Monday, 31 December 2012

Chemistry in Rugby

Center Tag Teams.

Centers are the glue in a squad, without them the team is lost. In the worlds best clubs and countries, there have always been successful centers to successful sides, being the backbone of any team. In the all blacks, Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams were made for each other, rotating in the first and second roles they have filled both very well,
playing to each others weaknesses and strenghts. Nonu adding weight as well as strength to the defence, and Williams being the agile fast reliable penetration of any line. This is an ideal pair, to any team, All Blacks or not. 

In the English squad that beat New Zealand, Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt really made an impetuous performance. However Tuilagi really did end up taking the trophy as he outplayed Barritt. That said Barritt did have a good performance as well. Were he to have played 12 ? Things could have turned out slightly different than expected. The All Blacks are solid tacklers in the tight defence compared to that of out on the wing channels. Centers altogether in a nutshell are the making or breaking of any team. Having most crucial breaks, tackles and tries coming from their areas in the backline. Overall I think that Every team should have one playmaker and one powerhouse for centers. Playing to their strengths and weaknesses and complimenting their style of play.

Rugby's flaw in logic.

Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage, Collapse.

Rugby's scrum rules, have gone from the somewhat countdown, to the spontaneous "set". I think this has worked for the better. For a while scrums was the let down point of our game. This was becoming more of a problem and was reeking havoc to the flow, becoming a stutter in the attack. Something had to be done. That said there still is a problem with prop's binding and maintaining the scrum erect with loosehead's having nothing to bind onto, they're often left dangling. We have come along way from where we were 2 years ago. Now with more wins against the head, it has made the game more exciting and unpredictable.

The lead up to the contact was before a countdown,but is now more of a competitive spring into the hit. Having props being on their toes and alert. Before, the hit was more of a swing into contact, rather than a spring from the legs and back. Therefore having more competition in the initial hit, than a drive. As before it was an impatient leg drive somewhat a swinging running motion into contact. This means that the old fashioned prop has to be less of an anchor for the first hit, and pretty much now to be a train going nowhere but forward.

Traditionally props could play both positions. This is not the case now. Loosehead's have to be leaner, more steady in their core and legs. To have the ability to drive at an upwards angle, their necks strong, but relying more on the lower half of their body for stability and frame. Tighthead's have to be filled out and broad at the chest, having a strong upper body. Being able to drive in a downwards angle. Being top heavy and still remain stable in the hips and legs. To put into perspective, Cian Healy weighs less than Mike Ross. If you were to compare these side by side. Healy has more thick, stable legs in proportion to his body, his chest wouldn't be as broad as that of Ross, or his shoulders. There is more of a slightness to Healys neck, this being in effort to prevent injury to his neck and the upwards motion. Ross is alot more square at the neck, having bigger arms, to motion the loosehead down. These two players are ideal examples of how the structure of the front row should be.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Profile and Background

Paddy Jackson Profile.

Paddy Jackson is quite a spectacle to observe on the pitch, in open play he strings the centers formidably to create space and opportunities. When he was only 18, he was playing with Ireland under 20's in 2011 in the 6 Nations, he was quite obviously far superior for his age. Playing at an international level for his country 2 years younger than the rest of his comrades really is a feat in its own. He for an outhalf or any other player on the pitch is fully capable of tackling anybody, although this isn't exactly his forte, this is where he stands out from all of the other somewhat grabby tacklers for 10's. His composure is second to none, although he had a rocky start to the Heineken cup final last year against Leinster experience will sort itself out, he is still only 20. Fresh out of school he has made a quick enter to the International limelight, playing for Irish Wolfhounds against Fiji in the Guinness series, he successfully made 5 conversions.
                                    Before Entering the professional scene in club and international rugby he attended Methodist College in Belfast. In his first year out of school he played for Dungannon RFC in Ulster, he made the achievement of standing in the top point scorers in the All Ireland League at only 19 years. He in my opinion ideally will move into first center and play along side Jonathan Sexton. In his eyes I suppose he is going to make the long term goal of overtaking him, although this is very unlikely as his only chance of this, will be if Sexton falls victim to an injury. He will have to contend with a good few up and coming first centers, in under 18', 20's level and club academy level. He has though got a very promising career in front of him, how he uses his gift of time will be another issue altogether weather to move full time or stay at 10. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Count down to the beginning of The Super 15

Pre Season expectations...

In the weeks prior to the start of the tournament, the media is going to have full focus on the players in training and the gym. It is now December and things are already starting to heat up. We don't expect the players to hit the ground running at the beginning of the season but to build up momentum, and now is the time to start. Fitness is going to be a demanding aspect of the first 2 to 3 games, after these the game will return to its normal pace. What inevitably helps a team to reach the top half of the table, is a consistent winning streak at the start obviously. Having the upper hand on your tight contenders will be a margin so small that every match is to be taken with precaution and no nonsense what so ever. The managing staff will be and always has been a huge contribution to the kick start of the season. Players are told what to do, when to, and how to, but by who their told is another aspect altogether  The quality of the strength and conditioning coaches, fitness and endurance will reflect entirely on the outcome of the first 6 weeks or so.

In the last season's ending, it was not a fluke in any way shape or form, but reflected perfectly how the teams performed. The Stormers came in first place leading by only 2 points over the Chiefs. In my view this wasn't exactly a competition between the actual teams but between the clubs countries. South Africa coming in at first (the Stormers) followed closely by New Zealand (the Chiefs), and Australia 3rd (the Reds) . The beginning of the season will be a good one, in the 2nd round a good derby between the Highlanders and the Chiefs will set the pressure high and tempo fast. The Chiefs should win this fixture considering they hold their wits and play well. More importantly there will be an Australian derby, having the Reds play the Waratahs at home in Queensland. If the Waratahs bring a strong back line with a solid pack they should give the home side a run for their money. The Hurricanes shouldn't walk into the competition confident, as they only in the 2nd round they are to play the Bulls. Over all I see the Crusaders coming into the season with a bang, although their first match is in the 3rd round with the Blues in March. They should come out on top, with a quick return to their hard style of play in the forwards and exploiting weak centers with their own and play making from Dan Carter. Playing the Hurricanes in the 4th round will also be a tough match, depending on their outcome with the Blues will have a lot depending on this. The beginning will influence the season until the end, having teams with a poor start having to scramble for every point they can sever, and those with a good start can play with ease and less pressure thus being allowed to focus on other aspects of their game into more detail.

Profile and Background

Manu Samoa Tuilagi profile.

Manu Tuilagi more commonly known, is quite honestly one of the best players to the new style of game. He has been in the public eye a number of times for good and for bad. Renowned for his head knocking right dig to Chris Ashton. In my eyes, he is a young version of Jonah Lomu. He has the physique of that of a prop, the speed of a back, immense amount of strength and the way he carries himself, weaving past weak arms is the same of a winger, and pounces in and out of contact is a phenomenon. He is quite a specimen, weighing at 110 kilos (Thats the same as Cian Healy) and standing at only 6 foot. He still remains only 21. This is one of his incredible feats, as he is considerably young for the starting 15 of an international squad.
He has although got plenty more to come, in terms of play and drama.
                           Tuilagi was born in Samoa. He lived there until he moved to England, on that of a tourist's visa, to 5 of his brothers which played with Leicester Tigers at the time. He was only 12 when he moved. He spoke little English, only of which was learnt in school. His first match was for Hinckley Rugby Club, playing for the under 14's. He says he was smaller and somewhat fatter than the other boys, and his first impression was that he couldn't believe that everybody else was the same age as him. In 2009 he was in risk of deportation, the visa had ran out. His first reaction was that he didn't exactly care, although when his ambitions in rugby came into play, he only became concerned then. Obviously he wasn't deported in the end.
                           He quickly made an impact to the international spotlight in his performance against New Zealand, being one of many to come. He in the match played outstandingly when he needed to, in the 53rd minute he gave an assist on the 5 meter line. 4 minutes later, he broke the midfield channel line, shaking off 3 attempted tackles to which was another assist, funnily enough to Chris Ashton. This was the point of no return, England were ahead by 2 tries with less than 20 minutes left of play. If that wasn't bad enough, he got an intercept, his acceleration shocked me as he beat any contenders. To add salt to a wound, he jogged the last couple of meters, and tapped to ball down. To not only beat them but to do it in this fashion will not be done again, I can assure you. He really is an enjoyment to watch and a player to look out for.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Rugbys changing

Rugby World Cup theory.

Rugby changes slowly, but sometimes without us realising. This is because I think, we don't see this seasons standard as higher than the last, but more playing better and keeping up with our competitors. Whats happening is the game is evolving slowly but surely. What I did was, I watched 4 matches from 4 different world cups. I chose them because, we wouldn't notice any difference from one year to the next, however the differences are a lot more apparent and visible over a 4 year time frame. Also these matches would be the highest international standard of that year...

               In 2003 in the England and Australia match, what I noticed was that there was a very fast tempo in the backline. Not as many rucks were being attacked from a defensive perspective (meaning very little counter rucking). Kicking wasn't only used to relieve pressure, but to apply it more often than not. Scrums were more sloppy and not as competitive. Set pieces were a lot more off cue and possession wasn't seen as precious as it is now. I'm not saying that the players weren't competitive, but they didn't seize the opportunities as that they could have contested. The forwards were not as concerned about winning the ball against the head in set pieces but more as the chore of the backline or error of the opposition.

                In 2011, in the the World cup semi final of New Zealand and France. What struck me were the forwards from the breakdown in defence, situated themselves as tight as they could. As the backs, were predominantly in the 2nd and wing channels. The whole teams defencive line speed was exceptional, not rushing up t the opposition, but more keeping it organised and strong. What appeared to be the game plan, was to have the forwards draw and concentrate the defence, then to exploit the wing. Having a tight rugby league style of play, then an American football exploitation of the wing, but of course with having the 10 dictate the timing and placement. With a rather play maker of a 10 dictation, which is a very technical and rather the out halves trying to read each others next move or plan.

                 In 1999, New Zealand again were playing France in a semi final. What actually stunned me was the overall standard of skills, has improved dramatically to how we are expected to play now. Having a winger charge through a number of tackles on more than one occasion would not happen in today's game therefore having tackling not as much as . (I will though give them some sympathy as this winger was Jonah Lomu) During the match there were 2 drop goals. To me this says that, the players didn't value possession and attacking opportunities as much as we do now, but rather were more reckless in their decision making ability.

Overall, we have evolved a lot from the careless, sloppy and unpredictable game that it was. We still have a long way to go, but that said it's developing at a fast rate. Rules that are being added and altered, are effectively trying to change the game into more of a free flowing game that it should be. The players themselves have gone from heavy, strong men to lean, productive rugby players suited to their positions roll.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Where are they now ?

Where are they now, Jonah Lomu.

Former rugby players from years ago have either gradually faded from the public limelight, or have tried hanging in there for the moneys worth, and in the rare case, their own enjoyment.

Jonah Lomu, he is the Pele of rugby. But what has ever happened to him ?
When he retired in 2007 because of injury, he was left idle. However a year later he was persuaded to participate in a charity match in Twickenham. He played this match, but rumors quickly circulated that he was to sign for a 3rd division french club,"Marseilles Vitrolles". These were of course untrue.
                           In 2009, He took part in an amateurs bodybuilding competition in Wellington. He finished second in 2 categories, men's over 90 kilos, and mixed pairs. This was I think, in effort to return to rugby. He then actually signed for Marseilles Vitrolles in the end. Starting at center, he then moved to number 8.
                           Later in 2011 he planned to take part in the charity boxing event, "Fight for life". He was scheduled to fight ex rugby league player Monty Betham. This wasn't, as has he was hospitalized due to his kidney failure, this is caused by his kidney disease nephrotic syndrome . He was on dialysis, and was then waiting for a second kidney transplant. He had the fight rescheduled to the 3rd of December however, he had to withdraw. Lomu was kept on dialysis for 7 hours a day, 3 nights a week. He tries spending as much time with his family as possible. There were times when there was rumors of a donor, but this wasn't. He is still fighting the rejection of the transplant in 2004, and currently waiting for a donor.

Those players you love to hate.

Unconditional hatred for some rugby players.

We all have those rugby players you hate, either it's that french winger with long hair that can't tackle, or fat prop that is so lazy he's painful to look at. I've narrowed it down for you to 5 players. (with the players I hate) For a reason or not. Some of the players below aren't ones that I hate, but more annoy me in the way they play, and what they have done. Please feel free to remind me of any that I have forgotten. These are in no particular order other than the person in first place. 

Stephen Jones. 
He has one of those, unhappy moaning face's. He plays the same as well to say the least. He is frequently captured shouting at his half backs, for the mistakes he has made. When in 2009 Ireland won the grand slam, I was not only happy for us winning, but the look of despair on his face, when his winning penalty dropped short . (I was chuffed).

Adriaan Strauss.
I cannot watch him play. It is awful to see how lazy he is in open play. I can't remember him every contesting a ruck, making a tackle, or getting involved in an attack from a ruck. I have no idea how, he has made his way to the starting team. 
When watching him play, if you ever get a chance, just watch him for 4-5 minutes. I guarantee, you will be shocked at his work rate being little or non existent.

Eric Lund.

We all know that the caveman position has been filled by Sebastian Chabal. I admire the attempt but it just isn't happening for him, but he more copied the idea than tried to set a trend...

Jason Robinson.
I can admit that he was a good player, but what annoys me, is that he is not suited to rugby, hes is not a rugby player, he is an athlete. This is purely for the fact that he was too fast. His running style was impetuous. He had the Olympic running style, his short fast steps, shuddering and shuttling from side to side, and the way he carried himself was phenomenal. It angers me that he wasted his gift to rugby. 

1. Martin Johnson.
When Ireland played England in 2003, Martin Johnson was the captain of the English squad, when leading the team out of the tunnel, he went to the wrong side of the red carpet. This led to controversy over the disrespect to our president, Mary McAleese. Had or will any captain of an international team, treat the queen of England with any slight disrespect, the whole country would have gone into a strike. I was delighted to hear that he resigned from manager of England, I was delighted that he had fallen victim to karma, and also being the Irish sporting public enemy number one. Keith Wood once said, " The three most dirtiest players I know are, Richie McCaw, Alan Quinlan and Martin Johnson ". Proving that even ex Irish internationals agree with what I am saying. Even though I am being a lot more blatant about it.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Is it the ideal time of the season for injuries ?

Is this the right time for injuries ?

I ask this because, if we are going into a 6 nations tournament in effort to win or at least have a positive outcome, we have to have our best players, fit, free of injury and playing consistently well. 
Earlier on this season, there was the Autumn internationals. In Ireland's last against Argentina, with Sean O'Brien, Stephen Ferris, Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connel and Rob Kearney being some of the most important players on the squad. This didn't make a difference to the score though. (winning 46-24) They didn't interrupt our brief 2 match winning streak. . This was a resting chance for the injured and key players a chance of more time to recover. Club rugby will have to wait, as the 6 Nations will be a bigger commitment. Brian O'Driscoll's expected return is the beginning-mid January. Sean O'Brien made a quick enough recovery from his hip operation to play for Leinster soon after. Stephen Ferris caught an ankle injury in a match for Ulster against Edinburgh. Paul O'Connel is to receive a specialist's review of his lower back injury, in effort to forecast his return to rugby. Rob Kearney missed the whole autumn series due to his back injury. He is expected to be absent from rugby for another month to 6 weeks.

My guess in how we are going to do in the 6 nations will be good, having Wales in Cardiff wont be an easy match however I think, given we have a consistent side, with a strong backline we will win. England at home will not be an easy win. Considering O'Driscoll will be back at this stage, we need an experienced center to contest against Manu Tuilagi . We have to consider that we're very lucky to have them at home. Again our next fixture away is to Scotland, which is lucky as they haven't got a particularly strong or ambitious side. We will win this fixture without a doubt. The next match against France will undoubtedly be the hardest of them all . However we are really lucky again to have it at home. I cant say we will win this however, I am saying we have a chance. The match will be very unpredictable. And Italy in the Olympic stadium will be depending alot on how the previous 2 or 3 matches are played, and players that are injured. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Leinster Schools Rugby

Leinster Schools Senior, Junior, Vinnie Murray and Fr.Godfrey Cup Draw.

Seinor Cup draw.

Pres Bray vs Kilkenny 
Clongowes Wood vs Qualifier 2
Kings Hospital vs Newbridge 
Terenure College vs Belvedere College
St Micheals vs Castleknock
Roscrea vs Qualifier 1
St Marys vs CBC Monkstown
Blackrock vs Gonzaga

Junior Cup Draw 

Blackrock vs Qualifier 1
Clongowes Wood vs St Micheals
St Marys vs Kings Hospital
Belvedere College vs Kilkenny 
Roscrea vs St Gerards 
Terenure College vs Gonzaga
CBC Monkstown vs Castleknock
Qualifier 2 vs Newbridge

Vinnie Murray Cup

CBS Naas vs Wesley College
CUS vs St Andrews College
The High School vs De La Salle Churchtown
St Gerards vs Templeogue College
CBS Wexford vs Skerries C.C
Mount Temple vs St Patricks Navan
M.T / St.P vs Newpark Comprehensive 

Fr.Godfrey Cup

St Andrews vs St Patricks Navan
St.A / St.P vs St Conleths
CUS vs Pres Bray
Wesley College vs  The High School
Moyne C.S vs St Coumbas

The end of an era for the Prop.

"The Prop stigma"

The way people see props today is as, heavy, unfit, and uncoordinated overgrown men running from ruck to ruck. If anybody were to blame for this, I'd say, Phil Vickery, (ex England International, British Lions, Gloucester and Wasps, tight head prop) Weighing in at 125 kilos, he was quite heavy. He wasn't exactly mobile, compared to the modern prop... This first was apparent when he was playing for the Lions tour in 2009 and was opposed to Tendai Mtawarira, (otherwise known as "Beast") he was to be perfectly honest, beaten without dignity.

"Census Johnston, weighing 138kg"

The new era of  lighter, leaner faster props has began without a doubt began. Undoubtedly one of the best props is Tendai Mtawarira, weighing 116 kilos, however on average prop weigh from anywhere between 105 and 120 kilos, any weight heavier than this will take its toll on the players speed. Having to keep up with today's games speed, props are focusing more on being lean and efficient than pure bulk. Irish prop Cian Healy (Irish International and Leinster rugby player)  is one of the best of his age. Weighing only 112 kilos
he has already made his entry into the spotlight of the media, I personally think he has alot of potential to become one of the best props in the world, in the coming 5-6 years. I think he will make a big impact in this years lion tour in June. (Given he is selected, which he will be)

Tendai Mtawarira.