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Guscott Says England backline playing League, not Union

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Post by Rugby Fan Tue 19 Nov 2013, 9:58 am

The Times is behind a paywall, so here's a Telegraph rip-off

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/international/england/10458939/Rugby-league-coaching-is-having-a-negative-effect-on-Englands-attacking-union-game-says-Jeremy-Guscott.html

Speaking to the The Times about England's style of attacking rugby, Guscott said: “It is too autocratic, too prescriptive. A lot of teams want to get into a position that they can do a move, as in rugby league, where they go through three or four phases to manufacture a position from where they want to do a set move. It doesn’t surprise me that rugby union is following that route with the number of rugby league coaches there are in union.

Guscott says quick ball is the key to good attacking moves, but he doesn't know why England's star backs are not playing as well for their country as they do for their clubs.

“Billy [Twelvetrees] has a God-given natural physique and talent that allows him to play that hard straight game or a number 10’s ability to pass the ball very well and accurately,” he said. “They haven’t used him in that way. It surprises me that players like Ben Foden, Mike Brown and Chris Ashton don’t have a bigger input. I don’t talk to them so I don’t know what is holding them back, because they have all done it for their clubs.”
Of course, when Ashton was scoring tries, the papers were celebrating his rugby league lines.

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Post by fa0019 Tue 19 Nov 2013, 10:08 am

Guscott himself played in a side with Mike Catt, Rory & Tony Underwood.... wasn't much attacking rugby when they played for England either mind.

The biggest impact hasn't been the move of league chaps cleaning up defensive strategies.... the change of the rules post ELVs put the control of the ruck on the defender. It meant that its far more dangerous to take the ball in then before and hence why the garry owen is probably the 1st or 2nd attacking choice of play these days.... in 2005-7 it was near extinct.

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Post by beshocked Tue 19 Nov 2013, 10:15 am

Seems like Guscott thinks it must be Andy Farrell's fault for England's deficiencies in England's attacking play (as he is the only coach with a rugby league background in the England set up).

Perhaps Guscott is right. Perhaps Farrell Sr is holding us back but surely it's Mike Catt's responsibility to get the England backline ticking?

Do you think it's a coaching problem or player problem?

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Post by aucklandlaurie Tue 19 Nov 2013, 10:21 am

In fact I struggle to think of a league coach coaching attack in Europe, Edwards,Kiss and Farrell are all D coaches maybe its Robbie and Henry Paul, but arent they coaching in somewherelike Russia?

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Post by lostinwales Tue 19 Nov 2013, 10:21 am

fa0019 wrote:Guscott himself played in a side with Mike Catt, Rory & Tony Underwood.... wasn't much attacking rugby when they played for England either mind.

The biggest impact hasn't been the move of league chaps cleaning up defensive strategies.... the change of the rules post ELVs put the control of the ruck on the defender. It meant that its far more dangerous to take the ball in then before and hence why the garry owen is probably the 1st or 2nd attacking choice of play these days.... in 2005-7 it was near extinct.
Not disagreeing with the OP but the above comment.... I guess all those tries scored by those three were just flops over the line from just being lucky being in the right place when another maul went down... picard 

The England never playing attacking rugby thing is a complete myth, even if its one that we are currently doing our best to live up to.

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Post by rodders Tue 19 Nov 2013, 10:25 am

England have been obsessed with Rugby League since the game went pro. Jeebus they broke the bank for guys like Robinson, Paul, Farrell, Lesley Vainakolo - tried with others like Radlinski, Gary Connelly, Sculthorpe and more recently Thomkins.

This isn't a new thing, it was the same under Woodward, Robinson and Jonno.  

Gusgott hates league so its not surprising he's making these comments but he has a point for once...
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Post by fa0019 Tue 19 Nov 2013, 10:28 am

however Guscott does have a point, when did we last see England try a move such as the above???

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6XPeVJBps4

This was last years Currie Cup final and the defending team was filled with boks. 3 runners involved off the pivot. 2 dummy runners and 1 switch. The guy he handed off at the end was Keegan Daniel so he's no slouch either... and WP are not known for being overtly attacking.

If you're not versatile you're predictable and therefore you will never break down defences as the defending side do not have to prepare for the unexpected.

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Post by Rugby Fan Tue 19 Nov 2013, 10:31 am

Some of our finest back line play was orchestrated by Brian Ashton, and he was a big fan of League. Sadly, that also meant he selected Vainikolo over Simpson-Daniel

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Post by fa0019 Tue 19 Nov 2013, 10:33 am

lostinwales wrote:
fa0019 wrote:Guscott himself played in a side with Mike Catt, Rory & Tony Underwood.... wasn't much attacking rugby when they played for England either mind.

The biggest impact hasn't been the move of league chaps cleaning up defensive strategies.... the change of the rules post ELVs put the control of the ruck on the defender. It meant that its far more dangerous to take the ball in then before and hence why the garry owen is probably the 1st or 2nd attacking choice of play these days.... in 2005-7 it was near extinct.
Not disagreeing with the OP but the above comment.... I guess all those tries scored by those three were just flops over the line from just being lucky being in the right place when another maul went down... picard 

The England never playing attacking rugby thing is a complete myth, even if its one that we are currently doing our best to live up to.
I would suggest you go back and watch some old tapes of the Carling era. Games we saw as classics at the time were slugfests compared to modern rugby. The above players mentioned did score tries sure... but it was hardly what you could call frequent attacking play. The primary attacking play of the era was the Garry Owen and the driving maul.

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Post by GunsGerms Tue 19 Nov 2013, 11:09 am

Ha hilarious I have been saying exactly this for about two years now. It is a very ridgid league style. Very straight lines with little variation. a lot of phase buliding and very little dynamism, freedom of expression or creativity. As a result whenever the England backs try to break free of this and try something it all breaks down.

Agree with you Jeremy!!

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Post by propdavid_london Tue 19 Nov 2013, 11:10 am

I am surprised that its taken Guscott so long to realise this. Its nothing new. The influence of League on Union has been evident for a long time now.

Weren't both Ford and John Wells from League backgrounds?
For a good number of years the RFU tried to replicate the success of Robinson by fast tracking League chaps into the setup - Henry Paul, Andy Farrell, Hape, Vanikolo etc. Didn't Chev Walker have a stint before being horribly injured (although never made it to the national side).

Never was it more starkly obvious when Farrell was playing for the national side - England in the 2007 world cup - Every restart, be it 22 drop out or kick off was a long deep kick - exactly as it is in League with no thought of competing.

It’s also no wonder that England currently play like a league side with Farrell senior as defensive coach and – Farrell-Tompkins-Ashton all as ex league players.

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Post by Bathman_in_London Tue 19 Nov 2013, 11:12 am

While he doesn't make his point very well, I do agree with Guscott in many ways.
The England team isn't good at playing what is in front of it, there is a reliance on taking it in and then working a set play off that, rather than adapting to what is happening.

I don't think this is just an English problem, I think a lot of players seem to look 'over coached' and struggle to adapt to changes on the field, especially referee interpretations.

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Post by propdavid_london Tue 19 Nov 2013, 11:13 am

Sorry Rodders - just saw your post - making the same point though.

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Post by seanmichaels Tue 19 Nov 2013, 11:22 am

Guscott obviously didn't watch the first 30 mins of the 2nd half of England v Fiji in the RL world cup. The difference in the skill level of the English RL team and English RU team is vast.

Guscott is highlighting Twelvetrees as having an abundance of natural ability. If that's the best we have then we're screwed. In my eyes he's just a big man who runs hard.

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Post by beshocked Tue 19 Nov 2013, 11:25 am

It's all well and good for Guscott to criticise the English side but does he have any logical solutions?

You can say something like "The English side should play more what's in from of them" but how do you implement that?

England need a successful attacking formula but how. For example you can ask for more variety but how and what?


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Post by fa0019 Tue 19 Nov 2013, 11:28 am

If you don't have variety teams will know in advance your strategy and therefore its far easier to read, to defend and deal with... meaning England have less chance of scoring.

You need variation to keep the opposition on there toes.

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Post by lostinwales Tue 19 Nov 2013, 11:28 am

propdavid_london wrote:I am surprised that its taken Guscott so long to realise this.  Its nothing new.  The influence of League on Union has been evident for a long time now.  

Weren't both Ford and John Wells from League backgrounds?
For a good number of years the RFU tried to replicate the success of Robinson by fast tracking League chaps into the setup - Henry Paul, Andy Farrell, Hape, Vanikolo etc. Didn't Chev Walker have a stint before being horribly injured (although never made it to the national side).

Never was it more starkly obvious when Farrell was playing for the national side - England in the 2007 world cup  - Every restart, be it 22 drop out or kick off was a long deep kick - exactly as it is in League with no thought of competing.  

It’s also no wonder that England currently play like a league side with Farrell senior as defensive coach and – Farrell-Tompkins-Ashton all as ex league players.  
John Wells was an old time Leicester pro that I can remember. Ford was RL. As far as I know Chev Walker played some union and was fast tracked into the Saxons (probably just A team at the time) but just couldnt hack it and didnt last long before heading back north. Completely successful transitions from league to union are rare, but having an early transfer as successful as Robinson's probably got everyone's hopes up too much. Another pretty successful one that isnt often mentioned is Myler.

There are a load of might of's and could of's. I think Andy Farrell showed that he could have been a great union player if he had more time, less injuries, and could of actually found a position that he could fit into.

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Post by propdavid_london Tue 19 Nov 2013, 11:33 am

Is this also a case of Andy Farrell overruling Mike Catt here in the setup?

Correct me if I am wrong please -
Mike Catt is the attacking coach
Farrell is the Defensive coach
Rowntree is Scrum and Forwards
Lancaster is head coach

Where does jurisdiction lie? Should we be slinging more towards Mike Catt? Its the fact that the English backs look to be so influenced by League patterns that we assume that Catt isn't putting his stamp on things.

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Post by Rugby Fan Tue 19 Nov 2013, 12:14 pm

fa0019 wrote:...I would suggest you go back and watch some old tapes of the Carling era. Games we saw as classics at the time were slugfests compared to modern rugby. The above players mentioned did score tries sure... but it was hardly what you could call frequent attacking play....
Suggest you look at England's 1990 Six Nations matches. Plenty of attacking rugby and lots of tries. 23-0 against Ireland (4 tries) 7-26 against France (3 tries) 34-6 against Wales (4 tries), That's what the team had been working towards since they started coming out of their shells in 1988.

Then of course, came the Murrayfield defeat/calamity. After that, England decided they wanted titles and changed tack. It brought them two Grand Slam titles and a World Cup final. It wasn't pretty but supporters gave it a pass because we had been unsuccessful for so long.

When that style began to fail in 1993, England briefly switched back again by playing Barnes over Andrew at 10. We looked great for one match against Scotland but flopped against the Irish and Barnes never got another look-in.

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Post by Breadvan Tue 19 Nov 2013, 12:14 pm

I just hope Catt is'nt going to be another 'What does he do/how much say does he have', like Joe lydon or Brian Smith were often asked during their time in the Eng set up. Whats john Mitchell up to these days? We scored tries for fun under his tutulege....
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Post by propdavid_london Tue 19 Nov 2013, 12:21 pm

John Mitchell - now technical adviser at the Lions (super rugby franchise)

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Post by Rugby Fan Tue 19 Nov 2013, 12:24 pm

Breadvan wrote:Whats john Mitchell up to these days? We scored tries for fun under his tutulege....
Mitchell handled the forwards. Brian Ashton coached the backs in attack.

Mitchell has a new job:

http://mitchfactor.net/site/john-mitchell-appointment-as-ukzn-rugby-head-coach/

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Post by fa0019 Tue 19 Nov 2013, 12:40 pm

Rugby Fan wrote:
fa0019 wrote:...I would suggest you go back and watch some old tapes of the Carling era. Games we saw as classics at the time were slugfests compared to modern rugby. The above players mentioned did score tries sure... but it was hardly what you could call frequent attacking play....
Suggest you look at England's 1990 Six Nations matches. Plenty of attacking rugby and lots of tries. 23-0 against Ireland (4 tries) 7-26 against France (3 tries) 34-6 against Wales (4 tries), That's what the team had been working towards since they started coming out of their shells in 1988.

Then of course, came the Murrayfield defeat/calamity. After that, England decided they wanted titles and changed tack. It brought them two Grand Slam titles and a World Cup final. It wasn't pretty but supporters gave it a pass because we had been unsuccessful for so long.

When that style began to fail in 1993, England briefly switched back again by playing Barnes over Andrew at 10. We looked great for one match against Scotland but flopped against the Irish and Barnes never got another look-in.
You are right that in the beginning of the Cooke-Carling era they did play some sublime rugby... but it wasn't winning rugby as you said and they changed tactic.... but the era, their 91-96 winning era was defined by a very conservative game plan. Just imagine how many tries Underwood & Guscott would have got otherwise!

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Post by Breadvan Tue 19 Nov 2013, 12:46 pm

Rugby Fan wrote:
Breadvan wrote:Whats john Mitchell up to these days? We scored tries for fun under his tutulege....
Mitchell handled the forwards. Brian Ashton coached the backs in attack.

Mitchell has a new job:

http://mitchfactor.net/site/john-mitchell-appointment-as-ukzn-rugby-head-coach/
Ah ok. Shame SL couldn't persuade Wayne Smith. I support Catt but a class backs coach is our missing ingredient imo...
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Post by yappysnap Tue 19 Nov 2013, 1:31 pm

Mike Catt has next to no coaching experience, I would not be surprised if he has very little say in things. Also Farrell comes across as a real presence in the coaching team (in a good way) while again Catt seems like a wall flower.

I was disappointed at the time that Lancaster showed so little vision by going with Catt and so far Catts done nothing to prove me wrong.

Flanders has worked an incredible job on our pack. Farrell has made our team defensively strong and made us masterful at the breakdown for the first time in about a decade. Catt has...? Managed to waste quality 9s, under utilise our 13's and leave our wings out in the cold to catch pneumonia.

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Post by fa0019 Tue 19 Nov 2013, 1:35 pm

Didn't Mike Catt do good work with London Irish? They were quite progressive if I recall during his tenure?

When I see England play, its not that they fail to attack, its that they don't attack.

From that I would say that Catt is being over-ruled and Lancaster is in agreement to that. Looks more likely to me given Catts approach in club coaching.

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Post by Barney McGrew did it Tue 19 Nov 2013, 1:38 pm

Poor old Jerry's missed the point, again. England are currently ranked 3. We have a pack that would be ranked in the top 2. And currently a backline that could easily be ranked 10th. And there you have it. Doesn't matter if they're coached in Union, League or Netball. You can't polish a t#rd.
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Post by beshocked Tue 19 Nov 2013, 1:44 pm

Yappysnap I agree about Catt. Though I do wonder about much influence Farrell Sr has on the squad as you mention.

I feel that Catt needs to have more of a say. From what I have seen from England it looks to be more Farrell Sr's influence than anyone's that has shaped this England side for better or worse in my opinion.

Farrell Sr also has an AP title and Lions tour victory under his belt as a coach so obviously he is effective at something.

Completely agree about Catt and his lack of experience. Needs to have more influence on England's attack in my opinion.

Breadvan I agree getting Wayne Smith would be have been brilliant.

Disagree barney. I think we have the players just not the right game plan/ideas.

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Post by beshocked Tue 19 Nov 2013, 1:51 pm

Barney mcgrew do you really think our backs are that £$%^?

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Post by quinsforever Tue 19 Nov 2013, 2:00 pm

Barney McGrew did it wrote:Poor old Jerry's missed the point, again. England are currently ranked 3. We have a pack that would be ranked in the top 2. And currently a backline that could easily be ranked 10th. And there you have it. Doesn't matter if they're coached in Union, League or Netball. You can't polish a t#rd.
spot on. can only play with what we have. if yarde and wade electrify in the 6N then i am sure they will add the move-it-quick-wide option to the current run hard, straight and keep possession style.

and thats all you need to beat the best. a pack that slightly dominates, and a real threat out wide to force the defenders to spread out.

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Post by yappysnap Tue 19 Nov 2013, 2:11 pm

Beshocked, does the current Eng style seem similar to Sarries with Farrell coaching there? As thy would suggest it was more to do with him.

Catt does need to express himself more but his lack of experience probably holds him back and I've seen nothing to suggest he'd have much to input even if he was allowed.

LI always played fast and loose well before Catt wad involved as a coach, they were also massively erratic and while they ran a lot I don't think they had more clinical attacking skills then say Tigers or Quins.

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Post by Barney McGrew did it Tue 19 Nov 2013, 2:11 pm

Dickson – a reasonably decent player, not gonna win you anything. Get Ben fit, on form and playing a game to his strengths (possibly a coaching issue).
Farrell – good at some things, average at others. Best we’ve got and won’t let us down, but limits our game-plan somewhat.
12T – one day I’m going to see what the fuss is about, and think we should continue ‘developing’ him. For any must-win games bring back Barritt when fit.
Tomkins – just average, but SL wants him for a more defensive role (shouldn't be necessary with Farrell & 12T); I’d try one of a few other possibilities but none stand out. Insist that Manu stays fit cuz we absolutely need him.
Foden – a good FB, fairly okish winger at best. We need a winger to play winger, try Wade (if he can stay fit).
Brown – a shining star in an otherwise lacklustre selection.
Ashton – sadly just can regain his initial form (in part a problem with FH). Yarde looked promising.

So yes. Our A-team has quality and promise. Our B-team sucks.
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Post by beshocked Tue 19 Nov 2013, 2:30 pm

Yappysnap in some senses yes but England has an obsession with full backs on wings whereas Saracens doesn't.

Saracens attack has improved without Farrell Sr but still lacks a bit of cutting edge when facing the real top teams like Tigers,Saints,Toulouse,Munster etc.

In terms of Quins and Tigers I think take out a couple of key players out of their backline and they really struggle.

That's the thing I don't think that a London Irish style would suit England. Too loose.

Best team to try and emulate would probably be Saints at the moment in attack in my opinion.

Barney mcgrew it I wouldn't say it's a backline ranked 10th in the world. Unless backline is just purely based on attack.

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Post by lostinwales Tue 19 Nov 2013, 2:32 pm

I wonder if the Ben thing is a bit of a Lions hangover. The Lions have been pretty bad for England and Wales on the current injury front.

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Post by Scratch Tue 19 Nov 2013, 6:42 pm

I think there are various factors involved

1. Line speed
It is such a fantastic defensive tool but it encourages players to play flat.

2. League defensive structure
Based on a flat line and slowing the breakdown

3. England's centre crisis
When England have a great centre partnership, the awesome pack platform means they have great opportunities to get wide quick….Carling and Guscott released Underwood to score 49 tries! Tindall and Greenwood, Tuilagi and ? (not much attacking rugby in Guscott's era….really? did you ever watch him?) You need a footballer in the centre now.

4. Offload
Think Wales were the chief exponents of this pre Gatland? I did, but look at pre RWC 2003 England had so much time in midfield they used offload to great effect and ran awesome support lines…something Ashton started to do but now prefers diving.

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Post by kingelderfield Tue 19 Nov 2013, 7:18 pm

if fit we play france in paris as follows;

youngs, burns, wade, twelvetrees, burrell, yarde, and though i prefer foden for his top end finishing quality, it is just impossible to drop mr industructable, so brown gets the fb.

from the bench for impact;

care, eastmond and may.

twelvetrees covers 10, burrell covers 12, eastmond covers 12, 13, 11, 14, 15 and at a push 10, may covers 11, 14 & 15.

This back division was availabe to play OZ however Lancaster does not have a ducking clue so the best opportunity we will ever get was peed into the wind - Lancaster won't ever select this backline and we won't win the the WC with him as coach.

We compare our players to their NZ counterparts, well try comparing Hansen and Lancaster, its an insult to Hansen. Lancaster should go now, he's taken this side as far as he can.

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Post by Scratch Tue 19 Nov 2013, 7:25 pm

SCW says England should try options and accept they will lose a few games, fact is it is too late for that, and i find it hilarious that the guy who bangs on about the next game is now saying some can be lost, creating that rod for the collective english back means that lancaster has to do what ryan suggests and win any which way. Nothing less than the 6 Nations championship will be acceptable come january and a year off the RWC Eng will be expected to clean sweep at home next autumn…..does he throw caution to the wind and experiment in NZ….what is the point, to have another horror tour like 98 or 04. NZ away is not the place to blood a whole enew approach in the backs

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Post by kingelderfield Tue 19 Nov 2013, 7:36 pm

Scratch wrote:SCW says England should try options and accept they will lose a few games, fact is it is too late for that, and i find it hilarious that the guy who bangs on about the next game is now saying some can be lost, creating that rod for the collective english back means that lancaster has to do what ryan suggests and win any which way. Nothing less than the 6 Nations championship will be acceptable come january and a year off the RWC Eng will be expected to clean sweep at home next autumn…..does he throw caution to the wind and experiment in NZ….what is the point, to have another horror tour like 98 or 04. NZ away is not the place to blood a whole enew approach in the backs
Exactly, this autumn was the last real opportunity and what did we do?

Yarde got one game.....and tomkins proved what any knowledgeable observer already knew....ok twelvetrees got a few more games which he will get over (though i understand burns has threatened to wear a farrell mask if he gets picked again) with 3 months primal scream therapy from the shed, but seriously what a ducking disgrace.

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Post by Scratch Tue 19 Nov 2013, 7:39 pm

Get MANU BACK

Get rid of Flood

Get a risk/return 10 in to back Farrell

Find a footballing centre who can work with Manu

Get some fliers on your flanks…Yarde and Wade for the 6 Nations….get rid of Ashton

Get foden back, on form, at 15

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Post by kingelderfield Tue 19 Nov 2013, 8:05 pm

Scratch wrote:Get MANU BACK

Get rid of Flood

Get a risk/return 10 in to back Farrell

Find a footballing centre who can work with Manu

Get some fliers on your flanks…Yarde and Wade for the 6 Nations….get rid of Ashton

Get foden back, on form, at 15
Young Tuilagi is injured and following lancastrian red rose pride shirting peck enhancement is unavailable for the entire 6N

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Post by Scratch Tue 19 Nov 2013, 8:07 pm

But that is the way

Its not rocket science (Gatland figured it out)

You need a centre that will consistently get you over the gainline.


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Post by George Carlin Wed 20 Nov 2013, 11:17 am

1. In terms of punditry, Guscott is an enormous plank, with a laughably pitiful knowledge of non-Jeff players and teams and an almost aerobic disinterest in the same.
 
2. In terms of playing skills, Guscott was one of the best five attacking centres in the world at the time (Sella, Bunce, Little, Horan being the others in my tiny mind) and his opinion on this deserves respect.
 
3. England in Guscott's era scored a hell of a lot of tries and would have scored more if they weren't all playing outside Rob Andrew who seemed to kick practically everything away.
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Post by Geordie Wed 20 Nov 2013, 12:35 pm

So where is the breakdown in the backs??

Is it Farrell? For all he is a tacler, kicker etc..is his lack of creativity really a bigger issue than many of us think.

Is it the fact that the 9-13 axis constantly seems to change and they're getting no time together.

I would persevere with Twelvetrees. I think he offers more than Barritts defensive general role.

The other options:

Eastmond - 12? 13? 9? Whats his position, and his little huff at the weekend wont have done him any favours with lancs. But he is a player that can make things happen.
Trinder - Playing better but is his form really worthy of starting 13? Does his game match what is required.
Joseph - Dont know about his form this season.
Burrell - Playing very impressive rugby...at 12, for a team playing very good rugby.
Lowe - Out for the season
Tomkins - Many peoples scapegoat for the poor performances...dont buy it really. I think he did ok. I think the bigger issues are further in. Yet he plays well for Sarries outside Farrell??

Something just doesnt add up. Are the players being told to play a certain way thats not comfortable with them..putting squares in to round holes...or are they just not good enough.

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