The Rugby Union Autumn Series continued
Mike Penistone looks back at a weekend of close games for some and blow-outs for others...
Results from 6 tests.
Ireland 60 - 5 Japan
Italy 9 - 47 NZ
England 69 - 3 Tonga
Wales 18 - 23 South Africa
France 29 - 20 Argentina
Scotland 15 - 13 Australia.
“Ruck speed and referee tolerance key areas for coaches to focus on.”
After 25 minutes of play in Rome Italy and New Zealand were tied 0 all. The Italian forwards coach Andrea Moretti had done his homework. The role of the second man in the tackle and in support of the ball carrier in attack, especially in close quarter play so important and evident. The Italian forwards out All Blacked the New Zealanders. Getting over the ball and getting your hands on the ball is a tough skill to execute. Previously a back row skill, now it is expected of all players. New Zealand found it hard to cope with Italy’s technical competency at the breakdown. The Italian close quarter driving tackling and ability to reorganise quickly also forced Kiwi players to drop ball.
Denying New Zealand ruck speed is vital if you want to keep them on the back foot. Once on the front foot they are devastating.
Referees lack consistency when allowing players time to present the ball. There are slow and quick whistlers. Interpretations vary. Is the player over the ball supporting his own body weight is driving coaches insane! And in this case the New Zealand commentary team!
This young Italian team responded well to excellent preparation, the transfer of skills and understanding evident for all to see. Players will enjoy playing for the new Italian coaching team.
New Zealand have posted scores of over 50 points against Australia and Wales this season. They are an 80-minute team, extremely fit and have quickness and pace to burn. Experience always steadies the ship and when the opposition succumb to pressure, they are clinical in attack.
Ireland demolished Japan and this may be the year Ireland come of age. They overpowered and outpaced Japan. There is depth in the squad, especially at 10 where Sexton notched up his hundredth test match. Next week’s game against New Zealand will be a classic. The key to Ireland winning, take note of the Italian forward effort, but for longer!
England cruised to a win over Tonga but have a dilemma at 10. Farrell had to withdraw with covid. The two replacements, Furbank, and Smith are outstanding 10s. With an extremely fit Manu Tuilagi the composition of the backline poses a problem. Farrells lack of pace at 12 programs him to a passing role. England will need more to win the 6 nations and World cup. Steward is an excellent full back and Radwan sparky quick but raw in using his support players. Both are exciting additions to the team.
A word about Ben Youngs. He has gone back in time to reinvent his game. He looks fit, slimline, and is moving fluently. Above all he is enjoying playing, such a psychological necessity if you want longevity in the jersey. I take my hat off to him.