Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A bit of old fashioned rucking required

With no sign of the debate about the All Blacks play at the breakdown during the current Tri-Nations series dying down I was thinking, probably in a fanciful way that a good bit of old fashioned rucking from the South Africans and the Australians might have just resolved some of the issues that have emerged. By old fashioned rucking I refer to players dynamically going forward and beyond the ball with boots allowed on bodies that are obstructing the ball. This would mean a return to the old days but so many times in recent months many All Blacks players have just deserved a good shoeing at the ruck! The change in rucking mindset for the players is unlikely to be as great as that required by the current crop of referees and the IRB. This might just be one tinkering of the current interpretation of the laws that could be beneficial.

The general consensus is that the All Blacks have got away with murder at the breakdown and matters have only been made worse by the inability or inactivity on the part of the referees to deal with the problem. As I indicated in my previous posting “ Exclusion Zone around Richie McCaw and the All Blacks“ the evidence is there for all to see. .A comparison with the Six Nations and the number of yellow cards handed out to Wales further emphasizes the leniency shown towards the All Blacks in the current series. Wales received three yellow cards during the tournament at an average of one every 15 penalties in comparison with the 45 penalties per card for the All Blacks.

Bob Dwyer the former Australian Coach on his website has analyzed the All Blacks play at the breakdown and has come up with the conclusion that they infringe deliberately on a persistent basis. He highlights the following:

  • On the opposition ball All Black tacklers often finish on the wrong side of the ball – this prevents the opposition from arriving cohesively to support the ball carrier. It has also been noticeable how this tactic has also allowed the All Black players to compete for opposition ball on the ground. This also disrupts the clearance by the scrum half and slow ball is the result.

  • The All Blacks are constantly offside at the tackle/ruck when they are in possession – the All Blacks often from what Dwyer calls “outrageously off-side positions”. This includes them going a metre or two beyond the ruck and clearing out or coming in from the side. Such tactics have reduced the contest for the ball and also allowed for early long placing of the ball and quick recycling.
Dwyer singles out McCaw, Owen Franks, Kieran Read and Conrad Smith as the main offenders.

While the rest of us get on our high horse about the All Blacks tactics at the breakdown, the New Zealanders privately must be thinking that it is all rather humorous as they continue with their successful tactics and their winning ways. Richie McCaw can defend his team position all he likes and claim that they are looking to do the right thing at the breakdown while adapting to the referee to avoid yellow cards, but week on week we see the same infringements time and time again.

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