This is the poster from 2005 signed by Tana Umaga ahead of 1st test on Saturday

The match day 23 for the first Test of the DHL New Zealand Lions Series is listed below (with Test caps in brackets):

This is the poster from 2005 signed by Tana Umaga (my daughter was 5 ) at the time..Casey is now 17 and will be watching on Sat ..helps put the series into perspective the significance that some great players never get to play the Lions -Special thanks to Mike Greenaway for getting pic signed

1. Joe Moody (25)
2. Codie Taylor (16)
3. Owen Franks (91)
4. Brodie Retallick (61)
5. Samuel Whitelock (85)
6. Jerome Kaino (78)
7. Sam Cane (41)
8. Kieran Read (97) – Captain
9. Aaron Smith (59)
10. Beauden Barrett (50)
11. Rieko Ioane (2)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (34)
13. Ryan Crotty (26)
14. Israel Dagg (62)
15. Ben Smith (61)

16. Nathan Harris (5)
17. Wyatt Crockett (59)
18. Charlie Faumuina (47)
19. Scott Barrett (5)
20. Ardie Savea (13)
21. TJ Perenara (30)
22. Aaron Cruden (47)
23. Anton Lienert-Brown (10)

The matchday 23 sees the return of captain Kieran Read with Ardie Savea moving to the bench.

Rieko Ioane has been named on the left wing replacing Julian Savea in what will be Ioane’s first start in his third Test.

It will also be Ioane’s third time facing the Lions in this year’s DHL New Zealand Lions Series. Ryan Crotty returns from injury and has been named at centre, with Anton Lienert-Brown moving to the bench.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions. But in the end the three selectors felt this was the best combination to take on the Lions in the first Test.

Hansen added it was great to have Read and Crotty back.

“They’ve both been on target to return for this game all the way through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the squad, they’re really excited at what’s ahead of us.

“I’d also like to congratulate Rieko on getting his first start for the All Blacks. His outstanding form throughout the season this year, including against the Lions, has earned him his start on the wing.”

Hansen said there was a massive amount of excitement within the team.

“There’s a real understanding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The players are well aware of the history of the All Blacks and the Lions and are determined to respect that history with their performances.

“We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team; probably one of the best to have toured here. It’ll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing Test to prepare for and to be part of. We know the importance of this match and we will bring real energy and intensity. It’ll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test.

“There will be a unique and electric atmosphere at Eden Park on Saturday night. It’s something we’re really looking forward to and we can’t wait.”

Interesting Facts
* The DHL New Zealand Lions Series is the 12th tour to New Zealand by the Lions. The first game was in 1904. The teams have played 38 Test matches.

The All Blacks have won 29 of those matches.

* The most recent Lions Test was at Eden Park on July 9th 2005 where the All Blacks won 38-15.

* The All Blacks last weekend became the first team to reach 15,000 Test points in the team’s 553rd Test. (15,002). France is second on 13,450 points.

* Beauden Barrett has now scored 321 points in Test matches and is fifth on the all-time All Blacks list. Aaron Cruden is fourth on 322 points. The top three are pretty well-known names: Carter, Mehrtens and Fox.

* Owen Franks will become the ninth most capped All Blacks in his 92nd Test on Saturday, equal to All Blacks great Sean Fitzpatrick.

Brodie Retallick says the All Blacks will be ready for what’s coming in the opening test against the Lions.

Forewarned is forearmed, reckon the All Blacks when it comes to that withering defensive line-speed of Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions. As Steve Hansen would say, they might just have more up their sleeves than their arms.

They know it’s coming all right in Saturday’s opening test of the series at Eden Park, and they have seen first-hand the way it can squeeze the life out of such quality opponents as the Crusaders and New Zealand Maori who have both been ground into the turf by Gatland’s full-strength, fast-off-the-mark weekend lineup.

Gatland’s shadow test squad has conceded just one try in 160 minutes of rugby on this tour, and pummelled both the Crusaders (12-3) and Maori (32-10) in the process. They may be struggling to find their attacking flow, but you simply cannot fault the manner in which they have defended through two impressive victories.

Clips from those two games will have been loaded en masse on to the All Blacks’ devices and will be compulsory viewing all week as they build up for the always pivotal opening encounter of this delicious three-test series that only rolls round every dozen years.

The brains trust of Hansen, Ian Foster and Wayne Smith will also be game-planning like mad, and the players expect to see so much of the defensive tactic on the training field all week, that by the time the test rolls round, receiving ball and defender all but simultaneously will be second nature.

That all said, two of the All Blacks’ big boppers admitted it’s a tactic the Lions use extremely well and is just different enough to anything else out there to be a shock to the system of the ill or under-prepared.

“They brought a real intensity, and we saw probably how they will play,” said Brodie Retallick of the Maori game. “It’s all about us this week and what we’re going to do to overcome their line-speed and attack.”

But the 26-year-old rated by many as the world’s best lock conceded there was enough newness to the Lions’ methods to warrant respect. “We don’t see it as intense as the Lions do it,” he said of a ‘D’ line with an Olympic sprinter’s speed out of the blocks.

“Some New Zealand Super Rugby sides are using it, and the Hurricanes do it really well. But it’s not something you face week in, week out. You’ll play Australian or South African team and if numbers are down they’ll hold and push instead of just flying up like the Lions do.

“I guess it’s a wee bit of perceived pressure because you’ve got someone coming fast at you. We will train that this week and get used to it, but it is slightly different to what we’re used to.”

That said, Retallick wasn’t exactly wiping beads of sweat off his brow when the subject came up at Monday’s media conference, on the back of a morning gym session and busy day of meetings to set the agenda for the week.

“We know it’s going to come, so acknowledging it’s going to happen is a starting point. And we’ve got certain skills or aspects we want to adapt to beat it. We’ll train it this week and put a plan in place where hopefully we can get outside it or in behind it.”

Veteran loose forward Jerome Kaino, who confirmed his readiness with a solid 57 minutes in Friday’s romp over Samoa, said it was a part of the Lions’ game that had to be prepared for.

“Whatever any team does, there’s always an opportunity [to find space elsewhere], but also it’s how you deal with their pressure,” said the 78-test No 6. “From what we’ve seen it’s been a strength of theirs and puts teams under a lot of pressure and makes them do things they don’t usually do.

“We’ll address that this week and train areas where we can attack it. But it’s awesome how they defend. The Lions just don’t miss their tackles when they get up there.”

The other perceived strength of the visitors is in that pack which is expected to be retained en masse from the Maori game. The All Blacks understand that if they can match, or even shade, them in the arm-wrestle, they’ll be a long way down the track to a 1-0 series lead.

“You always want to measure yourself against the best, and the way northern hemisphere teams have been playing the last couple of years in the forwards, they’ve set the standards. I want to measure myself against those guys,” said Kaino, a likely starter in the loose trio alongside skipper Kieran Read and openside Sam Cane.

Added Retallick: “We’ve got huge respect for what the Lions are and what they’re bringing. Their set piece is a real asset – their scrum and lineout maul. It’s going to be a battle there. They’ve got some big, ball-carrying loose forwards and we’re going to have to get in front of them and make tackles.”

Forewarned, forearmed and certainly fervent, this is a test that can’t come soon enough for these All Blacks.

source : Stuff

One year today the Rugby World Cup kicks off in England . How are the coaches feeling ?

Exactly one year today the Rugby World Cup kicks off in England and wonders how well the coaches of the leading teams are sleeping as the countdown starts to the big September 18 kick-off in London.

Some are sleeping better than others, make no mistake, and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is no doubt one of them, and not just because his team are just about unbeatable, give or take a draw with the Wallabies earlier this year and their last loss being against the Boks in Port Elizabeth way back in 2011.

The thing with Hansen is that besides having the reassurance that his team annually sets the standards, each season he has full control of his players and a complete evaluation of their form.

That is because only Super Rugby players in New Zealand are eligible to play for the All Blacks. If you are a Kiwi and you go overseas to earn the big bucks, you surrender any chance you might have had to play for the black jersey. It does not matter whether you are Richie McCaw or Dan Carter. You play in New Zealand or your surrender your All Blacks status.

You can come back, of course, and re-earn your right to the jersey with a season of Super Rugby, but while you are abroad your international career is on hold or over.

It used to be that way in South Arica but a decade or so ago the South African Rugby Union decided that they would pre-empt their rivals and would be the first of the major unions to select overseas-based players, the thinking being that rugby must ultimately follow the oldest professional sport in the world, soccer, and that eventually the Springboks would be a team picked from clubs all over the world.

It makes sense, and maybe Saru has got it right and eventually professionalism in rugby will go the way of soccer. Currently, 75 percent of the Argentina team is based in France.

The point is that while money will eventually guide the world’s best players to the clubs with the biggest cheques books, even leading New Zealand players, the fact is that the “amateur” Kiwis are currently keeping hold of their best players in New Zealand with the lure of the Silver Fern.

Steve Hansen has the easiest selection job in the world. He just watches Super Rugby every weekend and, as far as his players are concerned, he is comparing apples with apples. It is a piece of cake, or apple pie if you like.

So let’s ask Heyneke Meyer the rhetorical question of how easy it is for him to pick a Springbok team for the June internationals and the Rugby Championship, and even the end of year tour, when his leading contenders have been playing all over the world.

He is comparing apples with pears and bananas. Obviously he sees how the Super Rugby players are going but can he honestly pick players based in Japan on form rather than reputation?

Fourie du Preez, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fouries, Andries Bekker (what happened to him? why can the other “Japs” be picked but not him?) are not the same players they were when they join the Boks after a holiday camp eating sushi in Tokyo. South African players go to Japan because they earn big bucks and have a fat jol. They come back unfit and over-weight.

Frans Steyn is over there now. He came back from his stint in France looking like the Michelin Man and took ages to get match fit for Super Rugby standards, and when he did. He went from playing terribly to be being outstanding . Will he be a sumo wrestler when he comes back next year?

It was Jake White who three years ago sounded a warning to South African rugby. He said “Select overseas players at your peril, you are making a rod for your own back. You send the wrong message to the players, and mark my word, the average age of our players going overseas will drop year by year because they know the back door to the Boks is always open, while the Springbok coach will have no yardstick to compare players because they will be in different competitions all over the world and in different stage of fitness.”

In New Zealand rugby, their idea of a crisis is a losing sequence of one-game in a row

In New Zealand rugby, their idea of a crisis is a losing sequence of one-game in a row. Heck even a draw against Australia a fortnight ago got them into a tizz, prompting coach Steve Hansen to call for a week of serious introspection “from myself down to the waterboy.”

The country was seriously miffed and the fact that the 12-12 draw with the Wallabies in Sydney denied this All Blacks team the chance to break the world record of 17 consecutive wins had a lot to do with it.

The result was 50 points put past the Aussies in the return game in Auckland at the weekend in a performance that was quite possibly the best of the professional era. It really was that good. The Wallabies should have known better – don’t make the All Blacks angry!

Later on that day, we watched the Springboks labour to a narrow win over the Pumas in Argentina, in the process suffering the ignominy of being repeatedly shoved off their ball in the set scrums. Some big Springbok reputations took a knock and it will be interesting to see how the tight forwards respond against the Wallabies in Perth next week.

But back to the All Blacks and their ruthlessly efficient performance. They played the game at a tempo rarely seen and with an intensity that no other team in world rugby can match. The Wallabies did not play that badly, but they simply could not live with the raw power and aggression of the super-charged Kiwis.

The Boks’ underwhelming performances against Argentina – in the wet of Pretoria and the stifling heat of Salsa – left South Africans depressed about our chances of beating the All Blacks this year, in Wellington and then at Ellis Park in the final match of the Championship.

The funny thing is that it is not impossible to beat the All Blacks if you play the right game. It IS impossible to beat the All Blacks if you try and match their game. They are too strong and too fit. We saw that last year when the Boks took on the All Blacks at their own game in that memorable match at Ellis Park. The Boks were trying to score four tries to earn a bonus-point win and secure the Championship, and they looked the part for three-quarters of the game before running out of steam and the Kiwis ran in three tries without reply in the final quarter.

Heyneke Meyer was the first one to acknowledge that the Boks were not fit enough that day. At the end of last year’s tour to the northern hemisphere he said the same thing again – South African rugby lags behind New Zealand rugby when it comes to conditioning. Meyer called for a national conditioning programme to be run by his fitness team. He knew it would never happen because our Super Rugby franchises own the players and follow their own programmes as well as play leading players into the ground out of self interest. The Bok coach plays second fiddle.

The New Zealand Rugby Union owns their players, not the franchises and Hansen and his management team call the shots, ensuring players are fit through a national programme and that senior players are rested.

In 2009, the Springboks beat the All Blacks three times, including a win in Hamilton, the last time the All Blacks lost a Test on home soil. The Boks did it with a highly effective kick-and-chase game. They sucked the All Blacks into trench warfare and avoided high-paced, attacking rugby.

The Boks have to cut their suit according to their cloth. It might not be as entertaining as the way the All Blacks play, but it is the only way the Boks can beat them.

By Mike Greenaway

All Blacks bite back to secure Bledisloe glory 51 -20

Retribution indeed.

Moral of the story? Don’t make the All Blacks’ forwards angry. They will bite back.

Seven days is a long time in sport – an even longer time to stew on a poor performance. Very rarely do you see the All Blacks miss their lofty standards by such a margin as they did in the dour Sydney draw last week. Yes, the conditions were difficult. Yes, the referee had a shocker. In the end, they are excuses.

Tonight, instead, was an explosion of pent-up frustration, particularly from the bigger boys in black. They deserve the credit for locking away the treasured Bledisloe Cup for a 12th straight year. The backs sure couldn’t have recorded this 51-20 recoding breaking victory – the most points at home against the Wallabies – without them.

The big difference between Sydney and Auckland was the physical aggression of Steve Hansen’s forward pack. This week they did the dirty work.

They cleaned out rucks with vigour; they flew off the line and whacked those in green and gold jerseys with tag-team tackling. Dane Coles was a force with ball in hand; Brodie Retallick thundered into everything and Kieran Read was back to his usual prominence.

Collectively, as an eight-man unit, they rattled the Australians to lay an exemplary platform. They were ruthless.

By the 50th minute, when Read crashed over, the visitors were stuffed – the All Blacks’ brutal mix of fast-paced counter attack and crunching defence had grinded them into the turf. After that, it just seemed cruel. Almost like bullying at the school playground.

Not even Richie McCaw’s fair yellow card for cynically playing the ball on the ground could stop his men. The same could not be said for the Wallabies pack – sent backpedalling in the first scrum after Sam Carter was binned for infringing at the maul. Carter’s card proved much more costly, his side conceding (14 points) two tries – one a penalty try from a five metre scrum shunt – while he was off the park.

If it wasn’t already a proven fact, we can also now confirm there’s something undeniably special about Eden Park. The venue continues its fortress status – 20 years and 33 tests since the All Blacks last lost there. It’s going to take a damn good team to break that record.

Down 23-6 at half time, the Wallabies’ decision to stay on the field, rather than retreat to the changing rooms, in a bid to diminish the ground’s mystique looked laughable. Clearly changing hotels didn’t work either.

The 50,000 sell-out crowd were treated as the All Blacks ran in six tries. Many of those were orchestrated by Aaron Cruden.

After a sub-par performance in Sydney, Cruden’s game management was superb. On the back of a supremely dominant forward display he thrived with the time, space and freedom all playmakers desire. The short kicking options, delayed passing and running game – Cruden’s full range of skills were on display.

With Ben Smith chiming in frequently from the back, the All Blacks’ left-side attack was lethal, allowing Julian Savea to run rampant down his flank. Conrad Smith’s return to the backline – after missing last week with the birth of his first son – can also not be glossed over. There were some notably telling touches from the classy centre.

Filling Ma’a Nonu’s considerable shoes, Ryan Crotty can be pleased with his contribution before succumbing to a cheek bone injury at half time.

This was a crushing reality check for Ewen McKenzie’s men. They thought they had turned the corner. After arriving with the knowledge they blew a gift chance last week, they leave with their eight match unbeaten run well and truly quashed. They’ve got some work to do yet before their forward pack is not seen as having a soft underbelly.

McCaw and co. hold higher standards than the average team and they won’t be happy about letting in two soft tries to Israel Folau and Michael Hooper late in the second half. They can’t afford such slip ups against South Africa in the coming weeks.

But, for now, they will savour sipping from the Bledisloe.

SCOREBOARD

All Blacks 51 penalty try, Julian Savea, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw 2, Steven Luatua, Aaron Cruden pen 3, con 5, Aaron Smith con Wallabies 20 Israel Folau, Michael Hooper tries, Kurtley Beale pen 2, con 2 HT: 23-6.

– Stuff

 

Rugby Championship 2013 -My take on things

Well it all starts on Saturday in Sydney -All Blacks vs Australia . and then latter that day Boks vs Argentina

The simple point to make is the Boks will always have a Steyn or Van Der Merwe to be competitive ,but to win the 2013 competition they have no chance.

Forget the waffle one hears on Supersport ,this Bok team is average at best .What are you saying by bringing back Fourie Du Preez and Pienaar at 9 for the Boks is a one trick pony.

The Boks will loose both the tour matches one in Brisbane and the other at Eden Park against the All Blacks , but to be fair not many teams do win at fortress Eden Park.

So where does it leave the Boks? -3rd at best and mind you they could trip up at Newlands -A Steyn penalty in the dying minutes saved them last time out against Australia and by the time the Boks play the All Blacks on 6 Oct at Ellis Park it could be all over by then .

All Blacks champs again for 2013 ?

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