Archive for the ‘super 14’ Tag

The Big games this weekend; Lote departs and Richie returns

With the Six Nations on a break this weekend it is back to club rugby and the vastly different leagues of the exotic, attractive Super 14, and the fearful, at times dull Guinness Premiership.

The pick of the bunch this weekend in the Southern Hemisphere comes in the all New Zealand derby of the Crusaders against the Blues. Despite a surprise defeat against the Reds in Queensland in Round Two, the Canterbury side have looked pretty sharp, with summer signing from the Hurricanes Zac Guildford scoring plenty of tries on the left wing. Combine him with Daniel Carter at 10 with his distribution skills and kicking and you have a good threat out wide in the backs.

Richie McCaw returns to captain the Crusaders

The return of Richie McCaw at 6 though gives the Crusaders a massive boost, as it would any team. As a captain and a player he is nearly peerless, especially in his position. Elsewhere the young new All Black prop Owen Franks is enjoying himself, proving his call up in the Autumn was no fluke. His technique is excellent, rarely getting hassled by the opposition, though he will have to be on his game against fellow All Black Tony Woodcock this weekend.

The Blues will boast an all-Test front row with Woodcock joining Kevin Mealamu and John Afoa. The rest of the pack though, minus Anthony Boric at lock and Jerome Kaino, are not quite as impressive as their opposite numbers, and will have to work hard at the breakdown against the likes of McCaw and Keiran Reid if they are to provide good ball for their lethal backs.

Stephen Brett will face his old side this weekend

Stephen Brett´s switch to the Blues from the Crusaders seems to be working as he is getting regular first team rugby, and he is always a threat. He has seemed to step out of Dan Carter´s shadow at the Crusaders and is now playing with real freedom. His relationship with another new signing in Alby Matthewson at half back seems to be growing every week. As for the backs, the likes of Benson Stanley, Joe Rokocoko and Rudi Wulf need no introduction to Super 14 watchers who have seen what they can do, but losing Isaia Toeava is a blow. Paul Williams at full back popped up with two tries in round 1 and will look to continue his good form.

As for a prediction, the Crusaders may not be quite what they used to be behind the scrum in the days of Aaron Mauger, Justin Marshall and Caleb Ralph, but there is enough spark to cause trouble. Upfront they should have the edge, plus with home advantage at the AMI stadium, if they can stop the Blues getting the ball wide and quickly, then they should win.

Back to the north, and the big game in the Guinness Premiership is where Leicester Tigers face London Irish. Irish have only won once in 2010 which has more than slightly hurt their title chances, with major injuries to key players hindering their progress, but they are still in a good position to secure a home semi-final spot if they can just start winning again regulary.

Tom Homer has been in top form for Irish

The lack of continuity at 10 goes on with Chris Malone and Ryan Lamb both not being able to keep hold of the shirt due to poor performances, but last week´s win over Harlequins should have given them confidence again. Also, the young back Tom Homer has really been a revelation with his goal kicking and attacking play, and at the moment he seems to keeping Irish going from 15. Without Sailosi Tagicakibau for the rest of the season, one of their main attacking threats has gone, but do not right them off. They will still play with ambition, and have enough to compete with anyone on their day.

Lote Tuqiri will play his last game for Leicester

Meanwhile for Leicester, who look strong as always, it will be the last game for Lote Tuqiri before he heads back to Australia and an NRL contract with the West Tigers. His loan signing has been successful, covering for Leicester´s injuries and scoring some great tries in the process. As for Leicester themselves, whilst minus a few of their squad on international duty they still possess a squad strong enough to win this game. Ben Youngs at scrum half has been one of the stars of this season with his searing pace and attacking flair from rucks and scrums. Irish have only won at Welford Road once. Ever. Don´t expect a second.