new zealand japan rugbyThe November International rugby matches are here and there were contrasting results during Round 1.  The All Blacks were far from convincing with their messy but one sided victory over Japan 54 – 6 to retain the Raeburn Shield.  In contrast, England beat Australia in a tight match which was tainted in controversy which denied the Wallabies a chance at a Grand Slam.  The Maori All Blacks managed a tennis score win over Canada 40-15.

The All Blacks fielding largely an experimental team scored eight tries against Japan, but lacked their usual clinical precision.  Most players from this All Blacks starting team won’t start against France next week, but winger Charles Piutau did plenty to push his case for a starting spot with two tries.  Other players the All Blacks loose forwards were also impressive, while Ben Smith showed an improved performance at centre, although it is hard to read much into a win over  Japan.  Some players who didn’t help their future chances were Francis Saili who had a bad case of butterfingers, while Tawera Kerr-Barlow kicked too aimlessly and seemed slow at clearing the ball.  Beauden Barrett also looks better coming off the bench rather than starting.  We must realise that Japan is an improving rugby nation and they did beat an under-strength Wales earlier this year, so the All Blacks victory can not be understated.  Fumiaki Tanaka, Shota Horie and Michael Broadhurst were the best Japanese players in my opinion.

I had never heard of the Raeburn Shield until now, but apparently the All Blacks hold this fictitious shield which goes on the line every time they play.  It is a mythical shield.

England beat the Wallabies by seven points and retain their position as one of the toughest teams in the world to beat at home.  The cauldron or fortress of Twickenham is developing a reputation for being a graveyard for visiting teams.  The Wallabies will be disappointed with this result after the controversial try to Owen Farrell should have been disallowed and the Mike Brown foot in touch before England’s first try.  This result denies the Wallabies a shot at the Grand Slam and gives England the Number Three spot in the IRB World Rankings.  This result, no matter how controversial it was, will give England confidence for future matches.  While England got the rub of the green with those refereeing decisions, Australia are a team lacking confidence and while you get bad refereeing decisions, if the team still has confidence they can often still make better use of their chances.  It does defy logic that any Australian would lack confidence, but give the Wallabies have lost eight test matches this season, then it is hardly surprising.

The Maori All Blacks beat Canada 40-15 in the third match in the November International matches.  This team would probably only be the third or fourth best New Zealand rugby selection, so it is difficult to know if New Zealand has got great depth to beat a tier two type nation like Canada so easily in Canada or if it is a sad indictment on the lack of depth in world rugby?

There some major questions raised from the November International rugby matches
1)  Was it my imagination or were the in-goal areas massive in this test match?  These were probably enhanced by the fact that most of us have watched Sonny Bill Williams slip and go dead in the tiny in-goals at the Rugby League World Cup.

2)  In the England vs Wallabies match, surely the England try to Owen Farrell was a case of obstruction given that Stephen Moore was impeded.  Is this biased refereeing to suit the local team and fans?

3)  Should anything have been done about Mike Brown’s foot being in touch in the lead up to England’s opening try?  I think even if it is outside the jurisdiction of a TMO, they should still be able to rule on it or talk to the referee.

4)  Did anyone else see this happen?  When Dan Carter kicked a penalty into touch, one of the Japanese players was standing about a metre or two in touch and jumped and hit the ball into the field of play.  Why was this allowed to continue when I thought it was from a penalty and this player was definitely in touch.

5)  Has New Zealand rugby just got lots of depth when a third or fourth string equivalent team can easily beat Canada in Canada or does this simply highlight the lack of depth in world rugby?

6)  Did Steve Hansen get enough answers after trying so many new combinations against Japan?  Can you read too much into the performances of the All Blacks against Japan?

In the Super Rugby Tips SuperBru competition most people picked all the winners with 100 percent of people picking the All Blacks to beat Japan.  Three quarters of people picked England to beat Australia.  Most people in the Super Rugby Tips conference thought the Maori All Blacks would win by a smaller margin.  Almost everyone grabbed the Grand Slam Point for picking all of the winners, although I still find it difficult to pick the margins of matches where one team like the All Blacks is heavily favoured.  gdcraic has a slender lead heading into November Internationals Round 2, but there are plenty of matches left for other tipsters to catch up.

What did you make of the November International rugby matches Round 1?

Come join my November Internationals prediction game on SuperBru! It’s free and loads of fun. Just click here:
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