Purple Drain Purple Drain
Rupert Bates reviews the weekend's international rugby action
France 20 South Africa 13
The game of the weekend and the player of the weekend in France prop Fabien Barcella. Muscular in the tight as part of a pack that bullied the world champions and everywhere in the loose the
Biarritz bull was magnificent. Forget all the romance of Gallic back play, the soul of French rugby lies in the front-row. Louis Picamoles was outstanding at number eight too. Monsieur Incredible, or Incroyable, could tattoo the Bayeux Tapestry on his thighs and biceps, such is the power of the Toulouse man. Yes the Springboks are tired, but this was a hugely significant win in Toulouse for the French - or would be if we knew what to expect from France next time out, with a coach in Marc Lievremont who has the look of someone who would rather be elsewhere. Then again there is nothing more dangerous than an insouciant Frenchman.
Wales 17 Samoa 13
A banana skin - appropriate given the hideous yellow welsh jerseys - narrowly avoided. These South Sea Islanders would be world beaters if they ever got the proper funding. It would be nice if the all blacks played in Polynesia for a start. New Zealand are quick enough to poach their top players. You’ve gone to Japan and filled out Milan, so why not a three Test series in the South Pacific against Samoa, Fiji and Tonga rather than interminable Tests against Australia?
Scotland 23 Fiji 10
You know just how far Scotland have fallen when you record them on Sky and then delete the game anyway. So I never saw it. If it had anything to commend it please let me know.
Italy 6 New Zealand 20
The rugby failed to match the occasion with an amazing 80,000 crowd packing Milan’s San Siro football stadium. Martin Castrogiovanni cemented his position as one of the world’s great props dismantling the All Blacks scrum. A second-string New Zealand side, but crucially they won over thousands of Italians, drawn to rugby by the allure of one of the world’s great sporting institutions.
England 16 Argentina 9
How depressing was this? As they say on the Pampas of South America, England were all hat and no cattle. In the end I was shamefully willing on Argentina to win to spare me from Martin Johnson and Steve Borthwick talking of beating a side above them in the world rankings. Borthwick is not even a journeyman as he goes nowhere, bar the one rumble in the prelude to Matt Banahan's winning try - and what the hell was the Bath wing doing cockily strolling round under the posts ball in one hand to taunt the Pumas?
If Borthwick goes - and the stubbornness that made Jonno such a formidable opponent counts against him as a manager - who do you have as captain? No point in upsetting Jonny Wilkinson’s current karma. Lewis Moody, a rare light on a dark day? Mad Moodos chases ball with the considered judgement of a dog chasing cars, so not exactly captaincy material. Then again at least a touch of madness and mayhem at the helm might be worth watching. Those at Twickenham should start a Facebook page called ‘Give us our money back RFU’. As for those purple jerseys – a commercial disgrace as bad as the team.
Ireland 20 Australia 20
Who writes Brian O'Driscoll's scripts? Also good to see Rocky O'Elsom scoring in Dublin, his adopted city after his stellar season with Leinster. The wallaby captain is the obvious person to lead the Melbourne Rebels when they join the super 15 in 2011. Rocky was born in Melbourne and raised on the Mornington peninsula, before moving to Noosa, on Queensland’s sunshine coast. Digby Ioane was also raised in Victoria, although the Aussie centre did not know what state he was in when O’Driscoll burst through the midfield for that last second try. The weekend was topped and tailed by a prop, with Ireland debutant Cian Healy showing far too much energy in the loose for a front-row forward, including a sublime offload.
Thinking about it if England could adopt Barcella and Healy we might have a half-decent backline. Talking of adoption, if Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira is not qualified for South Africa, do they forfeit the Lions series and other Tests he'd played in? Clutching at straws maybe, but far better than gouging at eyes.
Posted by: , on November 16th 2009 on 09:37pm
Hi Rupert. I've followed you in the DT and ST rugby pages for a while now and think you have an insightful take on the game, which I really enjoy. By and large, you're straight down-the-line and fair. However - as with most British journalists it seems - you can't let the Lions go. Give it up - imagine if the Saffas banged on about their 'heroes' in '97 because they outscored the Lions by 9 tries to 3 and lost only becase siege-gun Jenkins was wearing red?! They were congratulatory in defeat even though they utterly outplayed the Lions. Perhaps you should do the same, seeing as it's clear the Boks were the better team for most of the series? Keep it coming, though - I'm pleased I'll get to hear your rugby views more frequently through this website now!
Posted by: BigScrum, on November 17th 2009 on 09:30am