The Rugby world has been so busy this season it has been hard to keep up. Here is what has caught my eye so far:
- The All Blacks can be beaten, even at home. Great news for everyone and for South Africa who have momentum despite everything. The Rugby World Cup suddenly looks less like a procession. The Springboks are definitely contenders whatever happens this weekend or elsewhere. Pace and power are their mantra and with the back three England have it could be a cracker of a match at Twickenham.
- Leinster lost to Toulouse in the Heineken Champions Cup – the revival of a giant? Too early to tell but I have been warning about a French resurgence and with Racing and Clermont in fearsome form, not to mention Stade Francais a well respected commentator who tipped them for the World Cup obviously didn’t notice that they are in England’s pool!
- Saracens and Exeter are a cut above the rest domestically – but as ever that doesn’t necessarily mean they dominate the England team. But they do know how to lead and win, which is why Farrell and Slade have to be inked in to take the England midfield forward in my opinion.
- The revival of Edinburgh and Cardiff domestically and in Europe is credit to the investment and focus of those in charge. Can only be good for the game at large.
- Ireland is there to be targeted and generally they do not like to be favourites- difference here is their great depth in many positions but still an unusual position and I am fascinated to see how they deal with it.
- Interesting to see how the November Internationals play out on the discipline front. Europe has set the tone re high tackles and hopefully we will see player behaviour changing. Or else the sky may be a tinge of red by the end and more education required.
- I had to laugh as the Will Carling mentor announcement caused widespread scepticism because he apparently had nothing to do with three Grand Slams and a World Cup Final – it was all about some gnarled old forwards who became well known as a result. The same forwards who could hardly string two wins together or play a half decent match until the Cooke, Carling, Uttley regime arrived to usher in a golden era. Short memories but isn’t that why we love the game?
Whether he makes a difference or not to England, all teams need trust, loyalty, commitment, honesty and humility running through their DNA, as well as to understand leadership. If he can help with that then it can only improve those small percentage points required to win big tournaments.
Oh, and did I mention Selection ?!!