Articles of the week, 16 Jan

This week’s articles include work on Munster, Eddie Jones’ England and Leicester Tigers, and a phenomenal piece of writing by Ed Smith.

Murray Kinsella, The 42: Foley’s Munster hit a new low with capitulation in Paris

Some strong words were written in response to Munster’s apathetic showing against Stade Français in the Champions Cup last weekend; Ronan O’Gara’s Irish Examiner column spoke to the level of emotional investment which everyone involved with the province feels, and which almost all supporters share. Kinsella picks apart their performance at the Stade Jean-Bouin with a keen eye provides a good overview of the on-field issues Munster currently face. Interesting in particular is the look at the team’s response to captain CJ Stander’s half-time demands to up the pace by shifting immediately (and unsuccessfully) to a focus solely on the wide channels. This insight is notable when coupled with a quote from his interview with Francis Saili last week:

“The boys work hard, they work so hard, but I always say there’s no point in working hard if you’re not going to work smart at the same time. For instance, boys can work hard into positions, but they are sometimes like robots and stick to the structures. You need to see in front of you and what you’re going to play against. The pictures you see is what you’ve got to adapt to. You’ve got to adapt to the defence and how you’re going to punch holes. You’re trying to problem solve the game.”


Charlie Morgan, Rugby World: What to expect from England under Eddie Jones and Steve Borthwick

Japan shocked the rugby world with the intelligence and accuracy of their play during the World Cup, and England supporters have many reasons to be optimistic that the RFU’s new coaching set-up will improve upon the processes that Stuart Lancaster had put in place. Jones had already established his no-nonsense approach before the EPS was announced on Wednesday, and showed no sentimentality in dropping some of Lancaster’s key lieutenants. However – and perhaps most crucially – making up the rest of his coaching team are young English coaches (Steve Borthwick, Paul Gustard and Ian Peel) with whom many of the players will be familiar, and who will be able to form an important bridge between the head coach and his squad.  It is especially good to see Peel fast-tracked to the senior set-up after his success with the U20s: his familiarity with some of the country’s most promising prospects – many of whom have already experienced success in international tournaments – will hopefully aid the rapid assimilation of England’s new generation into the senior side.

Will Greenwood, The Telegraph: How Leicester Tigers double act of Aaron Mauger and Richard Cockerill is building something very special

Alex Shaw, Rugby World: The Aviva Premiership must not lose its identity

The appointment of Aaron Mauger, a former Leicester player, as head coach at the East Midlands club has rejuvenated their on-field performance, and in an interview with the Leicester Mercury at the turn of the new year it was refreshing to hear Cockerill speak with such honesty and clarity about his own shortcomings and the club’s needs (Which the New Zealander appears to have amply filled). Greenwood’s technical analysis is always sharp, and he looks at the subtler aspects of his former club’s back play which have improved under the new coach. However, taking a wider look at the development of the Aviva Premiership and English rugby as a whole, it is interesting to read this alongside Alex Shaw’s piece on the need for balance between overseas signings and local talent. It would be a great shame (and not necessarily in the club’s best long-term interests) if opportunities for some of Leicester’s academy prospects were limited because of too much of a focus on foreign recruitment. It may be simply the case that – as Shaw notes – the identity of clubs giving playing time to homegrown talent has changed, but nonetheless it is a trend that will likely continue to escalate as the Premiership’s salary cap continues to rise over the next few seasons.

Ed Smith, Cricinfo: The figure a shot makes

Smith channels Robert Frost, comparing the acts of writing a poem and batting in a beautiful piece of writing. There is something apt about the form this piece takes given its thesis: the writer trusts his instinct in embracing the confrontation between his own instincts and Frost’s, and it is not unprompted action but reaction which elevates the writing:

“A poet must move in the mess of real life in order to experience the moments of revelation that become poems. A batsman must find his answers and solutions while immersed in the fluid, often confusing context of the match. The batsman and the poet are both opportunists – gulling, enduring and, where necessary, evading.”

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