Fully Comp

I was rather surprised that the internet didn’t crash when the halftime whistle went at Twickenham on Sunday.

I thought the number of people Googling ‘off side law at rucks v tackle’ would have been off the scale.

Obviously I was being a bit thick (so no change there then) whilst nobody else was at all flummoxed.  This was confirmed when after the match there has been a plethora of comments and articles from referees, players, former players, coaches, pundits and general ‘know  alls’ pointing out that they recognised the Italy ploy and that it was terribly well-known.

Well-known to everyone on the planet except me, apparently – despite my having played and watched quite a bit of rugby over the last 58 years!

Patently I accept that referees would be aware, but the self- congratulatory and pompous comments from most of the others made me think of the Mandy Rice Davies comment regarding their veracity – “well, he would say that wouldn’t he”

According to these ‘experts’, it seems that only England would have been caught out by the Italian wheeze, whereas every other team in the universe from mini rugby upwards would have sorted it out in seconds. And in the case of their own team milliseconds!

Hard to believe that England are on a reasonably good run isn’t it – when we are clearly nowhere near as smart as every other side on the planet?

You could say I’m being cynical – although not as half as the ones claiming to know the laws back to front – all 212 pages of them –

http://laws.worldrugby.org/downloads/World_Rugby_Laws_2016_EN.pdf

Amongst all the smug bollocks there was a very interesting and fully comprehensive review of the stratagem devised by Connor O’Shea –

http://www.the42.ie/italy-tackle-only-england-france-ireland-owens-3261610-Feb2017/

It includes examples from other matches and explains how the laws affect each situation – well worth a read!

Obviously none of the smug bastards will need to bother to click on the link as they already know everything, probably including Albert’s ‘Theory of Being a Smart-Ass’ – that’s Fat Albert not Einstein, obviously!

 

Hate to Lose

There was an interesting article in the New Zealand Herald this morning written by their rugby correspondent Gregor Paul –

http://m.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11809080

Don’t be fooled by the headline (‘The World wants England to lose’) – whilst it is almost certainly accurate, the article is well balanced and informed.

And then there is the simple business of not wanting another side to be seen to be as good as the All Blacks. It will feel, while it’s not really the case at all, that if England win their 18th consecutive test it will be them and not the All Blacks who will be seen as the most dominant force in the game.

But an England victory – if it comes – should be embraced. Their stunning revival under coach Eddie Jones is the best thing to happen to international rugby for years. They are making life interesting on multiple fronts.

The All Blacks need a genuine threat – an external force that gives their intrinsic desire to be constantly better a tangible focus. What better motivation to keep evolving and developing than to see England scorch past their 18-test landmark?

If England go on to win 19 in a row, the challenge for the All Blacks becomes to win 20. England, obviously, are a threat to the All Blacks’ number one standing, but that, in a curious way, also make them an opportunity, too.

I personally think we are still some way behind the All Blacks – and the loss that is inevitable may come before the end of the 6 Nations. But whilst that would be regrettable – it has to be remembered – this is just a journey – the destination has to be Japan 2019

A Right Shoe-ing

Long before tip tackles and high hits were outlawed, it was decreed that the practice of shoe-ing was no longer a sensible method of removing blokes from a ruck.

I use the term ‘practice’ loosely, since most of the games I played in they seemed to be very accomplished in the liberal use of the boot. At the top level the All Blacks had made it an art form.

There were two types of shoe-ing –

  1. A good one – this is where the blokes in the same colour shirts as you, are engaging enthusiastically in the practice (whilst getting some extra practice in at the same time)
  2. A bad or bloody awful one – when you are treated to a close-up view of the sharpened studs belonging to the opposing forwards (and occasionally those of the clumsy sods on your own side!)

The reason for this rambling is partly because I noticed in a magazine some really stupid shoes at even more stupid prices but mainly because I was stuck for ideas and made a very tenuous tangential link between shoes and shoe-ings.

One of the silly ‘sandals’ featured would knock you back £984 – so the YSL idiot heels at £770 look a right bargain!

And, to be fair, the YSL one looks like it would do a lot more damage when dishing out a good shoe-ing.

Slap Shot

An amateur video has been posted from a game in National League 3 last month between Chichester and Dorking.

The video appears to show a Chichester player striking the Dorking touch judge after a try was scored.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SwM37Vw7Fg

Dorking alluded to the incident in the club’s official match report from the game.

It read: ‘Sadly the game disintegrated at that point with an unfortunate and extraordinary incident that left the Dorking linesman on his back and overshadowed a much more promising second half with the Red & Whites hunting a draw or possible late victory.

‘After the incident, which is now under investigation, the only card awarded was a harsh yellow for Dorking 7 Oli Edwards which left Dorking to play with 14 men for the rest of the game.’  

Chichester won 18-13

I played in games where spectators got involved in altercations (which is a polite way of saying a scrap) with players – a new twist on the idea of a ‘16th man’ (17th and 18th on one occasion as I remember)

Laws for Thought

In the three rounds of the 6 nations so far, England have been far from convincing, yet they sit 3 points clear at the head of the table.

I think Eddie Jones will have his hands full getting the team ready, both physically and mentally for the two big games against a resurgent Scotland and an Ireland team who are on fire.

The big talking point of course from the weekend is the constant “just a tackle” cry from referee at Twickenham yesterday.

Italy successfully disrupted and confused the England team by exploiting the use of a ‘little known’ law that legitimises standing in an effectively off-side position. A bit like using a dodgy tax avoidance scheme – it’s legal, but it just feels wrong somehow.

This of course led to immense schadenfreude in the press and on social media about the English confusion – unsurprisingly and predictably from the Celtic nations – many of whom professed to know all about this loophole in the law.

Yeah right!

Don’t let anybody kid you. If this was anyone except maybe the All Blacks, I bet supporters of any side would have been just as baffled as England, their Twickenham fans and the watching TV viewers.

Connor O’Shea was undoubtedly smart in using this tactic – to my knowledge it has never been used at international level, although there is a suggestion it was used inadvertently in a match last year between Australia and Ireland. A player found himself in an apparent off-side position and intercepted the pass – without sanction.

As far as I can determine it has been used deliberately in club rugby only by Toulouse and the Waikato Chiefs – with mixed results.

My own view is that this ploy is not innovative in the same way that Ireland’s ‘choke’ tackle was, but is exploiting a loophole – I would argue that the law was never intended to make this legal.

It almost worked for Italy too and you have to applaud O’Shea and his coaching team. Brendan Venter has been credited with coming up with the plan – and it may have worked for him too, last night it was rumoured that he was joining the Springbok coaching team.

Italy were still in the lead or within touching distance for more than an hour – 60 minutes that reduced my life span by several years.

Obviously the plan for this strategy was discussed with Romain Poite at the Italy pre-game meeting with the ref, to ensure that Romaine was watching the tackle area. There’s nothing wrong with that and he was ready with his “just a tackle” cry every time Italy stayed out of forming a ruck.

England were confused and this resulted in the Nigel Owens type response from Romain “I’m the referee not your coach”

As disruptive as the tactic became, it wasn’t the cause of the two tries that kept Italy in the hunt.

One was from being slow to react to the ball hitting the post and the second a result of some uncharacteristic poor defence.

Despite the guffaws and the general hailing of the Italy tactic as being ‘brilliant’, it did make for a pretty dull game.

The law doesn’t state that you can stand between the scrum half and fly half if a ruck hasn’t formed – it is only legal by omission –

Law 16 Definitions
A ruck is a phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground. Open play has ended.

If no Italian players on their feet made contact with England players on their feet in this way, there is no ruck. There is “just a tackle”, and a tackle does not create offside lines.

World Rugby currently review changes to laws with two basic aims in mind – 1) player welfare and reducing injuries and 2) to speed up the game and increase the appeal to a wider audience by creating space.

The tactic used yesterday quite simply closed down space – it was a right rucking mess!

I believe that WR have a responsibility to close the loophole before more games are ruined as a spectacle.

Despite letting Michele Campagnaro wander over the line largely untouched, England found their way in the last quarter and ended up with 6 tries and a bonus point.

Both Scotland and Ireland will fancy their chances of turning over England

But there is a truism about a side on a run of 17 undefeated games – they are hard to beat!

 

Bristol Clear

I ended up with 4 out of 6 for my Premiership predictions this week. If I’d simply said it would be all home wins last Thursday without even looking at the fixture list I’d have got 5 ffs!

In fact if I’d just chosen every game to be a homer for the entire 22 rounds back in August I would probably already be ahead of my actual cumulative score.

Whilst I wouldn’t have the agony of choice each Friday, I’d need to think up something else to post here. Mind you I would avoid the ritual humiliation on a Monday of having to explain why I’d cocked up. Airdy would also miss the opportunity to take the piss out of my innovative scoring system.

This week I got two wrong (hence the 4 out of 6 – for the benefit of my tall, sun tanned friend).

The first was expecting Quins to keep their unbeaten home record on Friday night. Tigers certainly disabused me of that expectation and continue to threaten the top 4 places.

The second result was even more impactful – Bristol knocked over the visiting Bath team, albeit by a single point and some gratuitous Bath generosity.

Gavin Henson was instrumental in guiding them to this hugely important win and the benefit of 4 points.

Both of my mistaken calls had a significant influence on the table. At the top there are now 5 teams pulling away and competing for the 4 play-off places – Wasps, Chiefs, Saracens, Bath and the Tigers.

Saints and possibly Quins are not completely out of the running – but they are running out of time and matches to catch up.

It is even more interesting at the bottom where Bristol, who only recently looked doomed, are now within just 2 points of Worcester.

The game next Sunday between the them is a must win for both teams

No Text Please – we’re critics

After each England game I usually post the riveting text conversations I have had with Harro as the game unfolds.

I’ve decided not to do that this week.

It’s not that the regular abusive and expletive ridden messages didn’t happen – they did.

In fact, yesterday I was conducting concurrent conversations – which apart from the neat alliteration, made me look like one of those Chess Grand Masters flitting between tables and smashing the clock whilst playing several games at once. But without the dinner jacket, the Russian accent and the pompous expression, obviously. I also didn’t shift my arse off the sofa.

The other bloke providing expert commentary on the game and ridiculing my views was Airdy.

I’ve decided that sticking up screen shots of the texts is a lazy way of filling this space. That and the fact that Terry insisted I should redact all of the abuse and expletives. This was probably in order to avoid a libel action rather than her concern over my offensive language – she’s long given up on trying to stop that!

Had I actually blocked out the abuse and references to rude bits the entire readable messages would have been reduced to “Hello Tosspot”, “you’re a complete w**ker” and “I’m going to f**ck off now”.

I don’t imagine the Poet Laureate will exactly be shitting himself.

The following are an artists impression – just in case you thought you were missing out –

Rest assured you are missing very little that is noteworthy, despite the fact that my contributions stood out as being erudite, incisive and really fucking articulate.