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Which Tyler

Rugby IV - Striking Hookers Are Back In Fashion

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I get that, but it was worse than the Daly sending off against Argentina, which I had no problem with, on the grounds that it was deliberate.

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It was one of those that you can't really complain with either card colour.

 

Daly lands on his CT my junction area, so whatever colour card the ref feels like. Had it been second half it would more likely have been a red.

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Oh well, back to back Grand slams would have been nice but it was always going to be tough with away trips to Cardiff and Dublin. A championship win's still a decent result. Not a great performance today though, they really struggled to hold onto the ball.

From a Lions point of view a few Irish players who had fallen back this Six Nations probably put their hand up, especially in the forwards.

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1 hour ago, ljkeane said:

Oh well, back to back Grand slams would have been nice but it was always going to be tough with away trips to Cardiff and Dublin. A championship win's still a decent result. Not a great performance today though, they really struggled to hold onto the ball.

It wasn't really a day of great rugby in general.

Scotland were clinical in defeating a poor Italian team, I think they'll be happy with their tournament overall even with the Calcutta Cup humiliation. It seems a bit of a pity Vern Cotter is moving on, although I can see why the SRU might be keen on promoting a Scottish coach who has been very successful with Glasgow.

The France/Wales match was dull until the farce of the ending. It'll be interesting to know if anyone can see any indication of Atonio's head injury at the end, it seemed to be a surprise to him that he was meant to be injured. Apart from that controversy France probably did deserve the win, since they scored two tries to nil.

England didn't look like the same team that played against Scotland. Throughout the tournament they've often struggled in the first half and then improved in the second which does raise the question of whether the right players are starting.

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Apparently the other prop was seen warming up before the "head injury". France could be in a bit of trouble: 

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15 hours ago, williamjm said:

England didn't look like the same team that played against Scotland.

They didn't play particularly well and conditions were tougher but I think it's mainly down to them not really getting any clean ball. The lineout was probably the worst it's been under Jones and Ireland were consistently slowing down England's ball at the breakdown, they weren't getting clean ball from the scrums either but that was probably less of a surprise. If you're always getting slow scrappy ball it doesn't really lend itself to running intricate backs moves.

From an Irish point of view I think they got lucky with Heaslip picking up an injury in the warmup because O'Mahony had a lot to do with the problems England had in both the lineout and the breakdown. Their lineout's definitely miles better with him in the back row and the balance of their back row in general looks better, Stander has played very well for them at blindside but he's really an 8 so I think they need to bite the bullet and make a decision between him and Heaslip.

15 hours ago, williamjm said:

Throughout the tournament they've often struggled in the first half and then improved in the second which does raise the question of whether the right players are starting.

I'm not sure it's necessarily that they're picking the wrong players to start, leaving aside the claims of various players on the bench. I think it's more down to even if they don't play well they're still a fit side with a big pack and pace out wide and regardless of who's starting they've probably got the best depth of any of the Six Nations sides so they're more likely than not to have a better bench. I think they just wear teams down and by virtue of the depth of their squad they're usually going to have an edge as the bench players come on to take advantage of a tired opposition.

That's something that's noticeable with the All Blacks as well actually, although they're generally more clinical about it than England, even if they're not playing well they force the pace of games and because they pretty much always have the better bench teams really struggle to live with them at the end of games. It's one of the interesting things about the Lions tour actually as for once they might actually not have a clear advantage with the replacement players.

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No, still haven't got over it.

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Posted (edited)

The Lions squad

Er, that's really not great. It's not quite as bad as some of the 'leaked' squads but 12 Welsh players and 2 Scottish? More Welsh than Irish as well. By my count 5 or 6 of the Welsh players are fairly marginal calls as well. It's hard to see that as anything but Gatland (and maybe Howley and Jenkins too) being biased towards the Welsh players. It doesn't set a great tone to the start of the tour given that was a bit of a criticism last time out as well (probably with less justification with Wales being relatively stronger). 

Regarding the actual players picked I suppose the real bolters are Sinckler, Te'o and Moriarty. Sinckler's a gamble but with Nel injured they were always likely to have to go with a relatively unproven 3rd tighthead, the option were probably Sinckler or Ryan and Sinckler does offer the potential for more impact off the bench. I'm not sure I'd have picked Te'o but if Gatland wanted a crash ball centre he's probably looked the best of the Six Nations options, Dunbar probably hurt his chances his defence in the Twickenham game. Moriarty's the odd choice, I quite like him as a player but it's hard to see what he brings ahead of a number of players being left behind.

Other than that the second row selection stands out to me as being a bit odd. It's probably been talked up as the most competitive position but I have to say I'm fairly surprised they've gone with 3 guys I'd have classified as outside bets in Lawes, Henderson and Kruis. Kruis has just come back from injury, I like Henderson but he wasn't making the starting lineup for Ireland for most of the Six Nations and while Lawes has been playing well he's the 4th best English lock for me. You can make an argument for each of them, Kruis especially on his pre injury form and as a lineout technician, but I'm not sure about taking all 3. If I was Launchbury (player of the Six Nations for me), Jonny Gray or even Richie Gray and Donnacha Ryan I'd be fairly pissed off.

Edited by ljkeane

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Posted (edited)

Also while I'm posting on the rugby thread Sanzaar also recently announced they're cutting 3 sides from Super rugby and, presumably, changing the format as well. It's the right call for me, the current format is terrible and outside of the New Zealand conference there's clearly too many flat out poor sides.

I know it's causing some consternation but I think going to 4 Australian sides is probably the way to go, they don't have the domestic players base to support 5 teams and the standard in the Australian conference this year is pretty bad. Keeping the Jaguares is also the right call for me, they had some teething problems last year but you'd have to think they're on the path to being a good team. Going to 4 South African sides seems a bit harsh to me though. The Kings clearly have to go but after a bad few years I have to say the South African conference looks better than it has for a while. The Lions, Stormers and Sharks are reasonably good teams and while I wouldn't call the Cheetahs or Bulls good they've both at least got some talent and the potential to cause good sides problems. Keeping the Sunwolves is pretty clearly a commercial decision.

Edited by ljkeane

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Oof. Two Scots? Really?

Glad Jamie George got in over Hartley, he was clearly the better player throughout the tournament.

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Posted (edited)

To my eyes the only stinker of a decision is Biggar going ahead of Russell / Ford / Jackson; Jared Payne is a pretty dodgy one too, but not an outright stinker.

A few of the others I wouldn't have gone for myself, but you can make decent cases for. It's not even remotely surprising that Gatland has gone for the players he knows when making marginal calls.

The Scottish players to miss out are generally doing so in positions of strength (JGray, Watson)

Diplomacy might have given Ford the nod over Owens, or Maitland over Payne, Visser over North; but you can understand a coach favouring the player he's used to managing, and who is used to being managed by him - that's just an unavoidable facet of appointing a home nation's heac coach as lions head coach.

 

Basically - to say that more Scot.s should have gone, you need to identify who AND who should have made way for them. To say that fewer Welsh should go, you need to identify who AND who should take their place. When you do that, those decisions look much better. Diplomacy should still have had it's place though - especially after the Sco v Wal match in this year's 6N, and the form of both teams since the RWC.

 

Of course, this is also just the opening gambit - a quick glance at the schedule will tell you that there's likely to be a dozen new names on the actual tour by the time the tests roll around.

Edited by Which Tyler

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I would say having that amount of Welsh in the squad along with a welsh captain is excessive and not based on form. They play for unsuccessful clubs in the pro 12, make no impact in the ERC, they came 5th in the 6n, England have won the last two 6n, Ireland won the 2 before that. I actually would pick Biggar as sub 10  (although if sexton is injured early it would be Farrell i think with Henshaw at 12), Faletau has been picked on rep not form, wouldn't pick him, would have brought Heaslip instead who was no. 8 when Ireland beat NZ 5 months ago, is in pro12 topping team and ERC semi finals on Sunday. Halfpenny is a busted flush, don't understand how he gets in other than he's welsh, I'd have the in form Launchbury in for Wyn-jones, who's getting on and is injured, or Donnacha Ryan. I'd have haskell in for warburton, who is injured and only regained form for 1.5 games in 6n, Tipuric far superior at 7.  Is warburton even going to get in the team? Is he ahead of O' Mahony, stander at 6? Is he even going to be fit?

Stander is the form player in ERC and pro12. His stats are insane, first forward to pick up a try hattrick in god knows how long in 6/5nations. 

These are not tight calls. The welsh players form with exception of Rhys Webb, Tipuric and Liam Williams is cack.

Two for Scotland seems about right though.

 

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35 minutes ago, Which Tyler said:

Basically - to say that more Scot.s should have gone, you need to identify who AND who should have made way for them. To say that fewer Welsh should go, you need to identify who AND who should take their place. When you do that, those decisions look much better. Diplomacy should still have had it's place though - especially after the Sco v Wal match in this year's 6N, and the form of both teams since the RWC.

I disagree actually. One of the big problems with the Lions tour is bringing together the squad in a short space of time and showing some fairly clear favouritism this early in the piece really doesn't help. You can make a case for each of the Welsh players selected, you don't get picked for a Lions tour if you're a bad player, but by my count there are 3 Welsh players who were clear cut selections (Webb, Williams and Tipuric) and even Faletau and Jones haven't been in great form. Moriarty, Halfpenny, Davies and Biggar were very marginal calls for me who have all made the cut while no borderline Scottish player makes it in when there's any question mark. It just isn't a good look.

For example I'm not convinced Watson does miss out in a position of strength, 6/8 is pretty well covered but openside it a bit of a concern for me. You've got Tipuric, then there's O'Brien who's an injury concern and Warburton who's looked miles better at 6 than 7 recently. The case for taking Moriarty who covers 6/8 ahead of Watson or at least a utility backrow who covers 6/7 like Haskell, Robshaw or Barclay isn't very strong in my opinion.

On top of that Russell's been playing better than Biggar for a while, the Gray brothers are both better than Lawes and Henderson at the moment for me, Visser, Maitland and the Scottish centres all have cases to be better than guys who have made the cut. I'm not saying they should all go but every Scottish player seems to have missed out on the marginal calls. 

56 minutes ago, Which Tyler said:

To my eyes the only stinker of a decision is Biggar going ahead of Russell / Ford / Jackson; Jared Payne is a pretty dodgy one too, but not an outright stinker.

Halfpenny's the worst call for me. I just don't see what he offers with Farrell and Sexton both likely to start and Biggar the back up 10 you don't need his kicking and he isn't anywhere near making the back three if he's not kicking.

I don't like picking Biggar, you aren't beating the All Blacks with a 10 that conservative, but I suppose the concern is the options are, as you said, Russell, Ford and Jackson who could all be seen as a bit flakey. Pretty negative call though and unnecessarily so with your 3rd choice 10. Payne's a very solid defensive 13 which is probably why he makes the cut, he also covers 15 to a high standard. I can see why you'd pick him but again it's a bit negative. 

29 minutes ago, Valandil said:

Two for Scotland seems about right though.

They beat Ireland and Wales in the Six Nations and were the best European side at the World Cup. What more do they have to do?

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Posted (edited)

7 minutes ago, ljkeane said:

 

They beat Ireland and Wales in the Six Nations and were the best European side at the World Cup. What more do they have to do?

They have to be consistent. They were supine against England, as were Glasgow, to a lesser extent against Saracens. Which Scots would you add? Russell has bottled it at various moments this season for club and country for example. Same for grays.

Edited by Valandil

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9 minutes ago, Valandil said:

They have to be consistent. They were supine against England, as were Glasgow, to a lesser extent against Saracens. Which Scots would you add? Russell has bottled it at various moments this season for club and country for example. Same for grays.

It's not like Wales and Ireland have been the models of consistency (England either if you look back any further than the last 2 seasons). Alright Scotland got torn apart by England in midfield at Twickenham and Glasgow struggled against Sarries but you're talking about the 2 best sides in the respective competitions away from home. It happens. It didn't really have much to do with the second rows either for that matter.

The inconsistency of the Welsh players for club and country is fairly obvious but why doesn't the Irish getting comprehensively outplayed in the first half at Murrayfield or absolutely mullered by Argentina at the World Cup playing a wide, wide game similar to how the All Blacks are likely to play discount them? 

I'm not saying every Scottish player should make the cut but every Scottish player shouldn't be missing out on the tight calls either.

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3 hours ago, ljkeane said:

It's not like Wales and Ireland have been the models of consistency (England either if you look back any further than the last 2 seasons). Alright Scotland got torn apart by England in midfield at Twickenham and Glasgow struggled against sarries

The inconsistency of the Welsh players for club and country is fairly obvious but why doesn't the Irish getting comprehensively outplayed in the first half at Murrayfield or absolutely mullered by Argentina at the World Cup playing a wide, wide game similar to how the All Blacks are likely to play discount them? 

I'm not saying every Scottish player should make the cut but every Scottish player shouldn't be missing out on the tight calls either.

I'm not going to belabour it but the Argentina game two years ago is less relevant than the beating of the all blacks last November, to this lions tour. It's clear to any fair minded observer that Ireland and England are underrepresented in this squad, Wales far over, based on form.

the players know it too and it's a bad start for squad cohesion, having said that, they'll have my full throated support on the tour. I'm sure that there will be more players joining given the gruelling schedule. How convenient for gatland that the Welsh team will be in NZ on tour

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I'm disappointed there are so many England players as I don't support the Lions. I'd rather they had the summer off and concentrated on making England the best team in the world. Leaving aside the admittedly important aspect of tradition, the Lions exist as an admission that no home nation can beat the southern hemisphere on their own, which is no longer true. Time to retire the Lions and concentrate on winning world cups.

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Posted (edited)

19 hours ago, ljkeane said:

I disagree actually. One of the big problems with the Lions tour is bringing together the squad in a short space of time and showing some fairly clear favouritism this early in the piece really doesn't help. You can make a case for each of the Welsh players selected, you don't get picked for a Lions tour if you're a bad player, but by my count there are 3 Welsh players who were clear cut selections (Webb, Williams and Tipuric) and even Faletau and Jones haven't been in great form. Moriarty, Halfpenny, Davies and Biggar were very marginal calls for me who have all made the cut while no borderline Scottish player makes it in when there's any question mark. It just isn't a good look.

I'm not sure how much you disagree, as I said that I DO think diplomacy should have won out, and that the marginal calls should have gone the way of whichever nation is the less represented by the time you get to the marginal calls (though I may have toned it down a little from there).

The likes of Halfpenny, North, Faletau are pure class, just out of form (actually, Faletau isn't even out of form, he was just back from injury too soon during the 6N to show any; but has shown it for Bath these last 2-3 weeks); and for class they go. For me, the most marginal Welsh calls were Moriarty (should have been Heaslip or Watson), Davies (should have been Ringrose - I gather both Scottish centres are injured, but either would have been preferable), Ken Owens over Hartley was pretty marginal as well, albeit in a bit of a cripple-fight manner AWJ over Launchbury is really easy - Launch isn't available for selection (allegedly, according to forum posters who know him personally); whilst having him over JGray is a matter of experience winning over potential, and is pretty damned marginal. Biggar was an absolute stinker of a choice, Russel should have gone, with Ford / Jackson on stand-by; he's just an awful choice to take on a Lions tour to NZ, where we will need to score tries - which we won't with Biggar (timing is pretty perfect for Farrell, I'd have said the same about him 18 months ago, but now, he's fine).

 

For me, at this stage, there's no place for favouritism, even if it is understandable and a price you pay for appointing a current home nations' head coach.

You decide your squad by listing out the must-go.s; and then a list of marginals.

England's must-go players are: Vunipola, Marler, Kruis, Lawes, Itoje, Launch (unavailable), Vunipola, Farrell, Joseph, Watson (9)

Ireland's must-go players are: McGrath, Furlong, Henderson, Stander, POM, Heaslip, Murray, Sexton, Hensaw (9)

Wales' must-go players are: Warburton, Tipuric, Faletau, Webb, Williams (5)

Scotland's must-go players are: Hogg (1)

 

You're then picking 2 more THPs, but Nel is injured, Francis, Bealham and Lee aren't good enough; so Cole is obvious, then Sinkler & Fagerson provide inexperienced impact, 2-way marginal call IMO.

You want 3 hookers, from Hartley, George, Best, Cronin, Owens & Ford. Best is the obvious choice from that lot, leaving you to perm 2 from 5 - none of which are obivously superior/inferior to the others; George probably the most talented, and least experienced. 5-way marginal call for IMO.

We still need 1 more lock, from Ryan, Jones, Gray & Gray; whilst I'd personally go for JGray, I could make a good case for all 4 - 4-way marginal call IMO.

We also want 2 flankers, from Robshaw, Haskell, SOB, JdvF, Moriarty, Watson - I wouldn't say that any of them are obvious choices; and he went with just about the least appertising 2 for me, but there's nothing clear-cut about it; a 6-way marginal call IMO.

Given that he's gone for Moriarty as a flanker, we need to lose a N8; or Vunipola, Heaslip and Faletau; all are great players, and all deserve to go on merit... how the hell did he pick Moriarty over those 3? I dunno, I'm talking myself around to calling one a stinker of a decision.

 

1 SH from Youngs, Care & Prygos (Laidlaw injured) - much as I dislike YBY; this is not a hard decision to make.

1 FH from Ford, Jackson, Biggar & Russell - and he piocked the 4th choice of 4, and the only one who will be completely out of his depth talent-wise in NZ - even if he'll be reliably out of his depth. An absolute stinker.

2-3 more centres required (is Faz a 10 or 12? are JJ / Daly 13 or 14? is Payne a 13 or 15?); to pick from Te'o, Daly, Ringrose, Davies, Dunbar, Jones & Bennett. IMO Gatland's gone for bulk rather than antionality, skill, form or class - what a surprise! Given his predeliction for centres over 110kg I guess the choices were obvious, but he still managed to get 0/2 (or 1/3) correct according to just about everyone else in rugby. Wrong decisions, but not outright stinkers IMO.

3 Wingers required, from Nowell, May, Earles, North, Seymour & Visser; Seymour a favourite, and May the least; essentially leaving us with 2 to pick from Nowell, Earles, North, & Visser. For sheer class, North is top of that little pile, for form, Nowell;  4-way marginal IMO, with a note that form tends not to last the 3 months before the squad has their first training session; and any coach will back themselves to bring a class player into form.

Gatland wanted 2 more FBs, and whilst I disagree (I'd take 1, with another winger, given that Williams, Watson and Daly are already all in), he's picking from Kearney, Payne, Zebo, Halfpenny and Maitland. I personally wouldn't have picked either of Gatland's options, but can't argue with Halfpenny's class, just his form (for which, see above) - Payne is the poor choice for me there; but I guess his versatility gets him the slot; either way a 5-way marginal call IMO.

 

I'd have made different choices from Gatland on many of those marginal calls; but there's not a lot in it for each individual one - diplomacy and the act of bringing 4 nations together as 1 team means that the Scots should have been favoured more in the tight calls.

Edited by Which Tyler

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Posted (edited)

Well, that puts the Launchbury is unavailable rumour to bed - tourin with England and a whole bunch of kids:

Props
Collier
Genge
Hill
Williams
Mulan

Hookers
LCD
Hartley

Locks
Ewels
Isiekwe
Launchbury

Back Row
Curry
Curry
Haskell
Hughes
Robshaw
Underhill
Wood

Scrum Halves
Care
Maunder

Fly Halves
Ford
Francis
Lozowski

Centres
Slade
Mallinder
James
Marchant

Wings
Cockanasiga
Earle
May
Solomona

Full Back
Mike Brown

Edited by Which Tyler

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Posted (edited)

Somewhat odd squad selected by Jones to go to Argentina. He's gutted the under 20's but still taken all the senior players left out of the Lions tour.

If he wants to get the younger players up to speed in time to make the 2019 World Cup then I suppose he needs to get them involved now but it's a slightly strange way to go about. The depth at flanker behind Robshaw and Haskell is an issue so I can see why he'd want to look at Underhill and, in particular, the Curry's who look real talents but why take all three of Robshaw, Haskell and Wood as well for a 2 game series? I don't get Isiekwe going either, he looks a good prospect but not getting picked for England after 59 minutes of senior rugby good and it's not like second row is a problem area.

In the backs I'll be interested to see how Cokanasiga and Earle go. Cokanasiga's massive and quick which isn't a bad start and Earle was quality at the Junior World Cup a couple of years ago before he picked up some injuries so it'd be good to see him kick on. I'm not sure I see the point of picking Francis, he's ok but he's less talented than Farrell, Slade and Mallinder (Devoto too for that matter) so as I squad player I'm not sure what he adds. Maunder getting picked isn't a good sign for Robson and Spencer.

ETA: Not a fan of picking Solomona. He's a good player but, like Hughes, we really don't need to be poaching players.

Edited by ljkeane

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