Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

24th June 2013 10:18

Share:

SKY_MOBILE Alex Cuthbert George North - Lions 1st Test

Tough job done well: Lions wings

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the Lions debrief, TV refs and the Junior World Championship...

What a pulsating start to the Lions' Test series! Four wonderful tries, bags of tension, a last-gasp kick to win it and a massive sackful of refereeing decisions to argue over. Could it have been any better?

Talking points started early on with Chris Pollock's ruck interpretations. A great deal was made by the B&I commentators about Pollock being a 'typically southern hemisphere' referee and that this was causing Brian O'Driscoll - and his team-mates - the problems at breakdowns early on.

Two things to say about that: firstly, the IRB has supposedly gone to significant lengths to make sure that referees are supposed to be refereeing the same way around the globe come what may. So there really should not be stereotype referees around anymore. But there are, and it is has been drastically affecting the games we have seen over June. Pollock's scrum management on Saturday left a lot to be desired - the front rows were so close on the 'touch' call that not one was ever going to be able to set himself with a straight back.

But secondly, it has to be down to the players to respond. Whatever Pollock was not on Saturday, he was consistent. For BOD to concede a second kickable penalty not two minutes after the first for the same offence was poor game and referee management for one so experienced, as was his plaintive: "look at the replay" after Pollock explained himself. How to not get a referee on your side...

Eventually, the Lions did respond, but the delay could have cost them dearly.


Saturday's Test also confirmed that this is an age of the winger as the main strike weapon. All four tries came from wings in their different guises: acting as second full-back and counter-attacking, coming off the wing and into the line, and simple speed and finishing skills.

With the winger and full-back roles more and more overlapped, the winger is no longer just the fastest bloke on the team, to whom the ball must be given in space. He's an extra centre, an extra full-back, the smaller, nippier ones are often used as extra scrum-halves. Only the players who can master all those skill-sets become world-class wingers. It's becoming one of the hardest positions in world rugby to fill properly, but on Saturday we had four of them, making the game brilliant to watch.


The video referee was perhaps the busiest of all officials this weekend. Nearly every try was up for review in the Lions Test, while South Africa and Samoa's match was riddled with demands for replays from the video referee by Pascal Gauzère.

The extension in TMO powers seemed like a possible good idea at the time, but now more than ever it's starting to wreck the game's momentum. It surely would not have taken much initiative to see Alesana Tuilagi's body angle and single arm, see Jean de Villiers' falling angle with his head snapped back, and conclude that something was awry. Instead, everybody got repeated views of a truly poor tackle - many more than there were reviews of good tackles made in the game.

Nor should it have been that hard to decide upon the validity of Alex Cuthbert's try or Israel Folau's. The only decision we found worthy of the upstairs question was George North's attempt at a second try, which video replays showed quite quickly not to be valid. And even then, with the obvious answer clear in most minds we saw the same slew of replays from all the same angles once again.

Saturday's Test match took a couple minutes shy of two hours. Even allowing for the injuries, which were many, this is an inordinately long time for a game of rugby.

The extension of the TMO powers to adjudicate on the entire phase leading up to the try is a yes. All the other bits are a no for us. Too much time is spent on parts of the game that don't benefit the spectators, too little time is spent playing or watching the actual rugby. A shame, for there really was a lot of that this weekend.


The future of rugby is bright indeed though, after enjoying another enthralling Junior World Championship this past fortnight. It was nearly turning out to be a great weekend to be Welsh, with all the Lions' points coming from the Welsh back three and the Juniors up at half-time against England.

It was not to be. Congratulations to England, who found the right way to turn the screw and showed huge maturity and fitness in their comeback win over Wales, but congratulations to Wales too, who appear to have unearthed some real gems for the future in that U20 team. Congratulations to the referee as well, who was better than all the Test referees of the weekend put together. It was a fantastic tournament.


Finally, we look ahead to the second Test in Melbourne, which is where the coaches will really earn their keep. Injuries are taking their toll on the squads, with Robbie Deans in particular facing a crisis after losing possibly five first-choice back-line players to a mixture of injury and arrest.

Meanwhile, Warren Gatland will have to make do without the leadership of Paul O'Connell in the pack, on top of possibly losing a third loosehead prop. It's going to be an intriguing week of switches and tactical adjustments.

What else should happen this week? Well, here's a checklist:

1) More analysis of the referee and his breakdown preferences before the games.

2) New boots with long studs for Australian goal-kickers

3) Someone to be assigned to Will Genia in much the manner Ben Mowen was clearly assigned to Mike Phillips.

4) Israel Folau to be given more ball in space. What an athlete!

5) A second Test every bit as good as the first please!

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 37 - 23 Cardiff BluesLeinster vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411