Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching, Rugby Fitness, Rugby Team Management | Tags: Brian O'Driscoll, England rugby, Lions 2009, rest and recovery, SRU, WRU
In all the excitement of the Lions announcements, plus all the usual “emotional” guff about bonding and self discovery, the England international management must be pretty pleased.
To go on a Lions tour is very special. For the individual. It will be an amazing experience, but it is unlikely to make them much better players.
It is not good news from a rest and recuperiation point of view. These players are coming off a long season to face one of the strongest club nations in the world, where little quarter is offered. It is not what the doctor, and the countless physios, ordered.
Looking at the England group going away, three are unlikely to play a part in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Worsley, Vickery and Shaw (so old I played with him at Bristol!) are in their twilight years. Of the others, England will be looking to wrap Flutey in cotton wool, and perhaps Sheridan if they can find enough.
The England players not going, can rest, go on the national tour and start the new season a month ahead of their contemporaries. They will be even more determined to fight their corners when Six Nations time comes around again.
The Irish contingent is interesting because of the average age gap between forwards and backs. Many of the Irish forwards are at the back end of their careers along with Brian O’Driscoll. This could stretch these fine players physically.
Wales should be most worried. They underperformed in the Six Nations. Their coaching staff and players are away from the rebuilding process for at least three months. Several of their crown jewels are not 100% fit now, so need to time to recover. Make a diary note to see how many of the thirteen players are fit for the autumn internationals.
So it is the best of times and the worst of times, depending on whose interests you have at heart. The incoming Scottish coach might be secretly the best pleased!
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Coaching, Rugby Team Management | Tags: Delon Armitage, Lee Byrne, Lions 2009, Rob Kearney, selection, South Africa
I am always amazed by the confidence that some people show in their assessment of a performance based on the evidence of the game watched from one angle and without the benefit of replays and analytical software. How often do you watch a replay of a game on the TV after being at the game the previous day and change your opinion? And yet there are plenty of pundits still ready to pick out minute points of detail which have had no bearing on that game.
Let’s take a snapshot of the “Lions” squad first XV selection. Then look at the main players in contention. Pre Six Nations it would have read Lee Byrne, by some distance, then perhaps Rob Kearney with Chris Paterson in with a shout as a goal kicker. As the tournament has worn on, Delon Armitage, with his silky running skills and tries, has made significant progress. So each home nation has a chance of having the next Lions’ number 15.
What do you want from a full back at the top level? Excellent under the high ball, long kicking game, ability to break the line and finally, a dependable last line of defence.
What do the South African’s want from the Lions’ full back? Someone who cannot read the game, a player they can pull out of position, a predictable player.
Subtly, the “best” player tag looks a mite different if you look at what the opposition want. The non-negotiable talents of high ball security and long kicking game can be muted. Just don’t use high balls, don’t kick to allow a long kick back.
Breaking the line now becomes a more important issue. A good defence can line up a front runner (how far has Wales’ Andy Powell got in this tournament), but a 15 can join the line from behind the front line.
However, for me, the crucial element must be the unpredictability, the chance that the 15 will step instead of kick, will chip rather than boom, will release another player out of the tackle. The casual watcher will not see this. In part this is because the watcher will not have seen how the defence reshapes itself to deal with the threat.
How does this change the selection?
Looking at the elements with best first:
- Kicking and fielding games: Byrne, Armitage, Kearney.
- Break the line: Byrne, Armitage, Kearney.
- Subtle passing skills: Armitage, Kearney, Byrne.
- Unpredictable: Kearney, Armitage, Byrne.
My choice: Kearney. His game cannot be read in the same way as Byrne’s. That does not mean that Byrne is not a class player, but I sense that something that the quick match pundit cannot see is more important than the obvious.