Tuesday, 19 June 2018

High time Eddie Jones rediscovered the plot

Apologies for droning on about England and Eddie Jones (I do realise that there are other teams in the world currently playing rugby) but England's head coach does have a way of capturing one's attention.

His latest offerings:

- that he is "absolutely loving" the situation in which he finds himself;

- that England's chances at next year's World Cup are somehow enhanced by the fact that the team has just lost five test matches on the bounce; and

- that it is when things are not going well that you find "which players in your team can really stand up to pressure” 

are arguably the most bizarre yet, especially as:

no one else remotely connected with English rugby is enjoying this one little bit, Eddie;

- no one with the remotest grip on reality now gives England any chance in Japan next year; and

- on the evidence of the last few weeks Jones can therefore rely upon a maximum 3 or 4 players. 

Time to find the plot, Eddie, and quickly.

Monday, 18 June 2018

England Rugby - If not Eddie, then who?

Oh dear.

Enough has been written elsewhere about where the England rugby team finds itself after a sixth consecutive defeat.

When the team was winning it was easy to ignore the selection foibles, the training methods, the injuries in camp and the brash utterances of the Head Coach. After all, Eddie knew best.

Now that England are unable to buy a victory all of these issues bubble to the surface and Jones and his team find themselves in an incredibly uncomfortable place.

The ridiculous talk of “greatness”, of being no.1 in the world, of winning the World Cup are all now a distant memory and discord appears rampant throughout the set up.

Win or lose, the third test in Cape Town is almost an irrelevance – England will return to these shores in crisis, there is no other way to describe it.

The problem facing the RFU is that they have little choice but to stick rather than twist. After all, with the World Cup on the near horizon, if not Eddie then who?

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Brad Shields ≠ Lock

I truly hope that the rumours that flanker Brad Shields is due to start in the second row for England in Bloemfontein on Saturday, are just that - rumours.

If true I'm not sure what it says about England's selection policy.

Eddie Jones has selected four locks for the tour, one of whom (Joe Launchbury) has been injured. So that leaves three locks, two of whom should start and the other used as a bench option. It's not rocket science.

From shoehorning three second rowers into the starting XV for the Six Nations to just picking one specialist lock to face South Africa would just be perverse.

If Shields does play he should replace the pedestrian Chris Robshaw.

Selecting players out of position, however, appears increasingly to be a Jones habit.

And it's worked so well so far, hasn't it?

[UPDATE: It appears that Joe Launchbury is fit for selection for the 2nd Test after all. Move along now, nothing to see here...]

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Springboks thinking outside the box

Rassie Erasmus is already showing signs of being a very clever international coach.

The two players who triggered South Africa's comeback from 3-24 down on Saturday were both from the Premiership - Sale Sharks' Faf de Klerk and Wasps' Willie Le Roux.

So it make perfect sense to add to the Springbok squad another clever operator from the Premiership - the recently retired Schalk Brits.

Brits is a fabulous player, ideally suited to South Africa's high octane game and armed with vast knowledge of the English players via his many years at Sarries.

If ever there was a perfect example of thinking outside the box, this is it.

Monday, 11 June 2018

England at Ellis Park - the Verdict is in...

Two days later and I'm still not at all sure what to make of the most bizarre of rugby games at Ellis Park on Saturday.

A stunning start by England, with plenty of front foot possession for George Ford to orchestrate the attack.

Then, 24-3 up, mistake after mistake after mistake - Billy Vunipola drops the re-start, Ben Youngs misses touch, Maro Itoje misses a tackle on the excellent Faf de Klerk, Elliot Daly fails to ground a kick and South Africa have 2 tries and are right back in the game and it's panic stations all round.

Did playing at altitude play a part? It seems likely, but it's still difficult to explain how a game that England were comfortably controlling could so quickly slip from their grasp.

The Springboks played some great stuff, but what is clear is that England's defence is being opened up way too easily. Query whether the departing Paul Gustard should even be on the trip, but when the main defensive strategy appeared to be to try to decapitate de Klerk, something is clearly not right.

Eddie's attempt to stem the flow by, before half time, sending on flanker Brad Shields in place of a lock, the unfortunate Nick Isiekwe, was also very odd, serving only to de-power the England forwards. If anything it was the back row that were struggling, with Robshaw and Vunipola conspicuously off the pace.

And then subsequently to blame defeat on the players' collective mentality was very poor from Jones. What happened to the coach taking full responsibility?

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Kolisi appointment pivotal for Springboks?

Whatever the outcome of England's forthcoming three test series in South Africa (and, while hopeful of English success, I do fear it could get quite messy), the significance of Siya Kolisi becoming South Africa’s first black captain should not be underestimated.

Much has been written about the controversial quota system in South African sport but what does not appear to be in any dispute is that Kolisi fully merits his appointment.

There is the very real possibility that this could turn out to be a pivotal moment for Springbok rugby and only adds to my uneasiness about England's chances...

Friday, 8 June 2018

Back in Touch (2018)

Regular readers of this blog - all 3 of you - will recall that usually at this time of year I am to be observed frolicking around the playing fields of Chesham playing Touch Rugby.

This year is no exception.

Dave's Dad's Dog's Dead are now four games into the 2018 Chesham Premiership 'season' and, with a record of played 4, won 3 and lost 1 (by one try at that), we are relatively happy. As usual we are fielding a combination of young pacey talent and several old gimmers such as yours truly and are managing to hold our own against much younger, fitter teams who really should be be wiping the floor with us.

My personal contribution to the cause is, it has to be admitted, fairly limited although I do find that cunning and treachery still have a place in the game - my sole try coming when the opposition stopped marking me after I'd signalled that I was ready to be subbed! I almost asked the ref not to award the score but I am ashamed to admit that the realisation that this may be my only try of the campaign took precedence 😉.

For those not familiar with Touch Rugby I would heartily recommend it - either as a way back into playing rugby, or for the fitness, or just because it's bloody good fun. This is my 13th season and, although I'm not getting any younger (I was an old twat when I started at the age of 41), my decrepit old body, despite creaking alarmingly at times, is still just about holding together.

Stayed tuned, if you can bear it, for the next instalment...

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Rugby headline of the week

All Black denies alcohol was to blame for entering stranger's apartment at 5 a.m. and eating McDonalds

Step forward Jordie Barrett...

Monday, 4 June 2018

Who is the real Donald Trump of rugby?

I have to say I’m beginning to find the public utterances of Eddie Jones a little tiresome.

His latest, labelling Bath owner Bruce Craig the “Donald Trump of rugby,” is just plain rude.

Craig had questioned Jones’ training methods after Bath prop Beno Obano was ruled out for up to 12 months after suffering "multiple ligament and hamstring tendon damage" while training with the England squad.

Given that Obano was the 15th player to pick up a training ground injury while on England duty under Jones’ stewardship – including a career-ending injury for Wasps’ Sam Jones – I really don’t think it is unreasonable to question whether Eddie’s methods are appropriate.

The England boss may not value the input of the Bath owner but he could simply have ignored it or dismissed it as irrelevant.

Instead he chose to resort to crass, playground insults. Which, when you think about it, is all a bit Trump-esque.