VAMOS LOS TEROS!
Those who watched the Uruguay-Russia qualifier match on Saturday were treated to a terrific precursor to what England has in store next year. The Montevideo crowd was superb, and the players responded with an enthralling battle ending in victory for the home team. It confirms Los Teros as the 20th and final entrant to the competition, their first since 2003.
After nearly embarrassing the Americans earlier in the year it’s a great accomplishment and surely a positive for the tournament. Unfortunately for them they’ll be slotted into the ‘pool of death’ that includes hosts England, Australia, Wales, and Fiji. A win amongst that group, comprised entirely of professional players, will be highly unlikely, but you can bet they’ll be heavily supported by the locals who love to back the underdog.
Russia meanwhile have only themselves to blame after a lacklustre performance at home and mediocre results given their resources. One has to say they have been enormous underachievers and the IRB will not be pleased that one of their ‘project’ markets has floundered so badly. Some organizational restructuring is in order and hopefully they’ll rebound with a more positive and professional attitude going forward.
FIJI A CLASS ABOVE
What a sight to see the Flying Fijians back to their best to kick off he new 7s season. Ben Ryan has got them playing as a unit again, and on song there is no more exciting team in the world, New Zealand included. For Gordon Tietjens, this was his side’s worst opening round performance since 2005, coincidentally the year Fiji won their first and only title.
Kudos also to Mike Friday, who has made an immediate impression on the Americans, and Dicky Taufua who has revitalised the Samoans. It’s amazing what good coaching and accurate selection can achieve in such a short amount of time. As for the Gold Coast itself, let’s hope that venue is canned for eternity.
AUSTRALIAN RUGBY IN TATTERS
Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Wallaby HQ. It’s been a media free-for-all since it was announced that Kurtley Beale was under investigation, and there is a sense that the best (or worst) is yet to come. Will Beale be tossed out in the cold? Will Ewen McKenzie go with him? Should Bill Pulver be held accountable?
Given the rumours flying around and the evidence that has come to light thus far, it’s difficult to believe McKenzie’s side of the story. It’s plain to see that there is a severe off-field culture problem at the Wallabies, and at the end of the day it’s the head coach who is responsible. That said, surely the chief executive of the ARU has to be accountable for the behaviours of the staff that he has appointed, or at least rubber-stamped.
Making the whole ordeal that much worse is that the ARU are in no financial position to be handing payouts to McKenzie, or Pulver for that matter, in the even they are canned. Michael Cheika’s name has been bandied about as a probable replacement and his ability to handle Beale at the Waratahs suggests that he is a better man-manager than McKenzie evidently is, but there’s also no question that internal politics between Cheika, New South Wales, and the ARU would make such a move incredibly difficult. What’s crystal clear is that the rot has set in on Christie St., and walls will have to be torn down to clean up the mess.