Who Wants Tries When You Can Have Kicks At Goal?


A truly incredible response to England Rugby Union’s defeat of Wales by five tries to one!

I have no particular favour for George Ford in the England set up (I must state here that I am a Wales fan, so what difference does my opinion make anyway?!) and think Eddie Jones really needs to develop alternatives to him and Farrell, for that matter.

However, Eddie Jones’ comments in a Daily Telegraph article, defending George Ford against the booing by the Twickenham faithful, shows that he really doesn’t get English rugby and probably never will.

Jones has brought England’s first 6 Nations Grand Slam in a decade, and back to back wins over the old enemy of Wales. He has developed Stuart Lancaster’s work in the back line and ‘boring’ England can score tries all over the park.

So why was George Ford booed?

To be fair, not being a great fan of Ford, I could come up with quite a few reasons but surely the number one answer must be, he missed two penalties and four conversation attempts. Now the extra fourteen points making the final score 41-13 still isn’t the reason he was booed!

The real reason was he missed kicks at goal!

Eddie Jones needs to realise that the English fans have been starved of actual tries being scored by England for what seems like a hundred years, and in that time the audience has come to appreciate/desire/covert kicks at goal. For most English fans they don’t realise that there is another way of scoring points in a game of rugby.

So Eddie, don’t be sad, just realise that you are in England now and keep the crowds happy with a fine display of being bored to death by kicking the ball from the tee at the H-shaped sticks.

Exeter Chiefs ‘Not Getting Much Wrong’ According To Rob Baxter.


This interview with Exeter Chiefs Head Coach Rob Baxter, with BBC Sport, shows why his team finished second in the Aviva Premiership this season and narrowly lost out in the final to a very impressive Saracens side.

The day after losing the biggest game of your, and your team’s, professional life, Baxter is taking all the positives away and talking about older and wiser for when they are in the same position next time. I don’t think anyone doubts that the Chiefs will be back in the final and maybe even next year.

Baxter’s talk of learning lessons, a step in the direction we want to be going, getting a bit better all the time, is unusual in our time of an ‘immediate success’ mentality. Finishing second often is accompanied with a broom sweeping the sheds clean in search of winners! Baxter even talks of making mistakes in the future, which shows a true ‘growth’ mindset.

Amazing what is possible when club administrators, coaches, players, and fans, all get themselves on the same page.

4 or 5 out of 10?


After giving Shaun Wane the plaudits over altering the training ground to match the Mend-a-hose Jungle, and then the tough win on Thursday night, he had to go and spoil it.

Who does he think benefits from comments that the Wigan team were only four or five out of ten in their performance against Castleford? Even if it were true?

Wigan made mistakes, without a doubt, but they took the lead, and maintained it, throughout the match against possibly the form side of the competition at the moment. This was also a win at a venue which provided Wane with the ‘worst defeat’ of his career, in his words, last year.

The other sides in the competition know that the Wigan performance was more a seven or eight. That might not be good enough for their coach but every win is a scrap for all the sides at the moment. No team, including Wigan, is going to be putting teams aside by thirty or forty points on a regular basis this season.

Shaun Wane is a coach who wears his heart on his sleeve and his frustration on his face. He has questioned his players desire to perform and win, criticised them from deviating from their ‘simple’ game plan, and sometimes you feel that he thinks the players have turned in a poor performance to spite him.

Wane seems to have a belief that the ‘system’ they use in attack is impossible to defeat if done correctly. That system might go well on the training pitch but, if defended, it is defended by players who are not going all out to defeat it, in the same way an actual opposition is.

Any attacking system can be undone by a well coached defence, and Wigan’s block-play, coast-to-coast, style of attack is easily defended these days. Every team uses it and every team works on stopping it.

Thursday night saw Wigan attacking much more on the outside of the C/D-defenders with its big runners and that had an impact. The block-play extravaganza led to Charnley’s first try because Williams hit a three player cut out pass and the defence attacked in on the last block move.

4 or 5 out of 10?

No other team is going to believe Wigan were that poor, but the Wigan players might get tired of constantly being told they are trying hard enough or playing well enough.

I am not suggesting Shaun Wane should be over complimentary but he does need to give credit where credit is due and then work on the mistakes – because that is what they are, mistakes under pressure.

Referee!


We have all had our fair share of shouting the familiar ‘referee!’ In an incredulous, disbelieving, or out right rude manner. Once the heat of the moment has passed the majority of us are probably a little ashamed of what we said.

As a coach, I knew I had matured when I could shake my head a little and walk a few metres down the touch line without saying anything out loud or even under my breath.

The Wigan-Castleford game last night was a great match up. Plenty of skill, toughness in the tackle, a bit of needle, and it kept all the fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle blew.

What the match is going to be remembered for, however, is the comments about the referee, Ben Thaler, afterwards.

Clearly the Wigan team and fans will be happy, and the Castleford team and fans won’t be; and haven’t been, with Head Coach Daryl Powell leading the way.

I understand the frustration on the side of Castleford. I honestly thought that the knock-on, on the half-time hooter, was going to be a penalty as the Wigan player fell on the ball. Stuart Cummings, former Head of Referees, explained how it wasn’t a penalty in the reruns of the incident on Sky Sports, and Ben Thaler was spot on.

The Cas player who ran twenty metres to remonstrate with the referee was quite rightly shown the sin-bin.

What Daryl Powell, and the rest of Castleford, are not reflecting on is the fact that it could have easily been a couple more players in the bin throughout the match. The Castleford players were regularly talking at Ben Thaler over decisions they felt should have been the other way.

Captains are on the pitch for a variety of reasons and one of them is for them to be the designated player to communicate with the referee and ask for clarification on decisions.

Daryl Powell, in a video interview after the match, talks about respect being a two-way thing and felt Ben Thaler wasn’t respecting his players. Maybe he forgets that that respect starts with players, other than the captains, not questioning his decisions?

I will be very surprised if the RFL don’t sanction Powell over his comments and quite rightly. Daryl Powell is a much better coach than that, which makes it even more disappointing.

Faith in Wane Restored?


As a Wigan Warriors fan – the biggest bunch of complainers in Super League, according to one Castleford supporting friend – I have been concerned by the apparent lack of any tactical nous on the pitch at times.

So reading an article today where Shaun Wane details how he has had the Orrell training pitch altered to match the dimensions of the Mend-a-hose Jungle, made my heart leap with joy!

NFL teams often train with loud crowd-noise through PAs to match particularly noisy stadiums or use wind fans to create strong cross-winds associate in other stadiums in practices, but you don’t generally hear of similar training tools being used in rugby.

So hats off to the Wigan coach for looking for that ‘marginal gain’ and preparing his players for the environment they will be playing in. This kind of thinking should be the norm and not the exception.

I wonder how many teams train on a 4G pitch before travelling to Widnes?

How many teams train with worn rugby balls to improve handling? Or dunk them in a bucket of water if the match forecast is for rain?

Do coaches interrupt the training run by shifting players about to simulate changes made necessary due to injury substitutions?

This season’s Super League is showing the teams are closer than ever and it will not just be the biggest, highest paid, squads which emerge triumphant.

Maybe this year is more about which Head Coach can handle the pressure, the injuries, the competition, better than their compatriots?

What Rugby Union Desperately Needs – A Scrum Clock!


Let’s face it, the only people who like the endless minutes of reset scrums are those of us who take to long to get another beer from the fridge, or like to make themselves a cup of tea, whilst watching the match.

No one can remember the last time a scrum went through first time, referees are resetting them so often that they now dispense invaluable coaching tips to the front rows, commentators and pundits are getting increasingly frustrated because even they run out of things to say, and it is just plain boring.

The solution is out there, however!

But the kick-and-clap boys won’t like it, as it is a ‘Leaguey’ invention.

– In the NRL, this season, they are trialing a ‘scrum clock’, and I think Union should have it as well.

In play, a knock-on occurs, no advantage is forthcoming to the non-offending team, so the referee blows his whistle and indicates for a scrum. He then calls for the scrum (or shot) clock to be ‘on’ and the teams have 35 seconds to form the scrum. Hence speeding up the game.

Let us ignore the age-old wisdom of the importance of the ‘dark and manly arts’ of forward play and agree a scrum, in the Laws, is a way to get play restarted. So let’s get play restarted, start the scrum clock, and the players should ‘engage’ within 35 seconds.

Then all we have to do is deal with the endless resets!

Simple, again. If the scrum goes down, then the referee makes a decision – penalty to one side or the other.

In the final round of last year’s 6 Nations, Rugby Union fans were reminded that their game can run, tackle, and score tries. No one was hanging around as they needed as many points as possible.

Maybe the scrum clock can help them re-find that kind of game that was so thrilling to watch.

Two Referees?


Let’s face facts – the referee is the unsung hero of the game of rugby and the real reason why we love to watch the ‘footy’ on the tv.

If our team wins then the referee ‘had a good game’ and if our team loses then the referee ‘had a shocker’.

At a match the referee is too small on the pitch for any real feeling of love or loathing to manifest itself but when the game is on the tv then it is pure pantomime.

Not only do we get lots of glorious close-ups of the guy we love/hate, but we have the wonders of modern technology with thirty different slow-motion replays from all the angles, along with infra-red and x-ray. Face it NASA hasn’t put Mars under as much scrutiny or more expensive technology than the referee in a game of rugby on tv.

But what about if there were two referees on the pitch at the same time?

Imagine the boos, hisses, and look – he really is behind you as well!

The NRL have been running their matches with two referees for a couple of years now, and it seems to work. The main referee does the usual job of getting the calls right or wrong, only giving a penalty when it should have been a sending off, and all the rest. . .and the second referee polices the play of the ball area and keeps a weather-eye on foul play, as well as supporting the main ref in the key decisions.

You still have your touch judges, in-goal judges, and the TMO, but the second referee seems to clear up most of the controversy that can easily happen in a game.

I know, given how I started this piece, then two referees seems to take the real fun of rugby – leaning on the ref – out of it.

However, the rugby seems to take over and you almost don’t notice that your real job watching the match is to shout helpful comments at the referee via the tv screen and you sit back and watch the footy and root for your team.

I’d certainly like to see have two on pitch officials trailed in the Super League. Especially, as it tidies up the rucks and makes the play quicker. Then you add in play-the-ball correctly and a time limit on goal-line drop puts and scrums, and you have a quicker game with more gaps, players tiring more quickly, and finding more gaps etc.

More rugby and less pantomime has got to be good for the game – hasn’t it?