From the rucks

HAS English Rugby sunk to an all-time low?

I can't believe how the rugby media have all but ignored England's pitiful display in returning from half time in last week's game against the Wallabies without props and calling for depowered scrums.

There were no apparent injuries, and IRB rules require at least two front row replacements in a squad, thereby requiring at least two injuries before calling on the referee to depower.

Their scrum was on top in the first half and it was the Wallabies who had an injury in Rodney Blake.

Was it a cynical payback for Australia depowering at Twickenham last November?

The circumstances then were somewhat different.

Australia had one prop stretchered off, another injured, were smashed from pillar to post all day and there were only about 20 minutes left.

It has cheapened Test rugby but the rugby media seems to have rolled over and said absolutely nothing.

But no explanation was forthcoming.

If that's the way they are going to treat the game, perhaps the men with the lovely skin tight white shirts with stunning red rose should be asked to show cause why they deserve to be invited to participate in next year's World Cup.

THE Western Force's backup squad have been touring South Africa up against tough opposition gearing up for their Currie Cup.

Grafton's AJ Whalley, coming back after a broken hand, has performed excellently, quoted on the Force website as the standout forward in the side's 0-37 loss to the strong Golden Lions at Jo'burg.

It's an important tour to secure contracts for next season and by reports, prop Whalley is giving the franchise plenty to think about.

THIS 2006 Coopers Far North Coast Rugby Competition is becoming more like the 2005 season with every round, results compressing the competition table each week.

Like last year, it looks like very little will separate the top half a dozen sides by the end, and the bottom three apparently out of it, University, Tweed and Lennox getting better and maybe having an upset or two amongst them to confuse things even further.

In-form Ballina host a Yamba side with the mid-season wobbles, having lost three on the trot.

Yamba are better than that and may surprise, but it's hard to go against the defending premiers on their home turf.

Wollongbar face up to Lismore, both sides hoping to get back on track after last week's losses.

A terribly hard one to pick, I lean towards the Greens.

University must win every game and should be wary of taking Lennox Head, fresh from their first ever win in the top grade, too lightly.

The Mighty River Redmen, back on the winners list after a gritty effort at Lismore, have another tough one at home against a dangerous Casino side.

The Bulls have good form out wide and will take it to the Redmen but Grafton's defence is superb and should see them home.

FNC Rugby Union table

After round 11

P Pts

Grafton 9 38 Wollongbar 10 35 Yamba 10 31 Ballina 10 30 Casino 9 28 Lismore 10 27 University 10 19 Tweed 10 9 Lennox Head 10 5

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