Future English Backrow?

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Post by cb on Sat 18 Apr 2020, 7:29 pm

No rugby at the moment but worth speculating about the future England backrow which is under transition and which has several promising young players.  This comes after years when it seem rather moribund.

Under Jones there seems more flexibility in where players can play, so more a question of picking any three that balance.

Open-sides seem rather like London buses at the moment - wait a long time and then several come together.

At present: - Curry(s), Underhill, Earl, and Ludlam all seen to have a chance though Jones may not see all of these as open-sides. In my view Curry (Tom) seems our best open-side for years and should play there.


On the Blind-side Hill and Willis show promise and Jones has made use of converted locks - Lawes having recently covered this position.  Isiekwe has being doing something similar for Saracens. Jones has also played Ewels there from time to time.


At number 8, a fit Vunipola would be a tremendous asset.  In his absence, Dombrandt has shown glimses and Zach Mercer promise.  Hughes is a good player if in certain style.  Simmonds perhaps has missed his chance.  Wilson whether at 6 or 8 may have run out of time, certainly for the next world cup but rarely plays badly.


Most of the above could do a good job, and I am sure there are names missed out.

No-one can second guess Jones but choosing a future back row. I have been impressed by Hill, so my future backrow would include Curry and Hill but harder to choose the third.  For power Dombrandt or Vunipola at 8, but Underhill is difficult to leave out.

A backrow of Curry, Underhill and Hill(8) would be all action.  A backrow of Curry, Hill and Dombrandt would have more power, but do either of these combinations need more line-out capability?

Please discuss?

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Post by king_carlos on Sun 19 Apr 2020, 3:22 pm

Underhill and Tom Curry will take some budging as first choice flanks.

If either are injured then Ben Earl is a similar player to come in. He doesn't dominate tackles quite the same (few do) but his line speed and the rate at which he bounces back into the defensive line after a tackle (always a hallmark of Eddie Jones sides) is exceptional.

Lewis Ludlam is another good openside. He isn't as good in the carry as Earl but Ludlam's kick chase is excellent. Curry and Underhill targeting kick chase at the RWC was a notable tactic (looking to dominate in the tackle rather than compete in the air) so the Saints man fits that.

Billy is our best number 8 when fit but I do worry his career long term. The latest arm break happened with a plate in that wrist. That often makes it a complicated recovery process with decisions about removing/replacing the plate and multiple surgeries. A brilliant player but he's had a lot of knocks. As Pocock showed it's possible to return from long injury problems to have a big impact in the back row.

Ted Hill and Zach Mercer offer tactical differences to those players above. Jones capping both those players very young suggests he sees them as the future. Curry covering 8 opens the possibility for playing Hill alongside Underhill and Curry. I wouldn't be surprised if Jones moves towards that next season. Hill looks every bit a Jones back rower with his brutal physicality.

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Post by Mr Bounce on Sun 19 Apr 2020, 4:01 pm

It seems that recently there's been a lot of using two 7s as the flankers, and not just in England. It's not a new thing - Underhill & Curry worked brilliantly in the RWC. Other teams have done it too - Wales with Tipuric and Warburton, Australia with Pocock and Hooper and New Zealand with Savea and Cane.

I do think that a more destructive 6 also works well - it depends entirely on the game plan, and you can bet that Jonesy has a few of those up his sleeve. There are now so many potential combinations out there, none of which would do badly. The tried and tested is Curry, Underhill & Vunipola, but you could just as easily have Willis, Ludlam and Hughes, or Hill, Ben Curry and Mercer or perhaps Lawes, Earl and Dombrandt. We are not short of riches and I would have no doubt that any of the above would have no problem fitting in to the squad.

We've always been relatively lucky with our back rows - there's been some fantastic players over the years, many of them unlucky with injury or simply underrated. I seem to recall that back in the mid-2000s the NZ press were very complimentary on the back row of Haskell, Rees and Narraway. Rodber, Clarke and Richards was another cracking unit not often mentioned.

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Mon 20 Apr 2020, 9:15 am

This is the biggest area of dilema for me...

We have 2 outstanding 7's - Curry and Underhill
We have 2 outstanding young brutally physical 6's coming through - HIll & Willis
We have some potential coming through at 8 - Mercer and Dombrandt

And then we have some "back rowers" who just cover any position..Ben Ealr being the standout...and a player i rate so highly.

I'd actally be tempted to move Ted HIll to 8, (our own Duane Vermuelan) and have Curry at 6 and Underhill at 7.

Then either Willis or Earl on the bench.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Mon 20 Apr 2020, 9:40 am

I'm more attuned to your thinking Geordie. Curry is a must. The most in form flanker in internationals who has outplayed all his opposite numbers. Not incredibly sold on him as an 8 as the balance just looks all out. I'd love to see Willis curry and dombrant and hill on the bench. Gives the best coverage for me and I prefer having a lump who can run through people. Dombrandt for me deserved a cap before vunipola was injured based on form let alone when he was injured.

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Post by Cumbrian on Mon 20 Apr 2020, 1:24 pm

Underhill and Curry present a dilemma, because when fit both are currently undroppable. However, you would have to say that the ideal situation should be that they both compete for the openside jersey, their natural position.

For this to happen there needs to be a situation where one of the young blindsides absolutely demand inclusions, difficult to see that at the moment. Although it is worth bearing in mind that up until relatively recently Underhill did get injured on a worryingly frequent basis.

No.8 situation seems clouded to me. It seems that, for whatever reason, Eddie has decided that Simmonds just isn't what he is looking for. I personally would be mildly surprised to see him play for England again before the next World Cup.

Billy's injury record is getting seriously concerning, a player breaking/fracturing his arm four times in two years isn't good. I wish him well, he is one of my favourite players, but he is also becoming a bit of a luxury these days.

Given that situation, England just have to find a reliable back up no.8. I fear that Eddie will continue to see Tom Curry as this player. It is sad really because Dombrandt, Mercer and Hughes are sitting waiting to let Tom play his natural game.

To muddy the waters further, three/ four years is a long time in rugby, and you would expect to see one of the more unknown number 8s to start making an impact; Rus Tuima (Exeter), Morgan Monks (Worcester) or Tom Willis (Wasps).

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Post by king_carlos on Mon 20 Apr 2020, 4:17 pm

GeordieFalcon wrote:This is the biggest area of dilema for me...

We have 2 outstanding 7's  - Curry and Underhill
We have 2 outstanding young brutally physical 6's coming through - HIll & Willis
We have some potential coming through at 8 - Mercer and Dombrandt

And then we have some "back rowers" who just cover any position..Ben Ealr being the standout...and a player i rate so highly.

I'd actally be tempted to move Ted HIll to 8, (our own Duane Vermuelan) and have Curry at 6 and Underhill at 7.

Then either Willis or Earl on the bench.

I'm very much of the view that balance is key there. If Curry improves his work at the base of the scrum to Billy's level then I've no issue with him wearing 8 if the balance across the pack is right. Curry's lineout and carrying has improved remarkably so I've little doubt he can adapt to controlling the ball at the base. He reminds me an awful lot of Richard Hill on the pitch.

Against the top packs I do think we need the option of a go to carrier in the back row. Without that option it becomes harder to pick Marler ahead of Mako for his scrummaging for instance. I believe that could be Billy (if fit) or Ted Hill.

Dombrandt isn't as brutal in contact but runs very good lines and has good hands. Mercer is in a similar bracket to Dombrandt there and runs excellent support lines. Mercer is also a lineout option and very good defender in the wider channels for a forward. Simmonds is fantastic around contact given his pace and footwork.

6.Curry, Hill
7.Underhill, Earl
8.Vunipola, Mercer

Those would be my standout options moving forward. That said I'm delighted that Jones recalled Wilson once fit. His work rate allows Itoje to commit to less rucks hence make an absolute nuisance of himself on the floor when the opportunity arises. With Billy injured I hope that Wilson stays around the squad. We miss Billy's work rate as well as carrying when he's absent.

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Mon 20 Apr 2020, 4:33 pm

I think thats where the dilema comes in KC.

We just have so many options coming through all around the same age. And you rightly say....Balance is key.

One thing i think the pack lacks at the moment is sheer physicality. Thats something i think Jones is looking for and there are players coming through now who can offer that.

Genge, Sinkler, Hill, Willis, Underhill all offer that.

i think we're missing that in the second rows aswell. We have great locks...but none of them are...dare i say it..."scary" like i would say Botha, or Johnston, or Ratalick are. The big intimidating brutes who get you on the front foot.

Englands back row can be the best in the world for years to come if they get it right.

6 Underhill / Willis
7 Curry
8 HIll

Earl on the fringe aswell...and the other Curry


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Post by king_carlos on Mon 20 Apr 2020, 5:27 pm

GeordieFalcon wrote:I think thats where the dilema comes in KC.

We just have so many options coming through all around the same age. And you rightly say....Balance is key.

One thing i think the pack lacks at the moment is sheer physicality. Thats something i think Jones is looking for and there are players coming through now who can offer that.

Genge, Sinkler, Hill, Willis, Underhill all offer that.

i think we're missing that in the second rows aswell. We have great locks...but none of them are...dare i say it..."scary" like i would say Botha, or Johnston, or Ratalick are. The big intimidating brutes who get you on the front foot.


Englands back row can be the best in the world for years to come if they get it right.

6 Underhill / Willis
7 Curry
8 HIll

Earl on the fringe aswell...and the other Curry


Underhill, Curry, Itoje and Lawes all offer that physicality defensively I think. There are few who hit like they do in defence. The Vunipola's, Sinckler, Genge and potentially Hill offer it in attack. I have big hopes that Joel Kpoku can offer that physicality in the tight and ball in hand.

George and Cowan-Dickie are outstanding all round hookers too. As those two are way ahead of the chasing pack as it were in their position they don't get discussed as much, given there isn't much discussion when they are fit. Both are fantastic players though and I actually feel LCD may leapfrog George soon. Given George was a starting Lion in '17 for all 3 tests that is a great place to be.

In terms of big 'scary' locks I again often feel it's balance. 4.Itoje 5.Kruis 6.Lawes lacks that gigantic lock such as Etzebeth but the set-piece options those 3 give England allow Manu to be brought into the game from off the top lineout ball. Manu from good lineout ball is undoubtedly then a brute who will get England on the front foot.

That balance relies on Manu being fit though. If he weren't then either a winger such as Cokanasiga or a forward such as Billy or Hill are needed to carry hard in the midfield to covert strong set-piece into quick ball, hence phase play.

I thought that the All Blacks side in 2011 was very good at that balance. To counter the big Springbok packs they encountered in the Tri Nations they cut numbers at the lineout and used Thorn or Kaino to carry up the middle from off the top ball. A very effective way to get quick ball for their backs to cut loose.

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Mon 20 Apr 2020, 5:56 pm

I completely ageee with you..its all about balance.

We have some very skilled forwards...very Athletic and thats essential for a successful side...Lawes, Itoje, Mako Vunipola etc etc  

Curry is actually pretty tough..but hes some player.  Look at players like Earl and Simmonds..theyd probably get in to alot of international backrows.

Its going to be an interesting few years for englands development

Id like to see a huge hulk of a lock come through and sort put the back row

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Post by king_carlos on Mon 20 Apr 2020, 8:15 pm

Agree about it being an interesting few years ahead.

Earl I agree with absolutely but Simmonds I'm more on the fence with. A very good player (gawd knows I'd take him at Tigers...) but not sure where he fits into the absurdly physical, defence orientated international game. Particularly with England's game plan. Similar to my views with Dombrandt. Very good player, fantastic in attack (again he'd walk into the Tigers side...) but I think Earl, Mercer and Hill are the stronger international prospects for the Jones game plan.

The current crop of U20s have some good talent in current problem positions too. Josh Hodge and Freddie Steward at fullback. Sam Maunder and Jack van Poortvliet at scrum-half. Even Rus Tuima at number 8 if Billy can't regain his best form/fitness. Tuima is a monstrous young player.

The Chiefs have serious talent coming through in the back row over the next couple of seasons. Tuima and Richard Chapstick just coming out the academy. Aaron Hinckley signed from Gloucester.

As for big locks, Kpoku seems the one progressing best. George Martin (admitting Tigers bias) is a talented player and a giant bloke in the England u20s squad but is only 18. Kpoku will be helped by being an impressive young lineout leader which very few 20 stone locks just out the academy are.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly on Tue 21 Apr 2020, 10:44 am

Richard Chapstick

Seriously?

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Post by Cumbrian on Tue 21 Apr 2020, 11:32 am

Laugh I think it is Capstick
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Post by GeordieFalcon on Tue 21 Apr 2020, 2:57 pm

king_carlos wrote: Josh Hodge and Freddie Steward at fullback.

As for big locks, Kpoku seems the one progressing best. Kpoku will be helped by being an impressive young lineout leader which very few 20 stone locks just out the academy are.

Yeah Hodge v Steward really is the litle v Large show isnt it.

We're hearing alot about Kpoku, his development will be watched with interest definately.

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Post by king_carlos on Tue 21 Apr 2020, 2:58 pm

Laugh Bleeding auto correct. Yep Capstick. He's a young Chiefs flanker with an eye for a turnover.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly on Tue 21 Apr 2020, 3:06 pm

Chapstick would have been rather unfortunate, not that Capstick is much better the poor bugger.

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Post by Cumbrian on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 12:26 pm

I've been seeing a lot of articles of places like Facebook, one I saw earlier name checked Jack Willis as a potential bolter for the Lion's.

https://www.ultimaterugby.com/news/four-british-and-irish-lions-bolters---forwards/626723

One particular passage caught my eye:

'Willis had thrived in the Premiership with Wasps averaging 2.6 turnovers per game totaling at 28 - before the season was put on ice.

His tally is 13 better than the next best and his exploits on the pitch go much further than that as he is a speedy openside with ball in hand and solid defender - much like the template of Justin Tipuric.'


Those stats are really strong, and in a different era he could already have had 20+ caps even at a young age.
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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 1:00 pm

Willis is class. Great tackler and carrier too. For me hes more a traditional blindside?

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Post by Cumbrian on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 1:07 pm

He certainly has the size of a blindside 6ft 3in & 18 odd stone (according to his premiership rugby profile).

He reminds me a little of Richard Hill, perhaps not as 'clever', but with more power.  

Perhaps the ideal vision of a 6.5?
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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 1:10 pm

I'll be shocked if hes not.picked for england soon its surely only injury which has kept him out. That being said I was shocked Dombrandt didn't come in.

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 1:18 pm

But dont forget Curry is sheer class and Underhill is a rediculously powerful guy.

I rate Ben Earl so highly aswell...and the other Curry.

Eddie Jones has some serious decisions to make. Either way...theres going to be some serisouly classy back rowers missing out.

Maybe they have Welsh or Scottish ancestry...

PS...I wouldnt put Willis as a similar player to Tipuric mind...and would also class him as a 6, not a 7

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Post by le_chat on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 1:42 pm

Yeah Willis is nothing like Tipuric. Top player, but clearly a 6. More like Underhill but even then he's even more of a blindside than him. England well set on the flanks but look a bit barren at 8 which tends to be a trend across world rugby. Not too many tall, fast, strong etc. superior athletes who also have the basic skills to match an openside, and the desire to repetitively be the battering ram who puts their body on the line time and time again in high intensity collisions. That last aspect is why I think #8s are so rare, and the best ones so often injured. Hard to find someone willing to flog themselves who also has top skills.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 1:50 pm

Vunipola Dombrandt mercer hughes and then the younger guys such as Willis and the chap from Exeter whose name is escaping me. Oh and simmond. Not exactly bare.

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 2:56 pm

And dont forget Curry is the new Rodney So'ailo apparently...

You could even move Ted HIll to 8...he has all the attributes. Ben Earl can play 8.

So we have options all over the back row.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 3:09 pm

Hell. We could even throw morgan in there as we know as someone who can excel but whose game doesnt fit jones'.

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 3:19 pm

Well yes...you hit the nail there 7.5

Its all about Jones Gameplan.

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Post by le_chat on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 4:56 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:Vunipola Dombrandt mercer hughes and then the younger guys such as Willis and the chap from Exeter whose name is escaping me. Oh and simmond. Not exactly bare.

None top class after Vunipola and BV suffers with durability. Simmonds has the skills, not the size or durability to play as England need - like a Vermeulen, getting over the gainline. That's why he's not really been looked at. Assume Dombrandt is being tested to see how much he wants it, looks raw, but a bit of a risk if he gets picked before he's ready. Needs to keep learning the game and role at club level. Mercer bang average, Hughes the same. Not really top international level and have been passengers whenever they've played. Willis isn't an 8.

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Post by le_chat on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 4:59 pm

GeordieFalcon wrote:And dont forget Curry is the new Rodney So'ailo apparently...

You could even move Ted HIll to 8...he has all the attributes. Ben Earl can play 8.

So we have options all over the back row.

Problem is they're not #8s. That becomes patently clear at test level. Need natural 8s but the position has become hard to fill across the globe in the last decade as rugby has become so much more attritional. Probably the most injured position - would be worth looking in to for anyone with the time/inclination.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 5:10 pm

You discount switching the balance of the backrow by including stronger carriers at 6 with that comment miaow but Simmonds does make a lot of ground carrying. You demonstrate that you dont watch enough english rugby again. And yes the willis I'm talking about is an 8.

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Post by le_chat on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 5:56 pm

What do you mean 'balance'? Is a backrow like baking bread, all about getting the right quantities of 'ingredients'? You show your misunderstanding of rugby with that comment. Why have 1 or 2 strong ball carriers when you can demand to have 3 in each position? If Simmonds is carrying from the base of the scrum, it doesn't matter if one of his flankers is also a good carrier when he fails to get over the gainline. You should take note of Eddie Jones's coaching.

Which Willis? Tom Willis of Wasps?

p.s. it's good form to differentiate between people with the same surname, particularly when one of those mentioned is being discussed. Just a tip for the future. Definitely not something to use as a stick to beat people with. Poor written form from you.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 6:07 pm

You dont understand the term balance I'm a discussion on back row? Ok. Not sure I can be bothered to respond to something as basic as that. Check out Simmonds carrying stats if you dont think he makes metres. Check out his scoring stats and how he scores a lot of them to note his carrying in the tight.
Yikes I meant billy vunipola when I'm talking about 8s. Wouldn't want you to get too confused. Take a break miaow.

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Post by le_chat on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 6:47 pm

1. You clearly think a back row is a loaf of bread. Oh dear.
2. The Premiership isn't a test rugby.
3. You mentioned a 'Willis' among a list of players you deemed good enough to play for England at number 8. Was this a mistake?
4. Take a break from what?

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 6:52 pm

Jesus. Give over miaow. What is the name of the thread miaow. What is it about. Once you've read and understood how about going away and watching some rugby for the prem then come back when you're able to discuss things sensibly.

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Post by le_chat on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 7:01 pm

Ok, so you goofed by naming Willis as an option at 8. That's fine, mistakes happen, keep the personal insults to a minimum ffs, we're in a pandemic. Get some perspective.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 7:03 pm

Not at all. Why would it be a good to talk about the next through the door. Get with it miaow. Or better still keep your word and leave.

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Post by le_chat on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 7:05 pm

Genuine question: have you been drinking? You're all over the place with non-sequiturs and contraditions, as well as v. irritated at me for no apparent reason. Are you alright, genuinely?

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 7:08 pm

Rusiate Tuima, is the exeter 8 I could t remember.

Oh miaow come now. Give it a rest. You're out of your depth again.

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Post by le_chat on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 7:13 pm

Ok cool, no worries.

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Post by king_carlos on Fri 24 Apr 2020, 8:30 pm

I like parsnips. Vastly underrated vegetable.

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Post by WELL-PAST-IT on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 10:55 am

king_carlos wrote:I like parsnips. Vastly underrated vegetable.

Over cooked until they are super soft, mixed with some crispy roast spuds......................... where my dinner?

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 3:00 pm

Le-Chat
There are two Willis brothers...the oldest making his name already is Jack...then there is a young one who plays 8...who is looking a good hope.

Curry is not an 8, but played very well all 6n (whilst it was on) . Your 8 doesnt have to be an explosive carrier if you have it else where in the back row. Curry is a very intelligent player.

How can you say Simmonds isnt big or strong enough for international rugby. He has played and was outstanding. His probalem is that he is similar to so many of our other flankers...Earl, Curry x 2, Underhill...all around 6'1 - 6'2 - 16-17st

Dombrandt's work rate may be the issue with him at the moment. Billy V is a real grafter alongside his carrying.

Dont forget...many flankers have to moved to 8 hugely successfully. A certain Lawrence Dalaglio was a 7, who played in the 7's world cup back in 91/92 and was moved to 8. He did not bad.

No reason someone like Ted Hill who is made for the number 8 position, couldnt do the same.

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Post by le_chat on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 4:03 pm

Honestly, who knows what they meant with Willis. I asked them whether it was Tom Willis but no answer, so just have to assume confusion on their part.

I can say Simmonds isn't big enough very easily. He simply isn't big enough. Not least for England to be successful. You're never going to outskill the NZ's and even the SA's of this world. You're probably not going to manage against the French or the Welsh, either. It's all about physical dominance as your bread and butter. Trust Jones, making the kind of 'small % sacrifices' that I think summed up Lancaster - Tom Wood as an 8? - is the difference between promising failure, and world class coaching. This idea of 'balance' is a complete nonsense as some objective kind of equilibrium. Billy and Tuilagi were the difference between England underachieving, and reaching a RWC. Just look how key Tuilagi was in the try he scored v NZ for instance. Size and strength matters.

My whole point is the 8 position has become very hard to fill for a few reasons.

1. The size and strength required to be a 'battering ram' is scaling a lot of players either out of the position, or out of the game.

The effectiveness of a Xavier Rush or David Lyons in the present game would be diminished due to the sheer size and explosiveness rugby has worked on implementing in to its basic skills and needs in players. Much like the openside flankers of 20-30 years ago now being the hookers of the present day due to size/strength demands, the 8 position has become hard fill on the basis of sheer size and strength.

The 8 is tasked with 3 or 4 position-specific tasks in nearly all teams: carrying from the base of the scrum (technical ability to control at base, so requires X hours of amateur development) where contact and gainline advatange is the measured successful metric; carrying in the midfield from lineout moves, much the same as the scrums i.e. first phase, carrying hard in to contact, big gains with no aim of going to ground for fear of isolation, the onus is on the supporting players to get there and clear out (or, in other words, carry hard and fast at all costs); kick receipt, or corner flagging, whereby the 8 is carrying at full tilt and required to smash through chasing players and back up the field, i.e. more full tilt carrying; the 'out' ball in phase play, i.e. the main player who should be able to take the ball on the smash when the game has broken down from set piece moves and is in open play. Yes, lots of other players are also tasked with the latter, but the 8 has to be one of if not the best carrier in the side for the simple reason that that's their job, whereas a hooker/prop/lock/12 has other skills and needs above contact carrying.

2. We're really struggling to find world class 8s in the NH.

Of the home nations, their best number 8s of the last 5 years or so have SH heritage. Faletau, Vunipola, Stander, and then you've got a toss up between Denton and Strauss. Yeah, you could argue Barclay, Beattie and a few others might have been just as good or better, but perhaps this also then reflects Scotland's issue as a team flirting with the 'tier 1.5' label - I love Barclay as a player, but a top, world class number 8 he is not. Beattie actually makes for a perfect example - a really talented, exciting, physical, skillful number 8 who dropped off the international scene in the early 2010s as the game became so much more physical. That's precisely my point in fact: the demands for a player like Beattie suddenly changed to include lots more injuries, lots more bulk strength and size, and he took the option of stepping down, going to France, earning more money and enjoying a different style of rugby.

I think this is pretty telling: the NH is not producing world class number 8s. We have top number 8s in the academy systems, we even have them breaking through at semi pro and in to clubs, but they're finding a glass ceiling for the top positions for club and country. The big, bruising 17 year old number 8s who seem destined to be the stars of tomorrow are finding themselves small fish in a big pond, rugby wise, and then fading away in to mediocrity. For clubs, it's far easier to import an 8 whose come through the more ruthless and physical breeding grounds of SA and NZ, or a Pacific Islander, who will likely be able to do the job well enough than persist with a homegrown academy player who might turn out to be useless for league/European games.

3. Attrition and 'putting your body on the line' is the bread and butter that has caught a lot of players out midway through their careers.

A great recent example of someone who seemed to have all the goods would be Ben Morgan for England, great handling, good rugby intelligence, big, physical - but not physical enough for England. Eddie Jones had a look at him and didn't like what he saw. I would assume it's the fact Morgan tried to be a more rounded 8 than the physical brute who just smashes through brick walls. At test level, EJ has been successful by cutting out the nonsense and getting players like Haskell to do what they do best, put their head down and get stuck in. Morgan clearly couldn't do that to the requisite level. Ryan Jones might be an earlier example of someone who didn't take kindly to being asked to bulk up and was in and out of the team with a donkey like Andy Powell taking his position for a period.

Billy Vunipola makes another pefect example of someone with all the skills needed for a modern 8 - minus some dodgy conditioning - but whose career has already suffered greatly with injuries. Faletau is another - when he was managed in Wales, able to be rested for the Dragons, playing club rugby at a fairly low standard, he was able to focus on Wales and deal with injuries between test periods. Now, with Bath, he's shown he cannot play top class club and international rugby without his body breaking down. So even those who have the skills, the training, the experience, and the size and strength are suffering because of the position - which makes the lack of 8s even more pronounced, as it has a high injury rate, thus you need more 15s than you need, say, 9s to be able to call upon.

We might be better placed in the next 10-15 years as more position-specific scouting and training occurs to weed out the 8s who will make it v those who won't, but I also think there is a 'limit' to how much anyone's body can take. 8 is probably a young-ish man's position, for the enthusiastic and less injury prone, and less injured: hence Jones picking someone like Curry there, who has the aptitude and desire to keep proving himself in the absence of Vunipola. It's a message to the likes of Dombrandt about what he needs to do to reach that level.

I would point at the manner in which Kieran Read's career effectively dropped off a cliff in 2018, and only briefly recovered in 2019, as an example of how tough it is for even world class (Read was once the best 8 in the world) 8s to suffer the realities of time much quicker than other positions.

4. Position-specific skills

Simply put, the ability to control the ball at the base of the scrum, and pick it up, without botching it, at the highest level and under extreme pressure. However talented you are, that takes man (or boy) hours of training and development - thus it is hard to move players around in to the 8 shirt without suffering somewhat, even if that has been happening a lot in lots of teams. You also need good handling skills, moreso even than an openside now, particularly offloading skills - again, another reason why size is a necessity: just look at the Fijian rugby team's offloading skills compared to, say, England's. Height and arm length (as well as, obviously, skill) makes a player much better at offloading, being able to go under and over the cover defence akin to basketball.

I would say the days of finding another Dallaglio are over, not least because rugby is far less unequal and amateur than it was during most of Dayglo's playing days. It's not out of the question - for instance, David Pocock might be seen as the modern example of what Dallaglio used to be, as a talented, physical player who could adapt across the line; and you can look at Wales with Moriarty and Navidi doing something similar with mixed success (for me Navidi shows some glaring failings as an 8 in the technical aspects, Moriarty definitely better but still not in your Faletau tier). But I suspect that, given the choice between a proper number 8 and a versatile one, any team - club or country - would bite your hand off for the former. Pocock was a world class 7, the best in the world for a long time in my opinion, but not the best 8. He was just good enough to move across to 8 and Australia were helped by lots of physicality in the centres, wings, and front row for the hard yards (however, necessary to stress that Pocock at 8 coincided with a downturn in form for Australia as well, much like Scotland).



It's not just 8s which suffer in this way, I would draw a comparison to 12s as well as a position that has become much, much more physical in the last decade. And, if you look at the home nations again, we have had Parkes (after Roberts, a relative one off in the NH), T'eo, Tuilagi, and Aki being key players in the shirt, with Scotland again being something of an anomaly both in terms of success, or lack of it, and the style of rugby they choose to play. So much like the 8 position, NH rugby isn't really producing world class 12s, either, because of the lack of physicality.

Simmonds is a good player who does well within a very, very physical Exeter pack which basically picks a lock at 6 and an 8 at 7 half the time, but hoping that he'll be a 50+ cap international is just naive. The Prem is his level. If he carried in to contact like Hamish Watson he'd stand a great chance, but he doesn't.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 4:09 pm

Wow. Another overly long ramble.

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Post by king_carlos on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 4:14 pm

WELL-PAST-IT wrote:
king_carlos wrote:I like parsnips. Vastly underrated vegetable.

Over cooked until they are super soft, mixed with some crispy roast spuds......................... where my dinner?

Using leftover roast veg from the weekend to make bubble and squeak tonight with a heavy parsnip contingent in the mix. Going alongside a decent hunk of gammon and tenderstem broccoli. Sometimes the classics are all you need.

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Post by GeordieFalcon on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 4:30 pm

Le_Chat

Ill not respond to all that...but i think your wrong about Simmonds. To say that hes too lightweight but then mention if he carried like Hamish Watson?? You lost me there.




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Post by WELL-PAST-IT on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 5:01 pm

Bubble and squeak, with a healthy content of Lea and Perrins, LOVELY!

Going simple ourselves, home made Beef and Pork burger with plenty of onion and a touch of garlic with a Mediterranean salad.

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Post by lostinwales on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 6:11 pm

king_carlos wrote:...
As for big locks, Kpoku seems the one progressing best. George Martin (admitting Tigers bias) is a talented player and a giant bloke in the England u20s squad but is only 18. Kpoku will be helped by being an impressive young lineout leader which very few 20 stone locks just out the academy are.

Unfortunately it seems as if Kpoku's identical twin brother is not progressing as fast, but you have to think the potential is there.

(And how confusing would it be for the opposition, and referee, to deal with a team with two sets of twins)

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Post by lostinwales on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 6:17 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:Wow. Another overly long ramble.

Cat ?

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Post by lostinwales on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 6:21 pm

le_chat wrote:What do you mean 'balance'? Is a backrow like baking bread, all about getting the right quantities of 'ingredients'? You show your misunderstanding of rugby with that comment. Why have 1 or 2 strong ball carriers when you can demand to have 3 in each position? If Simmonds is carrying from the base of the scrum, it doesn't matter if one of his flankers is also a good carrier when he fails to get over the gainline. You should take note of Eddie Jones's coaching.

Which Willis? Tom Willis of Wasps?

p.s. it's good form to differentiate between people with the same surname, particularly when one of those mentioned is being discussed. Just a tip for the future. Definitely not something to use as a stick to beat people with. Poor written form from you.

Baking bread isn't at all about the right quantities of ingredients. Its all about understanding the ingredients, about time and temperature and most of all about biology, managing the short life of that most valuable of servants, yeast.

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Post by king_carlos on Mon 27 Apr 2020, 6:37 pm

lostinwales wrote:
king_carlos wrote:...
As for big locks, Kpoku seems the one progressing best. George Martin (admitting Tigers bias) is a talented player and a giant bloke in the England u20s squad but is only 18. Kpoku will be helped by being an impressive young lineout leader which very few 20 stone locks just out the academy are.

Unfortunately it seems as if Kpoku's identical twin brother is not progressing as fast, but you have to think the potential is there.

(And how confusing would it be for the opposition, and referee, to deal with a team with two sets of twins)

By my understanding Jon hasn't developed physically as rapidly as Joel but is still a good young player. Obviously both have the same massive frame and height but Joel took to strength and conditioning a bit younger from what I've heard.

Jon is still over 18 stone though and has been on loan with Ampthill. In the Sarries systems he will kick on to Premiership rugby I imagine.

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