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Ten Things We Learned From The Rugby Championship

By Jamie Wall
Quade Cooper

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Rugby coaches love to talk about ‘key learnings’ and here are ten we can take away from the 2016 Rugby Championship.

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1. The All Blacks are… very good
Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu – all gone after the World Cup final. This was supposed to a rebuilding year, instead it’s simply unleashed a younger, hungrier beast to devour what’s left of the rugby world.

2. Argentina are still no good in Australasia
Although they showed signs of life a few years ago on the Gold Coast, Los Pumas still clearly have a real mental hurdle coming to Australia and New Zealand. They were blown away in Hamilton and Perth, despite a great start against the All Blacks and facing an out of form Wallabies.

3. The Boks need a new coach, and fast
Allister Coetzee isn’t the first guy to coach the Boks and fail miserably. It’s not like he that much of a hard act to follow either – Heyneke Meyer managed to lose to Japan – but at least Meyer can still claim a victory over the All Blacks in his tenure. Good news for the Boks and bad news for anyone who likes exciting rugby: Jake White might be looking for a job.

4. Israel Folau is flat
The guy who, on his day, is the brightest star in the game, has dimmed significantly in 2016. He hasn’t been helped by being in a poor Wallabies team, but his kick returns and entries into the line haven’t been anywhere near as dynamic as they have in the past.

5. The All Black midfield is far from an area of weakness
No Conrad, no Ma’a, no SBW, no worries. At the start of the year it was thought that George Moala would fill the void at 13, but after his untimely injury it was left to rookie Anton Lienert-Brown to step up. He made it look like he’d been there for years, helped by some career-best form from Ryan Crotty inside him.

 
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6. Refereeing can ruin a game
The most frustrating 40 minutes of the season so far was definitely the second half in Buenos Aires between Los Pumas and the All Blacks. Reset scrums, needless yellow cards and needless interference from the linesman all contributed to the game turning from a beautiful spectacle on one side of halftime to a migraine-inducing borefest in the second.

7. What works against the Wallabies won’t work against the All Blacks
Bring in Morne Steyn and his prolific boot, tackle hard on your line for many phases and you’ll grind out a tough win in Pretoria. Bring in Morne Steyn and his prolific boot, tackle hard on your line for many phases and you’ll get thrashed in Durban.

8. Playing with your socks down makes you a better player
Three of the All Blacks’ standout performers of The Rugby Championship – TJ Perenara, Dane Coles and Anton Lienert-Brown – are all strong proponents of keeping their calves unhindered and free. The effect it’s had on their form and contribution to the All Blacks success is basically irrefutable.

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9. Jersey swaps are cool and should be brought back
Quade Cooper is a good man for paying tribute to the days of nabbing a souvenir from the other team, even though on his salary he could easily just order a Bok or Pumas jersey online. Interesting that he didn’t want to swap for an All Black jersey, though.

10. The selectors will call back, eventually
Leroy Houston had the distinction of waiting a mere 11 seasons between Wallaby appearances, with the Reds loose forward finally getting a test cap against Los Pumas. He had originally played way back in 2005 in a tour match against the French Barbarians, when tours were still a thing not just the British & Irish Lions did.

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