The coach who guided Fiji to gold and our res­i­dent colum­nist

Rugby World - - FRONT ROW -

HE NEW sea­son is in full swing and peck­ing orders are be­ing de­cided in terms of se­lec­tion and league po­si­tion. Pre-sea­son is long gone, lone play­ers have been loaned and new coaches are stamp­ing their mark on things. Fringe and younger play­ers will now know where they stand; some will have made it into the match-day squad, while oth­ers will be look­ing to get their diet of rugby through A League (Pre­mier­ship Shield) games and at other clubs while on loan.

On top of that are the new Pre­mier­ship and Cham­pi­onship Cups, which start in the com­ing weeks. They’re league cups for the first and sec­ond tiers, with pools and knock­out rounds. Per­son­ally, I think a com­bined com­pe­ti­tion would have been bet­ter, but a tour­na­ment with­out the pres­sure of league points at stake gives play­ers and man­age­ment a chance to im­prove and en­joy their rugby.

Var­i­ous bod­ies talk about re­strict­ing train­ing loads and matches, but many play­ers in Pre­mier­ship squads sim­ply don’t get enough mean­ing­ful rugby, es­pe­cially for their own club. At least this new for­mat gives play­ers be­low the first team more games in which to im­prove as in­di­vid­u­als.

There is noth­ing more bor­ing for a player than just train­ing and never get­ting match min­utes. It’s also one thing play­ing on loan but an­other ac­tu­ally wear­ing your own club colours. It’s the same for coaches. Those that

Thave a spe­cialty or a smaller role to play in terms of the league can take a lead role in this cup com­pe­ti­tion to nur­ture their skill-set and ex­pe­ri­ences. Plus, it’s an op­por­tu­nity for teams to ex­per­i­ment a lit­tle more in how they play the game.

Noth­ing beats games for play­ers or coaches and it does frus­trate me when I hear talk of re­duc­ing the num­ber of games that play­ers play. It’s a bit like ask­ing how an in­jury oc­curs. Yes, there is a list of the most com­mon in­juries and those are easy to work out. How­ever, there are mul­ti­fac­eted rea­sons.

It might be a law that needs to change be­cause it en­cour­ages reck­less play or the coach might have over­trained or un­der­trained play­ers. There could be ar­ti­fi­cial turf next to the pitch and it might be that the change in sur­face as a player steps into touch causes an in­jury. It might be that a player is in a bad mood or has a cold and gets their tim­ing in a tackle wrong.

My point is that in­juries are not due to one thing. When in­jury au­dits look at in­for­ma­tion, they never see the more hu­man as­pects.

Take the Pre­mier­ship Sevens at the start of the sea­son. Play­ers from academies or who are new to the club are fly­ing around with aban­don­ment, so happy to be out there and keen to im­press. Speed and ac­cu­racy gets af­fected and, with it, in­juries some­times oc­cur.

In the Cham­pi­onship Cup, we will see a lower tackle height tri­alled, with a high tackle de­fined as above the armpit line rather than above the line of the shoul­ders. What will this do? Hope­fully, bet­ter tech­ni­cal tack­les will oc­cur and more one-on-one tack­les, rather than dou­ble shots – one de­fender to tackle the player and an­other to tar­get the ball.

I hope we see cleaner break­downs as a re­sult, per­haps even more of­fload­ing as the ball should be more avail­able and I think, as with all new ideas, it seems sen­si­ble to put it out there in a lesser com­pe­ti­tion and see how it goes. Noth­ing ven­tured and all that.

If I was to in­tro­duce a trial, I’d prob­a­bly al­low rolling subs so that teams can let play­ers re­turn­ing from in­jury, and oth­ers on the fringes, have a run. It just gives teams way more flex­i­bil­ity and could be a law used be­low the Pre­mier­ship to help clubs in all sorts of ways.

I’m all for more tri­als, as long as they don’t de­value the game, em­bar­rass the play­ers or di­lute the com­pe­ti­tion.

Then again, they could just en­force one or two break­down laws…

Game timeHar­lequins and Bris­tol meet in the Pre­mier­ship Shield

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