Paul Rees

Author's details

Name: Paul Rees
Date registered: October 11, 2014
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/south-africa-rugby-team

Latest posts

  1. All Blacks have nothing to fear, for all the fury of the Six Nations | Paul Rees — March 25, 2017
  2. Eddie Jones has given England a spine, now to work on problem solving — March 23, 2017
  3. Eddie Jones: ‘We were just not good enough; we still have a lot to do’ — March 18, 2017
  4. Wales have one eye on beating France and one eye on world rankings — March 17, 2017
  5. Vern Cotter and Scotland aim to sign off against Italy with a farewell flourish — March 17, 2017

Author's posts listings

Mar 25

All Blacks have nothing to fear, for all the fury of the Six Nations | Paul Rees

England’s second title in a row said more about the weakness of the opposition in a tournament lacking the subtlety that will be needed by the Lions

The Six Nations is the envy of the southern hemisphere – for its licence to print money rather than the quality of the rugby it inspires. England retained the title but were written off in New Zealand as clunky musclemen who live in a cave, a view compromised by the praise then lavished on Ireland, whose record of two tries in their final three matches was hardly a testament to their perceived verve and guile.

Bonus points were trialled this year in order to, in the words of the tournament’s chairman, Pat Whelan, “materially improve what we already have and enhance the competition as a spectacle”. The system made no difference beyond providing consolation in defeat and overall the 2017 tournament was summed up in the meeting between France and Scotland in Paris, when the physical onslaught of the home side subdued opponents who had tried to dance around the ring.

Related: But for one England try the Six Nations would have been a five-way tie | Andy Bull

Related: Six Nations 2017 verdict: Guardian writers choose their highs and lows

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/25/all-blacks-nothing-panic-about-six-nations-england-lions

Mar 23

Eddie Jones has given England a spine, now to work on problem solving

Six Nations success was a testament to the coach’s planning and vision but the Italy and Ireland games showed England are still a work in progress

International rugby has become a black and white world with a trace of gold and green. Eighteen months after going down under to Australia at Twickenham and out of the World Cup, England stand second to New Zealand in the world rankings having broken any number of records under the Tasmanian who was lured from Cape Town’s Stormers to mop up after a storm.

From the ashes of a campaign in which England became the first hosts to exit at the group stage has come a world record-equalling run of Test victories for a tier-one nation, back-to-back Six Nations titles, the breaking of an 82-year record for successive victories in the championship, a 3-0 whitewashing of Australia on tour and the respect of the All Blacks.

Related: Warren Gatland refines search for bearers of Lions pride | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/23/eddie-jones-england-the-breakdown

Mar 18

Eddie Jones: ‘We were just not good enough; we still have a lot to do’

• England’s 13-9 defeat to Ireland was Jones’s first loss as head coach
• Jones is pressing Twickenham to arrange game with New Zealand

Eddie Jones believes at least 15 of his players should be named in the Lions squad for the summer tour to New Zealand and is pressing Twickenham to arrange a match against the All Blacks. The England coach is unconcerned that the end of his side’s 18-match winning run, against Ireland in Dublin, will dent confidence.

Related: England pursuit of grand slam and record foiled by defiant Ireland

Related: Emerald flytrap shuts on England once again in Six Nations | Robert Kitson

Related: England finishers hit endgame against Ireland’s unyielding Johnny Sexton | Andy Bull

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/18/ireland-england-six-nations-championship-eddie-jones

Mar 17

Wales have one eye on beating France and one eye on world rankings

Wales could move into top four with victory but final Six Nations match pits them against a rejuvenated, if hesitant, France

Graham Henry once lamented that Welsh rugby was bedevilled by extremes and that if it were a shower, it would be either too hot or too cold. This season has been no different and eight days after going into the match against Ireland knowing defeat in the final two rounds could take them out of the top eight of the rankings in May’s World Cup draw, Wales will move into the top four if they win in Paris and Ireland lose to England.

Wales have been obsessed by the world rankings since the start of the autumn international series. It is understandable given that in 2015 they were put in the same pool as England and Australia after slipping out of the top eight just before the draw, but it has hindered the development of the side with selection sclerotic.

Related: Six Nations: seven things to look out for this weekend

Related: George North’s two tries drive Wales past Ireland in thundering win

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/17/wales-france-six-nations-world-rankings

Mar 17

Vern Cotter and Scotland aim to sign off against Italy with a farewell flourish

New Zealand-born coach has overseen a marked improvement and two more tries on Saturday would beat their Six Nations record of 11 set in 2016

When Vern Cotter was told in the autumn that Scotland would not be renewing his contract as coach, the New Zealander remarked with typical understatement that he was disappointed. As his side go into the final weekend of the Six Nations in sight of finishing second, he is not alone.

When Cotter took over in the summer of 2014, Scotland had won four Six Nations matches in as many years, three against Italy. Although he started with a whitewash, they have since defeated France, Ireland and Wales and victory over Italy at Murrayfield in Saturday’s early kick-off at 12.30pm would mean they had won more matches in a campaign than they had lost for only the second time since Italy joined the tournament, the first coming in 2006.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/17/vern-cotter-scotland-italy-six-nations

Mar 16

World Rugby’s international calendar from 2020 boosts Georgia and co

• 12-year calendar increases games between tier two and tier one nations
• Major European sides will tour southern hemisphere in July not June

Georgia may have had the Six Nations door slammed on them but the international calendar agreed for 12 years from 2020, which was announced on Thursday after years of haggling, guarantees tier-two nations regular contact with the top sides in between World Cups.

Under the new calendar the summer tours of the major European countries move from June to the first three weeks of July, apart from the year after a World Cup when only two Tests will be played. The Six Nations sides will begin their autumn international campaigns a week earlier, at the beginning of November, and the start of the World Cup has been brought forward seven days to the second week of September.

Related: RFU sparks row over player welfare with November Test offer to All Blacks

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/16/world-rugby-international-calendar-2020-georgia

Mar 11

Ireland fail to set up showdown while Wales must convince against France | Paul Rees

Robbie Henshaw’s blunder leaves Ireland hoping to merely be killjoys in Dublin, but despite their win Wales still have plenty to prove in Paris

After suffering successive championship defeats to Wales in Cardiff for the first time in 34 years, Ireland go into the final round of matches next Saturday in the position they were in 2011 – out to stop England winning the grand slam rather than tilting for the title.

There will be no winner-takes-all showdown at the Aviva Stadium between the two sides expected to dominate the Lions squad this summer as a season that started with the loudest of statements as the All Blacks were beaten in Chicago threatens to end in mute disappointment.

Related: George North’s two tries drive Wales past Ireland in thundering win

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/11/ireland-wales-robbie-henshaw-blunder-showdown-dublin-france-rugby-union

Mar 09

Six Nations: Upbeat Ireland refuse to let roof lower expectations | Paul Rees

Jonathan Sexton’s return has given visitors to Principality Stadium a further boost with Wales in the rare position of being out of title contention

It is a measure of Ireland’s confidence that they have agreed to the roof of the Principality Stadium being shut for a match they have to win to maintain their ambition of seizing back the title they lost last year to England, their opponents in the final match of the Six Nations in Dublin next week.

Ireland should be upbeat after a season in which they ended New Zealand’s long winning run and defeated Australia, and since 1983 they have lost only three times in the championship in Cardiff with both Munster and Leinster winning the European Cup in the Welsh capital in that time. They stuttered on the opening weekend in Scotland but Jonathan Sexton is back at outside-half with his calm authority.

Related: Owen Farrell set to face Scotland in Six Nations despite injury scare

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/09/six-nations-ireland-wales-roof-principality-stadium-rugby-union

Mar 09

What the All Blacks will have learned about Lions from this Six Nations so far | Paul Rees

England have been below their best and, while Scotland have shown quality, it’s another thing to take on the world champions in a running game

England are the only unbeaten team after three rounds of the Six Nations, but they are the only side that have not led at least once at half-time. A table based on the first half of matches would see Ireland on top, Italy third and England bottom.

Italy have led twice at half-time but they have scored in the second period in only one of their matches, at Twickenham where an unconverted try improved on their blanks against Wales and Ireland. While Wales improved markedly in the second half in Rome on the opening weekend, they washed down their interval tea with a mere three points in the next two.

Related: Six Nations: Vunipola brothers gunning for Scotland fuelled by sibling rivalry

Related: Jonny Gray leads Scotland Six Nations title charge but they can still improve | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/09/england-scotland-lions-new-zealand-all-blacks

Mar 06

Wales warn George North to cut out defensive mistakes in Six Nations

• Shaun Edwards highlights team’s weakness on right wing before Ireland match
• Edwards: ‘Players didn’t do what they practised in the buildup to the game’

Wales expect a reaction from George North against Ireland in Cardiff on Friday having given the wing a “warning” after defensive lapses against Scotland.

The Wales defence coach, Shaun Edwards, highlighted the right wing, where North has been playing out of position for his country this season, as defensively suspect and said individual mistakes had been worked on in training.

Related: Wales struggle for answers before must-win Six Nations game with Ireland

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/06/george-north-wales-ireland-six-nations

Mar 04

Wales struggle for answers before must-win Six Nations game with Ireland

• ‘We are looking to put things right,’ says prop Rob Evans
• Wales in danger of lowest Six Nations finish since 2007

It is 10 years since Wales suffered three successive Six Nations defeats, but after losing to England and Scotland, they are in danger of their lowest finish in the tournament since 2007. Victory against Ireland in Cardiff on Friday night is essential not only to enhance the fading Lions prospects of some players but to prevent calls for a coaching overhaul from reaching fever pitch.

Related: Tim Visser’s heroics help Scotland end Six Nations losing streak against Wales

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/04/wales-struggle-six-nations-ireland

Mar 04

Ben Youngs backs returning Vunipola brothers to power England’s Grand Slam push | Paul Rees

The defending champions have flattered to deceive in this year’s Six Nations but Youngs believes Mako and Billy’s ‘raw strength’ can make the difference against Scotland and Ireland

England may be one win away from equalling New Zealand’s record of 18 straight victories from a tier one nation, but they have yet to enjoy an interval lead in this year’s Six Nations, slow starters against France and Wales and non-starters against Italy when their opponents’ cunning exploitation of the offside rule befuddled the champions, whose late blizzard of tries did not mask the earlier shambles.

Related: Scotland coach Matt Taylor scents big chance against England in Six Nations

Related: Billy Vunipola could be back for England’s Six Nations match with Scotland

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/04/ben-youngs-billy-mako-vunipola-england-six-nations

Mar 04

Warren Gatland and would-be Lions: crunch time for North, Hartley and co | Paul Rees

With two weeks left to impress the coach, which players have put their hands up in the Six Nations and who might miss out on the tour to New Zealand?

Leigh Halfpenny looked the Test full-back from the start in 2013, not least because of his goal-kicking, but with Owen Farrell able to fill that role it is more open this year. Stuart Hogg offers the most in attack but his defence is suspect while the reverse is true of Halfpenny, whose threat with the ball in hand seems to diminish every year. Mike Brown’s “they don’t like it up ’em” approach is not likely to be enough in New Zealand while pace is an issue for Rob Kearney. Full-back may be filled by a player chosen in another position, such as Liam Williams or Elliot Daly, who offers a counterattacking threat while being a resolute last line of defence.

Related: Warren Gatland warning puts Lions on behaviour alert for New Zealand

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/04/warren-gatland-lions-shortlist-north-hartley-new-zealand

Feb 25

Eddie Jones puts faith in Owen Farrell to follow in Jonny Wilkinson’s footsteps

The England coach has backed Farrell to match the win ratio of the 2003 World Cup winning fly-half during the next stage of his international career

Owen Farrell will win his 50th cap against Italy on Sunday. He may not be England’s captain but he is their most valuable player, and not just because of his goal-kicking as his try-scoring pass to Elliot Daly four minutes from the end of the match against Wales in Cardiff in the last round of the Six Nations, vision allied with precision, demonstrated.

A player who in his early years appeared wooden and drew comparisons with Jonny Wilkinson for his attention to detail, meticulous preparation and comfort in structure rather than broken play, has bloomed under Eddie Jones into a man for all seasons, a match-winner with the ball in his hand as well as on the tee.

Related: Eddie Jones tells Jonny May he is a starter but must also be a finisher

Related: ‘We can beat anyone,’ says John Barclay as Scotland eye England scalp

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/feb/25/owen-farrell-eddie-jones-england-six-nations-2017-jonny-wilkinson

Feb 25

Eddie Jones tells Jonny May he is a starter but must also be a finisher

England coach looks to the wings to improve their poor try-scoring record against Italy in the countries’ last five Six Nations encounters

Jonny May is a starter Eddie Jones has told to be a finisher at Twickenham on Sunday, as England look to end the barren try-scoring record of their specialist wings against Italy in recent years.

While wings from the other four teams in the Six Nations have scored 16 tries in 12 matches against Italy since 2015, England’s have managed one in their past five encounters, scored in Rome in 2014 by the player May has replaced, Jack Nowell, although Jonathan Joseph scored two after moving out wide from the centre in an injury reshuffle two years ago when the full-back Mike Brown was concussed. When the England coach was asked what he expected from May, Jones gave a one‑word answer: “Tries.”

Related: Alastair Cook’s England visit before Italy game begs cricket score gags

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/feb/25/jonny-may-england-italy-six-nations-eddie-jones

Feb 24

Wales can only dream of glory decade and Phil Bennett’s 1977 Murrayfield try | Paul Rees

Wales have talked about expansion and their style is evolving, but if there is to be a similar score against Scotland it is likely to be contrived by the home side

It is the 40th anniversary next month of one of Wales’s most celebrated tries and one of the championship’s best. It was scored by Phil Bennett at Murrayfield in 1977 at the end of the move started by Gerald Davies in his own 22 that left 10 defenders scattered on the turf.

It was a scintillating example of how Wales strutted in that decade of three grand slams, five triple crowns and five outright titles, but if there is to be a similar score at Murrayfield on Saturday it is more likely to be contrived by the home side who, after years when penalties were their staple diet, are serving tries again.

Related: George North returns for Wales and Ross Moriarty keeps place for Scotland trip

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/feb/24/wales-phil-bennett-1977-murrayfield-try-six-nations

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