LIGHT AT THE END OF A RUGBY TUNNEL


Cold winter winds have been blowing across the rugby grounds of Europe, and the Covid strains have placed even more pressure on our societies and ability to function. As you all know the next two rounds of our European tournament have been postponed by a French Government directive. Depressing though that is, the aggressive roll out of the vaccines means that an end of some sort is in sight – but parking that for now we can look at some really promising trends.

So, a Happy New Year to you all for a better 2021 in general and for rugby the signs are there. Here are five trends which I hope we will see develop……..

Inspiration over perspiration

Some mini heroes are emerging from some thrilling club matches over the last number of weeks. A stunning away win by Munster at Clermont revealed the men in red running into space and in particular a reborn JJ Hanrahan. Did you see O’Mahony handling like a seasoned centre? Having said that, Clermont were untouchable through the middle for 40 minutes and simply owe it to themselves to double up and do themselves justice. What a match that was!

Antoine Dupont is continuing to stretch the boundaries at scrumhalf for Toulouse as he can and no wonder Eddie Jones is forced to look at Harry Randall…… if you are good enough you are big enough. Robson remains my favourite to take the England game onwards out wide.

Radradra of Bristol Bears may well be  the best player in the world because he creates something every time he touches the ball, with pace, wit and is a physical handful. By the way, can the media delete the description ‘wrecking ball’ please. Irrelevant and outdated.

The Spiral Bomb

It was Stuart Barnes who perfected the art back in the 80’s and caused the ribs of many a fullback to be tickled by various chasers, mainly centres. Then came the rugby league end over end versions, which also meant kicks to touch went ten frustrating yards until Henry Slade changed the ambition in one kick at Exeter. George Ford has cottoned on to the skill and Watson didn’t like it one bit the other week. Now that’s proper kicking and if he can defuse the ticking time bomb called passing the ball, perhaps he can come back into the reckoning.

I am sure I echo the thought of every other rugby fan when I applaud the fact that the scrum half box kick obsession may just have been dealt a blow. Watson struggled more in one match than opposing wingers have in a whole year from the paintdrying practice currently employed.

Ambition- play at the gainline

One of the most striking aspects of the Wasps gameplay recently has been the impressive unpicking of midfield defences, as I can also see with Bristol, Munster, Toulouse and Clermont. It can be surely done at International level too as France will prove and Fiji and Japan continue to prove (ask Ireland and Scotland!). Imagine the crowds roar when this becomes the norm rather than the exception when forwards have exhausted Route 1 as well as bored themselves and the ‘crowd’ into submission.

South Africa

Whether it is the big 4 coming our way, or the B&I Lions Tour of S Africa (to discuss). It is clear that these giants of our game will be gracing the fields of Europe more regularly. What a prospect and how exciting to pitch against the World Champions, collective and individual.

Investment 

Back in home territory really! Rugby is a value stock. Great brand, opportunity to grow and no cash. Owners with big ideas and as with all individuals who have been involved in a start up, not the easiest people to deal with – and why should they be, as proud owners and serious passionate investors when the game was losing a fortune. Textbook style and the reason why CVC, SilverLake and MVM Holdings have in the recent days made their investment plans known. More to come I predict.

I am unashamedly seeing a cup half full here but will end on a sombre note.

The issue of dementia and concussion must be dealt with by a combination of acceptance, care for the many cases which exist and decisive action onfield and in training to fix the issues. Let us end the platitudes and see some action, without ever forgetting that physical risk is part of our game and every single player accepts that. Make this the number one priority can we?

Onward!

Thanks for reading,

Hallers 

Simon Halliday