Japan beat Scotland, top poll and into RWC quarter finals

The outstanding performance of Japan has been the biggest talking point of pool play in the Rugby World Cup. They have done it again, beating Scotland 28-21 in the final pool match.

Japan played very well again. There forwards matched Scotland’s most of the time, their tackling and defence was epic, but the difference was their back play. A number of times they passed wide and beat Scotland down the sidelines, with both Japanese wings featuring strongly. In contrast, when Scotland were chasing the game a number of times they passed wide, they had a numbers advantage, but they failed to take advantage.

So Japan top their pool, which means runner up Ireland will face the All Blacks in one quarter final, with Japan needing to step up again, this time against one of the tournament favourites South Africa.

Quarter finals (NZ times) – Saturday 19 October:

  • England v Australia at 8:15 pm
  • New Zealand v Ireland at 11;15 pm

Sunday 20 October:

  • Wales v France at 8:15 pm
  • Japan v South Africa at 11:15 pm

The early games are well timed for watching here in the evening, and streaming the following morning will be good for the late games.


Japan beat Ireland in RWC

Japan have beaten Ireland by 19-12 in the Rugby World Cup, turning Pool A on it’s head. There’s still several games for each team to go but Japan must be a real chance of getting through to the quarter finals. They play Samoa next week, and the following week will be a crucial game against Scotland.

Ireland should still get through too the quarter finals, but this will rock their confidence.

It was an intense and absorbing game to watch. Ireland started very well, scoring two tries too lead 12-3 half way through the first half, but Japan fought their way back, defended very well and ended up deserving the win.

Japan break new ground

FT: Japan 19-12 Ireland

Japan celebrate
  • Japan have recorded their first ever victory against Ireland in Test rugby, they’d lost each of their previous seven by an average margin of 31 points.
  • Three of Ireland’s last four pool stage defeats at the Rugby World Cup have come against the host nation, also losing to Australia in 2003 and France in 2007 (also v Argentina in 2007).
  • Japan have won five of their last six matches at the Rugby World Cup, this after winning just one of their initial 24 matches at the tournament (D2, 21).
  • Ireland have lost to a non-Tier 1 nation at the Rugby World Cup for the first time, they’d won each of their previous 15 such games.

RWC – results and problems

Aafter the opening three days of the Rugby World Cup in Japan there have been mostly predictable results. Most notable of the other results, Argentina had a very close match against France, losing 21-23, and Ireland were too classy for Scotland last night winning 27-3.

In the big game the All Blacks struggled at times against South Africa but a five minute two try blitz made the difference, plus a disciplined and strong defensive second half. This puts the ABs in the box seat for winning the pool, lining them up for a probably quarter final against Scotland if they aren’t upset by Samoa or Japan.

One of the biggest talking points about the RWC here has been the failure of Spark to provide flawless streaming of the games.

I have worked out what my problem probably is. My PC (it’s  few years old) doesn’t have enough processing power to handle the stream, despite being good enough to work with Netflix, Youtube and other streaming services. Every few seconds it pauses, which is very annoying,

From Spark Sport FAQs: Why is my stream buffering?

Even if you have a decent internet connection, some lower spec laptops and desktops might get stuttering or buffering issues as they don’t have the processing power to decrypt the stream. We would recommend checking that you’re running the latest version of your browser and if you’re still having issues – trying a different device.


If you’re having buffering issues, try watching on another device to determine if the issue is with your device or your connection. We also recommend trying to watch another piece of content on Spark Sport or other streaming provider such as Lightbox, to determine if the issue is with a single piece of content.

I found out that my work laptop, which is a couple of years newer, manages to stream without the hiccups. The problem is that it doesn’t have an HDMI port. And I hadn’t had time to work this out until Saturday evening, So we huddled in front of the small screen to watch the All Black-Springbok match, which wasn’t great.

And it wasn’t a flawless stream either, with a number of buffering pauses. A few minutes before the end of the game a message popped up saying that Spark had put the second half up on Duke due to ‘a small proportion’ of viewers. It was very annoying to only find this out near the finish, too late to be of much use – I even didn’t bother switching over.

I had connected Spark on Saturday morning about the problems, via email and via a tweet. I still haven’t had a reply to my email, but I got a response from my tweet – on Sunday, so too late for Saturday’s games.

They suggested that “it is common for older devices to have buffering issues that are not network related. I had already worked out this was a likely cause, but only streaming Spark Sport.

They had noticed I had tried with both Chrome and Firefox – Chrome wasn’t as bad, but still hard to watch.

They suggested I try Safari. I found that Safari hasn’t been updated for a few years but is supposed to perform better than Chrome and Firefox (or at least it did when it was current). I downloaded the latest version and tried it, but get this message.

I’m guessing this may be because Safari is too old to know about whatever streaming system Spark Sport is using.

I did some googling but haven’t found a way around this yet. So I will get back to Spark to find out if they have a solution for their suggested workaround.

So my TV, while ‘smart’, is too old to run the Spark Sport app – anything older than a couple of years is too old.

My PC is too old to stream without continual hiccups.

I’m sure I will be far from the only one to have found that Spark Sport streaming is not really good enough for mass delivery.

They are offering a money back option, but that would mean I can’t watch all the games I want to watch, and I won’t be able to stream on demand which was the benefit of a streaming service, especially with many RWC games late in the evening NZ time.

Maybe they can’t adequately resolve their technical deficiencies and will broadcast all games on Duke. That solves the bad viewing experience, but won’t provide on demand.

For now I will wait and see.The All Blacks don’t play again until next week. But I will want to have a decent way to watch all games by the time the quarter finals start (on 19 October). That gives Spark Sport about a month to sort their shit out.

Hopeless start to Spark RWC streaming

Spark winning the rights to broadcasting the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand meant I have had to pay a premium to watch any games I want to watch, as otherwise it would have been included in my Sky Sport subscription.

But I paid the $80, at least thinking that streaming meant that I could watch games at my convenience as opposed to at scheduled broadcast times.

I subscribed two weeks ago and had a quick test and it seemed to run ok.

I have unlimited fibre plan through Spark.

I am running it through my PC (connected via WIFI too my Spark supplied device) via an HDMI cable to my TV, which is a smart Samsung TV but more than a couple of years old so not supported by Spark.

I also did a quick test of the opening ceremony on Friday night and that seemed to run ok.

But as the first game (Japan v Russia) started late-ish I decided to stream it early this morning as that suited me better.

I got up just after 5 am and tried it. It didn’t start well. I could only get a badly broken picture. I switched from Chrome to Firefox, and it was a little better but still bad. So I switched back to Chrome and I got sound and picture, so settled in to watch.

The video quality at best was ok. he problem was that right through the first halve the streaming kept stopping every few seconds, sometimes momentarily, which was annoying, but sometimes for seconds, missing usually the most active play. That was bloody annoying.

I persevered until half time but was getting increasingly frustrated.

At half time I rebooted my PC and started it with just one program, Chrome. I did a Spark broadband speed test

According to Spark Sport: What broadband speed do I need?

We recommend that you have at least 15Mb/s download speeds to take advantage of our highest quality content, but if your speed is lower than this, the quality will adjust accordingly. A minimum of 6Mb/s download is required to support a Spark Sport stream.

To have a look at what your speed is, head over to speedtest.net and run the test on the device you plan to stream on, at a time and place where you would normally watch Spark Sport.

So I tried that speed test.

Spark also tries to answer Why is my stream buffering?

As Spark Sport is an online streaming service, there are several factors that could lead to you experiencing buffering issues. The quality of your streaming experience is determined by your broadband connection, your modem and where in the house it is located, the device you use and how many other devices in your home and neighbourhood are using the network at the same time.

Your network and connection

You will need a minimum of 6Mbps to be able to stream Spark Sport; we recommend at least 15Mb/s download speed to take advantage of our highest quality content.

So theoretically my Spark fibre connection should be more than good enough.

I tried watching the second half. It began the same as the first half, with pauses every few seconds.

Until the video stopped altogether and I only got audio.

So instead of watching I am typing this post. Bloody annoyed.

But before starting the post I tried to connect to Spark Sport help chat. I am still getting “Please wait, you are in a queue to speak to an agent.” I don’t know if I will speak to anyone before the second half is over. I have a house to paint.

I want to watch the All Blacks versus South Africa tonight, live. I’m not optimistic, but maybe streaming via peak viewing will be better.

But if Spark can’t provide adequate streaming on demand it will negate the advantage of streaming, and it will be a waste of money.

I often stream Netflix, Youtube, sometimes Parliament TV and other things with few problems, and nothing like the problems I have has streaming the RWC.

So far my experience with Spark Sport has been a dismal failure.


Changing work hours for World Cup

A campaign including a petition has been started to change work hours to better suit the Rugby World Cup.

NZ Herald is promoting this – Push for Rugby World Cup-friendly working hours.

A petition advocating a later start to the standard work day during the Rugby World Cup has kicked off – will you Push Back For Black?

The Push Back For Black petition calls for employers to change their standard working hours to 10am-6pm from 9am-5pm to allow employees to catch early morning Cup matches before heading to work.

NZME radio brands Hauraki, Radio Sport and ZM together with the Herald were among the first to support the petition.

Why is a petition needed? Any business can choose to retain or change their work hours as they see fit.

But I’m not sure whether the Herald is going to change it’s printing or delivery schedule. Delivering newspapers a few hours later may annoy quite a few of their customers.

Herald managing editor Shayne Currie urged other employers to follow suit. “To allow New Zealanders the opportunity to stay up during the night to watch the All Blacks play – or enjoy a full game at home from 7am or 8am – seems the patriotic thing to do.”

Good grief.

Mr Currie may not be aware but with modern media it’s possible to watch games of rugby via recordings, streaming and replays at a wide variety of times.

Then bizarrely:

The campaign comes as an Oxford University researcher claimed that forcing staff to start work before 10am was tantamount to torture and was making employees ill, exhausted and stressed.

Dr Paul Kelley said there was a need for a huge societal change to move work and school starting times to fit with the natural body clock of humans. Before the age of 55, the circadian rhythms of adults were completely out of sync with normal nine-to-five working hours, posing a “serious threat” to performance, mood and mental health.

“Staff are usually sleep deprived. We’ve got a sleep-deprived society,” Dr Kelly said.

“It is hugely damaging on the body’s systems because you are affecting physical, emotional and performance systems in the body.Your liver and your heart have different patterns and you’re asking them to shift two or three hours. This is an international issue. Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to.”

Sleep deprivation has been shown to have significant effects on health. A week with less than six hours’ sleep a night led to 711 changes in how genes function, one study discovered.

Does that mean Kelley and the Herald would recommend that New Zealanders shouldn’t allow themselves to become sleep deprived during the World Cup? That would mean not watching games live but watching replays after 10 am. So then they would have to delay their work until noon.

The Herald and NZME can change work hours for their staff however they like – I’m not sure how that will work with Radio Hauraki – but this campaign seems to be poorly thought through.

It almost seems like a September Fools joke of some sort.

But there really does seem to be a petition – http://www.pushbackforblack.co.nz/

Work starts when play ends.

Sign-up to our petition to push back the start of the working day to 10am for the duration of the cup.

The battle for rugby’s greatest prize is nearly upon us. But the time difference with England means that majority of games will be shown early in the morning back here in NZ.

Many of us will be preparing for our working day or will already be at work at the very moment our team need our support.

We say this cannot happen. Let the nation gather in their homes and public spaces to cheer on our boys.

Good grief. Someone must be taking the piss. But this part seems to be true – Sleep expert Dr Paul Kelley wants the business and school day to begin at 10am.

All Black selections

The All Black Rugby World Cup squad is announced tonight at 6.30 pm.

Media are hyping it up as a big event. 3 News is having a half hour special on it.

Most of the squad is already picked. There might be a small number of minor surprises – for the players involved it’s a big deal but in the whole scheme of things it’s fairly trivial.

With three weeks to go until the World Cup starts the hype will continue to exceed the newsworthiness.

All Blacks versus Australia

A great win for the All Blacks last night in the Rugby World Cup semi final.

Very well planned.

Very well executed.

Very well done All Blacks – players, coaches and support staff.

And good on the Wallabies, they did well to get as far as the semi and kept trying gallantly but this was one game and one RWC they just weren’t good enough.

A tribute to Wales

Overall this has been a cracker of a world cup despite disappointing tournaments from England and South Africa – and France despite them reaching the final, and Ireland, Scotland and Argentina being not quite good enough.

We’ll find out tonight which of New Zealand and Australia crash, they will probably mostly judged on this result.

I’ve enjoyed watching the second tier teams in most of the games they have played.

But I’d like to pay tribute to one of the shining stars of the tournament – Wales. They weren’t rated highly coming into the tournament, but they showed on the field that they had the preparation and attitude to make a mark, and they did.

Wales earned much rugby respect in New Zealand, deservedly. Many in the team contributed to this, notably up and coming flanker and captain Sam Warburton, and the team as a whole. Warren Gatland and his coaching team also deserve much credit.

I would have liked to see Wales playing in the final, against the All Blacks of course (through hope rather than expectation), but it’s not to be. A heavy pre-game shower of rain, a momentary tackle mistake, some off target kicking, and the French not quite playing badly enough to lose meant a very creditable but one week early exit for Wales.

Apart from the All Blacks the Welsh team is the only team in the 2011 Rugby World Cup that has not been outplayed in a game (just beaten by a narrow points margin a couiple of times).

I don’t usually feel empathy for the country of origin of my mother’s family, but I almost feel some pride in the boyos. Whatever – I salute some great sportmen and a nearly great team. I think this team’s time will come as long as they learn and grow from this experience.

Why do Kiwis support “anyone but England”?

Last night’s rugby world cup match between England and Scotland demonstrated strong support for “anyone but England”, in this case Scotland. This is partly support for the underdog, and it partly demonstartes a strong Scottish cultural influence in New Zealand. But there is also a strong English cultural influence in the old colony.

Both Scotland and Ireland get strong support from Kiwis. There are many Kiwis with Scottish and Irish ancestry, but that’s only part of the reason – there is a lot of English ancestry here too. There’s even a few Kiwis who still support maintaining links with the Queen of England.

Why do many Kiwis have little or no support for old mother England?

I really don’t know. And I’m an example of this phenomenon.

On my father’s side of the family my grandmother came from Chelsea, a great grandfather emigrated from Liverpool, and a great grandmother was part of the very English emigration to the Canterbury settlement. But I don’t feel like I have any connection with England apart from a historical curiosity. I don’t feel any empathy with England.

I don’t have any known Scottish or Irish heritage (but my granddaughter has a cool Scottish dad!) – but I would normally side with them over England. I don’t know why.

My mother’s parents came from Wales, arriving in New Zealand a couple of years before she was born. However my Welsh empathy only  amounts to a little more historical curiousity  than my Englishness.

My mild natural support for Wales over England is on about the same scale as my natural wish for Ireland or Scotland to beat England.

What has England done to deserve this? A Kiwi disdain of the English arrogance and self appointed superiority? Many UK immigrants to New Zealand wanted to get away from the English class system, maybe it’s a residual of that feeling. Kiwis are more likely to have a favourite “working class” football team than they are a more toffee rugby club (not me though).

England, we don’t hate you, maybe we just like to feel our independence as Kiwis and “anyone but England” is one way of doing this.

Scotland the brave, England the slightly better

England have confirmed a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals after beating Scotland last night in their final pool match. It was not a pretty game, as expected it was a dour arm wrestle.

Scotland put up a brave performnce. They won the first half with a brave committed performance, missing less shots at goal than England. They held on grimly through most of the second half but just couldn’t finish off, lacking penetration and not getting enough shots at goal.

England had another poor start, making basic errors at the breakdown and missing a number of shots at goal – Wilkinson is not as reliable as he used to be. But whatever they were told or whatever was in what they drank at half time worked, just. They gradually gained a small amount of dominance in the second half, managed to kick a few points and claw back on the scoreboard, and scored the game’s only try near the end which was the clincher.

A couple of morals:

  • brave is hard to sustain for eighty minutes without enough penetration
  • even in dour, close fought matches tries can still be the difference between winning and going home early

So Scotland leave the tournament, and England move on to the quarters to try and grind their way forward.

England is noticeably different depending on which first five (fly half) they use. Wilkinson means a kicking game, even though his radar has been wobbly all tournament – he can’t blame last night on the indoor Otago Stadium. He is also a staunch defender, being prominent in cover. Flood is goal kicking better but the England backline also looks far more likely to excite – and score – when he’s in the pivot position.

Englands knockout tactics will be obvious by their first five selection.

Bad luck Scotland, you had many Kiwi hearts and hopes on your side.

Good on you England, you did just enough.