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Rugby News: ‘In his game’

Ellis Genge was a man possessed in the early stages of England’s win over the Wallabies in Brisbane, but his petulant baiting of Michael Hooper and Nic White went over the line and should have been dealt with by the referee Andrew Brace.

While Genge’s powerful surge over Michael Hooper to lay down an early marker showed the good in his game, those two moments demonstrated how England’s niggle tactics set down when Jonny Hill got Darcy Swain sent off in Perth have been allowed to escalate unchecked by officials, and the Wallabies expect more of it this weekend in Sydney.

After England’s only try in their Suncorp Stadium victory, Genge got into Hooper’s face and belted him repeatedly in the chest with his open hands. How such a shocking act of sportsmanship could be allowed to stand without any reproach from officials is anyone’s guess. In days gone by Hooper’s teammates would have rushed to his defence but the bemused Aussie captain was left to deal with it on his own

Genge’s next grubby act was even worse. With White laying on the ground, the England prop drove his elbow into the Australians head, pinning him to the ground.

On Tuesday, White said he was surprised by the level of niggle in the series and while he tried not to make a meal of the Genge nonsense, he was taken aback by one English reporter’s framing of a question about the incident.

“There was an incident where you were at a ruck and Ellis Genge seemed to sort of lean on you with his elbow. Was he just sort of whispering sweet nothings in your ear? Or what was your memory of that?” asked the reporter.

“No, mate, it wasn’t a ruck, and ‘leaning on me with an elbow’ is a nice way to put it,” White responded frostily.

“Ellis has got that in his game. We’re two guys that know each other from playing in the Prem. It was just two competitors going at it.

“He’s a good man, a great player and he’s a real talisman for England. I knew if he got a chance to get his hands on me he’d have a crack at me but there’s nothing malicious in terms of words. It’s just he’s got a chance to get his hands on me and he thought he’d make it known. So that’s just rugby and I’d expect nothing less this weekend.”

White was then asked how he would define the contact if not ‘ ‘leaning on you with an elbow’.

“Next one,” was White’s reply.

But the No.9, agreed that he was “probably a little bit surprised” by the amount of niggle brought onto the field by the tourists.

“It was pretty harmless in terms of the words out there and just two teams going at it but we will expect the same this weekend, them coming after us. It’s just part of the game. Hopefully, we’ll look to start the game a little bit more physical up front but we wouldn’t be baited into that off-the-ball stuff. We’ll leave that for those boys.

“You have to be careful around these areas in how you retaliate. With the Genge one I was being asked to calm down (but) I thought I was pretty measured. You saw what happened and then the penalty went the other way.

“So you have to be careful. Certainly, you don’t want anyone running in. But yeah, there’s a fair bit of niggle and we won’t be buying into that. At the end of the day, it’s a game of rugby and the only thing that matters is who wins.

“We know there’ll be a fair bit of niggle. There has been in the first two games and there will be again in this game but we’ll be doing our best to just concentrate on the rugby side of things.”

White, meanwhile, said he expected the Wallabies to keep trying to grab intercepts even though the penalty of a yellow card for getting it wrong is significant, as happened to Izzy Perese and Marcus Smith in Brisbane.

“It’s tough because if your winger sits high and takes it and goes 90 it’s such a game-changer,” White said.

“Izzy takes that and it’s a 14-point swing potentially. You miss it maybe they score, he gets it and we go under the sticks. I’ve seen [Tom Wright] take plenty. “

He said the players know the risks.

“The rules are the rules. They’ve been there for quite a while now. There’s definitely ones that guys just stick their hand out and slap it down close to contact and then the ones where the ball’s been in the air for quite a while and the guy’s genuinely going for the intercept,” said White.

“Maybe it’s a bit different but that’s for the powers that be to decide. We’ve spoken about it, and every team I’m sure has, around being smart about it. I don’t think you can go there and say don’t do it because if a quick winger takes an intercept and goes the length of the field you’re pretty happy.”

Foster called a ‘clown’ by ex-Ireland player

As if falling to their equal lowest World Rugby ranking ever wasn’t enough motivation for the All Blacks ahead of the third Test against Ireland, a scathing review of their performance and coach Ian Foster must do the trick.

Neil Francis, a former Ireland lock, savaged New Zealand’s coach after the defeat in Dunedin on Saturday.

“The baroque stupidity of Foster’s decisions on and off the park are a testament to what happened on the field,” Francis wrote.

“He made the huge mistake of taking off his best forward, Ardie Savea. It is not [Jaco] Peyper’s fault that Foster does not know the rules governing replacements.

“For New Zealand, the malaise was palpable. Their back line on the day couldn’t run a bath.”

Despite that sledge it appears Peyper and his fellow official messed up the law around Savea, and wrongly insisted that the powerful No.8 had to stay off the field following a red card to his teammate Angus Ta’avao.

Francis was the latest to hammer Sam Cane – reportedly sledged by Irish enforcer Peter O’Mahony as a ‘shit Richie McCaw,” and rookie ABs winger Leicester Fainga’anuku, who received a yellow card for a late hit on Mack Hansen.

“Sam Cane has been bang average for years and this could be his final series,” Francis wrote.

He added that Fainga’anuku “had no idea what to do and was lost at sea as Ireland broke down the right wing.

“Can he defend? Well, that is the coach’s job to know.

“Whose fault was it that he was out of his depth? Foster is a clown.”

Francis, who played 36 Tests for Ireland, claimed Foster was on his last chance this weekend, although there is little evidence to support his view.

“If New Zealand lose next week Foster is gone and [Joe] Schmidt is in, which is a pity because we will meet New Zealand in the quarter-finals again in France and I was rather hoping that Foster would still be bumbling along in charge,” Francis added.

The article is likely to spark a ‘blacklash’ from the wounded Kiwis.

Savea said the criticism was stinging but he backed Foster.

“I try to stay away from that sort of stuff but I’d be lying if [I said I don’t take notice of it]. I’ll be scrolling through the ‘Gram [Instagram] and you see stuff, but that’s just the reality of our job and what we do in the jersey.

“It does hurt because we’re a family here but with everything that happened, we’ve got each others’ backs. People perceive what they see but they don’t know what goes on inside.

“I back my coach, I back my skip and back my players 100%. Side by side.”

Foster, meanwhile, said he agreed with Eddie Jones that the yellow and red card issue in the game is getting outn of hand.

Referees waved five yellow cards and one red card during the All Blacks-Ireland and Wallabies-England Tests on Saturday, as World Rugby’s crackdown on high contact and ‘deliberate’ knock-downs shows no signs of abating.

“I think it’s too far,” Foster said on Sunday. “I think we’re in danger of turning the game into a card festival.

“There were clearly strong messages sent out last week [by World Rugby]. There was a feeling that we should have had four yellow cards last week, so that seemed to be the mindset that that went into this game.”

Cane ok with ‘good rugby banter’

Sam Cane has done nothing to clear up the veracity of the alleged ‘shit Richie McCaw’ sledge from Peter O’Mahony at a media appearance on Tuesday.

Media outlets reported that as the exchange between the pair as they grappled with each other near Ireland’s try line late in the Dunedin Test, alhtough there is no audio evidence that that is the case.

“It’s just good rugby banter, all part of the game,” said Cane. “I don’t mind it. Good stuff.”

Asked if reports of the exchange had been accurate, Cane asked the journalist what he thought, before the team media manager shut down the press conference.

Before that question Cane had said the ABs weren’t concerned with their ranking slipping to No.4, saying they were more focused on the process of winning.

“It’s certainly a goal to get back to world No. 1, but we realise the process in doing that is performing consistently, and at the moment we haven’t been doing that.”

Of Ireland’s win in Dunedin, he added: “Absolutely, the situation is not what we wanted, but now we look at it and embrace it.

“It’s a good challenge for us. It’s do or die, it’s just like World Cup stuff, so we’re looking forward to it.

“The drive is massive. We were hugely disappointed with what we dished out on Saturday. We need to be so much better. Our drive is the fact we have pride in the jersey, we’re not happy with what we put out and we’ll be working hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“It’s about channelling our emotions the right way. We’re angry, disappointed in ourselves, but there’s no point dwelling on that performance. We have to pick ourselves up and shift the mindset, highlighting the things we need to get better at. That’s quite energising and exciting, and then we save those other emotions for Saturday night.”

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