The Ruckers Forum

Forum » Rugby » General Stuff » Is Total Rugby a dream?
Login to reply
 
 
 
6349 Topic: Is Total Rugby a dream?
hakwa

Status: Senior player
Posts: 2583
Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 19, 2013, 10:57:49

 Murray Kinsella

Murray is a freelance sports journalist based in Ireland. He has a strong interest in the technical aspects of rugby and his league of preference is the Top 14 in France

9 days ago

Watching the first four rounds of the Top 14 in France, I have been continually frustrated by the number of try-scoring opportunities wasted through poor basic draw and pass skills. 5-on-3s and 4-on-2s are being squandered by forwards (and sometimes backs) smashing into contact and teams are repeatedly failing to exploit space. Elsewhere, it is apparent that slow ball is often due to backs’ (and sometimes forwards’) inability to effectively clear rucks. Am I expecting too much? Is it realistic to expect rugby players to do everything well?

The [removed] side of the 1970s is one of the most famous football teams in history. Playing a beautiful brand of total football, the [removed] excited and delighted fans at the 1974 World Cup. Players interchanged roles seamlessly; everyone could defend with intelligence and attack with creativity.The system placed huge physical and technical demands on the players, with space the central idea to everything. It is worth noting that Holland lost the ’74 final to Germany, perhaps partly explaining why they are remembered so fondly. They again lost in the final to the host nation four years later.

Rugby is clearly very different to football, and what worked for the [removed] does not necessarily apply to our game. While rugby players have become more uniformly powerful, it is very much still a game where all body shapes can contribute.The set piece in rugby demands very specific skills and cannot be ignored. A wing or fullback has a greater need to improve his footwork than a prop does, based on the space and field position in which he often receives possession.That said, it is certainly true that rugby players can be interchangeable in positions where the team needs to take advantage of an overlap, or clear a ruck efficiently in order to benefit from a favourable attacking position.

Every player on Holland’s total football team understood how to look for space and how to create space. The same cannot be said for many rugby teams. Outside of our main decision makers at halfback, do we have a consistent appreciation of space amongst our players? On the flip side, by focusing on training props to draw and pass with excellence, by concentrating on coaching our wings to blast rucks, or by asking our locks to practice beating defenders, are we neglecting the skills that remain central to their positions?

Coaches generally have very little face time with their players on the training pitch each week. At amateur levels, three to four hours is the upper limit for many teams. Is that enough time to focus on aspects like the set piece and team structure as well as coaching the players towards a more total rugby? A story from Clive Woodward’s coaching days at London Irish comes to mind. Frustrated by his players’ inability to think for themselves, and their mental approach of ‘that’s how it’s always been done’, Woodward came up with an interesting way of broadening their minds. Before one game, he lined the team up in the alphabetical order of their names and handed them jerseys 1 to 15 in that sequence. That meant props were wearing number 13 or 8 and wings had 1 or 9 on their backs. Amidst great confusion on the opposition’s part, London Irish ran riot. In the words of Woodward, “What does it matter what position you play or what number you wear? It’s a game with thirty men and a ball.” (HEAR THAT BEENS? nothing to do with the ref at all oh oh)

While the former England coach’s method of helping his players to understand his point was extreme, it is not difficult to appreciate his sentiment. Woodward is a self-proclaimed disciple of the late Jim Greenwood, author of Total Rugby. In that book, the highly regarded guru detailed his belief that “every player should be encouraged to show what he can do as an attacker, defender and supporting player.” That statement makes total sense. Coaches should encourage and equip all of their players to express themselves on the pitch, to have more rounded skills. As RR discussed here on The Rugby Site recently, draw and pass skills are being neglected and under trained.

It’s not just about the attacking side of the game though. With intelligent coaching, everyone can make effective tackles and compete at the breakdown. Helping players to understand that they can contribute more than just the specific skills of their position is a large part of the challenge. While we may never arrive at a nirvana of truly total rugby, where every player is equally good at the core skills, it is certainly desirable to attempt to get there. Finding a balance in our training and approach to games is the key. A tighthead prop needs to spend more time on his scrummaging than a scrumhalf, while a fullback needs to work on his catching more often than a hooker. But in skills like fixing defenders, passing, rucking and tackling, achieving a more uniform level of ability throughout the squad is an attainable goal.

As always, feedback is greatly appreciated here on The Rugby Site. Is total rugby something coaches aspire to? How do you find the balance between working on specific ‘positional’ skills and focusing on general core abilities with the squad as a whole? Is it too much to expect all players to draw, pass, tackle and ruck with equal effectiveness? As a player, do you strive to improve in all aspects of the game, or is it more crucial to concentrate on skills that directly apply to your role? And the most important question of them all – which is the team that has most fulfilled the ideal of total rugby in your opinion?

Well? What do you Motley crew think?? (with some on this Forum that might be a task too far)


Rooinek

Status: Bok regular
Posts: 1672
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 19, 2013, 13:38:11

Yes, Total Rugby is a dream for the simple reason that - unlike football - rugby has specific physical requirements for different positions.

 

Johan Cruyff's [removed] football team of the 70s were able to switch positions at will which made them impossible to mark, but that kind of interchangeability is possible in football when you don't have to have certain physical requirements for the job. A midfielder in football can be big or small but you're not going to get away with a lock or a blindside flanker if he's the size of Lio Messi.

 

One of the great beauties of rugby is that there is a position for every body type. The same is not true in football nor is it true in derivatives of rugby like League where every player looks like a centre or a flanker. No rugby union team will ever be able to play "Total Rugby" successfully . . . you need tall locks, you need strong props, you need nippy scrumhalves and you need fast wings . . . among other physical requirements for specific positions.


hakwa

Status: Senior player
Posts: 2583
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 19, 2013, 13:57:36

you do have a point Rooi! Imagine Messi as a flanker LOL although I think Brussow might be almost the same size as Messi!

Clive Woodward had interesting ways of thinking outside the box! This may have given him that edge during the 2003 RWC and the months leading to it!


Just_win

Status: Rugby Legend
Posts: 6242
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 19, 2013, 19:35:24

 Hakwa: interesting article for sure.

I might be bias (lol) but IMO the All Blacks get closest to the total rugby concept. They have backs and forwards with great skills, e.g. all forwards can draw a player and pass, even dummy and side step (Retallic in the Eden Park game is a recent example). All players seem to be able to fill in for the half back when needed. You can also see how good the backs are in going into rucks to get the ball. But there are limits of course, I can't imagine Conrad in the front row, lol

NZ teams like the chiefs also show the same versatility. All kiwi teams seem to have an emphasis on “expressing themselves”, some more than other for sure.

Boks, this is not a goal of their game plan. Cheetahs are a team that comes to mind in SA s15 level, certainly not the Bulls, lol

Wallies also show some aspects of total rugby (but of course they were coached by a kiwi).

Of course we kiwis love the  way we play the game, perhaps Boks supporters like the way Meyer wants to play the game (some debate about this of course, as we all know from this site, lol). But although I love the way the All Blacks play, ultimately it is about winning not just being pretty. All Blacks seem to have combined the two.

My idea of the total rugby player was Zinzan Brooke! He had all the skills of a back, could even drop kick, (the one in 1996 helped the All Blacks beat the Boks – ouch sorry guys). He epitomized the total rugby player but there aren’t too many like him.

 

I am sure the Boks fans have some of their players in mind as total rugby players.


hakwa

Status: Senior player
Posts: 2583
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 20, 2013, 13:43:00

John Eales, Just_Win is another player who knows all about Total Rugby IMO! Remember that painful penalty of his against the ABs?


Just_win

Status: Rugby Legend
Posts: 6242
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 20, 2013, 19:35:01

 Hakwa : no I didn't see him play. I moved to the USA in early 70s & there was no way to watch rugby on tv & it was before Internet streaming. It was only when the Internet kicked in that I was able to watch rugby again. These were the lost years , lol I will check to see if I can find some video of him on the Internet .


mozart

Status: Hall Of Fame
Posts: 8923
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 20, 2013, 20:05:31
Victor Matfield....would be my pick, ahead of Eales, although Eales's boot has to be considered. No tight forward offloaded better and no player in the history of the game put the ball in the perfect spot for his scrummie as fast and as consistently. He was plenty strong as well....ask Mathew Tait who he ripped off the Bok line with one arm to secure the RWC07. And how many times was Victor on the end of a long sweeping movement. My first pick in any historical great team.....Zinzan would be in there as well.


clevermike

Status: Hall Of Fame
Posts: 13151
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 20, 2013, 23:20:54
It is mice to think of the past - but practical to think of the future. We have for instance the present SA Rugby team. We have two players at half back who is really hopelessly inadequate insofar as anything to do with attacking ruby is concerned. Just to think of Steyn being able to create space for players is unimaginable - he really has no ball sense. That reduce any possible attacking rugbt to a minimum.

We have the clumsiest and most unimaginable loosies anyone can select. There ball skills is really minimal and their thinking ability is to run into opponents and create the next maul three meters away from the previous one. Players like Bismarck, Coenie and Strauss think about their game and do have passing skills and Etzebeth looks promising. For the rest the forwards are really not creative rugby thinkers.

In the backline we have thinking players like De Villiers, Serfontein, Le Roux and Habana - but also Engelbrecht who think that speed is better than creative rugby. Then we have a dullard at full back.

There is no way you can play thinking rugby - ie toiotal rugby - with that lot.

Mozart - with respect - instead of doing his job as a forward - I was frustrated many times by Mattfield loitering in the back line and killing potential backline moves. He definitely cause more grey hair than anybody else on the field of play.

...


mozart

Status: Hall Of Fame
Posts: 8923
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 20, 2013, 23:53:34

 I hear the sound of bugles blow.....far away...........far...............................away


hakwa

Status: Senior player
Posts: 2583
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 21, 2013, 12:25:06

 interesting Mike! I quite like the spirit of your reasoning (minus the criticism of your Boks players)! You mentioned that a total rugby player is something who can create space for other players, someone who has ball sense, someone who is a creative rugby thinker, who is elusive, has maximum ball skills, has good passing skills - I got more and more excited as you went on because you could have been talking about me (kidding)!

Is that all there is to total rugby?

Someone on the Roar mentioned that the Team should have one objective and all work in tandem to achieve it - ie defend in tandem and attack in tandem! 


Ihi

Status: Baby Bok
Posts: 201
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 21, 2013, 12:36:52

Mike a player cannot create space on his own especially the 10, but the centres can and also the back three. it takes two man plays at bare minimum to make space by manipulatinmg the defence. you see defensive systems rely on players both inside the main defender and outside the main defender. this is where your guys suck, the players outside the 10 (they dont call him a pivot for nothing!) MUST run certain lines or run 2 and 3 man plays to create that space. your talking about switches, blocker plays in and out lines. they are the basic tools for making attacking rugby and each has its own pros and cons against different kinds of defensive systems. thats why i say that you cannot rely on your 10 alone to "get the backline going". it just doesnt make any sense whatsoever. rugby union stole alot of defensive ideas from rugby league (now theres where you learn about attacking rugby matey) and the answers to those defensive structures wsa again found in league. you basically want to teach all your players to execute 2 and 3 man attacking plays on the fly any time. thats how modern attacking rugby is played. but saffers except the cheetahs dont play like that. they just hope that if their 10 runs at someone and does stuff [removed] is gonna get real and the boks will score lots of tries by the wing way down the line! its bat [removed] crazy! you guys never think of the how or why, just do and if it doesnt work you get flustered and blame a random [removed] that has nothing to do with the real problem, in this case you blame Morne even though he and Butch are your two best 10s that have ever played for south africa.


Just_win

Status: Rugby Legend
Posts: 6242
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 21, 2013, 13:07:35

Ihi: great post mate! I agree , makes sense no one player can do it alone. There are special players like Carter (although he is not what he was) who seem to see everything & all around them & everyone else look like they are in slow motion. They see space behind defenses where others couldn't & take advantage of it for example. But yes, they can't make a team that does not have  game plan that includes running rugby a brilliant running rugby team. . As you say the team must have planned moved involving multiple players. These moves don't always work but individual brilliance can then result in great plays/tries. But, yes I agree total rugby relies on more than a good 10 it requires a game plan that includes multiple players executing planned moves & the forwards in support.

as I said, great post

 


Ihi

Status: Baby Bok
Posts: 201
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 21, 2013, 13:19:30

i think carter indivisually was on the wane from latter 2006 till now but he has a magnificent rugby brain. the all blacks let him run their patterns and make decisions on where they are going to attack. on attacking plays they run their lines around him and the rest is down to his decision making. so basically they give him options (load the gun so to speak) and he pulls the trigger. its really simple. morne has done this many times for the bulls so i dont get why he takes so much flack. i hear a lot of "play flatter so we can get it to the wings" stuff which also is a contradiction to attacking rugby. the basic ingredients for the boks are there they now have insane quality on the wings and potentially a handy 13 thatwe havent seen much of.  they need du preez back (he is the carter of the scrumhalf world) and they need to start using their back three and midfield in a more constructive way to create options for the 10 and that will keep the defence guessing. i know jean doesnt have great distribution but neither does nonu and if you see austalias woes you need a big fella at 12 to chip away at you with the hard yards so the jean detractors have little to say really. its all there if saffers want it. i think meyer should try rope in the cheetahs backs coach. with the boks power up front you have the ultimate platform for what is poentially a really great backline that could go down in history. cutting morne out of the picture is short sighted and weakens the team. total rugby is just making your kicks, making your tackls, and taking your opportunities. do each area of the game well like new zealand do and you will be consisstently good.


hakwa

Status: Senior player
Posts: 2583
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 21, 2013, 13:27:13

 Ihi, Nonu has great distribution skills! He hasn't employed that pass of his lately because the Boks have employed an umbrella defense (rushing up on the outside) so he has resorted to kicking it behind the umbrella defense forcing the full back to scramble it out! The first ABs try from the resulting line-out was from such a kick!


Ihi

Status: Baby Bok
Posts: 201
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 21, 2013, 13:31:05

Graham Henry commented on Nonus distribution skills in 2008 when under fire after the mauling by the wallabies. its been in the headlines since. he did improve for a couple of seasons but he has gone backwards again. he is an unsophisticated player but Henry retained him because he allows the All Blacks to play direct. every successfgul test side has a big hard running 12 no matter what his skills are. its the essence of modern game.


hakwa

Status: Senior player
Posts: 2583
RE: Is Total Rugby a dream?
September 21, 2013, 13:35:04

and here I was thinking Sir GH retained him for his good looks and shaved eyebrows!


Leave a reply:

You need to be logged in to leave a reply.
 
 

From The Sideline