In this week’s round-up of all things rugby, Andrew Binner and Matt Jones take in England’s errant coaching pursuit, the knock-on effects of Matt Toomua’s signing, Bath’s insensitivity over the Paris attacks and the best of the local action.
England must avoid White-knuckle ride
Alarm bells should be ringing for England fans. This week Jake White was announced as one of the favourites to become the next England coach and his appointment would signify further regression for the Red Rose after a disastrous World Cup campaign.
While the current Montpellier boss has proven international success as a former World Cup winner, 2007 will also be known as the year South Africa bored their way to the title.
According to French media Jake White has met with RFU Chiefs to discuss the England head coach position. pic.twitter.com/kRhSxaN4Ud
— EatSleepRugby (@eatsleeprugby) November 16, 2015
White supporters will also point to his ability to rejuvenate, as he took the Brumbies from the doldrums of Super Rugby to the 2013 final. However, the Australians were more sleeping stallions than bucking broncos as their very structured style failed to capture the imagination of supporters.
International rugby is a results-driven entity and the first priority is to win. However as a professional business there is almost an equal duty to entertain and under White the balance will not be found.
Recent rumours say that Eddie Jones is back in the race for the job and if true, Ritchie must throw whatever RFU riches are necessary to lure the Stormers coach to English shores.
Toomua signing signifies start of worrying Premiership trend
World Cup finalist Matt Toomua joins countryman Peter Bethem, New Zealander Brendon O’Connor and South African Jean de Villiers on the list of new and exciting recruits at Leicester Tigers.
All three players are shrewd appointments for the English giants given their ineligibility for international duty and fitness depending will be available for every Tigers match.
However for every one of the many matches that these players will inevitably start, an Englishman will be denied an opportunity to gain experience and improve the national team. Just look at France.
Alongside the big-name signing of Louis Picamoles at Northampton, the English heavyweights are making the most of the increasing salary cap and more foreign stars can be expected on short-term contracts so far out from a World Cup.
The acquisitions are an exciting development for the Premiership but officials must ensure that club rugby does not become more powerful than the RFU.
Saracens forwards lead the way
In an ironic twist for English rugby it is Saracens, once maligned for employing too many foreign-born players, are demonstrating a far superior capability than any other team to produce Test-quality English players.
After a welcome rendition of La Marseillaise to show solidarity after the Paris attacks, Toulouse’s commitment to their Champions Cup game was understandably lacking but the Londoners’ power and accuracy was undeniable.
— Sky Sports Rugby (@SkySportsRugby) November 14, 2015
In prop Mako Vunipola and Jamie George England have the makings of a world-beating front row while George Kruis continues to be a combative workhorse at lock.
In the backs Owen Farrell has rediscovered his laser-guided kicking accuracy and Alex Goode must now be considered a genuine threat to Mike Brown’s England jersey with his sublime running lines and willingness to attack with ball in hand.
Bruce Craig should be ashamed
Following the empathetic and sensible decision to postpone Bath’s game in Toulon on Sunday due to the Paris atrocities, the English side’s owner has undone the good work by demanding that the match now be called off completely.
Citing player welfare in an already congested season as the reason for his demands, Craig is really using the national travesty to try and secure his team an otherwise unlikely European Champions Cup away draw (as is standard procedure in a cancelled fixture) against the three-time European champions.
— Twadler Rugby Samoa (@Samoarugbytw) November 16, 2015
Craig, who is on the board of European Professional Club Rugby, holds some sway over such decisions.
But the governing body must now act and lobby for a rematch during the Six Nations, preferably with the release of both teams’ international players back to their clubs.
This would be a blow to the Six Nations, but sometimes even professional sport must concede and do the right thing but the clubs who provide their players.
Strong start for Abu Dhabi Harlequins – Matt Jones
It’s been a pretty frantic start to the domestic UAE season, but now it’s a time for teams to take stock and delve into something a little different with sevens rugby taking precedence.
The Dubai Rugby Sevens will be hitting the UAE in a little over two weeks and with the lethal speed that Abu Dhabi Harlequins have been displaying in the UAE Premiership so far this season, they look a decent bet to retain their Gulf Men’s League title they won in the desert last year.
A year ago they sauntered to the title, scoring 244 points and conceding just 10 in six games. Their line wasn’t even breached until Al Ain Amblers scored a try in a 31-5 semi-final defeat.
Doha also got a score in going down 27-5 in the final – the nearest any team got to them.
— Dubai Rugby Sevens (@Dubai7s) November 17, 2015
That’s incredible but the scary thing is that Quins look even better 12 months on.
The Sevens was when William Umu really started grabbing some attention last season.
He is now the fulcrum of Quins’ potent back line, which was been loaded with weapons.
In Brian Geraghty, Matt Smith, Max Trimble, Alastair Johnson and Barry Dwyer, Quins have added some players with deadly, raw pace that could see them being difficult to live with.
While the 15-a-side format is still very much a far more balanced and combined forwards and backs partnership, in the format of the game where speed is king, Quins are heading into next month’s tournament with the title very much their own to lose.
English rugby fans are getting a taste of just how good the All Blacks really are this season. In what is being touted as the signing of the season, Wasps full-back and 16-cap New Zealander Charles Piutau has been a cut above any other player so far. With an unmatched counter-attacking ability in the Premiership, the Auckland Blue would starting for any other international team in the world, but cannot get a game for the kiwis. Unbelievable.
Australia coach Michael Cheika suggested England ought to be thinking long-term as well as concentrating on recruiting a new boss after insisting he had no interest in the role as he already had his “dream” job.
Cheika confirmed Monday he had no intention of quitting his current post in order to succeed Stuart Lancaster, who last week paid the price for England becoming the first host nation to bow out of a World Cup during the group stage — where they lost to both Wales and the Wallabies in the so-called ‘pool of death’.
Barely a year after taking charge, Cheika led his native Australia to a World Cup final where they were beaten by New Zealand, with the Wallabies having previously captured this year’s southern hemisphere Rugby Championship title.
Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie’s stated aim of having a coach of “proven international experience” to succeed Lancaster would appear to rule out several domestic contenders.
Meanwhile Cheika is the latest in a growing list of overseas candidates, along with compatriot Eddie Jones and the New Zealand trio of Wayne Smith, Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt, to say he doesn’t want the England job, with only former South Africa World Cup-winning boss Jake White publicly announcing his interest thus far.
Cheika said there was more to coaching a Test side than immediate success.
“As the head coach, your role is to do well now but it’s also to plant the seeds that someone else is going to benefit from further down the track,” he explained.
“I know that sounds like utopia but I believe that when you work that way, plan that way, you’ll get benefits in the short term as well.
“I’m no one to be giving anyone advice. I’m nobody. I just think you’ve got to build something from within,” Cheika added, before citing the likes of Gatland (Wales) and Schmidt (Ireland) as examples of overseas coaches who had enjoyed success in Test rugby.
— PA Sport (@pasport) November 16, 2015
“That’s what we want to try to do in Australia: breed the next crop of coaches, whether it’s the boys who are coaching with me now, Stephen Larkham and Nathan Grey, or those guys who are going to come through next.”
Ritchie has promised the RFU, England’s governing body and the wealthiest of all the major unions, will spare no expense in their search for a new coach.
Asked if that would help, Cheika jokingly replied: “Well, it will help the bloke you throw money at. “No, it’s about getting the right person that fits that team and those people.”
Wasps made a fine start to their European Rugby Champions Cup campaign on Sunday, beating three-time former European champions Leinster 33-6 in Dublin.
A minute’s silence for the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks opened the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Leinster and Wasps.
Once the action got underway, penalties were traded in the opening minutes as Wasps took a slender 9-6 lead over their opponents.
But it was a towering box kick from Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson that led to the first try of the game.
Leinster’s Dave Kearney fell victim to an unkind bounce, which allowed a speedy Christian Wade to take possession and touch down.
Simpson then added a try of his own eight minutes into the second half.
He supported the run of Frank Halai before taking the off-load and out-pacing Leinster’s desperate defence to score.
— ashley johnson (@ashj1605) November 15, 2015
With the win already assured, Wasps added a third for good measure in the final minute, Charles Piutau added the finishing touch.
A comprehensive 33-6 win for Wasps over the three-time European champions Leinster.