Rugby World Cup: Argentina 30 - Ireland 15
So the pluck of the Irish has finally run out to the might of the Pumas. It hasn't been the best of weekends for the six nations.
The question is - where does Northern Hemisphere rugby go from here?
Ireland v Argentina: One Wants to Qualify, the Other to Avoid the All Blacks
So, it all comes down to one game for Ireland. It was always going to - Argentina were going to want that second spot in the pool, according to prevailing notions of who was better - but now it's the Pumas gunning for top spot and the South Africa side of the draw, and Ireland hoping against all hope that they can stuff Argentina out of sight and go through behind France (unless France lose to Georgia in the match before).
In a way, France are the least relevant team to watch this week; their fate will be decided by the outcome of Ireland v Argentina, and as Friday's Midi Olympique newspaper put it: we're all behind the Irish. The French have finally clicked a bit, found their most robust selection - Damien Traille using his siege gun boot from 12, outside Freddie - and the Georgians might have a win under their belts but they've only had four days of recovery. It'll be Georgiens farcis aux bottes francaises or my name's not Jean Pierre Papin.
So the real deal is what happens later. Any way to predict the outcome of this potential classic/ tooth and nail fight for survival?
Both teams have been able to pick from strength, more or less. Gonzalo Longo Elia replaces London Irish talent Juan Manuel Leguizamon at the base of the scrum - that's a minus point which David Wallace, "David" Leamy and - hell with it - "David Easterby" will be hoping to exploit. Easterby needs to have a good game but, like all Welsh players, he's underperformed at crunch times during this Cup. Wales' experience yesterday should suggest to every surviving team that you do not leave anything in the tank at this point; no thinking about the next game. The breakdown was an Irish trump card during this year's Six Nations, their canny play an hommage to the tactics that the All Blacks had started to make the most valuable currency in international rugby: tackle, breakdown and turnover a speciality.
How will Argentina compete there? Well. Nothing so far has suggested that their rear five, with the physical presence of the Fernandez Lobbe brothers and the mobility of Mario Medesma and Rodrigo Roncero from the front row, will be cleaned out at ruck time. Ireland will have to apply brains as well as bodies to that area to dominate.
Scrum time: maybe Argentina aren't quite as hot as they have been. Maybe they don't have to be. Pipe smoker Paul O'Connell has looked absent from the engine room for a while now, so his sidekick Donncha O'Callaghan has no cue to take. There's been a lot of emotion in the front row - we love seeing the Bull have a good old blub - but they need to smash everything up for the full 80 this evening.
Backs, backs, backs... who would have guessed that Eion Reddan would leapfrog Peter Stringer and Isaac Boss to claim the 9 jersey? He wasn't a failure against France, but he didn't have the ride to excel in the position. EOS is taking a risk, and Gus Pichot will be in there scragging him 10 times out of 10. If the Puma back rowers or centres can get up or in on ROG quickly, he'll be leaving the ground a lot more red-faced than usual; the Munsterman's limitations as an international 10 have been painfully exposed during this tournament, and we'd be surprised if he gobbed off about the English again this year. "Some people talk like they're better than they actually are". Yes, they do, Ronan. So we'll be watching your opposite number oozing class.
Outside, it's Leinster-tastic. Contempomi, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Shaggy, Hickie. That's where the media focus will be. Scrumbag is more interested in Ignacio Corleto and Lucas Borges. The match-up at full back is mouth-watering. Geordan Murphy, even in his current Vegas guise, is a hell of a player and should have been in from the off, no disrespect to Girve the Swerve; he's a high ball specialist and elusive once his feet touch the ground again. That's exactly what would have killed the Pumas in the France game, where they bombed Heymans all night. Corleto is a rapier. Unless you close him down quickly, he's gliding into the right channels and big enough to ride half-tackles; with Borges and, to a lesser extent, Agulla playing off him, there's real danger from the back when you play the Pumas. Not bunker-busting play like the NZ back three, but more of a Jeff Wilson/ Christian Cullen sort of partnership.
Difficult one to call. The heart says Argentina, the head says Ireland, but by nowhere near enough to threaten Puma qualification. So the Scrumbag Prediction is Ireland by 8, 25-17.
Ireland: Murphy; Horgan, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Hickie; O'Gara, Reddan; Horan, Flannery, Hayes; O'Callaghan, O'Connell; Easterby, D Wallace, Leamy
Bench: S Best, B Young, O'Kelly, N Best, Boss, P Wallace, Duffy
Argentina: Corleto; Borges, M Contepomi, F Contepomi, Agulla; Hernandez, Pichot (c); Roncero, Ledesma, Scelzo: CI Fernandez Lobbe, Albacete; Ostiglia, JM Fernandez Lobbe, Longo
Bench: Basualdo, Hasan, Kairelis, Durand, Fernandez Miranda, Todeschini, Senillosa
Rugby World Cup Stunner: Fiji 38 - Wales 34
In the most unexpected moment a rare jewel of a game has arrived, setting the 2007 Rugby World Cup alight. The word 'alight' however doesn't really do this match between Fiji and Wales justice. More like a million truckloads of double happys exploding under a tournament that until this point has all been rather ho-hum. It has shaken and stirred even the most taciturn of souls. It has broken hearts and lifted spirits. It was thrilling, inspirational and very damaging to the nail cuticles. It resulted from two teams playing a game that will surely go down as one of the all time great matches of the modern era.
Fiji played with a belief that none of us really thought they had. They ended up taking Wales to the wire and in the process; they cast a shadow of despair over the valleys. Wales equally cannot be ashamed of their efforts. As the very probably soon to be sacked (yet most gracious in defeat) coach Gareth Jenkins said: This was a magnificent game gifted to a captive audience. Both teams can be proud. (Or something along those lines between the tears).
Nobody really thought Fiji would score such an upset, even after an amazing first 30 where they racked up three tries in nine minutes (the best of the trio, Delasau chasing down - gazelle like - his own kick into the goal area and benefiting from a lucky bounce at full stretch, evading both Welsh defenders).
Up until this point, Wales were panicking and it showed in their poor decision making and error rate. It also didn't help that both Welsh kickers were having a bit of a 'mare, especially Stephen Jones who seemed to achieve the impossible by hitting the uprights on three different occasions when going for goal. But with the first half nearly up, Wales began to strike back and added some magical ingredients of their own to the mix of this stunner of matches.
The Welsh had it over the Fijians at scrum time, but as is beginning to show in this tournament, having a strong scrum doesn't necessarily win you the big ones. Fiji also lost momentum (plus a player to the sin bin) before the first half was up and going into the second, Wales began to claw back the deficit. They scored two tries which were quite simply, beautiful. Especially Shane Williams' solo effort with his characteristic side set and speed carving up the Fijian defence. His swan dive as he crossed the line nullified the coolness of the try however. Note to Shane: counting chickens is never a bright thing to do when you're 12 points down still.
The rest of the match was a tug of war with both sides gaining ascendancy in patches. It was nail biting stuff but with Nicky Little kicking well for Fiji they managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over, even though the Welsh outscored the Fijians 5 tries to 4. In the 73rd minute it finally looked like it would be over for Moese Rauluni's men when Martyn Williams snatched an intercept off a loose Nicky Little pass and blatted to the posts. But it wasn't over and against all odds, Fiji came back with their final try resulting from a Delasau run and a Fijian forward surge raw on adrenaline that saw the ball cross the Welsh line again, and in the process break a million hearts in the valleys.
Scotland v Italy: The Easy Route to the Semis?
Well, here's the match that I wasted 2 hours of last weekend waiting for. Actually, it was great to see the All Blacks on an opposed training run, but I'd enjoyed Scotland's warm-up campaign so much - the victory over Ireland especially - that it was a shame to see Murrayfield hosting a B grade international.
Now that Scotland and Italy have locked in their expected showdown, the action has shifted to St Etienne and it's back to full strength, injuries excepted, for both sides. Jason White is back to lead the Scots' power-packed... pack, and Italy having gone into fighting formation with Sandro Troncon leading the team from behind the armchair of the four-square Italian scrum.
Scotland will have to get the bunny question out of the way first. Last time the two sides played, the Azzurri were three tries to the good within 10 minutes courtesy of some alley-oop Scottish passing which let the ruddier-faced Bergamasco brother in, among others. Scrum-half Chris Cusiter is on the bench and will be itching to right his wrongs from that Six Nations meltdown; Frank Hadden should let him. Scotland actually have an embarrassment of riches at 9 presently and the battle between Troncon, Blair, Bob Marley and Cusiter will be fascinating. Close calls all over the field.
So, where will this game be won and lost? I fancy the breakdown to be key. It was amazing to see the physical shape that the Scottish had acquired before the tournament started, the punch which they had added to their always dogged rucking game. You're never going to see Jason White having anything less than a committed game, but it's the match-up between Ally Hogg and Sergio Parisse is also one to savour. Stade Francais will also provide Mauro Bergamasco and glass man Simon Taylor for this match. In the tight five, the Scots have the edge at lock and you'd expect Italy to get the knock on in the front row. Euan Murray wasn't exactly owning Tony Woodcock last weekend and struggled to maintain his bind before eventually being subbed through knackeredness. Scrums to Italy, and with Marco Bortolami injured, line-outs to Scotland.
Behind the fatboys, Scotland look to have a cutting edge now with the emergence of the "other brother"; Sean Lamont must be dying to claim the sort of form that has made Rory one of the players of the summer. David Bortolussi showed against Ireland that he is a dangerous long-range runner from full back, but has yet to produce the same sort of game during this Cup. The midfields look pretty evenly matched for talent, if not for size: Simon Webster is working out well after shifting inside from the wing, and Rob Dewey is a literally huge talent. Mirco Bergamasco's checks will be a lot redder after the effort of closing him down. Gonzalo Canale is the coming man of Italian rugby: will he arrive today?
Expect both sides to try to make some hard yards through the traffic before spinning the ball. It's essentially one of the most balanced games you're going to see at this World Cup, similar selections, similar strengths and weaknesses. Overall, I'd expect Scotland to nose ahead by the 50th minute and stay there.
This match is billed as the "easy route to the semis", with the odds on the winner facing a quarter against Argentina. The Pumas are - or can be, to be more precise - better than both Scotland and Italy at the present time, even when you take out the 'surprise' factor that has accompanied them during this tournament. Neither of the runners up in Pool C have the quality of any of the top three in Pool D, but I'd fancy Scotland to take this game and play up to any of Argentina, France or a miraculously lucky Irish side. Game on.
Scrumbag Prediction: Scotland by about 10 points, 28-18.
Scotland: R Lamont; S Lamont, Webster, Dewey, Paterson; Parks, Blair; Kerr, Ford, E Murray; Hines, Hamilton; White (c), Hogg, Taylor
Bench: Lawson, Smith, MacLeod, Brown, Cusiter, Henderson, Southwell
Italy: Bortolussi; Robertson, Canale, Mi Bergamasco, Masi; Pez, Troncon (c); Perugini, Festuccia, Castrogiovanni; Dellape, del Fava: Sole, Ma Bergamasco, Parisse
Bench: Ongaro, Lo Cicero, Bernabo, Ghiraldini, Griffen, de Marigny, Galon
Wales v Fiji: If Plan A Doesn't Work, There's Always Plan P: Pass to Shane
Only in Wales. Headline in the South Wales Echo reads "Gareth Jenkins given last chance to save his job". And who gave him the warning: the Welsh Rugby Union? Nope, it's the man who introduced the jerry curl to South Wales, who back-heeled a conversion in a competitive match, the Welsh answer to Campo: Mark Ring.
Nothing like a vote of confidence from back home when you're in a winner-takes-all situation. And that's where the Welsh team find themselves: after turning up only in the second half of three pool matches, there's little faith that Wales can start a game the same way they can finish one. Against the good teams, that isn't enough. But are Fiji a good team?
Looking at the team sheet (below), there aren't too many names up front that Europeans - or antipodeans, probably - would recognise. Australia are shaking off the reputation for having a soft pack, but they didn't really get challenged by the Fijians in the tight and the biggest danger remains the back row, where openside Akapusi Qera - voted Fijian sportsman of the year last year, ahead even of William Ryder or Vijay Singh - mixes physicality with technique and huge pace off the back of the scrum. Martyn Williams will have his work cut out for him.
Fiji's enduring asset is the danger posed by any back division they choose to put out. Fiji effectively played a B side against the Aussies by leaving Kameli Ratuvou out. He's back at sweeper, and if Vilimoni Delasau, Seru Rabeni, Seremaia Bai or Isoa Neivua don't work out, there are always Daunivucu, Ligairi or fresh arrival Sireli Bobo to throw into the mix. Awesome. They'll be wanting ball and an open game, full stop.
Wales? One more time, with feeling. The look of the side hasn't changed much since the opening match against Canada; attitudes and approach have altered hugely in the past 3 weeks, though. Wales have tried in all their previous games to impose themselves, or at least gone in with that intention. But, except for the Japan game - all tied up still after 30 minutes - it was only after the oranges that the side clicked into any sort of threatening shape. There's no point beating about the bush, the forwards have been so ineffective so far that they have been called a "bunch of dancing fairies" by one recent All Black prop, and that's more or less fair comment.
Win this one, and there's a quarter with the Springbok pack over the hill. For no other reason than that, Wales must dominate - and be seen to dominate by the public, to be honest - in the tight phases today. If not physicality, then better technique should hand them this edge. After that, well: you've got two world class gamebreakers in there, Shaney and Hook, and in Shanklin Wales possess one of those players that everything rolls off, like Tana Umaga. Peel or Phillips, makes no difference to the strategy Wales should be playing here: as a team, not as a bunch of talented individuals.
England set the template last night. Defend like a brick wall, kick your lines and win your line-outs, use your nous at scrum time and then take the opportunities when they come your way. Ian Evans and Alun-Wyn Jones should be a long step in the right direction, and the Charvis-Williams-Popham back row is big and smart enough to rule the breakdown. Wales definitely have the goods on Fiji, but they can't be as arrogant as they were in Canada or Japan games. Or Gareth Jenkins will be spotted down the Job Centre in Llanelli on Monday, with no shadow of a doubt
Scrumbag Prediction: Wales by 18, final score 34-16.
Wales: G Thomas (c); M Jones, Shanklin, Hook, S Williams; S Jones, Peel; Jenkins, Rees, Horsman; AW Jones, Evans; Charvis, M Williams, Popham
Bench: TR Thomas, D Jones, Gough, Owen, Phillips, J Robinson, James
Fiji: Ratuvou; Delasau, Rabeni, Bai, Neivua; Little, Rauluni (c); Dewes, Koto, Railomo; Leawere, Rawaqa; Naevo, Qera, Koyamaibole
Bench: Sauturaga, Qiodravu, Lewaravu, Ratuva, Daunivucu, Ligairi, Bobo
Australia V Canada: Larkham-less Wobblies Hope For A Big One
The biggest exercise for this probable World Cup mis-match between the Canucks and Wallabies will be the grand waltz of injury avoidance. This of course applies to the Wallabies with their quarter-final booked with England next weekend (shaping up to be a whopper when taking into account the rabble-rousing comments made by ARU boss John O'Neill earlier this week and his select views on the Australian / English relationship).
Still, this isn't about England just yet, because the wide boys of world rugby have to get past Canada first. On paper this shouldn't be an issue, but you never truly know in the weird world of the egg shaped ball.
The Australians haven't had much luck on the injury front this tournament either. With Gerard out, Mortlock slowly recovering, Larkham looking doubtful for the rest of the series and Staniforth still not right, it is understandable that Knuckles Connelly would prefer to keep in-form Giteau on the bench, whilst also limiting Latham's time on the paddock. "How long Chris Latham stays on the field will depend on the game as well," Connolly has said. "We would like to get him off (as soon as possible) so we'll play that by ear during the game".
The Canucks have had by their own accounts, a crap tournament with three from three losses. A forth will in all likeliness be added to the tally after tonight. In every test they've managed to start strongly, but fizzed out as fitness and the superiority of their opponents have eventually got the better of them. The best they can probably hope for is a 50 point difference in the wide boys' favour. Good luck to them.
New Zealand V Romania: If this were gymnastics the All Blacks would be toast
Romania has one of the strongest traditions in world rugby today. They have had a national rugger competition since 1914 and for much of the 20th century, the Romanian 'Oaks' were the sixth best team in Europe. In fact, up until the 1970s and 1980s (where they claimed French, Welsh, Irish and Italian totty) there were on par to join the Five Nations. The Romanian Revolution of 1989 changed the course of things in all facets of Romanian life, rugby included. So it with sadness and resignation that the contest today is not expected to be a great one.
It is also a slight surprise that once again, that canny old bugger Graham Henry has chosen to field yet another 'B' squad - much to the disgust of the NZ fanatics - to play the Romanians, (Lauaki, Thorne and Masoe selections, a case in point). According to Ted, this chopping and changing has been part of the strategic plan ever since George Gregan yelled 'four more years' into a teary Joe Rokocoko's ear back in that Sydney semi of 2003. Whether this strategy of rotation will work or not (i.e. will the All Blacks manage to end the twenty year curse of choking) remains to be seen. But it has brought to light a fair amount of grumbling from the hard to please NZ media who think they know better than Father Ted.
Still, with a B team running out against the Romanians, there are some interesting combinations to take a squizz at this weekend. Nick Evans did well at full back against Scotland with his sleight of hand and ability to find a gap at speed; so with Mils Muliaina and Leon McDonald injured, this is the time for a run out. With Dan Carter withdrawn (and in doubt for the quarter-finals, eek!), Luke McAlister comes off the bench to fill the first-five spot. He should be ably backed by Isaia Toeava at centre and Aaron 'the brain' Mauger who is rather good at calling the tactical shots. One would hope that the backline may show a bit more fizz than what they managed at 'Butterfield'. (And here's hoping Sitiveni Sivivatu has grasped the basic skills of catching and passing the ball finally).
The All Blacks pack is a raggedy collection of aging, young and oft-injured players out to stake their place in the team for the quarter-final berth against the might of er, the Oaks. Meal ticket lock Keith Robinson is back in the frame and will be hoping for a stormer alongside locking parter (and often loose forward) Reuben Thorne. Whether Keith will do a 'Keith' by injuring himself in the warm-ups before the game remains to be seen. But if he does manage to stay on two feet for the full 80, the All Black selectors will be relieved as he can be a danger man to any opposition (but mainly he remains the largest danger to himself when he's doing those stretches).
The Romanians have had a feisty tournament. They took the Italians to the wire losing 18-24 and won against Rugby World Cup lovies Portugal 14 - 10. They will bring physicality to the match, especially at scrum time and will not let the All Blacks off lightly. With a fair amount of the team playing professional second division rugby in France, they have every reason to believe they can maybe give the All Blacks a decent knock, or if nothing else, get Keith back on the injury bench.
Like all minnow teams, they possess dignity too. We haven't heard them moaning in Hadden-esque style of the turnaround time between tests (from their test against Portugal to play New Zealand, it is a mere three days). Low and behold, they've even got the balls to send out their strongest team possible. Something Scotland could have learnt a thing or two about .... and Henry as well, for that matter.
NZ 15: Tialata, Mealamu, Somerville, Thorne, Robinson, Collins, Masoe, Lauaki, Ellis, McAlister, Sivivatu, Mauger, Toeava, Rokocoko, Evans
Romania 15: Balan, Tincu, Florea, Socol, Petre, Corodeanu, Manta, Tonita, Sirbu, Dimofte, Brezoianu, Gontineac, Gal, Ciuntu, Dumitras
Referee: Joel Jutge (France)
Rugby World Cup: England 36 - Tonga 20
The English team could have been staring down the empty pint glass of failure tonight. A humiliating elimination in the pool stages to the tournament darlings Tonga was on the cards. Instead, after an average Rugby World Cup campaign it looks like the Red Roses have achieved the impossible, they've turned up the heat. Scrumbag would dare to say accelerated even, but the words accelerate and England don't really belong in the same sentence, so we'll leave it for now. However, with team talisman Jonny well and truly back for England (i.e. two games without injury), could it be possible to entertain thoughts (or at least dream) of Brian's Brigade giving the Larkham-less Wallabies a fair-dinkum challange?
This was no ordinary night for the Tongans either. Their tournament has been spectacular and after last week's down to the wire test where they managed to scare the living bejesus out of the Boks, we all knew then they were not a team to be messed with. The warning signs were sent early to England with the Tongans starting the quicker out of the blocks - a beautiful Sukanaivalu Hufanga try for their efforts. Sloppy English tackling sent warning bells around the stadium that maybe this would be yet another night of English torment and misery. But for a change, and to the relief of the thousands of sweet chariot songsters in the Parc des Princes, it didn't come to pass.
England clawed back with Wilkinson showing sparks of his 2003 form. His goal kicking percentages weren't great (those damn replica match balls) but other things began to spark. There were drop goals; there was crunching defence; there were clever little cross-field kicks; there was Sackey crossing the Tongan line for two completely opportunist tries; there was more organisation and structure to the English backline working in tandem with a grinding (some might say plodding on the odd occasion) forward pack. Correy and co grafted away and eventually wearied the spirited but tiring opposition. And then there was the team white elephant, Andy Farrell. Joyously celebrating his quite clever little try under the sticks with much hugging, patting of bottoms and general merriment making. Love or hate Farrell, you would have to be a heartless soul not to have a teeny tear in your eye for the big man. He has been harangued in the press for his place in the team since his inception into union, so it was nice to see him finally score, against Tonga. You go Andy.
The last play of the tournament (not including Andy Gomarsall's kick to kill the ball in the final minute for which he was roundly booed) belonged to Tonga. Another electric backline move resulted in the finished Hale T Pole try, dragging himself (just) over the line. This gave the Tongans some consolation and a better reflection in the scoreline of the contest.
So for now Tonga pack their bags and wing their way home. The Rugby World Cup tournament good guys who surprised everyone (especially those Samoans and Boks). England too can take heart from this game in terms of confidence. There is still a lot to be done (which can be chewed over on another day), but they made it through when thousands thought they wouldn't and couldn't.
RugbyWrap: D-Day or Dunkirk for Reigning World Champions?
So, it's judgment day for England and it's pretty clear what the strategy is: same as Samoa. Get some bustle going, kick the corners, take your opportunities and make sure they don't get a head of steam up with the ball in hand. The excellent Shaun Edwards underlines that in the Guardian by pointing to England's selection of Borthwick and Moody, and Tonga's replacement of lock Paino Hehea with flanker Viliami Vaki. The Tongans lost a third of their own ball on the throw, so they'll be keener than ever to get into England.
No one has really mentioned that it's a balancing act for fly half Pierre Hola; if he kicks too little, England are enough of a team to roll on the pressure in the Tongan 22, and the Samoa proves shows that they can score as welll as most. If he kicks too much, he'll neutralise Tonga - or the Pacific Islands' - greatest asset, ie. a large number of hefty, quick blokes who love taking the ball into contact against smaller backs. Luckily for Finau Maka and Paddy Power - the man who used to be called Epi Taione - England captain Cozza has given them a big signpost: "our attacking game is down to Jonny Wilkinson and Olly Barkley". Nice one Coz! And if they miss Wilko and Barkley, there's always Mat Tait to have a pop at.
Brian Ashton concedes that it was a close call between Tait and Hipkiss for the outside centre shirt; Hipkiss must be so off the boil now that you don't know what sort of form he's in. Gunner Clive gives a nice little bit of insight into what sort of issues go on in selectors' minds and has an opinion on the Vickery v Stevens question, and others; love him or, let's be honest, sort of loathe him, he's one of the game's real thinkers.
The Tongans look to be in the frame of mind that suggests divine inspiration: Nili Latu says that "this is the best Tonga team [we have] ever put out". Not for the Tongans any fragile laager mentality, any locking themselves away and not disturbing mental balances: they were full steam ahead dying their hair green to promote their association with - you've guessed it - Paddy Power, but the IRB said that it was overstepping the mark. You have to laugh; with all the money-grubbing antics going on at the IRB, including the stringent clamping down on replaying of World Cup coverage until a manky knock-off DVD comes out, it's entirely legitimate for the Tongans to get sponsorship. In fact, Tonga are pretty PO'd that they haven't been paid appearance money - a whole £150,000 - in full yet. That's probably half of what the grandees of the Rugby Board run up in air fares every year.
Wales have their own Pacific showdown this weekend and Colin Charvis is going into boxing cliché mode: he says that "Wales must beat Fiji to the punch", "get the first one in", and "Adriaaaaaaaaaaaaan!". OK, the last one is made up, but it's probably going to be a fighty one; remember the England v Wales warm-up and any Welsh side with Charvis, Alfie, Popham and a selection of ugly buggers up front knows how to apply the biff. Wales should have too much for Fiji in the same structured way that England are a 'better' side than Tonga, but it's knock-out rugby and all it takes is one sucker punch. Ah, damn it, we're doing it too! But at least you get a gratuitous video of the funniest KO in history, courtesy of Herol "The Bomber" Graham.
The rest of the media coverage today seems to be about coaches defending players, players defending themselves against accusations real or imagined that they're rubbish. Andre Pretorius has his coach's backing, despite not being able to kick properly; Scrumbag has a boot and the way that he was striking the ball last week, ie. like a 'soccerball goaltender', was ugly. Welsh winger Mark Jones wishes he "had had a bit more ball in open space", which is code for "Jesus, Shane's just so much better than me, isn't he?". And the Peel v Phillips debate rumbles on in Wales with as much energy as Hatton v Mayweather.
Injury news: Neil Best seems to be OK after a scare over a cardiac incident when he lost feeling down one side of his body - how many heart scares have there been this year already? - 'Sandro Troncon leads Italy against Scotland with Marco Bortolami out, and as a sort of reverse injury story, Keith Robinson is finally getting a game for the All Blacks.
Top 10 Hair-Dos: #7, Gav's "Ruprecht"
"He'll enjoy those wide open spaces. He loves to run, and run, and run...". The 'Do' column usually goes like this: see the hairstyle, name the man. The problem with this one is that when you think of Gavin Henson, there's no signature do. OK, there's the "hedgehog", which relies on 2 kilos of hair product to make it through 80 minutes of shoeing intact; there's the "blitz spirit", a 1940s-inspired style with 4 kilos of Brylcreem slicking everything down and back to a duck's arse. And there's the "boy band", which is the everyday do Gav uses when he's spent too long applying the Ronseal and doesn't have an extra hour for his hair.
But it wasn't until this season that the crowning glory was unveiled: the "Ruprecht". Made famous by Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, this style relies on a semi-bowl construction - easily provided by any mum or overweening celebrity girlfriend - and a gormless, absent look. Nailed it, big man.