It’s been bugging me for quite a while.
Watching international and premiership rugby and watching skill levels much lower than they should be. Pass technique varies with every pass and rarely do their hands end up pointing towards their intended target.
Hands are rarely up ready to receive a pass unless they are actually acting as a decoy player. A movement sideways rather than forward is often the case.
Tackle technique is more about the hit than the process, again players’ arms at their sides in the defensive line, not up and ready to tackle, their feet too far away from the tackle and their head facing down towards the grass unable to see what’s happening.
Breakdown skills don’t have to be very accurate as the laws help promote bash rather than accuracy.
Skills in the 6 Nations
It’s often summed up by clips shown on websites or tv of a team preparing. Last week there was one of England and all their players with their arms down in the defensive line. That was prefixed by a clip of an attack with players taking steps sideways, hands late to come up to receive the ball and passes too low. I remember playing with Paul Turner and in training he would just throw the ball back to me (with a well timed adjective) if my pass to him wasn’t where he wanted it.
When you compare rugby XV’s skills at the highest levels to other professional sports – particularly in the USA, then we are miles behind.
Take the NBA. Every attempted shot is technically on the money. Every single one. Watch them play or train and you will see the same exacting technique that has been practiced as nauseam.
A player gets one step wrong or his shape slightly wrong defensively and it’s on repeat on the tv and the commentators and crowd also point out that players technical inadequacies.
You need to be technically brilliant in attack and defence or you get found out quickly.
Skill reproduction is seen as a huge priority. Why? Because the teams at the highest level win the most. Skill = success.
You might think I’m being overly critical but if the skill sets aren’t encouraged to improve across the board then the game will become less accurate and based more on size and strength than skills and technique. That would only lead to a dilution of the sport.
We are still a very young professional sport in comparative terms and I would say that our pass, catch and tackling skills are no more advanced than those playing the game 30-40 years ago.
I did see two areas last weekend in the Wales vs England game. The first was the beautiful running lines created by Wales from their first phase move that created a great try. The second was the clever focus on the second man in the tackle looking to target the ball. It was a well thought out technique that gleaned results and showed inventiveness that all too often is a rare animal in the modern game. Filled me with optimism and hope that the game can still develop in the right direction.