Best of the weekend: Hat-tricks galore as domestic rugby returns

george north

Saints sparkle in season opener

Northampton began their title defence in gloriously emphatic fashion, obliterating a disjointed Gloucester side, 53-6, at Franklin’s Gardens. Although the upheaval at Gloucester this offseason was a big contributing factor to the West Country side’s humiliating loss, Northampton were able to put over 50 points on a side riddled with internationals, despite never hitting top gear.

George North looked in supreme form as he collected a memorable hat-trick, whilst James Wilson and Luther Burrell, who grabbed a brace, also impressed amongst the backs. The real story played out upfront however, as the Saints pack did a demolition job on their opposite numbers. Alex Corbisiero seemingly chewed up and spat out John Afoa at scrum time, whilst Courtney Lawes, Calum Clark and Samu Manoa were all fierce in both defence and with ball in hand.

North’s performance on Friday night clearly set the tone for the opening weekend as David Strettle followed up with a hat-trick of his own in Saracens’ 34-28 win over Wasps, before Vereniki Goneva bagged the third triple of the weekend, helping Leicester to a comfortable 36-17 win over Newcastle at Welford Road. Bath signalled their intent for the upcoming season with a 29-20 victory away to Sale, whilst Harlequins wrapped up Saturday’s rugby, beating London Irish 20-15 in the second game of the London Double Header. Sunday saw Exeter spoiling London Welsh’s ‘welcome back to the Premiership’ party, as they thumped the new boys 52-0 at the Kassam Stadium.

Aviva Premiership Star Man: Ollie Lindsay-Hague

Stirring comeback earns Ulster three points

Sky could not have asked for a better game to debut their Guinness PRO12 coverage this season, as Ulster fought back from a 12-point deficit to secure a 32-32 draw in the dying minutes of their game against Scarlets. The new signings made instant impact for both teams, with Harry Robinson, Rory Pittman (both Scarlets), Franco van der Merwe and Louis Ludik (both Ulster) all crossing the try line. Two tries from scrum-half Gareth Davies looked to be enough to secure the win for the Scarlets, but with the home side down to 14 men courtesy of a second yellow card for Liam Williams, Ulster were able to breach the Scarlets’ defence one last time through Andrew Trimble, and Ian Humphreys was on target with his game-tying conversion.

Though Trimble and Humphreys rescued two extra points for Ulster, it was a weekend to forget for the provinces, as Munster fell to a 14-13 loss at home to Edinburgh, whilst Glasgow were able to dish out some measure of revenge for their PRO12 final loss last season, beating Leinster 22-20 at Scotstoun. Other results saw Connacht beat Newport Gwent Dragons 16-11 at the Sportsground, the Ospreys show up a Treviso side that lost a number of key players from last season, 44-13 on Friday night, and a new look Cardiff side do a further Italian demolition job over Zebre, 41-26.

Guinness PRO12 Star Man: Stuart Hogg

Brive stun Toulouse

It’s not unusual to see full-slate of home wins in the Top 14, but Brive’s 26-19 over Toulouse this weekend comes as quite the surprise. Having trailed for much of the match, Toulouse finally drew level with Brive thanks to an Edwin Maka try in the 64th minute and looked to be in good shape to kick on and steal the game at the death. That was not to be the case however, as Brive’s Benito Masilevu scored an exquisite try with just seven minutes left to play, earning the home side a memorable victory.

Common sense reigned elsewhere in the Top 14, as Stade Francais beat Bayonne, 34-29, and Toulon were made to work by Bordeaux Begles, but ultimately triumphed, 18-13. Clermont were another home side to pick up a victory this weekend, but their 32-6 drubbing of Racing Metro was more emphatic than many predicted and will certainly have hurt the Parisian side.

Top 14 Star Man: Aurelien Rougerie

All Blacks triumph whilst late Australian heroics snatch victory from Boks

New Zealand were made to initially work hard by Argentina, but the visiting Pumas were ultimately comfortably beaten by a score of 28-9 in Napier. The win keeps New Zealand undefeated in the tournament ahead of a tough test against South Africa next weekend, whilst the try bonus point they secured could yet prove decisive in the race for the trophy. Plenty of All Blacks and Pumas deserve praise from the game, but none more so than Brodie Retallick. The gigantic lock was in fine form, contributing to all facets of New Zealand’s game plan, including a fantastic show of athleticism to collect a loose ball from the ground, spring to his feet and help set up Julian Savea for his first try of the game.

South Africa had the opportunity to join New Zealand as the only other unbeaten side in the competition at the halfway mark, but a late Rob Horne try earned Australia the narrowest of victories, as they beat the Springboks, 24-23, in Perth. A controversial yellow card to Bryan Habana late in the game will be a talking point for days to come, but South Africa contributed to their own downfall, making a number of unforced errors after establishing a nine-point lead over the Wallabies. The Boks will have to postpone licking their wounds and bounce back quickly, or the All Blacks could take advantage on Saturday when they meet in Wellington.

The Rugby Championship Star Man: Brodie Retallick

Try of the Week goes to George North for his second score against Gloucester (skip to 0.11 in video below). Collecting the ball with a defender in his face, North spun out of the tackle in Rokocoko-esque fashion, before stepping a final defender and crossing the try line in plenty of space.

Unfortunately the refereeing in The Rugby Championship this weekend has to take the Villain of the Week award. Both Pascal Gauzere and George Clancy had poor games on Saturday, making multiple decisions that left players and fans alike scratching their heads.

David Strettle is the thoroughly deserving winner of the new season’s first Hero of the Week. Not only did his opening try help Saracens get off to a fast start against Wasps at Twickenham, but he also scored two second half tries, including a high-pressure finish in the dying minutes, bringing his side back into the contest and securing a dramatic victory.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

44 thoughts on “Best of the weekend: Hat-tricks galore as domestic rugby returns

  1. Absolutely devastated at Twickenham on Saturday. Saying that, the game did reassure me that Wasps have a very good season ahead. Up front we were miles ahead of last season against an understrength but still strong Sarries pack, and out wide we always look dangerous. Gutting to lose to a last minute try though. Naivety let us down in the end. We had the ball 30 meters from the Sarries try line with under two minutes left and gave it away. Hopefully over the course of the season we will learn to close out those situations.

    Saints-Gloucester didn’t surprise me that much. Saints are completely settled and everything is very new at Gloucester. 50 may have been more than I thought but 20+ would not have been IMO.

    Surprised by your Star Man pick for the Prem. I was at Twickenham on Saturday, and whilst being admittedly being through a few beers but the time the Quins game came around, I didn’t think Lindsay-Hague was Star Man material. He was good, but earlier in the day we saw a game of much higher standard where a few players could have been Star Man from the weekend.

    1. Yeh have to admit I’m confused by Lindsay-Hague as the star pick… A lot of better players this weekend! Was particularly impressed by Sam Hill on Sunday, though Welsh’s defence was embarrassingly abject, which may have helped. And a quick mention on Johnson for Wasps- what a grubber for Wade’s try… amazing, especially for a lumbering tank of a back row.

      1. Glad people have mentioned Johnson here! That back row ended the season brilliantly for Wasps last year they started this season in the same light. The balance is really strong with Haskells grunt allowing Johnson and Hughes to get a lot of their hands on the ball.

        Didn’t see any of the Exeter game but I’ve liked Sam Hill for a long time – doesn’t surprise me to see him to well. Liked the look of Slade playing 13 outside of Steenson at 10. How did he look there? Both Hill and Slade have always looked really classy players.

        1. They did well, Jacob. A good partnership. The weakness of the opposition means I’m going to hold back any higher praise, but if it’s the same pairing against Tigers next weekend it’ll be interesting to see how they get on!

        2. Hill and Slade both played well although you have to factor in the lack of opposition. Equaly impressive I thought was the combination of Waldrom and Ewers I think they are going to cause problems for quite a few teams. Especially considering the number of first choice players yet to return I’m more optimistic about Chiefs now despite the dire welsh performance. Roll on next week.

    2. Have to agree with you about the Star man. I though Johnson for Wasps, or Taylor for Sarries were just two of a number of stand out players from the opener at Twickers. Johnson is very quick for a big guy, and showed a couple of sublime touches off the boot. I think Wasps have a very strong team this season. If they can keep everyone fit, they should be in with a shout of a play off spot. Their back row was immense on Saturday, continuously putting Sarries under pressure at the breakdown.
      I thought Taylor was excellent for Sarries in the centre. Put in some great tackles, and his interception in the first half led to Strettle’s first try, and his break through the midfield led to Strettle’s last gasp try.

  2. Despite a losing effort, Ashley Johnson would have been my Star Man pick for the AP. That was an astonishing performance, especially given his handling troubles last season. And that kick!

  3. Agree with the other posters on here that Ashley Johnson would have been my star pick too! Especially surprised as Alex is a Wasps man… perhaps he’s striving too hard for impartiality!

    What an opening weekend though. Was particularly impressed with Wasps (in yet another narrow losing effort) – I think they’ll turn a few of those close losses from last season into wins this time around though.

  4. As you say – cracking weekend for Sky to start their Pro12 coverage. Very exciting opening – Munster beaten. Leinster beaten. The Blues finally shake the Zebre monkey off their back (ok, I’m probably the only one excited by that). Lots of talk about whether the “top6 qual” is going to have an effect – Munster rested players and under-estimated Edinburgh was one example quoted a lot.

    Star Man should have been Scarlets scrum half Davies. Electric player.

    Did you see the Glasgow 9 nearly lose them the game twice? 1st he gave away the cheap pen that saw them draw ahead with a try from the lineout. Then, when clock is in the red, Glasgow awarded pen in front of Leinster posts while 1 point behind … the Glasgow 9 tries a tap and go! His own entire team try and tackle him – luckily Nige decides it was way off the mark and calls them back to kick the winning 3 pts. With the ending of that game, the Munster game and the Scarlets game it was an incredible set of matches.

    Good to see North back to form. No surprise to see a Gloucs team with Hook at 10 get battered sadly. He’s never going to control a game, he’s not that sort of player – so when your 2nd/backrows are useless you are going to get hammered with that sort of presence at 10. Ken Owens now the front-runner for Wales hooker given his ascendance and Hibbard playing in a rubbish team.

    1. I saw the highlights of the Glasgow game Brighty – Matawalu really does have fresh air between his ears doesn’t he? Can you imagine if he’d taken that tap and they hadn’t scored? I’m not sure he’d still be in a job.

      Re Hook and Glos – not fair to lay the blame at his door just yet. They were battered up front and the main problem was in defence – I’ve never seen a line that porous (until Sunday and London Welsh). They’re just not comfortable playing with each other yet.

      1. I wonder about Gloucester. Yes there was a lot of changes over the summer, but only 5 players made their debut. That is hardly a huge number. 5 new players also started for Wasps. So can we just point to that? I still looked at their pack and thought they’d be beaten up. Afoa and Hibbard are both top players, but both looked weaker than their opposite numbers and I expected them to on paper as well. The rest of the Gloucester pack are still the abject players that they had last year.

        1. I think it also has to do with what positions these new players are in. Hooker, tighthead, openside, scrum half and fly half for Gloucester – that’s basically the core of your team, and if they’re not gelling properly you’re going to have no set piece success and no control on the game in general. I do think they’ll get better.

          Wasps’ new boys I would (tentatively) argue were in less important positions.

          1. Paranoid celt response – I like Gloucs, so I’m not happy they got battered BUT I was relieved that on the night the Pro12 suffered the indignity of a bunch of 2nd division Italian journeymen being battered by kids in Swansea we also saw the AP have a similar mismatch.

            Media coverage matters and the Gloucs performance stopped dead any rubbish about the non-competitive nature of some Pro12 matches. London Welsh result also.

            Also – whoever schedule Os v Treviso as THE opening game of the season on BBC primetime TV should be marched off the pier. Ridicolous way to waste pre-season excitement. Glad SKY showed how coverage should be done on Saturday.

            I’d be intrigued to see the weekend viewing figures – Pro12 on SKY in the middle of a Sat afternoon while the AP game in on BT Sport.

          2. Sort of agree, especially with Gloucester having new half backs. Wasps also had a new tight head, plus lock and full back which I’d argue runs though the core. Get your point though and would agree.

            I’m still not convinced Gloucester will match the pre-season hype and can’t see them challenging top 6. They have exciting backs but Laidlaw won’t give them quick ball even if their pack find dominance (which doesn’t look likely that often based on Friday!).

      2. I think time will tell with Hook at Glos – undoubtedly he can do some amazing things with the ball at times but it always surprises me that the very, very poor track record/consistency of teams he has been 10 for seems to ever be linked to him. He’s coated with Teflon. Perpignan get relegated, the Os underperform, Wales struggle, but he is still seen as a great, great player that Wales now keep overlooking.

  5. As a saracens fan, the weekend gives me confidence for the game against Quins. I think Saracens were guilty of a bit of complacency when they found themselves with a comfy lead. That should give them a kick up the backside, which I’m sure Quins will be getting, as they are capable of playing at a far better standard than they did.

    I hope Wasps are able to close out those sort of games this season. One thing I did notice was that Wade was nowhere to be seen for each of Strettle’s tries.

    For their sake I hope Gloucester sort themselves out, granted they had new players in crucial positions, but they have been leaking points for a while now, it’s only week 1 but from what I’ve seen there is nothing to indicate that they will fare any better this season.

    1. Yes I noticed Wade was left floundering in defence, which is worrying for England. Ashton didn’t have to do too much defending, and finished his chance well. Didn’t watch all of the Quins/Irish game, as the first half was a bit slow to get going, but I think Yarde may be the first choice for the 14 shirt, but who do you play on the left?? Strettle was fantastic all last season, and has started this one with a well finished hat-trick!? May is probably going to be Lancaster’s first choice 11, but if Strettle continues in this form, maybe he will get one last shot?!
      Would love to see Short have a good season for Irish, because I think he has serious potential. Great pace and very strong, and better defensively than May.

    2. Possibly a bit complacent by Sarries, but they in going so far ahead they also profited from a fairly slow start by Wasps.

      Quins were not as tight as they should have been at times. They will be improving too, especially in defence. Big fan of Sinkler, but I am a bit concerned that he will be a liability in the tackle for giving away penalties.

      Re Wade on Strettles tries. I did notice that on a couple of them. Unfortunately only saw the highlights, which were not at all clear on where Wade was on Strettles 1st and 3rd tries. On the 2nd Wade was not at fault. that was the wasps defensive alignment breaking down. it was basically a 3 on 1, and there is no point being on your opposite man if you ignore the guy inside you walking over.

      Did you watcht he whole game? Where was Wade on those scores?

      1. Wade was ball watching for Strettle’s second try, and was caught out by a great pass from Farrell straight into Strettle’s hands. For the third try, he found himself caught in the midfield when Taylor made his break, and no-one filled his defensive position.
        To be fair a lot of this is lack of experience. Strettle’s positioning in the lead up to Hughes try was excellent. He prevented Simpson from passing to Wade.
        When Wade gets to the next England camp, I’m sure Farrell and Catt will be looking to rectify this, as I’m sure they will want Wade in the Autumn internationals. Just a shame that both Wade and Yarde are being played at 14! Would like to see one of them switched to the other wing. Would rather have either one of them than Jonny May at 11.

        1. Completely disagree with your analysis of Wades defending. Are you suggesting that in a 3 on 2 (for Strettles second), that Wade should be standing wider? Leaving a gap inside of him. If you are defending an overlap, take the inside man and drift hard. Farrells pass was excellent, but Wade positioning was spot on.

          Can see more credit with you saying he was out of position for the third try. But, still disagree. He isn’t in midfield. He is just inside of Masi (who was playing 15) who was opposite the winger. That was simply because of an overlap. Unfortunately there was a gaping hole in our centres because of Sarries previous good phases. If anything, I’d argue Wade could have come further inside! But again, to be fair to him, he probably didn’t have the chance because of the pace of that Sarries attack.

    3. To defend Wade slightly – Strettles first try was a huge kick upfield after a turnover, following by a mistake from Miller, so Wade had nothing to do with it. The second try was a two on one overlap and he was rightly stood on the inside man. Strettles final try had was in the ruck as a second man to the ball after the Taylor break. Harsh criticism really. Especially considering he completely out-gased Strettle for his second try.

      Can’t see past Wade and Yarde for the England wings this year. Strettle showed nothing on Saturday that we didn’t already know – he can finish tries at Premiership level with ease.

    4. As a Quins fan the weekends game fills me with dread for your visit!! I think Quins will struggle with the bigger teams this year. Huge emphasis goes on the Quins younger players coming through, but Merrick doesn’t seem ready, and i’d argue that Quins second best 2nd row is Easter.

      Yarde showed a good covering defensive game for me, and i think he’ll learn a lot with Quins.

      Gloucester will come good. It may take a while, but they have a good squad and a top coaching team.

      Can we please stop the London Double Header now though? Can we not make it open to all sides? How about a Bath v Glaws and Saints v Tigers openers?!

  6. Wade was sticking his head into defensive rucks. Wingers shouldn’t get involved in defensive rucks, especially little guys like him. Attacking ruck, no problem that extra half a second he can provide keeps us the ball, but in defence, first thought should be back to the wing.

    1. Interesting DanD. I pretty much feel the opposite. No point having quick ball if you have no one to finish it. And no point having the wing defended if the first oppo at the tackle area can just pick up the ball and go straight through because there is no one to oppose him at the ruck.

      Ultimately one for the coaches to decide and may vary depending on the team and defensive tactics.

    2. Can’t really say I agree with either to be honest. If you are the first man to a breakdown you should ruck. In this particular instance Wade is chasing back to make the tackle and is there as the tackle is made. Should he have run away from the tackle area? Or stand off doing nothing?

      The only exception to this is if the attacking sides scrum half hits a ruck. That is pointless – dig the ball out if you are the 9 or organise your forwards.

  7. I hoped there would be a reason, as I’m a huge fan of Wade, but it just stuck out to me when watching the game. Hopefully he can have a good few weeks of solid performances. Do you know what’s happening with Leiua (sp?), was hoping to see him play at the weekend.

    Agree with your views on Strettle, he scores lots of tries from about 15m out, because the saracens forwards suck players in and there is generally an overlap, and everyone is passing off their good hand going that way. That’s a bit of a generalisation, but he’s 31 with a few caps and not very many international tries. You would only play a guy in that situation if you genuinely thought he was one of the best wingers in the world.

    I think the England wing spots are still very open. I’d like to see Wade, Yarde and Watson given a fair go. May I think will suffer unless Glos are able to win some games.

  8. I’d forgotten about Watson and Rokodugini at Bath. BUt again both tend to play at 14. We need more left sided wingers.

    1. Do you think 11 and 14 make any difference at all?

      I can’t imagine any international wingers finding it tough because they are on the other side of the pitch. It isn’t like flanker where it is open and blind, therefore meaning the roles are difference. Nothing really changes. I understand some wingers have a preference, but surely you just pick the best two wingers, simple as that. Yarde played 14 all of last year for Irish and played 11 quite happily for England in the summer.

      1. Jacob, in my opinion it does make a difference, particularly in defence. Not as big as, say Tight Head vs Loose Head, but some players will adapt and others will struggle and I think that ultimately when you bring someone into a team, you would rather not have then take time to adapt.

        Top players though, should be able to adapt.

        1. In what way is defending different? I’m genuinely interested here. Surely other than being on the other wide of the pitch, maybe getting use to using a different shoulder when showing someone the outside – what changes?

          Personally I can not see how any player that is being considered to play internationally should struggle with either of those things.

          1. At international it’s even more important. If your reactions have honed to being on one side, reading the play from one side, judging the flight of the ball etc etc, it will have an impact.

            Also, as most people, even at international, are better passing right to left, the left winger tends to be the big finisher (North/Savea), whilst the right winger (who will see less clean ball in space), tends to be the smarter/game changer type who goes off looking for work (Wade/Ashton/Smith).

            1. I’m sorry but this is surely a stretch. The flight of the ball from the other side of the pitch? Come on, that can’t be serious? We talking about international standard professionals.

              I also can not give merit to an argument that the left winger is the finisher and the right winger goes looking for the ball. North is fantastic coming off his wing and Wade is an good a finisher as any.

              Any international 10 or centres that have a real problem passing off one hand really shouldn’t be there. Yes there will be preferences and stronger hand, but your theory would suggest a 10 decides to head to left the hand side of the pitch (ignoring how the game and defence are set up) to pass off his better hand. Am I completely missing your point or is that serious what you are suggesting?

              1. So very simply, defending the blind side of the scrum is more difficult if you are a left wing, because you are always exposed to the blind side attack without a defending nine to back you up.

                When you are defending the openside on the left, the defending team tends to have the scrum half sweeping, and very quick ball to the attacking right wing can engineer a quick overlap.

                The right wing, when defending the open side wing may be able to hang back more as the defensive line will tend to have one more player able to drift defend.

                This is very simplistic, and the defensive patterns at the highest level will be more complex, but there is no question that defending left to right, is different than defending right to left, so this would lead to a certain amount of “learning” required for wings familiar with one side, to adapt to the other.

                Its not impossible of course, but I think at the very highest level, the slightest hesitation (due to unfamiliarity, or lack of the correct “instinct”) may make a huge difference.

                1. As an aside I do disagree with DanD’s assessment of the finisher/smarter game changer.

                  In terms of finishers; Gerald Davies, Stu Wilson, Alan Morley, David Trick, Mark Cueto, Tony Underwood, Steve Hanley, Paul Sackey, David Rees and probably loads more that don’t easily spring to mind were all right wingers, whom were known primarily as try scorers. Strettle was also a Right Wing before he went to Saracens.

                  What is more constant is that very often the big wingers tend to show up on the left; Lomu, Cohen, North, Tuigamala, the other Tuilagi, Rokokoko, Savea etc, and whilst this isn’t an absolute, it is probably because of the lack of defending 9 when they attack the 10/12 channel from the blind side.

              2. And yet so many of them can only pass with great skill in one direction. Just watch a player (Farrell for instance) and the difference between his left and right passes. Yes, they should be great off of either, but they aren’t. There is a reason more tries are scored on the left.

                My theory isn’t that they choose to go to the left, but rather that passes to the left are generally going to be slightly faster, more effective, and leaving a player in great space to finish (or getting the ball to the wing quicker, before the drift has got across as quickly).

                I’m not trying to say right wingers aren’t good finishers, if anything they could be better, but that they are the ones who can operate with less room, or are smarter in coming off their wings to look for work.

                Though as Blub says below, I’d say the major reason I’d rather my wings played on the same sides is less attack, and more defence.

                1. Still can’t agree that it makes a difference attacking wise. Let’s go back to our original reason for this conversion, being that Yarde and Wade are both playing on the right wing for their clubs. What possible reason could their be that either of them can’t play on the left in an attacking sense? I’m fully aware that more tries are scored on the left hand side statistically, but I still can’t see how that makes a difference with the selection of your two best wingers.

                  In defense, DanD’s earlier seasons I still think are nonsense (catching kicks etc.), but I can see merit to Blub’s argument. Still though, if that is the only thing there is – should it really affect selection? Because that was the original discussion here.

  9. It shuoldn’t, but there are a surprising number of players that only ever seem to appear on one wing. Ioane I think normally plays on the left, as he has a devastating left-to-right step, but isn’t as effective going the other way. Other players might prefer tackling with one shoulder over the other, and by playing on the right, and by showing the attacker the outside, they might be able to increase the chances of tackling with their preferred side.

    The fact that the hat tricks this weekend came from 11’s got me wondering how many more tries, if any, are scored on the left hand side of the pitch, due to it being the more natural direction of passing for most players. Would be very interesting to see.

    1. Some of the older (and maybe recent) Six nations stats reports show more tries are scored to the left of the posts. Right footed kickers going for long touches to the left could also help with this. Obviously some tries may have been started on the right/left and ended up between the posts (given it’s on stats).

  10. For some reason I can’t reply directly to Jacob, so I’ll do it here.

    The kicks thing was more in attack and scoring tries on the left. Right footed kickers I’d have thought can be more accurate with kicks to the corner (after a penalty) in order for a lineout drive to take it over the line on the left hand side.

    Reactions, instincts etc etc are all honed with game time, and viewing the pitch from a completely different angle must make a difference.

    However, no, this shouldn’t stop us from picking our best two wingers (unless they show they are completely incapable of swapping wings, which is something that effects some wingers).

    1. Must admit I’m still completely baffled by any of your reasoning here. I’ve known right footed kicks to prefer either side, I don’t think there is much consistency on which side they prefer to kick to.

      What do you mean attacking kicking? You put “judging the flight of the ball etc”. That is what I was suggesting is surely irrelevant.

      I also can’t think of a winger that I have seen seriously affected by changing sides?

  11. Jacob, I think that the negative affect would be in defensive decision making (rather than any real attacking detriment). Very often we wouldn’t necessarily see this but I am sure that as they move through their defensive systems in training, the coaches can pick this up.

    It is for a similar reason that inside centres can struggle to play at outside centre. It is not the attacking change but the defensive aspects that are difficult to adapt to, and very often a winger will find it easier defending at 13, than a 12 would. Generalisation – obviously – but the point is that it is quite different.

    1. I don’t think you can compare wing to centre though. 12 and 13 are completely different channels to defend, and they also bring different challenges in attack. Can’t see how it is that comparable to wing.

      I should point out, there are clearly minor differences. The point I was originally making about 30 posts ago was that I can not see the relevance of the fact that most England wingers are currently playing at 14 for their clubs. I also can’t see why any top level winger is viewed as only a left or right winger – they are just a winger.

      1. Jacob the comparison was not intended to link defending wing with defending in either centre position, it was intended to compare the two distinct positions (Centre and Wing) as having a similar challenge in adjusting to the defensive change when switching from one (sub) position to the other.

        Clearly it is not impossible to adapt, and I am sure that many, many players do so each weeks at their clubs across the land. At all levels. The difference at the highest level is that there is a counterbalance against having the most talented players. That is that some of them who play by instinct in a set position for their clubs, struggle to adapt, and this raises the risk of the slightest hesitancy that neither you nor I would likely notice, but that at the highest level can make the difference between a solid defensive pattern and a gap.

  12. In order that this matter (which does interest me) doesn’t disappear, there is an affect that a dominant passing hand has. Obviously this is not an affect we should see at the top level, but at junior level, very often the right wing scores more tries, often because right handed passers at 10,12, 13 and 15 tend to dummy more easily, and more readily when going left.

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