All Blacks training squad announced

Probably our first crop of youngsters to compare with the 2011 U20s (Brodie, Beauden, Cane, Piutau, Taylor, Luatua, Weber, TJP, Naholo, Anscombe, Tameifuna and, um, Soapy and Shields. Here’s a few names you are likely to become familiar with:

6. Cullen Grace 20yo. We’ve struggled at 6 since Kaino retired but this guy will be special. 6’4”, concrete shoulders, abrasive, great spring, massive engine.

8. Hoskins Sotutu 22yo. You’ll see him stride down the touch line and offload in a three man tackle in these highlights, but he’s also got Zinzan like skills. Calm head for a kid too.

14/15. Will Jordan 22yo. He just makes things happen in ways the opposition aren’t expecting. Fast, good in the air, prolific. See his two tries in these highlights, one sharp poach and one textbook leap to win the game in the 84th minute.

11. Caleb Clarke 21yo. The sevens star is a stocky ball of flying muscle reminiscent of Inga the Winger.

5. Tupou Vaa’i 20yo. Just an impressive young man. Former head prefect at Wesley College, he was thrown into the deep end at the Chiefs when all locks over the age of 21 were injured and nothing seemed to phase him.

Of the names you’ll already know, Reiko Ioane has returned to his schoolboy position of 13 and his outside break and strength are complemented good distribution and decision making. Big brother Akira is finally meeting his potential too.

Big lock Patrick Tuipulotu was given the Blues captaincy and leadership agrees with him. He’s finally putting that power to good use too.

Jordie Barrett has taken ownership of the Hurricanes back line since Beauden left and seems to have cut out those brain fades. Goal kicking very well too – interesting that he and DMac took the kicks on Saturday. DMac was back to his best on Saturday too, including later on at ten.

Beauden got the back line moving very well on Saturday, something I’ve not always been convinced of. Mo’unga was average though as was Tu’inukuafe.

Here are the highlights and the squad. Some very classy tries.

Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor. Props: Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi. Locks: Quinten Strange, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i, Sam Whitelock. Loose forwards: Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Cullen Grace, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu. Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber. First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga. Midfielders: Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown. Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece.

The rugby team whose political stance cost them their lives

A powerful and little known story from Argentina

Discovering more felt even more necessary having spoken to Claudio Gómez, an Argentine journalist and author of Maten al Rugbier (Kill the Rugby Player), the definitive book about the disappearance of 20 players from La Plata, one of the country’s main clubs, because of their left-wing activism.

Even in Argentina their disappearance among the thousands of the “desaparecidos” — 15 of the 20 dead players have never been accounted for — is something that he strongly feels the sporting community neglects.

To understand more, we have to take ourselves to the tumult of Argentina under Isabel Perón, who served as president between 1974 and 1976 before she was ousted by a right-wing military coup.

We must transport ourselves, too, to the clubhouse of this rugby team in La Plata, the coastal city that is a short drive from Buenos Aires, where middle-class and left-leaning athletes gathered to play but also to discuss their politics and active resistance. Some of these men modelled themselves as a latter-day Che Guevara as well as keen sportsmen.

“In 1973 and 1974 they had put together a great team with great players,” Gómez explains, noting that La Plata was becoming renowned as the leading force in a growing minority sport. “Little by little it was decimated.”

Hernan Rocca, the scrum half, was the first to be executed, found blindfolded and murdered with as many as 19 gunshot wounds in 1975. The first three disappearances from the rugby club would fall in the Isabelita period.

Rocca’s team-mates were on a tour to Europe when they learnt of the killing. “When they returned nothing was the same,” Gómez says.

Legend has it that for the first match back against Champagnat a minute’s silence turned into ten minutes of mourning but also of defiance. When a try was scored the entire team jumped on each other in solidarity or perhaps bracing themselves for what was to come.

General Videla presents the hosts Argentina with the 1978 World Cup

General Videla presents the hosts Argentina with the 1978 World Cup

There had been 1,500 political murders in 1975 but things were about to get much worse after the military coup of March 24, 1976. The regime was ruthless with anyone suspected of involvement with the revolutionary left and its resistance of kidnappings and bombings.

“As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure,” General Jorge Rafael Videla, leader of the military junta, declared. By June 1978, Videla was presenting football’s World Cup trophy at the River Plate stadium while, less than a mile away, dissidents were being tortured and executed at the most notorious detention centre in the heart of the city.

The 20 players from La Plata club would be among an estimated 30,000 who disappeared before the military regime was overthrown in 1983. Otilio Pascua was among them, taken in Mar del Plata, a seaside resort, along with his team-mates Santiago Sánchez Viamonte and Pablo Balut.

In an Italian-Spanish documentary La Plata Rugby Club — No Bajen Los Brazos(Don’t Lower Your Arms), some club figures from that period reminisce about their friends — their qualities as athletes and activists — but also how they would be taken in the night, first to be interrogated and tortured. One asks if Pascua’s hands were tied when they found him. “He had no hands,” a former team-mate replies.

Of an estimated 220 athletes who disappeared under the regime, 152 were rugby players. It was La Plata who suffered the worst, a significant number from the first XV among the 20 murdered.

Younger reserves were drafted in to fill the gaps as players were killed for their involvement with the main leftist groups, the Montoneros and ERP (People’s Revolutionary Army) which were systematically wiped out.

“The team continued to play despite the absences,” Gómez says. “Among the other rugby teams they called them ‘the team of the Montoneros’ with contempt.”

Members of the La Plata rugby club team, several of whom were murdered in Argentina in the 1970s

Members of the La Plata rugby club team, several of whom were murdered in Argentina in the 1970s

Many had the chance to seek asylum and safe exile in France. These were families who could largely afford to send their offspring away to Europe. “But they all refused. They were convinced that their destiny was in the fight for the revolution,” Gómez says

His book, sadly, is not available in English — nor Silencios by Claudio Fava, which also documents this extraordinary story — but Gómez says that he was careful not to glamorise these players.

“I don’t like to consider them as heroes,” he says. “I prefer to take them as boys who gave their lives for an ideal, for a revolution that they believed possible. In that generation there was a lot of idealism and also a lot of mistakes.”

The March date of the military coup is marked in Argentina as a day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice with mass gatherings and ceremonies, yet Gómez thinks that rugby can do more.

“They are only honoured by their families, by human rights organisations and by a minimal sector of society,” he says. “In the club there is a plaque with their names. Only that. When I published the book five years ago many La Plata rugby players wrote to me to tell me that they did not know the history of these boys because no one had told them.”

It took another 20 years after the killings, he says, for La Plata to recover its status as a champion side in Argentina. The impact on the families, on widows, siblings and children of those who disappeared, is, of course, never ending.

Super Saturday Live

live rugby is back… with near capacity crowds! Two games a weekend for ten weeks, same times each week. Expect rust this week, but fast, high quality rugby most games. Enjoy!

Highlanders v Chiefs 8.05 Saturday

Aaron Mauger v Warren Gatland. Go the mighty Chiefs! No Cane, Moli, Harris, To’oavo or Ardron but Weber, ALB, McKenzie and the benched  Cruden star in an exceptional back line.

Blues v Canes 4.00 and 10.00 Sunday

Beauden at fullback on long awaited debut , Reiko at centre, Marchant left right out unfortunately. Lots of All Blacks, but will the AuckLanders flatter to deceive yet again? Ardie also makes his first start since Japan, but on the bench, while Jordie isn’t fit to face his traitorous bro.

SA Part 2: Set Piece attack

Hey Guys,

Second piece here on the South African series. Attack off set-piece.

A lot of this was taken from Wales’ performance, who out of all the teams for me, had the best measure of them in attacking the weaknesses that this defence presents.

NZ may have won, but when the defence was fired up and at full intensity, Wales still exploited it. Damn effective A indeed.

Next one will be phase play, and i have some ideas liable to get me laughed at, but gotta put them out there! Aside from Bartman, do we have anyone who is a whizz with the laws down to minutae detail?

Cheers guys,



SA Part 1: For you Bartman!

Hey boys,

Hope you guys are keeping alright and are safe as can be hoped!

I said i was working on something on the South African D and this is the first piece. Was rightly blasted by Callum for not submitting it here sooner, but happy to provide. Next piece will be about how to actually beat it, but this one is simply to get the terms and understanding so the next piece does make sense.

Hope you boys enjoy it!



Rugby in Chile

I am now back in Chile (mainland) after a brief side trip to Easter Island(Great place). All land borders are closed and my visa 30 days away from expiring. I have decided to try and extend it so am staying an hour’s drive west of Santiago while I wait for the process to run it’s course.


We all know about rugby in Argentina but what about Chile?


The Chilean Rugby Federation was founded on 4 May 1953 and governs the sport in Chile. Their statutes and regulations were officialised at 16 December 1963. It is affiliated to the Olympic Committee of Chile, the Confederación Sudamericana de Rugby, FIRA and World Rugby and, like all good things in life, was introduced by the Brits in the late 19thC  and was played by mine workers in the north of Chile (Iquique).It was developed by the British schools. There are many similar comparisons to Argentina in the spread of the game.


The national team are known as Los Condores – the Condors.


In the 50s the Irish (1952) and French (1954) visited



Flight 571

Some of the older refugees may well remember the story of Flight 571:

The tragic crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, and the resulting books and films, Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors and Alive brought Uruguayan and Chilean rugby into the global limelight. The Uruguayans were on tour, and had played several games in Argentina, and were due to play some return matches in Chile.

Alive tells the story of a Uruguayan Rugby team (who were alumni of Stella Maris College (Montevideo)) and their friends and family who were involved in the airplane crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 which crashed into the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972. It was published two years after survivors of the crash were rescued.


Rugby today:


From what I can work out the main areas (population wise) are Santiago and Valparaiso (the two most populous regions in Chile approx. 10m peoples) but it is played throughout the country. Bear in mind that the province of Aysen (south and part of the magnificent Carretera Austral)which is the largest with 108,000 km2 has a population of just 100,000.


There are currently 23 clubs and a playing pool of just 19,000 ish (compare with Argentina 420 and approx. 102,000 registered players).


Chile has yet to make it to a RWC but Chileans are happy to be  ranked 3rd in South America


And that’s all I‘ve got for now.


Adios amigos

All Blacks – decline and fall or the dawn of a new golden era?

Interesting and in depth look at the failings of the ABs in the last RWC cycle culninating in Hansen being comprehensively out-thought by Jones in the Semi, the prospects for them moving forwards under a Head Coach not widely wanted by the public, and the wider state of the game in NZ and the elite player pathways.

Very interesting read, particularly as it is set out dispassionately rather than looking to promote a certain agenda.

Be interesting to hear the views of our SH contingent.

ALL BLACKS V’s South Africa

The matchday 23 is as follows (with Test caps in brackets) – pretty predictable selections, with Ben Smith covering Fullback if Mo’unga is pulled and Beauden moves into 10 or on one of the wings. Ioane will need to score 10 tries against each of Italy, Canada and Namibia to get a look-in if Reece and Bridge maintain their current forms..

1. Joe Moody (41)

2. Dane Coles (64)

3. Nepo Laulala (20)

4. Samuel Whitelock (112)

5. Scott Barrett (32)

6. Ardie Savea (34)

7. Sam Cane (63)

8. Kieran Read – captain (122)

9. Aaron Smith (87)

10. Richie Mo’unga (12)

11. George Bridge (5)

12. Ryan Crotty (45)

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (38)

14. Sevu Reece (3)

15. Beauden Barrett (78)

16. Codie Taylor (45)

17. Ofa Tuungafasi (30)

18. Angus Ta’avao (8)

19. Patrick Tuipulotu (25)

20. Shannon Frizell (5)

21. TJ Perenara (59)

22. Sonny Bill Williams (53)

23. Ben Smith (80)