I just watched our Under 20’s get demolished by the Baby Blacks in the Junior World Trophy. The thing that annoys the hell out of me is the amount of influence on our rugby union players by rugby league.
This has been slowly building in Australia for years, and is now endemic in union. Most young players follow league closely, have favourite league players, and are great admirers of the ‘big hit’ and the ‘big run’, thus getting isolated and penalised for no arms in the tackle.
These are my main concerns regarding the impact this love of league produces:
* Little support for players taking the ball up, either forwards prepared for a breakdown/pass or backs looking for a pass/breakdown
* Preference to standing in the defensive line rather than contest a breakdown, i.e. the White Flag v All Blacks in Wellington last year
* Strong support for making a big run instead of doing the job needed, i.e. the ‘Dunning’ factor
* Cross field crabbing by backs, which is classic league
* Prefer to take the ball to tackle rather than look for support or a pass
* Throwing 20 percent passes just before they get tackled instead of off loading earlier
* Poor breakdown work with little commitment, and almost no counter rucking
* Scrummaging that is barely competitive
* Forwards have no idea of running in pods, and prefer to play alone
* Players seem to almost ignore the chase after a kick in mid field.
The two points I would like to see us take from league is the offload in the tackle, and the tactical kicking, both of which we don’t do well.
The points I have made above were all on show today against the baby blacks, and they were on show against the English last week.
If we are not prepared to learn our game, and play to the level of New Zealand and South Africa then our position at number four in the world is deserved. The only thing that keeps us competitive is our ability to run with the ball, and our fitness, this will not be enough against the All Blacks or the South Africans in this years Tri-Nations.