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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.

Chiefs Super Rugby Squad 2015

The New Zealand Super Rugby squads have been named.  Here is the Chiefs squad with some real bulk in the backs, but no Richard Kahui.  Marty McKenzie will battle it out with his brother to be Aaron Cruden's backup.  Interestingly, Ben Afeaki is only a wider training squad member, although that will probably change.  There are some interesting loose forwards with Michael Leitch and Johan Bardoul.  

Thoughts?  Can this Chiefs team win Super Rugby 2015?

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. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Does ITM Cup Form Mirror Super Rugby Form?

The ITM Cup 2014 is over, but it is interesting to take note of what ITM Cup form means for Super Rugby 2015?

Interestingly it was the smaller provinces like Taranaki and Tasman who dominated the ITM Cup Premiership, but does it really mean anything come 2015?

There were some new faces in ITM Cup 2014 and hopefully some of those who impressed will be awarded Super Rugby contracts and a chance to perform at the next level.  What annoys me is that there were some guys already on two year Super Rugby contracts who were outshone in ITM Cup by players who will still miss out on Super Rugby contracts because of players who earned them last season.

What was great was the emergence of plenty of first five eighths which has been a problem area in the past.

The way that contracts are administered now has tipped the balance towards the smaller provinces rather than the Super Rugby franchise hosts.  Players no longer have to leave their home province to play Super Rugby and you get the situations where for example Tasman has more players in the Highlanders and Chiefs combined despite being in the Crusaders franchise area.  It does make it confusing for fans though.

As a Southland and Highlanders fan in the past it would have been incredibly concerning that Southland finished fourth in the ITM Cup Championship or 11th overall and Otago finished 13th.  This means that there will only be a small handful of local players in the Highlanders.  In Southland's case, they will probably have as many in other teams as they do in Highlanders colours.  Ironically, they made the playoffs last season on the back of players from other regions.

The Blues teams performed as predicted with Auckland finishing third in the Premiership, while hopefully some Northland players get contracts after they finished third in the Championship.  North Harbour just missed out on the semi-finals, finishing fifth in the Championship or 12th overall.

The Crusaders franchise did well with Tasman 2nd and Canterbury 3rd doing well in the Premiership.  Ironically, most of the Tasman players who get Super Rugby contracts will be playing for other franchises rather than the Crusaders.

While the coach will be the same for the Hurricanes as was the case for the Wellington Lions, they can at least call upon some Hawke's Bay and Manawatu players to bolster their squad for Super Rugby.  They have a history of neglecting their smaller unions, but 2015 could be a chance to change that.

Waikato has done poorly over the past few seasons, but the Chiefs have done well in Super Rugby.  They can call upon the new ITM Cup champions Taranaki, along with the fast finishing Counties Manukau players.  Both Bay of Plenty and Waikato players hardly set the ITM Cup alight.

Can we read much into ITM Cup form for Super Rugby 2015?  While we will see some new faces from ITM Cup teams get an opportunity at Super Rugby level, the way contracts have changed, there is little relationship between the two competitions now.  There are also very few top All Blacks in ITM Cup, while they are regular starters in Super Rugby.  This means that teams like the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Crusaders especially are stronger than their ITM Cup form would suggest.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

ITM Cup 2014 Review - We Rate The Teams!

ITM Cup 2014 is over with the home teams and neighbouring provinces Manawatu and Taranaki taking out the ITM Cup Championship and Premiership titles respectively.  Quite frankly, the Taranaki victory in the ITM Cup Premiership for the first time has breathed a new lease of life into the competition after breaking the major unions dominance over the past three decades.

This picture sums it all up.  The smaller provinces actually embrace everything that is great about ITM Cup rugby.  It is usually the only ticket in town and prices tend to be lower.  How great was it to see the crowd spilling onto the ground at the end of the game which was played in-front of a full house?  I hate to think how many people would have shown up to Eden Park or Westpac Stadium in Wellington if they were hosting the final?   It was also great to see Tasman make the final too in their first season in the ITM Cup Premiership.

The victories for both Manawatu and Taranaki at home were largely predicted by SuperBru tipsters, although the Taranaki vs Tasman game split the punters a little bit more with 74 percent predicting it.  The margins were both relatively small, which makes for a change in ITM Cup finals where there is usually at least one comfortable margin.

Both finals were similar games with the home teams making the most of their opportunities and eventually dominating enough to win.  There was some luck involved with long range turnover tries, but if you put enough pressure on your opponents, these sometimes come your way!

When reviewing all 14 ITM Cup teams, it must be said that there were some teams in the ITM Cup Championship who wouldn't have looked out of place in the ITM Cup Premiership!  There were plenty of upset wins in crossover matches between Championship and Premiership teams.

Here is how Super Rugby Tips rated the performances of all 14 ITM Cup teams based on preseason predictions; do you agree?

Taranaki are usually battlers and winning the ITM Cup Premiership is huge for this proud province.

Tasman also punched above their weight given how it was their first season in the ITM Cup Premiership.

Manawatu Turbos had some of the most passionate fans and they help to spur their team on to victory in the ITM Cup Championship.  It must be realised that this Manawatu team is mainly made up of local non-Super Rugby players.

Northland were predicted to finish at the bottom of the ITM Cup Championship, but they improved to finish third and lose in the semi-finals.  This was a top effort from a team of mainly no names.


Canterbury - It was supposed to be a lay down misere that Canterbury would win the ITM Cup Premiership again.  They finished the season poorly after a great start and finished third.  It still wasn't a bad effort, but not good by Canterbury's high standards.

Auckland  - Given they have New Zealand's biggest population, Auckland should always make the semi-finals, at least.  They did make the semi-finals, but hardly impressed the Eden Park faithful.

Counties - Manukau - The Steelers took a while to recover from the Ranfurly Shield curse which saw them struggle early in the season.  They were impressive with big wins over Wellington and Auckland , while they drew away against the eventual winners Taranaki and beat finalists Tasman away, so there is plenty to be proud of for Steelers fans.  They did make the semi-finals in 2013 and finished fifth in 2014, so they can be pleased with their efforts.

Hawke's Bay - While the Magpies were expected to go all the way again like they were expected to in 2013, but they didn't, falling at the final hurdle.  They did lock the Ranfurly Shield away for another season, but maybe the Ranfurly Shield defences tired them out.  They have plenty of big name players for a Championship team.

Southland - The Stags brought a new coach and a new style to ITM Cup 2014, but they only made the semi-finals again.  They are making a habit of not deliverying consistent results after showing some good potential in some matches.

North Harbour - North Harbour almost did the unthinkable to make the ITM Cup Championship semi-finals, but they were denied by one point.  That isn't bad for a team most picked to battle for the wooden spoon.  They do have a relatively large province though, so in some ways fifth in the ITM Cup Championship isn't the best result.


Wellington - Yes, Wellington is cold, both the weather and their performance in the ITM Cup 2014.  Southland fans were glad they beat North Harbour, but that was their only win all season.  Lima Sopoaga would have been glad he left a sinking ship.  To be fair they struggled with injuries, but for one of New Zealand's largest provinces, being relegated to the ITM Cup Championship is a concern.  Don't worry Hurricanes fans, you have Hawke's Bay and Manawatu to prop up the Hurricanes franchise.

Waikato -  It is amazing how the Chiefs remains so strong while Waikato are weak for the second season in a row.  The Mooloos have a very inexperienced squad and it showed with their results.

Otago - This proud rugby province reached a new low in ITM Cup 2014, finishing sixth in the ITM Cup Championship.  Remember, Otago won the NPC First Division as recently as 1998!  How the mighty have fallen.  To be fair, the standard of the teams in the ITM Cup Championship seemed higher than usual.

Bay of Plenty - The Steamers struggled in ITM Cup 2014, especially after being relegated from the ITM Cup Premiership last season.  Most people gave them a shot at the semis going into the season, they finished last.

ITM Cup Finals 2014 results
Taranaki 36- 32 Tasman
Manawatu 32 - 24 Hawkes Bay
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