Saturday, February 2, 2013

International Rugby - Weekend Wrap

The competition is run over two years with the current one having started this weekend. The winner and runner-up of the 2013-2014 tournament will confirm their places at Rugby World Cup 2015. The prize for the winner is a place in Pool C which is Argentina´s pool and also will include New Zealand, Tonga and Africa 1. The favorite from Europe to enter this pool is Georgia and should this happen then there would be an Argentina v Georgia match for the third consecutive Rugby World Cup. The runner-up of the 2013-2014 European Nations Cup will qualify as Europe 2 and enter Pool D which will consist of France, Ireland, Italy and Americas 1. The team that qualifies as Americas 1 will be determined this coming July as Canada and the United States of America play each other in a home and away series. The loser will face the winner from the South American Qualifying series, possibly in November, also over two matches. The loser of this will have a final chance to qualify as will the third placed side from the 2013-2014 European Nations Cup. the Final Place Play-Off for Rugby World Cup 2015 will consist of Europe 3, Americas 3, Africa 2 and Asia 2. 

Russia 13-9 Spain
If the first round of matches is anything to go by then the competition is truely open to any number of outcomes. The three nations in the tournament who featured at Rugby World Cup 2011 all had tough matches. Russia´s home win in Sochi was tight and will not have given the players, coaches or supporters any confidence at all. Russia secured the vital four points but Spain was able to collect a bonus point, something that according to some, was not a likely outcome at all. It could prove vital as winning on the road in the competition is likely to be very tough with only Georgia and Romania being likely to return with victories. As such Spain´s bonus point already puts it in a better position than Portugal. Argentina´s Anibal Bonan played the match for Spain from the bench.

Belgium 13-17 Georgia
Ill-discipline from Belgium prevented what could have been a huge upset as the home team was leading 13-3 in the 44th minute. Georgia played poorly but was able to recover to win the match and collect the four competition points. Belgium collected a bonus point but also won a moral victory after it had not been expected to be capable of competiting well. Last year the teams met at under 17 level with Georgia winning by over 50 points. The match was mared by a fight that is certain to see players suspended. 

Portugal 13-19 Romania
A match that Romania would usually have been expected to win almost saw Romania lose. Portugal held a 13-12 lead in the 72nd minute but Romania came back to score its only try   to seal an important away victory. Romania had not played well and the result can be considered as nothing other than a relief for the Eastern Europeans. Portugal collected one championship point by virtue of losing by seven or less points. Romania, despite the result, remains second seed of the six teams in the competition. Argentina´s Juan Severino played at the back of the scrum for Portugal.

ENC Standings
1 Romania 4
2 Georgia 4
3 Russia 4
4 Belgium 1
5 Spain 1
6 Portugal 1

* Currently Qualifying for RWC 2015 as Europe 1
* Currently Qualifying for RWC 2015 as Europe 2
* Currently Qualifying for RWC Repercharge
* Facing Relegation to ENC Division 1B

All six participanting nations have already qualified for Rugby World Cup 2015. All of them qualified by virtue of finishing in third place or higher in their respective pools from Rugby World Cup 2011. England and Wales will play in Pool A against Australia, Oceania 1 and the Play-Off Winner. The Play-Off Winner is likely to go to Europe 3 which places extra importance on the European Nations Cup. The competition saw Romania qualify as the Play-Off Winner for Rugby World Cup 2011 while Portugal qualified via repercharge for Rugby World Cup 2007.

Wales 22-30 Ireland
Wales staged an unexpected secondhalf fightback after Ireland had been clinical in dominating the first half. Ireland held a 23-3 lead but Wales fought back well with three secnodhalf tries to finish as the better team. Ireland had gone well clear at 30-3 after a try to Brian O´Driscoll in the 43rd minute but was unable to play much rugby at all thereafter as Wales found its feet. Ireland gave in to pressure as two players were yellow carded but still held off Wales enough to complete an important away victory. USA born Ronan O´Gara was on the bench for Ireland. He is not likely to play for Ireland again after this years Six Nations. The likes of Paddy Jackson and Gareth Steenson appear to give Ireland plenty of support to Jonny Sexton. O´Drsicoll has been said to be on his final legs but hsi form would put him in pole position to start for the British and Irish Lions this year. 

England 38-18 Scotland
England let in two great tries by the Scot´s in what was an otherwise clear case of one team overpowering the other. England had too much superiority in the backrow for Scotland to be able to withstand and the boot of Owen Farrell again saw England create and sustain a lead. Farrell looms as a player to build a team around. Similar to Jonny Wilkinson in 2001 the English side could very well be shaped around his strengths and a master plan could be established for the World Cup. Farrell will be one to watch throughout the Six Nations. Ireland´s Jonny Sexton looms as the likely player to be flyhalf for the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia this year but Farrell could well overtake him. Like in 2005 and 2009 Scotland faces an uphill battle to have players starting for the Lions. One of its contenders, Dave Denton, had a good performance from the bench but was guilty of playing scrumhalf and throuwing a Mauro Bergamasco pass. The victory places England in a strong position to claim the title but this years competition looms as one of the hardest to predict given the form of France and Ireland. USA born winger Tommy Seymour is in the Scottish squad but was left out of the match day 23 for this match. 

Italy 23-18 France
The only match to be played on Sunday took place in Rome with France looking to get a good win under its belt to begin its Six Nations campaign. Italy had other ideas and produced an 80 minute performance to complete a stunning victory. The two tries scored by the Italians were actually scored by Argentine players. The first was scored by backrower and captain Sergio Parisse who is from La Plata and the second went to tighthead prop Martín Castrogiovanni who is from Paraná. Parisse´s try was created by a third Argentine player, flyhalf Luciano Orquera of Córdoba who broke the line from flyhalf before throwing a well directed wide pass which found Parisse clear with the tryline in his sights. Orquera also had a significant role in Castrogiovanni´s try as he offleaded to the prop in a tackle. France also scored two tries but Italy won by five points with the difference between the teams being points scored from the boot. Orquera kicked ten points - two conversions, one penalty and one dropgoal. The only points that were not scored by an Argentine player went to an Australian as Kris Burton replaced Orquera late in the match to kick a dropgoal of his own. Another Argentine born player, Gonzalo Canale featured from the bench. Canadian Robert Barbieri missed the game through injury.

Six Nations Standings
1 England 2 
2 Ireland 2
3 Italy 2
4 France 0
5 Wales 0
6 Scotland 0


  1. Damn, Parisse is son of Italian parents from l'Aquila, a rugby town of Italy, who moved to La Plata for job reasons. So Ronan O'Gara would be American because he is San-Diego born? Be more accurate

    1. I was merely pointing out that Parisse is from La Plata. I have no concerns with himm playing for Italy at all. O´Gara and Parisse are two very difference situations as O´Gara was born in the USA due to his parents living there at the time rather than living there permanently. It is the same as Jamie Heaslip who was born in Israel. Both were raised in Ireland.

  2. Also Canale has strongest links to Italy than to the country of birth. Do you know that more than half of Argentina team would be eligible for Italy? Amorosino, Leonardi,Senatore, Cabello, Contepomi, Orlandi, Figallo, Gosio, Vergallo, Postiglioni, Carizza, Cubelli, Tiesi. And what about Porta, Corleto, Todeschini?? uhmm..very Italias-sounding names

    1. Without question Canale was raised in Italy. Its similar to Jerry Collins and Chris Masoe who were raised in New Zealand but born in Samoa.

      60% of the Argentine population have Italian roots. Again, I am not saying these players should not be playing for Italy. Craig Gower would be a different story though.

    2. Craig Gower will represent Italy in the next Rugbyb League World Cap. He has Italian heritage throu' his mother side as Luke McLean and Kris Burton. Rugby is a minor team sport in Italy, behind football,volleyball, basketball and perhaps waterpolo, without imported players Italy couldn't select a competitive 15-men squad, but now things are changing and there are more Italian-born players to choose

    3. McLean I know is by all accounts well integrated to Italy.

      Gower on the other hand got put in the national team without being able to speak any Italian.