Ed­die’s got too much tal­ent to choose from

The Rugby Paper - - Letters | Views - COLIN BOAG

Now that the Au­tumn in­ter­na­tion­als are be­hind us, whose stock rose, and whose fell?

Ed­die Jones’ prob­lem re­mains that he has al­most too much tal­ent to choose from, so he gave some newish faces a run-out, and Eng­land got their three wins with­out do­ing any more than was ex­pected. It earned the RFU a few bob, which has to be good for the game, did the cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness a big favour, and al­lowed the Hinger­land fans three nice days out at Twick­ahs.

The Ir­ish have been on an up­ward curve of late, and that broadly con­tin­ued. They mullered South Africa, strug­gled against Fiji with a weak­ened side, and beat Ar­gentina rather less con­vinc­ingly than Eng­land did. It’s hard to say their star rose, but nei­ther did they go back­wards.

Then we come to the Scots who could and per­haps should have beaten the All Blacks, but then went on to hu­mil­i­ate the Wal­la­bies. If you ever wanted ev­i­dence of how flawed the Lions’ se­lec­tion pol­icy was, then this is it. If you look at all of those Welsh­men who toured New Zealand, can you hon­down es­tly say there were only two Scots wor­thy of their places in the orig­i­nal squad?

It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that, bar a crass bit of ref­er­ee­ing, the Scots would have been the only North­ern Hemi­sphere side to make the 2015 RWC semi­fi­nals – on their day they are a force to be reck­oned with, and they have come out of the au­tumn in pretty good shape. As a Scot I’ve been here be­fore, and while my heart re­mains op­ti­mistic go­ing into the Six Na­tions, my head says they’ll prob­a­bly find a way to mess things up!

The Welsh had a mod­er­ate au­tumn, with de­feats against Aus­tralia and New Zealand and sin­gu­larly unim­pres­sive wins against Ge­or­gia and South Africa. Their coaches talk a good game, but the re­al­ity is that they’ve fallen some way be­hind the best.

There’s time for them to re-es­tab­lish them­selves be­fore 2019, but I can’t help feel­ing that their coach­ing set-up, and style of play, is lag­ging be­hind the other Home na­tions. Back in 2015 it was the SANZAAR na­tions that dom­i­nated the RWC semi-fi­nals, but I reckon things will be dif­fer­ent in Ja­pan. Ar­gentina don’t seem to have pro­gressed and it’s hard to see how they’ll make the nec­es­sary steps in time to be a ma­jor force. South Africa should be se­ri­ous con­tenders but they con­tinue to of­fer the stark­est pos­si­ble demon­stra­tion that sport and pol­i­tics are un­com­fort­able bed­fel­lows.

When the Lions toured New Zealand I felt that, good though the All Blacks were, they were not the force of old, and the Au­tumn in­ter­na­tion­als seemed to prove that. Their pro­duc­tion line could still come good, but I’m no longer con­vinced they are the best team in the world.

One as­pect I found pe­cu­liar was the whinge­ing from the South­ern Hemi­sphere sides about be­ing tired be­cause the matches came at the end of a long sea­son. Look, they’re played in the north­ern au­tumn, so that’s al­ways been the case, and when the home na­tions tour south in our sum­mer, it’s at the end of our equally tough sea­son. No point in com­plain­ing – ei­ther get on with it or drop the fix­tures, but please don’t trot it out as an ex­cuse.

The sham­bles of Ross Mo­ri­arty’s de­par­ture from Glouces­ter was an un­seemly one. He has ef­fec­tively been forced to head back to Wales, to play in a lesser competition, be­cause of the WRU’s lat­est it­er­a­tion of rugby mad­ness. He’s signed for the Dragons, who gen­er­ally play their home games in front of fewer than 6,000 sup­port­ers, and are owned by the WRU. How­ever, he’s not go­ing to be on a WRU cen­tral con­tract, and his salary will be en­tirely funded by his new re­gion. It’s all a bit bizarre.

Mo­ri­arty took to Twit­ter – when will they ever learn? – and man­aged to hack off his cur­rent em­ploy­ers, Glouces­ter, to such an ex­tent that they an­nounced his de­par­ture with the ters­est of state­ments. How sad that it came to such an end, but the blame lies fairly and squarely with the player and the WRU. Good play­ers im­prove to be­come great play­ers when they reg­u­larly play at the high­est level, not by be­ing com­pelled to set­tle for sec­ond best – when will the WRU get that?

Eng­land debu­tant: Sam Sim­monds has come into the back row mix

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