The Roar
The Roar

Rugby Fan

Roar Guru

Joined June 2010









Temperatures dropped ten degrees in twenty four hours around Tokyo and Yokohama. Completely different conditions here yesterday and today compared with Saturday.

It is due to get a warmer again this weekend but the two quarter finals in Tokyo Stadium, the semi-finals and finals, might well be played in more usual October weather. The two quarter-finals in Oita Stadium (where Australia played Uruguay) will probably be sweaty, because the roof will be closed.

The battle of the hemispheres: Who's feeling the World Cup heat?

2013 was the start of Tuilagi’s rotten run of injuries. He tore his pectoral muscle off the bone in September that year, and missed the Autumn internationals, and all but a cameo off the bench in the last Six Nations of 2014.

Ben Smith running down Tuilagi took place in 2014, not 2013, so, on that tour of NZ, he was actually getting his first England Test starts in nearly a year and a half. Smith may well have run down a fit Tuilagi anyway – the fact we didn’t score, I blame on Mike Brown running a terrible supporting line – but we know now that he wasn’t. Injuries meant he didn’t play for England again for two years. His run-in with the police was the immediate reason he didn’t go to the 2015 World Cup, but injury would have kept him out anyway. He just couldn’t heal properly.

Have England come good for the Rugby World Cup just in the nick of time?

There’s a Welsh regional side called The Dragons, so it would get a bit confusing doubling up as a name for the national side. You might hear a commentator say it occasionally, but no-one really uses it.

The English or Kiwis winning both World Cups - what's worse?

“with the wily Eddie Jones at the helm of the Red Roses”

Pedant here. The Red Roses is the name of the England Womens XV side.

The Home Nation teams don’t have nicknames to parallel the All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks, or Pumas. In the North, France probably come closest with “Les Bleus”, which is mostly used in the media by journalists trying to mix up the vocabulary a bit/

The English or Kiwis winning both World Cups - what's worse?

NZ didn’t top this season’s table but they did win the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco last year. Both Mens and Womens titles. They also claimed both Commonwealth Games rugby sevens gold medals.

The English or Kiwis winning both World Cups - what's worse?

One slightly off-piste candidate might be Shane Williams, who went to the 2003 World Cup as, third-choice scrum-half for Wales.

Graham Henry had selected Williams in 2000, but his slight size, and injuries, saw him out of favour after only a handful of caps in four seasons. By some accounts, he had thought about calling it a day.

His life changed after the 2003 pool match between Wales and New Zealand. Steve Hansen decided to rest a number of his front line players, so Williams ended up on the wing, which was his club position, and had one of the games of his life. New Zealand ended up 53-37 winners but Williams tormented them all night.

That secured his place in the Welsh team, and he’s still Wales’ most capped winger (though George North will overtake him), a winner of World Player of the Year in 2008, and holds 4th place on the all-time test try scoring list.

The best Rugby World Cup bolters of all time

So, I suppose the idea of Israel Folau joining the Olympic sevens squad is no longer a pressing concern.

No smooth Olympic route for Australia's men's sevens side

No problem, I didn’t take it as a slight. I think you’re right that Sevens hasn’t really found the right way to connect with the broader rugby public.

When we watch a 15-a-side game, we can all have opinions about why one team is winning. We can see one side is better at the breakdown/tackling/handling etc. It’s harder in sevens because it’s not always as clear what teams and players are trying to do on the field.

I do watch sevens a fair but but I’ll confess I can’t understand what Australia are trying to be at the moment. They aren’t a power team, and don’t have the high skill of the Fijians, or top speed pace. They used to be known for high workrate but that’s not what’s happening on the pitch.

No smooth Olympic route for Australia's men's sevens side

I write some occasional updates on the HSBC Sevens series on a rugby forum with a mainly Northern audience. People tell me they like to read it to catch up with what is going on, but it gets very little interaction, because people don’t really know enough to comment.

I expected there would be more coverage in Ireland of their successful promotion to the Sevens series but it’s under the radar at the moment. It might not get traction there until the team starts knocking off some top sides, and winning some titles.

No smooth Olympic route for Australia's men's sevens side

I still can’t find out. The last three tournaments have been in Fiji, but, in 2015, Fiji didn’t play, as they had already qualified. Then again, New Zealand also didn’t play for the same reason but the 2015 tournament was held in New Zealand.

The Oceania website doesn’t mention a venue. Perhaps the choice will be made after the Sevens series is over, to avoid giving home advantage to one of the main contenders.

No smooth Olympic route for Australia's men's sevens side

Yes, and I see Ralph makes the same point in reply. I’ll confess, I didn’t know that. It sounds more like the way the IRFU operates with top Irish players. Some English players do have to be rested from Premiership matches because there is an agreement on the number of matches they can play each season (which games, is at the discretion of the club, however). I should have made the more narrow point that it is frustrating for club supporters to have key fixtures while their top players are actually on the pitch for England, not sitting in the stands resting.
Leicester have played four Premiership matches while the Six Nations has been on, and have lost three. They now sit third from bottom. Relegation is still unlikely but not impossible. There’s no doubt that team would be doing better if Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs, Ellis Genge, Dan Cole, Jonny May and George Ford had played for them in those matches instead of being away on England duty.
Every season, some clubs gets derailed by England call-ups, and this time it’s most noticeable with Leicester. Supporters put up with this largely because we have no choice. I can’t point to a club being relegated through missing England players but it’s easy to see how some have missed out on European qualification by losing matches they might otherwise have won.
As a supporter of the club game, my first reaction to hearing that World Rugby wants a five week international window in November is horror, because it would likely cover two weekends currently used for Premiership matches or Heineken Cup.
Even the most one-eyed club supporter recognizes the importance of the international game, and knows some of the club owners are lacking all the qualities we might want in decent human beings. It just shouldn’t be that hard, though, to think about consulting people who are going to directly affected by changes you propose.
As you say, Geoff, the unions can’t just expect the clubs to “get on with it” because it just looks like all downside to them. If some quid pro quos have to be agreed to get everything to hang together, then those are discussions which should take place before any announcements. Public posturing, and threats of lawsuits are not going to be good for anyone in the game.
(Apologies, I can’t seem to put paragraph breaks into posts on the site anymore. Perhaps that’s a sign to me to keep things shorter)

The Wrap: Dark clouds gather again around Super Rugby and the World League

You can’t say no part of the English Premiership constitutes the grassroots just because no-one is elected.
To be honest, I don’t really care who World Rugby wants to choose as a representative of the English domestic game. It would have been fine to ask the RFU to make that decision, and have them ensure they were consulted. However, someone in the domestic game needed to be consulted.
I can’t see Super Rugby supporters putting up with a situation where they didn’t see their best players turning out for key matches because of international commitments. There was a lot of dissatisfaction when Graham Henry did that in 2007. It shouldn’t be too hard to understand why English and French club supporters aren’t thrilled that it happens now, and would be unhappy to hear that World Rugby had plans for it to happen more.
We’d be delighted if we could break up our season into discrete chunks. SANZAAR supporters know all about that, since it is the demand their unions made, and got, in San Francisco.
As it stands, though, there is no chance at all that the Six Nations would consider moving their tournament, and the November is the finale to SANZAAR season. If you want to have a discussion about suspending the northern domestic league calendar through the international schedule, then let’s have it openly, not by default.

The Wrap: Dark clouds gather again around Super Rugby and the World League

I agree. However, season ticket holders at English clubs like Leicester, Exeter, Gloucester & Saints would certainly regard themselves as grassroots supporters.

The Wrap: Dark clouds gather again around Super Rugby and the World League

It doesn’t matter which teams play five matches in any given year. You still need to expand the window to five from the current three. Why would you make that proposal without at least sounding out representatives from the domestic leagues?

The Wrap: Dark clouds gather again around Super Rugby and the World League

Define grassroots however you like. The sport needs to create loyalties outside (not instead of) those to the national team.

The Wrap: Dark clouds gather again around Super Rugby and the World League

Most play three games, not four. The international window is currently only three weeks. Wales usually schedule a game outside the window, to keep paying down the stadium loan. Consequently, they take the field without any of their England-based players. England sometimes schedule a fourth match, and they pay the Premiership clubs for access to players outside the window.

Not every team will play five matches, but some teams will. That means expanding the international window in November to five weeks from the current three. That has enormous repercussions for the domestic calendar in the North, and isn’t something you propose unilaterally only months after agreeing a new structure.

The Wrap: Dark clouds gather again around Super Rugby and the World League

I agree that we are making crucial decisions about the future of the game. That’s why it beggars belief that World Rugby would formulate a plan without considering how the clubs can fit in with it.
What was the point of the San Francisco accord? On the basis of that agreement, the RFU went to Premiership clubs, and thrashed out a new arrangement. Our season got longer – which no-one in England or France really wanted – and English international players were given more breaks. Part of that arrangement involved the summer touring schedule, specifically reducing the load in a World Cup season.
When early word of this new plan appeared last year, the RFU was reassured that the San Francisco accord remained in place but we now know that both do not fit together. I am no champion of French or English club owners, but I would also be upset if I had negotiated in good faith, only to discover an entirely new plan being tabled months later, with no consultation.
It’s a bad strategy, because you don’t want the clubs taking to the courts to challenge who is in charge of the game. There is no guarantee the unions will win, and they only have to lose one case, in one jurisdiction, to undermine their authority. I can easily see a court in Europe, or Japan, for that matter, challenging the legal status of mandatory player release in international windows. It is deeply unwise to provoke any party to pull on a thread like that.
Any discussion of the international calendar has to consider what place is left for club competitions. The players appear to believe there is a possibility of being asked to play five consecutive Tests around November. That seems unreasonable from the perspective of demands on them, as well as the disruption to the domestic season.
The club and regional game cannot be an afterthought to the international game. Loyalty to the sport is often bottom-up, rather than top down, and is hard to build up, but easily lost. The Welsh experience shows what happens when you disrupt local loyalties without providing a satisfactory replacement. The Western Force is another example closer to home for many readers of The Roar.
Rugby needs strong local loyalties precisely because the sport has ambitions to grow internationally. The game in Australia suffers when the Wallabies are on a losing streak, however, there isn’t enough room for every Test team to succeed even now, and we want more teams to be able to mount stronger challenges. Rugby needs to be robust enough to maintain interest at the grassroots even when the national side is performing badly.

The Wrap: Dark clouds gather again around Super Rugby and the World League

I see no evidence at all that the Six Nations unions are pushing the concept. Its SANZAAR teams who have argued most strongly for making the Test match calendar a more commercial proposition, and the current discussions are a result of that.

The World Rugby 12-team league is a Six Nations set-up

Sorry, NB, when you are start getting taken to task for rolling out some hoary old stereotypes, you don’t get to claim “See, that proves I’m right!”

Will England rule the world in 2019?

“What is really tiresome is the eternal repetition of national stereotypes without them ever being recognized for what they are.”
Nick, that’s exactly the point which several posters have made to you.

Will England rule the world in 2019?

You are right that Northern sides in Britain and Ireland often do like to employ southern hemisphere coaches but the penny is starting to drop that a lot of them don’t know how to run northern sides.
I don’t think that makes them bad coaches, it’s just that most aren’t familiar with the strange jigsaw puzzle you need to solve to have success in the north, and they often don’t get the time to work it out.
In England, the top 5 teams last year all had Northern hemisphere coaches. So far this year, 6 of the top 7 teams have coaches from the North. The only exception is Ackermann at Gloucester. Meanwhile, the 8th, 9th and 10th placed teams are coached by New Zealanders, and the 11th by a South African.
In the Top 14, the table shows the top 5 sides are all coached by Northerners. Stade Francais in sixth place is the best-placed southerner. Vern Cotter’s Montpellier are 9th.
Meanwhile, no Southern hemisphere coach has led a team to the European championship since Leinster under Joe Schmidt seven years ago. In this year’s quarter finals, only one of the eight sides – Glasgow under Dave Rennie – is coached by a southerner.
Oh, and for good measure, a look at the current HSBC sevens leaderboard shows six of the top eight sides have northern hemisphere coaches. Including current top placed side New Zealand.

Predictable Ireland bore themselves into a shock defeat by England

Big concern in New Zealand right now appears to be the sharp drop in participation at schools level, so the style of play doesn’t seem to be helping there.

Predictable Ireland bore themselves into a shock defeat by England

Think you mean the second and third tries.

You aren’t the only one to think Slade was in front of the kicker. A view from the other side of the pitch looks offside, while the view the TMO had doesn’t. For me, it depends too much on camera angles to be sure but I would say that.

I don’t think there’s any doubt about Daly’s try. If you are juggling the ball, then you are considered to be in possession, so Stockdale was fair game to be tackled by Nowell.

Predictable Ireland bore themselves into a shock defeat by England

I even go back to the Saxons tour in 2016. All those players should have been prospects to challenge for a place in the main squad, and the best performers given a chance that Autumn, when we had fixtures against Fiji and Argentina.

Of that squad, only Ewels and Hepburn (through injury elsewhere) featured this year. Injury kept Robson out, and you can’t help wondering why, if Jones wanted to try him, why he failed to do so earlier. He didn’t even go to Argentina.

Who knows whether any other Saxons players would have made an impact if selected, but it might have been interesting to see. After all the squad included the likes of Cipriani, Armand, Rokodoguni, Kvesic, Attwood, Hill, Devoto, Lewington and Wade, who generally showed up well for their clubs.

Why the answers for Australian rugby are blowin’ in the wind

I agree the All Blacks have a superiors scrum to England right now but I think you are putting too much of the blame on Jones.

After all, it was the scrum which was part of our undoing in the 2015 World Cup. Whether it was selection or conditioning, it was evident our scrum had lost its mojo in the run-up to the cup, even before Australians got in the ear of officials about the technique of Marler and Cole.

Although Jones said he would revive English strengths, I didn’t put a lot of faith in his comment, since he had a long history of saying one thing and doing another in his time with Japan. I still think he is satisfied with an adequate scrum, rather than a dominant one, so you are right about his priorities.

However, in his first two years, the scrum was not the weakness it had been at the World Cup. This was clearest on the 2016 Australian tour, where the Wallaby scrum couldn’t get the same edge over England as they managed a year before.

You can perhaps understand why Jones might have become complacent, then, especially since the breakdown seemed a more urgent issue. If anything, it looks like the England scrum has just slipped back to the level it was when Jones started, not that he has made things worse.

The English system does still produce props, it’s that they keep getting injured. Obano, Genge and Mullan & Vunipola are all unavailable but there’s also been a laundry list of injuries over the last few years for players like Henry Thomas, Nathan Catt, Nick Auterac, Will Collier, Max Lahiff, and it was a blow at junior level when Seb Adeniran-Olule was killed in a car accident.

Marler has ended his Test career prematurely but it’s easy to forget that Corbisiero is only 30 this year and already retired completely from the game.

Still, it’s not as if Jones is bucking conventional wisdom in England about our best props. There’s no prop equivalent of Don Armand. When he’s gone deeper in the ranks, he’s gone for players like Ben Moon and Alex Hepburn, who were both age grade England selections. It’s not even in Jones’ brief to bring along young players, as that’s an area Dean Ryan appears to be overseeing.

Dan Cole is an interesting omission but he isn’t the player he was in the set piece or loose. He was once one of our best turnover specialists but that seems to have gone from his game, even at club level. Kyle Sinckler doesn’t strike me as having good set piece skills but Harry Williams does, and he could yet surpass both. Paul Hill used to be Jones’ second choice tighthead until Saints went on a nightmare run. He could yet come back into the reckoning.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the Lions didn’t have any real scrum advantage over New Zealand, even with Furlong at tighthead and AWJ in the engine room. Arguably, that was down to Mako not being a technically strong scrummager but Gatland still stuck with him. It’s hard to imagine Jones will do anything else when the Saracens man is fit, especially since he can no longer call on Marler. Even in that position, though, England have another potential option with Val Rapava Ruskin, who has shown up well for Gloucester.

Twickenham showdown: Why the boot will be on the other foot at scrum time