One of the coaches I respect most in the game called this Lions tour “a trilogy of tedium”. I really cannot argue with that.
The rugby seemed to consist of big guys running directly into other big guys. If that failed to break the defence after 3 or 4 goes then they constructed a caterpillar of bodies, and the scrum half kicked the ball away.
If we aren’t looking at “open field” play, then the two set pieces were reduced to a joke. The scrum is something for a long while which at elite level has had problems, but this tour took that to a new level. I don’t remember a single scrum where the packs engaged on the first time of asking and the ball came out and the game continued.
There was reset after reset, the scrum halves put the ball in behind the second row and EVERYONE except the referee, the two assistant referees and the TMO saw it. If this is scrummaging at elite level, then they might as well take it out of the game totally. It seems the two teams are looking for a penalty at every single scrum rather than the opportunity to attack a pitch with much more space in it.
The lineout was just as bad with the standard process:
- Ball into touch;
- One team set up on the mark;
- Hooker arrives and waves his arms around;
- Assistant Referee points to a new mark;
- Attacking side arrive 1 to 2 mins later;
- More waving of arms from hooker resulting in ref telling teams to hold the gap, teams ignore referee; and
- Hooker takes two steps towards his team and throws the ball directly along his team.
Again, the referee, assistant referee and TMO being the only people not to notice this.
Coupled to all of this was Erasmus’ rant. Now to be clear on this whether what he was pointing out was right or otherwise the way he did that has no place in the game. Just to put it into context, had that have been me berating a referee like that at grassroots level I would expect the book to have been thrown at me, I would have been banned, my club would probably have had sanctions applied to it and there would have been all sorts of directives and re-education activities happening from my Constituent Body.
But during the series not a word from World Rugby. In my opinion they have two options:
- Agree with all his points, thank him for pointing them out and take action on the officials; OR
- Treat him exactly how I would have been treated.
I don’t see how there are anything else they can do.
Sadly, the things I learnt from this tour did absolutely nothing to fire my interest in the game. If anything it did quite the opposite. I don’t see how any young player watching that would be inspired to be a future Lion.
Hopefully, then as we see clubs starting up again after a massive break coaches remember that rugby is at its heart a game of evasive (albeit with the contact elements of tackling, etc. included) and encourage their players to run into spaces not faces as well as remembering that the game is underpinned by TEAMWORK, RESPECT, ENJOYMENT, DISCIPLINE and SPORTSMANSHIP and behave accordingly.
That way at least the game at grassroots level will be enjoyable to watch and be a part of.