Pieces of eight: Why New Zealand still rules the high seas of rugby

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

By Nicholas Bishop, Nicholas Bishop is a Roar Expert

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    The flag which flutters highest on the masthead of world rugby is still all black in colour. It does not have a skull-and-crossbones on it, but when it hoves into view everyone knows its meaning.

    For an opponent, this particular ‘Jolly Roger’ is a threat to life and limb.

    While the reasons behind New Zealand’s extraordinary run of success since 2004 have the been the topic of many books and studies, on the field it boils down to a single core reality – the breadth and excellence of individual skill-sets, and their consistent application under pressure.

    Both become ever clearer as the spotlight moves away from the backs and on to the ‘low numbers’ on the field: the forwards from one to eight.

    Footballing ability up front is what distinguishes New Zealand from everyone else. Some Northern Hemisphere nations (like Wales and Scotland) are trying as a matter of policy to close that gap – and they are succeeding, but even they will admit that it is a work in progress.

    England and Ireland are producing some atypical tight forwards who can run, pass and handle, like Mako Vunipola and Tadhg Furlong, but they remain the exception rather than the rule.

    The demand for high-tempo, high-quality footballing skills in the tight five provided a sharp wake-up call for France on their recent tour of the Shaky Isles. Jacques Brunel was even forced to recast a player who plays all his club football at number 7 (Bernard le Roux) as an emergency second row during the June series. The French lineout throw promptly collapsed and undermined the effort of the team everywhere else.

    While you could probably stitch together a tight five out of the three major tours which has All Black type footballing credentials – Vunipola and Furlong propping Camille Chat in the front row, with James Ryan and Joe Launchbury seconding them – there are not too many candidates clamouring for inclusion outside those players.

    Saturday’s rousing Super Rugby encounter between the Crusaders and the Highlanders concentrated the evidence in the construction of Crusaders’ try at the end of the first period (2:40 on the reel):

    Loose-head prop Wyatt Crockett – christening the birth of the new stadium name at Christchurch with an appropriate piece of skill – openside Matt Todd and hooker Andrew Makalio all delivered perfect offloads under pressure for second row Scott Barrett to convert the try. It was a score fashioned and finished exclusively by forwards, after the initial breach was made by Richie Mo’unga.

    The same contrast in philosophies applies to the critical number eight position. Players with heavy-duty power in contact, like England’s Billy Vunipola and Ireland’s CJ Stander, tend to get selected in that spot in Europe and South Africa. Their capacity to handle and pass will probably not be developed significantly unless it is a specific priority for their clubs.

    It is different in New Zealand, where the No.8 increasingly enjoys a creative play-making role. In one form or another, all of Gareth Evans (for the Hurricanes), Liam Messam (Chiefs), Luke Whitelock (Highlanders) and Kieran Read (Crusaders) can use the ball and unlock spaces for others to exploit.

    The captain of the All Black ship is Read, who has been hors de combat for the whole of 2018. His contest with Luke Whitelock – the man who replaced him for the France series – promised to be a battle royale, and so it proved to be for the 47 minutes Read was on the field.

    In a creative sense, Read never missed beat, making a crucial contribution to the Crusaders’ opening try of the game (0:25 on the reel):

    Mo’unga was at first receiver, with an attacking triangle of Read, prop Joe Moody and number 12 Ryan Crotty outside him:

    Typically the ‘1’ spot would be manned by a second attacking play-maker, like Kurtley Beale for the Wallabies, who makes the decision whether to run himself, pass flat to the forward (‘3’ Moody) or drop the ball in behind to the back (‘2’ Crotty) for the play to move wider.

    The Crusaders rely on Read, a forward, to make this decision. He saw that Rob Thompson had begun to drift on to the threat of Crotty and coaxed Moody through the line on the short ball instead. The try was scored on the next phase. It was a simple but beautiful play.

    Had he wished to, Read could have played international rugby as a back. The second example demonstrates the finesse and linking ability of a halfback from scrum:

    The Crusaders wanted to draw one of the key Highlander defenders (#9 Aaron Smith) away from the side of the field they wanted to attack. They achieved their aim by running their own scrum-half, Bryn Hall, away to the right, but also via a subtle sequence of false ‘tells’ in Read’s foot positioning:

    In the first shot, Read was performing a classic scrum-half trick. He cleared his feet to the left, making as if he was going to pass in the opposite direction. As soon as Smith swallowed the bait, he changed feet and moved off the other way.

    Needless to say, the pass to Mo’unga was perfectly-timed.

    For many years, the All Blacks have employed Read as one of their main creative influences in the wide channels, linking with the back three as the penultimate passer to create overlaps:

    Here Read made a neat all-in-one transfer to George Bridge to give some space on the outside (another recent example occurred in the first game of the 2017 Rugby Championship). The role was as far removed from the traditional power game of a typical European or South African number eight as it’s possible to imagine!

    Just like a good modern back, Read also sees his potential running line ahead of time:

    Luke Whitelock had to work hard on his ball-handling skills in order to attain the standard that the national selectors require. Characteristically, he plays a little closer to the breakdown for the Highlanders than Read does for the Crusaders.

    Whitelock was instrumental in punching through the gap off 9 and delivering the money pass for prop Tyrell Lomax to score the Highlanders’ opening try of the game (1:20 on the reel):

    With Makalio isolated (and ball-watching) in acres of space close to the breakdown, Whitelock saw and picked the right running line early.

    His ability to link and deliver a positive offload in contact was a feature throughout:

    If Tom Franklin took that final no-look ball, he would have been clean through on to the last Crusaders’ defender:

    Summary
    The All Black flag is still fluttering at the top of the world game because the Kiwis demand more, in terms of skills, from every position on the field. Nowhere is this more evident than in their tight forwards, and in the shifting selection tendencies at number eight.

    As a group, Kiwi tight forwards still handle and pass better than any of their counterparts.

    At number eight, the preference in South Africa and in Europe has always been for ball-carrying power in traffic. Relatively recently there has been some experimentation – witness Kevin Gourdon with France, Sam Simmonds with England, Ryan Wilson with Scotland and Sean McMahon or the ‘Pooper’ in Australia – but none are as advanced in their understanding of the possibilities as New Zealand.

    Luke Whitelock has always been a solid, hard-working forward, but has been asked to graft more ball-playing ability on to his game in order to achieve All Black status.

    He may have to accept a back-up role now that the king has returned. Kieran Read played just over three-quarters of an hour for the Crusaders last Saturday, but it looked as if he had never been away.

    Read is the perfect example of real value added to the core requirements of his position. His power in contact is adequate, rather than earth-shattering, but his point of difference lies in his creative ability with the ball in hand, which is unmatched.

    Read can fulfil the role of second playmaker in midfield, can run and handle in the wide channels with the outside backs, has the instincts of a back picking his running lines, and uses finesse to offset opponents.

    While the Northern Hemisphere can rightly claim to have caught up, and even surpassed New Zealand in areas like kicking and defence, the Tortuga of superior skill-sets and more refined positional demands still holds sway.

    Until that final citadel can be successfully besieged, those All Black buccaneers will continue to rule the high seas.

    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 (300)

    • Roar Guru

      July 11th 2018 @ 4:22am
      taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:22am | ! Report

      Nice Nick, and good to see Read back..the real Read, not the ball dropping head injury Read that tried to come back last time. Solid and promising return and timed nicely for the next 15 months. Will be fresh for the RC with little Super rugby and will serve as a huge bonus for the Saders title chances, who are good enough to win it without him.

      Tight five skilset demands in NZ rugby have been the case for many years and I just think theyre getting better at it from a depth perspective. Its still about finding space and 15 players looking for that space is always going to have more chance of finding it than 10, 11, or 12.

      • Columnist

        July 11th 2018 @ 5:30am
        Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 5:30am | ! Report

        There’s a lot of talk about point-of-difference players T-man – but Read is the genuine article. The only other B/R I can think of with his ball skills was prob Bobby Skinstad, but he wasn’t the complete package and didn’t stick at 8 for the Bokke…

        Yes, if you want to find real width in the modern game, you must have forwards who can handle the ball competently. The days of the forwards winning the ball and the backs using it are long, long gone.

        • July 11th 2018 @ 6:25am
          ForwardsWinMatches said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:25am | ! Report

          I would have put ZinZan in that skill-set category Nick. Totally agree with the premise of your article – I recall Cody Taylor last year against the Wallabies picking a ball off his shoelaces from a 10m pass, on the run and to score a try. No way Stephen Moore or TPN catch that. No comparison. Amazing how the basics are still so important….who’d a thought!

          • Columnist

            July 11th 2018 @ 6:34am
            Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:34am | ! Report

            Agreed – I forgot about Zinzan!

            Yes the basics of the game are often overlooked, in favour of more ‘sophisticated’ forms of progress. But a lot of the skills necessary for even an international player cannot be assumed to be there.

            I recall talking to people who regularly attended the training sessions of the 1982 ‘Invincibles’ Australian League side to tour the UK. They were seen as innovative, but their sessions were interesting variations on performing basics like passing in both directions, picking up ball off the ground, tackling and getting up quickly into the line etc…

            • July 11th 2018 @ 6:44am
              ForwardsWinMatches said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:44am | ! Report

              I think the other thing that sets Read apart (and Skinstad) is his speed. I’d say he’s a fair bit quicker than his contemporaries. That extra yard of pace added to his skill set makes him a handful. Compare to Pocock who has many good attributes but speed is not one of them.

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 6:51am
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:51am | ! Report

                He’s built more like a greyhound than a tank like Stander or Billy V 😀

              • July 11th 2018 @ 8:53am
                Highlander said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report

                Reads other huge plus vs other current 8’s is his lineout work
                Great average for takes, often a more regular target than one of the locks, but his steal numbers are real valuable

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 9:28am
                Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

                On that speed front, how often do the AB’s pick out someone like Fafita, who then surprises the opposition with a burst of speed.

                It seems like a common feature they are looking for.

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 2:45pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

                Yes, sheer speed across the ground is a factor with these players – Michael Hooper, Ardie Savea and Fifita can all run in those wide channels. Only Tipuric and Simmonds in the NH prob fall into that category right now…

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 2:48pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

                I think the WBs are getting there Cookie, and Mick Byrne should help the change along in that respect. But it’s hard to think of good passers in the number 8 position in Australia right now. Even Amanaki Mafi is hit-and-miss!

              • July 12th 2018 @ 8:59am
                Stin said | July 12th 2018 @ 8:59am | ! Report

                Excellent piece again Nick. You’re right about the Oz 8s. Although I felt over the last 2 years that Holloway had the potential to be something more of an all rounder in the Read mould. Hasn’t quite turned out that way. He is showing some good form lines at second row though over last few weeks.

              • Columnist

                July 12th 2018 @ 3:48pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 12th 2018 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

                I’d agree with you about Holloway Stin – and his stint in the second row seems to be helping to tighten the nuts and bolts in his game.

              • July 12th 2018 @ 7:23pm
                Stin said | July 12th 2018 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

                Cheers for the reply Nick. Amazing how available you are for everyone. The Roar and we are very lucky to have your wonderful analysis to quench our rugby thirst!

        • Roar Guru

          July 11th 2018 @ 6:31am
          taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:31am | ! Report

          Interesting, Booby Skinstead was mooted as the next Michael Jones by some here. The pre 89 Jones Im guessing would still be considered the most skilful all round forward weve ever had in terms of handling, sheer pace, athleticism, anticipation, and one of the biggest smashers on defence weve had, despite the time gap. Perhaps one for us geriatrics. 😀

          • Roar Guru

            July 11th 2018 @ 6:31am
            taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:31am | ! Report

            Bobby🙄

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 9:30am
              Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

              I was about to say something about his twin sister but then realised it would not be politically correct.

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 10:45am
              jeznez said | July 11th 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

              You must have had a beta-version of the site T-man. Bobby (I so want to call him the other name) retired from the Boks in ’07 which was the year this site was launched.

              People were really saying he was going to be the next Jones the year he retired?

              😀

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 1:17pm
                taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

                In rugby circles when he was making a splash at about 20 in the mid 90’s when Ice was still ‘current’ . They did have the printed word prior to 2007 you know… 🙂

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 1:45pm
                jeznez said | July 11th 2018 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

                Flame wars on the letters page of the newspaper!

                🙂

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 2:51pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

                It would be interesting to see how Skinstad would fare now in 2018 with so many changes in the game. I would guess those changes have made him more valuable, but he would still have more chance of fulfilling his potential in NZ than in SA. I would doubt that he’d uproot Duane Vermeulen in the Bokke – but a B/R of Vermeulen, Kolisi and Skinstad would cover most of the bases!

              • Roar Rookie

                July 13th 2018 @ 4:10am
                One Eye said | July 13th 2018 @ 4:10am | ! Report

                He did force Teicheman out of the Bokke though didn’t he? And he was the captain!

                NZ have always had a preference for ball playing 8s back to Brian Lochore with Zinzan, and Read obvious but also the likes of Ron Cribb (before going back to Auckland and losing it again).
                It was only really while waiting for the next one to come along we have reverted to a bash type or even a 6/7 hybrid like Rodney So’oialo who despite over 50 tests was always thought of as keeping the Jersey warm!

              • Columnist

                July 13th 2018 @ 3:24pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 13th 2018 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

                Yes Ron Cribb was something of a shooting star wasn’t he? Seemed to disappear over the horizon much quicker than his ability warranted!

              • Roar Rookie

                July 13th 2018 @ 6:55pm
                One Eye said | July 13th 2018 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

                The curse of going back to Auckland…

          • Columnist

            July 11th 2018 @ 6:36am
            Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:36am | ! Report

            Skinstad’s presence provoked a row in SA when he was selected ahead of Gary Teichmann – a much more typical Bokke 8.

            Michael Jones has to be one of the best athletes to ever play the game, though I have to say I don’t recall ever seeing him as a creative ball-player!

            • July 11th 2018 @ 1:43pm
              bluesfan said | July 11th 2018 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

              People talk about McCaw as being the greatest AB – and in terms of longevity, rugby smarts, toughness etc, I guess no one comes close.

              But off all the No. 7’s that I have seen play – George Smith, McCaw, Pocock, Hooper etc – not one comes close to Michael Jones. Just an incredible athlete and you have to ask how good he would have being , if he had access to all the benefits of being a pro player from the start of his career.

              That after a very nasty knee injury, jump across to the No. 6 position and become world class in that position really indicates just how good he was and for ball playing – with his speed off the mark, he would have made a great centre.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 2:28pm
                taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

                Yes I’ve always been in that camp, the single most exciting player I’ve ever had the fortune to see, and meet, both before and after his playing career.

                One AB trial stands out for me like no other. Normally error ridden, tense, cold grey day affairs as they used to be Jones played one half and was …literally…everywhere, doing everything, tackling everything, jumping over everything. He was pulled off at half time and NZ rugby went stir crazy nuts, the crowd fuming to have to sit through a second half with no Jones.

                We knew of his rep in Auckland club rugby and he’d just been picked by Harty for his top side but the trial just topped everything.

                Players that excel during the same years you play tend to leave more of an impression because theres so much talk about them in the rugby scene. We didn’t have social media then so it was all clubs, work and pub talk and the scraps we got from TV and the one or two papers we had.

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 2:53pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

                Yes, MJ could certainly have played international rugby in the centre if he’d wanted to. Arguably that’s where he might play in today’s game – a bit like SBW?

              • July 11th 2018 @ 3:17pm
                Rugby Tragic said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

                Well John Hart stated that you could put Michael Jones in any numbered jersey 1-15 and he would do justice to the position. Not sure about Front Row but such was his talent, he was unbelievable and wouldn’t put it past him.

                Great player, even greater human being…

              • July 11th 2018 @ 3:35pm
                ForwardsWinMatches said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

                Didn’t his religious beliefs have him sit out a few test matches? Sensational player.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 3:40pm
                taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

                Yes, he chose a time where they suddenly wanted to play sunday tests! Didnt before him, dont know… hmmm… quite the conspiracy😳

              • July 11th 2018 @ 3:56pm
                Rugby Tragic said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

                TM, funny the way it is/was but I really was upset when Michael Jones couldn’t play a test match because of his religious beliefs or injury. The only other guy I felt like that was was Bruce Robinson, the Counties Centre when he was out injured. I used to love watching him play too …

              • Roar Rookie

                July 23rd 2018 @ 11:01am
                Kirky said | July 23rd 2018 @ 11:01am | ! Report

                Blues Fan, You are right about Michael Jones, and when he was fit and not saddled by his beliefs in life, he was for sure the epitome of Number 8s and latterly No6 specialists, very, very, good player, but as a genuine all rounder with his specialist spot at No7, coupled with the absolute penchance for excellence all over the Park, Captain and all else, ~ MaCaw was the best overall rugby player that I ever saw since my ”olden days” of watching, observing and following the game I love dearly, 1940s era, (believe me I have seen a lot of rugby), he was the ultimate Rugby Player and Warrior, no doubt!

            • Roar Rookie

              July 23rd 2018 @ 10:50am
              Kirky said | July 23rd 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

              Nic. Going back a bit but Murray Mexted was right up there with the best Number 8s, ~ very good player for the time!

          • July 12th 2018 @ 5:13am
            Faith said | July 12th 2018 @ 5:13am | ! Report

            Read looks like a greyhound but he hits like a tank. I remember hits on Farrell ad Jaantjies …

        • July 11th 2018 @ 8:16am
          Darth Vader said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:16am | ! Report

          *cough* George Smith *cough*

        • July 11th 2018 @ 9:03am
          BBA said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:03am | ! Report

          I think it also goes to balance, having playmakers in all 8,9 & 10 and 15 allows us to have our midfield that are more line hitters / off loaders or defensive players and organisers. (which does diminish their role but it doesn’t mean that we are lacking for play makers as a consequence).

          You have to love Read’s high work rate, as you haven’t even mentioned some iof the other significant contributions he makes for the AB’s when you consider his role in calling the lineouts and taking / contesting kick offs as well. Our lineout really improved when he joined the team.

          • Columnist

            July 11th 2018 @ 2:55pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

            Yep Read is an excellent lineout player – but that and those other features lay outside the range of the article 🙂

      • July 11th 2018 @ 3:03pm
        woodart said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

        good call tayorman. ball playing forwards have been a Kiwi thing for years. colin meads anyone?

    • Roar Guru

      July 11th 2018 @ 4:49am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:49am | ! Report

      And quietly and humbly, in a nation to the west, a tall young buck is tirelessly honing his playmaking skill.
      “Until that final citadel can be successfully besieged”.

      We wish.
      Read is the benchmark
      My money is on SA being the first to develop the necessary forward playmake skills to compete with the darkness.

      • Columnist

        July 11th 2018 @ 5:34am
        Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 5:34am | ! Report

        Indeed Ken – indeed…

        South Africa have had that kind of forward from time to time – as I mentioned, Bob Skinstad was similar. And even Ox du Randt had tremendous handling skills for a very big man which I think would not have been as under-utilized in New Zealand… But that was the problem – SA could not fit those skill sets into their playing pattern, so they preferred people without them 🙂

        Remember this…?

        • Roar Guru

          July 11th 2018 @ 6:34am
          taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:34am | ! Report

          Id say Vermulens at his best verges close to a good balance between the smash em Billy type and the more mobile skilled Read, certainly a hard man but could get around and distribute as well when he need to. Burger similar, but more athletic.

          • Columnist

            July 11th 2018 @ 6:38am
            Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:38am | ! Report

            Burger’s improved his distribution in his twilight years, but we’re not talking about the same level of distribution skills as a Read, Brooke or Skinstad 🙂

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 7:24am
              taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:24am | ! Report

              Yes I tend to take the ball skills being present for granted…being a kiwi…:-)

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 9:33am
              Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

              I watched Burger very closely at a game against the Crusaders a long time back and the thing that seemed glaring to me was his reading of the game. Always moving to where the ball was going to be two phases on.

              One mark of a real thinker in the game.

            • July 12th 2018 @ 9:54am
              Graeme said | July 12th 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

              There’s only one in that list who has dropped goals from 40+ meters

    • July 11th 2018 @ 4:51am
      Just Nuisance said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:51am | ! Report

      A subject very close to my heart Nicholas. As a South African I do not like the All Blacks , why …..well that is possibly another topic . But….I respect and admire them . Conversely I love the Boks but have right now little respect and even less admiration. NZ have set a benchmark and if the rest including my own faltering bokke cannot follow then so be it. …..prior to the 3rd test SA vs England , Rassie made a public comment that winning was not the priority . Yes this was public . He went friggin on and on about processes and combinations being more important etc.ok ok we lived through that with Coetzee for 2 years and those processes got us a 50 to nothing pasting by NZ. Can you imagine a Steve Hansen , a Jose Mourinho , the coach of the Miami Dolphins or New York Yankees saying that winning is not a priority . …phew.

      • July 11th 2018 @ 5:34am
        Taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 5:34am | ! Report

        Yet they won the series without it being a priority. I think what coaches might say publicly and to his side are carefully manicured these days and Rassie seems to have more smarts than previous coaches. One things for sure, he needs a convincing 2-0 start over Argie in the RC. With bonus points as a bonus. No less will do in terms of being in this comp.

        That means two and possibly three wins over NZ and oz could mean the title, beating NZ in the home leg always the key. All entirely hypothetical but taken in chunks I can see Rassie making inroads this year. They nearly won there with las5 years terrible side. Dont write that match off yet.

        • Columnist

          July 11th 2018 @ 5:40am
          Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 5:40am | ! Report

          I feel SA are going to be better this year in the RC than last, but then again it would be hard not to be! 🙂

          Not convinced they have enough to beat NZ at home by any means – though I believe the WBs do….

          • Roar Guru

            July 11th 2018 @ 9:15am
            taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

            No I meant at Ellis. Dont think theyll win here their recent efforts need huge improvement.

            Dont think Oz will either- been a long 22 tests since Eales in 2001 since they’ve won here, Boks have won a couple in that time.

            None of that matters I know but there have been better Wallabies sides and probably worse AB teams than this years in that period.

            Best chances are Sydney and Ellis…usually are. And if we lost both it could let one of the cats in.

            For me Genia out rules out their chances of a win here. Tips it too far one way.

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 10:53am
              jeznez said | July 11th 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

              Genia trained with the Rebels on Monday and is a chance of playing in the match against the Highlanders this weekend. Fitness test today.

              http://www.rugby.com.au/news/2018/07/09/super-rugby-highlanders-rebels-wessels-injuries

              Fingers crossed he has no further issues but should be well and truly back for the RC based on his recovery to date.

              Although how his passing is going with a broken arm has me wondering.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 2:33pm
                taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

                silly to play him too early but they know what theyre doing 🙂

              • July 11th 2018 @ 2:39pm
                Highlander said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

                They might not need him, Highlanders resting plenty for Saturday

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 2:41pm
                jeznez said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

                Yeah, as I said fingers crossed.

                I’d hope if he was at risk of playing too early that RA would speak up regarding such a key player – they certainly had no qualms sending a message (no matter how toothless) to the Brumbies before the Irish series.

                The question might be whether RA are so invested in the Rebels (after the Force fiasco) that they support risking him in the hopes the Rebels play finals rugby.

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 2:58pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

                Yes Genia needs to be there without a doubt Jez!

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 3:06pm
                Train Without A Station said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

                Jez I doubt they are. The Rebels aren’t in line for a home final so there’s not a huge at stake financially.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 4:25pm
                jeznez said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

                TWAS – I speculate that Clyne and co would feel a bit of vindication (justified or not) if the Rebels play finals rugby – regardless of the fact they cannot host a home final.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 4:26pm
                Train Without A Station said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

                Maybe they do but I doubt Cheika is willing to risk anything.

            • Columnist

              July 11th 2018 @ 2:58pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

              No I don’t see the Bokke beating NZ in Joburg T-man (that’s what I meant!), unless Rassie can resolve a number of selection issues before that game swings around. The combinations in midfield and the back three looked volatile in the England Tests.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 3:48pm
                taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

                Its an odd one though. Last year the lose 67-0 here, an all time SA record I believe, then they turn superhuman at home a Marxx nearly rips it for them. That sort of turnaround is beyond any analysis.

                But I do think this years ABs will be stronger as well if the injuries stay as low. With 6’s coming through, Barrett a true third lock, Read potentially back to his best, and an able backup in L Whitelock things are looking unusually rich in the soil. Looks the best position injury wise in years, with depth coming through as well.
                Hansens gotta be stoked with his squad at the moment.

              • Columnist

                July 12th 2018 @ 3:37am
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 12th 2018 @ 3:37am | ! Report

                That performance was a one-off though – unsupported by others in the RC (or subsequently). A repeat may be possible ofc, but I see more of a threat from the WBs in Sydney right now…

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2018 @ 4:13am
                taylorman said | July 12th 2018 @ 4:13am | ! Report

                Yep, Sydneys always tough, and ABs have lost there in an amazing 28 tests, faaaaar more than anywhere else. Obviously theyve played there more than anywhere else as well but its still a tough gig these days. Sydney and Joburg in that order for me, dont think theyll lose any of the other four.

              • Columnist

                July 12th 2018 @ 4:49am
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 12th 2018 @ 4:49am | ! Report

                Plus the two Tests against Argentina should be pretty easy – good opportunity to try out new combos!

              • July 12th 2018 @ 10:07am
                Fin said | July 12th 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

                Interesting comment Nick. I have never heard a coach say there is such a thing as an easy test match. Do they say something different behind closed doors when preparing to play against certain opponents?

              • Columnist

                July 12th 2018 @ 3:59pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 12th 2018 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

                Hard to know what else to say about a team which cuts off its nose to spite its face (by not selecting its best European-based players) and loses at home first to the Wales ‘B’ team, then to Scotland by 40 points!

              • July 12th 2018 @ 5:55am
                Jerry said | July 12th 2018 @ 5:55am | ! Report

                Taylorman – they’ve not lost 28 times in Sydney, it’s actually 19.

                They’ve lost a total of 28 times away to Australia, but that includes all the matches elsewhere in Australia and the two at neutral venues (HK and Dublin).

      • Columnist

        July 11th 2018 @ 5:38am
        Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 5:38am | ! Report

        Yes I agree JN that Rassie should have gone all out to win 3-0. That would have helped the development processes no end…

        After all, was it really necessary to give Jantjies another start to confirm what we already know (that he is not a starting Test 10 atm)? Do you think there was some kind of quota deal behind the scenes?

        • Roar Guru

          July 11th 2018 @ 7:05am
          Harry Jones said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:05am | ! Report

          He had to “PROVE” it, to Elton, to the Elton fans, and to the dead-enders.

          Pollard has it now, with Damian W the preferable understudy, but Willie looks like a second playmaker, too.

          The thing for Rassie was he only had 14 tests to use pre-RWC. So now he has “eliminated” some hopefuls, for now, and also vetted a few who look like they have “it.”

          • Columnist

            July 11th 2018 @ 7:09am
            Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:09am | ! Report

            He had to “PROVE” it, to Elton, to the Elton fans, and to the dead-enders.

            Maybe Hazza – but I don’t think it worth the loss…

            Was Damian Willemse injured for the England series?

            Let’s see how long he can keep Kitshoff on the bench behind the Beast eh? 🙂

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 7:20am
              Harry Jones said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:20am | ! Report

              NB:

              Yes, Damian was injured in the U20 WC games.

              Rassie, after the Elton debacle at Newlands, did bring up Damian specifically, in the press conference.

              He has definitely targeted him for the future, but the future could be NOW.

              I think he had to be delicate with Elton: he was in the “leadership group” from Coetzee’s tenure. So, I think he was smart to let everyone see what most of us know: he’s not a mudder.

              We don’t have any issues at loosehead at the moment! Hahahah!

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 7:32am
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

                We don’t have any issues at loosehead at the moment! Hahahah!

                As long as you’re comfortable with wearing T-shirts inside out H! Kitshoff ought to be starting.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 7:48am
                Harry Jones said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:48am | ! Report

                Kitshoff’s phenomenal performance against the ABs last year was a bit overshadowed by EE, MM, and PSDT, but that was one of the best games I’ve ever seen played by a prop against NZ.

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 7:51am
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

                I think he’s a LH out of the very top drawer Hazza, and one who needs to play as many minutes as poss… He can be that influential IMO.

          • Roar Guru

            July 11th 2018 @ 9:37am
            Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

            “only … 14 tests to use pre-RWC.”

            Yep, yep, yep.

            Everyone calling to try out ‘this or that new guy’ in their team should read that line three times slowly.

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 9:47am
              Wal said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

              Hansen picked 11 debutants in 2016, 4 last year and 5 this year. Unless he’s forced to I wouldn’t think too many others will get a run.

              Injuries are always the great unknown though

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 9:51am
                Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

                Ah yes Wal, the great unknowns.

                Many are the plans of mice and men, but to win a World Cup you also need some luck. The only real difference being SA and OZ will need a little more luck to go their way to pull it off than NZ.

                But in no way is anything in a knock out tournament a certainty.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 10:09am
                Wal said | July 11th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

                Based on lack of depth in a couple of positions we might see Aumua, Akira before 2019

                But it’s difficult to see many others, Caleb Clarke?

              • July 11th 2018 @ 12:24pm
                Rugby Tragic said | July 11th 2018 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

                Where would you play Caleb Clarke Wal?

                Clarke is very raw at the moment but has enormous potential.

                However have you has a look at the AB’s back three stocks at the moment? A bit like Ben Lam (who also is pretty raw), where are you going to play them.

                Both Lam and Clarke made huge errors last weekend and a year and a bit out from the RWC I would have thought the key players (barring injuries) have already been locked in. There might be the odd player who might break down the doors before selection time next year, but I’d suggest not to many.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 12:38pm
                Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

                It’s a great question Wal.

                It has to be a given that anyone who gets dragged in because of injury as, for example, the fourth can off the rank, in any position is going to under done.

                But which positions are you most worried about?

                Crotty and SBW are prone to injury, but we a heap of guys in mid field.

                What is the daylight behind S. Whitelock, Rettalick and Barrett?

                The AB coaches have obviously taken a good look at the back row and Frizzell has been brought on – do we need get A. Ioane into the team?

                What would you do if Dagg can’t play and B. Smith goes down?

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 3:50pm
                taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

                Barrett or Mac at fullback. Only option.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 1:32pm
                Wal said | July 11th 2018 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

                Centre and Hooker are probably the 2 that have me the most worried.

                Hooker for lack of depth and Centres because of the drop off in experience (not class) to the following pack.

                It would have been great of Aumua didn’t get injured but any chance for him in 2019 is now very slim.

                Lock I think will be ok, Romano has done the job before, Tuipulotu has the goods if he can get a decent run injury free. What happened to Patrick Fatialofa, he looked promising too?

                Smith, J.Barrett, Dagg, McKenzie, B. Barrett In that order of preference means I think we have Fullback covered

                Tragic it is probably a year too early for Clarke, he and Aumua are probably the two stand outs who I think could “force” the selectors with a blinder next year.

              • July 11th 2018 @ 2:15pm
                Rugby Tragic said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

                Wal, defintitely agree with hooker depth, it might be too late for Aumua for join the fray for 2019 but with Coles about to restart, I hope we will be OK.

                I wouldn’t worry about midfield and centres talent, more-so for combinations. We have SBW, Crotty, ALB, Laumape, Goodhue and Jordie Barrett as back up.. I think we are well covered.

                We are well served with the back three. I think depth for 12-15 its a question of who to leave out … At 10, we have BB, Macca and So’ungo (if three is enough!!)

                We will need our props to stay well and maybe a tad more depth in the back row and if A Smith or TJP went down who would be your next halfback?

                BTW referring to Fatialofa, I think you mean Michael.

              • July 11th 2018 @ 2:25pm
                Fionn said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

                I think halfback is a bit of a concern if Aaron Smith is injured.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 2:35pm
                Wal said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

                Opps yes Michael.

                Talent abounds at centre, my concern would more be if we ended up with an ALB and Goodhue/Laumape combination in the final how they would cope with the pressure.
                For mine 10,12 and 13 are probably the positions where experience counts for the most.
                Positions you can’t “hide’ and Barret is not a Dan Carter type with the ability to compensate for a lack of composure outside him.

                A Smith is probably the most important single cog, TJ would start in most other era’s just Smith is that good. not sure if its the pack he plays behind but I have long been a Drummond fan I don’t think he has ever been found wanting.

              • July 11th 2018 @ 3:49pm
                Rugby Tragic said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

                Half back first Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi was recently selected I think as 3rd halfback. He is quick and more in the mold of A Smith but he lacks experience at the top level. Though if he comes on in the EOYT and can play a few of the minor pool matches, it will at least keep No 1 and 2 fresh. Injuries are another matter but not sure if we can cater for all the “what if’s”

                Fionn, I think if A Smith went down TJP will stand up, he’ll have too. He does actually bring about a different game to A Smith and is a great defensive half back. When has he let the AB’s down?

                Centres Wal, I think ALB is the best No 13 in NZ (I know that other opinions state Crotty is the glue and all that but it is only my opinion. He, ALB is a very smart rugby player. Goodhue might surpass him but experience counts. Backing up SBW is Laumape

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 12:03pm
              Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | July 11th 2018 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

              Yes Ralph. 14 tests till ‘It’s on!”
              Apologies for the thread hijack here but you reminded me just how relieved we Wallaby fans are, now that we have our first, second, and third Number 8,9 and 10 sorted – all ready for the Cup.

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 12:40pm
                Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

                Huge strides forward Ken, and no point in lamenting, you’ll go in a bit weaker than some in depth – but luck is a funny thing.

                How well do you think you will do if you have a zero injury campaign?

                All the way?

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 3:03pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

                Ahhh the heavy hand of irony Ken 🙂

            • Columnist

              July 11th 2018 @ 3:00pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

              Yes, this year’s RC is already at the outer limit of time needed to bed in a new player for the WC Ralph…

    • July 11th 2018 @ 6:31am
      Galatzo said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:31am | ! Report

      Hello again, Nicholas. I like your use of the word Tortuga. Very dry. But to rugby – Read has certainly scored enough tries from out wide to reinforce your claim that he could have been a back. What other forwards in world rugby today do you feel could, at a pinch, play from, say, 10 to 15?

      • Columnist

        July 11th 2018 @ 6:41am
        Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:41am | ! Report

        Ah yes – Tortuga…. Pirate stronghold for a few decades 😀

        There are a few 7’s around who play centre if they had started early enough – Michael Hooper, Justin Tipuric and Ardie Savea spring to mind, the Fijian Peceli Yato also…

        There have been a few number 8’s who’ve doubled as wings – Pierre Spies, Radike Samo and the great Lomu himself ofc!

        • July 11th 2018 @ 7:26am
          Beans said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:26am | ! Report

          Toutai Kefu played several games for the Reds at 12 with his brother, Steve, at 13. I recall the Highlanders being the unfortunate opposition in one instance. Needless to say he caused a fair bit of havoc on the crash ball but also had pretty good hands. Good enough for an 8 to play 12 at least.

          • Columnist

            July 11th 2018 @ 7:30am
            Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:30am | ! Report

            Yes I can imagine Kefu playing that role. Back in the amateur era there was a guy called Gerrie Sonnekus who played both 8 and 9 for South Africa!

            In League that kind of interchangeability seems more common – Andy Farrell represented GB at both prop and outside-half for example.

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 11:07am
              jeznez said | July 11th 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

              Radike Samo capped for the Wallabies at lock and wing, big Jim Williams another to play forwards and backs for Australia.

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 3:03pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

                Where did Jim Williams play in the back-line Jez?

              • Roar Guru

                July 11th 2018 @ 4:33pm
                jeznez said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

                Wing/outside centre from memory – not sure if he did it at test level but he was a fringe Tah outside back from the Waringah club before switching to backrow and then getting his Brumbies selection.

              • July 12th 2018 @ 12:37pm
                JP said | July 12th 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

                Jim Williams played for West Bulldogs ( Brisbane) as young centre from 1988 to 1993, then he moved to the Tahs in 1996 and Brumbies 1998-2001.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2018 @ 12:54pm
                jeznez said | July 12th 2018 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

                Thanks JP – I’d forgotten he came down from Brissie

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2018 @ 1:07pm
                rebel said | July 12th 2018 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

                That most likely would have been during a posting to Enoggera when he was a Ginger Beer in the Army. Went to England for a year before returning to Sydney.
                Currently assistant coach down at Southern Districts. Great servant of the game.

            • July 11th 2018 @ 8:20pm
              Fin said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:20pm | ! Report

              Hi Nick,
              Don’t forget Kurtley Beale who has also played flanker at international level against Wales last year. Very diverse player.

              • Columnist

                July 11th 2018 @ 9:17pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:17pm | ! Report

                I guess ‘diverse’ is one (gentle) way of describing KB’s notion of packing behind the tight-head Fin 😀

            • July 13th 2018 @ 10:23am
              Alister said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

              Now days even more so. Australian commentators talk about middle forwards and right and left side. Each of the second rowers run with a centre in attack (and I think they match up also in defence) and play left side and right side with 2/3 bashing it up the middle but the early runs on the first couple of tackles before the big forwards get back are taken by wingers (some of whom are almost as big as the forwards but quicker). While the 13 (the league equivalent of the 8) is possibly more likely to offload than the front rowers it tends to be an offload rather than distribution (if that makes any sense).

              • Columnist

                July 13th 2018 @ 3:22pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | July 13th 2018 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

                Thanks for the League background Alister!

        • Roar Guru

          July 11th 2018 @ 10:55am
          jeznez said | July 11th 2018 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          I always thought Dane Coles in his prime could have been a centre

          • Roar Guru

            July 11th 2018 @ 1:36pm
            Wal said | July 11th 2018 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

            Or Cody Taylor, the pick up off his boot laces last year would have made any winger proud.

            • Roar Rookie

              July 23rd 2018 @ 1:29pm
              Kirky said | July 23rd 2018 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

              Talking about Aussie’ Wings, that gross big dude on the Wing for the Tahs’ would I reckon be far better in the Front Row, ~ Naiyavoro is it, if the need mum o there’s your man, too big for a Winger, dunno’ if the Front Row would suit him though as he’d have to do a lot of work in there!

      • July 11th 2018 @ 11:27am
        MitchO said | July 11th 2018 @ 11:27am | ! Report

        I believe George Smith played a few games at 12 when he was in France.

        It sounds like they are going to have to grab the next Taquele Naivaro and put him in the forwards when he’s a teenager. Alot of those islanders (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa) have that big athletic type. Amanaki Mafi is a pretty good runner with the ball.

    • July 11th 2018 @ 6:32am
      bluesfan said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:32am | ! Report

      I think a good example of what the AB’s expect from a No. 8 – is reflected in Akira Ioane. In the recent French tour he was put into the AB camp, obviously with a mandate from the AB coaches to the Fitness trainers to work on his aerobic levels and he came out of that camp looking like his body shape had changed.

      Obviously the AB’s fitness trainers worked him hard to ensure he got up to required Aerobic levels and his performance in the Blues has picked up – post the French tour.

      So it’s not only Skills – but Aerobic fitness to a large degree that is key to the AB Game. You just have to look at the body shapes of Read, Whitelock and now Ioane vs. a Billy Vunipola.

      Vunipola looks like a great player for Nth Hemisphere winter conditions – Big, strong, great impact in a tight slow game – however can you imagine him in the outside backs at speed at the backend of a game? Aerobically I imagine he would be found out and his replacement Nathan Hughes is a similar type play – massive physical specimen. Just have to look at how good Vermeulen looked in the recent test series and neither Hughes or Vunipola – looked anywhere in the same class (though Vunipola did not really look match-fit and have to ask should he have toured).

      Think this will be were the Nth Hemisphere sides are going to come unstuck come next years RWC – with the games in late September – temperatures will be around 25+ in Japan, so would expect the games to be very fast on a hard track.

      All of which indicates that teams like the AB, Oz and even SA – who all have high levels of Aerobic fitness created from required fitness levels for the Super tournament – will be advantaged at the RWC and think that teams like England, Ireland, France etc – will find it tough once the games speed up.

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2018 @ 9:42am
        Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        “.. will find it tough once the games speed up.”

        They better turn up with a clear plan to manage and assert their own pace on the games.

        • July 11th 2018 @ 11:38am
          moa said | July 11th 2018 @ 11:38am | ! Report

          Expect the usual, un-policed plethora of trivial injuries requiring numerous support staff with mics and drink bottles…..

          • Roar Guru

            July 11th 2018 @ 12:41pm
            Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

            LOL, and magic ice ..

      • Columnist

        July 11th 2018 @ 3:11pm
        Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

        Billy Vunipola is an 80 minute player with great aerobic capacity BF. Unfortunately there’s not a lot he can do about his natural body-shape, which is squat and broad – he’s about 6’2 and 120 kgs now I’d think.

        BV could handle the speed of SR without a problem, and I’m sure he would be embraced by any of the NZ sides. When he first came up he could pass and offload very well (as you’d expect of a player with Tongan heritage), but those skills are not developed in the English Premiership environment. With a bit of encouragement and “reorientation” he could easily start for any of the Kiwi sides (except the Saders with Read available).

        • July 11th 2018 @ 8:22pm
          bluesfan said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

          I know you rate Billy Nick – however the difference between him and Vermeulen in the recent tests was pretty apparent.

          I wouldn’t even pick him in the as the top ranked 8 for the Nth, think Faletau shades him with his ball handling and a bigger engine for me.

          While I note your comment around his aerobic capacity and you would have observed him a lot more than I have – I just note that he is chubby around the middle vs. greyhound like Read/Whitelock etc – so I do wonder how he is going to cope if the AB’s or OZ, can speed up the game on a hard pitch in Japan.

          • Columnist

            July 11th 2018 @ 9:19pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

            We’ll prob get to make a more concrete comparison (with a fully fit Billy) at Twickenham in November, and it might be worth revisiting the essence of this article then…

          • July 12th 2018 @ 11:08am
            Harry said | July 12th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

            Billy V should never have been considered for selection, given his dreadful run of injuries. His presence in the side spoke more to Eddie Jones need to turn the slump around than Billy V’s readiness for test football.

      • July 11th 2018 @ 6:26pm
        adastra32 said | July 11th 2018 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

        For the record, neither Hughes or BV were Test-match fit for the SA tour. There were other options (e.g. Sam Simmonds mentioned several times by Nick in this piece) but EJ did not use him.

        • Columnist

          July 11th 2018 @ 7:25pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

          Yes Ads, neither were match-fit or match-sharp. Sam Simmonds is an interesting case, in terms of how EJ will find a way to makes us of his undoubted dynamism and speed in the B/R – if he does bother to find a way at all ofc 😀

    • July 11th 2018 @ 7:00am
      Galatzo said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:00am | ! Report

      Yes, Tipuric and Savea for sure. Spies was the fastest big man in international rugby during his time. Higgers used to be very fast several seasons ago. Extraordinary to think that slowboat Nick Easter played 8 for England just three years back. Hughes not much faster today.

      • Columnist

        July 11th 2018 @ 7:07am
        Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:07am | ! Report

        I honestly believe Spies would have had a much longer international career on the wing too G!

        Nick Easter was an interesting case – he became one of the better ball-playing number 8’s in England towards the end of his career, but in a slow body 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          July 11th 2018 @ 7:18am
          Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:18am | ! Report

          Interesting phrase ‘slow body’, Nicholas.

          I coulda been a great winger but for that pesky detail🤨.

          • Columnist

            July 11th 2018 @ 7:27am
            Nicholas Bishop said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:27am | ! Report

            Not all good things arrive in the right packaging Ken 😀

            • Roar Guru

              July 11th 2018 @ 9:44am
              Ralph said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

              That’s what I keep telling my wife.

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