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Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Winning is all that matters. A try is still a try, whatever goes on before it

Martin Johnson

ALONG with many other people, I watched England’s autumn internationals looking for signs of improvement but I was concerned at the number of people worrying about the type of rugby they should play. Surely the type of game you want from England is a winning one, which will be successful on any given day against any given opponent.

There was a certain amount of pessimism about how England might go against New Zealand and my opinion was that, if we tried to play the game the All Blacks play, we would probably lose by 20 points or more. Instead, England did what they needed to do to get themselves into a winning position and I was very disappointed for the players that they couldn’t quite finish the job.

There is still an obsession with going wide because that’s “attacking” rugby. It doesn’t matter how you attack, you do it in a way that is effective. England’s best way of scoring tries was to take the ball close and drive it over; the try is still a try whether it comes from a maul or a fluent handling move that puts the wing into the corner. When we did take it wide against the All Blacks they drifted very well and we never got round them.

Ultimately, so much of success in rugby comes down to a command of the basics and that’s one of the areas I hope to drive home when we hold the second year of Martin Johnson rugby camps next July and August.

We spent a lot of time, after last summer’s camps, trying to refine the coaching we can give the youngsters who attend and one of the areas we will explore is the individual skills.

A lot of training time in rugby is given over to unit skills but next year we would like to be more specific in how we approach the coaching, whether it’s in handling, kicking, speed or agility skills. When I was watching the kids in the summer, the thing that made most difference to them in a short period, particularly those in the 11 to 13 group, was getting them to understand that most of the time when they have the ball it’s to create space for other people.

That means they have to pass the ball earlier than comes naturally to them. My experience is that the last thing they want to do is pass, they want to run with the ball as long as they can until they are stopped. They have to be taught that passing the ball is not simple and that it needs to be practised all the time, and that’s true for all levels of the game — as we have seen in some of the international matches during November.

The children are very enthusiastic about contact and the ability to pass the ball can be taken for granted. But it’s difficult to run with the ball at top speed and then time the pass to put the ball in front of the next player without them having to stop or check their stride. You can’t practise that enough and, like so many individual skills, when it’s done well you never notice it but when it’s done badly, you do.

You should be able to do it without thinking and that’s what I try to tell youngsters, not only in the camps but when I do bits and bobs at schools around the country. It’s all about the accuracy and timing.

Someone such as Will Greenwood would show how a short pass could make space for a support player, or someone such as Jonny Wilkinson could give an accurate long pass off both hands.
It’s the ability to know the space is there, to take the ball to a defender and not let him drift off you, that’s the key thing. There’s timing, angles of running, footwork, all to be done in the clutter of a crowded pitch. But a good kicking game can be coached, too, especially for the older children — against the Lions last summer, New Zealand had a fantastic kicking game. Done well it can be devastating, done badly and you lose possession.

The way for England to beat opponents in next year’s RBS Six Nations Championship might not be the same way as to beat New Zealand but England know they can be better. The way they played against the All Blacks, even though they lost, will have given them the belief that they can beat any team, which is a pretty good place to be.
no where is our rugby greats?

why can they not also hold coaching clinics for youngsters in south africa?

or are there clinics happening to which i am not aware of?

wouldnt it be great if a andre venter, carel dup, naas botha, michael dup, lem, and the likes gets sponsored by SARU to develop our future boks?

but yeah, it is SA rugby in the end isn't it. bunch of selfcish dicks.
In the end "upstarts" like Kandas & the like will be doing it PA- the lack of commitment by the greats will always create space for a new generation of knowledgeables- that is why I want your bi-monthly analysis arti on my blog.

Have you decided yet?

with the greatest of pleasure!

maybe you can take my review on 2005 on keo as a start!

What an incredibly accurate analysis and insight.

Why can't we have players like that who commit to coaching teenagers.

Another thing, can't we send the Boks and jake White and Alistair and Gert to these camps disguised as teeneagers so they can also learn how to pass properly, and offload.

well said davids
our international players seem to struggle putting players into space, let alone the kids in this country.  
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