Kevin Roberts says that much of the English club rugby he has seen looks like rugby league.
A league of not so ordinary gentlemen KEVIN ROBERTS IS FOUNDER OF RED ROSE CONSULTING; BUSINESS LEADER AND EDUCATOR; AUTHOR AND SPEAKER; ADVISER ON MARKETING, CREATIVE THINKING AND LEADERSHIP.
And it’s agony for the opposition, for referees and for fans. I’m sure Eddie Jones has found a lot to like about this – and I’m concerned it’ll be worked on and brought out by England in 2018 to stop the All Blacks.’
WHILE EAGERLY AWAITING the restart of All Black hostilities – and having just recovered from Brisbane – I was watching Premiership rugby in England with some European stuff too. It was a hard slog. I grew up in the north west of England and went to a great rugby playing school – Lancaster Royal Grammar School – in the middle of a strong rugby league local culture.
As a budding 16-year-old fly-half I was approached by a man in a raincoat and flat cap – not of the creepy tribe – that was just normal wear for adults in the 60s in the middle of the rainy rugby season in Lancashire.
He took me to a quiet corner of the ground and asked if I fancied a rugby league trial with Barrow on Tuesday evening of the following week – all under a dark cloak of subterfuge and secrecy.
In those days we believed even talking to a rugby league scout could get us banned. I’d watched a bit of rugby league [Wigan were my team] and Tom Brophy – a local rugby union star fly-half – had just turned pro with Barrow, so saying nothing to my mates or my dad, I went up to Barrow to play under lights in a trial with their second string.
I didn’t enjoy it much. It seemed to be like Groundhog Day – endless phase after phase of one player taking the ball up, getting gang tackled, getting up and doing it again and again.
Early in the second half some A-team loose forward took exception to my attempting to step him and took my head off with a huge swinging bicep. I woke up in the dressing room 15 minutes later. So endeth my rugby league career.
I was reminded of this when watching the Premiership. Many teams are going through phase after phase, going nowhere, keeping possession, becoming incredibly boring and predictable.
Stuart Barnes, by some distance the most insightful, visionary and openminded commentator on the game in the UK, wrote a great piece in The Times where he dissected this tactic as practised brilliantly – if boringly – by surprise champions Exeter.
They have studied the laws, figured out the loopholes, and are exploiting them. The laws allow for only the first man arriving at the tackle to play the ball on the ground with his hands. Everyone else has to stay on their feet. And they must be bound. Watch Exeter wrestle and win every ball. They never let it go.
And it’s agony for the opposition, for referees and for fans. I’m sure Eddie Jones has found a lot to like about this – and I’m concerned it’ll be worked on and brought out by England in 2018 to stop the All Blacks.
Stuart’s article outlines the technical issue brilliantly. Endless one-paced phase rugby. Like rugby league before the six tackle rule. Coaches and law-makers – help! The other big talking point is the bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The technical committee plumped for South Africa and this was supported by the board of World Rugby.
The evaluation was thorough and the South African bid scored strongly across all the five criteria – vision, tournament organisation, venues, infrastructure and commercial plans.
World Rugby rated South Africa number one with 79 per cent France number two at 76 per cent and Ireland number three with 72 per cent.
I respected South Africa as a choice. I enjoyed travelling the country in 1995 – if not the end result and I certainly could have lived without Louis Luyt – but my heart yearns for a World Cup in Ireland. One for the romantics.
SMASH IT UP English club rugby is evoking strong memories of rugby league.