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The jackal at the tackle

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Tom Fordyce | 11:58 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

Takapuna, North Island

For all the hoopla and headlines about Dan Carter, Jonny Wilkinson and Quade Cooper, this has been a World Cup defined not by perfect 10s but heavenly sevens.

Those big-name fly-halves might still have the modeling contracts and skincare endorsements but they can keep them. The open-side flankers are on the rumble - and the message is clear: run away, glamourpuss, the jackal in the tackle is here.

Each of this weekend's four semi-finalists have a number seven in their side that strike fear deep into opposition hearts. Wales have Sam Warburton, France the unyielding Thierry Dusautoir (who actually wears six in the French style); New Zealand the relentless Richie McCaw and Australia the man they call 'Bam Bam', Queenslander David Pocock, 23.

That three of the four are also their country's skipper is no coincidence. That Pocock is not - yet - shouldn't fool you for a minute into thinking that he is anything less than their equal.

Richie McCaw, Thierry Dusautoir, Sam Warburton and David Pocock

Heavenly sevens Richie McCaw, Thierry Dusautoir, Sam Warburton and David Pocock. Photos: PA, Reuters and Getty

He may even be the best of the lot. Rugby logic dictates the Wallabies's 11-9 larceny of South Africa last Sunday simply shouldn't have happened. The Springboks had 76% of territory and spent a total of 11 minutes camped in the opposition 22.

That it did had a little to do with the early injury to South Africa's own breakdown supremo Heinrich Brussow and a lot more with Pocock's own magic numbers - 26 tackles, three of his side's remarkable tally of nine turnovers and countless disruptions to the opposition ball.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans described it the best individual performance of the tournament so far. Some of those wearing opposition colours weren't quite so convinced.

Jackals have never been the most popular of beasts. All that scavenging and stealing tends to go down badly with those in possession, which helps explains why Pocock's champion display was labeled with a rather less pleasant c-word in some circles this week - "cheat'".

Pocock won't rise to the bait. "It's been pretty funny this week, looking at my Twitter timeline and seeing what the fans are saying," he told a packed news conference.

"It's fairly standard in a game these days that number sevens cop a bit of heat from the opposition and that goes for McCaw as well."

If Pocock has stand-out characteristics, they are the classics of his position - speed to the tackle and head-down, rump-up strength when he gets there.

His absence with a back injury was a critical factor in the 15-9 pool game loss to Ireland. Against the Springboks he was not so much a thorn in the side as a human JCB, long yellow arms reaching down to dig the ball from the pile of green shirts with mechanical regularity and relentless energy.

"You've got to try to get in as quick as you can," he said. "As an arriving player, if the ruck's not formed, you've got all the rights and you continue to have those rights as long as you don't put your hands on the ball.

"That's the main focus - and then listen to what the referee is saying."

Ah, the referee. So hands-off was Bryce Lawrence when it came to hands on the ball in Wellington that he may as well have approached each breakdown with an arm thrown theatrically across his face.

It may well be the same again in the Wallabies's crunch semi-final against the All Blacks. Craig Joubert will be in charge, just a week after he was similarly relaxed while running the Wales v Ireland quarter-final in which Warburton impressed so much.

Pocock is unlikely to be too rattled by the barbs and accusations.

A smiling David Pocock

Pocock on the semis: "We have to step up from last week in the breakdown once again." Photo: Getty

As a boy growing up in Gweru, Zimbabwe, he experienced first-hand the ugliest side of the Mugabe regime. His family and hundreds of local workers were chased off their farm by government gangs and their next-door neighbour was shot dead as the violence escalated.

The Pococks fled to Brisbane, David's father taking odd jobs as gardener and factory-worker to make ends meet, with one of his younger brothers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their experiences.

The elder Pocock sought escape through sport, throwing himself into both rugby and water polo at the city's Anglican Church Grammar School and starring at centre, outside his Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper, in the school first XV.

He was only switched to the back-row during a two-day Under-16s representative trial, coming up against future team-mates Will Genia and Kurtley Beale on the way through. He made the Australia schoolboys side in 2005 and skippered the Aussie Under-20s team at their respective World Cup.

The senior international bow was a controversial one, coming at the expense of the legendary marauder George Smith - the most-capped Australia forward and the youngest player to have played 100 Tests. Three years and 37 caps later, the doubters have long since been silenced.

His battle with three-time IRB player of the year McCaw on Sunday is likely to be both the defining aspect of the semi-final and of his own career this far.

With stories about McCaw's injured right foot dominating the front pages of the New Zealand newspapers, Pocock may even start as the man in superior form.

Former All Blacks number seven Josh Kronfeld said this week he already rates Pocock as the world's best open-side. Pocock himself is as modest as an Aussie sportsman could ever be. When asked if he agreed, he replied: "I really don't know. I will leave that to you guys to talk about."

But his captain and coach were displaying no such bashfulness. Deans added: "The world is blessed with some very good snafflers at the moment but he is clearly a huge influence in any game he plays in. We would clearly be poorer for his absence."

Captain and lock James Horwill agrees. He said: "He's a guy who makes a difference on the ground to the whole team. We love to have him around and on the field."

The man himself is refusing to take anything for granted. Pocock insisted: "The All Blacks offer a different set of threats. They use a bit more footwork and their work at the breakdown across the board is a bit better [than South Africa] and more contested.

"We have to step up from last week in the breakdown once again."

At 30, McCaw is the old master. But the wham-bam from 'Bam Bam' could yet leave his young rival as the jackal with the last laugh.


  • Comment number 1.

    whats happened to Ben Dirs?

  • Comment number 2.

    Dusatoir has been playing at 6 ;)

  • Comment number 3.

    Agree with Deans... last week's Pocock performance was the best individual one of the tournament so far.... Nonu being up there as well. Pocock will have the same game again this week with the All Blacks having watched the South Africans nullify Genia and Cooper by stopping the ball getting to them.

    If the above happens then the difference will be the All Black finishing which hopefully will be a step up from what South Africa produced from so much possession and territory last week.

    A good game awaits us all........ good luck to both sides - may the best team win (as long as they dont have any gold on their jerseys)

  • Comment number 4.

    Agreed - he is good, hopefully the AB's pack can dominate the ruck so Pocock does not have an influence on the game!

  • Comment number 5.

    The South Africa reaction to Pocock has been ridiculous- he did nothing that McCaw or Broussow don't do. It's just that Pocock's display was probably the best performance by a 7 at a RWC. Big call but warranted.
    The referee was bad but huge calls went against both sides- particularly when O'Connor was entitled to a second shot at his conversion. The two forward passes to Habana and Lambie were forward. Roussow should not have grabed Samo's leg in the air. The ref got both calls right.
    It's just a shame that all of the controversy whipped up has detracted from Pocock's performance. The Boks would do better to ask themselves why their game plan didn't change in 4 years. You can't win games anymore solely on the back of field position, huge forwards and predictable running lines (no matter how hard and straight. The Wallabies saw it coming.

  • Comment number 6.

    More than likely Pocock & Co are going to win the breakdown, and McCaw under normal circumstances would probably be out injured with this type of foot problem. So, the Australians will probably get to the final. I hope Wales can meet them there.

  • Comment number 7.

    2. At 16:16 13th Oct 2011, Ten_Thousand_Fists wrote:
    Dusatoir has been playing at 6 ;)

    Yeah 6 is 7 in France.

    Pocock is a Zimbabwean rather than a Queenslander! His formative years were there.

  • Comment number 8.

    Pocock arrived in Australia when he was 13- he didn't learn to play breakaway in primary school.

  • Comment number 9.

    If the Boks want to shout about their dissatisfaction about the ref, let them go at it. It may take the shine off Pococks performance, but for the sake of Australia's next game and Pocock's own outlook on life, I think its rather a bonus.

    From an Australian supporters point of view, this is most eagerly anticipated game that I've ever watched the Wobblies play. We are up against the best and in their prime and there's no better way to test your mettle against a team like the All Blicks in a RWC semi final. Probably more pressure in this game that a GF because that final stage is not even realised yet.

    Of course Carter is missing, but such is their depth that the hole is quickly filled over. His opposite Cooper is flighty, but on his day, a dynamo. If he fires (and thats a big if), then the AB chokometre will be in meltdown.

    Both teams are pure quality and are coming into form just at the right time. I can't pick it, but the heart is going with the Wobblies by 5.

    If I were the victor of the other semi, I'd be worried about the GF.

  • Comment number 10.

    The 'Spotlight' is centered on Pocock now, is he breaking the rules?? The South Africans may think so. Or is this a cute ploy by the NZ press to deflect attention away from McCaw and his own playing style, which may also push the rule boundaries.

    I just hope that Pocock is not singled and punished by 'borderline' penalties before the game has even started. Looking forward to watching the battle of the No.7's. Just hope the SA referee does not bear any grudges with the Aussies and it is a fair fight in the All Blacks backyard.

  • Comment number 11.

    #1, I saw a tweet from Ben saying that he'd just arrived home and so I presume that he won't be blogging on the World Cup again. Fair play to the guy though, he had every right to write an "I told you so" blog but he didn't though...

  • Comment number 12.

    By the way, Pocock is the best seven in world rugby right now full stop. He sneeked into this world cup under the radar because he was injured for pretty much all of the super rugby season but what an impact he has made. Pure quality and a joy to watch a master at work.

  • Comment number 13.

    Fantastic player Pocock, really look forward to his battle with McCaw.
    As an aside strange how the Antipodean media relentlessly refer to Tuilagi as Samoan, but never a mention about the Kiwi Cooper, or the Zimbabwean Pocock, And yet all 3 arrived in their adopted countries at the same age (13). Hmmmm...

  • Comment number 14.

    Can't see how you can call Pocock a Queenslander?

    He moved to Brisbane in 2002 aged 14, and has played for Western Force since 2006.

    Regardless, McCaw, Brussow and Pocock can all be the best 7 on a week by week basis, depends on how they play their match. (I know Brussow "plays 6" but a South African 6 is a 7). I believe Sam Warburton isn't far behind them.

  • Comment number 15.

    Also, Australia to beat NZ due to Pocock at break down and Cruden playing 10 for NZ. Wales to beat France, but you can never count on which French side will turn up.
    If I'm right, I think a Welsh victory in the final due to scrum power (unfortunately).

  • Comment number 16.

    Funny, but all the complaints about the ref came from SA! Never hear the Australians criticizing him!
    Looking forward to both games with a dream final, ahead - NZ v Wales!!

  • Comment number 17.

    8. At 17:53 13th Oct 2011, willre13 wrote:
    Pocock arrived in Australia when he was 13- he didn't learn to play breakaway in primary school.

    He moved there aged 14 mate, has played for a Perth team for over 5 years and there is more to life than rugby, to making a man.

  • Comment number 18.

    @ Fishb8
    SA don't have anything to do now but complain about the referee, while Australia have a game to prepare for.

    However, give this clip some light and we don't need to complain, the visuals say enough themselves, and Bryce was perfectly placed to make a call for multiple reasons:

    Bryce Lawrence made some very critical and specially timed calls against Australia in both the Ireland and SA game. Calls that completely changed the momentum of the match. These calls effect the game for good 20 minutes after they have been made. Small calls in the moment but their lasting effect lingers.

    Example A: Ireland put a high ball up from their own 22. Quade Cooper attempts to catch the ball, it richochets off his shoulder back into the Ireland side of play, on the full. Ireland catch the ball, run 50 metres until they go out of play, and Bryce calls the play back for a knock on from Cooper 10 metres into the Australian half. Scrum goes down, Bryce calls a penalty against Australia for whatever he deemed wrong at the time and Ireland attempt the 3 points. So, how was there ever a knock on in the first place when the ball doesn't touch the ground?

    Example B: SA game, Quade Cooper (is this a trend?) throws a flat pass that Habana deliberately knocks down, which is a penalty every day of the week, but Bryce calls a knock on against Australia, again. Our flow never happened because of calls like this. Small calls, but their effects change everything.

    Australia HAVE been critical of Bryce Lawrence, but there's plenty more important things to talk about, like stopping the McCaw juggernaut, and how Pocock is going to be the juggernaut whisperer.

  • Comment number 19.

    Michael - the reason it was a knock on was:

    from the laws of the game:
    "A knock-on occurs when a player loses possession of the ball and it goes forward, or when a player hits the ball forward with the hand or arm, or when the ball hits the hand or arm and goes forward, and the ball touches the ground or another player before the original player can catch it.
    ‘Forward’ means towards the opposing team’s dead ball line. "

    And I know this comes as a shock but the ref's are human without the advantage of slow motion instant reply. Mistakes are made, just like they are by the players.

  • Comment number 20.

    See that Andre Watson has called into question Bryce Lawrence refereeing standards.
    So that's one incompetent ref having ago at another. Pot calling the kettle black !!!!

  • Comment number 21.


    Back, playing British press he is great, NZ press he's a cheat
    McCaw Playing British press he's a cheat, NZ press he is great
    Pocock playing SA press he's a cheat, NZ press he's a cheat, Aussie Press he's great.
    This is not meant an exhaustive review......but says it all.

    As for Bryce Lawance he is without doubt the worst Ref I have seen in many a year and his performance puts to bed the unjust nonsense about ability between the North and the South at least it should.

  • Comment number 22.

    Tom, your final paragraph could be the crucial one.

    If NZ go at this as a rucking game, then Pocock could be neutralised. Wales have done this brilliantly: tackle the man low and get him to the floor, then ruck over them in good numbers. When you are tackled, make sure the ball is placed back, and the team commit to the breakdown, not the ball. It is also what France did to England first half.

    France (not much talked about) gave a real lesson. No 8 picks up and runs to the blind side. The opposing back row are forced to go across to cover, then play goes the other way and the number 7 isn't there. Wales have done the same, and showed against Ireland tht they knew how to move the back row around and keep Ferris way from the breakdowns that mattered.

    McCaw and Pocock may be good, but IMHO the back row combinations of France and Wales as units are considerably better than the NZ or Aus teams. At No 8, Harinordiquay particularly would walk in to the southern hemisphere starting line ups. So roll on the battle of the back rows because if it is going to be what decides the games, then whoever comes out of Saturdays match should go on to win the cup.

  • Comment number 23.

    Damn, damn and thrice damn - if only his family had fled to England instead if Oz different our RWC may have been!
    (there again MJ would have probably gone for 'safety first' experience over the small matter of form and picked an out of form, unfit and injured mate from the RWC 2003 to play at 7 instead, on the basis of 'if there is one thing the opposition don't want to see is someone that played quite well against them a decade ago' theory)

  • Comment number 24.


    However, give this clip some light and we don't need to complain, the visuals say enough themselves, and Bryce was perfectly placed to make a call for multiple reasons:

    Doesn't the law state that the player has to be supporting their own weight? Yes his feet are on the ground but clearly laying on top of other players.

  • Comment number 25.

    From the IRB rules website:

    "Players must not handle the ball in a ruck except after a tackle if they are on their feet and have their hands on the ball before the ruck is formed"

    Pocock, and others, enter rucks and whilst on their feet use their hands, which by the rules of the game is a penalty. Occasionally they get there before the ruck is formed, but most of the time they don't. It is cheating, and while I think Pocock is a brilliant player, he should not be called a genius for persistently breaking the rules.

    Bryce Lawrence needs to go on a referees training course and learn the basic rules of the game.

  • Comment number 26.

    Inconsistency in referees?

    Whilst playing against Scotland England got penalised for turning the scrum quickly through 90 degrees, one week later France do exactly the same thing and they get awarded the penalty.

  • Comment number 27.

    I liked this article a lot. It is always good to read other countries' views of our country's rugby. Pocock is an exceptional player for Australia. Part of the reason he is "under the radar" is that Australians love running rugby and give all their love to the fast running backs, for instance, few Australian supporters really saw the obvious flaws with Quade Cooper's temperament before his disaster in the QF. It is a bit unsophisticated at times.

    I would also like to say that I think many rugby journalists and fans (it is absolutely true in Aus) miss what I believe to be a fundamental truth about World Cup rugby. If you look at successful teams over the years it is always the strongest defence that wins. Scoring hundreds of points against minnows means nothing because they have unsophisticated defense patterns. If the minnows can score against the top sides it means the defence has holes.

    My (slightly biased) view is that Australia will beat NZ because we have better defence than them. And central to this defence are the flankers, which is the basis of your blog post.

    Also ... I was lucky enough to go to the Wallaby v Springbok game. I am not normally a critic nor a follower of rugby referees but Bryce Lawrence was the talk of the Australian spectators before the game. There were some knowledgable types in the crowd around us. They were expecting a poor game from him and he delivered.

    I know the laws of the game well (I have played and coached for 35 years) but I found Lawrence's interpretation of the laws incomprehensible. The Wallaby supporters were totally bemused by him. His continued employment should be highly questioned.

    I can't say that he lost the game for the Springboks as the decisions were consistently inconsistent. He was not biased just very poor.

  • Comment number 28.

    Aust's defence is first rate. But NZ's attack is first rate too. NZ have better hit men to get forward drive. Aust via Genia is the most composed on both teams (now that Carter's gone) Both sides have shown they can win with less than 50% possession. They can both counter attack ruthlessly. NZ have a better bench. It'll come down to who makes the best decisions.

  • Comment number 29.

    Great article. Very surprised though that there isn't broader coverage of the Welsh team's progress at Very light.

  • Comment number 30.

    As a Zimbabwean I am very proud that a man from Gweru has done so well......The Mugabe regime has caused unfathomable damage to its people and flung us to all corners, so it's great to hear of these success stories.

    As a Bok supporter I was not impressed with Pocock's free reign in the break down however, and it was definitely what prevented the Boks driving home their obvious superiority in the match. This is not to detract from Pocock's ability and who as a "fetcher" should always be living on the edge! I just found it incredibly frustrating (and some Aussies watching the game with me were in disbelief I might add!) that Lawrence merely allowed the illegal pilfering to continue.

    I don't go with the conspiracy theories that it suited the Kiwis to face Australia rather than a resurgent Bok side, but I am certain the Lawrence was influenced by the lambasting he got from the Aussies after their loss to Ireland. Either way, the better team lost and I guess that's life (and rugby!).

  • Comment number 31.

    So interesting that with the high quality of open sides around England chose to play without a back row at all...
    ...or a forwards coach who can operate at this level despite years of trying....
    Will somebody please ring the wake up bell?

  • Comment number 32.

    I suppose we are all somewhat one eyed when we feel that our team has been hard done by.the Boks should have made more of the chances they had.this does not alter the fact that Bryce Lawrence is a poor ref.the interpretation of what is acceptable at the breakdown is so variable it makes a mockery of the rules.
    My prediction is that Craig Joubert will police the breakdown much more strictly( hopefully impartially)and that a lot more penalties will be the losing side whinge

  • Comment number 33.

    Seismic trash: thanks for the cut and paste effort, but knock-ons and the like are counter balanced by another law of the game called 'playing the advantage'. Enough was played in this instance and Ireland wasted it by running out of bounds.

    Goodpinchofsnuf: Pocock made the breakdown and was on his feet until Burger and Matfield's flying arm into his face pulled him off. What this clip is meant to highlight was Burger coming in from the side (illegal), being in front of the SA ball (illegal), raking Pococks face 3 times (dirty, but he has form with this type of thing), and then rolling off the ruck, off the side, into Australian territory (illegal). Even Kepu appealed to the ref to call Burger's play, but Bryce was probably looking into the bleachers thinking how awesome he was.

  • Comment number 34.

    I wouldn't call it a rake to the face, looks like he's just trying to get a grip on him and pull him off. Rest is accurate though . . .

  • Comment number 35.

    A lot of focus going on the various flankers, but if I was Australia I would be more concerned with Jerome Kaino then Richie McCaw. He has been immense this world cup - my player of the tournament so far.

  • Comment number 36.

    Good - but would have been nice to hear more about the other head-head.

  • Comment number 37.

    Good blog. Have to say, I tend to get more excited by the names mentioned at the top - Wilkinson of old, though! - but it's been an absolute pleasure to watch the performances of the 7's mentioned, and Sean O'Brien, during this World Cup.

    Pocock, for me also, is the standout. An incredible performance against South Africa. Personally glad that South Africa did not progress as they, like England (Englishman here), are not playing a brand of rugby deserving of a place in the semi-final.

    A real shame we are not seeing Carter v Cooper, but McCaw v Pocock will perhaps prove even more entertaining. Though, have to agree with Doris, Kano has been superb.

    And good luck Wales!

  • Comment number 38.

    It's no coincidence that three of the four semi-finalists have a genuine scavenging openside. I would say Dusautoir is more of a tackle merchant, and Bonnaire (the man who wears 7) is more of an 8, but then again, Harinordoquy is the main scavenging influence in the French side - but I wouldn't call any of them out-and-out opensides.

    Pocock, McCaw and Warburton have been excellent - no question about that. It just highlights England's failings to bring a genuine 7 into the tournament (Moody is more of a 6 than anything else).

    Plenty have highlighted the set-piece, or the backs being the key to playing good rugby and winning games, but it is all about the breakdown. NZ, Aus and Wales have kept winning because they have won the breakdown battle, thus allowing for quick ball, and stopping the opposition getting it too - then the backs can indeed show off their skills - but the key is having a technician in there who can steal ball - Pocock, McCaw and Warburton have been doing it very well. Also Brussouw (who makes South Africa look a different team), and other players who have deputised well (Sean O'Brien, and the aforementioned French trio).

    It's a very simple game, employ a proper 7 to play in the back row, and you are more likely to win games because you will win the breakdown.

    I think we might see a NZ v France semi final - but these are the tightest semi-finals I've ever seen - it could quite easily also be Aus v Wales. Though I think the ABs back row is simply just a little better than Australia's, the value of Read and Kaino's ability at the breakdown and contact area is often understated, whereas Aus proved they are at a loss without Pocock for ball-winnning purposes. (like against Ireland - who also played them off the park).

    I actually think that if France turn up, they will give Wales a supreme game, and I actually think this is the best chance Wales have got, and they are very capable of doing it. France proved last week you don't need an out-and-out 7 to win (although against England I think the criteria is just score a lot of points in the first 20 minutes and wait for them to wake up) - but Warburton can provide the tipping point, and he will work tirelessly to disrupt and steal ball. Wales looking very good at the moment, the French have looked... well... French! Totally inconsistent, but the key will be Warburton, Lydiate and Faletau cutting off the ever-impressive Harinordoquy, the wrecking ball Bonnaire and the legendary Dusautoir (who I have decided is a far better version of the old Lewis Moody - totally committed). If Harinordoquy plays like he did in 2010, and Dusautoir plays like he did in the RWC 2011 v NZ, it looks tough to see beyond them, but I'm backing Wales for this one. Cracking line-up of games. The 7s will have their work cut out for them.

    I leave you with a little joke:

    "An Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar. The Welshman isn't there - he's still in New Zealand."

  • Comment number 39.

    I think were going to have 2 extremley close games, wales i think will carry their momentum through and edge france 22-19, roberts is just a beast, i cant remember once in the whole tournement when hes been stopped in his tracks when running the ball, he always makes forward ground. I just hope hope wlaes dnt abandon their care free attitude in general play thats got them this far, i would hate to see them play it safe now in the semi's

    The nz-aus game will depend on nz being able to take their chances, in the run up the wc nz have been beaten by both sa and aus because part due to their defenses being immense and part nz being really wastefull(against sa especially). Their backs will create enough but if they dnt finish their chances i can see the aussies picnhing the game through penalties.

  • Comment number 40.

    What does everyone think of the current trend of Golfer using Belly Putters? Ernie Els has started to use on now. I think its a disgrace.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'd also ask why Tom Croft hasn't been converted into an openside yet. He's one of the fastest players in the England and Tigers squads, he's tall, strong, tackles well and competes well on the floor. In my opinion he's wasted on the blindside. I think he could be as good as Pocock if given the oppertunity.

  • Comment number 43.

    As soon as they come up against a good northern hemisphere ref who officiates the game as the rules are laid down by the IRB then their effectiveness drops dramatically

    a good ref? im sorry but weather a official is officiating right or wrong in a game its not the fault of the team taking advantage of that! sa complained to the heavens about pocock but heres a idea how about trying to do the same thing if the other team is getting away with it? if your stupid enough not to pick up in a game the ref is lenient at the breadown then its your own fault for not trying the same. Theres a reason pocock/mccaw are the best at what they do and it isant just down to the refs, if it was every num 7/ mobile forward would be doing the same

  • Comment number 44.

    But that doesn't change the fact that they are not playing to the full rules of the game. Thats not their fault and I don't blame them for doing it. The problem lies with the southern hemishpere referees consistently allowing them to do it. Those teams that do play to the rules are effectivly penalised for doing the right thing. That has to change. For one thing it would go a long way to evening up the interantional playing field, creating closer games between more countries. I don't really care which way the rules go but across the world rugby needs to be played to one set of rules and one standard.

  • Comment number 45.

    yes bob but my point is, if its a southern hemishpere ref then both teams can surely do it? how is one team at a disadvantage? if u cant addapt and play to how the ref is officiating the game then thats a poor excuse imo

    its not like ref intepratation is something new in sports? look how rugby league is officiated in australia compared to in england? look how the champions league is officiated compared to that in the pl

  • Comment number 46.

    The Aussies beat South Africa because the referee was in a coma-like state. I can´t imagine them having that much luck twice in a row.

  • Comment number 47.

    I would like to call fishb8's comment selective amnesia. I can vividly remember that the Aussies has lost against Ireland during this RWC. Furthermore, they complained about the exact same ref to the IRB. They reprimanded him – a case of bent science – I guess.

  • Comment number 48.

    bob17999, you description of Croft is exactly that of a good blind side. I don't think he has the low centre of gravity that great sevens are blessed with, that allows them to both recoverer their side's ball quickly and disrupt the oppositions. Crofty is an excellent player who would be my first choice in our back row. Its a shame we don't yet have someone with Easter's handling skills and Haskell's dynamism to play at 8.

    Agree the battle of the sevens will be exciting but in the SH game I'd say NZ have the edge in the back row with Kaino and Read. Kaino has been a monster in all of the games he's played and Read has a habit of doing the right things at the right time. Elsom has been a great battler for Oz over the years and Samo is enjoying a good end to his career but the All Blacks edge it for me.

    The key for the Green and Golds will be the fitness of Kurtley. Their backs are very good but for me Beale is the stand out performer, the one who cuts the best angles and makes the best breaks. When Cooper goes missing in action it is Beale who tends to pull the backline together along with their little general Genia. This should be a great game for us neutrals.

    I really hope the Welsh boys can maintain their confidence a put in another grand stand performance. They will need to as I suspect the French rugby team has more passion and backbone than their association footballing counterparts. It seems that their Captain has got his team fired up now, despite ML's strange decisions, and they will not want to go home without a decent showing. Another good game in store.

    I am English, but will be shouting for Sam and the boys on Saturday. Come on Wales!

  • Comment number 49.

    For the Aust backs to be truly threatening they need good go forward ball. Not much has been said of the questionable Aust front row, which I hope will be found wanting on Sunday.

  • Comment number 50.

    The Australian's really have some world class players. Pocock really underlines that. His performance against the Boks was immense. To say that his game was influenced by the ref is just not correct. A 7 also has to understand the game the ref plays and what he can get away with. Australia were hard done by against Ireland and rightfully let it be known about the refereeing. SA didn't take their chances and Australia did. Calls went both ways. To make over 140 tackles compared to 40+ and have SA in their 22 for most of the match and not concede is testament to Australia's team. They were the better team.

    Having said all of that, I hope it's a Wales v Australia final. Could be counting the chickens before that hatch but wouldn't that make for a cracking game of rugby!


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