Four Lessons From The Lions

All Blacks

The 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand has come to a close with a slightly anti-climactic 15-all draw in the final test. I think we would all have liked to see that match go the distance and into extra-time to give us a true conclusion, but given everyone was expecting to see the Lions beaten 3-0 (and emphatically so), a drawn series is still a hugely impressive result.

Now the dust has settled, what has this year’s tour taught us?

The All Blacks are beatable
The most dominant side in international sport, winners of the last two World Cups and a conveyor belt of world-class players mean the All Blacks are rightly lauded as the best-of-the-best. What this Lions series has done, however, has revealed a few chinks in their armour and offered hope to other countries that come the 2019 World Cup in Japan, it is not a foregone conclusion that New Zealand will walk away with a third successive title.

Beauden Barrett’s troubles from the tee have shown, that for all his prowess with ball in hand, he is not yet the complete player that Dan Carter was. New Zealand left eminently kickable points on the field, points that could have won them both the last two tests. The thinking with Barrett is that even if he misses a few three-pointers, he will give you tries. Well the Lions defence was so fierce it nullified the fly-half’s running game, which left New Zealand trading three-pointers for… well nothing. They brought his brother Jordie into the side for the third test and I expected him to be handed the kicking duties – that never transpired and the situation will dominate much of Steve Hansen’s thinking in the coming months.

Just as Barrett is not quite Carter, the midfield options replacing the retired Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith have yet to successfully plug the hole. The Lions player of the series, Jonathan Davies, made a series of breaks and found space in the outside channel, while Sonny Bill Williams had his brain-fade red card and Ngani Laumape struggled to keep his defensive shape.

Similarly with the back three. With Ben Smith out, Hansen couldn’t decide whether he wanted Israel Dagg on the wing or at fullback, whether he wanted the pace of Rieko Ioane or the physicality of Julian Savea, while Waisake Naholo was brought in and then discarded for the next game. No one, beyond Smith, has yet nailed his place in the team.

As always, there is a surfeit of talented young players available to the Kiwis. But they are not quite the finished product yet; they make mistakes and if teams are prepared to take the All Blacks on, their is opportunity to exploit that inexperience. The hundreds of caps lost when the core group of Richie McCaw, Carter, Nonu and Smith retired after the 2015 World Cup could be more costly than initially thought.

The Lions also showed it is possible to get under New Zealand’s skin. The Kiwis always tread that fine line of physicality, but this at times boiled over – Williams’ red card, Jerome Kaino’s yellow, while a number of uncharacteristic handling errors cost them tries they usually finish in their sleep. The template for beating the best has been shown.

The north has world-class players
There is a quirk of the media (and it is a particular favourite of Sir Clive Woodward) that whenever the northern hemisphere sides do well, they ask ‘this is all very well, but how many of the English/Welsh/Irish/Scottish players would get into the All Blacks team?’

Well, on this evidence quite a few. New Zealand would probably bite your hand off right now if you offered them Jonathan Davies, while Sean O’Brien (my player of the series), Maro Itoje, Connor Murray, Owen Farrell, Tadhg Furlong and Sam Warburton, to name just a few, all have a case to make a theoretical world XV.

That is not to mention a handful of names injured, like Billy Vunipola and Stuart Hogg, or out of form but we know they can be great, like Robbie Henshaw and George North. The future is looking bright for the home nations.

Did England miss a trick with Andy Farrell?
Andy Farrell now has three wins and a draw against New Zealand on his CV. Part of Stuart Lancaster’s team for England’s 2012 victory, Joe Schmidt’s for Ireland’s 2016 Chicago triumph, and now on his second Lions tour, the architect behind the suffocating press which neutered the Kiwis’ attacking abilities. He is the common denominator in every northern hemisphere victory over the All Blacks in the past five years.

While a clear out of the coaching staff was correct after England’s 2015 World Cup debacle, and there were unverified claims that an imbalance of power held by Farrell was part of the reason the coaching team’s game plan appeared muddled, Farrell has shown once again he is a brilliant defensive coach. Jones, quite rightly, was afforded the right to bring in his own team when appointed England coach but you can’t help wondering if ditching Farrell was the correct call.

Paul Gustard did brilliantly with Saracens before he became the national side’s defence coach, and while England’s record-equalling winning run means it may seem churlish to criticise, their defence has been far from watertight. This is partly a debt from a more expansive and aggressive attacking game – like New Zealand’s decision with Barrett, England have decided that scoring more tries is the best way to win games. However, and let’s not forget Ireland’s victory over England in this year’s Six Nations, this Lions tour asks whether ditching Farrell senior may come back to bite England.

Offside law needs a review
High-profile games also mean the rules and referees get far more attention, and the final minutes of the third test have led to a lot of debate.

Ken Owens’ offside catch. Was it a penalty? My opinion: yes. Sorry guys, and I hate to a criticise a referee (especially as a Lions fan given the result), but I thought Romain Poite bottled it. Well played Sam Warburton for having a quiet word, and maybe Craig Joubert’s Scotland/Australia clanger was playing on Poite’s mind, but in my view, according to the current consistently applied interpretation of the laws of the game that was a penalty. The ball didn’t just unavoidably hit Owens, he saw it coming and caught it, before realising his mistake and dropping the ball.

However, regardless of this individual decision, and many of you will disagree with me I am sure, what it does show is that this rule needs revisiting. It is such a strong instinct for players to catch a ball when it flies right at them, surely it is time for a bit of understanding and change the offence to result in a scrum irrespective? Think of it as basically an accidental forward pass. There is possibly the danger if that happens we could see a rash of deliberate obstruction following a knock-on to prevent the opposition gaining an advantage, so the other option would be to clarify what constitutes ‘deliberate playing of the ball’ – i.e. the player would have had to change direction akin to when players are judged to have blocked someone chasing a kick.

Either way, something needs to be done – it should not be the kind of offence that could have potentially dictated the outcome of such important matches twice in two years.

What are your thoughts on the Lions tour?

By Henry Ker

69 thoughts on “Four Lessons From The Lions

  1. One little thing that always annoys me is, and I know it is there nickname, that New Zealand are always referred to as The All Blacks rather than New Zealand.

    It just adds this aurora to them and little things like this (along with the Haka), add a psychological edge sometimes, they are a great team but they are beatable and sometimes the focus is on how great they are rather than where there weaknesses lie.

    Yes Poite bottled it but even though The Lions are the best The North has to offer they are still essentially a scratch side and go to show, get the game plan right and New Zealand can be beaten.

    1. it’s not unique to use the nickname first… think Boks, Lions, Wallabies, Pumas…. But I will pick up on the Haka question and the edge it provides; as such my question is – Does the Haka have a place in World Cup games?
      To expand, one off test matches, touring games etc… it fits into the pageantry of the occasion in the same way a marching band does, but the World Cup is something different – are you providing one team a disadvantage? or am i being blasphemous?

      1. I only have 2 issues with the Haka.

        Firstly is the issue of teams responding to it. Everything I’ve ever read from the All Black’s, Kiwi fans and press is that they like it when a team responds to it, however World Rugby punish anyone who attempts to. That’s why I love the response to it at Twickenham, if the England team can’t respond at least the fans can sing over it.

        Secondly is the timing. In my mind doing it right before kick off gives the All Blacks a tiny advantage, not much but when fine margins count who knows it it could sway a game. I feel it’s only fair that on away games the home team get to do their anthem after the haka (or maybe have a coin toss decide it if the home team care that much). Again everything I’ve read suggests the All Blacks aren’t bothered about this (via statements etc) but in this case the one time a team got agreement to do this the players threw a strop and did the Haka in the changing room.

        1. Ten Ton Donut
          The ‘strop’ to which you refer was v Wales whom, on that occasion, refused to allow the AB’s, oops, NZ, to perform their haka before k.o. which had been & still is, customary. NZ, presumably a mite pissed off @ welsh chicanery, instead performed their Haka in the dressing room prior to taking the field. They got on with the match & duly thumped Wales by a cricket score. Might have been better for the Welsh to have left it to business as had been usual?

          1. Incorrect Don.

            The Welsh wanted to sing their national anthem after the haka as a ‘response’, as they had done the year previously.

            The All Blacks got all precious about it and refused, despite playing in Wales, not New Zealand, and in scenes reminscent of a teenager’s huff, performed it in the dressing room.

            “The tradition needs to be honoured properly if we’re going to do it. If the other team wants to mess around, we’ll just do the haka in the shed [changing room].” Said McCaw – to which my response would have been, that’s nice Richie, you go ahead and do that.

            This sense of entitlement in another country, in another team’s ground, is what irks me and others about the haka. It’s a fine bit of drama and theatre and it plays well to the crowd, but at the end of the day that’s all it is and the AB’s have no more right to do it than England do to do some kind of morris dance afterwards.

            What really gets my goat is the World Rugby stance on wrapping the haka in cotton wool and banning any kind of response. But then it brings attention I suppose and that will lost if every time another team wants to respond in their own manner on their own ground, the ABs do the adult equivalent of taking their ball away so no one else can play with it.

            Also why I love the Twickenham response. What can World Rugby do about the crowd singing so loudly it drowns the haka out? Just like the haka, and the best anthems (Welsh, Marseillaise) it raises the hackles

            1. Pablito
              Interesting take on this. So the Welsh decided to unilaterally break with previously accepted tradition, again, regarding the Haka. The AB’s decided to restore the status quo. As the Welsh got into a ‘precious strop’ about it, the AB’s did their own thing. BTW, surely you wouldn’t prefer that the AB’s performed their ‘war dance’ DURING YR national anthem would you?

              1. Hey Don,

                I vaguely recall this incident. How did this Welsh “precious strop” manifest itself?

      2. You miss the point about the nickname ‘All Blacks’ is used too much in my opinion when they are New Zealand, thats all.

        1. Mr B
          PS & FYI I’m just as happy to have NZ referred as, er, NZ. I can’t speak for the AB’s of course, but I doubt that they’d be bothered either way. Probably have other things on their minds.

    2. Mr B
      As I recall it was the British press which 1st coined the term ‘All Blacks’ on the latter’s 1st tour here? I believe that they were originally reffed to as the ‘All Backs’, due to their playing style, but this morphed into the former moniker.
      The Haka is an established part of NZ/Maori/ rugby culture now & is surely now part of a game’s attraction when NZ play. It’s equivalent is perhaps that Negro spiritual or ‘Rule Britannia’ that England &/or it’s fans sometimes sing. If you’d attended the NZ v Argentina WC match in 2015, you’d have experienced what I mean. All teams are beatable, but for various reasons, NZ are less so than most, most of the time. And I’m unclear as to what weakness you refer. Perhaps, @ times, goal kicking? Whether the Lions are ‘essentially a scratch side’ or not, they still represent x4 ‘countries’ whose playing numbers still dwarf NZ’s @ only 7th in the world.

        1. Jake
          Be as sarcastic as you like, but it’s a ‘refreshing’ fact nevertheless. Would you rather have more or less numbers playing the game here? There are even less numbers in the SH these days due to the NH’s undermining the SH player bases with their spending power. It’s just not cricket. Talk about ‘rape of the Pacific’! Someone’s having a giraffe.

          1. Nothing refreshing about it.

            Sounds similar to what NZ have been doing to the Pacific Island nations for years. Anyway we don’t need to go into that.

            The significance of a scratch-side drawing with the ABs shouldn’t be overlooked. Yes they may have been lucky at times, but coming together 4 weeks prior and pulling that off…marvellous.

            1. Jake
              Can understand yr not ‘need(ing) to go into that’ as you Englanders can’t name these PI hoards… like Tui, Vuna x2, Hartley etc, etc. Talk pots & kettles. Yr ‘scratch’ side’s paymasters neg’ed this deal yonks ago. If they’ed played a bit better, they might have pulled of a ‘scratch won’ series.

              1. The playing numbers / population argument is irrelevant. What is enitrely relevant is that NZ’s system is solely geared towards the success and prosperity of the national team – aligned coaching, cross pollinated super franchises and total autonomy of Steve Hansen. Therefore every Super Rugby game is effectively a NZ training session. The upside to this is a dominant national team who thrill their own fans and in turn excite opposition fans at the prospect of facing them. Fantastic stuff. The downside is a club game which totally lacks the effervescence, crackle and partisanship of the Premiership, TOP 14 and Pro12.

                If all 12 English Premiership sides aligned to the common cause of red rose prosperity then the ‘population’ argument would stand up. However, rugby in our country relies on benefactors who run the clubs. The greatest challenge facing any coach from these shores is merging the tactics, cultures and playing styles of all these clubs to create a competitive national team. In the professional environment where familiarity is crucial to success, club players from (say) Saracens play an entirely different style of rugby to (say) Bath.

                As regards the Lions achievement, everyone knows the most prosperous and atmospheric competition outside of the RWC is the 6N’s. One only has to look at the partisanship of the stadium to realize that coaching The Lions to a draw in NZ was an incredible achievement.

                1. Good thoughts, SJW.

                  Arguably, it is more accurate to say that it is the senior clubs in this country who are reliant on the benefactors, not the game.

                  There is a chain of thought that would argue that the benefactors at the top level, have driven benefactors at lower levels, which drives more money into the game at the levels further down the pyramid, which ultimately erodes the game. far greater discussion here of course, and I do not disagree with your core points which highlight very well the differences between here and there.

                2. SJW
                  How can ‘playing numbers / population be irrelevant? Would you rather that England (assuming it’s yr team) had fewer playing numbers / supporters to match those of NZ then? Surely logic dictates, for instance, more players = more choice, more competition. It’s not the only criteria of course as you point out with the SH/NZ’s set up, although some of yr contentions re same are just yr opinions e.g. Hansen’s autonomy. The NZRU do have something to say about how rugby is run in the country & he reports into them, not the other way around methinks. Agree with playing styles etc in England however, they chose this structure with the emphasis on clubs, so no point in spilt milk. Nevertheless, England still has more resources than any other nation & did win a WC with same. Maybe the RFU needs to earn its corn by buying out the clubs to affect a more uni style? Neg more England player/ing time? NZ has a similar structure up to a pt, i.e. club, prov, then the additional S Rugby franchises (the latter surely not lacking in effervescence, crackle and partisanship?), but the emphasis has shifted to the latter due its competitiveness. Prov rugby still has public interest as do clubs, but they are smaller in numbers of players & support when compared to England, so I don’t see yr pop argument standing up. Lions achievement? Played 10, won 5, lost 2, won 3! Motored in 1st, won by 3 v 14 in 2nd, drew last tests – NZ butchered too many in latter, but dominated the game & held the BIL’s tryless, so yr ‘incredible achievement’ seems a tad spurious.

                3. SJW
                  Replied ages ago, but it didn’t take.. so this time maybe it’ll stick. How can numbers be irrelevant? On what basis do you make this claim? Would you rather England had a small base of players avail to them to ultimately select from? Unlikely. You’re right in that NZ have uniformity in their game, whereby the NZ Union control it (& Hansen reports into them, not the other way around) from grassroots to AB level, but that’s a choice they made with the advent of pro rugby. England (& other NH countries) chose not follow the same model. That was their choice. And S. Rugby is hardly a training session for the AB’s. It’s an extra, competitive layer, just below int’al level, but with its own agenda & aims. I agree that it does help the national team however, partly as there is a more unified & EFFECTIVE (it ain’t just there for entertainment as it is often ascribed to by some NH types) way of playing the game nationally, incl with innovative coaches (just check the globe for Kiwi coaches). You over simplify this concept of NZ footy. And as for the NZ club game, you’re comparing chalk & cheese. The Provincial set up is more akin to NH clubs. Whether the clubs lack ‘the effervescence, crackle and partisanship of the Premiership, TOP 14 and Pro12′, (you make it sound like a bowl of rice bubbles), is another matter. Unless you’ve lived & seen nz club games over some period of time, how can you substantiate this view? In any event England has a bigger base than any other country, so by law of averages it has to highlight more ‘gifted’ players. What they do with them in terms of coaching & playing style/s is another matter though.

              2. 1. Mils Muilami (spelt wrong probably) was PI.
                2. Tana Umaga was Samoan born
                3. Jonah Lomu was Tongan born (though grew up in NZ)
                I guess you can put any spin you want on each case. People seem to choose nowadays whether to go by geographical birth place or heritage/ancestry
                I for one could claim to be Irish, Scottish or English.

                1. Got two more here to add to tge list:
                  4. Joe Rokocoko is Fijian born (came over as a five yr old to NZ)
                  5. Joeli Vidiri is another Fijian who played for his birth country (i.e. The Fiji national team and later the ABs)
                  So yes the one way traffic between the PI nations and NZ is pretty fluid and active.
                  Little old Sivivatu probably couldn’t raise a national team as they’ve all departed!

                2. Mils Muilaini is the correct spelling for player number 1. above.
                  Correction for next post below is Vanuatu not Sivivatu (one of the smallest and least populated islands in the Polynesian/Melanesian chains

              3. Don P,

                Firstly, I will concede that based on simple logic and skewing an argument ‘more players = more choice, more competition’ does not reflect well on the NH system.

                Your argument (and seemingly everyone who loves to beat the population drum) is based on the contention that every registered rugby player in the UK is a potential International for their country. While in Hollywood (perhaps!) this works – eg wonderboy spotted in the park and thrown in the deep end – in the real world it simply does not. What needs to be addressed is from an International perspective is the top end of the sport to provide the ‘actual’ playing numbers. And therefore it is how the top end of the sport is structured which directly influences the performance at international level. This is something the NZRFU has done masterfully but due to commercial factors the RFU cannot.

                Being English I will use our example of the Premiership. The differences between these clubs is enormous in terms of budget, resources, ownership, fan base and objectives. Take relegation & promotion for example some teams are set up to make the play-offs, others set up to avoid relegation. Some teams want to compete in Europe, some teams can’t. But one thing that is consistent is that there is no room for the RFU to influence the way they are set-up beyond naming the EPS of 45 players. The RFU could buy out the clubs but this would kill a thriving competition and, I doubt, would sit well with supporters.

                The result of the above is, rightly or wrongly, that English selection is skewed in favour of the best performing (for no common reason) 5 or 6 teams, which, you may argue gives Eddie Jones 138 (23 x 6) players to look at on a weekend. But again this is flawed because the EPS is only made up of 45 players and this made up of only the players over whom EJ has the most influence and he is (almost) duty bound to select.

                The RFU also has to contend with the fact that these clubs have the budget to hire ‘marquee’ players, which further depletes the numbers that Eddie Jones has to work with. The salaries these guys are paid almost necessitates their selection, which means that a young English player has to miss out. Therefore what you see as a NZ player drain can conversely be seen as natural selection and beneficial to your system – bar Piutau you seem to have no problem keeping the likes of Carter, Conrad Smith and Nonu for their peak years and once they move on post World Cup the next guy has 4 years to develop. Ah, it depends on how you want to skew it, you see.

                Despite all the above, I do think we (England) under perform on the International stage but recent results and some solid years of U20’s performance gives me optimism, the next decade will be interesting.

            2. Jake
              Plenty of Pacific Islander names in my posts below. This myth perpetuated by Kiwis that the ABs are quintissentially and authentically homegrown is a joke.
              It would be refreshing to hear from a kiwi on here who could own up and really say it how it is back home. Then we could all have a proper rugby conversation.

              1. 6. Sivivatu is Tongan
                7. So’oialo is Samoan born
                8. Toeava is Samoan born
                9. Loaki is Tongan born

                The list is endless and i could go on without much incentivisation.
                The complexities or rather shades of grey are also endless depending on whether one opted to go for nationality according to
                1. Where born
                2 Old school version of ancestry/heritage
                3. Where i moved to and lived most of my life
                4. Any variations on the above

                Conclusion to this: No more heads in the sand and blanket denials that the ABs are whiter than white when it comes to not accepting PIs when its safe to say they virtually RELY ON them!
                Its why Hansen is so worried about PIs coming to play for European clubs and national teams. Eg. Nathan Hughes and Tuilagi. ABs are being priced out.

  2. I would argue there is a fifth lesson to be learnt by the ABs.
    Namely that they can’t afford to rely on their name any more to get the rub of the green (not even at home it seems). Past referees would not have dared send SBW off!
    This one did! And we haven’t really heard the last of it yet – principally the moans and the groans about 14 v 15! The inference is that its simply not rugby!
    To draw an analogy – in chess if a player INSISTS on throwing his King or Queen away then he’s a bit stuffed from the get go! The solution – Don’t do it because you’ll only have yourself to blame!
    Nor was this incident a one off as Kaino almost repeated the same offence (getting away with a yellow though arguably still costing his team 3 and with it the game)
    Yes Vunipola was ‘a very naughty boy’ but his and others infractions were never of the same category.
    Why is the cultural player attitude so different i hear you say?
    Because in the Premiership players are forced on a daily basis to watch and reign themselves in! Think Dylan Hartley and the flak he recieved for THAT swinging arm (not to mention the time spent in purdah and lost club revenue)
    NZ rugby is still all about machismo and unadulterated ‘muscle’! The culture in short is different and i would argue that they turn a blind eye a bit more often to the more extreme physical aspects of the game (rightly or wrongly and i’m making no judgement)
    The reality the ABs have to now contend with is how to reign in their
    natural physical inclinations (head rushes to some) when attached to their club teams on a week in week out basis. BECAUSE ONLY THEN will they be able to repeat what is now a more ‘disciplined modern approach’ on a one-off test refereed by a European ref.
    Until then there will continue to be regular upsets until such a time as the ABs have learnt to walk the tightrope that is Modern Rugby!

    1. 12. Lifeimi Mafi (Tongan born but played 7’s for NZ)
      13. Tim Nanai-Williams (Samoan and has represented NZ at 7’s)
      14. Malakai Fekitoa (Tongan born AB)
      15. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Tongan born AB)

      1. Malakai Fekitoa has signed for Toulon and ignored Steve Hansen who “tried to steer him in the right direction” though ultimately failed with his protege choosing the money.
        It raises several problems for the ABs.
        According to their current rules and regulations Fekitoa will be unable to play for the ABs (having proven himself against the Lions). A bit of a waste in player resources. Perhaps in several years time we will see Fekitoa playing for France!
        The whole PI issue highlighted in a host of postings of mine has blown up in NZ’s face as PI players who are essentially non-kiwi overseas players for hire (rugby mercenaries even!!!!!) Go for the bigger money in the NH!
        Hansen can’t have it both ways either. Having profitted for years from the PI nations the international player market means he can no longer expect a carte blanche monopoly on those players.
        The Home Nations and France have already benefitted. The genie has been let out of the bottle it would appear!

        1. Fekitoa can’t play for France
          I case you hadn’t noticed he already has several caps for the all blacks

            1. Have inadvertently dug up two more PI’s with the article linked above. UNINTENTIONAL….but therein lies the scale of the problem for NZ. It has reached ABSURD proportions!
              16. Toeava
              17. Halai
              Neither born in NZ
              How anyone from NZ can seriously go around saying all their AB (and 7’s) players are from the land of the long white cloud (born and bred/ blood before blood and all that) i have no idea!
              Is it tongue in cheek? Do they seriously think someone’s not going to….
              A. be a little bit suspicious
              B. Do some cross referencing

              They may as well call themselves the PI’s rather than the ABs!

            2. Have inadvertently dug up two more PI’s with the article linked above. UNINTENTIONAL….but therein lies the scale of the problem for NZ. It has reached ABSURD proportions!
              16. Toeava
              17. Halai
              Neither born in NZ
              How anyone from NZ can seriously go around saying all their AB (and 7’s) players are from the land of the long white cloud (born and bred/ blood before blood and all that) i have no idea!
              Is it tongue in cheek? Do they seriously think someone’s not going to….
              A. be a little bit suspicious
              B. Do some cross referencing

              They may as well call themselves the PI’s rather than the ABs!

  3. I won’t go into that specific, last minute decision however; I really think that the application of the law really does need re-visiting.

    This past season or so I have seen numerous penalties given whereby the “accidental” element has been very clear. Particularly when running into a team mate.

    Referees have no have far more empathy for players who just get their timing, or lines of running wrong.

    In fact there was an incident in an earlier Lions game where Furlong held on to the ball, O’Brien over-ran and created a block. It was clearly an accident, no advantage was gained, evryone could see how it happened (I think Furlong thought too much, with the ball in hand!), and yet a penalty was awarded.

    1. Blub
      Furlong’s good with the ball in hand alright, esp when he’s clearly offside. No wonder you didn’t want to go into ‘that specific, last minute decision’. Some rules may need revisiting, but refs simply, mostly need to apply them objectively & consistently. Like, e.g., not allowing BIL’s to lie on in the tackle for so long that I thought I was watching a rugby league series. And no pt in mentioning the dumb Crockett last up, as he DID get pinged. If only…

      1. Don,

        “No wonder you didn’t want to go into ‘that specific, last minute decision’. ” Why do you write that?

        Naturally I couldn’t decipher everything you have written, but if i could be clear on what i infer from your reference to Furlong; I have made none, and really have no view on Furlong’s effectiveness with ball in hand. I only noted one incident when he was onside, but a team-mate (O’Brien was offside).

        To be clear for you, there is nothing in my post, implied or actual, that critcises New Zealand by the way.

        1. Blub
          Wasn’t it Furlong who was offside when he caught the ball in the last minute? Poite’s about face regarding same denied NZ a likely opportunity to have won the game. Therefore I wouldn’t have been surprised if you hadn’t wanted to go into ‘that specific, last minute decision’. Or have I misread you?

          1. Incorrect Don. Furlong wasn’t even on the pitch at the end of game, so no, it wasn’t him who caught the ball at the end.

            I am not sure you have mis-read my post, but certainly you have mis-understood it.

            “Poite’s about face regarding same denied NZ a likely opportunity to have won the game. Therefore I wouldn’t have been surprised if you hadn’t wanted to go into ‘that specific, last minute decision’.

            I agree with the first sentence. You second sentence is a rather daft assumption, quite possibly looking for implied reasoning. Which if you think about it (please do), is rather superfluous on a comments board such as this.

            Mundanely, the reason i didn’t want to go into it, was because it had been discussed ad nauseum, and i didn’t really have anything to add. My chain of thought was simply around accidental offsides generally, that had been highlighted when Furlong had earlier carried the ball, and O’Brien had been “pinged”. Not anti-NZ, not against you, simply a comment on Rugby.

  4. My biggest issue has been one of when the tackle is complete. Many many times a player was tackled, the tackler cleared out and then the ball carrier stands up again. Released due to clear out despite tackling to their knees?

  5. What I like most is subjective opinion, esp abt the AB’s need to learn lessons. 5 apparently, although I can’t recall the 1st 4! I also enjoy chess being compared to rugby. Eh? Isn’t that something like fish.. or their price? And it’s equally enlightening to know that Billy is only a ‘naughty boy, when he head butts an opponent on the ground when clearing out, or ‘tackles’ without his arms, so late that he missed the last his last taxi home. Must be a NH, cultural thing or summat, esp with NZ rugger based only on ‘muscle’. You just know it makes sense when they’re only the most successful team in world sport innit.

    1. As for the other four please see the title of the piece by Henry Ker “Four Lessons from the Lions”.
      By process of deduction my amendment to the piece ergo makes that five.
      Chess…a great game…..don’t knock other games/sports (a real tactical thinking man’s game chess). I guess Sonny Bill didn’t do too much of that before he got sent off!
      I haven’t seen or heard many agree with you Don on Vunipola’s need for a red. WORST scenario a yellow!
      I’m afraid as per my post there IS a cultural difference in how the game is played. It would be good if you for one (as a kiwi) admitted and acknowledged it. The northern hemisphere are paranoid about getting the wrong side of the ref and costing their team because of the money involved in the top end nowadays at club level (not to forget alot of private investment and the natural desire to see a return)
      The southern hemisphere don’t seem imho to toe the same safety-conscious line. The propensity to make the ‘Big Hit’ (rather than the conventional old school tackle) largely came from the SH’s Antipodean players did it not? That is NOT a comment on its illegality. Rather the opposite….the big hit spiced things up….but my point serves to highlight the difference in mindset. Its an ATTITUDINAL choice to play closer to the edge and prompts the SH players to fall the wrong side of the law (particularly when reffed by a european)
      It would be interesting for once to hear your honest and insightful views on the subject (devoid of propaganda and point scoring).
      Over to you…..take it away…..the floors yours.

      1. It was avoidable contact to the head with force, which is a clear red. Vunipola and SoB were both very lucky not to get carded.

        1. Have to disagree Teamcam.
          Yellow imo on the second incident (the clear out).
          Guess the ref saw it the same way hence it was what it was. ie. No incident!

  6. Friday lunchtime at the pub, Don?

    By the way; where do we find these lessons that the All Blacks need to learn? Did you mean to type that?

  7. Agreed that the law should be looked at for incidents like that and agreed that Poite got it wrong

    However, I do disagree with the idea that he bottled it. Surely to not give NZ the potentially series-winning penalty in NZ, in a stadium where they hadn’t lost a match in over 20 years, takes far more courage than simply giving the penalty?

    1. Agreed Pablito. Further, onne may argue that Poite did the precise opposite of “bottling it”, in that he reversed his previous decision. that must have taken some “bottle”.

      It is a very difficult situation and without doubt I would be very annoyed if I was from New Zealand (or the same decision had been made against the Lions).

      However, what makes it so difficult is that;
      (a) If Read doesn’t contact Williams in the air, then he likely doesn’t drop the ball. Although I don’t believe this is a penalty in the spirit of the game.
      (b) if Read doesn’t knock Williams towards the Lions line, and he still drops the ball, then the ball doesn’t appear to go forward.
      (c) The ball did not go forward in any case. It appeared to though, and it is only on slow motion replay that one can see it didn’t go forward.

      I wonder if this is what Garces is saying to Poite as he walked back to the spot and ultimately awarded a scrum instead.

  8. I see there’s some squabbles about application of the rules so here’s my 2-penneth worth.
    1) Feeding – say no more
    2) Line out throwing – refs are far stricter at level 5/6/7 than in top grade and international rugby
    3) As mentioned players being tackled then releasing and picking the ball up again. If you are brought to the knees and below by a player maintaining contact until that point the tackled player shouldn’t be able to play the ball until that ruck is over
    4) Players not releasing the ball when tackled. Frequently players are presenting the ball, then if there’s a threat of being turned over, retracting the ball back into the ruck and then presenting again when more support arrives. Also there is an issue with this happening and the tackled player lifting the ball 3ft from the ground for the half back to get quicker ball away

  9. Some well balanced opinions around today it would seem!

    Septimus, I agree with 1 (obviously) and 3. Mainly 3 because the tacklers are being forced to release so quickly and roll away that sometimes they give the impression that the tackle has not been completed, so simply mandating that the tackled player cannot be the next player to play the ball may be the simple answer here.

    As for No2, I am not sure I would agree. Lineouts at the top level are a completely different operation to that at the lower levels. At the top level, the refs seem to allow throws to the jumper when there is no contest, and only penalise when the jumper has to reach back toward his own try line. This is also true in most lower leagues. The big difference is that very often there is a lot of contest for the ball. Even at level 5 some teams only have one jumper (or at least one main jumper), so it becomes a lot easier to challenge.

    As for point 3, I like this way of playing – as long as the ball is not being contested.

    1. Re: feeding. How about a law that states the team putting the ball must (attempt to) hook the ball. Perhaps not ideal but would take away so much of the **** at scrum time and the the fans their game back for an extra 10 minutes

        1. Mandatory striking for the ball?

          For both hookers?

          I would welcome this, but if you knew that the opposition were going to strike, it would seem that this would invite a full 8-man attack at the point of hooking. Hopefully there are people cleverer than me that can implement something that avoids this.

          1. Mandatory for the feeding team, I guess to stop a full shove when you know the timing of the feed.

            And it doesn’t necessarily have to be hooked by the hookers, but any member of the front row. Interesting and makes it an actual contest.

            1. Just checked the WR webseite;

              It says (amongst other things);
              “One player from the team who put the ball in must strike for the ball.”

              “No signal from referee. The scrum-half must throw the ball in straight but is allowed to align their shoulder on the middle line of the scrum, therefore allowing them to stand a shoulder width towards their own side of the middle line.”

              Still not convinced on these parts. The lack of a signal is a good idea, but I can’t help but think that both sides shudl be obliged to strike for the ball, to prevent a 8v7 shove. Anyway, we will see.

              In other changes;
              There is no kicking the ball out of a ruck – Good!
              Tackler can only play the ball by entering through his “gate” – Good! Stops them legally slowing the ball down.

              And presumably as a direct result of the interestig England-Italy game;
              “A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside lines are created. Players on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives, no hands can be used.
              Rationale: To make the ruck simpler for players and referees.” Makes perfect sense.

              1. With the defending side not knowing when the feed will be, they would be at a big disadvantage with an obligatory strike.

                Think any front rower being able to strike could be really interesting, seeing the nearest prop having a go if the hooker and other prop can stabilise properly.

                And agree with you on the ruck. It was previously open to so much interpretation, ie when a ruck is actually formed, so now its clear cut.

                1. “With the defending side not knowing when the feed will be, they would be at a big disadvantage with an obligatory strike.”

                  Yes, that is true, but then they should be at a disadvantage (though not a big one). I may be showing my age a bit here, but the defending hooker should be able to see the ball, and his disadvantage should be;
                  a) that he is further from the ball, and
                  b) that he doesn’t have the “tap-strike” timing with the Scrum-half.

                  I would love to see defensive hookers genuinely challenging for the ball.

  10. False hope for NH IMO.
    NZ backs execution was terrible in the 3rd test pure and simple. Should have won the 3rd test by 20+ but did not execute. Pressure? No. Reason was they were missing Crotty, SBW, B Smith, NMS, 3 of whom played in RWC final. J Barrett goal kicking solves the other problem. As for test 2 deserved red card ended the game after 25mins and renders the result irrelevant. Ask yourself how much the Lions would have lost by playing with a red for 55 mins. 30? 40?

  11. “deserved red card ended the game after 25mins and renders the result irrelevant”.

    No it doesn’t.

    The result is the result. Cards are part of the game. They are intended to penalise one team.

    In the flip side, if everytime any of our teams lost we considered injuries, or what the team “should have” or “could have” done, we would never actually lose a relevant game would we?

  12. My tongue in cheek response re 4 lessons (any 5th lesson is ‘cobblers’) aside ; Are the All Blacks beatable? Well, all teams, including NZ, are beatable. They’ve been run close or lost before. How about Chicago, just for a change, or before the last 2 WC’s when Oz turned them over? What about that Dublin last minute nail biter? So what’s changed with this BIL tour when the tourists won 50% of their games, which was apparently, ‘a hugely impressive result’? Take a 3 match series when NZ steam rollered the lions 1st up, lost by a whole 3 when a man down in the 2nd & butchered a ton v a try less Lions in the 3rd ? This is a template on how to beat NZ in the future? Please. Too much is read into this series. As Hansen said, sometimes ‘That’s footy’. And this stuff about Barrett ignores the fact that he kicked 100% in the 1st test, went off somewhat thereafter, a bit like Farrell @ times, but what else is new? And Carter’s no Barrett either. BB does stuff that DC didn’t do, like his frequency of opening ‘D’s, scoring TRIES & accurately ‘passing’ with his boot. As for NZ’s ‘dithering’ with the likes of Dagg, Ioane (illness), Savea, Naholo (e.g. recall SOB’s forearm to the head?), he had injuries or unavailability to contend with! And BTW, Crotty & Lienart-Brown are the choice midfield now. Does the North have WC players? Mmmm? Perhaps the author ought to define this term before naming his ‘stars’. How many would get an AB start? And bear in mind the tourists’ overall 50% record. Heard this tad spurious claim so many times, I’m beginning to get ear ache. Also, it’s a star TEAM & the way that it plays which counts more, rather than a team of, so called, ‘WC’ stars. Lazy reportage? Having stated that, some of the aforementioned played, as a team, better than I (& a few hear) expected. However, they still didn’t have the ability to score sufficient TRIES, especially in the 2nd & 3rd tests. I’ve already stated that NZ butchered a few in the last, but they do have a track record of scoring them. ‘The future is looking bright for the home nations’, maybe, but it’s the present that counts. Who knows what the future holds, especially as team tactics & coaching are as, if not more, important? Did England miss a trick with Andy Farrell? Well the Lions’ ‘D’ held up fairly well on tour, but to cherry pick a few results over the last 5 yrs to support a theory that England may have missed out on Farrell’s services is hardly definitive. Moreover it was also his defence which fell over & helped tip England out of its own WC, so maybe. Do the offside law needs a review, especially as ‘Romain Poite bottled it’ (wasn’t it Furlong, not ‘Ken Owens’ offside catch’? Well, personally, I think some of the referees need a review rather than the laws. Whether we like or agree with some them or not, the referees’ job is to enforce them. That’s all.

    1. Analysing the meaning of this article far too much Don. IMO it was a good way to end the tour blogs Prior to the tour, NZ were considered far too superior to be even threatened, and yes we know that they were blown away 1st game, and there was a red card (which you have repeatedly written). But the tour ended in a draw.
      Stop chewing on those lemons mate.

      1. Jake
        Each to his own. 1st chance I’ve had to collect & post my thoughts on this article. And what lemons? NZ still unbeaten since 71. You could try looking @ it from an outside perspective as I have to do… & unlike AlexD!

    2. What was so amazing was the way a Barbarians style team came together over the space of about 8 weeks (having never played together before – only as part of their disparate nations).
      To then go on to win 50% of their games against the best opposition club and province wise in the world; some of the midweek matches WERE mini-internationals because the Crusaders et al are seriously good!
      THAT IS THE POINT! There is no other really!
      Get the concept and you get the achievement!
      And a draw in the tests to boot. No carping but that was an achievement in itself.
      So pats on the back to both sides as it was by definition a draw!

  13. A bit of info for those of the ‘cobblers peddling’ mentality. Couldn’t be bothered going into all, but… Full name, Jonathan Ionatana Falefasa Umaga, Date of birth, 27 May 1973 (age 44),
    Place of birth, Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand; Full name Jonah Tali Lomu,
    Date of birth, 12 May 1975, Place of birth, Greenlane, Central Auckland, New Zealand;
    Full name, Junior Malili Muliaina, Date of birth, 31 July 1980 (age 36), Place of birth, Salesi, Samoa, moved with his family to Invercargill, New Zealand, at the age of three; Full name Josevata Taliga Rokocoko, Date of birth, 6 June 1983 (age 34), Place of birth Nadi, Fiji, migrated to New Zealand with his family at the age of 5 etc. Perhaps some accurate homework & the same excercise could be contemplated regarding England.. just for a modicum of ‘cobblers free’ objectivity.

  14. Tana Umaga was the son of 1st generation Samoan immigrants. He certainly qualifies as a PI on grounds of ancestry and heritage (listed amongst the many categories of modern day nationhood in my original posts) As i said its all shades of grey and semantics really!
    Mils Muliaini i categorised correctly (you repeated his status)
    Lomuh was about as Tongan as they came. The governor of the Ha’pei islands called a day of mourning to honour the man who was a rugby legend upon his death.
    Well done, you repeated Rokococko’s ancestry/heritage from my post very accurately.
    As for the other ELEVEN PIs i mention i take it you have no qualms or quibbles with any of them (having done your research on wikipedia)
    There is one big fat clue for you regarding a players heritage and place of origin which i agree will not be accurate EVERY time for they may be 2-3rd generation but spare a few seconds and look at the names of the players 1-15 that i have listed. Therein lies a clue to their origins for the most part. Its like here in the uk when you can bet your hat that someone called ‘Smith’ is English and ‘Jones’ Welsh. For heavens sake don’t go down the…”but thats racist line!” either.
    Greater intellect than that is expected on here!
    You are in denial my friend having spouted off for so long about this 100% AB ‘kiwi thing’ being PI inviolate; i’m afraid i had to burst your b****t bubble on this one. Finally had enough listening to you peddle claptrap! Can you put me onto a kiwi mate of yours who is prepared to talk truthfully about the issue. The BBC’s documentary entitled ‘The Rape of the PI’s’ was factual unless of course you know better than a whole lot of professional journalists (who i have to say are by inclination very PC coming from the Beeb and unlikely to peddle what you peddle)
    It really is to use your own word “cobblers!” I’m glad we use the same language.
    The majority of the PI players YOU won’t have heard of because they never made it big. i.e. they came over on a ‘suck it and see’ kind of contract whereby they could be tossed away without remuneration and sent back to their ‘island’ when they didn’t make it! Nice! Don’t know the labour laws in NZ but not great!
    Those that made it like some of those you mentioned were just THE LUCKY ONES! The icing on the cake so to speak! The majority were sent back home with their tails between their legs having been turned away from the land of milk and honey as they saw it or is it the big white cloud?

  15. Lomu spent some of his childhood in Tonga after seeing a cousin killed in South Aukland (so yes even the Kiwi GREAT we can safely say was Polynesian and certainly not Anglo-Saxon…..there we’ve said it and nothing racist has been said has it?
    As previously stated there are a million and one permutations on immigrant status.
    That we should be able to have this conversation in 2017 devoid of silly accusations of RACISM is great!
    Where does the definition of ‘immigrant’ or PI strictly fall and when/where does it merge into kiwi or Aussie?
    Is an individua,l for example, 1st generation or 2nd and how long does it take to become a Kiwi having just landed at the harborside? I realise only too well that your answer might be ‘ instantly’ or ‘5 seconds flat’ (convenient for the ABs that!)
    Does he claim his adopted nationality by ancestry/heritage (e.g. a grandparent or great grandparent), is it a process of naturalisation over time (e.g. five-seven yrs spent in said country for citizenship)
    Is it where he was conveniently physically born to PI 1st wave parents etc etc? It has become very porous (rightly or wrongly…in Europe too)
    Wow…..what a conversation/monologue on such a taboo subject!!!!!!!! No Racism yet either!
    Imho NZ has lost its way somewhat by robbing the PI’s (we are mostly talking Samoa, Tonga and Fiji here rather than Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Rotuma) There are also FYI 1,000 islands in the ‘island’ chains both Polynesian and Melanesian! A nicely sized area population-wise to mine for rugby players that are all very conveniently on the HUGE size! Its not a massively taxing intellectual leap to realise that someone in NZ back in Lomu’s time pre-1990 thought “we could be onto something here if we grab this Tongan and naturalise him ASAP…..he’s vast!”
    The effect on all of the former’s ability (Samoa, Tonga and Fiji) to produce a decent national side is well documented. Their coaches look around saying “s**t we’ve just lost player x, y and z because they’ve been nabbed by NZ and Australia (their RFUs are also often skint which doesn’t help with player retention it has to be said)
    NZ and Australia could no doubt do more to support rugby in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji and give them a FAIRER slice of the cake!
    None of the above is meant to be EMBARASSING but an open and honest debate really needs to be had rather than continuing to NOT talk about it bcos its an elephant in the room!. It would be great if resident kiwi commentators could be a ‘bit more’ transparent! I can only hope……

  16. I have sadly given up waiting for an honest and objective kiwi response to the 17 x PI player listing of mine. Unsurprisingly i don’t think it would be an insurmountable problem to find 17 more from what i have discovered about AB rugby!
    As personally stated on here about 4 months ago, the home nations are playing ‘catch up’ when it comes to recruiting overseas players. You really DONT expect to get it in the neck when pointing this out from a ‘resident’ kiwi and have this picture painted of ‘A Rape of the little Englanders’ being perpetrated upon these shores (a reference to double standard and frankly odious complaints about Hartley, Tuilagi, the Vunipolas and Rokokoduni!)
    Wales of course have Faletau….well naughty them; lets get the birch out and give them a good flogging for not sticking to 15 players named Jones 1 through to Jones 15 (film reference to Zulu)
    England really are ‘naughty boys’ then for doing what the ABs have been doing (yes i’ve said it before) since 1990 (Lomu being one of their very first IMPORTS) There ought to be a protectionist importation tax put upon them!
    The recent move to tighten up on the overseas player regulations has come largely from the NH too! So if there has been ‘Any rape of the little Englanders’ going on…..well i’m a Dutchman because the RFU is clearly trying to cut its nose off to spite its face then!

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