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The Roar

Sinclair Whitbourne

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Joined May 2017

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Another very enjoyable article – many thanks. I do think he had some ‘Murray’ about him, if one thinks of the equally flamboyant and yet hard Murray Mexted. Granted Mexted wasn’t a movie star (but he could easily have been and he did feature on telly a bit in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with some ‘memorable’ lines). I am very conflicted about Mexted, who was a fantastic player, because he went to SA at a time when he should not have, yet he is hard to give the hate he deserves, damn it!

Zinzan didn’t get a lot of love from Josh Kronfeld in his late 90’s auto, but what a privilege to have seen him. It took quite a while for NZ to find another truly consistent and dominant presence at 8, which is a tribute to the quality of the player.

Zinzan 'Zinny' Brooke: Definitely not a Murray!

I will needle you and call for Priestland to be brought back! He is 34, so just settling into his game. He has some similarities to QC apart from age, although I think you are not a fan. I haven’t seem much of him since 2011 (which you might say is for good reason).

In an idle moment the other day I found myself contemplating the highs and lows of Welsh rugby from the 1970’s to the present (probably something to do with reading Mike Phillips speaking glowingly of the man management at Wales in 2015) and the joy I found watching Wales in 2003 and 2011 RWCs. Phillips and Priestland worked so well in 2011 and but for an unfortunate Warburton moment I think would have tipped France in 2011 and then who knows…

How Dave Rennie’s Wallabies are pushing the limits in contact

Interesting thing about the Brumbies is that much of their coaching and playing style came from Warringah and Eastwood and Manly in the Sydney club competition, yet these same smarts never made it to NSW/Waratah rugby. As an outside observer of NSW I was always struck by the capacity of the worst elements of the Sydney club comp to rise to the top for NSW and the best to go interstate.

I see Fast Eddie went for some of your picks in his just announced squad. Any thought on how Wales might go in the Autumn matches?

How Dave Rennie’s Wallabies are pushing the limits in contact

I think it is difficult to see a clear case for disrepute – it is no rant. Some of the points made in the video are pretty tendentious but I don’t see a clear issue, such as calling the ref a cheat, or the like. The fairly clear purpose is probably questionable but it can only become truly problematic when it becomes public. The most probable reason the video would be made public would be to fire a shot across the bows of the refs for the next tests and by aiming so much criticism of a referee who would still be officiating in another capacity in the rest of the series it is hard to see what other purpose making this public could have.

A significant problem for me is that I did not see any single decision or act of Berry that struck me as being beyond the usual issues with a referee. I went back several times to watch the Kolisi ‘incidents’ and just could not see an obvious (or even implicit) issue. I think one could have made a case in a few minutes for why the approach that Berry and others had been taking to the breakdown and inconsistency in foul play was not good for the game, or for the series. The length of the video was excessive to the questions at issue and seems likely to have also been designed to suggest a truly incompetent performance, which it was not. Berry missed some SA infringements and foul play, but his approach to refereeing the attacking side of the breakdown allowed Itoje to go off his feet and steal a ball that prevented a likely SA try just before half time and it turned the game into a lottery for any side carrying the ball. However, this was not a uniquely Berry issue (as the Super AU series and France v Oz series, for example had shown) and fluffing a decision at a breakdown near the try line happens. I saw a lot of defence of Itoje not being in a position where he was not supporting his own weight, so I don’t think it was an incompetent decision.

A big issue, I think was that if the referee had been someone like Nigel Owens, or Mr ‘it was only thrown 10 meters forward’ Barnes officiating I think there would have been grumbles but not the noise.

A bigger issue is that too many people just wanted an excuse to bag whichever team they didn’t like and were happy to use the refereeing as an excuse.

The case for and against Erasmus, and the men charged with protecting rugby’s reputation

The post office I use commented that my name sounds like a firm in its own right (which it is). If it is any consolation, I copped plenty for my name when I ended up in school here. And I still get called things like Sebastian, by people who are having an absent moment. Such is life…

The case for and against Erasmus, and the men charged with protecting rugby’s reputation

I can already smell some well diffused sulphur. The fact it has taken this long to even set a date for a hearing and the choice of people to hear it are big hints that this is going to be dealt with politically. The trend is not the friend of referees in rugby and the developing crises with water boys shows we are probably heading for a real blow up at some point soon – a side walking off, or refusing to have a referee handle their game, or a court case. Only then is something likely to be cobbled together. It is a pity, because one of many things I liked when I came to rugby was that players showed respect for the ref and just got on with things.

The case for and against Erasmus, and the men charged with protecting rugby’s reputation

Harry, I enjoyed this article, thanks. As a lawyer myself, I wasn’t too troubled by the length. I don’t practice in sports law and it is a while since I practiced in Admin law. My practice has all been in Oz, although the legal system here is very close to the UK.

I am not sure I agree that you have accurately put the required level for the ‘leak’ issue when you say “proved clearly and convincingly”. I think the standard is on the balance of probabilities, which is not so high a standard as you suggest. This standard allows for many cogent possibilities, but it requires that a leak, whether deliberate or by carelessness, be established as the more likely event. There may be an argument that the English equivalent of the Briginshaw standard should be applied (i.e. the relevant evidence should be subjected to a more rigorous scrutiny), although I think this is arguable. The same standard would apply to the issue of disrepute.

I think it is also worth noting that courts in the UK, as in Oz, tend to prefer to keep out of these types of disputes and will often look for an excuse to leave the dispute, effectively, where it originated. Of course they will get involved where there are clear external issues such as restraint of trade, breach of contract – an example being the Packer cricket cases in both the UK and Oz. I cannot see Erasmus will conceivably be handed a punishment so significant as to enliven issues of restraint of trade etc.

This case is really more a political issue than a legal one. SA is a large and powerful union, unlike Scotland. It is quite clear that SA will not accept a heavy punishment of Erasmus. The political consequences of upsetting a powerful union member are not likely to be appealing to WR. I agree with your assessment of the NZ QC – he has very well attuned political antenna. Berry is a relative nobody (particularly compared to Erasmus and, more so the SA union) and WR has a fairly poor record when it comes to backing referees against member unions, as opposed to individual players/coaches. The length of time taken to deal with this is indicative of leaving this as long as possible so that it might hopefully just disappear as passions fade with time. I would be amazed if there is any heavy penalty and I would not be surprised if there is not much penalty at all.

WR should use this incident to lay down clear guidelines as to who can communicate with the referee body post match and how they are to do it. I have little expectation this will occur.

I very much agree that there has generally been more heat than light in commentary on the video issue. The video was not a rant and, as so often is the case, a good many of those who wrote about it (including journalists) had clearly not watched it at all, or had only watched clips from it. The same applies to many of those who defended Erasmus. I thought Berry’s decisions in some important incidents landed more the Lions’ way, but I also felt that in the end it wasn’t the difference between the sides. I felt something similar about the next two matches where I thought the refereeing of some marginal calls went more the way of SA, but the Lions really could not blame the ref for losing either.

I am not certain of the role Erasmus had at the time of the video in SA rugby. I know he had stood aside from the head coach role, but I thought he had stepped sideways, as it were, to a ‘director of rugby’ type role – i.e. he was still involved in an official capacity with SA rugby. If that is the case, then I see it as disingenuous of him to try to assert his video is submitted in some kind of unofficial capacity. However, I also don’t see how he has the right to submit anything to Jutge and co. if he isn’t the head coach. That is something that should be clarified, if need be, for the future – just who it is who does the communicating and how.

In at least the last 3 Lions tours (2013, 2017 and 2021) there have been fairly unsubtle attempts by the Lions (players and coaches) and by journalists from the Home Unions to influence refereeing by referring to the consequences of a losing tour due to the difficulties of mounting the tours etc. Gatland, a coach whom I admire, partly because I think he is the subject of a lot of poorly informed criticism, has also hardly been above criticism for his unsubtle attempts to influence refereeing. I suspect some angst for the Lions is also caused by some pretty poor handling of on field foul play in the 2001 tour (the dreadful headshot on Richard Hill, arguably at that point the most influential player of the series) and in 2009. There was also an incident in 2005, though that was a weak Lions side that was always likely to lose the series against a very strong NZ side.

Erasmus took things, in my view to the next level. That is my issue. However, it would be splendid if the root causes could be addressed. The best referees should be handling these tours – that wasn’t the case in 2021, nor in 2017 or 2013. This means referees with the gravitas to make themselves felt and accepted by the players and coaches. The referees chosen should also be effective people managers. The referee team should meet with the two sets of coaches in advance of the tour kicking off to thrash out and make clear how they will approach their officiating. By this, I mean for example the key areas they will be focusing on and the approach they will take to the laws. As the tour progresses there could be further such meetings to address issues arising. Time should be set for post match issues to be aired confidentially and for these to be responded to in time for the coaches to address them before the next test. Personally, I would also make clear that any comments on the refereeing should be kept for the official channels and that heavy penalties will be incurred for breaches. At the end of the series, the findings of a review of the officiating could be made public, so that there is some accountability and some clarity.

I will say that I didn’t much enjoy any of the refereeing in the Lions’ series and the whole series ended up leaving a fairly bad taste in my mouth, as did the previous two tours. It would be good if everyone tried to remember that whilst people make a living out of this, it is ultimately a case of making a living out of a game. It isn’t open heart surgery, or a trial in a capital punishment case. Winning or losing at rugby doesn’t prove the validity of a ‘nation’, or a way of life, or even an approach to the game of rugby. As much as I love rugby and respect the rights of its workers to make a living out of it, this is just a game played by ‘muddied oafs’ (albeit that many often have higher education qualifications).

Fight the good fight Harry and stay as mellow as a cello. Thanks, once again.

The case for and against Erasmus, and the men charged with protecting rugby’s reputation

Well, next time I am heading to WA (might be a very long time), or you are over in the ACT let me know and we can catch up for a quick drink and talk rugby. Given your occupation, I just have to say ‘keep on rockin”

The Wrap: With the bushfires now out, can Andy Marinos regenerate Australian rugby?

I loved watching this guy play. In most other countries he would have been a test match player and, of course he was an age grade NZ rep and played for Maori All Blacks. He always struck me as something of a throwback to a more traditional winger style, as opposed to the power style (although at 100kgs he was no lightweight and I think he played a fair bit as a centre). As others have observed, his 5 tries against the Never Wozzertahs was an extraordinary moment and his play that game still burns bright in my memory. Terribly sad. Thanks for the fantastic memories and playing the game as it should be played.

'One of our tallest trees has fallen': All Blacks' heartbreaking tribute after Super Rugby star dies in car crash

Sheek, as you know we have our disagreements, but I love and value your passion for the game and although I wonder if we might come from different political perspectives I share your idea about the short term slash and burn tendency of those who manage capital. Keep posting and keep safe in these disease ridden times – you are a good man and the site needs people like you.

The Wrap: With the bushfires now out, can Andy Marinos regenerate Australian rugby?

Thanks LN. I am an introverts introvert and have worked from home for about 6 years, so it has actually been a pretty good time for me – much easier to avoid social engagements I really don’t want to go to. My work is wills and estates and family law, so it has been boom time, sadly. How about you?

The Wrap: With the bushfires now out, can Andy Marinos regenerate Australian rugby?

Thanks for the article Geoff and hoping you have come through the whole COVID thing only moderately singed (this seems the best that most can hope for). Two things strike me – the depth and breadth of difficult issues facing Marinos and co. Success in one and holding the rest would probably be considered a very, very good outcome indeed.

The costs involved in Oz Rugby strike me as being likely to be very large and the room to keep them under control relatively limited, in part because of the size of the country but also because RA is largely a price taker not a price maker on a lot of its inputs. It reminds me a bit of an airline, but without the ability to engage in options to contain input costs.

On the income side, at this stage in its business cycle, RA is probably also in a fairly limited position to set its prices for things like TV rights, ticket prices and even merchandise. Increased success of the provincial and national sides and growth in women’s rugby and a successful RWC bid and the Lions tour would/will all be very important.

I am reminded of the Buffet warning about investing in companies that have a track record of management problems – in a contest between a good manager and a bad company culture the culture usually wins. Getting all the admin ducks aligned in Oz rugby to put the whole ahead of each state/territory will need a level of serendipity (and probably mutual desperation) that one rarely sees.

As you note, at least Marinos seems to have identified the big issues and now let’s see how he goes over a RWC cycle. He probably is like a captain of a ship at sea in a hurricane, with a dud motor/no masts – he can steer and man the pumps, but is largely at the whim of bigger forces.

The Wrap: With the bushfires now out, can Andy Marinos regenerate Australian rugby?

Really appreciate the comment re private equity. The tendency for that ‘partner’ can be ‘churn and burn’, although it doesn’t have to be. When PE invests in distressed assets (which Oz Rugby probably is from their view point), the asset is really a counter to be traded as quickly as possible for the best return possible. The asset itself could be anything, so there may be a big misalignment of interest between rugby itself and the PE partner. The short term tendency can also work heavily against the interests of the ‘counter’ in the mid- long term. The other thing is that distressed assets tend to have limited bargaining power and PE will drive as hard a deal in its interests as it can. Finding the right partner is very difficult – not impossible – but very difficult.

The Wrap: With the bushfires now out, can Andy Marinos regenerate Australian rugby?

Many thanks for this; I was particularly interested in your section on Argentina’s problems with ball in hand. Looks like a coaching issue – attacking structures- more than a player issue?

I guess those ‘pods’ of attacking players could generate momentum if they were using short passes to isolate defenders, or offloads in similar way, or generating very fast ruckball, but in that much traffic it seems high risk low reward.

I’d love to know your thoughts on what Argentina are trying to do and how they can fix it. My feeling was that the squad was basically a pretty sound one in terms of player talent.

The Rugby Championship united southern hemisphere defence and attack

Thanks for this article.

At this stage it is difficult to make a call on the success or otherwise of Rennie’s time in the national job. Both seasons have been quite unusual, with all sides enduring disrupted preparations, difficulties of all kinds around COVID19 and so on. Wins matter, however and 4 wins in a row is a worthy achievement, especially for a national side that hasn’t done this since 2017 and hasn’t looked like a top 3 side since 2015.

Some of the plays off set piece this season have been wonderful rugby to watch – a nice change.

However, let’s remember that NZ won the test matches 3-0 and did so comfortably. In all 3 games they had built a match winning lead by about 60 minutes. There was a creditable fight back by Oz in game 1, especially, but it was still a losing performance and there is room to argue it was a slightly flattering scoreline in Bled 1.

Let’s also remember that all 4 wins this year were at home and that SA have a terrible record in Oz over the last 20 years and that Argentina were at the end of their tether after a very long period away from home. That doesn’t mean the wins should be devalued, or discounted – Argentina never capitulated and SA showed what they could do in their games v NZ, which were also played in Oz. However, we don’t really know how this side travels. Let’s just keep that in mind.

Another point of caution for me is that in important positions there has to be a question over development. Hooker has been a revolving door. The lineout suffers from this and it doesn’t help scrums or defence. 10 appears to be now the preserve of two players who still have some good years in them, but not many more good years.

A related issue with some of the selections of older players for me is around what it says about (and to) the younger brigade. I am one who think Cooper was poorly treated in 2013 by Robbie Deans, in 2015-19 by Cheika and Thorn. By 2013 he had matured significantly from being the Amigo he is often painted as – his 2011 RWC experience and recovery from a very serious knee injury had changed him and given him real appreciation for what playing test rugby meant for him. I could not be more delighted to have seen him again at what I regard as his proper level. But for me there is this question – if he was good enough to play 4 tests against SA and Argentina, why wasn’t he good enough to play NZ in Perth (at least)? What is the message going out to Lolesio and Harrison, for example? Is this really good man management? Some of it was forced by injury to JOC, but why combine two very inexperienced players at 9 and 10 against the fastest side in world rugby and then ask them to play a NZ style game that suited neither the forward pack, nor the backs, nor the two players themselves and which played directly to NZ strengths? I think something similar about a number of our young forwards.

There have been some unalloyed positives, however. Ikitau looks a real find at 13 and that is a critical defensive position. Paisami looks a worthy back-up for Kerevi. Hodge to me looks like a 15 who can play other positions because he is a good rugby player. But his build looks more like a 15, his running style is better suited to 15 (tall bloke who even with the work he has done still looks best with a few more steps to get into gear), he is a good organiser at the back and his booming kicks do require a wind up that you get more often at 15 than in the midfield. That boot is also more of a deterrent to opponents when he is at 15 than when in midfield.

I also remain unsure that the game plan is one that will work against NZ in future and I am not sure how it will go away from home against abrasive physical sides with powerful set piece. I fear that Oz will end up playing like New Zealand, but not as well. Arnold should really beef up set piece (not just the lineout) and in fairness to Rennie, I think there is an argument that the side is still developing a style, so my take may be inaccurate.

Australia’s brief periods (taking a historical view) of rugby dominance were largely built on very conservative rugby with a dash of flair. Set piece, territory, taking points in 3’s were all the foundations. 1984 and 1991 were more expansive but still built on a forwards/territory game that was competitive with the best. Australia does not have the proving ground that is NZ rugby and it should be very careful about trying too much to emulate it, without doing the spade work at school, club and province first. The Brumbies style is a more workable option, in broad terms, remembering that what works at provincial level doesn’t translate directly to tests. The Brumbies style always reminds me of a style that blends things I saw in Warringah and Eastwood sides in the early 1990’s, so this isn’t a ‘everyone let’s be like the Brumbies’ plea. Anyway, I am a QLD supporter, even under their present Old Testament figure.

So, I am all for enjoying the wins when they come (all four in a row) and enjoying them for what they are. Rennie is a winning coach and I think he is more thoughtful and measured than his predecessor, so there is reason to hope that the asterisks I have over things will be answered positively. Let’s hope the England side they meet in a wee bit is more like the English in Goscinny and Uderzo’s works before they got some magic potion. A spot of hot water and milk anyone, wot?

Dave’s Dads' Army: Will old age and treachery overcome youth and skill?

But my comment isn’t that trope, is it? I am saying that the schools and clubs produce the raw talent but then NSW seem to waste so much of it. I didn’t say all of it. Please do actually read what I write. I am asking why so many players NSW let go turn out to be better than the ones they hold on to, why this often happens so soon after they leave NSW. You need to engage with the actual points, surely, not make up a straw man. Or is that mentality part of why NSW have problems?

By the way, Willie O was on the way out, as was Gavin in 1996. Latham was a winger not just a 15 in his early days and, again, I didn’t say NSW can’t produce talent.

The comment about QLD and the ACT only indicates another straw man; ‘the Brumbies and QLD aren’t much better’. But they are also much smaller in terms of player numbers, population etc. Yet they do have better records. QLD have won Super titles in 1993, 1994, 2011 and then the rump AU comp in 2021. The ACT Brumbies have won titles in 2001, 2004, the rump AU in 2020. How inconvenient. I also don’t recall saying either QLD or ACT were perfect. What are the ‘plenty of other issues’? I can think of some, but poor decisions on players and poor development of the talent the system below is putting up would have to be one of them on any objective view.

Waratahs sign Sea Eagles star in cross-code poaching raid

Paul, I have some sympathy for your views and a lot of respect for your writing on this site in general, but I don’t agree on this one.

First, the wear and tear of these things is cumulative. Look at how poor compliance has become in Sydney and Melbourne over time as people crack. Lockdown doesn’t really bother me personally, because I have been working from home since 2015, I am not especially sociable and I have a nice large yard and plenty of space in my home. My workload has increased, so no economic issues. But I get the hardship for more normal members of society. Humans are social animals. Cricketers are human. English cricketers have had a very different experience of COVID to Australia, in case people haven’t kept up with the news.

England have played a lot of cricket in quarantine etc. since COVID season kicked off. They are now in a country where lockdowns have ended, but over 130,000 people have died in the UK and I wouldn’t underestimate the impact of that on people over there, including on cricketers. It is a whole extra level of anxiety, grief and pressure even compared to the hardship for Victorians /Melburnians. A lot of people in the UK are done, they are over it and the idea of doing variations of quarantine again in Australia, because our governments bungled vax and quarantine is understandably not very attractive for some of them. They don’t owe it to us to entertain us.

Second, a counter point to your article can be found at https://www.msn.com/en-au/sport/cricket/players-stand-over-ashes-shows-shift-in-attitudes-since-marcus-trescothick-s-day/ar-AAPdb2h?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531 Whether you agree, or not, worth a read. I think it also makes some salient points about the inherent and particular pressures of cricket as a sport over many other sports. That is not to say other sports don’t involve pressure, but the context in many cases is very different.

Third, the career of professional sportspeople is uncertain, prone to be brief and a very tiny proportion ever make a wage proportionate to effort and sacrifice. If players choose IPL, for example over a less highly remunerated tours, I would say that is pretty understandable. That is about saying I can manage ‘x’ number of periods in quarantine/bubbles, so I will choose the ones that will provide the best living for me and/or my family. Lots of people make calls on work/life/health balance.

Your article has more balance than some of the more idiotic comments responding to it. I am always impressed by how many people (and this isn’t you) who make comments about ‘sucking it up’, or ‘growing a pair’ etc. are people who squeal like stuck pigs when they have to ‘suck it up’, or make a sacrifice, ‘take one for the team’ or do ‘hard yards’ themselves. I recall a guest book in a London hotel just after the Olympics there had a comment by someone who was a professor of economics at a very pro-free market US university complaining about how the price of accommodation had gone through the roof without any increase in service when London held the event. That’s his free market in operation, but he didn’t like it when it bit him. I find a lot of comments about sports people and mental health/workloads of the same kind.

I hope the tour goes ahead and I hope we get a competitive series and get to see as many of the big names as possible. I always feel appreciative that sportspeople have made the effort to provide me with entertainment, but I never feel like they owe it to me. If I did, maybe it would be me that needs to suck it up, grow a pair and get some resilience and find my own entertainment.

‘Suck it up and get on with it’: Cricketers should stop whinging about bio-bubbles

Hooper made the Wallabies as a Brumby. I don’t see him as better player since. That he was 19 when he joined the Brumbies and 21 when he became a Wallaby (whilst at the Brumbies) and then moved to NSW, where (on your argument) he matured, really shows the opposite to your argument that NSW develop them and the Brumbies (and others) then just get lucky that they mature outside of NSW. Tom Staniforth was a solid player at provincial level, I can’t see how he improved after moving to NSW. He was an U21 Wallaby whilst in the Brumbies system and he then went to NSW in 2018 and played two ok seasons and then moved to France. How did NSW make him better? By teaching him French, so he could move to Castres?

John Langford was hardly a spring chicken when he moved to the ACT, aged 28. He became a Wallaby a year later. Mitch Hardy? Big Jim Williams was 31 when he made his Oz debut from the Brumbies. They can’t all just be just late bloomers, surely?

The thing is less about trying to spot particular players who did or didn’t improve away from NSW than to observe that there is a pretty clear trend that can be seen and a curious person might wonder why and might wonder if there isn’t some connection to a province underperforming. Watching NSW play I have been struck so often by how strong the side looks on paper and how they then perform like they were made of paper. To me, it just doesn’t make sense.

The Brumbies have been built on NSW players, rejects or people who were going nowhere, who became Wallabies at the Brumbies. I think that is a tremendous pity, because NSW clearly produces the talent at club/school level.

That a province like NSW has a single Super Rugby title after 3 decades doesn’t speak well for converting potential. Something isn’t working and hasn’t been for a long time. It isn’t that NSW is somehow genetically feeble, or that there is something in the water, so I think there is an issue when the step up to province occurs. If I were a NSW supporter I would think there might be something wrong in the set up. It isn’t for want of coaching talent either – Chris Hawkins, Bob Dwyer, McKenzie, the recent Kiwis, Cheika (whatever his flaws) to name but some. One Super title.

If you think that Simone and Kellaway, for example just got better because they got older then I think that might be an indicator of one thing that might be a problem in the provincial set up; a certain complacency. Did Finnegan just get better as he got older? Chris Latham? Stirling Mortlock? Both Ala’atoa’s, Pete Samu etc. How lucky other provinces have been for all that talent to just fall into their laps ready for the plucking. Yet NSW brightly soldiered on with the best of the rest. So many of these players speak of stalled careers, a sense of being ignored at NSW and so on. Might there not be something that warrants consideration?

I can see an argument that a powerhouse producer of talent (which NSW is) can’t hold on to everyone, but the thing is that so many of the people they don’t keep seem to go on to higher honours, whilst NSW consistently underperforms. Often they are weak in the very areas where players they didn’t keep turn out to be internationals once elsewhere. I see NSW as being very much like Auckland in (under) performance terms (in the last 20 years, at least).

This isn’t a ‘NSW suck’ comment – almost the opposite. What it is about is why does a province that has the history and that produces so many talented players fail to produce on the big stage? It can’t all be down to bad luck and other players just getting more mature. Are you really happy with the performance of NSW over the last 3 decades of professional rugby?

This is all said with great respect for you JezNez – it is clear you are a good rugby man and a passionate supporter of NSW. I respect both those things. You are evidently knowledgeable about the game and its history, which I also respect, greatly. I am perplexed you don’t share my perplexity!

Waratahs sign Sea Eagles star in cross-code poaching raid

Agree with the comments. I wonder if a lot of this reflects lazy thinking. Although I find League tedious to watch, there is no question that there are things can translate. However, they are mostly specific types of skills, or sometimes tactics. There was a time, way back, when it might have also been running angles and some tackling techniques. Instead of looking to develop the sought after skills/tactics, the tendency is to buy a player. For the players, even if they have a rugby background, it takes time to build/regrow the instincts for the game, because League is a very, very different beast. It is a pity so much time and money gets wasted.

I would love to see the NSW side move to somewhere like Newcastle, away from the bubble that seems to exist in eastern/northern Sydney. There’s a lot of good rugby and good rugby players produced in Sydney, but something seems to happen at the next level up. Players move from the NSW set up and seem to improve a lot, but it rarely seems to happen the other way. It is a really strange thing. Too many distractions, or hangers on?

Waratahs sign Sea Eagles star in cross-code poaching raid

Nick, I am really interested in Argentina’s struggles. They look like a basically very sound team and they defend well, but often seem unable to secure possession for long periods of time and eventually all the pressure tells. Can you identify some of the key work ons for them, scrummaging better aside?

A big issue must be playing away from home for such long periods, of course. I really love watching Argentina play and their try to win against Ireland at Lens in the 1999 RWC remains one of my happiest memories.

Get your questions in for Issue 29 of Coach's Corner

Thanks for the article Rhys – it is great to appreciate this wonderful game and the event that going to a game can be. Hope you are bristling with vax, or on the way – keep safe and not long until the next Reds tilt at a title.

Double-headers are double the fun

I agree that Oz needs to keep perspective- there is a real bipolar tendency amongst Oz supporters to treat losses as the end and wins as the ‘new dawn’. It really has to be about looking at what is being built in terms of the basic units of the game and what the trends are. I have enjoyed parts of the recent Oz games , especially some tries off set piece and I would pay to watch Cooper anytime, because for all his frailties he is exciting. However, I am not convinced yet by what I see. The forwards are a pretty handy, abrasive unit but they still drift off during games, the lineout is creaky and the scrum still capable of going from hero to zero without notice. More concerning still, I think we are developing a playing style that will largely repeat the strengths and weaknesses of the Deans years. Now that is a lot better than what things have been at other times, but I feel Oz are trying to play like NZ but will generally come off as the provincial rubes emulating the big boys when they play NZ.

In the backs, I am really troubled by the idea of depth being developed at 10 when both front runners are at the fag end of their careers and I don’t see the development of the younger options being handled very well. Hodge should make a solid 15, it is really the position I see him as best for – he is not the right physique for a wing and he is too lanky for the midfield (he is a big unit because he is tall, but not chunky in the hips and thighs and deep through the torso the way I like my centres), as well as having a kicking style that winds up a bit much for the time available when you kick in midfield. The centres and wings are fine.

Much as I love Greg Holmes, it should trouble people that 2 years from a RWC he is seen as the second or third best available tight-head in the country. He should be helping out as an assistant coach.

But there is truth in the saying that a win is a win and I don’t want to be too much of a Cassandra. Dingo Dave is a very capable coach and he has good people around him.

Thanks for the kind words and discussion Stillmissit. What a wonderful game we have and the summer is coming and that brings my first love, test cricket, another technical game with many styles and where over the length of the contest the side that does the basics best almost always wins. Take your catches, bowl with a plan and to your field, field hard, rotate the strike, bat close to pad, head still, be patient and strike hard when you have your chances. Life is good when there is quality sport about.

Where did all the Kiwi locks go?

Absolutely agree that the fact the legal side is dealt with needs to be acknowledged, as does the danger of jumping to conclusions based on one side of the story. The gravity, extent and breadth of the social issue is the other side and I think the sooner this is brought out and discussed rationally, respectfully and with a view to finding solutions rather than recriminations and making statements the better.

The issue of booze as perhaps the most dangerous drug in the community could also use similar treatment, as Stillmissit and others note. I am a drinker – love wine and gin- but I fear it and recognise it as being a bit like enjoying the shave with a cut-throat razor, or enjoying shooting. You have to have a lot of respect for the instrument, as it can hurt you if you aren’t wary.

Where did all the Kiwi locks go?

Agree. I believe Petti the Argentine lock is 6’4″ and he is certainly a quality international lock. I would like to think of Barrett as a starting 6, but think he might just be a fraction off for pace at the top level.

Where did all the Kiwi locks go?

I can’t understand what Robinson has done to offend the selectors. I worry that his body won’t survive the way he treats it but he hits hard.

Frizell is a worthy player and he has improved his consistency. I am troubled by something in his recent past that needs to be the subject of more discussion generally, though with some respect that is often missing and more willingness to look at facts and acknowledge difficult social and economic factors and biases. I wonder if Frizell will not be selected whilst that discussion is not had? It seems that in 2021 we are just starting to openly discuss what happened in 1981 and I wonder when we will discuss gender based violence? It won’t be easy because I think it also involves a lot of other issues that no society finds easy to discuss.

Where did all the Kiwi locks go?

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