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Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Tomorrow (Friday 25 November) I am boarding a plane which will eventually get me to Brisbane (Australia), via Seoul. Yes, I’m aware that Brisbane is not New Zealand, but in Brisbane I am joining a cruise which is going around New Zealand. The cruise will last for 14 nights, and I will give about 6 talks during the two weeks.

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The Princess Cruise leaves Brisbane on 27 November and returns on 11 December. I will be giving astronomy talks on the 14-night cruise.

This will be the 5th cruise which I’ve done with Princess, and the 6th in total. The last time I did a cruise in the southern hemisphere was in February, when I cruised from Buenos Aires to Santiago around Cape Horn. Unfortunately, during that 14-night cruise, we had only one clear night! I am hoping for better weather this time, as in addition to my talks I run star parties to show the guests what is visible in the night-time sky. 

Many of the guests will probably be from Europe or the United States, and so will be very keen to see the Southern Cross. I will also show them the Magellanic Clouds if weather permits. The New Moon is on the 29 November, so the first week of the cruise will be ideal to see the Magellanic Clouds if the skies are clear. After that, the brightening moon will render them all by invisible. So, fingers crossed we get some clear skies during the first week!

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On Saturday (11 June), Wales played New Zealand in the first test of their 3-test tour. Later the same morning, England played Australia in the first test of of their 3-test tour. Wales lost, England won. And therein lies the different trajectories the two teams seem to be on this last 6 months.

Wales were 18-15 up at half time, and even 21-18 ahead with 15 minutes to go. But, New Zealand overpowered Wales in the last 15 minutes, racking up 21 unanswered points in the last quarter of an hour. Wales were left thinking what could have been.

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Wales were 21-18 up with 15 minutes to go, but were then overpowered by New Zealand, who won 39-21.

Later the same morning, England took on Australia in the first test of their 3-test tour. The match was in Brisbane, a place where England have never beaten Australia. Australia got off to the better start, quickly scoring two tries, but England stayed calm and won a pulsating match 39-28. It sets them up to be on course for their first ever series win in Australia, something their Australian coach Eddie Jones would relish.

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England beat Australia to not only win the first test of their 3-test series, but it was also their first win ever in Brisbane.

The second tests are next Saturday (18 June). England could clinch the series, and Wales will try to narrow the gap between themselves and the All Blacks. But, to me, Saturday’s results just illustrate the different paths Wales and England have been on since that memorable game in the World Cup in October. Wales narrowly beat England in that match; partly by being fitter, partly by maybe wanting it more, and partly because of poor decision making by England in the last 15 minutes.

Since then, England have been transformed. Eddie Jones has been brought in as head coach, and they are now playing a style of rugby which is difficult to beat. They have won 7 from 7 under Jones, whereas Wales have gone backwards since their win over England in the World Cup. It was good to see Wales try to play some expansive rugby on Saturday, and maybe playing such rugby against almost anyone but New Zealand would have led to a victory. Two more tests, which i expect us to lose, at least gives the Welsh team and management a chance to play agains the best and to work on improving their game so that we can have a successful 6 Nations in 2017, and a successful Autumn test series in November.

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In the early hours of tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, I will be talking on BBC Radio 5 about the total solar eclipse which is happening in Asia. I am scheduled to be live on the radio at 01h35 GMT/UT; I will provide an update to this blog later on Wednesday with a link to the programme on iPlayer if you miss hearing it when broadcast.

This total solar eclipse is visible in Indonesia in its totality; and in large parts of China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Burma, North and South Korea, the Philippines and Australia as a partial eclipse. The figure below shows the path of totality, percentages of partiality and it also includes the times (in UT – universal time) of when the eclipse will happen in these different places.

 

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The path of the March 9 2016 total solar eclipse (shown in blue). The green lines show the time (in UT – universal time) that the Moon’s shadow will pass different parts along the path of totality. The eclipse begins just west of Sumatra with totality starting at just after 00h16 (UT), and ends at just after 03h30 (UT) in the eastern part of the Pacific ocean, to the north of the Hawaiian islands.

There is also a wonderful interactive map which you can find by following this link. This allows you to click anywhere on the map to see what fraction the eclipse will be from your particular location in Asia/Australia or the Pacific, as well as the timings of the beginnings and ends of the partial (and total if you are lucky) eclipse. Below is a screen capture from that page. For the particular location I chose, it shows the start time (in UT) of the start of the partial eclipse, the start of the total eclipse, the time of the maximum eclipse, the end of the total eclipse and the end of the partial eclipse (even if you are in the path of totality there is a long period before and after the few minutes of totality where you will see a partial eclipse).

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A screen capture from the NASA interactive eclipse page, which you can get to by following this link. I have brought up the information for somewhere in Sumatra, showing the information provided when you click on a particular location.

 

How common are solar eclipses?

A question I often get asked is “how common are solar eclipses”? There are typically two solar eclipses a year, but these are usually only partial. Total solar eclipses (or annular, where the Moon is too far away to block out the Sun entirely even though it moves across near the centre line of the Sun) are rarer, occurring about once every 18 months. But, the time between a total solar eclipse occurring in the same place on Earth is a lot longer, about 350 to 410 years apart. So, having a total solar eclipse happen near where you live is a very rare event indeed.

The map below shows all of the total and annular solar eclipses in the period 2001-2020. Total eclipses are shown in blue, annular eclipses in red, and hybrid eclipses (where it changes between total and annular) in dark pink. On each eclipse curve the mid-point, where the eclipse is at its longest, is also shown. You can easily see from this map that annular eclipses are about as common as total eclipses. The width of each curves changes as the distance between the Earth and the Moon and the Earth and the Sun changes, so some eclipses have a wider part of totality than others, and some also sweep along shorter paths than others.

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A map showing the paths of total and annular eclipses between 2001 and 2020

As you can also see from this map, the big one coming up in the near future is the total eclipse which sweeps across the continental USA on August 21 next year (2017). This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for hundreds of millions of people to see a total solar eclipse for themselves. I will blog about the details of that eclipse nearer the time.

But for now, if you happen to live in south-east Asia, Australia or the Pacific, keep an eye out for this total eclipse happening tomorrow (Wednesday March 9 2016). And, if  you live anywhere else, you can watch it live on the internet.

Eclipses this decade (2011-2020)

Many of you may remember that Europe had an eclipse just last year (2015), on March 20th. It was partial for most of Europe, only visible as a total eclipse way up north in places like the Faroe islands. I blogged about that eclipse here, and in this blogpost I showed some of the photographs I had taken in Cardiff, where it reached 87% at maximum. The last total eclipse to sweep across the European continent was in August 1999, and this is the only total eclipse which I have seen so far.

I thought I would briefly summarise the eclipses which have happened or are happening this decade (2011-2020). I also show whether they are total, annular, hybrid or partial. If you want to find out the details of any of them (or any other eclipse in the past few thousands years or in the next few thousands years), then go to Fred Espenak’s webpage here (Fred works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and maintains this amazing resource.)

Table of eclipses from 2011 to 2020
Year Date
2011 January 4 – partial June 1 – partial July 1 – partial November 25 – partial
2012 May 20 – annular November 13 – total
2013 May 10 – annular November 3 – hybrid (annular and total)
2014 April 29 – annular October 23 – partial
2015 March 20 – total September 13 – partial
2016 March 9 – total September 1 – annular
2017 February 26 – annular August 21 – total
2018 February 15 – partial July 13 – partial August 11 – partial
2019 January 6 – partial July 2 – total December 26 – annular
2020 June 21 – annular December 14 – total

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The waiting is nearly over. At 5pm today, Wales will take on Australia in the long anticipated showdown between the two countries. As the table below shows, including the match at the World Cup in October 2011, Wales have played Australia a total of 6 times in the last two years, and have lost on each occasion, usually narrowly. Of the three Southern Hemisphere “superpowers”, Australia are the country Wales have beaten the most, and the country Wales have beaten the most in the professional era.



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Having won the 6 Nations in March by annihilating England 30-3 in the final match, and a successful Lions’ tour where Wales contributed 10 of the starting lineup in the 3rd and decisive Test, beating Australia today could cap a very successful 2013 for the Welsh team and for Warren Gatland and his coaching team. I also believe that, if we win, it will really boost our confidence ahead of what I expect to be a very competitive 2014 6 Nations. Thankfully we will have Alex Cuthbert back in the team, and despite our injury problems in the centre I believe Wales are fielding a very strong team.



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I saw yesterday morning that the Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has ratcheted things up nicely by saying that Wales are “worried” about falling to their ninth straight loss to Australia. Certainly it’s not a good record.



Wales have a woeful record against the three Southern Hemisphere "giants".

Wales have a woeful record against the three Southern Hemisphere “giants”.



England look resurgent, and France and Ireland also look vastly improved from earlier this year. The 2014 6 Nations sees Wales play England in Twickenham, which is a place we have only won 3 times in the last 25-odd years. Beating Australia today will boost Wales’ players’ confidence hugely, and Wales are very much a team whose style of play works so much better when they are playing with self belief. So DERE ‘MLAEN CYMRU, let’s beat Australia today and get that particular monkey off our back!

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It was an agonising way to lose a match. With 80 minutes up on the clock, Ireland were 22-17 ahead and looking at their first victory over current World Champions New Zealand in 109 years of matches between them. Ireland had the ball, and were picking and driving to run down the clock, just as they should. Then, for some bizarre reason, one of the Ireland players (I think it was the scrum half) kicked possession away, and the nightmare scenario unfolded. New Zealand scored a try in the 82nd minute, to level the scores at 22-22. Then, stupidly, the Irish players charged the conversion before the kicker had started his run up, so having missed the kick the kicker got a second chance and slotted it through the uprights, to win the game 24-22. Agony for Ireland, and as a fellow Celt I felt their pain.



Ireland could have beaten New Zealand for the first time in their history, but lost to a try scored with 82 minutes on the clock

Ireland could have beaten New Zealand for the first time in their history, but lost to a try scored with 82 minutes on the clock



This really is a game that Ireland could have won. Not only could have, they should have. They were 19-0 up in the first half, with three tries to their credit with less than 20 minutes played. Even in the second half, when New Zealand started dominating, Ireland’s defence held firm. Ireland missed a very kickable penalty in the last 10 minutes which would have taken them into a 25-17 lead. But to be ahead with the 80 minutes up, to be in possession and to still lose the game is almost unforgivable. And, what I don’t understand is that the team who are most adept at running down the clock is the Irish region Munster. What on earth possessed Ireland to kick possession away when all they had to do was keep picking and driving and the game would have been theirs?

They say that teams learn more from defeat than from victory, but this will be a very very harsh lesson for Ireland. Not only could they have recorded their first ever victory over New Zealand, but they could have also denied New Zealand becoming the first country in the professional era to go a whole calendar year winning every game (14 of them).

Meanwhile, in Cardiff on Friday evening Wales put in a very mediocre display in beating Tonga 17-7. There were no scores in the second half, and I nearly fell asleep through boredom. Even the match commentators Eddie Butler and Jonathan Davies (both Welsh), referred to it as “dire”. Of course Wales’ big game is next Saturday against Australia, which I have said before could determine not only how Wales reflect on 2013 but also could determine how well we perform in the 2014 6 Nations. So I understand why Warren Gatland didn’t put out a full-strength team, he wanted to rest some players and also to give some players their first international experience.

But, even a half-strength Welsh team should play better than that. We should be putting 30-40 points on teams like Tonga if we have pretensions to challenge for the World Cup in 1015. And, a convincing victory by that kind of margin would have done so much to boost our confidence ahead of next Saturday’s game against Australia. Instead, after a clinical and dominant display against Argentina last week, we were dragged down to the level of a mediocre team and failed to excel. I just hope we can come out next Saturday and end a so-far very good season by finally claiming a long-overdue victory over Australia!

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It was Wales’ first Autumn test victory since 2009, a convincing 40-6 demolition of Argentina. It was even sweeter after the battering we suffered last Saturday from South Africa in losing 24-15.



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The Wales coaching team will be delighted with this performance. We dominated in all aspects of play. Most pleasing to me was (a) keeping Argentina from scoring a try and (b) the good support running whenever a Welsh player made a break. This was something that was lacking against South Africa last weekend. It was a marked improvement by the Wales team, we even scored a try from a rolling maul which is no mean feat against Argentina. How do Wales gauge beating Argentina by this convincing score? The last time Argentina won an international was against Wales in Cardiff last Autumn, when they beat us 26-12. Here are Argentina’s results since that game of last year.


Argentina’s results since beating Wales last November
Month Teams Score
November 2012 Wales v Argentina 12-26
France v Argentina 39-22
Ireland v Argentina 48-24
June 2013 Argentina v England 3-32
Argentina v England 26-51
August 2013 South Africa v Argentina 73-13
Argentina v South Africa 17-22
September 2013 New Zealand v Argentina 26-13
Australia v Argentina 14-13
Argentina v New Zealand 15-33
October 2013 Argentina v Australia 17-54
November 2013 England v Argentina 31-12
Wales v Argentina 40-6



What can we take from this? Well, Wales’ victory is as heavy a defeat as pretty much any side has inflicted upon Argentina in this last year. In addition, Argentina nearly beat Australia in September away from home, only going down 14-13, and gave South Africa a good run for their money in August at home, only losing 17-22. So, I think Wales should take great pride from beating a team who are clearly no pushover, and to beat them in such convincing fashion is even better.

It is sobering to think that this was Wales’ first victory in an Autumn international since we beat Argentina in 2009. In 2010 we managed a draw against Fiji and losses to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. In 2011 we only played one “Autumn” test as it was the Rugby World Cup, we played Australia in December and lost. And, of course last year we lost all four Autumn internationals in a rather dismal fashion.

Wales have a game against Tonga on Friday, before the big game against Australia on Saturday the 30th. That is the big game for Wales this Autumn series. Realistically, we were not expecting to beat South Africa, but if we don’t manage to beat Australia then I think the Welsh players, coaching team and supporters will consider the 2013 Autumn series to have been a failure. Beat Australia, and we will go into the 2014 Six Nations with confidence that we can retain the title for an unprecedented third year in a row!

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This coming Saturday (1st of June) the British and Irish Lions will play a warm-up match against the invitational Barbarians team in Hong Kong, before they head to Australia for their 2013 tour. The Lions, who tour every 4 years, have not won a tour since their tour of South Africa in 1997, which they won 2-1. Their 2001 tour of Australia resulted in a 2-1 loss, with the final test deciding the series. In 2005 the Lions suffered a “black wash” in New Zealand, losing the series 3-0. And, most recently, in 2009 they lost their tour in South Africa 2-1, only winning the final game of an already lost series.


Warren Gatland has chosen Sam Warburton to captain the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.

Warren Gatland has chosen Sam Warburton of Wales to captain the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.


A brief history of the British and Irish Lions

The first rugby tour of the Southern Hemisphere by a team from Great Britain was in 1888. A 21-man squad from England, Scotland and Wales went on a 35-match (yes, thirty five!) tour of Australia and New Zealand. No matches were played against any “national” sides, but the tour established the idea of a touring party going to play against Southern Hemisphere opposition.

A complete list of all Lions’ tours can be found here. As you can see from this table, the current format of a tour every 4 years, alternating between New Zealand, South Africa and Australia did not begin until 1993. Prior to that the tours tended to be every 3 years, and because of the sporting boycott against the apartheid South Africa, no Lions tours of South Africa took place between the tour of 1980 and the one of 1997.

In total, the Lions have toured South Africa 13 times, winning 4 series, losing 8 and drawing 1. They have toured Australia 8 times, winning 6 series and losing 2. Finally, they have toured New Zealand 11 times, winning only 1 series (in 1971), and losing the other 10.

The 2013 tour of Australia

Since the advent of the professional era in 1995, Lions tours have become shorter. Also, the number of test matches was cut from 4 to 3 on each tour back in 1980. This obviously reduces the likely hood of a drawn series, as a drawn match in rugby is much less likely than in e.g. football.

The 2013 tour is longer than some recent ones, with several games against “provincial” and Super-15 sides. The full list of matches, including this Saturday’s warm-up match against the Barbarians, is shown below.


The schedule of matches for the 2013 Lions tour of Australia.

The schedule of matches for the 2013 Lions tour of Australia.


As I mentioned above, the last time the Lions toured Australia was 12 years ago, in 2001. On that occasion, the Lions easily won the opening test in Brisbane, 29-13. However, they lost the second test in Melbourne by 35-14. The outcome of the series came down to the third and final test. With minutes to go and the score at 29-23 to Australia, the Lions had a line-out near the Australian line, providing a superb scoring opportunity to win the Test and the series. But, the ball was famously won by the Australian second-row Justin Harrison, denying the Lions the victory.

The 37-man squad for the 2013 tour is dominated by players from Wales. The coach is Warren Gatland, who is on sabbatical from his position as Wales’ coach. This, combined with Wales having won the 6 Nations for the last two seasons, means the Welsh contingent was always likely to be the largest. There are 15 players from Wales, 10 from England, 9 from Ireland and 3 from Scotland. The squad captain is also Welsh, Sam Warburton, who becomes the first Welsh captain of the Lions since the 1977 tour of New Zealand when Phil Bennet was captain.

The only member of the Wales starting line-up in the 30-3 annihilation of England back in March who has been left out of the Lions squad is the outside half Dan Biggar. Speculation is rife as to how many of the players picked to play the Barbarians in Saturday’s warm up match will be Welsh. We will find out soon enough, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is as many as 12 or 13! This is partly because many of the English and Irish players have been involved in club-level matches right up to this last weekend (hardly any of the Welsh and Scottish players have been); but also because Warren Gatland has shown before that he likes to initially select from an already established group of players. In his first match as Wales coach (the opening match of the 2008 6 Nations), fully 13 (thirteen) of the starting line up were from the same club side, the Ospreys!

The biggest challenge facing Gatland is the challenge faced by any Lions coach, to bring players from four separate countries together into a cohesive squad of players. He may be helped in this by having coached in Wales (he has been Wales’ national coach since December 2008), England (he coached the London Wasps club side for 3 seasons, 2002-2005) and Ireland (he was Ireland’s national coach from 1998-2001). So he can justifiably say that he is familiar with the rugby culture in three of the four countries which make up the Lions. We should know long before the first test on the 22nd of June how well he is succeeding in this task.

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In Wales, our National rugby team is either playing fantastically or playing dreadfully. In 2012 we saw both extremes. After winning the 2012 Six Nations Championships with a Grand Slam in March, Wales went on tour of Australia in June and lost all 3 tests against the Wallabies. All 3 were close, but particulary the 2nd and 3rd ones, two games Wales should really have won.


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Wales win the 2012 6 Nations Championships with a Grand Slam, beating France in the final match.


Wales went into the annual Autumn Tests series with high expectations amongst her supporters, including myself. I blogged about my hopes here. Well, the reality was very different, Wales lost all four tests, the first time this has happened in the Autumn Test Series since it started in about 2002. I guess, in hindsight, that it was not a big surprise to lose to Argentina in our opening game. Wales traditionally start the Autumn Series very badly, and so to have such a tough team as Argentina to play in our opening test was always going to be a challenge.

But, before Wales could recover from the disappointment of losing to Argentina, we lost to Samoa the following Friday. Again, Samoa are a tough team, and we have lost to them before, even in Cardiff. But coming on the back of such successes earlier in the year, it was a tough defeat for the Welsh rugby public to bear. The following week came our annual beating by the All Blacks, whom we have not defeated since 1953!

Our final match was against Australia, our 4th against them in 2012. Just like the 2nd and 3rd Tests in Australia in June, Wales were in a match winning position as the 80 minutes were up. In fact, with 80 minutes on the clock Wales were actually in the lead. But, bizarrely, we kicked possession away and Australia counter attacked, and scored a last minute try to steal victory. The narrowness of the defeat, and the nature of it happening in the dying seconds, made this the hardest defeat of the Autumn series, and maybe of the entire year.

So how will Wales get on in the impending 2013 Six Nations? My fear is – not very well. We are coming off the back of 7 (seven) straight defeats, so confidence in the squad has to be pretty low. Also, we will be without our inspirational team manager Warren Gatland, who has been appointed the Lions coach for the summer tour of Australia, and so is on sabbatical from his Wales duties.

It is also the year when we play 3 games away from home, and only 2 at home, which of course makes it a slightly tougher proposition. Our fixture list is


Wales’ 6 Nations games, 2013
Date Country Kick-off time (GMT) Home/Away Record in all competitions (Played/Win/Loss/Draw)
Saturday 2nd February Ireland 13:30 Home 118/65/47/6
Saturday 9th February France 17:00 Away 92/45/44/3
Saturday 23rd February Italy 14:30 Away 19/16/2/1
Saturday 9th March Scotland 14:30 Away 117/66/48/3
Saturday 16th March England 17:00 Home 123/55/56/12


It may surprise readers to see that the only nation in the 6 Nations that Wales have lost more than won against is England, with the games standing at 55 wins to Wales and 56 to England. The game against England in March provides an opportunity to equalise the series of games between the two countries. On the other hand, the game against France in February provides France with the opportunity to equalise the series between the two countries, currently Wales have 45 wins to France’s 44.

Of course, how players across all 4 home nations perform will determine who gets picked by Warren Gatland and his team to go on the Lions tour of Australia in June, so this year the players are playing for more than just their country.

Who do you think will win this year’s 6 Nations?


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With November approaching, it is almost time for the annual tradition of the Wales rugby team playing 4 autumn test matches. This year, Wales have the following fixtures:


Wales’ autumn tests, 2012
Date Country Record (Played/Win/Loss/Draw)
Saturday 10th November Argentina 13/7/5/1
Friday 16th November Samoa 7/4/3/0
Saturday 24th November New Zealand 27/3/24/0
Saturday st December Australia 29/10/18/1


Of course, Wales are reigning Grand Slam champions, and have been playing some superb rugby since August 2011. They were very unlucky not to get to the 2011 rugby World Cup final, narrowly losing to France 8-7 in the semi-final after having their captain Sam Warburton sent off early in the match.


Wales winning the 2012 Grand Slam.


Realistically, I think anything less than a 3-1 win ratio in the 2012 Autumn series will be disappointing. We have to beat Argentina and Samoa, but also we need to win one of the two last games, either against New Zealand or Australia. Of these two, I think we are more likely to beat Australia. This prediction is partly based on coming so close to beating them in 2 of the 3 test matches Wales played in Australia this last June, but also because we have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953!!

In all, Wales have played the All Blacks on 27 occasions. Amazingly, when Wales last beat NZ, in 1953, it was only the 4th test match between the two countries, and in winning that test Wales were 3-1 up in the series, with wins in 1905, 1935 and 1953 and only one loss in 1924. Since then, it has been all one-way traffic, with Wales losing 23 matches in succession!

We have come close to beating them on a couple of occassions. One of those is the match in 1978, when the dominant Welsh teacm of the 1970s should have beaten them, and would ahve beaten them if it had not been for some cheating by NZ. With just minutes on the clock, the score was 12-10 to Wales. NZ secured a line out about 30 metres from the Welsh tryline. In the ensuing line out, the NZ second-row forward Andy Haden came flying out of the line and onto the ground. The referee, without hesitation, awarded NZ with a penalty. Except TV footage showed that no-one had pushed Haden, he had dived out of his own accord to cheat get just that decision from the referee. Haden himself finally admitted that it was a professional dive in an interview. NZ converted the penatly, and won the game 12-13.



From an article in The Independent, about Andy Haden of New Zealand confessing to his deliberate dive in the 1978 match against Wales.


What are your predictions for this Autumn series?

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After the ecstasy of our Grand Slam win in March, the agony of losing by 1 point in Sydney. Wales lost the 3rd test of their summer tour of Australia 20-19, and thus endured a series whitewash 3-0. All 3 games were close, with the 1st Test in Brisbane being 27-19, the 2nd Test last week in Melbourne 25-23, and a single point seperating the two countries in the 3rd and final Test in Sydney.

The agony and the ecstasy – so close and yet so far

On such narrow margins games (and series) are won and lost. As Simon Thomas of the Western Mail wrote the following day:

It was a case of so near, yet so far for Wales once again as they went down to defeat by the narrowest of margins in yesterday’s final Test….

Graham Price, the loose head prop from the great Wales side of the 1970s said

Wales have done so much learning they should have a masters degree in lost opportunities

Welsh wing Alex Cuthbert – from the cover of Sunday’s “Wales on Sunday”

I did not see the 1st Test in which Wales lost 27-19, as I was still in Mongolia after my trip there to see the 2012 Transit of Venus. So I cannot comment too much on that game.

But, having seen the 2nd and 3rd tests I can concur with Graham Price, they were lost opportunities. In the 2nd Test, Wales were 1 point in the lead with only 90 seconds to go on the clock, and had possession of the ball. Why they did not just keep possessions, and pick and drive to run the clock down, is beyond me.

In this weekend’s 3rd Test Wales were leading 19-17 and had a lineout deep in Australian territory. They won the lineout, and had the opportunity to either go for a try or a dropped goal, but instead got penalised for coming around the side of the maul. It was from the ensuing penalty thatt Australia regained field position and scored their winning penalty.

So, where do Wales go from here? Was the 2012 Grand Slam another false dawn, or are Wales a World class side on the verge of getting those elusive victories against the 3 Southern Hemisphere giants South Africa, Australia and New Zeland? I think, given the narrowness of Australia’s victories over Wales, that we can build on this painful lesson in how to win tight games. We can cut down on the unforced errors, and learn better game management. Wales clearly now have the fitness, strength and skills to compete with the best teams in the World, what we are lacking, it would seem, is the mental ruthlessness and discipline.

Wales get the opportunity for revenge against Australia on the 1st of December, when the Wallabies come to Cardiff. This will be at the end of Wales’ “autumn test series“, an annual series in November / early December. This year we play Argentina (10th of November), Samoa (16th of November), New Zealand (24th of November), and then finally Australia. Having suffered 5 defeats in a row to Australia in less than 12 months, it is high time Wales beat them, and December could be our time for such a victory. All Welsh rugby fans will be hoping so.

Robbie Deans wonders whether Wales can beat Australia and New Zealand in the Autumn

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