Campbell Burnes

Campbell Burnes has written on rugby since 2000 for a wide variety of publications, both in print and online, whilst also contributing to television and radio shows. His major gigs have seen him at Rugby News magazine (2005-12), in which he covered 50 Test matches, and the New Zealand Herald (2014-17). Burnes is one of the few in rugby media to have played international rugby, having appeared for Manu Samoa in 1995 and 2000 (seven games) as a No 10.

Read more exclusive columns

Gritty northern nations fight back

Getty Images

Campbell Burnes     25 Jun 2018     Getty Images

The Australia-Ireland Third Test and series decider in Sydney was a case in point.


The bare bones of the 20-16 scoreline in favour of Ireland, handing Joe Schmidt’s charges their first series victory in Australia since 1979 and retaining the Lansdowne Cup, as well as maintaining a world ranking of No 2, tell little of the drama and brutal nature of this contest.

Both captains left the fray injured in a frantic opening spell – Michael Hooper to a hamstring twinge and Peter O’Mahony after falling heavily while trying to take a kickoff. The Wallabies were desperate and two thunderous tackles – by Tolu Latu on Rob Kearney and Lukhan Tui on Bundee Aki – were testament to that.

New Zealand TMO Ben Skeen earned his money on a busy night. Technically he got his two biggest calls correct. Israel Folau was a tad unlucky to be binned for his aerial challenge on O’Mahony, though he did, crucially pull his arm. Most of the blame for the fall could be laid at the feet of man of the match CJ Stander, who released O’Mahony too soon from his lift. The final call for Skeen was to rule on whether wing Jacob Stockdale had deliberately knocked the ball on in the dying throes with Australia hot on attack. Skeen found, correctly, no conclusive evidence that he had touched the ball.

Just two tries were scored, the first to Stander from a lineout drive and, for the Wallabies, by wing Marika Koroibete from a judicious grubber by Bernard Foley.
In all, it was a dramatic, even series, which will stand Australia in good stead for the Rugby Championship and Ireland in good heart ahead of its November showdown with the All Backs in Dublin.

There was some respite for Eddie Jones in South Africa. Facing a 3-0 series defeat, in slippery conditions in Cape Town in possibly the last Test at the fabled Newlands ground, England ground out a meritorious 25-10 win on the back of a solid and more disciplined pack effort, led by the likes of Chris Robshaw and Joe Marler, and metronomic goalkicking by Owen Farrell.

No 10 Danny Cipriani, who was even making tackles, came up with a decisive play, his crosskick sending over wing Jonny May, who was again full of running, in the corner. The Springboks, conversely, were error-ridden and No 10 Elton Jantjies did not a have a happy outing. Brad Shields was not in the England match-day 23, as he was ill.

Scotland won the ICBC Cup, smashing Argentina 44-15, going some way to erasing the narrow defeat to USA the previous weekend. Los Pumas must find a winning formula, and a new coach, swiftly before they hit the Rugby Championship in seven weeks.

In the Africa Gold Cup, doubling as a RWC qualifier, Namibia blanked Tunisia 118-0.

There remains a critical RWC qualifier this weekend, when Samoa host Germany in Apia, in the first of two legs.

Ireland 20 Australia 16 (Sydney)
England 25 South Africa 10 (Cape Town)
Japan 28 Georgia 0 (Aichi)
Scotland 44 Argentina 15 (Chaco)
USA 42 Canada 17 (Nova Scotia)
Tonga 27 Fiji 19 (Lautoka)
Namibia 118 Tunisia 0 (Windhoek)
Kenya 28 Morocco 24 (Casablanca)