There are three interesting articles on the rugby pages today.
All of them referring, to a greater or lesser extent, to the rise in England fortunes under Eddie Jones.
Each of the articles was in a newspaper from one of the Southern Hemisphere giants – so they were, understandably, not all totally positive.
However, they are all worth reading and to be fair, more balanced than some of the comments in the media from down there!
The first is actually a reprint from Mick Cleary’s article in the Telegraph – so not strictly Aussie in origin – but at least they did print it and resisted denigrating his views –
The rest follows from that premise. Some of it is a matter of conditioning; some a question of getting into the right head space. England have not got to this point by fluke. Their record run is remarkable. They have won in Edinburgh, Rome, Paris, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Cardiff. And now Dublin awaits.
Even diehard one-eyed All Black cheerleaders wanted for something more than was on offer during the last gloom-laden tour there in 2005, when the Lions were smashed in the Test series. And that is why it was heartening to hear All Black coach Steve Hansen be magnanimous in his praise of England.
Eddie Jones has suggested that Steve Hansen is being mischievous in his comments – I suspect not. The ABs need competition if they are going to continue to raise their own incredibly high standards – England in the future and the Lions in June might just provide that competition.
Which brings us rather neatly to the article in the New Zealand Herald from Gregor Paul –
They straddle such a fine line between exploding into life and playing a lethal brand of rugby in New Zealand, or imploding, as they fail to leave behind old scores, national grudges and long-held contempt for one another.
How good they could be was best seen at Twickenham, where England clicked into top gear and played what can only be described as their version of shock-and-awe rugby.
At the heart of their performance was extreme physicality, but it wasn’t like the old England of previous decades, where that muscularity was suffocating and pedestrian.
This was different. This was highly conditioned, big athletes playing at pace and with dynamism.
So far so good – the Lions will include the best of the four nations –
Lions coach Warren Gatland isn’t going to have any problem finding 37 quality players – men who can play at pace, with enough crunch and creativity to be serious contenders to win the test series.
However, as we have seen in the past, moulding players from different nations, with little time and just a few weeks after they have been knocking lumps out of each other can be difficult –
But here’s the rub. Can Gatland meld his squad into a cohesive, unified group who can put the team ahead of their personal ambitions?
Can he persuade all those he takes to forgive any slights – real or imagined – that may have occurred during the Six Nations and turn long-term enemies into friends in the space of just a few weeks?
You could argue that the All Blacks have a similar problem with the 5 Super Rugby franchises – but Steve Hansen can forge a team over years and many internationals. Warren Gatland has far less time – because of the domestic competitions, some of the squad will inevitably arrive late to the land of the long white cloud – just days before the first game!
Hopefully the squad will gel and make the tour a really competitive series. It would be great if it goes down to the last match at Eden Park on the 8th July.
Finally an article from The Star in Pretoria –
Vata Ngoberi makes his feelings very clear in the first sentence –
I hate the Poms.
Not exactly an unequivocal stance. He expands his views and, to be fair, I can see his point –
I really hated them on Monday morning as I watched them outwit, outplay and outmuscle the only pride left in our rugby, the Blitzbokke, in the final of the Vancouver Sevens.
I hated them because I stayed up all night to watch the Blitzbokke in the hope that my countrymen would win another title and get one hand on that elusive World Series trophy.
Vata is worried that England might just take the last vestige of Springbok superiority and stop the Blitzbokke winning the World Series.
He needn’t be concerned on that front – SA lead the series by a massive 23 points with just 4 rounds left.
Unless they put out an under 13’s team they are going to take the World Series with something to spare.
Mr Ngoberi sums up his real feelings in the last paragraphs –
The people that run our rugby, the administrators that fall over themselves in dishing out the ugly mess that was shoved down our throats with the Boks last year, even though we have some of the best players in the world.
I hate what Saru are doing to our rugby and I still hate the Poms.
Good luck to the Blitzbokke – South African rugby could do with some good news – just as the international game needs a strong Springboks.