This week I’m going to talk about the top six inches and international crowds.
The Top Six Inches
They always say that once you get to international level the game is won and lost in the head. Last weekend had plenty of examples of that and it doesn’t matter if you talk about emotional control, rugby nous or the brain trust it all boils down to the same thing.
We saw it in the England v New Zealand game where England were taking the wrong options. A lot has been said about England’s kicking in the second half but I remember in the first half seeing May take the ball into contact, Roko going into the ruck and then Care box kicking. With both wingers in the ruck there was never going to be a good chase and a kick is only as good as the chase. It was the wrong option.
In the second half England could not get any territory and this was down to New Zealand great game a management and England’s poor kicking. Care again was forced into box kicking as the other kicking options were too often not available due to being in the ruck. Either the other backs need to get kicking games or Farrell needs to be told to stay out of the ruck. That’s where the leaders on the pitch need to lead. Robshaw was talking about the leadership team with Brain Moore in the week before and clearly they didn’t do their job here.
The Irish win over South Africa was also about game management and better execution. If you look at the stats South Africa topped just about every single one except the score. So much so that there were questions asking it Sexton is more influential than BOD!
And finally we can’t ignore the Welsh problem when playing the big 3 southern teams. This time it was against Australia who they have lost to by close margins time and again. As much as they can deny it Wales have a psychological issue and it’s causing them to try too hard such as throwing miss passes that are easily intercepted. But I think that there is more to it than that, as Keith Wood said on the 5 Live Rugby podcast, Wales don’t have a plan B. The bosh method has worked great against the other European sides but they need some more guile against the top opposition.
Cameron McMillan in the New Zealand Herald pointed out something that is really interesting, the All Blacks have outscored their opponent 27-9 when down by 1 man this season. Now the All Blacks won’t say if they practice this game situation but all teams would be stupid not to. The England world cup winning side of 2003 talked a lot about visualising game situations and working out how you would react. Yellow cards are an obvious situation where you need to know instinctively what you are going to do not trying to work it out there and then.
One of the things that rugby has prided it’s self on is having well behaved crowds and specifically not having the issues that football does. Last weekend there were worrying signs that this is being eroded. At Twickenham there were reports of homophobia directed at the referee and you could hear the boos during the haka. Singing over the haka is perfectly fine but booing needs to stop. Having Nigel Owens subjected to homophobia is totally unacceptable. I was going to go on about how he is one of the best referees in the world and does so much good by being accessible to the media and so us the watching public. But that could make it sound like that’s the reason the behaviour is unacceptable. That’s not my point, it’s totally unacceptable towards anyone.
At the Millennium stadium one of the Welsh players go booed, by his own crowd! The only way that this behaviour is going to be stopped is if we the people in the stands stop it. Let them know it’s not acceptable, don’t rely on the stewards they can’t be everywhere and see or hear everything. Let’s have a culture in the stands that doesn’t let this happen.
Finally 20K empty seats at the Millennium stadium for Wales v Australia? The WRU and regions maybe getting along better now but there is still clearly lots of work to do in the principality.