Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

18th November 2013 11:01

Share:

Loose pass Posts v Read

Kieran Read: World's best player?

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the weekend's action, the latest innovations from SA, and what happens when rugby meets art...

Takeaways from the weekend's internationals:

1. England might be making winning as hard as possible for themselves, but they are also making themselves as hard as possible to beat. There are few teams who can claim to have led New Zealand this year (next best thing to actually beating them), but England were good value for their lead and put up a well-organised and credible fight with a depleted team. Oh for a creative playmaker...

2. Australia are not as bad as everybody thinks are they? OK, they lost to England, a result which England are slowly putting into context. Since then they have swept Italy aside and backed that up with a more impressive domination of Ireland. Better at the set piece, more disciplined at the breakdown, more incisive in attack... Whatever was going wrong, has been righted.

3. Ireland are significantly less good than everyone thinks. Victory over Samoa was a false dawn for an Ireland team looking more and more in transition. Joe Schmidt talked after the game of 'disconnect' between some of the playing units and players, which more often than not was between the older heads and the newer ones. It should get better, but next up are the All Blacks, hardly what you want after a defensive horror show like this.

4. New Zealand are still the best in the world, Kieran Read is still the best player in the world.

5. Wales can score tries after all! Mike Phillips might find a few more offers dropping into his letter-box after Saturday's efforts, Toby Faletau yet again proved his worth to any team he plays for with a Read-esque performance and surely Dan Biggar is now nailed on as Wales' first-choice number ten...

6. Scotland can't. In the absence of any kind of elite creative talent, Scotland are going to continue painting by numbers in every game they play. Lots of passes, lots of endeavour, all slow, static and way behind the gain-line. Scottish rugby is deep in the doldrums.

7. Currently, we predict a three-way competition between France, Wales and England for the Six Nations, with Ireland a distant fourth and Scotland and Italy scrapping against the wooden spoon. Still can't see past an SA-NZ World Cup Final though.

8. The tastiest-looking match this coming weekend: France v South Africa. Miss this at your peril!


Back in South Africa, next year's Varsity Cup is once again to be the testing ground for a brace of innovations to help sort out the officiating - or rather, to help ease the officiating.

Props are going to be equipped with 'grip patches' on their jerseys, on the back left for the loosehead props and on the right for the tighthead prop - allowing the opposition props to get a better grip when binding and, thus, to keep scrums from collapsing.

Meanwhile, each game will be officiated by two officials in the middle, with the referees operating in tandem during the match, both able to roam the field as they please in order to police the off-side line, the breakdown, forward passes, etc.

We'll hold fire on the jerseys as we're not convinced they'll make a massive difference, but the referees one deserves some comment as we're uncomfortable with it.

Not that the concept of having two referees is a problem - indeed, we've mooted it before - but it's the freedom they have that worries us. Referees make instinctive decisions and react extremely fast to a number of different actions. Jonathan Kaplan once cited to us a piece of research which showed referees had to make an average of about 600 decisions a game (including decisions which don't result in a whistle). Double the referees and you are doubling the number of decisions to be made, which seems to make the job harder, not easier.

When you think about a ruck, think about the chaos going on and the number of actual infringements that happen as teams desperately fight for the ball, there can only be one voice making decisions there. It is more than conceivable that you might get simultaneous blasts of the whistle, the arms straight up in the air pointing in different directions.... Who makes the final call then? How does that produce clarity? Do they have to consult before making a call - in which case you have an official's attention diverted elsewhere while they do...

We could of course be missing some info here. A sensible solution might be to have one referee at any given ruck, with the other one stationed away in anticipation of where the play would move to next. It will be a blessing to have officials on both sides of a scrum as well as level with a kicker, positioned by the posts for a drop goal, and on both sides of a driving maul. Lots of benefits.

But the messages in a game have to be clear, and for clarity, one voice is better than two. So keep a close eye on how this is managed.


Finally, a set of goal-posts arrived at France's training centre in Marcoussis this week. Not ones for Morgan Parra to practice kicking through though.

Former international centre Franck Mesnel bought the two sets of Eden Park goalposts back in 2010 (he also runs the Eden Park clothing label), when the stadium was being revamped for the World Cup and with the money raised donated to the Christchurch earthquake fund.

Belgian sculptor Anre Quinze has turned part of them into the sculpture pictured, which now greets visitors to the French national rugby centre. The other parts have apparently been sliced up and divided among the players - of which Mesnel was one - who took part at Eden Park in the first-ever Rugby World Cup Final.

"For Franck to be able to get a piece of history means a lot to him," said former All Black fly-half Grant Fox, himself no stranger to slotting a few kicks through what is now the FFR's sculpture.

"The French are quite emotive and, as a team, they can get to a level of emotion that no other side in the world can reach.

"Sadly from an All Black point of view we have been on the receiving end of a few of those performances. It's the emotional side of things that led Franck to buy the posts. France and New Zealand, from a rugby point of view, are extremely close."

The teams have swapped paintings, phials of blood... and now goalposts. It's a little beyond that old shirt-exchanging tradition!

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
Sunday , November 30
London Irish vs Gloucester13:00
London Welsh vs Northampton14:30
Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow Warriors vs Dragons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Lyon vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Toulouse vs Grenoble20:45
Sunday , November 30
Stade Francais vs Brive18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens 24 - 31 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Georgia 35 - 24 JapanGeorgia vs Japan Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Treviso 24 - 24 LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Report
Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton830
2Exeter828
3Bath828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821