This one could go either way. Samoa throw games, and there’s no moving out of the 4th seeds for the world cup for them no matter what happens here, so its prime territory for them to do a Samoan special with no motivation. Canada can’t really move up or down in seedings either, but you know they’ll always give it a go.
Wait to see what the Canadian kicker is like then back them in running for points if he’s kicking well. Because they’ll get at least two tries. The draw is well on too, they’ve made one before with Fiji.
Fiji v Japan
Two sides it’s hard to dislike. Alot of people fancying Japan in this but I don’t. I’ve seen enough of Fiji this series to know that they’ve been playing only one half of games.
Japan bravely put it up to an arrogant lazy Wales, but let’s face it, the Welsh were just giving the two fingers to their fans last week who made the trip and paid their money to watch them barely leave the dressing room.
Crucially, Fiji will drop out of the third place seedings here for the world cup if they lose, so I’m expecting a Fiji win – Fiji care about the world cup, and they’re due an 80 minute performance. They’re almost as bad as Samoa for throwing games, but they 100% do not want to be in a group with four big teams in 2019, so they have to win. Motivation is everything.
Fiji win is terrific value at 4/5 in my mind
Italy v Tonga
The Tongan side isn’t bad but Italy are missing Parisse. Italy need the ranking points here as the 6 nations will be tough. If they win, they should have a third seed for the world cup even if they lose all of their 6 nations games. Tonga have no world ranking motivation, they can’t move up a seed or down, so expect an absolute shitfest in my book, with Italy squeaking it. I wouldn’t use them to pad out an accumulator.
Probably unders a winner if you must bet.
England v Argentina
Pity the Argies are so shit, but as SU said they are every November. They’re a third seed team unless they win here, which they won’t probably. England have had an easy ride since the world cup though, they will be complacent, and the Argies could have been targeting this as England are still occupying some of their territory in the Falklands. And let’s face it, everyone wants to beat the English, because they’re c*nts (except for Leg and SC).
Let’s hope the Argies play like they can and pull out the win.
Wales v South Africa
Affirmative action inflicted massive damage on the US college admissions system, and it has buggered up BOK rugby completely.
Two shit teams here – arrogant Wales who hate their fans, and their coach; 5050 shaded Boks who can’t string a move together and can’t play for each other.
I’d say South Africa just want to go home now. Psychologically they want the coach gone, so a win here would be no use to them. Also, they can’t drop out of the top 8 and a second seed at the world cup unless the Argies beat England, so unless that shock happens in Twickenham, then don’t think about backing them.
The Welsh had a defensive workout last week, this will be a shitfest. Unders probably, but a Wales win to pad out an acca the order of the day here at 1/2
Ireland v Australia
Mixed emotions about this. Ireland had a tough time last week and Aus have got to be tired. Ireland will have worked on their attack all week though and Aus don’t have the win at all costs Alamo mentality that the Kiwi’s had last week.
The Irish psyche goes something like this – we might have beat New Zealand but if we don’t get another one people will say it was a fluke. It’s that simple.
The Aussie mentality I’m convinced will be about one thing, revenge on England next week.
Ireland at home and playing well, expect their defence to lock Australia down and win ugly with Aus having one eye on next week.
Ireland to win after nearly beating new Zealand twice but for two dropped balls, at 10/11 again, very good value with no game next week.
France v New Zealand
I had a funny feeling France would win this, until I saw Machenaud at 9. Overrated, poor execution, I’ve never been able to identify one French man who has been so responsible for blowing tries as him, for club or country. He’s a serial try-killer. Someone needs to catch him. Inspector Cleauseau? Poirot? What in Christ’s name is it going to take???
You can’t beat New Zealand with him at 9. But you can go close.
Best team in the world or not, New Zealand will concede scores here because of fatigue, the tackles last week demonstrated they are running on reserve tanks, and because they’re very open at times as Ireland showed. Backing the French in-running as the game goes on should be worth it.
Forty thousand people paid good money to see this in New Zealand. Millions of people around the world looked forward to it. I got up early with a hangover. And we were rewarded by the IRB with le buffoon.
How does Poite still have a job?
Aside from the fact Australia were offside on nearly every kiwi attacking phase ( which destroys the spectacle with space at a premium already) Poite also never stopped the clock for substitutions or restarts. He showed a surprising eagerness however when play had stopped due to injury to start the clock again when both sides were far away from ready for the restart scrum or lineout.
Cheika may have visibly cursed Poite at one point up in the Andy Robinson crucible *( and i salute him for it) but he should be thanking the Poite, because this was very much about saving face for Aus rugby and under Sanzar’s auspices. They need this to look like a competitive championship. Either that, or Poite is unfit and wants to slow it down as much as the top 14 slop he eats with his bread and butter.
If the IRB reffing panel mandarins sit down and review the game ( they wont) there was at least ten minutes burned off the clock on substitutions. Questions have to be asked. Why did he not say time off? He does it immediately in France. Poite gave pens incessantly. He stopped quick tap penalties and quick lineouts. This was policy.
He’s an unmitigated disaster as a ref and paying ticket holders and subsciption holders are being treated with utter contempt by rugby’s ruling bodies.
Australia v Lions Betting, Second test. Saturday 29th June 11am GMT
There’s alot going on this week across the Lions tour soap-opera – it’s very like an episode of neighbours (back when Kylie was there of course). Anyway, Buckle up.
It’s fairly clear that there’s plenty of subtext behind this week’s media releases, from both camps. Gatland praising Joubert, Beale & O’connor taking pictures at 4am, the IRB going after Horwill in an unprecedented move. Anyone who takes these releases at face value needs to wake up and enter the real world. I have no proof why O’Connor and Beale were eating burgers at 4am, and making sure the world knew about it by taking pictures with all and sundry (they do have drive-thru’s in Australia you know). But there was a reason, and I doubt that Robbie Deans was unaware it was coming. Maybe they wanted to create an illusion of a fractured squad. Maybe they wanted it to look like they didn’t care. Whatever is was, if Robbie Deans offered me 2/1 that he knew about it before hand, i’d bite his hand off. And that episode has mirrored the tone of every thing else this week.
Warren Gatland’s waffles
Gatland praising Joubert was simply his way of taking the piss. Saying he’s ‘the best ref in the world‘ was actually quite funny. Many many people know he is a poor ref – everyone at least who watches any decent amount of rugby and is unbiased knows he isn’t the best. (The French have even created a new national holiday based on him to mirror Guy Fawkes night in the UK). Even forgetting the disgraceful world cup final handover to New Zealand, he is accepted as a poor ref in most of my own circles anyway. Hence, we can probably assume Gatland wasn’t being truthful and was trying to somehow curry favour – like him or love him, Gatland knows more about rugby than most (if not all) of us.
So why did Gatland say it, if he wasn’t being truthful? Well, it’s because Joubert clearly favours home teams. He is 70% for home wins since he started reffing internationally almost ten years ago. His away wins are mostly made up of the likes of New Zealand playing away, or Wales at the USA. He is a Homer. Personally, I think the main reasoning for his favouring home teams is the fact he’s too slow to keep up with the game mentally and physically; thus his decisions come down in favour of the home team as a safe bet. It also means that home unions are happy for him to ref their home games, and he keeps getting work.
Gatland more than likely knows all this, so my genuine belief is he was taking the piss in the expectation of a tough day at the office from the referee. You could almost argue that’s why he has picked Vunipola in the front row – if you’re going to be done by the ref in the scrum anyway, you may as well have your best man in the loose on the field.
The IRB start waving their Pitchforks
The IRB’s witch-hunt after Horwill is unprecedented on a Lions tour, and rarely happens in international rugby in general. It doesn’t matter if you think he was guilty or not. The simple fact is they have never appealed a disciplinary board’s decision before. So ask yourself why are they doing it now? It’s not over worries about fairness or how the game looks – they’ve let plenty of international transgressions go in the past when it suited them. The horn-blowing hunt screams out a few things to me. Number one being they’re really worried they’ll lose this second test. Number two being, the Lions know they’ve lost their main man in Paul O’Connell. Forget ‘Tiger-face’ Warburton. Forget Brian O’Driscoll. POC was the main man here, and the IRB (whose interests are well connected with the Lions money-machine) no doubt received a well placed phone-call. Taking Horwill out of proceedings evens things up somewhat, and there is no doubt he would be a massive loss for Australia.
There is big money on the line here for the Lions franchise. Big money on the line for business interests. Essentially it’s a money making jolly at this point, and it will be a much harder sell in four years if they fail again to get a series victory. But i’m talking about the third test here, let’s get back to the second this Saturday.
Big Money burning at the stake
a) the Wallabies
b) the bookies
c) the tour marketing organisers
d) the tv stations
e) the fans
f) Sheila’s happy-ending massage emporium
g) The pub owners in Crocodile Dundee
h) Toady all have in common?
They all secretly or overtly want Australia to win this game so we get a series decider. The big money showdown. The increased spend by everyone. The broadcast the rugby world will all be tuning their tellyboxes in to. I wouldn’t say there’s more than three die hard lions fans out there who really care if they lose this game, and most want a decider. It’s not like this is your countrymen lining out for HSBC against the world here. It’s a cobbled together team of a load of tired lads at the end of a long season. A tour that Sky have been forcing down our throats since three months ago. Everyone wants it to go to a decider! And with Joubert in place, you couldn’t have a better referee to get the full entertainment effect.
So the point here is, even if you think rugby is squeaky clean (it isn’t, sorry to burst your bubble), almost every bit of influence that can be wielded wants Australia to win.
Australia v Lions Rugby Betting – Teams (at base of post).
There’s only one thing that matters this week – Paul O’Connell is out. The man talking in the huddle, the man talking to referees. You have to feel sorry for Warburton – he was the captain pick of the marketing men, the younger man. Can you imagine Paul O Connell making tiger faces? No. No you can’t.
With POC gone you lose leadership, a rallying point, incessant tackling, and top-class ability. Watch any clip of last week’s game and you’ll see him putting in tackle after tackle. The reason Lydiate has been drafted in despite playing 80 minutes on Tuesday is primarily to make up for that lost O’Connell tackle count. And Heaslip, Warburton and Lydiate don’t exactly scream guile and electric-dreams-ball-carrying-prowess either.
Phillips out is a blow for the Lions even if Australia shepherded him well last week. The whole ‘knee-issues’ excuse is a charade – he’s not fit aerobically, simple as that. Watch the clip of Folau’s try with Dirty Mike and the boys huffing and puffing in the background. Youngs is a weakness despite his good record against Australia. If the Lions pack gets them on the front foot, he’s a dream. Going backwards it’s a whole different story. Vunipola in the front row is a red rag to Joubert and expect penalties. The best thing the Lions have going for them is the relationship between Parling and Tom Youngs. The lions threw to the front every time last week and that should change this week, giving them more clean attacking ball. Will they be able to disrupt Australia’s 100% lineout from last week though? I doubt it. The bench doesn’t look too sharp for the Lions to be honest, and I think it’s their turn to have some horrid injury luck this week, after last week’s nightmare for Australia – at one point I thought I was watching a re-run of the movie Braindead with the amount of crippled Aussie bodies lying around everywhere…
The Australian pack is the same as last week, with a few changes in the backs, with the main one being Tomane on the wing for Ioane. Make no mistake though, as RA pointed out in the forum, he’s all class, and has a try rate of one every two games (including his rugby league career). He’s in Rugby-union two years now with the Brumbies so knows exactly what he’s about.
Aside from all that, the main thing to remember is that Australia WILL be better this weekend, as they hadn’t played a test in seven months before last week. They’ve now had time to gel, and they’ll know they were the better side last week and should have won (and that was with O’Connell on the field). For me there’s big question marks over defensive cohesion for the Lions when they’re on the back foot, and that’s understandable, not knowing each other that well, and being at the end of a long season.
Take your IRB-sponsored witches cauldron.
Now throw in Joubert the homer. Throw in the IRB working like crazy to get Australia’s main man Horwill out for the third test (if they were confident this week, would it matter?). Toss in the loss of Paul O’Connell. Sprinkle in fatigue at the end of a long European season. A dash of Aussie pride. A dollop of home advantage. And just a smidgen of increased Aussie cohesiveness and it all points to one indisputable conclusive concoction – Back the Lions!
nah, just kidding! We’ve taken Australia +4.5 in Boylesports on the no-draw handicap at 5/6. Best priced and biggest handicap start you can get on Australia right now, and the start is generous for a game they should win with Joubert on the horn. Everybody needs good Neighbours, and the Craig does oblige.
There will be lot’s more insight in our rugby-betting forum (where membership is free, and always will be) on the Lions game thread with plenty of side-bets and value picks for this week. The forum voted on Australia plus cap last week and won, and we were robbed by Kurtley Beale’s two missed kicks on a 10/1 Lions half time/ Australia full time bet!
British and Irish Lions: :15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Makovina Vunipola.Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Alex Cuthbert.
Team : 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali’ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson. Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Jesse Mogg.
Heineken cup semi-final betting tips – Saracens v Toulon, Sun28April, 3pm SkySports
-Handicap of Saracens +1, Toulon scratch available
There are a number of macro indicators ahead of this weekend’s Heineken cup semi-final suggesting Toulon should have the edge.
Let’s take a quick look at the last weekend of European rugby, when three Premiership sides met three French sides in the quarter-finals of Europe’s top two competitions. In the Challenge Cup, Stade Francais & Biarritz both sent under full strength sides away to Bath & Gloucester and both convincingly dispatched their Premiership opposition (as predicted in our betting forum at huge odds of 7/2 and 4/1). Bath and Gloucester sent out strong enough sides with a few players rested, & most bookmakers expected them to win handily.
So by that Saturday afternoon we already had a decent relative indication of the current strengths of both leagues – understrength lower table French sides hammering aspirant top-six Premiership sides.
Then Leicester were beaten in Toulon in the Heineken cup Quarter final. Leicester turned up and put their bodies on the line, and for that they deserve commendation. However, George Clancy’s refereeing of the scrum was, as usual, on the side of Leicester (remember the Toulouse game?), and questions have to be asked on how he keeps getting Leicester and England international games (Just as Wayne Barnes has refereed three of Clermont’s major European games in the past three years).
Clancy’s odd interpretation (to put it mildly) of the scrum two weeks ago saw Leicester 12 points to three ahead, until Toulon cranked up the intensity and worked their way back into things to win by six points. True, Leicester were within a score at the death, but had Toulon had a little bit of luck they could easily have run out 20+ point winners even after having to deal with George Clancy’s bizarre Tigers-friendly calls. Near misses from Toulon kept things tight; Botha’s double movement for the disallowed try; Bastauread pushed out in the corner instead of just running straight with only Thompstone to run through; and Tilous-Borde frustratingly missing three Toulon forwards with a pass, when the Leicester line was there begging. Had any of these chances been executed with more composure, Toulon would likely have won far more comfortably.
So what does all this have to do with Sunday’s game between Saracens and Toulon?
Saracens are at the top of a league full of teams that have had no answer to French power this year, and up until last week Toulon were leading the TOP14 (now 1 point behind Clermont). You can see the comparison we’re making here – Toulon are at the top of a vastly stronger league based on this year’s head to heads, and it’s a fair enough bet that the dominance will continue this weekend as the two league leaders collide.
Toulon are mercenaries, pay-cheque collectors, hooering jesses, Guns for hire, etc
Not so in our opinion. Toulon have plenty of obsessive critics as the new money side in French rugby, but the fact is they have frequently shown character in adversity. Take the Quarter final against Leicester – it would have been very easy to lie down and wilt at the coal-face of one of the aristocratic sides of Heineken cup rugby, after going 12-3 behind, along with the referee being against them. But they battled back into it, stuck to their game plan, and overcame significant adversity – they have a real hunger for this competition there’s no doubt about it.
Yet another example was last year’s TOP14 final, when they fought back with an amazing series of phases to almost pip Toulouse at the end with no time remaining – a high pass and a knock on 5 metres out prevented a certain try. These Toulon lads are serious international professionals that want to win this trophy, plain and simple. There will be no stereotypical French away days here.
Statistical league Match-ups (bear in mind there are four more games played now in the TOP14 versus the Premiership -25 v 21)
Some other interesting stats – Toulon have conceded the least amount of yellow cards in the TOP14, so their discipline has been excellent, showing that they work for each other. They have also won more away games than almost every other side in the TOP14, (where away wins are tough to come by), with seven, joint top with Racing metro. In playing 21 games of the 25 so far, Johnny Wilkinson has the top spot for drop goals (7), conversions (42) and penalties (78) for a league-leading total of 339 points. Lastly, Toulon have scored a league-leading 736 points and conceded 435. Saracens have scored 510 and conceded 325.
If it seems like we’re concentrating on the TOP14 here more than the Premiership, it’s for the simple reason that the TOP14 is the stronger competition, and thus has more meaningful numbers (and I don’t have all day here!). (We can blame the fact we have a weaker competition on the salary cap, we can blame it on the greedy/lying club chairmen, the dodgy TMO decisions, the fact the Premiership is an unfair cartel possibly operating against European competition laws, David Rose’s love affair with yellow cards, or Wayne Barnes pulling decisions out of his arse…. – it’s another day’s discussion either way).
Backrow Blue Bloods
If you’re a Saracens fan, you’re hanging onto the defensive potential, where they have fared slightly better statistically in both the Heineken cup pools and the league. However, this is where the news that Will Fraser is out injured will really start to look ominous. Fraser (Man of the match v Ulster in the Quarters) has started 16 and played in 19 of Saracen’s 21 premiership games this year. Saracens don’t have another fit openside (Jacques Burger is back, but he isn’t fit, and he has been missing tackles since returning to the side), and the loss will be felt hard by a side that relies on his turnovers and ground work to relieve pressure.
Toulon’s ball carrying back row have the winning of this game. We’ll probably see a 6, 7, 8 of Lobbe, Armitage, Masoe, (actually turns out Armitage and Joe VN are on the bench, and the backrow is 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw).(Full teams at base of page) That’s some serious firepower against a likely back row for Sarries of three from Wray, Brown, Joubert, and Kruis & Burger. Solid players, but it’s advantage Toulon with no fit Sarries seven, and the brains of the operation Joubert wearing a face-mask due to a facial injury. Last year the Saracens Wagon wobbled in both competitions due to back row problems and it looks to be happening again here. The overall ball carrying, international experience, and ground-hog ability of that Toulon back row is simply phenomenal in contrast.
Saracens need to keep the ball away from Toulon for as long as possible but I’m not sure they have the quality to do it. Dean Ryan has made the point a number of times in recent months that you need a bit extra to win these sorts of games, and you can’t just rely on on defence at this level, and I agree with him. Yes, Saracens have been scoring tries of late, and their game has come on leaps and bounds from last season, but i’m not convinced yet – mainly due to the caliber of their opposition recently (I actually fancied this game to be high scoring, but i’m not sue that will happen with Rollaind reffing). Saracens are no longer a defensive side that’s for sure, but have they got the attacking weapons to deal with a really top side? I’m yet to be convinced. Where’s the spark in this Sarries side? I just don’t see it compared to Giteau, Armitage, Masoe Smith and even Wilkinson. They’re also conceding tries too and when it comes to the crunch, I’m not sure they have the creativity to change things if the game is going against them.
The Toulon backs have the edge in ability and experience too, with Giteau and Bastauread a potent combination, and creatively alongside Wilkinson and Tilous Borde they have the edge on the conjurers remedial class of Farrell and Barritt. Even Felon Armitage at full back looks to have the edge on Goode, and is in fine form at the minute. David Smith is the equal of Ashton at least, and David Strettle goes missing if it isn’t laid on a plate for him, and he still has passing issues (though he has got better from no passes per game, to a few passes per game in recent months).
The scrums (once refereed properly) should be slightly in favour of Toulon with the international experience they have in Jenkins, Sheridan & Hayman, and the lethal ball carrying ability of Orioli to match the excellent Vunipola (though not so excellent at scrummaging) will tell in the last twenty minutes. The lineout should be Saracens, and this being their main weapon, it needs to function flawlessly against Botha and Kennedy (maybe even Botha and Lobbe) to have any chance of winning this game. Botha has a few titles under his belt though, and should be able to have an impact….so nothing is guaranteed for Saracens in this respect.
Vunipola will be a huge factor in Saracens winning or losing this game. His possible scrummaging weaknesses will be an easy target for the referee. On the other hand his ball carrying (and tryscoring) ability could be key; Saracens have been using him running at full tilt as first receiver off ruck ball in the opposition 22 for about three months, and if Toulon haven’t done their research to watch out for this, they’ll pay the price.
There’s too much in favour of Toulon here for it to be a 5050 game as the bookies are pricing it up, and the loss of Fraser really is as big as it has been made out to be. The key positions all hold so much international experience for Toulon and they have definitely shown against Leicester that they are interested in the Heineken Cup. Wilkinson should direct thing’s ably against Owen Farrell, and when you read that the ground will be half empty with less than 30,000 tickets sold, all of the chips look to be falling in Toulon’s favour. Despite Saracens acknowledged defensive ability, in these kinds of games you expect both sides will be up for it in that respect, and it’s usually the superior attack that comes up trumps.
Heineken cup semi-final betting – Saracens v Toulon, the verdict
We’ve backed Toulon simply to win at 10/11 in Paddypower. Toulon are simply the better side, events are conspiring in their favour, and they’ve shown they want it. Plus, there will be precious few Sarries fans to get the atmosphere pumping by doing that finger thing in the stands. No loudspeaker playing daft music either. In fact, I know a few Saracens fans who will be happy the pathetic loudspeaker is off, so who knows!
Saracens can win this game – they have a good squad and some game breakers, but everything will have to go perfectly for them, particularly for their defence, and i’m willing to bet against that happening. Farrell is wobbly under pressure and he’ll have to control the yips too, as if they don’t kick their goals, they’re doomed.
Further betting thoughts;
Initially I thought this would be high scoring contrary to expectations, but with stop-start-whistle-happy Rolland refereeing and destroying things as a spectacle in his own way, the Under might be the pick. No lines available yet, but I won’t be touching it either way as I’m invested in the Toulon win. The 1-12 winning margin price is terrible too so I wouldn’t touch it – there’s a chance Toulon could win by more, and 6/4 is not worth the risk of a late score or two.
Try scorers – Very few prices up yet (Only powers) and I will update here when more are available in thee next couple of days. One or two look tasty for now (Vunipola is probably worth a fiver anytime try at 12/1 in Paddypower, especially if you like Saracens contrary to the above – he will be one of their main strike weapons).
Good luck whichever way you go, especially if it’s my way.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 George Kruis, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.
Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Joe van Niekerk, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Jocelino Suta
Six Nations diary, weekend four – amazingly, worse than the last last week.
After last weekend’s Craig Joubert Clown show for the England France debacle, I came into this weekend with some renewed optimism – surely the six Nations company would have gotten their act together and spoken to their referees about the bizarre and inexplicable decisions they were making? It turns out I was wrong. We were all treated to more of the same and with the same contempt – certain teams (the big rugby markets) being favoured, and certain teams being punished/unfairly treated. In many ways, it was worse than last week, as this time the TMO’s wanted a piece of the comedy action in the Ireland France match.
Let me once again acknowledge that referees have a hard job, and say that I couldn’t do it. They control a game with millions watching, and they are only human and under alot of pressure. They are bound to make mistakes from time to time; such is the nature of humanity and sport – that’s why they get an easy ride most of the time and rightly so. But when does it all become too much? When do co-incidences and calamities become more than just plain old human incompetence? Again and again we the PAYING fans (whether by buying tickets, or paying your licence fee), have to accept that some teams are not getting a fair roll of the dice, and that we have make do with unfair contests. And it has become so commonplace no one is talking about it. It is happening too much now for it to be simply poor refereeing. It is not poor refereeing. It is beyond that. Understandably, you won’t hear the TV pundits attack referees for two very simple reasons – One – they can’t attack the very foundation of their product that cost them a fortune because –Two – the next time the coverage contracts are being negotiated they’ll be left out in the dark by the powers who own this competition. But the faces of the BBC lads on Saturday after the Scotland /Wales game said enough. They can see it, just like you and I can see it.
The dream tie of Wales v England for the title decider has now been set up, and Six Nations Rugby Ltd, Company number 358420, 2nd Floor, Dolmen House, 4 Earlsfort Terrace Dublin 2, must be be having a hard time believing their luck. The tournament will now have many millions of extra viewers worldwide with a meaningful showdown for the title now a reality. Indeed all of us rugby fans are no doubt looking forward to it. But does the ends justify the means? Let’s take a look at this weekend’s games, and how things got to this point.
Scotland V Wales Round one of a three part Comedy Classic – Act one – I expect you to die of Boredom Mister Bond
Craig ‘Blow-veld’ Joubert might be the funniest guy you don’t know. He could be laughing his head off at home with a white fluffy cat in one arm and a glass of Brandy in the other, wondering how he keeps getting away with refereeing games Stevie-wonder style. The World cup final, Wales v France last year, England v France, and now this game (and there have been others). After our widely-read report on him and his ‘performance’ against France two weeks ago, the Six Nations company had Youtube close down the Youtube account of the user whose match video we used to illustrate Joubert’s carry-on. The article is still there, but the videos are gone. If you have the game recorded though, you can still follow the match clock times. This week, for Craig Joubert’s latest trick, he managed to yet again destroy any semblance of entertaining rugby for the paying public.
This game set an official record for the most penalties ever attempted in an international match. That’s official by the way; I’m not making it up – it is a cold hard fact. Joubert whistled everything – watch the game back for all the scrum penalties (which were a lottery). For most of them, the ball was at the base of the scrum and he could at least have called advantage and let things play out. But he didn’t want that. He systematically went about dismantling any chance of Wales cutting loose and getting into a rhythm. He stopped them playing and he stopped Scotland playing. Wales were by far the better side on the day but could only win by ten points in the end. Enough to set up the theoretical title decider against England the following week but realistically, with England due to rack up the points against Italy, the title still looked like it would go to the largest and most lucrative Six Nations market – England. We won’t dwell too much on this game – we’ve said enough about Craig Joubert last week, and it’s up to you now to watch which home unions give him games in the future. He’s is totally unsuited to rugby refereeing in his current form. Yet we guarantee you he will shag up more games in future because he serves a rare purpose (and i’m not talking about Flipper).
Ireland v France – Act two, the hilarious fantastical adventures of Steve Walsh
The debacle continued right into Saturday night. You know where we’re going to first – the TMO (Nigel Whitehouse)/Stevie Walsh non-decision. Keith Earls, Louis Picamoles, & Debaty are all sprinting after the ball in a race to the try line and there’s only one man winning – Keith Earls. Debaty knows this, and who can blame him for giving Earls a shove – had Ireland scored, the game was effectively over, and he knew Earls was going to get there. We saw the slow motion so many times, there was no doubt in our minds whether it was a penalty – the only question was whether or not it would be a penalty try or a simple penalty due to the fact Earls was perhaps not certain to have scored had Debaty not fouled him. ‘Penalite!’ said the French gents in front of us in the pub…. ‘bat nat a pen-al-ee-tay try hawheehaw heehaw’‘,we all cheered, having great fun.
Then the decision came and the whole pub of a few hundred went silent. Genuinely no one could believe the decision that a 22 drop out was given. It beggared belief. A few hundred pissheads in a pub can see it’s at least a penalty, so how can the TMO Nigel Whitehouse and Steve Walsh, professionals, not see the blatantly obvious and act accordingly together to arrive at the correct decision? In fairness to Whitehouse, I think it was Walsh who dismissed him for no good reason.
This is the reality of what I’m talking about when I say certain interests are ruining the game of rugby. I spoke two weeks ago about the effect Joubert’s reffing had on the people where I watched the England v France game. People were sitting there, some laughing their heads off at the screen, and some shouting, when he penalized France when Ashton was holding on in the French 22. It was that final decision that made me spend hours on that video dissection of that game. He SIMPLY could not have been mistaken.The game has become farce, especially with him refereeing.
The French guys were all shaking their head after the Steve Walsh NON-decision on Saturday (and there were lots of disillusioned Frenchies), doing that bottom lip-sticking-out headshake that French people do so well. French TV pundits (pundeets?) all agreed it was a penalty for Ireland. L’Equipe said it was a penalty for Ireland (our forum guys on the ground in France tell us). EVERYONE, bar the referee and the TMO said it was penalty Ireland.
Now cast your mind back to England v France, and the wholesale violation of French rugby by Craig Joubert. There was outrage France-wide about his performance, in some papers and on all of their forums. This site alone had thousands of French reads of our article on the game. So is it then a coincidence that the other most lucrative rugby market for the Six Nations got some bizarre calls in their favour the week after they were taken to the cleaners by Craig Joubert? This is not a conspiracy theory folks – this is a simple search for cause-and-effect. Why would a professional referee and a TMO not give a decision that the dogs in the street could see was there to be made (Earls v Debaty), and that there was no ambiguity about? This could not have been incompetence – there were no fuzzy camera-angles – it was plain as day what had happened. So after the largest rugby market (England) had a win handed to them by Craig Joubert two weeks ago, the second most lucrative market had some bizarre decisions go in their favour this week? Quel surprise! (especially after Joubert was even publicly criticised by the now-certifiable Phillippe Saint Andre). France have had a whole lot taken from them by Joubert, and Steve Walsh gave them a tiny bit back this week. Hmm, how nice. But I loved it that even the French guys in the pub were shaking their heads when they got the decision. They could smell it.
That decision kept France in the game after Louis Picamoles was given a try that was illegal to draw the game. Picamoles hit the deck, made a double movement, and Walsh put his hands up for a try. No TMO, no replay. But the French media didn’t think it was a try either.
And if you need any more reasons to question what the hell is going on, you only have to look at the official video on the RBS Six nations Youtube channel (remember, they’re actively doing some Goeballs-like censoring of all other fan videos and other ‘copyright infringements’ showing bits of the games.
The farce continues unabated.
England v Italy – Act three – ‘Was that an Italian knock on? No? I’m still going to give a blue knock on.’
Italy weathered the English storm here with a gutsy defensive display and came within a whisker of drawing the game, if not winning it. Italy were widely written off pre-game, and the handicap was around 26 points across the board. George Clancy was yet again reffing a big English home game at HQ, and most people expected things to go smoothly for England.
Looking back at the score of the England v France game and then this game, you’d wonder if two different teams were wearing England shirts. How could England beat a France team that were doing so well, make them lose their heads, dominate the penalty count, and then not manage to turn over an ordinary enough Italy side without having scare after scare in the final 15 minutes? How indeed Mr. Joubert.
Moving on, there were two hometown decisions in this game that kept the final lucrative big selling weekend showdown alive for the Six Nations company by ensuring an English win.
Towards the end of the first half Italy were surprisingly right in this game. Parisse made a break down the right hand side, thanks to a pass of spectacular beauty and deceit, and Clancy called a knock on when Italy were gong to recycle the ball with a realistic chance of a try coming. Clancy got a word from Nigel Owens and went over and asked him if there was indeed an Italy knock on. Owens said ‘I saw no knock on by blue; it was a white hand in there, definitely no knock on by blue’. Clancy said, ‘well, I’m going to still go with a blue knock on’.
So let’s examine that. He asked his touch judge Owens what happened, he then overrules Nigel Owens (the best referee in the world by a country mile) and says he’s going to give the knock on against Italy anyway. The very least Italy should have got was an attacking scrum on the England five metre line as Clancy was in error, but instead he gave England a way out and they went in at half time well ahead. Truly shocking stuff that doesn’t need any more embellishment.
For the remainder of the game Italy looked like drawing this game despite the fact their scrum was mullering England’s for the entire second half and Clancy gave them only one scrum penalty.
There was one further key moment that kept the England win on the right track. Italy had just scored a try and were by far the better team, and the score was a tantalizing 15-11 to England. This wasn’t in the script at all. So, on 60 minutes and 30 seconds on the match clock (you won’t see any of this stuff on the ‘highlights’), the Italian number 18 Cittadini tackles Tom Youngs just outside his 22. He then rolls to the right, about a metre from the ruck, FAR away from the the ruck ball, into Dan Cole’s leg. He has rolled but he can go no further, and he is not affecting play in any way. Yet Clancy, after he rolls away, shouts ‘Roll away, Advantage!’ England get the penalty, and the gap is back to seven points, and the potential for an Italian win is gone. Watch it back yourself on the numerous replays on Setanta and other channels during the week, it’s very clearly wrong. The bizarre discussion with Owens in the first half, the non-decisions for the Italian scrum in the second half and that penalty on 60 minutes 30 seconds that snuffed out Italian hopes of a win. The decision was wrong – another wrong and hasty decision at another crucial time in a game for a big side.
This clown show continued right through all three of the weekend’s games. Now that the six Nations company have the beautiful marquee fixture next week (all those weird decisions seem to have worked out so nicely for them, they should probably buy some lotto tickets) I’d imagine it will all return to normal next week, as no more luck will be necessary. And then most of the rugby watching world will forget the puppet show pantomime the Six Nations has become, and we’ll do it all over again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.
It happened in the Heineken cup this year too. When the biggest market (England) threatened to pull out and go with the BT cup, we managed to get three teams into the quarters for the first time in years. Try and get the highlights of Pascale Gauzere refereeing Munster v Saracens if you need any more info – Munster were taken to the cleaners by him all game (in fairness, we expected it to happen), Sarries were marched up the field in the final three minutes with two shocker penalties to get a bonus point. Crisis averted, three teams in the quarters, no one is talking about leaving the Heineken cup now are they? The big money gravy train rolls on. Watch Keith Earls get wrongly penalised here, and then watch Gauzere say ‘It’s a maul’, and immediately give a Saracens penalty when it had collapsed before he had called maul. This had gone on for the previous 75 minutes but Gauzere had to award these late and crazy penalties after ‘the man who doesn’t miss’ Owen Farrel had missed six + penalties. This bullshit we’re talking about here doesn’t just happen in the Six nations you know! Anyway, it all ended lovely; the richest club in English rugby secured a losing bonus point from the ensuing kick at goal, and they have a home quarter final now as a result of it. The BT what?
Will the farce ever stop?
So what can we do? Nothing really, unless you’re like the people who laughed their heads off during the England/France game – sometime rugby watchers who really think it’s one big sham and won’t bring their kids into the game. Personally I once again feel sorry for the thousands who paid so much money to watch these games (my heart really goes out to Welsh and Scottish fans who had to sit through that tripe with Joubert). But it also goes out to Keith Earls, the ballsy Italians, all of the professional players who dedicate their lives to get a fair crack of the whip, the backroom staffs, the managers, the caterers etc. who all work towards one goal – helping their team to compete and win, only to have it all count for nothing when clear agendas are at work making a mockery of the notion of a fair game, with rules being blatantly ignored.
They (who? I don’t know) surely have to start putting some changes in place at this point, and let’s start talking about referee appointments and who exactly chooses them for which games- if I saw any effort I would start to regain some notion that rugby is no longer only about making money at the expense of fairness, transparency, and honesty. Let’s make the TMO question one questions – “I’m not sure, tell me what happened”. When a linesman is consulted, the ref should have to accept their opinion if they have one. Right now, i’m just about sick of the week in-week out farce, and i’m definitely not the only one.
What you have across the board now is a multi billion euro rugby ‘industry’, with widespread bias, that for the most part will somehow (luck…) get the results it needs to keep making as much money as possible and enhance it’s own prestige in the short term. People are not stupid, and they can all see what is going on. Perhaps the most telling remark was from a football-fan friend who I called on Sunday for a pint to watch the England game. His joking response? “Sure that’s all fixed isn’t it?”.
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If you had bumped yourself into a coma after watching the opening weekend of this year’s Six Nations, only to wake up now and see both of these sides still challenging for the title, you’d be forgiven for rolling over and demanding another jab in the bum from nurse Ratchett. It has been a weird tournament so far to say the least, and few players on either side would have forecasted two wins on the trot after that opening weekend of Scotland and Wales get smashed.
The Welsh trajectory
Wales stumbled into this tournament off the back of a near record number of losses, and were comprehensively beaten by Ireland on the opening weekend, whatever about the 8 points difference in the final scoreline. But all credit to them, they rolled with the punches on unsteady ground (literally) in Paris and grabbed that game by the balls when the French couldn’t. That game could have been very different had a simple pass gone to Benjamin Fall after about 20 minutes when France were on the Welsh five metre line. But the pass didn’t go as the ball carrier (Fofana?) opted to cut back inside, Wales defended, and for the rest of the game France couldn’t muster another decent attack. Credit has to go to Wales for ending the losing run they were on (and the associated psychological torment), by overcoming the French in Paris. It was a percentage squeeze game plan that worked, and they were due some luck after the rotten run they had been on.
Suddenly, no one could see them losing in Rome. Wales went there expecting to win and they did. However, the scars were still evident in the final 20 minutes as neutrals everywhere willed them to go and score more points and set up a decent finale with England on the final day of the tournament. The opportunities were there to score at least one more try but Wales weren’t interested/weren’t able to press it home and close further the points gap on England, and they were happy to sit on the lead they had – and who could blame them. There’s more to this than meets the eye methinks – Wales definitely weren’t panicking over the points difference with Scotland up next.
The Scottish trajectory
Scotland are far easier to sum up. They came into the tournament after an embarrassing Autumn, and then new coach Scott Johnson then embarrassed himself with his cheeky grin and ‘we’ll give you a surprise’ antics prior to the England game. The only surprise was that England were so poor they didn’t put 60 points on Scotland, and needed injury time to beat the 16 point handicap. Scotland backed off, fell off tackles/didn’t tackle/played with their tackle as England robots went through the motions and made gainline after gainline against a defence that itself was going through the motions.
Scotland were like the blow-up bumpers that bowling-alleys put down on ten pin bowling lanes for kids – England bounced slowly forward from side to side, and you always knew where the ball would eventually end up once they got rolling against the accommodating Scottish inflatables. (Henry Gondorff – Passionate trainspotter, and rugby poet)
The game against Italy was bizarre. Italy played all the ball, had all the brainfarts and a few Scotland lads proved they can run really fast in a straight line. That’s literally all I could take from that game.
Then came another tale of the unexpected v Ireland. If you had been shown the stats and had to guess the score you’d have said Ireland 30, Scotland 6. Ireland had 80% possession and lost 12-8. But even forgetting that, Ireland still lost even when Wayne Barnes handed them a mysterious golden ticket in injury time that they couldn’t make use of, awarding Ireland a penalty on a Scottish scrum on their own line in injury time – Wayne loves a bit of controversy.
There’s been very little of note in the team news relative to recent weeks. Weir starts for Scotland ahead of Jackson and that brings a slightly better territorial boot into play. Wynn Jones will bring a bit of annoying dog as he makes his full comeback from injury and Warburton gets a start with Tipuric on the bench. I’m not a huge fan of Howley but I think this could be a nice touch; Warburton wants to play for the lions so will work his arse off to earn penalties in the first half on the ground; and Tipuric was a brilliant link-man off the bench against Ireland and can be again on Saturday (a possible Lions bolter himself at this point). Wales need to chase points, and Tipuric is ideal to bring in and help with scoring tries as things opens up.
As far as the set-piece goes, I don’t see much difference in the sides. The line out should be pretty even, and the scrum may be shaded by Wales, but that may be cancelled out by Paul James; It all depends if referee Craig Joubert was watching the Premiership last weekend, when James was given a particularly hard time by the ref against Gloucester. Joubert is a bit like Ron Burgundy – he’ll read whatever you put on the teleprompter – so it all depends on what magical mind fairies are pulling his strings this time. Who’s side will he be on this week? Who knows. I think this game is going to come down to sheer quality and hunger and I think Wales have that battle well won in almost every position bar scrumhalf, and particularly from 10 to 15.
One key set of stats that jumped out at me in trying to figure out this game was the difference in the tackling stats for both teams.
[table id=33 /]
As you can see, Scotland have made a hundred or so more tackles than Wales, in games that were arguably easier compared to the games Wales have played. Also, there’s a huge gulf in the amount of tackles both sides have missed, with Scotland having missed nearly double the men Wales have. When you correlate the propensity for Scotland to miss tackles and the fact that they will get tired in this game owing to their tackle profile (even with the two weeks off) it doesn’t take a genius to assume Wales will find big holes to exploit.
Six nations Betting Verdict;
Take the -4 available in Sportingbet (everyone else is -5 bar Bluesquare who are also -4). Scotland have been very lucky so far that Luke Marshall, Keith Earls, and Luciano Orquera all forgot how to pass in Edinburgh. Scotland will definitely tire and Wales have all the motivation – Scotland have already exceeded expectations and Wales should get scores. This is one of those rare occasions in the Six Nations when a team has to go for points and has the capability to do so; Wales can’t pull off their dream Cinderella story and ruin England’s chances of a Championship title unless they beat Scotland by a decent margin to maintain a realistic hope of overcoming the points deficit. If Wales run up a good score, all the pressure will be on England on a wet and dirty day in Twickenham on Sunday v Italy, and England haven’t seen much pressure recently. Wales hopped against France and scraped through, they skipped against Italy and consolidated, they’re definitely planning to jump against Scotland. There are few more powerful motivators for a Welshman than the chance of raining on an Englishman’s parade.
Try scorers side punts
– Ordinarily Tryscorers in these games are a bit of a lottery but Paddypower are refunding any losing tryscorer stakes back if a forward scores the first try. Wales look set up to maybe pummel with the forwards in the first half, and see what opens up in the second, so there’s a reasonable aspiration that you’ll at least get your money back here if something doesn’t work out for you. Alex Cuthbert blew two or three chances against Italy with poor handling and he looked livid with himself, despite getting in for a try. You can have no doubt he has been working on his handling for the past two weeks, and it should be dry on Saturday. Pasypower are biggest 17/2 for him to be first tryscorer this weekend and he is definitely most likely for me. For a smaller return, he’s 15/8 for anytime tryscorer which is not to be sniffed at either and might be the better option – he’ll be up against Visser a fair bit on Saturday for 80 minutes, and Visser is not the greatest defender (and neither is Cuthbert for that matter). The ideal scenario here then would be a forward to get the first try and for us to be sitting on a free bet for the remainder waiting on Cuthbert to gallop away.
Jonathan Davies is also biggest 14/1 in Paddypower for first try, and he got one against Italy too. Davies is usually there or thereabouts and it was down the centre that Ireland and Italy got plenty of change against Scotland.
Unusually, Paddypower have the biggest first tryscorer odds for these two along with the money back special, so I’ve stuck a small few quid on both to score first, and backed Cuthbert anytime. He’s unlikeley to be substituted, and when this game opens up he should get very close.
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Only a blind man with blinkers could deny all is not well in that part of the field but where to begin?
Best place to start is probably to define the role of the 10 in French domestic rugby…..Traditionally, France has always had a significant divide between backs & forwards and the out-half was generally “piggy in the middle”. Bernard Laporte walked a 16 legged tortoise around the stadia of France to win the national title in 1991. There was an out-half there too of course, for the kick-offs etc…… Four of the clubs loyal followers were given jerseys 11 to 15. These chaps were useful before a lineout as having clean kit they could wipe the ball dry for the throw in. I exaggerate of course, but not that much……..
Forwards do the work, scrum-halves guide them. When “les gros” get tired you send the ball out to the “gazelles” at the back & hope they don’t muck it up. The fly-half’s role is to act as intermediary between the two & above all else, reward the forwards hard work by scoring with his kicks. It’s very simple really. A 10 is required by the unwritten rules of French rugby “not to fart about & kick properly”. You can understand why Blanco would have built a tunnel to Cork with a dedicated TGV line if ROG had been willing to sign for Biarritz!
But back to the here & now. Trinh-Duc & Michalak are the selected French 10’s. Michalak is at best a 9 and a half imho. He was incredibly hyped up before & during the ’03 World Cup (he’s been around a while eh?) & we saw where that got him. He did a job behind a very vigorous and dominant pack during the Autumn Internationals yet he is but second choice for his club. That pack is no longer so vigorous and Freddie has been all at sea. Confidence is and always has been an issue for him.
Trinh-Duc has made his way up through the ranks of Montpelier, well coached, well protected, has a reasonable tackle, good general skills…….but he can’t kick. Why not?…………. Its not as if he doesn’t have the time or the facilities in which to practise……Temperament maybe? But then, who else is there? Actually when you come to that who else has there been?
Looking back quickly I think of Lacroix, Deylaud, Camberabero, Lamaison even Castaignède……..but apart from possibly Cambé, does any French oh spring quickly to mind when you think of “French Flair”? Obviously Maso, Blanco, Sella, N’Tamack, even Saint-André……….but fly halves? My examples are not exhaustive & I’ll stand corrected but off the top of my head none really stand out.
I do think of Fouroux, Berbizier, Galthié, Ellisade, Yachvili, Parra & many others. All on field generals marshalling their team to victory on many occasions. But they are scrum halves……So if we have a doubt about the suitability of Fred & Francois, who should the French opt for instead? Let’s have a look at the elite Top 14 league.
Toulouse have Mc Alister(NZ) considered N°1 by the club yet a chap on a fishing holiday (Donald) was called up to seal the deal for the Blacks in 2011. Beauxis has worn “Bleu” but is at best a journeyman, a good place kicker but that’s about it. Bayonne have Boyet, who in fairness has been unlucky but is close to calling it a day. Stephen Brett (NZ) arrives next season. Some young chaps on the horizon but nothing for the here & now. Clermont have “Brittle” Brock (AUS), Skrela well past it and Mike Delany(NZ) next season.
Perpie have James Hook (Wales)…….
Racing have Wisisneski, yet to convince & Sexton (IRL) will be there next year. Paris (Stade Francais) have Plisson, a possible, if he can keep Morne Styen (SA) on the bench……..ahem!
Toulon have Sir Jonny, who’s signed for another year (no doubt to the delight of Freddie!)
Biarritz have Peyrolongue, at 32, unlikely. Barraque had a great start to the season but faded….Blair Stewart in Grenoble, nobody really standing out in Castres, possibly Tales. Bordeaux have Lopez, who was given a chance by PSA, didn’t convince the staff & is off to USAP to play second fiddle to Hook, who can hardly get a game with Wales, & finally Monty, with Tin Duck……….
So what is PSA to do?
To be honest, those that have not been picked by the French staff are in no way superior to Freddie&Francois. There are chaps who can’t get a game in their club against Non French Qualified players who are not considered good enough back where they came from. The possible exception being Wilko, an aging if great talent & Bernie would be mad not to use him. In any case, you are judged on what you can or cannot do so until one of these guys steps up to the mark why on earth would PSA change what he has now?
Mind you………….there is one possibility………..one who maybe could do the job……… if you think about it……………he has 49 caps, he can kick & he’s only 24……………but then No………. its probably too mad!
Even for the French…………………….But what about?……………. Morgan Parra?
** The truth hurt it seems, The six nations have had the video removed from youtube that we used for our Craig Joubert comedy show post below. It was a sham game, handed to England, and a long litany of absolutely baffling decisions by Joubert that went far beyond anything seen before. That’s why they had the videos removed from Youtube. So our point is proven- something is most definitely not right here, and this isn’t the first game we’ve seen this kind of thing happen it happens in league games, and it happened in teh world cup final that Joubert refereed. All retails demain below, the times are still accurate if you have a recording of the match yourself on your digital box. RBS Six Nations didn’t want people seeing what we showed them.**
England beat France by 23-13 on Saturday in a crucial game for both sides. France were trying to end an unexpected losing streak, and England were trying to secure a championship. Both sets of players gave it everything they had, but the most important figure on the pitch was just not up to it. Craig Joubert not only let down the players (in particular the French players, as you will see below) – who dedicate their lives to this game, but also rugby fans around the world, and particularly the travelling French fans.
It has always amazed me personally how soccer referees can have every minutiae of their working performances examined in detail by newspapers (and rightly so), but rugby referees seem to get a total carte-blanche to make an astounding number of wrong calls in a match of this importance. Why is it that we frequently read nothing from most major Journos about the referees, especially after games where even novices to the game can see something is not quite right? Referees are the most important people on the field, bar none. Nothing can exist without them. Therefore surely it isn’t right that their performances are rarely if ever even critiqued? This self-imposed Omerta about rugby referees is damaging the game – there were 30 people in the pub beside me on Saturday laughing their heads off when Joubert awarded England a penalty when Ashton was holding onto the ball on 78 minutes (last clip below). It has become farce. If any other profession in the world performed as bad as some referees do, there would be hell to pay. Have the media and rugby journalists in general simply acquiesced into a zombie-like acceptance that nothing can be done about games where bizarre decision after bizarre decision is made against one side, the accumulation of which goes beyond understandable error to the realm of gross incompetence? Is that why noone asks questions?
We all have bad days, but Saturday was a truly gobsmacking ‘performance’ from Craig Joubert. And once again it was French rugby that bore the brunt of his baffling decision making, after the widely criticised officiating mess he presided over in the 2011 world cup.
As mentioned above, referees are only human, and with so much going on in a rugby match it is understandable that they can have super-bad days from time to time. Bad days that are usually bad for both sides for the most part. Saturday however, was a totally different story; where everything went against France, some of it beyond explanation. There are always bad calls in games, but there were just too many for it to be acceptable and simply brushed over here. French rugby deserves an apology from the IRB. And travelling French fans deserve their ticket price to be refunded. Sadly, the millions of us who watched this farce can’t get those hours of our lives back.
It is very easy to forget games like this, or over react, so we went back through the game to see if we were imagining things, or if the refereeing really was that bad. And it was. Below is how we saw it.
The incident notes below are accompanied by video where the erroneous (in our opinion) decision took place. Watch the incident referred to, then move on to the next one. And be sure to pause the clip before moving on to the next one. In the interest of brevity we’ve tried to keep the list to only the most obvious. All times are matchclock time
Important note – if you need to rewatch any of the below clips again, the fastest way is to just refresh your entire browser and hit play again rather than fiddle with the time on the videos (as the entire match recording is quite long and it’s difficult to get back to the clip start sometimes)
Joubert error v France 1 0 minutes, 38 seconds – the sad overture for the coming clown show – Maestri (french number 5) rucks through for France, the England pillar defender gives way so Maestri hits the ground, Maestri attempts to roll away IMMEDIATELY, doesn’t touch the ball, yet Joubert blows the penalty England. The ball was ALWAYS available. Wrong.
Joubert error v France 2 12 mins 34 seconds
Joubert penalises France for early engagement when it is CLEARLY England who engage early. Brian Moore the BBC commentator agrees on the commentary, and then is left speechless as he tries to explain it – understandably. Prior to this France’s scrum was dominant.
Joubert error v France 3 23 mins 25 seconds
Joubert is staring straight at Owen Farrell as he elbows Parra in the face. Sure it’s missable by the ref, unless you’re looking DIRECTLY at it, as Joubert appears to be (Yes we can’t see his face, but it’s seems he’s watching Farrell hit Parra not the play 2 yards to the right. Why didn’t Joubert blow it? He’s right there?
Joubert error v France 4 25 mins 50 seconds. Picamoles is penalised despite legitimately challenging for the ball – he released and re-engaged, England had no support, England were holding on, and Joubert is standing right there, and penalises France. You can see on a normal day how this could be given in error (even though Joubert is right there 2 yards away) but these are really stacking up now. Picamoles is furious as the play moves away to the right.
Other first half odd calls
24;11 ben Youngs england knock on at 2411 in front of Joubert, not given
24;40 Mas penalised for Not rolling away while Robshaw held his legs
33:20 Mas penalised again for not rolling away, when the ball was nowhere near him, that’s why he didn’t roll away. You see that as robshaw takes the ball out after the whistle is blown. Joubert right there on hand again.
The Second half (it got worse)
Joubert error v France 5 44 mins 55 seconds, Penalty v Nicolas mas for sealing off; it was never a penalty, he was rucking clearly and then naturally went over. Relieves french pressure, and the speed of Joubert’s whistle is notable. There’s a slow-mo replay a few seconds into the clip.
Joubert error v France 6 46 mins 35 seconds, France done for maul collapsing, but they never dragged it down and Joubert standing there right looking right at it. Nyanga is number six just before pen is awarded, and he doesn’t drag it down. The maul continues and hits Dusatoir, and the England lads hit the deck. You can see why this was given but again, it’s another marginal call against France. England get the penalty, and score to make it 12-10.
Joubert error v France 7 52 mins 45 seconds
Clearly Dan Cole is infringing in the scrum ( as he did quite a bit in this game), yet linesman staring right at it does nothing and we have a reset. France are then Penalised for going early in the reset. Off the ensuing up and under England score the match winning try.
Joubert error v France 8 53 mins 43 seconds– The Decisive score that wins England the game. First, there’s an English knock on as the ball comes down, yet Joubert shouts ‘back off blue’ – for me this is 95% an England knock on from how the ball reacts, and should now be ‘advantage France’. He’s standing right there. On a normal day you’d accept the mistake but not with all that has preceeded this.
Second, Barritt (12) kicks the ball into Vunipola who is in front of him, and then Tuilagi scores a try. Even though Vunipola is accidentally offside, he is still offside and this is a penalty to France. That Joubert doesn’t even check it with the TMO is another huge red flag for me and I can’t believe that with the unorthodox nature of the lead up he doesn’t use his powers to go to the TMO. Why didn’t he go to the TMO? He was right up with the play looking right at Barritt kick the ball into Vunipola? Is Joubert the referee or is he a spectator? The second clip and the slow-mo demonstrates the offside clearly and where Joubert was – i.e., right there, getting it wrong. At this point the French players have given up with the incessant calls going against them. Two big mistakes, England try, France wronged again by Joubert.
Joubert error v France 9 57 mins 48 seconds – Penalty England………. given against Fofana for not rolling away, but Michalak had his hands on the ball on the england player on the ground holding on. Fofana with three bodies on him made the effort to get out of the way, and not interfering with ball placement. Joubert saw the whole thing ONCE AGAIN with a clear view on the ball side, yet still makes the wrong decision. Wondering why yet? me too. The ball was still there for Ben Youngs to take it. Yet Youngs, not for the first time just looks at Joubert and stands off the ruck and gets a penalty – you may have noticed that in previous clips. He’s right to do it, if Joubert is willing to keep penalising France. And by-jove, willing he is!
Joubert error v France 10 62mins 20 seconds- Vunipola on his ten metre line off his feet grabs french ball; a clear penalty,and Joubert is right there AGAIN. The linesman contacts Joubert, and Joubert is in clear contact with him as his hand is to his earpiece for at least five seconds. The IMMEDIATE call should have been ‘advantage France’ as play continued. However, Joubert slowly lowers his hand from his ear and acts like nothing happened. Watch him – he just slowly muddles along and ignores the blatant infringment that should have been a kickable penalty for France, one that he more than likely saw, and had been informed about by the linesman over the earpiece. But Joubert was NOT INTERESTED – despite the crowd, the French players up in arms when it happened, the contact from the linesman, and his own eyes looking at what happened. I am 100% sure that the linesman here would NOT have contacted Joubert unless certain there was a penalty infringment. Advantage never comes. Another damning indictment of Joubert – he didn’t even consult with his linesman after play broke down (which you see EVERY week in the TOP 14, Rabo Pro12, and Aviva Premiership). Any ideas? Answers on a postcard please.
Later on, at 68 mins 40 seconds on the commentary, the Scottish commentator comes on, highlights the incident, and shows it as a clear yellow card for Vunipola. So If Joubert knew about it via his earpiece, (and John Lacey is a forthright man, who was running that line at the time, and who would have been very clear about what happened) why didn’t Joubert at least call French advantage? We have entered unknown territory….oh wait, I just remembered the world cup final. Nevermind.
Joubert error v France 11 71 mins 46 seconds – Joubert penalises the French thirteen (Bastaureaud) for not rolling away in front of the French posts. When in fact, he was nowhere near the ball after the tackle after making every conceivable effort to move out of the way, and Freddie Michalak had challenged for the ball fairly to win it on his feet, along with Classens. French players walk away shaking their heads totally perplexed. With the time on the clock this easy penalty meant England were 7 points ahead and almost home. Joubert with another huge decision based on nothing, against France.
Joubert error v France 12 – this one had us laughing in the pub like a clown’s encore at the circus, it was so bizarre, thanks for the laugh Craig. 75mins 19 seconds- Fritz tackles Ashton, then CLEARLY disengages from the tackle as both hands go on the ground so he can get back on this feet. He then, on his feet, engages Ashton on the ground who is holding on with no support, and Ashton won’t let go of the ball. Ashton stares at Joubert, Joubert awards England a penalty, when it should clearly have gone the other way. In the act of the tackle Florian Fritz is looking up at Joubert wondering if he has swallowed his whistle, or if it’s broken, you can SEE the lack of understanding on his face ” eh hello, blow your f*cking whistle you twit?!”. Then he blows for England. Easy penalty, game secured for England with three minutes to go; no chance the French can come back now.
The laughter had died down just in time for us to hear John Inverdale of the BBC say ” I think it’s because their stamina goes, so does their discipline”. No sir, you’re wrong, as much as your voice is agreeable, you haven’t a clue what you’re on about. Much like Mr. Joubert. Brian Moore, whose normally up front and genuine commentary I often enjoy was also conspicuous by his absence throughout the game in giving honest appraisals of the penalties England were awarded. If it wasn’t for the Scottish interdiction at crucial times I’d have lost faith entirely in the BBC by now.
France lost this game for three reasons – England played well, Saint Andre took off Parra (Trin-Duc had to go off as he had a knock ten minutes previously and looked out of it), and Craig Joubert reffed France off the park for reasons only he knows. We (the fans, who make it all possible) were treated with utter contempt. This wasn’t a rugby match. It was a progression to a home win.
In every game of rugby, there are bad decisions, and home teams often get a few hometown calls – it is human nature and empirical studies have demonstrated the psychological refereeing fact that it happens in all professional sports – it is just part of the game. But when does it all become too much? If there’s a level above Joubert’s performance against France I’m not sure I want to know. How many more games will Joubert get to ruin now as the Chariot steamrolls any hope of balanced and reflective discourse on what was akin to the Battle of Carthage being re-enacted in the Twickenham-Collesseum (France being the Carthaginians and England being the victorious Romans)? Maybe he’s just bad at his job, in which case surely he needs to be sent back to school by his employers.
You really have to wonder about the possibility that, had Sergio Parrisse not recently been banned for speaking out of turn to a referee, would the French players have held their tongues so admirably?
England have learned nothing here, and they’ve had three games that have fallen very nicely for them. As a fan, I think that while England have played well, Lancaster has been incredibly lucky this tournament with a Scotland side that rolled over to have it’s belly scratched, an Irish side that lost it’s leader in Sexton that had no replacement, and a French side that were hobbled by Craig Joubert.
This guy (Joubert) has not only ruined this game for France, but more importantly he took the world cup title from them and handed it to New Zealand, such was the magnitude of his incompetence/call-it-whatever-you-want in that game. How many more chances is he going to get? How many more times will we have to sit through Brian Moore and Inverdale ignoring the blatantly obvious?! Are they afraid England’s public school boys will burn them out of Studio five if they utter one word to question an England side’s good fortune?
Enough is enough, that’s twice now this has happened. Let’s stop the pussy-footing around the subject of officials finally – he’s a rubbish referee that has been the centre and cause of two of the most inept and baffling refereeing performances in recent memory. Why is he still getting these big games for the big home unions?? How is he still getting big games when he made a mockery of the biggest game in world rugby – the world cup final? Why are those people in charge still happy with him after that performance? Why are they happy to let him ref a home game for them?? Did they watch the World Cup final? Do they wheel him out like Hannibal Lecter every now and again to keep us on our toes? This game was an international farce when it should have been a cracker. Whoever picks the refs for these games is probably more to blame. I’m not sure of the exact make-up of selection panels but serious questions have to be asked.
Six nations Betting – England v France Preview, BBC 5pm Saturday 23/2/2013
We’ve been searching for final reasons to back England to win by 1-12 points all week but Stuart Lancaster may have blown that for us with his selections today. More on that below; first I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’ve been burned two weeks in a row backing England’s opposition on the plus handicap (Scotland +16, and Ireland +1). But there were large mitigating factors in both bets losing; Ireland lost all shape and direction when Sexton (Ireland’s only functioning number ten) went off injured early; and it took an injury time try for England to blow the +16 bet against Scotland. After much deliberation I can’t help feel this England side are still being given a bit too much respect and admiration by the bookies.
France name a much changed side, most notably involving players in their correct positions. Amazingly, Wesley Fofana, possibly the best inside centre in world rugby right now, is actually playing at inside centre! Well done Monsieur Saint Andre! Now take a bow. You meddling berk.
Aside from that, it all looks tres magnifique. The on-form Bastauread will seriously challenge Tuilagi (who had a very poor losing game against Quins last week) and Barritt alongside with Fofana. Parra the general is back at nine inside a quick-thinking ten in Trin Duc – a man will actually care about what happens and also has fitness; Au-revoir Freddie Michalak – how on earth did you get back in anyway?! Parra will slow things down and make the decisions Machenaud just wasn’t executing right. The backrow has a great balance to it in Picamoles, Dusatoir and Nyanga, who is having something of a renaissance of late.
England on the other hand look to have opened the door somewhat for France by selecting Hartley and Lawes to start. It’s one decision I just can’t get my head around and it may well have a huge bearing on this game. You only have to go back to last week’s premiership game between Northampton and Worcester for your first warning light – both players were yellow carded for foul play. In general they don’t add much to any side’s structure beyond the rolling maul, and they’re always prone to losing the head or doing something stupid or dirty, and generally put their team in the shit. They’ve been part of a Northampton side that have done very little in recent years and one that, on current form, won’t get into the Premiership playoffs. I can’t work out why lucky-Lancaster is picking them up against an experienced, determined, and hard French pack that won’t be phased by their antics in the slightest.
Furthermore, Lawes has been put in at six for a reason – to throw himself and his shoulders into tackles at France’s ball carriers, and to help in the lineout. This may well backfire on England as initially conditions were expected to be wet but the forecast has since been changed to cold and dry. If the weather (met office weather here) does indeed turn out dry, suddenly you’ve got one big slow yellow-card-loving liability at six whose potential positive impact has been drastically reduced.
And while England will still kick a lot from their big boots in the backline, once it’s dry France will run alot of ball back into places where Scotland found plenty of holes against England’s defence (finding opportunities that they just couldn’t finish off). Conditions will also be good for quick lineouts to negate England’s lineout jumpers – watch out for TrinDuc here – he’s done it a few times for Montpellier this season to create tries.
But the game won’t revolve around Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley even if they do get yellow cards (no six nations betting odds for Sin-binning are available at time of writing and I’d imagine that’s largely to do with their inclusion in the starting lineup). England have a good side out, and they still have four big boots in Goode, Brown, Farrell and Youngs that will kick everything and try to use the power game that worked against Ireland in the rain, and against a Scotland side that just didn’t look bothered.
But France have the strong and talented individuals who can challenge England’s power, and exploit the holes Scotland couldn’t in the dry. In searching for a close comparison to this game I can’t help but come back to Leicester v Toulouse in the Heineken cup last month. There are a lot of similarities – ten players from both sides that day play on Saturday. It was freezing cold too. Toulouse missed seven kicks (i.e. all of them) in that game and had a try disallowed, and despite dominating Leicester (particularly the Toulouse backrow and Huget, who all start here) they lost the game. England have the better team right now and France have the better individuals. They have to start playing as a team some time though.
The only question is will France be up for it? And I think they will. I’m putting my head on the chopping block here but this England side still haven’t done anything of real substance to make me want to take them on a seven point handicap against this French side. Rugby is often characterised by that raw human motivator revenge, but even more-so this season, particularly in Europe. Toulouse were knocked out of their love affair with the Heineken cup by Leicester. France were beaten at home last year in Paris by most of this English side. They’ve had two losses on the bounce against inferior opposition and there’s even more motivation there for them to end the rot and do to England what they did unto them last year. Plus, they have a Castres power house Samson back in the second row! (hence the cover image)…..
Overall I have both sides pretty even here, with France having more experience, England having a slightly better lineout and France a better scrum. England are due a speed-bump on the remarkably smooth road they’ve been on recently and France are just the team to give it to them. I’m putting myself up to be hung here, but I think France will win this game through hunger, revenge, and underdog status (not forgetting the class they have on the park). And crucially, Parra will take his points just as well as Farrell has done. And if the pressure comes on I’d fancy it to be Farrell who crumbles first and not Napoleon.
While we think France will win, we’ve not backed them on the outright as England are a good side and will make this a tight game, and anything can happen. But the Plus 8 available on the handicap at 10/11 is more than enough to get us interested. Third time lucky for the plus cap versus England!
England v France Betting verdict; France +8 10/11 in bet365 (+7 most other places)
Side bets – A couple of big prices are interesting
No tryscorer is biggest 18/1 in Coral, and in a tight cold game where the home side will be preoccupied with the win and taking their points, 18/1 doesn’t look half bad. With Parra back, France will kick every penalty opportunity they get too.
England Half time/France full time is a whopping 12/1 in Skybet (as low as 9/1 elsewhere). In an expected tight game where France have most of the motivation and England have the home advantage, this is well worth a small wager. You can get a free tenner no deposit bet to throw on this at Skybet here.
France: 15 Yoann Huget, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo. Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Jocelino Suta, 20 Antoine Claassen, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Florian Fritz.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler. Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.