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Dublin, Edinburgh and Cardiff rejoice at All Blacks' decimation


Paul Cully

15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales) Click for more photos

RugbyHeaven team of the week - December 3

Paul Cully picks the best team from the weekend's two internationals. Photo: Getty Images

Occasions when the Irish, Scots and Welsh take any satisfaction from famous victories at Twickenham are rarer than accords stating all affairs are best run by the born-to-rule crowd from Westminster, but British and Irish Lions tours have always had a special alchemy.

So when, in the 58th minute of last week's 38-21 pummelling of the All Blacks, a giant young Samoan called Manu Tuilagi barged past Dan Carter, escaped from Richie McCaw and swatted away Aaron Smith, heads nodding their approval would have been sighted in Dublin, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

Until that point, only sporadic cheer had been taken from the efforts of the four nations against the southern hemisphere sides in the November and December Tests. After it, the possibilities seemed endless.

A 221-kilogram midfield combination of Tuilagi and Jamie Roberts running at Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor or, as now seems possible, Quade Cooper? It's the sort of thought that keeps Lions fans financially disciplined as they squirrel away their cash in tough times for next year's adventure.

Suddenly, it was game on.

The frightening thing, defensively, from Tuilagi's charge was that the quality of the ball was not that good. It came from a lineout move, but when England five-eighth Owen Farrell fed the monster he was not in full flight. Tuilagi was a little flat-footed, which ironically might have caused the All Blacks to drop their guards a little bit. It was the acceleration, the short distance in which he shifted that massive frame from second gear to fifth, that seemed to catch out two of the best defenders the game has seen. In a flash he was upon poor Smith, who was conceding about 30 kilograms in this catchweight contest and did not stand a chance. One delayed pass to Chris Ashton later and the right winger was over.

It's not as if the power hadn't been seen before. In June against the Springboks in South Africa, Tuilagi ran straight over Jean de Villiers, who has built a career tackling South African back-rowers of his own volition. But in that series, Tuilagi was equally as likely to run down a blind alley as through a brick wall. There was less of this offloading business that set up Brad Barritt for his try against New Zealand. The 21-year-old is developing his game.

Other acts of power from Lions candidates in November will also have been noted by Lions coach Warren Gatland, who was quoted last week as saying that when the Wallabies were troubled, they were troubled by the direct game. Scottish back-rower David Denton ran over McCaw and Owen Franks. Munster and Ireland hard nut Donnacha Ryan smashed into Argentines, as well as disrupting their lineout, and Roberts put on a thunderclap of a tackle on Samoan Tusi Pisi. If there is a theme developing here it is intentional: there will be a physical edge to Gatland's side. Of course sheer force will not be enough on its own. By the time of the third Test in Sydney next July, the Lions will already have been in Australia for more than a month. If Australian opposition is caught out by one approach they'll be ready for it the next time. Test teams are too clever, too analytical, to fall for the same tricks. Witness the change in Australia from Paris to London, or the change in the English from the Wallabies to All Blacks.

Accordingly, players such as Farrell, who not only can play at 12 as well as 10 but brings a different style than Irish five-eighth Jonny Sexton, come into their own. Leigh Halfpenny is another, a stepper in the back line to bring variation to a division packed with giants. Put rising Ulster winger Craig Gilroy in that category, too.

Yet it will be with the battering rams that the Lions will come most noticeably armed. Rugby sometimes cannot decide if it is a complex game or a simple one but the best coaches know it is both: breaking down the mysteries into simple messages for their troops. You suspect one of Gatland's will be, ''Let's go straight over over them before we go around them.''

How the Lions might look:

1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
2. Tom Youngs (England)
3. Dan Cole (England)
4. Donnacha Ryan (Ireland)
5. Geoff Parling (England)
6. Stephen Ferris (Ireland)
7. Sam Warburton (Wales)
8. Toby Faletau (Wales)
9. Ben Youngs (England)
10. Jonny Sexton (Ireland)
11. George North (Wales)
12. Jamie Roberts (Wales)
13. Manu Tuilagi (England)
14. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
15. Rob Kearney (Ireland)

16. Rory Best (Ireland) 17. Adam Jones (Wales) 18. Alex Corbisiero (England) 19. Richie Gray
(Scotland) 20. Sean O'Brien (Ireland) 21. Mike Phillips (Wales) 22. Owen Farrell (England)
23. Craig Gilroy (Ireland)

Twitter - @whiskeycully

20 comments so far

  • Good to have a laugh before the weekend
    Whats that old saying? swallow does not a spring make?
    One solitary win in almost 30 tests dating back to 2003
    Wales crushed (as usual)
    Payed poorly sure (thanks to fox have not actually seen game) and poms apparently put in a blinder............all record runs have an end date. AB's number one in ALL departments (see IRB rankings just released)...........daylight second and only because numerically speaking there has to be a second, third, fourth, etc
    Remember last lions tour to nz?? beaten in all tests (smashed), betean by NZ Maoris and, had AB players been available for their provinces would have lost a heap more games
    Taking any joy from that game hides the delusion in the northern hemisphere that they are really competitive (Tonga beating Scots?)
    Similoar to skippy delusion over the 3 wins. One in last 20 seconds and other as the Italian missed the penalty that would have won the game. The results could easily have been 1-3 not 3-1..........
    It will be tougher for wobblies to beat Lions than AB's and SA did to them but I will be cheering for them

    heading off
    Villavicencio, Colombia
    Date and time
    December 07, 2012, 11:06AM
    • @ heading off

      I would've thought it to be more correct to say....that one swallow doesn't make a summer in the Los Llanos. :)

      Thanks for your begrudging support for the Wallabies.
      At the end of the day THEY will be representing the Southern Hemisphere against the old enemy of the North.
      And if news is correct the Wallabies will have that man, Quade Cooper, steering the helm and weaving his magic across the park. One can only imagine the likes of Tuilagi, Roberts and North being left lumbering in QC's wake. A goose-step here, a dummy pass there, and then a loop-around to put anyone of a number of players heading for the try-line.

      Wow....things are really starting to look-up for the Wobblies in 2013...sorry I mean the Wallabies !

      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      December 07, 2012, 12:51PM
  • Saw the replay a couple of days ago, and if the All Blacks weren't sick I'm the Queen mother.

    The try you mentioned, Nonu didnt even get in the picutre, normally he is a great defender as well,... Carter and McCaw, burshed of with a feather.. never ever have I seen that before.. enjoy the win England, but I think retribution will be brutal next time you play those guys.

    As for the Lions, without QC, no chance, but with him... oo la la.. and can you imagine Israel Folou at 13?? Might be a bit quick for him, but a backline of Genia, Cooper, Tapuai, Folua, O'Conner, Ioane and Beale will give any opposing coach sleepless nights.

    Looking forward to the new season, hope the boys who played on the weekend get a decent break, they look like then need it ;-)

    Date and time
    December 07, 2012, 2:37PM
    • Ha ha that's a stunning display of ignorance if you think a single Scotsmen is celebrating an English victory Paul..... they'd celebrate a combined Adolph Hitler/Pol Pot invitational XV victory before they'd celebrate a single English win!

      The Loser's Corner
      Date and time
      December 07, 2012, 3:33PM
      • @Camomatic
        Yes, must admit I had a chuckle over that too. I can't imagine too many in Edinburgh, Cardiff or Dublin ever celebrating an English victory. The Lions tour is a completely separate issue which will take care of itself when the time comes.
        Sure, the AB match would have been encouraging for the Poms but I don't know how much should be read into a one-off result as a form guide to Lion's selections. Generally England and Ireland have been patchy, Wales have been well below their best and Scotland .... well .... the less said. The beauty of the Lions concept though is that you can cherry pick the available talent so they are likely to be formidable, particularly if the Wallabies are below par and continue to struggle to find the try line in 2013. Hopefully, the Wallabies A game will reappear after a couple of months break and renewed fitness for some injured top-liners.

        Date and time
        December 07, 2012, 5:09PM
    • Let them rejoice and certainly a deserved win to England! They've got some good up and coming players in the mix, the question is will they maintain their intensity. Every team steps up to play the AB's it's the team everybody wants to beat. Me thinks they'll lick their wounds dust off the dirt and come back with a vengeance. Will see in the new season... Enjoy the win it's hard to come by.

      And as for the ARU re-signing Cooper! What a joke, the kid's a spoilt little brat, you diss your country's team, the coach, the jumper and they let him back in. Bloody poor form, now any kid coming through the grades will think it's OK to be bigger than the game!

      Wal The Hooker
      Date and time
      December 07, 2012, 5:30PM
      • I agree with Wal the hooker re Cooper.How idiotic is the signing of Cooper. He has shown he is incapable of playing with any degree of competence, at an international level. What happened to selecting on ability? Hasn't the ARU learn't anything from the debacle of throwing money at the likes of Rodgers, Sailor etc ?. I was hoping Michael Hawker might have brought some sanity to the ARU .rather than continue the destruction of a game I love.To continue to throw money at the likes of Falau, Cooper and their money grabbing ilk is a sure way of driving those committed, dedicated players and supporters away from the game. Wake up ARU , join the real world and look at the big picture.

        Date and time
        December 08, 2012, 9:25AM
      • I'm another one that agrees with "Wal" on the Cooper issue. It's plain stupidity by the ARU to "back peddle" on Cooper. The bloke has no respect,no discipline, and is nothing but a spoilt "BRAT". Obviously, his manager, Nasser, is a good con-man, or the ARU are really showing, as to what I have been saying about them,is true. I can just imagine Tuilagi running at him, and putting pressure on him. Here we go again,kicking out on the full, forward passes,running away from the tackle( a la Ma'a Nonu) and all the other "brain snaps"he has in his repertoire. Isn't he going to join Koder Nasser's bulls..t boxing circus? Along with Mundine & N.Z. heavyweight champ SBW. (when's is he going to fight the former No1 heavyweight contender David Tua?). What a scream the ARU has turned out to be. Do something for the game in this country. We need a strong ARU.

        Date and time
        December 10, 2012, 10:58AM
      • My earlier comments above about QC's possible contract and future with the ARU where firmly tongue in cheek !

        I'm in total disbelief as to how and why this (the ARU contract) has happened....unless as chinese whispers have it Deans is a done deal. But even then it still doesn't make sense. Or is it just an outrageous affront to what being a Wallaby (in my mind) is/should be really all about. I remember listening to QC when asked, if fit and well, would he play for the Wallabies in the next match and he said no.
        What the .... ****!

        Seriously, I don't understand this at all. What is happening ?

        inner west sydney
        Date and time
        December 10, 2012, 5:49PM
    • Cooper aside, looking forward to the Lions coming over, the timing seems about right for the Wallabies to stand up, and whoever runs the coaching box is gonna have his hands full against Gatland. The home unions do have some exciting players, and getting them all together and forming a team I think will be something special. SUCH a shame they wont be touring NZ. :-)

      We are Red
      Date and time
      December 07, 2012, 7:00PM

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