At first glance, today’s Breakdown just looked too boring to read. But after a particularly heavy burrito, early afternoon snooziness was setting in, so we tackled it.
And boy were we glad – it’s a great episode. It looks at some statistics from modern rugger, and makes interesting comparisons to days of yore (the sideburns, muck and no tries era). The stat that caught our eye was this:
Between 1971 and 1973, including the Barbarians against New Zealand …. the average match then generated 101 set pieces, 63 lineouts and 38 scrums, and there were 31 rucks/mauls. In the 2000 Six Nations, the set-piece number had dropped to 58 (31 lineouts, 27 scrums), and the rucks/mauls totalled 116. This year, lineouts and scrums were down to 37 (23 lineouts, 14 scrums, only eight of which saw the ball used) and rucks/mauls had risen to 181.
Sixty three lineouts! Thirty eight scrums!! And remember, lineouts were a shambles in those days (see our Tw*tter/F*cebook profile pics) – the games must have been rubbish. So much for the grass-was-greener brigade. Even if there happened to be a game in the 1970s were someone beat a drink-sodden touring side and made a play about it, the game must have been desperately poor to watch, despite its reported attendance of 580,000. It shows the strides made, especially since the RWC began (the amateur era versus the shamateur and professional era if you like).
It got us thinking – what are the best and worst things about modern-day rugby? Here’s our thoughts:
- Ruck turnovers, especially when a ravenous forward pack drive over a tiny marrooned back
- The lineout – a soaring catch and quick offload is a thing of pure beauty
- Offloads by tight forwards – who can’t help but smile when one of the fatties shows hands of silk. Mushy specialises in this, but loses points for being rubbish in the tight
- Backline tries in the corner - think anything by Girvan Dempsey
- Linebreaks in broken field – sending a lithe centre through a non-existent gap in the blitz and seeing acres of green .. beautiful
- The scrum .. when it works (1% of the time)
- Ham-fisted lateral shunting across a backline – like Ireland 2011
- Ineffective rucking – seeing your tight forwards make no impression on a wall of opponents is seriously dispiriting and begs the question what they do all day in training
- Carries for 0 metres that end up using 4 forwards in a ruck against 1 opponent – utterly brainless in this time of tactical planning
- Inept handling by professionals – get some practise in already!
- Players in specialist positions who can’t specialise – O’Leary or Banahan spring to mind
- The scrum .. when it doesn’t work (99% of the time)