Players' lifestyles affecting their decision making
RUGBY ANALYST:The general exposure to real-life daily decision making for today’s players has been reduced radically compared with the players of the past
LITTLE DID I know when writing last week’s article on prop skills versus secondrow grunt that I’d bump into Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira lifting secondrow and 112kg Anton Bresler in a one-man clean and jerk. What power from the Beast and what skill from Bresler. Youtube: “Beast unbelievable lifting”.
More important matters; the temporary demise of our leaders Brian O’Driscoll and Rory Best has opened a chasm which will throw much pressure on their lieutenants.
It has brought the concept of leadership to the fore, especially watching developments (or lack thereof) over the passing weeks. Many institutions, books and theories abound regarding the role of the leader and the development of his team’s on-field decision making/taking control.
One method has four stages of management; firstly, “you and I discuss, I decide”; secondly, “you and I discuss, we decide”; thirdly, “you and I discuss, you decide”; and lastly, “ring me when you need me!”
If a manager (coach) is stuck on stages one to three he must reassess himself firstly and make the appropriate changes. If none are required he then must change the player.
Over the weeks I’ve enjoyed my trips to Connacht, highlighting on countless occasions the positive development in their game, especially the wonderful match against Harlequins. With all the positives in mind I’m going to focus on issues regarding on-field decision-making that raises a core question; has professionalism enhanced or hindered the leadership skills of our players?
On 30 minutes Connacht were up 19-9 over Harlequins. The next 10 minutes were crucial for Connacht, more so for Harlequins. What pressure would Conor O’Shea have been under to rally his troops?
Wave after wave of Quins flooded Connacht who brilliantly tackled and knocked everything that came their way, keeping their try line safe. Eventually Quins got a scrum inside Connacht’s 22, 17 metres or so from the Connacht left-hand touch line. As noted last week 22-year-old loosehead Denis Buckley was conceding nine stone on impact. Advantage James Johnston getting his right-hand side, shunting Buckley backwards and exposing the Connacht backrow on the left-hand side.
Quins right winger Tom Williams hugged the touchline with Fetu’u Vainikolo opposite. With 30 minutes and 22 seconds on the clock, the score at 19-9, Danny Care, the “fastest” scrumhalf in Europe, picks and goes right into 10-plus metres of lateral space and without a pass or a finger laid on him gets in for a try.
The options available to Connacht were to fill the space with another player, traditionally a back (outhalf) and cover his absence in the open field with scrumhalf and openside. At least Quins would have to pass the ball to score. Did no Connacht player see the extremely obvious dangers afoot?
Was this a team defensive system that couldn’t be adjusted on orders from high? Was this extremely poor awareness from the players on the pitch? Or was this good awareness but poor decision making? Why did Connacht’s backrow go into that scrum knowing there was a 17-metre blindside with only one defender protecting?