TAGS: London IrishMunster Munster kicked into gear with just 10 minutes of the game to go to beat London Irish 28-14 at Thomond Park.Neither team could qualify for the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup, and the scoreboard at half-time reflected their dampened spirits. It was still 0-0 at the break, but it wasn’t for want of determination by either team.Munster had three near misses in the first half – the ball was held up over the line twice, and referee Peter Allan ruled a forward pass at their third attempt, to stop Keith Earls scoring in the corner.The game picked up a little bit more tempo in the second half, but it wasn’t until the final 12 minutes of the game, when Sailosi Tagicakibau scored London Irish’s second try to go 14-7, that Munster sparked into life. Only Leicester have beaten Munster at home in the Heineken Cup, and the home side were not about to relinquish their impressive home record after last week’s humiliating defeat away to Toulon.Tony McGahan praised his side for having the determination to pick up the tempo at the end of the game, and admitted that the bench brought some tempo to their performance. “Full credit to the players for putting in a performance over 80 minutes. To pick up in the last 15 minutes takes real spirit and belief,” he said. NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 10: Denis Leamy of Munster looks on during the Heineken Cup match between Northampton Saints and Munster at Franklin’s Gardens on October 10, 2009 in Northampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) “We were playing for our lives out there,” added McGahan. “We have a great home record and we were not ready to give that up. Our reserves also gave us a little bit of go forward towards the end of the game.”McGahan’s opposite number, Toby Booth, saw promise in London Irish’s performance despite the loss. “To be in the contest for as long as we were was outstanding,” he said. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS “Our defence especially was outstanding, and the game was essentially a dead rubber, so I was pleased with the intensity and passion we played with.”London Irish will go back to the Premiership in three weeks looking to re-launch their bid to reach the top four, while Munster will fill one of the remaining Amlin Challenge Cup quarter final spots.
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Photo Ready: John Smit (centre) will lead the Boks to Australia and New ZealandBy Charity KnightTHE START of this year’s Tri-Nations will be marred by controversy, as South Africa have withdrawn 21 players from their World Cup training squad for the away leg of the tournament because of injuries.The Springboks are set to meet Australia in Sydney on 23 July and New Zealand in Wellington on 30 July with a significantly weakened team.The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) called for an investigation by SANZAR into the high number of injuries. The ARU highlighted a similar tactic by the Springboks in 2007 when they claimed a lack of availability before going on to win the World Cup.ARU chief executive John O’Neill said: “The difference between 2007 and now is that we now have a permanent SANZAR office with a CEO, who has the job of monitoring and policing such matters.” He added: “We’re not in a position to second-guess the Springboks, and we also have our share of injured players. But it is nowhere near 21. The sheer size of the number of players who are injured is unusual.”Flex: Springbok training campHowever, SANZAR’s chief executive officer Greg Peters dismissed the ARU’s fears commenting that SANZAR had “sought and received” assurances from South Africa that they will field their best possible side during the competition. CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 08: Players in action during day 3 of the South Africa national rugby team training camp at Florida Park, Ravensmead on July 08, 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images) “The list is longer than we had hoped for, but there are clear and unambiguous injuries in that team,” he added.Many of those injured are prominent players in the Springbok squad, including vice-captain Victor Matfield, hooker Bismarck du Plessis, fly-half Butch James and winger Bryan Habana, meaning their team will feature many second string players.
“I’m going surfing, although I’m a bit concerned because I saw a plaque down at the beach about the last three people who have been taken by sharks. That would put a solid downer on things and make things a bit difficult on the last team run.” – England flanker Tom Wood plans a dangerous day off in Dunedin after being named on the bench for the match against Romania on Saturday.“I thought it was a particularly good game of footy. I enjoyed watching the game.”– Graham Henry can barely conceal his delight over Australia’s suffering at the hands of the Irish.“I’m sure there were a few claustrophobics in Poland. That will probably come back to haunt them shortly.”– As his team prepare to visit Waitomo Caves near Hamilton, Wales assistant coach Rob Howley remembers some players’ discomfort in a cryotherapy chamber at their Polish training camp. “The All Blacks know we are unpredictable, both in a good and a bad way actually. We can either fail or pull it off – and that is what they fear.”– France flanker Julien Bonnaire sums up the dangerously fickle nature of Les Bleus ahead of Saturday’s clash with New Zealand.“He’s still in bed. The flu’s knocked him around a bit. I think it’s just a Faingaa thing – our immune system’s not that great.”– Australia centre Anthony Faingaa, who has just recovered from a bout of ill health, gives a condition check on his twin brother Saia, who will miss the USA match on Friday. “In World Cups it’s a very unique experience. You’re playing in a World Cup quarter-final one week, then the next you could be away at Newcastle. For some people who’ve not played in a World Cup before, that’s not really sunk in yet.”– England centre Mike Tindall makes few friends in the north-east of England as he tries to explain the fleeting nature of playing on the world stage.“In this side, you always know if you’re not up to your game there’s usually at least one or two keen to fill your role.”– All Blacks centre Conrad Smith indicates the insecurity generated by fierce competition for places in the New Zealand team.“It’s the next game. Of course it is.”– Asked whether Sunday’s match with Argentina is the most important in four years, Scotland prop Geoff Cross shows he is focusing on one thing at a time.“I’m not. I’m going to training and I’ll look to put in a good birthday session there.”– Fellow Scotland front rower Allan Jacobsen displays similar determination when asked how he would be celebrating his birthday on Thursday.“We have put it to bed. We have played since then, it’s not an issue. We’re looking forward to a big game, we’re playing Romania. I said to you last week what happened: the guys went for a drink. If you’ve got any questions about Romania, we’d like to hear them.”– England team manager Martin Johnson gives short shrift to questions about his players’ alleged indiscretions. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
Masterclass: Will Genia put in a world-class performance against Wales, scoring a superb tryBy Owain Jones, Rugby World EditorIn a nutshellWALES SENSING a first victory on Australian soil since 1969 were far too slow out of the traps against a Wallaby side desperate to atone for their humbling 9-6 midweek loss to Scotland. Under-pressure coach Robbie Deans will have been impressed with the intensity shown by his side in the first-half, yet they will have been slightly worried that their dominance wasn’t converted into more points by the break, with a 10-3 advantage. A minute after the restart, the outstanding Will Genia seemingly made his concerns academic with a classy individual try to put the Wallabies 17-3 ahead. Yet with the game seemingly over, Wales countered and a scorching try from Grand Slam hero Alex Cuthbert put Wales back in the game along. With Leigh Halfpenny’s unerring accuracy with the boot, Wales clawed themselves back to within a point. With 13 minutes left on the clock, it was that man again, Genia, who put Pat McCabe in after running a superb line to confirm a deserved victory.Pass master: Mike Phillips was outshone by Will GeniaKey momentFifty four seconds after the break with Wales a converted score down, Will Genia darted between three Welsh defence to leave him in a one-on-one with James Hook. Genia threw an outrageous sidestep that bamboozled the Welsh full-back and he touched down under the posts to put the Wallabies into a seemingly unassailable 17-3 lead.Star manAn easy decision. Will Genia was simply peerless, in a one-man masterclass at scrum-half. The Queensland Red was a box-of-tricks, making darting runs around the fringes, several line-breaks and giving the Australian backline quick service, including Pat McCabe for Australia’s third try. He even scored the match-defining try in a display that did little to suggest he isn’t the best halfback in world rugby on present form. Mike Phillips will be desperate to stop Genia doesn’t have a similar effect next week in Melbourne. Honourable mentions go to David Pocock and Scott Higginbotham for the Wallabies, while the lively Alex Cuthbert and metronomic Leigh Halfpenny shone for Wales.Room for improvementWales were guilty of far too many unforced errors in the first-half, with Rhys Priestland’s fumble from a high ball leading to the games opening try. After 11 weeks out, Sam Warburton was ring-rusty and outgunned at the breakdown by David Pocock who outpointed his rival in round one of the three Test Series. Pocock showed his skills as a master fetcher in a complete performance.Match winner: Pat McCabe picks the right line to scoreIn quotes WinnersAustralian captain David Pocock: “I thought Will (Genia) and Berrick (Barnes) played really well. We just got the ball in their half and then fought hard. It’s great to get the first win, we were up against a classy Welsh side tonight.”In quotes Losers LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 09: Pat McCabe of the Wallabies scores a try during the international test match between the Australian Wallabies and Wales at Suncorp Stadium on June 9, 2012 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images) Wales coach Rob Howley: “We got back into the game at 20-19 and there were moments then when opportunities presented themselves we should have taken. “We have lost a Test match which we had a golden opportunity to win. We are disappointed.”Top statsAustralia made 105 tackles to Wales’ 106, while Wales made 437 metres with the ball to Australia’s 417Australia made 127 passes to Wales’ 126Dan Lydiate made the most tackles with 18, followed by Sam Warburton with 12. Prop Benn Robinson was the only Australian player to make it into double figures with 12.Will Genia was the game’s most successful ball-carrier with 116 metres made, followed by Wales’ Alex Cuthbert with 105.AUSTRALIA: Adam Ashley-Cooper; Cooper Vuna, Rob Horne (Anthony Faingaa, reversed 55, Vuna 71), Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane; Berrick Barnes, Will Genia; Benn Robinson (Ben Alexander 58), Tatafu Polota-Nau (Stephen Moore 55), Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Nathan Sharpe (Dave Dennis 64), Scott Higginbotham, David Pocock, Wycliff Palu (Michael Hooper 58)Replacements not used: Nicholas White, Mike HarrisTries: Higginbotham, Genia, McCabe Pen: Barnes. Cons: Barnes. 3 Drop: Barnes.WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams (Ashley Beck 55), George North (James Hook 28); Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Ken Owens (Matthew Rees 51), Adam Jones (Paul James 75), Bradley Davies, Luke Charteris (Alun Wyn-Jones 51), Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau (Ryan Jones 51)Replacements not used: Lloyd WilliamsTry: Cuthbert. Pens: Halfpenny 4. Con: Halfpenny 1
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS 3) Daniel Braid: Sale Sharks; 32 years; 6ft; 15.7 stoneThe six-cap All Black, Daniel Braid, has been appointed Sale Sharks’ new captain, and having targeted a top-six finish, all eyes will be on him to see if he can steer Sale clear of a successive relegation dogfight. Everyone knows Steve Diamond’s men underperformed last season, but back-row forward Braid made a big impact at the Salford City Stadium following his arrival from the southern hemisphere. His hard-nosed winning mentality should rub off on his club colleagues – Diamond entrusting Braid as his trusty on-field lieutenant appears to be a masterstroke.Born to run: Bath’s Kyle Eastmond4) Kyle Eastmond: Bath Rugby; 24 years; 5ft 7in; 12.9 stoneThe versatile Kyle Eastmond had a big impact for Bath of late. Following his switch from the 13-mqn code, Eastmond’s progression was initially slowed by a spate of niggling injuries, but the England international certainly found his feet last season. The inside-centre earned rave reviews for his displays – even being compared to Jason Robinson for his quick-feet, searing pace and undoubted natural talent. Capped on England’s summer tour to Argentina, he has looked comfortable in the midfield channel and will hope to kick on at The Rec. North of Northampton: Everyone’s favourite locomotive winger George North in training with his new teammatesBy James TennantWith the start of the new 2013/14 Aviva Premiership season nearly upon us with Newcastle Falcons hosting Bath at Kingston Park on Friday September 6, here is a summary of five key players to look out for throughout the season. Three Englishman, a Welshman and a New Zealander complete the list. Expect sizable contributions from this exciting quintet.He means business: Matt Kvesic1) Matt Kvesic: Gloucester Rugby; 21 years; 6ft 2in; 16.4 stoneFollowing a summer switch to Kingsholm from Worcester, big things are expected of Matt Kvesic in a Gloucester jersey. Having shone on England’s successful summer tour to Argentina, the openside flanker will be hoping to showcase his skills on the European stage in the hope of impressing Stuart Lancaster. His abrasive, no-nonsense playing style is sure to be at the heart of Gloucester’s efforts, but he faces stiff competition in the back-row, though, from the likes of hard-hitting Fijian blindside Akapusi Qera and Gloucester stalwart Andy Hazell.2) George North: Northampton Saints; 21 years; 6ft 4in; 17 stoneJim Mallinder pulled off a coup in luring George North to Franklin’s Gardens, with the former Scarlet having moved to Northampton in an attempt to challenge for European silverware. The considerable talents of the Welsh winger were unleashed in the summer as the British and Irish Lions secured an historic test series victory over Australia. His 60 metre first-test try and Israel Folau ‘carry’ are two moments of sheer sporting brilliance. He’ll be a marked man, but this Lomu-esque powerhouse has all the credentials to be an immediate success in the Premiership. 5) Nick Kennedy: Harlequins; 32 years; 6ft 8in; 18 stoneAfter Olly Kohn’s premature retirement from the game, Harlequins filled the void with Nick Kennedy and his Aviva Premiership return looks a shrewd move by director of rugby, Conor O’Shea. Having won the Heineken Cup out in France with Toulon, the former London Irish man has returned to the capital with the long-term aim of pulling on an England jersey again. A line-out specialist with a good engine, Kennedy’s footballing ability and set-piece presence make him an immeasurable threat this season.
James PercivalTouted as a possible Worcester Warriors captain before the campaign, 29-year-old second-row Percival will miss the opener due to a torn bicep. With fellow academy product Alex Grove, the Scotland international outside centre, also set to miss the first match, new head coach Dean Ryan will have a few less experienced Worcester men to rely on in when they visit champions Leicester Tigers on Sunday, September 8.Jonny MayHis dislocated elbow is not as bad as first feared, but missing game one will be a shame for a speedster many want to kick on this season.Sam WarburtonVictorious Lions captain; Welsh dependable; out injured.In what could be his last season as a Cardiff Blue, Warburton will miss the start of the slog after botching himself representing the Lions in Australia. Will Cardiff get everything out of them they can before he potentially leaves? Perhaps not, but just having him around the place will help, even if he is not playing.Tamed: The tenacious Niko Matawalu (right) is out injuredNiko MatawaluThe fizzed-up-can-of-coke that is Niko Matawalu will be absent from the Glasgow Warriors first outings due to a metatarsal injury, much to the disdain of fans who like their rugby unpredictable and spirited. With playmaker Pete Horne also out long-term Glasgow will be a little short of spice in a handful of games. Tunnel vision: Zane Kirchner walks off for the Bulls. He will play for Leinster, but only after the Rugby ChampionshipBy Alan DymockTHE WAITING is almost done. We are just over a week away from the opening days of the Aviva Premiership and the RaboDirect Pro12 and already we are condemning some to a season of torment or promoting others to the status of champions elect.It is presumptuous to do so before a ball has been kicked or a squint throw pinged and, more so than this, it is hard to know how some teams will fare without key personnel.The season will kick off without some big names and, more importantly for fans, there are certain players who would normally be worth the price of admission to see, but who will miss the grand debut for assorted reasons. There are some match-winners who will miss game one.Zane KirchnerSigned from the Bulls of South Africa as a potential successor to Isa Nacewa, the springy full-back is with South Africa for the Rugby Championship until, potentially, October 7.That is a long time to be away from your new teammates and takes a greedy bite out of his two-year contract at the same time. The problem is that he has not played for South Africa so far, having not been picked in the match day 23 for the two Tests against Argentina. South Africa can keep him for as long as they want, but on his arrival there is no way of knowing how fit he will be. The great shame is that he has the slick heels and versatility to offer a lot to Leinster and their back three, but he may be rustier than the Titanic by the time he splashes down in Dublin.Francois LouwSpeaking of splashes, the Bath man is making waves in South Africa as he has made himself the go-to ball-thief and turnover-hunter on the Sprinboks’ openside. He is highly rated and therefore the bad news for fans in the south west is that he will miss the start of the season as he does battle in the Rugby Championship.Tom HomerLondon Irish are expected to have another tough season fighting off relegation, so to lose your full-back and star goal kicker is a huge blow.Not on the pitch: Sam Warburton will miss Cardiff’s openersA groin injury during pre-season means that Homer may have to have an operation, or at the very least face a prolonged period of rest, icing his kicking leg. In the meantime, fans may be either warmed or horrified to learn that stalwart winger Topsy Ojo is the only real candidate to fill in at 15. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Castres scrum-half Thierry Lacrampe (L) collapses with Glasgow scrum-half Niko Matawalu (R) during the European Cup rugby union match Castres vs Glasgow on December 16, 2012 at the Stadium Pierre Antoine in Castres, southern France. AFP PHOTO /PASCAL PAVANI (Photo credit should read PASCAL PAVANI/AFP/Getty Images) Tom HabberfieldYou may not be completely familiar with Habberfield, but with the young scrum-half out for a few months and Rhys Webb on the sidelines until the new year the passing and feeding is left to new signing Tito Tebaldi. Some were skeptical about the signing of Tebaldi, but now he is all they have. How will the Ospreys cope?
Searching for answers: George North looks downcast as Wales were out thought and out played at TwickenhamDeath by a thousand cutsWales lost by 29-18 against England in a performance that will frustrate the players and the coaching staff as much as it will the Welsh supporters. As a result Wales are out of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations and the record breaking third consecutive championship win has gone with it. Whilst the kicking strategy and scrummaging issues will attract most of the criticism, in truth the defeat was the result of an accumulation of small, regular and costly errors in all aspects of the game.Countless spilled balls in contact, charged-down box kicks, badly executed grubber kicks in the opposition’s 22, lineout turnovers in Wales’ 22 and the dropping of high balls when unmarked, all contributed to Wales being unable to sustain any meaningful phase play. Limited phase play meant that both Wales’ leading ball carriers and the game plan were nullified. The next few weeks and months will be a pivotal period in the Welsh camp – we shall see if the ‘small cuts’ that led to the England defeat will lead to a full autopsy.Kicking game: Wales’ kicking game wasn’t good enoughKicking too deepThere were many shaky aspects to Wales’ kicking game against England. But by far the most harmful were the overly deep high-balls. Some of the kicks were so deep that on occasions it was like watching a fourth down in the NFL. Regularly a Welsh kick would land in the hands of the English kick defence without a single Welsh defender being within 15 yards. It has been suggested that the Welsh kick chase was to blame, which seems unfair; Usain Bolt could have led Wales’ kick chase at Twickenham and still not have been within 10 yards of Mike Brown and Jack Nowell.It’s often a sign of overly deep kicking if the opposition’s back three have high ‘metres with ball in hand’ stats – as they earn cheap yards running up to the defensive line before kicking clear. Both Brown and Nowell ran over 100m with the ball in hand. Brown actually carried the ball an incredible 156 metres and once again put in another career enhancing performance. Brown will be a leading contender for Player of the Tournament, and rightly so.Gethin Jenkins’ yellow cardGethin Jenkins received a yellow card against England – having been warned repeatedly for not driving straight in the scrum. Rugby is a game of opinions, so therefore some may argue that Jenkins body angle was a result of the England’s tight-head equally not driving straight. But rugby is only a game of opinions off the field. On the field there is only one opinion that matters – that of the referee. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 09: Gethin Jenkins of Wales is sent to the sin bin by referee Romain Poite during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on March 9, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) Given the clear and repeated warnings from Romain Poite it is perhaps open to question that Jenkins wasn’t replaced by Paul James, sooner. Jenkins received his card in the 53rd minute and most international front row forwards are replaced at the 60-minute mark as a matter of course. For the sake of seven minutes Wales could have swapped their looseheads and kept 15 players on the pitch. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Scratch that. It’s annoying.Yellow fever: Gethin Jenkins struggledLeigh Halfpenny. Devoid of blameThe sentiment that ‘you’d bet your mortgage on Leigh Halfpenny’ doesn’t quite sum up his contribution against England – you’d have bet Greece’s national debt on him such was his reliability. Halfpenny scored all of Wales’ points with a faultless six from six goal kicking display and as fine an aerial and defensive display as you will see from a full back.His 73rd minute tackle on Luther Burrell was a remarkable feat given that Halfpenny was giving away 53lbs in weight and five inches in height – a feat that saved a nailed-on try yet will also see him miss the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder. Halfpenny even put his head on the wrong side, deliberately, to ensure that Burrell’s body weight and reach didn’t take him over the try line. It was real David and Goliath stuff…if David had come from Gorseinon.Wales turned their back on Danny Care It is perhaps a sign of how pedestrian and predictable test rugby has become that the Welsh defensive line turned their backs on Danny Care when England were awarded a penalty on the Welsh five metre line. Such is the desire to score any points on any visit into the opponents 22 that it has become frowned upon to take a quick tap in such a position – pointing at the posts is the default option.Whilst the need to take any simple points, when they’re available, is clearly understandable, particularly when you consider the narrow margins of modern Test rugby, it was fantastic to see a scrum half catching a defensive line off guard – with nothing more than a flick of the ball from his boot. Old school.
With Robbie Henshaw back in training after injury, centre Jared Payne is looking forward to resuming his partnership with the Connacht man LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Robbie Henshaw returned to light training with Ireland this week after a hamstring injury and fellow centre Jared Payne can’t wait for the Connacht man to return to the starting lineup.Payne started alongside Luke Fitzgerald in Ireland’s opening victory over Canada, but with their next game not until Sunday afternoon Henshaw could be in line to come straight back in.And with Ireland looking for their next great centre pairing, after the retirement of Brian O’Driscoll and non-selection of Gordon D’Arcy – who played a combined 215 times for their country – Payne hopes he and Henshaw get their chance to nail down the roles.“Robbie’s got a great passing game, very good feet and he’s big and abrasive too,” said Payne. “And in a few more years he’s going to be one of the standout centres in world rugby. “We both had some pretty big boots to fill with (Gordon) D’Arcy and Drico (Brian O’Driscoll) going when we got thrown in there, but I think we handled it pretty well.“When Joe (Schmidt) first put us together, he just told us to chat to each other a lot and to look at videos to study each other’s game to build a combination. Jared Payne (L) and Robbie Henshaw (R) celebrate a try at the RBS 6 Nations in 2015 “He gave us confidence to back our skills and try to bring that together as best we could.”Ireland play Romania at Wembley Stadium on Sunday looking to build on their 50-7 win over Canada last weekend.
LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS How was your first experience with the All Blacks squad in June?Awesome. It was full-on but everything I expected. I learnt loads and really enjoyed it. I’m a happy man at the moment.Yes, you’re clearly enjoying your rugby right now…I just try to play my normal game. I haven’t changed too many things. I’m picked for a reason so I try to stay as relaxed as possible.What’s with the smile when you line up a kick?It helps me relax. I put it in my routine to help me focus on kicking the ball.Who’s the joker in the All Blacks squad?Daggy (Israel Dagg). He keeps the boys up. He’s a funny guy and chucks banter out there. I’m terrible at jokes myself. Even if someone tells me a good joke, it rolls straight out of my head and I can’t remember it.Funny man: Israel Dagg dives over for a try against Wales. Photo: Getty ImagesWhat’s your nickname?Big Jim. That comes from my dad – he likes to give nicknames to relatives. He called me Jimmy when I was younger and I think the big is because I’m not!Do you have any phobias?I’m claustrophobic – I don’t like tight spaces. If I was trapped in a cupboard I wouldn’t last too long.Have team-mates done that?No, but when they read this they might!What are your bugbears?I have to be careful as it’s a bit hypocritical, but people being late. I’m quite bad at it myself, but if you say you’re going to meet somewhere, turn up on time. Also, Auckland traffic. Getting stuck in that isn’t fun. I’m from Southland and I’m not used to that many people, so get impatient. It’s fine in Hamilton. Chiefs full-back Damian McKenzie talks All Blacks, nicknames and dream party guests Do you have any superstitions?Not really. I strap my right thumb and wrist as I used to have an injury there. Before a game I always clean my boots. It takes me back to when I was a kid and Dad would make us clean our boots, so we didn’t get too big for the game.Being claustrophobic you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift, but if you were, who’d you want with you?A lift operator – someone who could fix it and get me out of there. Or a good-looking girl, like Margot Robbie. I think we could have a good chat.Mad about Margot: Aussie actress Margot Robbie would make a good dinner date. Photo: Getty ImagesIf you could have one superpower, what would it be?Flying would be cool. You’d get to places quicker and wouldn’t have to worry about traffic.What’s the silliest thing you’ve bought?Probably a vest I had six or seven years ago that the boys still give me stick about now.Who would be your dream dinner party guests?I’ve always been a fan of Roger Federer, so I’d like to have him round. There’s so many people I’d like to have dinner with! Adam Sandler and Mark Wahlberg – I’m a fan of their films. And Margot Robbie!Any guilty pleasures?Definitely chocolate. I don’t treat myself too much but I do love chocolate.What would you be doing if you weren’t playing rugby? I’m from a dairy farm so I’d probably be working there or studying at uni. Something along those lines. I’m really into golf, too. I play off nine.How would you like to be remembered? As someone who put others before himself and gave a good name to rugby, on and off the field.This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Rugby World. For the latest subscription offers, click here. On the up: Damian McKenzie has a laugh during All Blacks training. Photo: Getty Images
Power surge: Stuart Hogg and Braam Steyn (Getty Images) Autumn Nations Cup Italy v Scotland PreviewItaly v Scotland in the Autumn Nations Cup: A new competition, a familiar fixture, a venue the Scots don’t know, on a streaming service embracing elite rugby union for the first time.But the Scots’ tails are up after finally getting a significant win in Wales. Now with this new Test tournament coming centre stage, there are some possible permutations to consider.The Azzurri welcome Scotland to Italy for the 14th time, looking to draw matches their at seven wins apiece – and with this match in Florence, where Italy have beaten Georgia and the Springboks in recent years and where Scotland have never played, Italy will hope to spring a surprise on the visitors.With injuries to their two frontline fly-halves, Finn Russell and Adam Hastings, Scotland call upon Duncan Weir, though. You may remember him dropping a goal against Italy in 2014 to snatch a last-gasp win by a point. The Worcester ten is back for his first start since 2016.Opposite him is 20-year-old ten Paolo Garbisi, who’s only making his third ever Test appearance. His last outing was about as gentle as an avalanche with the white crush of an England team hunting a Six Nations title last week. But the week before – on debut – he scored 12 points and got an intercept try against an Ireland side who took their eye off the ball. Garbisi and Trulla started against Scotland U20 in Feb #Italrugby… Largo, arriva @JakePolledri! @autumnnations #insieme #rugbypassioneitaliana pic.twitter.com/YXfNQJm8z7— Italrugby (@Federugby) November 10, 2020Scotland should carry a greater threat at the back with quicksilver captain Stuart Hogg and his workaholic wingers (though Hogg’s opposite man, Matteo Minozzi is no slouch either).But really the attention-grabber will be the back-row battle. Scotland’s Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson are in devilish form right now while Italy’s Jake Polledri has the same energy as a bull in a grenade factory. Flying in at his side will be Seb Negri and Braam Steyn – hardly shy and retiring.Scotland are of course favourites. We will see which pack enjoys the favour of the all-English team of match officials.Related: Autumn Nations Cup refereesWhat’s the big team news?For the hosts, Calvisano wing Jacopo Trulla comes in for his debut. And there could be another for Gloucester’s Stephen Varney from the bench too. Their friend Garbisi has clearly blazed a trail – the fly-half got his first start against England at the end of the Six Nations and looks set to be allowed to grow on the Test stage. — Russ Petty (@rpetty80) November 12, 2020In the December issue of Rugby World, lock Niccolo Cannone considered the prospect of playing in his home town of Florence, saying: To play in your home city for your country is an absolute dream.” Well it comes true this weekend.Meanwhile, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend makes four changes from the Six Nations win in Wales – with the return of Duncan Weir the headline.Stuart McInally replaces Fraser Brown at hooker, with the latter hurting himself in training. A replacement last week, George Horne was also hurt in training, and so Exeter’s Sam Hidalgo-Clyne comes onto the bench for his first involvement since 2018.Centre Sam Johnson and wing Duhan van der Merwe both start, with James Lang and Blair Kinghorn dropping to the bench.Any interesting statistics?20 seconds – the amount of time left on the match clock when Duncan Weird slotted a drop-goal to beat Italy 21-20 in Rome in 2014.The last time Italy played in Florence they won by 11 points – beating Georgia 28-17. They also beat South Africa there in 2016, by 20-18.Scotland have won the last eight meetings between these two.Italy No 8 Jake Polledri beat five defenders against England in the last round of the Six Nations.What time does it kick off and is it on TV?Italy v Scotland, Saturday 14 November, Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence.The match kicks off at 12.45 and will be broadcast live on Amazon Prime. There is also live match commentary on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio 5 live.If you’re outside the UK and Ireland, check out our guide to Autumn Nations Cup coverage around the world.Referee Luke Pearce heads up an all-English officiating team, with Karl Dickson and Christophe Ridley his assistant, and veteran official Wayne Barnes the TMO.What are the line-ups?Italy: Matteo Minozzi; Jacopo Trulla, Marco Zanon, Carlo Canna, Mattia Bellini; Paolo Garbisi, Marcello Violi; Danilo Fischetti, Luca Bigi (captain), Giosue Zilocchi, Marco Lazzaroni, Niccolo Cannone, Seb Negri, Braam Steyn, Jake Polledri.Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Simone Ferrari, Pietro Ceccarelli, Johan Meyer, Maxime Mbanda, Stephen Varney, Tommaso Allan, Federico Mori.Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Duncan Weir, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Johnny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Blade Thomson.Replacements: George Turner, Oli Kebble, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Nick Haining, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, James Lang, Blair Kinghorn. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Everything you need to know about the face-off in Florence Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.