The Offload: it’s never been more dangerous to run onto a rugby pitch

James Lowe blames size for New Zealand’s alarming drop-off in rugby participation

James Lowe scores a try for Leinster against the Scarlets. Photograph: Ben Whitley/Inpho

James Lowe scores a try for Leinster against the Scarlets. Photograph: Ben Whitley/Inpho

 

Running onto the pitch more dangerous than ever

Flaws in concussion prevention trials - a head injury spike forced the RFU to abandon their below the arm-pit theory - reminds us of that scene from Jaws when Chief Brody and Hooper are trying to convince the Mayor of Amity Island to close the beaches.

“We’ve already three incidents, two people killed inside of a week, and it’s going to happen again, it happened before,” Brody pleads.

Mayor Larry Vaughn insists on seeing more evidence that a Great White Shark is eating swimmers.

“Look, we depend on summer people here for our very lives.”

“You are not going to have a summer unless you deal with this problem,” says Hooper.

Chief: “Larry, if we make an effort today we might be able to save August.”

Mayor: “August! For Christsake tomorrow is the fourth of July and we will be open for business. It’s going to be one of the best summers we ever had. Now if you fellas are concerned about the beaches you do whatever you have to to make them safe but those beaches will be open for this weekend.”

The passing of Samoan flanker Faiva Tagatauli brings the number of deaths on the field to five in nine months.

“There was no visible incident that led to his injury,” said Vaimoso manager Tauiliili Polito. “When the maul dispersed, Faiva stood up and that was when he called out to me. He walked off the field, came around to me and said that he was not feeling well. He was given water and ice, but not long after that he collapsed.”

English tackle trials led to increased concussions due to bent-at-the-waist runners colliding with opponents who were also crouching to avoid high tackles.

2019 is going to be one of the best years rugby has ever had. It’s also the most dangerous time to run onto a pitch.

“We created something very different from what we expected.”

Dean Ryan, the RFU’s head of international player development, on the abandoned tackle trial.

Kiwis sick of getting ‘smashed’

New Zealand rugby’s review of the game in secondary schools revealed a drop in participation at “an alarming rate” for several reasons, including the increasing number of “bigger, more physical players” and the “media influence on concussion.”

That’s the only mention of head injuries in the report but students surveyed are taking up other sports, like basketball, as they don’t want to get “smashed.” Despite the schools being the main supply line for the professional ranks - same as Ireland - representatives from Super Rugby franchises believe that “a sense of self entitlement is too prevalent in many of the talented young players that they are introduced to.”

So, that’s the road rugby is travelling down: increasingly bigger players with a self entitled view. That’s the knock on effects of professionalism, seemingly.

“Teenagers in New Zealand you get a lot of them that are my size [six foot two, 105kg],” said James Lowe, perhaps inadvertently revealing why he is about to become Irish qualified. “You see some incredibly athletic freaks who come out of school thinking ‘Surely he is not 18, 19 years old’ but through genetics they have developed quickly physically but haven’t got the rest of it sorted.”

On a positive note, the report noted girls rugby in New Zealand is experiencing a “strong growth in numbers.” Again, sparked by moves towards professionalism.

5 - the number of deaths on rugby pitches in the last nine months

Tinker, tailor, soldier, coach

“To avoid espionage,” the schools rugby coach from Blackrock told Donald McRae in the 6,000 word opus on Irish rugby in The Guardian, “Leinster video these games and set up a database for us to study each other.”

Mr Bielsa has opened a fascinating can of worms with Eddie Jones confirming week his Wallaby team used to spy on the opposition.

“I can say hand on heart we don’t do it any more,” Jones promised. “We don’t see the value of it because we can glean most of the stuff from games now.”

Do you believe him, or any of them? When the All Blacks found listening devices in their team room in Sydney three years ago everyone laughed it off as something you’d read in a John Le Carré novel. But it happened.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is big on secrecy over team selection with security blinds surrounding the training pitch in Carton House after he “stumbled” across someone or something spying on his masterplan (the intrepid reporter who used to bring binoculars down for media days is not a suspect).

“I know it happens,” said Schmidt. “I know it’s happened to us.

“You acknowledge ‘Ok, it’s their process, it’s their way of collecting information.’ You shrug your shoulders.. But I don’t think you can get distracted by it. And if you become paranoid about it, you’ll never actually train properly.”

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