Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

10th June 2014 07:45

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Hawkeye cricket for rugby

Hawk Eye for Rugby?

Welcome to Loose Pass, our weekly collection of tapped penalties, fed scrums and quick line-outs.

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with bits and bobs from the June Tests - and be blowed if there is not some new aspect of the TMO that needs attention.

If anybody in the South had any doubt that England are serious contenders for their own World Cup, that will have evaporated on Saturday in Auckland.

It wasn't just that England came close to beating the All Blacks, it was that they should have won. They created more opportunities, outscrummed their illustrious opposition, missed fewer tackles, made fewer handling errors, won both territory and possession, made more metres with the ball... they were plain better.

In the end it was a touch of naivety that proved their undoing at a crucial moment, a small lapse in concentration exploited to the full by Aaron Cruden's tapped penalty.

A timely reminder that you never drop your guard against this New Zealand team. Ever. They are the masters of mental toughness - the only category in this match where England came up short.

But as a team, the English have come a long way. Much has been made of the rugby played on the pitch, but it would appear to be off it where the biggest change has been made since Stuart Lancaster took over. This is a team that works for each other, a team in which discipline has become a matter not only of pride, but also of responsibility to each other. There are no stars here, just 15 or 23 men who know their roles precisely and carry them out to the letter, aware of the interdependencies incumbent within.

Lancaster once talked at length about the 'emotional glue' a team needs to hold itself together under pressure. It's been applied with a shovel here. It will be fascinating to see now how the new-look team, replete with Premiership finalists, matches up this coming weekend, and you suspect the third Test team will then be the best of the two. The benchmark has been set by the first one. Bettering it will give Steve Hansen some serious headaches.


Across the Channel (actually, the Tasman Sea at the moment - ed) and perhaps Philippe Saint-André will be Google-searching for England's emotional glue suppliers this week. Whatever was amiss in the French set-up during the Six Nations, indeed, has been amiss now for years.

It's not just that France were poor - good teams can have off-days (ask Steve Hansen) - but the level of disinterest in supporting each other, in working off the ball and putting errors right, was disturbing.

The stats bear this out. The teams missed the same number of tackles (20), conceded the same number of turnovers, while Australia conceded more penalties and lost more of their own set pieces. But while Australia's scramble defence meant France made only six clean breaks from their 20 beaten tackles, the Wallabies mustered up 15.

For the fourth try, as Rob Simmons tore down the left, the French midfielders over towards the right just turned and shuffled back, meaning that when the ball came back their way they were in disarray. Of the urgency required of a Test-calibre team there was nothing.

The clock will be ticking on Saint-André's reign, but the malaise looks to be going much deeper than that. You could start with the stuffed domestic schedule for a general scapegoat, look further at the quantity of foreign-born players both in the Top 14 and now finding their way into the French squad and work forward from there, but there needs to be a far-reaching change in French rugby at the moment.


Finally, and much aware the TMO subject has been done to death, but once again, the need for some form of clarity on TMO rulings was apparent for Australia's third try on Saturday - the one with the tip pass from Tevita Kuridrani.

The momentum pass is a contested concept, but the principle of looking for the movement of the ball as it leaves the hands has cleared up a lot of confusion.

However, that luxury was impossible to interpret for Kuridrani's pass, as he flicked the ball rather than passing it.

The question to be asked is not whether the ball was forward - it clearly was - but rather that, if we can have superimposed lines on television screens which can measure the length of a kicker's kick to the centimetre, it must surely be possible to give the TMO the equivalent of cricket's 'Hawk-Eye' to track trajectory and/or superimposed 'flat' line across the pitch as a point of reference for the movement of the ball?

For that matter, a superimposed offside line and all sorts. If we are going to give that man a job of being the final point of reference for the toughest decisions, we should surely give him all the tools on offer to get the job done right?

Loose Pass compiled by former Planet Rugby Editor Danny Stephens

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