Standards everywhere are steaming higher – even with the globe trotting Barbarians. They operated at a pace which stunned some top England players over the weekend and leaves you worrying for their individual ability to cope with more of the same in Japan next year. Jones may wish to stop analysing too much and pick from Saracens and Exeter with a few from the rest. It could be that obvious.
What else is becoming obvious? Farrell has to play in his pivotal position and how about Slade at 12. That combination is threatening and potent and can feed a fast running outside set of backs, of which England has plenty. Let it thrive and Ford is always there as back up. The Vunipola show gets better and I like the look of Isikwe…..back row pace and power is critical and he has a lot of both.
Teddy Thomas may be the headline grabber for Racing 92 and France but Wenceslas Lauret, his teammate, is a King of backrows in Europe alongside a clutch of Irishmen and in my book will be a World Cup star.
James Haskell’s last game at Wasps should be recognised as he has been a real star. He thinks that his high tackle penalty show the game has gone soft. My answer is that players need protection, and sometimes from themselves. I would change the colour of the cards when issued and then behaviour really will change.
Aled Brew is Bath’s player of the season. He played Saracens almost on his own the other week with his power and commitment in attack and defence. A team full of Brews would have seen them in the playoffs.
Wasps/Leicester was an absolute stunner, both out of Europe but pushing the boundaries which is all you can ask. Dan Robson again showed that he is the best scrum-half in England and if Le Roux plays against England in the Summer, watch out!
See Marcus Smith against Saracens in the second half – he attacked the line with pace, if only he had centres to run off him …..
Head Tackles – they continue to proliferate sometimes with the defence of ‘a shoulder which slipped upwards’. Let me be clear on my view – a hit or tackle which impacts the head with force is a red card, yes RED, every time until people stop doing it and the game draws a line across the shirt. It’s coming.
Wasps and Exeter played out a wonderfully competitive top of the table clash last Sunday, and if it had been another team Wasps could have scored 40. Exeter’s patient processes look less menacing now, while Wasps operate with pace and panache. Dan Robson is not required by England but remains an outstanding asset for his club as does the departing Guy Thompson NB.
Racing 92 look to have built a head of steam in the Top 14 as La Rochelle other title contenders were seen off comfortably at the U Arena on Sunday. Clermont have to win the Champions cup now to qualify for next year as they are so far back in the domestic league – the QuarterFinal against Racing is in many ways the tie of the round. Not one for the fainthearted!