Best of the Weekend: Wales on top, All Blacks win comfortably

England Rugby

The All Blacks avenged their defeat in Australia last week by thrashing the Wallabies 36-0 at Eden Park, but still somehow lost their Number 1 ranking as Wales beat England at the Millennium Stadium.

Australia gave a fairly insipid account of themselves, and after Christian Leali’ifano missed two shots at goal when they were almost on top near the beginning, heads seemed to drop and they accepted what was coming.

In typical New Zealand fashion, they put together two quick scores to take the game away from them, and then pounced on errors to compound the Wallabies’ misery.

Dane Coles was yellow-carded for throwing Nic White out of the way by his neck, some distance from the ball and the breakdown, and although yellow was probably the right call, by the letter of the law it could have been a second red in as many weeks for New Zealand.

Wales the best team in the world

In another ‘friendly’ that never quite got going, Wales beat England 13-6 to even things up after losing at Twickenham, and they claimed the top spot in the World Rugby rankings. Warren Gatland can no longer claim underdog status ahead of every match they play, although I’m not convinced they really are the best team in the world.

They scored a controversial try, taking a quick penalty as Anthony Watson was leaving the field for the sin bin and Owen Farrell was still in discussion with the referee, but the home side deserved the victory, winning the contest at the breakdown and never allowing England to get going.

Dan Biggar was named Man of the Match, proving that he can fill Gareth Anscombe’s boots at the World Cup, whilst stalwarts Ken Owens and Alyn Wyn Jones impressed up front.

Without Tom Curry or Sam Underhill, England struggled to sustain any momentum, echoing the issues of several years before these two players surfaced. But they also seemed to be carrying the ball less, perhaps protecting Billy Vunipola a little, and instead kicked away a lot of ball to spend most of the afternoon defending. The white wall kept Wales at bay for the most part, and actually drove them backwards more often than not, which is encouraging for England fans.

Ruaridh McConnochie was made to wait for his first cap once again, withdrawn with an injury and replaced by the impressive Anthony Watson. Watson continues to put pressure on Elliot Daly’s position at full back, who had another mixed performance.

France thrashed Scotland 32-3

I didn’t see this game in Nice, and so can’t offer anything in the way of insight, but the result certainly raised an eyebrow. The scoreline suggests that England’s group rivals are getting their act together just in time, although I’d like to know how much was down to Scotland’s performance.

The enormous Alivereti Raka made his debut on the wing and scored within two minutes, and by playing Wesley Fofana and Gael Fickou in the centres, there’s some concern that France are developing the subtlety to go with their huge physicality.

South Africa keep up momentum with win over Argentina

The Springboks backed up their Rugby Championship victory last week by claiming another win over the Pumas 24-18. There were lots of changes to the lineup, but Rassie Erasmus has his squad moving in the right direction, with depth in every position and plenty of optimism ahead of the World Cup.

Now that we’ve seen most of the big teams in action, here is how the World Cup is going to play out:

Rugby World Cup

You can have a play with Superbru’s RWC knockout calculator here.

Let us know what you thought of the weekend’s rugby.

14 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Wales on top, All Blacks win comfortably

  1. I have just seen on eBay that the step ladder Dan Biggar climbed to perform the high tackle on Maro Itoje Saturday is up for sale.

    The ref has yet to put a bid in as he hasn’t seen it……..

    1. Hahahahahhaha that has cheered my Monday morning up. It was like an ice hockey body check! Glad we didn’t see all the England players throwing arms up in astonishment trying to get Biggar punished (well unless I missed them doing so)??

      1. My immediate thought was a slow mo replay on Planet Earth as the first Hyeena gets the death grip on the Wildebeast with Sir Richard Attenborough narrating over the top.

          1. Yes Mark, but that’s wrong, and has been clearly established as being so. Don’t be whingeing Poms, it’s so disappointing on this distinguished site.

    2. Enjoyed your world cup calculator. But it’s already for sure that England aren’t getting out of their pool. You heard it here first!

  2. Wales, number one in the world? I know that they’ve had a great run but not convinced that they are the best in Europe although not much to choose between them, Ireland and England in my opinion (and maybe France by the time the RWC starts?). NZ still have to be undisputed top team playing at the moment. SA closing the gap though.

    If I had to give a top ten at the moment, my feeling is that it would probably go as follows:- NZ, Ireland, Wales, SA, England, Australia, France, Argentina, Scotland, Japan. However, after NZ, the next four are all pretty close and could have arguments made for being higher. Australia can probably beat anyone in a one off but not convinced that they are consistent enough for a proper RWC run, and France are …… well France. As we’ve been saying for the last 8 years, if they get their act together they can beat anyone. Will they? Answers on a postcard please.

  3. Completely disagree with the World Cup prediction I reckon we’ll have 3 NH teams reach the semi with NZ and I fancy Japan to squeak through group knocking out Scotland.

    I have a Eng v NZ and Ire v Wales SF. I anticipate a NZ v Wales final after a very tight pair of matches and I’ll push for Wales.

    I do think that both all 4 will lead there groups too. If we look at the ranks (not just wales number 1) it’s shows the consistency of NH teams and SH have overall lost a step in the past few years. Any of those teams could turn up and destroy my prediction but I’m expecting a NH winner

    I’ll back Wales to produce that the WC is young but I feel now is the time for wales to snag it it won’t happen often

    1. Optimist? You’re writing a form SA team off then? Aus sustained a run last WC. France don’t even feature? Wales may need to stiffen their fr row & do their back row have enonugh ballast?

      1. Not discounting anyone as I said the SA teams have the quality to break my prediction in two, but I’m not seeing it just now and I’m basing it on the consistency shown.

        Wales win is optimistic definitely but looking at form they have been solid. Yes a loss to England a week’ish ago knocked the rust off – given England domino aged the first 30min or so. Wales always seem to start slow and come back whether that be in a single game or the 6nations structure. In a WC with tougher opposition the further you go I think having that ability is vital and Wales have demonstrated it.

        This isn’t to say Eng, Ire, SA & Aus can’t do that but I lean towards NH controlling the latter stages. I’m very interested in Ireland’s next few games to get a better view of how key elements are performing – the sexton pairing hasn’t been at its best for Ire lately but if they return to form it could be a huge difference

        1. MC, the indicator chart above is to be taken with a pinch of salt. Why would the 5th placed team, England, nec go through to the final? Or southbound Ireland beat SA, following 2 6N defeats? Too many uncertainties. Wales finally scraped past Aus last autumn & their 2 tough last 6N games were @ home. Looked under-gunned up front to me @ Twickenham & only scored 1 try in Cardiff when Watson was carded. OTOH, they didn’t get to 1 by accident. However, it’s teams with depth, exp, having had blow outs to define the best 2 in each posi & with momentum going to Japan that will likely be most threatening. In this respect SA are the most consistent. Aus looked good before last Sat. So far, Wales & Eng are up & down. Ireland, yet to see. NZ? Scraped & drew, then blew out with 14. Having given their rookies a mass run, changed the squad nxt up, now look to know their best 15 after last w/end. They also cut out previous errors. So bit surprised that, when all will be AWAY, that you lean so north.

  4. England up to 3. Ireland below them now. What a difference a week can make. Top 2 remain as they were. A little more WC jockeying to go yet?

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