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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rugby Playing Numbers Grow In New Zealand - See How Rugby Compares With Other Sports Too

Rugby playing numbers in New Zealand have increased and for the first time there are more than 150,000 registered rugby players.  The biggest rise comes in women's rugby which has increased 12 percent since 2001.  While these numbers sound impressive, there are actually far more players in most other top rugby nations with England having the most players (around 2 million), followed surprisingly by the USA (1.4 million).  In both of these countries rugby is linked to education with schools and universities playing rugby.

Other interesting news to come from recently released statistics is that rugby remains dominant over football (soccer) in New Zealand which has about 100,000 registered players, while lawn bowls is going well with 93,000 players, with half of them being casual bowlers.

Touch which is a derivation of rugby has over 200,000 registered players which is a great offseason game for rugby players and that along with the inclusion of rugby in the Olympic Games is thought to have lead to the increase in rugby player numbers.  Also the influence of the All Blacks and the Rugby World Cup 2011 could also have something to do with it.

Why do you think rugby playing numbers are growing?



The Wellington Sevens Drop Ticket Prices - Will You Go Now?

Organisers of the Wellington Sevens have dropped their ticket prices by around $50 and are charging $149 for the two day tournament in an attempt to sell more tickets, will you go now with this drop in price?

I think that the price is only one of the reasons people are not going, with the alcohol probably another strong reason.

I hope they get more people to the Wellington Sevens, but in my case the novelty has worn off.  Maybe I am getting older and wiser now, but I have better ways to spend my money and spend my holiday weekend.

The November Internationals 2014 Round 1 Preview

Can the USA handle SBW?

There are only three games in the November Internationals  2014 Round 1 and only one of these is a test match.  You could say it is the calm before the storm when the November Internationals are in full swing next weekend.  Still, it gives some lower ranked teams a moment in the spotlight, with Japan hosting the NZ Maori XV, while the Wallabies get a warm up against the Barbarians and the only full test match is when the USA Eagles host the mighty All Blacks in USA.  

USA vs All Blacks

This game is all about raising awareness of the game of rugby.  Despite only a small percentage of Americans knowing much about rugby, 61,000 fans will pack Soldier Field in Chicago for this game.  There are far more rugby players in the USA than New Zealand, but it is limited to certain areas and schools/universities.  There is simply a lack of history here, although ironically USA first played New Zealand in 1913 and were the most successful team when rugby was at the Olympic Games up until 1924, winning two gold medals.  Australasia only entered once and won a gold medal.

USA are ranked 18th in the latest IRB rankings and the All Blacks are Number One, and given the lack of truly massive upsets in rugby compared to that round ball code, the chances of a home team win is remote.  The New Zealand bookies are offering $51 on the USA to win,  and giving USA a 57.5 point head start.  

This All Blacks team hasn't been quite as dominant this season with some narrower winning margins than usual, but they have still only lost one game.  They have named a largely experimental team with usual benchwarmers starting, although there are some regular starters like Kieran Read and Israel Dagg, while there are some big names on the bench including Dan Carter and Julian Savea.  It is still an impressive looking team, although I am comparing this team to the one that played Japan in Japan at the end of 2013 in a smilar type of game.  The All Blacks lacked cohesion, but finally won 54-6, expect a similar performance, with a slightly bigger result, given that Japan are a better side the USA.

Given how many big, strong and fast players the USA have access to and the funding and population bases since it is now an Olympic sport, expect the USA to improve.  Todd Clever is their best player and he has played Super Rugby before.  

Hopefully AIG get their moneys worth out of this game, because despite Richie McCaw being used in advertising, he won't be playing.  The All Blacks have bigger fish to fry over the following three weeks, but USA will be fired up for this one.  Expect the USA forward pack to be competitive, but the All Blacks should still dominate and win easily enough.  

Most interest for All Blacks fans will be if they can escape with an impressive win, rather than simply scoring tries at will.  The manner of the victory is more important.  The performances of Sonny Bill Williams, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Nathan Harris are probably the most interesting.  

Do the USA Eagles have any chance?  Expect the New Zealanders in the USA team to be really fired up for this game, while do you think that given the American coach having the same last name (spelt slightly differently) as the writer of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is a sign of a potential upset? 

My pick :  All Blacks 

Japan vs New Zealand Maori
This game is the toughest to pick out of the three over the weekend.  Japan has been impressive the last few seasons under coach Eddie Jones, notching up wins over Canada, USA, Scotland, Samoa, Italy and Wales.  They will struggle with the physical nature of the New Zealand Maori team.  The New Zealand Maori team is made up of Super Rugby players with the odd ITM Cup only player.  Watch for this game to be relatively close, but the NZ Maori team to finish strongly for the win.  There are 11 new names in their squad and so, it will take them a while to gel.  There are also some good New Zealand players in the Japan team who are of Super Rugby level, so watch for them to inspire the cherry blossom.

My pick : New Zealand Maori 

Australia vs Barbarians

The Barbarians always struggle to gel.  Despite the mixed bag dished up by the Wallabies recently, they should still win.  The Barbarians features 10 New Zealanders and several fringe international players, but the concept of the Barbarians suggests that they will struggle to beat the Wallabies.  It will be interesting to see Australian Nick Cummins in the Barbarians team, while the Genia and Cooper show returns to the Wallabies jersey?

My pick : Wallabies.

Who are you picking to win the November Internationals Round 1?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

All Blacks Team To Play USA Named

The All Blacks team to play USA Eagles is named.
All Blacks side to play USA out. Cruden gets the nod at 10 over Carter, while only Dagg and Read would be starting players for the All Blacks currently, yet we should still win easily despite the lack of regular combinations.
1. Joe Moody
2. Nathan Harris
3. Charlie Faumuina
4. Jeremy Thrush
5. Patrick Tuipulotu
6. Victor Vito
7. Sam Cane
8. Kieran Read (captain)
9. TJ Perenara
10. Aaron Cruden
11. Charles Piutau
12. Sonny Bill-Williams
13. Ryan Crotty
14. Cory Jane
15. Israel Dagg
Bench: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam, Augustine Pulu, Dan Carter, Julian Savea.

New All Blacks Jerseys To Be Unveiled - Thoughts?

The All Blacks will unveil a new jerseys when they play England at Twickenham next week (9th November), but the launch photo featuring Dan Carter has fans worried because of the lack of a white collar.  Is this a white collar crime?

Do you mind if it has no white collar?  The All Blacks jersey barely changes much, but ditching the traditional white collar would be a change, although there was a period in the 2000s where there was no white collar and it didn't make a massive difference.

The white collars could simply be blackened out to create suspense.

This new jersey is supposed to be evolutionary and I expect it to be made out of some cool material.

Will you pay $200 to pre-order one of these jerseys?  It could also be a good chance to buy one of the current jerseys cheaply as they will be older stock.

What do you want to see on these new All Blacks jerseys?

There was an outcry when AIG became sponsors, but people generally get over these things.

Is it the jerseys or the team of people wearing them that is important?

I also still find it ironic that New Zealand company Canterbury Clothing Company make several of the All Blacks' rivals jerseys.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Zealand Super Rugby Squads 2015

The New Zealand Super Rugby 2015 squads have been named, who is lucky?  Who is unlucky?

Let's be honest, the wider training group will probably result in some games this season.

Marty McKenzie joins his brother Damian at the Chiefs, while there is no sign of Richard Kahui.  The Chiefs do have some big names for their backline in Hosea Gear and Sonny Bill Williams.  Ben Afeaki is in their wider training group, while is Tawera Kerr-Barlow going to miss the entire season as he hasn't been named.  Outside of the starting loose forwards, it will be interesting to see how some lesser lights fare in Super Rugby 2015.

The Blues have given some really interesting selections with a mainly local forward pack, while there are some names in their backline that most people won't recognise.  They have signed some experience in locks Bekhuis and Retallick, while it is good to see North Harbour so well represented.  I am intrigued by Dan Bowden and Jimmy Cowan's involvement.

The Highlanders have picked up plenty of new frontrowers in an attempt to find boost their set pieces in 2015, although hopefully at least a few make the step up.  They have plenty of ITM Cup finalists from the Tasman Makos and Taranaki in this squad which is becoming a home away from home for several other unions.  It is amazing how the Crusaders catchment area can let these guys go!  Southland and Otago are both represented.

Todd Blackadder has stuck with mainly Canterbury players and made few changes from their 2014 team, although I am pleased that they have picked up a few outside backs including Robbie Fruean and Jone Macilai.

The Hurricanes look to have gone more to the provinces rather than relying on Wellington players for 2015.  This is wise given their lack of depth during ITM Cup.  Most of these players are from the lower North Island provinces with the selection of Willis Halaholo meaning that Southland has as many players at the Highlanders as other Super Rugby teams.  The Hurricanes have a classy side with some good young players from Manawatu, Taranaki and Hawkes Bay.  I was hoping Otere Black would get a full contract as Barrett's cover, but hopefully he will get some opportunities.

What do you think of the New Zealand Super Rugby squads for 2015?  Who is lucky and unlucky?

Chiefs 2015 (W denotes wider training group):
Outside backs: Tom Marshall, Tim Nanai-Williams, Hosea Gear, James Lowe, Bryce Heem, Toni Pulu (W).
Midfield backs: Sonny Bill Williams, Charlie Ngatai, Andrew Horrell, Seta Tamanivalu, Anton Lienert-Brown (W).
First five-eighths: Aaron Cruden, Marty McKenzie (W), Damian McKenzie.
Halfbacks: Augustine Pulu, Brad Weber, Leon Fukofuka (W).
Loose forwards: Liam Messam, Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Tevita Koloamatangi, Sean Polwart, Michael Leitch, Johan Bardoul, Maama Vaipulu (W).
Locks: Brodie Retallick, Mike Fitzgerald, Matt Symons, Michael Allardice.
Props: Ben Tameifuna, Pauliasi Manu, Jamie Mackintosh, Mitchell Graham, Siate Tokolahi, Ben Afeaki (W).
Hookers: Nathan Harris, Rhys Marshall, Quentin MacDonald.
The 2015 Blues squad is:
Forwards: Josh Bekhuis (Southland), Luke Braid (Auckland), Joe Edwards (Auckland), Charlie Faumuina (Auckland), Blake Gibson (Auckland), Jerome Kaino (Auckland, captain), Will Lloyd (Auckland), Steven Luatua (Auckland), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Matt Moulds (Northland), Brendon O'Connor (Hawkes Bay), James Parsons (Northland), Greg Pleasants-Tate (North Harbour), Sam Prattley (Auckland), Culum Retallick (Bay of Plenty), Peter Saili (Auckland), Angus Ta'avao (Taranaki), Hayden Triggs (North Harbour), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Auckland), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour).
Backs: Pita Ahki (North Harbour), Dan Bowden (Northland), Jimmy Cowan (Tasman), Jamison Gibson-Park (Taranaki), Frank Halai (Counties Manukau), Bryn Hall (North Harbour), Simon Hickey (Auckland), Ben Lam (Auckland), Tevita Li (North Harbour), George Moala (Auckland), Melani Nanai (Auckland), Hamish Northcott (Manawatu), Charles Piutau (Auckland), Francis Saili (Auckland), Matt Vaega (North Harbour), Lolagi Visinia (Auckland), Ihaia West (Hawkes Bay).
Forwards: Kane Hames, Pingi Tala'apitaga, Ma'afu Fia, Ross Geldenhuys, Josh Hohneck, Brendon Edmonds, Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon, Tom Franklin, Joe Wheeler, Alex Ainley, Mark Reddish, Dan Pryor, Gareth Evans, John Hardie, Shane Christie, Nasi Manu, Elliot Dixon.
Backs: Aaron Smith, Fumiaki Tanaka, Marty Banks, Liam Sopoaga, Hayden Parker, Trent Renata, Shaun Treeby, Jason Emery, Malakai Fekitoa, Richard Buckman, Waisake Naholo, Patrick Osborne, Ben Smith, Kurt Baker.
Wider training group: Sam Anderson-Heather, Joe Latta, Lee Allen, Josh Renton, Tei Walden, Ryan Tongia.
The 2015 Hurricanes squad is;
Ben Franks, Mark Abbott , Geoffrey Cridge* (Hawke’s Bay), Dane Coles, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Jeremy Thrush, Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Julian Savea, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Jason Woodward*, Reggie Goodes, Motu Matu’u, John Schwalger, Christian Lloyd*, Matt Proctor (Wellington), Callum Gibbins, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Chris Eves, (Manawatu), James Broadhurst, Beauden Barrett, Iopu Iopu-Aso*, Blade Thomson, James Marshall, Chris Smylie (Taranaki), Vince Aso* (Auckland), Reynold Lee-Lo (Counties Manukau), Willis Halaholo* (Southland).
Wider training group: Mike Kainga (Bay of Plenty), Leni Apisai*, Frae Wilson, Adam Hill (Wellington), Otere Black* (Manawatu), Hugh Renton* (Hawke’s Bay).
Crusaders squad: Scott Barrett, Dominic Bird, Dan Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Mitchell Drummond, Andy Ellis, Kieron Fonotia, Robbie Fruean, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Willi Heinz, Nepo Laulala, Richie McCaw, Johnny McNicholl, Jone Macilai, Joe Moody, Nemani Nadolo, Tim Perry, Kieran Read, Ged Robinson, Luke Romano, Colin Slade, Jordan Taufua, Codie Taylor, Tom Taylor, Matt Todd, Nafi Tuitavake, Jimmy Tupou, Luke Whitelock, Sam Whitelock.

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