August 17 2020
After a busy round of Premiership action, Planet Rugby features writer James While has written his five takeaways from the weekend’s games.
With five months out of the game you’d expect both players and officials to be a little less than pinpoint in their performances and the simple statistic of an average of 35 penalties per game underlined the rustiness of all, admittedly abetted by law tweaks and torrential rain during some of the matches.
As the otherwise excellent referee Tom Foley commented to the Chiefs and Tigers players when apologising for blowing up too early when Exeter had a clear three on two overlap 30 metres out; “Sorry lads, my fault – first one back, it’s been a long time off and we’re all getting back into it!”
Some players appear to have enjoyed lockdown a little more than others; Mako and Billy seem to have transformed themselves from the Vunipola brothers to the Roly-Poly Brothers and across the board, a few others seemed certainly to be carrying a few more pounds around their waistline than when rugby took its enforced break. Others seem to have embraced their home gyms, with Tom Curry, Jack Willis, Joe Marchant and Henry Slade all looking to have put on some serious timber, but in a good way.
In point of fact they aren’t new, the laws have been merely clarified, with key emphasis on players rolling away from the tackle area and referees keen to support quick attempts to jackal. It was great to see continuity between what we’ve seen in Super Rugby and this past weekend, with consistency from the officials across both hemispheres and real accuracy in the application of the ruck thinking.
It meant that more players were on their feet as fewer could afford to go down on tackle or ruck, it gave quicker ball at the base as less players were sealing off or lying over, and it also encouraged players to go legally and swiftly for a steal when it was clear and obvious to do so. Theoretically, if this continues, we’ll see more dynamic work around the breakdown, more hands available to carry and swifter distribution from the base.
A few players thrived under this arrangement- athletes like the outstanding Wasps back-row trio of Brad Shields, Thomas Young and Willis destroyed Saints at the contact area, and with this new style of play now favoured, we can expect to see forwards who stay on their feet legally to thrive, whilst those who try to take into isolated contact and to seal off, will wither.
I imagine both were part of the problempqs: qs:
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