10s and Creativity
Creativity is part of a 10’s on field repertoire, they need also to…
• Create opportunity.
• See opportunity.
• Take advantage of opportunity.
• Construct attacks.
• Have appropriate running skills.
• Be an on field analyst.
• Have astute/technical kicking skills.
• Remain calm under pressure.
• Appreciate/recognise the skills of those players around them.
• Have the courage to attack the line!
10s will be able to demonstrate their range of skills more effectively when the forwards are going forward!
Of the 3 main group contenders England look the strongest “up front” with power and playing depth.
Given that we generally agree with the focus on creativity as shown above?
Foley and Cooper look set for Australia; Biggar and Priestland for Wales, but for England? Ford has pole position with Cipriani alongside? Myler and Farrell on the grid behind?
Of course injury can still play a part and if the Kiwi’s needed four 10s to win the last World Cup it would be wise to consider who else is on the grid. Matt Toomua, Owen Williams, Freddie Burns and yes Matt Hodgson spring to mind. Australia could also call on O’Connor, Beale and Giteau.
England culturally will still play a go forward; forward orientated game.
Wales place far too much emphasis on defence!! Edwards is bad for them. They are a rugby nation with a “feel for the game”. I can assure you, of all the home nations Wales and their former playing style has the respect of the Southern Hemisphere coaches/pundits. But the Welsh 10s of the golden era are fading memories. They need a creative 10, the other backs select themselves.
Australia have the backs with both creativity and individual flair. As I write this they are working on their scrum!
England need courage in selection and this is where tradition and culture may work against us. The trend of making a substitution with 20 minutes to go may also need attention. If it isn’t working, change it, even if it’s in the first half?
At this moment in time I have England on top with Australia second and Wales third.
If creativity is the deciding factor; who can pull the rabbit out of the bag, I have Australia on top with Wales second and England third.
If it comes down to goal kicking Wales are top, Australia and England tied second.
If it's penalty tries then it’s England on top with the others looking skywards!
Finally, opening up the salary cap will limit the number of clubs capable of winning the main competitions. There has been considerable improvement in the quality of English rugby at U 20s level, as demonstrated with two World Cup wins. Where will these players go? Are we looking at 2 divisions of top quality teams, ring fenced, or will the second tier be the development teams of the top clubs? A European league could be on the horizon?
One thing is for sure, money talks!
Have a great Xmas and start 2015 really positively with a smile on your face; as there are many without one!
The much suggested Ford- Burgess partner-“ship” was launched on Friday when Bath sailed past Montpellier. England’s coaches will have noted the mistakes Burgess made in the first 20 minutes alone, over reading in attack, losing ball in contact, failure to long place when put to ground, and accepted the problems of transition from League to Union. But they may have raised their eyebrows over the decisions he made when transition was not a factor!!
Even at this early stage I would stick him at 8 and say “get stuck in”.
It’s a long sail to “The pool of death” in 2015.
The reverse fixture between Toulon and Leicester had a feisty edge as a result of Castro’s mid- week outburst. His non-selection didn’t affect the outcome! Toulon were more focussed on accuracy and the production of quick ball, and as a result were always the more likely try scorers. Scrum half Tillous- Borde was never far from the ball and with Armitage securing both quick ball and turn over, the outcome remained inevitable. There are huge benefits to be had by running hard at your man and then attacking the inside shoulder. Support on the inside should always be there, then you create a natural support line back out and around. Toulon kept re-cycling and more importantly “going forward”.
In these huge European games you have to be “in the moment” so to speak. Despite being outplayed, that moment came for Leicester in the 46th minute. 16 – 5 down Tait goes through a huge hole and passes 10 metres too soon!!! At 23-8 with 8 minutes remaining Burns kicks to touch from his own 22, to relieve pressure, ugh! Pressure is “your challenge” when you are 15 behind with 8 to play, just go for it! Fail trying, don’t just give the ball back to them!
Final thought on Leicester. I like Allen as a 12, he is a genuine footballer when going into space, but not heavy defence! Goneva will be both at 12, bit like Nonu. Stick Tuijagi at 13 and get Salvi arriving at tackle contests on the front foot, then Young’s and Williams become more effective. Leicester have to get that on field presence and dominance through performance back.
Leinster were lucky to get past a Harlequins side who are regaining some of last season’s form. It wasn’t until the 23rd minute that we could refer to the word “penetration” in this game, when the impressive Hopper showed how to attack a defence that comes up quickly on the outside! Prior to that, lots of lateral play and re-cycle…boring!
Harlequins actually improved from last week I thought. Scrum was good, close quarter support play ok, Individuals were “up for it”, Marler, Care and Ward; but Care’s “moment” came when he broke from a scrum and completely botched a 3 on 2. Totally unacceptable at this level or any level for that matter. I bet most clubs spend more time on scrimmaging than 3 on 2s.
(As an aside The Waikato Chiefs are doing lots of 4 on 3s pre-season)
Matt O’Connor will be concerned about Leinster’s back play. They did not see the opportunities out wide and the (look alike, matching hairstyles, centre pairing of Madigan and Fitzgerald) needs to have a chat with Brian O’Driscoll).
I said last week that Munster would need more than passion and effort to win in Clermont and that looked to be the case, starting really well, winning quick ball at the tackle contest and going forward. The strong long place is vital if you want to take advantage of quick ball. Aided by a poor start by Clermont fly half Lopez, 2 appalling cross field kicks and a cross field lateral run that ended with Rougerie receiving a pass and getting belted!! Munster were in with a chance on the back of some effective stealing at the tackle contest. You would think that a relieving kick that lands in your opponents half could be defended since there are 29 players in front of the catcher! Munster failed to deal with the return, missing tackles; allowing Nakaitaci to remind us how valuable individual skill is…great try and just on half time.
In the second half Munster’s scrum disintegrated, as did their chances of winning. But they are nothing if not resilient and on the final whistle kicked a penalty to snatch a bonus point.
Saracens were in a real arm wrestle against Sale. Sale could/should have won last week. Saracens have lots of International players and their England ones need to re assert themselves. Both Vunipola’s; Ashton and Farrell the obvious ones. Sale are currently the countries nearly team. They will remain difficult to beat but not threaten the title! Saracens half backs kick too much and Farrell still kicks as though it’s the 6th tackle in league. Strettle might want to ask why having counter –attacked 40 meters, Wigglesworth kicked the ball out on the full, in the area Strettle could not get to anyway?
Wasps cruised past a woeful Castres who languish at the bottom of Top 14. Wasp’s major challenge going forward more concerned with bums on seats at the Ricco in Coventry. Personally I think it’s a disgrace that a stadium/venue could not be found closer to London. Or maybe they didn’t look? I’ll bet they never checked with the Wasps supporters? Spectators or lack of will ultimately be judge and jury on Wasps questionable move?
Glasgow went down to an improving Toulouse. Townsend has an improving reputation worldwide as a coach and Glasgow play good rugby. He’ll get the backs job soon I hope for Scotland.
Scarlets v Ulster.
Correct me if I’m wrong but there is something strangely unappealing when watching rugby union being played in a soccer stadium only a quarter full. On a wet, windy evening in Wales the settee and Downton has more appeal. The first half vindicated this view. Kick after kick after kick. Four of them producing the 12-0 score line at half time. It was almost as though no one wanted to be there! Apart from JP Doyle who blew his whistle with regularity just to remind us.
The second half was marginally better. Ulster started to play rugby and 2 inside passes produced a try. Further breaks were poorly finished and the game ended bizarrely with Ulster trying to play against the wheel and conceding an intercept try. Scarlets live to play another day…with interest!
Some final thoughts.
I like Romaine Poite as a ref. In fact I’d like to share a bottle of red with him, and a baguette the next time I’m in Paris. He’s got some style.
As Satanta have stopped showing the Aviva Premiership in Australia can anyone suggest how I might view the games or should I just watch Downton and wait for the European games?
Good to read that there is growing concern at the number of teenagers spending too much time in the gym at the expense of skill work. Questionable supplements are also a problem and the dodgy guys who supply them. It’s a global problem!!
Have a great Xmas and see you again in 2015.
Heinekin Cup Thoughts
I think New Zealand are influencing how many clubs play around the globe. Take kick off receptions as an example. The ball is caught in the 22, moved one or two passes, contact made, recycle, kick. Occasionally confusion arises when the ball is driven out of the 22 and passed back in, before the kick downfield. The vulnerability in this, is retaining the ball at contact. More savagery/dynamism is needed by the chasing side to effect a turn-over or force a mistake or penalty. However this approach has replaced the more predictable box kick from 9.
There are other contentious/productive areas of the game that emerged and remain after the weekend’s games.
• The driving maul is hard to defend if done with ruthless technical efficiency; as Clermont did in Munster of all places.
• The overhead shot of most breakdowns shows the defensive line to be in front of the back foot. This has to be penalised twice early in the game to maintain space. One penalty each side.
• 7s are still extending their arms and not binding with their shoulder on the loosehead, see Ulster 7.
• Lack of understanding of how to maintain shape in defence when outnumbered, see Scarlets, several times against Ulster.
• If you get over the ball in defence at the tackle and have your hands on the floor, surely that is not supporting your own body weight? See Sale v Saracens last few minutes. A win/loss decision?
• If you “chase the ball” you may score a try, see Wesley Fofana for Clermont against Munster. Pass, chase the ball in support.
• Great quote (Dorian West), and coach education question, “take the energy out of the opposition”…How?
• Hodgson is still a very good 10!! And NZ needed 4 to win the last World Cup! Sale v Saracens.
The big 3 games all emphasised the need to get your forwards playing together as a unit in set piece and phase play.
Clermont’s forwards were together when they needed to be, as were Harlequins. Matt O’Connor will be fuming at his backs for running across the field. This is compounded by wingers who are too flat and get pushed into touch because they have no angle from which to come inside…it’s dumb!
The other Connor, O’Shea will be pleased with the way his outside backs maintained shape in defence and compounded the problem for the Leinster backs.
At Welford Road the Aristocrats arrived at The Working men’s Club and got a no-nonsense welcome, in fact 13 points worth! Then they decided to concentrate and got themselves back into the game. However throughout this period Leicester ruled the tackle contest and Owens couldn’t keep up with them. Leicester played him! Their scrum is solid, has returning depth and the lineout defence put pressure on the “old boys “ in Toulon’s second row. Gibson is under stated, I like his 100% focus on the moment.
Attitude and energy are about consistency and Toulon lacked it, and when in the lead relaxed at crucial times to let Leicester’s energy pile the pressure on!
Some points about Leicester.
• I like Owen Williams. His game management is improving. He has the skills, vision and the temperament. He reminds me of a younger Arron Cruden and we all know how he benefitted from having a direct 12 outside him in Ma Nono. This suggests to me that Goneva has a role in the development of Williams and of the performance of the backs.
• Against line-speed in defence, Young’s has to pass before he takes steps. He’s turning plays into collisions. The holes will appear if he passes immediately and the angled run in of the receiver will create a natural support line on the outside.
• Getting wins through pressure is ok but getting wins through scoring tries says more about overall performance! Second man play, box structures, need to be closer to the passer. Habana’s intercept the reason!
Both Leinster and Toulon will be different animals in their own backyard. Munster will need more than passion and reaction to win in Clermont.
Great weekends rugby and more of the same next week.
England v Australia 2014
Anything new? Well maybe?
History is history and history worked again for England!
Australia remain the more creative team?
England’s scrum will be the subject of coach analysis worldwide after their scrimmaging performance against Australia. Loosehead and 7 will be the focus.
Pressure will be heaped on the IRB and referees to referee the front rows in accordance with the laws. McCaw started it with his ability to slide forward. At one point on Saturday Robshaw was almost scrimmaging in the opposite direction, so far had he come round. In world terms Graham Rowntree is ahead of the rest. He has a private club of front rowers who “can handle” it. The dark arts that is.
Can England win a World Cup this way or will the referees determine their fate? More from England will be needed if they are to win the World Cup and I like Lancaster’s honesty and realism. But what else can we take from this game?
• We now know that running an inside line from left to right or out to in creates a natural support line, clearly seen in Morgan’s first try. This line of attacking the inside shoulder has been the hallmark of All Black rugby for years and can be used in all areas of the field in forwards or backs play.
• Watson is exciting but needs lots of work on running under’s lines 2 v 2.
• England’s left to right attack will have put paid to Farrell at 12 or 13. We were poor in this area, didn’t run forward first and might be better suited to turning the ball back inside to the blind side support, winger?
• Good teams learn how to beat your defensive structure and Australia did this, finding our inside support lazy! You always have to work hard on the inside in defence as it’s what you don’t see coming that is the real threat.
• Morgan was rightly man of the match but not for the stuff we know he can do, more for some of his cover defence tackling, especially the one on Adam Ashley-Cooper in the second half. Lawes cover tackled well also!
• Robshaw was more focused and targeted the ball at the tackle contest better in this game and England’s driving, possession based game nullified Hooper’s effectiveness.
• Greater composure is needed when England pass the ball under pressure. Freeze in the moment, trap the technique, and let it work for you.
• Ford, Barritt, Tuilagi has a directness that will suit England’s forward style!
• All International teams are offside during phase play. Referees are confused between line-speed and offside! I expect referees to tighten up in this area and once again Hartley was the offender, crucially after England had just scored. Greater discipline needed.
So where does this leave Australia? Unlike 95% of Australians I like a lot of what they do and where they are 10 months out.
• They find ways to create tries and breakdown defences. Foley's try a case in point.
• They have numerous backline options. Kirundrani at 12, Adam Ashley-Cooper at 13 has some followers.
• Genia, O’Connor, Beale, Cooper and even Gateau could all make the starting backline.
• The return of Moore, Pocock, Polata-Nau, Fardy, Sio and Timane will strengthen the forwards squad.
• Will Skelton will be ready for World Cup 2015. Cheika will see to that!
• Australia are a smart rugby playing nation. Their finances and administration may not be too crash hot at the moment but they have the nous to prepare squads. No stone will be left un-turned in preparation.
A long way to go but I’m having a crafty bet on a repeat of the 1991 final, be great odds?
Your thoughts please.
So how did the big guns fare this week?
For England much of the same! The pundit’s favourites didn’t let them down, notably Farrell and Hartley. Farrell is looking more and more unlike a number 10, let alone an International one. His inability to see opportunities and construct attacks sees him take personal options which he is ill-equipped to execute! Hartley is very much the “leopard”, he can’t change and is a liability. I’ll be surprised if both start against Samoa. Selection for Samoa will be easy for Lancaster. Selection for Australia not so?
South Africa are potential winners in 2015. When they need to exercise good technique as a unit or team they find it and they are effective. Lambie is a better rugby player than he is a 10 but will add value off the bench.
The Wallabies are a team but made countless errors and their scrum disintegrates in the final quarter. If they win quick ball they can play with tempo and score tries from anywhere and they nearly did against France in the final minutes. They will not win quick ball against Ireland and England and that will provide the evidence we need to decide their future in 2015. I suspect also that Genia and Cooper may face England.
France have gone Global in their selection. I want the French to play Frenchmen. I have a French friend in Asia who may have drowned himself on announcement of the French team. However they may have found a 10 in Lopez and certainly an 11 in Thomas. At last some Gallic flair. If they could only find “a playing surface” for the Stade!
The All Blacks have sufficient depth and confidence to put out a second team against Scotland. Carter will have benefited from the game but I don’t expect him to start against Wales. McCaw remains an enigma, he keeps playing! It’s hard to see him not starting against Wales.
The game at times appeared scrappy but, Scotland are improving! Their Kiwi coach has, as expected, improved their tackle contest work, they are more targeted on the ball and use leg drive in both attack and defence. Their defence gets organised quickly and understands how and when to defend and just occasionally a Scottish tackler falls on the wrong side and hangs about for a while… very Kiwi.
It was not until minute 2-45 that the first pass was made in this game!
A scrum, is a scrum, is a scrum and then a penalty!
Wales and Ireland had a respite from the intensity and I expect Wales to lose and Ireland to win on Saturday.
A great coaching friend of mine (sadly no longer with us) once described team play as: “Using the ball is a blend of understanding with attitude; of team awareness with individual virtuosity; of practised patterns with spontaneous reaction. The blending is elusive and short lived.”
Has the first round of International matches in the northern hemisphere shown any team to have these qualities?
Certainly the All Blacks responded as a cohesive unit when both Coles was sin-binned and the weather deteriorated in the second half against England. England failed to respond to either occurrence!
Ireland played with a passion and organisation based on “collective go forward” that stifled the life out of South Africa.
All coaches would like players in the team capable of choosing the option that will produce the greatest chance of the team scoring. Some players however are better at choosing options for themselves rather than the team. Each player has to be aware of his potential contribution to the team. Choosing when to, and when not to make a contribution is important.
Wales and Australia shared 7 tries. Historically and culturally both teams score tries and contain players who can construct team tries by choosing practised patterns of play. Australia have to a greater degree players who can override patterned calls and instinctively use skill in a particular situation. Folau, Beale and O’Connor come to mind.
World Cup finals have been turgid affairs of late. Few tries have been scored and no player has stamped his virtuosity on the game. So team play will be the order of the day and the team with the most constructive number 10 the eventual winner.
Of the teams mentioned, I would list in order of effectiveness the following 10s, Cruden, Sexton, Foley, Pollard, Biggar and Farrell. Pollard and Foley are improvers, Biggar and Farrell may be replaced.
Interesting to make the point that there are 3 Kiwi coaches at the top table, a couple of Frenchmen and a lone Englishman, South African and an Argentinian. Some teams will become harder to beat as a result of improved team understanding.
The second round of matches may shed some light on this.
So here come the Southern hemisphere heavyweights.
Can the Northern hemisphere nations hope to win?
The All Blacks will catch England ‘cold’, with new faces in the England team. Springboks are developing nicely and will be powerful! The Wallabies, in some real turmoil, but if they appoint Michael Cheika as coach they will re-group quickly and be a threat.
What do I see in playing styles that leads me to think the power still remains in the Southern Hemisphere?
Fundamentally the SH teams attack the inside shoulder and have a better understanding of the benefits of attacking the inside shoulder, creating support lines from it and space out wide. If a drive is attached to the contact with the inside shoulder then their attack will be even more potent against a retreating defence.
England will be aware of this after what happened in Hamilton in the 3rd test. All three SH teams score tries so if you want to beat them you will have to score tries!
The All Blacks can score from anywhere and at any time. They have team fitness and skill in all positions. They have depth in all positions and good 12s! Nonu, Fekitoa, Crotty and SBW for the World Cup.
The Wallabies have talented backs and X factor players in Folau and a 13 who can run straight in Kirundrani. Questions will be asked of their scrum but Slipper looks solid.
I like the mixture of freshness and power in the Springbok side. Serfontein is well established at 13 and Handre Pollard the same at 10. Both are young and attack the line. The Springboks are durable and in a competition that will be important.
Where are they vulnerable?
All Blacks exit strategies from deep kick offs in their own 22, are risky against a fast approaching line speed and some “frenzy” at the subsequent tackle contest. Pressure their line out especially Kieran Reed.
Wallabies, use physical pressure right from the kick off at first phase. Don’t let them settle. Defend out to in and keep Folau out of the game. If they play with a second five eight get up on him quickly or use drift defence to channel them into the 15 metre area. In possession use driving mauls and keep Hooper involved, don’t go to ground easily.
Against the Springboks use switch plays and isolate some of their big forwards. Don’t sit too deep in the pocket when you do. Attack close to the gain line, spin, (rotate) out of tackles and keep the legs driving! Short, quick 5 man lineouts will help.
With the World Cup on the horizon there is lots to be gained by all the teams and coaches. The telling game may be the last one! England v Australia, winner takes... ?
The autumn Internationals in the Northern hemisphere will answer some of these questions. At present New Zealand have the guile, South Africa the power and they are my one two, but England have home advantage and will be on fire and passionate, but will that be enough?
As defence systems become ever more understood at individual, unit and team level, so creating space and exploiting it becomes a key question. How do we hold/fix the defence, attack the drift and create space on the outside?
The players who can attack the 12 channel like Nonu are usually strong direct runners who turn defenders inwards and make ground/yardage.
Players without those qualities but with an understanding of the role can be equally effective. In New Zealand’s recent demolition of Australia Ryan Crotty, deputising for Nonu was equally effective using a different style.
New Zealand and South Africa are well served with Nonu and De Villiers but what of the other main contenders.
Australia seem to have lost their way playing Toomua at 12 as a second five eight; his distribution through hand inaccurate and his kicking almost radar like en- route to a defender. England have several candidates with Barrett and Burrell the likely options. Both will need to be in place over several games to produce effective play. Wales and the Lions have been well served by Roberts, he can play close to the advantage line. Ireland are in transition since O’Driscoll retired, but they have a shrewd coach in Schmidt and he will be aware of the need.
The French have anybody, because that is how they play these days. I like Bastareaud, Fickou and Fofana and there is a combination in there somewhere. If Bastareaud gets isolated in phase play, opposing attacks may run around him if they leave him at 13.
Maybe he is the best 12 for France?
The autumn Internationals in the Northern hemisphere will answer some of these questions.
At present New Zealand have the guile, South Africa the power and they are my one two, but England have home advantage and will be on fire and passionate, but will that be enough?
Where do you position Saturday's Super 15 final between the Waratahs and the Crusaders. I think it was a hybrid game.
Sure it was emotional and gripping right to the end but there was lots of lateral play and this suited the players with natural close quarter footwork. Not surprising then that Adam Ashley–Cooper scored two tries. Surprising that Beale and Folau were unable to break the line.
Much of the Waratahs success this season has emanated from their fast starts to games. They slip into a fast rhythm and score points early. This fuels their self-belief and puts the opposition on the back foot physically as well as mentally.
I preach and coach about the “shape of the game” and how this is Rugby’s X factor. It sets it apart from other codes. Forward first then wide to exploit the space is the mantra. I can’t recall either scrum half attacking the advantage line close to the breakdown once, to tie in defenders and initiate some close quarter forward play “going forward”.
The desire to play flat and wide resulted in an abundance of penalties for offside and kept the referee in the game, when we really want little interference from him. Both sides were good at cover defending on the inside so it became tackle and “bounce” to your feet quickly to contest the ball, as it is in 7s.
Individually Hooper and Todd matched each other. Phipps and Ellis ditto. Foley and Slade enjoyed a shooting contest and Joubert and McCaw may never speak again!
This hybrid game is not to McCaw’s liking, especially as his glittering career nears its end. The Kiwi selectors will have noticed this and I suspect McCaw’s influence at the 2015 World Cup may be more off the field than on it?
One thing is for sure. The All Blacks will be on fire at the first Bledisloe cup encounter in two weeks time. New Zealand will hurt over this result and demand redemption.
Some pulsating times ahead in Southern Hemisphere rugby.
The Waratahs remain predictable winning with ease against a Reds organisation that is faltering both on and off the field. True they have players out injured but you have to question their desire. They languish near the bottom of the competition and Richard Graham points to improvements in set piece and try scoring but “no defence”.
The Force fell away as you need more class than effort at the “sharp” end of the season. The Rebels disintegrated and you wonder how long the ARU can keep helping with financial support. The Brumbies have some class players but still only half fill the stadium at best. It should be full next week for the arrival of the Chiefs who will always be a threat, but who have lacked consistency this season. Don’t rule them out though!
The threat to the Waratahs may be the week off? Some teams cope with it, some prefer to keep playing as it strengthens resolve and keeps the pot boiling.
The Highlanders have the daunting trip to Durban to face a Sharks outfit that returned to form against the Stormers. I fear the Highlanders will have to score from long range because the Sharks play field position and pressure.
Finally the Crusaders, with acting captain Ryan Crotty saying they are in a good space, all is well on the ‘paddock” and Kieran Read nursed carefully back to form, they are the predictable threat to the Waratahs.
My final 4 … Waratahs, Brumbies, Sharks and Crusaders.
Now the June Internationals are over are we any clearer as to which team is ahead of the rest?
Scotland have a new coach, Vern Cotter, a Kiwi, and were absolutely flogged by South Africa by over 50 points. More noticeably they had a new (Kiwi) approach to the tackle contest and gave away heaps of penalties. Cotter has lots of work to do here, if he wishes to change Scottish rucking habits!
Wales have some internal rifts I suspect. Their second test performance against South Africa redeemed them somewhat after a first test hammering. What we do know about the Welsh is that they have a “feel for the game”, so they will always be potential winners, even though Australia keeps beating them.
Ireland I like, they are my dark horses for the World Cup. Smidt, their coach, has been in Ireland long enough to understand how to get the best out of them and they have some depth.
France need to find a settled combination at 9 and 10 and please don’t come to Australia unless you are interested in winning!! But they are France and they will do what they do.
England have the depth, now they need the team! What is the team?
All Blacks – could be peaking just at the right time with a blend of youth and experience. Forward pack is maturing nicely and backs are electric.
South Africa – all pace and power. They love the confrontation, but they're not as smart as the Kiwis.
The rest are making up the numbers I’m afraid… even the Argies.
Ed Slater's rise to Leicester Tigers captain and England squad member may seem meteoric. After all he had played no rugby until 15 years of age and he was ensconced in the delights of living in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney and Bondi Beach.
From the moment I decided Ed had talent, which was during his Colt’s days at Eastern Suburbs, aged 17 years, I felt he was an environment player. By that I mean, find him the right learning and coaching environment and he would develop quickly. He had no mini or junior rugby history so his learning slate was clean.
Another factor in his favour was “presence”. Some people just have it. They walk in a room and you immediately notice them. It’s mental and physical chemistry and you can’t ignore it.
Ed had the physical presence and now the mental presence has surfaced. He captains one of the major club sides in World Rugby. His method will be very simple and direct. Team members will be comfortable training and playing under his leadership.
The environment at Leicester Tigers was and is perfect for Ed. History and reputation count for little. It’s what you do now that counts, this minute in this coaching session.
Where will it end? He will go on to play for England in New Zealand in June. His presence and playing ability will promote his captaincy credentials.
Read the following link to get inside the man:
England would be wise to look at the style of play the Waratahs are adopting this season and ask the question, Could this be the Wallabies style in 2015 ?
Quick ball at the ruck, a flat attack line, playing close to the advantage line with good footwork, ball carriers looking to offload, more energy throughout the team and willingness to support, effective lower body tackling enabling Hooper to get over the ball quickly and a player at 15 with X factor if you kick the ball badly to him, then you have a pretty potent attacking philosophy and style. The Wallaby lineout has been good for a couple of years now and some improvement in scrimmaging would make the team potential champions and difficult pool opponents for Wales and England.
If McKenzie decides to play Hooper and Pocock then ball on the ground would be Australia’s in attack and defence.
Keeping the ball in the forwards and driving forward would tie at least one of the two in and maybe both. Running switch plays and staying on your feet would also commit them.
England and Wales I expect to play power games up front and kick more for field position. The pressure of the chase will be the weapon against Folau.
Intriguing though to see possible approaches well before the event?
9 February 2013
England choked Scotland out of the game on Saturday. Power up front and line speed in defence were again the key factors. Scotland had no answers and with a poorly performing lineout their fate was doomed early. England will however need to be well behind the back foot in defence as referees will be made aware of this infringement. France had the guile to deal with it, Scotland did not.
Individually Danny Care is playing with skill and confidence but the doubt about Farrell’s ability to construct an attack and build pressure remains. Far too often he kicks for touch rather than create more phases. The better sides will win their own lineout ball. Burrell is limited in what he does BUT he does it well and runs straight and hard forward. I like both the new wingers they will keep that position competitive.
With Brown able to counter attack England should be looking to play off his ability to get behind the first line of chasers and if he receives a pass from a winger the winger should follow the pass and stay in support of him.
Are Wales beginning to creak? They were rudderless and lacked penetration. 9 and 10 are not dominant and Phillips has been worked out mentally as well as at the breakdown. Their three quarters are still strong but they need to play off a go forward, forwards platform.
Ireland is in the mood!! Like the Southern Hemisphere countries they have a ball winner/stealer at 6 in Peter O’Mahony and he is a leader, but not captain yet. Ireland’s willingness to keep straightening the attack and get their forwards going forward posed problems for the Welsh, and when Wales had the ball Ireland hunted in numbers always going forward. Both sides will need to show a little more adventure against the top sides and cut down the number of high aimless kicks. The Kiwis will gobble them up and you will be walking back to your own posts after they have counter attacked and scored?
France and Italy served up an average contest. Italy is a genuine contender and well coached but lacks a cutting edge. Some of the kicking by both teams in the first half was “illogical” to say the least. 9-3 at half time reflected this.
The game was over as a contest by the 52 minute mark when France scored it’s third try. The first from a powerful forward surge with Picamole driving out of the maul. The second a smart piece of Fofana awareness, helped by a poor attempted tackle by McClean and the third another piece of Fofana awareness supported by both French wingers who scored 80 metres away at ease.
Overall Ireland showed most improvement and their game against England at Twickenham in two weeks time will measure that improvement.
3 February 2013
So England failed in the final couple of minutes in Paris. Despite a 16-3 deficit England had fought back to take the lead well into the second half. The half time dose of Lancaster medicine was working and power running up front was producing opportunities a little wider out. However there is still a lack of basic understanding when it comes to lines of running. There is a difference between running under and running unders lines. I did not see one loop or a perfectly executed switch despite the power running putting the French on both the retreat and the back foot. There is not enough variety in attack despite lots of possession. Am I saying that we have a fly half who can’t construct an attack and as a consequence kicks for touch to apply pressure rather than score points? I do believe however that England is building nicely towards the World Cup in 2015. There is depth in the squad and little between certain players. We may need to look hard at a genuine “stealer” of the ball at the tackle contest. Australia and Wales will have one and they are in our group.
France too looked good and they will opt for fewer bashes at 13 I think, going forward. Some of their support play and passing is sublime and this makes them especially dangerous when gaining turn over ball. The return of Dousetoire will give them more presence and Nyanger is a real power house.
Wales got an expected win over Italy in Cardiff but flattered to deceive. They will be looking for a settled 9 and 10 before the World cup. Phillips and Priestland aren’t convincing. Phillips gets caught too often at the ruck and Priestland fails to construct attacks. One thing that is apparent about Italy is that they look like a side that are well coached. They are genuine contenders and cannot be taken lightly. This game lacked the intensity of the France, England contest and the power of the English forwards may prove too much for both these teams later in the competition.
Ireland got the expected result against a Scottish side who for a number of years have very little in the way of attack. Joe Scmidt will make Ireland a more effective team and with a Kiwi background will have a similar affect to Warren Gatland at Wales. I would expect Ireland to be a serious threat at the next World Cup.
My tips for Saturday, France, England, Ireland.
19 January 2014
In the history of sport have players ever been more selfish or behaved more stupidly than today.
We now hear that the Wallaby captain a year out from the World Cup wants to spend more time with his family and play rugby in France. Let me repeat that, The Wallaby Captain… quite staggering to think that Ben Mowen can arrive at that decision. A successful Wallaby captain will have no money issues I’m sure. Plus at 29 years of age as far as World Cups go you are in the last chance saloon!
Something else must have happened to influence Ben.
Meanwhile renegade protégé James O’Connor says he’ll be back at the start of the 2015 season to play for an Aussie franchise so he meets the selection criteria for the Wallabies. Meantime he’s just going to make a hefty few dollars in Europe.
For those who performed nobly for their country in the pre professional era, it must be galling to say the least. Many coached and played for no recompense and some took time off work unpaid, because the dog wagged the tail. Now the tail is doing what it wants in a free market economy and national values and patriotism count for nothing.
What legacy will the money grabbers of today leave behind? What will they pass on to the next generation of young players… quite simply nothing and society will forget them pretty quickly, rest assured, even Facebook.
9 December 2013
So as we approach 2014, is the game in good shape both nationally and internationally or are we putting our fingers in the dyke and finding it hard to solve persistent problems?
Are the scrum laws not working or are the referees not enforcing them? Do the club and National forwards coaches look immediately to “cheat" at the scrum or is it gamesmanship?
On the field the All Blacks have once again been the benchmark for how the game should be played and they score tries! Quick ball has been their strength, quick realignment and straight running. The South Africans are improving but lack subtlety in their back play, but have a strong pack. The Wallabies are waking up from a long hibernation and are now happier with a “local” coach, as is the cricket team.
So the Southern Hemisphere is on line but what about “up north”?
The Northern Hemisphere has no attack!
England is powerful up front and in loose play but the backs are ordinary and crab sidewards. Wales talk a good game but have the backs and a “freakish” goal kicker. Ireland will find it hard to drop O’Driscoll but will have to and soon. Scotland needs the wet weather and lots of it and maybe the Glasgow Warriors coach?
France is Ooh la la for a scrum half and a fly half???? But as always will surprise with their spontaneity!
Have I got it right? Have your say...
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The international game
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