Australia: 24m people, but not one decent rugby commentator

Australia is one of the better rugby nations on the face of the earth, with two World Cup wins to show for its efforts in the game, the same as South Africa and just one behind New Zealand.

But despite its producing a number of truly great players – Nick Farr-Jones, David Campese and Mark Ella are three who come to mind – the country still lacks a decent rugby commentator and has made do with Gordon Bray for a long, long time.

Surprisingly, Bray has been commentating for more than 40 years, despite the fact that there are obvious deficiencies in his performance. His commentary sounds more like a coaching class for Australia, and a list of instances where he feels the rub of the green has gone against the Australians. Whinging is the word they use in Australia to describe his complaining.
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No first-time starter needs this kind of pressure

At times, even a polished outfit like the All Blacks can get it wrong. When the team was picked for the game against Argentina on Saturday, a number of second choice players were chosen, in order to get them match-ready and also to establish the depth that the team will need as it builds towards the next World Cup in Japan in 2019.

The major change was the presence of Richie Mo’unga as standoff, taking over from the man acknowledged as the best at that position, Beauden Barrett. Thus, there was tremendous pressure of Mo’unga, more so given that Barrett had put in an excellent performance in the previous outing, against Australia, dominating the game and scoring 30 of the team’s 40 points.

This was Mo’unga’s first start in a Test; he had only come on as a substitute in one earlier Test. That was the depth of his experience when he took the field.
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All Blacks win because they have developed a winning culture

For the last 16 years, New Zealand has been winning the annual Bledisloe Cup rugby union competition against Australia, with 2002 being the last time they lost. It is a symbol of rugby supremacy, and for the two countries involved the next best after the World Cup itself.

Over the last few years, every time the games approach, the Australian media hype up the chances of their national team and for the uninitiated, it would appear to be some kind of equal contest. But in the end, New Zealand always runs away with the trophy, though some games can indeed be close.

Last year, for example, New Zealand came to Sydney for the first game as usual. By half-time, despite predictions of a close game being in the offing, New Zealand was ahead 40-6. The game ended in a 54-34 win to the All Blacks.
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Lions fail again, Crusaders romp home

That the Lions lost their third successive super rugby final — to the Crusaders for a second successive time — came as no surprise, for nobody really gave them much of a chance to take the trophy home. The bookies, always the best informed, had the Crusaders at a dollar and the Lions at eight dollars. The final score was 37-18.

But there were some indications that once again — as in 2016 and 2017 — coaching decisions had played a part in the defeat. One amazing stat that emerged during the final was that Lions fly-half Elton Jantjies had played every game of the season in its entirety. (He also played the entire 82 minutes of the final).

One has to wonder why coach Sys de Bruin put such a strain on the man. The super rugby season is always arduous and in recent years it has become even more of a strain as there is a break in June for international games to take place. This was devised as a way to give teams the chance to recover from injuries, but in reality a broken season like this is more of a strain than one that runs unbroken from start to finish. Much in the same way that it is easier to run an 800 metres race rather than two 400 metres races with a short break in-between.
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Will the Lions be third-time lucky? And will the ref learn to hold his peace?

For a third successive year, South African super rugby side the Lions have made it to the final where they will, for a second year running, lock horns with the Canterbury Crusaders, the most successful team in the 23-year history of the competition.

Last year, the Lions took on the Crusaders at home but were beaten 17-25, with their coach, Johan Ackermann, to blame. Ackermann let the side down in 2016 too, when the Lions were beaten by the Hurricanes.

This year, the task will be harder as the final is being played at the Crusaders’ home ground.
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Erratic All Blacks will need to buckle up for 2019 Cup

At the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, New Zealand bid goodbye to six players who had been around for what seemed like forever.

Richie McCaw, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Daniel Carter left, some to play in foreign countries, others just opting out.

At that point, nobody really raised the issue of how the All Blacks would adjust, for talented players seem to come in a never-ending stream in New Zealand. This, despite the fact that six mentioned above were all well above average in ability.
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Lions’ coach Ackermann asleep at the wheel again

Last year, Johan Ackermann, the coach of South Africa’s Lions super rugby team was literally asleep during the final against the Hurricanes. His team lost to the Hurricanes 3-20.

This year, he appeared to be dozing again as his team lost, only to a different New Zealand team, the Crusaders.

The Lions lost a player to a red card about a minute before half-time but given the inherent advantages they had — they were playing at home, at altitude which made the visitors prone to running out of gas, and in dry weather which has always suited them — they could still have won.
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French farce spoils great Test series in New Zealand

Referees or umpires can often put paid to an excellent game of any sport by making stupid decisions. When this happens — and it does so increasingly these days — the reaction of the sporting body concerned is to try and paper over the whole thing.

Additionally, teams and their coaches/managers are told not to criticise referees or umpires and to respect them. Hence a lot tends to be covered up.

But the fact is that referees and umpires are employees who are being paid well, especially when the sports they are officiating are high-profile. Do they not need to be competent in what they do?
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True to form, Wallabies whinge after defeat

In the end, what was expected eventuated. New Zealand won the second Test against Australia convincingly and retained the Bledisloe Cup for another year.

Australia? They played better than in the first Test, but could only convert three penalties. No tries, just two line-breaks, and a lot of whinging were what they brought to the table.

Quade Cooper wore the No 10 jersey but did not play the role that a five-eighth is supposed to. He stayed well back, shovelled the ball along and had his regular quota of mistakes, kicking the ball to a spot he never intended to once, and failing to collect a high ball in competition with Israel Dagg; the latter action led to an All Black try a few passes later. For the most part, he was a passenger.
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Picking Quade Cooper for Bledisloe II not the wisest decision

Australia’s rugby coach Michael Cheika does not appear to be one who learns from history. Or maybe he is ignorant of what has happened in the past when Australia included Quade Cooper in its team to play New Zealand.

Else, he may not have picked Cooper to play against New Zealand in tonight’s second Bledisloe Cup match in Wellington, a crucial game as far as Australia is concerned. If they lose or draw, then the Cup stays in New Zealand for another year. The last time Australia won the Cup was in 2002.

Let’s take a look back in time. Cooper was chosen to play in the 2011 World Cup semi-final against Australia. The match was played in New Zealand.
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