Lee Smith's Coaching Corner - The cat's out of the bag
20 July, 2011
Has Samoa’s win on Sunday let the cat out of the bag and is there more to come?
The Manu showed confidence, composure and discipline with the mettle to defend when necessary while at the same time staying within the Law.
What I saw was a scrum that stood up to pressure. We have to deal to opponents good, bad and indifferent with scrum power. We also have to be savvy at scrums as the top unions, who regard scrum penalties as a legitimate way to win the game, will try everything including the long stare at the touch judge to rule in their favour.
How do we cope with this cheating? Well as Tana said “It’s not tiddlywinks we are playing” and you have to meet strength with strength, ploy with ploy:
- We have to cheat and look innocent.
- We have to bind on the arm when the ref is on the other side.
- We have to hit and, ever so slightly, back off so they seem to go early.
- We have to complain about the put in.
- We have to save the explosive push to when and where it will have greatest effect.
- We have to go with the wheel and play down the exposed side.
But best of all wouldn’t it be great if we could promote the tight-head side, which would turn a few heads. It is all a matter of picking your time.
Having said all this Samoa may have just reinstated the Pacific Island reputation for strong but legal tackles. Make the strong tackle legally and if it is not on, just make the tackle, treat the tackle as the tackle, then get up and grab the ball as one great skill. Let’s show them we can play to a pattern and we can be physically disciplined.
In a strange way, against Japan, Fiji proved this point. “But the Fijians had two sent off and three yellow cards I hear you say”.
But with 13 and sometimes 12 men did you see what they did?
Strong effective tackling but more importantly they played together to the numbers they had. The winning try was in injury time, remember! So both teams – Samoa and Fiji - are showing signs of maturity, the ability to play to a pattern, to get down there before we use the razzamatazz and even then the razzamatazz can be standing someone up and evading them, the cunning little grubber into space, the offload before contact, the acceleration upon receiving the ball to make space for the offload.
Up North in England and France so often the players are used as impact players so even though you have a long season you seldom get full games. Maybe this is paying off because now many of the players can hit the accelerator and really build for the RWC.
Whatever happens on Friday night lets reinforce what we have got and build on it. No backward steps and to ensure this we need to take a look at what could go wrong. It seems to me the biggest dangers are events off the field:
- No revelling in the glory of being picked to play the All Blacks,
- No drinking until the job is done by everyone,
- On time team payments,
- No unexpected interference in the team because you are high born (a Ratu) and want to say you had a part of it,
- No internal dissention please let others do their job and you stick to yours.
- It must be like a military campaign, on time, dressed correctly, cleaning up after you, no team hierarchies, listen to even the least experienced he may have the idea that counts.
In other words don’t self destruct. It has happened too often in the past.
Two sayings that I feel are worthwhile: ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail.’
‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’
Lee Smith is a senior rugby development officer with the International Rugby Board and travels widely around the Pacific region coaching, developing and promoting the game.