Many people will be aware of the acronym KISS, not just because of Valentine’s weekend just past. Keep It Simple Stupid was often used in our Bath rugby training sessions (and elsewhere) when we were working out winning strategies. Eddie Jones has suggested that England was guilty of too much analysis and trying too hard. The answer is that Rugby is still a simple game despite data consultants and coaches persuading you differently. Recent match data has been less than useless recently in pointing to eventual winners, witness possession statistics for example. It is what you do with the ball you get !!
England, Italy, Wales and Scotland entrusted their wide runners with various opportunities and were handsomely rewarded. Watson, the obvious man of the match, clearly has had a bellyful of spectating so he showed us all exactly why he should be fed the ball early and regularly. He also received as much possession from Italy’s kickers as from his own midfield which was remarkably generous. Eliot Daly still looks well short of his best. The change of pace and ability to unlock defences seems not to be there. Henry Slade is also under par partly because the partnership with Farrell looks very forced and needs work to succeed. Overall, England may require more pace in the back row so Billy needs to sharpen up or the likes of Simmonds and Dombrandt come into the picture.
I rated the Italian effort, especially the simple quality of their two tries which showed England a thing or two. Their two young halfbacks would have made merry behind the England pack. The scoreline flattered the hosts, especially if you regrettably chalk out the ‘Mayfly’ touchdown which was NFL-like and technically illegal as Nigel Owens pointed out.
However, they will take the predicted victory forward to Wales, who will have gained huge confidence from their Murrayfield triumph. Scotland will feel aggrieved because the skills of their backline under Hogg’s exceptional leadership (and the Lions?) should have won the day. However, Rees-Zammit (a la Watson) can turn matches and hide any number of woes, and the sympathetic passing of the exotically named Willis Halaholo may point to a hidden talent for Wales. As Ireland found out and now Scotland, unnecessary head contact costs you the match and there is no excuse – surely both countries will learn their lesson as they would have undoubtedly both won with a full complement. Shaun Edwards taught Wales to tackle legally a long time ago and now they have played two won two. Who would have thought it!
France’s first try in Dublin had so many ‘offloads’ in the lead up it was faintly surreal but tells you how far Les Bleus have come in their game development. As in Italy they struck rapier-like at the first sign of opportunity. This is not the perfect side yet by any means, but one that quietly knows its potential. Penaud’s effort reflected great vision by Dupont and Jalilbert, and again emphasised the potency of creativity at pace. Conversely, the Irish attack was unfocused and often behind the gainline with unsympathetic passing all too prevalent, stifling opportunity. Can someone tell me what John Cooney has done wrong? The Ulsterman was in my humble opinion a stand out player to replace Conor Murray.
After Round 2, I am smiling with the thought that some old rugby truths still apply – quality ball to your best runners can reap match winning rewards and it is so exciting to watch. Blundering high collision tactics are yesterday’s story and lead to injuries and suspensions. QED !
Thanks for reading,