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USA Men A Disappointing 3rd In Madrid

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The USA Men’s 7s team finished the Madrid 7s with a disappointing 3rd place, seeing their hopes for a better finish disappear thanks to a rout delivered by Kenya early on Sunday.

Coming into Sunday at 2-1, the Eagles had only to beat Kenya in the second game of the day to ensure a rematch with Argentina in the final. The USA had lost to the Pumas by just a try on Saturday. But one of the lessons of these types of tournaments is that jet lag and travel and the intensity of international competition really shows itself on Day Two. The Eagles were sluggish—more so mentally than physically—and when they fell behind reacted with a little panic in their step, which led to mistakes.

Kenya, which scored right at the beginning of the game, played superbly. They put a diamond-shaped group of support runners behind the ball and played vertically, and when the Eagles over-committed, sent it wide. Quick and very physical, they showed how World Sevens is better when Kenya is good.

The USA tackling was weak, but down 17-7 at halftime they were within a shout. However, when Perry Baker chipped ahead and gathered his kick, only to be tackled, he didn’t get up. The play went on and the Eagles almost scored (almost). But Baker was done, stretchered off with a leg injury and taken to the hospital. It’s a massive blow to the USA, and there’s hope he won’t be out for long, but he was done for the day, and the Eagles deflated after that.

Kenya 38, USA 7.

“Kenya out-muscled us and showed desire is a non-negotiable,” USA Head Coach Mike Friday told Goff Rugby Report. Friday used to coach Kenya and they love bringing everything against him. But the Eagles are good enough to reply. What Friday did do was leave most of his veterans on the sidelines, telling the younger players it was their problem to fix. 

“We missed too many tackles and were not physical enough with ball in hand or in defense,” Friday said in assessment. “I see that performance as a huge blessing for us that we are currently way off in our combat conditioning and ability to apply our physicality which we pride ourselves on. Young and experienced men need to recognize physical fitness is one thing, but combat fitness and resilience is quite another. This is the 70% piece I was talking about at the start of the week, and fortunately we have plenty of time to ensure we are on point when it really matters.”

So that left the USA 2-2 and against Spain for 3rd. This game could have gone very wrong. However, Jake Lachina stepped in to fire up the team. The West Point Scholz Award finalist raced around the outside to score early, and then chased down a Cody Melphy chip that he seemingly had no chance to reach, and did just enough to score his second. 

Spain exploited a gap and some overpursuit on defense to get one back, and then ran a nice switch move early in the second half to tie it up 12-12. The USA defense over-pursued a lot this weekend, sometimes sending three players on a ballcarrier only to see one of the simplest, and best, plays in rugby, the switch, catch them pointed the wrong way. 

Some lovely interplay between Tala Talapusi and Kevon Williams put Williams in under the posts for a 19-12 lead, and that was key because Spain raced past Maka Unufe on the wing to score right after. The try was out wide, though, and the conversion was missed, leaving the USA ahead 19-17. Finally someone else committed a dumb penalty, and when Harley Wheeler was dumped on his head the Eagles pressured. Their kick to touch missed touch, but they got the ball back when Talapusi stole a pass, and the ball was sent to Lachina for his hat trick. 24-17 over Spain isn’t world class, but it was a win, and some serious lessons to the players on how you can’t take anything for granted.

Argentina beat Kenya handily to win the tournament, Kenya 2nd, USA 3rd, Spain 4th, and Portugal 5th. We’ll see what happens in the second week of competition next weekend.



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USA Rugby

South African sides make new dawn one of promise for United Rugby Championship

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Another new dawn beckons with the revamped United Rugby Championship kicking off this weekend and this time there really do appear reasons for optimism, and even excitement.

Now entering its 22nd season, the Celtic League/Magners League/Pro 12/Pro 14 has had more makeovers than Madonna, but this latest reincarnation welcomes the addition of the four South African Super Rugby franchises and the competition returning to the national broadcaster, two factors which ought to ensure it seeps into the rugby public’s consciousness more than in recent times.

While every game will be televised live on Premier Sports and URC TV, all told 52 of the 60 matches involving the Irish matches will be on free-to-air, be it RTÉ or TG4.

RTÉ has secured the rights for live TV coverage of 26 games featuring the Irish provinces, plus additional knockout matches, while TG4 will broadcast 26 Irish games live as well as a further 16 non-Irish fixtures. It will be a long road to the Grand Final, which will complete three successive rounds of knock-out matches next June 18th and will alternate between RTÉ and TG4.

Plenty of accessible rugby then, and plenty of Bernard Jackman – the Luke O’Neill of Irish rugby.

Last night, Connacht-Cardiff was shown live by TG4 and Premier Sports, which also televised the Ulster-Glasgow encounter. This evening, the RTÉ cameras will pitch up in Thomond Park for Simon Zebo’s prodigal return in Munster’s opener against Sharks (kick-off 7.35pm).

In an intriguing double-header, TG4 and Premier Sports will show that meeting of the Pro 14 and Currie Cup beaten finalists, as well as the preceding clash between the Pro 14 and Currie Cup champions, Leinster and Jake White’s Bulls, at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 5.15pm).

Simon Zebo returns to Munster and is named on the left wing for the game against the Sharks on Saturday night. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Simon Zebo returns to Munster and is named on the left wing for the game against the Sharks on Saturday night. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Every bit as welcome this weekend is the return of real, live, breathing and cheering spectators in significant numbers for the first time at Irish grounds since February 2020. Hallelujah.

With scarcely a week to sell tickets, and plenty of rival sporting attractions this weekend, neither Thomond Park or the Aviva Stadium is likely to reach its permitted capacity, and the Covid-19 guidelines that go with that model.

Tickets for the Munster-Sharks game are only available online at Ticketmaster.ie and will be available to purchase online right up to kick-off but will not be available at the stadium.

There will be a Ticketmaster van outside the Aviva, where a crowd of around 20,000 is anticipated, but supporters are advised to purchase in advance.

When the Celts and Italy first opened the competition’s doors to South African teams in the 2017-18 season, the Kingspan Stadium was rammed with an expectant 14,000-plus crowd which witnessed a high-calibre contest between Ulster and the Cheetahs which the home side won by 42-19.

Ultimately, the promise of that opening night was never quite fulfilled but this South African quartet are their four Super Rugby franchises. Admittedly, the player drain for that country was reflected in their poor showings against the British & Irish Lions last summer, but the Bulls are match-hardened and two weeks ago retained their Currie Cup title with a 44-10, six tries to one, rout of the Bulls in the final at Loftus Versfeld.

Showing just four changes from their starting XV, any team coached by White and captained by the former Ulster talisman and last season’s Pro 14 player of the year, Marcell Coetzee, is unlikely to roll over and have their bellies tickled.

This is even truer with White giving a debut to one of his 2007 World Cup winners, the abrasive Bismarck du Plessis, whose fire still burns at 37 and who will be well known to Leinster from meetings with Montpellier. Opposing Johnny Sexton will be the gifted Johan Goosen, restored after missing the Currie Cup prior to which he tested positive for coronavirus, a threat which hasn’t gone away, particularly with the South African sides.

The competition would benefit from the South African sides demonstrating their competitiveness from the off. Sexton captains a strong side also buttressed by the return of Garry Ringrose, Rhys Ruddock and James Lowe, who also missed last season’s run-in, as well as four players who were involved in the summer Tests against Japan and the USA – Hugo Keenan, James Ryan, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris.

Andrew Porter reverts to loosehead for the first time since November 2016 in a revamped frontrow which also features a competitive Leinster debut for Samoan World Cup prop Michael Ala’alatoa.

But also taking into account his team’s early-season rustiness, Leo Cullen fully appreciates the threat posed by the Bulls.

“Yeah definitely. They’re the most dominant team in the Currie Cup by a significant margin, that’s what it looked like from the score in the semi-final and final; so pretty comprehensive wins when it comes to knock-out rugby and I see they’ve added Bismarck Du Plessis since as well.

“At different stages they might get some Springboks guys back as well. The Bulls probably don’t have as many as some of the other teams have so it depends, team by team.

“In terms of the quality that they have, the tradition and heritage that all those teams have as well, I find it amazing, really, that we’re in the same competition now because when I was younger growing up I was watching these teams playing Super Rugby and all the rest.

“For them to be in our competition, the Bulls in particular, I think back to their very strong period with Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha and all the great players that they would have had playing at that stage.

“For us it’s a very, very tough challenge because we’re starting off and some guys are playing their first game of the season against a team that is battle-hardened, but it is what it is. We just need to get on with it now.”

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New Zealand vs South Africa live stream: how to watch Rugby Championship from anywhere

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With one hand on the Rugby Championship trophy, the seemingly unstoppable All Blacks will look to claim the crown here today with a win against the second-placed Springboks. Read on as our guide explains how to watch a New Zealand vs South Africa live stream for the 2021 Rugby Championship from anywhere in the world.

Despite fielding a largely second string line-up, the Kiwi’s earned a 36-13 bonus-point victory at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium last weekend against Argentina, extending their lead to 10 points over second-placed South Africa in the Rugby Championship table, while also knocking the Pumas and the Wallabies out of the tournament.

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New Zealand vs South Africa free live stream and how to watch the 2021 Rugby Championship

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The Rugby Championship marches on. This weekend sees the mighty New Zealand take on second-place South Africa in the Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Railway Estate, Australia, for the fifth round. Can New Zealand continue their unbeaten run in the championship so far? Aussie fans can watch a free live stream on 9Now but can also tune into the game using a VPN if travelling abroad. Make sure you know how to watch a New Zealand vs South Africa free live stream from anywhere in the world.

New Zealand vs South Africa live stream

Date: Saturday 25th September 2021

Start time: 8.05am BST / 5.05pm SAST / 1.05am AEST (Sun) / 11.05am ET

Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Australia

Free stream: 9Now (free-to-air) | Stan (7-day trial) 

Watch anywhere: Try ExpressVPN risk-free today

US stream: FloRugby ($30/month) 

UK stream: Now (£10/day)

For the uninitiated, the Rugby Championship is the Southern hemisphere’s take on the Six Nations. It sees the four best teams in the region (New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina) compete for supremacy.

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