Statgasm: RBS 6 Nations round four
Many would perhaps say that the only stat relevant to this game is the one about number of tries given that should not have been, but let's look at some more obscure and interesting ones.
- 20% of all Ireland's possession ended in an error, over half of that total was from minging kicks
- Wales missed a staggering 12 tackles, or to put it another way 10% of the all those they attempted. Shaun Edwards' head may well explode at that one
- Wales did not have a single scrum awarded to them in the whole match
- Ireland had more possession, and won nearly three times as much ball in their opponent's 22, yet still lost. What a game, eh?
Italy 22 - 21 France
Unfortunately, we couldn't measure the Italians tears of joy by the cubic metre, but here's some other stuff.
- 2, the total number of scrums Italy both won and lost.
- If both teams had landed all the points available from kicks and drops attempted, then it still would have been won only by a single point, but by France 28-29.
- France only kicked the ball to touch once, and Italy three times, by far the lowest total of all three matches this weekend. By contrast, Ireland alone went for touch 10 times in their match in Cardiff.
England 22 - 16 Scotland
Scotland increased in quality by about 95%, and the England press and fans World Cup delusions continue to multiply to the power of 1000 week by week. Here's some other bits.
- England had few lowests and highest stats this weekend, some in a good way for once.
LOWEST - missed tackles (0); possession kicked (33%)
HIGHEST - offloads (18); possession (63%), line breaks (6)
- and some not so much: 29% of all that possession ended in an error, all bar one of which were handling or breakdown errors.
- All the talk in the press would lead you to belive that Scotland's lineout was like like some kind of physical comedy play, but they in fact only lost 3 to England's 1, which might not be great but it's not catastrophic either.
RBS 6 Nations Preview: Wales
Unfortunately, the injury croupier has dealt him a set of cards worse than mixed low numbers of different suit, covered in dog shit. He and Shaun Edwards face the challenge of reviving the country's form with second choices in many positions. This would be hard enough for most teams, but the fact that Wales's first choice props are the two best in the world and the back-ups are Paul James and Craig Mitchell says it all for the scrummage.
Worryingly, Wales seemed to have stopped playing head-up rugby as well. Anyone who saw the Aus game in the Autumn will know that they kept pointlessly hammering the wide first receiver gameplan despite it blatantly failing. This changed only when Richie Rees came on, but he is knacked also, we can only hope Peel can inject what the Cardiff man did off the bench.
The above, plus poor team form from the regions recently (Ospreys in particular) means this will be a tournament of fits and starts, mixed results and a mid-table finish. Still finish above Scotland, though.
Having said all that, this is perfect Gatland and Edwards territory: siege mentality etc, so they may surprise us all. But I doubt it.
Key Player: Jamie Roberts. Wales have been without him for a while, it's time to be a revelation all over again
Prediction: 4th. Again.
Player most likely to make Brian Moore's piss boil (excluding scrum-half): Alun Wyn-Jones - "Why oh why did he get involved there? No need and now they're a man down. Daft!"
RBS 6 Nations Preview: England
England, if you add all the good bits up, have had roughly 2.5 good games in the last three years, two of these have been against Australia in the past six months which would suggest that the team is improving. In a way it is, there are some very promising young players coming through in a number of positions who have taken international rugby in their stride. In other ways it is not; the good moments have been punctuated by long, meandering sessions of slow-ball, brainless dreck that made the fans' souls cry; and Mike Tindall is apparently still the best 13.
Many pundits have for some unfathomable reason installed England - an average team with no pace in the forwards, and little creativity behind - as favourites for this tournament. I am here to stop this madness.
Fact is, England are 10 months out from a World Cup and somehow still believe that Joe Worsley is some kind of impact sub, Louis Deacon is some kind of international rugby player, and that Matt Banahan is some kind of quality centre. They are insane.
Prediction: 3rd, and that's only because the Wales squad has more injuries than Hull on a particularly violent Saturday night
Key Player: Shontayne Hape. No, that's not a joke. 12 is where games are often won and lost from these days, and for the decent England back three to get moving he'll have to show something from there.
Player most likely to make Brian Moore's piss boil (excluding scrum-half): James Haskell - "Where the hell is he going! There's no point having all that pace if you use it to run away from your support! Stupid!"
RBS 6 Nations Preview: France
Can they do it again? Who knows. The last six months have been something of a return to the howling insanity of Lievremont's early days in charge, but he will hope to settle down to a core of 22 players that he can stick with in the run up to the World Cup.
The pack that did so well last year should largely be the same this time around, although the backs look to have a different feel altother. Last year's centre pairing is no more, with Loco Bastareaud dropped due to being a fat knacker and the wonderful Jauzion losing some magic and being overtaken by Maxime Mermoz. The coach also seems keen to kill any creativity on the outside, with the man shaped ball cannon Traille looking first choice at fullback ahead of the flamboyant Poitrenaud, and horse-like person Rougerie likely to assume the 13 berth.
At least that's Lievremont's plan for this week. Next week he may field and entire team of penguins.
Prediction: 1st. The decisive factor may be that they are the side with the least injury absentees. They should have enough quality, and enough first choice players available to win it
Key Player: Morgan Parra, still only 22 but nevertheless crucial
Player most likely to make Brian Moore's piss boil (excluding scrum-half): Damien Traille - "I mean, why has he kicked that away? Brainless!"
England Management Omnishambles make right call on Phil Dowson at 427th time of asking
Club partner Tom Wood is also called up, which means that Saints may end up getting a fair few of their players knacked by England before the Big Cup quarter-finals.
All this means that England could have a back-row of Dowson, Wood and Easter. But we all know what it will actually mean is that they will have a back-row containing some disgraceful Joe Worsley permutation.
What was that I said about not spoiling the moment?
Courtney Lawes is injured for ages, and that's the best bit of news believe it or not
However, most people in rugby I have read or spoken to in the past months seem to accept that with Courtney Lawes, we are for once not just throwing hyperbole around but have some foundation for our giddy ramblings. Every inch the modern, powerful and dynamic lock, the young Saints giant has been the beating heart of every decent English performance of the past year, and has even looked good when the rest of the team were going down faster than Liverpool FC's credibility.
But as the title above states, this is not the worst news we have heard today. History has shown us that many actions can lead to something much worse; the Chinese believe a butterfly beating its wings can eventually cause a hurricane, Rob Andrew the player led to Rob Andrew the droning administrator, Strictly Come Dancing begat Dancing On Ice etc, and it is also thus with the Lawes injury, as this news means that LOUIS DEACON IS LIKELY TO START FOR ENGLAND IN THE SIX NATIONS!!
I'm off for a little cry, please leave your commiserations or gloating abuse (according to your nationality) in the comments.
Ambivalent start to the new year department: Rob Andrew loses his job
The news that Rob Andrew is about to lose his job has been greeted with bunting, Basement Jaxx hits blasting from the stereo, and a smile on my face so wide that you could be mistaken into thinking one of the Kray twins has been round with a sword.
But our joy must be tempered. It seems that - in a typically English fudge - the great underachiever is not being given the boot completely, more shifted into a less high profile role of overseeing youth development. The worrying thing is that less high profile does not necessarily mean less important. In fact you could argue he is being given the most important role in English rugby. Still, at least he'll be off the telly and not making those nonsensical overtures to the press any more, eh?
Time to bring in much of the bunting, turn the stereo down a bit and allow my countenance to shape into something akin to a father watching his young son play full contact rugby for the first time - he knows this should feel right, so why so apprehensive?
I've not been this conflicted since I discovered I liked a Westlife song.
Great rugby families, which is the mack daddy?
The Tuilagis - Seven brothers, six of whom have played or continue to play rugby at a decent level. One of them, Freddie, winning championships in both codes.
Strengths: There a loads of them, they are all massive, powerful and most of them bear a passing resemblance to the Predator. Plus, they all have kids, who even at the age of 6 are probably stronger than Charlie Hodgson.
Weaknesses: The Samoan language has no word for sidestep, and it shows with them
The Lievremonts - Three brothers from the south of France - Marc, Thomas and Matthieu all played back row for their country. Granted, Matt only got a cap when he was 33 and the national team was under the mental early management period of his brother Marc, which definitely had a bit of "Our mum told me I had to" about it.
Strengths - They are French forwards, thus they are psychopaths. Marc carried this mental disorder into his later coaching career, which is nice.
Weaknesses - Not legendary in status, and one of them didn't even get a proper cap.
The Quinnells - Father Derek and three sons Scott, Craig & Gavin all had careers of varying success. Derek and Scott are Wales and Lions legends of course. Craig could have been a contender but he struggled with walking past pie shops and pubs. Gavin was carving out a decent career until he recently received what can only be described as an eye wounding in a game for Llanelli against Cross Keys.
Strengths - All big units, with the additional fear factor that Derek's beard would inspire in opponents.
Weaknesses - Craig would only last about 4 minutes in a fight before collapsing, vomiting then pulling out a Fray Bentos steak and ale he'd been keeping warm in his pants.
The Ellas - Smallest so far, both in terms of numbers and in terms of bulk. The Ella brothers, Mark & Glen, are the first backs to feature in the list.
Strengths - Mark Ella is arguably the greatest 10 of all time, and what he loses in power he could more than compensate with guile, the odd chip kick, and Jedi mind tricks.
Weaknesses - Glen.
The Armitages - New kids on the block, with brothers all over the park. Bevon is a journeyman threequarter, Delon is a solid yet gliding international full-back; Steffon a rotund but effective international breakaway; and Guy, the youngest at 17, could yet be the best and is currently destroying other back-rows as a flanker in the London Irish academy.
Strengths - So many names that sound the same could confuse opponents, allowing young Guy to attack when they least expect.
Weaknesses - Delon's shoulder could pop mid-altercation, Bevon might have to head off to his part-time job, Steffon may need food and Guy will have to check his Bebo at some point on his phone
Which is your money on? Let us know in the comments and if we've missed out your favourites then give them a mention too.
Ten things that might happen in 2011 (or not)
2. James Simpson-Daniel will solve his back and shoulder injury problems permanently by playing in a titanium straight jacket. He will still have better hands than Tom Varndell.
3. After spending a week in a large field alone, Andy Powell will discover what space is and the possibilites running into it brings.
4. Brendan Venter will start up a mediation consultancy to heal every rift in international rugby with his zen-like calm and diplomacy. The business will fail after its first assignment: Luke Watson vs The People of South Africa.
5. Adam Jones will finally go the whole hog and spend the entire year not speaking. He will still be a more effective communicator than Stuart Barnes.
6. Phil Vickery will stop referring to himself in the third person, instead speaking exclusively via the medium of dance.
7. England will get slightly better, then a lot worse, then a bit better again (repeat three times) leading to a 78% aggregrate loss of form and results. The management will talk about "small improvements" and "increased momentum", the fans will weep and no-one will lose their job.
8. Gavin Henson and Danny Cipriani will have a media blackout in order to focus on getting themselves into their respective countries' World Cup squads. They then won't be selected and will instead spend October appearing on The X Factor as a duo named Curious Orange.
9. Brian O'Driscoll will become the first person in history to be canonized while still alive.
10. New Zealand will win the World Cup, finally.
What are you predicting for 2011?
Some suggestions for the IRB rulemakers
1. No using bandages on the legs of forwards to make lifting handles. Use the pockets or the scrotum, like in the olden days.
2. All scrum-halves must end their frequent tirades of abuse at the opposition with “no offence”. E.g. “You can't pass for shit mate, no offence”
3. The word 'ball' to be replaced with 'bastard.' in all commentary. E.g. “After receiving the pass a little high, James Hook couldn't quite shape himself for the drop to send the bastard through the posts to win the game"
4. Park rules apply when lesser nations such as Tonga, Samoa and Scotland play against New Zealand. Eg. Kiwis only allowed to jog not run, once they get 30 points up they have to lose a player etc.
5. According to their management, England apparently always look good in training. So, points scored there will count towards match totals if they score less that 15 points. All unused training points can be carried over to the next World Cup.
6. International Captains can play a joker card at any time in a test match, meaning that the opposition have play Phil Godman at 10 for the next twenty minutes.
7. Any kicker with lower than 70% accuracy must wear a Dunce Hat for the rest of the match, even when kicking.
8. A la dodgeball, any player hit with the ball on the volley who fails to catch it must leave the field. They can only return when a drop-goal is scored by their team.
9. "Crouch-Touch-Pause-Engage" to be replaced with "Going-My-Way-Sailor?