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Rugby |OT|First Try (now: Six Nations 2019)

Oct 26, 2017
600
That was a marvellous display. I always thought Scotland had a game like this in them - well almost always - not after the first 30 minutes of this one.

It's a cunning tactic to turn the taps on just after half time, as England are rubbish at changing tactics when surprised.

"Eddie, how does it feel to just squeeze a draw against Scotland and fail to win the Calcutta Cup in a World Cup year?"
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,683
I missed it 😢

Watched the first half, absolutely destroyed. Went for a Thai dinner over watching the 2nd half. Ended up streaming the last 15 minutes but it cut out before Johnson's try.
 
Oct 26, 2017
600
Time for my retrospective.

Wales

Defences win matches. Defences win tournaments. That's nowhere more apparent than in the final table for this six nations, where the only column that correlates (almost exactly barring the one point gap between England and Ireland) with the eventual outcome is "points against". Wales conceded only 65 points in the tournament (England 101, Ireland 100, France 118, Scotland 125, Italy 167). And only 7 tries. Only France and Italy scored two tries against them. My enduring memory of this campaign is a shot from the overhead camera with heavy rain dripping down on the second-rows in in Welsh scrum below: once in the first half against France at 16-0 down, and again in the second half against Ireland at 25-0 up. Liam Williams and Anscombe were outstanding, and much as I'd love to see a Welsh attack spearheaded by Patchell I'm not Warren Gatland and he knows the right way to go.

England

As always England play like the perennial bully-boys that they are. This year they are unusually good at it too, with both muscle in the centre and delightful guile in the back three. But like all bully-boys they do not know how to respond when somebody bullies them back or pokes them with a sharp stick because there is no on-field plan B. Eddie Jones says he knows what is wrong, but he doesn't. Everybody else can see that if you surprise England at the start of the second half they have no idea what to do owing to he lack of any meaningful on-field decision-making. Ireland and France let themselves be bullied, Wales and, most marvellously, Scotland didn't. That, along with their belief that they are the best team in the world, their over-reliance on Farrell, and their lack of calmness under pressure, have to be big worries going forward.

Ireland

Before this tournament Ireland were looking to me like the best of the bunch. But their usual meticulously controlled game fell to bits against the aggressive attack of England and the aggressive defence of Wales. A bit like England they've got one preferred way of playing and feel a bit lost when they can't do it. A bit like England they're overdependent on their preferred 10, and when Sexton doesn't fire, neither does Ireland. Maybe time to give Carbery a start?

France

A side oozing with talent. Bastareaud proving to be a man or more talents than we suspected. Stellar three-quarters. Yet they keep losing, even when they shouldn't - especially when they shouldn't. the lesson France should take from this tournament is that they should play more like Scotland at their best. Which brings us to ...

Scotland

... and the lesson that Scotland need to draw from this tournament is to play more like Scotland! The way they steamrollered England for 50 minutes on Saturday wasn't an aberration. For anyone who has watched Scotland over the years it is what they do best, and is what they should do more of. That rampaging, high-risk, beautiful, perpetual attack may not be what modern rugby is most about but it is what Scottish rugby has been about for years. Long may it continue. And remember, they did this without Hogg, and without a whole raft of injured others. My mouth is already watering for their clash with Japan in the final pool game in the World Cup with, probably, a quarterfinal place at stake - the ball will be in play for maybe 55+ minutes and it will be marvelous. I get the impression there's a bit of tension between the players and the coaches about how to play, because otherwise, why don't they just do this from the off?

Italy

Wooden spoon again. But then again, Italy put two tries past Wales. And Ireland. And England. And they did this without Minozzi which is a bit like Scotland without Hogg only much much worse. They are improving a lot. Defense is much better. They are no longer a one-man team.

What a tournament!
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,966
Great write up Phi - completely agree with pretty much all of it (and love the pic of Eddie Jones for Scotland!)

My thoughts - in order of ones I feel I can speak the most about!

Italy.

It was mentioned earlier in the thread but I think everyone wants Italy to start winning some games but just not against their team. Improving every year but every year the other teams also improve. They play well in patches but don't quite have the mental fortitude to go the whole 80.

France

They have become a strange beast. The cliche was always 'which France would turn up' but now it's more like France aren't very good, but can sometimes play well. (Something that can easily be said about Scotland!) They look like a team of some great individuals who have no real concept of how to play as a team with pairings sometimes working well together but at other times looking like they've mixed up calls. Also, Huget might be able to make some nice tries but he is a liability.

Ireland

As phi said, they look like they are too controlled and have lost the ability to play heads up rugby. It's interesting to think about how they've coped with the knowledge that Schmidt is going compared to Wales and Gats - Ireland seem to have fallen of the pace whereas Wales seem to playing for their coach in the most ferocious manner. Sexton and Murray are clearly out of sorts and this means the kicking, controlled game they've built their success around has disappeared. Looking forward to Scotland Ireland in the World Cup, which I wasn't a few months ago!

Wales

Remind me a lot of Ireland last year. I hate when people mention how they are not playing great rugby. Yes they are, it's just not champagne rugby. Their defense is a sight to behold and the confidence they have in their system is amazing. They play a consistent game which - even when things are going badly as in the French game - they believe in and it is working. You know they will not give an inch, you know that they can grind you down, you know that they will keep coming. It's not the rugby that will win them fans, but it is effective and Gatland must know they are in a great position for the World Cup.

England

When they dominate, they dominate. As soon as they are in a match and haven't got everything going their own way, they don't seem to be able to cope. This goes all the way back to the famous Italian match a couple of years ago where England couldn't cope with Italy not joining the rucks. Every single person watching knew that all England needed to do was just pick and go from each ruck and Italy would have to commit some players, but they had the spectacle of Hartley and Haskell asking the ref what was going on. Farrell is the epitome of this - as soon as he is rattled his game goes South and he stops making good choices - the shoulder barge just before being subbed was a prime example of this. Imagine Martin Johnson playing in that match yesterday and how he would have reacted to his team losing one try, let alone three. They don't seem to have leaders when it's needed.

And now to the most insane team I've ever seen play. And yes, I'm including 90s France.

Scotland

That game will live long in the memory and perfectly encapsulates everything wrong and right about Scotland. We don't have the ability/confidence to play for long phases (like Wales) or the power to play up the jumper rugby. This means that we have to play from very quick rucks, in what Vern Cotter called 'organised chaos.' The problem with this is that, when it doesn't work, we don't have a system to fall back on. We can't go through 31 phases and grind a team down. We can't kick and control territory. We can't play percentage rugby to save our lives and even if we could, we're likely to make a stupid handling error that will have fans tearing their hair out. Our first half against England, second half against Ireland, all against France and most of the Wales game showed that.

But then it goes right. We get quick ball from the ruck, Finn Russell somehow sees things happening in slow motion and plays a pass that cuts a defense open in seconds. For the second half we were only in English territory for 34%, but scored 5 tries. That shouldn't really happen, but it did and it shows Scotland's strengths. We need to play that kind of game but we also need to be able to have something to fall back on when things are going poorly. I don't know if it's possible to marry those two things without taking something out of the other side of our game but if we could. The major worry is that there seems to be a disconnect between Russell and Townsend - him mentioning they had an argument during the half time talk doesn't fill me with confidence about what is happening behind the scenes.

Brilliant championship, what an ending.
 
Oct 26, 2017
600
And that's exactly why I think Scotland need to play more the Scottish way. Because they aren't all that good at the other ways. But if Scotland can learn to trust their attack as much as Wales trust their defence they can play like that all the way through. And it simply won't matter if they leak a few points here and there - hell, even 30+ points - because all they have to do score more. And they can do that.

New Zealand used to play that way and it worked out for them. Often they'd scarcely have the ball, but when they did there would be a try 30 seconds later.

That said, let's look ahead to the World Cup and the lead-up to it:

Italy have warm-ups against Ireland, France and England which is decent preparation, but in pool B with New Zealand, South Africa and Canada I can't see them making it out of the group stage.

Ireland and Scotland are together in pool A along with Japan, Samoa and Russia. Ireland warm up with Italy, England and Wales (twice), which is better prep than Scotland have with France (twice) and Georgia. The opening pool match is Ireland v Scotland, and I reckon the winner of that will take the pool - though the best match is likely to be the final one between Scotland and Japan.

England and France head up pool C, but on their showing in this 6N Argentina, Tonga and even the USA will fancy their chances at a big scalp. All of a sudden this group looks a lot more open. France's warm-ups against Scotland (twice) and Italy don't look likely to develop the team much, not that - being France - they would anyway. England's prep is against Wales(twice), Ireland and Italy, so they are planning a send-off try-fest at Twickers (no, actually in Newcastle - talk about respecting the opposition) and will go into the tournament all complacent again. Dreadful planning. England open against USA, who will fancy their chances after the Scotland game.

Wales are in pool D with Australia, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay, none of whom are slouches. Also they warm up against England (twice) and Ireland (twice), which is tough but not very varied opposition. I'd reckon on both Australia and Wales to make the quarterfinals, but there may be a few surprises along the way as it is possibly the strongest bottom-three of any pool.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,966
But if Scotland can learn to trust their attack as much as Wales trust their defence they can play like that all the way through.
I think we've got potentially the most exciting backs in rugby at the moment - and definitely in the history of Scottish Rugby. Price, Russell, Johnson, Jones, Graham, Kinghorn and Hogg all have the ability to be electric and even if some of their defense can be suspect at times, it would be lovely to watch. Imagine kicking to Hogg and watching him run at you with Graham and Kinghorn on his shoulders. Our back row are also very threatening in open play, which is the true Scottish brand of rugby I was brought up with. Watson is probably my favourite player of the Scottish team, but Ritchie stood up to be counted throughout the tournament.

I'm getting hopeful again, which isn't good. Need to watch that first half again.
 
Dec 31, 2017
20
(no, actually in Newcastle - talk about respecting the opposition)
I don't really get this. If anything, England need to be playing across the country more often, not less. The England (along with Italian and French) womens play their fixtures across the country to great effect. I don't see anyone complaining about that.

Despite iffy tournaments from both Ireland and England, I think we'll see them both end up being the best performers from the northern hemisphere come Japan.
 
Oct 28, 2017
597
Unfortunately not this time, was playing the 6N drinking game in North London and was pretty hammered during the 1st half of the Calcutta Cup, still don't quite know what happened in the 2nd and have a great excuse to watch it again!

What a win. What a team. Best Welsh team ever? I think so.
Yes I think they must be, 14 wins now? Just missing that NZ scalp.
 
Oct 26, 2017
600
I don't really get this. If anything, England need to be playing across the country more often, not less. The England (along with Italian and French) womens play their fixtures across the country to great effect. I don't see anyone complaining about that.

Despite iffy tournaments from both Ireland and England, I think we'll see them both end up being the best performers from the northern hemisphere come Japan.
Fair point, and maybe I was being a bit mean - and you're right that getting rugby around the country is important. But on the other hand, I don't see them playing Wales in Manchester or Ireland in Bristol. Making it Italy where they go off to Newcastle is only a disrespect to Italy, it's a bit of a disrespect to Newcastle too. Hope Italy will have Minozzi fit by then and do a Scotland on them.

As to World Cup prospects, both England and Ireland have shown up quite specific vulnerabilities, particularly at 10, that can be targetted by decent opposition. It astonishes me that there's talk of Dylan Hartley being the calming influence on the English side. Of the two England have the bigger problem since their defence went completely AWOL against Scotland; that's not helped by Daly's defensive weaknesses and whatever Cokanasiga doesn't bring in defence too if he is thought to be one of the answers. I'm sure they will rack up some impressive scores in the pool stage and get to the quarters with no trouble, but I wonder very much whether they will be able to survive past that. Ireland's problems are easier to fix, it is largely an attack thing rather than a defence thing - though for Ireland that mostly means it is a possession and control thing - it's really only a matter of either getting Sexton's head screwed on again or replacing him, either of which are possible - that and having a decent sub for Kearney. (Also, I think Eddie's latest move - to have a psychologist in as a weekly reminder to England of how crap they are at closing out big games - might well backfire.)

Given that, I'd put Wales and Ireland above England as World Cup hopes. Wales for the semis at least.

(This may be heart rather than head talking.)
 
Nov 4, 2017
267
Might be getting a bit ahead of myself, but given how important he's been for us recently, I've been thinking about how the hell Wales replace Alun Wyn Jones, as a player and as captain, if he retires after the World Cup. Unless he's desperate to captain the Lions in two years' time, I fully expect him to go make his money in France next year (and who could blame him?).

The good thing is that we've got two relatively young second rows who now have a decent amount of international experience in Cory Hill and Adam Beard. If all goes to plan I expect them be our front line second rows going into the 2020 Six Nations and I'd be pretty happy with that. I like the Charteris-like role that Beard has now and Hill is basically like an extra back row at times and has decent leadership skills too. Behind them Jake Ball and Seb Davies can fill in when needed.

Picking out a new captain is a bit trickier as the new coach will obviously have his own ideas. The two stand outs for me and Ken Owens and Jonathan Davies; both have captaincy experience, both nailed-on starters and both Scarlets who Pivac will be familiar with. Personally I'd go with Davies as he's slightly younger and could lead them through the entire World Cup cycle, also I just prefer him as a player. Outside of those two, I think Tipuric, Ellis Jenkins and Cory Hill are all options but I'd expect Pivac to go with someone he knows well and trusts.

The good thing is that the squad is so settled now that even someone like AWJ leaving isn't going to be the end of the world, like it would have a few years ago.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,568
the more I read about world rugby and the local rfus, the more worried I am for the future of the game. England and France in one camp of the 6N, Scotland, Ireland, and Italy in another, Wales on their own island on fire and sinking at the same time, with World Rugby and the SH then in another camp, not to mention the pacific islanders and other developing countries in another. Nobody is aligned and no concern for the welfare of the game globally
 
Nov 4, 2017
267
the more I read about world rugby and the local rfus, the more worried I am for the future of the game. England and France in one camp of the 6N, Scotland, Ireland, and Italy in another, Wales on their own island on fire and sinking at the same time, with World Rugby and the SH then in another camp, not to mention the pacific islanders and other developing countries in another. Nobody is aligned and no concern for the welfare of the game globally
It is worrying, especially that player welfare seems to be so low on the agenda.

But I don’t think there’s a mainstream sport that doesn’t have problems like this... FIFA had a massive corruption scandel only a few years ago, cycling is dealing with doping accusations, cricket is having huge problems expanding the game beyond like 10 countries worldwide and has issues with match fixing.

When sport is global and there’s money to be made, there’s always going to be competing interests and it can sometimes look like it’s all going to come falling down. But in the end I reckon most people will see the most sensible solution (whatever it may be) and things will move on. Or at least I hope that’s the case.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,568
It is worrying, especially that player welfare seems to be so low on the agenda.

But I don’t think there’s a mainstream sport that doesn’t have problems like this... FIFA had a massive corruption scandel only a few years ago, cycling is dealing with doping accusations, cricket is having huge problems expanding the game beyond like 10 countries worldwide and has issues with match fixing.

When sport is global and there’s money to be made, there’s always going to be competing interests and it can sometimes look like it’s all going to come falling down. But in the end I reckon most people will see the most sensible solution (whatever it may be) and things will move on. Or at least I hope that’s the case.
Yeah but reading about taking the 6N off free to air telly is worrying, read somewhere before that 6N has to be on free to air otherwise viewership would be ridiculously low and it could kill the 6N as we know it
 
Oct 26, 2017
600
Picking out a new captain is a bit trickier as the new coach will obviously have his own ideas. The two stand outs for me and Ken Owens and Jonathan Davies; both have captaincy experience, both nailed-on starters and both Scarlets who Pivac will be familiar with. Personally I'd go with Davies as he's slightly younger and could lead them through the entire World Cup cycle, also I just prefer him as a player. Outside of those two, I think Tipuric, Ellis Jenkins and Cory Hill are all options but I'd expect Pivac to go with someone he knows well and trusts.
There are lots of options, and we're very lucky to have the depth that we have compared with previous years. I'd think that Josh Navidi would be a good shout for captain, he's showing all the qualities as a man and as a player that Sam Warburton did, and openside is a damn good position to have your captain at because he's near the ref nearly all the time that it matters.

the more I read about world rugby and the local rfus, the more worried I am for the future of the game. England and France in one camp of the 6N, Scotland, Ireland, and Italy in another, Wales on their own island on fire and sinking at the same time, with World Rugby and the SH then in another camp, not to mention the pacific islanders and other developing countries in another. Nobody is aligned and no concern for the welfare of the game globally
It's all a damn nuisance, and I do worry greatly what "World Rugby" thinks its agenda is. If it is about growing the game globally then it should be a lot about Hornets RFC down the road from me, and about their equivalents in Romania, Georgia, USA, Fiji and the Welsh valleys and the North of England and maybe not quite so much about monetising full-time professional TV rights for the good of ... who exactly?
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,966


I'm only half in jest - I think gir might have been reading the same article as me, but if not the link below takes you to an interesting read about the 6N television. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/mar/20/rugby-union-future-cricket-free-to-air-tv

I've also just noticed that Ben Te'o and Billy Vunipola have been naughty boys, going out on the lash after the game and breaching protocol. I think these are all interconnected - rugby is still only 25 years on from professionalism and it still has hints of the amateur way of running things. Remember Martin Johnson's 'rugby players enjoying a drink' comment in the 2011 World Cup? Or, even though I loved it, Finn Russell and Laidlaw being clearly very drunk after the 2018 Calcutta Cup match? Rugby has the problem that the people in charge tend to have been around since the amateur days and so the money suddenly swilling around is giving them the excuse to make some very stupid decisions.

Oh, well, here's a pass to brighten up your days:

 
Oct 25, 2017
1,966
Squidge Rugby's review of the England Scotland game is pretty on point as well -


Also, anyone heard about the new rules they might plan? The 50/22 (if you kick it from your half and it bounces and goes over the touchline inside the opposing 22, you get an attacking lineout) is clearly nicked from the 40/20 law in League. It's an attempt to solve the issue of having really well organised defences nullify attacking teams as you'd have to put a couple of players back to cover. Which is nice and all, but it's trying to solve an issue by creating a bigger one. League only has 13 a side which means the defense is already sparser and the fact players have to be 10 yards back enables attacks to plan around this. Also - and I've only been to see a couple of League games, but one was NZ versus England so the standard should have been pretty good - their kicking ability was shocking.

Imagine Biggar getting the ball in his own half. He could easily slot a kick to bounce into touch at the 5 yard line. Attacking maul, try, job done. If it goes over? 22 drop out and you're likely to get the ball back anyway.

I do like the other change that if someone is in the Sin Bin they can push it to a red based on video reviews. It basically happened to Hogg a few years ago when the ref had given him a yellow for a shoulder barge on Biggar, which he then changed to a red based on the screen. No problem with that!

On Finn Russell - I would love to see him with a rampaging set of forwards constantly giving him front foot ball but I worry that he would try something that would look bizarre, just because nobody is quite on his wavelength. Also, Toony apparently turned up at my hometown rugby club yesterday to watch his son play in the Under 15s Match - my whole town seems to have got photos with him!