How meaningful were those summer tours?
Now that the summer tours have ground to an end, what’s the verdict on how the northern countries fared? At best you’d have to say their fortunes were mixed.
It’s hard to draw any firm conclusions from how the French performed against the All Blacks. The history books will show a three-nil drubbing, but that tells only half the story. In the first two Tests the French were very competitive, but refereeing blunders ruined them as contests. In the final Test it looked as though Les Bleus had ‘gone’, worn down by a long hard season, 24 hours on a plane, and the feeling that things were against them.
The problem is that France didn’t look anything special in the Six Nations, and the All Blacks were uncharacteristically slipshod, making plenty of handling errors. Have the French improved dramatically in the past three months, have the All Blacks got problems or were they just ring rusty? The New Zealand Press seem to believe that things aren’t as good as they should be, and the pressure is really on as they head into the Rugby Championship in seven weeks’ time.
The Irish flew back home celebrating defeating the Wallabies two Tests to one on the back of their Six Nations’ Grand Slam.
Winning Down Under was a fantastic achievement, although it was a very close-run thing, but really good teams find a way to come through tight matches, and there’s no doubting the quality of this Irish side.
They also have in Joe Schmidt a coach who is arguably the best in the world. My one doubt is whether they can improve further in the run-up to the RWC – of course, they may not need to, but a year before the tournament is not the ideal time to peak.
The Welsh celebrated their wins over South Africa and Argentina, but in truth there was nothing to write home about.
The victory over a scratch Saffer team in the joke match in Washington DC was meaningless and then the wins against Argentina were put into stark contrast when the Scots hammered them having previously lost to Japan!
That brings us to England, and to all of the drama surrounding their series defeat against South Africa. To read some of the Press coverage you’d think the roof had fallen in on England, but that really isn’t the case.
I’m not a fan of these summer tours – I know they’re necessary as the quid pro quo for the SANZAAR nations coming north for the November money-spinners, but they’re rarely meaningful.
The England squad was a cobbled-together one, with plenty of players missing, and some who shouldn’t have toured. They were also asked to play two Tests at altitude, with precious little time for acclimatisation.
It would have been great had England done better, but I reckon the Springboks looked to have improved in recent months, and were always going to be formidable up front.
All this talk of Eddie Jones getting the boot before RWC2019 is surely utter tosh? Sacking him would be an act of madness, although that’s not to say the RFU couldn’t do it!
I’ve felt like a lone voice in the wilderness as I’ve made the case for wider use of the TMO, and for them to be more forceful in saving referees from making fools of themselves.
Now the shenanigans in the New Zealand v France series seems to have woken people up.
Comments from All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen and the NZRU chief executive, Steve Tew, support the need for World Rugby to take a hard look at some of its advice to referees.
It’s time for other Unions and their coaches to join in and put pressure on World Rugby to show some leadership. How about some of the top referees doing a stint as TMO, and being proactive in helping the on-field ref to avoid howlers, calling issues to his attention, and having the guts to tell him to look again because his decision was questionable?
The Laws say that ‘the referee is the sole judge of fact and of law during a match’ – all I’m saying is let him or her decide on the facts, after receiving the best possible advice.
Worn down: France had everything against them in New Zealand