Welcome to Monday’s Rugby News, GAGR’s! Well, I don’t know about you all, but I needed a few shandies to help bring on the sleep. How bloody good is rugby?! Not to mention a double header in a friendly time zone and decent weather. The rugby gods were definitely smiling tonight. In other news, we have recaps from both games, the thought of a World 12s competition and a look at how Sale are changing their pre-season over in the English Premiership. As always, happy commenting!
Wallabies v Springboks
I do genuinely love how sport can write so many fairy-tale scripts. Moments like John Eales winning his last test with a 80th minute try courtesy of Toutai Kefu, ‘Goog’ Harrison’s steal in front of Martin Johnson, ‘Bernie Larkham’s drop goal Steve Waugh’s last ball ton and, now, Quade Cooper completing the ultimate “fuck you” back at Brad Thorn and Michael Cheika. Whilst I completely agree with Dave Rennie’s sentiments at full time that the Wallabies were far from perfect, it goes to show how much better a team can play with a genuine, confident 10 on the field. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan of Lolesio. That said, he’s played against the Kiwis more this season than any other 10 in World Rugby has over probably the last four years. He’ll be better for the rest.
Looking over the whole game, I was quite impressed with most of the forwards. Even with a few scrums going awry and a loss of the first lineout (again), there were still positives. That said, the same mistakes occurred at the ruck that killed us against the Nearlies: too slow and inaccurate at the clean. Too many times we lost the ball for holding (I’m still rather pissy that the clear and obvious release wasn’t refereed in either game except once in the 60th minute) or ineffectual cleans. That said, they fronted up when it mattered (see scrum PK win in the 39th min) and held the defensive line. Two players that may yet face a well deserved bollocking in the post-match would be Swinton (classic ‘tackle’ that got him cheesed) and Folau Fainga’a who recklessly attempted the TPN school of ‘tackling’ sans the ‘fro that offered marginally better protection from the no-arms chop. Again, deservedly cheesed. Being honest, their brain-fades ought to cost them a spot in the next match in a sign of coaching strength that, despite a win, we were all but one Quade kick away from a loss.
From the backs, 10 through 15 were solid, if not spectacular. Tate had his worst game in a while, particularly in marshalling his forwards out of his way at the ruck, thus affecting his service. Quade/Kerevi/Ikitau worked well and linked in nicely with Koriobete. Kellaway, after his try, went somewhat missing. Banks did his job well enough despite the escorting from both sides. The feature though was Quade. Deft kicks behind the gain line to set the Bokke defence back, nifty little inside balls to runners (unfortunately many not good enough to hold on to them) and fronting up in defence.
The reserves were, again, solid if not spectacular. The standout was, for me, Nic White. His heads-up 50-22m play (stupid variation… but let’s play what’s in front of us) was a pivotal moment in the half. I actually didn’t mind his dummy spit after Willie le Roux’s failed attempt at catching, as it showed but passion and a high expectation. His service and organisation was strong, too. A win that, no doubt, will draw the ire of one Rassie Erasmus back in South Africa. I wonder when that hearing starts…
If there was proof that the BIL bottled their game plan in games two and three, this was it. Appreciating that the side was slightly under strength and the emotional level was significantly less, the Bokke game plan was exposed for what it truly is: forcings back with massive fuckers chasing. An early prediction: the Nearlies to wallop the DDFs by plenty plus some. I can’t wait!
New Zealand v Los Pumas
Well, about the only thing NZ lost in the match was the anthem. It was, well, not done well…. :|
Otherwise, a relatively clinical performance from the Nearlies. Despite a rocky first 30 or so with (by NZ’s standards) poor errors, which are becoming a hallmark of the Foster regime, they got their collective shit together and scored a comprehensive 39-0 win. Whilst Los Pumas looked to play with the ball, their attack is simply ineffective at present. Even though they have come up against, arguably, the best two defensive sides in the world, they hardly even look like scoring. This must be a massive worry for Mario Ledesma. Maybe Cheika the Clown can work some of his ‘magic’… HAHAHA!!
World 12s Rugby
Reports surfaced late this week about a global 12s series that would aim to capture the hearts and minds of the average Joe pundit. In an article on Rugby Pass (here), Ben Kay believes there may well be more to the concept of the 12s than we can see with minimal glance. He names the RFU’s Ian Ritchie and NZ’s Steve Tew, as backers of the idea. Indeed, he says that “People within the game used to joke nothing was passed in World Rugby without Tew’s say-so, and Ritchie mended a lot of bridges between the clubs and the union – he’s your ultimate powerbroker.”. Whilst the concept, to me, seems flawed in that it directly affects Rugby’s now Olympic sport, Sevens, and will end up being hybrid union (aka League with more than one brain cell between all the players), Kay further explains that this may be the hybrid model that we will end up with irrespective. He bases this on potential research and studies on the safety of the game and how a sport once renowned for agility, deftness of touch and speed has been replaced by collisions. Further, to win the backing of the all powerful clubs, the financial model will be interesting. Whilst I would expect that any potential movement in this area is a few years away, stranger things have happened. Indeed, as Ian Foster says, we’d be foolish as lovers of rugby to dismiss the idea before it even got off the ground. Indeed, rugby fans are some of the most fickle in the world. I can only imagine the chagrin of the suits when the concept of Sevens was brought about; even more so that it became the Olympic success it is now!
Sale’s Brain Gym
As an educator and as a person who is interested in the intricacies of the human body, I’ll admit that Sale’s concept was well worth looking in to. Indeed, one of my fitness mentors back in
the Nation’s Arsehole Canberra was a trainer by the name Dave Nixon. His daily ten-minute podcast, Alpha Theta Flow, is well worth a listen. A relevant one is here. One of the more interesting concepts is (and I hope I’m on the right track here) is the human flag work. Whilst this is obviously a test of physical strength, the mental side of this calisthenics pose is equally important. Fundamentally, it questions the mind’s coherence of proprioception (where the body is in space) as well as the synchronicity of the body to work as a whole unit.
The significant passage, for me, is quoted here:
“Not just outworking teams but outperforming teams over the 80 minutes and the base for that is something you lay down in the pre-season. We can train harder for longer without people breaking down. It was almost a case of getting them through the weeks when I first joined whereas now we have a bit left in the tank so we can do a bit more. There is a cardiovascular effect and an aerobic capacity to that that you want to build up and the weight. Everybody is doing that… but what we are talking about is are you able to perform? There is decision making involved in that, there is your mental resilience, mental fitness combined with your physical fitness. So mainly game-related, that is part of it. The other part, which we are really excited about, is the mental fitness, the mental skills side of the game. All things being equal, how much of it comes down to the top two inches? Very few teams allow the time and space in the schedule to work on those mental skills. We have built a mind gym which is a gym solely for the mind.”
The utilisation of breathing professionals is a masterstroke. From my own experiences with Dave in Canberra, proper breathing (i.e. knowing how to both notice and self-regulate breathing) has brought me leaps and bounds. I can only imagine how this awareness could benefit top-tier athletes. I look forward to seeing how this works out for Sale this season!
That’s all for today, folks. Happy Monday! :)