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What a nice, relaxing morning watching Wales play England. An exciting game, if one that should have had several more tries in it; and in the end, not a relaxing morning, because the rugby I’m watching is driving me crazy. Some thoughts:

Boring games are the fault of scrumhalf play. Scrumhalves take 20, 30 seconds to get the ball out of a won ruck. Obviously it’s time-wasting and should be penalized harshly.

But worse than that, for me, is how slowly the scrumhalves, in this case Lee Dickson for England and Mike Phillips for Wales, get the ball from ground to the 1st receiver’s hands. Whether they take a crow hop and pass, or take several sideways steps and pass, or take several sideways steps, stop, and send a slow, loopy pass that any schoolboy would be embarrassed to execute, the ball is made live slowly, very slowly, and excruciatingly slowly. Offense cannot survive if it takes that long to initiate an attack, and, of course, it didn’t.

The game saw one try, from a turnover.

I don’t advocate passing straight off the ground all the time, but once in a while would be nice.

 

Teams don’t seem to be able to complete attacking moves. All the slick ball-handling (and I will say you hardly saw any dropped balls in this game) we see when Wales or England blows out a Tier II nation went out the window here.

When Scott Williams had a break to set up a certain try for Wales, he ignored two unmarked teammates and got tackles short of the line. Basic stuff. When Mouritz Botha charged down a Welsh kick and recovered the ball, he had three men nearby he could have passed to, but instead he, too, was stopped short of the line.

Worse, for me; Wales broke through into the England half, got quick ball, and were on the front foot. This is the time when you get the ball out and let players run. Instead, they set up a forward pod and ran another ruck behind the gain line.

Now … the point of just passing to a group of forwards who make little or no ground, and re-do a ruck, is to make the defense move, and then to get ball out quickly to exploit the hoped-for gaps. Here, Wales had the gaps, had the quick ball, and had the go-forward. They threw it all away.

 

Welsh flyhalf Rhys Priestland got yellow-carded for being offside and making a try-saving tackle as a result. It was the right call. However, how come this offside was so egregious, and the 83 other offsides, sometimes just as obvious, were not?

 

So that’s what I get out of the game. Quick ball from the ruck should be encouraged by the ref, enforced by the laws, and practiced by the teams. The offside line is still not properly enforced, and most top teams are hamstrung by a lack of imagination in the coaching staff.

Still, the game was fun to watch.

 


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