Heroes and Zeroes- 17th August
Each week, Ruck.co.uk analyzes how the stars of Rugby Union have performed over the last week identifying who has been the fearless heroes and the ill-fated zeros.
After displaying his ability to control a Test match backline in Saturday’s triumph over Scotland, fly-half Ian Madigan will be hopeful of Word Cup selection. The Ireland playmaker’s ability to feature at No10, 12 and even 15 could prove the key to his World Cup chances but his confident kicking display and fantastic cross-field kick for the winning try must also help his case. The British and Irish Lions fly-half, Johnny Sexton, instinctively will enter the World Cup as Ireland’s key playmaker but Madigan’s versatility should make him central to Joe Schmidt’s plans.
All Black centre Ma’a Nonu came up big to help New Zealand retain the Bledisloe Cup against Australia in what was almost certainly his own last Test in the black jersey in his own country. He is set to join Toulon after the upcoming World Cup next month. The enigmatic character unleashed an array of blockbusting runs and was rewarded for his efforts with two superb scores. He also then went on to set up a try for his old mate Conrad Smith. He appeared to be back close to his very best and, thankfully for Steve Hansen, displayed no signs of any limitations from the slight shoulder strain that saw him left out the week before when New Zealand were beaten by Australia in Sydney.
Wing wizard Anthony Watson starred as England overcame France in their opening World Cup warm-up clash at Twickenham on Saturday. Watson, already a certainty for one of the World Cup winger’s berths, produced some individual brilliance as he touched down two fantastic tries. His clever wing play and quick footwork make him for sure one of this week’s heroes.
Although the major news was about Sam Burgess seeing yellow on his England debut fellow new cap Calum Clark also spent time in the sin bin. The fiery back-rower has worked hard to try and shake off his bad boy tag in recent year’s but this was a step in the wrong direction and Stuart Lancaster may not want to risk having a players in his group who has such problems with discipline in his past.
Targeted by the Kiwi media prior to kick-off as always, New Zealand-born fly-half Quade Cooper was booed by a sellout Eden Park throughout the game with the Wallaby fly-half’s evening going from bad to worse. A high tackle after 48 minutes saw him not just sent to the sin-bin, but a penalty try was also awarded. The merciless world champions took full advantage of Cooper’s absence with Ma’a Nonu scoring in the 51st minute before three minutes later midfield partner Conrad Smith also crashed over. It was an all-round awful day for the fly-half.