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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 8:35 am

On Taylorman's thread - http://www.606v2.com/t52681-merts-views-on-the-impact-of-the-10-jersey - there's a good piece by Merths, which mentions him coming face to face with the big unit that is Frans Steyn (frankly anyone is a big unit next to Merths!) when they played in France.

He also mentions the French belief in the axis of 2, 8, 9, 10 and 15. If you had a strong axis or spine of those players, you gave your team a good chance of closing out a game. Is this overly simplistic or does it unfairly overinflate specific players' worth in a team game?

Certainly there is compelling evidence for both sides of the argument. If you take England in this year's 6N, their axis looked much stronger than in other years. The renaissance of Care, the form and attacking or defending intent of Brown, the solidity of Farrell and his willingness to stay more up in the line, the go-forward of Vunipola or Morgan and the set piece solidity of Hartley all seemed to be there. Did these players' consistency contribute to England's consistency?

The axis, however, mentions only a small component of the set piece. No mention of props, locks and two smoking backrowers. Can we isolate a team by only looking at two out of the 8 players in a pack and three out of the five players in a backline? A rugby adage is you pick your LH and TH props first and then your team starts from there. Isn't that a bit like isolating the sex scene in the latest bit of 300 nonsense and saying I really liked what that was trying to achieve so the film in general is good? Is it really possible to say one player is more important than another?

We talk about a player like Care and the value and enthusiasm he obviously injected but couldn't we say the same about Lawes or Burrell? One player may get to touch the ball more often than others but does that make them more important to the team. The backline general is often considered to be the flyhalf (though Biltong will argue 9 is more important for SA but is that a bit like NZ saying 10 is historically more important than 9 because we have a problem finding world class 9s?) and certainly Ireland looked a lot more convincing when Sexton was playing well and looked more fallible when he wasn't but is that coincidence or consequence?

Is a true axis your starting team and their combinations with each other as well as the squad members who integrate into the side during the match? Or in any given game, there are always cogs in the machine that are irreplacable and need to be working well for the team as a whole to function?


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Post by GloriousEmpire on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 8:47 am

Sounds like kind of old waffle that sees French selection debacles that we witness.

Teams obviously need to be balanced and constructed for a given style or styles, but to base everything on some random metaphorical dogma surely indicates a lack of vision, understanding of nuance and creativity in a coach?

I mean why not base his plan on astrology? Sure as good as a "spine" for irrelevance and obtuse simplicity?

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 8:50 am

Not sure about that GE. France have been clueless in the halves combination for quite some time!

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Post by beshocked on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 9:13 am

I think it's overly simplistic but I do think that players do feed off each other in terms of confidence.

Everyone helps each other. If you have a strong 8 it helps the 9, if the 9 is playing well it helps the 10 and so on.

I believe England have a consistent set of players as a whole. I wouldn't say the improved form is down to one specific player. The workrate of Launchbury and Lawes has been excellent for example. Everyone has a role.

To be honest I believe it's down to the attitude that the coaches have adopted. Formerly players with disciplinary issues like Care,Hartley and Lawes are much more mature,improved players. You can see the progress that players have had under Lancaster. There's a structure in place. Everyone helps each other.

Must have been nice for the English forwards for example to see their 10 slot all his kicks vs Wales and Italy. They know their hard work was being rewarded on the scoreboard.

The French on paper have good players in 2,8,9,10 and 15 (okay maybe not 10 but the rest) - Schwarzeski,Picamoles,Parra and Medard. If the French had a good coach they could be a scary proposition.


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Post by thebandwagonsociety on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 10:05 am

I suppose that the 2 is meant to be in charge of set pieces, scrums and lineouts. The 8 is meant to captain the backrow. The 9-10 are the key decision makers on the field and in the past the 15 is the defensive safety net and mouthpiece in defense to keep the defensive line in structure.

Pragmatically though this analogy sets out that a third of the starting team are key positions and leaders

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 10:41 am

Ive heard about the 2,8,9,10,15 axis idea many times...and whilst its very simple...i do believe in it. Thats the bones that you build the team around.

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Post by Poorfour on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 10:44 am

I think the idea of the spine arises because those positions have unique tasks to do that can't easily be shared across other roles. If your hooker can't throw there's nothing much anyone else can do to compensate.

Where it does get interesting is around 9, 10 & 12. You need a mixture of running, kicking and passing threats in these three and an element of unpredictability. Different teams do it in different ways. In France and SA, the 9 is often more of a creative role and defenders know they can't commit to the 10 and 12 too early. England have often gone best when they have a creative 12 who can take pressure off the fly half. Wilko sometimes needed Greenwood and Catt to prevent a marauding (and usually French) back row from simply targeting him.

What is interesting for me is that England are starting to develop a gameplan where any one of 5 or 6 players can comfortably act as the playmaker, sometimes with multiple options available at once.

Care buys the attack extra time, because the defenders can't discount him making a break. Farrell, Twelvetrees and Brown have all stepped in at first or second receiver at points. When there's pressure on the backline, Robshaw has gone in at first receiver to move the point of attack. It's more varied than most other teams' gameplans and should be hard to defend against once it is fully bedded in.

Which I guess means I have talked myself to a point where I think the importance of the spine is diminishing as teams expect more players to act as an attacking pivot. In this we are only catching up with the All Blacks, who I think have known this for ages.

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Post by beshocked on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 10:56 am

Poorfour the wings seem to be pretty useless in England's/Lancaster's gameplan though.

Geordiefalcon surely it's the 2nd row that run the lineout? Not sure I necessarily agree.

I think the centres seem to be massively important to a cohesive attack. Burrell has really been a breath of fresh air in the centres in my opinion. I feel that an attack can fall apart without the centres working well.

Every game is different. You can still win a game even if one aspect of your game is not functioning properly obviously.

A 9 and 10 still need a sufficiently good platform or they'll suffer.

Only need to see England vs NZ in 2012 to see a world class 10 like Carter struggling because his pack were getting a beating. It meant his confidence dropped.


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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 11:44 am

Poorfour the roles of TH and LH prop are specialist roles and no one else can perform them. Much more than a lock who could be replaced by say a 6.

I think you need generals across the park but I don't see those axis positions as necessarily the players who organise their respective components. The 10 is more concerned with the 9 and the 9 concerned with his pack than those outside him, even though they play a big role in his play. Often a backline general is the 13: Conrad Smith, Fourie, Mortlock, BOD that links the backline together notably on attack but even that is hardly set in concrete.

I subscribe more to the theory of beshocked that a team is broken down into its components or units and players feed off the confidence those respective members give the others. Aaron Smith, Merths suggests, had a poor Super campaignb because he didn't have a 10 who guided him enough in his play. Simiularly you could have three impressive backrow units but if they don't combine well with one another or don't operate effectively as a unit, you're going to suffer just as much as a weak link in a front five.

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Post by beshocked on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 12:04 pm

kiakahaatorea agree with that.

A good unit generally will beat individuals even if the individuals are immensely talented - Barbarians spring to mind.

Players also generally feel comfortable with playing with those from their own club.

Good example of that in the 6 nations - Robshaw of Quins passes ball to Brown of Quins who passes to Care of Quins for winning try vs Ireland. 3 players from the same club linking up nicely.

Look at longstanding centre partnerships - Darcy - BOD and Nonu -Smith.

England's decent lineout has been Hartley and Lawes linking up (both play for Saints), Wood does too.

Each team is different and needs/wants different players. That could be a winger who defends well first and foremost or a "playmaking" 12.

For example in England Will Greenwood is idolised and some England fans see Twelvetrees as his successor.

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Post by dummy_half on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 12:50 pm

Some good discussion. I think that the 'axis 'idea is something that is half true, although I'd argue that 8-9-10 as a combination are the heartbeat of a great team. The way England have played, Care has been vital in setting the tempo and directing the attacks, but he has been helped hugely by having power carriers (particularly Billy V and Ben Morgan) getting over the gain line. And because Care has been able to dictate such a high tempo in attack, Farrell (and occasionally other playmakers) have been able to find a little more space to pull the strings and play a wider game.

I do think though that the 'axis' underplays the significance of the forwards overall - if your scrum is going backwards, your lineout not functioning and the breakdown getting smashed, an 8-9-10 combination of Buck Shelford, Gareth Edwards and Dan Carter won't save you.

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 1:27 pm

The forwards win you the match. The backs decide by how much. Or in the case of NZ, the ref decides by how much.  angel Very Happy 


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Post by dummy_half on Tue 18 Mar 2014, 1:30 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:The forwards win you the match. The backs decide by how much. Or in the case of NZ, the ref decides by how much.  angel Very Happy 


Paraphrased from Wales v England 2013 - The forwards win you the match, Steve Walsh decides by how much  Wink 

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Post by Scratch on Wed 19 Mar 2014, 4:12 am

dummy_half wrote:
kiakahaaotearoa wrote:The forwards win you the match. The backs decide by how much. Or in the case of NZ, the ref decides by how much.  angel Very Happy 


Paraphrased from Wales v England 2013 - The forwards win you the match, Steve Walsh decides by how much  Wink 

27 points must be a record for a referee.

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