugby competition is going to grow from 15 teams to 18 teams in 2016 and SANZAR is conducting a survey to get feedback from fans regarding their preferred option.  This provides fans with a rare opportunity to have their say as usually it comes down to money rather than what the fans want.

The 18th team would join the South African and Argentina teams in their conference.

My preferred option is Japan since they are hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and they have been the leading Asian country in world rugby for years.  They have improved under coach Eddie Jones who has taken them for victories over teams like Samoa, Canada, Wales and Italy in recent seasons.  Japan has  a large population, big stadia and plenty of money with corporate sponsorship of their club rugby teams.  The timezone would however make them more suitable to be part of the Australiasia conference.  Japan also has some existing Super Rugby players who could return home to play and increase the standard of their team.

Singapore would utilise players from the Pacific Island nations who don't have a Super Rugby team.  The Singapore option is more likely to simply be based in Singapore with very few local players.  The Singapore location is better for the South Africa and Argentina teams as it would be a shorter flight and closer timezone.  It does seem crazy giving a team to a country with a very limited history in rugby.

To have your say on which team to include in the Super 18 competition go to 

  http://www.sanzarrugby.com/superrugby/news/survey-japan-or-singapore/

The End of the Road For Southland Stags Legend Jason Rutledge?

Southland Stags rugby legend Jason Rutledge will miss the 2014 ITM season following a serious bicep injury in the Stags opening match of the 2014 season against Bay of Plenty, is this the end of the road for the 36 year old?  

Rutledge missed the entire ITM Cup 2013 with a pectoral injury which means that he has hardly had the opportunity to add to his 131 caps for the Southland province.  

It is a shame for Rutledge who when at his enigmatic best came close to All Blacks selection and was a regular starting Super Rugby player.  

There is a silver lining for Rutledge who will have the opportunity to spend time with his family and on his business, but supporting the Stags without Rutledge just isn't the same.

Rutledge's injury will allow younger hookers like Halaholo and Tuapati the chance the impress.  

I am hoping that we haven't seen the end of Jason Rutledge in the Stags jersey, but even if we have, he has been a legend for the Stags and he epitomises all that is good about the ITM Cup competition.

It will be difficult to keep coming back from injuries for the 36 year old, but if there is anyone that you can't write off then Rutledge is that person.
 
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