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Six Nations: It’s Jones not Beckett, “Waiting for Manu”

Manu TuilagiIs Manu Tualagi the answer to England’s performance and team play development?

Billy Vunipolas bullocking runs close to the origin are tying in England’s 6 and 7. As a consequence, England have no back row support when they attack out wide.

Manu’s ability to both go forward and more importantly stay on his feet in the 12 channel may enable England to win quick ball and play closer to the advantage line, run some damaging late unders lines, before going back out to utilise the blind side winger and full-back.

Both Ireland and to a lesser extent England relied on second man plays in attack from 1st phase and the depth of Irelands second man plays encouraged England’s line speed. If you don’t get penetration you are in deep trouble and usually tackled well behind the advantage line! If line-speed is replaced by drift defence you are usually herded towards touch.

Jones is producing winning performances but at the back of his mind lies the Pocock / Hooper threat in June and he knows any real progress will be judged on the outcome of England’s 3 tests against Australia.

Committing those two and recycling possession will be England’s mantra for development, as both Australia and New Zealand can go forward in the 13 channel, so denying them turn over ball is crucial. Daly’s arrival from the bench on Saturday and Manu’s re-hab suggest a priority, because Ford is still learning to handle the pressure even when given good ball in the opposing 22!

Wales v France was another 6 nations disappointment. Wales are a culture in decline and what’s more alarming is they are educating the young players of today into a style of play contrary to a playing tradition once admired globally.

Legends of the past betrayed by pretenders of the present.

Some years ago I saw Law, Best and Bobby Charlton run out to play at Elland road against Leeds United. I queued for 4 hours. The moment they stood in the tunnel was spine-tingling. As they “glided” out onto the pitch 4 hours of waiting was replaced by wonderment and expectation. When Edwards, John, JPR and Gerald Davies ran out for Wales the spine tingling expectation transferred to the oval ball game, even when watching on TV.

Grandfathers sat grandsons on their knee and watched and explained with pride the skills on show, how, “using the ball was a blend of understanding with attitude; of team awareness with individual virtuosity; of practised patterns with spontaneous reaction.” Well maybe not in those words?

Yesterday’s palate has been replaced with line-speed, tackle count and meters gained, because the commentators are devoid of content. How long can they exaggerate mediocrity? Occasionally the camera focuses on the back of the stand where a posse of coaches and analysts, bland in expression survey the scene.

There is something strangely odd about seeing a former Welsh forward with the face of a thousand scrums tapping a computer keyboard. Then the gods of selection lean forward for a closer look.

Wales versus France was once the romance of the game, anything was possible and seldom were you let down. Yes it was believe me!

Cotter gets his first win and he deserves it. The improvement at the tackle contest and the production of quick ball has enabled Stuart Hogg, Scotland’s most effective and adventurous attacker to demonstrate his skills, footwork in particular. Go – forward is also high on the improvement list and this has led to an improvement in close quarter support and straight running. Scotland are a force now and will run all teams close!

Italy plateaued off some time ago. They have improved and are worthy members of the 6 nations but basic errors let them down. Simple passes go to ground, let alone the bad ones; which you still have to catch! The patterns of play are very evident, but Italians are more skilful below the waist than above it. You only pass with your hands in rugby not your feet.

And of course they have Rome which more than compensates for a loss! The break will allow all the coaches some time to look at Super rugby and enjoy the go-forward and try scoring!

WEEK 2 ROUNDUP: Check out my analysis of last week’s Six Nations performances here.
WEEK 1 ROUNDUP: Check out my analysis of the first week’s Six Nations performances here.

About Mike Penistone

Mike has coached at all levels of the game, from under-7's through to elite international players at the highest level, in both the northern and southern hemispheres. A few notable positions include serving as Head Coach for Great Britain Students (Rugby League), Head Coach at Nottingham RUFC and Head of Elite Player Development at Leicester Tigers Academy. Mike also served as the U21's Coach at the NSW Warratahs and Director of Coaching at Eastern Suburbs Sydney. He continues to coach across the globe running his consultancy. Check out his website: here. View all posts by Mike Penistone

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