The world observed the passing of three significant rugby figures this past week, namely: the oldest living All Black, Bob Scott, who played 17 tests at fullback for post-WWII New Zealand; former Springbok centre and later coach Ian Kirkpatrick who earned legendary status amongst South African fans; and dynamic Toulouse centre Maleli Kunavore, only 29 years old, who suffered from heart complications that forced the Fijian into early retirement in 2010.
Frederic Michalak is the top points collector of the week, bagging 24 with his boot as France won convincingly over the Pumas. Merab Kvirikashvili scored all 22 of Georgia’s points against Japan before getting substituted for reasons unknown. The top try scorer was Craig Gilroy, who touched down three times against Fiji in Limerick.
THE GOLDEN BOOT AWARD
Not for total points, but for the sensational injury time snap drop goal by Japanese flyhalf Kosei Ono to steal the match against Georgia in Tbilisi. Even more amazing was that he was wearing someone else’s boots! Coach Eddie Jones explained: “He left his pair in Romania. So it was a pretty good effort by someone in borrowed boots who never practices drop goals!”
TRY OF THE WEEK
Some real competition this week, making it very difficult to pick a winner. Canadian wingers Jeff Hassler and Taylor Paris combined for a cracker against Russia, Joe Tuineau finished off a wonderful attack for Tonga, and who could forget George Pisi’s somersault finish in Cardiff? For pure determination and sublime athleticism, however, the award goes to Yannick Nyanga for his magnificent 34th minute finish against Argentina.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
If there was ever any doubt as to the international future of Scottish loosehead stalwart Allan Jacobsen following Ryan Grant’s outstanding performance against South Africa, it is now gone. ‘Chunk’ has elected to call it a day for his country after winning the last of his 65 caps as a replacement against the All Blacks a week ago. One of the few remaining old-school props whose waist usurped his chest, he made his debut in 2002 against Canada and has been entertaining us ever since. Well done, good sir.
WELCOME TO THE BIG SHOW
Just five newcomers to international competition this week: Zach Pangelinan started at fullback and scored 8 points for the USA in his long-awaited debut; Francesco Minto had the toughest of initiations in the second row for Italy against the All Blacks; unlucky Canadian flyhalf Harry Jones lasted only 22 minutes before succumbing to injury against Russia, who blooded their own Ramil Gaisin late in the game; and young Pumas prop Nahuel Lobo saw almost 10 minutes of action against France.
WALSH JOINS HALF CENTURY CLUB
Steve Walsh became just the third referee to appear in 50 tests on the weekend as he took charge in the French victory over Argentina. He joins Jonathan Kaplan and Alain Rolland as the only members of a very exclusive club. Walsh seems to have overcome the much-publicised off-field issues that led to him being removed from the NZRU panel. Since moving to Australia he has abandoned his confrontational attitude and has been in fine form with the whistle. It would surprise few if he was the man in the middle at the 2015 World Cup final.
NO CAPS AT THOMOND
For those wondering, the Fiji match at Thomond Park on Saturday was a non-cap international, hence the name ‘Ireland XV’ title for the hosts. The reason for that is a bit disappointing, as it seems that when the deal with stadium sponsors Aviva was struck, it was agreed that all full internationals would be played in Dublin. The IRFU might want to revisit that one, as it seems unfair to not only touring sides, but also to the rest of the Irish populace.
OFF TO SEE THE JUDGE
There were two citings from the weekend’s action. Argentina prop Juan Figallo cut open French captain Pascal Pape with a nasty headbutt that will likely see him suspended for a few weeks. A less convincing charge is that of contact with the eyes of Greig Laidlaw by Eben Etzebeth. It’s hard to see how the video evidence will support more than what appears to be a headlock at best.
COUNTING THE CASUALTIES
Scotland have suffered a blow as star lock Richie Gray will probably miss the match against Tonga after leaving Saturday’s game with concussion. Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist looks set to win his first cap in his place. Scottish coach Andy Robinson has dropped Ruaridh Jackson from the squad, instead calling Bath’s Tom Heathcote into action for the first time. The Scottish-born flyhalf came up through England’s age grade system, and most recently represented them in the IRB u20 World Championship this summer. Some very astute poaching indeed, Mr. Robinson.
The Australian injury disaster just keeps getting worse every day. Pat McCabe is now out for three months with a fractured neck, and Kane Douglas has been done in by a knee injury. Uncapped Melbourne Rebels duo Mitch Inman and Caderyn Neville will now fly out to joint the squad this week.
England will be without prop Joe Marler for at least a week with a grade 1 MCL tear, but should have incumbent loosehead Alex Corbisiero back after recovering from his own knee injury.
Aside from the possible Etzebeth suspension, South Africa is unlikely have J.P. Pietersen on the wing against England as he battles a groin complaint.
Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones will undergo surgery on the shoulder he injured against Argentina and could be out for four months, putting his participation in the start of the 6 Nations in doubt.
Ireland back rower John Muldoon damaged his MCL against Fiji and has been replaced in the squad by once-capped Leinster flanker Rhys Ruddock.
The Maori will face Canada without Kade Poki, Karl Lowe, and Ross Filipo, leaving them with only 23 fit players, just enough to fill the roster in their final tour match.