6N 2016 – England’s back-row conundrum

A few days before England’s crucial pool match against Australia at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, back when the idea of Eddie Jones as England coach was unlikely in the head of anyone, the same Eddie Jones used a column in the Daily Mail to pull apart England’s chances of victory. Just a couple of weeks after his Japan team had shocked the world and South Africa with a 34-32 pool win, Jones’ credibility was at the sort of high he hadn’t enjoyed since his ACT Brumbies days about 15 years before, and while people were listening, he got a few things off his chest about England’s play, principally the breakdown. Continue reading

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TRC 2015 – Ellis Park Masterclass (part 3)

Over the last few seasons, Tests between New Zealand and South Africa have generally produced rugby union at its finest, in terms of old-fashioned competition, sporting drama, and no shortage of collective and individual ability. The 2015 Ellis Park chapter was no different, and there were three things that particularly caught tGL’s eye… Continue reading

TRC 2015 – Ellis Park Masterclass (part 2)

Over the last few seasons, Tests between New Zealand and South Africa have generally produced rugby union at its finest, in terms of old-fashioned competition, sporting drama, and no shortage of collective and individual ability. The 2015 Ellis Park chapter was no different, and there were three things that particularly caught tGL’s eye… Continue reading

6N 2015 – Schmidt’s space invaders

Ireland completed back-to-back Six Nations championships with a 40-10 victory that equalled their biggest ever win over Scotland. It was a patient demolition, a determined, mature and opportunistic display that had coach Joe Schmidt admitting he was proud of both the performance and the result. Another title? Yes, but Ireland officially became the lowest try-scoring champions in the Six Nations era (since 2000) and had to fend off criticism about a style of rugby that seemed to value effectiveness at the expense of all else. Continue reading

6N 2015 – Spoiler alert

Ireland’s 19-9 victory over England in the Six Nations provoked many effusive and merited reviews, but it came despite Ireland’s lowest winning possession efficiency figure (0.32) in Six Nations matches since the 2011 World Cup. Ireland’s previous lowest winning efficiency rating in that period was 0.42 against France in the match that gave them the 2014 title, and they have lost and drawn a Six Nations match with higher efficiency ratings over the last three seasons, so exactly what happened in Dublin this year? Continue reading

6N 2015 – Efficiency figures

When people think about efficiency in terms of sport, they generally revert to the idea that the word is synonymous with boring, that it’s a functional, unexpressive, even negative term. Rugby is a physically confrontational game with its historical/traditional roots based on brutal courage and above-average effort. As such, those who seek to avoid the confrontation and instead approach the challenge with tactical acuity can easily be labelled ‘work-shy’ and treated with suspicion, but modern sport is all about marginal gains, and efficiency is very much at the centre of that ideology. Continue reading

6N 2015 – Productive obstructive

Just before Wales’ Six Nations opening-round defeat against England, their defence coach Shaun Edwards gave a press conference explaining how they intended to remind the match referee about the obstructive England attacking plays he was expecting would probably interfere with Wales’ defensive systems. A week after Wales’ home defeat, the subject of obstruction again raised its head in their match against Scotland, but it was Wales who were the principal beneficiaries.

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