Do International fixtures have a disproportionate knock on effect on club rugby? Part 2

As we hit the next set of international games, do you feel that International window’s disproportionately affect results and eventual league standings?

I want to use Glasgow Warriors Vs Ospreys as my example tonight. Both are sides with a great number away injured or on international duty.

Before the game, the commentators said that it was 15/16 Ospreys away and 18 Glasgow Warriors away.

The difference on the night (other than the red card) probably came down to injuries. Glasgow Warriors had ten men injured. That’s enough to put you down to a third choice backline or scrum as opposed to second choice.

When we look at the bench, there were multiple guys making debuts, some just academy players. The front row options were a 21 year old, to be replaced by a 19 year old. It’s a credit to the players to be selected in these games and also, it must be said, a brilliant opportunity for young talents to be spotted. But it does show that teams are stretched for depth in these periods.

When we look back on this season and those that have gone before, this is a key time in the season for defining who our finalists are.

Before the Ospreys Vs Newport Gwent Dragons game, Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy highlighted the importance of winning in this part of the season and the effect that it has on eventual standings. It’s no coincidence that Glasgow doing well in these periods in previous years has led to back to back play-off rugby for the last couple of years.

The Warriors aren’t dead and buried. On the night, Ospreys thoroughly deserved their win- they just looked a bit more fluid and comfortable on the ball. With two wins in this crucial time of the season, they can rest assured they’re on the right track so far, for some Pro12 play-off action this year. Glasgow on the other hand, will be hoping for some big results when their international players return to regain some momentum.

Do International’s affect your club? If so, good or bad? Drop me a message on Twitter or an email to let me know your thoughts.

You can read the original piece from the Six Nations last year (Premiership related) below!

The Scribbler, 25th November, 2016

Twitter: @RugbyScribbler

 

 

 

Rugby Scribbles

In the hallowed week of the Six Nations, I thought I’d take a look at how international rugby (focussing on the Six Nations) affects club competitions and how it could affect the validity of the final standings. The topic was first brought to my attention by the Driving Maul twitter page, where a poll was run asking if people think that the Six Nations is the cause for the upsets in the premiership last week (round 12) and therefore ruins the validity of the competition. The most notable upset that weekend was of course, Saracens defeat to Wasps, 23-64.

Looking at Wasps victory in the Premiership first, the first thing that struck me was the strength of both side’s team sheets. Of course, influential names such as Owen Farrell, Duncan Taylor and the suspended Chris Ashton are missing from Saracens team and the likes of Joe Launchbury and Ruaridh Jackson…

View original post 902 more words

Advertisements

Welcome Back, Scottish Rugby

Scotland are a competitive side again, something which 2016 has confirmed for me. Despite the near heroics of Rugby World Cup 2015, I still wasn’t overly convinced by Scotland. They were certainly on an upwards curve and Vern Cotter and his men executed their pool exit strategy perfectly. However, generally Scotland were still firm underdogs against most-sides. In the World Cup Quarter-Final, even if the score didn’t dictate it, I never felt as though Scotland were on top against the Wallabies- more as though they were holding on due to uncharacteristic, sloppy errors from the Wallabies and missed kicks. In that game the Scots were outscored five tries to three.

Fast-forward a year and Scotland out-scored a Wallabies side, who ripped holes in the Welsh defence just a week before, by three tries to two. They beat more defenders, made more metres, made more clean breaks and more offloads than the Aussies. This followed on from a Six Nations where they ran Wales and England close (on the score-board at least), beat Italy and beat France at Murrayfield for the first time in a decade. They followed that with a clean sweep on their tour of Japan, a team who beat South Africa last year and were cruelly denied by a Sam Davies drop goal when they played Wales in Cardiff at the weekend.

The main negative following their first game was one of those same-old Scotland moments. The defiant losers, brave old Scotland, just need to learn how to close out a game. Brilliant stuff, never heard anyone say that before.

The following game which promised so much, was quite frankly dire. The Scottish crowd showed up in numbers, the Murrayfield crew put on a brilliant pre-match show. The fireworks were to stop there. Argentina looked shattered after what has been a long and gruelling season for them. To be honest, Scotland looked similar. Despite another stand out performance from Huw Jones and a great debut from Edinburgh loose-forward Magnus Bradbury, there was little to inspire the crowd. Even the tackling machine, Jonny Gray, who’s tackling stats were phenomenal the week before, looked average as he was just SECOND best tackler of the home nations this weekend…….

The positive for me that out-shone all of this, was the resolve shown to get the win. With scores tied in the final ten minutes, Finn Russell missed two dropped goals. Greig Laidlaw missed a penalty. I was getting ready to put on my ‘Argentina are a good side nowadays’ face, as Scotland sat in more or less the same position as last week. This time though, they were patient, composed. One error by Argentina and Laidlaw punished it. Three minutes into the red and he landed the penalty that won the game and crucially, got Scotland into then top eight ahead of Argentina and the World Cup pool draws next year.

There’s still the potential stumbling block of Georgia next weekend- up to twelfth in the world rankings, they’re certainly a side to reckon with, having beaten Samoa in Tbilisi last weekend. If a strong side is selected and they perform, Scotland should make it through alive and will be going into the Six Nations on a high.

It should be said that Scotland usually seem to do better in the Autumn than in the Six Nations, but with a number of new players blooded to help improve depth and a really strong year so far, Scotland should be targeting going one better than last year.

Italy seem an improved side after their win over South Africa, although it’s only O’Shea’s second game in charge. Ireland and England seem unstoppable at present.

As a Scotland fan the Wales game at Murrayfield is a huge target. Not only is it the day before my birthday (hint Mum and Dad), if they win that, alongside the Italy games and France games then real progress will be shown from the team that lost every single game in Cotter’s first Six Nations campaign. This is a tall order, but in my eyes it’s something absolutely achievable and would confirm that the Scots are a competitive side once more.

‘Competitive’ doesn’t mean that they will necessarily lift the Six Nations trophy, or beat the All Blacks next week, but it means that sides will be wary, games will be tense and exciting- Scotland already play an exciting brand of rugby under Cotter. With Gregor Townsend coming in and improved performance, Scotland are now in my eyes a competitor worth going to watch, not a team that you go to watch because “we should probably win this one”

Gone are the days of Scotland results being based on crap weather and penalties. Welcome back Scottish Rugby.

Don’t forget to sign up to my fantasy league and Mailing List.

Let me know your thoughts on Twitter.

The Scribbler, 22nd November, 2016

Twitter: @RugbyScribbler

Potential Lions 1st Test Team

With both the Guinness Pro12 final and the Aviva Premiership finals just one week before the first Lions test, it got me thinking; If Gatland goes for fresh legs and rests all involved in the finals for the first test- what might his team look like in the first test?

To make this team, I’ve looked at the teams in the top 4 of their respective leagues and immediately discounted any players from those teams. Of course the top 4 are likely to have changed to some extent by the end of this season, this was just a piece done out of curiosity. Here’s the team and my justifications.

 

Potential Lions 1st Test Team - Lions Tour - Rugby lineups, formations and tactics
A potential Lions XV for the first test

 

  1. Gethin Jenkins- Having experienced three Lions tours already, he could bring an awful lot of experience to this team. With an impressive chip over the top in Wales win over Argentina last week, he has shown that he still has some class in him yet, even at 36 years of age.

  2. England Captain, at the time of writing with 11 consecutive wins under his belt- he would be a huge presence in the front-row. Born in New Zealand, there may just be a bit of extra incentive at play for Dylan Hartley.

  3. With Edinburgh ever inconsistent, Gatland will hope that Nel will be available for the first game- having transformed the Scottish set piece and being a big carrier in open play, Nel is held in high regard by many.

  4. Last weekend Jonny Gray and elder brother Richie being menaces in the loose, solid in the set piece. Jonny topped the tackle charts of Europe with 24, Richie just behind on 23, in class of their own in defence- with Jonny set for finals with Glasgow Warriors, Richie wouldn’t be a bad selection for the first test at all.

  5. Ultan Dillane may seem like a bolter to some- 3rd choice at best for Ireland, but a really underrated player. For me he has similar potential to Maro Itoje (almost certain to be away with Sarries) and with so many quality lock’s likely to be involved in finals, this could be a real moment for the young lock (If a bit of a baptism of fire)

  6. Solid to the last, experienced in beating the All Blacks (2012) Mr Robshaw ticks all of the right boxes for me.

  7. Sam Warburton- Captained the Lions to victory in 2013, a favourite under Gatland, he’s unlikely to miss out on selection.

  8. With a number of quality eights likely to be tied up with play-off action, Ross Moriarty could be a good shout for this spot. One of Wales’ few stand-out performers so far this Autumn.

  9. Greeeiiig. Perhaps not the most exciting scrum-half for some people, but has shown multiple times wih Gloucester and Scotland that he can lead a team and make the big decisions. Offering another option from the tee, Laidlaw could help to steer the ship in the first test.

  10. Paddy Jackson. There were a number of other who could have gone here, but Jackson has been pushing Sexton all the way this season and with Laidlaw as kicking back up, can focus on his own game more.

  11. This could have gone to George North, but I’d rather see Williams on the wing to make space for Mike Brown at the back. Williams shone against the All Blacks this summer and Anscombe has played amongst All Black teams and in Super Rugby, so will know what to expect.

  12. An illusive step, good kicking, physicality and great distribution skills to boot, Henry Slade could carry out a similar role that no doubt Farrell will be doing for Saracens the weekend before the first test.

  13. Another ‘bolter’ but with Super Rugby experience, and no chance of being involved in a final in the lead up, Huw Jones could be exactly the bolter that the Lions need. It’s early days for this guy, but the initial signs are promising.

  14. Jack Nowell- currently injured, but a constant attacking threat, with a great turn of pace and an assured defender too, he provides a strong option on the wing.

  15. Mike Brown- Wouldn’t be here otherwise, but on his day can be a quality addition to any side. A man who is in the elite, having played in a side that beat the All Blacks in 2012.

That makes it:

ENGLAND: 5

IRELAND: 2

WALES: 4

SCOTLAND: 4

The weighting here may seem bizarre- Ireland beat the All Blacks, England have been on a long run of victories, Scotland are playing the nearly card and Wales seem to be in a bit of a rut.

The problem is caused by the number of top internationals playing in the top teams in each league. Logically, to me, Ireland and England would otherwise make up the most numbers with a littering of Scottish and Welsh players to finish it off.

No doubt I’ve forgotten some players, so please let me know your thoughts on Twitter, or drop me an email- It’s of course all very hypothetical, league positions and form will change, but it was fun to look at.

Don’t forget to join my fantasy league and mailing list, here.

The Scribbler, 18th November, 2016

Twitter: @RugbyScribbler