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A Pack of Flankers!

ny and all to do with skules

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A Pack of Flankers!

Postby Fly Half » Wed Mar 18, 2009 6:39 pm

The contrast between the two packs of forwards in the School’s Cup final could hardly have been more marked. Methodist College had a traditional physically big pack with a beefy tight head prop, tall locks and a physically imposing back row. RBAI on the other hand had flankers at both tight head and lock and generally opted for smaller faster forwards conceding about 2 stone per man in the pack. Unsurprisingly the pattern of the game had Methody dominant in both scrum and line out, but then saw Inst. turning over ball if it escaped beyond the fringes of the breakdown. This led to a disjointed game that gave neither set of backs any rhythm and only the exceptional power and pace of Michael Allen could break the deadlock.

Is it in the interests of the game to allow teams to field eight ‘flanker clones’ in the pack who will run all over the park and be interchangeable at the breakdown? The only reason not to, lies in the scrum and it is deemed to be dangerous enough at schoolboy level to require revised laws that effectively negate a dominant side. Often extra physical bulk is a trade-off against speed, and the modern schoolboy game doesn’t need it, so if that type of team is put together there is no room left for the big (slow) lads.

Therefore the schoolboy game is in danger of becoming 15-a-side rugby league with all the emphasis on pace and stamina mostly in defence, relentlessly snaking from side to side across the pitch until a turnover or mistake creates an opening. The defining features of Union such as the scrum, lineout, ruck and maul are all being marginalised in the interests of safety or maintaining the ‘flow’ of the game. It is little wonder that so few schoolboys continue with the game after leaving school, as they have been playing to an entirely different code. Similarly it is no surprise that there is a plethora of back row forwards in Irish rugby yet a dearth of props.

Schools understandably are only focussed on the Cup and will try to win it in whatever way they can, but should the Laws be changed to arrest the inexorable slide into pseudo Rugby League?
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby Ball Boy » Wed Mar 18, 2009 9:33 pm

Did Inst really "opt for" smaller, faster forwards? I'd have thought the coach largely has to put up with the best kids that are available amongst his 5th and 6th years. As for not allowing coaches to pick players with a particular physique, I don't really see how you could police that.
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby ColinM » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:11 am

Have to agree wth BallBoy, Inst team would have been made up of the 15 best players the coach had to work with. It woul dbe very rare in schools rugby that the biggest lad in the yeargroup wasnt on the team for 'tactical' reasons.

As for changing the laws, not sure what you're getting at...minimum waistline for props?...minimum height for 2nd rows?...maximum speed over 5yards for any of the pack?

In all seriousness, Inst lost and never looked like winning so is that not enough of a hint?
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby playingadvantage » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:47 am

Good point well made fly half. I think whay you are getting at is the law variation which restricts a scrum advancing more than 1.5 metres. During the final you could hear the ref telling Methody to hold the push especially on the Inst put in.If he hadn't who knows what would have happened to the Inst possession. This makes it impossible to completely dominate and score push over tries. It must have an effect on the development of prop forwards in particular. It is a most diffiucult thing to do for a dominant prop. In my view it is a nonsense and the Referee should be given a discretion on the basis of safety only.
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby Fly Half » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:57 pm

Ball Boy wrote:Did Inst really "opt for" smaller, faster forwards? I'd have thought the coach largely has to put up with the best kids that are available amongst his 5th and 6th years. As for not allowing coaches to pick players with a particular physique, I don't really see how you could police that.


Yes, BMcL picked the most mobile pack he could. Inst have plenty of bigger guys if they had wanted to go down that route.

Playingadvantage has mentioned the shove in the scrum but there is also the 'no more than 45 degree wheel' law, both of which remove the contest. There are some mediocre referees at lower levels so their discretion would be hard to rely on, but as a suggestion it would be better than having revised Laws.

I don't know what the answer is - hence the thread. I do like the idea of having size-based rugby rather than age-grouped say up to the age of sixteen. In that way the forwards would be more evenly matched and the contest could be refereed much easier. I also don't see why a touch judge shouldn't come on the pitch in school's rugby to police the blindside of the scrum.
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby playingadvantage » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:24 pm

Yes and the other thing is that the Referees seem to actually penalise those props who are dominant and protect the weaker guys e.g. for not driving straight when it is quite clear that this is not the case. You seldom see a penalty against someone standing up in the scrum when they can't take the pressure. Personally I think some of this is acceptable in junior games where one team is well on top but once they get to 1st XV level then unless there are safety issues it should be treated in the same way as all other rugby. This might encourage teams to actually concentrate on improving their scrum.
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby DHK » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:24 pm

I know when i played schools first xv rugby we placed a big emphasis on our scrum and had a very good one. I remember one game in particular when we had the complete ascendency in the scrum and it was becoming dangerous because in order to combat us the opposition props did things like bringing it down. At one point the ref said to me basically the problem is your just dominating them in the scrum or words to that affect and even said to me that the problem was that they kept bringing it down but never once did he give a penalty against them, I think probably because it was a schools match. At first XV level if you're going to have these restrictions such as 1.5 metres and 45 degrees then you have to be at least stringent on the techniques so that the team with an advantage can benefit to some extent but refs very rarely penalise the scrum at 1st xv level and that is part of the problem
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby Ball Boy » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:01 pm

I bow to your superior knowledge of the Inst squad. I'm still unconvinced by the size restriction idea - kids don't grow at uniform speeds, they grow in spurts - you'd have to be measuring them every six weeks.
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby ColinM » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:29 pm

Inst would be one of the few schools who could make such choices. Most schools have to work with what they have, and due to the possibility of huge mismatches in schools rugby the scrummaging rules are there for safety. And safety comes first even moreso in schools rugby.
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby adamj11 » Thu Mar 19, 2009 6:39 pm

Inst's team was very small, and from what I have heard the majority of the players coming through don't seem to be as big as they used to be.

On MCB's dominace in the scrums, it was always going to happen with the weight difference, a schoolboy pack averaging over 15 stone is ridiculous, what I will say is that the big number 3 never binded and drove striaght in, good if you get away with it but it is very dangerous play.
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby playingadvantage » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:42 pm

If the law variations are to be retained then the very least the lawmakers need to do is require referees to be very strict on crooked put ins. There were times on Tuesday I had to admire the Inst No. 8's hooking skills. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of penalties I have seen for crooked in this season but I suppose the Referees take their lead from the professional game.
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby Fly Half » Fri Mar 20, 2009 2:23 pm

Ball Boy wrote:I'm still unconvinced by the size restriction idea - kids don't grow at uniform speeds, they grow in spurts - you'd have to be measuring them every six weeks.


I agree that kids grow in spurts, but at the moment with age grouping there is even more disparity. New Zealand have adopted this system to make the game safer and to improve kids skills. At the lower age groups such as U13 occasionally a team will have an exceptionally large player. The tactics then become simple - "give it to the big lawd". So one player runs over the opposition to rack up cricket scores, and neither team learn anything about rugby. If the 'big lawd' was actually playing with players his own size then he would have to learn other rugby skills to be effective, as would the 'wee lawds' he left behind.

If the scrum is too dangerous at schoolboy level then the obvious solution is to change it. One of the differentiators between Union and league is the scrum and while it is a means to restart play IMO it should be a contest for the ball not a tacit nod by the referee to give the ball back to the team who already have possession. So the challenge is to keep the scrum, but make it a safer contest.

As I said I don't know what the answer is and have had very few creative suggestions. One idea was to use a plastic separator between the front rows. The danger when the scrum collapses is that there is no scope for moving the head, so if there was a device employed that meant the head was free, yet the shove could be transferred shoulder to shoulder then it would be safer and still a contest. All kinds of other implications and drawbacks but at least it was a different look at the problem.
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby fuzzylogic » Fri Mar 20, 2009 4:48 pm

I agree that kids grow in spurts, but at the moment with age grouping there is even more disparity. New Zealand have adopted this system to make the game safer and to improve kids skills.


Yes, they treat it like boxing etc and play be weight!
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby Big-al » Fri Mar 20, 2009 6:14 pm

Surely if they play by weight then a young 12 year old who may play prop and is 1 st or 2 heavier than the rest should be allowed to play. It would be different if that player was a backrow/back mind you
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Re: A Pack of Flankers!

Postby fuzzylogic » Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:10 pm

Not too sure how exactly the do it, just remember a class on it in Alevel PE and being shown an article where Kev Mealamu played 10 until he was 16 and of course pretty common knowledge Lomu 1st started out as a 2nd row.
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