So the weekend’s rugby has been a bit of a shock to the system. I did not think for a second that Argentina would dismantle Ireland in the way they did. I did not think Scotland would outplay the Australians. They did though and yet as so often in rugby, the fairy-tale was not happy ever after.
So we are left to pick up the pieces. The Northern hemisphere wiped out in a crazy weekend of rugby. New Zealand was a team clinical in the extreme. Now I know Wales were unlucky but I don’t think they would have changed their game plans even if they did have all of their players. This is where the problem lies.
Look at the two worst performing sides. France first, has ruined its national side. Its domestic game has become a monstrous mess in which players who no longer want to play real rugby go to kick the ball to foreign imports and play for penalties at the scrum. Size and strength are craved above flair and skill most of the games are played out in between 22’s with 30 players running into each other for 80 minutes. The result they are left chasing shadows as New Zealand did the one thing no one in the North does and passed the ball to players who were in space, running straight and hard and with support.
England’s failure can be summed up by the Saturday game between Bath and Exeter. Bath had a dominant scrum that pushed the Exeter pack back. What did they do with it? Held it in and the 8 looked at the ref waiting for his arm to go up. Bath has the most exciting backline in the domestic game and they are wasting front foot ball to kick for the corners and maul it. Well let’s face it, it didn’t work for England and Bath didn’t look convincing at it.
Wales who were far better than both England and France also failed when it came to skill execution. Against a 13 man Australia they still failed to move away from their rutting ram’s style of rugby and played into the hands of the Australians. New Zealand would have torn the wallabies to pieces under these circumstances but not with anything complicated.
This is where the change has to come, let’s be under no illusion the All Blacks are a sporting phenomenon and we are not going to become them over night. They are born and raised in an environment built around rugby. It’s in the fabric of the country.
We do have a responsibility as people involved in rugby to change the mind-set of all the people who play it. Coaches, players, managers and parents have a responsibility to change the game from the ground up. Look at the mini rugby set up when little Jonny who is 2 stone heavier than all his age group is running through the opposition and not passing. There will come a time when he won’t run through people and will need the skills to find another way to get around them.
We need to focus on passing and catching at pace and under pressure and most importantly we need to find a way to encourage players to identify space. The basics of rugby and the basic understanding of rugby is what are lacking in our game and we have a duty to try and improve it. Watch again, the All Black take France to pieces and you will see nothing complicated, you will see simple patterns, simple diamond formation support lines. Every ball carrier will have options either side of him. More importantly every ball carrier will have the skills to execute the required move to beat the defence based on whatever its response is to the attack. Anyone can carry a ball into contact; it takes skill to be able to identify options available to you before that contact comes.
It’s time for a rugby revolution.