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Jack Dempsey: Test-match heavyweight, or just a pumped-up middleweight?

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

By Nicholas Bishop, Nicholas Bishop is a Roar Expert

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    Jack Dempsey was the ‘stage name’ of one of the most charismatic and memorable heavyweight boxing champions of the 20th century.

    It was coined after Jack ‘Nonpareil’ Dempsey, a popular middleweight champion of the time.

    William Harrison Dempsey (as he was baptised by his Mormon parents) first adopted the soubriquet as an emergency replacement for his brother Bernie, who backed out of a fight with one George Copelin after learning that his opponent had once sparred with all-time great Jack Johnson.

    Dempsey climbed into the ring knowing that his opponent outweighed him by at least ten kilos but that did not stop him knocking Copelin down eight times in the first two rounds before the referee finally called a merciful end to the beating in the seventh.

    When Dempsey eventually challenged for the world heavyweight title five years later, in 1919, he was facing even more unfavourable physical odds. His opponent was the hulking six feet seven inches, 112 kilo Jess Willard, one of whose previous opponents had died in the ring.

    Dempsey himself entered the ring six inches shorter and 28 kilos lighter than Willard, but once again the bigger man was destroyed by Dempsey’s punching power.

    Willard was knocked down seven times in the first round, and suffered a broken jaw, several broken teeth and fractured ribs en route to a third-round stoppage.

    The joke doing the rounds in boxing was that Dempsey’s manager ‘Doc’ Kearns had blown up a natural middleweight and made him the heavyweight champion of the world, and the ex-champion Johnson would later call him out for hand-picking “110-pound starlets” as his opponents during his reign as champion.

    Dempsey was at heart a rough-houser with a cheerfully realistic sense of humour about himself: “I can’t sing and I can’t dance, but I can lick any SOB in the house” and “Tall men come down to my height when I hit ‘em in the body” were just two of the one-liners which have passed from his lips into boxing folklore.

    Dempsey enjoyed the kind of humility which comes from a small man’s success in upsetting the odds, and it is hard not to believe that his namesake has a chance to do exactly the same as the Wallabies’ current number 6.

    The Waratahs’ Jack Dempsey is one of the smaller blind-side flankers currently operating in international rugby, but he is nonetheless playing as the biggest man in the Australian back-row:

    Team Blind-side No. 8 Open Side
    Australia 6′ 3, 108 kgs 6′ 1, 100 kgs 6′, 101 kgs
    New Zealand 6′ 5, 113 kgs 6′ 4, 110 kgs 6′ 2, 103 kgs
    South Africa 6′ 6, 120 kgs 6′ 3, 114 kgs 6′ 2, 105 kgs
    Argentina 6′ 4, 110 kgs 6′ 2, 105 kgs 6′ 4, 102 kgs

    Furthermore, all of Australia’s main opponents on the end of year tour (Wales, England and Scotland) are almost certain to field bigger back rows than the Wallabies too.

    So can Jack Dempsey punch above his weight and upset the odds, starting with the third Bledisloe match in Brisbane next weekend?

    The signs from the final round of the recent Rugby Championship in which the Wallabies overcame Argentina, were encouraging.

    Dempsey had far more positive involvements in the game than his predecessor Ned Hanigan, and there were also indications that Michael Cheika and his coaching group were happy to hand a young player extra responsibilities within the team structure:

    Area Wins Losses
    Lineout 3 0
    Ball-carrying 14 0
    Tackles 8 1

    Jack Dempsey made his tackles, except for one important defensive misread towards the end of the game, he won all of the lineouts thrown to him and his ball-carrying was especially effective.

    Noteworthy is the low ratio of errors, a highly-important quality at international level.

    Let’s look at some of these areas in more detail.

    Even though he’s not a tall jumper by modern standards, Dempsey was able to win his lineout ball in some comfort:

    Both the Wallaby lifters are at maximum reach as the ball reaches Dempsey, and his arms are also fully-extended towards the throw – this is good technique all-round.

    Defensively, the Wallaby coaches also handed him some responsibility at lineout time:

    Instead of playing within a set pod with a defined role, Dempsey is trusted to make a decision – whether to go forward and lift for Rodda, or turn and boost Coleman behind him.

    At scrum-time, he was likewise trusted to move to number 8 in the final quarter of the game, at a stage when the Wallaby scrum was beginning to struggle.

    The single most impressive aspect of Jack Dempsey’s performance against the Pumas was his ball-carrying ability. All of his fourteen carries had positive results in terms of yardage and/or speed of delivery (1-3 seconds) from the ruck, and he had two clean breaks and two tackle breaks to boot.

    The real point-of-difference in Dempsey’s running with the ball is not so much his power as his quick footwork as the defender sets up for the tackle:

    Those five metres make all the difference between a hard and an easy exit!

    Dempsey’s good feet also created an attacking chance for Australia at the beginning of the second half:

    If Rodda can find his second-row partner Coleman with the final pass in contact, Coleman is very likely to plough through the Puma #9 Martin Landajo and score this close to the Argentine goal-line (Rodda has since been ruled out for the rest of the year).

    One of the bonuses in Dempsey’s inclusion is the license it gives Sean McMahon to play in the role in which he is arguably most effective – out wide as the “1” in the 15-metre zone in the 1-3-3-1 formation.

    On four occasions in the match, Dempsey and McMahon were able to combine effectively in these roles, usually from Australian kick-off receipts:

    The most seminal example of the Dempsey/McMahon combination was in the build-up to the Wallabies’ first try in the 19th minute.

    Dempsey’s great first step is enough to beat one Argentine tackler in midfield and set up the following phase on the front foot – then McMahon appears with the outside backs to deliver the ‘money pass’ to Marika Koroibete, who finishes the move superbly:

    The only tangible negative issue to emerge from the Argentina match was Dempsey’s ability to last a full 80 minutes at this level of football:

    1st quarter 2nd quarter 3rd quarter 4th quarter
    Postive/negative involvements 7/0 6/0 7/0 2/3

    Mistakes began to proliferate in the last quarter of an hour, when Jack Dempsey was clearly ‘out of gas’ but required to stay on the field with back-row sub Lukhan Tui coming to replace Sean McMahon instead.

    His first serious mental error occurred in the 67th minute, failing to recognize that Agustin Creevy had turned the ball over at a breakdown only three metres away from where he was standing:

    Having taken over the wide-ranging role on attack after McMahon’s substitution, Dempsey then made another potentially critical error by ignoring a two-man overlap outside him:

    Again in the McMahon role from an Argentine KO, Dempsey then fumbled the ball forward, handing the Pumas a prime opportunity to climb back into the game at 20-30 down with nine minutes left on the clock.

    Jack Dempsey certainly appears to be a far better bet at #6 than Ned Hanigan, at least on the evidence of the Argentina game in the final round of the Rugby Championship.

    For parts of the game, he was outstanding, especially in the ball-carrying department. As a runner on the inside with Sean McMahon playing the wider role offensively, the combination was very effective.

    On the negative side, Dempsey faded badly in the last 15 minutes and was unable to handle the chores normally assigned to McMahon when he shifted to #8 – although that was probably the result of a faulty bench policy.

    Will Jack Dempsey be able to stand up and beat those other, much larger SOB’s with whom he is about to be confronted – Liam Squire this coming weekend, maybe Maro Itoje at Twickenham next month?

    It is a challenge his namesake would have relished in the boxing ring, but whether Australia can get away with playing their small back-row against the giants of the contemporary game is another matter entirely.

    Will it turn out to be like putting Jack Dempsey into a mismatch with a heavyweight from another era, like Lennox Lewis or Larry Holmes? Or will the natural middleweight truly prove that he deserves a place alongside the titans of his position, and that size really doesn’t matter?

    It is an intriguing question.

    Nicholas Bishop
    Nicholas Bishop

    Nick Bishop has worked as a rugby analyst and advisor to Graham Henry (1999-2003), Mike Ruddock (2004-2005) and most recently Stuart Lancaster (2011-2015). He also worked on the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and produced his first rugby book with Graham Henry at the end of the tour. Three more rugby books have followed, all of which of have either been nominated for or won national sports book awards. Nick's latest is a biography of Phil Larder, the first top Rugby League coach to successfully transfer over to Union, entitled The Iron Curtain. He is currently writing articles for The Roar and The Rugby Site, and working as a strategy consultant to Stuart Lancaster and the Leinster coaching staff for their European matches.

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    The Crowd Says (306)

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2017 @ 4:16am
      Carlos the Argie said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:16am | ! Report

      I haven’t finished this article yet but I must tell you that Dempsey was knocked-out and thrown ff the ring by a punch from Luis Angel Firpo of Argentina. El toro de las pampas or the bull from the Pampas.

      He stayed off the ring for an eternity and was never counted to ten He was then allowed back on the ring and then beat Firpo.

      Dempsey LOST that fight but Firpo was cheated out by the typical unscrupulous refereeing in boxing.

      Now, I can go back and read the rugby part.

      • October 18th 2017 @ 10:59am
        ScottD said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        Sometimes I learn the unexpected things on the Roar

      • Roar Guru

        October 18th 2017 @ 12:22pm
        Jokerman said | October 18th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

        Carlos pretty cool.

        Dempsey won though eh? I don’t know how long he spent out of the ring. But if you go out surly some extra time happens. One, you would want to take it, you may milk it, and I’m sure he’d be okay but there’s always the possibility of injury from the fall into unknown objects – mainly people. If he came back and won – sweet I reckon.

        • Roar Guru

          October 18th 2017 @ 4:40pm
          Harry Jones said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

          I think he had to knock five of Firpo’s family who were wrestling him …

          • Columnist

            October 18th 2017 @ 5:47pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

            He also smashed his head on one of the boxing journos’ typewriters when he fell through the ropes!

            • October 18th 2017 @ 9:38pm
              Mike said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:38pm | ! Report

              Lets not forget the candle lights that were being shone in his eyes at critical times blinding him

              • October 19th 2017 @ 7:07am
                RT said | October 19th 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

                13 minute HIA?

      • October 18th 2017 @ 4:59pm
        Kiwi in nz said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

        Ha, I go through Dempseys hometown every now and then. They have a big sign saying it’s his birthplace. He was called the Manassa Mauler.

        • Columnist

          October 20th 2017 @ 1:57am
          Nicholas Bishop said | October 20th 2017 @ 1:57am | ! Report

          Unusual heritage too – part Jewish, part Cherokee!

    • Columnist

      October 18th 2017 @ 4:24am
      Geoff Parkes said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:24am | ! Report

      Hi Nick

      I really enjoyed Dempsey’s game and look forward to seeing if he can take another step this week. And thx for the bonus boxing history lesson too!

      • Columnist

        October 18th 2017 @ 5:33am
        Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:33am | ! Report

        Evening Geoff – the boxing parallel had to come in somewhere with a name like that 🙂

        • Columnist

          October 18th 2017 @ 5:37am
          Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:37am | ! Report

          …like the piccy btw – is that your nag?

          • Columnist

            October 18th 2017 @ 6:15am
            Geoff Parkes said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:15am | ! Report

            It’s one from a couple of years back. Skystreamer.

            We’re trying our luck again with a couple of young ones.

        • Roar Guru

          October 18th 2017 @ 12:48pm
          Jokerman said | October 18th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

          Nice match, Nic with the portal into the boxing past…now just see if you can find the portal into the ether ! Half jokz…half 😉

          Interest about the size. There was a time when the All Blacks pack was a bit smaller from memory but they had more pace and mobility than everyone else. I cannot quite succinctly put the dates on that but I think around the late 90’s, for just a season or two.

          Though the All Blacks like to play with no weakness, and so size is no issue now. They like to bulk them up. From seven or so seasons ago the All Blacks are a lot bigger. They just won’t allow a weakness to come in. So players that come in that are too light get bulked up – so the All Blacks get mobility, flair with no compromise.

          I just couldn’t see the All Blacks going in with two 7’s or a smallish 6,7,8. Cheika has often played a muddled 6,7,8. By doing so one moves away from the fundamentals that work and the balance can be out of whack. The ‘Pooper’ can work as a tempory kinda trick but then it gets worked out and it becomes a weakness.

          Of course, if the All Blacks see a lack of height, therefore fewer options in the lineout, they’ll target there. If the scrum is too weak and small – again easy points.

          The RWC Australia vs All Blacks semi and final ’11 and ’15 both gave the All Blacks an easy weakness to get easy points. The scrum in ’11 and the lineout in ’15. Had those to set pieces been even the contest probably would have been evener.

          I find sometimes with an even game against Australia some of those fundamentals is where you can go to get across the line. A bit like Pete Sampras pulling out the big serve that does the job without the flair and risk.

          This weekends game will be cool. Can’t wait!

          • October 18th 2017 @ 3:53pm
            cuw said | October 18th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

            i think NZ had a short 3rd row for a number of tests when Collins MCcaw and Sooiallo played.

            all of them an sure were no more than 6’3″. when Brad thorn was also in that mix they had a pretty short lineout by today’s standards.

            but i do not think height is a factor in modern lineout that allows lifting. definitely a game changer in the era where jumpers had to jump without any help.

            today there are just 3 basic things for a successful lineout. one is the call and numbers ( basically where the ball will go) and two is the accuracy of the hooker / thrower and three is the timing of the lift and the trow.

            once these 3 things work in unison , u can win the ball even with small jumpers.

            the best example is Japan at RWC against SA. the tallest Jap was like 6’5″ ( he was a NZ r)

          • Columnist

            October 18th 2017 @ 5:56pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

            Hi Jman

            Yep there’s a connection with last week’s article. My feeling is that the AB’s tend to lose on the rare occasions when they are trying to develop or transform positions too quickly and (very occasionally) forget the core needs for them – think Jerome Kaino at second row for Chicago, or Reuben Thorne playing second row before that. Back in 1971, the Lions said that a lot of their scumming advantage came from the fact that NZ provinces would chuck guys into the F/R who had recently been playing second or back row. You get the picture.

            • October 18th 2017 @ 7:27pm
              Council said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

              Kaino playing second row…..

              Come now surely you jest, you do remember the horrid injury count for our second rowers yes?

              It wasn’t simple an experiment forgetting the core roles..

              • Columnist

                October 18th 2017 @ 7:41pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:41pm | ! Report

                They could have picked Scott Barrett, he was on the bench IIRC.

              • October 18th 2017 @ 9:52pm
                Highlander said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

                Tom Franklin a specialist lock who had been training with the wider squad was in NY with the Maori I reckon that was the call,

              • Columnist

                October 18th 2017 @ 9:59pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:59pm | ! Report

                Yep. I can understand Kaino for his experience, but he lacks nearly all the other attributes of an international second row!

              • Roar Guru

                October 19th 2017 @ 4:31am
                Carlos the Argie said | October 19th 2017 @ 4:31am | ! Report

                The entire NZ Maori team was in Chicago as the day before they played the USA.

            • October 18th 2017 @ 7:30pm
              cuw said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:30pm | ! Report

              @ Nicholas Bishop

              as far as i recall , R Thorne was a 2nd row who was chucked into blindside.

              on the other hand Kaino was a reluctant 2nd row , who never liked playing there.

            • October 18th 2017 @ 7:56pm
              Fin said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:56pm | ! Report

              Hi Nick,
              Didn’t they throw Leon McDonald into the unfamiliar 13 position against Stirling Mortlock in the 2003 WC semi-final?

              • Columnist

                October 18th 2017 @ 8:02pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:02pm | ! Report

                Yep, and Christian Cullen too.

              • October 19th 2017 @ 9:54am
                Akari said | October 19th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

                They sure did, Fin, and it was clear that he wasn’t up to it in the earlier games either. I doubt they could have done any worse if Mitchell and Dingo Dean had put their trust in Ma’a Nonu at the time.

        • Roar Guru

          October 20th 2017 @ 6:28am
          stillmissit said | October 20th 2017 @ 6:28am | ! Report

          Hi Nic, spoke to his father some weeks ago and he said they used to work the boxing bag in the garage together.

          • Columnist

            October 20th 2017 @ 7:35am
            Nicholas Bishop said | October 20th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

            So there is a ‘family connection’ after all!

      • October 18th 2017 @ 7:20am
        Noodles said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:20am | ! Report

        He’s not actually head to head so the boxing thing is not apt. Seems to me the speed and go forward are critical. Much as Hooper’s improved form at breakdown is helping us.
        There’s no doubt that aggression and mobility are big factors but the saffers have proved many times that those are not guaranteed winners.
        I like the speed and aggression the team is showing. Improved accuracy has given us better results.
        If our tight five keep delivering and improving my forecast is that this backrow will look good.

        • Columnist

          October 18th 2017 @ 7:36am
          Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

          End of year tour will be key to your last statement – if the trio survives that trip it could be here to stay.

          • October 18th 2017 @ 10:25am
            Noodles said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

            Yes. Slower tracks favour lumpy guys quite often so it is a good test of the theory.

          • October 18th 2017 @ 10:36am
            Highlander said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

            Nick, a question on the new laws and implications for balance of future back rows.

            The premiership, under the new tackle law, has seen an increase in in minutes of the ball in play, a greater number of collisions, and an injury list across the board that is genuinely concerning.

            One could argue that SH rugby has been at this pace/collision level without the law change.

            Beg the question, will all future loosies be smaller to account for the increased pace of the game or larger to account for the greater number of gain line contests.

            Hansen has made his position very clear, bigger men with little compromise on workrate and pace, thus bigger better athletes, and he has been upsizing his back 5 forwards for a few years now with very specific weight targets.

            We have noted how the open side is more likely to be a 6.5 rather than 7, does this also mean going forward the blind side is likely to be a 5.5 rather than a traditional 6.

            Fafita and Barrett both played lock and are being schooled as blindsides, Oz certainly appears to have a couple of young locks who could play 6.

            Which way do you see it developing, is there a changing view in the UK and France.

            • Roar Guru

              October 18th 2017 @ 11:30am
              Carlos the Argie said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

              Interesting question. I think you have to be careful about the statistical analysis. The increase could be random variation and you need a longer (and larger) sample to test the hypothesis.

              • October 18th 2017 @ 4:04pm
                cuw said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

                the increased number of injuries IMO is more to do with technique.

                for eg. i saw Nathan Hughes ( all 120kg ) flatten a fly half (must be 85kg at most ) . he was actually stopping the tackle becoz the ball had been passed , but the fly half was kind of falling and bumped into Hughes and was KOed and carried off.

                i also saw Matt Symmonds get KOed trying to tackle Hughes. again he just hit the hip and got concussed.

                i saw Sam Underhill the heir to the 7 shirt for England get KOed ( cant recall who he tackled).

                there are few big 8s in Aviva – like Hughes , Matt Luamanu , Kalamafoni, Denton, even Faletau. but do they contribute to injuries??

            • Columnist

              October 18th 2017 @ 6:00pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

              Great spot H’lander. I’ve been mulling over an article on that topic!

              The experience in the UK is that more people are giving up the ruck contest once an attacker settles over the ball. This means more people in the line, higher speed of play and bigger collisions (hence the head injuries). So over here the game is probably moving towards one the likes of Michael Hooper will enjoy even more, because there are fewer ‘draining points’ at breakdown.

              • October 18th 2017 @ 9:21pm
                Noodles said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:21pm | ! Report

                Love your work. But in Dempsey you have to look at the attributes. He clearly has good feet and avoids a lot of direct collision. He gets there fast and that’s the time to make an impression. If he can settle into the accuracy and consistency he might be part of the backrow that lifts the Wb pace to a point that matters.
                Oils ain’t oils.

          • October 19th 2017 @ 5:23am
            Jaydos said | October 19th 2017 @ 5:23am | ! Report

            Except isn’t McMahon off to Japan? So stability, even if achieved, still has a finite shelf life before we do auditions again for 2018.

            • Columnist

              October 19th 2017 @ 5:38am
              Nicholas Bishop said | October 19th 2017 @ 5:38am | ! Report

              Apparently there’s a move to get him back to the Reds in 2018, so arguably he wouldn’t be missing much SR!?

              • October 19th 2017 @ 7:35am
                Fin said | October 19th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

                Super Rugby in 2019 Nick.
                Maybe Wallabies in 2018.
                Cheika is working on it in the background. Just like he did for Quade, Genia and Beale.

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2017 @ 4:30am
      Carlos the Argie said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:30am | ! Report

      Dempsey ran more meters than Lezana/Creevy/Matera combined.

      • Columnist

        October 18th 2017 @ 5:34am
        Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:34am | ! Report

        That tells a sorry tale Carlos – what wouldn’t Argentina give for Isa back at 8 right now. Will he be included on the EOYT do you know?

        • Roar Guru

          October 18th 2017 @ 5:53am
          Carlos the Argie said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:53am | ! Report

          Don’t think so. Nobrain and I speculated a lot in his post about Argie rugby. We even covered a bit ion the USA…

          • Columnist

            October 18th 2017 @ 6:08am
            Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:08am | ! Report

            Pity – been playing well for Toulon (albeit at number 7!)

            • Roar Guru

              October 18th 2017 @ 6:22am
              Carlos the Argie said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:22am | ! Report

              That try is phenomenal!

              • Columnist

                October 18th 2017 @ 6:57am
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:57am | ! Report

                Yes, and the raw stats suggest Isa is a little undersized just like Dempsey (@1.88m and 106 kilos) – but such a dynamic ball-carrier!

              • Roar Guru

                October 19th 2017 @ 1:52am
                Harry Jones said | October 19th 2017 @ 1:52am | ! Report

                Isa looks like a big 108 because his power is in his haunches, hams, and pompas.

            • October 18th 2017 @ 4:07pm
              cuw said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

              i think the argies and frenchies play left and right flanker. kind of 6.5 on both sides 🙂

              almost all argies abroad are going great . Marcello Bosch at 13 for sarries is just neat.

              • Columnist

                October 18th 2017 @ 6:01pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

                Yes they would add more variety to both the culture and style of play in the Pumas team.

              • Roar Guru

                October 19th 2017 @ 2:44am
                Carlos the Argie said | October 19th 2017 @ 2:44am | ! Report

                Of course we know this! This is why we despair!

                I mentioned before I played “left” flanker (this is why my right shoulder needed reconstruction. Pushing and tackling primarily with it).

                When I was 19, our coach (Pumas coach Guastella) was trying to get us to play open/blind, but we were not very convinced of it. We did try it, but we had to relearn how to push in the scrum with the opposite shoulder. After hundreds of hours doing it one way, it wasn’t easy for us.

                I think that now Pumares plays primarily open/blind.

              • October 19th 2017 @ 3:34pm
                cuw said | October 19th 2017 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

                @ Carlos the Argie

                that is an interesting concept , of ur playing left flank.

                it implies that u favor ur right – as majority of the people on earth do.

                but does it mean the guy who played right flank favored his left ??

                the fovored side is seen in kicking especially and passing a bit and stepping , but i have not noticed in flanks , when it comes to tackling.

                ideally everyone shud be able to pass with both hands ; if they can kick with both feet , its a bonus.


              • Roar Guru

                October 20th 2017 @ 12:50pm
                jeznez said | October 20th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

                I massively favoured my left in collisions (despite being right handed). Played at least a season of grade rugby in each forward position primarily an open side flank. Then migrated forward one season at a time and finally became a tighthead.

                Never had any issue packing one side of the scrum or the other.

                Just tended to tackle, clean out and lead with the left when carrying the ball.

              • Columnist

                October 20th 2017 @ 6:01pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 20th 2017 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

                Me too – sign of a right-sided brain dominance Jez??

    • Roar Pro

      October 18th 2017 @ 4:48am
      The Doc said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:48am | ! Report

      Brilliant read Nick. I missed the game against Argentina but hope JD can continue improve and make the problematic no 6 spot his own

      • Columnist

        October 18th 2017 @ 5:29am
        Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:29am | ! Report

        I hope so too Doc – the only question is whether that back-row can cope with its lack of size as a unit – and in more unfavourable climatic conditions…

        • October 18th 2017 @ 10:28am
          jameswm said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

          Nah I don’t think it can. A Lopeti Timani type at 8 would be good, and when is Naisarani elgible? Naisarani-Dempsey-Hooper gives you some serious power and ball running in your back row. Defence? OK I think.
          Breakdown effectiveness? That’s the question mark.

          Naisarani – height 195cm , weight 110kg – same as most no.8s
          Timani – height 193cm, weight 117kgs – so a bit shorter and stockier

          Naisarani is quicker, though Timani has pretty quick feet. Naisarani shades him in the lineout. Who has the better engine and who is better over the ball?

          I see McMahon still as a better bench option, as he covers all 3 spots to an extent, and gives you a massive energy boost.

          • Roar Guru

            October 18th 2017 @ 10:35am
            PeterK said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

            I would prefer

            Naisarani- Pocock-Timani





            You cover the lineout, ball carrying, defence and the breakdown

            • October 18th 2017 @ 11:26am
              Fionn said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:26am | ! Report

              I’d prefer Naisarani-Pocock-Timani or Higginbotham-Pocock-Naisarani.

              As I see it next year the only to “definites” (assuming Naisarani maintains his form) should be Pocock and Naisarani.

              The third back-rower should be a choice between:

              – Higginbotham: provides the Hooper running role while the other two play tighter
              – Timani: physical when clearing out, okay in the line out, big tackler
              – Haylett-Petty: bit bloke, good in the line out, good at making big hits
              – Rob Valetini: depending on how the bloke pans out

              Hooper is just a worse 7 than Pocock and he doesn’t offer the size or line out ability to play 6 or 8. If Cheika is going to run the Pooper then so be it, but I hope he reconsiders and instead puts one of Hooper and Pocock on the bench, and I’d be benching Hooper.

              I can’t see Dempsey making the 23 next year unless a lot of injuries occur if the team is chosen on merit.

              • October 18th 2017 @ 1:41pm
                jameswm said | October 18th 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

                I don’t think it’s as easy as saying Pocock is just a better 7.

                They are completely different. Both do things better than the other and the preference depends on what you want from your 7.

              • October 18th 2017 @ 2:20pm
                Fionn said | October 18th 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

                That’s a fair point, they do different things. But at the end of the day the reason I would say Pocock is a better ‘7’ (even if it is possible to say that Pocock isn’t necessarily a better rugby player in general) is because he performs more of the core 7 roles better. As Scott Allen wrote on his article a few weeks ago Hooper just doesn’t perform the traditional role of being first to every ruck and ensuring possession. Pocock is also far superior at slowing down opposition ball.

                Hooper probably performs the other role of being a link-man between the forwards and the backs better than Pocock, but at the same time Pocock is just so, so, so far ahead on that other core role above I think it is hard to say that Hooper is a better ‘7’. Pocock often dominates the rucks, whereas Hooper just doesn’t, it isn’t his game.

                If Hooper was a line out target he would be the perfect 6 to compliment Pocock at 7 and someone like Naisarani or Timani at 8.

            • October 18th 2017 @ 3:42pm
              Marto said | October 18th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report


              I agree with you ,but it will never happen, those backrow combos are very good..We can give the correct backrow ( your examples) to Cheika on a platter with the nations endorsement, but he will still select a tiny backrow. He wont listen ..He doesn’t want to listen or learn….

          • Columnist

            October 18th 2017 @ 6:03pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

            I would still have McMahon instead of Dempsey as a starter in that B/R you mention 🙂

    • October 18th 2017 @ 5:12am
      Ben said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:12am | ! Report

      Hes not really that small for a blindside…..Jerry Collins was 191cm 108kgs and he terrified far bigger opponents.

      • Columnist

        October 18th 2017 @ 5:32am
        Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:32am | ! Report

        Not a bad point of comparison Ben – but Collins ever play in an AB B/R with the collective lack of size in the current Wallaby unit??

        • October 18th 2017 @ 5:37am
          Ben said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:37am | ! Report

          No, you’re probably right.

          • Columnist

            October 18th 2017 @ 5:38am
            Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:38am | ! Report

            In terms of playing style, if Dempsey sticks he may well evolve into a Jerry Collins type player (which would be a huge compliment)…

        • October 18th 2017 @ 8:53am
          Highlander said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

          Loved the boxing references Nick,for me the sport died post Hagler and Hearns.

          But re Jerry Collins, he would still have been a force of nature even if the back three was rounded out by Hanigan and me. They didn’t come much harder, with or without the ball.

          • Columnist

            October 18th 2017 @ 8:59am
            Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

            Yep I sued to watch JC playing for the Ospreys – that was a pretty good B/R too, with Filo Tiatia and Marty Holah 🙂

            • October 18th 2017 @ 9:09am
              Highlander said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

              Marty Holah, another born at then wrong time, wonderful footballer, but the claims of others kept him from the big stage.
              That was a good back 3, didn’t realise they played together.

              • Columnist

                October 18th 2017 @ 6:05pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

                Tiatia was at Ospreys for years and became something of a cult hero, and Holah was very very good for them too. That’s when the regions had some serious money to spend on overseas players ofc 🙂

        • October 18th 2017 @ 4:18pm
          cuw said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

          @ Nicholas Bishop

          The HITMAN played with Sooiallo and Mccaw for a fair number of tests ( as i said above).

          when u add Brad Thorn – who was just 6’5″ that was a very short lineout.

          but then the power of of those guys was just so much. when Jerry connected a hit , they stayed down.

          and he hit some really big guys like Charvis , Sébastien Chabal …

          • Columnist

            October 18th 2017 @ 6:07pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

            IIRC they tended to pick Ali Williams and Chris Jack as twin second row towers to win their lineout ball with that B/R? Kieran Read coming in at 8 changed the whole landscape though 🙂

            • October 18th 2017 @ 8:15pm
              cuw said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

              Read i think was a 6 at first and came in when Collins was dropped / left. then he went to 8 as Sooialo got older.

              there was another 8 who played a little those days before Read – Mose Tuialii from Crusaders. he was huge !!

              then came Sione Lauaki.

              but talking of 2nd rowers , it was interesting to see Jason Eaton play for La Rochelle. he must be 40 or something LOL

          • October 18th 2017 @ 7:10pm
            Rhys Bosley said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

            “The HITMAN played with Sooiallo and Mccaw for a fair number of tests ( as i said above).

            when u add Brad Thorn – who was just 6’5″ that was a very short lineout”

            And the All Blacks weren’t the dominant force in 2007, when Collins last played, that they are now – and the lineout was one of their problems. Another reason I am still sceptical about the Wallabies running an even shorter lineout nowadays, the opposition isn’t getting shorter.

            • October 18th 2017 @ 8:27pm
              cuw said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:27pm | ! Report

              they would have played about 80 odd tests during Collins’ time and lost about 15 ( 2001 – 07)

              so basically a win % of 80+

              that is acceptable given the strength of other teams in that era , particularly England Auzzy and France.

              also not forgetting that guys like MEssam & Masoe have played at 6 , and they are also not very tall.

              NZ were lucky to find 2 guys who were tall and powerful in Kaino and then Luatua to play 6.

      • Roar Guru

        October 18th 2017 @ 5:39am
        Harry Jones said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:39am | ! Report

        Jerry Collins’ 108 was not the same as Dean Mumm’s 108.

        • Roar Guru

          October 18th 2017 @ 9:24am
          Wal said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

          About half of those 108kg were in his biceps and shoulders.

      • Roar Guru

        October 18th 2017 @ 9:18am
        Train Without A Station said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Collins played his last test a decade ago though.

      • October 18th 2017 @ 10:17am
        Crash Ball2 said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        These broad dimensions might be the only tenable comparison between Jack Dempsey and Jerry The Hitman Collins. Whilst Dempsey possesses nice feet, good awareness of gaps and workmanlike application (much the same as the rest of the incumbent Wallabies backrow), Jerry Collins destroyed people. He was power incarnate. One of the hardest tacklers in world rugby with blunt shoulders and little regard for his person (or anyone else’s). To put them in the same sentence is generous to say the least. The Hitman punched way, WAAAY above his weight. And not many folk got up to punch back. As much potential as Dempsey absolutely possesses, these is scant evidence to suggest that he is somehow going to discover his “inner Samoan” in the next few years.

        • October 18th 2017 @ 11:05am
          ScottD said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

          Like hitting a brick wall

        • October 18th 2017 @ 3:33pm
          Akari said | October 18th 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

          Thanks for these, CB2.

        • Columnist

          October 18th 2017 @ 6:08pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

          Very entertaining, cheers CB!

          • October 18th 2017 @ 11:39pm
            Crash Ball2 said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:39pm | ! Report

            Even wearing the wrong jersey, Collins was a pleasure to watch. From the relative safety of the stands that is.

            • Columnist

              October 19th 2017 @ 12:26am
              Nicholas Bishop said | October 19th 2017 @ 12:26am | ! Report

              Charvis was a hard man himself, more used to delivering rather than receiving the kind of hit in one of those clips. I think Steve Hansen was still coach of Wales on that trip too?

    • Roar Guru

      October 18th 2017 @ 5:44am
      Harry Jones said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:44am | ! Report

      In Bloemfontein, Jack Dempsey punched below his weight:

      But then he looked good in Argentina.

      Love the boxing talk….

      • Columnist

        October 18th 2017 @ 5:47am
        Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:47am | ! Report

        There was a lot about Dempsey (the boxer) I wanted to include because it made such good reading – but it would have blown the article too far off course H.

        • Roar Guru

          October 18th 2017 @ 5:54am
          Carlos the Argie said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:54am | ! Report

          I wrote above how Firpo from Argentina knocked out Dempsey in 1923 but it is still in “moderation”.

          • Columnist

            October 18th 2017 @ 6:06am
            Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:06am | ! Report

            A very famous fight – Firpo knocked JD through the ropes in the first round, and in footage looks a much bigger man…

            • Roar Guru

              October 18th 2017 @ 6:16am
              Harry Jones said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:16am | ! Report

              I read this article, NB, as tacit support for my proposal to bring NHL/Top14-style boxing matches to Australian rugby union, as a ticket-seller and ratings-booster. One on one only; only punches. About 30 seconds or until someone is getting their bell rung. No cards, no penalties; just good clean biff.

              • Columnist

                October 18th 2017 @ 6:20am
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:20am | ! Report

                Well, tbf the Firpo fight does provide outstanding support for that theory. Maybe work towards WWF style ‘sporting entertainment’!?

            • Roar Guru

              October 18th 2017 @ 6:34am
              Harry Jones said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:34am | ! Report

              That fight was insane. Dempsey knocked Firpo down 10 times and knocked Firpo out about 5 times, I think, before he stayed knocked out. Worst counting to 10 ever seen.

              • Columnist

                October 18th 2017 @ 6:58am
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 6:58am | ! Report

                Apart from Dempsey’s fight against Gene Tunney!

              • October 18th 2017 @ 11:23am
                Ben said | October 18th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

                A kiwi guy who played rugby for Poverty Bay in NZ in the 1920s called Tom Heeney fought Gene Tunney for the world heavy weight championship..lost in 8.
                Him and Tunney fought exhibition fights in the Pacific theatre during the war with Tunney being a navy officer and Heeney an army NCO.
                Good book..called “from Poverty Bay to Broadway”

              • Roar Guru

                October 18th 2017 @ 8:06am
                Carlos the Argie said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

                “El toro de las Pampas”, “The Bull from the Pampas”!!!

              • Columnist

                October 18th 2017 @ 8:14am
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report


              • October 20th 2017 @ 6:05am
                Lostintokyo said | October 20th 2017 @ 6:05am | ! Report

                Growing up as a kid I was a huge fan of Muhammad Ali. One memorable fight he fought was against Oscar Bonavena (Wild Bull II). Ali eventually won by KO in a tough fight in his last warm up before the storm of Smokin Joe Frazier. Ali was the pinnacle of a long line of heavyweight champion legends preceding him. After Ali it was never the same.

              • Columnist

                October 20th 2017 @ 7:37am
                Nicholas Bishop said | October 20th 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report

                There were some great fighters in the middle of the heavyweight division then Lost, weren’t there? Guys like Bonavena, Jerry Quarry, Cleveland Williams, Jimmy Ellis and many more. Used to love watching the boxing at that time.

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