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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Springboks to try out new options, All Blacks sympathise with France

Ireland coach says win against Australia in Melbourne means nothing unless they can wrap up the three-Test series this Saturday

Akker van der Merwe of South Africa passes the ball under pressure from England's Joel Launchbury. David Rogers/Getty Images
Akker van der Merwe of South Africa passes the ball under pressure from England's Joel Launchbury. David Rogers/Getty Images

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus will make changes for the third Test against England in Cape Town on Saturday with the series wrapped up and next year’s World Cup very much on his mind.

The Springboks took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series with what turned out to be a comfortable 23-12 victory in Bloemfontein on Saturday, despite having to come back from an early deficit for the second week running.

The Boks trailed 12-0 after 13 minutes, but seized control of the game, as they had the week before at Ellis Park when they roared back from 24-3 down to win 42-39.

"Being behind by only 12 points down and not 24 points helped a bit, but we got our composure back quicker than last week," Erasmus told reporters.

"There were still a lot of mistakes, but I thought the character the guys showed was enough to win the game. What the players learned last week and again this week will help them going into the future.

"But we don’t want to start like that again. Bad penalties that we gave away, bad discipline, a lot of things that we did wrong.

"It is nice to have the series wrapped up. Next week we want to try and win 3-0. But we will try a few new things because now we have the opportunity to put different guys in different positions under pressure."

Building capacity

The World Cup in Japan is 15 months away and Erasmus says he will use the Newlands Test, as well as the up-coming Rugby Championship and end-of-season European tour, to sort through the puzzle of his squad for the global showpiece finals.

"When you put a 31-man World Cup squad together, if you just take the props, hookers and the nines that is 12 positions already taken. If you want to build a squad you need to try a few things," he says.

"Who can cover 10, 12 and 15, who can cover six, seven and eight? If we don’t learn that in the next couple of months, we won’t be able to select a World Cup squad knowing that and we will have to guess a lot.

"Next week allows us to try a few things and that does not mean that we are making that Test less important. While we are trying to win, we are also trying to build our capacities, depth, experience and knowledge."

Benjamin Fall of France (in blue) competes for the ball with Jordie Barrett of New Zealand. The rench fullback received a red card for tackling his oppositie number while his feet were off the ground. Ross Setford / Reuters
Benjamin Fall of France (in blue) competes for the ball with Jordie Barrett of New Zealand. The rench fullback received a red card for tackling his oppositie number while his feet were off the ground. Ross Setford / Reuters

All Blacks sympathise with red-carded French fullback

Red cards are spoiling Test rugby, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen argued Sunday as fallout from the one that blighted the second Test between the All Blacks and France continued.

There was a reluctant acceptance that under the laws of the game, referee Angus Gardner had no option but to dismiss French fullback Benjamin Fall after his mid-air collision with Beauden Barrett in Wellington on Saturday.

Even so, both teams said that in the spirit of the game, Fall should not have been given his marching orders and the problem lay with a rigid interpretation of the rules.

With France reduced to 14 men after Fall was dismissed in the 12th minute, the game was as good as over as the All Blacks went on to win 26-13 to wrap up the three-Test series.

But even with a one-man advantage, the All Blacks struggled and after building a 21-6 buffer by half time, they were outplayed and outscored in the second half.

Hansen called for a laws revamp, saying Falls' contact with Barrett was not intentional and the Frenchman should have remained on the field.

He suggested that if Barrett had not fallen on his head there would have been no red card.

"Is it Beauden falling on his head or is it because they both went and contested for the ball?," he said.

"Unintentional collisions, that result in people landing the wrong way, being hurt; there's got to be some wriggle room for that. It's spoiling Test matches - red cards for unintentional incidents."

'Hard to rule on it'

When All Blacks prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi collided with the head of Remy Grosso last week, causing a double facial fracture, he escaped penalty - the accidental nature of the hit meant it did not meet the threshold for a red card.

All Blacks wing Ben Smith, an expert under the high ball, said it was tough on Fall to be sent off.

"I feel sorry for him, but [the referee] is just going off the rules and what he has seen. I think it is a really tough one because you still want that contest but it is getting very hard to rule on," Smith said.

"It happens pretty quickly ... It is hard because the guys go up and you lose your feet but that is the way it is and it is part of the game."

Barrett fell head first into the turf and left the field with concussion, making him an unlikely starter in the third and final Test next week in Dunedin.

His brother Jordie, the All Blacks fullback, said it was a "scary" collision but players knew it was an occupational hazard.

"You know you are in a vulnerable position when you contest for the ball. At times you do fall awkwardly and as we saw [Beauden's] was worse than other ones," the younger Barrett said.

"From a catching point of view, you can't think about it though.

"If you go up worrying someone's going to hit you, you're not going to catch the ball nine times out 10. You've just got to trust other players have a duty of care."

France coach Jacques Brunel said his fullback deserved a yellow card at least, but was unsure whether a red was warranted.

However, inside centre Geoffrey Doumayrou was adamant Fall should not have been sent off and said the fullback was knocked off balance by Anton Lienert-Brown as he rose to contest the ball.

"It was never" a red card, Doumayrou said.

Fall is to appear before a judicial hearing late Sunday.

Johnny Sexton of Ireland is tackled by the Australia defence during the second Test at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Graham Denholm / Getty Images
Johnny Sexton of Ireland is tackled by the Australia defence during the second Test at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Graham Denholm / Getty Images

Ireland's breakthrough Australia win not 'monumental': Schmidt

Coach Joe Schmidt says there was nothing "monumental" in Ireland's first win over the Wallabies in Australia for 39 years, unless a Test series triumph is delivered next weekend.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton starred as the Six Nations champions downed the Wallabies 26-21 in Melbourne on Saturday for their first Test win in Australia since 1979.

The series is now set for a decider in Sydney on Saturday.

New Zealander Schmidt said he was not basking in Ireland's breakthrough win and that everything now hinged on the third Test.

"I think it all depends on what we can deliver next week and I know the Wallabies will be thinking the same thing," he told reporters after Saturday's win.

Schmidt said his team had cut down on turnovers since their 18-9 first Test loss in Brisbane.

"I think we looked after our ball a lot better, there were probably half as many turnovers as we had the previous week, so that didn't allow them as much access to play off turnover ball, where we know they're so dangerous," the coach said.

He praised Keith Earls for keeping Israel Folau's usual aerial supremacy in check but said Ireland had struggled to match the Wallabies for stamina in the Test's final minutes.

"In that third quarter, we broke the line a couple of times really well but it was difficult to score in behind it.

"We were just hanging in towards the end there, which you don't want to be against an Australian team with the athletes they have and the way they like to play with width."

Injured players Andrew Conway, Dan Leavy and Cian Healy should all recover in time for the third Test, Schmidt said.

Conway will likely be back to full training on Tuesday after a hip knock, while the coach was optimistic about Healy's AC ligament injury and a "whack on the sternum" for Leavy.