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Rugby World: Eddie Jones' 'wince-inducing' prose, fastest All Black revealed, Wallabies reality check from Lions legend

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2nd December, 2021
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Although the Spring Tours might have come to an end, there is still plenty to talk about from the world of rugby this week.

COVID continues to cause challenges to both logistics and wellbeing while Damian McKenzie names the fastest All Black and Eddie Jones’ new book is winding up the critics as he blames England’s poor Six Nations on player ‘entitlement.

Eddie Jones’ new book on Leadership is “instructive, thought-provoking and slightly wince-inducing”
Last week we shared last week some of the gold from Eddie Jones’ recent book and the more that people read Jones’ thoughts on what makes a great leader, the more eyebrows are being raised.

The Guardian’s Robert Kitson provides an intriguing insight into what he regards as the contradictions from Jones in his recent article.

Kitson highlights for example how Jones shares his belief that modern players must be treated with sensitivity and yet also criticises inside centre Ollie Lawrence for not training as hard as two time World Player of the Year, Beauden Barrett.

“He’s still a kid, only 21, but the way that some of the media raves about him you would think he’s already assured of becoming one of the best players in the world. He might do that, one day, but his attitude was not hungry or disciplined enough,” said Jones about Lawrence as he puts into practice that sensitivity he says is so important.

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Jones freely admits that he thinks media attention and young talent are a terrible mix. In a recent interview he suggested that US Open champion Emma Raducanu had struggled on court after winning her first major because she’d been distracted by magazine photo shoots. In his book, Jones explains how he deals with that risk.

“I sometimes go harder on the younger players because I want to make them understand that they are entitled to nothing,” says Jones.

Trying to blame England’s poor showing in the 2021 Six Nations on “a creeping sense of entitlement” will annoy many who will think Jones might want to look in the mirror before blaming his players.

If the 5th place in the tournament was a disappointment to the fans, Jones’ decision to take up a short term consultancy gig with Japanese club side Suntory soon after the competition got many calling for an end to his tenure as they questioned his focus and priorities.

But Jones explains in his book that the 10 day spell working with the Suntory side at their training camp was invaluable. “I learn even more from them at these practice sessions – especially when the chance arises to work with Beauden Barrett.”

Jones went on to share some wisdom from Bob Dwyer. “He said: ‘The best coaches in the world are the best players.’ He meant that if you want to become a better coach, learn from the best players. Every time I talk to a leading player, I learn more from them than they learn from me.”

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Despite these benefits to the England Head Coach, there was plenty of criticism of Jones especially after England had delivered such a weak performance in the Six Nations.

But Jones is clear that not only are these experiences good for him, but that some England players could learn from Barrett and his commitment to training.

“One week, even when there was no game on the weekend, and he had a crooked neck and had to wear a medical bib, Beauden was at it with so much purpose and intent. He loves practising and training and playing,” said Jones in his book before going on to suggest that in England “some players tend to go through the motions in training. But you need to find a way to retain that boyish love and enthusiasm for the game.”

England’s recent wins over the Wallabies and Springboks will have got a few people off Jones’ back but the real test will come over the next two years where England will play two more Six Nations, tour Australia and then head to France for the World Cup in 2023.

Leadership advice might sell plenty of books, but Jones’ legacy will be much more influenced by the next two years of his coaching career.

Going, going, gone – who is the fastest All Black?
According to Damian McKenzie, he wouldn’t even make the top five fastest All Blacks over 100m and even speedsters like Beauden Barrett and Sevu Reece would be following in Rieko Ioane’s wake.

Ioane’s Auckland teammate James Parsons agrees with McKenzie and shared how impressive it was to see the Kiwi flyer be able to hit top speeds in both attack and defence. Parsons shared on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod that he’s seen Ioane hit 39.6km/h and reminded listeners of his feats in Perth earlier this year.

“I don’t know if you remember in Perth, he chased back about 40 or 50 metres to stop a try,” Parsons said.

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McKenzie might not back himself over 100m but he does fancy his chances over the first 10m, saying that team members like himself, Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga could challenge even Ioane in those first few metres.

Legendary British & Irish Lions coach rates Wallabies as second worst side in recent Spring Tour
Sir Ian McGeechan has given his views on the top tier sides from the recent Spring Tour series of Tests, and with just two years to the 2023 World Cup, he’s ranked the Wallabies second to bottom.

Of the top eight sides, McGeechan believes that only Wales had a worst series in October and November and let’s not forget that the Welsh managed to beat the Wallabies in the dying seconds of their Test.

Of course Dave Rennie’s men should take some heart from that match, considering they played with just 14 men for 65 minutes and even took the lead with 90 seconds to go to the final whistle.

But the reality is that after an impressive Rugby Championship where Australia defeated the Springboks twice and picked up second place overall, their winless Spring Tour has left them ranked 6th on World Rugby’s ladder. Add in the challenges around losing top talent such as Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete potentially for good and Rennie still has a lot of work to do to get the Wallabies consistently competitive with the world’s best.

OConnor-Tompkins

Wallabies fly half James O’Connor is shrugged off by Wales centre Nick Tompkins. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Cardiff and Munster finding it hard to leave South Africa
Most of the Cardiff and Munster teams are finally able to leave South Africa and return to the UK but some of their squads are having to continue isolating in Cape Town as their United Rugby Championship tours took a bad turn.

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14 members of the Munster squad have had to remain in South Africa and two from the Cardiff group as club management teams have spent a busy few days trying to work with numerous stakeholders to arrange flights and quarantine arrangements for their people. With South Africa returning to the UK’s COVID Red List during the tour, this became very challenging.

The issue has thrown up more concerns of the impact of overseas travel on players during COVID times as well as demonstrated how quickly competitions can be impacted when governments make rapid decisions to try and cope with fresh outbreaks.

A member of the Cardiff club group shared that they “have got reports of people having panic attacks, we have reports of anxiety and mental health issues. We are having to put the WRU mental well-being officer on constant call.”

Super Rugby Pacific schedule under threat as COVID restrictions return to New Zealand
Cardiff and Munster aren’t the only sides being impacted by COVID in the past few days. The Super Rugby Pacific competition has been put on notice that it will need to have a back up plan ready to go should New Zealand maintain its newly introduced travel restrictions.

As the New Zealand government announced new rules for travel and isolation/quarantine, Super Rugby coaches have been forced to think about some alternative scheduling options in case sides cannot move smoothly between Australia and New Zealand.

The current thinking is that there are three options on the table:
1) Persuade governments that they have an approach that will allow teams to travel, train and play in both countries safely and smoothly and therefore no change to the schedule is required.
2) Front load the season with local derby games so that international travel is delayed as long as possible into the season.
3) Rearrange the season so the entire competition is played in one country.

Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge explained to Stuff this week that he felt the first approach was a genuine option. “Most of those teams have learnt enough, and there’s enough support and infrastructure around them, and international experience to be able to manage bubbles incoming and outgoing,” said Mansbridge. But he did acknowledge that the current position from the New Zealand government is that there are no exceptions to the rules.

While Mansbridge did suggest that the schedule could be re-worked without too much hassle, the new themed rounds that are being introduced – especially the Super Round to be played entirely in Melbourne – could be under threat.

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Highlanders CEO Roger Clark, meanwhile made it very clear that he didn’t believe that running another Super Rugby Aotearoa competition should be considered at all. He said that the option was “not on the agenda” and felt that it would be better to move the entire competition to Australia than to repeat the New Zealand only version.

Fortunately Super Rugby does have some time to both agree a back up plan and to see if the situation on the ground improves. But the Cardiff and Munster situation in South Africa is a timely reminder that things change very quickly and governments are understandably focused on their populations as a whole rather than a sporting competition.

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Fallout continues after Dave Rennie’s BaaBaas cancelled game v Samoa
After former rugby heroes Dylan Hartley and Jonathan Davies criticised the Barbarians for the short notice they gave before cancelling their match against Samoa at Twickenham this past weekend, the BaaBaas president, John Spencer, has said that he’s very angry and considering legal action.

Former England captain Hartley called the situation “beyond embarrassing” while Davies, the ex Welsh fly half, described the BaaBaas cancellation as an “utter shambles and disgrace”.

Spencer and the Barbarians have tried to make it clear that they followed all the COVID isolation rules and actually had a match day squad of 23 who were fit and could play. They say however that the decision to cancel was taken out of their hands and that they are not to blame.

The situation looks even worse when you consider the efforts the Samoa side had to go through to play the game with many having to travel huge distances and go through quarantine. The Pacific island side were ready in their changing room pre game when they got the bad news.

With players from Australia, Japan and South Africa coming down with COVID in the BaaBaas squad though the decision was made that the touring side could not take the field.

“I am seething about the comments of Jonathan Davies and Dylan Hartley,” Spencer told Chris Jones in The Times. “As a lawyer I am seriously considering our [legal] position,” Spencer went on to say.

Before he does pursue any legal steps though, Spencer will likely want to review the results of a Barbarians investigation that is looking into claims that members of the squad visited Hyde Park Winter Wonderland in central London in the build up to the match.

One assumes that none of the players sat on Santa’s knee but the venue does attract a lot of people in a country that is announcing approximately 40,000 new COVID cases every day.

World Rugby look to attract more players to the grassroots with 10 new rule adjustments
With rugby being a sport that is often criticised for having far too many complicated rules, one might wonder how 10 new rule adjustments could hope to attract anyone to the game, but World Rugby are confident that they are making the game more accessible and enjoyable to all with their new plans.

The new rules – including playing 10 a side, smaller balls and rolling subs – are intended to make the playing of the game more flexible so that teams at the lower levels can attract and retain more new players. They include:

– Team numbers: Allowing teams to operate with 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 or 15 players and operate under 15-a-side rules.
– Game length: Matches should be a minimum of 40 minutes and can be conducted in halves, quarters or thirds.
– Replacements: Teams can use rolling substitutes.
– Scrums: Can be reduced in size based on the number of players competing.
– Lineouts: Teams may agree not to contest or lift in the line-out.
– Kicking: Tweaks to rules can include penalties and free-kicks only being kicked to touch from inside a team’s own half, while all conversions being taken in front of the posts is also an option.
– Pitch size: Pitch size can be adapted based on surface condition or the numbers on each team.
– Ball size: Teams will be permitted to use a smaller ball.
– Weight-based banding: In order to ensure rugby is “for all shapes and sizes”.
– Tackle height: Unions and competitions may adjust the tackle height from “the line of the shoulders” to the nipple line or waist.

The new rules are part of World Rugby’s “Game On Global” initiative and have been announced after 12 months of research and study into the game.

When announcing the new rules, World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont explained “The community game is the heart and soul of our sport, it is the foundation upon which our house is built. The law amendments announced today are a key element of our long term objective to make the game more accessible, more sustainable, safer and available to all across the globe.”

Ardie Savea leaves exciting move to Moana Pasifika on the table as he re-signs to NZR for four years
All Blacks fans will have been excited to read the news that flanker and former skipper Ardie Savea has resigned with New Zealand rugby until 2025 making him one of only two All Blacks who have committed to the country beyond the 2023 World Cup (prop Ofa Tuungafasi is the other).

While there is no doubting the value of Savea to the All Blacks and Hurricanes set up, one interesting point is that the popular back rower is only contracted to the Canes until 2023. This leaves an enticing two year period where Savea might well be tempted to join Super Rugby new boys Moana Pasifika

Canes coach Jason Holland paid testament to both Savea’s skill and his temperament, which he believes is a crucial part of the Canes chances of success in seasons to come. “He has a wealth of experience, a calming influence as a leader and a competitive presence on the field which most certainly brings out the best in others,” shared Holland

(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

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