The warm ups are over, so how are the teams looking? Here is my review of the opening weekend of November Internationals.
So how did the predictions go?
3 from 3 but at least one of them was closer than expected. The long-awaited perfect weekend of predictions but let’s be honest it wasn’t difficult this weekend and I don’t think it really counts.
Japan 21 v 61 New Zealand Maori
A convincing win by the Maori and with 17 wins on the trot now going back over a decade, I do wonder what their world ranking would be if they were a country? Would they qualify for the world cup? Obviously purely academical questions but good fun anyway.
Japan could just not break the Maori defence, this lead to errors and plenty of turnovers. The Maori were just devastating with turnover ball and it was this, more than when they had the ball, that made the Japanese pay. Japan really didn’t help themselves with basic errors such as forward passes and sealing off the at the ruck.
These two sides meet again next week and Japan will really have to work on their basics and ball retention against suffocating defence.
Barbarians 36 v 40 Australia
One that is already been labeled a classic and the inks barely dry on the official scorecard. The lead changed 6 times in the first 55 mins, not long after the hour mark it looked like Australia had taken control with 2 tries in 3 mins. But the Baa-Baas came back into it with 2 tries in the last 10 minutes but they came up just short.
This was a must swim for the Wallabies, with all the off field chaos they couldn’t afford to lose to the Baa-Baas. I’m not sure how much we learn from this, several Wallabies first choice players were rested and it’s against a scratch side they throw the ball around.
Conversely a few players on the Baa-Baas will have introduced themselves to the northern hemisphere. The experience will have been invaluable to some of the younger players, for example Colin Slade hadn’t been to London before, never mind played at Twickenham. He’s only a couple of injuries away from playing for the All Blacks at the next world cup and we all know what happened to All Black fly-halves last time round.
Key Stats: Kicks from hand – Baa-Baas 18 Wallabies 4, Passes – Baa-Baas 189 Wallabies 228
This game really was played in the right traditions of Baa-Baa games, you won’t see stats like that anywhere else.
USA 6 v 74 New Zealand
As predicted this was a one sided game and it was from the start with the All Blacks scoring their first try after only 2 minutes. A lot of the talk will be about the amount of points the All Blacks got and their skills with ball in hand. None of this would be possible though without the foundations of a forward platform and good defence.
Something that has been talked about before but was blinding obvious today was that there is always a full line of All Black defenders. This comes about due to them only committing 1 or 2 people to the ruck. The days of continuous rucks pulling in defenders and causing space out wide are long gone. We are in the age of the offloads causing holes and creating space for the break.
To their credit the Americans did look ok with ball in hand and were pulling off some offloads. But something that was mentioned in commentary was how the All Blacks were passing into space and the players runs onto it. Too many American passes were bouncing off shoulders and other parts showing that they were erasing to players not the space in front. This slows the player down and makes it much harder to break the gain line but it takes confidence to do.
Don’t think that we learnt much from this game that we can take into the rest of the international window. USA will be sending their Aviva Premiership players home and the All Blacks will be facing much stiffer opposition.
Key Stats: Tackles made/missed – USA 92/42 All Blacks 113/10
How often does a side that wins by such a big margin make more tackles? Amazing stat. Clearly missing 42 tackles means you don’t have a hope of winning the game. That and losing 4 out of 7 of their scrums show exactly where the Americans need to concentrate a head of the world cup next year.
RFU Championship XV 28 v 23 Canada
The Championship side fought back from 11 point down to win this one. I’m a little surprised as I expected Canada to beat the scratch Championship side. But I guess I should have realised that Canada will also be a bit of a scratch side. As far as I know this is their first game for a while and also as this wasn’t in the international window may have been missing a few players who weren’t released by their clubs. Clearly not the greatest start for Canada but hopefully blew off the cobwebs for the games ahead against Namibia, Samoa and Romania.