Who’s teaching our props to scrummage?
“Watching the French pack destroy England was not a pretty sigh... our props bent and folded in the same way some of our seniors do”
Anyone watching the U20 final last Sunday might have had a feeling of deja vu as the young England team contrived to lose a game they could have won, by giving away too many penalties.
Many aspects of the U20 England game against France U20 was a mirror of how the senior side played with shadow runners in the backs and pop ups to forwards, but most striking was the breakdown and the scrum.
England conceded a total of 16 penalties to the French nine, many of which came from the same two areas as in the senior game, which begs the question: is there something in the way Premiership games are played and refereed which causes our players to be penalised?
It seems strange that throughout the Premiership season we haven’t had complaints about the number of penalties being awarded at the breakdown or scrum, so why should it be so different at international level?
In order to attract a non rugby audience, the Premiership has needed to make rugby a more exciting and a more easily understood commercial product, so this could be influencing the way the game is played and refereed on a weekly basis.
Club coaches meet referees for briefings and try to influence them to referee in a particular way (usually the way their team play); add in the fact that refereeing is now also professional and too many complaints from club coaches can lose a referee games and earnings, it’s easy to see how that could impact on how games are played and refereed.
Watching the French pack destroy young England wasn’t a pretty sight and although they were a powerful unit, it seemed to me that much of the problem was a lack of knowledge of the proper technique, as our props bent and folded in the same way as some of our seniors do.
The emphasis placed on ball carrying and lifting in the line-out seems to be the most important factor for clubs seeking young props, with little or no thought as to a prop’s main job. This is to create a stable and strong platform and transmit the power from the rest of your pack through the opposition, to provide an attacking platform to build off. Or put more simply, be good in the scrum.
The worry is, many of the young men looked the part but seemingly lacked even a basic knowledge of simple things, like how to lock a scrum.
Just like senior England, our juniors made crucial mistakes more or less whenever they got into a pressure position. This then allows the opposition not only to relieve the pressure but more times than not, counter attack and score points.
It is true that sides under pressure give up more penalties than dominant teams, but part of that is confidence, where if you are losing games, panic ensues when things go wrong.
In the senior side Eddie Jones isn’t helping things in the England camp by blaming his players, with many of the problems being more of a technical nature. Playing players out of position doesn’t help either, as much of international rugby is played by instinct and expertise, where you just know what to do because you’ve done it so many times before and don’t need to think about it. Which is just as well as there isn’t usually time to stop and think.
The need for instinctive rugby is magnified when playing in hostile environments like at altitude, which is something Jones doesn’t seem to have taken into account when moving playJones, ers around or preparing the team. His weekly mantra of how well the team has trained is out of kilter with his post match comments and appears to be a platitude for the press, which raises expectations before the games and increases much disappointment after.
It is true that England are not far off the game they need to be competitive, but you can say the same for most of the teams competing this summer. Argentina weren’t far off Wales, Scotland should have beaten the USA, Ireland could have won their first Test against Australia and France, well the All Blacks always seem to get the luck with referees and TMOs.
Yesterday’s South Africa Test was made irrelevant as soon as Rassie Erasmus said after the 2nd Test victory he was going to experiment for the final game, virtually saying the result didn’t matter, as he had got what he wanted in winning the series.
we are told, is obsessive about detail and had a plan of how he wanted England to train and play in Japan RWC, staying at a single base and travelling to games, which has been refused by World Rugby. This South Africa trip was supposed to be a trial run for his World Cup plan but as far as I know, unless they want to practise on Mount Fuji, no games at the World Cup are being played at altitude.
With Jones’ obsession to detail, it is a surprise he doesn’t seem to have taken on board the well documented medical advice about how and when to travel and play at altitude.Which begs another question, was he too focused on Japan, or did he think after South Africa’s recent decline, they were so bad it didn’t matter?
It would be ironic if his obsession with the World Cup was the cause of the England team’s run of bad results and declining confidence, which could eventually damage their RWC prospects.
Monstered: France U20s pack dominated England in the Junior World Cup final