Literature influences my relationship with the world and that also includes rugby. It’s rare there is a memorable game or game situation that doesn’t remind me of a memorable literary text as well.
One of them is The Prince of Homburg, which belongs to the German writer Heinrich Von Kleist (written around 1810).
In the text, the middle of the battle sees the prince disobey the orders previously received in planning the clash and sends his men into combat ahead of time. Despite winning the battle thanks to his brilliant disobedience, the chief and supreme leader of the troops condemns him to death.
We can extrapolate Von Kleist’s text to the present because planning and variation are common parameters that many coaches analyse to overcome defences.
Taking into account this situation of ‘opposite pairs’ of planning and unpredictability, we see that there is a type of player who at some point betrayed the gameplan in exchange for obtaining territorial gains or points.
Richie Mo’unga is one I especially ponder, while Marcus Smith, Finn Russell, Bautista Delguy and Damian McKenzie could also be accommodated in that interpretive role.
Mo’unga is emerging as one of the drivers with the ability to score tries. In Aotearoa 2020-21 and Trans-Tasman he racked up ten conquests. Although his main activity is in the conduct and distribution of the game, the face of kicks are usually his weapons to neutralise attacks.
What never ceases to amaze me in his style is his ability to react immediately to minute portions of information coming from a stimulus in peripheral areas of the game. With this instinctive style, Mo’unga escapes the linearity of the gameplan and his actions are constituted as a disruptive event.
McKenzie’s attacker profile shows five tries scored between 2020-21 and an activity during 2021 also aimed at the distribution of the Chiefs’ game. In relation to this, the position that contributes the most to its unpredictability is fullback. From the back of the field there is a better vision of opportunities to damage the rival than from flyhalf.
From that perspective we value the 182 carries executed for Chief between 2020-21 (seven per cent more than Mo’unga for the Crusaders) where McKenzie always tried to gain the advantage line.
His inhibitory barriers are lower than those of any other New Zealand game creator and that transforms him into someone prone to causing a break with the linearity of the gameplan.
Delguy, who played for the Jaguares and currently Bordeaux and Los Pumas, racked up 50 carries in 2019-20 playing for the Argentinean Super Rugby side from the wing, but his memorable performances are also recorded for the national team.
Like McKenzie, he exhibits a challenging, pressure-free style of play. His main objective is to find or generate the space where the opponent’s defence can penetrate, even lateralising the game and disorienting the supports that circulate behind him.
These incredible players of animal instinct are disruptive and capable of inserting variations into the monotonous series of repetition.