Monday, August 19, 2019

2019 RWC Test Preps


International Exams On the Weekend, plus

Friendlies, or probative intercontinental sallies, whichever, went down on the Friday/Saturday and, besides a number of players being conspicuous by their absences from their respective nation's roster, outcomes were about as expected: All Blacks solidified their backline in a what-for Wallabies; Red Dragon got their own back versus Men of the Rose; Springboks applied their method on Pumas in Salta; Les Bleus showed Thistle-and-Saltire something; and Azzurri roughed up the Bear.

New Zealand got their own returned with a blanking of Australia at Eden Park, 36-0, after suffering loss to Wallabies at Perth in the first round of 2019 RWC preparations. The three-quarterline of Aaron Smith through to Beau Barrett looks set; maybe a query or two concerning the pack, but All Blacks showed the first side backline, pretty much, on the day. Previous 15, Ben Smith, with 66 caps, was moved beyond the wing to make room for Beau Barrett, who moved to fullback to make room for Richie Mo’unga at the pivot... and it appears Smith will keep moving until he arrives onsite with Top 14 club, Pau (Section Paloise), possibly to start in the 2019/2020 opener the upcoming weekend for the French club, as that competition begins. Australia, for their measure, made ground and had considerable possession during their defeat, but could neither touch down nor split uprights for to count. All Blacks will have one more run-up v Tonga on September 6, the Friday, at Waikato Stadium before departing for several dates with destiny on the Home Islands of Japan beginning with the most important in the fixture v South Africa on September 21.
Australia host Samoa, Saturday, September 6, at Bankwest in Sydney before setting sail for 2019 RWC.

Wales, with former newbie Dan Biggar pulling strings behind the scrum, leveled accounts with England in a relatively uninspiring, 13-6 win over an Owen Farrell-less Men of the Rose squad that’ll be differently-complected come the Sarries 10’s return to action. The only try of the match came from the flying George North in the 32nd minute after Anthony Watson’s wings were clipped for a tenner for slapping forward a Welsh try just prior. Wales have home-away fixtures with Ireland at Millennium, August 31, and the RDS, 9.7 and then its off to determine their own fate;
...while England host Ireland at Twickers on the upcoming RugbyDay, 8.24, and then have a go at Italy on St. James Park in Newcastle, Friday, September 6 - then an Owen Farrell-fortified Englander team will test the world.

South Africa, with the switched-up halfback combination of Cobus Reinach/Elton Jantjies, did the necessary at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, and brought home the 24-18 victory over the Pumas. Visitors started Felipe Ezcurra-Juan Diaz Bonilla  at 9/10, were up at midpoint and drawn past the hour mark, but a brace of subsequent Jantjies’ sticksplitters made the difference. South Africa, like Kiwis (with whom they drew last time out and who are their opening-round opponents!), also have a single fixture, though it’s on the trot v 2019 RWC host, Japan, at Kumagaya Athletic Stadium (Saitama, Honshu). ‘Boks could very well bookend their opener with the same opponent in the Webb Ellis Cup final.
Argentina are done until the Pumas blockbuster initial match v France on Saturday, the RugbyDay, September 21.

France displayed fine form in Nice for 32-3 victory against a Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw-less Scotland with Camille Lopez in the 10 shirt and Antoine Dupont serving him up the pill, while the halfback duo of Baptiste Serin-Romaine Ntamack rode the bench for homeboys. France fullback, Max Medard, grounded a brace in the win.
France hope to reprise their result at Murrayfield this Saturday, then on Friday, the 30th, a date with Italy at Stade de France, while Scotland go after France on the upcomer and then it's hosting of Georgia before the big show in Japan.

Italy hammered Russia, 85-15, in either a show of Azzurri might or an exposure of the weakest side in the 2019 RWC pools, your call. The Bear’s competition in the A Group must be planning now to field a reduced side in their respective fixtures v Russia as Ursa Major have a large bit of work to do in the next month.
Italy get after France, Friday the 30th, and then it’s a final against England the following Friday 9.6 at Newcastle.
Russia are in a one-off against Jersey a week tomorrow and then it’ll be a good bit of preparation for the Bear until the ursine 2019 RWC opener v Japan, Friday September 20, Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo.


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