Speed, strength, supreme skill – ‘Ran-thru-ya’ has everything
Watching the Gloucester v Bristol Bears game over the weekend I spared a thought for the BT commentator. Getting the names of players correct is now something that draws inordinate comment on social media, where your audience is unforgiving. In some ways they are correct, it is professional and respectful to find out how to pronounce an unusual name. It is no longer seen as funny to have a go and make a mess of a name.
What do you do in the case of one of the Gallagher Premiership’s newest and brightest additions, Semi Radradra, where there are different and technically correct pronunciations? Is his surname pronounced Radrad-ra or Rand-rand-ra?
Officially, I understand it is the latter, but that will not have stopped people flinging insults at the poor commentator.
It is much easier if the player gets a nickname and you can use that, so to aid fellow commentators can I suggest one of the following: Ran-round-ya, Ran-over-ya or
Ran-thru-ya. If you have seen him play you will concur that any of those can be used without demur.
The thing about the Fijian wing/ centre is that he has not just a remarkable physical presence, though he has that, but an overall package that adds balance, fleet-footedness, speed and dexterity.
His carrying ability means that defenders have the unenviable task of trying to anticipate several things, none of which are easy and all of which result in compromise in some guise.
Is he going to receive the pass or is he being used as a decoy runner? The wiser choice is to assume he is going to get the ball because if you try to drift on to another player and he does get the ball you will not get to make a full shoulder tackle and without that you will never bring him down.
Getting a proper tackle in is also made harder by Radradra’s constant shifting of weight. He does not just run straight and hard, he steps off both feet and, again, if you are slightly wrong-footed you cannot make an effective tackle. Do you try to tackle low or higher? Go low and you stop his run, but this probably leaves his arms free to pass out of the tackle, and he is incredibly good at offloading the ball. Go higher and you risk being shrugged off by a shoulder or a mighty fending arm and, even if you do stop him, he has the skill to pass one-handed and accurately.
The Gloucester defence coped reasonably well, but could not stop Radradra making seminal contributions by creating and scoring tries. And lest you think Radradra is just a beautiful runner; he was streetwise/cynical enough to get away with tugging Jack Clement’s shirt, which stopped a probable Gloucester try and he evaded a likely yellow card.
For the rest of the Premiership, the bad news is that Radradra is likely to become more effective as his team start to instinctively play off him and learn how to use him most effectively.
For the Bristol coach, Pat Lam, this is a key point because, although Radradra is the sort of player you can throw the ball to and expect him to create something, you gain much more as a team if you can bring the best out of surrounding players. Creating several potential ball carriers and clean break runners will mean defences have more than Radradra to worry about which, in turn, makes the Fijian’s job easier – and so it goes on.
You could – and many do – say that the amount of money spent at Bristol means they are bound to be title challengers but, while money makes a challenge easier, it is no guarantee of success. Bristol fans need only look a few miles down the road to Bath to see that consistency and quality in recruitment of coaches and players is not guaranteed from a rich benefactor. I am sure Lam knows that there is still some way to go before Bristol can habitually contest domestic and European trophies and the crucial point is to make logical and sustainable advances each season, in the way that Exeter secured then enhanced their Premiership credentials.
Bristol’s starting XV can live with the best of the Premiership but, overall, the squad do not yet match up.
The weekend’s rugby demands a note is quickly made of the form of two household names: Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell. Both looked in outstanding fettle and, though Sexton is now 35, the enforced break has given him time to rid himself of injury niggles and recharge his enthusiasm. Likewise with Farrell, who appears fresh and hungry, a limited season in the championship might actually benefit him given the amount of rugby leading players will be asked to play as a result of seasons compromised by Covid-19.
The Fijian is likely to become more effective as his team start to instinctively play off him
Here comes trouble: Bristol’s Fijian wing Semi Radradra runs at the Gloucester defence during his team’s Premiership win on Friday