#360Rugby: Time for north to change

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Craig Joubert is in the World Cup firing line, but is criticism fair?

As the Rugby World Cup reaches its dramatic crescendo, Andrew Binner and Matt Jones take a look at four lessons learned from the quarter-finals including how to penetrate the All Blacks and  why Wales could lose Warren Gatland.

– RWC: Joubert misses out on semis after controversy
– #360view: Back to drawing board for northern hemisphere
– #360business: All Blacks land partnership with Bulgari
– RWC: Du Plessis & de Jager in fitness race for semis

Can anyone stop the All Blacks?
After tearing bogey side France to shreds, New Zealand sent shockwaves throughout the Rugby World Cup.

Though their 62-13 destruction of Les Bleus was devastating, South Africa should not – and won’t – be overawed in their semi-final clash on Saturday though.

Though the scoreline was seismic, can they really rack up a similar scoreline on the weekend against a physically imposing Springboks?

It’s unlikely, although it is certain that Heyneke Meyer’s team will have to play at their very best, while hoping the All Blacks are not quite as on their game as they were in Cardiff last weekend.

After a wobble against Japan, South Africa are now playing well. Fourie du Preez is leading by example and their pack is going to really take it to the All Blacks, particularly the on song Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Lood de Jagerand Eben Etzebeth.

One thing the Boks can probably rule out though is complacency on the part of the men from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

In the hour after the match, Hansen was not basking in the glow of victory but working at keeping the Kiwi feet firmly on the floor.

 “We haven’t won the thing, so we can’t get too excited,” he said. “We have played South Africa a lot of times and they are great rivals and we are good mates with them. It’s going to be a hell of a contest.”

It really is.

Craig Joubert: Coward or unfairly treated?
World Rugby have punished disgraced South African referee Craig Joubert for his mistake in the quarter-finals by over-looking their most senior official for the semi-finals.

However looking back at the facts, the question must now be asked,”Is the South African being made a scapegoat for World Rugby’s failings?”

Joubert made the incorrect decision which had the unfortunate outcome of sending the wrong team home from the tournament. However given that Australia’s knock-on was difficult enough to see on the replay, surely he can be forgiven for the mistake given his impeccable history as a Test referee?

An important and little known point regarding the incident is that according to World Rugby’s rules as a try was not claimed by either side Joubert was not allowed to use the TMO to review the incident.

At this point many of the former professionals like Gavin Hastings and Matt Dawson who have called for Joubert’s head, should hang their heads in shame. If they had been dropped from the sport after making one mistake on the pitch, none of them would have had a career longer than three matches.

The time has come to review the rules and perhaps the Twitterati should be aiming their abuse at World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper, and not the humble referee.

What’s next for Wales and Warren Gatland?
Wales will be hurting after their Rugby World Cup exit but one silver lining is that the Six Nations is less than four months away – and Warren Gatland’s side must go all out to re-assert their reputation domestically.

Having won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, Wales have been forced to sit and watch Ireland take the last two championships, and the Dragons must now focus on firing once again in the northern hemisphere’s premier international rugby competition.

Centre Jamie Roberts, although still bruised and broken following Wales disappointing World Cup exit at the weekend, is already looking forward to the tournament.

“It is less than four months until the Six Nations kicks off and in a few weeks we will start looking forward to that,” he said. “It is something we desperately want to win again.”

One more key aim for Wales is keeping hold of Gatland and his back-room staff.

Reports emerging following their World Cup exit surround the futures of Gatland, defensive coach Shaun Edwards and attack coach Rob Howley, the latter two will be out of contract next summer.

Gatland is contracted until 2019 but stories have surfaced that England could be interested in his services should they decide to pull the trigger on Stuart Lancaster.

Apart from the fact that losing Gatland to the old enemy would irk Welsh fans and certainly leave the WRU red-faced, Wales’ improvement under the Kiwi since he took charge in 2008 cannot be underestimated.

The Six Nations playing-style must now be revolutionised
The reputation of northern hemisphere rugby is lying in tatters and once again, the Six Nations has become the butt of all southern hemisphere jokes. And rightly so.

Steve Hansen this week labeled European rugby ‘fractured’ while Argentina defence coach Pablo Bouza went as far as to predict that the Pumas would not be in the semi-finals if they had been allowed entry into the Six Nations in 2007.

As England 2015 prepares to host its four southern hemisphere semi-finalists it is difficult to disagree with either man.

However in February the Six Nations sides have a chance to remedy their misfortunes by unleashing the plethora of attacking talent that exists in the north.

France’s Top-14 must find away to let their home-grown players prosper in first teams alongside foreign imports, while England must become more Bath than Saracens.

Ireland and Wales can count themselves as slightly unlucky with injuries but must look to develop a style of attacking rugby that their supporters can be proud to get behind and the results will come.

Extra time
As England’s disgraced World Cup flops integrate themselves back into Premiership life it is great to see that not all players have lost their sense of humour. During Harlequins 26-21 victory over Wasps last weekend, notoriously humorous prop Joe Marler had an entertaining conversation with referee Luke Pearce.

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RWC: Joubert misses out on semi-finals after Scotland controversy

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World Rugby have decided to penalise Craig Joubert for his mistake.

South African referee Craig Joubert will not be involved in next weekend’s World Cup semi-finals.

– #360view: North have no answer to southern hemisphere
 – RWC: Former players slam Joubert as decision costs Scots

– RWC: Australia snatch dramatic win over Scotland

Joubert blundered in awarding Australia a late penalty during Sunday’s quarter-final that Wallabies fly-half Bernard Foley kicked and condemned Scotland to an excruciating 35-34 defeat.

World Rugby said in a statement that having reviewed the incident, the “appropriate decision was a scrum to Australia for the original knock-on” and not a penalty.

English referee Wayne Barnes and Frenchman Jerome Garces have been awarded the semi-final ties at Twickenham, World Rugby announced.

Garces will take charge of Saturday’s clash between South Africa and New Zealand, with his countryman Romain Poite and Ireland’s John Lacey appointed as assistant referees.

Barnes, meanwhile, will control Argentina versus Australia next Sunday, assisted by South African Jaco Peyper and Irishman George Clancy.

The appointments would suggest that Welshman Nigel Owens is in pole position to referee the World Cup final at Twickenham on October 31.

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Samoa coach Stephen Betham steps down after Rugby World Cup exit

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Walking out: Stephen Betham.

Samoa coach Stephen Betham has resigned after the Pacific islanders' disappointing World Cup performance, chief executive Vincent Fepuleai said on Monday.

Samoa Rugby Union's Fepuleai said more was expected from the team, who exited in the pool stage after losses to Japan, South Africa and Scotland.

He told Radio New Zealand that a review into the campaign was underway but Betham had already decided to leave after three-and-a-half years in the job.

"Stephen has called it a day, I guess, and there will be opportunities there and I think we will go through the proper process in recruitment of a new head coach and so forth," Fepuleai said.

– #360view: Southern hemisphere dominates as the north ousted

– RWC: Argentina beat Ireland to qualify for semi-finals
– #360business: RWC playing a major role in tourism

"The position would be advertised internally and externally and we will secure the best person who we think will take us over the next four years to World Cup success."

Samoa not only failed to make the knock-out rounds of this year's tournament but must face a gruelling qualification campaign to make the next one in 2019 after finishing fourth in their group.

Betham complained during the tournament that referees were singling out the Samoans for their physical style of play but the team continued to give away penalities and yellow cards.

They lifted for their final match against Scotland but the island nation's main newspaper the Samoa Observer said the overall campaign was marred by "wrong selections, poor discipline and the absence of leadership".

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