Rugby Union News Blog

So the International season is upon us. A time of year when our Southern cousins arrive on our shores to give us all a lesson in fast, expansive rugby for a few weeks. But maybe, just maybe, this year might be different.

I do love the Autumn Internationals, I look forward to them every year, although in Cardiff it does mean that thousands of ill-informed, drunken idiots descend on the city’s pubs and bars to shout obscenities and refereeing advice at the big screens, but it’s still all good fun. I mean, I don’t venture into town unless i’m going to the game, but i’m told this is what it’s like.

Wales have already put in one dour performance, a game when Australia cut through the fabled Welsh defence almost at will, and should’ve scored a lot more than the 32 points that they managed to rack up. The fact that Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate seemed to be playing in an Invisibility Cloaks greatly exacerbated this. Personally, I think the ‘Gatland-ball’ game plan of a load of big, strong, quick blokes just smashing it up the middle has had it’s day. Team’s have figured it out, they know how to deal with it, and more worrying the know how to exploit it’s weaknesses too, as Australia proved so admirably on the weekend.

Now, Ireland. I’m a little bit gutted I didn’t watch it live, I was a fireworks display with my daughter, so I recorded it and planned to watch it when I got in and so I avoided Facebook and Twitter for fear of the result being ruined, and then unfortunately a rather lovely man at the display loudly announced the result to his son while he was stood right next to me. Devastating. Anyway, the were tremendous, they nullified the All Blacks perfectly. It was the best performance I’ve seen against NZ that I can remember, and it shows how far they’ve progressed under Schmidt. There defence was superb, they used that famed to ‘choke-tackle’ to wonderful effect and I really liked that figure 8 during the Haka, I think it was a brilliant and fitting tribute to the late Anthony Foley.



England are probably going to clean-sweep their autumn series, as much as it pains me to admit it. Even without Itoje, I think that they will still be too strong and clinical for all the teams that they are playing. I feel that England have got all the ingredients to really take on the SH teams. They’ve got great players, massive strength in depth, and if they had a go i’m sure they could play free scoring, expansive rugby that we’d all love to see. But alas, International rugby is a results business, and i’ve no doubt that Eddie Jones will be happy with a 3 – 0 win, as long as it’s a win. Which is sad.

So, I read a Tweet the other day that described Saracens as 'one of the best non-Test teams of the era'. This tweet

wasn't from some fez-wearing Saracens season ticket holder either, it was from Stephen Jones, chief Rugby writer at The Times no less. It made me annoyed, and also a bit sad. I'll elaborate. Firstly, how do you define an era?? Is it a year long, five years, ten years??? Who knows?!? But to describe a team that have won only one European title in any of those time periods seemed like high praise to me. Sure they're good, but are they worthy of that level of reverence yet?!? I'd say not. Toulon won three in a row remember.

Secondly, and this is my main point, the current pundit and journalist love affair with Saracens makes me a little bit sad and also is the reason that i think we in the Northern Hemisphere have such problems against our cousins from the South. They're entire game is built on defence, and that's not a bad thing, every team needs a good defence but it's the pride that they seem to take in nulifying opponents and strangling games that really narks me. This whole 'wolf pack' thing.



They can play great, expansive, open rugby, as they proved in the Aviva final against Bath. The blitz defence has become their defining characteristic, and i can't help but think that any Southeren Hemisphere team, that had achieved the success that Saracens have would never have put such an emphasis on defence, but would rather win games by attacking and trying to score tries. I'd rather watch that, i think most people would rather watch that, unless you ask anyone from the Saracens Supporters Club i'm sure.

I will be honest, i've only ever seen one of their games live, it was at Wembley, against Leicester and was honestly one of most boring 80 minutes of rugby i've ever had the displeasure of sitting through. But hey, the ticket was free.


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