segunda-feira, novembro 25, 2019

Titanic Style: "Absolution Gap" by Alastair Reynolds



There's a character called Quaiche, a religious devotee who sets up the giant Cathedrals. Their function is to traverse Hela (the moon of the gas giant Haldora) so as to observe its parent planet in the hope that it will disappear for a split second, showing what's within. Quaiche uses a special in-doctrinal virus to maintain religious faith among his supporters, though I'm not sure that would be strictly necessary ;-) Given that science occupies the position Religion used to in our belief systems, it’s probably inevitable that ultimately each informs our perception of the other. I think SF links to the Religious via Philosophy. The conclusion Reynolds comes to is that if you know the future, you lose it, it becomes like the past so you have no future. It’s also about how knowledge is not enough, just really a factor in a bigger equation of the soul, involving communion with others. The conclusion being that to miss the bigger equation is to fail to really understand.

From a philosophical and religious perspective this justifies our not knowing the future as the future is really the wick upon which our life flame burns. I think that’s what Reynolds is aiming for.

Not everything has seemed equally reasonable in Reynolds' writing. This novel has at least two defects. One is that it has not finished managing well the 600 pages: after a patient work of spinning of threads everything accelerates towards the end where some of the collateral elements are revealed too instrumental in the final development and there are some situations too banal, without explanation given, that point to in-congruence, which slightly tarnishes the result. The other is the excessive taste of the author for the 'soap opera gimmicks': too often a chapter ends in a cliffhanger where only two things can happen. Do it once or twice, you like it and it makes you say "what a clever chap!", but when you accumulate so many situations like these, you get tired and what you say is "what a moron!"

All this is narrated, in a Titanic style, by an old lady of 400 years (humans of the two thousand seven hundred are more long-lived, which also help the relativistic effects of space travel) in an apparent flashback that puts into perspective the facts and places the conflicts of Humanity with its mechanical nemesis in a kind of endless spiral. Clever narrative plot device. Too bad about the Deus-Ex-Machina ending.

quarta-feira, novembro 20, 2019

Luba Pair: "Permafrost" by Alastair Reynolds



“‘My mother worked on quantum models for single-particle time travel. She showed how an electron -- or anything else, really, provided you could manipulate it, and measure its quantum state -- an electron could be sent back in time, looped back into the past to become a twin of itself in the future, one half of a Luba Pair. if you manipulated either element of the Luba Pair, the other one responded. You could send signals up and down time. But that was all. You couldn't send back anything much larger than an electron -- maybe an atom, a molecule, at the extreme limit, before macroscopic effects collapsed the Luba Pairing. And just as critically, you couldn't observe that time travel had happened. It was like a conjuring trick done in the dark. The moment you tried to observe a Luba Pair in their time-separated state, you got washed out by noise effect.’

‘Paradox", Margaret said. "Black and white. Either present or absent. If you don't observe, paradox hides its claws. If you attempt to observe, it kills you -- metaphorically, mostly.’

I nodded. ‘That's correct.’

‘But your mother went beyond binary paradox," Cho said. "She developed a whole class of models in which paradox is a noise effect, a parameter with grey values rather than just black and white.’

‘She spoke about it less as she got older," I replied. "They hammered her, the whole establishment. Treated her like an idiot. Why the hell should she indulge them anymore?’

‘Your mother was correct," Cho said placidly. "This we know. Paradox is inherent in any time-traveling system. But it is containable...treatable. We have learned that there are classes of paradox, layers of paradox.’

Margaret made an encouraging gesture in the direction of Director Cho. ‘Say it. You know you want to.’

Cho reached for his beer, smiling at the invitation. "Paradox itself is...not entirely paradoxical.’”

In “Permafrost” by Alastair Reynolds


Sorry, gotta go back to work now so that I can finish up reading “Permafrost” during my lunch break.
2080. A collapse of the ecosystem (which started with pollinating insects - a theme treated in a surprising number of early or late apocalyptic SF novels). Under the aegis of World Health, the last existing authority, the ultimate generation of humanity (this expression will be explained in the novel), which survives only through military rations, develops an ambitious plan: to go into the past, through a technology of time travel, search for genetically modified seeds that can change everything. The peculiarity of this technology is that one does not travel physically to the past: thanks to what one could call a “transtemporal quantum entanglement”, one can transfer the tiny self-replicating base of a medical nanotechnology, which is fixed in the brain of a subject and builds a way to divert its neurological functions, including speech, motor skills, sensory input, etc. In 2080, a "pilot" with the same kind of nanotech implant can then take control of the host's body in the past, the consciousness of which remains intact but is reduced to a role of spectator. In short, it is temporal telepresence, or piloting drone / host body through time. As is customary in this kind of temporal SF, the narration will be broken up into different intertwining threads: one takes place in the "present" (from the point of view of the protagonists), namely in 2080; another takes place in 2028, so in the "past"; but we are also entitled to scenes showing how Valentina, the "pilot" we follow, was involved in the Permafrost project.

Of course, it's déjà vu. Okay, do not expect surprises, and hijacking of tropes. But we could still have hoped for something very well done. Well not really, actually. Admittedly, the narrative lines at different times are rather well intertwined by Reynolds, certainly, the characters are OK; the rhythm, whether overall or revelation, is good, and yes, it's relatively well written and not bad to read. But in any case, you never touch the stroke of genius, the unforgettable book. We have the feeling that Reynolds makes (and especially for an author of this caliber and reputation) the union minimum, but I never found the deep admiration (or immersion) felt for a book like Mike McQuay's “Memories”.

One of the main problems of “Permafrost” is its excessive resemblance to other famous works devoted to time travel: thus, the fact that one does not travel "physically" in the past but that only the consciousness makes it, evoking the Mike McQuay's “Memories or Michel Jeury's “Le temps incertain”. The big difference being that Reynolds, in the field of Hard SF, lays an explanation much more detailed, scientific and solid than these two. Although personally, I remained a bit dubious about the exploitation of the almost classic, now quantum entanglement by a writer of the caliber of Alastair Reynolds. No doubt a Greg Egan would have laid something for us at once less stereotyped and more exotic at the same time.

Still in the chapter similarities, one will find highly suspicious convergences, in my opinion, with “Timescape” by Gregory Benford: consider that in this novel, a scientist of 1962 receives tachyonic messages from 1998, where an ecological collapse took place; as in “Permafrost”, temporal paradoxes have a major role to play in the plot, especially that of the grandfather. And then of course, we will think about the enormous mass of SF, written or cinematographic / television, where in a futuristic post-apocalyptic world, someone goes back in time to correct the situation and avoid the cataclysm. What is important, however, is not so much the similarities with any particular work, but rather the strong feeling that in the hyper-repetitive theme of time travel, Reynolds brings nothing new (apart from his Hard SF explanation of the quantum and nanotechnological mechanisms involved, as well as his model of time as a crystal -which did not convince me at all). Certainly, to make something original in terms of Space Opera becomes increasingly difficult given the plethora of novels (or movies, series, etc.) that exist, but it does not prevent trying to at least introduce a small twist in the narrative. Everything is déjà-vu, the revelations or twists are predictable (except the ridiculous blow up of the dog), and the end is not surprising. In short, unless you are a complete beginner in terms of Space Opera, it’s hard to cry “genius” let alone originality by reading “Permafrost”.

In short, “Permafrost” is not a bad novel (short), it's worse than that: it is unattractive, offering nothing better and especially nothing more than mimicking a plethora of other works published before it, and in Reynolds’ bibliography, it is one of his most dispensable works.

The good thing about this novel thing about it and going off on a tangent…

First, we don't know what time "is". We give it the symbol "t", and then devise mathematical relationships which involve "t" that replicate what we observe. We measure "t" by using something else that measures a unit of "t" (consistently, we hope), but that just tells us whether the "t" which separates two observable events is twice our basic measure or three times that measure. It doesn't tell us what "t" is. And that allows us to co-ordinate "events" - to put them in order of ascending or descending order of our basic measure. The "t" as in "now" is just that event which falls between events observed in the past and events which fall in the future. It has no special place. And what is past and future is predicated by your choice of whether A causes B or B causes A. (I'm exaggerating. What occurs "here and now" is actually quite important since what doesn't occur "here and now" requires an additional inference of how distant relationships can be observed, which is really what relativity is all about. Relativity assumes that "here and now" can be observed with no adjustment.)
The trouble with entropy as an indication of the direction of time is that it only deals in probabilities, not in certitude. The direction of time is a far more complex problem.

Consider the following:

The molecules of an isolated body of a gas, in equilibrium, will most often be observed as being evenly distributed throughout the volume in which they are confined. That is maximal entropy. It's also (from statistical mechanics) the most probable distribution.

But statistical mechanics itself is based upon that assumption that the most entropic state is the most probable state, so when it comes to this conclusion that it is less revelatory than it first appears. It's logical, it's consistent, but it's not independent.

And nothing says that the gas could not now evolve into a state where all the molecules were located at one end of the volume. Which would represent a reduction of entropy. It's simply that this lower entropy configuration will be observed on fewer occasions.

In short, the entropy of such a system does not always increase with time. It oscillates, and statistical mechanics leads us to believe that it will spend more time in the higher entropic states than the lower ones.

The direction of time is really, really weird. Arguable it doesn't really matter. If time goes in the reverse direction, you just have to invent a new physics which reverses "cause" and "affect".
Is the direction really a fundamental, can it ever be "knowable"?

Or is it just choice of convention which then dictates how we write the physical laws so that they accord with our observations? Maybe that makes it better to define the arrow in terms of entanglement, of actual interaction, rather than probability of state. Seems like a time direction is necessary for knowledge to exist. But maybe there is only forward. Any pasts we could travel to, are actually in the future. All possible pasts are in the future too (including a duplicate of our past). That would mean that entropy could continue to increase and conveniently eliminate the concept of the paradox and our ability to manipulate the present by operating in the past.

Possibly, but then you are stuck.

If you define the direction of time in terms of the reduced uncertainty of how a wave function will be resolved (given that some resolutions of the function have been eliminated with the progress of time), that is a choice of convention. You are simply imposing a definition of time.

Reduced uncertainty is the direction of time. Why, fundamentally, should that be the case? That's simply the convention that we have chosen. Absent some other dramatic breakthrough, I don't believe in an "absolute" direction of time. And I don't think that it matters. Time is just an ordering of data. More than, less than, put it in order of occurrence. Now figure out some predictive rules. Take temperature. If we set absolute zero at 1,000 degrees and the melting point of water at 0 degrees, would it change a thing? It would change a few equations, but would it affect how we understood how ice forms? How does consciousness work if environmental connections consistently are severed rather than created? If time's running in the "opposite" direction, you know less as it passes. If you follow the straight relativistic block-time idea, you can run backwards or forwards equivalently as you wish, but from the inside it's the direction of increasing entropy that seems to make sense to a living consciousness that's evolved to accomplish various goals.

Cause and effect. Reverse them, reverse the direction of time, and you would perceive no difference.
The direction of time, and the categorisation of "cause and affect" are both arbitrary (so far as we know at the moment). As a result, there is no absolute direction of time, but rather a choice of how we choose to describe the world. The entropic argument (as generally presented) doesn't work. Isolated systems in equilibrium are perfectly able to be found in an entropic state less than an earlier state. Their entropic values oscillates. Do you want time to run back and forward according to each isolated system you can create? In which case, which system directs your time arrow?

Entropy isn't the answer. It is far, far more complicated. The universe according to: general relativity = continuous, quantum theory = discrete, loop theory = granular. It's easy to see where this is going: time will turn out not to be continuous but discrete. This will become the basis of the first unified theory of life, the universe and, most of all, everything. The Zen folk always go on about the importance of the present moment, and there being nothing else. Anyone who has done some meditation knows that time seems to slow down and even stand still. So consciousness emerges from granular time. There, another big one solved!


domingo, novembro 17, 2019

Hollywood FX: "Revelation Space" by Alastair Reynolds

(My own copy)



I like SF that tells me something I don’t already know, especially about myself. I think there are some big ideas out there, but you have to be in the right place or vantage point to understand them. Sometimes you need a story like “Revelation Space” to get to that vantage point:

Q Why does bad stuff happen?
A Because if it didn't the future would not be a mystery, i.e., Already Known.
Q Would that be a bad thing?
A Yes, because you wouldn't have a life. Life is the interplay of good and bad.

I nearly took the name `DanSylveste` putting two words into one again; it was an apt choice; as a character he is a monomaniac with deficient eyes (machines), who cares nothing for others feelings or needs, an egotist par excellence. Pretty much me, bar the agoraphobia! The novels show humanity turning into different species of transhumans: the `Outers` extreme modification of body for starship voyages, the `Conjoiners` going far further into brains part machine part human, & all such minds interlinked as a `hive` mind etc.

The Revelation books feature an idea that makes me wonder: why is the Galaxy not full of Sentient lifeforms? In a few - max - million years, even with slow interstellar travel, we could colonise this Galaxy. So why has no other species done it? The inhibitors are self-replicating machines with one purpose: to stop any Species doing just that. They act as antibiotics, to stop large scale interstellar `viruses` - er, us - from spreading to far. The problem is, that it does rather explain why we seem so `alone`? The inhibitors just wait, utterly silent, for yet another bloody sentient species to evolve in the galaxy, then they wipe it out! Intersteller `weed wackers` & we are the next weeds, to invade the garden...

(My own copy bought in 2000)


God is a singularity of the extremes in complete harmony, so the more you know of the extremes, the more you can know of God. Having said that, don’t test my hypothesis...“Revelation Space” stands out when it comes to arguing solid and plausible scientific concepts. The story that is narrated is also really attractive, although the characters are mere puppets of the narrative. I have also found especially remarkable those fragments in which the author rambles freely on astrophysics; you can see that he is an expert in the field and that he knows how to explain it with talent. What is the downside then? Lack of pace and excess of chaff.

Of its around 600 pages I’d say that about 200 are pure chaff. The novel’s narrative has a lot of great points, but the action between them becomes soporific; as if Reynolds was afraid that the pace would be too intense for us... I do not know if this will be the fault of the author, or if the editor has got something to do with it. The fact is that between each fast-paced and revealing moment the pages follow each other with extreme languor. Part of the fault of this lack of rhythm falls on the inner dialogues of the characters. And it is not that the characters talk to themselves, but that they debate heatedly with a series of strange stream-of-consciousness narrative. Third-person consciousness projecting is similar to a hologram, i.e., it’s directly implanted by means of a chip in the head of the protagonists, and they keep talking with people who are not in the narrative. That is, the character interacts and speaks with another character while responding to the inner voice of a brain chip. Infuriating. But this problem happens a lot in SF.

I enjoyed the ideas in the series, but I feel it's only in his more recent novels that Reynolds has managed to create characters you give a shit about - some of the early Revelation Space books like the first and second volumes are a real chore to slog through. Great at world building (giant mobile cathedrals circling a planet; that needs a Hollywood FX treatment and no mistake!) but not so good at characterisation (the opposite of Dan Simmons in that respect). That said, “Zima Blue” is one of the best SF short stories I've read in recent years.

Back in the day I did read the Mars trilogy in full (now tetralogy), which is not exactly the height of literary agility (rather it narrated a kind of Big Brother house with scientists). But “Revelation Space” was really hard in that respect and not in a good way.



SF = Speculative Fiction.


quinta-feira, novembro 14, 2019

50 Shades of Red: "Fifty Shades of Feminism" by Lisa Appignanesi



I think a certain group of radical feminists are being very selective and cherry picking examples of media where women are apparently "objectified".

I mean for instance, batwoman isn't just a lesbian but also an intelligent, political feminist (she was expelled from the United States Military Academy because of the "don't ask, don't tell" rule). Catwoman, on the other hand is meant to emulate a femme fatale with a dominatrix-like bitchy personality. Her "style" has nothing to do with deliberate attempts to "objectify" women but is meant to represent a common comic character "motif" for narrative purposes.

You have to realize that video game / comic characters are meant to be "larger than life" to keep reader interest. How can a graphic novel convey information if the words used are considerably shorter than a book? It does this through hyperbole, exaggerated action shots / poses / emotions and character dramatization.

These companies are well aware of keeping up with diversity. Many comic book publishers including mainstream ones have superheroes of different races, different sexualities and different ways of life. Some longstanding stories do feature powerful, sexy and seductive heroines, but these heroines also kick major arse and are not "merely wank fodder". It's incredibly disrespectful to the artist to criticize their choice of making their characters look aesthetically pleasing.

It's also victimless (digital girls are not exploited) and nothing more than printed ink. I am fed up of gungho, clueless radical feminists who think us "males" just love oppressing women in the media for the sake of it. If you want freedom you must also treat those whom you disagree with respect and dignity and not just call us simple minded idiots for daring to call bull**** on this ideologically-driven moral panic. By all means attack Nuts / Zoo, I couldn't give a s*** about those wank mags, but please the leave video games and the SF genre alone!

I can see through the attack on "video games" as nothing more than a "strawman" attempt to discredit a subculture which has made massive progress to be as diverse as possible and have welcomed women with open arms. The only problem is purely that of a historical one (less women have historically taken up "computer sciences" hence there is under-representation). There is no patriarchal cyber-boogeyman!

Respecting artistic freedom and freedom of expression is qualitatively more important than pandering to dogmatic, moral imperialism. I too am tired of the same old tropes being trotted out by so many writers (of both sexes), such rape as the go-to trigger for "character development" or as the principal (or only) threat to female characters. I'm fortunate not to have suffered any such event in real life, but it's never far from women's minds - is it too much to ask that we get some wish-fulfilment too?

The internet is full of hilarious critiques of this double standard, Men vs. Women on book covers - maybe you should read some.

I don't really get a lot of the criticism leveled at the T&A comic poses? Is it any different to the improbably handsome bare-chested hunks that adorn the cover of romance/erotica novels? Both are aiming at a particular target demographic.

It's not the same thing at all:

1. Bodies - Men get to look like incredible athletes. Women get to look like pneumatic blow up dolls;
2. Clothing - male superheroes are generally in all over outfits. Female superheroes have to wear skimpy outfits with it all on display;
3. General depiction - the men get to do heroic poses. The women get to do frankly ridiculous poses to show off boobs, bum or both.

Comics are pretty horribly sexist (at least your mainstream DC and Marvel are). This is now being highlighted more and more - hopefully pressure will bring changes. Specifically on the body subject. Comic book heroes reflect the social ideal body image of their time for both men and women, though definitely filtered from the male perspective. So yes, the guy look like seasoned athletes because that's the image of "What you should look like" that's pounded into guys from the moment they start watching television, and one the female side, the women are extremely physically attractive, though not as nearly as muscled because that's the social ideal that men get for women.

And that's not exclusive to men, though it'll look different with women since while the women will look more realistically athletic, the guys usually end up somewhere between Robert Pattinson and Ryan Gosling.

And frankly, that's how superheros will almost always be. They're supposed to projections of our ideal selves, especially physically. So unless you can reform society so there is no ideal body image for any gender (which is both probably impossible, and may not even be beneficial since we hopefully want people to strive towards *some* physical goal, though it shouldn't the brick shape men are expected to be now, or the ultra-skinny, but conspicuously large-breasted ideal we have for women) you're always going to get Superheroes that just don't look like real people, because that's kinda the *point*.

Ah so politics is fine so long as it reflect debates in 'the real world' except of course feminism is a well-established political narrative and clearly generates a lot of debates so wouldn't such a political message reflect 'the real world'? You can't demand that politics and political messages in games follow a well-worn path of cultural norms as dictated as acceptable and then expect games to be innovative. The only way for games to progress as a medium is to smash socially conservative boundaries they are currently hidden behind and to be able to engage as all art forms on topics that those producing the work wish to cover.

Feminists are getting a bit desperate if they're going after fantasy novels, comic books and games. “Game of Thrones” does have a lot of sex and nudity, but it is hardly the first HBO series to be like that. As for Charlaine Harris, my guess is that the majority of her fans our women. Hers is a welcome antidote to the asexual blandness of the Twilight saga (yes I know the Harris's books were written first). After all, women like sex too.

As for fantasy genre in general, yes you can critise, as long as it doesn't turn into some kind of feminist witch-hunt. At the end of the day it is fiction and escapism. If you don't like a game, a book or comic, then don't buy it.

A story that reflects the values of the reader is relaxing and comforting. A story that challenges the values of the reader is more stressful and, well, challenging to read. Also, material that fits with existing stereotypes just slots in quietly and lets you concentrate on the plot. Material that goes against your stereotypes hogs the attention and distracts from the plot. And that is without considering people who object to having their stories mixed with what they consider hostile political propaganda.

Bottom-line: Are there any women who have read Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series? The heroine is not only a holy prostitute but also a masochist (an “anguissette” in the book, one who gets sexual pleasure from pain), yet Carey, to my mind, makes her believable, sympathetic, and even admirable. I'd be interested in hearing a woman's opinion of her. Carey seems to have been a little unfortunate to have been too early for the recent vogue for women's S/M porn, with all the sex and sadism going on in her book she should rename the series 50 Shades of Red. Carey’s writing is much more my alley than the essays in Appignanesi’s collection (and they’re so frigging boring and naïve too)!

sexta-feira, novembro 08, 2019

B-Movies in Book Form: "Blue Moon" by Lee Child



"The Sign of Four": An unmitigated pile of literary sh*t, never so glad to finish a book ever. Only finished it out of some perverse desire not to let the book beat me by giving up on it. It is truly a book not be dismissed lightly but with a bloody big throw over a cliff.

Tom Clancy: the books were strangely readable but as the series progressed they became just a load of propaganda for how great America and the American military is and in pushing his own political ideology they became just tiresome. In fact the last one Red Rabbit is nearly as bad as The Sign of Four. In Clancy's world first come Americans, then the British a bit behind then come the rest of the world in a descending order of the usual suspects.

The Sean Dillon series by Jack Higgins: its appears to be written by a computer, largely the same plot, the same characters(even if the names change) and locations, even some of the dialogue. But they are still extremely readable and pass an entertaining few hours without engaging the brain.

Ken Follett's medieval doorstops “The Pillars of the Earth” and “World without End”: B-movies in book form. Execrable writing. Clearly Follett has mastered the dark arts of sorcery. What other reason is there for why I couldn't put them down?

Anything by the late Colin Forbes: generally containing too much repetition of 'as you know, XYZ protagonist is an expert something or other that is vital to this mission', and featuring the worst fashion cues in contemporary pulp literature, with a heroine whose style guru seems to have been Margaret Thatcher. Nonetheless I seem to have read book after book of his from the library in hopes that, on the basis of the professed book a year, there surely had to be some improvement as time passed. I was wrong. He was truly the Barbara Cartland of spy fiction.

I also succumb to Lee Child's Reacher series: "Blue Moon" just came out and I duly read it. Of course it's formulaic, but it's great for a rainy afternoon indoors (still sunshine where I live and temperatures above 25 C), snuggled into a large armchair in the garden looking at the pool and accompanied by steaming mugs of tea and gluten-free beer cake. Possibly not the image Mr. Child had in mind, but I don't just drop cake crumbs over any book, you know.

sábado, novembro 02, 2019

Rugby World Cup 2019: England vs Boks (Final) - 12-32




The wheels on the bus were falling off falling off falling off. Men against boys at scrum time. The 'Bok pack' and their "alleged" physicality. Alleged? Springbok forwards are usually similar sized to other packs and probably smaller than say Pacific Islanders yet Bok packs are world renowned for their physicality. Think it's more than just physical size that people refer to when talking about the Bok pack. It's the raw aggression and mongrel from the breed a lot of whom come from generations of tough Boer that just cant be replicated anywhere else. Then you add in the hardiness and toughness from the Saffas' Xhosa and Zulu players who are actually physically smaller but bring the pace to the pack. Pound for pound Boer are able to produce more power, under normal emotional conditions, but when enraged or excited this rises to a whopping percentages Just think of that extra power, per man. Combined across the entire team that is a lot of boost, just from the team on the pitch, and that's not including the bench! When it comes to Xhosa & Zulu, why, the figures just  become even more incredible. They are on average able to produce more power than even the Boer, but only for short  spells. However, that's not the most incredible thing! When it comes to reaction speed they are head and shoulders above their Boer comrades even though the Boer themselves are noticeably more reactive than other races, even to laymen. England just didn't know what hit them and it was be no consolation to them that it is mostly the inevitable result of science. 

Pragmatic winning rugby from the Boks. Not all of Mozart’s paintings were perfect. Once SA won the physical battle up front they just tried to be as error free as possible and make England chase it and that didn’t suit them. Feel a bit for England. They’ve probably been the team of tournament but today a good bit second best. Losing Sinckler that early obviously didn’t help but that’s only a contributory factor to an entirely lacklustre performance. Key players such as Youngs, Daly and to a certain extent Billy Vunipola seemed to let the occasion get to them. Daly was exposed  positionally all game long and Youngs' passing was appalling. 16 points came directly from knock-ons or other basic errors and you just can’t get away with that at international level especially in a final. I was terrified (as always I wanted England to win; too many years at the British Council playing games of footy...) wanted through the week what could happen if the Saffas got ahead and some momentum and they were ruthless, never took their foot of England’s throats. England were never in it and it is not a total surprise either, if you have watched England vs SA over the last few years. England were totally out-muscled and out-thought. Certain things remain unchanged in rugby. You simply can’t win if you can’t scrummage. Cole has played way above himself this tournament but he was cruelly exposed by going on with 78 minutes to play. It’s not really Cole’s fault - he did his best, but he simply isn’t up to it at this level.

The Southern Hemisphere (#8: AB - #3, SA - #3, AUS - #2) keeps dominating international rugby over the Northern Hemisphere (#1: England in 2003).

RWC2019-Wrap-Up.

NB: As I've written above, Sinckler leaving the game right at the beginning destroyed England's hopes of winning the game. There's no tighthead prop like him at the moment.

sexta-feira, novembro 01, 2019

Rugby World Cup 2019: Wrap-up (Prior to the Final)


Japan vs. Russia (30-10) - WATCHED


Japan looked great ball in hand, the offload for the first try was sublime. Comically bad at gathering the high ball and pretty poor at tactical kicking. Shaky start by Japan, there. I guess nerves in front of the massive home crowd got to them, but they are going to have to be much, much better for the rest of their games. Also, they need to spend the entire week practicing how to catch high balls, because Ireland will absolutely take them apart like that. Hard to imagine Japan troubling a tier 1 nation; indeed I think Samoa would have put five or six tries through them today. But they may have been nervous. Some lovely back of the hand offloading as well. Good game.


AB vs. SA (23-13) - WATCHED



I thought South Africa were quite poor. The box kicking from de Klerk was off the mark all day. Tactics were wrong, and very 1 dimensional. With 3 giants in the pack, surely you kick the ball into touch more often and contest the opponents line-out? That they did or didn't recieve a yellow card made little difference. They still conceded 14 points in the following 10-12 minute period. Willie le Roux just has to be dropped to the bench. Poor decision making, and useless under the high ball. His tackling looks like he is playing scared ... almost touch rugby. To not play Frans Steyn at FB is a joke. Miles better than WIllie le Roux! Perhaps the Boks have to move Kolbe into outside center once in a while, and get him more into the game. They have a twinkle toes there, who will create line breaks and openings. Hopefully they won't see Jerome Garces against. He had a stinker of a performance (for both sides), with idiotic decisions, scrum infringements, no understanding of the offside rule, and general inconsistency. Just hard (for both teams) to play to the rules, if they are not applied correctly/consistently. The ABs weren't at the races on the first 20 minutes – numerous passes going into empty space rather than to a team-mate, and a complete lack of cohesion. They came away from that spell only 3 points down because while the SAs were great in defence they were bereft of ideas in attack. Mo'unga's tackle on Colbe may not have been a match-winner, but it was a match-saver. But Barrett was magnificent, and the ABs had a brilliant spell when they scored their two tries. No doubt the ABs deserved to win, and they may well improve as the tournament goes on, but I suspect Hansen was feeling jumpy in the first and final quarters of the game – not that he'd ever let it show. I don't see SA being enough of a threat, ball in hand, except through Colbe, to make the final; they didn't look as if they had much ore to give. But that was to be expected. Because the Boks used the rush defense, which is not sustainable long term. Its a great way to suppress another team, and a fantastic tactic assuming that rugby games are 30 minutes long. The AB's won because games are 80.


Italia vs. Namibia (47-22) - NOT WATCHED


Couldn't watch the game. Still recovering from last night's all-nighter to see the opening games from Friday to 

Saturday...


Aus vs. Fiji (39-21) - WATCHED


This game played out almost exactly how I would have predicted beforehand, but was nonetheless exciting for it. Fiji fantastic in spells but ultimately without the discipline and nous of Australia. There were times in the first half where Fiji, as they can, looked terrifyingly unplayable. They unfortunately could do nothing second half and Australia came back into the game really impressively. Pocock and Hooper were immense. Seeing Fiji and the other Pacific island nations  being competitive is what I most look forward to in a rugby World Cup. The commentary in this game on ITV was appalling. Not even a comment at the time about the clear no arms tackle by Hodge and apparently Fiji and Australia were “probably one of the best in the world” at any particular skill set they might happen to execute at that time. Brian Moore, Eddie Butler and Jonathan Davies, all is forgiven. Fiji gave it a good go, but they were never going to win with such a weak scrum and being unable to stop the rolling maul. They also gave it all in the first half then ran out of steam. Kinda how I expected it to go. Australia have been mighty lucky here though. I spotted that Hodge jumping shoulder tackle live, and I am amazed it was missed and we did not go to the TMO. It was also with Fiji on a dangerous attack. A red is not too much for that. With Australia down to 14, I do not think they would have won so convincingly.


France vs. Argentina (23-21) - WATCHED



Argentina could have won the game, in the last minute, if they had converted a penalty! Argentina did not play in the first half!


Ireland vs Scotland (27-3) - WATCHED


Three good things I saw from Ireland:
1) they pulverised the Scottish forwards, bringing back some of the confidence they lost earlier this year
2) They didn’t concede a try to a team that ripped England to shreds in their most recent 6N game
3) Game management in the last 20mins was superb - even with all the changes.

Not convinced it’s enough to keep the Boks awake at night, but it’s a shiteload better than where we were about a month ago.

Ireland were absolutely outstanding in that game. It is rugby union rather than rugby league where the best forward pack tends to win the game. Ireland destroyed Scotland in the tight 5 and the game was over after 20 minutes. It is not unlucky for Scotland that they don’t have a decent pack. It is a key part of the game and to turn up at a RWC without one leaves you staring at defeats like the one today against the top team in the completion. Everyone seems to think that Scotland just fling the ball about, but there was a stat today showing that Scotland kicked more than anyone else in the first round of games, closely followed by NZ. It's not this crazy free-styling all out attack that pundits claim, it's just played wider because, and here is the fundamental problem, we can't make yards up  front. So all this talk of changing the game plan, it's a load of rubbish. The Scots have no option but to play to the strengths of Russell and Hogg, as they haven't got any massive ball-carrying forwards to bring into the team.  Maybe due to the threats or Russell and Hogg Ireland just pinpointed them for blitzing. Hogg in particular received the ball and man at the same time on a few occasions. So while I agree Scotland will get nowhere trying to play a muscle game they probably need to go all out on a 'shit or bust' strategy and add more attacking threats to the back line (like starting Price and Graham). Compared with the three matches on Saturday morning; Scotland's performance was utterly poor, and they should ashamed for how they played; and yes that is harsh.

England vs Tonga (35-3) - WATCHED


Simplistically, bonus point - move on. But its highly unlikely that Jones will be so simple. 4 years ago, bonus point Fiji - move on. England were good in parts but were worryingly ill disciplined and Youngs looked like he had jet lag. The basics were shite too. There is a lot to work on. That performance had the hallmarks of the lackadaisical Lancaster early showings 4 years ago. Penalty count and handling errors were at an unacceptable level. Plus point, Youngs' kicking was a lot more accurate than recent games. But his work around the base was poor. When Vunipola got smashed in the first half, the ball was available and should have been played immediately - Young dithered, they smashed the ruck, Young panicked and shovelled on shit. A few plays later, down their end, Youngs dither, the ball squirts out, instead of playing the ball he throws his arms out like a footballer. 9 is a vital position. If you look at what Murray did today at 9 and Youngs and there is a massive gulf in class. He plays like he has no competition for his place. Oh...In the end, Tonga could not match England's superior fitness, but there is still a load of room for improvement. Tonga came to show that they were not pushovers and they really made England work hard for that fourth try for the bonus point. Ford-Farrell kicking game worked well today in terms of exploiting space. Not sure you'd employ the same strategy against, say, France, later in the pool stage, since they will diffuse the bombs and launch effective counters. It was not particularly the kind of show of force that would strike the fear of god into potential quarter final  opponents. Hopefully, England have enough reserve in the tank to overcome the other group opponents without any problems.

NB: After the opening weekend, I've seen nothing to challenge the pre-competition betting. Anyone of the 5 from the Northern Hemisphere can realistically go far in the RWC2019, based on three good matches starting in the Quarters. The group matches aren't much more than run-outs with only a couple of QF berths to be decided. Still, loving watching it all.

Wales vs. Georgia (43-14) - WATCHED


Great first half. Worrying they couldn’t score when Georgia were down to 14 players and that they drew the second half.  They’ll need to be a bit sharper all round against Australia if they want to top their pool.  One of Wales weaknesses at the last World Cup was an inability to make it count against a team who were down to 14 men (13 for a bit). Slightly disappointing that they seem to still struggle.


Russia vs. Samoa (9-34) - WATCHED



In the first half, Russia with two men up couldn't finish the game...6-5 at half-time! It could have been a bigger difference. Had Samoa properly been down to 13 they wouldn’t have scored that first try and the incident wouldn’t have occurred imo. Not often you see this phrase, but Russia scored a moral victory today, even if Samoa got the points. Russia again with lots of tackles missed. Only 3 days rest for the Russians before this game...In order to win the RWC, potent back lines are required to unlock good defences in the knockout stages. Running up huge scores against much inferior opposition does not get you any closer to the holy grail than just doing what is necessary to secure a win and a bonus point. None of these teams have it. The Northern Hemisphere teams default play is to kick for position. The ABs tend to kick for possession. Russia in the second half was slaughtered as they did in the second half against Japan...The Russian fullback Artemyev's head, could be used as some form of protective bunker. How he soldiered on after those hits, I’ll never know?! 

Love the fullback's mustache!: Go Vasily Artemyev! 

Samoa were garbage today. Scotland weren’t good, but they were playing a very clinical Ireland team. Russia were exhausted from not being given many days to rest, when already probably lacking in fitness.


Uruguai vs. Fiji (30-27) - WATCHED



24-17 at the end of the first half for Uruguay! This is a bigger shock than Japan beating the Springboks in RWC2015! I had a meeting at Pestana at 09:30 and at 08:00 (the game started at 6 06:15 and I ha a good it'd be a good game which it was). I was still at home watching the game...
Absolutely fantastic by Uruguay, huge commitment by the whole team and they had great self belief. They scrambled for every scrap and scrapped for every scramble, and really rattled the Fijians. Thoroughly deserved win in a very exciting contest. how a tiny country, with a population of just 3.4 million, could have won 15 Copa America, two World Cups, two Olympic titles (the smallest country to ever win Olympic gold in a team sport - and Uruguay did it not once, but twice), reached five World Cup semi-finals... and produced this never-ending conveyor belt of tough, talented, exceptional footballers. And Rugby! The spirit and romance of the game it's all there. If you want mauls, pick and go then watch Ireland, Aus, SA, NZ, etc., etc...Wonderful result and performance by Los Teros. A team with great passion and not insignificant rugby skills. The setting for this upset is also beautiful. The stadium was purpose-built for this tournament and is in tsunami-hit territory apparently. An altogether delightful event - unless you're Fijian! If Uruguay can beat Georgia they will have a chance of finishing 3rd in the pool and will automatically qualify for WC 2023. Absolutely LOVED that. Uruguay are a semi-amateur team, and I felt like they played like one...in the best possible way.  Just buzzing around everywhere - missing nearly 50 tackles but making up for it by literally throwing running bodies at everything that moved. Ruck technique a little suspect but effective in slowing the ball just through putting their heads into unsavoury places. Whenever they got the ball, just looking to have fun with it, throw it outside and have a run. And just playing with that pure heart that can only come from playing for the unadulterated love of the game and your country, rather than because its your job. Not gonna lie, I was tearing up at the Uruguayan captains speech at the end. Such emotion, and eloquence. And amidst all of it ending with a shout out to the city and all its been through. Pure class.



Italy vs Canada (48-7) - WATCHED



Portugal is ranked 21. Canada 22. What happened to the Wolfs? Back in late 80s/90s, Canadians were at least competitive and arguably one of the strongest Tier 2 nations. Not now.


England vs. USA (45-7) - WATCHED



Two rolling maul tries (my teacher at the British Council called them "push-over tries") in the first half for England (19-0). USA is crap...George Ford again at fly-half as in the first game. Bu this time, due to Farrell's absence (load management; Farrell was centre in the first game, but did all the conversions), he's the one doing the conversions. The props Joe Marler (tight) and Dan Cole (loose) were devastating in the dark arts of scrumming...Cole and Marler for me set the tone for this English win. Their dominance in the scrum just sapped the energy from the USA forwards and England could play on the front foot for virtually the whole of the game. I was watching the game on NBC and the American commentators (Alex Corbisiero and Dan Lyle) were laugh out funny as if USA had a chance in hell of winning this game, eve with an England's second team...More composure from England this time. They quickly identified that the conditions for passing rugby were not there and  relied on set piece to break through. Don't know what to make of the handling errors. Obviously, very greasy there but at the same a lot of the errors stem from poor passing. England need Ford/Farrell at 10/12 to function. But I suppose its pointless drawing any conclusions at this stage. Neither Tonga or the US were up to much. England looked disjointed but you have to take into account conditions, selections and the fact that they may be holding back. 

Argentina will be the first real test.

28.09.2019 - Arg vs. Tonga (28-12): WATCHED



Tonga can start packing. Football is easy to understand, its fans think knowing "the offside rule" is a feat of genius. Rugby is not as easy to pick up...


28.09.2019 - Japan vs. Ireland (19-12): WATCHED



What a game from Japan! What a game from the fly-half Tamura! Japan very sharp at the breakdown and their handling and running lines were just brilliant. The speed and accuracy of their handling and breakdown work was superb. Talk about getting fast ball! And with the defensive discipline made it almost a complete performance. On that form they would give most tier 1 sides a real run for their money. Is this a bigger upset than Japan beating SA? I think it is. Ireland, the No1 side heading in to the WC, would not have underestimated Japan so no surprise factor. Ireland didn't score a point after the 21st minute and were outplayed completely in the second half. Ireland seemed befuddled by the Japan tactic of kicking long to keep them pinned in their own 22, winning the turnover, then the Japan forwards hammering away at them in wave after wave of ferocious attacks. The Ireland defense appeared clueless most of the time. Japan played rugby, lots of rugby at great pace and with great skill and commitment. Hardly any box kicks. Ireland looked stolid and unimaginative and looked like a bunch of lumbering lunkheads...So sick of watching Ireland make two passes through the backs and then the back in possession running back into the ruck/forwards. Maybe it is borne of a realisation they are not capable of creating any danger in the backs other than maybe kick chase. Their handling and passing skills must be the lowest of a Tier 1 nation. Their forwards are generally good. Their backs are at best toothless.

28.09.2019 - RSA vs. Namibia (57-3): WATCHED


Namibia is crap. Namibia doesn't even have professional players. They play lower level rugby in South Africa. Stopped watching in the first half, not a lot of joy in a game like that. Enough said!


29.09.2019 - Georgia vs. Uruguay (33-7) - WATCHED


Gorgadze is back! Uruguay was dead tired...


29.09.2019 - Wales vs. Wallabies (29-25) - WATCHED



Biggar vs. Foley-without-the-moustache (To'omua made such a difference when he came on, can't believe he didn't start). Wales started with a Biggar's drop goal! The Wallabies need another goose-step man (Campese)...Technically the best game so far. Great game of rugby. One thing I would say is the amount of offsides in this world Cup that are going unpunished is ridiculous. Everytime the ball reaches the backs the opposition is on them almost before they've caught it. Its been happening in nearly every game. Not that this would affect the aussie team as I'm fairly sure their inside centre is  incapable of passing the ball. Wales went through 6-7 years where they lost to Aus by 1-5 points, usually in the last ten minutes. The last two matches have been a big break with what had come to seem the norm. Hooper should have had a yellow card for deliberately lining up Biggar with his shoulder and whilst Kerevi was a tad unlucky, you can't lead forcefully with your forearm. Great sportsmanship by him to shake Patchell's hand. Cheika wants to go back to 2015, select the same team and hope for the same results. Why on earth is he switching back to Foley after 3 years of mediocrity? MOM for me was Patchell (substituted Biggar with concussion); from his off-the-bootlaces first touch pick up, though the in-off 48m penalty and the drop goal under all sorts of pressure. I don't know if the pictures are the same all over the world, but from the images we get in NZ there is no way that a TV viewer can sensibly opine on whether Davies was offside before taking the interception. At 37:23, when Genia has his hands on the ball, the shot is a tight angle, with only the ruck and the Welsh 6&7 in the frame. At 37:24, the shot switches to a wide angle and Davies is a meter and a half in front of the rest of the Welsh line, running full tilt. Where he came from ie whether behind the last feet or not is simply unable to be determined. Early in the second half, he went for another intercept but shelled it. In that play, he clearly came from an onside position. He is and always has been freakishly good at anticipating these opportunities.

30-09-2019 - Scotland vs. Samoa (34-0) - NOT WATCHED



02-09-2019 - France vs. USA (33-9) - WATCHED



Ramos can't hold onto the ball, Huget and Medard are always likely to make stupid errors, and the only player of mention is Lopez, who was really good, and would have been far better still if he was allowed a more attacking role. The French tend to be a different team from week to week, sometimes its all about the scrum, others the backs! Their bench saved them, but even then it wasn't all that convincing. When they discover a consistent approach across the whole team they may be a force to be reckoned with - 2023 maybe?!And the collapsing scrums all the time?? I mean the rest of the team can get on with the game, the front rows will sort it out amongst themselves. For front rows the biggest issue in rugby at the moment is that too much rugby is taking up precious scrumming time!

NB: Any All Black who 'eased off' the opposition would not remain an All Black for much longer. Every AB player is competing against challengers for their places of equal talent, as much as against opponents. That is why they're so insanely good - and why no team, howsoever ranked, is immune from a fifty-point stuffing on their day. I speak as a 

Portuguese-that-Once-Upon-a-Time-Played-the-Game fan...

02-09-2019 - AB vs. Canada (63-0) - WATCHED



In rugby every team wants to play the ABs. Canada were outclassed but played with a lot of heart. I'm sure the Canadian players will have given it their very best shot and played to their potential. Knowing they were certain to lose it took some fortitude and collective will to face that expected defeat and yet give their all. And I would imagine having some of the ABs coming at you full tilt is far from a trivial thing. As with other things in life, it is also well-known that a thorough thrashing in Rugby builds fortitude and resilience...


03-10-2019 - Fiji vs. Georgia (45-10) - WATCHED



This whole "Georgia in the 6N" thing is such a tedious debate. Italy is much better. Today proved that Georgia are a long way from even being the best tier 2 nation.


03-09-2019 - Ireland vs. Russia (35-0) - WATCHED


Good game to illustrate that a divergent scoreline doesn't necessarily tell you everything about the quality of the play. The Russian defence held their ground, and held back Ireland. Ireland couldn't score a try for 60 minutes of the match. This was as poor a 35-0 win as I've seen. Russia knew how to defend against Ireland and how to steal the ball at the breakdown. The first 20 mins of the second half were abject.



Boks vs. Italy (49-3) - WATCHED



I think the uncontested rucks actually benefitted italy. No penalties from collapsing the scrum and south Africa had been pushing italy around at the scrum. That was a bruising defeat for the Italians. It was already tough luck losing two props to injury so early in the game. And then they conjure up a crass act of stupidity in the second half that led to the loss of a third prop, decimating them even further. To make matters worse for them, their final pool match will be against the formidable All Blacks. The Italians will be trying to forget this RWC as fast as they can. The Boks are a veritable lean, mean, brutally efficient machine. A juggernaut, if you will. Their imposing green wall of  defense is impenetrable. Their power runners are unstoppable. Their rolling maul is a thing of beauty. Cheslin Kolbe is a diminutive, harmless-looking, try-making beast. Did we just watch the team that will eventually hoist the Webb Ellis Cup?

05-10-2019 - Aus vs. Uruguay (45-10) - NOT WATCHED



05-10-2019 - England vs. Argentina (39-10) - WATCHED



I know that England is holding back. All Blacks in 2015 RWC in pool play were scratchy, but improved in the finals. Sometimes teams bring you to their level, not being disrespectful to Argentina. England are building, and I would not read too much into this game. Even against 14 men, England were lumbering and predictable at times. Maybe the fans lauding their "get it done any way you can" mentality should be more concerned at the lack of genuine flair and invention in their side. Vunipola seems off his game - heist making the yards he did- even though he isn't being that heavily 
targeted. Hope his ankle is OK. Farrell should have gone off after the hit- not just the kicking but his decision making was clearly affected- ye was hanging on to the ball a second longer than he would normally do and went into contact too often- this limited England's back play and made everything slow down unnecessarily. Was really looking forward to this game but it went downhill after that high tackle. Shame. At this level, if you're a coach, then you should be telling your players to aim much lower. I think it was a deliberate ploy to rattle Farrell, get him to lose his rag and maybe get binned himself. Not a ploy I applaud but if you are going to do it, don’t go head hunting. Because the result will always be a red. Sure, niggle Farrell, push him a bit post whistle etc, even ask him about the last book he read! But getting a red yourself, dumb behaviour.


05-10-2019 - Japan vs. Samoa (38-19) - WATCHED


Bloody hell Samoa! Bloody, bloody hell! Robert Louis Stevenson is a national hero in Samoa. Could you not have done the land of his birth a favour by booting the ball out instead of trying to win a scrum and running in a try from 80 bloody metres! They handed Japan the BP.Slightly scrappy game are times, but Japan are looking like solid contenders. Keeping the pressure on, and securing the  bonus point could prove vital in the group. Simply securing a losing bonus point could now qualify them from the group. Saying that, you have to fancy them to win the game against scotland.


06-10-2019 - All Blacks vs. Namibia (71-9) - NOT WATCHED



06-10-2019 - France vs. Tonga (23-21) - NOT WATCHED



08-10-2019 - RSA vs. Canada (66-7) - NOT WATCHED



09-10-2019 - Argentina vs. USA ( ) - NOT WATCHED



On attack USA got over the gain line with a charge from the massive Lasike, then get quick ball to the big forwards around the fringes. They then either drop the ball in the backs or deliver an aimless kick to the opposition strike runners. Defensively Argentina worked out the USA 'blitz' defence with inside passes and moving it wide quickly.

09-10-2019 - Scotland vs. Russia (61-10) - WATCHED


You can only beat what's in front of you, and in the past we've seen stodgy Scotland performances against supposed minnows. This was sharp and professional. A few handling errors and daft forward passes aside; Scotland did everything that was asked of them. Unfortunately Russia was shite. Poor Russia ran out of steam, too many big all-out previous games.



09-10-2019 - Wales vs. Fiji (29-17) - WATCHED



Lots of mistackles from Wales. With so many errors I don't believe they can be real contenders to the title.


11-10-2019 - Australia vs. Georgia (27-08) - NOT WATCHED



12-10-2019 - AB vs. Italy (Cancelled - Hagibis)


12-10-2019 - France vs. England (Cancelled - Hagibis)


It's not the World Cup anymore, it's the "what if" tournament. AB vs. Italy wouldn't change the outcome of the group rankings, because it's unlikely that Italy would have beaten New Zealand but we'll never know. And if France had beaten England, the quarter finals would look very different, but we'll never know. And of course Scotland and Japan tomorrow. Ireland could win the group or come second depending on the result of Japan vs Scotland. And of course Scotland could go home not knowing if they could have reached the quarter finals. So, I'm not as interested as I was. I hope the "What If" tournament keeps everyone as interested as a World Cup tournament would have done.

12-10-2019 - Ireland vs. Samoa (47-5) - NOT WATCHED


13-10-2019 - USA vs. Tonga (31-19) - NOT WATCHED


13-10-2019 - Wales vs. Uruguay (35-13) - WATCHED


As expected with 13 changes and 2 days prep time Wales were disjointed inaccurate and lethargic. Uruguay, however, were as they have been in the other games. Tenacious, opportunist and very nippy. Give them time and money and they could push to join the likes of Fiji and Georgia as a team the big boys really want to avoid.


13-10-2019 - Japan vs. Scotland (28-21) - WATCHED


Wow, what a game! Outstanding game; possibly the game of the tournament so far. Japan were excellent and Scotland upped their game magnificently to almost - so close at the end - almost match them. I was hoarse and knackered at the end of that game just by watching it - both sets of players looked out on their feet at the end. The growing calls for the Tier 1 nations to be reassessed will only grow after that performance. A coldly realistic look at the situation over the past 23 years will show only England, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia deserve the honour of the title. The commentator on ITV got it spot on when he said it was just like watching the Barbarians. Can they beat the Saafas? Japan beat the Boks in 2015 in the exact same manner as the beat the Irish and the Scots. Quick heals from scrums - small fast aggressive backs that Kolbe Cheslin like out exhaust their much bigger opponents. Tier 1 rugby is all about big 15“ flanker type“ players and the Springboks, Ireland, and Scotland have been completely out maneuvered by a 1980 styled team lead by a coach “from that time“. Tier 1 rugby needs to revert to fast small backs who can play 80 minutes at the  expense of huge backs who after 50 minutes are exhausted. Can't wait for the quarter-finals!

Quarter-Finals:

19-10-2019 - England vs. Wallabies (40-16) - WATCHED


Who's the idiot who decided the Wobblies shouldn't clear the ball from their 22? It's not just possession by England; it's field position, and the the last try sums it up, the Wallabies trying too much from within their own 22. Idiotic. Can't remember a worse Australian team. Woeful game management, loads of silly mistakes and some of the worst decision making i have seen at this level. How many times did they have to do that short restart before they realised it gave England the ball near the half way line every single? They were actually the better team in the opening 15 but found  themselves well down purely on silliness. For the Wallabies, there are a lot of players who simply are not up to international standard any more. No Campeses, no Lynaghs. I really fear for the game in Australia. A shame to see a player like Koroibete to go out: the pace, power and the angles of his runs were incredible. What's the basic problem with Australia? No-one plays Union in Australia anymore...Sinckler’s try summed it up for me. Set up, set up, set up, a small error in defense, two tacklers with three runners, and a stand off half who picked the right one. This is precision rugby at its best. And as no doubt many here will say, excellent tactical choices from Jones. Farrell was brilliant, but the win was nothing to do with him being preferred over Ford. It was the tactical package that won it, of which the player choice is a part but far from the whole. The England defence was tight as a drum and Owen Farrel rediscovering his kicking boots, which somehow became errant during the pool matches, was the best thing to happen since the beginning of time.

19-10-2019 - AB vs. Ireland (46-14) - WATCHED


NZ played fantastic rugby but Ireland were awful, most of it simple/basic stuff. Kicking away possession, not finding touch, no support for attacking player who then gets stripped or a penalty for holding on, centres coming too close to the passer and running into a gaggle of defenders, inane/pointless box kicks that again give away the ball, awful defending, think the Ireland winger was 15m out of position at one point. There were far too many errors by the Irish to even get a sniff. Owens did make a few too many errors that favoured NZ, not that that would change the result but they don't need a leg up! Their try under the posts in 2nd half was from an obvious forward pass, far too often NZ getting away with casual obstruction, there were at least two in the 2nd half that should have been blown when NZ players simply moved into the way of the tacklers and Owens utterly ignored it. Also NZ player clearly off his feet and Owens did nothing despite it being so obvious which resulted in pressure off NZ from an Irish attack. England will be a hugely different prospect but can't see NZ losing and on that performance can't see past them to lift the RUWC trophy.


20-10-2019 - Wales vs. France (20-19) - WATCHED


How did France find a way to lose this one? Apart from Vahaamahina's textbook brain freeze moment, they missed an easy penalty, a conversion, a drop goal and should have scored more points at the end of the 1st half! It's a real shame because they were totally dominant. Nevertheless, congratulations to Wales who scraped the win, which ultimately is the only thing that counts in a World Cup knockout rugby match. And they also managed to lose possession from 2 attacking scrims now on the Wales 5m line. If I was a French rugby supporter I would be apoplectic right now. Dreadful performance from Wales. Utterly devoid of ideas, second best at the contact and witless in game management. France once again find a way to not win though.

The Boks will win against Wales easily.

20-10-2019 - Springboks vs. Japan (26-3) - WATCHED


A great game. Unfortunately for Japan they just couldn't score in the first half, except for the penalty. The second half South Africa just turned the screw against a tiring opponent. Thank you Japan for playing rugby with such joy. It was fun while it lasted. South Africa held their players up in the tackle at every opportunity and went to the maul every chance they got. Japan simple weren't allowed to play their slick passing gaming. i'd add that Japan tired alot in the 2nd half, understandable as it must be punishing trying to play at the tempo they managed in the 1st half. Japan wasn’t recycling the ball anywhere near as quick in the second half allowing SA a lot of turnovers in the breakdown. The big difference, for me, in this game compared to the JAP v SCO game was that Japan couldn't convert their 1st half pressure into points because of the SA defence before they tired in the 2nd half. The Saffas' physicality was brutal.

Semis:


My prediction (I'll check this on the 2nd of November after the final):

All Blacks Champions. Boks Runners up. England 3rd. Wales 4th. Except the Boks might just win.


26-10-2019 - England vs. AB (19-7) - WATCHED


This shows once and for all the AB's game is not what it used to be. Have you seen how the AB play rugby nowadays? Their entire platform is based on breakdown shithousery! To say England's forwards were flawless and their defense brilliant sound like a hark back to the days England played dour, unimaginative rugby, but that would be the most incredible disservice to this brilliant English side. That was then, this is now. Yes they did win it with flawless forward play and brilliant defense but it was never leaden or boring but fast and engrossing. England played not just rugby to win, but  rugby to entertain and they did it brilliantly. Yes they won it in their fast and mobile forwards not their creative backline, but that's because this is where this contest would always be won...their backs can wait. Keep entertaining England (forwards or backs); it's what rugby is all about! Also have to give massive credit to Eddie Jones and the forwards coach for England's lineout today. The AB were obviously targeting it by starting with three locks but, apart from the try of course, it was rock solid. England must have gone through about 20 different variations on England's own throw and only got picked off twice. Fantastic stuff. That was an absolute collectors item. First time I’ve ever seen England out muscle the ABs and beat them for fitness. Still it was credit to them that I couldn’t relax until the last 5 minutes. Lawes plus Itoje and Underhill plus Curry is like playing with two 6s and two 7s and that showed at the  breakdown. When the AB broke England were able to kill the move before a try when any normal side would have been broken. ABs are at their most dangerous in broken play after oppo mistakes and England just gave them so little to play with.  Ford, Farrell and Manu were huge in defense. ABs thought Manu was a weakness out wide, he actually pulled off two fantastic tackles on the wing after drifting from his own man who he had covered. Mako and Billy both huge and Jamie George was immense. 



NB: England's players Joe Marler and Billy Vunipola strayed into the All Blacks' territory at the start of the haka and simply ignored the officials' pleas to get back on their side of halfway. It perhaps signified that the men in white wouldn't play by the normal rules at Yokohama Stadium.

27-10-2019 - Boks vs. Wales (19-16) - WATCHED


Wales, why on earth did you join in with South Africa's boring approach to the game? Kick, kick, kick it back to them. I've been enjoying the games up until now. Hope England use pace and skilful handling to win on Saturday. I honestly don’t think we will ever see a worse World Cup semi final. Wales stunk out the six nations and won a GS on the back of boring anti rugby. But this WC they have been worse. What an appalling game from both teams! Awful game of rugby, so bad I went for a walk second half... why waste a glorious morning watching that...? The kind of game to watch on teletext for those old enough... I’ve said throughout they are boring, negative and unimaginative and would get found out. They are flattered in the extreme in reaching a semi-final. But the Saffers are not much better in that respect...For more than ten years now everybody knows that to beat the Boks you have to run at them wide - is Gatland that stupid? A game that reminded me just why I stopped watching for a decade in the 80s. Kick kick kick. WTF!

01-11-2019 - AB vs Wales (40-17) - WATCHED


The game was very much as I expected. Gatland gave clearance for some untested players to have a go and get a bit of experience against the very best and in fairness they did reasonably well. England have shown how to beat the ABs and I think a full strength Wales at the Principality could get over the line against them and with their defense back in tact, which has gone badly missing at times during this rwc, but it was pure moonshine that was going to happen today for a Welsh b team, full of injuries playing loose, full of kids on a six day turnaround. They were always going to come off second best against a fired up NZ.

Sum-up:


Games Watched        = 35 (includes the final tomorrow) - 80%
Games Not Watched = 9                                                   - 20%
Games Cancelled      = 3
Games Total             = 47 (due to the 3 games cancelled, 44 games considered for statistics purposes)