During the Rugby World Cup, we are going to highlight all of the best and worst performances of the week, by praising and berating individual players throughout the tournament. After the final warm-up match between Ireland and England and the conclusion of the Tri-Nations last weekend, we’ve picked out some players who stood out, for differing reasons, and will look set to make a big impact at the World Cup.
Big Radike’s story is quite something, as he scored his first test try for the Wallabies against New Zealand in Brisbane on Saturday. Now 35 years of age, Samo was last part of the Australia set-up back in 2004 when he won 6 caps whilst playing for the Brumbies in Super Rugby. Stints in France with Stade Français and in Japan followed before Samo was picked up on a short-term contract with the Queensland Reds on returning to Australia, when James Horwill was out injured during the 2010 season. From there the renaissance was completed, with Samo winning the Super Rugby title this year with the Reds, and he has now moved ahead of Ben McCalman, Scott Higginbotham and Wycliff Palu in the pecking order.
On Saturday, he was awesome, busting through All Black tackles and running in an astonishing 60 yard try in a blistering first half for the Wallabies. Not many people break through first Dan Carter, and then Richie McCaw, on the same run after all. On top of this, his big defence left an impression on New Zealand, making him a certain starter for the World Cup. He will have to be managed well by Robbie Deans given his age and fitness, but for the big games against Ireland and Italy in the World Cup he will almost certainly start. Everyone loves a journeyman.
Having now featured in two of England’s World Cup warm-up games this summer, Tuilagi looks like an essential pick for Martin Johnson. He combined well with stand-in captain Mike Tindall in midfield, and Chris Ashton aside, he is the most potent attacking option that England appear to have in their armoury. Johnson stressed how it was important for Tuilagi to experience playing in an atmosphere away from home, and he seemed to handle it rather well. His try was well taken, and he showed some aggressive defence and nearly grabbed a second after an opportunistic break. His midfield combination with Mike Tindall should start against Argentina in England’s first game.
Another old dog going strong, Murphy’s Ireland career looked all but over following his initial exclusion from the Rugby World Cup squad. But an injury to Felix Jones has brought him back into the fold, and with a full 80 minutes and one brilliant try-saving tackle on his Leicester Tigers team mate Manu Tuilagi under his belt, Murphy proved he can still mix it with the best. This World Cup will undoubtedly prove to be his international swansong, but he looks in good shape to support Rob Kearney in the 15 position.
Picked out here for all the wrong reasons, Read’s injury is a concern for Graham Henry and the New Zealand coaching staff. Read has torn the ligament between his tibia and fibula in the left ankle, and according to All Black doctor Deb Robinson is set for some “aggressive rehabilitation” to get him fit for the pool games at the back end of the group stages.
Read’s absence should be covered by either Victor Vito or Jerome Kaino, who are both really 6s, highlighting the lack of recognised number 8s in the All Black squad. They will want Read fit as soon as possible.
Who stood out for you this weekend? Highlight them below.
by Ben Coles