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The Art of Contact

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    The Art of Contact

    The theme of the commentary on the six nations so far seems to be predominantly about contact, collisions and the like, either everyone is giving out about how it is dominating the championship or else people are complaining that Ireland aren’t winning the collisions. A lot of people are also giving out about the fact that we are suffering on the injury front because we are not able for the collisions either because we are ‘too protected’, ‘not protected enough’ or ‘not genetically predisposed to this type of game.’

    Everyone seems to have bought into the argument that the battle of collisions dominates and a few posters here have concluded that it can be broken down mathematically using the size and speed of players as variables eg. George North is around 109kg he can run the 40m in about 4.3secs so therefore the momentum he generates makes him the greatest winger in the world until they come up with another guy who is even bigger and faster.
    Now lets leave aside all arguments about passing ability, ability to run a good line and general all round ability and just concentrate on the collision argument. Is it just a matter of size and power? Have a look at the following video which show a very powerful man being stopped by a small man.



    No let's look at my all time favourite ball carrier, David Wallace. I freely admit I'm biased here but really and truly the guy developed going into contact into an art form.

    In particular look at 20 secs in, 50 secs in, 2 min 10 secs in, 2 mins 30 secs in and 3 mins in.



    Wallace rarely went for the big charge followed by a smash, he always ensured that he took contact on his own terms and often walked into contact and then he twisted and turned and used his freakish leg drive. He always tried to ensure that he stayed on his feet for as long as possible.

    In my mind O'Brien and Ferris are definitely inferior ball carriers as they constantly go for the bump, the smash. Their bodies will not withstand that method (note in the top video that O'Brien is slowest to get up after the tackle from 85kg Halfpenny) and a clever player should be able to take them down easily and quickly and isolate them.

    I hope people bear some of this in mind or else we're going to go down the wrong track altogether, there's a hell of a lot more to ball carrying than size and speed (also take note of the fact that Wallace tried to run around contact if it was possible). It's an art-form and I don't think there are a lot of guys in Irish rugby right now are developing the right skillset, instead all we see from our forwards are guys charging into contact and then getting up and thinking 'Must charge harder next time, must but on more muscle and charge harder.'

    #2
    Looking at the difference between Italy and Ireland yesterday, the Italians have been coached to avoid contact when possible by passing and offloading the ball. Southern hemisphere players will also go into contact on their terms with getting the offload their main priority. Trying to smash through the opposition doesn't work most of the time and as Ireland have shown its very hard to do it when the opposition know what you are going to do.


    They need to start playing heads up rugby and leave the smashing as option B or C.

    Comment


      #3
      In that Halfpenny incident O'Brien saw open ground and had a rush of blood to the head, that's not typical. SOB's carrying is the least of our concerns at the moment

      Comment


        #4
        I don't think there's any bias in saying that about Wallace, I thought we'd miss him a lot and it turns out we've missed him more than that. He had the intelligence our other forwards are lacking at the moment, although that does come with experience.

        I'm not really sure right now whether our lack of creativity and general guile/intelligence is down to having a young team who are still learning or if it's indicative of the development priorities in the professional era. The older players tend to raise that concern a lot about the young players coming through so might be something in that.

        Comment


          #5
          Very good points Mickey D and is this potentially why we are flooding the place with NZ coaches at the minute. To my mind, they are the one nation that haven't followed the pure bulk route preferring quick skillfull mobile players to pure bulk and power. They provide a template although copying that well will take time and a change of mindset for players. Conrad Smith is a breath of fresh air in the world of Tulagi's, Bastauraud's Roberts etc. We need to up skill but the fact that Parisse made more passes this 6n's than our entire pack paints a picture of a team seeking contact at very opportunity - taking no risk except the risk of creating nothing. Our pack provided 0 platform this 6n's.

          Our backs didn't help either - kearney was an example of this, he'd secure the ball before heading off into the first defender. never an attempt to offload. What an average player he's become. Pity cause he has talent.

          I can see what Penney is trying to do at Munster but I cannot for the life of me understand why he insists on picking players who cannot play that way. Leinster under Schmidt have always been an offloading side. Ulster & Connacht are making strides and have or will have NZ (influenced in the case of Lam) coaches moving forward.

          We need to develop a style that suits the players we have and I get the impression that there is no point going down the road of the English or Welsh. We don't have that style of player.
          Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again (like picking Gordon D'Arcy) and expecting different results.
          Albert Einstein

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Mcork View Post
            Very good points Mickey D and is this potentially why we are flooding the place with NZ coaches at the minute. To my mind, they are the one nation that haven't followed the pure bulk route preferring quick skillfull mobile players to pure bulk and power. They provide a template although copying that well will take time and a change of mindset for players. Conrad Smith is a breath of fresh air in the world of Tulagi's, Bastauraud's Roberts etc. We need to up skill but the fact that Parisse made more passes this 6n's than our entire pack paints a picture of a team seeking contact at very opportunity - taking no risk except the risk of creating nothing. Our pack provided 0 platform this 6n's.

            Our backs didn't help either - kearney was an example of this, he'd secure the ball before heading off into the first defender. never an attempt to offload. What an average player he's become. Pity cause he has talent.

            I can see what Penney is trying to do at Munster but I cannot for the life of me understand why he insists on picking players who cannot play that way. Leinster under Schmidt have always been an offloading side. Ulster & Connacht are making strides and have or will have NZ (influenced in the case of Lam) coaches moving forward.

            We need to develop a style that suits the players we have and I get the impression that there is no point going down the road of the English or Welsh. We don't have that style of player.
            Everyone is making much of Tulagi, Bastauraud and the Welsh big guys. Fofana has been the best French back and Halfpenny the best Welsh back. I can't pick any English back that's been good but Tuilagi certainly hasn't shone. Everyone raves about Bastauraud's weight but to me it looks like the muffin is spilling over a bit and I'd say the guy could lose a stone. Big can work but the Welsh backs looked awful silly against us when they had to turn. Cuthbert is great going forward but I recall someone describing his turning ability as being like that of a 'runaway oil tanker with Sandra Bullock at the helm.'

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Mickey D View Post
              In that Halfpenny incident O'Brien saw open ground and had a rush of blood to the head, that's not typical. SOB's carrying is the least of our concerns at the moment
              He tends to go off on his own quite a lot but I agree that his carrying isn't the greatest of our worries. I think we aren't getting much out of our kicking and that has held us back more than ball-carrying. It would be good to have a David Wallace type back when we're close to the line, a lot of headless charging going on when the line is near and the main point I was trying to make was that Wallace's technique isn't being replicated. He jogged towards contact purposefully and when he hit the tackler he immediately adopted a good body position and drove the legs. He nearly always got underneath the tackler and allowed the rest of the team to join him and drive behind. I've seen too many of our guys now picking and sprinting on their own and trying to bash and they usually end up cut down quick..

              Comment


                #8
                Interesting piece Brenny - I recommend to anyone that hasn't read it "Coaching Rugby the New Zealand Way", there is a section in the book detailing how to ride through a tackle - this is a skill Kiwi children are coached. We need to be doing the same.

                Comment


                  #9
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv4wOkW-evg - Watch Julia Savea showing power works smashing guys like Israel Dagg, Corey Jane etc....

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Wallace was an absolutely incredible player . . .my own favorite Munster player of all.


                    Ill never forget the absolute bull**** spouted about him by 'fans' from other provinces who wanted their own player instead of him.

                    Never see the likes of him again.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by Aussiedub View Post
                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv4wOkW-evg - Watch Julia Savea showing power works smashing guys like Israel Dagg, Corey Jane etc....
                      And Savea is listed as being lighter than Freuan. . . . . . .



                      His beating of Dagg on both occasions is as much about his technique going into the tackle as anything else.

                      I must say Im not a fan of that 'technique'. Its basically a shoulder charge into a weak area of the opponents upper back/ neck/ shoulder area.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        here is a daft idea. the tag rugby mantra is to run at spaces not faces.
                        Tag rugby is now big in ireland.. but could it be used to drill kids
                        on how to run into space? I think it's a hugely under rated tool this way.
                        Am I wrong? Do kids do it much in school now in ireland?

                        Any kids I've seen trying it seem to love the 'mechanics' of tagging,
                        and the principle of non contact makes it very accessible for both genders.

                        One other thing: I remember once reading that kids learning tag rugby
                        in england are penalised for not carrying the ball in two hands.

                        Put all that together, and you have a fun way of getting kids mentally
                        tuned up for an appreciation of space and motion in rugby, as well as
                        ball handling at the same time.
                        I think it's fair to suggest that before an appreciation of contact can be
                        be learned, an appreciation of space is essential. Even within that,
                        I believe the carrying of the ball in two hands is really central to the
                        creation of space, and cannot be learned early enough.
                        I remember myself, an average player, discovering the two handed carry
                        in my 20s, and it was kind of like an epiphany.. but it's not something
                        you can coach. It has to be ingrained early, i would say.
                        Last edited by mtcmolloy; 18th-March-2013, 16:40.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by mtcmolloy View Post
                          here is a daft idea. the tag rugby mantra is to run at spaces not faces.
                          Tag rugby is now big in ireland.. but could it be used to drill kids
                          on how to run into space? I think it's a hugely under rated tool this way.
                          Am I wrong? Do kids do it much in school now in ireland?

                          Any kids I've seen trying it seem to love the 'mechanics' of tagging,
                          and the principle of non contact makes it very accessible for both genders.

                          One other thing: I remember once reading that kids learning tag rugby
                          in england are penalised for not carrying the ball in two hands.

                          Put all that together, and you have a fun way of getting kids mentally
                          tuned up for an appreciation of space and motion in rugby, as well as
                          ball handling at the same time.
                          I think it's fair to suggest that before an appreciation of contact can be
                          be learned, an appreciation of space is essential.
                          Tag rugby and sevens. The lack of sevens in Ireland is criminal. If you look at Fofana's try against Scotland it was pure sevens skills at work. He decelerated to jogging speed and then rapidly accelerated through the tackle. Too many Irish guys wouldn't have had the guile to do that and would just have run as fast as they could and possibly have ended up in touch. Sevens teaches so much about riding a tackle and off-loading out of the tackle.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            actually having had a quick look at that wally vid.. that is a really good point.
                            What helped wally here, though, it should be said, is that he regularly
                            tested as being amongst the fastest in the irish squad.
                            Probably heresay, but I got from my bro once, that his scores over
                            a short distance were higher than dennis hickie..

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by mtcmolloy View Post
                              actually having had a quick look at that wally vid.. that is a really good point.
                              What helped wally here, though, it should be said, is that he regularly
                              tested as being amongst the fastest in the irish squad.
                              Probably heresay, but I got from my bro once, that his scores over
                              a short distance were higher than dennis hickie..
                              Hickie himself always said that Wallace was as fast or faster than him over a short distance. I always wondered if he could have been a No. 8 if Foley hadn't been around. Wallace usually made the right decisions, he'd go around you or through you. He never went for contact just for the sake of it and he didn't always go for a big bump, rather he'd jog into an opponent but then turn on the power and drive out of the tackle.

                              Comment

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