It’s time for Planet Rugby’s weekly round-up of who has their name in lights at the moment… and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They’re on fire!!
England: Eddie Jones continued his unbeaten streak when England beat Australia 39-28 for the first time in Brisbane, since he took over the reins from Stuart Lancaster last year. A resilient display of power and discipline, both on attack and defence, from the Six Nations champions allowed them to outsmart the 2015 World Cup finalists in their own backyard. Special mention to the physical domination of James Haskell specifically in the contact situation against the likes of the in form David Pocock and Michael Hooper.
Ireland Rugby: It was certainly a good weekend to be Irish. Joe Schmidt’s men faced the Springboks at Newlands in their first of three Test matches on Saturday. Despite being without notable backline players, the visitors held out against the two-time champions to claim their first victory in South Africa, 26-20. What makes this win even more special for Ireland is that they achieved this feat after being reduced to 14 men for more than an hour after CJ Stander saw red for a dangerous tackle on fly-half Pat Lambie. Virtually around the same time, the Ireland U20 side pulled off a rare and surprising win against the Baby Blacks at the AJ Bell Stadium. They manage to stun the New Zealand U20 side and ran out 33-24 winners in the end.
Argentina: Los Pumas got their international Tests well underway as they beat Italy 30-24 in Santa Fe on Saturday. Apart from the Brumbies scrum-half, Tomás Cubelli, all of the Los Pumas’ players are playing for Super Rugby side, the Jaguares. This meant that Argentina have been playing together as a unit for the past few months, a challenge that often caused them to seem like a disjointed team over the past few years during the June international window. Italy seemed set to hold off in their first match under new coach Conor O’Shea, it was however the boot of Nicolás Sánchez, who finished with a 20-point haul, that saw the home side record a remarkable victory.
Liam Williams: The Wales full-back carved through the newly-formed All Black midfield combination of Malakai Fekitoa and Ryan Crotty with ease. The 25-year-old Williams made good use of the space when launching numerous counter-attacks in arguably his best performance for his country.
Wales: Despite not being able to record a win over the world champions in Auckland, Warren Gatland’s troops held out against the All Blacks. A tenth minute try from Taulupe Faletau gave the visitors some form of hope and it certainly boosted their confidence as they went into the break leading by 18-15. Wales made New Zealand work for the victory, but it was the skill and fitness of the home side that allowed them to score 24 points while Wales only had a penalty to show for their second half efforts. A brave effort, but the winless run goes on.
CJ Stander: Ireland pulled off a first-ever win in South Africa over the Springboks, but this was done with just 14-men after the South African-born loose forward was red carded for a dangerous tackle on Pat Lambie. A second look at the incident, which reduced the visitors to 14 men for nearly an hour, however, does make the red card seem harsh. Fortunately it didn’t stop them from making history.
So cold baby, so cold
South African Rugby: At the start of a new era under new coach Allister Coetzee, the Springboks got off to a poor start when they lost 26-20 to Ireland in Cape Town. Coetzee’s men could not put Ireland to the sword, this despite having an extra man for nearly an hour. The experienced players should have taken charge and seen off the visitors, but they never looked like a side who wanted to dominate, let alone secure their first Test under Coetzee. If the loss to the Irish wasn’t enough, England Saxons beat the SA ‘A’ side, 32-24, in Bloemfontein the night before. To add insult to injury for South African rugby, the Baby Boks were narrowly beaten by Argentina 19-13 too at the World Rugby U20 Champonship.
Australia: Head coach Michael Cheika has become the first coach in charge of Australia to lose to England in Brisbane. The Wallabies are one more loss away from the first-ever series defeat to England on home soil. The Six Nations champions were just too physical for the home side and Eddie Jones’ tactical switch to bring off Luther Burrell after 28 minutes changed the rhythm of the night. Rust shaken off, they now must win in Melbourne to save the series. Nathan Grey’s incident on the touchline with Mike Brown was weird too.
Baby Blacks: The Junior All Blacks could not emulate their senior side’s win over Wales when they were dealt a huge 33-24 defeat at the hands of Ireland in the Junior Championship. The resilient and spirited effort from Ireland, despite having scored one try less than New Zealand’s four tries, saw them over the line as they recorded a historic victory over one of the tournament favourites.
Wayne Barnes: Not much went wrong for either side, apart from Wales not being able to record a win over the world champions of course, but Barnes’ decision to call Aaron Cruden’s pass to TJ Perenara forward was certainly not hot at all. Despite several replays and advice from elsewhere Barnes stood by his decision.